Cordelia’s Mom Is Still Hanging In There (special new guest post series!)

*This is the first in a potential series of guest posts by “Cordelia’s Mom.”

(Yes, the first letters of the last four words spell something nasty—
it was not intentional, but I decided to leave it there anyway!)


Just like Cordelia and like most little girls, I dreamed of being a writer when I grew up.  In elementary school, I wrote poems and stories, which I gave to all my relatives and teachers.  My 6th grade teacher allowed me an entire class period to read one of my stories aloud to my classmates, and they loved it.  I was almost popular for a whole day!

But then came 11th grade and English Teacher Mr. V.  I wrote a story incorporating every ounce of my teenage dreams, desires, and fears and presented it to Mr. V, who took one look, told me it was garbage, and why didn’t I write about something I knew.  Within 5 minutes, Mr. V had convinced me that no one would ever have any interest in anything I might write—or, for that matter, in anything I might ever have to say.

I never wrote another word for public viewing.  The following week, I went to my guidance counselor and changed all my advanced placement and college-bound courses for business courses (typing, stenography, bookkeeping).  I graduated high school and took a job with the federal government, where creativity is not only unnecessary but actually frowned upon.

Here I am many, many years later, attempting to guest blog for my daughter who has already surpassed my teenage dreams.  I am terrified.  I don’t know if anyone will ever enjoy what I write.  I am asking Cordelia’s readers to read my short post below and give me their opinion.

Was Mr. V right?  Am I just becoming a foolish old woman?  Is my writing totally worthless?  Please be honest in your opinions, although hopefully not as brutal as Mr. V was. (But if you feel brutal honesty is, in fact, called for, I can handle it…I think.)  Please bear in mind that this is my very first adult effort at public writing.

Here goes:

A Few  Random Things I Have Learned in the Last 40 Years or So


There’s a reason stereotypes come into being.  Most of them have at least a grain of truth somewhere.  While it may be true that not every retired person in my area drives slow and erratically, I still cringe every time I find in front of me a big, shiny Buick, a driver wearing a Grandpa hat or with white Grandma hair, and a flower or something  tied to the radio antenna.

Sometimes the most innocuous things can have unexpected consequences.  When Cordelia first began her blog, her husband bought her a bunch of bumper stickers to promote her website.  I, of course, immediately bought one and slapped it onto my car.  I then proudly drove around waiting for someone, anyone, to beep in acknowledgment.  After a while, I kind of forgot that bumper sticker was on there—until the day I had to go to a funeral home to pick up a death certificate for a client.

Returning to my car, the first thing I noticed was the nice, bright “Cordelia Calls It Quits” sticker.  The second thing I noticed was the older bumper sticker I had taped to my back window, which originally had said “Forget Life—Play [insert game name here].”  That bumper sticker had become warped due to moisture on the window glass, so that the only part of it that was still visible was “Forget Life.”

I guess I should have remembered that older sticker, because I had been receiving a number of beeps and jeers from somewhat angry other drivers during a period of time when our local media was having debates about abortion rights.  In any event, after the funeral home incident, I became much more careful about where I parked my car.

[Cordelia note:  This also reminds me of a ceramic jar Cordelia’s Mom has in her office, which jokingly reads “Ashes of Problem Clients.”  We all faound this rather amusing, until one day my mother realized that the estate clients she met with—often coming to take over an estate after a loved one’s recent passing—may not find this jar quite so funny.  Since then, she turns the jar so the words face the wall when certain clients come in.  If you ever wondered where I get my snarky, totally inappropriate sense of humor from…]

The same things that you and your spouse fought about when first married are the things that bring you together many years later.  Who cares which way the toilet paper is hung on the roll—just buy the cheapest and use as little as possible.  We’ll be on Social Security soon and need to cut corners now.  Yes, the kids are stubborn, headstrong, and probably smarter than we are, but now that they’re grown and on their own, that’s a good thing—maybe someday they can support us.

Yes, good home cooking is wonderful—as long as someone else does it and cleans up afterwards.  And it doesn’t matter who does the housework—when you get [much] older, whoever is healthiest on a particular day gets stuck doing pretty much everything that day.

Sometimes you become your parent no matter how hard you try not to.  On my arrival at a recent family get-together, my sister-in-law exclaimed, “My God, you look just like your mother!”  My mother is 92 years old and in a nursing home.  That comment did not feel like a compliment to me.

No job is worth losing your health over.  Been there, done that. No further comment needed.

Struggling financially forever can have its rewards.  We’ll never have to worry about anyone fighting over our estates because there won’t be any.  [Cordelia note:  I already got the classic book collection, so I consider myself the winner.]  😀

Sometimes teenage dreams can be rekindled.  Maybe not the exact dreams, but something close.  Cordelia, I love you so much for giving me this opportunity, and hope I haven’t wasted your blog space needlessly.


So, folks, how was my first effort?  Should I just stick to the occasional comments on Cordelia’s posts that some of you seem to enjoy (I really can’t understand that, but am feeling very special about it), or should I occasionally jump in with an actual war story of my own?

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  • Carolyn Roosevelt

    Please say more, Cordelia’s Mom. You have everything a writer really needs: a point of view, and a clear voice. And, hey, by fortunate chance, an outlet to readers.

    I wish the world didn’t set such a bright line making ‘not good enough to be a professional’ into ‘never bother to try something again.’ In my experience, doing creative things for fun, and for an audience of loved ones and acquaintances, makes for tons of joy in life, and usually winds up being good enough and more.

    Thanks for giving us a chance.

    • I would add only “(comma) yet” to that wish, Carolyn. No one (not even ourselves) should expect or even imply the expectation of “professional grade” from a novice (of any age). 🙂

  • Melissa

    Dear Cordelia’s Mom,

    There is a quote I read recently, that says “It only takes one negative comment to kill a dream. Remember that next time.” I would love to send that to your old teacher, and I can’t help but wonder how many infant writers and artists he killed with his thoughtless words.

    You CAN write, and beautifully. I would LOVE to see more posts from you!

  • Susan

    Please jump in! More! More!

  • Cordelia’s Mom

    Susan, Melissa and Carolyn: You’ve made me cry this morning. Thank you so very, very much! Based on your support, more will be coming from time to time, and I trust everyone will tell me when I’ve run my course.

    (Burn in Hell, Mr. V! And beware: you are about to become infamous.)

  • I’m so glad I could help you rekindle your dreams! I always wanted to know what your writing was like, and I am not disappointed!

    Mr. V. had no idea what he was talking about–I’m sure my writing from high school was pretty unimpressive, too, but you don’t expect it to be. You recognize the talent that’s there, and you encourage it. Hopefully I and my readers can help you realize that yours should definitely have been encouraged! (And that it’s never too late to start fresh.) 🙂

    • Cordelia’s Mom

      Actually, you have read my stuff before. I don’t know quite how to tell you this, but Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny did not really write those letters.

      • Huh. Now that I look back on it, they DID have suspiciously similar handwriting… 😛

  • Cheri

    Give us more. Damn those high school teachers who squash kids’ dreams. They are obviously in the wrong profession.

    • Cordelia’s Mom

      They are, and I thank you.

  • Debbie M

    Before I even read this I want to say that even if your writing is pretty bad, that doesn’t mean no one will ever want to read it. Just keep writing and you will get better. And keep living and paying attention and your thoughts will get more interesting.


    Now that I’ve read this, yes, more stories please. Soon–not after a bunch of practice–and/or please practice on us.

    I think you should scrape off your forget-life sticker. It shouldn’t be too hard with a razor blade.

    I’m not sure that early spousal fights will be what brings us together later–seems like these are the things that keep on ticking! You just have to remember the early spousal fun and how that makes everything worth it. But your other ones ring true for me. One of my teenage dreams was to be a teacher–that never happened (I don’t look like a good disciplinarian), but I ended up teaching in my last career. I’m sorry about struggling financially “forever,” but other good things are that you tend to learn more skills (since you can’t hire other people) and you may have to get more creative to get certain things done (especially parties), so sometimes those turn out to be more fun.

    • Cordelia’s Mom

      Thanks for your comments. I had many outstanding teachers in school, but unfortunately, the one who had the most infuence was the one whose opinion I valued the most, and he turned out to be a not very good teacher after all.
      As for the bumper stickers – they were gone long ago. In fact, I no longer put any bumper stickers on my car, as I often have to drive through or park in parts of the city where people might show their displeasure in ways somewhat more extreme than simply honking or jeering.

  • Christine B

    We love Cordelia’s posts because we see a little of ourselves in her — and I venture to say, we loved this post because you gave us a glimpse of ourselves and our moms. You did great – keep it up and we look forward to your next post!

    • Cordelia’s Mom

      I intend to keep all, or at least most, of my posts light and about mundane things that most people would face throughout their lives. I looking forward to writing them.

  • Dear, Dear C.M. ~
    NO NO NO! Mr. V was the one who was (full of) shit!!!! (Oh, how I wish there was a more screamingly *out loud* and emphatic way to type that!! He should have been gagged and put in the stocks for a month -January, preferably- for that ignorant comment!)
    {{{Hugs to your teen-age inner-writer}}}
    … and I shall take a deep, calming breath (ommmm), and go back and read the rest of this entry…

    • Cordelia’s Mom

      Wow. I think you may be my new best friend!

  • Oh, yeah!
    Please, keep writing Sistah! (I have the feeling we are approximately age-peers)

    As Debbie said, “keep writing, and you WILL get better!”

    And from your darling daughter: “…it’s never too late to start fresh.” (We all need to keep *that* front-of-mind, about so many things!)

    I definitely look forward to hearing more from you ~ 🙂

    and will use your example as a crow bar on my own writing, Okay?

    Bright Blessings! Karen

  • Rob F.

    In the immortal words of the Beastie Boys, “Keep it goin’, keep it goin’, keep it goin’ full steam!” I’d love to read more, Cordelia’s Mom!

    • Rob, you just earned extra coolness points with that Beasties’ quote. 🙂

    • Cordelia’s Mom

      I’m embarrassed to say I’m not overly familiar with the Beastie Boys, but I love the encouragement.

  • Omar

    I saw one of those inspirational quotes on facebook yesterday that says: “Don’t let someone who gave up on their dreams talk you out of yours.”

    I loved it so much that put it in my wall. I think when people are mean like your teacher is because they have some frustrated dreams, and want to see everyone else give up on their dreams too.

    You can find a lot of examples of famous people that were told they were not good at their dreams. Einstein was called stupid, David Beckham was told he could not play soccer and so on.

    It’s very sad that all it takes is one negative person to convince us that we are not good, but I think you have a few comments already that tell you otherwise 🙂

    If just 1 person is enough to get you discouraged, can a couple of positive comments make you start again??? I really enjoyed your post, and if you enjoy it also, keep them coming!

    • Cordelia’s Mom

      Your comments are a comfort. It never occurred to me that Mr.V might himself have been unhappy and frustrated, and maybe it wasn’t me all along!

  • Mrs. Cordelia’s Mom,

    You are awesome. Feel free to mentally flip off your 11th grade “teacher.” Some teachers don’t understand that teaching involves nurturing young souls in addition to nurturing young minds. I’m sorry he trampled on your dreams, but I’m glad you’ve been given a new chance to share your voice.

    • Cordelia’s Mom

      Thank you. I’m having a lot of fun with this new writing thing. Never thought it would happen!

  • Cordelia’s Mom,
    I look forward to more in your series! Mr. V was obviously quite wrong.

    • Cordelia’s Mom

      Thank you. All the encouragement has been overwhelming (30 years later!).

  • Bob T. Panda

    To Cordelia’s Mom,
    I am pleased to say that your high school teacher was full of you know what. I hope you’ll keep writing here. Heck, maybe you’ll start your own blog. I’m sure my high school art teacher had little faith in me and yet, here I am um…well, never mind how many years later. I’ve seen far too many people believe early “bad press” from parents and teachers and have it ruin their creative careers. However I am a prime example of the saying, “It is never too late to have a happy childhood,” Keep writing here or elsewhere! Be the Bear!

    • Mom: Listen to Bob T. Panda. I follow him religiously, and praise from a panda is high praise indeed. 🙂

    • Cordelia’s Mom

      Duly noted, Cordelia. Mr. Panda: happy growl (do pandas growl? I don’t really know). I doubt I have the energy (or courage. for that matter) for my own blog, but as long as Cordelia is willing, I will have fun posting to hers.