THAT Kind of Mom

I never expected to be the kind of mom who mourns the departure of her children every time they leave…to go back to college, to study overseas, to do summer internships out of town, to visit boyfriends over Christmas vacation….and someday, to not come home for the holidays at all, and to accept jobs far away that start their new lives elsewhere.

No one warned me that I might be so invested in them, that I would feel loss each time they depart.

That emotion always sideswipes me, and simultaneously surprises me because it’s not as if I didn’t maintain a rich personal and professional life of my own. I never wanted to live life through my daughters. And here I am with my own rich life, still feeling bereft each time they go their separate ways.

Well-meaning friends assure me, “It means you’ve done your job! They’re spreading their wings, and becoming independent. That’s what you want for them, right?”

Of course it is. I love them. I want their happiness and success. I want them to be their best selves and live the most wonderful lives possible!

That doesn’t mean I don’t still feel a chasm of loss each time they depart.

Sometimes I run into moms who experience the opposite end of the spectrum.

“I wish my child would leave home!”

When I first heard someone say that, I was astounded…until I realized that kind of mother fears her child might not reach his potential…might not lead her happiest life without leaving the cocoon of home.

Then there are those – far rarer in my book – who simply accept and rejoice with each milestone their child achieves.

Actually, we all do that…rejoice and celebrate our children’s milestones and achievements. It’s just that some amazing moms do it without any shadows hanging like curtains in the background.

The thing about parenting is that it doesn’t come with an instruction book telling you what you might feel, what you should or shouldn’t do, how to be a great Mother. It’s all trial and error. And love. And sometimes…guilt.

For, no matter what kind of mother you are, you often feel you could have done better. And then, you feel that if you were a really good mother, you wouldn’t be feeling this way. And you don’t want your child to know how you’re feeling, because you don’t want them to feel bad.  So you ball it up and tuck it deep inside…most of the time.

That kind of mother always wants the best for her child and does the utmost to give him or her everything possible to ensure a wonderful, fulfilling life, no matter what she’s feeling inside.

No one ever warns you that, no matter what kind of mother you are, no matter the age of your child, the two of you will be tied, perpetually, by the heartstrings.

I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

In Response to “Wise Behind My Ears”

My dear friend Sally Cohen opened the year with a blog post titled “Wise Behind My Ears.” In it, she talks about her fear of aging, based on the learned prejudice most of us have against growing older. She also talks about recent experiences with ageism bias.

She is not wrong. As much as you hear the phrase, “50 is the new [fill in a number at least 10 or more years younger], in my experience, many employers do not share this view. Fortunately for both Sally and me, there are some employers, clients and colleagues who don’t care about your age, as long as you do your job….and stay abreast of the industry in which you work. That is a key component to workforce longevity.

She is also correct that, no matter how many accolades you’ve received, or how much rich experience you’ve acquired, that doesn’t matter much in the moment. Yes, it’s another leaf in your laurel wreath crown, but like an actor, you’re only as successful as your last achievement, until the day you retire. Only then can you rest on your laurels.

We are probably both “late bloomers.” Although I’ve always been somewhat of a ‘Renaissance Woman,” I’ve really grown into and accepted that person within the past few years, willing to jump in and learn new technologies, attempt new activities, and maybe not invite, but definitely flirt with the possibility of failure, risking it in the pursuit of growth and wisdom.

When I was in my 30s, I had a good friend named Joan who was finally forced to retire from the company at which we both worked right after she turned 80, because of an accident in which a truck backed into her as she walked to work in Manhattan one morning. She had sung opera, been married to the principle Conductor of the Longines Symphonette and traveled the world. I loved Joan’s dry wit. She shared stories and wisdom, optimism and an openness to ideas. It really didn’t matter that we were 40+ years apart in age. Another friend named Bea, also 80, played bridge every morning, tennis every afternoon, and went out ballroom dancing in the evening, which is how I came to know her.

The thing about friendship is that it is a two-way street, and it shouldn’t matter that half is well-traveled and the other half is newly-paved. I aspire to be like these two women when I am 80 and over, in both pursuits and friendships.

Age…. It’s only a number… unless you allow it to take on more import than it should have.

Fashion Revolution Resolution

My daughters are home from college, and it’s amazing what you can learn from the younger generation.

As we shared the bathroom mirror, I remarked on my daughter Danielle’s clothing choice, “I didn’t know you wear turtlenecks. It looks great, but I would never have thought to choose that for you.”

“Mom, turtlenecks are back in style.”

Back in style? I never knew they were out… or ever in, for that matter. I just thought of them as a necessary evil. You know…for when your husband is wandering around the house in a short sleeve t-shirt while you’re wearing thermal base layer, turtleneck layer, hoodie-with-hood-pulled-up layer and fuzzy blanket layer because, although the thermostat reads 60-something degrees, it feels like single digits.

If you talk clothing with any young-ish person, you’ll discover a wealth of information. For example, one of my younger colleague’s mother is a City of Rochester Official who asked for her advice on what to wear to a gala.

“And she was going to wear pantyhose, for Pete’s sake!” my 30-something friend exclaimed, exasperated by her mother’s lack of fashion sense.

What? Not wear pantyhose? To a gala event?! What is this world coming to?!

Out of curiosity, I sought pantyhose advice on the Wardrobe Consultant fashion blog. According to blogger Hallie Abrams, it’s better to go without, and absolutely requisite with open-toed shoes. She did, however, add the caveat: “Princess Kate has made pantyhose cool again.”

Thank you, Princess Kate, but how did I miss the memo they’re not cool to wear? It must have been sent while I was busy rummaging through drawers for my favorite turtleneck.

Blogger Hallie recommends using Sally Hansen’s airbrush legs if you’re too vein (pun intended) to go au naturel. I wonder if you can airbrush on a layer of warmth too, or are Rochester women relegated to pants or frostbite all winter?

Suddenly feeling like Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess in the age of the flapper, I decided I should, perhaps, subscribe to a fashion blog for women d’un certain âge (that generation that still refers to (hand)bags as purses or pocketbooks).

Do you know there are literally thousands of fashion blogs for women over 40, 50 and 60?!

I was somewhat relieved that I was not alone in the fashion misfit boat, but who knew we needed so much help?!

Maybe my New Year’s resolution should be to clear my closets and drawers of all vintage clothing items. The problem with that is, Saran Wrap has never been my best look.

Photos above courtesy of Fashionista.com and DailyMail.co.uk.

Originally published in the December 27 issue of Beyond the Nest.

Just Like Royalty!

After seeing the Downton Abbey movie, I commented last week that I’d probably have more in common with the servants than with the aristocracy of the estate or the visiting royalty. Well I’m thrilled to share that I actually have a lot in common with Great Britain’s current monarchy!

I can assert that because of Benjamin Leszcz’s  editorial “The life-changing magic of making do,” about conscientious consumption, in which he points out Prince Charles’ well-known penchant for upcycling/recycling clothing. Leszcz writes about the cardboard box found at the Prince’s tailor’s containing more than 30 years of off-cuts and leftover materials from the Prince’s suits. Prince Charles is even known to say, “I have always believed in trying to keep as many of my clothes and shoes going for as long as possible … through patches and repairs.” … “In this way, I tend to be in fashion once every 25 years.”

Wow! That’s only a couple years younger than the most vintage outfit I have in my “save-until-it-comes-around-again closet,” and about 17 months older than some sweaters I’m still wearing!

I’m a big fan of research, so I went ferreting out statistics on how many people fall into the category of “clothing savorer.” (I’m loathe to use “hoarder.” It has such judgmental connotations).  I have yet to find that statistic, but I did find a fascinating chart on the Inside Out Style Blog on how long different categories of clothing and fabrics are designed to last. The average design life of today’s clothing is 2.88 years, which is probably 2.75 years longer than they’re in style. I have to admit I was surprised that nowhere on that list were items listed with a life cycle even close to 25 years. I’m not sure if I should be a proud environmentalist or a mortified fashinista to admit I have proof positive that there really is clothing that will last that long!

The author points out that Prince C. comes from a lineage of “admirable frugality” in which the Queen Mother reuses wrapping paper. Wow! That’s another thing he and I have in common! My mother always reused wrapping paper. I might be tempted to copy her, but friends who know me—and I can hear you chuckling right now, ladies — know I have a penchant for “wrapping/camouflaging” holiday gifts in red plastic Folger’s containers decorated with pretty ribbons. So I too must have inherited this trait from my mother! She was someone who definitely fell into the clothing savorer category. When we cleaned out her house after her passing at the age of 79, we found my baby clothes and dresses she’d worn on her honeymoon around 50 years earlier.

Come to think of it, maybe now’s a good time to get rid of that Hawaiian dress I bought on our honeymoon and never wore after leaving Hawaiin soil. It would just be downright humiliating to follow in my mother’s footsteps with a muumuu that only fit me for one luau.

This editorial was published in the October 17 issue of Beyond the Nest’s weekly newsletter.

To subscribe to this newsletter featuring a calendar of Arts, Culture and Recreational activities, with editorial by Carol White Llewellyn, click here.

Cleaning Downton Abbey

I saw the new Downton Abbey film that was recently released, and I loved it  Everyone from Lady Mary to the scullery maids are preparing for the arrival of the King and Queen of England, and the estate is in an uproar!

It kind of reminds me of when my daughters return home from college with boyfriends. Places that have not seen the light of day get cleaned.

The difference is that the only servants I have to help are Mr. Clean, an assortment of emollients, and a vacuum cleaner with a wand that should really have another name. In my book, wands should simply be waved for the mess to disappear. They shouldn’t be attached to a ball and chain you have to drag from room to room by a snake you have to wrestle to keep it from gobbling up tennis shoes, slippers, and the occasional cat that doesn’t move fast enough.

When it comes to cleaning devices, the engineers who design them should be required to use them for a year before foisting them on the general cleaning public. I bet they’d be very different: lighter, less cumbersome….and I bet they’d have a built-in cup holder, a slot to recharge cell phones, and speakers. Who wants to whistle while you work when you can dance or sing?

Oh yes, and every vacuum should come  equipped with its own light-weight, fold-out hydraulic lift that would hoist that sofa, bed or love seat right off the floor for cleaning underneath! That would solve a multitude of problems! Why, the last time I was able to vacuum under our bed, the dust bunnies had become hippos.

And how about a seat? If my neighbor can enjoy zooming around on his riding lawn mower, why can’t I have the same pleasure on a vacuum? It’s a similar concept, right? (Please note: comments from the peanut gallery about seats on brooms and women in pointy hats will not be appreciated, even if Halloween is just around the corner)

If I think back to the time of Downton Abbey, I was clearly born in the wrong era. And probably the wrong class. I’m pretty sure that if anyone on the British side of my ancestry had been aristocracy, I’d know about it. Most likely, if I were part of an estate like Highclere Castle, where the fictional Downton Abbey takes place, and we were preparing for the arrival of royalty, I’d be among the household polishing silver to appoint the 120-person state dinner table, using a teensy tiny brush not much bigger than a toothbrush, or on my hands and knees with a rag, scrubbing the floors of the 61-bedroom estate.

I guess I’ll forget about time travel and stick with Mr. Clean and dragging my ball and chain around our three-bedroom “estate.”

This editorial was published in the October 10 issue of Beyond the Nest’s weekly newsletter.

To subscribe to this newsletter featuring an Editorial by Carol White Llewellyn, with a calendar of Arts, Culture and Recreational activities, click here.

Giving the Gift of Yourself

For me, it’s not really Christmas unless I create at least one gift by hand.

I started this tradition in my teens, making a robe for my sister. She was so thrilled that I became hooked on creating gifts. One year, I did paper quilling on eggs to create Christmas ornaments. Qulling is a paper art where you wrap tiny strips of paper around a cylinder, then glue them together to form beautiful, lacy shapes and images. Another year, I created Victorian-style ornaments on embroidery hoops. I’ve done pastel drawings, sewn place mats, and created stained glass. This year…well, I can’t reveal what I’ve made, since some of the recipients may be reading this post!

To create a gift from your heart — for any occasion — you need not have a craft-oriented talent. Your gift can be baked or canned goods, or the offer to play cards with an elderly parent while your friends enjoy an evening out, a beautiful hand-planted terrarium, or a poem written and framed or recited especially for your loved ones. Maybe you have the skill to carve a wooden animal, or frame one of your favorite photos taken on vacation. One of my colleagues gives bottles of delicious homemade egg nog.

At one friend’s birthday party, we were all instructed to give only gifts of ourselves. It was a magical event that included poetry and dance, tangible hand-crafted gifts and delicious food. One friend, who was a floral designer, created a stunning yellow and white cake, completely of flowers and ribbon.

The most wonderful thing about such gifts is that its is only limited by your imagination.

So this holiday season, why not let your imagination soar, and give the gift of YOURSELF!

P.S. My egg ornaments were far simpler than the one shown above, but still quite lovely, quartered by red ribbon and quilled holly. If this craft interests you, check out inspiration on Pinterest and click the link above to learn more about this craft.

Originally published in the December 13 issue of Beyond the Nest.

A Thanksgiving Blessing

I began writing a poem for my Thanksgiving message, but somehow, it didn’t seem profound enough for what I consider to be one of the most important days of the year:.. a day in which we gather with family and friends to give thanks for all that is good in our lives. On this day, most of us set aside petty grievances and minor problems to focus on the important people in our lives.

So this Thanksgiving, what I wish for you is:

  • Friends who will celebrate you for who you are.
  • Family  members who will love you unconditionally.
  • People in your life who will care enough to be constructively, lovingly honest.
  • An attitude of abundance, even when it’s not there in your life.
  • The courage to create freely, and generously, however you are inspired.
  • A heart full of compassion, and the wisdom and strength to follow your heart.
  • Much for which to be grateful, on Thanksgiving and every day throughout the year.
I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!
Originally written and published in the November 21, 2018 issue of BeyondtheNest’s Newsletter.