International Day of Women : The blessings that come when you show up! 💙 #strengthsourceproject

Browsing through my Facebook feed I come across a notification that a friend tagged me in someone’s post. As one who is both a businesswoman and artist I know a diverse group of people and am a bit picky about what I’m tagged in with the permanence of social media. Much to my surprise I saw the photo taken of me last year posted on the photographer’s Facebook page and appeared both digitally and I’m print on page 5 of the Philadelphia Inquirer!

The #strengthsourceproject is this beautiful collage of photos and stories capturing the moments that built the character and resilience of women of all colors, ages, shapes and class. It’s a brilliant compilation and I’m honored to be a participant.

If only you knew how sad I felt that day. I had just found out my daughter was diagnosed with dysgraphia, a severe learning disorder that makes it difficult and frustrating for her, an advanced reader to process writing. The same exact day my son’s school counselor called about him exhibiting signs of anxiety and depression (the dance partners of a highly gifted and intuitive brain), avoiding teachers and classes as a result. As their sole caretaker l was overwhelmed with the decisions I had to make on my own knowing I would also not receive the financial support.

I was going to cancel the meeting I set with Carrie for the photo because I just wanted to go somewhere and cry. I wore bright colors on purpose to lift my spirits. She was so warm and compassionate when I met her in Fishtown by Franny Lous Porch and reading the other women’s stories really gave me the strength to deal with it all.

And oh the blessings that have come because I showed up! Aside from this acknowledgement in the paper, since that day my children have benefited from angels in the form of teachers and therapists. My daughter has been tutored by a retired teacher for free and my son’s therapist only charges me a tenth of his normal fee because I was transparent and unafraid to speak my truth and ask for help.

My strength is my truth and I’m grateful that my transparency is able to help other women. The stories on the blog are powerful. I hope you get to read mine too. Please share your favorite in the comments. It’s okay if it’s not mine. I’m every woman 😊

“In the middle of a street in Camden, NJ” – by J.T.Austin Jr.

I always thought that I acquired my gift of writing from my mother because she always kept a journal and I knew that she loved to write. It wasn’t until my father, as he began to age, passed along some of his writings to me that I became aware that it was his passion that I inherited. I was instantly transported to the time and place in his short essays and recognized the similarities in our writing styles. I now know that my love for words and my lyrical style was passed to me from Dad. I read this short essay at his memorial service this past Saturday (more to come about that) and several people have asked for a copy of it, so I am posting it on my blog. It was one of many small glimpses into the sensitive side of my dad that until his later years, was only uncovered in his writing. I can’t wait to put all of his thoughts into book form but for now, I’ll share one of my favorites so far:

In the middle of a street in Camden, NJ

Four of my grandchildren came to visit me on my 69th birthday, Jameel, Aamir, Naim and Hammad. They brought me a cake, a shirt, a food mixer, a birthday card and their wonderful company. As we laughed and talked together my mind began to rewind , but first I thought about my other four grandchildren and my great-granddaughter. After my grandkids had left, I looked at all their pictures and my mind lapsed again and tears came as I thought about a time long ago when two young people stood in the middle of a small Camden, NJ street. It must have rained that day as I remember the street glistened. They had been on her porch when she suggested that they take a walk. The young couple walked hand in hand down the sidewalk and started across the street when the girl stopped, looked up at the boy with tears in her eyes and said “ I’ve missed my period.” She put her head on his chest and sobbed. He imagined she thought he might leave her. His head was whirling. He thought , how’s he gonna support a wife and kid when he can’t support himself and then thought about the doctor at Hamilton Air Force Base in California who told him that because of the VD he had contracted overseas, he could never have children. So was this his child?? But when he looked down into the big wet eyes of HIS girl who was having HIS child, he kissed her, smiled and said “let’s get out of the street”. Well, they walked and talked, kissed and held each other. Two young people, in love, who didn’t have a clue how life was going to treat them but they started out together. So as I look at all these people we’re responsible for –  four children, eight grandchildren, and  one great-grandchild – 13 people who came here because of those two young lovers in the middle of a Camden street beginning to learn about life. The tears really begin to fall as I think “Well, ‘Fat Cheeks’, we didn’t do so bad, not bad at all!”

Written by Jabez T. Austin Jr

10/16/2008

Jay and Ethel
Jay and Ethel

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