Imagine a woman who worked at a fast food place while going to school to get a better education. She works nights, educates during the day and then comes home to a small trailer. She doesn’t get to eat much, and her downtime consists of things like laundry and cooking. She makes around $24,000 a year at one point, and is trying to make ends meet.

Now imagine she has two sons.

Now imagine that they’re very growing boys, and are in need of rather consistent supervision. So some of that money goes to a babysitter. She doesn’t eat much, even though her boys are asking for seconds. She knows why. They’re growing, and they’re not gonna stop anytime soon. She wants them to be healthy and feel their best in their prime, and she does well at masking what poverty looks like at some points.

She saves money for other things to buy. Not for herself, though. Bicycles. A computer. A basketball hoop. Small things that make a huge difference in how her boys spend their downtime. And she knows they can’t appreciate just what she’s doing when they are both at a young age. And when things are bad, she tells them that one day they’ll understand.

Imagine her not being able to get toys one Christmas because things are too thin. She’s upset, because she wants the best for her boys and she can’t do it. She wants them to have a house, and to make things work. She is determined though. She won’t stop.

She keeps saving, and with her education gets better paying jobs, and finally thins start looking up after more than a decade of struggle, selectively choosing what financial fights to tackle and she finally buys a home in a nice, quiet place away from the rather trashy neighborhoods that we grew up in at some points, where even a drug raid happened just down the street. But she keeps her stoicism about her. She doesn’t want her boys to be uncomfortable. She has done well, and has seen two healthy, well-raised and very intelligent boys go out into life, and push through achievements. But most of all, they didn’t see the same struggles she did because she ensured they knew what they needed to do when they were grown up. But she was always there.

This is my mother.

I sit here typing this from my own place, on a computer that I got to build with my own money. I just drove in a vehicle I own outright, and enjoy a life in the Pacific Northwest. A lot of this is attributed to the lessons and discipline she instilled, and she did this all while sacrificing much of her own time– and sometimes health– to make things work for Nick and I. She had a vision and saw it through, and because of that I apply myself. But it wasn’t just because of what she taught us by word.

It was largely because she led by example.

If anyone were to ask for an example of inspiration done by pushing through, not giving up and seeing the bigger picture, they’d need to look no further than what my mother did for us growing up. She was more than a rock, and at times we weren’t appreciative of it– I know I certainly wasn’t at some points. But I look back now, and have a bittersweet taste in my mouth, knowing what she meant by, “One day you’ll understand.” Some parents don’t remember that, and some give up. I know many families that gave up in conditions like that, but my mother didn’t.

I am proud of my mom. She has done right by me, by my brother and I, and I will never forget what sacrifices she made for us.

Thank you, mom. I love you.