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To All My Soul Sisters

It’s hard to keep up with the boys.

That’s something my sister and I definitely understand. We learned how to shoot guns and hold back our tears. To this very day we’re known to be a bit “wild,” but we’ve  never given much thought to a little eyebrow-raisin’. Some people will just never get who we are. Sometimes we don’t even understand who we are.

The backdrop of our childhood was naturally wild. Acres upon acres of forests, woodlands and fields. And sky. Wide. open. sky. There was a freedom in its openness. We forged our identities in the wooded groves of the Arkansas prairie wetlands. We climbed magnolia and apple trees. We fell out of them. We ran in our backyards, uproarious and joyful, shameless and utterly content.

We were fierce in our happiness, part of a small rural town in Arkansas. Clean-cut around the edges, with adventurous hearts. We had safe neighborhoods to ride bikes in; and we had schools with teachers who cared about us. The fields by the roads flew by in parallel rows, but we grew wild, without the pruning of hollow flattery and polite reserve. Raised by tough men and hard-working women, we were unabashed and independent, innocent and wild.

For all the blessings in my life, the greatest one to date has been sisterhood. My mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers and girl friends have given me the chance to express myself free from a bias that infiltrates almost every aspect of our world. Sisterhood promotes honesty and laughter, courage and kindness. But, perhaps most importantly, it encourages self-respect and confidence in a patriarchal society.

Today I’m writing to all my sisters out there. Music lovers, artists, thinkers, mothers, waitresses, dreamers, dancers, writers, teachers — I believe women are powerful influencers in this world, and in a world full of hatred, fear, pain and suffering–a woman’s touch can go a long way.

One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that the structure of our society is bound together by sexism. We are paid less than men. We hold fewer positions of power. Our sensitivities are often dismissed or overrun by a societal aversion to vulnerability and emotion. Just because we don’t feel the sting of everyday sexism, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Preconceived notions of gender norms, like all biases, tend to hide in our collective mental blind spot, keeping us out of touch with what we are not in a position to see.

Within prescribed gender norms, women are dedicated to the happiness and well-being of others. We carry children in our wombs, nurse them, teach them and care for them, but I think what we actually inherit from womanhood is far more powerful than what society can dictate. Not only because of our biological identities, but because our hearts are wild and ungovernable, except by our deepest convictions. We are undeniably human, but also undeniably different than men.

In a world that is largely a boys’ club, sisterhood is an oasis of freedom. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that feminist issues are “just between us girls.” Husbands, dads, grandpas and brothers can be our best friends and biggest supporters. Our friends and family members are the ones who inspire us to move forward, to get better, to heal and find happiness. Their confidence gives us the freedom to express and explore who we are, and the more we show of our true selves, the stronger our hearts and our voices, and the more good we bring, together.


“If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador

Love & Relationships

VIDEO: On Marriage, Love & Being Alone

Love is the ultimate human condition. It unites us and strengthens us.

Noted July 3, 2015 | 1 Week After SCOTUS Recognized Gay Marriage

Over the years, I have spoken with many different people, made many different friends, and what I’ve discovered is that love is love regardless of gender. People are people regardless of gender. One’s entire identity can’t be neatly tied up in a sexual stereotype, and in an ironic way, excluding gay couples from our collective family portrait has created a level of extreme self-consciousness, both in fierce pride & insecurity in the matters of sexual orientation.

Homophobia, paired with religious reverence for the traditional American family, has made this fight for equality especially emotional. If you are still struggling with concept of love across a growing range of genders, I hope this video will serve as a starting point.

Starring: @waylonlewis

Published by: The Elephant Journal ©

Curated by The Tough Cookies Blog & Re-Blogged May, 2015

Fashion/ Love & Relationships

It’s All About the Wedding Dress!

A few weeks after I became engaged, one of my relatives took me aside to give me some bridal insight. “It’s all about the dress,” she said.

In the past few months, I’ve gotten a LOT of advice. Like, “Don’t serve fish.” and “Make a  detailed list for your photographer.” and “Make sure you wear the right underwear.” It’s the type of well-intended (but

common sense) advice that I tend to brush away with a polite smile and a nod. The type of advice that, if it were a gift, would end up unused in the back of a closet somewhere, gathering dust because I’d just feel too guilty to throw it away.

Before getting engaged (and even after I got engaged) I had never envisioned myself in a wedding dress. (I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of gal.) So I pored over bridal magazines and watched hours of David Tutera’s “My Fair Wedding.” I mentally crammed myself into every style of wedding dress imaginable, and nothing felt quite right. I still hadn’t experienced the grand vision of walking down the aisle toward my future husband.

When the big shopping day finally arrived, I was hopeful, but prepared to walk away empty-handed. My weight had “fluctuated” and trying on clothes had recently become an exercise of grueling disappointment. One nagging insecurity kept plaguing me, “What if I’m too fat to feel pretty?”

Oh, how naive I was!

The Magic of the Bridal Gown

I had yet to experience the power of the bridal gown. For those of you who haven’t already experience this magic, you should know that stepping into a wedding dress is like trying on dresses for a coronation ceremony. It doesn’t matter what body type you have: you’re going to look fabulous.

Trying on wedding dresses should be the first order of business for all future brides. In fact, you should shimmy out of your everyday clothes and slip into a wedding dress ASAP. While it could be the air of romance that drapes itself around the entire experience, I have a sneaking suspicion that tulle, chiffon, lace, satin, and expert beading and stitching have something to do with it as well.

Stepping into the first wedding dress of the day was like shouldering my womanhood and embracing my girlhood dreams in a single, magical moment. Unicorns galloped. Birds chirped. Stars Twinkled. The girl who had been standing there only moments before, in a pair of blue jean shorts and a printed summer top, had been replaced by a beautiful, elegant woman.

last unicorn

A GIF from Meropegaunts: Accurately portrays what it feels like to try on a wedding dress.

It was a strapless lace gown with an a-line silhouette. It was beautiful and the price was right, but I immediately knew it wasn’t THE dress.

When you’re single, it’s all about finding THE man, and when you become a bride, it’s about find THE dress. But here’s the real secret, it’s not really about the dress at all. It’s about discovering your own expectations for your wedding day. And for all the planning and flipping through magazines and browsing Pinterest — finding THE dress is the only way to truly know.

What Type of Bride Am I?

It’s not really as simple as taking a “What Type of Bride Are You?” quiz. And it’s also not something that can be simplified down to an overarching type. (Are you a Romantic Bride or a Modern Bride?) Deciding what type of bride you want to be is about understanding who you are as a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a hostess. For some women, there are even more elements involved. For me, stepping into THE dress was a moment of pivotal self-awareness.

Who am I? There are a lot of answers to this question, but essentially, I’m a storyteller. I want my wedding day to be an extremely happy memory that will spark dozens of stories. For the guests, of course, but also for my future husband and me. I want to dedicate an entire day to our relationship, to our memories, our family and friends, and the things that make us happy. I want my wedding day to be a love story in motion.

Love stories are important to me, particularly because they are so fragile, so fleeting, and so susceptible to getting lost in the fray. Life gets busy. The days become hectic. Before you know it, you’ve raised children who never learned how their parents met or how they fell in love. I want a different experience. I want to collect the scenes and moments and memories of our relationship. Then, I want to string them together, like beads on a necklace, for others to see. (I bet you had no idea wedding planning could be so DEEP, huh?)

Standing in front of the mirror, frowning and fussing over trains and embellishments, I held two things in my imagination as I surveyed my reflection:

  • My fiance’s reaction as I walked down the aisle
  •  Twirling in his arms on the dance floor.

In the end, it came down to two dresses.


The first was an A-line dress with a sweetheart neckline. The fabric was tulle: crisp and white. It was absolutely gorgeous. My mother loved it. It was the group favorite. In so many ways, it was perfect for me, but somehow it just felt too safe.

The second dress — the dress I chose — is a ballgown with a full satin skirt, a lace bodice, and buttons trailing down the back and along the train. In all of my mental conjurings, I had never envisioned myself in anything so dramatic or sophisticated. (I mean, it has a HOOP SKIRT for crying out loud!)

I would definitely suggest taking better pictures than I did!

I would definitely suggest taking better pictures than I did!

I think all women can understand the power of transforming their reflections. (It’s why we love makeover stories.) In so many ways, planning a wedding has been about my transition from girlhood into womanhood. The dress I chose requires some growing into, a personal transformation from a laid-back country girl into a sophisticated and elegant woman.

Not to mention that a bride in a ballgown MUST learn to ballroom dance,which is one of my long-time dreams. (My future husband has promised me lessons for Valentine’s Day.) You see,I don’t want my life to be just about romance. I want a life full of adventure and personal growth. And dancing. LOTS of dancing.

So is it really all about the dress? Probably not for every bride. But for me, the dress is the only thing big enough (seriously, you gotta see the radius of that hoop skirt) and glamorous enough to hold all of the hopes and dreams I have for my wedding and my marriage.


P.S. Since I’ve been engaged, I’ve made a few Pinterest boards for wedding planning. You can check them out here. I update them incessantly, but right now I’m hoping to stick with the Magnolia themed wedding. The only problem is that Magnolias may not be blooming during my wedding date (April 26).

Also, here is a full photo of my dress.

Love & Relationships

Keeping the Magic Alive in a Relationship

Saturday Night — I’m hiding in my closet, trying to squeeze into a pair of off-brand Spanx. The dress I bought earlier today is a little see-through, and my Victoria’s Secret shaping slip needs some backup. The Spanx are a second layer of security, to protect my nether regions from exposure and to hold my wobbly bits in place.

I bought the shaping hose when I was much younger and leaner, and as I struggle to pull the hose up, a horrifying realization crosses my mind: it may be physically impossible to get the tiny elastic band over my thighs. After a few moments of arduous labor, when I finally pull the shaping hose over my hips, I’m sweating a little, and I’m slightly concerned about my circulation. When I pop the elastic in place, a feeling of immense triumph washes over me. It gives me the perfect dose of adrenaline, and I am able to disregard the fleeting, trivial discomforts of being girdled. Cramming myself into a pair of control-top pantyhose never felt so good.

I know I must look ridiculous, with a pair of cropped pantyhose pulled up over my navel, like some weird female version of Steve Urkel. “Well, I’m keeping the magic alive,” I think, giddy with mixed feelings of self-congratulation and good-humored self-degradation.  Ridiculous or not, I feel very pleased with myself. I adjust the hems of the shorts and pull the hose tighter against my thighs. I feel sleek, sexy and ready for a date with a computer programmer named Kevin.


An hour earlier, I had scrubbed down the counters and vacuumed the living room. We had plans to make pizza together, and I didn’t want him to see a single crumb on my counter. I had showered, dressed, and my makeup was done. I was doing my hair when he came back from buying the groceries.

He tried to come in the bathroom, which I had preemptively locked.

“You’re not allowed in here!” I yelled.

“Are you pooping?” he asked.

“NO!” I screamed, mortified.

“Okay, I’ll let you poop,” he said.

“I’m not pooping. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” I yelled.

“Fifteen minutes? What am I supposed to do?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Cut vegetables or something!”


I fell in love with Kevin while watching him chop vegetables. We were in the kitchen of his shabby college apartment, and he was preparing vegetables for a spaghetti sauce. He has paw-like hands, broad and strong. You would expect fingers so thick to be clumsy, but they’re anything but.

I remember the exact moment clearly, watching him slide a knife through the green skin of a bell pepper. Love finds us in the strangest moments. When he cut that pepper, I saw the best of him outlined in a single motion. I saw ease and precision, the confidence of a capable man. But I also saw something unexpected, a strength paired with grace and tenderness.

When I first fell in love with Kevin, we had been dating for four months. I was crazy about him, but he wasn’t ready for anything serious.

That was five years ago.

Today, we’re having a dinner date in our apartment. I’m wearing a new dress, not because I want to impress him, but because he deserves the best of me. He proposed to me eight months ago, and we’re getting married in April.

“Oooh, sexy lady!” he catcalls at me when I come out of the bathroom. I strike a pose and laugh before giving him a kiss on the cheek.

“I pretended we were dating, and I cleaned the house so you wouldn’t see my messy apartment,” I tell him.

“Oh really? That’s funny because I spend the afternoon at the pool and had my maid clean the apartment before you got here.”

I laugh and slap him on the arm.

We’ve lived together for over a year now. It’s been a slow (and sometimes tough) transition, but my ideas about romance have changed a lot since my single girl days. Home-cooked meals, good jokes, quiet moments snuggled together — the small, everyday actions and gestures that express our love and support for one another — these are the little romances that bring us closer.

But every now and then, he’ll surprise me with dinner, and I’ll wear a new dress. We’ll take a trip or listen to a new record. We love to delight each other, and that’s what helps us keep the magic alive.

How do you keep the magic alive in your relationship?

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