Saturday, November 14, 2015

Wild (Young) Women, Part One: Why We Can't Tame Our Teenagers

 I am the proud Mama of an incredible young woman, and there are several young women in my life, as well as in the lives of some of those I care about, who are going through the shift from girlhood to the World of Women. It's for these young women, as well as their parents, that I'm moved to write some things that I hope will assist/support/inform them as they undergo this amazing transformation. We already know we can't "tame" them, but what we need to understand is that even thinking we should try is actually going to cripple them, just when they are learning to walk in this world...

~Womanhood: a gate through which a young woman passes overnight, with no warning, no outward sign unless you are listening very closely, and, at least in my culture, no rite of passage that assists and celebrates with this new WOMAN as she crosses this threshold. ~
Lack of consciousness (at least in most of Western cultures) about the necessity of assisting young women as they cross the threshold into Womanhood is unfortunate, since young ladies always feel the shift keenly, but are usually only aware of it as a kind of "separation," as they have no framework inside of which to understand what is happening to, not just their changing bodies, but within their hearts, minds and souls, as well.

Young women certainly have no way of knowing that this involuntary sense of separation is natural, and not only that, it is fundamentally CRUCIAL.
Instead, they often feel alone, at sea, or worse: "bad." The Just-Born-Woman is as unprepared for the new life she is emerging into as a newborn is for its departure from the warm waters of the womb.

The Just-Born Woman is tender, raw and, most importantly, "wild." What I'm referring to when I use the term "wild," is something that author, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, writer of a book I think all women people should read (Women Who Run with the Wolves), explains in a way I am attempting to communicate in my own words, and in a slightly less-academic format, for the express purpose of making this concept more accessible to the young ladies in my life:

"... the word wild here is not used in its modern pejorative (i.e. negative) sense, meaning 'out of control,' but in its original sense, which means to live a natural life, one in which the criatura, creature, has innate integrity and healthy boundaries. These words, wild and woman, cause women to remember who they are and what they are about. They create a metaphor to describe the force which funds all females. They personify a force that women cannot live without." (Estes, p. 7)

This "wildness" is often interpreted by our culture as rebellion, disobedience, or selfishness, but most painfully, is very often defined that way by her own parents. Sometimes the rapid change in attitude, way of relating and even life choices makes it impossible to not label this wildness in any gentler terms; to be sure, this shift is always alarming and sometimes, dangerous.

I understand why. The sweetest of young girls is suddenly filled with what our culture often describes as a teenage angst, and how it is expressed is rarely comforting to the authority figures in her life. These young females are expected to continue to live as if they had not crossed the threshold into the World of Women; the parents, teachers and other elders in their lives continue to expect them to stuff their new-found independence, divergent thoughts and "bad attitudes."

But there is no real stuffing, as any Just-Born Woman knows keenly; it is as impossible to return to girlhood as it is for a newborn to climb back into the womb. Most of us can remember this feeling, if we try.
When this new woman is told she must stop feeling, seeing and hearing this new "knowing" that simply will not allow her to remain the same as she was, her only resort, in order to get along with her culture and family, is putting away, hiding and taking this new self elsewhere, away from those who can't understand what happened to their sweet little girls. An understanding parent can make it easier for the Just-Born woman to introduce herself, but most often, parents choose to scold them, discipline them, and tighten up the reins on the Wild Woman that has suddenly overtaken their daughters, seemingly overnight.

In other cultures, there are rites of passage at the time of menses that serve to "conduct" young girls into this mysterious, beautiful, and deep culture of being feminine; these ceremonies, stories and accompanying symbology give a name to the shift that occurs to every girl as she becomes a woman. She feels the "difference" in herself, but the difference isn't "bad." We see by studying even the HIS-tory of world cultures that these rites of passage often occur earlier than ideal, since little girls were married and impregnated at tender, unready ages in a transaction not unlike the selling of cattle or other resources to neighboring men.
The right to vote was only the first of many battles; even when women could vote and own property, their bodies were still seen as not quite their own. And just as women emerged in the mainstream workplace, the pornography industry boomed, looking suspiciously like a kind of backlash.
The images of women in pornography most often sell bodies that look like adolescent girls, so much so that our culture's men learn early that women who are thin and petite are more beautiful than those whose bodies are bigger-boned or curvier. We sexualize young women's bodies, but expect the young women in our lives, and especially in our homes, to not do so.

The entertainment industry has jumped on board without hesitation; sex sells, so it's a marketing no-brainer. Objectifying women, showing images of women that are photo-shopped to be thinner, and marketing campaigns that sell everything from lingerie, food, to Disney princesses are very aware of the power they have over not only male audiences, but female audiences, too.

And selling sex works. The average 14-year-old male has already seen more than his share of pornographic images of women, and usually well before he sees, let alone touches, the body of a real, live girl or woman. By the time these young men interact with young women in a sexual way, they have been taught to objectify women's bodies in a way that hurts both the young woman and the young man.

It is not "no big deal." Both young women and young men are afraid; the Wild Woman that a Just-Born Woman finds herself becoming is a target and an object if you look only at her body. But that same wildness in women is also a powerful force that compels AND scares both men and women, as it should: when the Wild Woman is listening to her own knowing, or intuition, she is more powerful than most of her male or female contemporaries can handle.
But how do we assist young women whom we love in coming into the fullness of who they are, instinct intact, AND keep them safe? How do we instill in them the need for caution, without squelching their courage, or turning them into fearful adults?
That's why I'm writing this Wild (Young) Women series of posts, really. The book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, which has so powerfully impacted my life as a woman, and continues to, is about "instinct retrieval," and the author has excavated stories from cultures all over the world, and re-told them, because she understands the incredible power of story, and how vital (and missing) it is in the important work of saving the wild, innate, natural state of women.
The book is brilliant, but it is written in language that is a bit academic for the young women in my life. But it isn't inaccessible, I don't think, especially with a bit of commentary. So that's what this Mama is going to spend some posts unpacking.  
So this is Part One of a conversation I'm just beginning, so stay tuned for more...
P.S. Stories are an important way to access wisdom, but so, I've learned, is music. If you are, or know, a strong young woman (even if SHE doesn't know she is strong yet!), here are some songs I've made a playlist of, that I think will assist her in accessing that intuitive knowing/inner strength that she needs to not just "know," but FEEL.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"You've Got This!" (and I Do, Too)

Last weekend I ran into a fence on the way to a bistro in downtown Portland. Yep. I'm in Oregon, and I have been for two months.

And yes, I know I've been absent in blogland. Kind of MIA, really, for about two years. So the fact that I'm blogging again, that I plan to continue blogging, and that I'm in Oregon, is something that probably needs some explanation.

But I'm not MIA. Not anymore. And I'm not explaining.

I'm writing. From Oregon. Today, at least.

So back to running into a fence in Portland.

Don't worry; I wasn't injured, and I was on foot. Actually I ran into the barrier fence on the sidelines of the 2015 Portland Marathon, about 400 meters from the finish line. And then I intentionally stopped and watched for over an hour, even though I didn't know any of the race participants. I couldn't help it.

There are very few things that I have seen that are as beautiful as what I witnessed standing there next to family members of race participants; the courage I witnessed made me cry at times.

I saw race-veterans whipping through the portion of the course I was standing on the sidelines of, several folks with physical disabilities, elderly runners and my personal favorite, "first-timers," who had a certain look about them that I can't really describe, but who nodded "yes," sometimes with tears in their eyes and sweat dripping down their faces, when the charming marathon volunteer with a British accent and a microphone asked if this was their first time.

And of those "first-timers," the runners who tugged on my heart-strings most were the young parents, with parents, partners, spouses and kiddoes on the sidelines.

What was almost as beautiful as seeing these brave individuals was watching the faces of their families and friends as they screamed support, sometimes tears running down their cheeks, the pride and love absolutely transforming their faces. A young lady who looked about 12 ran behind me, along the sidelines, her long hair streaming behind her, keeping up with her mama who was lit up like a winning Olympiad as she tackled the end of a race she was clearly running for her daughter as much as she was running for herself.

I couldn't help but think of a my friend, Jennifer Luitweiler, who I met several years ago in blogland. She is a runner, an incredible mama and a gifted writer who writes about how "you can do hard things."

I had the privilege of being a cheerleader and friend as Jennifer wrote about her journey of running (and living) with courage that still takes my breath away. You can find her inspiring book, Run With MeHERE.

I thought about the marathons that Jennifer has run, none of which I've been able to witness in person. I thought about the courage it took for her to write her book, too, and the brave woman behind that book that I got to know as I copy-edited her incredible writing. It made me wish I'd run a marathon with her, or at least stood on the sidelines with her amazing husband, Kurt, and her beautiful kidlets.

"You've got this!" the runner's families and friends yelled, and someone across from me had a sign with the same words hand-written on it. I imagined Jennifer's family standing there just like them.

In not much time at all, I was yelling the same thing, to total strangers, some of whom made eye contact with me, probably wondering why someone they had never seen in their lives was yelling support.

"YOU'VE GOT THIS!" I couldn't help but scream.

Sometimes-walking, sometimes-limping participants often picked up their pace as they saw and heard the support and celebration bouncing off the walls of historic and modern buildings of downtown Portland, sooooo close to the finish line. I high-fived some of them, and got to take a picture for a family whose husband/dad was running his first marathon and stopped to hug his family at the almost-finish-line spot where I was standing.

"You've got this."

I've been thinking about this phrase, as well as a companion phrase...

"I've got this."

This is one I've heard coming out of my own mouth more than a few times in the last couple months. It's what I've taken to saying to family members and friends who are concerned about my being homeless in Oregon. That's a long story, if you don't know it already. And a lot of people I've explained the story to are still massively confused about why I'm here and how I feel about it.

The universe brought me here. I'm not sure how else to put it, though I have tried to explain it to others, who either understand or they don't. I will be writing about this leg of my journey as the months go on, as it's been quite a ride, and I've grown and learned in ways I had no way of anticipating or even explaining well.

The point is, almost everyone has an opinion about how/what I do, as well as what I did/do before coming here. I just can't respond to that anymore. I have to listen to ME and trust that the answer is inside. Every time I do that, miracles/magic/incredible things happen. I'm floored. So the idea that those who love me would support and encourage me to be the fullness of who I am, and in that support, they would see that I needed/need a, "You've got this!" more than I need direction or advice, makes me nearly sob.

If you're a part of my life, in "real-life," or in this beautiful blogland, you know my Mama Heart. You know that my kids and their dad's arrival on Saturday for a fun-filled, much-anticipated weekend with Mama is the thing that gets me through some really tough moments.

Currently, only a couple people in my life are saying, "You've got this." And that's o.k.

As I stood there on the sidelines, though, watching families and friends unabashedly celebrating as their loved ones finished something HUGE and brave they worked hard for, some of my tears were not unlike those of the exhausted, PROUD marathon finishers who didn't give a damn whether or not anyone understood how hard they worked to get to that moment.

Whether anyone else understands it or not, I know that what I'm experiencing right now is just as real a celebration of my own courage as those runners were experiencing. My beautiful 14-year-old daughter is proud of me. A few of those close to me know how brave I've been, how strong I've become and how grateful I am for the opportunity to discover how strong I really am.

It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I know, "I've got this."

And guess what?

YOU'VE GOT THIS. Whether you know it or not, and more importantly, whether others around you know it or not, it's true. You do.

I'm not sure there's a better expression of love than those words spoken aloud from someone who sees your courage, and is calling it out. I've come to believe that Love means saying (or screaming!), "You've got this!" to someone who is being brave, whether that's a family member, partner or even a stranger.

Sometimes love means saying (or murmuring in an ear), "I've got this." It's telling the other person that you see their courage, AND you are willing to pick up the thing they are bravely shouldering, or afraid of dropping, on their behalf.

I'm learning that love isn't "fixing your life," or you "fixing my life." That's not love; it's disempowerment, or it's co-dependency. Sometimes "fixing" or "giving advice" means I (or the other person) is really saying, "I don't think you can do this without help," or, "I think you are doing it wrong."

That's not love.

Love recognizes courage, even if the loved-one (or stranger) looks to me like they could be doing it better.

Love says, " are awesome, and I see you, and acknowledge that you are doing the best you can."

Love even means that if I see you and say or think, "This doesn't look like your best," I really should shut up.

Love means saying, either, "You've got this!" (empowerment), or "I've got this!" (support).

Love celebrates the other's courage, no matter how big or small it looks.

Yesterday my Dutch Bros cup had this on the lid. So appropriate.

"I've got this." I do.

But when you say, "Cheryl, I've got this," I sometimes tear up, out of sheer gratefulness. I can't help it. I DO "have it." AND it's tough to be brave. And whether it's encouragement, support, a hug, a "good job, Cheryl," or a lovely meal, I'm in a season of my life when those "attagirls" are like oxygen.

Let's love today. Let's encourage. Let's support. And let's be brave.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Texture: A Work in Progress

I've spent the last month, plus, painting furniture, reconfiguring the house (that's another fun post I will share soon) so that our 1,000 square feet works for the five of us, going through TUBS of fabric, ephemera, art supplies, etc., and getting my work space ready to work in.

After painting some major pieces of furniture, and Michael getting them in place, I expected to spend at least another week getting supplies organized, filling my etsy shop with the fabric and supplies I'm finding in mt tubs.

Instead, I found myself flooded with ideas. I spent the last almost-week mostly in the yard, experimenting with paint. I have done some of this here and there in the past, but nothing like this. This is something different.

Here's a few examples of some of the things that are very much still works in progress, and that Michael and I are pretty excited about.

You'll be seeing more soon, but I just had to share some of what I've been busy with. It is such an amazing process, in many ways a lot like building a fabric book, like this one I made.

Both processes I experience as feeling very intuitive, very much following my gut, and sort of playing with things, which makes a huge mess, until the light goes on, and the completed vision is finally in my mind's eye. From there, the exection is both exciting and frustrating; I can't sew or paint fast enough.

What is your creative process like? I'd love to hear. :)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Vintage-Inspired Baskets

 I'm a bit late finishing these in time for listing these in my etsy shoppe as Easter baskets, but please contact me if you're interested, as I can create a listing for you in next couple days, and ship Priority Mail in time for Easter! Or if you're local, I can deliver them to you! They are on sale for $20 each each, plus shipping, if I send to you through the mail.

These baskets would also make lovely gift baskets for Mother's Day, showers for babies and brides, or a pretty place to store washcloths, art supplies, etc.

Here they are... Please email me at cherylensomdack@gmail if you are interested in purchasing. :)

This first one is called "Rose," fittingly, and was made by me using a vintage basket, and adorned with vintage lace and an incredible vintage millinery rose in the sweetest pink.

 On the handle is a flower made from vintage lace, a vintage earring, antique millinery flowers and velvet leaves. 

This next basket is named, "Polly," and is also a sweet and shabby sage green.
"Polly" features vintage millinery flowers, pale pink tuling, an antique earring, velvet leaves and sweet pink ribbon.

Next is "Rebecca," a pink vintage basket featuring vintage lace and millinery flowers, as well as an antique pearl necklace.

"Romance" is the next basket, also a sweet shabby pink. I used some incredible antique lace, a soft velvet antique millinery flower and vintage earring.

This basket, "Annetta," is a charming pink, and a bit bigger than the others. I used yards of incredible vintage satin floral ribbon.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mabel and Abel

I'm taking some orders again! I hand-embroider these little baby layette sets using one of my favorite vintage embroidery patterns that Emily, my daughter, about 3 years of age at the time time, dubbed "Mabel and Abel," after our cats at the time. 

If you are interested in ordering one of these custom sized sets (0-24 months/you can specify colors of knits, cats, etc.), please visit one of my etsy shoppes HERE.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Vintage-Inspired Easter Baskets

I haven't blogged in ages, but I've been working on some new creations I'd love to share with you.

The photos above and below are of some Easter baskets I'm altering/selling, but others are still in process so I'll be sharing my progress and have them available to purchase in next few days.

I'm really enjoying finding vintage Easter baskets, painting them my favorite "vintage" hues, rediscovering and playing with my collection of antique lace and ribbon, vintage millinery flowers, antique jewelry, and much more.

These would make lovely heirloom Easter baskets for a litttle (or big!) girl. But they'd also be lovely in a bathroom with washcloths in it, or on a vanity table in a vintage-inspired boudoir for keeping lotions, perfumes, and other beauty products in.

Stay tuned for more! :)

Saturday, October 5, 2013