When you think about the words that you’ve seen in some girls’ bathroom stalls, what do you normally think about? Words that typically come to my mind are vulgarity, nastiness, foolishness, offensive… lots of these types of adjectives come to mind. Of course, then there are all the phone numbers revealing personal data about people who had no intention of sharing that information.
Who would think that one could receive wisdom from a girls’ bathroom stall? And yet, that’s exactly what was found in a university restroom, in response to the disclosure of some tragic and terrible life experiences, written in a single stall.
That someone took the time out to thoughtfully respond is remarkable. Her words are inspiring – for anyone.
Take a look at the story, with an image of the actual note, here.
TED.com is a website that I became acquainted with through one of my teaching colleagues. According to the website:
“TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.
You can find talks about various topics, from education to religion to technology to entertainment…Lots of very intriguing speakers, some who are well-known, such as Al Gore, to less well-known people, who, in their talks, inspire us, teach us, persuade us, fascinate us…
I came across a new TED talk today that I felt I had to share. This talk was given by Tony Porter at the first TEDWomen conference held just this past month. Mr. Porter is the co-founder of A Call to Men, a non-profit organization “committed to ending violence against women.” In his presentation, he discusses the “Man Box,” and how living in the “Man Box” causes men to live in bondage to what some men think being a man is all about. He discusses how much of living in the “Man Box” leads to violence against women. Nonetheless, he concludes his talk with a profound statement of liberation that we all, men and women, must hear.
Below is the video of “Tony Porter: A Call to Men.” Play it for every man you know. But as a woman, I feel it is also a call to me – to further understand these issues so that I can understand that there are other men who are trying to break free of the “Man Box.” I need to understand these issues so that when my husband explains the “Man Box” to our daughter, that I will be able to understand right along with her.
I am the wife of a man who has long broken out of the “Man Box.” Nonetheless, let us all seek to understand the men in our lives to support them breaking out of their own “Man Box.”
Poetry slammer Katie Makkai gives voice to how we – as parents, as teachers, as those concerned with the tender hearts of our young people – should respond to the insecurities our girls carry as a result of listening to and watching what the media deems to suggest what’s right for them. It is absolutely powerful.
Back in the 80s and 90s when I worked in corporate America, I loved to wear beautiful suits. It was always my intent to purchase suits that I didn’t think I’d see on anyone else at any particular time (living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin). It’s not that I had goo-gobs of money to spend on one-of-a-kinds; I just prided myself on being a shopper of fine clothing of relatively reasonable value without breaking my wallet too much.
In the late 80s, I was participating in a training class for a large organization I worked for. When I arrived at the classroom, I took my seat, waiting for the class to begin. As I looked around, a woman walked in the door of the classroom wearing a beautiful black suit. I admired it for its intricate detailing and stitching throughout. I also noticed that the suit looked terrific on her, as it was a well-made suit. As she walked closer to where I was seated, I made an observation that absolutely made me sick that day – she’s wearing my suit, on the same day I had the same suit on myself!!! I was absolutely mortified!!! Really!!!
From that day on, I vowed I’d never wear that suit again. And I never did. In a sense, I felt violated. Of course, the woman wearing the suit didn’t do anything wrong. She merely had great taste, as I did. Yet, I felt as though I was being copied. I felt as though, as writers would say, I was being plagiarized! There was more than one of me! And if there was more than one of me, one of those “me’s” was not needed.
How ridiculous, you say? Yes, ridiculous it is. Until I can afford to purchase one-of-a-kinds (which I don’t even have a desire to do), there will always be a woman who is wearing those shoes I just purchased yesterday. There will always be a woman who is wearing that same blouse I bought last week. There will always be a woman who is wearing that same dress I bought last month. And I might even personally see that woman donning those shoes, that blouse, that dress. And get this…she might even look better in those pants than I do (which, at the moment, is entirely possible given the 15 pounds I need to drop).
Yet, I no longer have this feeling that I’m being copied, that I’m no longer unique when I see someone sporting “my” clothes. After a fire consumed all of my belongings while I was attending graduate school in the early 90s, I had to learn to shop differently to regain a small portion of what I’d lost and to try to rebuild (after not having renter’s insurance). And I wanted the same stuff I had before. Nevertheless, I couldn’t afford to pour out the same amount of money as I did before I entered graduate school. So I found discount shops and outlets (Loehmann’s, T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s, Filene’s Basement, and now, Value City), which means that I will someday see another woman in my clothes, on the exact day I’m donning the same outfit.
Does that mean that I’m no longer unique? Absolutely not!
The outer garments does not a sistah make!
It’s what’s inside that makes all of us unique. It’s what God has blessed us with that makes us one-of-a-kind. I am guaranteed that there is no one like me on this earth (that should be a relief for my husband), and that no matter what I wear, I have gifts and talents the world needs. I’m just trying to figure out what the world needs and how I can get it out there.
Ladies, has this ever happened to you? Have you ever felt like you’re a carbon copy and therefore, that you’re not needed?
Let me reassure you – it’s a lie! Don’t believe it!
What makes me unique?
I have three degrees that I can probably use virtually anywhere, if I put my mind to it.
I can tell funny stories of how I walked into a brick wall when I was in elementary school and broke my front tooth.
I’ve only had one cavity in my entire life, and I didn’t get it until I was 21 years old!
I look young for my age.
I’ve never gotten a job by sending out resumes.
I spent 12 weeks on hospital bedrest during my pregnancy and only gained 37 pounds.
I have the most wonderful daughter and most loving, caring, gifted husband in the whole wide world!
All of these experiences inform who I am. And no one, absolutely no one, has experienced what I’ve experienced collectively. Together, these experiences make me one unique woman. And no one can take that away.
Today is the first Mother’s Day I will not be celebrating with my Mommy. She passed away last July 26th of cancer at 77. I miss her so much.
Since my mom passed, what most often entered my mind about her is her final days. I frequently think about the pain she endured – in her body and in her mind. Her mind was literally painful to her as she experienced much paranoia and confusion those final weeks. I was with her in the hospital every morning, sometimes in the afternoons, trying to communicate with her as I saw her body go through the stages of shutting down, preparing for transition. And then, I watched her take her last breath. Watched her pass away from me. These thoughts stay with me – I run through them daily.
Yet, I think it’s time for me to consciously think about the fun times I had with my mom and the good qualities she possessed.
My mom was feisty! While she was only 5’2″ tall, she could take on anyone, even when she was 60 years old! Literally. (One of her older brothers was an amateur boxer back in the day, and she hung out with him when she was in her heyday!)
My mom was generous. If you were a friend or family member in need, she’d find a way to meet that need.
My mom was creative! She made the prettiest dresses for me when I was in high school. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t cute!
My mom loved me intensely. She always told the story of how I was a “love baby.” In other words, I was conceived in mad lust!
My mom was caring. She was an L.P.N. and worked primarily in small nursing homes. When I was living at home, she’d frequently tell stories of her nursing home “escapades,” making whoever was listening to her stories crack up intensely and wish they were present for the action.
My mom was the life of every party! She was the loudest, funniest person present in a room, and once you discovered her, you couldn’t help but to hang out with her. While I’m biased, that’s what other people tell me too!
My mom loved her grandchildren. She had four – the oldest is 25, the youngest is going on 3 (my daughter). Oh, how I wished my mom could’ve been with my daughter much more than we could see her.
My mom loved to be different – on purpose!
There is so much more that I could talk about. Yet, I won’t. Thank you for indulging me and allowing me to align my thoughts about my mother in a more positive direction.
Now, before I leave y’all, I have a request. If your mother is still living, and you haven’t spoken to her because of some conflict – real or imagined – I’m going to say to you – GET OVER IT!!! Your mother is the ONLY mother you’ll ever have. She gave birth to you. She endured a broken heart because of you more times than you can probably think of. She loved you when you were unloveable. She prayed for you. She thought good thoughts about you. She did the best she could with you.
And if you think she hasn’t done these things – it doesn’t matter. Call you mother TODAY and tell her how much she means to you.
And if you think she doesn’t mean much to you – well, call her anyway and wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. She’s waiting to hear from you.
I’ve not wanted to write about the shooting at Virginia Tech on Monday simply because it’s all over the airwaves – online, print, television, cable. There’s not much I’ve wanted to say about it. Frankly, I can’t bear to watch the news coverage of this horrendous, callous incident.
As a teacher, though, my students wanted to talk about it today, especially my seniors, who are preparing to leave for college themselves in a few months or so.
A question one of my seniors presented was, “What about the gunman’s family? Where are they? What kind of family life did he have? Did he have brothers and sisters? Were they close?” As they asked those questions, I had to revisit what had been going through my mind since I heard about the massacre on the news Monday…
What about the mother of Cho Seung Hui?
I cannot imagine being the mother of any of the students who were killed. But I really cannot imagine being the mother of Cho Seung Hui, the killer. What kind of questions are going through her head? What is she feeling? I certainly cannot empathize at all. Yet, this young man’s mother is, in all likelihood, bearing the weight of the carnage he inflicted upon 32 people on her shoulders.
“Other than being the mother of one of the murdered students, I can imagine nothing worse than being the mother of the murderer, a murderer who committed suicide. How isolated she must be. She, too, is grieving, mourning the loss of her only son, mourning her dreams for him, and mourning her memories of his childhood. She has little – except confusion, guilt (however misplaced that may be) and questions.”
As a religious studies scholar, Dr. Bass uses the biblical text to attempt to explain Cho’s mother’s silence. She compares Cho’s mother’s silence with that of Eve after she and Adam are banned from the Garden of Eden after their act of disobedience.
Her post is insightful as she comes to the following conclusion:
“Silence may well be the primal response to sin: a mother’s choked pain, the pain of birthing sin, and the pain of birthing children victimized by sin. What can one say in the face of it all? Nothing, absolutely nothing. We are mute. But we are not entirely alone; we are embraced by the silence of Eve.”
I cannot, as a mother, wrap my head around the fact that Monday’s killings occurred. Yet, to understand that a woman – a mother silenced – is out there somewhere (probably trying to make some sense out of her son’s actions) compels me to reach out to her in prayer, to have compassion on her during this time of great distress, and to get it that her silence may be necessary for her at this moment.
I am thankful for the gift of intuition. In fact, I am on a quest to reclaim my intuitive sense. Really, I hadn’t developed it all that well in the past (interestingly enough, it never crossed my mind that it ought to be developed in the first place). Yet, in reclaiming my own self (as I’ve been discussing in my Women Who Run with the Wolvesseries), it’s necessary that I develop the ability to hear from my own soul on a regular basis.
According to Clarissa Pinkola Estes, intuition represents
“the voice of inner reason, inner knowing, and inner consciousness…It is our helper which is not seeable…but which is always accessible…
“Intuition senses the directions to go in for most benefit…It has claws that pry things open and pin things down, it has eyes that can see through the shields of persona, it has ears that hear beyond the range of mundane human hearing…”
Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, asserts that that which is intuition (he doesn’t actually use the word in Blink) is
“…rapid cognition, the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions…[in] those two seconds…those instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good.”
And in spite of the emphasis on “women’s intuition,” men, according to Kirsten Harrell, Psy.D., of Think Positive! Blog, have intuition as well. She says,
“We all have intuitive potential. We can all develop our intuition with some patience and practice. Intuition is what I like to call whispers from the soul. It is our ability to connect with our internal wisdom… our essential spirit. Intuition is our ability to connect with the Universal wisdom… the source of infinite possibilities. This is not something that is limited to women or to certain “gifted” people. Everyone is intuitive… I would like to suggest that we put the term ‘women’s intuition’ to rest and just call it intuition.”
I’m all for that.
Nevertheless, it is with this intuition that people make split second (or two-second, as Gladwell states in Blink) decisions. And it is with this intuition that a little girl was saved from a sexual predator back in January 2006. According to CBS News,
“Headed home after a long trip, [Tracie] Dean stopped at an Alabama convenience store where she met a little girl who seemed frightened by the man taking care of her. When Dean left the gas station, she just had a hunch about that little girl; something didn’t seem right. (emphasis mine) Dean jotted down the man’s license plate number. For days she struggled to confirm her suspicions that this was the case of a missing child. Finally, four days later, there was a break.”
“Dean’s instinct (emphasis mine) and perseverance helped turn up evidence that led to the arrest of Jack Wiley and Glenna Faye Cavender, who were charged with rape and child abuse of the little girl, who had looked so scared, and abuse of her 17-year-old brother.”
Instinct. Intuition. Hunch. That which does or doesn’t seem right. Sixth sense. All expressions used for that inner voice that tells us which way to go, what to do. And in this case, Dean listened to some inner knowing that happened instantaneously and reached a powerful and life-saving conclusion that saved the life of not just a beautiful little girl, but her 17-year old brother as well. Let us all gain the power to use that which is within to do tremendous good in the world around us.
For me, God is the source of my intuition. I am determined to practice using it so that I can feel comfortable that when it is time for me to make split second decisions, I will feel that I will do what is right for that moment, for that circumstance.
Thank you, God, for the power to make good decisions “in the blink of an eye.”
As a high school teacher of Biblical studies, I try to provide an environment where my students can discuss any topic and know they are in a safe environment to do so. Today, though, for a time, my students wanted to rag on teachers they’ve had in the past. As I listened for a few moments, I finally stopped them and explained that teachers are human, and that in spite of all our noble efforts, we sometimes fail, just as they do. We have strengths and gifts, but those strengths and gifts envelope our weaknesses. Yet and still, we teachers are here for them, in spite of their “entitled” thinking of what they think their education has been and should be about. I had to help them put what we attempt to do for them in perspective, so they wouldn’t continue to pound us into the ground.
I believe the media is doing exactly with our celebrities what my teenaged students are doing with their teachers – pounding our celebrities into the ground, further exacerbating the pain which they probably experience day to day. Over at South Side Star, the author of this blog in today’s post presents the possibility that Britney Spears may be experiencing some postpartum depression which may be fueling her behavior. In any event, it’s clear something is wrong. Nobody behaves so bizarrely without something being inherently wrong. But nobody is bothering to find out what it is. It’s more fun to poke fun at people’s misfortunes. As South Side Star so eloquently and truthfully states:
“Why does Western culture keep pushing its ‘virgin princesses’ over the edge — right into the volcano’s mouth? Or the arms of the beast? … Are we feeding the beasts, or the gods?
“Either way, they get swallowed whole. And we watch.”
A few of those same students to which I referred above said, “I don’t feel sorry for these celebrities who have all this money. They deserve what they get.” But I had to tell them we have no idea what kind of pain Britney or any other celebrity is going through. I believe very much of what celebrities do to get attention is a cry for help – they just may not necessarily know it. The loved ones of these celebrities need to love them enough to tell them the truth and get them the help they need before they go through the demise Anna Nicole Smith experienced.
Let’s stop feeding on the misfortunes of others just because they’re in the spotlight and really attempt to understand that we all experience heartaches, pain, and misfortune. Would we want people to pick, poke, prod, and shine a huge spotlight at us in our misery? Wouldn’t we want (at least maybe unconsciously) someone to pray for us and think well of us? Wouldn’t we want to know someone loves us and cares for us? While they may not know it, these celebrities need our prayers and well wishes. Let’s try to get off our own high horses and do it for them.
It was the big news story Tuesday, January 16, 2007. Due to several factors, according to Sam Roberts of the New York Times, “51 percent of [American] women are now living without a spouse,” indicating we can no longer “assume that marriage is the main institution that organizes people’s lives.”
As I heard the network news reports and read the New York Times article, it seemed the media presented only one side of the story. And if I were still single, the story would seem bleak if I were interested in getting married someday. Some of the findings from the article include:
On average, Americans now spend half their adult lives outside marriage
Women are less dependent on men or the institution of marriage
For many older boomer and senior women…marriage did not hold the promise they’d hoped for
Most girls growing up today can look forward to spending more of their lives outside of a traditional marriage
The article featured several single women, including why they were single and how they felt about it, whether it was because they had never been married or were divorced (while the article briefly mentioned those who were widowed, they did not feature any women who fit that category). Generally, these women spoke of freedom, independence, and flexibility as factors in remaining single, even if they had the option to marry. I don’t know. It seems that the media is focused on traditional marriage falling out of disfavor in American society and the state of a declining marriage institution as being normal and desired.
The report further states, “[b]etween 1950 and 2000, the share of women 15-24 who were married plummeted to 16 percent, from 42 percent. Among 25-34 year olds, the proportion dropped to 58 percent, from 82 percent.” But there is another side to the story. Although the proportion has declined over the years, 49% of women are married (for some, this indicates the glass is half full, not half empty). Indeed, some of these marriages are happy ones. Nevertheless, how do couples stay married and fulfilled? And since the article mentioned benefits of being single (from several women’s points of view), what are the benefits to being married?
According to the July/August 2004 edition of Spirituality & Health magazine in an article entitled “His and Her Marriage Benefits”, “Happily married women…have healthier profiles than divorced or unhappily married women,” citing physical benefits to being married. There are some financial benefits as well. Zen Personal Finance blog finds the following:
“According to Laura Rowley of Yahoo Finance, ‘Economist Jay Zagorsky of OSU’s Center for Human Resource Research, tracked the financial and marital status of more than 9,000 people from 1985 to 2000. Married people amassed an astonishing 93 percent more than single or divorced people over the 15-year period.’”
“A good marriage seems to have a protective impact on surviving spouses…” In fact, depression is less likely to have a profound impact on a surviving spouse in the case of a loving marriage.
Well, then, if we’re married (as I am), how do we remain happily married?” Many books and resources exist on marriage and how to do it. I discovered one (there are so many) that was straight and to the point. The last article to which I will refer comes, again, from Spirituality & Health (Winter 2002) in an article entitled “Happy Couples: Don’t Hate ‘Em, Join ‘Em” which reports that happy couples:
Are committed to building long-lasting relationships based on shared visions and goals
Are aware of the changing nature of relationships
Support each other’s continued growth as individuals
Create time for each other despite busy schedules
Are blunt, honest, and direct in their communication
Are unafraid of conflict, viewing fights (yes, they have them) as opportunities to grow
Still have great sex, because their physical attraction and passion for each other haven’t diminished, and their sex lives get better as their relationship deepens with love, trust, and openness
So, is there another side to the story? I am, by no means, an expert; I’ve been married only six years and I’ve got a long way to go. Nevertheless, I choose to look at the glass as being half full.
How do you view the institution of marriage? Is it dead? Is it on its last leg? Or is it that the media spins its data to generate conflict and controversy? It definitely gets the conversation started. Let me know what you think…