International Women’s Day: We Will Never Be Silenced Again

International Women's Day pink gerbera with symbolic purple ribbon

International Women’s Day has been a thing for more than a century, but it has special meaning for me this year. In four days, I celebrate 50 years of life and living, and I find myself, as always, looking back on what has been and looking forward to what is yet to come. But today I find myself also reflecting on the woman I have become and the journey I’ve been on to get here. What a long, strange trip it’s been. 🙂

I am also reflecting on how the woman I am today influences my kids, a boy 19 and a girl 17. What do they see in me that they want to emulate, or not? How have I inspired them to be, or not, one thing or another? Have I done my job well? Have I given them the right values and beliefs to be good people with good hearts? Will my son treat women with respect? Will my daughter ensure that she is treated with respect?

I do know this for sure: I am more confident now than I have ever been in my life. I struggled for years to find my voice, both as a writer and as a woman. I grew up with the mantra, “Children are to be seen and not heard.” I was a cheerleader in grade school and high school, at my mother’s urging, and on the outside, I probably looked pretty confident. But inside, like a lot of us, I was anything but in a world that was not designed to support and celebrate women.

One day in high school, a male chemistry teacher said, in front of the entire class, “I never met a smart cheerleader in my life. Or a smart girl, now that I think about it.” He laughed and went on with the lesson. Another girl and I were wearing our cheerleading uniforms because there was a football game that day. Neither of us said a word. No one else did either. It didn’t occur to me to tell anyone, not even my mother or another adult. So I never told anyone. Class – and life – went on as usual. That’s just how it was.

Flash forward to 2019. I’m on a third date. We are in a half-empty restaurant, finishing our meal, and I am in a happy mood. I’m at my favorite restaurant, I ate my favorite meal, it’s the end of a stressful week, life is good. I am telling a funny story and, as I usually do, start laughing in the middle. (You should know that I am famous for my goofy laugh – in high school, I was awarded “Funniest Laugh,” a category my newspaper staff created just for me. 😀)

So there I am, telling my story, laughing, and the craziest thing happens.

Him: Shush! <reaches out one hand and tries to cover my mouth>

Me: <recoiling and pushing hand away> Did…did you just…shush me??

Him: Yes! You’re too loud.

Me: <insert cold stare> Don’t you ever fucking shush me again.

Needless to say, we never went out again.

But here’s the thing. Two years ago, I would have never said anything like that. I would have apologized and felt awful. I would have gone home and felt more awful. At some point, I would have switched to seething about it and all the other times men have tried to silence me, shame me, humiliate me, pinch my ass, grab my breasts, put/ throw/hold me down, the times I let them, the times I never said a word, never told anyone, life went on as usual, that’s just how it was. I would think of all the things I could have said, should have said, if only I hadn’t froze, if only I’d been thinking faster, if only I didn’t feel like I had to be “nice,” if only I didn’t fear getting hurt or making things “awkward” or “uncomfortable” or having a “confrontation” (my worst nightmare). It escaped me then that there were men who had been making things “awkward” and “uncomfortable” for me, for women, for years.

So on that day, in that restaurant, to that particular man, I said no. HELL no.

I will never be silenced again.

As I look back at how far I’ve come on my journey as a woman and the changes I’ve made in my little corner of the world, I am happy to celebrate what International Women’s Day means for me. It may be a small victory to some. It’s invisible to most. But for me, it means everything. Confidence. Strength. Peace of mind. Empowerment. I know my children are watching and taking it all in. I am trying to redefine, for myself and for them, what it means to be a strong, confident woman. Some days I do a better job than others, but I hope they see that no matter how any given day goes down, I never, ever give up.

I am tremendously grateful and appreciative to all the women and men who support me, believe in me, encourage me, inspire me, and most of all, have helped me find my voice and the courage to use it. (You know who you are!) I am also thankful to all of the women and men throughout history and today, who stand up for what is right on behalf of all women, but especially for those women who do not have a voice. Yet.

We will never be silenced again. ❤️

 

 

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Finding Your Fire: How One Little Thing Can Change Everything

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Tonight I lit my first fire in my second rental house since my divorce four years ago (looks good, yes?). Not a big thing on the surface. But it’s my first house with a fireplace in 11 years. I was married then. I grew up with a fireplace. In both homes, either my dad or my then husband always lit the fire. My dad did it because, well, I was a kid. My ex did it because…that’s the way it was. (Yeah, yeah, I know – that’s for another blog post.)

I’ve been ready to light this fire since I moved in last June. One of the first things I did was get the fireplace inspected. Safety first! When fall came, I went to Home Depot and got the fireplace tools, a screen, built the tool rack with that stupid little gadget thing they always give you in DIY kits. I picked up a bundle of wood. I was READY. And then…

Christmas came and went. No fire. 

I kept telling my kids, “Hey! Maybe we should light a fire tonight!” But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I told myself it was because I was afraid of looking like an idiot in front of them if I couldn’t get it going (our first campfire fiascos and my ineptitude with cooking over a fire are still fresh in my memory – suffice to say the hamburgers melted through the tripod grill thingy and we ended up eating potatoes for dinner.)

Except there is a YouTube video for everything these days, as I realized when my radiator went out on the road last summer, and duh, DuraFlame. So…why am I waiting to light my first fire on Easter? April Fool’s Day, no less? But it is 32 degrees in Chicago tonight…and then it hit me:

This is another first. 

I thought I was done with those, but I am coming to learn that those never end. They just Continue reading “Finding Your Fire: How One Little Thing Can Change Everything”

What Another (gulp) Birthday Taught Me

Writers often use life events in their stories because they are the perfect settings for drama, the stuff all good stories are made of. Weddings, funerals, birthdays, retirement parties…it’s all fair game. Characters come alive. Conflicts ensue. Add alcohol, loaded expectations, cheesy music, and voila! The perfect scene for chaos story is born. Or, in my case, reflections.

It was my birthday recently. 🙂

This is us. Me and my musketeers.

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We went to dinner at a nice place, which we don’t normally do on our budget. For once, we ordered everything – appetizers, salads, steaks, even desserts. We tried everything. Twice. One of us had to unbutton our jeans. Not telling who. 🙂

So I always tell my kids – no gifts, please – just a handwritten note is all I want. But they are teenagers now, with jobs and bank accounts and minds of their own.

My daughter made me open her gift first as soon as we sat down. It was a sparkly gold Continue reading “What Another (gulp) Birthday Taught Me”

Finding Your Voice in a World of #MeToo

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me and my girl one fall day

The other day, my *almost* sixteen-year-old daughter read to me out loud her response to one of the questions on an assignment in her advanced English class. The question was:

“Who or what has had the biggest impact on the development of your voice?”

Me [best attempt at no expression]: “Ooh!!!  Good question.”

Me [inside]: ME!! PLEASE SAY ME!! But it might not be me. Shit, I don’t have a poker face, Christy, get it together here!! If it’s not you, you don’t want to make her feel bad. Whatever she says is fine, whoever it is. OH PLEASE LET IT BE ME!!

Spoiler alert: It was me. 🙂 !!!

I want to share this with you because as a writer, a mom and a human being trying to do Continue reading “Finding Your Voice in a World of #MeToo”

Moving: Settling into a New Home, New Life, New Way of Thinking

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my new writing space: my backyard

Awhile back, I wrote a poem where a willow tree played a prominent visual role. I don’t know why or where it came from. It just…appeared. Followed by the words. As I write – as often happens – ideas, images and lines come to me. Creative gifts.

I’ve learned not to question.

Shortly after I wrote that poem, I decided it was time to move. On a Thursday night, I reached out to Rich, a real estate agent/friend who has helped me buy two marital homes and rent my post-divorce home. (Yep, I rent. At this stage of my life, I travel light.) I’d been looking for the past two years on and off, but nothing felt right. Not the house, not the location, not the time, not anything. By Friday morning, he had a listing – very rare, met all my criteria: closer to school; extra bedroom for my office; and two bathrooms – a must after three years with three people/one bathroom, all in a town where rental house inventory is scarce. I toured the house on Friday afternoon. Took the kids on Saturday afternoon. By Monday morning, I was negotiating. By Tuesday, it was mine. Two weeks later, my kids and I moved out and in. (Special shout out to my sister for helping!) Four days later, I packed up and flew to California for work. Flew back.

And finally, my first Saturday evening free in my new home, I sat writing in my new backyard. And I saw it.

A willow tree.

I used to believe in so many things.
I love my magical beliefs. 🙂 Everything will turn out alright in the end! You will getthrough “fill in the blank!” The universe or God or someone is looking out for you and protecting you! Everything happens for a reason!  Your soul mate is out there! Everyone means well, you just have to lower your expectations! No, lower! Okay, wait, lower. No – lower.

All of it. I was all in. It’s embarrassing to admit now, but – you know what? Fuck it. That stuff helped me survive. I’m still here and those “silly” beliefs carried me through some of my darkest, loneliest hours. The truth is, I still believe in that stuff…with caveats. Continue reading “Moving: Settling into a New Home, New Life, New Way of Thinking”

Coming Out of the Closet: Making Space for Your Dream

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my writing desk. reminding me to show up.

This post is for anyone who has ever had a dream. The passionate ones. Creative ones. Visionaries. Artists. Storytellers. Meaning makers. Lost ones looking for the way back to something they feel but can’t see.

You.

I was cleaning out my closet this past weekend and it got me thinking about dreams.  Those big, hairy, audacious ideas for something you love to do but don’t. It’s scary to put your dream out there, let alone go for it. A dream is a tiny flicker of a flame and there are dream crushers everywhere. One wrong look or word and poof!

It’s gone.

But the dream keeps tugging at your sleeve: Listen! Pay attention to this! This is good stuff! Let’s see what we can make happen here!

It’s soooo easy to defer your dream.
If you follow me, you know my story. I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was five years old. Two degrees, a professional writing career and 43 years later, I’m just now getting back to making space for my dream of being an author. There. I said it.

< insert terrified look here >

It’s one thing to say you want to do or be something. It’s quite another to make the commitment despite the doubts, insecurity and gigantic hairball of fear that tells you oh no, you can’t do THAT. That’s not going to put food on the table, pay for goalie gloves and new brakes for the truck. You’re not good enough. Who do you think you are, thinking you can do THAT??? And then there’s life. That thing that happens when you’re busy making other plans.

But then there is that little tug on your sleeve.

Continue reading “Coming Out of the Closet: Making Space for Your Dream”

Plan Be: What It Really Means to Be Strong

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Ever since my divorce in 2014, I’ve thought about getting another tattoo. But I couldn’t think of anything that really “nailed” what I wanted to convey permanently in art on my skin. Something I could look at every day and say – Yes. That.

Maybe I’m over thinking it. One of my strengths is that I’m good at thinking things through, but the flip side is I think too much. 🙂 But as I approach another birthday, I find myself pensive, as usual. Taking stock, looking back, peeking forward.

And then my friend Joe posed a link to this article/love letter/online dating profile for her husband by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, a writer and fellow Chicagoan I adore: You Might Want to Marry My Husband. (Special thanks to my friend Susan for recommending her to me years ago.) I remember reading her witty books when my kids were babies and was heartbroken to learn of her illness. I am in awe of her grace, humility, prose, and beauty. Her strength, even in the midst of a dark time, is touching beyond any words I could muster.

This got me thinking about strength and what it really means to be “strong.” I used to want to be “strong” so badly. Continue reading “Plan Be: What It Really Means to Be Strong”