Saturday, March 23, 2013


I was trying to find The UPS Store yesterday in an unfamiliar town. I drove around a block three times, I made for-sure positive I did not travel the wrong way down one-way streets, and I nearly returned home (errands un-done) out of frustration. Instead I called The UPS Store and asked what they were located next to, and the landmarks helped. Then I walked into the store and the fresh-faced college students made me feel old and slightly less awesome.

I texted a friend: "I want to go home and take my bra off," which is like saying, "I want to go home and eat a pint of ice cream," or "I want to go home and watch a Real Housewives marathon."

It wasn't until I was driving around the unfamiliar Texas town square yesterday that it dawned on me: you moved.

Sure, I'd done all the things required for a move - change of address, shut off the electricity, put my stuff in storage - but the reality of it didn't register till I was wandering in a different town feeling old and disoriented.

This was one of my simpler moves, and one of my most favorites because I didn't move too far from the people I dearly love in my old place, and in my new place I have an existing network of friends.

So may the record state that Holly has moved (and some of you will add an exaggerated again).

I'm an Austinite now.

Well, kind of.

I'm an around-Austinite.

(and if you want my new address and we're tight like that, email me for it.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

staring isn't living

God and I got into a staring contest. I blinked first. He probably smiled.

He knows I’m a control freak.

I like to plan shit.

I like to organize it and make it look pretty.

I like to follow steps to achieve a goal, and I like to know the end result.

I imagine God and I in a sitting dyad. Our faces are inches a part and my hands are resting comfortably in his. My poker face sucks so I’m probably smiling and maybe chuckling intermittently. He’s better at keeping a straight face.

Why am I staring? Well, aside from the fact that I’m competitive and I want to win, I want control. Not engaging in this charade means I have to go live my life, and what does that look like? I’m not entirely sure. So I keep staring.

It’s hard to say how long we’ve been contesting. He could probably tell you. Granted, there have been reprieves along the way mostly because I’ve closed my eyes, or darted my eyeballs somewhere else only to return to the locked gaze.

As long as I keep staring, I know what I’m doing. Staring. If I stop staring I don’t know what will happen.

And then one day I decided to blink.

You know what I realized while I was sitting there…staring? I couldn’t live my mission, execute a dream, or change the world in this position. I had to get up. And it’s hard to stare someone down (even God) when you’re moving.

“Just jump,” a friend told me in November. “Just do it…jump.”

“Can I plug my nose?” I asked.

“Yes, you can plug your nose. Just jump.”

So that’s what I did. I stopped staring. I blinked, plugged my nose and jumped.

Some of the most profound moments in my life have been when I’ve abandoned worry, surrendered to the risk, and gave up my control.

I don’t believe that God has special rewards for people who jump much like I don’t believe he sabotages our efforts just to lead us through the proverbial desert another 40 years.

But there is power in mobilizing yourself. Good things (and some bad ones, too) are going to happen when we are vulnerable enough to loosen our grip and live our best lives.

I will never stop learning this lesson. It’s a daily choice: stare, or live? Stare? Live? Stare? Adventure? Stare? Trust?

Staring is comfortable, and I mean, his eyes are gorgeous. But if I’m staring/controlling, I’m not living. And I intend to live.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"I've gotcha"

"Fearlessness with peace," my mom reminded me. "Remember what the skunk means?"

Skunks have been a crazy intimate part of my life for about 17 months now, and they've finally driven me out of my Cottage. *insert sadness here* While I'm lamenting the loss of my home, and humored that I lost the battle to skunks, my life coach is informing me of the significance that skunks represent. 

Fearlessness with peace. Steady with efforts. What you do emanates outward. Teaches willpower. An awareness of when to move and adapt. People will naturally notice you.

I had no idea the skunks had an important message. 

Four months ago, there were so many reasons not to accept my friend's invitation to Kenya. 

Money. Job. Vacation. Dogs. Health. Risk. Fear.

There were so many reasons not to launch VoiceBox Media

Money. Job. Vacation. Risk. Fear. My obsessive worrying about details that didn't matter. 

But then I decided to take a small step. Dip my toe in the water, if you will. I started talking about my idea. And the idea became a bigger idea until it was bursting at the seams and I had a choice to make: kill it, or take the next small step.

Four months ago I was sitting in a friend's living room tallying up all the reasons I shouldn't go to Kenya. Don't get me wrong. I wanted to go so freaking bad. 

But was I ready for that step? Did I have what it would take?

I consulted my mentors.

You're going to Kenya. 

Forget dipping the toe in the water. That takes too long. I decided to dive. 

I can only calculate risk for so long before I have to jump, and trust. I can only run through so many scenarios in my dizzy head until I have to relinquish control, and trust.

When will I learn?

I was shaking my head at myself yesterday over that very question. An unplanned sequence of events had me irritated and flustered, but led me exactly to where I needed to be at exactly the right time - not a day too late, not a minute too soon. 

When will I get that despite my planning and obsessive studying of the calendar, shit's not really under my control?

I've seen it happen again and again with my four-month-old-project-that's-been-in-the-making-for-13-years. You'd think I'd get it. 

Everything happens for a reason.

That's my motto. It reminds me not to sweat the small stuff, and to appreciate the big stuff. To let go of some things and to trust. Usually these moments hit me when I'm driving at sundown and I look over or ahead of me to see the magnificent sunset, and I hear a couple words whispered into my soul: 

"I've gotcha."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

From Kenya

As written from Mwaita on Feb. 17, 2013 at 10:45 p.m.:

It's my second night in Kenya and I'm writing in what is a stone building with three sleeping rooms. We are in the village tonight - "the real Kenyan experience."

The morning was slow and at around 11, Wesley, Tarah, Mikayla and I went to Eldoret. We stopped at his cousin Patrick's house for about an hour before continuing on. We ordered pizza from a bistro (my Mastercard raised an eyebrow and confusion from the clerk, but the manager approved it) and while Wesley bought natural gas and fixed a flat tire, Tarah, Mikayla and I shopped at the market. It looked as if it was the Kenyan equivalent of Walmart, except guards ran you up and down with a wand.

I was told it was a "major shopping trip" as our cart (probably half the size of a Walmart cart) was full. We arrived back at Wesley's house at 2:45 p.m. and hurriedly got back onto the road for the village.

It was a seemingly chaotic but purposeful rhythm of stopping, switching Kenyan drivers, Wesley going in one director and Tarah, Mikayla and I in the other. Along the way, we picked up Wesley's mom and neighbor. We drove further into the villages and to a primary school where a large group of women were waiting for Tarah to speak about Wesley. She asked me to say a few words and introduce myself - she would translate. I did and she explained more about how I met Wesley when he first came to the United States.

I learned quickly that the Kenyan greeting is a handshake, and the children will crowd and wait for you to initiate contact. When one hand has been touched, dozens of hands reach out.

When we left the women, a man planted himself in front of the car, forcing us to stop. He came to my open window to shake my hand and he grabbed my arm, not letting go. Our driver kept driving until the man couldn't keep up. We stopped shortly after a butcher stand along the road so Wesley's mom could purchase meat. Our car was swarmed as adults and young children crowded to see, talk and touch us. A woman, a friend of Wesley's, explained that besides Tarah, they had never seen a white person. My glasses are also drawing attention. They wanted to talk to "Mrs. Wesley" and it was as if she was some sort of celebrity - their hero's other half.

At one moment, a man climbed into the back seat and would not get out. Our driver, Timothy, tried coaxing him, and another man - a Wesley supporter - went around to his door, opened it, and tried to get him to leave. He refused and kept pointing at me. Finally he climbed out and I saw the man slip Kenyan shillings into his hand. Our driver locked the doors.

We left the butcher shop and drove a bit to drop off Wesley's mom's neighbor. She showed us the nursery school she had built in 2 weeks time. It sits in the middle of a field, obscure and the equivalent of an American outbuilding, but such pride and promise surrounded it.

She has 6 acres and a small farm. She will build a primary school, she said. She wants me to come back, that we are close friends and connected now.

We drive to Wesley's village via a tangled mess of roads riveted with ruts and holes. My days on the ranch prepared me for Kenyan roads.

Once at the village, we settled in...unloading our supplies and I was given the tour. We drank chai tea and Stewart and I talked about his time here and the ag perspective he has. People floated in and out and soon our English was overtaken my Swahili. We listened. Most of the conversation centered around politics and the future of the Cherangany. It's hard to separate politics from the foundation in Wesley's mind because they are connected. He wants to bridge the two sides, he said, something that has never been done - a politician working with and for the good of the people.

Conversation flowed easily from one topic to another - politics, college football, races run, training and brainstorming ideas for foundation fundraising. Dinner is served (plow) and the conversation continues. There's lot of laughter. People love to laugh here, and it's a universal language.

All of my interviews so far have been done in the car en route to the next destination. Once we arrive, there are many people and distractions.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Let's dream

"And often the result of daring greatly isn't a victory march as much as it is a quiet sense of freedom mixed with a little battle fatigue." Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

I am free. 

I am also tired, exhilarated, content, on track, and blessed.

It's been a whirlwind three months. 

I founded VoiceBox Media in November. I began planning for Kenya in December. In January, we had our first board meeting and I was voted the executive director of VoiceBox. I bought my ticket for Kenya.

In February, I lost one of my best friends to a heart attack. Five days later I quit my job. The next day I went to Kenya, and in the process visited 3 continents, a half dozen countries and spent an unexpected (free) night in Amsterdam.

Five days ago I came home to a Cottage infested with skunk odor, and for the past five days I've been housed with a dear friend who graciously opened their home to me and my two dogs, one of which I'm 90 percent sure is pregnant. 

Now, here I am. A bit windblown, kissed by the Kenyan sun, and with so many ideas and stories and pictures floating around in my head that it's hard to concentrate on just one for more than five minutes.

I've been absent from here, but I haven't been silent. I've written over here, and guest blogged over there. I've been planning and emailing and Facebook messaging and texting and IM'ing and talking. I've been rejected and come back swinging; delayed, but not deterred. 

"Do you know what a ruthless warrior you are to be living the lifestyle of following your heart?" Emelia Symington Fedy 

I've been pinching myself. You're living your dream. There are accolades and pats on the back and admiration and respect. But really, I'm just a girl with a dream. 

And I'm going for it. With everything I've got.

For a sneak peak of photos, visit VBM's Facebook page