Saturday, April 16, 2011

30 Days of Pictures: Day 16

Day 16: A picture of someone who inspires you

I was lucky to have been raised by two incredibly loving, caring, strong, intelligent, passionate, bright, witty, persistent, warm and deep parents.

I adore my father. He shaped me, pushed me, taught me how to grow to be a good man; a man who would do good works, be caring and strong and love my family.

But let's be honest. I'm a mama's boy.

My mother is the most intelligent, loving, driven, caring and interesting person I have ever known.

She was a senior at the University of Minnesota when I was born, finishing her degree while caring for an infant couldn't have been easy, but that was the plan. When she graduated, my dad was working for the YMCA and my mom was raising me. Dad was offered the executive director job at the North Miami Beach YMCA shortly after and we headed to Florida. Mom was the aquatics director there and I was raised at the Y, surrounded by a community who cared. My parents lived by this ethos, and still do.

My parents eventually moved us all back home and Dad continued his life of service in the non-profit field. Mom joined him, but this time at the Red Cross. I have to admit, it was my fault. I told her "go to work like the other mommy's so I can go to school" not realizing that even in 1980 it wasn't the norm. I was always fascinated by my mom's job. I mean, she was surrounded by these creepy half-bodies (Resusci-Annie), managed blood drives and the coolest thing ever was that my mom helped people during natural disasters. Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, it didn't matter. My mom was important because she helped take care of people when they needed it. Eventually becoming the branch manager, I thought it was so cool that my mom was the boss (sure, my dad was too, and his job was also cool, but Mom's dealt with blood drives and emergency kits) and I was proud of her.

Mom then took a job with the State of Minnesota in nuclear emergency preparedness. This was such a cool gig. I got to help out with the exercises, pretending to be hurt or contaminated by radiation, playing out my role but always keeping an eye on Mom and watching people take orders and listen to her. Even the National Guard had to listen to what my mom said. Eventually she moved into an assistant director role with Emergency Management and helped staff the Emergency Operations Center, doing conferences with FEMA and teaching classes and holding meetings and press conferences with the Governor. Going to her office was amazing for me. She taught me about public policy, emergency management, how government agencies work together and because of her, I wanted to work in public policy, helping those who need their government's assistance.

In fact, we worked together briefly when I interned as a hazard mitigation specialist during the summer and fall of 2000. I was in the EOC during 9/11, and watching my mom in action was powerful and moving. I saw her in a whole different light. Everything was chaos, but my mom was a rock, just like she'd always been for me.

Now she's the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, leading Minnesota's emergency preparedness. I still get excited and proud when she's on the radio or TV or in the paper. In fact, Ingrid even noticed Grandma on the TV and reached out for her when she did a Sunday morning interview on the flood situation in the Red River Valley. I love that Ingrid has such strong female role-models in her mom and grandma. It means so much to me to see people to whom she can look up able to be driven at work and caring and soft at home.

That's the most inspiring thing to me about my mother. Sure, she's an incredibly important person and has to have the needs of the population of the state in mind, but she's more than that. My mom is an incredible chef, a foodie before being one was fashionable. She has an exceptional voice; a first soprano who was always at the center of any musical performance. She loves to travel and golf and read and always knows exactly what to say to help me with any situation. She was always supportive without being enabling. I knew she always ha my back, but wouldn't sugar-coat anything.

If I can be the kind of parent to Ingrid that my mother was to me, I will consider it a job very well done.
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