Strength Lesson: Create a Vision

Strength Lesson: Create a Vision

For my first “Tough Girl” interview I talked with my mom, Terry Diane. My original tough girl. Mom can drive me crazy like no other and I know I have the same effect back at her. But we are connected with a fierce intensity as well. I’m a mama’s girl for better or worse. She grew up in California, the oldest of five kids—two gingers, three brunettes. Daughter of a pastor in a conservative evangelical religion; they never stayed in one place for long. My grandfather was a church planter and congregation grower. A charismatic, handsome man I’m told and pictures confirm the latter. His absence in my life is a permanent thing – I have never met him even though he lives just one state to the South.


{Myself, sister Tia and Mom, Terry – three tough girls}

My mother’s story does not start out happy. My grandfather was good at building congregations, not families. His charisma was matched by his temper and my mom, aunt and uncles experienced things I don’t want to imagine (I CAN, I don’t want to. Big difference – stop saying you CAN’T imagine things, people).  Mom is not one for pity and never has been. She bears her scars from her youth more like a warrior than a victim—something I have always admired in her.


From an early age I can remember Mom’s strong hug and accompanying whispers that “this is the family I always wanted.”


We talked the other night about her strength. Isn’t it amazing how you can know your parents and still not really KNOW them? They are people with vulnerabilities and thoughts that we as their children forget even exist.


“I’m no expert at this,” she gives a disclaimer. But she is. “I started forming a vision in third grade. I knew I didn’t want my future family to be like what I was experiencing. As a pastor’s family we were in other people’s homes a lot and I could see how other families worked. I was pretty emotionally insightful and made a promise to myself to create a cohesive, loving family.”


My mom still is insightful. She’s also a tough woman who does not take flack off of anyone. That kind of audacity is not taught or learned. It is obvious that she was born with her moxy and she agrees.


“I do think you are born with levels of strength and mine was in my focus. My promise to myself kept me focused on my vision of my family. I knew I was going to have a great family and to do that, I was going to have to diverge away from my reality. I created this vision that was a promise to me. Not to my family or friends, not even to God. I made a promise with great determination.”


That she did. From an early age, Mom envisioned her future life and acted upon it with purpose. While she doesn’t share my view necessarily, it seems logical that this is why she ended up married to my dad at 18 years old—she wanted that family as soon as possible. My dad is the greatest and I love him dearly, but they are not well matched. My high school friends would always get a kick out of spending time with both parents in their respective homes. “How were they ever married?!” was often quipped with incredulity.


And it’s true, they are different. Which is why their divorce should not have been a surprise to 11-year-old Shannon. The perspective I honestly did not consider until my own nuptials were exchanged was how hard that must have been for Mom. As a woman whose vision was so squarely focused on family, she must have been crushed. Of course she was.


“That felt like a failure. Why would I get a divorce when my vision was for a family?”


And yes, I suppose that is the question. But remember, the vision isn’t just for a picture. Its for you. And as Mom learned, a family is not just married people with kids living in the same house. Divorce was hard, yes, but I think both of my parents will tell you it was for the best. They are both happier for it. And my siblings and I have recovered and gone on with our lives as we were meant to. Mom’s vision was not to be in a marriage without happiness. I don’t know the ins and outs of what their union was like, honestly, but I don’t recall anyone kissing or hugging the way my husband does in front of my eyeball-rolling kids.


Mom wanted that happiness, and a loving home was just as central to her vision as the idea of a family.


“There will be bumps in the road that at the time, seem like failures. You can’t let those bumps derail you from your vision. That is really the only failure.”


I’ve been in Facebook fitness accountability groups with women who were recently divorced and their feeling of failure is huge. Today my mom knows that wasn’t a failure. She champions happiness and knows that ultimately you can only get that from yourself – marriage is great, kids are your heart, but your vision for your life has to include a focus on what makes YOU happy. Your family may be divided or your children not quite what you expected. But you can still have a vision of your happiness. Picture it. Live every day for it. Make it happen.


Thanks for being a tough girl Mom. I love you so much.


Strength is in the vision of your life. What will yours be?


These interviews are a way for me to understand how the women in my life have endured, thrived and lived a life full of strength. I aim to gain some knowledge with each interview that can frame my own sense of strength – I hope you do too. If you know a tough girl I should interview, let me know at



Hi, I'm Shannon. I like to write about tough girls and tough things because I find strength to be an interesting and inspirational topic. My husband, Vic is my favorite person and my children, Emerson and Finley are right up there too. I am a disability mother and advocate. A woman-loving, lean-in type. And a fitness coach and cheerleader.

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