‘Designing a Life You Love’ topic for club

MEETING CANDIDS — Iris Craig, right, first vice president of the Wintersville Woman’s Club, introduced guest speaker Sherrie Dunlevy as the March meeting presenter. -- Janice Kiaski

WINTERSVILLE — Author, speaker and Aging Awesomely coach Sherrie Dunlevy was the guest presenter for the Wintersville Woman’s Club’s first gathering in months since COVID-19 concerns shut down the normal rhythm of groups meeting routinely.

And that seemed fitting, given the Wheeling woman’s program — “Designing A Life You Love” — was one she developed during the pandemic and had done virtually. For the club’s March meeting, however, it was her first time to deliver the message in person.

“The whole idea behind this is it doesn’t matter what age we are, it doesn’t matter what happened to us, our circumstances don’t matter — there’s only one person who is responsible for living a life that they love and that’s you,” she told the women attending the meeting held at St. Florian Event Center.

“No one else can make us happy. No one else can make the decisions that we can make, no one else can choose it,” she said, encouraging the group to rate, on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy they were physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

It’s OK not to have 10s all across the board, she assured.

“The thing I want you all to realize is that we’re never going to have all 10s all the time — that’s not how life goes. Life is up and down and up and down and up and down and even through this pandemic, when it seems like it really plummeted, there were a lot of blessings that came out of it, too,” she said of what’s the case for anything people go through in life.

In her case, the death of her 29-day-old son Brandon 22 years ago constituted one of the worst periods of her life.

But Dunlevy said she had to realize that that was not her life, but a chapter of it.

“And I got to choose how I wrote the next chapter, and was I going to choose to be Sherrie McCutcheon, the poor news lady who lost her son and can never be happy again. Or was I going to choose Sherrie Dunlevy, the mom who not only survived it, but worked through it, got to the other side and changed her entire life.

“I’m happy to say that it was the latter, but that was due to my choice because not everyone chooses that,” she said, noting she would resent when people would say she was strong. “What do you mean — I didn’t have a choice?” Dunlevy would think.

“I realized I did have a choice, because I have reported on mothers who have lost children. And one of those mothers was a mother that I met during the Shadyside floods. I waited with her while she was awaiting word of whether her daughter was rescued,” she said of a hoped-for rescue that would turn to a recovery operation instead.

Dunlevy would keep in touch with “Janet,” that mother, through flood anniversary reports in the ensuing years, and would sadly discover that she had taken her own life at the very spot where her daughter’s body had been recovered.

“When I lost Brandon, I thought, I can’t be Janet, and if I can’t be Janet, then who am I going to be? I can’t lose myself to this. I had to make a choice that I was going to survive, and that is what I want to let you know — we can always make a choice in our life to design a life we love,” said Dunlevy, who wrote a book titled “How Can I Help? Your Go-To Guide for Helping Loved Ones Through Life’s Difficulties.”

“That was a horrible chapter in my life, but it was one chapter in my life. It was a significant chapter in my life,” she said. “It was a chapter that changed everything moving forward in my life. And that’s what we can use to our advantage and to our growth. We’ve all heard of post traumatic stress — that’s when a hardship, a divorce, an addiction, a kidnapping, you witness a death — you’ve heard of how that can take ahold of us and it can suck us into this vortex and keep us there dead and dying forever,” she continued.

But post traumatic growth can happen, too, she said, citing how it’s something the club members can take away from the pandemic. Groups that didn’t know what Zoom was, for instance, learned about it and used it.

Looking at possibilities instead of focusing on problems becomes part of the toolbox to move forward to design a life that’s loved, according to Dunlevy.

It involves five decisions.

“The first one is, what do you want, and for me that was one of the hardest things. What do you want in life?” Dunlevy said, noting one way to figure that out is to acknowledge what you don’t want.

The second decision is what you’re willing to sacrifice for what you want. Diet changes for a healthier body? Other people’s opinions that you’re too old or plain crazy to follow a dream?

The third decision is “how you’ll show up for this life and such dreams,” she said. Are you open to change or are you closed to possibilities?

“I think if there’s one thing this pandemic has shown us is that tomorrow is promised to no one,” she said. “What in the world are we waiting for?”

The fourth decision is who is it we want to become and how do we want to be remembered, Dunlevy said. What are our values and what do we hold dear?

Are you living your life that way?

The fifth decision is why do you want it. Why are you waiting?

“I think this pandemic, if anything, has shown us, we have been deprived of our loved ones, hugs, connection and gatherings,” she said. “Some of us have really suffered great losses during his last year. Why do you want this — because you get to have it if you choose it,” she said.

“We only have this one life. Tomorrow is not promised to any one of us. What can bring you joy today? What can bring joy to others today? As women, we are so busy serving everybody else taking care of everybody else, we have put ourselves on the back burner,” she said, noting self-sacrifice is not helping anyone.

“We can journey together, we can help each other together, but it’s not our job to make someone else happy, or to make someone else financially responsible or to fulfill someone else. It’s not anybody else’s job to do that for us. We have to take that responsibility, and we can’t take that responsibility on the back burner,” she said.

Dunlevy told the club members it’s not selfish to take care of yourself. It’s a right and responsibility.

A new program Dunlevy said she started is “Graduating Grief,” the premise of which is not the grief part, but the life part — loving your life again after loss, be it from divorce, addiction, death or a job.

“We’re focused on the steps that we need to take to move forward in our life,” she said.

“We can love our lives because we deserve it. We deserve it, and it has to start with us.”

Dunlevy, accompanied by her mother, Sharon, was introduced by Iris Craig, first vice president, who provided spring and Easter-themed centerpieces that were part of a drawing, along with an Easter wreath. Craig also led in the Pledge of Allegiance and the club collect.

Pat Ketzell, president, presided for the meeting, welcoming the membership back to its first meeting since October. Robbie Young, recording secretary, read the October minutes while Joyce Palmer gave the financial report.

Numerous pieces of correspondence were shared by Aimee Jaros, corresponding secretary.

In community service program committee reports, Judy Ostrowsky, arts, explained 125 Valentine favors were done for residents of Country Club Manor and Sienna Woods with Easter favors planned as the next project. Blankets were donated to dialysis center patients in November, and Ostrowsky had blanket kits available for members to do.

Palmer, community service and outreach, reminded members that the Schiappa Branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County and the Wintersville Post Office are the two locations where flags needing to be properly disposed of can be taken. The club removes the stars from them and packages them to distribute to anyone desiring them. Toy soldiers also are available as a reminder to pray for those serving in the military. Other outreaches included collecting jelly beans for Urban Mission and bringing nonperishable items for families in need.

Ketzell suggested members bring nonperishable items to the monthly meetings, reminding them the “Feed Our Future” is the theme of state GFWC President Marjean Sizemore’s term.

Sizemore told members the Wintersville club’s membership entry has advanced from district and state level competition to selection as a creativity award entry at the GFWC international convention to be held in Atlanta. The club held a membership tea last year that involved gloves, hats and tea cups. “We had five guests that day and four joined,” she said of an event she described as “successful.”

In other business:

– Barbara Grimm was belatedly presented a certificate acknowledging her 30 years of membership in the Wintersville group.

– Southeast District President Marybeth Allan extended an invitation to members to participate in Legislation Day, which would be through a Zoom format on March 27.

– Ketzell reported that the club decided to have a drop-off collection instead of a December meeting, an effort that generated 56 coats for Urban Mission, more than 170 pairs of shoes for Soles for Souls and canned goods.

– Securing a date for the 2021 Holiday Splendor on the first Sunday in December will be pursued.

– Since the club has missed meetings because of COVID-19 protocol precautions, members agreed to hold meetings in June and July. Normally the club year ends with the May meeting.

The club’s next meeting is Thursday at noon.


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