Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

By Sharon Riegie Maynard

If I had needed a reminder of the deplorable state of women in our country, it could not have come with greater power than via my oldest Granddaughter, Sara. Sara is an incredible young woman… you know that kind of granddaughter, right?

She lives in another state, is doing her very adult life, married to a wonderful man as a partner and has always stepped into adventures that made me wish I were 40 years younger.

She sent me a text this morning that read, “At a conference today – Take Root: Reproductive Justice in Red States.”

Flash back to 1970’s when women were fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment here in this country. And then to 1973 and the Roe vs. Wade landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. I was so brainwashed by my patriarchal religion that I did not support the ERA nor did I cheer Roe vs. Wade. Oh, to do life over!

I had planned to write a very different newsletter this week. One cheering you on to finding your own vision, your own voice, your own authority. And that is an incredibly, valuable idea.

And…

If we women in the West do not wake up and shake off the blinders we have had placed on our eyes, the chains around our belly wisdom and return to our strong roots within Earth and our sisters, humanity is in BIG trouble!

Why do you think that women have been so targeted over the ages? Why have we been beaten down, laughed at, discounted?

Who has benefited because women are not at the decision making tables in GREAT numbers?

Look around you and see the devastation of corporations gone wild, the human trafficking, rape, murder, poisoning and double speak. You see the end results of domination and you see the total lack of the values, visions and voices of the women who create Good for those they love.

We, women in the U.S.A., have a tendency to walk around in a stupor. We talk of being privileged, of being safe, of being blessed while the power over our bodies, our food, our air, our children, our time has been taken from us. You think not? Who dictates your health care? Who decides if GMO foods are labeled? Who gets a pass when fracking destroys water or when lead laced water is sent into your home? Who benefits when the cancers in female reproductive systems run rampant? Who decides whether you have time off work and who decides that your work efforts are worth less then men?

A valuable friend of mine who helped women in Russia claim their place in the politics of that country said, “When you are not at the decision making tables, you are the meat!” Well, my sisters, we have been the meat for way too long.

Where do you begin? By waking up! All is not well and it is because the female mission has been squelched. Standing and designing cultures that result in  Good is not up to someone else! That is YOUR job. You are needed. Your malaise, your depression, your fear are the very things that allow those whose agenda is to dominate and use humanity want. Don’t give it to them!

Reconnect with the Earth! Find other women. Talk with one another honestly. Build strong connections Do not think that you are an isolated tree in this Forest of Sisters! You are so bound together in Spirit that when one wakes up, others wake up.

The singer/songwriter, Cris Williamson, told me in a conversation with her, “Everything that women began and accomplished in the 1960’s began with conversations over coffee in kitchens or coffee shops.”

We have to start talking with one another about things that matter and make sure our feet move!

treesisters.org is a group I want to highlight this week. I asked Clare Dakin, the Founding Mother, where you could go in their network to be feed by the energy of trees and Mother Earth. Her gifting to you is their archive of meditations and guided  visualizations. I have so benefited by them and am honored to share them with you. Women are sooo needed! Click here..

“Hypnos, God of Sleep

“Please awaken us.

“While we sleep Ignorance takes over the world.

“Take your spell off us.

“We don’t have long before

“Ignorance makes a coup d’état of the world!”

Gary in the book Mindset by Carol W. Dweck

We cannot go blindly into a Dark Night!

We must wake up and then wake up our Sisters.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

By Tracey Baum-Wicks, Syracuse, NY

A few years ago I started to wake up to the potential ramifications of the peak oil dilemma and began to feel drawn to the notion of food security and sustainable farming practices.

As a single gal in midlife, I began daydreaming about retirement from my skincare and bodywork practice, a vision, which always landed me on some idyllic little patch of country road with some “acreage” far from my urban existence in upstate NY. But alas, with retirement still 10-15 years down the road, all I could do was study and be ready, perhaps experiment a bit so as to shorten the learning curve when I would finally become a real farmer. So, as I waited for that day to come, I began reading, attending classes and experimenting with sustainable gardening techniques on my .4 acre city lot.

My first project was to create a fenced, raised bed garden area that would be safe from browsing deer. Deer have become more and more prevalent in urban areas. Suburban sprawl robs them of wild habitat, so they are forced to cross frequently through human habitat to find what small margins of hedgerow and brush remain, often at the edges of our highways. I resolved to plant something outside the enclosed area for the deer to enjoy on their daily pilgrimage.

Utilizing 6′ steel garden stakes, expandable lattice walls from an old yurt for support and a double layer of 6′ rolled reed fencing attached with plastic ties I created a 40′ diameter circular enclosed garden space. A makeshift gate from an old carved wood dressing screen and latch provided security, and double rows of straw bales lining the inner wall save a margin for the addition of soil and compost, as well as bio-degradable raised garden beds.

This fenced-in space plays a dual role in that it provides me with 100 linear feet of easy to tend raised garden space AND a wonderfully secluded gathering space for friends, complete with a circle of seats around a fire pit.

I burn all of the dead fall from my trees in the pit and later add the ashes to my compost to build the soil. Beauty, function, and fun in one project … cool, right?! And for the first time in the seven years I have lived on this busy corner lot at a major intersection, I can be outside with friends and not feel like I am in a fish bowl. It’s my secret garden in the city.

One of the biggest imperatives of sustainable agriculture on any scale is and shall continue to be the building of soil fertility. I began to experiment with composting last winter by using an under the counter container with red wriggler worms. The “gross factor” was quickly replaced by the “awe factor.” And before long I was reveling in the bounty of rich, black worm casting that would ensure a whole planting season of nutritious compost tea for my raised bed circle garden.

Before planting season was barely underway, fly season was in full swing and my handy under counter set-up found a summer home in a shady corner of the backyard. I missed the convenience of my worm bin immediately and immensely. So, necessity being the Mother of invention that She is, I shifted gears for the warm weather and installed a traditional compost basket right under my kitchen window. When I am done prepping my luscious homegrown veggies, I simply open the kitchen window and drop the the scraps and peels into a woven willow compost basket under the window. I close the window and no flies!

Yet another permaculture experiment managed to combine edible landscaping, potential aquatic animal food production, a perpetual source of fertilizer AND a fun weekend project with my nine year old nephew Spencer. Spencer was looking for a new home for his year-old carnival goldfish who’d not only survived, but also thrived! It had grown some 6” long and had outgrown his bowl at home. So we put our heads together and decided to build an above ground container water garden. Using an 8′ diameter by 2′ deep stock tank for our container, we then imitated the graduated floor depths to bank level that exist in natural ponds

by stacking old tires along one side of the pond wall in staggered formation, filling their cavities with a combination of pea gravel and garden dirt, creating lots of nooks and crannies and mud for beneficial bacteria and pond critters to hide!

After filling the pond with water and allowing it to sit for 24 hours to de-chlorinate (the bane of the organic urban gardener – municipal water treatment!) we then scoured nearby creeks for cattails, watercress, and duckweed. We purchased some edibles such as arrowhead, sweetflag, lotus, and water celery as well as great water aerators like water hyacinth and iris. Next stops, the bait shop and pet store for crawfish and trapdoor snails. We even sent away for bullfrog pollywogs in the mail. And of course we acquired a mate for Spencer’s goldfish.

And there it was, a masterpiece of symbiotic relationships and rich bio-diversity, just like a natural pond. The fish eat all bugs on the surface and, with the aid of the snails and pollywogs, keep algae at balanced levels. All the root systems of the plants scrub the water by using the animal excrement as nutrition. Meanwhile crawfish scavenge the pond floor of fish poo and decomposing leaves. And there’s still enough nutritious pond muck, teaming with life, to fertilize the garden with. Now, truth be told, we’ve not yet made a meal of our pond critters, but theoretically, we could. I’ll keep you posted on that one!

The pond project with Spencer proved to be a great learning for me. The fun, adventure, awe, and deep satisfaction we shared supplanted the dread fear of our impending societal/environmental collapse with delight and infinite possibility. The magical experience of participating in community compelled me. I resolved to “get me some more of that!”

I began brainstorming about all of the ways I might invite and entice the neighbors to inquire, tour, and participate in my grand experiment. I ordered a child’s bee suit for Spencer so he can participate in tending the top bar hive that I keep as a Bee Guardian. I designed a living willow tunnel for the busy front corner of the property. Once established, it will invite pedestrians to cut right through my yard to the main road in enchanted style, and just maybe it will peak their curiosity about the fruit trees they will be passing. At very least they’ll be wondering how the crazy lady on the corner, who used to scold them for cutting across her grass, became such a creative and thoughtful neighbor! “Maybe it has something to do with those mushrooms she’s growing on those logs under that tree,” they may wonder.

I also had visions of building friendships with some of the older folks on the block by stopping by with some of the bounty from my garden, sitting down for a cup of tea and one of the wonderful stories from their lives. Why, a couple of times this summer, folks pulled right into my driveway and asked to tour my “magical” property! It seems permaculture is contagious!

As I write this, from the tree swing beneath the old sugar maple on the bustling corner of the main road, it occurs to me that I am actually a real farmer right now. I am doing it. I am living on that “idyllic little patch of road.” Ok, so it’s a fraction of an acre instead of acreage. But it’s teaming with life, full of possibilities and growing deep roots in this, MY community. After all, what is an organic farmer really? Isn’t it Mother Nature, with the wave of seasons and the majestic command of the elements who directs the symphony of all life? Me, I just turn the page so the music can play on. Nice work if you can get it.

Now go play in the dirt!

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

By VIRGINIA POSTREL

I admit it. When I was growing up, my father called me “Princess.” Routinely. Even when I was in high school.

This was strange, I now realize, and not just because I was more nerd than girly-girl. The United States has been a republic for more than two centuries. We aren’t supposed to have princesses. Yet the archetype remains both persistent and profitable.

Princesses are everywhere: under the tree at Christmas and on the sidewalks at Halloween, atop birthday cakes and in videogames, on bedspreads and in perfume ads. They provide themes for baby showers, quinceaÒeras, even weddings. The phrase “every little girl dreams of being a princess” generates more than 300,000 Google matches, only a few of which concern Kate Middleton’s impending marriage to Britain’s Prince William.

“Princess” is not just a royal title. It’s a powerful, and popular, ideal.

When the Los Angeles Times recently reported that Disney was swearing off new animated princess films, the fan outcry was so great that Pixar Animation chief Ed Catmull quickly issued a retraction on Facebook, vaguely promising great stuff to come. Whether it turns out to be the last or merely the latest Disney princess movie, “Tangled,” which opened Nov. 24, is an indisputable hit. Going into this weekend, the retelling of “Rapunzel” had rung up nearly $194 million in world-wide ticket sales.

Yet among today’s educated urbanites, “princess culture” is the subject of raging debate. What some parents consider innocent make-believe, others deem character-eroding indoctrination. Calling your daughter a princess fosters “a sense of entitlement and undeserved superiority,” declares one mother, commenting on a CafeMom post called, “Is the Princess Fantasy Dangerous?” Others fear that princess stories teach girls to be pretty and helpless, waiting for a prince to rescue them instead of acting on their own behalf. Should liberated women let their daughters play Cinderella? It’s a topic with which mommy blogs never seem to tire.

“Enough is enough,” writes an exasperated Sasha Brown-Worsham, a self-described “feminist with a master’s degree,” on CafeMom. Dissenting from her peers, Ms. Brown-Worsham doesn’t believe her daughter will be marred for life if she wears a princess dress or insists on being addressed as Cinderella. “‘Princess culture,” she declares, “is what you make it.”

Given my history, I have to agree. And Ms. Brown-Worsham’s response addresses the big cultural puzzle: Why, in a society without princesses, does this archetype remain so intensely glamorous to girls with all sorts of backgrounds and personalities?

A princess is pretty, rich, beautifully dressed, loved, happy and, above all, special. She represents escape from the constraints of even the most bountiful childhood. Erstwhile princess Sarah Constantin, now working toward her Ph.D. in mathematics at Yale University (a classic girly pursuit), recalls the joys of imagining a “‘dream dress’ that was every color of the rainbow and had opals in the shape of morning glories” and reigning over Sarahland. There, she says, “I was a benevolent ruler, but here on earth I had to do what I was told, and (worse?) wear overalls.” The princess archetype embodies a feminine version of the appeal Michael Chabon in his novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” ascribes to superheroes. They express the “lust for power and the gaudy sartorial taste of a race of powerless people with no leave to dress themselves.” (Wonder Woman is both superhero and princess.)

Beyond that, a princess is what you make of her. She may be wise-cracking or demure, a blue-eyed blonde or a tawny brunette, goth or Gothic, a domestic goddess like Snow White or a warrior like Xena. The princess archetype is powerful because it is adaptable. It changes with time and circumstance, while retaining its emotional core. To play princess is to embrace two promises: “You are special” and “Life can be wonderful.”

Neither of these need entail narcissistic entitlement or female passivity. Even that old-fashioned children’s classic, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1904 novel “A Little Princess,” portrays an imaginative, individualistic young heroine. Suddenly orphaned and destitute, Sara Crewe imagines herself a princess not only to escape her miserable circumstances but to maintain her good manners and self-control. “If you were a princess,” she reminds herself, “you did not fly into rages.” When unfairly abused, “you can’t sneer back at people like that if you are a princess.”

For all its Victorian stoicism and sense of duty, this princess dream shares the mixture of openness and elitism that gives princesses their contemporary appeal. Like the superhero, the princess has a special identity and destiny. She is more than an ordinary girl. But her value is not determined by playground hierarchies. You don’t have to be popular to be a princess. You can be an iconoclast, even an outcast, but you must be worthy. You must be good. In this version, as my then-5-year-old niece once wrote me, “Anyone can be a PRINCESS.”

Printed in The Wall Street Journal

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

By Alana Kirk, The Irish Times

In 150 years the life expectancy of women has doubled and they are grabbing new opportunities

Imagine if you could be handed your life over again, but this time with the wisdom you have gained from experience. Well if you are a woman and 40, you just have.

One hundred and fifty years ago, women’s life expectancy was 40. Once children were reared, they retreated into the background to knit away their remaining days. Now our life expectancy is 83. Women today find themselves with an entire extra lifespan to enjoy and we are beginning to shed the image of grey-haired, elasticated-waist-wearing has-beens. Middle age is being redefined by a new generation of women not ready to hang up their high heels.

I woke up on my 46th birthday and everything had changed. Not only was I squinting to read the vitamin pills bottle and having to pluck rogue white hairs from my eyebrow and black hairs from my chin, but I also faced a future I hadn’t expected.

My marriage is over, my parent-care years have eased and, after 10 years of babies and toddlers, I have three school children. I have reached the statistical mid-point of my life, but when I look in the mirror, I don’t see “middle aged”. I see a woman with a whole life still ahead of her.

My mid-life crisis is a mid-life opportunity. And I’m not alone. All around, I see my generation of women refusing to disappear into the mists of middle-age as silver hair becomes the new golden age.

A generation ago, middle-aged women became invisible, resigned to the “big pants” years with few role models, little representation and no voice. But as feminism has delivered unprecedented opportunities for women, middle age is no longer being seen as the beginning of the end. For many, myself included, middle age has become the end of the beginning.

Claire is 48, recently divorced, with three sons leaving or who have just left home. Instead of suffering from empty nest syndrome, she is revelling in her new freedom. “I feel I am reversing back and having my youth now.” This summer she is going travelling with her 18-year-old son to South America. “I could have spent another 10 years just existing. But now I feel I’m living.”

 

Left her job

So what has changed to allow my generation to really start capitalising on those extra years in a way that hasn’t happened before?

Certainly better opportunities. Housework and child-rearing were almost exclusively the mandate of women. Roles are changing with shared parenting, and with women pursuing careers, our options to play a vital, vocal and positive role in society have changed too. We can be mummies, but we can also be people too.

Amanda Keough had two children and a high-powered career. She “had it all” and gave it all, but it seems it gave her nothing back. “I had lost myself. When I turned 40 I realised my life was whizzing past and I was spending most of it frazzled on the M50. So I made a very conscious decision to move forward and actually engage with the second half of my life.” She left her job as a marketing director, and retrained as a pilates instructor. “I’m 47 now and have never been fitter in my life. I’ve also never felt so confident in my own skin.”

It wasn’t just her career she changed. “I had always just followed the path I thought I was supposed to take. But I wasn’t actually expressing who I really was. I got a funky haircut, I wear fun clothes and I care so much less now about what other people think.”

Which leads us to society’s attitude to aging. I grew up watching my mum and her friends resign themselves to a societal image of how they should be. The worst social faux pax was to turn up as “mutton dressed as lamb.”

She would say things like “is this too young for me?” as if it was a crime. My generation of mid-aged peers are more likely to say “does this make me look too old?” The difference between me and my mum was that she wanted to look her age, and I don’t.

Smart, confident, sexy mid-aged women are now on our TV screens from RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan to cinema’s Helen Mirren. Advertisers are (finally) seeing that using young girls doesn’t appeal to every market. Dolce & Gabbana has included Sophia Loren in its latest fragrance launch and Marc Jacobs has named Winona Ryder (aged 44) as the face of his new beauty range.

L’Oreal has recruited Susan Sarandan (69) to join its stable of mature thoroughbreds – Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda – representing women who have been ignored for far too long.

Of course, growing older does have its downside: losing our elastic skin, our eyesight and our mammary gravity. But today there are numerous ways to counter these. We are more likely to buy purple mascara than get a purple rinse.

Many of us are emerging out of the baby-making, toddler rearing years, and although live hectic lives, are re-engaging into an era of life when we might just be able to focus on our own well-being and have learned through life experience that we are strong and can actually do important things and recover from awful things.

Keough is adamant that she does not fit into the traditional template. “I categorically do not think of myself as middle aged. Logically I am in that age bracket, but mentally, physically and fun-wise I think of myself as everything I always was but I’m a lot more confident.” Mid age – it’s a new age and it’s time to celebrate.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

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