Women’s History Month
The month of March has been set aside as Women’s History Month. Honestly, I don’t remember in years past hearing much about it, but this year it seems to be pretty big. For those of you who are unaware, we celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8th.
We all know of celebrities who are game changers. We read or hear about their achievements/accomplishments regularly. As a woman, I am proud of the moves they are making and the impact they are not only making in their communities but on society as a whole. However, when I thought about women who should be celebrated, I wanted to bring it up close and personal by spotlighting those women that I, personally, know who are transforming lives daily. All four of these women have impacted my life in some form or fashion, and they are “phenomenal” women, “handling their business.”
SHIRLEY CONNOR: I’m going to start my list with this “phenomenal” woman and, yes, I’m just a “wee bit” biased because she’s my mom. Eighty years and 11 months ago, this “young” lady was born. My mother was the eldest of five children and took her role seriously and, thus, was given the nickname “Louise, Jr.” by her youngest brother because she acted like their mom.
When I was growing up, my mom and I didn’t have the best relationship. However, today I can say with pride that we have “mended the fences” and put our differences aside as we have both grown and have come to not only respect but understand each other on an entirely different level. Now, I have to admit I was the most stubborn of her three children. If she said go right, I was going left just because I could. I can still hear her saying now, “I can’t wait for you to have kids so that they can do the same things to you that you did to me.” Well, mom, that day came and, as I was going through it, my kids were more stubborn than I ever was. Boy, oh boy, did you get your wish. LOL!
In my 30’s and 40’s, life was extremely difficult for me as I was going through a bad marriage and my daughters were completely off the chain. I would often call my mom to vent because I needed someone to talk to. As I shared my trials and tribulations with her, she would often say, “You’re a stronger woman than I am; I don’t know how you haven’t lost your mind.” What she didn’t know was that not only was prayer sustaining me but being able to vent to her kept me sane, even on those days that I felt I was losing it. Thank God she made and took time to be there fore me although there were moments we were on opposite ends of the spectrum and had to “agree to disagree” because she couldn’t understand some of the things that I was experiencing firsthand.
When I speak with my mom she admits that she didn’t know as much as she does now when she was raising my two siblings and I. Today, her mantra is “When you know better, you do better.” She also says, “I’ve learned a lot over the years, and now I see things differently because I’m a lot wiser,” and she is always eager to share that wisdom with those she comes in contact with, including her 5-year-old great granddaughter.
My mom says regularly, “Don’t get old. This 80 years is kicking my butt. I can’t remember anything.” I always remind her that, at her age, she shouldn’t expect to remember everything. I’m twenty years her junior, and have to make notes sometimes, so I totally get it. However, she remembers those things that are extremely important to her such as my favorite color, the fact that I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and even remembers the plot of the first full unpublished manuscript that I wrote about eight years ago. Now, that really blew me away and warmed my heart. She not only listened but remembered because it was important to me. From time to time, she asks me when my novel is going to be published as she wants to see my books in print while she can appreciate them.
I’d like to think of my mother as a “world class traveler.” Pre-pandemic, she and my dad would take two cruises a year. She would often say she wants me to be married to someone that we could all travel together, which is one of the things she is really looking forward to. Mom, I’m working on it but no one will have me. Just kidding — all in time.
Mom, thank you for being there. Even though we still bump heads every now and again, I have nothing but mad love for you. Each of our calls end with, “I love you” and it feels so good to hear those words! Mom, I love you to the moon and back!
ELDER MARY JACKSON: Mother, as I call her, is 91 years young. I have known her for 42 years. She has always been extremely kind, caring, loving, and encouraging, and very amiable towards me.
This woman of God’s mind is as sharp as someone who is much younger than her stated age. I’m always amazed by those things she remembers and pray that if I should live to be her age that God will bless me to have all of my faculties. Mother is so with it, that she has an iPad and knows how to use it. Now, you tell me that she doesn’t have it going on!
Whenever you speak with Mother, you can always expect to receive honesty. If you want your ego stroked or want someone just to go along with you, then this is not the person to call as she is going to give you the pure unadulterated truth. She doesn’t mince words and gives it to you straight as she “tells it like it is.”
Even though she is an ordained Elder, she is far from judgmental. I remember once, when I shared something with her, she responded, “How can I judge you.” That statement alone confirmed that I could go to her with anything and she wouldn’t look at me “sideways,” but rather hold it in confidence and pray for me.
She’ll be the first to tell you that she’s not perfect and is “still learning and growing in the ways of the Lord.” Mother is extremely humble and says that she is just a “vessel that God uses,” and on any given day, you will find her spreading the Good News to the various people who call her. I, for one, look forward to our talks because they are always thought provoking as she gives me the Word of God, mixes it with the natural and sprinkles it with humor. Mother is the epitome the virtuous woman found in Proverbs 31 (Strength and honor are her clothing – Proverbs 31:25).
Mother has told me on more than one occasion that I’ve added to her life. I’m still trying to figure that out because I learn so much from this wise woman of God that I can’t begin to imagine what that could be; however, it touches my heart that she feels that way. The last conversation that we had she told me that she was glad I was a part of her life just before we ended our call with “I love you.”
Thank you Mother for being “you” and for letting your “light shine before men.” May God continue to bless, strengthen and keep you!
RENITA CARTER: This woman right here, I met 14 years ago at my place of employment. Who knew, at that time, we would have become friends for life.
Renita has had her share of health scares/challenges, but she has persevered through every single one of them through prayer and tons of research; she is the Google Queen. Her mindset is one of which “I’m not going to sit around and do nothing.” She absolutely does not believe in defeat; the word is simply not in her vocabulary. She is relentless in her pursuit of seeking answers, and doesn’t play when it comes to her health and the health of others. Thus, she started a FaceBook page entitled, “Eat to Live Not Live to Eat” wherein she not only shares information on how to eat clean and healthy, but how doing so has changed her life. When I first met Renita, she was heavier than she wanted to be, but has made great strides to accomplish her weight loss goals and might I add, she looks fabulous! Renita is truly an inspiration and is extremely transparent about the challenges that she has faced. Her journey hasn’t been an easy one, but she never gave up because at the end of the day, she knows that God is the source of her strength.
Renita is one hard working woman. We worked together on a number of Blood Drives in the past. I watched as she was extremely organized and methodical in her approach. She was a true salesman at heart and often got people to donate blood, even when they were shaking their heads no. Because of her commitment, dedication, and passion toward her fellow man, the hospital was blessed to be able to have blood to give its patients. She could sell you anything and you would thank her profusely for doing so. LOL!
Over the years, Renita and I have shared many laughs, but one conversation in particular comes to mind. I was going through something pretty heavy at the time and was completely honest about it and my reaction toward the situation. She said something to me and then backed it up with “You know only a real friend could say that, right?” We laughed and continued our conversation. She knew me well enough to understand that just anybody couldn’t say certain things to me in the way in which she did, but knew we were close enough that she could. Whenever I think about that conversation today, I still laugh.
Renita, I’m glad that God placed you in my life. Thank you for your listening ears, your compassion, and your prayers. You, my friend, are a true gem!
LAVERNE O’BANNON: Laverne is not just my coworker, but my friend as well. I don’t remember exactly how long we’ve known each other, but for the past several years or so, we have shared all sorts of conversations — some deep and some just shooting the breeze.
One of her many gifts is working with her “old people” as she affectionally calls them. She often shares with me stories of her aunts and uncles who are now up in age and, boy, are they hilarious. I love hearing her memories of growing up with them and the phrases that only people born during that era would use. Young people don’t know nothing about that! She makes sure that they are good by not only calling and visiting them, but cooks for them as well. When I tell you she can “burn,” that’s stating it mildly. One of my favorite dishes is her shrimp and grits. Mmm mmm good! Once I said to her, “If I lived with you, I wouldn’t be able to fit through the door.”
Laverne doesn’t shy away from any topic of conversation and, if you go to her, she always has an answer and “keeps it real.” She is a no nonsense person and you get that right away if you try to come to her with any type of foolishness. She ain’t having it and her entire countenance changes as she shuts it right down. At that point, you know “that was the wrong thing to say.” Thankfully, I’ve never been on that side of her. Whew Chile!
Laverne has a willing heart to help anyone who needs her assistance and doesn’t mind going the extra mile. She is extremely thoughtful and always offers suggestions to help you. She will say, “Karen, I was thinking…” and it goes on from there.
She and I serve on the Activities Committee at our place of employment. Prior to her becoming a member, we had the same four people for years. However, Laverne went around and recruited at least eight more members; she is very persuasive in nature and it’s difficult to say “no” to her. Because she didn’t want the Lab to be merely “all business,” the Committee flourished to twelve members strong. Her idea was to boost moral, have fun, and raise money for various activities as we gave back to our coworkers. Her ideas were brilliant. The committee not only piggybacked off them but for the first time in years, we were all able to come up with fresh ideas. Our peers genuinely loved what we were doing, and couldn’t wait to see what we were going to do next.
Here is a personal example of Laverne’s gift of helps. I had written a second full length manuscript and was trying to find someone who could edit it for “fairly reasonable.” I was sitting at my desk one day and she popped into my head. I know she networks with a ton of people, so I asked her if she knew anyone who would be willing to help me. Immediately, she sprang into action and said, “I have two friends who are school teachers, and I will ask them. Within several days, she had gotten back to me and said, “Print out three copies – one for me and one for each of my two friends.” I asked her what would they charge. You know what her response was? “Nothing. We are doing this for free because that’s what we do.” I was absolutely flabbergasted. Can you imagine my delight? Not only did she edit my manuscript, she got it back to me within 30 days and gave me some great commentary and critique as to the things I needed to change/and or add. Now, that’s a friend!
Thank you my “sista friend” for always making yourself available!! Laverne, you totally rock! You’re a tough cookie, but I wouldn’t have you any other way!
My life has not only been enriched, but blessed because of these four women, and I am forever grateful. I love each of you from the bottom of my heart!
If there are women who have impacted your life, let them know. Believe it or not, even the strongest of women need encouragement too. Sometimes, they wonder if they are truly serving their God-given purpose. They often pour so much into people and ask for nothing in return. We don’t have to be envious of another woman’s gifts and/or talents because they differ from ours. Let’s use the gifts that we’ve been given to the fullest. When we see a woman that’s down, let’s extend our hand and lift her up. Let’s help her “adjust her crown” as she dusts herself off, and carries on. We need each other. As the poem that John Donne wrote in 1624 states, “No man is an island.” Be blessed!!!
P.S.: I now have a podcast that is featured on Spotify, Anchor as well as Apple Podcasts and a few others, which you may find under Grace Deveraux or “Take A Leap With Grace.” Also, videos and other “tidbits” are uploaded to my Instagram account, @Gracedeveraux, or my Facebook page, Grace Deveraux, each Friday afternoon. Please stop by and check out what I’ve been up to. 😊