40 to 40, pt. 3: A Shout Out to Strong Women


Today’s post is a shout out to 2 strong women that laid the foundation of provision that gave me the oppportunities I’ve had in this life. 

First, I was largely raised by a single Mom.  Not a popular vocation in the early 1970’s and particularly not in conservative church circles.  My Mom undoubtedly endured some scorn, judgment and condemnation at the hands of those who were ignorant of their own shortcomings.  We love to judge others, it’s a human sickness and poisonous to our souls.  My Mom made some choices in those early days that I’m sure were not easy, but they provided a foundation for me that I could build off of.  My earliest memories are of her working all day and going to school at night so that she could acquire better work, better herself and better the opportunties for my siblings and I.  We lived with my grandparents in the Phladelphia duplex where I learned about life.  My earliest Christmas memories are in that little duplex and only have some 8mm movies to document that time.  I remember what a big deal it was when we moved from my grandparent’s duplex to the mobile home in Levitown when my Mom acquired it.  She was making a go of it on her own with 3 kids in tow. She commuted by train to work in downtown Philly and arranged different childcare options for us while piecing together I imagine a small income. I don’t remember ever being without, though I’m sure that involved some tough living and budgeting on her behalf.  Though the woman can not cook (this is not debateable 😉 ) we had food in the house.  On birthdays and Christmas, we had a budget to work off of to make our selections out of the Sears and J.C. Penney’s mail order catalogs.  I used to gaze at the Star Wars figures in those catalogs like it was made of gold, circling my strategic choices.  As well, she arranged for me to start at an early age what would become a love in my life . . . baseball.  It was one of the first things I did that I felt really good at, something that would be a personal confidence builder for me as I developed through adolescence.  She somehow accomplished for me a normalizing of growing up with a single parent at a time when it wasn’t popular, it couldn’t have been easy.  She’s a tough broad.  She displayed a work ethic and a sacrifice to do the right thing to provide for others that has served me well as I seek to be a provider in my own home.

Secondly, with Mom working and going to school, I spent most of my time with my Grandmother whom we just buried a little over a year ago.  I had a special connection with my Grandmother, she was and still is my hero/heroine.  She was a mix of tough love and nurture.  Let me start with the tough part . . .Virginia Povey was a baaaaad woman!  I don’t mean that in a behavior way, she was my Irish grandmother to whom regardless of my stature  in life, even in her dying breaths I’m quite certain she could whoop me silly and then non-chalantly go back to her coffee.  One does not cross Virginia Povey, the woman was as tough as they come.  I remember talking to the nurses and doctors in hospice who couldn’t understand how she just kept laboring on without any of her faculties and I said: “Have you ever met a super human?  Virginia Povey will pass on at the point she damn well pleases and not a moment before or after.  You can throw your medical books away with this one.”  I marveled at the fire in that woman, completely inspiring to me. 

Her and my grandfather got married on Dec. 25 during WWII when he was home on leave for a couple days from the Navy in wartime.   She told me that her Father would only let them wed if she would stay married to him if and when he came home with no arms or legs.  She agreed.  That generation exhibits a kind of stubborn committment that our culture is DYING for and if we don’t find it again, this nation will only be great in its past, not its future.  I remember being carted around with her as she ran 4 businesses at hospitals, ran the Women’s auxillary, taught Sunday School for over 60 years, sang in the choir and raise her 3 grandchildren.  I watched as people who worked for her treated her, they kind of feared her and deeply respected her.  This woman got things done.  When something needed done, put Virginia on it, she’s a workhorse.  She took on responsibility and was not afraid to lead even in a culture dominated by men.  At the same time, she was reverent and respectful of my grandfather’s leadership role in the home and they had a kind of storybook marriage.  They respected, admired and loved one another deeply, this is the marriage that I have modeled my own after.  She taught me to fight back, if I was ever being bullied, to hit them back.  To stand up for myself because the world is a tough place.  This is not the kind of parenting skills found in today’s psychology textbooks, but man has it helped me over the years.  Our thousands of car conversations, summers spent at her home, fall/winter/spring breaks at her home in Florida, numerous trips to Disney world ‘Povey-style’ were the formative times of my life.  To be honest, I don’t know if she ever slept.  We’d wake at 4:30 a.m. to make the trek to Disney world from her Sarasota home and she’d already be up, dressed and a full breakfast was on the table.  And she wore heels with skirts . . . everyday and anywhere, she was old school.  She was as strong a woman as they come, so thankful for the strength she provided me when I was weak. 

 I’ve largely been unimpressed with male leaders throughout my life.  I could count on one hand the ones who have earned my deepest respect.  Perhaps its the underdog obstacles that women face and have to overcome that earns my respect.  Undoubtedly it’s because of being raised by the 2 women mentioned above.  I am not silent about the fact that the male hierarchical structure of Church is not a Scriptural mandate but rather cultural.  The first sermon of the church was not Peter after Pentecost, it was Mary running home from the tomb on the first Easter Sunday proclaiming “He is Risen” while the supposedly strong men (apostles) were still asleep and cowering in fear in the upper room.  If you want something done really important, you might want to send in a strong woman. 

I won’t lie, I have a ‘thing’ for strong women, so much so that I most assuredly married one.  I look forward to my blog on that one.  As well, I see the genetics of strength of my Mom and Grandmother in my 2 daughters.  I could not be more proud of the strong women they are becoming.  Watch out world, the Marshall girls are coming to get some stuff done, I wouldn’t cross them if I were you. 

40 to 40, pt. 2: We Are Marshall

Today I’m reflecting on my surname, being a ‘Marshall’.  Birthday memoirs are not a place for airing the family dirty laundry, so let’s keep it to the good stuff.  The photo of the ‘old man’ above about sums it up, normal is just not part of the ‘We are Marshall’ mantra. 

Being a ‘Marshall’ in some counties is a convictable offense.  In some neighborhoods and most board rooms, the very name harkens a response of excommunication and a circling of the wagons.  They are a clan of trouble-makers.  Almost by definition, the characteristics of a  ‘Marshall’ are:  brash, opinionated, obnoxious, loud, trouble-making, talk back, question authority, cynical of systems and systems thinking and often does nothing considered status quo.  They color outside the lines, ask too many questions and expect that what you say is actually what you mean.  They are ardent Protestants, with protest being the key term.  Agitators, the whole lot of them. 

With their emotions on their sleeves, Marshalls can also be known to cause a scene and perhaps . . . and I may be stretching it here . . . they may have a tendency to over-react and exaggerate their response to a given scene.  In general, Marshalls exaggerate like it’s their native tongue.  It may not be all true, but dang, it’s a good story.  In terms of a scene, I was never quite sure in any public gathering at what point my Dad would break into a rousing chorus of “We are Family” and start doing his mummers 2 step dance up a sidewalk.  You are left with a choice to be humiliated, or join in.  If you’re a Marshall, typically the rythymn gets you and you join in and only wonder later why others think you’re odd. 

With all the extroversion, Marshalls by nature are fun.  They know how to throw a party and tell tall tales.  There will be a lot of talking . . A LOT of talking, the clan never shuts up.  They know it all, they have a story to tell and a punchline to give.  In general, don’t give them a microphone, they like the spotlight and may not relinquish it.  The jokes are bad but they are given in genersosity of spirit.  Humor is like air they breathe, making others laugh is a building block of life.  Generally, even if their opinions are at times over-the-top, Marshalls are fun to be around and others will gather around. 

Whether right or wrong, Marshalls take their faith very seriously.  They pursue their spiritual longings with a ferocity that is at times unsettling to the systems of religion that claim the same pursuit.  They have a long history of trouble-making when it comes to the things of church on earth.  Perhaps at times a family pride, and at others times a prophetic and apostolic call to the truth of a Kingdom that has come.  We are all perhaps a mix of both.  But what I highly value is the intensity of the pursuit that is genuine and all consuming. 

No family lineage or make-up is perfect, sometimes all we have is the purity of our heart’s pursuit and let the results come what may.  Over the years, I’ve tempered and harnessed some of my ‘Marshall’ ways.  I strive to listen to others viewpoints (listen in general), be less brash in communicating my convictions and be more respectful of institutions and systems of religion.  At the same time, I am not afraid to be the agitator or trouble-maker in the room if that’s what’s called  for and under God I have to trust my instincts on that.  Leading against the flow is in my nature, I am ‘Marshall’. 

40 to 40 pt. 1: A Philadelphia Story

So in 40 days, I will be turning 40.  I am hoping to write 40 blog posts of formative people/events/places along my journey that helped get me to this milestone of sorts in my life.  I’m supposing this may be therapeutic for me and perhaps entertaining for others.  I’m not fearful of turning 40, I’m somewhat thankful. 

Firstly, I’m reflecting on my roots and my beginnings come from the city of ‘brotherly love’:  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Born in Frankford Hospital on the northeast side of Philly, I’m told after my early morning birth during a snowstorm that my Mom immediately ordered a cheesesteak, that’s what Philly is all about right there.  By the way, for the record, Tony Luc’s is my favorite Philly cheesesteak.  After that, anything mafia-owned has the best food, whether it be cheesesteaks or a good slice of pizza pie. 

I have this poster pictured above in my home office to remind me of my roots.  I’ve lived in the midwest now since 1987, but there’s a part of me that will always be Philly.  And yes, I believe Rocky was real, not just a movie.  If you think otherwise, you’re entitled to your wrong opinion.  One of my favorite books as a kid was a photo picture book of the story of Rocky II, I read it daily and got jacked up everytime Adrian came out of her coma, turned to Rocky and said:  “there’s one thing I want you to do for me, Rocky . . . win . . WIN!”  And then after the gongs, Mickey steps in, “Well, what are we waitin’ for?”  I think that somehow through the Rocky story and narrative I learned a couple things about life that have served me well.

First, I learned that life is largely about managing conflicts.  Fighting is a bit of a metaphor for life.  It’s really hard, you will get knocked down, it’s painful, there will be opposition, there will be times when it seems that everyone is against you.  That you find yourself in a fight, is a given, the only question is how you will deal with it.  Do you stay down or do you make a choice down deep within you to get up?  Do you have the heart and the guts to stand when no one else is standing with you?  When you get punched by life, is there any life in you that determines a way to punch back?  Do you have a stubborn voice buried deep within that says lying down is not an option, not getting up is not an option, giving up is not an option.  When you get bullied, do you measure your response?  Do you have the pride, character and resolve to compete in the fights of life?  One of my childhood memories was falling asleep with my finger in a bullet hole that was over my bed in our double-wide trailer in Levittown that we lived in that was caused by a stray .22 shotgun of a neighbor.  It didn’t harm us, but I would literally fall asleep with my finger in the hole perhaps ingraining in me that life would be a fight.  Growing up in Philly, this was a reality.

Seondly, I learned that fights aren’t won on fight night.  They are won in the cold morning dusk when you decide to get up because your heart won’t let you lie down any longer.  Training and hard work is a blue-collar value that I learned at a young age is a given in life if you want to accomplish anything.  Nothing that is worth having is given to you, if you believe in it, you work harder than anyone else towards your goal.  Achievement of goals as well is not always about hard work, there are many other factors, but hard work says you gave it everything you had, you left your heart out there.  Giving something everything you got is a ‘win’ in an of itself, hard work is it’s own reward.  In a world strife with entitlements, I pray we remember the value and reward of hard work, there are no shortcuts. 

So I’ve long left Philly, but Philly has not long left me.  I am often far more intense than my reserved midwestern coworker/neighbors, my passions are on my sleeves though I think father-wisdom has taught me to channel them towards productivity rather than a raging river or emotion.  As well though, I’ve embraced this, it’s part of who I am.  If I can’t live life out loud, I’m not really present in it.  Passion, heart and stubborn determination are things I hope to pass on to my kids, being reserved just doesn’t work for me.  So to the city of brother love, I thank you, you remain a part of who I am. 

I leave you with the beautiful romantic poetry of Rocky Balboa on the day he proposed to Adrian:

“Cuz you’s gots gaps, and’s I’s gots gaps . . . but together, we ain’t gots no gaps.” 

(sniff, sniff, it’s like Shakespeare)