As I’ve celebrated Mother’s Day this weekend, loving on others and being loved on, I have thought about all the strong and influential women in my life. In my journey, I’m in the esteemed position of having generations before me to appreciate, mothers and grandmothers, and generations after me to encourage, children and grandchildren.
My grandmothers are gone. However, I was blessed to have them both, well into my adult years. These women hugged me and supplied bowls of ice cream and homemade cookies, played games and taught me to sew and crochet. Beyond being fun grandmothers, they modeled for me independence and perseverance, kindness and devotion. I still think of both of them often, as I carry their wise words with me through life’s circumstances.
I am so grateful for my mom. No one else has had as great an influence on my life as she has. My creative side has been nurtured by her my entire life. And even greater, she has lived her life creatively, writing, gardening, sewing, sketching, owning several businesses, making crafts and DIY projects. She didn’t live this way for my benefit. She lived as her authentic self, pursuing her interests and passions fearlessly, which was the greatest invitation I could ever receive, to do the same.
Jerri became my stepmom when I was eleven, and she has been a strong influence in my life as well. Although I have never experienced being a step parent, I have welcomed new grandchildren into my family, embracing them as my own flesh and blood. Jerri has modeled blending families together, to create a larger stronger family. Beyond just nurturing my sisters and me, Jerri also embraced my mother. I don’t know if my mom, stepmom and dad realized how incredibly precious the gifts of unity and respect were to me and my sisters. When my friends spoke about the hate and animosity between their divorced parents and new step parents, I felt deep gratitude that in my family the adults lived in a bigger way. I am grateful for Jerri and for her willingness to create and maintain a different kind of family.
Leta became my mother-in-law, my third mom, when I was 18. She had two sons and she excitedly embraced me as her daughter. Leta was one of the most gracious and generous women I have ever met. She modeled love to me, by way of her actions. She cooked delicious meals and luscious desserts, made crocheted blankets and enjoyed surprising me and later her grandkids with gifts that she spent hours shopping for. She had a child-like sense of wonder about the world that she never lost. However, she was strong, a survivor of losses and illnesses. I am grateful that she taught me that circumstances don’t determine how I live life. She chose to respond to challenges with faith and joy. I choose to follow her example.
There have been and continue to be many other strong women in my life…aunts, cousins, sisters, friends. We honor and nurture and mother each other. And when I have needed to, I have mothered and nurtured myself. When I faced my fears a few years ago, I was able to nurture the frightened four year old who cowered within me. I am continuing to mother my wee self, and the results have been incredible.
One of my greatest joys in life is being a mom and Yaya. When I was still a child, I couldn’t wait to grow up and become a mother. I have never taken this role lightly, praying earnestly to be a joyful mother of children, long before my babies arrived. My first pregnancy ended very early in miscarriage, something I didn’t talk about until fairly recently. I named that baby Daniel, making me the mother of four children. I have had the pleasure of raising three…a son and two daughters… and I couldn’t be more proud of the beautiful adults they have become.
Today, as I reflected on motherhood, I am exceedingly grateful for the experience of parenting and nurturing these children. They have helped me to be a better person. They have encouraged my growth. They cheer me on in all my endeavors.
As I journey with them and observe their lives, I have seen my older daughter Elissa switch careers, learning new things and stepping up into greater responsibility. She and Josh are so very present for their sons, showing up for events and awards. As Dayan nears the end of high school, I see his mother preparing him for life beyond living at home with his family.
I have watched my son deal with high stress situations in his career and life, with grace and strength, his wife Megan at his side. They too are involved in the lives of their children. In spite of long hours working, keeping his community safe, Nate takes the time to have lunch at school with each of his kids.
My younger daughter worked for years to achieve her desired career. She’s very good at what she does, showing great compassion. I watched yesterday as Nate brought their car to a stop, and Adriel hopped out to rescue a turtle who was slowly crossing the street. She carefully placed him in a grassy area, away from the dangerous road. Nate does the same thing often. It’s who they are…caring people.
Being a Yaya to my five grandchildren has magnified my joy. As a little girl, longing to be a mother someday, I couldn’t imagine anything greater than that. I possibly couldn’t imagine myself being so old that I’d be a grandmother! I have become the person that I so looked forward to spending time with as a child.
I am coming full circle, in my journey, from a girl with powerful women in my life, to the grandmother who desires to show her granddaughter and grandsons how to live a life full of love and joy, creativity and strength. These kids are continuing the task of helping me grow into the kind of person who can live such an open and authentic life. They inspire me.
Surrounded by such brave hearts…grandmothers who still journey with me in spirit, mothers, and sisters…I can offer with confidence from my own heart to my children and grandchildren. I have a family legacy that I want to pass on.