74 years ago Ellen Anne Riley was born in Chicago, Illinois, 2 months early, breech, placenta previa at a whopping 2 pounds. The fact that she survived that birth was a miracle. Ellen, now, affectionately called Gaga, left the hospital months later.
The rest of that story is for a later date.
For as long as I have memories my mom has been my hero, the person I look up to most in this world and the one who has inspired me most. She is largely why I wanted to become a teacher. I saw how much she loved her work and how much of herself she poured into it, but also, how much it gave back to her and I wanted in on that!
In fact, she is the reason for a lot of the things I’ve done in my life. My sister and I have been blessed to have two parents who loved and supported us in everything we ever did. Knowing my mom’s story the way I do, I know not everyone has that advantage. We are blessed.
Our mom was definitely not that lucky. Her childhood and adolescence were something no person should ever endure…ever. She was neglected, abandoned and abused and really given little chance at a successful future. Yet, she did have a future, and a pretty fantastic one at that. Her story is one of survival against the greatest odds. Her story is one of incredible strength and fortitude. Her story is also one of incredible forgiveness and peace. A friend of mine described her as a living, breathing saint. I would have to agree.
Just last week I was interviewing my mom about her childhood and after about 10 minutes of her retelling some of these stories I’ve heard dozens of times she’d stop and excuse the behavior or her parents or family members. She showed people, who gave her little time or effort, compassion, forgiveness and even love. It gives me the chills even writing that. To survive the horror show that was her childhood and adolescence and to come out of it with anything other than hate, anger or distrust is in itself a miracle.
But then, that’s Gaga. She has proven time and time again to be a miracle.
I have never met anyone else quite like her. She is truly the most selfless, compassionate, forgiving, kind hearted, generous, hard working and lovely human on the planet. She never complains and has been given many things in her life that most would complain about or use as an excuse for their bad choices. Not our Gaga.
One of her friends posted this to her Facebook page today and I think it pretty much summarizes how I (and everyone who knows her) feel about my mom.
Of all the lessons my mom taught us girls my top two are that we could do anything we ever wanted in life if we worked hard enough and believed in ourselves. I still believe that til this day. And the second one is that you get what you expect in life, so set the bar high and you’ll be surrounded by good people. I believe her drilling this into us day after day, year after year is the reason I have good friends and the best husband a girl could ask for and have gone after the things I really wanted in life. I now teach these same things to our own children but also all the children I get to teach. So her most important lessons are still being taught each day and that makes my heart happy!
So, on her birthday I wanted tonight’s blog to be just about her and celebrating her awesomeness…because there is a lot there to celebrate.
Happiest of birthday’s to our Gaga. She is among my biggest blessings and I’m happy that there is a day we can celebrate just her! She really deserves much more than that.
A couple of throwback classics of Gaga…some of my favs!
Happy birthday to the best I know! I love you Gaga!