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February – Bitter and Sweet

21 Feb
Grandma Phyllis with Jordan.

Grandma Phyllis with Jordan.

February 20, 1989 was one of my mom’s happiest days—the day her first grandchildren were born. She had endured the saddest year, grieving my dad’s death just one year earlier, March 1988. The arrival of twin grandsons lifted her spirits and truly changed her outlook.  She was forever enamored with them. She had a new purpose—helping my sister and obsessing over these two, most adorable boys, Jordan and Aaron.

Grandma Phyllis and Aaron

Grandma Phyllis and Aaron

When I get sad thinking about how she did not get the chance to know my children and they were jipped out of having her in their lives, I picture her with Jordan and Aaron. My mom’s bleakest year became her brightest. The announcement of my sister’s pregnancy, the discovery she was carrying twins and even her subsequent bedrest,  relieved my mom’s malaise and gave her a new purpose. Sure, she was worried about my sister for 9 months, but that was healthy and therapeutic.  Their birth gave her new, awesome grandmotherly duties! She loved these boys so much that she even shed her dog anxiety and  warmed up to their Border Collie, Kiwi.  I was shocked and thrilled to see her invite my two-year old nephews to bring Kiwi over for a playdate. She helped my sister and entertained Jordan and Aaron even during her chemo. Playing with her grandsons provided more good therapy than any drug she received. When my children ask about her and when I find myself telling them stories about her, I really do feel a sense of gratitude that I got to see my mom become a grandmother. I know that she was and would have continued to be a great grandma!

Five very short years later, just ten days before my nephews’ 5th birthday, my mom died. Our happiest month, February, became bittersweet and very sad. I was sad that my nephews’ birthday celebration had to be postponed as if that really mattered at the time. In accordance with their nature then and now, they adapted and coped. They did not complain about the long New Jersey stay. Some five-year olds would not have been able to understand. Fortunately, they were probably just young enough to not have their birthday forever marred by our grief.

This year, I did not write a post on my family’s funereal February 10th, the anniversary of my mom’s death. I find solace writing about her any day of the year, but certainly prefer this day over Feb. 10th. On this day and during this month,  I accept the two necessary parts of life—death and birth, bitter and sweet. And, I am thankful for my sweet sister and the joy she and my brother-in-law brought to my mom’s and my life. Happy, Happy Birthday Aaron and Jordan!

Summer Tan

16 Jul

Confession #1: Attempt to conceal a suntan

 

My father’s work centered on exporting Ban De Soleil which did not provide enough sunscreen and helped me tan….

I wish my mom I hope my mom did not know about all of the times that I hid my tan. Honestly, I think she must have been able to see through the J & J Baby Powder I often applied on the way home from a too sunny day at the beach. Her adamant anti-tan stance was certainly strong and right. Although, as a teenager—or even young adult, I never acquiesced and always argued against her anti-tan campaign. This is definitely on the top ten list of “Things I Swore I Would NOT Do When I Became a Mom, But Now Do with Conviction.” Except, I recently got caught falling into that old, bad tanning habit.

Confession #2: Being tan again

I was inspired to write this particular post last week when a kind, unassuming woman who seemed to be about the same age my mom would be (80 ish) commented on my tan. I was waiting for my son when she walked into the doctor’s waiting room, smiled at me and said, “Oh, what a pretty tan you have.” How could she know that her comment would incite guilt. I  had not even realized that I have a noticeable tan. I looked at my arms and saw my soccer mom’s tan. It makes sense that the sun’s rays have pierced through my sunscreen given the many hours I’ve spent on the sideline.

I felt my mom’s reprimand from years ago and replied, “Oh thank you, but I think I’d better be more careful when I watch my son play soccer.” Not intending to play devil’s advocate, she interrupted my confession and continued to compliment my “lovely color.” Then, she re-directed our discussion to questions about my son and his summer soccer. Soon I was entranced and enjoying the attention and her interest in me and my son.

Confession #3  This post is not just about the allure and danger of being tan

One of the reasons I started this blog is my husband’s observation 16 years ago. He noticed that after returning from playing with my daughter in Taylor Park, I would often have a story about older, grandmother-type women I met. I would gush, “Oh she told me about her children….she takes her little grandchildren to the park…she can’t wait to see her daughter’s new baby…..” Sometimes they gave unsolicited advice that I imbibed—I hope you don’t give her too much candy…make sure you set rules…enjoy each moment….Of course they oohed and aahed as they exclaimed how adorable my daughter was, how smart she seemed, what a good jungle gym climber she was…. Scott put this all together with a spot-on summation: through these women, I was able to experience the mom/grandmother relationship I so desired. These “other mothers” , provided a glimpse into the life I imagined I’d have with my mom. My experience last week gave me a few moments with an “other mother.”

I wish my mom knew how much her wisdom would inspire me. While I did not have the chance to admit to her that she was right about the tan (and obviously still need to be reminded), I think that she must have seen my powder cover-up as a sign of guilt and acknowledgement.

Other Mothers in the Wake of Irene

1 Sep

A mom’s empathy and help is priceless….

One of the most heartwarming, reassuring and appreciated consequences of Hurricane Irene’s destructive stop in our town is the outpouring of help from women throughout our neighborhoods.  I think many of us in town have long felt a great sense of community. We have two amazing networks/listservs, the Working Moms Group and our Newcomers/Encore Group. The advice, help and camaraderie emanating from these groups is precious and mother-like.

In the aftermath of this storm, women have offered help in every way imaginable.  Like a mom, these women have thought of all of our essential needs: a warm meal, laundry, a place to shower. Due to the devastation from Irene, these women are giving information on and lending fans, de-humidifiers, wet vacs and even generators. And, because of our reliance on technology, their offers also include wifi access and a home to charge computers and cell phones. It started with friends offering such help to their immediate circles of friends. And, then it spread. Just today, one woman posted an offer for anyone in town to borrow her mom’s stockpots for boiling our unsafe water. The offers keep coming: friends and acquaintances who hear that I am without power, have reached out with empathy and offers for us to meet those essential needs and even take a swim in their pool while the laundry finishes.

And, just like a real mom, there is some daughter guilt. I actually feel bad if I can’t take someone/everyone up on their offers. I would love to spend time with each of these “other moms”. The idea of dinner and powering up at each person’s house, is tempting and reassuring. However, reality and the imminent start of school intervene and force me to turn down some offers. Instead we  sometimes we go to the library or Starbucks in order to work incognito.

I often think about times that I turned my mom down on her offers (or requests) to get together. My “no” was often accompanied with guilt. While I regret  not saying yes all of the time, I know how unrealistic that is and that she understood. Saying no to someone who offers her heart and house to you is hard. So many of us moms feel great when we give to others. It’s almost ironic that I want to give these “other moms” the satisfaction of giving.

I hope you are lucky enough to have your mom or other moms in your life. Perhaps you are also an “other mom.” I’d love to hear your story!

The Power of Lox

30 Aug

What tactics do we employ to cope with inconveniences? I am being prudent in describing my current level of discomfort because Hurricane Irene has left thousands devastated. Locally, hundreds of my neighbors are experiencing tragic consequences of flooded basements. Our neighborhood ranges from the least affected, having to boil water since our supply might have been contaminated, to the most affected—ripping out basement walls and floors while not having power or water.

Personally, we prepared for the worst and are left, fortunately, without power, but with everything else. So, how does my mom figure into this? It’s not just her, but one of my “other mothers” (http://bit.ly/n1Siz5) who I would like to thank for giving me “survival skills.”

To satisfy the basic need to eat and not have to deviate drastically from enjoying our meals, I stocked up on one of my family’s most favorite treats: bagels and smoked salmon. Thanks to my Aunt Elaine (my mom’s sister), I learned that bagels with cream cheese and lox freeze well and then last throughout the day.  Dispersed in the refrigerator and freezer, the lox and cream cheese kept perfectly for the first 48 hours of no power. And, now, we can devour this treat until the power resumes or, at least, for our lunch and snacks today.  It is a trivial, but welcome diversion from current conditions. Thanks to my aunt and our many hours of touring her home city, London, I also learned to rely on bananas because they do not have to be washed. With the chance of contaminated water flowing, bananas are a mandatory snack.

I am fortunate to have been influenced by my resourceful mom and aunt. Their mother also figures into this since my grandma coped with many tragedies and still helped us all realize that we should be satisfied with what we have.

In the meantime, I hope that you have survival tactics and wonder what role your mother played in helping you develop them.

 

Quinoa and other food obsessions

28 Jul

Confession: I have a new food obsession: quinoa. And, I know– I am not the only one! Over the past year, I have sampled this great non-gluten grain at various gatherings. It wasn’t until I took the plunge and made some myself that I became completely infatuated with quinoa. The rational is quite logical: it’s packed with protein and fiber, low in carbohydrates, versatile and extremely easy to make. I can get the quinoa craving and 25 minutes later, I have enough to make savory salads and even breakfast porridge. My most memorable quinoa moments include: 1. Making it for Passover (yes, non-gluten and allowed during Passover!) and receiving rave reviews. My friend gave me her recipe which includes walnuts, peas or string beans, green onions, garlic, balsamic vinegar and a bit of olive oil. 2. Making it for my brother-in-law who is controlling his blood pressure by going gluten-free—and for a friend who has recently given up gluten. I consider each to be a food connoisseur and each devoured it. 3. Making it for breakfast!!! A friend’s porridge recipe (mix with almond butter, almond milk, apple sauce, raisins….) is so delicious and nutritious.

As I have become increasingly obsessed with quinoa, I keep flashing back to the time that my mom first roasted soybeans. It was 1980: I had just turned 16 and she had just quit smoking. To help herself, she became vigilant about not smoking and living a healthy life.  Her soybean obsession was just a start on her new extremism. There is a Part 2 to this soybean experience which I’ll save for another post. And, there is a non-healthy food obsession we shared that will be yet another post.

I am sure my mom would have shared my quinoa obsession. I wish she could have enjoyed creating quinoa concoctions with me.

I wonder what food obsessions you or your mom have had and were there any you shared?