Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: women

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

I didn’t do a “new read” post about Little Bee by Chris Cleave because I started it on Christmas Eve and was too busy that day to sit and write. There was so much to do and so much fun to be had. Let’s not talk about how many cookies there were to eat…which I did. I’m not proud of it, but let’s just say it was worth every calorie.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Christmas Chaos

Little Bee came to me by last year’s book windfall. I knew nothing about it when I pulled it out of one of the boxes, but the cover drew my attention and the quote from The New York Time Book Review, “Immensely readable and moving…and affecting story of human triumph,” made it sound promising.

And it was. With most modern novels it takes time before I being to enjoy the story. With this one, I immediately fell in love with the characters by the end of chapter two. And then they began to break my heart by chapter three. How did he do that? The man revealed things, bit by bit, in such a subtle way…exquisite.

From the back cover, “Once you read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.”

They were right. I looked up from the book each time I put it down thinking, you need to read this…and so do you. It’s…wow…

But how does one beseech another to read a beautifully painful story that will change you, without telling you what it’s about? I guess the same way I decided to pick it up and read it, by showing it to you and hoping you choose wisely, letting the universe bring it to you like it was brought to me.

The book changed me. I set it down when I finished it and sighed. All those people, so many story lines, so much to learn, so much depth. What would I do if I were in their shoes? The whole thing knocked me off my stride that day and the next.

Last night, my husband and I sat in front of the fireplace with a drink and talked about it. He’s not a reader of novels, so I can give it all away as much as I please. I’m ruining nothing for him. It was a beautiful conversation.

This is what a good book does. It touches you and leaves you scarred in the most amazing ways. That’s all I have to tell you about my last novel of 2021.

What are you doing this week? Did you have to go back to work? Or are you spending the week on vacation? The seven days between Christmas and New Year’s always feels like a non-week, it doesn’t seem to exist, not really. Anything can happen.

I’m excited for the new year to come, but it’s not for the typical reasons. I’ve never been much of a party person. Even when I was younger, the only time I was out on New Year’s Eve was to work. So, my anticipation doesn’t hang on the evening’s festivities. What I’m looking forward to is going through my books and tallying up what I read this year. I know…nerd.

As I have the last several years, I’ll spend New Year’s Day going through old journals, notes, and posts and writing myself a review. This year I think I’ll write a few headlines and summaries, practice writing some brilliant leads into the story that was my 2021.

Side note: When can we stop writing and saying “20-something” and go back to ’21 like we did way back in the 1900’s? I think it’s this year, right now. Stand by to welcome the birth of ’22 world! I can see the conversation thirty years from now. “Back in ’22. That’s when it all started.” Or “Let’s see…when was it that my life changed? Hmm… oh, yes! ’22! Pour me a shot of whiskey and I’ll tell you the story.”

Would you like to read more posts inspired by this book? Check out
Little Bee: Scars
Little Bee: Ordered and Antiseptic
Little Bee: No Innocent Bystanders

We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters #4

“Women rely on friends. If you’re lucky like me, you have a built-in best friend called a husband, but I will always need my female friends, and I think most of us do. We simply can’t exist without the connections to other women. That’s where we draw sustenance and find safety.” From We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters by Cokie Roberts

I found myself getting jealous and petty while reading the chapter on friends. Women…ugg…I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with them. I don’t find it easy at all to be friends and can count on one hand all of my close female friends. Lately, I’ve found myself asking why.

I’ve come to the startling conclusion that it’s because I am not a good friend. I find it easier to be friends with men because they don’t ask anything of me. They don’t need me to be there. They don’t cry much. They don’t want to gossip or worry over what other people are doing. They drink more. They aren’t afraid of driving somewhere. And I’ve never had a male friend say that a hiking trail seems a little too hard or scary.

It’s about me. My ego is strong and gets in the way of my relationships with women.

I keep thinking of reasons why men make better friends than women, but I’m only making excuses and being defensive. I do crave the camaraderie that I see other women have, that ease of conversation and bonding that I see my mother and aunt have with their friends. I have had that relationship with a few select women over the years, a few of which have broken my heart and/or drifted away. I’ve been sitting here thinking what it is about them that I love so much, and I can’t put my finger on it.

There’s nothing like a great lunch date with my close female friends. It’s usually a one-on-one thing. I’ve never been much of a group activity kind of person. We don’t do much. We meet someplace for coffee, food, or drinks. We wander around stores looking at things. We walk at parks. Sometimes we meet at each other’s houses. We talk about all the things that are driving us crazy and then decide next time we’ll be more positive, only to go right back to, “Oh, my lord, and then this happened…” And when I leave, I feel lighter, like a confession but with a friend that smiles and says, “Yeah, me too.” I’m not alone.

When I hear about friends that go on family vacations together, women’s retreats, or cruises, I get a little envious. These women have parties together, watch each other’s kids, who knows what else. But then I remember that I don’t like those things. My friends, those women I rely on for strength when I really need it, or at least a good joke, or an inappropriate laugh? Those ones that don’t flinch when I say something off-color or mean just to vent frustration and then feel bad about it…they are out there, just a text away. And they’re just like me, ready to help when they are called upon, but otherwise living their own lives, struggling to get their own shit together.

We’re all different. We all have different needs and those needs change from time to time.

I think she’s right. We do rely on these relationships, and we should seek them out and foster their growth in the same way we do with our other relationships. Like her, I’m lucky to have a “built-in best friend” called my husband, a few wonderful male friends I rely on for company and perspective, AND a few female friends that I simply could not live well without. I’ve been neglecting that part of my life and wondering why those relationships were failing me…hmm…time to reprioritize!

To read more, go back to my original post on this book, “We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters: New Read.”

We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters: New Read

Why in the world would I chose “We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters” by Cokie Roberts? That’s a great question. I’ll give you the story…because you know there is a story.

We Are Our Mothers' Daughters

I bought this book the day that I found out there was a used bookstore in the mall. FYI: I just spent ten minutes looking back in my posts but found that I have not shared this glory with you. I could have sworn that I, at least, posted about it on my Instagram, but alas… Sad. I do know it was the same day that I entertained millions at Costco, and I did write to you about that, but I’ll tell you now that there is a used bookstore in the Moreno Valley Mall called The Dollar Book Fair and it has…ready for it… $1 and $2 books!

I do realize that you might think that if you don’t live here, it means nothing to you, but it does. If these bookstores can exist here, they can exist anywhere. We must spread the word and create more! Go my book loving business friends!

You know I went running inside this place when I saw it. And then there I was browsing the used books, looking forward to buying a few books and getting something tasty at the food court, probably a corn dog much to the dismay of my friend who thinks they are gross. In other words, I was in heaven. I went straight to the memoir section, and then history, and finally classic fiction.

Now here’s the thing about used bookstores: They are great for adding books to my TBR shelf, guilt free. I may read them, I may not. They may be the greatest books ever and they may be terrible. This is where I take chances on what I buy. This is where I think to myself, “Well…I’ve never heard of this person, but it sounds interesting.” Or “This looks like it will present me with completely different point of view and I might want to smack the author or its intended audience, but what they hell! It’s a dollar!”

The memoir section in a used bookstore is my favorite place to browse. Who knows who you will find there?! There are memoirs and autobiographies of people I would never think would have written one, people I don’t even know exist, and famous people I can’t stand. And then there are all those people that aren’t famous at all but have some story to tell that you and I might relate to or learn from.

Reading memoir is like living several lives at once.

Cokie Roberts’ book was tucked away on the memoir shelves, but it says its genre is “women’s studies.” It does have stories of her own life, but it’s more of series of stories about other women, their lives and choices. I picked it up because it seems to be written by a woman completely opposite of myself in a number of ways. Note: I did not know who she was other than the description on the back of the book. She’s a political commentator, news analyst, her mother was in congress, her sister a mayor, and an east coaster. That is a life I cannot imagine living.

Another reason I was drawn to the book is that I love books about women’s relationships with other women; mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends. It’s something I struggle with, and I read in the hopes of understanding. Sitting here trying to put into words the way I feel is causing a bit of stress, so I’ll make a note to explore that idea in future post. For now, I’ll say I’m usually far more comfortable around men than most women and I’m not sure why.

I started “We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters” this morning and I’m 36 pages in. Yes, I read the introduction. In memoir and autobiography, I think it’s an imperative. I’ve already teared up twice reading her stories about her mother and her sister. I have lots of little “!!” and “??” in the margins at places where I just don’t understand the point of view. I’m hoping this doesn’t end up as a rant on how women are so much better than men and how we all need to be independent of them as much as possible. I’m more of an equal partnership kind of feminist.

So, I’m jumping into “We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters.” In the past, I’ve tried to write something longer each day, based on a quote from my morning read, but I’ll be doing things a little different this time in the interest of lessening the load over the holidays. I’ll be sharing quotes for each hour I read on Instagram (so be sure to follow me there) and as a “story” here. I’m not sure what that means, to be honest. I’m using the “story” button on the WordPress app on my phone, and it seems that all it does is make another blog post, but it looks like people enjoy them, so I’ll keep doing it.

One more thing before I go. I’m glad to be back here and writing again. For a few weeks, I really started to think maybe I should quit. That’s another long story I could post in the future. But something inside me won’t let me stop. What’s the point of reading all this stuff and keeping it all to myself? Seems like stingy Grinch thing to do.

We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters #1
We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters #2
We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters #3
We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters #4
We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters #5
We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters: Final Thoughts

Women Are Equal in Nature and Need as Men, Not the “Same As”

Mythic woman quote on desert background.

“The woman is immediately mythic in herself and is experienced as such, not only as the source and giver of life, but also of the magic of her touch and presence.”

Myths to Live By” by Joseph Campbell

Women are Equal, Not the Same

I know it’s an unpopular idea, but I believe it’s true. Most of the problems of modern civilization can be traced back to the loss of the memory of who we are. Feminism has gotten us lost attempting to be the same as men, instead of equal in nature and need as a man. Instead of balancing the scales with male and female attributes and contributions, we have crowded all into one cup and knocked the whole natural system out of whack.

All Animals Have Evolved (or Created)
as Male and Female

We should not feel subjugated by the differences between the sexes but empowered. A goddess is not a lesser form of a god, but an equal power that balances out another. Two is always stronger than one. And three? Well…let’s not get into that right now.

We have so forgotten our true mythic nature that we even tear down other women when we feel they are stepping out of the line. Feminists tear down traditionalists. Career women tear down housewives. Mothers tear down the intentionally childless. Lesbians tear down straight women. Chosen sex against birth sex. The list goes on and on, and the violence against the other goes both ways in all instances.

Instead of seeing our fellow goddesses as they are, we see them as competitors, a threat to our own very personal choices. Why?

Have we completely forgotten who we are? Unadorned and untutored, we are capable of so much power. We can heal with a touch, move others with a look. For crying out loud, we can bring forth other humans and feed them! And yet, here we are making ourselves small.

No one took our power away. At some point we began to give it away and continue to do so. We have taught each succeeding generation that they have no power by attacking and ridiculing any one of us that attempts to take that power back.

How do we take that power back? It cannot be by belittling men, attempting to be like them, removing them from our lives, or treating them as an enemy. As a society, I’m not sure where we could start. I only know that whatever we’re doing right now isn’t working, at least not for me.

For me, I’ve started with accepting myself as a natural being, one that has flaws and weakness that can also be strengths. I’m getting older and not hiding it. I’m a bit chubby, I’ve had children and it shows. That’s a good thing. I’m a sexual being and that’s ok, even if my parents and children are uncomfortable with that. I’ve started reading myths about the feminine from different cultures across time. I want to learn how other cultures in the past have interpreted the feminine. How do they differ? How can it shape my thinking and improve my self-image? I wish I had started this journey earlier, but maybe I did, unconsciously at first.

I’ll add one more thing before I go. I don’t hate men. In fact, I love them, possibly a little too much. I do wish more men (and women) could respect a powerfully feminine woman. What’s my definition of a powerful woman? One that knows her natural power, secure in who she is, she gives to and takes from the world around her in ways no one else can. She intentionally chooses her path, takes her time, and enjoys what comes of it fully. Other people’s opinions matter to her, but not at the cost of losing herself. She accepts others just as they are, as she does herself. She loves passionately, sings loudly, dances wildly, and stands her ground.

I am woman. I am the other side of the balance of life. And I will not be quiet about it.

Want to read this book? You can get it on Amazon HERE.
Read more of my thoughts about quotes from this book:
Are Our Cultural Differences Becoming Less Important?

Using Anger as a Shield

“Anger is a powerful protective shield. It feels better to be angry than sad or hurt. Anger gives you energy, but just below the surface, fear, embarrassment, and pain often lurk.”

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do by Amy Morin

Why is that? Because anger isn’t vulnerable and sad or hurt is. When you tell people your angry, they react. You have a right to be angry. Something has offended me and, dammit, you better get to fixing that right now!

But tell someone you feel hurt by their words or actions? Or, worse, tell someone you feel sad about something that has happened? Imagine that reaction.

“Sticks and stones…don’t be so sensitive!”
“Into every life, some rain must fall…it’ll pass.”

When I tell someone that I’m sad or hurt, I’m opening myself up to criticism. It’s me with the problem, not you. I am the one feeling. And usually, all I want is a little compassion, a pat on the back, a hug, or a shared look of love and support while I work through it. What I usually get is condemnation for … for what? Allowing myself to be vulnerable? For asking for support instead of toughening up?

You know what pulling myself up alone leads to? Resentment and then anger. I can get righteous attention for my anger. People jump up and listen when I start shouting, in person or online. And I’ve created a habit of projecting anger at the first sign of any feeling. All it’s done is helped me build bigger and bigger walls between the people around me.

What do I do these days when I feel that anger rise up in my chest? I have a few tactics lately. One is to write it down before I speak it and sit with it until the next day. I ask myself, “What is this anger in reaction to?” Sometimes I can see the hurt or fear just beneath and tease it out of hiding. I’ve even had the chance to express that fear instead of reacting in anger.

And guess what? Most of my fears are unfounded. And most of my sadness is just a mood that passes. All I really needed was to express my actual feeling around people that know me best. I’ve learned to ask for what I need, not wait for someone to guess…and then get angry about their lack of mindreading abilities.

Is This a Real Life? Yes, it is.

My real life. Knitting on my lap.
My Real Life POV

What is a real life, anyway? And who makes those rules?

“Gifted women, even as they reclaim their creative lives, even as beautiful things flow from their hands, from their pens, from their bodies, still question whether they are writers, painters, artists, people, real ones. And of course they are real ones even though they might like to bedevil themselves with what constitutes “real.””

“…a tree is real when it is still a seed in the pine cone. An old tree is a real living being. Real is what has life.”

Women Who Run With the Wolves – by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.

There is some amazing stuff in this book. I’ve questioned my “real” myself. “Am I a real writer?” only touches the surface.

If I live simply. If I ONLY read, write, clean, cook, raise my children, love my husband, cherish my close friends, is that a REAL life?

Yes. It is.

I love reading anything by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. She opens my mind to look at the simplest things from a broader perspective. You find Women Who Run With Wolves at Thriftbooks. If you’ve read it, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Edit: Looking back I’m amazed. Other than Behold! The June Newsletter!,” this is all I wrote about the beautiful book. It’s good to look around through old posts. I can see my progress, how much my process has changed, and that I’m becoming more consistent. Yay, me!

“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

A Few Grey Hairs

Why do we try to hide the fact that we’re getting older?

What is the shame in grey hair or wrinkles?

What are we afraid of?

Why not take it as a sign to get busy if we haven’t already?

And if we have gotten busy, why not take it as a sign of maturity and grace?

It’s far more attractive than pretending we’re young.

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