Saturday, March 28, 2015

Women's History

As March is Women’s History Month, I wanted to write a post that highlighted the importance of Women’s History.

(The abbreviated article can be seen at Skinny Mom)

History was my favorite subject in school. One of the contributing factors of my fascination was having an inspiring teacher who emanated her passion for history. As many of my friends and family know, that teacher was Gail Beaton. For those of my readers that don’t know, Gail is a retired public school teacher and community college instructor. She was also my middle and high school history teacher. She recently authored the book Colorado Women: A History. The theme of this year’s Women’s History Month is weaving the stories of women’s lives. Gail’s book is an engaging narrative on the roles of women from prehistoric to modern times. I had the pleasure of interviewing Gail about her past as a history teacher, her book, and her perspectives on women’s history. Enjoy!

Q: What made you decide to become a teacher and why did you choose history?

A: I decided to become a teacher because I liked school, liked the learning. I taught my youngest brother who is six years younger than I was how to read. We played "school" when he was young. I decided to teach history because I was always fascinated by people and events in the past. Another big factor was my parents were big influences on me. When we had vacations we would go on trips and we would visit historical sites like the Mayflower, or go to Washington, DC, Mesa Verde, things like that. The national parks. So I think they were a big part of me loving history.

Q: What has been your favorite part of teaching history?

My favorite part of teaching history was working with the students. That was always the best part  - the relationships you form with them, whether you just had them for a semester or if you had them for six years in a row.

Q: What female figure from history has inspired you or influenced your life? Why?

A: Eleanor Roosevelt was one woman from history that inspired me and influenced my life. I think this was because she defied all the stereotypes. She took the role of the First Lady beyond what it had ever been before and she overcame a number of challenges in her personal life both in growing up and later as First Lady. Of course also the Rosie the Riveter character. In other words, the symbol for all those women who worked so hard during World War II to help in the defense effort. There were also other women who influenced me though maybe some people wouldn't call them historical. One of course would be my mother and how she did everything with four children with grace and classiness. I had teachers who were very influential, especially my fourth grade teacher and my Latin teacher in high school. They always demanded the best and knew how to relate to the wide variety of students in their classroom.

Q: Have you had any challenges in your life as a woman and how have you overcome?

I think I have been very lucky that way. My parents were very supportive of me. I remember that for my 9th birthday, all I wanted was my own baseball mitt. Being left-handed, it was difficult to share with my brothers. Although my parents' friends kept asking what else they were going to get me - implying that a "boy's" gift wasn't enough - my parents insisted that a mitt was what I wanted and that's what they were going to get me. I chose a traditionally female career so I didn't face the challenges others did. I do wish, though, that someone had pointed out other possible avenues - but I was pretty set on teaching so maybe I would have ignored them anyways!

Q: What inspired you to write a book on women’s history in Colorado?

A: Most books center on men in Colorado history or US history so I thought it was important to learn about and then to share with others the story of women's history in Colorado.

Q: Was there a favorite person or time period you researched and why?

My favorite time has always been the 1880s to 1945. I love those eras because that's when women's opportunities were greatly expanding. There were more job opportunities whether it was in store clerking and office work, union organizing, the professions, college education, and of course World War II and all of the Rosie the Riveter work. It was also a time of great expansion - economically, industrially for the United States and so that's exciting history.

Q: Was there something that you discovered in your research that surprised you?

I didn't realize Hispanic women in southern Colorado were often the religious leaders in their communities. This was because Catholic priests only visited these small outposts of civilization periodically. It may have been months between visits. I also did not know about women who worked their own mines in the Colorado mountains.

Q: In line with this years theme for Women’s History Month, how would you describe women’s contributions to the “woven” fabric of history that is currently mainly told from the male perspective?

Women were often seen as in the background supporting men's efforts, raising the children, perhaps doing a little bit with education and things like that but never really seen as standing side-by-side and doing important things on their own. That is so far from the truth. Women plowed fields, planted crops, set up schools, hospitals, aid societies, fought for civil rights, lobbied elected officials for particular legislation, supported the arts, and led progressive reforms. They were miners, educators, philanthropists, suffragists, elected officials, appointed officials, war workers, religious leaders, business owners, and workers. That's from the time of the first Native Americans to the Hispanic settlers to Anglo pioneers to Black, Japanese, and European immigrants to today's Colorado women.

Q: Why is it important to teach women’s history?

Without women's history, one only knows half the story. Without women's history, where are the role models for today's girls? It's important - for both genders - to know of the struggles, the challenges, the hard work that earlier people dealt with and to know that they succeeded. Some times not right away. In fact, often times change was slow, but they didn't give up. If you want to succeed, you have to persevere. Find your passion and work your hardest at it. That's what makes life meaningful. [sorry- got carried away!]

Q: You are also a re-enactor portraying a Rosie the Riveter character. What inspired you to create a character for your history lesson? Have you ever thought of creating another female historical figure to re-enact? If so who and why? How does using re-enacting help to convey the importance of women’s contributions in history?

Rosies applied for and worked jobs that people said they couldn't, said they wouldn't be capable or handling the skill level or the stress or the work conditions. But they did. And were so dang good at it.

I have thought of a few other women I'd like to do. One is Amelia Earhart but someone already does her in this region. Another is a WASP, a woman aviator from WWII. Dr. Ella Mead,a doctor in Greeley, or Bessie Smith, an architect, if the same time period. But who really intrigues me is Margaret Bourke-White, a photographer of the Great Depression and WWII. Her transport ship was torpedoed and she spent 18 hours in a lifeboat with other survivors until they were rescued. 

Re-enacting brings a personal, human face and persona to an event, to a time period. The audience can relate to the person's struggles and successes. It affords the audience a chance to ask questions of the character and of the historian behind the character. It's a glimpse into the the life of a woman who made a difference.

Q: What do you hope is ahead for women in the coming century?

I hope for equality. No more "can'ts" and "shouldn'ts." For both girls and boys, women and men. That all phases of life are open to anyone, regardless of gender, should they wish to pursue it.

Q: What are you doing next?

I am currently researching Colorado women of WWII. I am interviewing army nurses, WASPs, Rosies, etc. in the hopes of sharing their stories with others. So possibly another book but one with a must narrower focus - one era, one state.
I am also a research volunteer for the National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs. They are preparing for a large expansion so I am researching their current artifacts for them. And learning a lot in the process! 


I would like to thank Gail Beaton, not only for taking the time to answer my questions, but also for her work to remember the women of the past and their often-unrecognized contributions to history.


For more information on Gail’s book or her Rosie talks please visit her website www.GailBeaton.com

Monday, March 16, 2015

Magic

I love the magic of make believe. The way it makes my little girl smile. The kind of smile you can hear when she talks.

Today was a great day. We played with stuffed animals in her room where I was the 'evil' Von Cowsikle and she was the hero rescuing Elmo.

...later while I was making dinner, she wanted me to be Repunzel. I happily obliged and we had a conversation about visiting Arendelle with Anna and Elsa. Her little grin was so broad and I could just see the magic in her eyes as she imagined this grand day in the future. 

I wish I could bottle that up. For the days when she's grown and she has a bad day and doesn't believe in magic. I know it's there. I see it in her and I hope she can look back when she's older and has those days we all have as adults. I hope she can remember and smile and see the magic too. 

One of the best parts of being a parent is seeing that magic and remembering it for ourselves. I love that feeling. I love those moments. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Healthy box of yumminess

As a Resident Mom for Skinny Mom we have the opportunity to review products. This past month I was fortunate to try a product from Fit Snack. There are several products out there where you can have a subscription to have goods delivered to your door monthly. We've gone beyond the magazine, milk and jelly of the month (a la Clark Griswold) and can now have anything from dog treats, kids crafts, to contemporary wall art! Well Fit Snack is a similar product but, as it's name suggests, they deliver healthy treats right to your door!

 Unless you get to go to Sams Club or Costco on a Sunday, you don't always get to try products that aren't usually on your radar. The snacks that Fit Snack provides are even better than those little taste testing expeditions for two reasons: 1) you don't have to leave your home and face the crazy, crowded store; 2) the products selected by Fit Snack are healthy! As stated by Fit Snack: "Each product always containing two or more of the following:
GMO Free, High in protein, low in sugar, gluten free, organic, raw, vegan and all natural."

They're also a socially responsible in that they donate a meal to Feeding America with each box sold! I truly enjoyed trying each of the snacks out. You can read more about what came in my Fit Snack box on my review on Skinny Mom by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Winning and losing

Little M is at the age where she's able to learn how to play games and understand some instructions. I've been waiting for this because I've always loved playing games. Doesn't matter what kind of game really, board games, card games, word games... they can all be so much fun. As I was growing up I remember visiting my great grandpa and my grandpa down in southern Colorado. We would stay in the small farmhouse and in the evenings after dinner and after we'd gotten ready for bed the adults would play cards. I remember the sound of the cards being shuffled, the talking and the light glowing from the living room as we were sent to bed with the playing still in full swing.

When we got older, during holiday's when we'd have family over we enjoyed playing Pictionary after the holiday feast and dessert. There is always a lot of laughing and some arguing over some of the drawings that come out of those games.

These are some of the greatest memories and it's something I've always looked forward to sharing with my kids. Well now that Little M is of the age our first board game was of course CandyLand. This is actually a great game for teaching things like taking turns, counting, colors and of course, winning and losing.

The first time we cracked it open, Mila was all a twitter over the pictures of the sweets on the board. She of course, chose to be the ice cream play piece. I was the marshmallow. I gave all the pieces names. There's Isla Ice Cream, Mitzy Marshmallow, Go-Go Gumdrop, and Ginny Gingerbread. The game seems a lot shorter than I remember it (thankfully). We played once and I was just focusing on her counting and taking turns. By the end, Mila was pretty much done taking turns. So I waited a while and the next time we played she really enjoyed it. Yay! The only problem... she seems to have really good luck and wins most of the time. I admit, I may have looked the other way the first couple of times on a couple of unauthorized spins she made on the color wheel (what parent hasn't?) but now I jump on those and she seems to win more often than not!

So I decided to teach her another game because it's usually pretty hard to get the hang of. I decided to teach her Uno. I had read a blog by Sarah Punkoney over at Stay at Home Educator and thought it was an awesome way to teach number and color recognition. Mila's already got her colors down but her numbers are something she's just starting to learn. So we played with our cards facing up and we went through the game. Every time one of us plays a card we say what color and what number it is. Well, it turns out, she's pretty darn good at this game too! Sometimes she does get bored with how long the game can take and sometimes she decides she wants to change the color when she doesn't have a number or color that matches, but other than that, she really enjoys playing.

So how can I teach her about losing when she keeps wining? Well, I decided on our last game of CandyLand to play as "Goofy" and as Mommy. She always has me pretend to be a character of her choosing. Well Goofy won and she said, "no I won". I had to tell her that it's ok if someone else wins, we can just tell them "good game, maybe we can play again." So we did, and that time she did win (honestly, she's really pretty lucky!) I guess I'll just have to keep looking for opportunities and as the mommy, be the good sport and teach by example when I lose (because it keeps happening! :). And when I do get the chance to win, emulate good sportsmanship.



Monday, March 2, 2015

Published!

It's so exciting that my first blog for Skinny Mom has been published! For my first piece I went the food route and because you should always write about what you like I wrote about Sweet Potatoes! I mean, come on, who doesn't love sweet potatoes?! Okay, my husband and my daughter don't but the rest of my family LOVES sweet potatoes. I mean, they're so versatile. If you'd like to check it out, here's my first published article titled Super Tubers