Mother’s Day 2013: An Interview with My Mom

mom and the girls 001My Mom is always doing a million things and never quite finishes her thoughts, planning her next day out loud as she walks around the house putting things here and there. In fact, when my brother-in-law first met my Mom she asked him a string of questions and before he could answer she proceeded to trail off on another topic as she left the room to put away something. He turned to my sister and asked, “Should we answer her?” My sister replied, “Nah, she’s just talking to her herself”.  Albeit hard to have a direct conversation with my Mom she continues to put her stamp on this world, maintaining her quirky, expressive nature as a fun-loving drama coach, former hippie, and newfound potter. The picture above is one of my Mom, my two sisters and myself in 1987. By the way, I’m the one presenting the laundry like Vanna White. Not sure why? Perhaps, I just like to present things.

Ladies and Gentlemen,  I present to you my Mom.


Me: Mom, in honor of Mother’s Day this year can I ask you a smattering of mom related questions for my Mother’s Day blog post?

Mom: Sure, honey. But make it quick cause I’m about to go to bed. I’ve been running around doing my plays and I have to pick up Aunt Junie tomorrow and … [she trails off]

Question 1: Why did you decide to become a mom?

Mom:  No one decides to become a mom. [She laughs] In your generation they plan it and in my generation they didn’t.

Question 2: What was the age that you thought to yourself,  “Oh man I should have never had kids.”

Mom: Definitely 16. You guys scared the crap out of us [parents]. It was a very stressful time thinking about you girls growing up and having a lot of independence but still not adults yet. We had to think about insurance, the end of high school, how much money it will all cost for college. You girls were hanging out with friends we don’t like, lying to your parents….

Me: Wait, wait a minute here. I know you’re not talking about me, right?

Mom: No, no you were a good kid.

Me: You’re talking about Sister Number 2 right?

Mom: Um…yes. Of course, honey.

Question 3: What were your discipline techniques?

Mom: [she laughs] Next question. No, we didn’t really have any conscious discipline techniques, did I honey? [She turns to my Dad to confirm and I hear him in the background give an affirmative “No”] Oh,  I was just an improver. (says my Mom the drama teacher) You were all basically good kids. I made life happy.

Question 4: How much do you think I cost you?

Mom: Oh you were cheap. Cheapest kid.

Question 5: Who was the most expensive kid?

Mom: Ah well, do we even have to ask.

Me: She’s living back at home, isn’t she?

Question 6: What is one of your fondest memories from when we were kids?

Mom: I have such good memories of you girls. I dressed you up for Halloween and we all went trick-or-treating and gave Dad all the candy to sort and eat. When I had that little preschool at the house and you had your little friends there. You were so adorable. You loved Strawberry Shortcake and Hello Kitty. So cute. We always had Shoney Birthday Coupons for a free meal so once a year we made sure that we took advantage of that one. We did a lot of free things: free VBS and all the free birthday restaurant sign- ups.

I will never forget when we were all dressed up coming back from Pasadena Players (our local melodrama play production) and I was a new driver. I saw the light flashing red. So I turned around to my 9 year old daughter (me) and asked, “Should I go or do I stay?” You said, “Go Mom!” And of course I went and got pulled over. A $75 ticket! I had to sell my sewing machine to a friend to pay for it. My brand new sewing machine.

Me: [I guess I know what I’ll be getting her for Mother’s Day, right] Mom, why did you wait so long to learn how to drive?

Mom: Well, in high school they said I had poor depth perception and I ran over the cones but I did well on the written test. My Dad had a Cadillac at the time and my Mom had a VW Bug and I took driving lessons at Santa Monica College. Afterwards, we’d go out to this cute little French creperie [trailed off topic to to tell me what my dad was watching on T.V. at the moment].  The course ended before I really learned.  Also, people don’t like to loan out their cars especially to those who are learning how to drive. So I ended up getting my license when I was 36 years old. I’m what you call a “late bloomer”.

Me: Wait a minute. So you started learning how to drive when you were 16 and 20 years later got your license?

Mom: I’m just one of these people that adapt and adjust. I finally had three kids and got tired of shelping you girls on the bus.

Question 7: What do you think parents today face that’s different from what you faced raising kids in the 80’s and 90’s?

Mom: Well, I think one thing is the technology that kids are so addicted to these days. You gotta set limits but it’s very hard because it’s so addicting and kids are very demanding.

Me: I’m sure we were demanding as kids too. How did you quell that for us girls?

Mom: Well, we couldn’t afford it so we had to set boundaries. Each of you got one wish-list-type toy for the holidays and birthdays but we also got you little stuff. People didn’t have a lot in our neighborhood so we were all used to stretching that dollar very far.

Question 8: What do you wish you could have done differently as a parent when we were all young?

Mom: It would have been nice to have some friends for Dad and myself who also had small kids. And I would have liked to learn how to drive sooner.

Question 9: What was it like raising your kids with mixed religions? Did your Jewish family understand your Catholic husband?

Mom: Well, everybody kind of accepted it. I kind of did my own thing. My relatives were very accepting even if they didn’t always understand it. My Grandpa was very tolerant. I grew up having Christmas Trees in my family’s bridal retail stores so my we all kind of followed the Americana Calendar of Life. We sold a lot of merchandise during the Easter season too so we embraced it really. I did date a couple of Jewish guys but I also dated some Catholic guys and ended up with your father. It’s 35 years later and I still like him so I guess that says something.

Question 10: What are you working on now in pottery class?

Mom: I made a donut stand.

Me: Why?

Mom: Well, I was supposed to be a pot but it fell. So now it’s a donut stand.

By the way, honey, I don’t want my real name out in the cyber space. So don’t use my real name.

Me: Okay, Mom. But I think people are going to find out one way or another. Ya know almost everything about a person’s identity is on the internet now and I’m including a picture of you.

Mom: I know, I know. But keep my name out of the cyber space.

Me: Okay, Mom. Love you.

Mom: I love you, honey.

My mom, who shall remain nameless, is an English, Speech, and Drama teacher by trade and runs her own community theater groups for young and old alike. She is the proud mom of three young women, all of whom are college-educated and productive members of society.

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Yes, Education Is Still “The Great Equalizer”

great equalizerLately, I’ve read a lot of articles about how education is no longer “The Great Equalizer”. Their pointed commentary saddens me because it perpetuates a stereotypical cynicism that only contributes to the The Great Economic and Social Divide. Are we as a society so beaten down from The Great Recession that we have discarded all hope for change? Plain and simple, these articles are wrong. Because if there’s one thing for certain in our culture it is that despite the financial and social hardships you may have faced or are facing now, you can change your situation through education. I know because I did.

Don’t Give Up!

My story may be atypical to a person of my background (Caucasian race, half-Jewish ethnicity, and from a two-parent household) but like every family my family also struggled; we just happened to struggle financially. My parents came from broken homes and sought solace in each other. They knew only what was modeled for them as children and had to learn effective parenting “on-the-job”. I spent my Elementary and Junior High years in a school district on the verge of losing its accreditation and when my parents allowed me to live with my friend’s family in order to attend a better school I quickly realized that grade inflation was a real thing: I was not the ‘A’ student I had banked on but a ‘C’ student instead. It threw my world, my high-school identity, out of whack. I struggled for a semester and then I made a resolution to not give up. Instead, I tapped into my innate gumption to succeed, and I’ve never stopped pushing myself towards something better. I went from food stamps to a law degree and now own my own company with the simple trio of hard-work, tenacity, and a genuine belief that my positive choices beget positive changes. Now you may say, “Well, she just happened to be blessed with ‘The Brains'”. According to the IQ tests, that’s partially true, but I know plenty of naturally gifted people who can’t function in society. Without the other half of the equation–the commitment to bettering myself through education–I, too, could have easily been one of them.

Education Deters The Cycle of Poverty

Why am I harping on this need to tout Education as The Great Equalizer? It really goes back to Horace Mann’s foundational purpose of change when he said, “Education…beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of conditions of men –the balance wheel of the social machinery…It does better than to disarm the poor of their hostility toward the rich; it prevents being poor”. It doesn’t benefit anyone if we dwell on the negative and stew in our failures. I choose to dwell on the positive and look towards the future with hope, knowing that when we stand together in solidarity real change is the result. Let go of those coulda-woulda-shoulda’s and focus on helping yourself and your family absorb the goodness that education can bring.

Instill A Love of Learning In Your Child

I have no doubt that all parents want their children to succeed by doing better than they’ve done themselves. I’m here to tell you that it’s not about having the best of the best but rather instilling a genuine love of learning in your children while they are young and impressionable. Despite my family’s hardships, my parents were positive influencers when it came to education; they instilled a genuine love of learning in myself and my sisters, and as a result all three of us are college educated and self-reliant.

Connect and Commit To Education

Education is still The Great Equalizer. It is a powerful vehicle for change: you can come from a tough upbringing and use education as your ticket out; you can parlay your innate skills into successes with the combination of natural ability and positive guidance; you can bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots simply by making a commitment to learning. Let us as a society connect with one another on this platform and retrain our brains to focus on the betterment that education can bring. It may be cliché but education really can make a difference.

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