Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Category Archive: Women’s History Month

  1. Nest-Making Retrospective

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    On March 1, I had an idea so clear and bright that before I knew it, I was sending out this email:

    I’m putting together a month of blog posts for National Women’s History Month. This year’s theme is Women’s Education–Women’s Empowerment. Women’s stories are near and dear to my heart, and I believe they are important to you, too.  I admire your writing, and I would be honored if you would be willing to share a story and/or photos in a guest blog post at www.angelakelsey.com.  I’d love to read your stories of women who’ve contributed to your education and/or your empowerment, in whatever way(s) you choose to define the words and convey your stories. Poetry, prose, and photos are welcome.”

    After the initial email,  I exercised no more control over this series than I did over the hydrangea pictured here, and the pieces worked together just as beautifully, just as organically. With the exception of knowing that I wanted to contain the posts within the supportive bookends of Jeanne and Julie, I posted them in the order I received them, and if you read them in order, I think you will see that a whole, greater than the sum of its parts, was formed.

    Part of me, not wanting to impinge upon the nest that’s been created of its own accord, wants to post an awestruck retrospective that simply says, “Wow.”

    Wow to the synergy and the dance of the posts with each other. Wow to the openness and the willingness of the writers. Wow to the women they honor, the personal journeys they share. Wow to those who continued the conversation through their comments.

    Another part wants to acknowledge the generosity of each woman who gave of herself and her life and her stories. Another part wants to highlight some of the themes that emerged.

    So, in awe mixed with gratitude, I do a little of each, although these pieces are so tightly interwoven that they touch each other in many more ways than I can show here.

    Wow–to Jeanne and Josie and Ann and Sally and Cheryl and Liz and D., who celebrated collective feminine power in  Fran and Marcia and The Fierce Feminine and Hey Girls, We Slipped Up and A (Wonderfully) Mixed Relationship and Her and This Little Light of Mine and Loving women comes easily.

    Wow–to Shannon and Alana, who wrote about their grandmothers in Happy Birthday Viola Sylvestra and Her Unseen Hand on My Back.

    Wow–Julie and Bindu and Teresa and Kelly and Streetlights, who wrote about mothers and mothering in Empowerment and The Birth of Compassion and The Body as Nest and Lesson Plan and A Transforming Force.

    Wow to Illuminary and Megan, who described solace and comfort in Auntie Jaquie and Someone Makes a Nest For Me Today.

    Wow to Meredith and Bridget, who celebrated women teachers in  Short But Sweet and Wonder Woman Hilda Raz.

    See what I mean? Just–Wow.

    Now: how can we continue the spirit of nest-making every day, with every breath and step?

     

     

     

  2. A Transforming Force

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    Today’s Nest-Making guest post in honor of women and Women’s History Month is by Julie Daley.  Since I first met Julie, a “transforming force” herself, on Twitter, I’ve been drawn to her and to her  truly unabashed love of the feminine and the Feminine.   Enjoy.

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    “The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet.”
    Adrienne Rich

     

    My mother taught me many things: independence, tenacity, artistry, the joy of finding one’s passion and embracing it. She also taught me to fear: intimacy, being abandoned, being alone in the world with huge responsibilities. And, she taught me to keep going even though the fear was here. She taught me both to not trust myself and to deeply trust myself. Of course, she wasn’t the only one who taught me these things. But, as women, what we learn from our mothers is deeply meaningful because of the nature of relationship and connection between mother and daughter; it also holds deep transformational possibilities, for the same reasons.

     

    My mother was an amazing woman, I mean truly amazing. Back when it was unheard of to be a divorced single mother, back when that carried a huge stigma and caused other women to fear her singleness, my mother walked this path with dignity. It wasn’t her choice; she was left for another.

     

    Before she died, she remarked to me that raising her three daughters was the gift of her life.

     

    Adrienne Rich also wrote, “The Mother I needed to have was silenced before I was born.”

    This isn’t a diatribe against my mother. It is the opposite. Our relationship was problematic, yet over the years as she moved towards death, and the years since her passing, as I have become a more conscious, compassionate woman, I have come to know the huge potential for transformation our relationship held.

     

    A few years back, I discovered something rich and deep and painful, something that ignited a love so profound that it has altered the arc of my life, like an explosion changes the course forever of the thing exploded.

     

    I was just beginning a three-day dance workshop in the 5Rhythms, a dance practice I’ve now been engaged in for the past ten years. During this particular weekend, we began the workshop on Friday dancing solely with others of the same gender – women with women, men with men. This was the first opportunity I had ever had to dance solely with women.

     

    As I entered the church where we were to dance, and took to the wooden sprung floor in my bare feet, I noticed something vastly different than what I had experienced before: there was no male energy anywhere. While I’ve been in all-women gatherings before, never had I been immersed in a moment when there were only women dancing deep from within their bodies, deep from the heart.

     

    As I danced, I first felt a kind of freedom in this women-only place. It felt lighter, yet grounded, gentler, yet more sensual. I could feel a part of me emerge that I’d never encountered on the dance floor. It was this sensual, grounded, erotic playfulness, a part that needed a bit of safety to come out and explore. The woman-only space invited this out.

     

    But as I continued to dance, I became aware of an ever-so subtle, barely palpable, fear that I was feeling. At first, I couldn’t quite feel it, yet I knew it was there in my body. I continued to dance, to dance the fear, to invite it out, to make itself known. As it did, it began to dance me. It began to speak. It had been muzzled all my life, and now, in this room full of women dancing together, without whatever layers come when men are present, it offered its gift.

     

    This fear was a fear of women. It was a fear of being intimate with other women. It was a fear, even distrust, of the nature of women, of my own nature as a woman.

     

    As the fear continued to dance me, tears began to fall, tears of rejection, separation and abandonment. I could feel this fear that had kept me from trusting my own mother, other women, and my own womanhood. I could also begin to sense a longing, a longing to know my own womanhood, to know these women who surrounded me with their dance, and to know my mother in her own womanliness.

     

    This part of my mother had been hidden from me…by her. She didn’t trust this. She feared this. She didn’t know how to reach out from this place of womanhood, mother to daughter, woman to woman.

     

    My mother taught me to fear; yet she also taught me to inquire. She taught me to distrust, yet also to hold fast to what I instinctively knew was true in my heart.
    She taught me to be the kind of person that doggedly pursues the path of knowing self, the path that had taken me to this moment of dance and unfolding.

     

    My mother had been silenced before I was born; as was her mother, as was her mother’s mother…and so on. And yet, what never had left the women I’ve come from is the deep instinctive knowing that lies at the heart and soul of being a woman.

     

    As I danced, as the tears flowed, as I moved the fear and the fear moved me, something deeper began to emerge: an old-as-the-ages love for women and womanhood. Over the course of those hours of dance, and into the next many years of my life, what began as just an inkling in my field of body awareness, blossomed into a deep knowing and understanding of the power and nature of ‘the connections and between and among women’.

     

    The web of women, and the love inherent in this web, is one of the most powerful, and feared, forces in life. Its nature has been repressed and silenced for thousands of years. Yet we know these connections, and the love within them, deep in our cells and in the marrow of our bones.

     

    My mother taught me this. Now, in my wiser place, I can see how much she loved her daughters, how she would, and did, do anything, absolutely anything she could to love us, to care for us. And in this wiser place, I can see how hamstrung she was by the silencing, by the conditioning that had caused her to fear her own love, to fear intimacy, to fear her womanhood.

     

    This understanding has brought a deep compassion for her, for women, and for the painful tension within myself between the fear of knowing my nature and the yearning to know this nature.

     

    This tension is the creative tipping point. It is the doorway into an organically unfolding remembering of our nature as women. This nature is unlike that of men. It is not a compliment to man. It is a nature unto itself and when it stands in right relationship to the nature of man it will begin to transform our relationship to the sacredness of life.

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    A dancer at heart, Julie would love nothing more than to live her life and do her work from the dance floor. Ten years in the practice of 5Rhythms has opened her to the joy and wildness that is at the heart of women’s creativity. A writer, teacher, coach, and yes, dancer, Julie savors life playing with her wee grandchildren and serving the women and men who are called to work with her.  Julie is happiest when she is breathing through her feet.

    Blog | Twitter | Facebook |

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    Looking for the rest of the Nest-Making series? It’s here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

     

  3. The Body as Nest

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    Today’s Nest-Making guest post in honor of women and Women’s History Month is by Bindu Wiles. It’s a milestone post  for two reasons: it’s the blog’s 500th post, and more importantly, Bindu is one of  the  first people I met online to become  dear  to me offline as well. I’m very happy to have her words and images here today.

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    In honor of all the women who have given their bodies

    as a soft place to fall

    to rest upon

    to enter into the world

    to bear witness

    to hold

    to love.

    We are all mothers of some sort.

     

     

     

     

     :::

    Bindu Wiles is in a deep mid-life crisis that she is walking, writing and photographing her way through. She has an undergraduate degree in fine art (photography) and 3 graduate degrees because the one she really wanted all along was an MFA in writing, which she finally received at 47 years of age from Sarah Lawrence College. The tattoo on her left forearm sums up her life motto: Art Saves Lives. She has completed a 300 page memoir, her essays have been published in various literary journals, she is bringing more of the under 12 years of age crowd into her life, and is always up for a good laugh. In fact, she is trying to stay in a state of silly as an approach to aging.

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    Looking for more Nest-Making posts? You can find them here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

  4. Someone Makes a Nest For Me Today

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    Today’s Nest-Making guest post in honor of women and Women’s History Month is by Megan Matthieson.  I am grateful to be able to share this story of her acceptance of an offered nest.

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    I have to go have a biopsy on my breast.  The Dr tells me it’s probably nothing.  But.  The day changes tone.  The color of the sky goes from blue to lavender.  The importance of life swells like the orchestra at the mere suggestion of an end.

    When I leave the office I think about calling my lover, and then I think about not calling her.  For all the ways I don’t want to worry her and all the ways I don’t want to feel her worry.

    I decide to call.  I need a nest to rest in for a minute.

    She is there in ways that others have not been able to be.  And yes, I can tell she is worried.  I let her have that.  When she offers to come with me for the procedure, I waffle.

    I’ve been flying solo for so long.  Suddenly aware of my inability to relax and take in love, I accept.  I want to grow.  “But please don’t cancel anything in order to be there.”

    The nest has already been built by her loving hands and she only waits for me to land.  To rest for a bit.

    In this day, one of a million more to come, or only a few, I will take residence in the warmth of her.  I will lay down my strong will and vigilance about taking care of myself, and let this love all the way in.

    I want to feel this in every day that I am blessed to be here.

    :::

    Megan is a dancer, writer, and videographer.  You can find her at www.meganmatthieson.com and follow her on twitter, @meganmatthieson!

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    Looking for more Nest-Making posts? You can find them here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

     

  5. Loving women comes easily

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    I’m grateful to Liz and her offering of easeful, beautiful words and images for today’s Nest-Making guest post, in honor of women and Women’s History Month.

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    Loving women comes easily

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    welcoming arms have enveloped me
    from birth and continuously reach out
    to protect me

    my mother chose me
    fiercely guiding me through life
    sacrificing homeland and passion
    for her only child

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    my grandmother’s strong
    unforgiving hands provided structure
    lessons of strength and will
    gentleness surprising me at
    perfect moments

    from the ocean’s warm embrace
    Yemaya
    to my mother’s guide
    la Virgen Maria
    my own goddesses
    spirit guides
    real life healers

    women,

    loving them comes easily.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    :::

    Liz can be found at  http://twitter.com/artemisretreats  and http://intldreams.tumblr.com and http://mujerzen.wordpress.com.

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    Looking for more Nest-Making posts? You can find them here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here  and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

  6. The Birth of Compassion

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    In today’s Nest-Making guest post in honor of women and Women’s History Month, Teresa Deak writes the story of compassion and understanding born, like so many insights and the violets in my photo, at the venerable kitchen sink.

     

    Thinking about women’s history and my own personal story, flies me through the few moments I can recall, and pauses on an evening in my mother’s kitchen. I stood with my hands in dishwater, facing the window. It was not yet dark enough to reflect the two women who spoke behind me. Their exchange was only words and voices.

    As with so many of my memories, I realize that while my feelings in the moment are absolutely clear, the actual words are merely a fuzzy dream.

    My mother, in her usual way, did not seem to care if I was in the room or not, if I could hear them or not. Clearly, though, I was not meant to be part of the conversation.
    Known for her coldness to people, my mother was the local champion of the pro-life movement. So staunchly catholic it seemed to me she worshipped her religion, not her god. When this particular moment happened, I was a teen just beginning to realize that I was being raised to care more about judgement and appearance than anything spiritual. Even then, this didn’t feel right to me.

    My mother spoke with a woman who was the mother of one of my school-mates. I was fascinated by this woman who was so beautiful and deep and caring, and yet who had come to the church in her adult years. She was so unlike the other women I knew, treating me with respect and kindness despite my young age.

    Curiously, I don’t recall the name she went by at that time. She later changed her name to Sophia. Wisdom.

    In this conversation, Sophia opened her heart to my mother, telling the self-appointed ruler of the anti-abortion cause that she had had an abortion.
    I was shocked. Shocked that Sophia would tell my unfeeling mother that she had been through the painful process of ending an unwanted pregnancy. Shocked at her courage and mystified that she would share this with her at all. Did she think she might receive sympathy or love?

    I felt like there was something I should be able to do. I don’t think I even realized at the time that I wanted to hug Sophia. To hold her in my arms and let her know she is loved. And I remember hearing the steely voice of my mother. She used all of her usual arguments against the act, defining those who choose abortion as evil. Describing hell. Telling Sophia she was not worthy of the sacraments because of this unforgivable sin. Seeing only the rigid belief she could never shed, not the person who I called friend re-living her pain before her.
    The thing that I realized in that moment was all that I did not want to be. I wanted to never be so much a slave to my own causes that I would ignore the pain of a friend. I wanted to never be as cold as this mother who ruled with fear. Powerless to move, bound by the rules of my mother’s house, my tears quietly dripped into the dishwater.

    Thinking now, with a heart that has burst well past the childhood boundaries imposed on it, I realize that I was experiencing something that I thought would take another 20 years to learn.

    Compassion.

    I thought I learned this with the passing of my Yogi dog to cancer in December 2000. The warmth and caring that wells up for someone else in pain, that feeling that seemed so foreign and new in my own loss, had begun long before.

    The seed of compassion was planted with my back turned to Sophia and my hands captured by dishwater. Its essence in the moment felt only as a longing and a wish that I could warm the coldness, soften the judgement offered by this woman whose genes I am loathe to admit created me.

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    Teresa Deak is a Butterfly Practictioner, coaching clients through the maze of social media marketing with Butterfly Touches, sharing the Beauty in (sm)all things through her camera and her heart, and inviting us all to swim in the river of Gratitude together.

    If you’re ready for a little more awe and delight in life, check out Teresa’s gorgeous Gratitude tarot deck.

    Connect with Teresa:
    On Twitter
    On Facebook: Picsie Chick or Social Butterfly Solutions
    On Pinterest

    On her blogs:
    Photos You Feel
    Given To Gratitude
    Social Butterfly Solutions

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    Looking for more Nest-Making posts? You can find them here and here and here and here and here and here and here and  here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

  7. This Little Light of Mine …

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    Today’s Nest-Making guest post in honor of women and Women’s History Month is by Sally G. It’s an honest and heartfelt account of one woman’s process of becoming her Self, a woman to be honored. 

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    The moment I saw Angela’s introduction to this Nest Making series – I felt its importance. Like a quiet call to action, it captured my heart immediately. Something inside me shifted, and part of me stepped a little more fully into Who I Am.

    A blog post immediately flowed through me, honouring the quiet shift taking place right now, online and offline, toward healing, shared compassion, inspiration and support.

    I appreciated the way this quiet movement is cutting through the noise of the ‘connection and conversation’ geared more for sales and self-gain than community and service as it was once known and experienced. And I expressed a desire to somehow be part of it.

    Here in the Nest ~ I intended to be part of it by showing up, filling with inspiration, admiration and wisdom from the experiences of others. I’ve been moved by what’s been shared so far and feel so happy to be here. Angela then invited me to contribute a story of my own ~ and while my heart surged at the invitation, the inclusion, my mind wondered what I could possibly contribute. You see, I don’t really have anyone specific in my life story that I’d hold up in the light of “you changed my life.” Even now, almost five decades into this journey ~ I look back and see paths populated with those who dismissed me, let me down, hurt me, marginalized me – palpable with the disappointment that I didn’t turn out as they’d hoped, or expected, or – desired.

    Please don’t read those words with heavy residues of pain – because in the five days I’ve spent reflecting on how to meaningfully contribute to this series, I realize that these people ARE the shining lights who pushed me to learn about my Self, to trust my Self and to even grow to like my Self. Over the years, I’ve learned that we all serve as Mirrors to each other – each reflecting something back to the other. It’s an integral part of our feeling, and understanding, the connection we all share, that we’re all here to help each other along. Sometimes the help is instantly recognizable and appreciated. Other times, its true value emerges in hindsight, in all its depth, significance and meaning.

    I spent the first few decades of my life seeing others as Mirrors reflecting back Who I Am. This began a process of defining myself on others reactions to me and fitting myself into the interpretation of what I thought I saw. I guess on some level, I figuratively dismantled who I naturally felt myself to be, because only distortions of it could be found in the Mirrors around me.

    One can only do this for so long though, for the discomfort becomes unbearable and the future feels limiting, at best – hopeless, at worst.

    Supported by life circumstances, like giving birth to two daughters, for instance (and feeling a fierce responsibility to get clear about what it meant to be a Mother, a Daughter, a Woman) – I opened to facing the reality that what I’d been doing and how I’d been feeling wasn’t working for me at all. This Honour Student, Exemplary Employee, Perfect Wife, Disappointing Daughter and Hopeful Mother found the courage to accept the fact that “the worst” had probably already happened: I’d failed.

    I stand before you to confirm the truth that acknowledging Shame and accepting Vulnerability is a powerful catalyst to meaningful change. Approaching life with Humility and a willingness to learn healthier and more empowering methods of travel has made all the difference. I’m still very much in-process, but I see things differently now, I do things differently and I no longer define my Self by the judgements, feelings and opinions of those around me.

    Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” This, I’ve experienced, is true. The caveat, however, is that you have to know who you are to allow the emotional detachment necessary to feel the words of another as merely words.

    Looking back, I see my paths populated with Shining Lights, Earth Angels, who created opportunities for me to learn valuable life principles like Self Acceptance, Self Awareness, Non Judgement, Unconditional Love, Forgiveness, Hope for the Possible, Humility, Empathy, Enchantment and a Sense of Humour that brings laughter to me on call.

    I am nothing in particular and absolutely everything – all at the same time. And with the help of everyone I’ve ever met along the way ~ I have created my Self to be the kind of Woman I’d have given my right arm to meet at any point in my past.

    We grow, we learn, we heal – all while in relationship with others. They reflect to us Who We Are, Who We Are NOT and Who We Have the Potential to Create Ourselves to Be; from the platform of Character, Values and Spirit more-so than personality, lifestyle and career (though we can always do that too).

    Knowing this has allowed me to accept the gift each person brings when our paths cross. Judgement, Criticism and/or Dismissal moves me into reflection and assessment. Is any of it true? If yes, I’m grateful for the information and course correct appropriately. If not, I let it go – I don’t have to accept others’ opinions of me, sometimes they’re seeing me through filters I can’t see – and it’s not actually about me at that point anyway.

    Most important of all, for me, is that I move through Life serving as best I can as a soft, quiet light to others. I see others, I hear others, I accept others – and, others matter.  I’m ever so grateful to everyone who has, in their own special way, contributed to the Wonder-in-Process that I am. And with luck ~ I’ll serve as the kind of woman many of you recall with such fondness and appreciation to someone in my Present, today – so their tomorrow is a better place for the encounter.

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    Sally G’s blog address is  http://sallyg.me. Her Twitter ID is @sally_g.

    Her Modus Operandi: “Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”

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    Looking for more Nest-Making posts? They’re here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

  8. Lesson Plan

    8 Comments

    Today’s Nest-Making guest post in honor of women and Women’s History Month is by Kelly Letky. Every day as I post these, I marvel at the stories and try not to editorialize (too much) in these introductions, but I love this post about “what really matters.”

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    My mom never graduated from high school.

    I can’t remember how the story went exactly, I think it had something to do with a fight with a teacher who mocked her for being poor, but that is not what really matters anyway.

    Years later, when I was in my twenties, she went back to school and got her G.E.D. I have always been incredibly proud of her for that. But for this story, that is not what really matters either.

    What matters is how much my mom taught me, and my three siblings.

    My mom taught me to always stand up for myself. She taught me to be kind and generous, she taught me to help those less fortunate, she taught me the importance of family.

    She taught me manners and protocol, not to wear white after Labor Day, to never go out in public wearing holey underwear, just in case you get in an accident or something.

    She taught me how to keep house and how to cook dinner, how to fold laundry and how to hem a pair of pants, how to get over a broken heart and how to keep going when I wanted to give up.

    She taught me that money isn’t everything, that what you give is more important than what you get, that everyone is valuable, that loyalty matters.

    She taught me compassion, how to laugh at myself, how to be brave and honest and hard-working. She taught me all these things despite the fact that she herself had learned very different lessons as a child.

    My mom taught me how to survive.

    Because that is what she did. She came from a background that would have crushed most people, one that did crush the rest of her family. Out of eight children, my mom is the one that got away. From the abuse, the alcoholism, the poverty. Not only did she get away, she built a better life, for herself, for her husband, for her children.

    Together with my father, she made certain that we had the kind of childhood that she never had, that we were always cared for and safe and knew that we were loved.

    We never had a lot of money, but she always made certain that Christmas was magical, that we had a new outfit to wear on the first day of school, that no one ever went hungry or had to hide in fear beneath the bed.

    She yelled a lot, we drove her crazy sometimes, always fighting over who got to drink from the blue cup, or eat the last handful of M&Ms, or who got to sit in the front seat when we all went out for ice cream.

    She never learned how to drive (by choice), never went to college, never got a job until we were all well into adulthood. She adopted too many pets, collected too many dolls, ironed too many sheets, drank too much coffee, let the world hurt her feelings too many times.

    But she has always been there, with her shining heart of gold, ready to give a piece to anyone that needs it. She would give me, or you, a perfect stranger, the shirt off her back if she thought you needed it more than she does. She gives too much and takes too little. She talks too loudly sometimes, but she always listens more than she talks.

    She can’t walk past a baby in a store without stopping to make google eyes and silly talk. She has been known to hug strangers in the hospital, simply because she thought they needed one. She spends her evenings crocheting hats and blankets to give to anyone who can use them.

    She isn’t perfect, but she taught me how to love someone even when they are not.

    My mom never graduated from high school.

    Yet she taught me everything I’ve ever really needed to know in this life.

    Perhaps we can all learn something from that.

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    Kelly Letky works as a freelance graphic artist and jewelry designer. She is also a writer, photographer, wife, mother, sister, daughter, crazy cat lady, friend, runner, knitter and gardener who makes regular attempts to be kind, loving, generous, artful and immersed in every moment. Sometimes, it works.

    You can find her art and writing at www.mrsmediocrity.com andwww.thebluemuse.com and you can also find her on twitter under @mrsmediocrity or facebook under Kelly Letky.

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    Looking for more Nest-Making posts? You can find them here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

     

  9. Wonder Woman Hilda Raz

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    I am very happy to post today’s Women’s History Month Nest-Making guest post by Bridget Pilloud, to (and for) whom I am grateful for so many things, not the least of which is her introducing me to Hilda Raz and her poetry.  Please do click the links and read the poems.

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    Many women have formed me. Many,  I don’t even know the names of them.

    They’re the subtle hands behind books and inventions and television shows. They’re the women who first sailed boats, who first went into business, who wrote when all of their peers were men. And further back, the ones who loved ritual, who worshipped divine energy, who created the child who created the child who created the child that created many generations that finally created me.

    Most are un-named, unknown, only appreciated in the abstract.

    With the exception of the women in my family, the woman who had had the greatest impact on me is Hilda Raz.

    She was my poetry professor, twenty years ago, at the University of Nebraska.

    She was fierce. She spoke with absolute authority all of the time. She was so sure of her own voice, and talent and contribution.

    And yet, when you opened her poetry book, you saw love, wistfulness, a person questioning everything, a person experiencing transition after transition, not exactly caught, but only allowed to transcend only after she’d squeezed every bit of understanding from a situation.

    She seemed like a woman caught in a current, mostly keeping her head above water, occasionally raising her hands to wave or juggle or point in a direction.

    She asked me once what I wanted to do with my life. I told her I wanted to be a chef. She asked Have you considered being a poet?   I had not. I had wanted to be a poet, but had no idea I was good enough. She was the first professional that saw talent in me, that respected and admired me. She absolutely did not coddle me.

    I didn’t become a poet, but I am a writer and the work that I do, as an intuitive, takes the same kind of bravery as poetry.

    The biggest gift she gave me was showing me how a person could face despair and get through it by the way of words.

    Hilda had been diagnosed with cancer. It was breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Her odds were not good. She felt the despair that we somehow feel immune from, that we imagine happening to others, but not us.  The diagnosis that happens to other people was hers.

    One late night, as she white-knuckled her way through her cancer, she decided to create a list called: What is Good .  It turned into a poem, which turned into a book, and she ultimately beat cancer. She’s still alive 25 years later.

    She told this story to her poetry class at a time when I was ready to check out of life. I wanted this life to stop. I was tired. I was done. And I didn’t think life was going to get any better.  Her story gave me pause. She had been given a terminal diagnosis, and she fought to stay.

    And then, several months later, she saved my life with her words again. I write about that story on my blog.  I wanted to kill myself and she gave me the exact words I needed to stay alive, and to never consider suicide again.

    What Hilda Raz taught me was that even if I had never thought of myself as an authority, one day, I might grow into it. And this place of authority won’t happen because I’ve lived my life perfectly, or lived a life of ease.

    She taught me that even if I never thought of myself having a clear voice and something to say, I might find myself in a place where I do.

    She taught me that difficult times, transitions we do not choose, somehow have a way of making us better and, in turn, happier.

    She taught me that excellent strong women aren’t that way because they’ve never faced hardship or failure, but because they have, perhaps many times, from the very beginning of their lives.

    Hilda was the first poet who showed me the link between an outward, curious focus, and a commitment to my life. She showed me how outward curiosity and commitment make all the difference.

    I want to share two of her poems with you. I don’t have the rights or permission to copy them, but I found them online, so you can enjoy them. I hope that you do.

    Day-Old Bargain: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/180268

    Wonder Woman’s Rules of the Road: http://www.poetrynet.org/month/archive/raz/woman.html

    I don’t think that Hilda  (or any woman, for that matter) knows how much she has impacted others. I hope she has an inkling of it, at least.

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    Bridget Pilloud is an intuitive consultant, a healer, a writer and a teacher. She works with people to help them enact positive change in their lives. She writes at The Intuitive Bridge  and at Chez Bridget.

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    Looking for more Nest-Making posts? They’re here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

  10. The Fierce Feminine

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    Today’s guest post in the Nest-Making series for Women’s History Month is written by Josie Beug, the woman who walked beside Gracie and me as our veterinarian and trusted friend. I’m very happy to share the gift of her writing in honor of the fierce feminine in all of us.

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    I resisted being “female” for half of my lifetime. It began when I was three years old, in the driveway with my father and older brother, working on cars and the small forklift my father used in his business. I remember him lifting me up and setting me down in the seat of the forklift so I could pretend I was operating it. So much fun, I was one of the boys, turning the steering wheel and pulling and pushing the control levers. It was a warm summers day, and both of them were sweaty and shirtless. Following suit, my little three year old arms yanked and pulled until I, too, was topless. My mother walked out with some cold drinks. Her mouth dropped open as she let out a loud gasp, “What are you doing out here with your shirt off, young lady?” It was my first experience with gender roles. “I’m hot and sweaty, too,” I thought to myself.
    I hated the stiff patent leather Mary-Jane shoes my mother made me wear. I hated the dresses that provided no protection for my knees as they skidded across the pavement of the playground. I resisted wearing a bra until forced to, by my mother. I resisted wearing make-up until peer-pressure finally won out. I shaved half my head in college. I began wearing boots, my very first pair bought for me by my father – a pair of purple Tony Lamas. These were eventually replaced by black combat boots.

    Throughout the years, I have often asked myself, “Am I a lesbian in denial?” The answer was no, and remains no. I enjoy hanging out with the boys. I have even been privileged to partake in “boy conversation,” you know, the type where the subject is quickly changed when a girl enters the room. I enjoy the male anatomy and enjoy, really enjoy, sex with men. Girl-on-girl is okay, but doesn’t really do it for me.

    It has taken a personal healing journey of many years, including healing the sexual abuse I suffered as a young child, and the token abusive relationship, to fully accept and love myself, and my own brand of femininity. Three years ago I began hearing about a different feminine archetype being (re-)born, that of the Solar Feminine: the feminine that is strong and fierce, the Lioness that fiercely protects her young and takes down a gazelle with one savage bite to the neck. She is represented by the ancient Fire Goddesses: Pele of Hawaii, spewing volcanic lava, birthing the earth itself; Sekhmet, the Egyptian Lion-headed Goddess, primordial creator and destroyer; and Kali, wearing a belt of severed men’s heads. Strong, passionate, creative and energetic. Embracing the first archetype of femininity that I could relate to, I finally felt comfortable within my own skin. I honor Her by donning my war paint – not make-up found in glamour magazines, make-up to make me look fierce, leather gauntlets, spiked collar, and knee-high black leather boots. And the Goddess comes out to play.

    My father recently transitioned from this Earthly realm. In the days immediately prior to his death, he opened his Heart and allowed me to see into his Soul. He was a tough task-master of a father, and it was not always easy to be his daughter. Yet, upon feeling his unbounded love, I came to the full realization of how he had nurtured my strength, my independence, my courage, and my fierceness. He taught me to honor and value and protect the Earth and all of her creatures. He bought me my first pair of boots, and reminded me of it on his deathbed. And, as a parting gift, he taught me how to die a beautiful death. Looking at my two sisters, I realized he raised three strong, powerful Solar Feminine daughters, ready and willing to re-birth into the world a new, and very ancient, form of what it means to be a Woman.

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    Josie Beug is a holistic healer of animals, a writer, and an adventurer exploring the Earthly realm. She is a non-affiliated spiritual seeker and has spent most of her life walking the threshold between the realms. Her perfectly maladjusted musings can be found at firehorse111.com.

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    You can find more Nest-Making posts here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.