Tag Archives: mothers

She is a Light that Still Shines on Me

10 Feb

Phyllis Danzig

It is exactly 20 years today since my mother passed away. I have had many thoughts over the last few days about what I would want to write to commemorate her. Twenty years is a long time. If you’ve read my posts before, you know that I have a pretty easy time focusing on the positive and celebrating my mom.  But sometimes (and I know you’ll understand), I get mad and maudlin that she’s gone at all.  I was having one of those moments while watching the very special and wonderful Beatles 50th Anniversary Show last night. And, just then, John Legend and Alicia Keys sang, “Let it Be.” Those of us who thought the Mother Mary in the song was the Virgin Mary, found out that we were mistaken. Paul McCartney was inspired to write the song when he had a dream about his mom speaking to him.  “He also said in a later interview about the dream that his mother had told him ‘It will be all right, just let it be’” (Wikipedia and multiple sources).  And, that is just what happens to me over and over again. Even throughout the last twenty years, just as she did during the thirty years we shared, my mom whispers to me. She doesn’t always tell me to let things be. Sometimes, she tells me what action to take or how to react. I have written about the risks (http://wp.me/p1lBgS-6V) she encouraged me to take and how I still “listen” to her. I am just so glad and so fortunate that I can still hear her voice and feel her wisdom.

Watching the show last night and thinking about the crazy 1960’s, I realized I do not know much about how my mom felt about The Beatles.  I do not think she was crazy about them. I know about some of the music she liked (http://wp.me/p1lBgS-6V), but not a lot. I would love to know her reaction to the Feb. 9, 1964 Ed Sullivan show, which incidentally, happened when she was about 6 months pregnant with me! I know details about where she was (Bloomingdales in NYC) and how she reacted when JFK was shot and she was a few months pregnant with me, but nothing about The Beatles.

I do know that, especially now, I am grateful to Paul McCartney for putting into words the feeling I have had for the past twenty years. One of the ways that I have coped with being a motherless daughter is by letting it be.  It is so true that

“When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary (Phyllis) comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be…”

(http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beatles/letitbe.html)

And, I am very lucky that because Phyllis Danzig was my mom, “There is still a light that shines on me.”

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A New Loss

26 Aug

I am finally finding time to write, but must interrupt the regular format of my posts with sadness as our family has lost one of its great matriarchs. I use this word with purpose, especially after reading this definition: “A highly respected woman who is a mother” (“Dictionary, Encyclopedia and Thesaurus.” The Free Dictionary. Farlex, 2000. Web). My husband’s Aunt Helen became my aunt from our first family event. She epitomized the “Other Mothers” I am grateful to have had; as I wrote in my post, https://iwishmymom.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/other-mothers/.  Even one week before she succumbed to non-smoker’s lung cancer at age 86, she shared her wisdom and positive spin with me. While I think I was one of her biggest fans, I realize that her entire family and her friends tie for first place in that category. She was also a fan of each of us, always interested in and supportive of our endeavors. I appreciated her subscription to this blog. She read it and commented to me as an “other mother” and as a regular reader.   I am glad that she and my mom had the chance to meet. My mom, being a great judge of character, immediately liked her. Her daughters, son, grandchildren, brother and all of us nieces, nephews and cousins have been inspired by her and will miss her greatly.  As Aunt Helen, generous and selfless, would have wanted, we are not dwelling on our loss.  She would be glad to know we celebrate her and carry on with strength and optimism.

Just a few weeks later, I watched a dear friend, my husband’s stepmother, grieve as her mother passed away.  She had the great fortune to enjoy a very long and wonderful relationship with her mom who died at age 92. Yet, losing your mom, at any age, is so difficult.

I have actually debated (with myself, in my head), if I would find losing my mom harder had she lived longer. As silly as it sounds, I think maybe I’d be even more spoiled, more used to having her around. I might not have learned to make certain decisions (right or wrong….) on my own.  I would have become more dependent on her advice, help, etc. I wonder, would the adjustment to life as a motherless daughter and parent, be more difficult if my mom had lived another 20 years? So, when a relative or friend experiences this loss, I sometimes think, “Oh she has it so much harder than I did.”  And, then, I almost get angry with myself as I realize that A. I had it really hard. When my mom died, I was filled with agony. I could  not have imagined a more painful period of time. My adjustment was not easier than anyone else’s.  B. What I would have done or would still do to have been granted more time with mom. It would have been wonderful to share even one more day with her. And C. It’s all so personal, unique and unpredictable. We cannot measure the suffering we experience when our mother dies. No one’s is easier, better, harder.

It just is.

What If….

11 May

I imagine you have worked on plans to celebrate your mom or yourself tomorrow. Mother’s Day can seem like a “holy day of obligation.”  Either we must treat our mom and/or mother-in-law to brunch or we must enjoy a day our family plans for us. Of course, there’s nothing we’d rather do more than celebrate motherhood, being mothers or having mothers. But, it can seem forced and fake. I’m torn. On the one hand, it’s nice to have an excuse to make special plans, buy or receive special gifts and celebrate. I like almost any excuse to celebrate. But, on the other hand, what if the celebration causes stress or, worse, exhaustion!

Growing up, we used to joke that every day should be Mother’s Day. Maybe there is some truth to that—why wait until the second Sunday in May to celebrate one of the most important people in your life?

I hope the day is filled with fun for you and the women you celebrate. It should be a  wonderful day, but perhaps there are other days of the year that you (would) actually appreciate time with your mom more than this one day.

On this Mother’s Day weekendI would love your response:

If you are fortunate enough to have your mom in your life, but you were told you could spend only one day of the year with her. Your choice, which day would you choose?

Or:

What if  your mom who passed away could be in your life just one day of the year, which day would you choose?

Is there a specific day of the year that you need your mom more than any other day? Or a day you did or do enjoy her company more than any other day?

Which day strikes you as a day you really need (or wish you had) your mom? And, of course, why?

Rather than write my answer, I truly want to hear from YOU.  I look forward to you sharing your thoughts.

Thank you for reading my blog and contributing.

Our Tunes

14 Apr

I have recently rediscovered and re-worked my Itunes music and playlists. I have my own varied and incongruent collection of favorites and sometimes stop to wonder, why? Why do I like this song so much? That question plus the influence my children’s music selection has on mine, led me to want to know more about what music  my mom loved throughout her life and even predict what she would be listening to now.  And, that is part of my quest in writing my blog: first, wishing my mom was here to share everything and every day. But, since I can’t change that, I so often wish I knew more about my mom. I wonder about the little things that either I should know, but never paid attention to or the things I never thought I wanted to know—after all, how many young children or teens really care what their parents listen to?

My mom’s playlist: I can only add one song and one genre. That’s it, that’s all I know for sure. I recall her listening over and over to Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy’s Indian Love Call.  My dad’s parody of the youoooh-ooh triggered giggles in all of us. Did you or your parents listen to this 1936 song which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame recently—in 2008! I wish my mom could have known that her song has this permanent honor!  Music touches each of us in such unique and personal ways and that  matters more than the recognition. Yet, I can’t help, but wonder—my mom was only 5 years old when this song was recorded. What drew her to the song? Did she watch the Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy movies? I might just have to fill the next rainy weekend with old movies.

Later in her life, I know my mom was drawn to country music. I can recall long car rides (perhaps on one of those College Road Trips ) when she would find a country music station and tell me which songs she liked. I have found myself repeating her exact explanation for liking certain songs—they tell a story.

Another thing I know for sure, is that my and my mom’s playlists would not have nearly as much overlap as mine and my children’s.  While some of my extended family members (my mom’s sister’s family) are musicophiles with vast knowledge about and discerning taste in classical music and show tunes, I am like the “black sheep” of music, without a consistent genre or style.

Currently, my playlist favorites which are also part of either/both of my children’s music collection include:

  • Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us and Same Love
  • Fun.’s Some Nights, Carry On and It Gets Better
  • Queen’s Somebody to Love
  • Beyonce (too many to list)
  • The Dave Matthews Band’s If Only and American Baby
  • Eric Clapton’s Angel
  • and many more!

I must share, separately, songs/artists/albums that my daughter introduced me to and that I love listening to:

  • John Legend
  • James Morrison
  • O.A.R.
  • Corrine Bailey Rae
  • Les Miserables
  • Dream Girls
  • The Music of Nashville, the only one I know would also be on my mom’s playlist!

Would my mom like the stories told by Macklemore and Fun.? Would we go to a concert together, maybe Barbra Streisand? As different as my mom’s and my playlists might be, she selflessly took me to my first concert, David Cassidy at the Garden State Arts Center (now PNC Arts Center). I did not take my daughter to her first concert, Brittany Spears at the Prudential Center. But, we did share a really special night – John Legend  at Radio City Music Hall. And, now she’s obsessed with the music festival, Ultra, which is not likely to become a mother/daughter event!

I am intrigued by these connections: mother/daughter music taste and influence. At the very least, having some commonality in music boosts (or is a result of) mother-daughter bonding. I am grateful I have enough “music” history with my mom to write this post and, of course, I wish my mom could hear my playlist now—and I, hers!

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!

She Told Me So

26 Dec

I had a great, serendipitous moment last weekend when I was perusing Parade Magazine and stumbled upon one of my mom’s pet peeves.  I happened to see Marilyn Vos Savant’s column (http://bit.ly/RgC8WI) and the question, “My friend and I disagree about whether it’s okay to use fabric shears to cut wrapping paper…Can you settle this for us?”  I recalled (fondly now since my annoyance over these admonishments has diminished over time) the reprimand my mom would give if she thought we were using the “kitchen scissors” for fabric or the “fabric scissors” for paper, etc. Ms. Vos Savant explains the actual scientific reason for making sure that the fabric scissors’ blade does not get dulled by cutting paper.   I actually never doubted my mom’s scissor-use guideline and have always tried to use scissors for their published purpose.  In fact, if you have read many of my blog posts, you would know that I often feel my mom’s presence in my life  because I follow many of her lessons.

This little tip sparked a reminiscence of more good tips from my mom:

First, one that my family notices and questions – using your wrist not your hand to check someone’s forehead for fever. Every time my husband uses his hand to check for warmth, I actually recoil, thinking about my mom’s method. And, I just googled this to find that Yahoo Answers! agrees with her (http://yhoo.it/WHFsJC ) — not that I doubted her, I just wanted a second opinion.

Second and more controversial:  Drinking warm liquids to stay cool in the summer. I can recall the exact street corner in Red Bank, NJ where we had this conversation. My mom was treating us to drinks on a hot summer day and asked for hot, not iced coffee. Her reasoning might have been off, but her method works. She emphatically explained that your warm body has to work harder when it reacts to an icy liquid and the “hard work” makes you hotter. I’ve always wondered about this and just googled it too. I found an interesting and almost opposite explanation, but it still gives the same end result:  feeling cooler on a hot day.  http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/07/11/156378713/cool-down-with-a-hot-drink-its-not-as-crazy-as-you-think .

Third, tons of cooking education.  Recently, after giving my good friend advice on cooking chicken soup, she  was impressed and asked how I knew the “insider tips.” When I told her, “Oh, easy- my mom taught me…” she complimented my mom for both her practical knowledge and ability to impart it to me!

Little things like finding that column, especially when I usually recycle Parade Magazine without even opening it, give me a warm reminder that my mom is still an influence in my life. I have admitted before in my blogs that while I do genuinely miss my mother for all of the usual melancholy and sentimental reasons, I also selfishly miss her help. Thanks to her, I do know how to boil water faster, dust top to bottom, check for expiration dates and much more (https://iwishmymom.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/expired/).

I am so sure my mom would have continued to share even more expert and useful tips. And, given the opportunity, Marilyn Vos Savant would endorse them!

Between the Lines

14 Oct

I am so happy to be back to blogging. It’s not that I didn’t think about my mom in the last 2 months- my constant connection to her is certainly intact.

While on hiatus and while catching up on some reading, I was inspired and couldn’t wait to write this post. I’m sure we all notice that mothers are often a focal point of books and articles. But, what struck me, is a deep and thoughtful commentary on a mother’s influence and relationships in Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.

I’m willing to bet you haven’t heard of this Pulitzer Prize finalist and neither had I. I did not choose this to read this book on my own– a colleague suggested it for our high school’s first Student/Staff Book Club. I felt lucky to be engaged with the protagonist, soon-to-be motherless daughter, Ava. I was surprised and affected by the mother/daughter thread throughout the novel. While each book club member found parts of the novel engaging, no one expressed the connection that I found. Each time I picked up the book I looked forward to Ava’s reminiscence and her ongoing relationship with her deceased mother.

As soon as her mother, Hilola is diagnosed with cancer, it is apparent that her demise will have a huge impact on the family and their alligator theme park business. While the business does crumble after her death, Ava remains strong, partially powered by her mother’s strength and presence. Often as I read, I wanted to reach out and hug Ava for verbalizing my feelings, exactly.

Her view of dealing with her mom’s death should be highlighted in a self-help book for mourners. Why do we sometimes avoid talking about our loved one’s death? When Ava needed to “explain to him about mom’s death which was always hard to do. It felt like killing her again.” Exactly. Talking about the details brings back the harsh reality that no one should have to endure once, let alone again and again.

When I started writing this blog, it was because I felt, like Ava, that my mom “was everywhere and nowhere.” She continues to influence me.

When Ava’s brother, Kiwi, hears tourists remember his mom’s acts, “he wanted to passionately kiss them.” I know that feeling. I LOVE talking with anyone who remembers my mom. We don’t have to talk about her, just the fact that this person knew her enough to say her name.  Attending events like my neighborhood swim club’s reunion party and my own high school reunion, for me, is partially fueled by knowing I will mingle with people who knew my parents. During these gatherings, they probably have no idea how meaningful it is for them to acknowledge my mom or dad. Sometimes, I tell them. Like Kiwi, I feel like “her name in a stranger’s mouth was a resurrection.” Well, I don’t have the experience with strangers, but the feeling is the same.

Ava remembers her mom as “stern and all-seeing” as moms should be. She recalls that her mom “would do this great favor of pretending to be credulous when we faked sick. Mom cooed sincerely over our theatrical moanings and coughs.” My mom didn’t coo, but she did sometimes fall for the “I’m too sick to go to school” drill. Ava reinforces the notion that my mom, like hers, was usually aware of my actual condition.

Ava often hears her mother’s voice in her head. I hear my mom’s too and, like Ava, I’m grateful I do. But, for Ava it was even more than a voice. Ava is struggling and almost drowning in the ocean when “I met my mother there, in the final moment. Not her ghost but some vaster portion of her…. Her courage. I believe that she was the pulse and bloom that forced me toward the surface. She was the water that eased the clothes from my fingers. She was the muscular current that rode me through the water away from the den, and she was the victory howl that at last opened my mouth and filled my lungs.”

How beautiful.

Finally, at the end of the story, when the family is reunited and is headed towards healing, Ava feels relieved that “all of us, the four of us—the five of us if you counted Mom inside us- we were home.” And, that’s just the point. My mom is still here, inside of me, each and every moment. I am fortunate, like Ava, to have had a mom who mattered.

 

Going for Gold

29 Jul

“If it wasn’t for my mom, I don’t know where I’d be….” is a sentiment I must borrow from Ryan Lochte, the swimming champion currently competing in the Olympics. I stumbled upon the Proctor & Gamble videos, Raising an Olympian  and soon found myself mesmerized by the interviews with current Olympic athletes and their moms.  I write this blog because I am thankful that my mom created a “safe place” for me, just as the triathlete Paula Findlay’s  mom did for her.  Beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh-Jennings’ praise of her mom filled me with nostalgic feelings of my own mom and inspiration to “want to be a lioness for my kids.”

My mom certainly never intended to raise an Olympian and neither did these moms! They did what most of us moms want to do: they helped their children make the most of their talents and skills. Well, then, of course, one thing led to another and there they are in London!  Actually, I made it to London too (for college study abroad in 1985) and I do have my mom and her sister (one of my dearest “other mothers”) as well as my dad and uncle to thank for that.

The fifteen minutes I spent watching these videos provided some of the best parental advice. I only hope to be affected by the moms’ recollection of their goals and parenting styles. Kerri Walsh-Jennings’ mom takes more pride in the “wonderful human being” her daughter is than in her athletic accomplishments. She helped her daughter dream big and play to win, but also helped give her stability and balance. The British runner, Jessica Ennis is lucky to have a mom who saw her desire to compete and helped nurture that desire. It sounds like Paula Findlay’s mom’s glass was half full. She put a positive spin on the tough times while giving her daughter “freedom to flourish.” Ryan Lochte’s message hit me the hardest. While his mom helped him persevere, he also felt that “If she had a tighter leash…I might have hated it (swimming).” I am already hearing him as I want to tell my son or daughter what to do next….

Not all moms can or should raise an Olympian. And, certainly many Olympians and world-class athletes come from broken and dysfunctional homes. I have written about the risks my mother encouraged me to take, the lessons I learned from her, and the many interests and skills I have because of her. I credit both of my parents with allowing me independence and fostering self-esteem and my desire to achieve my goals. They were proud of my accomplishments as long as I strove for the gold medal in whatever I chose to pursue.

I hope you will watch some of these videos that inspire gold medal mothering and I would love for you to comment on your favorites.

Grandma and the Mall

22 Jul

I wish my mom knew how much her wisdom still inspires 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.

Of all the things I wish my mom was here for, being a grandma to my children tops the list. She would have kvelled constantly. I often think of how much pleasure she would have had from being their grandma. Fortunately, I did get to witness the wonderful relationship she had with my nephews from birth to age 5, when she died. She was thrilled with everything about them.

I must have had this on my mind when I was walking through Livingston Mall the other day. I spotted a few young girls walking with women who appeared to be grandmothers and immediately thought of my mom. As much as I wish my mom was here to do that, I’m not sure she would have. She did like to shop, but usually in an antique store and/or with a mission or purpose. She was never a mall walker or window shopper. Unlike her, I am. I love to wander through the mall especially during the summer when I have more free time. Later in the week, I observed more girls and grandmas strolling in the Mall at Short Hills. I imagined they had finished lunch and were carrying bags of clothing they chose together. Some held hands—forcing me to smile at their special moment.

As I watched them walk by I thought about my trips to the East Brunswick Mall with my Grandma Lena, my dad’s mother. She made a big deal date with me at least once every few months. Sometimes one of my parents would drive us to the mall, but often we took the bus which stopped right near her apartment. I was always eager to go with Grandma Lena, partly for the window shopping, but mostly for the shirt she would buy for me. I also loved making her happy with this somewhat selfish, activity. And, she loved getting dressed up for our outing. She would tell me, in advance, what she planned to buy me- usually a simple shirt or sweater and never expensive. Of course, it was not about the gift,

So, I wonder, what activities would (or does) your mom enjoy with her grandchildren? Does she take them to the mall? Museums? Parks? Did you engage in similar activities with your grandmother? Just as I did during my mall trip, I’ll live vicariously for a few moments.

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.