Yo mama, you rock!

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Have you ever experienced a moment and caught yourself thinking, “I’m going to remember this exact second — from the outfit I’m wearing to the smell hanging in the air — for the rest of my life”?

For me, that moment came the middle of April. I was 18 and approaching the end of my high-school life, nervous and excited for the changes to come. I can still hear the sound of a drill droning on from a nearby office and the sharp, sterile smell of the dentist. I nodded reluctantly as the man in the crisp, white coat explained to me how and when he would remove my wisdom teeth — a dreaded, but expected outcome of the visit.

My aunt had accompanied me that day, and at the time I was confused why — why she had come all the way from Ohio to visit me in Pittsburgh in the first place, but more so why she, and not my mother, drove me to Merten’s Dental that day. She stammered something about my dental surgery timing. But I never expected to hear the words that seemed to escape her mouth, a runaway sentence that spilled onto my lap without warning or structure: “They found something, emergency surgery, your mother, sick.” The words bounced off my forehead and tumbled to the floor as I tried my hardest to make sense of what was happening, all too fast, all too serious.

The rest of the day swirled around me like I was stuck in a watercolor, dripping with too much wetness that would eventually settle in the middle like a murky puddle. The something they found was ovarian cancer, a disease I knew far too well. The same disease that had my grandmother griped in its deadly lock for years now. The same disease that would take her away from us in the weeks to come. And now, the same disease that had my mother too.

I’m happy to report the passing of the three-year anniversary of that memory. I’m happier to report that my mother has been cancer-free for more than a year now. The journey was a struggle, filled with anxiety, pain, plenty of tears, and surprisingly, plenty of laughs as well. But through it all, I learned more from my mother than I could have ever asked for. I learned the strength of the human spirit, the power and beauty of a tiny woman just a little too stubborn to give up. I learned that sometimes, letting go is not an option. I learned that my family is the best resource I will ever have. I learned that there’s nothing wrong with admitting that some things are just too hard to deal with on your own. I learned that health is something you should never take for granted; it controls your world. But above all, I learned that I was blessed with a role model, a best friend, a teacher, a mother, and a hero.

Our mothers are our history, our present, and our future. They give us a gift that can never be replicated — life. They install in us dreams and the means to achieve them. And now, on Mother’s Day, the writers and staff of Venus Zine would like to reflect on these important and irreplaceable women.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how über-DIY my mom is. I have fond memories of my hippie-parents building their own garage and cutting labels off clothing to protest advertising. But my mom’s Do-It-Yourself attitude wasn’t just ’60s counterculture-nonconformity, it was necessity. She came from scrappy immigrants who re-used every plastic baggie, every piece of aluminum foil. Then her father died when she was 16, and DIY took on a whole new meaning for her family — making their own clothing, canning vegetables and fruit actually helped the 6 of them survive. During my childhood, she managed to work full-time while also making clothing and costumes for us kids, designing her own “Snugli” before they were popular, cooking from scratch, baking elaborate birthday cakes in the shapes of trains and animals, and still attending every game, every dance performance. Even now, when it’s no longer financially necessary, she re-uses materials, gardens, and makes clothing herself. I believe that every creative urge, every cooking, yoga, or gardening impulse that my siblings and I have, we owe to the DIY street-cred instilled by my amazing mother when we were kids.


On my 21st birthday, the profound realization hit me: I am the same age as my mother was when she had me. I was still in college, working at a very low-paid internship, and was scraping by on credit cards and saltines. Every birthday since then, I put this into perspective. This year, I reminded myself that I was in second grade on my mother’s 27th birthday.

I am constantly impressed by her resilience and selflessness in raising her children, and the amount she sacrificed to do the right thing. Without that strength of will, I might not be here today. Some people worry about turning into their mothers, but I secretly relish in it.


My mother’s life began halfway across the world in a time and place foreign to me. To some, the B-52s are an ’80s rock band, but to my mother, they were the soundtrack to a life of fear. At my age, she labored in concentration camps in Cambodia’s countryside, living through a war she still can’t comprehend today. She immigrated to America with the dream of a better life, only to find her struggles did not stop when the sounds of guns did. She has given everything to her children in the hopes that we will lead the life she never had.

There is no denying that my mother is my best friend, and to her, I owe more than words could ever express.


My mom is one of those women who gets a different nickname everywhere she goes— Cher, Shirley Biblo, Aunt Shirley, Frau Lehman, The Grand Tortoise, Cherie Baby, and Momma-C. I have a small handful of friends (and a boyfriend) who still insist on calling her “Ms. Lehman” which is bizarre to me because my mom is definitely one of those “first name” types of moms. When I think of the nicknames she has accumulated over the years, I am reminded that my mom is a confidant, a beacon of positive energy, a teacher, a leader, a jokester (you bet your sweet ass I am!), a woman who embraces and embodies the importance of love and expression, an inspiration, and a mother.


My fifth-grade science class was taught by an earnest lady with corkscrew hair, chunky jewelry, and the same name as a famous kiddie-lit prize. She was nervous about sex ed, so Mom (a pathologist, totally like Scully on The X-Files — except I had the red hair and Mom believed in aliens) said she’d teach it. We went to the drugstore together, she in control and me a little gut-squirmy, the items on the belt including: Kotex, Trojans, Kotex with wings (not lube, unfortunately for the Bleacher Submarine Vixens). The morning of, Bridget B. rescued a baby mole from her kitty’s jaws and brought the li’l dude, still bleeding, to school in a sock. As Mom unrolled the Durex, Mr. Squishy emerged, blinkingly, like a fetus crawling from a giant purple rigatoni. Luckily no one else saw him because Mom was busy waving her fingers like Fallopian tubes. “They’re beautiful,” she said. “Really beautiful.” It’s true.


My mother is one of the strongest ladies you’ll ever meet. Yeah, she did the whole single-mom thing while raising two daughters, which is a difficult task on its own, but she did so much more than that. She managed to keep my sister and I in the ritzy, upper-class suburb that we had begun growing up in, which also put us in one of the best public school districts in Illinois. She did everything she possibly could and more to make sure we were as happy as we could be.

And what did I do to thank her? Well, like many pre-pubescent teenage girls, I was a total bitch. This woman has put up with more bad attitudes, hateful words, and teen angst than I ever could. And now after that phase has passed, she still manages to be the most wonderful mother I could ever ask for. I can only hope that as a mother, I will be half as amazing as she. And, Mom — sorry again!  I really didn’t mean it!


My mom is one of those spectacular, fearless women who really would do anything for her two daughters. She’s braved a Smashing Pumpkins mosh pit with me, has driven 100-plus miles to console me when my relationships have gone awry, and welcomed my motley crew of friends into “the Bobbitt family hostel” each year when Coachella rolls around. She’s a candidate for Coolest Mom Ever (she had a crush on Zach Braff long before you did, trust me). Our happiness is her happiness, and for a person to be that selfless and warm is a rarity in this world. You are a diamond, Mom. You’re radiant and you make everything you touch sparkle.


If I can ever be even half the woman my mom is, then I know I’m going to do OK in this world. She has been a mom for many of my friends and for the children in her day care. With her great love and compassion, she has reached out and touched the lives of many, many people. Though she may never admit to it, she is one of the strongest people I know. My mom is real; she doesn’t play games or mess around. She’ll tell it like it is if you ask, but she is the best silent listener when necessary. I have been blessed with an amazing mom, but it is with great honor and pride to say she is one of my truest friends.


When I was about 10, I remember looking out my bedroom window while my mother watered her garden. For some reason, the hose’s sprayer stopped working, so she looked to see why. After pressing the trigger and spraying herself (causing her long hair to fly straight up) she quickly looked around to see if anyone saw and resumed her attempt to water. It clogged again for some reason, until she pointed it at herself and did the same thing again. That day, she gave new meaning to rinse and repeat. Few family gatherings go by without this story coming up.

Category: Health
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