A Mother’s Day Wish  

It’s Mother’s Day. The day that we honor our mothers, as we should. I feel it in all directions – I am a mother, a daughter whose mother passed away ten months ago, and a teacher who had to think of the mothers of children in my class. (What can we make with handprints this year?)

This Mother’s Day it is rainy. How apt. I miss my mother, yet I am so grateful that I had her for 55 years. On this day last year, we were together. We had many wonderful times, and a few challenges here and there. In my deepest heart I thank her for all of it, and I like to think that she knows that and is smiling down on me.

I think of my own daughters; have I been a good mother to them? Sometimes I feel like I am the wayward child and they are guiding me through life. They are so much smarter than I ever was, so gifted and beautiful. If I accomplish nothing else in this crazy life, my two daughters are my shining legacy. You’re welcome, world!

Motherhood is such a journey – from pregnancy through childhood, watching them leave the nest, and beyond. I have remained close to my children and I try hard to keep the connection strong. But I know some are not so lucky. I know moms who have lost their child too early, moms whose children choose not to speak to them, moms whose own struggles have been so tough that they could not parent.

My eldest daughter is craving motherhood soon, having recently married a great guy, now her ovaries are screaming at her, “It’s time!” Maybe this time next year I will be a grandmother, and thus the cycle continues.

I have no profundity to share, just a quiet gratitude for the gifts I have been given and a sincere wish for a joyous day for all the moms I know – even the dads and grandparents and others who don’t have that label but certainly have the job.

May chocolate, flowers, and champagne rain down on all of us!

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Havana Na-na-na

IMG_3923For Spring Break, I am on a short tour to Cuba. When I travel alone, I often do everything on my own, but in the case of coming here, I thought it best to play safe. Americans cannot come here as self-proclaimed “tourists” due to lingering political issues that began over fifty years ago. However, Obama (love him!) opened up a people-to-people exchange to make it possible for Americans to visit and have cultural exchanges with the Cuban people. These can be facilitated by a tour company that works in conjunction with a Cuban travel agent.

I came in tired and early in the morning, knowing the room would not be ready. The hotel concierge arranged a city tour for me in a red ’57 Dodge convertible, driven by the friendly Ernesto. As I greeted him in my halting and rusty Spanish, he decided I could practice speaking and listening on our tour. So, with my tired brain working overtime, Ernesto and I explored the city in my first people-to-people experience!

Havana is an interesting city. We drove past elegant large houses next to crumbling ones. We visited Revolution Square where Fidel Castro used to give many speeches, now populated by 50’s Chevys in jellybean colors. We drove up a winding street to Bosque Havana, a verdantly forested riverbank where I witnessed a ritual chicken sacrifice. Finally, we saw what my guide called the world’s biggest couch, the Malecon promenade, where locals hang out on the seawall socializing every evening.

Although I had heard that Cuba does not have good food, in the next few days our tour group visited some lovely restaurants – most in stately old homes – that proved this false. As a pescatarian, I’m sure I missed out on more great flavors in the meat selections, but dishes such as thinly sliced snapper marinated in lime, spicy seafood paella, and creamy butternut squash soup more than made up for it.

I brought some gifts to distribute, having heard that the people do not have much. In passing I was asked for a pen. Another sweet old lady asked if I had a lipstick; I had a brand new one in baby pink. I handed it to her and she frowned, wondering if I didn’t have a darker color?

To sample another country, another culture, in a week is not enough, But it’s a beginning. I’m grateful to have had a small taste of the rich flavor of Cuba. It has left me craving more, hoping to return algun dia!


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We Need to Talk – About Gun Control

Pre-Existing Condition

In the wake of the shooting in Roseburg Oregon, the panic set in again. It’s a real feeling for me, not paranoia. I work in a school. Sure, I could be shot by one of these random gunmen in a prayer group or perhaps even a yoga class, a restaurant, or a theatre. They seem to pick eclectic locations, to prey on whoever is there. It could be me. It could be you. It could be my kid.

But schools, for whatever reason, are often the setting. It’s a place we’ve all been. And I am there every day. I teach preschool.

This week we have a lockdown drill. We’ve had them before. It’s important to stay calm, to stay quiet, and to keep the kids still. But in my heart there is terror. The drill we had after Sandy Hook was especially hard. It could be real.  I sat…

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Feeling All the Feels

It is the evening after my daughter’s wedding and the evening before Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve eve, if you will. I am caught like a wayward snowflake between the two events. Many tears were cried at the wedding ceremony. It was a momentous occasion for my heart. And tears will likely be cried on Christmas day; for it is the first Christmas without my mother. And the second Christmas since I lost my brother. Holidays are meant to be shared with those we love. And when family members are no longer with us, there is a poignant ache in the midst of the festivities. Holidays have often been a bittersweet time for me; forced gaiety is not my forte.

But this year there is a lightness I did not expect: a new family member to balance the loss of the others. Because, even though the wedding was planned, anticipated, and discussed for over a year, the reality of the experience made me realize that I was finally allowing something important to happen: I acknowledged that my little girl is truly a grown woman. And her husband is a man I really really like. She picked a good one! She is smarter than her ol’ mom! And it makes me feel so relieved and so very proud.

I have been told, “You are not losing your daughter, you are gaining a son.” This actually feels true! When I hugged him goodbye at breakfast this morning I realized that I was falling in love. Not like a girlfriend and not like a mother, but like someone welcoming a new family member into her heart.

So although there is much loss to reflect upon under late night candle glow, there is also a warm glow of happiness. I won’t call myself Mother in law, which evokes an image of Fred Flintstone grumbling about Wilma’s mother. We’ll have to come up with a new term, my daughter, her hubby and I. Just as I finally decided to take Oma as my grandma name, because it has the word Om in it.

That grandbaby will be another new person I will be ready to welcome in, when the time comes.

This season has shattered me with loss and showered me with blessings. I am profoundly grateful at a time when sorrow sometimes overtakes joy. I am able to ride this rollercoaster of Feelings and keep holding on.

Although I am not so appeased as to stay put and enjoy the season’s Feels at home (I am running off to Mexico with my youngest daughter while the newlyweds enjoy a New Zealand honeymoon) I have so much hope and joy and gratitude that love does exist and continue among times of loss.

And that is the gift that my daughter and husband, with their Christmas wedding, have unexpectedly given to me.

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The Age of Sensible Shoes

I’m no Carrie Bradshaw, but I do love shoes. And I even enjoy shoe shopping. Or at least I used to. But this weekend I realized that I have reached a new low, literally, in my shoe wearing career. Is it the end of the sexy high heel for me?

My daughter is getting married next month. I have my dress, a burgundy red flowing number with a bit of cleavage (she approved this) and a bit of a trailing hem. It calls out for high heels. At least a few inches high. And because it is a Christmas wedding, perhaps a little sparkle.

I have tried on a few pairs and then tried to walk in them. And I just can’t pull it off the way I used to. And even if I could walk in the bejeweled strappy stilettos I am drawn to, they hurt my feet! And I am not willing to make the sacrifice of pain for beauty. So I will have to go low. And probably even wide.

More than a decade as a yogi, walking around barefoot whenever possible, has allowed my once average feet to spread a bit. And pitching all my none-too-petite body weight forward into a pointy toe box leaves me feeling like Cinderella’s step sister, forcing her fat foot into the glass slipper. Well, that dainty Cinder-bitch is welcome to the shoe and the wimpy prince.

But what the hell are my feet going to wear to this wedding?

I’ve always thought that God assigns each women a set amount of time to wear high heels, and I have used mine up. My earlier career mandated the wearing of sexy high heels eight hours in a row. I’ve had my time. As an early childhood teacher, there is simply no need to wear those type of shoes. And my love life has been rather sparse for the past decade, so no date shoes reside in my closet. I am not only out of practice, I am totally out of sexy shoes.

I need to make a purchase!

My daughters indulged me this weekend as I visited them and we shopped near Seattle. We searched in vain for the perfect shoe, even visiting a specialty shop named Only Wide Shoes when we realized how difficult it is to find wide shoes on the shelves. But the shoes in that store looked like they were made for dowdy old ladies. I passed on that.

At Payless I lusted after a four inch stiletto encrusted in glitter. My daughters snickered as I took a few steps and almost face-planted in the aisle. At Nordstroms a nice salesman showed us the only shoe in the entire store that came in a wide width. They were a velvet black…loafer. No way. They were also over a hundred bucks.

So I’m back at square one, with no shoes. My plan is to order a bunch of shoe options online that offer free returns and hope for the best.

Sigh. Getting older requires a lot of letting go. 

But, let’s get some shoes….



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My Baby Girl is Getting Married

Well, I guess she is not such a baby anymore. She’s 26. And a half. (But who’s counting; certainly not her mother!)

Of course, I have known about Emily’s upcoming nuptials for a while. She got engaged last year, just before Christmas. And she’s getting married a few days before this Christmas. I have a home video of her at eighteen months, rounding the corner to the Christmas tree wearing a pink onesie with Rudolph and his red nose on the front, and as she sees the presents, putting her hands on her belly and saying, “Ho, ho, ho!” She’s the only person I know who does not get annoyed that Christmas decorations hit the stores in September. She has always loved the season.

At her Christmas wedding, instead of throwing rice or blowing bubbles, guests will throw snowflakes. Her colors are – you guessed it – red and green. And she has been planning these details before she even had a groom.

Weddings mark a milestone. They are a significant event in a person’s life. And for that person’s mother, it may be just as significant. I have known my baby isn’t a baby anymore for a long time. She hasn’t lived with me for almost a decade. She’s gone through college, bought a car, and started a career. I’m proud of her. Maybe I’m even a little envious. She has a chance to get it right.

I have a large mixed bag of feelings as “our” special day approaches. I have not seen the ex in many years, and he will be there with his wife who is 30 years younger. I will be there with my date who is 30 years older; my Daddy in his rented tux. Emily’s fiancée is a great guy: just the right balance of charming, geeky, intelligent, and forthright. They are well-suited. He is not what I’m scared about. Life is.

I’ve been to a few weddings in the last thirteen years since my own divorce. I always get a little teary-eyed. But this one is different. This is my first baby. I have a stake in this game. I want – no, need her to be happy. She can’t get her heart broken. She deserves vast amounts of joy. She should have a life that could be pictured on a schmaltzy Hallmark card. Yet I know how rare that truly is.

I guess in the end, all a mother can do is hope and wish for the very best. There will be bumps on Emily’s road. There are on all of our roads. I can’t assign my trepidations to a life and future that is not mine to possess, nor can I protect her from her own troubles, large or small. I will always be there for her in all the ways that I can. Ultimately we all have to row our own boats, weathering the dark storms and celebrating the glorious sunrises and sunsets along the way.

Sail on, my beautiful baby.

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I Don’t Miss My Mother

My mother passed away less than two months ago, on July 16th, after three years of illness. I spent a good deal of time with her through her decline. It was difficult sometimes to see her wasting away, to help her with moving from one room to another until she could no longer do that. I didn’t want to see her waning away, but I didn’t want to not be there. In the end I was wiping her bottom, which was weird but felt right, as if we had come full circle.

In her ensuing absence, I have cried, but not a lot. I kept waiting for a full wave of bring-me-to-my-knees grief to hit, as it did with my brother last year. The kind of grief that leaves you hiccup-sobbing, rocking back and forth as you hold yourself, for if you didn’t, you might completely fall apart.

A whisper voice in my head says, “What’s wrong with you? Your mother is gone and you should be unable to function for at least six months! Didn’t you love her?”

Well, yes, in fact I did. She was my best friend. She was the one who was always there for me.

And she still is.

When my mom passed, I was there with my dad and sister. We sat in her room with her for a while. It was strangely peaceful; her journey was over and her suffering ended, while ours was beginning. How would we make a life without Mom, who had been the center of all things? I felt emptiness. She knew how much I needed her. I would have to be brave and strong on my own now. But then something incredible happened. I felt an energetic shift. I can’t really explain it well. It was nothing discernible, nothing anyone else would see or feel. It was a sudden warmth and comfort deep inside; suddenly she was within me. In a final gift from one who gave so much, she gave me her spirit.

And although I move forward in sadness, I don’t feel like she’s gone. I am surrounded by artifacts: I wear her nightgown to bed, I have notes in her handwriting all over my house (for she was the greatest of note-givers and letter-writers.) I open a book and a bookmark she gave me marks the page. More than that, her voice echoes in my ear when I doubt myself. She lives within me and lends me her strength; she doesn’t need it anymore.

She gave me the gift of unconditional love. I saw things she struggled with and I learned great lessons from her pain. She was there for me always, even in her final days. And she always kept her sense of humor. One of our last conversations was about how weird she felt the dying process was. I wondered how she knew it was time. And she said in her weakening voice, “I feel like I could just jump up out of bed and say – surprise! I fooled you!” I told her it was a pretty elaborate ruse just to make a practical joke.

In my head, I do miss her every day. But my heart is full of Mom’s love and spirit. The final gift she gave me lives on, and now it is my job to live my best life accompanied by her strength. Because she was so much a part of me, she is still there to guide me. And that feels right.Germany + Zepher 124

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