The Best Gift My Mom Gave Me by Julie Paavola

What’s the best gift your mom gave you? That’s the question behind my new series of guest-posts.  This week, I’m delighted to welcome Julie Paavola as a guest-blogger!  Spiritual director and author Julie Paavola is a mother of two beautiful boys. She writes regular column at and is proud of publishing her first book this year: The Mother’s Calling:  Love in the Heart of the World. You can find a list of her retreat offerings at and you may contact her at  Thanks so much for sharing these memories of your mom, Julie!

Three Lessons from a Remarkable Woman

My mother grew up in Chicago. The oldest of three children and the only girl, she lived under the shadow of her brothers.  Her role was clearly defined: to be the dutiful daughter, working and taking care of things at home, which sometimes included taking the fall for her rowdy younger brothers. Once as a teen, after she had bought a car with hard-earned cash from her department store sales job, she woke up one Saturday morning to see her car totaled in the driveway. Her brother never paid for the damages and barely even got into trouble.  Yet over the years, she was always the one to be there for her family, for grandma when granddad died and for her brothers when they needed help.

Hold no grudges—she taught me that.

My mom loved life. She also really had remarkable taste and loved fine things and beautiful clothes.  This didn’t stop her from becoming an amazing student and winning a scholarship to Mundelein College. After graduation she became a teacher and later a partner in my father’s two businesses. Her hard work and dedication to learning were a symptom of something at work deep within her spirit: she saw life as an adventure. This was evident in the way she chose a husband. Dad was an artist and a non-Catholic, not someone her parents would approve as a suitor. Mom respectfully disagreed and married him anyway. Photographs linger in my memory, of them kissing in front of the Art Academy where my dad studied, or laughing on the balcony of a hotel in Cuba where they spent their honeymoon.  Mom is youthful and happy, a woman who owned her decisions and hoped in God no matter how life’s strange circumstances might challenge her faith.

Take life by storm—that was her motto.

After my parents had been married for five years and still had no children, they went to see a specialist. “Slow down your pace of life,” the good doctor told them, “How can you have children when you are working and playing so hard you don’t have time to sleep?” So they up and moved from Chicago to Alaska! Mom jumped into her new life with both feet. She had to learn a new vocabulary and way of life, from the city to the country, from the Loop to the Tundra, from the pet Pomeranians she kept, to moose and a little fox that used to wait outside her bedroom window for scraps.

Go your own way. Mom taught me that too.

My beloved mother died of cancer five years ago, but she lives on, breathing hope to me in my own daily struggles. My three sisters say the same. Mom helps us. It’s not always in the way we wanted (she answers to Someone else) but we still get the message:  she’s involved!  My mom made me who I am. When I find myself wishing to God I was a better person, or wishing for more out of life, I think of her and it gives me confidence and hope. Hold No Grudges, Take Life by Storm, Go Your Own Way: Three lessons from a remarkable woman.

3 responses to “The Best Gift My Mom Gave Me by Julie Paavola