Tag Archives: Mothers Day

Pretty Darn Close to Perfect

iGnite trees“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.”

 Point to Ponder:

What redeeming qualities or characteristics does your mom possess? 

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Authentic, Brave, Fun, Strong, Generous, Great Cook, Friend, Humorous, Devoted, Courageous, Adventurous, Selfless, Optimistic, Calm, Sacrifice, Giving, Entertainer, the Best, Graceful, Faithful, Thoughtful, Loving, a Lady, and Fearless are some of the adjectives, qualities and characteristics used to describe our mom’s on Friday, during our Mother’s Day Member Lunch.

There are unlimited wonderful and meaningful words that can be used to describe moms, but unfortunately perfect isn’t one of them.  We yell, scream, and make regular mistakes and have regrest like all humans, but while growing up, it sure did feel like my mom was perfect.  She never met a bad day, at least that I could tell.  She was the eternal optimist who attacked life with a great sense of humor.  She made my sister and I believe that we could do anything.  She was our biggest fan and cheerleader, and her ability to love people was and is extraordinary.  It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I realized she was a real human and wasn’t perfect after all. It was a devastating realization, and it was when she told my sister and I that she was marrying Joe, after only dating him for three months.

Irrational and irresponsible is all I could think.  How could she be marrying someone she barely knows?!? What if the roles were reversed?  There’s no way she would support me marrying someone after only dating him for three months!  But, actually, I was wrong. She would not have said a word and just loved and supported me through it, like she’s always done. It wasn’t until my dad (her first and only husband whom she’d been divorced from for over twenty years) reminded me that she was a responsible fifty-plus year old woman who could make her own life decisions.  In other words, he was telling me that I needed to zip it, get over it and support her.  He was right.

Mom and Joe have been married now for eleven years and they continue to be very happy and live a sweet and wonderful life together.  Was her decision to marry Joe after only knowing him for three months irrational and irresponsible?  Maybe, but I couldn’t be more thankful for their irrational decision and imperfections, because it has made my mom the happiest I have ever seen her and our children love G-Joe (that’s his grandpa name) to the moon and back.

It totally stinks that mom’s aren’t perfect, but thankfully we aren’t because that would make for impossible shoes to fill and a dull life with boring stories.  Instead, we’re all trying our best and many days our best is ugly, loud and messy.  And, despite being imperfect, there’s nothing more satisfying, special and comforting than a mother’s love.

Happy Mother’s Day to You and Yours and I hope you enjoy the continued shared and endearing words about our mother’s from our Member Lunch.

She never yelled; She befriended everyone; She never met a stranger; She sacrificed so much for us; She invited strangers to meals; She taught me to live life; She was devoted to our family; She was the best hugger; She taught me to branch out and try new things; Her love for the Lord can be seen by the way she loves others; She always made me feel the best and most special; She taught me to embrace change and never get stuck in a rut; She faced adversity with a smile and taught me to find good in everyone; She taught me to surround myself with girlfriends; She wanted to be the best wife, mom and Christian; She always managed to give me one-on-one time; She doesn’t take herself seriously; She gave me my strength; She taught me to use my strengths for the greater good; She taught me the importance of helping others and volunteering;  I was loved my many moms.

Action Item:

In honor of your mother, apply her redeeming qualities and characteristics to your life.

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Eulalia “Lala” Cortes’ Story: The Depth of a Mother’s Love

compiled by Catherine Sanderson

compiled by Catherine Sanderson

With mother’s day approaching, we’re excited to share the story of the amazing Lala Cortes, a mother and grandmother in her own right, but also a “second mother” to almost 20 other children in the Austin area. Her story displays the incredible power of a mother’s love to ignite a journey from a place of war and turmoil to one that is safe and full of love. Her motherly instincts led her to bravely start anew and create an independent and safe life for herself and her children after years of hardship.

We know you will be inspired 🙂

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Roots & Family Life:  I was born in León, Nicaragua and lived there until I was 22 years old when I moved to Austin, and have now lived here for 27 years. In Nicaragua, my dad Jose worked in agriculture and farming, and my mom Mercedes had her own business selling our produce at a market stall.

My parents in Nicaragua

My parents in Nicaragua

I had 4 brothers and 2 sisters — 7 of us total, although one of my brothers was killed in the civil war. I have 3 children: Silvia (now 32), Orlando (27) and Brenda (26) and I now have 2 grandchildren: Genesis (9), Eli (6) and one on the way!

I am happily married to my current husband Eliseo, and we have been married for 12 years.

Left: with my children and daddy at mine and Eliseo's wedding

Left: with my children and daddy at mine and Eliseo’s wedding; Right: my grandchildren Genesis and Eli

Current Occupation: I’m a nanny and I clean houses for a number of families. Over the past 27 years, I’ve helped raise 18 children other than my own, and have worked for more than 15 families — from less than a year for some, to 27 years for others.

With Malaine and Durant (Neissa Springmann's children), 2 of the children I look after now

With Malaine and Durant (Neissa Springmann’s children), 2 of the children I help look after now

I always treated the girls that worked for me in Nicaragua the way that I wanted to be treated, so when that doesn’t happen with me, I don’t work there for long!

Who inspires me most: God. He inspires us all as human beings to move forward, and without Him in front of us we couldn’t be as strong as we are.

The best advice I’ve been given: There are many, but the best was from my parents: In life, although there’s suffering and it’s hard, it teaches you how to live and live with other people. Also, they taught me that the way you treat others is the way you’re going to be treated.

Something people don’t know about me: As a kid, my favorite pastime was jumping rope. Once, I fell and hurt my knee (which I still have the scar from) and never told my mom because I knew she’d get made at me for not being careful and hurting myself (there was no money for going to the doctor). I had to tell her when my knee became really swollen and I got gangrene and she wanted to take me to the doctor. I still have knee problems because of it…all because of jumping rope and not telling my mom! Which is why I now get so scared when the kids I take care of love jumping off things!

If I wasn’t in my current career, I’d…  I’d retire! 🙂 Well, when I was in a kid in school I wanted to be a teacher or a nurse, but I can’t see myself being a nurse anymore because I have a weak stomach when it comes to blood. With the little English I know, I can see myself looking for another type of job where I can use the language more and communicate more.

What I’m looking forward to right now:  I’m excited for my newest grandbaby to get here, and when it does I’m going to charge $30 an hour to watch it! {kidding 🙂 }

LalaCortez_w-1When I’m not working, you can find me…  Shopping, exercising, volunteering with my church, teaching bible studies, gardening, and getting my nails done.

My perfect day would be: On my perfect day (a day off), I would be teaching people about the bible and giving bible studies — it’s my therapy.  I volunteer through my church to go to people’s homes who have shown interest in learning about the bible and give them bible studies. I love sitting down with people in their homes.

~ My Story ~

The hardest and most life-changing experience I’ve been through was traveling alone with my children to the U.S. and then raising them alone in a new country.

After my brother was killed in the civil war in Nicaragua, my parents wanted to protect the rest of us, and so they traveled with the rest of the family to the U.S. to live in Austin. I stayed behind in Nicaragua because I had married my first husband at 16 and had my first child Silvia at 17. My husband owned a jewelry store there and we were very well off — I had 3 ladies working in my house helping with the children, cleaning the house and running errands. I would go get my nails done and go shopping!

After a number of years with my parents in the U.S. and the civil war going on in Nicaragua, I had 2 small children, was pregnant with my third, my husband wasn’t being a good husband, and I was seeing civilians who didn’t support the government get killed. I knew my family was in the U.S. and I could be safe with them there, so at 22 years old I decided to travel to the U.S. alone with the children to be with my parents.

Clockwise from top left: with newborn Silvia in Nicaragua, with all 3 children in Austin, the children growing up in Austin

Clockwise from top left: with newborn Silvia in Nicaragua, with all 3 children in Austin, the children growing up in Austin

So, with 4-year-old Silvia, 10-month-old Orlando, and me 8 months pregnant with Brenda, I crossed from Nicaragua to Mexico (a 1 month journey) then crossed from Tapachula, Mexico into Texas (a 3 day journey). During those 3 days in Mexico, the coyotes (the people you pay to take you across the U.S. border) left me and my children alone in a shack in the bushes in the mountains somewhere outside Matamoros because Orlando was a very fussy baby and they said he was too loud — they said they’d come back for me. They left me with water and a tortilla and cheese, and I didn’t eat anything over those 3 days. I was scared that they wouldn’t come back for us, but luckily one of the coyotes was my cousin and they eventually did. I crossed the border in labor, and then Brenda was born in New Braunfels immediately. I remember going to the hospital right after I crossed over and telling my mom, “If you had told me how hard that journey would have been, I wouldn’t have come!”

When I crossed over, life was even harder here. I had to leave my kids to work — when before in Nicaragua I never had to work while I had kids. I didn’t know English, didn’t know anyone other than my family, and didn’t have any work experience.

After 3 months of being here, my sister Marcia took me with her to help clean houses and I gave my babies to a friend to take care of while I was out.  Three months later, I started working for Sha Klatt (iGnite’s swimming leader who I’ve now worked for for 27 years). Marcia had been working for Sha’s neighbor Patty, and when I was helping her out Sha saw me at Patty’s and asked if I could help her with her house when her daughter Sydney was 3 and her son Sam was 6 months old. So, my daddy took me to the bus stop downtown and left me there because my sister Marcia said, “Here you go, this is the bus that will take you to Sha’s house.”  I would take Brenda (6 months old at the time) on a bus into central Austin while a friend watched Silvia and Orlando.

So I began working for Sha, and she began teaching me English. She had a Spanish-English dictionary, and for a year & a half we used that dictionary to communicate with each other.

After 10 months here, the children and I got our residency and social security cards — we were officially “legal.”  My mom paid for my husband to travel to the U.S. to help take care of his family about a year after I arrived, but 3 months later, he started “being bad” again… in ways I won’t go into. The kids remember him as being very in-and-out, never having a connection with him, and remember him sometimes being gone for weeks or months at a time. We were together for a total of 18 years before getting a divorce.

I had to wait 7 years for my U.S. citizenship, and the children got theirs then too.

Receiving my U.S. citizenship; Far right: with Sha and Carolyn (another woman whose family I have worked for for many years)

I took busses around Austin for 8 years, and then Sha told me, “Lala, let’s go driving. You have to get your driver’s license.”  I told her I was scared, but she wouldn’t have it. I had never driven before — I just took taxis everywhere in Nicaragua!  Sha taught me in her neighborhood driving her husband Mike’s grandpa’s car. Sha cleaned the car up and paid for me to take the test, and then with my license I was able do more — to help take the children to ballet, school, the swimming pool, restaurants, etc. She gave me a Visa card to fill up the gas, and I was free to take the kids around all day.

Sha and I

Lala and Sha

Sha had a giant impact on my life, she’s like a sister to me. When I would get sick, Sha — knowing I lived by myself with the children — would come to my house and take my kids to school, bring me food and clothes, and take me to the doctor. She is my family. I remember when all of our kids were little, she was my big motivator and cheerleader. She gave me that boost and encouragement to get up. She would say, “Lala, bring your children to my house.”   When I’d get there and start cleaning, she’d get all of the kids in the pool and teach them to swim.

I can now say that all of this hardship saved my life and my children’s lives, and it has allowed me to start a new life here with a new husband that loves me and loves my children.

Brenda, Lala and Silvia

Brenda, Lala and Silvia

— — —

Lala’s story is one that fully embodies the risks a dedicated and loving mother will take and the lengths she’ll go to to protect her children.  As a result of her incredibly difficult journey motivated by wanting to give her children a better and safer life, they now have just that. And not only that, but Lala also now owns her own home, is in a loving marriage and is surrounded by children, grandchildren and friends that love her.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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iGnite’s Real Women, Real Stories is a series highlighting the inspiring lives and experiences of women in our community. We hope their stories motivate and inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

Know someone who would be a great candidate for a Real Women, Real Stories feature? Email nominations to hello@igniteyourlifenow.com

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We Thought Nothing Of It: A Mother’s Day Tribute

Life doesn’t happen to us. It reveals our true spirit.

About Neissa

by Neissa Springmann

During one of Amy’s recent yoga classes, she closed with this quote: “Life doesn’t happen to us. It reveals our true spirit.” I was instantly touched by the quote because it reminded me of my mom—the eternal optimist—who inspires me to write this journal.

My childhood in Riesel (a small farming community outside of Waco) was at times challenging. But being raised by an eternal optimist meant times rarely seemed grim. When I was in the first grade my mom divorced my dad. At the time, my father was an alcoholic. Thankfully, the day my mom moved me and my sister out was the same day my dad divinely quit drinking—cold turkey. He has been alcohol free ever since—another journal for another day.

It was too late to reconcile as mounds of damage had already been done. My mother was no longer in love with my father and knew she had to get me and my sister out of our negative environment so she moved us into an apartment in a nearby town. My sister and I were able to stay in the same school so life barely changed. If anything, life got better!! We thought nothing of it.

Everything seemed normal with the exception of our father not living with us. Within a year, my mom began dating and my dad became reacquainted with a college sweetheart. Dad married my stepmother, Brenda, and they’ve been married ever since. We became a very civil divorced family who attended the same church and even sat in the same pew together. Can you can imagine how strange this might have looked?!? We thought nothing of it.

It wasn’t too long before we moved back to Riesel. Our new home was old and with no central air or heat. The three of us shared one bedroom and changed our habits to suit the season. In the winter, Mom would get up extra early (4:30 a.m.) to light space heaters for us. And when the water heater ran out of butane, she’d boil huge pots of water on the stove for our baths. We thought nothing of it.

During the school year Mom always prepared and delivered our breakfast to us on the couch. There the three of us would eat, put on our makeup together and talk about EVERYTHING! Mom would iron our clothes for the day and see to it that our lunches were made. By 7:30 a.m., we all looked like a million bucks and headed out the door. We thought nothing of it.

I could go on and on with more stories about the eternal optimist, but what I love and appreciate the most about my mom is her spirit. She protected and nurtured us. Only later in life did my sister and I learn the truth about the hardships she endured.

The apartment she had moved us to was government subsidized housing. We thought nothing of it because there was no more fighting, and we found fun in climbing the stairs and meeting the new neighbors.

The clothes she gave us were mostly hand-me-downs or painstakingly handmade. We thought nothing of it because we loved going to Wal-mart to look for patterns and material so we could have a new Easter, Christmas, or banquet dresses. Mom even made my sister’s Jr. Prom dress which was ALL RED SEQUINS!!!

The times we ran out of butane were because she sometimes couldn’t pay the bill. We thought nothing of it because she boiled water on the stove for us. And the school cafeteria food was awful, but we thought nothing of it because Mom always made our lunches to spare us.

We were financially poor. But thanks to Mom’s faith and eternal optimistic spirit, we were spiritually rich. Throughout the many struggles she endured, we never saw her cry or heard her complain. She reinforced the importance of faith, family, health and humor. She stayed focused on making the best of every situation and after every game, event or activity we participated in, even if we lost by fifty points, she was always the first to greet us with her BIG smile and optimistic attitude. She always told us how great we did and never what we should or could have done to win.

Financially, life is better for us all now, but we wouldn’t trade our poor upbringing for any amount of money in the world. We are grateful and very often reminisce and laugh.

Difficult and challenging times are always inevitable in life. What’s critical and is the difference maker is our optimistic attitudes, as our spirit will most likely determine the outcome of our situations. Mom has proven this to me time and time again. But don’t just take my word for it; a 2008 Duke University study showed that cardiac patients who were pessimistic about their recovery we’re twice as likely to die early as those who were optimistic.

As you go about your week and even life, I encourage you to confront all situations with an optimistic spirit. The truth is that life is going to happen with some good and some bad mixed together. The question is: will you have an unshakable faith and spirit that radiates so brightly that you’ll flourish even through the most challenging situations? I’m optimistic you will!

Point To Ponder:
How do you typically react to situations that don’t go your way?

Action Item:
Confront all situations with an optimistic spirit. Have an unshakable faith and spirit that radiates so brightly that you’ll flourish even when the outlook appears grim.

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Bark Less, Wag More



Action Item:

Throughout the week, consider this quote and greet each day (as well as your family members, friends, and neighbors) with a spunky and friendly tail-wagging attitude, while eliminating the bark. Not only will the people around you appreciate it, but you’ll be giving a beautiful gift for everyone to enjoy and follow.

by Neissa Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

It just so happened that my mom was in town for “Sisters Weekend.” She and her sister Sharon, who lives in Round Rock, designate a few weekends out of each year to spend time, reminisce, and enjoy shopping, gardening, and late nights of laughter together. Basically, it’s a weekend-long slumber party that is absolutely hysterical. Because this weekend is Mother’s Day weekend, I decided that my husband Russell and son Durant and I would stop by to give my mom her Mother’s Day gift, big hugs and tell her how much we love and appreciate her.

As we pulled into my aunt’s driveway, the sisters just driven up too. They had been to a flower nursery where my mom found and purchased a plant called a “Duranta,” which blooms blue flowers. She thought this was entirely ironic and wonderful (because of her grandson Durant) and as she got out of the car she was all smiles and oh-so-proud of her new plant. It didn’t take but two seconds before both of them put their plants down and headed straight towards Durant giggling, with bright and smiling faces.

Within just a few minutes, the five of us were inside my Aunt’s cozy home. As they shared amusing details of their special family weekend, my Mom fed Durant and we sipped on cold drinks. It didn’t take long before we transitioned into the backyard, under the gazebo and enjoyed the shade, breeze and one another’s loving company.

Unfortunately, we could only stay for two hours which passed by quickly. However, despite our abbreviated stay, it was a special and dear time. I was once again reminded of how amazing my mom is and how blessed I am to have such a tremendous role model. She is a prolific woman of admirable characteristics and if I’m fortunate enough to possess a few of them, I will be grateful. 

This Mother’s Day, as I think of her many endearing qualities, the one that is paramount is her eternal “don’t sweat the small stuff” optimistic attitude and ability to laugh at just about anything. It’s rare that she doesn’t have a radiating smile on her face and in fact, her spirited and uplifting personality reminds me of this week’s quote, which was on a bumper sticker that iGniter Louise recently shared with me. “Bark Less, Wag More”— What a brilliant life philosophy, and this is exactly my mom’s and Louise’s attitude that is so inspiring! Honestly, while growing up I do not remember her ever yelling at us or ever even complaining. And now, as an adult, the only time I recall hearing her complain is if it is absolutely 100% justifiable.

I realize that creating the analogy between my mom’s spirited attitude and a happy dog might be strange, but I love the idea of “barking less and wagging more”- it makes me smile and I just don’t see how applying it to our daily life could be bad. Actually, the ultimate attitude goal would be to combine a happy bark with a tail wag, like the one seen in this week’s video. I know you will thoroughly enjoy it and I look forward to barking less and wagging more with you. 

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JOIN THE DISCUSSION-Who are your role models?

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