the "she Is" project

All photos by Jillian Zamora Photography

We have become a society that screams our opinions at each other without any regard. We were built on the diversity of people, but somewhere along the way we have become a group that is judgmental, biased, and insensitive to those who are different. How do we expect to teach empathy and understanding to the next generation of young people if we are only modeling self-serving agendas? Being convicted by this question, I started looking inward at how my work could make a statement about the beauty of diversity.

            I realized that, although it may be a small start, I needed to stop talking and start listening more. I needed to find a way to use my art to make a statement of strength in diversity. While there is grit in telling my own stories, creating a platform for OTHERS to share their journeys seemed like a much more powerful statement. And just like that, the She Is scarf was born.

            I wanted the art to be a symbolic microphone of sorts. A safe haven for whoever was wearing it to share their thoughts, opinions, and stories without fear of judgement and without interruption. The scarf communicates “She Is” in Morse code and allows the wearer to fill in the blank.

            An event was set up, and on April 2, 2017 a powerful and diverse group of about 20 women came together to celebrate their uniqueness, tell their story, and to have their portrait taken while wearing the scarf. Each woman was asked to answer four questions. They were encouraged to talk about the most positive and negative moment that shaped them, why they chose their current path and what the best thing about being a woman truly is.

            The She Is Experiment celebrates our femininity, but more than that, it seeks to exemplify and amplify the good characteristics that we as a group wish to achieve, regardless of race or gender.

            The She Is women are kind and compassionate, awkward and quirky, smart and academic, explorers and companions, pragmatic and dedicated, spiritual and flexible, passionate and resilient, driven but humble. We are thoughtful and creative, nurturing and gentle, courageous and independent. We are First Amendment Avengers, mentors, and advocates for the weak. We are artists and creators, daughters and mothers, wives and friends. We are women, and each of us have our powerful stories to tell.

 
CAITLIN CRAWFORD Maker of 100% Natural, Pure and Simple Skin Care austinstapothecary.com  Becoming a mother to my daughter opened my eyes to the strength inherent in womanhood. I had wrestled with my femininity for years, unsure of what it meant for me and if there was any strength or purpose to be found in that identity within our culture. When my daughter was born, she revealed a fierceness in me, a raw power, a capable dignity, that I just didn't know I had. The places my body, mind, and spirit have ventured through pregnancy, labor, delivery, infancy, and now toddlerhood have been stunning. In a way, I feel like my daughter helped me make my own acquaintance. That's definitely not commentary on women who are unable or decide not to have children, but for me, the mantle of "Mommy" and my strength are inseparably linked.  When my son was stillborn last year due to a virus, I shattered. It felt like the end of innocence, hope, life itself. In some ways, my old understanding of the world burned to the ground the moment his heart stopped. Trivial things are seen for what they are. Shallow, circumstantial happiness is gone forever, and in its place grows a deeper, lasting joy that neither fire nor storm nor even death can take away. I was remade by loss into something that's stronger for having been broken. There's a freedom that comes from having your worst fear realized, and surviving it. I just wish it didn't come at such a cost for me.  I always knew once my husband and I started having babies that I wanted to stay home with them. My days are spent working in the garden, going for walks, running errands, formulating new products, filling orders, and managing all the other details that come with running both a home and a small business, all with my best girl by my side.  How we embody both strength and gentleness simultaneously. Again, I can see this most clearly through the lens of motherhood and the over- whelming capacity that comes with it. Months of growing, nurturing, and sustaining life inside her own body culminating in the primal (nightmarish?) grit of labor and delivery. Tenderly kissing boo-boos and hours of rocking, offering up her own body to nourish and comfort again and again. The setting aside of self in pursuit of something greater (which even leads to a further developing of character and identity) specifically in the context of motherhood, points to a gentle strength that I never knew I had.

CAITLIN CRAWFORD
Maker of 100% Natural, Pure and Simple Skin Care
austinstapothecary.com

Becoming a mother to my daughter opened my eyes to the strength inherent in womanhood. I had wrestled with my femininity for years, unsure of what it meant for me and if there was any strength or purpose to be found in that identity within our culture. When my daughter was born, she revealed a fierceness in me, a raw power, a capable dignity, that I just didn't know I had. The places my body, mind, and spirit have ventured through pregnancy, labor, delivery, infancy, and now toddlerhood have been stunning. In a way, I feel like my daughter helped me make my own acquaintance. That's definitely not commentary on women who are unable or decide not to have children, but for me, the mantle of "Mommy" and my strength are inseparably linked.

When my son was stillborn last year due to a virus, I shattered. It felt like the end of innocence, hope, life itself. In some ways, my old understanding of the world burned to the ground the moment his heart stopped. Trivial things are seen for what they are. Shallow, circumstantial happiness is gone forever, and in its place grows a deeper, lasting joy that neither fire nor storm nor even death can take away. I was remade by loss into something that's stronger for having been broken. There's a freedom that comes from having your worst fear realized, and surviving it. I just wish it didn't come at such a cost for me.

I always knew once my husband and I started having babies that I wanted to stay home with them. My days are spent working in the garden, going for walks, running errands, formulating new products, filling orders, and managing all the other details that come with running both a home and a small business, all with my best girl by my side.

How we embody both strength and gentleness simultaneously. Again, I can see this most clearly through the lens of motherhood and the over- whelming capacity that comes with it. Months of growing, nurturing, and sustaining life inside her own body culminating in the primal (nightmarish?) grit of labor and delivery. Tenderly kissing boo-boos and hours of rocking, offering up her own body to nourish and comfort again and again. The setting aside of self in pursuit of something greater (which even leads to a further developing of character and identity) specifically in the context of motherhood, points to a gentle strength that I never knew I had.

 
SHADAN KISHI PRICE   Business Owner, Cook   eatatleilas.com   Everyone has impacted the person I am today. My parents showed me that anything is possible with hard work. My husband, sister family, and friends have been a great source of support and have helped me so much throughout this crazy journey!  There were a lot of hurdles on the way to becoming a business owner, be it monetary issues, nay-sayers, self- doubt or whatever else seemed to get in the way. Luckily, and to my husband’s chagrin, I’m very stubborn and persistent. I didn’t let any of these things keep me from my dream. “I am and always will be the optimist, the hoper of far flung hopes, and the dreamer of improbable dreams.” - Doctor Who  I started to cook a lot when I became a vegetarian which led to me to realize my love of both cooking and vegetarian food. I’ve always wanted to run my own business, so a vegetarian food truck just seemed like the perfect choice. I love being able to share my passion with the community.  We’re good listeners; we can multitask; we express ourselves; we’re emotionally intelligent, and we have more options when it comes to buying clothes. So that’s always a plus!

SHADAN KISHI PRICE
Business Owner, Cook
eatatleilas.com

Everyone has impacted the person I am today. My parents showed me that anything is possible with hard work. My husband, sister family, and friends have been a great source of support and have helped me so much throughout this crazy journey!

There were a lot of hurdles on the way to becoming a business owner, be it monetary issues, nay-sayers, self- doubt or whatever else seemed to get in the way. Luckily, and to my husband’s chagrin, I’m very stubborn and persistent. I didn’t let any of these things keep me from my dream. “I am and always will be the optimist, the hoper of far flung hopes, and the dreamer of improbable dreams.” - Doctor Who

I started to cook a lot when I became a vegetarian which led to me to realize my love of both cooking and vegetarian food. I’ve always wanted to run my own business, so a vegetarian food truck just seemed like the perfect choice. I love being able to share my passion with the community.

We’re good listeners; we can multitask; we express ourselves; we’re emotionally intelligent, and we have more options when it comes to buying clothes. So that’s always a plus!

 
ROXANNE DEL RIO   Dean at North Central Texas College   While attending community college in South Texas, I was approached by my English instructor about my writing style. I was told I had a unique writing style and that I should continue to write. They believed in me, and so I began to believe in me.  While I was a senior in high school, I was told by my counselor that college was a waste of time for me. She encouraged me to find a job as a file clerk in a back office because I could not communicate with people. That summer after graduation I enrolled in college and the rest is history!  While attending the local community college, I worked as a work-study in the Health Sciences Department. I loved the work but most importantly I loved helping students. I then decided Higher Education was the place for me.  The best thing about being a woman for me is the ability to multi-task. Having the ability to be passionate and compassionate without criticism.

ROXANNE DEL RIO
Dean at North Central Texas College

While attending community college in South Texas, I was approached by my English instructor about my writing style. I was told I had a unique writing style and that I should continue to write. They believed in me, and so I began to believe in me.

While I was a senior in high school, I was told by my counselor that college was a waste of time for me. She encouraged me to find a job as a file clerk in a back office because I could not communicate with people. That summer after graduation I enrolled in college and the rest is history!

While attending the local community college, I worked as a work-study in the Health Sciences Department. I loved the work but most importantly I loved helping students. I then decided Higher Education was the place for me.

The best thing about being a woman for me is the ability to multi-task. Having the ability to be passionate and compassionate without criticism.

 
SARA BLANKENSHIP REYNOLDS   Journalism Professor   Graduate school was a turning point in my life that helped me discover things about myself I didn’t know existed. I barely finished undergrad; I walked across the graduation stage with a 2.8 GPA that, frankly, was generous. When I was (miraculously) accepted into grad school, I promised myself I’d try harder and take it seriously. I finished with a 4.0 GPA and a renewed sense of trust in myself. I have always been a doubter, a second-guesser, but learning how to trust in my ability helped shape me for the next phase of my life.  We speak of soulmates always as if they are another human being. Mine came into my life in 2007, in the shape of a 6-month-old German Shepard mix I rescued from the SPCA. I named him Eli. In a very short amount of time, it was pretty clear that we were made for each other. I never formally trained him, yet he was curiously perfect. I lost him, in the middle of the night on June 1st, 2016. He took his last breath in my arms, on the floor of the animal emergency room, me sobbing and screaming over him. I used to have nightmares about the day I’d have to face the world without him, and here it was, knocking on my door, ready to collect some sort of horrific karmic debt I didn’t even know I owed. I tried to disappear. The pain was unbearable at times, so much worse than I ever imagined. Only a few people understood how deep it went, how much of my soul was intertwined with his. Losing him taught me that sometimes it’s okay to just survive. It’s okay to be in a place where your greatest daily accomplishment is just breathing. His death, while not even a year ago, helped me realize that grief is something of which to be very, very proud.  Simple: I chose higher education because it allows me to keep learning. I learn from my co-workers; I learn from my students; I learn from my superiors. Learning is who I am, so it’s what I do.  With womanhood comes responsibility. We are, arguably, responsible for all of humankind. I think responsibility is the best thing about being a woman because it means we have to keep leading, keep growing, keep learning. Because there is no other option. So many of our victories came out of having no other options, so every day we are awake, we are making history. I love that.

SARA BLANKENSHIP REYNOLDS
Journalism Professor

Graduate school was a turning point in my life that helped me discover things about myself I didn’t know existed. I barely finished undergrad; I walked across the graduation stage with a 2.8 GPA that, frankly, was generous. When I was (miraculously) accepted into grad school, I promised myself I’d try harder and take it seriously. I finished with a 4.0 GPA and a renewed sense of trust in myself. I have always been a doubter, a second-guesser, but learning how to trust in my ability helped shape me for the next phase of my life.

We speak of soulmates always as if they are another human being. Mine came into my life in 2007, in the shape of a 6-month-old German Shepard mix I rescued from the SPCA. I named him Eli. In a very short amount of time, it was pretty clear that we were made for each other. I never formally trained him, yet he was curiously perfect. I lost him, in the middle of the night on June 1st, 2016. He took his last breath in my arms, on the floor of the animal emergency room, me sobbing and screaming over him. I used to have nightmares about the day I’d have to face the world without him, and here it was, knocking on my door, ready to collect some sort of horrific karmic debt I didn’t even know I owed. I tried to disappear. The pain was unbearable at times, so much worse than I ever imagined. Only a few people understood how deep it went, how much of my soul was intertwined with his. Losing him taught me that sometimes it’s okay to just survive. It’s okay to be in a place where your greatest daily accomplishment is just breathing. His death, while not even a year ago, helped me realize that grief is something of which to be very, very proud.

Simple: I chose higher education because it allows me to keep learning. I learn from my co-workers; I learn from my students; I learn from my superiors. Learning is who I am, so it’s what I do.

With womanhood comes responsibility. We are, arguably, responsible for all of humankind. I think responsibility is the best thing about being a woman because it means we have to keep leading, keep growing, keep learning. Because there is no other option. So many of our victories came out of having no other options, so every day we are awake, we are making history. I love that.

 
VIVIEN JORDAN   Stationary Designer, Lettering Artist   vivjordan.com   Being married to a person like my husband is one big, incredibly positive experience. Not to confuse “positive experience” with “it’s been easy and ideal and I’ve been happy my whole life,” but instead I think that being married to the kind of man my husband is, is truly the best and most positive experience in my life that has deeply influenced who I am, what endeavors I’ve pursued, the kind of mom and wife I’ve become, and the kind of friend I am to those around me. He’s the kind of husband that is well-loved by those he works with and serves. He’s the kind of husband that cannot wait to come home to me and the kids and would choose times with his family over any adventure or can’t-be-missed opportunity. He’s the kind of person who does his job with excellence, and he cares for the people, students and friends in his life. His outstanding character challenges me to be better, to love others better, to try to be more diligent in my work and more present with our kids. By the Grace of God, we make an awesome team, and I’m so thankful to have a man who believes so endlessly in my gifts as a creative mom, wife and believer.  If I interpret negative as something difficult, challenging, or maybe more specifically something that didn’t go my way I’d say that my first weeks when my daughter was born was hand down the hardest few weeks of my life. Nothing went how I anticipated it would go from nursing, to healing, to caring for my first child. Jon and I refer to this time as "the dark ages" because it was so rough for us. While those first two months were mentally and physically difficult, it was also a time that was exposing and a time I am extremely grateful for. I fought ideas of inadequacy and insecurity. I felt exhausted and overwhelmed. But when I was finally on the other side, I was so grateful that I had somehow survived these difficult weeks and came out loving my daughter even more and knowing that I was capable of fighting for her in a way I didn't think I was capable of enduring. I wouldn't trade those beginning weeks for a positive experience, but I also wouldn't trade anything to relive them!  My mom is not known for sharing the regrets in her life. But one thing she has uttered to me was how she wishes she was more present when I was a little kid. It’s been a notable sentiment that’s stayed with me even when I was far from being ready to be a mom. Being a stay at home mom is not a simple task to “plan out” when so many variable come into play, but I’m incredibly grateful that I get to stay at home with my kids and by God’s grace, I also get to work and do something I absolutely love. As a lettering artist and designer, I have a flexible enough schedule that I can be stay at home Mama during the day and designer at night. I chose to continue working because the ability to have a creative outlet helps me be a better mom. I have an identity and an area in my life where I can exercise the gifts that I have to serve and work with other people. And I truly believe that helps me from feeling consistently overwhelmed and exhausted by my roles as a mom.  I know I’ve spoken about motherhood a lot here, but it is so bad ass that a woman can bear, labor, birth and nurse a child. I mean, come on! That’s incredible! Women are capable of so much and we carry so many other roles beyond mother. It’s an incredible thing that our bodies and minds can take on so much!

VIVIEN JORDAN
Stationary Designer, Lettering Artist
vivjordan.com

Being married to a person like my husband is one big, incredibly positive experience. Not to confuse “positive experience” with “it’s been easy and ideal and I’ve been happy my whole life,” but instead I think that being married to the kind of man my husband is, is truly the best and most positive experience in my life that has deeply influenced who I am, what endeavors I’ve pursued, the kind of mom and wife I’ve become, and the kind of friend I am to those around me. He’s the kind of husband that is well-loved by those he works with and serves. He’s the kind of husband that cannot wait to come home to me and the kids and would choose times with his family over any adventure or can’t-be-missed opportunity. He’s the kind of person who does his job with excellence, and he cares for the people, students and friends in his life. His outstanding character challenges me to be better, to love others better, to try to be more diligent in my work and more present with our kids. By the Grace of God, we make an awesome team, and I’m so thankful to have a man who believes so endlessly in my gifts as a creative mom, wife and believer.

If I interpret negative as something difficult, challenging, or maybe more specifically something that didn’t go my way I’d say that my first weeks when my daughter was born was hand down the hardest few weeks of my life. Nothing went how I anticipated it would go from nursing, to healing, to caring for my first child. Jon and I refer to this time as "the dark ages" because it was so rough for us. While those first two months were mentally and physically difficult, it was also a time that was exposing and a time I am extremely grateful for. I fought ideas of inadequacy and insecurity. I felt exhausted and overwhelmed. But when I was finally on the other side, I was so grateful that I had somehow survived these difficult weeks and came out loving my daughter even more and knowing that I was capable of fighting for her in a way I didn't think I was capable of enduring. I wouldn't trade those beginning weeks for a positive experience, but I also wouldn't trade anything to relive them!

My mom is not known for sharing the regrets in her life. But one thing she has uttered to me was how she wishes she was more present when I was a little kid. It’s been a notable sentiment that’s stayed with me even when I was far from being ready to be a mom. Being a stay at home mom is not a simple task to “plan out” when so many variable come into play, but I’m incredibly grateful that I get to stay at home with my kids and by God’s grace, I also get to work and do something I absolutely love. As a lettering artist and designer, I have a flexible enough schedule that I can be stay at home Mama during the day and designer at night. I chose to continue working because the ability to have a creative outlet helps me be a better mom. I have an identity and an area in my life where I can exercise the gifts that I have to serve and work with other people. And I truly believe that helps me from feeling consistently overwhelmed and exhausted by my roles as a mom.

I know I’ve spoken about motherhood a lot here, but it is so bad ass that a woman can bear, labor, birth and nurse a child. I mean, come on! That’s incredible! Women are capable of so much and we carry so many other roles beyond mother. It’s an incredible thing that our bodies and minds can take on so much!

 
YANDI JESTER   Educator, Artist, Wife, Mother   h2ohuestudio.com   The experience that has left an imprint on my life is hearing my best friend speak truth over me. He told me I was worth more than gold, my appearance, weight and academic performance. He told me I was created with a purpose that goes beyond the standards of our society and culture; that I was uniquely crafted to shine before others, not because of the successes or trophies I’d acquire on earth, but for that which was in my heart.  Growing up, several voices inside and out of my home spoke negative words over me that made me feel unworthy and unloved.  I became a visual arts educator because there is a great joy in unlocking, equipping and encouraging the creative within others. Teaching art is the means but the passion behind it all is to equip my students with the truth that they are worth more than gold.  Equipping other women of all ages with truth and creative outlets.

YANDI JESTER
Educator, Artist, Wife, Mother
h2ohuestudio.com

The experience that has left an imprint on my life is hearing my best friend speak truth over me. He told me I was worth more than gold, my appearance, weight and academic performance. He told me I was created with a purpose that goes beyond the standards of our society and culture; that I was uniquely crafted to shine before others, not because of the successes or trophies I’d acquire on earth, but for that which was in my heart.

Growing up, several voices inside and out of my home spoke negative words over me that made me feel unworthy and unloved.

I became a visual arts educator because there is a great joy in unlocking, equipping and encouraging the creative within others. Teaching art is the means but the passion behind it all is to equip my students with the truth that they are worth more than gold.

Equipping other women of all ages with truth and creative outlets.

 
CARRIE CRUMBLEY  Entrepreneur  resoycledcandleco.com   Being uprooted at the age of 15 and moving to another country has forever changed me.  At the beginning, moving at such a young age was a difficult experience, but it quickly transformed who I was and what I wanted from life.  I’d say my father had a lot to do with who I am today. He is my role model!  The older I get the more I realize how strong we are. The best thing about being a woman is the ability to grow stronger every day.

CARRIE CRUMBLEY
Entrepreneur
resoycledcandleco.com

Being uprooted at the age of 15 and moving to another country has forever changed me.

At the beginning, moving at such a young age was a difficult experience, but it quickly transformed who I was and what I wanted from life.

I’d say my father had a lot to do with who I am today. He is my role model!

The older I get the more I realize how strong we are. The best thing about being a woman is the ability to grow stronger every day.

 
CHERYL SANBORN   Pediatrician   Nubypediatrics.com   Motherhood has transformed my life. It has been one of my most challenging experiences, but has provided blessings beyond measure. As a Pediatrician, I would have told you I knew what I was getting in to at the start of this ride. I would have said I was prepared to teach and impart wisdom on each of the little beings entering my care. Little did I know what wisdom, insight, and care my little ones carried with them. Kids have a funny way of transforming your life and clarifying your priorities. They have taught me how to be flexible where I was once rigid. They have taught me how to truly roll with the punches. They have transformed rainy days into puddle parties, spilled bananas into the latest fashion and, of course, made stiches into all the rage for a family photoshoot!  My own mother’s diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia and bone marrow transplant have further played a role in clarifying my priorities and humbling me despite my medical background. Reinforcing that I don’t know it all in both the realm of medicine or my family.  I chose to be a Pediatrician Mom because I have always loved children, their innocence, their insight, their joy and their frankness. Each child, whether they are a patient or my own, teaches me a new lesson. The kids in my life make it easy, fun and enjoyable to head to work each morning and to also head home at the end of each day.  Why, being a mom, of course. Duh!

CHERYL SANBORN
Pediatrician
Nubypediatrics.com

Motherhood has transformed my life. It has been one of my most challenging experiences, but has provided blessings beyond measure. As a Pediatrician, I would have told you I knew what I was getting in to at the start of this ride. I would have said I was prepared to teach and impart wisdom on each of the little beings entering my care. Little did I know what wisdom, insight, and care my little ones carried with them. Kids have a funny way of transforming your life and clarifying your priorities. They have taught me how to be flexible where I was once rigid. They have taught me how to truly roll with the punches. They have transformed rainy days into puddle parties, spilled bananas into the latest fashion and, of course, made stiches into all the rage for a family photoshoot!

My own mother’s diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia and bone marrow transplant have further played a role in clarifying my priorities and humbling me despite my medical background. Reinforcing that I don’t know it all in both the realm of medicine or my family.

I chose to be a Pediatrician Mom because I have always loved children, their innocence, their insight, their joy and their frankness. Each child, whether they are a patient or my own, teaches me a new lesson. The kids in my life make it easy, fun and enjoyable to head to work each morning and to also head home at the end of each day.

Why, being a mom, of course. Duh!

 
LIZ MONTENEGRO   Registered Nurse   My best experience is always having strong and hardworking women around me as examples for the woman I wanted to become.  I was taken advantage of in a vulnerable position.  I wanted to be an advocate for those who are weak or in compromised positions where they can’t speak up for themselves.  There are so many ways to interpret “femininity.” I love that we all express it and manifest it in different ways, yet they all show incredible strength and love that conquers all.

LIZ MONTENEGRO
Registered Nurse

My best experience is always having strong and hardworking women around me as examples for the woman I wanted to become.

I was taken advantage of in a vulnerable position.

I wanted to be an advocate for those who are weak or in compromised positions where they can’t speak up for themselves.

There are so many ways to interpret “femininity.” I love that we all express it and manifest it in different ways, yet they all show incredible strength and love that conquers all.

 
CINDY GLASER   Gigi   Being a mother is the most positive experience I’ve ever had. That was always my life goal - to be the best mother I could be.  Being sick and in the hospital for three months had a huge effect on me. I don’t let as many things bother me anymore.  I love working with children and being an elementary aide. I think it goes back to wanting to be a mother. Plus, I get to work with my best friend.  Having children and then becoming a grandparent. That is the best!

CINDY GLASER
Gigi

Being a mother is the most positive experience I’ve ever had. That was always my life goal - to be the best mother I could be.

Being sick and in the hospital for three months had a huge effect on me. I don’t let as many things bother me anymore.

I love working with children and being an elementary aide. I think it goes back to wanting to be a mother. Plus, I get to work with my best friend.

Having children and then becoming a grandparent. That is the best!

 
HARPER JENSEN   Homemaker, Partner in Crime, Ceramicist    freckledpottery.com   I met my husband. After 25 years of floundering through life completely alone, clinging to my belief system for comfort, I found a flesh and blood human being that loved me beyond my weaknesses. Some women don't believe in fairy tales, and have a hard time selling their children on the idea of a "Prince Charming," but I am so grateful for every Disney movie I ever watched. I waited until my perfect match showed up, and he has been the support system I needed to create the life I have always wanted. It hasn't been easy. There have been zero tiny animals singing in the background or cheering us on through the process, but none of the best things in life are easy.  I have suffered from anxiety my entire life. By the time I was 15, a trusted school counselor and a favorite teacher or mine, arranged for me to test out of high school because they were worried about my well-being. I spent years in therapy and have been on almost every anti-anxiety medication created before 2008. I've been diagnosed with social anxiety, PTSD, agoraphobia, bi-polar disorder, and good old manic depression. In 2009 I was declared legally disabled. Recently, I discovered that it was all caused by a hormone imbalance and vitamin deficiency. It was difficult to swallow. Knowing that if any of the doctors I sought help from would've only done the right blood test, instead of all the wrong ones... but we don't play that game. I am who I am because of the path that brought me here. My marriage is what it is because he stood by my side until we found a cure.  I'm living for the first time in my life. I'm 33 and pursuing all the firsts that I missed out on. My husband and I have chosen to spend this season seeking out what brings us joy and putting our family first. I am 100% making up for lost time.  Being able to live vulnerably without the stigma that men face.

HARPER JENSEN
Homemaker, Partner in Crime, Ceramicist
freckledpottery.com

I met my husband. After 25 years of floundering through life completely alone, clinging to my belief system for comfort, I found a flesh and blood human being that loved me beyond my weaknesses. Some women don't believe in fairy tales, and have a hard time selling their children on the idea of a "Prince Charming," but I am so grateful for every Disney movie I ever watched. I waited until my perfect match showed up, and he has been the support system I needed to create the life I have always wanted. It hasn't been easy. There have been zero tiny animals singing in the background or cheering us on through the process, but none of the best things in life are easy.

I have suffered from anxiety my entire life. By the time I was 15, a trusted school counselor and a favorite teacher or mine, arranged for me to test out of high school because they were worried about my well-being. I spent years in therapy and have been on almost every anti-anxiety medication created before 2008. I've been diagnosed with social anxiety, PTSD, agoraphobia, bi-polar disorder, and good old manic depression. In 2009 I was declared legally disabled. Recently, I discovered that it was all caused by a hormone imbalance and vitamin deficiency. It was difficult to swallow. Knowing that if any of the doctors I sought help from would've only done the right blood test, instead of all the wrong ones... but we don't play that game. I am who I am because of the path that brought me here. My marriage is what it is because he stood by my side until we found a cure.

I'm living for the first time in my life. I'm 33 and pursuing all the firsts that I missed out on. My husband and I have chosen to spend this season seeking out what brings us joy and putting our family first. I am 100% making up for lost time.

Being able to live vulnerably without the stigma that men face.

 
DEBBIE ARNOLD   Caretaker, Wife, Mother, Grandmother   I believe God places people in our lives to teach us to be the best “self” we can be. I was fortunate to have four women who were unique and influential. My mother gave me confidence, security, and pride. My mother-in-law taught me faith as she overcame heartache, then battled cancer and Alzheimer’s with amazing strength and grace. My grandmothers taught me love of life, hard work, unconditional love, and the desire to serve others. These four women helped to mold me into the woman I am today. I am forever grateful.  As a child, we moved every two years with my father’s promotions. Always being the “new” kid, I learned it was okay to be different, to stand up for my beliefs, and to care enough to stand up for other “new” kids. I learned I could make a difference in the lives of others even if it was for a short time. I also learned that being made fun of hurt deep. It taught me to see people from the inside out. I think I am a better person today because of that pain.  I believe God plays a role in all we do. As the care taker of my mother-in-law who suffers from Alzheimer’s, I find God is at my side as I nurture her through this journey. I am exactly where God needs me to be at this time.  Jane Goodall said, “You cannot get through a single day without having an important impact on the world around you. What you do make a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Women have been making a difference in the lives of others since the beginning of time. I love seeing women make differences in their own unique way.     LINDA PILKINTON   Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Great-grandmother   Marrying my high school sweetheart at the age of 17, moving away from my family, and starting a family of my own was a wonderful challenge. We moved around a lot, so I had to be strong and teach my children to be strong. My children all became very successful people. This year I will celebrate 60 years of marriage with the love of my life and best friend.  Having to move so much made me a stronger person. I had to make new friends and adjust to new places. I had to create a safe place for my children so they could grow up strong and become the people they are today.  I think God chose it for me by giving me children at a very young age.  The fact that I have been married to the love of my life for 60 years and raised 3 strong, very successful children all with children of their own is the best thing about being a woman.

DEBBIE ARNOLD
Caretaker, Wife, Mother, Grandmother

I believe God places people in our lives to teach us to be the best “self” we can be. I was fortunate to have four women who were unique and influential. My mother gave me confidence, security, and pride. My mother-in-law taught me faith as she overcame heartache, then battled cancer and Alzheimer’s with amazing strength and grace. My grandmothers taught me love of life, hard work, unconditional love, and the desire to serve others. These four women helped to mold me into the woman I am today. I am forever grateful.

As a child, we moved every two years with my father’s promotions. Always being the “new” kid, I learned it was okay to be different, to stand up for my beliefs, and to care enough to stand up for other “new” kids. I learned I could make a difference in the lives of others even if it was for a short time. I also learned that being made fun of hurt deep. It taught me to see people from the inside out. I think I am a better person today because of that pain.

I believe God plays a role in all we do. As the care taker of my mother-in-law who suffers from Alzheimer’s, I find God is at my side as I nurture her through this journey. I am exactly where God needs me to be at this time.

Jane Goodall said, “You cannot get through a single day without having an important impact on the world around you. What you do make a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Women have been making a difference in the lives of others since the beginning of time. I love seeing women make differences in their own unique way.

LINDA PILKINTON
Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Great-grandmother

Marrying my high school sweetheart at the age of 17, moving away from my family, and starting a family of my own was a wonderful challenge. We moved around a lot, so I had to be strong and teach my children to be strong. My children all became very successful people. This year I will celebrate 60 years of marriage with the love of my life and best friend.

Having to move so much made me a stronger person. I had to make new friends and adjust to new places. I had to create a safe place for my children so they could grow up strong and become the people they are today.

I think God chose it for me by giving me children at a very young age.

The fact that I have been married to the love of my life for 60 years and raised 3 strong, very successful children all with children of their own is the best thing about being a woman.

 
LAUREN DICKSON   Accounts Payable Clerk, College Student, Wife, Mother   My parents have always encouraged me to do what makes me happy. Their love for a simple life and for one another has taught me to enjoy what I have and to show my two boys that sunshine, love and family can make you happier than you’ll ever know. My husband and his unwavering support has built me into the woman I am and continues to encourage me to keep moving forward  Lost friendships. People who I thought would be there until the end disappointing me. It has made me realize that at the time they were in my life was wonderful. The memories are great, and some people are just meant to stay for a little while. The they’ve fulfilled their purpose in your life.  I’m not sure I chose. My husband and I made plans that have become some of the most beautiful moments. We have also made plans that broke our hearts. The loss of our first baby led us to having more hope and letting things fall into place rather than make concrete choices and having them fall apart.  Becoming a mother, no matter how you choose to do so. Being able to teach, raise, and love tiny humans to respect all other humans is the best thing about being a woman.

LAUREN DICKSON
Accounts Payable Clerk, College Student, Wife, Mother

My parents have always encouraged me to do what makes me happy. Their love for a simple life and for one another has taught me to enjoy what I have and to show my two boys that sunshine, love and family can make you happier than you’ll ever know. My husband and his unwavering support has built me into the woman I am and continues to encourage me to keep moving forward

Lost friendships. People who I thought would be there until the end disappointing me. It has made me realize that at the time they were in my life was wonderful. The memories are great, and some people are just meant to stay for a little while. The they’ve fulfilled their purpose in your life.

I’m not sure I chose. My husband and I made plans that have become some of the most beautiful moments. We have also made plans that broke our hearts. The loss of our first baby led us to having more hope and letting things fall into place rather than make concrete choices and having them fall apart.

Becoming a mother, no matter how you choose to do so. Being able to teach, raise, and love tiny humans to respect all other humans is the best thing about being a woman.

 
RACHEL AUGHTRY   Artist, Explorer   rachelelise.com   I was blessed to grow up surrounded by smart, talented, courageous women – my mother, grandmother, and aunt are all artists and entrepreneurs. Growing up with their sometimes similar, but often quite diverse, examples created an environment and mindset where I never questioned if “being a woman” was an excuse or reason to do or not do something. If it’s what I thought I should do, I should do it.  I was very sick as a child and was not entirely expected to live to adulthood. My illness led to my being bullied by other children who didn’t understand. This has led me to be a more empathic and compassionate person. It also taught me about limits, both of your time and health, and that (sometimes more than others, haha) led me to be more patient with myself and others as an adult. And maybe most practically, being sick required that I slow down and make use of my time doing non-strenuous activities, which led my mother to teach me to sew, which is how I create my living through my artwork today.  I’m currently shifting my path. My husband joined my creative business just over a year ago, and it is now our sole source of income, which is comforting and terrifying and liberating and still hard to wrap my brain around. I recently sold my brick and mortar store and will be relocating to my dream location in the mountains in a few weeks. After a series of events (some ongoing, some unexpected and life-changing) I decided it was time to practice some of that patience, limitedness, and slowing down that I learned about as a child. I’m simplifying my work, my commitments, my possessions, and starting anew.  I love surprising people with what I can do. I’m a small person that looks younger than I am, so I’ve grown accustomed to people (men, older women) not expecting me to stand up for myself or do it on my own or take charge or actually know what the hell I’m talking about. So, when I do all of those things and someone can’t hide their surprise, I like to think I maybe prepared them for the next small yet able, feisty, sharp young woman they encounter. Maybe that’s more about being myself than being a woman, but I’ve never separated the two.

RACHEL AUGHTRY
Artist, Explorer
rachelelise.com

I was blessed to grow up surrounded by smart, talented, courageous women – my mother, grandmother, and aunt are all artists and entrepreneurs. Growing up with their sometimes similar, but often quite diverse, examples created an environment and mindset where I never questioned if “being a woman” was an excuse or reason to do or not do something. If it’s what I thought I should do, I should do it.

I was very sick as a child and was not entirely expected to live to adulthood. My illness led to my being bullied by other children who didn’t understand. This has led me to be a more empathic and compassionate person. It also taught me about limits, both of your time and health, and that (sometimes more than others, haha) led me to be more patient with myself and others as an adult. And maybe most practically, being sick required that I slow down and make use of my time doing non-strenuous activities, which led my mother to teach me to sew, which is how I create my living through my artwork today.

I’m currently shifting my path. My husband joined my creative business just over a year ago, and it is now our sole source of income, which is comforting and terrifying and liberating and still hard to wrap my brain around. I recently sold my brick and mortar store and will be relocating to my dream location in the mountains in a few weeks. After a series of events (some ongoing, some unexpected and life-changing) I decided it was time to practice some of that patience, limitedness, and slowing down that I learned about as a child. I’m simplifying my work, my commitments, my possessions, and starting anew.

I love surprising people with what I can do. I’m a small person that looks younger than I am, so I’ve grown accustomed to people (men, older women) not expecting me to stand up for myself or do it on my own or take charge or actually know what the hell I’m talking about. So, when I do all of those things and someone can’t hide their surprise, I like to think I maybe prepared them for the next small yet able, feisty, sharp young woman they encounter. Maybe that’s more about being myself than being a woman, but I’ve never separated the two.

 
WHITNEY SIROIS   Art Educator   I don't know that I believe in positive and negative experiences. It is hard for me to separate moments into those categories. I could say that the last 3 years of my life have been very formative for me. They have been filled with learning, disappointment, joy, chronic illness, marriage, and contentment. All of these events and emotions have made me into a person who is more aware that I cannot control my life as much as I once thought possible. It has helped me empathize with others and the circumstances they find themselves in. I think it is important to meet friends where they are and sit beside them. Sometimes it's about talking, but mostly it is about listening.  I honestly did not plan on being a teacher of any kind, but I found myself teaching at any job I had. It is something I avoided because my parents are public school teachers, but I have been surprised by how much I love it. Sharing art-making techniques and art history with kids and teenagers is joy.  Being a woman can mean so many things to so many people. That's what makes womanhood beautiful! In many cultures women are story tellers and ones who behold and pass down wisdom. As a woman and a teacher, I feel a part of that tradition. I enjoy passing down stories to children that are told in art and encouraging students to tell their own stories.

WHITNEY SIROIS
Art Educator

I don't know that I believe in positive and negative experiences. It is hard for me to separate moments into those categories. I could say that the last 3 years of my life have been very formative for me. They have been filled with learning, disappointment, joy, chronic illness, marriage, and contentment. All of these events and emotions have made me into a person who is more aware that I cannot control my life as much as I once thought possible. It has helped me empathize with others and the circumstances they find themselves in. I think it is important to meet friends where they are and sit beside them. Sometimes it's about talking, but mostly it is about listening.

I honestly did not plan on being a teacher of any kind, but I found myself teaching at any job I had. It is something I avoided because my parents are public school teachers, but I have been surprised by how much I love it. Sharing art-making techniques and art history with kids and teenagers is joy.

Being a woman can mean so many things to so many people. That's what makes womanhood beautiful! In many cultures women are story tellers and ones who behold and pass down wisdom. As a woman and a teacher, I feel a part of that tradition. I enjoy passing down stories to children that are told in art and encouraging students to tell their own stories.

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KRISTEN KENDRICK BIGLEY
Metalsmith, artisan jewelry maker
kkbmetalstudio.com

 After college, I started working for a beauty company that was small and relatively unknown. Through the years I was offered opportunities to expand my skills and leadership in ways I didn’t realize I was capable of. Through challenge and change in the organization, I had to consistently adapt and grow in order to stay relevant. This has translated into all other areas of my life.

 Growing up I suffered from severe TMJ that required surgical intervention when I was 16. My jaw was cut on both sides, and wired shut for 6 weeks. During this time, I had to stop playing viola and shifted my energy back into the visual arts. I spent my senior year in a vocational commercial arts class with an incredibly generous teacher (George Cadell). That year shaped my path as a I pursued a BFA in sculpture following that experience.

Working full time and raising two children meant there was not much time for creative pursuits. As I considered ways to work on a smaller scale, the natural connection to my love of handmade artisan jewelry seemed like a perfect solution. Four years ago, I started teaching myself basic meta-smithing skills and put together the start of my studio. As my skills developed, I have been able to offer the work as a side business, which has been absolutely wonderful experience. 

Growing up I was a total tomboy, and rebelled against what I felt were traditional female roles.  It wasn’t important for me to learn to cook, sew, have a family, etc.  In college, using materials and processes that were heavy and challenging was a way to prove to myself I was capable of pushing those boundaries, even if it was not something I was aware of at the time.  I eventually embraced the power and tenacity of the female spirit; those areas I rebelled against integrated into my life more naturally and are now something I celebrate and appreciate in a completely different way.

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SAVANNAH KURKA
Home goods designer, maker, wife, daughter, and friend
Savviestudio.com

When I think of positive experiences that have shaped me, I think of watching my mother-in-law play in the ocean in her 70's. Feeling the warmth of my grandfather's hugs. Watching my brother fiercely love his two daughters. My dad taking time to show me that there is literally nothing I can't do if I set my mind to it. My mom teaching me the power of words, and how to carefully chose them.  My grandmother's endless need to create. My husband's ability to see the best in everyone he meets, and how he consistently reminds me that I am enough exactly as I am. I'm privileged to know so many inspiring people, and I only hope to be half the person that they are.

A few years ago, I had a health scare and found myself in the emergency room. I learned that what had started as a very minor infection, had quickly spread. It was hours from reaching my heart, and that would have been it for me. At the time, I was so invested in work and my previous commitments that I didn’t take the time needed to listen to my body. I look back on that time and consider it one of the best things that ever happened to me. What I didn’t realize then was that I was a genuine workaholic and I was incredibly lonely. It taught me to slow down, to create a life that I love outside of my work, and, most importantly, cherish the positive relationships in my life.

Looking back, it feels like everything in my life was pointing to what I'm doing now. My parents were both self-employed and worked in the construction industry. I spent my childhood surrounded by blueprints, and I was constantly making something with whatever was around me. Those were the moments that I started to feel most like myself. When I moved to Denton for college, I felt overwhelmingly inspired by the creative community that I found there. As soon as I realized it was possible to make a creative career on my own terms, I had to give it a shot.

I would argue that the best thing about being a woman is their resiliency.

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SHAWNA SMYTH
Stationary designer, illustrator
www.shawnasmythstudio.com

 The creative community I found in Denton has really helped me find my confidence as a maker and an artist. I can say with some certainty that Shawna Smyth Studio wouldn’t exist without the encouragement and advice I’ve received since moving to Denton.

  I had a role model when I was a kid. She was several years older than me and had no idea that I looked up to her. When she was in her teens, she began making poor decisions and got herself into a lot of trouble. I watched from a distance, horrified. My childhood hero was suddenly selfish and ignorant, and my pre-teen world was shook. I made a personal vow then, that I’ve based most of my decisions off of ever since, to live as though I were someone else’s role model. To make sure that I’m always making wise decisions, and always being intentional, because you never know who’s watching.

  I don’t know that I really chose it at all. It feels like it chose me.

  How many opportunities we’re given to discuss our feelings and thoughts with one another.

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SHARON KREMER
Retired teacher, active community member, mother of 2 and 4 grandchildren, a lover of the wild and more landscaped outdoors

 My love for ideas and communication was fostered by my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teacher, Margaret Nichols. Reading was one of my earliest-to-bloom passions because of Mrs. Nichols.

 When I was 11, my father died suddenly. I have only recently come to realize how lost I was for years. My father loved ideas and never hesitated to answer any question I had in a manner that never spoke down to my sometimes, I realize now, naive and silly questions. Although I can no longer recall the sound of his voice, I do recall how much I enjoyed his reading to me at bedtime. Being a developer and contractor, he was involved in the community and served on several boards, such as the one that created Denton Municipal Airport. The loveliest homes that he built are in Nottingham Woods, also known as Idiot's Hill. I won't leave behind anything as lasting as homes built by W.W. Kremer Construction, but I do try to make a positive impact in Denton. Teaching is most definitely community work, and I am very proud of my total 40 years. During the course of teaching, I found meaning in helping build 2 Habitat for humanity homes, and that led to finding Ruth's Room, a thrift store whose primary founder, Bunny Hodges, was and is a good friend and inspiration. I have also found in the recent years that community activism and promoting the cause of justice both drives and fuels me.

 I am certain that I never actively chose teaching; rather, teaching found me and I melded into its demands and rewards. Teaching a love of reading and writing filled my life, and teaching in Denton for over 35 years fostered my love of community and gave meaning and purpose to me.

We stand on the shoulders of giants. Women are particularly adept at generative tasks: fostering relationships, creating solutions, and establishing and growing communities. The work historical work of our pioneer is still and always will be necessary.

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EMILE STEWART
Art teacher, adventurer, mom, artist
wildflowerartstudio.com

Growing up in the country, travelling, living abroad a sailboat in the Caribbean, becoming a teaching, having kids, opening an art studio are all positive experiences that have helped me become the person I am today.

My art being blown away at a craft fair (literally the whole table was blown away, never to be seen again0 lead me to return to what I love and what Im good at…which is working with people. Job losses in my family lead me to working hard to pursue my dream job.

I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, and started my first art biz at the age of 12. I love the adventure of entrepreneurship.

The vulnerability. The capacity to love someone else more than our own life. The opportunity to beauty, to be strong and soft at the same time…

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ANNA TOVAR
Linocut printmaker, watercolorist, artist
annatovar.com

 The ongoing support of those around me has most greatly influenced the person that I am today. My parents didn’t bat an eye when I told them that I wanted to study drawing and painting in college. My husband has been my biggest support in my career now, and my friends have always been incredibly encouraging in both my skill and ability to make this work.

 Ideas failing. I can look back and think of multiple times when I had a “great idea” that I invested tons of time and money into, and it totally flopped. No one cared. Those experiences end up being stepping stones to something better. I have definitely learned from all of those mistakes and grown from them, too.

 I’ve never felt like there was any other path. Although the path has definitely taken turns that I wasn’t expecting. I’ve always felt like my path was very clearly set before me. I’ve been very thankful that I feel so convicted about what I’m doing today when I am inevitably tempted to doubt and question my career. I always come back to feeling like this is clearly where I’m supposed to be.

 I love that as a woman, and as a mother in particular. I have the opportunity to model what strength, and determination, and vulnerability look like to my children.

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SHELLEY CHRISTNER
Dreamer, maker, encourager, entrepreneur
dimehandmade.com and jiggetyjog.com

 The key most positive experience has been surrendering my will and path of my life to follow Jesus Christ 34 years ago.

The death of my mother when I was 20 years old…34 years ago. Yes, both the positive and negative experiences that most shaped my life happened within a matter of weeks. The positive was the first. These two experiences happening have led me to life by a bible verse in romans (8.28). “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes.’

I am not exactly sure I chose this path, but I have definitely followed the path that has led me here, one decision, one step on prayer at a time in pursuit of a creative life that allows me to love and support others.

Having the privilege of bearing life and the honor to love and nurture children and other to their god given passion and purposes.

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JADE WINTER CHESSMAN
Wife, mother, homemaker, creative dabbler
instagram.com/jadewinterdays instagram.com/jubileefarmdenton

I know the cliche answer is that becoming a mother helped me become who I am today but there is no other answer for me. I was terrified to have children because I felt too much like a child myself. I also have a mother who seemed to have no maternal instinct and I was afraid that I would be the same. When I thought of motherhood, I thought of nothing but fear for these and several other reasons and yet when I became a mother, something erupted in me that I didn’t know existed. What once seemed like an unstoppable bend toward selfishness became a joyful willingness to sacrifice, where I knew I was impatient, I suddenly had more to give, where I was prone to fear, I let go a little easier. These things of course undulate depending on the day or season but all of the things I needed to be for my children, I seemed to believe I had because I was chosen to raise them and know that no one else is better suited for the job of being their mother. Just like with anything, I grow into my position more and more but certainly see that the best sides of my love have been uncovered and developed in motherhood.

I was raised in a very isolated existence. My mother and father deal with mental illness, substance abuse and depression. I did not have siblings and both of my parents have been absent (either physically or mentally/emotionally) for the majority of my life. This has provided a lot of challenges but it has also given me a resilience and a strength to endure difficulty with stride and a beautifully protected faith that keeps me. In all of the loneliness I felt as a child, I learned to reach outside of myself and make friends with anyone, relate to humans from all over the earth and even ones that don’t speak the same language as I do. I see that, out of desperation for contact, I learned the art of connection. Even today, I have many friendships that have been instrumental in my growth and survival as an adult.

I can't say that I chose the path I am on currently, but rather it chose me. My husband and I married with the goal of moving to a developing country to live permanently in ministry. Instead, we ended up stepping off of the team (for overseas ministry) in our first year of marriage and picking up a farm internship in rural Pennsylvania. While I never planned to be a farmer’s wife, here I am. I don’t claim to be the best at this route, in fact I know my husband wishes I had my hands in the dirt more. However, living on this spot of land that we have has given me an opportunity to use the most gorgeous and fresh ingredients possible which then became a curiosity and eventual love for cooking and baking. I haven’t had time to paint and create in the same ways that I used to before but my canvas has become the very thing that nourishes and sustains my family, my art fills their bellies! Being at home has been hard for me but I see what a gift it is to get to spend the days with my two boys and in the kitchen to provide for them and their Papa. I am learning to love the new pace of motherhood, one day at a time.

I once read a quote by Wendell Berry that describes a woman’s body not as a museum to be admired but as a home to be lived in. Both of my boys have lived inside of that home, my husband has been comforted by it and my babies have been fed through it. My body tells the story of what has been and, as it changes, it bears signs of the gifts it has given. I am thankful that women have this incredible privilege. I love that, built within our very shape is this ability to nurture and provide.

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MANDY CAVE
Watercolor artist, mom
instagram.com/mandycave

SHEENA CROFT
Lifelong chef, part time vintage shop owner
hannahsoffthesquare.com and nocarnations.etsy.com

 Growing up in a community that relied on the land and each other to survive and enrich our lives. I remember my childhood as magical even now as an adult I am aware of the hardships that were around me when I was young. The woods, the river, the ocean, nearby farms and ranches are all characters in the story of my youth. They lived and breathed a steadfastness in me that I think comes from the land you call home.

 Losing all of my belongings in New Orleans. Among other things, that loss really showed me what I was made of. I am still dealing with the positive and negative coping mechanisms I created from that situation, however the positive awareness of self and how it can affect all of my relationships is a gift that some people never receive.

 I didn’t choose this path; the path chose me. I think I was always on this path and I didn’t realize it. I started college with an eye towards a marine biology degree. Perhaps not by chance I became aware of the up and coming culinary arts and realized that I had already been cooking and really enjoying it my whole life. I dropped out of my courses and packed my belongings and moved in about two weeks to a new town to begin culinary school.

Growing up being conditioned to believe that there are some things a woman can’t do or shouldn’t do; I’ve always enjoyed trying to break those boundaries. There is an element of surprise to it. We may have had to earn the breakaway, but because it wasn’t expected it has made even some of my smallest accomplishments that much more glorious, welcomed, and appreciated. I’ve always thought there was a great advantage to being the underdog in many situations.

ARIANNA JONES
Stylist, creative consultant
arianna.jones.com

 growing up in Austin, and being nurtured by the most amazing women, artists, and activists I could ever hope to know. There was a very magical mix of growing up next to the river (“secret beach”) in the heart of the city where everything was a bike or bus ride away. The freedom that provided led me to have the most serendipitous encounters- that have led to me finding great mentors and diverse friends. I’ve tried to always carry that with me.

 In my formative years, my mom was very unwell. She’s thriving now, but when she was sick, my sister and I were pretty much let to our own devices. Even as an adult when I tell people about it, I often hear “that was a pretty hard life,” and it still doesn’t register to me as “negative.” Being a child care-taker is quite a mixed bag because caring for my mother never felt like a burden, and it is a reason I’ve always felt the need to be tenacious and self-sufficient (great things to be as an artist). Though I do now recognize it as “a hardship.”

 I don’t think I chose the current path Im on. Its always felt like what I should do so I’ve just followed my instincts- that gut feeling knows my path better than I could ever hope to. And even though its sometimes been a choice between following my intuition or making enough to have a reasonable amount in the bank, my experiences have proven to me time and again that if I make the choices with my brain, things get stressful and don’t make sense. But if I follow the feeling, and don’t change, work, life, and the world is magical.

 I am so expressive with my love for others, so having that freedom in society to care, support and love; though it can sometimes be seen as unpaid emotional labor- feels like the best part of womanhood. That and what I’ve been told is a heightened intuition and ability to see others whether or not its actually a feminine trait, I’m not the one to ask for proof. But it feels like part of womanhood for me.

CATHY HOWINGTON
Mother, Wife, Teacher, Human 

There are several but, the thing that really comes to mind is family. I am very fortunate to have a loving and supporting family that is willing to listen and discuss and respect each other. As I have grown up and expanded my family, I am fortunate that the people that have become my family are also loving and respectful.

 As a girl and woman, I have always been keenly aware of how I look and how I look to the world. It has really shaped who I am, and I constantly worry about what I am projecting on my children, especially my daughter. I do not look like the societal norm and I have gone through many different phases of hating and loving myself. I am currently working toward health (which I think is a constant) and whatever comes out of this current journey, Now know how exercise helps to regulate all my anxieties and body issues.

 Teaching chose me. I have vast interests and did not know what I wanted out of life. I love teaching because it gives me the opportunity to explore all my interests. Family was something that I always knew I wanted. I wanted a quiet and simple life filled with love and that included children. The moment that I found out I was pregnant with my first child, was the moment that really cemented who I was. We were soul mates and I am forever grateful to her for giving me that gift.

 For me, being a woman is all about feeling. My emotions rule who I am, which can be bad, but I choose to look at it positively. I live in my gut and emotions and have had to learn how to regulate that. It has served me well through relationship building, teaching, and especially in my family.


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 JILLIAN ZAMORA
Photographer
 jillianzamora.com

Honestly, being raised by the family I was raised in (three awesome siblings and two loving parents) is probably the single most shaping positive experience I can think of. So much of who I am is because of the love they showed me, the lessons they taught me, the priorities they modeled for me, the humor they shared with me and the experiences they so freely gave me.

 Perhaps I would say the most recent one of miscarrying my second pregnancy. Talking about it still brings stinging tears to my eyes. But my oh my, how all the more grateful it made me that I get to hold/love/raise my first child, Juniper. It reminds me that I am not owed her. I was not and am not guaranteed her. She is a gift from my gracious and loving Heavenly Father. Pregnancy, getting to carry life within my own body, is a gift. I wish I was pregnant with a thriving 15 week and 2 day old baby in my womb. But instead of spending all my waking hours envisioning the things I lost, I feel all the more emboldened to not take for granted all that I have been so generously given.

Call it cheesy, but I honestly feel more like my path was chosen for me than me choosing it. I’m more of a “come what may” personality versus a vision-caster. I don’t think I ever would have chosen being a wedding photographer as a profession—that’s for people way cooler than I am. And I don’t think I saw myself running a business that brings home the majority of our family income while being a mom to a toddler—not going to lie, I always pictured myself as staying at home while my husband brought home the bacon. I didn’t see myself getting married at 20-years-old—THAT’S PRACTICULLY A BABY. And yet, here I am. My life goal is to honor the lord by submitting my life/plans/finances before Him and then come what may.

 Gosh, I don’t even feel equipped to properly answer this question because there are so many “best” things about being a woman. I can tell you my personal favorite thing about being a woman is the privilege of my body both growing life in the womb and then being able to nourish life outside the womb. It will forever astound me.

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CASSIE ARNOLD
Fiber Artist, Art Educator, Co-creator of FIN Press Publications
Cassiearnoldart.com

Some of the most positive experiences in my life have had very little to do with the moments themselves, and more to do with the people who shared those experiences with me. My dad encouraged my fierce independence and taught me the importance of hard work and dedication in any endeavor I chose. My mom models for me something even greater. She shows kindness and empathy to everyone she meets and is by far, the greatest listener I’ve ever known. At 19, I met my better half, the person who is daily challenging me to be a better person, artist, teacher. Jake doesn’t just listen to my outrageous plans to take on the world, he helps me brainstorm a plan of action and then holds me accountable to stick with it when I start to get scared and want to back out. He is my equal, my mentor, my partner in crime, my world traveling buddy, and my teammate when raising our girls. They are my positive experience.

A few years ago, Jake and I miscarried with our second child. We had just finished a very successful year and a half of art shows, and we were ready to slow down and expand our family. I couldn’t help but feel heartbroken. I struggled mentally with how little information we were given by our doctors and felt isolated by the whole ordeal. It wasn’t until choosing to open up and be vulnerable that I realized how powerful the female community can be and how common miscarriages actually are. Story after story was given to us exposing the same struggle. Soon my Mama wounds began to heal. I feel as though that sweet babe taught me a lot about what is really urgent and the bittersweet fact that this life is short. We must live fiercely today and not waste a second of it because we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

Teaching the next generation of youth is where I feel I am making the most difference in the world. I love sharing my passion and love of art with teens, but more than that, I love showing them that their voice matters and that their art can make a difference. Teaching while becoming a mom has helped me learn that parenting is just an extension of my role as an educator, but on a much more intimate level. It is mine and Jake’s responsibility to raise our girls to be free thinkers, empathetic and loving to others, and to grow up with enough courage and confidence to take risk and find joy, regardless of what path they chose. And doing all of that while creating art has only made my work that much more authentic and purposeful. I am a better mother and teacher when I get the opportunity to create. My identity is so closely intertwined that I only feel complete when I’m attempting to balance all three.

Because of where we live and all of the women who have come before us, we can be anything we set our minds to. When there is exposed inequality, we are allowed to have a voice and fight for those injustices. On top of that, we have the power to grow and produce and sustain life which makes us, arguably, the most powerful beings on the planet.