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Gabrielle shared her story in the way that Toni Morrison proclaims stories should be shared, as she implores the storyteller, “Make up a story. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.” Gabrielle makes a story that connects to the greater story of all of humanity. Her words reveal “belief’s wide skirt” as she offers us a glimpse into both the dark and light places that she has trodden in her first four plus decades. There were moments that I was certain that I knew this girl she writes about. I knew that catch in the back of her throat, that loneliness and that determination. She is clever and honest in her telling and, for me, she reveals that “stitch” Morrison demands as she loosens the veil of fear by connecting her revelations to my own. Revelations that remind me: I am not alone.
In her words, “Here’s the set-up: a girl walks into a bar….. (in oxford, mississippi), and here’s the punch line: Friends. For. Life.” That’s a great punch line!
(Posted on Post Script – 2/21/13)
Come meet Gabrielle and hear her speak about Blood, Bones & Butter at Emmett O’Neal Library this Saturday morning at 9 a.m (click here for more information). Read more from Jorja on her blog, Living Beyond the Pale.
I really can’t remember the first time I saw The Mission with Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro. I do remember being moved in the depths of my soul. There are moments like that in our pasts that stick with us. I watched it again this weekend and I was no less affected. The reality is that I was probably far more affected than I was when I saw it years and years ago.
This journey of piecing together the ship of my life, of discerning which pieces from the first half of my life will build the hull of the future, has been and continues to be intriguing. I have written before about the tempting desire to disregard one’s first chapters once we come into a fuller understanding of what truly matters in mid-life. However, I am moving more towards a middle ground on this issue.
The very substance and essence of who we are, who we were created to be in this lifetime is there from the beginning. This is not at all to say that it is not marred and misguided along the path of our youth and our young adulthood through various experiences and relationships, but it is there, even if it is in a much more primal form. As I look back on the things that have been touch points, if you will, throughout my life, even in the most misguided times, I see “myself” as I am today and as I hope to be.
I write a lot about how I lost my voice and even became a mouthpiece for things that I now find heart-breaking. It can be easy to overlook the moments of light in years that seem but darkness. I have been reminded, by other women, that even the years or decades that I wonder about, were indeed full of ME; full of who I am at my best.
I don’t have anything figured out yet, nor, honestly, do I ever think that I will this side of heaven, but…I am learning and growing. And for me, watching a movie like The Mission only propels me forward. Why? The things that burn within my soul, the sense of justice and the desire for mercy, are the backbone of this film and the things that compel me today.
I am going to be writing about The Mission and different insights that I have learned. Hope you’ll join the discussion…and watch the movie!
My youngest child did not talk until she was five years old. It was a very long and arduous five years filled with hours and hours of speech therapy, testing and fear. Fear that she would not ever talk. The frustration that accompanies a child that can not verbally communicate is immense. She has tremendous frustration that is the result of her impulsivity and her anxiety, but the inability to communicate verbally took it to an impossible level.
Then it happened. She began to utter words. Then the words turned into sentences. Sure, they weren’t normal sentences, and phrases like ‘telegraphic’ speech were used to describe it, but still…she talked.
In these last five years, her speech has grown tremendously. She has grown in her motor-planning and as a result, she has not stopped talking!
Now, she talks non-stop. It is great to know when she is hurt, when she is hungry, when she is happy and sad and so on…HOWEVER, having the use of her speech has given her a tool, a vessel, a conduit…through which to DRIVE ME INSANE! Or the ability to tell the man at the grocery store that he stinks, or the sweet lady at church, “I hate you!”, or to tell her teachers at school, “my mommy so mean!” It carries with it a level of hilarity that can only be appreciated if you don’t let how freaked out people are get you down!
Yes, I recognize that many of you are seriously doubting my capacity as a mother right now, or at least my ability to be grateful for the wonderful gift of speech. However, unless you personally have ever experienced the incessant questions, statements, words, or “mamma,” then you should not judge me. Oh, I know, “every kid does that…” Let me bring you into the loop, every kid does not say words, the SAME words and statements, and questions, OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER again until you literally think you will lose your mind.
Have you ever actually looked into what Chinese Water Torture really is? Just one drop of water, dripping over and over onto the forehead… If they had a University program, MH would have her PhD.
And no, it isn’t like you can tell her the answer or to stop asking, or to stop saying that…even if you look that cute little kid in the eye, she does not get it. You can say one minute, “you disobeyed, there will be no prize.” And low and behold, just seconds later, “Mom, mom, mom, mom…can get a prize? Please, please, please mom.” Even writing it down makes it sound so normal, but if I could have literally made an audio recording in my home for the last three hours, you would be buying me a one way ticket to somewhere…I’m just sayin’!
I have never considered myself patient, but honestly, the fact that she still lives proves that I am. I know she can’t help it. So in one moment I am furious, the next I am riddled with guilt, the next I want to poke my ear drums out…or at least, run out the door and catch the first plane to Tahiti! And eventually, I just start laughing. Maybe it is the onset of full-on mental illness, but really, getting mad and screaming, well, it has the same affect as nailing jello to a wall. So, I laugh…and most of the time, I give in, I give her a prize, I do ANYTHING, to get her to stop.
I love an artist named Brian Andreas, he is clever and witty and says things that I wish I had said…this is one of my most favorites:most people she never tells about the tightrope because she doesn’t want to listen to their helpful comments from the ground It reminds me that my life, like so many of us, is walked on somewhat of a tightrope and unless you are up here with me, it is virtually aimless to attempt to explain what it is like. Besides, it is the compulsion of polite, Southern culture, to be helpful. So, when I lament a part of my life, I am doing so to show you the humor and the brokenness that is this life we all live. I do not expect you or anyone to fix it. Grieve with me, laugh with me, (buy me a ticket to Tahiti) wonder or imagine if you would like to, but as for the “helpful” comments…well, give them to someone else! 😉
You see my friends, Pammer is a magnificent woman, she is beauty personified and she knows fashion, in ways that I could not even begin to understand. She rocks a room in just blue jeans and a top…with of course her ACCESSORIES! No, not the over the top, unnecessary type that you wish people would have never put on, but the type that you look at and think, “Damn, why can’t I pull that off!” You see though, our accessories, like our clothing, is a reflection of who we are and the more closely it reflects us, the real us, the more comfortably we wear it. And when we are comfortable in our own skin and our own clothes and yes, our own accessories, we ROCK IT!
Accessory Whore is a great site with great insight on where to get ANY kind of accessory…for you, for your husband/boyfriend, for your home, for your gadgets, you name it! It is a great idea, from a great lady!
Anywhoooo, Pam has a spot on her site where people share stories, and you know I love stories. They are called Whore Stories and are about a special piece of jewelry or something that has sentimental value to you. I wrote a story for her about my favorite necklace…my flower necklace and all the places it has been with me!
Skip on over and give my ‘Whore Story‘ a read…and take some time to find your best accessories while your there! I am wearing my ‘Flower’ in these photos!
I get very interesting reactions when I tell people that I write a blog. I think this is because blogging itself has a reputation of sorts for being a place where some bloggers write about random things on a daily basis. Now, while that may be the case, and I might add, some of those blogs are very, very successful, that is not the purpose of mine.
Besides the fact that I am not witty enough to make my daily meandering through life interesting enough for 40 thousand plus people to want to take a voyeuristic peak every time they have a free moment…
I write to affect change.
I write to chronicle the messy and sometimes difficult challenge of a woman in her mid-life as she begins to use the atrophied muscle that is her voice in a culture that often marginalizes women and their contributions. And while I do not have some deep seething agenda to take over the world, (although, if that happens, the world might be a better place!) I do have a burning passion to help other women along this same path.
After my recent trip to a blogging conference, Blogher ’10, I was struck by the power that women bloggers and women in online media have, literally, at their fingertips. My question, is, how will we use this power? I believe that power can be used in two very distinct ways and my friend Lisa Petrilli, at C-Level Strategies & Awakenings addresses these two ways beautifully in a recent post called, 3 Smart Reasons to Empower Instead of Influence.
I talk a lot about empowering women on my blog. I believe it is a vital part of what we, as women, can do for one another in community/relationship and what I want to do for those women that I come in contact with through my writing on this blog and my consulting.
But what is the difference? Really? I believe it comes back to power and whether or not we want to control it and hold on to it in order to motivate people to do what we want them to do, or we want to pass it on to others, giving them the authority and enabling them to act of their own accord. These are the synonyms that are attached to empower: ascribe, commission, delegate, authorize, entrust, indue, & gift. These are the synonyms that are attached to influence: command, control, dominion, effect, mark, drag, guidance. It becomes the difference between creating followers or other leaders, the difference between those who mimic or those who are individuals who are free to live out their own creeds.
I can tell someone all about me and my life and that may be inspirational and even challenging. But ultimately, I want it to move them to action in their own lives, I want them to consider where they are in their own journey; what their gifts are, if they use their voice well, if they feel like they know themselves and where they are headed for the next forty years, if they know where and how they can contribute to their worlds. There is always a place for influence. But it is my purpose here, to empower.
I believe we are all unique with different gifts and different paths to follow. What one woman may find to be her limit or her ‘pale’ that she must push beyond may seem a walk in the park to another. The point is that we all have them, the boundaries, the pales, the voices in our head, the inner critics, the real-life critics that keep us from living our lives to the fullest.
Who is in your life to empower you? Send me an message on the Contact Jorja page if you want to set-up a consultation. What say you people? Do you want to be empowered? Are you an empower-er yourself?
I know I have written about my friends in the music business before, but today is a big day for them, so, I must write again. They release what just might be their best album yet, and believe me, that is hard to do. In a production world where craft and creativity, skill and talent get pushed and shoved aside in favor of what can drive a media frenzy, these four individuals are rare.
They have loved their craft, given life to their creativity, developed their talent and they have done it all in and out of the spotlight. Glory and fame doesn’t always go to the most gifted, just turn your radio on and you can bear witness to this reality, but glory and fame have not been the driving motivators to my friends…they love their families, they love each other and they love their music!
Ask them and they will tell you, even after all these years, for them, the music, in and of itself is The Reason Why!
The Reason Why, is the title of their new album and it comes out tomorrow. It is filled with songs, like the one you can watch below (after the commercial, because I got the link from CMT, bummer! And if something pops-up, just close it!) The video is of the first single, Little White Church, which is about to be a top 10 Country Hit! But honestly, this album has so many fantastic songs, I am unsure which will be my favorite.
You can also watch a one hour documentary on the life of Little Big Town, how they got started and the trials and triumphs of the band on GAC. The series is called Origins: Little Big Town and it comes on again tomorrow and Wednesday. It was great fun for my family and friends to watch and really exciting to hear the new songs.
Whether you are a country music fan or not, it is a musical experience to be appreciated, regardless of your particular tastes. The harmonies are to die for and these people can simply sing the hell out of a good song! So, “Cheers!” to Karen, Jimi, Kimberly & Philip on a marvelously successful album!
There have been two events in my life in the past week that have served as vivid reminders for me about what happens when a woman asserts herself within the world of conservative religious circles. Now first, let me give you a disclaimer and remind all of you who will be rabid with defense of your particular church/religious culture, that I am speaking of my personal experience. [Although, I truly do believe that my experience, if we are honest, is fairly par for the course. I know this is kind of a disclaimer to my disclaimer, but as MH says, “Too bad, so sad, oh well!”]
First I will give you the two instances and then I will give you my thoughts on what happened.
Last week I was asked to sit on a panel to discuss the theology of working with young women at a youth conference at my current church. The conference was attended by youth workers from around the country and these workers were predominantly men. The questions centered around how they could help their female youth. At one point, during the discussion, there was a point of contention between one of these [male] workers and myself. We simply did not see eye to eye and this lack of congruence in our views caused him to misquote the entire panel and oversimplify what we had just said. I quickly and firmly corrected his misquote. I spoke with authority and passion, but I was not angry or ugly. He quipped back, “Hey, calm down!” After assuring him that I was indeed calm, I proceeded to once again communicate what we, as a panel, had stated.
The second instance that I was involved in happened just yesterday and this time it was online. I did something that I rarely do. I commented on a minister/friend’s Facebook page on an issue that he brought up that involved politics and faith. So, my friend makes a comment, I respond and eventually, one of his other commenter people comes after me and my comment. Initially it is fine and I quote Anne Lamott, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” This guy begins to tell me that I am unclear on what my faith is about. I disagree and we have a couple of back and forths. Then, when I decide I need to do my ‘BIG LIFE’ and stop dilly-dallying around with this guy, I try to excuse myself, with humor, from the conversation. This is how the conversation went:
Jorja: ok, XXXXX, i’ve got better things to do than debate guys like you on issues like this. hope you have a lovely day and a lovely life. like [our friend] said, he was stirring the pot, and your pot has officially been stirred. blessings.
Marginalizer: simmer down… guys like me? funny. I speak for a lot of people I just lack the diplomacy to sugar coat things I call out. I’m a harmless kitten… I didn’t me to upset you, I apologize.
Jorja: i love the humor of ‘simmer down’ and ‘upset you’…i simply said i’m done, not angry dear. did you miss blessings? again. blessings to you. we are all welcome to disagree within the body. i am sorry if ‘guys like you’ was offensive. i simply meant guys who want to continue to argue. have a lovely day. goodbye kitten.
What is wrong with the two instances above? What is the message, the primary message? Emotion in a man = passion and confidence…he’s a straight shooter. Emotion in a woman = lack of rational thought/thoughtfulness-she’s a piece a work. How do women lose respect within the religious culture, particularly in the South, but really, across the board? When a man speaks with authority or passion he is seen as just that, an authoritative and passionate voice that has a strong conviction about whatever topic he is speaking. He, like Mr. Marginalizer above, simply “lacks the diplomacy to sugar coat things.” When a woman speaks [specifically in opposition to a man] with authority or passion, she is seen as being emotional and harsh, or even worse, she is ANGRY, and needs to “simmer down.”
Let me be clear, I will not ‘calm down’, ‘simmer down’ or NOT ‘get upset’ if what I am speaking about or writing about deserves a passionate and emotional voice. I will use my voice in whatever manner, as a wise, intelligent and discerning woman, I see fit.
Women are emotional creatures. It is a beautiful and necessary part of who we are and how we function and the world and men are BETTER for it. However, it can often be the number one thing that is used against us, to marginalize our voices, in the institutions that mean the most to us and our families. And this marginalization is not limited to our religious institutions, it happens in the workplace, in our marriages and in our schools – everywhere. Across the board, I believe that we are all, taught to see emotion in women (and even men) as an opportunity for exploitation, instead of an invitation for respect, or reflection of insight, passion, wisdom, or strength!
There is a wave of shame that washes over a woman when she is told to “simmer down,” “calm down,” or “don’t get so upset!” Certainly there is a need to use prudence where our emotions are concerned, we can’t be unleashed with every whim that courses through our emotional veins, but we must not buy in to this false notion that to feel is wrong or somehow less than! Even the terms “calm down” and “simmer down,” don’t they remind you of something you would say to some horse that was flaring her nostrils and about to go up on her hind legs in attack mode?
Watch, listen and observe, in your own life and the conversations between others. See if you can catch a glimpse of this marginalization. Remind yourself and each other that passion, conviction and our ‘raised’ voices should carry the same weight as those of our male counterparts. Teach the same to your daughters. This notion that we are less-than because we “become emotional” is foolish. After all, when is the last time you heard someone tell a man to “Calm down!” or “Simmer Down!” or “Don’t get upset!” They would have a come apart if we said that to them. These are phrases that are meant to belittle, shame and demean.
Speak with passion, unashamedly ladies – use your voices – just be sure you are using them with wisdom! [And honestly, I would prefer you just use them, even if you have to come back later and say, “I may have been a bit hard on you…”] I’m just sayin’…marginalization is wrong!
*This is the AMENDED part: To clarify, my main point in writing this post is not to argue that women should be able to be as ’emotional’ as they choose to be, but instead, that women should not be accused of being ’emotional’ in an attempt to discredit/shame/demean. All for now. 😉
My kids went back to school yesterday and it was a day that made me shout “Hallelujah” as I walked into my local Starbucks to meet my front porch group of friends, but it was also a day that had me crying myself to sleep. How is that? I was so excited for my youngest, my little punkin’ with special needs to go back to school as this summer has been especially hard on her and on us. She simply doesn’t do well without the structure and predictability that school affords and I just can’t give her that in our life at home everyday during the summer. It was very frustrating for her and it overwhelmed her and made her act out towards me and her siblings.
While she had great triumphs, as we increased her anti-anxiety meds and she rode in a BOAT, and then, hold on to your hat people, she went and rode the TUBE this past weekend!!!! Yes, it was an amazing day and we still can’t get over it. The pictures tell it all! So, while the summer was hard, there were beautiful and exiting moments that made up for all of the hard times. Watching MH have fun, watching her laugh and smile, well, there is nothing in the world like it…it is JOY multiplied! But nonetheless, it was fantastic to get her back to a place she loves so dearly…her school and her teachers that she adores.
But in getting her to school, I am confronted with all of her little 5th grade peers. This happens, inevitably every year. I sit and listen to all of my dear friends talk about which teacher their kids got and and how excited they are or are not. I look at first day of school photos. I check homework for my best friend’s 5th grade daughter. And in an instant, out of nowhere, I am overcome with it…grief. It is really hard to explain. It isn’t at all that I don’t love MH just as she is or that I want to wish away those moments of joy that I have with her. It is just the simple reality that I grieve the pain that she endures, the difficulties and struggles that she must overcome on a daily, even hourly basis. I grieve the multitude of ways that our family must bend and morph to accomodate her constantly changing moods and antics. I grieve that she is vulnerable in ways that no one but me as her mother understands. I grieve that she has to take all of this damn medicine every damn day just to not be unbearable to those around her. I grieve that she can’t sleep when she is exhausted. And then I grieve that I grieve, because there is so much that is to love and appreciate about her.
It is a double-edged sword. I cry because my baby is not perfect, but hell, neither am I. I am just as broken as she is, but in different ways. It is good to be loved in spite of that brokenness, just as I love MH, in spite of hers.
I have decided that the best way to explain my experience at BlogHer ’10 is to tell you who I met (at least some of them). To me, it really comes down to relationship, to community and while there was a lot going on, it was the small and meaningful conversations that will, I hope, make me abetter writer/blogger…not to mention, a better human being!
But first, I wanted to mention a couple of things that, for me, were the best moments of MY BLOGHER ’10 experience…
I am not really afraid to go places alone, however, this was a very daunting undertaking. First, I really know very little about the blogging world and secondly, I don’t really have a “blogging community.” So, walking into the Hilton New York last Thursday was a bit like walking into the seventh grade hall as a 5th grader! A friend of mine always says, “walk like you know where you are going,” and this was my thought on the conference. After all, I love New York City and I travel there at least once a year because of this love, so at least I knew where I was going most of the time out in the big city! But inside that hotel, oh, it was a different world altogether. Intimidating…to say the least!
I had delightful roommates, in both of the rooms that I stayed in at the conference. They brought a plethora of talent to the table as well as their own experiences with blogging and their lovely lives! It was great fun and like being back in college and being shoved into a room with women you do not know and being forced to sleep with them! Ha!
If there was a downside, and as a “newbie” I hate to even talk about a downside, it was all of the sponsored parties! In the weeks leading-up to the conference I was inundated with information on how to get an invite and figuring out what to wear to the parties. Then, once I arrived at the conference, I was surrounded by ‘swag’ or freebies from all of the sponsors. Now, let me be clear, no one is unappreciative when people start practically throwing free merchandise at you, however, it is a bit distracting. And for me, since I didn’t really have a group of friends who I knew were of the same mindset as myself, I was tossed to and fro like a beach ball at a Brad Paisley concert! It was like being invited to attend a blogging university, with classes and excellent professors, and yet the social life, which could at times be likened to sorority rush, was hounding you at every turn. So, I repeat, I am VERY thankful for all of the wonderful exposure to all of the great products and services of the sponsors, but I am just too ADHD to keep my mind on learning when parties abound! Make sense?
Ok, now for the upside…I found great community! It came in spurts and varied from day to day, but I really gained some valuable insight into the blogging community at large. One certain highlight was going to the ‘Blogging Autism: Shattering Myths, Opening Eyes and Finding Your Tribe’ breakout session that was lead by Shannon Des Roches Rosa. Shannon and Jennifer Meyers, who I had met on twitter before I arrived, immediately embraced me and made me feel welcome. The session was very insightful and helpful and gave me a window into the world of parents who blog about their children’s special needs. I laughed, I cried and I longed to take them all out to dinner and really ask the questions that were whirling around in my head. SO, a definite highlight.
Another significant highlight, as far as the organized conference was concerned, was the breakout session entitled, ‘Where’s the Line or the Lie: Storytelling, Memoir and Poetic License’ which was headlined by the blogging celebrity of Jory Des Jardins, Jenny Lawson and Julie Marsh. These women are all known bloggers, Jory is one of the original founders of BlogHer, Jenny is The Bloggess and Julie, from The Mom Slant, is a straight-talkin’ mom on a plethora of touchy issues. It was a very helpful, not to mention hilarious, session.
Next, (I know I said a couple, but hey, you know me!) I consider it an honor that I was able to attend the breakout session called ‘Grief, Loss, Tragedy and Community on the Internet.’ This panel/session brought a new appreciation for how “real” the blogging community is for those who are suffering. So many people see the blogging community as some make believe world with imaginary friends, however, if they listened to Anissa Meyhew and her hubby speak about how the REAL support of this community buoyed them through the darkest hours, days and even months of their trials since she suffered two strokes, they would know that is not the case. They would have heard human beings being honest, humble and humorous about how their readers and online supporters brought inspiration and care to their family, via the Internet. They weren’t the only ones to speak of this reality, but their story moved me in beautiful ways. It was a delightful picture of the joy that comes through even the most dibilitating suffering.
Okay, I know I am going on an on, but this is the last thing I will say. The ending keynote ROCKED and not just because I randomly ended-up at a table with Aimee (a.k.a. @Mommaloves), who immediately took the time to ask me about myself…and get this, she really wanted to know! She is a big blogger, someone who knows people, and yet there she was, during the last part of an exhausting conference, really listening to me and my vision for my blog. IT WAS FANTASTIC – one of the best moments of the conference for me…Why? Because we all want to be known, that’s why! We want what we are about to be heard and we want to feel, well…not so invisible! She listened and she actually loved what I was about. Crazy, but true. Then she began introducing me to people like Deb (a.k.a. – Deb On The Rocks) who was gracious and hilarious! All three of us were moved by the panel that spoke at the closing keynote. The speakers were, Marie Wilson, Gloria Feldt, Simran Sethi and Alison Stewart. They were women who empower other women to use their voices and change their worlds! In other words, they were my kind of women! Afterwards, Aimee took lil’ ol’ me to dinner with her and my new friend Pam (a.k.a. – Outside Voice) and an even newer friend Karen (a.k.a.-Volunteer Spot). Some good ol’ Ray’s pizza and then a couple of parties…and by the end of the night I was ready to tuck these gals in my pocket and bring them home with me!
So, what did I learn at BlogHer ’10? I learned what I knew already, but in a deeper way – COMMUNITY is what we all long for and need. There is power in numbers, yes, but there is “EMPOWERMENT” in community! I left the conference feeling like I might just have a new community of peers, and that I was empowered to build community among my readers.
There were other moments of community sprinkled in and around those big moments…like getting to know my roomates: Dawn – @dawniemom, DawinieMomReviews, Jenn – @jens_skittles, Jen’s Photo Stream, Sherrie – @sherriemae23, Good Karma Baby, Silver – @silvernelson, Silver Thinks, Ashley – @plucypea, The Jimmies, Survival of the Hippest, Lindsey – @linzlovesyou, BirdsIViews and Nichelle – @STYLEMOM, Style Mom.
Having lunch with a complete stranger and discovering we both had a special needs child: Angela – @hangingwitmrsc, Hanging With Mrs. Cooper.
Being included and invited by COOL ladies: Jessica – @mommasgonecity, Mommas Gone City, Carol – @NYCityMama , New York City Mama, Melissa, @rockdrool, Rock and Drool, Melysa – @melysaS, Melyspeaks, Lauren – @laurencarlton – Mommy Is Rock n’ Roll, The Mouthy Housewives, Aiming Low.
Finally meeting women that I follow on Twitter: Kate – @guavalicious, The Guavalicious Life, Fadra – @allthingsfadra, All Things Fadra (ok, so we STILL didn’t meet, but we tried dammit!), Alison – @sassymomchicago, Sassy Mom in the City, Ann – @annsrants, Ann’s Rants, Rita – @ritaarens, Surrender, Dorothy, Val – @disneyfamily, Heidi – @c2cmom, Coast 2 Coast Mom, & Maria – @boredmommy, Bored Mommy.
Having total strangers offer me money and take me in when I lost my wallet (oh yeah, I lost my wallet in a taxi the 2nd night!):Kate – @bigpieceofcake, The Big Piece of Cake, Jill – @houseofgirls3, The Perlman Update, Anna – An Inch of Gray, Christy – A Lil’ Welsh Rarebit, & Dre @walktherope, Life On A Tightrope. Or having an old friend give me cash, Whitney – @jugglingmommy .
All in all…a great experience in community!
Okay, I’ve never been given an award (that I can remember) for anything! I wanted to thank the fabulous MotherKnowsLess for nominating me, or choosing me, or whatever the hell it is that she did to get me this award! You should skip on over to her MotherKnowsLess blog and learn from all of the amazing tips that she has about parenting. Me, of course, I think her tips on ‘Travel in Europe‘ are the best ever! Gotta love a mom who is thinking about Europe and Travel! Love it!!!
Okay, this is the lowdown with this award:
Number one, check.
I have been married 19 years this month to the man I dated off and on for 5 years in college. (Damn that’s a long time…just call me an otter?)
I have a beautiful almost 16 yr-old daughter, a strapping 13 year-old and a very busy 10 year-old daughter.
My 10 year-old daughter has many mental, social, psychological and academic challenges.
Having a special needs child has changed my life and will always make my life different.
I would write my memoir, but my family members would kill me.
I am a Private Investigator in my BIG LIFE (the life that makes money, not the one where I sit in front of this screen and write my heart out!)
If my closest friends said anything about me (something good, that is) it would be that I am loyal.
Number 3, okay, here goes! (I really can’t keep doing this…I’ve got to pack for BlogHer ’10 dammit!)
Adain Donnelly Rowley’s IVY LEAGUE INSECURITIES
Judy’s Op-Ed Page by Judy Helfand
WRITING IS MY DRINK by Theo Nestor
THE ADVENTURES OF A NYC MAMA – by Carol Cain
all.things.fadra – by Fadra
Surrender Dorothy – by Rita Arens
Sassy Mom in the City – by Alison Ray
Cris Buckley’s NO-CLONE Zone by Cris Buckley
Savor the Ride – by Ridgely Johnson
Okay, so there you go people…a few fabulous ladies to keep you clicking! There are so many amazing writers out there with great insight, but I must stop right now and pack for the conference.
Thanks to MotherKnowsLess for MY FIRST EVER AWARD!
I have thoroughly enjoyed the first part of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, as she has recounted her foray through the most amazing ITALY! Yes, food is a huge part of her experience there, but clearly, it is only part of all that she allows herself to take in while spending her four months there. I think one of the most significant reasons that I am enjoying her story lies in the fact that this entire book is about traveling. And if one must travel, then Italy is certainly on the top of the list for the world’s most fabulous destinations. Gilbert’s descriptions of the people, the scenery, and the food are all done in such a way as for one to believe they are taking this journey with her.
However, the first section also lays such dramatic groundwork in our understanding who Gilbert is and why she has chosen to take this journey. Gilbert states honestly that she is not a natural ‘traveler,’ yet she believes it to be of paramount importance. She says, “Still, despite all this, traveling is the great true love of my life. I have always felt, ever since I was sixteen years old and first went to Russia with my saved-up babysitting money, that to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice. I am loyal and constant in my love for travel, as I have not always been loyal and constant in my other loves. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless newborn baby – I just don’t care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it’s mine. Because it looks exactly like me. It can barf all over me if it wants to-I just don’t care.”
I love this…why? Because I love travel and I love the sense of independence that comes with traveling. I too feel that it could be a love of my life. I too believe that travel is ‘worth any cost or sacrifice.’ We gain so much when we step outside of our own worlds and enter someone else’s world.
So, here are five of the best reasons I know of for traveling…(to Italy!) Okay, they are photos, but they are photos from my 40th birthday trip to Sicily! Food to EAT, places to PRAY & people to LOVE!
Enjoy them and then consider whether or not you are willing to count the cost of travel! If you are…let me know, because we are going back!
I am new to the whole blogging world, but I have had a good time zipping around and reading other blogs. It can be quite overwhelming as there are gazillion blogs out there and I have, oh, about three minutes a day to read, but hey, I’m trying. I did stumble upon an interesting one the other day on BlogHer called Jesus Loves You, but I’m His Favorite and it caught my attention. The post pointed to studies that were written up in an article called Stumbling Blocks on the Path to Righteousness in The NYTimes.
It was a very thought provoking post and article and my mind made an immediate leap to a post I read recently on an old colleague’s blog about how we choose our friends. The post took the age old adage, “Bad company corrupts good morals” and exhorted all those reading to stay away from “bad” friends.
It made me think, though probably not the things that my old colleague intended. It made me ask myself, how good are you? And I said to myself, self, “Honestly, you know yourself better than anyone and I am fairly certain that you couldn’t put yourself up on some pedestal of morality as a beacon for others.” (okay, no more 3rd person) Though I want to live by the golden rule and treat others with kindness, I am a very selfish, angry, broken and messed-up individual. (The list is longer, but I’m going for brevity!)
I do believe that God loves me, in spite of even my worst foibles, but that certainly doesn’t make me “good company.” I think the older I get and the more I have lived through in my life, the more I see myself as more similar to other people than different. For me to look out into my world and decide who deserves my community, my friendship…that would be a daunting task if I saw myself as morally superior. There are friends in my life who do not share my belief system. There are friends in my life that do not even believe in a god, much less the God in whom I place my personal faith. Yet our similarities are far greater than our differences. I love these people and have far more to learn from them than I often care to admit. All of my friends, regardless of their morality, are human beings who, in my opinion, deserve honor and dignity. I am grateful that they love me in return.
To say that those people, those friends, those human beings do not deserve my friendship, that seems contrary to everything that I believe to be true about my faith. There has always been a strand of piety that has laced it way through the faith that I profess and I spent years being a card-carrying member of that group. However, life and its experience has leveled any thought that I am better or less corrupt than the next guy. Humility and compassion are far more attractive to me than superiority and self-righteousness. Besides, as Benefict Carey, of the NYTimes article states, “walking around in a pair of moral platform shoes does make it harder to get up when you fall.” I personally know that fall well.
I have to ask myself, what am I afraid of if I walk away from relationships with people who have differing views than me? Am I afraid that my beliefs or views or opinions cannot withstand a bit of questioning? Am I afraid that the posterity of my religious beliefs rest soley on my ability to carry them out? Am I afraid that others within my faith community will think poorly of me if I associate with those who do not espouse the same beliefs? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” on all counts. However, it is impossible to love people without being a part of their lives, even the parts of their lives with which you disagree.
My faith centers around Jesus, and anyone who knows anything about him, either those who practice following him or those who despise him, will tell you that he was a friend to all…especially those who were considered morally corrupt by the religious community of which he was a part. Truth be told, I want my life to reflect that same love and care and humility, much more than I want it to reflect those who have “good morals.”
Why? Because I am certain of only a few things in this life and one is that I am not good enough…otherwise, I wouldn’t need faith at all!
There is an awful lot of talking, tweeting, blogging, writing, television, and other mediums that are promoting relationships between women. I call it community and I sincerely believe that we have lost sight of it in its most rewarding forms. Women seem to be much better at developing community with one another and yet we fail to put the effort into doing so.
So, why again do we need community? Why do we need relationships in our lives that are life-giving and empowering? Here are five of the best reasons that I have read lately.
Jean Miller Baker, wrote this little list, (yes, another list!) called 5 Good Things and I think its simplicity and clarity are fantastic.
Growth-fostering relationships empower all people in them.
These are characterized by:
1. A sense of zest or well-being that comes from connecting with another person or other persons.
2. The ability and motivation to take action in the relationship as well as other situations.
3. Increased knowledge of oneself and the other person(s).
4. An increased sense of worth.
5. A desire for more connections beyond the particular one.
It is always good for me to remind myself why community is important and why I want to be in relationship with other women who bring these 5 good things into my life! I also want to remind myself why I want to be a 5 good thing kinda gal!
Do you have women in your life who you can say these 5 good things about? If not, be one and get one..or two, or three…
This blog has given me a multitude of opportunities. I have told you I love to read and to write and since I have embarked on this little blogging journey I have been compelled to do both. I read Theo Nestor‘s story in her book, How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over, when my friend Magret gave it to our friend after after her divorce. It is the book that my friend and I read aloud to one another on a beach trip. After reading it, I shot an e-mail to Theo and asked her to guest post on my blog, thinking it was a long-shot, but as I always say, my mama taught me that you have not if you ask not.
Theo’s 84 Things
1. Being single and middle aged doesn’t kill you.
2. You can make a living doing what you love. Maybe not a killing, but a living.
3. My best days have some writing, some exercise and some friends.
4. I haven’t slept in for decades, although I’d love to.
5. I like the expression, “A man can be a fool and not know it, but not if he’s married.” And would like to rewrite it to say, “A woman can be a fool and not know it, but not if she has a teenage daughter.”
6. Until recently, I always cleaned my own house. Until recently, I wasn’t fully happy.
7. Better to spend money on housecleaning than therapy.
8. I don’t think I can write without a cup of coffee near me.
9. I wrote a book about my divorce called How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed. I risked being struck down by lightening and gained many new friends instead.
10. I’m a scrabble addict.
11. Hot weather is overrated.
12. The first 45 I ever bought was “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
13. My first album: The Divine Miss M.
14. My favorite movie: Annie Hall
15. Favorite food: birthday cake
16. I want to go to Cuba. Ideally, I would fly directly from Seattle.
17. I want to go to Ethiopia and Eritrea.
18. The trickiest part of being a single mom is vacations.
19. When I was ten and eleven, my friend and I used to pretend to be Sonny and Cher. I always had to be Sonny because she was an alpha girl.
20. When I was twelve, my friend stopped speaking to me and told everyone the secrets I’d told her.
21. That same year, a boy called my house for me. My step-dad took the message. The boy grew up to be a fairly well known writer, which is weird because I am a writer. Did he know?
22. The next year we moved, and I never saw the boy or the mean ex-friend again.
23. When I was a little girl, I loved cats with all my heart. Recently, I’ve fallen hard for another feline.
24. If it weren’t for my kids, I’d be the most selfish, narcissistic person imaginable.
25. I like to treat a kid’s birthday like it’s a national holiday.
26. I don’t like Christmas.
27. When I was eighteen, my stepsister died on Christmas day. This may be the reason for #26.
28. My favorite day of the year is summer solstice. I love the light!
29. I wrote a book about motherhood that bounced around New York City but never found a publisher.
30. I think Erma Bombeck was a genius.
31. Books about geniuses (like there was one that came out last year) that don’t mention Erma Bombeck piss me off.
32. I know why there weren’t many women writers until recently: it’s called breakfast, lunch and dinner.
33. My kids think I’m a bad cook.
34. Many of my bills are paid by the articles I write for match.com
35. I’m pretty sure I have undiagnosed ADD.
36. What was I saying?
37. Lists work really well for people with ADD. Like, don’t leave home without one.
38. I love the mail! Even though I never really get anything good, there’s always the hope.
39. And I guess, then, it goes without saying, I’m addicted to email.
40. I think Facebook is like a big bar and my profile is my barstool from which I sit yakking.
41. I should have made one family dinner from the time my kids were little. No special ordering.
42. I should’ve had a chore chart like those organized moms.
43. I should’ve quietly given consequences instead of yelling.
44. I should’ve been easier on all of us.
45. When my kids were in preschool, I ran across the street to a café to write. I hoped I wouldn’t see any other moms because I didn’t want them to think that I thought I was “all that,” but I also didn’t want to give up one second of my writing time to say hello.
46. It was at that café that I wrote my first brave and honest sentence: “The women in my family don’t really like children.”
47. That sentence was published in a magazine called Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers.
48. Every book, every movie, every song starts with someone scratching some words down.
49. Some of those someones doing the scratching are moms.
50. The one event—beside marrying my former husband and giving birth to my two children—that really changed my life was having an essay published in the New York Times.
51. That essay was called, “The Chicken’s in the Oven, My Husband’s Out the Door.”
52. I didn’t give the essay that title. The people at the Times did.
53. As much as I busted butt to become a published writer, that life-changing publication came almost effortlessly.
54. Before I published that essay, I had to phone my former husband and read him the scariest paragraph out loud and ask, “Is that okay?”
55. For some reason, he said, “It’s okay.”
56. For some reason, the essay was published on his birthday.
57. If you’re married to someone, their birthday is a Big Deal. After you divorce, you still remember their birthday on the day. Although you might not be sure what to do with that information.
58. Sometimes, I also remember on March 14th, “Oh yeah, anniversary.”
59. Then I count up the years it would’ve been and think, “No way, we would’ve made it this far.”
60. Most of my life I’ve been very worried about what other people think of me.
61. These days I’m not worried too much about that. I worry about what I think of myself.
62. My hairstylist bought herself a horse because she loved to ride horses as a child.
63. Lately, I’ve been asking myself, “What did I love as a child?”
64. Well, I told you: I loved cats.
65. I loved the poem “The Owl and the Pussycat.”
66. I loved making art with my grandmother.
67. I liked hippie stuff (it was the 60s) like beaded curtains, yoga, incense, and tie-dye.
68. I liked to ride my bike.
69. I liked dressing up.
70. I loved my tree fort.
71. I liked the idea of travel.
72. I loved all things Egyptian.
73. I loved all things Italian.
74. I loved old black and white movies.
75. I loved shows with female leads.
76. I loved it when people thought I was very grown up for my age.
77. Once a boyfriend of my mother’s said this about me: “She’s gonna grow up to be a heartbreaker.”
78. I didn’t know what that meant, but I found it highly disturbing.
79. I still do.
80. The smartest thing I ever did was rearrange my life so I could work at home.
81. The other day I imagined my life without me in, and I thought, “I must live!”
82. I’m not sick, just in case you’re wondering. I just sometimes dress-rehearse the worst case scenario.
83. I wrote all this in one sitting, never stopping, never going back.
84. Wait, I stopped once for a second to tell my daughter, “Yes, go to the park but bring your phone. Love you.”
I grew-up going to the lake. I was a Mississippi girl that learned to water ski when I was just a little kid and we spent our weekends driving to this or that lake and riding in or behind some one’s boat. I went canoeing, rafting, riding in a fishing boat, a ski boat, on a pontoon boat…if it was in the water, I was sure to be on it. But I have never had a boat ride that thrilled me like the one I had yesterday. My baby girl rode on my in-laws ski boat for the first time in her life.
MH is ten and half years old and one of her many phobias is anything that moves. Where most kids can’t wait to get on a pony at a birthday party, ride a carousel at the zoo, jump on a paddle boat at the park, or have the wind fly through their hair on a boat…our MH has been terrified of all of the above her entire life. Early on I tried the whole, let’s just see if we can “push through” it mentality and the horror and panic that spread across my baby’s face let me know that I would never do that again. She simply was terrified. Just the mention of the boat was enough to get her repeating over and over, “no boat!”
So how did this miraculous event occur…modern medicine. My baby takes lots of medicine and it helps with some of her issues, her impulsivity is toned down, her aggression is reigned in, her inability to sleep is, for the most part, overcome…but we had yet to conquer the anxiety, the fear, the terror surrounding so many, many things in her little life. Until now. It is only a tiny little orange pill and it may not work forever, but today, I think it is a miracle. A beautiful, funny, exciting and crazy miracle that my MH can do what other kids can do…she can ride in the boat. It may sound silly to some people, but this mother thought it was the best boat ride ever!
We have spent countless sunny days at the lake house and someone always had to stay back with MH. That someone was usually me. Everyone would hop on the boat and ride off into the sunset to tube, ski and frolic and MH and I would stay on the dock and wait. Don’t get me wrong, I love MH and it wasn’t so bad, but it always made me so sad that she missed out on all of the fun with all of the other kids. There are so many things in our lives that she just doesn’t get to be a part of and it makes me sad. Getting on the boat was always one of those things.
That is, at least for now, a thing of the past. She asked to get on the boat, started out in my lap (mind you it was 100 bazillion degrees!), then moved to sit beside me and then was driving the boat with my husband. The progress didn’t stop there as she let us increase the speed and by today, she was riding along as my husband pulled the other kids on the tube! It truly is nothing short of a miracle. It was amazing and so much fun to be a part of…to watch her giggle and grin! Yes, every time there were waves she would momentarily panic, then soothe herself with the words “up, down, up, down” as she nodded her head. And riding under the bridge or going certain ways was, for whatever reason, forbidden, but who the hell cares! She rode in the boat! Of course now, she is asking, like every three minutes (not an exaggeration) if she can go back to the lake and ride the boat. From one struggle to the next…
Yes, that’s what I said, her name was Dovie. My Aunt Dovie died this week. She was 97 years old and it was time for her to shake loose the shackles that held her here in this broken world. As far as characters go, Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner could not have written a character with greater depth or humor than my Aunt Dovie. She was, in and of herself a story and a storyteller.
I can close my eyes and see the inside of her house this very minute and hear her pitchy voice call me “Jorja Bea” or “Jorjie.” She loved to recount for me the night that I was spending the night with she and my Uncle Afton (yes, you read that right, it is Afton) and he had a heart attack right there in the house. They lived next door to my Nana and Gaga and she loved to tell me how she had to call next door for Doris and Percy to come and get me. She also loved to tell me how Uncle Afton shared a birthday with Elvis and how Uncle Afton had also been a twin like Elvis, but that his twin had passed, just like Elvis. This was all supposed to be of great significance to me because my birthday is January 9th and Uncle Afton and Elvis, well, their birthday was January 8th. You see the significance right? It was just a few years ago that Aunt Dovie sent me these pictures of my sister and I on her front porch and me in her yard with Uncle Afton’s dog Jerry. (see the note that she wrote and sent with the pics!)
The point is, Aunt Dovie loved to tell stories, just tell stories, about most anything. She could tell a story about the tomato plant out back in the garden or the quilt tossed across the back of the couch. But she was lovely. And the older she grew, the more contented she grew with her small and simple life. Her life was about talking with the people in her life that she loved. She really didn’t care about much else. That is what she did until the day she died. Her mind was sharp, she even liked to show out by counting backwards from 100 as often as we would let her.
My aunt says that if she learned one thing from Dovie it was that contentment is a beautiful thing. Contentment is a difficult thing to learn. Maybe it takes 97 years. Dovie had lost her parents, her husband, her siblings, her daughter, and most of her friends…but she had stories to tell.
by CrisBuckley of CrisBuckley’s No-Clone Zone
“What are your credentials for doing something like this? Do you have a degree in counseling? Are you a trained life coach?”
This challenge to Jorja’s mission to “help others learn who they are and help them move forward” provoked the Advocate in me to step forward. Them’s fighting words!
Do you know what he offered for his credentials?
“I was home taking care of my father’s sheep … “
Sounds like life experience to me. The king and the soldiers all had training, armor, weapons. David had life experience.
“…and if a lion or bear came against ‘em, I killed ‘em.”
Ooooh, now it gets good. David was innately a defender and protector. His ire was raised when anyone or anything came against the sheep in his care.
Enter Goliath. David had a different vantage point than the professionals. His anger was stirred that anyone would come against the people. He kicked into his natural passion to defend and protect. He was in it for the kill.
Well…I’m a trained coach. But my real credentials are the same as David’s:
“I was home taking care of the sheep….”
…four of ‘em. My four kids.
The No-Clone Zone didn’t start as a business or blog—-it started with my kids. I homeschooled for 19 years, and I had a passion for each of my kids to “come into their own”. I trained each one according to his/her individual bent and put together curriculum that fed that. I absolutely did not want them to become clones of us, and I loved it when they developed traits and abilities uniquely their own!
I was their Advocate—-defending them against voices without and within that wanted to discredit or disqualify them from being who they were or the contribution they had to give.
I loved them, believed in them, and admired the strengths, passions and talents each one had. I was innately a Coach and Advocate.
All of my children are entrepreneurial. I asked a couple of them if they thought I had an influence in that, and their response was, “Yes, Mom! That’s so who you are!”
Those are my credentials. My passion remains the same, but has moved beyond my children in this season. Who are you now in this season? What is your contribution?
Be like Jorja—-stand up to the challenge and don’t let anyone discredit or disqualify you from being who you are or from what you have to give!
I wrote a list of 84 Things a couple of days ago…I did this because I believe a few things about women:
1. Women are wired to connect.
A woman’s primary motivation…is to build a sense of connection with others. Women develop a sense of self and self-worth when their actions arise out of, and lead back into, connections with others. Connection, not separation, is the guiding principle of growth for women. ~Jean Baker Miller
2. Women are attracted to authenticity.
Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. ~Mother Theresa
3. Women intuitively know they are part of a bigger story.
You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you. ~Frederick Buechner
Writing this blog has conjured-up a whole slew of new insecurities for me. I do believe that I am hard-wired to help others learn who they are and help them move forward. That belief is the bedrock of why I started this blog. However, as I find myself explaining it to others, especially those who are relatively unfamiliar with the online world of writing, I feel like the same little girl who was caught directing Ms. Haslip’s music class in 4th grade. You see, Ms. Haslip left us in the room, music playing and we were, I suppose, just to sit there and listen. But to me, something was missing…someone needed to lead. I could feel it in my bones and my bones lead me right to the front of the classroom where I stood on a chair and began my pretend conducting. Let’s just say that when Ms. Haslip returned and peered through the window, she was not encouraged by my desire to lead or amused in any way. As I stuttered my way into attempting to explain to her this urge to help, to direct, to lead…she only glared. She then proceeded to paddle my little bottom with a very large wooden paddle.
That was the end of my conducting career, but that desire that put me in hot water that day is very similar to the desire that I have today. I see women who are floundering in mid-life and I want to conduct, to lead, to teach them. But the Ms. Haslip-like people are still here and still questioning. What are your credentials for doing something like this? Do you have a degree in counseling? Are you a trained “life coach?” The list of questions can be subtle or very direct. I have mentioned that I am pushed to thought by reading about the life of Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a pioneer for women and she was critiqued for both her personal and her professional life until the day she died. Many doubted her suitability as a wife and as an activist. Eleanor said this about her accomplishments,” As for accomplishments, I just did what I had to do as things came along.
Her thoughts on being accomplished are encouraging to me today. I may not have spent my life gaining this or that degree, but my accomplishment is my life. I believe this is true for every woman, regardless of who she is, whether she be a doctor, attorney, homemaker, seamstress, volunteer, executive or whatever! Our lives, and how we handle all of our “things” as they come along, that is our accomplishment. Why? Because how we walk through life, the character we display, the mercy and love that we share, the perseverance and determination that we exhibit, these are the marks of who we really are in this life. Our credentials may be vast, but our accomplishment is how we have journey through life.
So in considering whether or not I am accomplished enough to write to other women about learning and valuing their authentic selves, I have come to the conclusion that yes, yes I am. I have taken my things as they have come along and those things have uniquely qualified me to write about life and women and learning to value both. I hope that each of you will consider your life and the accomplishment that it is today.
Do you feel accomplished? Do you gain your sense of accomplishment from your job, your role as a mother, your relationships? Do you see your life, who you are and how you have handled your “things,” as your accomplishment?