Thursday, December 19, 2013


     Today is my mother's birthday. Had she lived, she would have been 83 years old. There are a lot of things I don't know about my mother. She died the day I turned 24. I had just found out I was pregnant with my first child, Jennifer. Over the years I have wished many times, especially when my kids were growing, that she was still alive so that I could ask her questions and get her advice. It would have been nice to share that bond of motherhood with her. But I guess that wasn't meant to be. So, as I said, there is a lot of things I don't know about my mom but as I think back on my childhood, I can remember some things:
     She was born Mariellen Chandler in Dayton, Ohio.
     My grandfather was a traveling salesman (don't know what he sold) and for a lot of my mother's childhood, she was raised mostly by my grandmother.
     Her name was supposed to be Marie Ellen but the nurses ran it together, and her first and middle name became one.
     She was the 4th born of 5 children, and the youngest girl of three.
     Mom wore bright red lipstick, always the same brand and color, and now after all these years, I don't recall the brand or color but I know it was a true, bright red.
     She was a brunette, with naturally wavy hair that she always wore short, and used to put curls in her hair with bobby pins wound around little fingerfuls of hair. For a time, probably when I was in junior high, she wore her hair styled like Lucille Ball (but not dyed.) I liked that hairstyle on her the best, but I guess it was hard to keep up because she didn't wear it like that very long.
     She used Jergen's Original scent, hand lotion. It has a scent of cherry almond. I, just by chance, came upon the scent one day shortly after David was born (1982.) I had not remembered or thought about it for years, but when I happened upon it, I had such a flood of memories attached, I bought a bottle and have used it ever since. I remember sitting on my mom's bed watching her get ready for church. She would take some lotion and begin to rub it in, look at me, exclaim she had too much and offer to share it with me, taking my hands in hers and then showing me how to rub it in.
     Her favorite perfume was Channel #5. She didn't wear it very often so a bottle would last years, but I remember her always having a bottle on her dresser.
     Every birthday she would ask for a German Chocolate Cake. When we moved back to California in 1969, she discovered See's Candy. My dad always hand picked her a box of soft caramels and pastel bon-bons.
     She never cooked from a recipe. She made the best Spanish Rice, a wonderful Chow Mein, and a tasty meatloaf, which was my dad's favorite. She had a "Red Betty" Crocker cookbook but I don't ever remember seeing her using it except for baking.
     She was a good military wife. From 1961, when we left CA for GA, until 1969, when my dad retired, we moved 6 times. With each move she would patiently take care of our school records, find new vets, new stores, new dentists, new friends. Looking back I realize how much work and stress it was, but she made it look easy and adapted with grace.
     My mother was a strong woman in an age of homey housewives. She told my sister and I we could be whatever we wanted to be when we grew up. She took care of all the finances in the family and if there was a decision to be made, she usually had the final vote. I don't know what made her so strong. My grandmother was also a strong woman; maybe that's where she got her determination. I found out years after she died that she wanted to be a Pharmacist but even though her older two sisters had gone on to earn degrees in nursing, my grandfather told my mother she didn't have the brains for college and that her best bet was to find a husband to take care of. I know, and anybody that ever met my mom knew, that she was probably smarter than the average person one would meet. She would have excelled in college. But maybe that was not to be her path.
     I know my mother loved my father. The sun rose and set on him and even though she loved her family, he was the most important person in her life until the day she died. I must add here that the feeling was mutual. Even though my dad remarried shortly after my mother died, it was only because he was hoping to find that kind of love again. He didn't. I don't think a love like that comes along more than once in any one's life time.
     Overall, the things I don't know about my mother are probably not that important. I don't know her favorite food. I don't know what her favorite color was. I don't know much about her childhood. Was she mischievous? Was she a good student? Did she have a best friend? Could she read music? Did she know how to ice skate?
     I suppose most of that stuff doesn't matter. I learned by watching her what a good marriage was. I learned that kids need to be held accountable and given guidelines to feel secure. I learned that you don't have to physically punish children. If you raise them right, and instill the correct morals; teach them right from wrong from the very beginning, a lot of love in the beginning works better than a lot of discipline after the fact.
     I miss her, even after 33 years. I wish she was here to see how my children grew up. With what I learned by her example I managed to raise them to be good people on the earth. They work and contribute and take care of those they love, and those that need love and friendship. She would have liked my children and would be proud of the legacy she helped create.
     Happy Birthday, Mom! 

Monday, December 16, 2013


     Hi. My name is Jody and I am a list maker.
     There. I said it. It's true. I AM a list maker.
     Currently I am awash with lists. It seems this obsession gets worse in the holiday season. So much to do; so little time! I have a Christmas card list, a Christmas list for presents, a mailing list (whew! I got those all in the mail this morning at 9:00. Personal challenge met. I was the first one in line!)
     I have four lists for grocery shopping. One for Costco, one for New Frontiers (where I get all my gluten free stuff and a lot of my organic salad makings, one for Trader Joes (self explanatory, doesn't everybody love Trader Joes?) and one for the regular grocery store.
     I have a list of blog topics I want to write about and a list of ideas for plot points for my novel. Periodically I have a list of questions for my acupuncturist, although at present she has answered all my pressing questions.           
      Before school let out this last Friday, I had a list for each week since the beginning of November. Since we are on a semester block schedule at school, there is a ton of stuff to do as our first part of our year winds down. This November and December I had to finish off the units I was doing, return text books (which you have to schedule before a certain cut off date but you have to make sure you will be done with them before that date. This usually works out but you never know when the stray fire alarm will throw off the entire plan.) I went down to the wire this year. In my sophomore class I finished reading the last 6 pages of a novel the day we had to turn it in. I had an observation scheduled by administration, which entailed 3 days of preparation and 2 meetings. I had a parent conference, 2 students that needed extra care and handling, 7 students that were not handing in papers (10 actually failed that class for lack of handing in assignments), a Christmas potluck I was in charge of for the board members of my quilting guild, a general guild membership potluck and party I was not (thank goodness) in charge of. Weekly grade-level meetings, 3 days in the computer lab instructing the kids on the proper structure of Power Points. Then 2 full days of the PowerPoint presentations, which I stupidly scheduled for the last week of school. I say this was stupid because it takes an entire  additional day to review and grade them. And then I had to grade all the common notebooks for completion of vocabulary and literary terms, and for my sophomores I had to grade a study guide for the Joy Luck Club novel complete with 214 questions, 4 sheets of vocabulary words and a 3 page quote analysis packet that I had due Wednesday before the end of school. This was all on a list to make sure I got it all done.
     And among all this I had shopping to do so that I could get the presents wrapped and in the mail by today, Christmas cards to address and get in the mail today, get the tree up and decorated, string the lights outside, take numerous trips to the hardware store to buy extension cords, mortar and sand for the handyman building a walkway in the backyard, drive to Templeton to purchase picket fence panels and wood for the project David built so he and Josc could give it to me for Christmas, finish a baby blanket for my best friend's second grandchild, finish a Christmas stocking (also for said baby), go through and decide what I was going to donate to the guild's stash sale we're having in January, make a trip to the Goodwill to drop off stuff I was carrying around since David and Josc were here at Thanksgiving and went through boxes they had been storing here, go to the store for an elderly neighbor, cook dinner 3 times a week for same neighbor... I could go on. I could make a list. A long list.
     What I especially like about lists is the feeling I get when I get to cross something off. A small feeling of personal satisfaction. And when I finish the list and everything is crossed off I take an immeasurable amount of joy in the act of throwing that list away.
     It has occurred to me that I probably should have a list of my quilting UFO's that I want to work on in the coming new year. But first I need to make a list of last minute things I have to do before Christmas, a list of food I want for Christmas dinner and a list of things I need to be sure and print out to update my President's binder (for the guild) before the next year.
     I don't know if there is help for me. And, if there was, do I really want help? Do I really need help? I realize that I have been making list since I was a child. I find comfort in the concrete, hard copy of a hand written list and I don't think I really want to change.