On Steps and Tears


As I sit here in my quiet living room, wrapped in my ridiculously-comfy cable-knit poncho and relishing the absence of sound coming from my daughter’s room that tells me she’s asleep, I inhale the deepest and exhale the slowest I have all day (including the moments immediately following when I found said daughter had thrown her plate of mashed potatoes and corn down onto the rug). It’s like I can feel the world slowing down, quieting down, getting ready for the end of the day and forthcoming sleep. The television is off for the nonce, though I’ll probably indulge in some (countless) rewatching of “The Great British Baking Show” before bedtime.

Here we are almost a full week into 2016. It’s a thought that I am having trouble reconciling; it feels like it should have been longer than that right now and yet the days are taking their time a bit. I feel like I have accomplished a great deal and yet that I am falling behind on my To Do list. The decorations are coming down slowly. I’ve already written and submitted an article to the editors of The Well Written Woman. The laundry mountain is being chipped away at. I’ve cooked supper at home several nights this week. I’ve ready several chapters of a new book (you’ll find some favorite quotes from For the Love in the next post back). I’ve also been to the gym and kept up with my daily exercises. Pros and cons, progress and lag. But, on the whole, I find myself very pleased with how this year has begun. Baby steps.

I will confess that I have been busier than I had been expecting and need to work on being a bit more present with my little girl but I did take her out for her first snowfall play of this winter on Monday, which was wonderful. Then we sat on the floor and colored today before Mamaw gave us a call on Skype. So that was fun, particularly with me hilariously trying to defend my meticulously-colored picture from my daughter slapdash creativity. (I managed to snap a picture of my page for myself before surrendering my MLP: FIM coloring book to her mad genuis.)

I am looking forward to this year. I know that it is setting up to be challenging, difficult, or just plain hard for some in my life and it pulls my heart towards them, full of the desire to be there for them, even if there is nothing that I really, physically do for them. But I can be there for them. I can offer love and acceptance and an ear to listen. One of my goals this year is to speak less and listen more and offer as safe a place as I can for others. I don’t really have the words for how important this has become to me.

I have noticed firsthand of late just how ingrained it has become in us to not cry. Don’t cry. Whatever you do, don’t cry. And, if you do cry, apologize for your over-emotionality. Immediately. I am completely guilty of this and it breaks my heart to see those I love feel like they are putting too much on me or embarrassing me or themselves by crying. So I am retraining myself to never say, “Don’t cry”. (Oh, how hard that is with a three year old and those big fat tears over those chubby cheeks over the littlest thing.) Rather, I try to say, “It’s OK. Go on. I’m here,” and then just let them cry as they need. I am trying not to offer advice or platitudes or admonitions, or, really, even say anything aside from reminding them that I am right there (especially if it’s over the phone or Skype, as this is my verbal alternative to being able to hold their hand while they cry). Advice is not what they need from me in that moment. What they need is to be able release those tears, to release that emotion in a place where they do not fear being judged, condemned, or thought ridiculous. They don’t need “don’t cry”; they need “go ahead, you’re safe”.  And that is what I want to give these friends, family, and loved ones. I am a sympathetic crier so there will most likely be two people crying before all is said and done, and that’s okay.

2016 has had a good start, with goals and hopes in place and progress made. It might be little progress but it’s still progress and I am glad for that. Here’s to the progress continuing. Cheers, dears!

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An Existence Woven in Words


I didn’t exist in your world until you started reading this sentence of mine.

Did you know that? I didn’t exist in your world until a moment ago. Ta da! How do you do? Nice to meet you in this big old universe of ours.

This is one of the reasons I write (send letters, journal, blog, tweet, update, etc.): to send my words out into the world, into the universe, and to join my world with that of others’. My words are proof that I did indeed exist in this universe that we call our own; they are also proof of my existence in the worlds and lives of others.

One year ago, a new avenue of world-reaching opened up for me when the wonderful ladies of The Well Written Woman welcomed me as a contributor to their fabulous site. Over the course of 2014, TWWW was kind enough to publish seven of my articles/stories, giving me a safe place to share some of my most deeply felt and vulnerable writings with the world. There really is a sense of fear and foreboding at sending what basically amounts to a piece of your heart and self out into the world. Those soul-written words alert the world to your existence, not to mention your opinions and thoughts, and that can be dangerous, as well as wonderful, as many recent events have revealed to us. It has scared me to death on more than one occasion, but I have not regretted it. Even if I thought I did at the time, the truth is that, when it comes down to it, I really haven’t. When I have doubted myself the most, there always comes a kind, encouraging word from someone (whether friend or stranger) that reminds me of the aforementioned reason why I do this, why I write.

So this thought is a very profound one to me; the thought that, when people read my writing, I then exist in their world and in their lives, even if only for the brief amount of time it takes them to read my words. There are people who have become dearly important parts of my life, my relationships with whom began with words on a screen. Over time, those words have been exchanged in person, along with hugs and smiles and wonderful memories. But, until I first read their words, that person didn’t exist in my universe, and now I do not know what I would do without them. There are people whose words and teachings have affected my mind and the way I think about myself, others, and life. Words that I have taken to heart and incorporated into my own way of living and making the world around me better.

So thank you. Yes, thank YOU. You, who have read my words and allowed me into your world, even if just for a little while. You, who have opened doors and allowed my words to flow through them. You, who have shared your words and your world with me. I hope and pray that the thoughts, sentences, opinions, and reflections that I have woven my existence with have been and will be, in some measure, of help, encouragement, or inspiration to someone whose world I have touched and who has touched mine in return.

Again, nice to meet you.

Emotion: Another Four-letter Word


Author’s Note: Sections in italics are quotes directly from the article “Men Can, Too“.

Can I just say that I LOVE The Well Written Woman? They always publish such excellent articles. Heaven only know what they see in mine. ^_^ But today’s really made my day.

We have heard so much lately about gender equality, feminism, etc., and I really tend to stay out of these discussions because people are just so…angry. So I stay out of the discussions and keep my thoughts to myself. But I very much appreciated this article that Tammie Niewedde wrote (“Men Can, Too”). In the article, she quotes her son, after asking him what he thought of an article that showed men screwing up various jobs,

“Being a man who has chosen to be a stay-at-home dad for part of my son’s life, and being that I was ridiculed and criticized by my in-laws, I don’t think these things are funny at all. These supposed jokes are why men try to stay away from being helpful and sensitive. If we are projected as being good at ‘women’s work’, we completely give up our man card. We’re only allowed to be violent and domineering, and that’s what ticks me off.”

And it breaks my heart. Why do we vilify this? Call it ‘unmanly’, ‘unmasculine’? Why do we not celebrate it more? For example, have male friends who put me to shame with the way they care for their homes and the mastery they show at cooking. I admire them beyond words and, actually, strive to emulate them in many ways.

I am not a strong voice in the crowd when it comes to social issues. I usually keep my feelings private or for one-on-one discussions with my spouse and friends. But this…this is near and dear to my heart as I have met far too many men whose hearts and souls are wounded by this. With everything that’s been in the news lately, it can be so easy to make blanket statements from either side.

“All men can be violent assholes/rapists/abusers/etc.”

“All women can be bitches/teases/ballbusters.”

There is nothing built from this! Nothing at all! On either side. I don’t believe in statements like this. I don’t believe in “I know all men aren’t like this but…” I know that the men that I have chosen to cut out of my life are the exception, the aberration in my world. On the whole, the men in my life are wonderful and caring, intelligent and loving. And yet I know that they still struggle with this. I have spoken to them about it, cried with them through it, and loved on them to try to combat it. Destruction of self-esteem and self-image is not a poison regulated to women only. Please don’t forget that. This is a poison that has become so internalized in our adulthood that the damage is often consistent and difficult to repair when it wounds again and again.

My husband is the most masculine man I know, though he might not fall into the damaging cultural stereotype of masculine. He doesn’t like sports, though he played his fair share as a young kid. He gave it up in a preference for poetry, languages, and culture as he became a teenager. He likes music and Swamp Thing, speaking in German, reading poetry to our daughter, playing on his Xbox, singing, and reading fantasy and science fiction novels. He doesn’t run/jog, lift weights, watch football, or things like that. He debates education reform, he’s a conscientious objector, he mows our lawn, teaches Outdoor Pursuits to young people, is an NRA-licensed rifle instructor, and he’s the most masculine man I know.

And that is because he cares for his family, he encourages and supports his wife, he loves on and giggles with his daughter. He calls his mother just about every night and tells her about his day; he seeks out the advice of his parents on his job and important decisions. And yet he struggles with this. I know he does. But he puts one foot in front of the other every day and does his best to be the man I know he is, to be as true to himself as he can. And I love him for it.

I have never been drawn to the posturing, macho, crowing men – the ones who see their ‘man card’ as needing verification. The ones who whistled at me, sidled up to and touched me uninvited in a club, asked me as I passed them if I believed in love at first sight. I am attracted to men with kind hearts, gentle eyes and hands, clever minds, and loving personalities. THAT is my idea of masculinity, THAT is a man to me. THAT is a good person to me.

But in this world, emotion/sensitivity/kindness are seen as weakness. My husband brought up a good point today. What do we do when we see someone crying in public? We try not to pay attention. We may tell ourselves this is so that we do not embarrass the cryer, but the truth is that we are trained to avoid public emotion. It is seen as unseemly or ‘making a scene’ to allow emotion in public. But isn’t that the point of emotion, the reason our bodies have physical responses to it, like crying? Crying is a way our heart cries out for comfort, for the need of someone else – their care, their love, their strength – even when we don’t realize it. Why do we wish to quash this? In men and women? Men who show emotion are considered weak or unmasculine. Women who show emotion are referred to as a ‘bullet’ to be dodged or, more often, we refer to ourselves as a ‘hot mess’, quashing our own freedom to feel. I’ve even noticed this behavior in some of my characters whom I write for, which I think I need to strongly reconsider.

In the Victorian age, displays of emotion were labeled as a medical/psychological illness; we called it hysteria. Hysteria was treated by isolation, which often led to depression (called ‘exhaustion’), when really what that person most likely needed was someone to recognize their need and answer that emotion’s call.

We – men and women – are not weak in our emotion. We are strong in the fact that we are given opportunities to minister to and love on each other. We are given opportunities to strengthen each other in our actions and in our hearts, regardless of what the stereotypical gender roles would have us do. I don’t think I would call myself a feminist (I don’t really like calling myself an anything really, as I’ve discovered lately) but I do believe in the need for equal support from both sides.

As much as there is a war against women with the SCOTUS decision about birth control and such, there is also war against men that orders them to never, ever act like a woman. It’s as if during this war, the male camp calls out its own members as traitors if they can cook or clean or change a diaper. Moreover, if a man shows sadness or weakness, even in losing a child, his admission to the Man Club is revoked, and not only by other men, but sometimes by women as well.

[…]

It’s not about superiority. It’s not about winning. It’s about being human.

Amen.

NaBoPoMo Day 30: And Here We Are


With a wonderful way to end a month of blogging. The below is a post on the Facebook page of The Well Written Woman Blog:

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ATTENTION PLEASE! Today is the day to announce our#WritingContest winners! There were so many amazing stories submitted! We definitely have the most talented fans on the internet! Thank you all so much for your submissions!
*drum roll*
The winners are…
1st: And the Pieces Move – Melissa Snyder
2nd: Waking up in 1913 – Holly Bowers
3rd: A Change of Heart – Chelsea Grieve
1st Runner Up: Tigger: A Meowmoir – Anne Lundgren
2nd Runner Up: Dove Sky – Anne Krause
Keep an eye on your inboxes for prizes! Your stories will be published next week!
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*does a happy dance* So awesome! I read that post just after midnight last night and jumped out of bed to do a happy dance. I worked really hard on that short story and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am so glad that they did, too. I will definitely post a link as soon as it’s published.
Thank you, Well-Written Woman!