Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Who do you think of when you read those words written by the late Maya Angelo? A famous author? A certain celebrity? Your mother? Your sister? Perhaps a close friend? Yourself?
Today is International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate the beauty, strength, and essence of womanhood. Most social media post, news outlets, and conversations have revolved around women. I have heard praises for Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Beyonce’, and a range of other famous women.
Sure, they have all made their strides for the institution of womanhood, but these are not the women I want my daughters to spend their lives looking up to.
Go ahead….. Gasp….. I know you want to.
What makes me sad and Nervous is what we define as a successful and phenomenal woman by today’s standards. Don’t get me wrong, ALL women are phenomenal, but sometimes there are few that are forgotten or overlooked, because they don’t mesh up with what society thinks a phenomenal woman should be.
Allow me to show you some of the phenomenal women that aren’t as well known, who have made a life changing impact on my own life.
Affectionately known as Grandma Gatewood, Emma was one of 15 children raised in rural Ohio. At the age of 19 she married a man who repeatedly physically and emotionally abused her. Despite having 11 children together, the relationship was doomed from the beginning.
Finally in 1940, after 30 years of being tormented by her husbands hands, Emma filed for divorce. In that day and time, divorce was taboo and shunned, but Emma was strong enough to withstand the stares and the whispers. Browsing through a magazine one day, Emma read about the Appalachian Trail, a recently constructed footpath that stretched from Georgia to Maine. The article made it sound like a nice, long leisurely walk. Right then and there Emma decided to give it a go.
In May of 1955, at the age of 67, Emma told her children she was going for a walk. What she failed to tell them was that she was going for a 2,168 mile walk. It wasn’t until she was well into her hike, that her children found out where she was and what she was doing.
She walked in jeans, a pair of old Keds, with a shower liner as a tarp all in a small knapsack she had made. She slept on the cold hard ground, through scorching heat, wind, and even a hurricane. Emma never gave up, despite wanting to on several occasions. Finally, in September of that year, she climbed the famed Mt. Katahdin and became the first woman, to ever hike the entire Appalachian Trail. But she didn’t stop there. She hiked the trail 2 more times, as well as over 2000 miles of other trails through out the country.
Emma was the picture of strength and determination. When things got hard, she just plowed on. She didn’t listen to or take kindly to excuses. In fact, Emma is quoted as saying, “Most folks today are just pantywaist!” I wonder what she would think of today’s generation?????
I know…. it seems I am obsessed with the Appalachian Trail, which I totally am, but can I help it if the next phenomenal woman who has inspired me, just happened to have completed her thru hike of the AT just last year?
Having been active her whole life, a diagnosis of lupus when she was just 19 was defiantly devastating. But she was able to overcome each and every occurrence, losing some mobility each time, until a major flare up in 2014 left Stacey paralyzed. Laying in her bed, she determined that if she ever recovered, she was going to live out her dreams on her terms with no regrets. It was 9 months before she stood, and exactly one year before she walked again.
With the help of special braces that shock her legs to move, Stacey decided she was going to live her dream and hike the Appalachian Trail….alone.
Last year, she did just that. It was difficult, and long. Following her journey on Facebook, I was inspired by how honest she was. If it sucked, she said so. But she NEVER stopped. On her first attempt climbing the famed Mt. Katahdin, she was moving so slowly that the park service actually gave her a ticket for camping on the trail…. she wasn’t camping, she was just moving so slowly that it was considered camping.
Stacey did not accept her diagnosis as a life ending sentence. She simply looked at it as another challenge she needed to overcome. Her sheer determination and unrelenting will, ensured that she earned the coveted title of Thru-Hiker. You would think after that feat, she would rest and enjoy some relaxation, but no. Stacey now has her sights set on completing the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) this coming Spring.
If I had a daughter, THIS is who I would want her to look up to.
My Sweet Mama
Perhaps the most Phenomenal woman I know is my mother. To the world she may seem unassuming and just like any other mother, but he is ANYTHING but ordinary.
She is the definition of strength and perseverance. Left by her husband,with two young daughters, she made it her mission in life to put them first. She worked hard, and often long hours. When I was in middle school, she went back to school to receive her R.N. in nursing. Watching her receive that degree is STILL one of my proudest moments.
My mother worked long hours, but she was ALWAYS there for every parent meeting, recital, ballgame, debate tournament, slumber party, field trip, and everything in between. I am convinced that she didn’t sleep. She couldn’t have. EVER.
We had homemade meals every night, Halloween and dance costumes stitched by her hand, and she even showed up a few times we wished she hadn’t. 🙂 She was, and STILL is a constant in the lives of me and my sister. I can probably count on one hand the times I have heard my mother complain….she’s just that strong.
Phenomenal women are all around us You don’t have to go far to find her. She is the lady at McDonald’s who handed you your coffee this morning. She is the crossing guard at the school you passed on your way to work. She is the person who delivered your mail today. She is your Mother, your sister and your best friend.
Women, let us build each other up. Let us encourage one another as we struggle through life. We are all beautiful. We are all strong. We are ALL phenomenal women.