women of deliberate backbone

ancient, adventurous, creative & protective

I’ve been so inspired the stories of women lately exhibiting remarkable backbone, even in light of very challenging circumstances. I think we all have a little more backbone in us when it’s required. As I created the stories of these women and the various backbones they’ve had to summon to carry on: ancient, adventurous, creative and protective.

What type of backbone is required of you right now?

creative joy & unabashed thievery

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” —Jim Jarmusch, filmmaker

Lisa Lillibridge
Lisa Lillibridge

I haven’t felt very painterly lately, so I thought I would give myself an hour to just play in my studio. I ripped out a bunch of magazine ads I loved from a Harper’s I found under one of my daughter’s beds, tore, painted, searched for found objects and photographed. It’s always resonated with me creatively the statement; it’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to. I might become a little obsessive about this process for a while. I’m just letting you know.

Thank you Harper’s Bazaar, fashion photographers, art directors, editors, models, designers, stylists, lighting desigers, location scouts, caterers, personal assistants…and everyone else involved in the shots I stole. Your eye and ideas are inspirational, even if I’m not always wild about the body image messaging or the products.

fluid memories. girlhood…

fluid memories, summertime…

homesteading women…


cellular residue

Do you possess some form of heartache, pride or even a sense of neutrality, depending on how things turned out for your ancestors?

While researching the stories of female homesteaders on the upper plains one dominant trait surfaced again and again.

Women are remarkably capable of creating something out of nothing.

Leaving all things familiar to take a chance on a new life for themselves and their families was an enormous sacrifice, requiring great courage. So often they were very young women, ages we still consider to be children by today’s standards.

It seems that perhaps we all possess some cellular residue from the migratory ventures of our ancestors. This courage is exhibited (and often maligned) every day, all over the world, as people are forced to leave their homes.

They’re not fleeing for the heady chance to “prove up” 160 free acres as the homesteaders did. They’re most often trying to stay alive and feed their children, a brave migratory gamble in hopes of a better life.

I believe this to be true.

Image

ummmmm…more cowboy stuff

I had the pleasure of spending time with my great-nephew, Liam a few weeks ago. My daughter (Willa), our Vermont friend (Jen Wool) and I were hanging out with him. He wanted us to find (and keep finding) cowboy videos on our phones and stories of cowboys in South Dakota Magazine. He couldn’t get enough.

Every time a story or video was over, Liam would say, “ummmmm…more cowboy stuff”. This became our catch phrase for the week.

Correct if I’m wrong Liam, however, I’m pretty sure you’re telling us to always seek out more of whatever sparks our interest. Ummmmm—for me, it actually is more cowboy stuff. Certainly in my artwork and photography anyway. Thanks buddy. You’ll surely be missed.

unprofessional networking

Until the last few years I’ve seen myself as a bohemian mother, artist, memory maker and caretaker/gatekeeper of developing minds. I’ve viewed my life’s work as the unrealized career of a woman who struggles with organization and focus…not anymore. Actually now that I even saw myself like that, it seems like total bullshit.

I thought as my children grew up that they might be disappointed in me that I didn’t have a traditional career. Talk of the other moms who were doctors, lawyers or therapists sometimes resulted in a sense of less than for me. I assumed my children would all want the total opposite of my life—high powered jobs with days spent kickin’ ass and taking names. Not days filled with kids, carpools, chores, errands, creative work (rarely sold), homemaking and hanging out with friends.

I know many families are unable to have a parent at home, a luxury indeed (especially regarding health insurance). However, increasingly folks find themselves in work/home situations that require a lot of strategy to keep things humming along. Commuting to other cities during the week, working remotely, running home businesses or freelancing are such common scenarios of modern life.

Now, five months into the identity shift of my empty nest, I thankfully see those family years so differently. Creating a home, trying to model a healthy marriage, nurturing my community, making art and being the historian-in-chief was an education deeply connected to my values and interests, there wasn’t a moment wasted (OK, maybe a few).

My years of unprofessional networking created my superpowers.

The world should watch out for parents who stayed home to raise their families. We maybe don’t have the references, titles or 401Ks that our peers have. However, we’re digitally savvy, well practiced in the art of endless diplomacy, good listeners and mighty grateful when our efforts are acknowledged. And now with the dailyness of busy family life behind us, we can do damn near anything.

homesteading my psyche

At fifty-two, I feel betwixt and between, no longer young and not yet old. Looking back I can see my life as remarkably valuable training and experience. To hell with regrets. I can’t change a damn thing. I know myself much better in midlife and that’s truly a gift. I also know I still have a lot to learn.

Like my prairie ancestors, I have an inherent longing now to settle or “prove up” one hundred and sixty acres. A sort of cognitive Homestead Act of my midlife psyche. A bit of a gamble, rife with elements of uncertainty, the heady buzz of adventure and the resilience to know I can handle whatever comes my way.

Funny to think about cognitive growth using these terms. However, metaphorically, it works pretty well. Claim my section. Select the crop.  Prep the land. Plant the seeds. Irrigate. Fertilize. Monitor growth. Harvest. Review.

These 3 simple questions help me often and perhaps might’ve helped my prairie ancestors as well. The trick is being able to actually answer them.

What’s working?

What’s not?

What’s next?

Homestead Act of 1982 “…and that such an application is made for his or her exclusive use and benefit, and that said entry is made for the purpose of actual settlement and cultivation, and not either directly or indirectly for the use of any other person or persons whomsoever…he or she shall thereupon be permitted to enter the quantity of land specified.”    

a simple act of REVOLUTION…

There is a lot of heartache in the world…on social, personal and spiritual levels.

Right now it seems like an ACT of REVOLUTION to manage stress.  For the sake of my mental and physical health, I’m simply trying to lighten up.

Every morning, before I get out of bed, I smile (which feels weird, but actually changes your chemistry) and ask myself: How do I want to show up in the world today? 

The feel good neurotransmitters of dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are released when we smile.  This not only relaxes your body but can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure. 

the science of smiling/psychology today link

Sometimes when I awaken, I want my sorrow or my anger…not too often though.  However, when asked that question, the answer is almost always comically obvious.

We’re all energetic beings. 

How we show up in the world has a ripple effect—both positively & negatively.

How do you want to show up in the world today?