Sunday, May 9, 2010

What My Mother Has Done For Me

All week I've planned on writing about the summer my mom spent living with me and my family. 

The year after my dad died she came to live with us for the whole summer.  She took care of the kids so we didn't have to send them to summer care, or hire an expensive baby sitter.    You might think having your mother/mother-in-law live with you would not be the happiest of situations, but it was one of the best summers of my entire life.  I've spent the week rehashing all the great memories of that time.

But something changed.

As I've spent the week writing about other things...all the wonderful things my mother is...I realized the best thing my mother has done (and does) for me is just simply to love me in the best way she can with all the love she has to give.

My mother has supported me in every thing I've ever done.  She has always told me I could do whatever I set my mind to, and even when I'm sure she thought my mind was pointed in a direction that might not have been the best, she allowed me to make my own mistakes, knowing I would ultimately learn from my choices.

My mom has loved me like no one else on earth could love me, with a mother's love.  This was something I never understood until I had children of my own.  As my kids have grown, my understanding of this love has also matured. 

Mother, I love you and I appreciate all you have done for me.  Thank you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Random Memories and Thoughts

I have tomorrow's post planned out, but I want to save it for the "big day".  As I was sitting here pondering what to write about today so many random thoughts and memories came to mind, I thought I'd make sort of blog collage. 

My mom was a fantastic artist.  I used to beg her to "draw me a horse".  She had art books that I tried (unsucessfuly) to use to learn to draw.  She drew really good faces.

My mom was the QUEEN of Random House magazine subscriptions and is the QUEEN of e-mail forwards.

My mom has always bought plants.  I used to think she had as much of a black thumb as I do, but the truth is she's been able to keep a lot of things alive.  She had rose bushes and a wisteria outside, and all kinds of various house plants inside, when I was growing up.  Now, she's got a veritable botanical garden of things growing.  She killed a lot of things, but, unlike me, she never gives up.

My mom is a consummate student.  I remember her taking college classes when I was very young, with her books all spread out on the living room floor.  She probably took every correspondence course there was to take when she was in the guard (always making perfect, or near perfect scores).  She and my dad took Spanish two semesters.  Whereas he couldn't remember how to say, "Hola" (he would usually say "Low-ha"), she made A+'s and could have taught the class!

My mom could play the piano, but she rarely ever did.  We had an organ (I think she still has it), but I think I pretended to play more than she ever got on it.  I loved to hear her play.

My mom had a little black French poodle named Pierre when I was little.  She later owned a Siamese cat named Mai Tai.  She now owns a teacup chihuahua named Chiquita.

My mother makes the best breaded porkchops and baked Corn-Flake chicken breasts.

My mother's laugh is contagious.  So is her clap.  When she laughs or claps, the whole world wants to join in.  (Well, angry people don't like it because it makes them realize just how sad and pathetic they really are!)  I realize more and more every day just how much like her I really am--especially when I'm "cheering" or laughing!!

My mom found out I had, uhum...cough..., "altered" my 7th grade report card (I changed my art grade from a D to a B and my French grade from a D to a C)....and she kept it a secret from my dad.  She told me I had to 1) bring up the grades, and 2) NEVER do anything like that again, or she would rat me out.  I did bring up the grades, and never did anything like that again....and, as far as I know, my dad never found out!

I had several boyfriends who told me they thought my mom was seriously hot, especially her legs!!

I really can't wait to write tomorrow's post.

I love you, Mother.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Letters Kept

Believe it or not, no one in my family is the writing kind.  It might be hard to fathom given the fact your reading my blog right now...but it's true.  Letter writing, specifically, is just not something any of us do, no matter how far apart we are from one another, or for how long.  However, when I was probably about seven years old, and staying with my father for the summer, I wrote my mom a letter.  I told her all about how tan I was getting and how I was learning to dive into the swimming pool.  The whole thing couldn't have been more than five sentences.

In the fifth grade I wrote another letter, but not to my mother.  This one was addressed to Santa Claus.  I had gotten into an argument with my best friend over the veracity of the toy-giver.  I wanted conclusive proof of his existence so instead of allowing my mother to tell good old St. Nick of that year's toy desires, I wrote directly to him.  I asked for a Bing Crosby White Christmas record.  I explained to him it was of the utmost importance that he prove himself to be real with this one request.  And, he did!!  Christmas morning I burst into the living room and there it was, my album.  I remember the elation, jumping up and down with giddy joy, to finally know for sure Santa Claus was certainly real.  I called my friend and boasted to her about my irrefutable proof.

As clearly as I remember that morning, I also remember the events that took place months later when I found that very letter, the one that had been sent off to the North Pole, IN MY MOTHER'S PURSE!  I was devastated.  As an adult looking back, the careful planning it must have taken to convince a skeptical ten year old of Santa's undeniable existence far outweighs the one minor "mistake" of saving the letter.  My mother could have won an Oscar that year when she feigned surprise over the "mystery" album under the tree.  (I had intentionally not asked my parents for that particular item, in order to get the assurance I needed.)  It was probably the same day I found that letter that I went in search of all my missing teeth, because no doubt if Santa wasn't real then neither was the Tooth Fairy!!

Many years after Santa-gate, I was given the opportunity to keep a letter of my own.  I was spending the fall of my eighteenth year at Basic Combat Training.  My name was announced at mail call, to receive an envelope from my mom.  She told of home life, work, my dog and the cat.  She gave encouragement and love in the form of her familiar writing on notebook paper.  It couldn't have been more than five paragraphs.

I still have the letter in a box of keepsakes; I know my mom still has my letter to her.  I'm not sure what happened to the one written to Santa.  ...You don't think I TOLD her I found that letter, do you??  Hello?  What child would give up extra presents???

Thursday, May 6, 2010

When You Care Enough To Send The Very Best

One thing I can count on for all major (and some minor) holidays from my mom....a perfectly worded Hallmark greeting card.  Now I realize some people might think it's "easy" to find a perfectly worded card from Hallmark...but I personally do not find that to be a simple task.  I have literally spent hours in the Gold Crown Shop searching for a card for a special someone only to come away empty handed and frustrated.  My mother, on the other hand, can walk in, peruse the selection, and as expertly as Elizabeth Taylor can pick out diamonds, walk away with the exact card that pours forth all the emotions a heart can contain.

My mother has never had a hard time saying, "I love you"...but the cards she chooses don't just spout off trite platitudes.  The greeting cards my mom sends are overflowing with artesian wellsprings of heartfelt emotion.  Not the cards' creator's emotions, but my mother's emotions, pour out of the words on the card right into the heart of it's recipient. 

Much like Pavlov's dog, I've grown so completely conditioned regarding the response one of my mother's cards brings, I am usually teary-eyed before I have even broken the golden seal of the envelope.

Mother, thank you for caring enough to send the very best.  It really does mean more to me than I can even begin to express in words.  Maybe there is a card for that, but I'm sure only you would be able to find it!

Please Sir May I Have Another

My mom has always been an over achiever.   So much so, after joining the Arkansas Army National Guard, she came home from her summer long Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on crutches, having basically shattered both heels!  Thirteen years later, when I spent the better part of a summer at Fort McClellan, Alabama, I found out exactly how amazing her feat really was.

My mom gives her all to everything she does.  She works very hard at every endeavor she attempts.  Not just hard, she works as hard as she possibly can, and she "always" meets the goals she sets for herself.  I say "always" because there's not a goal I know of that she hasn't met.  I'm sure she would say that's not the case, but in my eyes, she's a goal getter.  More than that, once she meets a goal, she sets another one.

Since retiring from her job, my mom has taken to making things.  She has crocheted, done needle point, made dolls and made scrapbooks.  Before she finishes one task, she's already looking for the next project.  One thing my mother is not--idle!

My mother lives by the philosophy you can do anything you set your mind to.  When the Guard went from a physical fitness test that consisted of walking four miles in under an hour to push ups, sit ups and a two mile run, my mom hadn't done push ups for several years.  She began training months before the test each year in order to assure she could pass with flying colors, and she always did so.

I remember one time she set her mind to lose weight.  She found a diet plan that called for two meal substitutions a day with a special shake.  After faithfully sticking with the plan, she lost all the pounds she had wanted to.

This attitude served her well when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I'm sure she was worried on some level, but she never seemed to even let it phase her, even though the cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes in her underarm.  She is the only person I've ever even heard of who gained weight during chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  The doctor ordered her to keep up her strength and eat even if she felt sick-and she did what she needed to do. 

Just after breathing a sigh of relief at her five year remission anniversary (the time when the chance of relapse drops significantly), she found out the cancer had in fact come back.  She was told this time it was an aggressive, fast growing cancer.  She didn't bat an eye and said, "Okay, let's do this again."  She came through with flying colors, just as I expected and has been cancer free for over three years now.

I hope I have even a fraction of my mom's drive and determination.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Skating, Softball, Bowling and Various Forms of Dancing

It's kind of funny...I have never thought of my mother as being particularly athletic.  But, as I reflect on my childhood....I have to realize that's just not correct.

Before I was five (we moved to Arkansas from Texas when I was five, so life was divided at that age...), my mom took figure skating lessons.  I think the only reason I remember this fact is because it was at the skating rink a dispute with my older brother led to my mother's shattered elbow!  Let me started over a Spree, you know, it's a little round hard sweet/sour colored candy that comes in a long roll.  (In all honesty, it might have been some other kind of candy, but it will forever be Spree in my mind.)  My brother had the roll, but it was my turn to have one.  He, looking out for my dental health I'm sure, wouldn't allow it.  As we struggled with each other, a little candy Spree flew over the concrete barrier that surrounded the rink, out onto the polished hardwood surface.  I remember it in slow mom rounded the corner and slid into the candy dot, causing one wheel to lock up.  She tumbled forward and cried out in pain.

The last memory I have of figure skating was my mom's arm in a sling, being brought out of the doctor's office in a wheelchair.

Years later, for at least one season, she played women's softball with a group of her friends.  She had a glove and a ball and the cute softball outfit to go with them.  I know I went with her to the softball field, although I can't say that I ever sat and watched her play, because I had friends at the ball field with whom I passed the time.  My memory of the ball field consisted of dusty red dirt, and sweat (my own).

When I was in about the fourth or fifth grade my mother joined a bowling league.  I remember her blue and white bowling bag, unbelievably heavy ball, and slick-bottomed shoes.  Every single Monday throughout the school year she set out for the local alley hoping this would be the night for a turkey.  She did several things to improve her score.  She was custom fit for a ball.  She bought a bowling glove and special towel.  She joined a summer league (at least once) to avoid losing the progress she had made throughout the year.  She even sacrificed and drank a couple of beers while there, "to loosen up her nerves a little bit"!  She was a good bowler, even if she wasn't going to leave her family to go on tour with the PWBA.

Each Monday she would give me a dollar bill and send me along to play in the arcade.  It was there I learned to play Pac Man and pool.  Four quarters got three games and 3 songs on the juke box.  I can hear "Hot Blooded" playing in my head as I write out this memory, as if it's playing in the corner of the room right now!  I'm sure I might have watched her bowl, if I ran out of money and my friends weren't there.  But, I'm just as sure that didn't happen more than once in all the years she bowled (at least eight, while I was at home).

One thing I didn't have the opportunity to see my mom do (when I was younger), was dance.  My mom loved to dance.  She and my dad would go to conventions where I had visions of her dancing the night away.  As I got older, I got to go with them and saw her out on the floor, shoes kicked off, up on her toes, being twirled around in a waltz or two-step and she could Cotton-Eyed-Joe like nobody's business!

When I was in the ninth grade, she planned a special surprise for my dad.  She bought a belly dancing outfit!!  In preparation for a special evening, she went in search of finger symbols.  As luck would have it, she stumbled upon Mirana's School of Middle Eastern Dance.  Mirana was the youngest 50-something woman I had ever seen in my life.  She not only sold my mom finger symbols, Mirana convinced my mom to take lessons in order to learn how to use them!  Not wanting to go alone, my mom convinced me to go with her.  We learned how to click our fingers, and shake our hips, to the beat of various Middle Eastern music.  I don't remember watching her although we danced several times together, because I was too busy trying to perfect the moves myself.

After all those years spent not watching...Mother, I want you to know, I saw you.  You inspired me then, and you continue to inspire me today.  (By the way, her sport of late is Shuffle Board.) 

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Mom

In honor of Mother's Day--coming up this Sunday--I thought I'd try to write something about my mom each day.  Mother, this is my gift to you...since we both know I can't seem to make it to the post office to mail anything!!

My favorite childhood memory took place when I couldn't have been more than five years old.  My mother was still named Mommy, and she was still the smartest, prettiest woman I had ever known.    My mind may have filled in some gaps with extras that may, or may not, have materialized in real life on that day in time...but, nevertheless, this is the reality of my memory.

We lived in Garland, Texas, but for that moment in time, our typical suburban three bedroom house transformed into a day spa.  My mom learned to cut hair in school, but she seldom used this skill to do any more than trim bangs out of my eyes.  This day, however, she expertly snipped and coiffed my straight, thin, fine golden locks into a style fit for Barbie.

Our beauty shop soiree continued as my mom massaged lotion into my tiny hands and slathered cream on each of my fingernails.  She not only filed my nails, she pushed back each of my cuticles with an orange stick.  The finishing touch?  Naturally...polish.

I ended the day looking exactly like I felt-a million bucks!  I didn't feel beautiful as a result of the new hair cut or polished nails.  I felt beautiful because I had been bathed in love and attention from the smartest, prettiest woman on earth.  For a "whole day" I had the undivided, complete and total attention of my mother.

If I haven't ever told you...thank you for playing beauty shop all those years ago.  I love you.