Saturday, May 5, 2012

I Am Strong


Recently, while talking about Ragtown with two friends, Jenifer Badamo and Cristy Minton, the subject of strong women came up.  Although my historical novel is set during the building of the Hoover Dam, I really tried to capture the experiences of the families involved in the project, not just the men who worked in the diversion tunnels.  Yes, my guys are, for the most part, tough guys, but my women are strong, too, each in their own way.  Since this is the beginning of what is known in my family as 'Kelly Week' (I'll explain that later), I thought it would be fun to tell you about a few of my strong Ragtown women.
 
Betsy Carter arrived in the desert eight months pregnant and gave birth to her youngest of three children on a hot desert night on the bank of the Colorado River.  Although Betsy is the motherly influence, underneath that Mother Hubbard is one tough gal.  She is a crack shot with a pistol, and not afraid to use it to protect her family.
 
As young girls, Mae and Sally had dreams of one day marrying and living happily ever after.  However, when both of their parents died, Mae, a teenager, was forced to do whatever was necessary to take care of her younger sister.  It was the 1930's and what few jobs were available were reserved for men. Mae and Sally work as prostitutes in the small cribs behind the Railroad Pass Casino.
 
Helen Carter is a sixteen year old firecracker.  Small and redheaded, she has a mind of her own.  While the other residents of Ragtown are withering under the desert heat, Helen seems to take her strength from it.  She is part of the desert and finds beauty in what others consider ugly.  If there is a rock of the novel, it is Helen.
 
So as 'Kelly Week' begins, my conversation with Jen and Cristy comes back around, because during the conversation, Cristy made the following comment, which really hit home: 

I think we are ALL strong, just most of us don't see that in ourselves...

I have friends that have overcome breast cancer, have undergone chemotherapy for Hepatitis, have lost husbands and children.  I know women who are raising kids with Autism and other disabilities, who are taking care of their parents and grandparents, and who are raising families on their own.  I have writer friends who have dug deep into their souls to share painful past experiences, others who are working on advanced degrees to improve their lives, and still others that have become successful businesswomen in a world that is still dominated by men.   These are the women I consider strong.  I certainly don't always think of myself as strong, but I am a Nurse, and a mother and I have made it to 29 (whatever).  So, in my own way, I am strong, too.  As Cristy said, 'most of us don't see that in ourselves'.  Well, it's time we do.

Now to 'Kelly Week'.  National Nurses Week is celebrated annually from May 6, also known as National Nurses Day, through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.  My birthday is on May 7, and I will be 29 (or something with a '9' in it).  And of course, Mothers Day is May 13, and of all of the hats I wear, that's the one I cherish most. 
 
But I'm changing 'Kelly Week' to 'Strong Women Week' (since it is a made-up week of celebration, I can do that).  Thank the Nurses you know for all they do, show your Mother how much she means to you, and by all means, raise a glass to my 29-ish years.  But also, take the time to say thank you to ALL of the women in your life for just being the amazing people they are.  And women, take a minute to see the strength in yourself.  Then say it loud: 

I AM STRONG.


29 comments:

Tyler 2.0 said...

I lift my glass to you and all the strong women in the world! Hear us roar!!

Krystal Wade said...

Strong women are what makes this world go around!

C.Elizabeth Rago said...

Oh, yes, I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can face anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

Rock On Kelly! Thanks for having the Wisdom to write this. Thank You for all you do, Lifetime Friend, Wife, Mother, Daughter, & Nurse (Oh, and especially talented Writer) & HAPPY BIRTHDAY GIRL ! So wish I could be there with.........XOXOXOXXOOXO

Erica Lucke Dean said...

Yay to Kelly week! I have come to look up to you for your strength and guidance. I have so many nurses in my family so I know nurses never get the thanks they deserve for all they do. Thanks for all YOU do, Kelly!

tmycann said...

Happy Kelly week! (My husband introduced me to the concept of a week-long celebration... and I have to say WHAT FUN!) And you capped it with one of my all-time favorite songs, too. Thanks for the reminder to look to our strengths. :)

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Back at you, Tyler!

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

No doubt, Krystal.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

maybe for my thirtieth birthday, I'll have a party.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thanks, Erica.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I had forgotten how much I liked this song, Tonya.

Renaissance Nerd said...

The idea that all women are strong in their own way is another way of saying women are helpless infants that need others to pretend they're strong when they're not. There are LOTS of strong women, as in the examples you provide, and strength may certainly be measured in many ways. It does not follow that every woman is strong just because she's a woman. It also does not follow that the only way to measure a woman's strength is by criteria used for men. Indeed, that does no credit to either sex. It is, of course, easier for men to admire feminine strength when it adheres to masculine virtues; Vennolandua, for example, or Queen Christina of Sweden. Susan B. Anthony or Margaret of Anjou require a bit more mental agility.
The point is that until women are willing to denounce vile women as vile, and weak women as weak, without spite but based upon mature judgement, instead of clanning together as a passive crowd of victims, they will never be considered adults by most men--and women.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Wow! Is that a defensive and rude reply to an innocuous post. It's also a good example of why some women don't always see their own strengths, because they hang around with males (notice I didn't say 'men') that would accuse them of being weak, passive victims if they choose to acknowledge their own strengths. "Mature judgement", btw, is choosing your battles wisely. Trying to start an argument over one persons opinion on same persons personal blog is not going to get you 'recognized as an adult by most men and women.' Just a thought. But, hey, my first hater comment! I just wish I had written something controversial to get it.

Erica Lucke Dean said...

And here I thought that was a great post Kelly. I felt stronger just reading it! :) I mean...not strong enough to open a jar by myself or anything, but strong just the same!

Toby Neal said...

Great post Kelly, and I'm a great admirer of the hard work, courage and dedication of nurses.

Suzanne Shumaker said...

Kelly Week - how fun! You are strong ... not because you're a woman, but because of the obstacles you have stared down and walked through. You are a role model to me.

Happy birthday week, nurses week, mother's day week and Kelly Week!

Those sons of yours are lucky to have such a great role model, hard worker, survivor, fighter, and all the other things you are in their lives and as their mother.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Honestly, as a nurse, I think we get a lot of love. I think most people do appreciate what we do and show it. I often say, the best thing about my job is that I hear "thank you" every single day. Not everyone can say that.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thanks, Suzi. I think I'm the lucky one to have my sons.

Leif G.S. Notae said...

Except (and I know you'll never read this, Mr. Nerd, so I won't go on too much of a rant here) that the ability to bare and sustain life is in itself a strength that males will never have. When the common male's thought pattern is:

"If you can't eat it or f*ck it, than kill it."

Then you'd see that there is an elegance to the uterus.

And your argument can be applied to men as well as women, so all in all society is a failure by instilling values that doesn't meet reality.

So, in the future, you might want to take a different tact when you make a blanket statement. Remember, some of us live by our words and we will die for them.

Charlieopera said...

Kellinator: You’re the best. Thank you for filling me in on Nurses Week. Sweet Jesus, I’m a doofus. My wife became an RN last year and is working part-time (3 and 2 days a week) as one in Princeton at a rehab hospital. She also works four days a week at her full-time job for a law firm in Manhattan (12 days on/2 days off--and those two days are spent with me--the poor thing).

My mom ... it would take a memoir to write about her strength (as we say at casa Stella: toughest broad we know). Broad in our context = the utmost in respect. My sister (passed from cancer a few years ago) had a high school library dedicated in her name where she taught English as a second language.

Me, I continue to gain weight.

Here’s to all a yous.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Charlie, I'm pretty sure all the women in your life know how special they are. :)

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Nicely said. :)

Cristy Minton said...

A quote from Mae West: “Every man I meet wants to protect me. I can't figure out what from.” Now THERE was a strong and very self assured woman...........I admired her!

jenifer badamo said...

Kelly week? I like that! I want my own week...sniff sniff.

Seriously, this is a great blog (as always)and I've always admired strong women. I was surrounded by women that "did it all" in a time when women were supposed to be "barefoot and pregnant" or in the kitchen. My great-grandmother was a mid-wife and one of the first women in Brooklyn to perform abortions. Of course, it was illegal back then, but no one can arrest her now. People would call her any time, day or night, for either procedure. While going to school to become a mid-wife, she was raising two children, taking care of her sick parents, and had her bipolar sister living in her apartment with her.

My grandmother was a jack of all trades; too many things to list about grandma, and it upsets me to talk about her. But, she was simply amazing...trust me! (she passed away a year and a half ago)

Of course, my mother will forever be Superwoman in my eyes. When I was born, Mom was finishing her degree in Sarah Lawrence College and working full time. By the time my brother and I were old enough to attend grammar school, Mom was just starting her writing career. She would juggle breakfast, bring us to school and pick us up, helped with homework, put dinner on the table, and somehow found time to write scripts for the 80s soap opera, "The Doctors."

I don't think these women are strong solely because they "accomplished" something--strength so much deeper than that. Strength is when you have to continue to focus on your writing, your husband's needs, your children's needs, your grandchildren's needs, and somehow find the energy to take care of your dying mother without any help from siblings. My grandmother, thank God, lived with my parents the last 5 years of her life. My mother always tells me that she doesn't "pat herself on the back" for what she did for grandma; just knowing that she can rest well on her pillow and sleep at night with no guilt or regrets is reward enough for her.

When my grandmother was sick, I couldn't help but recall what M'Lynn said in "Steel Magnolias." (here we go with the plays, right?) These lines are about her daughter, Shelby, dying and her husband leaving the room: "I find it amusing. Men are supposed to be made out of steel or something. I just sat there. I just held Shelby's hand. There was no noise, no tremble, just peace."

You are indeed a strong woman and a wonderful role model, Kelly. Me....ehhhh....but I'll get there! xox

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

When I was little, I always wanted to look like Mae West when I grew up--not Barbie--Mae West. That should have been a clue to something. lol.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Wow, Jen, you have some great stories! You know, going to school to finish a degree while raising a couple of kids is getting to be so common that I think people are losing sight of how truly difficult that is to do. I love the history of the early mid-wives! Great stuff, you should write a book.

Marion Pennolino said...

Cheers to you Kelly on a wonderful blog!!
Jenifer and I have been best friends for too many years that she won't allow me to say on here...lol but I applaud all the strong women I have encountered in my life including Jen's grandmother and mom.
I never fully realized how strong I was until I was diagnosed back in September with breast cancer I had to be strong for my son and my husband and I will continue to be even stronger because of this.
So hats off to you Kelly and all the strong women out there!

jenifer badamo said...

Thank you, MP!!!

jenifer badamo said...

Thanks, Kelly! I get it from Mom xoxox

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Wishing you the best, Marion. I definitely understand the idea of being strong for the kids.