Monday, June 6, 2016

Coming Back Up for Air

June 2, 2016
And so here it is. After years of not writing, and trying to juggle, and having something to say, but what has felt like no time to say it, I am blogging again.

It feels good.

I had one of those days today. One of those inspiring, soul affirming, yes I am in the right job and place and calling and at the right moment, types of days. Isn’t that amazing? How often does that happen? It’s been a while for me.

I got to attend CARE’s Gender Equity and Diversity Training yesterday and today, and it was amazing. I felt like I was in my own skin and soul, exploring topics and using skills and muscles that I was meant to use. It felt like home. Then I got to have dinner (and even drinks,) with a like-minded colleague to strategize through how we could bring this to our own organization, FHI 360. It felt like I had a comrade in the fight, and one who shares my optimism and enthusiasm for the journey. How lucky am I.

This, combined with getting to go to the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen recently and connect with my dear friend Ann, getting to spend 36 hours in France and reconnect with my friend Stephanie (and even have 8 hours to myself tromping through Paris,) and helping to plan and prepare for the big 2 day Gender Summit that we’re hosting at FHI 360 on June 15-16 in partnership with global south organizations and youth ambassadors from around the world, and the recent open-heart conversation with my husband Mark and our mutual recommitment to better communication, has helped me to reconnect to myself in deep ways. 

This feels like the Elise Young that I know…like the Elise Young that I like.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I Believe

It is confusing in these moments. With a gigantic work report looming, the complications of a messy potential house purchase weighing, the heartache of Ellie's separation anxiety pressing and the excitement and stress of Mark's new job at Year Up competing, it is hard to know what is what. Where to put my mental, physical and emotional energy? How to preserve my sleep, sanity and self? How to step up and lead where I am needed. How to give control and expectations over to God.

I was fortunate enough to get to go with my mom to a women's retreat that my church, Foundry UMC, sponsored this past weekend. It centered and restored me in so many ways. It was a gift. It reminded me of what I believe, of who I am. I am a resurrection person. I believe in rebirth and in potential. I know that with God all things are possible. This includes God and spirit manifested in other people. I believe that love is possible at every turn, even in the midst of data analysis...or business deals...or taking out the trash. It doesn't need to be as hard as I make it sometimes. We are all connected. We are all one. I believe. I believe.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Poem for the Weary Hearted

It's been a rough last week...health wise, sleep wise, work wise. My 19 month daughter has quantum leaped into a new realm of teething and responding to everything with an emphatic 'NO!' The thoughtful work-life balance mantras and resolutions that I had carefully constructed over the holidays quickly came tumbling down (only 7 days into the new year;)

To tell you the truth, I was feeling a little beaten up by life this week. And then, three important things happened. First, I got to attend a new spirituality small group meeting and just sit and be within prayer and meditation. Next, I got to try out for the show The Voice, despite cosmic forces trying to hold me back. Third, i met myself at the bottom wrung of the ladder, wrestled with the angel, and realized that I know how to climb.

And so, I wrote a poem to remind myself. Life is a choice. Creation is a choice.

A Poem for the Weary Hearted by Elise Young

Through the rubble
Strewn with intentions
Covered in lessons learned
And growth feedback
Seaping with sins
I search for pieces
That I can tie together into shiny new colorful bracelets
Glue together with pruning hooks
Share and sell to the world as recycled gold
Show them that out of the wreckage has come something new
Do they not perceive it?
Even if it is messy
And sticks you with its pointy edges
And warps the way you see the world
It is creation
And therefore good

Friday, July 19, 2013


A link to my Women Thrive blog post on what turning one year older means to me in the context of Haiti.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Keeping it Real

It is hard to know when you are right and when you are wrong in this crazy, over educated, over professional, over experienced DC world. Everyone has the right answer, and yet, few people seem to agree. 

Take gender equality. What does it take to achieve it? How do you reform aid in ways that equally empower both women and men to take ownership of their community's development? Train both women and men at the ground level...in DC...or both? Fight some of the large contractors and businesses and government bureaucracy? Or create bridges between people and systems and companies, no matter how flawed they are? How do you stay true to mission and values - really prioritize and amplify the voices of women and men in the struggle and follow their lead - and build new alliances that have the power to advance real change? 

And the most important question: how do you stay human - human to the core, to the bone, to the marrow - as you try to stay professional and policy savvy? Is it even possible? I think so. I need to believe so. Because even more important to me than advancing certain policies, being right about an advocacy strategy or delivering on grant indicators is caring about people on a human level. There are no numbers, no data. Only individual, precious, valued human beings.

That's why I struggle in this job, in this field...intl dev policy. It
is so theoretical...so process oriented. It is all about what the
policy looks like on paper, how the log frame or results framework
holds up, how we deliver on indicators. And although part of me really
gets that...is even obsessed with that at times...it does not fully
satisfy. It seems to rarely be about individual human beings...their
stories, their priorities, their voices.

I guess advocacy, for me, serves as the  bridge. It connects the
individual, precious human beings on this planet - their needs, their
voices - to the decisions that get written down in laws, policies and
evaluations. It makes the theoretical real. It makes the statistic

Until we can connect to this inside the beltway DC intl Dev work on a
personal level, on a human level, we will continue to miss our mark.
It is not just a marketing tactic to make it real for our
constituents. For me, it is an urgent marching order: see the human
side if this, connect your heart to ending poverty and injustice. And do it soon, before the theoretical world takes over.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Juggling It All

I have been wanting to write for so long now. But, there never seems to be time. Never time to sit a moment and process…what it means to be a VP, what it means to be a mother, what it means to be this new person playing so many roles at once. And so, I feel a little rusty, as I sit here with my computer on my lap, trying to squeeze in a quick entry on my metro ride home.

Mark had a brilliant idea several months ago. Each of us would get one night a week to do whatever we wanted to do and the other person would put Ellie to bed. And tonight is my night. I did something with it that I haven’t done in what feels like a long time, but that has always brought me such happiness: I played softball. I got one hit, made one or two plays at third base, but overall it wasn’t my best game. (I am 2 years out of practice, after all.) Yet, it felt so good to just be that old self yet again…free, fearless, with as much time in the world as I needed. So, even though it was cold, windy and rainy; even though we lost by at least 8 runs; even though I didn’t get to see my sweet baby girl tonight, I feel good.

It’s not easy having to make these choices. Do I stay at work and get even a fraction of my to do list done, or do I go home and have dinner with my family and then stay up late? Do I wake up early to work more on the grant, even though I’ll have only had 4 or 5 hours of sleep, or do I cancel a much needed meeting? (Because not doing the grant isn’t an option.) Do I go to my women’s group from church and have some desperately needed prayer and fellowship time in order to regroup spiritually, or do I nurse my daughter to sleep? Do I sneak in a work out for my physical/emotional health, or do I pay the bills? (for my financial health;)

It’s so difficult to figure out these choices most days. The days fly by. I’ve chosen to devote my time at home to Ellie and Mark. When I walk in the door, I try desperately to leave it all behind. I want to be present to them. I want to gaze into my daughters’ eyes and catch the small details of her growing up and know her on this cellular level. I don’t want to be distracted. But, it means giving up so much else…like cooking, cleaning, meditating, journaling, guitar playing, mowing the lawn, watering the flowers, cleaning out the fridge, doing the laundry, going through the mail or sitting down for a moment to ask myself, ‘what just happened today?’ I have to learn at the speed of light. I can’t sit around and focus on how I’m feeling about something that didn’t go my way. I have to let go, let go, let go.

In certain ways, this is a good thing. It means cutting out all of the dead branches in my life. It means only holding onto the parts that are blooming. Right now, that means my daughter. It means my husband. It means my family and closest friends. It means this job and important opportunity at Women Thrive. And it means my church, prayer and spiritual life. If I can accomplish that - if I can stay focused on what is really important and let go of everything else; if I can give myself grace, allow myself to make mistakes, grow, be human - it will be enough. Here's my prayer to God and the universe to help me accomplish this: I believe. Help my unbelief.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Meeting the Wind


I was overwhelmed with gratitude today. Standing by the Patuxent River on a gorgeous October evening, I looked out across the water. Golden light filtered down to the opposite shore, showing off the early autumn colors. I held my 4 month old daughter close to my heart and just delighted in what I heard. She was laughing.

Laughing is a new and growing part of her small world right now. She's just discovered it within the last few weeks. Yet, there she was this evening, laughing at the wind. I realized that it was probably the first time she had ever felt real wind. It delighted her. She threw her head back, opened her mouth and tasted it. And then she laughed from a deep place in her belly and just reveled. Every time the wind picked up...even though it brought a chill in the air...she just chuckled. And then she looked at me with those amazing blue eyes and full face smile (she gets it from her Dad,) as if to say, 'Isn't it perfect, Mamma?'

It's true that this still continues to be one of the most challenging times of my life. New and exciting job...less sleep...less time for myself...less time with my husband. Yet, in that moment, I felt the full blessing of what it is to be a parent. I felt deep joy...from a well that I didn't even know existed. I felt gratitude for my husband, my family and friends, my job, my home, and especially for our Ellie. And I felt amazement that it had been so very long since I last laughed at the wind myself.

So, I just want to say thank you. Thank you, God, for having given me such abundance. Thank you, Mark, for having brought such love and friendship into my life. And thank you, Baby Girl, for having taught me how to find magic in the wind yet again.