Empowering Women
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Empowering Women

I have raised four daughters: Empowering Women is a force close to my heart.

“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

There are so many astounding Eleanor Roosevelt quotes that it was hard to choose just ONE. That great lady had it going on!

I travel a lot. I’ve been all over the globe, recently with my husband. Sabin has been involved with a national memorial–something that’s been all foible, all the time. But it has allowed him to seek out the means and methods for creating a world class, monumental sculpture. Note: Stay tuned for a novel called “Truth Be Told” about an author married to a sculptor who is making a national memorial!

At any rate, regarding our travels. There’s a lot of America-bashing that happens abroad. For example, in New Zealand, a country stuck in the 1950’s, where women are treated like it is 1951, it is quite the vogue to bash America and our materialism.

But those backwater Kiwis are missing the point. The point is that the United States produces innovation and ingenuity. We are a generative force for new ideas, new technologies, new strategies, new businesses. The US has ambition. It takes risks. It’s the most generous nation on the planet. It doesn’t know its place. And that’s what’s brilliant about the USA: generosity and boundary-lessness.

Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t know her place. She redefined what it meant to be a First Lady. She got out in front of the public eye and did humanitarian good. She said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The battle for the individual rights of women is one of long standing and none of us should countenance anything which undermines it.”

I’m an American woman and proud of it. I do what I feel is right in my heart. I don’t know my place.

Plenty of men wish I did.

There’s a male fantasy of submissive women. It’s a weak male fantasy; it’s part of the attraction of porn, a visual representation of low consciousness in human sexuality.

The strong male dreams of strong females and their contribution, their partnership: “Too often the great decisions are originated and given form in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression,” said Eleanor Roosevelt.

Women have something of special value to offer the world.

Now Sabin is working with an initiative for empowering women, and he would sculpt some of the Great Women who’ve done that by example. I’m so excited for him! Can you imagine Eleanor Roosevelt sculpted by Sabin Howard?

In a rich and deep way, his work has led to an extraordinary conversation between the two of us.

“What do you think an empowered woman is?” I asked him.

He gave a thoughtful reply about human beings.

I said, “Women are a subset of human beings, we have our own special contributions to make. Power means something a bit different for women.”

So here’s the cool thing: my husband and I have begun a new conversation in new terms–about Women’s Empowerment.

“Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Tender Loving Care for a Marriage
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Tender Loving Care for a Marriage

Tender Loving Care for a Marriage

Sabin and I came to a dark and stormy place in our marriage.

That diction belies the fresh and cutting pain of such a place and time.

When we both returned to the marriage, we sought help in putting things back together. There are books, websites, and videos that have helped us, and that continue to do so. I write this blog for people like us who are working to strengthen their marriage.

It’s a deeply heartfelt journey to restore a marriage to love and harmony.

One resource for us is Dr. Dana Fillmore’s Strong Marriage Now site, www.strongmarriagenow.com. Her videos and blog posts tell it like it is, spell out effective strategies for working through marital issues, and offer hope to a bewildered spouse floundering with the despair of a marriage on the rocks. There’s not a moment of fluff. She talks about personal responsibility and strategies for effective communication. Of particular note are the videos on “How to Get Your Partner Checked Back In,” “Get Over Past Pain – Forgive,” and “7 Steps to an Effective Apology.” I also liked her “Surviving an Affair” series.

Dr. Fillmore emphasizes time spent together in her valuable “StrongMarriageNow System.” At least 8 hours per week, she insists. Eight hours per week, every week. I think back over the past few years with Sabin and I realize, if he and I had been spending 8 hours a week together, we never would have come to the treacherous shoals of near divorce. Her “StrongMarriageNow System” is important. It’s worth the investment of time and money for anyone who cares about their marriage. Buy it now.

Note: I’m not an affiliate! I used her program and found it helpful. Her program became a springboard for me to explore the wealth of published wisdom on strengthening a marriage.

Somewhere in Dr. Fillmore’s website or blog, she recommended “The 5 Languages of Love,” and I bought this book by Gary Chapman. Sabin and I both took the quiz, and we discovered that his primary love language is Physical Touch, and mine is Quality Time. Neither of us had our love language spoken to us when we were separated by vast distances. It was a recipe for disaster.

I liked this book “The 5 Languages of Love: The Secret to Love that Lasts” and I recommend it for couples. It’s worth exploring how you and your mate each feel and receive love.

Isn’t that ultimately the point of the sacred union of marriage? To share joy and communion and to make each other feel safe and profoundly connected to each other? To be the one person who is the bulwark against the vagaries of fate, the one person who’s always there for your mate.

Googling online one morning over my coffee–coconut sugar and heavy whipping cream, please–I discovered a YouTube Video of Dr. John Gottman speaking. He was giving a lecture at a Rotary Club on “Making Relationships Work.”

I was electrified!

Dr. Gottman is an MIT-trained researcher with more than four decades of experience in carefully studying marriages, what makes them work and how they fail. His “4 Horseman of the Apocalypse“: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling shocked me with their truthfulness. I saw immediately that Sabin stonewalls, and that I, yes, alas, I am critical.

It was evident that I needed to work on myself so I wasn’t critical.

In a general way, our pattern is mirrored by men and women at large. Dr. Gottman says that 85% of stonewallers in a heterosexual marriage are men.

Defensiveness is when we don’t take responsibility for our part, or any part, of the problem.

Worst of all is contempt. “Contempt is sulfuric acid for love,” says Dr. Gottman, and it actually erodes the immune system.

It hit me like a lightning bolt across the steppes to have these 4 toxic styles of relating articulated so clearly. I don’t enjoy having my failings pointed out to me, but I want my marriage to work. I don’t want to be a critical wife. I want to be a loving and respectful wife. Not a doormat–a loving and respectful wife. In fact, I intend to be a loving and respectful person.

Dr. Gottman also discusses what makes a marriage work, the strategies employed by “the Masters” who have happy, successful marriages. He talks about creating an atmosphere of fondness and admiration; about turning towards each other, especially when one spouse makes a bid for connection; about exploring each other’s love maps; and about accepting influence from each other. Especially, he notes, a husband accepting influence from his wife will strengthen the marriage.

I watched all the Dr. Gottman videos I could find, and then I bought some of his books. “The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work” is wonderful. The sections on ‘Solving solvable conflicts’ and ‘Coping with conflicts you can’t resolve’ are useful in the loveliest ways. Every marriage endures conflict, even the happiest marriage. What matters is how conflict is handled.

It’s no easy thing to rectify and restore a marriage. It’s no easy thing to keep a marriage strong. Besides the internal relating styles that can complicate matters, there are external forces working to dissolve a marriage.

There are predatory women who want to scoop up other women’s husbands; there are low class women who come for a job interview and drop their knickers. There are selfish men who, if they want her, don’t care whether or not a woman is married or if there is a child involved. These sorts will manipulate to achieve their own ends. Their manipulations can be devastating for a marriage.

There are other negative outside influences that can derail a marriage. There are nasty in-laws. There are so-called “friends” who want to break up the marriage for their own spiteful or self-interested purposes. In my opinion, those types should be avoided as soon as they’re identified.

It’s easy enough to get married but hard to stay married. It’s the hardest thing we do, perhaps. It requires constant self-monitoring and constant accommodation and regular sacrifice.

Marriage requires sacrifice because it is sacred. Sanctity requires hard work and sacrifice. It’s the most poignant endeavor of all. It’s the hardest road to walk–and the most important, the most human.

To anyone out there who reads this blog post hoping for help for their painfully unsettled marriage: Welcome, and God Speed. I pray that these suggestions help you. I offer you my blessing.

Sabin Howard and Traci Slatton

Returning to Source and Writing Again
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Returning to Source and Writing Again

Write again, they are telling me. You must write, Traci. 

It’s the new theme: writing again.

The past twelve months have been excruciating. I am struggling.

It’s been a year of comings and goings from my life; intermittency like a suddenly thrown grenade blew up my peace of mind. It has been a year of travel, loss, loneliness, bad advice, uncertainty, sadness, emptiness, tough choices, betrayal, humiliation.

It has also been a year of joy: the birth of my beautiful grandson, deepening friendships, richer closeness with my sweet middle daughter. A lot of yoga! Books newly cherished. A beautiful place that has come into my consciousness as a home.

Change is afoot.

Write again, my husband says, as if that will erase everything that has passed between us. His eyes are soft and his voice is loving as he counsels me. Write again. He holds me often throughout the day.

His hands on my shoulders, my arms, my breasts, my belly help me. He is kind. And I am still struggling.

In every moment brims the fullness of the spiritual imperative: We are here to love, to learn, to work, and to play. We are here to choose love over fear.

Why then this heart ache?

For what reason did I come here? I’ve asked myself a thousand times over the last span of time.

What is the imperative that I am mindful of it?

How have I betrayed myself?

I suspect it’s the effort to answer these questions that will heal me. It’s the journey itself that will return me to Source–whatever the destination may be.



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Sex in literature today

Reviewer Katie French of Underground Book Reviews sent me a smart list of questions for a blog interview that will run in the new year.

One of her questions was what I thought about sex in literature. Here’s part of my answer.

Well, that’s complicated. I like sex in literature. I like sex in general, you know, with my husband (or myself). Sex is good.
In fiction, I prefer intelligent sex, that is, well-written and truthful to the human experience. Kinky, sure, bring it; silly and implausible, no. 

If you are asking my take on Fifty Shades of Grey, I admit that I think it’s a stupid piece of crap that does nothing to help women’s sexuality be understood or embraced. The protagonist is a male fantasy: an inane virgin who climaxes effortlessly, no matter what he does to her. Why have women accepted this ridiculous character as some version of themselves? I do not understand, nor do I approve.
I’m not saying that sex has to be politically correct. The best sex I’ve ever had was extremely politically incorrect. It’s an unfortunate part of the human experience that sex that transgresses can be so darn good.

I also think that, for most women, to fall off the cliff into bliss requires surrender. Surrender is difficult, especially in the current climate, in which women are supposed to be star neurosurgeons as well as perfect mothers raising perfect kids and, at the same time, loving wives with the bodies of 23 year olds, because of all the time spent at the gym. That’s a pretty butch expectation of women. It sucks. So here we are supposed to be superwomen, yet one of the deep truths about our sexuality is that it requires surrender.
I’m not talking about climbing on top, throwing a leg over, and riding real hard. I’m talking about something else: an internal state of surrender. The payoff is huge, but the stakes are high, and this is difficult. 
For one, our culture often confuses surrender with submission, and the two couldn’t be further apart. For two, a man has to be strong enough to be a top, and gentle enough for a woman to trust him to be a top; that seems to be a big request to make of men. 
For three, our culture still has issues with female orgasm. It’s partly the residue of Victorian puritanism. It’s partly about control, because men seem to find the female orgasm mysterious and uncontrollable. They fear it; they fear not bringing it about; they fear what it says about their own manhood. And, my god, what if another man gave the woman they own an orgasm???
I think Wilhelm Reich was on to something: a healthy organism has a healthy orgasm. Is it any wonder he was imprisoned, when he was saying something so revolutionary as that women too should have orgasms? How could the male establishment let him run around freely spreading ideas like that?
But the plain truth is that women like to have orgasms. So Fifty Shades, which is very much, despite its stupidity, pro female orgasm, struck a chord with women. The gorgeous sexy kinky wounded billionaire spanks the heroine into orgasm: yay! It’s not her fault she had an orgasm, he spanked her into it. Or tweaked her nipple, or whatever. She can have her orgasm and enjoy it too.
Isn’t that something every woman wants?

Re-reading my response, I think I have an answer to my final question. 

What women want is to own their own sexuality, and to be able to surrender freely, as they choose.

That’s one of the problems I have with Fifty Shades. It appears, superficially, to empower women by allowing them to imagine non-vanilla sex. But what it actually does is deprive them of the power to surrender themselves into orgasm from inside themselves.
Lip Service by M.J. Rose
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Lip Service by M.J. Rose

Lip Service by M.J. Rose
Recently I was in Portland, Oregon for a wedding. I went alone because my husband had work stuff and anyway, someone had to stay with our little one.

Early in the afternoon, with several hours to spare before the much-anticipated headline event, I wandered down to the university area to check out the farmer’s market.

The sun shone, warm and yellow, through a high sibilant canopy of rich emerald leaves. The air was playful on my skin. I meandered through stalls of glistening red raspberries, juicy bursting blueberries, and gleaming purple blackberries ready to squish open on my tongue. There were heads of pale green fennel so fragrant and sweet, and rows of perfect round tomatoes, and long ripe squash… I was soon a little soft in my knees.

I found myself breathing faster and deeper. I felt both vaguer and keyed up, all at once.

A fantasy like a ball of yarn unraveled in my mind. I say ‘mind’ not ‘head’ because my whole body was involved, in the most emollient way.

I was walking indoors with a man I know, someone I hadn’t thought of in this most interesting context. We were inside and we were alone and he leaned down and wove his fingers through my hair. Then he pulled me close to his body, which was warm and taut.  When he kissed me, his mouth tasted salty but also sweet.

There was more, which led me back to my hotel room and some private moments. After a luxuriant nap, I texted my husband: “Really REALLY wish u were here.”

This lush diversion led me into some pleasant reveries: a memory of lying on a couch in the sun in Cape Cod, with the smell of bayberry thicket and sea on the wind, and the wonderful release I’d enjoyed then; a night early in our relationship that I’d spent telling my then-boyfriend-now-husband funny stories that were not G-rated, and which evolved into the kind of sweaty, rollicking good time I usually only read about; a sense of wonder at the pleasure and power inherent in sensual fantasy.

Reading MJ Rose’s delicious and often poignant and always intelligent “Lip Service” has brought all this back to me.