Tag Archives: mother

Resting In Peace


by Lillian Csernica on July 29, 2019

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On Friday we held the memorial service for my mother at Pacific Gardens Chapel. More than a dozen people attended. Given the perils of weekend traffic during a Santa Cruz summer,  I was grateful to see so  many friends of our family make the effort to honor Mom’s memory.  This was in addition to the presence of my brother, whom I have not seen since my wedding 31 years ago this month.

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More family and friends sent flowers, among them white roses with blue hydrangea, a basket of roses the red of garnets, and one of those big sprays of spider mums and daisies and greenery. The flowers made the chapel even more beautiful, all of it centering on a photo of Mom taken from the days when she worked in music videos and as an extra in movies and TV. That photo, a cheerful headshot, let us mourners remember my mother as the person she was, the lively personality inside that body so weakened by illness.

My brother spoke about Mom making the most of every little thing they had when my brother was growing up. My husband talked about how many ways Mom expressed her creativity, through art and acting and singing and even stand-up comedy. I gave Mom credit for teaching me one of life’s most important lessons: Try everything! I’ve done my best to teach my boys do that so they don’t miss out on something they never knew they’d enjoy.

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These last few months of Mom’s life have been so hard. Now she’s in a better place, free of the body that kept breaking down and causing her so much pain. Mom can rest in peace, knowing how much we all loved her.

Yesterday I sat in my favorite coffeehouse and wrote for close to an hour. Then I switched notebooks and went on writing about something else entirely. I haven’t done that much writing in a single sitting in far too long.

It’s time for me to get some rest too, then go on living the life my mother encouraged me to live.

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Filed under artists, creativity, Family, family tradition, hospital, mother, parenting, special education, worry, Writing

Letters from the Dead


by Lillian Csernica on July 4, 2019

 

Last Thursday my mother died.

My brother lives in Southern California. My sister is currently bound by a temporary restraining order (soon to be permanent. The hearing is tomorrow). That means it’s all on me.

All the hospital stuff.

All the legal stuff.

And, most of all, every single item of Mom’s stuff.

It’s up to me to clear out Mom’s apartment.  It’s just a studio, but still. Furniture. Small appliances. Clothing. Books and DVDs, knickknacks and photo albums. The really staggering part? Mom’s personal correspondence, files, and papers.

Mom kept everything.

I could tell you stories about some of the keepsakes I’ve found, such as the inflatable jukebox wardrobe. Or the hand-painted bamboo parasol that would be a collector’s item if it weren’t for all the rainbow glitter. While such conversation starters are entertaining, and some are quite valuable, the downside of this particular duty involves discovering a few things that I really wish had stayed buried in the clutter.

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I found copies of letters Mom sent to me years ago. Some offered sympathy about my marriage troubles. Some gave “friendly” advice meant “with love” regarding how I took care of my baby, the child who would never walk or speak or do 90% of all the cute things grandparents look forward to in their grandchildren. I also found letters Mom had written to friends, letters that talked about matters I considered private. June was a horrible month. Given that I had to get a restraining order against my sister, then take care of Mom pretty much 24/7 right up to her death, I am exhausted, both physically and emotionally. I really did not need to come across Mom’s letters and the old issues they stirred up.

Have mercy on the family members who will be tasked with cleaning up after you’re gone. Do you really want your kids to read something out of context years from now when that material is subject to lingering resentments, old grudges, and well-meaning misinterpretation? Go through your personal papers now. You can’t have complete control over how you will be remembered, but you can certainly do yourself a lot of good by cleaning out potential trouble.

I’m not going to get all syrupy about making peace and building bridges before it’s too late. If you can do that, great. If you can’t, don’t feel bad, and don’t feel pressured to reach out to people when that might just make matters worse. I’ve had to take some drastic steps lately to preserve the health and safety of myself and my children. That’s going to make things awkward when it comes to Mom’s memorial service.

Unless you have family members who conducted personal correspondence at the level of Benjamin Franklin or Ralph Waldo Emerson or Florence Nightingale or Collette herself, do not read the papers that are left behind when said loved one passes. Burn them. Shred them. Recycle them. Spare yourself the torment of ambivalent feelings stirred up by unfinished business. If you just can’t resist, here’s a good guide for figuring out what to toss and what to keep.

Let me wrap this up on a positive note. One happy aspect of Mom having so much stuff is setting aside items that I know will mean a lot to Mom’s special friends. I’ve already passed on a few pieces of jewelry to the fellow artists Mom talked about from her art class. Those women thanked me with tears in their eyes, touched by knowing Mom thought enough of them to make sure I gave them those mementoes.

There are many ways to honor the passing of our loved ones. Remembering what was best about them can bring some comfort to everyone involved.

 

 

 

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Filed under Family, family tradition, housework, memoirs, mother, parenting, therapy

#atozchallenge Reflections


by Lillian Csernica on May 6, 2019

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Greetings! After all the labors of April, we have come to the post-game analysis. I’m going with the official suggested list of questions because they’re mighty fine for providing insights.

  1. What did you love about the challenge this year? I had a good time drawing on the less familiar moments of my writing life. I’ve been a lot of places and I’ve done a lot of things. Finding a subject for each day’s letter made me sift through all that for material that was both entertaining and edifying.
  2. What would you change about it? Maybe plan a brainstorming event a month ahead that would get me off the starting block with my posts. That way I could stay a week or so ahead and not fall into the last minute pressure cooker.
  3. What was the best moment for you during this year’s challenge? When it was time to write something for the letter U, I got stuck. I looked up words, pondered angles, and started to overthink the post. Then I realized I could write about one of my greatest sources of inspiration: my mother. That’s when I decided to tell the story of the best Halloween costume Mom ever created, starring her Utility Belt.
  4. What is the best comment your blog got during the challenge, and who left the comment? “Vintage also comes with a connotation of good, as in the good old days, not the parts nobody wants to remember or return to. In wines, it refers to aging in carefully controlled conditions so as to add both character and subtlety to the final product.” — Pat MacEwen, in response to V is for Vintage
  5. Will you do the challenge again? Can’t wait! Every year is an adventure. My previous themes have included Chocolate, Bad Sword & Sorcery Movies, Art Nouveau jewelry, and my Kyoto Steampunk universe!
  6. Was it well organized and were the hosts helpful? (Did you fill out the after survey?) Yes indeed! A particular shout-out to J Lenni Dorner.
  7. How did you and your blog grow, change, or improve as a result of this challenge? In opening up my own mind to areas of my life I don’t normally mention in my blog posts, I think I’ve given myself permission to write with a deeper level of meaning. Both the positive experiences and the negative ones provide useful perspective.  Did you find new blogs out there to enjoy? Yes I did! 
  8. Were you on the Master List? (If you did the challenge last year, was it better this time without the daily lists?) I was on the Master List, yes. The daily lists are helpful to me. Last year I’d go to the Facebook page and browse the links. That made it easier for me to roam around. I regret not getting as much roaming time in this year.
  9. Any suggestions for our future? Keep up the good work! This is easily one of the highlights of my blog year.
  10. Any notes to the co-host team? A word of thanks to Jeremy for all his hard work on the graphics? A thousand thank-yous to all the folks who make the A to Z Blog Challenge happen. I’ve made some great online friends by participating and I’ve discovered some brilliant people.

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Filed under #atozchallenge, Art Nouveau, bad movies, Blog challenges, chocolate, Conventions, Family, Fiction, historical fiction, Japan, Kyoto, publication, steampunk, travel, Writing

#atozchallenge U is for Utility Belt


by Lillian Csernica on April 24, 2019

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People sometimes ask me where I get my love of costumes, my pleasure in performing, and my goofy sense of humor.

I get it all from my mother.

Many years ago, Mom pondered how to dress up for Halloween. She was determined to win the costume contest where she worked.

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Mom is also where I got my fondness for superheroes. Mom read the original Wonder Woman comic books. Thanks to her, I started to read Wonder Woman. I also discovered Batgirl thanks to Batman, the 1960s TV series. Many women credit Nichelle Nichols, Lt. Uhura  of Star Trek, with being their first positive female role model. I’d agree with that. I also credit Yvonne Craig in her role as Batgirl. This was the first woman I ever saw put on a costume, ride a motorcycle, and kick ass on the bad guys.

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So Mom came up with a hot idea for the Halloween costume contest. It started out with a Batman costume. She added a red wig underneath the cowl, then a more feminine mask over the front of the cowl.

Then Mom put together her Utility Belt. Instead of Batarangs and Bat sleep gas and those universal antidote pills, Mom included Pepto-Bismol, Fixodent, tea bags and hemorrhoid cream. In place of her name sign on her desk, Mom put a sign that read:

Batgirl: The Golden Years.

Mom won First Prize.

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Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, classics, cosplay, Family, fantasy, Halloween, Humor, mother, parenting, Writing

#atozchallenge K is for Kids


by Lillian Csernica on April 12, 2019
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by Lillian Csernica on April 12, 2019

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People told me that when I had kids, my life would never be the same.

Those people had no idea how right they were.

My son Michael was born at 23 weeks, weighing 770 grams. That’s one pound, eleven ounces. He was the size of a kitten lying across my palms. This was back in 1996. At that time the age of viability was 24 weeks, because only then would the lungs function. During every single day of the following three and a half months Michael spent in the hospital, we watched and waited to see if our baby would live or die.

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Two and a half years later, John arrived. He went full term, a hefty eight pounds, ten ounces. During delivery, John refused to breathe. By then the hospital staff knew our family rather well, so the head of neonatology was on hand to jump start John and make sure he started life in good form. John had to spend the first week of his life in the NICU, which drove me crazy because I wanted my baby. Then, as John missed verbal milestones and showed other unusual behavior, we learned he has Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

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Now people tell me I should write about my experiences with both of my sons. I should write about battles with insurance, battles with the school district, battles with the boys themselves. I should write about all the doctors and nurses and teachers and aides I’ve worked with through two decades. I should write about what I’ve learned and what I wish I’d known.

It’s not easy to write about difficult events when you’re still in the process of living through them. Now that my boys are legal adults, they face a sharp decline in services, lack of day programs, and the ongoing insurance battles. Michael is still in just as much danger from every medical crisis. John is still learning how to handle some of his symptoms. I am their mother, their legal guardian, and their primary advocate.

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The time is coming when I will write more nonfiction. Right now, I write escapist literature because that’s what I need to write. I don’t travel as much as I’d like to because I simply can’t. In order to hang on to my dented sanity, I run away from home inside my head.

 

 

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Filed under #atozchallenge, autism, Blog challenges, Conventions, cosplay, doctors, Family, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, hospital, mother, neurodiversity, parenting, special education, specialneeds, travel, Writing

The Best Proof of Success


by  Lillian Csernica on June 10, 2015

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My mother lives in a retirement community.  There are lots of activities, from day trips to the monthly party for all the people who have a birthday in that particular month to a variety of classes and groups.  This coming Saturday, the organizer of the Writers’ Group has invited a special guest speaker.  Care to guess who that speaker might be?

That’s right.  I will show up with my Shameless Self-Promotion Kit, talk a bit about my work, and then explain how the techniques of fiction are quite useful when writing a memoir.

I got over being nervous in front of an audience a long time ago.  I joined my high school’s Speech and Debate Team as a sophomore, then competed on my college team.  Attending conventions such as RadCon, Clockwork Alchemy, and BayCon as a guest speaker has kept my public speaking skills polished.

Now here’s the weird part.  As I contemplate my presentation for this Writers’ Group, made up of people my mother knows and who all live in the same retirement community, I’m getting flashbacks to various moments in my childhood and teenage years when Mom wanted me to show off my latest accomplishment for neighbors or co-workers.  My mother has always been an avid photographer, probably because she grew up helping my grandfather in his professional photography studio.  This means Mom has a lot of blackmail material about me at age six dressed as a little gray mouse for a dance recital, or competing in swimming races during the summer when I was in grade school, or when I started working as a professional belly dancer.

So on Saturday I will stand up in front of my mother’s friends and tell them about my career as a professional writer.  I’ll have copies of Ship of Dreams and some of the anthologies where my stories have appeared.  My credentials are solid.

So why am I starting to feel nervous?  Why do I have that old familiar feeling of wanting to make Mom proud of me?  There’s nothing strange about that, of course.  There is, however, a big difference between having that feeling when you’re six or sixteen, and feeling it when you’re pushing fifty.  I know my mother is proud of me.  That’s why the people where she lives know what I do for a living.  And yet, part of me still wants to look out across the audience and see her sitting there, smiling and nodding.

Seeing my byline in print is great.  Getting paid real money for it is even better.  Still, there’s nothing like knowing I’ve made my mother proud of me.

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Filed under Conventions, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, memoirs

The Mother of Invention


by Lillian Csernica on March 12. 2013

It’s high time I dragged myself into the 21st Century by joining the blogosphere.  I’m a writer.  Fantasy, dark fantasy, historical romance, horror, nonfiction.  I have one novel out, SHIP OF DREAMS, under my romance pen name of Elaine LeClaire.  You can find my short fiction at Tales of Old, Tales to Terrify, and soon in Midnight Movie Creature Feature Vol. 2.  I’m very fortunate to have a career that lets me work at home because my two sons are both what’s now referred to as “special needs” children.

They’re not so much children anymore.  Michael is sixteen.  He had to be delivered at only twenty-three weeks, making him a micro-preemie.  A pulmonary hemorrhage and a grade four plus brain bleed left him with cerebral palsy and later seizure disorder.  He is medically fragile, an invalid who is either in his wheelchair or his hospital bed.  He doesn’t let any of that stop him.  He’s an award-winning artist, a great bowler, and he loves classic rock.  Michael has a great smile and a wicked sense of humor.

John is fourteen.  He went full term, but he did refuse to breathe.  His brief bout of hypoxia is what we believe caused his speech delay.  Speech therapy led to an evaluation by a neurologist which resulted in a diagnosis of autism.  John is low on the spectrum, with a talent for drawing that began when he started watching “Blue’s Clues” at age two.  He has taught “Drawing with John” classes at his elementary school both in the classroom and over the school’s closed-circuit television broadcasts.  John loves digital animation and studies the Special Features options on DVDs which give him a behind-the-scenes view of how the artists and programmers work their magic.

It’s not easy finding time to write when each day I have phone calls to make, medical supplies to order, school projects to supervise, doctor appointments, prescription refills to keep track of, and the other random demands that crop up all the time.  I tend to stay close to home for the boys’ sakes, so writing lets me run away from home inside my own head.  I look forward to sharing the ups and downs of this life with you.

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Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Special needs, Writing