An open letter to the very best mom in the whole entire world as we celebrate Mother’s Day- May 14, 2017.
This Mother’s Day is especially deserving of recognition and thanks. Ever since the days leading up to celebrating my 30th birthday almost exactly one month ago, I’ve been very consciously aware of the significance of this spring, and this year, and what it means to us both. I am now the exact age you were when you had me, when you became a mother for the first time. As my birthday approached, my mind was full of many thoughts including looking back on my twenties and all I have experienced and accomplished and how happy I am to have grown into who I am today, as well as thoughts of all my future wishes and dreams for what I hope is yet to come during this next chapter of my life. My thoughts also included you, and how at this very moment in your own life, you were preparing to bring me into the world. You were gradually beginning to give away a large part of yourself to me: your body, your energy, your prayers, your thoughts, and later on even your career. From this point forward, a large part of you would always remain with me. The past thirty years you have been the most remarkable mom, role model, teacher, healer, cheerleader, guide, and nurturer. You’re the glue that holds our family together and the wheels that keep us turning. You have taught me so much by example and I am blessed beyond measure to have you as my mom.
Considering you were in the middle of a pedicure when you went into labor with me, it only makes sense that immediately thereafter I became most likely the youngest client ever to sit for a salon manicure. An expense that most are not willing to spend on little children, you were more than willing to pay for me to be pampered alongside you before a vacation to Disney World. There has always been nothing you would do for yourself that you wouldn’t also do for me. With my itty-bitty nails professionally painted, and Mickey Mouse ears & bows painted on yours (to my delight!) we were now officially vacation ready. While you’ve always been a bit obsessive about presenting perfectly polished nails to the world…hehe…I am thankful you have always stressed the importance of being well put together. You have taught me special events require glistening, perfect nails and all of the many times we’ve gotten our nails done together before vacations, birthdays, graduations, and all the other special events in between has always been a treat. When we were waiting for our return flight home at the Orlando airport and spotted the Mickey and Minnie characters walking about, I was quick to want to see them one more time. For all these years, I often think back to how you made me feel in that moment when we approached Mickey and Minnie and you asked them if they had followed us from the park to the airport in order to tell us one more goodbye. When they nodded their heads in agreement I couldn’t believe it. You were always making me feel special and still are.
Thank you for always indulging my girliness. From dressing me in a beautiful pink tulle princess dress for my first birthday, I guess there is no wonder for my 30th I chose a pastel floral dress with cream tulle and lace tiered ruffles to wear. 🙂 You recognized I am all girl, through and through, and embraced my girly sense of style by dressing me in beautiful, dainty clothes and finding strings of pearls for me to wear that I was certain was a necessity. I’ll forever think back to my favorite beloved yellow dress with fondness. Growing up in Michigan, my thrill come winter was getting to wear the same puffy rainbow jacket as you. I’ll do my best to remember when I have kids one day that little girls love matching their mommy in mini-me outfits. 🙂 Thank you for allowing me to carry Grandma’s retired purse out in public since it was critical I too carried a purse just like you and the “real deal” at that, not a silly kid purse, there would be no sense in that. At only three or four years old, I didn’t mind that purse was half the size of me and you didn’t either. 🙂 You’ve always complimented me on how I look and present myself and when at some point it was remarked I never wear jeans you were quick to reply for me, “Who needs pants when you’ve got great legs?” 🙂
Growing up and even to this day you still always praise femininity and sophistication. You carried on the belief your mom imparted on you: it’s important to dress up for school because school is important. How you dress and carry yourself represents the value you place in what you are dressing for. You have insisted on the importance of grace and ladylike behavior and every single day before leaving for school, you wished me good luck and told me how pretty I looked. From you, I’ve learned ‘a beautiful woman is a beautiful woman, but a beautiful woman with a brain is an absolutely lethal combination.’
From hearing stories of how you finished first in your graduating class, I knew I wanted to accomplish the same in high school. There were constant discussions of school and education and college in our house and you were always pushing me to strive towards my best, which you knew would carry me far. You encouraged my dreams of becoming a doctor and owning a private practice. You gave me little notepads so I could write pretend prescriptions to my stuffed animals and always believed I would succeed in whatever field I chose. If politics didn’t interest me, then maybe it would be my own daughter one day to become the first female president you said. You believed I was destined for an incredible future and capable of creating a thriving career. You helped me with school projects, checked my homework, and helped quiz me before exams. In fourth grade when I couldn’t come up with an answer to a question on my nightly reading assignment, you stayed up all night and read the book from cover to cover, four times. Unfortunately the next morning you admitted you still had not discovered an answer to that perplexing question. When I went to school the next day even my teacher was bewildered as to what the correct answer could possibly be and the question was disregarded as inapplicable. We laugh about that night still today but it shows you would go to any length to help me learn and excel.
You showed me if someone is leaving the house, even if only temporarily for a short amount of time, they always deserve a sendoff involving a wave goodbye from the door until they are no longer in sight. Lately, I hear myself telling others quite frequently to “be careful” and it hasn’t been until recently I’ve made the recognition that is due to the fact I’ve been told to “be careful” a few times a day probably every day of my life. 🙂 However in our family “be careful” has never meant be cautious and reluctant and live timidly, rather it has always meant take care of yourself because I love you and will miss you while we’re apart. You’ve taught me the importance of checking in with those you love and care about. Keeping tabs on someone reflects your value and priority for someone’s well being. Likewise, those who take time out of their day to check up on you should never be unrecognized or underestimated.
Thank you for making me a big sister by having another child. I will forever and ever be grateful for the extraordinary gift of a sister: my confidant, wing-woman, and best friend.
You cultivated my interests and knowledge in both fine arts and sports and involved me in organizations that at a young age would encourage philanthropic behavior again down the road. The past two years as I have become actively involved in the community and have chosen to join organizations whose causes I value and personally relate to, I believe I have found the involved person in me I was always meant to return to, once I finished school and my career began to stabilize. From Girl Scouts, ballet, bible camp, the many private lessons including swimming, art lessons, tennis, piano, voice lessons, guitar, trombone lessons, and ice skating, you exposed me to everything and anything you thought I might be interested in or I asked to try. To this day, you always talk about how multidimensional I was and how I loved everything, that you expected me to eventually not like something yet that never occurred; I believe it goes to show you have always been very in tune with my personality and interests and enjoyments.
You made sure from a very early age I was surrounded by inspirational and accomplished women. You provided me many books to read written by notable women such as Queen Noor, Jane Goodall, Clara Barton, Princess Diana, Olympic gymnasts & ice skaters, Madeleine Albright, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and others. I absorbed their words and learned there are incredible females making a difference in the world. When I was swimming competitively and was mesmerized by the female swimmers in the summer Olympics, I came home one day to a new swim cap and t-shirt with Janet Evans on it. You always were encouraging me to pay attention to fearless females. You chose female doctors for my pediatric care, making sure I had plenty of successful females to look up to and that I understood as a girl, I was capable of anything. I believe this directed my choices in college and how I recognized the great opportunity available to me by joining Women in Science. When the organization brought guest speakers on campus to speak on a panel, I couldn’t soak up their words fast enough. Everything they said spoke volumes to me and I truly believe hearing the women doctors speak at the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine I attended while in high school, along with the Women in Science professionals I listened to in college, largely contributed to me choosing eye care. Like you, I joined a sorority, valuing female friendship and camaraderie. When I began my practice, I made sure everyone part of my initial startup team was female. From my attorney, banker, accountant, and even building sign designer, I vowed to make a point to support other women in business, which you commended.
To this day, despite allegiance to one particular political party, I am just as likely to read a book written by a female liberal, as I am a female conservative, or any other political party preference. There is so much to learn from one another and we can be beacons of light and inspiration if we respect one another’s accomplishments. There is too much girl shame that still exists and many challenges that women face that are only truly understood by other fellow females. To not be big enough to look past differences and realize as women we are stronger supporting one another than bringing each other down is a step backwards. I am just as likely to offer recognition to a patient of mine who is a stay at home mom and tell her being a mom is tough, as I am to a mother who works and is faced with balancing both career and family, which will be my own position one day. And yet I am not a mother. But because I have been blessed with you as my mom, nowadays I believe some times there are mother hearts that develop in those of us who have been shown just how incredible and instrumental motherhood is despite not yet having children of our own yet.
When it came time in Girl Scouts to interview a female role model, you suggested I choose Dr. Gale, our family doctor. She was a young female doctor with two little kids and I loved having her as my doctor. She practiced with a gentle bedside manner and I knew she would always take good care of me and there was never a need to be scared around her. She seemed just like, well, Mom. So I agreed it was a great idea. While I was sorting through my childhood room a few years ago, having just graduated optometry school and temporarily back home in Michigan for the summer, underneath my bed I came across my old Girl Scout folder with answers to this very interview tucked inside. As I had fun flipping through all my old childhood memories, I read through the interview and the last answer really struck a chord with me. The question related to asking about a challenge she faced in her career. Her answer discussed how difficult it is for women physicians to balance career and family. I was completely taken aback. Twenty years later and here we are, all still too aware of this challenge we face as female doctors and as women at large trying to balance career and family. Has there been any progress? Today you are a sounding board and a constant source of understanding when I vocalize my disappointment when I witness women turn against one another and also personally experience judgment that exists from women degrading those who don’t have kids yet or those who choose to work while raising kids or vice versa. Having a career is tough, with or without kids. Being a mom is tough, with or without a career. Period.
You are also a welcome source of understanding when it comes to the stress and immense responsibility we carry as healthcare providers, which can catch up to us from time to time for those of us who have entered the field of medicine in order to truly make a difference by compassionate interaction.
You exposed me to religion and also explained what is most important when choosing friends, is someone’s heart. You yourself were best of friends with people who were of difference races and religions and I likewise followed suit. You and I are so similar, believing in Abraham Lincoln’s idea of an invisible church: that is the importance of the church within us, the heart that dictates how we live each day and how we treat others. And for that I am grateful.
You’ve encouraged me to wish upon a star and believe in good luck charms; you’ve also taught me to strongly believe in spiritual strength and guidance from Grandpa after he passed away, as well as prayer.
When I was interviewing for optometry school and we decided to visit my sorority (different chapter) on the campus my interview was being held, we wound up being given a tour of the house by an outgoing, friendly girl who currently resided there and gleefully volunteered to show us around. When she mentioned that a medical condition caused her sleeping situation in the house to differ from most, as she was going through cancer treatment, I immediately lost all words. You however stepped in with complete empathy and compassion and I’ll never forget how you and Dad both found all the right words suddenly. Today, I can only hope that my responses to patients in need are as eloquently delivered as yours were in that moment eight years ago.
My intense attention to detail I believe stems from you. When you care about someone, you ask to know the details of their life and of their day-to-day. When it is in regards to party planning and entertaining, I have learned from the very best. You have helped me brainstorm ways to make Shannon Eye Care shine at every holiday and my window displays are second to none thanks to you. The care and attention that is devoted to every trunk show party is a direct result of watching all your efforts all these years.
While I am certain it still takes me twice as long to get through any given recipe as you, my love to bake, appreciation for a cake made from scratch, and all things sprinkles comes from you making my life full of color and celebration always. Every holiday, every year, has been recognized as deserving of festivity. Every Halloween you asked me what I would like to dress up as, and you had it made. Looking back, I can’t believe I had a custom Halloween costume every year. From a beautiful Glenda costume (here comes that pink tulle again), a medieval princess, Belle (blue dress not yellow) to many others, you made every dream from my imagination a reality. Every piece of clothing or costume I needed for spirit week in high school, you were on it. That even continued when I needed dresses for sorority formals, and most recently a toga and Christmas tree skirt to wear to a friend’s party. You are the absolute best at helping me plan an outfit.
Christmas would not be Christmas without the elves coming the twelve days before Christmas, your red velvet cake, and making spritz cookies. I am thankful today to still appear on Santa’s ‘good list’ as well as the Easter Bunny’s delivery trail…haha! If a holiday fell during the week while I was away at school, I could count on opening my packed lunch to a color themed surprise. On Valentine’s Day every item in my lunch was red, green on St. Patrick’s Day, orange on Halloween, etc. That’s not to mention the fondness of themed breakfasts and dinners that ensued and the decorations you adorned the house with. Waking up to balloons and streamers on my birthday and a new stuffed animal in my arms the morning of Easter, as well as lucky four leaf clovers and gold coins left behind by leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day…those moments are what taught me to believe in magic and fairy tales and possibility. At a very young age when you pointed to animal tracks in our lawn and asked if I knew what they were from, I replied “yes, gnomes”. You didn’t skip a beat before confirming yes, those tracks were from gnomes. While I was too young to now remember this, you have retold the story many times of how happy you were to realize my belief in the unforeseen was so large. Although they were deer tracks in the lawn that morning, you would never have corrected me.
You see humor all around and I’m not sure which of us has the louder or crazier or more frequent laugh…however I do know it’s contagious and many, though try as they might, can’t resist joining in our amusement when we are together. I’m so thankful I inherited your ability to find the funny in just about everything and anything. Your true love for April Fools’ Day…need I say more. 🙂
You taught me to believe in wonder. When a rainbow suddenly appeared in the sky, you would race to the car with me so we could drive around as I directed which next turn you should take in order to attempt to reach the end of the rainbow. After all, there may be a pot of gold. As I write this, I realize no wonder I’m such a romantic. No wonder I believe the impossible is possible. When you talk of marriage and finding love, you talk of soul mates and understanding that in life there may be hardships and obstacles a relationship is faced with, but there is nothing a couple can’t overcome if they value and believe in the magic of what they share and truly believe they are meant for one another. When my heart has broken, so has yours. But I will forever continue to trust in the power of connection and fate and destiny and hope. Today, my faith is so strong that amongst the sad times and the hurt and the questioning that occurs, I gather strength by still recognizing the good that exists and has been brought my way as blessings.
In Michigan, there was beauty in discovering robin egg nests. In Tennessee, watching the Eastern blue birds fly from their birdhouses is nothing short of miraculous. You love nature and flowers and marvel in watching backyard friends. I have learned from you to save old bread for the birds, popcorn for the ducks, and sugar cubes for Frank the horse. 🙂 You’ve always recognized my deep love for animals and my life would not be the same had you not brought our schnauzers Abby and Madeline into our family while I was growing up and then later our beloved Kit the rescued calico who has brought us so much joy.
You accepted my extreme sensitivity and to this day I can’t believe you agreed all those years ago to retrace our steps so that I could return to purchase the stuffed animal I had seen at the very entrance of the zoo, at the very early start of the day (since that was the animal I told I would come back for) rather than choose the same variety stuffed animal that was also available everywhere else, including the exit. (Thanks for also insisting to Dad this was necessary…have I mentioned you guys are the best??) 🙂 You may have humored me a bit too much…a part of me today still feels sorrow for neglected stuffed animals…or maybe there is no changing being prone to sensitivity. 🙂
On a stop during a road trip out to visit family in Omaha when I was very young, you told me we could look through all the stuffed animals and pick one out to help keep us company for the rest of the car ride. I became attached to one particular kitty stuffed animal and decided this soft, longhaired kitty needed to come home with me. When I discovered there was something “wrong” with a section of its fur, I showed it to you and asked “is this ok?” I’m uncertain whether there was fear on my face or worry in my voice, but I have never forgotten how you looked down at what I was pointing to and to my great surprise immediately replied, “Oh, that’s fine, it just has flees.” To my relief, I would be bringing this kitty I had already fallen in love with home after all. This occurred so many years ago and you may not remember it at all, but I have never forgotten it and actually think of it quite often, all these years later. It doesn’t matter if someone has visible imperfections, it doesn’t prevent us from loving them. We are all deserving of one another’s affection and kindness, despite physical flaws.
My immense love for travel and fun comes from you. You were never stressed traveling with young children and never thought to leave me behind. You made an adventure out of airports and made sure I had my own little carry-on to pack with treasures to make travel exciting always. I love hearing you tell the story of my first flight to Chicago, having barely turned two years old, when to the amusement of the entire plane I clapped my hands with happiness as the plane took off. Or when you and Dad used to casually mention the word ‘vacation’ and as only a toddler I would begin running for my suitcase- ready to begin packing immediately. 🙂 As just a little girl, you quickly exposed me to many sights. We visited tropical islands, metropolitan downtown cities, historic towns, lakes and oceans. We traveled by New York City taxis, ferry boats, planes, trains, and automobiles alike. As a family we’ve traveled up and down both coasts of the country, throughout the nation, as well as internationally. I am beyond grateful for these experiences and memories and for widening my horizons. Is there any wonder I prioritize trips the way I do and am constantly looking forward to planning the next get-away. One of my greatest pleasures is traveling and I have you to thank for discovering such enjoyment and passion for adventure.
You took me to a Broadway before I could speak, because you knew I would enjoy and truly become enthralled with a musical featuring a little redheaded girl like me, which was the case. My red hair: my crowning glory. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 🙂
We’ve been Selma & Louise too many times to count. You were always beside me as we tried to quickly unpack and transform every dorm or sorority room in college, and then later every next new apartment throughout grad school and rotations, into something that was cozy and welcoming. We were partners in crime driving and flying around together during my fourth year in college while I was invited to interview at several optometry schools around the country. While this was a particularly stressful time in my life, you were always there for me so that I was not facing these demanding weekends alone. When I began to receive acceptances and the time came to no longer deliberate but commit to one program, you remained silent as to which school you believed was the best fit for me, even though you too had seen all the different schools and cities firsthand. Having been through a traumatic experience with Hurricane Katrina during undergrad, I was now deeply soul searching and heavily weighing my future livelihood on this next decision I was now faced with making. I knew my next four years would very well direct and affect all the future paths I would take for a long time to come. I was terrified to make the wrong decision for myself, but you did not want your own opinions to sway me in any way and never divulged any of your own conclusions. You had complete confidence I would make the right decision that was best for me and you would support that decision 100%. It wasn’t until years later when I was already out practicing as a doctor that I would become surprised to learn you felt so strongly about my various opportunities back then. From a very young age, you worked hard at instilling drive, independence, confidence, and strong conviction in me and have always believed I am capable of determining the best course for my own life. This kind of unwavering support and faith would soon become very visible and obvious again as I embarked on becoming a business owner only one year into my professional career.
While there were many who questioned and doubted my decision to leave behind sense of security and dependability in order to start my own private practice at such a young age, you remained a source of positivity. You understood my calling to become a doctor and that I was now again being called to act on fulfilling my other lifelong dream: owning my own private practice. I am thankful to have acquired your optimism and positive outlook on life. Instead of fearing the unknown and all that could potentially go wrong by willingly amounting so much risk, all I focused on was all that could go right. While others called me naive, you recognized entrepreneurs possess something unique and called it blind faith. As certain as I’ve always been that I was meant to become a doctor, I was as certain that the business opportunity I was suddenly working very hard to achieve was also meant for me. I felt it deep down to my very core, this was my time and you understood I needed to do this, that I would never be happy playing it safe and not going after my dream regardless of the sacrifice and uphill climb it would require.
While I’m sure you did not love the fact I converted your dining room table into a working office for six months as it became home to the development of Shannon Eye Care, covered with documents, binders, extension chords, checkbooks, a printer and laptop, you graciously endured my mess knowing it was the initial blueprints of something that would soon take solid shape and become magnificent. I’ll never forget Shannon Eye Care is an answered prayer and I’ll forever be grateful for the support you and Dad have shown me as I continue on through these initial tough growing years building my business to an eventual point of comfort and sustainability. Shannon Eye Care has changed my life for the better. With your encouragement, I have recognized my full potential and I feel as though I have become the person I was always meant to be. Owning my business provides me with fulfillment, purpose, accomplishment, and strong sense of self. You have always believed in me, and my dreams.
You constantly remind me you are praying for me and knowing I am never alone is a huge source of comfort. Your generous heart is always connected to mine. You have sacrificed and given so much to make me who I am today.
I am because of you.
Love you always.
Happy Mother’s Day Momma.