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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Hers are the first hands that held mine. As I look at her rings and the diamond she wore for more than 50 years, I tremble with the knowledge of all that her hands have done. My mother raised children, drove us back and forth to school for an hour, twice a day, every day for twelve years and gave out candies to children who came to shul. She told us to sing louder, she used her hands to point out the place in the Chumash. She showed us how to set a table and buy balloons, her hands excitedly decorated and photographed every milestone. She traveled and bought souvenirs for her children and grandchildren. She emailed stories, ideas, photos and information around the world. As a court reporter, her hands recorded the truth, the dictionary of words she created and reached for justice. Her words truly gave testament and witness to the truth.

When I was in trouble, her hands picked up the phone and held on, to hold me in her thoughts and her heart. When I was in doubt, she held my hand and gave me her perspective. She went with me to pick out a wedding gown and handled details. She held my babies, as quickly as possible after their birth, and never let go. She traveled the world and wrote it down to share with the universe.

She held my father’s hand as they walked down the aisle at grandchildrens’ weddings and hugged great grandchildren. Her hands hold our family together even when she cannot move them. She carries us with her and we hold her in the hands that she gave us: open, loving, caring, generous, and charitable. She taught us to always reach out to others and be willing to give. She gives with a warm hand, while she can see us spread our hands to her, and hold on as long as able. We hold on to her forever and always. I will reach to her when her hands can no longer touch me. The finely manicured hands look like hers. I will hold on to the memories and stories, hand them to my children and grandchildren, and reach out to her forever. But her hands, her heart, her soul, and her stories will never leave me and I want to hold on to her memory forever.

My mother established deep roots, created branches of our tree, and her memory and spirit will reach out always.

In memory of my mother BDG
10/24/42 – 4/27/13

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anne taintor put my needs last

With Mother’s Day approaching, I am getting so much mail about gifts to buy, how to celebrate, and things to do with Mom. As we are in the transitions with my mother and grandmother, I empathize with others that are unable to celebrate on this day.  Ultimately, through good and bad, no one loves you like your mother.

I come from a long line of very strong women; I have even given birth to a couple.  The stories and memories that we share of our lineage bring smiles, tears, and laughter – especially to others who don’t have to deal with all of the other baggage! But the inventive sense of humor, creativity, and independence that each lived gives us strength when we need it.  It reminds us that they have not really left us, but remain alive in our hearts and minds with each memory.

Men may be the hunters and gatherers, but it is the mothers who cut the crusts off the sandwiches and make sure that everyone has exactly the same number of cookies.  Mothers can spend 12 hours in the warzone with toddlers, but when Dad walks in, he gets all of the attention. Motherhood is not always fair, sometimes fierce, often fractured, but it is an elemental love so deep and strong, that we persevere.

My mother gave each of us the legacy of family through stories, journals and photographs that she has researched, collected and created for us to acknowledge and remember family members that we did not get to meet face-to-face.  She grew up without grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins and therefore worked very hard to make memories, create family occasions, and document them with pictures and souvenirs.  We grew up with developing fluid in our veins. We knew that if it happened, Mom had a photo of it.  We have had more “natural” posed photographs than some, but we knew it was, and still is, done with love.

The oral history that passes from mother to child brings our ancestors to life. It creates memories and journeys to share with our own children. It is a reminder that mothers will do what they have to do in order to care for their families, and others, in a world that does not always stop to notice.

My great grandparents had to move from one country in Europe to another in order to find work and financially support their growing family.  My great grandfather went ahead to seek work, while my great grandmother waited in another country with my grandmother and her brother.  She waited until my great grandfather was settled and he was ready for them to reunite.  Each European country was tied up in its own borders, paperwork and bureaucracy.  It might be necessary to move families, but they did not make it easy and did not want to take in immigrants to swell the ranks of the social services.  My great grandmother did not let one such border crossing officer utilize his power to keep her from entering the country and beginning a new life with her family.  She was told that the paperwork was not cleared and that she could not enter the country. So, like the clever, strong woman that she was, she told her children to sit down and wait at the crossing, with the nice border patrol, while she went to find her husband and clear up any misunderstanding with the necessary documentation. 

My great grandmother was allowed to enter with her family and belongings.

My grandmother was very frugal, as was my grandfather, who carefully measured each portion and calculated every penny of their combined paychecks. In the 1950’s, my grandparents traveled to Europe, by ship, with my mother and her brother to see what was left of the lives that they had been forced to flee.  There simply was not enough disposable income for lavish meals after the expense of the tickets and the limited income they were careful to protect.  Grandma traveled with a large black purse, a seemingly bottomless trapezoid, which opened and closed with a clicking snap.  She carefully planned for their modest needs and traveled with cans of tuna.  At each restaurant where they were able to eat, the bread basket was placed on the table along with the cutlery and linens.  Each time that the waiter turned around, Grandma would swoop the entire contents of the bread basket into her large black purse, and pleasantly request more rolls.  The family dined on tuna sandwiches throughout their journey.

My mother, undaunted by her own strict and occasionally domineering mother, was unfazed at times when she sought independence.  As a teenager living in New York, my mother dreamed of cozy cottages and country climes.  She had seen a wooden rocking chair and wanted to purchase it for her room.  My grandmother felt it was unnecessary and impractical in their modest-sized apartment.  My mother was told that she could not get it. Those are fighting words for my mother.  She purchased that chair and brought it home, remarkably, on the New York subway system.  Through many incarnations, and paint colors, that rocking chair has traveled through several moves across the country and today sits in her home office. 

My mother does things on her own timetable and doesn’t let the seemingly impossible stop her. Where I am punctual, my mother found the concept of time to be more fluid. If we were supposed to be somewhere in five minutes, that was enough time for her to put on nail polish before we headed into the car.

When I was a teenager, my family moved to New Orleans for a number of years. Mom and Dad had to acclimate to the weather, so hot and humid compared to our New England winters, and become accustomed to a brand new way of life.  Both of my parents worked and had to figure out how to maneuver in their new environment while trying to find their way around the city.  In the days before Mapquest, and the difficulty in driving in the city while holding a large paper map, it was necessary to remember the minimum number of routes to arrive at your destination. On one shopping excursion, my mother had missed her turn and did not know another way to get back to the Mall.  As I was a teenager, fresh from driving lessons and my license still warm, I told my mother that the sign said “No Left Turns.”  My mother’s steely reply:  “Wanna Bet?”

How can we turn out any other way than strong, determined, caring, and possessing a wit and absurd sense of humor?

We are teachers, doctors, cooks, and personal shoppers. We are chauffeurs, social planners, bankers, and the butt of jokes.  We are tired, despairing, frustrated, elated and proud. We can be examples or warnings.  We are mental health counselors on call 24 hours a day. But wherever we are, and wherever they are, we are forever Mothers.

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Thank you for stopping by! It means more than you know.
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laugh cry signpost

When it comes to a friend, give me a real woman of a certain age. That number is not fixed, but an age where you have acquired some wisdom and life experience. Some women learn the hard lessons early in life, and others need to spend more time learning, until they can stand on common ground.

A real woman is not afraid to be honest, straight forward and talk openly about the battle scars that she has earned along the way. Each battle has a story and memories behind it. Whether funny or sad, the scars add up, inside and out, and we keep going, adding even more than we ever thought possible.

A certain age is acquired because it takes time to see parents age, or a loved one pass. A certain age is required to remember what going to a library was like and holding real books in your hand. A woman of a certain age can discuss college, adolescent children, divorce, work, and trying to pay the bills. Women of a certain age can recognize songs from the last 40 years, or more, and remember where they were when they first enjoyed them. Women of a certain age are also not afraid to turn the music up, dance in the car and sing loudly to the radio. That is an age of confidence and reckless abandon, not years.

I have self doubts where once I had confidence. With each betrayal, or new anxiety, time has taught me not to trust as openly and fully as I once did, and replaced it with caution. We build our experiences without forgetting the old. We create a history and, if lucky, a life with someone willing to ride alongside.

Real women of a certain age are able to judge people on their own merits without having to Google them or follow their tweets. They have learned how to trust their intuition and assess a situation similar to one they have had in the past. Women of a certain age have a gage of comparison for human behavior in themselves and others. Real women are rarely at a loss for words. They have learned when it is safe to speak, or keep it to themselves, because they know no one is genuinely listening.

Real women are able to discuss things openly and recognize phoniness at ten paces. Their lives have not been perfect, but they buy their own groceries, work to pay the bills, and suffer through adolescence angst at least twice – once as a teenager and many more times as a mother.

The wonderful thing about real women is they can speak freely and have a great conversation. There is more than enough reality to go around, so you share your stories and remark on the common threads of experiences. We don’t want to have to look over your shoulder, or ours, to find an ulterior motive on the horizon or someone keeping score. We no longer have the patience for the espionage or efforts to tear us down. We have been where you are now, and already succeeded, and begun something new. Just because you want me to prove myself to you, does not mean I have to, because inside I know who I am. The body may be moving slower, but the brain projects even faster.

Real women of a certain age have grown up enough to realize that while things have not turned out the way they always wanted, or don’t look the way they used to, they are all they’ve got, and are survivors, in every way.

Real women have not let go; It is not merely a lack of caring. Rather, it is a searing, fresh desire and ability to communicate deeply about things that no one asked if we were ready to let go of, or cared deeply about, and so we form strong opinions. I wanted to let go of the weight, but the hair went instead. No one gave me a choice, but that is how it goes. I had to leave behind best friends, but gained real time with my family. I have worked long hours, traveled to different jobs, and won awards, but now my job is to help support my family’s financial needs. It may not look impressive in person, or on paper, but it is a priority and my motivation. Real women know that while it is not always appreciated, it is our task and goal to raise the children we bring into the world to the best of our ability. We acknowledge that while they may not have always been our finest moments, we have done the very best we could at the time. The hard choices have to be made, and no one else will accept the responsibility, so a real woman steps up.

For those of you who are younger than me, and are dismissive of my technical skills or count me as part of the invisible generation, remember I have already lived through what you are just contemplating or beginning. I was not born with a mouse in my hand. My learning curve has been steeper and steadier because I am of a certain age. I can communicate in cursive, write thank you notes, and lived through TV screens that went from bigger to smaller and back again. I have worked on manual typewriters, electric typewriters, switchboards, large computers that used Basic, to learning Word, Excel and iPhone apps. I have balanced books with manual ledger and written checks in QuickBooks. My waistline may keep expanding, but so does my mind and world of experience.

Real women don’t speak differently when talking to a man; they speak to every human being earnestly regardless of money, power, or gender. Real women don’t minimize who they are to maximize someone else’s ego. Intelligence and loyalty are to be respected and hard-earned in the ups and downs of daily existence. If there is an issue, let’s talk about it. If I have hurt you, or you have hurt me, we need to be honest about our actions, accountability and our apologies. Or, we could save a lot of time, and treat each other kinder and more compassionately from the beginning. We have all got bruises and keep pushing on. Anger and disappointment are real, revenge and back stabbing are not. Look me in the eye when I speak and don’t climb the ladder of acquisition on my back. Emotions and ego take place, but in a relationship with a real woman, of a certain age, you either choose to move forward or leave the toxic behind. You have better things to do and time is more precious. It is better and more meaningful to be true friends with a real woman, than acquaintances with a superficial one.

It is sobering to realize that I am now of a “certain age.” Turning 50, and acknowledging it, is like tearing off a Band-Aid. Whether you do it fast or slow, it is going to hurt! I keep thinking that the more times I say my age out loud, the more I will get used to it. But it is like the changing of the year, I will be writing the wrong numbers for months.

But I love a real woman who is honest, open, and able to laugh out loud. I respect the woman who has advice on raising adolescents and young adults because she has done it herself, yet realizes that her way is not the only way and recognizes the humor and irony in the process. It takes another grandmother to understand the crazy, boundless love you can have for a new member of the family tree. I appreciate the growing list of health issues, and meds to be taken, while still dreaming of a good margarita. Despite understanding that I might look better in Spanx, but would prefer to be barefoot and admiring my pedicure, is a beautiful thing. Acceptance through awareness and experience is what makes a real woman of a certain age a joy to behold ~~ and the best kind of friend to cultivate.

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Thank you for stopping by! It means more than you know.

Disclaimer: Not everything I write is about one person. I really do have a combination of experiences from life, adventures, and work history. Please don’t think it is all about you, good or bad.
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There are two kinds of advice: that which is based on your ego and needs and that which is based on someone else’s ego and needs.

Those people who tell you that their mother/father/grandmother/brother/neighbor had the same illness and how painful it was or the other horrible outcomes of similar situations: that is based on their ego and needs. The same type of people will tell you how to raise your kids, question why you did not have a budget, just take a pill, or were not prepared for the emergency. These kinds of statements are meant to minimize your fear and pain and prove that the other person has already been through it, read about it, seen it, and it is no big deal. But yes, they want you to know, it will be terribly painful and last a long time. That is not helpful. That allows them to prove that their knowledge is somehow superior.

You can antagonize, minimize, quantify, suppose, brush it off, equivocate, assume, and control when the priority is the person’s ego.

If someone tells you that they had a family member with an illness and how difficult it can be, and to please call if you ever want to talk about it, or be consoled, with a brief layer of sheltering: that is helping you ~ and takes their ego right out of it.

You can console, comfort, endear, protect, commiserate, empathize, and share when the priority is the person in pain.

Comfort is so hard to find when everything seems so bleak. Whether your pain is mental, emotional or physical, it is real and hurts very deeply. If the other person is not bothered by heartache, depression, unemployment, financial woes, or other tragedies, then more power to them. If they think you could overcome all by just snapping out of it or pulling up your bootstraps, it is not about you: it is all about them and their ego.

Genuine caring takes the focus off the person giving advice, and places it, gently, on the shoulders and into the hands of the one who deserves support. The words or actions have the ability to transcend anguish, if only for a moment, as there are now two souls bearing and holding the weight.

False sympathy nods its knowledgeable head and speaks in trite clichés, metaphors, and assurances that they have felt exactly what you have felt and it will pass. In this moment, and future ones, you can never know exactly what another’s feelings are, unless you are listening and not dispensing advice. Massaging your own ego is not the same as opening your hands to hug, to comfort, to embrace someone else in their weakest moments.

Time is endless and advice is circular. How long will this go on? How long will I feel this way? These open ended questions must compete with “I know. I have been there and back. Been there, done that.” These are the words that allow someone else to feel stronger. In the darkness of a tragedy, the anguish of some kind of loss, or despair, someone else’s false nature and hollow words stand out even clearer than when we are strong enough to ignore the superficial.

Comfort must be genuine. Caring must come from the heart and soul. Empty words come from the ego. I know the difference. Cry with me. Listen to me. Hug me. Let me speak. Your ego will not become smaller if you let someone else’s needs come first for a change, but it won’t take up all the space in the moment either.

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Thank you for stopping by! It means more than you know.
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