“So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” Psalms 71:18
It’s March and I am so excited for many reasons! For starters, this month begins to thaw not only the frozen ground, but my soul from the dark heaviness of winter. It is the month when Peeps appear, I surprise my husband with Shamrock Shakes, birds start chirping spring music, and I lighten up my wardrobe with bright colors and thinner fabrics. This year, my excitement is even more elevated because, through my “Graceful Transitions” blog and social media pages, I am going to celebrate Women’s History month with you! I will share with you about some women who have influenced my life. Each Saturday of the month, I am going to feature some of my favorite women-owned small businesses. Finally, all my writings will either feature women, or talk about issues that directly impact women. As always, my goal behind the blog is to be authentic and point others towards God.
For many of us in my age bracket (yes, I am now in the 45-55 age bracket), Women’s History month is a relatively new calendar event, only recognized on a national level since 1995. I do not recall any high school classes emphasizing women, or the library displaying books featuring women. I certainly don’t remember Target merchandising Women’s History Month products in March! Yet, my experience with Women’s History Month predates the official national declaration by a few years. During my sophomore year in college, my hall director raised awareness about women and some of the struggles they had for recognition. She also created an atmosphere where we could discuss issues facing women in the early 1990’s. This awareness has carried on throughout my adult life.
Mayo Angelou once said, “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes”. In essence, that is the point behind Women’s History Month, to honor those women who have contributed to society, making it a richer place not only future generations of women, but for the whole of humanity. It is easy to name some of the great women who have influenced history, women like Jane Austen, Susan B. Anthony and Marie Curie. I could have written tributes to some of these women, but I want to start this month a little closer to home by honoring two women who have impacted my history and are she-roes to me.
The first woman I want to honor is my Aunt Debbie, my mom’s younger sister. Being only nine years older than me, Debbie was the “cool aunt” who bought me my first albums, took to me to the movies, and introduced me to Rocky Rocco pizza. Even as a busy college student, she always made time for me by including me in her everyday life. Spending the occasional weekend with her in Milwaukee made the idea of being a grown-up so enchanting. But her impact was far more than just pizza, weekend getaways, and movies, it was also the words she penned on cards to encourage me. Throughout my teens, Debbie would send me beautiful cards with inspiring messages urging me to reach for my dreams. She would also point out my talents and congratulate me for my successes. In addition, she would encourage me to go to college. These cards were a lifeline for me during the years of my hidden abuse. Whenever I felt hopeless or depressed, I would pull out my stash of cards and reread the words she had written. They empowered me to see past my circumstances and envision a future life that could be beautiful. Thirty-five years later, I still have her cards in my box of treasures. Today, Debbie still inspires me. While raising her children, she went back to school to complete her dream of being a teacher. She now teaches kindergartners, inspiring future generations to dream big. Her passion for education motivates me, today, to continue to learn.
The second woman I want to honor is my Aunt Brenda. Southern and artistic, with a remnant of California hippy, Brenda walks into a room and instantly fills it with breath and vitality. Her enthusiasm is contagious, her stories inspire, and her energy motivates. She impacted a generation of young women in my Wisconsin church through her Sunday school classes, sleepovers, and her cat-washing extravaganzas. Brenda might be the only person alive who could convince a group of young women that it was a privilege to help wash and dry her Himalayan show cats. She genuinely listened to your problems, encouraged you with scriptures, and pointed you in a positive direction. Two pieces of her advice stick with me today: “Keep your eyes on God, not on people”, and “If you are feeling stressed, get at least seven hours of sleep and then reassess your situation”. Brenda had the ability to speak truth into my life, inspiring me to want to be more like Christ. In addition, my love for pops of color were influenced by her artistic flair for design.
Both women invested in my history, helping me to become the woman I am today. They chose to be an active part of my life by pouring their time and words into a broken young woman. This came at a cost for them, and I am not talking about the price of a stamp in 1987. They had to set aside their own lives to make room for me. I am sure Debbie could have found other things to do on a Saturday night than eat pizza and listen to music with me. I am sure Brenda could have been working on some of her design projects or artwork rather than carving out time for me to come over on a Sunday afternoon to talk. Yet, they both set aside their lives to make a place for me. These precious moments made a huge impact on my life, helping me to overcome obstacles that seemed insurmountable. And by their very lives, these women taught me to be compassionate and caring. They are my she-roes!
I have thanked them both many times throughout my life, and, in essence, this is another way to express my gratitude. Years ago, I realized that the best way to thank them is to pay it forward. I have looked, and will continue to look, for other young woman in my life and actively make a choice to encourage and uplift them. I, too, will make a choice to invest in their lives. Just maybe, in some small way, I can impact others the way I have been impacted.
I would love to hear about your she-roes. Subscribe to my blog and leave a comment about who that inspiring woman is in your life!