Pioneer Woman

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It is hot here. I mean so F***ing hot that you could cook an egg on the side walk. Like 110 degrees hot and I am complaining like there is no hell for me in sight. Why? My air conditioner went out. Yes, while it is 110 outside, it is a balmy 101 inside and there is no relief in site. Meanwhile I am sweating like a dog trying to install a ceiling fan. That is not going so well either. It has been three hours and it still isn’t up but my blood pressure certainly is! I’ll probably die of my head exploding rather than heat stroke any minute. All of this begs the question….how did those women do it 120 years ago in the Southwest? I mean seriously…how?

Now I consider myself to be somewhat of a tough old broad. I can do a little plumbing, drive a nail or two and can give an evil eye to someone to raise the hair on the back of their neck. I can survive an “almost divorce” and come out of it almost sane. But when I think of doing laundry on a washboard in the sun, tending to a huge garden big enough to feed a family for a year, canning all that food, beating the rugs, sweeping the floors and making dinner in an oven that raised the raised the temperature of the house 30 degrees, well, sometimes I think I truly don’t know the meaning of tough.

Once upon a time women really were tough. They came overland by covered wagon with all their worldly possessions on board; unsure of just exactly where in the world  they would end up. My GGG grandmother’s dresser sits as a testament to her wagon travels in my daughter’s room.  Clarissa was a smart one, I’ve been told. When she married she received a cow for a present which she promptly exchanged for a handsome wood dresser. It was probably a good exchange for any woman during that time. For Clarissa knew if she kept that cow, she would be the one put out of the wagon, walking along beside the beast while prodding it along to lands unknown.

We now live in a world where we no longer know how to grow our own food, grind our own grains, make our own furniture, or have the stomach to butcher our own meat. Which makes me wonder what would happen if the world as we know it ceased to exist. Would it be dog eat dog or would people band together to act as a community in a land that really hasn’t known what one is for a very long time? I would like to think that community would prevail but with all the violence in a world where people tend to look out for #1 to the detriment of neighbors and friends; I cannot be too sure.

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And so this not-so-tough old broad worries sometimes. I worry for my children and my grandchildren making it an a world that gets more confusing everyday. I fear the madmen of the world who would just as soon blow us up as take the time to do what is ethical and just. I an concerned that companies are willing to destroy our environment in the quest for the almighty dollar. I am uneasy that antibiotics are fast becoming resistant and that coral reefs are bleaching out and dying. But most of all I worry that I haven’t done a good enough job making my kids tough enough to survive with less material things and more experienced in the arts of carpentry, making their own soap and butchering a cow should hard times fall upon us.

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Yes, I am a tough old broad…but is my family tough enough to live off the land should they have to?  Could they survive on the six months of dehydrated food that I keep for just this occasion? Could they do the back-breaking work that so many women are forced to do to eek out a living in these times? Dirty, hard work that I have watched women do while I sit in the back of an air conditioned car during my travels. Work the likes of which I most likely will never experience.  And would the few books I have on making your own chicken coop and creating a below ground garden help? I hope I will never have to find out the answer to that question.

 

 

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An Open Letter to Hillary and Melania

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Dear Hillary and Melania:

During these days of campaign rhetoric and insults flying as hard and fast as missiles; there is something you both share that you have failed to recognize. You are both women who have been emotionally abused and publicly shamed by your men. Like it or not you are in the sisterhood of the betrayed.

I know both of you didn’t ask to become the poster child for women with men who stray like wild dogs in the night. I know that their poor choices have nothing to do with you and you are not to blame. They both did what they did of their own volition, their lack of morals, and with no concern for you or your children’s welfare. You were a background distraction while they cheated to appease their own egos. Their dishonesty to you and all involved is nothing you need to take on yourself nor defend. That is for them to do. You are the innocent here. You both need to realize that old song, Stand By Your Man, is seriously outdated.

Yet, just because you are not responsible for what your men have done, there is something that I would like you to consider. Like it or not you are role models for millions of women and girls out there. You are both women of privilege. You are women who have worked hard to get where you want to be. And in some small way your actions or inaction influence other women. So my question to you both is…why do you stay with men who value themselves, their penises,  and their egos more than they value you?

Yes, the choice to stay is your choice and yours alone to make. I do not presume to understand the complexities of your relationships with your husbands. But I want you to think about this … there are millions of women in the United States who are beaten by their spouse, cheated on, or disrespected in front of their kids. These women are actively contemplating getting out of a situation that is physically dangerous or crippling to their psyche. They know they are in relationships that are emotionally unhealthy for themselves and their families. Yet, they are attempting to be brave, strong, and do what is right by their children even if it is just one step at a time until they have a plan in place and they can safely leave.

We all know that deciding to leave a marriage is never easy. But it is especially difficult for women without power, wealth, and fame. So when we see the two of you, women with all sorts of emotional and financial resources stay with men who have hurt and emotionally abused you on a national stage; it makes it just that much harder for any woman to leave her own tormentor.  How can girls have the courage to move on when you don’t? How can women separate when they see you defend a man who has not earned the right to that kind of loyalty from you? If you can’t do it with all your privilege, how can other women who are less fortunate than you?

I am so glad we live in a time when you have earned the legal right to do what you want in regards to your personal relationships. You have the luxury of being able to choose. I recognize that it is not your job to divorce for the sake of all women but dammit perhaps if we saw you refuse to put up with the crap your spouse has heaped on you, it would give others women the courage to do the same. Perhaps if we saw you value yourselves we could value ourselves in the same way.  And perhaps if we saw women like you be bold and refuse to put up with men who love themselves and their desires more than they love their wives; we wouldn’t have to have these kinds of discussions thirty years from now. For the future for women everywhere will only change when those at the top lead by example not rhetoric, show courage not complacency, and love/value themselves more than they love power or money.

Yes, it is up to us to stand on our own two feet, but I have to wonder, that if perhaps if you stood just a little higher, if it would make it easier for the rest of us.

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Letting Go Again

It’s been going on for over a week now.

“I’m nervous!”

“I won’t know anyone there!!!”

“What if I get lost???!!!!!!”

“What if there is nothing there for me to eat?”

“What if I land wrong on the board and hurt myself?”

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This is what I have been hearing from Gracie lately and it intensified as the day drew closer for her to attend diving camp at a large university four hours from home. These are the words of a child whose age is between the first double digit and her teens. Excited but scared to death especially because she knew no one who would be attending camp with her.

She’s good at what she does so I wasn’t worried about that aspect. She has accomplished in three years of doing her sport what it has taken of most of her competitors 6-8 years to do. Learning and practicing wasn’t the issue but being away from home was.

Gracie has always had difficulty separating herself from us. I often wonder if she would have been this way if she had been born to us or if her adoption has played a role in it. Not knowing if people will come back to you or if they will stay with you does tend to put doubts in your head. And as we spent last night together in the city she looked as if she might cry. But I knew that she needed this camp to teach her about courage and accomplishment not so much in her sport but in life in general. That’s what we are suppose to do as parents. We should give our children experiences which allow them to separate with confidence so they will be able to be independent adults when they go off on their own.

Waking up this morning was hard. Her nerves were bouncing all over the place and I was watching as a “bad hair day” started to unnerve her even more. I said all the right things and did all the right things. I asked if she was okay and told her since she could do double rotations she had nothing to be afraid of.  Finally, it was time to go and check into the college dorms. Now, I was getting a little hesitant.

We drove over in near silence with Gracie taking in everything around her. After unpacking and making her bed I saw that Gracie was beginning to get her groove back. Her confidence began to soar (or at least she wasn’t going to let anyone know anything different just like she does when she dives). Just before she was to go to the pool with her group she remembered she had left her water bottle in the car so we dashed off to get it. As we walked back I took her into my arms and said, “You’ve got this baby. You will be okay.”

And with that she lifted her big brown eyes, looked up into mine, let go of my hand and said, “Geez mom, you worry too much!!!”

It was at that moment I knew she would be just fine and that in releasing my hand she was letting go of so much more.

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Our Bodies Ourselves

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As women it seems like we have spent a lifetime trying to keep men away from our bodies uninvited. From the little girl who subconsciously realizes that having a man’s hands down her pants is somehow wrong, to teens who fight the pressure to go to “second base”  if you “really love me;” females are always having to fight men who are constantly deciding what “is right for them.”

Many years ago when I was in grad school I interviewed and surveyed over 100 teenage girls in regards to how they viewed feminism. Many didn’t know what feminism was. Even more commented that it was not relevant to them and that there was no need for feminist thinking in this day and age. I was shocked and dismayed.

As a child who grew up in the last 60’s and 70’s, I remember the feminist revolution very well. I remember Phyllis Schaffly condemning women who wanted something more for themselves than a frying pan in their hand. I remember women working hard to try to achieve equal work for equal pay. I remember women waking up to their own sexuality and unique health care/reproductive needs, and realizing that they could and should take those matters into their own hands especially when “those matters” concerned their own bodies.

Lately, the political right wing is getting louder in their demands to further control women’s bodies. In this day and age where access to abortion is harder to obtain than purchasing an assault weapon, and Planned Parenthood, where so many millions of poor women receive their gynecologic health care, is under attack and  being defunded; it amazes me how few women are doing anything about it. Once again men have their hands “all over our bodies” and once again women’s needs and wants are subjugated to men in power-conservative men in power who really want to put women “back in their place” where “they belong.” Yet, what I find really disturbing is that if God did indeed give us each free will that conservatives fail to honor this principle of self governance given by God when it comes to women’s minds and bodies.

When, I wonder, will women finally realize it is ALWAYS in their best interest to control their own reproductive health, their bodies and their souls? And when will these ideas that others should control a woman’s  body for their own political and religious gain ever stop? It’s time we end these outdated practices and let women live in peace without having men’s unwanted hands all over us.

The Princess Returns…301 Days To Fix This

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Last week was poignant.  The baby of our brood headed off to Science Camp for five days. It is a rite of passage in this neck of the woods and she didn’t want to go. She has never been able to spend the night at friends houses because she would get “homesick” and end up back at home at 3 a.m. Obviously, this was a big deal.

Sometimes it is interesting what people are afraid of. Gracie is a champion diver. She falls from dizzying heights and lands in water that can be sharp and chill you to the bone. She has the courage of Spider Man and flies higher than a squirrel; yet nothing was scarier for her than leaving her Mommy and Daddy behind.

We tried many things to convince her that she would have a wonderful time up in the woods and that she wouldn’t miss us one iota. We bought  tons of “girly girl” hair accessories  so she could perform magic on her cabin mates hair. We bought a disposable camera for her to take pictures of all the fun she would be having. I stuck “love notes” in her suitcase that she could open one day at a time.

And finally the big day arrived. In the morning she sniffled a bit in protest but by the time she arrived at school she was talking with her friends like she had everything under control. A few minutes later she rode away on that big yellow school bus, hand out the window, waving goodbye with a big smile on her face. The last thing I saw of her was the back of her head while she giggled away with a friend. Then she was gone for five long days.

Yesterday, the big yellow school bus returned and with it a more confident and secure young woman. We hugged (Oh Mom, do we HAVE to!)and Gracie related a few choice camp facts. Then she went off to claim her luggage while I called B.

“We’re screwed,” I told him.

“Why’s that?” B replied.

“Because she now knows she can make it without us. We are no longer the people who keep her safe and secure in her mind. We are now officially relegated to accessory mode. ”

It was then I heard Gracie’s sweet voice.

“Come on mom, I need your help carrying my suitcase.”

And it was then that I realized that although I may be regulated to accessory status, my little girl still needs me a little bit even if it is just to carry a portion of her load.