October 2013

Women Through the Ages

Author: Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne

When my mother turned 40, we threw her a huge party and had a custom cake with the inscription: “40 Isn’t Old If You’re a Tree.” We thought it was a riot. She was less than amused. Twenty-three years later, I finally figured out why. Forty blindsided me, and I wasn’t prepared. It was as if the minute the clock struck 11:03 a.m., my official time of birth, my body and mind were reeling.

Where did these grey hairs come from? I will never run a sub-10 minute mile again? Get me the ice pack. Get me the heating pad. My feet hurt in heels. What did you say? Where are my keys? I can’t see the television. And then, the important stuff. I need to save 10 times more money to retire at 55 (my dream)? Am I really going to be okay not ever having kids? Um, at what age do I need a colonoscopy? Do I look 40? Do I have to act 40?

The questions have come barreling at me at breakneck speed. I lie awake at night thinking about how far I’ve come and how much further I want to go. I don’t know if the moments don’t come until you hit 40 or if turning 40 prompts the thought process, which then elicits the moments. And, that is how I got the idea for this story. I was blow drying (my still natural but soon to be dyed) hair one morning, thinking about my seven-year-old niece Erin and her passion for dance, and I wondered if dancing will still be important to her when she is 40.

How do our hopes, dreams, priorities, and values, change over the years? I’ve asked seven women, ages seven to 67 just that. Their answers are eye-opening, entertaining, and offer plenty to ponder.


Erin McMahon
Age: 7
Hometown:
Bluffton, S.C.
She’s sugar, spice, and everything nice. A first-generation Southerner, Erin has the sass of her Jersey roots, with the calming influence of her Southern upbringing. All smiles (a smile that currently includes braces), she’s always in motion, dancing at the beach, dancing in the living room, dancing in the backyard, dancing on stage with her competition dance company. Full disclosure: Erin is my niece and the inspiration for this story.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
I do something different every day. I think. A lot of times I go into my mom and dad’s room and play with our dog Roxie.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
Across the ocean somewhere.

What is your greatest strength?
I write fast.

If you could invite any three people (dead or alive) to dinner, who would they be?
My friends Lucy Shell and Sophie Sweatman. And Gigi [Erin’s great grandmother].

Where would you eat?
Outback.

What do you value most?
My family. My whole family.

When you are sad, what do you do?
Tell someone.

What do you need to be happy?
For everyone I love not to die for a lifetime.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
When I am a teenager, I want to work at a store like Publix, and be the checker. When I am bigger, I want to be a teacher.

What is your greatest achievement?
My first place dance medal. It’s huge.

Who (or what) do you think about often?
Fire ants. (After a very scary episode, Erin recently learned she is allergic to fire ants. She currently dons pink sparkly high top sneakers every day and avoids grass.)

What do you think you’ll be like in 20 years?
Well, my face will look different. I probably won’t have braces. And my legs will be longer.


Anna Caroline Cribb
Age: 15
Hometown:
Florence, S.C.
A Bluffton High School sophomore, Anna is a varsity cheerleader, a big sister, and a flourishing musician who loves to play guitar and piano. A typical teenager in most aspects, until you meet her Dad, Bluffton High School football coach Ken Cribb. Turns out, the boys in school are a little intimated by her dad, she tells me with a little grin. Her mom is grinning as Anna shares this tidbit. Alas, shouldn’t all boys be afraid of a girl’s dad?

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Have my devotional time for prayer.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
Hawaii, to experience the beautiful beaches, terrain and island culture.

What is your greatest strength?
I feel like my strong assets are cheerleading and my ability to work well with children.

If you could invite any three people (dead or alive) to dinner, who would they be?
The first would be Princess Diana. I have admired her ability to help, love, and work with people all around the world since learning about her in a research/ wax museum project I did in middle school. The second person would be Bethany Hamilton for her extraordinary strength and courage to overcome the obstacles that she faced as a teenager and still follow her dream. The third is Hunter Hayes. I had the opportunity to see him in concert with Carrie Underwood, and I admire his incredible talent both instrumentally and vocally, especially since I play the guitar and piano and I know how much time and effort goes into practicing and perfecting each piece.

What do you value most?
I value my faith, family, and friends most in life.

When you are sad what do you do?
I like to sit out on my balcony and play my guitar.

What do you need?
The love and support of my family and friends.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I would really like to be a physical therapist, because I would like to help others get their quality of life back after an accident or surgery.

What is your greatest achievement?
Making the 2013 Bluffton Bobcat varsity cheerleading team.

Who do you think about often?
My cousin Joseph Greenwood who is a heart transplant survivor of six years; he is a true warrior.

What do you think you’ll be like in 20 years?
I believe that I will have a successful career and be surrounded by my family and friends.


Kelly Ball
Age: 28
Hometown:
Valparaiso, Ind.
A woman on a mission, Kelly graduated high school on a Friday and started college the following Monday. With a goal to become a court reporter, Kelly finished college in three years. Again, she graduated on a Thursday, packed up, headed to Bluffton (where her parents had moved a few years earlier) and was working in a Beaufort County courtroom on Monday. She’s a fantasy football fanatic and an avid Crossfitter who can deadline 295 pounds (which means she could deadlift pretty much every person reading this right now).

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Check my phone mostly to see if I have any e-mails from work or calls from family. And sometimes to curse the alarm on my phone, of course.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
Australia. I’d love to go backpacking there, and I’m a sucker for their accents.

What is your greatest strength? When do you use it?
I believe my greatest strength is the ability to always stay positive. Even when things get bad, I’m always thinking best case scenario. I don’t let things ruin my day or ruin my mood. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have my bad days, but I do my best to focus on the good. I use this attitude daily; be it at work, at the gym or at home.

If you could invite any three people (dead or alive) to dinner, who would they be?
The first person I would invite would be my grandmother Bernice. I never got a chance to meet her as she passed away before I was born, but I would love to get to know her and see what she was like. The second person would be my childhood friend Karin. We were very close growing up and became distant after high school. Once I moved, I didn’t have much contact with her except for the every now and then Facebook contact. She passed away earlier this year, very unexpectedly, and I wish I could sit down with her and tell her how much I loved her and how much she meant to me. The third person would be my grandfather Gypsy (yes, that’s his real name). He passed away when I was a kid. I have very fond memories of him and wish I could spend some more time with him.

What do you value most?
Love. All the love that I feel for my family and friends, those closest to me, that’s what I value the most.

When you are sad, what do you do?
Well, here’s an embarrassing fact. When I’m sad, I have certain songs that I play on my iPod that are an instant pick-me-up. I go for a drive and jam to them in my car while I’m singing, horribly I might add, and I immediately feel better.

What do you need?
Support. The biggest thing I need and want from family and friends is their support. Knowing they’d have my back just like I have theirs.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Oh, goodness, throughout the years what didn’t I want to be? I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher at one point in time. Besides the meltdowns that I’m sure they deal with, I’m sure it would be a lot of fun.

What is your greatest achievement?
I would say my greatest achievement would be being exactly where I want to be in life right now. I have everything I ever wanted and more: great job, great family, newly engaged, amazing friends, lovely home and neighborhood. It may not be an achievement in some eyes, but I’m completely fulfilled right now and couldn’t be happier.

Who do you think about often?
My friend Brian. He’s in Afghanistan working fire services. I think about him a lot and hope he’s safe.

Best advice for someone a decade younger than you?
Don’t stress about the little things. Focus on your future. Go to school, work hard, and don’t forget to be happy! Enjoy the ride! Every year, it gets better and better, but it sure ain’t easy.


Christine Wrobel
Age: 34
Hometown: Sunbury, Pa.
She’s a marketer, a mom, a wife, a runner, and currently taste-testing her way through the Paleo Diet. Christine made the Lowcountry home nine years ago when she and her hubby both accepted positions at the then new Inn at Palmetto Bluff. Since then, she’s become an active participant in her community yet still relishes those opportunities to head back home to North Carolina to her mom, stepdad, and sister for quality family time.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Brush my teeth and get dressed for Crossfit.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
The Galapagos Islands. I have been fascinated with them since I was a kid; there are more species of animals there than any other place on earth.

What is your greatest strength? When do you use it?
Problem solving. I can think quickly and creatively under pressure and get things done. I use it pretty much every day from small things like, we have four odd ingredients and I need to make dinner to creative challenges at work. I think that’s why I’m good at my job.

If you could invite any three people (dead or alive) to dinner, who would they be?
My dad, my mom, and my sister. My dad died in the military when I was 13 and my sister was just six. My family always had dinner together when my dad was home. These experiences and loss shaped my values dramatically; it is why I am who I am as a friend, wife and mother. To have my family together again for dinner one more time and for my dad to see my sister and me as adults would be the most incredible dining experience I could imagine.

What do you value most?
My family.

When you are sad, what do you do?
I run or go really kick ass on a WOD (Crossfit Workout of the Day).

What do you need?
Joy. When I feel a little “off” it’s because I’m not focusing on the people or aspects of my life that give me joy.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A veterinarian. I have always loved animals. And a nun (for a brief period of time). I went to Catholic school; I didn’t understand all the implications at the time.

What is your greatest achievement?
Running a marathon. I set the goal when I was 16 and actually did it when I was 32.

Who do you think about often?
My daughter. It’s like when you first fall in love. I think about her all the time and can’t wait to see her again when we’re apart.

Best advice for someone a decade younger than you?
Live and be a little reckless. Don’t turn down any invitation to a party, concert or social event. Take advantage of the moment, and if something ridiculous or embarrassing happens in the process, just know that it will be absolutely hilarious 10 years later.


Claudia Silva
Age: 45
Hometown: Sao Jose dos Campos, Sao Paulo, Brazil
It was her husband’s job that landed Claudia in Bluffton 16 years ago. A master multi-tasker, Claudia balances children (three 20-somethings), being a part-time college student, and her full-time position as data specialist at Bluffton Elementary School. There, she is responsible for every piece of data that the school compiles: registration, grades, state test scores. You name it, she is tracking it. With little “down time,” we were all tickled when she left this photo shoot saying she was going to call her hubby for a date. She knew she was looking hot, and, we concurred.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Take a shower.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
Fiji.

What is your greatest strength? When do you use it?
My faith, in my moments of “darkness.”

If you could invite any three people (dead or alive) to dinner, who would they be?
Jesus. How amazing it would be to speak with someone loved/adored by so many people for over 2000 years. He is also my savior and my rock. My grandmother. I never told her that I loved her, and I have some regrets. I would like to apologize. My grandfather. I heard he was an amazing man, he died when I was one, so I would like to speak with him.

What do you value most?
My faith and my family.

When you are sad, what do you do?
Pray and cry.

What do you need?
I need peace.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A doctor.

What is your greatest achievement?
To keep my family together and to learn to trust in God.

Who do you think about often?
My sons.

Best advice for someone a decade younger than you?
Bring God to your life, to your family. Be faithful to him, and just trust in him. I wished I would have brought God to my life when my kids were little.


Judy Lowry
Age: 50
Hometown: Pittsburg, Pa.
After visiting Hilton Head Island on vacation, Judy and her hubby began conspiring to make the Lowcountry their home. It didn’t make sense to wait until retirement to enjoy it, so they crafted a plan to get here as soon as they could. Good thing—not a fan of idle time, what would she do in retirement? Judy loves food, loves entertaining, and smartly surrounds herself every day with all the tools of the trade. She balances her work at Harry & David (a mecca for foodies and hostesses) with golf, a little shopping and fully embracing living in “vacationland.”

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
The first thing that I do when I wake up is keep my eyes closed and try to keep sleeping. When that doesn’t work, I think of what day it is today, what is going on in my life today, and say my prayers before actually getting out of bed.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
I don’t know why, but I have always wanted to see Mt. Rushmore. It must have come from watching North by Northwest many times. I would also love to go to wine country on the West Coast.

What is your greatest strength? When do you use it?
My greatest strength would be my organizational skills. I am a list person—whether it is a grocery list, a guest list or menu for an upcoming party that I am hosting, a list of things to do at work, or a list of things to accomplish on my day off. I try not to forget things, and I am disappointed if I do.

If you could invite any three people (dead or alive) to dinner, who would they be?
This was a tough question. The people that I chose would be Ty Burrell from the show Modern Family (which I love.) He seems like a really nice and funny guy, and he is also a Penn Stater, so I know I would like him. Next would be Andrew LLoyd Webber. I absolutely love all of his music and think he is a true genius. Next would probably be Woody Allen. I think that would be a scream.

What do you value?
I value my marriage above anything else in the world.

When you are sad, what do you do?
I cry. A lot! I will try to think about the problem or whatever is making me sad and put it into some kind of logical perspective, but that does not always work. Anyway, there is usually crying involved.

What do you need?
I need quiet, evening time on the porch with my husband and three kitties.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up, I never had a clear vision of what I wanted to be. I have been fortunate to succeed in various fields throughout my adult life. I’ve always enjoyed my work gained useful knowledge in a number of areas.

What is your greatest achievement?
At 50, I have accomplished what I think many desire but few attain: a truly happy life. I have a wonderful marriage, I am close to my parents and siblings, I love my job and work with great people who care about each other, and I live in a beautiful place that I rarely want to leave.

Who do you think about often?
I guess there are two people that I think about often, aside from my family and close friends. They would be my friend John Eberle, who was killed in a car accident when I was a senior in college. He was a good friend and was liked by all of my family. Also my Uncle Nate who was a really neat guy. I wish my husband could have known him.

Best advice for someone a decade younger than you?
Get enough sleep. That is the secret to good health. Also to save some money for your future. You don’t really need 15 designer handbags.


Peggy Stewart
Age: 68, Oops, Senior Moment, I’m 67
Hometown: New London, Ohio
If this is what 68, I mean 67 looks like, I am looking forward to it. Peggy arrived in Bluffton three years ago. Born in a small town of just 2,500, she was raised on a farm and spread her wings, spending 27 years in Texas and time in Colorado and California before following her daughter to Bluffton. Here she is a full-time grandma, and spends time with her three grandchildren (ages 5 1/2, 3, and 1 1/2) almost every day. When she isn’t Grandma-in-Chief she is golfing (with my mom) and enjoying the water.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Make coffee.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
I love to travel, and would travel the world to experience different cultures and people. If I am limited to only one, I would go to Italy because I love the food and wine.

What is your greatest strength? When do you use it?
I am sensitive to friends and family needs and concerns. I try to be there for them when they need me.

If you could invite any three people (dead or alive) to dinner, who would they be?
My mom, because I miss her. Audrey Hepburn. I admired her when I was young. Not only was she talented, but she had beauty and grace. In her later years she was UNICEF Ambassador. Ina Garten. I have all her cookbooks and have tried many of her recipes; she had no formal culinary training. She had quite a career before she became a celebrity chef, so it would be fun to talk to her about food, her life and career.

What do you value most?
I value my family.

When you are sad, what do you do?
I cry and try to reason the problem out on my own.

What do you need?
I cannot think of anything that I need, although there are things I want.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a nurse.

What is your greatest achievement?
Raising an independent and thoughtful daughter.

Who do you think about often?
My family.

Best advice for someone a decade younger than you?
Be positive and find the best in things. Think young!

And with those two words, “think young” it really does come full circle. You are only as old as you want to be.

  1. I am a retired teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina and I proudly give you an “A” on this article, Courtney! I especially enjoyed Anna Caroline Cribb, my great, great niece! Thank you for starting my day in such a refreshing way!


    — Peggy Little Harris    Oct 11, 07:39 am   

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