May 15, 2005

Self-Help Books - who reads them?

Isn't it so strange how self-help books are often read by the people who need them the least? I recently took the book "Keep Your Brain Alive" to my friend Kathy T. We were waiting for her daughter to give birth. I reminded her she would be over 70 when her granddaughter, Emily graduated college so she should keep her brain in shape! During the day, I saw her other daughter Amy, 25, reading the book quite intently. Later Amy whispered "I just showered with my eyes closed!" one of the many neurobic exercises suggested in the book.

When I first got my hands on the "Side-Tracked Home Executive" I laid for hours on the couch laughing hysterically, while my family walked by thinking me crazy or wishing they were enjoying a book as much. The two authors, incurable slobs, developed a plan to organize their lives. It involved a card system, dividing tasks into daily, monthly seasonly and yearly assignments. The book was so hilarious and delightful, especially for a bag lady like me. (i.e. a person that quickly cleans up by stashing everything in a brown grocery bag.)

Word spread, soon friends and especially my sister Barb and I were discussing it ad nauseum, laughing our sides off. Great entertainment for home-bound moms who sould have been cleaning!

Our older sister June inquired about it, overhearing our rambunctious laughter. We rolled our eyes and said, "Oh please, you've got to be kidding!!" June was and will always remain the most organized, proficient person I ever knew! She was a woman with lists that got checked off, with every task accomplished. Unlike myself who just looses every list I write! June once told me she even studied her Sunday school lesson (she was a teacher) while bathing every afternoon. Being a 50's mom, wives looked pretty when their hubbys came home. Unlike myself who tried to always be out of my nightie and into my sweat suit uniform before my husband hit the door.

We probably hurt her feelings, middle-school exclusion of another because you are actually just jealous of them. Anyhoo...we soon bored, not only of the conversation but the whole thought of organizing our homes. Oh yes, we bought the cards, I even have the metal box I bought to organize them in. I even tried following those wild side-tracked women's plan for a month or two. But like most things, it soon became passé for me and I was on to something else.

June never asked again but we all knew she had bought the book. Years later before she died I spent the month caring for her. One day. days before she died, dosing on her bed, small and weak, she asked "Gin, what are you doing?" While returning a vase of flowers to the dresser I noticed it was getting a little dusty. "Oh I'm dusting the dresser a little, June." Without a moments hesitation she weakly but firmly called. "No! Don't do that! Dave dusts in here on Thurs.!"

I wonder if Dave still dusts on Thursday? I doubt it. But I bet Amy will have a sharp crisp mind at 95, unless she falls in the shower!

Posted by Hello

May 10, 2005

You need to know your mother.....

You really need to know your mother, to really understand who you are. In my generation, if you grew up to be a jerk, people felt sorry for your mom, she was rarely blamed for the person you became. In some cultures it still somewhat remains that way. One of my favorite things in life is watching a game on TV and as the cameras flash to the bench, a huge African-American football player yells "I love you mom!!" I never saw them say "I love you dad" nor have I seen a white guy say it.

Unlike today where mom pretty much carries the weight for most of what her off-spring will become. Working in foster care I see first hand what mom does or did, is monumental in the life of her child.

I was born to my mother when she was 38 years old, and named after her by my father. We both shared the name Genevieve, much to my dismay. I weighed 10lbs 11oz. Just thinking of my huge headsize and her boggy post partum uterus should have been reason to worship her all my life, but I didn't. As a child, having "old" parents was an embarrassment to me, and the fact that my mom limped, furthered my embarrassment. Polio at 4 months had left her left leg atrophied and shorter than the right leg, thus the limp.

Mama was never deterred by her slight handicap, she actively participated in life raising 4 children, doing youth groups, serving as a girl scout leader, PTA president, teaching Sunday School, served on the Baptist Orphange auxillery, the Helping Hand Mission, SS class and missionary groups, always riding buses and trolleys because she never learned to drive and my father was away much of the time. Not to mention she could entertain 50, cooking out of her 4'-7' kitchen. She also kept up with a group of high school friends for over 70 years, who she referred to as "theGirls".

I never chatted about my life with Mom and probably preferred my dad who was outgoing, charasmatic, demonstrative, caring and always the center of attention. My mom was consistant, she was the disciplinarian and she was faithful. If she said she would do something, you could count on her. She was never late and was extremely dependable. Mom never sat on my bed and listened to my chatter for hours, she never knew what secrets a child's heart can hold and she was rather mean to us when we were sick. It was the only time she would let us rest in the big bed she shared with dad, but it was short lived because she seemed to want us to get well and go back to school. So when I had kids I did those things, and was extremely nice when they were sick.

I always felt loved by my mom, and truthfully most of my friends moms acted the same, they were just younger. It wasn't until my life became difficult being a mom that I stopped and looked at my own mother. And it would take even more years till I really looked into her heart and soul. The great part of this story is, she didn't expect anything from me and she probably never thought about these things which frequently torture me. She loved me, was proud of me and thought I was a good mom, when I seriously doubted that. She didn't constantly analyze as I do.

It wasn't until she was older that I started to truly look at her. For some, I don't think she was an "easy" old person. She was often sharp and cutting with her words. But I found her quite the opposite and frequently wondered why I had not taken the time to know Mom better. Daddy died in 1990 and she was left alone at 501 to fend for herself. Others bore the heaviness of an aged mother living alone but living in FL I missed the responsibilities and pretty much delighted in her.

She had an ottoman where she organized her life; Bible, "Daily Bread" devotional book, missionary letters, stationary, remote control, notebook for recording daily happenings, and most important, her prayer list.......they all had a specific place. She chided you if you moved anything out of place. I know now it was the way a highly organized person keep their life together when their mind begins to fail. God help those like myself who were never organized in life!

Mama was amazingly strong and selfless. She refused valve surgery when given only 6 weeks to live, not wanting to take the attention from my dying sister. She was faithful, always remembering birthdays and special occasions. She taught us to celebrate holidays, making everyone special. She was a prayer warrior who prayed not only for you..but for your friends when you long forgot.

But she was far from perfect, her words were often sharp. Once while visiting her, I forgot to do something and she barked "Use your head!" daughter later brought it to my attention, troubled that my mom would speak to me like that. But for me, well I hadn't noticed until I was questioned about it. The next time she did it I asked, "Mom! Is that how you talked to me when I was a kid, no wonder I'm crazy!!" I laughed but she got serious, "I don't know? Oh I hope not!" She was pensive after that, it was healing for me. I was always impressed that at 90, we would talk and she would think about something and perhaps could actually embrace another point of view. We had great talks the years before she died.

I miss my mother, I am sad she is gone, I have so much to ask her and so much to tell her. My sister told me once that our mom truly knew she was loved by me. I blew it off at the time, but I never forgot those words. I am glad Mama knew how how much I loved her. Sometimes grieving comes late.

Nestor's Castle & Dinner with the President

I once knew a boy named Nestor, he was in my daughter Patience's class. I always liked him a lot. He was small and had dark brown eyes. Having moved from Amish country in Pennsylvania, South Florida was quite a change for our family. especially the diversity of cultures. So when Nestor told his classmates he had a castle in Spain, I thought it might be possible. Well I guess I wanted it to be possible because I liked Nestor so much and I wanted him to have a castle. Patience, on the other hand, wasn't so sure but discussed the possibilities of his story with her friends daily. I think most of the other children pretty much thought he was lying, until he returned from summer vacation with a picture of "his castle" Well that silenced his classmates but Patience asked me just the other day if I thought Nestor really had a castle.

I thought of Nestor this week when my friend Abdul told me the President had called him and invited him to the White House for dinner. I knew he was leaving the nursing home and moving out west closer to friends and family, we even exchanged addresses to keep in touch. Such a kind, gentle man...not mentally impaired like most I see at the nursing home, I thought the plan seemed like a good one. Late last week the plans changed, he'd be traveling to D.C. before going west, the President had called him. Tonight he showed me his flight arrangements printed off the internet...yup..going to DCA.

So I am just sitting here, saying a little prayer, thanking God for dreams. I hope somewhere Nestor is having a great life living in his castle and next week I hope big guy doesn't serve pork and he enjoys Abdul as much as I do.

May 8, 2005

Happy Mother's Day!

To My Mama....for being faithful to me and willing to learn even when you were old.
To Jim...I would not be a mother without you, or at least not to these 4 amazing women
To Jen....for following your heart about parenting, going after your dreams and for giving us Madeleine & Carter (Dave..thanks too..and thanks for your sweet MD wish to me!)
To Kristen….okay..there’s no words..girlfriend!! you are tough, I promise to always remind Ethan how tenaciously his mom worked to birth him and nurse him!....and even cut his cord! (Derek..thanks for being there for Kris!)
To Pache.... for showing me the tender souls of children hear God's voice, and for giving us Josiah & Jack (Jorgie..thanks too!)
To Katie...for reprimanding every ungrateful daughter who you sold clothes to at American Eagle yesterday and giving their mothers an unexpected recognition! You probably have some angry well-clothed customers but they'll be paid!
To Betty, Aunt Nan, never had children of your own, but you nurtured children in a ways that changed their lives, and you changed mine
To sister, friend and the one I commiserated with all my years of mothering and still do.
To My Prayer MomsKathy T., Mabel, Gloria, Betty B., Kathy P. who prayed for my girls and loved them unconditionally…you are the best!
To Kelly ….for allowing me to share in her homebirth and welcome Emily to this world
To Jissel….may every Mother’s Day be a special as your first! Welcome baby Rozelynn! Thank you for all your support!
To Efrat…I know your next Mother’s Day will be wonderful…hold on to your “HOPE” rock…I’m praying for you always..soon you'll hold your miracle.
To Pam, Shameka, Michael and all the single moms I know who have great kids and parent alone!
To Debbie and all those women at my work who model and give endlessly to our foster children, daily giving above & beyond…God Bless You

Isaiah 40:11(NCV) He takes care of His people like a shepherd. He gathers them like lambs in his arms and carries them close to Him. He gently leads the mother of the lambs

May 7, 2005

I miss my Mama

A favorite memory of my mom took place at our church. The “Mother-Daughter Banquet” was an annual Mother's Day event, held the day before mother's day. The men cooked and provided entertainment following the meal. We were early, and how I hated being early but my parents were religious about promptness. As the tables started to fill I noticed my mother was nowhere to be seen. and the activities were about to begin. Then I saw my mom standing at the door, holding the hand of a rather shy, dumpy looking woman.

My mom was beaming, so thrilled the daughter-less woman had accepted her invitation and actually showed up! The younger woman was the mother of two rumble-tumble rowdy little boys with crew-cuts who attended Sunday School. Her husband was a heavy drinker and life was difficult. I still remember, though nervous and a bit scared, the weary, dowdy woman seemed to feel so happy and safe with my mom. Something about that picture never left my mind. My mother was not demonstative, but there she was holding that strange woman's hand. I now know it was a little window into my mom's soul where she cared for others and cared for the unnoticed. She always did things quietly, she was faithful, dependable and reliable....but she was quiet.

Lately, I miss her terribly. Maybe because I see that we share the same weaknesses, and I need her help. Maybe because I waited until she was 90 to begin to really know her and have a little friendship. Maybe because I went to her house and walked inside where a stranger now lives. Maybe it is because I am beginning to write about the past and there is nowhere to find those answers.

No, I think it's because I remember that Mother Day's dinner and how she held that lady's hand.

May 5, 2005

Be great in act as you have been in thought. William Shakespeare

May 4, 2005

For Mabel and Kathy who think I am a bad grandmother!! Posted by Hello

May 2, 2005

Susie's wig is gone...

Today when I stepped off the elevator I saw her slowly pushing her chair blindly towards me away from the direction of her room. She was deep in thought mumbling incoherent questions, seemingly unconscious of her surroundings as she wheeled by with much effort. "I love you, where am I? Take me to my room" A sadness filled my heart as I gripped her hand and said a simple hello.

That's the sad part about nursing homes...most people go there to die....well no one uses those words, but for the majority of admissions, that is the reason they go wait, but hopefully live well till that time comes. I've gone there 3-5 times a week for over 3 years, so I have seen many come and go. Susie was a perkie lady always dressed to kill with accessories that rarely matched. In the beginning, she looked quite nice, I hardly even knew she was wearing a wig. Her mind had already slipped but she was friendly and outgoing. Not exactly appropriate at times, one day she noticed my adorable grandson in my daughter's arms, and asked about the number of my son-in-law's testicles!

Another day she rolled into the front of the chapel and yelled, "Good morning everyone!" Silence, dead silence..... then..."Well I know I'm Jewish but I know how to say hello!" From the back of the room a voice boomed, "Good morning Susie!!..God bless you!" It was Daniel, a rather large Phillipino man, crippled by a stroke. I recognized him from Mass, he'd say every line of the liturgy with such feeling and always greeted everyone with a "God bless you!"

The road down hill leads to our floor, though it is referred to as "stepped-up care" I remember the day Susie arrived on our floor, I was sad to see her there, surely she was deteriorating. But as her eye caught mine she yelled..."Oh's you, Miss America!!! And you have your own teeth! And I love you!"

Slowly, Susie has gone downhill. Her clothes are soiled with food early in the day, her chair which she once decorated with a million plastic bags tied to it's arms, go unnoticed by her now. Her lap, usually filled with her overflowing purse, is empty. Her pale white face, void of make-up bears the signs of old age, now a troubled, wearied, worried state. But she always has her wig on, even if it's slipping.

I'm a person who celebrates life, all life. I've been to births and many deaths. I believe in life, even when it's broken by time....I believe in the value of every life and celebrate it, even the lives of those who have grown old, whose stories are silenced...but today I am just sad..Susie's wig is gone.