Connecting Texas books and writers with those who most want to discover them
Kay Ellington has worked in management for a variety of media companies, including Gannett, Cox Communications, Knight-Ridder, and the New York Times Regional Group, from Texas to New York to California to the Southeast and back again to Texas. She is the coauthor, with Barbara Brannon, of the Texas novels The Paragraph Ranch and A Wedding at the Paragraph Ranch.
Michele (Mica) Mosbacher, widow of 28th U.S. Secretary of Commerce and oilman Robert Mosbacher, Sr., is an author, a motivational speaker, and a sponsor of Godstone Ranch Motorsports, a family professional motorsports team that races for charitable causes. She is the author of Racing Forward: Faith, Love & Triumph Over Loss (Bright Sky Press, hardcover, 978-1939055910, 176 pages, November 4, 2015).
In her early forties, Mica Mosbacher married Robert Mosbacher, Sr., the man she describes as her prince and soul mate — only to lose him to pancreatic cancer, leaving her heart broken. But instead of wallowing in pain, she decided to “grieve forward.” Her brother, a race car driver, inspired her to learn to race a Ferrari. Testing her personal limits on the racetrack, she discovered her inner strength to move forward. In today’s Lone Star Listens she shares her story.
Author photo by Korey Howell
What an amazing life you have led, Mica — being front and center with some of the most powerful people in the world. How did you and your late husband meet?
Bob and I met at the Bayou Club in Houston, where I was co-hosting a work-related event for Louis Vuitton (I had been laid off from my job at Oppenheimer & Co. And was a single mom who needed a job). The event was in celebration of the Louis Vuitton Cup that coincides with the America's Cup — the worldwide premier sailing event. Bob was a two-time world champion sailor. His brother Bus was a two-time winner of the America’s Cup. Our guest speaker was Olympic sailor Buddy Melges, who was a friend of Bob's. We spoke on the phone. He asked me to invite Bob. So out of bad luck, I went on to meet the love of my life. Serendipity I believe.
Were you interested in politics when you met Robert, or did your interest
in politics grow as your marriage grew?
I was always a political junkie. During junior high in Memphis, I helped a friend's mom who was precinct chair erect signs for Howard Baker, who was running for the Senate. In high school, I was active in Young Republicans and served on the Student Council.
Later, I worked for the Senate Education Committee at the Texas state capitol while at UT. In 1985, I joined Southern Political Consulting and then went on to serve as a volunteer press agent in the advance office for George H. W. Bush, who was running for president. I was active in the RNC Regents and had been invited to the White House to meet Nancy Reagan. Politics was in my blood.
When your husband passed away, it seems as though you threw yourself into a variety of interests, including race car driving. How did that come about?
When Bob died of pancreatic cancer right after Christmas 2010, I was paralyzed with grief. As he had been ill for some time, I had been going through a kind of chronic grieving. I had been seeing a grief counselor at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, where he was treated. She was trying to help me prepare for life as the sole survivor. We discussed being proactive about envisioning a future without Bob. My days were consumed with caretaking, and I had put my life on hold.
I knew that a thing in motion stays in motion and had told other friends going through loss not to get stuck in the mud. I am very spiritual, and my favorite expression is “God can't steer a parked car.” You have to propel yourself forward. I call it Grieving Forward. That’s so important because you need something to race toward.
In my case, two gifts came my way. Out of the blue, I received a letter from the Foreign Ministry of Iceland asking if I would be interested in representing Iceland as an Honorary Consul. I would. Secondly, my brother, John McCutchen, was resuming his motorsports racing career and had started a team, Godstone Ranch MS, a 501c)(3) that was racing for awareness of heart disease.
I was consumed. I became hooked. I felt alive. A passion was born. I went on to join the family racing team that races for charity known as Godstone Ranch Motorsports.
What inspired you to write Racing Forward?
I wrote Racing Forward to pay tribute to the love of my life and the love we shared. I also wanted to help others who were going through loss. I literally feel like I undressed in public — my life is now an open book. I wanted to be authentic and transparent so that others did not feel like “the lone ranger.” There are no hard and fast rules on how to grieve, and people often say all the wrong things.
How would you describe Racing Forward to our readers who may not be
familiar with the book?
Racing Forward chronicles the struggles and changes in my life’s journey and how I have reacted and coped with change. We all confront change on a daily basis, and with every change — be it a breakup, a disappointment, a disability, an illness, job loss, or a death — it’s how we choose to react to loss that defines our character. Once you are catapulted out of your comfort zone and the nest you feather for yourself, unexpected gifts come your way. In my case, a layoff led to meeting my soul mate. The book is a memoir and a journey of self-discovery. I learned to test my personal limits in many ways, including on a racetrack. I also realized how precious life is and to make the most of it. Don’t put off something you always wanted to do.
Have you always written? What's your writing process like? Might you
write future books?
I have always written. As a child, I wrote stories and plays to entertain my friends — often using them as characters. For me it is like breathing. I studied journalism at UT. I am a night owl and write at night when it’s quiet. When I restarted my writing freelance career as a single mom, I needed to work during the day, so the only quiet time I could write was when Cameron was in bed. I did not own a laptop at the time and frequently went to a Kinkos to tap out my hand-written manuscript. I usually start with a theme and then do a broad outline first. To avoid freezing, I then just write the first sentence and let the verbiage spill out in free form.
Might I write future books? Yes — and they will be a continuation of the racing theme but focused on living life to the fullest with survivor stories.
Godstone Ranch is doing amazing work using motorsports. Would you tell our readers how that came about and what you do there?
My brother John and sister-in-law Karen Garrett started Godstone Ranch MS as the first motorsports charity in Texas in Grand Am. The concept is to use one’s God-given talents in service as a team to help a charity. They chose heart disease, as Karen’s father had lost his life to a heart attack and John’s and my dad had been a physician with the Texas Heart Institute. They raced the first year to raise money and awareness for that institute. In the process they met a young heart transplant recipient, Ally Smith Babineaux, who is now a team member. When I became involved, I pitched the team to the American Heart Association. We eventually became a booster for the AHA Hands Only CPR campaign. We are 100 percent funded by money we raise. I am a sponsor, a strategist, and a member of the pit crew, which is mostly female. Ally, by the way, received her second heart transplant a year ago and is the fire girl. I am learning to race but am not licensed and am not a competitor, but I’m no longer afraid of speed, especially if I’m in the driver’s seat (really, a metaphor for our drive in life.)
You are the Consulate General of Iceland in Houston and Central Texas. Share with our readers what that means.
An honorary consul is nominated by a foreign country and the vetted and accredited by the U.S. Department of State. While my responsibilities are very similar to those of a career consul (dealing with lost passports, marriage licenses etc.), I am not paid. My office has administrative duties such as extending passports and helping Icelandic citizens in crisis. More importantly, I am involved as a representative for trade and cultural advancement and help connect Icelandic businesses with appropriate counterparts in the U.S.
If there was one piece of advice from Racing Forward that you could give to someone going through a hard time right now, what would it be?
Do not allow yourself to wallow in your pain. That means propelling yourself out of bed and going through the motions. The minute you isolate yourself and give in to the undertow of powerful emotions, you will get stuck in the mud. You then become roadkill. I still have good and bad days, but I find joy in each day even if it’s practicing gratitude for having my eyesight and four limbs. Exercise helps, and connecting with other people. Counseling or a grief support group is very important. The main piece of advice is to stay connected. Other people have been through hard times too and are willing to help and advise. It means staying positive and avoiding negativity. My grandmother always said that problems have solutions, and it’s blackest before dawn. This too will pass, and unexpected gifts will come your way. Be open to change. Embrace it and transcend it.
I also find that volunteering helps you come out of yourself. There is someone always worse off than you are. If you have suffered a layoff, for example, don’t be afraid to take a menial job. There is dignity in work. Volunteer at a charity one day a week. You might make an important connection. At the very least, you can make new friends and get out of your rut. I have been blessed with so many new friends as an unexpected gift of making connections through Joss. Find time to exercise. I took lots of long walks. It all helps.
As a Texas author, you probably like to read Texas books as well. Who are some of your favorite Texas authors?
Sandra Brown is my favorite Texas author. I like true crime and thriller, and presently I’m reading her new book, Mean Streak.
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