A Mother’s Love

It’s been a complicated year for me. It has caused me to reflect on a lot of the relationships in my life, perhaps none quite as complicated as the relationship between between a mother and child.

It starts during pregnancy. Everything the mother does has a direct impact on the child and everything the child does worries the Mom or brings her joy.

I spent much of my children’s childhood as a single mother, so there was no other adult to leave the kids home with. To me, that meant if I wasn’t working, I was with my children. I would get out of work, drive home, all three of my kids would grab their bags that I had packed, or made sure they packed, the night before, and they would pile into our mini-van. They all had different activities; ballet, jazz, football, baseball, cheerleading, basketball, all in different places at different times. If they didn’t have an activity, they would sit in the van with me and we would do homework or talk. When everyone was done for the night, we would head home, lift the lid off the crock pot and have dinner together every night. My friends were the parents of my kid’s friends. My social life consisted of volunteering with my kid’s activities, quick change mom at The Nutcracker, Cheerleading Coach, Football team medic. I loved every minute of it. It was easy to figure out how to be a good mother. Spend time with your kids, be involved in their lives, be their soft landing when the world is cruel and their advocate when the world is really cruel and give them freedom to make certain choices knowing they had a good foundation and be there when they made less than stellar choices to help them learn from them. I made my share of parenting mistakes, but through it all, love was my guide.

I remember when I was the Sales Manager at Longfellows and we had a team building exercise. We had to think of the best team we were ever part of. We had to write down the characteristics of what made our team great. The team that immediately came to mind for me was the team of my kids and I. We cared about each other, we respected each other, we supported each other, we celebrated each other’s successes and we consoled each other during the difficult times.

My children are all adults and it’s harder to know how to be a good mom now. I still want to protect them when the world is cruel, even though I know (and they tell me) they can do it themselves. They all have their own homes and jobs and friends. I love when we can spend time together and I especially love when we all can be together. I don’t know all of their friends anymore and I definitely don’t know all the parents! Sometimes I’ve had to give some tough love so my children could find their own way. This was the toughest part.

I’ve been reflecting on the way the word Mother is used in the English language. Step-mother, Godmother, Grandmother, Mother-in-law, Back-stage Mom, Team Mom, Mother Nature. All of these uses of the word mother are endearing or symbolize a protective or nurturing nature of the relationship when the word mother is added. I am or have been all of these things except Mother Nature (although some would say I was a bit of a nature mom!) and they all had real meaning to me.

Although being a mom to adult children can be worrisome and a challenge at times, it is also source of great joy. Some things are still the same. I still worry about them. When they are sick or when someone hurts them, I want to make it better. I still celebrate their success and am proud to be on their team. I still love sharing meals with them. When my son was home in February, I cooked dinner for everyone. We laughed and caught up on each other’s lives and poked fun at each other, just as we did when they were kids. It was probably the highlight of my year! I also was reminded this past year that the things I say and do still have an impact on my kids, and I also know that I still make parenting mistakes.

There’s no training manual for this role. Luckily, I had a great role model. My mom is amazing. It’s still a learning process for me, but through it all, I know that at the heart of it all is a Mother’s Love, my mom’s love for me, my love for my kids and my daughter’s love for her son. It’s come full circle.

I have a lot to be thankful for this Mother’s Day. And I wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day!

When Did You Stop Clapping For Yourself?

I have had the indescribable pleasure of spending some one on one time with my Grandson the last few weeks. He’s at such a fun age, 21 months old. He loves to sing and dance and play. He does it all with such careless abandon. He doesn’t worry about what others think, he just sings and dances and plays. The best part is, whenever he does something, he claps for himself, saying, “Yay, I did it!” Of course, I can’t help but clap for him and tell him, “Good Job!”

It gave made me pause. I’m sure many of us started life this way. I, like my Grandson, was the first child born to two doting parents and I was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. I have heard stories and seen pictures of me being the center of attention. I have always loved to sing, just like my Dad. He taught me how to sing, but never sang children’s songs, that was my Mom’s job. My Father taught me Frank Sinatra, especially the duets that Frank sang with his daughter, Nancy. He would teach me my (Nancy’s) part and then he would sing his (Frank’s) part. When we were done, he would always tell me what a great job I did. I thought I was the best singer, ever!

As I got older, I remember my Dad taking me to hear my “Uncle Jimmy” sing. He performed in some nightclubs in Queens, where we lived. A few times, I even got to sing with my Dad and my Uncle Jimmy. I still remember the applause. As I got a little older, my cousin Robby learned how to play the organ. He didn’t sing, so we were like Captain and Tennille, he would play and I would sing. We performed countless concerts for our family and they always applauded, of course. I can remember, though, I always had to sing “like a guy”. I now know what that means. My vocal range was much lower than the average female voice and certainly lower than the average female child.

Fast forward, and my family moved upstate. Not New Rochelle, like most people from the city thought, really upstate, to Clifton Park, in between Albany and Saratoga Springs. I made the difficult transition from Catholic School to Public School (and one with a graduation class of over 700)! I was the new girl, with really short hair and I talked funny, my Queens accent.

One of the things I was most excited about was that they had music class AND a school chorus. We didn’t have music class in Catholic School. In Catholic School, our regular teacher would have us write the words to church hymns and we would sing them for 15 minutes or so a week. I transferred into the school in the middle of third grade. I loved music class and I could hardly wait until forth grade when I could join the chorus. I was really excited when I got a solo in the first chorus concert of the year. What I didn’t realize, at the time, is that it was a spoken part. I just knew I got lots of applause! What I also didn’t realize at the time, is that in a children’s chorus, all the voices needed to sound the same, and well, mine didn’t. The chorus teacher took my parents aside at the end of the year and told them not to sign me up for chorus the following year. I will leave that teacher’s name out, but trust me, I remember it well.

That’s when I stopped clapping for myself.

How could I have thought I was a good singer? I was sure everyone was just being nice up until that point. I didn’t sing for two years. I auditioned and got parts in school plays, but I would only try out for the plays, not the musicals. When I got to seventh grade the curriculum mandated that I had to take band, chorus or general music. I didn’t play an instrument and none of the general music classes fit into my schedule. I had to take chorus. Unlike the last time, I was not at all excited for chorus.

During the first few days of chorus, each student had to go up front and the teacher, (Ms. Werker, now Ms. Rose), would play notes to see each student’s range to see what part they should sing. I tried to avoid going up there and I was one of the last kids to be tested. When I sang, Ms. Werker told me what a beautiful ALTO voice I had! As it turned out, many of the boy’s voices had not yet changed and on many songs I sang tenor and even bass! I got a few solos, this time singing ones, and was even selected for Swing Choir, a select group of singers. I continued to sing in High School, in Choraliers, in the Church Choir and Folk Group and actually made money by singing at weddings.

As an adult, I taught Vocal Performance and have sang publicly many times. I have heard applause for my singing frequently, but in the back of my mind, there’s still that nine year old girl who doubts herself. I’ve gone through some changes in the past year, but one of the biggest ones is that I’m finally starting to cheer for myself again. While it’s always nice to hear others cheer you on, the most important person to clap for you is you. So, I will always encourage my Grandson to clap for himself and to say, “I did it”. I value the important lesson my Grandson has taught me. Always clap for yourself, say, “I did it” and dance, sing and play like no one is watching.

The “Fruits” of My Labor, Raspberry Picking

It seems like another lifetime ago that a friend and I, armed with our “free labor”, also known as our children, would go raspberry picking. Now I don’t mean we picked a few pints, no, we picked for days. A lot of folks don’t realize that raspberries get picked twice in a season, once in July and then again in September. We would pick 40-50 pounds a year. We would make regular jam and Captain Morgan- Raspberry Jam. We would also make a Raspberry Honey Mustard Dip for pretzels and a Godiva Liquor and Raspberry Sundae Topping. We would also freeze the fresh berries for use throughout the year. At the holidays, we would give Raspberry Baskets filled with the jams and sauces as gifts for our family and friends.

Life got busy and we stopped picking raspberries, but I never forgot how amazing it was to pick those succulent berries. It wasn’t just about the tasty treats we made. It was also about the time we shared with each other and our children. The kids loved it. I think they ate more than they saved, but the young ones were great for gathering the berries on the lower vines. They learned a lot of important lessons picking berries. They learned to respect the bees and not pick the ones the bees were interested in. They learned the importance of team work. And they learned that you could make things from the gifts that nature provided.

We adults learned a lot too. We learned how therapeutic it was to pick berries. When you pick raspberries, you only think about one thing, picking the biggest and ripest berries you could find. All the troubles of the day melted away as we forged on with our mission. I can’t explain how gratifying it was to have those berries fall into your hand and to watch the bottom of the pail disappear. There was a sense of purpose and accomplishment as we weighed the berries and discovered just how productive we were. We enjoyed the accolades from our family and friends as we shared the fruits of our labor with them. They would ask with anticipation each year if we would be gifting them with our Raspberry Baskets again. One of my fondest memories was of my father. He had Pancreatic Cancer and was undergoing some aggressive treatments. At times, he didn’t have much of an appetite, but he loved our raspberry jam. When nothing else sounded appetizing, he would ask for jars of jam and he would eat it with a spoon, right out of the jar.

It’s been 18 years since I picked raspberries. I woke up this morning and asked my boyfriend if he had any plans for the day. He said no. I suggested we go raspberry picking. At first, he scoffed at the idea, but his love for raspberries got the best of him. We headed to Garden Works in Salem, NY. It was his first time picking raspberries and I wasn’t sure how long he would last. He rose to the task and together, we picked over six pounds of berries in just over an hour. Truth be told, he out picked me! We dropped some off to his parents who love raspberries and we made their day!. We are freezing some, eating some and I have plans for Raspberry Mojitos. We didn’t quite get enough to make jam, but, I am contemplating going back later this week to pick some more to make jam. Once I was out there picking, I remembered why I loved picking raspberries so much, that feel of them dropping into my hand, the way all my cares melted away and all the fond memories of the times we spent picking the berries and the reaction of family and friends to the fruits of my labor. There is a new generation I can show this to, my grandson. I’m hoping he will enjoy picking berries as much as his mom did. I think maybe I’ll do some Raspberry Baskets for Christmas.

These Mountains, The Adirondacks

These Mountains

I fell in love with these mountains when I was seventeen on a college visit.
I reveled in young love as I hiked these mountains and watched the sunset on the shores of St. Regis Lake.
I let these mountains help heal my first broken heart.
I accepted my diploma with these mountains in the background with my whole life ahead of me.
I found strength in these mountains as my father battled for his life.
I sought comfort in these mountains as my heart broke in a million pieces as I accepted my father’s death.
I returned to these mountains to give back and share my knowledge with a new crop of students.
I enjoyed a labor of love in these mountains as I helped build a company.
I cultivated a project named for one of these mountains.
I learned of the loss of a dear friend in these mountains.
I tried to write a story in these mountains that should not have been written.
I had my entire paradigm shift in these mountains.
I now live at the foothills of these mountains and found the love I didn’t know I needed.
We dance on the roof to Sinatra as we look at these mountains.
We boat on the lake with these mountains all around us.
I am building my own business in these mountains.
I am living the life I love in these mountains and loving the life I live in these mountains.
The Adirondacks. These mountains.

Cleaning Out Life’s Closet

About every 10 years or so I go through a process with the people in my life that I can only compare to sorting through the clothes in my closet. The last time I took on this project was about 3 years ago. when I separated from my ex-husband.

During that particularly stressful period of time, I learned a lot about friendship. Shortly thereafter, I cleaned out the closet of my life and discovered, friends are a lot like clothing.

Some are like your favorite pair of jeans. They just feel right. You can always count on them to make you feel comfortable and you hope you have them forever.

Then there are those items that your really love, but they have a stain on them or a ripped seam. You really want to wear them again, but you have to see if you can get the stain out or repair the tear. If you can’t fix it, you can’t wear it again, but if you can repair it, it will mean even more to you because you know it was worth the effort.

Of course there are some new items of clothing that still have the tags on them. You haven’t worn them yet. You liked them when you first saw them, maybe you tried them on or maybe you bought them without trying them on. It’s time to find out if you like them or not. If they fit and they feel right, maybe they will become one of your favorites. But if they turn out to be a mistake, it’s better to find out now, before you have them around too long. They can take up valuable space in your closet and make it harder to find the ones you really love. Not to mention, giving them away may mean they will find love and appreciation elsewhere.

One of the best parts of cleaning out your closet is that you often find treasures you forgot you had. What a great time to bring these treasures out of the shadows and into the forefront.

The most difficult and yes, the saddest part of the process is admitting that there are things that you used to wear all the time. However, now they just don’t fit anymore. Or, maybe they don’t make you feel good about yourself. Maybe they are like a hand wash sweater, they are too high maintainance for your current lifestyle. Or maybe they are like a pair of pointed toe, high heeled pumps, too uncomfortable and closed in.

I know cleaning out the closet of my life is a process that is difficult and sometimes painful. But I also know the joy and satisfaction that comes from a job well done.