It's an innocent question on its surface, at least for many people. They'll list off 'mother,' 'father,' and 'aunts and uncles.' Among those of us with difficult families of origin a few choice phrases, dropped casually into conversation, tell us if we're talking to someone who gets us. "Family of origin," or "family of choice," are two of my favorites. In her piece from last year Greta Christina used the terms "Blood Family, Chosen Family." Family has always been difficult for me, and not just because I was raised by a narcissist. I wrote about my relationship with my Aunt over at the reset, and I've talked a lot about my mother and her death - most recently over at Worthy when I wrote about making it through my divorce. Family matters, whether it's a dysfunctional one that shapes your adult self, or a healthy family that supports and loves you.
In the past three months I've been able to establish a relationship with my ex-MIL. I'm not sure what to call her because 'ex' doesn't really apply. After we lost our phones in the river we went to a Verizon store to get me a replacement. At one point in the discussion with the (utterly awesome) store manager the manager referred to her as my mom. We just looked at each other, shrugged, and went with it. It felt right. And it fits. She adores my son, she's been truly helpful in a way the woman my ex-husband calls his mother (his actual step-mother) never was. She's helped out with childcare, and even wrote an affidavit supporting me for court. Which has led me to the following definition of 'family.'
Family are the people who help you through.
I'm not saying that blood doesn't count. There's a lot to be said for shared life experiences and growing up together. But if you want a broader definition of family it's the people who step up. It's my friend Tajh, author of this awesome piece and this one, texting me when I post on FB that my boyfriend's mom went in for emergency open heart surgery this weekend and asking if everything was all right. It's my friend Kelly's Mom offering C and I her spare bedroom for a night. It's another friend letting me borrow her car the last weekend I was in MN for court so I didn't have to pay to rent one. It's another friend going over to my old house after work and picking up the last few boxes to mail to me, even though he didn't have a car yet and had to take an uber.
This holiday season it's hard to escape the constant images of family, whether it's marketing emails reminding you not to forget a present or commercials showing large families gathered around the table eating dinner. On Christmas I'll be flying my son back to MN, dropping him off, and then turning back around to fly home to MA. Not exactly the Norman Rockwell picture of the holiday. But does anyone have that, really? Not pictured are the massive amounts of work that the holidays put on (usually) the women in the family. The pressure to get the 'right' present, or to have the Instagram-worthy tree. Don't forget Great-Aunt Susan on the Christmas card list. Those cookies for the cookie swap better be homemade. Women often put so much pressure on ourselves, stemming from society's internalized messages, that we forget that holidays truly aren't about the image. They're about the heart.
My ex-husband's family was all about the image. As long as the tree had matching ornaments, the china gleamed and the silver was polished, the cars in the driveway were the 'right' brand and everything looked beautiful on the outside who cared about the rot on the inside? Who cares about the infidelities, or the divorces, the alcohol problems, or the verbal abuse? When I met them they looked so nice and normal. They looked like everything I'd longed for, growing up in my mess of a family, wanting nothing so much as to be normal. I learned a lot of valuable lessons while married to my ex but one of the most important I learned is that image is no substitute for heart.
I may not be celebrating Christmas this year with a traditional family, and my boyfriend will be in Indiana with his, but that's okay. I'm celebrating a week of Christmas - my ex-MIL on Monday, my bf and C on Christmas Eve, and me and the cat on the actual day. Because while I may not have the image of a perfect family I have something far more valuable. A group of people I am incredibly lucky to call both friends and family.
I made the mistake of trying to reason with my ex-husband the other day. Yes, I know, when will I ever learn? But at this point we've wasted over a year of college tuition on legal bills. I'm likely to shell out another $20K over the next six months (yes, really). My lawyer doesn't anticipate any resolution until next September. And this pointless fighting over what is so damned clear - C belongs with me in Massachusetts - because of my ex's denial about his health, his career's demands on his time, and my need to create long-term stability for our son and prepare for the day when his father won't be able to work and contribute to his support (I'm anticipating that will come sometime in the next five years).
I tried to talk to him about it. It didn't go well. And then, because no one knows how to push your buttons like someone who lived with you for six plus years, he texted -
Well, wait until all your lies come out in court.
Quite honestly, I've been wracking my brains since that text trying to figure out what the hell I've lied about. See, as utterly scary as it was (and is!) to live my life openly, to claim words like 'survivor,' 'domestic abuse,' and to talk about my life's experiences, it's also been incredibly freeing. I have nothing to hide. No, I haven't publicly told all my stories. That's because, as Brene Brown would put, you have to earn that level of trust. It's not due to shame anymore, however, it simply isn't time to tell those stories yet. But I've come a long way from the up-tight, control freak I once was, hiding my secrets and my shame behind the hyper-competent exterior. Books like Brene Brown's have helped, but so has therapy.
I remember walking into therapy one day after I'd been working with the therapist for a few years.
"Can I be honest with you about something?" my therapist asked.
I shrugged, "Sure."
"When you came for your first session I had no idea why you were here. You were pretty, well-dressed, professional. Had a good job, an intact marriage. I had no idea why you needed my help."
I had to laugh because that facade - put-together, competent, in-charge, needed no one - was one I'd spent my whole life constructing. I hid behind my intelligence and my job, my wardrobe and my perfectionism, terrified that if I let the 'real' me show others would reject me. I didn't want to talk about my past, I wanted to pretend it had never happened. If my first forty years of life were about cultivating a facade of perfectionism and competence my next forty may be about tearing that facade down.
The past few months I, the woman who once prided herself on never asking for help, on being the friend that other people came to for advice, hyper-organized and juggling more balls than a circus clown, have needed a LOT of help. And the outpouring of support has been mind-blowing and humbling. Friends helped me pack boxes, carry stuff in and out of homes, and run errands. Other friends picked my son up from school and kept him at my house until my flight got in, let us crash in their spare bedroom, or borrow their car while I was in town. My realtor cleaned my basement. My boyfriend picked up cat food and dropped it off at my apartment when I texted - panicked - during a layover, "I forgot to pick up cat food and everything will be closed when I land!" I have been touched, time and time again, by people's kindness, but these were all my friends.
This past Friday I had cause to be deeply grateful for the kindness of strangers.
I spent Thanksgiving in Austin, Texas with my son and his grandmother (my ex-MIL), Uncle and Grandpapa. Wednesday was a marathon of three flights down, then a traditional turkey dinner. Friday we went to Zilker Park. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm, and I couldn't get over the fact that I was wearing shorts (!!!) at the end of November. C had a *blast* playing soccer with his Grandma and Uncle while Grandpapa and I took pictures. He waded in the stream and counted turtles on a log. After lunch at Chuy's, a Mexican place, we decided to go canoeing.
Now, if you know me at all you know that I am NOT outdoorsy. AT ALL. My grandfather is a panoramic photographer and I have camped, hiked and canoed in Montana, Idaho, all over Washington and up into B.C. I hate it. LOATHE it. I also don't really like the type of outdoors person who tries to convert you to loving these things as zealously as a religious person - well, have you *tried* it? Rock-climbing is great! It's such an endorphin high! Yes, I've tried it. It hurt my hands and broke my nails and I hated it. I have tried it all. Trust me.
But I'd do anything for my kid, including climb into a canoe, settle myself onto the metal bench, and within five minutes wish I'd spent more time on upper body weights in the past few months. We paddled down Barton Creek, smiling at the other families we passed and stopping occasionally for photographs. After making it into the main river we stopped just before the Bat Bridge and decided to head back before our hour rental expired.
Turning around, going against the current, no clue why but our canoe capsized. I felt it start to happen, tried to lean against it, but - nope. Upside down in a chilly river. My first thought was for C. Even though he'd been wearing a life jacket I still grabbed him by it's back and hauled him close. His swim lessons paid off - he'd started kicking and paddling already - but he was shocked and scared. I glanced over and saw that my ex-MIL, Catherine, was all right and had grabbed her purse. We tried to flip the canoe back over and get C inside it, he climbed in and started to cry. The canoe was full of water. I vaguely recalled that we'd probably have to tip it over again to empty it.
"C, you're going to need to get out of the canoe again," I told him in my calmest, everything-is-fine, Mom voice.
"No!" I heard the note of hysteria in his voice and steeled myself for a battle. And that's when the kindness of strangers came in.
"Can we help?" another couple had seen what happened and paddled over. A woman on her paddleboard pulled alongside. "Here, pass the little one to me," she said. We handed him along the side of the canoe, and three strangers helped get my child up onto her paddleboard. She unzipped a waterproof backpack and pulled out a fleece to wrap him in when his teeth started chattering.
We quickly realized that it wasn't really possible to turn the canoe back over in the middle of the river's current so, pulled along by C's Uncle and the first couple in the canoe, followed by the woman on the paddleboard, we swam the canoe over to the river's edge. An Indian-American family, out on a walk, had stopped when they saw what happened. Their teenage son waded out and helped us get the canoe out of the water. The Auntie grabbed my kid and hauled him up. Someone handed me my shoe - which had come off my foot when the canoe capsized. And within five minutes my son had started laughing and telling people about the Great Canoe Capsizing of 2017 (and how we'd lost our phones at the bottom of the river and you should never canoe with a phone). People of different races, creeds and ages saw that we were in trouble and didn't hesitate to do what they could to help.
Could we have made it back to shore without help? Yes. But it would have been a lot harder.
It's a heavy-handed metaphor for life but a true one. We can go it alone, wrapped in our supposed perfectionism and never taking any risks. But life is hard enough as it is. Why make it harder? And perhaps I needed the reminder, when so much of our country is showing its worst colors, that there is good in humanity.
I've needed so much help these past few months because of the ongoing custody battle with my ex-husband. Because I dared to want to advance my career, to move to a place that is 'home' to me, to find love again. To think that I have a right to be both a mother and a human being with wants, desires, dreams and ambitions of my own.
I have no doubt that my ex-husband will claim I've lied about things when/if we go to court. He filed a last minute affidavit prior to our last court date that was full of a breathtaking amount of half-truth's, items taken out of context, and lies. For example - he claimed that my son had no friends in Massachusetts. I've texted him multiple pictures of C hanging out and playing with friends when he's been here. He included pieces of my writing in his affidavit - claiming that it would embarrass our son to find out someday that I'd - GASP! - had sex after my divorce. He excluded any of my writing about abuse, of course.
It is still mind-boggling to me that he included this piece, here, in which I describe his actions - trigger warning - sticking his fingers inside me while I was asleep, without obtaining consent, and acting with a shocking amount of entitlement to my body - without realizing how bad it made *him* look. If ever you wanted an example of narcissism...it's willingly submitting a piece of writing which implicates you in a non-consensual sexual act to the court.
My life has been full of capsized canoes. Of plans gone wrong. Of wading in a chilly river, with a lost shoe, and trying to figure out a plan for what's next. I might have to capsize that canoe again before this battle is over. While I'll admit I've grown tired and felt defeated at times - the constant, okay, that didn't work, so what's next? - can be wearing -but somehow I keep going and coming up with the next plan.
Have I lied in my life? Yes. But the person that I've lied to the most has been *myself* It'll get better, he'll be nice again if...Maybe this job will be different, maybe this time I'll like the career I've hated since Day One...I can change him...Sure, those jeans fit. Big lies, small lies, all related to my own denial and fears.
Like my mother, I've been a stubborn optimist in some relationships, holding on to men that needed to be let go. And that desire to hold on tied in directly, of course, with feeling unlovable and unworthy, which came from my childhood abuse and later rape...and became a vicious, self-reinforcing cycle of shitty men. To be clear, men that I chose and brought into my life because I hadn't yet done the work that I needed to.
Whatever half-truths or lies or out-of-context bullshit my ex comes up with in court I have a surprising amount of peace about what he'll do or say. I've stopped worrying about which former friend will betray me, or tell stories designed to make me look bad. I can neither control nor predict any of that.
But I can stand in my truth, at peace, because I know that my life, while not blameless, and at times messy and complicated, is finally being lived in the light. I have chosen this path of openness and in it I have found immense freedom.
It’s my birthday and I’m sitting in Barnes & Noble alone. I’m okay with this. Books, bookstores, libraries, they’re my safe place. It’s not unique for a survivor of childhood abuse to find refuge within a book’s covers. Whether it’s hiding in the back of my closet praying for a door to Narnia or huddled under my covers with a flashlight and Nancy Drew, the worlds I’ve found in books have given me hope, their characters have inspired me with bravery and gumption and the idea that someday I could be like them and forge my own path.
That, to me, is the power of literature, particularly children’s literature.
It’s no surprise that I became an author, with the hope that someday I could create a world that would serve another child as the worlds of Anne of Green Gables, Alanna of Tortall, and
When I sold my first book my grandfather asked me when I was going to start writing for adults and become a ‘real’ author. At the time it upset me but now I just shake my head and laugh. To me, there is no higher calling than writing for children and teens. Because I know exactly what those books can mean in their lives. I know, better than anyone. Without them I don’t know how I’d have made it through my childhood. I’ve heard the same thing from other bibliophiles and survivors, so I know I’m not alone.
If there’s one lesson that my life has been trying to teach me, Ms. Type-A Control Freak Planner, it’s that it doesn’t go as planned. On today of all days the universe decided to make sure I got the point.
My boyfriend had promised to spend the whole day with me. Breakfast at a greasy spoon, hang out at his place (I have the key but haven’t seen it yet, cuz life), go out to dinner. Through a combination of circumstances we haven’t seen much of each other lately. He broke his foot two weeks ago and was stuck up in Worcester because he drives a stick and couldn’t drive with a broken foot. I had to travel for court. His job sucks and he works hours that are opposite mine. I’d made it quite, quite clear that I didn’t need stuff for my birthday - I needed time.
Yesterday afternoon he texted me, so work wants me to go to California. Tomorrow. I texted back - my birthday? Him - yeah, I’m trying to get out of it.
They’d meant to send him for some training stuff earlier in the month but when he broke his foot it was canceled. Now they wanted him to make up that time. And there’s a clause in his contract that states he has to fly out to wherever they want to send him as long as they give twenty-four hours notice*.
When he texted me this morning I knew before I even checked the text that once again, we wouldn’t be able to spend a good, solid uninterrupted block of time together. And I had a choice. Get angry? Or resigned and sad? Or accept with peace and grace that this is a part of being with him and I can deal?
I chose option three. After I went for a run he showed up and we grabbed breakfast at a place that was supposed to have actual food but only had pastries because the yelp reviews sucked. Our dates always end up being a comedy of errors - ask me about the time we had reservations for tapas and when we showed up the restaurant had fire trucks sitting outside and the kitchen wouldn’t be open again for two hours - and this was no exception. Then we hung out at my place until he had to hop back in his car to drive to the airport.
He gets back on Wednesday a few hours before I fly out for Thanksgiving with C and we won’t be in the same city again until next Sunday. He promised to pick me up at the airport that night (putting you on notice, dude) so we could see each other before another busy work week. He did get me a pretty awesome birthday present of the - OMG, really? - but I’ll wait to write about it until it happens. Because with our luck…
So I’m alone on my birthday. It’s not the first time, and it’s better than being with someone who resents your presence. Or who didn’t get a baby-sitter and planned everything last minute. And, again, I had a choice. Mope around the house or take myself shopping with permission to buy what I want? Roll with it, like life seems determined to teach me?
I headed to Barnes & Noble. Two books by Brene Brown and a crochet cacti kit. A latte from Starbucks and a cranberry bliss bar. I'm wearing one of my favorite tops. Tomorrow I have plans with a friend to attend a classical concert where another friend is performing (these two friends, here). I’ll go to yoga in the morning. Other friends have texted or sent coffee cards and otherwise reminded me that I've somehow been so lucky as to attract into my life an amazing group of people. They are so cool and honest and real about their lives, down in the arena fighting for what they believe in, that some days I wonder why they're friends with me.
Today I’m surrounded by a different sort of ‘friends.’ While they might not be able to give me a hug or hold me they offer their own comfort. They have vinyl on sale this weekend which seems fate given what I wanted but haven't had time to research and buy for my birthday (a record player). It's a quiet day but it's mine, which, really, is what a birthday should be.
*I can’t talk a lot about what he does, for privacy and safety reasons so you’re going to have to take my word for it that it’s a necessary thing.
What does the word 'home' inspire in you? Feelings of comfort, or safety? Coming home and being able to remove the armor necessary to navigate the world as a woman? Or a place where the shields have to go up higher?
I've been writing a lot this month about domestic abuse and domestic violence. It's not an easy topic for me to delve into but I also find it healing to look back on my experiences and, hopefully, in sharing them help other people. But today I want to talk more about creating a home.
I love to decorate. I get it from my Mom, who sold her house and moved roughly every two years after her divorce. She'd joke that it was because once she had the place decorated and 'done' it was time to start a new project. When she fell ill I spent a week out at her condo in Vegas packing up her stuff. It was hellish - not only because I was hauling boxes in her non-air-conditioned garage when it was over a hundred degrees, but because sorting through memories can hurt. She'd kept every comforter, every pillow. Wreath upon wreath for every season and holiday. Boxes of outgrown kid's clothes and toys. She directed me from in her wheelchair at the top of the garage's steps. It was an odd ritual, a day fraught with a deeper significance. I was packing her up to die. Usually children go through the house after the parent has passed away, maybe with booze, maybe fighting with their siblings over who gets what. But this time she watched as we sorted her life into boxes, piles of keep or toss, and called the junk man to take them away. At that point she was moving to a facility and down-sizing to one room plus a storage unit. She didn't want to move, didn't want to be sick, and it was really hard to convince her that no, the pink fluffy comforter from my sixth-grade bedroom couldn't go with (a photo of that monstrosity can be seen here).
When I started packing for my recent move I thought about that day again. Grief never goes away entirely, and it doesn't take much to bring up the freshness of pain. This time, I got brutal tossing stuff out. I'm not saying that the memory of sorting through her stuff inspired me but I'm not saying that it didn't, either. I talked about it a little in an article I wrote - my combination of single mom hustle and Kondo method (Does it give you joy and could I sell it on Poshmark and make some cash?). It was also because I needed to clear space, both mentally and literally. I moved from a five bedroom, two bath house into a two bedroom, one bath apartment. Which I love. But there's a lot less room for stuff. I have, shockingly, fit it all in, though the basement storage helped. But it was also freeing to take bags upon garbage bags of crap to my local donation center. It felt like I was shedding the weight and clutter of my marriage. But I refused to get rid of, or even truly sort through, one large set of my possessions. My books.
When does a house become a home? The answer is different for everyone but for me it's the books. When the books start coming out of the boxes, lined up on the shelf for the perennial debate of - alphabetical? By genre? But the Baen bricks don't fit, size-wise, next to my slimmer paperbacks, so should I split my fantasy books? I have a *LOT* of books. And my tastes range all over. Most of my fiction is genre but since I love to write historical fantasy I have a few shelves of non-fiction. And, oh yeah, lots of books on the various languages I've learned over the years. After a trip to IKEA that I survived without spending too much over budget (the sensory hell that is their stores gets me every time. By the fifth time seeing that ugly pillow it's started to look cute to me. And maybe I do need a thingamajiggit!) I assembled three bookcases over the past two weekends. And then I started unpacking the books.
For me, it was far more significant than the mere act of taking paperbacks out of a box. My ex had(s) multiple sclerosis, a disease that he's vastly in denial about. So anytime he'd trip or have a bad fall it was somehow my fault. The house was too cluttered or messy - though he never offered to clean it. Too much baby stuff - I'll own that one. But somehow books bothered him. A lot. They jumped out from their shelves and tripped him. And so every time he had a bad fall I'd end up packing away more books and collapsing another bookshelf. It assuaged his anger and stopped the complaining and verbal abuse...until the next time he fell. Slowly but surely all but a few of my books made their way into air-tight containers in the basement. Old friends and companions, out of sight and forgotten.
Pulling them out and arranging them on my new bookcases is much more than just 'unpacking.' It's re-discovering old favorites that I'd forgotten. It's remembering how one author's books got me through a tough time. Smiling when I reach the bottom of a box and find Tamora Pierce's Lioness series, remembering how it inspired me to start writing fantasy. It's making a looong list of books to re-read. It's finally sitting down on my couch last night with a glass of wine, looking around at my full bookshelves, and feeling home.
In my new home there are books. There is new furniture that I bought, ignoring the little voice that told me it might not be practical to buy all new stuff and I should just make do with the couch that was close to fifteen years old. Thumbing my nose at a man who would berate me for wasting money if I bought a ten dollar wreath at Target for Christmas. I own a light up cactus. And plants. I bought a hanging witch sign for my back door and Halloween towels.
Last night I sat on my couch and tried to make my way through the backlog of fashion magazines that have piled up during the move. You can read about my love of fashion magazines and the sexism I observe when men criticize them in a piece I wrote for Ravishly. My boyfriend, who henceforth will be called B so I don't have to keep typing that and feeling silly, had to work. The new place is almost put together and I decided I deserved a break. I'm proud of what I've created since I left my ex. Proud of the work I've done and the woman I've become. And if you, too, are a divorced woman and/or a survivor, take a moment to congratulate yourself on your growth. IMO, we can become so busy just making it through and moving on that we don't stop to celebrate how far we've come. Sit down with a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Look around, whether it's a new place or redecorated post-divorce, and allow yourself to fully take in what it means to be home.
I have a complicated relationship with the color pink.
When I was twelve I had the perfect bedroom. A lead-paned window that looked out on the brick courtyard behind our back door. Slanted, gabled ceilings and bare wood floors. In the middle of the room an old kitchen table took pride of place. I slept on a futon mattress and didn’t care; it was the table that mattered. Seated cross-legged in a battered chair I scribbled my stories in journals and wire-bound notebooks. In my dreams I pictured...
New feature! Each week I'm going to be rounding up some of the best feminist and fashion pieces around the internet that I read this week.
* Christian Siriano puts out a line of plus size wedding gowns. LOVE his commitment to designing for all women.
* Still upset about the Modcloth sale? Check out this list of alternatives!
* Short excerpt about body acceptance True Style is Underneath: The Self-Acceptance Revolution: A StyleLikeU Manifesto. Worth reading.
* Resistance on the runway? Yes!...
So I seem to be becoming an expert on feminism, single momhood, survivor issues, eating disorders, grief, and money? There's a combination for you! Seriously, I need to throw some happier topics in there.
ICYMI, piece up on how to talk to a child who suspect might have an eating disorder over at sheknows this week. It's a topic that is dear to my heart not only because of my personal experience but because it is a serious disease with lifelong implications.
And then I had a piece go up this...
I think a lot. Weird statement, I know, but I’ve always lived in my head to a certain extent.
Whether it’s analyzing a relationship, or a guy, or my childhood, or my family…or thinking through the sexism underlying common insults thrown at boys, I just…think. It’s very hard for me to turn my brain off. I’ve been working on a meditation practice and thus far I can make it five minutes. I’m the girl who always skips savasanna during yoga because - lying still on a mat? I’ve got things to do!...
This weekend I did something that's shockingly hard for me.
I asked for help.
If there's something that should be obvious, it's that I'm highly independent. For years I told myself that I could take care of everything on my own. In the past year I've *takes deep breath* Written and edited a novel, acquired, worked with freelancers and edited content for this site, finished my MBA, gone on four trips (3 to NYC, one home to Seattle), knit various articles of clothing, scarves and hats, written...
I've got a new post up on Worthy.com today. I'd written it for Galentine's Day but it didn't go up until this week. I consider myself to be incredibly lucky in my friends - truly, truly lucky. They put up with my my doubts and insecurities and listen and offer great advice.
"It was a dear friend who pulled me aside at a birthday party and said, "Dena, I think your husband's verbally abusing you. I'm worried.""
It was a dear friend who pulled me aside at a birthday party and said, "Dena, I...
Dating in your late 30's ain't easy. Okay, to be honest, I've always hated dating. I'm a serial monogamist, mainly because I love the 'let's hang out on the couch in sweats, read the newspaper and drink coffee for most of Sunday morning' stage of a relationship. Seriously, one of the best mornings of my life was doing just that in an apartment in Salem, MA, with an ex. We woke up, showered, and hung out listening to NPR, reading the paper, and drinking coffee as black as the sin we'd committed the night...
The male gaze. We talk about it a lot in feminist circles, always with a negative connotation (for good reason). But, as I’ve written about before, it can have a different meaning for some women. Given my ultra-religious background, with its emphasis on dressing modestly so as not to tempt the men around me, I see putting on a body con dress is an act of defiance. I will not hide nor be ashamed of my body, says the skin-tight, backless black dress. It’s also a proclamation of my recovery.
It's February. Ugh. Valentine's Day. Raise your hand if you hate the holiday! When you're little it's free candy and cartoon character cards. Most schools require kids to bring one for every kid in the class so no one is left out. When you're older the holiday really starts to suck. My parents divorced when I was in seventh grade and we moved across the water from Seattle to Bellevue. I was not only the new kid I was the weird kid, too. They closed the library at lunch (boo!) so I'd hide in...
My second piece went up on worthy.com yesterday. It will likely make some things clearer for many of my readers. While the subject doesn't fit with this month's theme the anniversary of my mother's death is coming up so today I thought I'd talk about grief.
"What I hadn't realized about grief is that it's recurring. As your life changes and you pass different milestones you're reminded of that person's absence anew. "
When I drove onto the ferry to the San Juan Islands this past November it...
2K Followers on Instagram!
Thank you so much to everyone who has followed, liked, and left comments. Building a community of fabulous, feminist women is what we're all about here and it's been great getting to know you all. To say 'thank you,' we are, of course, running another contest.
Sweater by Boden, accessories by Kate Spade, boots by Hunter. Photo by Jeff Pryor.
Rules and how to enter are below;
1. A 'like' on a post labeled 'Contest' counts as an entry.
2. Tag friends of yours whom you...
This week we've been talking about spending money as an act of self-love, relationships with men, and goals for money for the New Year. In one of my essays I touched on how much fun I've had buying clothes since my divorce. Unless it was for him - lingerie, mainly - my ex didn't like me spending money on clothing for myself. There was always an excuse as to why he needed new clothes, however. When he found a job after a six month period of unemployment he had to have new clothes. $1,400 on...
Trigger warning: Eating Disorders
"You look good, Dena," my grandmother said on her way out the door, pulling back from our hug. It was the first time we'd seen each other in close to six years, a few hours that she and my grandfather had come by my sister's house on my last day home over Thanksgiving.
I smiled and said, "Thanks," but inwardly winced. In my family, "good" is code for "skinny." When they're happy with you, when you're doing what they want, you're skinny - which is the ultimate...
I hate birthdays. It has nothing to do with aging, though I struggle with that, too, my hatred of birthdays began in fourth grade.
The back of my fabulous birthday outfit from this year. Yes, I went full on bling. Jacket and pants by Nanette Lepore. Photo by Jeff Pryor.
I've written a lot about women, money and feminism (see links below). Let's just say that it's a subject near and dear to my heart.
Money was a constant source of strife throughout my marriage. Spending my own money after the divorce has felt incredibly liberating. Yes, I've done some damage on the credit cards and I'll need to rein it in for the beginning of 2017. But I don't regret it. Because with every dollar spent I was taking a stand for what matters to me.
Photo by Jeff Pryor.
Is it because they let me go out in public without a bra? Is it because a comfy, soft sweatshirt is like wearing a hug? Or is it something deeper?
On our Instagram feed I've been featuring a couple of my favorites from my sweatshirt collection (I own over ten sweatshirts and counting). They're basically all I wear on the weekends for the nine months of fall/winter we get in Minnesota, and I've even sneaked some of the fancier ones into my work wardrobe. Hey, if it's got sequin birds on it,...
If you follow me on Instagram you've probably guessed by now that I'm passionate about knitting. It's a rare day that goes by without the needles in my hands. They click together in a soothing white noise while beauty takes shape. I've been a knitter for over ten years now and, as my skills have grown, so has my appreciation for beautiful, well-crafted knitwear. Oh, and I'm a yarn snob. A HUGE yarn snob. You'd be hard-pressed to find any acrylic in my closet.
Which is why I'm also picky about the...
I promised you dupes for my navy dress, and here they are!
While I bought this one on my last trip to NYC I found a lot of cute alternatives, some with lace like mine, and all under $65! Dresses are my go-to during the late spring and summer. I don't have to worry about matching two articles of clothing, I try to pick dresses with pockets (POCKETS!) and they're easy to throw on and run out the door. Which I do a lot. Let's just say my son woke up the other morning, looked at me and said,...
Yesterday's editorial letter didn't go up because I was on a ferry to the San Juan Islands. I was lucky enough to receive a week's writer's residency at the Deborah Whiteley Center at the Friday Harbor Laboratories. For the next few days I'll be working on novel revisions and a few essays, trying to bang them out when not being interrupted by a five-year-old. My son's with his Dad this week so I have the luxury of doing what I want, when I want it. It does kind of feel like I'm missing an...
Navy - clean, crisp, and the perfect transitional color moving from winter to spring. I love the color, and I have a lot of it in my closet. I think it's universally flattering - looks good on all skin tones and with all hair colors. In spite of its prevalence in my closet I bought *another* navy dress on my last trip to NYC.
I love the split skirt/apron details, the open-work lace/eyelet on the neckline and sleeves, and the elastic waist. I wasn't in NYC to shop, but...my hotel was in SoHo...
In the lead up to Halloween I thought it would be fun to feature two costume themed pieces! I still need to order my son's costume (oops!), but I did buy the candy already. We'll see if it lasts until next Monday...
This week we have two essays. The first, by Sarah Stearns, examines gender and cosplay, and how her genderqueer sibling would feel more comfortable cosplaying as some of her favorite characters if items like skirts, wigs, and make-up could be divorced from gender presentation. And Joella...
Ugh. Monday. Made worse by Daylight Savings and a kid who woke me up three times last night.
This month is going to be light on content from contributors for a number of reasons. First, I have some deadlines that I need to meet elsewhere for my own writing. Second, I'm going to New York at the end of the month and am trying to set up some work and career related stuff out there, which is taking a lot of my focus. Related to this I'm taking courses in SEO and digital marketing on coursera in my free...
Quick programming note if you're new to the site from some of my recent writing - please check out past articles and essays under the Topics button at the top of the page. We are currently rebuilding and relaunching the site so it's a little clunky, sorry about that, but please check back in two weeks when we expect to have it all updated and pretty *G*
Now, onto today's post.
Today is an honesty day, a rip off the bandage and put it all out there day. Why? Because this...
I don't care how many articles fashion magazines run about upping my fashion game on the weekend - if I'm chasing my kid through muddy grass at the museum, I'm wearing sneakers. Yes, it was another Family Day at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The theme was Rock the Cradle and they had hiphop demonstrations, DJ's, story-telling, a science presentation on sound waves, and more. The weather was warm enough that I could leave my jacket in the car, and C and I spent three hours wandering in...
If the pussyhats at the Women's Marches taught us nothing else, it's that Feminists can wear pink! But it's also the title of a piece I have up today over at www.certainlysomething.com. Danica, the site's owner, invited me to participate in the re-launch. Given the opportunity to talk about two of my favorite topics - fashion and feminism - you'd better believe I wasn't going to turn it down! And it was so fun to meet and connect with Danica, to chat about how we think feminism should be...
Happy Monday and welcome to another week. I think most of us are still struggling to recover from last week's events (I know I am), and could a little 'pick me up.' I spent some time engaging in self-care this weekend (new haircolor, anyone?) but also dreaming up ways to celebrate hitting 1K followers on Instagram.
As bright a blue as I could get in my hair!
Normally,on Monday's I'd post my editorial letter for the week, teasing and introducing upcoming essays and contributors. But today, while we do have a great week lined up, I'm going to take a break from our usual schedule and post about the election.
Oh, you know which one, even if you're not one of our American readers.
This election, more than any other I can remember, has brought up the division and hatred in our country. I have heard my friends, family, and contributors belittled and...
Welcome back to another week!
We've been talking a lot about labor and the women who make your garments. This week we're examining the distinction between art and craft and how it breaks down on gender lines in Greta Christina's essay Art vs. Craft. If you've been thinking you want to shop more ethically but aren't sure how to start check out Africa Jackson's piece Fashion Activism: A Beginner's Guide on Thursday. We've been pinning to some of our favorite ethical brands on Pinterest if you...
This weekend I began the great closet seasonal switch. You know the one - packing away the tank tops and shorts, pulling out the sweaters from last year, do these pants still fit? Oh, thank God, they do! It's a chore, but it's also fun to re-discover all the cute clothes in my wardrobe that I'd forgotten about - like the striped skater dress from Anthropologie that I picked up at the end of season on clearance last year.
Racks of beautiful clothes and prints at Darling NYC. Photo by Jeff...
I've never been great with resolutions, though I am a goal-setter. I write down my goals, calculate percentages in spreadsheets and formulate plans. This year one of my goals is to grow my freelance writing business by ten percent a month. It's a small but doable goal. I'd been hitting it Sept-November in 2016 but in December and after the election everything tanked (go figure).
At the Japanese Tea Garden in Seattle, wishing on a lucky carp. Photo by Jeff Pryor.
I come from a long line of...
Hello Femme Feminists! And welcome to our second month…thank you to everyone who's been stopping by, reading, and sharing our essays. We truly appreciate your support.
Ever since I lived in Massachusetts fall has been one of my favorite seasons. There’s something about that crisp air, the smell of apple cider, and leaves crunching under your feet. Now that I’m a knitter I love the season even more – it’s the perfect time to show off my gorgeous hand knits!
"Do We Denigrate Fashion Because Of Its...