dime defined: ain’t no mama like the one i got…

“You throw stones, but you don't live in a glass house – you get the stones from your house. And at this rate, you're not going to have a house.” This gem was an observation from my mother, about my tendency to play judge and jury. She made this unsolicited personality assessment when I was in my late twenties. This wasn't the first time she questioned my choices. I think our first major disagreement was over a styling preference when I was about five years old. It was my understanding that the flap on my sailor inspired jumper should be displayed in the front, to highlight the detail. My mother was adamant that the flap was designed to reflect a sailor's actual uniform and therefore the back is still her obvious choice. It's irrelevant as to who won this battle. Fashion is subjective, there shouldn't be any rules.

My philosophy regarding rules isn't by accident. Rules did not define our home; my mother believes in structure and she is clear in her belief that discipline has to accompany ambition. When I wander from my journey's direct path, her love was and is fearless without condition and unwavering in support. I attended four colleges in four and a half years and she did not once make me feel unfocused. But she did become my much needed reality check. When my father made clear that college number four would be my alma mater because he wasn't paying for college number five, my mother suggested that I choose wisely. By the way, don't judge. I only graduated one semester behind.

Jo Ann Lee has supported my artistic approach to life and work with intention. She is proof positive that it really isn't worth it if you don’t have to work for it. My mother retired at age sixty five, having worked full time since she was seventeen years old. She turned what started out as a simple love for numbers into a supervisory role on Chicago's trading floors. This woman is every single thing I aspire to be. If God is in the details, his light is the compass for my mother's love. She finds beauty in silence, solace in faith, peace in the truth, hope in vision, and freedom in joy. I have had the blessing of viewing my reflection through her eyes and it is the ultimate compliment.


NAME: Jo Ann Lee | HOME GROWN: Chicago, IL | DAY JOB: Retired Commodities Supervisor | DREAM JOB: Writing greeting cards for Hallmark.


MEAL: Duck, cornbread dressing, candied yams, and cabbage. | DESSERT: Peach Cobbler | SEASON: Autumn | CITY: Las Vegas and New Orleans | CANDY: Awesome Blossoms and Milk Chocolate Gummi Bears | WORD: Balderdash | AGE: I enjoy them all, it beats the alternative. | SOUND: The sound of spirituals – I love the way they make me feel. | TEAM: Chicago Cubs | MOVIE: It's a Wonderful Life | CHARITY: Toys for Tots

Q & A.

Q:  Who would portray you in the movie version of your life? Feature film, straight to DVD, or Lifetime Movie?
A:  She hasn't been born yet. Hallmark movie.

Q:  What artists or songs would contribute to the film's soundtrack?
A:  LOVE SIDE A  –  With You x The Moments  ::  Love and Happiness x Al Green  ::  Because You Loved Me x Celine Dion ::  At Last x Etta James  ::  A House Is Not a Home x Luther Vandross  ::  Inseparable x Natalie Cole  ::  Through the Years x Kenny Rogers  ::  Still x The Commodores  ::  I Wish It Were Yesterday x Billy Paul  ::  (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman x Aretha Franklin  ::  For Once In My Life x The Temptations :: Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me x Gladys Knight & The Pips  ::  We've Come Too Far to End It Now x Smokey Robinson & The Miracles  ::  I Can't Stop Loving You x Ray Charles  ::  I Believe In You and Me x Whitney Houston
LIFE SIDE B  –  Amazing Grace x Tramaine Hawkins  ::  Say Amen x Howard Hewitt  ::  If I Could x Regina Belle  ::  Imagine x John Lennon  ::  God Bless the Child x Billie Holiday  ::  Open Our Eyes x The Gospel Clefs  ::  One Moment In Time x Whitney Houston  ::  What a Wonderful World x Louis Armstrong  ::  Jesus Is My Kind of People x Gladys Knight  ::  It's My Turn x Diana Ross  ::  Over the Rainbow x Patti LaBelle  ::  I Am Changing x Jennifer Hudson  ::  That's What Friends Are For x Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder  ::  Celebration x Kool & The Gang  ::  Lean on Me x Bill Withers

Q:  What's the best advice you didn't take? 
A:  Don't expect others to react with the same intensity about issues that are important to you. There have been times when I just didn't understand how someone who saw what I considered an injustice lacked the capacity for empathy.

Q:  What film title sums up your experiences with love thus far?
A:  Stairway to Heaven

Q:  If your beauty routine had to be condensed, what three products make the cut?
A:  Bath & Body Works Look Ma, New Hands, The Body Shop Coconut Body Butter, and Vaseline.

Q:  What is your alter ego's name? Describe her in one word.
A:  She Who Speaks With A Sharp Tongue. Optimist.

Q:  What's the title of your autobiography – using one color and one emotion?
A:  Endless Joy in a Tangerine Utopia

Q:  Food, water, and _____? What else do you need to survive?
A:  My Joy.

Q:  Would you rather have no regrets or no fears?
A:  No regrets. Most fears are addressed in the present. Regrets are issues from the past that tend to have you forever looking backwards; and sometimes, even second guessing yourself.

Q:  What's your definition of dime?
A:  A dime is informed, compassionate, kind and charitable. She's an optimist, but also a realist. A dime is able to read between the lines; and in an effort to realize another’s point of view, she makes it her responsibility to see the world from their perspective. She has passion, not only for her life, but also for the civility of the human experience. The kismet of sharing the same space and time on this Earth with family and friends is not lost on her and she is thankful to God for the blessing.

Q:  What words do you live by?
A:  “I shall pass through this world but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do, let me do it now, let me not defer it nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”  ::  “Peace if possible, but justice at any rate.”  ::  “Figures don’t lie, liars figure.”  ::  “Choose your battles.”

Illustration Credits: Mother created by and provided courtesy of Debra Cartwright. | Toni created by and provided courtesy of Jessica Durrant.

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