WRITING STRONG WOMEN

Thoughts and commentary on being a strong woman—what it takes, and how we get there

Angel

Sometimes

Helen Ginger and I have been friends for several years, although we don’t seem to find the time to get together nearly as much as we’d both like. Time gets away from all of us. Helen is a strong woman. I admire and respect anything she touches. She has been a tremendous support through my writing efforts and gives of her time most freely. I knew she had been writing the novel, Angel Sometimes. I am thrilled the book is now complete and available for purchase.

Since she is such a strong woman, I had no doubt her female lead would be strong–or would get there before the story ended. I am delighted to welcome her as our guest blogger today. At the bottom of the post there are links to her website, and how to purchase her book should you so desire.

Here’s Helen

Angel Angel started talking to me years ago. I dreamed about her, couldn’t get her to leave me alone. So I began to write the story of this 12-year-old girl. Around that same time, the Brown Foundation awarded me a fellowship to spend four weeks at the Vermont Studio Center. By the time those weeks were up, I’d written almost a full book … of her as a twelve year old. I knew her. I knew what happened to change her life. I knew why she’d been abandoned on the streets 800 miles from her home. I also knew it wasn’t her full story.

So I began to write her as a 22-year-old. Because of all that I had already written, I knew Angel. She was strong. She cared and looked out for others. Angel was a survivor. Even when she was very close to dying, she didn’t give up.

People have asked if her life is mine. This is her story, her truth, although there are bits and pieces of me in her. Angel’s childhood home was mine when I was a child, including the drive-in theater and a mother who worked as the projectionist. The woods where Angel played as a child are from my childhood. She swims as a mermaid as did I for three years in college. While the setting of her childhood is similar to mine, her life is very different.

Angel was on the streets of South Padre when she was 12. At 16, she hitchhiked to Austin. After months on the streets there, she found a Help Wanted sign in the window of a bar/restaurant. She asked the owner to hire her. He told her she was too young. Every morning she waited for him to open. Every day he said no. On her 17th birthday, he said yes. He had no idea how close she was to dying.

Angel may have told her story to me, but she speaks to everyone. You can survive when bad or even horrific things happen to you. You can help yourself by helping others. The old saying is true. Put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.

Angel has taken a break in talking to me. But I’m leaving the door open and lights on, hoping she’ll come by to tell me what happens next.
Angel

***********

Helen Ginger was born in Georgia, but at age ten, her mother moved the family to Texas. Helen’s been there ever since, laying down roots and picking up stories. “My mother moved around a lot, from Austin to Luling to Lockhart to places in-between. One time while in college, I drove home to see her and my younger sister. They were gone. No forwarding address. People are aghast when I tell that story, but it wasn’t a big deal. I eventually found her.” As far back as Helen can remember, she’s always written: angst-filled stories in high school; short stories and poetry in college; mysteries, mainstream fiction, even technical books, three of which have been published by TSTC Publishing. Helen lives in a small town just outside of Austin, Texas. From her office window, she sees birds, deer, squirrels, road runners, foxes, cats, and rabbits. You can find Helen on Amazon, her blog, website, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can also sign up for her weekly newsletter for writers, which has been going out for 13 years.

Posted in Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, Writing Strong Women | 15 Comments

the Strongest Woman

I1> Have Ever Known

In Honor of Marynelle “Bobbie” Crawford, the Strongest Woman I’ve Ever IKnown

By Jessica Sinn

You know the expression, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”? Those words really ring true now that my 95-year-old grandma, Marynelle “Bobbie” Crawford, has passed on to the great beyond.

As I was writing her eulogy, I cursed myself for not taking the time to really get to know the most accomplished woman in my entire family.  Sure, I know she served in the U.S. Marine Corps, excelled in school, and grew up during the Great Depression. But sadly, I only know the Cliffs Notes version of her life.

If you think about it, how well do we really know our grandparents other than the fact that they spoiled us rotten with ice cream, toys and hugs when we were kiddos? As a bratty little kid, I only saw grandma as a white-haired sweet old lady who liked to drone on and on about Billy Graham specials and the benefits of milk and prune juice. And when she did talk about her past I would roll my eyes and say, “Oh boy, here we go again.” I was too busy wishing I could be flirting with boys at the mall than sitting in this old lady’s house listening to her talk about the hardships of her youth.

Now that she’s gone, I would give anything – even my precious Ford Taurus – to spend one more day with this woman and learn more about her epic journey – from growing up on a dairy farm to working her way up the Marine Corps totem pole during World War II.

It wasn’t until I began writing her eulogy when the sharp pang of loss hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. A huge flash of regret waved over me when I realized that I was just now learning about this wonderfully brave, complex, strong woman.

You see, unlike the Facebook generation, grandma didn’t like to talk about herself.  Although she often reminisced about the Great Depression, She didn’t gloat about her accomplishments – and trust me, there were many! Here’s what I learned as I gathered details about grandma’s life:

Born on May 4, 1917, Marynelle Thompson, grew up on her grandfather’s dairy farm in a small Southern patch of Bryant, Arkansas. She spent most of her childhood in Little Rock, where she graduated from Central High School with honors.

After high school she received secretarial training and worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until she and her best girlfriend joined the U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserve after the start of World War II. She was assigned an office staff position at Marine Corps Headquarters in Quantico, Va.

Among her many important duties, she provided clerical support for the Manhattan Project. Proud to serve her country, she quickly worked her way up through the ranks and was promoted to corporal, not an easy task for a woman Marine back in the World War II era.

In her later years, she was fond of saying she had the equivalent of a college degree in military records. During her enlistment, she fell in love with Sgt. Donald Hughes Crawford, the boss of her best girlfriend. Shortly thereafter, they married in a quiet ceremony in 1944. Resplendent in their Marine Corps uniforms, their wedding was intimate and understated. But even if she had all the money in the world, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

After grandpa swept her off her feet, the rest was history. They made a home in sunny Carlsbad, California where they lived a quiet happy life by the beach. Although grandpa struck it big in the stock market, they lived very frugally and never took even the simplest creature comfort – milk especially – for granted. As a kid, I always groused over their penny-pinching ways. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t indulge in fancy cars and designer clothes. Boy did I have a lot to learn.

Although it pained her to spend money on “frivolous” things like clothes and household appliances, she put my sister and I through college – no questions asked. She made provisions for our future and gave us a place to call home after our mother split. In addition to the much-needed financial assistance, she gave us the confidence we needed to chase our dreams. Considering our shaky upbringing, I shudder to think where we would be today without grandma’s love and support.

She had a way of making anyone feel special. She never let a conversation go by without telling me how proud she was of me. She may have sounded like a broken record, but my heart warmed over whenever I heard those words. Growing up, my mother always laughed at my future plans and told me “you can’t,” but grandma always made me believe the opposite. With her encouragement and eternal optimism, I knew I had it in me to finish college and write for a living.

So as I sit here stewing about the things I could’ve, should’ve done while she was alive, I realize the best way to get through my grief is to honor her legacy. No matter what hardships come my way, I need to invoke my inner Marynelle Crawford and pick myself up by my bootstraps whenever the going gets tough. Even in her darkest days, she would somehow find a happy place. Let’s face it, nursing home life is grim. But she found a way to enjoy it by occupying her free time with long walks around the rest home. Rather than zoning out in front of the TV, she’d strap on her walking shoes and go to town on that walker. The staff was so impressed by her walking routine, they monitored her steps with a pedometer and found that she clocked one to three thousand steps per day!

As you can see, those are some big shoes to fill, but I am determined to make her proud. Rather than focusing on material things, negative thinking, and trivial drama, I need to remember the lessons grandma taught me: Be strong no matter what life throws your way; Believe in yourself in defiance of naysayers; And above all else, be kind.

Thank you grandma for all the gifts you have given me.  It’s hard accepting the fact that you’re gone, but I know you’re in a better place. Semper Fi!

I

 

 

Posted in Rosie the Riveter, Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 2 Comments

Just Say It

Just Say ItJust Say It

The day was overcast.  I sat at my desk with the overhead light on while I wrote at my computer. My husband had gone on errands. When he came in, he walked over and flipped off  the light.

That felt offensive to me. I’d turned the light on and felt he should have checked with me before turning it off.

I tapped into my feelings about that, looked at him and said something like. I turned the light on because I wanted it on.

He said well, you don’t need it, but he flipped it back on because he realized it wasn’t his place to  turn it off on me without at least asking my permission.

To me, that was my decision to make–whether I needed it or not, and I  was able to “just say it.” because I’ve worked so hard on doing that. It doesn’t matter whether the other gets upset over it or not–that is up to them since I am not responsible for their feelings. I am responsible to claim what I need to claim and to say it without personal attack of the other.

Sometimes I think the most difficult thing to do is to bring up a topic of controversy or deep feeling. I find the best thing for me to do is to just say it–without the heat that can build up over deep emotional issues. And trust the process.

For whatever it’s worth, I have learned, and continue to learn, instead of being too fearful to just say what I need to say to another person, to listen to that inner voice AT THE TIME I feel it in my gut, my chest, my wherever. Then, instead of building up heat in order to be able to say it, I tap into that feeling, that truth, and identify it quickly, then just say it much like I’d give the weather report. Like,  say the sun is shining.

I’ve been asked what makes me  able to do that because most of us really struggle with that. I admit, that has not always been my reaction.

I do understand. Few of us can do that–say what we are feeling in a non-emtional way. It has taken me years to identify and to learn how to just say it, and say it at the moment of the interchange.

It takes tuning into your body and making a quick assessment, and then, saying just that.

In a particular job, I began to realize that a road sign would sometimes surface in my intuition, telling me to stop long enough to pay attention to that intuitive feeing, and in my haste, I had ignored it and gone on with what I was doing. Then, later, what I had ignored would come back and bite me in the butt. Such as a purchase order I approved without questioning the person further who had submitted it. Sure enough, it would get stopped by my boss and he’d send it back to me disapproved, or with questions.

So I began to pay closer attention to my intuition, I began to analyze the feeling–identify where in my body I felt it, ascribe a color to it, then understand the meaning behind the color. (I have a number of books on Colorology–another good thing to learn more about–powerful work!)

After doing that, and putting the physical location (Chakra!!!!) of the feeling in perspective, and understanding that feeling related to the color, I began to understand what my body was telling me about any given situation. Why I was reacting the way I did.

As I did that, I began to learn that if THAT is what I said, then I could describe it at the time–as if describing the weather, because it was an organic reaction. I had allowed my body to speak to me–understand the feeling, and then just say it at the moment in a non-attacking manner or tone.

You know how, when later you wished you’d said how you felt at a given situation? By learning to just say it  at the very moment of the interchange when you first feel it in your body you develop a healthier relationship with the other. And, you do it before the discomfort does physical and emotional damage.

Quickly check in with your body, identify the feeling, and then just say it.

It is amazing what our bodies will tell us–IS TELLING US–yet we stuff it down, ignore it, deny it, postpone it, and then think later–oh I wish I’d said that. This process gives me an opportunity to process all of that almost instantaneously, and the more I do it, the faster I can do it–at the very moment.

The key is learning to just say it — BEFORE the anxiety or hurt feelings build. For instance, where in your body do you feel the put downs or the criticisms another person might dish out?

What color is it? What does it feel like? A twinge, a sharp knife, like a drowning? Now, quickly give thanks for your body’s messages to you, then, just say it. For instance:

(All of this verbage below is said calmly, unemotionally, as if, “the weather has been cold today, or maybe it will rain tomorrow, or….)

Perhaps–”I feel like a child when you constantly criticize me. That is abusive. I am not a child and I will no longer be treated like one.”

This way, our message is clear, we take a stand for our selves without attacking the other person. We claim it for ourself. Then stand.

Just Say It

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, The Bully, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 7 Comments

Defeat

What it is. What it isn’t.

What is defeat and when might a woman experience it?defeat

Defeat is not the same thing as not doing something correctly. Defeat occurs when, in the midst of a difficult task, we give up, not on the situation, but on ourselves. We quit trying.

The opposite of defeat is success. We succeed when we win the battle over ourselves. When we persist in the pursuit of our dreams, no matter the obstacles, we are winners in life, for we have won over our weaknesses.

Or until we learn to not say no.

A woman with a novel in first draft once said to me, “I’m afraid to keep going with this, trying to get published, because I fear I will fail.”

My reply? “We only fail when we stop trying to accomplish our goal. You won’t fail if you don’t let yourself. When discouragement comes,  you pick yourself up and keep working at it until you carry out your goal. That’s the only way any of us will ever be successful.”

I didn’t always follow that advice. For many years, I was a quitter. There are many projects I would start, get discourage, and stop. Only many years later would I learn the secret of success–don’t stop!

How about you? What works for you that helps you carry out you goals? How do you handle rejection or the fear of defeat?

Posted in Crones, Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

White

Knights & Pink Pigs | knight

knight

Our guest author today is Lindsay Frucii, a recent guest on my Blog Talk Radio program, Writing Strong Women and the author of The Pig & Me-a powerful story of her ‘knight’ and the journey of a very strong woman.

In 1989 when a personal bankruptcy robbed her family of financial security, Lindsay decided the way back to marital and family bliss was to start a business that would make gobs of money. Out of the mantra “there must be something I can do”€ and a passion for fat-laden, fudgy brownies that made it hard to zip her jeans, an idea was born: healthy brownies for the masses. In a leap of faith borne on the wings of innocence and naivete, she founded No Pudge! Foods, Inc., and began an unexpected whopper of a roller coaster ride.

Be warned, this post is a little long, so if you can’t finish it in one sitting, mark it and come back and finish. It is well worth your time.

The fairy tale is an enviable, business success story. The reality is the story of a woman who was raised hearing “You can’t” and found, to her surprise and great satisfaction, she could – and then some.

As a little girl, I always knew exactly what my life would be like when I grew up. After high school I would learn a trade and live at home until my white knight came along. You know, the tall, handsome dude on the white horse. The one who would carry me off to a big house with a white picket fence where I would be his wife and raise our children. His job would be to earn a good living and take care of me because God knows, as a woman, I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself.

When the white knight didn’t come along as planned, I was left feeling insecure and lost. On my 25th birthday, my older sister – who’d married right on cue at twenty-one and had two babies in two years – cheerfully informed me that I was officially an old maid. As I approached my 28th birthday, still single, it suddenly hit me that I was tired of waiting for that damn knight. Suddenly hit me. As in never crossed my mind before.  You know it’s almost embarrassing to write that, but it’s the God’s honest truth. I was twenty-seven and a half years old before I first thought that maybe it was time to stop waiting. Waiting for the damn knight. Waiting for someone to create a home with. Waiting for someone else to make me happy. Waiting to play the role I’d been raised to believe I’d be a failure without.

So I quit my job as a nurse, got an entry-level job in Corporate America, started making a lot more money and damn, didn’t that knight show up. He was driving a Saab Turbo instead of riding a white horse, but he was tall and handsome, had a great job, owned his own house and at 29, was still – incredibly – single.  Boo Yaa!

You’re probably thinking, “She’s a little slow, but at least she finally got it” and assuming that my knight and I married and had little knights (we did). It also makes sense you believe I’d grown enough by then that our marriage was one where we both considered me a strong and equal partner. Ah…. No.

My husband had been raised to view our roles in the same way I had and once our first son was born, we both slipped unknowingly right back into them. It turns out that roles ingrained in you since birth don’t disappear, they simply submerge, waiting to rear their ugly heads at the first sign of weakness.

I adore the role of being a mother. To this day being a mother to my two sons is, without a sliver of doubt, the role that makes me happiest. But the role of unequal wife? Not so much. The lack of equality was not an in-your-face, you-are-the-subservient-wife thing and it was never conscious on either of our parts. It was just the way it was. For me it translated into a frequent sense of discomfort – like the costume I’d been handed was too heavy, too scratchy and too confining. I wore it for fourteen years before rebelling. What can I say? I’m a slow learner…

I was forty-four when I began to tear the costume off. We were going through a difficult financial and emotional time. Not an optimal time for rebellion, but when the voice inside you finally wakes up and screams ENOUGH! – you listen.

I decided I wanted to start a business – telling myself I was doing it to help my husband knightand family financially. But where I saw a golden opportunity, my husband saw a money pit and the harder I pushed, the stronger his resistance. I dug in my heels, telling myself I was going to prove him wrong. But that feeling quickly became an overpowering need to prove to myself that I didn’t have to live the life that others had designed for me. As I began to evolve and grow, my marriage struggled to do the same. The process almost tore us apart, but today our relationship is stronger and happier. We are, in every sense of the word, partners.

I now know that life is too short to be wasted trying to live the life that others expect you to live. That said, I also know the feeling of terror that accompanies the beginning of rebellion and understand all too well how hard it is to break out of a role you feel super-glued into. But we all deserve to live our life. The life that brings joy and freedom and gratitude – not the one that breeds exhaustion and resentment and envy.

It’s a difficult and scary journey, but by taking it a one-small-step-at-a-time it’s far less overwhelming. And if you are stuck, it’s a journey that must be made.

I broke free one tiny step at a time. Moving forward at a slow pace but always moving towards the me I was meant to be. The journey isn’t easy – I’m still on it – but if I can do, so can you.

So you see, readers, white knights can also take the form of pink pigs.

Readers, share your own tale of strength and courage by adding your comment to the post.  Indeed, white knights come in all colors, shapes and odors!

And a special thanks to white knight Jessica Sinn at Chick Lit Cafe  for recommending Lindsay as a guest on Writing Strong Women.

 

Posted in A War of Her Own, Crones, Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 14 Comments

SISTERS

Author and Strong Woman Ann Parker guests today about SISTERS on Writing Strong Women. She also guests on Writing Strong Women at Blog Talk Radio. Airing today at 1:00 p.m. Central Daylight Time. Of course, if you miss the broadcast you can pick it up in the archives and listen at your convenience. Her Sisters story is powerful, and one which most women who have sisters, whether by blood or by choice, can relate to and smile. (My sister and I certainly can!)

Ann Parker is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush series, featuring saloon-owner Inez Stannert, is set in 1880s Colorado, primarily in the silver-mining boomtown of Leadville. The latest in her series, MERCURY’S RISE, will be released November 1.

SISTERS

Sisters is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.  ~Margaret Mead 

When I began my Silver Rush historical mystery series, one of the things I did was “gift” my main character, Leadville saloon-owner Inez Stannert, with a younger sister. Nearly a full decade separates Inez and Harmony, and yet Harmony is the family member that Inez turns to for help when she must send her young son William away from Leadville. Harmony is the one who takes in William, the one to whom Inez pours her heart out (albeit circumspectly) in letters. Missives between Inez and Harmony fly back and forth as the sisters console and confide in each other throughout the series.

Out of all the topics I have researched for my books, the one where I drew mostly from my own heart is the sisterly relationship between Inez and Harmony.

SistersI have my own little sister, Alison, and our relationship as my guide. Alison certainly belongs in this blog focused on Strong Women, for she is one of the strongest women I know. We have been on the sisterhood “journey” for more than five decades now, and my love, admiration, and respect for her continues to grow.

Of course, it wasn’t always so.

I am older by almost three years, exactly.  I don’t recall Alison as a baby, although one nicely posted photo has the two of us, Alison as infant, me as young child, smiling companionably, eyes directed stage left (probably at a toy held aloft by the photographer). I recall very little from our early years together: Alison’s head, ruffled with curls, as she lay sleeping in the trundle bed that slid out from under my own bedstead. There’s one horrifying old home movie in which Alison is toddling along in front of our old home and I race up to her on a tricycle, only to screech to a stop at the last moment, after which Alison plunks down to the sidewalk on her diapered rear. (At least, I hope I stopped short. Scrutinizing the silent, grainy film, I find it’s hard to tell whether she lost her balance from the surprise or whether I actually bumped her.)

Sharing a room for fifteen-plus years, we diverged early and definitively. She was the “artistic one,” I was the “bookish one.”Sisters (Witness the photos: Alison with paints, me with a book.) I was disorganized and messy. Alison was neat, everything had its place. (My “place” for things was under the bed). The only way to keep a sort of peace in that shared space was to draw a line down the middle of the room. Later on, our differences crept into the audible zone: Alison loved rock and roll: the Beatles, the Monkees, the Rolling Stones. I preferred classical: Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart. There were screaming fights over things I no longer recall—in one spectacular incident, a face was slapped and a chair was thrown (I shall not divulge who did what: it will remain a “mystery for the Sistersreader.” ;-)   )… In retrospect, we seemed just bound and determined to annoy each other!

Time passed, and we left the turbulent teens years behind. We no longer share a room or even a residence. Alison moved to New York, I stayed West. She became an artist, I became a writer. We went our “separate ways” but have grown closer even so. I treasure the times we have together and the bond we now share: texting/emailing, and talking on the phone, plus the times we manage to arrange “face time” with each other, flitting cross country to opposite coasts. We share a common history, a common language, a common memory.

Alison is also a survivor of ovarian cancer—not once, but THREE times over. I marvel at her resilence, her determination, and treasure our times together on this coast or that. I am in awe of the strength of my little sister, and learn from her, even as we grow older. What a journey it’s been. Pam Brown, an Australian poet (who I’ll bet has a sister) sums it up nicely in this quote:

Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize.  Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks.  Borrow.  Break.  Monopolize the bathroom.  Are always underfoot.  But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there.  Defending you against all comers. 

Alison is there for me, no matter what, and she knows that I am always there for her… no matter what. We laugh, we sympathize, we share, we learn from each other.

There are, thankfully, no more lines down the middle of the room.

SistersFor after all, they are sisters. (SDS)

 

Ann Parker is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush series, featuring saloon-owner Inez Stannert, is set in 1880s Colorado, primarily in the silver-mining boomtown of Leadville. The latest in her series, MERCURY’S RISE, will be released November 1.  http://www.annparker.net

Leave a comment on this post to be eligible to win one of Ann’s Silver Rush mystery books!

Sisters–especially when they are both strong women–aren delightful, infuriating, fun, worrisome and wonderful!

 

Posted in Quotes by Strong Women, Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 18 Comments

Today’s Women

as Myth Makers | Today's Women

Today’s Women: Myth Makers

Today's WomenI make no bones about it; I am a lover of myth, folklore—story. Over the years, it seems to resonate at a deeper and deeper core of my being. I read folklore, and get chill bumps. The deeper meaning of the myth and the art of the storyteller come together to thrill my soul.

Story—myth—is what holds societies together. It creates full-spectrum color out of what would otherwise be a black and white world. Story adds meaning, excitement, hope, focus, inspiration, commitment, dedication, renewal, and foundation to our life. (To name a few. The list is endless)

We create not only our present, but also our future, by the stories we recount to others, and sometimes to ourselves, about who we are and where we are going.

Nancy Baker Jones says, “Told long enough, or granted enough significance, stories become myth and myth become the psyche culture, the commonly held knowledge by which a culture defines and describes itself and its members.”

Today's WomenThese myths do not develop overnight. Betty Sue Flowers is quoted to have said, “Myths do not emerge full-blown, like Athena from the head of Zeus. They’re made up of bits and pieces of other myths…”

In our historically patriarchal society, myth has been male dominant. Over the generations, men have sat around campfires and told their tales (or wrote their books, sold them, and received rave reviews as if only men were authors.)

However, times are a changing.  For as more women find their voice, they begin telling their own stories, redrawing our psyche culture, altering the commonly held knowledge by which our world defines and describes itself.

I encourage women today to find that sacred place. Gather your memories around you, invite the stories of your life to unfold, and then write then down. When you do, not only do you discover your own stories, but you also help create a new mythology for us, for our daughters and for our granddaughters.

And as you write, let the words of sports champion, Babe Didrickson Zaharias inspire you.

Today's Women       

     ”It’s not enough to swing at the ball. You’ve got to loosen your girdle and let ’er  fly.”

Truly, today’s women  let ‘er fly.

 

 

Posted in Quotes by Strong Women, Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 2 Comments

Legacy of a Mom:

WWII Nurse

We have a special guest blogger today, with a story that stole my heart. Kitty Delorey Fleischman (publisher/editor of
WWII Nurse
IDAHO magazine, at 102 S. 17th St., Ste. 201, Boise, ID 83702) and I were emailing a couple of weeks ago about our excitement to attend the upcoming annual conference of the National Federation of Press Women, meeting this year in Council Bluff, Iowa. During the course of our conversations, we began to talk about the setting of my latest book, A War Of Her Own, which takes place on the home front during WWII. Kitty began to tell me the story of her mother, and I knew the tale needed to be shared with others. She (and her mother) are our guests today. Her mother is passed, but the memories she left behind inspires us all. The post long, so if you can’t finish it in one reading, bookmark it and come back. Listen as the story unfolds, as recounted at her mom’s funeral. –Sylvia Dickey Smith 

Below, was the eulogy for Kitty’s mother. “Mark” who is speaking is Kitty’s youngest brother, Mark Delorey. Kitty wrote the eulogy at the request of her mother, and Mark read it at the funeral.

Like all true Irishmen, Mom (Lt. Mary Jane Healy) wanted a eulogy at her funeral. Never one to shy away from giving us challenges, a few months ago Mom asked that Kitty write this and that I (Mark speaking) read it. Ordinarily this would be a very difficult task. She made it easier by living such a rich life from which to draw material. And, she promised to help me this morning.

First I’d like to read you some excerpts from a letter written in 1985 by the “Richest Man in the World”:

WWII Nurse“The picture is old. For forty years I’ve carried it in my billfold. I’ve showed it to everyone kind enough to listen to my stories. I wasn’t just a kid when I met her. I was 28-years old. She was a 24-year old army nurse. She was five foot one and weighed about a hundred pounds. She looked so darned cute in her oversized coveralls and army shoes, I called her ‘Butch.’

“No one in the world had ever said ‘Don’ and smiled the way she did. Her charm was her goodness. It’s true. I did_µ ask her to marry me on the second day I knew her, and after she said ‘yes’ on the third or fourth day, we talked about a little house in the country and a bunch of kids. The ship we were on was the U.S.S. Butner, a Liberty ship bound for India. On each long, hot day we stayed together as we went through the South Atlantic around South Africa into the Indian Ocean and on to Bombay.

“We parted in Bombay. I told her I loved her and that I’d find her again some day.

“All my dreams came true. The little white house in the country, all the kids. It’s true, kids, your mother did wear army shoes.”

That letter doesn’t just describe the beginning of a story though. It is the start of an epic which has spanned the globe and occupied a half-century. And while the story has had its sorrows, it is mainly filled with joy and laughter. It has grown from those two to include eight children as well as the partners who have come along to share their children’s lives and provide more than a dozen grandchildren who’ve kept them young and entertained.WWII Nurse

For all of us who have shared in portions of this story, you know that Mary Jane and Donald Delorey have a rare and very special love. It is a love that has thrived through war, hard times and lean years, surmounted endless stacks of bills for doctors, kids’ clothes and shoes, car repairs, payments on houses that hadn’t sold along the way and debts taken on willingly to help out someone who needed it more than they. It is the kind of love that stood firmly side-by side, hand-in hand through the death of a cherished little boy and the loss of a baby.

Whatever happened, we Deloreys grew up knowing we were wealthy because we always had more than enough to go around. If anyone came to our house in need of a ride, a shoulder to cry on, a safe haven for their children, a ham sandwich and cup of coffee, or a few bucks to tide them over, they had only to ask. It was never a problem or a burden. One of Mom’s favorite expressions involved adding water to soup, and it is likely that she could have come up with some variation of the loaves and fishes miracle if the need had ever arisen.

Mom’s feelings of sympathy were generally expressed in practical ways. It was part of her common sense approach to life. Her kindness and generosity touched everyone who knew her. No one who knows Mom can doubt that—were she not today’s guest of honor—she would have a ham in the oven and a bowl of potato salad chilling in the refrigerator to bring over to the family. As it is, we know she is nearby and her love is surrounding each of us like a shield.

To us, she’s just Mom.” She often sang as she cooked our meals and washed our clothes. Many of her days were spent in household tasks and rearing children, and our house usually teemed with people because our friends were always welcome._¨

But even Mom wasn’t always a mom. Born in Detroit, Mom was the second of five children. She came a year after her brother Pete, and they were soon joined by Bill, Kitty and Chuck. They grew up as a closely-knit family in a home where the emphasis was on love of family, church and nation.

They struggled through the years of the Great Depression. When Grandpa lost his well-established plumbing business, the family migrated to join Grandpa’s brother Bill who offered to help them start over in California. But it didn’t take long for the Detroit Healys to find their way home to Michigan.

Graduating from high school, Mom pursued a career as a registered nurse. The curriculum was tough and the stringent demands made for studies, work and personal conduct at Detroit’s Providence Hospital in the late 1930s were calculated to test the mettle of prospective nurses. Mary Jane Healy stood proudly among the graduates of the Class of 1941.

The attack on Pearl Harbor started Mom thinking about the critical need for nurses, and when her brother Pete signed on with the army, she was close behind in her decision to join the army nurses’ corps. They would need someone to care for the injured, and it wasn’t Mom’s way to stand back and wait for someone else to do the job.

Mom rarely shared her army experiences. But heaven help the child who didn’t clean up a plate. When Mom talked about the starving children in India, it wasn’t hearsay or something she’d seen on newsreels—it came from a gentle woman who had watched in pain as children scooped scraps from G.I. garbage cans and fled to protect those sad riches.

One of the incidents she enjoyed and sometimes shared was about the time she hitched a ride on an unarmed military cargo plane to see Dad who had been flown back toward civilization to the hospital. It wasn’t until she hopped off the plane at the landing strip that the airman with the checklist understood the pilot’s cryptic message that, in addition to his load of fresh tomatoes, he was bringing in 100 pounds of sugar.

Mom spent 18 months overseas during World War II, taking care of soldiers who were part of a throw-away force sent halfway around the world to delay an enemy everyone knew couldn’t be beaten. History shows the Army strategists underestimated the power of our parents. It was not a mistake we’d have made.

WWII NurseThen she was sent to Okinowa, to be among the first medical units set to wade ashore following the invasion of Japan. We’ve always wondered if that might have factored into Japan’s surrender.

When it came time to be discharged, she was offered a promotion to first lieutenant if she’d wait a few days for it to be processed. But home beckoned, and neither rank, honors nor bonus money would sway her.

After a short visit at home, she went to Massachusetts to see Dad, who waited in traction at Lovell General Hospital. For all she had done, and with all the stories Dad had told them about her, Mom walked into his hospital ward to a thunderous ovation from his fellow bedridden heroes.

Even as youngsters, we realized that Mom made “Rosie the Riveter” look like a whimp. A non-swimmer who was terrified of the water, she had carried her pack up a scramble net thrown 40 feet over the sides of a ship heaving in the throes of a typhoon rather than being unceremoniously hauled up in a basket like those who were too afraid to make the climb.

Dad often described her putting on that 50-pound pack and marching off the ship and into the war-torn jungles of India and Burma. So, at an age where most kids settled arguments with “…oh yeah? Well, my dad can beat your dad,” we’d been known to make threats about how our MOM could beat their dads.

Small, tough, Irish and darned proud of it, Mom’s courage was undaunted by snakes, jungle vermin or anything else. She stood by dad’s bedside after his heart attack in 1960 knowing there were six young children from one- to 12-years old waiting for them at home, and she has nursed us all through broken bones, concussions, beestings and a host of childhood illnesses and disasters, as well as the pitfalls of adulthood.

WWII NurseSo, it was no surprise to us that—despite cancer’s fearsome reputation—in typical style, Mom quietly has made her stand, and for more than a decade, has laughed off the pain and prayed away the effects of a disease that makes people willing to grasp at any frail straw for relief.WWII Nurse

She did it with her boundless love, her unfailing courage and her undying faith. It is her life and that love, courage and faith we are here today to celebrate.

As we share our grief and shed our tears, we look around at a group created and bound together by the love she and Dad have shared, and we remember that this, of all times, is when we most need to hold tightly to each other to preserve her beautiful legacy and treasure her memory.

We are Mom’s legacy.

NOTE: Kitty’s dad is listed in the Army Ranger Hall of Fame. What a story of WWII Nurse!

WWII Nurse

Posted in A War of Her Own, Crones, Rosie the Riveter, Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 2 Comments

She’s Got Style

| She's Got Style

She’s Got Style

By Paige Cooperstein

(Meet my guest, Paige, below)

Paige & Nana

Paige and her Nana

I’ve been thinking about my future a lot lately. I’m 21 years old, which means I’ve just had my last memorable birthday until I start counting by decades. And I’m about to start my final year of college. Life is nagging me with this question: What are you going to do now?

What I’ve been doing lately is thinking about what my Nana Viv, my mom’s mom, did with her various life changing moments. When my Nana was 21 she was already on her third of five children. She was married fresh out of high school, and family lore has it that when she and my Gaga moved into the first home that they owned together, my Nana cried. She didn’t know how they were going to afford an $80 a month mortgage on top of feeding three kids.

I knew my Gaga was a carpenter, but it never occurred to me to ask what my Nana did for a living. My mom always described her upbringing as a traditional breadbasket type of experience. Gaga was in the Wisconsin branch of a union and Nana raised my mom and my uncles. Turns out, my Nana did actually waitress at the local supper club. My mom joined her there when she was about sixteen. And later Nana was a secretary at an insurance office.

My Nana Viv was a creative woman. She didn’t have money for the big white wedding, but she had a pink dress that she absolutely adored. And even after shoveling $80 a month over to the mortgage company, she kept her kids taken care of and more. Fun could be free, like taking trips to the quarry or an imaginary trip in the airplane that was made by lining the dining room chairs up in rows in the living room while my Nana vacuumed.

But the best of my Nana’s accomplishments has to be the way she does everything in life with such style and grace. If you’re named something as provocative as Vivienne you’ve got to have a certain something about you. I remember seeing a picture of my Nana from when she was in high school. She’s in a bowling alley in her cheerleading uniform. She’s smiling ear to ear and her blonde hair is shining. We’re both blonde, which is one of our most prized commonalities since my feet grew too large to share our shoes anymore. She was the kind of girl and is the kind of woman that people want to be friends with. When she walks into a room, you imagine a wake of warm gold following in her wake. She makes you feel that warmth in every gesture and everything she says to you.

I’ve decided I want my Nana Viv’s style in whatever I do in life. My post college plans range anywhere from travelling to Argentina to getting my MFA to getting a job in communications. But I want to have that ease of motion as I move from experience to experience that my Nana Viv is known for. She is a beautiful woman inside and out. She taught me that everything you do matters, if you do it with care.

NOTE: Since I (Sylvia) write strong women, I have my Google Alerts set up to track any blog post that talks about strong women. A few weeks ago, I received such on the Penn State University PBS Radio Site, This I Believe. The article was written by Paige Cooperstein, our guest today. I was so impressed with the young woman’s article that I commented on it. Then, a few weeks later, she wrote and thanked me for the comment. As a result, Paige and I have become friends (at least I count her as one–even though she’s young and I’m old!) I ended up asking her to write a guest article for this blog–and that is the article above. Powerful, isn’t it? Want to know a little more about our young people today? Read her bio below, and you will see what I mean. 

“My name is Paige Cooperstein and I’ve known I would be a writer since the time I asked my mom how to spell “illustrated.” I was six and I was sure I was about to author an award-winning children’s series. I’ve always been resolute. I’ve got a Pennsylvania Dutch and a German streak of stubbornness feeding into me from each side of the family.

This isn’t a memory, just something I’ve been told about myself since I was old enough to remember things on my own, but “I do self” was my first complete sentence.

Apparently I liked the sound of it so much, I used it anytime I could: “What do you want for dinner, Paige?” “I do self.” “Time for a bath, Paige.” “I do self.”

But if 21 years of life have taught me anything, it’s that you’re lucky to have people in your life you can rely on. I’m currently a senior at Penn State University Park studying creative writing. I’m staring my thesis in the face and I just bought the poster board that will keep track of the statuses of all my post grad applications. I never would’ve come this far in my life without the eternal support of my family. And who else would’ve put up with my constant yapping about each new author obsession? I’m a lucky girl.”

Please feel free to comment, and celebrate with me, a super neat young woman. I say, she’s got style!

Posted in Crones, Steel Magnolia, Strong Woman, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 4 Comments

Women

Steel wrapped in warm, loving flesh

Our guest blogger today is author, Vonnie Davis. I know you will enjoy her comments. Feel feee to ask her questions or leave your comments.

Women: Steel Wrapped in Warm, Loving Flesh

I love the typical alpha-male in romance, but what I love even more is when a strong female gets in his face and tells him what he can do with his alpha-nonsense. Don’t you? I mean, really…

Women In years past, heroines in many romances were frail, emotionally fragile, weepy things. When I’d read their stories, I’d grit my teeth and mumble remarks equivalent to the modern day slogan: Put on your big-girl panties and deal.

They weren’t reality. What is reality? Strong women.

Look around you; they’re everywhere. They’ve survived more of life’s storms than the Caribbean Islands have hurricanes. Yet women are still standing, still surviving and still struggling in this crazy world. Whether they’re corporate executives or stay-at-home moms or single mothers holding down two jobs to keep hearth and home together, they’ve all brought multi-tasking to an art form. Women

Women are steel wrapped in warm, loving flesh. We are the backbone of this country. Take us away and what do you have? A man, trying to maneuver the aisles in a grocery store with a screaming toddler in a dirty diaper, an energetic first grader with eight arms reaching for and tossing every sugar-laden product into the cart and a sullen teenager, whining that she’s bored. Said man is two heartbeats away from a nervous breakdown. The whole scene is just too much stress for him. But for a woman, this is her reality—and she deals.

So to honor women’s strength—whether innate or gleaned from the school of hard knocks—I create strong heroines in my books.

These are women, like you and me, who have turned adversities into advantages. Women, who like the old toy “weebles,” wobble under the weight and strain of life’s many problems, but they don’t fall down. Women

When I’m starting a new story, I try to create my characters from the inside out. First I decide on their points of pain. We all have them. Perhaps we feel our parents loved a sibling more than us. Or we have feelings of abandonment because our fathers were absent. Perhaps there’s a weight issue we’ve battled most of our lives, or fears of public speaking or heights or confining spaces. How have we been hurt in the past? These are our points of pain; things that make us act and react in a certain way to situations.

Then I decide on education levels and hobbies. I choose a favorite color and food cravings. Will my heroine crave chocolate or cheesecake? When she’s angry, will she grab a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or snatch an apple? What things pluck my characters’ last nerve? Lastly, I think about appearance. For what does it matter what they look like if I don’t have them nailed emotionally and mentally? They need to be complex, multi-layered women just like all of you.

Early today I received an email from the One Hundred Romances project. They’re on a quest to find the best one hundred romances of 2011, published by ePublishers. Since my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, publishes full-length novels in both paperback and eBook, I entered Storm’s Interlude. Imagine my shock when it was given a 5-Star rating and added to the list of the top romances for this year! I’d love to share the review: Women

“I’m in love with this book! Amazing! Storm was just so… Wow. And Rachel was just darling. Our hero was just a magnificent piece of man, and our heroine was a lovely complex woman who felt all the same things any other woman would have felt. What I enjoy the most was that even the secondary characters were amazingly well written and added a wonderful blend to the story as a whole.

Vonnie Davis wrote such wonderful real characters that once I started this book I finished it in hours! I’m disappointed with myself because I skipped over this book originally when it was on the list of books to review. This author is now on my auto-buy list. Please keep them coming Ms. Davis!”

Please drop by my blog to visit. http://www.vintagevonnie.blogspot.com.

My website is http://www.vonniedavis.com

 

NOTE: Feel free to share your example of how women are indeed steel wrapped in warm, loving flesh.

 

Posted in Crones, Steel Magnolia, Uncategorized, Writing Strong Women | 7 Comments

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