What we add to her story…

When I was in seventh grade I was attending a very small, private Christian school. Prior to that school year, I had been deeply immersed in the small town New Mexico, low income school district. If you’ve never been exposed to that life then allow me to share just one memory (of hundreds) that I have which perfectly depicts the reality:

When I was in the sixth grade, in 1987, one early November day I was sitting in study hall (which met in the library) and there were two eighth graders as the table behind me. Because I was not the slightest bit interested in the Titanic book I was reading, I sat mesmerized by their conversation. The two girls were deep in talk, trying to calculate exactly how they could each utilize their welfare money for one of them to buy a Teddy Ruxpin for her child, and the other to buy Teddy’s friend, for hers. This made absolute sense to them because their children were together all of the time so they’d both benefit, and their babies would have the best Christmas.

Eighth Grade… I too have had to worry and plot, calculate and make miracles happen to insure their were beloved gifts under the Christmas tree, but I was a grown adult. These are not problems babies should have. There was no real scandal when young girls became mothers, which was far more common than not. So, when I went from that normal, to my new small town Idaho, I didn’t exactly grasp the very conservative nature of country Christian school. While the kids chatted about this amazing movie called Princess Bride, I was kind of like “Oh, I’ve never seen that but which Nightmare on Elm Street did you like best, because I loved when the humor got better in the Third.”

Prior to that Idaho semester, a special presentation at school had come in the forms of guest speakers, veterans, assemblies and spotlights for D.A.R.E. When everyone at my new school was so excited about no (technical) school, one afternoon, because a speaker was coming- I naively expected a smaller version of the same.

The images the woman brought, of aborted babies having been vacuumed from their mommy’s tummies wasn’t what I imagined. While I was very familiar with teenage pregnancy, I had never heard the word Abortion. The offensive images were just the tip of the grotesque presentation that our school of K-12th graders sat through. If the goal had been to shock, they had achieved success. As the presentation came to a close, the woman passed out little plastic babies to everyone. The babies were so tiny, they fit in the palm of the youngest of student’s hand. Accompanying each little plastic baby was a pamphlet depicting a baby talking to Jesus about what his life would be like when he was born. He asked will my eyes be blue like my mommy’s or brown like my dad’s? He talked about loving the sound of his mommy’s voice and not being able to be in her arms and smell her close. The baby asked why his mommy cried so often. did she not love him? The baby then, towards the end of the pamphlet, talks about the terrifying tube trying to get him, and how it hurts… and then he’s dead.

When (well meaning) people protest abortion, they often have this same imagery on their signs. Obviously these depictions came from somewhere real. (not the dumb pamphlet, which is just evil) In the name of “saving the lives of innocent babies”, we are inundated the senses of our own babies with horrors they should not be imagining.

That mortified twelve year old girl grew up to be a woman who endured seven horrible and bloody miscarriages before having a brief waltz with uterine cancer resulting in a total hysterectomy twelve years later. Every single pregnancy had a voice narrating, in my head, of my little (desperately wanted and already so loved) baby talking to Jesus. Every horrifying miscarriage had that narration describing the pain that sweet baby felt. In this scenario, who became the failure? Who became the one to blame? Me. Me. My first miscarriage, at 11 weeks, had me attempting to “catch” the fetus with a ladle and digging through large clots with the nurse so we could know that the fourteen day nightmare was nearly over. When I’d showed up, at 17 and terrified, in the emergency room, two weeks earlier, the doctor had told me that I was having a “spontaneous abortion”. I kept trying to explain that I did not WANT an abortion, I wanted my baby. With every ultra sound (detecting no heartbeat) I had that baby’s voice telling me that “they” were trying to kill my baby.

As if being seventeen and unexpectedly pregnant wasn’t scary enough, the glaring truth was that I was far more educated about the wickedness of abortion and what aborted babies looked like, than anything else…

My second miscarriage had me 9 weeks along, and this time, as a whoosh rushed from my scalp to my toes, I rushed to the bathroom to find what would be my little baby, sitting in my underwear. I learned this was my baby, because I took it in a yogurt cup, to my doctor. It didn’t look anything like that little plastic baby I’d held so tightly in my hand, all of those years before.

As a woman, do I want anyone having an abortion? NO. I obviously want no women to end up in situations where they even have to weigh the options. Do you know what else I want? No need for foster care because only loving, healthy and responsible people have children. I want realistic and attainable adoption, so that those of us who can’t have a child can adopt babies when their birth parents just aren’t ready. I am just me though, a 43 year old, barren woman, who does NOT live in a world free of drug addicted babies, sexually abused children and an overwhelmed system filled with abandoned kids…

I doubt there is a little girl out there, dreaming about her future, and so excited for the day she has her first abortion… It just isn’t like that. It is a hard, overwhelming and terrifying place that many women have stood in, and will continue to stand in. To the woman who wants to show up, in protest, outside of the clinic: ok… You say you’re there in love? Great. so Love her. Listen to her. Truly LISTEN. If she’s willing, HELP her. Truly throw as much passion into loving this girl, if she allows it, as you have in protesting her right to choose. And… Should you love her and she chooses differently than you want her to- the answer is the same: Love her.

Hurling shame at hurting people has NEVER led to a victory. This instills further trauma.

In America, our system is overwhelmed with over 443,000 hurting foster children. So many of these kids are children of trauma, which will greatly affect the entirety of their lives. If you feel so passionate about life and children, love the women in the impossible and broken spaces, and actively pursue ways to help these  children. If we look around, it is so easy to see all of the hate and judgement that push people into lonely and dark spaces of shame. What if, as cliche as it may seem, we change the narrative and simply live a Pro-LOVE movement?

On the Collective Podcast this week, we’re talking about abortion. We are talking about the difficult choices, what courage looks like, and how (though we may being coming from a place of love) we sometimes make things worse when we shame women into horrible spaces. We all have our stories, and every single one of us has things we bury deep inside. More than likely you know and love someone who has had an abortion…

 

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!

Sunday mornings…

As a young girl I would spend Saturday nights with my grandmother. She would microwave the Orville Redenbacher cheese popcorn for us to share, (My developed pallet preferred to pair the treat with a lovely Grape Crush soda) while we watched our shows on television. Saturday nights on NBC had a revolving lineup, but the two that stick out fairly consistently in my memory are Golden Girls and 227. We would laugh, but mostly I didn’t really get what was going on, while she found both programs quite comical. When nine o’clock chimed on her dining room clock, I would do one of two things- I would either stay with her and we would watch Hunter, (my grandmother LOVED Hunter!) or I would go into her bedroom and listen to the requests on the local radio station. I have always had a deep love of music, and this is why, when Hunter was over, my grandmother would change the channel to whichever one aired the 30 minute “recap” of the top music videos from the week. We would watch that, together, and then go to bed at ten thirty, like sensible folk because we had church the next morning.

That room was a significant location for my childhood, though I still don’t really understand why. There were days I played in there, dancing to the radio while admiring my “smooth moves and style” in her mirrored sliding closet doors. Sometimes I would sneak away to sit in front of her vanity mirror and pretend to smooth my hair with the gold antique brush decorating its surface, while staring at a photo of my mother from the time when I thought that she looked just like Elizabeth Montgomery, from Bewitched. Then there were moments, or days, (and some Saturday nights, even) when I was terrified to go into her room, afraid of whatever invisible monster awaited me. (Lastly, her bedroom was the setting for the only recurring nightmare I have ever had, and when I say recurring, I mean that the curse of this dream lasted years…)

I never knew when she woke in the morning, despite me sleeping in the twin bed opposite hers. She was always quick to drift to sleep, lulling me with the sound of her breathing. There were nights though, when I’d lay there and tell her random things which seemed only relevant in the dark. She was always patient, in those times, to answer questions and respond. She would never chide me, even though looking back I see that she was obviously tired. Once the room settled into quiet, I would pretend to make a phone call in my mind. I would ring God, up in heaven, and chat with him for a minute before asking that He put my grandfather on the line. Though it was in my imagination, my grandfather never said hello but I would talk to him anyway because I just knew that he was there. I needed to believe he could hear me. This was where all of my secrets went.

A few times, in my childhood years, my grandmother awoke from a nightmare of her own, around three in the morning. She would gasp and sit straight up, and this always startled me awake. She would encourage me to return to sleep after telling me that she’d dreamed she was falling off a cliff and woke herself up so she did not die. (Though a devout Christian, she was also a superstitious woman and this was a big one, though I wondered even then how we knew for sure that we would die if we landed, because obviously no one ever had.) Most Sunday mornings she was awake long before I would crawl out of the bed that once belonged to my grandfather, before cancer took him to the other end of that imaginary phone line. Usually I found her reading her Bible and praying. Once I was awake enough, she would butter hot Jiffy muffins and make me a hot cocoa with her Hot Shot machine. (which, if you didn’t know, was pretty much the Kuerig of the 80’s)

Between the time she’d spend with Jesus, quietly, at her dining room table, until we were filing into our small town church pew- everything was peaceful and routine. I loved those Saturday nights and Sunday mornings so deeply, though I wasn’t able to realize their immense value until they were a thing of the past.

Every once in a while I’ll see episodes of the Golden Girls on tv and I get it now, those countless things that were so funny. Honestly, I also cringe a little at the age I was when I watched it with my grandmother, while she painted my nails. The latter is my exact response when recalling some of the music videos we had seen as well… Samantha Fox, early Madonna… What must have been going through my Jesus loving grandmother’s mind as she quietly sat there, letting me love them?

On those Saturday nights, before it was time for our programs, I would blast the local radio station and imagine my own music videos in her drive way. I imagine that I was either a great source of entertainment for her neighbors, or they were sure I was severely special needs. At any rate, I was in my twenties before the reality that the entire street could have seen my hours of terrible dancing, smacked me like a dump truck. As embarrassing as that is, I am grateful that there, in her driveway, I was secure enough in my own skin, to just be me. Even more, I am grateful that she accepted it. She never teased me, she simply gave me that space to be free. I was too young to really grasp those things then, I didn’t even comprehend the darkness that was my childhood. Her patience for my odd-duck antics is amazing, plus I think she was probably grateful for the company. She had lived enough to know to cherish those fleeting moments, embarrassing dancing and all. (Also, during the week, other than her daily viewing of All My Children, she watched all of the Wheel of FortuneHee Haw, Gaither specials and Christian programming she could to arm her for the sinful Saturday Night scandals, or at least I imagine that is the reason because it makes sense, and it’s funny.)

Today I am traveling home, to the beautiful deserts of New Mexico. A beloved family member has passed away and I am going to be near family. Not only do I want to be there, but I need to. Though my grandmother’s home now belongs to my aunt, I need to sit in that kitchen on Sunday morning. I need to surround myself with the familiarity of family whose blood I share, but where I kinda-sorta don’t really belong. Even so, there, within the walls of what was once her house, something fits, and I need that. I need to drink in some desert sunsets and rememorize the mountain landscape which set the backdrop to my silly driveway escapades. I need to set flowers at each of my grandparents graves and be present in a world that will always be my home, though I have no lived there in a lifetime…

 

 

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?)

Girl talk…

On the rare occasion that I log onto facebook, I usually end up feeling sad because of those silly little reminders from six, ten or however many years ago. It isn’t that I am now a miserable sow, but it is a truth I have long since accepted that my life turned upside down in 2012, and in a lot of ways it never recovered. As the years have passed,  new normals have formed. Not everything is all bad.

Sometimes the sadness simply lives in the differences.

One of the differences is that our home, pre-March of ’13, was always full. There were always bodies there, fun, laughter, and love. Always. Holidays were the moments I lived for. We hosted parties throughout the year, entertained guests on a whim, and just really lived a full life.

Post the big shift, this hasn’t been a truth we know. There is a very haunting sadness about that, and I think in so many ways we just really want that again, even if it is with different people.

Another truth is that I really miss my friends back home. It hasn’t been a lack of effort in making new kindred connections, in the years that have passed, but a bit of isolation has remained the theme…

When we moved to Pennsylvania, a few months ago, I hadn’t even unpacked before I was putting myself out there in search of friendship. Over the 5.5 years that had passed, my comfort zone had become a thing of the past. (It’s safe to say that is a good thing.) In a giant twist of irony, though I started off on a good foot, I then acquired the forever-long-virus-from-hell  and have now been sick seventy percent of the time I’ve lived here.

A couple of weeks ago I was having a video team meeting with other ladies for the podcast, and a truth struck me- as much as I love each one of those girls, and would rather be hanging out and laughing with them in person- if I’d had a fulfilling social calendar, this podcast would not exist.

It took my rock-bottom and gut-wrenching loneliness to put me in a place where this project bloomed from. It was existing in that space that put me face to face with women who needed to share their stories, and let’s be honest, it probably required me to be in that frame of lonely context to be able to really listen.

I absolutely LOVE doing this show. Are our mics more outdated than they should be? Sure. Are we learning as we go? Yes. Because of the format we record, (over the internet) do connections sometime get faulty? Yes they do. It doesn’t matter though, because we are engaging in real life, about real life.

This week is the airing of our twenty fifth episode. (Due to a misalignment it is MARKED 24th, but the 25th aired two weeks ago. See? No polished process here, because it’s run by normal and unpolished people. I dig it.)  Twenty Five is a beautiful milestone and I am so grateful! On the front end of this journey, I had low expectations and high frustrations. I was willing to undergo this experiment but was also fairly certain it would be super short-lived. What happened next was nothing I ever imagined… The show meant something. Women rose up and said “no! We need to keep this going, it matters,” when it looked like it might be over. And it is true, it does matter. For every woman we meet, in an episode, who bravely shares her story, there are roughly six more who write in. This show matters. Women from England and Australia reach out to talk about episodes that struck them and I’m left here asking how in the world, in the past 40 weeks, this show has traveled so far?

From the very beginning I have said that whoever is supposed to be a part of the show, and whoever is supposed to listen, will. I’ll do my part, this amazing group of women will do theirs, and this show will do what it needs to do. That formula surprisingly works.

In the end, I may not have a friend to catch a movie with, but I get to video chat amazing women all over the world, walking alongside them through hard, dark things and celebrating with them in the beautiful ones. There isn’t a movie in the world worth exchanging for this…

Twenty five episodes in, I just wanted to thank you for your support. If you’re reading this and in the dark, I really hope you’ll tune in. I’ve loved the journey of the past couple dozen episodes, but I am really excited about the things we have down the road. Travel it with us?