What My Mom Taught Me

I'm the girl in the pink t-shirt

I’m the girl in the pink t-shirt

My mom is responsible for so many of the passions in my life. The background in this picture shows two of them…my love of books and my thirst for knowledge.

I suspect that she also inspired my love for writing, particularly poetry. As often happens when we’re young, we emulate what we see. My mom used to write these long, drawn out odes…probably inspired by reading Psalms. All I know is that I was enthralled with the idea that she had created something that other people wanted to read…with her mind and her imagination. And, as happens with the oldest child, I attempted to emulate her…with my own little twists. My sister would tell you that I took it a step further and spun tales to entertain her and my brothers.

Mothers and daughters are complicated relationships…and I suspect it will always be that way. Through her I learned to be timely because it’s a trait she lacks. Yet there were other things that would blow me away…like when she told me how she chose my name. My passion for music comes from her, too. Every member of my immediate family is actually vocally talented. She and my dad used to sing all the time. She was disappointed that I didn’t take more interest in learning an instrument, too. Even when we didn’t have much, she found ways to help my sister and I pay for our voice lessons in high school.

My mom also has a love for cooking and baking; one she passed on to my sister and me. My first memory of making bread with her was when I was 3. She made sure she had mini-loaf pans and tart pans to go with her pie and bread pans. As she would make hers, she’d double the recipe so my sister and I could make “ours”. We loved that. In fact, baking is something we both do to relax us. Like my mom, I’m an intuitive cook… a pinch of this and a dab of that are commonplace in my cooking. It’s all to taste, which makes it difficult for me to share recipes, but it was always fun.

As some of you realize, my dad wasn’t really a presence in my life. She was the one who never missed a concert that I performed in, she who told me that I could be anyone and do anything I wanted. She did everything she could so that his absence wasn’t missed too much. She found a way to support us with nothing more than a high school diploma…and chose not to take advantage of “aid” agencies, though we qualified. She believed there were others that needed it more and that as long as she was working, accepting things like food stamps would send us the wrong message. She wanted us to be strong and independent. She taught me the value of hard work and dedication.

Don’t get me wrong…we had our ups and downs. Having me so young made us more like siblings than mother/daughter sometimes… We both had our tempers and we knew how to push each others buttons. The single mom in her gave her a very vivid imagination. (She thought my catnip was marijuana and that my sister’s contact lens enzyme tabs were birth control pills that I’d procured without her knowledge or permission.)

Thanks to her, my sister and I were independent enough to spread our wings and fly from the nest as soon as we were old enough. Unlike most kids, we didn’t do it because we were rebelling or needed to escape. We did it to exercise the independence she raised us to crave.

Even then, we knew she was always just a phone call away. If we ever truly needed her she’d drop everything and try to find a way to help us. She still would.

She’s not perfect… In fact, she’s a bit of a hypochondriac. She gave us vitamins one year for stocking stuffers. She’s spiked my sister’s OJ with fish oil to “enhance her memory” when we were in high school preparing for finals… (Yeah, that was hilarious for me, disgusting for her.) She has a brutal temper. She’s beyond protective. She jumps to conclusions and has a tendency to shoot first, ask questions later (a trait common in single moms who want to keep their kids safe).

Through her, my sister and I gained a very clear vision of what a loving God looks like. She raised us to do what was right, even when it wasn’t always easy or comfortable. She taught us to be tough, resilient and self sufficient. She also showed us what commitment looked like.

When we lost our brothers she was there…strong and steadfast. She knew that as long as we had each other and faith, we would survive. She never let go.

Watching her over the years I’ve learned so much about strength, resilience and love….and the kind of mother I’d like to be (if I ever have any children). It always chokes me up and blows my mind a little when she hugs me and tells me that my sister and I inspired so much of what we inspire in her.

May I grow up to be as inspiring to someone as she’s been to me.

Now it’s your turn…. What traits have you inherited from your mom? What inspires you? If you’re a mom, what do you love most about being one?

When Time Means Nothing….

You all know I love my mom. I’ve talked about the fact that she is probably one of my biggest heroes/role models. Of course there’s also the issue of tardiness being my pet peeve. Since she’s a direct cause of this, too, I thought I’d share…

Growing up, my mom raised us to be very involved in the church. Sometime around my tween and early teen years, since my mom worked night shifts, we stopped going to the Sabbath/Sunday school part of the service and only came for the second half…which was sermon time. It was around that time that I’d begun to notice that when we got there, the doors from the foyer were already closed, though the ones that lead to the balcony were not. Most people would go upstairs to the balcony to sit. Not my mom. She would take our hands, open the front and center doors, head held high and march all the way up to the front 4 or 5 pew and sit. Being in that age range, I noticed, mortified, that the pastor was up front preaching and watching us walk down the aisle. To me, it also felt like every eye in the place was on us. I wanted to hide. I was so relieved when we got a little older that we moved into an apartment building within walking distance of both church, work and school. While mom was doing her makeup I’d go myself…early/on time…and sit up in the balcony.

When my mom was going somewhere with us we were never on time. It drove me nuts! In fact, once I moved to Florida, my sister was coming out for a visit. Mom offered to drive her to the airport. She was so late picking my sister up that she almost missed her flight…in fact, her luggage did miss the flight. We had to drive back to the airport the next day to pick up her stuff as that particular airline only flew into our airport once a day.

But wait, it gets better. My mom offered to do a friend’s hair once, for her wedding. Somehow, she got sidetracked along the way, making the bridal party smoothies…. The girl was nearly 3 hours late to her own wedding. I’m guessing the wedding must have been casual (I’m thankful I wasn’t around for that one).

Then there was the time I developed an eye twitch. I have never had an eye twitch before. Most of the time I’m actually pretty mellow. High energy, but not the stressed out kind. Well, not until I got to town on the week of my wedding. My sister mentioned off the cuff that mom would be over before her fitting for her dress. This fitting was 5 days before my wedding.

Me: What do you mean, fitting?
Sis: Crap! Sorry, I was trying to keep it from you to keep you from stressing out.
Me: (deep sigh) So her dress isn’t done yet?
Sis: She says it’s almost done.

Then mom came over and took me and a bridesmaid over to the lady who was making her dress. The dress was still in pieces and not sewn together. The lady (a former teacher) must have recognized the look in my eye while my mom was changing into the parts of the dress and told me to go ahead and wait in the living room.

Bridesmaid: Are you okay?
Me: (Deep breath) Why do you ask?
Bridesmaid: I work with you. I’ve seen you in some pretty stressful situations.
Me: But…
Bridesmaid: I’ve never seen your eye twitch like that before.
Me: (holding my fingers against my eye, trying to keep it from pulsing) I have not been stressed out at all about this wedding…until now.
Bridesmaid: I know.
Me: I’m trying very hard not to turn into Bridezilla right now.
Bridesmaid: You’re doing a good job. Keep taking those deep breaths.

Later on I found out the seamstress had told my mom that if she wanted her to make the dress that she needed 6 months notice. My mom gave her 2. Being a friend, she did a rush job. The dress was completed the day of my wedding…which caused my mom to be late for her hair appointment. Thankfully, the stylist was at my sister’s house and had other bridesmaids she could do while waiting for my mom.

There have been many other instances… This is why we’ve learned to tell her and my stepdad to be anywhere we want them to be about an hour in advance….and to plan on eating at any dinner party they hold 1.5-2 hours after they tell us.

So last week she sent me a text telling me that her church choir was combining with one in my neighborhood for an Easter celebration service. I was all set. Hubby was staying home to do some baking. I called her 30 minutes prior to ask her which Methodist church in my neighborhood was the celebration at. That’s when she informed me that the celebration wasn’t in MY neighborhood…it was in HERS! That meant a 45 minute drive…and me being LATE! Sensing I was about to cancel, she copped the mom attitude like only a mother can do, making me feel bad. I managed to only be 15 minutes late, and just in time for her singing.

While I was there she asked me if I’d drive to Miami with her to see my sister, who is in town to see her mother-in-law (she’s been going through cancer treatments). She told me she’d be at my house by 8am on Wednesday. That’s today. She confirmed yesterday that she’d be here at 8. She texted me this morning telling me to have a good breakfast and that she’d be here between 8:15-8:30. She then texted me at about 8:10 to tell me she was leaving her house (which is an hour and 10 minutes away).

Am I surprised? No. Am I irritated? Maybe just a little…

Have I mentioned that I love my Mom?

Happy birthday, Mom!

Several years ago, I was so caught up in my very high pressure retail career that I forgot my mother’s birthday for the first time in my life. My mom was so concerned that she called me and asked me the one question most parents jump to when their children behave in manners they are unable to explain….

“Are you on drugs?”

…That day I gained a valuable insight into parenting. It doesn’t matter how old you are (I was in my early 30’s). Parents will always worry because you will always be their “child”.

Today I no longer have that kind of grinding career. I was able to enjoy the simple moments… Invite my parents and some friends over and honor my mom on her birthday as well as enjoy an early Thanksgiving before I fly out on Tuesday.

Hubby made some awesome cranberry dishes (one with pears and lemon juice and zest and the other a more autumnal one with blueberries). I made my green bean casserole & cheddar cheese mashed potatoes to go with the awesome turkey, gruyere cheddar biscuits, quinoa cranberry nut stuffing, pancit, Mac and cheese and apple pear salad with cranberry vinaigrette dressing.

Dessert was pumpkin pies and chocolate pecan pies with the options for ice cream or cool whip. Hubby also made this awesome drink called Asian pear grapefruit fizz…you couldn’t even taste the vodka! Dogs and children chased each other around my tables while adults conversed.

I finally got to use my formal china I received from my wedding. What do you like about the holidays? What insights have you derived from your parents?

Happy Birthday, Mom!