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Considering Mother As A Verb

What Julia Ward Howe had in mind in 1870 when she invented Mother’ s Day was a day on which we oppose war and advance peace. In other words, it wasn’t Mother’s Day, but a Mothering Day. Gloria Steinem, American journalist

When we think of Mother’ Day we think of honoring a person who brought a child into the world—a mother. If we take Steinem’s lead and consider mother as a verb, we come up with a completely different take on the day. 

Mothering can be done by male or female, old or young, birth parent, adoptive parent, or friend. When you mother someone, you show them empathy, love, and thoughtfulness. You care greatly about their welfare. Mothering is love freely given. One can become a mother by happen-stance but one mothers from a sense of purpose and love. 

Affirmation: I will consider what it is to mother.

Coaching questions: Who has mothered you? Who do you mother?

Photo by Joice Kelly on Unsplash 

One Lesson I Learned From Experiencing Loss

The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity. Erich Fromm, German social psychologist

One of the dubious benefits of losing a mother at eight-years-old was that I became a planner. Not just a what’s-for-dinner planner but a what-if-there’s-another-Great Depression planner. When I had children living at home, my “Next Great Depression” plan was to dig up the backyard (a half acre) and plant a BIG garden—like big enough to keep us in food from season to season. I also learned how to bake bread and sew clothing. 

Mathematician John Allen Paulos said, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” Learning how to live with the knowledge that something catastrophic can happen was one of my greatest lessons. It has served me well for over sixty-seven years. 

Affirmation: I will learn how to live with insecurity.

Coaching questions: What did you learn from your loss experience? What’s a step you’ll take to learn how to deal with insecurity?

Photo by Lewis Wilson on Unsplash 

Mother’s Day Is Only One Day!

Dear Motherless Daughter,

You’re probably not looking forward to Mother’s Day this year—or any year. I’ve been motherless since I was eight and I still don’t look forward to Mother’s Day. Even when my children were young and celebrated me with handmade cards and burnt toast, I still felt sad that I wasn’t able to personally celebrate with my mom. 

When I was a kid, my dad and I planted window boxes for my mother on Mother’s Day. The colorful boxes sat under the two windows at the front of our modest, post-war bungalow in Nebraska. Flowers have always reminded me of my mother—from the pink carnations on her casket to the bachelor buttons and multi-colored zinnias she planted in our backyard.

I’ve had sixty-seven Mother’s Days to learn how to survive the day in the healthiest way possible. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

* Plan ahead for how you’ll spend the day. Pre-COVID, my husband and I took a local lunch cruise on Mother’s Day (I live on Marco Island, Florida). Balmy weather, beautiful scenery, the movement of the boat, and someone besides me preparing lunch, all made for a lovely day and took my mind off the sadness.

* Do something to honor your mother. In my gardening days, I frequently planted a rose bush or other long-lasting, flowering plant. Today, I buy “us” a big bouquet of pink carnations or other cut flowers. 

* Acknowledge your sad feelings. If you’re new to loss, use Mother’s Day as a time to tell your mother-story to a trusted friend or share your sad feelings with someone you love. If this isn’t possible, journal about your feelings. Be honest when someone asks, “How are you?” 

* Stay away from triggers. It’s hard to avoid the hype for Mother’s Day—ads for gifts, card displays, social media posts of happy mothers and daughters. Don’t fixate on them. Move along. You can be glad for those who are celebrating without immersing yourself in situations that tap into sadness or anger. 

* Celebrate the mothers in your family. My children send me Mother’s Day cards and I, in turn, send cards to my daughters, step-daughters, and daughter-in-law. Even if it’s a difficult day for me, I’m thankful they did not grow up motherless. My mother also grew up without a mother (her’s died when she was three), so I’m particularly grateful to have broken the cycle with my children. 

* Stop anticipating disaster. Sometimes the anticipation of Mother’s Day is worse than the actual day. That’s how COVID-Christmas was for me last year. Anticipating the holiday away from family was terrible; the actual day—not so bad. The lesson? Tell yourself it’s just another day—one day out of 365. Don’t succumb to the “ain’t it awful” syndrome. 

If you’re a mother, Happy Mother’s Day! If you’re not, Happy Sunday!

You’re in my heart,

Mershon

Are You In Danger of Languishing?

Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing—the absence of well-being. Adam Grant, writer

After more than a year of putting our lives on hold, have we forgotten how to take action on what we want? Have we gotten so comfortable with having a mediocre life devoid of the social, intellectual, and cultural stimulation we once had that stepping back into an active life feels like too much of an effort? 

In his op-ed piece for the New York Times, Adam Grant goes on to remind us that languishing dulls our motivation, disrupts our ability to focus, and triples the odds that we’ll cut back on work.  

Affirmation: I will take the action necessary to create the life I love.

Coaching questions: Are you languishing? If you are, what’s one step you’ll take today to take action and dare to do what you love?

Photo by Rakesh Shetty on Unsplash 

Teach Children to Honor the Earth

One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between man and nature shall not be broken. Leo Tolstoy, author 

Happy Earth Day 2021! Teaching love and respect for Mother Earth needs to happen year round and begin at a young age. Teach children to not be wasteful, recycle, respect the nature around them—leave nothing behind but footprints.

Looking for some creative ways to start engaging with your little ones about the environment and civic engagement this Earth Day?

1. As children are starting to learn color identification, take them outside and have them identify different plants and animals of all colors of the rainbow.
2. Educate children about the cycles of life by hatching butterflies, watching tadpoles turn into frogs, or simply owning a pet of any type.
3. Collect fallen leaves and identify types of trees. Create art with the leaves to help the children learn the varied beauty of their colors, shapes, and sizes.
4. Help children enjoy stillness as they listen for the sounds of nature.
5. Plant a garden with your little one.

Affirmation: I will link the young people in my life to nature.

Coaching questions: How do you connect with nature? What does this connection mean to you? How important is it to share this connection with the youngsters in your life? What difference might it make to the future of our planet?

Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash 

What Have You Learned From Your Three Great Moving Experiences?

We have two or three great moving experiences in our lives—experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time that anyone else has been caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before. F. Scott Fitzgerald, author

What experience has pounded, broken, rescued, illuminated, or humbled you? My top three are early mother loss (age 8), divorce , death of a spouse. With perspective, I can finally recognize that, in addition to pounded, beaten, and broken, these experiences have also rescued, illuminated, rewarded, and humbled me. 

I am who I am today because of my past experiences—positive and negative; loss and jubilation. I’ve become more resilient, empathetic, loving, understanding, faith-filled because of my losses. My experiences of jubilation have taught me to be grateful. 

Affirmation: I embrace all the experiences of my life.

Coaching questions: Again, what experience has pounded, broken, rescued, illuminated, humbled you? What did these experiences teach you? 

Photo by Jackson David

The Importance of Telling Your Story

My mother memories that are closest to my heart are the small gentle ones that I have carried over from the days of my childhood. They are not profound, but they have stayed with me through life, and when I am very old, they will still be near. Margaret Sanger, American nurse and activist

I did an interview today with Christine Friberg, the founder and director of She Climbs Mountains (www.sheclimbsmountains.org), an organization serving women and girls who have experienced mother loss through death at any age. 

Christine asked me why I chose Tell Your Story as Step One in my book Mom’s Gone, Now What? Ten Steps to Help Daughters Move Forward After Mother Loss. Her organization shares my belief in the importance of story telling.

To answer her question, I quoted from my book, “The willingness to share our story signals a desire to leave a legacy and to turn pain into a message of hope for others.” When we hide our stories out of shame, guilt, or just plain shyness, we deny ourselves and others an opportunity to be our best selves.

Affirmation: I’m willing to share my story.

Coaching questions (from Mom’s Gone, Now What?): If you’ve never shared your full story or haven’t shared it in many years, with whom might you confide? What difference do you think sharing your story will make in your life and the life of the person with whom you’re sharing?

Remembering my mom and I having fun on vacation in Wyoming. Circa 1951.

Get Inspired By Oldsters

Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy person has no time to form. Andre Maurois, French author

Of course aging is real—more than “a bad habit” as Maurois claims. Some people age more quickly than others; disease sets in; injuries happen that speed up the aging process or keep someone from doing all they wish to do. 

On the other hand, when we’re busy doing what we love, making a difference, setting goals, we’re less likely to notice or care about our age. I’ve been reading about Grandma Moses, the famous painter who got her start in her late 70’s. She’s an inspiration as are the people listed below.

— Julia Hawkins, 103, oldest woman to compete on an American track – started running at 100.

— Nola Ochs, 95, recently earned her bachelor’s degree then went on to earn her master’s at 96 – moved into the campus dorms.

—Sister Madonna Bruder has completed over 45 Ironman competitions and continues to compete at 86.

—Harley Davidson rider, Gloria Tramonten Struck, 90, intends to embark on a cross country ride at 100.

—Oldest newly weds are George (103) and Darren (91) Kirby.

It’s not all about “doing,” it’s also about becoming and contributing.

Affirmation: I’m inspired by those who don’t let their age make a difference. 

Coaching questions: What does age mean to you? How do you feel about growing older? What do you want to accomplish in the next few years?   

Photo by alevision.co on Unsplash

Why Didn’t We Listen to Teddy?

Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance. Attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt’s speech at the rim of the Grand Canyon, May 6, 1903

I recently completed the manuscript of my 1875-76 historical fiction that takes place on the Nebraska prairie. It’s going to my editor next week. This quote is on the introductory page. Sadly, we haven’t learned much in all these years. Some pioneers desecrated their natural resources (think buffalo, dust bowl, trees) and we continue to do so today on a global scale.

We have, indeed, allowed selfish men (and women) and greedy interests to skin our world of some of its beauty and riches. 

Affirmation: I will do what I can to protect my world for my children’s children. 

Coaching questions: What evidence do you see that our world is being skinned of its richness?

What’s one thing you will do about this?

Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash 

Finding Light On the Dark Side

You must go into the dark in order to bring forth your light. Debbie Ford, author

In her book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, Debbie Ford asserts that as young children our personalities are like a mansion with many rooms. Unfortunately, as we get older we choose to shut down different parts of ourselves – close off the rooms that “aren’t appropriate.” As we shut these areas of our life off we end up with a smaller version of ourselves than we were meant or made to be.

As I have reclaimed some of the rooms in my mansion, I have also been able to reclaim or accept others who have the traits I’ve closed off. For instance, part of my dark side is to use food as my drug of choice. As I claim this truth, I’m not only better able to live a healthier lifestyle, I’m able to accept others with the same dark side.

When I notice that I’m appalled by people who act out of anger, I wonder about my own “room” called anger that has been sealed off and the part of me that could also act this way. What I notice and dislike most about others is often the piece within myself that I need to claim as my own. 

Coaching questions: What bothers you about others’ behavior? What really gets under your skin? Can you see this piece buried within you? Check it out and see what happens.

Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash