March 3 – Assembly Required

by Carol Ziel

Older Woman on Sofa

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I tried to brush the vanilla icing from my lip. It stuck. Or rather “they” stuck: a small colony of coarse white hairs had gathered at the corner. This burgeoning village of whiskers had joined the unicorn hair that sprung from between my eyebrows, and the straggly chinny-chin-chin hairs that could easily be braided into a ZZ TOP kind of look if left unattended. I used to hang on the sink watching my father shave. Never in my childhood fantasies did I contemplate having similar Gillette moments.

Now, even before I begin to shave, I must find my glasses. I have two pairs: not the cute little reading half glasses in funky colors from Walgreens, but serious nerd glasses–one for reading and the computer, and one for distance. Then there is my somewhat new hearing aid.

Finally, the “pad of the day.” I used to have a collection of shoes. My current collection is adult incontinence supplies. I used to buy one Victoria’s secret push up bra or matching panty each pay period. They came in glorious jewel tones. Now my undie drawer is packed with Fruit of the Loom and black sports bras. It would take more than the color black to make a sports bra sexy. And my breasts are no longer even in alignment.

The breast situation at least had an interesting story. I had to crawl my 70-year-old body through my locked truck’s back window to retrieve a key. While my breasts were wedged on the console, my butt was hanging out under a perfect blue sky, bent in an unflattering penitent position. Although I did retrieve the key, backing out was a problem of mythical proportions. Embarrassment gave me momentum. With a pop that was startlingly like a champagne cork, I flopped out. True, the key was in hand, but one breast hung further south than at the beginning of the adventure. Apparently, ligaments are not what they used to be either.

I long to jump out of bed, pulsing with the promise of the day. I miss the time when my breasts were perky and pristine, bladder snuggly in place, my eyes piercing and hearing sharp and when the only cane I owned belonged to a sexy Halloween tap dancing costume. I miss 4-inch heels and disco clubbing. I miss the time when my mail was more than AARP catalogues, Medicare supplement notices, and life insurance advertisements.

But most of all I miss a time when assembly was not required to start my day.

Carol has been an SCN member for six years and is grateful to be nurtured by such wonderful women writers. She is also a gardener, grandmother, social worker, Quaker and Goddess-centered woman who primarily writes poetry but is branching out into more essay types of writing. More to be revealed.

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March 1 – It’s Winter Now

by Linda Hoye

Gerbera Daisy image by Linda Hoye

It’s winter now. On some days the snow falls like feathers, on others it glistens like diamonds in the late-winter sun. Today, the sun shines bright, tricking me into thinking it’s warmer out there than it really is. From the sanctuary of my woman cave, where the hum of the heater and the clicking of my camera shutter are the only sounds, I look out over the back yard where fairy dust glistens in the frigid afternoon air.

I’m shooting Gerbera daisies. Life’s been busy since I brought them home a few days ago and they’re starting to fade; I haven’t had an opportunity to capture any photos of them yet. Today’s the day.

As I work, this blog is in the back of my mind. I’m remembering another day, eight years ago in a different season and a different country, when a different me sat swaying in a lawn swing on a sultry summer afternoon reading the stories of women’s lives and a vision for One Woman’s Day was conceived.

I shift position and change camera settings and imagine women going about their day not knowing that everything will change before the sun goes down; and others, who will come to the end of it filled with gratitude and peace and an expectation for what comes next. I wonder which way it will turn out for me. I wonder if someone will write a story about this very day.

Somewhere, a woman is sitting at a desk, or curled up under a quilt, or sitting on a beach, playing with words and crafting the sweet complexity of her story—a generous gift for another who will be touched by the telling in the future. That’s what One Woman’s Day is all about.

Satisfied that I’ve taken enough photos for now, I return to my desk and pop the camera card into the slot in my laptop. While the photos are downloading I glance over at my second screen where One Woman’s Day is up and reach for my mouse. I scroll down the list of contributor names and think about the women I’ve had the privilege of meeting in real life, and others I’ve met only through their words that have touched my heart.

Images of Gerbera daisies come up on my main screen and, for now, I turn my attention to the story I’m telling there.

# # #

What an honour it has been for me to coordinate this space all these years. These stories have touched me and reminded me of all that we have in common, regardless of how different our lives appear on the outside.

Today I hand the One Woman’s Day Coordinator baton to Kali’ Rourke: grateful for her willingness, knowing she will add her own unique flair to this space. Please join me in giving Kali’ the warmest of welcomes.

Linda Hoye is on the other side of a twenty-five-year corporate career. A writer, photographer, gardener, and somewhat-fanatical grandma, she lives in Kamloops, British Columbia with her husband and their doted-upon Yorkshire Terrier. Find her online, where she posts a few words and a photograph early every morning, at http://www.lindahoye.com.

February 27 – Daily Stuff

by Ariela Zucker


6:00 am. Like every morning, I stand in front of the big kitchen window and wait for the water to boil. It takes about five minutes for the electric glass kettle to hum, then gurgle, then big bubbles explode against the glass, then quiet. In the meantime, I look at the neighboring houses below. It is still dark, but on the horizon, the sky turns light blue, and beyond the tree-line, faint orange and pink line can be noticed. I pour the hot water over the coffee in my glass, my special morning one and prepare a second cup for my husband, still asleep. Over my head, I can hear the dog’s footsteps on the second floor. In a few moments, he will tiptoe down the stairs and ask to go out.

The house is ninety-eight years old, older than any house I ever lived in. Every time I think of it, it makes me shiver a little and at the same time feel warm and safe. It’s a strong house, built with wood beams that do not exist anymore, by skilled builders who wanted the homes that they built to last for a long time. I like it that the second floor has its own entrance, and I can sit up there, and no one can see me. I like how the basement is wide and the ceilings high. The electricity lines, water lines, old telephone lines that are no longer in use, resemble a functioning body. The heart, I imagine is the huge furnace, or perhaps the electricity board.

The basement, more than any other part of the house, can tell stories about the past. There is a set of stairs being blocked now by the kitchen floor. Most old houses, I read somewhere used to have two sets of stairs. An official, wood carved one for anyone to see and admire and a second, plain and narrow, for the daily functions.

I look at the cobwebs in the corners. In moments of quiet, I think I can hear the spiders weave them, as I imagine I can hear the bushes outside try to find hidden cracks in the foundation and send in a branch, or two, to investigate. The snow melts outside and water trickle along the walls. In the spring small puddles form in the corners, then sucked into the cement floor and disappear.

To me, who grew up in another country, in a tiny apartment on the third floor of a faceless building this old house is an enchanting castle. I love how every occasionally, I still encounter signs of the people who lived here before us.
I am not from here. I will probably never be. But for a few minutes every morning when I stand by the window and wait for the water to boil I feel tranquil and grounded.

Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband  left sixteen years ago and now reside Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel. She blogs at https://papredragon2017.blogspot.ca/

February 18 – The Spirit of Wild Horses

by V.J. Knutson

We’ve come to the bluffs in hopes of seeing the wild horses. The day is crystal blue without a cloud in the sky. My heart is heavy.

It’s been nearly a week since I’ve heard from my friend Nadine, and I fear what that means. Dini has been fighting an aggressive form of cancer for nearly a year now. It’s our habit to connect everyday, either by text or Facebook. The last message I received said she was “Going to sleep.”

There is little I can do so far from home.

Coon’s Bluff is a strip of land with mountains on one side and a drop overlooking the Salt River on the other. Spotting the horses at the top of the mountain, I head that way, while Ric is drawn to the water.

The horses are magnificent and it feels like such a privilege to be here surrounded by the reds of the mountain, the green of the mesquite with their almost black trunks, the greys and caramel of the rocks cascading down to the blue-green river. From every direction I hear birdsong and I ready my camera, but the motivation is lacking. Today, I am more interested in just communing with nature.

How Dini would love this place.

I push my walker across the uneven ground towards Ric, who signals me to stop and turn. A mare and foal are paces behind, so I move behind a bush to let them pass. They pause a moment, emanating such gentleness, and then head down the steep slope to the water.

A parade of horses follows, among them another mare and foal, and an old grey, and then a stallion that neighs and stomps in agitation. I take the cue and move further off the path. He picks up pace and passes.

We watch in awe as the group crosses the river and disappears into the far woods, and then startle to the sound of rapid hoof beats and a streak of chestnut flashing by.

Two eagles soar into view.

“It’s so beautiful!” I find myself repeating.

Ric finds a place to sit and I move further along the bluffs to where a tree hangs out over the drop. Two little birds chase each other over the water and back, and a small head bobs in under the rock crevices. A Rock squirrel watches from its hiding place and I can’t help but line up the shots.

I just want to stay in this moment forever.

“My wife was bedridden for over two years,” I hear Ric saying, and reflect on how far I have come, not just in miles, but also in healing. My disease, while debilitating at times, doesn’t carry the same threat as cancer. I have been the lucky one.

The horses are back at the water’s edge and watching them I feel as a deep sense of calm and peace.

Life is mystery. It is beauty and sorrow and unapologetic. It just is.

(Nadine died this day. I will remember her with the wild horses.)

V.J.Knutson is a former educator, avid blogger, and grandmother. She and her husband are currently travelling cross-country in a 40 foot motor home. Originally from Ontario, Canada, V.J. hopes this journey will provide healing for her ME/CFS, or at the very least, inspire further creativity. Find her online at https://onewomansquest.org/.

February 14 – Valentine for My Mother

by Linda M. Hasselstrom

January 7.

On this day in 1957, a Monday, my mother wrote, “A lovely washday. . . . and I felt like working.” What a good reminder that I should concentrate on the positive things my parents wrote! I’m so invigorated that I take a break from my writing to mop the kitchen floor.

February 14. Valentine’s Day. 10 degrees with a cold wind at 5:26 a.m..

Valentine for my Mother

Cut flowers don’t last
says a woman’s voice.
I spin around in the Safeway aisle
expecting to see my mother
who’s been dead all winter.

Cut flowers don’t last,
she says again,
the woman with blue hair
beside the flower display,
shaking her head at the young man
still reaching for a bouquet
wrapped in red paper.

She sounds like my mother,
mouth pursed, not smiling,
each time I brought a bouquet
to the nursing home. You shouldn’t
have spent the money, she’d say.
Cut flowers don’t last.

I picked them
from my garden, I’d say.
She’d snort.
Cut flowers don’t last.
So I brought slips
from my plants,
potted them for
her window sill. She didn’t
give them water.

II.
When I was growing up
Mother served our meals on Melmac
scrawled with scratches,
kept the good china
in the cupboard
so it would last.

During that final year
she was alive, she asked once
about her good china. Safe
in my glass-front hutch, I told her.

At ninety-two she took her final breath.
I covered her pink enamel coffin
with roses the color of every blouse
she gave me no matter how many times
I told her I hated pink.
As I paid the florist
with her money, I told him
Cut flowers don’t last.

III.
Now in the Safeway aisle
I smile at the young man
who is carrying the flowers
toward the checkout stand.
Cut flowers don’t last
she says once more.

Tomorrow all the blooms
that do not sell will pucker
in the dumpster
brown as the roses whipped
by the cemetery wind
the day after my mother’s burial.
Cut flowers don’t last
I muttered to the mound
above her heart.

IV.
I gave her dishes to my cousin’s
daughter. In my gardens,
I cut flowers, thinking of my mother.
Blooms scent every room,
reflect themselves even
in the bathroom mirror.
Every night from the arbor
I watch the sunset
that will never come again.

I’ve worked on that poem a long time, half embarrassed because of its negative mood, but it expresses feelings I’ve carried for a long time too, and my recovery from them.

February 15.

And all day, whenever I looked down at the ranch buildings, I thought I saw my father just stepping into the corral or my mother shaking a rug on the porch.

—From Gathering from the Grassland: A Plains Journal, High Plains Press, 2017. paperback, 320 pages, $19.95; limited edition hardcover, 320 pages, $29.95. www.highplainspress.com

Linda M. Hasselstrom conducts writing retreats in person and by email from her South Dakota ranch. Her newest of 17 books is Gathering from the Grassland: A Plains Journal, written thirty years after her first book, Windbreak, also a ranch diary. Recent poems appear in Dakota: Bones, Grass, Sky (Spoon River Poetry Press). www.WindbreakHouse.comwww.WindbreakHouse.WordPress.com.

February 1 – There is a Crack in Everything

by Carol Ingells

 I have been stunned,violated, abused, bereft, inspired, hopeful, amazed, grateful. All these feelings and more have lived in me this week of painful revelations in my city– Lansing, Michigan. This city, dominated by Michigan State University, was my home for 50 years. This is where I taught school, was married, bore and raised a child, where I was involved in innumerable ways. This is the community I shared with my passionately dedicated writer/photographer husband for 40 years, sometimes feeling I came in second to his love for the community, the newspaper, his camera. This is where my husband, my sister, and my parents died and where my partner, Robert entered my life.
This week 150 young women screwed up their courage, came together and testified in court to the ongoing molestations of a supposedly renowned doctor. 150 girls! Not only were they molested, but no one listened to their stories. Their agonies were ignored as though they didn’t exist, weren’t valuable human beings. The “renowned doctor” was believed, protected, enabled.
Trust has been broken. Hearts have been broken. Not only because of the truth, but because the “highly respected” leaders of a great university would not face the truth; cared more about protecting the school and their own reputations than about the destruction of young lives. And what has it led to? Rage. Shock. Disillusionment. Grief.
The athletic department of MSU is implicated. The School of Osteopathic Medicine is implicated. The school’s President of 13 years, who was highly respected (and highly paid), has resigned. The Board of Trustees’ role is questionable. An over-all investigation has been launched, a special prosecutor appointed.
So why did I add inspired, hopeful, amazed and grateful? Because these young women have connected, bonded, supported one another in a beautiful way. Because the judge, a woman, allowed, encouraged, and listened as each one told her story. Because the university students rallied around them, thanking them and cheering them on.
Because maybe at last women are claiming their birth right, one that has eluded them for thousands of years. Because whatever humiliation, anger and grief Lansing has to suffer, maybe this city will come out the other side more honest, more compassionate, more whole.
There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. ~Leonard Cohen
Find Carol Ingells online at her blog, Prayer, Play, and Politics. This post was originally published there. (http://www.prayerplaypolitics.blogspot.com)

 

February 7 – Shaken to My Foundations During A Set of Wall Push-Ups

by Judy Gruen

The other day at the gym, the teacher sent us to the wall for a set of standing push-ups.

“Place your hands on the wall at breast level,” she instructed.

I placed my hands on the wall at breast level. I saw that my hands were headed for the Gulf of Mexico.

“How did this happen?” I asked, sorrow catching in my throat.

“You know what they say,” said my neighbor. “After 40, it’ all maintenance.”

I gritted my teeth and performed three grueling sets of push-ups, determined to show that my strength and agility were not sliding nearly as fast as some of the rest of me. I did not cheat, exactly. I leveled the playing field, so to speak, by sliding my hands north on the wall closer to California, where the rest of my body lives. This made the push-ups much easier to complete. Besides, the true pain of the exercise was realizing that I was desperately overdue for some deferred maintenance.

Back home, I fished out a catalog of women’s sports clothing that sold bras for every possible shape and fitness need. Sure enough, I found a model designed by a researcher in New Zealand who had a doctorate in Newtonian physics. The bra was called “Stand and Deliver”. I paid extra to have it shipped to me overnight.

When I looked at myself in the mirror wearing my new suspension rigging, I was amazed at what a little retrofitting could do for me. Had I only known how much I would benefit from a close study of Newtonian physics and its application to my ability to perform wall push-ups, I would have paid more attention in high school science.

My new bra was not the sexiest-looking underwire garment to have ever left the shores of Macau. It had an uncanny resemblance to building scaffolding, but at least I was not a “problem fit”who would require the services of one of the nation’s leading bra-sizing consultants. (This was not the case for my friend Gerry, who once admitted to me after a few glasses of wine that she had been measured for a new bra with a carpenter’s level.)

Stage 1 of my deferred maintenance program had striking results.

“Something’s different about you, I can tell,” my neighbor said while I was in my new cups. “Wait, don’t tell me: did you have Botox?”

While it is still a painful experience to walk past Victoria’s Secret, that bastion of female objectification and purveyor of false expectations, at least now I do so holding my head (and my mammaries) a little higher. Victoria’s starving models may look better in a push-up bra than I do, but those scrawny arms of theirs will be their undoing in a contest with me for wall push-ups.

(This post is adapted from a piece originally published in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.)

Judy Gruen’s newest book is “The Skeptic and the Rabbi: Falling in Love with Faith,” (September 2017, She Writes Press). She is the author of four previous books and has written for the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Aish.com and many other media outlets. Find her online at http://www.judygruen.com/.