Part One: Another Strong Lady, Straight from the South

I’m back… I’m sorry I was gone for the last month and a half. As I mentioned before, I was in the process of packing and moving. We, that is, my husband, my dog, my cat and I are temporarily housed in a “suites” hotel and things are cramped. Actually, the animals have better coping skills than humans do in a situation like this. Thankfully, the house will close within days and another adventure will begin.

thLDBUU2X3I’ve been working on edits for my second book entitled Relative Consequences. One would think that staying in this confining space with not much to do would prompt me to work more not less. Wrong. The need to escape seems to have taken hold. That being said, today, I am blogging before the inevitable urge to run an errand.

head-shot-debraToday, I am posting part one of my interview with Debra Ayers Brown. She has graciously given me her time and has honored me with her candid responses during our attendance this past June at the Southeastern Writers Conference in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. She is another example of a strong Southern woman and you know how I feel about them.

Debra Ayers Brown is a wife, mom, 10-year caregiver, and First Lady of Hinesville, Georgia. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia and earned her MBA from The Citadel. She and her daughter, Meredith, co-own My Write Platform where they provide T*N*T (training/networking/tips for writers who want to explode their business. They hold a ranking in the top 10 percent in social media influence by Klout. Check out Facebook.com/MyWritePlatform. The mother-daughter team is also committed to wellness with their driven to Wellness Facebook community and Two Pink Ladies Plexus Ambassadors at Facebook.com/pinkladiesssquared. Debra has published creative nonfiction in multiple issues of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Not Your Mothers Books, Guideposts, Chocolate for Women, and many other anthologies. She currently writes a humor column called “Life’s a Peach” in Liberty Life Magazine. She is also working on a nonfiction book on wellness and a cozy mystery series.

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Debra, I consider you to be a strong Southern woman. You are strong in the sense that you don’t let circumstances or life get in your way. You fight for what you want and I mean in any way you can. You have faith on your side and something inside of you that helps you rise above the negative. Thank you for allowing me to interview you for my blog.

1. Do you consider yourself a strong woman? If you had asked me that question five or ten years ago, I would have said, “No.” Not because I didn’t have the inner strength then, but because I lacked the awareness of my strength and what I could handle. At that time, I was reserved and afraid to speak my own mind. I worried about people might think of me or my actions. So I worked hard—all the time. But, in the last five years, I have definitely found my strength. Circumstances forced me to face a lot of challenges and to learn that life is short. I’ve realized you have to live each day and appreciate it. I’ve learned all of my lessons the hard way. Now, I value family and health more. I still work hard, but I find time for down time and fun times. I made major life changes in the past few years, and I’ve changed a lot. For the past three years, I have set one major goal for the year. Three years ago, my goal was to find my happy; last year it was to make the best choice every time; and my goal this year was to step out of my comfort zone. Wow, if you make “stepping out of your comfort zone” your goal, the universe will take you up on it. I think I’ll be even stronger at the end of this year! Each year I build on these goals. I continue to do them every day making each one a habit. So, I really do feel like I’ve become strong.

southern bornIt’s interesting how that happened because five years ago, I thought things were fine and my life was great, but it literally imploded in every way possible. With the downturn of the economy, all our businesses, which were in real estate, took a devastating hit, leaving us in a terrible financial situation. Then, my father died, my mother had a heart attack, and coincidentally, a chronic illness roared to life. I realized in a very short time what was important. I’m still a Type A, driven, success-oriented, do-everything-as-perfect-as-possible person. I struggle with being a work-a-holic and finding balance. But now, I schedule time for fun and relaxation. Because I was ill, I started clean eating three years ago. I added natural supplements, exercise, and getting my water in. I’ve really made strides in the area of health and wellness for myself. I feel so much better, and physically and mentally stronger.

But, a balanced life is a day-to-day process for me. I win some, lose some. Relaxation usually gets bumped out if I’m busy. But my daughter, Meredith, pointed something out to me not very long ago that resonated with me. She caught me creating a flier on my iPhone late at night. She said, “Mom, your body doesn’t know that you enjoy being creative. It just knows that you aren’t resting when you should. You need to stop. You need your rest.” It’s true. I’m not alone. Women try to fit so much into one day. We multi-task to the extreme. We take care of everyone but ourselves. If we take time for fun, we’re usually networking or incorporating it somehow into work. It’s important that we find time for fun for the sake of doing something different, spending times with friends, or building family relationships. So the bottom line is: Strong women need to be very, very careful to take care of themselves first. As someone told me, “Your husband can find another wife. Your daughter will never have another mother. You need to take care of yourself. Then you can take care of them, too.”

2. From where do you draw your inner strength? I would say, mine comes from my background, and how I was raised. I’m definitely Southern by birth. I have a very Southern mother who is still feisty in her late eighties. We still share similar characteristics. My father was more laid back, but he was a very strong man. When he talked, you needed to listen. He was the quiet, reserved person. My mother was the fireball. She was the “get everything done” person; work those charities, do those crafts, but “we’re gonna have this house spotless” person. Everything had to be just so. At our home, you definitely didn’t air your dirty laundry in public. You worried about what the neighbors thought. You worried about what the relatives thought—all of those kinds of things which taken in the right perspective are good. But I was also raised with faith. It was a part of everyday life. The important things were family, loyalty, doing a good job, and knowing that you are in a family who loved you. I think my background gave me the fortitude to go on in less than perfect situations. I found the inner strength to deal with life’s challenges and to learn the lessons from them.

3. Do you think women are inherently stronger than men are? Why or why not? I think women are stronger because they have to be. There are so many expectations placed on women. We need to work, not just have a job, but have careers where we are successful and bring in our share of the income. We need to look good. We need to find time for exercise and eating right. Even though we take care of children, running them back and forth to soccer and dance or whatever else is on the agenda, we have to work and keep a nice home. If we’re not doing it ourselves, then we need to coordinate it. Of course, while we are doing everything, we need to stay informed and interesting. Women need to be it all. My husband would be the first one to tell you that he can’t manage more than one thing at one time. He is not going to watch TV while posting on social media or answering a text or scheduling a Skype for business. It’s not going to happen. Come hell or high water, he’s going to golf on Sunday and attend his college home football games. He’s healthier for it. I think I should learn a thing or two from him.

To be continued… Look for Part Two in a few weeks. Meanwhile, you can find Debra at the following:

www.DebraAyersBrown.com                                          www.About.Me/DebraAyersBrown

www.Twitter.com/CoastalDeb                                        www.Instagram.com/CoastalDeb

www.Linkedin.com/DebraAyersBrown                       www.Facebook.com/DebraAyersBrown

Google+: http://gplus.to/coastaldeb                            www.MySpace.com/CoastalDeb

Thanks for reading. See you in November.

Jody

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