Tag Archives: Mothers’ Week

Accidentally Raising Geeks, by Esther Miller

Geeky children of the corn

One of the challenges of parenting is pouring twenty years of your heart and soul and your entire bank account into your children and not having any idea how the enterprise will turn out. Our kids are 30-somethings now and the verdict is in. We raised a couple of geeks.

We are an Iowa farm boy who never wanted to farm and an Iowa city girl who was born 100 years too late. We met and married in California and raised two kids on a half-acre in suburbia. Along the way, we also raised untold numbers of cats, rabbits, and baby chicks, and at least a ton of peaches, tomatoes, apples, and sweet corn.

We added 900 square feet onto our house and turned our half acre of weeds into terraces of flowers, native plantings, and all those veggies. Dad repaired telephones for a living and built stuff in his spare time; Mom gardened and canned and volunteered. She worked in Special Education in her spare time.

Somebody gave us a Vic-20 in 1980-something, then came the Commodore-64, the C-128, and finally a brand-new, bleeding-edge 25 Mhz 386 with 4 megs of RAM and an 80 meg hard drive. They all run together after that one. Our first 300 baud modem plugged into the back of the C-64 and we discovered Bulletin Boards. Everybody in our coastal city who knew anything about computers could be found on Hackers Hotline or The Tower or LOIS. Soon we also discovered ham radio and by 1989 all four of us were licensed.

In an assortment of used vehicles and a couple of funky trailers, we saw most of the national parks west of the Mississippi and lots of places hard to find on any map. We visited factories and museums, mountains and prairies, and everywhere we watched for wildflowers. We hiked in the deserts and watched rocket launches from our front yard. We explored ghost towns and gold mines and mentally reconstructed countless mining relics.

Did our kids always enjoy looking for calochorti on Mother’s Day in the back country? Nope. But they understand that there are native wildflowers and there are invasive weeds. Would they know a ten-stamp mill if they found the remains of one in the desert? Not likely. But they’d know there’s a story behind it, one that meant a lot to somebody sometime.

We shared our passions with them and they learned what passion means. We gave them the freedom to choose their own and now they teach us about search engine optimization and electronic design and ever so many things we would never have known.

Geek wasn’t a term we would have chosen for our kids in the beginning, but I’m so glad we raised a couple of geeks. May you all be so lucky!

Esther Miller

I’m a mother of two and grandmother of two. My husband and I have been married almost 40 years. I spent my childhood in the Midwest, and lived in California from high school through retirement. We traveled for a year and visited every state in the lower 48, then settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Professionally, I was an occupational therapist serving children in special education.

I’ve had a wild collection of volunteer jobs that nobody would have paid me to do, but they allowed me to develop skills I never would have gained in the workplace.

Interests include gardening, cooking, traveling, and amateur radio.

Connect with Esther Miller on Facebook.

See Esther’s other Mothers’ Week post, Shopping without baby.


Filed under Blogging, Guest Writers & Bloggers

A Secret About My Mother, by Lara Schiffbauer

Want to know a secret?

Everyone in the world may think their mother is the best, but they are misguided.

My mother is the best.

There are a host of reasons that I could share to back up my claim, but for the sake of time I’m going to share my top three.

Reason #1:  My mother taught me about respect, while letting me voice my opinions about things.

My mother (known fondly as “Mom” to me) told me once that she and my father both endured some harsh comments from critics of their parenting style because they would let us talk back – to a point.  She said they wanted to be sure my sister and I felt like what we thought was important.

Through consistently enforced boundaries, my mother taught me to respect authority.  If my sister or I ever went a little too far with our “opinions,” we were quickly reeled in with firm consequences.

Reason #2:  My mother taught me to be responsible.

My sister and I had chores from an early age.  Some people think it’s a terrible thing, but we were paid for our chores.  Guess what it did? It taught me the value of money.  I learned that I had to work to get the things I wanted.  I also learned that if I did a good job, I would get the paycheck at the end of the week, but if I did a poor job (or didn’t do the job at all) I wouldn’t get anything.  And Mom wouldn’t let us off the hook.  If we didn’t have the money that weekend for fun stuff, that’s just the way it was.

Mom also taught us how to be responsible to others.  She taught us how to live in a family or community.  She never let us mistreat others, and instilled empathy in us from an early age.  If we got into a fight, whether it be with each other or some classmate, she would always ask, “What did you do?” It wasn’t accusatory, but meant to teach us to consider how our actions contribute to any given situation.  Then, she would ask us, “What do you do now?”  She allowed us to figure out for ourselves, with some guidance, how to problem solve our relationships.

Reason #3:  My mother knows everything.

It’s true.  You can ask my husband.  If we have a question about anything, I call my mom.  She is an expert in home medicine, parenting, relationships, computers, and everything in between.  The questions she can’t answer, my father can – but that needs to be saved for a Father’s Day post.

I know I have been extremely blessed in the parent department.  My mother’s family has not been at all supportive the way my mother and father have been to me.  My mother credits her grandmother for teaching her to be the best mother ever – not her mother.  I think my Great-Grandmother did an outstanding job.

Why do you think your mother is the best mother ever?

Lara Schiffbauer

Lara Schiffbauer is a writer, licensed clinical social worker, mother of two, wife of one, and a stubborn optimist.  She loves Star Wars, Lego people, science, everyday magic and to laugh.  You can contact her at laschiff(at)ymail(dot)com, direct message her on Twitter at @LASbauer, at  Linked In or on her blog, Lara Schiffbauer’s Motivation For Creation.

Opening photo – Blank66 from sxc.hu


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events

A Mother’s Gift: Connection, by Elizabeth H. Cottrell

Elizabeth (top) with daughter and mother

The web of feminine connection

As Mother’s Day approaches, my heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude and love for my amazing 87-year-old mother and my precious grown daughter.

The threads that connect us are not just genetic; they are threads of love, support, and mutual respect. The threads also connect us to a larger web of wonderful women: grandmothers, aunts, sisters, sisters-in-law, nieces, daughters-in-law, and friends.

My mother turned love into connection.

Long before I began studying the power of connection, my mother was a terrific connector. When my siblings and I were children, she was always involved with our play and activities, pouring out her love and attention to make us feel seen, heard, and valued.

We loved the outdoors, so she took us to the woods for walks, pointing out trees, birds, and wildflowers along the way. Together we hiked to “Woodside Water Wonderland,” our name for a rippling creek that cascaded through the woods to meet the larger Goose Creek. Here we waded and built rock walls to divert the water into faster channels, reveling in the freshness and magic of nature’s beauty all around us.

On summer Sundays after church, often with one or more families joining us, Mom packed up a picnic and hauled it (and us) down to the farm’s lake where she and Dad supervised fishing, swimming, canoeing, sailing, and water-skiing. Tired, waterlogged, and sunburned, we later fell into bed, mumbled our prayers, and slept soundly.

When I had friends over on rainy days, she let us raid her linen closet, set up card tables, and move furniture so we could make tents, caves, and forts. Oh, the shivery delight of giggling, whispering, and reading with a flashlight in those dark places! Mom relegated some of her clothes and costume jewelry for our dress-up play. Who knew sheer curtains could make such fabulous bridal veils? On nice days, she might organize a tea party in the yard or chase us with the hose while we pretended to run away from the spray, squealing and laughing as the cold water hit our skin.

Mom had a wonderful vegetable garden, and sometimes she recruited us to help her snap peas or shuck corn. Some serious conversations (the “birds and bees” talk comes immediately to mind) took place while we worked together on those homegrown vegetables!

The kitchen, with stainless steel counters all ‘round and its large, round wooden table with a lazy Susan in the middle, was a hub of activity where we were always welcome to bring our homework or help with whatever she was doing. Mom not only prepared our meals there, but she did laundry, arranged flowers, pasteurized milk, and preserved the bounty of her garden through pickling, freezing, and canning. We surely tried her patience and interrupted her work, but we learned to cook and undoubtedly learned a great deal about management from a woman who ran a large farm household with grace and skill.

Mom imparted her love of books and stories that connected us with outside ideas, people, and places.  We crowded together on the sofa for wonderful read-aloud sessions: we traveled the world with Babar, explored New York with Heloise, visited Paris with Madeleine, discovered the secret garden with Mary Lennox, and solved mysteries with Nancy Drew or Sherlock Holmes.

Oh yes, my mother was a master at connecting with her children.

Love in action

Love isn’t just a noun; it’s also a verb. There is action in my mother’s love when she connects, as she still does, by sending articles, books, and gifts, thoughtfully selected because of her attentiveness to our interests and activities. There is action in our love for others when we go beyond the feeling and reach out to help or encourage.

Her love has always been a precious gift of connection.

Thank you, Mom, and Happy Mother’s Day! My tribute to you will be to pass it on.

[This post was expanded from a piece originally published in [The Gratitude Book Project: Celebrating Moms & Motherhood]

Elizabeth H. Cottrell

About Elizabeth H. Cottrell

Elizabeth calls herself a “Connection Curator.” A curator is someone who collects and organizes things to present them in ways that bring meaning and value. She is a passionate student of everything related to life’s essential connections. She shares her findings at Heartspoken.com.

Elizabeth is also a freelance blogger and writer (RiverwoodWriter.com). She works with small business owners to increase their visibility both online and offline, because “Before you sell, you have to connect.” She’s working on a digital publishing certification to help clients get published on Kindle and other e-book formats.

Connect with Elizabeth on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

See also The Gratitude Book Project.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events

The magic of home-made chapbooks

A Writer’s Gift

By Shawn MacKenzie

Excuses for gift giving proliferate today like mice on fertility drugs. Whether birthdays or unbirthdays, showers for babies, weddings, engagements (not necessarily in that order), or the ever familiar Chanukah, Yuletide, and Dragon Day (ok, I made that one up but urge you to celebrate it regularly and with flair), these occasions place increasing demands on our imaginations and our purses.

Now, when I was growing up, I thought my parents had this whole gifting thing figured out. They’re potters, you see, and so could select a vase or unomi, a teapot or fluted jar filled with homemade marmalade (my meager contribution to the fun, tweaked and perfected through the years), wrap in a piece of madras tissue paper and, voila!…. Each piece was lovingly made and personally chosen—each was a gift from the heart.

This was the tradition with which I was raised and one I have tried to continue. But I am no potter. I never had the slightest knack with wheel or glaze. I am a writer, a spinner of tales. A different beast, entirely. Unfortunately, volumes months, even years, in the creating do not make for easy gifting (and can seem extravagant for all save the most special occasion). So what is a writer to do?

Well, a few years back, a friend and fellow scribe, John Goodrich, introduced me to the wonder of chapbooks. Problem solved!

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a chapbook is a short piece, either a brief collection of verse (if you’re poetically inclined) or a short story, etc. In modern parlance, consider it the hard-copy version of an e-book single. There are no restrictions save those of the imagination. From a writer, what could be a more personal than the sharing of one’s labors, be it a one-off (as for upcoming Mother’s Day or your significant other’s birthday) or a group printing for close friends at Samhain (what I like to call a limited edition).

So, you write your heart out, blood and sweat and appropriate affection infusing every word. With your last T crossed and comma in place, you’re ready to put it all together. This is joyful right-brain stuff: choosing your paper, typeface, and designing your cover, the wrapping and flashy ribbon for your present. I love designing books, be they chap or full-on tomes. It sooths the nascent visual artist in me and lets me play in a realm I too often ignore.

This is the time to have fun, to select the physical aspects—type and cover graphics—that speak to the heart of your words—without being too distracting or obvious or trite, of course. For those of us so inclined, it can be as satisfying as the writing itself. One word about typeface: don’t go too wild or ornate—you want something which reflects your work but is also easy on the eyes. If this sounds Greek to you, don’t worry. It just takes practice and a good eye. Standards like Perpetua, Palatino Linotype, Garamond, and minor variations thereon (serif/sans serif) are always good places to start; and if you want to jazz it up without going over the top, consider a fancy drop capital on the opening word.

Once your design choices are made, you’re entering the home stretch: time to set it up in PDF and print. Most any decent word-processing program will work for this. I personally use AdobeInDesign. It is professional software replete with bells and whistles which does require a bit of a learning curve. Still, I’ve used it for everything from a 10-page illustrated Yule cookbook to a 300+-page short-story anthology. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Text and images can be easily placed and manipulated, making it a multipurpose program that works as well for covers as interiors. Color or black and white, anything is possible.

Of course, you don’t need bells and whistles, not a one. Word, WordPro—I am not familiar with Mac programs, but I am sure they are comparable—any of these will work. Set your layout as an 8.5 x 5.5 page (aka “half letter”) and save as a PDF, then print as a booklet (double-sided). Bingo.

For cover design, Corel PaintShopPro or its ilk works well (use an 8.5 x 11 landscape layout—front and back on one image). Note: these are just the basics: with a little imagination and a guillotine, you can create chapbooks in any shape or size you wish. Go wild!

Choose good paper—something that has appropriate gravitas for the occasion—and a slightly heavier stock for the cover. Laser printers are a boon to chapbook makers, in no small part because the print is crisper than with an ink jet and will not bleed. If you don’t have a laser printer, your local copy centre or Staples-esque establishment can run them off for you at relatively little expense. They’ll usually even staple them together for you (or you can go fancy and hand-stitch them).

I know we don’t like to worry about the depth of our purse when it comes to presents, but, hey, let’s face it: many of us are but poor scribes doing our best within our modest means.

At the end of the day, as writers, we are our words. And nothing speaks to the heart like giving a piece of ourselves.

Shawn MacKenzie

About the Author:
Shawn MacKenzie had her first Dragon encounter when she was four years old and happened upon a copy of The Dragon Green by J. Bissell-Thomas. That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Author of The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2011), and the upcoming Dragons for Beginners (Llewellyn, November, 2012), she is an editor and writer of sci-fi/fantasy. Her fiction has been published in Southshire Pepper-Pot, 2010 Skyline Review, and as a winner of the 2010 Shires Press Award for Short Stories. Shawn is an avid student of myth, religion, philosophy, and animals, real and imaginary, great and small.

Ramblings can be found at MacKenzie’s Dragon’s Nest website and her blog, MacKenzie’s Dragon’s Nest.

Shawn’s Links: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events