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Monday was my mom's 70th birthday. When I think about what all she has accomplished in her life, I am amazed. Life wasn't easy for my mom. She survived a tough childhood, struggled through a divorce, raised four great kids, and worked hard to keep our family together. Along the way, she taught us lessons in life...and back then of course, we weren't paying attention. They weren't important. We didn't want to learn them. It wasn't until we became adults that we actually realized what all she has taught us.
I know that I have evolved into the person I am today because of her. So, today I reflect on who I am...because of my mom.
Because of my mom, I am a reader. My mom (and my grandma) has always been a reader. Every Saturday mom would clean our house and shop for groceries. Nothing else happened until those two chores were done. During the afternoon, we would go to the library and choose books for the next two weeks. Saturday nights, we would fix popcorn, relax on the couch, and read our books together. She taught me how books could take me places and change my life. This is one of my favorite childhood memories!
Because of my mom, I can cook. My mom worked extremely hard when we were kids, but dinner time was always important to her. For the most part, we had home cooked meals everyday, and we were always at the diner table together. As our high school schedules became more hectic, it became more difficult for this to happen. But there was always one thing she made sure of - Sunday dinner was a family day. She orchestrated and juggled schedules, and we may have eaten any time between 12:00 and 6:00, but we always sat down together on Sundays. To help mom out during the week, I would often come home from school and start dinner for her. By the time I finished high school, it was nothing for me to have fixed a complete family dinner...although I never have learned her knack for making gravy!
Because of my mom, I can sew. My mom could sew anything from curtains to clothes. Back then it was cheaper to make things than it was to buy them. There were many times when she would make matching outfits for me and my sister. We were only a year apart, and many people thought we were twins. I remember mom making many of her dresses that she would wear to work...a Carol Brady look-alike...she even had the hair! One year she even made my formal for a New Year's Eve dance. She taught me how to sew at an early age. The earliest sewing memory I have is when I was eight, and I received a sewing machine for Christmas. I was sewing doll clothes from a kit, and I dropped a needle on the floor. While I was down on my hands and knees looking for it, it went in my knee and broke off. That landed me a trip to the emergency room. Although I don't have time to sew now, through the years I have made clothes for myself and my children, curtains for my house, and quilts for many people.
Because of my mom, I became independent. At the age of 40, my mom became a single mom with two kids in college and two still at home. After my parents were divorced, she took a job four hours away from our home town. She did not know a soul down there, yet she packed everything she owned and made a new life for herself. My sister got married right out of college...but not me! I wanted to explore the world...Ok, maybe just a few hours from home. After I graduated from college, I began a career in retail and moved four times in four years. I had the courage to be out on my own because my mom taught me it could be done.
Because of my mom, I am a hard worker. When my mom moved to Tennessee, she worked for an automotive company which was eventually sold to a Japanese company. She worked her way up in the company, and towards the end of her career became the purchasing director for North America. She traveled all over the world and even lived in China for a a year and a half to start up the purchasing department for a new plant in Shanghai. Two things are amazing about her career. One is that women typically do not hold management positions in Japanese companies, yet she was promoted and earned the respect of the Japanese men. The second is that she was successful, but she does not even have a college degree. She married my dad at 18, had my sister at 19, and me at 20. That didn't leave much time or money for college. She took a few night classes occasionally, but she was successful because she was driven and because of her work ethic. I learned from the best what hard work is all about.
To those of you with young children, remember you are giving them a gift...the lessons of life... which may not be opened for years to come. But it will. And they will appreciate and understand.
To those of you with older children, I hope this Christmas season your children will share the gift you have given them...the lessons of life...and thank you for what they have learned.