Thirteen years ago today, while nursing my month-old son around 4:30am, I got the call. My mom had passed away. Yes, I am deeply sad. It often hits when I least expect it, not on obvious occasions such as today, or on her birthday. Usually it’s when my daughter, who is following in her footsteps in many ways, does something and I think, mom would have loved this moment. Or I hear a Celine Dion song my mom loved (from Titanic). Or I regret the fact that my mom never met some of the women who today are my closest friends – they would have loved her!
Yes, I am sad, but I am also happy. As my kids get older, I see parts of her in them. My son’s tenderness – that was my mom. She was one of the sweetest, most giving people I have ever met. I used to get annoyed with her – do you have to be so nice to everyone? Can you be a little more selective? My daughter’s innate sense of style and elegance. My mom dressed up to clean the house, and she always looked fabulous for her daily exercise classes, even wearing a belt with her leotard.
My mom, Ulla, was a stay-at-home mom. She and my dad moved 17 times by the time I was in college, and while she didn’t go to a job in the whole time she was my mom, she worked hard at raising my sister and me, and supporting my dad as he rose through the corporate ranks across continents. She showed my sister and me the importance of healthy eating, daily exercise, working hard at whatever it was we had to do. She also always had hobbies, and said that the key to happiness was to always have hobbies that helped you relax, be creative, have fun, feel accomplished.
At my mom’s funeral, during my dad’s beautiful eulogy, I learned stuff about my mom that I didn’t know before. While I was busy with schoolwork, ballet, hanging out with my friends all over Mexico City (where I grew up), and doing whatever teens do (which includes ignoring anything our parents say and do), my mom had developed her hobby (knitting) into a business. She actually had a group of Mexican women creating clothing that she had designed. I had no idea. I had always thought my mom was a housewife, and it turns out she was a business owner. She was always quiet, soft-spoken (unless she was yelling at the mother of two girls who bullied me BIG TIME, then she was fierce as any mama bear), and subtle. A class act.
I miss her. And, I am happy that I was raised by such a loving, fun, adventurous, generous woman.
This past weekend, we took our son, and the exchange student we are hosting from South Africa, to Washington, DC. My husband I were invited to the presidential inauguration, and to one of the official inaugural balls. Even though we met and got married in DC, one of my favorite cities in the world, I had never been to any inaugural activities. This was a huge honor and we were excited to be so close to something so historical. We were excited to be taking the kids to something that would, for better or worse, always be spoken of in history books.
I knew that the fact we were going to this, was going to be fodder for judgment and hatred and assumptions by people in the real and in the virtual world, so I mostly kept the information private. I created a secret Facebook group for friends and family to witness our experience through my photos. I only invited people who I knew would appreciate the excitement and value of our firsthand experience. I posted some great photos of the places we took our exchange student to see, as it was her first time in DC. Monuments, a museum, Arlington National Cemetery. And, yes, photos and video of the inauguration, as well as of the inaugural ball, and an insider view of the new Trump Hotel.
The next day was the women’s march. I mentioned to a friend that we were going to show the kids the national cemetery, and watch the impressive, moving changing of the guard, and then we were going to head to DC and catch some of the women’s march. I was wearing a pink scarf. My friend remarked about the juxtaposition – we were participating in inaugural activities, and checking out the women’s march. Of course we were! They were both historical events.
Life isn’t about OR. Life is about AND.
My mom was sweet, dainty, tiny, and super strong, physically and emotionally. She was about 95 pounds, and so gentle, yet she had totally cut arm muscles and moved her family around the world. My mom was devoted to her kids and husband, and she had many interests of her own, outside of the home.
When we were in DC, we saw, heard, spoke with people from all walks in life. Many were wearing red hats, many were wearing pink pointy hats. We were all walking around the monuments, the national cemetery, respecting the land we were on, and the people who were sharing our path. My mom would probably have been super sweet to everyone (well, probably scared of the protesters we saw in front of the hotel and at the inauguration – it did remind me of the time we were in Madrid when I was a kid and were hiding away in our hotel room watching the anti-Franco protests in the street below, and the riot police in action).
I can be a person who wants our president to succeed, and I can be a woman who wants women to bring the passion, camaraderie, acceptance, and desire to achieve positive goals, back from the march and into our daily lives. I can be a mom who cringes when she hears and sees women acting or speaking or dressing a certain way (“because it’s my right!”), while also eager to support any efforts to create and nurture respect and appreciation for women. I can be a woman who lives authentically, while also recognizing the strength that comes from being impeccable with my word, and taking the higher road. I can be a woman who is angry when witnessing or being subjected to intolerance, judgment, negative assumptions, while choosing to model tolerance, acceptance, and listening.
My mom was a beautiful, intelligent, humble woman. She taught me many things, including the fact that a family’s wellness often depends on the mom’s wellness. And as she led me and my sister through the ups and downs of living, she also taught me how powerful I can be if I just show up, listen, and dare to avoid the herd mentality. Subtlety and quiet strength are sometimes as effective or even stronger than the shouty kind. And, because this is an AND kind of life, not an OR, there is room for both kinds of strengths and leaders. We NEED both.
Wellness coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.