I’ve been very fortunate to have had strong female presences all through my life that have helped shaped the essence of who I am today.  Here are just a few-

My Mom: Of course my mom was my first female role model.  If you’ve ever met her, then you know what I’m talking about.  Her sometimes soft, under spoken exterior disguises a very strong-willed person on the inside.  Knowing someone so intimately always brings out the best and the worst in a relationship, so the fact that I can call her one of my best friends despite us knowing everything about each other really means something.  I know the sacrifices she’s made on behalf of her children and I will always honor that with respect.  I love my mom!!  🙂

My Grandmother Ellis (Gigi): My mom’s mom is a spunky, energetic, smart, liberal lady who has always pushed me to think outside of the box.  Her story is an amazing one, and I will have to share it in detail one day with you guys.  To quickly summarize one of her biggest life experiences, she had a baby at 16 and was shipped off to California (from Alabama) to live with the father of the child who was in the military.  Not knowing a thing about babies, she raised my Aunt Shirley all on her own in a city she knew nothing about.  Another example of her strength was the passing of my grandfather a few years ago from Parkinson’s disease.  Needless to say it was a devastating time in her life, and for us all.  She bounced back in the most amazing way by throwing herself  The Annual Starting Over Party on her birthday each year.  Best of all, she remarried to a wonderful man named Noble who takes her dancing every weekend.  What an example on how to live life!!!  And… today is Gigi’s birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY grandma!!!  I love you.

Staci Stafford: “Ms. Stafford” was my high school art teacher who basically changed my whole life by taking that job at a small school in rural Alabama.  I remember the first year she came… I was in the 9th or 10th grade and was instantly smitten with her hippie-like artsy ways.  She stuck out like a sore thumb, and now that I’m older I can appreciate even more the courage it must have taken for her to teach at a school like that.  She was very young too… couldn’t have been older than 25 or 26.  Anyway, she opened up the world of art to me.  I had always expressed myself visually, but she taught me that being creative could be a career path.  She spent countless hours with me working on my college portfolio and helped me land an art scholarship.  However, the one thing that stands out the most is un-art related.  One day I saw a bully physically & verbally picking on another boy so brutally that it left me in tears.   It actually happened in her classroom while she was out for a few minutes.  Later that day I told her what had happened, and she gave me the courage to report the incident to the principle.  I was scared of the bully, but found the strength to stand up to him through her.  I eventually went through the very scary process, and the most amazing thing happened…. the bully himself apologized, sincerely, to me and the boy he abused that day.  So thank you Ms. Stafford for teaching me strength at a very young age.

Elizabeth Bradley Hunter: Wow… this woman came into my life like a lightning bolt!  This savvy, sassy New Yorker moved to Birmingham about the same time that I moved back from Atlanta.  At the time she was still Elizabeth Bradley, a single and powerful woman who took zero crap from anyone.  To make a long story short… I enlisted in her screenwriting class she offered shortly after moving here.  I NEVER thought that I could write, so the fact that I was even there scared the mess out of me.  She was intimidating to say the least… kind of like the drill sergeant of creative writing.  🙂  She allowed no excuses, ever.  She believed in me and knew I had a good script waiting to come out.  She pushed hard and expected a lot out of me.  This is the very class that I wrote “Piece of Cake” in, the short film I made in 2006 starring Mo Rocca.  Elizabeth had to beat it out of me, but it happened… and it was a beautiful process.  Thank you Elizabeth for believing in me!  You can check out Elizabeth’s blog Not a Peach by clicking here.

I have several more women worth mentioning, but I’m going to save them for tomorrow’s post.  I hope you have a wonderful Friday!!!  😀

My grandmother (Gigi) on her wedding day to Noble. 🙂