Here at The Madres Collective, we're fortunate to know some pretty incredible women, whether they be customers, collaborators in the Dominican Republic or community allies in Petaluma, CA. As we approach Mother's Day 2017, we'll be interviewing a few of these inspirational mamas, so you can fall in love with them just like we have. First up, Nina Gruener from Petaluma, CA:
1. Tell us about your family? What are your children’s names and how old are they?
I am the mother of three; Wesley (who recently announced that he only wants to be called Wes now) is ten, Audrey is seven and Imogen is two. Chris, my husband and partner in everything, is 36. I'm older than all of them.
2. Complete this sentence: When I’m not spending time with my family, you can find me___________.
When I'm not spending time with my family you can find me working at the publishing company Chris and I run together, or writing, or roaming through an estate sale. If it's a Tuesday, you might find me at Sugo eating $5 bruschetta with girlfriends.
3.What is challenging about this season of motherhood? What are you learning? What are you cherishing?
Oh sheesh! What isn't challenging about this season might be an easier question for me to answer. Having my third child has ushered me into a near constant state of chaos. However, this season has taught me that living a full life means holding both the hard/end-of-my-rope moments and the beautiful/soft lens moments as equally sacred. I cherish the details of the craziness that I know are fleeting. I love the sound of their voices, especially when the big two are talking to each other about what happened at school, or laughing at something Imogen has said or done. I love the creases on Imogen's wrists and the way she says, "I wanna hold you" when she wants to be held.
4. What causes are close to you heart? (We know you’re the catalyst behind many fundraiser for Jazzy and we'd love to hear more about that!)
I'm of the school of thought that most of the time your cause chooses you. Jazzlin was in the same class as my son when she and her dad were hit by a drunk driver, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. Her aunt is also a close friend of mine - so working to be sure her needs are met and the community she lives in rises up to stand in the gap for her is something I care deeply about. I was blown away by the response we got when we put together Dear Jazzy. Everyone I knew showed up and did whatever they were good at - for free. Other spinal cord injury survivors shared their stories from the center of the Mystic Theater, amazing bands graced the stage and seriously good food was tray-passed. All for the common purpose of taking care of the needs of Jazz and her family. A large chunk of change was raised and we are working towards the long-term goal of helping the Mejia family get into a house that will be suitable for her needs both now and as she grows into a strong and beautiful young woman.
5. In 2012 you had the opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic with The Madres Collective. Tell us about a memory or story that stuck with you from this experience?
My memories of my trip to the DR are so rich. The bright colors, the smells, the wild landscape and the warmth of the people are things I still think of often. I traveled down with four of my closest friends (who are also moms) to help train the Madres on a new line designed by Robindira Unsworth. It is hard for me to even narrow it down to one story, but I'll do my best. The first night we were up in Los Pinos, a huge thunderstorm rolled through. Since the roads are all dirt, the walk back to our host, Ibanye's, house was a mud-crawl, and I was in flip flops (no bueno). By the time we got back to Ibanye's house I had a good four-inch platform of mud on the bottom of my shoes. It was pitch black, so I slipped them off and left them outside the house. In the morning when the sun poured through the window - I noticed my shoes were completely cleaned off and placed inside the curtain door of my room. This small gesture floored me. Of all the places I've ever stayed, that moment remains in my mind as the ultimate act of hospitality. I found Ibanye outside over her stove, standing in four inches of mud herself. My feeble attempt to thank her was thwarted by the language barrier, so we mostly hugged and smiled. It was an honor to live in her home for that week, to get to hold her kids when I missed my own, string beads and share meals together. I dream of taking my kids back with me in the next few years.
6. What important lesson are you working on imparting to your kiddos these days?
I know I present as a fairly tame, white suburban mom (one step away from a mini-van) but I am doing my best to raise counter-cultural little humans. I see the unbelievable emphasis on self (and selfies) and I have a hunch it's ruining people. My goal is to teach my kids, and myself, to live others-centered lives. It's also the core tenant of my faith. Loving your neighbor turns out to be a pretty practical command. Not just because it's a moral obligation, but because it actually leads to freedom. So when there is one cookie left, we sit around and talk about how evil they are for wanting it. I'm kidding - but truly I feel an urgency in this insane day and age to make sure they know that entitlement at the cost of the marginalized is always, always a trap no matter how it's packaged.
7. Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
Easy. My lovely mother. If ever there was an example of an others-centered person, it is her. When I became a mother, I wondered if I had the capacity for the selfless love I had been on the receiving end of all my life. What nobody tells you is that it doesn't come naturally - that ooey gooey mama bear love. It does at first, but then it's a million little choices to put the needs of others ahead of your own. I have watched my mom make all of those choices on behalf of others over the years. On behalf of her kids, her friends, her family, strangers - we joke that every time my parents hire a contractor or order a pizza, they end up staying for dinner and sometimes moving in. Also, she has impeccable taste and knows how to have a good time.
Know a mom who inspires you? We'd love to meet her. Drop us a line and tell us about her, or share more in the comments below.