When I think of Mother's Day, I think of two women. These women have shaped me and taught me how to be an adult, a woman and a mother.
My grandmother was the type of woman who didn't just talk about what she wanted to do - she just did it. She was 4 foot 10 but she was a force to be reckoned with. She didn't take crap from anyone but she was enough of a lady to 'tell it straight' in a way that wasn't demeaning or insulting. She taught me how to be honest without brutality, how to be forceful without mowing people down, how to assert yourself while remembering people's feelings.
She was an excellent card player. She never let me win by default - I had to win on my own merit. Memere taught me the life wasn't easy and that you had to work hard to get what you wanted. But she also taught me that what I earned would be sweeter because of that hard work.
Memere was loving, wise and gentle. She always had time to spend with her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She never talked to us as though we were children - we were treated as equals. She was always 'straight' with us, never holding back and never 'dumbing down'.
Memere taught line dancing, played bridge and volunteered at the hospital until she was in her 80s. She had endless energy and loved life. When she turned 85, she started feeling ill. She spent her 86th birthday in the hospital where she found out she had cancer in her bones. Memere turned down chemo because she wanted to spend the time she had left with her family. She told me that she had a good, happy, long life. She died the way she lived - on her terms, in her way - with grace, with love, with family, with peace. I miss her every day.
Mom is also a very strong woman. She spent her life working hard and raising her family without expecting anything in return. She fought the schools when they wanted to put my brother in a 'special class' because of his hand writing and vision issues (by the way, he graduated top of his class and went on the college, finishing with his accounting degree - just sayin'). Mom is the definition of mother bear - cuddly and warm but will tear you a new one if you mess with her kids. But she was never a 'bubblewrap' mom.
She taught me to be independent - to do for myself. That, by not expecting the world on a platter, I would feel what true accomplishment is. And she's right. Mom also taught me the value of educating myself - that learning never ends.
Mom taught me that there is nothing more important than family. She taught me that our children are NOT an extension of ourselves, but their own individual beings - that it's not for us to decide who they will grow up to be. It's up to us to give our children the tools they need, to teach them how to decide for themselves - but that decision will ultimately be theirs.
My mom had eight surgeries in the span of five years. She's battled many health problems and is just now starting to recover. But that has never stopped her from getting up in the morning and doing what needs to be done. She gave me great advice during my depression years: "Angel," she would say, "you need to force yourself to get up. You need to force yourself to get dressed and you need to force yourself to move. Then it will get better." And she was right, it did. That's advice I still use to this day.
She is always there for us if we need her - but she won't push her way in. She lets us live the lives we want, supports us always and never once told us what we should do.
Mom loves her grandchidren with all her heart, always thinking of new ways to engage them, new ways to entertain them, new ways to educate them. She's always ready with a joke, a riddle, a puzzle, a game.
When I became an adult, my mom became my friend as well as my mom. And I love her for that.
These women taught me so much, it's incalculable. Because of them, I can say for certain that being a mother is not a sacrifice - it's a blessing.
I view my battles as hurdles that I WILL overcome if I work hard enough.
It's up to me to decide if these hurdles are life lessons or something to be bemoaned.
That there is always something new to learn, and it's exciting.
Laughter is the key to happiness.
Hard work is it's own reward.
Family is the real treasure.
Life is beautiful.