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Houston’s Mica Mosbacher: Writing life in the fast lane

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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Cavuto Coast to Coast

FOX NEWS, Your World with Neil Cavuto, MAY 7, 2015

They Who Must be Obeyed

They Who Must be Obeyed

The women who rule Houston rule the world

By: John-Paul Flintoff, March 18, 2003

(Houston, Texas) – A rainy night in January. Shortly before 7pm, limos start to block the entrance to the Corinthian ballroom. Some of the best dressed women in Texas, accompanied by rather less flamboyant men in tuxedos, step out of the cars, into the beautifully restored building, and up the marble stairs, to take part in tonight’s Winter Ball, one of the most important events in Houston’s social calendar.

At the top of the stairs, they are greeted by a line of white-jacketed waiters, press photographers and cameramen from Channel 13, whose coverage of tonight’s event will be aired the following Sunday. Each taking a flute of ice-cold champagne, they wander through the hall past tables laden with items for auction: candlesticks encrusted with Swarovski crystals; made-to-measure suits from Saks Fifth Avenue; a vast Texan barbecue; and an inscribed copy of former president George Bush’s book, All the Best, which though listed as “priceless” has attracted an opening bid of $100…………..

Shelby Hodge, society columnist on the Houston Chronicle, says of Becca: “No one in this town throws a party like she does.” In particular, Hodge commends “the scale of the decor, and the orchestration of the guest list”. As one of the few American members of the Prince of Wales’s Foundation, raising money for English architectural restoration, Becca rubs shoulders with Forbeses, Rockefellers and Trumps. Also known as TriBecca, for her habit of changing costume three times at each party, she has recently entertained designers such as Diane von Furstenberg, the Bush family, Lynn Wyatt and a couple whose names I find on the guest lists for all the most important functions: Robert and Mica Mosbacher.

Before leaving Houston, I decide I must visit the Mosbachers, who married less than three years ago. If any couple combines social cachet with oil money and political connections, it’s the former secretary of commerce and his young wife. Robert Mosbacher has known George Bush Snr for decades, and served in his administration. In 1999, to celebrate George and Barbara’s 75th and 74th birthdays, respectively, Robert and Mica threw one of the biggest parties ever seen in Houston: top tables cost $100,000 More recently, Mica co-hosted, with Lynn Wyatt, a party for the British ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer.

I ask Lynn for help, and get myself a date to visit the Mosbachers at their new home. When the appointed hour arrives, Mica is there to greet me at the gates of the house, in one of the most exclusive streets in River Oaks. Over generous glasses of wine, we chat in the library, and are soon joined by her husband. Like the former president, Robert was born in the east of the US, and attracted to Texas by the prospect of making his fortune in oil. (“You can drill just one well,” he says, with a twinkle in his eye, “having borrowed just a little money, and then you can be a millionaire. It’s the epitome of the chance to get rich quick.”) He found the southern state to be a place that welcomed newcomers. “Unlike eastern society, there was no established hierarchy. Anyone can make it. It’s more about what you have done than who you are.” Having achieved his dream, he went into government, then returned to the oil business, not only as a consultant for Enron, but also working for himself. He still keeps an office downtown, and the first thing he does in the morning, according to Mica, is to check the price of oil.

In the past, he says, there were countless oil companies in Texas, many of them, like his own, run by individuals or families. “There are very few left. We’re like the last of the Mohicans.” The ethos of the industry has hardened. “In those days, you would do business on a handshake. Your word was your bond.” Regrettably, that’s no longer the case, as can be seen by the fraudulent practices at Enron.

Robert Mosbacher thinks it is merely coincidental that so many powerful Americans have links with Houston’s oil industry. But he would say that. Nor is it surprising that he defends his old friend Ken Lay, who lived until recently in a mansion nearby. “People here were horrified by what happened at Enron,” he says. “But remember that Enron and Ken Lay contributed a lot to the community.” (At the Winter Ball, standing beside the items for auction, I hear one woman ask another, in a tone that can only be described as funereal: “So, how are things going at Enron?” But Lay himself remains respected on the charity circuit, and has even been greeted with standing ovations just for showing up at black-tie events.)

My conversation with the Mosbachers does range slightly beyond business and politics. At one point, Mica tells me, with relish, about a legendary pair of Houstonian socialites who shot or poisoned their husbands. In response. Robert raises an eyebrow: “I’m not sure I like the trend of this conversation.” Guessing that it’s time to leave, I take another look around the newly decorated room, and notice that, though few books have been stacked on the shelves, a couple of photos have been put up in places of honour. One shows Robert and Mica standing on either side of a woman in a glamorous outfit: America’s First Lady, Laura Bush. She has inscribed the picture with a loving message.

The other photograph is a group shot, showing a bunch of anonymous-looking guys, much like the interchangeable gentlemen in tuxedos at the Winter Ball, massively outshone by their glamorous wives and girlfriends. The difference is that this group is dressed for quail hunting. But, like the men at the ball, they’re no ordinary bunch. Standing around in a clearing in southern Texas, they include a former secretary of state, a former ambassador, a former secretary of commerce and a former president of the United States. Studying their faces, I conclude that hunting quail must constitute light relief from affairs of state and the commercial imperatives of oil – converging, right now, in the war on Iraq. Not forgetting the high-powered networking through which they are guided by their wives, Houston’s women of distinction.