5 Hottest Women

By "hot" I mean, on fire with amazing ideas and the courage to act on them. 

Also, I don't give a crap how they look in a bathing suit.

Sandra Day O'Connor

She grew up in the desert on a ranch near the Arizona-New Mexico border. She fell off horses, was stung by scorpions, knew the value of water, had a bobcat for a pet, and had mares named Hysterectomy, Scarhead, and HellBitch. She was toughened the old-fashioned way and, of course, became the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice in 1981. 

Susannah Conway

This photographer opened up and showed women how to journal, take pictures, and run a heart-centered business. Her website inspires and attracts women from all over the world to connect and share their stories through art. This post of hers partially inspired mine.

My Sister

Because this is my list, and she's truly remarkable. She's the woman you want by your side when you have a medical emergency, a veterinary emergency, or a bar fight. Need a ninja mom who has both homeschooled her kids and jumped out of airplanes? She is that person and also never loses a handstand contest. She could be the most interesting woman in the world.


I may have made my sister seem like a maniac. What I should have written is this-  

You would never know she had jumped out of airplanes or saved countless people's lives because she is quiet in her strength and she fiercely protects the people she loves. That is the kind of strength I see in her. Just because I have a wild imagination and see her delivering a roundhouse kick to some fool in a dusty old bar who insulted her, doesn't mean she actually did that. It just means she could if she felt like it.

Joan of Arc

In the 1400s she convinced the monarchy to let her lead a 4,000 person army and lower the taxes on her hometown. She wore men's clothing, and had an ironclad belief in herself and her divine role on earth. She was burned at stake for being a heretic and/or a witch. (They burned her twice, just to be sure.) I'm sure her eternal soul greatly appreciated being made a saint 500 years later. Thanks, Men in Power, but she didn't need your validation to be awesome.

Maggie Stiefvater

An intrepid writer, she drags a reader into her stories with incredible figurative language. She also shares her writing process online, which makes her one of my heroes.

This post was inspired by a news story I read yesterday. My nostrils flared, and I exercised to exhaustion, but I was still irritated. I intentionally focus on the good, true, and light in this space, so I won't magnify ignorance, but I will send out some equal and opposite knowledge to counter it.

The feminist fire has been stoked yet again.

Thankful for my "people"

This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the safe place I have to experiment with my writing. I'm thankful for my "people."

I once heard someone say there is no difference between art and prayer. I thought to myself, Yes, that's exactly right.

The fiction I have been writing addresses my deepest fears and my greatest wishes for humanity. I feel an enormous sense of responsibility for communicating those ideas clearly. 

When it comes to writing as art, talent can be built; grammar can be checked; style can be developed. Something like a novel usually starts with a huge, unanswered question, or an intense kernel of inspiration: 

Why do terrible things happen? 

What happens when people act out of fear?

How far should a leader go to protect her people?

What if there is no God? 

What if there is a God?

As a hypersensitive, joy-seeking person, I can often find myself falling into despair when difficult, sad things happen. Instead of hiding in a shell or building up a shield around me, I rewrite reality. I swap out the characters and the setting. I put them in peril and imagine how my protagonist will win out in the end.

So, if you're kind enough to take the time to evaluate someone's art, acknowledge what it takes for a person to put herself out there. Then find something helpful to say about what she shared before you give constructive criticism. 

I'm lucky to be surrounded by supportive family and friends who read endless drafts, laugh at my mistakes with me, and make me feel heard and understood in a very deep way.

Thank you, People.

For the Ladies and the not-so-ladylike Ladies

Someone recently suggested that I stop "airing my dirty laundry" in public. I'm grateful for that encounter because it made me want to dump the whole basket of laundry out. It also reminded me that I speak for those who can't. 

Suffering in silence isn't noble and can impede spiritual growth. 

My job is to be the best version of myself. I already tried not speaking. I hid stories and tried to suffocate them by not breathing. It made me sick. Writing the truth, even when it's not palatable, fills my lungs and banishes mental gremlins.

I don't view what I do as putting my problems on display. Writing is therapeutic because you can hold your thoughts in your hands. You can read them over with fresh eyes another day. You can light them on fire. You can even stash them in a locked drawer. The point is you have acknowledged something. They are less powerful that way.

Ever since I was a headstrong twenty-something, I have been overwhelmed by what my female ancestors have offered me in this lifetime. I remember saying to one of my favorite aunts when she asked me what I might write about years ago: "It always comes back to the women for me."

No disrespect to the men. I simply have a sacred duty to tell the women's stories. I find myself drawn again and again to the polarities of women - the heaviness and lightness they embody.

The heaviness is the kind that you feel when gathering clay in your hands and kneading it - earthy, watery, muddy. It's the life-giving creative force from which we're born. The lightness is the belief in things unseen that we use to endure the endless cycles of waiting, wounding, and forgiving ourselves.   

We all have stories passed down in our families of amazing people that came before us. They lived the kinds of strenuous lives that make our problems seem insignificant. My grandmother baked bread from scratch for her Mennonite family in an outdoor oven every day as a girl. She gathered the fuel from the fields, burned it down to just the right temperature, and baked the loaves she would feed to her parents and eight brothers and sisters.

I'm not going to lie. Older people used to irritate me when they tried to put their limits around what I said and did. It felt suffocating and frankly, it flew in the face of my unhealthy need to please and comfort people around me. In those cases, I couldn't be true to myself and abide by their rules.

At some point, though, I recognized that their journeys started long before mine and I couldn't possibly know all that they knew. They had different limitations to destroy and different scandals to incite - no less important than my own. 

My compromise was this: I heard them, accepted them, and respected them. Then I still went ahead and did whatever it was that seemed so scandalous.

Because my generation's job is to not wear pantyhose. (That was the first thing I knew for sure.)

Our next job is just to say it. 

Say it out of a loving place with impeccably chosen words, but say it nonetheless. If we don't say it, the next generation will have to.

             So, here goes:

            "No, I will not participate in ever-higher expectations for kids. Yes, I am going to hold dinnertime as an untouchable event, and no sports or school presentations or anything else will interfere with it."

             "No, I will not calm down. My anger, grief, sadness, and ebullience are natural emotions and won't stuff them into a tiny box."

             "No, I will not blindly accept society's labels.  Yes, I define myself. My worth is what I say it is."

             "No, I will not stop talking."

10 Steps to Writing a Book

To write a great novel:

1.     First you have to write a garbage, nonsense novel. 

2.     You need to shred that draft and shout, "I hate writing!" 

3.     You have to fall in love with the seed of your story again.

4.     Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have written a "meh" novel that's disjointed. You must ignore proper nutrition, grammar, and personal hygiene to simply get words onto the page.

5.     You have to dream at night inside the fictional world you've been creating from the ground up for a year.

6.     You must take a risk and share the 15th draft. You need to print it out and suddenly see your work in a whole new light, unworthy of sharing. 

7.     You have to share it anyway - to get perspective.

8.     While they're reading it, you have to reassure yourself that no one writes a cohesive inspiring book in just a few drafts, bring your reader some coffee, and keep the kids in the basement so they're not disturbed.

9.     Working through the plot holes one by one, you must focus on the finished product and edit until your vision is blurry.

That's all I know so far, but...

10.    I'm pretty sure this step  involves letting go of "perfect" and releasing your story into the wild in the hopes that it entertains, inspires, and elicits joy from its readers.

So, if you see me wandering through the grocery store in yoga pants and fuzzy hair murmuring to myself, I didn't stop taking my medication. I'm just being a writer.

I'm Writing the Post I Need to Read Today

The mental Reset button on my brain has been pushed. I was crushed the morning after the election.

Sometimes something so fundamentally strange and jarring happens that I can't even begin to process it right away. In these cases, I allow myself the feelings that bubble up, whether they're angry, humbling, or devastating.

Then I put one foot in front of the other.

I call on the best parts of myself:  the hope, the creativity, the faith in education, the understanding and the pure compassion. I meditate, make a cup of tea, hug a friend, immerse myself in art, and of course, write.

Since I have bipolar disorder, I have lots of practice waiting - not acting until I can see more clearly. This was one of those times. So, a few of days after Trump was elected to represent me, my daughter, and the rest of America I'll say my piece.

I haven't been loud about it in the past but I am a Feminist. 

I have always been a feminist, I just usually call it "being loving." I love myself enough to believe that I'm worthy of joy. This whole blog is me being a feminist. Staying at home with my kids is me being a feminist. 

I know that most men are thoughtful loving people who aren't afraid of women. They understand that raising the status of women doesn't take anything away from men, and is, in fact, one mark of a successful society. 

I wanted to make this statement because I have loads of friends that think differently than I do. They abhor the word feminist. Many of those friends suggested people should be quiet and stop complaining after the election.

Ummm . . . No.  I still love you, but No.

That's not what I do. It actually triggers warning bells in my head when people tell me to be quiet. That usually means I'm on the right track. I speak for women who can't speak for themselves. I speak for women who are tied to and dependent on good-old-boys - - the women who grew up being good girls and feel it's better to be ladylike than to have a dissenting opinion.

I've been reminded of how easily things change when we operate under the "might makes right" philosophy.

This magazine lives between my Kings James Bible
 and my Harry Potter books. I like to stay well-rounded.

I don't live in an echo chamber. 

I do the hard work of hashing out differences with people who are not like-minded. It's dangerous and insulting to stereotype people who disagree with me, believing they're universally racist or misogynist. That's overly simplistic and not at all accurate.

I'm one of the progressive liberals who heard the rumblings of discontent from secret Trump supporters. I still believed Clinton was the better choice and that meant she would be elected.

Some of my friends can't afford healthcare. Some of them believed voting Clinton into office would open the gates to Hell. I read an article written by a Muslim woman of color who voted for Trump explaining that she took the risk that the people wouldn't let him act on the hyperbolic statements he made during his campaign. She wasn't making it financially and was anti-establishment.

These are my questions: Who is the establishment now? Have we killed decency and equality hoping that things won't spin terribly out of control? 

I hope not.

I hope Trump and his team work furiously through this dark night and astonish us all with their plans for unification and progress.

That's where I'm putting my hope. More practically, just in case the hyperbolic and hateful promises Trump made actually happen, I'm preparing for battle.

When I started studying feminism seriously, I was presented with the old guard feminists who wanted to work within the system as it was to improve the status of women. There was another group that believed the current system was built on flawed ideas and needed to be burnt to the ground and reformed.

I tended to side with the old guard. I was young, peaceful, and hopeful. The unfortunate side effect of my own country electing a man who has sexually assaulted women (among other things) is that I'm reconsidering whether or not this system provides what we need.

The only thing I'm sure of, is that this is NOT the time to be quiet. If anything, I've been too quiet.

Poetry and lyrics can crystallize ideas. Here is a gem that amplifies what I'm currently feeling:

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
    purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

--Naomi Shihab Nye, from The Words Under the Words

Living in Two Worlds

I am officially participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. This really means that I am living in two worlds: the regular, mundane world of mom business & the exciting world of fantasy fiction.

It's my second time attempting National Novel Writing Month. Last year was a reality check - a fantastic "growth experience," I like to call it.

My goal is to write 2100 words a day of fiction. This translates into 3 writing sprints of 45 minutes each. No internet, no phone, and no cleaning. That last part might sound strange, but I can honestly admit that I dusted the top of my kitchen cabinets last week purely to avoid writing.

I have completed 1 sprint of the 90 sprints for the month. I thought that warranted a blog post. I need to celebrate that fact that I am actually doing what I set out to do. Not only that, but it is now 1.1% completed!

As an amusing side note, I thought I'd include a list of some of the things I've googled while researching for my book.


1. Are maggots safe to eat?

2. Bald eagle poacher high on drugs

This picture cracks me up.

3. French surnames in 1900 Missouri

4. Supershear earthquakes

5.  Is comeuppance a real word?

6. Minerals found in southern Illinois caves

7. Sexiest name for male protagonist (because my husband insisted I not use his name.)

8. Ways to die in Shawnee forest (Answer: Hypothermia & Water-born illness are the most common. Since these seemed decidedly un-romantic, I went with falling off the magnificent bluffs along the river.)

I'll keep you posted on my progress with NaNoWriMo & my googling.

It's time to slip back into my fantasy world. Ready, Set, Go!