You became a mother 40 years ago today on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. Your world at 20-something had moved into a new chapter, forever shifting your life’s focus to being a parent. I wonder how you felt that day. I wonder if you felt, as I did at the moment I became a parent, that you had just participated in a miracle, leaving you breathless and full of joy you’d never known — you had become a mother.
I gain my daily and my abstract inspiration from you, mom. Unlike me, you are Pollyanna, always finding the good in every situation. And as time passes, I have tried to learn a bit of that from you — call it a Pollyanna Placebo, if you will. Being a true woman comes naturally to you. I am reminded every day I see you, that being a woman means being as brilliant as your mind can take you, as kind as your heart can muster, and, as strong as your body will push you. Being a woman, I’ve learned from you, is never compromised by being a lady. Being a lady comes first. Mom, you are quite a lady.
Today, I am 40. Today, no different than yesterday or tomorrow, I will rely on you for guidance, and take only half of it. I will look for your nod of approval and then question it from every angle. Today like all days, I’ll not quite be complete without seeing you or speaking with you. Unless I don’t, and that’s okay by you too. Today you’ll make me beef stroganoff even though I doubt anyone in the free world eats beef stroganoff anymore, you’ll do it for me like you do every year on my birthday. And today, you’ll make me a lemon cake because I love lemon cake, even if you don’t. Because you’re a mom and I’m your kid and it’s my birthday.
I have a million birthday memories with you, mom. Most are happy, some hard, some just getting through the day. My first memory of my life is my birthday party in our backyard on Bundy. I was wearing yellow and you were wearing a white lacy shirt. You made my cake, of course, and brought it outside. It was a cold afternoon and my feet were tingling and wet from the cold bricks. There was a rectangular table and my friends and I wore party hats. I remember you bringing out my cake with candles on it. It had white frosting. I’ll never forget that first memory as long as I live: my beautiful mother and my beautiful life and my beautiful birthday cake in the backyard.
There are others too — I can remember a very rainy birthday party where you were sick, much like you are right now, and Aunt Maria was there. I remember feeling claustrophobic, playing Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey on the wall in grandma’s livingroom on Teakwood. On my Sweet 16, you took a chunky, friendless girl and made a magical day for me, despite my pathetic teenhood. I remember my 21st birthday in college with a massive box filled with 21 gifts from you, each with a clue written on it and hand-wrapped. The 21st gift was a string of pearls. I love my pearls, I’m wearing them today. On my 30th birthday you quietly told me to pick boys over girls, not for judgement sake, but because it would just be less messy. Pregnant on my 32nd birthday, you bought me a soft black dress for a small fortune in a maternity size extra large. You made me feel pretty — and surprised! — at that secret fete.
Today, Mom, I’m excited to be 40. I can’t wait to celebrate with you. It is February 24. It’s the day you became a mother.
I love you.
The worst holiday ever? Valentine’s Day, of course. Watch fellow iVoices reporters and me chat about our most, um, memorable Valentine’s Day gifts. Love, hearts and twinkles. Blech.Read More
I’m not certain what you’d call my faith — faith of everything? The church of me smothered with a mix of various principles I believe in? Reformed Catholic with a smidgen of reformed Catholic rebellion? I have a wall in my bedroom that has little representations of many faiths and cultures around the world. There are about 20 little of these trinkets that surround a giant mirror in the middle. My bedroom wall encompasses what I believe at my core: faith is cool, especially when it’s anchored by an even more rad thing called myself. That’s all well and good until myself does stupid stuff. Then, I call on my overriding belief in Karma.
I’m not sure if Karma means a tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye type thing, or if it’s more that, in general, goodness rules over bad. So, if I steal a parking spot from someone I know had waited for it, I know that I’m likely to end up parking in whoop-whoop the next time I’m running late and desperate for a space. This is a sliding scale, of course. If I steal a parking spot from an old lady, well, then I’ll never find a parking spot and go around in circles searching until I have to pee so badly that I have to give up and drive home. The punishment fits the crime.
Karma keeps me honest: Give the parking spot up to the old lady and someday someone will give up theirs for my walking-disabled mom. It’s not exactly a giving philosophy — it’s wildly self-serving. I like to think of it this way: I get out of life what I put into it, and if I can be as good a person as possible, I’m likely to reap that goodness from others. I also believe in the opposite. So, it was no surprise the other day when I suffered from a case of bad karma.
I was hiking with my best friend and talking trash about one of her other friends that I really don’t like. I think this woman is beneath her; worthless and, if I can remember correctly, even called her a “waste of good air.” Oh yeah, I had it coming. My friend mentioned to me that this woman had tripped over a tree stump hiking the other day and broken her arm — I told her it couldn’t happen to a better person.
And then, I fell over a tree stump.
I ended up in the ER with a giant bruiser on my ankle. Crutches, a splint, the whole bit. I didn’t have a single oh crap moment — I knew that I had paid a debt that I owed the House. What’s fair is fair, right?
My foot hurt is still swollen as all getout. It hurts. Again: punishment fits the crime.
Hobbling around town on crutches last week, people asked me what happened to my foot.
I simply replied: “Karma.”Read More
It’s no surprise or any kind of epiphany that consumer package goods companies follow the lead of what its primary customers need and want. It’s a duh, I know. Every CPG I’ve ever worked with has female purchasers at the top of their target lists — complete with massive efforts like that of the WalMart Moms and the 1:1 online targeting from P&G and J&J. It seems than any company with an ampersand knows how important it is to target moms online. Marketing to moms is compelling, but its the history of moms directing the goods that fascinates me.
Last weekend I made brunch for a friend’s 40th birthday. I found a Sunset Magazine from the month he was born: August 1970. I was ready for quiche recipes, maybe some heavy sauces, I could slow roast or even make fondue. I was wrong. What I found was a clue to the way women’s changing lives 40 years ago shaped the future of the consumer packaged goods industry.
In the early 1970s, the Women’s Movement had moved from the Mad Men phase into a wide, strong, changing world, led by some of my icons that I was lucky enough to meet, including Betty Friedan and Shirley Chisholm. As middle-class women aggressively hit the workforce, consumer packaged goods had to scramble to modify their products in order to shift focus from June Cleaver to June Sells Cleavers for Equal Pay.
“I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never let you forget you’re a man, because I’m a woman, W.O.M.A.N., ” sang Peggy Lee (and Miss Piggy). And indeed they could. But quick frying bacon would have been helpful. Oh, and a microwave. Women needed food that was economical with a quick prep time. These working women still had their homemaker duties in full-swing. The food industry needed to respond to the change. Food companies catapulted themselves into the new focus of low prep meals including the launch of Hamburger Helper, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Betty Crocker ready-to-eat pudding and the “new” fad of instant iced tea mix. Instantly, meals were on the table — and along with it, the children of America began eating processed foods with staggering growth.
Four decades later, the Hamburger HelpHER revolution has resulted in the widely known epidemic of both childhood and adult obesity. Was it the price that parents paid for the women’s movement? Maybe.
The same revolution is happening now at a great and growing pace. Companies are sporting nutrition for children that are actually — stop, gasp — nutritious. Children are being taught at an early age about the importance and ramifications of their diets; and, surprisingly, being given the power to make many of these choices on their own. Ask my kids if they want mac ‘n’cheese and they’ll always say yes, but it’s Annie Mac n’ Cheese, nothing powdered, and, they’ll tell you they are eating carbohydrates, fat and dairy. Give them a chance and they’ll tell you their favorite “superfoods” (blueberries for her, broccoli for him).
I saw savvy, educated kids in action at a Cliff/Luna Bar event in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. The kids spent time planting home gardens, showing off yoga poses and sharing food knowledge. They listened intently, but they listened with the intensity of agreement, not that of learning something new. I chatted with the Cliff lead nutritionist who came with LapTop lunch boxes for kids to decorate and talked about their commitment to healthy quick food. The consumer packaged goods companies are at it again: reaching us where we need them to. We all aspire to live the Cliff/Luna lifestyle of sports, food, fun and giving.
My life as a working mom means butt-busting, speed-of-light work around the clock. It means I, like June Cleaver, have a responsibility to put food on my family table. But I want more than that: I want it to feed us, not just put food in our stomachs. The influence of women on the food industry in the 70s leaves a legacy of quick rising yeast, instant hot chocolate, Bisquick and J-ello. What is the legacy that we, as mothers in 2010,will leave on the food industry?
I was not paid for any marketing or promotion of materials or goods for any company listed above. I did, however, have a great day with the women from Cliff/Luna and ate a casesar wrap and one (okay, two) oatmeal rasin moonpies.
My kids are fed up. They’re sick of both of their grandmas being sick. Their sick of us being sick of it. They’re sick of changes in schedule, flip-flopping of plans, and modifying just about everything. They don’t like it. They hate it. And they’ve decided to replace their grandmothers with a lifesize cardboard cutout.
This late-night announcement came just hours after Grandma J’s lung cancer surgery and minutes after Grandma’s decision to delay her Alaskan cruise scheduled for today. This of course means that the kids couldn’t go on the giant cruise ship for a tour — this grandma sick business is really cutting into their summer fun.
Our moms are both sick. @La_Gringa’s mom had a cancerous tumor cut from her right lung yesterday — a horrifying orderal that’s gone on for over a year. Despite crap-house stats for lung cancer, Grandma J. looks to beat the odds with a very early stage tumor and extremely good overall health. But yesterday, during the five-hour surgical procedure, it sure didn’t feel like the good news that it is. It felt like hell for the entire family. And although kids are clueless sometimes, it was hard to miss the frightening undertone from the past several months. They sense that something is out of kilter, even if they can’t put their finger on it.
My mom is doing better, but not better enough to be better enough to travel. Complications from CIDP, Lupus, Hepatitis and skin cancer are messing with her vital organs and she can’t risk being away from medical care if things dip, even slightly. Just 16 hours before departing for a week-long cruise, the doctor pulled the plug. Mother fricker. The blows just keep coming.
The kids don’t care about the wheelchair or Grandma’s ballooned-up face. Really they don’t. But it does affect them, “I am sick of my grandma being sick,” Thing 2 said while waiting for her pasta to arrive yesterday. “I’m hungry and dont’ want to talk about this,” replied Thing 1. Ah, the female-male dynamic of managing crisis. They went on later to tell me they wish they could make a life-size cardboard cutout of their grandmas and carry them around doing all the normal stuff they are used to doing. Convinced that they could still visit the cruise ship, they schemed how to make a cardboard replacement for grandma. “What’s the difference? We can put the fake grandma in a wheelchair and just roll her up the plank to the ship.” The planning went on and on until I chimed in:
You can make a fake grandma and take her anywhere you want, but your real grandma will still be here waiting to do it herself.Read More
Angelina might be Salt, but I am pepper. La Gringa and I had a lot of fun playing around with the image and we laughed ourselves silly. We’re dorks, but we like it. You can see it live here: http://www.whoispepper.comRead More