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Midlife Crisis II – What Does Your Midlife Crisis Look Like?

Okay folks, I want to know…what does your midlife crisis look like? My last blog post was all about my midlife crisis, and the things I do to deal with the angst. I spoke of the power of writing about it, exposing my own insecurities with words and fictional characters. I spoke about running, something I have done since high school but only really fell in love with in my late thirties. I spoke of guitar playing, a challenge that is both frustrating and totally exhilarating. And I even sang the praises of red wine, a lovely crimson companion that helps me settle in at night and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I suspect that many of you out there have either experienced something like this or are going through it right now, and I want to hear about it! Did you discover a new hobby? Throw yourself into a new career? Have another kid (gasp!)? Get all cougar-y and take a younger lover? Maybe an older lover? Buy a revved up sports car? Take an amazing adventure? Start a deep and meaningful relationship with ice cream? Or maybe you just kept those feelings of angst at bay and went about your business, not really giving in to the midlife madness. Now that is a feat I would love to hear about.

Whatever way you dealt with it, I want to hear about it! Maybe your “crisis” wasn’t at mid life – that’s ok! I still want to hear about how you dealt with a tricky time in your life when perhaps you doubted your direction, your path, or your worth. I think it is inspirational to hear how people get past these feelings of self-doubt and move forward in some way, whether that be in a new direction or a familiar one.

Let’s get a dialogue going, instead of me doing all the talking. How about sharing some of your wisdom and perspective in the comments below! Any advice for those who have not yet come to the scary hilltop that is mid life? Anything you wish you had done differently, or would do if you could go back? Anything you are still planning on doing? If you want to share something anonymously, you can send me an email at jess@jesskapp.com and tell me you would like your story to be anonymous. I swear I will not reveal your identity if you don’t want me to. It is really scary to share, I know, but we all have something valuable to contribute to the conversation.

My younger readers, I am not trying to leave you out, and your comments are welcome too! Maybe those of you whose asses have yet to droop, faces have yet to wrinkle, and whose upper arms don’t flap like wings when you wave hello can chime in with your hopes and/or fears about where you will be at midlife. Or maybe you just want to tell us crazy older ladies to shut the hell up already and be thankful that we finally feel comfortable in our own skin and don’t give a crap what people think of us. Maybe you want to share what some of your fears and doubts are as a young woman who has not reached midlife yet. That would be fair. We forty somethings don’t have the market cornered on angst and anxiety.  Feel free to stir some shit up, girls!

Come on, ladies…get in on the convo. What does your midlife crisis look like? What might it look like? I bet it’s pretty. I bet it’s interesting. And I bet you aren’t the only one who’s been there, done that. Let’s rock the midlife crises like the strong, diverse women we are! Let’s make that midlife crisis our bitch and do something truly amazing with it.

And then, have a glass of wine, maybe a scoop of ice cream and be thankful for all of the wonderful adventures yet to come.

 

 

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Midlife Crisis #LikeAGirl – Writing, Running, Rocking, and Red Wine.

Since about my 39th birthday I have been in the throes of a mid-life crisis. I don’t think it’s commonplace for people to think of women as candidates for mid-life crises. Mid-life crisis is a term that has a negative aura around it for the sad cliché it evokes of a man in a convertible sports car with a new earring and a hot younger woman in the passenger seat. But I think women are just as likely, and more entitled, to experience mid-life insanity. Why? Because, in my opinion, it is more acceptable for men to take off, explore, work late, adventure, and separate from the family for extended periods of time throughout their lives than it is for women. Yes, some women do this. But for most of us mothers/wives/career women, we are the primary nurturers, career or not. Moms are expected to be around. Wives are expected to be around. And many of us moms choose to be around, forsaking the freedom of an adventurous life.  Is it any wonder we might get antsy?

After years of being around, caring for the kids, caring for the husband, working hard at gaining career recognition, and generally being a nurturer, there came a moment in time when every fiber of my being screamed, “What the fuck am I doing with my life?” I was shaken. Even though I had a great job. Even though I had great kids. Even though I had a great husband, and a nice house, and lived in a warm, sunny place, I felt as if my life was mediocre and stagnant. I cannot explain why, I just did. For the first time in my life I felt entitled to pursue stuff just for me. Just. For. Me. The most momentous decision that resulted from this inner earthquake was the decision to write, for real. To get back to a core passion that had quietly lived inside me, like a hermit, for years, never daring to emerge lest it rock the boat. I had wanted to be a writer from a young age, and entered college with aspirations of being a reporter, while fostering my creative writing on the side. Writing is a compulsion. It is entwined with my cells. But I have always ignored it, believing that my path was clearly laid before me and all I needed to do was follow it to ensure success. But at 39, acutely aware of the “something’s missing” feeling taking hold of my guts, I decided it was time to revisit that old compulsion and give it the time and reverence it deserved. It was time to dust off the old writing skills, dig deep, and produce some shit I was proud of.

My first project was the memoir of my life changing trips to Tibet, and my transformation from sheltered suburban girl to full on mountain woman. I kept a journal every day when I was in Tibet, and a couple of years ago I re-read it with fresh, middle-aged eyes. I was astounded at how more than a decade of removal from those experiences gave me new perspective on what Tibet had meant to me as a woman and a person. I threw myself wholeheartedly into the writing of that book and am extremely proud of what I ended up with (p.s. – it’s coming out next year!).

My first trip to Tibet, 1999, getting to know a local. He wanted my sunglasses.  I obliged.

My first trip to Tibet, 1999, getting to know a local. I wanted a picture and he wanted my sunglasses. I obliged.

But perhaps the most surprising thing I discovered was my desire to write short stories. Fictional short stories seem to have taken root somewhere in my brain, and have been sprouting buds that need the light of day. I have always loved short stories. Now, at forty, I find that writing these stories allows me to explore the feelings, frustrations and frightening doubts that pop up in a woman’s mind in middle age. I don’t think many women talk about these feelings, because that would mean admitting that everything ain’t always peachy, even if you have a great job, a great man, and great kids. It is NOT CRAZY to have doubts about where your life is going, and if the path ahead is the one you want to travel forever and ever. It is not indulgent to pursue something solely for the purpose of feeling good about yourself, having fun, or just getting the hell out of your normal routine. Men do this shit all the time. Women need to. I am not ashamed to say hell yes I am having a mid-life crisis. It’s scary when you realize you are half way finished with your life and might want to do more, see more, BE more than you already are. I mean, shit, what the hell do you DO with that information!

Here’s what I am doing with that information. I am writing about it. I am writing about women in mid-life and all of the beautiful, complicated shit that entails. It doesn’t make me a bad person to explore these notions. It doesn’t mean I am unhappy, or unfaithful, or unstable. It means I am human. One of my stories will be published in a local magazine this year – it makes me giddy, and scared, and shy, and proud, all at the same time. It’s going to be out there for anyone to see. Well, shit. And, wow!

In addition to writing my heart out, I am also running, rocking out on guitar, and drinking a lot of red wine. That’s rocking a midlife crisis #LikeAGirl. Here’s to another forty years of living the hell out of this life. No convertible sports car necessary.  Cheers!

Lovin' on the guitar.

Lovin’ on the guitar.

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This Old House

I often doubt myself for decisions I make, but never so harshly as I have since this spring. Why? In March, my family moved into a new house. There were many reasons we decided to move, including getting the boys into a better school district, wanting more space, and wanting to be in a quieter, safer neighborhood. It had nothing to do with our old house, which we absolutely loved and poured our hearts and souls into when we remodeled it seven years ago. In fact, leaving that house was very difficult for us, but most of all for our two young boys who associate their young childhood with that place. When we bought the old house, Paul and I were newlyweds, and it would be our first home together. We were desperate to be in the neighborhood adjacent to campus and were lucky enough to find a small little bungalow that we could afford. The house was 950 square feet when we bought it. It was 1930 square feet when we moved out. The house was a labor of love and sweat, and held many of our most precious memories, including having two babies brought home to it, raised through infancy and toddlerhood, and starting elementary school. When we remodeled we honestly never considered that we would sell it. We had images of us growing old in that house, walking or riding our bikes to work until the day we retired, our boys coming back to visit for holidays. But somewhere along the way other considerations became significant and we began to consider a change. Actually, I was the one who was desperate for a change, and it manifested in me pushing for a move.

The old house, my kids first childhood haven.

The old house, my kids’ first childhood haven.

Why was I so desperate for a change? Well, to put it plainly, I was freaking out about my fortieth birthday looming, and suddenly felt as if my life was a thick, murky sludge of stagnant water that needed to be flushed out by a good, hard storm.   I had never thought of myself as a mid-life crisis type, always believing I would take every birthday as it came, aging gracefully and accepting whatever life had in store for me. I was dead wrong. I lost my fucking mind. I started to think of my life as half over. I began to feel as if I was sliding fast on the downslope to death, and that the only way to feel better was for something major to shake shit up.

Me and Drew on my 39th birthday, when the midlife crisis really set in!

Me and Drew on my 39th birthday, when the midlife crisis really set in. This is in the dining room of our old house.

Prior to the desperate desire to move I tried other avenues of exploration in the hopes that they would satiate my thirst for a life-changing shake up. The first exploration was guitar lessons, which are still going strong almost two years later and have been a fabulous foray away from my everyday grind. But it wasn’t enough. Another attempt came in the form of trying to land an agent for my book, before I was ready to do so. I spent weeks researching what I needed to do, how to write a great query letter, what a perfect proposal was supposed to be like, what my target market was, who was my competition, why my book was special, etcetera, etcetera, and I went guns blazing into the task of landing an agent. I actually had a lot of interest, with many agents asking for my proposal, and it all seemed peachy up until the point when I would get the dreaded, “Your project sounds fantastic but it isn’t for me. Best of luck.” What the what? I went from ecstatic highs, full of hopes and wildest dreams, to ugly lows full of, “what made me think I was a writer?” It was months of rejections, trickling in slowly as agent after agent denied my request for representation. It was gut wrenching and humiliating and mortifying and put me off the book publishing process entirely for almost a year. What logically follows months of devastating rejection about your manuscript? Buying a new house, of course.

Paul and I had discussed the possibility of moving once the kids neared middle school age, as the local public middle school in our old neighborhood was not exactly a good option, and the local charter school was an academic boot camp that even us PhDs think sounds unnecessarily intense. That meant we really had a couple of years to do this house-hunting thing. Our house wasn’t ready to be on the market anyway, and we had no idea how long it would take to sell it. But one weekend, while Paul was away on a guys’ trip, a friend of mine took me to see a house she was interested in. It was in a great area of town with fantastic views, and just so happened to be pretty close to where we already lived but still in the school district we wanted. On a whim, I asked my mother, a realtor, to do a search for houses in the area that might work for us. That night, she sent me a list, and the next day, we went to an open house. I walked in and knew that this was going to be our next house. I texted Paul, who was on his way home from his guys’ weekend, and told him, “We are buying a new house.” Balls-to-the-wall girl had reared her ugly head and I was not looking back. Somehow, this house felt like my life raft. My life-changing shake up. My shelter in the storm of a raging mid-life crisis. It gave me hope that there were still things to look forward to.

Long story short, Paul saw the house the next day and we made an offer that night. We got the house, and have been living in it happily for six months. We love it, for many reasons, even though it isn’t perfect (it leaks like a sieve when it storms, which luckily isn’t often in Tucson). But it was a breath of fresh air for this mid-life crazy lady. I doubt myself about this all the time.   I wonder if I made the right decision, to push my family into this huge change. We went back to our old house recently (we still own it – still trying to sell it), and both of my boys sighed and announced they miss the old house. I asked them if they liked it better than the new house and their immediate response was, “Yes!” “Really?” I asked. They conceded that actually, they really like our new house but they also really miss the old house. It was heart-wrenching, and made me question even more if we made the right decision. It feels like it was my decision, mostly, and here my sweet boys were telling me they kind of wished we were still in the old house. What a fuck up I am.

The new house, a desert hideaway with tons of space, critters, and peace and quiet.

The new house, a desert hideaway with tons of space, critters, and peace and quiet.

The first house I grew up in is still my favorite house of all time. My fondest childhood memories live there, as does the part of my heart occupied by my still together parents. They divorced when I was seven, but up to that point my whole life revolved around our little nuclear family in that little house. My husband feels the same way about his first house. Now, our boys feel that way about their first house. Everyone has a first home they remember from their childhood, one that secures a slice of their hearts and roots into it deeply. For my boys, it is the yellow house on 5th street that Paul and I took from two-bedroom bungalow to three bedroom family house so we could raise our babies there. As I write this, we have signed an offer on our old house, and it is likely we will be saying goodbye to it in the next few weeks. As much as we have wanted this for months, as paying two mortgages and accruing debt have not been exactly stress free, the reality of letting go of that house is deeply profound and utterly terrifying. A part of my essence is defined by that house. Twelve years of my adult life, moving through the phases of liquid newlyweds to solid four-person family, are cemented forever into the very foundation of that house. Twelve years seeped into the walls, etched into the tile, ground into the wood floors, suspended in the atmosphere around the place. How do I let that old house go while keeping those pieces of me that will live there forever? Maybe I don’t. Maybe it makes sense to leave them there, a kind of last respects paid to the place that started our family life.

But what about my boys? Moving is always hard on kids, and I expected nothing less than tears and protests and maybe even a period of adjustment during which there would be behavioral abnormalities related to settling into a new home. All of these things have come to fruition, and then some, with my youngest still, six months later, waking many nights, disoriented and scared, unable to put himself back to sleep for fear that some critter will get into the house and get him. Since moving from the city to the ‘burbs, (which, in Tucson means the desert wilds), we have had encounters with Bobcats, Javelinas, Coyotes, Snakes, Ground Squirrels, Pack Rats, Scorpions, and a Tarantula. My little guy is afraid of many of these things, and I didn’t realize how afraid until we were already settled here and the animals descended on our new abode. Imagine my despair, the mom who uprooted her kids from a house they loved, a school they loved, to drag them out into the desert wild, and plop them down among strange animals and prickly plants, all the while trying to satisfy my own need for change but not really considering if they needed the change. What a selfish mom. What an utterly self absorbed, middle-aged, addle brained lunatic I am.

Or am I? Is it valid for me to doubt myself in this instance? Or should I be recognizing the fact that hey, if it weren’t for me we never would have moved, and our kids would still be living in a smaller house in a crappier area where we weren’t comfortable letting them outside alone to play or ride their bikes? Should I be thanking myself for having the foresight to impose this change on them before an age where kids get really mean and hormonal, and making new friends is even harder than it is at ages 8 and 6? Should I be secure in the knowledge that my kids are in a better school district, with friends just around the corner whose houses they can walk and bike to with ease? I have asked my husband a million times since the move, “Are you happy we moved? Do you like the new house? Do you wish we were still in our old house?” I have asked the boys the same questions a million times. But I haven’t asked myself. I have just questioned, and judged, and blamed, and doubted myself, allowing myself to spiral into uncertainty every time one of my boys has a nightmare or says he misses the old house.

But missing the old house is healthy. And loving the old house is healthy. And moving your family to a better, safer, quieter neighborhood where the kids can roam free and enjoy the outdoors is also healthy. I can only hope that as time goes on, the boys will come to appreciate the lifestyle they can enjoy here that they couldn’t enjoy there. I hope that my youngest will come to be fascinated by the wildlife, not fear it, and believe that he is safe in our home from any wild animals that might scare him. I hope my husband will come to accept we are no longer bikers but commuters, and that it isn’t so bad considering we are a twenty-minute drive from a desert hideaway to our city workplace. But most of all, I hope we sell that old house, tuck our memories safely away inside of us, and throw ourselves into the making of memories in this new desert haven. Moving might be outside our comfort zone, but if we never moved we would never know what else was waiting for us beyond the safety of the familiar.

A house is just a house. But a home – that’s anyplace you decide is a place worth opening your heart to.

 

 

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Gone Girl

Haven’t you ever just wanted to disappear? Be a gone girl? Just take off on a personal journey and not worry about anyone else but yourself? Or maybe it isn’t even as meaningful as taking a personal journey, but just get the hell outta Dodge and take a break from reality? I have a friend, an amazing woman, who recently decided to take off for Kashmir for several weeks because, well, she wanted to. While she was there she discovered some interesting pathways she could follow in her PhD research, which was an added bonus, but she was initially driven by her deep desire to experience this place that she felt a longing for, a connection to. This all sounds great, right? Here’s the rub – she is a mother of three and she caught some heat because of her decision. She didn’t go for very long, but she still experienced judgment and disapproval. It got me thinking about being a woman and a mother and an adventurer, and how those things sometimes have a hard time coexisting, especially when women are often quick to judge and criticize other women for their choices.

Back in the 90s I used to watch the sitcom Mad About You with the incredible Helen Hunt and hilarious Paul Reiser. They played an adorable married couple, Paul and Jaime Buchman, navigating life in NYC, marriage, careers, and all of the other things young married couples must navigate. In the last season of the show they had a baby. I will never forget the scene when, before the baby is born, it hits Jaime that she is going to be tied to this child in a way that Paul isn’t. She is spinning out a bit, ranting about how she doesn’t understand why Paul won’t be able to assume more of the responsibility, and why will she have to stay home more, work less, etc. His response is, “Because you’re the mommy.” She stops dead, her face drops, and she responds with heart racing, “Oh My God, I’m the mommy, I’M THE MOMMY!” Paul immediately rushes to her side to comfort her, but calmly affirms that yes, you are going to be the primary care giver because you will, in fact, be the mommy. This scene has stayed with me all these years because I remember feeling what she was feeling in that moment, that as a woman, if you have a child, like it or not you are the mommy! You are the one who will be expected to be the primary nurturer of the child. Yes, I know there are all sorts of modern families, and more and more families are non traditional, with moms working more and dads staying home, or two moms raising children together, or two dads, and all of that is absolutely fantastic! But the bottom line is, even with the changing landscape of what defines a family, women are still expected to be around more than men. If my friend’s husband had taken off to Kashmir for two weeks, nobody would have batted an eye. After all, she would have been the one home with the children, and isn’t that how it is supposed to be?

It turns out I have many more female friends who have never left their children for more than one or two overnights than female friends who have gone on an extended adventure sans offspring. For some of them it is simply lack of opportunity. For others, overwhelming guilt about the idea of leaving the kids for a few days, or a week, or more. And for others it is simply that with the limited amount of time off that they get, they don’t want to go somewhere without their families. There are all sorts of reasons it is hard to disconnect from our kids for more than a day or two, not the least of which is our desire to be the best moms we can be. Something definitely feels wrong about packing up and taking off for a week or two, and leaving our children in the hands of someone else. But when that someone else is their father (or other parent), it seems to me it should be perfectly okay to disconnect for a period of time to foster our own personal growth. That might be in the form of two nights away with our girlfriends. It could be two weeks in a country we have always wanted to see. In the world of geology, it could even be a month away doing fieldwork for our research. In my wildest fantasies it could be a week on a beach with a cocktail and a good book! None of these situations should cause anyone to brand a woman a bad mother. But the reality is, people are quick to judge, especially when you are a mom. I read an article recently about how modern American parenting is ruining modern American marriages. The idea is that we are so committed to our children’s every need and desire that we often forget ourselves. We give up opportunities to be alone, or be with our spouses, because we think we are bad parents if we don’t put our children above all else.

http://qz.com/273255/how-american-parenting-is-killing-the-american-marriage/

I would go a step further and say as women, we are more prone to sacrificing our own needs and desires to keep the kids, the spouse, the employer, and the family happy. If putting our kids on a pedestal is ruining modern marriages, couldn’t us putting everyone else but ourselves on a pedestal ruin the modern woman?

I have personal experience with this. My husband and I are both geologists. When we were graduate students we both did fieldwork in Tibet for months at a time. We disappeared, went off the grid for 100 days at a time, blissfully unplugging from our regular lives. At the time, we were not married, we did not have children, and the disappearing was part of our work, so it was never really questioned or judged. Actually, my mom questioned and judged it, mainly because she was terrified I was going to die out there and she would never see me again. She also questioned my choice to live in a tent with no running water for months at a time, as that seemed extremely unappealing to her. Whose kid was I who wanted to go for months without a shower? Surely not hers. Anyway, taking off was accepted as part of our lifestyle back then, and we were lucky to have the opportunities that we had to do this before the responsibilities of real life crept in. Now, the responsibilities of real life have crept in, set down roots and taken over like Kudzu. You might be thinking that we stopped going to places like Tibet for extended periods of time because we have kids and jobs, and that makes sense. In fact, I have stopped going anywhere for field research, mainly because my position doesn’t require me to do field research, but also because with two young children it has never seemed opportune for me to disappear for extended periods of time, and I know I would miss the little monsters terribly. However, my husband never stopped doing fieldwork. It was never even discussed as a possibility. He misses them when he travels, but doesn’t seem to worry that his absence will fuck them up monumentally. Shortly after our first son was born he was diagnosed with a type of pulmonary stenosis. It manifested as a murmur that the pediatrician picked up on during a routine check. His aorta was too narrow and his heart couldn’t pump the blood out efficiently. This caused a build up of pressure inside of his heart. They were hopeful that he would outgrow this issue, but we had to take him in for monitoring every couple of months. He had a limited amount of time in which this needed to resolve or they would perform open-heart surgery to expand the aorta. This was terrifying to me, a first time mother, with this tiny little baby who seemed to be in perfect health. All of this was happening right before the start of one of my husband’s field seasons. Our son was diagnosed with this problem in late February and Paul (hubby) was supposed to leave for Tibet in May. We talked about him canceling his field trip but in the end decided he should go. It was only six weeks of fieldwork (yes, that is considered short for us), and even if our son needed the surgery it would be at least six weeks on a wait list before the surgery could take place. So off Paul went, with my blessing, and home I stayed with my little baby boy, a brand new mom, facing the possibility that I would be told this precious little guy would need open-heart surgery. I never faulted Paul for going in the field – we made the decision together and if I had wanted him to stay home he would have stayed home. But what would have happened if I were the one who had to go into the field for research? What kind of mother would people have judged me to be if I took off while we were waiting to hear if our six month old needed open-heart surgery? I suspect I would have been labeled a horrible, heartless mother and shamed for the rest of my days. And I probably would have believed it.

To be fair, Paul is primarily a field geologist, and fieldwork is a necessary part of his work. It is also his passion, the main reason he got into geology in the first place. I never even considered that he would stop doing fieldwork, so it is not like I wanted him to stop and he refused. His fieldwork excursions are just part of our yearly experience. The reality of fieldwork lives inside our relationship like a permanent pillar. It isn’t going anywhere. On some level I am completely fine with this – I mean, I married a field geologist after all, and wouldn’t it be crazy to expect a field geologist to give up fieldwork? Yes, it would, at least for my husband who would probably lose him marbles if he couldn’t get into the field at least once a year and flex his mental (and physical) muscles. On another level, though, I wonder why it has never really come up that I don’t get to unplug every year, for several weeks at a time, from the daily realities of being a parent. Yes, when my husband does it, it is for work, so it is not like he is taking off on vacation. But if you were to ask him about fieldwork he would not describe it as strictly work. It is not as if he grudgingly goes because he has to. He chooses to keep fieldwork as a vital component of his research because he absolutely loves it. He tells me that he is calm, happy, and revitalized after a trip to Tibet, or South America, or Egypt, or Tajikistan, or any of the places he has visited for fieldwork. That sounds a lot like a vacation to me! I believe this revitalization he feels is only partly because of the rush of the work and of being in the field, but also in large part because he can spend several weeks not being a dad, and just being a geologist, a scientist, a man. Doesn’t that sound excellent?

I have been able to escape for ten days at a stretch, which is absolutely amazing and don’t knock it till you try it. Seriously. I highly recommend it. I am lucky that I have a mother who is happy to take our boys for ten days at a time so Paul and I can adventure together. On one of these trips we kayaked the NaPali coast of Kauai, one of the top 10 adventures in the world according to National Geographic magazine. On another trip, we spent ten days exploring Uganda and tracked mountain gorillas in the impenetrable forest, a mind-blowing, once in a lifetime adventure. I am thankful for these opportunities and don’t want to downplay their importance in my life. But not once have I ever considered leaving for two or three weeks without my husband, just me, to pursue a passion, do research, or just plain unplug from life. It just doesn’t seem like an option. In fact, the first time Paul and I were leaving our son to go on a trip together, I was talking with a great aunt of mine on the phone, and I told her about how excited I was for our first vacation away from the baby. Her response was, “Oh, how nice. My granddaughter would never dream of vacationing without the kids. The kids are part of the family, why would they go anywhere without them? Oh well, whatever works for you, I guess.” Her voice dripped with judgment and sarcasm. Why would they go anywhere without the kids? Because they are human, and need time alone together to foster their marital relationship, and kids are exhausting and we all need a break from them, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be something besides mommy sometimes…etc. I was dumbstruck and didn’t reply. I also have heard, many times, from friends and family, “How can you let Paul take off for weeks at a time and leave you alone with the kids? I couldn’t do it.” Well, some of it is that I am the type of person who likes a challenge, likes to be independent, and honestly CAN do it without him. Also, everyone needs time apart, and it really does make the heart grow fonder, which is great for our relationship. And finally, I married a field geologist and never considered that long stretches away would stop being a part of our lives. But I also never really considered that I, too, would need time away. I just assumed I would be at home and that would be just fine. Mostly it is. What isn’t fine is the assumption that I will be home, and that if I am not home I am neglectful. That sucks.

Now on to a different example, fellow geologists Paul and I went to graduate school with who are married with two kids, and both incorporate fieldwork into their lives. It didn’t start out that way. It began with the husband being the primary fieldworker, and the wife being the primary care giver, and resentment started to build. She had just as much need to be in the field as he did, but as is common, it was assumed she would be home with the kids. It just made more sense. Or did it? It wasn’t making sense for her, and she told her husband that she needed more time to do her work. They ended up keeping track of every day, every hour that each of them gets away from the kids, and making sure the other gets the exact same amount of time kid free. He tells us it is hard, and that he often gets much more time away from the kids, and finds himself facing quite a debt of time that he owes his wife. But ultimately, it works for them. It keeps any resentment from flourishing. Just last night Paul and I were out to dinner with friends and someone asked me if he was planning on going to Tibet next summer. I replied that he was done with Tibet fieldwork for a while, but he would be going to northern China, or Tajikistan, or somewhere else because a year cannot go by without some sort of fieldwork. My friend commented, “He owes you quite a bit of time away, doesn’t he?” This friend is a man, and I was a bit stunned, and grateful, to hear him say that. Hell yeah, he does owe me quite a bit of time away. I don’t think I can ever cash in, though, as I would end up missing a year or two of my kids’ lives. Even if I spread them out, I don’t have enough time off of work to make good on the cashing in of all my accrued away days. But we don’t keep track, and I don’t make plans to disappear, and that is my choice, but it is also my curse. It just doesn’t feel possible. It just doesn’t feel right. Because I’m the mommy. Oh. My. God. I’M THE MOMMY!

My friend who went to Kashmir told me it was one of the most wonderful experiences of her life. She went back not long after her first trip, for a couple of weeks, and again was given hell by many people for abandoning her kids. Both times her kids were home with their father, by the way, and were perfectly well cared for. She came home a happier, healthier human being, which I would argue benefits her kids. They may not know it now, but seeing their mom be independent and adventurous will influence how they expect their lives, and wives, to be. It is especially great for her daughter to have that kind of female role model in her life. If I could take off somewhere and spend two weeks doing nothing but writing I know I would come back a happier, healthier human being, which would also benefit my kids. I don’t think I know of one woman who would not benefit from being a gone girl at some point in their adult lives, making a conscious decision to disconnect from kids, spouses, and daily life to do something purely for themselves. Whether it be work related (doing research, writing, meeting new colleagues, marketing, networking), pursuing a passion, adventuring, or just plain taking a break, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting, needing, and expecting time to yourself beyond the occasional hour or two when dad takes the kids to the movies so you can stay home alone and paint your toenails. Don’t get me wrong, those little snippets of time are a delightful treat and we should expect them (not beg for them). But we should expect more, too. And if our spouses don’t have to go do fieldwork, or travel for work, they should also expect more. Men and women, moms and dads, we all need time away from reality to recharge our souls in one way or another. Lucky for men, it seems to be acceptable when they do it. But it should be acceptable for women too. It doesn’t have to be weeks, maybe just a few days will suffice. There are no rules. The point is, we all need to take a trip, take a break, and be able to do it guilt free. We shouldn’t shame a woman for going on an adventure without her kids, or her spouse. We should applaud her for knowing what she needs and going after it. We should support her for accepting that she will miss her children, but doing something outside her comfort zone anyway because she knows it will better her life in some way. Especially us ladies…we should support the other ladies in our lives who take these chances, not make them feel worse for doing so. I guarantee any woman who leaves her kids for more than a day or two feels guilt, misses them, and worries they will feel abandoned. Women worry about that stuff. We don’t need others telling us we should be guilty and that our kids are going to be fucked up for life because we chose to take a couple of weeks for ourselves. It doesn’t seem to fuck them up royally when daddy takes off for a few weeks to bang on rocks. I think they will survive if mommy does the same. Our kids may not know it, but their lives will probably benefit too, because mommy will come home with a big, happy smile plastered on her face, and maybe a healthy glow from some sun exposure that didn’t involve chasing her kids around the zoo all afternoon.

So get out there, girl. Get going, girl. If you need to do it, do it. If you want to see it, see it. Be gone, girl. Everyone will survive and be better for it. Including you.

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Guitar Goddesses Rock #LikeAGirl

I am in the midst of a journey beyond my comfort zone that has been ongoing for almost two years now. It doesn’t involve living in a tent. It doesn’t involve travel. It doesn’t involve high altitude, or peeing outdoors in the blowing wind, or eating scary food. But it does involve jumping into something difficult, something I always wanted to do, something physically and mentally taxing, and working my ass off with often minimally stunning results. I am talking about learning how to play the guitar. Holy crap, it’s hard. I grew up with a musician father, and have a good ear for music. I played clarinet through middle and high school, reading music was a breeze, and taught myself how to play piano for a while when I was in high school. I can hear what notes should come next, and can pick out when notes are off or out of place. But the execution of playing guitar is difficult for me. The instrument itself is a tough bitch to tame.

When I was a kid my father tried numerous times to teach me to play guitar. It was his passion, and he was a great teacher and a great player. But I was not ready to commit to the difficult task of practicing this instrument that made my fingers sore, and more often than not sounded muted and cranky because I could not finger the chords properly, or strongly enough. It was less than satisfying and I blew it off. It is my single biggest regret in life, and here I am at 40 years old starting over and trying to learn how to master this complex instrument. It is true what they say – it is easier to learn anything when you are young, and learning guitar is no exception. I have somehow managed to get to the point where I can play songs and even squeak out some solo notes over background chords if the song isn’t too fast or complicated. But being the competitive, type A, overachiever that I am, I constantly feel as if I am not good enough, maybe even a complete lost cause and should throw in the towel before I have to face the grim reality that I suck. But I push on, because, hell, this is just my kind of situation. Uncomfortable? Yup. Difficult? Absolutely. Utterly euphoric when I feel the slightest bit of success? Oh yeah. So my fingers are often sore, and my once smooth fingertips are rough and callused, sometimes to the point of peeling off, but on I go.

I have this very vivid fantasy in my brain of being on a stage in a crazy outfit, black eye liner, black boots, rocking out on my guitar while a band of sweaty guys backs me up and the crowd goes wild. It is utterly nonsensical, I know, and not something that will ever happen, but I love to think about what it must feel like to be able to rock out like a banshee. If I ever attempted this I wonder what my colleagues in the science world would think.  This gets me thinking again about what is considered normal for women, and just like my previous post about the Scientific 100 (100 most groundbreaking scientists of all time), any lists of the best guitarists of all time are extremely lacking in female representation. As in science, males dominate the world of guitar playing. At least, the world of being famous and making your living as a guitarist is dominated by males. Again, I don’t say this to hate on the men because, believe me, I have a deep and some might say unhealthy love and respect for guitar playing men. I am completely in awe of anyone who can play a mean guitar. If I could sell my soul to the devil and be granted the gift of guitar goddess status, I would do it in a heartbeat. Yes, I would do it. I am serious. I suppose I could just practice more and be satisfied with being able to play a few tunes and the enjoyment that brings. Yeah, that sounds more reasonable.

But in the spirit of #LikeAGirl, and all of the things women do that some would say are against type, not normal, and beyond their comfort zone, I would like to generate my own list of guitar goddesses and worship them through my words, all the while wishing I could do just a small iota of what they do with a guitar. I might forget some that you think are worthy of a shout out and if I do, please comment below and share with me your favorite female guitarists and why you love them! I have my black eyeliner and thigh high boots on (figuratively speaking), and I am ready to rock!

Nancy Wilson is at the top of my list for so many reasons. Not everyone knows that she composed much of the music for Heart, and played some of the leads as well as kick ass rhythm guitar. She can sing too. I love how on the Heart album covers she often looked like such an innocent, angelic lady, but put a guitar in her hands and she was a tiger. The juxtaposition of ladylike and badass is perfection. That beginning part of Crazy on You…that’s all her. Check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-RY8bd3lLc

Now let’s talk about Joan. Joan Jett started out in a band called the Runaways when she was just a kid. Guess who else was in the band? Lita Ford. Two rocking women who both went on to commercial success. But Joan is the epitome of I Don’t Give A Fuck. She is a woman who seems completely comfortable in her skin, and completely unapologetic about being tough and crass. She wears he guitar slung low like a heavy metal rocker dude. Her uniform is skintight black leather. Everyone knows her for I Love Rock n Roll, but what about I Hate Myself For Loving You, and Do Ya Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah). Why shouldn’t a woman flat out ask for it?   You go, Joan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gszk_As7FYo

How many of you know about Orianthi Panagaris? Michael Jackson chose her to tour with him on his last tour (unfortunately, she never got the chance). He picked her because she could slam the solo from Beat It. She is absolutely unbelievable. Watch her tear it up here on Voodoo Child. Oh. My. God. She is just as good, if not better, than most of the male masters out there but I bet you have never heard of her. Well, now you have.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK6tcgsKgps

Blues, baby. If you can finesse the blues you are a goddess, in my book. Which brings us to Miss Bonnie Raitt, master of the blues, with her soulful, raspy voice and guitar skills, including playing a mean slide. Love Me Like A Man is another unapologetic anthem for all women who believe that we are just as entitled as men to ask for what we want, and get it. Never settle, ladies. Never Settle. Watch her here, backed up only by a bass. That’s all her, carrying that whole song. Guitar. Goddess.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pxUEBqaLfM

And some more recent additions to this world of wild women, showing us all that man handling a guitar and belting out mad lead vocals is indeed behaving #LikeAGirl. The first is Grace Potter, leader of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. This woman is hot, she can sing, and she plays guitar. She struts around on stage in micro mini dresses and heels while playing a Flying V guitar, and she rocks the house. Grace with gusto!

http://vimeo.com/15812563

And finally, Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. Oh my. I will admit, I had to be schooled on her by my male guitar teacher-I had no idea who she was. I have been missing out. This woman is not messing around. She can play. She can sing. And in the tradition of Joan Jett and Lita Ford, she isn’t afraid to wear torn leather short shorts, sling her guitar low, and sing about drinking and fucking around. “If you’re a freak like me, wave your flag,” she sings. What a message. “If you’re a freak like me, don’t apologize. They can’t hold you down, you were born to rise.” Women, ya hear that?  They can’t hold you down, no matter what you want to do. Guys, you don’t get to monopolize the market of hard rocking, unapologetic hedonism in the world of rock and roll. Get outta Lzzy’s way – she’s got the goods.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sXoA7B5yJo

More guitar women that deserve a shout out: Melissa Etheridge, Sheryl Crow, Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, Charro (yes, she can play like nobody’s business), Ani DiFranco, Chrissie Hynde, Tracy Chapman. All these ladies are unbelievably talented and can old their own on any stage, as the headliner, all alone, no male guitar players needed. I wanted to spend time with them tonight, not just because I idolize and worship their skills and talent, but because they are such a gorgeous example of women pushing the boundaries of what society deems normal female behavior and saying, screw it, this is who I am, and I am going to rock the shit out of it. They weren’t afraid to pursue their passion in a male dominated world.

And you know what? They don’t just survive in the male dominated world of rock and roll. They steal the show. Yeah…oh yeah….oh yeah.

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Geo Porn – The Earth is Sexy!

It’s the weekend, so let’s get sexy. No, not that kind of sexy. Let’s talk about geo porn. The Earth is sexy as hell. I don’t know if you all know this, but geology is an extremely sexy science. From subduction to orogeny to cleavage and hot intrusions, geology is full of super sexy verbiage to get your scientific juices flowing. These titillating terms are great for blog post material, but can be tricky when teaching a bunch of freshman guys (no offense, guys, but you tend to giggle more at “cleavage” than the ladies do). I will admit I have all but eliminated the most provocative of geo terminology from my class to avoid the snickers and giggles, and my face turning red while holding a mineral up and saying something along the lines of, “Look at this beautiful cleavage!” I’ve done it…true story. Since I mainly teach students who are not geology majors I can get away with forsaking the frisky language and sticking to topics that are fairly chaste in their descriptive words. Although, I still catch myself slipping into sexy geo talk sometimes, as there are so many geology terms and phrases that sound kinky. In fact, people have made a living out of producing eye-catching bumper stickers, comic strips, and posters espousing some of the dirtiest sounding geo talk. Here’s an example:

 

Geologists getting all worked up!

Geologists getting all worked up!

(http://www.irenesinternet.com/lol/geology-unexpected-benefit/#sthash.iAyXb2C5.dpbs)

Yes, the geologists are a sexy bunch, no doubt. Contrary to the nerds of TV sitcom fame calling us the dirt people (try, dirty people, ;), a tough geology dude in battered hiking boots, schlepping a pack full of rocks and wielding a hammer is a nice piece of eye candy, if you ask me. You might not think so at first, but a girly girl who can heft a pack of rocks and wield a sledgehammer is also quite a saucy sight! Confession time, so if you don’t want to hear a personal tidbit related to my love life you might want to tune out now. (Students of mine, if you are reading this…erase this part from your memory when next you come to class, as I know it is totally weird to think that your professors actually have a life outside of school). My first memory of feeling attracted to my husband, I mean, REALLY attracted to him, was when we were graduate students, sitting in his office late at night, unwrapping rock samples that had just arrived from his field season in Tibet. He was wearing Carhartt shorts and his battered La Sportiva Makalu boots, crouched on a small metal box unwrapping rocks, and I had a great view of the muscles in his thighs, earned through months of relentless hiking in Tibet. (Yes, I was shamelessly sneaking a peak of his thighs up inside his shorts, so sue me. That’s ogling #LikeAGirl. We do it too, ok, deal with it). My husband is not burly, but he is ripped. This all sounds completely un-feminist of me, but there has been a lot of estrogen flying around on this blog lately, and I had to shout out to my main man for a second, since we are talking about sexy geologists. But I digress……….

So the words are sexy (cleavage, thrust, intrusion, injection, orogeny, etc.). And the geologists themselves are sexy (I am serious…they are). But what I really want to point out is that the EARTH is hella sexy. This planet we live on is full of mouth-watering eye candy that we can all appreciate. Whether you like the watery oceans, the rugged mountains, the lush forests, the expansive plains, or the pink deserts (see what I did there…sexy!), you can find places on Earth that will make you weak in the knees. Here are some amazing Earth pics that are, in my opinion, excellent examples of geo porn (Disclosure – I did not take all of these pictures, most are by my husband, or are shamelessly stolen from the interwebs):

Catalina Mountains, Tucson, AZ.

Catalina Mountains, Tucson, AZ.

(http://www.kutztown.edu/activities/clubs/geology/)

Let’s start local, y’all.  The Catalina mountains, right in our backyard, are so sexy you cannot believe it.  In the world of geology, this mountain range is a prime example of what we geologists call a core complex.  It is a 10.  No doubt.  In layman’s terms, those mountains used to be a big vat of hot melted rock (i.e., magma) that was underground.  Volcanoes were blowing off like mad.  Then, the volcanic activity stopped, the ground started stretching, and the Tucson mountains slid off the Catalina’s along that big, flat, tilted surface you see when you look to the north at the mountain range.  That’s called a detachment fault.  Anyway, these mountains are stunning, and so sexy.  We are lucky to have this naked display of deep, once hot intrusive rock in our backyard.  Tucson is a great place for geo porn.

Mount Everest.  Photo by Paul Kapp.

Mount Everest. Photo by Paul Kapp.

The big daddy of geo porn, Mount Everest.  The fact that this mountain is so revered by millions of people, and draws hundreds every year to attempt summiting, is proof that size does matter.  Standing at over 29,000 feet above sea level, this monster is majestic as fuck, and is the tallest mountain on Earth.  If that’s not sexy I don’t know what is.

Pamir.  Photo by Paul Kapp.

Pamir, Tajikistan. Photo by Paul Kapp.

There are several dirty things I could say about this photo, but I won’t.  It is just mouth-wateringly sexy. I love snow, so that helps.  But even with all the frozen H2O in this pic, it is hot as hell.  The gaping hole of sunlight, the welcoming, open valley below it…okay, I said all the dirty stuff.  I couldn’t help it.

Ripples, Dunhuang, China.  Photo by Paul Kapp.

Ripples, Dunhuang, China. Photo by Paul Kapp.

The texture in this photo is amaze-balls.  Don’t you just want to run your hand over those sexy ripples?  Actually, they are pretty large scale so you might do better to roll around in them, like the scene in Indecent Proposal with the money on the bed.  Sand is sexy.

Yardangs, China.  Photo by Paul Kapp.

Yardangs, Yardang National Park, China. Photo by Paul Kapp.

And from ripples to…nipples?  (Click on the photo to really see what I am talking about).  Though they may remind us of female anatomy, these are wind carved landforms, sandblasted by intense winds during periods of strong jet-stream activity.  Wind isn’t thought of as particularly efficient at causing the breakdown of materials at Earth’s surface, but come to find out if it is strong enough it can blow a lot of crap away!

Yardangs, China.  Photo by Paul Kapp.

Yardangs, Yardang National Park, China. Photo by Paul Kapp.

More nipple landforms…because I know you pervs wanted more nipples.

Qiadam yardangs.  Photo by Paul Kapp.

Qiadam yardangs. Photo by Paul Kapp.

How about some sexy geologists sitting on some huge, long, wind carved landforms.  Stunning, no?

Green sand beach, Big Island, Hawaii.  Photo by Jess Kapp.

Green sand beach, Big Island, Hawaii. Photo by Jess Kapp.

Want something wetter than all that wind blown dust?  Check out the vivid colors of the green sand beach superimposed against the crystal blue of the Pacific ocean.  This is close to the southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, which is the southernmost point of the U.S..  I know…there are several words in here that are extremely naughty but I won’t point them out.  It took us over two hours of hiking in driving wind to get here, and we never made it down to the actual beach because at that point we were like, fuck it, let’s go back to the resort and drink cocktails.  However, I am glad I saw this particularly pornographic location as there are almost no other places like it on Earth (none that humans can get to).  The sand is green because it is primarily composed of olivine, (you might know it as peridot).

Lunpola, central Tibet.  Photo by Paul Kapp.

Lunpola, central Tibet. Photo by Paul Kapp.

These rock layers are 23 million years old.  Sedimentary rock layers, like these (which were deposited in a lake) are laid down flat.  These aren’t flat.  So what’s up?  These beds are tilted.  The beds got tilted!  That’s some intense sexy right there.

Virunga volcanoes, Uganda, Africa.

Virunga volcanoes, Uganda, Africa. Photo by Jess Kapp.

A lush, green landscape in Uganda with the prominent, pointy Virunga mountains in the background. They are volcanoes that sit on the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC.  The volcanoes exist in this part of the world because Africa has a huge gash in it, the Red Sea, which is a result of the continent being torn apart by plate tectonic forces.  Breathtaking.  Orgasmic.  Geo porn.

Now I am all hot and bothered and need to go to bed.  I could add geo porn pictures all night, but I am too old for that shit.  It is time to drift off to sleep and dream of my next adventure, somewhere sexy as hell. If you agree that the Earth is sexy, get out and work it!  See it.  Experience it.  Observe it. Photograph it.  Appreciate it. Share that appreciation with your kids (minus the nipple references, of course).

We have one hell of a sexy home planet here.  Show it some serious love.

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It’s Raining Men (Good Men) – Hallelujah!

I am a Harry Potter fan, and I have always loved the plucky protagonist Hermione Granger. (I know, Harry was the main character, but Hermione was still the leading lady of the story). This week I became an even bigger fan of the woman behind Hermione, Emma Watson, a lovely and talented young woman who went a bit outside of her comfort zone to address the United Nations about feminism. Watson made a statement in her speech that feminism has become tied to the notion of man bashing. She spoke of the unpopularity of the word feminism. She was making the point that feminism has become a bad word in our society, one that conjures thoughts of angry, hostile, bitchy women ranting uncontrollably about the horrible lives women are forced to lead at the hands of controlling men. She wants us to disassociate feminism with “man-hating,” and I couldn’t agree more. I wrote in my debut blog post that while I consider myself a strong supporter of all things woman-centric, I am not a man hater. I AM a hater of when men try to force their views on women, and thereby try to force their control over women’s bodies, wages, and freedoms. But in my experience, it is only a small portion of the male population who truly believe they know better than women, and push to keep control over us dim witted, scary creatures with body parts they don’t understand. These men are complete douche bags, no doubt, but it is not because they are men. It is because they think that by being men they are more qualified to make decisions about, well, everything. My body. My method of birth control. My sex life. My career options. My salary. My health care coverage. My medical maintenance. My education. My clothing choices. My voice. My hairstyle. My right not to be raped. These are the same men who then threatened Emma Watson with retribution because she spoke her mind, her smart mind, in support of women. They threatened to hack naked pictures of her and release them to the public. Seriously. This is their response. My God – it is exasperating!

And so the association of feminism and man-bashing has been perpetuated by some, and these two ideas might seem intimately and unbreakably bonded, since most of the people fighting against equality for women are men. Idiotic men, no less, who think the best way to deal with an intelligent woman sharing her very valid opinions about women is to expose her naked body to public scrutiny. But I assert that there are a plethora of amazing men out there fighting for women, and they are the men we should pay attention to. Not these dingbats who go straight to objectifying women. For every ignorant man who tries to assert his dominance over the domain of women, there are many men who fight for equality for their daughters, wives, sisters, mothers, and friends. Men who support the dreams and ambitions of their daughters and wives no matter what they are. Men who are advocates for their ailing mothers, when they have few options for quality health care. Men who help their daughters grow up secure in the knowledge that they are strong, they are powerful, they are smart, and they are in control of their own lives. It is these men we should give airtime to in the media. It is these men who reaffirm my love of men.

I warned you in my first blog post that I would wax poetic about the fabulous men in my life. Well…ready or not, here it comes!

Men. I love men. I have always been a bit boy crazy. I was a daddy’s girl as a child, and just adored my dad. He was everything a dad should be, and everything a man should be, in my humble opinion. He was not a particularly good student, and he grew up antagonized by the local kids because he was Italian. But he was plucky! He was smart. He taught himself how to play guitar from the age of thirteen, and then he became a rock star, making his living playing music. This only lasted until he was about 27, when his kidney (the one functioning kidney he was born with), failed and he had to go on dialysis, which in the sixties was nothing like it is today. He had to go every other day and sit hooked up to the dialysis machine for six hours at a time. He was exhausted. But still, he provided for his family. Eventually he got a transplant, one of the first in Rochester in the late sixties, and several years later I was born. He worked as a jingle writer for an ad agency, worked as a talent agent, and eventually opened his first business, The Outrageous Inn, Rochester NY’s first comedy club. I got to spend many afternoons (and sometimes evenings) hanging out at the club with my dad. It was radical. On Wednesday nights The Ugly Boogie Band played blues, and my dad would join in. My parents were divorced by then, and Wednesday nights were my nights with my dad. He let me stay at the club and watch him jam with the band. It was bliss. I was thirteen, and I was in heaven.

Beyond the cool factor of having a dad who 1) had been a professional guitar player in a band that actually had records out, 2) ran a comedy/blues club and let me hang out there, and 3) took me fishing on our Sunday afternoons together and taught me how to bait my own hook from a very young age, my father was, above all else, a kind, gentle, and generous man. He never raised his voice. He never struck out at me or my mom, or anyone else. He was a nurturer, a provider, and a giver, and strong and determined to provide for his family. He never, ever discouraged me from trying something I wanted to try. He encouraged me to be myself no matter what the consequences, and to always believe in my ability to succeed. He told me I was smart and could be anything I wanted to be. Every dance recital, band performance, or play I was in, he was there with roses, telling me I was fantastic, even though I think he secretly was hoping I wouldn’t follow in his footsteps and try to make a living in the business of show. When I was 19 I sat at his bedside in the hospital while he died, and reflected on his recent plea to me that I should go to school. He always said, “Everything else can wait. Get an education. Nobody can take that away from you.” I truly believe my choice to pursue a PhD was heavily influenced by that plea, from a man I loved, respected, and trusted. He didn’t order me to go to school. He didn’t tell me I would be stupid if I did not go to school. He simply shared with me his regret that he did not go to college, and told me he didn’t want to see me pass up the opportunity to get a degree. It was sage advice and I am glad I took it!

In addition to my dad, his father, my papa Joe, was the same kind of gentle and kind soul. He had been an athlete who went to Ithaca College on a baseball scholarship. He was in the military. He was a physical education teacher. By all accounts, he was a tough guy. Yeah, he was tough. But that didn’t matter. He was soft spoken and wise. He was an avid reader. He spoke to me as an equal. He would tell me stories for hours, never too busy to engage me in a conversation about any topic I was interested in. He taught me how to swing a golf club. He let me drive his big old station wagon around the parking lot of their apartment complex when I was just a girl and curious about driving. When I was a baby he visited my mom and I every day. It didn’t matter to him that I was a girl. So I didn’t think it mattered that I was a girl. Neither of these men, my dad or my papa, ever made me feel as if being a girl was anything less than kick ass. They were amazing. They shaped my expectations of what a good man is.

Enter my husband in the spring of 1998.   We start dating in graduate school at UCLA and immediately I realize that he is very similar to my dad and my papa – he is gentle, and kind, and never obnoxiously macho. He is smart. He is a hard worker. He is supportive of me. Sixteen years later he is still all of these things, and has also become my biggest fan in this little writing endeavor of mine. I have no doubt he will impart all of this fabulousness, these true characteristics of a real man, onto our sons, and they will be kind, gentle, supportive men because of it.

I also have no doubt my father, my papa, and my husband would have kicked the shit out of anyone threatening me if that situation had ever presented itself. But I never really learned that men should be considered tough, violent, or controlling because I did not witness that. I grew up secure in the knowledge that real men support women. Real men are kind. Real men believe that women are just as capable as they are, just as smart as they are, and can do unbelievable things if given the chance. Real men don’t threaten women who speak their minds. Real men are good men. Real men are feminists. Yup. Real. Men. Are. Feminists. BOOM!

Feminism is not a bad word. It is not a dirty word. It is not a word that implies man hating. Feminism is all about equality for women. And any man worth his salt supports equality for women. Men, if you have daughters, don’t you want to promote equality for them?  Show them what real men are like so they settle for nothing less.

Look around, ladies. Pay attention to the good men in your lives. It’s raining men, GOOD men, and I say – HALLELUJAH!

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Are You Ready to Jump?

Today’s post is inspired by three quotes that I encountered in the last 24 hours. “Are you ready to jump.” “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” “Great people do things before they’re ready.” How’s THAT for inspiration?

All of these quotes resonate with me in different, but similar, ways. The first is from Madonna’s song Jump. Warning: If you are going to hate on Madonna take it elsewhere! If ever a woman was an example of being a strong individual defined by her own accomplishments, it’s Madge. Unapologetic bitch, indeed! Anyway, this song Jump is my go-to song when I “hit the wall” in runner’s speak, or am nearing the end of a run and don’t think I can finish. I experienced this today and started flipping through my iPod songs in the hopes of getting my groove back to the sounds of a good, hard beat, when I landed on Jump. As soon as I heard it begin I knew I was going to finish strong. Even though just seconds before I was a sweaty, defeated mess just counting the minutes until I reached my goal distance (and trying to convince myself I had already gone far enough), somehow I found myself increasing the speed on the treadmill, upping the incline, and pushing through, and even past, my goal distance. Damn, music is powerful. But aside from the motivation the beat provided, the message in the song is just as powerful. “Are you ready to jump, get ready to jump, don’t ever look back,” are words that always get me thinking about the things I have done in my life that seemed like giant leaps of faith at the time. Like standing over a chasm of uncertain depth, which might lead to something really unpleasant, but choosing to take the plunge anyway. It is a fucking scary feeling, but sometimes fear is not so bad. It tells us that what we are about to do is probably pretty freaking awesome.

Which brings me to quote number two: “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” The rest of the quote says, “Often we think ‘I’ll do it when I am not so afraid.’ But in reality, it works the other way round. The ‘doing it’ comes before the fear goes away. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.” To see the rest of the post you can go here (https://www.facebook.com/brandyn.heppard). It is really quite poignant and falls directly in line with what I write about, which is how we often stand in our own way when we should be getting the hell out there and rocking the shit out of this life we have. When the fear starts creeping in, you know it is about to get good! I am not talking about fear of real, life threatening situations mind you (in which case you should get ready to fight like hell or get the hell out of the situation), but fear of something unknown, something new, something completely outside the realm of your comfort zone, but absolutely fascinating, enticing, and potentially life-changing. Yeah. That’s the sweet spot!

And the third: “Great people do things before they are ready.” This quote came from Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls (https://www.facebook.com/amypoehlersmartgirls). Wow. That is something I had never considered!   Great people do things before they are ready. We have all had those moments when we put something off because we aren’t ready. Maybe we aren’t as prepared as we would like to be. Maybe we just need a little more time to fine tune something. Or maybe, we are afraid. Maybe we are scared of whatever it is we are about to do, and so we keep it at bay by saying we are not ready. This implies we will be ready at some point, but just not right now. It is an easy way to assuage our fears and not feel like total losers for avoiding something potentially important. I have certainly been there. Hell, it can be something as simple as an unpleasant meeting I am avoiding, to something as serious and life altering as having children. But here’s the thing about readiness – when are we ever really ready for anything that has the potential to be life changing? We cannot possibly prepare for everything. We cannot possibly be perfectly equipped to deal with every situation we are going to find ourselves in. In my experience, the situations you are least prepared for end up bringing you the greatest potential for personal growth.

My personal example, which I will just share a snippet of (as I have a whole book dedicated to it that will be out soon – yes, this is a shameless plug), was my journey to Tibet as a young, green graduate student. I was not an outdoorsy girl. I was not confident in my geologic field skills or my scientific skills. I was terrified of getting altitude sick. I was convinced I was going to die out there. But for some reason I decided to hell with all of that nonsense, and just threw myself into it full boar, taking the unknown path leading into a murky and exotic distance that I could not fully picture. I felt the fear and did it anyway. I don’t think I am a great person by any means, but I surely did this thing before I thought I was ready. Turns out, I was ready to jump. And the result was the single most important, life-changing, defining experience of my entire life.

I am a firm believer that nothing with the potential for being truly life altering comes without some amount of associated fear. I have several friends who have done similar things, or are doing them right now! Check out Kim Brown’s SailingBritican page (https://www.facebook.com/SailingBritican) – a woman who dropped everything and took of on a sailboat to explore the world! Christ, that takes balls. Or my dear friend Sarah who, as a young college student left her home country behind and went to Germany to live and work, before she knew the language or how she was going to survive. Why did she do it? She wanted to. Was she scared? I have no doubt.  But she rocked that shit.

I suspect most of us have done something that felt like it was a huge jump beyond our comfort zone (or at least a little hop out of our everyday norm). I want to hear about it! Message me, tweet me, or leave a comment, and tell me about your skip, hop, jump, or giant leap into the unknown. Come on ladies (and gents) – recognize your greatness! Tell your stories! Represent, yo!

And the next time you find yourself in a position to try something slightly scary but oh so amazing, ask yourself, “are you ready to jump?”  And then, do it anyway.