Adventure in Breaking/Mending

Eight weeks ago something happened. Six weeks ago something worse happened. One week ago more brush was shoved on the fire.

It’s not a new topic for me, especially in the last couple of years, but try as I might, try as others might, I won’t stop talking about it.

Eight weeks ago, between eating lunch and picking up a comic to take to his next city, I stopped at the home of a person I know. Someone I had spoken with regularly. Someone I considered a friend. In the course of less than half an hour, everything changed.

I was able to take myself out of the situation before it became desperate. But “no” wasn’t a viable answer. “This isn’t why I came over,” was also unaccepted. “I don’t want to redo my makeup” was a good reason. “I’m on my period” granted me enough space to get up and leave, but not enough space to have control to stop things.

I picked up the comic and went about my weekend.

Six weeks ago, I was feeling good. I met up with someone and lost complete control of the situation. I’ll continue to spare you details. I got home in the middle of the night, uncontrollably sobbing. I knew the right things to do. I knew to call the police. I knew not to shower. I knew those are the things you’re supposed to do. Another thing you should do, if you’re able, is take care of yourself, whatever that looks like. So I did. I showered. I took my clothes off. In that order.

I did something I haven’t done before though. I reached out to people immediately. Everyone was asleep, but in the morning so many people were affirming. So many people kept my mind safe. My dear friend, who is far away, encouraged me to go to the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. My dear friend, who is down the street, hugged me while I sobbed on him.

I called the Sexual Assault Treatment Center, because I didn’t know how it worked. She said to come in immediately. I asked, “Can I wait an hour? I have a job interview in 15 minutes.” She called me a toughie.

Throughout an hour-long job interview, I held it together. I needed this job. She asked how I handle stressful situations. I refrained from saying, “I haven’t cried once or given pause that something is wrong in this interview, have I?”

My dear friend, who hurried back from out of town, met me at the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. I met with a forensic nurse, a police detective, and a woman from victims assistance. I had a full exam done. I only cried once. She was kind. She was patient. She took my time, not hers. Some times when we interact with people who need kindness and patience, we offer them patience on our own time. She did not do this. She gave me time to breathe. She waited until I said okay. I know it’s her job to act this kindly with victims. We could all stand to work this kindly with everyone.

My dear friend waited in the lobby for two hours. Her phone died. She read every pamphlet. She waited on my time. She was kind. She is kind.

Another friend far away shared my assailants picture. He told the story. He checked with me and then told anyone who would listen. Profiles were removed. People were talking, in the best ways. He shared the truth, not the easy parts.

The next day I had a gynecological exam to get checked for my tumorous cysts. The nurse was kind. She talked to me about her own trial. The RN was not kind. She was cold and shaming. I scheduled another appointment for an ultrasound, because the RN didn’t believe me. It was five weeks later.

I stayed open. I kept talking. I asked for help, for company. I was granted this more times than I can explain. Food was brought to my home. Kindness after kindness.

Two weeks later I had a second interview for the same job. I hadn’t slept in four days. I was certain I wouldn’t get it. It was a terrible interview. I was exhausted. I was beaten. I was destroyed.

The next day I received a call from my doctor’s office. It wasn’t just my fears. Other unwanted news came. Nothing uncommon, just unpleasant.

Three weeks went by, and it became a problem for some people. This made me stronger. My survival and my means of survival were problematic for some people. I vowed to become immortal out of spite.

At four weeks, I wanted nothing, but hugs. I also wanted to never be touched. I was watching as people I knew were having pretty serious allegations brought up against them. I was watching and being pulled in. People were contacting me, as if I’m an authority on consequences. The only consequences I understand are my own, the ones I face every day. I watched possible (albeit likely) assailants keep friends, which is a type of affirmation of those actions. While I was losing people for being dramatic, for causing problems.

Do you know why someone talking about rape seems dramatic? I do. Because trauma is dramatic. Because tragedy is drama. Because truth is dramatic.

This only made me louder.
“I wish I could talk my way out of being raped the way rapists talk their way out of trouble.”
“So we’re clear. A rapist hears the word ‘no’ and expects that to mean ‘yes.’ But when accused the rapist is like ‘I didn’t rape her.’ Apparently only his ‘no’ means ‘no.'”

I started to feel more isolated. It was silly. Weeks prior I was surrounded, literally and figuratively. Friends from all over were reaching out to me. Nonetheless, I began to fear I had worn out my welcome on asking for favors. I’m not quick to ask for help, but this time as a means of survival I knew I needed to. Coming up the stairs at home and collapsing to my knees sobbing, I knew I needed help. I had reached out to someone I was told was a therapist. They proved to be a crazy person that would only escalate my issues.

I felt alone. I was not alone. I felt alone. I felt empty. I felt lost. I felt alone.

Loud noises began to affect me. My parents’ dogs barking made me terrified and panicked. Thunder made me panicked. A dear friend brought me earplugs and other kindnesses.

At a show, I wore my “please-don’t-rape-me” jeans that I bought eight weeks ago. I told my friends not to touch me and to make sure no one else did. I did not keep it together. I left in the middle of the show. Broken. I had stayed because I couldn’t be alone, but the music was loud, the voices were loud.

Week five I was fine again. The dogs and I were fine. I could cuddle my dog again.

Creative 30 for 30 started again, and I could force myself to put some of the things in my head to good use. I started baking again. I didn’t start passively baking. I have no one to give baked things to. I started baking to heal. I started baking more than just that one cupcake Kristen Wiig made for herself in Bridesmaids. I started making full pies. I made pies for healing. I recorded recipes. I made the same pie twice. I improved on pie. I improved on pie to improve myself. I taught myself new skills to show myself I can do more. I watched Moana eight times.

I went to my ultrasound. The tech was kind. The tech took my time. She made six marks on the image of my single ovary. She paused. She asked if I wanted children. I turned my face as tears grew in my eyes. I’ve been in pain again for a couple of months. When I finally saw my doctor she explained I had several cysts in my ovary. They ranged in size from 0.5 cm to 1.3 cm. She explained that they would likely dissipate. She explained that in my case they needed to be monitored closely because of my history. She said it was Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It explained so much about my last year. It explained so much. It still scared me so much. It still does. Of course, it does.

I also made it one whole year writing affirmations. It’s not been a full year since I moved them to this platform, but I’d brought myself a full year on the strength of my own mind. I’ve continued. I will continue.

At five weeks I also found out I got that new job. I found out I’d be working in an incredibly life-giving, safe, and affirming space. I could walk to work again. I could pay my bills again. I could be motivated to fight PCOS simply by doing my daily work.

Six weeks/eight weeks later I started my new job. I love my new job. I’ve been doing research on diet options to make PCOS more manageable. I’ve continued to reach out to people. I’ve broken my own heart this week. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve cried on the phone with someone I haven’t heard from since I told them what happened because I felt abandoned. This crying went unnoticed.

In eight weeks my nightmares have come back. In eight weeks several people have taken themselves out of my life because I’ve been too much. In eight weeks I’ve cycled through peace and pain. In eight weeks I’ve screamed and cried. I’ve gone silent. I’ve pushed myself. I’ve been pushed. I’m not healed. I’m not cured. I am still moving. I am healing. I am mending. Pieces of me are coming back together. (please, ignore that Ashley Simpson reference. I can’t take it out now, but I don’t want it there either).

Some times for no provoked reason, I still fill with all manner of sadness and pain. It doesn’t take new provocation. There’s a lasting provocation lodged inside of me. A provocation I can only hope to learn to cope with. It will live beside me. I will be bigger than it. Some days, I’ll get to a place where I will feed it too much. It must be fed. If it’s starved it will get loud and angry. It must be fed and acknowledged. It is my constant companion. It is my monster. It is not me.

Thank you to everyone who has helped carry me over the last two months and over the last 30 years.

18194656_754843232489_7655609146231763439_n18882314_760993287729_9090262083949740418_n18556369_757521699819_1661612691166103137_n18341739_756546788549_8754142879207522721_n18839257_760026026129_8563083506915311803_n18838882_760913757109_8701465486735485896_n18813969_761257777689_2097823016162230415_n

18740791_759968636139_4193555842211305643_n18922110_761136460809_5115453934730691338_n18920400_761634797139_5041724097333191986_n

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 Improper Liasisons with Dr. Mary Ruthi

Ah, I think that the idea of being happy and emotionally close to another person through marriage is indeed a relatively recent idea.  A century ago, for instance, women were thought to be too unintelligent to share meaningful conversations with their husbands, and even sex was seem as primarily for reproduction and not as an emotional bonding experience.  The notion that marriage is a partnership of equals is a fairly new idea.  And, it probably does have a lot to do with women’s lib, which advocated the rather novel idea that women were as intelligent and competent as men.  

Of course, the desire for satisfaction in all areas of our lives is far more prominent than it used to be.  We aren’t content with having jobs to support ourselves; we must have meaningful jobs that pay well and don’t demand too much of us.  We aren’t content to attend church; we must be entertained and impressed by the service and by the pastor(s).  We aren’t content to have vacation time; we must go to more exotic locations and do more daring feats.  Once we have met our basic physical needs, we start going after psychological needs (wants??).

Women’s lib has changed over the past couple of decades, or so it seems to me.  In the 1960s and 1970s, women’s lib was concerned with having women receive equal pay for equal work and with securing reasonably equal opportunities for women in employment, education, etc.  Having largely achieved those goals, the women’s movement looked around for other dragons to slay and then started tilting into a bit of insanity (claiming that it was sexist to have mother/daughter banquets instead of parent/child banquets, arguing that all sex is actually rape because of patriarchy, etc.).   

Mary Ruthi, Ph.D.

Gosh, we’re so extreme.
 
See, I can see myself getting being the original notions of women’s lib. Though if someone let me stay home all day and bake and cook I’d be thrilled. I don’t know where this lust for more than we need comes from. Granted, I’m more than guilty of it myself. I have to wonder if the momentum behind it builds as things around us quicken. With the ever increasing immediacy of technology do we find that we should also be obtaining other things more quickly and more extravagantly? And is this “need” for better and better things a first world problem? I don’t really see how it could be anything, but a first world problem. It still begged to be asked.
 
There’s definitely a bleakness to this conversation, but when have we ever shied away from the truth at the risk of a lack of sunshine and rainbows? It’s raised a question with L though, which is, “Is it possible to find a godly man anymore? One that hasn’t had sex?” I happen to know the answer to be yes, but to find one that isn’t an asshat too, now that’s the real trick.
 
She finds herself daunted by the idea that such a man doesn’t exist. But I think that’s a fallacy of our generation. That 1) we think it’s something we deserve and 2) if we look hard enough we’ll find exactly what we’re looking for. Which I don’t think is ever the case. I feel like we’re all too broken to ever be exactly anything to anyone. But I feel like the women, or in some cases, girls of my generation are searching for this “ideal man.” Like life is a scavenger hunt and the perfect husband or even a husband is the prize. But there’s also this wait for him mentality. That if I sit on my couch long enough he’ll just show up at my door. Which, for me, and I think everyone, but for me especially, that’d be a dumb way to look at things. I live in a gated community! It’s dangerous. And it’s I think very telling of us as women, now. That we believe that what we want will just come to us if we wait around long enough. Not that it won’t, but I’m a pretty big proponent of living life and letting things happen.
 
Meanwhile, it poses another interesting question. How did you and the farmer come to meet?
 
Hayley

Hayley,

To me, the heart of feminism is about freedom of choice.  If a woman (or a man) wants to be a full-time homemaker/child care provider, I think that’s fine.  But, if a woman (or a man) wants to work outside of the home (full time or part time), I think that’s fine also.  I don’t like to see people constrained by gender roles.  Fortunately, there are far fewer constraints than there used to be when I was your age. Actually, in some ways, I believe that women have more freedom than men do in this area.  A married woman with small children can stay home full time, work full time, or work part time.  There’s a lot of pressure on married men to work full time, regardless of what they want to do.  And, the cost of child care (and other expenses associated with having both parents employed) is greater than the additional income produced by the spouse with the lowest salary (usually the woman, but not always).  

Certainly there are men who haven’t indulged in premarital sex, but, as you suggested, some of those men may not be particularly attractive and charming.  And, again, the double standard rears its ugly head.  Men tend to want to marry women who are virgins, but many of those men have conducted a number of improper liaisons themselves.  Grrrr!  

Sitting around waiting for the knight to come riding up to your castle on a white horse probably isn’t going to work for most women.  I think you are right that you have to live life and enjoy it as it happens.  If you meet a great guy and end up married to him, that’s wonderful.  But, if you don’t ever get married, that doesn’t mean that your life will be miserable and devoid of meaning.  Marrying a jerk is far worse than being single. However, the more you are involved in your community, church, volunteer organizations, etc., the more likely you are to meet potential husband candidates.  Most of them will end up being jerks, but it only takes one good guy to fill the husband role! 

I picked up the farmer in the Chicago airport.  He had been in California visiting his sister, and I had been in Kansas visiting my family there.  The flight from Chicago to Fort Wayne was cancelled because of fog, so the airline chartered a bus (something that would never happen today!) and hauled us to Fort Wayne.  The farmer was in the line ahead of me as we waited for the bus to arrive, and we just started talking.  He seemed nice, so when we got back to Fort Wayne, I agreed to his offer to come to Huntington to visit me the next weekend.  And, the rest is history (although it did take him a decade to get around to deciding that getting married might be an okay idea).  He doesn’t like to rush into things!  Eeeek! 

Mary Ruthi, Ph.D.

Adventure in the end and the next step

I’m currently in my next project. I’ve challenged myself to 30 days of 30 honest letters. I’m writing a letter a day for 30 days. 30 letters to people I feel I must be honest with about all sorts of things.

With that here they are, the last ones. Enjoy.

981) If you can’t spell it, don’t use it until you can.
982) A soda between friends is as important as any other beverage.
983) Sit in the line as long as you must.
984) Do not love for your sake.
985) Do not comfort people through touch simply because you do not know what else to do.
986) Make sure the love you give to someone in pain has nothing to do with you.
987) Work ahead.
988) Never let people go without understanding how much you love them.
989) Emotions are important.
990) Do not use them to manipulate your circumstances.
991) If you come to a word you don’t know the meaning of, stop and look it up.
992) There is always an opportunity to be honest. Take it.
993) Make sacrifices. For no other reason than anyone but yourself.
994) Give.
995) It’s okay to come back.
996) Do not let your mouth do all of the talking.
997) Some of your most challenging teachers can become your dearest friends.
998) Love the brotherhood.
999) Fear God.
1000) Honor the king.
1001) LIVE

An Adventure In Not Backing Down Or Finding My Passion

A few years back a bunch of us gave up bullshit for Lent. Not just lying. Bullshit. No skirting around the truth. No lies by omission. Straight talking. That’s what we wanted. It didn’t last. Because people made mistakes and didn’t want to face each other. Life.

I’m trying it again. Just on my own. Dealing with myself. I’m done with people who can’t be real. I’m not cutting them out of my life, but I’m cutting them from my trust. I’m done giving my heart to people who don’t care. I adore straight talk. People sitting at a table. Talking. About hard stuff. How much life sucks. How hard it is to be alone. My mom asking me if something she’s wearing looks silly. Yes. It does. She actually appreciates it. Honesty goes a lot further than people give it cliched credit for.

But it brings me to a new problem. I’ve spent so much time lying to myself that I’ve  become lost. I do not know what my passion is. I don’t know what pushes me.  Mom asked me about a week ago what I’m passionate about and all I could honestly offer her was a shrug. I don’t know.

We were discussing it yesterday though and I realized that if I lived in a different time I would be working in service. Not like a sales clerk. I would be working in some house somewhere as the coal maiden or the dairy maiden or the house maid. My great grandfather was a chauffer. This is my fate. And I’m okay with that. Well, I would be, if such occupations still existed. Really. I mean it’s not like I can go work for the Vanderbilts. Ya know? So what is it?

I’d make a damn fine production assistant. In fact, I do, but you have to be connected to the right people to acquire such a position. And it’s a bottom of the ladder job, intended for growth. But I just want that job or someone’s personal assistant. I love taking people’s shit and being helpful and just being useful with really no recognition. It’s a weird thing to want, but that’s what I want.

I do love film and television. I’m damn good at working on set. I’m just not connected because I live in Indiana and majored in English. Idiot.

Every day.