Introduction

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Introduction

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

~Melody Beattie

There is a fifteen-year age difference between my oldest sibling and myself. If you asked the four of us kids to describe our mother, who she was, and what she was like, I bet you would get four totally different answers. My mother was twenty-five and a newlywed when she had my eldest sister. By the time I came along she was forty with three other children. Her marriage was not that new and exciting by then, and in fact she would be divorced within five years. She also didn’t have the energy that she did as a twenty-five-year-old when her first child was born.

So I had a very different mother than any of my siblings. She made her mark on each of us in a very positive way, but for each of us it was a different experience. And that’s what I got from this collection of great stories as well—101 different experiences. There are many different kinds of Moms, many different ways to be a mom and still be the perfect mom for your children.

Many of us have a preconceived notion of just what it is a “mom” should be: a teacher, a caregiver, a shoulder to cry on, a font of all wisdom? Is a mom a Clair Huxtable or a Carol Brady? A Lorelai Gilmore or a Claire Dunphy? They all have it going on. I think what we look for in a mother is defined by our own experiences. And that is what made putting this volume together so fascinating… and fun. My coauthor Amy Newmark and I got to choose from thousands of stories that were submitted for this book. We left a lot of great stories by the wayside, but we are confident that the ones we chose represent all the different types of mothers out there. The unifying factors that we saw in these stories about terrific moms were their selfless love, their passionate interest in their children’s dreams and lives, and their lifelong commitment to their kids, even if they were juggling other children, jobs, volunteer work, husbands, and housework.

Being a mom myself, I put massive pressure on myself to be “perfect” with my children. Is that even possible? These stories opened my eyes to the reality that what is important to each of us is different. But whatever our priorities, our kids appreciate what we choose to do for them. As a mother of very young children, looking ahead to many more years of hard work, I found it encouraging to read about how much children appreciate the sacrifices their mothers made for them.

You need appreciation when you are a mother! And that’s the key here. This book is a gigantic “Thank You” to all the moms out there. It’s your way to say thank you to your own special mother who poured her heart and all her effort into making you who are today. To all the moms out there who are reading this, who have “been there, done that,” you are appreciated. You’ll get that when you read these stories and you see the outpouring of love and thanks from our writers.

In Chapter 1—“Great Role Models”—you’ll read about my mom and what she taught me, and you’ll also read about the great examples that other moms set for their children. Donna Finlay Savage, for example, describes how her mom bravely taught her kids to live without prejudice in the South during the early days of the civil rights movement. And Alisa Edwards Smith tells us how her mom taught her to “fake it till you make it,” something we all sometimes need to do when we are not feeling quite confident enough about a new challenge or opportunity.

Moms can be incredibly strong, and in Chapter 2—“Rising to the Challenge”—you’ll meet some very impressive moms who handle all kinds of situations with great aplomb. Amy talks about her mom’s stroke and how she bravely and diligently recovered from it, returning to her normal active life. And Connie Pombo used her mom’s own example fighting cancer to handle her own breast cancer when she was diagnosed.

Amy and I decided to look at the lighter side of life in Chapter 3—“Maternal Mischief.” After all, our mothers can be a hoot! You’ll read about how Jody Lebel’s mom crept into a tattoo parlor to see if they could get Sharpie cat whiskers off her face, and how Eva Schlesinger and her mom inadvertently snuck contraband fruit into the U.S. and then had to scarf down the evidence right in front of a Customs agent.

We all want our moms to be proud of us, even when we’re adults. In Chapter 4—“Love and Acceptance”—you’ll meet moms who surprised their own kids by being more open-minded and loving than they ever imagined, whether their kids were coming out to them, being obnoxious teenagers, or just being unappreciative. And you’ll read Joe Ricker’s story about how he never understood how much his teen mother loved him until she showed him her cache of artwork and letters after he rebelliously eloped.

Chapter 5—“The Best Cheerleaders”—reminds us who’s really there for us at all times no matter what. It’s our moms, who are always willing to share our dreams and help us make them come true. Larry Miller, a successful journalist, tells us how his mother steered him on the right course to his writing success by telling him to write about what he knew. And Maril Crabtree ends up finishing every project she ever starts, including a thesis and a law degree, because of her mom’s wise motivational words.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, a New England girl like myself, said, “Most mothers are instinctive philosophers.” And that’s why we made Chapter 6—“The Wisdom of Mothers”—to pass on some great advice and sage thinking. Mark Leiren-Young talks about how his mom did nothing wrong and everything right when she raised him as a latchkey kid. He learned all about responsibility, discipline, and even how to cook. Since my mom raised me the same way, I loved Mark’s story.

Did your mom ever fiercely defend you or stand up for your rights? Amy and I both have stories about our moms doing that, so we loved the stories in Chapter 7—“Mom Was Right.” Even when Kathy Lynn Harris’s mother embarrassed her by not letting her go on a sports team trip when the roads were icy, she knew she was right. And how about all those things that your mom insisted on when you were a kid that you swore you would never do to your own kids… except that now you are! You’ll love Carol Commons-Brosowske’s story about having the “meanest mother in town,” one she emulates now that she is a mother herself!

Teaching our kids is one of the most important things that we do, and various grown children thank their mothers for that in Chapter 8—“My Mother the Teacher.” Bill Jager tells a fascinating story about how his mom was his kindergarten teacher in his rural town, where school didn’t start till the first grade. And we loved Elizabeth Greenhill’s story about how her mom made the family go back to the bank to return money the teller had given her in error. It was a great lesson for Elizabeth and her siblings.

As I read through these stories, I realized “mom” is defined in myriad ways. Some people consider their “mom” to be a person who isn’t even biologically or adoptively connected to them, but who still served the “mother” role. Johnny Tan talks about the nine mothers he has had throughout his life—yes, nine—in Chapter 9, “The Other Moms in Our Lives.” And Chris Rainer talks about how she came to love and rely on her stepmother, regretting how she had not embraced her when she first came into her life.

You know, we women tend to be self-deprecating. We wonder if we are “enough.” I wrote a song about this a couple of years ago. It’s called “Me.” My sons look at me and they see the world. I look at them and see the same! But sometimes, when you are a mom, and your kids are relying on you, or they are grown and you wonder how you did, you can feel a bit like an imposter. You might think, “Hey, it’s just little old me. Who am I to think that I can do this mothering thing?” That’s what my song is about. One of the lines—“When I look in the mirror all I see is me”—pretty much sums it up. But it’s clear from reading these stories that it will all work out. We moms rock! And we are “enough.” So I say “thanks to my mom” and thanks to all you moms reading this special volume. I hope it will make you smile, laugh out loud, and even tear up a few times. And overall, I hope it makes you feel loved and appreciated, because you clearly are!

~Jo Dee Messina

ME

I’M SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER

SOMEBODY’S FRIEND

A SHOULDER TO LEAN ON

NO MATTER WHEN

I’M SOMEBODY’S TEACHER

WHEN THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND

GOT A SEAT IN THE BLEACHERS

I’M THE WORLD’S BIGGEST FAN

OH WELL

I WISH I WAS HALF THE WOMAN I’VE GOT TO BE

I WISH I HAD ALL THE ANSWERS RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME

I’M EVERYTHING TO EVERYONE AND I’M SCARED AS I CAN BE

BECAUSE WHEN I LOOK INTO THE MIRROR ALL I SEE IS ME

I’M SOMEBODY’S SWEETHEART

SOMEBODY’S GIRL

SOMEONE’S DIRECTION TO FIND THEIR WAY IN THIS WORLD

I’VE GOT TO BE PERFECT

EVEN WHEN I FEEL BAD

I’VE GOT TO KEEP GIVING

WHEN I’VE GAVE ALL I HAD

OH

CHORUS

WHEN I FEEL UNCERTAIN

I’M ON MY KNEES TO PRAY

I KNOW THAT IT’S ALL WORTH IT

BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY

CHORUS

IS SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER

SOMEBODY’S GIRL

SOMEONE’S DIRECTION TO FIND THEIR WAY IN THIS WORLD

Words and Music by Jo Dee Messina, Kathie Baillie and Patricia Conroy © 2013 Dreambound Songs (ASCAP), Whole Earth Music (ASCAP) and Patricia Conroy Music (ASCAP)

All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission. International Copyright Secured.

Use this link for Jo Dee’s performance of “Me” www.jodeemessina.com/chickensoup

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