Story Submitted by Deb Kelley

This is a story about a kitten who fixed three broken hearts and about another who led us to him.

Holly was a tiny solid black kitten that my husband, Ken found on Halloween – thus his name. The dogs were barking at this little guy curled up in a ball in their food bowl. We think the dogs scared his mama and she abandoned him. Ken brought this scrawny kitten into my office and sat him on my lap. I didn’t need another animal. We already had dogs, but Holly looked up at me and snuggled into my lap, and I was done for. But at our first visit to the vet, we learned Holly had feline leukemia but was asymptomatic. The veterinarian said that as long as he wasn’t showing signs of the disease and we didn’t have other cats, he’d make a fine pet. Holly, it appeared, was not a cat at all, but a sweet-tempered, needy human in the thickest black fur coat. This little malnourished kitten grew up to be a huge, part Maine Coon. When he wanted attention, he would mew, stretch his paws up to be lifted like a child, and wrap his paws around our necks and give us a nuzzle hug. We could not leave the house without giving Holly a hug. This routine lasted for 10 years. When Holly passed, I couldn’t think of replacing him. He left an empty spot and I’m tearing up now 20 years later thinking about him. That’s the indelible impact this cat made on my heart.

A couple of months after his passing, my daughter showed me a little white female puffball on the humane society’s adoption page on PetFinder. We decided this little girl would be exactly what we needed. We visited the humane society and she was at the bottom of three levels of cages. My daughter sat on the floor and tried to play with her, but she spat, growled, and glowered in the corner of the cage. Her temperament was definitely the opposite of her photo online. Directly above her cage on the first level, this chunky gold, black, and white kitten was doing everything in his power to get noticed. He meowed, literally slammed himself against the cage door, and reached out his paw as far as it would stretch to try to get my daughter’s attention. I read his name on the cage door: Fiz. Fiz was determined to not be ignored. We took him into the playroom and his personality matched his name: fizzy. He bounced around the playroom, darting after toys, cuddling in our laps, and giving head butts. It was at that moment, he adopted us. Whereas Holly gave hugs, Fiz (we kept his name because first, he knows it and second, there’s no better description for this crazy cat) gives kisses and head rubs. He also enjoys watching TV with us. If we put on animal videos on YouTube, he will sit and watch alert until the video ends. He’ll also come and stand in front of me and wait for me to rub my forehead on his forehead, then he’ll go kiss my husband’s bearded chin and lay in “his” designated spot on the top of the bed, centering himself between the two us with paws outstretched and kneading. Or on the pillow behind me. Or on top of my laptop. Pretty much our bedroom is his domain. He just lets us sleep and watch TV there. I am convinced Holly led us past the high-maintenance Persian and to our regal, gold-eyed vocal little boy who has been a never-ending source of nuzzles for over 10 years.

Story Submitted by Afsaneh Noori

When I was growing up, I loved the summer and played in the sun all day. My skin would tan, the color of mocha. On day, when I was around 5 years old, I overheard a relative say, “Afsaneh, just like her father, is as black as a cockroach.” That made me feel ugly and I believed that I was ugly. That year, my father traveled to the US and brought the larger doll back (the small one was from a later trip). When I saw it, I asked if it was for me. He said, “No it is not. This is a black doll and you said that black skin is not pretty.” I said, “but she is pretty.” Then my dad asked, “so are you pretty too?” I said, “yes” and he gave me the doll. She’s been with me for 60 years, reminding me of my father teaching me to value myself.

Story Submitted by Suzanne Austin-Hill

A Double Layer Heart-made Cake In our house, my husband is the King of the Kitchen and I am the Royal Taste-tester. On May 1st at the end of our seventh week of isolation (three weeks in Haymarket, VA and the remainder to date here at home in Ruskin, FL), he decided to make a cake from scratch! “NOT a box cake!” as is sometimes said at a church function. The photo shows the beautiful and delicious result – a Vanilla Cream cake with Butter Cream frosting. But, in addition to the blessing of being married to someone loves to cook and clean-up, is the fact that every ingredient for the cake and frosting was purchased for us by our next-door neighbors who have shopped for us every week since our return home.

Story Submitted by Lori Smith

Five Sentence story on what it’s like to Shelter-in-place in a Pandemic

  1. I watch the news and see the death numbers rise and the curve ascending.
  2. These four walls entomb me with my idleness.
  3. It’s a waiting game in this prison of laundry, cooking and cleaning, frayed nerves, and to-do list that lies in wait.
  4. I burst outside to walk up the street and hear the birds sing, see the lizards pretending to not be there as I glide by, see the Live Oak leaves sway and feel the mosquitoes bite.
  5. I turn into my garden where bees are pollinating, a pair of cardinals tussle, butterflies flutter through, and the fountain’s trickle soothes and all is well with the world.

Story Submitted by Leslie Farrell

This is not inspirational or anything, but my daughter and husband were here for a few days and we all (with one of my sons and husband) perused our old photo albums. This was joyful, reminiscing. Also, literally smelling the roses in my yard, which thankfully are blooming! And best of all, cleaning out our laundry room has brought me great happiness!! I can walk in there again, hallelujah! Also, just having time to read has been great. Hope you are well!

Story Submitted by Kriste Vogler

The beginning, just a normal photo wall of memories. Day 1. The first crayon drawing is placed, bets were made on how many photos and how long it would take them to notice. Day 2. After FaceTiming with my grandparents (the subjects of my first crayon replica) for an hour near this wall, I decided to add another piece while my parents took a walk. Day 3. Up to three crayon artworks now and still not even a glance. That door on the left? It’s used multiple times a day. Day 4. Thought I would get caught today. I had been posting on Twitter about my progress and my mom chose today to try to start a twitter account to talk to John Krasinski about Some Good News but luckily her account was locked. Day 5. At this point it was getting harder to pick photos I thought weren’t noticeable plus I felt like I smelled like crayons constantly. Day 6. After getting a ton of rain for days I was needing to get sneakier to be able to add these to the wall. I think today I convinced my mom to go for a run before it rained haha. Day 7. Today was a twofer with these classic Christmas photos. At this point, I was starting to think I should have guessed based on weeks and not days for how long it would take them to notice. Day 8. I legit did not think I would get this far, but here we are. Day 9. Only three left to go before my work is complete. I should probably take a moment to apologize to my art teachers. You tried really hard to teach me to draw people, and this is what I’ve done. Day 10. Happy Easter. My mom was nice enough to hide Easter eggs for me, in return, I did this to the photo of her firstborn. Day 11. I almost got caught hanging this one up. Had to hide in the bathroom but they still didn’t notice. Day 11 – 7 hours later. I heard the initial “wait… what” and went running over in time to capture this moment. I like to think they noticed because I replaced my senior photo and of course they look at the picture of their favorite daughter the most right?

Story Submitted by Sheri Whittington

I remember…

I remember the crack of light coming through the front door, and the blast of the bright orange porch light as she threw it on when she knew it was us. We often arrived in the wee hours of the morning after a twelve-hour drive. I remember she would always wait up for us. I remember going in that door and feeling all the welcoming warmth of a giant squeeze of a hug and the smell of great southern food on the stove even though it was the middle of the night.

I remember so many times my grandmother saying, “come sit right here” and sometimes it was right next to her for hugs and talking, and sometimes it was just close to her while she went about chores and activities. Among many other things, she taught me to crochet. She also let me help her in the kitchen. She was a very fair, honest teacher and there was no sugar coating. I knew I was deeply loved even though I was one of 29 grandchildren.

I remember hearing so many stories. There was always a new one to tell and an old one to remember. The big full family loved to reminisce and laugh. I remember hearing that my father, who was the youngest boy of ten surviving children was the most promiscuous. This reputation earned him the coveted seat right next to my grandmother at church each Sunday morning while she played the organ. All the stories agree that my grandmother could “pinch a plug” out of you for misbehaving and never miss a note on the keys and pedals of the church organ.

I heard many times the story of my parents getting married at midnight by the Justice of the Peace over the July 4th weekend of 1960. My father was a Marine, home on leave wearing his Dress Blues. My mother wore a borrowed dress of light blue with tulle, and my mother’s maid of honor was 9 months pregnant. I remember my Grandmother always gave them grief that they couldn’t wait one day, or even long enough for her to change out of her shorts and flip-flops.

I remember when in an act of determination and defiance my Grandmother lied about her age to become a Registered Nurse way past the age cut off for nursing school. I remember the traditional white starched uniform, the traditional folded hat, and white polished rubber shoes. I remembered she was a labor and delivery nurse. I remember I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew it was a source of pride.

I remember the first time I accidentally opened the bathroom door and saw my grandmother nude. I had a silent and shocked six-year-old reaction to a female body that had weathered thirteen births and a lifetime of extremely hard physical work.

I remember hearing so many stories about all the different jobs and occupations that my grandmother held during her lifetime. She was a true renaissance woman who reinvented herself again and again throughout her life. She was a wife, mother, grandmother, a farmer, a peddler, musician, seamstress, a nurse, and a gift shop owner to name a few. She was ever-evolving to meet the needs of a changing society and her changing family.

I remember my Grandmother taking care of my Grandfather through liver cancer to his death back when there were not many treatments for his condition. I remember when it was my turn to say goodbye to him that even in the sadness, I knew how much love was in that room from everyone present and how it flowed to and from everyone there.

While riding in the car with my grandmother, my brother and our cousin (10 & 12) were cutting up and misbehaving. She warned them twice. They laughed at her warning and she screeched the car to a stop on the side of the country road. Threw the car in park, walked around the front of the car, opened the back door, and told them to “Get out!” She walked back around, got in the car, and drove off! In disbelief, I said “Grandmother!” She said, “they will be fine!” My father went back to get them.

I remember the scandal it caused when my Grandmother wanted to get remarried to an “old widower” as her adult children called him. Some of them wanted her to be happy, some of them wanted her to stay lonely and true to my Grandfather.

I remember the time she was canning green beans and the pressure cooker exploded like a bomb and we cleaned up bits of mason jars and green beans for hours!

I remember when my grandmother had open heart surgery and her grown children and families took over the waiting room. They told stories and jokes and we all laughed for hours as we received unapproving looks from the staff and the other families.

It was summer and I was off from school to take care of her when she came home. I remember having an entirely new appreciation for her mending body that enabled such a full, varied, and sometimes tumultuous life. I remember her telling us that if she knew how bad the pain would be, she would not go through with the surgery and would have “just gone on out!”

The first time I ever saw my husband legitimately afraid was the first time he was a passenger in the car my Grandmother was driving. She had a big old Buick and fishtailed the back of the car into the gravel going up a narrow mountain road.

I remember when we were expecting our first child, we decided not to find out the sex of the baby and wanted to be surprised. My parents arrived before the delivery and my Grandmother had sent us a handmade pale pink quilted blanket and pillow with lace around the edges. My father told her, Mama, they don’t know if they are having a girl or a boy. She said, just take it to her. She is having a girl. She was correct.

Not long after that, she passed away. She left specific instructions with her wishes for her funeral and ceremony. Her church choir sang her favorite hymns, and everyone participated in a full, true celebration of her life.

I remember the time the psychic told me someone “on the other side” was trying to let me know that they were with the spirit of the child I had recently miscarried, and they wanted me to know that child would come to me again and that I was going to give birth to that child in the future. They also wanted me to know that they would be with them and would take good care of them until they returned to me. As I looked puzzled, I remember the psychic telling me they were showing her a pink quilted baby blanket, with pale pink lace around the edges.

I remember wondering which of my two youngest daughters had been with my grandmother. As they grew, it became clear that it was the youngest one. I remember her laughing and telling a story and I thought, that reminds me of Grandma.

Story Submitted by Jackie Walker

My Mom was a beautiful angel inside and out! Her friends gravitated to her smile and beauty in giving. I am an only child and she was my very best friend. We could be together every day and as soon as we got home we would call each other to chat and say just “One More Thing!” For years she volunteered at Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida where she lived and I grew up. She interacted with so many families that would visit the gift shop for some touch of joy to bring to their patient’s rooms. She heard the stories and listened intently and offered a hug, that beautiful smile, and just a word of encouragement. When she went to Heaven they closed the gift shop for the very first time and every volunteer stood together at the cemetery to honor her. I know in my heart if she were here today in this climate she would be the very first to offer help to all that needed it. I miss her every moment of every day. They say that when you lose your Mother you have to grow up. I will never lose her as she is forever with me in all my deeds and actions. I am truly fortunate to have had a Mother’s love and devotion like hers.

Story Submitted by Janet Scaglione

By Janet Scaglione, Ph. D.
May 13, 2012

I write this from the other side of carpools and travelling soccer teams, and more than 10 years past PTA, science fair projects, and girl scouts. I am well beyond the perils of being up way past “bedtime” because the book bag with the homework assignment is locked in the car and no one can find the keys, and the dread of the impending “morning after” that not enough sleep brings to both child and parent. It has been over 20 years since I let a child covered with dirt sleep through the night simply for fear that waking her would give her a second wind and I would find it necessary to resort to an old family recipe of Benadryl and Vodka (Benadryl for her, vodka for myself) to simply make it through the night.

At one point in my life I was the youngest mother in PTA and at the other end of my childrearing –the oldest. I own the fact that I mothered five children who managed to arrive to me and/or through me not because I was a good Catholic;, but, rather a contraceptive failure who never had the guts to consider my own choices in the matter—though once beyond the initial shock of a missed period, honored the fact that each child is a cherished gift. Yes, even the one that came by way of another woman’s body that my too-young-to-be-a-father- high-school- sweetheart brought to our marriage.

And yes, I recognize the vanity in the never-ending struggle to return to pre-pregnancy weight, and the mourning of firm breasts that have been donated to suckling infants. I accept that my female vanity is a curse that Madison Avenue uses to their advantage in spite of the fact that we all know photos are airbrushed.

I, like most women who work IN and OUT of the home, juggled my way through my 20’s and 30s attempting to impress people I did not even know by becoming MIGHTY MOM—faster than a speeding blender; more powerful than ammonia; able to leap three laundry baskets in a single bound. Though from the other side of “active duty”, I am painfully aware of how the stress of being MIGHTY MOM left a more lasting impression on my children who memorized every sigh, each wrinkle of the brow, and under-the-breath wish for more or less or whatever it was I found so overwhelming in the moment.

Truth be told, I feel as if I was part time in all aspects of my life and full time for no one—especially myself; which brings me to the point of this rambling. When you recall your relationship with your own mother (if or when you have the guts to do so) or if you sit long enough with the impact of your time spent mothering, as I have reluctantly done; you may arrive at the same conclusion. All any child ever wants or needs is a Happy Mother.

Yet Happy Mothers are completely undervalued as a natural resource. In fact, one might extrapolate that Mom’s happiness may be the single greatest contribution to the stability of the family, the health of a neighborhood, the growth of the economy, and the prosperity of our nation. If more of us could find ourselves HAPPY, we might see a renaissance of the American Dream, or for that matter world peace.

Everything is better when MOTHER is happy. But what makes a mother happy.
How might we institutionalize such a valued commodity?

Perhaps recognition of worth could be fostered through some sort of tax incentive that values the countless hours of volunteer servitude we put forth as a workforce. The call to honor us for a day in May contributes to consumer spending on goods and services, and we really do appreciate the thought (especially when given reprieve from the kitchen); but we might feel more valued with a funded 401 k or some semblance of payback in the form of social security taken from the future taxpayers –-yes the very an ones we are rearing. For there is no question that as mothers we ARE responsible for producing the future human capital of this and any great nation. The very human capital that economists proclaim is the most important resource. Yet, In spite of studies that suggest a mother’s unpaid economic value to her household is well into six figures, there is no compensation for the job. It is not recognized in the GDP, not reflected in your paycheck, not evidenced in any monetary or for that matter societal benefit.

If happiness is predicated on a sense of worth then, where does mom find it? Since Eve, mother has labored—with little or no realized incentive. Of course any mother can recall the lasting negative impact to worth that is delivered in noticeable scowls and glares from strangers, when a child acts out in public which has prompted more than one frustrated mom to bribe, threaten, and learn how to speak through clenched smiles “If you don’t straighten up right now I’m taking away your Ipod.” Of course even more insidious is the fact that AS moms, we tend to notice the behaviors of OTHER moms as if the only way to demonstrate my own worth is to denigrate her. I shudder at the times I have secretly boosted my own Ego, with such behavior. And secretly I know that the only thing stopping you from remembering what YOUR mother did wrong, is that you know, for a fact, that you have done worse—and more recently.

We struggle to prove our worth in the strangest ways. We exaggerate birth stories as if the more we labor the better we are. We deny ourselves help, because help is a sign of weakness. We learn to write like a child so the teacher does not know about the nightly struggles with worksheets because before you know what hit you a child’s grades become a tangible sign of your worth. Then grades, athletic ability, special talents and before you know it the SAT score, the college, the career path, how much money they make and who’s son or daughter they will spend the rest of their life with. And then I am recognized as someone’s MOM rather than me, so naturally I am secretly pumped up if MY child went to University and HER child went to Vo-tech.

Stop! Wait! Every time I compare—I am seeking worth. If or when I devalue another mother—don’t I devalue myself? Holy Mary, mother of God . . . how did I get here? What am I doing and more importantly . . . why?

Worth is illusive.

I can’t look to Uncle Sam for validation, and it’s not likely that the general public is honoring us with a parade any time soon. And while words of gratitude offer temporary respite, I often devalue them with trite responses. I do remain appreciative of the efforts of the overworked and underpaid preschool teacher who, more than likely, was mothering her own brood whilst trying to mold tiny hands into memorabilia that says “love you mom” because I understand that she secretly desires to receive the same type of thoughtful recognition.

From the moment of birth, your life is changed forever. Even beyond the active work of mothering—your senses remain heighten as a siren blares in the distance and you mentally check where each adult that used to be your child might be. You will never sleep through the night, rest completely, or understand where lost socks go. You will attempt to hide the shame that rises up if or when someone considers your child average—because the message that your worth is connected to theirs—has been confirmed. But this is a lie.

Your heart will break at the any sign of any child’s disappointment, especially your own, and you will, with good intention, ultimately hinder your child when you do too much, give too much because you want so desperately for him or her to be happy. And therein, is the conundrum.

My children, our children, your children simply want to know that WE are happy.

They want to know that your joy comes from some place deep within; and though it may be inspired by something they do or say—they do NOT now, or will they ever want to think that THEY are responsible for it.

They are NOT. They cannot BE responsible for your joy. And anything and everything that occurs to create any sense of illusion that they are, will simply be passed forward to future generations before they even know what has happened.

A happy mother . . . leads to a happy child.
A mother who values her worth teaches self worth.

To our children, on behalf of all of the Mighty Mom’s who, with honorable intentions missed this empowering lesson —I apologize. If or when you ever believed that I/ we would be happier if you were better, smarter, faster, richer, more successful . . . I relieve you now. You are not responsible.

What if each of us Mothers, with no recognition, little or no pay, no more than ONE day a year set aside for observance of the value we add to our homes, communities and economy, simply declare it. If mothers are perpetually “pursuing happiness,” as the founding fathers declared; my fear is we will miss it.

In honor of every mother, here and now, I declare: I am worth it! I am Happy!
I am a Happy Mother!

Share this with every mother and child who deserves the same!

Story Submitted by Deborah Bostock-Kelley

I remember my first Mother’s Day.

We never tried to get pregnant because it was, pretty much, not on the table for me. An exploratory surgery removed damage and revealed a uterus with multiple defects. Safely carrying to full-term would be both high-risk and very unlikely. Married almost two years, I had settled into my role as wife, career woman and part-time college student. I was way too busy to allow myself to really absorb the impact of improbable.

In spite of everything stacked against us and because of the surgery that I almost cancelled, here I was three and half months pregnant with our miracle baby Meghan and there it was – this benign pink envelope on the end table in living room. It looked innocent enough, but as I took my fingernail and unsealed the envelope, as I pulled out the card and began to read the words inside, I realized my life had officially changed.

I mean, yes I was having a high-risk baby and aware of all the implications of that, but in three words I was initiated into a magical sorority of astounding moments and sleepless nights: Happy Mother’s Day. I was a Mom.

Me who hated cleaning her bedroom and changing cat litter was going to be changing diapers and wiping a runny nose. I was going to be responsible for another tiny, helpless human being. And I had a tremendous example to live up to.

My mom, Jean, isn’t your typical let’s-bake-cookies-in-the-kitchen Mom. She was a homemaker and a foster mom to hundreds of kids for most of my life, and no one can dare say she didn’t work. Yet no matter how busy she was, she always had time for me. She was and is my personal cheerleader. When things get rough or I need to make important life decisions, she’s my sounding board. I trust her judgment above my own and I know she loves me unconditionally, no matter my choice. She was the first person I screamed in the phone to when our miracle occurred and the white pregnancy test stick showed pink.

Until I became a mom, I never understood why she would say “just make me something,” when asked what she wanted for Mother’s Day. Of course, as I grew into a teenager, I learned to ignore this request, discovering the convenience of greeting cards and store-bought presents.

Until I held my first crayon-scrawled folded notebook paper with a pencil-colored misshapen face – my face – and looked into the expectant face of my proud 5-year-old, I couldn’t grasp the importance of hand-made over store-bought.
And now my baby is 25, on the cusp of 26, and I understand completely. The sentiment may be beautiful, the card hand-picked from many choices, but it’s not her words. It’s not her drawings.

So I don’t want boxed candy, a flower that will eventually die, even a DVD I claimed I can’t live without this Mother’s Day. In the blink of an eye, time passed much more quickly than I ever thought it could. Meghan is a successful, beautiful young woman, out on her own in another state and now, I’m happy to be her personal cheerleader like my mom is for me.

This particular Mother’s Day in social isolation, she’s not flying in to spend the weekend with me. We are doing a Zoom meeting with my mom, sister, my daughter, and her daughter who’s celebrating her first Mother’s Day. Though it’s bittersweet that we can’t be together in person, we are grateful for the technology to allow us to be together virtually.

My baby grew up to be an amazing artist and I plan to adopt my mom’s mantra this Mother’s Day in social isolation and those still to come. Don’t order me something on Amazon. Just make me something.

(Dedicated with love to my mom, Jean Bostock. Look Mom, I made you something.)