Inspiration Found in Our Own Lives
In our RosieCentral blogs, we feature women who inspire us. Some of these women are well-known but many are not. Today, I want to address another aspect of finding inspiration. Often, the best role models are not icons but real people we have known well.
These women may know nothing about our specialized fields or aspirations in life. That doesn’t matter. We choose them because we want to do our work the way we know they would do it if it was their work. We can picture their facial expressions and body language as they settle down to hard tasks. We can see their handiwork. We can hear their spoken thoughts. They are more than satisfactory role models. They can inspire us in so many ways--when we are getting started, when we reach difficult times, when we have an achievement and are ready to do more, etc.
But how do you find these sources of inspiration? I hope my story will help you to find some of the inspiration people who are already in your life.
A Source of Inspiration Through the Decades
Let me share with you the first role model I had outside my family. I hope you will enjoy learning about her and seeing how there are amazing people all around us if we just look.
Connie Douglas Reeves is my inspiration. I met her at summer camp. She taught me how to ride horses at Camp Waldemar when I was 10 years old. Connie wasn’t a typical teenage counselor; she was 51 that summer and already a legend. When she taught us to “saddle your own horse,” she was teaching us the importance of self-reliance and responsibility for our actions.
Still Learning from Connie (A Great Role Model Inspires Us Across a Lifetime)
Interestingly, I’m still learning from Connie. In 2003, I was visiting with a friend I had not seen in many years. Polly told me about a recent trip to the Texas hill country where along the way she took her husband to Camp Waldemar on the Guadalupe River. She wanted to show him the place that held wonderful memories for her.
It was autumn, and the giggles and shrieks of girls no longer filled the air. Walking across the quiet, open field, Polly saw a woman, legs stretched across the dashboard, snoozing in a golf cart. As Polly moved closer to make her presence known, the woman woke up.
You guessed it. Connie was 99, still slim, wearing the familiar blue jeans and sporting the same large silver belt buckle we had always seen her wear. Her eyesight wasn’t great, and Polly had to speak a bit loudly to be heard.
Connie eagerly told Polly that she was still head of horseback riding at Waldemar but had given up active teaching when she was 96. She continued to supervise the staff, ride with some classes, and give tips to the young girls. I can imagine that her advice always included “saddle your own horse.”
I’m embarrassed to say that we thought she was ancient in 1952! Her lessons of self reliance were unique when I was in camp. In those days we assumed a man would take care of us. I didn't believe in a Prince Charming, but I had friends who did. Clearly, Connie didn't believe in the mythical Prince either and wanted us to take care of ourselves. In today's language, I'd say she was an empowered woman and she empowered us.
In More Recent Years...
Since Polly told me this story, I’ve followed news of Connie. At the age of 100, she saddled her horse and rode in the parade celebrating the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame’s new building in Ft. Worth. Two years later and just one month shy of her 102nd birthday, her favorite horse, Dr. Pepper, threw her. While in the hospital, Connie remarked to the camp owner, “I think Dr. Pepper has made our decision. It’s time for us to retire. I just wish I’d done it more gracefully.” She died a few days later.
Those Who Inspire Us Provide Many Lessons
Like finding an unexpected treasure, here was Connie giving me lessons 50 years later. She, like most of us, was sometimes thrown by life. A newly shod Dr. Pepper had even kicked her when she was 84, shattering her thighbone. But Connie’s energy, determination, and strength of character brought real meaning to the lyrics: pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. She inspires me to keep doing what I love, and perhaps most importantly, to accept that I might not go gracefully.
More About Connie
Connie Reeves, not just in my memory but according to published descriptions, was independent and strong-willed, opinionated and usually right, witty and dry, smart and tough. I hope that someday we are all described that way. The Waldemar Camp owner recalled her as "a self-motivated woman; she did her own thing."
Connie started at Waldemar long before I went there. Her first year as a riding teacher was in 1936. She met the camp's head wrangler, Jack Reeves, and they married. At that time, Doris Johnson was the owner of Waldemar and a camp only brought in revenue in the summer. The rest of the year, Jack and Connie worked on Doris Johnson's 10,000 acre ranch where the camp's horses were wintered.
I Want to Be Described Like This!
"She never waited on anyone else to do something for her. She led the way, was smart and tough. She didn't take any guff off of anyone and called it like she saw it, and people admired her for that," said the current owner of Waldemar.
I'm not there yet, but It is definitely worth working on.
HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE DESCRIBED?
After reading about Connie Douglas Reeves, take a few minutes to think about how you want people to describe you and your life. Sometimes it helps to center yourself. To think about your life, where you have been, and where you are going. Then write one or two sentences about how you would like others to describe you. Happy with what you wrote? Then set about becoming that person.
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Missed Our Previous Blogs? Check these out!
Rosie the Riveter's Riveting Story -- Find out the connection to Jackie Kennedy's fashion designer and Rosalind Palmer Walter (major funder of public television).
Wendy the Welder (Rosie the Riveter's Co-Worker)