Send us your thoughts! December, 2013, is our annual Changemakers issue. What would you like to see changed for women or girls? Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words by Nov. 10, 2013, to email@example.com
"New views" is our focus in January, 2014. When did seeing another side of something surprise you? Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words by Dec. 10, 2013, to firstname.lastname@example.org
Each month we ask our readers to respond to a question. For November, 2013, we asked: What have you learned about receiving something you didn't think you wanted?
The family graveyard I wasn't sure what to do when I received the information that I had inherited a small, private family pioneer cemetery in Minnesota dating back to 1866. My father's ancestors, including the grave of my great-grandfather, a Civil War veteran, are buried there. When I was a college art student many years ago, I spent hours sketching the peaceful surrounding countryside and the weathered Victorian gravestones of my ancestors buried in this historic place.
It has moved me deeply to have this piece of history descend to me and I learned more than ever to appreciate the significance of the cemetery and the worth of such an inheritance.
Kristin Arneson, Carver
Old Blue The truck was a gift from my father-in-law to help us with transportation during a difficult financial time. Old Blue is what we call her. At first, I was embarrassed at the bright blue old truck in our driveway. Over the years, she's offered steadfast transportation to many of our friends and family. Everyone compliments her! Our 1994 gem is currently on loan to another friend in need. Old Blue is working her magic again.
Susan Thompson, Wayzata
Cancer clarity "You have breast cancer." A major inconvenience. Then ... radiant health!
I choose life. I am clear about my next step in supporting myself in my radiantly healthy, long, happy, productive life. A personal mission statement has helped me create a recovery experience that works for me. I am not fighting cancer. My body is not a war zone. Instead, I ask my lovely, brave body to cooperate with the treatments, quickly letting go of anything unhelpful. While I feel the challenge of the unrelenting layers of treatment ... I know my new cells are joy-filled as the cancer cells are moved out. My biggest gift in this experience has been the realization that I am deeply loved by so many people. I had NO idea.
Janet Hovde, Roseville
Definition of success As a young woman I focused on leaving farm life in favor of law school and a penthouse in the city. Determined at age 19 to be educated, successful, powerful and childless, I received shocking news that shifted my focus. "Congratulations! You're pregnant!" A baby? Not what I wanted.
She is a young woman now and I have learned new ways to define those four words. Educated. With a graduate degree, I am educated in the traditional sense, but even better is that I am educated in loving unconditionally. Successful. Yes, I own a business and am successful in an entrepreneurial sense, but more importantly I raised an amazing person. Powerful. No one is clamoring at my door asking for legal advice, but she calls to ask advice on recipes and writing college papers. And childless ... I did a good enough job for her to spread her wings and fly.
Jeannette Grace, Minneapolis
Love, not duty Seven years ago, I received the responsibility of caring for my mother who was in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's. My father had been caring for her for the past year, taking over all of the housework, shopping and driving. When he died, she became my responsibility. Before this, I visited my parents about once a year and called them every couple of weeks. Once my mother became my concern, I visited every few weeks. I looked forward to these visits, instead of dreading them as I thought I would. I learned much during these seven years about love, family, disease, death and even dying. Without this responsibility, I would not have learned these important life lessons. My mother died a couple of weeks ago, and I thank her for the unexpected gift of realizing that I was caring for her out of love, not out of duty.
Glenis Zempel, St. Louis Park
A special sorority It wasn't the first or the last or the greatest time my mettle was tested. I'd dealt with some tough stuff - sometimes with dignity, sometimes with outrage. But when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I became a member of a sorority I never wanted to join. I felt the life force of those who cared, and allowed myself to receive the gifts of my illness. Later, volunteering to work with other women dealing with cancer, I was inspired, not just by their courage, but by their humanity, as well, and I started thinking of my imperfections as battle scars. I continue to be supported by this huge sisterhood with a common language of pain, grief and fear - but also resolve, vitality, compassion and laughter. We women, I see so clearly now, have bonded over our supposed weaknesses, only to discover they are our strengths.
Barbara Deese, Lakeville
Out of loss comes joy Life has a peculiar way of giving you exactly what you want, just in ways you cannot ever have fathomed.
Somewhere in my mind I can hear these words: "You don't know what you've got till it's gone." For me, it was the tragic and unexpected death of my 33-year-old daughter from a drug overdose.
We always had a strong relationship until drugs grabbed hold of her and wouldn't let go. Then in a very selfish move, I made it clear I didn't want anything to do with her until she was clean and sober. I had one very short visit with her two years before she died, and a few heart-wrenching texts, but that was that. Late one night, two years ago, my ex-husband called and told me our baby was gone.
I never expected to receive a call like that. I was naive in my thinking that she would eventually get help and get on with her life.
The gift that came from the loss of my daughter's life was the relationships I have developed with my grandchildren. They were 8 and 13 when their mother died, and now my granddaughter is 10 - or as she says: "FINALLY in the double digits" - and my grandson is 15, over 6 feet tall, gangly in a teenager way and answers yes or no when we converse.
But what a joy that has been for me. The loss of my daughter allowed the doors to swing wide open to have time with my grandkids. Before there were so many rules and regulations: "If you don't want anything to do with me, you will have nothing to do with my children."
Would I take my daughter's life back? You bet, in a minute, but I can't - so I must keep the good parts of her memory alive in them, and I must forgive myself for this unwanted gift.
Life has a peculiar way of giving you exactly what you want, just in ways you cannot ever have fathomed.
Dawn Huberty, Maplewood
Farm girl receives a life she never imagined I was a forever "shy" person. Born on a farm, never had a girlfriend to play with. One-room, country school. One teacher, maybe at the most 12 students total. Never had a classmate. I was smart, no doubt about that.
Country school teachers loved having an occasional "smart" student. The county school superintendent loved having an occasional bright student. They loved letting the smart kid skip a grade. The parents loved having a "smart" kid. No one asked the kid. So I skipped grades and ended up being the youngest student to ever graduate from Springfield High School. And I hated almost every minute of it. I hated being asked about it.
The second World War started and the armed forces needed nurses. I heard about a Cadet Nurse Corps course. I hadn't thought about a nurse career, but it was my chance to get a free education, so I signed on at Hamline University and a three-year Asbury Hospital program. I would be an R.N. when I finished. I knew this was "my chance," so I studied hard. I didn't want to fail. A lot of the students gabbed before they studied. I studied before I gabbed.
As a result, I received mostly A's and was on the Dean's List. It was because I didn't want to fail.
Years passed, marriage, divorce, four kids. I needed more money. Regular nurses didn't get paid much. I heard about the anesthesia program at the Mayo Clinic. It was longer, but we received a stipend. Whatever it was, it was enough for me. So, I applied, was received, studied, became an anesthetist.
Nursing wasn't something I always dreamed of, but it was free, and I ended up rather liking it. Anesthesia wasn't something I ever dreamed of either, but I enjoyed it, was good at it.
And so it was I received and thrived at things I never knew I wanted to do. Very thankful. That I am.
Flo Pendergrast, Minneapolis
Perfect family I have always wanted to be a mom from the time I "mothered" my first doll. I loved being able to hold any baby. Neighbors who hired me to baby-sit wouldn't have had to pay me. So when I got married, I couldn't wait to get pregnant like all my sisters before me. When unsuccessful for seven years, we decided to adopt.
After a long wait, when a baby boy was put into my arms, I didn't feel the joy I thought I would. But a year later when we had to leave him to go get a daughter from South America, I thought my heart would break. Our little family was now complete, even though it wasn't the way I thought I wanted it to be.
Seven more years passed. When I no longer wanted to be pregnant (and was 40 years old!), I gave birth to a baby boy. When the nurse put him into my arms, I remember again being disappointed because there was no "rush" as I held him to my breast. I didn't want to get pregnant again, but I gave birth to a daughter 17 months later (at 42!).
Even though none of these children came "in the way I thought I wanted," I couldn't have planned a more perfect family.
Kathleen Ziegler, Lino Lakes