Tag Archives: Grandmother

Book Buzz: Showering with Nana

Giggling my way through Cathy Sikorski’s memoir, Showering with Nana: Confessions of a Serial (Killer) … Caregiver, I recalled hearing an old Irish proverb that goes like this:

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.

Sikorski, who cared for her 92 year-old grandmother and two year-old daughter Rachel simultaneously, would undoubtedly agree.

Showering with Nana

Co-opted to care for Nana for six months, Sikorski entered this agreement with a mix of apprehension and acquiescence. This was her beloved grandmother who  had taken care of her and her five siblings for decades with total love in their multi-generational home. As an elder care lawyer, Sikorski was attuned to the needs and rhythms of the nonagenarian demographic.

But nothing could have prepared her for what was to come.

Showering with Nana

In a diary format, Sikorski takes us along on this bumpy ride in which every day presents a challenge or five. Early on she discovered that toddlers and nonagenarians actually have a lot in common.

  • They wear diapers. And poop in said diapers.
  • Naps are a daily necessity.
  • If all else fails, ice cream is an effective bribery tool.
  • They must be watched constantly. Or else all hell can break loose.

Which is precisely what happened.

There was the time Sikorski came upon Rachel playing happily in the bathtub while Nana was in the process of scrubbing it (the tub, not Rachel) with Comet. In horror, Sikorski saw her daughter covered in the caustic powder and sucking on a toilet brush. Nana in her equanimity looked at her and said, “See? Now the shower’s clean and so is the baby. A double duty.”

And then the trip to the mall. What better way to occupy a toddler and an elderly person for a couple of hours? Only Sikorski lost Nana during the two minutes she looked away and had mall security doing a shakedown.

Or the time when she noticed Nana and Rachel munching on a snack and discovered it was dog food.

Funniest of all are the episodes of diaper stories. When you’ve got one of your charges in Huggies and the other in Depends, there is a lot of sh*t happening. It was one of these predicaments that led to the title of the book. But you’ll have to read it to find out.

Through it all Sikorski learns a lot about patience, inner strength and what it means to be tired all the time. But most of all, she learned that whenever possible, laughter is the best recourse.

Showering with Nana is a funny book, but it also pulls the heartstrings. Sikorski is a terrific writer and communicates her range of emotions, from frustration to tenderness to anger and then back to frustration. She writes dialogue so well, I could hear Nana calling her “honey girl” and I could hear Rachel’s sweet little toddler voice announcing “I find Nana’s pottyboot.” (pocketbook)

For anyone going through a difficult time, especially with aging parents or grandparents, this book will lift the spirits.

And show us that when life gets tough, the tough figure out how to laugh.

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With Love to My Mother

Last weekend my family celebrated a very special occasion: my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower. Surrounded by love, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessing of family and friends.

With Love to My Mother

That’s me third from right, with my two daughters on either side. My mother is on the far right. My daughter-in-law and her mother are on the left.

My mother joked, “It all started with me,” and she was right. To honor her this Mother’s Day, I am sharing a post I wrote several years ago.

♥♥♥♥♥

Capturing lightning bugs and dropping them in a glass jar with holes slit in the lid. Running full force into flapping bed sheets drying on our clothesline that smelled like sunshine. Licking bits of cookie dough from my sticky fingers. Bike rides and lots of books and flashlight tag with the neighborhood kids and sleepovers and Saturday matinees and piano lessons and summer camp and July 4th fireworks …

These are the things of which happy childhoods are made.

curly hair, little girl, swing

My mother’s greatest gift was being a mother who knew that.

She and my father gave my brother and me a childhood filled with the important things in life: love, acceptance, passion, and humor.

She also knew when discipline was necessary and stuck to her guns despite my wailing protestations, something I found out years later was one of the hardest jobs of motherhood.

Cute I may have been, but I could be a handful, and I knew my mother looked forward to Saturday nights when she and my dad went out to dinner with their friends and got away from us kids for a few hours.

While my dad left to pick up either Sharon or Kay Lynn or Pat, our favorite babysitters, my mother let me sit in the bathroom and watch while she applied her makeup and shimmied into a girdle. I admired her skill in painting her lips red without going outside the lines. To me, she looked like a movie star.

I experimented with her lipstick, blotting my lips on a tissue just like she did to remove the excess, pretending I was glamorous. I got close to the mirror and kissed my image, saying dahling, dahling (my mother never said this). I powdered my nose and dabbed a drop of Chanel parfum on my wrist as she did, so I could be just like her. 

When I was about 12 years old people started telling me I looked like my mother. That filled me with happiness. If I bore a physical resemblance to my mother, I figured everything would turn out alright.

My mother taught me there is sweet a satisfaction in finishing the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle and making a perfect pie crust, both of which she can do marvelously.

My mother taught me about traditions, why making the same Thanksgiving dinner year after year is OK. Why piano lessons are good for you even though you hate them. Why nice girls don’t swear or call boys. Why a dose of laughter, along with a vitamin and green vegetables, must be part of your daily diet.

My mother, the best mother in the world, taught me how to be a mother myself.

mom, grandmother, daugher, grandson

My mother, grandmother, me and my first child, 2-week old Evan.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, with all my love.

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Hallmark Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

During a visit to my childhood home last weekend, my mother, daughter and I rummaged through my old bedroom closet looking for potential hand-me-downs, and discovered a mysterious cedar box with a clasp on it.

I looked quizzically at my mother. “I forgot about this,” she said softly, lifting the lid.

Our eyes opened wide at the veritable treasure that lay before us: decades-old cookbooks and index cards with family recipes. Newspaper clippings of weddings and funerals. Birthday and anniversary cards. Dozens of Hints from Heloise columns yellowed with age. And cards sent by my grandfather to my grandmother, written in his perfect penmanship, the words of love so sweet and tender.

With delight, we sat down on the floor and read them aloud. Three generations of sentimental women fell silent as we imagined this young couple besotted with one another, almost a century ago.

“They were so in love,” I murmured.

My mother nodded, her eyes glistening.

My 20-something daughter sighed. “Letter writing is a lost art,” she said.

She is so right.

But lucky for all of us romantics — including my grandfather — Hallmark cards have been around since 1910, helping us express often indescribable feelings to the ones we love.

Hallmark cards are woven into my family history.

We are all senders, and we love to receive them. Want to know how much?

Hallmark Took the Words Right Out of My MouthI have saved them all. This is just a smattering.

When the occasion calls for it, I know that a Hallmark card will help me say it better, conveying just the right emotions to the people I love.

To inspire us with the art of love letter writing, Hallmark has created a special #PutYourHearttoPaper campaign on its website.Take a look at the site and I dare you to come away dry-eyed after watching several couples express their love and appreciation for each other.

Hallmark sent me a sample of its new line of Valentine’s Day cards. The designs are just gorgeous.

Hallmark Took the Words Right Out of My MouthI love Hallmark cards, which give me the words that are in my heart but sometimes hard to articulate. And when it comes to love, Hallmark has its finger on the pulse. Did you know Hallmark was the first company to recognize Valentine’s Day?

Thank you, Hallmark, for spreading the love and allowing me to do the same. I will give one lucky reader the same Valentine’s Day pack that I received. Just leave a comment below and a winner will be selected randomly in enough time to mail these cards to your loved ones.

I have several shoe boxes filled with cards I have received over the years, stacked in a closet in my room. I don’t look at them very often, but on days when I am feeling nostalgic, I make myself a cup of tea and take a peek. It is almost like looking at old photos.

Maybe someday my children and grandchildren will find these boxes of memories and sit on the floor entranced, reading words of love from long ago.

This is a sponsored post. I received greeting cards from Hallmark in exchange for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I do.

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How to Bake a Novel

Baking and writing have some similarities, it occurs to me as I plug away at my manuscript.

I bake, I write.

For me, both have been passions and creative outlets since as far back as I can remember. After all, I did proclaim “books is wonderful” at the tender age of four, and years later would make that the name of my blog.

And baking? To this day, each time I bake bread I am transported to my childhood and my maternal grandmother.

How to Bake a Novel

Nana lived clear across the state, so her visits to our house were infrequent and highly anticipated. After giving us big hugs at the door, she wasted no time in changing out of her travel dress to her “house dress” and, on top of that, an apron that she tied around her waist.

And then she got to work.

Her mission? To supply us with enough baked goods to last until her next visit. Clearly, there was nothing commercial that could compare to her bagels, onion rolls, coffee cakes and mandel bread. We shouldn’t have to be deprived. And did we protest? Of course not.

Her week-long bake-a-thons filled the house with continuous sweetness and and yielded enough goodies to take up most of the room in our full-size freezer.

Watching her in action was awesome, but I wanted to be part of the production line. “Let me help,” I begged, and she obligingly gave me a turn at kneading the bread dough until my arms got tired. When the dough had risen and was ready to be formed into loaves, she tore off a glob for me.

Together we would bake “gingerbread” man – ginger-less, of course – plucking off pieces of dough that I rolled out with my little rolling pin. I smoothed them out, gave them symmetry, rolled and re-rolled and pinched and prodded, poking in raisins for eyes and buttons. After the gingerbread men had baked and cooled, Nana made a thin icing out of confectioner’s sugar and water that we piped on for a final flourish.

This is pretty much what I’m doing now with the novel I started during NaNoWriMo last November.

The NaNoWriMo sages tell you that you shouldn’t worry about creating a masterpiece during the 30 days of writing. Rather, the goal is to “get it down.” That is, get 50,000 words in your manuscript. It doesn’t have to be pretty.

In the end, like a glob of bread dough, you will have something to work with.

And that is what happened. I made my bread dough.

Indeed, my 50,000 words did not have the smoothness, the elasticity of a well-kneaded hunk of dough, the perfection needed to move onto the next step. It needed a little of this, a bit of that, and then another bit of this.

As I wade through the morass now, I am smoothing out the phrases that didn’t make sense, prodding and prompting a better description of my settings and characters, garnishing a scene with a gloss that makes it shine.

It can be both frustrating and exhilarating, depending on the quality of my ingredients. So each step of the way I have to inspect. Be critical. Make changes to get it as perfect as it can possibly be.

And when I know I’ve hit on something just right– just like when my bread dough rises perfectly — it is immensely satisfying.

How to Bake a Novel

I know that Nana would understand exactly what I  mean.

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