This month, as we prepare to recognize four outstanding women in our community at the 2011 Touchstone Awards, many of our staff have taken time to reflect on inspiring women in their own lives. Follow along over the next few weeks and learn how strong, smart, and bold women have shaped our lives.

Jen’s Touchstone Award  

In my day, women didn’t call plumbers or electricians, women did their own taxes, and women knew how to change a tire. Or at least that’s what I thought when I was a kid. It’s something that my mom would have said, anyway. I eventually discovered it wasn’t always true. I eventually realized that my mom is rather extraordinary.

She became a widow at the age of 32 when my dad died of cancer. His illness thrust her into the role of sole breadwinner, and during his 18 month battle with the disease, she worked two jobs to support the family. In the years to follow, she continued working and never remarried. 

In my most vivid childhood memories of her, she’s doing home repairs, working in the yard, or cramming for a test. That’s right, cramming for a test! When I was in high school, she went back to school and finally got a college education, graduating at the ripe old age of 45 with a degree in education. 

She resisted the urge to give up and fall apart, and she made the best of her situation. She became a homeowner, earned a college education, raised two college educated children, and lived out her own dreams of volunteering abroad with children in developing countries.   

Knowing how hopeless she would have been had she not learned to be self-sufficient, she decided that her own daughter would never feel powerless. Leading by example, my mom taught me that women can do anything that men can do, that learning never stops, that making mistakes is alright, that life is hard, and that life is amazing because it’s hard. She passed on her skills and taught me to be smart, confident, and fiercely independent. 

Have you changed a tire? Do you do your own taxes? If not, consider learning! What are other ways you consider yourself independent?