First of all, I want to say congratulations to my DMS friends, Stephanie and Jessica. Their book The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow has found a home at Delacourte Press. Such wonderful news. This is a delightful story they’ve written and I’ve read excerpts from it. Loved it!
Believe in Yourself
Believing in yourself is very difficult to do. I’m starting a new segment on my blog and looking at successful people that we can learn strength from.Few of us are born with the attitude, ‘I’m going to succeed and nothing and no one is going to stop me,’ so we must constantly believe in ourselves against all odds.
Today, I’m giving honor to my step-mother Ellie. Here I am with her about 1979:
Ellie was born in Illinois on a farm in the 1930’s. Life then was tough on families. Ellie had 2 older brothers and an older sister. The family was poor, so Ellie’s older sister Helen who was working bought Ellie the necessities a young girl back then would need. Ellie’s father had been gored to death by one of his own cows. She learned to drive by practicing in the corn fields and her entire life she was one hell of a driver. No road frightened her.
When Ellie was an adult, WWII arrived with all its horrors. She was married to my dad’s close buddy. They never could have any children. In the 1960s, Ellie’s husband and her best friend fell in love and ran off together using Ellie and his credit cards. Since no one knew how to find them, Ellie was responsible for the charges. She didn’t believe in bankruptcy and so again, she went without necessary items until those bills were paid off. She worked every day of her life until she retired. I’d only known her to have health problems twice in her life.
If you’ve ever lived in the Midwest, you know what those winter storms are like. She got caught in one coming home from work and was snowed in, having to spend the night in her car. Many people died that night. Not Ellie. She had a life to live and she wasn’t going to give it up that easily. How many times I was with her when those snowstorms would hit and everyone would fall behind her making her the lead car, and she plowed through with no problem.
My father sailed the Great Lakes in the 1960’s on the big ore boats and his boat happened to dock near Ellie’s town. He thought he’d give his old army buddy a call. That led, of course, to Ellie and dad falling in love and marrying. I first met her in 1969 at their wedding and I became her only child. I won’t say it was easy for either of us, but I think Ellie’s struggles with a teenage daughter were worse than mine adapting to a step-mother. My dad and her love lasted until Ellie did in the late 1990’s from back surgery. She was in her mid-seventy’s.
Ellie wasn’t much bigger than me, but I saw her as a giant of a person. Growing up near Chicago (Chicaga as she called it) she had that strong sense of fight to survive. When she walked anywhere, she strode with her purse held tightly between her arm and her body. She never gave up on anything, and she was one woman you didn’t want to tangle with.
In the 1970’s Ellie decided it was time for me to learn to drive. She didn’t send me to driving school. She taught me herself. One time we were in a shopping mall parking lot and she was behind the wheel explaining to me about how to park. Her window was rolled down. Suddenly a man thrust his arm through to grab Ellie. In a heartbeat she rolled up the window with his arm caught in it and drove all around the parking lot at a low enough speed for him to have to run to keep up or get run over. When she thought he had enough she rolled down the window and we took off. She was feisty, and she saved our lives.
Another time my girlfriend and I were coming home from a Church activity and 3 young men on motorcycles harrassed us. We were very afraid and I didn’t want to drop her off at her house so we drove to mine and I screamed for my parents. Ellie hustled us into their Lincoln Continental and went hunting for the young men. She found one and followed him around several streets right on his tail. He kept looking back terrified, his face white. When she thought she taught him the lesson he deserved she took my friend home and then we went home, and she said to me, ‘I guarantee he won’t bother you again.’ He and his friends never did.
Because of Ellie and dad’s faith in me, they helped pay for my college education. Ellie would brag to anyone she met about how intelligent I was and how proud they were of me. When I was to leave to Hawaii to continue my education, I was quite worried because although I was registered for classes, no room had not been assigned. I can still see her anger. She stomped her foot, her hands on her hips and she said ‘You’re going there and you’re going to march right up to the dorms supervisor and demand your room.’ The woman was fearless.
I went through a time when I felt inadiquate about my height (I’m 5ft tall). Ellie understood. She wasn’t much taller than me. All she said is, ‘God built some of us closer to the ground and that’s just the way it is.’
Ellie bacame ill with stomach problems when I was away at college. When she finally went to the gastroenterologist, he told her she should have died. No, Ellie wasn’t ready for that yet. Even after her surgery, she willed herself back to health and went on with her life.
I grew up where we celebrated on Christmas Day, not Christmas Eve. Ellie was different. She had a party for her relatives with lots of wonderful foods and we’d open all our presents on Christmas Eve. Every Christmas Eve since my husband’s and my first, I do a cheese fondue and then a chocolate fountain. We open a couple presents then. It’s the one event my family talks about the most. Here’s a pic of our Christmas Eve fondue:
But the biggest life lesson that I learned from this woman was, ‘If you say you can’t, then you can’t. If you say you will, then you will.’
Ellie was unique and I’ve honored her by my characters. Geraldina is a spit-fire of a woman from the mid-west who has no problem saying how she feels, even if it’s embarrassing. In ‘Always’ Aunt Tillie slams her hand on tables and speaks loudly in public. That was Ellie. Others would turn to look at her, but she didn’t care. She was confident in who she was and what she was saying. I asked her once if it ever embarrassed her and she said, “phh. I don’t care what they think. Who are they? Nobody I know.’
Because of Ellie I learned to never give up, to strive for that goal, to live life to the fullest that I can.
Yes, Ellie was someone who BELIEVED IN HERSELF AND MADE THINGS HAPPEN, and I miss her dearly although I know she with my other relatives watch over me.
So, how about a tich of humor about success from one of my favorite gurus, Grumpy Cat that’s been going around the internet lately:
Believe in yourself and dream above the clouds. I do and I believe in you. Think of someone who believed in him/herself and write down those qualities. Now look at yourself. You have everything you need to succeed right inside you. You just need to believe.
LHR my friends and remember to support each other.