Tuesday, December 4, 2007

My heroes

When I woke up this morning, I knew today would be a blue day. I’ve been feeling edgy and anxious. Work is stressful right now. My commute is long. My finances are tight. My house is a mess. My holiday “to do” list is piling up. My eating habits suck. My yoga and meditation practice is nonexistent. I am overwhelmed and feeling the burden of adult responsibility. I am only in my 30s, but today, I feel old and tired.

It’s a new agey cliché, but the universe always gives you what you need. At a monthly staff meeting this morning, someone brought up Nola Ochs and Barbara Hillary, and I vowed never to feel old and tired again. Have you heard of these ladies?

Meet Nola Ochs
Nola Ochs is 95 years old, and this spring she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Fort Hays State University in Kansas. Ochs took her first class at the college in 1930. One assumes that life intervened. There was the Depression and the Kansas Dust Bowl. Ochs married and had four children, 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. In 1972, when her husband of nearly 40 years died, Ochs began taking college courses here and there. She completed some online classes, before deciding to move 100 miles from her farm to an apartment near the university. She completed her studies in art and history this year with a 3.7 GPA. Her 22-year-old granddaughter graduated with her. SOURCE

Ochs hopes to find a job as a storyteller on a cruise ship.

Meet Barbara Hillary
Barbara Hillary, a 75 year-old cancer survivor, trekked to the northernmost point of the North Pole this year. She is one of the oldest people and the first black woman to achieve that feat. USA Today reports:

Hillary, of Averne, N.Y., grew up in Harlem and devoted herself to a nursing
career and community activism. At 67 and during retirement, she battled lung
cancer. Five years later, she went dog sledding in Quebec and photographed polar
bears in Manitoba.

Then she heard that a black woman had never made it to the
North Pole.

"I said, 'What's wrong with this picture?'" she said.
"So I sort of rolled into this, shall we say." SOURCE

Eagles Cry Adventures, a company that guides adventurers like Hillary, offers two ways to get to the North Pole. Travelers can be dropped off at the Pole by helicopter or embark on a grueling 18-day cross-country trip complete with the danger of polar bear attacks. Guess which one Hillary chose, undaunted by the $21,000 price tag or the fact that she had never skied before? She simply enrolled in skiing lessons, hired a personal trainer, saved her money and solicited private donors.

What’s next for Hillary? Like Ochs, she is looking ahead.

…[Hillary] hopes her journey will inspire hope in other cancer survivors.
With her feet back on dry land in New York, she is already plotting a new
adventure: that of a global-warming activist.

"What if?" she said. "I'd like to go and lecture to different groups on
what they can do on a grass-roots level (to fight global warming)."

God I love stories about gutsy women.

Today, I wish for myself, and everyone reading this, a little of the can-do spirit Nola Ochs and Barbara Hillary possess.

All glory comes from daring to begin.

Photo of Barbara Hillary by Richard Drew/AP

Feminist or not?

Check out the conversation about feminism as it relates to women of color at Write Out Sister Speaks and The Angry Black Woman. Aaminah Hernandez of Write Out believes that feminism belongs to middle and upper class white women, that it is not for her as a Muslim woman of color. I disagree, but the points she makes are interesting and well worth reading. I am always willing to challenge my thinking. I'm formulating a response post, but in the meantime, read what these insightful bloggers and commenters are saying here and here.

What do you say--can women of color be feminists?

(If you are a guy who reads this blog, don't be shy, chime in!)


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