Sisterwives and weeds…

One evening last week I found myself sitting in a cluster of tables with several other women. They were all new to me, and I was not alone in that. We sat nibbling on cookies, chewing on Starbursts and getting to know each other. It was really nice. We chatted about babies, and real life stuff, our jobs, some dreams (both fulfilled and unfulfilled) and eventually the conversation gravitated to the message (from the Sunday before) that some of us had heard at church.

The story had been about faith, and had centered around Hannah’s story, in the book of 1st Samuel. (If you aren’t familiar, it’s ok. This isn’t actually a post about anything church or Christianity related, so sit tight…) Hannah wanted desperately to have a baby with her husband, but despite her prayers (spanning years) she hadn’t been able to get pregnant. Reading this, as we do with most character stories, one can get swept up in Hannah’s ache, especially if you’ve shared in that same ache in any way. Hannah’s husband had two wives, and his other wife Peninnah, does not share this problem. (of course she doesn’t, because anyone who has struggled with infertility knows- the infertile bring imaginary fertility luck to those women around them!) side note- having lived the life of miscarriage and infertility, I can only imagine how painful Peninnah’s pregnancies and childbirths were for Hannah…

The book is clear to point out that, not only was Peninnah continually giving their husband children, but she was also an absolute nightmare to Hannah. She treated her like absolute garbage. We humans love a good villain story, and so with the tale of Peninnah and Hannah, we cast Peninnah as the villian.

Which sets the foundation for the path that will lead us to my actual point: I have been thinking a lot about Peninnah. This woman from thousands of years ago has been heavy on my heart. At some point in our lives, every woman has been her own version of Hannah- desperately aching for something. What we are less likely to admit to ourselves, or talk about is the seasons of life where we’ve been our own versions of Peninnah. We LOVE to talk about how society or culture have made women catty, petty and manipulative. While these contributing factors haven’t helped, they merely magnify issues women struggle with anyway. At the root of Peininnah’s complete and utter bitchiness towards her sister wife, we have a woman. Period.

Peninnah was someone’s baby, she was a young girl playing with siblings and friends. She had a giggle unique to her, and had cried her fair share of guttural sobs over her own aching life hole. This woman had painful menstrual cramps, likely suffered headaches, seasonal allergies and took pride in the special way she did something. She probably spent many a night watching the stars, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. She may have spent monotonous chores imagining her life differently. This assumed villain is merely an insecure and (at least partly) broken woman. She probably woke up in the mornings feeling like shed never be enough…

She is us. Every single one of us.

Circumstances (being a husband, culture, security and comparison) created division between these two women. When a deep sisterhood and kinship could have been a beautiful thing, that is not what happened. We each have lived that story as well. Sometimes it’s about a man, a friend, a job, an ex, a law, a religion, a life choice- we still allow reasons to divide us from other women. Rather than allow ourselves to be splayed raw, and vulnerable simply for the purpose of comforting and lifting another woman from a dark and shattered place, we stay “safe” behind our walls. This may look like ignoring her, or it may look like tearing her down even more. We fear our vulnerability being wounded so deeply, sometimes, that we wound instead.

In a podcast episode I listened to, last week, with Melinda Gates, she talked quite a bit about how- when you want to bring change to an underprivileged area, you reach out to the women. We women are capable of being beautiful, unending sources of nurture and empowerment to those around us… This is nature, it is how we are designed. When we fail to embrace this, we instead fill that drive within us with negative emotions and comparisons towards other women. Peninnah and Hannah deserved better, they needed better. While the support of their husband, and his sensitivity towards Hannah’s infertility were likely comforting- had Hannah had Peninnah there to grieve with her, every single woman reading this KNOWS that would have been significantly more impactful.

Weeds and flowers are capable of residing in the same garden, but we all know that weeds are far more aggressive and will eventually choke out the healthy growth if they are allowed to remain. We are responsible for what we allow to grow in our hearts, in our minds, and what we allow to consume our thoughts…

This is kind of a jumbled mess of thoughts, but I hope, if you’ve stuck it out this long, you’re with me. Let’s make the world of womanhood be the one these two women deserved, a world we each deserve. None of us are exempt from a deep soul ache, just as not one of us is without a smudge of bad behavior towards another woman. Imagine the incredible that lives just beyond those walls of self protection, if we’d just allow ourselves exposure to soul-connect with other women.

THIS, this is what would change the world…

the b word…

There are fewer, (non-vulgar) words that cause such angst and division among women like the “B word”.

Not THAT one… Bikini.

Half of women love them and can’t wait for sunshine and waves to don theirs. Some women, (fictitious, maybe?) solidify their bathing suit/bikini shopping as a true summer milestone adventure. The other half of us, don’t. Trying bathing suits on can be super depressing, but when you add in the idea of a bikini…

And it is an even harder thing because, though sometimes we women really feed our insecurities by the negative and mean things we are so certain the world around us is saying- when it comes to swimwear people do have opinions. Strong opinions…

Have you ever encountered one of those overly concerned types, who are so worried about your health/heart/lifespan/__________ that they just feel they must discuss your weight (or someone else’s) ? Maybe you are one of those people, feeling validated in your certainty that a person is overweight because they make terrible choices, are lazy, and you magically have just the right words to turn this all around for them? If this feels familiar, please enunciate the following words as you read them:

You do not know what you are talking about and need to zip it. Period. (if you’re like me, and you aren’t one of those “joy spreaders”, then soak in those words too, except replace YOU with THEY.) Why should you do this? Because it is true.

I’m not going to dive into statistics because we are all capable of googling and finding our own fact based research, but a few fun facts:

  • a seemingly fit, size four woman is absolutely capable of having raging cholesterol issues and developing type 2 diabetes.
  • If being overweight, (let’s all stop referring to people as FAT. no one IS fat, they have fat. We all HAVE FAT, and if you don’t, then rush to the doctor immediately because something is seriously wrong with you. Also, if you are a woman, read the book Why Women Need Fat, because it is both scientific and enlightening…) were an immediate death sentence, there wouldn’t be so many people who are overweight. Why? There would be a lot more funerals.
  • There are genetics, environmental conditions, hormones, stresses, economic issues and several other factors that play into what a person weighs.
  • It is ignorant to assume someone sits around watching soap operas and eating twinkies.

Ok, I’m stepping off of my soapbox, because none of that is the point. What is the point? you may ask.

Let’s stop looking at other people through the lens of what we imagine (or know) their BMI is. Let’s stop looking at other people through the lens of our discomfort over their skin color, size, disabilities, sexuality, gender, etc.

Behind all of those things that we allow to cloud our vision exists a person. A lung breathing, heart beating human being with their own stories, their own triumphs and their overwhelming struggles. Let’s start seeing the people. Size does not matter, color does not matter.

Let’s just love. Let’s act in love. Let’s move, and think and see love.

Love.

In this weeks episode (39) of the Collective Podcast, Myself, Maggie, Jennie and Marion are chatting about why the Disney Princesses may not be so bad, we’re talking bikinis, self love, accepting things about ourselves that we don’t love and what exactly Body Positivity is… It’s a great chat and we hope you’ll join us!

To Build…

It is Friday and that means I am again linking up with several lovely writers over at Kate’s Five Minute Friday spot!

(If you aren’t familiar, every friday we free-write for just FIVE minutes, prompted by one word. This week’s word is BUILD.)

~

The foundation was shaky, shattered, torn.

I was broken, this I knew.

My heart lived, aimed, at the idea of a family and a home. My seventeen year old daydreams saw myself with a faceless husband doing household chores in a sleeveless t-shirt, laughing with a laugh which melted my heart. I imagined no lavish excess, just a simple roof over our heads and three beautiful faceless children. I knew they were two girls and one boy, and I knew that although I could not see their faces, this feeling they pricked deep within my core was the motivation for everything.

I sat, in a breakdown. Devastated, exhausted and so damaged from break-on-top-of-break, of my scarred girl heart. That dream propelled me forward, daring to believe there had to be something more than abandonment and loss.

And there was.

It may not have been how I had thought it would be, and it certainly was not all roses and sunset kisses, once I got there, but I did build a life, despite that terrible foundation. I learned the pain, and the redemption, in tearing out that foundation and laying a new, truth-bricked one in its place.

Together, that man (whose laugh I had dreamed up at seventeen) and I built a home. It was not composed of roof tiles and painted walls, but rather a space that moved wherever we did, warmth and rich in unconditional love, support and the freedom to grow as we needed.

This home was everything neither of us had known, as children, and just what we had needed.

~

(My inspiration for this piece is the song To Build a Home by The Cinematic Orchestra. It is beautiful and it deserves a listen.)

She sparks joy…

February feels a lot like these sun-rays, peeking out from behind this tree. Is it time yet? She softly asks, and with a resounding YES, we who are Janu-weary come together and urge February out of hiding…

The thing is, even though I am now a resident of Pennsylvania, I’ll be honest- I don’t believe in that groundhog or what silly weather fears that the men in tall, outdated hats project on it. Leave it alone already, men in hats! It is TOO MUCH PRESSURE. Will there be more winter? ok. Will Spring come early? ok. (I’m pretty disinvested in the answers to these questions, except that the answer seems to be “spring”, so I might be a little more interested in things now.) More times than I can muster up the energy to count, I have heard “no snow in the forecast” and gone outside an hour later to see three fresh, sparkly inches blanketing the ground. Likewise, I have heard “rain showers for the next three days.” and spent the very next day hiking in sunshine.

Being a weatherman might just be the best job ever, you get to just make stuff up, be proven wrong and not only will you still get a salary, but people will still flock to listen to you… EVERY. Single. time…

Let’s be real- It’s going to do what it’s going to do. If they are warning of something catastrophic, or at the very least preparation worthy, I’ll prepare. But I won’t stress. It’s weather… TOTALLY beyond my control. Beyond anyone’s control… (Pennsylvania Hat Men, do you hear me? ANYONE’s control…)

I took a slight ranty detour there. I apologize. FEBRUARY… I, along with everyone else in the masses, am so happy to see her. Even though it’s still coldish, even though February often shows us that winter isn’t even close to done yet, it is.

If you’ve read here for long, you’ll know that while I don’t really put a lot of stock in Valentines Day, I habitually believe in giving Valentines. I don’t want an expensive gift from my husband, but I do love the excuse for a fun date. I don’t need a box full of cards and chocolate (or any) to validate my worth- but as a gift-giver by nature (and a hand written letter lover) I look for any reason to share love and so, I can’t hate the day completely. (as a Valentine to you, please accept this wallpaper download, this cellphone wallpaper download and this perfectly curated February playlist. These and much more were in my February newsletter, and if you didn’t already know that- then you should probably sign up so you don’t miss stuff! XO)

But also, in her handy bag of luggage, February brings beautiful flowers in the supermarkets, more sunshine (even if it’s bitter out), later sunsets, less days til March, better movie releases, fun tv events like the Superbowl (don’t care) and the Oscars (DO CARE), and countless little milestones to get us through spring. (These little milestones help us get to the next thing, unlike January, which just offers us this blank expanse of blustery cold depression and misery which drags on and on and on, forever.) Personally I find myself more inspired creatively, and more motivated all around. Helloooo, February!¬†

What am I planning to do, this month, with all of my new found inspiration/motivation?

  • bake Valentine sugar cookies (since the plague made me miss Christmas cookies)
  • order prints to fill my empty frames.
  • a fun/fancy date night with my love.
  • a fun brunch date.
  • mail hand written Valentines.
  • work on a creative project.
  • Michigan weekend.
  • get my hair done.
  • emerge from winter and connect with new people.

What are your plans, for these 28 days?

The darkness and the spice…

Some months really have the effect of reflecting back over their days and feeling like they themselves lasted a year. This month has been one of those...

Like many, I began the month with goals and plans. I set off January pretty proactively, despite still feeling under the weather. While there were things I put off until I felt better, for the most part I forged forward. One of the lessons that this month held for me what that I am not guaranteed to feel better, no matter how many “right things” I do to ensure it. (thanks, January! You’re a pal.) My list, written in terrible script on my kitchen chalkboard, looked like this…

  • get set up with a trainer and ready to get back into a fitness center routine.
  • reorganize my spice storage.
  • jump back in to The Collective podcast stuff, after a couple of months off.
  • make progress writing on my memoir.
  • learn to do something new.
  • make a pot of homemade soup and a loaf of scratch, crusty bread.
  • establish a weekly evening tradition.
  • continue adjusting to my husband’s non-traveling schedule.

Oh, friends…

Ohhhh, friends…

I could write it a third time, but I still feel like it wouldn’t be enough. There are so many quippy things that one can say about “best laid plans”.

  • I DID! (even feeling crappy!) And it was great, until said trainer had me do an exercise that I felt strongly I should not do. I pulled a muscle, caused major stress to my (bad, seemingly¬†80-year-old) hip. Good times…
  • I’m sure you’ve seen Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix. While this was already a (desperately needed) goal, her show made me come face to face with the realization that how I had my tiny little cottage kitchen set up was NOT working. I was avoiding it because I felt helpless about how to fix it. Too much stuff/too little space, but try as we might, C and I could not get rid of anything else. We’d downsized so significantly and what remained was essential. It was a bleak 10 day attack. Stress and frustration became my new kitchen decor theme, (shout out to any of you 90’s young homemakers and the need to have a “theme”) and my husband began scripting funny comedy sessions about the ever evolving state of the kitchen. I insta-storied my low moments… It was truly, truly bad. But guess what? My spices are the best their going to get and the entire kitchen really is MUCH better.
  • done and done! We trouble shot some technical things, I connected with other podcasters. We started a Patreon and are REALLY excited about what’s down the road!
  • I did. Not as much as I’d hoped, but I am really proud of what I did put to paper.
  • FAIL. EPIC FAIL.
  • Done. Winter and soup are really the perfect couple. Well, and fresh, crusty bread plays a part, so I guess perhaps the perfect thruple?
  • For the month of January we settled on Fridays and began the routine of unplugging, grabbing carry-out for dinner and renting a movie. We LOVED it… Will it continue? I think so, at least on the Fridays we can.
  • You would be surprised how actually difficult this is…

So, there you go… a little account of my significantly flawed person, in this odd little month.

My truly biggest January lesson/revelation was that while I felt significantly depressed pretty often, I wasn’t alone. I would utter those words to a friend, and hear an emphatic agreement that they too were feeling depressed. This happened several times, and I was surprised, comforted and a little less heavy with each occurrence. It is a little ironic that the very idea of being bravely transparent and then accepting that you aren’t alone is the premise behind my podcast and yet, here I am going WOW! This REALLY works!

This month I read several books, but the book that I really connected with the most was In Pieces, by Sally Field. Truly raw and transparent pages chronicling not only the highest and the darkest moments of her life, but also her own flawed perceptions and reactions. Never soapboxing, Sally simply shares her truths. It was a brave undertaking, and it resonates.

A few things that I unexpectedly fell a little in love with, this month, were the American version of The Masked Singer on Fox, (I am actually pretty good at guessing, and their masks did NOT give me the nightmares I feared, so this is a win!); the film Juliet, Naked, (which I really, really loved and did not expect to even like it!) and this recipe for sheet pan shrimp fajitas. (I thought it would be ok, but we both loved it so much! It was so easy and so delicious!)

The only thing that didn’t really work this month, (other than my continued pursuit of cold medicine, and my waste-of-time new (now ex) physician) was that, in an effort to connect with other women locally, I bought a ticket for a ridiculous book club. The price seemed so extreme ($29) but the original description had made it seem like it came with the book, tapas & beverages at the venue (wine and craft coffee beverages) and so I thought it was worth a try. I received the book in the mail, (not a super great book and seriously the length of a pamphlet) and a little note talking about the food and beverages costing extra. I emailed the organizer to clarify my confusion and it was true, the ticket price simply included the book and (her words) the privilege of coming. Hmmm.

Wasted my time reading the book, wasted my money and decided I simply didn’t want to go waste my time at the actual meeting so I skipped it. You win some, you lose some. This was a definite lose…

How did your January play out? Did it pair nicely with your own goals?

What were your bests? (and equally important, was there something you tried that simply did not work?)