A woman’s work is never done and here, we’re just getting started. Women everywhere are forging their own paths and redefining the status quo, and now that we all have access to kickboxing classes, we’re round house kicking the glass ceiling throughout myriad industries. Here on A Woman’s Work we live to lift each other up and shine a light on the brilliance of these determined and savvy women. I am delighted to share the stories of all of these amazing business owners and entrepreneurs.
Come with me and explore what all of these incredible women are doing.
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Happy Friday, my friends! I have missed you! And I have some very exciting news!
Today we’re going to be talking about one business woman I know very well.
I’ve been grinding hard, really hard, and unfortunately that has caused a bit of a dip in my productivity here. I hate to leave anyone hanging, so let me tell you about what I’ve been up to!
I completed a class in SEO and have moved on to learning different code languages. These new skills are going to open so many more doors for me as I work towards my goal of writing full time. I also have been reaching out to different businesses! As you can imagine, juggling a website, a full time job, and getting my freelancing off the ground has kept me running around like a chicken with her head cut off!
This pandemic has radicalized me. I am a very different person than I was when I first began this incredible, fulfilling journey profiling different women. I have no intention of ending this project, however….
I started a second blog! Now, this blog serves a specific purpose. While it will be more of a fluffy lifestyle blog, the focus is going to be the technical skills involved in creating meaningful pieces to further build on my portfolio. I’ll also be using my pen name for this blog, so don’t let Nat Walenty fool you – it’s just me! And don’t worry – it’s gonna be really funny. I’m very excited about this.
I’d like to invite you to follow Navigating 30, my new blog, which officially launches tomorrow, where I chronicle the trials and tribulations I face as a not-so-neurotypical woman in a depressingly typical world. Those of you who know me personally probably already know what’s in store: awkward conversations at the DMV, recounting my innovative expertise in avoiding the male gaze, and of course, a little existential dread with a flirty twist. Should be fun!
Small Lights will be my main focus on A Woman’s Work for now -of course, there will still be amazing women profiled – but I cannot guarantee a biweekly schedule while I finish my classes and work on more technically focused pieces.
Words cannot express how stoked I am for these upcoming weeks and months. Thank you for your continued support, and look out for my first blog post! It’s going to be all about surviving Halloween…in your thirties.
Happy Friday, everyone! And – of course – Happy Small Lights Friday! I hope you’ve all been kind to each other and, if not, I hope it was for deserved revenge and it went smoothly for you.
I thought for today it would be a good idea to get back to the very basics of what a Small Light is. We want to introduce positivity into the world; we want to infuse a glimmer of hope into our fellow humans, through our words and actions.
Helping a stranger carry their too-many groceries (don’t help me, though, I can DO this!), complimenting someone’s sweater, all of those little things that might turn someone’s mood around.
The latest Senate Judiciary Report dropped earlier this week, along with the news that Trump is actively obstructing the investigation. I know, I know – I am just as shocked as you are. Who could guess? Well, we’re not going to be talking about the report today. We all watched the insurrection live on TV, and I haven’t finished reading the report yet. (Okay, I’ll confess: I got to page 4, realized I already knew the information, and went back to reading The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule).
I want to talk about the ripples we are going to see from this among our friends and family. I want to talk about how we can talk to each other civilly, respectfully, and without insulting the person we are debating with. I want to talk about how we can guide the misguided. I fear we may be entering another period of stress and constant agitation, both from the news and from our neighbors. I am expecting another circus. Perhaps, if we do our best, we can get ahead of the hate.
AIN’T NO DEBATE
Let’s be clear: We are not entertaining conspiracy theories here. There is no debate that Joe Biden won the election, or that Covid-19 is real. No one is coming to take anyone’s guns, and Christianity is not under attack. In fact, I fully expect to be able to say “Merry Christmas” without being persecuted, despite popular belief. I’ll keep you posted on my findings.
While the majority of Americans know these facts to be true, there is a pocket of America that has fallen victim to misinformation, disinformation, and plain old conspiracy theories. It is important to note that these people are not stupid; they are misinformed. I ask you to remember the word sonder, the word that defines that feeling we get when we realize everyone around us has as much of an intricate life as we do. Hopes, dreams, fears – these help define our humanity. We all have all three, don’t we?
The conspiracy theorist in your life has hopes, dreams, and fears. Do not mock them. In 2021, we are faced with a world of deep fakes, “alternative facts,” and online social microphones whose impact has been uncovered too late. Do not forget these are people you love. You’ve purchased them Christmas presents, you’ve laughed with them, drank strong drinks with them. We are all just regular people who happen to be faced with the new world of social media and, congruently, international outreach. What was once whispered among friends at the bar is now circulating the globe, garnishing likes and retweets, fueled by rage and fear. It has been proven that lies spread far faster than truth. But do not give up hope just yet.
ARGUE WITH CARE
So, what can we do? Scientific American has some ideas. There is a lot of great information in this article, and I encourage you to read it, but my interest was most piqued at one particular strategy: Creating a shared objective. I have found this method to be the most helpful tool in having a respectful conversation without indulging conspiracy theories and feeding the flame in my own personal relationships.
Instead of completely dismissing their ideals and beliefs, focus on the problem. Let’s use Covid-19 as an example.
Of course, the shared objective with the pandemic is reaching some form of normalcy. It is important to remember that the person you are talking to ultimately wants the same thing. They are just taking a different, more perilous avenue.
“Covid-19 is a hoax. You know masks make you sicker, right?”
“I wish we could just stop wearing masks, too. I just want to get back to normal.”
From here, try to guide them.
BE IN A POSITION TO LISTEN
Have your words ever been ignored? Perhaps you have found yourself once, at a Thanksgiving dinner, attempting fruitlessly to shout your opinion over the ever-oscillating stuffing and sweet potatoes, only to remain unheard. It does not feel great. Remember, when you are talking to a conspiracy theorist, they too want to be heard as much as you do. They too are bound to the social contract that dictates we listen to one another. Once you dismiss them, you are part of the conspiracy and the argument is over.
We must approach these issues with understanding, lest we lose the entire conversation. Keep in mind, Watergate was real, Project Paperclip was real. The fact that there have been several conspiracy theories proven true does make it more difficult to direct your friend away from mistruths. Listen to what they have to say. Ask them what they think, what their conclusions are. Essentially: Treat them as human beings.
Once empathy has been established, an effective conversation can be held. I know this from experience. I remember last year, a dear friend expressed to me their concern about defunding the police. This conversation happened last year, so please keep in mind I am paraphrasing.
“It’s incredible what the democrats are doing. They want to take away all the police. It’s unbelievable. They want this [the protests] to continue.”
“You’re totally right – we do need police. That’s why I think the phrase “defund the police” was a critical error in their rhetoric – it gives off the wrong vibe.”
“Right, so who are you going to call when you’re in trouble? No one is going to help you.”
“It’s so irresponsible how democrats are phrasing this. When they are saying, ‘defund the police,’ they mean diverting funds that are used to purchase military grade weapons and transferring it to mental health services. So I mean, the money is just being allocated to services better suited to the situation.”
“Oh, really? Well, I mean, that makes sense.”
“Right? I wish they had chosen a better slogan.”
“Seriously. That sounds like the right idea!”
I did not make this conversation up. This truly was the outcome of displaying empathy and listening.
A WORLD DIVIDED IS NOT LOST
Trump’s supporters were stoked and incited by their own fears, blasted through mics that echoed through packed stadiums. Yes, the fears were – and are – unfounded. And yes, for a good chunk of these supporters, these fears are based in racism. I truly believe many people with racist ideals can be liberated from those ideals. I think back to the piece I wrote for a different Small Lights Friday, where I discussed my journey in becoming actively anti-racist. I had to come to terms with the fact that I have been benefiting from White Supremacy and, while I certainly was never consciously racist, I had to grapple with the social ladder I finally learned I was standing on. It was hard. It was not impossible.
Now that we know Facebook benefits from us getting angry, let’s keep that in the back of our minds. If you’re browsing your feed and you see something that makes your blood boil, turn off the app and take five deep breaths. Or, if you can, try going outside.
I did not write this article to advise that all racists should be forgiven. That is patently untrue. There are some people, however few, that may just hold hate in their hearts. Perhaps they have been completely lost to hate, gobbled up through Facebook memes and Project Veritas videos. Perhaps it has always been within them. It is true that there are some people who cannot be saved from this. It is a tragic loss. However, we must focus on the people who are willing to be saved – the people who are afraid after being fed misinformation.
In 2021, there is so much to fear. So much to fear, in fact, that I will never understand the stoking of these conspiracy theories; reality is tough enough. I do hope these coming weeks and months go smoothly for you. The House investigation is picking up speed right in time for Thanksgiving – the holiday that, for whatever reason, has been designated the Politics Holiday.
Remember to listen, and to empathize. Guide your loved ones to the truth without insulting them. If they are unwilling to learn, do not fight. Walk away. Look at the transformation October weather brings, rife with opportunity.
I love everything I promote, from abstract art to upscale hair salons. Everything: The soaps, lotions, vintage teapots, digital prints and original paintings, my hair cuts, I could keep going. The businesswomen I get to write about every other week truly are as incredible as I describe them. And now, today, I get to do it again! However, this particular local business ranks high on my list. Very high.
Ruth Plaster happens to make one of my very favorite things: Pipes!
I met Ruth Plaster, sole artist and owner of Mud Hedz, at the Boston Open Market in Copley while out celebrating my third anniversary with my partner. I found Ruth’s booth among a sea of white tents, where homemade scarves billowed in the zephyr and the chatter among shoppers blended seamlessly with the vendors.
Her display table was a menagerie of the whimsical. Avocado pipes, peanut butter cup pipes, smoking stones, and different kinds of vegetable pipes – all brightly colored and expertly crafted – lay on the gray tablecloth, evoking that strange nostalgia we sometimes feel when looking at something we love. I was immediately smitten. I wanted to learn more about Ruth and her clay pipes, so we sat down over zoom and chewed the fat.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
While Indica is what I mainly purchase to aid in my sleep, I am a sativa girl at heart. I wanted to hear Ruth’s preference. Indica, or sativa? (I firmly believe this question should be on every job application). “I think sativa, although I’m not a huge smoker…there was a time when I was.” Nowadays, with her booming pipe business and grown children, she finds herself leaning more towards tinctures, a less harsh way of ingesting THC. There are still days, though, when Ruth does feel like a smoker – whether she is also a joker and a midnight toker, I cannot say. “When I smoke, I love to smoke on the beach and I love to smoke sativa and look at the water.”
That, right there. That is a dream.
Ruth’s story is as interesting as her curious creations. “I’ve always been artistic,” she tells me, as she describes her time spent at Mass Art studying graphic design. Graduating in ‘87, Ruth found she didn’t like graphic design as much as she thought she would. “It wasn’t as hands on as when I had started.” I wonder if Ruth knows how telling that is. We’re talking about a woman who is constantly working with her hands, molding clay, painting – it makes sense that transitioning to an artform that heavily utilizes computers wouldn’t necessarily be her favorite. And – if I may – I agree with her here. I much prefer writing with a good pen in a thick notebook than typing on my keyboard.
Ruth moved on to a new field in education. She went back to school for Art Ed and ended up teaching in the Newton school district for a few years, teaching art during the school year as well as summer programs. Soon after that, she became a mom, and made the decision many women make every day. “…After realizing a teacher’s salary wouldn’t cover daycare in a great way, I just decided to stay home with my daughter.”
Ruth continued to make art while staying at home to raise her children in Marshfield, where she had relocated. Networking with a woman she had commissioned murals for, she was able to procure a space to open her own studio, Mud Arts, right around 2003-2004. Her clay studio offered classes as well as ladies nights! “I got to teach on my own terms, and my own way, for kids who really wanted to be there.” The studio remained open for seven years; when her children reached middle school, Ruth wanted to move them out of Marshfield and someone closer to culture.
“We moved back to Newton…and I’ve been here ever since.” After moving to Newton, Ruth had their garage converted into a small studio where she would continue her art. She was mainly making clay paintings, but was unsure on breaking into that market. But she has a passion for art, and is quite proud of the work she produces (rightfully so).
She pivots again – expertly. “One day, I just was like, I think I’m gonna make pipes!” I am, personally, very grateful that she is making pipes. I bought this chillum from her stand in Boston, and I love it so much, I literally named it after myself.
Of all the different designs and molds she uses, Ruth has a definite favorite, and that is her oyster pipe. Get ready to fall in love with this pipe:
“It’s near and dear to me because it was the middle of the winter and I didn’t have any access to oyster shells…I ended up finding a woman through Etsy in Provincetown who was selling oyster shells and messaged her…she sent me some. So it’s a Provincetown oyster shell that I work from!”
Okay – I need to take a second here. This is amazing. I love this story so, so much. It has my favorite elements! Women working together, a slice of nature, and the vibrant culture of Provincetown are all infused in this piece. That is why I love everything handmade. Factory-produced spoons or chillums will never have a heartwarming backstory. Local, handmade pieces of art – whether you smoke out of them or not – are much more human. When I hold my bamboo chillum, I can feel the love behind the art. I’m not the only one.
“People used to make things all the time, they made brooms, they made rugs, you know, and nobody makes things anymore. And so, there’s this whole new emphasis on something that is made by somebody’s hands…I think it’s kind of a maker’s space right now, a maker’s time.” I found this very insightful – I had never thought about it before. Her words are accurate – when I think about it, all of my friends prioritize handmade, or at least locally produced. I am grateful we don’t have to make our own brooms anymore, though. For some reason I feel like I would be just terrible at it.
As far as her other pieces go, I ask about her inspiration. She follows trends, but she also seems to be able to anticipate them. “There’s pieces that I made in the 80s that…are popular now. I wasn’t ordinary enough I guess for graphics, at the time,” she laughs as she tells me this. “I often think, like, what would you put in your mouth?” Now she has me chuckling.
A BUDDING BUSINESS
In 2016, Ruth opened her Etsy shop. Over time, she kept adding to her inventory. As her Etsy page grew, Ruth began bringing her products to markets. “My first event that I did was in Provincetown during carnival week, and that’s when I made the gassy bather, [laughs] which is silly. It’s a pipe with a little baby on a wave farting a rainbow.”
And now, of course, here comes the part that hits almost all of the businesswomen I talk to – the disruption of Covid-19. This story did sting a little. Luckily, as with almost everything in life, a silver lining can be found.
Ruth and her husband were ready to sell their condo in Newton and open another studio. “We had plans to move to Waltham, or were talking about it, and I was gonna have a larger space.” As Murphy’s Law dictates, everything shut down just before she was ready to open. They were literally painting the space. Had that happened to me, I feel like my heart would have dropped straight out of my chest and puddle around my shoes. But we’re talking about Ruth Plaster. Ruth Plaster, who went to school for graphic design, then back again to become an educator, opened Mud Arts, raised two children, and now manages her busy Etsy shop.
SHUTTING DOWN AND BLOWING UP
The pandemic shut downs ended up being quite the blessing in disguise. More people were home, and with nothing to do and nowhere to go, there were only so many sources of entertainment or relaxation.
Overnight, Mud Hedz exploded. “I was losing my mind,” Ruth recalls, as she weaves a story laced with long nights and longer days. As a one woman show, Ruth was responsible for creating all of these pieces and managing the orders that were pouring in. An insurmountable feat, it would seem. But she got it done.
“In order to reproduce pieces and make them affordable, but also to put in the amount of detail and thought and care that I wanted to, slip casting was the best way to do it.” Slip casting is one way of making ceramics. It’s a technique that does not require heat. Liquid clay is poured into plaster molds. “I’ll take a vegetable and make a plaster mold of it. And then because the plaster’s porous, that’s a really great vehicle for clay.”
Using this method allows Ruth to work fast, and boy does she need the speed. She is in incredibly high demand. “I’ve been approached a ton by people in dispensaries wanting to do wholesale, and because I’m the only person that’s doing this I can’t really make enough stuff, I can’t make the margins reasonable…I’ve been dying to grow and hire folks but I have my little one car garage.”
ROOM TO GROW
As of right now, Ruth is still hoping to grow. Her plan is to return to her goal of opening a new space and hiring people so that she can grow her business. Manpower is literally the only thing holding her back from really exploding. I can’t wait to watch it happen, and it will happen. Talking to Ruth, I got the feeling I was speaking to someone who would one day soon be a name as recognizable as Snodgrass in the pipe community. While her work may speak for itself, it is in speaking with Ruth you truly understand the journey and the story behind her pieces, and that’s where the true appreciation is.
Ruth will have her booth set up every Saturday this October at Haunted Happenings in Salem. I highly recommend stopping by. I know I’ll be there. She’ll also be on Derby Street. Follow her on Instagram to see where she’s headed next. You will not be disappointed. While I may dream of Ruth’s pipes, her goal is anything but a pipe dream.
Happy Friday, everyone! And, of course – Happy Small Lights Friday! It’s the first Friday of autumn, so I hope everyone is sipping their pumpkin spice coffee and wearing their maroon cardigans!
I thought today would be the perfect opportunity to talk about how we can be Small Lights for the people in our lives who might be struggling in a toxic relationship. I’m sure everyone has been following the devastating news regarding Gabby Petito. Losing her was entirely preventable. A lot of women in toxic relationships do not realize it’s unhealthy. Often, it isn’t until we’ve stepped away from a toxic partner when we truly begin to recognize the behavior. Of course, by then, we may have suffered greatly at the hands of an abusive partner.
Let’s go over what makes a toxic relationship, and what we can do to be Small Lights for people in need. I will be utilizing Love is Respect for the bulk of my sources in this article.
Contrary to popular belief, your partner does not have to hit you for your relationship to be abusive. There are all different manners of manipulation and force that are employed against a victim of domestic violence. There is physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, financialabuse, sexual abuse, and stalking.
This is the type of abuse most people associate with toxic relationships. Hitting, pushing, shoving, or holding you down are all examples. It is also physically abusive if your partner keeps you in control using physical force even if it’s not directed at you. Backing you into a corner and punching the wall next to you is an example of this.
The most important piece of information you need to take from this is regarding strangulation. If a partner ever chokes you, studies show the chances of your partner attempting or completing a homicide increase 6 fold.I can speak directly to this – I am only alive today because several people warned me of my ex-partner’s plan (he was a chatty, violent idiot). Please, if your partner ever puts their hands on your neck, please recognize this as a massive red flag.
Verbal and Emotional abuse
An extremely common form of controlling and abusing one’s partner, this can take many forms. It can be insults, telling you what to wear, intentionally embarrassing you, or constant “checking in,” AKA a barrage of unwanted texts while you’re out with your friends, or even just out of their line of sight. Emotional abuse can look like withholding affection, gaslighting, or making you feel guilty for not wanting to have sex. None of these behaviors are okay and all of them, together or alone, are unhealthy norms in a relationship.
Your partner should be loving and supportive, should listen to you when you speak, and should take everything you say seriously, because you are valid. Even in moments of anger, there is no excuse to disrespect or belittle your partner.
This type of abuse isn’t discussed often and is a much more subtle form of toxicity. I can speak from experience how demoralizing this abuse can be. It can take the form of an allowance of your own money, preventing you from working – either through verbal manipulation or literally taking your car keys, or harassing your coworkers.
For me, it took the form of documentation. Every dime “spent on me” was documented and my ex-partner kept a running tab of what I owed him. (After I broke up with him, he tried to have me charged with identity theft. Again, a stupid, violent idiot).
We know the main definition of sexual abuse. Forced or coerced sex, unwanted touching and kissing. It can also take the form of removing a condom during sex, or refusing to use protection. Sexual abuse leaves lifelong marks on a person. Take a moment to read about informed consent.
Stalking has its obvious definition as well, but there is a little more to it than just following you around: It can also mean using other people to find out about what you are up to or where you are. It can mean damaging your car, or showing up to your work unannounced.
Well. That was exhausting.
Now that we’ve defined the different types of abuse- a truly exhausting list to go through, let’s talk about how we can help!
A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS
It sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Reaching out to a friend or loved one to try and help them – especially when it’s likely they are not actively seeking help. I struggle with this. Thankfully, this website has fantastic information. Everyone’s situation is different and the levels and types of abuse are unique to each individual. According to Love is Respect, while it’s important to recognize and factor in the uniqueness of any given relationship, there are some universally acceptable means of helping:
First and foremost, do not be afraid of asking someone you might think is in need of help. Do not attack their abusive partner (as much as you want to); it is important to center the conversation around their safety.
Be supportive, listen, and honor their decisions – even if they choose to remain in the relationship. It is incredibly difficult to navigate – let alone end – an abusive relationship. In fact, the most dangerous time for a woman in a domestic violence situation is when she is attempting to leave.
Help create a safety plan. Ask them how they would like you to respond in a crisis, ask them who to contact and be sure to ask if they want the police involved.
Help them make copies of important documents in case any are stolen (social security cards, ID cards, birth certificate, etc).
Document the abuse as much as possible. Dates and descriptions will be helpful in the event your friend would like to seek help.
At the top of the article, I mentioned Gabby Petito. We lost her to domestic violence. We lose women every day to domestic violence. While we’re on the subject, there is one more statistic I would like to address.
THE LESS DEAD
Native American women are murdered at a rate that sometimes reaches ten times the average number. It’s not just murder. Rape, assault, and abduction all have sky-high numbers. Why are these women not getting the national attention they deserve? The Missing White Woman Syndrome is very real. As a country, we need to address this epidemic. It is an epidemic.
Losing any woman to domestic violence is a tragedy, especially considering that these deaths can certainly be preventable. This is what I want everyone to take away from this piece. All women are deserving of a peaceful life, and of justice when their peace is disturbed. Visit MMIW Texas to see what you can do right now, today, on Small Lights Friday. Justice for Gabby, and justice for every woman who experiences violence.
Talk about this with your friends and be a part of the solution.
Anyone who knows me knows I love to pamper myself. I dream of deep clawfoot tubs, my head adorned with a crown of organic soap suds. The tips of my fingers are mini masseuses as they caress green seaweed cream onto my face every night. A spritz of rosewater isn’t only preferred, it’s required. In a word, I am extra. In two words, I am extra bougie. My bathroom and nightstand overflow with witch hazel sprays, collagen lotions, exfoliating masks, and satin hair wraps.
My collection of all things luscious and lovable grew this week, and I am so thrilled to tell you all about it! Earlier this week, I popped into Molly’s Apothecary, a small store nestled in a cozy corner of the Medway Mills. When you walk into the Mills, it’s like you’re walking into an old library book. A woody, delicate scent permeates through the structure. It is silent, save for the echoes of your footsteps. Once you enter this charming building, you swing left, down a slightly uneven hallway, and that’s where you find Molly’s. Molly’s Apothecary is run by two sisters.
The Genius of Women
Ann and Margaret are the masterminds behind this hidden gem. Ann has been making soap for two decades; she started because of her son’s sensitive skin issues. Twenty years later, these two women boast an enchanting apothecary. Launched in 2006 and moving to the Medway Mills in 2008, colorful soaps now line the walls and burst from baskets that occupy the display tables. Greeting cards are flanked by gorgeous homemade candles right as you enter the store, and these products do not hold back. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first: the amazing body cream that led me to their store.
I already knew I loved their products. Recently I received a gift from a friend – it was Molly’s Apothecary’s Ultimate Body Cream. As I twisted off the lid of the gorgeous blue jar, I immediately recognized a new favorite cream. The bright lotion was light – almost whipped – and made my hands instantly feel the way I imagine Lady Gaga’s hands must feel, all of the time.
We know some body creams and lotions have scents that are overpowering. I cannot shop at the larger, corporate body wash stores, the plain reason being their scents are all consuming and headache inducing. That is not the case with Molly’s Apothecary cream. As I opened the jar, I was swept off my feet with the subtle scent – so inviting, while not overpowering. We know how difficult it can be to find a cream like that. A gentle hint of oatmeal and honey helped wake my skin up.
I also couldn’t help but indulge in their handcrafted soaps. I purchased the Peppermint Tea Tree Homemade Body Soap and was not disappointed. It lathered beautifully, and the subtle, vibrant fragrance helped change my morning from “Dear God why am I awake?” to, “Dear God, I am awake!” The body wash I typically use paled in comparison to how I felt after washing up with Molly’s Apothecary soap. I fear I may be an addict now. The quality of their products gave me the confidence to try the soap without doing a patch test first – something I typically need to do, as someone with sensitive skin. However, looking over the ingredients and recognizing all of them – some I even use to make my own face oils – I knew there was nothing to fear.
Despite my strict budget, I found myself going deeper still into Molly’s. As if a spell had overtaken me, my hands started clawing greedily at different bath bombs and silky hand lotions. By the time I got to the counter, I had two bars of homemade soap, two greeting cards I found hilarious, and a candle that I cannot wait to show you. Here’s where it gets really fun.
An Apothecary for Fierce Women
I love this. Pumpkin spice is delicious, just let us have it! Finally, a candle that supports me the way I want other women to support each other all the time. I love pumpkin spice. I am a Basic Bitch, and that’s not changing. This candle makes me feel empowered by it. Think about it – who do you really want by your side when you’re finding the bathroom at a crowded bar? A Basic Bitch. A basic bitch isn’t going to tolerate the nonsense thrown at you by men from tap to toilet. We don’t have the time. Be the Basic Bitch you wish to see in the world.
But wait, there’s more! Remember those greeting cards I mentioned? Let’s talk about those.
Need I say more? Not only do I love to pamper myself and indulge in all things luscious and bubbly, I also get a kick out of publicly shaming fascists and, in general, being a real meanie to them. One might say it’s one of my hobbies. So, finding these on the greeting card wall? Molly’s has earned a repeat customer, that’s for damn sure.
Reasonably Spiced, Reasonably Priced
Remember the spell I was under, as I traced my fingers over each beautifully packaged and delightfully colorful goods? That spell didn’t lift at the register. In fact, I think it may have only intensified. This entire haul (minus the body cream which I received as a gift), was under $50. That’s two homemade soaps of impeccable quality, one incredible candle that burns like a dream, and two of the best greeting cards I’ve ever purchased and will probably never send to anyone, ever. I prefer keeping them for myself. Now that’s a haul I can get behind.
Molly’s Apothecary is more than just their products. Behind the masterfully curated brick and mortar shop, stand two strong sisters. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, they did not name their store Ann’s Apothecary, or Margaret’s Apothecary.
These two women named their store after their mother, Molly, who passed away in 2004. Such a beautiful way to honor their mother’s memory and keep her alive not only in their own hearts, but to the whole world as well. I do not know much about Molly, but I do know she is the reason why we have a space in Medway that is specifically for women, including strong-minded women. I know that she brought two women into this world who are actively making it better. I know one more thing: She must be watching over her daughters, bursting with pride.
I will continue to spend the bulk of my paycheck at Molly’s Apothecary, and I encourage you to do the same. The shop is absolutely packed with incredible products anyone would love, and there’s certainly something for everyone here. Finding that something within the walls of Molly’s Apothecary is where the real fun lies. A little gem found nestled in the pages of a library book, where magic settles in the air. Go and experience it.
Happy Friday, everyone. I’m excited about today’s post because it’s not about one specific business, no. It’s about all of you! I am so thrilled to announce I am accepting submissions for women-owned businesses to be featured on our site! I will outline the submission guidelines below, but if you’re interested, it’s best to dig the vid:
To be featured on a-woman-s-work.com, a website that specifically promotes women-owned and operated businesses, you must identify as a woman. All women are welcome here!
You must own over 50% of your business, or be self employed.
You can also submit through my site and my Instagram!
LET’S DO IT
As stated in the video, if you identify as a woman I want to hear from you. While everyone is equally welcome and will (most likely) get a spot, I especially would love to hear from women who’s businesses are in the earlier stages.
SHARE IF YOU CARE
Look, you’re already reading this, so you must have some interest in it. I ask that you share my video with your friends and family. Maybe you know someone who would like to be featured! Let them know I am accepting submissions!
Now go, my dear friend. Go and be kind. Be yourselves, be safe, and as always – have fun!
It’s Small Lights Friday, everyone. And yes, we had Small Lights last week, but this is an emergency, and I need to use every outlet I have. Unfortunately, I cannot wish you a happy Small Lights, as this is one of the most serious posts I will likely ever make on my website. We all need to be BIG lights, every single day, from now on until women’s rights are no longer under such intense attack.
We cannot be small on this day. We need to be high beams, tactical construction lights, fireworks, the bright light at the end of the tunnel. This is a critical moment in our country. We need to be very angry. The past few days have brought upon us the very difficult realization that women’s rights are not safe, and tough choices just got a whole lot tougher.
Today, we are going to be talking about everything we can do to help our sisters in Texas who are now living a very dangerous life. Soon, other states will follow. I stand in solidarity with all who identify as a woman, who all watched in shock and horror as SCOTUS refused to strike down Texas Senate Bill 8.
WHAT’S IN THE BILL
I will do my best to keep this brief. I make no promises. I have been very angry since 1 AM Wednesday night.
Abortion is fully banned at 6 weeks. This is weeks before most women even know they are pregnant.
There are no exceptions for rape or incest.
It puts the power of enforcement in the people. This means anyone – anyone – can bring a suit to any person they believe got an abortion, helped provide an abortion, assisted a woman in getting to a clinic, and on and on. Even more egregious is the fact that this also applies to citizens who suspect someone is planning on terminating a pregnancy.
The snitch can receive a bounty of up to $10,000 for a successful suit. This, and the bullet point above, will almost certainly be used against clinics currently open in Texas. They will likely be sued into non-existence.
So, let’s look at some scenarios: A woman who desperately wants a child but finds out mid or late stage in her pregnancy that the child has a lethal birth defect. She will be forced to bear a doomed child, or even a baby she knows is already dead. Or, maybe, it’s a 14 year old girl, raped by a family member. She will be forced to carry this fetus to term. Why should her fetus be more important than she, a child already in this world?
Miscarriages can now be considered highly suspicious, especially when you realize how little the public discusses it, how often it happens, and how little men seem to know about it. Imagine, you want to get pregnant, you want the baby, you miscarry, and then you get served a lawsuit. You’re already heartbroken beyond words, and now you’ve got Karen from Pilates accusing you of murder. These are not hypotheticals anymore. For Texas women, this is their reality.
WHAT WE CAN DO
Not much, but not nothing. We can demand the expansion of the United States Supreme Court. It’s currently so right leaning I’m surprised any of them are standing up straight. The fascist we recently evicted from the White House had 3 SCOTUS appointments, and all 3 were part of the 5-4 decision to choose not to strike down Texas Senate Bill 8.
We can also pressure our representatives to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, federal legislation that would “protect the right to access abortion care throughout the United States by creating a safeguard against bans and medically unnecessary restrictions.”
This piece of legislation, championed by our own Congresswoman Aryanna Pressley (Massachusetts shout out!) and California’s Congresswoman Judy Chu, is essential to women’s rights and must be passed. If passed, WHPA will establish “a statutory right for healthcare professionals to provide abortion care and the right for their patients to receive care.”
You can find your house representatives and their contact information here. You can find your senators here. I’ll even provide a basic template for your message to help you reach out if it’s something you have not done before or are uncomfortable doing. We must do everything we can, even when it’s uncomfortable. See below:
I hope this email finds you well. As your constituent, I am writing to voice my grave concern regarding the reproductive rights and health of women. With the recently passed Texas legislation banning all abortions at 6 weeks, it is imperitive we take action to combat the assault on women’s rights. I urge you to expand the Supreme Court. I urge you to work towards passing the Women’s Health Protection Act. Swift action is required if we are to maintain women’s constitutional right to choose.
Your name (if you’re going to straight up copy and paste this please remember to change this to your actual name, lest we all look silly)
There. I’ve made it so easy for everyone. You don’t even have to think about it. Call your representatives. Call them every day. I have called and written my representatives as well as Speaker Pelosi every day since Wednesday, and I will continue to do so.
Both of these options would be extraordinarily helpful, but these things take time, and Texas women are in trouble now.
WHAT WE CAN DO RIGHT NOW, IMMEDIATELY
You can donate to organizations that are actively fighting to strike this unconstitutional law down.
The ACLU currently has a suit against Governor Abbott. You can donate here.
Planned Parenthood has also filed a suit. Donate to them here.
Donate to teafund.org. They are an organization based in Texas that helps low income women get access to abortion services.
You can also talk about this. You can talk about this all the time. All day, every day, to everyone, regardless if they want to listen. Tell your friends and loved ones to contact their representatives. Encourage them to donate, and donate what you can yourself. Since writing this article, I have donated the precious little excess funds I have (hello, rent week) to this cause. I will continue to donate whatever I can, whenever I can.
I leave this Small Lights post with a quote from a separate article I had written in response to this abhorrent assault on our rights:
“I end this piece angry, unprofessional, and without any semblance of a conclusion. We have not concluded yet. I refuse, I refuse to accept the fate of my dear sisters in Texas and the states that are likely to follow. I will not let this happen to you. We will fight, we will persist, we will win. There is no other option. We have reached a turning point; let us fight to ensure it turns in the right direction.”
Now is the time. We must meet this moment. Be bold. Step out of your comfort zone. Fight for your mother, your sister, your daughter, your friend, and the strangers you will never meet. Fight for them simply because it is the right thing to do. To be silent is to be complicit. I will say this again.
TO BE SILENT IS TO BE COMPLICIT
Now get out there and do some good. It’s mandatory.
Happy Small Lights Friday, everyone! I hope everyone is staying cool in the heat, staying dry in the rain, and staying away from doom-scrolling through recent events. There’s been a lot going on in the world this week, and it’s hard to wrap my head around it sometimes. I thought we could use our Small Lights Friday to talk about one piece of big news that affects all of us, and it is very exciting news!
THE SHOT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD
The Pfizer vaccine has officially cleared FDA approval, and not a moment too soon. With schools opening back up (and many across the country already open), it is more important than ever to get vaccinated to protect yourself and your loved ones from the Delta variant. Children under 12 are still not eligible to receive their dose, which means we need to ensure we are all doing our part, collectively, for each other.
I know there is a lot of vaccine hesitancy. I certainly was not immune to it – when the last administration was championing their Operation: Warp Speed, I turned to my husband and said, “I am not taking a Star Trek vaccine.” In my own defense, our former president did stare directly at a solar eclipse, so my weariness over his confidence was justified. Just look at what he tweeted after President Biden took office:
All jokes aside, (wait – not all jokes – don’t hold me to this), we have all collectively faced an almost insurmountable challenge for the past 17 months. So why now, with a light at the end of this dreadful tunnel, are we seeing such intense backlash against a life saving vaccine?
If you’re reading this article in hopes that I am going to tear into anti-vaxxers, I am sorry to disappoint. My goal today is to help anyone who is still feeling hesitant to feel more comfortable about it. This is a literal life and death situation; it makes sense to be afraid. It does, however, seem that some of us are afraid of the wrong thing. Whether it’s due to disinformation, a lack of information, or just plain stubbornness, it’s time to spit facts.
Here are some common myths, accompanied by the truth, straight from the CDC:
Are we gonna be microchipped?
If I’m being honest, I started with this myth because it’s the one I’m most disappointed in. Imagine being able to Venmo your friends with a simple shoulder bump? Missed opportunity.
What about shedding? I thought that was reserved for dogs?
I don’t have a funny quip for this one. I didn’t even know shedding was a real thing, so I learned something today, too!
What about the timeline? How did we get a safe vaccine so fast?
You can find a detailed answer here, but the short answer is that we didn’t speed up the science, we cut through the red tape of bureaucracy. My only regret is that we didn’t have Fauci symbolically cut a large red ribbon with oversized scissors. Another missed opportunity.*
*I would like to take this moment to advise my readers I spent the better part of an hour in Microsoft paint trying to get a pair of large scissors into Fauci’s hands, but it was not meant to be.
What about altering our DNA (What I like to call the Spiderman Initiative)?
God, that’s so boring.
Don’t believe the CDC? Listen, I don’t blame you. The messaging coming out of the CDC has changed frequently as we learn more about this virus. In my personal opinion, I believe the CDC has been doing the best they can for the given situation. Of course, it has not been perfect, but I can forgive imperfection as long as we’re working towards a solution, and not contributing to the problem.
But hey, if the CDC has lost all credibility with you, I have something even better. Or, maybe I should say, John Oliver and Catherine O’Hara have something better. Check this out:
Not a fan of O’Hara? First of all, change your opinion. Secondly, maybe John Cena would be a better fit!
You can go to the website John Oliver created, The True True Truth, to see if there’s another celebrity on there who resonates with you more! (Paul Rudd has one – you know you wanna watch Paul Rudd). Thanks, John Oliver!
I got my Moderna shot as soon as I was eligible. My side effects were mild; I was very tired and had some soreness on my arm, but that was it. I’m not magnetic (damn it), my DNA has not been altered (damn it), and I’m not microchipped (I hope my friends take cash).
IS THERE ANTIBODY OUT THERE
Here’s the thing: People in other countries are desperately trying to get the vaccine, and here in America, we are letting it go to waste. There are other people on this planet who see us as some of the luckiest people in the world. When it comes to vaccine availability, we kind of are. Let’s not take it for granted. Let’s protect our loved ones and get the shot.
If, at this point, you’re not getting the vaccine simply because you don’t like being told what to do, I would recommend the following: Never order takeout, never request the wardrobe attendant to get you a smaller pant size, never call a plumber to fix your leaky pipes, and never ask your children to clean their rooms. Don’t go to the hospital for help when your lungs are filling with fluid and you start to choke from the inside. After all, why should anyone be told what to do? Why should you bother getting a free, life saving vaccine when the child suffocating to death alone in the hospital isn’t even your kid? Has the world gone crazy? These are your freedoms! You fought for them, right? Well, likely not, considering the military requires so many vaccinations I can confidently deduce most anti-vaxxers have never served.
…Okay, maybe I am tearing into anti-vaxxers a little bit.
Get the facts. Get the shot. Get out and dance. In that order.
Mariana is as much an empath as she is an artist. Her own secrets are woven into the textures and colors of her creations. She, herself, personifies self expression. It is as real as the paint on her canvas. The colors call out, almost like plucking the strings of a Spanish guitar, in a quiet plea for understanding. Mariana understands. She gets it every time. Born in The Azores and growing up in Massachusetts, Mariana now finds herself in Los Angeles, making a space for herself in the art world.
Perhaps her deep understanding is rooted in her early start.
From a young age, she has understood the need for self expression and self actualization. When she was younger she was mostly expressing herself through dance but she also did writing and painting. “It was my way of expressing emotions that I didn’t know how to process at that time.” As for her early art, “It just felt like therapy to me at that age.” What she couldn’t know at the time, is that she was already dabbling in the abstract. With delight, she described to me how she would just dump all her arts and crafts out and just go crazy putting different materials and colors together.
For her senior year of college she took abstract art as a summer class so she could have the credits to graduate. “I didn’t really know that abstract painting was a thing until college…Now when I look back on it, and I think of all the times I was ten years old and painting and creating at home…I was already abstract painting and creating in a sense, I just didn’t know it.”
Mariana told me about how eye-opening that class ended up being. “At the time, I was dealing with a lot of mental health issues…it was a really, really tough time for me…But that summer completely shifted just the way that I processed a lot of that stuff.” She continued, illustrating a treasured moment as vividly as if she had painted it:
“One moment in particular we got this huge canvas glued to the wall, it was massive, from the ceiling to the floor. And I just went crazy, and I started splattering paint, and putting my hands all over it and scribbling it, and it was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life…From then on I was constantly painting.”
This art class is what catapulted her love for art; it reminded her of when she was a child and would express herself through dance, getting lost in the moment, feeling and expressing. Abstract painting is more than just flinging your brush at a canvas, of course. “There is a knowledge; there is a spine of abstract painting that you do have to know,” she told me.
Expanding on color theory, the art of composition, and playing with textures, Mariana is glowing. It’s so easy to see how much of herself she puts into her art.
Overall, from the conversation I had with her, I feel like the core of Mariana’s art seems to be centered around mindfulness, the act of bringing peace to yourself through art and just making beautiful things. She draws influence from Jackson Pollock and, especially, Salvador Dali. “From a young age,” she says, “his work is what inspired me to kind of dive deeper into surrealism.”
“I think my work is really active.”
under the paint
There is a deeper beauty on her canvas. For Mariana, creating art is a cathartic, meaningful experience. Likening it to meditation, she gets lost in the joy she feels when she hits her sweet spot. “When your mind is just constantly on a rampage and you can’t shut it off…I never really knew that that was a thing until I started abstract painting and I could feel it shut off…It feels like meditation.” As a writer, I can relate to this. It reminds me of hitting your stride when writing a poem. All of a sudden, the world is shut out and it’s just you and your words. There are few better feelings in the world.
Mariana talks more to me about the meaning of her paintings: “I let the painting guide me, and I let the materials kind of choose me…That feels very spiritual because you kind of go into it having an idea sometimes, and then as soon as you enter that flow state…it kind of takes on a life of its own.” That flow state, for Mariana, is a therapy. Throughout our conversation she touches on her mental health struggles and how painting has been a fantastic outlet for processing those more difficult emotions. “I would reach for the canvas and nothing would come out, and then over time stuff would start to filter out…I would look back on that canvas and I would see those feelings projected back to me.”
Mariana’s finished pieces reflect her intentions like a mirror. “I think a lot of my pieces, you look at them and you’re like ‘What am I…looking at?’ especially my more illustrative stuff. But then once you look for a while you might see pieces of things you may have seen in your dreams and things you can kind of make out.” That is, to me, the most apt description of her work.
The painting I bought from Mariana is so inviting. I am not a visual artist, nor is my husband, but when my painting came in the mail and I unwrapped the piece I recalled Mariana’s explanation of the abstract: the more you look, the more you begin to see.
My husband and I spent a good chunk of that evening looking at Mariana’s art and picking out what we saw. I saw a young girl with an umbrella. My husband saw a wildcat. Even as I write this, I am looking at her painting. I keep it at my work desk, and whenever I feel overwhelmed, I take a few moments for myself and I look at this painting. It brings me peace, and I can’t even really explain why.
I am so moved by this painting. As a person who, again, really has never been good at any visual art, I was surprised at my strong reaction to it. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I would love it – I ordered it specifically for my apartment – but I had no idea how much I would love it. Under the description of the piece, Mariana said she was thinking of coffee, chocolate, and richness, all of which sit delicately on the canvas.
is it all this deep?
Mariana, as in tune with herself as anyone could be, also relishes the simplicity of beauty for the sake of beauty. “Sometimes I like painting for aesthetics. Sometimes I really just want an abstract painting to look good in my house.” She’s laughing as she tells me this – many times her friends have asked her the deeper meaning behind some of her décor. “Girl, I just really wanted to make something pretty for my house!” I think she’s right – there is so much meaning and beauty in her work and yet, sometimes, beauty on its own is enough.
Don’t tell that to her art teachers, though. That particular motivation was never a favorite among her professors. Laughing, she tells me, “That did not go well with my art teachers.”
FINALLY OPENING UP
For Mariana, it’s not just about the finished product. As made clear through our conversation, and as you’ll soon see through her videos, it is just as much about the process. The process of letting go, feeling your emotions in an honest way, and being kind to yourself. Please take a few minutes and watch her video on visiting her family during the pandemic, the struggles and joy she experienced, and the art that comes out of it. It’s such a beautifully told story. Her talents with video editing and writing shine just as brightly as her art does.
“The only thing that’s really changed is that I’m comfortable with the…blemishes, I guess, in my life. I’m okay with them now. They are a part of me and I find them to be just as beautiful.”
Mariana, “Finally Opening Up”
I’ll be honest with you all – I cried a little watching this video. It’s so honest. It’s so moving – the story, her story, and how she weaves her life into her work. The result is just stunning. I didn’t know I enjoyed abstract art until I saw Mariana’s paintings. I didn’t know I loved abstract art until my painting arrived and I could sit with it and look at it in person.
Watching the story behind the painting and the process itself was such a blessing. She is honest in her videos, and I am personally so grateful she chooses to share her work through this medium. “I wrote the script, I did the piece, and I kind of – It was full circle – It’s like, waiting to go to The Azores, painting that, being there, struggling and being happy at the same time and then creating something that I think hopefully captures that.”
Mariana has big plans. “I’m in a big transition phase right now where I think that, hopefully, [the] art selling and print making and all that’s gonna be my main focus. With that strategy there is going to come a lot more merchandise, so I want to do a lot of my prints.” She wants to reach further than that though. “I would also love to see my work in a gallery here in LA. It would be nice to get to know other artists around here.” As far as her marketing strategies, she is taking it day by day. Quite true to form, if I may say so.
Right in the here and now, Mariana continues her focus on creating and the process within it. Having come so far – from battling self doubt in her teens to putting herself out there as honestly as one could imagine on a very large scale, she is living her truth. She wants you to live yours, too. “There’s a medium and a way to express out there for everyone…There’s something out there for everyone to process what’s going on.” And, most importantly, “You don’t have to be amazing, you just have to be making something.” It’s all a part of the process.
Happy Friday, everyone! And – of course – Happy Small Lights Friday! I hope everyone has been staying cool in this oppressive heat. Hey, speaking of oppression, let’s get straight to it! Today, I would like to use our Small Lights platform to discuss systemic racism, and how to be anti-racist. Not just “not racist,” that is just not good enough. I mean actively, every day, be an anti-racist person.
Passivity and Anti-Racism do not coexist
According to The National Museum of African History and Culture, to be anti-racist results from “a conscious decision to make frequent, consistent, equitable choices daily…In the absence of making antiracist choices, we (un)consciously uphold aspects of white supremacy, white-dominant culture, and unequal institutions and society.” Being anti-racism requires confronting your own prejudiced thoughts, understanding where these thoughts come from, and working to overcome those thoughts. It means consciously supporting Black owned businesses. It means using your whiteness (and therefore your louder voice) to lift Black people up. It means calling someone out at the grocery store when you hear them spout racist nonsense because they don’t know how to read a coupon and now it’s the black cashier’s fault.
Up until last spring, I was proudly anti-racist. I could see past the systemic racism that plagues our nation simply because I knew it was there. I was ahead of my time. I marched in BLM protests, donated to the appropriate charities, and spoke up when I heard a friend unintentionally say something problematic. I was the perfect example of a white ally. Until I wasn’t.
On May 25th, 2020, Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. The world came to a screeching halt and I halted with it. I couldn’t sleep. I paced around my apartment for hours, tears streaming down my face, red with anger and confusion. When I couldn’t pace any more, I laid down on the carpet and stayed there. I couldn’t eat. I was immobilized by his murder. Thinking about it now, my heart still shudders. This unrelenting grief was new to me, and I didn’t know where it was coming from. Why was this death crippling me, but not the others? Why not Trayvon Martin? Why not Eric Garner? Ahmaud Arbery? Countless others?
My grief was soon met with another, equally powerful emotion: brutal shock. Throughout my entire life, I considered myself a “good white person.” A white person who is not racist and does not succumb to ingrained stereotypes. I realized on May 25th, 2020, I was wrong. I was wrong about myself, perhaps even unknowingly lying to myself. Up until George Floyd’s death, I was living my life through the lens of white supremacy. It is still difficult to admit, but it is something I (and we all) must admit if we are going to address systemic racism.
Why didn’t I feel such intense sorrow each time these killings made headlines? Are these men, women, and children less dead to me? Why is my heart only being torn up now? Why didn’t I care this much each time? These questions only brought more painful questions.
Is it because I can remove myself from the distant pain? Is it because, deep down in my primitive brain, I hold onto these ignorant fears and stereotypes? Because I am comforted knowing it will never be me? Did I subconsciously make these deaths make sense? Justifiable murder?
The most painful part of becoming actively anti-racist is the very difficult realization that the answer to all of these questions was a resounding yes.
the truth (really) hurts
This was a very hard realization to accept, and I’m physically cringing as I explain my internal mistakes on a public forum. However, my feelings are far less important than the point I am trying to make, and if using myself as an example proves helpful to anyone else, even one person, I will be happy and it will be worth it.
I realized last summer that I am not special, not unique and, therefore, not immune to white supremacy. It was a difficult pill to swallow. I knew I had to swallow it. And so began my journey to learn what it meant to truly be anti-racist, to wake up to my own prejudices and challenge them head on.
There were moments in my journey where I would scoff at a piece of information. This one isn’t about me. And yet, it was. It always is, and it always will be. Not me specifically, and not you specifically, but until we all recognize all white Americans alive today are benefitting directly from slavery, I fear we cannot move forward.
I started listening, really listening, to Black Voices. I started reading books. The most beneficial book I read was Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson. I read it through once and then I read it again. I also read Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington. Okay – for this book – when I say “read,” I mean “read slowly and painfully, putting it down for days at a time, because our history is so abhorrent and disgusting I could not sit and read it all the way through without getting sick to my stomach.” In her book, Washington details the sickening treatment of Black Americans in the American healthcare system. I highly recommend both of these books if you’d like to peel the curtains back.
it’s not all black and white
In Caste, Wilkerson discusses the origins of “whiteness” and “blackness.” Before the United States, people did not call themselves black or white. These terms didn’t gain any traction until the era of slavery; newcomers emigrating into our young country needed to find where they fit in this hierarchy where the bottom class is barely regarded as human at all:
“Somewhere in their journey, Europeans became something they had never been or needed to be before. They went from being Czech or Hungarian or Polish to white, a political designation that only has meaning when set against something not white…It was in becoming American that they became white.”
Caste, pg 49
I did not know that. I did not know that at all. I was never taught that in school. Sure, we covered slavery – in the most white washed fashion imaginable. I remember learning that if a slave ran away, they may be punished by having a leg cut off. Terrible, yes, but nowhere near the atrocities committed on the very ground we walk on every day.
For example, again pulled straight from Wilkerson’s brilliant book, I never learned that Nazi Germany came up with their strategy by pulling ideas straight from America’s playbook. That’s right! Did you know that? I did not know that. I was not taught that. From chapter 8: “As they [Nazi bureaucrats] settled into their chairs to hash out what would eventually be the Nuremburg Laws, the first topic on the agenda was The United States and what they could learn from it.” When I read that for the first time, I just could not believe it. How could I not know any of this?
This past year, the amount of information I have absorbed probably far exceeds the information made available to me in my public schooling. And while it’s true I could have sought this information out had I wanted to, I really had no reason to. I was, after all, a white high schooler living in a very white area where people wave their hands in front of their face or tap their hands to discreetly indicate blackness. Otherness. Different. The idea of seeking out new information never even crossed my sheltered mind. That alone is another glaring example of my privilege.
I can no longer consider myself proud to be anti-racist; I am not there yet. I am proud to be on the journey towards it. I no longer see myself as an example – how foolish I was to ever assume I could be without putting in the real work.
I still do not know why it was George Floyd that woke me up, and not the countless other souls. Up until Floyd’s murder, I thought I was was “woke,” progressive, a part of the solution. It’s painful to write, but I have to write it. There may be a white person who reads this and learns the same painful truth I learned, and if I can reach even one more person, it would be a victory.
Covid-19 stripped us of the cultural veil that usually drapes over us weightlessly. We learned who was essential and who was not. We learned who our friends and family truly are, for better or worse. We stripped the facade down to its nuts and bolts and exposed rusted weak points. I wonder, if not for the pandemic, would I have ever seen these truths? I really don’t know. I’d like to think so. Of course, me “liking to think” I would be a good person is just another example of my privilege. The very idea that it’s a choice is inherently privileged. The difference for me now is that I can recognize that privilege and address it, and the problems that come with it.
A Little signal
The other day, at the liquor store in my blindingly white town, a group of black men walked in while I was in line. My primitive brain did what it has been doing and will probably continue to do until I can fix it- it sent a little signal to the forefront of my thoughts. A tiny little signal that’s been in all of us for hundreds of years. A split second flash: “Different.”
I can recognize the signal for what it is now. It is not how we are meant to be. It is a manufactured response from hundreds of years of social conditioning. It is a direct result of political propaganda, fear, and hate. It is a lie.
I am still very much a work in progress. There are books I still need to read, historical events I still need to dive deeper into, prejudices I need to address. But now I am awake, so I say “good morning.” It’s a beautiful day to be better than we were yesterday. It’s a beautiful day to be anti-racist.