One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Live It. Don't Preach It. A tribute to my mom (and dad).

I adore my mom.  She is my hero.  She is my role model.  She is my friend.  My mom is all of the things that I want to be.  She birthed four children, fostered about 19 and adopted a special needs child when she was 50 years old. 

My mom is frugal, yet sophisticated.  She is simple and classic, yet modern and forward-thinking. She is patient beyond belief.  She is quiet and submissive, but opinionated and strong.  My mom is giving and dedicated and hardworking.

She is intelligent and knowledgeable and wise, yet she listens far more than she speaks.  She feels no need to express her own opinion unless it is requested or helpful. She can disappear into her role serving others and expect no reward.

She has cared for many medically fragile children – some of whom are now adults - giving a whole new meaning to the words “patient advocate.” She is a mama bear when her children are threatened or overlooked – and if you are part of a medical staff where she or anyone she knows is being treated – beware.  She will challenge your routines and thoughts and attitudes and you will be better because of it.

My mom is the least “religious” Proverbs 31 wife and mother I know.  She grew up a devout Catholic and went to Catholic schools through college, but she no longer attends church or participates in organized religion.  Yet, she is a strong woman of faith and a role model for countless people.  Including me - her oldest child.

Although I have actually managed to acquire many of her impressive qualities over the years, hers is packaged so much better than mine. I still have so far to go to reach her level.  Especially when it comes to keeping my mouth shut and my opinions to myself.  Apparently, I got more of my dad’s qualities in that category. 

But she raised me to be independent.  She nurtured my strengths – even when they weren’t her strengths.  She encouraged me not to be like her, but to be like me.  She provided opportunities, even when we had little money.  She didn’t push me to be anything in particular.  In fact, she didn’t push me at all.  She just lived and served and trained and disciplined and listened to me.  And she waited.

Not surprisingly, she raised 5 totally different children.  Our interests are different.  Our strengths and weaknesses are different.  Our personalities are miles apart. But we have a common thread and that connection is our passion. My mom raised children with an enduring passion to pursue whatever it is that motivates or interests them and to perform at a level higher than most. 

I became a lawyer.  Then a wife.  A mother.  A teacher.  A foster mom.  An adoptive mom.  And finally, a full-time mom to 19 children. In that order.

My younger sister became a nurse, birthed 8 children of her own and serves countless people as one of the most Godly women I know.  Her home is open to hundreds of people each week who seek her advice and counsel and friendship and food.  She endlessly serves others well into the night - every night - and is passionate about sharing whatever she has. Her personality is much more like my mom and I admire that in her.

As his protective oldest sister, my next younger brother was a nightmare for me while we were growing up.  He wasn’t so easy on my parents either.  But in spite of his poor grades and daring antics throughout most of his younger years, he pursued and attended the best universities.  Obtained a broad expanse of education – much of it self-taught – and traveled the world. After school, although he could have gone to work for our father in the business he started, in his early 20’s my brother started his own design business to gain a broader perspective before working for and then taking over the architectural firm my father started over 40 years ago. He serves the community and the world through his forward thinking ideas and he is as giving as my parents when it comes to the wealth he has acquired as a result of his ventures. He is hard and stern, yet giving and loving and willing. He has four incredible children and a super gorgeous and equally intelligent wife. 

My baby brother is one of the most honest, humble, giving, passionate men I know.  Like me, he had to work hard for all that he has accomplished and that has made him a better man as a result.  He too is passionate – about many many things.  But his passion extends beyond words to action.  He, like my parents and my other siblings, are the kind of people you want on your team whether things are going well or you are at rock bottom.  He has more friends and has built more relationships with all kinds of people than one can likely imagine.  He uses those relationships not to benefit himself, but to help others.  That is an amazing quality in a person.

And my baby sister - who was adopted when she was about 2-years-old and has significant special needs - is a confident, loving, brilliant, engaging, social butterfly who has garnered the attention and affection of thousands of people around the world.  She has been by my parents’ side almost non-stop for 24 years and in spite of what many might think of as her intellectual, emotional and physical limitations, my parents have ensured that she has had every opportunity available or imagined (usually by them) so that she, too, can develop her individual strengths and passions.

When I began this post, I hadn't quite nailed down the precise formula my parents used to raise such fiercely unique and independent children.  But ultimately, I think it is not what they said to us – because like many kids we probably would have ignored it. It is how they lived their lives.  They worked hard.  Served many.  Gave much.  Always thought outside the box.  Weren’t afraid to be different.  Weren’t afraid to ruffle feathers.  Weren’t afraid to be criticized.  They simply lived their passions and made sure that we had an opportunity to live ours.  When all is said and done, I think that is a fairly good formula for raising children.  Live it.  Don’t preach it.  And when they are old, they will not depart from it.

Thanks mom (and dad).  I love you.

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