My Husband and I Cannot Be Trusted to Pick Out “Our Song”

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Me and the Hubs

My husband and I are celebrating two years of marriage this month. And we’ve been a couple for a decade.

We should probably have a song picked out by now.

I mean, we kinda do. We have the song we first danced to. The song we sang at our wedding. We’ve recorded two CDs for family covering songs we love. Given my husband is a professional musician, there is no shortage of music in our home.

Yet, on a recent car trip, a specific song came on the radio and Joe’s eyes lit up in excitement as he said, “Do you know what this is?”

I didn’t.

“Think Tia Carrere.”

It was Dreamweaver by Gary Wright.

“This should be our song,” said Joe.

“Um, I’m not sure I agree with that. Even if it is the soundtrack for a great scene in Wayne’s World.”

I politely suggested another song.

Bird on a Wire by Aaron Neville.

And that, is when my husband gave me a look that said “we will not be figuring out what our song is today.”

Also, he was less than enthused when I started playing this song after he exited the bathroom later that day. *shrug* I still say it’s got a good groove.

What’s your song? How did you choose it?
What song recommendation do you have for Joe and I?
Because clearly, 
we can’t be trusted.

A Positive Message For Millenials: Life is Messy. But I Believe in You.

There’s been a surge of posts against millenials. If your social media feed looking anything like mine, you saw this woman dissing millenials shared by multiple people. It’s fine. We’re used to it. Heck, we’ve been the butt of people’s jokes or blamed for all the world’s problems since the early 2000’s. We’re entitled, yet we’re broke. We’re budding entrepreneurs, yet we have no work ethic. We are paving the way of technology, yet we don’t know how to cope without our phones. We are the future, but we’re terrible people.

And you wonder why our generation has such high anxiety. 

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Well, I have something to say about that.

GET OFF OUR BACKS!!

I am a part of the generation defined as millenial. And you know what, I work damn hard. Since college I have worked anywhere from 1-3 jobs at a time so that I could pay all my own bills. And I know a lot of other millenials who are busting ass too. Sure there are some that give our generation a bad rap. But I’ve also met, even managed, my share of busy-body boomers and let me just say, you’re not a peach to be around all the time either. 

So to my fellow millenials who are trying to pave their own path in a pessimistic world, let me share with you what I’ve learned coming down the pike so that you can know in your very gut that you are seen, you are worth listening to, and you will survive all the crap people say about you on the internet. And most importantly, I believe in you.

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Truth: Life is messy.

No matter how old you are, that’s a fact. We’re led to believe that as we age, we get wiser. We expect that things won’t be as difficult to figure out in adulthood– that we’ll be more confident in our abilities, that we’ll learn to love our bodies and wish we hadn’t shamed them so much when we were young. And while all that is true, we absolutely gain perspective and experience, life can still be just as confusing as it was before.

Life is messy, even as an adult.

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We all deal with setbacks in our lives. Didn’t get in the program you wanted to, didn’t win the contest, didn’t get the job, didn’t get the boy/girl. We don’t know when these hardships will hit us. We don’t know how we’ll respond. We just have to do our best and hope we come out stronger.

When we are in the midst of a dilemma, it feels all consuming. We lose sleep worrying about the what if’s, we stress eat all the chocolate in the house. But once we’re past the unknowing stage of things, it turns into the Lord Voldemort of life lines – “that period that shall not be named.”

I, like so many millenials, believed that by the time I turned 30, I’d “have it all figured out.” That is just not the case.

But what I have learned is that’s completely ok. 

So don’t let the negative things they say about our generation dictate your life. You are the main character in your own story.

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Remember You Can Always Start Over

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One of the most positive things to come out of the millenial generation is our abundant optimism. My parents’ generation was hard set in the belief that you worked for one place until retirement and that was that. For millenials, that’s just not the case. We are the generation that exemplifies multiple careers and life experience. We change our jobs, we take time off to travel and we work from home as needed. We are paving a new kind of entrepreneurship and that’s fucking exciting.

Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

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That expectation to “have it all figured out” is the greatest barrier to actually doing so. Who cares if the girl next to you makes life look easier? You never know what others are dealing with when they leave the office. You never know what the story of a relationship is except the one you’re in. So don’t spend your time imagining impossible scenarios around you that make you feel less than. Be hardcore. Be your best self.

Never Stop Learning

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Think about your favorite teachers and mentors you had in school. What made them inspiring, trustworthy and encouraging? I bet one of their skillsets was listening to you and treating you as someone with valuable ideas and talents. Reflect that back into the world. Never stop learning from those around you, whether it’s an older coworker who’s been in the business longer or your five your old niece who colors outside the lines. Being open to the things others can teach you, will help you be a better listener, learner, and teacher too.

Live in the Moment

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It’s far too easy to beat yourself up over age timelines. You know you’ve made them. “By the time I’m 30, I will…” It’s great to set goals, you should do that. But don’t forget to live in the moment. Your goals need to be realistic and manageable. Wanting to be a famous singer by the time you’re 25 isn’t going to happen if you’re going to school, practicing intermittently, and too scared to sing on stage. You’ve got to do the work now that will pay off later. The good part? That means making mistakes. Yes, make them! Try new things, push yourself, and learn to strengthen your skills. 

Take Stock of Your Successes

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I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible at accepting compliments on my work. I want them, sure, but I’m also my own worst critic and quick to downgrade the successes I’ve had. One of the best things I ever did when I first started blogging was to write down three things I had learned or accomplished each day. It was too easy to focus on what others were achieving and pressuring myself that I wasn’t good enough. By recording my learning moments and accomplishments along the way, I changed my focus to how much I was growing and that I was headed in the right direction, even if I wasn’t getting there as fast as I wanted to. I was still making progress, still moving forward. Don’t be your worst critic, be your best advocate.

***

Life is and always will be messy.

The good news is we have the power to shape our perspective on it. We don’t get to choose when setbacks come or how they’ll hit us. We don’t get to choose what society says about our generation. But we have a choice in how we respond. And with any luck, and a lot of time, all the junk we go through will just be “that period that shall not be named” and we will be bigger badasses for it.

Hey Millenials! You’re awesome! 

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3 Lessons Learned From the Listen To Your Mother Show

I can’t believe it’s been a week since show night already. I was working on the La Crosse production of Listen to Your Mother for six months. How can it be over already?

If you haven’t seen the bombardment of social media posts I’ve been doing about Listen To Your Mother (instead of blogging regularly), then you probably aren’t following me on social media, and you should because I like you.

Listen To Your Mother is a live, storytelling event that gives motherhood a microphone. The last shows have taken the stage, making the collection of 500 some unique, truth-telling stories, take place across 41 cities in North America.

That’s pretty cool.

It has taken me awhile to fully process what this show and its aftermath have meant to me. I’m still exhausted! But in the best possible way. Kind emails and handwritten notes are still coming in thanking our team for a beautiful, magical night of storytelling, for voices being heard and diversity represented. For making them laugh – so many laughs. And also for the tears.

So many inspired souls have said they’re going to audition next year!

And final numbers are in, so I cut the donation check for YWCA La Crosse today!!!

Here’s what I can sum up for you.

3 Lessons Learned From the Listen To Your Mother Show

1. Attitude is Everything

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The 2016 LTYM La Crosse Cast

When I first had the itch to apply and bring LTYM to my city, I had an entirely different production team and charity lined up. I also had a different job. When things went from bad to worse at that job (sometime I’ll tell you about it), no one was willing to put in the work anymore. But I KNEW this show could be amazing. I KNEW there were stories out there that needed to be told.

So, I did it myself.

I lined up a new production team, one that believed in the power of story like I did. And I found a new charity, one that said yes instantly and supported me from staff to director to board member. And I wrote up an application I hoped would make it really, really hard for the national team to say no to.

Channeling my energy into something that was positive and making a difference in the community saved me. Working on this show encouraged me to make big changes in my life because we all deserve to feel heard and appreciated and energized.

2. My Husband is Proud of Me

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The hubs, out to dinner, meeting the cast for the first time after our tech rehearsal. 

Let me tell you the ways my husband supported me. And, I’m warning you in advance, I’m going to get mushy about this.

In the beginning, it was advice on production stuff – venues to look at, performance things to think about. It helps he’s a musician and very familiar with locations. Then it was social media shares with the obligatory “Here’s this thing my wife is doing”. 

Next he went and offered to play live, acoustic music in the lobby for show day! Because he saw how hard I was working and wanted to support me in the best way he knew how, he helped make our debut show a little more special – a little more like a fancy night out on the town.

But folks, what really made me tear up and get “the feels” so hard was his response to the show. You see, I didn’t come home from rehearsals and talk about the show. I probably mentioned how many things I had to do for the show (more than once), but I didn’t tell anyone about the stories we shared. That magic and trust needed to be saved for show night. So, my hubs was that guy who got roped into attending because his wife was the one running it. Storytelling is not exactly “his thing.”

The reason I know the LTYM show is a gamechanger of a production is because it gets people talking. And my husband started talking and sharing his thoughts with me about the show and the stories he heard. And not just that night, but all week long.

My husband is not a big talker. He does not often share his emotions. Not many guys do. But after watching the show, my husband told me he saw me making a difference. He called me a rockstar. He had thoughtful, personal things to say about the show’s stories. He said he was motivated to make changes in his life. And he told me he was proud of me.

*wipes eyes, blows nose*

I told you, this one gave me ALL THE FEELS. I am so grateful for his support.

3. Perspective: Your Girlfriends’ Gonna Give It To Ya

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The LTYM La Crosse Production Team

When you work with talented people, you up your game. When you collaborate with them, you make lifelong friends.

I am eternally grateful for the amazingly cohesive production team that agreed to work with me without fully knowing how much work it would, in fact, be. I admired these women before the show production started, I have deep respect and awe for them now.

From start to finish, this group came in fully understanding the special-ness of a LTYM show. They appreciated and honored every story we heard in auditions, they put in countless hours of time away from their own families to work on the show and get to know our cast. They found local sponsors, made food for the cast, and helped make this show come alive.

We also had the help of our national LTYM team. All of whom are amazing mentors who know HOW TO RUN A SHOW that stretches its performances across a continent!

When little things seemed big or something made me worry, these women had my back. They responded quickly and succinctly and put everything in its place. They believed in me and one another. They support the kind of world I want to live in. I’m so proud to work beside them.

***

So, when next year Mother’s Day rolls around, run don’t walk to the nearest Listen To Your Mother show near you. Apply to bring it to your city. Audition. Get inspired. This show changes lives. 

Mom? Dad? I’m a Businesswoman.

I’m pretty sure they thought I was going to say “pregnant”. 

I called them on the phone a week ago to announce I had very big news. There was a period of silence, dare I call it a “pregnant pause,” when I blurted out the words “I’m a businesswoman!” 

IMG_7899Two weeks ago I made a very bold life-changing decision. I gave my notice to the nonprofit agency I have worked at for almost three years. Undergoing numerous management changes, the transition process for me and my role was anything but smooth. A place which had once made my heart full with its mission, seemed to be doing the opposite now. So I knew it was time to step out.

I had been job hunting for a few months. Putting my feelers out there, networking, and looking for ways to grow my skillset. And as life has a way of doing, everything changed all at once.

I accepted a part-time position with an online family travel publication (more to come on that later!) Then, I set up my own small business to handle my freelance writing, storytelling, and production of Listen to Your Mother: La Crosse. Which is pretty awesome because now Witkins Productions, LLC is a thing.

And finally, I was called up one day to discuss a full-time gig with the local arts and culture magazine I had been freelancing for since last September. I was honored, did my homework and met with the owner/editor, and happily accepted. So today is my first day as Digital Media Manager & Brand Ambassador for SEVEN magazine.

So no, I’m not pregnant. In fact, I’m not trying to be at this time. (Though that’s none of your beeswax.) I’m simply far too busy being a badass businesswoman and building up my Fempire.

Thanks and endless gratitude to all those who championed for me, sent me opportunities, became references, became sponsors, became allies, answered questions, and just sent encouragement my way. You are beautiful people, and y’all have made my days bright again.

Thank you,
Jess

 

Monday Mashup: Writing Tips and Self Care for Writers

I did it again. I filled up my Facebook queue with saved links like Emily Dickinson filled her mattress with poetry slips.

I scoured the internet, so you don’t have to.:)

Here are my favorite links from the past couple of weeks.

Writing Tips and Self Care for Writers, Along With Some Food for Thought

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Self Care for Writers by paranormal/fantasy author, Jami Gold, is a must read for writers who like to go from one project to the next and need a reminder to schedule in some downtime too.

Illustrator Andrea Tsurumi shared You’ll Never Have Enough Time about carving out work time and space, avoiding burnout, and what going freelance really means.

If you’re feeling like Andrea from the last post, you’ll also enjoy 5 Tips for Making Writing a Daily Habit.

There’s lots out there about fair pay for writers right now and I thought this article on The Rich Writer Myth by Ros Barber was interesting. It’s written sharing examples of pounds, but I think you can convert it to dollars for us in the states.

Ros followed up her own article with one on The Guardian elaborating on the publishing industry with For Me, Traditional Publishing Means Poverty, But Self-Publish? No Way.

Because we can’t end on the bummer of bucks, or the misery of making moola, here are 20 Empowering Quotes By Female Authors That Are Perfect to Decorate Your Office With.

Self-Care and Body Positivity for All:

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This was my de-stress project this weekend. Adult coloring and playing with my art journal. 

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time accepting compliments. I hear them and I immediately shrug them off or worse, name a flaw right afterwards. It’s something I’m working on. So of course, I saved this article on 7 Tips for Working on Your Self Confidence: Accepting That You’re Awesome.

And if you’re still feeling a little beat up mentally, here’s 6 Ways to Feel Better About Yourself Right Now. Read it, I’ll wait. … There now, don’t you feel better?:)

My facebook queue is always full of posts by Heather from Hiya Tootsie, and here’s one I wanted to share with you! What’s Luck Got to Do With It? 3 Ways to Honor the Work Your Dreams Require.

Are you constantly stressed from the day job plus the side hustle? This money saving blog offered all kinds of low stress money-making opportunities as well as a simple plan for setting money aside each month. How I Saved $1000 While Living Paycheck to Paycheck.

Because all bodies deserve respect, you should reward yourself by reading August McLaughlin’s How to REALLY Get Body-Positive. This post was blowing up my twitter feed and it’s worth reading more than once!

***

What are the posts saved up in your queues? Got any other good ones to share?
How are you practicing self care this week? 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I Really Love But Feel Like I Haven’t Talked About Enough

Hello Lords and Ladies,

I’ve been happily audiobooking like a fiend lately – even managing to finish 14 books so far on my Goodreads ChallengeMy goal is 55. 

A big motivator has been the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Challenge hosted by Estella’s Revenge. And the #2016readmybooks challenge hosted by The Worn Bookmark.

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Both reading programs challenge the reader to crack the bindings of the books they already own on their shelves. And I have a very long list.

(At this point I won’t say whether any new books have or have not been purchased in the process of this competition. But if my husband or parents are reading this, I could use another bookshelf please. Thanks.) 

Another favorite book blog I enjoy is The Broke and the Bookish who host Top Ten Tuesdays, a weekly series of top ten lists around a variety of book themes. This week we’re sharing…

Top 10 Books I Really Love But Feel Like I Haven’t Talked About Enough

1. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

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I’d been meaning to read this one for awhile. It was in my TBR pile. After watching Steve Martin hang out with Jerry Seinfeld on the show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, it made its way higher up in the stacks. And I must say it was really nice to get back into humor books and memoirs. I really enjoyed this book and how vulnerable and honest Martin was with sharing family stories and the career path he took. Biggest takeaway: Keep working. Keep following your dream.

2. The Dog Says How by Kevin Kling

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Technically, this one wasn’t part of my existing bookshelf. I heard about it through an adult storytelling class I’m taking and after watching numerous videos of Kevin Kling on youtube, I knew I wanted to read his book. It did not disappoint. Equal parts humor and heart. I highly recommend it. If you don’t have time to read it, check out his storytelling on youtube and you’ll probably find you do have the time to read his book.😉

3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

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I don’t normally read a lot of romance books, but after watching the movie trailer for Me Before You, I went out and bought the last copy in my city. No, I’m not joking. I had to go to 3 different places. And once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. Me Before You is more than a love story, though. It’s the story of a man dealing with quadriplegia. I really appreciated the amount of research Moyes had to have done to write so thoroughly about living with quadriplegia and what options you have in life. You will cry, but this is worth a read in my opinion.

4. Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

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Ketchup Clouds is a little bit of a coming of age story. The protagonist Zoe talks about the boy she likes, going to parties, all the normal things a teenage girl would share. Except that Zoe shares these moments with a death row inmate. Told through a mix of narration and letters, Zoe reveals the worst possible secret she ever could to the only person she thinks will understand.

5. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

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I’m a big fan of memoirs and biographies and this may have been my favorite one read last year. I didn’t grow up during the Kennedy era, but I visited the Kennedy Museum and library in Boston a few years ago with my parents and heard several stories from their memories as we toured the exhibits and highlights of John F. Kennedy’s presidency. Rosemary was his sister, but the public rarely heard about her. Due to preventable complications during labor, Rosemary was born with some cognitive disabilities. In a poor attempt to “fix” his daughter, Joe Kennedy consented to have Rosemary undergo a lobotomy which went horribly wrong and left Rosemary in a worse state, losing a vast amount of her speech and mobility. My parents remember Rosemary because the care facility the Kennedy’s sent her to happened to be in Jefferson, WI, the town where my family owned a restaurant. And Rosemary use to eat at our family’s restaurant with the nuns who looked after her. This book is a heartbreaking history lesson of how laws around the disabled changed and how all families have their secrets.

6. Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

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I loooooved Shotgun Lovesongs. And I met the author, Nickolas Butler, and interviewed him. He’s pretty spectacular and you should check him out. The book is about five high school friends who reunite at a wedding and how their relationships change. What I loved about this book so much is how poetic the writing is. One of the first characters Butler started writing about was the character who is a musician, and the book’s title is the album title of this character. It makes sense to me that the whole book is written in different points of view and done so lyrically, just like a great playlist on an album.

7. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

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I love watching the Olympics whenever its on, but I’d never looked into its history. The Boys in the Boat is the story of the 1936 U.S. men’s Olympic rowing team. First off, I had no idea how strenuous rowing actually is. They make it look so graceful, yet they’re using so many muscles, rowing is the equivalent of playing four back to back basketball games. Second, and more importantly, historically this was a time of so much perseverance on every team member’s part. Surviving the depression and the war, as well as going to school and starting families. These men bonded in a unique and focused effort to give America something to be hopeful for, to be proud of. A gold medal.

8. Texts From Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg

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Do yourself a favor and get the audiobook for this one! Written as though famous literary characters – and pop culture ones too – are texting one another, the audiobook includes more variety with voices and you get to hear the tone of voice used. It is laugh out loud hysterical. My favorites: Jane Eyre, Hamlet, Katniss and Peeta.

9. I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee

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Now that Samantha Bee has her own television show, I’m incredibly sad we canceled our cable. I wouldn’t watch anything else, but I’d want to watch her show. Her memoir was surprisingly even funnier than I thought it would be. I loved her journey to finding success, it even included playing Sailor Moon for shows that took place in a mall. It all just made me so so happy.

10. Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

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Wildalone is a haunting and breathtakingly beautiful story that weaves Bulgarian legend and Greek mythology together. It tells the story of the samodivi, or “wildalones,” also known as forest witches. As a kid I was a Greek mythology nerd and of course my husband and I were married in Greece, so I love the infusion of familiar greek myths and new to me Bulgarian legends in this tale. And Zourkova’s writing is very fantastical.

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That’s my top ten.
What books have you recently read and loved and wished you’d talked more about?

 

 

 

9 Women Who Made History You Probably Didn’t Know About

March is Women’s History Month so it’s the perfect time to celebrate the women in your life, and the ones who’ve come before you. We’ve all learned about our fearless, feminist ancestors like Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger, and Julia Child. Yes, Julia Child! Before she was known for her cooking, she worked as an intelligence officer in the OSS, and she spoke four languages! She was a total badass.

Still there are many whose names we don’t know by heart, yet reap the benefits of their hard work and determination every day. So prepare for some speed dating y’all, cause it’s time to meet 9 women who made history you probably didn’t know about.

9 Women Who Made History You Probably Didn’t Know About

victoria_woodhull1. Victoria Woodhull

It amazes me we still ask the question “Is America ready for a woman president?” Um, yes. And we’ve been trying to elect one since 1870. Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president, and she did so before having the right to vote herself. In fact she spent election day in jail. Campaigning under the Equal Rights Party, her running mate was none other than abolitionist Frederick Douglass. She was also very outspoken on the issue of “free love,” which back then referred to a woman’s right to divorce her husband. No one knows how many votes Victoria received because the bastards running the patriarchy refused to count them.

henrietta_lacks_1920-19512. Henrietta Lacks

Gaining popularity and recognition thanks to a book by Rebecca Skloot, Henrietta Lacks is the reason we have most vaccines and medical advancements today. At the time of her death in 1951, medical consent forms didn’t exist, so without her permission or that of her family, doctors took samples of Henrietta’s cells. The healthcare industry was desperately trying to find cures for diseases but keeping test cells alive was impossible. Until Henrietta. The cells from Henrietta’s body, known as HeLa cells, were the first ever to be kept alive and grown, resulting in great medical advancements including the polio vaccine.

f7553b57e46042a33. Elizabeth Smith Miller

Did you put pants on today? Yoga pants and jeggings count! Well you have Elizabeth Smith Miller to thank for that. She was the first woman to wear pants in 1851. Finding the long skirts and dresses of the 1800’s too confining for her hobbies, she created an early version of the skort. At least that’s what I’m calling it. Technically she wore pantaloons with a wrap skirt over them, but we all know it was a skort, or at the very least a skant.

61964-004-d4cdcf034. Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

Think you know the story of the first Thanksgiving? Think again. Thanksgiving, as a national holiday, wasn’t celebrated until 1863, over 240 years after the pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians held what we consider the first Thanksgiving. Wanting to unite our war torn country, Sarah wrote to the president and members of congress every year for 17 years asking for a national day of gratitude. In November of 1863, President Lincoln announced the first national day of giving thanks, done so at Sarah’s subtle nudging.

mte4mdazndewmdyxmtk4odyy5. Pauli Murray

Pursuing higher education in the 1930’s and 40’s when women were often barred from many colleges because of their gender, Pauli Murray became the first African-American woman to earn a graduate degree from Yale University and went on to become a civil rights lawyer and feminist. She is the co-founder of NOW (National Organization of Women) which still seeks to address issues of gender equality and women’s rights. In 1977, she also became the first black woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest.

220px-patsy_mink_1970s6. Patsy Takemoto Mink

Patsy grew up  watching and experiencing racism against Japanese Americans following WWII. She was determined to better the lives of all people regardless of their race or gender or education level. She studied medicine and law and was an active political figure in Hawaii before it was an official U.S. state. In 1964, she became the first Asian American woman elected to the House of Representatives. Patsy is most widely known for the passing of Title IX, or the Equal Opportunity in Education Act, which she helped author. The act prohibits gender discrimination in any federally funded schools and largely opened up opportunities for women in athletics.

dix-dorothea-loc7. Dorothea Dix

Dorothea was born in 1802, and at the age of 14 she started teaching. A job in a women’s prison led Dorothea to start researching the care of the mentally ill in hospitals and penitentiaries. The documentation she presented to legislative figures allowed for larger budget allocations that improved conditions in the institutions as well as built new ones. Her diligent work improved or founded over 30 hospitals for the mentally ill. She was appointed Superintendent of U.S. Army Nurses in 1861.

ada-left-and-minna-everleigh-c-19058. Ada and Minna Everleigh

The Everleigh sisters, Ada and Minna, are some of Chicago’s most notorious historical figures. During the late 1800’s, they opened up one of the finest brothels in the country, featuring a gold piano, right on Dearborn St. Before you sneer at their historical achievement, you should know how they changed the game. At a time when women’s only opportunities outside the home were teaching or prostitution, if you had to get a job, your choices were limited. And many women were actually getting drugged and kidnapped, forced into the sex industry with violence. Ada and Minna’s “butterflies” were kept in the lap of luxury with fancy clothes, education, and 3 square meals a day. As for their patrons, the Everleigh sisters were also great businesswomen who actually demanded proof of their client’s bank accounts before entrance and tolerated zero violence in their establishment.

lillian_moller_gilbreth9. Lillian Gilbreth

Lillian is the queen of professional women. Not only did she raise 12 children, she became the first female inducted into the Society of Industrial Engineers. She earned a degree in psychology and spent years working as a business consultant for top clients like Macy’s, General Electric, and even the President of the United States. You’re probably familiar with some of her inventions such as the shelves on refrigerator doors and the foot pedal on garbage cans.

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So there you have it. Nine talented women who made history, and often aren’t recognized. Happy Women’s History Month!

What I Was Up To While I Was Away

office selfieHi Friends,

I’ve missed you. How the heck are each of you?!

I’ve been busy working on projects. Lots of projects!

So, here’s what I was up to while I was away…

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Co-Hosting a Film Screening

That’s right! My talented and inspiring new friend, Stephanie Sharp, invited me to co-host a private screening of the indie arts collaboration film, Indie Kindred.

Are you ready to get inspired? Watch this!

The film and movement behind Indie Kindred comes from storyteller and filmmaker, Jen Lee. You might recall that name when I talked about The 10 Letters Project, which another local writer and I are emulating in a local magazine.

Indie Kindred is the story of makers paving their own paths, finding other creatives they can work with, and collaborating to make something good. Indie + Kindred + Collaboration.

So, 2 weeks ago, about a dozen of us makers (artists, designers,chefs, writers, and repurposers) met in Stephanie’s home for some good food, show and tell, a film screening and makers chat. Most of us did not know each other. Now, we’ve created our own private group of local makers online and have plans for a second gathering and retreat! Because as Jen Lee so eloquently puts it “Doing it yourself, doesn’t mean do it alone.”

Interested in hosting your own screening or meeting other makers? There’s a public facebook community for Indie Kindred!

Driftless Area Makers cover photo
A sampling of the work shown at our makers meetup.

Held Auditions and Cast a Show

Three days. Eleven hours. Almost 40 auditioners. And now…we have a cast!!!

La Crosse joins 40 other cities giving motherhood a microphone in our debut, live, on-stage storytelling event, Listen to Your Mother! I’m so pleased to be working with each of the cast members we selected to share their stories and to raise funds for our local YWCA who has worked to end racism and empower women and girls.

IMG_7642
Behind the scenes at auditions. 

Here’s an accurate account of my life right now…

raccoon

And here’s what I came across on the internet and thought you might enjoy…

Me whenever anyone offers me caffeine lately. 

This Tumblr account that imagines Kylo Ren living at home with Han and Leia. 

kylo ren

This comedian talking about what we do when the doorbell rings.

(found via the hilarious Darla of She’s a Maineiac)

This book we bought for our nephew. Ok, actually for his parents. 

You can’t beat this hilarious bedtime story for adults.

***

That’s what I was up to while I was away.
What have YOU been up to, friends?

Overwhelmed? Try Out These Self Care Tips

It’s entirely possible I’ve taken too much on.

Well, I’m not admitting anything, I’m just saying it’s possible. 

I’ve been having a tough go of things at the day job, and in my attempt to focus my energy on the things that I love, I’ve said yes to a multitude of projects and commitments.

I now find myself busier than ever with a full-time job, part-time freelance assignments, rehearsals and show dates with an improv group, a once-a-week adult storytelling class, a twice-a-month writers critique group, and oh yah – I’m directing and producing a Listen to Your Mother show this spring and auditions are in less than a week!

You can understand why my main hobby right now is drinking coffee.

world's largest mug
Hobbying like a boss. 

My days off were out of the ordinary this weekend, so I tried to plot out some time to relax.

You know, in between 2 radio interviews, 2 improv shows, a six hour shift tabling for the health clinic I work at on VDay – One Billion Rising, and one of my writers group critique sessions. 

I did manage to spend Valentine’s Day Eve with my main squeeze, also known as He Who Says Weird Things While Sleeping. We stayed true to our tradition of watching a very un-romantic movie together. For example, past Valentine’s films have included Tremors and Silence of the Lambs. This year we watched The X Files (1998 movie). 

Anyway, enough about my crazy week, because I’m sure you’re all just as swamped with projects, commitments, running little people places, and whatnot as well.

Here’s a few of the things I managed to sneak in so I achieved some self care time. 

holding up a dozen books1. Audiobooks

Most of you know I’m a huge fan of audiobooks and it’s the only way I get so much reading done. I listen while I get ready for the morning, while driving in the car (even though I only have a 15 minute drive), and while I get ready for bed at night.

It is not unusual for my husband to find me sitting on our bathroom floor just listening to a good story. It’s my zen moment at the end of the day.

2. Take a bath. 

I know baths aren’t for everyone, but I sure love them. They are so relaxing to me, and I did manage to sneak one in. They are also a great time to listen to an audiobook!

3. Indulge in a guilty pleasure. 

For me that involved watching a few episodes of Felicity on DVD. I watched while I ate my lunch or folded laundry and enjoyed an old favorite show.

BTW, Felicity and Ben are broken up right now…again, and Noel is trying his very Noel best to move on, but it’s not going so well. Javier, on the other hand, is still my favorite. 

***

That may not seem like a lot, but in their own way, each gave me a little escape and some relaxing down time.

And I did just run across this gem of a blog post, and wanted to share it with you, my fellow busy bees.  23 Way to Treat Yo Self Without Buying or Eating Anything

How are you practicing self care this week, friends? 

 

 

5 Ways You Can End Violence Against Women and Girls

Listen. Dance. Rise!

That’s the beautiful theme for this year’s One Billion Rising campaign, part of a global movement to end violence against women and girls.

Super Scary Fact: 1 in 3 women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Globally, that equals ONE BILLION women.

That’s one billion too many of our sisters, mothers, daughters, mentors, and friends.

Super Awesome Fact: It doesn’t have to be this way, and you can help change things.

Let me tell you a story about vaginas. Yes, vaginas. Back in 1994, there was a totally bomb-ass playwright named Eve Ensler who published a little show called The Vagina Monologues. In it, she shared the stories of over 100 women’s feelings toward their vaginas. Some were happy stories of women discovering themselves, meeting someone who appreciated their body, and affirming their self-love through that admiration. Some were sad stories about the bad experiences that caused them to close up shop forever and forget their bodies could be sources of pleasure. And some were downright brutal stories of rape and mutilation, both here and abroad.

After Ensler performed The Vagina Monologues, women from all over were coming up and reaching out to her, and it seemed they had a lot more to say.

The collection of these stories and experiences make up VDay: a non-profit, global movement to end violence against women and girls. VDay officially falls on February 14th, or Valentine’s Day, but from February through April, campaigns rise to include artistic events, from performances of The Vagina Monologues, to lobbying around government buildings to demand change in rape legislation and to denounce genocide in developing worlds. Additionally, many educational resource fairs provide outreach tools to interested individuals and organizations.

VDay group shotIn 2012, VDay examined the still startling numbers on gender-based violence in the United States and around the world, finding that this violence impacts over one billion women and girls worldwide. Founders and activists rallied to begin the One Billion Rising campaign as a revolt against the violence, using strikes and dance to get people’s attention turned toward this serious issue.

For many women who’ve survived sexual assault, the aftermath can be just as devastating as the trauma itself. Dance has become an integral part of One Billion Rising, because it allows women to reclaim their bodies for themselves. Even though dialogue in the US is improving, rape and sexual abuse are still largely stigmatized, and we’ve seen – even recently with examples in the NFL – how violence against women is treated as a nuisance rather than a human rights issue.

So what should we do? How do we support the revolution to end violence against women and girls?

1. Get Educated

It’s hard to create change when we don’t understand the issue. And the issues are vast and interconnected: human trafficking, female genital mutilation, victims confronting their perpetrators and escaping abusive relationships, just to name a few.

There are over 200 countries participating in VDay events. Remember: ONE BILLION women need your help, so find the closest VDay event to you and join the revolution. Don’t see one in your area? Why not start your own?

2. Make a Donation

VDay signVDay is a non-profit organization based in California, and 89 cents of every dollar donated goes toward ending violence against women and girls around the world. You can also choose to donate to a specific VDay campaign through their website.

Or you can give to your local women’s shelter, family planning clinic, YWCA, or drug rehabilitation center. Many of these agencies are the first to notice signs of domestic abuse, human trafficking, and assault, and all of them help women in crisis.

3. Volunteer

Money from local donations goes a long way, but so does the generosity of your time when you volunteer. Crisis hotlines are always in need of individuals willing to be trained and respond to emergency calls. Community outreach and education are other ways to get involved. Some agencies cover more than one county in their state, but do so with little extra funding or staff. When volunteers get involved, the agency can participate in more events and opportunities to engage the public and share service information. Every bit helps.

4. Be a Social (Justice) Butterfly

VDay dance teamPost photos of your local VDay movement or share a social justice selfie with a sign that reads “Today I rise…” with your personal story or message. Everyone loves a good coffee shop photo or kitten video, but infuse your Instagram page and Twitter feed with messages of support and calls for action, too. Follow @VDay to stay informed, and share your social media using the hashtag #OneBillionRising. Spread the message of respect and social justice for all until the violence stops.

5. Tell a Friend

This one is two-fold. If you’ve been a victim of gender-based violence and have not shared your story, I encourage you to speak up. Today, tomorrow, a year from now –as soon as you are able. Tell a trusted friend, advocate, health care professional, or authority figure. You are not alone.

Lastly, talk to your friends about gender-based violence. It comes in so many forms and can be overwhelming to tackle alone. What do you want to learn more about? Where do you want to make your personal impact? Do you want to see an end to human sex trafficking? Do you want to change the legislation around rape crimes or improve restraining orders? There’s so much work to be done, and it’s always more uplifting when you have a friend beside you.

Remember: this includes men! Some pretty spectacular campaigns like HeForShe and 1 is 2 Many are sprouting up, and I commend the male voices speaking out. Get your father, your brothers, your friends, and your lovers involved.

So start a flash mob, write a letter to your local officials, send some inspiring tweets, and share some from women across the globe. Be there for your fellow sisters at upcoming VDay events, and all the days after until the violence stops.

Do you or someone you love need help with this intense issue? While The Indie Chicks offer awesome advice, we aren’t licensed therapists or trained crisis counselors. We care about you, so please take care of yourself by using the following hotline number to get the help you need:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7244 or 1-800-787-3224
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: 1-866-331-9474
Love is Respect

*Originally published on The Indie Chicks, February 27th, 2015. 

I’m participating in One Billion Rising this year!
Are you? 

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