Monthly Archives: September 2015

I’m Sorry StL

Dear St. Louis,

I want to apologize for all the mean and awful things I have said about you over the years. It is true that I didn’t want to move to you in 1999 after having lived in gorgeous northern California. Your Midwestern ways and weather scared me.


Frankly I came with an open heart but after being wooed by some of your residents I opened up a bit and wanted to love you. However if seems that, many of those folks who courted us with flattery and false kindness lost my new number soon after we moved in. And I never could quite get over that.

I’m not really sure what makes us feel at home in some places versus others. For whatever reasons, I always felt like a fish out of water while living in St. Louis. Maybe it was your strong Midwestern ways—both the positive and negative aspects of what that means. Or maybe I held myself back from fully embracing you as I assumed we weren’t there forever.

Whatever it was that just didn’t feel right for me while living there, I must admit that it definitely affected my affections, or lack thereof, for you. That and the weather of course: 110% humidity, with 100’+ temperatures in the summer with biting cold, freezing weather in the winter is not endearing. I’m still not over the whole weather thing frankly. But I want to make amends.

So please accept my apology. You were not the place I would have chosen to move to, nor the place that I wanted my kids to say that they are from, but nine years in a childhood is defining. It means that both of my kids identify as being from St. Louis and I finally see that is not a bad thing.

Yes your weather is too hot and humid in the summer and yes it to too cold and freezing in the winter (I’m still not ready to let go of this issue) but my kids picked up some good values while living in St. Louis. And I have to admit they would not have gotten this from the San Francisco Bay area where we are all about the latest and new shiny bright object.

When my husband approached me about taking this job in St. Louis I was dead set against it. We had just bought a home in Palo Alto that I was redoing. I was ready to set down roots, raise our kids and figure out what was next for me after being a stay-at-home mother/wife for 10 years. Moving to St. Louis was not on my radar.

What finally convinced me to move was a newspaper article that my husband strategically showed me in a moment of weakness about Palo Alto high school students who were day-trading and buying themselves BMWs. That got to me. I did not want my kids to grow up in that environment. So off we moved to you for what I thought was three or four years at the most. Of course I gave away the punchline already and we all now know that those three or four years turned into nine years.

Nine years is a lot of years to be lonely. I know for I spent most of that time longing to feel a part of the community. I tried various things, but the bottom line is that I never felt at home while living there. And this made me disparage you in ways that I am now sorry about.

There were some nice aspects about living in St. Louis. I liked that I always ran into people I knew when out shopping or at a movie or just grabbing coffee. Always. And I love that my kids received a wonderful public school education, something that was lacking in the California schools both before we moved away and was even more true once we moved back.

So while I am relieved to no longer live there, I want to say I am sorry for all the mean, nasty, snide comments I said. It wasn’t your fault that it didn’t work out for the two of us. I can now comfortably say that living there was not all bad. Who knows, maybe in another few years I will be ready sing your praises. And if/when that happens I will start with Ted Drewes frozen custard!

Have you ever lived in a place that just never felt right? Where you never felt at home?

As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

First Mothers Book Review Part II


First MothersLast week I shared Part I of my review of First Mothers, The Women who Shaped the Presidents by Bonne Angelo. Here is a rest of my review with 3 more commonalities that the presidential mothers from Sara Roosevelt to Virginia Kelly all shared. 

3) Each presidential mother wanted an education for herself as well as for her children – especially the sons who went on to becoming president. Some of these women went out of their way to get an education during a time in history in this country when educating women was not valued.

About Rebekah Johnson (1881-1958): “From childhood she was set on going to college, and though her decision was slightly less astonishing than that of Martha Truman and Ida Eisenhower decades earlier, the number of girls in higher education in Texas at the turn of the century was minute. It is impressive, and significant, that these nineteenth-century mothers of contemporary presidents place such important on higher education, which scarcely figured in the thinking of most young women in those days.” (page 174)

It is very impressive that of the 11 mothers, 6 attended college, two went to European finishing schools and two received nursing degrees. This is especially remarkable given how few women were being educated in the USA at that time.

Further education opened doors for these women, which in turn opened the eyes and minds of their sons. Note: only Nelle Reagan had no formal education beyond elementary school, and Barbara Bush dropped out of Smith College after her freshman year.

Was your mother educated? Was your grandmother? How about your great-grandmother?

4) Each of the 11 presidents has a very Special Relationship with their mothers. Fact is they each could have been called ‘Mama’s Boys.’

From a 2001 with the author:

“The younger brothers were proof — to me — that there was something special between the mother and the son who would become president. Billy Carter, Sam Houston Johnson, Don Nixon and most of all, Roger Clinton, conducted themselves in a way that embarrassed their brothers….The mothers would never acknowledge that they had a favorite child — but when one son shines and achieves so brilliantly, there had to be a greater feeling of pride on the part of the mother. His success was her success.” 

Margaret Truman Daniel, author and daughter of President Harry S. Truman is quoted as saying:

“The enormously strong intellectual and emotional bond between Dad and his mother – the sort of bond which, I have discovered in my delvings into presidential lore, has existed between an astonishing number of presidents and their mothers.” (Page 433)

According to the author it is a key ingredient to the makings of a self-confident man who is able to withstand the rigors of a presidential campaign and then the office of the presidency. What do you now think of the expression ‘mama’s boy?’ Is it an insult or a compliment?

5) Each of these presidents had a weak or poor relationship with their father—or at the least they were not nearly as close as they were with their mother.

From the 2001 interview:

“Most of the fathers were disappointments to these mothers — failures or feckless or abusive. To compensate, the mothers poured themselves into these sons — he would be her fulfillment and her monument.

Yes, Joe Kennedy, particularly, had great influence, but it was his first son, his namesake, who was the apple of his eye. Joe Jr. was the Kennedy he expected to see in the White House. Jack, a sickly youngster and quite different from Joe, was closer to his mother. And, yes, the senior Bush had an influence, but the new First Lady, Laura, says her husband is much more like his mother: “They are both feisty; they both are funny.” And they share a much more outgoing personality than father and son. Says George W: “I got my looks from my father and my mouth from my mother.”

From the book:

“Some were weak or feckless, even outright failures….And some were never there at all. Even two of the most successful and powerful fathers, Joe Kennedy and Prescott Bush, were absent a great deal in pursuit of their careers [and/or] lifestyles.” (Page 432)

Did these sons feel the need to make up for the shortfalls of their fathers?

When I reread the book recently I read the 2008 version that now includes a chapter on George Walker Bush. A side tangent: When the author was preparing this revision, during the 2008 presidential election, she actually did research on both George Walker Bush and Al Gore. She found that Gore and his mother, Pauline, LaFon Gore also fit the patterns! And I think President Obama also fits the patterns, but I have not read anything directly on his relationship with his mother nor about her relationship with her father.

Bottom line: Each chapter of the book presented a different president and his mother, chronologically. I have since also read her other book, First Families, which I can not recommend as much. But if you are looking for an interesting read, insights into the past 12 presidents, reflections on the mother-son relationship and thoughts on how to help mold a self-confident, high achieving young man you will enjoy reading this book.

Click here to read First Mothers Book Review Part I.

As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

First Mothers Review Part I

I read First Mothers, The Women who Shaped the Presidents by Bonne Angelo in 2002, enjoyed it tremendously and recommended it to many friends over the years, including my book club, who selected it for our September 2015 meeting. Over the next two post I will share some of my notes from the book discussion I lead. Look for part II of my review next week.

The original edition profiles the presidents and their mothers from FDR to Bill Clinton, with added information on the first ladies too. I learned a lot about the president and their mothers, including the idea that these 11 presidents had much in common when it came to their relationship with their mothers – something I never would have guessed.

As the time I first read the book, my kids were 7 and 12 and I was inspired by some of the parenting concepts. For instance I took these two quotes to heart:

“They were diverse women who led [mostly] conventional lives, exercised their keen intelligence and didn’t shrink from controversial opinions—which they dispensed without hesitation to their political sons. As a group (with the exception of Sara Roosevelt) they were concerned about social issues, troubled by racial inequities and other injustices.” (Page 425)


“An intelligent mother with strong opinions stirs more than her son’s intellect. She stimulates both his curiosity and his energy so that he will one day be an opinion-shaper himself.” (page 425, quoting Carole Klein, author of the study Mothers and Sons.)

No one will accuse me of being a shrinking violet or holding back my opinion on issues that matter to me! Both of my kids were raised to see the value in social justice, for speaking out on issues and values that matter to them.

First Mothers

In this week’s post I will share 2 of the 5 commonalities that I found most interesting from the book.

1) Each presidents’ mother had particularly strong relationships with their fathers. Most were each their father’s favorites. In an interview the author, Bonnie Angelo, gave in February 2001 she said:

In every case of these mothers, there was a special bond between this particular daughter and her father….they made these girl feels that they could go beyond the constraints placed on 19th century women to do more, to be more. The fathers made the girls more independent minded, more self-assured. And I am convinced that these traits were then passed directly to the son who would become president. Father to daughter to son.”

This self-confidence, given from father to daughter to son is “fundamental to achieving success in any career, whatever the choice. Personalities may be unlike, motivations may differ, but the one who makes it to the top, the achiever, first believes in himself.” (page 427)

From the same interview:

I wrote only about the modern presidents — FDR to Clinton — because the modern presidency really began then, when they had to go out and actively seek the office, which meant they had to have that self-assurance the mothers implanted in them. That is crucial to anyone running for president these days.” 

2) Each presidential mother dealt with various forms of adversity and they then passed their resiliency to their sons. Some of these mothers knew hard times. But even in the face of poverty, alcoholism and even domestic violence, these women rose above it and passed this ability onto their sons — something that many of the presidential fathers could not and did not do. 

From the same interview:

Rose Kennedy was the foremost example of a trait that these mothers shared: resilience in the face of hard time, of abusive and alcoholic husband, and the unbearable tragedy of the death of children. Rose lost not just the two we all suffered with her, Jack and Bobby, but her first born, Joe Jr., who was lost flying a dangerous mission over the English channel in World War II, and her golden daughter Kathleen was also killed in an air crash just after the war. And yet she never lost her faith or her ability to meet any challenge. Think also about Hannah Nixon, who lost two sons to tuberculosis, one when he was only seven, the other at 22.”

Virginia Kelley is quoted in the book, from her memoirs saying,

“Too many people seem to think life is the tablecloth, instead of the messy feast that’s spread out on it,” she stated in her memoirs. “They want to keep the cloth clean and tucked safely in a drawer. That’s not life. Done right, life leaves stains. That’s why I don’t judge Bill Blythe for the things I found out about him. That’s why I feel sorrow, not hatred, for Roger Clinton. That’s why I love my mother, even though many a day she made me feel like murdering her…. It’s called resilience.” (page 401)

Have you overcome difficulties in your life?

Come back next week for part II of my book review on First Mothers by Bonnie Angelo. (Click here for part II)

As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

Motivational Quotes I

What is it about certain quotes that stop us in our tracks and rocks us to our core? I love finding these kinds of quotes and/or phrases in books or online. From time to time I plan to upload quotes that I find inspirational, or thought-provoking. I would love to hear what you think of them too.

To get us started here are four such quotes, all from books that I have read this past year and highly recommend. The first one in particular has influenced my perspective on my life, my art and my self-image as I have struggled to accept that I only reached a modest level of professional success during my time running various businesses. The fact is I invested a lot of time in my work and businesses, but much more time in my relationships with my husband and kids. And so at the end of the day, the expression of my art has been focused on how I created and raised my family rather than on what I accomplished professionally. Something to think about.

Hope you find these phrases thought provoking and/or motivational as I do.

“She really was an artist, but her art was not something that would be viewed in a museum or contained between the covers of a book. Franny’s art was in how she had lived her own extraordinary life. SHE was her best creation.”

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan Page 444 [Note: Highly recommend this book!]

“It was supposed to say “Great Artist” on my tombstone, but if I died right now it would say “such a good teacher/daughter/friend” instead; and what I really want to shout, and want in big letters on that grave, too, is Fuck you all. Don’t all women feel the same? The only difference is how much we know we feel it, how in touch we are with our fury. We’re all furies, except the ones who are too darned foolish, and my worry now is that we are brainwashing from the cradle, and in the end even the ones who are smart will be too damned foolish.”

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud Page 3 [Note: Another great read!]

“I’m angry because I’ve tried so hard to get out of the hall of mirrors, this sham and pretend of the world, or of my world, on the East Coast of the United States of America in the first decade of the twenty-first century. And behind every mirror is another fucking mirror, and down every corridor in another corridor, and the Fun House isn’t fun anymore and it isn’t even funny, but there doesn’t seem to be a door marked EXIT.”

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud Page 4

“Wouldn’t you want someone to tell your story? Ultimately, it’s the best proof there is that we mattered. And what else is life from the time you were born but a struggle to matter, at least to someone?”

The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman page 148 [Note: Loved this book!]

What do you think?



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!