The end is now the beginning

This column first ran in The Kansas City Star on November 22, 2019. Here’s proof! (As long as the link works, anyway.) It ran almost to the day that my very first column was published in 2010, but this particular column was an end, not a beginning. 

I was very sad when I wrote it and tried to put on a happy face with my words. I may have done too good of a job. When I posted the link on Twitter and Facebook, people congratulated me. People seemed excited for my writing future. I wasn’t excited, leaving wasn’t voluntary and I have no firm plans for any new published writing. Like a lot of journalists and freelance writers associated with newspapers, I got laid off. Why me? I was given a reason that has to do with geography: where I live and where my columns ran didn’t match. I understand, it’s business and I’m grateful for the many years that I had with the Star. My editor sincerely seemed sad, too. Among many nice things that she said was that my “prose was often poetic.” I may get that as a tattoo, what a lovely thing to hear.

The column below ran right before I hosted Thanksgiving which was rapidly followed by Christmas hustle so I was relieved to have no deadlines…until today.

Thanksgiving is over.

Christmas is over.

New Years is over.

2019 is over.

My run as a weekly Star columnist is over.

All this hit me this morning. 

My last editor wasn’t the only one who has said nice things about my work and work ethic, so they must be true. They have told me that my columns were their favorite to edit, that my pieces weren’t self-indulgent but honest and not always happy. I took on tough issues; I taught them a few things. I made them laugh and cry; my topics were relatable. My copy was clean…and I am adding this because, now, I’m in self-promotional mode. I’m not comfortable doing it, in all these years it’s never become easy…but I need a new gig. A new paid gig. First-person, slice of life columnist for hire.

One woman’s exhausting and clumsy journey through American life.

This ending column is the beginning of something new…now what?

*********************************************************************************

Please step into my time machine, won’t you? We’re headed back to 2009 and visiting a stay-at-home mom who just sent her last child off to kindergarten. After her celebratory brunch wore off, she said, “Now what?” She had been putting off this conversation for a while, but it was time for a heart-to-heart…with herself.

Simply put: The life change staring her in the face in 2009 was daunting. The career she left 13 years earlier to stay home with the kids had been outdated into oblivion and her marketable skills list was really short.

Some people think best through exercise or talking things out, she thought best at a keyboard so she began her own blog. It was the heyday of the Mommy Blogger and, damn, she had fun! Was it possible to turn this into a paying job?

She came up with a plan: Write regularly scheduled, amateur essays on a large website, become a featured blogger on that site, make the leap to Professional Writer and, then, world domination.

No one was more surprised than she when the plan (mostly) worked. Within months she stood in front of a blank wall in her house and snapped a selfie to use as a featured blogger; within a year she stood at her mailbox and cried when she got her first paycheck for something she wrote. She had always considered herself a writer, but making this leap proved that others considered her one, too. She scratched “world domination” off the list and replaced it with an equally ambitious plan to have a book published.

Because life tends to bundle changes, the very same month she began to call herself a professional writer, a friend asked her to co-host a women’s history podcast. “We’ll call it The History Chicks,” her friend said. “Just us drinking coffee or wine and telling the stories of historical women.” So what if she had gotten a D in AP History in high school? AP History was about wars and treaties and memorizing dates, but this history was about people. She loved people.

For the next nine years, she kept pinching herself that this was her life; she thrived…I thrived, you’ve figured that out, right? During those years, my two older kids went from grade school to college, one’s graduating this spring. The kid who entered kindergarten in 2009? He’s a high school freshman. For nine years of family life, of social life…a slice of my life went into this space. I got to talk about my failures, successes, and lessons learned; I got to whine about being a non-sporty mom with very sporty kids. When I sat down to write each column during those nine years, I did it with pride and care like it was the last one I would ever write.

And now it is.

I’m not hanging up my keyboard, I’m just saying good-bye to this special space.

Thank you to Jennifer Brown who had this column before me and gave me a heads-up that she was leaving, to the now-darkened but then fabulous Mom2Mom KC website that gave me my first blogging gig. A grateful hug to all my gentle editors at The Star who corrected my “creative punctuation.” The biggest thank you to you, the reader, who has had this one-sided conversation with me. One of my friends once told me, “You put emotions into words.” If you gave me a nod of someone who relates, cringed because something happened to me and not to you, smiled, laughed, or cried—thank you.

Ten years ago, I stood in front of a blank wall in my house and took a selfie to run with my blogs on Mom2Mom, that photo still runs in the physical versions of this paper. Today I stood in front of that same wall and took another selfie to say, “I’ll miss you, but we’ll meet again.”

xo,

Susan

LAST COLUMN GRAPHIC

Who Said That?

Life is hard; citing sources is sometimes harder. -Susan Vollenweider, 2018

I believe in research, I’m also practitioner of due diligence so when I asked my Facebook friends for their favorite, life motivating quotes for a column I was writing (See: Kansas City Star) I also asked them to cite the source. Due diligence sent me to confirm those sources and that’s when I ran into a few walls.

Those walls worked like a maze and redirected the original premise of the column. I had thought it would be a nice, easy way to share hard-learned wisdom from some of the wisest people that I know (ie: I could fill the space with someone else’s words for a change), but research sent me down so many rabbit holes that the project took four times as long as it usually does and the end result wasn’t close to my original premise. (Pro tip: It often isn’t.)

BUT I did learn a lot and can’t consider that time wasted. These are all quotes given to me by my friends that filled more hours of my day than I care to admit trying to track down the sources.

The Google box is only as good as the search words you use, and even then, you have to dig deep to get the answers. Fortunately, there are people who love doing this so much that they have created websites of quotes and try to trace them back to whomever said them in the first place. My favorite, methodically researched website for learning the origins of quotes is the Quote Investigator.

The people who formed the words into a profound sentiment SHOULD be credited for the work they do, and no one knows this better than creatives like writers, photographers and other artists.

BUT for a lot of us, the message is what is important. I got so busy searching for the source that I began to be numb to the message of the quote in the first place. There has to be a happy medium here: equal parts joy of learning and reflection on the message.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit here next to me.”

This is credited to Alice Roosevelt Longworth, but the exact quote seems to be: If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.” According the website, Quote Investigator, Alice didn’t say it as much as she had the witty taste to have it embroidered on a pillow. If she made the pillow or had it made for her based on something someone else said—we’ll probably never know.

Speaking of Roosevelts, one of my friends loved this quote and attributed it to Eleanor Roosevelt. Don’t let anyone determine your self-worth.” The actual quote (which means exactly the same thing) is No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” According to the Quote Investigator, Eleanor probably said it. Not definitely, but more than likely. (Read more about that here.)

“Be the change the you wish to see in the world.” 

Ghandi is usually given credit for this one, and he may have said it in essence but not in the order of the words. His actual quote, per Quote Investigator: If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards himRead more about that here at the Quote Investigator.

But not all quotes have already been investigated and we have to do a little work on our own to find the source. Some are easy and Google will lead you right to the original document:

Lewis Carroll didn’t write in Alice in Wonderland, “I can’t go back to yesterday – because I was a different person then.” What he did write was “…it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

But Anne Frank definitely said, “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

Be strong and courageous……for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Is, indeed, found in the bible- Joshua 1:9 But that gets a little tricky. There is a whole subset of deep, academic study that I am not qualified in the least to explore about who actually said what in the Bible. Was it a direct quote from the writer, from someone else, or had it been twisted around in oral histories like a game of Telephone into a version that was pretty close to either?

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou

Maya was very, very wise and this does sound like something she would say, but the quote was originally published in a book of quotations and attributed to, Carl W. Buehner, an official in the Church of the Latter Day Saints. They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Some of my friends pulled quotes from their real lives, but even then my friend Jamie wasn’t sure if he, or his wife had said, “It isn’t enough to be nice or think good thoughts. You have to fight for what you believe in, and when you’re faced with systemic oppression and suffering you have to directly confront it. We can’t hug our way out of this.”

They are both very, very smart—it could have gone either way.

It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and minute to destroy one.” She also warned, “Don’t strain your arm patting yourself on the back.” -Marc’s mom

Don’t worry, Marc’s mom, I’m not. For ones that I had to dig and dig to find, I still feel like a failure;still fuzzy about the source even after a lot of searching.

 “Enough is as good as a feast is attributed to Sir Thomas Malory but I can’t yet find the exact source and may have been “Enough ’s a feast, content is crowned” by Josua Sylvester who lived a full 100 years after Malory but it’s in one of his poems.

Rules for happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”

My friend Kathleen told me that she often quotes this and had first read it in a book by former Vice-President, Joe Biden. She, and Biden, attributed it to Immanuel Kant. But in trying to verify its origins, I also discovered sources that attributed it to that Essayist Joseph Addison (who died five years before Kant was born) and Clergyman George Washington Burnap who was the baby of them all.

Tricky stuff this citing business, but it can’t (or Kant) distract from the message which is solid life advice. All of these quotes are wonderful ways to look at life. We can all learn from them, and while discovering the source is a rewarding learning experience of its own, taking that message into our lives may be the most important part.

 

 

 

 

 

Women of New England Desire to Vote

“Wait, Susan, women ALL OVER the United States don’t just desire, they DO vote.”

True, but in 1880, the did not and all they could do was express a desire.  Anti-women’s suffrage voices suggested that women really didn’t want the responsibility of voting. So Matilda Joslyn Gage asked them. As the owner and editor of the pro-woman suffrage newspaper, The National Citizen and Ballot Box, she compiled a massive list of notes from women all over the country who answered.

My friend JD thought it would be cool to share these notes but there were so many, he divided them up into states and asked friends to post them. He gave me ones from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island–my home area. If you would like to fully appreciate these letters from all over maybe from your area, click over to Words from Us where JD has links to all of them. Individually they are meaningful; as a collection they are a powerful voice for women at a time when they were not always heard.

Pick a name, vote for a woman who couldn’t…or vote for women in your life now…or yourself, your children…just vote.

women-vote-aperquote

The work of reading these thousands of postals and letters and selecting from among them for publication, has required the labor of two persons over two weeks, and a portion of this time three persons were engaged upon it. Although but comparatively a small portion of them has been given, they form a very remarkable, unique, instructive and valuable addition to the literature and history of woman suffrage.

They not only show the growth of liberty in the hearts of women, but they point out the causes of this growth. Each letter, each postal, carries its own tale of tyrannous oppression, and each woman who reads, will find her courage and her convictions strengthened. Let every woman who receives this paper religiously preserve it for future reference. Let those who say that women do not want to vote, look at the unanimity with which women in each and every state, declare that they do wish to vote,—that they are oppressed because they cannot vote—that they deem themselves capable of making the laws by which they are governed, and of ruling themselves in every way.

These letters are warm from the heart, but they tell tales of injustice and wrong that chill the reader’s blood. They show a growing tendency among women to right their own wrongs, as women have ofttimes in ages before chosen their own ways to do. Greece with its tales of Medea and Clytemnestra; Rome and the remembrance of Tofania and her famous water; southern France of more modern times all carry warning to legal domestic tyrants.

Regards,

Matilda Joslyn Gage

CONNECTICUT.

Believing that the world’s salvation depends primarily upon emancipation of woman, therefore I wish you and your noble compeers speed in this noble cause, a cause for which I would gladly live or die.—EMILY P. COLLINS, Hartford.

Yes, I want to vote, and I am not ready to die until I have done so, at least once. —GRACE SPENCER, Madison.

Earnestly, and anxiously working and waiting for the ballot.—HANNAH M. COMSTOCK, New Haven.

I most earnestly desire that women everywhere should have a legal recognition of every right, (suffrage included,) with no other conditions or limitations than such as apply to male citizens.—EMILY J. SENARD, Meriden.

Not till men feel our power will they respect our rights.—FLORENCE PELTIER, Hartford.

I think women should vote.—F. A. L. ROOMIS, Meriden.

Believing as I do that the ballot is not only the first right of woman but that it is for the best good of the country that she exercise those rights. *—Abbey J. Mathewson, Brooklyn.

RHODE ISLAND.

My wish to vote grows out of the inevitable law of progress in thought, so soon transmitted in civilized countries from men to women. Unless men are willing and able to restore the day of absolute rule in the state and authority in the church, they cannot consistently relegate woman to a lower intellectual place than such as the duties of the age require every thinking being to occupy. A long passive intelligence has matured into an active phase and man is powerless to arrest its development at just that point which may now seem to him most consonant with his tastes or interests.—ESTHER B. CARPENTER, Wakefield.

“With all my heart” I concur in an emphatic demand for an insertion of the proposed plank in the platform of each party, and if foiled by all in the claim, let there be a banding together to either throw the election into the House of Representatives or to execute the determination of A. S. Adams in 1776, “to promote a rebellion,” etc.—C. C. KNOWLES, East Greenwich.

MASSACHUSETTS.

I wish to express in the strongest manner possible my desire for the enfranchisement of women, and my deep sense of the wrong and injustice of depriving her of the right of self-government. —Arabell Browers Elwell, Lynn.

If the ballot educates man it will also educate woman; if it protects man, it will also protect woman. —Noretta E. McAllister, Lawrence.

I wish to vote because I take a lively interest in the welfare of my country, (more perhaps than half the men) and wish to see the government in clean and safe hands. Because women are taxed and should have something to say about the spending of taxes. Because there are many selfish and intriguing politicians who pursue the “rule or ruin policy.” Because I think there is a great good coming out of it. Because there are so many intelligent women who wish to vote. Because they are as well, (if not better) fitted for it as foreigners, negroes and Indians. Because woman suffrage means fairness, justice, liberty and equal rights for women, and because I have never been represented by any man. —Abby D. Hicks, Blue Hill.

Ella F. Weeks from Marlborough, sends thirty-seven names.

I wish to see the ballot in the hand of woman, first to satisfy my sense of justice, and secondly, because I should consider it a very great step toward her elevation, and consequently to the advancement of the whole human family.—Evelyn M. Walton, Saugus.

And most earnestly desire to see the day when women shall no longer be deprived of the ballot and the opportunity of developing and improving all the faculties, with which they are endowed. —Zilpah H. Spooner, Plymouth.

“Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish,” I am with you in this fight for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yours for the right.—ELIZA F. DOANE, Athol.

As one of the 60,000 superfluous women in this little State of Massachusetts and one of several thousand young women employed in the three factories of Lynn, Mass., I want what I hope in due time all my sisters will want, it is to vote.—ELIZABETH O. ROBINSON, Malden.

We, the undersigned, being unable to be present at the mass meeting, desire to forward our names, together with our most hearty approval of your proceedings and our warmest wishes for the highest success of woman suffrage.—MRS. E. O. WILLIAMS, MRS. M. E. ORR, MRS. C. C. POWERS, Roxbury.

I would express with all the earnestness my nature will allow of and with all the emphasis I can bring to bear on any subject, that I here with send my name as one who desires to vote.—FENNO TUDOR, (widow,) Boston.

We all wish to vote,—MRS. C. W. BROWN, MISS CLARA WILDER, MISS MARY A. RICE, MISS KATH. L. WILDER, Barre.

May God speed the NATIONAL in the splendid work it is doing! That woman should have the ballot is my most earnest desire. I have always wanted to vote.— MRS. HARRIETTE R. SHATTUCK, Malden.

Pledged to labor for the right of suffrage earnestly until it is acknowledged to be ours. May yours efforts be crowned with success. Yours for Woman Suffrage.— EMILY EATON, Athol Center.

I am with you in thought and spirit as there are thousands of others who cannot be there in person. Hoping God will speed the day when women will secure the right of suffrage.—MRS. MARIA SWALLOW, Springfield.

I want the franchise of a citizen because I love justice, because I love freedom, because I am a woman.—CATHARINE B. YALE, Shelburne Falls.

Massachusetts School Suffrage Association. I shall be with you in spirit and feel it is one of the most glorious meetings ever held in our country. I trust all will be accomplished in giving us the right of full suffrage.—HARRIET LMIST, Boston.

Resolved, that the right of suffrage inheres in the citizen of the United States, and that intelligent women are citizens and should be so regarded by law.—MRS. L. C. W. GAMMEL. Holyoke.

I desire the privilige of voting, believe right of suffrage should be given to all citizens of the United States.—ANNIE LORD CHAMBERLAIN, E. Somerville.

I also desire to vote.—ALICE B. SAMPSON, Boston.

women-vote-aper-custom

Every time I write a column…

Great, brilliant idea.
Write one paragraph of great brilliant idea and 800 words of crap.
Tell myself that I suck as a writer, ask myself what the hell am I doing? No one should pay me for this garbage. Your basic peptalk.
Destroy and rewrite eliminating great brilliant idea in favor of thread that sorta made sense that appeared in middle of garbage pile.
Realize deadline was an hour ago, freak out. Slice and dice and kill words down to 600ish or until that warm, This is It feeling glows in my gut. Or I imagine it does.
Sigh heavily, hold back vomit and file copy thinking, “Crap I’m going to get fired, this sucks. I’m a hack. I’m a hacky-wanna-be. They are going to see I am a hack, this screams ‘SUCKAGE’! Hello unemployment, Hacky McHackerson!”
Read piece when it runs a week later and think, “Hey, this isn’t too bad.”
Repeat.

A Lesson From Other Susan

When I was 16 she was born. I didn’t know it, our paths wouldn’t cross for another 30 years. She lived in one of those middle states that New England kids like me always messed up identifying on geography tests. I grew up divided between life on the ocean and life in a small town; she grew up in a small town that was not really like the small town I was in.

Life is funny like that–even when things sound similar on paper, they are very different.

map of us dotted

Despite our very different upbringing, somehow we both developed (or were perhaps born with, but that is a debate for another day) a deep affinity for the water. Not, ” Oh hey, yeah, the beach is nice,” but a deep attraction to water in any form- rivers, lakes ocean- the more mysterious the better. Magnetic. A magnetic attraction that makes us want to be in it, on it, near it.

Life is funny like that–even when people are raised differently they grow up not very different at all.

I went to college, had a career, got married, moved around a lot, had three kids and, seven years before our paths would cross,I landed in a small town in the same middle state where she had always lived. She went to work, got married, had a baby, then another in a small town an hour from mine.

I played around on a computer when kids were sleeping and I didn’t want to clean; she played around on a computer when kids were…well, I  never asked but based on knowing her, her chores were finished and a loaf of  homemade bread was cooling on the counter.

One day, both of us were playing around on our computers when we landed on the same message board at the same time. Hidden behind our own masks of avatars and screen names we knew nothing about eachother except that we were both moms.

Life has taught me that even when people share a title or job that involves very similar actions, those people are often very different.

But different doesn’t mean bad, it just means not the same. We were very different people with different lives who shared a few things including motherhood and the same first name. To differentiate between us I got to keep our shared name, she put “Other” in front of it.

Other Susan. OS for short.

Our differences were still there but – and this really doesn’t always happen with me- I never thought about them. I never thought that she was younger, that we had different educations and different life experiences- I just loved her in that way women love eachother in slowly built friendships. That way we know we can be our honest, differing selves and be loved in return.

Sometimes it’s those differences that give us insight we never would see on our own.

Three years after we met Susan taught me something very important. She isn’t a writer, she’s a do-er. She’s one of those people who says, “I need an electrical outlet here,” and puts it in herself; who thinks, “that should be welded on,” and welds it; that takes a pile of fabric and creates a beautiful quilt in less time than it takes me to stitch a pair of curtains.

But I am a writer and in 2011 I was freaking out about it. I was about to start my column, filling a space previously held by a woman I admire a great deal, and I was terrified. Should I try to be funny like she was? Should I be sentimental? Should I write with a message or entertain with a story? I didn’t feel like I was up for the job (although I already had it) and terrified of failure and public ridicule.

Other Susan told me: Stop trying to fit yourself into a nice, neat little box! You don’t want to be be in a box. You want to be a giant ball of awesome that can bounce around and be whatever writer you want to be.

I know her exact words because I wrote them down, printed them out and taped them to a file box I looked at every day.

Five years later they are still on that box, right where I can see them each and every day. In those same five years I have watched her bounce around and be a giant ball of awesome in her own life which is very different than mine.

Bouncing around being her own ball of awesome

Bouncing around being her own ball of awesome

Today, in my own way, I am celebrating her birth sixteen years after mine. I’m raising a figurative glass to honor the years she has lived, the woman she has become and the friend that I am blessed with.

And I’m sharing with you one of many lessons that she has taught me.

Happy birthday, Other Susan!

ball of awesome quote redo

 

 

 

Hey, what’s up?

I’ve been around these blog parts long enough to know that when people post UPDATE pieces what they are saying is, “Life has gotten in the way and this site has dropped low on my priority list.”

They then describe all the fabulous and/or tragic stuff that has taken them away from their blog; away from you, the reader.

This post is a little different.

Oh yeah, life has gotten in the way and this site has dropped low on my priority list

BUT

nothing fabulous or tragic has taken me away. Exactly the opposite.

I’m in a boring phase. I have a hard enough time coming up with column topics each week, coming up with blog posts, too? Too much work with not enough material and one of them helps pay the bills–guess where the idea goes?

Oh, sure fabulous stuff has happened, but you could read about it elsewhere. Like how our podcast, The History Chicks, is now part of the Panoply Network which is basically saying, “This show rocks enough to be included in this amazing line-up, you should totally listen.”* With that we upped our show production from once a month…ish whenever we were ready, to twice a month on a schedule. Day jobs can not be dispensed with as yet and the level of research and post production we do for each episode is a HUGE time commitment especially if we want our show to rock even more with each episode.

HistoryChicks w. Panoply.1400

And sad stuff has happened, my family is still missing the smiling, comforting, lovable face of my father who passed away last spring.  The huge hole in my heart isn’t ever going to be filled in, but the raw edges are smoothing out just a bit. On a lessor level my voice paralysis is permanent (there was a 50% chance of it self-correcting in a year- it’s been a year this month)-I’m back in voice therapy to help retrain my breathing and strengthen what I do have so the podcast doesn’t suffer.

But the rest? Boring. Kids, sports, oldest started college, youngest played fall baseball and basketball, and middle played football (although I do have a LOT of posts in me about THAT, but I promised him I wouldn’t send them into public until he graduates next year).

This kid loves this sport. Loves it.

This kid loves this sport. Loves it and I love watching him play it.

#50 loves this sport, I do not.

#50 loves this sport, I do not.

My very messy, unstaged desk where I sit a lot and make clickity sounds with my keyboard.

My very messy, unstaged desk where I sit a lot and make clickity sounds with my keyboard.

 

So by saying UPDATE! I mean that I care about this space far too much to slap crappy  writing on it and I haven’t had the pull to do so as life got in the way of late… but I miss it.

Happy New Year, I don’t want to piss on the parade of people who loved 2015 but from where I sit I am asking 2015 to kiss my fanny and 2016 to be better.

Not full of fabulous.

Not void of tragic.

Simply better.

Susan

2015 six

 

 

*Felicia Day agrees that it rocks.

Totally not gonna brag but we made it to an recommended segment on The Flog.

Totally not gonna brag but we made it to an recommended segment on The Flog.

 

 

Tell Me What You Read: Susan Vollenweider

A chat about reading (and some writing) where Kate gets me to confess what kind of books I have on my Kindle.

Kate Macdonald

In Tell Me What You Read I interview well-kenned folk in public life about how their reading has shaped their lives, in the past and now. 

SusanSusan Vollenweider, half of the women’s history podcasting dynamo The History Chicks, columnist for the Kansas City Star, mother, aspiring novelist, and school sports cheerleader

Tell me which authors, or what reading, you can see now were influential in your life and career?

I started reading fairly young so words and books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I think everything I read influences me somehow, even the crap, but the ones who are on the base tier of influencers are: Dr Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Judy Blume, Erma Bombeck, Richard Bach and John Irving. I think all of them taught me that as far as writing goes, even if there are serious subjects I…

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I May Have a Problem

I knew I had a problem after I bought my first diaper bag in 1996. I suspected it before that when I was working and had an unusually high number of female sized brief cases, but the diaper bag situation really solidified my suspicions– I have a bag problem.

I purchased a diaper bag before my first baby’s birth.  In the store I was dreaming of sashaying about town with this stylish diaper bag over my shoulder and an adorable, clean and perfectly behaved baby in my arms.

When the baby arrived and I realized that the cute diaper bag was only good for short runs to- maybe- the mailbox, not for full hour long adventures to such exotic locales as Target and the post office. (also if I had any chance of a clean baby, I needed more stuff than that stylish bag could carry)

So one diaper bag lead to an entire wardrobe of Not The Perfect But Really Cute and Suitable For Certain Situations Only diaper bags.

This problem remained semi-dormant after the diaper bag years, probably because I rarely shopped for myself. My purse collection which was stashed on a closet shelf , was a jumble of discount store grabs, flea market finds, mother-in-law hand-me downs  and a very rare, sweet leathery splurge. I carried the same black bag to church for over 5 years, used a cross body most days until it looked like hell then replaced it with another; I had one clutch that I found at a resale shop when my daughter was buying jeans.

Then I spotted a Vera Bradley purse.

Actually, I spotted a torrent of Vera Bradley purses. Not being one to follow a fashion trend or purchase something for the label- I silently mocked those carrying them.

“Pfft, Please. Everyone and their 11 year-old daughter are carrying these things. Talk about a uniform,” I would say as I scrolled through the Vera Bradley website.

But then I fell victim to the colorful fabrics that added whimsy to  my friends outfits; sunshine to a dreary drop-off lane.

But I couldn’t carry a bag like that, too flashy.

So I bought a wallet.

I love this wallet.

I love this wallet.

 

I love that wallet. Perfect size for my stuff, it holds my phone and has a wrist strap if I ever need it. Which I do.

I loved that wallet so much that I got a messenger bag.wpid-20140922_080928.jpg

Perfect size to schlep books and all the file folders I use when we record podcasts or the materials I use when I talk to classrooms. Plus, that pattern! It says, “I can function as a mature adult, but really? I’m not all that serious.”

One day I was in a store and a cross-body  bag not only leapt into my hands, but it flopped itself down at the cashiers counter, grabbed my credit card and then, mysteriously, my purse contents were quickly organized in the many pockets and slots inside. (I think my friends, the birds and mice did it all while I sang.)

I have no idea how this ended up in my  possession.

I have no idea how this ended up in my possession.

 

“STOP!” I told myself. “You have enough. No  more Vera “I’m One Of Them Now” Bradley purses or wallets or eyeglass cases. NOTHING!”

Apparently I listen to myself about as well as my kids do.

It matches 80% of my wardrobe. Really, how could I not?

It matches 80% of my wardrobe. Really, how could I not?

 

Before I would allow myself to unwrap this one I went through the closet shelf that was overstuffed with bags. I collected the totes, the cross-bodies, the clutches and the wear-on-my-arm bags of many styles. I thinned the collection down to just a few favorites and gave the rest to a group collecting women’s clothes and accessories.

There are more bags here than this innocent photo suggests.

There are more bags here than this innocent photo suggests.

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The pile of junk retrieved from the pile of purses. (What? You can’t be far from a tampon when you need one, you know?)

 

And now, I am done.

 

I think.

 

 

 

OOH! That’s What It Is!

“Well, this is a pretty easy one to figure out,” my doc began and then it all made sense.

This crappy summer, the crappy spring, the gloomy winter- it wasn’t entirely life, it was also my chemical make up. Why? Sure life struggles played a role, but also (I gulp before admitting) peri-menopause and maybe it’s just the way I was made.

I didn’t feel better by being diagnosed, and I didn’t feel better by popping one pill- actually I felt worse for a few days. Stoned.

Out of it.

Sad.

Tired.

But then, all of those started to float away. I’m on my third week of meds now and feel so much better. Lighter. I’m getting shit done. I have a novel that I had been working on last fall then just about abandoned over the winter although I really, really liked it (“loss of interest in activities once pleasurable you” Oooh, that’s what it means). It’s a story about the power of women, the deep love that is our friendships and Blackberry Mead told through the adventures of two women who bear a remarkable (yet contemporary) resemblance to a couple of very important, very real historical figures. Women! Booze! Accomplishments! Hi-jinx and History! Weston, MO! (which is quite lovely, if you don’t know it you should google it) And I just abandoned it.

Last weekend I opened the document, started at the beginning…and revised six full chapters. Happily! With a sense of both delight and accomplishment. This is huge.

I’m here, writing this! Not just to make an excuse for why I don’t post often! Not filling the page with pictures of flowers! But content! Also huge.

If you want the version that appeared in The Kansas City Star Click Now. If you found me because of that article- hello! Nice to meet you! I love email. 

For anyone, if you google “signs of depression in women” this is what you get:

depression signs

From the National Institute of Mental Health

I should have googled it a few months ago, I had all of those. If you do, or you suspect that you may have any type of mental illness PLEASE talk to your doctor. I don’t even mean find a psychologist or psychiatrist (that is in your area, accepts your insurance, comes recommended…yeah, that’s a lot of effort for a person who has fatigue and decreased energy)- I first talked to my primary care physician and she got me going down the right path. It was hard and I wasn’t very eloquent but I got it out.

And then I said, “OOH! That’s what it is!”

And here is a picture of a daisy, because I can’t help myself.

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Happy Flu Year

Happy 2014. Yes, it’s a week and a half into the new year and I am just now passing along my greeting. Why? Flu.

Bottom line: I had a flu shot but, for some reason, it didn’t protect me like it has all the years in the past…and all the years in the future. The last two weeks have taught me that I want to do EVERYTHING in my power to not get this again. This might be shocking, but I don’t care WHY I still got it, I do care that  no one in my family did.

Two weeks- really sick. Not the way I had planned to spend the kids’ winter break. When life got really busy, I’ve often thought, “Some day I’ll break my leg or get sick and then I’ll be forced to slow down. THAT is when I will (insert sedentary activity here…like uploading pictures to snapfish and creating albums, or work on our podcast Pinterest boards). Did I do any of that? No, I did not.

I slept.

And I woke up and whined on facebook.

And I slept some more.

I am married to a germaphobe of the highest order- he took good care of me and my germs by quarantining us in the master bedroom. He’s not much of a cook, so most of my meals looked like this.

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Which was fine since I had very little appetite. Mostly I ate to shut up his nagging to eat. 

I saw high fevers and broke out in hives; I had to work hard to keep from getting dehydrated. I was a mess.

A mess, I tell you!

A mess, I tell you!

It sucked.

Sick bed selfie. The flu is not pretty.

Sick bed selfie. The flu is not pretty.

But I’m lucky.

First off, the flu can kill or send you for a hospital stay. It’s no joke.

I had people to take care of me, and I didn’t have to be any place. My family does not rely on my income for the necessities of life. I wish I could say I took one for the Mom Team and got it for the women who don’t have that luxury, but that’s not how things work. What I DID do is keep the germs to myself. I followed the CDC suggestions to stop the spread to a T. No one in my family got it from me, and I didn’t spread it to anyone.

Of course it looks stupid, but it kept my germs away from people. (And fogged up my glasses)

Of course it looks stupid, but it kept my germs away from people. (And fogged up my glasses)

It’s all I could do, and I am grateful that I could.

Now….back to 2014.  I have a theme. Admittedly it is crass and quite unlady like- but it has a certain simplistic honesty that appeals to me right now. This year is pedal to the metal- I want to see what I am capable of.  I want to toss my excuses and fears that hold me back down the crapper. If I’m heading down the wrong path for me, I want to know it. I’ve learned a lot from this path, but I have to find out if there is more. This year I want to find that out and the only way that I can is to work hard, smart and with purpose.

outhouse two redo