Pie Town Village Sign

It’s only when we allow ourselves to be lost that we can really truly find ourselves. I figured that basic truth out by accident. When Yoda and I first left on our five month road trip, hitting the open road was an act of desperation. I was running away from my broken life. I was more lost than I had ever imagined possible, and by leaving the life I had lived for the previous 15 years I essentially dove deep into the dark abyss of the unknown and become even more lost by driving around the country without a plan. I surrendered to the unknown because I had no other choice. It was only through that surrender that I was able to shed parts of my life that weren’t working and allow those parts that were working to grow.

It’s been over four years now since I left my old life behind, and I’m still rebuilding and still learning to live an authentic life. It takes a lot of courage to live a life that is so radically different than the life I had scripted for myself when I was younger. I draw a lot of courage to keep striving for a better tomorrow from the stories of other people who have likewise turned their lives upside down and worked hard to create new futures for themselves.

Kathy & Kee KeeI met one of these people last summer when my boyfriend and I were road tripping to New Mexico’s hot springs. We intentionally veered off course and drove to Pie Town, New Mexico, a hamlet with a population of only about 153 people, to meet Kathy Knapp, the owner of the Pie-O-Neer Café. I had long heard about Kathy and the delicious pies that she bakes from my friend Beth Howard (author of Ms. American Pie and Making Piece). Little did I know that by meeting Kathy I would not only be filling my belly with pie, but I’d be filling my soul as she shared her story with me.

Pie and coffeeWhen we met Kathy, she greeted us with warm hugs and then promptly served coffee and three slices of pie for us to devour as we got to know one another (coconut cream pie, cheery cherry pie and very berry pie). Kathy used to be a very successful business woman in the advertising industry. The short version of her story is that she owned a thriving jingle company and split her time between Dallas and California. Yet despite the financial rewards of her career, she wasn’t happy.

building exteriorIn 1995, while on vacation with her family, she drove through Pie Town and discovered that the town had no pie. Her mom was convinced that a town named Pie Town needed pie, and so together they bought a defunct trading post and turned it into the Pie-O-Neer Café, which her mom operated while Kathy continued her big city corporate life. Years later, Kathy was finally ready to admit that she was wanted more out of her life than her life was giving her. So she left her business and moved to rural New Mexico to take over running the Pie-O-Neer Café. It wasn’t an easy transition at first, but over the years everything began to fall into place.

packing piesKathy is funny and energetic, and has that certain glow about her that I’ve begun to recognize in people who have dug down deep to figure out what will make them happy, done the messy work to heal themselves, and learned to fully embrace their authentic selves. She’s the first to admit that living in a dusty rural town in the middle of New Mexico wasn’t the life she initially pictured for herself. But it is the life that now makes her wildly happy.

bumper stickerIn our initial e-mail exchange when I told Kathy I was coming to Pie Town to meet her, she said “We pride ourselves on making pie that makes you feel better… body and soul.” She was right about that, meeting her and eating her pie really did nourish my soul. I really think it’s because Kathy infuses her pie with the passion and love that she has for her new life.

**A short film about Kathy, “Pie Lady of Pie Town,” is currently making the rounds on the festival circuit. I can’t wait to see it!

 

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plane

Dear 2015,

I’m writing this from seat 32D. In 2014 airports were my second home, so I suppose it is quite fitting that I’m crammed in the back of the plane in coach class on a cross-country flight as I write this letter to you. 2014 was both an exhausting and an exhilarating year, and because of that, I wasn’t quite ready to write my annual letter to you until today. It’s taken me a full week to figure out what the heck my new year’s resolution is because my future feels so uncertain. Yet this morning, in the pre-dawn hours when I was climbing into my car to drive to the airport, I looked up at the brilliantly bright almost-full moon (it was full two days ago) and was hit by a resounding sense that everything is as it should be. It always is, but I often forget that.

My new year’s resolution for 2014 was to Get Uncomfortable. Indeed I did. The year was an absolute whirlwind, from unexpectedly having to move, to dealing with the excruciating pain of passing a kidney stone and needing kidney stone surgery, to learning to efficiently live out of a suitcase, to my career catapulting in a direction that I wasn’t sure I wanted it to go. With considerable effort at first, I embraced it all. I got out of my comfort zone and found myself incredibly, well, uncomfortable. And that’s when the year started getting fun. Actually more than fun – at one point I realized that with respect to work, my soul is singing again, finally, after a really long time of struggling to figure out that part of my life. I’ve known for quite some time that my passion is storytelling. Not necessarily my own story, but other people’s stories. Although I’ve made a career in feature film production, I always found very little joy in making narrative films and was pretty sure I wanted to leave movie-making behind me. Yet in 2014 I started the work of producing and directing two documentary films and I realized the rewards of telling other people’s real life stories go far beyond a paycheck.

This is the most important work of my life, and I want it to continue. Yet as the documentaries near completion, I’ve started to worry about what comes next. Will I hit a dry spell? Will my next project be less rewarding? Will the company for whom I’m producing one of the documentaries want to keep working with me as much as I want to keep working with them?

That’s where this morning’s almost-full moon comes in. When I was looking up at that marvelous moon shining down on me, it seemed to say “Hey girl, you got this. Everything is as it should be.” I smiled to myself. I knew in that moment what my new year’s resolution needs to be.

So this year, my sweet, dear, potentially delicious Year 2015, my New Year’s resolution is to Trust. Trust that I’m in the flow. Trust that I’ll stay in the flow. Trust that everything is as it should be.

Year 2015, I think I love you already.

With trust,

Kee Kee

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The Huffington Post – A Road Trip Around Kauai

January 5, 2015

The quintessential American vacation is a road trip. There is no better way to explore the country’s dramatic and varied landscapes, breathtaking vistas, quaint small towns, and regional subcultures than by loading up the car and hitting the open road. However, the unpredictability of weather in the winter months often puts a crimp in road […]

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Authenticity in the Workplace

December 27, 2014

Way back when, when I had a boss (let’s call him “Former Boss”), his wife and I were talking at the premiere of one of my company’s movies about how Former Boss and I would probably be great friends if he weren’t my boss.  She laughed and said if circumstances were different, they would be […]

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Waving at Strangers

September 8, 2014

I’m working on a couple work projects that are taking up all my mental bandwidth. I’m not complaining because they are insanely fun film projects and I’m having a blast. However the deadlines are such that I find myself working pretty much every waking moment in my home office. When I’m not on the phone, […]

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Behind The Smile

August 26, 2014

Robin Williams has died. Those four words still ring in my head. Yoda and I are spending August at my parents’ lake house in Wisconsin. My parents were watching the CBS Evening News and I was curled up on the sofa deeply engrossed in a book. I wasn’t at all listening to the TV, consciously […]

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The Huffington Post – An Enchanting Road Trip to New Mexico’s Hot Springs

July 11, 2014

I love road trips and I love hot springs. That means my recent road trip to explore New Mexico hot springs was pretty much a win/win.  This was one of my favorite road trips to date. If you are wanting an off the beaten path summer getaway, this one is calling your name! Read about […]

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Caged Birds

June 8, 2014

 “V,” a lovely former co-worker whom I worked with for over a decade, recently sent me a private message on Facebook.  Both of us have since moved on from our previously employer.  In V’s case, she saw an opportunity and embraced change by quitting her job for a better one. In my case, I was […]

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Emotional Pizza

May 21, 2014

Everybody hurts. Everybody has had moments of deep despair. The trick to breathing through the inevitable emotions that go hand-in-hand with being a human being is to remember that just as the sun sets each night, it always will rise again tomorrow. I have a friend named Cendra Hicks. Cendra is 47 years old, has cerebral […]

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Toothpaste Pants

May 4, 2014

“I have toothpaste on my pants.” I looked up from my squat position in the driveway where I was saying hello to my friend Ole’s two exuberant little dogs, Ziggy and Perdy, who had just jumped out of her car and were running in euphoric circles around me. “I need a washcloth right away,” exclaimed […]

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