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The Power of Grit and Grace: What I’ve Learned From the Women in My Life

It’s impossible to accurately count the impact of women on my life. Yet I can look around me every moment of the day and see the influences of great women who have stood for big things, little things and so often made my world better through a small gesture such as an encouraging word, a knowing smile or a warm and welcoming hug.

I turn to women at every fork in my path, for guidance, companionship and for the reminder that I am not alone in my continued quest to be a good mother, friend, business owner, citizen, daughter, sister, volunteer, earth dweller, spiritual being and human. I am reminded of how to navigate the twists and turns, the moments of pure joy and the moments of panic, by watching the women in my life. One woman emulates the kind of entrepreneur I strive to be, another shows me what it means to be truly kind towards all. Women show me, by example, how to lead and how to follow their lead. They guide me through the surrender to being completely human and how to own my mistakes and how to forgive myself for my imperfections. Modeling unconditional love, joy, determination and an unstoppable will to proceed forward, no matter how many hurdles are in their path, the women of this world inspire me daily and fill me with gratitude.

On international women’s day I honor the two women who have shaped my life the most.

My mother.

My mom, who in 1971 decided to have and raise a child on her own, though she had no partner, no financial means and no support from family. She brought me into a world of intentional community and gave me the gift of understanding that I was a child of the village and that it takes a village to raise a child.

Though our relationship was fraught with struggle, as many mom daughter duos are, I have always recognized her for the amazing woman she is. She was a homesteader- rising early to milk the cow and feed the chickens, chopping wood to build a fire to bake bread and make yoghurt. Washing diapers by hand on a washboard in the front yard, sewing clothing and beading beautiful creations, stitching leathers slippers for my tiny feet and knitting mittens to keep my little paws warm through the harsh winters. Growing and harvesting and then canning, drying and freezing the food we ate, she made the best pickles I’ve ever had, to this day. While I suffered through treats made with honey and carob, homemade “pizza” with homemade refried beans as the topping and endless pots of brown rice, I learned the value of nutrition and making sure I was well fed, a tradition I carried into my own parenting.

As a global citizen, my mother taught me to take my place amongst the diverse people of the world.

She modeled citizenry like no one else in my world. A Democratic Party leader in her community, a community founder, a board member of All. The. Boards. she campaigned, cooked, phone banked, work partied and volunteered for nearly all the efforts my community built together.

She modeled entrepreneurship as a farmer and later as a non-profit business owner, turning her dream of making a difference into a reality, publishing, from my home, a newspaper and later a magazine which told the stories of the people and places no one else was reporting on. Covering the social justice beat in the 80’s was not a common job and yet my mother marched forward, despite all of the effects of extreme poverty and the marginalization of hippies in that time. She showed me that she could do the hard work of the less traveled road, and defy the naysayers and those who continuously “put in her place.”

Mom took on the responsibility of being a voice for those who were not represented, fiercely and gracefully defending people, forests, animals, mountains and watersheds. She stepped up, even in the face of bigotry and death threats. She defended, until death, our sacred earth home and taught me the power of grit, grace and empathy for all beings.

My mother taught me to be the kind of woman I am today. Thank you, Mom.

My best friend of nearly 30 years, Orla.

Orla has been my most shining example of the fact that we shape our own realities.

Growing up in extreme poverty, running the streets of Dublin as a child and struggling through a cultural history of tragedy, Orla has risen to be a gentle and sweet example of grit. The only person to graduate from college in her family, she took her experience as a troubled youth in Ireland, and with a heart as big as the moon, uses her experiences and her intelligences to help guide struggling youth on their own journeys towards healing and self-actualization. As a teacher and mother, friend and sister Orla models true selflessness, empathy, compassion and is always there for the people in her life, no matter what’s going on in hers.

We met as teens, and with our shaved heads and crazy pasts, we formed a bond that would grow through the years. We’ve seen each other through boyfriends, weddings, childbirth, parenting, divorce, more boyfriends and career hurdles, and successes. Through all those times we have turned to each other for support and encouragement and held each other accountable to our goals and for our mistakes. Now, in the middle of our lives, we recognize the special bond we have and the hard work of remaining close friends we have dedicated our time and energy towards.

Orla is my lemonade girl.

She taught me that we are the sum of our choices, that life is filled with joy when we look for it, that I don’t need to struggle all the time, that life is for the living. Orla has mirrored for me the accomplishments I have made and shown me my true value as a human. She’s my cheering squad, my wing girl and inspiration to be the best version of myself I can be. The most steady person in my life, Orla knows me in and out and has reminded me again and again of my value as a woman, mother, daughter, friend, and human. We walk this path together, as sisters, friends, and co-parents and have shown our children what it means to keep a relationship and friendship alive and thriving. Our children are better people for the examples we set.

Today, and every day, I honor all women of this world, past present and future. With humility and pride, I take my place amongst us as a leader and a follower while I acknowledge and celebrate all that women do every day.

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