Tuesday, September 1, 2009

13. 22 + 75 = Amazing

Gymboree founder Joan Barnes, Nobel Prize-Winning author Doris Lessing, entertainer Dolly Parton, and actress Meg Ryan all share a trait that I discuss at length in Chapter 14. I call it "Selective Disassociation," but what it really signifies is having the strength to say "Goodbye" - to a person, place or thing - when necessary.

Today I'm going to share two real-life stories of ordinary women dealing with extraordinary circunstances. The first is about a woman named Barbara Hillary who is 75 years old, and became the first black woman to make it to the North Pole. In her 60s she battled lung cancer and in her 70s she refused to listen to people who felt she was too old (or not fit enough) to successfully reach her goal. Neither lack of funds nor the fact that she had never worn skis before stopped her. What a great example of the ability to reach a goal no matter what!

The second woman is 22 year old Leydi Mendoza who is a specialist in the New Jersey National Guard and has spent ten months deployed to Baghdad, where she guarded prisoners at Camp Cropper. Before she was sent overseas, Mendoza and her boyfriend lived with his parents after she gave birth to their daughter, Elizabeth. She and her boyfriend broke up before she was sent to Irac, but they agreed that she would help him and his parents pay for their baby's needs while she was overseas. Once she was able to return home, they agreed that they would share joint custody.

Unfortunately, Specialist Mendoza is now back in New Jersey, but Elizabeth's father has restricted his daughter 's visits with her mother and now wants sole custody. Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain who advocates for female service members has said "We are asking these women to sacrifice for theor country and we need them. But there is not enough being done to help support them and their familied when they get home."

While in Baghdad Mendoza kept a photo of baby Elizabeth's first Christmas tucked inside the camouflaged patrol cap she wore, and called home several times a week to hear her daughter's voice on the phone. Now Mendoza has run up legal bills of over $6,000 in her quest to have joint custody of her little girl. In her words, "I wanted Elizabeth to grow up and be proud that her mother had served her country. And we needed the health care and the military benefits..."

Aren't you glad that you're not caught in Mendoza's Catch 22?

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