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In Honor of Stress Awareness Month: Mom, the News, the Weather, and Me

Mom and me, about 30 years ago. Thinking of her today.

Published in ChicagoNow, April 17, 2018

OMG, it was snowing in Chicago on April 16. Did my grandkids wear their winter coats? But even worse, it was pouring cold rain and extremely windy for the Boston Marathon. My kids and grandkids who live there hoped to watch it because there was no school. And that day’s headlines on Morning Joe: Comey’s book, Trump’s tweet storm, Syria, the potential of firing Rosenstein and Mueller, the FBI raid of Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, and the Russians are coming. I was a wreck before my day started.

My mother died three years ago, April 19, 2015. It’s still hard for me to believe she is gone. But part of who she was lives on in me. I like to think I embody some of her good qualities, but lately, I have adopted her anxiety about watching the news and worrying about the weather conditions in any place someone I love happens to live. Since tomorrow is Stress Awareness Day, the day after income taxes are due, and in honor of Stress Awareness Month, I’m remembering Mom and how much she stressed over the news and weather.

When Mom was living on her own for the first time ever after Dad died, my brother introduced her to MSNBC. She was always a news junkie who read her daily paper faithfully and joined senior current events groups. Why not fill her time watching endless news?

I’ll tell you why not. She called me every day in a state of panic. She worried about the state of the world and how it would impact her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. News these days goes far beyond keeping us informed. As a woman in her late eighties, breaking news actually broke her spirit. She felt like everything was in constant turmoil, and that was before Trump became president. Thankfully, she didn’t live to see the constant chaos he generates.

Then there were the weather reports. She watched in horror as scenes of devastation flashed on her television. If there was flooding in Illinois or tornadoes in Indiana or tons of snow in Massachusetts, she called me to make sure my kids and grandkids were not in the path of the horrific weather events. If the weather report said there were three feet of snow somewhere in Illinois, it did little good to tell her it was not that bad where we lived.

The only solution was to tell her to turn news and weather reports off and turn on her computer to play bridge or look at cute photos of her family on Facebook. Sadly, that would not work for me. I don’t play bridge and politics dominate Facebook. This morning, aside from finding a darling picture of my 11-month-old great nephew, I was bombarded with weather disaster photos of huge piles of snow everywhere and stories about the latest Trump tweet.

Unlike my mother, I don’t catastrophe weather events. That’s because I never remember the forecast. When I used to watch the evening news, I always dozed off during the weather segment. Even looking it up on my phone isn’t that useful, as I forget how warm or cold it will be later that day. Thus, the light jacket I wore last week on the only spring-like day this month was less than helpful when the temperature plunged forty degrees in the afternoon.

When it comes to the news, however, I am my mother’s daughter. Lately, I find myself watching far too much breaking news. Like most of us who are addicted to “news,” I keep turning it on, hoping that it will get better. I have my favorite news personalities, so I switch stations. Perhaps Anderson Cooper or Lester Holt will tell me a happier story than Rachel Maddow. No dice. The news is stressful no matter which “personality” is talking.

As I remember my mother on the anniversary of her death, I will try not to stress over the weather, which I can’t control. In honor of Mom, while I also can’t control the news, I will work to make the world a better place for those she loved. That’s a legacy worth perpetuating.


by Laurie Levy
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