This Mother's Day, I want to thank my own mother for the example she provided me with the challenges and triumphs of change. She has spanned an as full and rich a life I can possibly imagine, given the setbacks and even tragedies she has endured. My mother was born in a conservative Catholic culture in which the predetermined role of a woman was to marry a man, and then become dedicated to the tending of home and hearth, and the raising of the children that one supposed would arise from the marital agreement. For my mother, I was one of those children, the first and oldest of three.

My mother set aside her career to raise her children

Though my mother graduated with honors from Georgetown Law School, she set aside her potential legal career in order to raise me and my other two siblings, a brother and sister. I remember, as a child, she would read me Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass" on the living room couch, and we would together pretend to move into a fantasy world through a large mirror that hung over one of our antique bookcases. We never quite made it all the way, but we tried. I wonder today if that mirror was a symbol of the life my mother desired as a woman, but at that time felt she could not have, that of a professional attorney. In a way, my entire family was caught on one side of the looking glass, one in which roles were fixed, ever starring through the mirror toward a fantasy world in which we could become who we truly were.

Then things changed for all of us

I came out of the closet. Rather than pursue our upper-middle-class lifestyle, my brother joined the Marines. My sister went to college in New Orleans, where all bets for traditionalism were off. My mother then went through a dark spell, seeking but not finding work as an attorney. "Why would you want to join the workforce when you're a woman homemaker?" they'd ask her in interviews.

But she persisted, undaunted, got an advanced legal degree in tax law, and now works for one of the most eminent accounting firms in the country. She did this because she knew she could be both a mother and a professional, that she could transcend the limited roles of her upbringing, and, like her children, push the envelope beyond what she was supposed to be and become who she truly was.

Tragedy strengthened my mother and all of us

When my brother Tom died at age 30, after a long illness that began during his deployment in the post-9/11 Iraq War, I thought my mother might backslide into a depression. I did backslide. But my mother was stronger than ever, and together with my father, after I recovered from my own depression, we founded an organization to help other veterans like my brother. We brought about many changes to the status quo, and we raised awareness about environmental exposures affecting veterans -- but we only did this because my mother had the courage, resolve, and resources to make it happen. She is the woman who took us through the looking glass. Thanks, Mom, I love you, and happy Mother's Day to all.

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