I never expected these questions to provoke such interesting answers. I thought I’d just get some quick responses, mostly stuff I had already heard before. Three hours later I was amazed at the depth I found.
Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like? Up until I was six I lived in Canada. I remember an awesome kindergarten there. I remember going through huge mounds of snow that were shoveled to get there, and I walked everyday. It was a different time, where kids would walk alone. The kindergarten had a huge kid sized mini house, with a kitchen and things you could move around. When we moved right outside of Philadelphia, I had my two brothers, and kids up and down the street. I remember my first grade teacher. Mrs. Lynch. She lived up to her name, and I was uncomfortable and afraid around her. Sometimes I even cried at the thought of going to school. After her, my next teacher was great, and the rest of my school years were generally good. They were positive and also traumatic as kid’s formative years are, but generally good.
Tell me about your work, and your proudest accomplishment in your career. (Did you face any hurdles in your professional life as a woman? Staying the course and getting what need to be done, done, to grow our business. Figuring out the idiosyncrasies of the business your dad and I built together has taken years, with rarely a clear vision of success. It was there, but it was hazy. Trying to put together the puzzle pieces in my mind, when the pathway was at times, so dark I couldn’t see how it could happen, and ultimately reaching a large degree of success has been the greatest achievement and challenge. Even when I thought it would be a failure, I did everything I could to make it work. Some of the things that I did, not even thinking that they could benefit our business in any way, have done so immeasurably. Things work together in ways I never expected. When I didn’t have any money, freedom to change paths, even hope, the one thing I had was time. I kept on thinking, “what can I do to make the best use of it?”
How has your life been different than what you’d imagined? How did having kids change your life? I always felt that I should be successful, and have money to do things. When we were struggling for all those years, it felt like something that didn’t fit. I never had a clear sense of what I would do. I went to school to be an art teacher. I still at times think, what a pleasant job that could be, but it’s almost too pleasant now, and not as expansive of a horizon as I have now become accustomed to. It was uncomfortable in a way that just didn’t belong to me. I would never have imagined my marriage would be both so dynamic and yet challenging. I always saw the dynamic side, but I didn’t really foresee the challenging side. I never expected to have such a difficult path to get to the point I’m at now, but on the other hand, what I have now is everything I could have ever envisioned.
How have kids changed you? It’s hard to describe what that does. It’s a whole new depth of life. Everything you do takes on a different dimension. Your kids are a part of everything, but everything is not necessarily done specifically for them. I think when people say you can’t do things for yourself after you have kids they are completely wrong. Even reading stories to you at night, I picked stories that I was interested in as well, and actually learned some treasured things from the books we read together. When you were little, of course I read you children’s books, but ones that spoke to me. When you were a bit older, we read Don Quixote, we read history. I never felt like I was dragging you around to activities. Practicing soccer with you was exercise for me, and music classes were relaxing. I loved virtually every minute of it.
What is your favorite memory of your mother? On Sundays, she used to do a Sunday school session with us. Instead of going to church, we’d have our own little thing at home. It was always kind of challenging to get us together and get it going. Certainly not the easiest thing to get two rowdy boys and me together, and we’d make it difficult for her. She took it in good spirits, and handled it with a sense of humor, but in the end she’d end up winning. I remember that good natured bantering between my mom, and my brothers, and me. It actually was not a horrible time, which is in a way, a victory. In the same vein, when we were even younger, she would get us together for French lessons. I still remember some of the verses we learned. When you were little, she would teach you to dance various waltzes. Lots of great memories of her teaching things.
What woman has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did she teach you? My grandmother. She would come to stay with us for a few weeks, several times a year. She came from the Czech Republic, and was from the upper class, almost nobility. Her and my mother lived through WWII in the Czech Republic, and no one had anything during that time, but somehow she actually started and ran an extremely successful business selling, believe it or not, leather jewelry. She was a saver too, though she loved beautiful surroundings. Apparently their home was spectacular before they had to leave with literally nothing. They left right after WWII, exactly like they did in The Sound of Music, bringing only what they could pass as picnic supplies. My grandmother saw Russian troops moving in after the war was won, and could foresee what was going to happen. They left when my mom was 23, with the equivalent of $100, and went to an Austrian refugee camp until Canada finally accepted them. In Canada they lived in the basement of a hospital and worked there during they day until they could afford an apartment. Growing up and hearing someone with this sort of education, bravery, and background talk regularly gets into your spirit and has a profound impact.
Thanks Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!