Whispers of Greatness: Drawing Inspiration from Great Women of Myth and History

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Plenty of kids get asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” but only a few lucky adults ever get the same question thrown their way. And I'm one of them. When my daughter Christine was just seven years old, she tumbled into the kitchen one Saturday morning and said, “Mommy, I'm going to be an astronaut when I grow up. What will you be?”
 
My heart swelled and my brain did a somersault. At the time I was a wife to my college sweetheart, a loving mother, and a Physical Therapist. I'd been so focused on getting through the present, I hadn't thought about what or who I'd become later on! Clearly, though, my evolution was on my sweet daughter's mind. She knew there were bigger things in store for me.
 
And she was right. The years that followed brought huge changes, both sweet and bitter. I strayed from my marriage and divorced my husband. I followed in the footsteps of my late grandmother, and took a life-changing trip to Ireland, the land of my ancestors, where I danced with horsemen and communed with priestesses. I wrote my first book about those experiences, created a foundation to support the wives of wounded warriors, and launched myself into a life of writing and speaking. I researched and wrote my second book, learning about the strength and bravery of my fellow women in the process. I completely remade myself in ways I never could have predicted.
 
But my daughter knew I was on a path to change, even back then. She knew I was meant to dig deeper into myself, and maybe she also saw my desire to connect with other women and amplify their voices. That desire is something that was dormant for decades, but once it woke it stretched its wings and took flight. Now everything I do seems to center on the strengths and stories of women. My life has taken many unexpected turns, but I always circle back to two things: The archetypes that define all women, and the incredible stories those women have lived out.
 
In the coming months, I'll be diving deep into a project that marries the two. I want to highlight and hold up the compelling stories of strong women, both real and mythical, who have blazed trails for the rest of us. Some relied on their book smarts and ingenuity to drive their passions, others leveraged deep creativity, athletic prowess, or innate talent. They tapped the gifts they were born with or worked hard to cultivate skills, they listened to their hearts and demolished every obstacle, they harnessed their inner fire to step up to challenges, show up authentically, and stand out as individuals.
 
And every single one of them has lived a life guided by one of four central archetypes: Mother, Lover, Warrior, or Sage. These ideals may feel familiar, but they can manifest in unexpected ways. The Mother is the nurturing, healing, empathetic side of a woman, but she may not be a parent to her own children. Pioneering nurse Clara Barton used Mother energy to nurse and care fore countless Civil War soldiers, and Pearl Buck worked tirelessly to fill the needs of orphaned children. The Lover represents the passionate, playful, sensual creative side of a woman, and I see her in Bessie Coleman's unending love for aviation and Mother Teresa's love of humanity. The Warrior is the assertive, goal-driven side of a woman, and shows up in everyone from Joan of Arc to modern-day feminist Sheila Michaels. And the Sage brings out the intuitive, spiritual, wise side of a woman. She dominates in inspirational writers and speakers like Malala Yousafzai as well as artistic muses like Catherine Denevue. When this project is complete, you'll be able to meet them all, and marvel at their persistence, ingenuity, and ambition.
 
As I've researched profiles for these trailblazers and visionaries, it's made me reflect on my own life once again. Digging into their diverse backgrounds, unconventional tactics, and willingness to break rules has prompted me to ask myself which values, goals, and aspirations are truly important to me. What in my life is being supported or muted by my current life choices? Am I on the brink of a new journey, a new stage of growth that will allow me to expand further into my own passions and unique desires? It's been so enlightening, learning about these luminaries and icons, and their choices have led me to think critically about my own.
 
And I sincerely hope that when the project is complete, they'll do the same for you. That you'll recognize their achievements as remarkable, but also see their bravery and intelligence reflected in the women in your life and family and friends ... and perhaps most importantly, in yourself. That they'll inspire you to embrace what makes you unique, encourage you to release your fears, and lead you to be daring and bold in your unfolding life. I hope their stories weave into your own story, and that their journeys spark your own wanderlust. Just like Catherine de Medici and Wonder Woman and Mother Teresa, you have greatness inside you. Sometimes you just need a little whisper of encouragement to let it out. 

 

Marie Curie Revisited: Warrior for Science

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I've admired Marie Curie since I first learned about her spectacular accomplishments in grade school; Here was a woman who'd won Nobel Prizes in two different scientific disciplines in a time when women were all but banned from research labs! She was brilliant, brave, and changed our world forever with her discoveries. She was a heroine to me, a shining example of how intelligence and determination could prevail in the face of adversity.
 
I recently visited her hometown of Warsaw—which is packed with monuments to her life and discoveries—as well as her adopted home country of France. Visiting her childhood home, seeing the tremendous pride the Polish people take in her work, and exploring the museums that celebrate her achievements rekindled my love for Madam Curie. 
 
And I wanted to write about her here because I realized that while most people might see her as a Sage archetype, I know her to be a Warrior through and through. She was forced to fight at every step. She fought to learn, to keep pace, to get full credit for her world-changing findings. So let's meet Marie Curie, Warrior.
 

A childhood of challenges

“I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.”
~ Marie Curie

Marie's mother died of tuberculosis when Marie was just 11 years old. This tragedy shaped her life in more ways than one: It led to her spending more time with her father, a math and physics instructor, who helped her cultivate her knack for the sciences. He even brought laboratory equipment into the family home so his children could run experiments! 
 
His guidance was invaluable, and led Marie to become a top student in high school … only to be denied entry to the local university because of her gender. Undeterred, she continued her education at the Flying University, a set of underground, informal classes held in secret. There, she studied alongside her older sister, Bronislawa, and dreamed of moving on to an institution with proper labs ... and less sexism.
 

On to France

“I never see what has been done. I only see what remains to be done.”
~ Marie Curie

Both Marie and her sister longed to go abroad to earn official degrees, but they simply didn't have the money. Unwavering in her resolve to learn and achieve, Marie worked out a deal with her sister; She would work to support Bronislawa while she was in school, then Bronislawa would return the favor after she'd completed her studies.
 
After fulfilling her half of the bargain, Marie made her way to Paris where she enrolled at the Sorbonne and threw herself happily into her studies. Paying for her tuition and rent made her crushingly poor, and she survived on buttered bread and tea. But although she was exhausted and broke, she was mentally engaged and wildly successful. And her hard work paid off. She earned first place in the master's exam for physics in 1893 and second place for the master's in mathematics in 1894.
 
Shortly after earning her degrees, a colleague introduced her to French physicist Pierre Curie, who helped her locate a lab space for her research. A romance developed between the mastermind pair, and they became a scientific dynamic duo. They were dedicated to science…and each other. In fact, during a time when most women were expected to either raise a family or pursue a career, Pierre ensured Marie could do both. They were quite the modern couple!
 

Fearless discoveries

“A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician: He is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales.”
~ Marie Curie

At first, Marie and her husband worked on separate projects. She launched into work on a doctoral thesis, exploring Henri Becquerel's work on the strange emissions created by uranium. (Her revolutionary ideas created the entire field of atomic physics, and Marie herself coined the word “radioactivity” to describe the phenomenon.) Soon Pierre put aside his own studies of crystals to support Marie's work.
 
Working together, the pair discovered a new radioactive element in 1898. They named the element polonium, after Marie’s native country of Poland. They also detected the presence of another radioactive element and called it radium. The Sorbonne refused to fund their research, so they performed it in an abandoned shed, working in hazardous conditions to prove their theories and isolate pure radium.
 
Marie recalled the night she first realized the magnitude of her discovery. In the darkness of the shed, she murmured, “Pierre, look!” as she saw the radium glowing with a ghostly blue light. She would soon prove that it was nearly 1 million times stronger than uranium.
 
And 1903, she was honored for this discovery when she became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in physics. She shared the title with her husband and Henri Becquerel, who both contributed to her groundbreaking work on radioactivity. The duo planned to use their prize money to continue their research. 
 
Then the unthinkable happened.
 

Tragedy and triumph

“Have no fear of perfection; you'll never reach it.”
~ Marie Curie

Just two years after their win, Marie suffered a heartbreaking loss when Pierre was killed in Paris after stepping in front of a horse-drawn wagon. Although she was stricken by grief, she decided to take over his teaching post at the Sorbonne, becoming the institution’s first female professor. Five years into her tenure, Marie received another great honor; In 1911 she won her second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry. 
 
When World War I broke out, Marie devoted her time and resources to helping the cause. X-ray machines had been invented based on her research, and could be found in many French doctors' offices, but Marie realized that X-rays could help doctors in the field. They could use the technology to see the bullets and shrapnel embedded in the soldiers’ bodies and remove them, as well as locate broken bones. So she championed the use of portable X-ray machines, and even trained 150 nurses to use them! Her love for the mysteries of radioactive materials never died.
 
Unfortunately, her constant exposure to them took its toll.
 
Years of being exposed to radiation began to wear down Marie's health. She had spent almost her entire career working with radioactive elements completely unprotected, and even carried test tubes of radium around in the pocket of her lab coat, something a modern scientist would never do! In the end, she died in 1934 of aplastic anemia, which can be caused by prolonged exposure to radiation. But she died doing what she loved, after decades of fighting for her place in the scientific elite, and became the only woman laid to rest in the Panthéon in Paris.
 
Thank you Marie for displaying passion and dedication until your last days. You worked as a warrior for science, busting through every barrier put in your way, and unlocking discoveries that still save lives every single day. May we all find something that grabs hold of us and never lets go, may we all fight as hard as you did for our rightful place in this world.
 

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Who Are YOU? Understanding Yourself Through Friendships & Archetypes

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Earlier this year, I met a woman who I recognized instantly as a Soul Sister. Have you ever had that experience? You strike up a conversation and although you've never spoken with a person before, it's as if you've known each other all your lives? It's absolutely magical in so many ways. And although this woman and I were only together for a few short hours, I knew we were forging a long-term friendship. And when I emailed her to tell her how much I'd enjoyed connecting, she replied, “It felt so good to be seen and understood by you!”[Sarah McG1] 
 
That phrase really struck a chord with me. It made me think about how human beings have a deep-seated need to express ourselves, but more than that, we want to be heard, seen, and known. It's one of our most primal emotional instincts.
 
Yet many of us struggle to be fully heard, seen, and known because we don't know ourselves
 
We've got a handle on the basics, of course; the roles we fill in our relationships, the skills we've honed, our likes and dislikes. But although we yearn for the freedom to be ourselves, we sometimes wonder who the hell we'd BE if we could fully and authentically be ourselves!
 
There are countless ways to undertake these internal explorations. But today I want to touch on two key ways to discover more about your core identity, both of which have helped me tune into my true self: Friendships and archetypes.
 
 

Friends as mirrors

There's literally nothing more personal than identity. Who you are is utterly unique and specific to you, so the idea of understanding yourself by examining other people may seem downright strange! But if you're eager to find out who you are and struggling to unearth anything useful just by contemplating your life events and personality, it can help to turn your gaze outward. You don't need to define yourself by comparing; In fact, doing that can be destructive and painful. Just think of the women you admire as mirrors, reflecting elements of your inner self back at you.
 
Think about your close friendships, but also family members, work colleagues, any women in your life about whom you have strong and definite feelings. Then ask yourself these questions:
 
-  What do I admire most in this woman?
-  What does she do in her life that I wish I could do, too? What do I want to emulate?
-  What about her personality or behavior rubs me the wrong way?
-  What decisions has she made that caused me to sit up and take notice? (In either positive or negative ways.)
-  What do I have in common with her?
 
Whenever we see a quality in another person that we want to nurture within ourselves, we are inspired tap into that quality and cultivate it in our own lives. When we admire a trait within another woman, it's often because it reflects back something about ourselves that stirs our pride. When we are irritated or turned off by a quality or behavior, it's usually something about ourselves that we struggle to understand or manage. When we consider comparison from this angle, it becomes less about competing and more about processing.
 
We can discover who we are by seeing ourselves in other women.
 
What we see in them may seem specific, but is often universal. The women we admire emulate archetypes through their decisions and choices, whether they realize it or not. And when we see archetypes outside of ourselves, it helps us see them within ourselves.
 

Archetypes as guides

So much of my work comes back to the four central archetypes that each woman channels: Mother, Lover, Warrior, and Sage. I see these four figures everywhere, in my own life, the lives of those around me, art and culture, relationships … they pop up again and again! Just this summer, I saw them so clearly in the film “Wonder Woman,” a character who embodied all four so elegantly; the mother (nurturing), lover (sexy and passionate), warrior (brave and strong), and sage (wise). And seeing her channel them helped me see those qualities within myself.
 
I firmly believe that these archetypes can be helpful guides for anyone eager to explore her inner self.
 
These archetypes are far from new. In fact they are ancient, and have been present across many cultures for millennia. But I hope to present them in a new way, one that will help you find out who you, as an individual, truly are. Let's start by making the universal into something personal. Ask yourself these questions:
 
MOTHER
- What does the Mother mean to you? How do you express being a Mother, even when you are not parenting?
- What about this archetype feels important to you?
- What about this archetype clashes with your ideas about yourself?
 
LOVER
- What does the Lover mean to you? How do you express being a Lover, even when you are not being sensual?
- What about this archetype feels important to you?
- What about this archetype clashes with your ideas about yourself?
 
WARRIOR
- What does the Warrior mean to you? How do you express being a Warrior, even when you are not fighting for your beliefs or defending yourself or your family?
- What about this archetype feels important to you?
- What about this archetype clashes with your ideas about yourself?
 
SAGE
- What does the Sage mean to you? How do you express being a Sage, even when you are not steeped in contemplation?
- What about this archetype feels important to you?
- What about this archetype clashes with your ideas about yourself?
 
You may NEVER have thought of yourself in these specific terms before, but they resonate, don't they? When we, as women, are given the language (Mother, Lover, Warrior, Sage) we are suddenly able to see those dimensions within ourselves. 
 
Naturally, one or two of the four may feel more strongly resonant to you. I consciously struggle to balance them myself; Sometimes I’m off balance and one characteristic dominates. But I strive to keep them all in the mix, and draw on their guiding energies when I feel lost or overwhelmed.
 
And I hope you'll consider that tactic for yourself. Keeping these four dimensions of self in mind as you seek deeper understanding is a rewarding and time-tested way to unlock your true identity. Of course, it won't be easy. As women we can be impatient and eager for a quick and easy answer. But we need to call in the Warrior to do the hard work needed to unearth profound insight and understanding.
 
I hope to write more on these topics in the coming months and am planning an exciting larger project around identity and the four archetypes, so stay tuned for more! 
 
And I welcome your questions and input on the ideas I've shared today. How have YOU sought to understand and embrace your true self?
 
 

 [Sarah McG1]This is something that happened to me, but I figured it was universal enough to use here! Hope that's OK!

SPA Day: A DAY TO HONOR & THANK OUR UNSUNG HEROES, CAREGIVERS OF WOUNDED WARRIORS

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A DAY TO HONOR & THANK OUR UNSUNG HEROES, CAREGIVERS OF WOUNDED WARRIORS.

Spa Day gives women the opportunity to enjoy being a woman, bond with other women going through similar transitions, focus on their own care, and refresh and recharge. Spa Day includes massages, swim & sauna, guest speakers and lunch by the pool. To register online and place your name in the drawing for a massage simply click here to submit your Name, Address, Phone Number and a brief message of your life as a caregiver & what you have found helpful to relax and rejuvenate amidst your challenges. The drawing will be held September 18th and if chosen you will be informed by phone/email by September 21st! Location: Hotel Del Coronado 1500 Orange Ave. Coronado, CA 92118 Lunch will be provided.

ONLY 24 SPOTS AVAILABLE –  RSVP By: September 17, 2017

Questions call: (619) 339-8569 SPONSORED BY: BarbaraMcNally Foundation <http://www.barbaramcnally.com/> AND Southern Caregiver Resource Center/Operation Family Caregiver <http://www.caregivercenter.org/> and Elizabeth Dole Foundation

 

REST RELAX REJUVENATE

The Five Stages of Grief GROWTH

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Life throws all of us curves, that we need to put on our big girl pants to deal with, but we are not alone!

Most people are familiar with concept of five stages of grief: A series of emotional states that people dealing with loss tend to pass through. But it wasn’t until I’d spent some time working with the spouses of wounded warriors that I heard these stages re-cast as the five stages of growth: Denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance all contribute to the healing process, and all help us grow beyond our pain. After all, loss is part of life, and each stage can be transformative in a positive way.

Many of the women I’ve spoken with have pointed out that the five stages don’t always take place in the same order, and some stages reappear over time. One wife who attended a recent SPA Day told me, “When my husband went in for his second surgery we were back in denial. We thought we’d moved past it, but we were numbed by the shock of another surgery that he might not make it through. We needed time to process the new assault.”

Others have explained that a person can get stuck in one stage for a long time and zoom through others. Another spouse shared how she and her husband went through stages at different times and paces, so they were both grieving the loss of their former life, but in different ways.

“I was sprinting for a couple months, but when the shock phase became a marathon, I couldn’t keep passing the water stations. I had to stop, refresh myself and reach out for help,” she said. “Then my husband was stuck in depression while I fluctuating between denial and anger. I took all my anger out the hospital staff until I had a major break down and the doctor told me to leave and let the hospital staff do their job.”

Although how and when they appear can vary, all five stages have recognizable attributes, and all five have specific types of growth they can inspire. Let’s look at each one in detail:

Stage 1—Denial

When faced with true trauma, we often reject its existence to protect our minds from shock. This is a mental coping technique that serves as the first emotional line of defense.

Other feelings of denial include, “There’s nothing wrong with me,” “I’m fine,” or “This can’t be happening. It’s all some sort of mistake.” Denial is actually there to cushion the blow of a new reality. It allows us to navigate through the fog so we can make it through the day. Others may think it’s unhealthy at the time, but it’s an important part of moving toward healing and growth. Let denial happen organically. It will burn itself out when the time is right.

Stage 2—Anger

After the numbness of denial wears off, we are faced with our harsh new reality and the shock hits us full-force. We may yearn deeply for the way things were, or wonder what we could have done differently. If we focus on the unfairness of our situation, rage floods our system. “Why me?” “I hate my life!” “I’m over this!” We are often told that anger is pointless, but in reality it is an important part of processing pain. Keeping anger bottled up always backfires, and feeling it is a natural, normal part of living through a life-altering trauma. Anger can even help create motivation to ask more questions, change unfair situations, and advocate for yourself and your loved ones.

Stage 3—Bargaining

Anger takes a lot of energy and can only be a comfortable emotional state for so long. When anger begins to recede, bargaining takes over. Thoughts like, “If I do better…” or “Take this away and I promise to always…” give us a sense of control within an uncontrollable situation. Anger and denial can cause us to lash out, but bargaining is usually internal. People can become stuck in the bargaining phase for too long, and may need to force themselves to talk about the deals they are trying to strike inside their own minds. When explored out loud with others, bargaining helps the bargainers understand what they can and cannot change in their new situation.

Stage 4—Depression

Once we acknowledge that bargaining is in vain, a flood of sadness washes over us. This is where grief sinks in and begins to feel like a much heavier a burden than ever before. We often withdraw from life and friends, unable to perform even simple tasks without feeling exhausted. Depression causes feelings such as, “What’s the point?” “My life isn’t worth living anymore,” or “How can I continue on like this?” Many wounded warriors and their spouses experience depression. This stage can feel endless and exhausting for both, but without it they will not be able to flush sadness out of their systems. Depression allows the feelings of sorrow and hopelessness for our changed lives to be fully expressed, and without it we cannot continue to move forward.

Stage 5—Acceptance

When depression lifts, grievers often find themselves in a land of acceptance. Acceptance is far from being “okay” or “fine” with a loss. Instead it is an acknowledgement of the truth of the situation, an adjustment to the “new” new. A surge of inspiration often ascends from the rubble during this period and we think thoughts such as, “This doesn’t define me,” “I have a greater purpose,” and “I can help others through my adversity.” When the spouse of a wounded warrior reaches the acceptance stage, she may feel weary at first. But with acceptance comes the motivation to do the best she can with what she’s got. Acceptance means making peace with what is, but it also leaves room for contemplating ways to making the situation even better.

I’ve found that learning about these stages helps me to understand better what the spouses of wounded warriors are going through. As a physical therapist who can be the bearer of bad or frustrating news, it helps me not take their anger personally. Understanding the stages and the growth they can promote also lets me help veterans and their spouses as they work through the painful part of each stage and move beyond toward personal growth.

In my own life every challenge from the death of my marriage to the death of my father has inspired new life and personal growth, and I believe we can all learn about ourselves as we cope with our grief. Hope is the thread that runs through all these stages. That may sound counterintuitive, but it’s really true: When we’re in the thick of it, grief can seem like an endless, oppressive fog that engulfs our lives. Identifying the stages of grief and embracing their potential to make us stronger and wiser makes it all seem important, logical, and endurable.

Denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance are more than stages, they are like the seasons of growth. When we think of a tree growing it fluctuates between expansion and retraction—losing leaves in the fall, then blossoming in the spring—but every year it becomes stronger. Every person who makes it through the five stages comes out wiser, kinder, and more powerful than ever before. By understanding the universal pattern of these Five Stages of “Grief Growth” we can foster patience with ourselves and others, as well as finding the inner grace we need to guide us.

7 Ways to Boost Your Day

Everyone has a bad day sometimes, and it's not unheard of. Even the most positive people run into hurdles that they can't cross. This isn't something you should be scared of since it's not person specific. However, you should do whatever is in your power to turn that frown upside down! It's completely normal to have bad days, but if those days turn into weeks or months, something needs to be fixed. Even if you start your day bad, it's still possible to make certain changes and do certain things to turn it right around. Here are 7 ways to boost your day and make you happy when it's simply a bad day!


Live in the present


Don't worry too much about tomorrow. Don't dwell in the past. You have already lived what happened in your past, and you aren't capable of seeing the future, so why waste your nerves and thoughts in the past and the future? Live now! If you spend too much time thinking about what will happen or what has happened, you won't be able to enjoy the moment. Start becoming aware that you live your life in a single moment. Live in the present!

Stay positive


If something bad happens – it's not the end of the world. Remember the good old proverb that helped so many people: "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger." People can survive a lot. Many people have gone through incredible pain at least once in their lives and have managed to move forward, albeit with a few changes. You can do this as well, all you need to do is try to stay positive. 

Exercise


Science has proven that exercising or any physical activity that requires you to work hard has a positive effect on the psyche. There have also been cases where exercise and working out helped people with depression live much more normal lives than if they didn't exercise and work out. We implore you to start exercising if you haven't been feeling yourself lately. Plus, you'll also keep your body healthy!

Have a happy meal


No, we don't mean the McDonalds Happy Meal; what we mean with ‘happy meal' is that you should eat something that makes you happy. This can be whatever you like, as long as it's something that you love to eat. Research has shown that certain chemicals such as Serotonin and Dopamine. Just be careful not to overeat food if it belongs to the category of junk food. You wouldn't want to gain weight and cause your body to become ill. We also recommend trying out Kratom tea. Kratom tea is a relaxing drink that can help you out by influencing your mood in a positive and healthy way.

Listen to upbeat music


For whatever reason, people love to listen to depressing and sad music when they're feeling sad. Admittedly, it's nothing strange as people generally connect with the songs in a specific and personal way. However, this doesn't help them get better. It might even make them feel worse. Avoid this by listening to happy and upbeat music. Give artists such as Bob Marley a shot. Anything that is focused on making you feel better about yourself and the world is acceptable. Upbeat music will also cause you to feel energetic and ready to take on the world. Help yourself!

Make a to-do list


Avoid having to remember everything by making to-do lists. There's a lot of stress involved in the process of trying to remember something, especially if there are a lot of things to remember. Having a to-do list helps you avoid this problem. Another issue that to-do lists solve is organization and not being in the mood. 

Get a good laugh


This might be the most important part of this article. There's no greater cure for sadness than getting a good laugh. If you're feeling especially lonely, get a few friends over and have a good time. Or, if you're not interested in hanging out, watch a funny movie or a show. Whatever might bring out a laugh is good, so take a pick!

Guest Blog Post By Angela of kratomcrazy.com

 

The Women of the Alamo: Steadfast Mothers and Sages

On August 25, I'll be heading to San Antonio to attend and run workshops at two Hearts of Valor retreats! I'm already getting excited about the work I'll do there with retreat attendees. And in honor of that work being done in the great state of Texas, I want to dedicate a few posts to the amazing accomplishments of women who were born in the Lone Star State!

I'm eager to spend some time exploring the Alamo while visiting San Antonio, so today let's meet some of the incredible women who survived the famous siege.

“Life in Texas was an adventure for men and dogs, but hell on women and horses.”
~ Old saying


The Texas Revolution


In 1835, Texas was still a part of Mexico ... but it was also home to an increasingly large number of American settlers. The Mexican government had been clashing with these English-speakers for decades, and in October of 1835 the Texas Revolution erupted. A violent rebellion and battle for freedom, the rebellion raged for six full months, claiming many lives.

The most famous event from this rowdy episode in Texas history is, of course, the battle of the Alamo. A couple of months before this massacre, the Texan army had actually succeeded in driving Mexican troops out of the state! Around 200 troops were garrisoned at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio de Béxar, which would become modern-day San Antonio, waiting to see if the fight was truly over.

It wasn't.

On the morning of February 23, 1836, nearly1,500 Mexican troops commanded by President General Antonio López de Santa Anna arrived in San Antonio de Béxar and launched a brutal siege that would last 13 days. Santa Anna would kill nearly everyone in the garrison before the battle was through.

Women among men


“You will remember this battle! Each minute! Each second! Until the day that you die! But that is for tomorrow, gentlemen. For today, remember the Alamo!”
~ Sam Houston

As you might imagine, most of the people who fought and died at the Alamo were men; soldiers, medics, commanders, and other military personnel. Among them were Colonels William B. Travis and James Bowie, and legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett. Some casualties were women, too.

Nearly all of the handful of survivors were also women.

The most well-known of these is Susanna Dickinson, wife of Alamo defender Almaron Dickinson, who spent almost all of the battle hiding in a small dark room with her infant daughter, Angelina. Legend says she ended up there because she was talking with her husband when he saw Santa Anna arrive, and he scooped up her and the baby and ran them to the mission just before the Mexican army opened fire. After the final assault on the Alamo when nearly everyone—including Susanna's husband—was dead, General Santa Anna interviewed each of the survivors himself. He was so taken with Mrs. Dickinson that he offered to adopt little Angelina and take her back to Mexico City where she'd receive a top-notch education. Stressed and stricken, Susanna refused the offer, unable to bear the thought of parting with her baby. A few days later, Santa Anna released them both, enlisting Susanna to be a messenger to General Sam Houston. Angelina would come to be known as “the babe of the Alamo.”

Nearly as legendary as Susanna is survivor Andrea Castañon Villanueva, also known as Madam Candelaria. She was an innkeeper's wife who ended up living to an impressive 113 years old, and spent much of her post-Alamo life spinning yarns for reporters and tourists about how she nursed Texian defenders, including commander Bowie. Many historians disagree about Madam Candelaria's true role in the Alamo, but most believe she was present for the majority of the battle. However unlike the troops and Susanna Dickinson, she came and went at will, rather than being confined to the compound. Her mystery continues to this day!

The third brave woman who tops most survivor lists is Juana Navarro Alsbury, a cousin by marriage to James Bowie. In fact, Bowie himself brought her to the Alamo Mission so he could keep an eye on her during the battle. Unfortunately Bowie became gravely ill on the second day of the siege. Although Madam Candelaria's claims to have been at his bedside are sketchy, it's almost certain that Alsbury nursed him throughout the remainder of the siege.

Echoes of the battle

“No. You'll settle for blood. I want Texas.”
~ Sam Houston

Several other women survived the 13-day battle, including Juana Navarro Alsbury's sister, Gertrudis Navarro, and Juana Francisca Losoya Melton who was married to Alamo quartermaster Eliel Melton. Ana Salazar Esparza was also among the handful of people who escaped with their lives. She was the mother of Enrique Esparza, who would earn the nickname “the Boy in the Alamo” and tell wild tales of the terrifying combat he witnessed as a child. All told, around seven women walked away from the mission with their lives.

As you can tell from their stories, many of these women were both Mothers to their own children and served as loving caretakers to the American soldiers who fought bravely at the Alamo. They also offered solace and serenity to the injured and dying, stepping into the role of Sage whenever they could. They never took up arms, but their presence during that pivotal battle offered hope during the firefights, and insight once the dust had cleared. May we never forget their presence, their support, and the comfort they brought during this dark hour in Texan history!

 

Four Agreements Women Can Make With Themselves

Have you read Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements? This book is a total life-changer, so if you haven't encountered it yet, order up a copy as soon as you can! The ideas you'll find in its pages are based on ancient Toltec wisdom, and present a powerful code of conduct we can use to transform our lives for the better. Ruiz himself is a shamanic teacher and healer who is dedicated to helping readers create a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love. His ideas have been healed wounds and sparked growth in people all over the world for more than 20 years. 

The subtitle to The Four Agreements is “A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” and that concept has been rolling around in my head for weeks now. So much life advice is vague or hard to apply, but Ruiz's ideas are refreshingly specific and pragmatic! I wanted to create my own version of the four agreements as a way to honor our four dimensions, the archetypes of Mother, Lover, Warrior, and Sage, and to keep that spirit of truly useful, down-to-earth advice in mind in doing so. As women, we are constantly pushed and pulled in many directions, and remaining true to ourselves can seem impossible. But I believe there are some simple ways to honor our essential selves, and learn and grow in the process.

 

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word 
Archetype: LOVER

Ruiz says, “Everything you feel or believe or say that goes against yourself is a sin. You go against yourself when you judge or blame yourself for anything. Being without sin is exactly the opposite. Being impeccable is not going against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself.”

What could be more loving than embracing honesty without judgment? And yet this can be so hard to do, especially for women. We are taught that blaming ourselves is natural and normal, even when the true fault lies with someone else. But speaking with integrity and saying only what you mean are powerful ways to remain authentic to your inner beliefs.

To embrace the first agreement in the guise of The Lover, you can:
•    Take note of your internal dialogue. When you notice it becoming negative, put it lovingly on pause. Then say an affirmation out loud to re-center yourself.
•    Stop apologizing for everything! When you find yourself starting a sentence with “I'm sorry,” consider how else to introduce your ideas. Part of “not going against yourself” is standing tall inside your beliefs.
•    Slow down. We're living in a fast-paced world that encourages speaking without thinking. Breathe before you speak, make sure you know exactly what you want to say and why. 
 
 

The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally 
Archetype: MOTHER 

The priceless nugget of truth here is that everyone in the world is self-centered, and their reactions to you are driven by their hopes and fears about themselves. It's so easy to take nasty comments to heart, or be hurt by accusations. But when you become immune to the opinions and actions of other people, you save yourself from needless suffering.
Mothers both know this, and teach it to their children. Understanding the motivations of other people and protecting yourself from their words helps mothers all over the world navigate their own family dynamics and shield their children from emotional pain.

To embrace the second agreement in the guise of The Mother, you can:
•    Practice empathy. If someone says something that stings, put yourself in her shoes. What might be motivating this negativity? Instead of feeling hurt, try to understand root causes.
•    Remember yourself. Opinions and observations can be especially hard to ignore when they've got a grain of truth in them. Be open to that. If someone tells you you're “stuck-up,” step back from the statement and examine its meaning. If what they're really seeing is pride in your accomplishments, that is nothing to feel ashamed of. Remember who you are to re-contextualize criticism. (You do this for your kids, now do it for yourself!)
•    Be patient. Living by this agreement is just plain HARD. Give yourself time to adjust to a new way of understanding people and the things they say. And if you feel wounded by a comment or judgment, go back to the first agreement and remember not to judge or blame yourself.

 

The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions 
Archetype: SAGE

It is so easy to slip into assumptions. We lead busy, full lives and often don't have time to investigate things as fully as we should, so we just take the tidbits we know and make some mental leaps. But this is disrespectful, to ourselves and to others. To channel the wisdom of The Sage, we must be patient, ask questions, and never assume that we possess knowledge we haven't earned.

To embrace the third agreement in the guise of The Sage, you can:
•    Be curious, not judgmental. This gem of advice comes from poet Walt Whitman! The antidote to judgment is curiosity, so embrace it. Ask questions instead of assuming you know the answers.
•    Check your prejudices. Did you know women can be sexist … against other women? Or that most of us have at least a few racist ideas floating around in our brains? If you find yourself jumping to conclusions about another person, be brutally honest with yourself about why. Again, don't judge or punish yourself, just be wholly honest. Then think about what you can do to be more open-minded about an individual or group in the future. 
•    Listen: Asking questions is an important start, but actually hearing the answers is just as crucial. Don't ask for the sake of asking. Listen actively and intently when someone honors you with a response.

 

The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best
Archetype: WARRIOR

Of this agreement, Ruiz says, “Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good.” 

So gentle and helpful! Of course you want to give your all to everything in your life, but your all will be different when you're sick, exhausted, or overwhelmed. Commit fully to your life, but with the understanding that your real capacity may vary. Just like that of a warrior, who is capable of ferocious battle at full-strength and far less when weary or injured.

To embrace the fourth agreement in the guise of The Warrior, you can:
•    Listen to your body. Our culture values strength and endurance, but sometimes at the expense of actual health! If you are tired, honor that and rest. If you are in pain, get the help you need to heal. And adjust your expectations for yourself when your body tells you you aren't at full capacity.
•    Push yourself. Gently. On the flip side, be aware of when you're phoning it in. (You know when and why it happens!) If you can do better, lean into that. If you need help getting motivated to step up your game, ask for it.
•    Reflect. Doing your best means understanding what “your best” looks like. Journal, talk with friends, or find some other creative way to self-assess your performance at work, in your hobbies, in relationships, and other important arenas of life. This is especially helpful to people who tend to go-go-go without pausing to process.

 

The strategies and advice found in The Four Agreements can be used by people of any gender, but I loved looking at this body of wisdom from a woman's perspective. As women we face specific and nearly endless challenges, but given the tools we need to remain true to ourselves, we can refashion those challenges into triumphs. I hope that thinking about how Ruiz's ideas relate to the four foundational archetypes will help you make key changes to how you think, feel, and react so you can be more fully present in your own life!

Bessie Coleman: Fearless Aviatrix, Lover of Adventure

On August 25, I'll be heading to San Antonio to attend and run workshops at two Hearts of Valor retreats! I'm already getting excited about the work I'll do there with retreat attendees. And in honor of that work being done in the great state of Texas, I want to dedicate a few posts to the amazing accomplishments of women who were born in the Lone Star State! And I'm kicking off the series with a historic figure who blazed many trails in her tragically short lifetime: fearless flier Bessie Coleman.

“You've never lived till you've flown!”
~ Bessie Coleman


Humble beginnings in rural Texas


Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas in the winter of 1892, the tenth of thirteen children. Her parents were both sharecroppers—her father was of mixed black and Native American descent, and her mother was black. When Bessie was just nine years old, her father returned to his own home state of Oklahoma, leaving her mother to care for their giant brood of children. 

Bessie was a bright child, an avid reader, and an eager learner. She read about the Wright Brothers' first flight with tremendous interest, dreaming of tackling such world-changing achievements herself. She aced all eight grades of elementary school, and saved the meagre money she made picking cotton to pay for further studies. In 1910, she used all her savings to enroll in the Colored Agricultural and Normal University in Langston, Oklahoma. She only completed one term before she ran out of money and had to return to her family in Waxahachie, Texas.

But that setback wouldn't stop her.

At the age of 23, Bessie followed one of her older brothers to Chicago. It was 1915, and she began listening to and reading stories of World War I pilots, which rekindled her childhood interest in aviation. Unable to chase her dream just yet, she became a beautician and worked as a manicurist in barbershops on the south side of Chicago. Two of her brothers had served in France during World War I, and her brother John would stop by the barbershop to tease her, saying, “I know something that French women do that you’ll never do. Fly!” 

And that was all it took. Bessie swore then and there that she'd learn to fly, no matter what!

Triumph abroad


“I knew we had no aviators, neither men nor women, and I knew the race needed to be represented … so I thought it my duty to risk my life to learn aviation and to encourage flying among men and women of our race.”
~ Bessie Coleman

 

But no one would teach her.

Bessie applied to nearly every flight school in America, hoping to find an instructor. But she was black AND a woman, two huge strikes against her in the early 1900s. She was turned down everywhere she applied.

Determined to achieve her dream, Bessie consulted her friend Robert Abbott, a skilled reporter and publisher of the Chicago Weekly Defender. He did some investigating, found that aviation schools in France were far less prejudiced than those in America, and urged Bessie to study French so she could apply overseas.

She did. And by 1920, she was sailing across the Atlantic toward her destiny.

A career in aviation


“The air is the only place free from prejudices.”
~ Bessie Coleman

 

Bessie studied at France’s most famous flight school, Ecole d’Aviation des Freres Cadron et Le Crotoy, and earned her license to fly in only seven months! This made her the first woman of African-American and Native American descent to earn an aviation pilot's license. And she was rightfully proud of her accomplishment.

Yet she still struggled to carve out a place for herself. No one back home in America would sell her an airplane, refusing to do business with a black woman. No American company would hire her to fly commercially either. It was 1921 now, and the war was long over, so Bessie knew she'd need stunt-pilot skills if she was going to make a living in the air. She trained further with expert fliers and aircraft designers in France and Germany, then returned to the United States to launch her career in exhibition flying.

As she booked stunt shows all over the country, Bessie was vocal about using her fame and fortune to create and fund an aviation school for black American pilots. This dream drove her, and buoyed her during dark times.

Although Bessie herself had experienced outright discrimination, her exhibition flights appealed to both black and white audiences. Bessie was incredibly beautiful, and white people saw her as curiosity; a pretty, petite woman piloting an airplane. Black people were proud of her pioneering courage, and to them she symbolized the hope that someday more African-Americans could join her in the skies.

Bessie's first stunt flight took place in 1922, and she would only have four years to enjoy her career. On April 30, 1926, an accident during a rehearsal for an aerial show sent her plummeting to her death. She was only 34 years old.

Although she fought like a Warrior for her rights and beliefs, I see Bessie Coleman as someone who embodies the Lover archetype. She never married and never had children, but her brave heart and love for adventure informed every decision she made. She loved the idea of flying, and she crafted her life so she could experience the exhilaration of actual flight. She loved her community, and although she wasn't able to give them the gift of a flight school, she expressed her love for them with every breath. She was taken from us too soon, but not before she broke barriers, blazed trails, and followed her heart into the high-flying career of her dreams.

Discover the Possibilities! Spotlight on the National Ability Center: A Place of Healing, Learning, & Self-discovery

If you're military and want a free get away or want to get involved in helping others discover the healing power of recreation you’ll love the National Ability Center (NAC)! No matter where your political allegiances fall, you'll probably agree that we're living during a divisive time. A time when turning on the nightly news can be enough to make your blood pressure skyrocket. I believe that in times like these, the heart-driven work of organizations like the NAC becomes more important than ever! A welcome dose of inspiration and unfiltered positivity. I'm so excited to share their mission with you today, since it's all about unity, community, and empowerment. 

 

 

What is the National Ability Center?

This phenomenal non-profit was founded in 1985, by Meeche White, a woman with a big vision. It exists to provide high-quality, inclusive programs to people of all abilities and backgrounds, including those in need. The center's programming is focused on sports and the outdoors, recreation and educational programs, giving all participants the chance to feel physically powerful and capable. The NAC is open to everyone, but is especially supportive of differently abled people who are struggling to feel confident and independent. 

As you might imagine, I found them through my work with wounded warriors and their wives, since the center has several programs geared toward wounded veterans and their caregivers. I think being able to use my job to get into places and do things that matter is the biggest gift, because it’s not about me. 

In fact, two of the women profiled in my book, Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife, had transformative experiences through programs like the ones the NAC offers. Their stories show how pivotal these offerings can be in a warrior's recovery process, and his reconnection to his family.

 

How outdoor and recreational programs heal

Jane had become resigned to not traveling or going on adventures, and she missed that part of her life. Then she and her veteran husband, Kyle, had the chance to participate in skiing program that changed everything. Kyle had lost both of his legs to an IUD, so instructors strapped him into a monoski and put him on the bunny hill. Jane skied alongside him and watched him open up and transform before her eyes. This program got him out of his shell and rekindled their shared love of the outdoors. 

Larry lost an arm and an eye while fighting in Iraq, and returned home a changed man. His wife, Kendal, struggled to reconnect with him for months before discovering the equestrian center. At the time, Larry knew nothing about horses, but had always been curious about them. Months later, he would say in couples therapy that being close to the animals, smelling them, hearing them breathe, and feeling their soft yet powerful necks brought him a feeling of connectedness he could barely explain. He said it was the first time since his deployment that he remembered feeling comfortable in his own skin.

These experiences, these opportunities for reconnection and deep healing, are what the NAC provides. Service members who incurred service-related injuries or illness are given access to all National Ability Center sports and recreation programing at absolutely no cost to the service member or their family members. How incredible is that?

Supporting the NAC's outstanding services


On July 1, I hosted a book signing at Dolly’s Bookstore in Park City, Utah, and donated $250 of the proceeds to the NAC. At the event, I was lucky enough to connect with Kevin Stickelman, the organization's COO, and told him in person how much I admired the work his organization pioneered. Spending time at the Park City facility, I learned more about their programs for returning military veterans. These include PTSD camps, healing through horses, and multi-day wellness retreats. The NAC offers cycling, waterskiing, archery, and golfing in summer, skiing, snowboarding, fat-tire biking, and snowshoeing in winter. All for our brave wounded warriors and their amazing families. 

 

All of us have wounds, but not everyone can see them. The National Ability Center concentrates on healing both visible and invisible wounds though sports and outdoor activity. As participants build self-confidence, they gradually feel capable of taking on more challenges and living more successful lives. I'm proud to support and volunteer with them, and invite you to do the same: You can donate here, sign up to volunteer, and find information on matched gifts and corporate sponsorships, too. We can all serve those who serve. I may not wear a uniform, but I can give back in other ways. Volunteering to help with skiing and horseback riding is my niche, but you may find another way to contribute.

And don't forget, you can still order copies of Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife on Amazon!