gretel never had it so good

earlier this week at unabashedly female, my darling julie says (among many other noteworthy things) “. . . this witnessing of story, of voice, of truth by one woman to another. This is where we find power.”

over at renegade conversations, ronna detrick writes about how coming out of the shadows requires two things: counsel and companions.


tonight i am going to see a rehearsal for “steel magnolias” performed by the senior apprentice company in the theatre company my daughter started back in 2005. my daughter is directing these 12 teenage girls, and oh the experiences she’s opened up to these girls. oh the opportunities. she divided the girls into two casts, and when cast a is performing, cast b is the backstage crew and vice versa, giving them hands-on experience in providing support and receiving support. each girl has also been assigned a production assignment, not only affording opportunities to learn new skills, but to see that any one production takes an entire village of people that are all too easily overlooked. without the steel magnolias willing to do production, there’s be no tickets sold, no press releases written, no web site updated, no programs, no concessions, no venue, no sound and lights.

three years ago, i played m’lynn to daughter alison’s shelby. to say it was a clarifying, once-in-a-lifetime experience rings hollow and falls way, way short. one day i will write about it and the context around that experience that made it all that it was. but today there’s something else on my mind . . .

“steel magnolias,” as you probably know, is a story of women who support and encourage and hold the space for each other, and that’s why my daughter chose this particular play for these 12 teenage girls: she wants these girls to experience (both onstage and off) the feeling of women coming together in support of one another instead of the cattiness, back-stabbing, nitpicking behavior that too often defines women’s togetherness. as i wrote in a note accompanying the holiday gift my daughter and i conjured up for the girls: Steel Magnolias are a special breed, and we need more of them. Steel Magnolias are strong women who delight and celebrate being female. They own who they are – even the polarities – without explanation or apology, and they encourage and cheer others to do the same. Steel Magnolias are not into woman’s inhumanity to woman, choosing instead to support each other without judgment or personal agenda; listen more than they talk; be available without hesitation at 3 a.m.

by exposing these girls to steel magnolias even before they have the life experiences to fully appreciate and convey it, my moxie hopes to teach them about theatre, leadership skills, communication skills, and perhaps most importantly: female friendship. she takes on big projects, my moxie, and this is one she’s willing to devote herself to because she knows it truly does take a village to make much-needed change, and she wants to do her part to change the way women relate to each other. the rest of us can do our part by supporting, encouraging, and affirming each other. by forging and forming the relationships we want to enjoy.


i am so so fortunate to have steel magnolias right here around me, women i turn to when i need help or retuning, to laugh or to vent. and today we have something the ladies of chinquapin, louisiana did not have: the internet. since rejoining twitter last december, my steel magnolia forest has grown rich and lush and bountiful. i don’t know when i’ve ever felt so supported, so encouraged, so affirmed. i grow as i find women who share my interests, and i grow as i am exposed to things i never knew existed. if i get lost in my steel magnolia forest, a trail of breadcrumbs readily appears left by women who have experienced the same or similar. if i stub my toe in this forest or if i am stung or bitten, healing ointments and remedies are generously offered. the trees in my forest rise above the little scrubs and ankle-biters, choosing fresh air and light over thorns and sticky bushes that want to draw blood and hog the sun. in the forest with these women, i grow comfortable enough to tell my stories and speak my truth, southern accent and all.

to all of you who are trees in my steel magnolia forest (and most, though not all of you, are on my traipse page), thank you.

thank you.

thank you.

about the photos:
i tend to commemorate things in cloth, as i did when i took to the stage as m’lynn back in 2007. woven strips of blue sky torn to find the true grain. images of tears born of both laughter and crying – often at the same time. enough raw edges and stray threads to make it real. sparkling beads laid down in the shape of a heart in shades of shelby’s pink. on the back side, we have an earthy fabric, fertile, a place for love to take root, and we see the seemingly randomly-placed stitches that hold it all together. all bound at the edges with soft pink shibori dyed by talented friend, a digital steel magnolia called glennis.


  1. ronnadetrick

    Thank you for linking to me! Love, love, love what your daughter is doing…deeply aware that this is, at least in part, because of what she's seen and experienced in you. SO beautiful!

    And loved this line:
    “in the forest with these women, i grow comfortable enough to tell my stories and speak my truth, southern accent and all.”

    For me, it's the desert, as you know. And you are definitely there with me – complete with southern accent, walking the hot sands. I'm grateful!

  2. whollyjeanne

    well, let's just try rooting some steel magnolias in the desert, shall we? i think it'd work. i love, by the way, your desert posts. and you.

  3. ronnadetrick

    Absolutely! I'm not much of a gardener, but would be happy to provide some delicious cold beverage while I watch you! And good conversation throughout, no doubt! 'Love your forests…and you, as well!

  4. Julie

    Oh, darling, I so love you. How you weave these things together amazes me. As Ronna said, I can see where your daughter learned such amazing ways.
    I love this part: “my steel magnolia forest has grown rich and lush and bountiful. i don’t know when i’ve ever felt so supported, so encouraged, so affirmed. i grow as i find women who share my interests, and i grow as i am exposed to things i never knew existed.” We're all growing tall and strong as our root intertwine together.
    I continue to find strength, joy and love in our connection.

  5. lemead

    This is so, so lovely … and you are so right about the Steel Magnolia and how she is a special breed of woman. I'm thrilled, as you are, that twitter has connected me with some of voices that feel so familiar immediately – somehow this web of women I've stumbled onto has made me feel more known, seen, heard than I have in years.
    What a wonderful example your daughter is setting. One she no doubt learned from her wonderful, big-hearted mother.

  6. Kira

    i didn't realize that was how the apprentices work. how awesome. if i can get a friend to drive with me, i'm going to try to go see it. i would have killed for a theatre company like that in high school instead of what we had at my school…directors that were as catty as the teachers and an entrenched rivalry between techies and theatre people and the musical divas. i would probably do a lot more theatre today if that experience had been more nurturing…but it did teach me about the type of work i DO want to be involved in. now these girls will be able to recognize the same.

  7. glennis

    my virtual ears must have been ringing.
    i was scrolling down my FB home page and saw your name and clicked the link for a long overdue visit. enjoying the story, the connections, the little stab stitches. feeling happy for you, the 12 girls, your daughter and steel magnolias. remembering i recently saw fried green tomatoes in the wee hours of the morning for the first time, believe it or not. scrolling down to read the end. i was honored. what lucky girls.

  8. Jennifer Prentice

    I agree with Ronna & Julie. As soon as I read what your daughter is doing, I thought: Well, she clearly learned that kind of love from her mother. You are a beautiful person, Jeanne, who weaves gorgeous words together on a page and/or a computer screen. I look forward to reading your posts every day (even if I only make it around to catching up on my fave blogs every couple of days–doesn't mean I love you any less); and I am deeply honored to be on your traipse page. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  9. whollyjeanne

    and i do so love you, too, darling. i must've done something very good to deserve you the day our paths crossed. xo

  10. whollyjeanne

    lindsey, i have so got to do a better job of prioritizing, planning, and balancing because i have missed you and your inspiring, thought-provoking, salve-for-my-soul posts the past few weeks. this weekend, i'm catching up. can't think of a better way to spend the weekend. xo

  11. whollyjeanne

    oh, i hope you can find a pal who's up for a road trip. frankie is coming tomorrow night. wendy will be there at every performance, i'm quite sure, given that nora is m'lynn. you'll know several others, too, and everybody would love to see you. i'll just never understand why the concept of abundance is so hard to grasp for some people. why some folks choose to believe that when one person lands a part or gets applause or takes a bow, there's less for others when, actually, quite the opposite is true. there's enough to go around – an abundance, actually – and when we choose to help, encourage, love, and support each other, we are generating more. does that make sense? (just got in from seeing alice in wonderland.) anyway, if you can come, let me know which performance, and i'll try to be there. would love to see you. are we on for tuesday?

  12. whollyjeanne

    ah, fried green tomatoes. another good one. you know, my car is named Miss T'EyeWanda. you know, after the fighting, fortifying word kathy bates yelled in the walmart parking lot when she bashed the snot out of that parking-space-stealing car? am still loving my scarves. loves them.

  13. whollyjeanne

    well, aren't you the sweetest thing? i appreciate you, and listen. one of these days, we're gonna' meet live and in person, and i'll be the one holding the bojangles box with your name on it. love you, sugar.

  14. emma

    You take my breath away with this post. You are most definitely a glorious steel magnolia in abundant bloom.

  15. AlanaSheeren

    Oh I can't wait to actually sit at the table with you and your daughter 🙂 I can't even begin to say all that I want to say – about theater, about opportunities, about teenage girls and grown women and friendship. Instead I'm going to add to Dian's honoring you with my own little torch bearing. Sorry they happened at the same time but hopefully you know how loved you are! When you have a moment, come get your sunshine.

  16. TheWordWire

    What a great story – you must be so proud of your daughter, and of her students. Love Steel Magnolias – glad to have a bunch of 'em in my life too. Thanks for always making me smile.

  17. alligator_kate

    Wow. The two casts. So brilliant/ so much heart. I can imagine what an enormous difference it is making in the lives of those girls. The wheels are spinning in my head now with ideas for the kids I teach… Thanks to you and your moxie for the fantastic inspiration. Today, I thought about how I used to take such pleasure in reading the Sunday Times, and how now I'm relaxing on a Sunday reading the words of a forest (I'm definitely a forest dweller too– which is probably why I hadn't found Ronna yet) full of amazing writers. I read the Times still too, but reading your posts, and the ones of other wise women writers, are what I most look forward to because they feed my spirit. I'm so much better fed now. Thanks for this delicious writing.

  18. whollyjeanne

    love ya, sugar.

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