Time

Time—we never know how much of it we will have. We start off as happy babies; the world is our playground. Nothing seems impossible. Our parents are our safe harbor, and we know we are loved.

We grow up, and make our own lives. We follow our interests, go to school, get a job, possibly marry and have children of our own. The cycle starts over again, and we as new parents teach our own children as our parents taught us.

Life, jobs, grandchildren, pets; they go by in a whirl, and we feel just the same as ever. When we age, we begin to notice that our bodies are slowing down, our minds are not as quick as they used to be, but life is still good.

We start to lose our loved ones and our friends one by one. We become closer to our own end, and life becomes sweeter to us as we see more time behind us than in front of us.

One of our dear friends died yesterday. He was a much loved and respected member of our model railroad club. When his wife died of pneumonia a few years back, he became half of what he used to be. Their two cats were his companions, and instinctively closed ranks around him.

Months passed, and he was diagnosed with liver cancer and leukemia. He already had diabetes, and these two other diseases made him weak and thin. A few days ago he fell in his kitchen without his cell phone. He lay there all night until his brother found him the next morning.

He went immediately to Hospice. The Crankee Yankee has known him for years, and he went up to see him for what he felt might be the last time. As he could no longer talk, they held hands; The Crankee Yankee talked; he listened.

We found out that one of his Hospice nurses had fallen in love with his two cats, so she will give them a good and loving home. I know that he and his wife will love that.

I didn’t know him all that well, but I liked him and loved the times when we all got together. He was Irish to the core, and stubborn to boot. But we all loved him, and right now the world seems a smaller place without him in it.

We will miss you, Ed.

 

 

To My Dad on Fathers’ Day

Dad,

You’ve been my dad, my teacher, my rock, my mentor, my good example, my reality check, and my strength and support. I love it that I got to pick you out for my dad when I was a little girl. I love it that we both remember picking buttercups together and I asked you if I could call you “Daddy.” I love it that each year, you mow around that little patch of buttercups in the lawn so that they stand out as a living memory in golden yellow.

You’ve taught me so many things; most of all, how to be a good person. I have heard you say that you were wrong about some things, and often people just don’t do that–they insist on being right all the time. Instead of growing older and more set in your ways, you have grown older and blossomed. Who would have ever thought that you would embrace yoga, homeopathy, Reiki, Jin Shin Jyutsu, organic whole foods; not to mention skiing until you turned 90! Years ago you took up rollerblading and biking, too, as well as canoeing. You have become the true embodiment of the Latin phrase, “Mens sana in corpore sano,” which is translated as “a sound mind in a sound body” or “a healthy mind in a healthy body.”

I always laugh when I remember you saying that you worried that you might not have been “there” for me enough–every little thing I did from kindergarten arts and crafts to graduating from college–you were there. When I moved out on my own, you still were there. I could come home knowing that you and Mom were enjoying your lives and your own interests, and that there was always room and time for me, too.

It was you who gave me a life that included Ba and Bumpa, your parents. They were wonderful grandparents to me, and I have such good memories of them. Summer nights falling asleep on that old porch rocker, listening to the frogs chug-a-rum, chug-a-rum all through the night….Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and all the holidays in between. The five of us had fun together, and I loved it all.

I remember you teaching me how to ski, and how excited I was on that Christmas morning when I found my first pair of skis under the sofa! I couldn’t ski enough–I loved it right from the start. Looking back, it was such a good time, such a feeling of freedom to fly on those skis.

Every Thanksgiving when I was little, we would test the ice on Mirror Lake together; would it be strong enough to hold us up, or would we sink into the cold, icy water? Back then, it seemed like it was always strong enough.

When you taught me how to ride a bike I remember first watching you ride and thinking that I would never be able to get it; that riding a bike was just not going to be for me. But you kept encouraging me, and finally, finally I got it–it was amazing, and at that moment, I felt I could go anywhere. That day I felt that you had given me wings.

I want you to know how much I love and appreciate you, and how much having you for my dad has made my life so good in so many ways. You may not have been my birth father, but what you are to me is far and away beyond mere biology. You are, in every way that matters, my one true dad.

Thank you, my wonderful, amazing, incredible and loving dad.

And to all fathers everywhere, Happy Fathers’ Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You, Mom!

Happy Mothers’ Day, my mother, my friend, my source of life and my beginning! With every breath, every second, every day, I love and appreciate you more. We are both women now, although we started out as girls; you had me when you were just nineteen.

At that time, you had lost your own mother at age 14, you had lived with your brother after that, then met and married my father. At your young age, you knew how to run a house, cook, bake, hold down a job and bring up a baby.

In old pictures I have seen you as a child, a young girl, a teenager, a young wife and working woman. Strong, proud, beautiful and with a pointed sense of humor, you were and are my model for life.

Some days I wonder where all that time has gone; I still see you in my mind, young, vibrant, strong; through all the stages of my life. You are my hero, my North star, my fixed point in time, my anchor to past and present.

When I recently found out I had breast cancer, I was able to learn yet again from you, who went through it first. Knowing you have survived and thrived gives me hope.

You have given me a lifetime and more of love, caring, strength, joy, laughter and that unbreakable tie that binds daughters to mothers. It is a silvery cord; light as a feather, yet stronger and tougher than steel.

You loved me enough to teach me right from wrong, to give me constants I could count on, life lessons and true roots and true wings.

I still cry when I remember times I was hurtful to you; I would give anything to take those times back as if they had never happened.

I still laugh when I remember things you have said and done over many, many years; how funny and amazing you were and are.

And now that we are, as always, 20 years apart; me 63 and you 83, I know we have more history than time. For all you have given me and still give me, I will always want more.

When I see you in pain from age’s mean-spiritedness–giving you undeserved aches and pains–it hurts my heart. How well I remember your beautiful dancing feet, your grace, your ease of movement. How unfair it is that you have to suffer pain and discomfort at this time of your life. I would gladly take all those on for you if I could.

I treasure time with you, talking with you over the phone and laughing over things that only we could find funny. I so admire all you have done and all you do–your great creativity, generous heart, and spunky attitude.

It is said that we choose our parents before birth. I know I chose well. Thank you with all my heart, Mom.

 

 

 

The Safety Net of Friendship

Recently, I’ve been thinking of how grateful I am to have a precious number of really good friends. There are old friends and new friends, and it is a wonder how these amazing people came to be part of my life. Again, I always subscribe to the Red Thread theory that states: “An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, despite the time, the place, and despite the circumstances. The thread can be tightened or tangle, but will never be broken.” Whatever my own connection is with the friends I cherish today, I’m grateful for it.

Some of our dearest friends come to us early in life, and, if we are lucky, we grow and change—but still remain friends. Some of our friends come to us later on in life; we discover a kinship together and recognize a common bond. And with some friends, we lose our connection and go our separate ways. Not all friendships are destined to live. But oh, how the ones that we do have flourish!

Here are some quotes I really liked on friendship:

Friends are like bras: close to your heart and there for support.
– Anonymous

Good friends are like stars… you don’t always see them, but you know they are always there.
– Anonymous

Friends are God’s way of apologizing to us for our families.
– Anonymous

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another,
“What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
– C. S. Lewis

Love is blind; friendship closes its eyes.
– Anonymous

Everyone should have at least two friends – one to talk to and one to talk about.
– Anonymous

Save a boyfriend for a rainy day – and another, in case it doesn’t rain.
– Mae West

Nine-tenths of the people were created so you would want to be with the other tenth.
– Horace Walpole

To the dear friends I have; thank you–my life is brighter, better and more fun with you in it. You have been there for me in happy and sad times, you’ve seen me make an ass out of myself more times than I care to remember; yet you still are there. and you have conveniently forgotten the times I have been less of a friend to you.

You are my safety net, my rock and my shield against the bad stuff, and joyful participators in the good stuff. May everyone be as lucky and as rich in friendship as I am.

Man. Woman. Birth. Death. Infinity.

Does anyone remember the old TV show, “Ben Casey?” It ran from 1961 to 1966, and every show began with these words: “Man. Woman. Birth. Death. Infinity.” A hand drew the symbols for each on a blackboard as the words were intoned.

We know that we are born from men and women, that we live our lives, and eventually, we die. But beyond that, in all that fathomless infinity, we have only our faith and theories. My personal beliefs are my own, which I will not go into here. However, I feel in my heart that each person who has lived, is living, and ever will live on this earth is a unique and magnificent spirit. I believe that such an amazing entity is not bound by time or space, nor can it ever die. Every person, no matter what they do in life or what they become, possesses this incredible life force crafted exquisitely by our *Creator. We are each here for a reason and a purpose, no matter how it looks to our human eyes.

The receptacles of our spirits; our bodies, are only the outward shell. What we look like on the outside does not always show all that we are on the inside. A person can be plain or beautiful, mean or kind, good or bad, and so on–but this is not all we are.

When one of us whom we love and care for dies, we grieve the loss of that person. We miss the person whose hands we touched, whose laugh we loved, whose eyes brightened when they saw us. This is the human, earthbound part of us. But that beautiful spirit lives on, and I believe that it stays near us while we make that difficult transition from having them with us to their journey forward.

We may search for comfort in our religion, our beliefs, our families and our friends, but we will not know the truth of things until we too pass through to the other side. Personally, I believe that in this passage we will come to know everything–all things of the world, the universe and timeless space will instantly become clear to us. I believe that the pervading feeling of that passage will be infinite and all-consuming love; that all hearts may be whole again, and all pain will be gone forever. This is something I cannot prove, nor will I try. But I believe it.

Today the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I will attend our dear friend Jeannie’s funeral. I will cry because I can’t help it. I will wish with all my heart that she had had more time with us all. But I know–I know–that that beautiful and amazing spirit is free and is now part of us all.

*God, Yahweh, Elohim, Allah, Buddha, Spirit, the Universe, etc.

 

Earth Angels

We may not see them or hear about them, but earth angels are all around us. They may look like you and me, but there the resemblance ends. Earth angels are the people who go above and beyond; who help, heal, comfort and make life easier for others. They aren’t Navy Seals, or rich celebrities or highly paid CEOs of billion dollar companies–they are just people who care.

As you can’t tell the contents of a book by its cover, you also cannot tell the mettle of a person from their outside. It is said that, if we were to see just one person’s soul, it would be so blindingly magnificent that we would fall on our knees in awe. The souls of the earth angels are magnificent indeed.

The earth angels walk among us, quietly doing good where they can. Their faces are no different than ours, but theirs are the faces of comfort and care to those who need them. Many are shy, preferring to blend into the background. Some choose careers as nurses, hospice workers, veterinarians, caregivers; some are stay-at-home parents, some put their own lives on hold to help a family member, and some give others the care that was not given to them in their own lives. Instead of turning to bitterness and anger over their own neglect, they choose to rise above their upbringing and help others in whatever way they can.

Sometimes if you’re lucky, you can spot one. It may be the cashier who rings up your groceries smilingly and asks how you are. It could be the little boy and his mother having lunch in the next booth; his laughter so infectious that no matter how bad your day was, you just can’t help but laugh too.

There is a terrible lot of hurt and pain in this world, and the earth angels who are around us work tirelessly to make a positive change.When one person helps another person, that energy and good intent acts like a stone tossed into a pond. The ripples fan all the way out to the edges of the pond, then ripple back even stronger. This is literally how the world changes; one positive change at a time, one person comforted and helped, one earth angel lifting someone’s heart–it is just that simple and just that immense.

Watch for the earth angels–they are here to help, and their many acts of kindness and compassion often rub off on the rest of us. Just watch.

59 Years of Marriage

Just recently my mom and dad enjoyed celebrating their 59th wedding anniversary. I remember when it all started, too….

I was about four years old when Mom and Dad married; this being Mom’s second marriage, and Dad’s first. They were married in front of the Christmas tree in the front room of my grandparents’ house; somewhere we even have an old movie of it. I remember little about it except for the cake my grandmother made for the celebration–I kept eying it during the ceremony.

Being a child, I was only aware of my own wants and needs at that time. I knew Dad was a good man; I liked him right away, and soon loved him. He spent time with me, talked with me and gave me his full attention. From the first, I always felt I was an integral part of our three-person cooperative.

I even remember feeling that now I didn’t have to worry about my mom; it was very clear to me even then that Mom and Dad really loved and liked each other. That was a big load off my four-year old mind; I knew Dad would take good care of us both.

At that age, I had no idea of what adults felt like–they were all giants to me. In my world, they took care of everything, and kept me safe. In a few moments, I became part of a larger family; my new grandparents, new aunts and uncles and cousins. But even young children have perceptions; I knew that we were all going to be fine.

When two people decide to marry, they make an unwritten agreement with each other. I can’t speak for my parents’ agreement; I only know that they had one. Mom told me years later that, in considering whether or not to marry my father, she made a list of reasons to marry him, and a list of reasons not to marry him. The reason not to marry side of the list was actually longer than the reasons for marriage–yet she went with her heart. As she once told a friend about Dad, “he’s just so good.” So began a 59+ year agreement.

We laughingly say that ‘the heart wants what the heart wants,’ but it really is true. When the right person and circumstance come along, there is a small but definite click in the heart that says, “this one–this is the one.” Often the heart recognizes what our brains don’t–that this person is the ‘meant to be’ one. This goes light years beyond whether or not the person is good-looking, successful, drives an expensive car, has a huge trust fund, etc. It is the fundamental makeup of that person–the who and the what that that person is.

I won’t go into all the details of my parents’ marriage. Like any other couple, they have had their ups and downs, but what’s important is that, no matter what, they always are for each other and are part of each other. There is mutual respect, kindness, care and love. Together they have faced illness, death, loss, pain; also great joy, success and happiness. They ran both their businesses together for years. Since Dad retired long ago, Mom now runs her own jewelry business out of their house.

So what holds a couple together for nearly 60 years? The statistics show that marriage is a crap shoot–sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes the differences between marriage partners become too vast to stay together. Often unintended circumstances drive a couple apart. Even though we all vow to stay together’ for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health;’ sometimes the marriage does not survive.

You can have the fanciest, most expensive and lavish wedding you like, featuring a dress that cost thousands, exquisite flowers, a professional band and have the ceremony in a ballroom in a luxury hotel. You can present each other with diamond encrusted wedding rings and feed each other a slice of a $25K wedding cake, then fly off to Maui for two weeks for a honeymoon. And yet–the marriage can fail.

Or you can put your trepidations aside, put on your best clothes and marry in front of a Christmas tree with your child present and vow to love and cherish each other always. Sometimes the marriage survives simply because both people are simply GOOD.

 

 

 

 

 

The Lulu Files: Being a Grandmother by the Seat of My Pants

Yesterday the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I spent a wonderful Thanksgiving at the home of my step-daughter and her husband, and my one and only granddaughter (well, step-granddaughter–I guess that properly makes me a step-grandmother), Ava. Ava is three and a half, and is smarter than most adults I know. Thanksgiving was a day of family, grace, joy, happiness, peace, laughter and general sugar-induced mania.

Since I didn’t have children of my own, this experience in having a granddaughter is brand-new to me. I am continually amazed at how much fun it is to play with her, to listen to her chatter, and just be around her. I understand intellectually about following house rules, reinforcing her parents’ good training and consistency, good manners, etc. But in my heart and mind all I can think of is how much I love and adore this miraculous , unique and immensely wonderful little being.

Ava is interested in many things, not the least of which is her enchantment with princesses. Mind you, this is a kid who is more comfortable riding with her dad on a huge tractor than your average working farmer. She loves tomboyish things, loves dressing up, and loves trying new things. She admires the female role models in her life, including the ones on her favorite Disney shows. She understands kindness, love, courage and family values, and also is proud to have her very own chore list. Even at her tender age, she has chores to perform. It makes her feel good to be a contributing member of the family.

At one point in the day, Ava and I discovered the checkerboard in the living room, all set up with the red and black pieces neatly in position for a game. Ava took the black side, and I took the red. It wasn’t long before the game devolved into Ava chasing my pieces all over the board and taking them hostages. I looked her in the eye and said, “So…that’s how you want to play this?” She looked right back at me, eyes twinkling with mischief, and said, “Yeah.”

What happened next turned into the game we came to call Atomic Checkers. I lined my remaining red pieces up on my side, and using my thumb and middle finger, snapped them across the board to Ava. Screeching with laughter, she winged her pieces at me until the checkerboard was empty. We raced each other to pick up the pieces, dump them on the table, then start aiming them at each other again. We finally called a truce and herded up all the surviving checkers into their bag to lick their wounds until next time. (I’m sure that some survivors of the game are still hiding under the sofa, hoping to get away in peace.)

I had the thought that maybe this isn’t proper behavior for a grandmother, even a step-grandmother. I also thought that perhaps I am not a good role model for this kid; if she didn’t think I was nuts before yesterday, she certainly must think so now. But deep in my heart (which has belonged to Ava since the day she was born), I know that a little nuttiness is good for the soul. I hope that she may come to know that not only would I do anything for her, but also that I am willing to be a big old fool in front of her. I worry less of what she will think of my Atomic Checkers game than how she will remember that her Lulu loves her beyond all measure. Again, I have absolutely no experience in parenting, and can never claim to be an expert on children. But what I do know for sure is that the purest and deepest love in my heart is for this little girl.

The Hawaiians have a lovely term to describe all people who matter to them, whether or not they are actually related. It is called ‘ohana,’ which means “extended family.” Ohana embraces all whom we love and who love us, forming a bond stronger than the circumstance of birth. We are born to our families, but those we draw into our families are as deep and as real a tie as those linked by blood.

My hope for us all is that we remember not only who we are and where we came from, but that we fully embrace and appreciate everyone in our own ohanas.

 

 

Thanks + Giving

I love Thanksgiving, not only for the holiday itself, but for what it means to me. Each year as the holidays roll around, I always go back in my mind to how things were when I was growing up. All the holidays were reasons to be with family, have a beautiful meal together, tell old and new stories, and to enjoy that precious bubble in time where all is well with everyone. It was as if any problems, issues, worries–all were put on hold for that day of gratitude.

My grandmother, Dad’s mother, loved the holidays and prepared lavishly for them. All food was prepared from scratch–every woman in my family felt you couldn’t rightly call yourself a wife or mother if you couldn’t cook, bake, preserve or pickle. Thanksgiving dinner meant a luscious turkey with crackling brown skin, bursting with delicious stuffing full of onions, celery, and plenty of sage. There were roasted potatoes gleaming with butter, homemade turkey gravy, savory boiled onions, a relish plate of cheese-stuffed celery and olives, homemade cranberry sauce and freshly-made Parker House rolls. Dessert was a choice of pumpkin or apple pie–or both.

When the meal was over, and while all the adults sat around the table drinking coffee, cracking nuts and talking, I would go to the parlor and sit dreamily on the window seat and look out at the snow (I always remember snow on Thanksgiving day). It was fun to look forward  to Christmas and wonder if there was anyone in the world as happy as me.

I believe that most families in our country enjoy getting together for Thanksgiving for many reasons. It reminds us that we were once strangers in a strange land, and that we had to start fresh to make our own way. It took back-breaking work and determination to get this fledgling country started. Families and neighbors had to help and depend on each other. There was also the kindness of strangers as well–our history tells us of the original inhabitants, the Indians, helping us to grow food, make shelters and so much more. I like to think that the first Thanksgiving was one of mutual respect and an unspoken agreement to lay doubts and worries aside for one meal together.

Thanksgiving is also a day to remember that, despite our differences and long-held prejudices, we can agree to meet and break bread together. It is a time to think hard on all things for which we are grateful. Whether we sit down to turkey or lasagna or kung pao beef or venison or moussaka or veggie burgers or fried chicken fingers or clam chowder–the food doesn’t matter as much as the people around the table do. It’s a time to be grateful, peaceful, joyous and happy. Even if you are alone for Thanksgiving, the feelings of gratitude and joy are warmth to the soul. As long as we have memories, we aren’t alone. People enter and leave our lives continually, and we recognize that this is part of life. Thanksgiving is a time to just be glad in each others company or just be content with our own thoughts and memories.

I remember a story I read a long time ago about a bus full of people who were stranded on Thanksgiving day. A heavy snowstorm had come out of nowhere, and the bus broke down. At that time, there were no cell phones, only the driver’s CB radio. The driver called for help, and was told that help would come, but not for hours. The bus was nearly out of gas and everyone was cold, angry and hungry. Everyone complained about missing dinner with family, and tempers were short. However, things changed quickly when a little girl traveling with her mother announced, “I have an orange I can share.”

Suddenly everyone started going through their luggage and handbags. A burly man with a deep Southern accent said, “I have a jar of my mama’s pickles!” An older woman with an orange knitted hat with a huge pom-pom said that she had three dozen chocolate chip cookies she brought for her grandsons, but she said, “those little pigs eat too much anyway. Pass them around!” Two teenage boys wearing sweatshirts shouted, “We have two six-packs of Coke!” A man and his wife smiled and passed around a big bag of walnuts and raisins, an old man opened a bag of apples, and the bus driver produced two big sub sandwiches, which he cut up to share.

More food was produced, and it seemed as if the bounty would never end. Everyone chatted with each other, and then someone started singing Christmas carols. The rest joined in, and by the time the tow-truck arrived, the mood in the bus was happy and festive. People began thanking each other and started rounding up all the empty bottles and containers.  Eventually everyone got to their destinations, late but happy.

At one time or other, haven’t we have all been stranded somewhere in some way, alone and afraid, missing family and friends and longing to be anywhere but where we fetched up? This is what Thanksgiving means; it is both thanks and giving. Even though we only celebrate it once a year, thanks should be given each day of the year. Once we get in the habit of giving thanks, we began to realize how much there is to be thankful for. And isn’t it a good habit to keep every day of the year?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

My Mom is 83 Today

Today is my mom’s birthday, and she is 83. You would never know to look at her that such a well-dressed, stylish, intelligent, witty and downright pretty woman could possibly be in her early 80s, but there it is. The years simply do not show on her. The impression you get upon meeting her is that this is an extraordinary woman; one of many interests, passions, ambitions and with a white-hot personality. You can’t tell from looking at her, but she is also a fierce survivor. She has battled and beaten two bouts of breast cancer, and technically is surviving lung cancer–I say ‘technically’ because many of her symptoms have virtually disappeared. This is greatly due to the *whole food, plant-based diet that she and my dad follow.

Each week she exercises faithfully with her Stretch and Tone class, is an active member of her local PEO chapter, she belongs to a book club, and she is a jewelry designer with her beautiful work in several shops in NH and ME. She is a superb and wily Scrabble player, and I can count on one hand the times I’ve beaten her score. She is also the queen bee at the local bookstore after exercise class where she and her friends enjoy coffee and conversation. Mom is the vibrant glue that holds all the ‘girls’ together.

Due to a degenerative bone issue in one foot, she and Dad had to stop ballroom dancing (after 50 years!) two years ago. Of course she misses it, but she doesn’t let it slow her down. When she decided she needed a cane for occasional use (that is, when Dad’s arm isn’t available), she bought a gorgeously-flowered metal one and named it “Vivacious.” Aptly named as it supports an extremely vivacious woman.

Mom and I have enjoyed a close and loving relationship all my life. Mom firmly believes that a mother is a mother, not a best friend; and brought me up with a sound work ethic, good values and even better examples. (It is a happy coincidence that we also are best friends.) Even during the most obnoxious period of my life as a teenager, she managed to keep her temper, humor, patience and strong ideals. They are part of who I am, to my great and everlasting gratitude.

One of the only times I’ve heard her complain about age and the inevitable ‘**ills that all flesh is heir to’ was when she began losing some of her hair. This was not due to chemo; she never needed it, but simply to the natural aging process. Every woman in our family tree has gorgeous thick and coarse hair, and Mom is no exception. In her case, ‘thinning hair’ still means that she still has more hair than a 20-year old rock star. She only notices it because it’s on her head; I’ve told her many times that the rest of us just don’t see it–all we see is a beautiful woman with fabulous hair.

Mom has always reminded me that I come from a long line of resourceful, enterprising and strong women. Years ago she and a distant cousin worked together for several months to put our genealogy down on paper. Mind you, this was way before computer and Internet use was commonplace; they traveled and trudged through towns, libraries, cemeteries and private homes to gather information. They spoke to countless relatives and tracked down the oldest ones in nursing homes and listened to their stories and remembrances. Mom put my elderly Aunt Ruby to work; she happily called many relatives and took down their information to give to Mom. I believe to this day that those hours Aunt Ruby spent on the phone were some of the happiest of her life, and I know she was thrilled to be able to help her darling “Gloria.”

I have alluded to this wonderful self-published work my mom put together in last year’s birthday tribute. It is from this genealogy that I lived vicariously with all those strong and resourceful forebears of mine–I truly know who I came from and how their determination and strength helped me be the person I am now.

But the majority of my growing up and training is all Mom. A true mother mothers. That term includes both love and discipline, praise and teaching, being consistent, knowing when to lean in and help and when to back off, when to speak and when to listen. Mom never minced words with me; truly, I knew exactly what my boundaries were and knew when I stepped over the line. I always knew where I stood with her–I knew without question that I was loved deeply, but that there was no pulling the wool over her eyes!

There is an unbreakable bond between mother and daughter that is so strong it cannot be broken. That bond may stretch and bend, but it never breaks. The bond between my amazing and incredible mother and me is as light as a moonbeam, and is as everlasting as the mountains. The love I have for her and she for me is a connection beyond space, time and even death. I believe with all my heart that love is a never-ending source, it never ends and its influence is always felt. This influence has motivated and strengthened me all my life.

On this day marking mom’s birth 83 years ago, I celebrate the fact that Mom and I call each other once or twice a week to chat and laugh. When I read a great book, I want to share it with her. When I try out a new recipe, I want to tell her all about it. If I hear a good joke, I want to tell it to her and hear her laugh. My dad always says that the sweetest sound in the world to him is when I am visiting, and Mom and I talk and laugh together.

Happy birthday, my wonderful and incomparable mom!

*This is based on the Cancer Diet; the main diet is organic vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and small amounts of organic poultry, some fish, and rarely, beef. They do not use sugar in any form, using instead agave (which is actually sweeter than sugar, so you use less, plus there is no addiction with it as is with refined sugar).

** From “To be, or not to be…” the opening phrase of a soliloquy in the “Nunnery Scene” of William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.