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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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women’s voice

I Am Not JUST A Woman

My Advance Comp students have been writing counter-narrative poems this week — poems about how they are so much more than what people judge them and stereotype them as. I wrote one right along with them — one that if you know me, you know I feel quite passionate about…

“I Am not JUST a Woman”

I do have all the girl parts and love to play the girl parts – fix my hair, wear my makeup, get dressed up to go out on the weekends,

But I am not JUST a woman.

I do know my way around a kitchen, and I love to don my apron and bake up batch after batch of cookies,

But I am not JUST a woman.

I do love my children, and being pregnant were some of the most fulfilling and awe-inspiring times of my life,

and I do love to kick off my shoes go barefoot through the clover and feel the chill of the hardwood floors on the soles of my feet,

but I am not JUST a woman.

I do get emotional sometimes. I cry at Publix commercials and when the guy gets the girl at the end of the film, and at some point (or twelve) in the classroom when I’m proud;

I get hormonal and hangry and chocolate and ice cream are my favorite go-to craving cures,

But I am not JUST a woman.

I might struggle to bench (just-barely) the bar; I might lose at arm-wrestling matches 10 out of 10 times, but don’t mistake me for weak and don’t mistake me for soft and don’t call me pushover and lady-part names.

I am not JUST a woman (and those parts are fiercer and stronger and more pain-tolerant and flexible than any part the opposing team has EVER possessed.)

I may be quiet, not speak very loud. I may be shy and not look you too long in the eyes. I may take care with just how I interact,

But I say what I mean and I mean what I say; I have opinions and a voice and I give both the light of day. I fight for my rights and for others each day, especially the ones whose lives get foul play.

I am not JUST a woman.

I’m a baker and scholar, a nurturer and warrior, outspoken and introverted, emotional and rational, I’m female and fierce.

I drive a minivan. And my kids crazy. The ones at home and the ones in my classroom.

I am quirky and classic, passionate and calm, powerful and tender, tough and tired.

I’m tired of seeing people labeled and dismissed for their skin and their clothes and their gender and their build and their address and their hair, their sexuality, their politics, their country of origin, their faith.

II am a human and a humanitarian.

I am so much more than the sum of my parts, and I am so much more than JUST a woman.

Carpe Diem and the Soggy Bits

I woke up this morning at 4:14. I didn’t want to. I wanted to sleep. I’m beyond exhausted. I feel like the soggy bits at the bottom of a garbage disposal… all churned up and left to be washed away. But I couldn’t go back to sleep. I lay there tossing and turning, trying to quiet my mind. My mushy, damp, mushroom filled mind. 

It wallows in darkness all the time now. After all, this is the year of living with mortality. From the five hundred thousand and counting deaths due to Covid, to the traumatic cardiac event that cost my father his life, to the long-suffering, slow loss of  my aunt, it has been a tough year. 

I was going try to fight through the wakefulness this morning. Try to lie there, mind churning, stirring and slicing my thoughts, leaving me anxious and exasperated. But then I remembered the article I read this week… about how we need quiet time, Me Time. Time with no interruptions, no pressing obligations (well, they’re there… but nothing can really be done about them at 4 AM), and how those simple solitary hours can be some of the most important, and most difficult, to find. Especially for a 54 year- old grieving daughter and niece, who is also the mother of twin soon-to-be-seven year old sons, as well as adult daughters, who still pull at the strings of my heart and the thoughts in my mind, no matter how grown they get. Plus, I’m the wife of a coach getting geared up for spring ball, and the teacher of 160-plus students. In a pandemic year. All of this. In a pandemic year. 

Let me say, this year has shown me why teachers retire after 30 years. I get how if you start your career straight out of college, a dew-skinned, wide-eyed, tenderfoot, that by the time you hit 52, you’re spent. You’ve developed thick skin, side-eyes, and calloused heart. (Let it be known I work hard every single day not to let my heart grow hard. My conscience is a pumice stone, grinding away the calcium deposits and thick skin. But also let it be known that tenderness makes my job way harder. It leaves me wide open to wounds and weeping.) 

But alas for me, I was never a 22 year old teacher. I am a product of a nontraditional trajectory: back to school at 32, graduated at 34, 20 years a teacher, and way beyond spent. Emotionally and mentally. 

And I know it’s not all teaching that’s done it to me — because my nontraditional trajectory didn’t stop at my late-blooming career path. I also decided to have a second set of children, twin boys no less, at 48. Boys who didn’t sleep for sixteen months – which may be partly why (nearly seven years later) I still can’t seem to catch up… and why waking this morning at the ass crack of day’s beginnings was so incredibly insulting.

And I know it’s not all parenting primary-school twin boys that’s exhausted me.  Because the pandemic has saddled me with all sorts of extra weight too… the five-to-ten pounds worth of stress eating because, hell, carpe diem, for tomorrow we may… well, you know. I mean, after all, 500,000 have, plus my father and aunt. And then there’s the return of teenaged acne from the fabric masks I wear faithfully, and the lack of smiles from my students (maybe just because I can’t see them under their own faithfully-worn masks or maybe because they aren’t smiling either). And the continual waves of students leaving for quarantine and returning from quarantine. And my asynchronous classroom adaptations so hopefully they don’t feel as lost and forlorn as I do. But they do…

And I know it’s not all pandemic. Because I’m also executor to my father’s estate. Which means I haven’t had time to truly mourn because I’m dealing with the load and stress and anxiety of dealing with finances and legal matters that are completely alien to my being. It’s like handing a toddler a buzzing chainsaw and telling her to clean out the underbrush. It’s too heavy. There’s way too much room for error. There’ so much I could do wrong. Chop down the ancient oak or the beautiful dogwoods, get tangled up in poison ivy, raze my legs right out from under me.

I need supervision every step of the way. And thank heavens I’ve had it. I have a family of experts in various arenas and they’ve all lent a hand. Me, all I’m good at is the grunt work. The clearing of the debris. I guess that’s why I have the chainsaw, after all. But, have mercy!

So here I am, typing away my innermost thoughts on my computer (at now, 6 AM), the warm glow of a lamp next to me, warm coffee in my favorite mug,and nothing to keep me company but the quiet hum of the boys’ white noise machines and the keyboard recording my inner-most thoughts. 

And not gonna lie, it’s kinda nice. (Not saying nice enough to attempt on a daily basis because, by GOD, I’m running on dregs.) But still, kinda nice. Like the distinct pleasure of low tide. There are tiny, sparkling bits of peace unearthed or deposited there in the newborn damp.

I guess there are gems to be found in the soggy bits once the churning has paused after all. 

So, right now, I’m actively searching for them. I’m using these newborn, wet moments of my day to write my memoir, to chase my future. To birth yet another nontraditional career inside the trajectory of my nontraditional life. 

I’m believing in myself. For at least a hot minute — before the sun comes up and the boys wake up and the day’s demands start rising again… leaving me fighting for life. Not just my life, but all life. My boys’, husbands’, girls’, students’, society’s. 

It makes for an exhausted life. But a worthy one. So carpe diem it is.

I Escaped a Cult Once, Can our Country do the Same?

The happenings in the world have sent me toppling backwards — years backwards — into the fear and frustrations and seemingly inescapable situation of my past. Of the cult I grew up in and the people who were taken prisoner by its promises and leadership.

I know what a cult can do. I know the appeal of a leader who focuses on your innermost desires and vows to put an end to your most paralyzing fears. I know what that kind of leader can do.

I know how his testimonies speak to good people with legitimate concerns. I know how his scripture touting soothes, how his pulpit pounding activates, how his charisma intoxicates.

How his promises to carry you, save you, deliver you from evil are so very welcome in our dark world. How the traits he embodies (or at least professes) — strength, charisma, Godliness — are just what you’ve been looking for to bring you — to bring everyone — into the promised land.

But he’s no Moses.

Nor is he the chosen one to lead anyone out of darkness — despite the genuine hopes behind those who support him.

But be wary of the “Hope” this man holds aloft with his dazzling promises.

I’ve lived among false promises such as he proports. I’ve watched my family — and countless others — fall under the weight of sincere hope, falsely met.

I was speaking recently with a friend of mine who shares my past and also overcame it — and is as equally worried (and furious) about what she sees unfolding as I.

In her own words, “The exploitation of a good heart is the vilest of crimes.”

And I agree.

I’ve seen far too many good hearts (then and now) used as ammunition; I’ve seen too much real hope twisted to poison. I’ve seen too many rational heads uprooted, unhinged, and made ready to destroy others — and themselves. United with him, it becomes “Us vs Them,” and the fallout is deadly. Families torn apart. Friendships. Self worth. So many lives destroyed.

And the motivations I see now are the same as the motivations of the good hearts who found themselves entangled in my childhood cult: To align more closely with God’s commandments and Christ’s teachings and traditional family values. At least that’s what so many of those who follow Trump are seeking. Despite the fact that his promises resemble nothing of Christ’s promises. Nothing of true Christianity.

White nationalism is not Christian. Prejudice and pride is not Christian. Political power over moral duty is not Christian.

Christ asked that we protect the weak, include the marginalized, serve the downtrodden. We are supposed to be good stewards of this earth, not blatantly ignore — or participate — in its destruction.

Trump’s platform is the reverse of Christ’s message. But the lambs have laid down with the wolf by the millions.

Half our country has fallen victim to a leader whose ability to bend and break wills is mind-blowing in its potency. And the fallout has already begun.

And, sadly, I’ve seen it all before.

But this time, it’s not the hearts and lives and futures of a (relatively speaking) small congregation in Texas at stake. It is the vast population of these United States. And it is not only our freedom that is threatened, it is the very soul of decency.

Yes, the happenings of this past week — and throughout the past four years — have sent me toppling backwards into a time and place in my life where my freedom was nonexistent, my future bleak and seemingly out of my control, my frustrations at those who couldn’t see the truth, overwhelming.

But this isn’t my past. It is my present. And I am terrified about what my future might hold.

I was able to escape a cult like this one once before. It took courage, unmitigated strength, and a willful refusal (every single day) to listen to the sugar-coated lies of those who would eagerly lead me astray. I had to guard myself at every angle, lest they slip the Kool Aid into my mouth, lest they place the blinders over my eyes.

I pray our country can now do the same.

But, y’all… I’m really, really scared.

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.

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.

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