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Princesses Can Be Pirates, Too!

Written by
Anna Jockisch
Sandy land surrounded by steep cliff walls. Rugged landscapes. Desaturated tones of sage greens. “The Feathers” at the Frenchman Coulee in East Washington are one of the most beautiful features left behind by the great Ice-Age floods. We felt like this awe-inspiring valley would provide the perfect background to showcase the gorgeous designs of the Elemente Clemente’s Spring/Summer 2019 collection. The light summer linen, sourced from environmentally friendly, sustainable agriculture, is dyed with vegetable color. We loved playing dress-up while being out in nature with a collection that is so mindful of our planet and climate.
To be thought of as a woman who shows compassion, grace, authenticity, laughter and wrinkles is enough for me!

Our model for this shoot is named Christi, a true Seattleite. In this interview, she shares a touching story about the healing power of forgiving oneself, her personal mantra “Why not me?”, and speaks about letting her hair go grey - “with courage”. Wearer of many hats (a mom of two increasingly independent teenagers, loving wife, author, yoga instructor), she is reflecting on her journey of life with an inspiring sense of grace and humor.

Can you share more about your background and upbringing? What has been most impactful in contributing to the woman you are today?

The middle of three children, I grew up with a drug addicted and alcoholic mom married to our alcoholic dad with anger issues. Though kindhearted and functional when sober, my mom was incapable of parenting when not.  As a result, I didn’t get motherly advice, mentoring, nor demonstrative love; I got emotional absence; just as she got from her own mom.

Jumping forward several years to my teens, my parents entered into a recovery program to seek sobriety. As time progressed and sobriety took hold, I started to see something in my mom that I hadn’t seen before.  I saw courage; strength; and grace.  I watched her struggle, fight, and conquer. Most of all, I saw how she forgave herself.  Though she wasn’t capable when I was young, I experienced her desire to reclaim me as her daughter, empowered after I became a mom.  She didn’t impose her advice; rather she responded with loving wisdom to my parenting questions and challenges.  She didn’t claim to have all the right answers; rather humorously and humbly offered perspectives.  

My mom is now 77 years old with over 37 years of sobriety.  Our relationship is beautiful.

To answer the question, “what has been most impactful in contributing to the woman I am today?” I will rephrase it to say “who” instead. She is a beautifully imperfect woman - a woman of great courage and wisdom.  She teaches me how to have strength when I have none. She teaches me how to be kind and nonjudgmental of myself when I make mistakes. She teaches me how to show grace to myself when I feel it is undeserved. Most importantly, she teaches me that forgiveness of oneself and others can restore brokenness beyond one’s wildest dreams.  She teaches me that “it is never too late.”  It is said that if you have one trusted person, just one, in your life that you can be totally transparent with, you can heal from unimaginable hurts. I have found that transparency with the woman I now aspire to be. She is my mom.

What themes or questions have been most emergent for you of late?

“Who do I want to be when I grow up?”. I am in an interesting time of transition. Upon earning my master’s degree at 22, I went from “starving student” to “climbing the corporate ladder” to a “stay-at-home mom,” by the age of 35.  Now the parent of two increasingly independent teenagers, I am thinking more about my identity as what do I want to do with my life?  When posting this quandary to my friend, she asked me, “Who are you?”  I proceeded to tell her I am a wife, mom, daughter, sister, preschool yoga instructor, author, blah, blah, blah.”  “Yes, those are your roles, but who is Christi?” It is challenging to isolate that question; focusing on the totality of one’s role vs. one’s character.  Like a deer in the headlights, I didn’t have an answer, so I took the easy way out. I responded, “I know! I just won’t grow up!”  “BINGO!”

In what ways have you become the woman you've always wanted to be? How has your idea of that woman changed over time?

From where I started in life, I didn’t have a vision of “the woman I always wanted to be.”  All I knew is that if I was successful in my parents’ eyes, I would find happiness. By all outward appearances I was: Star student, accomplished swimmer, well-liked, college graduate, etc. My identity as a woman would become all about who I thought others wanted me to be. Impossible proposition of course! As life circumstances changed and I began crafting a life of my own, the question became more relevant.  I would learn that it is impossible to please everyone or excel at everything; I would learn what it felt like to crash and burn.  But over time, the beauty from it all became apparent. From my pain came compassion. From my missteps came grace. From my humility came authenticity. From my fumbles came laughter.  

Perhaps I am an anomaly, but I have never expected to finally “arrive” as a woman. All I can be sure of is that over time, I will age. To be thought of as a woman who shows compassion, grace, authenticity, laughter and wrinkles is enough for me!

We’re always learning and relearning, discovering and rediscovering parts of ourselves. Tell us about what you’re learning about yourself now.

I am learning that not being clear on my life’s “purpose” doesn’t mean I am purposeless. I am learning that just because I didn’t achieve a desired goal, that was the only goal I was meant to achieve.  It might seem like such a cliché to say, “when one door closes another door opens.”  With this said, in my years of experience, I am learning to stop lamenting about the closed door; instead looking forward in anticipation for the one that opens.  Easy to say, but so hard to do!  I think it is human nature to dwell on disappointments. I go to a pretty dark place of discouragement when I do.  So now I challenge myself to do something radical - dwell in possibilities instead!

What are some objects, quote(s), musing(s), film(s), place(s), or book(s) that are of deep significance to you?

Books: “Passion and Purity” by Elisabeth Elliot; “Hinds Feet onHigh Places” by Hannah Hurnard

Inspiring Quotes:

“Just let go. Let go of how you thought your life should be and embrace the life that is trying to work its way into your consciousness.” -Caroliine Myss

“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

A film that makes me laugh: “Little Miss Sunshine”. A film that make me cry: “The Color Purple”

Places: Anywhere tropical! Born and raised in Seattle - I need sun!

Unexpected pairings. We love learning how others think about combining things in unexpected yet delightful ways. What comes to mind for you?

I could have never envisioned myself at age 50 teaching yoga to preschoolers! Yet this is where I humorously find myself.  This is a poignant example of one door closing (I trained to teach adults but couldn’t finish the training upon learning I had breast cancer); and another door opening (offered an opportunity to teach preschoolers after successful treatment.)  “Sure! Why not!”  I now teach 4 yoga classes in the Seattle public school system. It is an enrichment program for kids ages 3-5.  Talk about a fun juxtaposition!

How do you show up and care for yourself?

I love this question! I show up by being “real.”  In a crowded room full of people, I zero in on the one who wants to engage in deep, meaningful conversations. I am all about authenticity.  Social conversational niceties are fine, but as a Speech Communication major with graduate degree in Interpersonal Communication and Conflict Resolution- I am more interested in getting to know one’s heart, not what they do.  When making acquaintances, my husband is often asked this common question by other men at a party, “What do you do?”  I love my husband’s reply: “I mountain bike, run, climb, read books….”  It is not about status, it is about getting to know someone.

I care for myself by practicing and teaching yoga, lighting candles for “no reason,” rocking out to big hair bands from the ‘80’s when home alone and eating Big Hunk candy bars and popcorn in bed while watching a movie when my husband is out of town, (He gets up at 4:30am and is not a big fan of listening to me crunch popcorn while he is trying to sleep.) With delight I say “yes” when people ask if they can pick up the bill rather than fight over it. I care for myself by setting boundaries and saying “no” instead of saying “yes” then dreading whatever I said yes to. This one has taken me a LONG time to figure out-- great self-care means being true to oneself, which isn’t the same as being selfish.  I give myself grace.

What are you reading right now? What books do you always recommend or have perhaps given as gifts?

I could say I am reading something profound to sound interesting and intelligent, but the truth is, I like reading Zombie books. Weird I know.  My favorite book to give as a gift? My book Princesses Can Be Pirates Too!” of course!

What's a personal mantra, quote, or theme(s) that has/have been recently relevant or particularly significant to you?

My personal mantra? "Why not me!"  When others have tried to "talk sense into me," suggesting my goals or dreams are too lofty, I say to myself: “if others can do it, why not me!”. So what if my children’s book proposal was rejected 57 times!  “Why not me!”  And so it was - “Princesses Can Be Pirates Too!” was indeed published!

Is there anything else you want to share about yourself with the women that might be reading this?

Yes! Consider your "crows feet" wrinkles as trophies! They tell stories of your laughter and millions of smiles that have graced your face over the years.  Muster up the courage to stop coloring over your grey hair! You have earned every single one of them, and they are your crown of glory! I frequently have women approach me and say, “I have been thinking of letting my hair go grey, how did you do it.”  I simply say: “with courage!”

Don’t lament getting older!  Another birthday? I say bring it on! Ask me my age and I will gleefully tell you the truth. I believe that each aging year is a gift not a mark of gloom and doom.  I say, the old adage "to age gracefully" means letting go of an image of what we “thought we should look like” at our age and embrace what we actually do!

Photos by Elizabeth Podlesnik
Hair & Make Up by
Karla Alvarez
Styling by Anna Kranzle

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