Mother’s Day

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photo by Adrian, Canada

Mother’s Day is the day when people celebrate the woman who has given them birth, the one who has loved and nurtured them, the one who caused them to feel angst and guilt and often it is the same woman. It’s also a day when children of all ages and husbands or significant others feel they must buy that woman flowers or jewelry or take her out for a meal. I have heard cynical rumblings that Mother’s Day was created by the card and flower conglomerates to offset what would normally be a slow business month. Yet even mothers have misgivings about Mother’s Day. What if your children forget or there is no expected phone call or card? What about the extra stress on her loved ones to recognize the day? Hasn’t anyone thought of mothers feeling sad or bad on Mother’s Day?

It seems a time honored tradition to have a day when children can celebrate not only their mother but their father, their grandparent and even their pet. Mother’s Day takes its tradition from ancient Rome and Greece. Indeed the term for “mother” then referred more to the spiritual goddesses who could impact fertility of humans, animals and crops and be a benevolent spirit one could offer tribute to. The modern day celebration in this country grew from the efforts of several prominent women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to recognize the amazing mothers in their lives. This convinced President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 to proclaim Mother’s Day to be the second Sunday in May. Bring on the flowers!

20170514_201723I confess I have mixed feelings about Mother’s Day although I really felt the love this year. Not because I don’t crave the attention from my children. When they were young, I would get homemade necklaces, paintings of the family cat and small hand prints in clay, gifts cherished even to this day. As adults the only thing I truly relish is their connection. A phone call or a visit. Flowers and brunch are icing on the cake. But what about those who do not have children? Those whose fervent wishes and hopes were not realized? What about those who have suffered the ultimate loss? What is this day to them?

Last Mother’s Day I was gifted with the news of my son’s engagement to his long time sweetheart. This Mother’s Day we are mere weeks out from a beautiful and magical wedding that brought all of our families together. My daughter who lives nearby, spends lots of time with me and, yes, gives me beautiful gifts and flowers. I cherish this attention and her presence because who knows in a year, a month or even a day where we will all be? I don’t want my children to feel a special obligation to me just because it’s the second Sunday in May. I selfishly want it everyday. This past year I lost my own mother. In many ways she had left some time ago as Alzheimer’s slowly stole her memories and pulled her away from us and into her own world where we could not follow. Even so, the touch of her hand or her sweet hug was enough for my own memories to stay intact. I want to maintain the same connection to my own children no matter what happens.

I think what keeps mothers up at night, or at least this mother, is have I done well by my children? Have I been able to give them what they needed? I confess there have been times I have not. I have fallen short. I have allowed my own misgivings to surface so that my children have felt the need to care and protect me. And many times when I knew I needed to be the adult, I know that I was not. I was the angry, sad petulant child and I waited for them to comfort me. Sad mommy. Mad mommy. It’s okay Mommy. Yet the guilt at showing such vulnerability to my little children would stay with me for days.

There were many times when I wished I were that goddess who could seemingly live on little but praise and adoration. Yet I realize that adoration usually came out of fear. Will we have crops? Will the cow give a safe birth? If I were that benevolent goddess mother, couldn’t I guarantee the perfect life for my children? I believe when mothers first hold that tiny frail little body in their arms after hours of the intensity and violence that is giving birth, there is that fervent prayer to protect and be the perfect advocate for that child. I know I made such promises to them and to myself even as my body tried to reconcile itself with what had just happened. But mixed in the good days are the hard ones, lack of sleep, a sick child, worry and fear that translates as anger, hoping a hug will make the world tilt back again. No we are not perfect. Yes we are human. Some mothers make it look easy but all mothers know it is not.

I am so grateful for the Mother’s Day I had this year. I got exactly what I wanted which was connection to my children even though one was far away on his honeymoon. One I could hold and kiss and one I could send my love to. Time and attention. The most precious gifts of all. How very perfect is that?

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Transitions

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Tree of Change by Kimberly Vohnsen

It is said that the only constant in life is change. The world turns and us with it. We all change roles and jobs and sometimes partners. I never realized my life would spin so fast when often it felt as though time moved so slow. But these days there are moments when the world swerves so rapidly I feel I must grab onto the nearest proverbial light pole even as I wonder who that older woman is reflected in that storefront window. It doesn’t seem fair that the moment I begin to truly appreciate something in life, time snatches it away to make it suddenly a thing of the past.

Transitions are never clearer than in the faces of our loved ones. My children’s baby faces have morphed into the faces of young adults that sometimes cause me to double take. I can still see them in there, those beloved cherub cheeks and laughing eyes. But their expressions are those of older, wiser beings. On the other end, our elders are slowly leaving us and I realize I am becoming one of the next generation of elders. How can I still feel so young when all of the signs tell me otherwise? I color the white from my hair every eight weeks because I don’t recognize that emerging face under the fading hairline. I am certain that vanity is only a small part of that but perhaps I am just denying that face in the mirror. It’s not right to try to stop time but then I do not always see it that way. I see it as me aging on my terms. Other times I feel as old as the hills, dragged down by my own worry or guilt or just plain fatigue.

Still as I glance over my shoulder I sometimes wonder who that tall handsome young man is about to marry his long time sweetheart or that beautiful young woman navigating love and life in this brave and scary new world. They can’t be mine. I am far too young. They are far too old. I have not fully accepted that this transition and the hundreds of other transitions before this have occurred but there is no disputing the evidence.

Yet transitions are good too, they can be very good. They can spin one from a scary, stressful life situation to a calmer one and thank goodness for that. Like changing horses on a Ferris wheel, the ride can be bumpy or smooth. And here is the beauty of life’s transitions. For better or worse and despite of or in spite of all of my life’s transitions, I am still alive. I have been gifted with two children, a boy and a girl, a man and a woman. Two I can teach and two I can learn from. Two I can love and two I can fear for. But I am not ready. I’m not ready for this life transition. They cannot be gone from my cozy, safe nest so soon. But that is how change happens. Constantly. Dispassionately. Relentlessly. Sometimes I struggle to keep up.

In what felt like a blink of an eye, I was pregnant, I gave birth, I was a young mother, I was an older mother, sometimes a good mother and sometimes a not so good one. Then it was time to send them out into the world. Now I need to look to myself as they look forward into their own lives. That’s a transition too. When I was a childless young woman I only thought about myself and my needs and then for the past three decades I thought about my children’s needs. The world turns again. The human experience is a thorny and wondrous thing. How did I get to this place? That journey is a reflection for another day.

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Passage Through Time by Gerd Paulsen

For now I gaze at the Pacific sky, at the fast moving clouds that blink with brilliant moments of sun illuminating the spring awakening. Another transition. I wash my glass until the red wine stain is gone but like all residue, it leaves a shadow.  Our past leaves the residue of all of our experiences as well, our thoughts and deeds, our actions. Our sins.

I can mourn these transitions or I can celebrate them. I can dance to the music of transitions; David Bowie’s “Changes”, Al Stewart’s “Time Passages” and I can toast them with my residue stained red wine glass. But secretly I am still coming to terms with all of them. I am grateful for all the moments with my children I have been gifted with and I will try to let go of that little kernel of sadness and loss lodged next to my heart as I move forward. Perhaps the next transition will take care of that.

Confessions of a Baby Boomer Mom – Connections

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strike-51212__340What did we do before social media? Well I know what we did, of course and what we didn’t do. We didn’t know our friends and acquaintances every move, thought, or action punctuated by a thumbs up or a heart emoji. We never saw thousands of photos capturing life in real time, sharing public and private moments that our friend circle and beyond have shared and shared and shared yet again. Snapchats and Instagram exposes life in instant time. And yet the great irony is that with all of this isolating technology, we do feel connected.

I do know what we did back then although I cringe to hear myself refer to the past as if I were withered with age. Life was just a bit quieter and moved at a slower pace although that just seems so in hindsight. At the time, I felt like life was fast. But one could wait for days or weeks for a phone call from a friend. We took so much on faith. No news was good news so our loved ones were fine. And then we had so much to tell each other once we did connect. We spent hours over dinner and drinks talking face to face, catching up on each other’s lives.

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Fractal 19 by Florin Florea

As much as one of my major pet peeves is the practice of staring at one’s cell phone at the same time someone is sitting across from them, waiting for their attention, I must confess I love social media. And it is mostly because I have been allowed to glimpse into my children’s and friends and family’s lives without having to waiting for the phone to ring. Social media lets me see things they like without them having to tell me. I can see what they are passionate about or angry about or events they might attend and even hear their voice in the world as they express their views. Social media is a helicopter parent’s dream!

But as with all seemingly magical gifts, there is a downside. There is a certain level of voyeurism in social media. Friends, family and acquaintances “friend” you and allow you to peek into their lives for better or for worse. Conversely they can peek into yours. It is up to me what I put out into the social media but sometimes more can be exposed then I might want it to be. What need does being a presence on social media fulfill for me? I find it ironic that I feel connection with the most disconnected medium there is.

This is truly a brave new world. We open ourselves up to others in ways never seen before. Sometimes our lives get opened up without our consent. Hacking is a sport, it seems. The goal is to see who can score the biggest revelation about a person or an organization or even a government. Conversely a person can hide who they truly are behind an attractive persona. They can reinvent themselves, be someone completely new. We could all live in an alternative universe with alternative facts. The truth can hide behind the many facades of social media or it can become something entirely different. That certainly seems to be the reality that we find ourselves in now. The irony. How ironic. How I love that word.

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Social Connection by Appanna

But going back to my original question: how did we get along without social media? I can’t even say because we have now lived so long with it.  Social media allows a person to follow another person into places they may not have realized. I am happy to see glimpses of my children as they move through life. A Snap here, an Instagram there. A book that has a face, complete with eyes and ears and a loud loud voice.  A post with a photo worth a thousand words. A Tweet that can uplift or shred a person in just 140 characters.

It’s odd to have an online presence. I can actually Google myself. Social media has allowed me to be a writer. It allows my writing to reach readers from around the globe. I love checking my WordPress analytics to see in which country today’s readers reside. What is more social than having your thoughts and words, your story reach someone thousands of miles away. It is a small world indeed. I relish being able to watch my nieces and nephews and siblings and friends and my children fumble and navigate their way through life.
Yet I must I confess this both excites me and scares the heck out of me. We all open ourselves up in a way that is both brave and reckless. Yet that is the world today and we must keep pace. Which brings me, as always, back to my children. How I love this tenuous thread that keeps us connected. I can still keep them close as I let them go. The irony of that is not lost on me. But I don’t care. I will selfishly and joyfully keep whatever connection to them they  will allow me to. It’s not the only connection and it is most certainly not the most important one. But it is one I am grateful for.