Three things my mom passed on to me.

First and foremost, this is my 100th blog post! Holy cow!

I wanted to make this a special post, so I hope I did a good job of that.

I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot lately. Although I’m 25 and married, I live 350+ miles away from my mom, so I miss her quite a bit. And I’m okay with that because she’s my mom and she taught me a lot, showed me what real motherly love is, and (in my opinion) raised me to be a mature but silly, intelligent but empathetic, independent but humble, and loving but tough woman.

I’ve often thought about writing a book about my mom’s life because I think she is a remarkable woman – even if I wrote about my own life, she would play a central character in it. She’s gone through so much in her life, and if you know her then you understand what I’m talking about.

Instead of thinking about the frustrating and/or sad things surrounding my mom, though, I find myself reflecting on little (and big) things that I don’t necessarily realize I have picked up from her. If you told me when I was younger that I would pick up or appreciate some of these things, I would laugh at you and say, “Yeah, right.”

So here we go, here are some things my mom passed on to me.

My baby face. If you know me, then you know I’ve often talked about being told I look like I’m a high school student. I don’t think my facial features have changed much since graduating high school (other than my teeth, thanks to Invisalign) so I’ve gotten asked my age a lot since then.

I know that people always tell me, “Oh, you’ll appreciate it when you’re older!” But when I was trying to be taken seriously and get a professional job as a teacher, it was difficult when the principals, teachers, and even students looked at me as being similar to a high school student, if only by looks. Obviously that makes me seem unqualified and inexperienced.

Luckily now I have a job, but I still get that comment at least once a week. I was even questioned by the school nurse this past September when I went down and she was about to deny me a feminine product because students aren’t allowed to use them. Heck, my hairdresser just mentioned it again to me today, that the first time I came in to the salon back in October, she thought I was 18. Well, that’s all thanks to my mom; she always looked at least 10 years younger than she actually was.

Mom and IThanks for my youthful (albeit pale as heck) skin, Mom.

My love of crosswords. When I was younger, my mom’s right hand seemingly always had a blue stain on it from using erasable pens while doing crossword puzzles. She always had a crossword dictionary at the ready for when she just couldn’t seem to think of the answer. We also had a coffee mug with crosswords on it. That’s how much they were present in our house.

I think she has gone through 4 of those paperback crossword dictionaries (the spines always break, so she has to duct tape them back together), but she swears that the particular one she has always used is the best out there. And for birthdays or Christmas, it was always a safe bet to buy her crossword books. The hard ones. Like New York Times hard. She’s so smart and has done crosswords for years, so she knows all of these answers!

When I got a little older (like, 10), she would leave the less difficult answers blank and ask me to help her fill them in. As I grew up, I began getting my own crossword books; you know, the ones with EASY written on the front in gigantic letters so that you knew they were flipping EASY. As time went on, I was able to help my mom with the more difficult ones: Spanish translations, typical crossword clues, ones with more modern clues/answers, etc.

Now I have a few books of my own – they don’t have EASY on the front, but they aren’t the super hard ones like my mom does. Mostly because I take them with me when I might have some downtime and want to do a puzzle or two and so therefore don’t want to lug a dictionary with me everywhere. Yes, I’m sure there’s an app for that, but I’d just assume not have to use one on the go. Thus, I’m not able to fill them out completely without looking at the answers in the back. But I’ve found I’m better than the average person (not to sound cocky at all. I mean, come on, how can you be cocky about crosswords? Unless that’s what you base your self-esteem on and go to competitions and stuff like that. Well then, good for you, but that’s not for me).

Crossword love mug

Thanks for my intelligence and weird love of crosswords, Mom.

My compassion for others with differences. Ever since I was young, my mom would always make sure I understood that just because someone was different did not mean they were inferior in any way. I was told that I shouldn’t make fun of people just because they spoke different, looked different, walked different, thought different, or lacked the ability to do things that I could.

Sure, growing up as a dumb little elementary/middle school girl, of course I said some mean things here and there. But I honestly don’t think I was ever mean to the point of being cruel or making someone cry.

Especially because I HATE WHEN PEOPLE CRY. I’m a very sensitive soul; my mom will be the first to tell you that. I hated when people made me feel bad, so therefore I hated making other people feel bad. I was always able to put myself in their shoes, because that’s what my mom instilled in me from a young age.

Sure this has backfired on me a lot because I would tend to hold back feelings so as to not rock the boat. I would let people make snide comments and not defend myself. But now that I’m grown, I am able to defend myself without being mean and nasty. Plus, with all that’s happened in my life surrounding my mom, I know I’m much more compassionate than I would have been had my life been different.

Cute animals different rabbit kitty puppy mouse

Thanks for teaching me compassion and love, Mom.

So obviously there are many more things that I’ve learned from my mom, but I figured I would start with these three. If you liked this, let me know and maybe I’ll write another sometime.

Feel free to comment something(s) that you value about your mom or have picked up from your mom because moms and other motherly figures are important and need to be appreciated and valued much more than they are.

My Childhood Home

So I went back home a couple weekends ago and, although it’s only been 2 months since I last visited, I was hit with a ton of emotions. I was flooded with so many memories of this house – the familiar sounds of the floorboards creaking, the smell of the hand soap, and sights of my baby pictures hanging on the walls (Tom says they look like I had a mullet. It’s called a half up-do with bangs, okay?).Bathtub

I even went through some of our old pictures from when I was a youngin’ that are stored in boxes upstairs. I sifted through pictures of me with my parents, my friends, and relatives during birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, and other random times. There are tons of silly pictures; this one didn’t seem out of the ordinary at first. I mean, it’s just me learning to read and write with my Dad. Ha, nice 40, Dad. Anyways, looking through these, I started getting a little anxious.Holly and Dad 2

You see, my mom has been in a nursing home for almost 3 years now. She was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis back when I was 9 years old, and it’s definitely progressed over the last 15 years. She is not considered a “resident” because she has not fully signed the remainder of her life (she’s only 60) and her possessions over to them. But I think it might happen soon.

We’ve talked about it here and there, trying to decide what to do and when to do it; most of the hesitation concerns her losing her independence, something she has prided herself on for as long as I can remember. It is also so that when I come home to visit and such, I have my own house to stay in.Mom's helper

Even though I have had a love-hate relationship with this house, it will still feel as though I’ve lost something or someone dear to me. Not loss in the sense that it’s a possession and I have to give it up, it’s more from the memories I have of being there. Sleepovers with friends; cooking with my mom; playing in the street as a kid with the boom box playing Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys for the whole street to hear (how did my neighbors not hate us as kids?).

Then there are the many complaints I had of it growing up. My basement has always been unfinished and I have never been in our attic because it’s more of a crawl space, so there wasn’t a cool lair to hang out in like some of my friends had. I will even miss the backyard, as minuscule as it is; it served its purpose when there was over a foot of snow and school was canceled.

Snow action

The tough times pull at my heart as well – my room that became my solace whenever I was upset or wanted to be alone to read or play video games, the platform at the bottom of the stairs where I found my mom lying after she fell (that was the last time she ever tried going upstairs), and the nights spent alone sitting in the kitchen while she was in the nursing home and I was not working either of my two jobs.

I didn’t realize just how difficult this would be; for the past couple years, since selling the house became an actual possibility, I thought it would be exciting and a good idea to downsize and clean house of all these things that we don’t need. But now I am realizing that selling the house is the ultimate implication that mom has lost her independence. And that I am a grown up and need to make my own grown up life and home. And that’s devastating and scary as hell.

I mean she put so much work into keeping this house running even on her single-parent salary that eventually became monthly disability checks. And the nursing home will take every last cent of what she gets for the house. Not only that, but thinking about what to do with all of my and her belongings is super stressful. But let’s not go there; that’s a whole other can of worms.Jack for present

Even though it may be another couple months or a year until the house is on the market, it’s unnerving thinking that this huge part of my life will be gone. And it will become someone else’s; maybe another kid will move in and grow up in my house and make their own memories like I did. Someone else’s birthday will be celebrated there every year. Maybe they’ll repaint my old room and closet like I did when I became a teenager. They’ll make it their own and it will change as they grow up.

Or maybe an older couple will move in and spend the remainder of their lives just sitting on the front porch, enjoying the breeze. Another family will be able to enjoy the beautiful tree in the front yard that blooms in the spring (although it seems to be gone within a couple days because it always ends up raining and then all the petals litter the ground).Before and after

Who knows? Either way, I know I have to let go and move on – I mean, I’m an adult right? I need to get on with life, not just live in the has-been moments. Although it is fun and comforting to reminisce sometimes, I can’t let myself grieve for the past. So here’s to looking forward to the future – moving on from this chapter, creating my own home with new memories, and enjoying every step of the way.