One thing I think our culture misses from time to time is the complexity and gifts our children are capable of offering the world. Not when they grow up, but right now, just as they are. ✨My first three children folded into our marriage quite easily. It was our fourth child that slowed us down, reminded us that parenting is only one small part of what makes a person, and helped me to see a reflection of myself that I may have otherwise missed. Adaline Mercy came roaring into this world with the beat of a different drummer playing in the background. She decreased my work (out there) and created an environment that makes some uncomfortable, but allows others to absolutely thrive. She’s observant, honest and deeply loving. Young children in their age of disagreement, those living with challenges and the person sitting alone are among her favorite people. Not willing to compromise for the group or to seek out the most important or powerful person in the room leaves her vulnerable for criticism and often left out. She’s willing to sacrifice at the sake of following her heart and pointing to the things and people many of us would miss in our compulsion for busyness. Truth be told, I could be doing more if I was to make her less. Praise God for discernment. My hope is that as her mother I’ve held enough space for her to be just who she’s been created to be. Not one day in the future, but today, right now.✨
Self portrait by Adaline Mercy Howell, 8 years old
What we are learning about those who experience ACES (adverse childhood experiences) is that resiliency in life is more probable when the right people show up at just the right time. ✨I was a below average academic learner. It wasn’t until high school and Mrs. Witty’s English class that I discovered the ways life had been my teacher and emotional expression was my strength. In what I can now appreciate as an act of courage Mrs. Witty offered me grace by looking beyond my grammar and misplaced punctuation so she could fully appreciate my story. My school was a beautiful mix of country kids and people of color, immigrants and urban kids. It was there in Mrs. Witty’s class that I was given the opportunity to share my unedited creativity for the first time while learning to actively listen to my classmates. This was a powerful act of equity in action. Leslie gifted me the tools I needed to break through academic walls while hearing others without censoring them. She became a mother for the first time that year and I often wonder if that contributed to her fierce compassion. There’s no doubt that the lessons she taught me have helped to make me a better mother, farmer and community member.✨
What I love to hear in someone’s story is that moment when they were shown kindness at just the right time. ✨In the fall of 2009, I scheduled a meeting with Leah at the ALIVE center in Bowling Green. With four kids around my knees I anxiously told her about an idea. The BabyNet community meetings would tear down walls between moms on WIC and busy professionals, moms who were unable or choosing not to breastfeed and lactation consultants, immigrants and long time Bowling Green folks, dads and adoptive parents so that collaboratively we could break through a glass ceiling or two. Leah held space for the idea and shared her own passion for breastmilk banks and motherhood. She encouraged me that it was possible to be the mother I wanted to be while also engaging my community for equity and justice. It was support from women like Leah in the beginning that empowered me to hold space for as long as I could and let go with grace when the time was right.✨
As a female small-scale farmer, mama and local food organizer I’ve appreciated spaces where I can show up with vulnerability to be gifted encouragement and respect in return. I want to share some of these amazing women who’ve quietly lifted me up through the years.
✨Katie, owner of the ever growing @nativebagelco in Berea, Kentucky starts her work days way before daylight. She has curated a space that becomes a gathering spot for locals and tourists to begin their day, share inspiring stories and fill their bellies with good food and coffee. Katie asked me to come and share my story on one of those mornings and made sure that I included real mama farm life and food access in the discussion. The more personal my story became the more attention she gave me-all while serving up bagels to the long line of customers coming in on that snowy winter morning. Katie is the kind of business owner that inspires all of us to be thoughtful about the spaces we are making in our life.✨
Kentucky women doing good and empowering other women for simple acts of grace and kindness.