Category Archives: Women

25 things every woman needs to know.

1) Life is a steep, uphill battle but it’s fierce & it’s beautiful & you’ll be sad to see it go if you live it right.

2) New people won’t stop coming into your life and opportunities won’t stop knocking on the door but you need to have the space for them. In all you currently have– be them relationships or obligations– step back and ask yourself “why.” If you can find the answer, hold tighter. If the answer escapes you, it’s time to let something go.

3) You should resolve to be awesome for the rest of your life. Right now. Do it.

4) Leggings, no matter how much we wish, will never one day magically transform into pants. Wearing them with tops that don’t cover your bum is not cute. Please, please, please stock up on pants.

5) Goals are not a January 1st kind of thing. Set them weekly. Set them monthly. Set them so that you are moving forward and always trying to progress. Life can grow stagnant without them… beware.

6) Tuna and barbeque sauce are as unlikely a couple as Sandy and Danny from Grease. However, they go together. They go together like rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong. Don’t gag at the computer, I promise I am not fooling you. Mix the two together with some brown rice and you’ve got a bomb.com lunch.

7) Confidence is a sexy thing. Guys dig it. Girls dig it. We all dig it.

8) I agree with Bruno Mars and, if I were a good singer, I’d serenade you alongside him in singing how I hope he buys you flowers… and holds your hands… and takes you to parties if you like to dance. You deserve that. Always. Don’t think you should have less than that. You are worthy beyond words, gal.

9) And maybe Bruno Mars should be president because he’s also right to say that you are amazing. Just the way you are. No frill. No big introductions. You’re unlike anyone else and you should lean into that every morning. Every evening. Every hour.

9.5) Knowing your states & geography is a really precious thing. As a recovering “I didn’t pay attention in Geography class and forgot my states one by one so that boys would think I was ditzy & cute, and it was, in fact, ditzy & cute until the day I made the mistake of asking everyone in Missouri how they liked living down south,” I can say firsthand that it’s really wonderful to know that Russia isn’t on top of the US and that Delaware is, in fact, a state. The moral of this bloated story: guys have never wanted us to be stupid. They actually like brain cells. It’s a wonder & a mystery but they really kind of, sort of, definitely like girls with a noggin. ALL HAIL THE LADIES WHO LIKE HTML CODING & UNDERSTAND MARXIST THEORY!! HOLLAAAA!!! WE WINNNN AFTER ALL THESE YEARSSSS!!

10) Your spirit will never benefit from shallow people. You gotz to cut the toxic out of your life, boo.

11) And if you make mean comments, and you talk about people behind their back without ever trying to love them or see where they are coming from, you MIGHT be the toxic one. Oof. I’m not trying to burn you, just trying to say that relationships are too valuable to muddy them up with what you perceive to be the shortcomings of someone else. Big girls do bigger things than that.

12) So yea, I’ll drive the point home: gossip is shallow and stupid. Hobbies are better. Social good is best ;)

13) Nude pumps. They’re good for the soul. They are a must-have in any serious closet. Buy a pair one day and I can promise your whole entire style statement will benefit from them.

14) Here’s the truth: you are going to waste a lot of hours focusing on who you are not, or who you want to secretly be. But you won’t ever wake up and actually be that person. You’ve got to embrace what you bring to the table. If you don’t like what that is, have the courage to change it.

15) The world does not revolve around us. Turns out that we are just little points of punctuation in a much bigger story glittered with periods & commas & dashes. How are you helping that story to be better? How are you being the best dang point of punctuation that you can be?

16) If you ever find yourself frying Oreos on the stove top (and being an absolute BOSS at it), do not, I REPEAT, do not take the simmering pot of grease straight from the stove and pour it directly into the sink. The thing will straight up explode… And grease will fly everywhere… And you will risk burning your pretty little face off… And then everyone will probably call you “Vat of Grease Face” or “Grease Lightning” (what is with all the Grease references, Hannah?!) for the rest of your life… And, if they do, you can refer them to this blog post and tell them to read point #11. But still, dump the grease outside and keep your face intact.

17) If you want to run a serious business, if you want people to take you seriously, then start your engine and sign out some library books. Business books are proof that God loves us. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg will make you a better leader. Seth Godin is the dude you wanted to take the prom all these years and never knew it until you cracked open his book “Tribes.”

18) No matter how tech savvy we get, there is a need to say things to a person’s face. Please, for the love of lovelier things, have the courage to call someone up and verbalize your thoughts or meet for a coffee. Breaking a heart is hard stuff, stopping a relationship is never fun, but there will never be anything as loud as this statement: You are worth my words. You are worth my presence. You are worth, and will always be worth, more than just letters on a screen and a broken heart jammed in the crooks of an overflowing inbox. Face to face connections are fading faster, please don’t let them get away…

19) First impressions are important. Really. That truth never changes. So refer to point #4. Really meditate on it.

20) No matter what kind of interview you are gearing up for, there are certain standards you should always hold yourself to: wearing something other than jeans, not talking out your phone during the interview, sending a handwritten note afterwards. An interview means you want something but it doesn’t mean they have to give it to you.

21) Regret is a real thing. It’s going to happen. It’s going to come clomp-clomp-clomping into your life at some point. Don’t hold onto things forever but learn from them and let the past go. The past will be a dictator if you let her.

22) You never want to be the COTS (chick on the side). Girls, GIRLS!!!! IF A GUY HAS A GIRLFRIEND AND HE IS STILL TRYING TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU IN A “YOU ARE THE ONE THAT I WANT” WAY, DO NOT FALL FOR IT. HE SHOULD MAN UP AND ACTUALLY LET THE OTHER GIRL GO. IF HE DOES NOT THEN WALK AWAY. WALK AWAY. WALK AWAY. You are worth so much more than second string in relationships. And being a COTS is not an endearing title. Be the better lady and hop off his swag; you are breaking the heart of girl you don’t even know without ever really meaning to. (And truthfully: real men aren’t interested in finding another gal, they’re too wrapped up in loving the face off the one they already have.)

23) The women’s section of Old Navy and Target has failed us. If you ever really want to fully embrace to “oversize” look then just frolic over the men’s section. All those flannels you’ve been tugging at, wishing they would actually be “oversize,” are hanging out in the men’s section waiting to kiss your elbows with their flannelish lips. Roll up the sleeves and get going. And then wear them leggings having no shame at all!

24) Facebook is a tricky thing. This is an invitation to step back and ask yourself, should I really post that? In the days of diaries, we never had to worry about this. Now all that we say is a microphone so be very, very careful. Here’s a link to all the best quotes from Maya Angelou. The next time you feel like posting something really ugly that you are going to regret, take a stab at one of these instead: http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/3503.Maya_Angelou

25) Darling, darling–the victim song is never going to fit you. It will never be good enough for your lungs. It will never be good enough for your time. You are stronger than you know and more graceful than you know. Don’t let the parts of you that want to be a victim live on any longer. You’ve got a voice… you’ve got a story… Do us all a favor and use it. Without any apologies. Without any stepping back. If ever you need a listener, come find me…

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Filed under Uncategorized, Women

They came back. For girlfriends who know the Distance like shoe sizes & salaries.

They sat in oversized arm chairs and talked about the Distance as it if were the 5th person in the room.

As if each one of them had felt the Distance curling close. As if they all had sat beside the Distance once or twice that month and watched it grow restless–switch, unswitch its legs– before it finally sighed and said, “Will you pour the cider or will it be me?”

They were growing. Changing. Moved into a season of chaos & clutter & Grownup Things and just trying to keep up with the curveballs this Babe Ruth of a Life had been known to throw.

There were salaries now.

Events with RSVP’s hitched to the bottom. Benefits– whatever that truly meant to  girls who just wanted to buy a good pair of heels and a salmon dinner.

There were bills arriving all the time. Less & less the mailbox was a place for surprise & serendipity; the mailman ousted from the “tooth fairy status” he held when it came Christmastime and the toy catalogs began pouring in.

There were obligations. And invitations. And all the “ations” it takes to make a girl grab her beach towel and head fleeting for the cape.  There was laundry to fold. Lunches to be prepped. Time slots to be handled like eggs on the stove. Careful not to burnout, careful not to overload.

There were calories. Suddenly, calories– poking out from the folds of tin foiled packaging– meaning something more mammoth than ever before as metabolisms grew slower than old men in velour. Dresses to fit into. Workouts to uphold. And nights to just say “screw it” and pour another glass.

There was life.

& the truth that it was quicker these days. & harder, much harder, to catch the good fistfuls of it. Like golden locks. Like clumps of sand closer to the water, perfect for sculpting the sand castles-turned-mansions by sunset.

There was the life & the fact that lived above it all–above the calories, the salaries, the RSVP’s & VIPs: No matter the Distance that curled at their feet, they never stopped holding this one prayer high, “Please keep them safe until I see them again.”

That was friendship.

Stripped off from school & college & clubs. That was friendship. Minus the solo cups and too tiny crop tops and foolish mistakes turned rich with laughter by the morning. That was friendship. When the overtime flooded in & babies started crying & foreign lands began cooing to the ones who had the Traveler’s Itch.

That was friendship to a group for girls who needed no explanation, no starting line, no rolling of the dice to indicate who would go first when they finally folded into one another again.

They came back. Carrying stories, they came back. Carrying stories like wise men from the east, they came back. Unearthing tales from the time capsules they buried in their own hearts until a time such as this. Unfolding & unfurling & every kind of “un” when it came to the conversations they’d snipped short like pixie haircuts just one week before, left as cliffhanger with the classic text message, “You have to hear this in person.”

They came back– from every angle of the map– with all the space & gaps & gap-toothed boys that filled the time slots less precious than this one.  The chance to be girls. Just girls again. In a world that made them executives & teachers & writers & auditors. Just girls with tales of the boys they’d loved. The lives so busy they’d forgotten to dream. & the pieces that had broken off between “the time I saw you last.”

Always & always, the girlfriends came back. For the edging out. The sorting out. The pulling apart the mess from the sane like the stray red sock snuck deep into the pile of whites upon whites. That’s what girlfriends were for. They came back, knowing more of this & that but never closing in on the questions they all ached to answer: who would go next. & why. When would this distance end. & how. When would friendship not be held to pinpoints on the map. & when would “together again” reach them after that night.

They came back, knowing nothing but a single prayer they’d learnt to whisper in an endless way, ” Please keep them safe until I see them again.”

 

 

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Filed under Best Friends, Women

What I never learned from Mr. Timberlake when he brought Sexy back.

“Just take them,”she whispered.

“You think she will notice? “

“Not a chance, she’s dumb as rocks. Plus, they are going to look ten times better on you.”

We crouched beside one another, staring into the dark abysmal locker of the most popular girl in school. Left Open.

An Altar of Name Brand Relics for Plain Jane 9th graders to bow down and worship before. The Sacred Jeans, known for luring in a slew of boys just learning to jive with their own hormones, sat before us on a Stunning Throne of Popular Girl Laundry.

I grabbed the pants from the top of the pile and shoved them into my messenger bag.

“You are right,” I said, slamming the girl’s locker shut. “She left it open. She had to expect something would get stolen.”

Yes, that’s right. I am a thief. A crook. Do you think less of me now that I’ve shared an uber rebellious story from my reckless youth existence?

To my defense, they were teeny tiny pants so I only count them as half when I chalk them up to merchandise. I am half crook. Half thief.

Sidenote for the most popular girl in high school who may or may not read this blog: Honestly, those pants were destined to hug my hips. They could have never had the same impact if they spent all their Little Jean Life only on you. No, they never travelled and I never got a sisterhood out of them but they taught me a thing or two about my own identity. And they made for a killer denim makeup case when I grew tired of spray painting them on my body. So thanks girl, you can come over to my closet any day and borrow your little heart out.

Back to the Sacred Jeans.

For all the years where “teen” was stapled to the end of my age, those jeans were the highlight of my existence. They had magical fray. They defined “hip hugger” and “low rise” before we ever saw the jean types in marquee lettering over Abercrombie sale racks.

They gave me this word—this sultry Cosmopolitan word—and they allowed me to parade around in that adjective like a pair of oversized heels found in mommy’s closet.

Sexy.

I didn’t bring sexy back in those pants. I unearthed sexy for the very first time. I owned Sexy the best way a girl could own a word without having any clue what it really meant beyond guys making comments on the school bus, degrading comments that at the time you giggle over, write in your diary and thank the Good Lord for making some girls “smart” and other girls “faithful” but for giving you the adjective that oozes with goodness: Sexy.

My 9th grade existence consisted of baby hooker clothing and forgetting my 50 states one by one to make boys like me. And I was darn proud.

Yes, I get it now. God did not look down on me parading like a prostitute with a Lisa Frank binder and give me a standing ovation. More than likely, he put his head down and said out loud, “She’ll learn one day. She’ll get it the hard way.”

And I did, I certainly did. It look a long spell of meeting boys who only looked to my body instead of my soul. Never told me a secret. Never asked who I really was beyond the skin tight jeans that would make any reptile cringe and shed the skin right off for lack of oxygen.

If I knew then what I know now about Sexy and the way it works when you don’t know the true meaning, I would hold off on the pants. The skin-tight shirts. The second wardrobe that existed in my own locker to change into once I got past mom at the breakfast table.

Sexy is something you learn and define as you grow inward and project outward. As you take on more of life. As you take Bigger Bites & make Bigger Plans & navigate your way around the world on your own.

Sexy is waking up and getting to work on time. Sexy is not the high heels you can manage to walk in but rather where you are going, the direction and the path you are taking. Sexy is not stealing pants or stealing hearts just to be reckless with them; it is stealing stars from the sky to hitch a good dream to, stealing advice from Good Women who have the interest of refining you like copper in the forefront of their mind.

Sexy is values in hand that you never go back on. Compassion on sleeves that you never stop sewing.

Sexy is no apologies tucked into the sockets of your gums for being alive, for breathing, for taking up space and making noise while you’ve got two feet and a chance to cause a ruckus in this lifetime.

Sexy is not only valuing the depths of the heart, but guarding your possessions: your stories, your fears, your dreams and your hopes for Tomorrow. Not spoon-feeding them to every one you meet at a bar but keeping some stories for candlelight, for the one who knows you well enough to get white wine and Oreos for tear control after a somewhat endless day.

Sexy is knowing what you want and not letting others convince you otherwise. Knowing what you stand for and not letting others use you as a welcome mat.

Sexy is not letting the pencil skirt speak for you but sometimes silencing your mouth all together and letting the actions speak. Letting the ladle at the soup kitchen speak. The hand that holds the door open. The shoulder that is a prop for the friend in need.

Sexy is staying faithful to the belief that it was never about the pants but about meeting the girl on the day she folded them up and put them away before walking outside to take on the world in her own skin.

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Filed under A Year Without Beauty Magazines, Uncategorized, Women

It would take seven cups of wisdom, eight plates of courage, four doses of compassion and a lifetime of selflessness to even be 3/4’s of the Whole that is my Mother.

The pew feels anxious beneath me as I sit beside my mother contemplating the ways to tell her that I have stolen from her.

Mom, I stole something from you. Mom, I stole a lot of stuff from you.

It doesn’t help that we are in church. That I am trying to find ways to come clean of my thieving ways as we are asked to rise and open up our hymn books.

I have no intention of stopping. I am not going to stop stealing from you.

It is moments like this one where life actually playing out like a soap opera would be terribly convenient. With Dramatic Pauses. And Intense Monologues. Because then I would have no problem saying out loud that I have been stealing since the day my soul learned to wrap pieces of my mother into swaddling clothes, tucking each piece carefully into the crib like compartments of my heart. That would be easier to admit if I had a 2p.m. time slot on One Life to Live.

I don’t think it is ever easy to tell someone these kinds of things. It is not so casual to say, “Oh, it is no big deal, Charlotte just rented out a room in my soul and spun a web out of your being so that I can keep parts of you forever.” No Big Deal.

Those kind of words don’t just plop themselves into conversations beside dirty dishes and student loans.

There were once days where I testified that I would never grow up to be like my mother. Someone should have placed a bet with me then that I would one day change my mind. They would be a piggy bank richer right now. These days I find myself getting down on knees, knees that have only felt the ground for 22 years, to pray to be Half of my Mother.

I’ve looked around. I’ve calculated. It would take seven cups of wisdom, eight plates of courage, four doses of compassion and a lifetime of selflessness to ever be 3/4’s of the whole that is my Mother.

And I wonder if she already knows that I am a thief. That I have stolen the way she looks at life. The Way She Greets the Sun. Stolen the way she dances whenever a band shows up or even when there is no music at all because it just feels so good to have legs that can move. Stolen the way she Injects Humanity into every person she encounters.

Maybe I will start smaller. Smaller Robberies. Easier to Admit to Her.

The way she writes down words, scribbles messages onto stray papers and receipts. The way she spoons an avocado or brews drip coffee from a red kettle. Her love for little trinkets: worry dolls, cards with mismatched envelopes. All into a Big Thief Bag.

I would say it if I could: that I have scrapbooked all the love she has ever given me. That when my own daughter grows up and spends her first holiday away from me and finds herself terribly homesick I will mail her a Yellow Towel.

A Pristine Yellow Towel.

Not because she needs one but because the color will be so spectacular. She’ll hold it to her face and I will think of her as I cut the turkey. The silverware won’t shine as brightly that year. I already know it.

But most of all, I have stolen her stories and the ways that she tells them. After all, since I was a little girl I have taken shelter within these very stories as if they were Pink Plastic Playhouses Sitting Pretty by the Patio. Resting my head beneath a roof made out of cross country road trips and painting days at the beach. Her strong, endearing narratives leave me closing my eyes to build maps in my head. Her voice– dipping and tightening– points out destinations upon my Mind Maps. Compassion here. Resilience there. Spirituality around this bend. Goodness along this road.

Everyday with my mother is a day full of stealing.

Robbing. Burglarizing. Pilfering. Thieving.

And there is no way to tell her this, that I am stealing, stealing, stealing in hopes that one day, when we no longer sit side by side in pews, she will have seeped deep enough into my bones that I can tell her stories to others as she would have liked. No way to tell her that I won’t be able to handle the day where we don’t sit side by side if that web within me is not fully cloaked in her Stories, Traits, & Wisdom to pass and pay forward to a world that needs them desperately. I’ll tell friends about Yellow Towels & Avocados. I’ll tell my own children about Mexican Hot Chocolate and Sunflowers in the Sky.I’ll tell strangers, children, the elderly & foreigners. I will tell anyone with open ears about the day I learned to steal from a woman who danced for every occasion and held a heart within her that ached and bent for the happiness of others.

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Filed under Happiness, Passion, Women

Sisterhood 101: The end to competition & start to collaborating more fiercely.

It was effortless to smile today, with knees folded neatly beneath me, as I sat on the floor and counted sisters like holographic playing cards.

A Very Notable Collection of Them.

Just when I believe that the world has taken a break from marveling me with her magic tricks, she pulls a white, silk cloth from within my ear. Leaving me breathless, leaving me awe-inspired.

To tell you what happened yesterday is to tell you the story of a 22-year-old girl who woke up before the sun even stirred from its sleep cycle, put on a pair of black pumps and a reliable yellow sweater, and left her apartment for the day. That same girl came home completely changed with the addition of a Dozen New Sisters bulging out from her over-sized leather bag.

She called me sister and I instantly felt as if I were standing beside her, her arm swooping over my shoulder and pulling me in.

An unexpected thread laced throughout the room of over 300 women, curling us into a Sisterhood we never anticipated to find that morning when we bought our Starbucks.

Ms. Leymah Gbowee, the woman responsible for organizing the peace movement that brought the end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003, was our closing speaker at the Girls Stand Up! Orientation Day yesterday. Months of tireless work, a slew of meetings at the UNICEF cafe, and a fine mix of email delegation between myself and several women, brought us to a packed venue where over 250 girls equipped themselves in armors of advocacy and womens’ issues in preparation for CSW 55.

That’s right, these next two weeks are my Shark Week. The 55th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations is a solid two weeks dedicated to gender equality and the advancement of women. Say it with me now, Girl. Power. A forum amidst the Concrete Jungle to formulate Concrete Policies to Promote Women Worldwide. Can you see the grin stretching across my face just yet?

But while policies can grow long and technical, Ms. Gbowee brought it down to a level where we could all find sitting space. A call for women to be sisters. To be fierce collaborators instead of fierce competitors.

And so when she called me by “sister” I took up the title instantly.

S-I-S-T-E-R.

Leyman is one of those people within this world that when she uses a word, she uses it. She feels it. She means it. And you feel it too. She wraps you up fully in it. Wraps you so tight that you wish she would just write the word down so you could take up living space in one of the letters, paying rent to the S or turning the T into a one-bedroom apartment.

S-I-S-T-E-R

I have never had a sister in my life, not by the dictionary definition that insists on telling me that I need some sort of matching DNA to hold the hand of another Beautiful Girl and be fully be related. But Webster & Oxford can never argue with me over the secrets I have shared and the stories I have heard from women all over that I now call Sister.

My life is Etched by many sisters.

Sketched & Etched By Many Sisters.

And life is far more interesting when the prospect of sisters, of fierce collaborators, are always around the corner. When we Link instead of Compare. When we Talk instead of Gossip. When we stop looking for what we can possibly aspire to beat in one another. You are not prettier than I. I am not smarter than you. She is not nicer than me. We are not better than her. These are the kinds of statements that tug at my heart, infusing me with hope that one day we will muster the courage to say these things to one another.

Because we don’t say these things often enough.

And so I punctuate the ending of this post with a little dose of Sisterhood 101, inspired by Ms. Gbowee, my Newfound Sister:

Let’s put away the Mean, Unkind Words. The Stunning Slander. Let’s tuck away the Comparing of our Thighs and our Hips. Let’s put down the Gossip and throw out the Animosity. Let’s stop battling for First Place and just help others find a place: to live, to work, to learn, without fear of persecution. Let’s drop the drama off at daycare. Let’s quit the popularity climb. Let’s forget how to back stab, how to make nasty comments, how to hurt one another’s feelings. It never made us prettier, it never really worked. Let’s forget that we were once “no longer friends” and let’s admire one another. Admire her. Admire Each Other.

Let’s sit down. Grab coffee. Put aside Jealousy. Make a Space for Sisterhood. Let’s talk about fears that we all have but never admit. Let’s allow Loneliness, Unhappiness, Excitement & Anticipation sit down at the table beside us.

Let’s plan. Let’s collaborate. Let’s think out loud to one another. Let’s be active. Real. Crazy. Daring. Proud. Loud. Sisters.

And let’s see what happens when we start these things. When we start a new ball rolling and take on a new attitude. Let’s see the change as it comes. Let’s see that progress as it is made, when we stop looking to beat one another and just begin being there for one another.

I tend to believe it makes life a lot simpler. And if you are looking for a real sell: I hear it prevents early wrinkles and nasty frown marks.

 

 

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Filed under Happiness, Women

To a woman who leaves a trail of adoration wherever she goes like the glitter upon greeting cards that always ends up on your Fingers. Your Dress. Your Face. Your Notebooks. Your Collar. Your Lap.

Sashay.

The word is sashay.

It might be the only word in all of the dictionary brave enough to take on her way of walking.

The only word without knocking knees when it comes to embodying enough potential to describe the poised motion of my mother as she floated from crowd to crowd at her surprise 60th birthday party this past weekend.

Sashaying across the floor as if she were still 22.

I was on the way to the doctor the other day because of chest pain that thankfully was just reflux,” she told the group of nearly 100 guests . “And I am driving and panicking, wondering, ‘Did I tell everyone that I love them? Did I?’ But you are all here tonight and I have chance to tell you now!

My mother is rare in that sense.

In the sense that she is given a party and she uses it as a chance to let others know that she loves them.

In the sense that her own world could be finding ways to crumble and she’ll stay wondering if the people around her know themselves loved enough.

She is rare in the sense that she will have you tripping over Piles of Love on your way out to the grocery store; in the sense that you will end up making a list of all the people in your life that need to hear “I love you” today instead of remembering to put the apples in the cart or check granola bars off the list.

She is rare in the sense that she could point out just how many times in a day we may say “I Love You” but that it really pales in comparison to showing it. In order to love, and love really, we sometimes need to ditch the words. Leave the Love Letters Behind and Raise Up Our Hands To Love In Action Like Shadow Figures Upon the Wall. Bring Love Forth With Presence. Awareness. Kindness. Understanding. Loyalty. Patience. Even when we would rather just say three words and move on for the day. Especially when nothing inside of us brews with an inclination to show love to others.

She is rare in the sense that she only needs to move three steps before she is shaking love off through her sway and leaving others absolutely wrapped with her easy companionship. A woman who leaves a trail of adoration wherever she goes like the glitter upon greeting cards that always ends up on your Fingers. Your Dress. Your Face. Your Notebooks. Your Collar. Your Lap.

She is rare in the sense that she only needs 30 seconds or so to prove to you that “to love” is to Love in Color. Love Out Loud. Love in Silence. Love in Motion. Love Regardless. Love Unconditionally.

She’ll make your fingernails ache from loving others.

She’ll make your elbows sore from loving so fully.

And she will give you every reason under her bright, bright sun to believe that you don’t need a holiday or a box of chocolates to begin right now.

 

Happy 60th Birthday Mom.

Short & Sweet. But as I wrote before: it is not so easy to find words confident enough to represent you. After a good deal of coaxing and bribing words out of the crooks of the dictionary I was able to find a few. Regardless, it is already very clear: There are no words when it comes to you and all you have instilled within me.

Love & Miss you already.

 

 

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Filed under Happiness, Live with intention, Love Is..., Love Yourself, Thank You, Uncategorized, Women

Here, let’s try this: You pick my pockets and then we both see just how loud I can sing.

You doing o.k.?” he asked, towering over me. Three Times My Size.

“Yea, I am fine. Thank you.”

I could feel him up against me, we were both packed tightly into the cramped subway car. No moving room. Nowhere to move.

Just making sure,” he replied, flashing a wide smile at me.

I smiled back with uneasiness. My lips pursed with the realization that the tugging at my bag just moments before had not been my imagination. That his checking up on my look of apprehension was not a genuine, heartfelt gesture but a way to cover up what he really should have said. “I just stole from you. I just reached into your pocket and took your metro card and your money and now I will proceed to smile and walk away now.”

And that is just what he did.

You could have never held your bag tighter. You could have never spoken up the second you realized he had reached into your purse pocket.  There are just some things that you could not have done and in those moments you just stand there and you take it and you find a quiet space in your mind to count your blessings all the way home. And you wish in your head that you had not been so naive or that he had not smiled at you. “If you are going to steal from me then just do it,” you think to yourself. “I have much better smiles in my life, I never needed yours.”

And maybe you get home and you double bolt your door behind you and you find a place to sit down. You put on “Hey there, Delilah” because for some reason that song really comforts you, the thought of someone thinking your spirit is comparable to the brightness of Times Square maybe. And you just sit there and you pick your mind for reasons as to why you are so agitated. It is not because he took your metro card. It is not because he stole some money or a Starbucks gift card that a friend gave to you. It could have been worse, much worse. No, no. You are agitated and infuriated for another reason altogether. For The Fact That You Have Never Felt So Small In Your Life. So Little. So Helpless. So Without A Voice. Regardless of what was taken and how much he still managed to reach into your life and take from it. Reach Into Your Space And Violate It. And you imagine that feeling of violation won’t go away so quickly. It will stay and it will pester you but eventually it will dare you to do something more.

And you sarcastically wish that man well, him with his deceiving smile and all, and you pray that if he uses your Starbucks card tonight that he will order “Skinny” instead of whole milk. Because he desperately needed the Skinny (but that is as mean as you will get). And you sit there longer and you draw back your comment. Anger is not a pretty quality. Resentment never serves a purpose. Nasty Comments Get No One Any Where.

And so you reach for the phone and you call people. You call home. You call your roommates. You call for comfort and validation. And they will all agree with you that what he did was wrong. Oh, he got you good, he even managed to squeeze a smile out of you. And from every voice that picks up on the ends of another telephone, no matter how many miles away, you realize you will never be alone. That no matter what happens, if there is some kind of injustice in your life someone else will pick up the phone and validate it. Or squeeze you a little tighter. Or offer you support in the form of a prayer or a shoulder.

And because of this, you stop feeling so sorry for yourself, for the fact that some jerk is feeling a little more empowered today, and you realize that you are absolutely blessed to be able to speak up. To have a voice. To feel violated but to be able to say it, because somewhere in Afghanistan a woman just became a victim and no one said a word. Because somewhere in China another mother just had her baby girl ripped from her arms, And No One Listened to Her Screaming. And it happens in Sudan & Uganda & Ethiopia. Femicide. Honour Killings. Rape. It happens absolutely everywhere at every moment except that no woman can say a word.

And it is almost funny because you spend most of your days going from meeting after meeting at the United Nations about Women and their Status. And you are all about the “Girl Power.” And you put on your high heels and you smile at cute business men at busy intersections because you know you are feminine and you “own it.” But you have never really taken on the twang of Shania to say, “Man, I feel like a woman” for any of that stuff.

However, you have never felt so much womanhood as when he reached into your pocketbook and took what was yours. You have never felt so much womanhood as when you picked up the phone and you told someone what happened. And you realize that God gave you syllables & words to speak out. And some women don’t have that. Some women will never have that.

And that is when you realize that being a woman in this country, a real woman, has nothing to do with the height of your heels. The Size of Your Chest. The Color of Your Hair. It has nothing to do with cramming yourself into tiny little boxes labeled “pretty” and “petite.” Nor does it have anything to do with the Fad Diets or the Beauty Magazines or All The Weight that She Just Lost. It has nothing to do with the Competition you find for yourself or the Bad Mouthing you do over a social networking site. No. No. Being a woman in this country means you have a voice and a choice over how you will use it.

And you realize that you have the freedom to speak and so you do. You put down the arms of Competition & Jealousy & Envy & Dislike for other women and you pick up better Ammo. A Voice that is Strong. A Heart that is Kind. A Mouth that is Classy, Speaking Words of Love rather than Hatred. Unkind Words won’t get you far, and if they do, then have fun looking the mirror at the end of the day. Arms that Hold. Brains that Push You Forward. Drive & Ambition that no one can steal from you. A Spirit that will be Relentless for the Lives & Dignity & Happiness of Other Women. Other Voiceless Women Who Share The Same Heart Songs With You. And you will sing. Sing for Them. Sing for your Sister and for your Mother. Your Best Friend. Your Mentor.

And then you will smile. Oh, you will smile. Much Larger than that Man Who Stole from You. And you will tuck yourself into bed tonight knowing that God made no mistake in making you a Woman and giving you a voice. And with those two factors clearly intertwined, you will realize that it is time to make noise.

It is time to make noise.

 

 

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Filed under Reality, Women

Yes, yes, I am a Broken Hearted Young Lady but don’t come near me with a hammer & nails.

via weheartit.com

I am legitimately the easiest girl in the world to date. No, but seriously. Any guy would be lucky to date me.

Before I start sounding like the prototype of some half-dressed tween on the cover of Bop! Magazine let me explain.

A guy could sleep soundly at night knowing that he can never and will never break my heart, that my heart was been broken so many times before. By a Slew of Sad Commercials and Painful Truths Littered on the Fronts of Newspapers. Black & White & Tragedy all over them.

If I want anyone to know anything about me, it is this: My heart is broken. Very Broken. Quite Shattered.

And before I write further with this blog I think it is important to put this out in the open. I bathe my words in tones of optimism and joy, and I believe fully in all that I write. But at the core of it all, I am broken hearted and that is the sole reason for my writing to you all.

Yes, yes, I am a Broken Hearted Young Lady but don’t come near me with a hammer & nails. I could not stand it any other way.

It sounds strange but I have always had other people’s heartbreak pinned to my own heart. As far back as I can remember I have been writing the tales of other people’s tattered souls.

My family members would sit perplexed by stories that I wrote as a nine-year-old about tragedy and death, poverty of the spirit, cancer and separation from loved ones. Here I was, 4’6 and probably 60 pounds or so, click clicking away on my typewriter, pouring my heart, the same heart that beat for Aaron Carter and the Backstreet Boys, into the tragedies of the victims of suicide and Holocaust survivors.

I am surprised I was not in therapy for writing with a constant tone of morbidity at such a young age. I cannot explain it. I don’t think I ever will be able to. I just have found better ways of coping with it.

I take stock in the truth that just because a heart is broken does not mean that it is incomplete.

bro·ken (brkn) v.Past participle of break. adj.

  1. Forcibly separated into two or more pieces; fractured; cracked: a broken arm; broken glass.

I have written about broken hearts before, about how I think that people spend too much deeming what should and should not be broken. At what time. For how long. By who.

We spend too much time thinking that heartbreak does not have a place in this lifetime. That heartbreak should not fit into the equation. That, if one is heartbroken, they surely need to be fixed. Call the love doctor and stitch this baby back together.

To imagine a world that lacks any fractured hearts is unrealistic. I could spin this sentence into so many eloquent sentiments but I think it is better in its simplest form. It is unrealistic to think that when our own hearts our fixed, the hearts of neighbors won’t be broken next.

I feel bad for God in that sense. I imagine that up in his Big Armchair there is a soundtrack playing of the ripping and tearing all over the world. There is just no time to listen to Justin Bieber when your ears are in charge of taking in the symphony of shattered hearts from every space of green on this Grand Earth.

Perhaps a board exists that allows Him to keep track. A light up board. Oh, another heart just shattered in India. Yikes, seven hearts crumbled on the East Coast. Woah, 38,000 hearts in pieces before my morning scone?

Tough job. He should probably pass some of the work onto Santa. Santa could at least carry some super glue for the cracked messes in our chests within his sack of toys.

But I also bet God knows a thing or two about those hearts. The Purpose They Serve. The Good They Do. The Change They Erupt.

If our hearts were never broken over the cries for literacy then no pencils would come to be. If our hearts were never broken over the longing for clean water then no wells would be dug. If our hearts were never broken over the cries of our loved ones, then no hugs would be hugged. No Kisses Kissed. No Secrets Shared. No Promises Made.

I have found great comfort in a quotation by Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision: “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” Stearns wrote this message upon a piece of loose leaf after witnessing the suffering in South Korea in 1950.

I don’t believe that I will reach a point in my lifetime where this ticker of mine is unbroken. It is not going to happen, I know enough of that already.

Better to make use of it, and rearrange the fractured shard to make new pictures. New. Bright. Arranged. Pictures. Be it listening to a story. Sending a love letter. Donating My Time. My Energy. My Life. To Others.

Trust me, it isn’t a resume builder nor a good icebreaker to a conversation. “Hi, my name is Hannah. My heart is severely fractured by the injustices of this world, want to grab some coffee?

But if anyone inquires about the humility of a broken heart, I think it is quite worth it at the end of each day. To extend one’s own heart and allow it to be ruined completely, in hope that through the wreckage, someone else’s heart will dance today.

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Filed under Disconnect, For a Better World, Loneliness, Reality, Simply Living, The Tough Stuff, Tragedy, Women

Beauty that comes in six shades of red and seven different sizes.

The secret to a life well-lived is beautiful skin. A whittled waistline and “stop him dead in his tracks” pick up lines. The right pair of shoes. A clean diet (one that will try to convince you is not based upon deprivation). Great sex. A slim body and a fat wallet. A swimsuit that fits your shape. Flat abs that take less than 15 minutes a day to maintain. Makeup that feels like it is barely there. And looking better naked.

At least this is what the world tells me as I walk out the door each morning.

My hands detected the worth and weight of beauty magazines at the age of 12 and I was never the same again. I flipped through the glossy pages where pretty girls smiled back at me and home remedies made promises that I don’t think they were ever fully equipped to keep. As I traced the Perfect Lips. Lashes. Long Flowing Hair. I remember thinking to myself, “I never realized I had this much to fix.I never knew I was missing so much.” I never realized I was this broken.

We digest the pages of these magazines and websites as though they are the 300-calorie sandwich with only 217 milligrams of sodium that sits and waits for us on page 112.

We are fed this idea that the key to true satisfaction and real happiness is somewhere amidst a butt-toning workout and a cream that makes cellulite vanish. We stay hungry over the fact that we can chalk life up to being obsessed with outward appearance, to Always Needing to Fix Something. And as a result? We never need to put away the tool belt, fully loaded with 8-minute abs and voluminous mascara.

If we always have some outer glitch to fix- To Make Our Thighs Smaller, Our Love Handles A Little More Lovely- then we never have to stare inward. We can abandon a quest for inner piece in order to make a journey towards a clear complexion. We never need to shred emotional baggage when Jillian Michaels and P90X promise us a different- more visible- kind of shred.

A great friend of mine spent time building a medical clinic near an all girls orphanage in Latin America and I saw the revelation in his eyes as he told me about the beautiful little girls. Little Girls who missed arms & legs & limbs and yet found nothing to miss at all. “But they were the happiest children I had ever seen, ” he told me. “Because they had not been taught that they were missing something.

We are floundering in a culture that wants to convince us that we are missing something. Constantly Missing. Seven Steps Away From Perfection. Perfect Thighs. Perfect Curves. Perfect Lovers. Perfect Days. What would happen to all those magazines and reality TV shows and billboards if we looked in the mirror and realized we were missing nothing. That it was all there. Sitting abundantly on both our insides and outsides.

That we could stop in our own reflection stand there without an ounce of pressing time itching at our ankles.  To realize the most radiant element on our faces was not half off at WalMart yesterday. To say confidently to our inner selves, “You are not missing things. You are wonderful just the way you are. You are whole.

Whole in a world that tells us we are empty. Full in a world that tells us we are hungry. Content in a world that tells us we are unsatisfied. Here. Right Here. All Parts Intact. In a world that convinces us that we are missing vital parts. Parts that will fulfill us, happiness that sits on a shelf for $4.99, beauty that comes in six shades of red and seven different sizes.

At some point we decide that we are going to pull away, that we are going to shun our ears from the messages that seek to pierce us and make us feel less than worthy. It is not an easy task. A task that never meets perfection. But little by little we allow ourselves to put down the tool belt, put down the coupons and the washed up images of the “way we used to look” to stop and see that all we ever needed never cost us $19.99 and our own self esteem as a sacrifice.

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Filed under Beauty, Healthy Lifestyle, Love Yourself, Women

“Everytime I move, I make a woman’s movement” Ani DiFranco

I am a feminist.

I shave my legs. Housework does not bother me. I look forward to one day having an equal partnership with my husband. I am not opposed to flowers, chocolates or other forms of chivalry. I am quite excited about motherhood because I think that raising children is one of the toughest and most meaningful purposes in this world, though fiercely underrated.

I am not exactly sure who it was or how many people it took but time has hinged a great deal of negative connotations to the word “feminism.” These days it is a word that people cringe at as visions of braless women with unshaven legs who refuse to do dishes or have babies dance in their head. Hence people being caught off guard when I call myself a feminist or the laying down their own egg shells to walk upon in front of me, afraid that they might say something that will offend the “chip on my shoulder” (which, might I add, does not exist).

But I call myself a feminist for other reasons. Because of a radical cry that quakes the depths of my heart for other women, for those who have the same insides as me— the same inner weavings of heart, strength and vulnerability—and yet we are forced into separation.

Separated. By Borders.       By Language.         By Rights.         By Laws.            By Cultures.           By Words.          By Corrupt Governments. By Working Conditions.        By Our Definitions Of What Womanhood Means.

We take for granted that in this country being a woman is now an empowered title. In other places and spaces it is a word that starts thousands off in life with the term “less than” already strapped to their backs.

It kills my spirit some days to read of young girls who are raised to believe in belittlement from the very beginning. Or to learn of women, at an age when I was discovering the art of flirting, who had already disappeared into trafficking rings and brothels. Violated. Stripped Of Their Humanity. Never to be seen again. And with no one to look for them. No one to search for the invisible women.

My heart aches when I glance over the New York Times site on most mornings because I cannot find the invisible women anywhere. Seeing that the things that should be reported— the thousands of women forced to work in less than meager conditions in factories and enslaved by the sex trade—are not because its hardly considered news anymore.  And I wonder what the cut off number is. At what number of women gone missing do countries stop looking, do people stop caring. I Want To Know What The Number Is. But as I trace over endless statistics that are forced to trace the frail outlines of these invisible women I realize that in other countries there is no number. There is only acceptance of this atrocity and the turning of cheeks to look the other way.

And so I stand up for the fact that I am a woman in this world, but not for the stereotypical reasons that people first think of. I am not standing up for equal wages or more respect in the workplace. I am not standing up to resist those who want to force an apron around my waist and a baby on my hip. It is not about that. I am standing up as a woman because elsewhere, beyond these borders of red, white and blue, there are women who are facing brutal treatment, beaten for resistance, degraded and downplayed because they were born with the title of “woman,” and to them that is a burden. A Cross To Bear. And within these borders, in the “comfort” of their own homes and in the quiet spaces that their neighbors don’t know of, there are women in this country whose voices have been stolen to sexual abuse and violence.

I am a feminist.

I still like looking sassy in a red dress and pumps. I don’t have an evil agenda of putting men in their place or even attempting to play inside of their heads. I don’t shy away from activities that might make my label as a “woman” more pronounced.  I am a woman but at the end of the day I am not looking to level the playing field after all those years of not being able to vote; I am looking to stand up for other women. With my opportunities I am seeking to break down the oppression that has plagued others who are exactly like me. Who Have Dreams. Hopes. Fears. Passions. First Loves. Things That Make Their Hearts Skip Beats. Pet Peeves. Songs Their Spirits Ache To Sing. And for these similarities I own my title and take pride in my title as a woman and I join the fight to set the rest free.

This post has been inspired by the book “Half The Sky” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Kristof and WuDunn examine more closely the lives of women and girls in the developing world. In my eyes Kristof is a genius when it comes to taking a column space for the New York Times and transforming it into a platform for women all over the globe who are oppressed and voiceless.  He and his wife really take a giant step forward in this publication. I would recommend this book 100 times over to anyone who is looking to understand more fully the oppression of women all over the map and the ways in which opportunity can sprout through active change. This is a brilliant book of testament, truth and a viable path to follow if you are looking to join the fight to set the rest free.

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Filed under For a Better World, Humanity, Poverty, Uncategorized, Women