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The Incredibles (my list of everyday superheroes)

May 21, 2012

This month, my church celebrated Mother’s Day, Teacher Appreciation Weekend, and did a series about heroism.  Thus, I began to think about my personal heroes.  There are four and the world should know them.

My husband, me and my mom, at my brother’s wedding.

My first hero, as is true with many people, was my mom.  She raised three of us as a single mom a lot of the time, since my dad was on deployments with the Navy for long stretches.  My mom worked on and off, as a preschool teacher and a few other things, but mostly she was our stay-at-home mom.  She volunteered for everything: PTA president, girl scout cookie mom, room mother, field trip chaperone.  When I was in third or fourth grade, she went back to school to get her bachelor’s degree.  She sat next to us at the kitchen table and we all did our homework together.   She was fun.  One time she loaded up a bunch of water balloons and we all hid in the bushes until my dad came up the front walk from work and we attacked.  I have lots of memories like that, and I think it was because she actively tried to create them.  She was creative and encouraging and patient.  Lots of things I hope to be when I have children.

I have some of her beautiful creations at my house.

When I got a little older, I really looked up to my great-great aunt Charlotte Lawrence (called “Lottie” by everyone).  She was my grandma’s aunt, and as she never married, we were the only family she had, so she was at every Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I looked forward to those holidays largely because it meant seeing her.  My grandma told me as a young woman, Lottie was very free-spirited.  She remembers Lottie riding her bike down steep hills with her feet on the handlebars.  She moved to Iran where she worked as a secretary, which was certainly a brave thing for a single woman to do at the time.  After she passed away we all marveled looking through a scrapbook she made of her time in the Middle East cleverly titled, “The Adventures of Lawrence in Arabia.”  Lottie was tremendously talented.  She hooked rugs, did beautiful needlepoint, made French-beaded flowers, knitted sweaters, and built furniture.  Everything she created was impeccable, without the tell-tale ‘homemade’ qualities a lot of crafts have.  She wrote me letters and was actively interested in what books I was reading and what I learned at school.  When she came to visit she’d borrow books off my shelf to read herself (I specifically remember her reading How to Eat Fried Worms and thinking it was hilarious).  She was heroic to me because she lived such a simple life: she lived alone, never drove a car, and made things instead of buying them.  And she was brilliant – well-read, interested in everything, knowledgeable about seemingly everything (we’d go for a walk and she could tell me the Latin name of every plant, tree and flower).  Mostly I think I admired her so much because she admired me.  (It’s selfish and egotistical but I was a kid.)  She just genuinely cared what I thought about things, and she saw potential in me.  If I can make one child feel like she made me feel, I’ll be very pleased with my life.  I strive to be like her in a lot of ways, but I fail most of the time.  She was the first person I ever grieved.  I miss her.  Since I was 15 I believed I’d name my future daughter after her.  That may or may not come to pass, but I hope in some way I am able to carry on the legacy she left.

I had a teacher in fifth grade (then again in sixth grade) named Miss Haney.  She was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for the second time when she was my teacher.  She had a mastectomy and wore a scarf or wig every day.  That is, until one day, when in the middle of a lesson, she looked at us, said “Okay, guys, my head itches.  Do you mind if I take this off?” And she took off her wig and we all quietly gasped, seeing her bald head for the first time.  One day she bent over to pick something up and her prosthetic breast fell out of her shirt.  I’m the only one who saw it happen, and she looked at me and immediately laughed without any embarrassment.  I laughed too, mostly because I was embarrassed, but looking back, I admire her sense of humor about what must have been devastating.  She had bad days when she wasn’t feeling well and would be upset.  We were instructed on those days to say, “Miss Haney, you need lipstick!”  This was her code.  She’d put on bright red lipstick and continue her day.  It was her way of perking herself up.  Cancer didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time, and it was years later before I realized how inspirational she was.  I may never get cancer, but I’ll face something difficult before I die, and I’m thankful I had someone to show me how to handle it with grace and strength and humor.


In seventh grade, I read The Hiding Place by Cornelia ten Boom.  It’s impossible not to be inspired by her.  Corrie survived concentration camps and came out praising God.  I remember reading that she told her first lie ever when she was in her thirties when she told the Gestapo that her family did not have a radio.  I was amazed by that.  Her family was taken away to Ravensbruck for hiding Jews in their home in Holland.  The image that most sticks with me is when she is in the camp, she thanked God that the beds were infested with fleas.  The fleas meant that the guards didn’t come in the barracks, so she could lead Bible studies there without getting caught.  After she was released, she wrote books and traveled, preaching the Gospel.  God used her until she went home to Him on her 91st birthday.  I reread her books every now and then and feel inspired all over again.


Those are my heroes.  They just happen to all be women.  And interestingly, the only one who had children was my own mom.  I praise God for letting me know these four women.  There are qualities from each that live with me every day.  They’ve all made me a better person in some way.

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