Category Archives: mother – daughter relationships

Publisher’s Clearinghouse … Where’s My Check?!

My mom is a bit gullible, as many seniors are. She gets more mail solicitations from charities than anyone I know. There’s a reason for that. If they send her address labels or cards (or whatever), she feels guilty and sends them money.

She believes that Publisher’s Clearinghouse will actually send someone to our door with a big check if she enters their contest. And she thinks that sending someone money to win a big prize is legit. Which is why we have to keep an eye on her mail.

But now we have a bigger problem: infomercials. My mom won’t spend more than a few bucks on shampoo, but a year ago she sent away for hair care products that cost over $100. While they promised soft, flowing locks, they didn’t tell her she would have to follow a three-step process, and leave some of it in her hair overnight. Or that they’d automatically refill her order and charge her credit card. Guess who had to call the company, return the products, and get her credit card refunded?

Several months ago she saw an ad for pills that rid of belly fat. She ordered them, and when they came in the mail she got a bit of a scolding. “Mom,” I tried to reason, “if getting rid of belly fat was that easy, we’d all be taking this stuff.”  They’re still in the drawer. And she’s still got belly fat. What a surprise!

Last week she received a second order for arthritis pills she saw advertised on TV. We didn’t know about the first order, for which she paid $166. She was supposed to get two bottles and a third free. The free one never came, but they did automatically send her another monthly supply and charge her credit card.

Of course, she asked my husband to deal with this and not tell me. He did deal with it. And he did tell me. And I did talk to her. I pointed out that she paid $166 for a pill that contains Vitamin C and D. That it wouldn’t help her arthritis. That it’s a scam. And I got the same response as before. Which means she didn’t hear a word I said.

My husband wants to take away her credit card. I feel that taking it away would make her feel more diminished, less independent, and more child-like. At the same time, I can only imagine what might arrive at our door next month. Mind you, mom orders other things that we know nothing about but I find in her secret stash in the kitchen drawer.

Any suggestions out there? Besides calling the Attorney General’s Office?




Mom is Doing Zumba

Since my last post, which apparently brought tears to many eyes, I’ve been reluctant to share my emotions about mom living with me.

There are days when I am so emotionally drained, that I don’t know what to post. So I don’t. Instead I work until 1 am, because work has always been a positive outlet for my intensity and drive. And it makes me feel good about myself.  I also get to ignore my feelings about mom being here.

But this week has been interesting. My mom has shown some new awareness. She turns down the TV when someone calls me and I’m working at home. She is excited about going to her senior center, Independence Health. (By the way, a great place for aging seniors in Research Triangle.) She’s working puzzles. Doing brain exercises. I think she’s feeling better about herself.

In turn, she’s less critical of me. (Really, a mom who is critical of her child???)

So here’s my words of wisdom for people with aging parents. Get them involved in something. My mom told me that tomorrow she is doing Zumba. She loves it because she “gets to shake her butt.”

My mom might be 88, but apparently she still loves dancing.  And I love that.




Good Memories vs Current Realities

I’ve had coffee, lunch or drinks with several girlfriends lately and the topic always comes up about my mom living with me. All four of my friends have lost their moms, one 20 years ago, the others no less than 10 years ago. And they all say to me, in one way or another, “I really miss my mom but I read your blog and I’m thankful.” And then they all apologize for, as they have said, “sounding horrible.”

It’s not horrible. It’s reality. And what they’re really saying is this:

“Mom, I’m so glad I don’t have to see you living with dementia, forgetting what you ate for dinner, what we enjoyed or talked about the day before, or who you voted for on Dancing With the Stars. Instead, I like remembering the dinners we shared, the things we talked about, and the fact that nobody watched Dancing With the Stars back then because none of us had to think about such ridiculous things as reality TV.

And mom, I’m so glad that I don’t have to see you walking down the stairs in pain, grunting when you get out of a chair because it’s such a struggle for you to get up, or refusing to go on a walk because, quite frankly, your legs can’t carry you. Instead, I’d rather remember you bounding down the stairs, relaxing in a chair because you wanted to snuggle up and read a book, or walking with me to all the stores in the Mall — because you could and we did.

And yes, mom, I remember you driving all us kids to the beach in your little Rambler. We’d stay from dusk to dawn. You were fearless. But if you were here today, you wouldn’t be driving, and you’d resent not having your independence. That would be heartbreaking for me to see. Oh, and when I picked you up to take you to the doctor or to dinner, you’d be telling me how to drive, when to stop for lights, and when to brake. Like you did when I was 16. That would just drive me crazy.

Mom, I like remembering you without a cane. Or a walker. Or taking high blood pressure medicine or cholesterol medicine or whatever medicine might be required these days. I prefer remembering you taking a One-a-Day vitamin. And that’s it. If you were here now, I’d worry about you cutting you pills in half, not taking the proper doses, stopping your medicine all together, or fighting with me about what the doctor told you to take and how.

That doesn’t mean, Mom, I don’t miss you every single day. It just means that my memories of you are of a younger you. That’s not so bad. And what I’ve also learned is that your loss could be far worse. I could have you here and you might not remember me.”

So to my girlfriends I say:

“We are all given what we can deal with. Sometimes life hurts, sometimes it’s downright awful, but most of the time it’s damn good. Let’s all be thankful for our  experiences in life. It’s what makes us who we are. And you’re right, your mom would drive you crazy when she tells you how to drive. Just ask me about that. I have a few good stories.”

Three Generations Under One Roof

It is Mother’s Day and I am sitting here reflecting on the past year. Last May, I knew that I would be moving my mom to Raleigh to live with us. What I didn’t know was that my 25-year-old daughter Lauren would be moving back to Raleigh for a new job.

Since Lauren was in the middle of a sublease in Aspen, she rented her apartment with the furniture in it. So guess what? She had no choice but to move back home for the interim. With her little puppy Henri. And camp out in our study. For three months.

So what is it like having three generations of strong-willed, passionate, perfectionists living under one roof? Do you really need to ask?

Really, most of it has been fun. Lauren and I love to cook so we take our weekly trip to the Farmer’s Market, make these elaborate meals together, and pick out good wines to match. We take our dogs on walks together, talk. We’re both busy with work, sometimes burning the midnight oil until … well … midnight.

But there’s tension. Mom thinks she’s the boss. She tells us when to cook and how to chop the veggies, comments on our clothes and hair, laments when we don’t put on lipstick. And more. (Today’s example: Mom says, “Lauren, I saw your recipe and it says that your cake takes three hours to make. You better get it started now.” Well, it’s 12:30 and we’re eating dinner at 7. Lauren says, “I’ve got it under control, Grandma.” Mom, “Well, I’m just reminding you.” Five minutes later, she says the same thing. You get the picture).

Lauren is a little bit bossy herself. I remember when I was 25, I thought I knew everything. It’s only later that you figure out that your parents are a little smarter than you give them credit for. So she’s at that stage where she’s asserting her independence. And she’s not afraid to take charge or speak her mind. (Example: Moms reading this don’t need an example. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Enough said.)

And then there’s me. I admit,  I like to do things my way. I’m really independent, have been since I moved out of my house at age 19. Now I’m 54 and I really don’t need my mom telling me what to do. But that doesn’t stop her. So I’m learning to listen to her “suggestions,” say something like, “Thanks, mom, for the suggestion,” and then go do what I want. It’s better than getting into it with her. (Example: I say to mom and Lauren, “Enough out of both of you. You think you’re the boss, mom. And Lauren, you think you’re the boss. Well, I have news for both of you. This is my house and I’m the boss. So both of you knock it off right now.” Then I walk away and mom sticks her tongue out at me. Highly effective.)

Lauren has now moved to her own apartment. But she’s here today for Mother’s Day. The dogs are chasing each other around the house, barking. The TV is on too loud because mom can’t hear it otherwise. Lauren just discovered she forgot buttermilk for the cake. She’s running out the door, leaving a mess in the kitchen, and yelling these instructions: “Don’t touch anything. I’ll be right back.” Mom is yelling, “See, I told you to start the cake earlier.” The phone is ringing. Mom’s “offering a suggestion” about how to get the dogs calmed down.

Ah, the joys of family. But I wouldn’t change a thing. There’s something to be said about three generations under one roof. It’s never dull. Just ask my husband.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Watch Your Language!

When I attended the University of Rhode Island (many years ago), I was a journalism major. Writing was my passion, but I also tried my hand at radio and TV. It was not to be. Unbeknownst to me, I had an accent. A Boston accent. You know, as in “Park the car in Harvard Yard” — with none of the r’s actually pronounced.

Eventually I left RI and moved to Westchester County, NY, where I was teased relentlessly about my accent by my fellow reporters. I worked hard to get rid of it. Or at least loose enough of it so I didn’t get ribbed every time I opened my mouth.

Then a move to Raleigh, NC, in 1988. Living in the south changes your pace. The language is slower, a relaxed cadence that I soon picked up. I even found myself greeting people by saying, “Hey” instead of “Hello.” And what the heck, I can throw in a “Y’all” with the best of ’em.

I thought I had done a pretty good job of eradicating my accent. And then my mom moved here from RI. In with us. So I listen to her thick, RI accent 24/7. We tease her because one of her favorite expressions is: “That’s the good part.” But it sounds like this, “That’s the good pot.”

Yesterday I heard myself say, “I’m going to go take my showa.” Instead of shower. And I thought, “Oh My God, I’m sounding like a Yankee again. Mom is rubbing off on me.”

It’s interesting to me how you can revert back so easily to your linguistic past. But before I think more about it, I’m going to go enjoy a bowl of chowda for lunch.

American Idol, Dancing With the Stars

Before mom moved in, I prided myself on the types of TV shows I would watch. Sure, I had a guilty pleasure: Law & Order. Couldn’t get enough of it, would watch every marathon over the holidays (Isn’t that what holidays are for?)

Normally, I would watch National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, the Food Channel, the Travel Channel. Some of it was fun, some intellectual, some emotional. But I guess I had a bit of a superiority complex … I wasn’t watching network TV. (OK, TV snob, just say it).

But that has changed. Mom is a huge American Idol and Dancing with the Stars fan. As a result, I now find myself rooting for Scotty McCreery and Kirstie Alley (is she really 60?) when I watch TV.

Ok, so it’s not intellectually stimulating, unless you find the blonde on DWTS shaking it an inspiration. But my mom has so much fun. She votes for her favorites, talks to her friends on the phone about it, and looks forward to the entertainment.

I actually caught myself saying tonight, “OMG, this is the best group of talent on American Idol.” Next week, Scotty and Kirstie, I will bring myself to vote for you. In my mom’s honor, of course. But don’t tell anyone.

Unsolicited Advice is the Worst, Or So I Thought

There are a lot of books and articles written about communication between men and women. I remember reading Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. And although it was many years ago, the one thing that stood out for me was: unsolicited advice is never appreciated.

Women, for instance, like to talk and vent. They really don’t want you to say anything, they just want you to listen. (By the way, that’s why we have girlfriends. They understand that instinctively, offering sympathy or empathy). But men are different. They listen, then offer advice because they want to help you solve your problem. It’s maddening to women because all they want is for someone to listen.

This all came back to me the other day after listening to my mom give me unsolicited advice time and time again. I was getting frustrated to the point … well, you don’t want to know. And after a conversation with my sister, she said: “Unsolicited advice is the worst kind.” Ahhh, it suddenly all clicked. When you ask someone for advice, it’s appreciated. Otherwise, not so much.

So I had a heart to heart with my mom the other night and told her that when she gives me advice I didn’t ask for, it makes me feel like I’m a four-year-old again and i really wished she wouldn’t do it. We talked quite a bit, she apologized profusely, and I really thought she understood. Success!

That was Saturday. This is Monday. I’m leaving the house and she says, “You work too hard. I can’t believe you’ve been on the phone all morning and now you have a meeting. Is that what you’re wearing? Really? Where’s your lipstick? You look really pale.” Seriously. My response: “Mom, don’t you remember the conversation we had the other night about you giving me advice I didn’t ask for? I’m more inclined never to wear lipstick if you nag me about it.”

She looked at me dead in the eye and said, “What conversation? I don’t know what you’re talking about. But if you don’t want me commenting on your lipstick, then fine. You’ll just look pale.”

So I found out there’s something worse than unsolicited advice. It’s when someone doesn’t remember giving it to you.