Friday, September 26, 2014

Why I Admire My Mom

For the 3 1/2 years I've written this blog, the post that has consistently gotten the most hits is Why I Love V.I. As the title suggests, it's about fictional female private eye V. I. Warshawski, created by Chicago-area novelist Sara Paretsky. The post's popularity tells me I'm not the only person who likes to read about strong women. The devoted fan base of books and movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent underscores that. Which is why I decided to write more posts about women, real and fictional, whom I admire. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized the first woman I admired was my mother.

My first memory of visiting downtown Chicago involves my mom taking me to a protest. I was about nine or ten. My mom was strongly pro-life (or anti-abortion, depending how you frame it). The rally took place at the Daley Center. Groups of people waved signs and shouted slogans. I also remember my mom pointing out The Picasso in Daley Plaza. (She asked me what I thought it was supposed to be. I said a bird. She told me a lot of people held different views about what the sculpture was and struggled to explain the concept of abstract art. I still saw a bird. Really -- look at it, it's a bird.)

When I was in grade school, our suburb's village president was charged with income tax fraud and extortion. My mom helped form a citizens' group to seek more information about the charges and spread the word as, in true Chicago-area style, the man and his political party remained extremely popular. The former president was eventually convicted, and the citizens' group morphed into a competing political party. My mom never ran for office herself, but I remember her going door to door talking to neighbors about the issues, distributing political literature and posters, and organizing fundraising events.

When then President Nixon was impeached over the Watergate scandal, my mom had me watch hearings about it on television though I was in third or fourth grade. She told me I needed to pay attention because I'd never see a president impeached again in my lifetime. She also took me to the movie All the Presidents' Men. While what I mainly remember from the movie was the popcorn tasting like buttered cardboard (and while my mom was wrong about never again seeing a president impeached), that experience prompted me to read All the Presidents' Men as an adult as well as In the Arena by Richard Nixon.

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I'm grateful to my mom for letting me know early on that being a citizen is a privilege and imposes responsibilities. And that if I don't think something in the world is right, I need to go out and try to change it, not wait for someone else to do something.

Today (September 26), is my mom's birthday. This post is one way to remember her. Another way I honor both my mom and my dad, whose lives were ended in 2007 by someone else's choice to drive while intoxicated, is to support AAIM, an Illinois non-profit that works to prevent DUI-related deaths and injuries and to help victims of DUI drivers. If there's a woman who influenced you in a positive way, please consider donating to a cause today in her honor. And if she's still here with you, please take a moment to let her know how she inspired you. I wish I had done that more often with my mom.


Lisa M. Lilly is the author of the occult thrillers The Awakening and The Unbelievers, Books 1 and 2 in the Awakening series. A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. If you'd like to be notified of new releases and read reviews on M.O.S.T. (Mystery, Occult, Suspense, Thriller), click here to join her email list   


  1. Hi Lisa, I remember your mom, she seemed like a good lady, I barely remember your dad. I think I met him once or twice. I am really sorry to read of your parents passing in such a tragic way. Having been there done that, it really does take a good long while to get your feet back under you. Your post is a very nice tribute to your mom. I always thought you would someday be an author, it is nice to see that you have done that. I will definitely have to read your book(s). silvia

  2. Hi, Silvia. From grade school/high school, right? It's great to hear from you. Thanks for reading and commenting. Mom and I definitely had our differences, more so when I got into college and beyond. But the longer I live the more I appreciate how much I learned from her. And realize that a lot of our differences were due to the very different times in which we were raised.

    I hope you've been doing well!

    1. Hi Lisa, Yes, mostly from grade school. It's nice to hear from you too. I always wondered how those darn bubbles got into the roundabout. Those were fun years for me, the calm before the storm. All things considered, I am doing pretty well, thank you. Being a life long learner and a 'ahem' late bloomer, I am now entering my second year as a university student. I am not sure what compelled me to look you up other than from time to time I have wondered how some, that I've known, are doing. It's nice to see that your doing what you love. Lol (having caught up with the times, texting is something I now can do proficiently, as you can see), the Picasso could be seen as a bird - maybe a prehistoric one, they all seem to sport a funny snout at that time. Another funny thing, as I meandered through some of your posts, I remembered your little parakeets, sometimes they would be on your shoulder. Fast forward, your parakeet(s?) now hops on your keyboard. that's fun.

      I am sorry to hear about your mom and dad. Being no stranger to tragedy myself, I lost my youngest sister to a horrible car accident quite a few years ago. That can be quite challenging to get through. I am glad for you that you have tried to reconcile the differences with your mom. I think it is an important thing to do. That way you remember your mom for the positive things she imparted to you. A forty year difference is a lot for both sides to have to bridge. And even though it sounds like your mom was ahead of her time in her thinking it still can be a lot of work to bridge those years. My son and I are thirty years apart and sometimes it can be exhausting trying to understand each other. My mom and I have never closed that divide. Our clashes when I was younger were fierce. The clashes didn't so much come from age differences but mostly from cultural, i.e old world vs new world. The culture I belong to had some very definite expectations of what a woman should do. By eighteen years of age (and being uprooted by my parents for the thirteenth time) I was under the distinct impression that it was time for me to leave (marry, have kids, etc...). At that time (pre-internet era, some youth of today would dub that the caveman period), thinking I had no other options that is what I did. However, after swashbuckling my way through life I still managed to become educated, which to this day confounds my parents. They see my escapades in education as some silliness I am wasting my time (and money) with. To that I say 'pish tosh' what better way to spend your life then to always be learning something new. Anyway, enough said about that.

      Now, after reading excerpts from your book, (btw, books and me go a long ways back, i still remember how the town library smelled of that yummy old bookish smell. Honestly, they should make a deodorizing spray of that smell) my curiosity is peaked. I am going to read your book just to see what those characters are up to. Can I purchase the first book through Amazon? silvia ( I signed up for your newsletter that way I can find out when your coming out with book #3?).

    2. Silvia, I'm so sorry to hear about your sister. That is an awful thing to happen. I remember your mom a bit and some of the clashes. And also the amazing costume she made when you played Sandy in Grease. Sometimes the cultural divides between parents and children are so vast.

      I'd love to hear more about what you've been doing in the years since we've been in touch and about your son. And I'm sorry it took so long to reply. Thanks for signing up for the email list! I'll see if can find you and send you and email. Mine is