Phenomenal Women

Approximate reading time:3 minutes

Impending motherhood has changed my perspective on, well, everything, but in particular I feel connected to the women in my community in a new way. At the beginning of the week, we had a meeting of children’s ministry workers for our church, and I left feeling so refreshed by the company of phenomenal mothers (and non-mothers and fathers and non-fathers!) and reassured that Fire Monkey will be born into a community that deeply loves even the smallest person. I’m profoundly grateful for the wealth of diverse experiences and perspectives among the women in my life because it helps me remember that there isn’t just one right way to do marriage and parenting and life in general. (I grew up with a pretty individualistic view of faith and a one-size-fits-all mentality on life, and it has taken me a long time to see past it.)

I also had the pleasure this week of writing a recommendation for a student to the Zoo School program offered through one of the local career centers. This year in particular I’ve had a hard time seeing past the have-to’s and need-to’s and get-to-by-three’s of my work and connecting with my students as I have in the past. (That…will need to be unpacked further in a future post.) But I had met this girl’s mother during fall conferences and all three of us had had an in-depth conversation about her interests and talents, which is rare and difficult in high school when you have 150 students and most parents only contact you when something is amiss. Writing the recommendation was deeply satisfying as it allowed me to focus

So it’s been a week of encouragement by and of women and girls. All my life I’ve had the good fortune of being surrounded by phenomenal women, to quote one of my favorite poems by Maya Angelou. They’ve been my teachers, students, mentors, friends, colleagues, clients. Women who get it done, make it work, and say it straight. Women with college degrees and women with street smarts, women with partners, women with children, and women who are completely satisfied on their own.

Once upon a time, there was a group of phenomenal women (and men) that formed a company called Sseko to provide employment, education, and empowerment to women in East Africa. Sseko is a business, not a charity, and they produce high-quality handmade ribbon sandals, leather shoes and bags, and other accessories using locally sourced materials. More importantly, they employ high-potential women at fair, living wages and provide matching scholarships for college at the end of their term of employment.

This week, I joined the family as a Sseko Fellow to share their story and their products, both of which I love. The business model for both production and direct sales is the only one with which I am fully comfortable as a consumer and a representative. And it is the only company I’ve found that lines up so well with my own passion for using art and writing to mark the important moments in women’s lives, from high school graduation to marriage to motherhood.

It’s kind of really scary to start a new business three months before having a baby. But it actually makes sense in this period of creating new opportunities, because what is a baby but a chance for all things to be new? I want Fire Monkey, and any future children (especially if we have a daughter), to look at their mama and see someone who chased dreams and caught them, someone who tried and failed and tried again and succeeded, someone who creates something out of nothing, someone brave, someone phenomenal.

For Fire Monkey and all the phenomenal women before me and those to come, love from A-minus Mama


Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
-excerpt from “Phenomenal Woman,” by Maya Angelou

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