Why you should care
Because moms are good sh*t.
Mothers. They gave us life, and then throughout those lives have provided comfort, wisdom, knowledge and a fire under our butts when needed. They’ve clothed us, fed us (often too well) and held our hands when we were scared. They love us, even when we don’t love ourselves enough. And every day they inspire us with their strength, courage and humor.
For Mother’s Day, we’re sharing personal stories about moms from some of the people who work at OZY and some of the people who read OZY.
Leslie Nguyen-Okwu, Reporter
I never understood why my mom clung to me fearfully every time we crossed a street, why she forced me to wear coats in the middle of scorching Texan summers. I resented the endless stretches with the old, mean babysitter while Mom worked long hours on the night shift. But after decades of her unyielding sacrifice and selfless devotion, I’m finally beginning to see behind the scenes. My mom escaped a war and crowded refugee camps when she was just 8 years old, with no family and no one to hold on to. She survived the harsh winters of Buffalo, New York — a tundra compared with tropical, sunny Vietnam. And, in the evenings, she was working on a college degree in the hopes of being able to provide more for my little sisters and me. She has always juggled everything quietly and with grace, expecting nothing in return. This Mother’s Day and every day, even if I measure up to only half of her bravery and resilience, I know how privileged I am to have a mother like her.
Nick Fouriezos, Politics Reporter
I have my mom to thank for the most kick-ass opener to any work bio, cocktail party or intrepid first date: I am the oldest of 10 kids. Yes, my mom is Catholic and a saint. But more important, she knows that love is sacrifice, a dozen daily disasters dressed up in a snotty pink blankie and Minecraft T-shirts. It’s knowing that saying yes is loving your children, but that saying no is sometimes loving them more — even if immeasurably harder. Four years ago, after two decades of full-time work as Super Mom, she reentered the workforce wondering if she could even get a fast food job. Today, she’s a second-in-command managing one of the premier skyscrapers that dot the Atlanta skyline. Oh, and last year, on her 50th birthday, she ran her first marathon. In a moment of guilt, I once wrote a short story lamenting how her children had somehow kept her from accomplishing her dreams. Now, that is a laughable alternative fact.
Anne Muscarella, Director of Communications
My mom will object to being categorized as Good Sh*t, in part because she’s modest, and in part because she doesn’t like the use of gratuitous curse words, or curse words in general (I think my sister and I are wearing her down on that last one, though). My mom is the strongest person I know. She has more energy than anyone. We tease her because she is in perpetual motion, going from one activity to the next, most often in service of others. She is exceedingly generous, never missing an opportunity to let you know she cares. She is an incredible role model and friend, and I am so thankful for all she has given my sister and me.
Tania Straatsma, Office Manager
My beautiful, strong, kind, smart mother, Paola Infantino, came to America as a teenager from Sicily and taught herself English by watching cheesy soap operas. She works harder than anyone, and has ingrained her strength into my sister, Sabrina, and me: “You can do and be anything you want,” she always says. She might as well have her own restaurant, because her cooking is heavenly. She loves to host, and will make you eat seconds and thirds, because she gets joy in feeding you until you fall over. Family is No. 1 to her, a code that my sister and I also live by. Her laugh is contagious — she brightens up a room (and a party). You will never leave her side without a photo; she loves her pictures. She’s adventurous, loves to travel. Her travel itineraries are impressive. My best friend, my No. 1 fan and my inspiration … I feel lucky to have her as my mother.
Matt Foley, Sports Reporter
Being outnumbered, in any setting, can be tough. Being the only female in a house full of loud, messy, smart-ass males for 27 years (and counting) is enough to drive anyone mad. Thankfully, for myself, my two younger brothers and our dad, the most energetic, loving and compassionate figure in our life is Mom. Rather than heading for witness protection, Mom raised three thoughtful, respectful boys who adopted her gift of gab (the hospitality manager turned teacher knows how to tell a story) and work ethic (she also owns a neighborhood landscaping company). In our pocket of South Side Chicago, her ridiculously positive disposition, beaming smile and uncanny ability to remember strangers’ names while jogging with the dogs, Angie and Rocky, has done wonders for the Foley family reputation. Mom has never missed an opportunity to root for her boys, whether cheering in the stands or popping up in the OZY comment section. If I can live life with half of the enthusiasm for family as my mother, I’ll be doing something right.
Steven Lozic, Sales Director
It has always been difficult to write a Mother’s Day card because, to this day, I honestly still can’t find the words to articulately convey the emotions that my mom evokes. Fortunately, she understands me unlike anyone else. Unconditional love are two words that simply don’t do justice to the characteristics that my mother embodies. Somehow, she always finds a way to forgive and find the positives, despite the ridiculous shit that my siblings and I get ourselves into! There will never be enough thank-yous to quantify the gratitude that our entire family feels toward her. She brightens up every day with her presence and her smile — it’s like the golden touch. She epitomizes the very best of humanity and truly personifies the concept of love.
It’s been a little over three years since my mom died at 86 after a long, heartbreaking battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes, I still can’t believe she’s gone. The night before her memorial service, my youngest brother told me to prepare something to say. So, in the style of David Letterman, I created the “Top 10 Things I Love Most About My Mom” list. And hoped for the best. No. 10: “Mom was a lady. A true lady. She could have given Jackie O. a run for her money, back in the day. Mom wore Chanel No. 5. Red lipstick, expertly applied, was the norm, not the exception. Her hat matched her purse, which matched her shoes. I really admired this about Mom, seeing as I was a charm school dropout, much to her dismay. Mom had it going on.” No. 1: “Her love for all of us. It’s irrefutable, undeniable and everlasting. It was unconditional. As I look around me, I can see the results of all that love in my family.”
Earl L. Trout and Shari Palicke, née Trout
In 1977, we moved to South Pasadena, a quaint suburb in the shadow of Los Angeles. As we adapted to life in a new town, our mother, Jodi, decided to work for the local newspaper, the South Pasadena Review. With no photography or reporting experience, Mom leveraged her love for people, her personable nature and her enthusiasm for life into this role. Every Wednesday, many images of our small town were tagged with “Photo by Jodi,” bringing our small town to life by celebrating and covering the events that were so important to us. All that time we were sharing our mom we never felt like we received anything less than her full attention: She had the capacity to care deeply for her children, her friends and the people of South Pasadena. Her life was a lesson on how to live, with kindness, commitment and love for those around you. When we lost her suddenly several years ago, her departure created a vacuum. Each of our memories of her has become its own “Photo by Jodi.”
My mom grew up hard — rage-filled, controlling, alcoholic father kind of hard. Her younger sister told me stories not long after my mom died. Stories of her heroism in protecting her younger siblings, plus having a mother who did not stand up for the kids. The first time I saw my mother cry, I was 14 years old; she had to lay off two-thirds of her department in one of the young Silicon Valley’s moments of downturn. She divorced my father when the last of her kids left the house; after 40 years of sacrifice, she lived alone, peacefully, until she met a man who made her a queen. He cherished her and surrounded her in beauty. That is how she lived for her last few years: in a joy she had not known the previous 60 years. My mom was not my best friend. She was a woman who struggled mightily and ended peacefully.
When I was 3 years old, my mother taught me to sing the alphabet song backward (Z Y, X W, V U T, S R Q … ). She’d have me perform it for neighbors and relatives, who were delighted — they had never seen anything like it! Throughout my life, I would bring this up occasionally at group gatherings and never met anyone else who had learned the alphabet that way. My mother died when I was 59. At my parents’ house after the funeral, my little sister (12 years younger) said, “Remember when she taught us to sing the alphabet song backward?” and her kids, now teenagers, laughed and started singing it. Others joined in and we all sang it. I was stunned — all my life I had thought I was the only one who learned this at her knee. She had been teaching it to every little kid who crossed her path!
My mom, Pearl Woods, was a popular high school teacher and the first American girl to apply for enlistment in the U.S. Navy. We all love her and miss her.
On May 10, 1941 — Mother’s Day — Liverpool was bombed seven nights in a row. The third night, my mother, 37, and I, 11, ran five blocks from our creaking cellar through the crump of bombs, the bang of ack-ack guns, pinging of shrapnel on the road, and the crack and fizz of incendiaries on the asphalt to a public shelter — the cellar of an empty building. A close bomb split the ceiling and put out the lights. In the squealing dark, people fought for the iron stairs. My mother and I were on a bench. She took my hand, not moving, not speaking, upright, steadfast, through hours of half-mad cellar wailings and the roaring explosions outside, until the bombers left at last, at dawn. After 75 years, I still feel her hand.
My mom was in her mid-80s when her dog died. We picked up another dog at the SPCA, whom she named Lucky, but the dog was uncontrollable. My mom put an ad in the newspaper, and a local man came and took Lucky, saying he would call her and let her know how the dog was adjusting. After not hearing back for over a week, my mom told my sister that she was going to put another ad in the paper reading “Would the man who got lucky last Friday, please call Alice.” We all laughed, and the ad never went in the paper.