For the past 25 years, I have been a trainer, a coach, a manager, a consultant and a mentor to literally thousands of people on three continents. I have enjoyed helping them be more effective in their work and in their lives. Beginning with The Xerox Corporation and ending with Kaiser Permanente, it has been a wonderfully rewarding career in Leadership Development for which I am truly grateful. ‘As I near the end of my corporate career, I look forward to a new career of writing and speaking. I will be spending more time with my extended family of wonderful older women including my Arkansas aunt Bobbie and cousin Shirley, my sister Diann, and friends old and new. You can read about their lives, our adventures together and my move from busy corporate life to a gentler lifestyle by joining the conversation on our blog. Through this website, blog and my upcoming book, MAKE MOM HAPPY BY MAIL, my life goal is to bring joy into the lives of not only my own family but other wonderful women and men of the Greatest Generation. ‘If you’d like to help, please send me your stories so I can share them with others. ‘Be well and bring joy!About Trudy's Mom
My mother was an extraordinary woman. She survived three husbands, raised two happy, successful daughters – both with polio as young children - and worked endless hours at hard menial jobs from picking cotton to running a giant punch press. Yet at 83, she was still feisty and fiercely independent. She lived alone, by choice, in rural Arkansas and told me just after her 83rd birthday, “You know, this is one of the happiest times of my life.” I wondered how this could be true. Then I remembered hearing her talk about the things she did to make and keep herself happy. For example, she wrote in a gratitude journal detailing the big, or mostly little, things that made her happy every day. Seeing a humming bird, shopping with her friend Lucy, reading a new book or just sitting on the couch with her puppy – all were carefully recorded in the journal. She wanted to be happy and she was.
And I was privileged to help her with what we called our “Make Mom Happy By Mail” campaign. I started this website to honor my mother and all the other brave mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles and friends who grew up during the depression, suffered and lost loved ones in WWII and managed to go on. They raised a generation of strong and successful sons and daughters, the baby boomers, and today are still enjoying their lives. The goal of this website is to inspire you, those sons and daughters, nieces and nephews and friends, to think of creative ways to make this a happy time in the lives of your loved ones. We’ll start with ways to “Make Mom Happy By Mail”. But who knows what other great ideas will appear?
Any day when my mother opened her big country mailbox next to a rural route in Northern Arkansas, she might find a postcard from San Francisco, a copy of a proposal I submitted to my boss this week, a placemat from the little restaurant where I had lunch on Sunday or a packet of dog chews for her puppy, Angel. She might also get a copy of my grocery list from last week, ticket stubs from the movie I saw over the weekend or a packet of colorful sponges from the dollar store. Or, she might just get a long, newsy letter with a picture of her grandson. And, she would tell me how each package would bring a smile and feel happy. This steady stream of “mail” started in July of 2005 following my annual visit to Arkansas when I asked my mom, “What could I do to be a better daughter?”
While I would like to take credit for thinking of this great question myself, in truth, I owe the credit to Marshall Goldsmith, a well-known author and executive coach. The month before my visit to Mom, I heard Marshall urge the attendees at a conference in San Diego to always be asking for feedback from the important people in their lives by asking, “What could I do to be a better ………. friend, mother, boss, employee, wife or, in this case, daughter.”
Now, I must admit that when I asked my mother this question, I more or less expected her to smile, pat my hand and tell me that I was a perfectly wonderful daughter in every way and that there was not one single thing I could do to be a better daughter. I’d made the trek from San Francisco to rural Arkansas with my son to visit once a year for many years. I was good to call regularly, never forgot a birthday and sent cards for every possible holiday. So, what else could a mom want? Turns out it was mail!
When I asked her that lovely question, “What could I do to be a better daughter?” Without missing a beat, she said, “Just send me more mail!” My mother is 83 years old, lives alone, and suffers from both osteoporosis and congestive heart failure. Her mailbox is a quarter of a mile from her front door. Her porch steps are steep and sometimes slippery. After the steps, there’s a rocky and uneven path to navigate. She wears an emergency alarm just in case she falls. It’s not an easy trip but she makes it every day because she needs the exercise and because it is her connection to the world.
“When I walk all the way out there and there’s nothing but junk mail in the box, it’s kind of depressing.” she told me. Even though she said it in a matter of fact way, I could really feel the sadness and disappointment she described. And, I never wanted her to feel that way again. So, to give these daily walks a happy ending, I started what became a delightful process for both of us.
I am constantly on the lookout for things that might be fun for her to find in her mail box; things that will give her a window into my life or things that might enrich hers. She loved the sunflower petals swooped up from a balloon flying low over the Napa Valley on my last birthday. The supermarket receipts I drop in an envelope tell her what food my family likes to eat. When I send her a book I’ve just finished with notes in the margins, it’s like we’re reading it together. A memo from my boss complimenting my work makes her proud. She never knows what will show up in that big back country mailbox. And, she tells me, that just adds to the fun!
I’m happy to be able to do this little thing for my mom. A bride at 18, a mother and war widow by 19, she has not had an easy life. I have always wanted to do things to make her life better and was truly happy when she told me just how to do that this time. Recently, I was telling a friend about my “Make Mom Happy By Mail” campaign. I said it was giving us so much pleasure I wished I could tell more people so they could do it too. I thank her for suggesting that I write this article.
So, what does this mean for you? Just this. If you are lucky enough to have a mother, father, aunt, uncle, cousin or friend who would love to hear from you and share little pieces of your life, you might consider sending them more mail. I promise that it will make you both happy! Happy mailing!
Writing this article led me to actually writing two books: