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Posts tagged ‘Mother’s Day’


Occasionally people say that I look like my mother. And that is basically true. We share some of the same features: the round face, the Birkemoe family nose, the ever-changing blue-green eyes. I always took the statement as a compliment. The similarities were also proof that I was not adopted as some of my older sisters jokingly insisted simply because my baby book was not completed. As the youngest of five girls, things such as empty baby books were to be expected.

Now, on the other hand, the older I became the more I would cringe when I heard myself utter such phrases as, “You sure you don’t want a piece of cake?” or “That’s okay, I can do that work overnight.” I felt like I was channeling my mom, even if I did not say, “What would the neighbors think?”* It was even worse when a sister would say, “You sound just like mother.” But now, as I approach middle age—oh, give me a break! I am not going to say I am old; I could live to be over 110—I not only see more and more similarities, but I appreciate them as well.

Shared Traits

I wouldn’t say Mom is stubborn; instead, I think I would label her very self-sufficient. She knows what and how she wants things done—and she makes certain the house and yard are neat and tidy. I cannot say I inherited her housekeeping skills, but I am fastidious and a bit of a perfectionist. I am apt to do things myself if at all possible, to make sure they are done right. I do think that is a bit of mom sneaking through. “I can do it!” is almost our shared mantra.

A more prominent characteristic Mom demonstrates daily is her care and concern for others. It is at the heart of her insistence that everyone who visits enjoy something to eat or drink—you need to be a good hostess, after all. But the trait runs deeper than that. Mom has always been committed to service, to helping others. Along with taking care of her family, she always worked outside of the home—and most jobs were in the service sector: scout leader, church secretary, and daycare provider, to name a few. She even studied to be a nurse but the opportunity never presented itself to work at the vocation. I took Mom’s lead and devoted myself to service as well, but my avenue was through teaching. Even my leadership style is grounded in Servant Leadership.

Mom extended her love of life and kind generous nature to a love animals, especially dogs and birds. She had dogs growing up as did we—and Mom had dogs even once we all left home. As a kid, she tolerated my running string of pets: little frogs I found somewhere, a parakeet, a lizard, a tarantula, and a kangaroo rat that ran loose through the house only once, hiding out under the sofa in the den. I found my dog when I was in college, and Mom welcomed him to the household, even before he was fully housebroken. Together we would take good care of our dogs and mourn their passing, donate annually to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and take the time to feed the birds and squirrels in the backyard or the ducks and peacocks at the Arboretum.

My love of books, quotes and writing also trace back to Mom and her habits of mind. She was always one to write a personal note of thanks or greetings to others—“mail-mail” we called it in our house to distinguish it from bills and such. Her handwritten notes often incorporated a pertinent quote that she discovered in one of the books of quotes she always had around the house or gave as gifts. It has got to be in the genes, because I too love quotes and sprinkle them into whatever I write. One of Mom’s favorite poems was Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” that ends with the line, “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.” I bet that poem and the attitude toward life it represents are the seeds that generated my love of Nature and nature writings.

Right now, Mom is 90 years young, and she is succeeding at staying young at heart. She practiced throughout her life by taking time out to play. I have mental pictures of her pulling her young charges in the little red wagon, or showing another kid how to work the hula hoop. At times, she would even surprise Pastor at work with a funny mask or Groucho Marx nose, tolerating his usual reply: “Children will play.” Looking through a gift store, she could typically be found buying a little something for someone else, often a puzzle or jacks or a spinning top. When she started to reach retirement age, she vowed to wear purple and spit whenever she wanted. Just a few years ago, with some of her adult grandsons, she collected the golden leaves of autumn and took off running to fly a kite. To this day, she keeps Raggedy Ann and Andy sitting on her bed, so great grandkids have something to play with.

As you can tell, Mom loves to play! I sure hope I have inherited that quality too—I try to emulate her playful approach to life as I take off on my own adventures traveling to various state and national parks and collecting do-dads and toys to keep me entertained at work. You just have to enjoy life to avoid regrets—the basic message of one of her other favorite poems, “Maud Muller” by John Greenleaf Whittier: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these, ‘It might have been!’”

Like Mother, Like Daughter

In many ways, I am not like Mom at all. I never married and do not have kids. I do not cook or garden like she does, nor do I attend church regularly any more. Although I like chocolate, I am not crazy about her favorite cookie—chocolate covered marshmallows on a crusty bottom. With me being so much heavier than she, we do not really even look that much alike anymore. But in the ways that matter, I am a lot like Mom—and that’s just fine with me. When I take Mom and Dad out to dinner for Mother’s Day, I will have to remember to tell her how glad I am to be her daughter.

Like Mother, Like Daughter? Sounds good to me!

*Mom, of course, insists she never said this!


“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people,
promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
Tenneva Jordan

“Sweater, n: Garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.” Ambrose Bierce

“What do girls do who haven’t any mother to help them through their troubles?” Louisa May Alcott

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! If you have not called your Mom yet today, do so!

In Good Company: Thoughts on Mother’s Day

It’s a familiar proverb: God couldn’t be everywhere, so he made mothers. An accurate one too. When we look around the world at all the recent turmoil—floods in the Midwest, earthquake and tsunami in Japan, devastation in Haiti and Rwanda, oil spill in the Gulf, destruction in New Orleans—we see the women in the background working to help make things better. They offer comfort, support, a shoulder to cry on, hard work to provide the basics for the family, and most of that without complaint. They also offer shoulders to carry the burden, tears of joy and sorrow, sighs that seem to help keep us all going, and laughter too, sometimes to keep from crying even harder.

Of course, all this care and support is not just from our literal mothers. In my life, many have stepped into a motherly role, depending on the circumstance. In sixth grade, Mrs. Welch, my favorite teacher, encouraged my love of learning and reading and started me on a career path into education. At my first job as a teenager, Helen took me under her wing to teach me the ropes of surviving while working at the department store. When I went to school in Indiana, Aunt Bernice, who had always been in my life but had not been just across town, stepped up and willingly shared humor, insight, love, support, pizza, and even a tolerance for a big dog who thought it was his right to sit on the furniture. She even graced me with several family heirlooms.

When I moved to Texas, over 1200 miles away from any family member, Dorothy the office secretary made me an honorary daughter and drove me to the beach that first day to relax and then helped get me moved into a new house. Pat and Mina stepped up and—as any good mother—not only taught me how to cut down a dying tree in the front lawn, but did the work of grinding the trunk down below ground level to avoid an eyesore. Their words: “You can’t just leave it sticking up like that—what would the neighbors think!?” I also met good friends at that time who stepped forward from day one to help me adjust to life in South Texas, and we all shared joys and heartaches as well as holiday meals—and some of them were even better cooks than mom! Several of them are still like family today.

When the need arises for a cup of chicken soup, a bouquet of flowers, honest advice, a shoulder to cry on, birthday calls and celebrations, copy of a favorite recipe, a kick in the rear to do the right thing, even a bit of guilt over missing some obligation or other, mom is not alone in finding a way to respond. Many other mothers step forward as well. For me, my other mothers include a favorite aunt and sister, friends and cousins—both male and female—who all graciously step-up to cuddle or kick as needed. Sometimes that’s a box of books to share, a cheerful morning email, a willingness to listen to my problems over and over again without complaint, or a chiding to slow down and not overdo. Other times, it’s a sharing of their own creativity that encourages mine, a willingness to help out with a favor—even on short notice, an elephant figurine or piece of jewelry just to say hello, participation in a familiar ritual, or a question about how my diet is going. Maybe even a suggestion for this Mother’s Day blog.

Of course, Mom is there doing the same things, but there are never too many good wishes, too much sound advice, or too many inquiries about life and love to go around. For my part, I hope I am stepping-up to my motherly instincts as well as a sister, niece, aunt and friend—whether it is sharing a care package or making an inquiry about a silence that has gone on too long or offering whatever can help make the current situation better. For me, chocolate always seems the perfect equalizer no matter what the situation!

So on Sunday, call your mom, tell her you love her, give her some of your time as well as a card or bouquet or something. But as that special day approaches, remember the other moms out there in your life and throughout the world, and say a more general thank you as well. We are in good company and that is worthy of acknowledgment.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“Some mothers are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the some and most mothers kiss and scold together.” Pearl S. Buck

“Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate.” Charlotte Gray

“Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on to how bring up children. Now I have seven children and only one theory: love them, especially when they least deserve to be loved.” Kate Samperi

“It is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding.” Erma Bombeck

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