Inside each and every one of us is more power and capability than we know. The last few years have been ones of incredible personal growth for me on this front and simultaneously society as a whole seems to be going through this same transition. My goal here at Damsel NOT in Distress is for you (yes, you) to realize just how powerful you are, how capable you can be, and how expansive life can feel when you move beyond your limits.

Welcome to Team Damsel NOT in Distress

I’d mudded sheetrock before. I’d hung it before with help. The whole house needed to be done, flooring needed to be laid, and cabinets painted. I held my brand new drill and told myself that I could, in fact, do this.

I was in a drive through at a bank, 350 miles from home, and heard a clunk. I could turn left but I couldn’t turn right. I pulled into a parking spot, shook the wheel and heard a much bigger clunk. Armed with Youtube and basic tools and a surplus of stubbornness I decided to get myself back on the road.

In the midst of divorcing, while much of my life felt out of my control, I seized that control in projects, vehicle maintenance, and long term plans. I dropped some plates and balanced many more. I began to use the hashtag, #damselNOTindistress on Instagram. Owning that seemed to give me a place to be bold, to do things that I had been pretty regularly told that I couldn’t do. I did more and that only inspired me to push myself to do even more.

Several of my friends have picked up the hashtag and used it for everything from hanging curtain rods to unclogging dishwashers, and tackling travel trailer renovation projects. However, the idea of “Damsel NOT in Distress” feels larger to me than that. It is women taking ownership of their lives, and perhaps even more so, the world around then in all sorts of ways and harnessing their inner power and strength to make that happen.

I originally launched my blog in 2011 to document my life as a partnered woman, and in retrospect, I let that partnership define me. My journey to embracing my own being and strengths (and weaknesses becoming strengths) has been halting at times but life changing and bracing. While I plan to continue to document my own #damselNOTindistress moments in this space, I also want to use this space to amplify the voices of other women living their damn lives to the fullest.

To that end, use the hashtag to share your #damselNOTindistress moments and those that you find in this vast internet space. Tweet stories you read to me so I can share them with you all. I’m toying with a link-round up once a week to share things I’ve found with my readers but I’m open to other suggestions and totally welcome input from the world of other damsels (or dames, if you prefer) who are NOT in distress.

You, yes, you, are part of Team #damselNOTinDistress. What will you do?


On The Page: Pure Land

You know those books that you read breathlessly, hanging on each word but yet rushing on to the next one? Pure Land  was one of those books. I don’t have a whole lot of time to read these days so I got some reading in Thursday night, and then Saturday after I got home from EMT class, I dove into it intending fully to relish the rest of the book.

This is not to say that Pure Land is a happy story. Or a story where you don’t know the ending. It is the intersecting story of Tomomi Hanamure, a Japanese woman deeply in love with America’s West, a young Havasupai man named Randy Wescogame, and the story of the story teller, author Annette McGivney.

Tomomi was murdered on hike to Havasupai Falls in the Grand Canyon in May of 2006. A regular solo traveler of the United States, Hanamure was lured off the trail by Wescogame and brutally stabbed to death. McGivney entered the story when she wrote “Freefall” for Backpacker in 2007.

Through this deeper telling of the tale of intersecting lives we meet Tomomi’s father, Randy’s father, the woman who compassionately helped Randy come to a confession, and others who have insight into the people involved in this tragic story. It was no surprise what the ending of the story was but yet, it felt necessary to read.

For me personally, however, McGivney’s weaving of her own family story of abuse and recovery into the book was the most astounding. It seemed a part of the story alone until she mentioned the idea of a trauma bond with an abuser. I finished the book and put it down on my makeshift nightstand. I did what any self respecting Millennial would do and I unlocked my phone and turned to Google. The idea of a bond that pulls the abused tighter to the abuser made my breath catch in my throat. Unlike I would have years ago, I locked the phone, buried my head in Sprocket and went to sleep. The gut punch of years of isolation has finally started to fade with the salve of community, achievement, and progress.

I almost feel like I need to re-read Pure Land. I identified so much with Tomomi and Annette that I feel like I ignored Randy, perhaps the least surface sympathetic character but yet one affected by the deepest, multi-generational traumas. McGivney does an excellent job of making all of the people in the book real and complex.

Pure Land is not just a book about the outdoors, although it is, it’s also about the struggles of the Havasupai tribe and its individual members. It’s also about creating your own life and balancing it with family. It’s about living. A lot of times when I give you an “On The Page” report, I talk about who would enjoy this book. Whoever you are, reading this, go read it.

On The Page: Juan Rivera’s Colorado, 1765

Last summer when my mom came to visit, she bought me a present: Juan Rivera’s Colorado, 1765. Fresh off my trip to OKC where my Spanish colonial history obsession was kindled by stops in Santa Fe and at the Pecos pueblo I had stopped in at Ouray’s Buckskin Bookseller to find a copy of the journals of the Dominguez-Escalate expedition. The owner pointed out this new release from Western Reflections Publishing (yes, I’m still slowly purchasing their entire catalog).

Steven Baker scrupulously traces Rivera’s expeditions to southwestern Colorado. Apparently there was some controversy about whether Rivera had gone to Moab or to Delta. I loved the detailed tracing of his route. I’m a map and geography nerd and the territory traveled by Rivera is my home ground. He passed by Chimney Rock then, on his fall expedition, up through the Dolores River canyon to what is now the west end of Montrose County and then over the Uncompaghre Plateau to Delta.  I find myself just astounded by what they were able to accomplish with such limited information!

This beautiful hard cover wasn’t cheap (thanks Mom!) but it is filled will gorgeous maps drawn by Gail Sargent of each section of the journey as well as photographs of many locations with notations of trails traversed by the expedition.

I’m so glad that this book has joined my library. I think it’s incredibly important to know the history of the area where you live and I learned so much (and added a few hikes to my list and … bonus! they’ll be spring accessible!).

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

Las Vegas!

In the car on the way back from the airport, a friend texted me, “Vegas? That’s not your style.”

I would counter that a little bit of everything alongside a big helping of adventure is my style, but I digress.

Last weekend, I traveled with some friends and my mom to Vegas to see George Strait in concert (with Lyle Lovett!!! and Robert Earl Keen). While seeing King George was the headlining event of our weekend, we had a lot of fun “doing Vegas.”

Amanda and I caught a flight out of GJ Thursday afternoon and started the party as soon as we got into the terminal. We even bought our tickets months apart and sat next to each other.  Once we landed and checked into our hotel, we immediately set out in search of food and then engaged in heavy duty people watching at the Cosmopolitan.

The next morning, my mom arrived and we headed out for brunch and some sight seeing. My friend Helen and her husband arrived mid afternoon and we had some celebratory “we’re all in Vegas” champagne at the hotel before heading to dinner and some after dinner drinks. While most of the crew headed to bed, Amanda and I went out for some dancing.

Saturday was more sight seeing but the big event was that evening. It was time to see George! There was a lot of “Do you think he’ll play this song?” talk and general excitement as we got ready for the show.

Our dinner before the show was actually one of my favorite moments in Vegas. The food was good (we ate at Tom’s Urban in NY-NY) and we might have discussed Pure Country a lot. Mom ordered ghost pepper wings and basically stared down the waitress when she was warned that they’re the hottest pepper in the world. And then, to top it all off, as we stood up after dinner Mom reminded me she wanted to ride the roller coaster at NY-NY before the concert. So we did. I might have laughed at her the entire time. I’m kind of a pro at laughing at people on roller coasters.

The show definitely did not disappoint. (Okay, well, maybe I could have listed to Lyle Lovett open for another hour and George play all night but reasonable expectations are important.)

I sang along to each and every song. When I grew up, George Strait was in the tape deck on the way to every camping trip (except when the Mariners were on) and the sound track to more than a few family gatherings. On top of that, he’s the best looking 65 year old I’ve ever seen. Anyway.

The next day, everyone other than Amanda and I had to catch early (or really really early) flights so the two of us enjoyed a lazy morning getting out of the hotel, hit up their (free) Sunday bloody mary and mimosa bar, had one last brunch on the Strip and then headed to the airport.

I had been sort of nervous about this trip: it was a motley group of people and the common denominator was … me. In the end, it was fantastic. I even get to tease my mom for the time she forgot to tip the Transformer for the rest of time: “Bumble Bee need tip.”