Sunday, June 1, 2008

Leading Ladies

Recently I wrote a tribute to some special men. Today I will try to do justice to a few women who have had more than a little influence over who I am.

My mother met my father while he was stationed in Japan. She was already in the work force at a young age, having skipped a few grades due to her academic prowess. I do not know if it was love at first sight or even a great romance. I know that she wanted very much to come to the United States, however. She attained citizenship at her earliest opportunity.

She endured a cruel mother-in-law, hateful neighbors, and a controlling husband. I won't say that she never allowed her hurt to show, but I will say that she never gave up. And despite the hostility she met in the communities around her, she never stopped loving this country.

She, above all others, taught me to love Texas and to be proud of my rich heritage. She wasn't allowed to work outside the home, although she had tremendous talent and intellect. So she concentrated her skills on running a tight household. She could stretch my father's enlisted military paycheck every direction. She made unbelievable sacrifices - while she was hospitalized in Germany, and my father was drinking away every cent of his pay, she would hide the nonperishable parts of her meal and send them home to us so that we would have something to eat.

She taught me to think for myself and to find ways to be victorious in a male-dominated world. I took the lessons to heart.


My senior advanced English teacher, Debra Seigman, was one of those gifted educators that taught her students much more than the curriculum required. While we learning about Chaucer and Goethe, we were also learning to treat others with dignity and equality. We were learning not to judge others and not to accept everything we heard as gospel.

Mrs Seigman would tell stories of her childhood in Pennsylvania, one of several children born to physicians. We were teenagers, so of course we would yawn and roll our eyes and mouth to one another, "What has this got to do with Shakespeare?" And without knowing it, we were learning values.

Although I never made the outside world privy to the pain of my family life, I always suspected that Mrs Seigman intuitively knew I was drowning. She reached out to me in that sly way that wise women do. She made a few small concessions when I did poorly on an exam, having been up late the night before licking my wounds after a beating when I could have been studying.

The kindness did not end after graduation. She sent a wedding gift the summer I married my first husband. She sent adorable little crosses that she purchased on her travels overseas when my daughters were born. I receive a Christmas card rich with news of her family and her adventures every year.

I will tell her soon what she meant/means to me. I will not let that opportunity slip through my fingers.


After graduate school ended, I landed in the capable arms of Linda Eatenson, a counseling supervisor of immeasurable experience and wisdom. Once a week I would drop into the comfy chair in her office to discuss my clients. I always knew immediately by the look on her face when I had screwed up with a client, yet I never felt beat up. I absorbed every word like a sponge. She helped me recognize my own gifts and showed me how to use them to help my clients.

She always saved a few minutes at the end of supervision to ask about me. I welcomed the chance to vent. You see, Linda and I were peers before she became my counseling supervisor. Our offices were across the hall from each other, and we were both program coordinators. We sat together in meetings and cracked jokes. We talked about the environment and politics and religion. We didn't always agree, but we always respected. So it was natural for us to blur the lines a bit when we were together.

Linda has moved on from the agency in response to vast changes in policy and philosophy. She walked straight into another job that has been pursuing her for some time. She will flourish, of this I am sure. I will be okay, too, but there is a hole. We promised to stay in touch, but you know how that goes when folks have busy lives.


Teaching, nurturing, testing, persevering. Leading. Loving only as women can.

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