a tribute to strong women.

I have been terrible with this blog, I know. I've been busy--getting married, carrying "Boo" through the Halloween season and now finishing my serial story for Missouri Press Association's Newspapers In Education program. I haven't even started on the thank you notes! 

I'll write about the wedding, I'll write about animals, I'll write about weird/funny stuff that happens etc...trust me, I will. 

But today I spent my day taking care of big cats, which involves a lot of small, quiet tasks--picking the yard, sweeping up straw, hosing, scrubbing, raking leaves etc. I worked alone, as usual, and so I had a lot of time to think.

I don't believe I was alone in this sort of contemplation on this particular day, November 9, 2016. Because I was angry. I was sad. And I've never felt that way after an election. I was always the "I'm just glad the arguing/political ads are over, it will be fine either way, even if my candidate doesn't win" type of gal. But not this time. This time I felt real, raw strong emotions tied to the election. I felt so proud as I voted for a woman who I thought would be the first female president of the United States of America. I enjoyed the exuberant energy of my friends on my Facebook feed--wearing white (the color of suffragettes) pasting "I Voted" stickers to Susan B. Anthony's grave, allowing their young daughters to press VOTE on the touch screen so that they could be a part of this historic moment. So, that they could say I was there. 

Today, I feel something like real grief. It's strange. I've never felt that before when it comes to politics--not in this way. A man who has bragged about assaulting women, a man who has (famously) cheated on his three wives, has been elected president of the United States over a woman who has dedicated her entire life's work to politics and the progress of our nation. And it makes me sad. It makes me feel like there is no reason to be happy or hopeful today. It feels like grief. 

On our family vacation when I was younger, we played volleyball every evening. I remember one night, we decided to play the traditional matchup "Boys vs. Girls." The "Girls" were losing pretty badly, when suddenly my Nana decided to start yelling out the names of long gone female ancestors before she served. "Avice!" "Irene!" She yelled. We laughed and all started doing it too. Suddenly, our team got stronger. We won point after point, enthusiastically invoking the spirits of our matriarchal lineage to our cause.  

This memory came back to me as I fought tears against the misogyny of our political system while hosing the big cat holding space this afternoon. Suddenly, I started thinking about all of the strong women that I know. The brave, badass, brilliant, steel nerved ladies who populate my life. 

There's that same Nana, my mother's mother who was a badass lady long before it was cool to be a badass lady. 

My father's mother, who birthed and raised ten children. Enough said. 

My own mother, who is always the first one to respond to any emergency, who can ride fast horses, use power tools and sew a mean needlepoint belt. I am 30 years younger than my mom and (let's be honest) in better shape, but she can kick my sorry ass on the tennis court any day of the week.  

My mother-in-law, a brilliant chemist and the woman who raised four of the best people I know. 

My older sister, who graduated Summa Cum Laude and works as an attorney at a stressful, powerful law firm while keeping up a house that looks like it's maintained by Martha Stewart and raising a bright and bubbly 10-month old daughter. 

My younger sister, who graduated from veterinary school at the age of 25 because she finished college and earned her D.V.M in 7 years. Tomorrow she's going to remove stones from a dog's bladder. She's a surgeon. Once, she stuck her entire arm in a cow's vagina. And she's funny and creative as hell. 

My courageous cousin who has experienced great loss, and moved forward with grace, dignity and the same kind heart she's always shared with others. 

My aunts, who are the heart, soul and center of our family. 

My mama friends, who are making it all work someway, somehow. 

My LGBTQ friends, especially those who are family, or like family, who have to be brave every day. 

My friends who are minorities, who have to be brave every day. 

My Nerinx girls, who know themselves, and know their world. 

My Theta women, who understand that the greatest of these will always be love. 

My teammates from all walks of life. Growing up in the '90s we accepted the "Girl Power" tagline hook, line and sinker and never, ever let anyone tell us that we weren't "real" athletes, even if we didn't get the nicest fields, locker rooms or uniforms. 

My running friends, who have nerves of steel. 

My coworkers who live their careers with such passion. They can shift a lion or teach a child with the same careful consideration and dedication. 

My boss, who manages the near impossible job of keeping 36 animals and 9 keepers content and cared for with professionalism and grace. 

All of the women I know at the Zoo--be they Keepers, Doctors, PhDs, Researchers, Directors, Executives, Curators, Managers, Event Planners, Educators-- they all work tirelessly, in their own ways, toward the conservation of species and our planet. 

My writing group, who are unafraid to share their stories and lift each other up. 

The ladies on my Facebook feed yesterday, who showed up before dawn, in the rain, during lunch hours or with kids in tow to exercise their right to vote. 

It was easy for me to come up with this list. And, oddly enough, it made me feel better, by some small measure. Hillary Clinton said to women everywhere, and especially to the little girls growing up in America today, "never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams."

These women are living this message. There are strong, brave women all around us who will continue to make this world, and this nation a better place. We will not be silenced. We will move forward together. Our time will come. 

But obviously, we have a ways to go and a lot to do. There's only one option. My friend Katie, one of the most badass ladies out there, said it best with her Facebook post this morning: 

 "Let's get to work."