05/8/16
1953_mom_mm_lowres

My Mother, My Friend: Conversations on Beauty & Aging

“Where there is great love, there are always miracles.”
~Willa Cather

My Mother Grace Rose and Me, 1953

       My Mother Grace Rose and Me, 1953 

Amazing to think that my mom Grace Rose has been gone 25 years this past April and my book My Mother, My Friend: The 10 Most Important Things to Talk About With Your Mother has been out in the world for fifteen years. When the idea for this book came to me from my mother in a dream, I never imagined, for so many reasons, that it would see the light of day, much less find a major publisher and still be in print today. But the light kept finding me and I’m so glad and grateful it did.

To celebrate this milestone, here are two of my favorite stories from “Conversation 3: You Are So Beautiful — Self Image and Beauty.” Happy Mother’s Day Mom, and thank you.


That Toilet Paper Thing You Do With Your Hair
(p. 79-80)

I never outwardly heard my mother diminish her body, except for wishing she could get rid of her jowls and crepey neck and keep her weight under control. She loved to shop for clothes and had two six-foot closets full of three different sizes of clothing. If I were a therapist, I’d say that she developed a clothing addiction to help her cope with her depression and my father’s difficult personality. Her weekly hair and nail appointment at the Edgewood Beauty Salon was as much an escape as it was a beauty treatment.

The first two nights after her hairstyle was freshly (and stiffly) styled, she wrapped her head in toilet paper, looking like she was wearing a papier-mâché beehive on her head. (Now, isn’t that a sexy image. I can just hear my father saying, “Oh Grace, would you please do that toilet paper thing with your hair again. It really turns me on.”) She continued this ritual until she died with the exception of one month when I was in my late twenties. Dad was trying to cut costs and told Mom that her weekly salon trips were being cut and she’d have to do her own hair. She accepted his decision, believing that his word was law, and set to doing her own hair.

The first week was a complete disaster, but Dad told her she’d get better at it. The second week there was no improvement so Dad suggested she call me to help her. She did, in tears. Angry at his insensitive behavior, but wanting to help her, I said, “Sure, Mom. How about if I cut and perm it too? I’ve watched enough hairstylists cut hair, and I just saw that new machine on TV that sucks your hair into a vacuum and cuts it perfectly.” Dad dropped her off and we went shopping for hair perm products and the vacuum cutting machine.

The stores were out of the cutting machine, so we bought a box of “Toni Natural Wave” perming solution and went back to my house for an afternoon beauty salon party. Two hours later when I was rolling a piece of perm rod paper around her hair for the hundredth time, I was ready to quit. Three hours later I knew I was in trouble when I had to cut shorter and shorter chunks of the same hair to match what I’d just finished cutting. When I finished five hours later and gave her a mirror to look at her new haircut, perm, and style, her eyebrows jumped up to the top of her forehead and her eyeballs bulged out like the black molly fish in our childhood aquarium. She coughed, trying to hide her shock. For a second we both stood there speechless and then she laughed, and didn’t stop until she doubled over. When she recovered she said, “Well, if I’d known this was what it would take to convince your father to let me go back to the beauty parlor, I’d have called you three weeks ago.”

“To seek after beauty as an end, is a wild goose chase,
a will-o’-wisp, because it is to misunderstand the very nature of beauty, 
which is the normal condition of a thing being as it should be.”
Ada Bethune, in Judith Stoughton
Proud Donkey of Schaerbeek


Hairy Apes, Ugly Ducklings, And Swans
(p. 81)

A very big part of my mother’s beauty to me was her laughter. Her sense of humor comforted me through many nights of tears during my growing up years. While I know there were happy moments, my memories of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade are more often filled with running from the taunts of peers, mostly boys, on the way to and from school. I was tomboy with a big crook in my nose and feet as big as the floor tiles in the school hallway. I was flat chested and string bean tall. My arms were so hairy that when the boys saw me they’d shout at the top of their lungs, “Look, there goes the flat-chested hairy ape.”

One particularly brutal day, I remember running the entire four blocks home, and bursting into tears as I opened the front door and saw my mother. After spilling my story, she told me that boys teased her the same way when she was my age. “They called me ‘Four-Eyes,’” she said, “Because I wore glasses, and ‘Greasy Grace’ because my thin hair laid so flat on my head.” She said she cried just like me, but her mother taught her to laugh it off. She promised me that one day I’d “blossom,” the hair on my arms would fade away, and that even though I felt like the ugly duckling, someday I would look in the mirror and see a beautiful swan.

Her words wrapped around me like a hug. I repeated her promise like a chanting Buddhist as I grew by an inch or two every summer, reaching my final height of five feet ten inches in my early twenties. By then, my feet had grown to a size ten and continue to expand – size twelve as I write.

As I’ve grown older, the hair on my arms has faded away just like Mom said. The only thing that’s blossomed though, is the rose bush on my balcony. It’s hard not to notice cleavage on the beach, but for me the health issues outweigh any satisfaction I’d gain from artificially blooming my breasts. Some days I look in the mirror and catch a glimpse of a swan, and some days I hear a lot of quacking. I’ve learned to smile; I hear my mother: “Look at that beautiful long neck.”

Questions to Ask Your Mom:

What do you like about being a woman?
What is one message about beauty or self-image you received from your mother?
What do/did you like about your mother’s appearance? Your own? Mine?
What’s the weirdest beauty treatment you’ve done?
What’s your favorite beauty tip?
What have you learned about beauty and aging?

If you would like to read more, My Mother, My Friend is available on Amazon. Click on the link or photo for more information:

Happy Mother’s Day!

07/22/15

2,920 Days: The Power of Your Presence, Words, and Kindness

TOPS International Recognition Days with Keynote Speaker Mary Marcdante

TOPS International Recognition Days with Keynote Speaker Mary Marcdante

2,920 days. This weekend I had the privilege of speaking to 2000 TOPS members at their International Recognition Days on “Finding Your Genie Within.” So much energy and emotion moved through me – I felt anxious, excited, humbled, grateful… At the end of my speech, two women – mom and daughter – came up and asked if they could have their picture taken with me and then surprised me with a photo of the three of us from eight years ago when I spoke at another event. Eight years! 2,920 days of our lives had passed and it was important enough to them to stand in line for over an hour to remember and connect with me. What a gift they gave me.

If I’m really honest with myself and you, I share this selfishly and humbly to celebrate a personal milestone with you, but equally important, to remind you in your weaker moments that your presence and words are ALWAYS an opportunity for impact. Even if it doesn’t look like it on the outside, we all need each other’s kindness — and maybe even more for some us — our own kindness to ourselves.

If you don’t know me well you may not know that I suffer self-doubt and worthiness issues in my quiet moments, which is one of the reasons I speak on the topics I do – I need the positive reinforcement as much if not more than the audience. In my strong moments, I sense that I am a channel, catalyst, example, role model, and human post-it-note for others to experience the power, value, and beauty of their presence within themselves and their relationships, but oh how those weak moments can rise up out of nowhere and try to dim my light. And then out of the blue, Grace flies in through two beautiful human beings and says, “Thank you,” just like you do with your presence right now.

Thank you.

05/13/12

Mom, You’re the Real Hero in the Family. Happy Mother’s Day.

“Life is short, life is precious. Don’t wait, do it now.”
~ Mom

My mother showed me in words and actions that the greatest gifts we give each other are our presence and appreciation. Here’s a story from my book, My Mother, My Friend to help keep that in mind and celebrate Mother’s Day.

Mom, You’re the Real Hero In The Family

Last Photo with Mom

The phone rang at 2:40 a.m. I heard Jeanne’s voice, “Mary? Mom’s free now. She just took her last breath.”

“I’ll be right there,” I said.

The ten-minute ride to the house was filled with thoughts of regret, guilt and sadness. I was exhausted and had left the house at ten o’clock, kissing my mother good-bye and saying, “I love you.” I thought I felt her squeeze my hand ever so lightly.

Why didn’t I stay? I was glad that Eileen and Jeanne were there with her but I wanted to be there too when she left her body. I’ve always felt strongly about not wanting to die alone and wanting someone I love to be holding my hand when I die. I wanted that experience with her and yet, I never asked her what she wanted.

The house was lit up when I got there. Mom was still warm, but beginning to cool. Her skin was this odd shade of cream with a glow that still shines in my mind’s eye. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and wondered if her spirit was hovering about. Continue reading

09/11/11

When Lives Change in an Instant

On this 10th anniversary of 911, I was reminded of a letter written by the mother of a young woman who died on Flight 93 , which inspired me so much I wrote about it in my book Living with Enthusiasm. I’m reprinting here in the hope that it moves you as much as it did me.

Our Lives Can Change in an Instant

Acting from our values not only fuels our enthusiasm for day-to-day living, it also allows us to get through difficult times. Our lives can change in an instant, but how quickly we forget until a crisis hits. Knowing and acting from our values can see us through. I received an e-mail from a colleague in the days following September 11 that really brings this point home.

Hello friends:

A friend of mine who lives in San Diego was a victim to the tragedy in NY last week Tuesday. Her 20-year-old daughter was aboard flight 93 that crashed in PA. Below please find her words to the community. She has agreed to have the message spread to the world. Please pass this along so that her daughter Deora can be remembered. Thank you. Continue reading

05/4/10

4 Things Mothers Most Want from Their Adult Children


Think about all the different ways you’ve appreciated your mother over the years. What kind of gifts have you given her? Preprinted cards? Flowers? Candy? Jewelry? Clothing? I’m sure your mother enjoyed them, but have you ever wondered what she’d buy herself under the same circumstances?

In a national retailers’ poll of mothers, 49 percent of mothers expected flowers; 13 percent said they wanted them. It’s presence, not presents, that count. How much time do spend with your mother? And how much of that time do you both enjoy? Continue reading

05/9/09

15 Questions to Ask Your Mom on Mother’s Day
and the Nicest Thing You Can Say to Her


There is no such thing as a boring Mother; only boring questions.

Get better at asking more meaningful questions and you’ll find an entirely new person in your mother or anyone else you’ve labeled uninteresting.

When you ask your Mom deeper questions, you show her that you value her as a person in her own right. If she’s not accustomed to you being interested in her, she may be surprised, so I’ve listed a few easier questions to start with.

If she asks why you’re suddenly so interested, say something like, “I realize I’ve been so focused on my own life that I haven’t really taken the time to get to know you like I would a good friend. You’re important to me.” Bring the Kleenex and take the time to listen. You’ll be surprised at what you learn. (You can download the questions at the end of this post.)

  • What is one of your happiest memories?
  • What’s your favorite place in nature? Your favorite flower?
  • What’s one of the most meaningful gifts you’ve received?
  • What’s one of the most loving things someone has done for you?
  • What’s one of the most loving things you’ve ever done for someone?
  • What music, poetry, art, books, or movies have most inspired you and why?
  • What’s one of the best places you’ve ever traveled?
  • What’s one place you’d still like to visit and why?
  • What’s your favorite prayer?
  • If you had only 6 months left to live, what would you want to be sure to experience?
  • What are you most grateful for? Why? Count your blessings. Name 10.
  • What’s one of the nicest things you’ve ever done for yourself?
  • What’s the best compliment anyone has ever paid you?
  • What do you value most in yourself? What do you value most in me?
  • What contribution in your life are you most proud of?

The Nicest Thing You Can Say To Your Mother:

Mom, I love you because you…

Of all the comments I received from mothers I interviewed, the one request that came up over and over again was how much Moms want to hear “I love you.” When you can add specific reasons, memories, and details to your “I love you,” it strengthens your message and helps anchor good feelings in both of you.

If you really want to take Mother’s Day over the top, record your Mom’s answers and put them in a homemade printed book for you with pictures of the two of you. Give this book to her for her next birthday or just to perk up your next visit. Happy Mother’s Day.

If you like these questions, there are hundreds more in My Mother, My Friend, which focus on the 10 most important things to talk about with your mother:

  • Health
  • Aging
  • Money
  • End of Life
  • Self-image and Beauty
  • Resolving Conflict
  • Family Secrets
  • Intimacy and Men
  • Spirituality
  • Appreciation

Treat your Mother and Yourself to the Gift of Loving Memories.

Mother’s Day Special Package (any day is a good day to thank your mother)
* 2 soft-cover copies of My Mother, My Friend by Mary Marcdante (reg. $12/each)
* 1 mp3 digital download of a 60 minute live presentation by Mary on My Mother, My Friend (reg. $15)
* Plus a free bonus interview (mp3 download) with Mary on “Honoring Our Mothers.” (reg. $15)
Reg. $54 – save $19!
Only $35


My Mother, My Friend audio mp3 digital download

* 1 mp3 digital download of a 60 minute live presentation by Mary on “My Mother, My Friend”
Reg. $15.00
Only $9.95 (Enter coupon code md10)


Download a printable copy of 15 Questions to Ask Your Mother on Mother’s Day.

03/26/09

Four Critical Health Questions to Ask Your Mother

With Mother’s Day coming up on May 14, I just finished a podcast for a healthcare client on “Honoring Our Mothers.” The focus of the conversation is based on my book, My Mother, My Friend: The 10 Most Important Things to Talk About With Your Mother, and why it’s so important to honor your mother by talking to her about her health and yours.

A woman in one of my stress management seminars summed it up best:

“I never thought about my health until it was taken away. It wasn’t until I had a heart attack that I realized I had so much control over my own health. I started fighting like hell to live and found a new woman inside me – strong, brave, and determined to get well. When you lose your health, you lose everything. When you have your health you can do anything.”

In interviews with over 400 mothers and daughters and talking to thousands of women in my stress management and positive communication seminars, as well as dealing with the crisis of my mother’s diagnosis and death from ovarian cancer and my dance with cervical cancer (I’m a grateful, healthy 12 year survivor – get your HPV Test), I discovered there are four reasons why it’s so important for you to have the health conversation with your Mom, especially if she’s over 65 or currently has health problems:

  1. Unnecessary suffering and untimely death of Mom because no one knew there was a problem. Often in my interviews, I heard from a mother, “I don’t want to be a burden to my children.” Better a burden than laying in a coma or dead for 2 days because adult children were out of touch or appeared too busy Mom didn’t want to bother them.
  2. Prevention vs. Crisis Triage. Having a health conversation can often prevent the crisis and the additional negative stress that impacts not just Mom but you, your health, your family, work, and finances.
  3. Caregiving. Most adult children are not prepared to be caregivers to their Mom (or Dad) in the case of sudden illness or accident, yet it happens more than you think. Discussing health concerns and options before you need to isn’t always easy, but it is always wise.
  4. Access. For your sake. Women whose mothers died before they talked about health no longer had access to their medical history, which influences screenings and lifestyle choices.

To get you started, here are four critical health questions to ask your Mom:

  • What medications are you on and what are the dosages? Ask her to explain what the medications are for so that you both understand. If she can’t tell you, it’s time to help her be a better partner with her doctor and you. Someone besides her and her doctor need to know in the event of an emergency.
  • Who is your doctor and what is their phone number?
  • When was your last doctor’s appointment and when is your next one? (Annual checkup at a minimum. You too!)
  • May I go with you to your next appointment? Make the time. It could save both of your lives.

If you’d like access to twenty more critical health questions, as well as over 200 other questions on other important topics, and how to make these conversations easy, painless, and informative, you can get a copy of My Mother, My Friend at:

My Mother My Friend ebook

My Mother, My Friend soft cover copy

As my Mom Grace said, “Life is short, life is precious. Don’t wait. Do it now.”

Mary

PS. If you’d like a book label personally signed by me to you or to include as a gift, email me at mary (at) marymarcdante.com with your name and address and who to sign the book to and I’ll snail mail it to you.