WRITING STRONG WOMEN

Thoughts and commentary on being a strong woman—what it takes, and how we get there

Angel

Sometimes

Helen Ginger and I have been friends for several years, although we don’t seem to find the time to get together nearly as much as we’d both like. Time gets away from all of us. Helen is a strong woman. I admire and respect anything she touches. She has been a tremendous support through my writing efforts and gives of her time most freely. I knew she had been writing the novel, Angel Sometimes. I am thrilled the book is now complete and available for purchase.

Since she is such a strong woman, I had no doubt her female lead would be strong–or would get there before the story ended. I am delighted to welcome her as our guest blogger today. At the bottom of the post there are links to her website, and how to purchase her book should you so desire.

Here’s Helen

Angel Angel started talking to me years ago. I dreamed about her, couldn’t get her to leave me alone. So I began to write the story of this 12-year-old girl. Around that same time, the Brown Foundation awarded me a fellowship to spend four weeks at the Vermont Studio Center. By the time those weeks were up, I’d written almost a full book … of her as a twelve year old. I knew her. I knew what happened to change her life. I knew why she’d been abandoned on the streets 800 miles from her home. I also knew it wasn’t her full story.

So I began to write her as a 22-year-old. Because of all that I had already written, I knew Angel. She was strong. She cared and looked out for others. Angel was a survivor. Even when she was very close to dying, she didn’t give up.

People have asked if her life is mine. This is her story, her truth, although there are bits and pieces of me in her. Angel’s childhood home was mine when I was a child, including the drive-in theater and a mother who worked as the projectionist. The woods where Angel played as a child are from my childhood. She swims as a mermaid as did I for three years in college. While the setting of her childhood is similar to mine, her life is very different.

Angel was on the streets of South Padre when she was 12. At 16, she hitchhiked to Austin. After months on the streets there, she found a Help Wanted sign in the window of a bar/restaurant. She asked the owner to hire her. He told her she was too young. Every morning she waited for him to open. Every day he said no. On her 17th birthday, he said yes. He had no idea how close she was to dying.

Angel may have told her story to me, but she speaks to everyone. You can survive when bad or even horrific things happen to you. You can help yourself by helping others. The old saying is true. Put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.

Angel has taken a break in talking to me. But I’m leaving the door open and lights on, hoping she’ll come by to tell me what happens next.
Angel

***********

Helen Ginger was born in Georgia, but at age ten, her mother moved the family to Texas. Helen’s been there ever since, laying down roots and picking up stories. “My mother moved around a lot, from Austin to Luling to Lockhart to places in-between. One time while in college, I drove home to see her and my younger sister. They were gone. No forwarding address. People are aghast when I tell that story, but it wasn’t a big deal. I eventually found her.” As far back as Helen can remember, she’s always written: angst-filled stories in high school; short stories and poetry in college; mysteries, mainstream fiction, even technical books, three of which have been published by TSTC Publishing. Helen lives in a small town just outside of Austin, Texas. From her office window, she sees birds, deer, squirrels, road runners, foxes, cats, and rabbits. You can find Helen on Amazon, her blog, website, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can also sign up for her weekly newsletter for writers, which has been going out for 13 years.

Posted in Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, Writing Strong Women | 15 Comments

A Writer Remembers the Journey

Our guest author today is Pamela Cable, author of Televenge. See below for her bio.

A Writer Remembers the Journeywriter

Swarms of finches, wrens, and other tiny birds peck and hunt for food at feeders that hang outside my kitchen window. Even when I forget to fill the feeders, the birds arrive each morning, hoping to discover their next meal. These tiny birds never give up. They are constant, vigilant, driven. Despite the odds and possible dangers, the birds return every day.

Writers are like tiny birds. We beat our heads against one roadblock after another, writing against enormous odds, hoping and believing our next book will land in the laps of readers and on bestseller lists across the country. But even after decades into our career, we discover we must sometimes recall what made us write in the first place and the courage it took.

My granddaddy was a coal miner, but my father escaped the mines, went to college and moved his family to Ohio to work for the rubber companies. I spent every weekend as a child, traveling back to the West Virginia Mountains. My memories of my childhood run as deep as the Appalachian creeks and swimming holes I swam in as a child. My career as a writer was born in the dust laden coal towns of the early 60s.

For me, it is within sanctuaries of brick and mortar, places of clapboard and revival tents transcending time and space, that characters hang ripe and ready for picking.

From the primitive church services of mountain clans to the baptisms and sacraments of robed priests in great cathedrals and monasteries. From hardworking men and women who testify in the run-down churches of coal camps to the charismatic high-dollar high-tech evangelicals in televised megachurches of today. Therein lie stories of unspeakable conflict, the forbidden, and often, the unexplained.

As a writer, it is my desire to transport a reader’s mind—but my deepest passion is to pierce a reader’s heart. The topic of faith, for me, has a way of doing that like nothing else.

My mother says I cut my teeth on the back of a church pew. I grew up in revival tents, tabernacles, and eventually in grand cathedrals with TV cameras rolling. In the early days, revivals were as exciting as the carnival coming to town and evangelists were royalty. I experienced a world from the sublime to the bizarre. It caused me to weave religion, spirituality, and the mysterious into my stories. Stories that hint to an ancient bridge where the real and the supernatural meet.

Many of my stories are based on truth, shreds of truth, people I’ve known, places I’ve been, and of course writerhistory plays a great part in some stories, like Coal Dust On My Feet; a love story set amidst the longest and most violent coal strike in the history of our country. It is truth and fiction.

Mother was a skilled storyteller without knowing it. All I wanted to do when I grew up was duplicate her life. I loved her southern accent and heritage and I felt neither imprisoned nor put off by it. She was a strong woman. But the most precious gift she gave me was a love for the written world, be it the word of God or of Mother Goose. Mom was my inspiration, and one day I picked up a pencil in the sixth grade and wrote my first story. I haven’t stopped since. The next forty years played into my storytelling, and after surviving life’s heartaches and hardships, it gave me plenty to write about.

A writer’s life is a solitary life. We hope we possess raw talent, unique originality, and gut emotional appeal. We raise the stakes on each and every page and hope, and pray, and believe that some day we’re blessed a bit of luck.

Is it worth the struggle? You bet it is. All you need is the courage of a tiny bird.

Remember when you tackled that first story, essay, article, poem? That was courage. Courage is not confidence, nor the opposite of meekness. It’s feeling a measure of confidence, and then acting on those feelings. It’s a quality of spirit that enables you to face the moment, whatever comes, and keep going.

Courage allows you to see, hear, smell, and taste things as they really are. Courage makes you face facts, unfiltered by rosy daydreams. Courage frees you to be creative. It pushes you to prepare for the unknown without obsessing over it. To be open to what may come.

A writer can’t be open to new ideas if dazed and confused by fear. Courage enables you to be prepared and wide awake in every situation.

There were times in my youth I didn’t write because I was afraid of failing. I didn’t prepare for success because I was afraid it might happen. I didn’t look, really look, into my past because I was afraid of what I might find. As I grow older, I don’t give myself those options. Not anymore.

Fear is passive-aggressive. It’s the lazy writer’s excuse for not moving forward. It’s a great immobilizer, an avoidance technique. Fear puts the focus on what we might encounter, distracts us from what’s actually there. Courage empowers a writer to pay attention.

In the end, a writer can do without a lot of things. Remembering your journey is not one of them. Courage is the other.

More about Pamela King Cable: Pamela King Cable was born a coal miner’s granddaughter and raised by a tribe of wild Pentecostals and storytellers. She is an award-winning, multi-published author who loves to write about religion and spirituality with paranormal twists she unearths from her family’s history. Married to a megachurch ministry team member as a young adult, she attended years of megachurch services. Pamela studied creative writing at The University of Akron and Kent State University. She has taught at many writing conferences, and speaks to book clubs, women’s groups, national and local civic organizations, and at churches across the country. Nearly a decade in the writing, Televenge is her debut novel. She lives in Ohio with her husband, Michael, and is currently working on her next novel.

Click here to view the book trailer.
Televenge

Posted in Strong Woman, Writing Strong Women | 5 Comments

Emotional

Abuse

: Beneath Your Radar?

Guest Blogger today is Darlene Lancer, writing about emotional abuse. 

There are three million cases of domestic violence reported each year. Many more go unreported.Emotional abuse precedes violence, but is rarely discussed. Although both men and women may abuse others, an enormous number of women are subjected to emotional abuse. Unfortunately, many don’t even know it.

Why is Emotional Abuse Hard to Recognize?

Emotional abuse may be hard to recognize, because it can be subtle, and abusers will often blame you for their behavior or act like they have no idea why you are upset. Additionally, you may have been treated this way in past relationships, so that it’s familiar and harder to recognize. Over time, the abuser will chip away at your self-esteem, causing you to feel guilty, doubt yourself, and distrust your perceptions.

Other aspects of the relationship may work well. The abuser may be loving between abusive episodes, so that you deny or forget them. You may not have had a healthy relationship for comparison, and when the abuse takes place in private, there are no witnesses to validate your experience.

Personality of an Abuser

Abusers typically want to control and dominate. They use verbal abuse to accomplish this. They are self-centered, impatient, unreasonable, insensitive, unforgiving, lack empathy, and are often jealous, suspicious, and withholding. In order to maintain control, some abusers take hostages, meaning that they may try to isolate you from your friends and family. Their moods can shift from fun-loving and romantic to sullen and angry. Some punish with anger, others with silence – or both. It’s usually “their way or the highway.”

Are You Being Abused?

Emotional abuse may start out innocuously, but grows as the abuser becomes more assured that you won’t leave the relationship. It may not begin until after an engagement, marriage, or pregnancy. If you look back, you may recall tell-tale signs of control or jealousy. Eventually, you and the entire family “walk on eggshells” and adapt so as not to upset the abuser. Being subjected to emotional abuse over time can lead to anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, inhibited sexual desire, chronic pain, or other physical symptoms.

People who respect and honor themselves won’t allow someone to abuse them. Many people allow abuse to continue because they fear confrontations. Usually, they are martyrs, caretakers, or pleasers. They feel guilty and blame themselves. Some aren’t able to access their anger and power in order to stand up for themselves, while others ineffectively argue, blame, and are abusive themselves, but they still don’t know how to set appropriate boundaries.

If you’ve allowed abuse to continue, there’s a good chance that you were abused by someone in your past, although you may not recognize it as such. It could have been a strict or alcoholic dad, an invasive mom, or a teasing sibling. Healing involves understanding how you’ve been abused, forgiving yourself, and rebuilding your self-esteem and confidence.

What is Emotional Abuse?

If you’re wondering if your relationship is abusive, it probably is. Emotional abuse, distinct from physical violence (including shoving, cornering, breaking, and throwing things), is speech and/or behavior that’s derogating, controlling, punishing, or manipulative. Withholding love, communication, support, or money are indirect methods of control and maintaining power. Behavior that controls where you go, to whom you talk, or what you think is abusive. It’s one thing to say, “If you buy the dining room set, we cannot afford a vacation,” verses cutting up your credit cards. Spying, stalking, invading your person, space, or belongings is also abusive, because it disregards personal boundaries.

Verbal abuse is the most common forms of emotional abuse, but it’s often unrecognized, because it may be subtle and insidious. It may be said in a loving, quiet voice, or may be indirect – even concealed as a joke. Whether disguised as play or jokes, sarcasm or teasing that is hurtful is abusive. Obvious and direct verbal abuse, such as threats, judging, criticizing, lying, blaming, name-calling, ordering, and raging, are easy to recognize. Below are some more subtle types of verbal abuse that are just as damaging as overt forms, particularly because they are harder to detect. When experienced over time, they have an insidious, deleterious effect, because you begin to doubt and distrust yourself.

Opposing: The abuser will argue against anything you say, challenging your perceptions, opinions, and thoughts. The abuser doesn’t listen or volunteer thoughts or feelings, but treats you as an adversary, in effect saying “No” to everything, so a constructive conversation is impossible.

Blocking: This is another tactic used to abort conversation. The abuser may switch topics, accuse you, or use words that in effect say, “Shut Up.”

Discounting & Belittling: This is verbal abuse that minimizes or trivializes your feelings, thoughts, or experiences. It’s a way of saying that your feelings don’t matter or are wrong.

Undermining & Interrupting: These words are meant to undermine your self-esteem and confidence, such as, “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” finishing your sentences, or speaking on your behalf without your permission.

Denying: An abuser may deny that agreements or promises were made or that a conversation or events or took place, including prior abuse. The abuser instead may express affection or make declarations of love and caring. This is crazy-making and manipulative behavior, which leads you to gradually doubt your own memory, perceptions, and experience. In the extreme, a persistent pattern is called gas-lighting, named after the classic Ingrid Bergman movie, Gaslight. In it, her husband used denial in a plot to make her believe she was losing her grip on reality.

Confronting Abuse

In order to confront the abuse, it’s important to understand that the intent of the abuser is to control you and avoid meaningful conversation. Abuse is a used as a tactic to manipulate and have power over you. If you focus on the content, you’ll fall into the trap of trying to respond rationally, denying accusations and explaining yourself, and lose your power. The abuser has won at that point and deflected responsibility for the verbal abuse. The verbal abuse must be addressed first and directly, with forceful statements, such as, “Stop, it,” “Don’t talk to me that way,” “That’s demeaning,” “Don’t call me names,” “Don’t raise your voice at me,” “Don’t use that tone with me,” “I don’t respond to orders,” etc. In this way, you set a boundary of how you want to be treated and take back your power. The abuser may respond with, “Or what?”, and you can say, “I will not continue this conversation.” Typically, a verbal abuser may become more abusive, in which case, you continue to address the abuse in the same manner. You might say, “If you continue, I’ll leave the room,” and do so if the abuse continues. If you keep setting boundaries, the abuser will get the message that manipulation and abuse won’t be effective. The relationship may or may not change for the better, or deeper issues may surface. Either way, you’re rebuilding your self-confidence and self-esteem, and are learning important skills about setting boundaries.

It usually takes the support and validation of a group, therapist, or counselor to be able to consistently stand-up to abuse. Without it, you may doubt your reality, feel guilty, and fear loss of the relationship or reprisal. Once you take back your power and regain your self-esteem, you won’t allow someone to abuse you. If the abuse stops, the relationship will improve, but for positive change, both of you must be willing to risk change.

Darlene Lancer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of:

Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Author of Codependency for Dummies and 10 Steps to Self-Esteem

Follow her on Facebook

www.whatiscodependency.com

Emotional Abuse does not have to exist in your world.

Posted in Writing Strong Women | 2 Comments

the Strongest Woman

I1> Have Ever Known

In Honor of Marynelle “Bobbie” Crawford, the Strongest Woman I’ve Ever IKnown

By Jessica Sinn

You know the expression, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”? Those words really ring true now that my 95-year-old grandma, Marynelle “Bobbie” Crawford, has passed on to the great beyond.

As I was writing her eulogy, I cursed myself for not taking the time to really get to know the most accomplished woman in my entire family.  Sure, I know she served in the U.S. Marine Corps, excelled in school, and grew up during the Great Depression. But sadly, I only know the Cliffs Notes version of her life.

If you think about it, how well do we really know our grandparents other than the fact that they spoiled us rotten with ice cream, toys and hugs when we were kiddos? As a bratty little kid, I only saw grandma as a white-haired sweet old lady who liked to drone on and on about Billy Graham specials and the benefits of milk and prune juice. And when she did talk about her past I would roll my eyes and say, “Oh boy, here we go again.” I was too busy wishing I could be flirting with boys at the mall than sitting in this old lady’s house listening to her talk about the hardships of her youth.

Now that she’s gone, I would give anything – even my precious Ford Taurus – to spend one more day with this woman and learn more about her epic journey – from growing up on a dairy farm to working her way up the Marine Corps totem pole during World War II.

It wasn’t until I began writing her eulogy when the sharp pang of loss hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. A huge flash of regret waved over me when I realized that I was just now learning about this wonderfully brave, complex, strong woman.

You see, unlike the Facebook generation, grandma didn’t like to talk about herself.  Although she often reminisced about the Great Depression, She didn’t gloat about her accomplishments – and trust me, there were many! Here’s what I learned as I gathered details about grandma’s life:

Born on May 4, 1917, Marynelle Thompson, grew up on her grandfather’s dairy farm in a small Southern patch of Bryant, Arkansas. She spent most of her childhood in Little Rock, where she graduated from Central High School with honors.

After high school she received secretarial training and worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until she and her best girlfriend joined the U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserve after the start of World War II. She was assigned an office staff position at Marine Corps Headquarters in Quantico, Va.

Among her many important duties, she provided clerical support for the Manhattan Project. Proud to serve her country, she quickly worked her way up through the ranks and was promoted to corporal, not an easy task for a woman Marine back in the World War II era.

In her later years, she was fond of saying she had the equivalent of a college degree in military records. During her enlistment, she fell in love with Sgt. Donald Hughes Crawford, the boss of her best girlfriend. Shortly thereafter, they married in a quiet ceremony in 1944. Resplendent in their Marine Corps uniforms, their wedding was intimate and understated. But even if she had all the money in the world, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

After grandpa swept her off her feet, the rest was history. They made a home in sunny Carlsbad, California where they lived a quiet happy life by the beach. Although grandpa struck it big in the stock market, they lived very frugally and never took even the simplest creature comfort – milk especially – for granted. As a kid, I always groused over their penny-pinching ways. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t indulge in fancy cars and designer clothes. Boy did I have a lot to learn.

Although it pained her to spend money on “frivolous” things like clothes and household appliances, she put my sister and I through college – no questions asked. She made provisions for our future and gave us a place to call home after our mother split. In addition to the much-needed financial assistance, she gave us the confidence we needed to chase our dreams. Considering our shaky upbringing, I shudder to think where we would be today without grandma’s love and support.

She had a way of making anyone feel special. She never let a conversation go by without telling me how proud she was of me. She may have sounded like a broken record, but my heart warmed over whenever I heard those words. Growing up, my mother always laughed at my future plans and told me “you can’t,” but grandma always made me believe the opposite. With her encouragement and eternal optimism, I knew I had it in me to finish college and write for a living.

So as I sit here stewing about the things I could’ve, should’ve done while she was alive, I realize the best way to get through my grief is to honor her legacy. No matter what hardships come my way, I need to invoke my inner Marynelle Crawford and pick myself up by my bootstraps whenever the going gets tough. Even in her darkest days, she would somehow find a happy place. Let’s face it, nursing home life is grim. But she found a way to enjoy it by occupying her free time with long walks around the rest home. Rather than zoning out in front of the TV, she’d strap on her walking shoes and go to town on that walker. The staff was so impressed by her walking routine, they monitored her steps with a pedometer and found that she clocked one to three thousand steps per day!

As you can see, those are some big shoes to fill, but I am determined to make her proud. Rather than focusing on material things, negative thinking, and trivial drama, I need to remember the lessons grandma taught me: Be strong no matter what life throws your way; Believe in yourself in defiance of naysayers; And above all else, be kind.

Thank you grandma for all the gifts you have given me.  It’s hard accepting the fact that you’re gone, but I know you’re in a better place. Semper Fi!

I

 

 

Posted in Rosie the Riveter, Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 2 Comments

Just Say It

Just Say ItJust Say It

The day was overcast.  I sat at my desk with the overhead light on while I wrote at my computer. My husband had gone on errands. When he came in, he walked over and flipped off  the light.

That felt offensive to me. I’d turned the light on and felt he should have checked with me before turning it off.

I tapped into my feelings about that, looked at him and said something like. I turned the light on because I wanted it on.

He said well, you don’t need it, but he flipped it back on because he realized it wasn’t his place to  turn it off on me without at least asking my permission.

To me, that was my decision to make–whether I needed it or not, and I  was able to “just say it.” because I’ve worked so hard on doing that. It doesn’t matter whether the other gets upset over it or not–that is up to them since I am not responsible for their feelings. I am responsible to claim what I need to claim and to say it without personal attack of the other.

Sometimes I think the most difficult thing to do is to bring up a topic of controversy or deep feeling. I find the best thing for me to do is to just say it–without the heat that can build up over deep emotional issues. And trust the process.

For whatever it’s worth, I have learned, and continue to learn, instead of being too fearful to just say what I need to say to another person, to listen to that inner voice AT THE TIME I feel it in my gut, my chest, my wherever. Then, instead of building up heat in order to be able to say it, I tap into that feeling, that truth, and identify it quickly, then just say it much like I’d give the weather report. Like,  say the sun is shining.

I’ve been asked what makes me  able to do that because most of us really struggle with that. I admit, that has not always been my reaction.

I do understand. Few of us can do that–say what we are feeling in a non-emtional way. It has taken me years to identify and to learn how to just say it, and say it at the moment of the interchange.

It takes tuning into your body and making a quick assessment, and then, saying just that.

In a particular job, I began to realize that a road sign would sometimes surface in my intuition, telling me to stop long enough to pay attention to that intuitive feeing, and in my haste, I had ignored it and gone on with what I was doing. Then, later, what I had ignored would come back and bite me in the butt. Such as a purchase order I approved without questioning the person further who had submitted it. Sure enough, it would get stopped by my boss and he’d send it back to me disapproved, or with questions.

So I began to pay closer attention to my intuition, I began to analyze the feeling–identify where in my body I felt it, ascribe a color to it, then understand the meaning behind the color. (I have a number of books on Colorology–another good thing to learn more about–powerful work!)

After doing that, and putting the physical location (Chakra!!!!) of the feeling in perspective, and understanding that feeling related to the color, I began to understand what my body was telling me about any given situation. Why I was reacting the way I did.

As I did that, I began to learn that if THAT is what I said, then I could describe it at the time–as if describing the weather, because it was an organic reaction. I had allowed my body to speak to me–understand the feeling, and then just say it at the moment in a non-attacking manner or tone.

You know how, when later you wished you’d said how you felt at a given situation? By learning to just say it  at the very moment of the interchange when you first feel it in your body you develop a healthier relationship with the other. And, you do it before the discomfort does physical and emotional damage.

Quickly check in with your body, identify the feeling, and then just say it.

It is amazing what our bodies will tell us–IS TELLING US–yet we stuff it down, ignore it, deny it, postpone it, and then think later–oh I wish I’d said that. This process gives me an opportunity to process all of that almost instantaneously, and the more I do it, the faster I can do it–at the very moment.

The key is learning to just say it — BEFORE the anxiety or hurt feelings build. For instance, where in your body do you feel the put downs or the criticisms another person might dish out?

What color is it? What does it feel like? A twinge, a sharp knife, like a drowning? Now, quickly give thanks for your body’s messages to you, then, just say it. For instance:

(All of this verbage below is said calmly, unemotionally, as if, “the weather has been cold today, or maybe it will rain tomorrow, or….)

Perhaps–”I feel like a child when you constantly criticize me. That is abusive. I am not a child and I will no longer be treated like one.”

This way, our message is clear, we take a stand for our selves without attacking the other person. We claim it for ourself. Then stand.

Just Say It

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, The Bully, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 7 Comments

Streets and Deep Holes

Streets and Deep HolesEver stop to think about all the wrong streets you walk down and all the deep holes and cracks you fall into? Then, do you scratch and claw your way out, all while blaming someone else for your choice of streets and subsequent potholes?

Streets and deep holes, in this instance, is metaphor of  the choices we make that repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Often, these choices follow the same destructive patterns we have made throughout a lifetime.

When you get right down to it, our lives are full of lessons and wondrous opportunities to learn them. Free beings that we are (if, indeed, that’s true) we choose to walk down the same streets we’ve traveled before, and often fall into the same/similar holes. When we do so, we have another opportunity to learn that lesson again. We can choose to learn it now, or we can wait until the same lesson comes around again (and it will, I guarantee you!) giving us another opportunity to learn to make different/better choices.

I don’t know about you, but over the years, I walked down the same pothole-filled streets many times, and yes, been given another opportunity to learn the lessons I came into this world to learn–lessons about streets and deep holes. (i.e. relationships that aren’t good for me, jobs I don’t enjoy, overcommitment of my time, social groups or churches I don’t care to participate in, overly needy friends that ‘drink my blood.’

In time, I learned that these streets and deeps holes are there to teach me the same lessons, but each time I learn them at an even deeper level, until finally, I get it!

If I refrain from blaming others and take a deeper look inside, I recognize these are the same streets and deep holes (read:lessons) I’ve traveled and now I can decide not to spend all the energy it takes to avoid the potholes, but rather to choose a different street!

What about you? What streets and deep holes have you walked down over and over again, and over and over again gotten caught in the same lessons you thought you’d learned (but evidently hadn’t, else you wouldn’t get caught in them again.  What lessons keep coming around for you to learn? What does it take for you to learn them? What does it take for you to not only avoid the potholes, but choose another street to go down?

Streets and Deep Holes don’t have to control our lives!

Posted in Strong Woman, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 1 Comment

Revolutionary1> Women

Revolutionary woman, Suzanne Adair wrote a comment about her book on my blog and I was so enthralled by it I asked if I could post it as a guest article, rather than as a comment. Enjoy.

revolutionaryAward-winning novelist Suzanne Adair is a Florida native who lives in a two hundred-year-old city at the edge of the North Carolina Piedmont, named for an English explorer who was beheaded. Her suspense and thrillers transport readers to the Southern theater of the Revolutionary War, where she brings historic towns, battles, and people to life. She fuels her creativity with Revolutionary War reenacting and visits to historic sites. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking, dancing, and spending time with her family.

<i>The Revolution had little emancipating effect on women who, of course, protected hearth and home and participated in the fight just as much as did the men</i>

The role that women played during the Revolutionary War actually kick-started the emancipation of American women. Here’s the background.

When a man went off to fight for or against the King, he left his business/farm to his women. Women had to do it all, right? Thus in the absence of their menfolk, women ran the businesses and farms, often doing a <i>better</i> job at it than their men. And women did <i>everything</i> that men had done, even the jobs we think of as traditionally masculine; they were printers, blacksmiths, lighthouse keepers, carriage makers, etc.

When men returned from the war, they couldn’t help but notice what women had done inrevolutionary their absence as well as the fact that women were not content to be shoved back into the domestic damsel role. Men who had fought for the cause of independence — men who were responsible for shaping the new country — realized what a great asset women were. They also realized that American women needed to be educated beyond just reading, writing, and ciphering.

The first college for women was established shortly after the Revolutionary War because of this realization. True, the initial agenda was, “Educate women about philosophy, science, and politics so they can become good patriots and nurture the next generation to shun the evils of monarchy.” But Americans didn’t buy that for more than a couple generations. Women continued to gain ground.

Single women kept a certain amount of identity, but when they married, their sense of self was sucked up into the status of the men they married.

Yes, and widows, like unmarried women, held more power than married women. But history is peppered with examples of married women who found ways to circumvent these laws.

Suzanne says “what made me write Camp Follower, several things. First of all, I had an enigmatic exchange in my first book, Paper Woman, between the protagonist, Sophie, and her brother, David, in which she asked him whether he’d ever killed a man before, and he admitted that he dueled with and killed a man over the man’s wife years earlier. In the 21st century, David would be locked away for murder, but this sort of illegal dueling went on well into the 19th century, with men getting away with murder. I wondered what the woman at the center of the duel was like, to have instigated such a violent event. I decided that she and David were still in a relationship, and I wanted to explore how murder had shaped their relationship. That became a sub-plot for Camp Follower.

In addition, I wanted to correct the wrong impression we have of camp followers. When you read the term, you think “prostitute.” But in the 18th century, the people who qualified as camp followers — civilians who traveled with an army but were not directly paid or compensated for it by the army  — might be artisans (ex. blacksmiths), sutlers (ex. merchants), or retainers (ex. family members). Family members followed armies all the time during the Revolutionary War because most cities back then were too small to afford protection from an entire army, and the army was the safest place to be. Prostitutes, in fact, made up only a small percentage of people traveling with an army. Most of the women retainers were wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters of soldiers, and they had a hard, hard life following an army after their menfolk. So I tell their stories in Camp Follower.

Also, I was intrigued by the idea of thrusting a woman journalist into a war correspondent role, even though there were no true war correspondents back then. Women journalists mostly wrote the Society Page in magazines. We have no records of them ever going into battle danger. But what would happen if a woman did find herself in such a position? What kind of woman would she have to be to survive the brutality of a battleground? I also explore this in Camp Follower.

The vast majority of our first-hand accounts from the Revolutionary War are from the point of view of men, mostly soldiers. Women of the time don’t seem to have a voice. But, I thought, if I could give women from that time voices, what would they say about the war? Certainly, it would be different from what men would say, and it most definitely wouldn’t be a romance.”

Revolutionary woman, for sure.

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 2 Comments

White

Knights & Pink Pigs | knight

knight

Our guest author today is Lindsay Frucii, a recent guest on my Blog Talk Radio program, Writing Strong Women and the author of The Pig & Me-a powerful story of her ‘knight’ and the journey of a very strong woman.

In 1989 when a personal bankruptcy robbed her family of financial security, Lindsay decided the way back to marital and family bliss was to start a business that would make gobs of money. Out of the mantra “there must be something I can do”€ and a passion for fat-laden, fudgy brownies that made it hard to zip her jeans, an idea was born: healthy brownies for the masses. In a leap of faith borne on the wings of innocence and naivete, she founded No Pudge! Foods, Inc., and began an unexpected whopper of a roller coaster ride.

Be warned, this post is a little long, so if you can’t finish it in one sitting, mark it and come back and finish. It is well worth your time.

The fairy tale is an enviable, business success story. The reality is the story of a woman who was raised hearing “You can’t” and found, to her surprise and great satisfaction, she could – and then some.

As a little girl, I always knew exactly what my life would be like when I grew up. After high school I would learn a trade and live at home until my white knight came along. You know, the tall, handsome dude on the white horse. The one who would carry me off to a big house with a white picket fence where I would be his wife and raise our children. His job would be to earn a good living and take care of me because God knows, as a woman, I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself.

When the white knight didn’t come along as planned, I was left feeling insecure and lost. On my 25th birthday, my older sister – who’d married right on cue at twenty-one and had two babies in two years – cheerfully informed me that I was officially an old maid. As I approached my 28th birthday, still single, it suddenly hit me that I was tired of waiting for that damn knight. Suddenly hit me. As in never crossed my mind before.  You know it’s almost embarrassing to write that, but it’s the God’s honest truth. I was twenty-seven and a half years old before I first thought that maybe it was time to stop waiting. Waiting for the damn knight. Waiting for someone to create a home with. Waiting for someone else to make me happy. Waiting to play the role I’d been raised to believe I’d be a failure without.

So I quit my job as a nurse, got an entry-level job in Corporate America, started making a lot more money and damn, didn’t that knight show up. He was driving a Saab Turbo instead of riding a white horse, but he was tall and handsome, had a great job, owned his own house and at 29, was still – incredibly – single.  Boo Yaa!

You’re probably thinking, “She’s a little slow, but at least she finally got it” and assuming that my knight and I married and had little knights (we did). It also makes sense you believe I’d grown enough by then that our marriage was one where we both considered me a strong and equal partner. Ah…. No.

My husband had been raised to view our roles in the same way I had and once our first son was born, we both slipped unknowingly right back into them. It turns out that roles ingrained in you since birth don’t disappear, they simply submerge, waiting to rear their ugly heads at the first sign of weakness.

I adore the role of being a mother. To this day being a mother to my two sons is, without a sliver of doubt, the role that makes me happiest. But the role of unequal wife? Not so much. The lack of equality was not an in-your-face, you-are-the-subservient-wife thing and it was never conscious on either of our parts. It was just the way it was. For me it translated into a frequent sense of discomfort – like the costume I’d been handed was too heavy, too scratchy and too confining. I wore it for fourteen years before rebelling. What can I say? I’m a slow learner…

I was forty-four when I began to tear the costume off. We were going through a difficult financial and emotional time. Not an optimal time for rebellion, but when the voice inside you finally wakes up and screams ENOUGH! – you listen.

I decided I wanted to start a business – telling myself I was doing it to help my husband knightand family financially. But where I saw a golden opportunity, my husband saw a money pit and the harder I pushed, the stronger his resistance. I dug in my heels, telling myself I was going to prove him wrong. But that feeling quickly became an overpowering need to prove to myself that I didn’t have to live the life that others had designed for me. As I began to evolve and grow, my marriage struggled to do the same. The process almost tore us apart, but today our relationship is stronger and happier. We are, in every sense of the word, partners.

I now know that life is too short to be wasted trying to live the life that others expect you to live. That said, I also know the feeling of terror that accompanies the beginning of rebellion and understand all too well how hard it is to break out of a role you feel super-glued into. But we all deserve to live our life. The life that brings joy and freedom and gratitude – not the one that breeds exhaustion and resentment and envy.

It’s a difficult and scary journey, but by taking it a one-small-step-at-a-time it’s far less overwhelming. And if you are stuck, it’s a journey that must be made.

I broke free one tiny step at a time. Moving forward at a slow pace but always moving towards the me I was meant to be. The journey isn’t easy – I’m still on it – but if I can do, so can you.

So you see, readers, white knights can also take the form of pink pigs.

Readers, share your own tale of strength and courage by adding your comment to the post.  Indeed, white knights come in all colors, shapes and odors!

And a special thanks to white knight Jessica Sinn at Chick Lit Cafe  for recommending Lindsay as a guest on Writing Strong Women.

 

Posted in A War of Her Own, Crones, Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 14 Comments

I Want Answers to my Questions, and I want them NOW!

questionsSometimes, I have found myself so overwhelmed with questions that, if I only knew the answers,  I would know which direction I should go. (I wonder if that is a female thing, or if men battle with indecision like me.)

Even tempted to pray that the answers would be handed down to me–as if on a silver platter. If God would just tell me what I was supposed to do, then I could do it and not agonize about whether I made the right decision or not. But, since no silver platter descended from the clouds, I agonized on, racing to an answer that often didn’t fit. So what did I do when it didn’t? I pushed and squeezed harder to make it fit.

Experience (lots of experience) has taught me to be patient with all those unsolved questions that swarmed my heart like a hive of killer bees.

These days, I try to be more patient with myself and instead of my desperate attempt to force the answers, to embrace the questions like I might a beautifully bound book that, when I open it and find it written in a foreign language, take it home with me anyway and give it a place of honor in my home.

Sometimes, the answers just aren’t there yet. Why? Because the timing of the answers is not yet–we are not ready to receive it.

When you catch yourself fighting the questions, instead, embrace them. Celebrate them. Examine them. Inhale them.  In other words, instead of grasping at answers, live the questions.

As we learn to live the questions, we will find ourselves living into the answers without even being aware that we are.

How about you? How do you handle it when life seems to toss you questions faster than you can come up with the answers? Share what works for you, or what doesn’t, by adding a comment on  this blog.

Questions are magical. Live the questions, live everything!

 

Posted in Strong Woman, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 2 Comments

SISTERS

Author and Strong Woman Ann Parker guests today about SISTERS on Writing Strong Women. She also guests on Writing Strong Women at Blog Talk Radio. Airing today at 1:00 p.m. Central Daylight Time. Of course, if you miss the broadcast you can pick it up in the archives and listen at your convenience. Her Sisters story is powerful, and one which most women who have sisters, whether by blood or by choice, can relate to and smile. (My sister and I certainly can!)

Ann Parker is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush series, featuring saloon-owner Inez Stannert, is set in 1880s Colorado, primarily in the silver-mining boomtown of Leadville. The latest in her series, MERCURY’S RISE, will be released November 1.

SISTERS

Sisters is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.  ~Margaret Mead 

When I began my Silver Rush historical mystery series, one of the things I did was “gift” my main character, Leadville saloon-owner Inez Stannert, with a younger sister. Nearly a full decade separates Inez and Harmony, and yet Harmony is the family member that Inez turns to for help when she must send her young son William away from Leadville. Harmony is the one who takes in William, the one to whom Inez pours her heart out (albeit circumspectly) in letters. Missives between Inez and Harmony fly back and forth as the sisters console and confide in each other throughout the series.

Out of all the topics I have researched for my books, the one where I drew mostly from my own heart is the sisterly relationship between Inez and Harmony.

SistersI have my own little sister, Alison, and our relationship as my guide. Alison certainly belongs in this blog focused on Strong Women, for she is one of the strongest women I know. We have been on the sisterhood “journey” for more than five decades now, and my love, admiration, and respect for her continues to grow.

Of course, it wasn’t always so.

I am older by almost three years, exactly.  I don’t recall Alison as a baby, although one nicely posted photo has the two of us, Alison as infant, me as young child, smiling companionably, eyes directed stage left (probably at a toy held aloft by the photographer). I recall very little from our early years together: Alison’s head, ruffled with curls, as she lay sleeping in the trundle bed that slid out from under my own bedstead. There’s one horrifying old home movie in which Alison is toddling along in front of our old home and I race up to her on a tricycle, only to screech to a stop at the last moment, after which Alison plunks down to the sidewalk on her diapered rear. (At least, I hope I stopped short. Scrutinizing the silent, grainy film, I find it’s hard to tell whether she lost her balance from the surprise or whether I actually bumped her.)

Sharing a room for fifteen-plus years, we diverged early and definitively. She was the “artistic one,” I was the “bookish one.”Sisters (Witness the photos: Alison with paints, me with a book.) I was disorganized and messy. Alison was neat, everything had its place. (My “place” for things was under the bed). The only way to keep a sort of peace in that shared space was to draw a line down the middle of the room. Later on, our differences crept into the audible zone: Alison loved rock and roll: the Beatles, the Monkees, the Rolling Stones. I preferred classical: Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart. There were screaming fights over things I no longer recall—in one spectacular incident, a face was slapped and a chair was thrown (I shall not divulge who did what: it will remain a “mystery for the Sistersreader.” ;-)   )… In retrospect, we seemed just bound and determined to annoy each other!

Time passed, and we left the turbulent teens years behind. We no longer share a room or even a residence. Alison moved to New York, I stayed West. She became an artist, I became a writer. We went our “separate ways” but have grown closer even so. I treasure the times we have together and the bond we now share: texting/emailing, and talking on the phone, plus the times we manage to arrange “face time” with each other, flitting cross country to opposite coasts. We share a common history, a common language, a common memory.

Alison is also a survivor of ovarian cancer—not once, but THREE times over. I marvel at her resilence, her determination, and treasure our times together on this coast or that. I am in awe of the strength of my little sister, and learn from her, even as we grow older. What a journey it’s been. Pam Brown, an Australian poet (who I’ll bet has a sister) sums it up nicely in this quote:

Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize.  Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks.  Borrow.  Break.  Monopolize the bathroom.  Are always underfoot.  But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there.  Defending you against all comers. 

Alison is there for me, no matter what, and she knows that I am always there for her… no matter what. We laugh, we sympathize, we share, we learn from each other.

There are, thankfully, no more lines down the middle of the room.

SistersFor after all, they are sisters. (SDS)

 

Ann Parker is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush series, featuring saloon-owner Inez Stannert, is set in 1880s Colorado, primarily in the silver-mining boomtown of Leadville. The latest in her series, MERCURY’S RISE, will be released November 1.  http://www.annparker.net

Leave a comment on this post to be eligible to win one of Ann’s Silver Rush mystery books!

Sisters–especially when they are both strong women–aren delightful, infuriating, fun, worrisome and wonderful!

 

Posted in Quotes by Strong Women, Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 18 Comments

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