Ashley Judd – A Personal Journey Of All That Is Bitter And Sweet

By Kaye Cloutman

I did not know what to expect the afternoon I was to see Ashley Judd. It was my first time to attend a book event at the Corte Madera branch of Book Passage and frankly I was a little distracted by an earlier message I had received about my daughter. Shaken by this message, I was beginning to have some self-doubts and was embroiled in my own little second-guessing game as I made my way to Corte Madera. My career has recently experienced a transformation. Although beautiful and idyllic to some as it may seem, I found myself being pulled in many directions often leaving a gaping hole of insecurity in the place where my daughter should be. That day, I felt behooved to take her along, she was with me and as it turns out, I am grateful for her presence for this occasion.

Ashley was introduced by Kathryn Petrocelli of Book Passage and the modest author stood at the podium with an aura that can only be described as immaculate – she began her talk by respectfully engaging the audience with a solemn prayer, declaring it as essential for her “guiding spirit” to prepare her heart and mind so she might more candidly and openly describe the story of her journey to the sea of non-judgmental eager faces who were there to listen to her.

I was in awe, just like everyone else, the minute Ashley began to speak of her childhood. She explained it in the most eloquent way. No nonsense, no sugar-coating – it felt real. Initially, there were a few laughs here and there as she shared awkward childhood moments about family and herself but as the minutes progressed it was clear that Ashley drew strong senses of emotion from all of us. A noteworthy advocate of Population Services International (PSI) whose goal is to improve the health of the poor and vulnerable people in developing countries, Ashley displayed sincere compassion evidenced by the intense pain in her voice after discussing some of her most unforgettable chapters of abuse and rape experienced by four girls from the book. We were then transported to the brothels and slums in Asia and war-torn communities in Africa. She was such a gifted storyteller in the sense that her words evoked both joy and pain in my heart at the same time and that is not easy to achieve.

Her voice, the room, the quietly intent women and men who seemed frayed as Ashley enumerated countless tales of unheard tormented voices from all over the world – I won’t be able to shake off this feeling for a long time. She ended that night with a story that will forever be embedded in my heart and I unexpectedly saw my daughter’s hand creeping towards mine, holding it intently as if she were to never let go. It seemed that whatever adolescent issues she was having that day all appeared ridiculous and small after her eyes were opened by Ashley Judd to the harsh realities of this world. In my part, I as a mother truly empathized with her being a lost child.

That night was the beginning of a renewed journey for me and my daughter. In a beautiful event which surely left many attendees inspired and grateful at the end, conversely, I treasured the priceless ineffable gift we gained. Deciding that for me and my daughter the event wasn’t actually finished but rather just getting started, I took it further by driving to one of the most charming spots we know nearby. With the moon reflecting on the beautiful view of the Tiburon waters, I held her in my arms as if she were a small child again. We had made a pact within ourselves that this was going to be our own special place.

If you read the book please forget about the fact that The Judds have been country royalty for years; some may also have seen them as a dysfunctional family; I see them as tortured souls who were able to rise above and beyond their own challenges. The deck of cards they were dealt only bestowed them those flushes and full houses in the latter part of their lives but beneath their fame and fortune lies a history replete with agony and tragedy. If you seek a typical celebrity “tell-all”, airing of dirty laundry and lovers in the story, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, I suggest you try to embrace the innocent little girl who has been looking for herself for the longest time when you open this book and bear witness to how she eventually found home by embracing the world’s other lost children while allowing her to make peace with herself. Filled with real-life struggles and triumphs, All That Is Bitter And Sweet (Ballantine Books, $26.00, 432 pages, 9780345523617) is a deeply moving memoir I can read from cover to cover, over and over and intend to pass on to my children to serve as a testament to the beautiful virtue of unconditional love.


This time, I’m in Aphasia. I’m healing but it’s been on the 16 months. – Kaye Cloutman #MeToo #TimesUpMedia

Hello, everyone, this is Kaye’s hubby John, and I just thought I would stop in and make myself available for questions answers or theories about what appears to be quite a bit of communication you may have received from Kaye. For those of you who may not be aware; Kaye suffered a stroke November 22, 2016, and resulting bleeding on the brain caused the symptoms of expressive aphasia and receptive aphasia, along with memory loss. She has been recovering her speech and memories ever since then, but a more complete recovery is still a long way in the future. She does not understand language the way she used to, and cannot speak the way she wishes. She still needs speech and language therapy which will be going on for some time into the future. She also has trouble organizing her thoughts and ideas and her memories were severely affected but are returning gradually. She has so many friends and supporters that it’s taking a long time for her to try to recall all of you. She IS making good progress, but she’s frustrated with the pace and impatient, as I suppose anyone else, under those circumstances, would be. Since her stroke happened two weeks after the election of Donald Trump and the onset of so much anti-immigrant and anti-women activity here in the states she has been horrified, shocked and outraged by all of the stories of sexual harassment and abuse and inspired by the #MeToo movement as well as the #TimesUp campaign, the #WomensMarch#MarchForOurLives and everything having to do with women’s rights, equal rights and justice for all.

Before the stroke, Kaye was editor-in-chief and co-founder of GEV Magazine which dealt primarily with food, fashion, wine, travel, and fundraisers. Since the stroke, she has not felt capable to carry on as editor-in-chief of the magazine but yet she also refuses to give up on the publication and all that it entails. She doesn’t want to let all of YOU – her friends, supporters, and contributors down. Add to this that she is so motivated to empower women, tell their stories, and see women take back their rights and their rightful place in this male-dominated society; to see an end to the abuse and the misogyny and the discrimination against women, LGBTQ, people of color and the poor, and what you have is this very motivated person who is still struggling to keep her thoughts organized and realize her ideas as something tangible that will help support the causes that she loves and hold so dear. Because her memories are still coming back, much has happened in the last 18 months of which she’s often not aware – friends have gotten married, divorced, died, had children, and much more. When she sends outposts or group chats, sometimes she uses images in a way which breaches protocol, or without permission. Sometimes she divulges facts which she didn’t have permission to make public. Please forgive her.

As I hope you all know, I want to support her every way I can, but at the same time I also struggle with helping Kaye stay focused on her recovery so that when she’s better able, her ideas can be presented more clearly and turned into functional, operable, serviceable product that has an impact on society, and that is very difficult combination of things to try to achieve. It may be another year or more before Kaye’s ready to take on those kinds of activities. We have a 10-year-old son and a 20-year-old daughter and my work takes me far from home every day, so my working days are very long and stressful already. I don’t have much time, nor do I make the kind of money I used to bring in – to support such complex and large-scale endeavors. Kaye is very much a workaholic and with her heart condition and coping with the effects of the stroke I do not want her to overextend herself but yet I also don’t want to suppress her or become her oppressor either and that is a very fine line for me to walk, so forgive me in advance for what may seem like presumptuous behavior on my part – I’m trying to protect Kaye from overworking and stress when she should be focusing on her recovery and her family, enjoying a life that’s already been so charmed and blessed.

Some of the things Kaye is proposing to you all in her various outreaches, messages, calls, group chats, etc. may seem at a glance to be intriguing or tantalizing – she’s always had brilliant ideas, and she’s still having them now, however, the communication barrier and lack of organized planning and thought in them makes them quite impossible in light of our present circumstances. With respect to the time and funding needed to finish any proposed projects she’s conceiving, even with so many great and talented people who might be on board with it, it would still be a full-time job for more than one person and I’m convinced that now is not the right time to pursue these kinds of endeavors. With this and Kaye’s own best interests in mind, I’m working to manage Kaye’s time on social media and put all GEV related activities on indefinite hold.

Kaye’s genuinely sorry for any confusion, breach of protocol, or any inconvenience her outreach may have caused, and I am too. We’d love for you all to be a part of her recovery, and look forward to staying in touch, having visitors, cooking, bringing back memories, and generally enjoying your friendship and company.

Any of you who have questions or ideas I would be thrilled to hear from you either through private messages phone calls or emails and if anyone needs my contact information please let me know and I will be glad to share it with you. Thanks so much for listening and please stay in touch and let me know how I can best help you all be a part of Kaye’s recovery and a brighter future to come.

With all our best, hope to see you soon      

John Cloutman, on behalf of Kaye, Johnny, and Karmela.