Transparency Is Attractive – Brenda, 63

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Brenda L Hood is a woman of varied interests. From singer, to gardener, to equestrian; she keeps busy and committed to growing and trying new things. Brenda still finds time to help others through a time in life that can be traumatic, lonely, and riddled with anxiety and guilt – divorce. She and her husband lead a DivorceCare group.

Even though Brenda is busy working to get her book published, she took time out to participate in my ‘Share Your Story; the Women the WSJ Missed’. I am happy to share Brenda with you on this beautiful, cold January Sunday.

KUELLIFE: What are you pursuing now, at this stage of your life, that surprises you or might appear to others as if it comes out of left field?

BRENDA: I’m involved with a growing DivorceCare group in our area. My husband and I have been leading this for a year and a half, and it’s been a great experience. We get to watch people go from broken and wounded to healing and more confident and eager to move on with life. And, we get to turn our own “mess” from the past into a healing message for the future.

KUELLIFE: What’s a typical day like for you?

BRENDA: I make some green tea and do barn chores first thing (I own a horse). Then I usually attack the plant beds and try to keep up with the gardening and mowing, including several miles of riding trails. I’m the family errand runner, so I keep the household caught up, pay the bills, stock the pantry, and usually try to go out to lunch with a good friend when I can. I play guitar and sing regularly with my younger son at malls and assisted living facilities, and I sing at church. On Tuesdays I write or send out more queries to literary agents, and on Thursdays I babysit my baby granddaughter. My days are busy and varied; I have many things I enjoy doing.

KUELLIFE: With what do you struggle?

BRENDA: Getting older. I keep forgetting I can’t do everything I used to do (or at least I have to do it a bit slower). Also dealing with seasonal affective disorder in winter and putting up with asthma after every dad-burned viral cold.

KUELLIFE: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?

BRENDA: Reading. Writing. Praying. Singing and playing guitar. Hanging out with encouraging people. Being outside as much as I can – sunshine and nature are good medicine and motivators!

KUELLIFE: What advice would you give fellow women about aging?

BRENDA: Keep trying new things. Listen to your body, but don’t let your age determine what you do or don’t do. Don’t maintain relationships with toxic people, you’re worth more than that. Don’t try to change others, that’s not your job – just work on yourself. And, don’t worry about gray hair – it’s fashionable these days.

KUELLIFE: What does vulnerability mean to you? What has the ability to make you vulnerable?

BRENDA: Vulnerability is being transparent, real, humble, and not constructing a veneer. It takes courage, but, frankly, everyone has done stupid things, made bad decisions, or said stupid stuff, so why do we pretend? I’ve found that transparency is attractive, because people are grateful to know they’re not the only ones with issues. It’s catching – if someone else is vulnerable, it makes me relax and be myself. If I tell my own story with courage and humility, other people relax and tell theirs. I also think aging, itself, is an organic cure for striving for perfection and the need to present ourselves in some kind of flawless package. When we’re comfortable in our own skin, we can be vulnerable with others.

KUELLIFE: What are three events that helped to shape your life?

BRENDA: Having my children (two boys), my divorce, and meeting my second husband

KUELLIFE: Who influenced you the most in life and why?

BRENDA: The young pastor and his wife, Jim and Linda, at the church I attended as a teenager. They were loving and accepting of who I was, warts and all. They were always glad to see me. They maybe had no idea how important those simple things were and what a difference they made to me. I believe they helped steer me toward a good direction in life – college and a desire to do something significant with my life and make a difference – rather than a path that could have led to self-destruction and bitterness because of the family I grew up in. They also introduced me to the idea of forgiveness and how much it can heal.

KUELLIFE: What is the best advice you’ve been given from another woman?

BRENDA: Stop striving. Relax and know God loves you, truly and completely, no matter what. Bask in that knowledge and let everything you do flow from it.

KUELLIFE: What woman inspires you and why?

BRENDA: Many women have inspired me throughout my life, especially those who are capable and strong and compassionate. Right now I’d have to say I’m inspired by my daughter-in-law (as well as my son, but this article is about women). My daughter-in-law works full-time and has dealt with three children with health problems, two of them quite severe. My oldest granddaughter’s heart stopped twice as a newborn. She had open heart surgery at less than two weeks old to correct coarctation of her aorta and a hole between her ventricles, and although she’s doing well now, she may face more surgery in her future because of stenotic valves and scar tissue. My grandson was born with a serious genetic skin disorder called Netherton’s Syndrome, which makes his skin very thin and prone to peeling off quickly. He deals with extreme allergies, skin infections, some developmental delays and hearing loss and has to take at least two baths a day. My youngest granddaughter is a Netherton’s carrier and struggles with eczema.

We’re talking about zillions of doctor appointments, hospitalizations, and high-maintenance home care. My daughter-in-law has weathered all this, not perfectly, but consistently and as fearlessly as a mom can do it. She remains upbeat, and her faith is unshaken, even as she faces possibly an uncertain future for her children. She is a trooper and an inspiration to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.

KUELLIFE: Are you grown-up?

BRENDA: Only in knowing that it’s okay to approach life like a child. I think I’m grown up in wisdom and humility, but not in what I think the “rules” are for people my age.

KUELLIFE: What do you do for self-care?

BRENDA: I horseback ride, muck stalls, and haul around bales of hay. I hike with my husband, drink green tea, read good books and travel. I pray whenever I think of it, wherever I am, even in the canned food aisle at Kroger. I drink a glass of wine every day, margaritas sometimes on weekends. Every February we go to Aruba to escape winter for two weeks. I find ways to celebrate life, and I try hard to be thankful and forgiving – two attitudes we have total control over and which have an incredible impact on health.

KUELLIFE: And last but definitely NOT least: What are the top three things on your bucket list?

BRENDA: Getting published, seeing the Egyptian pyramids (may never happen, things are dangerous over there), and touring the Holy Land.