The Mosaic of Motherhood

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The Mosaic of Motherhood

May 13th, 2018. The best of us will have it marked off on the calendar, gift and plans firmly at hand for the celebration of the mother in our lives. Just as likely, you fall among the crowd that reaches for the phone as the sun is setting, a weighing sense of failed expectation settling upon your shoulders as you type your mother's phone number.

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Perhaps, this day will sneak up on you and pounce when you are least expecting, bringing with it a mixture of anxious excitement and unwanted shame. Perhaps this is not a straightforward day for you because it carries a reminder of loss - maybe your relationship with your mother is broken, in repair, distant. For me, this day brings multi-faceted reflections and a plethora of thoughts - the humbling realization that I do not always love my mother well, the stark reality that both my mother and I bring hurt to our interactions, and the recognition that I still deeply desire for more in my relationship with my mother.

The challenge of approaching Mother's Day with sensitivity is a great one. Even in this space, I struggle to find the words to appropriately acknowledge the complexity of experiences that we each bring to that word: motherhood. There is not a long enough list of descriptors that one could use to describe it: pain, joy, delight, loss, anger, comfort, rejection, strain, protection, victory, neglect, love. Perhaps ironically, the challenge of engaging with this day (that so many see as synonymous with flowers and celebration) speaks to the nature, the very essence of motherhood itself.

We all have mothers, whether it is their absence or presence that has affected us, whether we are in relationship with them or not. 

Many of us experience motherhood from multiple perspectives and roles: as daughters, mothers, and grandmothers, whether each of these has been a joyful or sorrowful journey.

But none of us have walked the same story surrounding motherhood, whether we feel alone in that journey or not. 

Rather than constructing a perfect, single representation of Mother's Day, I instead offer you here a collection of stories, stories of mothers and daughters, stories that have landed in our palms here at the7dayringproject. I do not offer a single narrative, but a mosaic of narratives, from an eclectic group of women around the world. While I wish we had the time and resources to fully explore the wide and varied landscape of motherhood, an exploration of which I would be utterly incapable of doing justice, all I can offer is six different women's responses to the question "What does motherhood mean to you?"

My hope is that, if nothing else, you might find here in these pages a voice of motherhood that is new to you - one you have not heard before, one that enriches your heart on this journey of womanhood.

 

The words of Salem: mother, entrepreneur, and friend of the7dayringproject. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I went into the mothers' work area and spoke to them and asked them about what it means to be a mother. One woman volunteered. She was one of the senior mothers. She doesn't know her exact age but my guess is that she would be on either side of 70.

Her name is Birtukan Wondimu. She is a mother of three sons, two of which are twins. The one brother is married and has a family. She is also a grandmother of an 8 year old daughter. 

While talking about her life as a mother, she painfully and vividly remembers raising three young children all alone.

About thirty years ago, during the Derg years, her husband joined the military. From what she recalls now, he was deployed to one of the fronts where there was civil war and she never heard back from him. To this day she doesn't know whatever happened to him.

Since she did not have any source of income and was relying on her husband for their livelihood, she struggled very much in the beginning. She earned income by making and selling injera (fermented crepe-like flat bread) and different types of bread from her home.

Motherhood, for her, was responsibility, nurture, hard-work, the biggest reward being the success of her children.

With her children all grown up, and all that hard work behind her, now she is a content mother. She is very grateful to God for bringing her this far in her life.

Motherhood to me is the greatest gift God has bestowed over women. I am a mother of 3 and motherhood has given me joy and love that I would have not known otherwise.

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While I was pregnant with our firstborn son, a woman friend of mine said to me, "Pregnancy and motherhood means taking part in God's Creation. God is creating the person in you and He has given you a part in that." I thought and still think what she said is so profound and true. Feeling a person growing in you and then going through the intense birthing process in itself is the greatest miracle.

The bond between my children and I is so powerful. We understand one another even if words are not spoken. Their pain is my pain and their joy is my joy.

I am very grateful to God for creating me as a woman and blessing me with motherhood.

 

The words of Chandler Davis, daughter and dear friend of the7dayringproject. Vancouver, B.C.

If I'm perfectly honest, I grew up needing to look for role models in other women, and it was challenging to find not only someone who I connected with, but could be inspiring simply by who they are. Enter Francine. My friendship with Francine has been nothing short of a gift, and it's not because she is a phenomenal cook or knows how to pick a great find from a farmer's market, but it is her encouragement, her resilience, and her love of caring for other people that continually astounds me. She has been an incredible mother to her son Eric, and has mothered me and my sister countless, undeserved times. From university, where she helped me through one of the most challenging situations of my life , to caring for me after I was sick post wisdom teeth removal, Francine lives into what she believes is her calling to care. It is these maternal elements in living a life that is generous and hospitable that I can only hope I can do in my interactions and friendships. Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, and exceptional mother figures like Francine Parker!

 

Two stories of mothers from Mele Gagula, Ethiopia. Many thanks to our friends at HOPE International for sharing Adanech and Abebech's stories.

Adanech Ayele lives in Mele Gagula, a small community in the hills of Southern Ethiopia. She has six children. Access to clean water has made a big difference in Adanech's life. The largest change for her is the amount of time in her daily life. This extra time has allowed her to join a savings group and break out of the cycle of living day to day.

Adanech joined her self help group and started to learn about how to participate in decision making, how to start a small business, and how to engage other members of the community about social issues. Adanech used her training and knowledge to open a small restaurant in her village.

The entire experience has allowed her to begin to earn income for her family, create strong relationships with the women in her group, and improve the health and sanitation of her family. Through the hygiene education that complements the water system, she has also learned the importance of vaccinations, using improved sanitation facilities, and the benefits of family planning.

Through access to clean water and starting a small business, Adanech is now able to provide for her family and continue to break the cycle of poverty. She and her husband are working to make a better life for their children and themselves.

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Abebech also lives in the Mele Gagula. When HOPE International Development Agency met Abebch, her husband and 7 children walked 15 - 20 km just to get water. Every day they walked hours just to get water that had the potential to make them sick. Every year women like Abebech die from water like this. In fact more women die simply from water that they have no choice to drink than from any form of violence. 

The good news is that through the help of many generous friends of HOPE International, the community of Mele Gagula received enough support to build their own water system. This means that Abebach and hundreds of other women and their families have the strength, health, and freedom to start focusing on building a future instead of just trying to survive each day. Abebach has been able to join a self help group with other women in the community to take loans and start small businesses such as tea shops, retailing potato seeds, collecting coffee to sell in other markets, and different individual and group businesses. Abebach was able to build a small tea shop that helps bring income to her family.

We asked Abebech about how things have changed over the last year. "It is so amazing to me because I have water so close to my house. It's given our family more energy and time to make money. I have been so happy seeing my children become stronger. My family' health and hygiene has increased and we can now look forward to a better future."

 

Thoughts from Pips Ebersole, mother, daughter, and dear friend of the author. Turlock, California.

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For me, motherhood is a calling, something I was supposed to do. It has been both the greatest privilege and toughest job of my life. This role is a beautiful gift, but it certainly isn’t always easy. On the bad days - amidst the temper tantrums, the stubbornness and the disobedience - even then, perhaps especially then, I am called to love.

I realize now how much your childhood shapes you. Even though it is proportionally such a small percentage of your life, your childhood is intrinsically connected with the adult you become. What’s happening now in my children’s lives is so fundamental, so foundational, so shaping and growing... and it’s scary because I’m human and flawed. There is beauty in that thought, that I get to be such a key part of laying the foundation, but there are also so many external factors outside of my control that the pressure to be a perfect mother can be overwhelming. I have learned a lot about grace, and about letting go.

I keep thinking with each new season “now this is motherhood” and yet that feeling is surpassed by the next season and the next. I truly have learned how seasonal life is and how I always need to be learning and surrendering.

One of the hardest parts of motherhood has been how often my own struggles and insecurities have been magnified and pushed into the spotlight. I remember first processing this during the newborn stage with my first child. I was so struck by the uniqueness of motherhood, and the realization that it was a different calling even from fatherhood. There was now someone totally and entirely dependant on me; I was no longer just me, no longer autonomous. You come face to face with your own selfishness in motherhood, in areas of yourself that you didn’t even know existed. It’s a beautiful thing, for there is joy in this sacrifice, but it’s definitely a process: a long, good journey.

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Motherhood is a beautiful and complex part of being human - thank you for journeying with us. Whether we experience mothers, mother-figures or motherhood itself, let us use this day as a locus for conversation around what it means to be women: growing, thriving, and flourishing, and what it means to raise women with the tools to grow, thrive, and flourish.

 

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JACKIE HART SMITH

External Events + Public Relations Coordinator at the7dayringproject

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating Women's History Month

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Celebrating Women's History Month

March is Women’s History Month!

This month provides an opportunity for us to learn and celebrate women’s achievements and contributions to our society. At the7dayringproject, we not only recognize the importance of investing in women’s potential through education, but we also know that it’s just as important to take time and recognize those we look up to.

So this year, we thought we’d share some of the women that inspire our team to live life fully, create change locally, and empower women globally.

From Allison: Rula Ghani, a Pioneer

  Image Credit: The Guardian

Image Credit: The Guardian

Rula Ghani holds three university degrees, speaks five languages, and is paving unprecedented pathways as Afghanistan’s First Lady since 2015.

From her current position in government, she has been boldly working to improve conditions and rights for women in Afghanistan. Rula Ghani has been championing women’s rights in many different ways. One of her positions is honorary co-chair (along with the former First Lady of the United States Laura Bush) of the US-Afghan Women's Council.

Currently in Afghanistan, there are more women in notable positions within government and business than at any other time in the nation’s history, and more than 2.5 million girls in school, according to the UN. Thanks in large part to Ghani and Bush’s work,

"You start seeing women in government organizations, you start seeing them in the private sector ... many more girls studying, so women are a little bit everywhere."

In a country where it’s not easy to be a woman, let alone a woman in a position of power, Rula Ghani’s courage to fight for the rights of women of a country that is not even her own inspires me to empower women everywhere. Regardless of whether or not I personally know them, the simple fact is that we are women, and as women, we fight for each other.

  Image credit: Paul Child/WGBH

Image credit: Paul Child/WGBH

From Janelle: Julia Child, a Trailblazer

“A party without cake is just a meeting.”

I heard this quote as a child and immediately wrote it down on a sticky note and stuck it to my bedroom wall. Even now, after almost eight years of recreationally baking and decorating fondant cakes, those words still seem to whimsically capture why I love to bake. What makes it that much sweeter is that those words were spoken by one of the most inspirational women in cooking – Julia Child.

Julia Child is famously known for bringing the art of French cooking to Americans during the 1950’s. Julia didn’t even begin to cook until she was 32 and published her first cookbook at age 49. For me, she symbolizes that it is never too late to follow your passion.

What I love about Julia Child is her view that failure is necessary for success. She noted, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” She was courageous and confident and by no means delicate. Her diligence is incredibly inspiring. (She once tried a recipe eight times in one day just to get it perfect.)

Julia Child once said, “Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” I, for one, will continue to live by those words…and also to believe that cake should be a food group all of its own.

From Peo: Rosanna Heppell, a Role Model

There was not one moment in my life when I did not look up to my sister (except now because I’m taller - holla!) Whatever she did, I wanted to do it too. If she got bangs, I got bangs. If she wanted a Britney Spears’ Hit Clips, I wanted a Backstreet Boys’ Hit Clips. If she thought Zac Efron was cute, I thought Zac Efron was cute (but, come on, he’s a babe!). Some people say that we are identical - from the way we talk to the way we present ourselves. But that is only because she has been and will always be my biggest inspiration. I always regard her as the better half of the Au sister duo, because it’s so true. You’ll never find someone more hardworking, more genuine in her intentions, or more caring than Rosanna. She has walked with me through every milestone of my life and has seen me at my worst - and yet every day she still chooses to stick by my side; she still chooses to be my best friend. That is something that inspires me every day.

From Kathleen: Sarah Mclachlan, an Artist

  Image Credit: Courtesy Artist

Image Credit: Courtesy Artist

Growing up, I was always creating and writing - writing poems, writing song lyrics, creating tunes in my head, and singing them quietly to myself in my room. I thought these songs would always be just that: something in my head, that only would be heard by the walls of my room.

It wasn’t until I heard the song Angel by Sarah Mclachlan that I discovered that these tunes in my head could be transformed into complete and dynamic songs with the help of an instrument, particularly the piano. As I’ve grown up and continued to listen to her music, my admiration for her as an artist and as a Canadian female role model have grown significantly. Her lyrics have remained truthful and raw, and she has continued to be a strong female figure in the music industry, by starting projects like the Sarah Mclachlan School of Music, intended for young people to explore themselves and utilize music as an emotional outlet.

“There’s beauty everywhere. There are amazing things happening everywhere, you just have to be able to open your eyes and witness it. Some days that’s harder than others.”

By sharing her experiences through music, she has created a point of connection for anyone who listens to her music, where people can feel as though they are not completely alone in their experiences. I respect and admire Sarah Mclachlan for her honesty and willingness to share her thoughts through her music, as it has taught me to do the same.

From Brielle: Ms. Jean Ritter, an Inspiration

Ms. Ritter has been my piano teacher for the last few years. The best words I would use to describe her are: resilient, wise, and hard-working. She has lived a life of tremendous hardship, from surviving chronic diseases to constantly being on heavy medication, but this doesn’t hold her back from living life, working 60 hours/week, and spreading her love.

She is one of those people who wholeheartedly cares about others and pushes you to fulfill your potential. It is so rare to find someone who is truly selfless in the way that she is. She pours so much into her students in a way that is unbelievable to me.

From Miley: HOLLA TO OUR LOCAL WOMEN

When I think about women’s history and celebrating women’s achievements, I often think about all the badass young women I know in my community who are making history.

Noor Fadel, an 18 year old Muslim Canadian who turned a highly publicized violent act of hate on the Skytrain into a platform for her advocacy work. Veronika Bylicki, a passionate community builder who co-founded CityHive, a social enterprise that is transforming the way young people are engaged in civic processes and urban sustainability challenges. My incredibly whacky mother, who breaks every expectation imposed upon her and has taught me everything I needed to know about being a brave, bold woman. The lovely women at the7dayringproject who, on top of their busy work/school/extracurriculars/life schedules, work tirelessly to make this little social enterprise blossom.

Those are just a few. But my point is, for me, Women’s History Month is about reflecting and celebrating those in my community. We often look outwards and upwards for inspiration but I encourage all of us to take a moment and look into our neighbourhoods, our classrooms, our workplaces for the badass women who are already making history, whether in small or big strides. Because knowing all these women are doing incredible things in such close proximity makes me realize that our future isn’t looking too shabby after all. In fact, I would even say it’s looking pretty dang good.

From Taylor: Bogaletch Gebre, a Revolutionary

  Image Credit: KMG Ethiopia

Image Credit: KMG Ethiopia

When I first posed this challenge to our 7dayring team to learn about amazing women and bring their stories to life, I knew I wanted to focus on Ethiopian women who have impacted their country as a way to continue to educate myself on those shaping the country that we are aiming to support. 

While I was doing my research, I was immediately reminded how hard it is to stand out and be considered a leader as a woman in Ethiopia. It was way harder than I expected to find news articles and credible sources about female leaders in Ethiopia. However, one lady stood out to me in her dedication to showing the power of habesha (Ethiopian) women.

Bogaletch (Boge) Gebre is a badass.  

Like far too many girls around the world, when she was 12, she was a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM), a procedure that is not only emotionally scarring and embarrassing, but incredibly dangerous. Boge almost bled to death. Her father also forbade her from going to school, but of course, she didn’t let that stop her. She snuck out of her home to attend a missionary school for a few hours every day. From there, she became a Fulbright scholar and a brilliant scientist. This woman then came back to Ethiopia to help other women achieve their dreams just as she had, but without the pain and suffering she faced. She started Kembatti Mentti-Gezimma-Tope, a phrase in the oral language of Kembatta that reflects the power women generate when working together. Heck. Frikin. Ya.

The charity works to serve women in many areas, including preventing female genital mutilation and bridal abductions, which is the practice of kidnapping and raping young women to force them into marriage. Her organization has reduced FGM from 97% to 3% in her birth-area.

The Independent called Boge “the woman who began the rebellion of Ethiopian women,” and all I can say is, let’s keep this rebellion going.

 

Much love,
the7dayringproject

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Cover photo image credit: San Francisco Women's March 2018

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Redefining "Seizing the Day": Mother's Day Edition

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Redefining "Seizing the Day": Mother's Day Edition

One of our hopes behind the 7dayring has always been that it would empower you to seize the day. Carpe diem. Live fully. I think that somewhere along the line, this phrase became a commercialized saying that lost much of its breadth of meaning. When I think, “seize the day,” I think of sunny beach days. I think of running from the waves in slow motion, of tossing heads back in laughter. I think of windswept hair, toothy grins, and fulfilled dreams.

But how do you seize the day on a day that bears feelings of grief, or anger, or frustration?

Mother’s Day is a difficult day for many, maybe just as many as for whom it is a joyous occasion. Whether you have the most wonderful relationship with your mom, or the most strained, whether you live a 15-hour plane ride or a 15-minute drive apart, whether you’ve known your mom your whole life or just for a part of it, my hope behind this short blog post is that it would expand the meaning and expectations of Mother's Day, and even in that, to expand the meaning of “seize the day".

For the first three years of my undergrad degree, talking to my mom looked like this:

I lived in Vancouver; she lived in Beijing. The time difference was irksome, the Internet was spotty, and the frustration was palpable. Like many international university students, I went from seeing my family everyday to maybe seeing them once a year if plane tickets weren’t bank-breaking.

The number of times I got to actually talk to my mom was meager. In those years, our relationship was mostly comprised of hurried texts sent during a 10-minute break from class, received during the middle of the night. Whenever Mother’s Day would roll around, I would feel frustrated by my inability to celebrate my mom the “right” way – breakfast in bed, a spa day, cooking dinner for the family.

I can’t begin to imagine the sorrow that Mother’s Day brings for those who have lost their mothers. I can’t begin to grasp the hurt and the anger that Mother’s Day brings for those whose mothers have been unkind. And I can only begin to understand the weight of the expectations that Mother’s Day brings for everyone – expectations of sunny beach days, of heads tossed back in laughter, expectations of breakfast on trays, of toothy grins and warm relationships.

These expectations – they’re not for you.

I’d like to think that the beauty of “seize the day” comes from its breadth of meaning. It’s impossible to spend everyday laughing, frolicking in the sand, and dreaming big. Sometimes, seizing the day looks a little bit quieter. Writing a letter to the mom you never met – that’s seizing the day. Getting out of bed the day after everything fell apart – that’s seizing the day. Forgiving mom for the ways she has hurt you – that’s seizing the day.

This Mother’s Day, when I think, “seize the day,” I want to think of sunny beach days. I want to think of trembling hands, of sorrowful smiles. I want to think of breakfast in Styrofoam containers, of unanswered phone calls, and of moments of quiet courage.

We’re rooting for ya. Don’t be afraid to create your own expectations for how to best celebrate mom/grandma/aunt/sister/friend for how they’ve had a part in raising you.

So how are you going to seize the day this Mother’s Day?

 

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ALLISON YANG

Content Marketing Coordinator at the7dayringproject

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7 Mother's Day ideas that aren't breakfast in bed

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7 Mother's Day ideas that aren't breakfast in bed

Mother’s Day is just around the corner – can you believe it? This year, May 14th marks the day we get to celebrate (more than usual) all the moms, grandmas, aunts, and other incredible women that have had a part in raising us.

Let’s be real; there’s really nothing we can do or buy for these women that adequately captures our gratitude for who they are and what they do. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying! So we at the7dayringproject have stuck our heads together to come up with seven things you can do this year to make Mother’s Day extra special for your loved ones.

 

1.     Grow her flowers

That’s right – don’t just buy her flowers; grow them yourself! Zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds are all types of flowers that begin to sprout just a week after planting. Water them and care for them well, and they should start blooming about a month after they’ve sprouted!

 

2.     Make her a lemon poppy seed loaf (with an Earl Grey glaze to boot!)

You know how the saying goes: When life gives you lemons, make loaf.

The fantastic ladies over at Port and Fin have come up with a recipe for this beautiful lemon poppy seed yogurt loaf with a lemon Earl Grey glaze. Trust me, I’ve tried this one out myself, and it’ll take the classic Mother’s Day breakfast in bed to a whole new level.

The picture on the left is documentation of when I made this loaf last spring!

 

3.     Build her a tea kit

Oh no, not just any ordinary tea kit. I call it the empaTEA kit. The empaTEA kit includes at least three or four different types of tea leaves that you’ve chosen out and put into little containers. Now here’s the kicker. Label each container a different mood, so they will read, “For when you’re happy” or “for when you’re tired.” Try to coordinate the tea leaves to the mood if you can – might I suggest a bright raspberry zinger for when she’s happy, and a soothing lemon ginger for when she’s tired?

If you’re looking for some ethical tea brands, check out JusTea or O5 Tea! They’re both Vancouver-based brands that put a lot of care in to sourcing their tea leaves fairly.

 

4.     Learn something together

Experiences are a powerful gift, and the educational component is just a bonus! Here in Vancouver, you can find workshops for learning pottery, making sushi, and even flight lessons. Who knows when you or your mom might need to fly a plane? Pro tip: Groupon often has great deals for these kinds of things!

 

5.     Do something scary together

Is there something both you and your mom are afraid of? It could be the mutual fear of snakes, bees, or heights, perhaps. Find a way this Mother’s Day to face your fears together, whether that might be visiting a bee farm or going bungee jumping; it’ll make for an unforgettable experience, and maybe even help you overcome your fears!

The Honeybee Centre in Surrey has a live observation hive, is always stocked with samples of honey, and even offers basic beekeeping classes – check them out here!

 

6.     Volunteer together

 Source: https://www.facebook.com/RunForWomenSeries/

Source: https://www.facebook.com/RunForWomenSeries/

Spread some of that love around to your community – find a soup kitchen or a shelter that both of you can volunteer at. (Hint hint, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter offers their next volunteer orientation the day before Mother’s Day!) Not only is this a worthwhile way to spend time with your mom, but it also is a meaningful act of service to people who are in a tough place. It might even be as simple as going through your closets together and picking out clothes to donate!

Or how about something a little more active? The SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. Run for Women is happening across the country, with Vancouver’s being on May 13. Run 5k with mom, and raise money for women’s mental health programs in Canada!

 

7.     Get her a 7dayring

I mean, how could we not? The 7dayring is so much more than just a ring – we make sure that your purchase goes right back to Salem and her team in Ethiopia, the brilliant creators of the ring. We also donate a good chunk of your purchase to imagine1day, a Vancouver-based nonprofit organization that supports girls’ education in Ethiopia. If that’s not a good way to say Happy Mother’s Day, I don’t know what is.

We also have a special for you! Use the promo code: 7DAYMOMS17 to get 15% of your purchase by May 4th!

 

Sending much love from our team,
the7dayringproject

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