True confessions: I am very bad at selecting presents, not for lack of effort but for lack of creativity. I usually resort to “You can never go wrong with an Amazon gift card” to get me out of a bind, though my kids have counseled me against this tendency as impersonal and unimaginative. This year, in a rare moment, I have figured out what to give my mom and mother-in-law for Mothers Day, and I love my present.
Love is not hard when the present you are giving is a book you’ve just published that is dedicated to them–Rosyne and Roz –“two titans who paved the way.”
The book, At My Pace, is a collection of women’s stories that describes the journeys of ordinary women in all its twists and turns, starts and stops. I’ve dedicated this book to these remarkable women because they have been trailblazers for my family, strong in their own quiet ways. My Mom, who only wanted to play piano and raise her six children, ended up working full time with my Dad to eke out profits from their small kosher grocery store so that they could provide us the opportunities that they never had. She still got dinner on the table every night, made sure we did our homework, and chauffeured us like any mom of six would need to do, and always with a smile. She was and still is our ray of sunshine.
My Mother-in-law, while raising three children, combined her passion for music and all things Jewish into a storied career spanning six decades as a music teacher for the Solomon Schechter Day School of Chicago. She became a legend, sometimes nicknamed “the General” that bespeaks her strength, as she trained generations in the power of moving people through song. In an unusual twist, some of her disciples have entered my children’s circles where they recount the music that touched them and still does. For me, as a daughter-in-law, she has been my go to on countless issues like, “What could that teacher have been thinking when…” to her many recipes of Jewish cuisine whose tradition I wouldn’t want to lose. She is the ultimate in combining tough and soft in one special soul.
So what exactly is At My Pace, besides a great present for my mom and mother-in-law, and maybe generically, for women who already have too much (especially now that we are all busy purging, after having read Marie Kondo’s best seller on tidying up)? At My Pace expands the conversation ignited by Sheryl Sandberg of lean-in fame about the many ways we as women craft our individual journeys. Some ride the autobahn full speed ahead. Others enjoy a more winding experience with rest stops and yield signs along the way. In many coffee klatches, we can hear women trying to process others’ choices, frequently accompanied by defensiveness and judgment.
In the spirit of “Can’t we all just be happy and applaud each other?” I embarked on my own journey to interview women who weren’t ripped from the headlines–ordinary women like myself–who had an uneven ride, full of surprises, balancing acts, and self-discoveries. I asked them to share their ah-ha moments, turning points, lessons learned, and something that revealed who they are at their core.
Thirty-six women participated, and they run the gamut age wise (mid-thirties to mid-eighties), with equally broad interests and life experiences. Meet:
Melissa, a sports reporter whose life finds new meaning when she adopts a Chinese daughter.
Sandy, a graphic designer whose life implodes during the dot com bust.
Hillary, an educator who celebrates her choice to be single.
Kim, a mom with young children who has fallen off the corporate ladder.
Natalie, an entrepreneur who delays the start of her business to care for her ailing mom.
The At My Pace contributors all had moments of extreme challenge, setbacks, aspirations, and ultimately inspirations. They met their world with their arms wide open, or as one contributor shared, “I occasionally take a few left turns.” Where these women take those turns, with whom, at what speed and conviction is what helps define them. I learned that our travels might take us off-road and maybe for longer than we think, but if we can allow ourselves the experience, we might just enjoy the new terrain.
So, if you’re at a loss for what to give your mom, or sister, or grandmother, or good friend or even yourself on this Mother’s Day, how about a personal journey into At My Pace?
At My Pace collected and edited by Jill Ebstein, is available at amazon.com in paperback or kindle and at portersquarebooks.com as well. For other participating independent bookstores, visit www.atmypacebook.com for the growing list.