Red Hot

Red Nikes
These stand out in a crowd.

Aren’t these shoes the cutest? I happened to be standing in a crowd at a college graduation recently and spotted them.

I disagree when people say women of a certain age should dress in a certain way. Maybe mothers-in-law should start a new trend and all sport red Nikes.  Would you wear these?

Check out Nike Shoes where you can custom build your shoes to your own personal style, colors and performance preferences.

Mother In Law Farmers? Heck Yeah!

This farmer pulled out in front of me at a stop sign. No, I didn’t honk my horn. He had the right of way, so I sat back and enjoyed the ride, cruising behind his tractor at 15 mph.

Tractor
Heading home

We live in Massachusetts, and there are some gorgeous farms here. Many are located in towns just outside Boston. According to 2010 statistics from the USDA Economic Research Service, farms total 7,700 statewide and the average size is 67 acres. About 5,465 men and 2,226 women farm here. That’s about a 2:1 ratio between men and women. It’s impressive that so many women are accomplishing what’s often considered a ‘man’s job’ — besides being mothers, mothers-in-law, and grandmothers.

My husband was raised on a Minnesota farm and loves the dirt there. I know that sounds weird, but occasionally, he’ll spout something like, “There’s no dirt like the rich, black soil in Minnesota.” He typically makes such pronouncements when he’s digging around our backyard and suddenly hits New England ledge.

Digging
Digging up dirt

Out of curiosity, I decided to compare the two states – Minnesota vs. Massachusetts. A little agricultural rivalry between the Midwest and East Coast is always fun. Minnesota has 81,000 farms. That’s more than ten times the number in Massachusetts, and they’re large, averaging 332 acres. A total of 73,631 men and 7,361 women are farmers there. The percentage of women farmers in Minnesota is lower compared to Massachusetts. But if you think about it, 7,361 women in one place could make a fair-sized town.

Farming is definitely big business in Minnesota, but Massachusetts also has a proud agricultural heritage with many dairy farms, livestock operations, cranberry bogs, apple orchards, pumpkin patches and even Christmas tree farms. Regardless of where we live, farms are vital to our national economy.  They also provide us with beautiful scenery and bountiful harvests.

My mother-in-law was a farmer’s wife. A Philadelphia girl, she fell in love, married a Minnesota farmer, moved 1,300 miles away from her family and managed to raise four lively sons. She also tended fruits and vegetables, canned, sewed, cooked, and cleaned. She actively volunteered in her church and community and handled many other responsibilities. She traded city life for a challenging but rewarding life in a small farm community. When I think of my mother in law, I think of the frontier women who helped settle this country. She was a pioneer and a farmer in her own right.

So, hooray for our farmers — and especially for those strong, confident women who are successfully breaking the gender barrier and running farms. I say, “You go, girl!”

(Click on your state and discover some interesting agricultural facts from the USDA.)

 

Front Lawn Garden

Driving to the grocery store the other day, I spotted a house with a front lawn of colorful, blossoming flowers. No grass – just pretty flowers. It was a welcome vision after being stuck in traffic on one of the hottest days this spring. My car tediously inched along a dusty road, jam-packed with construction vehicles, forklifts and orange caution signs.

Yellow House
Fun with flowers

In New England, streets are repaired during the spring and summer. Cracks are sealed. Potholes are filled. Asphalt perfumes the air. You don’t dare open your car windows – ever.  My patience was shot. “We all have limited time. We all have to be somewhere,” I kept thinking.

So there I was, crabbing and grumbling to myself, when this house emerged along the roadside. It was a surreal apparition amid a cloud of construction dust. It made me smile. Some inner voice compelled me to pull off the road. I parked, leaned over and grabbed my trusty point-and-shoot camera from the glove compartment. (This Mother In Law is not into fancy photography or anything fancy, by the way.)

I climbed out of the car and snapped a few photos. I admired the lovely flowers for maybe five minutes and walked away feeling refreshed with a happier attitude. Fun has a way of showing up in odd forms and unexpected places. In this case, ‘fun’ was the calming magic of flowers.

Flowers
Flower lawn

Those flowers made me think of my daughter-in-law because she had just planted a similar perennial garden with her mom. It’s in the front yard of a charming, bluish-green house she shares with my son and their three-month-old son. I thought about how their flowers will grow year-after-year, more radiant with time – just like their love and their little family.

Now, that will be fun to watch.

 

Be Good to Your Mother In Law. It’s Father’s Day!

Lily
It’s Father’s Day . . .

It’s Father’s Day and I’m thinking about my dad. It’s hard to believe that he died so long ago.  It seems like yesterday although 24 years have passed. Back then, I was pregnant with our second child — a daughter.

I received two life-changing phone calls on that memorable day. The first was a long-distance phone call from my mother.  She was crying and said, “Your dad has passed away.” My heart started pounding. I spent several hours pacing, tearfully asking myself the usual questions when a loved one dies. Why did this happen? What exactly happened? How could this possibly have happened?

Then, there was the second phone call. It was the nurse from my doctor’s office. I heard excitement in her voice. “Great news! You’re pregnant!”  I felt a jumble of conflicting emotions – complete joy and utter sadness. I was overjoyed to be pregnant but unhappy that our precious baby would never meet my dad. And, our six-year-old’s journey in getting to know and love his grandpa had ended far too soon.

There would forever be a void. The grandpa-and-grandchildren fishing trips would never be. Maybe my father would have taught his grandson to golf. He had been a caddy as a boy and had a perfect golf stance and swing. Would he have called our daughter, ‘Baby?’ It was his pet name for me. Possibilities for a relationship between my father and my children had vanished.

So, it’s Father’s Day. It’s natural to reminisce about the 45 years of marriage my father and mother shared. I remember a recurring conflict between my parents — the mother-in-law issue. My mom didn’t like my dad’s mother. She pretended to get along in public but complained to my father privately.  My mom also made thoughtless remarks within earshot of her kids. I’d hear her tell my dad, “Your mother wants us over for dinner on your day off! You should be spending your free time with me and the kids — not with your mother!” Or she’d say, “Your mother favors your brother over you.” Another one was, “Your mother spoils your sister’s kids and ignores ours.”  The complaints went on and on, and my dad just listened. He never uttered a retaliatory word. I know it bothered him, and it bothered me. I was a little kid, torn between believing my mother’s nasty comments and trusting my own immature intuition. Did my grandmother deserve such harsh criticism? I had no evidence. She always seemed at ease, often hunched over her stove or wiping her hands on her colorful apron, while a mob of grandkids ran in and out of her house.

Long ago, I realized my mom’s behavior was wrong. For whatever reasons, jealousies or insecurities, she was absolutely wrong in harping about her mother-in-law. It was toxic to our family and hurtful to my dad. He was a good husband and a patient and loving father.  He was a good son. My father didn’t deserve the mother-in-law drama that his wife stirred up.

My mother passed away a few months ago. I am saddened, on this Father’s Day, that she missed an opportunity to make my dad happy by accepting his mother. She missed an opportunity for herself as well. Compassion and communication can heal relationships and misunderstandings. For my parents, there is no going back — no second chances. No more Father’s Days. No more Father’s Day gifts. For the rest of us, there is hope.  The possibilities are endless. We are always a work in progress.

Today is Father’s Day, and I’m remembering my father. Love you, Daddy.

 

Mothers In Law Need Friends!

Family and friends can make a positive difference in our quality of life. Having someone to confide in and laugh with is one of life’s greatest joys. Friends span a wide spectrum, from beloved family members to childhood buddies to people from work, school or special interest groups. They come in all sizes, shapes, sexual orientations and colors — with unlimited talents and interests.

Learning from one another is a natural process that starts early. As kids, we watched our friends and older siblings tie their shoes. Pretty soon, we tied our shoes too!

Nancy and her brother, enjoying a Tea Party, on a catsup-box table

Nowadays, schools, colleges and businesses encourage collaboration and teamwork because it’s an efficient and enjoyable way to learn and solve problems. Do you ever feel like a solitary sponge, absorbing life’s nitty-gritty sorrows and joys? Have you struggled with a problem but after discussing it with a relative or friend, you felt relieved? That’s the beauty of friendship.

Family & Friends will focus on people helping people — instead of stories about people criticizing, antagonizing, hurting and even killing one another.  The daily news and reality TV shows are saturated with enough sensationalism, and we won’t add to it. How are your friends or family members making a meaningful difference in your life? Has a stranger ever been a good samaritan to you? That’s what we want to hear — untold stories about friendship and common decency. Where have they gone?! Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Everyone has a unique approach to making friends. Maybe you have a knack for it or maybe not. Whether you’re a mother-in-law who cultivates many different friends or only a select few, join us here for enlightening stories, suggestions and photos that will spark friendly connections. Be yourself. Relax. We hope you’ll check out Family and Friends and meet other friendly mothers-in-law right here!

 

A Mother In Law’s Garage

Does anyone have a garage like mine?

Everyday images have the power to make us chuckle or reflect on life. They can happen so quickly that we barely notice or appreciate them. Sometimes, they pop up at unexpected places and times. Or they’re so familiar that we don’t even notice until we have an aha! moment. Scattered Reflections are everyday snapshots and snips of life! We hope they’ll make you smile, warm your heart and add a little sunshine to your day. Feel free to share your favorite, scattered moments at themothersinlaw.com.

This is my lovely garage, and it was a mess for months. Why? My 92-year old mother moved in, and we needed to move stuff around to make some space. 

Mothers In Law Work Hard

The majority of mothers-in-law juggle demanding jobs along with a bunch of obligations and expectations.  Most of us put in a solid day’s work. Then we come home — and we work some more.

Many working mothers-in-law are in the forty+ age range. It seems logical that we’d be more employable as we become more experienced and qualified. You’d expect that we’d be paid more too!  But have we really made strides in the job and equal pay areas?  The Economist recently reported, “Globally, women earn 10-30% less than men.”

This is no sissy job!

Are the salaries more competitive in the U.S.? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “In 2009, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median weekly earnings of $657 or about 80% of the $819 median for their male counterparts.”

Finding employment and being paid a fair wage can be even more challenging for a woman once she reaches a ‘certain age’ — our age! And, have you noticed that attitudes on aging are different for women and men? For instance, older men frequently date much younger women, and there’s little stigma. Reverse the scenario, and whoa . . . society is hyper-critical! The chatter reaches fever pitch. Sugar daddies are acceptable, but what about sugar mamas? Unfortunately, age discrimination is still around.

Workin’ Women will focus on the important work we do on the job, at home and as volunteers. We will share stories about mothers-in-law who run the gamut – from top executives to school bus drivers to human rights advocates to entrepreneurs. All are equally important and inspiring. We will feature the latest employment news as well as resources, tips and links for improving skills and finding jobs.

Your work-related experiences are important to us and we want to hear from you. Share your stories! We’re advocating that mothers-in-law become the best they can be on and off the job.  Remember that hit song by Helen Reddy – I Am Woman? Well, we are women! Hear us roar (in a very good way!)

Caring and Giving

Mothers-in-law care about the emotional and physical welfare of children. We support the efforts of Children’s Hospital Boston, a leader in pediatric care. To learn more about this great hospital and to give, please visit their website at www.childrenshospital.org/giving.

The Mothers In Law will feature regular updates and stories to inform you about new happenings and the innovative care offered at Children’s Hospital Boston.

You can also find information on the latest treatments and services available to pediatric patients by visiting www.childrenshospital.org.

Celebrate Every Day

Holidays, special occasions and observances are markers that add happy anticipation and predictability to our lives. Traditions are important, even more nowadays because technology is rushing forward at warp speed, making our lives chaotic and often stressful. Planning, hosting or attending an event requires us to shift gears. We are forced to slow down and just enjoy!

Graduation celebration for daughter-in-law

Opportunities for celebration abound. Think back to an experience that made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside! Was it a holiday like Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve?  Was it the day you played Scrabble with your family?  Was it your grandchild’s graduation? Or was it that summer evening when you and your family sat on the back porch and gazed at stars?

A mother-in-law can be the pivot person to create a strong sense of family unity by celebrating old traditions and creating new ones. Special Days will feature important holidays and celebrations. We want to include your ideas too. How do you celebrate birthdays, graduations and other observances and make them special? How do you juggle conflicts like work, school, sports and other time-consuming commitments? It’s particularly challenging when family members are separated by long distances. But, mothers-in-law can overcome any barriers. They have the power to transform an ordinary moment into a memorable one with a simple gesture. It just takes a loving touch, a little imagination, and maybe a visit to Special Days!

Looking Good

What’s with the unflattering fashions for mothers-in-law and women our age? Attention, retailers! We are out here! Yoo-hoooo!

Judging by the limited choices, it’s almost like we’re invisible compared to the 20-something, hottie crowd with their extensive selection of fashions, shoes and accessories. It’s disheartening to shop and see tons of cute outfits for our daughters and daughters-in-law but nothing exciting for us. Many options for middle-aged women look like leftovers from the 1970’s or just dull, dull, dull!

New styles, please!

Granted, our shapely figures might be a bit fuller, and our hems might need to be a tad lower. But designers can work around a few, minor challenges, can’t they?  Often, mothers-in-law are forced to settle for two extremes – to dress as though they’re in their twenties or in their 90’s. Where are the stylish, in-between options for women who are in between? We still want to look elegant, classic and sexy, right?

Hmm.  Are we being ignored? According to a 2007 report by MassMutual’s Financial Group, women 50+ have more spending power and discretionary income compared to any other group in the country. Our net worth is $19 trillion. We spend billions on designer fashions and luxury goods.  So why aren’t we courted with wonderful fashions instead of treated like second-class citizens?  Where are the latest designs, fun fabrics and tailoring for us? Don’t you think it makes sense for the fashion industry and retailers to address our needs with better styles — especially considering our buying power?

Mothers-in-law deserve chic apparel that is comfortable and affordable whether we’re heading out on the town or lounging in our pajamas.  That’s why we’re starting a fashion-forward movement right here! Themothersinlaw.com will feature styles and accessories that distinctly resonate with us.

We’ll also feature beauty products and specialty giftware for easy shopping when birthdays and gift-giving occasions roll around! Mothers-in-law deserve more shopping options targeted to their needs and preferences.  It’s high time that shopping is more fun and convenient for all of us.