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Whatever Happened to the Sweet & Happy Heroine?

I just spent the afternoon watching episodes of the 1970s television series Wonder Woman, starring the radiant Lynda Carter. What an adorable heroine she was. She was a sweet, but sober, visitor to America, whose naiveté made her all the more charming. I noticed that she smiled and laughed. A lot. She was cheerful and happy. It was a joy to watch.

There’s no doubt that 70s camp played its part in the filming of Wonder Woman, but the fact that the actresses didn’t take themselves too seriously made it magical. They were in on the joke. They were having fun, and it was fun to watch.

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Cloris Leachman (Queen Hippolyta) and Fannie Flagg (Amazon Doctor)

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Lyle Waggoner looking serious and rugged from a hospital bed.

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“They steal money and I have to fill out forms? What a country this is!”

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Where did she park her plane?

In today’s stories our female heroes are so much darker and more serious. They may be edgier, if not stronger, but certainly not more likable. Are they? I get the feeling that watching today’s crime fighters saps the watcher’s emotional energy more than it once did. And, no we haven’t come a long way, Baby. Our heroines are still practically naked. What’s up with that?

Violence in Living Color

I’m not ashamed to admit that I love a good horror show, but only the ones that take place on the Silver Screen. Y’know, the kind that involves actors and Hollywood-types getting paid a lot of money to be drenched in heavy FX. The kind that goes well with popcorn and peanut M&Ms. The kind that you can fast-forward, turn off, or walk out of if it gets too intense. The horror show that is far removed from daily life.

Every day we are waking up to new violence and bloodshed in the news, both at home and abroad. When has fighting fire with fire ever worked outside the cinema? Violent retaliation does not open the doors to civil dialogue and positive change; instead, violence and murder only alienate those who are sympathetic to your cause and force them to recoil in horror. Please, stop the violence.

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When Someone Calls You *Beautiful*

What’s your immediate response when someone tells you that you’re beautiful? Do you scoff and shake your head? Do you assume that they’re just paying lip service or trying to butter you up?

Are they stupid or simply mistaken? Are they a liar?

We are compelled to love our neighbors. Encouraged to see the beauty in all things. You are a unique, living creation. So, when I tell you that you are beautiful…

Believe me.

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What Are You Waiting For?

Not long ago, I ran across a really nice set of calligraphy markers and thought Holy cow, I still have these? Cool! I’ll use them now. I was so excited that I’d found these amazing markers and was totally stoked to use them. Recent events have reminded me that life is short, so I was grinning from ear to ear as all sorts of imaginative designs went whirling through my head, and I thought Maybe I’ll even frame it! as I got ready to create. (I just love little moments of excitement like this, don’t you?) Yeah well, apparently I bought these prodigious pens back during the second Bush administration because when I finally set these magnificent markers to parchment, the lil’ bastards were as dry as a bone.

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Profound wisdom from Mr. Edward Albee.

I’ve always been in the habit of buying fun and pretty things (especially when they’re on sale). I’ve also always been in the habit of setting these fun and pretty things aside. Of course, I always intend to use everything I buy. I’m not looking for an award in accumulation or anything. But some things are so fun and pretty I dare not use them except, you know, for “special occasions.” Presumably this means that I’ll use them to honor or impress someone who is special. Right? Well, since neither Jessica Lange nor the Adele have offered to visit my home any time soon, my good intentions oft turn into things akin to dried-up ol’ useless marker sticks.

So, what exactly is a special occasion? When is a day truly worthy of Fun and Pretty Things? Aren’t I special enough for these things everyday? If a friend asked me this question, my immediate answer would be a resounding:

Hell yeah, Girlfriend!

Of course you are worthy

ALL day EVERY day.

 

So why don’t I offer myself the same respect? I was so upset by those damned dehydrated markers that I mentioned my plight to a dear friend of mine.

She shared her sympathies as well as a sad story about a beloved relative she once had who did the same sort of thing I was doing. She said that after this relative had died, she and her mother had gone to clean out and organize this woman’s belongings; and while there, they came across set after set of lovely nightgowns and dressing gowns, still carefully preserved in their original wrapping papers and boxes. Just stacked neatly on a shelf. Waiting for a special occasion. It seemed wasteful; but even worse, it seemed so sad. Didn’t she deem herself worthy of wearing a lovely peignoir? Why hadn’t she wanted to go to bed looking like a million bucks? Oh sure, we all have our own cherished comfy cotton jammies, but do we never have an opportunity to wear something truly delicate and lovely … just for ourselves?

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So I decided to get a new set of calligraphy markers. These are even better than the old (brand new, dammit) ones because not only do they still draw, they’re also double sided. Score! As you can see, they’ve already been used several times.

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These beautiful bastards are outta the box!

I’m no longer waiting for a special occasion because today is a special occasion. I encourage you to do the same. Wear that slinky negligee, open that extraordinary bottle of wine. Burn and enjoy those fancy shmansy candles – you know the ones – and sport those ritzy designer shoes. Who cares if you’re just dashing over to Sprouts. You’ll be lookin’ good and feelin’ fabulous. And when you get back home, drag out that awesome fondue set, the one you bought for that lavish dinner party you never got around to hosting, and treat yourself today. What are you waiting for?

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Life Goes Strong

Less than twenty-four hours ago, my father-in-law died. Two of my sister’s grandchildren burned to death in a house fire this morning. Of course, our families are devastated and the weight of so much sadness had me sitting at my desk with my head in my hands wondering just how much emotional pain and turmoil people can endure before they give up all hope. It was giving me a migraine. My six year old came over and said, “I know that you’re having a rough time, Momma. We’re all very sad. It’s hard being a grown up. Sometimes it’s hard being a kid, too. But you know what? Life goes strong.”

“Do you mean ‘Life goes on, Baby’?” I asked.

“That too.”

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Hating God but Singing Anyway

Have you ever hated God?

Growing up, I used to spend a month or so of every summer visiting with my maternal grandparents. I now understand that it was a practicality — a time to give my single-mom what I’m sure was a much needed break, but I always assumed it was just a special time for me to  experience a “real family” [which equalled unbroken and religious to my young mind] and to enjoy 24/7 unconditional love and affection from my deeply religious grandmother. It was a tradition that I cherished and always looked forward to — including the “churchy” part because I’d enjoyed the wonderful bonds of friendship that I’d formed with my grandparents’ church family. As I got older, the amount of summer-time spent with my grandparents decreased because, well, I was a teenager. Still, the tradition continued until the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore high school years when my mom took me aside and explained that my summer sabbatical was going to be put on hold because my grandparents had separated.

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Mind you, my mother had been married three times in the course of my life. In fact, all of the important adults of my life at the time had experienced the ravages of divorce. As far as I knew, my Nonny and Papa had been the Last of the Happily Marrieds in my entire circle of influence. They had been the pillar of their church community, a solid bedrock of “happy marriage and family,” and, in my mind, the two were intrinsically connected.

I was shielded from most of the gory details of the impending divorce, but Life (and strong feminist influence) had taught me that it was likely something my grandfather had done; the lines had been drawn and I told my mother as much. “I’m spending my summer with Nonny,” I declared. “Make it happen. She needs me.”

Yes, I was that cocksure at the ripe ol’ age of 14.  My precocious maternal instincts kicked in and I knew that I needed to be there for my grandmother. Besides, I didn’t care about the details because it was quite obvious to me who the real culprit of this devastation was. It was God. And it was my job to nurture my Nonny and just hold on to a cheery disposition for the week I’d be with her. Which I did. For about eight hours.

As I began my bedtime ritual on the first eve of my visit, Nonny kissed me goodnight saying, “Sweet dreams; don’t forget to say your prayers.” I confessed, “I don’t pray anymore.”

Her shock was genuine, “Why not?”

“Because I have nothing to say to Him. Nothing nice anyway. I’m not speaking to Him because I’m afraid of what I might say. Like ‘How could You let this happen?'” I paused because, well, this was my grandmother after all. But I gritted my teeth, “You’re an asshole and I hate You!”

All of my anger and anxiety and the years of pent-up resentment with all of the men in my life who’d ever left their loved ones behind and the overwhelming fear of abandonment came flooding out of me. I was crying so hard that I couldn’t breathe. Nonny just held me and let me vomit my vitriol until I was too exhausted to say anything more.

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She confided that everyone at some time in their lives, and for some people many times in their lives, find it difficult to pray. Knowing she couldn’t actually fix my broken heart, she shared that whenever she herself didn’t know what or how to pray, she simply sang the children’s hymn Jesus Loves Me to let God know that she was thinking of Him. And, to remind her own spirit that He was in fact listening to her … with perfect love.

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Yeah, I thought she was cuckoo, too. Until she began to sing the song and I actually experienced some relief of the burden in my heart. The simple words “they are weak, but He is strong” soothed my soul. The juxtaposition of my weakness and exhaustion with His strength and eternal love mattered so much in that moment. And in many others since.

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Ultimately, my grandparents reconciled and the dreaded “D” word was avoided. I’ll never ever be grateful for what my family had to go through at that time in our lives, but I am forever grateful for the simple and profound lesson my Nonny taught me that summer.