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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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

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Adventure in All Grown Up Now: Part I

Bossypants

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!)

Ready?!

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
-forgiveness
-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.”

Adventure in Strength; or Ending the Competition

“Strong is the new pretty.” May that please, please, please be true. Strength, like beauty, comes in so many different forms.

I grew up in an environment that fostered the idea that all women were in constant competition with each other. Not because someone ever told me; it was just, and somehow still is, this bizarre understood. Like the “you” in an imperative. The problem with that is we’re all on the same team. Not just as women, but as humans. It’s time we stop working against each other. It’s time we stop looking at each other with judgmental and competitive eyes.

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I’ve spent so much of my life feeling inadequate because I’ve lived a comparative life. It’s driven me to unhealthy places. It’s driven us all to such scary and gross places. If it hasn’t done it to you, if you’ve managed to avoid the terrible concept of a comparative and competitive life, I commend you. It is one of my greatest ambitions to move so far from it that I can no longer recognize it. When I feel threatened or challenged by another woman, I want to stop and take stock. I want to say “this woman is so funny. She challenges me to be funnier. Not to be better than her. To be better than I was.” “This woman is so kind-hearted. She challenges me to love with the same eyes.”

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“Girls get competitive, as though there’s only one spot in the world for everything — but that’s not true. We need to stick together and see there’s more to life than pleasing men. It’s important not to cut yourself off from female friendships. I think sometimes girls get scared of other girls, but you need each other.” -Zooey Deschanel

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What follows will be mostly photos of women I know. Women I barely know. Women I have been living my life with for a decade. For decades. For a year. Women who know my soul. Women who know my name. I asked all of them in different ways and for different reasons. What’s interesting about asking women to send me a picture of them that makes them feel strong, is how many of them said, “I don’t feel strong” or “I’m not strong, but I guess this will do the job.” But every single one of them has built into me so much strength. They’ve shown me strength. They’ve lived strength. They’ve survived. They’ve fought. They fight. They fight. They push me to be stronger. Not in competition. My only competition is me. You’re only competition is you.

2015052595184714Jess. Jess wanted to make sure the photo she gave me included the baby girl growing inside of her. With good reason. She helps raise two other kids, and I’ve watched her constant support. Constant quiet support. That’s what amazes me about Jess. She has so much to say, but only takes the time to do it when she knows it won’t fall on deaf ears. The quietness of Jess is deafening. Don’t let it deceive you. She’s a wonder.

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This is Amy and her fourth child, Dixie. Honestly, I hardly know Amy, but what I know is that she is strong. Her grandmother and mine are the best of friends. It seems only fitting our paths have crossed. When I asked Amy for a photo she told me, “This was after Dixie. So, after my 4th, med free labor. Her’s was definitely the hardest labor too. But I still didn’t give up, and was able to make it through without an epidural.” What I know of Amy is that she has endured so much heartache, and some heartaches never leave us, but she loves and lives still.

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This is Rebekah. I met Bekah in college. I wish so much that I’d gotten to know her better when we were at school together, but what Bekah showed me, and continues to show me from a distance, is that going after what you want, working towards your goals is beautiful. Bekah’s determination is a strength I want to strive for. ” Here I am in my power-pinup gold audition dress. Primped and pumped up to give a great audition. I can do no wrong!”

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This babe is Amber. My Bler. Amber lives in New York, and I never see her. I haven’t seen her for four years. We’re bad at contacting each other, but things never change. From the moment I met Amber she pushed me to stop caring what other people wanted from me, except her. But to sincerely do what I wanted. To do what you want. Be yourself. Be free. Sit in your room with one of your best friends naked and just watch TV. Not for sexual reasons. Not for weird reasons. I don’t love my body, but Amber taught me ten years ago to stop being embarrassed by it.

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Hannah. When I met her people still called her Mayo. People mixed us up. She’s only a few hours away, but it feels like a million miles. Hannah pushes herself for herself. She’s raising a son and a daughter to be themselves. A son who’s taken ballet. A daughter who loves pink and glitter and princesses, even though Hannah can’t understand it. A 6 and an 8-year-old who read better than I do. Hannah is a triathlete. Hannah often becomes my strength when I’ve lost it all. When I feel like I’m losing it, Hannah is there to remind me I’m not, to remind me I’m strong.

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Brett. We were sworn enemies when we met. People told us we were so alike that we’d be best friends. We hated ourselves, so we hated each other. Now I can’t imagine life without Brett. She too is hundreds of miles away, but is always there when I need her. Brett is a poet. And once she tried to make me one. I knew when we started writing together she’d be a poet. I still believe with so much of my heart that she will help reshape the definition of poetry, reshape how people view it. Brett has never been anything less than Brett, apologetically.

IMG_2710I met Dana in college too. What I love about Dana’s strength is that it is this barrage of kindness and love and grace. Dana has time and time again shown strength with a mighty fist of kisses and patience. Even when Dana is in pain, when she’s been wounded in ways that would leave other people desolate, she finds strength. She will always tell you, loudly and kindly, that her strength comes from the Lord. And it is beautiful.

IMG_4406This is my pal Alex on her wedding day. This day was so important to her, and it was not met with as much celebration as it should have been. What I love about Alex’s strength is how beautifully she stands for the people in her life. A few years ago, I was a mess. I had chewed my nails down so far that I was just chewing off skin. Alex sent me a package filled with kindness, including Muppet bandaids. But that’s the strength of Alex, part of the strength of Alex. The part that pushes me. She recognizes the needs of others. Immediately. And acts.

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Kelly has been through a lot. And while I hardly know her, what I do know is Kelly has found the strength to step away from people and things that harm her. To step away from a bad situation. Because it is so hard to step away from that hurt. I’ll never understand why, but I’ve lived in it for so long that I know it to be true. Strength is a step back.

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Ashlee‘s incomprehensible generosity, hospitality, and nurturing spirit are so beyond my comprehension. I’ve been the beneficiary of all three countless times. Hell, right now I’m writing this on a computer of such proof. Ashlee’s strength challenges me to love stronger, love with an open door.

 

Emily Delagrange

 

 

 

i met Emily my senior year of high school. We were in a musical revue that no one was cut from. The connection was magical, but in the years that followed we didn’t see each other much. We still don’t, but we’ve lived similar journeys the last few years. She won’t admit or maybe even see it. Many of these women don’t see their strength. Emily’s desire to survive, her strength to live, to power through dark times, has been of such value and encouragement to me. Emily pushing through the darkness constantly challenges me to do the same.

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This is my sweet Erica. We may have met through the internet, fallen in love through twitter, but now I know. I know so well the strength of Erica. When we internet met I was challenged by the strength of her will and her confidence. Erica does not take shit from anyone. Nor should she. Her words, her poetry is so ethereal and light a beautiful, delicate strength. In the last year I’ve watched Erica work through so much in her life. I’ve stood with her through some darkness, and watching her come out of that darkness and stand now in such a good place. To live through it. Her strength to keep living.

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This is Mona. When I met Mona, I was immediately threatened. Immediately. Another lady joke teller. Honestly, I quit for a while. I stepped back. But that was silly. Yes, Mona is better at what she does than I am, but that shouldn’t be a reason to stop. That’s a reason to keep going. To stand with her and work at becoming better at being funny. Work at feeling more confident in my own words and thoughts. Mona’s strength and blatant confidence is incredible. It shouldn’t threaten me. It should encourage and strengthen me.

 

 

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Jessica, when I met her she was called JFo, much to her own dismay. I’ve watched her grow, now at a distance, from a spritely teen into a powerful mother of twin boys. Her strength is so quiet, which I think is what makes it so very strong. (As an aside, she couldn’t decide which picture to use. Both seem pretty damn important, so I needed to use both)11303560_683268444123_2056530550_n

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Krista. She’s been in my life for some 25 years now. I’ve talked about her before. Krista is such a presence of strength through forgiveness and grace for me. She’s shown me so much more grace than I could have ever fathomed. Her patience and unrelenting kindness is such a powerful strength.IMG_2673

 

 

 

 

Lauren. Family is a strange thing. Blood is weird. This genetic tie. We’re so loosely tied. Our grandfathers were brothers. And now, Lauren inspires me. She does the things that drive her. Lauren’s goals are beautiful. Her strength to pursue what drives her strengthens me. She maybe my little cousin, but she’s leagues ahead of me.

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Harmony. I’ve known Harmony in real life two days. She was the photographer for the wedding of friends. But, ya know what? I love her. What I know of Harmony already serves so much as an inspiration. I wish she lived next door to me. It’s not often you find kindred spirits in what can be such a hectic place, but she is one. Harmony has this amazing way of understanding people instantly. Which is important for what she does, but it’s also just important. And it’s an amazing strength.

 

 

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Michela. Michela amazes me. I’ve reconnected with her recently, and I’m so grateful. Do you know how powerful it is to have an old ally come forward again as a renewed ally? Michela has this remarkable loyalty. A loyalty I feel so much like I don’t deserve. But that’s what her strength teaches me.

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Amber.
Not everyone has coworkers they love, but I do. Amber is one of them. Over the last year she has helped carry me. When my heart and my head wouldn’t meet, Amber rationally and so straight-forwardly heard me out and advised. Amber’s take no shit from anyone is so monstrously encouraging.

10393973_631809792489_7130074842323492905_nCara. Mostly, I’ll let Cara explain this picture, but know that she has strengthened me over the last 10 years, and I’m so very grateful.
“It’s an interesting task to find a picture of a feeling that people, but especially women, rarely represent in pictures. I’ve been thinking about it, and I was pretty sure this was the picture I would land on, but truthfully- that race sucked. During the half marathon, I didn’t feel strong. I felt uncertain. Looking at other pictures and asking myself how I felt then, that was the same answer I kept coming up with, even in pictures where I looked confident and I knew that things were good. There was always something happening in the picture, whether it was a show shot or a group of people hanging out. I settled on this one because it is a tangible show of strength: I completed a task that I had trained (kinda, I blew this training off a bit) for and I accomplished it. I do like to keep this picture around so that I can remember that feeling of frustration in my lack of preparedness, but that’s another story… I started to think about when I feel strong: in my classroom, smiling at Kars, in general being in my home, and it’s hard to get pictures of that, especially because I’m not a selfie person. It’s not that I don’t feel strong ever- quite the contrary. But that feeling isn’t something that gets documented often.”

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 Ashley. Quiet resilience. Growing with Ashley the last several years has been encouraging. Watching her move forward, watching her love those around her even in adversity. Quiet resilience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AnnMarie. I haven’t known Ree long, but every day she surprises me. Her kindness. Her faithfulness. She’d never admit. She can’t see it, but the truth is she’s so strong. I see it on her face. I see it in her decision to wake up every day. To raise two children on her own.

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Ashley. To me she’s always been McCann. When I call her Ashley, she calls it her “lady name.” I lived with Ashley for two years in college. Providence brought us together. What I learned from her and continue to learn from her is independence and such a strong sense of self-worth. Ashley’s strength resounds the moment you meet her. Knows what she wants. Works for it. And who the hell are you to stand in her way? And while we’re at it, why the hell should she care what you think of her? And yet, Ashley is uncommonly kind.

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Leslie. I developed an enormous friend crush on Leslie the day I received a letter from her. She didn’t know me. I didn’t know her, but her words were perfect. Leslie’s career makes her remarkable, because she continues to be patient with her friends when they too are complete wrecks. She’s quiet, but not because she’s afraid. She’s introverted, yes, but she’s also smart. She’s reading people. She’s feeling people out. And almost instantly understands them. And after years of watching her tend to the needs of so many other people, it’s beautiful to watch her take care of herself too.

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Monica.
This is my work sister. She like Lauren inspires me. Some times I need Monica to just be around to acknowledge sexism or racism or the demonizing of any other social standing. Monica is going to do amazing things with her future, because she’s doing them with her present. Her feminism, her social awareness, is ferociously encouraging and strengthening.

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Kristen. In her own words, “This is me after a Grapes of Wrath matinee. The show was almost impossible for me to do, because all the girls in my dressing room were ostracizing me and gossiping about me. But I kicked its ass anyway.” That’s Kristen. And watching her strength grow into this has been so encouraging. Watching Kristen step into herself, and unashamedly be herself is wonderful. She’s been working with Girls, Inc. to teach other young women the same.

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Emily.
I’ve known Emily since elementary school. In her own words, “I don’t have many pictures of me, at least not since high school, but I didn’t really feel strong in high school. I’ve probably never felt stronger both physically and emotionally then when I was able to bring my girls into the world.” She has three of them, and there’s a fourth babe coming. What touches me about this is that when we were in high school, I did see Emily as strong. I always have. Even when she’s struggling, she is so strong. To come out of some of the darkness she’s faced, and see her now raising three beautiful women is wonderful. Emily’s strength in high school and middle school, when we were both pretty big weirdos, strengthened me. It still does.

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Rachel. Goodness. In the last two years Rachel has become one of my dearest friends. Yes, I’ve known her for years, but timing is everything. Now her patience and understanding, even when I’m making stupid decisions is so striking. She has an incredible amount of strength when it comes to frustrating people or difficult situations. She’s riddled with emotions, but she also has one of the most even tempers I’ve ever experienced. Soon she’ll be a foster mother, and there isn’t anyone better suited. She’s been nannying and babysitting for years. Not to mention essential opening her home to wayward adults who also need a little fostering.

FullSizeRender (12) Lindsay. In the recent past I’ve watched Lindsay step out of a dark situation with so much light around her that she’s now more effervescent than ever. The strength it takes to step away from a terrible situation is so hard to mount, but to do it and then come out on the other side even stronger? To come out and start pursuing what she’s always dreamed of? For her to come out of all of that darkness, and now have this genuine smile on her face is such a calming breath. IMG_3660

 

 

 

Amber. After a couple of years of being strictly social media friends, I had the pleasure of meeting Amber IRL. Amber represents for me this amazing thing about the women of Fort Wayne on social media. The women of Fort Wayne are so good at standing for each other and supporting each other. Amber supports the people around her so well. So intently. She loves her city. She loves her friends. Amber loves. You’re hard-pressed to hear her say something disparaging about another human being. It’s hard to nail down the strength of Amber, because the strength of Amber is Amber.

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Angie. (right) When I asked Angie for a photo, she picked this one because, “it’s from the night I punched you. I acquire power through physical domination.” The truth is Angie’s strength shows through so much. Her words. Her actions. And occasionally her mighty fist. Angie is the older sister of my friend Elise (left). Both of them have represented so much about individualism and determination to me. They’ve both, for as long as I’ve known them, been their own damn people. And now they’re both such strong and formidable women, that to call them anything, but strong would be idiotic.

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Bekah, or Pose as I call her. Left is a photo of Bekah studying her beautiful brains out. She’s becoming a doctor. Because she went on a trip to Thailand once, and found herself caring for people. She knew that was her calling. Below is an image of her with her loving husband. There aren’t two better suited people. Because both of them are two of the kindest, most  compassionate people I’ve ever known.

IMG_1970 Seeing Bekah push through school and so successfully. Below to the left is Bekah being featured at her school. Her face is also inside on a wall, which she said makes her feel pretty BA too. Her kindness and fondness to see IMG951430people live well emanates from her being.

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_5888Tia. I’ve known Tia about a year, and in that year I’ve learned so much about her strength of will. In her words, “These are my two favorite photos of me. They encompass how I define myself. Silly (like miss Lucy was) and strong enough to stand up for other when they can’t.” Honestly, how could I better describe her strength than she has already done?

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Katie. I’ve not known Katie long, or terribly well, but what I do know is that she is strong. She’s inspired me more than she knows, and encouraged me more than she realizes. Katie is unashamed of Katie, which is great because there’s nothing shameful about her. She’s a faithful friend to those she loves. I’ve witnessed it. Moreover, I’ve never known her not to be kind to people. People who can’t mix anymore, it doesn’t stop Katie from loving both sides.  

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Maria.
When I asked Maria for a photo, I pretty much knew this is what she would pick. And I can see why. I’ve known Maria most of my life, and I’ve never known her to be anything less than a pillar of strength. For herself, her family, her friends, strangers. She’s changed so much over the years, and is still that awkward second grader. She still laughs about farts, but also now finds herself the matriarch of two families. Her own daughters and her siblings, and it’s amazing. Her strength to carry on. Her strength to rely on Christ so completely. She’s so admired by so many, and I don’t question why for one moment.

DSC_0624_copyChynna. She was an RA when I met her. In the time that I’ve known Chynna, I’ve known her to constantly serve as an inspiration and encouragement to young women. To stand in Christ, and to stand for themselves. To love themselves. To love others. To be proud of where they come from. Chynna’s strength is overwhelming. She inspires women all around her, including me. In her own words, “Apparently I stopped taking pictures of myself a few years ago. Here’s one that my husband took of me after I spoke at a conference. I felt pretty powerful that night.”

11349917_10206828516816313_1599452285_nEmily. I’ve met Emily once, but she stayed in my home. I don’t know much of her at all, not first-hand. But what I’ve been told of Emily is beautiful. She’s nothing short of herself. Confident and funny. In the few hours I’ve spent with Emily, I saw so much strength in her.

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Kari. Goodness personified. If ever active listening and unrelenting love were to be a person they would look like Kari. Her devotion to her family and her friends should be heralded in the town square. She’s miles away, but when recently when the chips were down and people in my own town didn’t visit when I needed visitors, Kari was on the phone. When she can’t be here, she makes sure she’s as close as she can be. And not just for me. I know that she doesn’t just do that for me. She does it for everyone she loves. Kari isn’t just strong, she’s strength, added strength, for so may around her.

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Jenn. In the time that I’ve known Jenn, I’ve watched her set goals for herself. Exceed them. And then exceed them some more. She’s raising a daughter, working full time, and a full time student. Her tenacity alone is an incredible strength, but on top of that she’s constantly running. Constantly working to better herself, for herself. Which is nothing short of inspiring.

I guess it’s my turn. I didn’t realize what a hard task I’d given people until I took it on myself. Most of the photos of myself that I take pride in are silly. And they’re silly because I don’t know how to take sincere photos. OR they’re filled with other people, because I feel like I hardly exist without the aid of those around me. But since I’m writing, and I was the one that asked everyone else for photos, I feel I can indulge myself. And maybe I need to. Maybe it’s time I stop and take stock of my own strength.

603466_564168126929_1139749847_nI look monstrously apprehensive here because I did something that terrified me. I felt called to remove the only thing I was taking pride in at the time, so I had my hair cut to no longer than four inches. I love my hair, some times maybe too much. But this decision forced me to look at more than just this one vanity. I had to reexamine my heart and my head, and I finally was beginning to like what I see.

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This was taken one Sunday morning when I was hurting and trying to endure. What strengthens me now looking back on this photo is that I’m still here. Every time I look back into the darkness, I can’t believe I’m still here. But I am. I haven’t quit yet. Oh I’ve wanted to give up. I’ve come very close to giving up. But I haven’t. Things have gotten darker still since this was taken, and I’m still here.FullSizeRender

At the beginning of the month I did something foolish and broke a few bones and had to have surgery. Now, I’m left with a scar that some times makes me so sad. I’ll forget that it’s there, though that seems impossible for the pain. But I will, and then I’ll catch a glimpse of it in the mirror and feel so hideous. So marred and repulsive. My collarbone is short on that side and raise now. But other times I see it, and think, “nah, go ahead. Mess with me. See where that gets you. Because look at me. Tell me again I haven’t endured. I haven’t come out stronger. That I’m not someone who can keep taking the punches.” Because I will, and I do. Things seem to keep getting shittier, but I’m still here. Try to pull me down if you want to, but I’m not going anywhere. This picture features my scar and one of my tattoos. I took it to remind myself that there’s more strength in me than I remember. There’s more strength in all of us than we see. Please, don’t forget that.

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Adventure in Becoming Okay

I hesitate to say it publicly. I don’t want to somehow condemn myself, but I thought you might be interested to know. I’ve only said it to a few friends lately, but over the last month or so the damnedest thing has been happening. I dare say I’m becoming healthy. Mentally and emotionally well.

Almost two months ago now I started a new job. I’ve been working as a team leader at a local frogurt shop. The self-serve kind. It was just a series of opened doors. I went to church with my parents, and some old family friends were there. And we just asked “Do you have a job?” They own this yogurt place and Ty instantly said “Yes. Just apply.” By the end of service he came back up to me and said “Be there at 8 tomorrow. Your life is your interview.” 25 years. Longest interview ever, but totally worth it.

I work with mostly high school students. Everyone there is at least three years younger than I, but it doesn’t matter. I love them. Even the ones I want to punch. They’re funny. They’re so chill. No one is terribly dramatic. They’re just cool, and I love working with them.

My job is growing. Almost daily Ty sends me something new to work on. I get to use my pop culture knowledge on projects. And I’m doing some writing for our product descriptions. Is it a lot of money? No. It’s not. But my heart is calm. My sleep is returning. I worry about nothing.

I don’t spend a lot of time with people away from work, and I think that’s what I’ve been needing. I don’t feel compelled to entertain or appease anyone. I’m not trying to live up to anyone’s expectations. Sure there are people I miss, and I’ve made some exceptions, but mostly, I work and I watch TV and I sleep. It’s sort of perfect. All I have to focus on is God and my brain getting better. And my brain is getting better.

These crushing emotions I’ve been feeling for the last two or more years are not so crushing anymore. Sure they’ll wave in, but they don’t stay as long. I haven’t unnecessarily burst into tears in a month, and that’s sort of a big deal for me.

In about a month I’m looking to go to Chicago for a weekend to see some of the people I’ve been truly missing in my life. My heart has been pining for them. A whole weekend of seeing some of the funniest women I know. I really can’t wait. And seeing them in capacities I’ve never been able to see them before. In their homes. In their married lives. With their children. In their city. I’m excited, and I hope it works out. Because my heart could stand be surrounded by 10 hilarious women for 72 hours. (And some cool dudes if I can manage it) Sadly I find myself thinking, “But I want more of them. 10 isn’t enough. I want every funny woman I know in one room for 72 hours. Probably five with survive, but it’ll be hilarious while we last.” But I won’t get greedy. I’m grateful for what I’m getting.

Oh that I could see all of these women.

 

Adventure in My I.D.

This Saturday I spent 14 hours with over 200 middle school and high school girls for an event showing and teaching the girls all about where their value comes from and that they are important in a world that wants them to believe they are not. That they are loved. It’s an amazing thing.

First a crazy story.

For weeks leading up to What’s Your I.D.2012 women in the community were praying for and writing letters to the girls that would be there that Saturday. I volunteered late during the week of the event. The opportunity to fill in gaps where I was needed was calling to me. I arrived Saturday morning and was greeted with the opportunity to write letters to girls who had registered last minute or were registering as they arrived.

I prayed for the girls and began writing my letters. Many of my letters were reminding the girls not just that they are loved by God and the women around them, but that they are valuable. They aren’t just valuable; they are being used by God at this very moment. He is constantly shaping them. I went about my day, and filled in where I was needed.

Before dinner that night Leah shared the Gospel with the girls. She had asked anyone who felt comfortable praying with the girls who came forward after the Gospel was shared to go into the next room and pray with them. I went to the room as the girls left and was met with six girls. They shared their names with me, but were not very talkative. One girl only held up her name tag. I realized, as they told me their names, that these girls were almost all of the girls I wrote letters to that morning. I prayed over them knowing that every part of that moment was orchestrated by God’s plan.

At the after party the girls were singing karaoke. I learned at the party the girl who had only held up her name tag had not said anything to anyone all day. So when her name was called for karaoke I squealed! I couldn’t believe it. She went up to the stage and sang her song. Her voice could hardly be heard, and then it was almost lost entirely. Because moments later about 25 girls rushed the stage. They stood in front of the stage singing and screaming along with this shy little lamb. I saw the girl begin to smile for the first time all day as these girls showed her more support than they showed anyone else as she made such a bold move.

It was all just so wacky. These girls being built into and up by so many women in the community.

But then came the bad parts for me.

While I spent 14 hours with over 200 middle school and high school girls, I also spent the day with an unknown number of women. Women with opinions. Women who say one thing to the girls and another to each other. Women who, well…

On several occasions I found myself surrounded by conversations with different groups of women. On more than one of those occasions these groups of women began discussing a woman’s role. And then it happened. As it always happens. Just like the pastor who at a wedding said if you aren’t married you aren’t fulfilling God’s will for your life these women said that if you aren’t serving a man and tending to his needs you aren’t fulfilling God’s plan for all women. And not just in general if you aren’t serving. You have to be serving a man. And not just humanity. A woman’s role is to serve one man.

I can’t get over this mentality. One, because I know a good number of amazing women who have never married, and many who never will and are constantly serving God. One might say they’re doing more for the Kingdom because they aren’t married. They’re all very dedicated women. Dedicated to any cause. And while I’m sure they aren’t opposed to marriage, I know that at least a few of them would admit that would serve as a distraction from Kingdom thinking rather than a benefit to Kingdom thinking. Some of the most amazing women I’ve ever known have never been married. And they aren’t just amazing because of that or because they’re strong or any of that. It’s because they’re focus on Christ is so strong. They truly find their value in Christ.

The second reason I can’t get over it is because it hurts me. It made me physically ill a few times Saturday. Because THAT is the sort of thing Satan creeps into my mind. Many, if not most, of my friends are married, and often being around them makes me feel like a failure. Not because of them, but because of the lies we’re fed. And in steps Satan with words from other women. Women who are working toward the same end I am. Women telling me that not being married and serving a man means I’m not doing God’s work. And my brain screams they’re wrong, and there’s Satan whispering in the gasps for breath that they’re right. And I hear him. And it starts to sink in. And I get sick.

If you aren’t taking care of children, and if you don’t have children of your own to take care of for your man you aren’t fulfilling God’s will for your life. How is it all of these other people seem to know exactly what God’s will for my life is? How could they conceivably know that? I think what they mean to say is, “This is where I find my fulfillment, and I have to believe that if it’s true for me it’s true for everyone.” And I feel shame because now I’m two steps behind God’s will for my life.

Adventure in Influences

In my continuing lists of 50, I’d like to offer you the 50 women (or who are now women) who have greatly influenced my life in the last 25 years. I could easily go to 100 if I included all of the wonderful women who have so beautifully changed my life in the last two years. So I suppose it’s the last 23 years or so. In order of appearance, vaguely. (There are not pictures for all of them. For that I apologize.) To each and every one of these women I offer a lifetime’s gratitude and an endless supply of love and adoration.

Mommy

My mom, Kerry Ann Johnson, brought me into the world and has since taught me and continues to teach me what it is to be strong in a world that offers countless pains. She’s taught me what it is to pray boldly and what it means to invest in people, even when you want to believe it’s hopeless, because it turns out God doesn’t.  She also gave me my damn sense of humor.

Nana

My nana, Margaret Ann Arnold, taught me and continues to teach me what it is to truly trust in the Lord with all that you are, what it means to pray with unrelenting faith and the meaning of generosity.

My grammy, Beverly Johnson, taught me what it looks like to actually care about myself, that I have value even when the world screams that I don’t. She also taught me to be a sassy broad.

Donna Neff, a youth group leader and small group leader, taught me to keep digging into what God wants in my life.

Claire Kowatch

Claire Kowatch, my third grade teacher and mother of my friend Krista, taught me. She taught me to ask the questions no one wanted to answer. She taught me that it’s okay, and encouraged, to try and to think differently than other people, that creativity and imagination are just as important as knowledge. She also taught me the meaning of a gentle spirit.

Pam Scott taught me constancy and persistence in love and that some times the annoying kid in your van just needs a change of scene.

Happy Waltz, my fifth grade teacher, taught me that it’s okay to be a bold woman, and that that boldness doesn’t have to come from a need to be strong, but from the strength we find in Christ.

Aida Toffolo, my elementary principal, taught me what it is to be a kind-hearted woman of faith even when the rest of the people around you want to believe you’re someone to be feared.

Laurie Doden, youth group and small group leader, while we laughed at the time, Lori ended up teaching me more about my value as a woman for God than I thought she did. I wanted to believe she was crazy, but the truth is Lori is the one who taught me the value of relationships. That there’s so much more to life than being married or in a relationship. That furthering the Kingdom is the best pursuit we have.

Julie Sefton, my high school band director, taught me that what you are passionate about is far more important than appeasing the masses.

Emily Pippin, my seventh grade Bible teacher and choir director, was a highly intimidating woman, but at the end of it all, with the exception of two high school Bible teachers, taught me more about biblical history than anyone else. There are things that Mrs. Pippin said and asked us that still plague my mind to this day.

Farrah Limmer

Farrah Limmer and Janice Maurizi, raft trip leaders, instilled in me a passion for young women and the beauty of laughter in even the hardest times.

Deb Todd, Julie Jahn and Candis Allwein, the Blackhawk theatre trifecta, offered me opportunities to grow and instilled in me a love for art, when art didn’t seem to be important.

Marilyn Knuth, Kim Hatch, Carrie Ferrier and Sherry Maurizi, mom’s of friends from high school, taught me hospitality, generosity, involvement, adoration, pursuit, strength, faith and much more.

Meri Sikora, youth leader and youth pastor’s wife, helped me pick my university, taught me to pursue what I love (even if I had no idea what that was) and taught me the value of all of us.

Hannah Opliger and Shalom

Hannah Opliger, then Kowatch friend of my brother, sister of Krista and castmate, showed me balance. Now, Hannah continually represents intentionality in all things.

Liz Cashen-Grayson, a castmate and former rafter, taught me not to take everything so damn seriously.

Erin Scott

 Erin Scott, former castmate, taught me to be strong when everyone is waiting for you to fall and expects you to be weaker than you are. That persistence and trust in God are far more important than any accolades.

Elise will undoubtedly hate the picture of chosen

Elise Latino taught me to remember “Who the hell cares?” You are who you are and the only thing better than that is having a dear friend to share it with.

Emily Louden, Maria Bowersock, Katelyn Ferrier, Missy Rayls, Abi Allwein, Megan Jahn and Megan Fansler have taught me many things. As friends from high school they have undeniably shaped me into who I am. Even now they continue to teach me about faithfulness and strength through some of the hardest times.

Krista Agler

Krista Agler, my former nemesis and now dear friend, has through the grace of God taught me more about reconciliation than anyone. She continues to teach me about balance and what it looks like to pursue Christ, even when those around you might think you’re acting like a wackadoo. As well as a bounty of what grace and forgiveness are really about.

Heather Sommer

Heather Sommer has taught me to carry on in the face of adversity and to laugh any moment I get.

Headset

Cara Glass, Bekah Harding and Deanna Repic, Headset, taught me what real friendship looks like and how important it is to actually have people who care about you. They taught me what a friendship looks like when it blossoms around a pursuit of God and the necessity of college.

Hannah Krauskopf

Hannah Krauskopf taught me and continues to teach me how to be a woman with her own thoughts and her own needs in a world of men. She’s also taught me how to laugh at life while maintaining a focus on Christ.

Amber Patrick

Amber Patrick taught me how absolutely okay it is to be different and how that still fits into the lives of everyone else. Not to mention teaching me to be comfortable with myself, because if I wasn’t, she was going to continue to be too comfortable with myself.

Becca Rodgers-Buntjer, Kylie Edmonds, Laura Brautigam Anderson and Sharon Voss showed me what friendships are supposed to look like before I even realized how valuable they really are. They all gave me strength through my freshman year of college and showed me what it looks like to take care of those who feel out of place.

Dana Frick

Dana Frick teaches me to love in the face of adversity. To love others and love and pursue Christ even when everything in you says it’s illogical and yet still screams that it’s the only answer. She also defines encouragement.

Ashley McCann, that face.

Ashley McCann teaches me to be myself no matter freaking what.

Kristen Blossom

Kristen Blossom taught me to go on, be lavish. Not in an indulgent way, but in a willingness to be outrageous and appear comfortable when throwing yourself before the lions, even though inside you’re vomiting and peeing your pants. She’s also taught me loyalty.

Brett Jenkins-Braun

Brett Jenkins-Braun where do I start? Brett’s taught me I’m funny even when I think I’m not. She’s taught me how to be the very best friend I can be, even if it never gets acknowledged. She’s taught me to pursue everything I love with a panicked sense of power. To name a few. P.S. If you haven’t, you should go order this book she wrote.

Dr. Mary Ruthi taught me what it looks like to be a highly intelligent woman with a seemingly erratic brain. That it’s okay to kooky when your brain is full of something worthwhile. She also let me know that it’s okay to understand all of the aspects of social life, but not have a clue how to employ that knowledge. She’s also probably why I’m so good at observing people’s tendencies.

Melissa Keighin

Melissa Keighin has taught me what dedication and selfless consideration truly are. She’s also been a clear example of how friendships spring up in the most unlikely places.

Ashlee Edinger

Ashlee Edinger has taught me what unrelenting love looks like. She is clear representation of loving devotion to anyone around her.

Adventure in Hey, girl, hey!

A few weeks ago I was leaving the office, and I said, “Have a good night,” to the security guards as I left. For the first time ever the high-voiced security guard said something to me. That something was “Night, dear.” It was uncomfortable. It made me uncomfortable. “Night, dear,” is what your grammy should say to you when you’re going off to bed as a 12-year-old. Too old to be put to bed, too young to stay up after her. “Night, dear.” Or what the elderly husband says to his elderly wife as she goes to bed before him. “Night, dear.”

My daddy has pet names for me, and he’s really the only male I accept them from. A man coming into the office as I was leaving on lunch called me “honey” once. I didn’t care for that either. He was at least 70, so I tried not to think about it. Babe. That one makes me want to vomit. It’s about the person who says it. The type of person I would tolerate calling me “babe” is never the sort that says it. “Babe” feels like a power trip, and a reminder that I am inferior. It always seems to be said with a tone of control.

“Sweety” is okay from old ladies. Something about it makes sense. “Sweety” and “honey” are both expected at a diner. If Flo isn’t calling me “toots,” I demand something endearing like “honey” or “sweety.”

All of these things are far more acceptable coming from other women. It’s a level playing field. There’s nothing demeaning about it, except for the women I know who use those words when they can’t remember a woman’s name.

But the one that gets me. The one I cannot abide is “girl.” “Hey girl.” “It’s cool, girl.” I’m 25 years old and my boobs are too big for anyone to ever mistake me for a girl. I feel like a tool saying, “I’m a woman,” but that’s what I am. Not that I’m asking to be called “woman,” because I’m not keen on that either. But any man calling me girl instantly feels condescending. I don’t care who you are. For Girls Inc. we try to avoid calling our 11-year-old girls “Guys” to get their attention, but I try to avoid addressing them as “girls” too. In training “ladies” was suggested. It gives these young girls, who are so often treated like they are less significant, the sense that to us they are important. That they’re ladies in a world where they’re just girls.

There are men in my life who say it with sarcasm and irony, and I mostly find that amusing and will tell them that’s the only way I ever want to hear it. “Hey girrrrrl.” But there are people who started with the irony and are now using it in their regular language with no concern for how they’ve lost the irony and are now just being condescending. I know it happens. I have things I used to say ironically that I said so often they just became a part of my regular speech. “Get it.” “Run tell that.” “I know that’s right.” They all started as a joke. Now they’re just things I say.

Adventure in Girls’ World

It should come as no surprise that when I heard Tina Fey was hosting a program on NPR I knew I had to listen. When I learned it was about coming of age stories and strong women in a program titled “The Hidden World of Girls,” I was completely on board. It’s brought to you by the Kitchen Sisters.

I listened to an hour of it today. I think it’s a good thing to listen to, not necessarily for entertainment, but for understanding. As a woman, hearing what other women go through throughout the world, I think it’s important. From Ireland to Native Americans to hunting cheerleaders to Venus. It’s a hard world out there for women to this day, and to hear other women struggling and surviving, I think, is an encouraging thing. And for men, I think it’s good to hear that it isn’t easy. It’s easier, but it’s not easy.

On the whole though, there are some really wonderful things in the world that bring girls into the magical world of womanhood, and it isn’t their period. A lot of it has to do with the encouragement and guidance that comes from a strong woman in her life. It’s a good thing being a woman in a girl’s life. Because as it may be getting easier for women, to a degree, it isn’t getting easier to be a girl in the world of girls, but a strong woman can make that easier. Girls need to be heard, and women are who should be listening. It scares me when girls rely on boys and men to hear their stories. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does. A lot. As women we need to step up our game. There’s a lot of pain in the world of girls, in general. Pressures, fears, abuse. It’s a scary world out there.

Now, it’s your turn. Go on and give it a listen.

http://www.prx.org/pieces/68507-the-hidden-world-of-girls-with-host-tina-fey-hour

http://www.kitchensisters.org/girlstories/

What women in your life offer you strength and encouragement? For me it’s my mommy, Headset and my sisters from the 509.

Adventure in encouraging my fears or pushing myself out

The thing about being a simultaneously strong and weak woman is that I have exactly two fear-inducing problems. One) My personal strength and self-reliance makes me intimidating and off-putting. Two) My weakness (not as a woman but as someone who lacks self-confidence) makes me easily preyed upon by the creepy and gross. These issues are fear-inducing because the second issue makes me think this is the best I can do, and the first has me thinking I’m doomed to the solitude I’m trying to learn in. I don’t, however, want it to last forever.

So I’ve been doing some research. Noteworthy single women:

Louisa May Alcott

A transcendental feminist who wrote a bit romantically about marriage and families, but spent her life doting on her sisters and their children never starting her own family. Best known for Little Women.

Maggie Kuhn

Controversially taught human sexuality at the YWCA. Told her Presbyterian seminary students they would not pass if they did their fieldwork in the church rather than seeking out impoverished communities. Fought against ageism after she was forced by the Presbyterian Church to retire. Started the Gray Panthers.

Agnes Martin

A minimalist painter awarded the National Endowment for the Arts National Medal of Arts in 1998.

Susan B. Anthony

Worked with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in co-founding the first Women’s Temperance Movement. Aided in bringing women’s suffrage to the United States. Annually gave an average of 75 to 100 speeches. A key player in the government acknowledging women’s right. You’ll recognize her from her coin.

Coco Chanel

Pioneering French fashion designer. Used men’s fashion as inspiration for women’s fashion. While she never married she did play mistress. She was also a Nazi spy during World War II.

E. Cora Hind

Western Canada’s first female journalist. Agricultural editor for the “Winnipeg Free Press.” Women’s rights activist.

Agnes Campbell Macphail

First woman elected to the Canadian House of Commons. One of the first two women elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Wrote agricultural columns for the “Globe and Mail” in Toronto.

Harriet Martineau

Wrote 35 books and multiple essays. Translate the works of Auguste Comte. Supported herself entirely on her writings, a difficult task for a woman in the Victorian era. Wrote autobiographically to be published posthumously, “…In short, should popularize while could neither discover nor invent.”

Reverend Dr. Pauline “Pauli” Murray

Women’s rights activist, civil rights activist, writer and lawyer. First black female ordained Episcopalian priest. Many of her arguments were used in Brown v. Board of Education.

Dame Christabel Pankhurst

Co-founded Women’s Social and Political Union, suffragette. Was arrested in 1905 for interrupting a Liberal Party meeting shouting demands for women’s voting rights. Earned a law degree. Appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1936, after hiding in Paris to avoid prison.

Dame Freya Stark

Travel writer who wrote 21 books. She went alone into areas women rarely traveled, particularly alone.

I don’t have a picture of these two women, but I wish I did.

Happy Waltz and Aida Toffolo started Blackhawk Christian School in 1973 with the school now educating over 600 students from Kindergarten to 12th grade in general education founded on Biblical principles.

None of them ever married. Perhaps because they were intimidating for all of their independence and strength. Maybe it’s because they were too engrossed in their careers and caused. Or maybe, and it’s something more people should consider, they simply didn’t want to. I may be alone, but I’m not alone.

Adventure in Girls, Inc.

It has begun. Yesterday at 3:30 p.m. I put on my red t-shirt, got in my car and drove to the west side of Indianapolis. I met with my session coordinator and my partner as we prepared for our first session of Media Smarts.

I’d had the flu this week, so nerves and fevers are alternating in my head as we hang up signs and lay out magazines and newspapers waiting for the girls to get up stairs. And as we wait for some very important Girls Inc women to arrive including the CEO and Regional Director. That’s not intimidating for a lady on her first session of her first cycle ever.

What if I’m awful at this? What if this affirms that not majoring in education was the right choice? What if I’m a jerk!?! My head floods with questions about my capabilities and inadequacies as a teacher and woman. What if I’m actually the world’s worst role model? I’m already not a great one. What if I’m just truly crap?! What if middle schoolers hate me more than they did when I was actually a middle schooler?

Well the session came and went, and while ten 11-year-old girls make for a very chatty bunch we made it through the first round. The very important women stayed all the way through and were quite nice about it all, but when women are working with girls trying to teach them to be strong, smart and bold…my brain floods again. What if they’re just being nice so I don’t hate myself later? What if they say that to everyone? Was I monster? I felt like a monster. I didn’t learn all of their names. I couldn’t read all of their name tags. I pointed. I pointed at girls whose names I didn’t know. I’m a jerk. I’m a pointer. Why can’t I just be a human? Middle schoolers don’t really know about sarcasm yet. I don’t care what the Mighty Ducks tried to convey. I probably need this class more than they do.

It went pretty well. I’m looking forward to next week.