Kristen Kalp - Writer, poet, business coach.

Ahoy there!

I’m Kristen Kalp, and I help people do the messy work of getting more & more alive — in business and in life — through articles, books, coaching — now booking for May! — and my podcast, That’s What She Said.

I dare you to join the free Fuck Yah Club, at which time I’ll send along a copy of Go Your Own Way: free yourself from business as usual and the latest issue of Fuck Yah magazine.

You come to find your voice by speaking.

You come to find your voice by speaking

Not by planning to speak
or reading transcripts of speeches
or buying courses to make your voice sound best
when you finally open your mouth
at some point in the distant future.

You come to find your voice
by uttering the truest words you have
in any given moment.

I hurt.
I’m struggling.
I can’t.

The first words are the hardest.
You’ve been silent for so long.

I need help.
I want some more.
I’d like to try.

The words grow more precise and powerful.

I need.
I want.
I am.

You’ll waver, here: the world will say
you don’t have the right.

I need, I want, I am.
I need, I want, I am.

By now you’ve come too far to honor any sound
save the steady drumbeat of your own heart.

I am, I am, I am,
and you are, too.

I’ll read this poem aloud to you AND talk the vulnerability of joy, diving deep into your psyche, creating healthy boundaries, and the wisdom of puppies in this interview on the Love, Jo podcast with Joanna Platt.  Go and listen!

For the unsung voices among us.

grandma

In honor of Women’s History Month, a poem for the ones who came before.

Dear Grandma

You never once got to stand on a podium
and make everyone listen. You buried your husband
and your son, and you worked all day every day
until you retired to the old brown chair.
No one was ever weighed down by your opinions
or objections or your voice in the world.

You never once got to stand on a stage
and hear everyone’s ears turning toward you.
You never got to be paid for your work:
shuffling laundry and sons from the dresser to school,
burning a line between the sink and the stove
so deep you couldn’t see your way out.

Your husband married you not out of love
or even something like affection, but because your sister
was already taken, and then you settled down and lived
in the same house on the same plot of land
until the old brown chair got thrown out.
Now you sit in the nursing home asking

Where is he, why doesn’t he pick me up
and take me home. For the first time, everyone listens
and answers carefully — repeatedly, relentlessly —
but you can’t hear the truth. Your voice warbles
around the room and returns to you, confused:
Where are you, why don’t you pick me up and take me home.

P.S. More poems here, or in book form here.

‘Don’t store a mouse in your mouth’ and other vital rules.

mouse

You might imagine that a Special Education facility for socio-emotionally disturbed students in Philadelphia would have lots of rules. You would be correct. The first thing you learn at new teacher orientation is how to successfully restrain a student without causing any harm to the child. (It’s a grip don’t twist scenario, in case you’re curious.)

Each classroom has a teacher and a full-time aide. Each classroom has no more than 10 students for the safety of all involved. Students regularly lash out, flipping desks or tossing books or throwing punches — at other teenagers, at therapists, at supervisors, at me — and all the rules keep the chaos to a minimum.

There are protocols for everything. Protocols for when a student brings a razor blade to class and protocols for when someone has a meltdown during lunch and protocols for verbal lashing out. Every staff member knows the general outline for rules: violence is bad, get it under control, and then issue a consequence. These rules are absolutely vital for the safety of everyone on the campus.

And then there are the other rules.

The classroom adjoining mine has a pet mouse. I don’t know who approved the use of a live animal as a reward system for a group of often-violent teens, but it’s happened. The kids love the mouse. He’s given potato chips and french fries saved from lunch and is often the recipient of copious amounts of love because humans have hurt these children deeply, but mice have not.

One kid — I’ll call him John — is a squeezer. Meaning he can’t be trusted to simply hold the mouse or enjoy the mouse, he expresses his love by squeezing the mouse. He’s soon banned from mouse-al contact.

He does not enjoy this turn of events and goes on a stealth mission to hold the mouse. He’s foiled at every turn: there’s always someone (or two someones, or three!) in the classroom.

And then.

One morning, he does it. He’s got the mouse, he’s giving it all his squeezing love, he’s in mouse-holding heaven! John’s teacher walks in. Oh…oh god. He’s caught.

He shoves the mouse in his mouth in an attempt to hide it.

He shoves. The mouse. In his mouth. To hide it.

This does not go well. The classroom next door erupts into screaming, chaotic laughter and the breathless teacher steps out for a moment to get her shit together. She cannot, under any circumstances, laugh at the mouse in the mouth situation. (But of COURSE she wants to laugh at the mouse in the mouth situation.)

I’m still not sure how the mouse gets out of the mouth: was it choked up or voluntarily surrendered? Did the mouse flee of its own accord and make a victory lap around the classroom, or was it simply spit into the open hands of the classroom aide who returned from the restroom in the nick of time? WE’LL NEVER KNOW.

Eventually, the mouse is returned to his cage, and a new rule is penciled onto the classroom rule board: don’t store a mouse in your mouth.

Life at the school moves on, and no other student finds out what the consequences are for mouse-in-mouth storage. Thank God.

I was telling this story over the weekend and it got me thinking about other rules: the necessary kind, the unnecessary kind, and how we often mistake the two.

No knives on your person in school: great rule. Don’t store a mouse in your mouth: true, but hardly useful. Mostly made up. Unlikely to be needed again.

We, as humans, as makers, as business owners, as evolving creatures, operate under an enormous set of rules. Laws, of course, but also rules of our own making.

Let’s take a minute to sift through the rules consciously, because I’ll bet there are some mouse-in-mouth rules that could use dumping.

This episode of That’s What She Said sorts through the murky, grey area between our current rules, our subconscious ones, and the rules that need dumping.

P.S. The trouble with mentors and the problem with bullet points.