From the time I was a pre-teen, I wanted to be an Enjoli woman; you know, bringing home the bacon and all that goes with it. I love bacon! (Ooops! Sorry. Got a little excited there.) Even now, I have a ridiculous number of personal goals—so many I’d have to live to beyond Methuselah’s age to reach them all. Because of this, I have many role models whom I call my everyday heroes; women whom I admire for the way they do this thing or that thing, who have accomplished goals at which I hope to succeed, who grab life by the horns each day, shouting, “Ride ’em, cowgirl!” I won’t attempt to model myself after Oprah, Martha Stewart, Suze Orman, or Bethenny Frankel, because the thought of having to do all that they do (with the aid of a team of assistants, of course) terrifies me. Instead, women whom I personally know are the sources of my inspiration, because if they can achieve success, there’s hope for me.
I’ll admit that I stretch myself thin. I am a wife and a mother. I work as an editor and ghostwriter. I am an adjunct English professor and a Realtor. I write for this blog and occasionally for two others. I review books, and I am currently writing two novels and revising a short story collection of my own. Rarely does a day pass when I don’t think of at least one of the talented, inspiring, women in my life, and in some small way, I try to imitate the thing they do or have done so well. They are, each one of them, an inspiration to me, and when I’m faced with a challenge, I ask myself, “What would she do?”
Christians sometimes utilize the catch phrase, “What would Jesus do?”, and while it’s admirable to apply that kind of wisdom to the big decisions in your life, I find it difficult aspire to those heights, especially when dealing with life’s minutia. Jesus is a godhead, after all, and since I’m just a regular ol’ human being, I won’t begin to pretend that I can achieve the miracle of feeding thousands with a loaf of Wonder Bread and a can of tuna, when I do well not to burn the casserole. No, I’ll stick with imitating feet-on-the-ground women I admire, whom I can lock into a bear hug of thanks when I successfully mirror one of their achievements.
For example, when I’m faced with a classroom full of bored English comp students, I think, What would Rachel Bragg do? Rachel made literature so incredibly interesting for me that it became my concentration of study. She even coaxed me to study a course on fantasy literature, a subject I thought I hated until I took her excellent course. By mirroring her entertaining, yet no-nonsense approach to engaging and motivating students, my first semester of teaching college was a success.
When I think I can’t find the time to face yet another blank page in one of my works in progress, I ask, “What would Leslie Pietrzyk do?” Leslie teaches in two graduate writing programs, is active in two writing groups, is the editor of a literary magazine, authors a wonderful blog I follow, publishes new essays and short stories seemingly every other week, has authored two novels and is soon to release a third. If she can make time to write with all that’s on her literary plate, so can I.
When friends pop by unexpectedly for an evening (or even a long weekend), I ask myself, “What would Momma do?” I’ve watched my mother joyfully entertain and prepare a spread for a dozen unexpected guests more times than I can count. And, while tiptoeing along the poverty line most of her life, my mother still donates an extraordinary amount of time and energy to charity functions, from hand-stitching quilts for international missionaries, to heading up “The Master’s Basket”, a women’s group that makes and delivers food to sick individuals and bereaved families weekly. She frequently volunteers in her church and community for dozens of different projects as needed. She’ll forever inspire me to give selflessly and generously.
When my writing gets too dark and serious, or my prose falls flat, I think, What would Karin Gillespie do? Karin’s novels, essays, articles, and blog posts never fail to make me laugh, and she finds humor—and writes it so well!—in all of life’s foils and foibles. If you’ve ever chuckled when reading one of my blog posts, it’s because I’ve learned from Karin’s fine example.
So many strong and smart women have inspired and continue to inspire me: my late mom-in-law Georgia White, who was an excellent to-the-penny home-finances manager; many mother/wife/professor/writer friends including Cheryl Russell, Gabrielle Brant Freeman, Kathleen Nalley Moore, and Pam Andrews Hanson (who also writes as Jennifer Drew); my uber-organized editing boss Sandy Tritt; my go-getter real estate broker Enis Qosja and brokerage owner Crystal Anderson . . . I could easily continue naming names and singing praises. You can bet there’s also something about you that I probably admire, prompting me to ask, “What would [insert your name here] do?”
Admittedly, it’s easy for me to get in over my head when I think this way. I often bite off more cud than a four-stomached cow can digest, and I occasionally feel bad when I fall short of the successes my role models have accomplished. Nonetheless, I realize that, while each of these women are phenomenal at one or three things I greatly admire, they may intermittently fail at something I do well. None of us is perfect, yet each of us strives to be successful at whatever it is that we do.
Acknowledging this fact leaves me with one important, pressing question: What would Rhonda do?
I know the answer to this one by heart: she would try very hard.
And sometimes she fails, but she cleans up the mess (even if it means sweeping it under the rug until her guests leave), and tomorrow she will try again.
The Enjoli woman should be so fortunate.