Faith

A mom for all seasons

If many of you were to write a blog about your mom and titled it ” A mom for all seasons” I suspect your story might be about one special woman who showered you with unconditional love, who was your rock, your inspiration and a guiding light in your life. Still others of you might write a story of two or maybe three such ladies. In this world of moms, stepmoms, adopted moms and biological moms there is no end to the variety of moms in our lives. All of them have such a profound impact. There may be yet another segment of you out there that will feel like they have no mom or mom figure to write about. If that is you, I am so sorry and I hope this story helps you realize that, out in the world, are so many special people who want to love you like a mom, whether you are their kid or not, no matter what age you are.

The last subset of folks out there reading this may be more like me, perplexed on Mother’s Day about who to thank first? Challenged with so many incredible mom figures in their lives that raising them one above another would be a disservice to the season in which they were there for me in that way that is only describable to those who have known that kind of unconditional “mom love” that might prompt one to write a blog post like the one I described above.

As I have wrestled with this dilemma through the years I have written Facebook posts, built collages, reached out to each one separately, you name the tactic I have tried it! This is the first time I am going to try to write in more depth about a sample of these ladies in the framework of my 50 years of life so far and the many seasons that these ladies have played a part in. I need to start by prefacing that I am probably going to mess some things up, I’m probably going to forget something or someone critical, but my prayer is that this will be read in the spirit it is written in- as a tribute and as a small glimpse into the wonder of moms and how people can be there for each other at the most critical and pivotal moments in their lives.

Catherine-The Birth of Belonging

I am convinced that the woman who was kind enough to give me life and so many other incredible gifts had every intention of my never needing any other mom figure in my life. Circumstances, in hindsight, some of my very own making, proved that was not to be the case. Thanks to my dad’s early adoption of home movie equipment, I am very lucky to have actual footage of this unbridled joy and affection she had for me in the video above.

I think it is easy to see that my mom wanted nothing but joy and happiness for me from my earliest days toddling around this planet. She provided my fledgling brain, heart, and spirit with everything she could to give me the right start in life and I am forever grateful for that. My mom and I were very close from early on and into my childhood. She taught me to love music, she taught me to love art and explore my creative side. My mom and I watched a lot of the same TV shows and talked philosophically about life, even at a young age. My mom, sisters and I relied on each other to navigate the life of a single mom with four kids. It wasn’t always sunshine and roses, but she stood up for me when I was picked on at school, she laughed at my terrible impressions and she encouraged my love of learning. She taught me many lessons about life, survival and finding joy in the midst of struggle.

Josephine-A Firm Foundation in We Need Each Other and a Glimpse at Servant Leadership

Right alongside my mom, I was lavished with the kind of love and attention, that only the first-born grandson of a New York Italian American Italian family can understand, from my grandmother. This next mom figure was the strongest family figure for all of us through the first part of my life until her passing. For me and my triplet sisters, the lines blurred between our Grandma and our mom as they co-parented us through some challenging years. This mom was beautiful in so many ways and she taught me so much about life that I am still uncovering today. She literally risked jail for us as she wrote bad checks to feed us. She made our clothes sometimes when we had no money. She let each of us live with her at various times in our tumultuous lives. She worked to manage the more chaotic elements of our lives as much as she could. She helped me get my first job, my first car, get in contact with my estranged father and family in New York. She was an amazing woman and one day I’ll write a special, proper post about her, but for now, I’ll keep it short and simple: she taught me grit. She taught me how to manage my way through untenable situations to the other side. She taught me how to make family a priority. Mostly she showed me what servant leadership was all about before I ever had words for that. I wish my wife and kids and my younger and newer family and friends could have known her, she was truly one of a kind and will always be in a pinnacle spot in the hall of JJ’s moms.

Margaret-The Loyal Laughter of Childhood

The next mom-like figure I’d like to feature is my Aunt Margaret. This is a bit weird because I could just as easily share that she was more like a big sister to me. We shared a room for part of my childhood. We shared many laughs. She took me with her to her high school football games. She celebrated me and cheered me on through childhood and young adult trials alike. She and I were, at various times, each others’ “person” as they call it nowadays, well before that term was ever coined. So perhaps it is a bit off the mark to include her here, except for the fact that before she had kids of her own and even at certain times thereafter, she watched out for me as if I were her kid and showered me with that level of self-sacrificial love and attention that was more about me and less about her that only moms can exhibit.

Jo-The Sparks of Esteem and Possibility

When I was a teenager before I started working, I was poor: food stamp poor, no quarter for the Dig Dug video game poor. There is more about that in other blog posts, but the next mom figure in my journey is my Aunt Jo. Aunt Jo was responsible for teaching me so many things about being both a kid and an adult I can never repay her. During a very pivotal time in my life, when my self-esteem was at an all-time low, my Aunt was a like a mom to me. Under the guise of me coming up to help her and her husband care for their new baby girl, she arranged for me to live in New York City with them for more than one summer. There I learned about life in the city, caring for a young family, going out to eat at restaurants. I had my first restaurant beer, my first true tourist experiences at places like Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center. I was (at first forced) and then allowed to go out and buy vegetables and groceries on my own at the corner market. I had some of my first ever clothing and haircuts that were not from a thrift store or my grandmother’s seamstress scissors. As we drove down the bustling streets of New York she noticed I couldn’t see the signs as crisply as I should be seeing them and helped me get my first pair of glasses. She opened up the world for me, expanding it from black and white to technicolor both literally and figuratively. More than anything, she built me up. She told me I was going to be OK. She refused to let me wallow or be down on myself, she built me up and tried to make me as ready as she could for my next steps in life. She helped me see there could be more for me than the life I was living and that I was capable of achieving it. I had been told that before, but I didn’t believe it until my time with her.

Pat-The Power of Potential and Unconditional Love

I’ll never forget a certain walk that was both just like and not like any other walk around the McDonald’s restaurant where Pat and I were managers. She was not only my boss, but she was also my mom and we had ourselves a little family there at the restaurant. I had come back from my time with Aunt Jo in New York and started working at McDonald’s, a couple of years later I was managing at said McDonald’s with Pat as my boss. Shortly after that she and I “got our own store” where she was THE manager and I was the assistant. It was an amazing time and I learned a great deal about managing people while also serving and loving them from her. An opportunity came up for me to leave and try something different, but it was an opportunity fraught with challenges and potential burning of bridges. I essentially had to leave everything I been building to go try and build something else somewhere else. One of the things I dreaded about this decision was letting down my champion and letting down my latest mom in the hall of JJ moms. So we went for that walk and I told her. She probably held back all her instincts to tell me this was a potentially disastrous move and instead simply told me she loved me, unconditionally and would support me no matter what I did or where I went. Mind you at that time, she and I were critical players in an incredibly busy business and this move meant professional pain and challenge for her on top of worrying about me leaving town, yet she chose to support me over self-preservation. A mom’s love if I’ve ever known it. PS: When I returned with my tail tucked between my legs, some years later, I received a judgment-free welcome as if I were the Prodigal son returning home.

Evelyn-Adoption without the Paperwork

It is weird even typing the word “Evelyn” as Mom Galloway will always and forever be Mom Galloway to me. Mom Galloway is the biological mom of my best friend’s family. A family who practically adopted me in my teenage years I described above while I worked at McDonald’s and forever after. The man in the picture is her husband Duke, who passed away suddenly one Christmas. That Christmas stands out in my mind for many reasons, but for one, the reason I was there as it was the most Christmas like dwelling to be, at the time, for me. Her boys were helping me with work on one of my beater cars that Christmas. She was cooking incredible meals and asking about my day like any mom would, just accepting my presence at her house by day, overnight, just any time I wanted or needed to be there, as a given. There was no drama to the adoption. No papers. I was just always introduced as the adopted child of this family and I still feel like their son, decades after I held her hand on the kitchen table after Duke’s passing. I still receive handwritten notes asking after my family. I still get giddy smiles when I make an all too infrequent phone call to her and an “oohhh John I’m sooo haappy you called.” Her voice and written cards sound and look like home to me and she will forever represent that as well. Mom G will forever be my adopted mom without papers.

Gail- My Momma @ Work

When you are new to your career and you start leading people you don’t expect that you’ll end up calling one Mom, but that is what happened to me. I was also new to my marriage and a young father at the time and there I found myself at work with this woman who wanted nothing more than to reassure me and build me up every day. Gail is not super mushy or gushy despite my depiction, in fact, she is quite matter of fact in her declarations. The kind of momma I needed at that season was exactly what God brought me, a no-nonsense, unconditionally loving, straight-talk wielding lady who wouldn’t put up with my crap but wouldn’t let me beat myself up either. You make a lot of mistakes as a young career person and a young dad and I was blessed to have this kind of support both at home with the next lady you’ll hear about and at work with Momma Gail. She will forever be the Lovey Howell on the Gilligan’s Island of my mom’s.

Diane-A Refuge of Calm Counsel

A lot of folks get confused when I call my mother in law Mom instead of Diane. The same is true for my father in law, and I hope part of their confusion is the affection they hear in my voice for each of them. I hope another part of the confusion is because I hit some sort of strange jackpot when I married into my family that included this woman who provides me a place to go that so many of the best mothers do- a grace-filled refuge and place of confidence to share both my triumphs and tribulations. This has been the case since the earliest days of my marriage and it is simply who this woman is to so many of us. A world-class listener and wise counselor, she has a way of providing thoughtful feedback and setting me back on track without damaging my all too fragile ego. Like so many of these ladies that came before her, she builds me up when I need it and now that I need the opposite, more often than I did in my younger years, she brings me down to earth just as effortlessly. My life is imminently blessed because I get her counsel nearly full time as we live under the same roof.

Thank You

If I haven’t made it clear by now, this blog post is simply a thank you to all these women I have called mom over the years. The collage was just not enough, and who knows I may yet write a true long-form post on each and every one of them. The truth is I could write a book about each and it would be a wholly inadequate tribute to these women and their impact on me. At my work we have a saying #womenmakeusbetter . Each year we are prompted to write our affirmations and pledge what we will do to help women in our workplace. This is not something I need to be convinced of doing. This is not something I can fail to do. You see, women have made me better, each and every day of my life and these women are just the moms! I also have sisters, co-workers, friends, family and of course my amazing wife. I can’t help but want to see them all soar! If you are one of them and you are reading this I want to see YOU Soar!

If you are a dude, I want to see you soar too, but I encourage you to lean on the mom or moms in your life for guidance and inspiration as I have. I also encourage you to do everything you can to support, encourage and advocate for those ladies.

Because : #momsmakeusbetter and #womenmakeusbetter .

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