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Aging? Who, Me?

agine who meAging is strange. I hear that word and immediately think of people older than me- like, much older. I feel like the word “aging” does not even apply to me. Same with middle age.

I mean, we are all aging right? Somehow though it doesn’t feel the same when talking about a 24 year old woman and a 44 year old woman.

I went through what may have been an intense midlife crisis a few years ago. I’ve called it a mental break down because that’s what it was.

During that breakdown/crisis I started to feel my “age”. I was 42 at the time, maybe 41.

I seriously started to wonder what the point of anything was. I was on the downhill. The best parts of my life were behind me. The fit and athletic body that could pick up a basketball and play a quick game without even feeling it the next day. The ability to eat whatever I wanted without consequence to my hips. Skin and a smile that wouldn’t quit. All of that was changing and I kept doing the math about how many years I might have left.

At my annual dermatology appointment that year my doctor told me the brown spot on my face was nothing to be concerned about. It was just an age spot. “My grandmother had those”, I might have mumbled out loud.

I think what made me feel the most sad during that period was that I had not lived a life I wanted. I had not done the things that, at my core, felt like me. I worked at a job out of obligation. I got married. I had two kids. I stayed home with them. I don’t regret the last 3 of these.

When I was in my early 20’s I wanted nothing more than to move to New York City. I know, I know. It’s cliche. I really wanted to though. People did it. My sister did it.

My sense of duty combined with the non-existent self worth that came with being a college drop out kept me in my small New Hampshire town. It was okay. I was lucky enough to make an incredible circle of friends, whom, all these years later I could not have done a better job of hand picking.

I started a successful blog. I got some writing published. I was interviewed for a national magazine. The woman who interviewed me was a real, honest-to-goodness, published writer. I loved her work and I was a little star struck.

I confessed to her that I had always dreamed of being a writer. I was in my early thirties at the time. “What do you mean?” she asked, “you already are”. Without her seeing, I cried.

A cross-country move, failing mental health, and other professional opportunities pulled me further away from this dream. I did not know how to pursue a freelance career. I believed that a college drop out could not be a writer, at least not today. I bought into the idea that an MFA was a pre-req for achieving your dreams. I read the words “if you can be anything besides a writer, be that.”

A couple of years later I read the words “I don’t know how I feel about that until I have had a chance to write”. Suddenly, the words my interviewer said to me swirled in my head along with the ones I was reading. As though through a time traveling machine I thought back to my many, many stacks of journals- kept from the time I was 8. I thought of all the things stored on my computers over the years, too. A piece for every major life experience; starting college, being at my grandmother’s death bed, becoming a mother, my changing views on religion.

The intention of these pieces was never publication. They were written for me, to process my thoughts.

My time spent blogging taught me that grammar is not my friend and that my eyes have a block to spelling mistakes and typos. Surely, this does not a good writer make.

But now I am 44. Almost 45. It seems all the reasons that stopped me from doing what I love matter less. A critic pokes fun at my writing? So? Someone shines a light on my flawed thinking? And? The grammar police say “and?” is not a full sentence?  Yeah?

At 44 what others think of me and what I love to do is not much more than something I glance at in my peripheral vision. This is a far cry from the thin skinned people pleaser I once was, which in part led to my mental breakdown.

I have done my work and am not just stable but thriving. Now, instead of feeling like life is over or has passed me by I am excited. I love being 40 something. I love the freedom that comes with it. I love owning my story. I love that, in so many ways, I feel like things are just beginning.

So maybe my body won’t recover so quickly after a game of pick-up. Maybe the wrinkles in my skin make me look more like 54 than 44. Maybe my hips have inched up to a number I never thought I’d see.

That’s okay. These hips have just started shaking and they don’t care who is watching.

Play: It all Starts with Yes!

it all starts wtih saying yesIt starts with saying yes.

Yes to jumping on the trampoline even though everything jiggles.

Yes to the zip line even though the harness accentuates all the “wrong” places.

Yes to putting on a suit and going for that swim. Even though our self-talk is telling us that we are a beached whale.

Yes to shooting hoops even though our belly adds a new element.

Yes to thinking it might be okay to stop thinking about how “fat” we are.

Yes to thinking it might not matter what shape our body is or how much weight we have gained since high school.

Yes to letting ourselves go for 60 seconds without reminding ourselves of how lazy we must be for “letting ourself get here.”

Yes to walking into an event excited about meeting new people instead of standing in a way that best camouflages our upper arms.

Yes to being okay that a whole day has gone by without thinking about the number on our clothing tag.

Yes to chatting and laughing with our girlfriend as we thoroughly enjoy every last bit of pasta on our plate.

Yes to being excited that we hadn’t realized we never even thought about it.

It all starts with yes, it seems.

Before we know it playing is natural again. Saying yes without considering how our ass/belly/arms/thighs will look is our default.

Before we know it, we are LIVING again, or maybe for the first time.

Before we know it we realize that the people classifying our legs as thunder thighs are not our people anyway.

Before we know it we realize how many minutes, hours, years, and decades we have WASTED not saying yes.

Before we know it, we commit to breaking this cycle. So that our daughters never have to waste a minute not saying yes.

So that our sons see what women look like. That we move and jiggle and eat and laugh and play.

So that our sons see that we are people.

Saying yes may not be easy at first. It might be really uncomfortable, in fact.

It’s worth it though. I promise, it’s worth it.

Morning Routine: A Gift From Our Guests

From the gallows of anxiety to thriving. A morning routine is one of many practical gifts I have received from guests.

If you have followed Real Women’s Work from the beginning you know that its impetus was my faulty mental health. I was in one of the worst bouts of anxiety I’d ever experienced. This is not the space to take you to the depths I reached, but know that it was lower than I knew existed.

From the gallows of anxiety to thriving. A morning routine is one of many practical gifts I have received from guests.
From the gallows of anxiety to thriving. A morning routine is one of many practical gifts I have received from guests.

Not only did listening to the words of women help to build my confidence, rationality, and calm my mind, but hearing how they started their day was one of many unexpected gifts.

When I wrote the question “what is the first thing you do when you get to work and is it the same every day?” I expected the answers to revolve around checking calendars, opening e-mails or checking in with team. When our first guest answered differently, I suspected it was simply because of the nature of her work. But guest after guest answered this question by sharing her morning routine.

The routines differ. Some start with green tea and a run. Others start with meditation and fancy coffee. Some start with reading or prayer. One thing became clear though; each guest had a morning routine- something I had never had.

Like so many things Real Women’s Work has given me, the wisdom of women continues to pull me from my lows, build my confidence, and show me how to be better.

I started to research morning routines. From The Miracle Morning to prayer and marathon training, I realized that most of the women I admire start their day intentionally. So, about 6 months ago I adopted my first morning routine.

What Morning Routine is Working?

I’ve tweaked the routine and kept it somewhat flexible to accomodate my reality of being a homeschooling working mom. I cannot always do as much of each part of my routine as I would like, but generally, Monday through Friday I start my day as follows:

It takes 45-60 minutes to complete my routine in full and is based on the Miracle Morning.

Sometimes I cannot complete it in one chunk. If one of my kids wakes up in the middle of my routine, I pause. I start back up again once they are settled into something. So sometimes I do not finish my morning routine until noon. Mostly though, I am up (intentionally) in plenty of time before the kids get up so that I can comfortably get through the whole thing- including showering and dressing!

Having a morning routine that is based on gratitude, self improvement, calm, presence, intention, movement, increasing my self worth, and filling my body and mind with thoughts and movements that will make me better has improved each of my days. These days, of course, add up to make up my life.

When I started Real Women’s Work I wanted to create a space for women’s voices. While this remains true, I now understand how much more it can be; a place of wisdom, positivity, connection, gratitude, and common sense.

Real Women’s Work can be a place where women connect exactly as they are- where we utilize the strengths of other women to guide us through our own challenges. A space where we listen quietly to words honestly shared. Words of truth, anguish, sorrow, joy, silliness, anger, injustice, happiness, perseverance, confidence, fear, authenticity, naivite, ignorance, wisdom, experience, love, and support. The words authentically and generously offered so that we can connect and be better, happier, women.

A morning routine is one of the many practical tools I have gained from hosting Real Women’s Work Podcast. Not only has this helped me climb from the gallows of anxiety, it has reminded me of how much women offer.

We are part of something necessary and important here and I am excited about where we are going. My goal now is not only to create a space for women to share how they work, but for all women seeking it to have these spoken words build their confidence, skills, tools, and resources so that all who need it can rise up to live the lives we want to lead.

As always, I am so very, very glad that you are here!

You can listen to Real Women’s Work by clicking here. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media to stay connected!

5 Women of Color Who Were the First!

I have so been enjoying learning about different women! I find myself amazed at how many women I have never heard of- important women! Women who have made significant and measurable impact on our society and world. While women’s work in general is largely unaccounted for in History books, or is inaccurately attributed to men, Women of Color have far less acknowledgment of their contributions.

As I was looking for the stories of Women of Color to share on Social Media one thing became profoundly clear; we need to know these amazing women. We need to know their stories and their accomplishments. We need to reflect on how many of these women we do not know. We need to consider why that is. Most importantly, we need to make a conscious and intentional effort to familiarize ourselves with the accomplishments of Women of Color from the past, and be sure we amplify the voices of Women of Color who today are accomplishing great things.

Many of us wonder what we can do to make the world a better place. Learning about these women and telling your friends and children about them is one easy, tangible, and effective thing you can do! This is a win-win. The more we learn about what all women have done and are capable of doing, the more our own confidence and trust in ourselves and our capabilities grow.

So take a few minutes to learn a little about these women. And tell your friends.

Josephine Holloway, Established First Southern Girls Scout Troop for Girls of Color

” A woman named Josephine Holloway led the effort to make Southern states include African-American scouts. Not only did she organize multiple troops without the organization’s official sanction, but she fought a long battle with the Girl Scouts to have them recognized. She persisted for years until one of the region’s first African-American Girl Scout troops was established in 1942, the Girl Scouts’ official blog writes. Today, a camp bears her name and she is recognized as a pioneer within the organization.”
Read full post by clicking here.

Mae Carol Jemison, First African-American Women in Space

“Mae C. Jemison (born October 17, 1956) is an American astronaut and physician who, on June 4, 1987, became the first African-American woman to be admitted into NASA’s astronaut training program. On September 12, 1992, Jemison finally flew into space with six other astronauts aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, becoming the first African-American woman in space. In recognition of her accomplishments, Jemison has received several awards and honorary doctorates. “ Read full post by clicking here.

Lorraine Hansberry, First Black Woman to Write a Broadway Play

“Lorraine Hansberry, child of a cultured, middle-class black family but early exposed to the poverty and discrimination suffered by most blacks in America, fought passionately against racism in her writings and throughout her life. Best known for her plays, Hansberry was the first black woman to write a Broadway drama; A Raisin in the Sun (1959) became the longest-running black play in Broadway’s history and made many consider Hansberry the most promising playwright of her generation, although her career was cut short by her early death.”  Read full post by clicking here.

Shirley Chisolm, First African American woman in Congress

“Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was the first African American woman in Congress (1968) and the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties (1972). Her motto and title of her autobiography—Unbossed and Unbought—illustrated her outspoken advocacy for women and minorities during her seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.” Read full post by clicking here.

Bessie Coleman, First Civilian Licensed African-American Pilot in the World

“Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas, in 1892 and soon joined her family in the cotton fields. In Chicago years later, Bessie decided she would become a flier. She had to go to France to find a school that would take her, as the skies proved easier to conquer than contemporary prevailing stereotypes. Fulfilling her dream sparked a revolution and led the way for new generations of dreamers and future aviation legends, such as the Tuskegee airmen.” Read full post by clicking here.

Learning about what other women do builds our confidence, inspires us, and helps us realize our own capabilities. Here are 5 Women of Color who were the first at what they did!

I hope you have enjoyed learning about these women and their important contributions to our world. One of the coolest things about doing this is that we start to look for contributions from women -all women- throughout history right into modern day. Just watch. It happens and it’s super cool!

Will you share some other Women of Color we should know about in the comments?

Valentine’s Day Recipes Created by Women for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert!

Valentine’s Day Recipes by Women for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner!

The further I get into Real Women’s Work I find myself paying closer attention to what women are doing. We are everywhere. We are doing all the cool things. We are inventing, creating, serving, loving, fighting, advocating, caring, and so much more.

As I thought about what February means to people, I realized that the food space is dominated by women. The women who are most well known have a lot more to do than creating and cooking recipes. They are running businesses. Whether it’s a blog, cookbook, or TV show there is so much that goes into becoming a well known food personality- and none of it is happenstance.

So today I want to share a few of their recipes with you. Make them with your daughter, your mother, your sister, or your best friend. Spend some time learning about the woman who created the recipe before you bake it. Check out her social media. Read her about page. Commit 3 or 4 tidbits about her to share with your baking buddy as you make her recipe.

If you are baking with your daughter learn about the recipe creator together, if she’s up for it. Talk through the timeline of her life- how she started, what inspired her, the work she’s put in… as much as you are able to gather while keeping it fun.

This crazy awesome thing happens the more that we learn about all the amazing things women are doing: it makes us realize our own capabilities. It breaks down barriers that were invisible all along. It encourages us to try new things. It opens our eyes to possibilities we may not have realized were there.

I hope you enjoy learning about these women as much as I have. I’ll be thinking of you reading about them, trying their recipes, and telling other women about them as you make the recipes together.

Author’s Note: I am going to make one of these recipes and write down a few facts about the woman who created it. I am going to wrap them in some simple, nice, packaging and bring them to the three women who run our leasing office. Feel free to steal the idea! Happy Valentine’s Day and enjoy learning about these women!

Chocolate Covered Katie

Hailed by Glamour magazine as “The Queen of Healthy Desserts”, Katie started Chocolate Covered Katie as a just-for-fun food blog. Now a full time blogger, Katie has endured her share of internet fodder. Nonetheless, she has built one of the top 30 cooking websites on the web!

Click here to read more about Katie and remember to hang onto a couple of facts to share with other women in your life!

Click here to spice things up at lunchtime with a Yellow Curry Thai soup recipe.

Jessica in the Kitchen

An award winning photographer and videographer, Jessica is now a full-time blogger who shares her experience moving to a vegan diet with her readers. In addition to sharing recipes and tips, Jessica also offers guides for various situations- like Valentine’s Day, Going Vegan, and tips for creators on Pinterest.

I love learning from women who have followed their passion and are doing the things they love, don’t you? Click here to learn more about Jessica. Click here for Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting Valentine’s Dessert Recipe.

The Minimalist Baker

Dana is the founder or The Minimalist Baker and not only shares 10 ingredient or less healthy recipes, she also offers food photo and video courses for aspiring food bloggers. She has authored both hard copy and e-books and serves as an inspiration to many! You can read more about The Minimalist Baker by clicking here.

Click here for a Shiitake Mushroom Risotto Valentine’s Day Dinner.

Chocolate for Basil

“As women we are faced with this funny little paradox every single day between wanting to enjoy our food and being criticized when we do. I mean, come on, I’m just not going to eat salads every day of my life. That’s just not me. And now I’m finally at peace knowing that I am taking something that I love -food- and I’m turning into something empowering, something that gives me agency. And that is why I cook.”

Where’s the googly eye emoji, right?! In addition to being a food blogger, Jerrelle Guy writes for publications like The Boston Globe and The Kitchn, all while attending Boston University as a Grad Student. (Are you feeling inspired by her so far?)

Just watch this:

Click here to learn more about Jerrelle Guy and Chocolate for Basil. Click here for a Strawberries and Cream Valentine’s Breakfast recipe from Chocolate and Basil!

Did you try these recipes? Did you share some with other women? What was something inspiring you took from learning about these women? Will you share in the comments?

Real Women’s Work: A Perfectly Imperfect Space for Women

Real Women’s Work: A Perfectly Imperfect Space for Women

As we approach episode 20 of Real Women’s Work I am astounded. I expected to learn a lot from doing this podcast and talking with so many women. I could not, however, have imagined the depth of understanding I would gain so quickly.

My vision for Real Women’s Work was that these weekly conversations would not only give us more connection and understanding of how our days are spent, but that we would learn a lot more about each other, too. I thought that if we heard how a receptionist spends her day we would feel  more connected to the woman who greets us when walking into our doctor’s office. I hoped that by listening to a marketing professional talk not only about everything she has learned to promote solar energy, but also about the wise and valuable lessons she has learned while building her career, we would understand the human resources available to us. I envisioned us listening to a court reporter talk about how she does what she does and being mesmerized by something we thought was pretty straightforward. I imagined these combined stories allowing us to know more about each other and to wonder more about each other, too.

This is what is happening. This, and so much more.

I recently heard Katie Couric (I LOVE her podcast) say that she thinks the reason podcasts are gaining in popularity is because it is one of the only places we can hear deep conversations. They get us beyond the sound bites and curated bits to hear real, deep, and meaningful conversations. My experience as a listener is that Katie (can I call her that? 🙂 ) is spot on. I love listening to podcasts by women talking with women. I feel gratitude when they articulate something I’d been trying to understand myself. My loneliness diminishes when I realize that someone else has experienced the same feeling or fear. My confidence builds when I hear a woman talk about how she did it anyway.

As a host, the experience is very different. When I am talking with a woman I have to remind myself that I am steering the conversation. So many times I am totally caught up in what they are saying and I forget we are doing an interview. I have to choose which follow up questions to ask, right there in the moment, usually wishing we had hours more to chat! There is so much value, insight, and wisdom to be offered by these -and all- women.

As this podcast evolves I will get better at deciding which questions to ask. My skills at making sure the volumes are level (eek!) will improve. My understanding of how to promote these important voices will increase. One thing that I know is already perfect though, is that we have created another space for women’s voices. In my lifetime, in my daughter’s lifetime, there will not be enough space for us to share our stories. Real Women’s Work will continue to improve technically, but the space… the space is already perfect, simply because it is here.

Got Moxie?

Sometimes you sit in your car wondering if you should go in. You’re late. You know nobody. You’ve never been to an event with this group. You’re sure you’ll *not* go in. But before you turn the car back on to leave you decide to use a text-a-friend.

You can either text the friend who will tell you it’s too late to go in and affirm your reasons for leaving, or you text someone else. Who you text right then is a choice.

Then you are sitting in the event and hear not only an inspiring comedian, but realize you are surrounded by a hundred women who get it. For the first time -maybe ever- but certainly since this shift.

And they talk about Oprah. Positively. They cheer her. And they say fuck. And an attorney gets up to talk about how improving life for women means improving Colorado- and she puts her money and time into achieving it. And the speakers mess up their words and don’t apologize. They just keep going.

Moxie 1

And when the event is over and you drive around the city for a while blasting P!NK, you realize that even though life’s taken a different path it’s never too late to write your own ending.

Thanks Melissa for so quickly typing back with the word “YES!”. It was an awesome night. #thisgirlsgotmoxie #itwasthereallalong

Moxie 2

This Year My Focus is Healing

I don’t make New Years Resolutions. Each year I choose a word- something to keep in my mind that will improve my life. In the past I’ve chosen words like fun, community, and travel. This year the word I’ve chosen is kind.

In my quest to recover from being a people pleaser I’ve lost some of my kindness. I’m okay with that. It needed to happen so I could learn to be authentic. But it’s time to keep it in my mind again.

This year, in addition to my word, I have a focus. It sounds kind of corny or desperate or something, but it is neither of those things. The focus I have for 2018 is healing.

focus is healing

I think we all have stuff we haven’t healed from. I’ve come to understand the importance of healing in creating the life I want.

I have an anxiety disorder. I’ve dealt with it my whole life. I never took the time or steps to heal from the trauma that’s caused. I’ve never practiced healing from my traumatic pregnancy/cancer diagnosis with Owen 10 years ago or from job loss, or from a having a partner who had to travel so much with two babies at home, or from our move cross-country or from lost friendships or smear campaigns. I haven’t taken the time or actions that are necessary to heal from these things. I haven’t ignored these realities, I just haven’t taken the steps to heal. Without healing, how can I really move forward?

Having an anxiety disorder and choosing to focus on healing this year does not make me weak. Not dealing with them does.

I have watched friends like TaraAngie, and Jennifer share their journeys publicly. Watching their journeys has had a significant impact on my life. Their journeys have changed me, challenged me, and encouraged me to learn about self compassion.

Sharing something this personal is way out of my comfort zone. But I know the gift I was given by the three women above who chose to share their journeys, so this year I’ll share some of mine. I’ve been told appropriately sharing helps with healing too.

I’m evaluating where I spend my time, which endeavors I continue, and what things bring me peace and joy. I’m taking up new hobbies and bringing back some of my favorites- like reading, writing, and listening to music. I’m moving past my anxiety to connect with people because that fills my soul most of all.

It sounds cheesy, I know. It’s also real.

I know what I’ve achieved in my life before healing. It’s fun to imagine what I’ll achieve after ❤️

Any resources or insights you are willing to share are welcome! Here’s to a year of kindness and healing!