Michael Jordan and Grandma

With this post I hereby declare a blog series on strong women.   Not motherhood or house wifery or gender roles, but on crazy-strong, pioneering, brave, practical, funny, interesting women.  In the next few posts I'll tell you how badly I want to talk to Hillary Clinton and about what.  I'll tell you what I want to learn from Britney Spears.  I'll share stories about beating cancer and not beating cancer, about speaking up and shutting up, about raising ten kids and about trailblazing career paths in male-dominated fields.  I invite you to join in the conversation, share your heroines with me, and celebrate these women that make me proud to be a girl. Here goes.


While we were in North Carolina over the holidays, Dan got the flu or something like it.  He laid on the couch in a near comatose state for three days without so much as a dinner break.  ESPN was on the entire time (obviously) and not long into his couch-laying a commercial featuring Michael Jordan came on.

To be more specific, it was footage of the 1997 NBA finals game in which Michael Jordan had the flu.  During what is now known as "The Flu Game," Michael Jordan scored 38 points, finished with 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 1 block.

Dan watched this commercial, turned his groggy head toward me and croaked,

"Well, now I feel like a giant pansy."

I share this for two reasons.

1. My husband is funny.

2. This is precisely how I feel when I think about my Grandma Canfield.  I feel like parenthood is the flu; it makes things hard sometimes, so I moan and take medicine (which is representative of lots of coffee and Chick-Fil-A in this analogy) and write blog posts about surviving, while, two generations ago, my grandmother was raising NINE children without the conveniences of fast food drive-thrus, microwaves, disposable diapers, or dishwashers.  She was the Michael Jordan of mothers, and I am a giant pansy.

This came to mind a lot last month, as Dad and I talked about his mother, my Grandma.

My Grandma, Juanita Fern, had 10 children.  Numbers 5 and 6 were twins, and her eighth died at birth.  I cannot wrap my mind around that kind of heartbreak.  There can't be more than 14 or so years between all of them, which means that at one point, she had my dad as an infant (who would be diagnosed with polio at 10 months old), the twins still in diapers, and FOUR MORE as three through seven-year-olds.  INFANT.  TWINS IN DIAPERS.  FOUR OTHER KIDS.  I didn't take time to do the actual birthday math, but can you even imagine?  Can you imagine the noise?

Oh, and then she was pregnant three more times and raised two more children.  No big deal.

Dad has memories of bags full of ironing sitting at her feet as she stood there: all-day-ironing.  He can picture the entire back yard filled with dozens and dozens of cloth diapers drying on clotheslines, like a forest.   He's told me about the home-cooked meals they had every night, and about how his older sisters used to feed and rock the babies.

This is a picture of my Grandma's oldest 6, my aunts and uncles:  Ron, Cheryl (with her hair beautifully braided), Dave, Patti, and the twins, Jan and Judy, as babies (one of their little bald heads is at the bottom of the photo).


6 kids in the bath
 And Madeline thinks that Sam is crowding her personal space in the bathtub.  She could use a quick lesson in the relativity of bathtub space.

The older I get, the more I wish I had the opportunity to know my Grandma as an adult (she died when I was 8).  I wish that I could talk to her about marriage.  About a husband whose job is ministry.  I want to talk to her about finding joy and fulfillment in mundane tasks.  About finding your identity in Christ.  I wish I could learn from her about diligence and hard work.  I wish I could watch her cook.  I wish I could learn about patience, parenting, priorities, and letting the little things go.  I wish I could talk to her about heritage - about the extraordinary blessing of many children and grandchildren.  I wish I could talk to her about parenting a child with a disability.  I wish I could talk to her about loss, trial, tribulation - about strength - about surviving some stuff.

When I think about women who must have a backbone made of solid steel, my Grandma Canfield is one of the first to come to mind.  She was the Michael Jordan of mothers, and I'm so proud to say that I come from that kind of stock.


Who is your Michael Jordan?  Whose accomplishments (at work, home, play, or legacy) inspire you (and also sometimes make you feel like a giant pansy)?  Comment to share!