Hi, Ness here. I could easily blame hormones on this post, I mean they do play a part I’ll admit, but really I have always taken such pride in my gender and truly am inspired by the female race. Enjoy my sappy expression of love and brief overview of some of the most inspirational women in my life.
With that said, I’ve been feeling extra grateful and humble this Mother’s Day. I’m in constant awe of the women around me who are the best examples of motherhood.. Not because of they are perfect and have raised superb children and keep immaculate homes, all the while flawlessly balancing their successful, rewarding career. No, I’m in awe of the raw, real women who struggle every day but keep going in spite of the tribulation and heartache.
I am proud to come from a rich heritage of strong women and I want to spotlight a few people specifically. I want to start with Sundee Diviney, my maternal grandmother. Without going into too many unnecessary details, my grandma endured a rough childhood at best. Her mother worked, simply because she had to to support the family. Her father was an abusive drunk whom she doesn’t have too many memories of (and the few she does have are not happy ones). My grandma’s stepfather was a cruel man, not physically abusive like her biological father, but just as destructive in other ways. When I hear the word ‘blossom’, I think of my grandma Sundee. She not only endured her upbringing, she blossomed in spite of it, probably BECAUSE of it actually. Sundee put herself through college, learned to cook from her Mexican neighbors, and took advantage of trying every new opportunity placed before her.. She joined clubs and was the “it girl” on campus (I think she received more than 3 marriage proposals?!?!). In fact, when my own mom tells me stories of her childhood she talks about how my grandma would always expose her kids to new things, even on their frugal budget she remembers Sundee buying starfruit or a real coconut for the kids to try (pretty exotic for the 1970’s kids growing up in Crestview, Florida haha). My grandma worked hard to finish her degree and continued on to get her masters in mental health counseling, all the while trying to keep track of 5 kids at home. She’s had quite the career working with abused children, alcoholics, drug addicts, adoptions (she loves her birth mamas!), the military, etc. Even now, when most people her age are retiring she keeps doing the work she loves and it has taken her all the way to London England. My grandma Sundee endured some dark days in her past, i’ve cried listening to some of her stories, but she blossomed into a woman who can now be proud of the direction she’s steered her children and grandchildren. So easily she could have repeated the patterns of her past, but instead forged a new way forward. Was she perfect? Come to one of our Diviney family reunions and you’ll quickly realize that no one in our family is haha. I’m sure she had many dark days where she wanted to give up, both as a youth and an adult. But even just for my sake, I’m glad she didn’t. So thank you Sundee, for changing the course of your future posterity.
And speaking of the Diviney line, my Aunt Hollee deserves a shout out. She has always been a second mama to me, fiercely protecting me even in the womb. I even lived with her for a few summers. I’d like to think I get my “cultured” and “feisty” side from my Auntie Hollee. After all, one of the first words I learned from her as a toddler was “expensive”. She was the cool, artsy aunt with all sorts of cool, artsy knickknacks in her apartment that I liked to touch, to which she would respond, “no, no.. expensive” ha. Hollee was also the one who begged and pleaded my mom to get my ears pierced and finally at the age of 3, my mom conceded. I have watched over the years as Hollee has thrown dinner parties that are Martha Stewart swoon worthy, travel AND move to far away places, and create beautiful art. She taught me to be spunky and that blue hair in your 30’s is one hundred percent A-OK. When my own mom’s perfect, poised style was a bit too.. poised.. for me, I could look to Hollee for inspiration. Cheers to you, my cool Auntie Hollee!
Suzette Walker, my paternal grandmother. My grandma Suzette, was the epitome of a southern, nurturing grandma. Her roots go back to Alabama, but her entire adult life was spent in the panhandle of Florida. She married young (like everyone did during the “olden days” ha) and had 3 children who were her pride and joy. At least until she started having grandchildren, I think that was her true passion in life, but I could be biased 😉 When I think of my “southern roots” and where I “come from” I think of her. I think of sweet tea in the fridge, cornbread in the oven, and gospel tunes she would hum while stringin the beans on the back porch. Even though my mom grew up in the same town, she knew very, very little of southern cooking before her and my dad were together. (Her mom was a master Mexican chef from Arizona remember?!) My grandma Suzette patiently taught my mom the importance of a cast iron skillet and how to properly use it to make cornbread. She taught me how to make her delicious fried squash and countless other southern staples. I have vivid and very fond memories of sitting on the back porch shuckin corn while Grandma prepped the rest of the meal. We would have delicious cat fish frys with the best hush puppies and yummy cheese grits. More importantly than the food though, my grandma was a patient, sweet southern women. The song, “You Are My Sunshine” will always make me a bit teary eyed when I hear it and think of her singing it to me as I fell asleep. She passed away when I was only 14 years old. I watched those last months as cancer took her away from all her loved ones. But she never stopped loving all of us and made every effort to make sure we knew that. Grandma Suzette left behind two other important women in my life, my aunt Deena and aunt Emily. I see such strength and endurance when I picture these women. Both have become dedicated mothers and flourished even in hard times. I’ve watched as my Aunt Deena has battled different forms of cancer numerous times in her life while trying to raise 3 daughters of her own. Her endurance and fortitude is inspiring. My aunt Emily lost her mother at too young of an age, and is now raising 3 babies of her own knowing her mom won’t ever get to meet them in this life. I can’t imagine either situation and I hope I never have to, but their strength is humbling.
My mother in law, Debbie. It’s weird even typing ‘Debbie’ since i’ve only ever heard her called mom or auntie or grandma.. by everyone. I’m still trying to figure out all the pieces of Debbie’s upbringing, but the stories i’ve heard are wild! Between traveling to Nepal as a teenager in the 70’s to giving birth to 9 children (and helping raise many more than that!), she’s an epic woman for sure. Deb is probably the single most giving woman i’ve ever met. She may only have the clothes she’s wearing, but she would give you the shirt off her back. Some of the best gifts Josiah and I have gotten have been from Deb, like the vintage christmas ornaments she found at the thrift store that she thought were my style (THEY WERE!!). She can make anyone and everyone feel special, like you are loved by all the earth, moon, and stars kind of special! And her daughters have turned out just as lovely as she is. All of Joe’s sisters are unique and inspiring in their own ways and have been such examples to me of independence and endurance, especially as I enter motherhood myself.
Lastly and most importantly, I want to talk about my momma, Shelley. (at this point, you’re probably the only one reading this mom haha) My mom’s upbringing was, dare I say, *relatively* normal? That is until she hit her senior year in high school. My mom got pregnant with me when she was just 17 years old. I used to be so embarrassed by this fact, like I was some bastard child who had the darkest secret in school. Now I realize, this single fact has helped positively mold me into the person I am today more than I will ever realize. Hearing that now a days doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but back then, there was no glamorous MTV 16 and Pregnant and there was definitely a lot more shame associated with it. She could have taken quite a few easier ways out than she did, but she chose to stick with my dad and keep me around. But more shockingly, she finished high school AND immediately put herself through college while working side jobs and NEVER once getting on any type of welfare (neither government nor church assistance). Props to my parents right?!?! That is UNHEARD of in our generation. Oh and did I mention they only lived at their parents’ house for like 6 weeks tops before moving out? Ya MEGA props to my parents (even if at one point they lived in a trailer.. hey, the reminder keeps me humble). But the story doesn’t end there. My mom has continued her education over the years.. and not because she just felt so inclined to wave around some flashy PhD, but because as she puts it, she “had to” to properly support her kids and maintain their quality of life. And now, she’s a boss. I’m not just saying that because she’s my mom.. Really she is. She’s the DEAN of Health Sciences at a college. Boss status. So she went from teen mom who could have dropped out of high school, to Dr. Shelley Diviney, the bad ass. Talk about defying statistics! I constantly tell her she needs to go on motivational speaking tours to inspire the girls of my generation. But really though, besides beating the odds and having an impressive resume, my mom has taught me the greatest life lessons through her struggles, failures, and her sincere love for me. Because of her unique life experiences, my mom has been able to stay grounded and teach me humility.. I’ve watched as she’s gone into horrid homes and cleaned fecal matter off the floor just to help someone out, she’s made countless meals for others, and inspired so many other women. Yet she’s also exposed me to the other side of the spectrum.. She’s taught me the sky’s the limit and to keep dreaming always, to travel to every corner of this earth and constantly explore and expand as a human. She’s taught me the importance of standing on my own two feet. That sometimes being tough is necessary and the only way to survive, but it’s no excuse to lose your softer side. She is the most nurturing boss woman i’ve ever met. I don’t know how she balances it all… And if you ask her she’ll tell you she doesn’t and that she’s nowhere near perfect, but in my eyes, she absolutely is. She is the mom I need in every possible way and most definitely the mom I want. Even though I find her perfect, it’s her imperfections that have taught me the most.. Her capacity of love for her children, which has inspired her strength and endurance during tough times, is what I strive to attain as I venture into new motherhood.
This list could keep going on and on with many other women in my life, but this was me keeping it ‘short and simple’ ha. I’m lucky and so extremely humbled to have such grand examples in my life. To all of you kick ass ladies out there, THANK YOU.