Lessons My Mother Taught Me (In Brief… Because there are, Like, A Lot)

There's no doubt my hair and love of patterns are inherited from my mother...
There’s no doubt my hair and love of patterns are inherited from my mother…

The 2003 Land Rover Discovery sitting in the driveway has nearly 300,000 miles on it. My mother and I accumulated most of these as we traveled around the country to fencing tournaments… and to Bob Dylan concerts, and to the Canadian Rockies… but mostly to fencing tournaments. If you add those 300,000 miles to all the airline miles racked up going to World Cups in places like Cuba, France, and Slovakia, and the road trips that followed… like that one from Prague to Barcelona… then we’ve probably traveled about 1 Million miles together.

That’s a lot of miles.

The good news is, that after all this time spent together in close quarters, we not only still love each other, we really LIKE each other.

She’s pretty clever.

I’ve learned lots of things from my mother starting with a simple outlook:

Life is a grand adventure.

AND if you can do it in a 4-star way, do it, because money only has value while you’re alive to spend it.

And do it in good shoes.

She showed me that real education doesn’t come from a book. Real education is in the experiences you get to have when you open your eyes and to the world. Every tournament became an excuse to see something new. In 3 years, I visited over 70 museums — an set of sites I take with me every day to work.

In 2011, I started working and my mother and I officially switched roles as athletes — she because the world class fencer and I became the sporting parent. She’s made 8 Veteran World Championship teams… and that’s after having 2 full hip replacements.

Last year, two weeks before National Championships and the final qualifying tournament for the World team, my mother broke her hand at practice. She was told not to fence. But my mother is a charmer, when she wants to be, so she convinced her doctor to give her a clean bill of health and convinced the cast-maker to develop something she could wear while competing.

The day before the tournament, she walked around the venue with her team jacket draped over her hand to hide the full cast so no one would know she was injured.

Let me tell you — those Veteran fencers are like sharks. If they smell blood in the water, you’re lunchmeat.

She fenced. Medalled. And qualified for the team.

My mother taught me that broken bones and broken hearts heal. A dead end, a “no,” an injury, those aren’t ends. Those are just excuses to find another, a better way to get where you’re going. We’ve been lost a lot — in Italy, in New Foundland, in Bulgaria, in the Bronx. But in life, so far, I’ve never been really lost because she’s given me, and keeps giving me, a road map to follow through it all.

Happy Mother’s Day to the greatest Mother there is!


When Women Let Me Down

Nothing disappoints me more than a smart woman who allows herself to be manipulated by a mediocre man.

Hanna left New York City half a decade ago to start a new life in a foreign city far, far away. She was on a mission — to leave behind the man that was her bad habit, who broke her heart over and over again, and to start afresh, meanwhile reconnecting with her heritage.  We all agreed it was the best thing for her, and when she told me she was ready to return to the city that had forged our friendship, I was keen to meet a changed woman.

“I haven’t been gone a week and I’m already pining for my life there. My friends, my boss, my old job, and this fellow.”

She was baiting me, and I knew it. Last we chatted she was long out of a relationship and not looking for anything new. There was no reason to be pining for a fellow…

But as a friend, I knew my duty and took the bait: “Fellow?”

She proceeded to give a brief overview — on the eve of her departure, she finally got together with that guy friend nothing had ever happened with. Since then, they’ve been talking every day. When I asked her why he waited until she was leaving to make his move, she said things were complicated.

“That’s a bunch of bullshit,” I said, in typical 4th wave feminist fashion. “Things were only complicated if he’s married.”

“He’s married.”

That didn’t surprise me. Hanna had a predilection for men who were emotionally unavailable and this wasn’t the first time she had chosen one with a wedding ring.

“Then he’s a slug. And not because he cheated on his wife with you. Because he doesn’t give a shit about you.”

“That’s a pretty harsh stance to take off the bat.”

When she swung into his defense, I began to doubt her top-tier credentials. Didn’t she know she was being used? For an Ivy League lawyer, reason and ethics clearly weren’t her fortes.

The thing is, not long ago, I had been Hanna — a parting of ways and a final night option of a one night stand with someone I cared about. We didn’t know when we’d see each other again, and even if we did, we’d never live in the same city again. Buried feelings were exchanged, but instead of taking up the offer to spend the night, I left.

The minute I got into the cab, I regretted leaving. But by the time I paid my fare and walked up to my apartment, I was angry. After all these years, why did it have to take leaving to tell me how he felt? Because, I realized, he didn’t actually want to be in a relationship with me. I knew that no matter what was said or what was done, I wasn’t moving for him and he wasn’t staying. End of story.

We all make silly decisions when we get caught up in love or lust, or more often, when we find ourselves in need of some sort of validation. For me, leaving was the best thing I could have done for my head and our friendship. Nothing affirms our relationship more than our once a year drink when he flies through town and our Thanksgiving phone call.

“I think you should call him to say you decided to move back so you can be together,” I finally suggested. “Let’s see how he reacts to that. And then let’s see if he’s still worth pining over.”

She called me traditional and cited my relative youth, implying I was naive. It looked like the jury had ruled and my closing argument went unnoticed.

Who am I to judge, anyway.




Only Good Girls Keep Diaries…

When did I have time to write all that?!?!!

If only good girls keep diaries, then I must be a very good girl.

“When did I ever have time to write this much?” I said to myself when, in another rainy-day induced fit of house cleaning, I uncovered over a decade’s worth of journals and diaries. Most are thick enough to be worthy of the label “tome.” Few contain content worthy of any label besides “meaningless nonsense.”

I can’t remember ever not having a book to write stuff down in. In my tween and early teen years I keep “diaries.” While most kids would sneak a flashlight under their covers to read Treasure Island (or US Weekly?) I’d make a tent and take an erasable pen to a notebook. Each entry began with the ceremonious “Dear Diary.” (I know. Right? Gag me with a spoon.)

At 16, with a driver’s license pending, college nearing,  and hormones raging, I decided daily happenings in my life might become significant enough to start treating my “personal” notebooks more seriously.

Good-bye, diary. Hello journal.

Good-bye faux letters that droned on and on about the boy who threw crayons at me in art class. Hello mini faux essays with an imposed sense of the profound… about the boy who studied with me before each calculus exam.

As a scholar, journals accounted for a third of my resources on any research project. At times it was a tedious process — reading the day-to-day accounts and musings of someone with whom I had no direct personal relationship, hoping to find gem of a detail that would prove a revelation in the history of art… Mostly, I learned what my subject liked to eat for breakfast…

In my own life, I make it a habit to sit down and read the pages of my most current journal. In doing so, I mostly discovered that meaningless nonsense is surprisingly revealing — there are life lessons to be gleaned from your unpublished, unedited, unmediated autobiography. Mistakes I made in dealing with challenging situations, mistakes I made in love, right life decisions, questionable life decisions — it was all there, laid out in my own words. My journal was my own handwritten guide to” what not to do.”

There are many reasons to keep a journal — for the sake of having memories, as a place to vent — but perhaps the best reason to have a journal is to have reminder that you’re constantly moving forward.

A journal helps you avoid repeating history...
A journal helps you avoid repeating history…