With Mother’s Day approaching, I thought it would be fitting to share a little about the woman who most inspired me throughout my life: my beautiful Mom.
My Mom is a formidable woman of faith. She was a teacher in Mexico before she and my Dad immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico a few years after their marriage, but it was in Mexico where she learned how to speak, read and write English and French. She loved teaching, but my Mom’s credentials could not be used in the U.S. to teach, so she enrolled in college here, and some years later, she obtained her master’s degree in education. She accomplished all of this while she and my Dad continued to work—sometimes more than one job at a time—and raise their children. One would work the day shift while the other worked the night shift so that one of them was always there to care for us.
Some of the jobs my Mom held before she was able to teach here in the U.S. were cashier, factory worker, court interpreter for the federal district courts, bookkeeper in the Sears Tower and secretary in the Office of the Mayor of the City of Chicago. Ultimately, she worked for many years as a special education teacher for the Chicago Public Schools.
My siblings and I were raised on stories at the dinner table about my Mom’s encounters with all manner of personalities in the various jobs she held, as well as all the tricky situations she had to navigate. We learned many useful lessons that have served me well throughout my career, first as a prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, then as a judge in the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Now, as I embark on my journey as a mediator and arbitrator with JAMS, I know my Mom’s lessons will continue to direct me. When I’m facing a difficult mediation that may feel like an uphill battle, I will think of wise words she said to me about never giving up. When I’m helping others find peace and resolution in a case, I’ll think of how she guided me to be persistent and perceptive.
In all of the positions my Mom held, right up until the day she retired, she always listened very carefully, advocated for the powerless, upheld the highest standards in her work, shared her knowledge and skills with others, corrected negative stereotypes and always stood up for herself. She is and always has been tough and keenly intelligent, with a sharp wit. She always displayed a loving, but strong hand of discipline with her children. She and my Dad always emphasized the importance of education for all of their children, not just the boys, as was the custom when my parents grew up. She would always say, and still often repeats, “Trust in the Lord, but do your part.”
Early on in my life when most of my friends wished they could be like the women or girls we saw on TV, I often wished that I could be like my Mom when I grew up. I thank the Lord that my Mom continues to inspire me to this day.
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