Tag Archives: mother’s day

Digging into New Books this Mother’s Day

books

I’m digging into these gems this mother’s day! Last night, after teaching my hot yoga class, I went to a book store and walked around. I had cancelled on a friend who offered to take me to the Trocadero in Hollywood since my nanny had cancelled. I really wasn’t that upset about it. Yes, it’s the quintessential ‘Hollywood spot’, but I’m not that into Hollywood. I’m more into creating and dreaming. So, I decided to treat myself to a dream walk, exploration, of the book store isles sans kiddos for an hour. A top expert in publishing, an agent for 20+ years, told me in an interview last week that trying to get published in the genre of literary fiction, is nearly impossible for new writers today (via traditional publishing houses.) Hmmmm. There’s a lot of fear in that statement. And I’m not one who needs to mire in fear or let it inchworm inside my head as I write my 4th novel. I respect his opinion, but it is not the definitive voice deciding whether or not I will ever get published. So I took a stroll down the isles and among the ‘new voices’ and low and behold, there are many in both literary and women’s fiction. My new intention is to read a ‘new voice’ every month until next mother’s day. Why? Because I want to support my fellow writers and new voices who are trying to give birth to their babies in this daunting publishing arena. So, I picked out The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney published by Harper Collins in 2016. It is Sweeney’s first book to be published by a major publisher, and soon to be made a movie. Family drama, addiction, inheritance, sibling squabbles, are all contained within its pages. I can’t wait to start!

My other books I purchased last night are bite-sized spiritual instruments of wisdom to inspire my meditation practice, which helps me focus on what I can do and create, and stay out of fear. I can turn to a page, within The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba or the Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Mysticism, and read one teaching by these masters daily. Here are two examples. I adore Ueshiba’s art representing movement as I’ve never been able to separate movement of dance and yoga with the spiritual. That’s why meditation was hard for me to embrace five year ago, yet dancing and yoga have always been my conduits to calm my mind, improve my mood, let go of fear, etc.

artofpeace2

Dala Lama’s ‘little book’ is perfect to inspire meditation themes as it’s just enough to start the conversation that can be released to the Divine within meditation. For example:

lamamystic

Busy moms don’t often get to spend hours at a time reading on a Sunday. But I got a few hours in this morning and I’m grateful. I’m now off to the California Science Center to explore King TUT’s tomb with my nine-year-old. It’s the perfect Mother’s Day for me as it started with books and poetry (poem by my little guy); will marinate with wonder at the museum, will move with music, as we go to a concert this evening, and end with picking up my oldest at the airport. It’s my first mother’s day in 16 years without my wonder William. I can’t wait to give him a big hug!

I’m sending so much love to all my fellow mums. May you feel at peace with yourself and with your Dharma. May you feel inspired to reach for your dreams. May you feel healthy and supported. May you always feel your divine light and self worth. And may you always, always embrace your sense of humor—God knows we all need it!

Love & Light XOXO

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Flash Flood

SAMSUNG

2013 will be the year my mother stops talking completely. Tonight I googled ‘grief’ and found this post. It’s comforting, in a strange way, to step back and look at how much happens in a period of time, such as 500 days. Destruction and death and sorrow are inevitably (and hopefully) entwined with new beginnings and soul awakening growth and grateful moments. It’s hard to describe how that works.

Tonight I miss mom.  I rarely talk about her to anyone. I don’t know why. It wasn’t that long ago that we spoke every week. But that’s life, isn’t it?

Tonight I found myself crying. An old song mom loved to play on the piano came on a TV show. And before I knew it, tears were trickling down my face. Grief is like that. People say it comes in waves. That may be. But mine comes like a flash flood. Or a tsunami. One minute I’m moving along, as usual. I may be having an ordinary, yet, nice day. Then I’ll hear a song.

Oh how I’d love to call her to tell her my divorce is final. That I’m writing fiction again (baby steps.) That my boys are rambunctious as ever. That I’m actually doing this parenting gig on my own somehow.

A year ago, I wrote several posts honoring my mom for mother’s day. It empowered me. As silly as that sounds. I felt like I was preserving her. I was honoring who she was. When you lose a person to Alzheimer’s, it’s a confusing death. With mom, she began the steady decline last year. She can now barely talk.  My last visit, 7 months ago, she eeked out “love” and leaned her head to mine. That was a goodbye that I will always be grateful for. Nevermind, that a few minutes later, she looked at me like I was a stranger. The day before, when I popped a small piece of dark chocolate and raspberry bar into her mouth, (her favorite) her eyes widened and she grabbed my hand saying, “I think I like you!”

Tonight, I long to talk to her so much it aches.

Tomorrow, I’ll get up, in this city of sun and eternal youth, and begin again.

A Mother’s Legacy: Music and Memories

A rare event: mom playing piano for an audience in 1999.

My mother escaped in her music. I imagine that it held magical qualities for her. It lifted her up out of her life. It gave her a voice when she didn’t allow herself to speak. It gave her eloquence. And it was private. She played at home, preferably alone.

If you’ve ever seen someone play piano by ear, you might have an idea of what I am describing. It’s amazing to hear and watch a person completely transformed while they play. But again, with mom, it was immensely personal and I always knew it was how she communicated best, or worked out her feelings. My mother rarely said she loved you without crying, for instance, so it wasn’t an every-day thing to hear. As her child, you knew she loved you, but she just couldn’t speak it easily. She also rarely talked about intensely personal things. She did so through her songs—most from the Big Band Era. Not only could she play by ear, but she would get into a trance-like state and would free-associate by playing one song with a meaning that led perfectly into another that carried that meaning a bit further until she seemed to come to closure or have had a complete conversation. I so wish I had recorded some of her “sessions.”

When she was going through her divorce and I had taken a bit of time off college to stay with her, I felt privileged to listen to her play. Some evenings after work I would tiptoe into the house if I heard the piano so she wouldn’t stop. She might play for 30 minutes and had no idea I was there. She played dramatically with an emotion that you’d never see her display anywhere else. I could even hear her nails clicking the keys she was moving so fast. I’d sit in my old room upstairs and listen as she played old musicals that might lead into a Tommy Dorsey tune and then surprisingly to a pop melody of Lionel Richie‘s, as long as they held a key element of a similar message. Anything she heard on the radio, she could play perfectly, as she only needed to hold the melody in her head to translate it to the keys. She didn’t like to “perform” and rarely played for others. I was therefore, really shocked when she played piano at my wedding. Every song had “baby” in the title (as I’m the youngest of her four children). I don’t recall all of them, but “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby” and “Take Good Care of My Baby” and Dorsey’s “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” were some of them. I don’t think anyone, outside of family, knew how emotional it was for her to play these songs in front of a crowd and the photographer caught her shy feelings of love perfectly. I was touched beyond words.

As Alzheimer’s grips your loved one, you sit by helplessly as they slip away. When living in London, I flew back each summer between 2005 and 2008 for a few weeks or longer each visit. I’d notice that she had a harder time with the piano by 2007, but would continue to play. Although sometimes, she’d have a harder time with verbal conversation and would still play perfectly. Alzheimer’s is funny that way. By the time I was really going through the ringer with my husband, my mom was in the moderately severe stages. She got easily upset and I hid the fact that I was going through Hell from her. Even though she might not remember specifics the next day, I knew she was a sponge and would absorb my sadness and would worry about me every time my name was mentioned. Somehow that worry would carry over. She might not know why she was worried, or couldn’t remember my soon-to-be ex-husband‘s name, but I only wanted to bring her happiness when I visited. I swore my siblings to go along with me and not talk about my separation with her. Well, in July 2010, I was far from happy. It was incredibly hard to visit and pretend everything was ok. I had my then one and a half year old with me, who was sick a lot and had a hard time sleeping. I was barely 100 lbs from grief. My soon-to-be ex had left me for another woman in September of 2009, less than a year after we had moved back to the States when I was pregnant. He was back and forth with his emotions and his behavior was erratic when he was back from Europe. But at this point, I’d been a single mom for almost a year. I had just dropped the older son with relatives in Tennessee for a camp before coming home. I don’t want to use this blog to post sorted details, but suffice it to say, I’d been through a year with broken promises and many attempts to reconcile, and I was now trying my hardest not to show any of this mess to my fading mother. Southerners can be excellent actresses—and I’m the queen of being able to ‘fake it till you make it’ for the most part—but this was going to take an amazing feat. I pulled it off, remarkably, for most of the week spent on walks with the dog or visits with the neighbors or in her garden. One evening, however, Jamesy just would NOT sleep. He cried most of the night and I was at breaking point. My mom came down the stairs at 3 a.m. to the room where we were. She was having a remarkably lucid moment. The kind of moment that loved ones pray for. For a year I knew I had angels helping me survive and I guess one came on this trip too. As mentioned, I didn’t tell mom anything about what was going on in my personal life. She adored my ex and I didn’t want to give her one more heartbreak. But she saw I had been crying and she calmly took Jamesy’s hand. They walked into the living room and she played this song. It’s not the best performance of hers, but out of her entire repertoire, she chose: “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”  (For those of you who aren’t well-versed in 1930’s Broadway tunes, it was also performed by Judy Garland, Benny Goodman (one of Mom’s favorites) and Louis Armstrong.

I’m convinced that she was trying to help me with Jamesy and send me a message of comfort at the same time. Somehow, she was able to break free from the entangled plaques crippling her mind and play once again. It was a miracle that I caught it on tape as I never seem to have the camera at the right time. I’m so thankful for this moment as I haven’t seen her this lucid again. Happy Mother’s Day, Annie. And yes, I’m finally finding my way to the sunny side of the street. I wish you were here with me, but I know that you are, somehow, in spirit.

A Mother’s Legacy: Beauty and Brains

Photo By: THE Herb Ritts (Exhibit currently @ The Getty)

The photo is stunning. Its elegance, drama, lines, curves, shadows are absolutely breathtaking. A good friend is visiting from London this week and I took her, with my boys, to The Getty museum yesterday. Kate has always adored old Hollywood glamour, and since this is her first trip to America, what better way to get an infusion of that glamour than at the Herb Ritts’ exhibition at The Getty—which has the best views of Los Angeles as well. We took turns in the delicious exhibition that featured many celebrities and sculptured bodies against dramatic backdrops. Kate played with the boys in the kiddie room and allowed me the time to wander, meander and soak all the beauty in. What I noticed, (besides the intensely chiseled men) is that the women Ritts tended to photograph had a raw and natural beauty. Not much makeup. Large eyes. Voluptuous lips. Intense presence that smacked of intelligence or wisdom beyond their years. As I walked around the exhibit, I began to think about what my next blog post within A Mother’s Legacy should be. I’ve been a bit distracted with my friend in town and have gotten a bit behind, my apologies.

As I was looking at a photograph of an anonymous woman with gob-stocker -sized eyes, plump lips and strength in her features, it hit me. My post will be of my mother’s raw beauty. Mom never thought of herself as beautiful. She didn’t shop much. She didn’t exercise beyond walking and gardening, but was skinny as a rail for most of her life. In her photographs from college, which I found and saved after helping to settle her estate, you can see her timeless beauty.

MaryAnn Roe

Growing up, I rarely saw my mother, who was a child-protective services social worker, put on make up. She had her signature lipstick, but beyond that, she was a bit helpless in the makeup department. As you can see in her graduation picture, she had a natural beauty. What I love even more, is that she also had incredible smarts. She was accepted into both Brown University and Duke University and decided upon Duke, where she met my father and lived her entire adult life. I don’t think my mother ever made less than an A in her entire educational career. She could have done just about anything (or nothing, as she didn’t have to work) but  was driven to help the down-trodden and less fortunate. In the early 50s, when most women were concentrating on finding Mr. Right, mom seemed to concentrate on finding Mr. Right AND helping women to achieve their dreams and equality. I love the photo taken in college as it shows a bit of her chutzpah. She is gorgeous, even with a man’s haircut, and has a rebellious cigarette in her hand. I can see her drive that likely inspired her to later help found Women In Action, and volunteer relentlessly, even with most Democratic elections. She dedicated herself passionately to her job as a social worker, requiring her to often visit others in slums and sometimes put herself in dangerous situations.

She had a way about her, through the life that she led, that taught her three daughters that they could do anything they set their minds to. She didn’t preach to us and rarely said a negative word about anyone. She showed that beauty, grace and intelligence are not mutually exclusive. I will never understand how someone who woke every morning at 4 a.m. to read the newspaper back to back and do the Times crossword puzzle, could have her brain so horrifically attacked by Alzheimer’s at such a young age. Life isn’t fair. My sincere hope, by writing these blog posts, is that the women and men who take care of my sweet mother will read my words, see the pictures, and treat her with dignity. Because the person who is ravaged by Alzheimer’s does not represent the beautiful soul still somewhere within. The hardest thing about leaving your mother in the care of other people who are not family and who have never known her in her prime, is that you have to take a leap of faith that they will care for her in a gentle manner with patience and respect. It’s hard to know. She can’t talk to me. But hopefully they’ll get a sense of her kindness. I know from the director of the facility that mom is still trying to help others, even in her condition. It’s just a part of who she is. I think we are born with innate gifts and hers (besides playing piano by ear, which I will write about later) is definitely a sincere kindness and need to help others. And that is a rare beauty that isn’t found often in my world of LaLa land—or anywhere else  for that matter.

A Mother’s Legacy: Wildflowers

Queen Anne’s Lace

As some of you may know, my mother has Alzheimer’s disease. It’s such a crushing disease as it creeps into the mind of the person you love and robs them of the essence of who they are. Little by little it picks up speed, like a ball rolling down the hill, and all you can do is sit by, breathless, as you watch the person you love slip away. My mother is now in a facility more than 2,500 miles away and since I can’t see or talk with her, I’ve decided to write each day until Mother’s Day about her and the legacy she leaves behind for her four children. Anyone who knew MaryAnn Roe, knows how she lost herself and her worries when she gardened. I learned about wildflowers, such as Queen Anne’s Lace, and gardening, from my mother.

Orange Nasturtium

She inspired me to always make wonderful bouquets from the wildflowers, or any blossoms in our own garden. Orange nasturtiums were one of her favorites, and she marveled at how enormous they grew in California, as they couldn’t manage to expand in the heat and humidity in her North Carolina garden.

Butterfly Bush

Even just two years ago, when her mind had slipped dramatically into the worsening phases of her disease, she would wander around and around her front and back yards weeding, picking up sticks, watering her plants and marveling at the butterflies and hummingbirds that would visit her butterfly bush. While she couldn’t utter how much peace her garden brought her, it was evident in her face and through her continued ability to somehow manage to take care of her cherished plants.

Marigold

I loved her creativity when it came to her bouquets. In fact, mom gathered gardenia and magnolia blooms from our yard in North Carolina, put them in coolers, and transported them to Atlanta where I got married 12 years ago. On each table she created graceful, fragrant bouquets that no one knew were handmade touches from home.

Magnolia bloom

Mother’s infectious love of gardening inspired me to visit every botanical garden in almost every city where I have lived or traveled to. I loved being able to take her to the Kew Gardens in London, the botanical gardens in Atlanta, Duke Gardens in Durham, the gardens at the Getty or sending her pictures from gardens in Lisbon, Madrid, Nice, Budapest or Kauai. (I will dig up pictures from those trips at some point!) I may never become a green thumb like mom, but I’m sure I’ll always think of her when I see a bouquet of wildflowers.

A Mom’s Legacy: Squash Casserole

Mother’s Day is less than two weeks away. It’s a bittersweet time of year for me as my mother is riddled with Alzheimer’s Disease and living in a facility more than 2,500 miles away. I miss her terribly. And, I haven’t seen her in over a year. It requires buying a ticket, hiring a nanny for the boys and renting a car. Even if I do  manage all of that, I know that she won’t remember our visit and may not remember me as well. I know I’m being selfish, but I just want to talk with her about so many things. I don’t speak (or write) about my mother very much, so it’s always amazing when someone reaches out in a touching way. Out of the blue, a month ago, my former mother-in-law sent me my mother’s summer squash casserole recipe. She taped the original card, in my mom’s hand-writing, onto a page of paper with the note: “Remember this? Our trip to Ennis? This is SO Speical! SO good!”

It was beyond thoughtful of Barbara to think of me. I haven’t seen my mother’s handwriting in years. Holding the card I felt tears spring to my eyes. We had taken a trip to Montana together in 2002 with her husband, Bill, and all of his children. My mother, who began showing the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s during this trip, made this dish one evening, then gave the recipe to Barbara. My mom now can’t write, nor can she cook. Sending me this recipe reminded me of the wonderful vacation we had together. It reminded me of how precious our time was then, and how I couldn’t have imagined how precarious life would soon be for both my mother and my father-in-law, who died three years later. It was such a wonderful holiday in the wide open spaces of Montana. My mother laughed as we all sat around the table in our cabin and she talked about her grandparents and her father, who grew up in Montana. We took hikes together, drinking in the vistas of the mountains with September snow on the tops and the enormous Sandhill Cranes dotting the fields nearby. She helped me with my son, who was then one. I’ve placed this recipe in my homemade binder that will someday be a cookbook for my kids. It’s filled with hand-written recipes that represent lots of love and good times. In today’s digital world, I find it amazingly special to have a book filled with hand-written recipes and notes. I may be nostalgic, I admit. And, it’s highly likely that not both of my boys will appreciate it—but putting it together helps me think about the good times together, rather than the times we can no longer have. It’s also a way to leave a legacy or traditions behind. So this year, I’ll present one snapshot of a mom’s legacy each day until Mother’s Day.

I hope you enjoy this simple recipe. (But aren’t the best things in life usually simple?) It’s even better with home-grown, summer squash from the garden!

Summer Squash Casserole
From the Kitchen of Mary Ann Roe

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 10 young green zucchini and yellow squash
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1 cup chopped chedar cheese
  • Bag of seasoned breadcrumbs

Directions:

Slice squash into 1/4 inch pieces. Dice the onion. Saute onion in a small amount of light cooking oil or olive oil until soft. Add yellow squash and saute until soft, then add zucchini and saute briefly. Turn heat off and add half the cheese and toss with the hot squash. Place in a baking dish or a 9 x 12″ pan and top with remaining cheese and bread crumbs. Bake in pre-heated oven of 325 degrees for 30 minutes.