Saturday, February 2, 2013

Celebrating a year of being a Mighty Woman

"Sue paddling her own canoe" Christmas ornament made by my artistic friend, Kirby

Today marks my one-year anniversary of being a Mighty Woman.

I can't believe it's been a year since I emailed a dragon boating coach in Portland (who turned out to be the amazing Jeanie Zinn!).

Unemployed and kind of lost, I was unsure of what would happen next. But I had just started a blog called "Paddling Her Own Canoe" to write about the adventures I planned to take. I emailed Jeanie, mentioned my blog and that I'd always wanted to try dragon boating. Could I come paddle with the team one time so that I could write about it?

How thankful I am that Jeanie said, "Yes! Can't wait to meet you!" or some other enthusiastic response characteristic of my beloved dragon boating coach.

None of my initial fears about paddling were realized. I haven't tipped over the boat, fallen in the water, dropped my paddle or drowned. Instead, I've had a year of adventures with the Mighty Women Paddling Club. I have the biceps to prove it--and I've shed 50 pounds.

We raced in five dragon boating festivals in the Pacific Northwest--and we've earned bling--dragon boat medals. In my living room I proudly display medals of all colors: one blue, two red, one white and one pink (for Row for the Cure).

During huli (safety) drills last summer, we purposely tipped over an outrigger canoe and then practiced righting the boat, bailing it out and climbing back in. We did it twice, and I would have done it more times if other dragon boat teams hadn't been waiting their turn. I thought it was more fun than Disneyland.

I've made great friends with these gutsy women who aren't afraid to try something new. With the Mighty Women I've had my first Karaoke experience, at a crowded bar in Portland. With a group of fellow paddlers, I belted out Aretha Franklin's "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." The old me never would have had the courage to do that.

The old me also wouldn't have had the courage to ride a zip line, try SUP (stand up paddle board), snowshoeing, contra dancing, swing dancing or dating again. I've done all of those in the past year, and am always looking for new adventures. When I mentioned to my mom that I'd gone to the roller derby, she thought I'd joined a roller derby team! Maybe I'd consider it, if I were 10 years younger.

Mostly, these women have helped me to learn something about myself: I'm stronger than I realize. When I'm dressed in my dragon boat gear and am carrying my paddle to practice through traffic in downtown Portland, I don't just walk. I strut with the confidence of a woman who has learned that I may not know what lies around the bend in the river, but I'm determined to enjoy the journey.

By the way, if you're a woman who yearns for adventure, come paddle with me and the Mighty Women. You'll be amazed how far you'll paddle and how it will change your perspective.

Paddle on!

Mighty Women paddling in 34 degree January day. I'm on the second bench, starboard side. I'm wearing the yellow rainjacket, green PFD (life jacket for you landlubbers) and blue hat. These strong women have become my dear friends.

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