HOW TO LOOK GROWN UP

Don’t let my shock of gray hair fool you: I struggle every day with looking grown up. More specifically, I struggle with looking similar to a grown woman instead of the surly nihilist constantly hunting for the nearest roller disco that I truly am. At 31, I still embody Britney’s Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman persona, whether I want to or not. I’m sure I’m not the only person finding themselves stuck between Charlotte Russe and Ann Taylor. Fashion in your thirties is a tough tightrope to walk and today, I want to walk it with you. Hold my hand though, ok? We’re in this together. 

I took this picture in the early evening. We really are in this together.

GET A DAMN SKIN ROUTINE

Everything in life that is of any importance is something we need to “start early” on, and skin care is no different. Also, side note: I hate this fact. I do not want to start early on anything. I want to be fashionably late and yes, that does include my 401K (not really, please girls make sure you’re enrolled). 

Not only will a skin routine actually help your skin and make you look healthier, it’s also really important for the grown up in your head. When you’re diligent with your skin routine, other good habits begin to fall into place. Like, I do my daily skin routine and then there’s this voice in my head whispering eat more fruit. Wow, what a life hack. Fruit and moisturizer? Get Britney back on the phone, we’re feeling lucky

BUY ANKLE PANTS, YA GROWN UP

Look, just do it, ok? Ankle dress pants are flattering for every body type, they are professional without looking like you work for a car dealership, and you can pair myriad shoes with them. Get a navy pair before you buy a black pair. Navy matches everything (except black), works great with every skin tone, and is just a more exciting base to build your grown up outfit on. 

More than the pants, though, is the overall look. Can’t afford designer brands? I have excellent news: no one can! That’s why it’s important to remember these key few rules when shopping fast fashion: 

THE RULES

You want to make sure your clothes fit. It sounds obvious, but it seriously is not. Make sure the material you’re buying isn’t too stretchy. For example, I bought a pair of navy ankle pants that would stretch so significantly in the first 15 minutes of wear that I would have the infamous saggy butt by the time I entered the office. Wearing clothes that truly, correctly fit makes an immeasurable positive difference in your wardrobe, even if your fashion choices are slightly off base for the season.

You also want to shop contemporary and yes – before you start moaning – this does involve looking into current fashion trends. Please do not get too discouraged – oftentimes, learning the latest trends is as simple as a two minute google search. You can ask – what jeans are in? How should I wear my hair? Honestly – it’s really easy. And when in doubt, just call yourself avant-garde and soak up the compliments. But let’s remember, at the end of the day…

COMB YOUR HAIR

Honestly, just comb your goddamn hair. I cannot stress this enough. Just fucking brush it. It’s the biggest difference in your appearance you can make. Thank me later.

IT’S ALL ABOUT CONFIDENCE

At the end of the day, the most important part of looking like a grown up is being comfortable in your own skin. If my tips and tricks don’t work for you, do not use them. Make sure you are always staying true to yourself! Unless, of course, that involves not brushing your hair. Seriously. Brush your hair. Oh my god. Love you!

LOVING MY BODY IN MY THIRTIES

Loving my body and all that I am was, and continues to be, a long journey. Many women struggle with loving their body, especially once we’re out of our magical twenties. You know, those precious few years we can stay up all night drinking PBR and still maintain our girlish figures? Yeah, those years are over now, and we are feeling it. There are evenings when I’m out with my friends and I see women almost ten years my junior – I admit, I used to feel an ugly twinge of jealousy. However, after working on myself and defining who I am, I no longer feel that way. When I see young, fresh-faced women at the bar, I smile. I am looking at beautiful women having a great time! Why wouldn’t I be happy? My self love allows me to love everyone else. When you have love for yourself and others, life in your thirties is a lot more fun. Today, I want to help you have a little fun, and teach you a couple of my successful self love methods. 

footage of me loving myself

LOVING MY BODY: A HEADACHE

Look, I’m not a yoga guru or a psychic astrologer or a candle pervert or a life coach or even just a generally well put-together woman. I am none of these things. I am messy, loud, and dramatic. Just yesterday, I was having so many dramatic meltdowns, my husband and I started numbering the tantrums like it was a boxing match (we both lost). But that’s okay. It is who I am. I am not better than anyone else, nor am I worse. I am here, taking up my space. I love myself just as I am. Self love is a journey. 

I struggled a lot, as I’m sure many women reading this have struggled, to find my footing. That is why I am writing this – I want to help other women. As a teenager and into my early twenties, I was bulimic. I remember staring at the women in Seventeen and Cosmopolitan and feeling completely inadequate. My friends at the time, while not ill intentioned, joked about my disorder, asking me to please not throw up while they were in the stall next over. They didn’t know any better. This is how women grow up. I laughed with them, all the way to the toilet. I would later learn I was not the only one in the group who was struggling with food. Perhaps we were all making the same jokes to cope. 

I was also questioning my sexuality. My fellow bisexuals will understand the unbelievably confusing back and forth. I have been so incredibly lucky in my life – all of my friends have always been accepting and welcoming; I have literally never had to explain my sexuality to anyone. I’ve always been accepted. Even still, the internal struggle of honesty with my sexuality has monopolized many drunken conversations with my best friends. (By the way, gang, thank you). If you are struggling with your sexuality please check out these resources. And now, as a 31 year old bisexual woman married to a man, I am experiencing bisexual erasure. The thing is…actually, you know what? Let’s save that for another post. It’s time to get down to the business of loving yourself and there are a few very important things you need to know. 

EVERYTHING ONLINE IS A LIE

Instagram, and all social media for that matter, is a big fat lie. Studies show that Instagram negatively affects body image. We truly are up against it when it comes to loving ourselves in our thirties. When we log on to these platforms, we are fed a barrage of beautiful women advertising all the products in the known universe geared toward correcting our flaws. Oh, and your flaws trend like fashion. How cute is that? Are thin eyebrows in? Here’s some wax to trim you down. Blotchy skin when flawless porcelain is the hot thing? Here’s an ointment that costs more than my apartment. What these ads fail to tell us is that these models are retouched, photoshopped, and given professional makeup and lighting. The vast majority of women will never look like this, and until we realize that, we will never be happy. We will always be chasing the impossible. Check out Instagram Vs. Reality for a fun little rabbit hole. 

The truth is that some women are tall and some women are short. Some of us are blond, some of us are brunette, some of us have giant hips (shout out to me), and some of us have the natural body of a supermodel. At the end of the day, it really does not matter whether or not you fit society’s mold. You are you, and for that reason alone, you belong. We are glad to have you here!

Loving myself

So, be honest with your body. I am never going to be a size 4. I have wide hips, broad shoulders, and a mouth that does not quit (eating and talking). I don’t need to be a size four. I’m beautiful as I am, a perfect size 10, with my gray locks and crooked tooth and child-bearing hips. My big clown feet are perfect for marching in the streets for equality. 

TAKE CARE OF WHAT YOU LOVE

I have a cat named Dolly. She is my world and so, naturally, I take care of her. I give her everything I can. She eats the finest food, has more toys than I did growing up, and I’m pretty sure she has more furniture in this apartment than my husband and I. Why? Because I take care of what I love. And, these days, I make sure that love translates to me, and to my body, and my whole self.

The carefree attitude of a creature who pays no rent

I drink fruit smoothies and eat my vegetables. I stretch every morning. I go outside and get my vitamin D. I move my body and keep my heart rate up 30 minutes a day at least 3 times a week. I read at least 50 pages of a book every day. I limit my alcohol (to a point, let’s not forget we’re in a collapsing society). I drink my water. But I do have one little secret. One more important factor to loving yourself. At least, this one last puzzle piece is what got me to where I am. 

DANCE, DANCE, DANCE!

When in doubt, dance it out. I am never more in tune with my body than when I am dancing. I draw the shades in my apartment, put on my headphones and jump right to my favorite playlist. I’m not just dancing though, no – I am dancing with intention. As I dance, I take my hands and move them up and down my body. Over my shoulders, my chest, my hips and legs. I take time to thank every part of my body, to appreciate the way it moves, the way it knows me, and the way it responds to my emotions. When I dance, I am connecting my mind to my body, getting to know myself intimately. Through dance, I have learned every bit of cellulite, every beautiful roll of fat, every defined muscle in my biceps and back. I have learned limitations and I have surpassed goals. I am most alive when I am dancing. 

THANK YOU FOR BEING

I want you to do something for yourself today. I want you to look in your mirror, no makeup, no nothing. And I want you to fall in love with yourself. Point out what is beautiful. The color of your eyes, your hairline, your skin tone, your smile, your laugh lines, your teeth. Thank your body for every attribute it has given you. You get one body. Make sure you’re loving yourself at least as much as you love your cat.

Seriously – she pays NO rent

PARTYING ON HALLOWEEN…AT 31

Halloween is upon us and, with it, the inevitable partying. At 31, a lot of people are probably excited for their tax returns. Not me. I have been waiting for this weekend all year. So, come on my fellow 30 somethings, let’s go trick or trick (it’s all deception now). When you’re in your thirties you obviously still want to party, and here’s the perfect how-to guide to do just that.

Vaccinated and Shaqcinated

PREPARE FOR PARTYING BEFOREHAND

Always best to pack a water bottle on Halloween! Or, if you’re like me, several water bottles. You are going to be doing drugs. Everyone knows that by the time you hit your thirties, going all night on booze alone is simply out of the question. Also, and I’m sorry, but alcohol is just boring. I prefer using mushrooms, nature’s gift that keeps on giving. Psilocybin knows no age. Magic mushrooms hold no prejudice. This universal fungi serves us all. Tonight, I plan on utilizing Gaia’s greatest medicine. Some of you might prefer cocaine, or molly, but the results remain the same. You want to elevate yourself on this sacred day, and I am here for it. (Don’t do drugs, drugs are bad).

GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP 

In conjunction with the above notes, this is imperative. You cannot successfully participate in debauchery without adequate rest. What happens when you start falling asleep over your haunted scorpion bowl? Do you think the ghosts will wait for you? Sweet, sweet summer child. Ghosts have been waiting long enough. 

BE AS WEIRD AS YOU CAN BE

Look, you’re at least 30, right? The time to impress people is long over and we all know it. So get weird. I mean, get really weird. What does that mean for you? Here’s what it means for me:

Embrace your inner weird. No one else is going to do it for you. If you do not express your inner weird, you will be eliminated. No one in this world has ever made a difference without pissing people off. What are you, a butler? You live to serve? Get the fuck outta here. Go make someone mad.   

PREPARE FOR THE HANGOVER

I have a tried and true way of getting rid of a hangover, and it’s just as expensive as it is elitist. Make yourself a green smoothie. I’m talking spinach, kale, strawberries, bananas, yogurt, peanut butter, and a sprinkle of magic (is it cocaine? You decide!) Guzzle that green beauty and chase it with the biggest bong rip of your life: make Jack the Ripper jealous.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: HAVE FUN!

Listen, bitch, your problems will be there tomorrow. Hell, they’ll be there tonight, but you do not care. It’s Halloween, baby! You’re 31 and you have precious little to hold onto. Grab onto this spooky night with your cold, dead hands. You’re an adult. You’ve earned this. Now, go and get your candy!

BIG NEWS!

Happy Friday, my friends! I have missed you! And I have some very exciting news!

Today we’re going to be talking about one business woman I know very well.

IT’S ME!

I’ve been grinding hard, really hard, and unfortunately that has caused a bit of a dip in my productivity here. I hate to leave anyone hanging, so let me tell you about what I’ve been up to!

I completed a class in SEO and have moved on to learning different code languages. These new skills are going to open so many more doors for me as I work towards my goal of writing full time. I also have been reaching out to different businesses! As you can imagine, juggling a website, a full time job, and getting my freelancing off the ground has kept me running around like a chicken with her head cut off!

This pandemic has radicalized me. I am a very different person than I was when I first began this incredible, fulfilling journey profiling different women. I have no intention of ending this project, however….

INTRODUCING…

I started a second blog! Now, this blog serves a specific purpose. While it will be more of a fluffy lifestyle blog, the focus is going to be the technical skills involved in creating meaningful pieces to further build on my portfolio.  I’ll also be using my pen name for this blog, so don’t let Nat Walenty fool you – it’s just me! And don’t worry – it’s gonna be really funny. I’m very excited about this. 

I’d like to invite you to follow Navigating 30, my new blog, which officially launches tomorrow, where I chronicle the trials and tribulations I face as a not-so-neurotypical woman in a depressingly typical world. Those of you who know me personally probably already know what’s in store: awkward conversations at the DMV, recounting my innovative expertise in avoiding the male gaze, and of course, a little existential dread with a flirty twist. Should be fun!

SMALL LIGHTS

Small Lights will be my main focus on A Woman’s Work for now -of course, there will still be amazing women profiled – but I cannot guarantee a biweekly schedule while I finish my classes and work on more technically focused pieces.

GET EXCITED!

Words cannot express how stoked I am for these upcoming weeks and months. Thank you for your continued support, and look out for my first blog post! It’s going to be all about surviving Halloween…in your thirties.

RESPECTFUL CONVERSATIONS

SMALL LIGHTS FRIDAY

Happy Friday, everyone! And – of course – Happy Small Lights Friday! I hope you’ve all been kind to each other and, if not, I hope it was for deserved revenge and it went smoothly for you. 

I thought for today it would be a good idea to get back to the very basics of what a Small Light is. We want to introduce positivity into the world; we want to infuse a glimmer of hope into our fellow humans, through our words and actions.

Helping a stranger carry their too-many groceries (don’t help me, though, I can DO this!), complimenting someone’s sweater, all of those little things that might turn someone’s mood around.

The latest Senate Judiciary Report dropped earlier this week, along with the news that Trump is actively obstructing the investigation. I know, I know – I am just as shocked as you are. Who could guess? Well, we’re not going to be talking about the report today. We all watched the insurrection live on TV, and I haven’t finished reading the report yet. (Okay, I’ll confess: I got to page 4, realized I already knew the information, and went back to reading The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule).

I want to talk about the ripples we are going to see from this among our friends and family. I want to talk about how we can talk to each other civilly, respectfully, and without insulting the person we are debating with. I want to talk about how we can guide the misguided. I fear we may be entering another period of stress and constant agitation, both from the news and from our neighbors. I am expecting another circus. Perhaps, if we do our best, we can get ahead of the hate.

AIN’T NO DEBATE

Let’s be clear: We are not entertaining conspiracy theories here. There is no debate that Joe Biden won the election, or that Covid-19 is real. No one is coming to take anyone’s guns, and Christianity is not under attack. In fact, I fully expect to be able to say “Merry Christmas” without being persecuted, despite popular belief. I’ll keep you posted on my findings. 

While the majority of Americans know these facts to be true, there is a pocket of America that has fallen victim to misinformation, disinformation, and plain old conspiracy theories. It is important to note that these people are not stupid; they are misinformed. I ask you to remember the word sonder, the word that defines that feeling we get when we realize everyone around us has as much of an intricate life as we do. Hopes, dreams, fears – these help define our humanity. We all have all three, don’t we? 

The conspiracy theorist in your life has hopes, dreams, and fears. Do not mock them. In 2021, we are faced with a world of deep fakes, “alternative facts,” and online social microphones whose impact has been uncovered too late. Do not forget these are people you love. You’ve purchased them Christmas presents, you’ve laughed with them, drank strong drinks with them. We are all just regular people who happen to be faced with the new world of social media and, congruently, international outreach. What was once whispered among friends at the bar is now circulating the globe, garnishing likes and retweets, fueled by rage and fear. It has been proven that lies spread far faster than truth. But do not give up hope just yet. 

ARGUE WITH CARE

So, what can we do? Scientific American has some ideas. There is a lot of great information in this article, and I encourage you to read it, but my interest was most piqued at one particular strategy: Creating a shared objective. I have found this method to be the most helpful tool in having a respectful conversation without indulging conspiracy theories and feeding the flame in my own personal relationships.

Instead of completely dismissing their ideals and beliefs, focus on the problem. Let’s use Covid-19 as an example. 

Of course, the shared objective with the pandemic is reaching some form of normalcy. It is important to remember that the person you are talking to ultimately wants the same thing. They are just taking a different, more perilous avenue.

“Covid-19 is a hoax. You know masks make you sicker, right?”

“I wish we could just stop wearing masks, too. I just want to get back to normal.”

From here, try to guide them. 

BE IN A POSITION TO LISTEN

Have your words ever been ignored? Perhaps you have found yourself once, at a Thanksgiving dinner, attempting fruitlessly to shout your opinion over the ever-oscillating stuffing and sweet potatoes, only to remain unheard. It does not feel great. Remember, when you are talking to a conspiracy theorist, they too want to be heard as much as you do. They too are bound to the social contract that dictates we listen to one another. Once you dismiss them, you are part of the conspiracy and the argument is over.

From The Guardian:

“The first step is to establish empathy.”

The Guardian

We must approach these issues with understanding, lest we lose the entire conversation. Keep in mind, Watergate was real, Project Paperclip was real. The fact that there have been several conspiracy theories proven true does make it more difficult to direct your friend away from mistruths. Listen to what they have to say. Ask them what they think, what their conclusions are. Essentially: Treat them as human beings.

“When describing theories, they may have already noticed some of the contradictions and holes in the logic. If not, you will at least be in a more informed position to start a constructive discussion.” 

Once empathy has been established, an effective conversation can be held. I know this from experience. I remember last year, a dear friend expressed to me their concern about defunding the police. This conversation happened last year, so please keep in mind I am paraphrasing.

“It’s incredible what the democrats are doing. They want to take away all the police. It’s unbelievable. They want this [the protests] to continue.”

“You’re totally right – we do need police. That’s why I think the phrase “defund the police” was a critical error in their rhetoric – it gives off the wrong vibe.” 

“Right, so who are you going to call when you’re in trouble? No one is going to help you.” 

“It’s so irresponsible how democrats are phrasing this. When they are saying, ‘defund the police,’ they mean diverting funds that are used to purchase military grade weapons and transferring it to mental health services. So I mean, the money is just being allocated to services better suited to the situation.” 

“Oh, really? Well, I mean, that makes sense.”

“Right? I wish they had chosen a better slogan.” 

“Seriously. That sounds like the right idea!”

I did not make this conversation up. This truly was the outcome of displaying empathy and listening. 

A WORLD DIVIDED IS NOT LOST

Trump’s supporters were stoked and incited by their own fears, blasted through mics that echoed through packed stadiums. Yes, the fears were – and are – unfounded. And yes, for a good chunk of these supporters, these fears are based in racism. I truly believe many people with racist ideals can be liberated from those ideals. I think back to the piece I wrote for a different Small Lights Friday, where I discussed my journey in becoming actively anti-racist. I had to come to terms with the fact that I have been benefiting from White Supremacy and, while I certainly was never consciously racist, I had to grapple with the social ladder I finally learned I was standing on. It was hard. It was not impossible. 

Now that we know Facebook benefits from us getting angry, let’s keep that in the back of our minds. If you’re browsing your feed and you see something that makes your blood boil, turn off the app and take five deep breaths. Or, if you can, try going outside. 

I did not write this article to advise that all racists should be forgiven. That is patently untrue. There are some people, however few, that may just hold hate in their hearts. Perhaps they have been completely lost to hate, gobbled up through Facebook memes and Project Veritas videos. Perhaps it has always been within them. It is true that there are some people who cannot be saved from this. It is a tragic loss. However, we must focus on the people who are willing to be saved – the people who are afraid after being fed misinformation.

In 2021, there is so much to fear. So much to fear, in fact, that I will never understand the stoking of these conspiracy theories; reality is tough enough. I do hope these coming weeks and months go smoothly for you. The House investigation is picking up speed right in time for Thanksgiving – the holiday that, for whatever reason, has been designated the Politics Holiday.

Remember to listen, and to empathize. Guide your loved ones to the truth without insulting them. If they are unwilling to learn, do not fight. Walk away. Look at the transformation October weather brings, rife with opportunity. 

We are standing on a precipice. Do not falter.

MUD HEDZ

RUTH PLASTER – MUD HEDZ

I love everything I promote, from abstract art to upscale hair salons. Everything: The soaps, lotions, vintage teapots, digital prints and original paintings, my hair cuts, I could keep going. The businesswomen I get to write about every other week truly are as incredible as I describe them. And now, today, I get to do it again! However, this particular local business ranks high on my list. Very high.

Ruth Plaster happens to make one of my very favorite things: Pipes!

I met Ruth Plaster, sole artist and owner of Mud Hedz, at the Boston Open Market in Copley while out celebrating my third anniversary with my partner. I found Ruth’s booth among a sea of white tents, where homemade scarves billowed in the zephyr and the chatter among shoppers blended seamlessly with the vendors. 

Her display table was a menagerie of the whimsical. Avocado pipes, peanut butter cup pipes, smoking stones, and different kinds of vegetable pipes – all brightly colored and expertly crafted – lay on the gray tablecloth, evoking that strange nostalgia we sometimes feel when looking at something we love. I was immediately smitten. I wanted to learn more about Ruth and her clay pipes, so we sat down over zoom and chewed the fat.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

While Indica is what I mainly purchase to aid in my sleep, I am a sativa girl at heart. I wanted to hear Ruth’s preference. Indica, or sativa? (I firmly believe this question should be on every job application). “I think sativa, although I’m not a huge smoker…there was a time when I was.” Nowadays, with her booming pipe business and grown children, she finds herself leaning more towards tinctures, a less harsh way of ingesting THC. There are still days, though, when Ruth does feel like a smoker – whether she is also a joker and a midnight toker, I cannot say. “When I smoke, I love to smoke on the beach and I love to smoke sativa and look at the water.” 

That, right there. That is a dream.

WINDING ROADS

Ruth’s story is as interesting as her curious creations. “I’ve always been artistic,” she tells me, as she describes her time spent at Mass Art studying graphic design. Graduating in ‘87, Ruth found she didn’t like graphic design as much as she thought she would. “It wasn’t as hands on as when I had started.” I wonder if Ruth knows how telling that is. We’re talking about a woman who is constantly working with her hands, molding clay, painting – it makes sense that transitioning to an artform that heavily utilizes computers wouldn’t necessarily be her favorite. And – if I may – I agree with her here. I much prefer writing with a good pen in a thick notebook than typing on my keyboard.

Ruth moved on to a new field in education. She went back to school for Art Ed and ended up teaching in the Newton school district for a few years, teaching art during the school year as well as summer programs. Soon after that, she became a mom, and made the decision many women make every day. “…After realizing a teacher’s salary wouldn’t cover daycare in a great way, I just decided to stay home with my daughter.” 

Ruth continued to make art while staying at home to raise her children in Marshfield, where she had relocated. Networking with a woman she had commissioned murals for, she was able to procure a space to open her own studio, Mud Arts, right around 2003-2004. Her clay studio offered classes as well as ladies nights! “I got to teach on my own terms, and my own way, for kids who really wanted to be there.” The studio remained open for seven years; when her children reached middle school, Ruth wanted to move them out of Marshfield and someone closer to culture. 

“We moved back to Newton…and I’ve been here ever since.” After moving to Newton, Ruth had their garage converted into a small studio where she would continue her art. She was mainly making clay paintings, but was unsure on breaking into that market. But she has a passion for art, and is quite proud of the work she produces (rightfully so). 

She pivots again – expertly. “One day, I just was like, I think I’m gonna make pipes!” I am, personally, very grateful that she is making pipes. I bought this chillum from her stand in Boston, and I love it so much, I literally named it after myself.

Say hello to Meaghan!

PLAYING CLAYVORITES

Of all the different designs and molds she uses, Ruth has a definite favorite, and that is her oyster pipe. Get ready to fall in love with this pipe:

“It’s near and dear to me because it was the middle of the winter and I didn’t have any access to oyster shells…I ended up finding a woman through Etsy in Provincetown who was selling oyster shells and messaged her…she sent me some. So it’s a Provincetown oyster shell that I work from!”

Ruth Plaster

Okay – I need to take a second here. This is amazing. I love this story so, so much. It has my favorite elements! Women working together, a slice of nature, and the vibrant culture of Provincetown are all infused in this piece. That is why I love everything handmade. Factory-produced spoons or chillums will never have a heartwarming backstory. Local, handmade pieces of art – whether you smoke out of them or not – are much more human. When I hold my bamboo chillum, I can feel the love behind the art. I’m not the only one.

“People used to make things all the time, they made brooms, they made rugs, you know, and nobody makes things anymore. And so, there’s this whole new emphasis on something that is made by somebody’s hands…I think it’s kind of a maker’s space right now, a maker’s time.” I found this very insightful – I had never thought about it before. Her words are accurate – when I think about it, all of my friends prioritize handmade, or at least locally produced. I am grateful we don’t have to make our own brooms anymore, though. For some reason I feel like I would be just terrible at it.

As far as her other pieces go, I ask about her inspiration. She follows trends, but she also seems to be able to anticipate them. “There’s pieces that I made in the 80s that…are popular now. I wasn’t ordinary enough I guess for graphics, at the time,” she laughs as she tells me this. “I often think, like, what would you put in your mouth?” Now she has me chuckling. 

A BUDDING BUSINESS

In 2016, Ruth opened her Etsy shop. Over time, she kept adding to her inventory. As her Etsy page grew, Ruth began bringing her products to markets. “My first event that I did was in Provincetown during carnival week, and that’s when I made the gassy bather, [laughs] which is silly. It’s a pipe with a little baby on a wave farting a rainbow.”

I mean, yeah. That’s silly. And now I need it.

And now, of course, here comes the part that hits almost all of the businesswomen I talk to – the disruption of Covid-19. This story did sting a little. Luckily, as with almost everything in life, a silver lining can be found. 

Ruth and her husband were ready to sell their condo in Newton and open another studio. “We had plans to move to Waltham, or were talking about it, and I was gonna have a larger space.” As Murphy’s Law dictates, everything shut down just before she was ready to open. They were literally painting the space. Had that happened to me, I feel like my heart would have dropped straight out of my chest and puddle around my shoes. But we’re talking about Ruth Plaster. Ruth Plaster, who went to school for graphic design, then back again to become an educator, opened Mud Arts, raised two children, and now manages her busy Etsy shop. 

SHUTTING DOWN AND BLOWING UP 

The pandemic shut downs ended up being quite the blessing in disguise. More people were home, and with nothing to do and nowhere to go, there were only so many sources of entertainment or relaxation.

“Everybody was home smoking weed and my Etsy took off!”

Ruth Plaster

Overnight, Mud Hedz exploded. “I was losing my mind,” Ruth recalls, as she weaves a story laced with long nights and longer days. As a one woman show, Ruth was responsible for creating all of these pieces and managing the orders that were pouring in. An insurmountable feat, it would seem. But she got it done. 

“In order to reproduce pieces and make them affordable, but also to put in the amount of detail and thought and care that I wanted to, slip casting was the best way to do it.” Slip casting is one way of making ceramics. It’s a technique that does not require heat. Liquid clay is poured into plaster molds. “I’ll take a vegetable and make a plaster mold of it. And then because the plaster’s porous, that’s a really great vehicle for clay.”

Using this method allows Ruth to work fast, and boy does she need the speed. She is in incredibly high demand. “I’ve been approached a ton by people in dispensaries wanting to do wholesale, and because I’m the only person that’s doing this I can’t really make enough stuff, I can’t make the margins reasonable…I’ve been dying to grow and hire folks but I have my little one car garage.”

ROOM TO GROW

As of right now, Ruth is still hoping to grow. Her plan is to return to her goal of opening a new space and hiring people so that she can grow her business. Manpower is literally the only thing holding her back from really exploding. I can’t wait to watch it happen, and it will happen. Talking to Ruth, I got the feeling I was speaking to someone who would one day soon be a name as recognizable as Snodgrass in the pipe community. While her work may speak for itself, it is in speaking with Ruth you truly understand the journey and the story behind her pieces, and that’s where the true appreciation is.

Ruth will have her booth set up every Saturday this October at Haunted Happenings in Salem. I highly recommend stopping by. I know I’ll be there. She’ll also be on Derby Street. Follow her on Instagram to see where she’s headed next. You will not be disappointed. While I may dream of Ruth’s pipes, her goal is anything but a pipe dream.

Instagram
Etsy
Facebook

ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS

Identifying an abusive relationship

Happy Friday, everyone! And, of course – Happy Small Lights Friday! It’s the first Friday of autumn, so I hope everyone is sipping their pumpkin spice coffee and wearing their maroon cardigans!

I thought today would be the perfect opportunity to talk about how we can be Small Lights for the people in our lives who might be struggling in a toxic relationship. I’m sure everyone has been following the devastating news regarding Gabby Petito. Losing her was entirely preventable. A lot of women in toxic relationships do not realize it’s unhealthy. Often, it isn’t until we’ve stepped away from a toxic partner when we truly begin to recognize the behavior. Of course, by then, we may have suffered greatly at the hands of an abusive partner. 

Let’s go over what makes a toxic relationship, and what we can do to be Small Lights for people in need. I will be utilizing Love is Respect for the bulk of my sources in this article.

TOXIC  PARTNERS

Contrary to popular belief, your partner does not have to hit you for your relationship to be abusive. There are all different manners of manipulation and force that are employed against a victim of domestic violence. There is physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, and stalking.

Before we dive into details, let’s take a look at some very chilling statistics. From the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

Physical abuse

This is the type of abuse most people associate with toxic relationships. Hitting, pushing, shoving, or holding you down are all examples. It is also physically abusive if your partner keeps you in control using physical force even if it’s not directed at you. Backing you into a corner and punching the wall next to you is an example of this.

The most important piece of information you need to take from this is regarding strangulation. If a partner ever chokes you, studies show the chances of your partner attempting or completing a homicide increase 6 fold. I can speak directly to this – I am only alive today because several people warned me of my ex-partner’s plan (he was a chatty, violent idiot). Please, if your partner ever puts their hands on your neck, please recognize this as a massive red flag.

Verbal and Emotional abuse

An extremely common form of controlling and abusing one’s partner, this can take many forms. It can be insults, telling you what to wear, intentionally embarrassing you, or constant “checking in,” AKA a barrage of unwanted texts while you’re out with your friends, or even just out of their line of sight. Emotional abuse can look like withholding affection, gaslighting, or making you feel guilty for not wanting to have sex. None of these behaviors are okay and all of them, together or alone, are unhealthy norms in a relationship. 

Your partner should be loving and supportive, should listen to you when you speak, and should take everything you say seriously, because you are valid. Even in moments of anger, there is no excuse to disrespect or belittle your partner. 

Financial Abuse

This type of abuse isn’t discussed often and is a much more subtle form of toxicity. I can speak from experience how demoralizing this abuse can be. It can take the form of an allowance of your own money, preventing you from working – either through verbal manipulation or literally taking your car keys, or harassing your coworkers.

For me, it took the form of documentation. Every dime “spent on me” was documented and my ex-partner kept a running tab of what I owed him. (After I broke up with him, he tried to have me charged with identity theft. Again, a stupid, violent idiot).

Sexual Abuse 

We know the main definition of sexual abuse. Forced or coerced sex, unwanted touching and kissing. It can also take the form of removing a condom during sex, or refusing to use protection. Sexual abuse leaves lifelong marks on a person. Take a moment to read about informed consent. 

Stalking

Stalking has its obvious definition as well, but there is a little more to it than just following you around: It can also mean using other people to find out about what you are up to or where you are. It can mean damaging your car, or showing up to your work unannounced. 

Well. That was exhausting.

Now that we’ve defined the different types of abuse- a truly exhausting list to go through, let’s talk about how we can help!

A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS

It sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Reaching out to a friend or loved one to try and help them – especially when it’s likely they are not actively seeking help. I struggle with this. Thankfully, this website has fantastic information. Everyone’s situation is different and the levels and types of abuse are unique to each individual. According to Love is Respect, while it’s important to recognize and factor in the uniqueness of any given relationship, there are some universally acceptable means of helping:

  • First and foremost, do not be afraid of asking someone you might think is in need of help. Do not attack their abusive partner (as much as you want to); it is important to center the conversation around their safety.
  • Be supportive, listen, and honor their decisions – even if they choose to remain in the relationship. It is incredibly difficult to navigate – let alone end – an abusive relationship. In fact, the most dangerous time for a woman in a domestic violence situation is when she is attempting to leave.
  • Help create a safety plan. Ask them how they would like you to respond in a crisis, ask them who to contact and be sure to ask if they want the police involved.
  • Help them make copies of important documents in case any are stolen (social security cards, ID cards, birth certificate, etc).
  • Document the abuse as much as possible. Dates and descriptions will be helpful in the event your friend would like to seek help.

At the top of the article, I mentioned Gabby Petito. We lost her to domestic violence. We lose women every day to domestic violence. While we’re on the subject, there is one more statistic I would like to address.

THE LESS DEAD

Native American women are murdered at a rate that sometimes reaches ten times the average number. It’s not just murder. Rape, assault, and abduction all have sky-high numbers. Why are these women not getting the national attention they deserve? The Missing White Woman Syndrome is very real. As a country, we need to address this epidemic. It is an epidemic. 

Losing any woman to domestic violence is a tragedy, especially considering that these deaths can certainly be preventable. This is what I want everyone to take away from this piece. All women are deserving of a peaceful life, and of justice when their peace is disturbed. Visit MMIW Texas to see what you can do right now, today, on Small Lights Friday. Justice for Gabby, and justice for every woman who experiences violence.

Talk about this with your friends and be a part of the solution.

Happy Friday, stay safe, and be well.

MOLLY’S APOTHECARY

MOLLY’S APOTHECARY

Anyone who knows me knows I love to pamper myself. I dream of deep clawfoot tubs, my head adorned with a crown of organic soap suds. The tips of my fingers are mini masseuses as they caress green seaweed cream onto my face every night. A spritz of rosewater isn’t only preferred, it’s required. In a word, I am extra. In two words, I am extra bougie. My bathroom and nightstand overflow with witch hazel sprays, collagen lotions, exfoliating masks, and satin hair wraps. 

My collection of all things luscious and lovable grew this week, and I am so thrilled to tell you all about it! Earlier this week, I popped into Molly’s Apothecary, a small store nestled in a cozy corner of the Medway Mills. When you walk into the Mills, it’s like you’re walking into an old library book. A woody, delicate scent permeates through the structure. It is silent, save for the echoes of your footsteps. Once you enter this charming building, you swing left, down a slightly uneven hallway, and that’s where you find Molly’s. Molly’s Apothecary is run by two sisters.

Ann, right, Margaret, left
Source

The Genius of Women

Ann and Margaret are the masterminds behind this hidden gem. Ann has been making soap for two decades; she started because of her son’s sensitive skin issues. Twenty years later, these two women boast an enchanting apothecary. Launched in 2006 and moving to the Medway Mills in 2008, colorful soaps now line the walls and burst from baskets that occupy the display tables. Greeting cards are flanked by gorgeous homemade candles right as you enter the store, and these products do not hold back. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first: the amazing body cream that led me to their store.

I already knew I loved their products. Recently I received a gift from a friend – it was Molly’s Apothecary’s Ultimate Body Cream. As I twisted off the lid of the gorgeous blue jar, I immediately recognized a new favorite cream. The bright lotion was light – almost whipped – and made my hands instantly feel the way I imagine Lady Gaga’s hands must feel, all of the time. 

We know some body creams and lotions have scents that are overpowering. I cannot shop at the larger, corporate body wash stores, the plain reason being their scents are all consuming and headache inducing. That is not the case with Molly’s Apothecary cream. As I opened the jar, I was swept off my feet with the subtle scent – so inviting, while not overpowering. We know how difficult it can be to find a cream like that. A gentle hint of oatmeal and honey helped wake my skin up.

I also couldn’t help but indulge in their handcrafted soaps. I purchased the Peppermint Tea Tree Homemade Body Soap and was not disappointed. It lathered beautifully, and the subtle, vibrant fragrance helped change my morning from “Dear God why am I awake?” to, “Dear God, I am awake!” The body wash I typically use paled in comparison to how I felt after washing up with Molly’s Apothecary soap. I fear I may be an addict now. The quality of their products gave me the confidence to try the soap without doing a patch test first – something I typically need to do, as someone with sensitive skin. However, looking over the ingredients and recognizing all of them – some I even use to make my own face oils – I knew there was nothing to fear.

Despite my strict budget, I found myself going deeper still into Molly’s. As if a spell had overtaken me, my hands started clawing greedily at different bath bombs and silky hand lotions. By the time I got to the counter, I had two bars of homemade soap, two greeting cards I found hilarious, and a candle that I cannot wait to show you. Here’s where it gets really fun.

An Apothecary for Fierce Women

I love this. Pumpkin spice is delicious, just let us have it! Finally, a candle that supports me the way I want other women to support each other all the time. I love pumpkin spice. I am a Basic Bitch, and that’s not changing. This candle makes me feel empowered by it. Think about it – who do you really want by your side when you’re finding the bathroom at a crowded bar? A Basic Bitch. A basic bitch isn’t going to tolerate the nonsense thrown at you by men from tap to toilet. We don’t have the time. Be the Basic Bitch you wish to see in the world.

But wait, there’s more! Remember those greeting cards I mentioned? Let’s talk about those. 

Need I say more? Not only do I love to pamper myself and indulge in all things luscious and bubbly, I also get a kick out of publicly shaming fascists and, in general, being a real meanie to them. One might say it’s one of my hobbies. So, finding these on the greeting card wall? Molly’s has earned a repeat customer, that’s for damn sure.

Reasonably Spiced, Reasonably Priced

Remember the spell I was under, as I traced my fingers over each beautifully packaged and delightfully colorful goods? That spell didn’t lift at the register. In fact, I think it may have only intensified. This entire haul (minus the body cream which I received as a gift), was under $50. That’s two homemade soaps of impeccable quality, one incredible candle that burns like a dream, and two of the best greeting cards I’ve ever purchased and will probably never send to anyone, ever. I prefer keeping them for myself. Now that’s a haul I can get behind. 

TO MOLLY

Molly’s Apothecary is more than just their products. Behind the masterfully curated brick and mortar shop, stand two strong sisters. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, they did not name their store Ann’s Apothecary, or Margaret’s Apothecary.

These two women named their store after their mother, Molly, who passed away in 2004. Such a beautiful way to honor their mother’s memory and keep her alive not only in their own hearts, but to the whole world as well. I do not know much about Molly, but I do know she is the reason why we have a space in Medway that is specifically for women, including strong-minded women. I know that she brought two women into this world who are actively making it better. I know one more thing: She must be watching over her daughters, bursting with pride. 

I will continue to spend the bulk of my paycheck at Molly’s Apothecary, and I encourage you to do the same. The shop is absolutely packed with incredible products anyone would love, and there’s certainly something for everyone here. Finding that something within the walls of Molly’s Apothecary is where the real fun lies. A little gem found nestled in the pages of a library book, where magic settles in the air. Go and experience it.

Instagram

Molly’s Apothecary

SUBMISSION FRIDAY

IT’S THAT TIME!

Happy Friday, everyone. I’m excited about today’s post because it’s not about one specific business, no. It’s about all of you! I am so thrilled to announce I am accepting submissions for women-owned businesses to be featured on our site! I will outline the submission guidelines below, but if you’re interested, it’s best to dig the vid:

I apologize for the weird lighting. I never said I was a film maker.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES:

  • To be featured on a-woman-s-work.com, a website that specifically promotes women-owned and operated businesses, you must identify as a woman. All women are welcome here!
  • You must own over 50% of your business, or be self employed.
  • Email: awomansworkma@gmail.com
  • You can also submit through my site and my Instagram!

LET’S DO IT

As stated in the video, if you identify as a woman I want to hear from you. While everyone is equally welcome and will (most likely) get a spot, I especially would love to hear from women who’s businesses are in the earlier stages.

SHARE IF YOU CARE

Look, you’re already reading this, so you must have some interest in it. I ask that you share my video with your friends and family. Maybe you know someone who would like to be featured! Let them know I am accepting submissions!

BE GOOD

Now go, my dear friend. Go and be kind. Be yourselves, be safe, and as always – have fun!

911 SMALL LIGHTS

EMERGENCY SMALL LIGHTS

It’s Small Lights Friday, everyone. And yes, we had Small Lights last week, but this is an emergency, and I need to use every outlet I have. Unfortunately, I cannot wish you a happy Small Lights, as this is one of the most serious posts I will likely ever make on my website. We all need to be BIG lights, every single day, from now on until women’s rights are no longer under such intense attack. 

We cannot be small on this day. We need to be high beams, tactical construction lights, fireworks, the bright light at the end of the tunnel. This is a critical moment in our country. We need to be very angry. The past few days have brought upon us the very difficult realization that women’s rights are not safe, and tough choices just got a whole lot tougher.

Today, we are going to be talking about everything we can do to help our sisters in Texas who are now living a very dangerous life. Soon, other states will follow. I stand in solidarity with all who identify as a woman, who all watched in shock and horror as SCOTUS refused to strike down Texas Senate Bill 8. 

WHAT’S IN THE BILL

I will do my best to keep this brief. I make no promises. I have been very angry since 1 AM Wednesday night. 

  • Abortion is fully banned at 6 weeks. This is weeks before most women even know they are pregnant. 
  • There are no exceptions for rape or incest.
  • It puts the power of enforcement in the people. This means anyone – anyone – can bring a suit to any person they believe got an abortion, helped provide an abortion, assisted a woman in getting to a clinic, and on and on. Even more egregious is the fact that this also applies to citizens who suspect someone is planning on terminating a pregnancy. 
  • The snitch can receive a bounty of up to $10,000 for a successful suit. This, and the bullet point above, will almost certainly be used against clinics currently open in Texas. They will likely be sued into non-existence. 

So, let’s look at some scenarios: A woman who desperately wants a child but finds out mid or late stage in her pregnancy that the child has a lethal birth defect. She will be forced to bear a doomed child, or even a baby she knows is already dead. Or, maybe, it’s a 14 year old girl, raped by a family member. She will be forced to carry this fetus to term. Why should her fetus be more important than she, a child already in this world?

Miscarriages can now be considered highly suspicious, especially when you realize how little the public discusses it, how often it happens, and how little men seem to know about it. Imagine, you want to get pregnant, you want the baby, you miscarry, and then you get served a lawsuit. You’re already heartbroken beyond words, and now you’ve got Karen from Pilates accusing you of murder. These are not hypotheticals anymore. For Texas women, this is their reality.  

WHAT WE CAN DO

Not much, but not nothing. We can demand the expansion of the United States Supreme Court. It’s currently so right leaning I’m surprised any of them are standing up straight. The fascist we recently evicted from the White House had 3 SCOTUS appointments, and all 3 were part of the 5-4 decision to choose not to strike down Texas Senate Bill 8. 

We can also pressure our representatives to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, federal legislation that would “protect the right to access abortion care throughout the United States by creating a safeguard against bans and medically unnecessary restrictions.”

This piece of legislation, championed by our own Congresswoman Aryanna Pressley (Massachusetts shout out!) and California’s Congresswoman Judy Chu, is essential to women’s rights and must be passed. If passed, WHPA will establish “a statutory right for healthcare professionals to provide abortion care and the right for their patients to receive care.”

You can find your house representatives and their contact information here. You can find your senators here.  I’ll even provide a basic template for your message to help you reach out if it’s something you have not done before or are uncomfortable doing. We must do everything we can, even when it’s uncomfortable. See below:

“Good afternoon, 

I hope this email finds you well. As your constituent, I am writing to voice my grave concern regarding the reproductive rights and health of women. With the recently passed Texas legislation banning all abortions at 6 weeks, it is imperitive we take action to combat the assault on women’s rights. I urge you to expand the Supreme Court. I urge you to work towards passing the Women’s Health Protection Act. Swift action is required if we are to maintain women’s constitutional right to choose. 

Sincerely, 

Your name (if you’re going to straight up copy and paste this please remember to change this to your actual name, lest we all look silly)

There. I’ve made it so easy for everyone. You don’t even have to think about it. Call your representatives. Call them every day. I have called and written my representatives as well as Speaker Pelosi every day since Wednesday, and I will continue to do so. 

Both of these options would be extraordinarily helpful, but these things take time, and Texas women are in trouble now. 

WHAT WE CAN DO RIGHT NOW, IMMEDIATELY

You can donate to organizations that are actively fighting to strike this unconstitutional law down.

The ACLU currently has a suit against Governor Abbott. You can donate here.

Planned Parenthood has also filed a suit. Donate to them here.

Donate to teafund.org. They are an organization based in Texas that helps low income women get access to abortion services.

You can also talk about this. You can talk about this all the time. All day, every day, to everyone, regardless if they want to listen. Tell your friends and loved ones to contact their representatives. Encourage them to donate, and donate what you can yourself. Since writing this article, I have donated the precious little excess funds I have (hello, rent week) to this cause. I will continue to donate whatever I can, whenever I can.

I leave this Small Lights post with a quote from a separate article I had written in response to this abhorrent assault on our rights: 

“I end this piece angry, unprofessional, and without any semblance of a conclusion. We have not concluded yet. I refuse, I refuse to accept the fate of my dear sisters in Texas and the states that are likely to follow. I will not let this happen to you. We will fight, we will persist, we will win. There is no other option. We have reached a turning point; let us fight to ensure it turns in the right direction.”

Now is the time. We must meet this moment. Be bold. Step out of your comfort zone. Fight for your mother, your sister, your daughter, your friend, and the strangers you will never meet. Fight for them simply because it is the right thing to do. To be silent is to be complicit. I will say this again.

TO BE SILENT IS TO BE COMPLICIT

Now get out there and do some good. It’s mandatory.