Mom Lessons: How to Lead a Good Life

Mom Lessons: How to Lead a Good Life

When my mother would gaze out at the late afternoon light, the golden afternoon she often called it, (a reference to a song lyric), she often become sad. “Why?” I once asked, and she explained that she would see the fathers coming home to their families, and those moments in the day, more than any of the others, reminded her–she was doing this all alone.

My mother was widowed at the age of 34, my father dying too young, leaving her with three children under the age of six, and the possibility that she would pull into herself, wish for a vastly different situation and let sorrow and anger fuel her life.

She did not. My mother taught us responsibility, loyalty. 

Her complete love for us became her focus, her sadness more and more remote. With creativity and love, she took on every challenge, big and small. When I look back on how she raised us, loved us—there was no better role model, ever. My mother became one of the first working mothers in our neighborhood, and like everything she did, she excelled.   

She taught us the rewards of a consistent, well-organized routine—today we would say she was multi-tasking.

To pay the mortgage and feed us, she worked at home, typing insurance policies in our dining room. At night, after dinner, she did what she called “processing” of the work she had completed during the day. She would sit at a card table in our living room, pull the copies she had typed apart, sort them into neat piles. This required paper clips, staplers, pens, glue and often her signature. While doing this, she could monitor our television watching, help us with our homework, even comment on the books we were reading.

My mother taught us that all you really need for entertainment is books, art and music.

As we grew, our living room vibrated with classical music, jazz, opera, musical comedies, The Beatles, The Beach Boys…my mother encouraging my older brother to read the Schwann catalogue and order recordings from the local record store; (in college he had his own classical music program on the university’s radio station); she encouraged my younger brother to learn how to play the guitar; (after college he moved to LA and within a year was on his way to a career in recording and promoting pop and contemporary music.)   

From the moment we all could sit still, my mother read to us, shared storybooks, later colorful art books with glossy photos. When we learned to read, there were weekly trips to the library where we checked out stacks of books, my mother modeling the importance of reading for knowledge as well as enjoyment.

And there were chores. Each of us had an assignment to keep our home clean and efficient. We made up songs, created lyrics to get through doing the dishes, though sometimes those lyrics were created to tease our youngest brother. We got in trouble for it.

Our mother taught us that when feeling sad, you might try singing.

Our mother had a beautiful voice and whenever we traveled she would sing while she drove–another way for us to learn popular music and how it just made you feel good. Crayons, paper and water colors were always available in our home to encourage creativity and to celebrate birthdays, holidays or just to say thank you.   Mom loved receiving the tree and house drawing that were my staple–and the I LOVE YOU message with X’s and O’s.

Our mother taught us responsibility, and that it was wise to save money. 

All of our lives, we were witnesses to good mothering—our mother, grandmother and our wonderful aunts. They challenged us, helped us look to our futures so that we might learn to dig in, contribute to the pace and satisfaction of our shared lives. We put up storm windows, mowed the lawn, raked leaves and planted a garden. I always cleaned the house. There were days when we fell back into kid-like behavior and Mom wasn’t all that happy: found us laughing at cartoons on a Saturday morning (two of us in college) while she came stomping up the back steps loaded with groceries. She got over it. She was human too.

Our mother was frugal, always driving used cars and buying her clothes on sale. She saved money for those things that brought true meaning into our lives. Thus we had a piano, and eventually a good turntable and speakers, as well as hundreds of books and framed watercolors on our walls.

Mom, through her example, taught us how to be kind and generous.

We learned that acceptance leads to happiness, contentment, though our mother certainly felt anger and disbelief when my father died suddenly, when she had to realize that she could make her life about us, about helping anyone else who was experiencing sorrow. She replaced her sorrow with gratitude, and whenever a friend or acquaintance was ill or had died, my mother was there to provide comfort. Our mother could give—but she could also receive.

Our mother taught use to accept gifts graciously. 

The doorbell would ring and there was Gen and her daughter with a box of hand-me-down clothing for me. There was also a friend who actually worked in a toy store and once a year he’d arrive with very expensive toys in three huge boxes—one for each of us. We were thrilled.

When you accept the generosity of others, the upside is giving back. Mom always had a bag or box or envelope for the people who cleaned for us or did repairs. Thank you were two words often heard in our home. We took them with us, bestowing them on others throughout our lives.

Other gifts…

Our mother inspired our desire to travel, to experience the world. She took us on a train trip from Chicago to California. She drove us to Washington DC and back, widening our vision and future goals. She sang as she drove, love songs reminiscent of my father’s courtship days—The Man I Love, Someone to Watch Over Me, Night and Day. I watched the land flow and listened to her beautiful voice, realizing that the songs brought back comfort and the powerful memories she cherished. I will always be grateful she shared them with us.

Our mother’s gift of freedom….

Our mother never married again. When she wasn’t busy caring for us and then for her grandchildren, she continued to work as a secretary in downtown Chicago. She always loved to travel—her last trip flying to Prague in her late eighties. Everyone who knew my mother received a gift from her—a note, a letter of encouragement or a series of prayers said with her worn rosary beads. Mom’s gifts were endless and enduring and I was gifted when she allowed me to hold her weary hands as she took her last breath.

Her final gift: she taught us that we could go on living without her.

 

Easter/Spring: Remembering Innocence, Beginnings

Easter/Spring: Remembering Innocence, Beginnings

Open your life to spring possibilities…

Life is about movement, change. Spring is certainly about change, though often subtle, little by little change, green shoots beginning to flower. Time-lapse photography lets us see what is really going on, but truly, our lives are just like that. You bring your baby home from the hospital, and because you see your child every day, you accept the rapid changes that are happening right before you.

All of life is like that. I finally got my Covid19 hair cut—did it thrill me, kinda—but now I can see more clearly the changes in my face, my skin. Time works on us. But I’m still here.

CHANGES 

SPRING is awesome. Sometimes it breaks out overnight, it shouts out look at me! Any pause in the movement of our lives can spring change on us—the pause of going away; of not seeing your grandchildren. Then you come back, see them again, older, taller; you too are older, maybe shorter. The home you left behind looks at you from its front windows, whines in the wind, “You shouldn’t have left me. I have aged. The people here don’t love me like you did.”

BIRTH

In my years of raising my family, I have been a mom of the proper age, a mature mom, an older mom, every pregnancy wanted, yearned for. 

I knew our first child was a girl when I turned on the radio after dropping off my urine specimen at the lab; “Warm, touching warm, reaching out, touching you touching me, Sweet Caroline…” Caroline, our chosen name. YES!

She was a little late, but arrived healthy, eager to become our child. And though she had colic and I got little sleep, each morning I pushed myself out of bed, eager to bring this sweet child into the light. Each day I became more intoxicated with the experience of parenting, Caroline’s body movements changing, moving from unsure to agile—and her voice, her desire to talk and communicate—swift, delightful.   

NUMBER TWO

Four years later, Christine was born. We had moved into a charming older home, my husband had finished his Master’s Degree, Caroline was thriving–it was the perfect time. There were trips to the zoo, the park, Papa and Mama, each responsible for a child. Each watching as they grew.  

When Christine was six or seven, she said, “When I was three, I couldn’t ride a bike or catch a ball or turn on the lights. I thought you were magical because you could.”

We had a rather heavy discussion concerning her observations, we talked about life, the possibilities that for her would be endless, that she should embrace new beginnings wherever she found them, and that more and more the world would be opening up for her and her sister.

For both daughters, I wanted, needed to be a symbol of change, embracing the new: so I did aerobics at the local gym (different for me as I was like Janis Ian, no one chose me for basketball); then I went back to school, had even more homework than they did as I worked to become an RN. But looking back, those were all right choices not only for me, but for my daughters.

NEW HORIZONS CHANGE THE PICTURE

Certainly as you age, the broad horizon of possibilities shrinks, and you find yourself clinging to memories: when Caroline would surprise me almost every day with a new word that she not only understood, but most times pronounced correctly. When Christine would bulldoze her head into my belly, then laugh and giggle, filling all of us with joy. So of course, they grew and I would find myself kneeling between their beds as they slept, tears wetting my face. They were disappearing, growing up and growing away right before me. I didn’t know how to get on with it.

So in spring, a few years later, I gave birth to our son, to Andrew, a longed for and planned for chid. He changed the dynamic of our family, his new life awakening once again our family ties. We all wanted to care for him, teach him, but also to relive past moments while dreaming about the future. Before Andrew we were amazing loving, grateful—Andrew just made it more so.

FINAL THOUGHTS 

Time moves us all forward. But despite Covid and our move back to Chicago, our family remains close, blessed, healthy, breathing.

Wishing you a Blessed Easter, a Holy Passover. And of course, a Happy Spring, the time for New Beginnings.

PS What are dreaming about today? What plans do you have for new beginnings?  

Photo Credit,  Wayfair

The Grandmother Hypothesis and Grandparents Day

The Grandmother Hypothesis and Grandparents Day

If you ask the evolutionary question: why do women continue to live after they are no longer able to bear, birth and breastfeed children, you come up with a researched and very interesting answer. They continue to be part of the evolutionary plan because they become grandmothers. And that is terribly important.

THE GRANDMOTHER HYPOTHESIS

In the 1980s, anthropologist Kristin Hawkes and her colleagues studied the Hadza tribe, the last known hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, Africa. Their findings:

1. the tribe’s old women did not just rest, they worked, digging up a deeply-buried tuber which provided the main source of starch for the tribe’s diet.

2. though the young women also dug for the tubers, the older women spent more time at this task, leaving early in the morning and coming back late in the evening.

3. and because of the presence of this food in the diet, the grandchildren of these older women had better growth rates.

From these observations, came the “grandmother hypothesis.” Simply stated: women past childbearing age help not just their children, but their children’s children. They strengthen the genealogy of the family, insuring that the line will continue. Having such a role or purpose eventually lengthened their own life span. When no longer required to carry an infant around, they were freed up to do work that helped their progeny. And very importantly, by foraging for more food, they prevented their grandchildren from dying. All generations were aided as the lengthening of the life span was then passed on.

The researchers added that the “grandmother hypothesis” clarified why humans are able to have children in quick succession, whereas in other species there are long gaps. Example: chimp mothers wait 5 or 6 years to give birth to another neonate. But with tribal grandmothers available, the younger women could continue to have children. This collaborative child-rearing allowed the young woman to focus on the next baby while the grandmother took care of the toddlers.

In her piece in the New Republic that analyzes the “grandmother hypothesis” Judith Shulevitz writes of another very positive reason for grandmothers –As the grandmother effect spread throughout the population over thousands of generations, it changed humans in another way. It made their brains bigger. As life lengthened, so did each stage of it. Children stayed children longer, which let their brains develop a more complex neural architecture.

WHY GRANDPARENTING IS SO IMPORTANT

It is my belief that grandparenting is the most important family role of the new century, says Roma Hanks PhD. There is much to substantiate that claim. In a society where many women have to work or choose to work, daycare centers, schools and grandparents often replace the role of the parent. Hanks is referring to the gifts that grandparents can bring to children whose parents are stressed and often emotionally unavailable because of work schedules and the worry of providing basic needs. In these cases and in families where life flows more easily, grandparents are vital in helping a family thrive.

Children need guidance, love and someone to listen to their fears and worries. Grandparents easily become that source and a bond forms, allowing for future communication.
Grandparents can babysit, allowing stressed moms and dads a chance to get away and relate to one another.
Grandparents can relate family stories, creating a history that forges a bond and provides a child with a sense of place and security.
Grandparents can be a source of information, providing advice, guidance and just plain helping out–like locating the phone number of a doctor.
Grandparents can be role models for their children’s parenting and for their grandchildren’s relationships with others. The love and gentleness found in the home is the first step to forming good citizens of the world who will have their own relationships and build their own families in the decades ahead.
In the end, grandparents can offer a shoulder to cry on, words of encouragement, or gentle reassurance to both their children and their grandchildren.

CHILDREN OF DEPRESSED MOTHERS

Kate Fogarty, PhD, stressed the importance of the protective role grandparents can play when grandchildren are cared for by a depressed mother. Her research showed that the formation of loving bonds between grandparents and those children could help develop positive behavior, increase cognitive development and prevent behavioral problems. She even went so far as to say that the possibility of the depression being passed to these children could be broken by the grandparent/grandchild relationship–a win win.

And though Fogarty’s research was with grandparents, certainly the role of loving aunts, uncles and friends will always make a positive difference in a child’s life.

IT IS TRULY ALL ABOUT FAMILY

There’s the familiar line: “If I’d known how wonderful it is to have grandchildren, I would have had them first.” What is that all about? Probably that with grandchildren comes experience, confidence in the role to be played, freedom from the harder aspects of child-rearing and the amazing chance to see once again the future in a child’s eyes.

Certainly some grandparents have more nitty-gritty responsibility for their grandchildren than others. Some are doing much of the raising and rearing. Some show up only for the fun times, like birthdays and holidays.

But hopefully most grandparents find the middle acceptable ground–they are eager to role up their sleeves and help when needed and they are always desirous of telling family stories, reading well-loved books, taking exploratory walks or singing well-loved songs. It’s a little like reliving your parenting. It’s a lot like looking into the future and once again having that uplifting feeling of knowing something of you will live on. That’s truly important.

Celebrate Grandparents day, Sunday, September 11th, 2016

The Grandmother Hypothesis and Grandparents Day

Thanks to Google Images and grandparents.about.com

For Mother’s Day–An Invitation to Meet Some Moms!

For Mother's Day--An Invitation to Meet Some Moms!

In FACTS OF LIFE Cara knows about fireflies, mosquitoes and bats. But is there more for her to learn?

We all come into this world because of our moms, and often we define what a mother is from that first experience: we are all a child to a mother. Today I invite you to meet some moms–five of them. Some you might immediately identify with, some you might criticize, pity or weep for. But all of these women are moms and they all have a story to share with you.

Anne: She is in her thirties and divorced, a working mother with one child–twelve-year-old Cara. Her co-wroker Mark wants a relationship. But is she ready? Is Cara ready? When an attempted kidnapping occurs near Cara’s school, Anne has to ask herself if any of the decisions she is making are the right ones. How will Anne answer that question. Find out in my story FACTS OF LIFE.

Claire Emmerling: Unmarried and unsure, Claire is in her early forties and pregnant for the first time. The father is neurosurgeon Christian Farr who Claire has worked with for many years. She will not reveal the pregnancy to him. But when she finds Polaroid photos of her own mother pregnant with her–Claire realizes that baby was incidental to the sex, but the child that moves within her is everything–the sex incidental. How will Claire move forward? Read SOMEDAY IT WILL BE DECEMBER.

Hazel Enright: Hazel cannot eat hard-boiled eggs or stand the smell of scorched linen. These and other experiences plunge Hazel into the memory of being pregnant at sixteen and her parents forcing her to “go away”, have her baby and then give it up. Has this experience changed Hazel’s life? Read HAZEL’S CHILD.

Emily: She feels abandoned and lonely, her husband constantly on business trips, her children off to college and her doctor telling her she must have a hysterectomy. But when her old friend Veda calls and asks her to meet, Emily learns that maybe she is not in the autumn of her life. Because there is always change, Veda revealing her own life is not the fantasy Emily thought it was. No life is. The tables are turned in MAKING CHANGE.

Sunny: She’s a landscaper with a cheating husband, a daughter of her own and an adopted daughter, Colette who one day takes too many pills and is rushed to the hospital. Now Sunny’s life has one focus–to understand and help Colette. Can she find the right words to make Colette see that there are good things in life? Find out in YOU HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG.

Meet and read about these moms and eight others in A MOTHER’S TIME CAPSULE, a perfect gift for you or a mother you know for MOTHER’S DAY, May 8th. To purchase A MOTHER’S TIME CAPSULE from Amazon, B&N, kobo etc go here.  And don’t forget the dark chocolate–one piece to go with each story.

To read a story from A Mother’s Time Capsule go here.

COMMENTS ABOUT CAPSULE

What a wonderful book this is – filled with heart memories, a perfect gift for Mother’s Day for yourself or someone else! I love Elizabeth A. Havey’s writing! Carol Boyer

Beautifully written. Emotional, thought provoking tales which are the perfect length for dipping in and out of. Cathy L.

This author has a unique voice and writes with such profound emotion it’s as if she’s left a part of herself on every page. Susan Haught

The extraordinary imagery of these stories is evocative of the early years when I was raising my two sons. “A Mother’s Time Capsule” artfully describes the woes and wonder of being a mother. I will read it over many times. Kelly M.

 

For Mother's Day--An Invitation to Meet Some Moms!

A Mother’s Day Gift!

Announcing: A MOTHER’S TIME CAPSULE

Announcing: A MOTHER'S TIME CAPSULE

NOW IN SOFT COVER AT AMAZON.

Mother. Writer. Those are two of the titles that I have proudly claimed for a long time. But today I have something to show for those two titles—A Mother’s Time Capsule—my first published book. It’s fiction, a collection of stories that grew from being a mother, but more importantly from being a writer. Because writers can be alchemists. We absorb life experience and then, with hope in our hearts, we work to create gold—something meaningful that honors the human interactions that we have witnessed or experienced. Writers also read and read some more, and listen–eager to hear the stories of people’s lives, their joy and their pain. Over time my stories accumulated and some of them made it into small magazines. But when I began to really look at them, I saw that they all dealt with some aspect of motherhood. My book was born.

A Mother’s Time Capsule takes you on a time-travel journey, some stories pulling you back in time, others taking you to a present and immediate place. Though the experience of pregnancy, birth, raising children and the empty nest has commonalities, there are many more variables. In these stories, mothers are married, divorced, aging, young, facing their fears and blinded to them. You’ll meet their children who struggle with responsibility, know the pain of an absent father, ruin the one opportunity to bond with an absent mother, go missing, attempt suicide and teach their parents that being fearful is not the way to live one’s life. There are mothers whose lives are welded to helping their children, and mothers who must settle for only the memory of a child.

The book is dedicated to my husband and three children who are the children of my dreams and of my life. But know, these stories are not pure autobiography—instead they are tangential to what I have experienced as a mother to my children and the daughter of my mother.

Last week I wrote about how Boomer Highway came to be. Now I want to thank you for the opportunity to share more of my journey from writer’s desk to the publication of my first book. I hope you enjoy A Mother’s Time Capsule and I welcome comments about the stories on here and on TwitterFacebook, Goodreads and Amazon. I have also created a board on Pinterest with an illustration for each of the stories. You can find it here.

A Mother’s Time Capsule by Elizabeth A. Havey ebook available now and soft cover will be available soon. Check : www.elizabethahavey.com  You might want to share it with the mother in your life this Mother’s Day, May 10, 2015.

Events: On Facebook, I will be chatting about CAPSULE with Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) on Tuesday, May 5th at from 1:00to 1:30 eastern time. Here’s the link

And Thursday, May 7th, on Twitter, I will be talking with Sezoni Whitfield on Writer’s Kaboodle. That’s from 1:00 to 1:30 eastern time. https://twitter.com/SezoniWhitfield

Below are a few examples from the 13 stories in the collection:

FRAGILE: It’s a given that mothers worry about their children. But can a wife and mother who worries too much shape her own reality? And how would that affect the father who is almost a stranger to such concerns? In the story, a couple takes their young daughters, eight and four, on a camping trip and an accident occurs. My husband and I had two daughters those ages. I certainly had fears, and he was often traveling. As I wrote the story, my fears came onto the page and I worked through them, actually learning from my children.

MAKING CHANGE: Motherhood totally changes the direction of a woman’s life, filling up the days and determining choices. The empty-nest years can offer shining promise, but they sometimes bring confusion, health challenges and regrets. Whether a woman has many children or just one, there will come a time when that child takes on an individual life and the mother’s trajectory changes. Even if a full-time job filled the mother’s life, the empty-nest years can bring about challenge.

WHEN DID MY MOTHER DIE? We all know a mother, our own, and even if during our lifetime we never have children—as our mothers age the role will reverse, and like it or not, we will know many aspects of motherhood. This is my most recent story, written after my mother died in 2013. It reflects the anguish and confusion of loving someone so intensely that when they develop dementia and their lives are narrowed down to sitting in a wheelchair, you can hardly bear it. But you have to.

Thanks to FOREVERLAND PRESS.