The Mother’s Day Gift That Keeps On Giving

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

Published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of May 8, 2017

“Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.”  — Sophocles

File May 09, 10 49 34 AMAs a mother, it is hard to let go of my children and let them lead their lives their way. I want to protect them from making the same mistakes I or others have made in the past. I pray for them every day and they are never far from my thoughts. They are always in my heart. Being a mother was the most important career I can have. 

I love to watch my grandchildren grow and see the way they mimic some of their parents’ gestures when their parents were young or how they grow to resemble another family member. I love to see them develop into their own personalities.

I think most mothers feel the same way. I have noticed when talking with other mothers on my writer’s journey there are many lonely mothers out in the world. They are not lonely because their children don’t love them; they are lonely because life for their children has become so busy a phone call or a short visit may only happen occasionally, or on Mother’s Day. But life is busy, perhaps busier than my generation when we were raising our children. Plus, there is also the distance many families now face with children living all over the United States and abroad.

Mother’s Day is next Sunday. The stores are full of flowers, and restaurants are filling the advertising spaces with ideas of gifts for that special mother. While gifts are nice, I have a feeling that what mom wants is to spend quality time with her children, especially if you are a mother whose children no longer live in the area or live at home.

Those of us who have lost our mothers will tell you that perhaps we can give you this advice because of regrets from the past of the things we never did and said while our mothers were alive.

My family wasn’t a hugging family, so I can probably count on my two hands the number of times my mother and I grabbed each other tightly and gave a hug. When we did it always felt awkward because that was not our relationship. But now, I wish I had one more awkward hug I could give her. I wish I listened when she talked about her past. I wish I made it a habit of asking about her day more often.

In conversations with other mothers I have heard the reasons why kids, adult kids, don’t call their moms at least once a week, or if they live close, stop in for a visit. And because we are moms and we love our kids, we accept what is happening with their life because we don’t want to put more pressure on them. We always want to make our kids’ lives easier. We have all heard these words in conversation: “The kids are busy. They run from morning until night between work, household chores and getting their kids to their activities. They say they just get busy and forget to call.”

Every person needs someone in their life to ask them about their day. Every person needs someone to care about how they are feeling. It might take a few minutes for a phone call, but those few minutes may make a difference in the life of a mother, especially if mom is older and less mobile.

I watch as everyone sits in restaurants on their cell phones; I do too. And I wonder if we put away our texting for a few minutes — if we turned off the television or took a five-minute break from the hectic schedule if there would be time for one five-minute phone call to mom.

I am blessed as I already have a Mother’s Day invitation this year. My kids live within two hours, and I visit with them on a regular basis. I hope that continues as I grow older and am less mobile.

Near or far, take the time to give your mother a Mother’s Day gift that lasts all year. Give her a gift certificate with a promise to call her once a week, or if you are close by, stop in occasionally and have a cup of coffee, give her a hug and ask about her day. Let her know that no matter where you are, she is a priority when it comes to keeping in touch. After all, you were a priority of hers from the minute you were born, and she would have it no other way.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.

There’s A Time and Place For Creative Clutter

SOMETHING ABOUT NOTHING published the week of January 23 in the Albert Lea Tribune and The Courier Sentinel

whats-upI am not a neatnik; I am a messer, and I am not going to apologize for it anymore. It doesn’t mean I don’t clean up my messes, it means I don’t always clean up my messes when others think I should. There is a time and a season for everything and that can be said about messes too.

I am trying to simplify my life so I have more time to write and to enjoy my family and friends, and movies, and chocolate, and reading, and not feel guilty spending the time having fun and relaxing. Stuff does get in our way. Yet, that same stuff can bring us peace. Simplifying does not mean always being neat.

I called a friend in Nebraska this week. We hadn’t talked in a few months. I thought of her over the last few weeks and was going to place that call, but I got sidetracked and it never happened. It was one of those messes which reminded me of my friend. My mess was funeral cards. When I talked to my friend she too has been simplifying and mentioned how behind she was on her house because of taking care of family. I mentioned I was behind, too, for no good reason. She explained she knew my house wasn’t as bad as hers. Yes folks, we do the dueling houses; my house I know is worse than yours. I laughed and said, “Yes and do you remember the reason I thought to call you? I am going through funeral cards from when my mother died 14 years ago.”

Those long-kept funeral cards were a blessing. I pulled them out because I am purging and I wondered why I was keeping them. One of the blessings was a reminder to call my friend and the other — the realization that in my grief at my mother’s passing, and other things going on in my life at the time which added to the grief I was feeling, I didn’t take the time to absorb what others wrote in those cards. Fourteen years later I sat down and read every one and my heart was moved by what others said, and those that took the time to remember us. Some of those precious people are now no longer with us, and it made their words more meaningful as I remembered their friendship. That is where the thoughts of time and season come in. This was the perfect time and season in my life to read those cards.

Yes, I kept some still for when I want to remember and need some comfort when I think of my mother. No matter how old you are or how much time has passed you never quit missing your mother. I remember as my mom was in her last weeks and ill. She was smiling, and I asked what she was smiling about and she said, “I am going to see my mother and dad and brothers again.” It was a beautiful smile. She never quit missing her mother.

That is the part of the messy me, not always being able to let go of things that bring back memories. There is also the day-to-day messy me. It is hard for the person I live with to live with messy me. He is a neatnik and doesn’t have as many indoor hobbies as I do.

When I am immersed in the creative me, watch out. I may need a drink of water or a plate of food but don’t expect the dirty dishes to go anywhere beyond the top of the cupboard while I am creating. Don’t expect my shoes and socks to go anywhere except beside my chair. Don’t expect my paints to be put away one by one as I finish with each color. Don’t expect newspapers, books, appointment books, reference materials to be anywhere but scattered around me.

When I am in full creative mode I don’t hear anyone, and I don’t take the time to open the dishwasher, go to the clothes hamper, watch any food that is cooking or sweep the floor. It disrupts my chain of thought especially if I am writing, and it isn’t easy to get the flow of words back. I am in the groove so don’t expect me to carry that plastic water bottle all the way to the basement stairway for recycling. Don’t expect me to be neat when I am splashing paint or creating something out of nothing. I absolutely cannot work in a neat restricted environment. I work better in disarray. I find things better when my materials are spread out and tossed around me. And I drive my husband crazy because of it.

I’ve tried to be this neat person, and it is agonizing. It stifles me. I do the same thing when baking and cooking. You will see flour all over me, the kitchen counters and occasionally all over the floor. But I have fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to sit back when I am relaxing in a cozy, soft, neat environment, and I do, after all the creative craziness has passed. I clean up the countertops, sweep the floors, light my candles, make peace in my environment and relax.  My house is either one or the other. There is no in-between. I haven’t found the balance. Maybe I don’t want to. There is a time and place for my creative clutter and there is a time for neat and tidy.

“I like messy. What fun is tidy?” — Dasha Zhukova

Shredding A Life

Column published November 21, 2016 Something About Nothing

Grandpa thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

I shredded a life today. Piece by piece I dropped it into the shredder, pushed the button and ground it up.

This has been a topsy-turvy month that has swung from the uncertainty of the presidential election to honoring our veterans, to being thankful for all we have with the celebration of Thanksgiving.

This is the month friends and family are posting 30 days of thanks on Facebook, and I intended to do that, too. I have been hit and miss, not because I have not been thankful, but I found disorganization and weariness stopping me from taking the time to post. And so, I took some time to get rid of the past that is weighing me down.

As I was shredding the life, I realized that many of the details going into my shredder were not happy things and reminded me of a time when life was anxious and sad and filled with anger and hopelessness. The papers I was shredding were the papers documenting the doctor bills, nursing home bills and details of my mother’s last four years of life.

My mother died 13 years ago. Why I still had those papers might be a mystery to many people, but I wasn’t ready to let go of the final details that documented the last years of her life until now.

With her dementia she turned against me when I tried to help her. Always an independent woman, she didn’t want my help and didn’t think she needed it. She took care of her mother for many years and she always vowed she would not be dependent on me, her only child. Because of her stubbornness in wanting to be independent it made things harder.

Before dementia set in she set things up so that if anything happened to her I could legally take care of her, her property and her finances. When she developed dementia her mind told her different things, and I became the enemy. Because of this and outsiders interference I took everything to the courts so things would be documented and no one could accuse me of doing anything illegal. It was a stressful and hard time for both of us and our family.

As I shredded these court papers, I let go of the hurt and was thankful we did things that way so she would be taken care of and protected.

While in the nursing home, she broke her arm and also her hip. As I shredded the doctor bills, I noted how inexpensive things were 13 years ago compared to what the surgeries and doctor bills would cost now. Of course at the time we thought they were high, but compared to today they were nothing. I was thankful she had insurance to pay those bills.

As I shredded the nursing home bills, I remembered the wonderful people who understood her dementia and took care of her, along with caring for my emotional state. I was thankful for the doctors and nurses that found a medication to calm her mood and give me back a funny, caring mom. I never knew the sense of humor she now had. Life had changed her from when she was young. I was also thankful for an almost death moment during those years that brought about a talk of her hopes and dreams and her letting me know I would be fine without her but she would be watching over me. Her dementia diminished for a few days after the hip surgery, and we had normal days. I was thankful God gave us that time of healing.

As I was shredding, I knew the moments, good and bad, made up my life for a short time. During that period of time, it was hard to remember the good, but I could see it and feel it now, sitting right there intermingled with the bad. The blessings were there and now I could see them and feel them.

I loved my mom. My mom loved me. If I could go back, I would say many things that I never said. I would say that I now understand what you were feeling. I now understand why we fought so much. You loved me, and as a child and teenager you wanted me to have a better life. You wanted me to be safe. I wanted you to let go. I wanted to fly away and felt you were keeping me back. You were an older mom, and it felt like we were worlds apart.

I would tell her I was sorry I wasn’t always a good daughter. I could have done things differently, and if I had the chance to do it over again I would. I would be kinder and more understanding. Had she lived longer and I had been older with more life behind me I would have known that.

As the papers hit the shredder, the feelings of sadness, guilt, and anger went into the shredder too. There was much to be thankful for in those last years of her life, and I could see it now. Had we not went through the fire we might not have gotten to the other side where the last year was one of understanding and laughter.

Through it all, the love was always there, and that is why we kept fighting to get through the muck to the other side, unaware that is what we were doing.

It is Thanksgiving week. Being thankful does not always mean giving thanks for the good times. It also means being thankful in the fire of despair. It is the glimmer of thanks peeking through that makes up our lives and keeps us living.

Happy Thanksgiving.