This coming Saturday is my Mom’s 90th Birthday.  We’re planning  Birthday Party for her, after all reaching 90 years is quite an accomplishment and deserves to be recognized.  And as part of the celebration I’m going through her photograph albums and pictures to select some to be scanned and used in a slide show that is an overview of her life.  It’s quite a task – little did I realize just how many pictures she had.  And I’m not even looking at the slides and movies she took – it seems my Mother liked documenting things as much as I do – or maybe that’s the other way around  :-).  Now I know where I get my urge to take pictures of everything!

I had forgotten how many trips she and Dad had been on.  They took a vacation every summer and were lucky that my Grandmother lived with us so that they had a built in baby sitter. Back then women likely weren’t under the same pressure to always include the kids and because when we were young she was a stay-at-home mom she likely relished a week without us (not that my brother and I were ever any trouble LOL).  The one thing I remembered is that she always said every vacation could only be to places that they could drive to and return in a week – my father was a dairy farmer and didn’t like being away from the farm any longer than a  week because too many things could go wrong when he wasn’t there.

Once my brother and I were older Mom went back to work, she much prefered working full time to staying at home and doing housework. Again I realized how much alike we are. Now when they traveled they travelled with friends and started taking trips to warmer  places in the winter like Mexico, Cuba, and the Bahamas.  And once Dad no longer had Dairy cattle to worry about Mom could get him to take somewhat longer trips. And there’s pictures galore documenting their travels. And she even got him to England, a place she’d always wanted to go, and France, since she had an excellent reason when my husband and I were over there.  Unfortunately I haven’t come across those pictures – she was taking slides at that time and my brother has the slides.  And we too were taking slides, so there’s hope that I’ll find some of that trip in our collection

After Dad died Mom continued to travel, sometimes with my Aunt or my cousin, and sometimes with a group of friends.  Again, a lot of pictures.  After she remarried she even convinced Stan to take a few trips with her, all lovingly documented with pictures.

So what have I learned from going through my Mother’s pictures and thinking about her life?  Actually quite a bit, and it really does apply to having it all and thriving.  A few of the lessons I’ve drawn from my review of my mother’s life in her own pictures include:

1)  It’s not about accumulating money and ‘stuff’, after all Mom and Dad were farmers so any money not earmarked for what was needed likely went back into the farm.  They were happy without becoming rich or owning lots of expensive ‘stuff’, and fortunately Mom didn’t get carried away with collecting souvenirs, she collected teaspoons – and pictures.

2)  It’s important to make time to do what makes you happy.  The one exception to non-farm and family expenditures seems to be that they always set aside money for their yearly holiday trips, which they truly enjoyed. They knew what made them happy and what they enjoyed, and made sure to include it in their lives.

3)  Don’t stop doing something you love when life tosses you a curve.  After Dad died Mom continued to travel, she just found new travel companions when necessary. And Mom has continued to travel, although now her age and health have put a few limits on where she goes.

4)  ‘Having it all’ is definitely possible, but it does require knowing what all you want in your life to make you happy.  My Mom knew she’d be happier going back to work, even though she did take a lot of flack for it because back then mothers that worked outside the home were not the norm and many people actually disapproved of it.  But she knew she wouldn’t be happy with just staying at home, especially as my brother and I got older and needed her less.  So she followed her heart and went to work. We all need to pay more attention to what our heart wants.

5)  ‘Having it all’ looks different at different stages of your life as your priorities shift.  Be aware that your priorities do change and be open to change and doing things differently.  And stick to your guns – don’t let what other’s think make you falter or alter your plans.  You have to live your own life – because at the end of the day it’s your life and how you spend your time that determine how well you lived your life.

6)  And never forget to do what you love and have fun!  And while my Mom will never appear on the cover of Times magazine or be featured as one of the most influential women of her time, she has done things her way and enjoyed life immensely. I hope I can say the same thing after 90 years!

How about you – are you doing what makes your life worth living? And if not, why not?  There’s no better time to start than now.  And if you’d like some help figuring out what ‘having it all’ and happiness too would look like for you, I’d love to help.  You can use the handy online scheduler on the right of this page to choose a time for a ‘virtual coffee chat’.

Oh yes, one final lesson – I must put the dates, places and names of people in the pictures on all photos and in the name of all digital photos!

Happy Birthday Mom, enjoy your special day!  I love you.





Karen Switzer-Howse

Canada’s Premier ThriveSynergy Strategist