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I cannot believe it has been so long since I wrote in my own blog. For some reason, I have not written in my own journals either. That sometimes means one is hiding from something, or perhaps even hiding from themselves. I am not certain how this relates to me, but I am going to figure it out.

I am calling this blog “GROWTH”. 

I was speaking to a friend via BBM text this morning, and our banter back and forth was exactly about this. Now, this friend is highly successful, publicly recognized for that success, and has had a life full of checks in the ‘win’ box. One thing struck me when speaking though. They are in a need to ‘grow’. I began to think about my own life. Specifically the last year, and I certainly know that I have grown. I have been challenged, I have been tested, and all has resulted in growth. I am on Twitter and Facebook, and in paying attention to everyone from a well-known person that has fame, to a philanthropist, to the modern college student, a mother, a father, an aspiring artist, a banker, a teacher; I noticed one common theme in the communication shared with one another; that is encouragement to grow. Encouragement beyond restriction. Wanting to help one another.

I have been the victim of internet gossip, or internet rumor mill. It can be vicious and just plain mean. I find that in communicating through social networking, like anything else, has good intended counter-balance to the reprehensible and immoral commentary that seems to draw large volumes of traffic and attention. Each morning, I am flooded with vast amounts of posts and Tweets full of love, light, encouragement, and motivation. People encouraging each other to move forward, live, learn, and ‘grow’.

If you study psychology, you will learn that much of what you put out is actually how you feel about yourself, or about your current life situation. Hence, all you can say about this is that if someone is being harmful, or even evil in his or her behavior towards you, even and mostly if you have never met the person before, it is likely that it is only a reflection of how they feel about themselves. I am not an expert. I am certainly not preaching any of this as fact. I am just saying there seems to be trends here that do also seem to be validated by psychological study. I say all this only to say, that when you are down, when you are confused, this is always, and always a time to grow. 

My Father passed away just two weeks ago. He had been ill most of this year, and was deteriorating rapidly the past few months. It was sad to witness. Sad to know that he was out of the person he truly was, and unable to control the inevitable last phase of life – – – death. He had such peace in his final months. He knew he was dying, and there was beauty in him finding that place in life where he was content. For me, this was gratifying, because it showed me that it is never to late to grow. To learn. For beauty.

We did not have a large funeral at his request, as he was cremated. Only a small Memorial for his immediate family and friends. It was at my Father’s house that my cousin, Bonnie, asked me about this blog. She had loved the first entry so much because she too had visited my maternal grandmother’s farm with my mother and I when she was young. She remembered my Irish-American grandmother caring for her cold, and how different her large farm was in comparison to our urban life in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. Bonnie and I laughed as she reminded me of our trip. She was a few years older than me, so her details were much more vivid than mine, and I appreciated her memory for the both of us. Bonnie encouraged me to write another blog soon, and in fact, showed me articles her daughter had cut out on me that I had even forgotten about myself. She reminded me how much I love writing, and she didn’t even do it intentionally.

All year, I had been putting off a writing retreat to work on my novel and screenplay. I had been accepted into a retreat on Whidbey Island, Washington called HEDGEBROOK. It is a retreat on a farm off the coast of Washington State that was founded in 1988. It is set right off the beach, in lush green pastures that are surrounded by evergreen forests, dairy farms, and orchards of apples, Asian pears, raspberries, and wild flowers. It is a most idyllic setting for finding peace and tranquility. Finding the mind for creative inspiration. Suddenly, it hit me. I was supposed to now not put off my acceptance into this prestigious group of women that have called Hedgebrook home. I was not to delay myself the opportunity to grow. It was then that I called the Residency Director, Vito, from Washington, D.C. I said, “Vito, hi, it is Lisa Ellis”. Vito replied with sentiments about my Father, and excitement that I thought this was the best time of any to come to Hedgebrook, and like that, I booked a ticket to leave the next week.

I have been here in Hedgebrook for three days now, and I know it is exactly what I needed to initiate another phase of growth. I made the time to come. I made the time to write. I made the time to share with the other women writers from around the world (there is one in residency here from Australia, and another from Palestine), and to share with women of extraordinary experiences and backgrounds (one woman is among the 1% of women construction and electrician laborers in the United States, and writes articles and poetry in protest of the sexism and racism in the labor unions, another a well known published author of fiction). It has been inspiring. It is here I decided to also, and finally, enroll in a program I had been accepted to at an Ivy League university. All of this, really, for myself. All because I always wanted to do it to grow, but always found a reason to not ‘grow’. 

The world is ever changing. Ever evolving. You should also. Whether your goals are small personal goals that I have recently decided to finally grasp, or larger life changing goals, business ventures that have been dreams, or even a goal that has a long term impact on your happiness; you must begin in order to make that ‘growth’. 

“If you want to change a situation, or change the world, first try to improve and bring about change within yourself. That will help change your life and the lives of your family. From there it just gets bigger and bigger. Everything we do has some effect. Some impact” – Dalai Lama



American Woman 20/20

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Originally published in Huffington Post. 

The Constitutions interpretations and principles as they relate to the meaning of Women’s Rights are never ending. As we approach the first quarter-century of the new millennium, we look back at the last century and how American Constitutional precedent relates to our current perspective and lives. After all, are not the social movements of each time the direct reflection of our circumstances?

Michelle Obama spoke this past week while on an official visit with President Obama in Argentina to a gathering of mostly young woman (and perhaps a few young men) on the power of education and her “Let Girls Learn” initiative. Hosted by the first lady of Argentina, Juliana Awada, Mrs. Obama spoke of the richness of her childhood dreams that were supported by her modest upbringing. She described that although her family was not wealthy, and her parents had not reach higher levels of education, they taught her she could achieve anything. The first lady then told how when she began to attend school, external experiences presented conflicts to the support and messages she experienced at home. She began to question herself by these external challenges and doubts that were the voices of gender inequality, and the expectation that she strive to achieve less than her dreams and desires. Many young women experience this. I know I did.

This opens up a modern series of questions that are altered by our society today. As women increase in numbers in the workplace, single parenting is more likely, and divorce rates at all time highs, it puts women in a position they have yet to be in before. Is this challenge or opportunity? Or are the goals and dreams of young women being swallowed by doubt and fear created by external expectations. The modern feminist movement over the past several decades fought for freedom, rights, and the right to make choices.

What are the modern interpretations of the meaning of women’s suffrage and the movements for Equal Rights? Does Roe v. Wade have value and meaning as a Supreme Court landmark case in 2016?

In February of this year, the Supreme Court heard initial oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Heath v. Hellerstead. The case challenges Texas’ anti-Abortion law HB2. If the law were to be upheld, this would allow states to undermine the liberties seemingly protected under the precedent by calling the issues a protection of Women’s Health, instead of anti-abortion.

In the 14th and 19th Amendments protect the Women’s equal protection and the Right to Vote. But, where are we now? As I watched and listened to Michelle Obama’s speech days ago in Argentina, it made me think that there is another dialogue. Another discussion. “Doubt”. “Strength”. “Balance”. Equal Pay?

There is now an additional load that has redefined the feminist cause. Girls and women are now expected to do it all, while still battling on unequal battlefields. Many are top earners in their families playing multiple characters in their own play called “life”. Another large segment of women today are the first to attend college or achieve higher education degrees (or perhaps have gone to higher levels of education than their male spouses or siblings). The roles of Mother, career professional, community leader, organizer, problem solver, and then the added expectations of beauty and sex appeal. Not to leave out balancing family responsibilities, friendships and maintaining health. Today, if a woman works full time and is married, chances are and statistics show that woman is still more likely to carry the burden and responsibility of household chores and childcare responsibility. Arianna Huffington pushes women to “Thrive”. Sheryl Sandberg tells women to “Lean In”. Oprah Winfrey encourages both men and women to “OWN” themselves. Simply put, women are running themselves into the ground trying to be all things. Women are expected to balance climbing for professional careers, and balancing personal fulfillment and family life. Women are natural caregivers, which many times naturally has them think of others in major life and career decisions before serving their own needs.

For me, it has been such a combination of these aspects that struck a cord with me as I listened to the first lady described how she became “tired”. Tired of competing. Tired of people telling her she was not smart enough. Tired of people telling her she was too loud. Arianna Huffington described how she became “tired”. Literally. Collapsing at her desk.

“Women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world. The numbers tell the story quite clearly”, said Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.

On March 15th, after Hillary Clinton had given her Super Tuesday victory speech in West Palm Beach, Florida, had been criticized as being “shrill” and for her “style”. Regardless of your political views and party affiliation, the comments made by Donald Trump referring to Secretary Clinton’s bathroom break as “too disgusting” and a “weird deal”; comments that would not be made towards a male candidate. He was even more offensive towards Republican candidate, Carly Fiorina during the primary campaigns by commenting, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next President?”

This may resonate with women that have faced these challenges at home or in the workplace. It starts to sound like a familiar ring to any woman that has been looked at beyond anything other than her capabilities, and reduced to defending being a female.

I was raised in the state of Maryland, and the long time Senior Senator from the state of Maryland, Barbara Mikulski is the longest serving woman in the United States Congress (US House of Representatives 1977-1987; US Senate 1987 – present). As a young woman I realized what she had accomplished was not the norm. Women such as her defied the odds during a period of change and most challenged environments. Senator Mikulski responded to critics following Secretary Clinton’s victory’s on Super Tuesday by saying, “Many of we women feel that there’s a double standard. What’s being said about Hillary is what women have heard for centuries. Your too loud, your too aggressive, your too pushy”. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also commented, “I think women go through a magnifying glass that men do not. Look at GOP Presidential frontrunner, Donald Trump. Talk about braggadocio, talk about arrogance, talk about shouting, talk about demeaning, talk about insulting. It is all there.”

The feminist fight is beyond “rights”. It is a fight to define what will truly serve women and their families, while being still being respected and appreciated as a woman. There are extraordinary women achieving great things in the United States and around the world. They would be so much greater if they were allowed to still be women. For men to still respect them as women. Equality does not mean you are not a man, and a woman is not a woman. It just means the playing field is clear, and there are not obstacles in the way. I encourage you all to use the hash tag #AmericanWoman2020 if you agree.