The Women That Strength Built

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Out of the Ashes a Heroine Rises June 24, 2011

I have some strong women in my family.  Unfortunately, we seem to have become that way by trial by fire.  Sometimes I wonder if that’s the only way women become strong, or if there’s some other way to forge that strength without difficulty and suffering.

The strongest woman I’ve known was my aunt.  She recently died after her fourth battle with cancer.  During her life, she raised three children by herself while going to school to get her CPA license.  It took her 10 years to accomplish.  During that time, she battled depression, loneliness and financial difficulty.  While her children were young, she suffered her first bout with breast cancer.  When she went into remission, we all celebrated her success.  Unfortunately, the cancer would return one more time as breast cancer, later as stomach cancer, and even later as lung cancer.  The last time around she was given only three years to live.  She made it past that time and was able to see two of her children married and two grandchildren born.  Despite her difficulties, she stayed positive and hopeful.  She was my hero.

Only two months after she died, her son died unexpectedly.  He left behind a wife and two little boys.  He was only 39.  He had been the glue that held together his own family and our extended family.  His death left a huge hole in a lot of people’s lives.  His sister, my cousin, has had to pick up the slack.  She helped with the funeral arrangements for both her mother and brother.  She is helping her sister-in-law with childcare while she tries to pick up the pieces.  And she has stepped into the place her brother occupied as the family anchor.  She has done all this while to trying to deal with her own grief.  She has been amazing.

And lastly there is my cousin’s wife.  I don’t know what the future holds for her and her sons.  I know this wasn’t the life she had planned.  She was a stay-at-home mom who depended on her husband to take care of everything.  Now he’s gone, and she is finding her way along an unforeseen path.  Whether or not she feels strong, she will have to be so for her boys.

But women seem to have an amazing ability to rise from the ashes of daily life.  All humans have a strong will to survive and to rise above their struggles.  But women have so many people depending upon them that they keep going even when they have no desire to do so.  Somehow I think my cousin’s wife will manage to hang on and will eventually succeed.  And as her boys witness her strength and spirit, they will develop a heroine of their own – their mom.

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Come Visit April 24, 2011

I started this blog over a year ago in the hopes it would help better the lives of women.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that I could use some help and inspiration myself.  As the experts are always telling women, we must take care of ourselves first before we can take care of others.  This may explain why I’ve lost some of my motivation to keep this site updated.  So in an effort to take care of myself and hopefully continue to help others, I’ve started a new blog.  The name of the new blog is “Joy Rising,” and you can find it at tojoyrising.wordpress.com.  If you are looking for encouragement and direction, you can still find it at my new site.  I hope to see you there.  And I hope to meet you back here sometime in the near future.  Thank you for your patronage over the past year and a half.

–  Kandice

 

You and Me Together, Helping Each Other January 19, 2011

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

                 Two things coincided in my life this January.  We celebrated the efforts of Martin Luther King, Jr., and I just finished reading The Help set during the start of the Civil Rights Movement.  If you’re one of the few people who haven’t read the New York Times Bestseller, you may find a synopsis useful.  Set in Mississippi in the early 1960’s, The Help tells the story of several black women who risked sharing their stories during those troubled times.  At risk to their jobs, their families, even their own lives, these women shared both the good and the bad of their daily work situations.  Two women in particular, Minny and Aibileen, take us through their challenges and heartbreaks.  Skeeter, the white writer who records their stories, takes her own risks as well, and in the process loses her friends, her boyfriend, and eventually her hometown.  Kathryn Stockett’s point as she tells this story seems to be that we are all the same at heart.

                While reading this book, I was taken back to an uncomfortable time in my own life.  While I was just a baby during the time outlined in The Help, I still faced the consequences of the Civil Rights Movement during my middle school years.  The school I attended in Seattle was still undergoing busing for integration.  None of the kids were happy with the situation.  While we didn’t understand the reasons for the process, we did know everyone had difficulty getting along.  One day in gym class, I was approached by two black girls.  I was running late for class, and I was the only one left in the locker room.  (At this point, I should probably state that I’m white.)  The two girls were known bullies in the school, and they started hassling and picking on me.  At some point, it turned physical.  I was crying and trying to think of a way to get out of there, when another student walked through the locker room door.  She was a big girl, heavy and slow-moving usually, but quick to come to my aid that day.  She walked right up to the other two girls and told them to leave me alone.  She took my arm and walked me right out of there, onto the gym floor, where she sat me down and stayed next to me for the remainder of class.  For the next few weeks, she kept her eye on me whenever we were in gym class together.  I was never more grateful for a friend, even though I barely knew her.  Did I mention she was black?

                I don’t know that I agree that we’re all the same at heart.  Some of us are strong, courageous, and rebellious, just like some of the characters in Stockett’s book.  Others of us are vulnerable and need help and protection.  Some of us can be heroines and some of us may be victims.  But all of us have the right to find out who we truly are and what we can make of ourselves – without fear for our lives, our homes, and our families.  Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for that right – not just for blacks but for all of us.  If, as a woman, you are looking for strong female role models, I urge you to read Stockett’s book.  Her characters are both strong and vulnerable, even while facing discrimination, spousal abuse, and threats to their lives and security.  And if you are among the many that need help, it’s there – although it may come from the most unlikely place.  Sometimes you have to ask.  Sometimes it just shows up.

               All these years later I’d like to say “thank you” to my youthful heroine.  Thank you for saving a scared 11-year-old.  Thank you for stepping in.  Thank you for having the courage to help.  I hope that help has been returned to you many times over.  May you prosper and continue to be amazing! 

– Kandice

 

A Woman of a Certain Age September 29, 2010

“Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age. “

– Florida Scott-Maxwell

“A woman of a certain age” is a European term which means a woman of maturity, mystery, wisdom, and substance.  I like this term so much better than the terms we use in America – terms such as an older woman, a senior American, or even a mature adult.  But then, Europe herself can be viewed as a woman of a certain age, while America is a younger, more youth-centered country.  I believe, however, that it’s time we start taking the negative labels off our more experienced population and view them as the treasures they are.  And while men have often been seen to get better with age, women seem to have been viewed and discussed only in negative terms as they get older.  Perhaps it’s time to reconsider that.

Look at the women pictured above.  Raquel Welch and Sophia Loren are both in their 70’s, Cheryl Tiegs is in her 60’s, and Iman is in her 50’s.  And despite the fact they may have had a little help maintaining their looks, they are all still beautiful women.  Next consider Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton, both in their 60’s, who are still acting, directing, producing, writing and continuing very lucrative careers.  For that matter, consider Betty White, who at almost 90, is still making movies, campaigning for animal welfare, and may be a future host of SNL.  Then there are the women who didn’t even start their well-known careers until after they turned 50, Julia Child being just one example.

I admit I have a personal reason for wanting this change – myself, as well as most of my friends, are already somewhere into middle age.  As women, we are often prone to accepting the negative labels and applying them to ourselves.  But consider how limiting these labels are.  If I accept that I’m older, that my days of youth, adventure, and second chances are past me, I will give up and quit living.  After all, why bother?  But if I think of myself as a woman of mystery, wisdom, and substance, I will continue to live my life fully. After all, women of mystery are supposed to continue to surprise us.  I know which description I prefer.  From now on, I will see myself as “a woman of a certain age.”  Who will you see yourself as? 

– Kandice

 

Welcome to the Women That Strength Built January 19, 2010

Filed under: General — thewomenthatstrengthbuilt @ 12:52 am
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Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

– Mohandas Gandhi

Indomitable will – the ability to persevere no matter what the circumstances. I have known so many remarkable women with indomitable will.  I worked with a woman who walked out of an abusive marriage in the middle of the night in her nightgown, went straight to the airport, and flew from Egypt to America to escape her precarious life.  I have a relative who raised three children on her own while studying for her CPA license and fighting multiple bouts of cancer.  I met another woman who left a marriage to an addict, only to help his next wife when he was abusive to her.  Why?  Because the second wife needed support and had no one else to turn to but the woman I met.  And yet many times in their lives, these women doubted themselves. 

I recently went through a difficult situation where both of my parents were sick and in-and-out of the hospital at the same time for over a month.  I took off work to care for them.  I drove three hours every day to be by their sides.  I took care of all their personal responsibilities while also communicating daily with doctors, home healthcare people, social workers, etc.  I was exhausted, stressed – and strong.  I felt that I could handle absolutely anything.  And then life returned to normal.  And before long I found myself doubting my abilities in my daily life, questioning my decisions, and feeling incapable of handling many things.

Why is that?  How can women go from being the glue that holds other lives together to not having the glue to keep themselves from falling apart in many daily situations?  How do we lose the ability to recognize and keep hold of our power and confidence?  Why is it that some of us never learn how truly wonderful we are?

I believe it’s time for this to change.  It is time for women to support each other and to help each other find their strength.  It is time for us to remind each other of all the times we’ve been strong and how powerful we really are.  It is time for us to teach our daughters how exemplary they are.  Think what a truly amazing place this world could be if all women recognized these qualities in themselves.

With each entry of this blog, there will be a link to a women’s charity (listed under the blogroll).  If you desire to show your support in this manner and can, then please donate or volunteer your time.  If you don’t have the money or time, then reach out to a friend and help her see how strong she really is.  And please check back often.  In the months to come, this blog will contain inspiring messages, helpful stories, guest postings, and ideas on how to become strong and stay strong.  Together we can make this world a better place for everyone on the planet.

 – Kandice