LESSONS FROM MY “OTHER” MOTHER

I learned some of life’s most important lessons from my “other” mother. Actually, Zenia was my mother-in-law. The notorious mother-in-law jokes would have never got off the ground if they were about her. As a matter of fact, if I could have a do-over and pick a mother-in-law of my choosing, I’d pick her.  I was blessed to be loved and cherished by my late husband Jon. I was doubly blessed to be loved and accepted by his parents, Art and Zenia. Knowing how some mother-in-laws can be critical, I felt fortunate that my mother-in-law thought I was the best thing that ever happened to her only child. A bookkeeper by trade, Zenia was also an accomplished seamstress. She offered to sew my wedding dress, saying, “This is my only chance to fuss over a daughter for her wedding.” She allowed me to design my dress. Our only point of contention was where the hem should land. I was a Hippie bride. I fancied my skirts at just below cheek level. After some friendly negotiation, we compromised at mid-thigh. Zenia fashioned a veil out of the vintage bead-work and Polish lace from her own wedding veil. Although Jon and I lived in his parents’ finished basement for the first year of our marriage, Zenia refrained from offering advice or interfering in our affairs (tempting as it must have been at times). Jon and I experienced turbulence in our relationship as the result of our heavy alcohol and drug abuse.  Jon’s parents were both recovering alcoholics and active in AA. They did a remarkable job of letting go, and allowing us to find our own way (Jon and I were both delivered of our alcoholism when we became Christians in 1972). Zenia’s example has helped me to refrain from offering unwanted advice or opinions to my daughter Aimee and her husband Andy in their marriage and parenting. The times I have offered an unsolicited opinion, I’ve regretted the words as soon as they came out of my mouth. Zenia taught me to respect my adult children and trust that they’ll find their way without my interference. For the record, they are doing a bang up job! When Jon and I announced in 1976 that we were moving 500 miles away, Zenia never tried to dissuade us. She sent us off tearfully, but bravely, with her blessings. Our move later meant that she would be a long-distance grandma. That, too, she did with grace. I learned from Zenia to hold on to my children loosely. Zenia lived by the principles of the AA program. The Serenity Prayer was ingrained in her: God, Grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change; The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. Zenia had her share of struggles: miscarriages, a brain tumor, back surgery, and alcoholism. She was successfully treated for Bipolar Disorder. She lost her husband when he was just 62-years old. At his funeral, my husband began experiencing his first symptoms of the leukemia that would take his life less than two years later. Although she was heart-broken, I remember her saying, “I don’t like what’s happened, but I need to be about the business of accepting what I can’t change. I refuse to be a bitter woman!” A few years later, when Zenia was diagnosed with Lou Gerhig’s disease (ALS), she refused to wallow in self-pity. When she could no longer manage to live on her own, she sold her home and made arrangements to move into a nursing home. Zenia left this earth with the same grace she lived her life – choosing to focus on the positive, never complaining. I’ve had my own share of losses and struggles. Much of what I know about accepting what I cannot change, I learned from Zenia. On this Mothers Day weekend, I thank God for my dear mother Avalon, and the legacy of love she gave me. But today, on Zenia’s birthday, I thank God for my “other” mother, and for the life lessons she taught me. Today’s Challenge: What are some of life’s lessons you learned from your mother? Did you ever have an “other” mother, in-law or otherwise? If your mom is still alive, be sure to love on her and fuss over her, but not just on Mothers Day – make it a...

RENEWED!

I fed my soul today. This past year, most mornings found me at my computer, working on various writing projects. I am an early riser by nature. I enjoy my coffee and a leisurely time of prayer and reading my Bible in the still hours before daybreak. (Night owls and moms of young children: don’t hate or judge me!) After breakfast and a shower, I make my way upstairs to the computer and tackle the writing assignment of the day. In the past 16-months I wrote a retreat workshop, as well as presentations for various groups. I labored over a book proposal (which my agent is currently sending out to publishers for consideration). I posted numerous blogs on my website, and wrote guest blogs for other sites. An article I wrote last summer (“Not the Life I Signed Up For”) was just published in the May/June issue of Today’s Christian Woman’s online digizine. I posted a boat-load of Facebook Status Updates, and just last week I composed my very first Tweets! All that is to say: I’ve been focused. A woman on a mission. There are new presentations to prepare for, and other blogs to write; however, when I sat down at my keyboard this morning, I felt restless. I felt the call of the wild. I gave myself permission to step away from my computer to take time to feed my soul. A morning fog burned off to make way for a day of blue skies and sunshine…the perfect day to play hooky! We got the bulk of this year’s snowfall of 223.5-inches in what should have been spring months. Kids had snow days when they normally would have had outdoor track practice. Our local university, Michigan Tech, had to cancel its outdoor Spring Fling due to a blizzard on April 19! Spring finally arrived last weekend. With temperatures near seventy-degrees, our 4-foot base of snow made a hasty retreat. Waterfalls are spilling torrents of run-off, and rivers are now rapids. In my little hometown of Gay, MI in the Upper Peninsula, the Tobacco River runs wild this time of year. I made the 25-mile drive to the bridge over the mouth of the Tobacco. I was awed, feeling the hydro-power that flowed beneath. The roar was deafening.  I drove a mile upstream where the river has reached flood stage; its water lapped the asphalt’s edge. I shouted, “Welcome back!” to a pair of Sandhill Cranes that flew overhead.  From just 5-feet away, I stood and watched a muskrat feed on new grass shoots along the riverbank. I listened to ducks call to one another in the swollen swamp across the road. An eagle soared farther out over the water. Assorted songbirds chattered back and forth. The fragrant smell of spring was in the air. I inhaled deeply. These things feed my soul. I felt renewed in spirit as I drove home, ready to get on with the responsibilities of the day. I dropped my car off for an oil change, and met a friend for a 2-mile walk outdoors. Sunshine, exercise, and good conversation were the cherry on the ice cream sundae of this beautiful day. And now I sit at my computer, reflecting on this serendipitous day. I am a disciplined person; I can crank out the words when needed. But I am grateful that I know when I need a few hours to feed my soul. Tonight I will go to sleep with a smile on my face. I am renewed. Today’s Challenge: What feeds your soul? When was the last time you played hooky -even for an hour – and indulged in something that renews your spirit? If it’s been too long, make a plan to do it...