Tag Archives: girl power

Your Permission Slip

you are a runner

Back in 2008, I signed myself up for boot camp with a single goal:  I wanted to be able to do a military style REAL push-up by my 40th birthday.  Three weeks later, I did three!

Three months in, after running and working out three days a week in the company of my compatriots at WoW! Boot Camp, I felt better than I had ever felt about my body.  Not that it was getting thin–but I was getting STRONG.  I decided to jump on the bandwagon and sign myself up for a 5K.  

But to train for a 5K, I needed to increase my cardio training, which meant I would need to do some work on my own.  In the daylight.  Without my coach.  And someone who wasn’t also a member of the group might see me…exercising.  So my coach came up to me one morning (at 5:WTH30 in the morning) and asked if I had a training plan.  I stuttered, “Um, well, I thought I would start using the elliptical in my basement until I can do about 45 minutes worth because that will equate to about the same amount of effort…”  She looked at me sideways and said, “Nobody ever ran a 5K on an elliptical.  Why don’t you go outside and run?”  The immediate answer in my head was “Because someone might see me and laugh,” but I knew better than to say that to April.  I didn’t have an answer for her.  She suggested that I map out a 1.5 mile route from my house and go out and back, running as much as I could and walking the rest until I could work up to running the whole thing.  Easy Peasy.  

I was terrified to run in public because I felt like I needed a permission slip.  Wouldn’t “real” runners laugh at me if they saw in my $124 New Balance shoes and my double reinforced titanium running bra, size 40G (the G is for GOTDAMMM!)?  I took my dog with me so I could use him as an excuse to be out in public, taking up sidewalk, breathing the fresh air and pretending I was an athlete.  I started to run.  Just run.  I went at night so no one would see me, or on Sunday mornings when the mean people might be busy at church or still in jail.  

No test to pass.  No license to earn.  No membership card.  Just run.  

I finished my first 5K on a rainy Saturday morning.  I had to walk some.  Everyone there was nice to me.  I was scared to look over my shoulder during the race because I thought the only thing still behind me was the police car bringing up the rear.  But I did it and I was so proud of myself that I wore my number straight to a Weight Watchers meeting.  

So let this quote from John Bingham be your permission slip.  It doesn’t even have to be about running.  Replace the word “run” with sing, zip line, act, date, write, blog, swim, whatever you wish you had permission to do.  

Jenny On the Job

In WWII, millions of American women entered the workforce in heretofore unfamiliar jobs–in factories, in shipyards, in transportation.  To help these women adjust to the demands of working in the wartime economy, in 1943 the Office of Public Health commissioned a series of posters to dispense clever advice to those scores of Rosie the Riveters.  The posters were intended for display in break rooms and restrooms of wartime production plants…places where the gals might gather to chat, y’know.  The character of “Jenny on the Job” chirped illuminating messages about taking care of oneself in order to maintain one’s vital role as a cog in the war machine.  

Here’s Jenny’s advice on nutrition:

Jenny on the Job

Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Hmm…I’m starting to like this Jenny.  We can assume her last name isn’t “Craig,” because check out that lunch pail.  Two sandwiches on whole grain bread, two carrots, two stalks of celery, an apple, an orange, and a quart of milk.  A healthy and hearty array of food that is guaranteed to keep Jenny…moving.  

Which probably explains the necessity for this next poster:

Jenny on the Job

Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In other words:  Your mama does not work here and Jenny ain’t got time for your mess.  

So here’s to the women who work–in the home, outside the home, under the home and up in the sky!  Tomorrow I’ll share Jenny’s beauty tips…because we can defeat Hitler AND take care of our skin.  

Scientia Et Pietas

Tonight I had dinner with my friend, Tara, who writes “I Might Need a Nap.”   There ain’t nothing in this world that two fishbowl margaritas (both mine!) and a three-hour talk can’t fix.  Well, maybe not full on fix but at least make a far sight better.

Pardon me, gentle readers–it seems that tequila makes me talk like Ellie Mae Clampett.  I shall clutch my pearls at myself forthwith.

We have known each other since Governor’s Honors in 1985 and we both ended up at Wesleyan College.  We talked about raising kids, the fish tacos in Hawaii, ICU waiting room chairs, Jesus, cheer moms, first husbands, high grass snakes, The Young and the Restless, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and churches that rely on PowerPoint.  We talked until my voice gave out.

I wrote this haiku once when I lost my voice:

I croak, squeak then try to speak.
My little one asks,
“Mom, are you leaving your voice?”

Word were new to Vivi at the time and she got “losing” and “leaving” mixed up…but dang if she didn’t hit on something.  I don’t mind the periodic losing of my voice–I’ve usually run it into the ground through excessive use, not neglect.  Losing my voice gives me a reason to hush, to rest, to listen.

But leaving my voice?  Oh, I’ve done that too.  Those are the times that make me sad when I look back.  The times I didn’t speak up for myself.  The times I didn’t ask for what I needed.  The times I left a question unasked.  The times I witnessed injustice and didn’t say anything.  Or the times I saw injustice and ONLY said something about how wrong it was but didn’t do anything to fix it.  Those are times when I left my voice.

Bare Bulb Coffee and the Women of Wesleyan...two groups that are changing the world for the better

Bare Bulb Coffee and the Women of Wesleyan…two groups that are changing the world for the better

As we were saying goodbye in the parking lot, Tara pressed a small gift into my hand.  She said, “We’re both red clay girls and I thought of you because this is made from red clay.”  I looked at the small medallion under the street light and thought at first that it was an alien head (might have been the two margaritas talking…and just for the record, I was walking back to my hotel on the other side of the parking lot).   Tara works with an organization called Bare Bulb Coffee.  It’s a coffee shop/community center/art gallery/church/social service organization with a Quiche of the Day and an actual plan for righting some of the wrongs in the world.  Nikki Collins McMillan is the Ministry Director and Head Percolator…and another Wesleyan Woman.

The shape on the medallion and the name of Bare Bulb Coffee both hearken back to the coffee farmers who grow the fair-trade beans used by Bare Bulb.  Tara told me, “In the homes in that region, you walk into their houses and there’ll be a string with a bare light bulb hanging down.”  I croaked, “Oh yeah!  My Grandmama Eunice had one of those over the dining room table!”  Tara replied, “No…that’s the thing.  There’s no electricity wired to the houses.  It’s just a string.  The bare bulb is a symbol of hope.”

On the Wesleyan College seal, the official motto of the college reads Scientia Et Pietas–“knowledge and responsibility.”  Tara and Nikki have taken their knowledge and translated it into service to those among us who are underserved.  I can’t think of two better examples of Wesleyan alumnae who are making a difference in this world.  They’re using their voices and that gives me hope.

Also on the Wesleyan College seal, the seated figure of Wisdom holds forth a laurel crown.  Above her, a ribbon bears the words “Niminum ne crede colori.”  The phrase is from Virgil and I was told back then that it meant “put not your faith in outward appearances.”  I’ve always interpreted this as “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but tonight when I looked up the translation again, it turns out that Virgil addressed this line to a lovely youth.  The words in their full context mean:  “Oh, handsome child, trust not too much in your youthful color.”  So I guess that’s more of a “pretty is as pretty does” or “looks won’t last, honey.”

These women?  Nikki and Tara?  They are women I first met when we were all handsome children glowing with youthful color.  They’ve grown older and wiser.  They give me hope.  They make me proud.  They make me want to do more with my voice.

I’m Coming Out

smiling me

Saturday, April 20, 2013
about 4pm on a really good day

Hi, this is me.  

I was trying to edit my “About” page for this blog and I realized that I’ve been hiding.  I can tell all kinds of stories about heartache and empowerment and rebuilding, but I have been afraid to just show ME.  So today I am coming out of the photo booth.  

Most of y’all have known me since I wiped my nose on my sleeve, but some of you are strangers.  Hello to all.  My name is Ashley and I am the Baddest Mother Ever!  

This picture was emailed to me yesterday from a photo booth that I sat in last weekend.  It was Alumnae Weekend at my alma mater (Kathy Bradley, author of “Breathing and Walking Around” taught me that the phrase means “nourishing mother”).  I had a fantastic weekend, filled with stomach-lurching challenges (like leading a formal meeting with 1000 people, fire, and an organist) and breathtaking successes (that meeting, even with a couple of glitches).  I made new friends who graduated before I was born.  I hugged necks of friends I hadn’t seen in 20 years.  I met our oldest graduate, 106 and there for her 85th reunion.  My spirit was nourished.  I challenged myself, rewarded myself, believed in myself. 

And look at how it shows on my face!  Normally, pictures of me make me see wrinkles and gray and extra chins, but this picture…I can’t help but smile at myself.  I LOOK LIKE MYSELF.  

Five Things I Love About This Picture

  1. My whole face is smiling, even behind my ears.  
  2. I am wearing something colorful that says, “Hey, look at me!” instead of something drab that says, “Nothing to see here, move along.”
  3. I went into the photo booth wearing a pair of ridiculously huge, bedazzled sunglasses but I put them on my head so I could see myself.
  4. That necklace is made from my late husband’s wedding ring.  I don’t wear it often because I have a toddler who likes to grab things.  
  5. My gray hair looks kind of like highlights.  

How long has it been since you posted a picture of yourself on Facebook?  Yesterday, I saw Nicki making a muscle she’s worked hard to earn.  Today, Alice was having breakfast with her son.  Lucy had some cute hair going on.  Kimberly’s son is taller than she is.  Felicia is at the paddock.  What are the rest of you doing?  

Your babies are adorable.  Your cats couldn’t be cuter.  And that lunch you had yesterday…yum!  But let’s see more pictures of you!  It’s my challenge to you today.  Post that pic of YOU.  

I Look Like Myself!

via Creative Commons free license

via Creative Commons free license

It’s Fartbuster week here on Baddest Mother Ever, folks!  Today’s story is about the weekend after I found out my husband had a pregnant girlfriend.  I fled to the coast to get a hug from my friend, Brantley.  We’ve been friends since 1985.  He took me  to the SCAD Sidewalk Chalk festival for diversion and to meet his new love, Luis.  That was 11 years ago and they’re still together.  I’m on marriage #3, but those two crazy kids still are not allowed to get married because they might threaten the sanctity of marriage…but anywho, back to my husband and his pregnant girlfriend, AHEM.

People knew that Fartbuster and I were separated, but Brantley was the first person who heard the real reason, face to face.  Telling him the truth was me taking the first step back into my own life.  As we were wandering around the festival–each artist is given a square of sidewalk, a few sticks of chalk and a couple of hours to make magic–I spotted a drawing done by a child.  I wish I still had a photo of it, but that has been lost in the shuffle.  The sidewalk square was filled with red chalk background.  In the foreground, two dark gray mirror image profiles faced each other, smiling.  The words said, “I LOOK LIKE MYSELF!”

I can’t remember any of the winning artistry from that weekend.  I can’t remember Luis’ third place drawing.  But I remember that little kid’s square because it rang true with me.  I look like myself.  I am me.  I am here.  I am OK.  I spoke the truth to my friend and life went on.  This next few months might be painful, but I was going to make it out the other side.

The second person I told was my friend, Mike, another kindred spirit from that magical summer of 1985.  After we talked and sang some Trisha Yearwood songs, I said, “I feel like a new woman!”  He chuckled and said, “Nooooo, honey, you seem like your old self again.  I’ve missed you.”  He was right.  I had spent 10 uncomfortable years auditioning for the role of wife.  Trying to measure up to whatever it was Fartbuster judged lacking in me.  Once I stepped aside from that, I found space for myself again.  I looked like myself.

The Sidewalk Chalk Festival is this weekend in Savannah.  I’m taking my little girl to meet Luis because I think they are kindred spirits.  My daughter, who never could have been born if I hadn’t lived that broken-hearted life a decade ago.  She’s here now and she looks like me, and she looks like her father, and she looks like herself.  

This story of the sidewalk chalk came back to me tonight when my friend, Katie, shared a poem by Derek Walcott:

Love After Love

The time will come 
when, with elation 
you will greet yourself arriving 
at your own door, in your own mirror 
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart 
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 
all your life, whom you ignored 
for another, who knows you by heart. 
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, 
peel your own image from the mirror. 
Sit. Feast on your life.

Thank you to Katie, to Brantley, to Mike, to Luis, to Derek Walcott, to the little girl who drew on the sidewalk.  Even a little to Fartbuster for finally hurting me enough to get me to let go.  I am so glad to be this person, in this place, on this day.  I am grateful to be able to say, “I look like myself.”

Word Swaps: Should and Can/Choose/Want

Stop Shoulding Yourself

I should color this gray hair.

I should go to church more often.

I should call my friend.

SHOULD comes from outside:  other people’s expectations, social mores, even laws.  SHOULD is about obligation and duty.

CAN/CHOOSE/WANT come from inside:  your desires, your options, your needs.  CAN/CHOOSE/WANT are about taking care of you.

I also like the present tense action of CAN and CHOOSE and WANT.  They are words of doing; SHOULD is a word of thinking about doing.

How about eliminating SHOULD and choosing a word that echoes your choice, your control over your own actions?

If you can’t replace “should” with “choose” or “can,” why are you doing it?  

If you’re thinking, “I should be running,” but you have a stress fracture, you’re setting yourself up to not meet that expectation.  How about “I choose to heal.”  Even if you’re sitting on your butt, these words put you in charge of the decision to sit on your butt!  It’s for a purpose.  But if you are in a place where you can say “I want to run,” that puts the onus on you.  It’s your call!

If the only reason you call your friend is because you should…DON’T.  If you can say “I want to call my friend”….DO!

So today’s challenge is to listen for SHOULD.  You CAN do it!

Law and Order FPU: Vice Squad

Episode Four

“In the criminal littering system, panty-based offenses are considered especially heinous. In our fair City, the dedicated bloggers who investigate these underwear felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Feral Panties Unit. These are their stories.”



Day Seven, 8am.  Let’s get down to the nitty gritty–these panties ain’t going nowhere.  This case is as cold as a well digger’s butt in January.


vice squad

Day Nine, 8:30am.  This job can be a real heartbreaker, working the FPU beat.  Sometimes life on the street leaves a pair of panties with some pretty tough choices for survival.  Nice pair of cotton panties from the sticks can’t survive all alone out here, no matter how big those dreams were when they came into the city.   We’re gonna have to turn this one over to Vice Squad.  Suspect may be disguised and fabulous.


If you have no earthly idea what the hell is going on here, click here to read the beginning of the story.

And then the second part of the story.

And the third part of the story, which includes a nice dog.  

(Thanks to Kathryn Keith Sims of the Feathered Nest Boutique–check her out on Etsy and FB– for making me laugh so hard this morning that I almost had to return home for fresh panties.  The accessories she sells in her store are WAY cuter than what you see in the above evidence photo.)