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Archive for the ‘Self-Confidence’ Category

As life goes on and as I grow older, I have begun to worry that I have lost my sparkle. I didn’t realize when I was younger how very important it is for a woman to have her diamond-sparkle-700x394sparkle – an inner glow, an intense shine that defines your heart, your soul, your vitality. A woman’s sparkle is the light that glows in her and as my life has changed, I started thinking maybe my light had gone out.

When I was younger, the sparkle that I had was a sort of glitter – like the roughy, gritty bits that you sprinkle on art projects and kids’ crafts. I was rough myself, not worried about being particularly girly or feminine. I had my horses, I had my books, and while I wanted to be popular and pretty, I managed to forge my way as the girl next door, the reliable friend, the good student, and the non-threatening nerd. Ask anyone who went to high school with me, I wasn’t a standout for my sparkle. But that sparkle was there like that pretty glitter on paper – naïve, youthful, unsophisticated, yet reflecting a light that glowed within me in its own childlike way.

As I became a young woman, that glitter softened into a shimmery lamé material – like those glitzy cocktail dresses or fancy interior decorating touches, soft and pliant and molded into whatever is needed. As a college student and into my 20’s, I aimed only to be smart and kind and easygoing. I wanted to be pretty and feminine but often fell short and, in hindsight, never was quite as glamorous or exotic as I’d hoped. But I still shimmered, my glow was still there, it just softened and matured.

Now that I’m on my way to middle-age, my sparkle has been hardened into a diamond – formed from hardship and pressure but still shining like the sun and preciously valuable. Like that lump of coal, I had to survive in a dark place under intense stress and pain in order to discover that glitter and shimmer within my depths. I admit now that my sparkle is harder, more sharp and intense than it used to be, but thank God, still very much there.

So, ladies, if you are ever in doubt that your sparkle is gone, think back on your life. Embrace those experiences and relationships that have threatened to extinguish your inner light –and celebrate because they didn’t! Cherish those people around you who love you for exactly how bright you shine and allow you to be unique and precious and priceless. And please continue to let your sparkle shine – glowing, incandescent and proud!

 “I encourage you to remember that you are, indeed, as the stars. You glow with the same intensity. The answers that you seek outside of yourself may very well be found within the cosmic intelligence inside you. Go ahead; show the world what you are made of! Sparkle, shine, light the way, and brightly blaze as you are meant to do.”  ― Mishi McCoy

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When I was a kid, I developed an obsession with the 1955 movie of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!. I don’t actually know why this movie was so interesting to me – I can’t even remember when I first became fascinated but I do know I drove my family crazy by playing that VHS almost daily. And I also remember that even then I had no interest in the character of ‘Laurie’, the female romantic lead. Besides one empowering moment of being a strong independent woman in “Many A New Day,” she generally is kind of a wimp. Given the expected roles of women and the gender norms of the days in which both the Broadway production and the movie were made, I shouldn’t be surprised that ‘Laurie’ was young and pretty and looking for a man to complete her, to dream only of making a marriage and of which handsome man will bid on her pretty picnic basket. In popular culture at those times, the characters that were instead allowed to be strong, independent females were usually older, widowed or spinstered women who could offer the sage wisdom of their years and experience.
Enter the character of ‘Aunt Eller’ in Oklahoma!. Even as a kid I recognized that she wasOklahoma_M (2) just plain amazing! She gets to be sassy and sarcastic, she gets to two-step with the cowboys and look at dirty pictures with them and wave a gun at the town leaders. She gets to be kind and loving to her niece and strong and supportive when things go bad. She gets the funny lines, the scene-saving moments, and the homespun charm of a lovable character.
When my high school put on the production of Oklahoma! in my senior year, I was devastated to learn that I had to choose between the honor of representing my region on a trip to the Model United Nations in The Hague, Netherlands OR to fulfill my dream of bringing ‘Aunt Eller’ to the stage. As my father loves to tell the story, I cried for weeks over this horrible event. In hindsight, I am eternally grateful that I took the chance to travel abroad and to have that incredible and unique lifetime experience in the Netherlands and Russia – BUT I can admit that I also regret missing the chance to be ‘Eller’ for even just those few months.
That regret stems mostly from the fact that now, as an adult, I can understand and honor the type of character and the type of woman that ‘Aunt Eller’s’ creators crafted. As a grown woman with more of that famous life experience and less of the high school naivete, I can more deeply appreciate the strength of this character.
Like her counterpart in Carousel, ‘Nettie Fowler’, ‘Eller’ is the foundation of the town and the support system to whom our lovelorn-clueless-tragic female lead turns to when life falls apart in the climactic moments of the show. Her advice when a character dies and threatens the beginning of ‘Laurie’ and ‘Curly’s’ marriage is:
“If you cain’t fergit, jist don’t try to, honey. Oh, lots of things happen to folks. Sickness, er bein’ pore and hungry even-bein’ old and afeared to die. That’s the way it is-cradle to grave. And you can stand it. They’s one way. You gotta be hearty, you got to be. You cain’t deserve the sweet and tender in life less’n you’re tough.”
As in Carousel, once more, a Rodgers and Hammerstein character reminds us to hold our heads high and to keep pushing forward when life gets difficult.
But to me, the quintessential Eller shines through in this one simple line: “I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else, but I’ll be damned if I ain’t jist as good.” It has taken me a lifetime to learn this lesson well, to realize that I don’t live my life for anyone else but me. I FINALLY have grasped the concept that no one, NO ONE, can sit in judgement of me or my life choices. I’m never going to be a millionaire or a Broadway star or a Rhodes scholar. I’m going to live a quiet life and hopefully make a small difference to someone. I don’t have anything that makes me special or noteworthy – I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else. But I am who I am and the older I get, the more comfortable I have become in my own skin. I have my scars and a chip on my shoulder and a list of mistakes that is 9 miles long. But I will no longer allow anyone to put me down or say that I’m not good enough – I’ll be damned if I ain’t jist as good.
So thank you ‘Aunt Eller’ and thank you Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein for creating happy moments from my childhood and learning moments in my adulthood.

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When a person, male or female, goes through a divorce, I am convinced that they go through The Slut Phase of their lives. Now this is my own personal theory and based only on anecdotal evidence observed by me as I have watched countless friends and relations go through the breakdowns of their marriages – and I myself lived it. So there is no real science to this theory, only personal observations. I’m not particularly proud of this portion of my life – as I would guess most people aren’t in hindsight – but it happens and if you’re living it, you’re not alone.

When you are newly-separated and/or newly-divorced, you will flirt with, bat your eyelashes at, and ultimately sleep with pretty much anybody that crosses your path that takes an interest. That other person may be plug ugly or stupid or mean or crazy or have a prison record or be juggling 15 other girlfriends. But if they want to talk to you, you will jump at that chance for attention and affection.

I think it has to do with self esteem. And self worth, And self confidence. All of which take major bloody blows in the process of a divorce. Especially, god forbid, if you are not the one initiating the process. You feel hopeless and worthless, like you have lost any appealing qualities that you might have once had. You doubt your attractiveness, your brains, your ability to ever catch the eye of a decent person ever again. In short, you take what you can get and you take a lot of it.

But, rest assured, that phase passes. You wear yourself out, you get bored with the shallowness of it all, 41Ghi3tagLLyou open your eyes to the crazies and the losers. You discover there’s still a lot of yourself left after all – and you want more out of your life. And, unless you harbored a Sense of Slut prior to being in the initial relationship (which, as we all know, some people do), you step out of the Slut Phase and move onto the next chapter.

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Girls, I don’t care how intelligent we are or how much time we spend around men – our brains just don’t work the way theirs do. Our emotions do not play on the same field as theirs do. And the compartments for our feelings and our experiences don’t always mesh.

One of my best guy friends offered me some very sage advice as I began the tedious and challenging process of getting back into dating several years ago. He told me that guys will treat a girl like a convenience store if she’ll let them – hitting them up when its convenient for their needs, stopping in for what they want, and then leaving quick. Cheap, easy, no niceties, and no luxuries. (Ironically, at the phase in my life when this advice was being offered to me by that friend, HE was one of the customers that frequently stopped in to my convenience store but that’s another saga…). At any rate, this advice was actually an eye opener for me and made me realize that was an incredibly wise piece of life wisdom. It made me realize that I want more out of my life than to be a 7-11 – I want to at least be an Applebees, applebees_0dammit! I don’t have any false pretensions to being a 5-star restaurant or a high-end department store – but I do have enough self worth to not let someone just treat me casually and carelessly and then move on down the line. I want more, I need more and I definitely deserve more!

So girls of all ages and experience levels, I can only pass on this bit of wisdom from the guy brain – don’t be a convenience store for any man! Don’t accept that someone just wants to pop in on his schedule and use you to meet his needs – you are worth more than that!

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At the annual banquet for my volunteer fire department last week, I was both honored and amazed to receive my 15-year service stripe. 2017 marked 15 years of volunteerism and endless learning about fire, rescue and EMS operations for me – but those years have also taught me lessons in brotherhood, loss, service, upheaval, fear, bravery, disenchantment, persistence, change, frustration, giving, and surviving.

Here is what I *thought* fire service would be: 9474973637_cb6f92dcc0_b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what I *hoped* fire service would be:  firefighters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what the fire service really *is*: moe-larry-curly-fire-pole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in the immortal words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that. But, seriously, to the men and women that I have had the honor of serving with for the last 15 years, thank you for all that you do. And thank you for letting me serve beside you.

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Any good baker will tell you that a truly great dessert recipe has an element of salt in the recipe to balance the sweet. A chocolate souffle, a good pie crust, a rich custard, a chocolate-covered pretzel, a salted caramel – they all have the salt to bring out the richness of flavor in the sweet.

I have chosen to view my ex-husband as the salt in my life. No, I’m not saying he was crusty or salty (although he is but that’s not my problem anymore). I’m choosing to view him as the salt in the recipe of salted-caramel-1.jpgmy life. He was brought into my personal history to balance the richness that I have found since my divorce. He is the flavor that overwhelmed me while I was with him but now that I have added many more ingredients to my recipe – like independence, self-worth, strength, adventure, kindness – he balances out the good things. The flavor of his memory makes me appreciate the sweetness of the new life I’ve found even more.

Life is about balance, or so I’ve been told. And life is about really good desserts.

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If I’ve learned one lesson in the last 15 years since I graduated from college and set out on my own, was married and then divorced, and am now on the path to middle age, I have learned that being alone and being lonely are two VERY different concepts.

I struck out for Maryland soon after I graduated from college in upstate New York. I was alone and didn’t know a soul in Maryland but my sense of youthful adventure told me I wouldn’t need anyone, that I had to go live my own story. Of course, a month after moving into my first apartment and starting a job in which I worked almost exclusively with strangers in their 60s, I discovered what it meant to be lonely. I sat on the floor of said apartment and cried for the friends and family that I had left behind – and then I went to the shelter and adopted a rescue cat (who, by the way, lived and loved with me for the next 14 years so I highly recommend those adopted furry friends as a means of combating the blues). I wasn’t mature enough to realize that those times of standing on my own two feet was teaching me how to be independent and strong.

Then I got married – and made the mistake of marrying a man who didn’t share many interests with me. We didn’t spend much time doing things together – except the fire department. We led very separate lives – and I naively congratulated myself that we were one of those amazing modern couples that didn’t need to live in each others’ back pockets. I didn’t know that while I was rounding out my skills in home improvement and gardening, visiting museums and attending cultural events, he was screwing every woman he could find. Eh, life lesson learned on that one. I was often alone and doing things I wanted to be doing and yes, often regretted that he didn’t share any time with me which left me lonely and wanting more.  But I did learn that I don’t need a man to do the things I want to do in this life and I don’t need a man to complete me.

So now, after the divorce and the dating, the readjustment of my whole world view, I spend a lot of time 23131990_10212609777497457_8541975570164519984_nalone. I travel alone, I go to those museums alone, I read and study alone. I can pitch a tent and build a campfire alone – I can fix a toilet or hang a new light fixture alone – I can cook chicken nuggets or a fancy French pastry alone – I can drive 8 hours to see my family alone and I can run a 5K alone. I spend that time alone and quite content with my own company. It’s a vast difference from that lonely girl that moved down here and was so sad and so lost. I now choose to push my own boundaries and discover what I can do by myself. 

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