The universal female affliction 

I had the pleasure of being a part of a women’s group called “Sacred Sisterhood” for 8 weeks. It was so special. I got to meet some beautiful women with whom I wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise, and I am so grateful. I got slow down and hear their stories and really learn some things from them. One of the topics we discussed was our relationship with our bodies and food. Our “homework” assignment that week was to stand in front of a mirror naked and journal about it. 

I know this sounds crazy! To even participate in this activity at all, and then to post the poem online for the whole internet to read? 
Madness.   

(And I also excuse anyone from reading this, like my dad or brothers, who might be bummed out by my frankness. I won’t be offended if you’d rather pass on this blog post! Lol)  

I’ve thought a lot about it and decided that in the spirit of “keepin it real”, this poem must be shared. I have been on a weight loss journey for years now. Lost 75 pounds, gained fitness and endurance. My relationship with my body is finally changing. I was ready to accept the challenge! But, the craziest thing I’ve learned on this whole journey is that so many women I’ve admired for their beauty or assumed had it easy because of their looks or bodies are suffering just as much (if not more!) than I was, under the curse of self loathing. As I continue to learn to love myself and this body I’ve got, the more my heart breaks for women all around me who don’t SEE how wonderful and beautiful they really are. It truly is the universal female affliction.  

I could definitely look in the mirror naked and see a whole list of things that are gross. My body is never going to be “bikini ready” but it’s mine and it has served me well, especially under years of abuse. I choose instead, to see myself in a different way. The way I hope my daughter chooses to see herself someday and all of you, my brilliant friends and sisters. Look beyond what’s in the mirror.  
This poem is dedicated to my yurt girls!! 😝😍

My body is heavy shades of pinks and whites.
Freckled with brief moments under the sun. 
It hangs heavy with all of my apologies and best intentions.
This suit has always suited me, though I’ve never taken the time to have it tailored, taken in, worked on. 


Only now, as the softness has begun to melt and shrink have my muscles and backbone hardened enough for me to see the point.

My feet, through electric pain, have carried the weight of all of my worlds. Blistered and swollen, they still serve me. 

My legs are pillars of blood, fat and bones that keep me standing tall. 
Though, they have been wrapped under heavy blankets of depression and laziness. 
But, have also been wrapped around love, between sheets.  

Sweaty, sexy and strong. 
 They have trudged through every one of my unknowns. 

My hips are barely trying to emerge. Still hiding.
But when I’m not paying attention, they surprise me with a glimpse of a womanhood I thought girls like me weren’t allowed to enjoy.

My stomach, soft and ribboned with stretch marks, still large in mass.  

You see, it’s taken a long time to store up all of the fears and burdens I’ve pretended not to have.  
But oh…I’m learning to let them go,

and now appreciating how it has ached with hearty laughter. 

Felt the butterflies of new love and excitement.  
And, carried the joy of two healthy, beautiful babies. It gave them shelter, safety and warmth.  

My breasts fed them and have also fed me…the confidence I would need to survive my own nakedness. 
When all else failed, there they were to remind me of my power as a woman. 

My arms have held my husband close, my children, and loved ones while also holding me together in dark closets crying out to God. 
Always gathering, 
always carrying,
all of my strength to wear all of my hats. 

My hands have played songs, 

written poems, 

made meals, 

  They have been raised as high I as could reach outside the window of a rushing car, just to feel the wind.  
I used to see nothing but flaws, failures and disgust. 
Now, I only see gratitude.  

  

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Girl Empire 

This past Saturday I was invited and challenged to write a poem for a conference here in Reno called Girl Empire.  (Check it out here: http://girlempirecon.com/program/)

It was for girls ages 9-19 to gather together with some of the leading women in our city to learn what it means to be bold, play big and dream big for their future. 

I was absolutely honored to be a part of this day and even more humbled that I was asked to share my writing.

After some deep soul searching and picking the brains of the most brilliant women in my life, it became clear to me that there is SO MUCH we want our young girls to know! I kept asking myself and my friends, “What would you want the 13 year old YOU, to know?”  So many sharp, smart, wise and IMPORTANT things came into laser focus.  Here are just a few of the responses from these ladies that have now become a little treasure trove of girl power that I will save forever. 

“I would tell 13 year old me that she is loved and that no matter what she is going through, no matter how far away an end to the situation seems, tomorrow is always a new day. And I would encourage her to fully apply herself at school and to set goals and believe in them.”

“Always lead by example; if you see something about the world that you don’t like, then don’t allow yourslef to do it.”

“Pay attention in Math class!  You will need it if you want to go anywhere, trust me!  If you can pay attention in Math, the rest will come easy.  If you don’t understand it, get a tutor, stay in at lunch with a teacher, do whatever it takes.”

“No matter how bad it seems at times it’s just a nano second in a long string  of life you have yet to live. So just keep living because the bad doesn’t last forever.”

“There is money to be made off of teaching you to devalue and distrust yourself. You will have to actively push back against this. The good news is learning to sift through all this will make you wise and graceful.”

“Embrace not being good at stuff and failing.  Like, not getting something right the first/millionth time is actually how its suppose to be, so its not that big of deal to not be great at something.  Keep going!”

Never be Jealous of anything or anyone. What you are and what you have is always enough. The right person will come along for you because they will be interested  in who and what YOU are. Never compare yourself to anyone else, not who they are or what they have.”

“I wish my 13-30 year old self knew that she was not obligated to please ANYONE.  That it isn’t selfish to follow her own dreams/desires.  Being liked and approved of isn’t life’s ultimate goal.”

“Guard your body and protect your heart. That’s the advice I would have given to my 13 yr old self. I was raped when I was 13. It changed my life forever.”

Not everyone needs to go to college, but college is never a waste. You need to understand math if you ever want to be independent. If you want to be an artist or run any kind of business – math. Want to get a good deal – math. Want a marriage of equals – math. Politics, poetry, technology, math will help you with it all. I wish I’d paid more attention to math.”

I would tell my young self to love yourself and don’t let people influence you to do harm to yourself and others. Accept who you are. Look inward for acceptance, believe in yourself.”

Laugh at yourself. Not only because we are all ridiculous but because it disarms bullies and makes your enemies look like asshats.”

You are not what other people say you are. If people treat you poorly that is a commentary on them, not you. You are valuable and unique.”

I wish I could post ALL of the wisdoms I have heard in the past week.  I wish I could encapsulate it in some sort of multi vitamin and make my daughter take it every single morning with breakfast. I wish I could carry all of these and the experiences gained under my belt, back in time and show my 13 year old self that we end up kind of awesome. 

In the end, I wrote from the heart.  Here is the poem I shared. 

“We are Girl Empire”  
By: Mandi Holden 


When they put my newborn daughter into my arms for the first time, 
I was instantly in love 
and instantly terrified. 
I studied her face 
and her fat little hands. 
I was frightened she would forget that she was galactic, 

like I almost did. 


A girl. 
A galaxy, 
a canvas huge and vast. 
One of us. 
Beaming with brilliance. 
Made of Stardust. 
Fibers, minerals, 
skin and bones. 
Heart of the earth,
wrapped in a blanket and sent home. 
I read her face, and saw myself. 
I remember you.   
I remember you well. 
I remember and I pray that you’ll remember to:
find the time to learn. 
Find the time to twirl.
Find the time to build.  
Find the time for YOU.

And in the perfect and lonely moments of pretend,
while you’re still content with being your own friend, 
Enjoy! 
And remember the way it feels…
so that you will know that it’s okay 
to take pleasure in your own company. 

When you’re deep in play and everything is just so, 
and no one else gets a say…
Will you remember? 

The satisfaction. 

So when people call you bossy, 
you can assure them they’ve come to the right place. 
Birthright capabilities, 
replaced with 
inherited insecurities.
 
Growing up and growing taller.

Do not trade in your backbone 
when you need it the most.
Shooting up through the cracks. 
Breaking free from expectations. 
Unfolding our fears away from our hearts and blooming. 

Faces toward the sun. 
Alive with possibilities 
and blanketing the world with our beauty. 
And here we are, 
sleeves pulled up-
ready to lift the rug of the world
and peek underneath. 

Because we are not afraid. 

We remember who we are. 



Reining it in

I love that my hair is long enough to pull up into the perfect messy bun.  No strays or stragglers.

I love that I opened this window on my left side and a burst of warm summer wind hit me in the face like a pleasant surprise.

I love that my Pandora is playing all the songs I like so I don’t have to waste any skips.

I love that my dog always knows just when I need her to snuggle up against me and be my friend.

I love that my babies are running through my house having fun despite me yelling at them to knock it off.

I know I will miss their mess and noise someday and I only need a moment of intentional gratitude to sober me.

I love that when I stop and take notice, I am overwhelmed with things to say thank you for.

The hardest thing about being a realist is that you’re really only a pessimist in disguise.

To halt myself from traveling down the familiar gloomy tracks and force instead a stroll down a brighter path…

Well, I’m more comfortable sitting in the shade.

My disappointment hangs from my body,

heavy and always inconvenient.

Protecting me from pain but hard to ignore…and if I’m being honest it only makes it worse.

But I am told to be in the light as He is in the light…

and I was.

Spent the fullness of time feeling welcomed and alive.

Now here we are again, and back to being the last resort.

Wasn’t quite ready to come home to the norm.

I have amends to make and bridges to burn, like calories…and we all know how good I am at that.

Frames and galleries of words that crowd my heart, and the space is getting limited in these chambers.

Bolted with hardware and welded to my arteries.

This kind of blockage requires a skilled surgeon.

Blood pumping through paths I’ve carved out to survive.

A masterpiece.
A bypass of emotion.

Today is a new day that has been made for my gain,

taking a new route and a fresh way.

I will choose gratitude.

What other choice do I have?!

I love that I have mastered the art of coming full circle, even when it seems pointless.

I love that a deep breath and honest words can set my focus strait.

I love that I will turn off this computer and leave the tears behind and get back to living.

Excuse my ramblings today. I just needed to rein it in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gone Fishin’

 

 

Hundreds of friends on social sites but the sight-seeing I do is always alone.

Scenic routes to nowhere.

Breath taking views that always prelude
breath taking falls.

Pride is a faulty fence that won’t hold under your weight.

Especially mine.

I leaned in to rest and got too comfortable.

And I have been trying to dig myself out since.

I hate myself for it.

Because questions only give birth to more questions.

Conversations turn into more conversations.

Everyone is SURE of everything, which is really nothing.

Daring to dig deep but deep thinking doesn’t pay the bills.

 

Talk really IS cheap.

 

I prefer writing poems lately instead.

I like the indirect way it guts my soul.

It  holds me  under the  faucet, like a  fish.

Spilling cold water, blood and secrets.

Baited and hooked.

Filet of fresh foolishness.

Piercing the knife through my belly and up toward that trouble making throat where my voice always escapes me.

Running thumbs up my spine to clear all the waste, (just like you taught me) because no one else is gonna do it.

The sharp blade of reality will scrape the scales and dirt that burden you,

but it never really clears it all.

It only accumulates to add character and flavor.

Wrapped in garlic butter and foil and thrown to the fire to become something worthy of the fight.

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Summer Prayer

 

If fire is honor, then we’ll stand and let it burn.

Hot and loud as it calms into a deep burning midnight.

Popping and clapping its truths.

Glowing red and warm; a blanket of appreciation.

Shadows of flames dancing on our faces as we gather around and listen.

 

If water is pure,

let us strip off these pretenses and plunge in.

Washing away all of the expectations.

Easing the heavy weight from our bones, bathing us fresh and new.

 

If the earth is nakedness,

let us run.

Let us take to the fields and carry ourselves to the edges of sight.

Let us stomp our feet in the dust,
to the sound of drums.
Dancing unashamed.

Like the children who still live hidden away
under the layers piled on our hearts.

Let us uncover these wounds and expose them to the open air for healing.

 

If the stars are mystery,

let us follow their lead.

Surrendering our proud explanations and false humility.

Gazing upon the vastness and treasuring the wonder that we are so eager to dismiss.

 

If the moon is lonely,

let us be a friend.

Let us set ourselves aside and turn our faces toward each other.

Let us see what we don’t want to see.

Let us forgive and be forgiven.

 

If the sun is victory,

let it burn brilliant and forever.

Let us turn our faces upward in unison to soak up the radiance that is promised.

Let us lift our hands together in thanks.

Like warriors,
moments away from an earned homecoming.

Finishing strong and whole.

 

 

 

sorella minore

I was 8 years old when you were born.

You were such a beautiful baby, I was jealous of you but not in a bad way.

There are so many things about our younger years that are blurred;
we were set apart.

Destined for division.

 

As I got older, and constantly in trouble, I only seemed to seal that fate.

But now, as time has pushed us past the barriers of adolescents and we make up our own minds about things,

you have become the best kind of friend that I didn’t know I’d need.

You are strong and stubborn and adamant.

You are beautiful, and wildly authentic.

Loud and boisterous.

Hilarious and headstrong.

You are reliable and loyal and hard-working.

Independent and sharp.

You will always argue for the under dog, you can’t help it.

Most people don’t get to see the you that deeply thinks and questions.

Deeply feels and loves, selflessly.

You are a teacher, taking time and liberties that no one else does…or would.

You are vinyl records and recycled bottles of baby houseplants.

You are adult soccer leagues and recorder of our memories.

You are an artist.

Your instruments are everything in your reach.

Pens, pencils, banjo’s, ink,

cast iron skillet and bacon grease.

I’m so proud of you.

Proud to call you my friend .

Proud to call you my sister.

 

(HAPPY BIRTHDAY 🙂 )
 

 

 

 

 

 

hey, you

Michael, Michael, Michael.

How did you end up with this deep thinker and heavy dreamer?

Complicating everything, and over thinking everything and DOING NOTHING about everything.

Stuck inside my head throughout the day, trying to sift and manage the disarray.

So many thoughts and feelings.

It must be hard being ONE with such a tortured artist type.

I’m moody and selfish and absorbed with sensitivity.

There are so many reasons for you not to love me, and grow tired of me.

Fed up with me and even angry with me.

And yet…

my husband.

Where in the world did you come from?!

What did I do to deserve this love that keeps on lasting?

Stretching beyond what I ever expected.

Just a moment paused in gratitude fills my belly with butterflies as if we’ve first met.

You are the most rewarding, most comfortable and safe place I’ve ever known.

So here is my poem for the day, my revised version of the over-used and over-done proverbs 31.

This is the Michael re-mix.

 

 

Who can find a dedicated husband?

He is more precious than the finest diamonds or jewels I could own.

His wife can trust him and he will greatly bless her life. 

He brings her good, not harm, all the days of his life because he has chosen HER.

He finds a way, always a way, to comfort and protect her.

He gets up before dawn to prepare for the day of work and toil.  He has no choice.

With his earnings he hands them over, to provide the fruits of fields and vineyards across their table. 

He is strong and full of life and a hard worker.

His hands are busy with tools and instruments of his trade.  

He is generous with his time and gifts and money, and constantly helps those in need.

He has no fear of the seasons to come because he has true faith that brings him peace knowing all will be provided for.

He repairs his own house, he solves problems as they arise, he dresses himself with the dignity of a true family man.

His wife is busy and well-known in the city gates, and he is proud of her and lifts her up to reach higher and higher because he alone can see how special and rare she is…even when she can’t.

He spurs her to be better and better…more of herself. 

He does all that he can to produce fruit and provide for his family.

He is clothed in integrity and honor and laughs without fear of any outside judgement or concerns of the future.

When he speaks, his words are kind and wise and he gives criticism with care and sincerity. 

He carefully watches over his household and strives to suffer nothing from laziness.

His children rise to greet him , he is their hero!

His wife proclaims from the mountaintops,” There are many virtuous and capable men in the world, but YOU surpass them ALL!!”

Charm is deceptive and arrogance DOES NOT LAST; but a man who fears the Lord will be greatly praaaaaaaised. 

Reward him for all that he does!

Let his deeds be publicly praised!

20140605-120455-43495421.jpg

Aside

A Poem for You

It’s Dave Matthews weather again and no one knows that more than me, but you.

My heart curls up in a sour knot because I know you are far away.

Don’t you know that things aren’t right without you?

The world keeps moving, plans are made.

And still, you are missing.

What helps mend the bond that has been torn?

Turning each of us into beasts.

Who are we when we lose our minds to rage?

Scared and afraid to lose our grips and cause more pain.

I miss you.

Just down the road, but a million miles away and ten thousand apologies apart.

How do you speak what can not be said?

 

Recognitions can be dealt, but it falls flat.

Corrections can be made, but they seem empty.

Words meant to soften,
are received sharp, and quick like a knife.

 

Of course, instrumental solos are our native language.

So, lets reconcile to the sounds of violins and saxophones.

Lets remember the trumpets and horns.

Lets close our eyes and listen carefully to the details that elude us in conversation.

Appreciate what always weaves us back together

 

 

 

 

A little something

Thought this poem was worth a re-post. Enjoy.

Mandimonologue

I find myself sometimes being overwhelmed with so many things that I’m sorting through in my brain.
Aren’t we all?
So much I am learning about myself, God, beauty, resilience , writing, my family. It’s hard to figure out where to roll my sleeves and dig in this morning.
So I wrote a poem instead.

My Perfect Sentence

If I could write the perfect sentence it would be about love.
Family and memories.
Adventure.
It would be about sunsets at the Lake and the sounds that lie in that faraway place in your mind when you’re half asleep at the beach.
Kids playing.
Water waving, seagulls chirping.
Lusciously relaxed.
Busy quiet.

I would write a sentence about the sweet and unexpected love of my dog.
Little creature that loves back, has a soul.
It softens you.

My perfect sentence would be about a warm, delicious meal shared with friends.
Savory.

View original post 163 more words

An invalid writer is confronted with truth

I could possibly bore everyone I know with writing another unimportant blog post.
This fear has stunned me into a writing coma where I have slept for months,
waiting to feel a spark of inspiration that didn’t feel forced.

Why is it so quiet when it snows?
Is it because the cold hard truth makes you hold your breath and stand still?

Tell the truth?

Well here it is:

I want to make something meaningful.
Craft words and phrases of art.
Powerful.
Inspirational.

The point is to move souls…
Evoke motion…to see if anyone gets me?!
Really gets me?

Im just another copy cat, trying hard to lead the way.
At the end of the day, I just want to be someone important.
I want to be triumphant.
Beautiful.
Exciting.
I want an epic destiny.
I want to climb to the climax of this movie with a powerful score, and blow everyone’s minds with my tenacity.

How selfish, how selfish, how selfish.

The grip of control is tight with its counterfeit…and here I am again worried about me, me me.

My mind swirls with thoughts that are hard to package and share.
I guess thats why I’m a writer.

Lose myself to chance?
Ok.

Pen to paper spilling.
Pushing me to dig deeper.
Urging me forward and I’m forced to keep up.
Stumbling across the page with my words.

I fight against what comes naturally because that’s what good girls are taught to do.

When really, lets just get real…

I’d slice throats if I had to.
I’d steal if I thought God wouldn’t care.
My darkness is ever present.
Can’t trust my instinct because its always going to be sinful.

I’ve been paralyzed on this mat for a year.
Writhing in bitter pain and pity.
Laying here waiting for a miracle.

“Get up and walk.”

Warm light of love starting to thaw my frozen heart.

Praying that this time I’ll trust and obey,
to spring up off of this bed and be healed.


“One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” (John 5:5-9 ESV)

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Day 20 of 35!!! 😊✅✅✅ Today was a CRAZY day, so I had to fit a quick 20 min SOMETHING in this morning! Hey...a workout is a workout! 💪🏽💥🙌🏼🔥💜 #keepgoing #persist #35daysofgainz #notallworkoutareglorious

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