The Power of Persistence (thanks to my Mom!)
Any mother could perform the jobs of several air traffic controllers with ease. ~Lisa Alther
Ironically, many years ago while growing up in Hana, my Mom wore many hats. She was a music teacher, a piano instructor, an organist for two churches in our town, the Hawaiian-speaking Protestant church we attended and the Latin-speaking Catholic church that held Mass on Fridays and Sundays.
She was an entrepreneur involving herself in many business ventures like Tupperware, Mary Kay, Melaleuca and AVON (of which I had been a former rep myself - twice!). It was in my blood to undoubtedly be influenced to be self-reliant, independent, progressive and willing to work hard to accomplish a lot.
That is the character of my Mom - at least from what I saw growing up. She also amazed me that she became a "temporary" airplane flagger (that's what I called it) part of the commuter plane crew that helped with flagging the planes down the runway, help take out baggage and direct visitors once they arrived at Hana's small airport.
It seemed like she could do anything in my eyes. She could also sew, knit, cook, mow the lawn, pull the weeds (well, she directed my brother and me to do that), wash the dogs, bring us along for monthly shopping for household goods over in Kahului - driving the 52-mile trek to/from. It was an all day affair with her but it was always an adventure.
Like many women today, my Mom started out as a "housewife" but she was one full of boundless energy and always in projects. She epitomized the project manager role we know today. I don't know how she did it, but when she set her mind to do something, she would carry it through.
Hana was her favorite place to live out of all the places we moved around and temporarily 'pitch tent' as we like to call it. My Dad had a lucrative but demanding career as an executive chef for the Hotel Hana-Maui back in the late 70s to mid-80s. Then when management changed, things began to change that my Dad didn't agree with and we ended up packing up and moving to Lana'I City on the island of...you guessed it: Lana'I.
I think it nearly broke my Mom's spirit to leave that beautiful town where she accomplished much and found fulfillment in making new friends, establishing a rapport with the community and being much in demand. But it had its price to which I was privy to witnessing: disagreements between my parents about money, her taking on role as store manager for a family business which she pretty much did all the work with very little pay, and it took her away from me when I began my journey into adolescence at the painful age of 12.
But somehow, my Mom made things work out. We moved briefly to Lana'I and by then, my brother and I were already attending a private school in Honolulu. My Dad was working at the only hotel on Lana'I at the time (now there are mega resorts there and it is a privately-owned island though people still pay huge prices to stay at those resorts).
She learned to make it work at the temporary residence we were at and still was able to make time for us when we returned from school during the summer. When we returned to school, it was several months later we learned my parents were re-locating back to Oahu and move in with my Mom's parents house in Makiki.
It was a tough time for my folks, my Dad's career was slowing down and he took whatever jobs he could find - many as a supervisory type of job or kitchen manager but it wasn't the same as the hotel chef career he had. We didn't have the house in Hana anymore which I know my Mom poured her heart and soul into making it the home of her dreams.
However, my Mom had a determination in her character that showed thru her actions time after time. Her persistence to get things done no matter what she may have been feeling on the inside, she rarely showed her true emotions on the outside. She returned to the church she grew up in and took on an early education career at the church's preschool program which eventually would lead her to going back to college to get her degree in education.
My parents both love music but my Mom took it one step further and used her gift of teaching thru music as a piano instructor. She had her own piano studio in Hana and she brought that same skill and talent by becoming the church's choir director for adults and youth. I eventually came on board reluctantly as her pianist but during the time I stayed on to help out, I grew spiritually and learned that talents and skills are gifts to be shared with others. My Mom continued to do that in everything she did.
Now my Mom set the example that one is never too old to go back to school. And in her early 40s, she graduated from the University of Hawaii with her Bachelor's Degree in Education. I was so proud of her that Sunday morning she walked down the carpeted path they had for the graduates. Me and one of her best friends were in the bleachers and I yelled my heart out in congratulations. I knew this was a dream of my Mom's for a long time. Yet, she held off on pursuing it when she became a mother to my older brother and me. Family came first for her and that set the tone to influence me that family is a priority above any career dream or aspiration.
Plus I only have one Mom. I may have many "aunties"., I had two wonderful "grandmas"...but I only have one Mom. I probably may have told her numerous times in words, cards, hugs and phone calls that I love her but somehow, Mother's Day isn't quite enough to let her know how much all her lessons, hard and tough, helped me through some of my dark and weary times.
One of the biggest lessons I will always remember is how she was able to get me through my first year away at boarding school entering the ninth grade. Oh boy, that first day on campus after she, my Grandma and my Auntie left me in my dorm room, I totally lost it. I never felt so alone in my life! Even though my new roomie and some of the other ninth graders tried to get me to accompany them to the big gym for the orientation and welcome, I just couldn't face anyone.
I stayed there for some time crying and feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to call my Dad and have him fly me back to Hana. I know he would have and that would have totally disrupted my Mom's future plans for my education to be side-swiped. But I didn't care. My emotions ran high and logic flew out the window.
I learned recently while watching a MindValley Talk session by Marisa Peer that one of the cardinal rules for transforming one's mind-set is that emotions defy logic. If you feel strongly enough about something, you will either move towards or away from it.
I wanted to move AWAY from being at this school. I didn't give a hoot about my private education future. Nor did I care how much money and time it took for me to be selected among hundreds of candidates to attend this prestigious college prep school. I wanted to go back to what was familiar. I wanted to go back home. I wanted my Dad. I wanted my Mom. I wanted to feel safe and secure because was an awkward, bookish, shy 13 year-old who wore glasses and was overweight and wanted to hide from the world. She didn't want to face new adventures, opportunities and associations.
As adults, we do the same thing. Why is that?
Well, if it were not for my Mom, I would not have endured the loneliness, I would not have learned how to make new friends, to learn new schedules, learn new teachers and topics, homework and assignments, projects and deadlines, term papers and the importance of accountability to others and myself.
Each time I would call home on weekends, my Mom would always answer the phone. Never my Dad. She always said he was working (which was true more often not because of his split-shift schedule). I would beg her in my tearful, raspy voice to bring me home. That I hated the new school. I hated cleaning my room. I didn't have new friends. The only thing there worth staying was the delicious food. I often missed the bus between campuses because I was out of shape and had to walk up countless stairs, finding myself late to classes at times.
She told me she was so proud of me for enduring all that and knew if I could just wait until the next school break, we would "discuss the situation" again.
It was like that every time for nearly the entire year. Then by April, a month before we were finishing up school, I didn't feel like that anymore. I made new friends, knew my class routine, got more fit, still ate like crazy but I was so busy I didn't gain weight. But I felt more at ease, it wasn't so lonely anymore and I also could go stay at my grandparents house since they were my sponsors while I was at school.
My older brother didn't help matters. He didn't want me going to the same school as him but since I did, he avoided me as much as possible at first. Eventually, as he was nearing graduation (at least 2 years ahead of me), he and I got along better. We outgrew being rivals for my Mom's attention or anything else because we had different set of friends and interests, except the music. My Mom linked us to music and we both appreciated it because she taught us how to play the piano as well while we were growing p in Hana.
My Mom got me thru that first year and after that, it was a cinch. I might have had troubles here and there but I found a new confidence in myself that I could handle it. Also, my faith kept me going because she and my Grandma (her mom) believed in the power of prayers, positive words from the Bible and always thinking "higher thoughts" as my Mom liked to say.
"You can do whatever you set your mind to," she would tell me from time to time. "If you truly believe it is something you can do to serve God and others. It must always, always be for service."
She was right. I always found myself in an occupation or career in which I served others and I enjoyed it. Still do. But as I grow older, I have learned service can also be through writing, through speaking, through anything that resolves a problem, creates a solution, makes someone feel better.
My Mom, thru the power of her persevering spirit, embodies that service. Though she is retired from 25+ years of teaching, she still volunteers to teach at her church's Senior daycare center. She still attends a weekly Bible study to regain, refresh and "renew her mind" as she likes to call it. She and my Dad enjoy their life in Honolulu and her birthday is coming up next week.
I have no clue what to give her for Mother's Day but I think a phone call is something I can do.
I have no clue what to give her for her birthday. She is not a woman that needs much nor is she a "high-maintenance" type of person. She doesn't like jewelry much, prefers to sew her own clothes, she'll wear footwear for 10 years or longer and has enough bags, totes, purses and wallets that she'll often donate them and end up recycling plastic and bags to carry things!
She is an original masterpiece. Fortunately, my wonderful husband made smoked salmon for her and mailed it out this weekend.
I think I will about her on my website today. Though the words will never be enough, its my way of thanking her for being my Mom and always reminding me that serving from the heart is essential to dreaming big.