Standing on the shoulders of others

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I grew up on a farm where my mother raised six children on her own, including four girls who grew up to become very strong women. My mother had the knowledge to recognize each one of our talents and encouraged us to pursue fields that matched our strengths and interests. My own strength was my art. In my teens, when I was failing in the academic world, she found an art school for me in Ottawa which meant hours of travelling from our farm to the city. I was able to thrive there for the next three years. My life has been a rocky one, not always easy, but somehow, with the support of my mother and sisters, I made it through and now here I am, a woman of 65, running my own business (with of course the help of Pat Jessop, another very strong woman and the person who keeps this paper together weekly), and enjoying the community I live in.

As a woman, I too struggled with being a single mother. I was lucky that I had help during difficult times, but others were not so lucky. I have come to admire the women in my community, young and old, for the generosity I have seen them display for these past two COVID years. One woman, a centenarian who had been through the second World War and the bombing of England, said “we got through the war, we can get through this”. She was referring to the isolation that many seniors went through at the Bayfield Retirement Residence and the consequences for them. It’s been incredibly hard on our seniors.

The women business operators in North Grenville and North Dundas suffered the stresses of not knowing when they could open, re-open, the extent to which they could operate, and whether their businesses would ultimately survive. These past two years have taught me so much on the resilience of the many women I have been in contact with.

I witnessed the efforts of our female Mayor, another solo mother with children, and her dedication to the community, spending the last two years out on the streets meeting with people, discussing their challenges with them and helping them to identify and implement solutions. So many women I talked to felt the stress, from almost every age group I came in contact with.

Shelters for women will tell you that for many women who try to leave an abusive partner, it can take multiple attempts before they are successful. This is extremely frustrating for family members and friends who want to help them. But in the end, it is often very patient women who help these women to develop the confidence to eventually cut the ties. It took some hard personal lessons of my own to try and understand these women. When I left my first relationship, there was no looking back. My eldest sister allowed me two weeks of grief and then pushed me to move on. As I said, the women in my family are very strong. So for me, it has been hard to understand why it takes so many tries for some women. But I did have incredible support and they need and deserve it as well.

I have been so inspired by all of the amazing women I have encountered over the last two years, that I was compelled to write and illustrate a children’s book featuring the different women of the area from a young girl’s perspective: you can be anything that you want to be, you just have to be able to discover your potential. Women such as my mother and the women of this area have helped me to achieve this. I have started on my second children’s book now, due to the encouragement of so many women who surround me.  All the proceeds for these books will be donated to Naomi’s Family Resource Centre in Winchester, in order to support financially what I can’t do physically.

My thanks to all you women out there, including my mother, for the encouragement and inspiration in my own life.

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