women who came before me

It’s a lot of pressure to name a blog. I don’t want it to feel phony or cliche. I want it to be memorable and strong. Mostly, I want it to mean something to me.

The women I named my blog for both taught me things they didn’t set out to teach me. Their lessons came naturally, and through completely different ways.

My grandma Anne holding my mom, with two of my aunts.

 ​​Anne, my maternal grandmother, was only with me for a little more than seven years. In those years she became ill, had to give up her business and home, and had to move to a city she had only ever visited to live with one of her daughters. Honestly, in those seven short years, I sadly don’t remember much of my grandmother. Her lessons came from the stories I heard about her from my mom and close family friends since she has passed.

Anne and Ed, my grandfather, opened a grocery store in South Omaha and if you ask almost anyone who grew up in that area during the 70s and 80s about the storey they will probably say their family shopped there all the time. They will talk about how friendly Ed was and they will tell you they remember Anne sitting in her glass-windowed office located above the store so she could watch over it.

My grandma Anne holding me as a baby in their store, with my brother.

My mom will tell you her mother wasn’t home very much because she was always at the store. She wasn’t the mother who sat at home while her husband provided (not that those who do are any less inspiring in their own right). She put in her hours. She worked alongside her husband at their store and continued to do so even after my grandfather passed away.

While I didn’t know this version of her, because all my memories are of a woman in her bed and wheelchair, I am encouraged to be more like her. She makes me want to put in the hours and work hard for what I want. She makes me proud that I have strong-will embedded in my bones. She reminds me that long after someone passes, the people they leave behind should talk of them with high regards because of their character and their influence. ​​

My grandma Kathleen and me.

Speaking of character and influence, Kathleen, my paternal grandmother, has each of those things in spades. Kathleen is the epitome of a matriarch. She rules not only her immediate family but has a deep presence in her husband’s family and her own. Not to mention, Kathleen does it with an air of ease and grace she will never admit to.

Kathleen is family woman. She is determined and fair and so unbiasedly kind, it drives me insane. She is organized and has more energy in her than anyone else I know her age. She makes the best banana bread, goulache and kolaches I’ve ever tasted. She knows how to get practically any stain out (“soak it in cold water right away”). She hates when people talk about her cleanliness because she thinks we are making fun of her, but really, we are all just jealous we can’t keep up with our housework like she does. And, most of all Kathleen is the best woman I have ever known.

She deals with three very masculine/dominant men in my grandfather, dad, and brother with a flippant attitude because she knows in her heart of hearts, she has them so twist-tied around her little pinky, they would never step out of line. They would drop anything and everything to be with her in a time of need. And while I am still working on being as calm, cool, and collected as she is when the men in our lives drive me insane, her words of encouragement are always in the back of my mind. (“Just let them talk, it makes them feel better.” “They just like to think they are in charge.” “This is the only way they know how to show they care.”) To be honest, these words have been carried over into so many situations in my life, they are practically mantras.

She has taught me to be understanding when I am upset. Whenever I tell her how someone made me mad, or how someone hurt my feelings or that someone was being unfair, Kathleen will say, “well, maybe they are having a bad day,” or “it sounds to me like they were tired and grouchy,” or “maybe they didn’t mean it that way.” And let me tell you, it drove me absolutely insane! “Don’t defend them, grandma!” Or, “we’re mad at them!” Or if I was really mad, “before I tell you this story, don’t try to defend them when I’m done.”

When I was younger, it felt like she was taking their side and not mine, but it wasn’t until I found myself doing the same thing to my friends who came to me with their problems, that she wasn’t defending them, she was trying to get me to see people aren’t always mean to be mean. They typically have a reason and it’s typically something you don’t have an impact on. The greatest thing Kathleen taught me, was to try to look at a situation from someone else’s point of view to help me change my perspective. To help me fix my attitude. Because I can’t change how someone treats me, but I sure can change how it makes me feel.

My grandma and me again, Christmas 2019. She doesn’t love taking photos but I try to get her to take one with me on Christmas.

Where Anne’s legacy taught me to persevere, to be hardworking, Kathleen showed me the strength it takes to be compassionate and understanding.

These are just a few of the many lessons these women have taught me. These are just a few glimpses into the impacts they have made on my life. These are just a few of the lessons I want to pass on to whoever’s life I touch, whether I know you personally, or we met a few times, or you are a blog reader.

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