meet joan, mod girl of the month

I am starting a fun new series where I will highlight a new Mod Girl every Sunday evening. She holds the mod girl credo close to her heart and is a pioneering woman that leads her life with individuality and spunk (!) all her own. I'd love to follow up with these women in my podcast series coming this fall, Modcast. We'll see how this goes. This Sunday I am honoring my paternal grandmother, Joan Hanna Williamson (whom I named Nina at the age of three, and she is still lovingly known as Nina to me and my family to this day).

Joan in Frankfurt, Germany 

If I had to pick four words to describe my grandmother they would be: vivacious, thoughtful, elegant and silly. Nina was born and raised in Norwalk, Connecticut. Her mother was a tiny little woman from the French-speaking town of Biddeford, Maine. She was full of life and she spoke very little English. Nina met my grandfather, Craig (she calls him "Bud") at Norwalk High School in Connecticut when she was 15 and she was married to him by the time she was 17. They are 84 and 85 respectively and still married, happy, and healthy living in Florida. 

Nina has a beautiful voice and sings constantly. She used to be in community theater groups in the small Connecticut towns where she lived and raised her family: Cheshire, Dolphin's Cove and later, Bethesda, Maryland where my brother and I were raised by her and my grandfather (along with my parents) from the time I was born until I was five-years-old. 

Life is often not about what we do but how we live it, and Nina is the epitome of a life well lived and accomplished treating people with kindness. In 1944, Nina was 14 years old and she lost her mother, two days after her 43rd birthday. Her brother passed away in 1960. Both were tragic accidents.

Nina lives her life with humility and empathy for other people. She always made lunch and gave an extra tip to the painter, the mailman, the housekeeper. She has developed deep relationships with neighbors and friends and was always someone people knew they could count on. She makes up songs focusing on the uniqueness of her children and grandchildren (Michael with his ball of yarn; Matt and his baseball bat; Lindsay's song "Here Comes Little Gingersnap").

She used to stay up past midnight baking delicious chocolate cakes and brownies for our birthdays (and just because) watching old movies on the black and white kitchen t.v.; tickled our backs as we sat on the porch in the thick Maryland summer humidity listening to the peepers (frogs); worked hard in the yard to plant beautiful geraniums; helped my grandfather run his business; and she still writes beautiful letters and notes to friends and family despite her near blindness due to Macular Degeneration. Every night she retreated to her office to type up her tasks for the next day. I still remember the "click click click" of the typewriter. We would run around the neighborhood ringing neighbors' doorbells and running away and she has a very silly sense of humor that to this day leaves us in tears during our phone chats. 

My grandmother has taught me the importance of not taking life and myself too seriously, being kind, working hard and loving life. She is big motivation behind Mod Girl Coach.