Viewing entries tagged

My Grandmother: An Inspired Role Model

My Grandmother: An Inspired Role Model

In remembrance of my Grandmother who died earlier this year, I wanted to reflect during this Women's History Month on just how much impact a seemingly ordinary woman can have. 


She could be easy to overlook given her humble lifestyle, and although she never earned fame or notoriety, she was certainly well-known and deeply respected within her communities.  She had an impressive capacity for care, kindness, compassion, and endurance.  She was one of 12 siblings, 8 of whom fought in WWII, and she grew up in rural Pennsylvania fighting her own way out of a sometimes stifling small town. She imagined more for herself - a life with a far greater reach.  

She had many wonderful years as a student and a missionary, starting her own family on international missions. She had an amazing faith and ability to go with the swing of things. I think she was truly shocked and devastated when she found herself abandoned as a single mother of 6 children, at a time when her youngest was just barely starting school and they had all moved to a new city. Despite the many challenges that came with raising children alone, she managed to find a way to put herself through nursing school while working three jobs, and somehow maintained closeness and connection to her kids. 

It has always struck me that despite how hard she worked, she always seemed so emotionally available and generous with her time. She prioritized her family, and showed up in times of need.  I'm sure I also learned some questionable things from her including how to evade student loan debt (it doesn't really work), but it never seemed to keep her down and she was able to keep her relational priorities straight. I think she was truly happier for that, and for the risks she took. 

This is not an uncommon story, many women and mothers rise to their maternal duties. She lived her life as a member of the working poor and ultimately devoted herself to work with the church of the Salvation Army. This is not exactly a 'pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps' success story, but celebration for her comes from the fact that she carried on working diligently while never surrendering her values or losing her sense of humor, humility, or self. She managed to continually lift-up others and was an inspiration for the many women in our family to own their sense of independence, hold on to their opinions, and speak-up against those trying to keep them down. 

My Grandma certainly faced hardships that I will never know, and I can only hope that some fraction of her enormous strength has been passed down to me.  To some she may seem like just another lady who slipped through life unnoticed, but to me and to my family we know just how many lives she touched. She was an inspired role model of determination, sturdiness, and above all - love.  

Erika Mitchell, MA, is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #109385, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT 50732. Erika specializes in helping her clients bring mindful, attuned awareness to their sensations and emotions.

Granny Joy

Granny Joy

When thinking about what I would write on the topic of joy, my mind immediately landed on my paternal grandmother. Her name is Simcha, which means Joy in Hebrew. I used to call her “Granny Joy.” She would have been 100 years old this past year if she were still here in physical form.

[Joy] seems like an internal state that comes from our being, and it seems tied to being able to feel present in the moment.

What strikes me as significant about my grandmother and JOY, is that she experienced tragedy and struggle in her life, yet, by the time I got to meet her, her joy seemed to be so available regardless. Granted, she had seven children, 16 grandchildren, and twenty-something great grandchildren to feel joyful about, (well, and to worry about), but there was and is something very meaningful and significant to me about my grandmother and joy.

If my grandmother were alive and I asked her what gave her the most joy, outside of her family, she hands down would have said gardening. And why gardening? Because it took her mind off of everything and brought her into the present moment with beauty, with the earth, with the roses, with the poppies, the squash, the green beans, the peach tree, the avocado tree, plum tree, and the fig tree. It brought her hands into the earth – into the soil with the seeds.

My grandmother could laugh, and she did – a lot. She laughed in conversation with others - this joyful laughter that seemed to come when she was in the company of others.

As I mentioned, she experienced loss and heartache and pain, just like the rest of us, yet this didn’t seem to interfere with her ability to feel joy. Yes, during those times of great suffering, I imagine it absolutely interfered. But in her life, in general, there was this ability to find the joy again and again by doing things that spoke to her soul, to her being. Gardening and family were those things for her. She didn’t seem to need to chase the joy, she seemed to connect to what she loved and the joy would start coming through her.

In thinking about my grandmother, how I experience joy, and how my friends have described their experiences with it to me, it seems like an internal state that comes from our being, and it seems tied to being able to feel present in the moment.

The safety, security and feeling of love I feel when I think of my Granny Joy, of Simcha, feels deeply rooted in her love for her family, her ability to nurture us and her own ability to connect to the JOY that she could bring through her. There is something safe and nurturing about joy - something that feels organic, authentic, deeply alive, and available to everyone.

Michelle Levy, PhD, is a Registered Psychological Assistant #PSB94024010 working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Dr. Levy’s clinical interests focus on parenting practices, attachment, child mental health and developmental concerns, as well as the effects of trauma on youth, families and communities. 

Women of Style: My Grandmother

Women of Style: My Grandmother

It wasn’t about owning the best but presenting your best.
Laura's Grandmother

My grandmother’s sense of style represented her consistency and strength. She was always well put together, rarely casual and never disheveled.  For my grandmother, being well-groomed was a matter of respect for self and others - it wasn't about owning the best but presenting your best. Presentation included etiquette - be timely, understand which fork to use, and how to make a proper cup of tea. She was gracious and kind - not pretentious or flashy. 

My grandmother had classic taste and chose quality items to be enjoyed for several years.  Her wardrobe reflected her belief of valuing and caring for what you own. Instead of accumulating, she tailored, mended, and accessorized. When I see pictures of my grandmother from the forties, I am reminded that details and quality matter and that simple, elegant clothing with clean, feminine lines can be both beautiful and powerful. I am also reminded to sit up straight and that everything is better with a cup of tea!

051Michelle Harwell-3808.jpg


Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. 

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising page.

Laura MacRae-Serpa, LMFT, CCLS has special interests in supporting children and families navigating adoption and the challenges of chronic illness.