Monday, March 24, 2008

Real dolls

Sometimes I have a hard time relating to women I know casually--the ones I meet at my kids' activities--for instance. Part of the problem is the whole question of asking, "What do you do?" I don't want to hear those defensive answers from stay-at-home moms or hear the fatigue in the voice of someone who is working full-time AND trying to stage a book fair at the school. I don't want to make the question into a measure of the woman for those who are multi-degreed but have chosen to take a part-time job as a bookkeeper because a job in the field that they love would conflict with family. Even at places like the theater or dance studio where mothers congregate, I have a hard time talking to women about things that are more than superficial.

Luckily, I am involved in some venues in which I get a glimpse of wholeness. It seems that a light goes on, and I can see them for the women they are. Or maybe certain circumstances make it easier for them to open up about their lives and their achievements.

Last week I shared with a woman who gave herself the gift of education for her 50th birthday. She is going back to school and doing an in-depth study of artist Judy Chicago, an artist near to my heart, who really advanced the feminist perspective of art. We talked a bit on this subject before switching it up and discussing the home funeral movement, which this woman is helping to initiate in our area. Like home births and birthing centers did for pregnant women, home funerals are giving people more options in the way to experience the life cycle in private, familial and ecologically minded way.

Another woman in my circle, an art teacher whom I have highlighted before, is taking her own time to host a club after school to teach kids about our food supply, the merits of organic and local food, and to educate them on the fast-food industry's manipulation of kids through commercials and toys. Read her Blog on the club. It is fascinating stuff.

The more active I am in the things that are important to me, the more I am coming into contact with the kind of women who inspire me. Not that I am not inspired by the President of the PTA, just that I feel I missing some of the story.

Here are some snippets of stories I love from women who I know...

...The yoga teacher and mom who is planning a spiritual trip--her first big one away for her family to attend an all-women's week long yoga retreat in a different time zone.

...The woman who has spent years caring for her aging mother, but continued to show her art internationally and who stands on the courthouse steps on Wednesday evenings in solidarity with other mothers in the Middle East doing the same protest against the killing of their sons and daughters.

...The mother of two who left her family for a week to help build houses in Haiti with her church group.

...The teacher who started an African Drumming group with her personal stash of drums. Originally for at-risk boys, the drumming program has expanded to include other students, including girls.

...The empty-nester who took the flight of her offspring as an opportunity to fly for herself. She cultivated a new hobby and a new way of seeing the world-- travel photography.

...The woman who turned away from a high-powered job in finance, went back to school, and now educates the community on issues relating to sexual assault prevention and gender equity.

I am so lucky to have real life examples of women who have dared to live and share. My mother is my first and best among these. As a former teacher, she has been a champion for adult literacy and a student of childhood enrichment. For the past nine years she has been a volunteer and worked with the children and adults whose lives have been affected by family violence.

Just to name a few of my heroes. I should have a tea party and invite them all to tea. It's on my SARK How to be an artist poster. "Invite someone dangerous to tea." These women have quietly begun to change the world we live in. Nothing more dangerous that that.

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