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ARCHIVE: A Mother’s Gift Delivered After Death

IMG_1468My cheeks are burning from the speed and chill on the ice. I inhale the smell of the dry air as I whip around the corner ready to try the jump again. I lift off, certain that it is a good one. I come out of it and land on both feet. Dang. I berate myself as I hear the booming voice of my coach to start over.

I feel my mother’s warm smile beaming from the viewing area. It’s like she is right beside me whispering in my ear just to have fun. One glance to the speaker that bellows out my music, I smile and straighten my shoulders. I wait for the beat to begin. One crisp glide to the first spin and I am off.

I am fueled by the power and motivation that I will make this double salchow. I have to do it. There is no point of me competing if I can’t do the jump to give me higher points. Here we go. Up and away I go. Half way through I think about the land and feel that I will not make it. I land on two feet again. Ignoring my coach, I continue the routine.

I do love figure skating but am not competitive. My family is filled with figure skaters.  When I showed interest at four years old, they jumped me into lessons. No one really competed hard, they just enjoyed it. I know I can too.

The momentum steers me around the corner towards the viewing area where all the moms, grandparents and other spectators are watching today’s practice. I look up and catch my mom’s eye. Her smile warms the chill I had felt.  Seeing her face reminds me of the talk we had right before practice. She looked me in the eye and told me to have fun, and that is all that matters. If I am nervous, don’t be.  Just have fun.

Days later, my right foot is dangling in the green shag carpet. My left is crossed under my right leg. I am snug in my mother’s lap on our black vinyl recliner in our living room. Her arms are wrapped around me like a seat belt. We say our good nights.

As I pad off to go down the hallway to my bedroom she calls to me, “Wait.”
I turn around with a grin. I know what’s next.
“I love you more than a million oceans,” she says.
“I love you more than a million oceans too.” I blow her a kiss.
I hit the pillow in my Star Wars-sheeted bed, unaware that it will be the last night we spend together in the same house.

I awake the next day off  to spend two weeks with my grandparents. Unbeknownst to me, my mom is going into the hospital for the last time.

My mom died of breast cancer a week after that fateful day in the arena 26 years ago. Today,  I am in the viewing area of the local gymnasium watching my three-year-old going through her routine.  She does not land everything nor complete her rolls. She is laughing and smiling at the teacher. Just this morning, I told her the same thing my mother told me all those years ago. When the fun stops we will find something that is. Something tells me today is not the last day.

Through the double-pane glass, I see my darling daughter searching for me. Our eyes connect and share a warm smile. She bounces off to the high bar. Within minutes the class is gathered  for the wrap up song and then the door opens.

I hold my arms out to welcome my little acrobat. I ask her if she had fun. She replies with a big “YES!” I get her shoes on and we head out the door to the car.

I only had my mother for the first ten years of my life. I never appreciated her mothering gifts until I became a mom. She never was a great housekeeper or cook, but she gave me a great lesson. Unconditional love is the best gift I could have received from her. We have a lot more in common than I realized since being a mom myself.

I smile to myself as we pull away in the car. Knowing that I parent like my mother makes me feel closer to her.

Later that night, “I got it,” my 3-year-old daughter bellows, ending my childhood memory by bringing me a book for storytime. Bedtime Nursery Rhymes.
We snuggle into our blue fabric chair, which does not recline, in our living room lit only by the reading lamp over our shoulder.
I read the book twice and hug her tight. I do not want to let go.
“Goodnight, sweetheart. I love you more than a million oceans.” I give her a kiss.
“I know, mom. I love you too,” she says as we climb the stairs to her bedroom.
I settle her into her bed. She closes her eyes.

My mother was not able to tell me a lot before she died. Love lessons are worth more than a million oceans. I never knew how to parent. When I became pregnant, I panicked. All I could do and still do is love them with all my heart.

I am not a great cook or housekeeper, but I love my children more than anything, just like my mom always did.

5 Questions I Would Ask My Mom

motherlessmomentsheader.jpgMy nine-year-old daughter just put me through an interview. She asked questions about my favorite movies and favorite foods. I was delighted to answer every question. Her curiosity shows off her brilliant mind.

I only knew my mom for ten years. Without a doubt, I know what I would ask her today, Mom, here are five questions I will ask you in an interview:

  1. Besides being a teacher, what else did you want to be?
  2. Did you want to be a mom?
  3. How was my birth, really?
  4. What were you trying to tell me on the day you died?
  5. How am I doing as a mom for your grandchildren?

I know it will be many years before I can hear your answers. I feel like I know some of them already based on how much you love me.

What would you ask your loved one in an interview? Ask them anything.

Bubble Wrap by Eric Herman and The Thunder Puppies

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 11.04.46 AMFamily entertainer Eric Herman has been delighting kids worldwide through his videos on You Tube, his albums, and his award-winning DVD. Bubble Wrap covers a mix of life lessons through childhood delights; like bubble wrap, cellphones, how to enjoy bath time, and theme park fun. Threaded through the lyrics are the reality challenges; like a best friend moving away, a death of a parent and more.

Sadly, behind the scenes of production of this album, Eric’s longtime co-producer and wife, Roseanne Endres, was battling an extended long illness. The song “Okay” was being written in the days before she died, and finished the day after. The recording of “Okay” includes Eric and Roseanne’s daughters, Becca and Evvee. The song is sung from the perspective of a child whose parent is ill or dying.

That holds deep meaning for me. I was 10 years old when my mom died. I would have loved to have something like “Okay” to connect with my feelings of isolation. Before you hear the song, have a box of tissues handy.

The tempo of the entire album is a gift to my parental ears. You know what I mean, this one is okay to keep on loop.

To find out more check out erichermanmusic.com. Release for Bubble Wrap is June 10th, 2016.

To see his video check him out on YouTube!

DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of the CD for my honest review. The

opinions on my blog are of my own.

When You are Ready to Quit: Don’t

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My tunnel vision sharpens, my eyes are focused on my MacBook screen. The message stares at me without blinking. I have read it a possible few hundred times. I swallow in attempts to quench my parched throat. My voice echoes the message.

“ Thank you for writing about what I have been thinking… None of my friends understand what I am feeling.”

My hands are shaking over the keyboard. I blink away the tears that creep up in the corners. I am shocked, stunned and humbled all in one moment.

24 hours ago, I was one click away from deactivating my blog.

After my health challenges in the past 2 years, keeping the blog updated was the last priority on my to-do list. I started my blog as therapy for myself, as a way to deal with the residual feelings of grief for my mother.

I almost quit, thinking that no one would notice.

Someone did.

Thank you, Dear Reader for reaching out to me.

I won’t quit. I am here.

I am not alone. You are not alone.

 

 

5 Best Things to Say to a Cancer WARRIOR

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Cancer sucks. It isn’t a gift or a blessing. It is an evil wolf in sheep’s clothing. It may even be the scariest word in the English language. The BIG C is like an annoying roommate who never leaves.

I should know. It knocked at my door. I tried to not let it in, but it got through the weathered cracks in the doorframe. The medical team has my back. My dear ones let me vent and provided the words I needed to hear. Yet, I hid from the big world. I know now that was wrong.

I did get asked a lot on this journey on what help my village could provide. I was stumped. I was the one who made care packages, I wasn’t the one who received them. I hid from the kind and caring people who just wanted to help. There was some awkward un-solicited advice and odd comments that left me feeling nauseous, like after a roller coaster ride gone bad.

Then, after a lot of soul-searching, clarity arrived. I realized people offered what they could. And that is okay.

If you have a loved one who is fighting the good warrior fight, I have a few tips to share on what to say to them.

  1. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It might seem scary in the moment. There are loved ones who will be there. Sometimes it isn’t the people you expect will be there, but the ones who surprise you.
  2. THAT SUCKS. It is okay to keep it real.
  3. What are you CRAVING? The reality is that cravings from treatments can askew any warrior’s taste buds. It can be the obscure or out of the ordinary, and that is okay.
  4. How can I help? Those are the sweetest words to anyone doing the hospital dance. Let them tell you. Let them talk about their days, and listen. There are gems in the conversation.
  5. Sometimes it is okay to not speak, however just give a hug. The power of touch is beyond what any IV bag can provide. Cancer isn’t contagious.

Cancer is evil. It doesn’t get a hall pass. It is the bully at school that doesn’t go away. It steals your morning paper and drinks your coffee in front of your face. You can rise above the deceptive enemy. If you give it power it will take you. You got this.

A Grown Up Snack: Lifebites #BuyLocal

LifebitesGetting old sucks. Over the past year I have had to overhaul my lifestyle in order to heal. The word die-t is a word that I have never liked. I needed to not only change my meals, but my snacking as well.

I am a bad snacker. I love French fries, popcorn with chocolate M&Ms and potato chips. I stress eat. That is a fact.

When I had an offer to sample Lifebites, I was hesitant, to be honest. I never have tried hemp in any way. It just wasn’t for me. Then, I tried the dark chocolate banana treat. And I am now hooked.

You recognize the entire list of what they are made with. Five pieces are only 60 calories! That was enough for me to pop a few while watching a movie.

Lifebites are soft chewy dried bananas dipped in dairy-free dark chocolate and rolled into either hempseed or shredded coconut. They are 100% organic and use gluten-free vegan friendly ingredients.

Lifebites Dark Chocolate & Hemp Covered Chewy Dehydrated Banana Snacks are handy to throw into your purse or diaper bag for the playground, soccer practice or a weekend trip. It is a snack that you will never miss the taste of your high-calorie chocolate of choice. Growing old might be okay after all.

They are made locally by BT Seeds Ltd in North Vancouver, BC. To find out more about Lifebites check out their site: http://lovelifebites.com

Disclosure: I was sent a sample for my review. All opinions on this blog are of my own.

 

The Children by Ann Leary

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Ann Leary has penned a story that could be in any neighborhood. In the sprawling Connecticut lake house that belonged to her late stepfather, Walt Whitman, and generations before him is Charlotte. There is a living will that allows Joan, Charlotte and her sister, Sally, to live there full-time. Their stepbrothers, Spin and Perry visit on weekends. There is no love lost between them and Joan.

When Spin brings his brilliant fiancée home, everyone takes an instant liking to her.

Life starts to unravel for Charlotte when an Internet troll accuses her of being a fraud and threatens to rock the entire dysfunctional, blended family.

As the wedding draws closer, skeletons in the dusty closets are exposed. It is like a soap opera, yet relatable.

As usual, Ann Leary scribes a story about a family who could live on your street, or might even be your family. It is rich with history. You do almost need a map to keep up with the fast pace, and the twists and turns.

Ann is fun to tweet with in Social Media. Follow her on Twitter @annleary.

This book is out May 24th at your favorite bookstore. To find out more about her other books check out her site: annleary.com.

My Mother’s Last Mothers Day

‘Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy.” I hand over my homemade card to my mom at the restaurant.

She opens it and sees my self-made coupon for her to cash in when she needs dishes washed. Her eyes scan the card like it was the first card she had ever read. I patiently wait to see if she really likes her card and gift. Our eyes meet over the table and she beams the widest smile.

‘Thank you honey. I love it.” She says.

Just then our desserts arrive in all their sweet glory. We are at her favorite dinner place. It is so grown up here that there are cloth napkins. My sister and I wanted to make this day very special for her. Everyone keeps whispering around her that we need to treat mom very well because she is so sick. I am never allowed to ask her what is making her so sick or urge her to take her medicine so she can get better.

She excuses herself to the bathroom. She gets her cane in place and hobbles to the back of the restaurant. I follow behind her saying I had to go too. As I wash my hands I stare at myself in the mirror. I still can’t help feeling like something is not being said. I love my mom so much. Before I can think anymore, she comes out of the handicap stall.

We walk back to the table as my sister and dad are waiting to go. After we get home and get into our pajamas, I hug my mom tight. When she tucks me into bed our favorite way to say goodnight is telling each other “I love you more than a million oceans.” I smile as I close my eyes and drift off to sleep.

Little did my ten-year-old self know is that was the last Mother’s Day I had with her. She died of breast cancer three months later at the age of 38. As hard as it was to see her in her chemo-ridden self, I hang onto the memory that we honored her on Mother’s Day and every day since. It’s what moms deserve.

A Fun Spring Read for Kids

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 11.15.46 AMBakers on Board by Sheryl Berk and Carrie Berk

Mother and daughter writing duo has sent Jenna and the group,Peace, Love, and Cupcakes, on another adventure. Only this one could have serious consequences. This time the Cupcake Club will go on a cruise.

When Leo, Jenna’s stepdad, plans to take the entire family on a Caribbean cruise, the four youngest siblings get chicken pox. So, Leo offers the extra four tickets to Peace, Love, and Cupcakes Club in exchange for an order of 12,000 cupcakes for his business’s upcoming pirate event.

Mother nature wreaks havoc on the night of the party. Will PLCC survive it to enjoy the cruise?

Like the first book, there are many tasty cupcake recipes to bake.

New York Times bestselling co-author of Soul Surfer, Sheryl Berk is the founding editor in chief of Life & Style Weekly as well as a contributor to InStyle, Martha Stewart, and other publications. Her daughter, Carrie, a cupcake connoisseur, cooked up the idea for the Cupcake Club series in second grade. Together, they have invented dozens of crazy cupcake recipes in their NYC kitchen (can you say Purple Velvet?) and have the frosting stains on the ceiling to prove it. Carrie maintains her own cupcake blog, featuring reviews, photos and recipes of her culinary adventures.

The book is available now at your favorite bookstore.