(I decided to write this post in response to the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest, and Kristen Lamb’s post about her thighs.  It is too late to enter the Blogfest, but I was inspired never-the-less.)

I heard these words spoken by my maternal Grandmother almost daily when I was young.  I didn’t know their meaning, I felt it.  My Sicilian Grandmother was telling me I was beautiful.  I saw it in her eyes and felt it in her gentle caress of my cheek and tilt of my chin as she kissed me, and said, “Ca Bella.”  That was my first inkling that I mattered in this world, that I was beautiful and loved, and I have carried that all of my 48 years.  This deep understanding has determines my walk, my posture, my speech, my demeanor, my actions, and my passing on of that knowledge of self to my sons, occasionally my husband and all souls I greet who are also beautiful.

Just to clear things up before you click that little red “x” in the corner and say to yourself, “This lady is so arrogant and full of herself the entire internet couldn’t hold up her head!”, I will tell you now that I am completely confident my features, body, talent and answer to that all important last question will never win me the Mrs. America Pageant.  Do you really think I’m only talking about physical beauty?  Think again…

I verbally and vehemently refuse to dye my gray hair – I’ve earned every one of them, I’m certainly NOT a maintenance-type person and I think it’s too uncool for my kids at school to see me walking around skunk-like in between dye-jobs.

The wrinkles on my face show the road I have traveled and the tracks the living of my life has left, I would no more smooth them out as I would unlive my life.

My hands also show the work I have done, both physical – having glovelessly  saddled many a horse, driven many a tractor and cleaned many a dish – and mental from fingers with short fingernails and jagged cuticles pounding out blogs, books and poems on the keyboard.

Of course, my grandmother (for whom I was named) was biased, and if you think it was easy for her to say, “How Beautiful” when looking at me, just take a gander at this 5th Grade picture…

Yes, the woman was a saint!  She did not live past my 16th birthday, and I would not model my life after her life, but I carry with me and have modeled my life after her words, love and strength.

Just look into my eyes…go ahead, they’re right up there in the first picture accompanying this blog post…and tell me what you see.  There were no touch-ups to the photo – only brightening of the light and deepening of the shadows – and no photographer can claim copyrights unless my Mac suddenly becomes self-aware (is Apple working on this?), so what you see is what you get – interpret as you will.

I was given much as a child, and, unfortunately, much was taken away from me at an early age.  Every experience has built on the other, and allowed me to build a life that has led me right here.  I can only hope that I pass on the beauty and love I was given to all I meet, especially my own sons, and all the women in my life.

How do I do that?  I don’t say, “Ca Bella” every time I see or touch them – boys just don’t respond to “You are Beautiful” like girls, and saying that to an adult woman would just be weird.  I do say, “L’amo, mi amore’,” to my boys, because none of their friends know what it means, but my boys hear it and feel it – “I Love You, My Love,”  and praise them for the choices that will lead them to becoming strong, loving young men.  I also pay attention to the lives of my girlfriends, support who and what they love and show them that I value their wisdom when they honor me with it.

That, to me, is Beauty…That, to me, is Love!  How do you show those around you that they – by, with, and through you – are beautiful and loved?  Please share, on this of all days!

~Mary Kathryn Johnson 2012
Author ~ Entrepreneur ~ Mom