I give talks about my book On a Pedestal, the memoirs of my grandmother. She lived during a time when women were still fighting for their rights and while women were typically treated with respect and dignity, there were men who thought otherwise. Although the laws were changing, many times men were not held accountable.
Every story needs a moral. My grandmother had already passed when I completed the book. I did not ask her to define the moral of her story, therefore I had to come up with one myself.
“Don’t let what happens to you define who you become”
The life of my grandmother was a cluster of bad circumstance. While she made the best of each circumstance, I don’t think she ever really realized how much more she could have controlled her circumstance. Sure, life turned out well for her, but had she lived her life with more intention, her life would have been all she dreamed it could have been.
“Circumstance can be controlled by Intention”
I gave a book presentation to a group of ladies from the Delta Kappa Gamma. The topic was to be on family history and lessons learned from the stories in my book. The main focus would be friendship, family and memories. I had previously created a presentation titled the Good Old Days in which I share my thoughts on family, friends and the emotional impact of memories. I like to share educational stories when speaking about my book and so the Good Old Days touches on the scientific aspect that takes place in our brain when it comes to memories. (I won’t share this information with you now. You can book me for a presentation and be educated and inspired!!!)
I’ll admit here that I didn’t completely prepare for this presentation. Whenever I go to festivals, book-signings and speaking engagements, I’m a one-woman show. I pack my car with books, tables, pictures, laptop, projectors or whatever is needed for the particular event. You’d be amazed what I can pack into my little black Honda. (Her name is Sadie).
As I prepared for my upcoming presentation, I was challenged with updating my PowerPoint and cue cards. As often happens with me and technology, my Office 365 expired on my Dell notebook. I have another laptop which I share with my husband and could have easily taken it but I preferred the lightweight notebook and didn’t want to take the shared laptop. I went through the process of updating my Office 365; paying their ridiculous annual fee. This was two days before my presentation and then I had to wait until I received an email confirming my purchase so I could upload the new version.
I also knew I needed to test the projector and laptop connection to ensure it worked. However, in between my full-time job and life, I forgot to check my email for the update and I never tested the projector.
I arrived at the location of my presentation an hour and a half early. I wanted to be setup and ready when the ladies came in so I could meet each one prior to speaking. This is part of my training as a speaker. Knowing your audience is way to personalize a presentation to the particular group you are speaking to.
Once I completed the equipment setup it was time to connect. The first issue I had was the Office 365. I received an error when trying to open my PowerPoint presentation that my software update had not been completed. At that point the stress began. I needed to connect to the Internet to check my email. I began the process of using my Personal Hotspot. It was working on my phone but not on my notebook. I’m trying to ignore the anxiety of what was happening knowing it was my own fault for not being completely prepared. I then reached out to one of the ladies to ask if the meeting space we were in had Wi-Fi. Fortunately it did and she knew the password. Internet issue fixed but there was still a connection issue between my notebook and the projector.
Without boring you with the details of the rest of the technical issues, just know I realized the PowerPoint slides were not going to be part of my presentation that night. It was time for Plan B. Funny thing though, I didn’t consciously have a Plan B. Fortunately I have overcome the fear of public speaking, having trained with some of the best speakers I’ve ever known. I knew my subject and I knew my audience enough to carry on.
I decided I would use my cue cards which contained more information than the PowerPoint slides, but without the visual. As I began speaking, I realized I didn’t have the backing of pictures to tell my story. With all eyes on me, I wondered if they could feel the anxiety coming over me. It’s hard to read faces and know for sure if they are feeling motivated, entertained or inspired.
Ten minutes into my presentation I got lost in my cue cards and realized I had to turn the tides with something else. I only had ten more minutes to speak and I felt the pressure of being the person I had been marketed and sold to be that evening. One of my readers loved the book so much she had asked me to speak to this group. She trusted my ability to sell the story of my grandmother while inspiring the audience with words of encouragement, hope and laughter. As I looked out into the audience and at her face, I trusted myself in knowing what I had to say was important and inspirational.
This group of professional educators listened intently and upon the closing of my presentation, rushed up to purchase my book and to thank me for the words I spoke and the stories I shared. As I proudly signed one book after the other, I could hear conversations about what I had said and how some of my suggestions could be applied to their lives.
I was overwhelmed with the love and support these women showered upon me. I appreciated the special the kinship of women. I can’t speak for men but the passion shared between women is remarkable. Groups of woman gather daily, weekly and monthly to encourage and inspire one another while developing creative ways to help the community. We gather for the food, companionship, inspiration but the reason we choose to organize is to find ways to take care of others. If you want to know what your mother, sister, wife or significant other is up to when they spend an evening with “the group they belong to”, this is it. They follow the creed designed for who they are and why they gather. They pray, sing, eat, share stories, support communities and celebrate one another.
The day after I spoke to the fabulous ladies of DKG, I realized how much I had been inspired. I needed to walk the talk I spoke. Driving to work the next day I pondered over the evening and thought about what I had said. I thought a lot about my grandmother’s life as well as my own. There was a pattern of pride and of not letting what happens to you define who you become. As I continued to think about how I had tried to inspire these women, I realized that not letting life determine your destiny was good advice. But the reality is that it’s more about intention. You can overcome circumstance and improve your life, but you have more power than that. If you use the strength of intention, your circumstance becomes your life’s passion and not just mere survival.
This pattern of thought guided me to research the history of Women’s Rights. My grandmother was born long after the movement started, yet her circumstance held her captive to ruthless men, poverty and lack of resources. The rights of women didn’t matter and the laws didn’t protect her. It was partly due to her locality in the country, level of education, social standing and low income. However if she were alive today, I know she would only blame her own choices.
I encourage you to read my book, On a Pedestal. It’s a story of survival, choices, courage, strength, faith and love. It’s a story for women who need encouragement and for those who need humility. It’s a story for the great men who truly love and support the women in their lives. It’s a story of understanding where we’ve been, how we have changed and how we’ve remained the same.
On July 13, 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton lead the world’s first Women’s Rights Movement. Their version of a “Declarations of Sentiments” was drafted. It read, “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”
Then it went into specifics:
Married women were legally dead in the eyes of the law
Women were not allowed to vote
Women had to submit to laws when they had no voice in their formation
Married women had no property rights
Husbands had legal power over and responsibility for their wives to the extent that they could imprison or beat them with impunity
Divorce and child custody laws favored men, giving no rights to women
Women had to pay property taxes although they had no representation in the levying of these taxes
Most occupations were closed to women and when women did work they were paid only a fraction of what men earned
Women were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine or law
Women had no means to gain an education since no college or university would accept women students
With only a few exceptions, women were not allowed to participate in the affairs of the church
Women were robbed of their self-confidence and self-respect, and were made totally dependent on men
It’s quite disturbing to read. I’ve never been one to dwell on the past or look for reasons to hate. I understand ignorance; then and now. Those of us who want a better life can intentionally make one for ourselves. We’ve come a long way baby.