Monday, October 26, 2009

Amazing Women Are All Around Us

As anyone knows who works fulltime, days off are few and precious. Yet Heidi took the day off for my birthday.

Somehow my daughter manages to enjoy her career, raise two sons, cook delicious meals from French and Greek cookbooks, decorate her house, run numerous miles per week, spend time with her husband, be a caring friend to others. She has gone beyond what I ever imagined for her. A woman I admire.

Since the Daily News-Record began publishing Bloom magazine, I’ve had the honor of writing profiles about numerous local women. It is such a privilege to visit these women in their workplaces and homes, to learn about where they come from, the obstacles they’ve overcome, the challenges they still face, what makes them tick. Then there are the women in my life whose lives inspire me.

On my birthday, Heidi drove me, my sister and my niece to tour vineyards in Albemarle County. It was a warm, sunny day. It could not have been more perfect.

My sister, Lindsey, is visiting from Ireland. She moved there nearly 30 years ago to marry the man she still loves. All her adult life, she’s been helping people through her career in community work: empowering women, advocating for the weak, making her city and county a better place for everyone—rich and poor—to live. She has a compassionate heart, keeps a lovely home and is a great mother to her children. When I visit, she is a tireless hostess who cooks great meals and shows me the best that Ireland has to offer.

Lindsey’s daughter, Kendall, is one of those recent college graduates for whom there is no job. Unemployment is bad here; in Ireland it’s even worse. In spite of this, Kendall makes do with a very part-time job, does volunteer work, and has been nurturing her homemaking skills. She remains cheerful and optimistic about her future.

Then there’s my sister, Patti. I love her career journey. She is so not stuck in a rut, but has adapted to moves and changes in her life. Each job seems to bring her closer to what she’s really all about. In spite of working full-time, she, too, keeps a lovely home, spends time with her teenage daughter, and takes care of herself. She’s overcome obstacles that have stymied other women. Her daughter, Emily, is a talented girl. She enjoys soccer, plays the piano and loves to read. A girl after my own heart.

When it comes to thoughtfulness, my sister-in-law, Stephanie, wins hands-down. She’s one of those people who knows intuitively what to do for her family and friends in times of need. A treasure.

And then there’s Rachel. She’s the daughter who left for school and did not come back to live. She’s the world traveling musician, living the life she dreamed of as a child. She also uses her voice to speak for the homeless in the city where she lives. Rachel feels life deeply and shares that in her music and friendships.

My daughter-in-law, Heather, a strong young woman, uses her strength to serve others: the mentally ill, my son, her daughters, family and friends. A caring mother and talented cook, Heather has been a gift to our family.

Oh my, then there are the Bloom women: the Heatwole sisters, who gather for an annual quilting retreat, producing beautiful heirloom works of art. Judith Trumbo, who is managing the move of 2,300 employees to the new Rockingham Memorial Hospital, yet who is always serene and smiling. Jennifer Shirkey, who is managing three young children while sustaining a highly successful career in business law. Betsy Neff Hay, who is spending herself on making the world a better place for the vulnerable ones among us.

There are so many others: Peggy, Hannah, Ginna, Katheryn, Nicole, Paula, Barbara. On and on. It’s dangerous to compare myself to any of these women. When I do that, I feel pretty crummy about my lack of admirable attributes. It paralyzes me.

Ah, but when I am inspired by them to reach out, try something new, help someone, read a different book, use a new spice, study a subject, hop on my bicycle—anything that causes me to grow—then having them in my life has made me a better person.

And where, oh where, would we be without our girlfriends?

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