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Marching with the women in my life
Carmen's grandma, Darlene Rainey, stands with great-grandson Briggs Herbert. - photo by Carmen Rasmusen Herbert
Being a woman has never made me feel inferior.

Watching everything that has been going on in the media recently with the womens marches both pro-choice and pro-life has made me think deeply about what I value and why. It has been interesting for me to read posts of different friends who were at one march or the other and what they feel passionately about. Some are outraged. Some are introspective. Some are feeling more love and connection to women around the world, while others are feeling isolated and alone in their beliefs.

I find it sad that even though we are all so very different, we still cant seem to find a way to live with those differences in a loving way. It seems to me that separating ourselves by marching exclusively for one viewpoint or another doesnt give us more power. I believe women are strongest when were together, helping each other and giving each other more understanding.

Let me tell you about a few women in my life who have taught me about the value and unmatched strength of being a woman.

First is my mother. Growing up, I could sometimes be a difficult child to raise. (Mom, you got your wish of me eventually getting what I gave you.) I debated and sassed and pouted my way through adolescence. But even with all the arguing, my mom would always find a way to make me feel like I was still special.

You would make a fantastic lawyer someday, shed tell me after hours of trying to convince her to extend my curfew like everyone elses parents have.

Every girl that called me names, every boy that didnt give me the time of day, were all just jealous because I had something special. What that was, I didnt really know at the time, but because my mom was always, without a doubt, 100 percent on my team, I believed her. She believed in me, so I believed in myself. That confidence has gotten me through some of the darkest times in my life. I truly believed I was special and wanted and that my voice was one that needed to be heard.

My grandmothers have each taught me strength through resilience.

My fathers mother raised four boys and one girl in a tiny town in Canada. She knows exactly what I am going through (as I have several young boys) and on really difficult days, I think about her. I think about her patience, and even her imperfections trying so hard to just get by day to day. I feel a closeness to her because I feel like I can relate to her heartache and happiness. She tells me my boys will grow up too soon. She tells me to hang on.

My mothers mother was raising five little girls when her husband up and left. Devastated but determined, she went back to school and received her masters degree. My mom would walk home from school, a house key hanging around her neck, and let herself in while my grandma worked to support her family. Eventually my grandma remarried and my grandpa gave her and her five kids a stable and loving home. My grandma is always telling me I can do hard things. She tells me I am enough.

My aunts have all had huge influential roles in my life. Through death or divorce of spouses, losing children, leaving the church, coming back to the church, standing up for truth, fighting for family and speaking their minds, they have shaped the way I view life. I look up to them all. They tell me to be true to myself. They tell me to never settle.

My two sisters are my best friends. They see things the way I see them. They get me in a way no one else does. They laugh when I need them to laugh, cry when I cry, and give me a good smack on the behind when I act stuck and helpless. They are voices of reassurance. They are my lighthouses when the world seems too dark and deep to navigate.

I believe I have the best of women friends, some who I see on a daily basis and others who live far away but still have an everlasting place in my heart. They come sit on my far-from-pristine couches, play with my rowdy boys and tell me I am doing an amazing job. They listen to my fears and frustrations without judgment. They are always there, whether its been two days or two years since weve talked. They let me be me.

When I think about the influence of these incredible women throughout my life and so many more in my extended family, neighborhood, church congregation and community I cant help but feel great power and influence in womanhood. I believe with all my heart we have the ability to change lives for the better. Watching these women walk through life has made me stand a little taller in mine.

I hope with all my heart that we women can use our collective strength to love and uplift others from all marches of life.
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