It's Mother's Day. So, of course I think about the fact that I am a mother - for 13 years now. I also think about my mother and the mother figures in my life. I have been blessed to have women who are my elders wherever I have gone. These women have guided me and shown me through their example what it is to be a woman. They have modeled love, joy, grace, relationship, health, spirituality, and generosity.
Mom. Love. I was blessed with a mother who has and does model love. Mom's love manifests as giving. Giving often and much. Mom taught me to love words and learning. She enjoys contributing to her community - for many years as a teacher and still a worker-bee behind the scenes of various organizations to keep them running smoothly. She is a planner and a list-maker. She taught me the satisfaction of checking things off a list. But she also taught me to love the Lord and believe in that which is greater than things of this earthly existence. She modeled self-advocacy and gracefulness in the face of adversity. In her later years she tenaciously has maintained a routine to keep her physical body as healthy as it can be, stubbornly keeping several ailments at bay. She laughs easily, cares for those who are underdogs, outsiders, outcasts, or "other". She has modeled life-long learning, in part persistently engaging with technology as a Facebook, email, and Skype user.
Joan. Strength. In life and in dying Joan was strong. A quiet woman and joyous in much of her quiet endeavors, my mother-in-law always welcomed me into the family and into her life. She was widowed twice and found the courage to seek love a third time. She loved and accepted love. She allowed life to be what it was going to be, the good and bad, the mundane and the miraculous. Her life taught me to believe in miracles.
Kathy. Relationship. It was through Kathy's motherly presence I was able to transition from a high school student to an independent college student. Kathy was a working woman in charge of hormonal 17 - 21 year-olds in the cafeteria dishroom. She showed me through example what it was to be a leader in the workplace and what respect between supervisor and worker looked like. Kathy provided the adult presence I longed for as I was acclimating to this thing called adulthood. For many years after, I would always seek Kathy out when I would return to alumni events on campus. I was always greeted with a big smile and a hug, no matter how busy she was with the new crew of young 'uns.
Bonnie. Connection. I considered her a bit of a parental figure in my early 20's. It may surprise you to know that Bonnie and Joe owned a bar that I frequented "back in the day." Joe and Bonnie were always present in their little bar whenever my crew arrived to play pool and have a drink. She kept a keen eye on me to make sure I was safe and smart in my encounters with the guys in the group. I knew she had my back.
Karen and Lisa. Respect. Karen and Lisa were mentors and friends throughout my teaching career. We met when I was a new teacher and they were about 7-10 years in. I thought they were so wise and had it all together! And they did. I admired their professionalism, interactions with students, and creative minds. They were and are still rare gems demonstrating true collegiality. I learned from Karen and Lisa what it was to be a professional of integrity. They treated "the newbie" with as much respect as the "old guard." Soon enough both were a good friends, too. In that capacity I was especially drawn to observing Karen in the role of wife and mother. She shared openly her journey as a mother of three. I admired her relationship with her husband which is open, loving, full of music and able to handle the trials life set in their way. Now I continue to cherish these wonderful ladies' friendship and watch their journeys in retirement.
Carolyn. Fun-loving. Carolyn is one of those larger-than-life master teachers who every student knows and loves. "Mrs. Brown's brownies" were legendary at the school where I spent 17 years of my career. Carolyn blew in on a breeze from "Hoffman" Estates and changed the entire culture at our school with her vision, presence and stories. I still think about Carolyn's interactions with students when I think about who I want to be. Her energy, compassion, interest, understanding, and joyous presence is a great example.
Maureen. Healthy. When I went overseas after over 20 years of teaching, I landed in Korea. There I found an amazing colleague just finishing her career. A Canadian abroad, Maureen and her husband brought "home" with them wherever they went. They hosted Christmas caroling parties and happily took us on hikes. Maureen's eating habits were entirely different from others I had seen from her generation. She introduced me to things like quinoa, chia and hemp seeds, steel cut oats, and homemade energy balls. She hiked, worked out regularly and generally took amazing care of herself. Maureen provided an example of what a balanced life could be.
Patricia. Spiritual. I'd never met anyone quite like Patricia. Still teaching elementary music at 70, she had a spiritual center and meditative practice that spoke to me. Patricia led a meditative yoga class for women that I attended. She then introduced me to teaching to North Korean refugee women in Seoul. In every session she would honor and love the women through song, word, encouragement and prayer. Patricia has served as a spiritual teacher through her example.
Janet. Energy. Perhaps I thought that aging meant slowing down. Janet refutes such a perception through her example. She's still teaching in her 70's, providing wisdom, clarity, and humor to the craft. She also is an inspiration in her health habits. Eating well and exercising, including working out several times a week with a trainer in Primal. She shows me up most of the time but also provided the inspiration to get started in the first place. If she can be that healthy so can I.
I honor the women who have shown me the way. Who will you guide with your good example? Who will I have influenced as a teacher, mentor and guide?