I had a very interesting weekend last weekend (and it all happened with my real camera sitting in my laundry room at home, so please forgive the pictures).
I went up to the National American Mothers Convention that happened to be in Salt Lake City this year (it takes place in a different city each year). I went because I had been chosen to represent my state as it's "Young Mother of the Year," and the Young Mothers from each state were invited to go (although I would prefer to be called a "middle-aged mother" because that's what I am, but whatever...I guess you are a "Young Mother" if all your children are under age 18). The selected "Mothers of the Year" from each participating state were invited as well along with past honorees and all the members of this organization that has as it's mission to "Reach, Teach and Honor" mothers.
The convention surprised me. I mean, I figured it would be nice. Mothers know how to do things nicely. But on top of being nice it was chock-full of inspiration and beauty...and it held very little sleep for any of us. Too many good things packed in. It was also much more populated than I had expected. There were hundreds of people there to celebrate motherhood.
We did all sorts of things from a bus tour of the city to listening to extremely talented musicians to taking train rides around an old pioneer village, enjoying really good food, and listening to inspiring speakers.
I met women from all over the United States who were bright and confident and beautiful...and who all take motherhood very seriously.
My dear Mother was my companion. I'm so lucky.
We laughed and laughed about how we are cut from the same mold as we both misplaced our phones about 63 times. It was quite fitting that she was with me since she was the Young Mother of the Year for Utah exactly 30 years before. We had SO much fun staying up late talking about life and being together. I love my mom.
My Dad had planned a once-in-a-lifetime scuba diving trip for he and all his sons and sons-in-laws (including Dave) before we knew about this convention. Although Dave was hesitant to go because he was sweetly wanting to support me, I talked him into it. I know Dave (and most men) might kinda choose scuba diving over sitting in meetings:)
At the convention all the mother "honorees" had to give speeches.
I hate to speak in public...until I'm right in the middle of it and then I kinda like it. All these ladies I got to meet did so well and I was inspired by each of their stories.
My in-laws came to listen and it was so nice to have them there. It was also so nice to get to hang out with my new friend Emi Edgley who I met at the Power of Moms motherhood retreat a couple weeks before and to meet her mom who is the general president of the young women organization in our church. She was just as gracious and uplifting as her daughter.
That night we had a special banquet to honor whoever they picked to be the National Young Mother of the Year.
We were each escorted to the front of the room and announced as we walked in. It was quite a fancy affair.
(I had to snap a picture of these people I love.)
By this time I had gotten to know the other Young Mothers quite well (we even had a "pajama party" the night before). They are all powerful mothers. They all gave powerful speeches. I was comfortable because I knew that any one of them would get picked before I would to represent young mothers across the country, and although I was so inspired being there, this was not something I felt like I could take on in my life right now. I'm flying by the seat of my pants as it is.
The only problem was that I was wrong.
For some crazy reason they picked me.
I about died when they announced my name.
Not because I wasn't completely honored but because this was definitely not going to help me find the margins I'm desperately seeking in my life! I think all of us busy mothers were thinking the same thing: "Please don't pick me." We all have small children and lots going on.
But there I was, the mother who slams doors and forgets to pick her kids up at school, standing up at the podium being handed a gorgeous bouquet of roses and a statue and a plaque and being asked to say something. I was like a deer in the headlights.
This sounds like a contest, right? (Something I said it wasn't back in this post.) But contests are things you try out for or "run" for. Contests are when someone is picked who surpasses the others. And who could ever do that with motherhood? Who could choose "best" mother when every single one of us is each fighting our silent battles and doing what is uniquely most important for our very individual families and children.
No, this was not a competition. It was an event to celebrate what mothers are doing everywhere to raise their children with love and to elevate their families with no expectation of any sort of reward (aside from the one that comes when you soak in the moments with your children, and that's a big one). We are mothers because we want to be. We value motherhood and we will fight for our children at any cost, not so that we can be clapped for.
But American Mothers Inc. wants mothers to be clapped for and applauded for the things they do. (And I must admit that does feel kinda good.) Because when it comes down to it, we are involved in one of the most important careers in the world: raising strong children.
I just happened to be picked to represent that mothering capacity...and I accepted the award in behalf of all those mothers out there who are deliberate mothers in their own right.
For the remainder of the fancy dinner I sat up there on that front banquet table with a huge smile on my face all the while trying to fight back tears. I was so worried about my family. How could I leave them four more times a year for the national board meetings in Washington D.C. and do the other things that this new "job" would surely entail? But as I sat there between the National Young Mother from last year and the one from 2008 I was assured that of course family would come first. We are mothers, after all.
That made me feel better.
That and the fact that I got to talk to Dave down in Mexico at about 1:00 in the morning...his reassuring, proud voice was so good to hear.
I loved having my in-laws and mom and sister there. (I'm trying to figure out how to get Saren's Power of Moms kinda hooked up with American Mothers...both organizations have such similar missions.)
My father-in-law was my escort. I was so grateful to have him there:
Some of the Young Mothers:
The National Young Mother from 2010 and the one from 2006:
The one on the right happens to be the new American Mothers president. She will do an amazing job.
Sister and mother bonding with the Daltons.
Sister Dalton, again, was such an up-lifter, telling me all kinds of encouraging things. I love that lady!
My dear Aunt and cousin showed up to say hi the next day. My cousin is about to have a baby any day and I'm so excited for her!
One of the breakout classes was about "social media." Courtney from "cjane" was there and I was so excited to meet her. She was very gracious in putting up with all the blog questions I peppered her with.
(We were both laughing at something that was apparently very hilarious when we took this picture.)
The last night was the fancy Gala to honor the new Mother of the Year (as opposed to the "young" or "middle-aged"-in-my-case, mother:).This is the Mother of the Year from my state:
I love this group of mothers from the desert.
The new "Mother of the Year" is Ernestine Allen from Washington D.C. She is an amazing woman with so much experience "mothering" hundreds in her church congregation on top of her own children. I'm excited I'll get to work with and learn from her this year.
They pulled us out of dinner for a couple interviews and then after the event they pulled us up to a room filled with lights and cameras and microphones to do a half-hour segment for a new show that will air some time this month. (I'll let you know when I figure out when.)
They were quite professional and did our make-up and everything. My ears were burning I was so embarrassed.
See Ernestine below? And that's the show host in the middle.
Although this is an interfaith organization there's no doubt that there are a lot of Mormons in Salt Lake City and they wanted to host the American Mothers organization well. On Sunday morning after a really beautiful interfaith meeting at the hotel, everyone was invited to the "Music and Spoken Word" with the Tabernacle Choir and orchestra on Temple Square. I don't think I have ever been to that and I was blown away with the beautiful spirit that filled that room to the brim as the music filled our hearts with the love of God.
Our favorite song they sang was "You Raise Me Up." It brought my Mom and I to tears both thinking of our dear mothers (mine right next to me) and others who have lifted us up in life.
Here's the Mother of the Year and her husband:
We were both very kindly introduced to the crowd gathered there at the tabernacle.
We soaked in the beauty of the new flowers and blossoms popping out:
Then we said our good-byes and my mom and I headed to my parent's house to finish putting together our talk for our first Time Out For Women this year (in a week-and-a-half in Oklahoma City...click here for more details).
It was FREEZING in Utah. There was a blizzard on Saturday. I was pleased as punch to come home to 90 degree weather. My mom somehow cajoled me into lugging my roses back with me.
Even though they, (along with all the other stuff I was juggling trying to sneak on the plane so I wouldn't have to check anything), were a little embarrassing, they somehow made it home relatively alive.I came home to this cute sign:
...along with folded laundry and a clean house and HAPPY children thanks to our amazing babysitter.
What a weekend.
I'll just note in closing that although I am honored by all this hoopla, I am well-aware that there are outstanding mothers everywhere quietly going about their daily mothering tasks with joy and thanksgiving (along with a fair amount of frustration mixed in) who so very much deserve to be "awarded" and clapped for. I hope we can all pat each other on the back a little more and honor each other in the sacred duties we have as mothers. Because really, it does feel good.
I loved how Stephanie Waite, the Young Mother from Nevada put it on her blog: "I have no doubt that there is an audience of angels standing and applauding our valiant efforts to raise good and moral children everyday. I hope the next time any of us find ourselves feeling unappreciated or undervalued in our roles of mother, we will stop for a moment and turn our minds and hearts to the greater picture. I hope in that almost prayerful moment we will be able to feel the warmth of that heavenly applause and know we are doing the most important job on Earth. We are caring for and raising children of God."