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What Mom Never Said

Here arI deservee three truths that guide my life:

1) Perfection is highly overrated. I’ve never met a perfect person, and I certainly wasn’t raised by anyone who met the criteria.

2) We learn more far more from our mistakes than we will ever learn from accomplishments.

3) The best advice we receive isn’t handed to us wrapped in words of wisdom. Instead, the most meaningful lessons are often hidden in what we observe, what we hear, and, in many cases, what we don’t hear.

My mom has spent more than 51 years trying to impart these nuggets of truth on my brother and me.

When I was young, she sometimes interspersed her acquired wisdom into our conversations, but what went unsaid was always more powerful.

For example, my mom never once told me I deserved anything. NEVER.

I was well into adulthood before I realized that.

No matter what I achieved, she never used the word deserve. Of course she encouraged me and told me that I’d earned my successes, but she implied that earning something is entirely different from deserving it.

She never explained this, and we never discussed the matter.

But by not speaking that one word, deserve, she said volumes.

In matters of every day life, human beings don’t have the right, or the ability, to decide who is deserving of something. Because, in doing so, we imply that others are not deserving.

Life is one big poker game in which the draw sometimes determines everything. Yes, some people are better at playing the game. Yes, some people use their cards to gain an advantage. Yes, some people avoid temptations and are able to improve their chances. And yes, some people are so charming and engaging that they can cloud reality to sway the beliefs of others.

But in the end, some people are simply luckier, and luck has nothing to do with their character, their abilities, their  fortitude, their courage, or whether they are more “deserving” than others

So even though Mom never talked about why she threw “deserve” into her junk pile of words that are either misused or meaningless, she said everything through the life she’s led.

And for that, I will always be grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

365 Reasons to Smile – Day 309

Mother's DayI’m not a perfect mother, but then, I’m not a perfect human.

I am making plenty of mistakes while raising my children.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

When they see me make mistakes and carry on anyway, they know they can do the same. When they see me make mistakes and learn from them. they can better understand how to use their own mistakes to their advantage. And when I apologize for my mistakes, they learn to take responsibility for their actions.

Most of all, when my kids love me  despite my flaws, they realize that perfection is never a criteria for love.

And that always makes me smile.

Day 309: Lessons Learned from Motherhood  Day 308: When a Difficult Problem is Solved Day 307:  Living Near Hills and Mountains  Day 306: Recognizing How Far Women Have Come Day 305: Creative House and Yard Decorations Day 304:  The Power to Forgive Day 303: Marrying Someone Who Always Knows How to Make Me Smile  Day 302: People Who Sport the Breaking Bad Car Magnet Day 301:  The song of the whippoorwill  Day 300: Coming Home Day 299: Clean Water Day 298: Blue Bells Day 297: Listening to Books When Driving Long Distances Day 296: Walking in the Woods Day 295: The Warm Sun on My Face Day 294: Turning Loud Shoes into a Conversation Item  Day 293: Seeing Something New in the Every Day  Day 292: Dreams Day 291:  “What a Wonderful World”  Day 290: Softly Falling Petals During Spring Day 289: Home king with Love Day 288: Coloring Easter Eggs  Day 287: The View From Above Day 286:  The Wisdom of Mr. RogerDay 285: The Princess Bride    Day 284: All Creatures Great and Small  Day 283: The Legend of the Dogwood  Day 282: Sleeping with the Windows Open  Day 281: Four Significant Birthdays in One Year Day 280: Discovering Great Music Day 279: Funny Names for Wi-Fi connections  Day 278: Sad Cat Diary Day 277:  The Smiling Cow  Day 276: Celebrating 16 years of motherhood  Day 275: Seeing Potential in Our Children  Day 274: Stained Glass Day 273: Naturalization Ceremonies Day 272: “Let It Be” by the Beatles Day 271: Sharing Meals with Great Friends Day 270: Daffodils  Day 269:  April Fool’s Day Day 268: Acoustic Music  Day 267: Country Roads  Day 266: Sunsets on Pamlico Sound  Day 265: The Sound and Smell of the Ocean  Day 264: Crossing the Bonner Bridge Day 263: Mark Twain Quotes Day 262: Old-fashion Fun Day 261: The Far Side Cartoons by Gary Larson Day 260:  Nostalgic Theme Songs  Day 259:  Appreciating Life’s Rewards  Day 258: Awkward Conversations With Strangers  Day 257:  The arrival of Spring  Day 256:  Being Saved by Buffy the Vampire Slayer  Day 255:  Thoughtful Husbands Day 254:  The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow Day 253: When Kids Want to Clean  Day 252: Conversations in Cars  Day 251: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day  Day 250: Bonnie Bell Over-sized LipSmackers versus Egg-Shaped Eos Lip Balm  Day 249: Watching Those I Cherish Sleep  Day 248: Getting Back on My Bike after the Longest Winter  ay 247: “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.”  Day 246: Multiple Reminders of Beauty  Day 245: Being Nice to Total Strangers Day 244: The Perfect PhrasDay 243:  Little Girls With AttitudeDay 242: The Soup Nazi  Day 241: Contagious Smiles  Day 240: Oklahoma  Day 239: Dr. Seuss’ Persistence  Day 238: Over-Dependence on Spell Check  Day 237: Only 28 days  in February  Day 236: Genuine Signatures  Day 235: Television Personalities Who Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously Day 234:  The Words “Happy Birthday”  Day 233: Teenagers Who Care about Their Grandparents  Day 232:  “Morning Has Broken”Day 231: Avoiding Jury Duty  Day 230: Melting Snow after a Long Winter  Day 229: Hungry Teenage Boys   Day 228: Having a DreamDay 227: Mispronunciations  Day 226: Awkward Animal MomentsDay 225: Shaking Hands With Scott HamiltonDay 224:  Having an Office With Windows Day 223: Watching Our Children Mature  Day 222: Getting the Upper Hand Over Life’s Challenges  Day 221: St. Teresa’s Prayer  Day 220: Children Who Are True to Self    Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted  Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane  Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated  Day 212: “The Soul” Quote   Day 211: Rubber Ducky  Day 210: Tracks in the Snow   Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners  Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days  Day 206:  Dogs Playing in the Snow  Day 205:  Descriptive Phrases  Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace  Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency  Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help  Day 200: Boys and Their Toys  Day 199: The Most Important Person  Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right  Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children  Day 196: Being Told I’m Young  Day 195: Good News  Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact   Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be  Day 191:  Matt Groening  Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy  Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence  Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work  Day 187: Funny Phone Calls  Day 186: Healthy Lungs  Day 185: Reality Checks Day  184: Coincidence  Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro  Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories  Day 180: A soak in a bathtub  Day 179: Optimism  Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names  Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day   Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey  Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass  Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes  Day 173: Family Acceptance  Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song  Day 170: Positive People  Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids  Day 168:  Jealous Pets   Day 167:  Family Christmas Recipes  Day 166:  Church BellsDay 165:  School Holiday   164: Unexpected Grace  Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control  Day 162: Anticipating a good story   Day 161: Hope  Day 160:  When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment  Day 159: Surprises in the Mail  Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial  Day 157:  A Garage on Winter Days    Day 156:  Real Christmas Trees    Day 155: Being a Parent   Day 154: Selfless People Day 153:  Nelson Mandela  Day 152: Memorable Road Trips  Day 151: Great Neighbors  Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself   Day 149:  Love Letters  Day 148:  The first day of Advent  Day 147: The Breakfast Club   Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude  Day 144:  Watching My Dog Play   Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met  Day 142:  When Our Children Become Role Models  Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness  Day 140; People Watching  Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children  Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice  Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage  Day 136: Postcards from Heaven  Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

My Mother’s Hands

I had a shock the other day while typing.IMG_3173

I looked down and realized that, despite my best efforts to never have my mother’s hands, I had failed.

Growing up, I was always very aware that my mother’s hands didn’t look like those of my friends’ mothers.

Her fingers never sparkled with jewelry or nail polish. The only ring she ever wore was a simple gold band on her left hand, and her nails were always cut short so dirt couldn’t accumulate under them. She never considered polishing them, and, as a teenager, I brought the first bottle of nail polish into our house.

Neither were my mother’s hands soft. They were rough from all the tasks she required of them.

And she required a great deal.

When I was a child, she always had a meal on the table, her house was always spotless and the laundry was always done and hung on the line to dry. She canned and froze the vegetables and fruits my dad grew in his large garden and she sewed almost all the clothes I wore. She made bread from scratch and biscuits from memory. As a Girl Scout leader, she taught me how to start a fire, put up a tent and forge a trail. And when she wasn’t being a mom, she was a photographer and a journalist. She dragged my brother and me from everything to train wrecks to hippie communes to worm farms.

By the time her day was over, she didn’t have the time, energy or interest to soak her hands or massage them with lotion. Her hands were too busy turning the pages of a book.

I was an adult before I realized that I had no reason to be embarrassed by my mother’s hands. They were simply a reflection of whom she is, which isn’t whom I am at all.

I don’t like to cook, and my house is never spotless. I haven’t canned or frozen any vegetables since she stood at my side teaching me. And I refuse to sew anything.

And yet, as heredity would have it, I now have my mother’s hands not because I have labored as she did but because I have labored in my own ways.

My hands, like her hands, are rarely idle. My hands, like her hands, have chosen meaningful work over vanity. And my hands, like her hands, have taken care of two children in the best way they know how.

As I look down at my hands now, I am no longer shocked or even bothered. Instead I am proud that they reflect who I am: one in a long line of women who are true to themselves, true to their families and true to their beliefs.

Even if we aren’t true to fashion.

Remember When Mother’s Day Was Considered a “Gay” Holiday? Maybe It Still Is.

As a child, I adored Mother’s Day. Just like Halloween and Christmas, it held the purposiveness of preparation and the excitement of anticipation.

I was incredibly intent the year I had to make a corsage for my mom out of tissue paper. While my fellow students curled the colorful  paper around their pencil erasers then glued it to cardboard to resemble bright flowers, I felt the need to put order to chaos. The result was a smiling face that, in retrospect, bore a striking likeness to the Wal-Mart smiley face.

My mother never hesitated to wear the hideous yellow corsage.  In fact, she wore it all day on Mother’s Day, even though it thoroughly clashed with her dress.

I was incredibly proud the year I played Mary Poppins in the Mother’s Day program. Families were required to provide the props, and because my frugal family didn’t have a normal umbrella, I twirled a hideous clear, plastic one shaped like a mushroom as I danced through boxes painted like chimneys. I resembled Mary Poppins about as much as I resembled Grace Kelly.

I was incredibly naive when I bought my mother a card that described Mother’s Day as a “gay” holiday.

I’m a lot older now, and I’m a lot less naive.

But I still don’t have a problem describing Mother’s Day as a gay holiday, especially this year.

That’s because, as I’ve aged, Mother’s Day has come to mean more than simply honoring and thanking my own mom. It’s also become a day to reflect on what being a good mother is.

While my experience is limited to 14 years, I’ve come to recognize three primary truths about being a parent:

1.   A mother’s  primary responsibility is to ensure that her children grow up to be responsible adults;

2.  Every child is different, so there is no “right” way to be a parent;

3. Teaching our children to defend and stand up for those who are different is much more important than teaching them how to be popular or stylish.

This week, our President served as a parent to our entire nation when he publicly declared his support of gay marriage. I know the motivations behind his statements can be disputed, but I choose to believe that he was guided by his sense of morality and his need to  set an example for all of us.

I heard his message loud and clear; if we tolerate hate and intolerance wrapped in religion then we are acting in direct opposition to the principles on which our country was established: a country in which all people are supposed to be treated equally.

So, while I seriously doubt my children will ever used their hard-earned allowance to buy a card that describes Mother’s Day as gay, I know that if they do, I would be honored to receive it. After all, it might be describing a holiday that looks beyond stereotypes and bias and unites us with a purpose of increasing tolerance for the next generation.

I can certainly hope.

For my mom on Mother’s Day

Evadna and Trina February 1967

As Mother’s Day drew near, I once again found myself shopping for the perfect card for my mother.

Shopping for my mother is never an easy task, but card shopping for her is next to impossible.

I just can’t equate any of the flowery, sappy cards with my mother.

Granted, I’m not the flowery, sappy type myself, but compared to her? I’m a sentimental fool. I would be kidding myself and others if I claimed I had never wished my mother was the warm fuzzy type. Or that I didn’t find her a bit too serious and intense. Or that on more than one occasion (count hundreds in my teen years), I’d wished she was more like other mothers.

But I’d also be kidding myself if I didn’t recognize that if it weren’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be me. And, although it’s taken way too many years for me to publicly admit the fact, I really do like myself. So thanks Mom.

Thanks for living your life on your own terms and not bending to societal pressures. And thanks for expecting that I do the same.

Thanks for having the fortitude to speak out for what you believe, even when everyone else is keeping quiet. And thanks for expecting I do the same.

Thanks for taking on stereotypical male roles and responsibilities. And thanks for expecting I do the same.

Thanks for living a life that demonstrates what you do for others is more important than accumulating material possessions. And thanks for expecting I do the same.

Thanks for taking time to pursue your own dreams and passions while still ensuring your children get everything they need. And thanks for expecting I do the same.

And while I am grateful for everything my mom is and did, I’ve never have found the perfect Mother’s Day card to share that message. This year, I settled on one that simply said “You are special.” But I wish I could find the perfect card for her.

It would be a card that tells her to relax. She did her job as mother, and she did it brilliantly. It would tell her that she needs to stop worrying about her perceived missteps and focus on the facts: both of her kids turned out just fine. We never went to jail and we never made headlines for our bad behavior (at least I never made headlines for my bad behavior, I’m not sure my brother even participated in bad behavior.)

It would tell her she helped stack the odds in our favor so that we could live happy, productive lives. We are both well-educated, we are both responsible for ourselves and our own families and we are both parents who greatly appreciate that we had positive role models in our parents.

Most importantly, the card would tell her that she gave her children the best gift of all: the gift of knowing we are accepted and appreciated for being who we are with all our own flaws and quirks.

So instead of providing her with the perfect card, the best I can do is write my thoughts and share them with anyone who is willing to read them.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom.

I love you!