Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Awesome Mom Deserves Her On Middle Flipper Post!

My parents had a lot to do with my career choices in some pretty significant ways.  Since it's Mother's Day, let's focus on the maternal aspect of said vocational support.

My insanely intelligent, successful, hilarious, gorgeous mom!
First of all, let me talk about who my mother is as a person, because that's really important to this Middle Flipper tribute.  My mom is some kind of managerial/business genius.  She grew up in an era where the common notions were, "Girls are inherently bad at math"*, "Women can't be in high-level business positions because like, uh....because."

My mom, as she does with all of life challenges, threw up her own two middle flippers and went on to become a Senior Vice President of JP Morgan Chase (after surviving and thriving two major bank mergers) in addition to establishing the a role as Head of Diversity in the corporation.  Her work as the latter position was so impressive to JP Morgan Chase, they asked her to create the position at their Manhattan branch.  She eventually went into early retirement, but then got bored and now is an executive coach.  She's a BAMF for sure.

What else does my mom enjoy other than kicking ass in the business realm? She speaks fluent French and likes to take classes to keep it up, she goes to a zillion plays in NYC, she works out and does yoga, she is a die-hard football fan, and she bakes some pretty darn good cookies and brownies.  

Reread that last paragraph.  Make sure you fully absorbed all that was there so you can easily identify what is missing: My mom is not an animal nut.  In fact, here is her kryptonite (MOM, IF YOU'RE READING THIS, LOOK AWAY):

Snakes.  Why'd it have to be snakes?
Don't get me wrong.  It's not that my mom doesn't like animals (except she hates snakes, even the mention of them).  It's just that when I was a kid, she wasn't really that into them.  She had a lot of other interests and an important job, and it was important to her that her daughters grew up with a good head on their shoulders and pursued whatever life's purpose they wanted, no matter how challenging it was.  And I don't know what my mom thought my sister and I would do when we were really tiny kids.  Did she think we'd be lawyers? Business executives? Famous authors? Brain surgeons?

My mom with her genetic future

By the time I was 4 or 5, it was clear I wasn't going to be a brain surgeon.  In fact, it was clearer that I'd likely need a good brain surgeon**.  My interest in animals became a passion that enveloped my entire life.  As I've mentioned  here, my childhood was spent trying to convince my parents to let me have a pet(s).  My mom was not as into this for completely understandable reasons such as: She'd probably have to take care of it. what my mom had to work with.

After an agreement about me being allowed to keep whatever pets I could catch backfired (thanks to the wild rabbit I almost caught), my mom taught me my first lesson in operant conditioning when I learned how I could earn myself a chance to have a pet cat.

I wasn't very good in church.  I was raised Catholic, and I wasn't necessarily the ideal churchgoing child/adult.  I didn't scream, or yell, or cry, or disobey my parents.  I drew bizarre things in my bibles:

Dead animals who became angels (who said animals don't have souls?!)

Gost Animals (1991) pen and ink.  $45,000

I even drew religiously-relevant images to try to show that no, I don't need to pay attention in church, but yes, I do care about my spiritual development.  I made this handy drawing to assist myself in knowing the sign of the cross (complete with the Holy Spirit in the center, in the form of a Demonic Hahn's Macaw of some sort):

I like the jack-o-lantern angel at the bottom left

Eventually, I'd get bored of the religious stuff and just start drawing things that I thought were cool.

Can't go wrong with a tiger shark playing basketball, drawn right inside your very own Bible!

Eventually, I got in trouble enough times for drawing in my bibles and on church bulletins while I was supposed to be paying attention that I resorted to simple labels:

Simple, elegant.  I should've been a copywriter.
Are you beginning to understand what my mom had to deal with here?  It doesn't stop there.  On top of my artistic odysseys at Holy Cross Catholic Church, I'd go on other adventures that required the use of my little sister.  When I got really bored (usually right around the homily), we'd tell my parents we had to use the restroom.  We'd go together, then start dunking our heads in the sink, putting toilet paper and paper towels in the toilets, and wait for what we thought was Thirty Minutes (but in actual time, was only 4).  Then we'd walk back into church, hoping we'd missed the homily.  When my parents saw us, they'd get really upset.  To this I replied that there was a plumbing problem in the bathroom, but thankfully my sister and I managed to assess the situation and find a temporary solution, would they like to check the bathroom for the Hard Evidence of our hard work?  Surely some wet toilet paper on the floor could convince any jury of my diligent efforts to unclog a toilet and fix a broken sink at 7 years old.

Are these the faces of troublemakers? Are those dresses for real?

Now the stage was set.  My mother discussed allowing me to get a cat under one condition: I had to be good in church for ten (10) weeks straight.  Ten.   I thought I was going to die.  I couldn't remember a time that I'd been proper in church for more than once in a row.  But oh, the promise of a cat.

So, with crafty positive reinforcement, my mother shaped me into a calm, church-going member (who still occasionally drew things).  And I earned my cat, Andi.

Andi Rust.  More on her in another blog!
My mom did other things to help stoke my interest in animals, especially marine mammals.  When I turned 10, she started taking me on an annual birthday weekend trip to SeaWorld Orlando or San Diego.  That was where I first touched a dolphin.  She encouraged me to network and ask questions to park employees about how to get a job in the field.  She also took a lot of embarrassing photos, so she could post them on my Facebook later.

Good lord

Through my high school and college years, my mom was always diligent in supporting my interest in marine mammals.  She generously funded educational trips to Honduras and British Columbia for marine mammalogy classes, helped me refine my interview and resume skills, and taught me how to network.  She still is the first person I call when I need career advice.  She gives relevant, helpful, and sometimes tough advice; the only things she sugar-coats are her cookies.  But that has shaped me into who I am today.  

So what's left to say now?  Well, my mom now is a big animal lover (although she still does not want any pets in her house).  She cashes in on the advantages of having a daughter in the marine mammal field.  And she's got one daughter who thinks the world of her, is so proud of her, and loves her very much!

I love you, mom!

* This has been scientifically studied and amended to: "Cat is inherently bad at math, but all other girls seem to get it just fine."

** Or perhaps, I still do need one

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