Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I Get One Chance

Just a typical morning at The Cliffs of Corona del Mar

Without fail, whenever a friend visits—especially New Yorkers—I take them to one of my favorite places on earth, 

The Cliffs of Corona del Mar 

(For maximum effect, cue dramatic symphony concerto and a snobby British accent).  Sidenote: that’s not what they’re actually called.  It’s something pretty boring like Little Corona Beach Place and holy geez, it deserves more flair. 

Not only are The Cliffs of Corona del Mar ridiculously beautiful, I can always bank on this reaction: I can’t believe you live here.  

I giddily reply, I know, right?!? Don’t you love it?!  OMG tell me how much you love it!!  while I do my little Happy Dance (this is essentially a dorky butt wiggle that my little sister swears I picked up from my dog).

When I first moved here from New York, my reaction to this place was a little different.  I remember walking by a couple who was smiling and laughing and, well, annoying the crap out of me. 

And then, they did something even more shocking.  When they passed me, they said, in unison: 

Good Morning!

The New Yorker in me recoiled, a bit suspicious, and wondered, What do they want?  But then I realized, Oh. They’re being nice.  Because it’s beautiful and it’s hard to be upset when you’re looking at a view like this, and also that’s just what people do here. 

Now I love New Yorkers and will always love that city.  But I realized that my changed attitude highlights a big difference between my life then and now.  The demanding, driven, CEO-or-bust lifestyle I was living—the very one that every magazine and website and tv show told me was the definition of success—was making me completely miserable.  

My whole life I worked really hard to make tons of money, earn every possible promotion, and sprint up the ladder so I could buy my nice house, nice car, nice bags, vacation in nice places.  And don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.  And I still love a lot of that stuff.  

But it also came at an expense—long hours chained to a desk, stress-filled meetings, toxic bosses, living in airports.  That lifestyle contributed to weight gain, depression, challenging friendships, and the end of my marriage.

I was good at my career.  But I sucked at life.

Changing my focus has changed my life.  Prioritizing God, family, friends, and living a good life I can be proud of, has made me a much happier, peaceful person. 

So now, I have it all figured out.  (Insert boatloads of laughter here).  

Ok, not even a little bit.  

All I know is I get one chance at this life.  And I want to do it right. 

My dream is to live a good life and be loving, be close to God and be a good human being and bring peace to people.  - Ziggy Marley

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I'm About to Give the Scariest Talk of My Life

Some really mean tree-cutting guys squished a whole patch
 of these beautiful flowers with their mean tree-cutting trucks.
But I found one who's not going down easy.
This little gal's a fighter.
I’ve been asked to give a nutrition presentation to a group of teenagers.  

And I’m slightly terrified.

The funny thing is, I’ve successfully pitched to CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, I’ve given rather delightful presentations to large groups, I’ve even been on tv for crying out loud.  But this is different. 

Because I was a pretty crappy teenager.  Or, pretty awesome depending on how you look at it.  Picture an eye-rolling, moody, lost young girl who thought she knew everything but deep down was incredibly insecure.  

So here’s my fear: I show up to this room full of insecure, snarky, highly judgmental kids who look me up and down, and think:

You’re a health coach??! 

It’s true that I’m not where I want to be.  With the help of God and an awesome group of friends and family, I’ve made huge improvements that I’m proud of--Food used to be a full-time job for me, but it’s been downgraded to part-time. 

But I still struggle with food addiction.  And giving a nutrition presentation as a health coach seems, well, just a teensy, tiny, ‘lil bit hypocritical. 

I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about this opportunity.  And here’s the crazy thing that was put on my heart: 

I’m ready now.  

And here's the kicker: sharing it now is not only helping me get to where I want to be, it’s creating a space for others to relate and share their struggles with me because they know I get it.  

Just yesterday, a friend who is beautiful, thin, and pretty darn perfect, shared with me that she struggles with food, too.  I was completely floored.  My first thought was, What? Not you too! 

But I know that’s how some people look at me.  And the truth is, the more I talk about it, the more I realize there are A LOT of us out there who have this same issue. 

This thought keeps playing in my mind: There’s beauty in the struggle. 

So often I want to fast-forward, skip the bad parts, and instantly get to the good stuff.  But God is putting these opportunities in front of me for a reason.  When I actually trudge through the mud, that’s when my hard-fought lessons are learned.  That’s when I’m refined, improved, made into the even better version of myself- the version that He wants me to be.

So now, even though I'm pretty nervous, I’m also pumped for this talk.  ‘Cause I’m gonna get real, y’all.  

Yeah, yeah, yeah--I’ll talk about eating your vegetables and exercising more. But I’m starting with sharing my story- my struggle, my beauty. 

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hiding Sucks, My Messy Beautiful

My little niece's "big belly".  I always
learn a thing or two from her. 

I’ve been brilliant at hiding for most of my life.  I mean, I was downright exceptional at not letting people see the real me. 

Why?  The truth was too scary: I. Was. A. Mess.  And I didn’t want anyone to think I was anything less than perfect.

There’s a reason why until recently, even the closest people in my life had no idea what was going on behind the scenes:

I was really, really good at it.

Call it a PK* skill, but hiding my struggles, and what was actually going on, just came naturally.  Not only did I not want to burden anyone with my little problems, I didn’t want anyone to know I had any problems.

It was so much safer for me to pretend that I was fine, everything was fine, in fact, darling, my life is just AMAZING! 

Q: “How’s the diet going?”
A: It’s going really well.  I’ve lost 2 pounds this week alone!
(In reality: I starved myself for 5 days eating nothing but soup broth, so last night I binged on a bowl of raw cookie dough, 3 giant blueberry muffins and an entire box of chocolate macadamia nuts.)

Q: “How’s your job in New York?”
A: I’m learning a ton, meeting incredible people!  It’s been such a great opportunity!
(In reality: I was told I’m losing my job next week and I’m completely falling apart.)

Q: “How’s married life?”
A: It’s so wonderful!  Blissful, just like everyone says.  
(In reality: My marriage is crumbling and I don’t know what to do.)

True story: When I finally ended my marriage, only two of my friends knew we were even having issues.  My family was in complete shock.  So were the rest of my friends.  I literally had to repeat myself several times to my mom because she couldn’t fathom what I was telling her.

I preferred to keep my problems to myself.   I would tell myself, I don’t need anyone.  I’ve got this.

That philosophy didn’t serve me well.  In fact, it was utterly exhausting. 

What I’ve now learned:

There is so much power in sharing your struggles with others.

There is so much power in knowing you’re not alone.

There is so much power in just being you.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not advocating shouting your problems from the rooftops. (Seriously, please don’t do that).    But, being open and honest about my struggles has opened the doors for others to relate, and for me to experience healing, acceptance, grace.     

I’m beyond lucky that I’ve found an AMAZING group of women with whom I can be completely authentically me.  And oddly, they still love me.  (Shout out to my P31 homies.  Love you ladies).

That’s what I wish for you, too.

*I’m a PK, aka Pastors Kid.  Yep. Right now, I bet all kinds of fun stereotypes are banging around in your head.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Pope Is Cool

Aren't these dewy leaves pretty? I just love
nature.  And my iPhone.  

I caught the 60 Minutes story on the Pope this weekend, and something happened that I didn’t expect: I got super emotional.  There I was, sitting in my living room watching what amounts to a Pope Documentary for crying out loud, and I started tearing up.

Why? The Pope is cool.

I was completely awe-struck by the incredible example he’s setting not just for Catholics, but for humans.

I was also moved because Christianity is an extremely personal and contentious topic for me.

I didn’t just grow up in a we-go-to-church-every-Sunday Christian family, my dad was a pastor and worked for a Christian youth organization and my mom was a Christian education teacher—both at the school I attended.  My reputation preceded me: I was the “perfect” and “really holy” kid. 

You have no idea how many adults told me: You’re so lucky!  How amazing to have these strong Christians as parents and to have all this spiritual knowledge!

Nope.  Not how I felt at all.

Confession: I hated it.

Being constantly surrounded by that world, I saw some good examples of Christians, but I also met a lot of annoying ones.  The following are all true stories: 
  • The Hypocrite: Hey teens, don’t have premarital sex, ok? Yes I’m unmarried and pregnant with a guy I met in bible study, but you know, do as I say not as I do.  
  • The Judge: I won’t tell you to your face that the east coast liberal school you’re attending is evil, so I’ll just fax an appalling article to your dad’s office and let him scold you for your horrible choice.  
  • I Only Speak Christianese: Good morning beloved daughter of Christ, may the Holy Spirit bestow upon you many blessings on this glorious day that the Lord our God has made! (Translation: Good Morning Kalei, have a great day!)
  • So Freaking Boring:  You should be ashamed that you want to see Pretty Woman. I only watch uplifting movies that are pre-approved by my pastor. 
As a teenager, it made me think: so wait, what’s so great about being a Christian?  And so I ran (sprinted would be more accurate) away from that life.  I didn’t want anything to do with it.  

Fast forward 20 years.  After a “successful” life that seemed perfect on the outside, I hit rock bottom- my marriage ended, I lost my job, I didn’t have a place to call home, I became deeply depressed and didn’t see a reason for living.  

It was only then, when I was stripped of everything, that I reconnected with my faith. And I realized that God was with me all along, waiting for me to come back.

In this new chapter of my life, I’ve prioritized two things:
  1. Be real.  
  2. Love. 
I found pretending to be exhausting.  Don't get me wrong, being human isn’t easy.  And let me tell you something else, being a Christian can be hard.   But it’s been so freeing to be authentic about my struggles.  It's so freeing to just be me. 

I’m no theologian, but I believe Jesus was all about Love.  Love him, love others, love ourselves.  Kinda simple, really. 

And somehow, through our imperfect, messy humanness, it got twisted.  We thought it was ok to pretend, judge, hate, mistreat each other. 

That’s why I’m so grateful for Pope Francis. He’s inspiring a new conversation about what it means to be a Christian, because he’s living it.  He loves everyone.  He judges no one.  He serves the poor.  He’s humble.  

And he’s human.  

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Philippians 2:1-14 MSG

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

You're Never Ever Alone. Ever.

This picture doesn't have a whole lot to do with this post.
I'm just obsessed with this new little App called Phonto.  I cannot
stop making these little posters. 

Moving could quite possibly be the most stressful thing a human can do in life, ever.  It doesn’t matter if you’re moving down the street or to Dubai.

While I eagerly embraced moving in my early years (6 states and 16 homes in 18 years—WINNING!) I now, officially, 100% avoid it.  Until I have a really good excuse, I vow to live in my current apartment forever and ever, Amen. 

There’s one move in particular that stands out, one that I affectionately call The Horrifying and Heinous Move from Hell

I was moving by myself from Manhattan Beach to Manhattan for a new job, with my dog and a whole lotta crap, all by myself (did I mention I was by myself?).   It doesn’t help that I’m the world’s worst packer.  I truly thought that packing everything in my little beach house for a cross-country move would take oh, a day.  It. Did. Not. 

After an anxious plane ride where I sat for 6 tearful hours wondering if my dog who was sitting in cargo would ever forgive me (she still hasn’t), I arrived at JFK.  Navigating this crazy airport is insanity on a good day, but with 2 giant suitcases and a pissed-off dog in a rhinoceros-sized crate, STRESSED doesn’t begin to cover it.  I felt every emotion imaginable, but mostly this: I was so very, very alone.

The next day, I moved into my new empty apartment and decided to shop for curtains (I have a curtain problem but that’s a story for another time).  That’s when the movers called.  I assumed they were calling to confirm their arrival the next day.  You know, the day that was confirmed in the contract, the emails, and on the phone a gajillion times. 

Nope. They were in Florida.  Which, if I harken back to 8th grade geography class, is pretty far from New York.  

They’d be 9 days late. And they were not sorry.

At that moment, I felt confused, defeated, but more than anything: rage.  I kicked into survival mode and immediately headed for air mattresses.  I grabbed the cheapest one I could find and headed to the register.  That’s where a not nice Register Lady told me that the air mattress I was now forced to buy was, in fact, not on sale.  

That’s when it happened. 

I had a complete meltdown in Bed Bath & Beyond.  

An angry-sobs-I-don’t-care-who’s-watching-I’m falling-apart-right-here-at-register-12 meltdown. 

Luckily my Attorney Friend was with me and got to work-- first by calmly talking Register Lady into double checking the advertisement, and then assuring me that the world was, in fact, not falling apart.

Smart Attorney Friend: Kalei, you’re gonna be ok.
Me: Am I!?!  AM I?!!
Smart Attorney Friend: Yeah, you’re gonna be fine.  

Her reassurance was exactly what I needed at that moment.  I also believe that her being there most likely prevented a burly security guard from escorting Sobbing Air Mattress Girl from the premises. 

Looking back on this little incident, I now see two big lessons: 
  1. I can’t do everything by myself.  It’s not just easier, it’s a whole lot more fun with a bunch of awesome friends and family by my side. 
  2. I’m never really alone, ever.  Even when it truly feels like I am.   
What a relief that I can always rely on the presence and strength of an all-powerful God. 

In those moments when I feel so alone, this is the truth I need to remember: God is always there, with me and for me.

God is with you today. He doesn’t expect you to do it all on your own.  Victoria Osteen 

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Life is Serious. Just Kidding.

I need to do more of this.
Disneyland Annual Pass, I've got my eye on you.

Something was pointed out to me this weekend that shocked me. 

I don't like to have fun.  

I wish I had a more eloquent reaction to this crazy revelation, but this was my first thought: 

What the WHAT?!?!

I learned this while attending an awesome seminar (Confession #1: Hello my name is Kalei and I’m completely addicted to seminars.  I’ve been clicking “REGISTER NOW” like its my full-time job).  

Somehow I developed this belief that Life is serious, Work is serious, Being a Christian is very, very serious.  And fun should be kept to a minimum. 


This struck me as odd since I tend to laugh a lot—especially when wildly inappropriate— and I’m always up for trying something new.  I’m not sure exactly when this came into play, but I do know this: 

I let life get heavy. I let it get serious.  I let it consume me. 

And that’s no fun. 

It left me wondering how to ignite my inner goofball--the super ridiculous, gosh darn mischievous, no-alcohol-required Crazy Pants.  The girl who was nicknamed “Giggles” in Girl Scouts, who played Laser Tag in her prom dress and fearlessly rope-swinged and zip-lined her way through summer camp.  

But here’s something I was taught too: I chose this, this heaviness.  

But I can change that.

Because I get to choose. 

I get to choose a life full of fun, adventure, joy. 

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. - Henri Nouwen
I wondered what the Bible said about fun, so I googled it.  (I also wonder how the heck I ever knew anything before Google).  Here’s something that really made me laugh: it turns out, fun is recommended

So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people to do in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life.  That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them.  - Ecclesiastes 8:15

I decided to add little blocks of “FUN TIME” to my calendar (yup, Type A Planner right here, folks).  And can I tell you?  Just seeing “FUN TIME” all over my week makes me smile.  
So this week, this girl is gonna shake it like a Polaroid picture.  And get out my seat and jump around. 

(Confession #2: Heck yeah, right now I'm cranking “Jump Around” and “Hey Ya”!)