By Amanda Cleary Eastep
We’re excited to start a new feature that highlights some of the amazing people in our Perennial Gen community and beyond. We’ll be asking our special guests 4 + 1 Questions about their lives and midlife journeys.
I’m especially happy to introduce Helena Rogers, who has been my friend for nearly 10 years and possesses gifts of positivity and encouragement like no one I’ve met. It’s especially meaningful to feature her in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, because Helena is a survivor. To me, the word doesn’t quite fit. “Surviving” sometimes connotes luck more than faith, resilience, and grace. Those are the words that describe Helena, no matter the circumstance.
5. Tell us about Savvy Woman Blog and the Cute to Myself campaign. What sparked the ideas and how have the projects changed since the beginning? What do you want women to gain?
In May 2006 I purchased the license and became the publisher of a woman’s news magazine called the Chicago South Suburban Woman’s Newspaper. I published 6 issues each year until 2009, then ceased publishing because it became cost prohibitive. Because I enjoyed the mission, I converted it to an online presence called the Savvy Woman. I’ve used the phrase “Cute to Myself” for years along with my sisters/mom and even a few other women I know. It was mainly a phrase meant to describe how we felt when we had on a really nice outfit that we knew we looked “cute” in, so we would say to other people, “I’m cute to myself.” It was just a phrase we used in our circle. I remember using it one day in my office at my former job and my dear friend and colleague thought it was pretty cool and suggested that I use it in some way. She even bought me a t-shirt with the phrase on it…thanks, Amanda!
I tossed around the idea of how to use it for a couple years, and then it all came together after I was diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Along with chemotherapy comes hair loss, so I had my husband shave my head. A woman’s beauty is typically defined by her looks–hair, shape/size, even skin color, but I truly felt that even with my bald head, I was still really “cute.” While I had that self-confident belief about and in myself, I know that there are women everywhere who don’t feel the same way about themselves. So…I want to use this campaign to start a movement to encourage women to believe in themselves; to recognize the talents, abilities and unique qualities that they possess; to use all that they have to become better themselves; and to make those around them better as well. And if they also have some cute outfits they wear, that’s even better!
4. What do you think most women in midlife struggle with, and how do they stay positive about themselves, their futures, etc.? What part does faith and relationship with God play in a healthy and fruitful midlife?
I think women who are in midlife struggle with the notion that they are no longer an asset to their families, their communities, or even society as a whole. It can be discouraging, but using the concept behind the “Cute to Myself” campaign can be an answer to their struggle. It first has to start with each individual woman believing that no matter their age, they still have so much to offer, even more than when they were younger because now they have the wisdom and experience along with all of their other qualities that made them unique.
Faith and having a relationship with God is so important no matter what phase of life we are in. However, as we get older we need to draw even closer to Him because life can become more challenging during this phase. I have found that God is and can be whatever I need Him to be on any given day. It makes me even more thankful that I can lean and depend on Him through my challenging times and my good times.
3. You recently shared on your blog that you were diagnosed with breast cancer (soon after the passing of one of your sisters). What changed your mind about sharing that part of your story more widely, and why are you glad you did? How are you doing today?
I am a very, very private person. Initially I only shared my diagnosis with my immediate family–husband, children, mother and sisters and two friends. Probably if I had not lost my hair, I would have stopped there, but I started wearing hats, not because I was self-conscious about my bald head, but mainly because I didn’t want to have to answer the questions that I knew would come. First my son encouraged me to stop wearing my hats. In his words I was “totally rocking” the bald head look. Then my husband suggested that I share my story.
I didn’t know the impact sharing my story would have. I’ve had so many women telling me how they scheduled their mammogram after hearing about my diagnosis and other women telling me how they loved my boldness in not trying to hide my baldness. [Helena, I’m sensing another campaign! Just sayin’.] As Christians, it’s not about us, it’s about God getting the glory from our circumstances. So I felt that I needed to share my story so that God could receive the glory. I’m so thankful to him that He was with me every step of the way, and today I am feeling great!
2. What are three things you’ve learned from the strong women in your life? Who are they and how have they inspired/taught you?
My mom, especially, and my sisters are the strong, inspiring women in my life. I really wish every person in the world had the opportunity to know my mother. When you meet her, it’s not just an encounter, it is truly an experience. She and my sisters have taught me the importance of strong faith, the importance of gratitude, and the importance of laughter.
1. What has surprised you most in midlife (or about midlife)?
I’m surprised that what I am living through is called “midlife.” I’m not sure how I should be feeling, but I feel that I have just as much to offer and even more than I did when I was younger. I feel that I have so much to do and accomplish. I feel so alive and am looking forward to this Act 2 of my life!
About Helena B. Rogers
Helena B. Rogers believes that she has been blessed by God with unique creative skills. She has used her creativity and entrepreneurial spirit over the past 20 years to inspire, inform and encourage women.
In 1999 Helena began publishing newsletters designed especially for moms and later on for women in general. Her experience as the publisher of newsletters provided her with the opportunity to become the owner and publisher of a woman’s news magazine whose distribution covered over 30 communities and approximately 300 distribution locations in the south suburbs and the Chicago communities of Hyde Park and Beverly.
In 2011, she launched a series of seminars, Chocolate Therapy for Women. Helena hosted and created content for over 30 different seminars that provided support, encouragement, fun and learning for women. Helena and her Chocolate Therapy for Women seminars were featured in the Southtown newspaper (August 14, 2014).
Helena recently relaunched her website/blog, SavvyWomanBlog, to continue with her passion and mission to encourage, inspire and motivate women.
Helena’s roles as wife, work-at-home mom, career woman, entrepreneur–and most importantly child of God–provide her with practical experience and viewpoints that she enjoys sharing when connecting with other women.
Helena’s top 10 things she loves includes: her college sweetheart and husband, Johnny; her two pretty awesome kids, Aundrea and Jared; her mom and sisters; reading mysteries and magazines; watching old black and white movies on TCM; shopping and enjoying banana splits.