52 Ancestors – Week #10 – Strong Women

UPDATE: It was recently brought to my attention that I made a big booboo. I inadvertently left out one of my sisters-in-law. I make no excuse (because I don’t even know how I forgot!) just a huge and apology.

In honor of Women’s History Month, the prompt for this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “Strong Women.” Keeping with my plan to write about my generation this year, I am celebrating ALL the strong women in my family! In order to respect people’s privacy, I will use only first names. I could write volumes about each of these wonderful women, but in order to keep this post at a reasonable length, I will be letting each know what I appreciate about them. (Probably something we should do on a regular basis, but I’m happy to have this opportunity now!)

If I wasn’t focusing on the current generation, I would definitely be writing about Scott’s great-grandmother, Catherine Seeley Fitzallen – a strong woman in her own way – despite probable mental illness, she managed to amass enough capital to finance a building project in Chicago that secured a comfortable life for her daughter and her descendants.
The strength of the women in my husband’s family has been discussed amongst ourselves many times. My sisters-in-law and I get together as often as possible and truly enjoy each other’s company. Sadly, we have lost two of these wonderful women in recent years.

THE SISTERS-IN-LAW

Me and three of my sisters-in-law at Cait’s wedding in 2012.
That’s Peggy on the far right.

Margaret “Peggy” Winchester Holman Ross left us on May 11, 2014. Peggy’s calm demeanor, her gentle manner, and her ability to remain optimistic even under the worst of circumstances often made me wish I had known her better. Peggy and her family live quite far from us so there weren’t many opportunities to spend time together, other than family events. Happily, her boys have inherited her wonderful spirit and I can continue to “be” with Peggy through them.
Ann Goodgion passed away on September 3, 2006. An amazing woman, who raised two fabulous boys, often on her own. I was always in awe of what Ann could accomplish – she spent her life trying to make things better for others – sometimes to the detriment of her own well-being. While raising her children, she became a social worker, college professor, and a Ph. D. candidate, working to improve the lives of others and fighting against social injustice. And – she was a hockey mom! That, in itself, is remarkable!
Jeanne is Scott’s sister. The rock of the family, Jeanne keeps us together. How she stays positive, even in the face of devastating events, is an inspiration. There was a time, many years ago, when it looked like I would no longer be a part of the Holman clan. (That’s a story for another day!) Jeanne occasionally comments on how happy she is that I stuck around! I’m pretty pleased about it, too! I look to Jeanne for focus and clarity when life gets complicated.
Wendy. Oh, Wendy. Why do you live so far away? The first time I went away overnight with Scott was to visit Wendy and her husband John (Scott’s brother) in Pleasantville, New York. Wendy was so welcoming and so gracious! I knew immediately that this was a woman I wanted to get to know better. Sorry I wasn’t talking to Scott during the month you got married. I regret to this day, missing your wedding! Wendy has the best smile – her warmth just exudes out of every pore! She and I have a lot in common. Besides a love for family history, Wendy just loves the stuff that goes along with that. I spent some time with her, looking through her “family museum” – letters, journals, great pictures, etc. We are both now retired, but it may take more time than we both have to catalog all her finds! Another woman of great strength – her husband and mom passed away within weeks of each other.
Laurel is my very accomplished sister-in-law. Previous to her retirement, Laurel was library director in several different towns. As a “closet” librarian, I feel a certain kinship there. The only difference is that Laurel actually reads the books; I just like to organize them! After losing her husband Gerry (Scott’s brother) in 1991, Laurel was left to raise her two sons on her own. No small task when one is working full-time at a very demanding job. Through it all, Laurel drew on her strengths to assure a stable home for the boys. Now retired, Laurel hasn’t slowed down much at all. She attends community events, takes super-interesting classes at local colleges and, of course, is a voracious reader. I always learn something new when we get together for our “sisters’ lunches.”

The wedding I missed. That’s Wendy, second from left, next to Scott. His brother, John is the man standing on the far right.

Suzi is my sister Jeanne’s better half. Better three-quarters is more like it. Suzi has experienced several traumatic life events which may have given her strength she needs to conquer what might be her biggest challenge yet – keeping my sister alive and focused! Although Suzi has been part of our family for almost 30 years (What? How is that possible?) I feel as though I don’t really know that much about her. I’m hoping to rectify that this summer when Scott and I join Jeanne and Suzi on a three-week river cruise. A recently retired social worker, Suzi now has the best job ever. Being a grandma to her adorable granddaughter!

Kathy is actually my ex-sister-in-law. We call her Kathy F. to differentiate her from my sister Kathy. Here’s the thing about our family – it’s kind of like being in the Mafia – you’re in for life. Once you’re in, there’s no getting out! Kathy has been d
ealt a few tough cards throughout her life. In spite of that, she raised (actually is still raising) three fabulous kids while working two jobs and earning her massage therapist certificate. She always remembers family birthdays which is something I struggle with.

Caroline is married to my brother, Rodi. (My family is quite extended. Rodi is the adopted son of my father and his third wife. To me, he is my brother.) They live in Canada so I don’t see them much. I actually have only met Caroline one time. During that one visit, it was clear that Caroline was a woman of strength. For one thing, she is a teacher. For another, at the time of their visit, their son was going through a difficult period. Caroline parented him with calmness and love. It takes strength to remain calm in the face of a challenging four-year-old!

Shellye is not yet my sister-in-law. I am happy to announce that will change on September 8th,  when she marries my brother, Dean. I could list many of her strengths, such as surviving life as a high school teacher and writing/performing awesome music. But what I’m most impressed with is – her ability to enjoy life while living with my brother! (You know I love you, Dean!)
That’s it for my sisters-in-law. Let’s move on to my sisters. You’ll notice the list isn’t any shorter. I told you my family was extended!!

THE SISTERS

I just love this photo. It’s all eight of the children of my mom and my stepdad.

Sandra is the eldest of all my siblings. (We are actually step-siblings, but I never think that way … all my steps are siblings!!) My question for her is this, “How is it that you look exactly the same as when we met in the 1960s?” I always thought Sandy was so cool – tall (well to me, anyway), thin, with flowing black hair. She has a great sense of humor. We spent many a Sunday causing all kinds of trouble prank-calling people.
Me. I just put myself in the list so you can see where I fit in. The list is chronological, by age. (Sorry, Sandy.)
Jeanne is barely 16 months younger than me. There are so many ways to describe her. Smart. Intense. Deep-thinker. Musical. Good cook. Credentialed. That last one doesn’t speak to her traits but to her determination. (Wait – that’s a trait, right?) Several years ago, Jeanne earned her Ph. D. I think it almost killed her. Probably one of the hardest and most unpleasant times of her life. She never gave up and finally got the break she needed. Good job, Dr. Samuel! Oh – and just aside – she has an unbelievably talented son, who, with her support, has become one of the most respected young musicians in his genre.
Kathy is the middle child. She recently moved from New York to North Carolina and I really miss seeing her. Somewhere along the line, she became hilarious. Good thing, since she needed that sense of humor to survive the raising of her boys. I always had my mom as backup while raising our girls, but Kathy was hours away. There was no break for her. I didn’t appreciate until recently how difficult it had been.  Kathy also suffers with health issues, but like our mother, NEVER complains. But then, we “don’t do sick.” (Directly quoting our mom!) Oh well…

Laura. Biologically a step-sister, Laura and I look like we might actually share some DNA – the short kind! If you want to hear about someone who took lemons and made lemonade, it’s Laura’s story. Laura worked hard to earn her nursing degree and, with her husband, is raising one of the most beautiful, sweetest girls I have the privilege of being related to. There’s really just one word to describe Laura: FABULOUS!! (It’s impossible for me to convey the way she says this word – you’ll have to trust me.)

Betsy is the youngest of all my 100% biological sisters. She is arguably the nicest one of ALL of us. (Excluding Mark, but this is about the women!) She knits. She cross-stitches. She gardens and cans the best raspberry jam EVER! She volunteers.  She watches wrestling matches coached by her husband (that might be the most amazing thing she does!!) She works. Then she works. And works some more. I wish I could fast-forward the next few years so she can retire!! Always the first Christmas card – except for the auto body repair shop we went to ONE time! Her thoughtfulness is beyond thoughtful. Betsy actually thinks about doing nice things for people. And then she DOES them!

Samuel Family photo taken in 2007 on my father’s 75th birthday. The only one missing is Jeanne.
So sad how many of these people are no longer with us. 

Alexandra is the child of my father and his second wife. She lives the farthest of all my siblings and there are days when I wish I could run over to her house and hug her. (Although, I suspect she’d prefer I just take her away to a remote island full of yummy treats.) Alex shares her strength publicly on an almost daily basis, an amazing resource and support for anyone raising children with challenges. I won’t get into details here but suffice it to say that you won’t meet another person who conquers life’s daily “poop” with such humor. The other thing I want to share is that I always regretted not getting to know Alex better when we were younger. I always had my siblings to help process the stuff our dad did. The children he adopted with his third wife had sibs as well. But Alex was on her own. You know the saying, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger…”

Kristen is the eldest daughter of the three children my father adopted with his third wife. You’re probably thinking, “What is it with that guy?” According to him, he was just trying to ‘get it [parenting] right’. Surprisingly, the bond between my father’s eight children has gotten stronger since his p
assing. I “visit” with Kristen on an almost daily basis, thanks to Facebook. An artist and photographer, Kristen often struggles with debilitating physical pain. Chronic illness is no joke and I am awed by Kristen’s ability to get up each morning and do whatever needs to be done to support herself and her two super kids.

Marion is my father’s youngest. I remember visiting Dad when our eldest, Caitlin, was about 2 and thinking, “Marion is waaaay closer in age to Caitlin than to me!” 7 years between aunt and niece; 23 years between sisters! She has come a long way from that little girl who shared the red bath tub with Caitlin. (Sorry, Marion, I just loved how much fun you two had!) A gifted singer and mother of one very spirited, adorable little girl, it’s amazing what she manages to pack into one day. Then she wakes… and does it again!

So those are the amazing women in my life. Some I see more often than others. But, they are always with me. Their strengths give me strength. Their energy keeps me going. Their existence makes our family what it is. I am proud to be their sister!!

One thought on “52 Ancestors – Week #10 – Strong Women

  1. This touching post made me cheer and tear up a little at the same time. You are blessed with so many wonderfully strong women in your family–and you add to the family's strength yourself! I hope you share this post with these fabulous ladies so they know you're incredibly proud to be connected to them.

    Like

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