A Mom’s Legacy

WeddingAisleIt’s been ten years. I don’t know why this year is so tough. All year, too, not just today. It seems like it shouldn’t hurt this much anymore.  Maybe because the world feels out of control. Maybe because my kids are people I wish she knew. Maybe because my own little house is running quite well for the first time, maybe ever, and I just wish she could see it-be proud of me, know that I “did good”.

My mom’s been gone a long time. She’s missed the lives of nearly all of my children. They don’t know her at all, save for the stories I share with them about her. Like, the one about how she moved all the way across the country when she was 18 without knowing a soul. She took one job that lead to even cooler jobs and never really told anyone about them once she got married and became a mom.  Or maybe the one about keeping her dates with other guys after she was engaged because “dad was studying for the bar and never around, so what else would she do with her time?” That’s a good one.


I often share with my girl how I learned my makeup skills from sitting on my mom’s bathroom floor in the mornings watching her apply each new layer as she got ready for her “city job” when I was little.

MomFaith Sometimes I tell the story of her living with me for a week after The Girl was born and opening up to me about motherhood, and being a widow and fighting cancer, and how in that one week I learned more about her, and how to handle life than I had in 29 years as her kid. That’s a good one too.

But perhaps the stories I need to spend more time on are ones she never would have shared herself. Because if she did, that would have meant she was admitting how great she was, and that is not nearly humble enough for her.

My mom’s main story, her legacy even,  is one of an open door. Our house was a refuge for anyone and anything that needed mending. A literal cast of characters filled my childhood home because all were welcome and all wanted to come.

WeddingTableBroken hearts? Check. Injustice? Handled. Fear and self doubt? Visit Toni’s House. It didn’t matter who you were or what you looked like, or where you came from, you were welcome, no, it was bigger than that, you were wanted, in her living room. The only rule was that you made yourself at home because, unless it was Thanksgiving, mom didn’t cook for or serve anyone.

MomKevinDancingWhat she did was listen, without judgement, and often without advice. She just listened to our stories until we worked out what to do on our own. My brother once called her Yoda with a Vodka Tonic. Her wisdom was priceless and only shared sparingly. What she offered most was a safe space, acceptance and an open heart to help anyone bear their burden. No matter how full hers may have been with her own, she always had room to let yours in too.

My mother, by sheer example, taught me to love. The kind of love that matters because it makes the other person love themselves. Not love like you have for your iPhone, but the love talked about in churches and synagogues and mosques and non-religious spiritual houses around the world. The kind of love that is deep and meaningful because you are fellow human beings and deserve it for that reason alone. The world could use a little more of that kind of love today. Maybe that’s why I miss her so.WeddingDanceC

Everyone just wants someone to hear their story. My mom did her best to hear them all.

Today, I want you to hear hers.

Yes, I Do ALL This and I Am Just Fine

ElmoLSCI was at an event this weekend with a bunch of Power Social Media Moms and it was glorious. Sure, the backdrop was amazing. The Liberty Science Center was our playground for the day and parents and kids alike delighted in all that LSC has to offer, and believe me, they have a lot to offer, including Elmo. Who doesn’t love Elmo?

The reason I enjoyed the event so much was bigger than just the cool experiments and looks of utter glee on the children’s faces. I loved this event because the moms that were present make me feel normal anytime I am with them. They are all entrepreneurs, some in addition to working for a corporate entity during regular business hours. All of these women are busy, like not enough hours in the day busy. They are all devoted parents that balance motherhood with a healthy dose of self-identity. They have all answered, often begrudgingly, the question, “how do you do all that you do?”.

Most importantly, they are all happy. They know the life they’ve chosen looks hectic to the outside world, but they are all  sure they have the best gig going. They all support one another in their choices because they know support doesn’t exist everywhere and part of being a Super Power Mom is lifting up other  moms, all moms. These women, these super-busy, powerful, smart and funny women, accept me as their own, without question and I love it. These girls, they get me.

Wristbands Awaiting Power Moms

Wristbands Awaiting Power Moms

It seems no matter how great the people in my life are, I often feel the need to explain myself. I don’t have a traditional job. Hell, I don’t even have only one job. I haven’t had one job since I was 12 and answering phones at our church in the evenings and that was while I was in school and playing sports all day. When people as me what I do, my first response is to chuckle and say, “When?”.

I’ve spent my life constantly dipping my fingers (or even diving head first) into new things and trying on different roles. Somedays it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, but most days, it all feels exactly like the best life for me. And yet a lot of people can’t really understand or accept that. They say I have too much on my plate. They ask how I handle it all. They don’t think I am particularly good at anything because they can’t label any one thing that I do. They look at me cross-eyed as I run from here to there keeping up with all the blessings in my life. LSCFamilies

Because they are blessings. Busy, is a blessing. Opportunities are a gift. There is nothing in my packed life that I wish I had said no to. Being busy means you pretty quickly learn the art of saying no to things that just don’t fit the big plan. And whether the outside observer believes it or not, I am very clear on my plan.

Suck the marrow out of life every chance I get. It’s pretty simple.

I think I might add to it: spend more time with people who get my plan so I can spend less time explaining or justifying or defending who I am. I am busy. I am blessed. I am a whole lot of things at any different time.
Most importantly, I am happy doing what I do and being exactly who I am, especially when I’m with women who get that.


I Learned More than Just How to Cinch a Waist on The Today Show

TodaySHowSo the title up there may be a bit of a stretch… sorta. Two weeks ago I had the extreme pleasure of being asked to help out with a Today Show style segment wherein Rockstar Stylist Denise Caldwell would teach the world some tricks for dressing slimmer.

I got to go hang out with some B List celebs (and Amy Adams) that were also there for taping, as I sat in the chaos of  what I’m guessing is the B List green room for a bunch of hours and absorb all there is to absorb backstage at my favorite morning show. It was all I could do not to totally FanGirl out and spend the entire morning taking pictures of name plates, sitting in Willie Geist’s chair and asking the hair and makeup people to dish on celebs. Holding in that enthusiasm was the greatest acting role I have ever had.

In the weeks leading up to my appearance, I had a bit of an existential crisis. I mean, I am just a church-working mom who isn’t particularly fit at the moment. Why the heck was I going on national television for a style segment? Granted, I wasn’t the one giving advice (Although, I could have. I’ve dressed this body for many years.) but I still somehow felt like they were going to figure out I didn’t belong and cancel the whole gig.

I have always loved fashion. When I was younger, I had every plan to make a career in it. Then, for whatever reason I went a different way and ever since, no matter how much I dabble,  I have felt unworthy of returning. Lately, it has been both because I’ve been out of the game for a while and I no longer see myself as someone who fits the mold. So I write the occasional piece here about clothes and I try to do makeup tutorials here and there, but I largely leave “Style Blogging” to the young and or skinny, accepting it is not my place in the world and then trying to justify it by the fact that my day job isn’t really in line with the frivolity of dresses, hand bags and mascara.

Then, that morning as I sat in that makeshift greenroom I realized it does all fit in line because it’s all me. The enthusiasm I felt that morning is the same one I feel when I really connect with a family at work or write a really good post about Social Good or cooking or money. That burning in my chest that day was the same one I feel whenever I am passionate about something and just because in this case it was something frilly and fun doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of my passion.

I can be a mom and a church lady and over 40 and not a size two and still have a deep love of all things designer. There is a difference between loving it and worshipping it and as long as I keep myself in the world of the former without letting it take over my life, all of these passions can live congruently within this one “bosomly blessed” girl.

I had to write about a reason that I loved a style website the other day and my answer was that the community was inclusive, meaning everyone had access to loving style, no matter who they are or where they come from. Maybe now that even includes me.

That means you can look forward to more posts about trends and fashion and all things frilly and fun right alongside the social good and money and food. Because, Reinvention is nothing if not inclusive, of all sides of you.