Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Underhand Pitches

It’s International Women’s Day. A day dedicated to celebrating and appreciating the women in our lives and the women that we are. What an odd thing? I'm not being flip. It is genuinely odd that a gender taught to be quiet, nice, and agreeable would be given a pride day and expected to actually celebrate it. I can't think of anything I have been told (over and over again) is more unattractive as a woman than being proud of yourself. 

We’re taught not to boast. If you live a life you are proud of you’re supposed to sit quietly and wait for praise. It doesn't matter if you're the happy mother of two in a small town or the CEO of a Fortune 500; every black-mold infested corner of society wants women to be humble above all else. Pride isn't something you should claim. How dare you take time to share what you have accomplished. That is the message constantly slung at women through underhand pitches our entire lives. We are supposed to wait to swing.  Chances are lobbed at us with a smile, "Go ahead and hit it sweetheart, you earned it" and only then do we endeavor to accept recognition. Only when it is permitted.

Here’s what I have to say about that. Stop waiting and boast.

I'll start:

It all began with a fiddle. I moved cross country alone ten years ago, from my first job after college in east Tennessee for a job in the Rocky Mountains. I missed Appalachia so much that winter I ordered a cheap fiddle on eBay with no idea how to play it. All I knew was I wanted that place back. Mountain music was teleportation I could afford. So I taught myself. It took a few months and patient dogs, but I learned to play. Now that instrument is an old friend, something I can pick up and play anytime - breathing a heartbeats into this quiet farmhouse. I can play songs that are slow and sad or bright enough to dance to. I started teaching hesitant beginners, making the wildness of the fiddle tame and manageable to others. Over a hundred people have come to this farm to learn to play. I am proud of those songs.

I am a homeowner, at least so far. It's always touch and go being self employed—there have been some serious scares—but for the past six years I have managed to pay off 20% of my mortgage and five of those years, I was self employed. That is no small accomplishment. I did this alone. I did this without a spouse, checks from in-laws, government assistance, or borrowing large sums of money from family or friends. Month by month I figured it out. I am proud I bought this farm as a single woman and am keeping it as one.

Outside my front door is a dark horse behind a sagging fence. He was born in northern England. Through luck and circumstance he was sold to me on a 2-year payment plan which I paid off in full a few years back. Merlin is his name. I have learned to ride because of him. I learned to tack him up and fit the human inventions of bridle and saddle to a half-ton of stubborn sentience. I can leave my property on horseback via saddle or cart. I have an animal I trust and care for that saved me from the worst times in my life. This was unimaginable to the 25-year-old girl looking at glossy photos of Fell Ponies in a bookstore coffee-table book a decade ago. I'm proud of the ownership, skills, trail stories and the animal.

There’s a hawk resting here on a perch above me. I learned how to trap, train, and hunt beside her and others in four years of training as an apprentice falconer. It amazes me that the girl too terrified to look people in the eye at the slightest compliment can now take a beast from the sky and train it to fly to her fist. When I look up I don't see wildlife, I see roommates. I'm proud of the time, the training, the hunts, the game in my freezer, and the hawks that touched my life.

I learned archery by joining a local historical society and joining their longbow team. I learned the skills of hickory and yew, sinew and string. I learned the tools, the care, and even landed a part time job teaching archery a few years ago a local resort. Now the longbow is as much a part of my life as the bow of my fiddle. I teach beginners the stance, the aim, the way anyone of any age can learn to meditate and become strong from this ancient weapon. I'm proud of every shot.

I learned to farm. How to raise sheep from lambs, chicken dinners from eggs, honey from hives, clothing from wool, bacon from piglets and salads from seeds. The knowledge of homesteading came loud and slow. I wrote about it for ten years here, TEN YEARS, with equal parts criticism and praise. I don’t believe either side, but inhale the middle deeply. Farming is the love of my life. It gave me the freedom to pursue the passions that give this shorty life meaning. The collage of skills that come with a homestead are too long to list. A few are brewing ciders from this farm's apples, baking fresh bread from scratch, midwifing a goat, or butchering a rabbit. Farming taught be to be human in an ancient way. To live with seasons and time as stalking monsters and perfect gods. I am proud of every single mistake, more so than the accomplishments.

I learned to stand up and fight, both for my intellect and body. A decade of being told how awful you are by strangers online has created a rhino skin against the anonymous. They mean nothing. I also became a martial artist as an adult, dedicating years to learning to protect myself and teaching other students. I have my named recorded across the world in Seoul as a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I am more proud of this than my college education.

This is some of my story. I've done other things, too. I've earned a BFA in design, published five books (soon my sixth - my first novel). I ran a half marathon. I own the title on my pickup truck. I paid off 4 credit cards, re-negotiated my student loans, and trained a border collie to herd sheep beside me. But out of all of this, I'm mostly proud that I’m still here. I'm proud of the dozens of people I have met along the way. Every paragraph above is a set of faces, friendships, mentors, and bar stories. I became me along the way.


How did reading that make you feel? I guarantee if you are a woman and read this you either felt bad about yourself or bad about me. That what we've been taught. I know because I read all that aloud to myself after writing it with enough self hatred to lubricate Scottsdale. Is this empowerment or self indulgence? Am I scaring people away? What if they realize I was scared the whole time? Do they know this is ten years of fear of regret, not Disney Princess adventures? Am I a hero or a child? Am I living the dream or avoiding responsibility? Etc, forever into anxiety and sleeping pills...

Women reading this, I am asking you to worry less about what people think and be proud of what you have accomplished. Stop apologizing for it. Stop being quiet about it. If it means doing so on a random holiday that grants you permission (exactly what I just did) then let this be our collective invitation. Stop waiting for someone to announce you to a stage that doesn’t exist for an audience that isn’t waiting for you. It’s not happening. You need to write the play, build the stage, invite the audience, hand the announcer you hired the card with your name on it - and then take the applause knowing half the audience hates you for doing it in the first place. Welcome to being a woman in 2017.

It’s time to ignore the chastity belt on your self esteem. It's time to create, to sing, to march, to shout, to live a life not hindered by permission - especially your own. Celebrate your stories and the mess that got you there. Be brave about your mistakes and forgiving of the ones you can't wait to make next. All the best stories start out this way. Stop listening to other peoples'. Write your own and brag like hell about it.

I want to hear it. I need to hear it. Millions of women like me are howling for it. The forced humility we have been taught is bullshit. Be proud of the good work you have done and hold your head high. We're all counting on you.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary donation. The photo of me and my hawk was taken by Miriam Romais.


Blogger MIB said...

Okay, well, here it goes.

I'm most proud that I learned to make myself happy. I certainly wasn't raised to think that I deserve it; in a million tiny ways, I was taught that I should come last and that my opinion of anything was suspect. But I sought out role models and help and fought for years for my sanity and emotional health. And I'm incredibly proud of the resilient person I am because of all that. How resilient? Just over 2 years ago, my house burned down and I lost everything I owned when I was two months pregnant...and then my son was born 2.5 months premature and spent 70+ days in the NICU. And I'm writing this from a rebuilt house with a healthy kid and a sheep farm I love, not to mention a husband who I think is part superhero. This is the short version of my story (did I mention I'm currently keeping an eye on a toddler?), but yeah, I'm very proud of the choices I've made and the life I have.

March 8, 2017 at 5:25 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

MIB I love it. Please readers, share more stories!

March 8, 2017 at 5:30 PM  
Blogger LaVerna Beasley said...

Jenna, I read your book barnheart. (It was a Christmas gift.) I really enjoyed it and tho I don't want to do half the things you did/do, I am inspired to do a little more because of your fearlessness. I don't feel bad about myself or about you. On the contrary, I think You are a badass if I may say so! And I have a daughter who I think may be just like you. She is small, but mighty. So fierce that sometimes I can only just look at her in awe. She is one of the reasons I would say I'm proud. I admire you for being just who you want to be and doing what you want to do. Even when it is hard/scary/exhausting/confusing.....I love your unapologetic way of being your best self

March 8, 2017 at 11:32 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

What kind of people have you been around that have told you that you can't be proud of yourself? I'm 55 years old and have always been told and known to be my very best. I've had successful careers in the military, as a businesswoman, and as a mom and homemaker/farmer. I'm so sorry for you!

March 9, 2017 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Thank you LaVerna!

March 9, 2017 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Sharon, your experience as a wife/mom is very different than being single in your thirties in a rural area. No one is pointing fingers at me and saying to not be proud to my face. I am talking about the dirty undercurrent of social norms in our culture.

March 9, 2017 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Margaret said...

You are fabulous Jenna,

My brag this week is that I learned to use a chain saw. I am terrified of power saws, and have spent hours with handsaws to avoid them. I have conquered my table saw, but never tried a chain saw. On Sunday afternoon I got it out and cut through a stack of small branches, making fire wood. Its a small thing, but it feels powerful.

March 9, 2017 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger donnawantsafarm said...

I cried when I read this. I have done so many things that I am proud of myself for doing, and yet have faced horrible depression because I wouldn't allow myself to acknowledge it. Every male voice that told me that I was not good enough, I didn''t try hard enough, I wasn't skinny enough, I wasn't pretty enough, I wasn't fun enough, I wasn't a good enough mom, person, woman, whatever. I repeated them to myself because I thought that they were right and I needed their approval. I joined the Military at 19, got fit, learned how to be a soldier, then got married, became a Mom, five times over. I had to battle my weight and get fit after every baby. I raised my beautiful, smart, amazing daughters and still went to work everyday to be a good soldier. I had a passion for horses that I never let go of, and sacrificed many things so that I could keep my horses. I moved my family and horses across the country numerous times, I started new jobs in new cities every time I was told to, and I went to Afghanistan to do my part. I completed training and courses that were intense and difficult, I sacrificed my family for my job, and my job for my family. When I finally broke down and couldnt keep going, I got myself help and worked hard at being strong enough to still take care of my family. When I had the opportunity to reach for my life long dream of having my own farm, I took it and jumped in head first. I raised so many different animals successfully, I cared for them and learned how to be self sufficient. I taught my children about farming and nature and life in a way that I thought was important. I worked at being a part of my community and laying down roots., And when my husband left me after I had taken every ounce of blame for every problem, error and moment of his unhappiness, I survived. I kept going and started to heal. I got stronger and then gave up my supposed dream farm so that I could focus on healing my life. I started over from scratch, with absolutely no help from anyone. I am here, everyday, keeping on keeping on. I didn't give up because my daughters deserve a Mom that keeps going, even if I had to slow down. I am really trying to love myself, but its sure not easy.

March 9, 2017 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Erica said...

I am going to be 64 in 3 months, and I am living my dream. Two years ago, I retired from an extremely toxic job working for the State of Colorado, and moved from the big city to a rural mountaintop. I have a small but efficient home on 87 acres, completely fenced, and surrounded by BLM land on 3 sides. I have a small guest house (about the size of a "tiny house") that I am planning on renting out like a bed and breakfast during the spring, summer, and fall. I had both knees replaced on the same day, and I have had two surgeries on my lower back - the last one just before i retired, resulting in eight 2-inch screws, metal rods, and plates fusing my bottom 4 vertebrae. I have a small jewelry and handicrafts business, and I make my own marijuana edibles for pain control. I ride my ATV, pulling a small trailer to collect downed wood on my property, and I collect shed elk and deer antlers for sale and to craft jewelry, runes, knife handles, and other beautiful things. I am surrounded by piñón pine and juniper, and I let my neighbor pasture his horses here from early spring to late fall, on a barter exchange. He brings me wood and meat and provides other useful services, and I get to ride these beautiful animals. I have a big old monster pickup truck with a commercial size plow blade, and between me and another neighbor, we keep the 4 miles of road back to our places plowed in the winter. I am in the middle of building a labyrinth, and i have plans to utilize one of the existing stock trails here to create a guided meditation path, with tree stump seating areas and meditation prompts. I am hosting my first women's retreat this summer, where there will be archery and skeet shooting in addition to the labyrinth walk - and a morning art/crafting workshop, a class on divination, nightly ritual and drumming around the fire pit.... I absolutely cannot wait. I mean. 64 years old, and living totally Off-grid! I LOVE IT!!

March 9, 2017 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

One of your best posts yet. I am proud that in this political mess we are living in, many strong women are standing up for what they believe in and fighting society's censor. Personally, at 65, I look back and remind myself that I have mostly lived the life I wanted, tried to keep growing and learning, and continue to become more me everyday.

March 9, 2017 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger jules said...

Donnawantsafarm! You go girl! Keep it up. Never give up! I admire your strength and you. You are total badass and I wish we were friends IRL. You are an inspiration to many, and certainly to your girls.

March 9, 2017 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger jules said...

Jenna, you are an inspiration to many, myself included. I felt proud, reading this, for you. You are badass! Keep it up!

March 9, 2017 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Kim Saylor said...

This is so well put and on the mark. The subtleties of how women/girls and their efforts are referred to has a huge impact on all of us, whether we actively notice or not. It influences how we are raised and how we raise our children. It is integral to everything we do and we need to continue to work to change this narrative. We should own, as yes be proud of, our intelligence, our strength and our accomplishments.

March 9, 2017 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Birdie said...

Hear Hear Jenna!! You go girl- you are an inspiration!

March 9, 2017 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger pjo2179 said...

I do agree with in this country, we (women, men, LGBT, green, purple, orange!) have all have the same opportunities to be our best selves. The world is our oyster. What other people have to say or think about you is their business. It has absolutely nothing to do with you. It's a reflection of them. Keep on living your dreams, doing what you want and don't worry about those trying to bring you down!

March 9, 2017 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Jenna, Your post brings me back to some terrible things that happened to me. I became Clinically Depressed, and had a breakdown. I have been fighting my way back for a while. I am better now. I am proud of myself!

March 9, 2017 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger Anita O'Brien said...

Jenna, you are amazing! And so are the many wonderful stories of women inspired by you. Thanks, I needed this!!

March 9, 2017 at 9:52 PM  
Blogger Marc D said...

You are truly a remarkable woman, entirely self-sufficient, and a published writer to boot (I am envious of that, as I have been researching for my first book for 6 years now).
Btw, if there are times you are feeling down, I suggest listening to "Everybody's free to wear sunscreen" by Baz Luhrmann (yes, the guy who directed "Moulin Rouge"), it's a great pick-me-up and helps put things in perspective.

March 10, 2017 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger Marc D said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 10, 2017 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Karen from CT said...

When I was 19 I answered an ad in the Mother Earth News for a caretaker at a lake house in upstate Vermont. I got the job, hopped on a greyhound bus and off I went with my cat in a shoe box hidden under my jacket. I had never been alone in a house overnight in my entire life, and oh yeah, I was afraid of the dark. I lived on a dirt road off a main road and if I wanted to make a phone call I had to walk a mile down the road to a pay phone at the general store. One night I was talking to my boyfriend and ended up talking too long and it was dark when we hung up. There were no lights on my road and after i turned off the main road onto mine, I was in total darkness. So dark you could not see your hand in front of your face. I was a city girl so this was totally new to me. Woods on either side of the road, strange noises etc. I just kept repeating my brothers words- the animals are more afraid of you than you are of them. I walked slowly down the road until I saw the lights in my house which i had left on and ran like hell! From that day on I was not only not afraid of the dark but had courage to forge my own path when others were doubting me or doing the exact opposite. I love reading your words Jenna, looking forward to meeting you some day.

March 12, 2017 at 11:01 PM  
Blogger seagoddess said...

I don't feel bad about myself or you after reading this. This reads like you're the one who doesn't wanna help women. Sorry babe, i'm all for women making it big in this world.

March 15, 2017 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger DarcC said...

You are an inspiring woman.

Like MIB, I had to overcome my upbringing to learn that it's ok to make myself happy. My mother still insists that I am selfish and lazy. I got on an airplane at eighteen years old and flew to Sweden to be a nanny, knowing no-one on the other end. It was awesome. I came back and earned dean's list grades while holding up to five part-time jobs while in college at a mostly male paramilitary academy so I could pay for my horse and my car, gas, food, and books. I worked my up in mostly male international corporations to be a senior project manager of construction projects worth tens of millions of dollars, supervising dozens of skilled tradespeople. I've been a landlord, but now I'm building a growing organic poultry farm while working full-time; I raise and show dogs; I have nurtured a horse from foal-hood thru years of slowly going blind and if she still had eyes you'd never know it. I am probably most proud of that. I've lived in a 250 sq ft studio apartment for seven long-ass years while saving up for restoring my gutted antique farmhouse. A second room will be finished this spring, I cannot frickin' wait.

March 15, 2017 at 11:22 PM  
Blogger Renee M. said...

Hmmm. . . I was never taught not to be proud of my earned accomplishments. I'm not sure that is the universal thing you believe it to be. It's likely more a case by case situation depending on up-bringing. That said, I was taught it isn't in good taste for anyone -- male or female -- to be blow your own horn. But I guess for one day it would be alright. ; )

March 16, 2017 at 6:24 AM  

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