Appreciation is just icing on the cake

I love being a mother. I fell in love with all my children even before they were born. I loved feeling them move inside me and dreamed about what they would look like, what their personality would be, and what their future might hold.

My kids haven't changed a lot since they were little.

My kids haven’t changed a lot since they were little.

The moment my first child was born (I have four), I devoted my life to being the best mother I could, which wasn’t always easy.

Now that my children are grown and have kids of their own, it’s easy to see where I went wrong (after all, hindsight is 20/20).

If kids did come with a manual, it might look something like this:

1. Spend one-on-one time with your kids, even if you have 10.

2. Make them feel important, loved, and safe.

3. Set boundaries. When you say no, mean it.

4. Give them a daily chore, even if it’s just picking up the front room.

5. Tell them you’re proud of them.

6. Encourage them to try new things, everything, until they find something they like to do or are good at.

7. Don’t try to be their friend. You can’t be their mom and their friend at the same time.

8. Ease their fears by being open with them and answering their questions to the best of your ability.

9. Teach them manners and to respect others; the Golden Rule.

10. Set a good example. Give them someone to look up to.

11. Don’t talk bad about their fathers, or anyone for that matter.

12. Teach them forgiveness.

13. Tell them you love them every day.

14. Never put them down or say they are bad. “Words once spoke, can never be taken back.”

15. Don’t set your expectations too high for your children.

Looking over this list, I can say that some of my parenting skills may have been lacking, but we learn as we go. No one is perfect. I may not have been able to give my kids the world, but at least they knew they were loved.

This year I received a letter from my youngest daughter, Lori, that made me realize that I must have done something right.

And she gave me her permission to share part of it:

“… Having my own children made me look at my mother in a different light. Everyone wants to be a better parent than their own, do things differently. And while that is true in some aspects, I also want to be just like my mother in many ways.

Even though my mom was dealing with her own issues while I was growing up, I always felt love radiating from her. I know she was proud to have us as her children, and she would do anything for us. And I feel the same exact way about my own kids. I think every mother does. But what my mom has taught me in the last ten years has had more of an impact on me than I could ever imagine. She not only quit drinking, she changed many of her destructive habits as well. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not perfect and she knows it. And I don’t think I could deal with it if she was. But she has taught me a lot of life lessons that I want to instill in my children.

She is so caring and giving. She would do anything for her loved ones and people she cares about. She is determined and tenacious. I can see how much her self-confidence has grown as she has achieved things she probably couldn’t have imagined before. She is selfless and passionate in everything she pursues. Her heart is so genuine. She is a deep and imaginative thinker. We can talk for hours on the phone, jumping from one topic to another, and totally follow and get one another. How many people can say they have that type of connection with their mom? I feel pretty damn lucky to say I do…”

Out of all of my children, Lori is the most sensitive. We are like two peas in a pod. It’s not that I don’t love my other children any less,it’s just that Lori and I share a very special bond. I think the greatest gift I could ever have received, especially on Mother’s Day, is the gift of being appreciated. It makes being a mother that much more rewarding.

You are there for your kids from the moment they are born, teaching them to walk, to talk, kissing their owies, teaching them to tie their shoes,  and to ride the bus alone for the first time.  You’re there holding them while they cry after their first break-up, and helping them get dressed for their proms and weddings, and holding your grandchildren for the first time.

When you’re a mom, you take care of your kids because that’s just what you do. You love them unconditionally because they are a part of you. You created them and you raise them to the best of your ability. And when it’s time to let them go, well…. that’s a little easier said then done. But you never really let them go. You just make them think you do.



Time for Mother’s Day

Anna Jarvis organized the first Mother’s Day celebration on May 10, 1908, in Grafton, W. V., to encourage families to honor their

My mom with her great-granddaughter.

My mom with her great-granddaughter.

mothers with simple, at-home gatherings. When the holiday began to attract commercial attention in the following years, Jarvis became upset and protested what Mother’s Day had become. She believed that it was taking away from the true intention of Mother’s Day, which was to show loving displays of gratitude for mothers and grandmothers.

The love a mother has for her children has not changed over time. Stories through the ages tell of the sacrifices mothers endured, the unconditional love that enabled some children to overcome challenging obstacles, and the miracles that followed.

Some famous mothers through time include Eve, who was the very first mother. The Bible tells the story of how she disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, and she and her husband, Adam, were banished from the Garden of Eden, their paradise. She had two sons, Cain and Abel, and had to endure the pain of childbirth and the heartbreak of losing a child, while having to accept the fact that one of her children was a murderer.

Mary was the mother of Jesus of Nazareth. She stood by him through thick and thin, even as he was ridiculed for his insistence that he was the son of God. She believed in him, even as he was crucified and died on the cross, and accepted that this was his fate, for all mankind.

Mother Teresa was made a saint for helping lepers in India. Though she had no children of her own (she had given her life to God as a nun), she was a mother to all, caring and nurturing the young, the old, and the sick. She lived in poverty, among the lepers, and taught others to be loving, generous, compassionate, and kind.

Rose Kennedy, famous mother of the president of the United States, approached her mothering duties almost like a sports team manager, keeping records of everything from kids’ dental visits down to their shoe sizes, according the John F.Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

She lived to be 104 years old, outliving four of her nine children, all of whom died in tragic circumstances. Her oldest son, Joseph, was killed in action in World War II in 1944, and her daughter Kathleen died in a plane crash four years later. John was assassinated in 1963 and Robert was assassinated in 1968.

Actress Angelina Jolie takes her role as a mother very seriously. She and actor Brad Pitt adopted four children from various countries and then had twins five years ago, bringing the total number of children to six.

But not only has Jolie had a tough role as an actress and a parent, but she made the decision to have a double mastectomy to avoid breast cancer. Her mother died of ovarian cancer in 2007 and Jolie wanted to do what she could to prevent that from happening to her.

Jolie said in Elle magazine that her daughter, Vivienne, was cast in the role of Little Aurora in the her new movie, “Maleficent,” but the stress of working with their children was almost too much, and they decided maybe that’s not the best thing for them.

And then there are the fictional mothers. TV moms like June Cleaver, Carol Brady, Roseanne Connor presented the changing roles of mothers through the decades.

June Cleaver was the mom in the TV show, “Leave it to Beaver.” Mothers then (in the 1950s) were depicted as woman who did not work outside the home and keep the house spotless, and shopped a lot. As a mother, she was pretty awesome, but almost too perfect.

Carol Brady branched out in a new role as stepmother in a blended family in “The Brady Bunch,” something that was unheard of until the 1970s. Being a mom in that situation was often hilarious, but there were some serious moments, too. Carol showed other moms in that situation how it was done.

Shirley Partridge was a single mom in “The Partridge Family,” but she showed the world she could do just fine on her own, without a man. She was both mother and father to her five children. She had it rough, especially with their lifestyle as a musical family. But the show did hit on a few lessons that could be learned by the moms in the audience.

Claire Huxtable was the mom on the “Cosby Show” in the 1980s.  Though she worked professionally outside the home, her five children were well-behaved. They had their problems, but her role as a black professional working mother helped other black women see that they, too, could work full-time and be a good mother.

Roseanne Connor showed a realistic scenario for the 1990s mom. A quick wit and a sarcastic attitude showed moms that life does not come with a handbook, and sometimes you have to improvise in order for it to work.

Moms of the new millennium are busy, busier than they have ever been. They work full-time jobs or go to school while rushing the kids to sports events, play practice, and show choir. They sit in the front row with their cell phones or video cameras capturing the moments that they can look at years later and say, “Where has the time gone?”

Mothers have an undeniable bond with their children. It is an unconditional love that stays with them until the day they die. And if we do it right, our mothers aren’t honored just one day a year, but every day.

Maybe it’s a phone call out of the blue, or a surprise delivery of flowers. Perhaps she would like a frappuccino from Starbucks (with lots of whipped cream!).  But most likely it’s the time you spend with her that matters most. Maybe just talking with her, laughing about the funny things that happened when you were little, or maybe just holding her hand and telling her that everything is going to be all right. Maybe that’s all she really wants this Mother’s Day.

Take a few moments this Mother’s Day to sit down and really talk to your mom. And don’t forget the frappuccino.


Celebrating mom, not just on Mother’s Day

My mom is 82 years-old.Mom's Birthday 023yes

Every step she takes is excruciating for her, and so she spends much of her time sitting in her chair with her dog by her side, watching television.

She complains that with all the television stations the cable company offers, she still can’t find anything to watch.

“I’m going to cancel cable, I think,” she says, but she never does.

My mom doesn’t like to do much of anything else. Every hobby I suggest is met with a slow shake of her head.

“Would you like me to get you a good book?”

“No…” she says. “I used to like to read.  I don’t know what happened.”

“How about a craft….scrap booking, maybe?”

“No….” she says with a sigh.

She likes doing the daily crossword puzzle in the local paper, and at least, that seems to be keeping her mind active.

I sit and talk with her when I can.  I tell her about the changing landscape of the city-new businesses that are going in up the street, old buildings that are getting knocked down to make room for the new.

I offer to take her out on nice days to show her.

She shakes her head.

“It’s just too hard,” she says.

She has started using the laptop I encouraged her to buy so she could stay informed about what is going on in the world. But she doesn’t understand any of it and seems to find comfort in what’s wrong with the world today, instead of what is right.

“I don’t understand why people come over to visit me and then sit there texting on their phones instead of talking,” she told me one day.

I shrug my shoulders. “That’s just what people do now,” I say. “It’s not right. It’s just what is.”

She looks at me and laughs. “Yeah…I suppose. I’m just lost, is all.”

Her statement makes me want to cry.

My mother, a once active and vibrant woman lost more than a spouse when my dad died five years ago. She lost the desire to participate in life.

She doesn’t say it, but she’s mad. She’s mad at her situation and mad that my dad left her alone. She’s mad that she can’t do many things she used to.  I have tried to lift her spirits, to make her see that she still has a lot of life to live, but she just doesn’t seem to care anymore. She is just existing.

I wrote my mom’s story for the family a few years ago and through our many conversations, I learned that my mother may not have had the best of everything, but she certainly did the best with what she had.

My mom grew up during the Depression, and though times were tough, her parents made sure the kids never went hungry. Grandpa trapped squirrels and caught catfish from the river.  She told me that there were several times her parents went without meals so she and her brother had enough to eat.

She said she started working when she was 11, at a downtown laundry business. She remembered how they had to take salt pills because they sweated so much.

She found herself having to carry the burden when my dad was in a terrible car accident when I was 4. He nearly died, and couldn’t work for a year. With nine kids to feed, she worked nights and took care of the family and my dad during the day. She worked until she was 63, and traveled with my dad to exotic destinations before my dad became sick.

“I miss him everyday,” she told me one time, as she gazed at his picture sitting next her on the table. “But sometimes I feel like he’ s still here.”

This woman, who means the world to me, who picked me up when I fell, who dried my tears after breaking up with a boyfriend, who shared my happiness on my wedding day and over the birth of my children, who encouraged me when I didn’t think I could go on, who always taught me to be the best person I could be….

…this beautiful woman, proved to me time and again, what it means to be a mother.

It means sacrificing your happiness so your children could have a better life. It means going without, so your kids could have new clothes to start school.

Being a mother means being there when your child needs you. It means spending sleepless nights worrying about their well-being. It means never, ever forgetting what it means to be a mother.

My mother taught me well.

Though her anger and sadness seem to cloud over her love for life, she is still the loving and devoted mother she has always been.

My mom and I don’t always agree on everything, and I doubt we ever will. But I know that she loves me and would do anything for me. Now I have the opportunity to show my appreciation by being here for her.

Mother’s Day is not just a day to recognize and celebrate my mom, because I celebrate her everyday.

But rather, it’s a day to remember why we become mothers in the first place and to pass on that love only a  mother can give, and only a mother can receive.

The love between a mother and child-the love that lives forever.

A tribute to my mother

My mother turned 81 years old this year. Her health is declining and she rarely leaves the house. She has her faithful companion, Bindi, an Australian-Border Collie mix, to keep her company. She feels isolated much of the time, shut out from the rest of the world, with only her visitors and the TV to fill her in on what is happening outside her domain.

My mom’s health began to decline after my father died three years ago. She went into a deep depression and told me that she had nothing left to live for. Though we assured her that she did, she just hasn’t quite gotten over the fact that her partner of almost 50 years is gone.

Eighty-one years is a long time and my mother has filled a very colorful life. She grew up during the depression and still tells stories of the family not having enough to eat and how her dad hunted squirrel and rabbit, which they ate without even thinking twice about it.

She remembers the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, how the newsboy shouted on the corner downtown about it.

She remembers when my dad had his accident in 1967, and almost died, and how they struggled to raise nine children.

She remembers losing a son, how it felt to get that phone call. And she remembers how after every tragedy, she picked up the pieces, put them back together again, and moved on.

And she is doing that now.

My mom is nearing the end of her life and is trying to accept it. With her limited mobility, it must be excruciating to ask others for help, especially when she has always been the glue that has kept our family together.

My mother has taken care of everyone  else her whole life, and now it’s time for her to be taken care of, but she can’t stand it. Her independent nature is apparent as she struggles to carry on her everyday life.

My mother has been through so much and I’ve asked her before how she ever got through it. Her answer to me? “I just did, I had no choice.”

The thing that stands out most to me about my mother is the strength that she possessed when her world was falling apart around her. Her perseverance to maintain order in a world of chaos amazes me. And so does she.

Happy Mother’s day, Mom. You have no idea how many lives you have touched throughout your life. And know that when you didn’t think I was watching or listening, I was. And I still am.