Strong Women Beget Strong Women
The first ¼ of 2018 has come and gone. The cold has lingered longer than it should. This week has been the first week that felt like springtime. It’s a welcome change! I’ve been watching the “News” and noticing that there is a decent amount of momentum in the fight against social injustice. I appreciate the momentum of women’s movements (for the record I’m pro-life). I stand with those fighting discrimination. Anti-bullying is a worthwhile cause. It’s about time that people stopped being apathetic about things that should never happen.
I’m seeing that it’s true that we never stop changing. Life never stops changing. Aging is something that creeps up on you. Before you know it, you’re 48 and there is so much life behind and it’s pretty amazing. There were ups and downs and here I am. I look forward to what’s ahead. I think about the number of times I’ve heard lately about strong women doing incredible things. I’ve given a lot of thought to the millions of strong women doing very seemingly mundane things. Things that are helpful, kind, encouraging. I’m one of them. I try to be anyways. I think of both of my grandmothers, my Mom, step sisters, aunts, sisters-in-law, step daughter, co-workers and friends; there are so many. My blog post this month will be about them. About us.
My Nana. I was able to take for granted that she loved me very much. She was tough as nails. She was strong and fierce. Even though Margaret (Peg), aka Nana, was married, because of the times they lived in she practically raised her 7 children by herself. My grandfather was away for a number of valid reasons, from being in the armed services during 2 wars to working and other things. It was just the way it was then. When I look at photos of her younger days, it’s hard to imagine that she was ever anything but my grandmother, but there she is in the pictures. She was so beautiful all of her life. Peg was quite a no-nonsense type of person. She didn’t often cry. On the other hand, she was always there for us. She put a lot into being a great role model. She was always spending time with my cousins and my brothers and me, taking us to different places, or doing different things. We spent a lot of time with her and Grandpa growing up.
Nowadays, she’s on that celestial shore, but she’s still very much with me. For example, when I was working at a company where there were some people who were harassing me, I heard her voice in my head when I would feel hurt. It would go something like, ‘Oh knock that off’! Or ‘Stop being so dramatic’! Does that sound to you like a negative thing? I’ll tell you, it’s absolutely not. I hear those words and her voice in my head and I pick myself up and I move on. I love and miss that voice. This woman raised 7 children mostly by herself. This woman worked hard, loved and taught us and she was fantastic! These are average, every day things that people do but to me she did incredible things.
My Grammy. She was a single mom in the 40s and 50s. I don’t know the story but she was with my grandfather (by blood only), but he left and married her sister. I don’t know the timeline or the story. I know my father made sure we never met his father. From what I understand, after that, she worked as a cook in a bar somewhere in Boston. That’s all I really know about her life before she was my Grammy. She was my edifier. She was my encourager. Grammy was my friend. I was her Lovey Dovey, or Lovey for short. She loved the Lord. She loved watching the birds outside. She enjoyed company and friends. She loved her son, my Dad, like crazy. Grammy spent time with me playing Go Fish and Crazy 8s. She made sure she had my favorite cereal on hand for when I went to stay with her. When I was with her I felt secure and special. I had long red, unruly hair. She’d pat it down with her hands and push it off of my face and tuck it behind my ears. She’d kiss my head and say, “Let me see that pretty face!” Oh how I wish I could sit with her again. Grammy (Ruth) must have been devastated because of the things that happened in her young life. She never showed it and for whatever reason, I wouldn’t ever know about those hurts she had. She had nieces who were her son’s half siblings. It could not have been easy but she loved all of them. She loved her sister. She didn’t waste time on all of that negativity. She dedicated our time together to enjoying each other’s company. She was a very strong yet still soft hearted, loving woman. She was extraordinary.
Other women I think about are the women who are or were a big part of my life. When I was a child, our family had 3 main babysitters. There was Eileen, Linda and Kathy. Eileen was super strict but she was good. My one of many memories of her that I will share was a day when I was crushed. I was sitting on my bedroom floor sobbing at age 6 or 7 because I got in trouble again. I had a giant pile of stuff on my floor that I was supposed to clean up. Eileen, my Godmother, came upstairs to find me sobbing next to the enormous mountain of stuff that was sitting there. She sat down with me and told me not to worry. She said she would help me. We began to go through everything and soon enough the mess was gone. That was Eileen. My hero. Linda was the one I would run to when things got too bad at home. She always had an open door for me. She wasn’t living right so going there was a bad influence. It’s ok though. She was there for me. Kathy was the one with the level head, she’s kind, generous and she laughed at the things that I did that my Mom would rough me up for. I was babysitting her son one day and either he or I broke her electric frying pan. I can’t remember who actually broke it. I stuck the pieces back together and put it back on the shelf thinking she’d not notice. She did notice. She didn’t yell at me. She just laughed when I finally confessed and she told me not to worry. My memory of that day is hazy but what I do remember was that I didn’t get in trouble. That was a big deal. She was my role model and treated me the way I decided I would treat my children (child) someday. Kathy and Linda stayed in my life until I was in my 20s. I don’t see them anymore but without them, I wouldn’t be me. Eileen has since passed away but I think of her often.
My step sisters, aunts, sisters-in-law, step daughter, co-workers and friends are all such a big part of who I am whether I am in touch with them anymore or not. It’s the women who offer an ear when I just want to talk. The ones who welcome me into their home with open arms and hearts. The ones who send me sympathy cards when my favorite musician dies. The ones who tell me the truth even though it will be hard for me to hear. The ones who go to NYC to spend a weekend with us and are just good company the whole time. The ones who show up when I host a holiday. It’s all of those wonderful, strong women who influence me. Alternatively, it’s also the women who hurt me or offend me. Some are full of envy and malice toward me. It’s the ones who cheat, lie and steal to get ahead and leave me behind. The ones who are giving their opinion when they think they are telling the truth but are really just being mean spirited. The ones who kick me to the curb until they feel like being my friend again over and over and get upset when I finally put my foot down. It’s all of these women. These strong and fierce women who do seemingly mundane things. In reality, these relationships are powerful and help me to grow. It’s not always easy and is sometimes very painful. Regardless, they’ve all helped to make me stronger. These women are amazing.
My Mom. Sigh. How do I tell this story without hurting feelings or causing a ruckus? I’ll start with the adult years. My Mom is a sweet, endearing woman. We have a good relationship and we worked hard for it. My Mom is so strong that she was able to turn herself from being a severely manic person, and was all her life; to someone I love and cherish. Mom is bi-polar. Being raised by her was traumatic, confusing, heartbreaking, and painful. All of that said, eventually, she got diagnosed as being bi-polar. With a diagnosis, she was able to take medicine that would help her to feel “normal” for the first time in her life. Mom looked at herself honestly for the very first time. She was devastated by what she had done and how she treated my brothers and me. My Mom pulled up her bootstraps and began working towards healing our relationship. That had to be so difficult. To me, that is amazing strength. That is enormous love.
I’ll wrap this up with me. I survived through that upbringing. It was pretty ugly at times. It was pretty sad at times and because of it, I rebelled and spent my teen years abusing alcohol, drugs and my own sense of dignity. I was not living right. I was promiscuous. I got pregnant at 20 and the father told me he wanted me to have an abortion. I agreed to it but the day I was supposed to go, I canceled. I went ahead and stayed pregnant. I raised my son by myself with God’s help. I built a stable world for him and did my very best by him. I made mistakes but I own them. I left my dreams behind me. I looked toward the future for my son and took raising him very much to heart. He was my reason for all the good things I did. God is the one who gave me strength to do them. The women who raised me and were a part of my life gave me strength to raise him. I turned my life around and managed to make it pretty good. I myself was diagnosed with clinical depression and PTSD. I actively work on ways to minimize that these days. That wasn’t easy. At times, it’s still not easy. When it’s not easy, my Nana pushes me along. I didn’t realize that going from day to day was so hard until I felt better. Now it’s not so hard about 90% of the time. Now, I see the sun shine and I’m thankful for it. I receive a text from my husband I’m thankful for it. If someone pays me a compliment, I’m thankful for it. Gratitude is a mundane, yet powerful attitude to have.
When I look back, I don’t see a life of abuse. I don’t look back and see that I sacrificed my dreams to have my son. I look back and I see that my childhood taught me how to recognize pain in others. I can help them. I look back and I see that my dreams were not really all that important. I wouldn’t trade being a Mom and now a Grandmother for anything in the world. It gets to me sometimes that people put their wants before everything else. My dreams were just things I wanted to do. I have a full time job and it’s a good one. I don’t do the things that I love to do as a job, but that’s ok. Some of the dreams I had were things I wanted to do because I thought I’d be cool if I did them. Some of the things I wanted to do, I do now. I play guitar, sing. I cook. I write. I create, take photographs. I look forward and I wonder what my dreams should be now. I’m working on that. Maybe I’m living my dreams. It’s ok.
My version of success is having a stable foundation in Jesus and living a peaceful life, helping when I can. I’m strong. I know that. I’m thankful for that. I say I survived a lot but really, it was just life. It’s just my story. While people are standing up for a lot of social injustice, I also see it going too far. A little girl should not be kicked out of daycare for calling her friend her best friend. That happened. That’s taking things way too far. My beliefs differ from the mainstream. I believe the Bible is the word of God. I don’t expect anyone else to believe what I do. It’s nice when people I meet do though. I can tell you why I hold so tightly to Jesus and God’s word. It’s because He first loved me. It’s because He is reliable. He is my rock, God, Savior, King, Friend, Counselor and my Father. There have been women in my life who showed me that God isn’t about sacraments and holidays. I show young women who seek the Lord that He loves them. I live my life hoping to be a blessing to them. It’s not that I don’t want to live the dreams I left behind. It’s that I feel like I’m doing well. I don’t always feel this way but overall, I’m very grateful for the way things have gone for me. I do mundane things. I’m not super fancy or popular. I’m pretty sure that some think I’m peculiar. I don’t mind that either. In fact, it sort of makes me smile.
Without the strong women who did mundane things, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Without them, I would be a lesser person. Without the strong women in this world who do mundane things every day, this would be a very different world.
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