Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

Mean Girls Redux

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
No Gravatar

I may be 47 years old, but I can still remember the pain of adolescence very, very distinctly. It’s one of the reasons I wasn’t overly eager to have a children. I just wasn’t sure I could live through the drama all over again.Isurvivedthemeangirls-button

Thankfully, I did have children and discovered that surviving life between the ages of 13 and 15 not only made me stronger, it also provided extremely valuable lessons about life.

Take, for example, the lessons  I learned from the mean girls of my youth – the “pretty people” who took great pleasure from doing all they could to promote themselves and their social status while belittling others.

As a friend recently told me, “those mean girls just grow up and become mean women.”

I only partially agreed with her. Some change. Some don’t.

I still have to deal with the ones who didn’t, and my daughter is having to deal with the new crop of mean girls.

Sometimes we have to tolerate them because they have more power than we do. Sometimes we have to confront them because we aren’t the only one being hurt.  And sometimes we simply need to talk about them with our friends.

My daughter and I were both doing that last week.

I was angry about the adult versions of  the mean girls.  My daughter is still trying to understand the mean girls at her middle school.

I was venting to friends about how unbelievably selfish some women can be. My daughter was giggling with friends about how ridiculous burn books are. Yes, the mean girls at her school actually have a burn book in which they write hurtful comments about others.

I was ranting about women who are more concerned about their social status than helping meet the needs of the less fortunate. My daughter was making fun of how the mean girls at her school named their clique, demand special privileges and are  proud that they exclude others.

And that’s when it struck me.

I was wasting my time and energy complaining about women who will probably never change. My daughter wasn’t wasting her emotional energy but was simply viewing the mean girls as characters in a book or play. She finds them entertaining but not really relevant.

Since my daughter has a wide circle of diverse friends, she doesn’t care about a few superficial girls who want to exclude her. She’s much more interested in the people who do include her and how they enrich her life.

My daughter hasn’t yet turned 13, but she has already learned some valuable life lessons – ones that I’m still learning.  I like to think my own experiences have helped guide her, but I also know that she’s teaching me as well.

And she’s a very good educator.

The Rules

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
No Gravatar

If nothing else, I am a persistent person.

My husband and my children call me obsessive and tell me that it’s an extremely irritating rules

I prefer persistent, and being persistent is one of my rules for living.

Someday I hope my family understands. In the meantime, I simply hope they learn to appreciate my rules.

In all honesty, I’ve broken several of them, but the outcome was never good. In fact, those miscalculations only reinforced why the following rules are so important to me:

  1. Always admit when you make a mistake. If people already know what you did, they will respect you for the admission. If they have no idea you made the mistake, they will disregard you or believe you are covering for someone else. Either way, you spend a lot less time and energy owning up than covering up.
  2. Never believe you are smarter than those around you. There are multiple forms of intelligence, and having the facts is simply one form of knowledge. Knowing what to do with the facts is something else entirely.
  3. Make time for yourself every day. That’s not selfish; it’s maintaining your sanity. People who think they have no time for themselves are often the least healthy.
  4. Never make political decisions based on what will serve your personal interests. If you do, you will always be disappointed. Make your decisions based on the Golden Rule. If you consider how we treat each other rather than how you can get what you want, you will always be more satisfied.
  5. Don’t ever use your own life and circumstances as a frame of reference for someone who is struggling. You may have succeeded in difficult times, but your resources and support system can’t be duplicated.
  6. Always remember people in the service industry are individuals with their own stories. Listen to those stories. Not only do you have something to learn, they have something to teach.
  7. If you are counting hours at work, you aren’t in the right place. If you are counting the lives you touched in a positive way, you are.
  8. Remember that you are the only person responsible for your own happiness. External gratification is a simple substitute, but it always fails. Always.
  9. If you are going to talk about others behind their back, be accurate about the facts. We all need to vent. That’s human nature. But if you are more concerned with tarnishing someone’s reputation than with being truthful, your reputation is the one that will suffer most.
  10. Watching television isn’t necessarily a waste of time. Scheduling your life around television is.

These are my rules. They might not apply for everyone, but they work for me. My greatest hope for my children is that they can develop their own list of rules and that they can follow these rules down a road to true happiness.

80 Years of Marriage(s)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013
No Gravatar

From the diary of Letha Bates Smith:  ”Nov. 29, 1933 Wed. Finished cleaning at the house this morning. Met Sylvia at 3:25. Morden, she & I met Martin in E. Lansing and had the knot tied at 8:30. Home then to Vilas and Evelyn’s for the nite.”

That’s how my grandmother described the day she married my grandfather, Morden, in the chapel at the People’s Church in East Lansing, Michigan with her sister Sylvia and her brothers Martin and Vilas in attendance.

Exactly 30 years later, my mother married my father in the same chapel. Unlike my grandmother, she didn’t keep a diary, but, just like my grandmother, she had a very practical wedding.

Exactly thirty years after that, at age 26, I was a completely different person than both these women. I was less conservative and more reckless. Yet the three of us would be forever connected not just by blood but by our sensibilities and our belief that a strong marriage, just like a strong woman, is defined by substance not glamour.

This Friday my husband and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and my parent’s will celebrate their 5oth. If they were still alive, my grandparents would be celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary.

I am under no illusions that my daughter will marry on November 29, 2023. In fact, I hope she won’t as she will only be 22. But I do hope that the  stories from three couples who passed their DNA on to her will serve as a reminder that weddings are not about a fancy show or an exotic honeymoon. They are about two people deciding to move forward together and create memories that can bond families together for generations.

Letha and Morden

My grandparents met on a blind date while they were both students at Michigan State College (later University) during the Great Depression.  My grandmother was one of four children from a farming family in Quincy Michigan who were all  determined to go to college. Despite the odds and through their own perseverance, all four obtained college degrees.

My grandfather, the youngest of seven children, grew up in a family that had an uneven financial history – sometimes they had significant resources and sometimes they didn’t.  My grandfather’s older brother, Carl, had died when he contracted smallpox working in a lab while in medical school. The money from his insurance policy allowed my grandfather to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.

I know little about my grandparents’ college romance.  My grandmother wasn’t a talkative or an emotional woman. But for decades, she documented her life in diaries. The one or two sentence entries she diligently recorded provide some insight into the often hidden thoughts of a woman who, on the surface, was practical to the bone. The grandmother I knew had one dress that she wore to every special occasion (including my wedding) for decades.  But, that didn’t mean she never cared about a new dress.

“Oct. 30, 1932 Sunday. My sweetheart down today. And what did he bring me  - Um does it sparkle? Simply gorgeous delightful! The dear boy.” 

“Nov. 1, 1932 Tuesday Met Sylvia downtown this P.M. spent the nite with me. The ring fixed –  lovely now –  more thrilled than ever. A new dress.”

Even after my grandmother died, we never found picture of her wedding or her wedding dress.  At the time of their marriage, my grandfather was a relatively new employee at Citizens Gas Fuel Company. My grandparents chose to get married the evening before Thanksgiving because my grandfather would have a four-day weekend.

My grandparents’ marriage ended when my grandfather died in 1998, just shy of their 65th wedding anniversary. My grandmother would live for another seven years.

The words in her diary will be passed on to future generations.

Evadna and Ken

Following in the footsteps of her parents and her older brother, my mother attended Michigan State University. After graduation, she moved to Manistee, Michigan, but neither her job nor her location were exotic or adventurous enough for her. She wanted to see the world and submitted an application to join the newly established Peace Corps.

After he graduated from Idaho State University, my dad, a Massachusetts native who had already seen a great deal of the world while in the Navy, also applied to join the Peace Corps.

They were among the first individuals ever selected and were in the third group deployed. Before they left for Chile, my parents attended training at Notre Dame University, where they spent days in Spanish class. My father excelled with his ability to speak the words perfectly in his  loud, booming voice while my mother shot him dirty looks while she struggled.

Her irritation didn’t last long. Before they returned to the United States, my parents were engaged. Instead of a diamond, my mother wore a simple gold band on her right hand that she would transfer to her left hand when she was married. The only diamond I’ve ever seen my mother wear is her mother’s engagement ring, the one that sparkled so brilliantly in 1932.

After returning to the United States, my father, a forester, got a job in Montana. He hadn’t accumulated any leave, but he was allowed to take a few days for Thanksgiving. And so, a wedding the day after Thanksgiving made sense, and my parents spent their honeymoon driving west to their new home.

They’ve spent the rest of their lives sharing stories of their adventures with their children and grandchildren.

Trina and Giles

Ironically, I met my husband on a November night.

On  November 8, 1988,  I was a college intern helping cover election results in the newsroom at West Virginia Public Radio. Giles was reporting for his first night of work. He thought I had an attitude, and I thought I had work to do. No sparks flew, and I didn’t give him a second thought.

But after I graduated from Ohio University, our paths continued to cross and our circle of friends became one in the same. Over time, we eventually ended up together.

Our relationship was nothing like I imagined everlasting love was supposed to be and everything my mother had told me it would be. (She’d told me on multiple occasions that common values  and compromise, not romance, were the key to a successful relationship.)

In the beginning, our schedules were very different, and we accommodated. Our schedules are still very different, and we still accommodate. In the beginning, we watched a lot of Star Trek. Giles still watches a lot of Star Trek, and sometimes our kids even watch with him. And in the beginning, we laughed at my intensity and his lack of it. Now, we work around our differences… and we still laugh a lot.

Giles and I didn’t get engaged out of some romantic notion of marriage. We got engaged because his roommate bought a house, and moving in together just made sense. When we realized the significance of the year, we picked a very significant wedding date.

Unlike the two couples before us, we didn’t marry over Thanksgiving weekend nor did we get married in Michigan, Instead, our ceremony took place the Monday after Thanksgiving in Charleston, WV.  And yes, our wedding was also simple and practical (my mother made my dress), but it was also a bit quirky.  We received gifts of Star Trek dinnerware and had Star Trek action figures on top of our cake.

Our children look at the photographs and simply roll their eyes.

I get that. I used to do a lot of eye rolling as a child, especially in regards to my mother’s stories about being married on her parent’s anniversary. But, like many children, my eye rolls eventually evolved into an appreciation of family history.

Something tells me my children will do the same someday.


Crazy Love

Wednesday, November 20, 2013
No Gravatar

I should have known this would happen. People tried to warn me years ago, but I ignored them. Now, I’m paying the price.opposites-attract

After twenty years of  marriage, my husband and I have officially driven each other crazy.

Well, more precisely, I drove him crazy.

In my defense, he knew we were complete opposites before we even started dating. He’s laid back, and his favorite hobby is watching television. I’m high-strung and have no clue how to truly relax. I simply must be doing something productive at all times.

Not only are our personalities different, so are our schedules.

For the past nine years, I’ve generally worked normal business hours, and he’s generally worked nights and weekends. In other words, when I’m home, he’s working, and when he’s home I’m working. And that works for us.

At least it works until something changes, and last week, something changed.

I started a new job this week, and I took last week off between jobs.

I haven’t had that much free time since my children were born, and I’ve always used my time off to accommodate their schedules or vacations.

But last week, my kids were in school. Not only that, but during two of those days, my husband was also off.

Days off together are extremely rare for us, and days off without kids are even more rare. So Giles had visions of the two of us actually doing something fun together.

I had visions of using my time wisely to cross off a few things on my ever-growing “to do” list. Much to my husband’s chagrin, some of those “to do” items required his assistance, and Giles simply did not understand my persistence that he help me. Or, to give him credit, his “laid back personality” definition of using time wisely is simply different from my “must be doing something productive at all times” definition.

At some point during a heated discussion about the importance of moving a file cabinet upstairs, Giles stated what has really been obvious for years.

“You are driving me crazy, ” he said. “And I’m letting you know now that you are never allowed to retire. Being retired will stress you out more than working, and I can’t deal with that.”

He’s probably right, but more importantly, he was telling me that he understands who I am. And despite our differences and despite our struggles, he’s perfectly happy to let me be me.

As long as I let him be him.

And I’m pretty sure, that’s the reason that, in 20 more years, we’ll be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.

Here’s to opposites attracting and a crazy little thing called love.

She (Didn’t) Love to Vacuum

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
No Gravatar

A few years ago, my friend Vicki developed the unhealthy habit of reading obituaries of people she never knew.vacuum cleaner

The habit wasn’t unhealthy because of any preoccupation with death. It was unhealthy because she was comparing her life to  portraits that others chose to paint of their recently deceased loved ones.

One particular obituary really bothered her. “I’m afraid,” she said, “that when I die, my obituary will read she loved to vacuum.” That phrase was actually used in an obituary Vicki read.

I couldn’t relate to Vicki’s concern. I will never be accused of loving to vacuum – or clean, cook, sew or make crafts.

Being a domestic goddess isn’t in my nature, and it’s not how I want to spend my time. I’m incredibly fortunate that people who really know me recognize this and try to make appropriate accommodations.

Take, for example, Thanksgiving.

Due to a variety of circumstances, this will be the first year I’ll host the annual family Thanksgiving dinner. And even though my family has agreed my house is the best option, the decision wasn’t without comments such as “We don’t have to cook a traditional meal. Maybe Trina can pick up a prepared meal. And, “We can even just eat Subway. The holiday is really about family and spending time together.”

The hints weren’t lost on me, but for the record, they have nothing to do with my ability to cook. When I have to cook, I do. And, generally, people like what I prepare.

The issue had more to do with my family respecting who I am.

They know I’m starting a new job the week before Thanksgiving, and it will be demanding and time-consuming. They also know that I choose to spend my non-work time doing things that are important to me, and whenever possible, things I enjoy. That doesn’t mean I don’t clean my house or cook, but it does mean I have dust bunnies under my bed, dog nose prints on my windows and hand prints on my light switches.

My house may not be perfect, but it is a reflection of who I am:  someone who loves to ride her bike and walk her dog; someone who loves to volunteer in the community and participate in activities that involve her children; and someone who loves to write and spend time with friends and neighbors.

Simply put,  I love allowing myself to be who I am and not who society sometimes dictates I should be.

That’s not as easy as it sounds. I was raised in a house that was meticulous and spotless, and I used to feel guilty that I was a disappointment to my mother, who took hours teaching me the right way to fold sheets and clean windows.

But I’ve come to realize that my mother, like my friend Vicki, actually likes cleaning, and she enjoyed sharing her skills with me. In turn, she’s realized that my “chaotic life” (a label from one of my former interns) doesn’t mean I am turning my back on how I was raised. Instead, it means the exact opposite.

I am making use of the best lesson my parents taught me: be true to yourself.

And this self will never love to vacuum.

The Real Meaning of Family

Wednesday, September 4, 2013
No Gravatar

I spent my childhood living thousands of miles from my grandparents.

In those days before the internet or cell phones, I wrote letters by hand, carefully addressed envelopes, licked stamps, stuck envelopes in a metal mailbox and knew that in four days, my grandparents might finally read my words.

Phone calls were rare and only occurred after 5:00 PM, on weekends and on holidays when the long-distance rates went down. Since answering machines and voicemail hadn’t been invented yet, we never even know if we missed a phone call.

In other words, I never had the opportunity to develop particularly close relationships with my parents’ parents. But that doesn’t mean I was deprived.

I had three women, all old enough to be my grandmother, who stepped into my life and shaped it.

In fact, they are still shaping it.

Carolyn: Even at a young age, I never  completely understood my mother’s relationship with Carolyn, which can be summed up by Mom’s statement “I can’t Carolynbelieve she wore a bikini top and cut-off shorts in the airport on her way back from Hawaii. She’s the same age as my mother!”

But Carolyn, like my mother, was a journalist, and the two shared a love of meeting new people and pursuing the next story.  She was one of Mom’s best friends, and I’m forever grateful.

Carolyn changed my life by having the guts to say things no one else did.

When I made the junior high basketball team, she said “I am so glad you are more than just smart. You can’t just be smart. You have to be more than that.”

I tried to tell her I’d only made the team because my mom was on the board of education, but she shut me down. “What you say is what you believe. And what you believe is what you become.”

When I came home from camp with a handmade autograph book, Carolyn was one of the first people to sign it. Even though she and my grandmother were both born in 1909, her handwriting looked nothing like my grandmother’s small, careful script. Instead, she wrote with a loopy flourish more typical of my peers. In my autograph book, she wrote,  “The most important thing you’ll ever wear is your expression.”

From then on, that was my favorite quote.

IvyIvy: Like me mother, Ivy had once been an extension agent and, also like my mother, Ivy was a no-nonsense women. Maybe that’s why I sometimes forgot she wasn’t actually my grandmother.

Ivy’s passion was birds, and her backyard was like an oasis. She always expected my brother and me to treat the natural world with respect, and we learned to heed her advice.

When Ivy first came into my life, she was always a part of a team: Ivy and Joe. But after decades of marriage, Joe surprised all of us by leaving her. Ivy was probably devastated, but, from my perspective, she never let it show.

She held her head high, stayed involved and active and always had an open door, a welcoming smile and stories to tell.

Ivy didn’t teach through her words; she taught through her actions. And her actions said life isn’t defined by our circumstances but by how we react to them.

Ruby: Ruby was probably the most loving person I have ever known.Ruby

As a child, I thought love was a finite resource, and each person only had so much to give.

Ruby forever changed that.

Ruby had several daughters, including Carrie, who was my favorite babysitter. Yet, Ruby always treated me as though I were incredibly special and important to her. I couldn’t understand why she cared so much about me when she had so many other girls to love,  but I also absolutely adored her for it.

Because of her, I learned that love may be a precious resource, but it actually grows the more you share it.

I will never believe that a cosmic scorecard exists to balance the fair and unfair elements of our lives, but I do believe that God puts certain people in our lives to help teach us what we need to know and how to reach our true potential.

Carolyn, Ivy and Ruby didn’t share my DNA, but they did share pieces of themselves with me.  As a mom, I’m trying to pass those pieces on to my own children.

And that, more than blood lines or marriage, will always make them part of my family.

Seven Habits of Highly Annoying Parents

Wednesday, July 3, 2013
No Gravatar

Even though I’ve been a mom for more than 15 years now, I’m certainly no expert on raising children. In fact, I’ve only learned two truths about parenting:

1.  Someone (usually me) will find fault with the job I’m doing, and

2.  Comparing my parenting style to other mothers is as ridiculous as comparing our children.

Unfortunately, a lot of mothers do just that and are quick to voice their opinions about what good parents do or don’t do.

My own list is a little different. Ever since another mother tried to belittle my skills as a parent by bragging that she never had a problem getting her children to take naps, I’ve been taking notes.

Over the years, my list of annoyances with other parents has grown quite long, but I’ve managed to narrow it down to seven of the most irritating behaviors:

1. Sharing every detail of your child’s latest illness or injury. Trust me, other parents completely understand how heartrending and scary having a sick or injured child can be, but we also know how disgusting it can be. There is no reason to vividly describe every oozing wound or gross bodily function. Making other parents nauseous won’t necessarily make us more sympathetic.

2. Reciting the long list of activities in which your children are involved, as though their worth is directly related to how busy they are. Here’s a reminder for everyone who thinks that a packed schedule is equivalent to being important – it’s NOT. Being busy simply does not equate to being more prepared to deal with life. In fact, it provides less time for kids to explore how to use their imagination or appreciate the beauty of quiet moments. Learning to be happy doing nothing is completely normal and healthy.

3. Being self-righteous when children misbehave or when teenagers rebel, especially when the children aren’t yours. I can understand being upset when our children do something wrong, and I certain believe kids should understand and pay appropriate consequences for their behavior. But I will never understand why some parents conveniently forget the poor decisions they once made while simultaneously making moral judgments about others. I’m tired of tongue clucking from parents I know were once themselves disrespectful and rude.

4. Letting everyone else know about the healthy food and meals you ensure your child eats. We all want our children to be healthy, and parents should be applauded for taking the time and energy to plan, buy and prepare balanced meals. But that doesn’t mean they are any more caring than parents who spend their time, energy and resources doing other things with their children. It also doesn’t give them a right to deliver the subtle and not so subtle looks and comments about what other parents feed their kids.

5. Acting as though your children’s accomplishments are your accomplishments. Our children are not extensions of us. They are individuals with their own minds and their own personalities. We do our best to guide them, but ultimately, they are responsible for their own behavior. And we do our best to provide them with opportunities, but ultimately they are responsible for their own achievements

6. Blaming someone else when your child fails or makes a mistakes. I’m astounded by number of parents who, when their child is struggling in school, have demanded a new teacherThat’s certainly not preparing the child for the real world, where you can’t demand a new boss if you don’t think you are being treated fairly on the job. Challenges are a part of life. Helping our children navigate those challenges, not removing them, is part of our job as parents.

7. Writing (or talking) about other parents’ annoying behaviors. Unfortunately, some of us just can’t help ourselves. I can only beg your forgiveness.

Nice Girls

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
No Gravatar

The girl’s costumes matched the costumes of the other dancers, but her moves were nothing like theirs.

Instead of tapping, she stood awkwardly in the middle of the stage and occasionally shuffled her feet. Instead of jumping and leaping, she swayed from side to side. And her arms hung limply at her side instead of moving in sync with the other girls.

But as both of her dance numbers ended, she waved wildly at the audience then clapped three times.

Not only did the audience cheer enthusiastically, but so did the dancers backstage.

Even though she’s been in my daughter’s dance recitals for the past few years, I only recently learned that the girl’s name is Grace. I still don’t know the exact nature of her cognitive disability. What I do know is that I’ve never once heard anyone make fun of her or complain that she is ruining a dance number.

In fact, the only time I’ve heard anyone talking about her was this past weekend when I spent numerous hours as a backstage mom ”supervising” a group of middle school dancers.

In reality, I did very little supervising and a whole lot of listening.

As the girls watched the performances on a grainy television feed in their dressing room, they didn’t point out anyone’s mistakes or missteps. Instead they cheered on and complimented everyone, including the dancer who didn’t really dance.

“She is always so happy,” said one girl. “That’s just adorable.”

“She has a signature move,” said one of the star dancers. “She claps three times and then everyone else claps.”

“Have you noticed how all the other girls in her class take care of her?” asked another. “That’s so awesome.”

I agreed that was awesome. But I don’t think the girls recognized just how awesome they are too.

In a society in which adolescent girls are often depicted as being self-absorbed and mean-spirited, the dancers were building each other up instead of tearing each other down. In a world in which out performing others is often described as success, they were more focused on being kind. And on a stage where a disabled girl simply wanted to dance, they simply wanted to cheer her on.

If that isn’t reason to have hope for our future, I don’t know what is.

The Three R’s: Reading, Reporting and Relationships

Monday, June 20, 2011
No Gravatar

Parenting by the book.

I’ve been asked by a number of people how I became a blogger for the Daily Mail.  I was invited, yes, but I also auditioned for the role without realizing it.  Before The Mommyhood, I maintained my own site, “Wilbur & Charlotte“, a children’s literature blog.  I wrote about the themes in children’s books that applied to adult life…most of which covered issues in parenting.  A few friends posted my entries on Facebook (catching the attention of the newspaper’s managing editor), and well, there you have it.  Here I am.

Relationships and connections are what matter most.  As a former law firm marketer, I used to (literally) buy in to full-page, front-page advertisements and pull-out inserts that stamped the credos of  attorneys and their services.  I believed in the big splash — making a mountain out of a molehill — and hoarding every square inch of print real estate to tell the firm’s story. Since that time — nearly 10 years ago — I’ve changed my tune.  It is who you know…or better yet, who seems to know you.  Social media has delivered more business to my small writing and editing shop than any other form of marketing. And, I’m mighty grateful that it’s still free.

Once one blog led to another blog and readership and name recognition expanded, I was contacted about serving on the board of directors of Read Aloud, WV.  My career as a writer, life as a parent, and love of books made me a candidate to help spread the word about the organization, which was created to motivate children to want to read.  Read Aloud, WV encourages parents and other adults to read to children early in life, to build lifetime memories through interaction, and to encourage comprehension skills to strengthen academic and professional success.  During my pre-board involvement research, I discovered a new book that has become my own source of motivation — a book that became my daughters’ gift to their dad for Father’s Day.

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared, is lovingly written by Alice Ozma (named for two literary characters — “Alice” from Lewis Carroll and “Ozma” from L. Frank Baum). The daughter of a Philadelphia-area elementary school librarian, Ozma and her dad  embarked on a streak of reading-out-loud sessions every night as she was growing up. Originally, the father-daughter literary duo decided on 100 nights straight of reading before bed—a minimum 10 minutes, no excuses, but then it stretched to 1,000.

To keep the streak alive, there were some days when their reading date started at 12:00 midnight and some days when it began at dawn.  They would wake each other from deep sleep to read; to keep their commitment to one another.  “Once started,” Ozma’s father writes, “a reading streak can be a hard thing to stop.  The only thing that stopped us was when she moved away from home…almost nine years after we began.”

Ozma’s father goes on to stress that the greatest gift parents can bestow upon their children is time and undivided attention.  “No one will ever say, no matter how good a parent he or she was, ‘I think I spent too much time with my children when they were young’,” he writes.

Ozma approaches her book as a series of vignettes about her relationship with her father and the life lessons learned from the books he read to her. Some of those titles included in the Streak were: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens,  Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, Shakespeare’s plays, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series, and those written by famed children’s author, Judy Blume (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing).

At the end of The Reading Promise, the author has included a contract that parents and their children can fill out, commiting themselves to a lifetime of reading: out loud for all to hear, silently for no one to hear, in a bedroom or on a couch, at the beach or in the park.  Readers will promise to laugh uncontrollably or to sob inconsolably, to look up unfamiliar words, and most importantly…to lose track of time.

Which I have done.  So, I’m going to stop typing and start reading.  My girls have new books to crack — Ava has a small stack of birthday books to dive into — and Maryn will be reading on her own this time next year.  But, I think I’ll take Mr. Ozma’s advice to read to them as long as I can; to make this the one thing they’ll never outgrow.

And the Oscar Goes to… Mom

Monday, March 7, 2011
No Gravatar

Steel Magnolias sharing Terms of Endearment: Shirley MacLaine and Sally Field

Last weekend, I watched the Academy Awards from the family room couch, swaddled in a Snuggie. I spent the evening criticizing beautiful, talented women in toddler-size dresses, but I never anticipated that Anne Hathaway’s awkward “Hi, Mom!” moment would help to create this blog.

There are only two categories specifically earmarked to honor women – Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. While women may write, produce and/or direct, they aren’t heralded for their female contributions to the entire film in any other way.  Therefore, I will do so by honoring the Best Mothers in the Movies:

10. Barbara Hershey – Beaches

“I don’t want Victoria to see me here.”

I hate to begin a top ten list with a hospital deathbed scene, but a mother’s greatest responsibility is to protect her child. Of course, it helps to have Bette Midler as the wind beneath your wings.

9. Diane Keaton – Father of the Bride

 “Will you stop acting like a lunatic father and go out and talk to her before she runs out that door, marries this kid and we never see her again?”

What’s more complicated that a mother-daughter relationship? Being daddy’s little girl. Thankfully, Nina Banks comes to her daughter’s rescue as she attempts to wiggle loose of her father’s overprotective grip.

8. Olympia Dukakis – Moonstruck

“When you love them, they drive you crazy because they know they can.”

Nothing compares to the wisdom of an old-world mother who dishes out a healthy portion of tough love with a side of manicotti.  Rose Castorini always knows when her daughter’s life is “going down the toilet.” And she tells her so.


7. Diane Keaton – Baby Boom

“And your sister’s name in Wiesbaden – in case of an emergency – and her prison record if any…”

Corporate workaholic J.C. Wiatt has no trouble hiring new graduates to work on entry-level marketing accounts, but she doesn’t possess the same confidence when searching for a nanny to care for 18-month-old Elizabeth.

6. Katharine Hepburn – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

“When she fights you, I’m going to be on her side.”

In parenting, it helps if mothers and fathers are on the same page when it comes to handing down an important decision.  Yet Christina Drayton is willing to sacrifice her own marital bliss to make sure her daughter lives happily ever after.

5. Katharine Hepburn – On Golden Pond

“Don’t you think that everyone looks back on their childhood with a certain amount of bitterness and regret?”

Once again, leave it to Katharine Hepburn to be the voice of reason. Fed up with her adult daughter’s sulking, she insists that Jane Fonda’s character get on with life before it passes her by (in a motorboat).

4. Sally Field – Forrest Gump

“Remember what I told you, Forrest. You’re no different than anybody else.”

Mama always had a way of explaining things so Forrest could understand them, and she sure did care about his education! Always reassuring, Mrs. Gump challenged everyone to define “normalcy” in his or her own unique way.


3. Sally Field – Steel Magnolias

“I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life.”

No child has been blessed with a better mother. Devoted to Shelby’s special needs, M’Lynn Eatenton would have jogged all the way to Texas and back for her daughter. Luckily, she had the support of my next honoree to provide laughter through tears.

2. Shirley MacLaine – Terms of Endearment


If Ouiser Boudreaux doesn’t scare the daylights out of you, then Aurora Greenway will.  MacLaine proves that even the coldest mothers have the warmest souls and the loudest voices, particularly when their child is in pain.

1. Robin Williams – Mrs. Doubtfire

“I do have one rule: they’ll only eat good, nutritious food with me. And if there’s any dispute, it’s either good, wholesome food or empty tummies.”

Yes, a cross-dressing housekeeper wins the top prize for being the most outstanding parent. Bound (literally speaking) and determined to spend time with his children after a bitter divorce, Euphegenia Doubtfire kept the home fires burning.

The ‘please wrap up your blog’ music is playing, so I will conclude my tribute by saying, “Thanks, Mom. We owe it all to you.”