Adventure in Where Is the Damn Cereal Aisle

Guess who doesn’t have Lyme Disease! Me. Duh. But no one really thought I did. But now it’s confirmed. 

Yesterday, I was getting the most groceries for the least dollars. I only grabbed a basket. It was a mistake. I needed milk and toilet paper. That was future Hayley’s problem. I had a list. I have to have a list now. I was at the end of the trip. I had my toilet paper. I had my milk. CEREAL. It wasn’t on my list. But I saw it on a sign and needed it. Then. I forgot where I saw the sign. I walked by every aisle. I didn’t see it. I turned. “Cereal.” It’s right there. On the sign. I adjusted my basket. I forgot where I saw the sign. I walked by every aisle. I read the signs. No cereal. Where is cereal? “Cereal.”  I walked toward the sign. I dropped the toilet paper. I picked up the toilet paper.  What was I going to get? Where’s the cereal? This happened maybe two more times. It lasted over three minutes. Finally, I walked into the soup aisle. Sat on the floor. And cried. For a while. I picked up my basket, milk, and toilet paper. I went to the register with tears all over my face and shirt. The blonde teenage boy tried not to stare. He rang me up. I paid. “ILIKEYOURHAIR!” He shouted as I walked away. “Thanks,” I said as I started to cry again. I got in the car and drove home. I dropped my groceries on the kitchen floor. I sprawled out on the kitchen floor and cried. Amidst the cereal-less groceries. 


Adventure in Actually Losing It

Let’s talk a minute about doctors, patience, trust, an accident, and an increasingly failing brain.

**Spoiler alert: it’s going to take more than a minute**

Let’s start where it feels like it started, though I’m learning maybe it’s been happening for a while. And, yeah, I could look back to see if I’ve told the whole tale before, but I’m not going to.

In May I was helping some good friends move into the house they’re renting. The house was left with a lot of things in it, deliberately. One of those things was a razor scooter. You remember being 10? Me too. Well, my friend dared me to go down his driveway faster than he did. Now here’s the key. I didn’t see him go down the driveway. I only saw him stop. I only learned later he didn’t go very far up the driveway in the first place. A very steep driveway. I told him, “No. I’ll break my face.” “I know,” he said, “but I dared you.” “You’re right.” I grabbed the scooter and goofy ran up to the top of the driveway. And then my greatest failing came. I pushed off. And immediately realized I’m heading for the moving truck. I don’t know how to stop. I should aim for the grass. How do you aim with this thing? HOW DO YOU STOP?! I tried to stop. Flash forward to me laughing getting up from the ground. One friend said, “Your shoulder is wrong.” The other “your elbow is not lookin’ good.” “Is my head bleeding?” I started to feel woozy. We went inside. I was handed some Cheez-its when it was learned I hadn’t eaten, and we were off to the hospital. Each curve of the roundabout budging my shoulder.

I didn’t cry. That’s important. I didn’t cry until the PA said “we don’t really do anything for collarbones.” That’s when I cried. Because my shoulder was next to my neck. They had to do something. I also remember this conversation. “Are you dizzy?” “Yeah. I mean, my shoulder is next to my face, so.” “Blurred vision.” “No.” But I thought “Who could tell? It’s blinding pain.” “Well, you’re not concussed.” Blood on my temple. X-ray after x-ray. Of my shoulder. From above. Behind. head on. Slightly angled. My elbow. Let’s move that around a bunch, especially if it’ll move that bone in my chest a bit more. That’ll be good. A sling. Out the door. My favorite sports bra ruined. The only one that I can wear to run. Coincidentally, the only bra I’ve ever owned that didn’t add any pressure to my collarbone.

A few days later they did do something about my collarbone. They knocked me clean out and cut into my muscle. Fastened metal to bone. Five screws across. 7 inch incision Dissolving sutures. Several weeks sleeping in a recliner. At my parents house. The cat and I in my old bedroom. A lot of Murder, She Wrote. A lot of wanting to grow up to be Jessica Fletcher. Angela Lansbury as a secondary life goal. But neither one ever with a broken collarbone. I’m already behind a step. Buzzing social lives at 60. Crying in my chair, hiding my tattoos from my grandparents. Left alone with my grandpa while he prays for me. Still crying. Quietly.

A month later, I’m getting eyeglasses on the cheap, because that blurry vision is finally here, and it’s not leaving. Worse at night. Worse when I’m driving. Motion makes everything worse.

Fast forward to last Monday driving down Parnell. Coming around a curve and realizing just in time that, “Oh yeah! I’m driving. That’s a utility pole. That’s a 9-year-old boy. And I’m in control of this car that needs to be further from the sidewalk.” I forgot. I forgot I was driving.

At work I’m stuttering on the phone. And forgetting sentences. Forgetting that I’ve just said things. We’ve all done it. But not with this increasing frequency. Stuttering for minutes at a time. Unable to shake it. Forgetting words. Forgetting what they are, but being completely unable to find a suitable replacement and just move on. Nope. I’m just stuck. Until I find the word. Not just in speaking. In writing. In thinking. In my very own insides. If I can’t find the word, I can’t move on. In some instances I can’t move. Because all of my processors are shooting and firing to find that one stupid word. Release. Release. Release. The word is release. Type it and go.

Thursday. The doctor. The quacktor. The most impatient woman on the planet. Let me say the nurse was concerned. I told her everything. She wrote it down. With her hand and a pen and paper. She didn’t use the computer. She looked me in the face. She left the room, and I cried some more. My friend waiting in the lobby. Patiently. Kindly. Undeservingly.

Enter the cruelest “care”giver. Each symptom met with eyeroll or sarcasm. Each symptom met with distraction. Never looking me in the eye. Never really looking at me at all. I knew this would happened. I’d stammered through it a dozen times the night before as I panicked. Every intention of walking out the damn door when she got this shitty to someone who’d taken time off work to pay her money for her to be a jerk. I must be lying. I’m a liar. All sexual assault victims are. That’s why the authorities never hear us. Why would a doctor about anything? This is a problem we all face. Never feeling heard or believed.

“Has anything happened to you in the last 6 months that could contribute?”
“Other than bashing my head on the cement when I fell?”
“When did that happen?”
“Five months ago. It’s on my chart.”
“I see you broke your clavicle.”
“And I hit my head. You don’t think a fall hard enough to sever a bone in two with a knock to the head is enough?”
“Your symptoms don’t make sense. It’s too long for you to still be concussed. And it says here you weren’t.”
“They never checked!”
“Says your neck was fine.”
“They never checked that either. I didn’t want to move it, because then my bone halves shifted.”
“It’s not a concussion. It’s not anything. At all.”
“So at 28 my brain is just failing?!”
“Then it’s something. AT ALL.”
silence. She’s not believing me. Alright, Hayj, it’s now or never. Get up. Leave. Find a new doctor now. Talk to that nurse again. Find someone. Scream. SOMEONE HEAR ME!
No. I just started crying.
With rolling eyes “Fine. I guess we could do a blood test to test your sugars. Not to be mean,” her lips purse. Her mouth looks like an anus as it doesn’t say, “But you have put on some weight so you’ve got diabetes.”
tears streaming
“We’ll try (SHE SAID TRY) to schedule you an MRI. And maybe you should see a neuropsychologist.”

I text my friend in the lobby. I text my friend in Chicago. New Jersey. The 07. I cry. I wait. I wait for 10 more minutes. A new nurse who has been told I’m dramatic and insane comes in. “You can get a blood test whenever you want. Your MRI is scheduled for the 12th at 7:30. Be there at 7:15. It’s all the way up north. Do you know where it is?” “Yes. This isn’t my first rodeo.” Tears. I’ve stopped the deep gasps for breath. “It takes 3-4 business days for the fax to be processed for the neuropsychologist. So you can’t call until after next Wednesday. But you should wait until after you get the MRI to schedule it. And PHP doesn’t usually cover either of these.” “Can I get the blood work now?” “Yeah.” She rolls her eyes. “Oh and here’s some information about concussions.” She snickers. They’re making fun of me. She wobbles out.

I wait for my blood test. I sit in a scary chair. The lab tech gives no warning as I watch a needle dig under my skin and into the only available vein.

My friend and I walk out. We get in the car. I explain myself. I call my mom. I cry. She tries not to. We curse the name of that stupid, horrible doctor. My friend and I sit in the parking lot of Pizza Hut. I sob into his lap. We go in. Tears all over my face. We’re seated. “The server thinks you did this to me.” “I know. That’s okay.” At least I’m not alone. He’s a good friend. 

I go home and feel sorry for myself. I go to a comedy show to be around my friends. I vaguely describe to my buddy what has happened. He offers a hug that I accept, and almost cry on him. He knows. He hugs me tighter.

I go to an office at work to ask if I can print some checks. Instead they ask how I’m doing. And I’m tired of being polite. I tell them everything. One coworker’s daughter had the same doctor. The doctor put her on Prozac for five years. For what ended up being Crohn’s Disease. Now I’m terrified. They recommend their doctor. They recommend I schedule the neuropsychologist appointment immediately. As soon as I can. Just schedule it for after the MRI. It’s a good suggestion. They offer to go with me to any and all appointments. My eyes get full. I spend the rest of the day excessively and falsely cheery.

It’s all I can think about.

It seems important to document now, because I don’t know how quickly it will get worse. How important it will be to come back with news for that terrible doctor to throw in her face. Because she needs to know how terrible she treats people.

I am crazy, but not about this.

Several people suggest the same condition. Over and over. It’s been my fear all along. I mention it to a few people. Fear and nodding. I never checked the symptoms. Even I thought I was being silly. Last night I checked. It’s a lot of the same ones. I’m not going to let myself self-diagnose and scare myself. But I’m going to bring it up at every appointment. Because the symptoms have been around longer than five months now that I’m really examining it. The shaking, a thing I’ve been doing for ten years. Sudden shaking, in my hands and arms. Fatigue. Chronic pain. Joint pain. Spots, lighted spots. Flashes in my vision. Depression. Bladder issues, sort of always peeing. Muscle spasms. Stuttering. Losing words. Failing memory retention. I won’t say it. I won’t make assumptions. So many things could be happening. Maybe it’s 30 different things. Maybe it’s one. Whatever it is, I’m going to track it. As long as I still can.

Adventure in Imagination Station

Lately I’ve felt sick with adventurous longing, which has been manifesting itself as crying. I never expect it. I can’t prepare myself for it. Some days I’m completely fine, and then it happens.

It happens when I see the sun reflect in just a certain way along a puddle in the grass. It sparks this part of my imagination, the part that it did when I was tiny. Recess brain. And I feel it. I physically feel it. I just think, “What is it I’ve been doing? How could I forget? How do I get it back?” Like nostalgia, but it’s not just memories. It’s like something I once knew, but now can’t remember. Like it’s just out of my reach. Like I should be 7, and that puddle is an unswimmable lake, and it’s up to me to cross it. Like I need to be in it. To save us all. Like I should be in the woods. Deep and lost. Adventuring. To save or be saved.
When it hits, I can’t even say words out loud. I think I should, but I can’t. I even some times try, but it’s like the Gentlemen have come and taken away my voice. Or Ursula, if you prefer, but it probably is closer to the Gentlemen, because I didn’t volunteer for this.
I wish I had friends who would be 8 with me. I remember when I was maybe 10, 10 seems right. All of the other girls, the “cool” girls stopped playing.

At recess they just stood in circles talking. Like the Ashleys.

If you played, particularly with your imagination, you were weird. It’d be one thing if you were playing kickball, ya know for the attention of a boy, or because you just didn’t know how to be a girl, which was more often what you were accused of. But to play Ghostwriter at 10 (not just because it cancelled when we’re 8, or because The New Ghostwriter Mysteries suuucked). To play Narnia at 10. To have to fight monsters at 10, as a girl, made you a weirdo. And I was a weirdo. I was a damn weirdo. I still am, but I also wanted to have friends. So I stopped. I stopped before I wanted to. I stopped before I should have.

Like so many other things it feels like a piece of my childhood was taken away from me. So many things get taken. Taken isn’t fair. In this case I sacrificed it. I burned it on the alter of cool, and still I wasn’t. The ash and smoke of my imagination in my eyes and hair. Wafting up to the gods of cool, but never accepted.

So weird still, in fact, that I was asked to distract someone else, who by all cool girl standards, was not weird. I always thought she was cool. I didn’t get that that was their way to keep us away from them. But I will always love that that joke backfired. Sure, they got what they wanted, but we each gained a best friend. She got weirder. I grew more normal. We wrote stupid songs that we sang constantly. Some that I still do. Maybe we didn’t play the way I wanted to, but we wander. We wandered our respective neighborhoods and woods. We spent whole weeks of spring break together, not going anywhere, but the other’s home.

I still pine for someone to take my hand at the sound of a strange noise and make an elaborate tale of what that might be. To wander the woods with me looking for clues, clues to the mystery we haven’t yet discovered. A fleck of paint on the tree is a clue. It’s not a trail marker like you think. It’s a warning. It’s a cry for help. It’s someone that needs saving.

Maybe that’s what it all falls back on. I can’t save people. I’ve tried. I can help. I wanted to “save” the other girls from [redacted]. I wanted to save myself from the shame of being odd. Because deep down, I still wanted to rescue people. From their captors. From the monsters. From themselves. My imagination needs saved. It’s trapped in a loop, and I can’t get it out to roam free. It’s spinning. I feel it spinning, but it’s stuck. I’m stuck.


Adventure in All Grown Up Now Part III: Man, I Feel Like a Woman

On Doctor Who, a long time ago, Queen Thalira who said, “It would be different if I was a man.But I’m only a girl.” To which Sarah Jane Smith beautifully replied, “Now just a minute. There’s nothing ‘only’ about being a girl, Your Majesty.”


This is it. The big question.

When did you first realize you changed from a girl to a woman? Like the moment you realized.

Maria: Wow, really sitting down to think about this, a moment comes to mind that I would have skipped over had I not really thought about this. The moment I first realized I changed from girl to woman was when I said “no”, for the first time, to a man who was physically and verbally abusive to me…the man that was supposed to be a father figure to me. I said no to going over to his house any more, to allowing his abuse any more in my life. It was the first time I stopped feeling like a girl and more like a woman.

Kristen G.: That is a super good question and I would say my very first day of college. I told my roommate where I was going and when I’d be back and she said “I don’t care – I’m not your mother – do your own thing” and I couldn’t believe I was on my own – – – and not to be cliche, but there is nothing like holding your baby in your arms and thinking “holy crap”

Emily Y.: Hm. I don’t know. I mean, I feel like I want to say when I started menstruating. That’s the most physiologically correct answer. But I started menstruating at 13. In some cultures, a 13 year old female may feel like an adult, but I think that’s more the exception than the rule in America. I honestly don’t think I felt like a woman until much later, potentially even recently. And what is a girl and what is a woman? Is there a distinct difference? I don’t really think so. It’s a gradual developmental change, right? I mean, in baby development in utero, there is never a moment between when you don’t have arms and then you do. You grow arm buds that slowly and gradually grow into fully functional arms. Maybe that’s a weird example, but I think the same concept applies here. I don’t think there was a moment for me. Sometimes I’m not even sure that I feel more like a woman than a girl. Adulthood is a loose construct for me. Although I am an adult, I’m still not sure what that means yet.
I did not answer your question…but I’m not really sure how to.
Also, if you aren’t thinking about “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman” by Britney Spears right now, I’m not sure what’s wrong with you.

Kristen K.: I think around age 7 I realized I should start taking care of my little brother and sister.


Hayley: There are few moments. When I was 6, and my mom and dad explained that my sister wasn’t going to make it. That my baby sister wasn’t going to be a part of our lives. That’s the first time I remember really coming to terms with mortality, and actual disappointment.
When I was 22, and I not only didn’t get a say in what happened to my life and body. But the eventual step when I realized, I needed to start recognizing myself as a powerful entity, because not everyone else will.
And just the other day. This is the day that I realized I was an adult. There were these two boys on my block throwing a kickball at my porch cat Bill Purray. I drove by the house and parked in front of mine. Left my thawing groceries in the 90 degree car and marched down the street. Before I even reached them I said, in the most even tone, “Don’t throw the ball at the cat.” Not “Hey, don’t throw that ball at that cat.” No introduction. Just “stop.” And the older of the boy now red in the face, said, “We weren’t.” It came right out of my mouth, and I still can’t believe it. I said, “I saw you do it. Don’t lie to me.” They turned and instantly ran into their house as I snatched up Bill Purray without missing a beat and walked right back to my house and sat on the porch with her. Eventually, one of the boys came back on his porch and sat in a chair. Pouting. I turned my chair and faced his porch and glared. I still don’t feel bad. That’s a future serial killer.

Harmony: It took me a long time to answer this. It took so long because I am not proud of the story I’m about to share.
I grew up in a safe, loving environment with parents who are truly in love each other. This environment was ideal in so many ways, and even as a young teen, I knew how good I had it. So when the dating scene became a part of my life, I didn’t take it very seriously. There wasn’t anything out there that could even come close to comparing to what my parents had. Dudes were disposable.
Then one day, I realized my heart had changed. I was 20 years old and had been ‘seeing’ (because ‘dating’ was too committed) a guy for almost a year. We were not dating, but we spent a lot of time together; ate meals together, visited with his family together, went to concerts, watched movies, got stoned and shared a healthy physical relationship. But we weren’t dating.
My phone rang around 7.00am one morning when I wasn’t dating this guy, and a very sad female voice spoke quietly to me from the other end of the line. I didn’t recognize the voice, I just remember being so startled at how sad she was; she was sobbing. She had said something about someone, and an accident, and how sorry she was. I was trying to put all the syllables together and still identify the caller…
It was my friend.
My friend that was dating my non-boyfriend’s brother.
On no, something happened to my non-boyfriend’s brother.
But she was apologizing to me – why is she sorry?
The car? Last night. Too much to drink.
Kevin. Kevin is dead. The Kevin that was not mine, but he was.
My non-boyfriend died.
I felt the heat in my face. I felt nothing but rage. RAGE. I told her how dare she call me and dump this load of crap on me. I refused to believe my non-boyfriend friend guy had died. DIED? No. Come on, now. So I hung up on her. Actually, I accused her of lying first, then I hung up on her.
15 minutes later doorbell rang. It’s now 7.15 in the morning and I’m all, “Oh now this has gone too far.” I opened the door, already pissed off, but there she was. Her normally pretty face, pale and swollen. Her eyes, pitted and bloodshot. Makeup, long gone. She hadn’t slept all night. Her hands were shaking and she said one word to me that I will never, never forget: She pleaded, in a whisper, “Please.”
And then I lost me.
Whoever I thought I was.
Whoever I thought he was.
Whatever I thought he meant to me.
Whatever I convinced myself I needed.
It was lost.
It was the day I learned what life really is.
That it isn’t a farce. It isn’t fake or showy or shallow.
In one moment I realized all that I kept from myself in treating him like he didn’t matter.
I realized what I’d kept from him.
Life as I knew it, had effectively gone from 2D to 3D. I felt everything all at once: the laughter he brought to my life. The joy. His old soul; his immense intelligence. The way his hands played the piano; held his brandy glass. How he looked past my distance and into my essence. The way he still held me, long after he’d fallen asleep, as though I were a treasure he protected even in his off hours.
I saw myself through his eyes for the first time. I saw myself as a woman. A woman he loved. A woman he adored. A woman who had willingly kept myself from feeling all these things he felt or me. And then he died. I had run out of time. My lesson came too late.
In the months afterward, I didn’t know what else to do, but march on. After a long time I started dating again, but it was different than before. I dated to get to know them, but I also dated to learn more about myself. It all came full circle when I met my husband, Sam.
Sam’s gentle soul and desire to love me is what opened my heart even further. I wanted to love him and I wanted him to know I loved him. I opened my life to him and he treated it with respect and patience. I appreciated all things about him and in doing so I began to appreciate all things about me.
So, back to the question: when was my moment when I switched from a girl to a woman? Well, like any complicated algebraic equation, there was a roundabout way to coming up with the final answer:
Part one was losing all I didn’t know I had.
Part two was giving it all had and losing myself to it.

Ashley L.: I think I’m still waiting to feel like a woman. I often feel like I’m still a scared little girl trying to put on a brave, “fake it ’til you make it” face.

Courtney: The moment I realized I was a woman… I think I realized something was different when I noticed men were looking at me. I remember two specific times were I was just doing normal activities (shopping, eating), and a grown men were either staring at me, or physically came over to hit on me (which, I didn’t realize what that was then, only that it make me uncomfortable). I remember being probably around 12 years old and confused as to why these people are looking at ME and knowing that I felt not OK with it. And shortly later I noticed more of my body changing. But I don’t think I ever felt anything INSIDE that was different, but realized something was different because of my OUTER circumstances.

Allison: I don’t recall having an “ah ha” moment about changing from a girl to a woman. Is that a thing?! Maybe it is for some, but I have been wracking my brain trying to remember if I had one. It definitely wasn’t when I got my first period and it definitely wasn’t the first time I had sex! Neither were very pleasant experiences and did not make me feel very womanly. Perhaps it was more of a series of moments and events that made up my transition from a girl to a woman. I suppose for me, the broader experience of trying to get pregnant, getting pregnant, and having miscarriages are the most womanly experiences I have ever had. You ain’t a child anymore when you have gone through that. Sometimes I look at women who have children and I still see myself as a girl. Certainly that isn’t true, but our culture tells us that part of being a woman is being a mother. Well of course I know that being a mother is not what makes a woman and being a woman is not what makes a mother. But sometimes it stings, you know? If I truly think deeply about this, my journey to becoming a woman has the thought of motherhood in it, but it is not what defines me. To me, being a woman is living through the tough moments and milestones and the happy and joyful times, to come to an understanding what it means to be a female in our society, and then embracing and spreading that power. It is important to me to try embody the positive and empowering aspects of what it means to me to be a thoughtful woman and a feminist for the sake of the young men and women I come into contact with.


Danee: I don’t think I’ve had that moment of realization yet. I mean, I know by all societal standards, I am a woman. However, there are many ways in which I still feel like a girl. When I’m with my mom, for instance, or my sister, it’s easy to slip into a more child-like version of myself. Old friends can have this same affect, and my partner, Brown, probably sees this side of me more than anyone. Of course, there are many other situations where I feel old as hell. When I’m teaching college students… yeah, those moments definitely make me feel like an old lady. Does that count?

Amber S.: I’m not sure I always feel like a woman versus a girl at this point in my life. It’s so easy to feel lost and weak. I’m not sure if I ever feel like a woman without someone else being involved.

Rebekah: The moment I realized I had become a woman was just a little over a year ago. I was in a production of “the Music Man” and a friend took a backstage photo of me in the “Grecian urn” costume. When I saw the photo, my instant thought was “I look like a woman.” (my mom had the same thought, and expressed it on Facebook.) It was a bittersweet thought. At 29, it seems I ought to have become a woman years ago, but I was sad that the spritely youthfulness of my face had diminished. It made sense. I’d done a lot of growing up that year, and it showed in my complexion and my eyes. It also felt true in my soul. I had faced what seemed unbearable, and I was okay. I was going to be okay.

Emily L.: Another cliche answer, but it would have to be when I first became a mother. Up until that point I was being taken care of and had no real need to truly think of anyone else, but when I became a mom I was completely responsible for someone else and not to mention what my body was able to do by carrying and delivering a child made me realize a whole new side of womanhood.

Alex: I’m not sure I can define the difference from child to adult. I feel there were different stages in my life that matured me into my own autonomous self but I am not sure this makes one an adult. I am over the age or reason and hold responsibility for my own actions in God’s eyes, but again, not sure this means adult. I am over the legal age and deemed an adult when it comes to our governments laws but again does the single second between 11:59:59 the day before my 18th birthday to 12:00:00 really change me that much? I guess the closest thing I have to an answer is telling my parents I was moving to Indiana for school despite the cost. And despite feeling like an adult at that moment, telling my parents 2 years later that I was leaving this same school with all kinds of debt and no degree because I wanted to live authentically. It made me realize how much of a child I still was in ways I wasn’t sure would ever change. I feel like any time I do something new for the first time, no matter how prepared or confident I am, I still feel a little childlike.


Laura: Here’s the thing: I don’t like the word “woman.” It’s a soft, round word that has connotations of periods and menopause and chunky robes and fuzzy slippers and cold coffee. Now don’t get me wrong, I like chunky robes and fuzzy slippers as much as anybody, but to me the word has connotations of giving up. I don’t even know why those connotations exist. They have no basis- my mom is a go-getter who never gives up. I can’t think of a single woman who speaks into my life who is this tired picture I see in my head. But I still don’t like the word.
So I don’t see myself as a woman. Instead, a grown-up girl. A lady, maybe. A chick, even? All words with hard consonants and bright vowels. The moment I felt most like a woman is when I was pregnant- a literal “womb-man.” There was no getting around it. I was grown, about to give life, carrying a baby in my belly. And I hated being pregnant. I was slow and hot and tired all the time. I lost creative energy and wasn’t allowed to lift heavy things. I didn’t look like myself and people treated me differently. So I guess, in my own thoughts, I prefer to distance myself from my baby-making capabilities and don’t really think of myself as a “woman.”

Dana: It’s funny, really; it has been a sneak-attack in three parts. The first, when I was bold enough to speak my mind with my mother about views she did not share. I realized that I was my own person. I had my own thoughts and feelings that were no longer dictated by her. I felt freedom…and fear. I felt my growing up that day. (Thankfully, my mother has done well with that transition. As well as expected anyway) The second, when I was speaking at a conference, promoting the empowerment of women and purity. It was something I would have never seen myself doing, but I felt an ease and comfort and passion that has only grown since then. And third, I was bold enough to wear HOT red lipstick and sassy heels for a formal banquet once. And I carried on with myself as normal, but people (specifically men), stopped to say how beautiful I looked. But not in that “she’s so sweet and cute and 10” kind of voice, but “WOW. You’re you in all your youness” voice. You know the one.

Ashlee: Do people really have moments? I don’t even know if I would consider myself a “woman.” I don’t feel old enough for that. I still drink on weeknights. I suppose during my sophomore year of college I started doing things more independently. I learned about cleaning my own bathroom and buying groceries to make meals. I took ownership of my education. I think that’s what I started developing my own thoughts and feelings towards important issues. That made me feel more like an adult woman.

Jessica: I think the girl to a woman moment for me was likely when I finally understood that I could not be first. In my marriage, in my teaching job, in my life, I needed to put others before myself. When I was able to let that bit of selfishness go I was able to mature and see a greater picture of the world that didn’t center around me and my problems.

Amber F.: Hmm, I don’t know. My gut says when I got married, but I’d say it was more recently- after getting divorced, I had to learn all sorts of things about being an adult. I think I feel like an adult for the first time in my life right now.

Brett: I feel like I’m still waiting for that moment. I think it will come, but it may not be until I’m 75, and I’m cool with that.

Allie: I honestly cannot pinpoint a moment like that. If I have to narrow it down at all, I’ll say that I only started thinking of myself and referring to myself as a woman when I learned that calling adult females “girls” is condescending. This realization came about three or four years ago, but I still struggle to think of myself as a woman the way I think of other women as women. It’s often easier to see other women for who they are instead of what they do or accomplish, and I am learning to extend myself the same grace rather than focusing on the ways I fall short of my own or other people’s expectations.


“I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.” Audre Lorde

Adventure in All Grown Up Now: Part II

Here we go! Thanks for coming back! I’m excited to keep going. If you missed part one you can find it here. Stay with us. The big question (When did you first realize you were a woman?) is coming in the post after this one. Can you believe how much there is to say about something that seems so small, when you stop to really think about it?  Okay, enough, enough. Diving in!

What has been the greatest moment of your year?

Maria: This airing. It was the most overwhelming feeling to see the fullness of the story put into a video. Coupled with this video coming out, where I got to talk about all God has done through tragedy, and of course, talk about my best friend, my mom and her legacy.

Meg: I got married to Brian. Just over a year ago … but the year following was rather nasty with work and deaths, so I will cling to that :)

Kristen G.: Floating on a raft, chit-chatting with my nine-year old son, having him share his heart

Emily Y.: I’m not sure that I can single out just one!

Kristen K.: Coming to terms with my weight and deciding I don’t need to or want to lose any of it.

Hayley: I regret picking this question. I made myself write it because I think it’s important to look back before the year is over to reflect. To see how far you’ve come. So I’ll say February 14. Not because of any romance, but because something I poured my heart and brain into came together because I had incredible people surrounding me and supporting me. It didn’t just come together. That’s an understatement. It was a massive success, and I need to remember my successes. It was a success in the middle of what, at the time (and some times still does), felt like a massive devastation. How loved and lucky am I?

Ashley L.: Dear God, I hope it hasn’t happened yet…

Amber S.: Realizing it’s time to love myself first and foremost, no matter what changes that takes.

Rebekah: Landing the lead in a show where I earned my equity card.

Emily L.: I can’t say I have 1 great moment in the past year. I have been truly blessed with many.

Alex: I married my best friend. And this is selfish because thankfully it was legal in Illinois at the time. It was made even better by marriage equality being handed down by the Supreme Court. It is crazy what being recognized on a bureaucratic level does for ones heart, even if there is a ton more ground to cover.

Laura: The moment I saw my book nestled between two Sarah Dessen books on Amazon- ranked in the top 50 of YA Contemp romance. (And it was really only for a moment!) (Laura’s Novel)

Dana: Watching a boy in my class walk to the feet of Jesus, and taking me with him as his strength. Walking with him from the beginning of the most terrible anger, despair, confusion, to that vulnerable breaking point and surrender. (This could also be added to the things that make me cry without fail.) It was no less than radical and humbling and beautiful and GLORY. I could talk about this for the rest of my life. And most likely will.

Jessica: The greatest moment of this year was finding out that we were pregnant. We had major fertility issues to overcome to get the boys so having this pregnancy be a surprise was amazing.

Amber F.: This year has been full of ups and downs, but I’d say the moment I became divorced- both the worst and the greatest simultaneously.

Brett: It’s been a rough year for me, so just making it through to now has been a success. I have the best friends, so it’s not all on me

Allie:I’ll be honest; it’s been a tough year. A moment that stands out to me is when I finished a research paper for an independent study on Mariology. It was a subject that intrigued me and through researching and writing the paper, I came to adopt views that have changed the way I understand God, the Church, and women. It was a tedious paper, and turning it in felt wonderful. It was also my final project of a semester that had been weighed down by personal family stress. Finishing something, and feeling like I had done it well against the odds, was empowering.

What skill would you like to learn?

Maria: Detail-oriented. (is this a skill?) ha I’m terrible with details. I’m more of dreamer, big picture girl.

Meg: Calligraphy. I have all the stuff for it, but need to take a class or sit down and just do it

Kristen G.: I wish I could DANCE.

Emily Y.: Occlumency. But also getting better at altering clothing.

Kristen K.: A way to make money other than the peeing super power.

Hayley: Decision making. Keeping a damn rhythm.

Ashley L.: I can’t whistle, which makes me feel lame. So learning how to do that would make me feel more accomplished in my humanity. Oh, and winged eyeliner. Someone, please teach me.

Danee: I would like to learn to speak Spanish fluently. I feel a deep connection to my Mexican ancestry, and I wish I could understand more of the language.

Amber S.: What WOULDN’T I want to learn?! I’d love to become a better writer. I’d love to play with arts and crafts more frequently. As far as something I have nearly no knowledge about, I’d say something involving making music. An instrument like guitar, piano, etc. maybe.

Rebekah: Travel hacking

Emily L.: There is a lot I would like to be skilled at, but if organizing is a skill than I want it!

Alex: How to adult. Or I guess I would settle for carpentry

Laura: How to give constructive spoken feedback with seamless tact and gentle pleasantry. I always sound like I’m patronizing or trying desperately to say the right thing. (Which I am. I just don’t want to sound like I am)

Dana: Deep sea diving. I want to see and explore all the beauty of this wild earth!

Ashlee: My grandmother gave me her sewing machine. She got it in the sixties and my late-grandfather built the little stand that it is in. I want to learn to sew on that machine. I have no idea how to sew on a modern sewing machine, so hopefully there is hope for me. My grandma made her children clothes on the machine and my mom made her dolls clothes on the machine. It would mean a lot to me to be able to make really simple shit on that machine. I have no ambitious dreams, just pillows and minor alterations.

Jessica: I would like to learn how to quilt. Like those crazy ones that you have to get two inches away from it to take in all the details.

Amber F.: Does a foreign language count? I’d like to speak another language, and i really have no preference what language.

Erica: Driving a stick

Brett: I’ve always wanted to be a good singer. Sewing would also be a good one. I’m not crafty.

Allie: I’m trying to be handier. I’d like to understand basic car maintenance better and simple construction so that I don’t feel so dependent on other people to fix stuff. My husband naturally takes care of cars and things around our house because he was taught those skills growing up. I feel inadequate in those areas and find myself doubting my ability to learn physical skills, but I want to believe that I can. Also, I really want to learn how to speed-read.

What is your strongest personality trait?

Maria: Dreamer. Imaginative.

Meg: Oh gosh, this is hard … UMMM I am a perfectionist. It can be an equally bad trait as well though!

Kristen G.: Sense of humor? Positivity/optimism?

Emily Y.: My need for personal authenticity

Kristen K.: My ability to see the nonsense.

Hayley: My sense of nostalgia. That I can’t forget anything, good or bad. So I don’t let people go easily. They can move. They can leave, but it’s not until they hurt me or the people around me in a way without any remorse, that’s the time that I let them go. Otherwise, that sense of nostalgia comes with this loyalty that can be both good and bad.

Danee: I’m “optimistically persistent” (which could also be read as “naively stubborn”). I think most things are possible, and I often believe myself more capable of accomplishing things than I have any right to. This sometimes means I find myself in over my head, but it also means that I’m consistently testing myself, learning, growing, and finding out what is actually possible (and it’s usually more than people think).

Amber S.: Does it have to be positive? haha. I’d say I’m most strongly stubborn. Which has been good and bad. Strongest positive trait is probably the caring/maternal instincts I’ve been blessed/cursed with.

Rebekah: Analytical thinking

Emily L.: Loyalty

Alex: I’m perceptive. I also have a strong sense of integrity since learning the value of authenticity. I hold myself and those I surround myself with to a high standard.

Laura: Confidence

Dana: My listening ear, paired with my quiet mouth. It allows me to know people without presupposition.

Ashlee: I immediately wanted to ask my husband to answer this for me. Instead, I’m making myself answer on my own. People comment on my generosity a lot. Does that make it my strongest trait?

Jessica: I’m guessing not everyone will agree with me, but I think my strongest personality trait is that I’m relentless. I can’t stop working on something until it is done, I can’t stop worrying until Ive done all I can possibly do and more, I can’t end a fight until all the bugs are worked out and things feel normal, I can’t settle for a B, I need everyone to be happy, etc.

Amber F.: Emotional :) Does that count?

Erica: I’m emotional. My strongest and my worst trait.

Brett: I think I’m outgoing and make friends easily. I think people feel comfortable around me and sometimes that attracts weirdos (I am a weirdo magnet) but I like that about myself.

Allie: Kindness.

What do you love most about your body?

Maria: My smile

Meg: My cheekbones. They are from my dad :)

Kristen G.: My hair and my nose

Emily Y.: My hair. It feels pretty unique. And it’s fun to play with like little springs haha

Kristen K.: My monstrously large eyes.

Hayley: My hair. And the brown patch in my green eyes. Also, it’s durability. This machine has suffered a great deal, but the whole thing remains tenacious and soldiers on.

Ashley L.: Probably my smattering of freckles. There are some on my arms and torso that I’m particularly fond of.

Courtney: My eyes are my favorite part of my body. They always have been. Although it also feeds into my biggest insecurity – my eyebrows!! My eyes are so big, I always think if my eyebrows are bushy or not taken care of, it’s an instant turn off!! Every rose has it’s thorns, I suppose!

Danee: That I have one! And that it’s mostly capable of doing the things I want to do.

Amber S.: Default answer is my eyes. They’re pretty neat. Changes of late have made my bones something I’ve been able to know for the first time. I spend a little time every week watching in the mirror to see how my ribs look when I stretch different ways. I notice my hip bones reaching for the sky when I’m lying on the porch after a jog. I feel my spine against the rungs of the wooden rocking chair in my kitchen. I see how my necklaces shimmer off the shadows that surround my collarbone. It’s been a crazy experience.

Rebekah: It’s general shape: curvy and proportional

Emily L.: Right now my preggo belly, but can’t say I love the way it looks after, but I can say I live what it stands for-strength and miracles!

Alex: That it isn’t defined by whether my sex organs dangle or not.

Laura: My height. I’m 4’11” and I love being short.

Dana: I love that it tells a story about my heritage, my genetics. My dad’s face, my grandmother’s bone structure, my mother’s hands and feet. I love that it is so uniquely and purposefully pieced together. And I love how it feels after a good stretch.

Ashlee: I really love my hair. I love its natural color and texture. I really love that I feel like it looks great natural and I love that!

Jessica: The body question is hard. Loving your body after a baby (or two) is hard. I love that my body carried twins successfully full term. Right now I can be proud of it for growing this new life… but learning to embrace all the changes after delivery again sound daunting at the moment.

Amber F.: My hair- I hope that counts.

Erica: It’s ability to carry me around. On days when I’m the saddest, my heart still pumps, my legs still work, my fingers still do delicate jobs. It’s tough being a body that belongs to someone who suffers with the sads, but my body does a good job.

Brett: This is a great question. I love my whole body and love most that I feel comfortable with my body. I was just telling my husband that when I was in high school I actively shunned anything that could be considered girly like makeup and dresses, and I was VOCALLY anti-marriage. I think it was a defense mechanism because I was taught to feel shame about my body and was never comfortable in it. Since then I’ve learned a thing or two and have endeavored to come to know my own body. I started doing yoga and figuring out what having a body means, and I feel more comfortable being in my body now than I ever have, and I love that about my body. The whole thing is great. (I have the Regina Spektor song stuck in my head where she says “I have a perfect body cuz my eyelashes catch my sweat.” This.)

Allie: My husband and I joke that our kids will have excellent hand-eye coordination because it’s one of the few things we both possess (we’re very different, personality-wise). I like that I grew up playing sports and musical instruments because even if I don’t do those things actively now, I know that my body is capable and coordinated.

What, of all that you are, do you love most about yourself?

Maria: my deep desire to know truth, full truth.

Meg: I am incredibly social. I have no fear of walking into a room of strangers and making new friends. Its a fun challenge and an adrenaline rush.

Kristen G.: My intellgence and sense of humor

Emily Y.: My pursuit of the Truth.

Kristen K.: That no one is allowed in.

Hayley: My strength, despite everything, to endure

Ashley L.: My perseverance. I have wanted to throw in the towel so many times when the going gets rough, but I keep breathing.

Danee: That I’m thoughtful. I don’t mean that I do thoughtful things, like buy people gifts (although I do occasionally do thoughtful things). I mean that even if my choices do not make sense to others, I have probably thought long and hard about what I am doing and why I am doing it. I certainly make mistakes, but they are generally for good reasons… or at least what I believe to be good reasons at the time.

Amber S.: My ability to love and care. That instinct that even if I’ve never met someone, I can put my arm around them and give them comfort. Being able to give myself to someone else a million percent.

Rebekah: My ability to see/understand the underlying structure of things (the “forest for the trees” if you will

Emily L.: Tough one…I love that I love. I love my family, I love my friends and I love my God and nothing changes that for me.

Alex: I refuse to settle. I hate complacency and cannot stop learning or growing. I always want to learn life through someone else’s eyes.

Laura: (This feels weird to answer.) I love that I truly am trying to seek what God wants for my life. I know that He created me and that He knows how I best operate and that He has great things out there for me to do. I love that I have faith and confidence enough in His plan that I’m not worried about what the future will bring. Sometimes I’m a little sad at its prospects and sometimes I’m a little anxious about the very next task I have to tackle, but live or die, joy or pain, I’m all ready to serve for the good of His kingdom. He holds me and my family and although that doesn’t mean we’re safe, it means that whatever happens to us, He’ll use it for good.

Dana: That I can’t help but be vulnerable with those I love. This has been a long time coming, and this will continue to be even greater. Yes, it has led to hardship and heartache, but it is worth all the pain for the exquisite moments of spiritual connectedness and breakthrough–exposing vulnerabilities, knowing something greater is to be awakened behind these heavy curtains. Mmmm…so good.

Ashlee: Of all that I am? Is part of this blog going to be about how hard it is for women to love themselves? Because it is really, really hard. I probably gave a cop out answer with my hair in the previous question. I don’t say this for the whole, “Oh someone tell Ashlee how loved she is” type of response. Loving something about myself is different from actually writing it down and sharing with the internets what I love about myself. It makes me feel like I have to show it to everyone, or continue to be awesome in this way. I hate that I don’t even know what part of my childhood or media exposure made me feel like I need to be so ashamed, of everything, good or bad. After all that, I think I truly love how passionately I feel about everything. Sometimes it feels like a burden, but I feel so strongly about so many things. I think it helps me to love my students and my friends in a deep way.

Jessica: I think what I love most about myself now is how much I have been able to change. I didn’t want to get married, didn’t want kids, didn’t have any ambition for my future, and for a time was suicidal and cutting. To say the least I was pretty darn jacked up but somehow I got married to the guy of my dreams, graduated college with high honors, got a job right away, gave that job every ounce of life I had then was recognized for my achievements, carried and birthed twins, and now carrying I’m this new little one. And I know how to be genuinely happy. Thats a pretty big one for me.

Amber F.: That I am compassionate.

Erica: I love that I am a home to poetry, a safe place for words to hide and find the courage to step out the front door from time to time.

Brett: This is probably the hardest question because as women, I think we are or were taught not to love ourselves from a very young age (I hope this is changing), but I think that the thing I love the most about myself is my sense of humor, which can sometimes get me into trouble. But I still love it.

Allie: I try to see the best in people and give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m hopeful about people, sometimes to a fault.

Who are your top 3 lady heroes?

Maria: my mom, Kim Hatch, Beth Moore and and Esther from the Bible

Meg: 1. Artemisia Gentileschi. She was the first woman to be accepted into a well-known academy in Florence. Her work mostly consisted of paintings of women that were strong or suffering from myth or biblical origins. Also, she claimed rape and tried to prosecute her rapist … which was not really something women did then. Sadly it overshadowed her work, but now she is thought as one of the most progressive painters of her time.
2. JK Rowling. Duh!
3. would be … hrmm … I know it isn’t a woman, but can I pick the pope? I have been super intrigued by his courage to stand up against corruption. I really want to dine with him sometime

Kristen G.: My Aunt Kathy, and I am going to think of the other 2

Emily Y.: 1. Rosalind Franklin, lady scientist. She and her grad assistant took Photo 51, an X-ray crystallography image of DNA. This image led to the completion of Watson and Crick’s discovery of the 3D structure of DNA, which she never got credit for. She was unabashedly in love with science, to her extremely religious father’s dismay, and was authentically her when pressured by him to abandon her scientific pursuits
2. My sister. She is such a vision of endurance. Physically and emotionally. She runs more marathons than anyone I know, and she’s only 26. She has endured hateful language and actions against her person, and has become a bit more skeptical of humans because of it. But somehow, she retained an incredible ability to love people. I don’t think I could go through what she did and still have hope in people. Rachel doesn’t love a great number of people, but those she loves KNOW that she loves them. When she loves, she digs in deep and pours herself out for that person, emotionally, physically, financially. She loves with everything she’s got after being deeply scarred by this world. That is incredibly heroic to me.
3. My mom. May be cheesy, but she has faced more shit in her life than anyone I know and came out the other side as the most loving and self-sacrificial human I know. She would do absolutely anything for Rachel (my sister) and I. She teaches me how to love with actions. She actually helped me accomplish my dream of getting into and figuring out how to finance PA school (without her help, I would have to have used private loans for grad school, which would have given me so much more debt). Everyone should have someone like my mom in their corner, and I’m so glad and thankful that I do.

Kristen K.: JK (Rowling). Tina Fey. and Tina Belcher

Hayley: Gilda Radner/Madeline Kahn: For their comedic influence. If you listen to some of Gilda’s live work, she’s doing things women at the time just weren’t doing. (and ovarian cancer is pretty near to my heart) Neither one of them has ever been afraid to look disgusting. To do what’s needed for the joke, for the part. Which still exists as an issue. (See Inside Amy Schumer).
Tina Fey/Amy Poehler: First of all, I love a good duo. Gal pal or otherwise. But they’re work together and separately, has obviously and powerfully shaped so much of how women are perceived in comedy still. Writing and portraying characters who are both stereotypically feminine and still fantastically feminist, in the case of Leslie Knope. In the case of Liz Lemon, someone so apologetically herself. Then to see them interact, or to see other characters they write. The people they choose to work with.
Amy Schumer/Felicia Day: These aren’t even humans that interact, but if I keep wishing. Hecate help me, maybe it’ll happen. I don’t think I need to explain Amy Schumer. So I’ll be brief. Her brain is more profoundly and concisely doing the things my brain does. And Felicia Day (and many like her) are not just bringing light to female gamers and nerd culture, but making them a more relevant part.

Allison: My mother, my sister, and my grandmother.
My sister is an amazing human and mother. She is raising 3 kids and runs a daycare out of her home. She is incredibly giving and loving and makes people feel special. She gives her time without hesitation and lives a life that she is proud of.
My paternal grandmother has been my lady hero for a long time, since I was young. She was a dancer and has lived her life creatively and with passion and purpose. As a woman, she carved her own path and career in the arts and influenced many, many women and men with her talent, grace, confidence, and kindness. As a grandmother, she never judged me but always encouraged me and made sure to say and do things that cultivated my individuality. She has persevered through some very tough times, and still maintains her humor and poise. Certainly a very classy lady and one to look up to.

Danee: My mom
Frida Kahlo
Hillary Clinton
(And my answer would be the same if you removed the “lady” from the question.)

Rebekah: Dame Judi
Miranda Hart
Eddie Izzard (gender-ambiguous totally works, right?)

Emily L.: My momma, Corrie Ten Boom and my grandma Niccum

Alex: Kristin Beck- a retired Navy Seal, bronze star and Purple Heart recipient, Beck retired from the Seals to transition and live more authentically. Kristin is fighting daily to make our world more inclusive and just for all people.
Aung San Suu Kyi- the leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma. She rightfully won a democratic election but the military junta refused to relinquish power and attempted to assassinate her. When that didn’t work placed her under house arrest. She has been under house arrest on and off since 1990. She believes so much in democracy and Burma that she will not leave the country to visit her children (and grandchildren she has never had the opportunity to meet) for fear she will not be allowed back in to Burma as they have prevented her family from returning.
The 3rd was hard for me because there are so many women that are heroic in my eyes. My bias wanted to lean towards women in my direct life. Instead I will say: I just want to do a blanket trans women that have lost their lives or their agency over their body just because of their gender expression. And ALL women who have felt what it’s like to wake up in a cold sweat in a body that no longer belongs to you and continued to fight. All women who could fight no more. All women that claimed their right to fight for themselves. Women that spoke for others who hadn’t found the voice. Women that have found their voice and have never let it go. Women that haven’t found their voice yet but continue to push on. #yesallwomen

Laura: My mom, Nannette Knappenberger (my high school mentor and youth pastor from when I was growing up) and… I dunno. I guess that’s about it. I’m not one for making public figures into heroes because I don’t really know them. I appreciate their accomplishments but I balk at calling them heroes because I feel like there are heroes all around me- women who stand up to abusive boyfriends, or get married after being hurt in all kinds of ways, or go back to school after quitting, or stop using drugs if only for a day, or keep their babies when it’s the hardest decision ever, or work three jobs to try to bring their families out of debt, or lower their voice because they don’t want to lead the same kind of household they grew up in, or spend their days and nights cleaning and changing and talking to and loving the elderly for minimum wage, or ask crying people what’s wrong.

Dana: There are so many, but these are the first three that came to me.
Leslie Newton–she is daring. She walks with Jesus as only she can. She tries new things, new and daring adventures. She is the breath of beauty.
Hayley E. Johnson–No. This is not me putting jellybeans in your ear. You, Hayley, inspire me and pull things from me that I would just glance past. You take time. You show me how to savor. You are bold and loud, sweet and beautiful, broken and brave.
Rebekah Nimtz–the way she sees beauty is beautiful. Her mind’s eye is one that ponders, evaluates, takes it all in. She sees people. For who they are, even if they try to be something entirely different. She is a help. She loves differently than I have ever experienced. Like I said earlier, I know she was constructed from the Divine, specifically for friendship with me. I love her.

Ashlee: 1. Leslie Knope
2. Grandma Margie
3. Amy Poehler

Jessica: To be honest I’ve never had good relationships with women. Older, younger, friends my own age, it just hasn’t ever really worked out for me. I look up to my mom a lot, and have people that I respect, but I can’t say that I have lady heroes.

Amber F.: My mom, and professional mentors Janet Stephenson and Irene Walters.

Erica: My nena, grace and beauty all the time. Even among hardships
My mom, despite how hard she made my life, she’s a fucking fighter.
Jean Michelson, crazy and loving and crazy-loving

Brett: My mom, Harriet the Spy (yes, a fictional character), and Tina Fey.

Allie: Mary, the mother of Jesus
C.J. Cregg from The West Wing
Billie Jean King

Who is your greatest influence?

Maria: My Mom

Meg: My greatest influence was probably Connie, my godmother that just passed. She led life with acceptance in her heart and was the kind of person that you could ask any question and not be judged. Her view on the world was refreshing and I just loved it!
Kristen G.: My father, my husband, and my son – hmm – that is interesting

Emily Y.: My mom. For the above mentioned reasons and more.

Kristen K.: I really don’t think there is one.

Hayley: I think it’s my brother, whether he realizes it or not. I have always envied his talents, how stalwart he is. It’s stupid how talented he is. I didn’t just look up to my brother. I wanted to be just like him. I put my hands in every bit of art I could, just trying to find my place. I still haven’t found it.

Ashley L.: Currently, possibly the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Fiona Apple’s music. I realize that’s more of a what than a who. In terms of a who, I would say the people I interact with on a consistent basis are the people who truly shape me.

Allison: My mother is my greatest influence. She is many things to many people, but I am lucky enough to call her my mother. She too has persevered through some rough moments, especially early in her life and has emerged as the strongest person that I know. If I had to pick a flaw, I would say that she was too nice to me growing up and I had a hard time separating from her as I moved from adolescence and into adulthood. She has always been there for me. My mother gives selflessly all day long. She is incredibly kind, thoughtful, warm, and gracious. And she has an amazing laugh that could turn any cold heart. More recently, I have had the opportunity to work alongside her and learn some very important people skills from her, which I find invaluable. She has the ability to talk to people and listen to them in a way that makes them feel important and heard. People love her and want to be around her. That’s the kind of woman that I want to be.

Danee: My Grandpa Joe and Grandma Lucy. They were the kindest, most humble, hard-working, and generous people I know. I’m not saying I take after them, but I certainly try to.

Rebekah: My mom (cliche but totally true)

Emily L.: Christ-there can be no greater influence on my life.

Alex: As a child I would have said my grandmother. She was the one person outside of my parents that poured into me with all that she had. Since she wasn’t my parents her words spoke louder without the thought that they were obligatory or biased.
Today I say both my parents. They have shown me unconditional love. They have shown me that change is possible. They have shown me that dedication and integrity are different than obligation. They have asked the hard questions in their own lives. We have very different views of the world and don’t agree on everything, or in my dads case much really, however we sharpen each other and continue to learn from each other. The don’t always understand me or my life but they always respect me, encourage me, and love me.

Laura: I hope it’s Jesus. More realistically, though (as I don’t think Jesus would lead the life I’m leading, complete with house, car, and pet) probably my husband. On top of his creative genius, he is always striving to be patient and gentle and playful and humble- things that come hard to me. He is quick to apologize and slow to express anger. He makes it a point to invest time, energy, money, and love into those that others reject. He sees people as people and beloved creations of God, not as allies or resources. Having him speak into my life has pushed me and challenged me to be a kinder, gentler person and more humble follower of God.

Dana: Jesus. With all his multi-faceted presence–through friends, through moments, through music, through the Bible, through the trials and triumphs of everyday, through the questions that have no answers, through the bliss of moments undeserved. He spins me on my head. Can’t get enough.

Jessica: This sounds cheesy but my greatest influence is hands down my husband. If you haven’t caught the drift, investing in relationships of any kind hasn’t worked out for me. Alan showed me how that can be different and really helped me to soften my heart. I am who I am now because of him. He saw me at my worst and continues to love me on my very very very bad days where I revert back to my cynical “I hate everyone” self.
Amber F.: I would have said my parents when I was younger, and I guess that’s probably still true. Whoever my romantic partner is also has a big influence on me

Erica: I do not know. I can not think. This might be a better suited question to me by asking WHAT greatly influenced me. Because numerous people in different circumstances all played their part, you know?

Brett: Does beer count? (Just kidding!)

Allie: My husband Matt, and not just because we live together. He reminds me that it’s okay to be broken, that personal transformation is real, and that everybody matters. His encouragement to do things that scare me and to speak up for myself is a significant part of my journey toward wholeness.

Adventure in All Grown Up Now: Part I


Recently, I reread Tina Fey’s Bossypants during the day and Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes in the evening. Okay, truth is it was the first time I actually read Bossypants with my eyeballs. The first time I listened to it, read to me by Tina Fey. The point is they have a tendency to go hand-in-hand for me. Or maybe better said heart-and-head for me. Mostly, here’s why: On this reading of Bossypants something struck me. In the second chapter there’s a moment where Tina (we’re friends now. I can call her that), is talking about writing Mean Girls and attending one of Rosalind Wiseman’s workshops. A self-esteem and bullying workshop. She had everyone write down the moment they realized “they were a woman.” Tina (no, I’m not worthy) Fey talks about how so many of the women, most of the women, explained that their moment was largely when men started reacting to them. Indecently. In a real sexually harassy way.

It of course started my dumb brain churning. So I asked. I asked a lot of women to share their answer with me, so that I could, in turn, share that answer with you. I asked them more questions. I asked them 13 questions in total. (I think). I made myself answer them too. In retrospect, I’m a real monster. These were hard questions. Some people answered the questions and shared the answers with me, but asked that I not share them with you. I respect that. Some people answered every question. Some picked and chose. Some answered only the one question, which was all I truly insisted. If they chose to participate that they answer that one question. Like I said, they’re hard questions. And they’re personal questions. I still appreciate their willingness to share. Some people found it cathartic. I think some people are still afraid of me.

What that also means is that I didn’t think through how looooong this was going to be. I’m so sorry! I thought about doing a spotlight on each person. I thought about just posting it all at once. But I think it’s important. It’s important. They’re important. It’s important to me, at the very least, and I don’t want to take it lightly or gloss over anything. So I’m going to do this in a series. For me some of this was heartbreaking. Some of it was funny. All of it encouraged me. I hope it can offer you some of that as well.

Today, we’ll give you the introductions and the first few less terrifying questions, and we’ll work from there. I asked them all to include a photo and a 1-3 line bio, but I’m a dope so it was an afterthought, and I feel weird guessing at people’s lives or making them labor more. So I’m sorry to those of you who did labor over those (Meg). I believe I’ve kept everyone in the same order as well. So you can hopefully follow along. And thank you to everyone who I asked, who declined, who answered quietly. Thank you to Maria, Meg, Kristen G., Emily Y., Kristen K., Harmony, Ashley L., Courtney, Allison, Danee, Amber S., Rebekah, Emily L., Alex, Laura, Dana, Ashlee, Jessica, Amber F., Erica, Brett, and Allie. for sharing with all of us. (Apologies. Allie has just reminded me that I completely neglected her answers. Which was a stupid error. Please. Take the time to get to know her better as well!)


What is your favorite book of time, or did one ever change your life?

Maria: Tuesdays with Morrie was really impactful for me so much so that I still think about it years later. The idea of knowing you are going to die and walking through life with that perspective and what you leave behind.

Meg: Harry Potter all the way. I have read the series over and over again, which is something I have never done with any other book. It gives me an escape during times of stress. I even listen to the musical scores from the movies when I need to focus. :)

Kristen G.: The 21 Balloons – I don’t know why, just loved it and launched my love of reading. I also want to add The Red Tent to influential books

Emily Y.: I don’t know if I have a favorite book of all time, but Atonement by Ian McEwan was really formative for me in high school. It’s a book about how misinterpreting the intentions of others can spiral out of control to the point of unraveling the lives of those around you. It’s about how things aren’t always what they seem at first, and how speaking with authority on things you don’t understand is hugely detrimental. These are really important lessons to learn, and I’m so glad this book opened up my eyes to these concepts while I was still young.

Kristen K.: HP. All of them.
Changed my life because Dumbledore.

Hayley: I was not a big reader as a kid. I loved books. I loved the idea of books. But reading was a huge struggle for me. It really is today still, but I have a little bit more will to do it than I did when I was tiny. The Chronicles of Narnia are key to my heart. Still. I read them every year, and still find myself getting lost, getting angry, getting hurt, laughing. It’s weird how it still pulls at me.

Ashley L.: Anne of Green Gables. I have always very much admired Anne’s spunk. She did things her own way, and she didn’t apologize for being herself, even though she dreamed of more.

Danee: Unbearable Lightness of Being. It is romantic and philosophical and poetic and sad. It grapples with all the big questions in life and gave me a new understanding of the difference between empathy and sympathy and why the former is so rare.

Amber S.: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster has been a story I’ve enjoyed every time I’ve read it. I’ve actually been staring it down pretty frequently this summer. Maybe it’s time for another read.

Rebekah: So many books have changed my life and perspective. I’ll mention one: Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. This novel-about a human colony on a distant, inhabited planet-beautifully explores the struggle to understand that thinks in a completely alien way: the underlying structure of the way the alien cultures think and the reality of their lives was mind blowing for me. This translates into my everyday life all the time. I’ll be in the middle of a conversation with someone and I’ll realize that the structure of their thinking and their fundamental beliefs about how the world works are so different from mine that we’re probably not understanding each-other. It’s my ongoing goal to try and learn how to communicate with my fellow humans in these situations.

Emily L.: Might sound cliche, but I would be lying if I didn’t honestly say the Bible. It has truly transformed and continues to transform my life. I have many other books that have spoken to me, but the Bible is the only one that continues to challenge and change me.

Alex: Brave New World was the first book that stuck with me to the point of losing sleep. I call it my favorite, but I’m not sure if it is my favorite for reasons other people would choose a favorite. I’ll just go with it changed me

Laura: I, like many people, love Harry Potter, but the book I would say changed my life is a YA best-seller that I will leave unnamed. I was reading it one day and thought, “This is a best-seller? It’s not even that good! I could do this. I bet I could do this.” So I started writing a novel.

Dana: Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson
—>The Holy Spirit met me each time I opened this book, revealing truths to me about fear and freedom. It was filled with the echoes of “Amen”s straight down to the core of my soul.

Jessica: My favorite book as a kid was Island of the Blue Dolphins. After middle school I didn’t read much and haven’t really picked it back up. Nothing monumental

Amber F.: That’s a hard one- many books have influenced me but I’d say Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed has had the most impact in my adult life. It is a compilation of advice columns she wrote as Dear Sugar for The Rumpus

Erica: My favorite book changes all the damn time. Currently, it’s Sugar Run Road by Ed Ochester.

Brett: The first book that changed my life was Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. But books keep changing my life daily. Another big hitter was Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, and more recently, The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

Allie:   Predictable as this is, the Harry Potter books are my favorite. They teach me virtues that I consider necessary for living a good life. A book that has changed my life is Beloved by Toni Morrison. The intersection of injustice and motherhood has helped me see the world in a new way.  

Who was your childhood best friend?

Maria: Oh dear…Caitlin Haller (Whitman) and Hayley Johnson

Meg: Krista Seaman. She was my neighbor, but we became more like sisters. I am honored to stand up next to her as she marries her partner next summer. We’re still quite close

Kristen G.: I would say that I didn’t have a dear, best friend of my heart until college. But, to answer your question, Joanne Nirella.

Emily Y.: I’ve never really had just one best friend. That’s not really how I have ever functioned. But Rose Walters is probably the one I remember most from elementary school.

Kristen K.: My cousin Kate.

Hayley: Maria Bowersock(see above). The way friends are when you’re small. Sleepovers. Birthday parties. Lasting embarrassing pictures and fashion mistakes. Dreaming of the future. Giggling in matching Little Mermaid sleeping bags. We stayed close through high school. College happened, but we’re still friends. I think to a degree you never lose that person. Not really.

Ashley L.: I’ve never had a true “best friend.” I’ve made some close friends throughout the years, some of which I am still close with, but never a “bosom friend,” as Anne would say. Growing up as an only child, I learned to entertain myself, so I guess you could say that I was my own best friend growing up.

Courtney: My childhood best friend (or at least, the first best friend I can remember) was Alex Knupp. We met each other in elementary school and became fast friends. Going over to her house was a treat for me because she lived out in the country and had a barn that was filled with baby kitties. I remember one time I visited her house, I was able to hold a kitten that had been born that week. It was so tiny and small – I had never seen such a small, baby animal before then. The year after we became friends, she told me she was transferring to a new school and I was devastated. We promised we would write to each other and we did – we were pen pals for years both through snail mail and now email. I still have some of the letters she wrote me- you know, saying the normal “School is ok…” “I have a tennis championship coming up I am excited about!” “My sister is driving me crazy…!” Small little memories… Now, she pops up in my News Feed and I see her life unfold. She just had a baby a month or so ago. I should drop a line and say hello.

Allison: My best friend since I was 12 years old is Dawn. She was kind to me when a group of girls I was friends with suddenly decided that they didn’t want to hang out with me anymore. That’s middle school for ya. Dawn and I rode the same bus and she reached out to me to sit with her, knowing that I had been ostracized. We’ve been fast friends ever since! We egged on each other’s sense of humor and had a million inside jokes. It kept us going through the awfulness of middle school and high school. We had a running gag that we did for a few years where we faked each other’s secret admirers for Valentine’s Day. I wrote her a letter that detailed how I first fell in love with her. I saw her running to the bus and trip in fall in mud, and she laughed at herself and just got right back up and got on the bus (this is all a lie of course!). My friendship with Dawn taught me that it is okay to laugh at myself and have self-confidence. Even though we have moved apart and don’t talk as much, we still have a soulful connection that is quite strong.

Amber S.: There was a small group of us all through elementary school. Sara and I shared the same birthday (she’s an hour or two older). April always had awesome slumber parties. Kelsey’s parents were friends with mine.

Emily L.: I had many at various times, but the one I had for the longest amount of time was Jennifer Berry

Alex: My childhood best friend was Shawn Flynn; a person, not unlike myself that was perfectly happy not fitting into gender roles and beating the boys at their own games. Shawn and I are still friends to this day, though not as close as we once were.

Laura: My childhood best friend was Sarah- a girl who went along with all of my schemes and got everything I ever wanted. Seriously- cookies for lunch, a puppy, a horse, you name it.

Dana: Hands down, Rebekah Nimtz. So much can be said about this beautiful woman. But I will be brief, laying down the basics. I remember first seeing her on the slide at recess in third grade, a year before our divine friendship would begin. It’s probably the most beautiful love story of my life to date. :) I remember seeing her and knowing we were kindred spirits. How did I know? Pretty sure is was a Jesus thing. She became a part of my life at just the right time (my parent’s divorce). She brought a calm and peace that carried me through some very difficult, lonely times. Hmmm…she may not even know that. But I thank God for her every day. She was Jesus to me. And don’t even get me started on her family!

Ashlee: Stephanie Rutan was my childhood best friend. We bonded over big glasses and bead lizards. She and I remained friends all through high school. We moved through all the typical teenage phases together. We followed all the rules together, and then broke them all. We went through our first boyfriends and break ups. We became distant throughout college, with only a few visits here and there. I am so glad that after college she and I reconnected. We were able to make up for lost time so quickly. There is something so beautiful about being known and deeply loved by someone who knew and loved you in middle school. Becoming distant during such formative college years has made this new phase of our friendship such a beautiful thing.

Jessica: I had a few good friends growing up but they all ended badly so my looking back version of the relationship is skewed. I don’t have any “life long” friends.

Amber F.: Elizabeth

Erica: Heather Baldridge

Brett: I don’t have just one best friend from childhood. I made friends easily as a kid and had many of them. My mom used to joke that I could make a friend in the bathroom. One time, I did.

Allie: Kristen Koenig (her maiden name) and I became friends in third grade, based mostly on the fact that we loved Point of Grace and were over-achievers and teachers’ pets. Apparently that was enough, because we stuck it out through middle school, high school, and were in each other’s weddings. 

When you were small what did you want to be?

Maria: A teacher

Meg: I wanted to be a lot of things, but I think I wanted to be a teacher the most. Some of the closest relationships I have had in life have been with educators. One of my college professors actually married my husband and I. I guess from an early age I felt like if I could be that difference for one student, I will have honored my previous teachers. Does that make sense?

Kristen G.: Teacher. But that’s all I knew :)

Emily Y.: A Pediatrician.

Kristen K.: At age 7 I decided to be an actor because I was shy in real life, but not shy on stage. This is still true.

Hayley: A mermaid.
Reality set in eventually. Sort of. Explorer, teacher, abandoned in the jungle, a fairy, a lost boy, a newsboy. Then I learned about acting.

Ashley L.: I had all the usual little girl dreams, including a figure skater, ballerina, actress, and singer, but I finally settled down and told my parents that I just wanted to be a professional. It didn’t matter what occupation it was, as long as I was a professional. For awhile in elementary school, there was a waitress at Pizza Hut that I really liked, so I wanted to be a professional pizza waitress.

Allison: When I was a kid I wanted to be one of three things: A ballet dancer, a singer, or a counselor. I have since abandoned the first two dreams, but it is quite possible I will become a therapist one day. I plan to apply to a Social Work grad program next fall.

Danee: A librarian. I loved the idea of being surrounded by books and I thought librarians must get to read all day. Instead, I became a perpetual student, and haven’t had nearly as much time to read for fun as I thought that would afford me.

Amber S.: A meteorologist. Then an accountant. What a weird kid.

Rebekah: A missionary and a scientist.

Emily L.: Many things-a teacher, waitress, mom, brain surgeon.

Alex: Happy. Being a queer kid growing up in the Bible Belt of Missouri during the 90s wasn’t fun. This isn’t to say I had a horrible life. It just means I was aware before I could articulate the details that I was different. I grew up watching my brother be called a ‘fag’ for the smallest things that had nothing to do with his orientation. If my straight brother was attacked I was certain this was what would happen to me as a person that was different. I knew that my lack of heteronormative behavior resigned me to suffer at the hands of others if I was authentic. Thankfully the world is changing and my parents did/do a great job of supporting me and attempting to understand.

Laura: A boy. Or a dog. Or (more realistically) a veterinarian.

Dana: I desired to be an artist of every possible facet. It’s the first thing I can recall. I think the artisan in me has flourished each day ever since.

Ashlee: I can’t remember wanting to be anything other than a teacher. I really wanted to be a truck driver, but my parents quickly discouraged that dream!

Jessica: When I was small I wanted to be an archeologist.

Amber F.: A teacher

Erica: A police officer. They rescued me many times from some serious home situations. I respected them, a lot.

Brett: I always wanted to be an author. Before that, I wanted to be a bird.

Allie: My young career ambitions stemmed from my involvement in Science Olympiad (yes, big nerd). In middle school I wanted to be an astronomer, but I often got the terminology mixed up and would say astrologer. Then I wanted to get into forensic chemistry. 
If you could have one super power, what would you want?

Maria: To fly!

Meg: FLIGHT! I would love to fly. I often dream that I can :)

Kristen G.: To be “ready” in the morning with the snap of my fingers. Showered, hair done, etc

Emily Y.: MEAT VISION. No, just kidding. That’s actually kind of gross. This question is hard, because I want to say something like invisibility or flying or reading minds, but if I was a witch in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter world, I could do all these things if I worked hard enough or studied enough, probably.
I think I would like my super power would be to be Hermione Granger.

Kristen K.: Pee money. The more water I drink the more money I have.

Hayley: Adoptive muscle memory. That’s the ability do a thing after you’ve seen someone do a thing.

Ashley L.: If I could have any superpower, I would want the ability to transport myself anywhere with the flick of a finger.

Danee: To control my dreams. I love being able to see and speak to my deceased relatives in my dreams. It always feels so real and so comforting. I wish I could visit them every night!

Amber S: Teleportation, for sure, if that’s a super power. The ability to instantly be in the middle of a quiet forest, or in a busy city, or at that cafe for the perfect cup of coffee.

Rebekah: Long-distance teleportation

Emily L.: Difficult question because I feel like many super powers aren’t applicable in every day life(I’m practical like that), but I guess the power to transport anywhere quickly would be most convenient

Alex: Does being Sylar count as one or is that cheating? Too bad.

Laura: Teleportation. Seriously. Could you imagine? “I’m spending the afternoon in Italy…”  :)

Dana: Am I allowed to say that I don’t think I’d want one? After careful consideration, I think this would probably be best. I first thought I’d love the power of healing at my fingertips. But then, I’m not God. And the weight of that kind of responsibility–I don’t know if I could rule that gift wisely. I think the humility of such a power would wear off, and my ego would get in the way. So…
Maybe flight. I’d like to fly.

Ashlee: Being able to talk to and understand animals. God, I want to know what Izzo is thinking.

Jessica: If i had a super power I would want to know what other people are really thinking.

Amber F.: Invisibility

Erica: The power to make anyone feel better

Brett: The power of invisibility. I know I would get into lots of trouble though.

Allie:  It’s a toss up between time travel and teleportation. 

What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

Maria: walk in the boys locker room while they were all naked (total accident of course!) ha but seriously, going to my parents funeral and walking in the hospital to see my brother in a coma after a plane crash. Never been so scared in my life.

Meg: This last year, I watched my godmother be taken off life support. I knew it was the right thing to do, and she would have been glad to know she was surrounded by those who loved her, but it was maybe the scariest moment of my life. I’m still trying to pinpoint how life exists without her.

Kristen G.: I don’t know. Can’t think of a thing. What does that mean?

Emily Y.: Interviews for PA school. You put everything about yourself that “matters” on an application. They see everything you have worked so hard for your whole life. GPA, GRE scores, a personal essay about what matters to you. Then you go in and they evaluate you. On paper, by how you look, by how you speak, byy what you say. And the whole time you are just hoping and praying that the picture they get of you is how you actually are…but you know it won’t be, because that’s not possible. You spend a TON of money on this process. And then you wait and wait and wait and hope someone likes you enough to invite you to go to school to live out your dream. SO MUCH is riding on that process. I mean, I’m good at interviews, and I really don’t mind doing them. I do well in them. My interviews for PA school were no different. But when I stopped to think about the weight of each one, I was totally overwhelmed. I was thinking, “If you screw this up, you have to pick a different dream.” That’s scary.

Kristen K.: Everything.

Hayley: Tell people in my life that I love and need the truth about the things that have happened to me. Not because I believed they wouldn’t love me, but because it’s so scary to say out loud. Still is. Reactions are scary.

Ashley L.: Whenever I have to drive at night while it’s pouring down rain, it’s the scariest thing ever. I have literally cried and prayed, “Jesus, take the wheel” during a bad weather driving experience. Other than that, I would say cutting my long hair into a pixie cut back in 2011. I was used to having my hair to hide behind, so that was scary. Plus, I was worried that I would look like a little boy.

Courtney: Went to the movie theatre to see Wolfman. Duh

Allison: This is a tough question for me. I have always had great difficulty with anxiety and fear. Growing up and through my early twenties even, there were many scenarios that seemed like they were the scariest thing I have ever done. I let fear and anxiety rule my life. In the last 10 years or so, I have been working harder than ever to face my fears and do the things that I am scared of. When I was living in Chicago, I worked at a job that terrified and tortured me on a psychological level for longer than I probably should have. I stayed because I was working with a therapist who encouraged me to push through and because I couldn’t find another job! But I survived and it’s over. I look back on that and I think “if I can do that, I can do anything.”

Danee: I once decided to move to Muncie, Indiana for grad school and within one week, I packed all my belongings in my Toyota Tercel and drove to Indiana with no idea what to expect and no place to live. It was terrifying, and ultimately that decision changed the course of my life in really incredible ways. The most incredible of which was leading me to my partner and my other half.

Amber S.: Anything that involves standing up for myself is absolutely petrifying to me. There have been quite a few moments of that recently that have left me in a constant state of stressful uncertainty.

Rebekah: Stand up for myself during my divorce.

Emily L.: I do tend to shy away from scary things the older I get, but the most recent thing I can think of that I willingly did that was scary was give birth naturally to my children.

Alex: I think the scariest thing for me was being authentic. I spent years lying about the most basic things and having to construct a world where my life made sense in order to survive. There are many people in real physical danger due to their orientation and gender identity on a daily basis but mine was far less physical danger and more the fear of ultimate rejection and disappointing those I loved. Even with people I knew had accepted other LGBT people I always felt I was going to be the exception to their acceptance. Living honestly is hard, especially when the world wants to silence your voice.

Laura: Have a baby.

Dana: Speak my mind. Open my heart. To ones who were entirely capable of destroying both. But in that, there came a great freedom. It continues to make me brave each day. And bold.

Jessica: The scariest thing I’ve ever done was quitting my teaching job when I had no plan. I just knew that I needed to do something different to keep my sanity so I just did it.

Amber F.: Hmm, another hard one. I play it pretty safe, but I’d say getting married and then 15 years later getting divorced.

Erica: Applying for grad school. And actually GOING to grad school.

Brett: I fell off a cliff when I was 18.

Allie: Parenting has been the scariest long-term thing, but I didn’t know it would be this scary when I started. Besides that, I did a six-month youth ministry internship that terrified me. I woke up almost every day scared of what I had to do, even though it was pretty normal stuff for someone in that field. Walking up to high school students I didn’t know during their lunch hour and starting a conversation, learning a culture I was unfamiliar with, and believing I had something to offer on a team of people I respected were just a few of the things that scared me. I left that time of my life feeling like I could do anything because I had to face small but real fears every day. I don’t often feel that confident anymore, and I also think I haven’t pushed myself to risk in that way in a long time. I’m sure there’s a connection. 
What, without fail, makes you cry?

Maria: Wanting to walk in my parents home again and all to feel “normal”

Meg: When people do genuine good deeds. It chokes me up every time and reminds me that humanity still exists.

Kristen G.: Children being hurt – abused – neglected

Emily Y.: Seeing videos of people suffer.

Kristen K.: Little boys who resemble the blonde haired, blue sunken eyed little brother of mine.

Hayley: Strong sibling relationships. In real life. In media. When sisters can’t survive without each other. When one sibling calls another as everything falls apart or comes together. Sobfest.
Xander saving Willow.
Hedwig’s death.

Ashley L.: The song “It is well with my soul.” Listening to it is hard enough, and I can’t sing it all the way through without getting visibly choked up and teary.
So I just remembered another thing that always makes me emotional and choked up…and this one is dumb. The Michael Jackson song from Free Willy. So embarrassing.

Danee: Thinking about all the things my dad has missed out on since he died. I’d say more, but I don’t have any tissues around right now.

Amber S.: I’m not sure if there’s anything that makes me cry every time, but I’d say the one thing I cry about most often is being limited/constricted by life in the city. I grew up spending any day above 50 outside in gardens and barns and my body yearns for that like I never imagined possible.

Rebekah: George Kirk in the opening sequence of the Star Trek reboot

Emily L.: I’m not sure there is an automated cry with me. I tend to be all over the place. Usually something with children growing up or not getting the chance to grow up makes me teary eyed or more recently in my pregnancy induced, hormonal state, I almost always cry during worship on Sunday morning.

Alex: Tons. Some less heavy than others.
-Mufasa dying. Well Simba crying and cuddling after.
-Dawson’s Creek, when Mitch dies or Jen is leaving the video message.
-Grace. From Christ or even just a human whom I have failed in some way reaching out despite the pain to reconcile.
-The mere thought of living a day on this earth without any one of three people. Like panic attack crying if I genuinely think about it. Hopefully we all die in a really fast and easy way together.
-The act of someone harming anyone else. Emotional, physically, sexually, financially, etc. it breaks my heart to watch others have their light stolen.

Laura: Anything to do with military. Particularly all those videos of kids crying and pets rejoicing when their parents come home from deployment. I have no idea why- I never had any personal experience with this. But I cry every single time. Veterans in a parade, my grandpa’s WWII photo album, you name it, I cry at it. And I’m not really a crier.

Dana: Oh my.
Just so many things.
-watching a father love his daughter
-when my soul is beyond satiated in the presence of my Holy Father
-sweet, unexpected reunions; not even my personal ones. If every day was like the first five minutes of Love Actually? My eyes would be swollen with tears.
-seeing a strong man cry
-AND…the occasional love song that says all the right things. Like–right now–the song “Marry Me” by Train?

Ashlee: Any time they move that bus on Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Because I am approaching the end of my twenties, I cry when I work through family of origin issues.

Jessica: The special occasion cards/notes my husband writes always always make me cry

Amber F.: Thinking of my Papa (my mother’s father). He was my “person” and he died 5 years ago.

Erica: Thinking about my childhood dog, Heidi. She changed me.

Brett: My go-to TV shows. The ones that allow me to fall in love with the characters and feel close to them: The West Wing, Californication, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, I’ll stop now so you’re not reading for 2 months.

Allie:  Women and men, boys and girls knowing themselves and finding freedom from gender stereotypes. I recently sobbed while watching the commercial about what it means to run and throw “like a girl.”