(Just some of) the Women who inspire me

It’s International Women’s Day. In no way is this going to be an exhaustive list, but I just wanted to write about some of the women who have really inspired me. Some I only know from media, others I’ve met and there are many that I am privileged to call friends.

Nicola. One of the inspirational women I get to call my friend, and have done since she came to Aberdeen in 2005 and we began ‘Tea, Prayer and One Tree Hill’. I’ve already embarrassed her on facebook today, but I’m hoping she’s given it up for Lent or something. My fellow alien on Planet Christian, who has challenged me to be more faithful in God to provide, to tithe, to spend my money in more ethical places, to read more widely, to not give up shouting about injustice, and not to be afraid of who I am. Currently training to be an Anglican vicar and having to come up against people who believe that as a woman she shouldn’t even be one. She’s going to make one kick ass vicar, and like I said on facebook, I would not be shocked (and I’ve told her on several occasions) that I reckon one day she’ll be a Bishop. And if that happens she’s going to lead ethically, justly and humbly. Because that’s in her character.

Me and Nicola

Miss Flinderella. I met this girl online, and four years ago, I got to meet her in person. I love her passion for feminism and standing up for not slagging off women because of how they look. I love how she has stood up for teenage mothers and the stigma that is often put on them. I love that she has had the courage to go back to university and is now doing a PhD. Yes. A PhD. When this postgraduate student (ie me) was until very recently trying to avoid writing a simple Masters dissertation at all costs so she is putting me to shame! She was the first person to wish me a Happy International Women’s Day and she daily encourages me to be a better person than I am, because she sets high standards for me!

Lupita Nyong’o. I said to my friend the other day that I want to ask this woman to marry me. Her grace. Her poise. Her eagerness to learn. Her passion. Her joy. This speech. She is beauty personified, and I don’t mean just outwardly. She is beautiful inside and out, and  I  was so impressed by her fearless portrayal of Patsey in 12 years a slave.

Chimamanda Adichie. I’ve spoken of this lady often. After many conversations late into the night (well not that late, we were up so early every day!) with my friend I shared a room with in Durban, finding her TED talk on the Danger of the Single Story was a revelation and I wanted to be in the room cheering her on. Let there be more Lupitas and Chimamandas to encourage us not to just share single stories.

Rebecca. Another blog turned in real life friend. This girl is one of the most loyal and thoughtful friends you could have. She sends you random post in the mail. She throws awesome parties. And she worked darned hard to become a nurse. She cares deeply not only about her patients, but their loved ones too. She is honestly one of the first friends I made after I became a Christian that I didn’t feel awkward around or judged by. She is creative, compassionate, caring, courageous. She has blogged openly and honestly about her personal battle with depression and anxiety helping everyone to have a better understanding of the illness and how we can better support loved ones suffering from depression.

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Ruth. Ruth was an online friend when we went to the same church in the same city. And then we found each other. And we did Inter:act at the same time. And once that was all over she left the city but we’ve kept in good contact. We’ve even been on holiday together. She is an introvert and I’m an extrovert. It sounds really daft, but I’ve always been inspired by how Ruth will get up and go do stuff. Me? I’m always sitting in the house with the time to do something and not doing it because I don’t have someone to do it with. I’m trying to learn to be more like Ruth! She is also great with kids and passionate about helping them to learn. Not teaching them, but creatively helping them learn (I believe there’s a difference).

Beth Tweddle. Britain’s most successful gymnast ever. She is only a year younger than me. What impresses me about Beth is her diligence, her work ethic, and the fact that she blazed a trail for both male and female gymnasts in the UK that simply wasn’t there before. Not only that but I’ve heard her cheering fellow gymnasts from the stands when she was out with injury. She never gave up. I love her passion for inspiring young people, and love that her response to internet trolls has been to support charities that are dealing with internet safety and cyber bullying.

Meredith Vieira. I think I found this lady because she interviewed American gymnasts, and then I started noticing other interviews. I loved that she was unashamedly a woman working in a male dominated business. I loved that she had a husband and kids but also worked. I loved that she was always looking great without showing a ton of skin. I love that she was a woman older than my mother not trying to look younger and hadn’t been written off the television. I loved her personality and how she didn’t take herself too seriously, but took respecting others very seriously. I also love her new YouTube channel: Lives with Meredith Vieira.

A friend of Meredith is Ann Curry, and I know that is a woman who inspires Holly. Holly inspires me because she is not afraid to be herself. She bravely shared a series on atheism on her blog and sadly lost some blog readers due to the fact they were so ‘offended’ by her beliefs and those of her guest bloggers, that were different from their own. She has watched her home city be devastated by earthquakes. She has gone through scary treatments for kidney disease, and like Rebecca, she has been willing to share the ups and downs of her journey and battles with it. She has moved to a country on the other side of the world from home. She has embraced her curls much better than I’ve (not) embraced mine.

Kathy. When I first met Kathy & her husband I thought they didn’t like me or just thought I was weird. It was only when they laughed a lot about my incident with a trolley in a supermarket car park that I realised that even if they did think I was a complete fruit loop, they liked me anyway. A more generous pair I dare you to find. Kathy has this amazing discipline and work ethic. I don’t know how she did it travelling the world, working crazy hours and still finding time to bake gluten free brownies for someone as a treat or making a vat of soup to be taken to feed the homeless. She is super intelligent (folks, she can do MATHS!), she makes the best brownies in the world, she knits, she walks, she travels and she wears jeans. She uses her knowledge of business and mixes it with her creative talents to proactively find solutions to inequality. And I can always rely on her to challenge me when I’m in need of an attitude adjustment. And she’s a fab mother to her son.

Vicky. Where do I begin? She was my first new friend when I moved back to Edinburgh. She is like my community education buddy because she loves it too. She is an eco warrior. She is an awesome mum, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard her yell or shout. Her discipline is always so gentle, and if I ever get the chance to be a parent, I know that I’ll be a better parent because of what I’ve learned from observing her parenting in action. She is a fantastic artist and uses art to get people thinking. She is generous with her time and so open with her resources. Not least of which is her home.

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Carrie. My friend of more than 10 years now. The woman who had met me once, but was willing to come and retrieve me in the middle of the night when I had dehydrated myself so badly for fear of having to use a portaloo covered in puke I’d collapsed at a music festival.  She has always given care, advocacy and consistency to vulnerable people, whether it be children in care or adults with disabilities. In every community she has lived in she has  actively sought to provide opportunities for disadvantaged and/or vulnerable people. She makes awesome cakes. She lets her sons make a mess, try new things and let’s them fall so they can learn to pick themselves back up again. She has two confident young boys as a result! She also did me the honour of asking me to be both her bridesmaid and her firstborn’s godmother.

There are also many, many other friends and ladies from over the years. I’d say every single member of my Senior Section Unit. The Girlguiding Leaders that I work with currently. My Ranger Leader, Penny and her daughters. Many of my high school friends. Many of my university friends. So many gymnasts (not just Beth!). Clare Balding. Sarah Millican. Joanna Rowsell. Friends from church. Friends from workplaces past and present. Malala Yousafzai.

Oh so many women. And this is just a handful.

We have the ability to make the world a better place just as much as dudes do. :)

So let’s do it!

Quote of the Week – Week 11

IMGP0612So since the Catholic Church got a new Pope yesterday, I thought it’d be appropriate to use this week to quote from Mother Teresa. Though I didn’t agree with all of her beliefs, what I really admire is her humility and the fact that she ‘walked her talk’. The reason so many people sat up and listened to what she had to say, is because she earned respect of people by living a life of action.

I love Inside the Actors Studio. I am that girl who likes to watch the special features on DVDs and track down interviews with the creators, crew, actors of my favourite shows and films to discover that extra insight behind their creative choices. I kinda want to be an accomplished actor just so I could meet and be interviewed by James Lipton. The last question he asks to all his guests from the famous ‘Pivot’ questionnaire is “If heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?” One of my favourite answers given in response to this question was from Matt Damon. This is what he told Jim that he hoped God would tell him: “That  all of the suffering that you saw or heard about or knew was happening…that there was a point to it, and here come in the back and I’ll tell you all about it”.

Our world is a mess – most of it caused by us here in the world now and our ancestors being selfish or greedy or vengeful. There’s corruption. There are natural disasters that cause devastation that we previously would have struggled to imagine. There is war. There is evil. There is suffering. Some of it is far away from us. Some of it is just next door.

The problems of our world often don’t have simple solutions. And affect huge amounts of people. Can one person solve them? No. So what’s the point in doing anything if we can’t solve it? we might ask when we are overwhelmed by the enormity and complexity.

And that’s when I remember. We can’t often do HUGE things, especially not on our own. But we can do small things with a lot of love. And that will still make a difference. Much more of a difference than sticking our heads in the sand and doing nothing.

Quote of the Week – Week 6, guest starring…Rebecca!

Hi everyone! This week’s quote has been reflected on by my lovely online and now in-real-life friend, Rebecca. She has guest starred on my blog a few times before both as a writer , co-star in adventures like this one and co-mischief maker. I keep up with her mainly through her fabulous blog Making Memories & twitter. Most recently she founded the wonderful movement of ‘A Very Airmail Christmas‘ in honour of one of her patients, and I’m deliberately scheduling this post a day later than planned because today is Rebecca’s birthday!! Happy birthday Becca and thank you for another wonderful guest post…

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I have the typical type A personality. I like things planned and organised or I at least have to learn more about something before I start it. Otherwise I’ll be reluctant to have a go in the first place.

This quote speaks volumes to me. Looking back at MLK’s life it’s apparent he was very religious and led a life by example from the Bible. But I don’t think I need to be religious/spiritual in order for this quote to apply to my life processes. To me it says that you should always take the first step, with the faith that the rest of the staircase still exists, and that eventually you will reach your destination if you keep taking each step at a time.

Last year I made the very difficult decision to leave my first job since qualifying as a nurse in 2010. I was getting stressed, I was not developing my nursing skills how I wanted to and going to work was becoming a chore. I did not become a nurse to feel like that! On the other hand I was scared. Where do I apply to? What if I am not better supported in my next nursing role? What if I leave and realise my previous job was actually better? The perfectionist in me was doing somersaults and I kept telling myself I had to be better prepared for this next step.

Looking back I realised I never even took the first step, let alone the next one I thought I was on! But the more miserable I got the more I realised that this was a situation I could never be prepared for. I needed to have the courage to take the first step on the ladder, even if I could not see more than one or two steps ahead. As petrifying as it was I had to have faith that the top of the staircase existed. I just needed to have the belief I could climb the ladder and have faith that it would lead me to a better destination.

I am now in a much happier place. These are my new work colleagues and I look forward to working with them everyday.

I am now in a much happier place. These are my new work colleagues and I look forward to working with them everyday.

This motto can be used in so many areas of peoples lives! I remember two years ago my sister Nicola was telling me she wanted to start a family. Yet, she kept saying ‘it’s just not the right time at the moment.’ Then that summer they decided to quit the excuses, try and see what happened. Now 18 months later they have my nephew. Even though they did not know the outcome they knew if they did not take the first step in finding out they would never have become parents.

So what now? I have faith that the stairs are there and even though I don’t like the idea that sometimes you can’t see the top of the stairwell. The journey of taking the steps towards the top is half the fun, isn’t it?

Is inequality why girls aren’t inspired by women?

Last Monday, the patrols I was working with finished doing the Promise Consultation earlier than we expected. And knowing that after half term they’ll be using time to plan the two nights they are leading next term, I wanted to get them thinking about International Women’s Day.

So I asked them what I thought was a simple question.

‘Can you tell me about a woman who has inspired you?’

With blank looks, I asked them if there was a woman who they looked to as a role model, or did something they thought was cool, or maybe showed characteristics they’d like to have as they got older.

One girl (aged 10) piped up with ‘Rosa Parks’.

The rest of the two patrols all looked at her strangely then looked at me and said ‘Who is Rosa Parks?’

With some help, this 10 year old girl explained who Rosa Parks was and her simple act of courage. But all the girls struggled to come up with their own answers. One said ‘Peppa Pig’ and someone else said ‘Can we choose One Direction?’

I’m trying to remember who I looked up to when I was their age. I remember Betty Boothroyd being the woman with the gavel in the House of Commons. I remember the Spice Girls and finding out a lot more about their back stories – I really admired Melanie C because it was someone who wasn’t wearing teeny skirts and high heels all the time. I wasn’t a fan of Margaret Thatcher, but I do remember being told she was the first female Prime Minister. I admiring the dancers in the Scottish Ballet. Lavinia Milosovici, Kerri Strug and Amanda Borden because they seemed like nice people as well as so hard working that they got to the Olympics! Perhaps Mother Teresa and Princess Diana.

But really most of history seemed filled with men. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Steve Redgrave, Linford Christie, Winston Churchill, soliders from World Wars, Stephen Biko, Donald Woods, Nelson Mandela… All the ladies just seemed to be there to look like human Barbie dolls. Perfect hair, perfect make up, pristine clothing. That wasn’t me, and I didn’t identify with them. There just didn’t seem to be many equivalents to not just admire their talents but their ability to live functional ‘normal’ lives.

I have been blessed to grow up in a world where anything seemed possible for women. The only inequality I found growing up is that girls were not allowed to play football at primary school. I remember distinctly there being a football team set up for the boys, but there was absolutely nothing for the girls. Not even another sports team of any sort.

And so it makes me wonder why it is such a difficult question to answer.

And how really I’ve believed a myth of no inequality when actually there seems to be a special secret going on.

Only just this morning, I heard that the Scholastic Athletic programme in Massachusetts is doing away with Men’s Gymnastics.  The MIAA spokeperson went so far to say this: “It’s a girls’ sport…. when was the last time you watched boys’ gymnastics? They don’t get on the cover of the Wheaties box. They don’t get the endorsements.

Oh. My. Word.

Who hires people like this?! First of all, I’m not even American, and I know plenty of male gymnasts with endorsements. Hilton Worldwide. BMW. Ralph Lauren. That wouldn’t have been John Orozco on Piers Morgan would it? And no they haven’t been on a Wheaties Box recently. Because they haven’t been quite so successful as the American women’s gymnastics team.  But hey – in the UK, Louis Smith made it to our equivalent of Dancing With The Stars and you’ll see him on Subway shop windows. And maybe, just maybe,  the state that produced one of America’s most well-known male gymnasts perhaps wants to rethink that decision. Especially if that’s your sexist and severely misguided view of the sport of gymnastics.

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So it makes me wonder if the problem with inequality lies in ignorance or stereotyping. Perhaps some of the guys out there have the same problem. Who are the male role models for them?

I think I have a lot more to say on this subject, but I would love to hear your thoughts…

Words…

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A long with posting the ‘Quote of the Week’ and writing some reflection on it, I’ve also decided to post it on my facebook page. Turns out I’m not the only one inspired by Donald Miller’s words on fear, as already I’ve had two friends paste the picture of those words onto their own walls.

I do realise though, that with 52 weeks in the year, I need 52 quotes. For sure, I’ve got some on the backburner, ready to go.

But I would love to see more.

So I’m wondering if you, my lovely readers, have any quotes that have spoken wisdom, encouragement or inspiration to you. Or maybe it’s a quote that made you stop and take stock. Or one that simply made you smile.

Please do share your favourite quotes by leaving a comment below

The ever evolving inspiration wall…

In 2012, I started posted about the contents of my inspiration wall. I enjoyed taking the time to reflect on the quotes and meaningful pictures on my wall and hope to continue to do so in 2013. After coming home from Dogmanay, I spent time getting my calendar for the year ready and explored the internet for some more quotes to add to the wall. Here are the new additions…

oscar wilde quote

 

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IMGP0554I’m considering doing a ‘quote of the week’ post, as I know that these posts (though not always commented on) were popular amongst my readership.

What do you think?

 

Retiring at 18? Not Johanna…

Today, I came home and was catching up on my gymnastics twitter feed to see what the news was from the Doha World Cup competition. Which Beth Tweddle won a Gold in.

But what grabbed my attention was a female gymnast at the Cottbus Cup…Johanna Quaas.

Johanna is 86 years old.

Yes.

You did read that right.

Her floor routine may not qualify her for the Olympics, and women no longer compete on Parallel Bars. But what an inspiration.

Johanna started gymnastics at 30 years old (there’s hope for me then!) and has won multiple medals in senior artistic gymnastics in Germany.

Johanna, I salute you! And may you encourage others to stop with the ‘I’m too old’ excuses, and live life pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

What has inspired you this week?

Eva Markvoort – an inspiration

I just flicked on my blog reader to discover an update on Eva’s blog. This time not written by Eva, but by (I assume) a member of her family.

Eva died this morning at 9.30 a.m. (PST)

Eva, you were and still are an inspiration. The bravest woman I’ve ‘met’ online. I hope that somehow people in the UK will see your documentary. This is a film that needs to be seen.

I’m already signed on the NHS Organ Donor Register. My Mum knows of my wishes.

In honour of Eva, would you please leave a comment if you are on your country’s organ donor register, showing that her fight to do all she can to raise awareness has not been in vain. If you haven’t already, would you consider it?

And feel free to leave some words of love to Eva’s family and friends on Eva’s blog.

Thank you Eva, for living your life so generously, for not giving up, for being an inspiration to all of us. You’ve shown us all what it is to love, and to be loved in return.

Breathe easy, and skip, dance & rest in peace.

Thank you for wise women in my life

So in relation to my whining and frustration on my blog last week, Carolyn commented

“Do you REALLY belive that God has put something on your heart that he’s not big enoung to make happen?”

That got me thinking back to about 18 months ago when a very wise woman challenged me with these words:

“However big your thinking is, think bigger, because you can’t out-think God”

That wise woman was Joanna Thompson, the very same Joanna who I asked you guys to join me in prayer for earlier this summer. Joanna was (still is) basically one of my heroes, because she was a pioneer in showing God’s love, mercy, grace and compassion in action through the work of pregnancy crisis centres.

Joanna went to be with Jesus a few days after I got back from South Africa. There’s a memorial service for her in London this Wednesday (I really wanted to be there).

I wrote about how God had spoken to me after her challenge to us at the Scottish CareConfidential conference in May 2008 on my old blog. God spoke to me a lot that weekend about stepping out to do some public speaking in relation to work in pregnancy crisis support. I don’t know how she came across it, but she did. After reading Carolyn’s comment I went back to find what she had written to me.

Don’t hide under your sleeping bag! Just keep your eyes on Jesus, as you are doing, remembering that you are his workmanship and that he already has prepared the works for you to do. When you do them you will just know that this is what you are made for.

She was totally right. Six months later I was speaking with my friend Joy at the Christian Medical Fellowship conference.

God spoke to me more in South Africa about things for the future too. I have no idea if I got it right, or how it will ever happen. I guess I lack patience. I know I lack discipline.

I’ve also been asked recently if I’ll do more in the world of pregnancy crisis support. I don’t know exactly what this means yet, or what it will look like. It’s exciting and scary. I know God is in this, but I still sometimes feel very alone and very unsupported at times. I’m treading in unfamiliar, unchartered territory.

Also, a confession…though I did kinda know this ministry would eventually be part of my life very soon after becoming a Christian, in my head I didn’t think I’d be doing this as a single person. I always thought I’d be doing this together with or with the support of a husband.

But that wasn’t God’s plan for my life.

God knows what the future holds, and I only have a few clues from Him about what that might look like. I won’t really know until I get there.

In the meantime….keep on trying to love like Jesus.