I received an email from my friend, Barbara Varro, with a blog post from her niece, Dr. Jeni Waeltz, suggesting it might be of interest to me….not only is it of interest to me, I wanted to share it with all of you. I know you will enjoy this eloquently written informative piece. A nenasnote…..I was fortunate to meet Aunt Lillian on several occasions and found her to be the gracious, charming, well informed woman described in this post. We should all aim for such a full, productive life. Thank you Jeni for allowing me to share your insight…it is brilliant! Do visit and subscribe to Jeni’s blog you are in for a treat…https://www.drjeniwaeltz.com
My Why and the Wonder of Life
“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”
— DIANE ACKERMAN
“I remember feeling the knot in my stomach as the thought flashed through my mind,
“This is probably going to be the last time I’ll see her.”
I was not ready to fully accept that thought.
Instead, I sat in the hospital room with my mom, my two very little girls, and my Great, Great Aunt Lillian, and I talked about the girls and how tired I was as a young mother. I asked her how she was feeling and talked about how she’ll get better.
I tried desperately to keep the girls company and entertained with toys and stories and looking out the big window, down to the cars below.
I look around the room that day, took in the beauty of such wondrous women present. I thought of my two little girls, Lilli just about to turn 2, and Madi only 8 months old. I thought about the presence in the room of one life ending and two just only beginning.
I ignored what my heart knew. That this time my 97 year old aunt wasn’t going to make it back to her assisted living home. That those beautiful 97 years of life were coming to an end.
But the words of love, gratitude, and awe of her life were never spoken aloud.
Oh — the goodbye I could have said.
The words never came that day, but I think of them often.
I think about all the women like my Aunt Lillian that came before me and all the worldly changes she was able to see and live during her life.
I think about my mom, who went back to school at age 42 to finally get that college education that so many people didn’t believe she could get. And how she now has a major role as grannanny to my two little girls.
I think about me, a millennial woman, who was taught as a little girl that I could do and become anything I wanted to, but had no idea what doing and being anything they wanted to would feel like and look like after kids came into the picture. That the “real world” was nothing I was prepared to experience.
And I think about my two little girls now and how they will become the women of the future.
And oh how exciting that future will be for them.
You see — the opportunities and potential for innovation, social justice, equality, and expanding the human consciousness are just beginning to take on a new level that my Great, Great Aunt never will be able to see.
My Aunt Lillian was born February 12, 1920. Almost 100 years ago.
One hundred year’s ago women didn’t even have the right to vote. It wasn’t until half a year later on August 18th, 1920 that the 19th Amendment was finally certified granting women the right to vote.
When my Aunt Lillian was just 22 years old, she joined the WACs (Women’s Army Corp). It was 1942.
The WACs had been formed by Oveta Culp Hobby, US Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, just a couple of years before to offer support to the military. She was the only woman from East Chicago to join the WACs, and she left by train for Fort Meade, Maryland, an Army Training Camp.
The courage it must have taken to leave home all alone and travel to an Army Training Camp as such a young woman. No cell phone. No GPS. No text messaging.
During her career, which included clerical jobs in Boca Raton, Florida, she was selected to be a recruiter for the WACs in Pittsburgh, PA. She lived with other WAC colleagues at the William Penn Hotel downtown. While there, she was selected to be on a recruiting poster with Commander Kelly, who was an important Army officer. She had attained the rank of Technical Sargeant.
She stayed in Pittsburgh until she was discharged in 1945, when WWII ended. She always said that she was extremely proud of her Army service because she had learned so much and had made good friends while she served the country.
When she returned home, she got a job as a secretary at LaSalle Steel in Hammond, Indiana, then worked for many years as a clerk/analyst at IBM, in Calumet City, Illinois, then in Hammond, Indiana.
She had loved traveling with friends, mostly to cities in South America and Europe. She often went to Poland, where she had relatives. Her mother and father had been born in Poland, and my Aunt Lillian was fluent in Polish.
My Aunt Lillian never had kids. However, she loved all her nieces and nephews with all her heart and she played such a big role in my family’s life growing up.
My Aunt Lillian lived through one of the most progressive 100 years in women’s history. She witnessed and watched so many BRAVE women blaze the trail towards equality. From Amelia Earhart, to Rosa Parks, to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to Sally Ride, to Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and to Hiliary Clinton. She herself was one of those BRAVE women.
And yet, almost 100 years later, there is still work to be done. America is still a patriarchal society with men holding the majority of leadership roles and political positions. Women, just like you, are still trying to find their place, working to find the courage to have a seat at the table, and finally be heard and seen.
As a millennial, I’ve heard time and time again how entitled, lazy, and needing feedback we are as a generation. Add that to being a millennial working mom, and I’ve heard countless times, oh — “we’ll see how long she comes back after maternity leave.”
As a recruiter for two major veterinary corporations, I’ve been blown away at the negotiation difference between male and female counterparts. Not that I was offering my male veterinary candidates more, but that my female veterinary candidates didn’t even ask for close to what the male doctors were asking.
And the thing is, even with the best of intentions, our work systems are just not working! We are a society that is more burned out, more stressed out, and suffering from our environments than ever before. Female veterinarians are between 2 to 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than the general public.
We women are not broken! Our systems are broken.
Instead of trying to fit the mold and status quo of what has come before us, it’s time to rock the whole systems and create a life and career that works for the 21st century woman.
And do I think that’s possible?
Why? Because of all of those the leading ladies that came before us, just like my Aunt Lillian, blazing that trail of progress.
IT’S TIME FOR A MINDSET REVOLUTION.
It’s time to actually be taught how to handle our broken systems to where we either have the tools and resources to deal with them or the courage to create new businesses and become leaders that support these new needs.
It’s time for those bread-winning working ladies to celebrate their victory and drive versus playing down their successes.
It’s time for those stay at home mamas to snuggle their babies and nurture their teenage children as long as they want to, and then not be scared to start over and follow a dream when they decide their ready.
It’s time to stop pretending that you don’t care about money and letting it scare you. It’s time to protect and claim your financial freedom.
It’s time for those working mamas to to stop striving for balance and instead focus on work-life satisfaction.
It’s time for those workaholic ladies that can’t say no to their work demands to stop defining their self-worth by their work success and start setting boundaries and find the confidence to strive for progress not perfection.
It’s time for women to love their bodies as is and start eating healthy and exercising to feed their soul instead of defining their self-worth by a number on a scale.
AND it’s time to evolve our mind. It’s time to continue the mental health discussion and invest in the resources to adopt a more conscious mindset.
THE FUTURE — IT’S UP TO US. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. IT’S TIME TO STOP SETTLING AND START CREATING.
My girls have reached an age where they’re asking about life and death. I tell them all the time if your lucky you’ll live to be 100.
But the reality is that we have no control over when our lives will end. Yes, it would be great to make it to be 100, but how would those 100 years have been spent if you didn’t live fully?
Lived that width and not just the length.
To stop foreboding JOY and really feel the highs of life.
To stop trying to mask and numb the pain but allow yourself time to grieve, be angry, depressed, and sad.
And to take daring risks and go after big dreams and leave fear of failure behind.
ALL THAT I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH I OWE SO MUCH TO THE AMAZING WOMEN THAT CAME BEFORE ME.
My goal is to create a dialogue about women’s empowerment and to offer coaching, leadership, and education to as many women as I can as my contribution to this world.
This new business adventure is in honor of my Aunt Lee, in honor of the other strong women in my family, my girlfriends and coworkers, and to those whose lives were taken too soon because they just couldn’t see another way out.
And in honor of my young veterinarian self. For the years of suffering in silence due to lack of confidence, fear, and anxiety that she just wasn’t good enough.
And most importantly, in honor of my two little girls. My why is for them. For the future be so bright.
In the coming weeks and months this blog will be filled with actionable strategies that will inspire you to make the change to a more fulfilled and conscious driven life and to step into the leader you were destined to become. We’ll cover mindset, emotions, goal setting, fulfillment, time management, productivity, confidence, money mindset, positive body image, decluttering, thought work, physical health, relationships, and more.
Are you ready for this mindset revolution? If so, leave a comment and tell me about your journey and your dreams for the future.”
Be sure to subscribe to Jeni’s blog for more in-depth perspectives on life….I know I am looking forward to getting a new slant on the now and the future!!
Amazing and thoughtful article. She certainly has her head on straight. She might be able to tell us “older” generation a thing or too! My mother passed away a few years ago at 102. She was in DC during the war. Bravo to these ladies who had “length and width ”in their lives. I agree, a great motto!
I know…I was extremely impressed with this post. Glad you enjoyed it and kudos to your Mom and all those who led the charge toward today and tomorrow!!!!