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Iron Strong Part 13
Maiden, Mother and Crone...
In 2012 I journaled daily through my divorce, leaving the Mormon Religion, being a Single Mom, becoming a Marathoner and eventually an Ironman Athlete. This story will be delivered in parts and not really edited down from the original writings in my journal (including some typos and grammar misalignment). I do this to uphold the integrity of the Woman I was when I wrote these a decade ago, long before I knew this would end up as a full book and despite the fact my writing has evolved in the decade since I wrote these pieces. They read in present day time from a decade ago. These are stories of hope, miracles and never giving up on your dreams. It is a heroine’s journey of shame, secrets and ultimate seclusion to the Finish Line of Ironman Arizona....and then beyond. An Outward Journey to an Inward Destination of Freedom and Liberation, Iron Strong.
My Chicago Grandma…
Perhaps the most impactful women of my 20s and my time in the inner city Mormon congregation was Marayln. Growing up Maralyn was a clothing designer selling to Neiman Marcus and Henri Bendel, Maralyn's clients included Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
It was radical for a woman, let alone a mother, to be working in the 50’s and 60’s and top that with Mormonism and Maralyn was one hell of a mover and shaker, stirring things up in the world and trail blazing a path for women and mother’s everywhere. Her energy was palpable.
I not only served the children with her but she became one of my closest friends. She was in her late 70’s and it was then I realized friends come in all ages, sizes, and varieties. She was the Grandmother of my adulthood since both my Grandmother’s passed away before I had children.
She is one of the great teachers of my life and especially as a young mother. We met a few weeks after I had moved to downtown Chicago from my small college town in Utah. I was at church one Sunday and our eyes met. I was instantly drawn to her grace and beauty. I immediately walked up to her and started a conversation. The poise and class she held into her late 70’s was infectious to a young girl like myself. I knew instantly that I needed her in my life and in my inner circle.
Our relationship grew into a Grandmother/Grandaughter role and she truly filled a void that had been lost when my own grandmothers had passed on. She was an angel in my life as we served the inner city children and made church a safe haven for them...our number one goal.
The lessons I value most were learned usually over stuffed french toast at our favorite brunch places around Chicago…Toast, Bongo Room, and Feast. Our monthly brunch forever shaped my outlook as a mother and woman.
I’ll never forget when I told her that I was quitting my corporate job and then just weeks later declared I was moving to Hawaii for a month to study yoga in an Ashram. Her sparkling blue eyes got huge and she said… “Oh Steph…you just MUST do this! Go and have yourself an adventure!”
One thing I have noticed is that when you have friends that are older they are much wiser. With age comes certain wisdom. And it was my oldest friend that without hesitation said…Go on that adventure, LIVE life to the fullest, and just say YES.
She was so excited to hear every last detail when I got home. Marayln always was my biggest advocate and influence for me to follow the passion of yoga/meditation that I had deep within my soul.
About six months after I had my first child we had our brunch date. It was only the second time I had seen her since he was born because life with your first newborn is a bit crazy as any new mom can attest!
Maralyn asked me “how are you, what have you been up to?” Well that was an EASY question to answer...I just LOVE being a mom, it is so fun playing with Ty all day, we signed up for a music class, ect...
Then she looked into my eyes seemingly unimpressed and asked me once again, so what have YOU been up to Stephanie. Not the baby. You.
It got me thinking...while being a mother and wife at that time were the two things I treasured most in my whole life I was still ME…Stephanie…and I needed to remember not to loose that outlook…ever.
I was able to reply with things about me...I am getting back into yoga more, I have signed up for a few races, I started a recipe blog, I am learning to play the guitar. It felt good to have so many things that still made me, me.
A happy, healthy ME is what my role as a mother needs. I never wanted to loose myself, ever from that point on, and even though I WANTED to devote my whole life to my family I was reminded by that simple question…
“No what about YOU”
…that I need to remember who I am, remember what I like to do, keep interests for myself, do things that I like to do, keep myself interested and interesting and always try to grow myself.
This was perhaps some of the most pivotal advice of my years as a young mother. I knew from that moment on that to be the best mother that I could be…I needed to be me first.
By doing what I love I was able to love my children whole-heartly. I didn’t love them less by taking some time to run, go to a yoga class, play my guitar or bake. I loved them more because I was fulfilled as an individual. In order to give fully you have to be fully giving to yourself.
Maralyn later emphasized this in an article that was written up about her.
I can remember when I went to visit her (Maralyn’s mother) when she was about 86 years old (she died at 88). She said, “Oh honey if I just have a project, I can keep going.” I said, “Mom what more do you want to do?” I looked to mother as an example of a woman doing all that she could. As long as she had a project I could see how happy she was.
After working at ZCMI for several years, I had an interview with Jerry Stutz, the president of Henri Bendel, a high fashion store in New York City. Jerry made me an offer to buy for their sportswear department and for their sports dresses, so I took it! Why not, you know? The job involved travel . . . we traveled all around the world, to Paris, Ireland, England, and Italy. We went to all the couture fashion shows. I also designed ready-to-wear for Henri Bendel. One year, I designed a coat that was on the cover of a magazine and Jackie Onasis Kennedy called up and bought it. It was exciting!
I believe in life that women have to be fulfilled as much as men. We have a time and a season, as the scripture tells us. But too many of us forget that and we let ourselves get lost. There are so many things to do in life and so many places to go and so much to see and so much to read. I usually have five or six books from the library at any one time. I can’t keep up with all of them so I read what I think is interesting. I think that we have to keep our minds bright, too. Jim’s mother worked for the United Nations on women’s projects well into her 90’s and my mother kept her mind going through painting and writing.
We sometimes lose sight of the wonderful things that can be done. The more we grow, the more our children grow. To stay home and take care of our children is the most important thing in life. On the other hand, you have to be doing something so that your children see you and grow by that example. All of us have gifts and great challenges in life that we should try and make the most of.
I would say think about what you like to do. If you like to sing, practice singing. If you like to read, read good books. You might find that you want to do some painting or drawing. Or if you like to write, start doing it. It’s a matter of doing! I think too many of us are to the point where we think, “I’ve gone to school. . . I have my degree. . . and that’s it!” You have to find yourself and what you want to do and figure out what you need to continue your path of growth. It will change and take a different direction as you get older but I think it’s so important to understand that you are you. And have fun doing it!