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Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Gala: My Viewpoint

After seeing how many people have read the post about preparing for the Gala, I thought I'd better just dive in and share more details about the evening.  Photos will have to come later.

We arrived at the Portland Airport Embassy Suites Hotel around 6:30pm.  Our tickets for dinner were on a table outside the ballroom.  We stopped and picked them up and were told our table assignment--we were table #3--and that we should put our tickets by our place on the table.

The Warden and his parents walked into the ballroom, but I was told to wait because they needed to get some pictures.  Before my picture was taken, a dear friend from the past came out, and we hugged for about 5 minutes.  We knew her before she was married; she knew us before we had any kids.  It was GREAT to see her!  She was given the award as the mother of adoptive children.  She's fabulous!

Can I say, here and now, that it's amazing to be among so many women that make your jaw drop.  I think mine nearly became unhinged half-way through the evening.  For me,  it was kind of like being the rag doll among the porcelains.  Really, truly amazing!

This friend and I got our picture taken together, I got mine taken alone, and then the Warden came back out so we could get ours taken together.

We went in, ran into a quite a number of other friends.  It was great to get to catch up with people.  After chatting for a bit, I found my place at the table next to the Warden.  The orchestra was playing in the background.

We were served our salads, our main entrees and dessert.  The Warden ate cheesecake, but my dessert was this amazing chocolate something or other.  SO RICH, and SO GOOD!  I only ate about five bites before I was done.

My dad and his wife arrived just as we finished and came and joined us at the table.

When we finished eating, it was announced that all of the nominees were to go to the back of the room.  We sat in a row and waited for what came next.  Our escorts stood behind us.

Two Mother nominees and the four Young Mother nominees

Thanks for letting me borrow your photos, Amanda!
In each woman's turn, her escort was to walk her up to the front of the room where there was a small stage.  When we reached the stage, we were to leave our escorts, climb the three or four stairs (in these kinds of circumstances, it's quite a climb) and turn and face the audience while our biographies were read (Above: modeled by the lovely Amanda Larimer).  A slideshow was playing at the same time with photos of us and our families.  When that was finished, we were asked to go to the podium and share what our "parenting phrase" is and why.

They introduced the four Young Mother nominees first.  The five Mothers went second.  I really wish it had all been recorded because there were some very important and profound things said that night.

When it was my turn, the Warden leaned over to me and said, "Do you know what you're going to say?"  I replied, "Not a clue.  I'm going to punt," and so I did.

My parenting phrase was, "You always have a choice" (#3 told me a few months ago that I'm always saying that.  She was a bit annoyed at the time).  I shared how inspiring it was to watch the Japanese people and how courageously they were working to rebuild their lives.  I don't recall exactly  what I said, but afterward, people said it was good, so I was relieved.

After we said our bit, we were handed a certificate awarding each of us as a "Mother of Excellence" and a long-stemmed white rose.  We walked to the tables on the stand and sat down at them.  Two women were already sitting when I arrived.  I commented to the one next to me about how much I was shaking.  Funny thing was, when the next woman arrived to sit next to me, she made nearly the same comment.  I assured her that that's what we were all doing and not to worry.

After all of the Mothers were introduced, we had a number of wonderful musical numbers--piano and vocal--and then they awarded the special awards--adoptive mother, service, and mother of disabled children.  These, to me, were the truly inspiring moments of the night.  I sat there alternating between goosebumps and tears as I listened to their stories read over the podium.  What truly inspiring people who have made some really great sacrifices.

When these were done, I leaned to the woman next to me (the one who sat after me) and said, pointing to the ground beside her, "You'd better make sure you have a clear walkway, you're going to be heading up there in a few moments."  She laughed and told me I was wrong, but guess what...I wasn't.

They named Amanda Larimer as Young Mother of the Year, and Bobbie Jager, the woman sitting next to me, the Mother of the Year.  When I wrote this post, she is the one I referred to.  She had my vote from the beginning.  She's FABULOUS!  Oregon is going to be well represented in both categories at the national convention.

Both women then gave their acceptance speeches.  Amanda talked about her family getting unexpectedly stuck up on Mount Hood on Christmas Day because of a gunman on the loose and how unprepared they were and how she can relate that to how she feels right now.  The words I would use to describe Amanda, are warm, beautiful, graceful and poised.  She'll do marvelously.  Bobbie shared about three times she'd felt her heart nearly stop--this time being the third.  I think of Bobbie as vivacious and welcoming to anyone and everyone; it's great just being around her.  It was so fun to watch these women in action that evening.

After all was done, we chatted for a few minutes and were then ushered to the back of the room again for photos.  We said our good-byes, and we were off.

Really a FABULOUS night!

Yesterday morning, after #5 woke up, the Warden and he were in the kitchen.  I walked in, and the Warden said, "Oh look, it's the Mother of the Year."  #5 turned around, smiled at me excitedly and said, "Really?!"  The Warden said, "Yes, she's our mother for the year every year."

What a cute guy I married!


American Mothers, Inc.  is the organization that names the Mother and Young Mother of the Year.  There are groups in nearly every state.  The organization's been around since the early 1930s.  The first Mother of the Year was named in 1935.

The purpose of American Mothers is to strengthen and encourage mothers and thus strengthen the entire family.  I'm looking forward to doing much with them this coming year.  I hope, if you're interested in getting involved, that you'll look into it.  If you live close to me, come along with me.

This coming Wednesday morning, we have a meeting with Representative Michael Dembrow and will get to sit in on a legislative session in Salem.  We'll have lunch and a board meeting following.


lia london, author and writing coach said...

Let's have another good long hug again soon, Julie. You're jaw-dropping amazing and I love you!

LeAnn said...

Wow, what an honor to be part of this. I remember when I was a young mother I was involved with an organization called: Young Homemaker of The Year. I enjoyed the post and I do think your husband's last statement about you was precious.
Blessings to you for being a good example of a great mother.

Tonya said...

Such a great experience!

You are amazing, Julie Hess.

And I love what Zan said about you. It's true. Every word.

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