Who Am I? Why Am I Here?

 

The other night I was at this thing at my ladies club, a sort of mixer, and there was this ice-breaker game. This gist of it was this – upon entering, each attendee had a sticker placed on her back. She couldn’t see it, but others could. Each sticker had an image (likeness) and description of a woman of note. Some were recent (Rosa Parks, Queen Elizabeth II) and some were ancient (Sappho, Eleanor of Aquitaine). The wearer of the sticker asked yes/no questions of other attendees, in order to try and figure out who was on her damn back. It was fairly simple. How hard could it be?

 

When that sticker was slapped on my back and the game was explained, I immediately declared that unless the broad over my shoulder was T-Swift, I was unlikely to figure out shit. It was a joke, of course, but it was also kind of true. I don’t necessarily have a clue about, well, anything. Let me cut right to it. I wasn’t excited about this game. But I’m a go-er. So I did my best to encourage others to ask questions, to involve and engage them and make them feel welcomed at the club. That was not only easy for me, but fun. But wouldn’t you know it – there were other people there who also wanted to involve and engage others. That means they turned to me and put me in the hot seat.

 

As a friendly introvert, social stuff takes a certain amount of energy. And that usually means stress is involved. I’m a grown-ass woman, though, so I can generally muster the strength and deliver the goods. At least I think that’s the case.

 

Anyhoo – once I chilled the hell out, I went for it.

 

Living or dead? Dead. I liked that.

 

European? Yes.

 

World of literature? Yes.

 

The UK? No.

 

France? Yes.

 

And so I asked, “Am I Simone De Beauvoir?”

 

Yes. I freaking was.

 

Simone De Beauvoir

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

 

 

The other day I was at the hardware store and I had to kneel down, take some deep breaths and slowly count to ten so that I could stop myself from choking someone with a 25-foot, heavy-duty, never-kink garden hose.

 

For those who’ve not been paying attention, I am a human of the female variety. I am as comfortable wearing dresses as I am wearing overalls. I volunteer my time and skills all over this town, just as easily as I re-wire a lamp or wield a reciprocating saw. I am often barefoot. I’ve never been pregnant. I read too much nonfiction and not nearly enough prose. I check my own car’s transmission fluid levels and I can mind a grill like nobody’s business. And when I bother – because I want to – I wear heels, hats and gloves to the most darling effect. I am a woman. And I am incredibly capable.

 

Because I didn’t just become a chick yesterday, I am all too familiar with sexism. I’ve experienced it in blatant extremes, when I’ve actually feared for my well-being. I’ve experienced it subtly, when less-attuned minds failed to notice its disrespectful strains. Misogyny is, sadly, all around. Hell – people I know and love make sexist remarks and don’t even know they’re doing it. And those same people would flip their shit if I or anyone else ever pointed out the things they say as being sexist. Because they would be appalled to be labeled misogynistic. I mean, they don’t see themselves that way, so surely they’re not. Right?

 

Sometimes it’s just too much. Sometimes the ugly little statements and half-veiled digs add up to my not being able to smile and bat my lashes. Regardless of my southern training, there are times when I hover dangerously close to a misfiring synapse that will send me into a rage that will only be satisfied with the sacrifice of a pig. And by pig, I mean an asshole dude. Thus far, I’ve been lucky in that I do not have any instances of criminal behavior to my name. For example, I have not poured salad dressing on a single male who has cut in front of me at the grocery store deli because his time is so very valuable. I have not boxed the ears of a mechanic – with the dual air filters of my car – after being spoken down to when my husband wasn’t around to handle the service appointment. Nor have I shoved a garden rake’s handle up the ass of a mow-blow-and-go guy, after he told me I don’t know anything about how grass grows. No, so far I have resisted criminal behavior. And for the record, I intend to keep it that way, if only because Mister would have to come bail me out of the pokey, and that would be mighty embarrassing for both of us.

 

Which leads me back to my kneeling down at the hardware store, while tightly gripping that 25-foot, heavy-duty, never-kink garden hose. Moments before, I overhead some dude on the next aisle, asking for advice about fascia board replacement for his house. (If you don’t know what fascia board is, look it up. Or not. Your call.) I heard a woman’s voice responding to his questions, and based on what I heard, the hardware chick was informative and concise. She referenced personal experience with one available brand and general knowledge of the other options. It was at that moment when I heard the dude say, “Oh! Here’s the man. He’ll know what’s best.” At first I thought it was a joke, or that maybe the dude knew the approaching guy. Surely that mystery dude wasn’t being rude. (I mean, I want people to be awesome.) But then I heard him say, “You must know more than her, right?” And y’all, god bless that hardware guy, for he said, “No way! She knows way more than me.” And then – I swear to beans – the rude dude said, “She’s gone now, you don’t have to pretend. You can tell me what’s really the best fascia board.”

 

That’s when I realized the 25-foot, heavy-duty, never-kink garden hose was in my red, veiny fingers. I hadn’t noticed I’d picked it up. I was breathing fast and I’m fairly certain my face was flushed. As my nostrils flared, I heard the hardware guy ask what had been recommended (by the hardware chick) and the rude dude told him. To which the hardware guy replied, “That’s the absolute best advice. She was dead-on with what she told you.” The rude dude kept talking, but I was already kneeling by that point, focusing on my slow counting to ten, and I tuned him out.

 

It took a lot for me to avoid walking down the adjacent aisle, to get a look at the rude dude I’d overheard. But I did avoid it, and instead I took care of my business and headed home.

 

Please don’t misconstrue my frustrations. I am well aware that not all men are assholes. (Not all women are nice, either. Dig?) I know that most people are good and decent. At least that’s what I choose to believe. And in my experience, it’s true. It’s just that on that particular day, one bad apple got to me. I don’t know why. He just did.

 

Later that same night, history was made when a woman was declared to have garnered enough delegate support to be the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party for the office of President of the United States. An intelligent, qualified, capable woman. I saw all kinds of tweets from fathers who were letting their daughters stay up past their bedtimes to watch that woman’s speech. I’m guessing those fathers are good, decent men.

 

We’ve come a long way.

 

We’ve got a long way to go.

Ladies First

 

 

I am still riding the wave of the goodness of Rock Camp. That week generally leaves me feeling strong and comfortable in my gender. I smile when I see a female doing something radical or bold. I openly support women I know and women I don’t as they pursue their dreams. I feel grateful to have this female experience.

 

None of that means I am anti-male. I adore men. I’m married to one, for cry-eye! Being a feminist and a strong woman doesn’t equal discrimination against males. On the contrary, it equals respect. I have that in spades.

 

But I digress. Because I’m feeling all girly-proud and what-not, I got such a kick out of something I recently learned: the first known author and poet to sign work and leave a lasting record of writing was Enheduanna – a woman. She lived over 4000 years ago (yes – four thousand) in ancient Mesopotamia and her writings are still referenced and translated today by contemporary authors. Wow.

 

I’m guessing there were other poets, perhaps writing at earlier times. And their works may be documented somewhere. But the first person to leave a signature with a work was Enheduanna. And I get a kick out of that. I hope I remember this historical tidbit, and I hope I smile whenever it glides across my mind. Honestly, how could I not smile? Honestly…

Dirty Politics

 

 

I make every effort to stay out of politics in these missives. I do this out of respect for you and for my heart. That doesn’t mean I am without feelings or perspective. It merely means I understand it’s no fun to argue politics with people you respect.

 

But lately, I am overcome with anger and sadness. It’s presenting itself in my inbox on an almost daily basis, and I’ve just about had it. Up to here. So I ask your forgiveness in advance…

 

Why are men of this world such pussies? What is wrong with you when you kidnap young girls (in Africa)? Are you so weak that you can only assert your bullshit power by kidnapping those younger and (physically) weaker? Does a gun make you a stronger human soul? Allow me to answer these questions for you. Yes, you are weak. Any man who has to assert physical strength over a female is a weak-ass excuse for a human being. Biology may have made you physically stronger, but life has made you a pussy. And while I’m ranting, using a gun is a weak-ass move. How pathetic must you be to wield weapons in order to feel some fake sense of authority or respect? You’re no authority. And no one respects you. Fear will never equal respect. Fool yourself all you want, but that’s the truth.

 

And to the judge in Texas – the female judge in Texas – who decided that a rape victim deserves what she got because of her history, how dare you? If we were to glimpse back into your past, would we find a single error? Would you see flaws in your behavior? You bet your ass we would. Does that mean you don’t get to change your mind and choose well for yourself at some point? Apparently, it does. Are you so incapable of empathy as to be unable to imagine your daughter or your mother (or your sorry-ass self) in such a terrible situation? I mean really. I cannot believe a woman on the bench decided an underage girl was asking for rape, simply because she had been sexually active before being raped. How does that fare for the wives of men who rape them? Were they asking for it? If your spouse – if anyone can tolerate your judgmental ass – ever forces him/her-self on you, are you to blame, simply because you’ve had physical relationships before? Are you insane?

 

And on a completely different note, yesterday I received a professional email from someone I associate with on yes, a professional level. And this person had the audacity to include personal politics in his weekly business update. Da fuh? If you want to profess your political leanings, write a personal blog, douche-bag. Work is work. Our association is supposed to be professional. Learn the difference and practice a little business decorum, why don’t you. I don’t communicate my personal leanings to you. Extend the same damn courtesy to me already.

 

Sorry, y’all. I’ve just been pissed about the way women are treated in the world (and have been since the beginning of time). And when we – as women – don’t even stand up for ourselves, well, it breaks my heart. The (less-than) professional email just sent me over the top.

 

Yes, I am a woman. And yes, I love women. And yes, I’ve experienced wrong, wrong, wrong behavior. Unfortunately, I also know what it feels like when other women don’t stand up for you or defend you. Sadly, I went first experienced that as a small child. But I’m a grown-ass woman now, and there is no excuse for behaving as if I’m not.

 

That goes for all the men and women of the world who are behaving as if they’re less than human. Maybe God will have mercy on your souls, but I sure as hell won’t.

Women

 

 

I recently joined a women’s group. When my dear friend asked me to attend, I did quite a bit of soul-searching.

 

I’m not a group kind of girl. I don’t know how to function in that environment. I mean, I can handle the side of things where you support others and give positive vibes, but the receiving? I have actually broken down while others did nothing but look at me while thinking positive thoughts about me. I’m working on it, on my own. But in a group?

 

After much deliberation, I decided to give this particular group a try. These women are getting together on a regular basis to share stories. That’s right – it’s a writing group. They’re writing stories about other women who’ve inspired and helped them. I love stories. I love writing. So I showed up.

 

I knew a few of these gals, but the rest were fresh faces. After some coffee and socializing, we sat together and listened to the writers who’d brought new stories. We read our short tales aloud and it couldn’t have been lovelier. This group showed amazing encouragement and validation. That would have been enough, but to me the greater glory was in the talent. These women can write! I was awed and entertained. I was moved and felt tremendous empathy. Women. Here we were, just sitting together in a room – sharing. Wow.

 

At the meeting’s close, it was determined that we could use more attendees and more stories. Our facilitator wondered aloud if perhaps we wouldn’t benefit from writing another story, on top of our initial offerings. I raised my hand before I realized I was doing it, and said that I’d love to write another story. That it would be good for me. That I’d enjoy the writing process.

 

And just like that, I knew I’d be going back to the next meeting. To the group. I’m working on short story #2, in preparation for January’s meeting. The writing work is good for me. The women are even greater.

Dear Rock Camp…

 

 

Dear Rock Camp,

 

As another year of volunteering at Rock Camp has come to a close, I am left reflecting on my experience. As this was my 4th year with this amazing group, I should be used to the come-down process. But I’m not. I don’t know if I will ever be.

 

 

For some reason, I come into the week the same way each year: timidly. I doubt myself. I doubt my abilities to add to the week. I doubt my gifts. I doubt my even belonging with the amazing group of volunteers. This year was no different, and I even had a nasty dream about being told I don’t belong, the very morning Day 1 began. I know that’s just my brain working out my issues, but it’s still uncomfortable. And I still have to do the work to move past that. Thank God for therapy.

 

 

And thank God for all of you. I have never – not once – been made to feel like an outsider at Rock Camp. Each and every volunteer has always welcomed me and, dare I say, valued my presence. I feel lifted and supported by all of you. I feel appreciated and respected. For the 5 days of Rock Camp (and the 1 showcase day), I feel like there’s a cheering squad in my corner, rooting me on to own the beauty of simply being me. I am able to describe all this because I participate in the reciprocity of these same acts with all the volunteers around me. And I relish the opportunity to support my sisters. What a gift! Caring for all of you, supporting all of you – I am privileged to direct my energy toward these goals.

 

 

It doesn’t really surprise me to see campers mirroring this same behavior. The positive energy trickles down, after all, and is infectious. The girls can’t help but mimick the actions of the volunteers. And when we, as adults, witness their bravery and strength, it only serves to increase our own. How awesome is that!

 

 

Don’t get me wrong – I know this is all about the girls. Always is, and always will be. And I love that. I love them. They are more inspirational than words allow me to describe. So while I’m quite clear about them being the focus, I am just amazed to receive so very much from Rock Camp.

 

 

But that’s how it goes, isn’t it? You think you’re giving. Your intent is to give. And in doing so, you open yourself up to receiving more than you ever expected. I will never understand how it all works. It is a beautiful mystery, and I’ve just stopped trying to figure it out. At this point, I guess the best thing I can do is keep showing up, try my best to be of service, and then endeavor to graciously accept the rewards. I struggle with that last part sometimes, but I choose to keep trying.

 

 

If I have any complaint at all about Rock Camp, it is this: one week a year is just not enough. I want the beauty of this group of people in my life all the time! I want the glow of this organization to be a constant in my world! And I want to be a part of that! Not much of a complaint, really.

 

 

Before I sign off, I want to share something from the morning of the big Showcase. When I woke, I was in the middle of a strange dream (much like I was the first morning of camp). In this dream, I was finishing a round-the-world vacation. The entire journey had found me traveling first-class. And everyone was so friendly! I was addressed by name, I was shown respect, I was appreciated and felt happy. On the final leg of my travels, as I was headed home, I was booked in coach. All of a sudden, some people were rude. Some appeared unhappy. Some refused to acknowledge my existence, even when I spoke directly to them. I took my assigned seat and wondered what was going on. Why were all these people in such a dark mood? And that’s when I woke up. I thought about the dream for a few minutes, and then I understood. The dream represented my feelings about leaving Rock Camp (the first-class experience with all the friendly, respectful people) and the return to regular life (folks who aren’t riding the highs of all that Awesome-ness).

 

 

As I got ready for the Showcase and then headed to the Troubadour, I was thinking about the dream and how I could change its outcome. The most obvious action I can take is to simply carry on with my Rock Camp behavior. Why not high-five people at the hardware store? Why not tell store clerks “You’re Awesome” when they do a good job? Why not smile and sing throughout my day? Why not, indeed.

 

 

So I thank you, Rock Camp, for once again bringing a richness to my world. For once again raising the bar of how much joy I can feel in one day. For once again, quite simply, giving your best. It’s been an honor and a privilege.

 

With eternal gratitude and respect,

Your Friend – Mikki

Rock Camp – Day 5

 

 

Day 5. The last day. It takes so long to get here, and yet it gets here so fast. It’s the same every year, but I still seem to forget how it goes.

 

After morning greeting duties in the arrival area, I headed up to teach Vocals. I don’t think I’ve shared nearly enough about the other Vocals Instructors. This year I was honored to share duties with Chaska Potter and Nina Storey. The 3 of us brought a happy mixture to the class and I think it worked. Their strengths and support enabled me to confidently share those qualities myself. In fact, this year saw me invent an entirely new vocal exercise. For reals! And it totally made the girls sing out loud. Wow! That’s so Rock Camp, y’all.

 

 

After Vocals Instruction, it was lunchtime. Today’s entertainment was our very own House Band. We (I was part of a backing vocals “choir”) performed a couple of songs that were made up a few nights ago, and then an entirely new song was made up on the fly. It was an awesome exercise, and it showed the girls how to just go with the flow and not get in their own way when being creative. And I have to admit, it was also fun.

 

Then it got real, y’all. Seriously. It was time for Stage Run-Through, in preparation for the Big Showcase. I have to tell you – I was so surprised at how well the girls did. Each band brought a completely unique song and sound to the stage, and I was so proud.

 

 

This would be a good time to tell you a bit about the band I’ve been coaching this week. They named themselves “When Pigs Fly” and they wrote a song about bullying. My cohort in guiding them through the week has been Anita. She and I were on the same page when it came to the girls’ song: we didn’t help a lick. It was up to the band to write that song and to figure out how to perform it. When they asked if they could do this or that, we told them we didn’t know, as it wasn’t our song. We just said try it and see how they felt. If an idea worked, keep it. If not, toss it. A lot of it worked. And when I watched them perform in front of the other campers, I could tell they were truly owning it and killing it, too. I guess what I felt would be akin to pride. But the truth is, I had nothing to do with their accomplishment. They were solely responsible for their work. They were responsible for their efforts. They were responsible. Okay. I guess I am proud.

 

And then, before I knew it, Rock Camp was over. We Volunteers told all the girls we’d see them at Saturday’s showcase and that was that. The Volunteers had a final end-of-day assembly, and I grabbed my things and inched into Friday evening traffic.

 

I’ve been through this before. This is, after all, my 4th year of Rock Camp for Girls. So I’m familiar with the feelings. I’m ready for the showcase and I’m ready to bid a fond farewell to my Rock Camp family.

 

And that’s what we’ve become. A family. I love these women. I do. And I think I can say this, and mean it… They love me, too. I don’t often feel sure-footed on that front – being loved by others. But with Rock Camp, I am loved and I know it. But I can’t really go on about this right now, as the mere act of writing about it is causing me to cry. I’ll try to dig into this fertile soil when I write my wrap-up. I’ll try.

 

 

 

So it was a pretty awesome final day of Rock Camp. I can hardly wait for the showcase. For reals.

Rock Camp – Day 3

 

 

Hump-day.

 

It happens. Every year. The mid-way point of the week brings a lot of emotion. Some campers are still unsure what’s going on. Some are frustrated. Some are overwhelmed. Some are simply realizing there are only 2 more days of camp, and they just don’t want it to end. I understand all those feelings. We Volunteers go through the roller coaster that is Hump-day, too.

 

 

We don’t always know what’s going on. Are the band members communicating with one another? Are they working as a team? Are they figuring out their instruments? Their parts? How do we help?

 

We get frustrated. Is each band’s song going to be finished? Can each camper feel good about her performance? How do we help?

 

We become overwhelmed. There are so many campers who are going through this crazy/awesome/creative experience, and they’re blowing minds, left and right (including their own), and it’s emotional. So while the girls are on the verge of exploding out of their skins due to their growing confidence and emotions, the Volunteers are admiring the wave of growth taking place before us. And we’re trying to keep it together, as we don’t really want to let on just how proud we are. Just how affected we are.

 

 

And we’re realizing there are only 2 more days of camp, and we just don’t want it to end. Each and every year of Rock Camp, a sort of safe utopia is created. Being part of that is so nurturing and wholesome. This is truly the most amazing group of women I’ve ever had the pleasure to share space with. It’s no wonder we don’t want it to end. It’s just too good to be true. And yet is is true. Super true.

 

 

As Jessie Payo performed for all of us at lunch, it occurred to me how beautiful it is for these campers to attend 5 concerts during the week (before playing their own show at Saturday’s showcase). All in all, I have to admit it wasn’t too shabby a day. Especially for Hump-day.

Here’s To The Ladies Who Lunch

 

 

I used to meet up with a few gals on a regular basis, for a girls’ lunch. It was always at the same time, on the same day, usually at the same place. It was easy for people to just show up. And it was pretty fab.

 

Then, well, I don’t know what happened. It just sort of stopped. Maybe it was because the main driving force moved to the other side of the city. Maybe it was because everyone got busy with life. Maybe, maybe a lot of things.

 

I miss it. I miss that eclectic group of women. I miss hearing about all their lives, lives so very different from my own and yet somehow similar. I miss being one of the gals.

 

Maybe I’ll talk to a few friends and see if we can get something going again. It won’t be the same (nothing ever is), and that’s okay. We’re not the same. And that’s okay, too.

 

Still, I’m all for the Ladies Who Lunch. Aren’t they a gas?