my great-grandmother or my grandmother for that matter on my maternal side. Nora died in 1938 before my mother was born and my grandmother, Mildred died before I was born.
However, in this chapter of my tender, and profoundly inquisitive, middle-age life, I want to know more about the women I share DNA with. They’re a part of me, my mannerisms, my choices and so much more that I’m completely unaware of. I need to know more.
Who was Nora? Mildred? What did they love? What did they fear? What made them laugh?
Unraveling the mystery of who they were simply will not leave me alone right now.
My father died just over a year ago and I so wish we had videotaped him telling some of his favorite stories. When families start losing a generation, the stories often disappear too.
This Thanksgiving folks, ask the elders at the table to share their stories. Let the kids ask questions and record their responses. You will be so happy to have the assurance that these treasured stories won’t disappear and can be shared for generations.
Enjoy your time together asking about the good ole’ days.
PS To any Kyte or Millette relatives who might read this, please contact me. I would love to learn more about Nora and Mildred. I would be so grateful for anything you’re willing to share.
June 6th, 1907 is Frida Kahlo’s birthday. She truly was a women so extraordinarily ahead of her time. Her example of individuality, boundless creativity, courage, and resilience is needed now more than ever. Frida’s influence throughout the world is a marvel.
Frida, please help me understand, why it’s taking so damn long to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment?Phyllis, I’m well aware of why after doing some research.
“EQUALITY OF RIGHTS under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.“
I needed to learn more about the history of the opposition to the ERA. Feminism, Gloria Steinem, ERA—these were almost dirty words when I was growing up in South Dakota in the 70s and 80s. I was told that it was Phyllis Schlafly who had womanhood and traditional gender roles all figured out.
I’m a feminist and I was a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes I dreamed of working, while my working friends dreamed of being home. Many Dads worked part-time or at home. The kids were fine. Marriages survived. We didn’t have a culture war. And yet…100 years later, the same crap is still being debated and the Equal Rights Amendment has not been ratified. EQUALITY WILL RUIN FAMILIES, REALLY?
The Equal Rights Amendment to me seems like a matter of simple legislative “housekeeping” just as Phyllis Schlafly thought women should be delighted to do at all times. Only one more state is required to ratify the ERA…come on Virginia…Arizona?
A few details about Phyllis Schlafly’s life were conveniently left out of her anti-ERA messaging. Perhaps a classic case of, “do as I say, not as I do”. I doubt it would have changed anything though? She certainly was a brilliant grass roots organizer and marketer. I have to give her credit where credit is due.
Phyllis Schlafly had her law degree and according to her LA Times September 5, 2016 obituary: “Critics said that though Schlafly presented herself as a traditional homemaker, she often traveled, had a full-time housekeeper and a personal assistant, and a resume that most feminists would envy.”
So, while thinking about womanhood and the examples of Frida & Phyllis, i realized that they have both been inspiration to me—in very different ways.
Sometimes, we’re inspired by someone and their life just ignites our imagination. Other times we need someone/something to push against, so our own views and voice can emerge with more clarity and depth.
At fifty-two, I feel betwixt and between, no longer young and not yet old. Looking back I can see my life as remarkably valuable training and experience. To hell with regrets. I can’t change a damn thing. I know myself much better in midlife and that’s truly a gift. I also know I still have a lot to learn.
Like my prairie ancestors, I have an inherent longing now to settle or “prove up” one hundred and sixty acres. A sort of cognitiveHomestead Actof my midlife psyche. A bit of a gamble, rife with elements of uncertainty, the heady buzz of adventure and the resilience to know I can handle whatever comes my way.
Funny to think about cognitive growth using these terms. However, metaphorically, it works pretty well. Claim my section. Select the crop. Prep the land. Plant the seeds. Irrigate. Fertilize. Monitor growth. Harvest. Review.
These 3 simple questions help me often and perhaps might’ve helped my prairie ancestors as well. The trick is being able to actually answer them.
Homestead Act of 1982 “…and that such an application is made for his or her exclusive use and benefit, and that said entry is made for the purpose of actual settlement and cultivation, and not either directly or indirectly for the use of any other person or persons whomsoever…he or she shall thereupon be permitted to enter the quantity of land specified.”
This morning I woke up with the word “mend”on my mind. What a simply beautiful word. I kept thinking about it while I actually mended a few things.
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A suede jacket I inherited from my paternal grandmother.
My daughter’s blue jeans…not a rip in a fashionable spot.
I realized that mend somehow uniquely seems more feminine to me than its masculine cousin, repair.
Mending and sewing connects me to the ancient wisdom of mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts and friends. Women have been sitting together stitching, solving problems, laughing and crying in gardens, front porches, church basements, adobes, tents and huts throughout the history of the world. This is a part of all of us, even if it hasn’t necessarily been our personal experience. We mend in the way I did today, but we also mend broken hearts, bones & skin, relationships, nervous systems, false narratives and so much more.
Here’s to mending whatever is in your literal or emotional stack of damaged goods.
I’m taking my daughters and a friend to a benefit for the Vermont Women’s Fund tonight. We are viewing the film Dream, Girlabout women in entrepreneurship. Then we get the privilege of a Q & A with some bold, female leaders in our community.
I created these images today. I’m beyond compulsive about my South Dakota two-lane images. I’m all for a good creative obsession if it isn’t hurting anyone else. Here’s the Dorthea Lange quote I love. I wasn’t kidding.
“Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion… the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.”—Dorthea Lange
Today as I searched through my images I kept noticing shots with girls & women and shoes & boots…four of my favorites subjects. All of these girls and women possess character, strength and a certain moxie.
I just spent the better part of the week in Lexington, Kentucky helping Elizabeth Bunsen run an ecodyeing workshop with a remarkable group of women. Our host most magnificent; Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch, an encaustic artist has created a space for the magic of artist workshops to take place in an 1880s Victorian home being lovingly restored (encaustic castle).
Patricia (Trish) has remarkable vision for workshops and artists in residency programs of all creative stripes. Sue Stover started a workshop the day I had to head back to Vermont. My brood needed me or I would’ve loved to have stayed. I’ll be back one day.
Magnificent sheets and comfortable beds were much welcomed after long days of creativity and laughter (and a few tears as well). In the morning we gathered in the dining room and we were served homemade granola (ginger fetish), yogurt, fresh baked breads, coffee and spirited conversation. Over breakfast one day we got to hear the low down from a couple who went to a Pearl Jam show the night before, they snuck in late and didn’t even wake any of us sleeping in the rooms next to theirs.
I can’t quite put into words yet what this experience entirely meant to me, so I thought I would layer some images that felt most “dreamlike” from my days in Kentucky. There will be a lot more photographs to follow.
Here are the links to get on mailing lists and to check out the accommodations if you are ever planning a trip to Lexington (you really should, very cool city).