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Writing Women Back Into History

8 Mar

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the 14th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference on the Auraria campus in Denver with two of my good friends. Before attending this conference, I had no idea that March is National Women’s History Month or that the Auraria campus has hosted these Women’s Leadership Conferences for the past 13 years.

Where have I been?

In the mothering trenches I guess…

I was particulary intrigued with the 2010 theme for National Women’s History Month–“Writing Women Back into History”–since I am a writer (artist, poet, musician, leader, etc….) In one of my workshops, this lovely empowering quote was shared with us:

Women have always innovated our own strategies for being part of history. We have taken it into our own hands to be an agent in our own story. Not simply as subject or object, but as writer, artist or creator. Women are writing ourselves back into history.

This particular workshop addressed women’s self-agency and the opportunities to make our voices heard through social media. The point was made that in this DIY generation, women don’t have to wait for permission, for somone to say we’ll include your voice. We can use social media to get our voices out there and to be heard. This quote from a study by Stavrositu and Sundar was also cited:

The constant activity of blogging itself serves to further boost one’s competence as a creator and as a distinct voice, most likely imbuing users with a deep sense of agency. Blogs therefore become a powerful vehicle for developing and mastering one’s voice. In addition, they also enable users to relate their voice to the voices of others.

At the end of the conference, the keynote speaker, Molly Murphy MacGregor, President and Co-Founder of the National Women’s History Project, challenged us to pick one woman from history and discover who she really was. She also encouraged us to use Women’s History Month as a springboard for our own explorations, to draw information and inspiration from the past, and to continue to expand on the women’s movement.

In response to Molly’s challenge, I have several ideas fluttering around in my head of how I can do these things. I’m always hesitant to voice my ideas since I am more of a visionary than a follow-it-through-to-the-end kind of gal, but here goes nothing…

1. Blog more often to get my voice “out there.”

2. See what it would take to start a Women’s Club on my community college campus.

3. Create an art journal that incorporates the accomplishments of the women that inspire me most.

Hmmm…we’ll see how far I get with those ideas, but even if none of them come to fruition anytime soon, I DO know that I had a fantastic experience at the Women’s Leadership Conference and I will go back next year, for sure!


The Sandwich Generation

3 Nov



As a perfectionist, I’ve been making myself crazy with my blog. I have literally been paralyzed about what to write about lately as you can see by my lack of posts over the past six months. So instead of abandoning my blog altogether, I have decided to take a somewhat different approach and post here the things that I find interesting, fascinating, or thought-provoking in some way. I have always been an eclectic learner and glean information from many different sources. I take pleasure in ruminating over topics in nearly every discipline so I will be very random from now on (at least until my next great idea comes along…)

This past week, I was flipping through the November 2008 issue of the National Geographic, a particularly rich source of inspiring material. On page 14 in the Photo Journal feature, there was a picture of an elderly man’s face partly in shadow that caught my attention. The article that accompanied the photo described the work of photographer Ed Kashi (age 48) and his writer-filmmaker wife Julie Winokur (age 42). Together, they produced a documentary about their personal experience of taking care of Julie’s elderly father. Click here to watch “The Sandwich Generation” Part I and Part II.

The films are movingly beautiful yet forthright about the particular challenges my generation faces with the demands of raising our children while simultaneously trying to care for our aging parents. This is a film that addresses head on the agonizing decisions that must be made as we attempt to make the best care choices for the ones we love.

Mi Bolsa

30 Aug

 “As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled.”

-Victor Hugo

The other day, I was chilling out on the front stoop of my house with my toddler and thought to myself, “I could be doing something productive while he’s out here running around.” So I got my overflowing purse out of the van and dumped the contents out onto the sidewalk just to see what had accumulated in there. This is what I found:

  • A small, spiral notebook I use for writing down anything and everything
  • 5 pens
  • A book of selected poems by Christina Rossetti
  • My son’s scorecard from his round at the Sandia golf club in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the beginning of August
  • My wallet
  • A bag of trail mix leftover from our family road trip several weeks earlier
  • Receipts for Safeway (5!), Target, the dentist, the college bookstore, Children’s Place, and Ben and Jerry’s
  • Coupons (which I get with my Safeway receipts and never use)
  • Writer’s notebook (barely written in)
  • An old grocery list
  • A ticket stub to the Debbie Reynolds concert I attended at the Arvada Center at the end of July
  • Appointment reminder cards to the dentist and oral surgeon
  • 2 containers of breath mints
  • My cell phone
  • A $5 bill (a very rare find)
  • My teenage daughter’s Jonas Brothers wristwatch
  • A kid’s hairbrush
  • A small tube of lotion (a free sample picked up in the pediatrician’s office)
  • 5 matchbox cars
  • A partially-made friendship bracelet (dumped in my purse by youngest daughter)
  • A feminine hygeine product
  • A Brio-train car
  • A small hand mirror
  • Girls’ small hair clips
  • A blue Crayola marker

I’ve heard it said that you can tell a lot about a woman by the contents of her purse. So what do these items reveal about me?

#1 I spend far too much time and money at the grocery store.

#2 My life revolves around my kids.

#3 I secretly long to live the writer’s life.

#4 I’m too busy to get organized.

#5 I believe a matchbox car (or 2 or 5) can save the day.

#6 You can never have too many pens on hand.

#7 My life is often a tangled mess at times, a receptacle filled to the brim and spilling over.

What do the contents of your purse reveal about you?

A Tight Rope Daily

6 May



What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby-carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now!

–Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Last night was my last class of the spring semester and now I can finally let out a huge sigh of relief! WHEW, what an ordeal! Taking Philosophy and Psychology simultaneously was very taxing not only on my brain, but on my family. And so after yet another meltdown last week, I am seriously reconsidering my schooling going forward.  It’s time to reevaluate some things and regain some balance in my life.

After a good talk with my husband (along with a good cry on his shoulder), I realized I’m trying to do too much. (Big DUH!) Very gently he pointed out that because of the way I’m “wired,” I feel compelled to give 100% to everything I do. (Not sure where I’d get that trait from….hmmmm, I wonder?) He wasn’t critical, only supportive and concerned about my mental well-being.

I thought about the stupid mental errors I’ve made over the past few months trying to keep track of my own crazy schedule along with six other busy people in my household. (Most days, it seems like we’re all going in about fifty different directions!) There were the little things like forgetting my daughter’s hip-hop dance lessons two weeks in a row or forgetting to pay tuition two months in a row at my son’s preschool.

Then there was a big thing…Last week, I bought up a bunch of meat at Safeway because they were having a great sale and for once in my life, I was thinking ahead enough to stock up. I brought the groceries into the laundry room fully intending to put everything away promptly, but then the boys started whining because they were hungry and so to appease them, I fixed their lunch. Then I had some great thoughts for an essay I was working on and before I knew it, three hours had passed. I was out watering the flowers in my front yard and thinking about how I was going to prepare all that meat when…oh no! The meat! I didn’t put the meat away! I ran into the house and there it all was, still sitting there. $50 worth of groceries that had to go out to the trash can instead of the freezer…aarrgghh!

I learned in my Psychology class that the short-term memory can only successfully manage seven (give or take a few) different things at once. Obviously, I’ve had too many things vying for attention in my brain “que” lately. It’s time for a mental vacation me thinks!

And so come fall semester, I’ll probably be cutting my schedule back to just one class. I’m also evaluating whether I should keep pursuing an English degree. I don’t have to have a degree to be a writer. I can just keep take writing classes at my community college or online and keep enjoying my association with my mentors in the English department at ACC. At this point, I’m not sure what I’ll do, but something has got to change. For those of you who often say to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” now you know that I DON’T do it very well. The juggling balls can’t stay in the air forever–they’re going to come crashing down sometime.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh puts it so perfectly in my favorite book Gift from the Sea: “…to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mothercore, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider’s web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives. How much we need, and how arduous of attainment is that steadiness preached in all rules for holy living. How desirable and how distant is the ideal of the contemplative, artist, or saint–the inner inviolable core, the single eye.”

I’m not giving up on my dreams–to do so would be a death sentence to my soul. I just have to find a better way of pursuing them in moderation. Steady now!

A Little Bit of Wanderlust…

3 Apr

This is Lily, an American Eskimo that was our family pet for about a year. Well, she was more like my dog, actually, and among her many “issues,” she had a problem with wanderlust. Whenever she got the chance, she would dart out the front door, run down the street, and sometimes scoot under a neighbor’s fence and out onto the golf course. No matter how hard I tried to coax her to come back, she would look at me with those black, impish eyes and then run the other way, her white, furry coat a blur of motion against the pavement and manicured lawns.


Lily’s behavior used to really aggravate me, but lately, I’m beginning to identify with her need to roam and have exciting adventures. Usually, I’m quite the homebody, but lately, I’ve got really itchy feet. I’ve had fantasies of running away–of just getting in the car and driving somewhere, anywhere just to be alone!! In my 40 years of life, I don’t think I’ve ever had that sublime experience of going somewhere by myself. I seriously think it’s about time!!!

One of the prizes for a writing contest I recently entered includes a weekend at a writer’s retreat. I’m praying to win…I desperately need the solitude! I don’t care that the “retreat” is just a tiny one-room cabin in the middle of nowhere. It sounds absolutely heavenly to me! And if I don’t win, I think I’m just going to have to go anyway…

Another opportunity I have to get away is in the middle of June. That is if I can figure out how to make arrangments for five kids for six days…As the new Vice President of Scholarship for Sigma Phi (ACC’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa), I’ve been invited to attend the Honors Institute in San Francisco. Ah…intellectual stimulation, leadership development, a chance to explore San Fran. What could be more refreshing?

Then there’s the temptation of the ultimate getaway that my book club girlfriends just proposed. In the fall of 2010, just after my graduation from Arapahoe Community College, we want to go on a walking tour of England together. Again, another fabulous experience I am dying to have–to go traipsing across the moors Jane Austen style, with flowing gowns, petticoats, and bonnets. Well, maybe we’ll forgo the period costumes, but not the traipsing part. I am seriously in on the adventure. In the meantime, I’ll save my pennies and hopes while I try to restain my Lily-like tendencies to bolt. 

Darling Mr. Darcy

28 Mar


Oh, how I love Pride and Prejudice! This is my second time reading it and I am enjoying the romp considerably. (See, I’m even beginning to speak “Austenese!”) A friend recently invited me to join her Jane Austen book club and our goal is to read all six of the Jane Austen novels this year and to then have a Girls’ Night Out every other month to watch the accompanying movie for each.

So I am gearing up for our April viewing of Pride and Prejudice. Hopefully, we will watch my favorite 6-hour version (with Colin Firth) and not my least favorite version (with Keira Knightly.)

The thing I love best about Pride and Prejudice is all the subtle nuances inherent in the dialogue. I don’t know how she does it, but Austen skillfully moves the plot forward through the playful banter and expressions of sarcasm, wit, and disdain between the characters.

A great example of this is in chapter 8 when Elizabeth Bennet is staying at Netherfield to care for her sister, Jane, who is ill. While Jane rests, Elizabeth retires to the drawing room where several of the occupants of Netherfield are engaged in a game of cards. Mr. Darcy, who secretly admires Elizabeth, is also present in the room. Elizabeth prefers to read in this situation rather than join the group playing cards and is considered “singular” for her decision.

A discussion then ensues mainly between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth about what constitutes a truly “accomplished” woman. Elizabeth says, “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages…and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions…” Mr. Darcy adds, “All this she must possess…and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

Instead of seeing how Mr. Darcy is trying to flatter her, Elizabeth takes offense and thinks he is suggesting there is no woman good enough for him. The conversation ends abruptly, and she leaves the room further convinced he is the most disagreeable man she ever met. Too bad she missed his thinly-veiled admiration of her brainyness!

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era. Many of the things Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy mention–music, singing, drawing, dancing, languages, and improvement of the mind by extensive reading–are things that come naturally to me. They are pursuits that most 21st century women would certainly consider “singular,” but which I take great pleasure in. I’ll take a great book with complex characters over any other entertainment for I agree with Elizabeth that “intricate characters are the most amusing” and that “there is something new to be observed in them for ever.”