Mr. Bojangles

A thoroughbred you say, a *thoroughbred* you say
a slugger and a slogger and a hunter in every way
he will walk sedately towards deer who bound and play
A click of my tongue, oh hot gun, his forward posting trot
But when I *whoah so low*, he stops right dead on the spot.

A quarter horse I say, a quarter horse I say
a slow collected canter in fields with hounds who bay
A ten year old jumping beastie, my willful little gray
A click of my tongue, oh hot gun, he leaps the line in seven
But if I close my legs and push, six strides feels like heaven.

Flying leads and bending lines and rollbacks done with grace
In the corner I will tap him twice and demand he push the pace
skipping down the line he cuts a stride in five to chase
But when I whoa so low, he stops right dead in his tracks
Compare him to a racehorse, and I’ll throw you in the racks.

salvation of a broken girl, he shelters my sad girl heart
Thank god he’s not a pony, oh baloney, I’d fly apart
master of mystery mischief, he is way too wicked smart
Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles, my greatest entertainer,
Don’t say one word, don’t be absurd, you bratty rotten feigner.

An Homage to Real Woman

It’s not hard to be a strong woman.


Until 15 or 20 years ago, in any American profession, virtually all women were strong. It was and likely is the only way to live as a woman in the thankless lands of medicine, law, finance, academia, and so on. I was taught early and often how to hide my feelings, my gender, my interests, my sexual orientation, and my pain and work.

It bleeds into your every day life and god does it make it easy. I don’t want to think about how I’ve been abused, mistreated, raped, cheated on, orphaned. I don’t want to think about my lying brain, my migraines, my panic attacks, my spending to fill the hole in my soul.

So I’m a strong woman. I show up at 6:00, leave at 7:00, and bury every bad thing that does not benefit be being strong enough to work 22 hours in a truck stop to make a deadline. To argue law. To have the relationship of my choice.

Never mind that I have buried my soul, my heart, a good chunk of my brain. I am a strong woman.

Never mind that I hide who I am to be a strong woman.

### Because it’s not hard to be a strong woman. Come spend an hour with me, I’ll teach you how.

Certainly I wouldn’t glorify it. At least not over real women.

* Women who have PTSD and manage to tell their stories to help others.
* Women who survived rape and tell their stories.
* Women who suffer from chronic pain and still show up when you need them, in person or on the page.
* Women who experience mental illness in various and intense forms and not only show it, but write about when it pulls them under
* Women who refuse to be told to sit down and shut up because the Emperors of the strong women don’t like what they say.
* Women who fashion the narratives of their lives into glorious essays and aren’t afraid to look weak or broken, because they tell the truth.
* Women who refuse to be told how and when and how long to grieve the losses that hurt their hearts.
* Women who tell their truth, even when it hurts, even when it stings, even when it’s the wildly unpopular but all too human notion of falling in love with the unavailable, failing at their career or love, discovering they were hurt.

### I’ve learned about real women in the last year.

Sure, I’ve met them before. But I didn’t spend a year learning how to write with them, to talk with them, to let myself be one of them. Because when you’re a strong woman, its hard to be a real woman. Hard not to hide your pain and your truth and your wants, because strong women don’t write stories that make them cry. They don’t tell tales about abuse they spent 30 years blocking. They don’t acknowledge that they were raped and didn’t do anything about it and only now write about it 15 years later. They don’t write about how they may never get over losing their parents.

### But real women do.

Real women are afraid of the messy but do it anyway because they are authentic.

Here’s to the real women. The ones who tell their stories despite their fear.

Real women are the ones for me.

Feminist Barbie

I was probably born a feminist. People tease me – often – because I love Barbie dolls, and I’m a feminist; they find it inconsistent. I do not. My barbies were doctors and lawyers, and equestrians and vets and bartenders and Moms and every manner of every woman from every walk of life, black, white, Asian, redheads, Eskimos. Barbie even has a pal with MY REAL NAME. And she has a bratty younger sister with crazy hair. All of whom lived together and shared clothes, so it was kind of like a little women’s commune in the Barbie dream house and adjacent castle and apartment complex. I think two of my Ken dolls were straight (I had a fuckton of Barbies). The rest were gay best friends, which I understood because my Mom had a gay best friend, Patrick, and for years the most magical gay men made my summers of awkward adolescence bearable. So a couple of the men lived together on one floor of the apartment complex. It was probably the longest lasting relationship in Barbieville.

But still, my friends prod, what about body image, and on this topic I have some authority. I cannot speak for other women, but no, when my eating disorder started around 13 or 14, I was not struck by this sense that I was imperfect because I did not look like a doll. Or a supermodel. I think if I had daughters I might have different opinions, but things worked out so well in my Barbie commune, with my endless plot twists, costume changes, work drama, that I didn’t really notice their bodies, I was too obsessed with their stories. Also their shoes which I kept far more neatly than I do now, with my two wine carts spilling over with boots, heels, and ballet flats.

At some point Barbieville got dismantled, moved to the basement, I think my Mom gave most of my Barbies away to my cousin, because my cousin was the only girl in her family, and I was a spoiled brat, so off most of it went. Including my President Barbie and most of my horses. My Mom later regretted it, but this was one of the things she did. Decide we have too much stuff (usually at a point when my sister and I were having a lot of fun and also staying out of her hair, I had to wonder if she understood the consequences of her actions, because she required a lot of alone time), get rid of it, feel terrible, then buy more stuff. So I probably got 50 books from my Mom and some Madonna tapes passed under the door from my Dad.

Still, at some point in my mid-twenties, I started collecting Barbies again. It started with Barbie ornaments for my first on my own Christmas tree. Then my Nana, who never stopped wanting to buy the super fancy Christmas Barbie got in on the act. I try to keep it to a few a year, because mostly they live in a vintage trunk, playing with them at thirty-eight is just kinda not the same.


Then we bust out the two Barbie villas she found for me at garage sales, pull the fancy Christmas Barbies out of the Christmas box, round up my Alice from Twilight and Cyndi Lauper Barbies from my study, crack open the trunk, organize the clothes, and start story telling. I need to call her and ask for a Barbie play date.

This was the first year in ages I didn’t get a Barbie for myself, because my best friends and I adopted a family with three daughters. I had the oldest daughter. And in addition to the adorable clothes, games, books, and other things she needed, she got a CEO Barbie. It was her favorite present. I hope she knows it means someday she can be a CEO too. While wearing adorable shoes.

The Tent Girls

Once upon a time …

There was a very blonde princess who lived through a terrible war. It raged and raged and raged, and she wanted to fight, but her wise and caring counselors advised her to stay away and not be involved, lest she be injured. They knew she had a tender heart and despite her very strong armor and her love of dancing with swords, would be easily wounded. So she climbed up many steps into the top of a tower and locked herself inside with her kittens and her books.

She read and read and read, and talked to her kittens, and wrote long letters who her friends, who she missed very much. Time passed and her hair grew very long. Long enough to sweep the floor, and no matter how often she braided it, it grew and grew and grew. She became lonely, despite her letters, and wanted to run outside in the sunshine, splash in puddles, dance with her sword, ride her horse, and, most of all, see her friends.

One morning she was drinking her coffee and reading her books when an anchor came flying through her window!

She looked down and saw a group of girls standing underneath her window, eying each other warily, not because they were enemies, but because they didn’t know one another and times had been tough. The princess smiled so brightly to see her friends, all so different, but still so alike in many ways! They were brave and strong and kind and beautiful in all their different ways. But as she was smiling and waiving at them suddenly she fell back as someone tackled her with a hug. “Oomph,” the princess said, tripping on her hair, and hitting the ground, her arms wrapping tight around the brown-haired girl. “Sweet pea, what are you doing here,” she asked. “Shhh,” Sweet Pea said, “I go by SuperGirl now, princess, and I’ve come to take you home, well, kinda home, sort of, mostly I’ve come to get you.”

The princess hugged SuperGirl and they packed all of her things, “do you really need all of these shoes?” SuperGirl asked. The princess stared because it was a very confusing question. Who doesn’t need shoes? Also, she had a plan. “YES!”

“Do you really need all of these dresses?” Again, the princess stared, but this time tried to explain, without giving away her plan. “Well, yes, I’ve always had 782 dresses. Why wouldn’t I need dresses?” SuperGirl tried to explain that after the war, things were tight before she snapped her fingers and called down STORMBORN!!

“You’ve gotten quite loud haven’t you, SuperGirl SweetPea?”

And in through the window came the princess’s friend Daeni, in her favorite medieval witch dress with a bow strapped to her back.”

“Daeni!” the princess yelled and hugged her very tall friend, who was almost her twin, except they didn’t look at all the same.

“Daeni Stormborn, now” she said proudly.

The princess gave her a surprised look and Stormborn shrugged. “I’m good at battles. But Princess, why is your hair so long, and why do you need 782 dresses?

Again, the Princess simply said, “I just do.”

Her friends were kind and understanding and used to her strange ways, so they heaved armfuls and armfuls of dresses out the window, the pile never ending, each dress dragging the next, SallyDraper yelling up, “she won’t leave ANY of them.”

“Wait till they get to her books,” muttered the magical Scottish princess.

“I heard that Bambs,” the princess yelled throwing a handful of books out the window, and climbing down the rope.

The girls packed all of the dresses together, along with the shoes, and the books, and the kettle, and the tea cups, and the brownie pan, and three tubes of lipstick on the Princess’s horses, and for several days they walked and walked and walked and walked until they found a spot in a little glade surrounded by trees near a bubbling brook.

The girls unpacked their light packs, while the Princess unloaded her horses, settling the dresses in a pile, the books in another, the shoes, and then the tea things.

“I still dinna ken why you needed all those dresses, princess.”

“How do you expect me to make us a home without all of this stuff? It took me long enough to sew it together!”

“I kind of just thought you wanted the dresses because you’re so girly,” SuperGirl SweetPea said. “Isn’t that why your hair is so long?’

The princess smiled a secret smile and shook her head slowly. She pulled her dirk out of her belt and sliced off her long braid, revealing a surprisingly stylish pixie. She pulled off her dress and in her very light riding clothes, climbed two big trees, tying her hair like rope. The, with a flourish, the princess and her friends stretched the 700 dresses sewn together over the rope to create a large and comfortable tent, while the kittens pulled the ends to make them tight, with the other 82 used to make cushions. They organized their library and Stormborn made a sign that said “The Tent Girls.” SallyDraper arranged the tea things and foraged in the woods for snacks with the oldest and bravest of the kittens.

When they finished, SallyDraper asked, “But princess, why did you need the shoes?”

“Oh! As a pathway! So that anyone who is lost or scared or in need of refuge can find the tent and stay with the tent girls.”

The girls cheered and took the horses on a very long canter through the woods before settling down with tea and brownies. They decided to rest a few days before their next adventure.

But in the meantime, they lived happily ever after.


A woman should always have a pair of red shoes.

The third time I meet my best friend Ellen Jean is with my Mom during parents weekend in law school and with these ten words, Ellen falls in love with my Mom.

You can hardly blame her, the woman sparkled and even though she was born with crushed wings and a broken soul, she shined so bright it was hard to look away.

Never mind that Mom’s idea of red shoes was ballet flats, and not the Jezebel red platform heels or peep toe wedges that Ellen and I will spend the next ten years stalking, when she made pronouncements, I didn’t just follow them, I internalized them as if made ex-cathedra.

“A woman should always own red lip stick” Mom said when I came home from the Chanel counter in 1991 with a twenty dollar tube of traffic stop red lipstick, my father’s face matching the color when I told him I blew my spending money on a small square black case with entwined Cs at the top. And she gave him a look, an I fucking dare you to contradict me right now look. He shook his head and walks away, as she and I tried on the matte red stain, too blue for her warm skin, just blue enough for mine. My current tube is Dior, in a shade called Marilyn. I don’t wear it often, but when I do, I stop traffic.

Mom knew from an early age the world was cruel, too cruel, it would turn out, to survive in. Yet for decades, she thrived by making others notice her. Blonder she would say to the man who did her hair, blonder I say to the woman who does mine. Tanner she would say, paler I say, make me paler. I need to sparkle, I think, looking in the mirror and seeing her face look back at me.

She didn’t ask for attention, she took it. She created her own magic. She needed a horse, she got a horse. She needed a job she loved that allowed her to be at home with her girls, she invented one. She needed to breed the top golden retriever, she bred her, and then showed the dog herself, flying around a ring in a navy dress with red shoes. She needed a best friend to travel with her, cackle with her, drink with her, cry with her, she got one and kept her for life.

And with those ten words my Mom bound Ellen and me together with magical cords so firm, so flexible, so resilient that while they have stretched a few times, they have never broken.

Put on your red shoes Ellen says when I text her about something hard.

I do. I create my own magic.

Pieces of Me: #Forever14

I have a squillion pairs of printed knee high boot socks, each printed with kittens or purple lips or pink and green paisley. They go over my breeches and under my riding boots, and sure they come in adult plain prints or neutral colors, but I buy the ones made for the eleven to fourteen year olds, and try as I might, every trip to the tack shop I end up with three more pairs.

This is my forever14 girl. The one who loves her ponies more than anything, who makes up nicknames, who is deeply silly and often mischevious. Who writes fairy tales and splashes in puddles and loves to giggle. Who has **terrible** taste in music (painful for a music snob) and cannot resist a star crossed love story. She is whip smart, but her priorities are different, and those priorities have allowed me to find a life uncharted.

She’s actually a pretty recent discovery in me, peeking out her head for a year around the time I turned thirty, but by thirty five she became a force to be reckoned with, time and again asking me to fulfill old needs and fix old hurts. Asking me to find new ways of fun. Because of her I have been able to heal and process a lot of old, old pain and betrayals, some of which I cannot yet put in words, and because of her I am a significantly better friend and companion. She has her flaws, what fourteen year old girl does not, but she allows me to relive and fix things in my life that were hard to live through.

She is my brave, wild, kind, silly self. She might be the most real me of all of my pieces.

Pieces of Me: Father’s Daughter

At some point after seventeen, there was always a pair of fitted jeans, a tight black top, and ballet flats that seem too adorable for my feet, but somehow always work. If I am too thin, if I am too large, if I am weak, if I am strong, if I am together, if I am a mess, this is my uniform. Kind of surprising, I would have picked a dress or some pulled together pixie at a ladies’ lunch outfit for a Daddy’s girl, but I am my Father’s daughter, which means I am often practical, and this look is both polished and casual, comfortable and confident, and I can adjust it by upgrading or downgrading the jeans and the shoes as needed.

I am ridiculously like my Father, which meant that for most of my life we fought. Incessantly. About everything. Stubborn and relentless. Hurt feelings and charming smiles, and dammit, if that man couldn’t tease me into or out of a mood (usually into). But somewhere in the decades of fighting, moods, anger, boyfriend hating, wife loving, mother divorcing, grandparents hating, food shaming, slut hiding, Daddy-issues from space, I managed to turn out just like my father.

Isn’t it ironic?

With the exception of equestrian sports, I genuinely do not follow any sports teams; however, if any game, of any sport, in any country is playing and anyone is interested, I am as well. If anyone every mentions the University of Missouri athletic system in ANY way, but especially football, I have an opinion, and god help you if you like Nebraska, because I will shun you. I might only watch one football game a year, but if you like Nebraska, you are dead to me.

I am a ridiculously picky eater, but I will try anything (anything – I’m half Scottish, it’s a necessary rule) once and if I like it, I will want to cook it, even if I will not eat it. For years, my Dad suffered through two vegetarian daughters, so as punishment/luck, I learned how to grill from him.

Naturally, since he liked to do it, he had to compete and win (duh?) at it, and so did I – secret sauces, secret sides, secret rubs, secret cuts. Do I eat pork? Like once a year. Why? Does that matter? I’m good at it. Which means people like it. Which means I like it.

I am snarky and I love to laugh. To entertain. To please. To delight. Of course I have to win, but trying to explain why that matters is like trying to explain why I need oxygen. I have since spent a lot of introspective time digesting this, but some core part of me thinks, obviously.

Even as I am writing about him, I am thinking differently, mentally pushing back some of the darkness, smiling more, ready at any moment, to flash teeth. I feel myself become slightly more superficial, slightly less tortured. I hug fiercely, I hand shake firmly, I cry easily. All like him.

It is not Christmas and will never be Christmas until I watch It’s A Wonderful Life (which is how I have successfully rescheduled Christmas three times).

If I have a religion, it’s literature; if I have a system of belief, it’s the Allies versus the Axis; and if I am dark, well let’s just hide that because we don’t tell strangers our secrets.

Or if you must, fine, but then be entertaining about it and be better at it than anyone else.

I’m a Daddy’s girl. And yes, I would love a gin martini, thank you so much!!