The spotlight is on Sheilah in this sixth installment of my A Woman I Know series. My weekly link up post is published on Saturdays and, during every month, I cycle through four recurring themes, a different one designated for each week. On the occasion when there is a fifth Saturday in the month, I publish this special feature. You can get caught up on the past features about Amy, Joya, Cathy, Bernice, and Josephine by clicking on their names.
Sheilah is the long-time girlfriend/steady/companion (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) of my late father-in-law’s cousin, Jerry. Sheilah and Jerry have each been widowed for over 20 years and they’ve been together since meeting about 17 years ago. The first time that I met her must have been a few months after she and Jerry had started to date. Over the years I’ve admired Sheilah’s zest for life, her helpfulness, and her fashion sense.
Instead of sending Sheilah a set of questions to answer, she and I made plans to get together one evening recently so that I could interview her. We had such a good time chatting and sharing stories back and forth that if it hadn’t been a work night, she and I would have likely continued talking until the wee hours of the morning.
For context, I’ll tell you that Sheilah will be turning 75 in November but she’s the epitome of the phrase “years young” when referring to person’s age. She works out at her gym for one to two hours three times a week, enjoying both aerobic type group classes and strength training. She walks on off days and has recently decided to start training for a 1/2 marathon that she’ll run in April. During our chatting, I found out that Sheilah loves to dance and she’s quite excited about joining me in an upcoming class at the studio where I tap dance.
Sheilah also told me that exercising helps to take away her pain, both literally and figuratively. She finds being active exciting, thrilling, and challenging and loves how it makes her feel alive and empowered. Keeping herself in good health is another motivating factor for her to stay active because she enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren.
Amongst all of her passions, there are two organizations that are near and dear to her heart. The first one is Connecting To Cure Crohn’s & Colitis and the other is The Painted Turtle, which provides a camp experience for children with chronic illness. Besides her involvement in fundraising, Sheilah has also served as a volunteer camp counselor and her commitment to these causes is born out of her real-life experiences. One of Sheilah’s sons has been living with Crohn’s for 40 years ever since being diagnosed with it as a child. It was his involvement in these organizations and a desire to help others that spurred her interest to volunteer.
One of the questions I’d asked Sheilah was “what had she wanted to be when she grew up?”. Besides joking that she hadn’t grown up yet, she said that she didn’t really have a specific plan but she now knows that she’s a people person. When she looks back on the times when she’s been the happiest, it’s been when she is working with people and helping them.
I’ve already mentioned that Sheilah is a widow. Her husband’s death was very unexpected and had occurred the day before the 6.7 Northridge earthquake in 1994. The epicenter of this earthquake was about 6 miles from her home (mine too but in the opposite direction). Suddenly, Sheilah found herself not only grieving the loss of her husband but also having to deal with the challenges of getting her home repaired. Life became lonely and empty for her and with the loss of her husband’s income, Sheilah was gripped with fear of losing her home until she finally put pencil to paper and took stock of her situation.
Her re-entry into dating just kind of happened. Sheilah had been too busy with the repairs to her house, working at three jobs, and looking after the health issues of two of her children to even think about meeting someone. About a year after the tragedy, she was at a bar mitzvah and a man she didn’t know asked her to dance. At the end of the evening, he asked for her phone number and they started to see each other.
Jerry came into her life a few years later when she was planning a kitchen remodel and asked the cabinet guy for a referral of a past job he had done so that she could evaluate his work. The referral was Jerry who conveniently lived down the street from her. Initially, Sheilah only thought of Jerry as a helpful neighbor but eventually, they grew to know each other better. They still maintain separate homes, each enjoying the freedom that allows in making their own decisions about the appearance of their respective abodes.
Quite the world traveler, Sheilah enjoys looking for adventures that will challenge her and not surprisingly, she says that she likes to try new things. Some of her favorite trips included touring an old Jewish town in Morroco, digging for artifacts in Israel, cave climbing, and an air balloon ride in Egypt. On her wish list is to visit an animal sanctuary in South Africa and a trip to Poland to see the concentration camps.
Sheilah believes that travel makes you more understanding about people. By learning about other cultures, she feels that she has gained valuable insight into their customs and has learned that being different isn’t a bad thing. When meeting new people, Sheilah told me that she tries to find a way to connect with a person’s soul and that she’s found that kindness goes a long way in building those connections.
When the topic under discussion turned to fashion, I asked Sheilah to describe her style. The first thing she said was “I hate old lady clothes and shoes”. She likes younger looking styles and because she is of petite stature, she can even find clothing options in the children’s departments. Sheilah is however mindful about camouflaging areas that she has deemed to be problematic. She is a diehard in-store shopper, no online purchasing for her and she is crazy about thrifting. I think I’ve found a new shopping buddy.
As our conversation was winding down, I asked Sheilah about the lessons that her life experiences have taught her. In our chatting, we had touched on a number of topics that I’ve not shared in this post but we both agreed that nobody is without some loss or tragedy in their life. Sheilah told me that she’s learned that “this too shall pass” and that “time marches on even if you think that you’re not ready for it” are unavoidable truths. She also told me “always smile and keep laughing … fake it if necessary”.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Now, onto the Fine-Whatever link up for this week. My featured contributor from last week’s link up is Nancy from the blog Nancy’s Fashion Style. Her post has rekindled my desire for a pair of leather leggings (faux or otherwise). And how brilliant of Nancy to recyle a “not quite right for her” tee into corset like bandeau that she has worn on top of a white tunic.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction to a truly fabulous woman. December is the next month with a fifth Saturday and I already have another awesome woman in the queue to introduce to you. However, I’m still mapping out my A Woman I Know posts for 2018 so be warned my thus far untapped friends and family, I may soon be calling to ask you for a favor. Please consider saying yes.
Let’s connect! Subscribe, tweet, follow, friend, love, pin … all options are available and waiting for you. I look forward to hearing from you. And don’t forget to add a post or two to the link up.