Losing my religion

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My sister has lived in the south long enough to pick-up a number of southern-isms – “Don’t make me lose my religion” being one of them.

The first time I heard this southern-ism I understood its urgency – its immediacy to check one’s attitude, words or actions to avoid a world of hurt.

As the headlines broke yesterday regarding the degrading and vile conversation between a presidential candidate and a Hollywood reporter, the pretty-boys-white-club nearly made me “lose my religion.”

Instead I heeded the advice of Michelle Obama and went high with a little help from a friend.

DJ Bizzon has recently created a mixtape with songs of empowerment that took me high when the misogynists went low.

Here’s a sampling to help you go high:

  • I’m every woman – no doubt Chaka Khan
  • All I’m asking for is a little respect – amen Aretha
  • You deserve the best in life – thank you Madonna
  • Rebel, that’s right, I’ll call my own shots – absolutely Janet Jackson
  • So I like what I see when I’m looking at me when I’m walking past the mirror – that’s keeping our heads on straight Mary J Blige
  • Uh-oh, running out of breath, but I got stamina and I see another mountain to climb – you’re free to be the greatest Sia
  • I’m holding on to my freedom, can’t take it away from me – yes we can live our lives like they’re golden Jill Scott

And finally with Beyonce’s lyrics in mind – it’s time to get your perfectly, perfect selves in formation because girls run this world.

Who are we? What we run? The world.

Rise up!

Vote!

Get off the side lines and run the world – today – our futures depend on it!

 

Graphics courtesy of Blackpaint Studios

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Butterfly Nation

There’s definitely been a change in wanting to learn and do new things since I reached the half-century mark several years ago.  I continually look for the next “what’s next” to push me out of my comfort zone.

Women on Fire Book I

Women on Fire
Book I

Last December I submitted a “what’s next”, out-of-my-comfort-zone-proposal.  Women on Fire was accepting proposals for chapter authors for its second Women of Fire book – a collection of real stories designed to provide inspiration, strategies and support for women.  I waited until the very last minute to submit my proposal.  I was unsure about sharing my story in such a public forum.

News regarding the status of my proposal arrived via email the second week in January.  I didn’t see the email until nearly midnight as I had attended an out-of-town work event.  While perched on the side of my bathtub, contemplating whether or not to take my make-up off or just go to bed, I did a quick scan of email.  There it was.  My out-of-my-comfort-zone-proposal had been accepted!  A late night punch in the gut of excitement, fear, anxiousness, nervousness and, oh dear, what have I done?

Since  January I’ve experienced lots and lots of nervousness and excitement throughout the writing process.  My chapter – “Voice Lessons” (about finding my voice later in life) – has been through multiple rounds of edits.  I’ve fretted over certain words and then delighted in landing upon one that felt just perfect.  At times I wanted to throw my hands-up and forget about the entire project and move on.

I am happy to report that my chapter is complete.  However, I continue to have the same case of butterflies that I caught that night while perched on the side of my tub.

En route to NYC

En route to NYC

So, here I am, on a plane headed for NYC (need to work on my #selfies) to meet the twenty other chapter authors as we begin preparing for the Women on Fire Book II launch later this summer.  I don’t know what tomorrow will hold – I’m nervous and excited – it’s an extreme case of butterflies now.

Sitting here though, it dawns on me, that like a butterfly our lives are a series of metamorphoses.  As we change and grow we just keep getting better.  So rise up Butterfly Nation and help us be brilliant as we each write and experience new chapters in our lives.

Donkeys and Eggs

The Good Samaritan. Church-goers or not, most of us have heard this Bible story. The Samaritan, a man of little privilege, helps an injured stranger lying in the ditch while two others of greater privilege pass by.

In discussion with women from my church about the story, I recognized an equally important lesson of The Good Samaritan in addition to doing good. In order to do anything, we first have to get off our donkeys. (Yes, it’s okay to giggle – I’m quite certain this is the genesis of the more off-colorful adage.)  Getting off our donkeys isn’t always easy. And until now, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t easy for the Samaritan either. By getting off his donkey he faced significant risk and inconvenience, especially given the social and political landscape of the day.

I’m convinced we don’t necessarily have an awareness that we’re about to get off our donkeys and do something big – something really big like the Samaritan did. With one small act he started a conversation that created change in the world.

This year I’ve had the privilege of meeting and getting to know a remarkable young woman, Niki Johnson. Niki is a beautifully thoughtful and intelligent artist – she is creating important work that makes you think.

Our paths first crossed as she was looking to purchase condoms – 7,000 of them. When you work at a women’s reproductive health care provider as I do, this isn’t an odd request. What was unusual however, was the use Niki had in mind for the condoms – they were needed to complete a massive project she had undertaken. Niki was in the finishing stages of a piece of artwork. It was to be her response to comments made by the former Pope while travelling through Africa in 2009. During that trip, the Pope suggested that condoms could increase the spread of AIDS.

Niki completed the project, a portrait of Pope Benedict woven with thousands of condoms, entitled Eggs Benedict, just as the Pope was announcing his resignation.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

Niki’s Eggs Benedict has created a stir. The media coverage has been extensive on a local, national and international basis. Niki’s work is making an impact.

For me though, the story is bigger than the art piece itself. The story is about Niki’s unbridled bravery. There’s a vast difference between bemoaning Pope Benedict’s comments among friends and getting off your donkey to make a significant and profound statement to the world. Striking out against one of the most revered religious leaders in the world takes guts, courage and conviction. It takes a belief that an individual voice can spark a conversation. Niki’s brave voice has sparked a global conversation.

Despite several generous offers to purchase her artwork at its debut, Niki announced on CNN she is auctioning Eggs Benedict, and donating a portion of the proceeds benefitting AIDS research and advocacy.

That’s the funny thing: when we get off our donkeys and use our voices, whether it be through written, spoken or artistic expression, we can be the brave spark in the world to ignite change and do good. Just like Niki.

The Secret Shoe Store

Mother-daughter Secret Shoe Store New Shoes!

Mother-daughter Secret Shoe Store New Shoes!

With the sorting of each new season’s clothes into keep, give, and what was I thinking piles, I want to jump in the car for a 90-minute drive to what I dubbed years ago as the Secret Shoe Store.  Tired of this season’s sorting project, yesterday seemed like the perfect day for a Secret Shoe Store adventure.

So with my teenage daughter in tow, we headed out for her first experience at the Secret Shoe Store where shoe dreams, more delicious than panna cotta with raspberry puree, come true.

Believe me, the shoes at the Secret Shoe Store are magnificent.  Really magnificent.  But it’s the owner and her team that hooked me years ago.

I don’t know a whole lot about Sherrie other than my immense respect for her as a small business owner.  She has a relentless ambition and has built a business that leaves Nordstrom’s, Saks and Neiman Marcus’s shoe departments in the dust.  She’s the owner, who of course wants to sell you one more pair, but she’s also the owner who cares intensely about her customers.  No matter how crazy the store is, she finds the time to sit and talk with you like you are her only customer and friend.  There’s something else telling about Sherrie and the kind of business-woman she is:  the same team of people who worked there when I started my seasonal buying trips fifteen years ago are still there.

Yesterday, as I was getting settled and trying on my first pair of shoes of the afternoon, I looked up and saw Sherrie.  It’s been nearly a year since I’ve seen her. She was walking with a slower pace and looked a little tired reminding me that all of us are aging – even this power-house-of-a-business-woman.  I jumped up to greet her but she was intently focused on my daughter.  In a most genuine and caring way Sherrie gave my daughter a kiss, hugged her and told her she was beautiful.  It was an immensely tender and human moment.  In an instant Sherrie, a stranger to my daughter, validated her.  She buoyed a teenage self-image that seems to be battered on a daily basis.  She said you are here in this world and you make a difference.

That’s the magic of the Secret Shoe Store.  It’s not about the fabulous shoes (did I mention how magnificent the shoes are?!), rather everything in between and all around the shoes.  It’s about Sherrie and her vision for her business.  It’s about her belief in her team to make her vision thrive.  It’s about being relentlessly ambitious, believing in your vision even when your feet don’t move as quickly as they once did.  It’s about being human and making a difference in someone’s life even when you didn’t know you did.

In the spirit of Jamie Eslinger who is practicing a year of abundance by giving one gift a day, I share with you the abundance and the identity of the Secret Shoe Store.  You can find Sherrie and her amazing team at Shirise, in Glencoe, Illinois at 341 Park Avenue and always online.

The one more pair of shoes that are being shipped?  A sparkly pair of Fit Flops.  Well done Sherrie!