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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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women’s strength

A Nasty Woman’s Testimony

While working on my novel, I’ve been doing research on the patriarchy — that time-honored tradition of passing power through the penis. You aren’t a member if you don’t have a member.

I uncovered some questionable (but fascinating and honestly believable) etymology on the word testify. In ancient times, vows (and deals) were made by laying hands on (or beside or below) the testicles –take note of that root (and yes, pun intended…) — and then swearing. Women had no testicles, so no testimony for them. They couldn’t take a sworn oath. As a result, they weren’t in the membership. Literally.

(On a sort-of-side-note… all my life, my father has told me not to swear. Curse words out of a woman’s mouth turn it ugly!!! Well, rest assured, if there’s a double-standard, I’m going to fight to liberate it.)

And speaking of fighting, I’ll fight when somebody tells me I should keep quiet — especially when it comes to my opinions.

I’m not sorry for having opinions. I never tell anyone not to say what matters most to them. And neither should you. I have seen — in an up-close-and-personal way — how absence of dialogue, absence of voiced opinions, breeds dangerous dogma.

When only one perspective is heard, that’s when things can go horribly awry. That’s when cults emerge. That’s when fascism reigns supreme. When there’s only one voice shouting from the rooftops over the top of all the others — that’s the only time I believe it’s okay to say, “Will you shut up, man?”

This country was built on freedom — of all sorts. And should’ve been built on freedoms for all kinds of people. But we’re just now getting to that. We’ve made tremendous progress. We’re closer than ever.

And that’s why some sorts of people keep telling other sorts of people (people like me) to be quiet.

You know what kind of people want people like me to be quiet? Two kinds. The kind of people who have nothing to lose if the status quo is maintained… and the kind of people who hide behind the kind of people who have nothing to lose. Those who support them and hold them aloft and give them praise and feed their egos because they’ve been conditioned and brainwashed for a very long time to believe that the status quo is the only way to go. That if we rattle the cage, we’ll cause it all to fall down.

Well, let it. I’m tired of being caged. And hushed. I’m ready to rage against the machine, against the patriarchal juggernaut.

You know who I admire most? The ones who have escaped the smothering muzzle of the patriarchy and have come to speak out against it. And the people who still struggle under the massive gears, yet rail against it nonetheless. And the people running as fast as they can away from it, screaming warnings about it to the rest of us as loudly as they can. And the people running behind it, casting stones at it as hard as they can. I’m one who has escaped it, and still struggles under it, and runs away from it, and goes after it. I am all of those. And until it falls, so many of us are.

You know who I do not admire? The folks who ride atop its motorcade, waving flags of past injustices and touting its greatness. I do not admire the ones who ride its coattails like it’s their divine right to be pulled along because they wear the color of their forefathers and support the prejudices it fosters.

The patriarchy is really good at denigrating people who don’t align with their likenesses. They love to label so many. But today, I speak for me. For women. They judge us by our physical appearance — label us dogs, liars, bimbos, pigs who are ugly, fat, and horse-faced (to name a few). Or deem us weak because we bleed and have nothing dangling between our legs. Or call our voices harsh and our motives nasty. If we wield power, they call us monster.

They separate us from them… the members from the member-less. They love to make us the reviled Other.

Well, I will embrace the Other. I will wear my Nasty Woman shirt to Kroger proudly, despite the looks I get — from men and women alike. Like I should keep my opinions to myself.

I’m tired of being tried under the patriarchy’s rules and shamed for being a woman with a voice. Tired of being told to shut up.

You know who tells me to be quiet? No one. I will wear shirts, post signs, write blogs, and sing out for all the world to hear. My voice, my body, my opinions, my choices.

They are my rights — and should’ve been from the beginning of this great nation. We’ve been slowly gaining ground. And we cannot lose it now.

So watch out, patriarchy, the monsters and nasty women are coming — not for your member, just membership.

The Badass who gifted me with Kickass

She used to drink Tab and smoke cigarettes, and she’s the first woman I ever knew who did a “man’s job.” If she hadn’t been in my family, meeting somebody like her might have come much later in my life — if at all.

But lucky for me, my Aunt Ann has been my champion and hero from the get-go. And I’m convinced she buried some deep kernel of kick-ass deep inside my soul that helped me escape the suffocating patriarchy of my past.

Pretty sure she planted the seed when she ran me through the Apgar circuit as a newborn. She traced my skin, counted my breaths, palpated my belly, flashed a penlight in my eyes, and gifted me with the gumption to defy limits and break free.

She was a first-year med student, and I was her live little anatomy lab. She was also an artist, and I became her model at four months when she sketched me in charcoal. I still have the portrait — subtle shading, curled edges — a study in parchment perched on my living room shelf.

Years later, she molded dolls for a hobby after long, heartbreaking hours at the hospital. Those dolls were her escape. She pressed clay with deft and delicate hands — tiny for a formidable 5’10 female. (Story has it the nurses always tried to hand her Large gloves. She wore Small.) She created the entire cast of A Christmas Carol for my 7th grade Language Arts class because she knew we were reading the book.

She made the six hour trek from Tupelo so my students could see them and pass them around. A trip just for my students. Just for me.

Now, she’s grown pale and turned to parchment, her skin yellow and paper thin. Her chin has tumbled in crepe folds on her neck. Her shoulders are sharp and folded like origami. Her eyes are discs, lined pale and gray. The thoughts behind them are fragile. They crumble and tear when pushed.

This is a tragedy. Ann had a mind like none I’d ever known. Sharp. Eidetic. Sherlock Holmes and Spenser Reed in female physician form. But she wasn’t created by a British crime novelist or a Hollywood script writer. She was created by God to break barriers and save lives. When she graduated with her medical degree in 1969, she was one of only two women in her class. She has always defied limits.

Ann suffered a heart attack while I was pregnant with our boys. Mike and I were driving home from Texas when I got the news. We’d just crossed the Mississippi when Aunt Jan, her twin, called.

“Ann’s dying,” she said, and her words punched the air from my lungs.

When I could breathe again, I announced I was going to Ann. “I’m outside Vicksburg. I can get to her in no time.” No time turned out to be four hours. We pulled into the hospital — her hospital, where she’d run ER night shifts for decades. Her kingdom. But she wasn’t in her kingdom. She was in a bed in a backless gown behind a curtain with a ceiling track in the CCU.

Her eyes were not their normal gray blue like water flickering over river stone, processing everything so fast. They were black water ponds, dark dark as pitch. Maybe she’d been given something that dilated them. Or maybe they’d seen something of the unknown and hereafter. Either way, they were haunting.

She took my arm in her hands and clutched it tight and peered into me eyes for a long, long while. No words. No movement. Just a long steady gaze from the depths of black eyes. It felt like goodbye. I told Mike that as we left, I was certain she had just said goodbye.

Over six years later, and she’s still here. Still, it was no doubt a goodbye. Because when they cracked her chest, they also cracked something in her mind.

She pulled through, but her memories and words float free of context and command. Her tongue flutters like a fly strip hoping to catch them. Every now and then, she gets lucky — snags part of a sentence, sputters fragments. But in no time, she’s lost and lonely again.

I’ve seen her three times since that October. Each new meeting, she is frailer, smaller, this larger-than life legend. She’s curling in on herself, chin toward throat, fingers toward palms, shoulders toward that cracked-sternum scar. Folding and curling inward. But her strength to defy limits remains.

I got word this morning that she’s in the hospital. Her wife is home alone. I don’t know what the next few hours or days may bring. I do know that she and Pat are strong and fierce and have battled prejudice, the patriarchy, pit bulls (yes, literally — and in the last month!) and the ravages of disease. They are separated from each other. I am separated from them. I feel helpless. There’s not much I can do and my heart cracks with the ache.

But I can pray. And I can ask all of you to pray too. Pray for these beautiful women in my life. These women who have shaped me, who’ve taken me in and listened to me, who’ve taught me how unconditional, unconventional love is worth pursuing and worth living. And who reminded me to always dig deep into my soul to find that kickass my Aunt Ann planted there so many years ago. So no one takes advantage or control of me and my dreams ever again.

ILY, Aunt Ann and Aunt Pat. ILY super very — so very super — very much a lot.

we won’t go back where we came from

Why are Americans yelling at other Americans to go back where they came from? What has our country become?

Apparently, a hate-spewing-and-mongering place where if you aren’t white and a man, you must not belong. Where you definitely don’t belong on a platform where you’ll be heard.

I mean, that was definitely the case for me as a girl growing up. I was white (which made my life a little easier), but not male. So I was just supposed to shut up and let the white patriarchy “take care of everything” for me.

I knew a long time ago that sort of governing body wasn’t for me. I wanted a voice. I didn’t just want it — I needed it. So I fought hard for it and I found it. And there’s no way in hell im going back where I came from. 

And now I’m willing to fight hard for these congresswomen and for all women — to be strong and belong. 

I really thought our country had moved past such a heinous viewpoint. But now, that’s pretty much all I see and all I hear. White men in power telling women to go back where they came from, whatever that means. 

And I honestly think I know what that means. They want women to go back to the days of their youth (the men’s youth, where women stayed silent and submissive). There are even some women (quite a few of them, actually) chanting right along. Serena Joy would be so proud…

Well, this woman is not going back where she came from. I’m using my voice for more than parroting the patriarchy. I learned what that could get me a long time ago, and I’ll be f***ed if I’m going back to that place again. Legitimately.

So I will persist in stating my opinions and in fighting for my voice, my body, my rights. For all our rights.

Because despite the fact that women make less on the dollar than the average man and we hold less seats in our “representative” government, we are STILL equal citizens in the eyes of the law. 

But if we don’t keep fighting, I’m not sure that will stay the case. If we don’t keep fighting and speaking up and demanding change and demanding accountability, our representative government might very well go back to the government of 1776… All white. All male. And all, by the way, immigrant. There’s a piece of white, patriarchal irony for ya.

A Parable of Three Fated Sisters

Memory. Charity. Promise. Three women. Three beautiful sisters with three beautiful names.

But the beauty stops where the limitations began. Imparted by their forefathers… Remember your place. Nurture others. Earn your reward.

And so it began.

Memory lived her life in the past– a far-from-accurate, completely-black-and-white past, shaded by perceptions and surroundings. What he wanted. How he felt. Where he’d been. Had she done it right? It all dictated how she lived her present and looked to her future. All from the past. Memory just couldn’t live in the moment. Her moment.

Then there was Charity. She gave herself away. All of her self. To everyone. Her family, her friends, her lover, her home, her job. Until there was nothing left of her but a shell of a woman with a beautiful, empty name. A Charity case.

And finally, there was Promise. Her strength lay in her looking to the future — and overlooking the past and present. Ignoring any injustice. Keeping her eye on the prize. Always waiting on the earned reward of being the dutiful, obedient woman. Waiting for her destiny to unfold. Always waiting. A Promise yet to be found.

Three sisters. Their lives short-changed by society’s pigeon holes: Remember your place; Nurture; Obey. And all that is good and holy will surely come to you.

Bull shit.

Don’t be kept in a cage of society’s invention. Lift up your heads, sisters. Climb out of your relegated roles.

Don’t give yourself away — Charity begins at home. Use your past to build your present. Use your Memory to make your mark. Bring your Promise to fruition by building it — not waiting on it.

Ignore what the world wants you to be, Sisters, and be who YOU want to be.

My Aunts in Shining Armor

As I’ve been combing my recipes searching for something extra special to fix this weekend — just because — I’ve run across certain dishes that remind me of three extraordinary women in my life… women whose love and sacrifice have made me who I am today.

These women creatively acquired me through the bonds of blood and grit and good, old-fashioned love. These women took me in and made me their own. They taught me to know my potential and to believe in it. They taught me that women are strong. That women are powerful. That women are capable. They taught me that women have a voice and that we should use it. These women are my aunts — my three graces, my three fates, my three wise women. And the recipes that remind me of them are as deeply rich and provocative and inspirational as my aunts themselves…

First, there’s my Aunt Jan and her “Mrs. Norris’ Strawberry Pie.” It’s the perfect blend of glistening, syrup-soaked berries steeped in puddles of juice under clouds of whipped cream.

I have no idea who Mrs. Norris is, but I’m here to tell you that this pie is my Aunt Jan in a pastry shell.  It perfectly parallels her zany, vibrant nature. She’s sweet and tart and sparkling with pizzazz. She’s never met a stranger and she’s never been ignored.

She taught me to make this pie during what I call “The Summer of Grandma” – a two-month stint during which my cousins and Jan and I built pie after pie in a humid, east Tennessee kitchen trying anything and everything to get my grandmother to eat. She was slipping away from us, but she still had a hankering for sweetness.

And so we built pies. Pecan pie. And Chocolate pie. And Lemon Meringue — so high and coiffed that women in Texas could likely haul pictures to their hairdressers as inspiration. And finally, Mrs. Norris’ Strawberry Pie – the Mother Superior of pies – just like Jan, our family matriarch after my grandmother passed away.

The baton was passed, and Jan became our pulse and our promise. She’s a talker and she’s a doer. If you want it coordinated and you want it done, call Jan. And she’s a lover. When she hugs you, you find yourself wrapped in clouds of pillow-y bosoms, which she inherited from my grandma (and which, I might add, skipped me in the gene pool). And you find yourself believing in rainbows and unicorns and holy grails.

Because Jan makes the impossible possible. She is quick-witted and confident, and she’s always been my biggest cheerleader. She pushed me and pulled me and pep-talked me into going back to school. Through her, I learned to trust in myself and the God-given gifts that she assured me I had and that I needed to hone.

Without Jan, I never would have trusted my mind or my voice. She taught me that what I think and feel matters. She pushed me to tell it like I see it and to hold strong to my principles. She made the impossible possible in me.

jan

Now, Jan’s twin sister Ann isn’t much of a baker. Instead, she sticks to main dishes, and she’s most famous for her tenderloins stuffed with apples and pecans and fragrant herbs – a savory, nourishing dish indicative of her steady, nurturing soul.

Ann and I have some sort of kindred connection. I felt it from the first time we ever sat down and REALLY talked – on my grandmother’s front steps after I was deposited there by a distant father in a diesel Isuzu and a feverish faith. Ann and I played with kittens and plotted the trajectory of my life on those semicircle steps beneath the crab-apple stone siding and cedar shingles of my grandmother’s house.

Ann embodies most closely who I truly am: intuitive and observant, reserved and resilient, capable and calm. Her eyes are still water on stone, are snow clouds at dusk – and when they meet mine, they see things. Things hidden in shame or for protection.

But with Ann, every trembling, buried burden or bruise is safe. It is better than safe – it is healed. Because she has a ministering nature that soothes and mends. It was her job. Literally. She is a retired ER doc, and I promise you, she did more than heal bodies in her years of service. She calmed hearts and settled souls – mine included. I wouldn’t be where I am today, without her.

annandpat2

And finally, there’s Pat, Ann’s wife, and my aunt by marriage. Pat is our family’s Tupelo honey. Her voice is southern nectar and so is her love. She never has a negative word to say to or about anyone. She sweetens the lives of all of us by spreading her joy and her sweet, sanguine good sense. Any recipe with honey, honey bun to  hotty toddy, reminds me of my beloved Pat. Lover of animals and humanitarian causes alike, she is generosity and goodness with a smile carved from moonstone and a heart made of gold.

My fondest memory of Pat is when several of us piled into a car to take a little trek over the mountains and through the woods– in a snow storm– to visit the Biltmore House. The roads grew slushy and slippery, and Pat’s mother, who was ailing at the time, grew car sick.

When we pulled to the side (more like slid to the side) of the interstate, her sweet, ailing mama proceeded to lose her dinner, right along with her upper teeth.  Pat sweetly swiveled her back into the backseat and then paddled through drifts of snowy vomit in search of the delinquent dentures.

That is Pat: unflappable, ever capable, and always willing to go the extra mile for family. She is as warm and soothing as  Tupelo honey. Her love glows deep and rich, and she moths us all to hearth and home with her warmth. She has always encouraged me to dream big and to reach high, but to never lose touch with my roots – because family feeds the soul.

And thanks to my family — and particularly my three incomparable and beautiful aunts — my heart is full to bursting and my cup runneth over.

Timothy in a Tailspin: Here’s to Women’s Voices

I am surrounded by strong women. Strong, powerful, intelligent women.

Women who teach me to believe in myself. Women who teach me to trust my soul, my strength, my intuition, my intelligence. They teach me that my voice matters. And so does my mind.

They teach me, daily, the value of women. Our worth.

And I feel so bad for the women in this world who do not have women who tell them their true worth. Instead, they have women surrounding them who tell them yes, they’re strong, but their place is in the shadows. Beneath their husbands. Playing supporting roles. That that is their true strength and value.

Ugh.

Women sabotaging women. Sabotaging their own sex. It makes me crazy.

Just this morning, I was pummeled with social media posts telling me just that. Telling me that my voice doesn’t matter as much as my husband’s voice. Or really, any man’s voice.

I read one today — a letter that’s gone “viral” (it’s a virus, alright) — about how these days are surely the end of days because women are trying to be men. Because they want voices. And careers. And equal partnerships. And respect. And — dammit –authority. They want authority.

Hold up. Wait a minute.

First off, I’m not trying to be a man. I like my female parts just fine, thank you. More than just fine. I love being a woman. I have never, ever wanted to be a man. I don’t want their parts. I just want their rights.

And I want to have a voice that isn’t labeled “harsh” or “shrill” when I demand respect and equality.

Another post told me that every man wants to hear “I Trust You” when it comes to making decisions for their family. That he is the proper head of the household.

Aw, hell no.

I came from that sort of past. And yeah, that’s not happening again. Sorry, Mike. I love you, and I DO trust you. But that doesn’t mean I’m relinquishing my voice. Never. Ever. Never Ever Again.

I’m so tired of the patriarchy — especially the patriarchy that is being spoon-fed to women by women — little kernels of sage advice dropped onto newsfeeds through conservative memes and blogs. Sugarcoated with scripture.

I come from a place where scripture was used to dominate women. A place where the Books of Timothy were celebrated — books where the apostle Paul demands that women dress modestly. Where they’re told to be quiet and submissive. Where they’re denied authority over men. Where they’re blamed for introducing sin into the world. And where they’re told they can only be saved through childbearing.

My gorge rises.

So much so that when I was pregnant with the twins, I dreamed of naming a daughter Timothy. The irony and sacrilege thrilled me. I was finally ready to challenge the bearded patriarchy of my past. And the female fundamentalists of my present.

And then I learned that I was having two boys. And there was no way I was saddling one of them with the name. That would not have been ironical. It would have been pathological.

So instead, I decided to tackle Timothy and it’s patriarchy with my voice, my opinions, my blog. One comment after another. One written word after another.

And with my actions. And with my clothing. One ostentatious action and garment at a time.

And with one vote for female authority at a time.

And as far as women being saved through childbearing, that might very well be true. Because I have raised brave, strong, outspoken women. And they are unafraid to tackle the Timothy-touting multitudes of both sexes in this world.

And I’m raising brave, strong, outspoken men this very moment. And they will likewise be unafraid to tackle the Timothy-touting multitudes.

And there are hundreds of thousands more of us women — raising brave, strong, outspoken children ready to send Timothy into a tailspin.

Because we’re over being told our voices are harsh and that they don’t matter as much as the next guy’s. We’re over it.

Take that, Timothy.

Buzzed Sexual Assault IS Sexual Assault

Bill Cosby and Brett Kavanaugh have dominated the news this week — one convicted of rape; the other accused of attempted rape. And everywhere we turn, people are talking about it. And the discussion has been extremely divisive… about Kavanaugh, in particular.

Social media threads have exploded in heated arguments, friends and family lining up firmly behind Kavanaugh or firmly behind his accuser, Christine Blasé Ford. Our country, our families, our friendships are split — and incredibly, it’s almost entirely along party lines.

And it boggles my brain.

I don’t get it. I just don’t — particularly when women are the ones pointing fingers accusingly at the victim. Because odds are they, or someone close to them, has been sexually assaulted. But they have been conditioned by society to overlook it as simply “boys being boys.”

Trivializing and discounting stories of sexual assault by victims has been happening since man first wielded his weapon against a woman without her permission. Boys being boys. Biology at work.

Shakespeare even wrote about it, Ophelia proclaiming: “Young men will do it, if they come to it. By cock, they are to blame.” As if it is their biology and not the men themselves at fault. Well,  the “boys will be boys” mentality needs to end. Boys are not just being boys. Boys are being violent sexual offenders.

The truth is in the numbers. And the numbers state that 1 in 3 women are assaulted — violently or sexually or both — in their lifetime. That equates to approximately 20 women per minute.

I personally know many of these women — far too many. Family members molested by relatives. Friends assaulted by strangers. Students raped by neighbors… and family… and friends… and authority figures… and strangers. As a teacher, I learn about more students who have been sexually assaulted every single year –sometimes, every single month. My heart crumbles with the weight of knowledge. The numbers are staggering.

And the fact that I know about these assaults means that more women are telling their stories. And that is good. But we need more women to prosecute. And based upon this week’s events, that seems highly unlikely.

Sexual assault victims have already been violated in the most personal and painful of ways. And then, if they prosecute, they will be violated in the most public and painful of ways, too. Many women feel they can’t possibly withstand the relived emotional and physical trauma along with the fresh emotional and character trauma.

So they tell therapists and husbands and friends and family instead of telling the police.  The reasons are manifold: Fear, Ignorance, Shame, Guilt. Pain…

But the biggest reason of all is Society — all other reasons stem from Society.  Society persecutes — and as good as prosecutes — women if they report their sexual assault.

The US legal system is archaic and unfair in so many situations, but particularly so when it comes to sexual assault. Women are put on trial, right along with their rapists. Their character is targeted. Their value and worth is denigrated. Their lives and choices and actions and clothing are torn asunder… All. Over. Again.

To demonstrate just how far behind our legal system is, it wasn’t until 1993 that all 50 states made it illegal for a husband to rape his wife. Up until then, it was “to have and to hold till death do us part… our legs,” however HE wants, whenever HE wants. And there was not a damned thing a wife could say or do about it.

And outside of wedlock hasn’t been much better.

I was taken against my will when I was a teenager. And I said nothing. To no one. Not a friend, not a family member, not a single soul. Not until years later. I never even confronted the guy who did it — even though I saw him every day. Heck, I even kept dating him. And I just thought that’s how it was. We were a couple. We had already had sex. I believed if I’d given myself to him before, then he was entitled.

I was ignorant. I was a product of my upbringing. Men always had the right of way. I was supposed to defer to him, whether I wanted it or not. I had no voice. Or that’s what I believed.

So I kept my mouth shut. Except for when he demanded I open it. For him. And I never confronted him. And even if I had, he wouldn’t have remembered. And he would have denied it. Like Kavanaugh. And he probably would have passed a polygraph…

Because he was drunk. Sloppy drunk. Both times. So I told myself that he would never have done it, never would have ignored my NO if he weren’t. And I believed it.

I have a friend who didn’t report her assault either. She was groped and mauled in the back seat of a limo by two drunk guys who wouldn’t take NO for an answer. All while her friend was cuddled up in a corner of the car with a third guy.

My friend had the driver stop the car, and she got out, losing valuable possessions in the process, but not losing a piece of herself. But that so-called friend of hers got mad. Got mad at my friend for costing her a hook up. Told her she’d overreacted.

My friend had bruises and scratches on both breasts and was sobbing on the side of the road. But her friend was pissed — at my friend. NOT at the guys.

And I know a friend’s daughter who was raped. And she did report the assault. But then didn’t press criminal charges. Because she was afraid. She was afraid of being put on trial — right along with them. Yes, THEM. Multiple rapists. Drunk. At a party.

And I know a former student who was molested by an older man she knew and trusted — trusted right up to the point he stuck his tongue down her throat and palmed her breasts. After a party. And he was drunk. And she likewise reported the assault. But even then, not much happened to him. Not much at all.

And the common denominator here?

Sexual assault… but I bet you thought I was going to say DRUNK. That all the offenders were drunk. Which they were. But that excuses nothing — no matter how society tries to sugar-coat it as an excuse.

He didn’t mean it.  He’d had too much to drink.  That’s not like him. He never would’ve done that if he were sober.

Well, guess what? Drinking is NO excuse.

What’s that public service announcement? “Buzzed Driving IS Drunk Driving…”

Well, Buzzed Sexual Assault IS Sexual Assault.

It’s looking like karma may finally catch up to Brett Kavanaugh for his drunken debauchery of thirty-plus years ago. At least I sincerely hope so.

And I hope karma gets all the other sexual offenders who have not yet paid for their crimes because the women they violated were too afraid or too brainwashed by society and its” Boys Will Be Boys” excuse to make sure they paid.

And I hope and pray that the #metoo movement — the so-called buzzword of 2018, a buzzword born on the backs of so many buzzed men humping away in their entitled, animalistic states as if their biology dictates and depends on it — I pray that the movement upends the status quo.

I hope and pray that women will find the courage to tell. Find the courage to prosecute. Find the courage to change Society.

Today, I write about myself and other women I know. Women who are my friends and family and students. But I am reminded of a compelling and powerful meme I saw this week: “She’s someone‘s sister/mother/daughter/wife.

She’s not someone’s something. Society needs to understand that.

SHE IS SOMEONE.

 

 

 

 

Who Cares What Men Prefer? You Do Not Need a Man to Translate Scripture or Life For You

I’m not a man hater. I’m not. But I also know (I’ve learned the hard way) that I have the freedom to decide for myself what I like and what I think and what I do.

I’ve written before about the Toni Morrison quote that compels me to write: “The function of freedom is to free someone else.”

Well, yesterday, while thumbing through social media, I came across a blog that slung me so far backwards that the bars of my prison-house were very nearly reinstated. It damn near set me back decades.

And that blog proved to me that I’m not done yet. That I need to keep fighting. To truly free myself from the side-effects of my childhood and to help free others still struggling behind the iron shackles of dogmatic religion. Not faith. Religion.

The blog was a recent post from The Transformed Wife. The title is menacing enough to me — the word “transformed” implying that the author was forced to undergo a dramatic, life-altering change to fit into the unforgiving mold of Wife.

But then there’s the title of her Monday blog: “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins Without Tattoos.” As if women should  be driven and controlled by men’s desires. Our minds, our lives, our bodies. Controlled. By men.

Ugh. The title was frightening, but I kept reading.

The entire intent of the blog is to caution women about everything from advanced education to independent living and thought. She strongly suggests in the second paragraph that women be wary of attending university lest they learn to be “independent, loud, and immodest instead of having meek and quiet spirits.”

Are you kidding me?!?

My skin flinched; my lips curled; my eyes rolled. I was sucker-punched backward to my broken and bridled teen years, where I had this exact bullshit horsewhipped into my soul.

I still suffer from the aftermath. I am meek and quiet – at least in person. This computer screen gives me confidence and a voice. But in person, I tend to shy away when conversations heat up. Or when I do speak up, if somebody pushes back hard enough, I back down. I shut down. I was conditioned to avoid confrontation, to keep my head down, and to NEVER contradict a man.

And it pisses me the hell off. (I was also taught never to cuss. That it’s not ladylike. But I’m making pretty good progress there…)

I was also conditioned to believe my sole purpose in life was to submit myself to men and to fear my own thoughts and actions – a notion the author goes on to address: “The husband will need to take years teaching his wife the correct way to act, think, and live since college taught them every possible way that is wrong.”

Vomit. Convulsive. Bile-riddled. Projectile. Vomit.

My father’s church did not approve of women attending college either, despite Dad hailing from a family full of advanced degrees. (He and his brother have PhDs; his sisters have a Master’s and an MD.)

But no college degrees were in my future — only apprenticeship under some elder’s wife where I would learn “biblical womanhood” and how “to serve others” and “live in submission” to my husband.

That was my destiny.

Luckily, I was rebellious. I was really good at being a thorn in the side and a fly in the ointment. And after a long, exhausting struggle I was finally deemed an unfit vessel for husband and church, and thrown out of the fold and into to my grandmother’s arms.

She was headstrong and rebellious, too. And she taught me to believe in myself. Or she tried. And so did my aunts and uncles.

I spent a single semester at UT in a dorm room under their generosity. But the brainwashing from all the biblical bludgeon-ings was too deepset. I clung to the notion that being in love and in a marriage and with child was my one true calling.

I still believe motherhood is one of my truest and strongest callings. I absolutely believe in love and marriage and children.

But I do not believe in submission and ignorance and mind-control. And I never will again.

The author also states the importance and value of having young women remain “under their father’s roof until they get married.”

One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I never lived on my own as a young woman. I believe independent living is one of the most crucial life-skills a woman can glean. The ability to think for herself. Provide for herself. Trust in herself. To believe she is strong. And capable. And worthy.

I learned all of these things. But it took me a long time. I didn’t really absorb them until after I was divorced, when I struggled to survive on rice cakes and peanut butter and struggled to find my confidence and my voice. But survive I did. And more than that, I found my voice and I found my confidence (as confrontationally-challenged as it may be…).

But I am proud to say that both my girls gained independence and self-worth at a far younger age than I. They are strong, capable, autonomous women. One of my daughters, a surgeon with more advanced education than practically any person I know (and will continue her formal education for another four years), responded to the blog’s ridiculous restrictions with the following:

Well, I’m probably the most in debt of any woman out there. And I’m a 31 year old non-virgin. With a tattoo. It seems, based on this grammatically horrifying piece, I’m undesirable. But my brain is worth more than the 300,00 dollars I’ve invested in it, and I will never waste my heart on a man who teaches me how to think or feel.

Well said, my girl. Bravo.

And my other daughter, in honor of International Emoji Day, promptly posted a green vomiting icon. My sentiments exactly, my girl.

So my freedom has resulted in the freedom of my girls. And I take great pride in that. But I’m not finished yet. There are still women out there who believe they can’t exist without the guidance of a man — someone who can translate life for them.

Because the part of the blog that rattled my soul and wrenched my girl parts the most was the sorrow the author felt for women who “have not read the Bible with their father or husband to explain it to them.”

To EXPLAIN it to them?

What. The. Fuck.

What the ever-loving, mind-blowing Fuck?!? (Told you that bridle was gone. I’m the only one who controls my mouth now, thank you very much.)

Let me tell you about the husbands and fathers who “explained” scripture to me. They twisted it. They tortured it. They twisted and tortured scripture and they twisted and tortured me.

And it is taking me a lifetime to free myself from the dogma and the dictators.  Don’t let me be you.

Don’t eat the bullshit. Don’t learn the helplessness. Don’t believe the lies.

You are worthy enough. You are smart enough. You are strong enough. You are important enough.

To think for yourself. To govern yourself. To believe in yourself. To educate yourself.

To love yourself.

So do it. Be it. Live it.

And then help someone else do it and be it and live it too. That’s the function. The function of freedom.

 

 

Mother-Daughter Dynamic Duo: Shine a Life on Cindy and Meghan

I have an artist friend. She is quiet and still as mountains in moonlight. She is layered in the wisdom of the natural world. Her soul ripples when you speak with her. She receives you. She hears you. Actively.

Her hair is scalloped shale, flecked with silver, and her cheekbones are high, whittled planes. She has deep-set eyes and a deep-seated soul.

And she fills this world with rich, buttery warmth.

I can’t even remember the first time I met her. I’ve known her for over half my life. But I do remember her impact on me. How I felt instantly calm and at home. How I didn’t need to fill any silences or put on any airs. Because she is peace. She is acceptance. She is serenity and space. I feel settled in her presence. And loved.

And I admire her for these ways and for so many more.

I admire her for the way she lives her life, loves her child, and lives her art. I don’t know if I know anyone else like her. I don’t see her often, but when I do, I am reminded of what I aspire to be.

She is my soul mentor. She is who I want to be when my soul grows up. And her name is Cindy.

Cindy makes jewelry – handcrafted pieces of spiritual energy. And when I wear her stuff, I can feel the pulse of the cosmos in concert with mine. And it is sheer magic.

And it makes me want to know what she knows. I want to know her secrets. How she lives her passion and creates her world. Because I want to do it, too. I want my art to reflect my spirit and to pulse in concert with the universe. I want to fill this world with buttery warmth.

That’s what I want for my art.

And the way she loves her child — with a fierce and gentle love that listens lightly or moves mountains. She is soft and hard and silence and storm. She is Mother Nature, and she can be unruffled or unleashed.

And this magic mama has wielded an incredibly accomplished daughter.

And I want that, too. That kind of motherhood. That kind of energy. That kind of quiet.

Let me tell you about her daughter — her quirky, cat-like, wisp of a daughter: She has the high cheekbones and deep soul of her mother, but she is absolutely her own woman. And her name is Meghan.

I had the distinct pleasure of being Meghan’s girl scout leader in elementary and middle school, and her Brit and AP Lit teacher in high school., but it is I who was led and I who was taught by this slip-wisp of wonder and whimsy.

She is an artist, too, but she writes. Oh, my, how she writes! Her words are whispers, powerful whispers, that float out and settle next to you on your couch, encouraging you to find the magic in the world — whether it is the vaulting landscape of a national park or the purring kitten at your elbow. She prompts you to feel and to hear and to see miracles in all their myriad forms.

Her essays and blogs are the metaphysical equivalent of condensed orange juice. They are small slices that encompass ALL the flavors, ALL the energy, ALL the power of living life to the fullest.

This mother/daughter duo are gypsies, unfettered and unphased by society’s demand for conformity. They dance down the path less chosen. In the moonlight. In the moment.

They’ve tapped into the inner sanctums of transcendental living, prophets of essence and art. One hikes through the world with a sleeping bag and journal. The other hunkers down with soft metals and gemstones. Both spin ordinary into extraordinary.

And both inspire me.

I don’t see either of them often, but when I do – at a summer concert down at the railroad tracks, at a little shop down under the bridge — I feel restored.

They are both my spiritual mentors. They are who I aspire to be.

(Visit Cindy’s Lunatique Whimsical Jewelry page on Facebook and find you some handcrafted pieces of spiritual energy to wear  ‘round your own neck and wrist!) 33B90F41-1181-4F76-8A3E-8EA5A907D689

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