There wasn't one woman on my hastily scrawled, very long list who didn't have all six of the goddess gifts in spades. But these ladies jumped out for their additional "superpowers" and especially for how they have shared them to benefit the rest of us.
Move over Wonder Woman --- I'd put any one against anything "super" anything Marvel Comics can imagine -- and they'd win.
SHE KNOWS - RENATA AND EMILY
RENATA was in high school when she came to her Aunt's home in the United States from Brazil, saw the life she wanted for herself here and got to work. Her exuberant spirit and exotic beauty mask for some people the core strength and determination that define her. She worked as a waitress to put herself through school and is today a gifted photographer, wife, mom and dental hygenist -- who celebrates each role with the same unbridled and infectious enthusiasm.
EMILY published her first book -- to awards and acclaim -- in her 40s and recently won a Guggenheim Fellowship in her 60s in support of the significance of her ongoing literary efforts. While some people allow themselves to weighed down with the accumulation of experience, Emily burnishes her brilliance with the patina. Anyone can call themselves a writer and today nearly everyone does. But for those who toil at Emily's level, it is grueling, lonely, soul-crushing labor. The percentage who prosper there is infinitesimal -- and the majority of that very small group share little of themselves beyond their writing. But Emily teaches with uncommon generosity -- not just at some of the top university programs in the country -- but for more than 20 consecutive years at a local non-profit program in support of writers and reading. Emily invests in each member of every class - regardless of their skill level -- to elevate their skill and spirit.
SHE CARES - JENNINE AND CHERYL
JENNINE hates getting shots. When she was a child, she would go board-stiff at the sight of a needle. Even when she said nothing, the fear in her eyes was so electric that weaker nurses would hand off the task . Now in her 30s, her reaction to needles is unchanged. But Jennine would wrestle a pack of porcupines to protect those she loves. She has an artist's soul, a farmer's work ethic, and will find in herself any skill needed to address the needs of people and animals who can not care for themselves . Woe to the fool who assumes her soft voice and extra petite package signal weakness. She knows that family isn't simply biology and fiercely loves and support those she calls her own.
CHERYL has an incomparable gift for celebrating and supporting those she loves. Anyone with a few bucks and a guest list can throw a party, but no one can bring people together to create ritual, tradition and support for everyone in the group as Cheryl does. Her achievements with her own career, newly adult-children and damn-these-two-are-still-great-together marriage are all the direct result of an exhausting level of commitment and hard-work on her part - but she always finds the time and resources to celebrate the things that matter -- and quietly prop up those who need it most. Her opinions are carefully considered but her resolve is steadfast. She will be the first to say she doesn't belong on the list-- and it will be one of the rare times she is absolutely wrong.
SHE CONNECTS- LENKA AND PENNY
LENKA sees herself clearly in the larger whole and draws energy and inspiration from nature in remarkable ways. Although English is not her native tongue, it's a language of spontaneous poetry when she talks about hiking and exploring the nearby mountains in Washington state or her native Czech Republic. I've met her once and have only known her for a few months. But Lenka didn't simply discover and import the Goddess beads, she has nurtured their artisan makers for more than a decade, and has become an essential source of guidance and inspiration on this project to me.
PENNY is trained as a graphic artist with instinctual and exceptional skills in a variety of media, but dedicates most of her artistic energy to preserving her Seneca cultural heritage by making and teaching others to make black/brown Ash baskets in the Haudenosaunee tradition. Faced with the dual loss of her cousin, Midge Dean Stock, and the gift she had as one of the last traditional basket makers in the community, Penny didn't say "someone should" but "I will." The baskets are beautiful and enduring, so it's easy to get others to try, but it's hard to get them to come back. Preparing the splints from the hardwood is brutally physical. It tears up the artist's hands and leaves the entire upper body aching. But this (young) Grandma has renewed the tradition and energizes the spirit of those with whom she works on any project.
SHE CONFOUNDS- CHRIS AND CORY
CHRIS embraces difficult truths and elevates others with unrelenting energy and honesty. We were both the "new kids" in fourth grade and her natural gifts instantly elevated her to hang with the cool kids. But then and now, she's set her own path and never stopped working for the rest of us. She recently retired from her "day job" in higher education where she proved daily that "innovative administrator" is not an oxymoron. Today her creative spirit fires the unique perspective of her art. She doesn't simply ask others to see things with more imagination and understanding - she rolls up her sleeves and does the work necessary to give them the opportunity.
CORY was the kind of kid who you knew could accomplish anything. She aimed high, worked hard, focused with precision and achieved everything she went after. Over the years, I watched her check off a fast-track career in a Big-Eight accounting firm and "perfect" home, marriage and first child without apparent exertion. When the loss of her younger brother forced her to re-examine her own life and then do some difficult , personal work on herself and her priorities -- she found such joy, discovery and opportunity in letting go of perfection that she left her singular, six-figure career path to become a life coach who specializes in working Moms. Reaction to the news for many who knew her was quiet confusion --- "Cory???" Her practice is blossoming with the combination of her natural gifts with her zeal for joy, forgiveness and self-awareness. Today, we can only say "Cory!!!"
SHE ACTS- TINA AND ANNE
TINA always worked hard --behind the scenes. She was only too glad to let her outgoing husband Sam be the natural host and promoter of the hospitality businesses they built together. Tina's nurturing nature and relentless work ethic were instrumental in their success, but just making an announcement on in-house PA system petrified her.
The loss of her son Vince three days before Christmas in 2011 inverted her world. But she worked her way through the pain and darkness by finding a way to celebrate Vince through helping others. Friends of Vince has already provided so much to children challenged by the limits in their lives. More than simply giving them things, she also works with young girls teaching entrepreneurial skills and the joy of giving .
Today Tina will take any microphone in any place if there is a potential that someone in the audience may help support the larger family and need she has taken as her own.
ANNE left her dream apartment and high-profile advertising career in Paris to pack up her two small children for the United States in support of her husband's art career. She had little confidence in her English and no understanding of the small Coastal Georgia island community where they settled. Thus she seemed quite reserved when I met her at (of course) a wine group there.
But thanks to Google's translation tool - I quickly discovered a brilliant writer in her blog. She used the same tool to translate my blog and the distance between us disappeared. In Paris, words were her livelihood but as worked through the nuance of English mastery, she focused on her graphic skills to open a new door into the work she loves.
Today she is both a fine artist in her own right and an award-winning art director and partner in an agency with national clients -- that is located seventy miles from the nearest major airport. Not because is is French, but because she is Anne, she made it look effortless.
SHE PERSISTS -
AGNES is my original Goddess, relentlessly frugal and practical in matters of money but generous beyond any measure in making each of her 17 grandchildren feel they were her absolute favorite. If you asked me at 21 , I would've designed her as "safe, warm, and uncomplicated" and talked about how she used her constant cooking and baking as emotional nourishment. Today I see more clearly a women of strength, intelligence and ingenuity who made so much of the best of my world possible and continues have a clear and positive influence on the young women in our family -- even those born after we lost her in 1983. She's our enduring Goddess. And while she can't directly choose the gift during her month -- she's always had a way of letting me know how to make the right choice.
MIA is represented by the only transparent bead, because at two years old her path isn't yet clear. She's smart, funny, strong-willed and enraptured with being able to finally communicate about her daily discoveries and joy in the world around her. She's Agnes' great, great granddaughter , but already shows the best of Agnes, her great grandparents , her grandparents and her parents.
Mia would rather take a toy apart than simply play with it and has a perpetual curiosity about what makes everything tick. Someday she will solve problems the rest of us can't even anticipate at this time.
And that's the beauty of a Goddesses-in-Training. From Vestonicka Venusa to Mia there have been global and local threats beyond imagination -- but as long as we keep producing new Goddesses, one way or another they will figure things out.