Friday, May 8, 2009

Strong Woman Spotlight #3

I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

~Helen Reddy (song: I Am Woman)
Welcome to Week 3! Every Friday I will highlight one woman I know to be a "strong woman". I believe we are here to learn from one another and be strengthened, so what better way to both learn from and celebrate a beautiful friend than a special blog post dedicated to her? I'll ask questions that I personally want to know, as well as questions I think others might be inspired by.

Today I celebrate my friend
Rachel. What can I say about this lovely woman? I saw her across the room and knew I wanted to be her friend. I am so glad she let me. She made my brief 3 years in Seattle an eclectic and beloved experience where I learned a ridiculous amount of fun nonsense and really important things from her. As a mother I adore her techniques with her children. I adore her wisdom and wit. I adore her practicality and pleasure for all things new and undiscovered. Most importantly, I adore that she loves me. Many many times she has sat with me over a cup of tea and expressed how wonderful I am, how hard I am trying and how much I am loved. She is a gift.

1. What is the definition of a "strong woman"?
Eliza R. Snow said it best: "It is the duty of each one of us to be holy women; we shall have elevated aims if we are holy women." To me, this is strength. Especially in the modern world, where holy women are under fire from every side. The strongest women I know are those whose feet are firmly planted in gospel sod, and who have those elevated aims. I also think about one of my favorite sculptures, by Rodin, called "Caryatid Who Has Fallen Under the Weight of Her Stone" and Robert Heinlein's description of the sculpture in his novel "Stranger in a Strange Land" ... it's an example of strong women everywhere; it's not about whether the weight of your life is heavy - even crushing - but that you carry it anyway.

2. Forgiveness. How has this word impacted your life?
Oh, goodness. This is probably the most personal question you could have asked. I feel like I've been on both sides of forgiveness in really meaningful, life-changing ways. Growing up in the Church, the words "repentance" and "forgiveness" were commonplace, and I took them for granted. But when it came time for me to truly forgive someone, I found that I couldn't do it alone; and that is when I learned that forgiveness is a gift ... not the kind that we give when we've forgiven someone, but the kind that comes to us from our Heavenly Father. It is such a blessing to be able to forgive, and I am grateful to a loving God who cares enough to help me do it.

3. Let's face it, we weren't always popular as children. How do you help your own children face a sometimes un-kind world?
Haha! You know me well :) My children aren't old enough for the world to bother them much ... yet. And I feel like my kids will be far better able to deal with the world's cruelties than I ever was. That said, I wrote all those previous lines last week, and since then we've had some experience: Charlotte, in an attempt to make friends with a girl at her ballet class, got pretty much rejected. "It broke my heart" she said to me. And then, naturally, it broke mine. I was surprised, actually, that I handled it so well. I don't remember exactly what I said to her, but I heard exactly the right words falling from my lips, and I realized that was one of the blessings of motherhood.

4. How do you become a "a good parent"?
There are so many good parents out there who are doing things so very differently, that's a hard term to define. But personally, it means just doing my best to be there for my kids when they need me, and to be out of the way when they don't. I don't know ... I'm definitely not the world's best parent, but sometimes it's not about what I'm teaching them, it's about what they're teaching me. Okay, enough cliches! Next question! :)

5.What are 3 books that you think every woman should read in their lifetime?
Oh goodness. Only three?! Alright, then, here's what immediately comes to mind: "The Body Project: An intimate history of American girls" by Joan Jacobs Brumberg (really informed - and helped to REform - my self-image when I read it in college); "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi (holy cow. No seriously, just read it); and "Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior" by Judith Martin (I'm not kidding, this lady knows what she's talking about).

6. Favorite quote of all time (I know this will be hard!)?
Oh, there are so many, and they're all good for different situations. But for me, my favorite *personal* quote ... Are you ready? It's long ... it's from Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" - it's pretty much the last chapter in the book. Here are my favorite bits, though, and hopefully they make sense:"What am I about? To me individually, to my heart has been revealed a knowledge beyond all doubt, and unattainable by reason, and here I am obstinately trying to express that knowledge in reason and words.[...]"This new feeling has not changed me, has not made me happy and enlightened all of a sudden, as I had dreamed [...]"I shall go on in the same way, losing my temper with Ivan the coachman, falling into angry discussions, expressing my opinions tactlessly; there will still be the same wall between the holy of holies of my soul and other people [...]; I shall still be as unable to understand with my reason why I pray, and I shall still go on praying; but my life now, my whole life apart from anything that can happen to me, every minute of it is no longer meaningless [...] but it has an unquestionable meaning of the goodness which I have the power to put into it."

7. In a world where "going green" has taken on the role of propoganda with big corporations, what are your ideas for maintaining an environmentally family-friendly lifestyle without the hype?
Hype or no hype, it's always been important to me to take care of our environment. And I mean that - I was the dorky girl wearing the Earth Day t-shirts in your 8th-grade class; or worse, the shirt with the whale on it that had WHALE spelled out in both braille and sign language under the picture. That said, I really believe my first stewardship is to my family - I try to do what's best for us. Sometimes that means paying extra money for the organic apples; sometimes it means shopping big-box instead of mom-and-pop because it's cheaper. But I've found that *mostly* taking care of our family and being good stewards to the earth go hand-in-hand: Don't use harsh chemical cleaners; plant a garden; buy and eat more "real" food and shun much packaging; turn off the television and go outside; be happier with less; make things last; make things *that* last; simply *make things*. For us, it's not so much about "going green" as it is about taking care of what we have - and that includes the world around us.

8. What is the most important lesson you ever learned from your mother?
Oh my goodness, I don't think there's an important lesson that I've ever learned that didn't come from my mother. Oh, maybe one or two :) My mother is a gem, and I am a lucky girl to have her. I think the very most important thing I've learned from her, though, is that I don't have to be perfect. Yet :) For instance, there was the time I came home with my first "C" on a report card; I was devastated, and I thought my parents were going to be so disappointed. My mother said to me: "So what - you're average at math. If you can do better, great, do it. But average at math isn't the end of the world." I love that. She taught by example, too. For instance, my mom has struggled with her weight for a lot of years. And I remember her dieting and trying to be healthier, but I have never once heard her call herself "fat", or that she "shouldn't eat this cookie, it'll go straight to my hips" or other nonsense. She gave me a really healthy body image, and a desire to *really* learn from the scriptures (another example of her example - she is always studying the scriptures) and that means the world to me.

9. It is always a joy to see your kind relationship between you and your husband. What do you feel makes your marriage work?
The benefit of the doubt. When we were first married, we had this Conversation (with a capital C!) about communication, and the important conclusion we made is this: That I never mean to offend him, and he never means to offend me. So if one of us is offended, we can be sure we've misunderstood. Knowing that upfront makes it so much easier to clear the air when we have a disagreement.

10. You are experienced as a doula, what advice would you give women as they prepare to give birth?
I'm totally realizing that my answer to this question would have been much different before I had kids. But since I have them now, here's my advice as a doula *and* as a mother: Thow out all your baby books and trust yourself. Take a class if you have to, but remember that holding a piece of ice in your fist for three-to-five minutes is nothing like labor. And only listen to happy birth stories (oh, scratch that first sentence! Read "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" by Ina May Gaskin, especially the birth stories - they're all inspiring). And if you're going to bring music to labor, make sure it's stuff you honestly like to listen to, and not just something you think is going to be "soothing" - one of my very favorite moments in labor with Calvin was right as labor was really sucking hardcore, and suddenly here comes Outkast's "Hey Ya" and it totally broke the tension and we all started laughing. Never would have happened with Charlotte because all I had on was "gentle" music.


Jenni said...

Oh how I love this girl!

Stephanie Pilling said...

What a great idea! I loved reading this--very inspiring!

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