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Celebrating Mom

Podcast Recorded: May 14, 2023
Sister Rejane with her mom and Fritz

To celebrate Mothers Day, the A Nun’s Life team shares stories about their moms.

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Sister Rejane  
Hello and Happy Mother's Day to all of you. I am Sister Rejane Cytacki, the director of A Nun's Life. Today we want to share with you some memories and stories of our moms. Thank you to Sisters Pat Johannsen and Christina Chavez, and our program director Elisabeth Deffner, for joining me in the retellings. These stories express our gratitude for our moms' faith, creativity, inventiveness, and -- most of all -- love and support of their daughters. Thank you to moms everywhere, and we pray you're celebrated well. Enjoy.

Growing up, I enjoyed cooking and baking with my mom, especially around the holidays. I attribute my continued love of food to her early guidance in the kitchen. My favorite thing to bake was desserts, especially pies. Mom had her own mother's pie crust recipe. And somehow the smell and warmth of a baking pie filled the kitchen and created a festive atmosphere. Of course, as I grew older and had to cook for myself, I realized cooking was more important than baking. I was constantly calling Mom for recipes -- and still am. Except now, we are exchanging favorite recipes that we like. She just gave me a recipe for a delicious breakfast casserole that I can't wait to try out. The other part of holiday memories with mom was creating decorations. One Easter, my brother and I were recruited to blow out the egg yolks and whites of one dozen eggs. We originally thought this would be an easy task, only to learn this was an exercise in patience and being gentle with eggs. I am sure I crushed one or two in the process. Fortunately, Mom had extra eggs in reserve. Basically, you had to poke a hole in the top and the bottom of each egg with a pin. Your bottom hole is slightly bigger than the top. Then you gently blow in the top and the air forces the egg's innards out the bottom hole into a bowl. This process took close to two hours, and my brother was much better than I -- because I started complaining of a headache and stopped early. Mom was ever the cheerleader and made sure we were fortified with snacks. The next day was the fun part. We colored the eggs and let them dry. And Mom attached ribbons to each egg and hung them on our repurposed Advent Jesse Tree, AKA a stick in a pot. We now had our very own Easter egg tree. Mom has lovingly preserved this tree and it comes out every Easter. We are all very proud of it. I learned the value of teamwork, collaboration, and hard work from my mom's creativity. Thanks, Mom. You're the best.

Mothers and daughters don't always have it very easy. There can be a real tendency to imagine that a girl must be an awful lot like her mom. And that's just not always the case, which was certainly my situation growing up. I wouldn't say my mom was a "girly girl," so to speak, but I was definitely a tomboy. And it was just something she really couldn't get her head around. I would choose to wear jeans day after day I was always running around and falling down and skinning my knees. It was not the same sort of girlhood that she had had, and that she probably expected she would be dealing with. But she was very patient about my habits that she couldn't quite understand. And sometimes she even contributed to my tomboyish ways. So one of the biggest instances of this was when I went to Cub Scout camp. So my mom's friend growing up was the mother of a boy in my class. We used to play together a lot and we always had a good time. And the mom was the head of his Cub Scout Troop. During the summer she was going to hold a little camp for them at a local park, but it was a pretty big undertaking, and she needed some help. So of course, she asked my mom. And of course, my mom brought me along because we were quite small, maybe 10 years old, and she was not going to leave me home alone. So we all trooped off to the park. And it was a little peculiar, even for me as a tomboy -- I did not really hang out with boys on this level, like 30 boys and me, doing all kinds of activities that I had never experienced: scavenger hunts for bugs and rocks and stuff like that. A lot of fun activities, a lot of new experiences for me, and a new experience for the Cub Scouts, too. No one was mean to me, but I'm sure it was a little peculiar to them, that there's this girl hanging around them all day. I had a really good time. But the highlight was when we did a little course on pocket knife safety. I don't know why this was such a thrill to me. But we learned how to handle a knife safely. And once we supposedly had adopted all these safe skills, we got a little card that proclaimed to the world that we were safe pocket knife users. We got to sign our name on it, and it was super official, and I couldn't be more tickled. So naturally, my very next step was saving up to buy a pocket knife of my own. My mom was not thrilled about this idea. But when I thought I might have had enough money, she did drive me over to Kmart, and we went over to artillery counter, and looked at all the pocket knives. And I bought probably the cheapest, ugliest, most useless knife that they had available. And I treasured that hideous thing so, so much. I actually still have it. I know exactly where it is. It's in a very special container so I can always grab it if I want to go down memory lane or whatever. I always look back on that and think it's so hilarious -- because first of all, I'm sure most parents wouldn't be too tickled about their kids buying a pocket knife. But secondly, as a girl who was not super ultra lady-like, I'm sure this was pretty disappointing to my mom. But once again, she was very patient with it. And she just let me do this thing that I was so excited about. And really, that's what moms do, isn't it? They support us. They nurture us. They encourage us, even when they might be thinking, "Where the heck did this kid come from?" Fortunately, my daughter is something of a girly girl. So finally, my mom has an opportunity to do all those things that I just had no interest in when I was growing up. So I'm very happy for both of them. And I'm really happy for me that I had a mom who understood me even when she really didn't understand me. So for all those things and more. Thanks, Mom.

Sister Pat  
This is a happy memory. It's Mother's Day. It's my mom mostly. But it has a little to do with my dad too. He had plowed up a piece of land for somebody that he leased from and discovered it full of rocks. We had our one and only family meeting. We had a meeting where my dad proposed to us that we kids pick the rocks, so that he could save money in order to take us to the World's Fair in Seattle. Of course, he realized that he needed to have a crew boss. That became my mother. And she was quite the boss. She was very concerned that we wouldn't pick up rocks that could damage the equipment. So she was constantly telling us, "That rock's too big, you have to get it." And once the rocks were picked, we started preparing to go to Seattle World's Fair. We did a couple of practice runs to Glacier Park so that Dad knew we could help set up and take down the tent and do the sleeping bags and air mattresses. Then my mother started thinking about that we were going to a big city -- bigger than we had ever been to, because I'm from Shelby, Montana, which was a city of 4000 people. She thought that she needed to have some way of making sure we would not get lost. Her idea was, she got terrycloth material that was orange and yellow and green flowers. And she made each of us a pullover shirt that just pulled over our heads. She thought these would be easy to keep clean. And we would all have the same shirt. When it came to my brother, who was about 8 or 9, maybe 9 or 10 years old, he said, "No, I'm not wearing one of those shirts." He said, "I'll hold on to Dad's hand, but I won't wear one of those shirts." So Mom took his material and made both shorts and a shirt for my younger sister, who was about five. Okay, Dad was working, making some extra money working for a contractor building a little school house about four or five miles from our farm. So Mom carefully made cookies or donuts and lemonade or iced tea every day to take over to my dad and the guy that was in charge. And one day, she scraped the fender of the car backing out of the parking lot over there. So she decided that she could fix it. She got green car spray paint. They assured her that it would cover the scratches. And she thought it matched. Well, our station wagon was willow green, and she got forest green. So the one fender was way darker. My mother was very inventive. She thought it would look best if both vendors were the same. So she sprayed the other fender forest green. And then she realized that she and dad would be sleeping in the car, and us six kids would be sleeping in the tent. So she made little curtains to hang on the back window and the side windows of the station wagon. And she figured out a way to string them on cord so that they could be pulled open and closed. Well, it was getting close to the time to go to the fair. And some aunts and uncles had come down to the house to visit with us regarding this. And mom was telling them about the shirts and the car. And of course they could see the fender. And when Mom was talking to them about it, my dad said, "Well, we could lose one of the kids. But we can never lose that car." My mother was not entirely happy because he did not agree with her forest green fenders on a willow green car. But she was always doing inventive things like that. And in truth and fact, neither the car nor the kids got lost at the Seattle World's Fair. And we had a great time. This is just one of my memories of my mother doing kind of inventive things. She was very good at coming up with ways to fix things or make things better. And when she ran across something, she would often say -- when she was thinking about doing something else -- "Well, there's more than one way to skin a cat." So that's some of my Mother's Day memories of my mom.

Sister Christina  
The story I want to share about my mom actually happened when I was a teeny tiny baby. This is something I discovered after I started my vocation discernment. My mom had me when she was young, just before she turned 20. And she said that she was afraid. She said, "I felt afraid because I felt like I was still so young. And here I have to take care of this child." And so her prayer that just came out of her heart was to pray over me and say, "God, this is not my child, this is your child. I want to raise this child for you." And that's so moving to me. I told her, "Mom, that is a consecration!" And I didn't know that my whole life until I started discerning religious life in this process where I'm looking back and doing my autobiography and other things that are required to enter religious life. That's how I discovered this story. And I thought, what a beautiful testament to the faith of my mother. It also makes a little bit more sense to me of how I ended up where I am. So, all mothers out there, your holy prayers -- they are heard.

Sister Rejane  
Music credit for this episode goes to Andy G. Cohen, for Gazing, which is used under a Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 license.

This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.

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