Tag Archives: parenting

It’s Time to Turn On Your Shine!

iGnite - let your light shine

Point to Ponder:
Are you a light to those around you?

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Excitingly, last Tuesday our kiddos (Durant, 4 & Malaine, 2) attended their first week of pre-school in San Diego. You. have. no. idea. how thrilled I was! Not just for me and my own sanity, but for theirs too. I was excited that we could begin establishing a routine, they could start making friends, their world was expanding beyond “mom,” and I could have a little freedom.

The pre-school they are attending is at the church we attend, The Rock, and it’s in an area near downtown called Point Loma. Like all of San Diego (including the neighborhood we live in), it’s full of a very diverse group of people. Ironically, moving to a more diverse neighborhood was actually something that my husband Russell and I considered while living in Austin before we knew we were moving to San Diego. Now, I realize that our interest was more than just coincidence — rather, it was God opening and preparing our hearts and minds for our future environment.

So, Tuesday was their first day of school and it was an exceptional day for all of us. Absolutely, my heart was a bit unsettled and nervous, but I knew it was necessary for feeling grounded, creating relationships and for our overall growth and development. Then on Thursday, after dropping them off and while filling out paperwork in the school, a heavy dose of loneliness blindsided me out of nowhere. As I I looked around, everything felt unfamiliar. I’m just gonna be honest and say it — no one looked like me (how about that “don’t judge a book by its cover” fail!?). Unlike at the Mother’s Day Out my children attended in Austin, I do not have a relationship with the director, the teachers or any of the moms here. Seriously, I was on the verge of tearing up when out of the blue a random woman walked up, noticed my Stronger TogetHER tank [that I was of course proudly wearing ūüôā ] and said, “I really like your shirt! What’s that about?” I perked up and gave her the 15 second description of iGnite, ending with “we are community-based and believe that in all aspects of life, we are stronger togerHER.” She then enthusiastically invited me to join the women’s Bible study called SHINE. Shine – wow!¬† What an encouraging, happy and powerful word!

That word shine made an impression on me, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. By definition, the word shine means to give out a bright light. As I looked more into ‘shining,’ I was reminded of a sermon I heard by preacher Francis Chan about how a silversmith gets his best, shiniest silver through a process called “testing.” The testing process starts with raw silver in a pot and a fire that is heated to the highest possible temperature. As the silver melts, the impurities rise to the top, at which the silversmith scrapes off the impurities and continues the same process of extreme heat and scraping the impurities off until he or she has the shiniest possible piece of metal — so shiny that they can see their own reflection in it.

What I find remarkable is how this process relates to life and the hardships, stresses, losses, disappointments and discomforts that we all must experience in order to shine. That with the right attitude and perspective, those scary and seemingly ‘unfair’ experiences actually produce maturity, perseverance, faith and wisdom in us so we can shine for others. That’s the part that I was forgetting about on Thursday in my moment of self-pity. I was so consumed by my own discomfort that I was forgetting about my responsibility to shine for others. I had to step outside of myself and my self-pity in order to see the big picture.

Author Marianne Williamson says is perfectly below, suggesting that when we shine, we give others permission to shine:

“Our deepest fear isn’t that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that are more powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, how are you not to be? You are here for a reason! Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory that is within us. It’s in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
– Marianne Williamson

Action Item:
If you are currently experiencing hard or stressful times, just remember, you are going through the testing process so you can shine even¬†brighter on the other side. If you don’t have the energy or even the hope to shine, find someone that is shining and allow their shine to brighten yours.
Or, if life is feeling great and you have plenty of shine to give, in all of your interactions, conversations and even casual passings-by, make it a priority to shine. It’s our responsibility to and for others who are not shining to gain strength from our glow. So let’s shine as brightly as we can so others can be inspired and encouraged to shine as well!

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Hard Lessons Learned from the Big Move

iGnite - make sense of change

Photo above taken during a Susan B. Komen rafting trip during the iGnite Escape to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Point to Ponder:
What changes are you currently experiencing?

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

I suppose I can officially claim California as my new home state. While I’m a Texan and Austinite at heart, I’ve lived in San Diego for a grand total of sixteen days, and I am pleased to share that with each passing day I am feeling more confident, comfortable and accomplished, as I have achieved the following three goals:
I found a babysitter (actually, Durant, our four year old spotted her out at the hotel pool and the rest was history).
I can get myself to the Pacific Coast Highway and all beaches with no GPS (thanks to the wonderful iGnite member Jill Imhoff who lives part-time in San Diego and has taken me under her warm wing.) #StrongerTogetHER!
I can get to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve for an awesome hike, and I actually know where the heck I am going
While I am thankful and proud of these emotionally grounding steps and stabilizing pillars, this whole moving picture was and has been nothing short of frantic, sad and angry, as sixteen days ago I was a wreck and the canvas was an ugly mess!

The week leading up to our departure to the west coast was bittersweet. The ‘sweet’ being spending time with dear friends and family members, and the ‘bitter’ being seeing our home that we brought both of my children Durant and Malaine home from the hospital to and was also filled with amazing memories, become an empty house. That just plain stunk. The absolute worst of the worst was saying goodbye, which if I never had to say another goodbye as long as I lived, I’d be okay with it!! I know that’s not realistic, but it’s my truth.

In the moving ‘blender’ were absolute physical, emotional and mental exhaustion, the emotions that come with a husband who has been gone for two months due to his new job and now being physically back in our lives, along with real sadness and anger. I had been faithful, strong and positive throughout the entire job loss, job change, putting the house on the market and the sale of the house. Then, when the reality of leaving everyone and everything I loved set in and we set off to San Diego, the blender produced an ugly mess of emotions.

When we landed in San Diego, it was of course sunny and there was a cool breeze blowing, but really I couldn’t have cared less. I was legitmately sad, mad and a house overlooking the beach in La Jolla would not have satisfied me. As we drove to see our new house (which I had not seen in person yet), everything was unfamiliar, and directionally nothing made sense. I couldn’t tell which way was North, South, East or West. When we got to our empty house, the rooms seemed small and the house felt cold, and even though the neighborhood was highly recommended and described as the perfect place for families, it felt unfriendly. Ultimately, it wasn’t Austin, “my people” were missing, and my in-control, comfortable and happy world had just been rocked and turned upside down.

Looking back, of course these were normal emotions which I should’ve anticipated (especially because I have never moved like this before), but I’m a’ glass half full’-type and a faithful person. I knew I couldn’t change the situation, and we had moved to a pretty spectacular place, so complaining or feeling sorry for myself was just not an option. However, this was still a big change and even the most optimistic attitude couldn’t combat my sadness.

I’m not writing this journal to give you the play-by-play on our move, rather, in the past two weeks I’ve learned a lot that I want to share. As summer has officially ended and the fall season and school year has begun, there is a lot of change that is and will be occurring in not just mine, but many of our lives right about now. And if you aren’t experiencing change now, there will be a day when you will, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned thus far:

1. Being sad and mad are normal and healthy emotions, but they must get out. I was being totally passive aggressive and ugly to my husband Russell, which was terrible for him and created a ton of tension between us. It wasn’t until I told him exactly why I was mad and sad and that I would get over it, but that I needed him to let me be mad and sad and not try to fix it that things started to get better. It was like having the flu, and the emotions needed time to run their course. Thankfully they did, and things became better quickly.

2.¬†Manage your expectations, take baby steps and accept feeling out of control. I wanted to have San Diego ‘figured out’ the day we landed. I wanted all boxes unpacked and the house looking great and feeling like our old house within days of arriving. I was craving organization and control! Of course all of this was absolutely not possible, and thanks to the advice from iGnite Leader and dear friend Kathleen Parker, I needed to “relax, breathe and focus on having fun with my family. There were no deadlines.” Then, my sweet cousin Craig reminded me to “not lose any sleep over unpacked boxes.” What profound wisdom! And so, I’ve doing what I can when I can and am making great strides to chill and realize this whole process is a journey.

3. Don’t compare your new life to your old life. As soon as we got in our rental car and left the airport to begin our new life, seriously, my brain immediately started trying to fit my Austin life into my San Diego life. It was the strangest thing, as I could physically feel my brain trying to make it happen. I was in complete compare mode. Though San Diego and Austin have similar cultures, San Diego is it’s own place — as all places are– and while I can and will certainly partake in similar activities and develop endearing and meaningful relationships like I have in Austin, they are different. It’s a new time and place and things are automatically going to look and feel different. I will of course hold onto all friendships and memories in Austin, but in order to fully experience and make the best out of our time in San Diego, I need to fully embrace it.

4. We are StrongerTogetHER.¬†It was intentional for our summer shirts to read StrongerTogetHER. We believe that living, sharing and experiencing life together and in community is the best and only way. Plus, we believe we are created for community. But what I didn’t expect was how badly I was going to need it and appreciate it once I got to San Diego. As I mentioned earlier, sweet iGnite member and friend Jill Imhoff lives part-time in Austin and part-time in San Diego, and the day we landed she reached out to me and validated all of my mad and sad feelings. Then, within three days she was offering to help me unpack. Letting others help me is not something I accept well, but I was drowning in chaos and confusion and I knew letting her help me would be the best thing. Then, three days later, she drove me around to help me get the lay of the land and most importantly, get to the beaches. She also took me to Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, where we hiked. What I’ve learned is how important it is to be vulnerable, raw and let others be your neighbor. We can’t and aren’t created to do anything alone, and change is much easier to accept and move through when we allow others to help us. Reach out to others and allow them to give you the gift guiding you down a path that they’ve already walked down and are better equipped to show you through.

So, I challenge you to ask yourself: what change(s) am I experiencing right now? Do you have a new job, are you new to iGnite or Austin, or have you recently moved? Is your first or last child entering Kindergarden or are you an empty nester? Are you expecting a child or are you a new parent? Are you newly married or recently divorced? Are you in a new relationship or have you recently lost someone you love?

Change is everywhere and all around us. The key to managing it and getting through it without losing your mind is letting go and sharing it with others. And so, here’s to a fall season of new beginnings togetHER!

Action Item:
Stop trying to control your changing circumstances, whatever they are.
Instead, let go and allow yourself to share it with others.

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How Kathleen is In the Game

Vulnerability Lost is Intimacy GainediGnite - Share your StrugglesPoint to Ponder:
Are you struggling with something that you haven’t shared with others out of shame or fear of being judged?

by Kathleen Parker

by Kathleen Parker

I am truly not afraid of trying anything new, especially if it involves a good dose of adrenaline!! But since childhood my biggest fears have been failure and judgement by others.

In my classes I have often shared my father’s philosophy on happiness: “Happiness is found through your accomplishments.” Growing up with this mantra was quite scary. If I was not winning, getting a promotion at work, or raising perfect kids, I was not going to be happy. I was so proud and would not share any of my misfortunes with others. Even my best friend in high school didn’t know about my crazy family situation I was going through for four years! My four daughters were FAR from perfect and gave us a wild ride for many years. It wasn’t until the last few years that I embraced my NEW mantra: “Vulnerability lost is intimacy gained.”

Being afraid to show vulnerability kept me from having fuller and deeper relationships for years. How great it feels to be transparent and hopefully help others through all of the trials I have lived in my 54 years!

Facing my other fear — the fear of failure — I still have. When it comes to competing in the Austin Fittest Competition each year, I go to win, not just to compete. That sure makes it less fun. iGnite member Martha Lynn Mangum opened my eyes this year to focusing on having fun and enjoying the competition and not thinking about the win. I have to say it was the most fun out of the four years I participated! I took down my guard and got to know my competitors on a deeper level afterwards and the day ended with all of us being friends instead of competitors. The bonus was I still won, but had much more fun!

Action Item:
Consider opening up to a loved one about something you’re struggling with, and notice how your relationship deepens and your burden is lifted.

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Member Spotlight: Chelsea Tauzin

Roots:
I’m originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana. I moved to Austin last Halloween!

Family Life:
No significant other; no kids. My parents live in Lake Charles, and my siblings are scattered in TX and LA. I have two brothers (twins!) and a sister (who actually moved to Pflugerville just a couple of months before I did)!

Current/Previous Occupation:
I’m the Creative Director (which is just fancy talk for “I do the graphic work”) for a small science education company called Scientific Minds. I also do freelance graphic design projects when I’ve got the time!

Biggest lesson learned through my iGnite experience:
I am stronger than I think I am, and every week I am surrounded by some pretty incredible and encouraging women who help me realize this.

Best piece of advice and from who:
I’m super close with my family, so a lot of advice I pay attention to comes from them.
“In life, find balance.” – Dad
“In all things, find happiness.” – Mom

I am looking forward to:
In September I’m making my first trip (EVER!) to Europe! I’ve been dreaming about this for years, and I’m practically bouncing out of my skin Im’ so excited to make this happen.

If I were a pair of shoes I would be:
Chucks — they’re nothing flashy. They come in a jillion colors, but they’re just a no-nonsense, classic pair of sneakers. They’re my favorite pair of shoes.

My guilty pleasure is:
Watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette….I’m such a sucker. It’s not even good TV, but I CAN’T STOP!

How Cary is In The Game

iGnite - Faith Bigger than FearPoint to Ponder:

Do your fears inhibit you from trusting people and life in general?

In an effort to be vulnerable, courageous and 100% in the game, throughout the month of July the iGnite Team is going to share some of our fears (eek!!). Like all things in life, nothing is as they appear, the human experience is not unique and we all have fears. Therefore, we feel it’s important that we open the doors into our heads and hearts so that in the event you are experiencing similar fears and emotions (and we know at least one person is) we can bring you comfort, encouragement and even spark some healthy conversation. So, without further adieu, I hope you enjoy Cary’s beautiful testimony and appreciate how she’s avoiding the sidelines and playing in the game of motherhood and letting her children fly.

CaryFyfe

by Cary Fyfe

¬†“Have faith in him…”

My oldest son, in his quest to encourage me to step back from his younger brother’s need to blossom on his own, softly laid these words like a potion, on to my raw, motherhood anxiety. There we sat, in a sports bar, of all places, the night before this wise young man left for his first year of college. I had asked him to dinner, just him and me, so that I could frantically plant as many seeds as I could before he sailed off into his future…my motherly cherry-on-top-gift to him. He quietly tolerated my mission, and his brown eyes compassionately caressed my anxious sorrow as he listened and validated. Then, when I finally took a breath between words, he softly said this: “You are a great mother. You did everything you needed to do with and for me. Thank you. And now, I want to tell you something important. You needed to do that for me…it was necessary for me…but it is not necessary for Jack. You can step back. You can give him space to use the great skills he has….please do that, Mom…it’s okay to do that. Have faith in him.”¬†¬†I stopped talking, and I began to listen…and what I heard was my own fear — fear that disguised itself as concern, as necessary in order to guarantee the survival of my children. Fear that was not…was not….true. What was true was the clarity of my oldest son, the capabilities of my youngest son, and my misguided thought that I alone could set their ships on course, for life. I treasure that warm summer night when my sage-of-a-son very gently peeled away the layers of my misguided need to control, and compassionately revealed my useless fear. And in my case, as my son taught me, my fear wasn’t something that I needed to conquer, but rather something that I needed to recognize for what it was, so that I could have the faith to allow life to happen around me, as it was supposed to happen. Falling into fear is a dance that I still do, but because Taylor brought a simple truth to life for me, I can now allow sweet faith to be a bigger part of that dance.

Action Item:

Recognize your fears for what they are. Then have faith by letting go and let life happen around you, as its supposed to.

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Member Spotlight: Lisa Wade

Ignite spotlight - Lisa WadeRoots:
I’m from outside of New York City and came to Austin 19 years ago after living in Santa Fe, New Mexico for 18 years.

Family Life:
Bob and I just celebrated our 30th anniversary. He’s an artist, and we have one daughter, Rachel, who is also an artist and lives and works in Austin.

Work Life:
I’ve worked with Bob in the studio in our home for over 30 years. He does large photo works and public art sculptures (giant boots in San Antonio, the fish at Hula Hut, helmet at Shoal Creek Saloon, etc.), and I take care of everything (He doesn’t email or have an iPhone). I’ve also worked with Prolink Sports & Entertainment for 15 years as the Director of Special Projects and now am Vice President. We produce professional tennis events and music. I’ve worked events with all the top American players all over the country. I was an art critic and writer in Santa Fe, working for national publications, such as Art in America, Arts, and Rolling Stone. When I lived in New York, I worked at the American Museum of Natural History in the Anthropology Department as an archeologist and continued that work at the University of New Mexico. I’ve served on numerous boards and advisory committees for arts organizations and childrens’ charities, including Hamilton College, Austin Museum of Art, Hope Outdoor Gallery, Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Center for Child Protection. I am the founding co-chair of the Buckaroo Ball in Santa Fe and was a co-chair of the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards in Austin.

Biggest lesson learned through my iGnite experience:
As Kathleen says “You can do anything for 30 seconds!”. The wonderful thing about iGnite is that you continue to learn. It has made me mindful of different things every week. It’s about being able to see past your daily experience to find the lesson. Don’t sweat the small stuff but sweat.

Best advice given and from whom:
The best advice came from my father. When I was a little girl and we were standing at a corner in New York, he pointed to the crossing signal and told me “When it says don’t walk, walk.” I guess I’ve been doing that my whole life…stepping off the curb and taking chances.

What people might not know about me:
I can’t snap my fingers!

My favorite color is:
Green! I was captain of the green team at camp and 25 years later my daughter was too.

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How to Make a Day

Be THE REASON someone smiles todayPoint to Ponder:
When was the last time you paid a total stranger a random compliment or kind gesture?

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Over the past two months I’ve had the sweet opportunity to go on two dates with Durant, my four year old son. Along with my husband’s influence and modeling, I am personally trying to teach him how to treat a lady and what women like.

For example, our first date was attending the Austin High Red Jacket spring performance. It was an easy sell, as he loves music and dancing but more than that, he loves young women. So combining the two was a win/win. Our date started at Thundercloud Subs where I let him open the door and pay for our meal. Then, before we sat down at our table I let him pull out my chair. Finally, while eating I informed him that it’s always nice to offer your date a bite of your meal or maybe share dessert. I have no idea if anything I said resonated with him, but it was fun!

Our most recent date was last night in Dripping Springs. A young woman whom I babysat during college got married (that’ll make you feel mature. I refuse to use the “o” word.), and since Russell was out of town I thought it would be a great opportunity for Durant to experience a wedding. In addition, one of the things we do a lot of in our house is dance, and I preach that women love men who will dance with them. (Can you tell I am married to a non-dancer- ugh!?!?!) All in all, between the beautiful young women, chocolate cake and Sprite I let him drink while I had a glass of wine, he had a great time. We even made it on the dance floor which made us both happy.

As I mentioned in the last two paragraphs, Durant loves women and gravitates towards young ones. He’s been like this since he was two years old, and one of the things we talk openly about is how every women wants to feel beautiful, and that a beautiful heart is much more important than a beautiful face or body. In addition, if he sees someone he thinks is beautiful, I always encourage him to tell her, which is what happened a few weeks ago at the restaurant, Hopdoddy. The long of the short is that while waiting at the bar for our to-go order, he noticed a young women he thought was beautiful. When he told me this I encouraged him to tell her, but he became timid and asked me if I would tell her, for him. I explained that if I told her for him it wouldn’t be the same, but it sure would make her happy if he told her how he felt. And so, he confidently climbed out of his chair, walked over to her, tapped her on the arm and told her she was beautiful. As you can imagine, I was one proud mama, but more than that, the young women beamed and gave him a giant hug. Meanwhile there was a random man sitting next to her who gave Durant an attaboy thumbs up and wink – ha! As you can imagine, Durant’s day was made because he got a hug from the beautiful girl, and my day was made because I was so proud of him for being brave and kind. As for the beautiful young lady, I don’t think she ever stopped smiling. In fact, before leaving she came over to us and gave Durant another hug and thanked him for making her day.

The intent of this journal is not to showcase my parenting style or my son, rather it’s to be reminded of how easy it is to make someone smile and even make their day. I realize that children have a gift of making people smile and can get away with saying a lot, but after Durant’s Hopdoddy experience I thought I’d give it a try and pay someone a random, yet sincere compliment. Brene Brown would call this being vulnerable and daring greatly. So, while in Whole Foods the other day I noticed a women’s gorgeous full eyebrows. I caught myself staring at her and finally said, “You have the most beautiful eyebrows”. She lit up and said, “WOW! Thank you! You have the most beautiful face!”. Totally taken aback by her comment, I lit up and said, “WOW!, Thank you! You are so kind!” I would’ve been completely happy with her accepting my compliment, but I found myself walking with an unexpected spring in my step and a smile on my face.

Action Item:
This week, make an effort to dare greatly and put a smile on someone’s face by perhaps paying an unexpected and sincere compliment or extending a kind gesture.

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Member Spotlight: Taylor Parsons

iGnite - Taylor ParsonsiGniter of 3 years

Roots:
I was born in Corpus Christi, moved to Austin at age 7, and went to elementary, middle and high school here. I moved back after graduate school in 2011.
Family Life:
I am married to Rob, who I met when I was 18, and we have a little girl, Zella Marie! She was born on April 3rd this year!
Work life:
I am a perfusionist. I operate the heart/lung bypass circuit during open heart surgeries for adults and pediatrics in Austin area hospitals.
Biggest lesson learned through my iGnite experience:
You are living the one life you are given by God, so make it great! Watching and listening to other iGnite members talk about their lives, their trials and triumphs, and their personal goals inspires me to be the best version of myself. Staying active, positive and involved in the lives of loved ones are just a few of the ways I see iGniters spreading joy daily!
Who inspires me most and why:
My mom, Barb McTee! She is the definition of a Godly, selfless, hard-working best friend. She is the first person to cry with me, laugh with me (or usually at me), hold me accountable if I am in the wrong, and talk for hours on end with me about nothing at all. She is the example of the mother and wife I look to when I need encouragement. Above all else, she always puts herself last.
Something people may not know about me:
I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do! I got it many years back and truthfully don’t remember many “moves”, but it is an accomplishment I am proud of!
If I were an ice cream flavor I would be:
Amy’s Ice Cream Mexican Vanilla with sprinkles and Reese’s in a waffle cone! Why?¬†Mexican Vanilla sort of looks like me and my freckles (white with little dots), I love anything colorful (sprinkles), I can be sweet (Reese’s)—all wrapped up in a spunky tomboy shell (crunchy waffle cone)!

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.”
(anonymous)

 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 ūüôā

— — —

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‚Ķall 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‚Ķ ¬†I’d retire! ūüôā 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 ūüôā }

LalaCortez_w-1When I’m not working, you can find me‚Ķ ¬†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‚Ķ 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

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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.

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