I am Woman….

You may know the song.  But after last weekend, I’d rather end that opening title with ” hear me squeal like Richard Simmons”.  Just some Richard Simmons

We had our first Women’s Retreat last weekend, our church hasn’t had one for maybe ten or so years?  It’s hard to say because they haven’t had one since I have been working here (and I start my 8th year in October!).  I was a little nervous going into the weekend, you never know when you get together a new group of people exactly how they will interact and get along.  But I was blown away by the openness, grace, laughter, and support that came out of the weekend.

I organized the event, but in order to give me the opportunity to get as much as other participants from the retreat, we opted for an outside facilitator.  It was easy for me to figure out who I wanted to lead us.  My friend Anne , is a certified retreat leader.  I have attended many retreats that she used to lead for youth and knew how refreshing it would be to have her in the space, guiding us.  She and I met, talked about what I hoped for participants, and came up with a loose framework.  She sent me the outlines along the way to make sure she was on the right path, but admittedly, I was tentative in reading them, not wanting to “ruin” my own experience.

She created wonderful opportunities for us as we delved into the landscapes of our lives and how they are woven together.  There was time for self-reflection (something I don’t do enough), paired sharing, and group discussion.  There was time for creativity, time for laughter, movie views, singing (wow, these ladies have amazing voices), and yes even time to Sweat to the Oldies. 🙂

I didn’t know everyone on this retreat well.  But I came away with a deeper sense of each one of them.  There is a kindredness that this time together created among us, that was surely something I didn’t anticipate.  But I am so thankful for it.  I can only hope that the other ladies got as much from the weekend as I did.  I am hopeful that it becomes an annual tradition because it is something I am already looking forward to for next year.

For me there is strength found in connections.  But more than that, there is an unexplained strength in women coming together as a group.  We find solace, support, identification, and listening in a way not found by any other group.  And I covet this time, in a world that so often tears people apart, leaves them alone, tells us we are not good enough.

As I drove to work this morning, and this post was spinning around in my head, I was listening to one of my favorite Sara Bareilles songs.  It’s from the musical, Waitress.  Some of the words really spoke to me:

She’s imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy, but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine.

Aren’t we all a few of those things?  Haven’t we all felt that way, at some point?  I heard stories this weekend of failure, hurt, disappointment, struggle, and sadness.  But what I learned was those were only pieces of the stories–because in failure, there was success; in hurt, their was healing; in disappointment, there was pride; in struggle, there was perseverance; and in sadness, there was joy.  Maybe not immediately, maybe not always, but it was there.  And there is now this group of women that can remind us to keep our head up.  We are women, hear us ROAR.

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“I only say inappropriate things around you…”

Mother’s Day always brings the list of “those who raised you” or “those who helped you grow” and “aunts, sisters, mentors” types of shout outs in order to include all women into the celebration. It’s wonderful, but it still hurts as I feel I shouldn’t be honoring anyone other than my mother. But this year is different. I am making a shout out to someone very special, and I know in no way does it diminish my relationship with my own mom.


When I was in college I had the opportunity to join a sorority. I’m not sure what initially drew me in other than I knew several of the women from the chapter. In true Shannon form, I blossomed in the chapter, getting involved and making people laugh and being my generally outgoing self. But one relationship took hold very quickly.

When the sorority houses were reestablished in Delaware, OH, there were laws against a certain number of women living under the same roof together (oh, anti-brothel laws). So the houses were meeting houses and didn’t accommodate sleeping areas. Most of the houses didn’t have traditional House Mothers as there wasn’t much to look out for as the homes were not used 24/7. But our chapter still had a House Mom. Enter Sonya.

I’m not sure what it was that first made us click. Maybe it was our silliness, the fact that I’d always stop by to chat when I was in the house, or perhaps it was my care. I don’t know. But we quickly became good friends and she has since been a constant in my life. She hasn’t always had it easy, though. But somehow she still has a strong faith. She is one of the most thoughtful, spirited, and “beat to your own drum” people I have ever met. She gives what she has to others, often times even before she gives to herself.

Everyone in the house calls her “Mom”. This is true to the point that most people don’t even know her first name. She is small in stature but rich in love. She is an excellent baker, and wonderful friend, she makes me crack up like no one else can (especially when talking about things that some would consider taboo). Somehow I have a knack for making unlikely people come out of their shell. I don’t know how or why, but it has happened several times in my life.

My college experience would not be the same without this woman in my life. She’s seen me laugh so hard I can’t breathe, she’s seen me cry and cry and cry, she’s given me numerous hugs and unlimited advice, she has inspired me to always keep family at the forefront even when it is difficult. She is a blessing.

When my own mama got sick, she sent cards and talked to me on the phone. When my mama passed, I couldn’t call her. I texted and asked one of my other sorority sisters to let Sonya know my mom had passed. I literally couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone and say “Hi, Mom,” because my mom wasn’t here physically anymore. It took several months before I could do it. And the first time I called all I said was “hi”. But she was there with a reassuring word and lots of love. I am thankful for her friendship and her continued presence in my life. I love you, Sonya. Happy Mother’s Day.