01 1065313206827511 2596566957563000637 nMy earliest memory is of my mother taking my 2-year-old hands and physically showing me how to pick up the pretzels I had just poured out on the floor. The image is as clear in my mind as yesterday’s lunch. My mother guided my hands over the piles of pretzels, scooping up bits and pieces, as I resisted with a toddler’s fury.

There would be many more lessons for me about taking responsibility for my actions, and many more times when my mother would remind me that my actions have consequences. Some of the lessons would be about something as simple as cleaning up my own messes. Others would be life altering decisions that would affect not only me, but my family as well.

Through the early years, my mother guided me and shared her own experiences. As I grew older, ventured out on my own and started a family, my mother encouraged and supported my decisions but continued to hold me responsible for my choices. She reminded me often that my son was watching me, that my actions would influence him.

During my own upbringing it was an accepted truism that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to and was willing to sacrifice for. My sister and I were brought up to take care of ourselves, not to rely on a mate to complete us or support us financially. That ingrained independence has certainly brought me some trouble, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our mother and father never specified what was women’s work or what a man was supposed to do. They lived it. Both my parents cooked and cleaned. Both did laundry. My mom looked after us when dad was at work. My dad looked after us when mom was taking night classes.

From their examples, my sister and I felt comfortable following our own paths, making choices for ourselves. My sister became a special education teacher. I got a degree in journalism and joined the Army.

Although a recruiter told me “they don’t let girls in Special Forces” when I was 15, I went on to spend half my Army career serving in Special Operations units in the U.S. and overseas. I’ve been the only woman in the room when serious decisions were being made. I’ve felt the pressure of voicing my concerns when mine was the lone dissenting opinion. I’ve felt the relief of having my voice heard and respected. I’ve felt the pride that comes from a job well done. That pride is the result of hard work and accompanied by a refusal to accept mediocre efforts.

In the military, mediocre efforts are frowned upon, to say the least. Likewise, on the civilian side, it is hardly news that mediocre efforts rarely meet with real success, the lasting kind that inspires others. Starting with my own mother, I’ve been fortunate in my life to have several examples of women crushing mediocrity and living by example. These women do not accept the status quo, or let someone put them in a “woman’s place” in their education, home or work life. I feel blessed to have been able to help motivate a few young women and men to achieve their own goals by not settling.

Being the editor of Up & Coming Weekly, I’ve come across many stories of amazing women crushing stereotypes and refusing to allow mediocre standards to slide. These women push their own limits and inspire others, both men and women, to do the same. They accept nothing less than their own best effort to achieve their goals. We are honored to be able to showcase a few of these women in this week’s magazine.

So, grab a snack — maybe a bag of pretzels — and enjoy reading this issue of Up & Coming Weekly.

Pictured above: Many of our examples of women (and men) crushing mediocrity come from our own families.

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