Alright, time for something new. It is spring after all. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. With a growing list of women I admire both on and offline, it seems only natural in sharing bits of my life—things that inspire me, things I’m curious about—that that would include one of the greatest influences for women…other women.
As I parent my kids, I often think about my mom’s journey of motherhood and womanhood. I love to hear stories about when we were little—not so much for information about us but for stories about her. Were you happy, Mom? Did you feel overwhelmed? What were you passionate about? Her answers are gold nuggets, pieces of her story that I cherish and from which I learn. The greatest difference between my own journey in my thirties and hers is that—while, yes, she had friends and books—I have access to so many more women. The Internet allows us to connect and expand our perspective and ultimately feel less alone by presenting more women’s stories to which we can relate, more ideas, more encouragement, more sisterhood.
Jumping on the #wcw hashtag—Woman Crush Wednesday—I’m going to be sharing some interviews with women whom I admire–women I both know and wish I knew who inspire me with their story, their words, their style, their ideas, their art, their talents, their kindness and their example. Some have blogs, some don’t; some are writers, artists, moms, friends, well known, lesser known but all well-loved for their unique story. And everyone has a story. Women interviews are usually the first thing I turn to when I buy a magazine, and whether I “know” the person or not, I love and learn something from a good interview, especially when another woman is asking unique questions.
So there you have it—Woman Crush Wednesday, a new interview series I’ll be occasionally sharing here.
To kick this off, it was clear who’d be my first interview, the woman I look up to the most for her strength and resilience—my sister.
I always imagined we’d live in the same town and raise kids together, trading strollers and dropping off cousins for sleepovers, but we took different paths. Carin got married when she was 18 and had three girls before I graduated college which means they were my first loves, my prerequisite courses for motherhood. It also means that with my introduction to parenthood came an invaluable handbook, an experienced “phone a friend” for every hurdle I’d cross. But right when my life dreams started to take off–getting married, settling in a home, having babies–hers starting crumbling. After losing herself to many years in a marriage that wasn’t allowing her to be her best possible self, she chose to do what’s right for some–leave. And she had nothing but a job paying little more than minimum wage, a new lease on a small apartment, and a hope in a new future.
It took years and so many tearful phone conversations to get where she is today. I’ve never seen anyone work so hard to make their life better. I’ve never known any woman to read as many books as she did–anything she could get her hands on to inspire her to be more. Rock bottom was a dark pit for her, but she was never afraid of it. She simply climbed, little bit by little bit to get out.
Today Carin is the mother of three amazing girls who are strong and confident and funny and loving–one who’s off to college next year. A little over a year ago, my sister bought her first house. Her unwavering “You Can Do This” approach to life is fierce–so full of spirit, so backed by passion that you can’t even call it advice. Advice is just words. “You Can Do This” is her life mantra, and when I need strength and a reminder of my capabilities as a woman, I am so lucky to have my sister to call. And lucky to have her in this space today, so carry on, shall we?
To keep it straight, I’m in bold from here on out, and she’s in light.
Okay, if this was a real stage interview like James Lipton, I’d need an opening song for this series. What should it be?
Am I allowed to request Ira Glass?
I’d have to lose a little weight and the beard, but okay. Oh, wait. We’re celebrating women. I’ll be Terry Gross. What song is playing? And, what are you wearing in my imaginary WCW stage chair – your usual You’ve Got Mail inspired classics?
Ugh, these song questions are killing me – so tough to narrow down. I think Irene Cara’s Flashdance – I’d enter the stage in dance wearing a leotard and off-the-shoulder shirt. Then at some point, I’d change into a crisp white button down and navy.
I think when anyone in our family thinks about you, we immediately think of resilience, strength and hard work because those have characterized your journey these past several years. In the last five years, what was your lowest low and how did you rise above it?
There were different lows as I struggled to get back on my feet – money woes, car woes, lonely woes. But, I think the lowest lows were those early days of adjusting to 50/50 custody. I had been a stay-at-home mom and had never been away from any of my kids for very long. Not to mention, so much of my identity was exclusive to motherhood. So, watching my girls pack bags like gypsies each week was painful in so many ways – almost like I was losing them along with a part of my self. How did I rise above it? I took care of myself. I distracted myself with healthy things–I signed up for classes, I ran races, I went out with friends, I read books, I wrote. I also knew they’d be okay no matter what. I knew that as long as I was okay, they would be too. So I set out to be the best version of myself because it was one part of their outcome that I could control.
And your highest high?
Before I answer this, I want to go back to the last question if that’s OK, Terry. As painful as that was (50/50 custody arrangement), it, in time, became our new normal. While it may not have been my ideal custody situation, my girls are incredibly well-adjusted today. Plus, it has allowed me time to recharge and explore my identity outside mothering – something I believe is so important for women. I didn’t want to end that on such a morose note for someone who might feel the need to leave, but hindered by the fear of such a custody agreement.
My highest high in the last five years was undoubtedly buying my house – specifically, walking in the front door just after the closing. It was late afternoon – the house was empty, immaculate, and bright – visible sunbeams beat through the windows and onto the hardwood floors.
I was alone and mindful of every step it took to get to that point. I walked through every room and opened every closet. I walked out to the backyard and picked tomatoes from the garden. It was honestly like a movie moment.
Every good movie moment has a song playing in the background. What was the soundtrack for that moment?
The Weepies “Comfort”.
What’s the hardest part of raising older kids?
They need you less.
What’s the best part of raising older kids?
They need you less.
What’s the hardest part of raising kids as a single mom and a split home?
There’s always so much in my head – like changing the furnace filter and getting my central air fixed before summer. And then finding money for stuff like summer camps. I get tired from all the stuff in my head.
What’s the best part of raising kids as a single mom and a split home?
I set the tone of our home. I set the mood. I can do projects whenever I want – like paint a couch and not have any nay-saying. I have time alone to recharge.
What mantra/quote do you hang on to right now?
For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else. (Emerson) What I’ve gained is so palpable that I honestly think little of anything I’ve lost. Sure, there are moments that trigger sadness sometimes, but the good outweighs the bad. It also helps to remember no one is doing this thing right – whether you’re a single mom or a happily married mom – we’re all fumbling along, figuring it out as we go.
There’s a woman who thinks she’s hit rock bottom. She feels she isn’t enough, can’t do it, will never make it out of the mess she’s in. What do you have to say to her?
You can and you will make it out. J.K. Rowling said rock bottom became the solid foundation on which she rebuilt her life. Take 24 hours to cry and feel sorry for yourself. Then get to work making things better. One thing will lead to another which will lead to another. You’ll figure it out. Keep dreaming.
I love that. It reminds me of a quote I recently saw in the blog world: “Nothing will make you feel better except doing the work.” (Paul Ferney, I believe–I think I saw it on Oh Happy Day)
Okay, tell me about these things and their role in your life and survival through the hard stuff: Creativity, friendship, books and music.
I wrote more during my hardest days than I ever did on good days. It cost nothing and was therapeutic. I have always felt like I could create my own joy – if I didn’t have the money to go on vacation or if I was feeling lonely, I knew I could sit down and write something or paint something or even move the furniture around and feel better. I’ve always felt that improving my life was within my control – even if was just creating beauty in one way or another.
After I told my husband at the time I was leaving, I sat in limbo for a while; I was so overwhelmed by what it was going to take to really get out. Not to mention, I didn’t know how I was going to financially retain an attorney. Then during a girls’ night at a friend’s house, one of them got up in the middle of a conversation and wrote me a check. Then another and another until I sat there with the retainer fee in my hands. I’ll never forget it. Throughout those five years, I also met new friends who were single, in particular – almost as though they were placed in my life just when I needed them.
Books and music
Books and music became my lifeblood. There are times when you’ve already called your friend in tears ten times and your family is in a good place. Even though I knew I could always call, I also wanted to respect the fact that my friends and family had their own problems. And, if they were at a good place in life, I didn’t want to bring them down. So, books and music became like friends and family to me.
Compare these two things: Your view of yourself ten years ago and your view of yourself now.
When I look back at my 28 year old self, I see naivete and codependency. I know I was strong, but it was dormant – along with a lot of other stuff. At 28, I thought that life and identity were more fixed than they really are. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious thought, but more understood. I was who I was and what I felt – “Oh, I’m not driven” or “Oh, I’m not athletic”. I’d look at people I admired and think they were just naturally that way when really, they were likely the person they were because they pushed themselves out of their comfort zone and became who they wanted to be.
My view of myself now?
When I look at myself now, I see strength and independence. Little by little, I’ve rebuilt my life and I’m incredibly proud of that. I know what I can do and have a pretty good idea of who I am. At 38, I realize life and identity is much less fixed than I used to think. It’s not likely that I’ll be Christiane Amanpour, but it’s completely likely that I can be a runner, I can be driven – actually, I am a runner; I am driven. I also see a great mom. I am deeply proud of who my girls are becoming and I know that my choices have played a big part in that.
Worst thing someone said to you when you were rock bottom and needed support.
God still loves you. The “still” added just the right amount of condescension to make me feel horrible. I hadn’t even considered the idea that he might not. It was pretty revealing about how people view divorce.
Best thing someone said to you when you were rock bottom and needed support.
They listened. Simple as that. They showed up and listened and they didn’t go away.
I so believe in signs, kisses from the Universe, that tell us–especially when we desperately need to be told–that everything’s going to be okay, that we’re on the right path. I know we’ve both had so many of them in our lives, but one of my favorites is your June. Can you tell us about June in one paragraph? Hard to do, I know.
Yes…tough to limit the June Jacobson story in a paragraph. I thought I had found the perfect first house for me a couple of years ago, but the deal didn’t go through. I was so disappointed. Then I found this house. A woman by the name of June had owned it–she was the only other woman who ever lived in this house and had recently died, so her sons were selling it. I knew I was buying her estate, but that was about it. I googled her one day in between faxing paperwork over to my realtor. She had raised three sons in the house after divorcing a traditional husband who preferred his wife subservient. She went on to practice social work – counseling women in a home office (now my bedroom!) and helping them heal from domestic abuse. I had quit believing in “more”, but couldn’t help be comforted by what seemed to be such a sign.
So…back to walking through my front door just after closing–cue Deb Talan, the soft guitar, sun beams on the hardwood floor–it was like June led me there.
Random, but fun. Finish the following. I hate when…
I hate when I pull paper towel from the dispenser at work and it comes out in tiny pieces.
I hate when I’m out of half & half.
I hate when people interpret kindness as warm and fluffy weakness.
And, I love when…
I love when my neighbor Jen across the street puts the bat call out for wine and conversation.
I love when I make my dad laugh.
I love when I get a package or letter in the mail.
I love when the house is clean and the theme from House of Cards begins to play.
I love when my girls are all home for a slow Sunday breakfast with Bach on the speakers.
Three of your favorite woman crushes…
Favorite easy meal you make for your girls?
Pork carnitas if I prepare. I throw boneless port shoulder or enough chops in the crockpot with onions, chicken broth, vinegar, cumin, salt and pepper. At the end of the day, pull apart with fork and serve with corn tortillas, lime and cilantro.
If I don’t prepare, pasta pomodoro with goat cheese on top. Saute a few garlic cloves in olive oil, add a few cans of blended diced tomatoes, basil and salt.
Okay, and also a Hot & Ready from Little Caesars.
If you had to get a tattoo right now, what would it be?
Two words, one on each wrist: More & Enough because life is always a balance between the two. There’re times in life when you need to remind yourself that you are enough and there are times when you need to push yourself to be more.
We speak in music, so let’s end this interview with an important question.
It’s been a sucky day. You decide to take a run by yourself. What five songs are on your playlist while you run?
“Stronger” – Kelly Clarkson
“Help Me Lose My Mind” – Disclosure
“Dreams” – Cranberries
“Lose Yourself” – Eminem
“Sweet Disposition” – The Temper Trap
Ah, Sweet Disposition does something to me every time.
Thank you. Love you.
You can see more of Carin at @carcryder on Instagram. You’ll probably be seeing more of her on this blog too.