Sunday, September 12, 2010
A few days ago, someone asked me who or what most shaped who I am. Without thinking, I responded that it has been my mom. Ironically, 9/11 is her birthday, so I think of her on this day for many reasons. I had the privilege of growing up fast, because she had the courage to leave a bad situation. Her decision to get her three daughters into an environment where they had the chance to grow up to be the best women they could be was difficult - emotionally, physically, and financially. Because of her choice, I had opportunities to play a bigger role in the family, making my life far from traditional, but making me the person I am.
My mom's name is Jo, and she is an amazing woman. She worked her way up from Assistant to accomplished management positions in her company, one of the Southeasts' largest automotive importers, over 20 years. When it was just us girls, on our own, she took side jobs to help pay the bills, and she inspired me to go to work as soon as I was of the age to do so. Throughout difficult times, she always had a smile and brought that smile to the faces of others. She was tolerant, yet firm. She was always doing something - working, baking for someone, creating some crafts for the house, or helping out someone in her family. Everyone becomes family to her, the people at local businesses or even those she works with. There is just the right dose of tough love that she gives that makes people want to keep her in their lives. She taught us to make a Sweet Potato Souflee that will bring you to your knees, and her Chicken & Dumplings are second to none.
The youngest of seven, her father passed away when she was a child. She grew up with a very strong single mother and a big family. I have watched her grieve, but stand strong with her many siblings during the passing of her mother. I've watched her be the strong force in the lives of those who are experiencing great loss - her sisters and brothers, her close friends, and even people she barely knows. She is a pillar of strength for others...always able to bring perspective, kindness, and that tough love again when it's needed. She is one of those special humans who roam this planet who intuitively sees every small opportunity to do something for others.
What has been fulfilling for me is watching her move on in her life, to see her meet and fall in love with an amazing man, who she eventually married, and who I consider my dad. He is funny, witty, handsome, and so very smart - and he is one of the few people on the planet deserving of her. She has grown to love technology: computers (she installs memory herself), Facebook (that's how we all stay up to speed on each others' lives), and blogs (she just signed up for my friend Nate's online community www.itstartswith.us - a microgiving community, blog and website). I love that she continues to evolve and grow.
As I write this, I think about how I hope she does things for herself - takes care of herself, and stays healthy and happy. Mostly, because I (selfishly) want her on this planet as long as possible - but also because she brings such joy and perspective to so many people. My mom is a rock and an inspiration.
She created a culture of openness, kindness, giving, support and most of all, strength. My "candle power" - the ability to stay strong amidst winds and seas of change - came from growing up in an ever-changing environment and seeing strength modeled time and time again. I wouldn't be who I am without the complicated story that is my past, but mostly, I wouldn't be who I am without my mom's example. She is "that person" to me, and I only hope I can be "that person" to others in my life. At this time of reflection, I am so very thankful for her.
For those who read this, don't forget to take the time to acknowledge "that person" in your life, and please remember, you are that person to someone...or you're not. The choice is yours. Opportunities to set the example and inspire others, or just to let them know you care are in front of you each and every day. Enjoy it!