Sunday, May 08, 2016

#MyMomIsStrongBecause Happy #MothersDay

Over the last few days at Nuru, we have been posting photos of a few of our staff along with their mom's in honor of Mother's Day. Although my mom is no longer with us, I thought it would be a great way to honor her. I'm grateful for moments like this to pause, to remember, and to consider just a few of the ways she shaped our family and led us by example. My mom was the kind of person people wrote songs about. 
I could list a number of reasons why my mom is strong. She and my dad both worked full-time jobs to afford being able to bring up three children. Just like any mom, she wanted her children to be able to go forward and experience more than her--to have better opportunities, and so she and dad ensured all three of us kids finished high school. All three of us also went on to college as well.
Today, there is a growing movement of women entrepreneurs and women leading businesses. My mom was a pioneer in that regard. Not only was she a full-time employee, but also she started multiple successful businesses (again alongside my dad--they did everything together). My mom raised shih tzu and poodle pups and sold them as one form of additional income. She gave the pups all of their shots, clipped their tails, and for the shih tzu pups also clipped their duclaws. She also raised and sold birds (parakeets, cockatiels, budgerigars, finches, canaries, and parrots). We must have had more than 200 birds during the hay-day of that business. She ran the business, and dad built cages and nesting boxes for the growing menagerie. She used the extra money from the sale of puppies and birds to pay for school clothes and Christmas presents for all of us. 
Mom also taught us kids to be thankful for what we had, and to do our best to take care of it. Sometimes she made clothes for us and for our relatives, and if our clothes got holes in them, she would mend and patch the garments so we could get more life out of them. And, she and dad both encouraged us to do our best in school, and she also encouraged us to learn responsibility by having pets of our own. We had dogs, birds, cats, fish, and rabbits, and we had to share in making sure they were fed, watered, and cared for year round growing up. My mom and dad gave us kids a great example of what a local economy looks like. Every one of us had a contribution to make to the good of the whole household. And each of us kids were made available to do work for our neighbors growing up as well. Each of us understood very clearly that it was our role to contribute to the good of the house as well as to the community. 
Mom was a life-long learner. She taught herself about caring for all of these different species of birds and dogs, and she taught us kids these same skills at the same time. She taught herself how to knit, crochet, and sew, and she would always make sure she had baby blankets available to any other mom who was expecting, and spare scarves and gloves on hand just in case she ran into someone who didn't have any of their own. 
Any time one of us kids was doing something extracurricular, my mom was out supporting us and cheering us on. From choir to basketball and just about everything in between, she would make sure she had time to come out and support our efforts.
But it wasn't just my family who benefitted from my mom's love and support. She extended that love to cousins, neighbors, and any of our friends growing up. My best friend in the whole world, Willie, has two children who are now approaching adulthood. My mom loved Willie as a son, and in the eyes of Willie's children (as well as from my mom's perspective), she was a Grandma to them...and to a number of other children as well. Although she never held any formal positions of leadership, she was a wisdom-keeper, and a care-taker for many, many people. 
Mom was deeply committed to her rich Christian faith, and to her heritage as a Shawnee woman. She and dad both really enjoyed spending weekends on our tribal lands and strongly supported me as I was elected into positions of service in our tribal community. Many of the children of our tribe looked up to her, and she was always making time to listen to them and encourage them. 
She always took time to listen to and encourage us as well.
I remember about a month before she left this earth, I was visiting her in the hospital, and it was time for me to leave. I was driving to Morgantown so I could walk across the stage and receive my master's degree. I leaned over her to give her a hug, and said, "I'll try to make you proud Mom."
She grabbed my hand, and looked me in the eyes with her eyes filled with love and compassion and responded, "Every day you make me proud!"
That's just the kind of person she was. She was strong raising three children. She was strong running businesses and working full-time for very low wages. And she was strong as she stared down death after being diagnosed with cancer. She never let her present circumstances dictate what was possible for her or for any of us. She faced cancer with a smile and with hope. She faced her last hours encouraging strangers, and loving her family. 
All of us really miss her. We each strive to honor her legacy and the lessons she taught us through her strength, her compassion, and her service. I often fail, but I personally strive to be the warrior, the leader, and the servant that I saw her and dad exemplify--and that they believed I could be. 
As a kid, I don't think I ever fully appreciated the sacrifices my parents made to ensure that us kids had more opportunities than they did. But, better late than never. If you have an opportunity today, let your mom, and the world know why your mom is strong. Post online #MyMomIsStrongBecause or just tell your mom how she exemplifies strength. May we each aspire to be the sons and daughters that our moms dreamed was possible, and may we savor those precious moments we have been given to learn from our moms for the good of our own lives as well as the good of the world.
Oh, and that comment about my mom being someone people write songs about? Here's the song in its entirety. So grateful for Willie taking the time to write this and post it on YouTube.

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