Her Legacy

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In 2012, we lost my mom just after her 63rd birthday to heart failure brought on by her Lupus.  She was diagnosed with Lupus at the Mayo Clinic in 1994 while in intensive care on a ventilator–they didn’t give her long to live.  But she decided otherwise!

She was not one to back down from a challenge and was known for creating her own reality.

I grew up in a very small town in Northwest Iowa called Alta, which at the time had about 1,700 people.  Growing up everyone’s moms were either teachers, nurses or moms.  And while my mom did stay home with my brother and I when we were little, that wasn’t her “thing”. But she didn’t have the education to be a teacher or a nurse, or anything else for that matter, so she created her own job by starting her own business.

Her first venture was the Crafters Inn where she sold craft supplies and taught classes in our little town creating a place where people could gather to create together.  For those that have wondered how I got to be crafty, it was from learning to macrame before I learned how to tie my shoes.

She then went on to expand the business with a partner to a larger store two towns over called Country Craft Mill.  She was very well known around the area for all things creative.  She was commissioned to do murals, carvings, billboards, weddings–you name it.  If it was creative and took flair, she was your woman.  She had a staff of amazingly creative women that were so much for to be around!  Unfortunately that store sustained a fire, which set her back and ruined the partnership, but didn’t stop her.

She then moved the business to our house and did craft shows all summer around Northwest Iowa, and then hawked costume jewelry at K Marts around the state–I can’t make this stuff up. It was from this period on that I understood the value in working from home–providing me the outlet to do something I loved, without having to miss any of the milestones in my kids’ lives.

In 1987, a beautiful Queen Anne Victorian house in town came up for sale.  It was rumored to be haunted (it is) and she convinced my dad to purchase it so that she could open a Bed & Breakfast and Country Inn–Addie’s Place.  I could write a book on what it’s like to live in a Bed and Breakfast growing up (I was 16 and my brother 12), but that’s for another day.

During this time, my mom became integral in the town business association and helped to create a two day festival to celebrate all that was Alta along with other events throughout the year.  She was the hostess with the mostess for “ladies lunching” from all over the state.  Connection for her was the name of the game.

And then my parents divorced.

While I can say that my mom never fully recovered from being left behind, she didn’t let it break her and only challenged her to succeed solo. It was soon after that she was diagnosed with Lupus. After running the business on her own for 8 years, she sold it and started her own catering company.

It was at this time that she convinced me to help her author a cookbook series.  There was one for each season and combined all of her favorite recipes that she had collected over the years from our family and beyond and had become favorites within her businesses, along with her gardening tips (she was a master gardener) and my entertainment guides.  With the cookbooks under her belt she was able to widen her reach with guest appearances, cooking classes, and book signings–all in our corner of the state.

All the time that she was reinventing and creating a role for herself, she was working to foster connections between those around her.  She was the oldest of seven and was the ring leader of all family functions.  She was in golf and bowling leagues, and was a competitive water fighter (yes, that’s a thing). She created a craft club amongst her friends that she hosted for years.  She piled her friends in her car taking them on their annual pilgrimage to the Renaissance Fair in Minnesota each summer.  She hosted a women’s retreat at the Bed and Breakfast.  She played an active role in politics and getting her beloved Democrats elected.  She chaired the local Habitats for Humanity. And she opened her home to a long line of wayward individuals that needed someone to care.

And this continued to the day she died.  When we moved her into hospice a month before she died there was hardly a moment each day when she was alone.  The amount of friends that she had amassed over the years was huge considering how small our community was and they couldn’t get enough of her knowing her days were numbered.  I would call her each day and she would say that she was just out of topics as she had talked all day long to so many people.  She would also complain to no end on how bad the food was! 🙂

So when she took her last breath there just wasn’t a hole for my brother and I and our families, but in the hearts of so very many that she touched over the years.

Part of my grieving process was starting this site, which was an homage to her legacy to keep her ideas and recipes alive.  At the time, that was the tangible legacy I could hold on to.  We had hundreds of recipes, tips and ideas from our cookbooks that were no longer in print, so I would make sure that they were still available.

But over the past five years, my work in the world, and on this site, has organically morphed into something so much more and aligned to her true legacy–empowering, creative, resourceful, listener who would truly give you the shirt off her back.

Growing up when people would say, “You are just like your mom.” I would cringe.

Today, that’s the greatest compliment that I could receive.

She truly rocked.  And is absolutely missed.

Our legacy is not the monies we spend, or the assets we amass, but rather, how we lived as our best selves, touched others, and made the worlds we lived in even a little bit better than we came to them.

 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,

people will forget what you did,

but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–Maya Angelou

 

 

Comments

  1. Tracy Mindess

    Beautiful tribute to your mom, Jennessa. Moms and daughters make for complex relationships for sure. Somewhere she is smiling from ear to ear knowing how you honor her.
    Best to you always

  2. Janice

    Wonderful tribute to your mom. B ardly a day goes by I dont think of her. You are certainly carrying her legacy on. Love you.

  3. Stephanie

    Oh Jennessa, every time I hear about your mom i am reminded that your own effervescent and generous creativity comes from her. I wish I had the chance to meet her. I love your precious photos and stories . Keep them coming!

  4. Lee and Ginny Molgaard

    Yo u did a great job recalling her great work and life.We are so happy that you have such a great family and you can do what you are so great at.
    The best to you, Sam and the boys. Looking forward to seeing all of you in July..

  5. Kim Walsh

    She was a great lady, and lots like she passed this to her dsughter. She is so proud to see this! I remember many outings at Addies Place. And a great visit with her at the manor, about her family. Thsnks for this wonderful story!

  6. Lori (Potratz) Gamble

    This is so awesome! Your mom was very special! What a wonderful story and tribute to her. God’s blessings to you!

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