A Call to Womanhood: Handmade Love

I’ll be on Good Things Utah today on ABC talking about this article. Come‘on over. Let’s talk it out.

I’ve got a good friend in California. Her cakes are glorious, her home decor is on budget and beyond lovely, she usually smells like cookies and Chanel No 5. This is the kind of woman that Martha Stewart poaches ideas from, she’s that bleeping good at what she does. It’s wonderful. We talked a few days ago, going over the events of the past week. After a few laughs, she got quiet and then started talking again,

“Get this. It was Gloria’s preschool graduation and we were all supposed to make poster boards about our kids to hang up during the ceremony thing. Kind of like a retrospective on the year. Photos, their likes, dislikes, you know. Well, I got excited. Gloria loves it when I make her things, so I decided to put some time and thought into it. I figured it could hang in her room for the next little while. So, you know me, I used reclaimed wood instead of posterboard. Framed the photos with vintage lace and millinery flowers. Got some plastic toys of her favorite animals at the thrift shop, spray painted them and had them parading around the thing. It was like this really fun hot mess. Anyways, I showed up the night before graduation to set it up in the classroom. When I got there, one of the moms took one look at my little creation and turned to the women around her and said,

Well, I guess we know who wants to win mother of the year.’

It was so embarrassing. Gloria just likes when I make her things and I knew it would make her feel special. But I just ended up feeling like an idiot. I am so glad we are done with the moms at that school. But then, of course, there will be moms at the next school and I don’t really know if they’ll be any better.”

I said some encouraging words and then hung up to go make dinner. And I don’t know if it was just the heat in the kitchen, but the longer I stirred the soup the hotter I felt. I was literally sweating with anger. How dare that woman? Who was she to make ANYONE’S effort a thing of shame? Who made her Queen of the Mean Girl Squad?

I’m well acquainted with women like that. I spent my childhood watching them form circles outside of my mom’s reach. My mom was the mom with the over the top projects. The Native American dioramas with real tiny beef jerky drying in tiny villages. The bunny in the kindergarten with a hand painted face and hand sewn dress based on an American Girl doll pattern. I was the girl that showed up with magazine ready goody bags on my birthday.

And you know what? That is how my mom showed her love. She’s dealt with depression her whole life, she’s fought her past and won and sometimes lost, she’s been unsure and unheard. She’s always found herself through creating and she’s always shown others she knows and loves them through creation. But the women around her didn’t understand that. They thought her professional looking baked goods and high heels meant she was snubbing them.

A lovely example. I was five and we’d just moved into a new town. My mom showed up to a church social all done up, her hands full of a black bottom pie and glistening sugar cookies. She was smiling because she was so damn unsure. So worried no one would talk to her. She smiled like that all night. She had to because no one even said hi to her. A few months later, she’d made some friends. She told them about that night and one of them snorted in disgust.

“Oh, yeah. I wasn’t there. But you know, Marie was there. She came up to me after you and I started being friendly and asked if you were a bitch. I guess only a bitch shows up with lipstick and pie in her world.”

What. The. Hell.

Sisters. It’s enough. Listen. I’m not the one smiling with lipstick and a homemade pie. My kids will never have professionally staged diorama or historically accurate handmade costumes.  I don’t show my love that way. And I couldn’t if I tried. (Literally couldn’t. You should see me try to make ANYTHING. It is painful.) But I am comfortable setting my store bought rolls next to the heavenly creations of the woman down the street. Because we are all enough. We are all beloved and loving. We have got to stop judging others against our seething insecurity and smug sense of self-righteousness.

Don’t you see? We need one another. We need the masterpieces of each others lives. And mine doesn’t look like yours. Thank the heavens. How would we form a whole if we were all the same? How are we supposed to lift each other up to the heights when we are all so busy pushing down against what we perceive as the different, the intimidating, the not how I do it so it must be excessive, out of bounds, ridiculous, worthy of contempt? Why have we lost the ability to glory in one another? Did we ever have it? Let’s get it and hold onto that beautiful thing with clenched fists. Let’s pass it on to our daughters. Let’s stop all of this nonsense. Now.

There were days, months and even a few years when my mom could hardly make herself get out of bed to face the world. But still, even in those moments of darkness, she found a way to make that school project, sparkle that dress, cook that chef worthy birthday dinner. And as I held the thing she made, I knew – I KNOW – I was holding a product of her love for me.

And honestly, anyone who would intentionally make her, or any other woman, feel like less because of that can go straight to hell.

I mean that from the very bottom of my store bought cupcake heart.


  1. I saw you this morning on the news show and instantly fell in love with you and your story. I absolutely LOVE this topic and am so excited you decided to shed light on this “issue”. I have been that person that went way over the top for someone I loved. I have felt the eyes on me, or heard the snickers behind my back. However more importantly, you made me recognize that maybe I wasn’t so helpful to another woman who had gone out of her way, as well. Even though I felt ashamed that your examples reminded me of instances I could have been more kind, I appreciate that reminder. Karma has kicked me in the rear over and over again and it is a constant learning experience for me, to step away from my own insecurities and open myself up to that wonderful woman who spent the night papier-mâché-ing the glow in the dark solar system or creating the cannoli’s from scratch. Everyone is important and everyone has a story, and just maybe their story can help me become a better human being.
    I’m excited to be a new reader to your blog!

  2. It’s not too surprising. Consider the reactions your friend’s daughter might have received if she were a few years older and in elementary school and think of the feelings it might bring out of the other kids when she shows up with some glitzy project and they just have poster board with a couple of pictures and macaroni glued on. The other kids will look at her as a show off or spoiled and will invoke feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. They might think that their moms don’t like them as much even though they don’t realize that their moms just aren’t as creative or have the time. Sometimes it is best just to do the assignment that was asked.

  3. Great reminder to just be kind. You’ll never regret being kind! :) Also, you do some lovely writing.

  4. I just loved this post. I am one that feels ashamed to bring my store bought items. I need to remember I am enough and also that even if I feel insecure, that I should celebrate another woman’s gifts.

  5. Ah!! This is one of my biggest pet-pieve’s!!!!! (And I know I butchered that spelling). Anyways I hate, HATE when women (or men?! Though so less often) do that. Show up at a friend’s house “ugh why is your house always clean” like that’s a sin bc yours isn’t. Or make fun of someone for “going over the top” for a themed play group. Let’s all just enjoy eachother’s strengths.

  6. Meg- My mom and I love to read your blog and talk about your posts during our girls nights out. I especially love this post and can’t wait to share it with my husband. I was just talking about this very same thing the other day. Keep up your inspiring words. You have a gift.

  7. dammit, Meg, you make me cry every time.

  8. LOVE. Seriously girl, preach it.

  9. Nice piece, Meg.
    I agree with you 100%, there is no need to talk down or pull each other down, when we actually need to pull our resources (that is, everything that distinguishes one woman from the other)together and become a formidable force, any and everywhere we are together as members of one gender.
    I really look forward to a time when we will be each others cheer leaders.

Leave a Reply

© megan conley 2012

designed by acupofcoco.co