Let’s try this again

One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie Babe, which tells the story of a sweet pig that learns to herd sheep. The pig’s unconventional method was to politely ask the sheep to move this way and that instead of barking orders at them, like those demanding dogs. Impressed by his pig’s unusual yet highly effective technique, his owner starts to wonder if his pig could be entered into a sheepherding competition typically reserved for border collies. It was a radical idea. Yet, as the narrator tells us:

“Farmer Hoggett knew that little ideas that tickled and nagged and refused to go away should never be ignored, for in them lie the seeds of destiny.”

Babe

This blog is one of those ideas that has tickled and nagged. I thought it would be fun to devote one full year to acting more like my mother, Alice Flynn. I would learn to sew throw pillows, refinish furniture, make grape jelly from scratch, and see the best in everyone (or at least try to). I tried to launch it once before, on Mother’s Day in 2014. At the time my mother was lukewarm to the endeavor.

Truth be told, I was disappointed by her reaction. I thought she might well up with tears of joy. Instead I think she said something like, “I don’t know about this. Wait a minute. What’s this all about? I’m not so sure …” I took the mature road and said something like, “That’s fine. We can forget about it,” channeling my 15-year-old former self. I must admit there was some relief, too. Now I didn’t have to actually do the work.

But the blog idea kept tickling and nagging. And then I discovered an old email from my brother. Tommy happened to be there the day I introduced My Year of Living Alicely to my mother. He followed up later to encourage me to stick with it. He thought my mother would like the blog, eventually. She just didn’t understand it yet. She didn’t want it to go “viral.”  My brother knew all about SEOs (search engine optimization) and other tricks to maximize readership. Tommy always thought like an entrepreneur. He was a schemer, and a dreamer.

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One year ago, on Dec. 4, 2014,  my brother Tommy died in a tragic accident. He was 40 years old.  As a family we will never quite be the same. While it may sound naive, and I almost stopped myself from typing this, I never fully grasped the finality of death, until now.

One thing I do know for certain is that Tommy thought this blog was a good idea. And I think he’s right that my mother will warm up to it. We shall soon see. It is the new year, time to pursue those ideas that tickle and nag in all of us. So here we go. Stay tuned.

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My mother, me, my older sister Kathleen and Sammy.

 

My mother and I celebrating my recent December birthday.
My mother and I celebrating my recent December birthday.

 

Happy Mother’s Day Mom

My mother and I pose for a selfie the day before Mother's Day.
My mother and I pose for a selfie the day before Mother’s Day.

Swinging a black guitar case and smiling ear to ear like Maria Von Trapp from “Sound of Music,” my mother came walking down the hallway of my high school. She had signed up for an adult education class, which ended at the same time as my basketball practice. How convenient for rides home. I remember feeling simultaneously embarrassed and proud. Before bookstores ever offered self- improvements sections, my mother was always seeking out new experiences to broaden her horizons. I grew to love hearing her sing John Denver’s “Grandma’s Feather Bead” before school (and after school, and before dinner and after dinner, and before bed  … ) I really did.

Some 30 years later, I feel only pride when I think about how my mother pushed herself to try new things. I am not talking about scaling Mount Everest or jumping from airplanes. But out of five sisters, my mother was the only one to get a job in Boston right out of high school instead of staying closer to their small town. She taught herself to sew our clothes (and our dolls’ clothes), make bread, cross-country ski, arrange flowers, start a business to sell those arranged flowers and drive through the tunnels of Boston. She is savvier than a lot of people give her credit for, including herself.

I decided to launch this blog today, on Mother’s Day, because I want to be more like my mother.  Over the course of the coming year I want her to teach me her skills. I want to approach life with an openness to new opportunities. Like my mother, I  want to go to a restaurant, eat a delicious meal and then find a way to recreate it at home. Maybe even make it better.

My mother isn’t quite sure about this new endeavor of mine. She’s a private person. I assured her that the blog isn’t confessional in nature. I told her that this is for me, for us really, and most people won’t even read it, which is probably true. But I hope it’s not entirely true. I think we can have some fun with this.