Never Work On Your Birthday

My mother had one simple rule and it was this: Never work on your birthday.  That’s why every August 8th we would dutifully be hanging out at the Jersey Shore.

My mom at the Jersey Shore in the 1950’s

My mom died two years ago, but boy did she know how to live.  She was smart and funny, did her thing and didn’t give a s*** about what anyone thought.

How liberating that must be.

I’m pretty much the exact opposite in that regard; I tend to think way too much about the opinions of others.  A lot of times I think my mother must have thought I was switched at birth with another woman’s baby.  My mother was stoic; I was emotional.  My mom turned down management positions left and right; I opted to climb the corporate ladder for a time.  My mom loved going to plays; I loved acting in them.

But we had similarities too.  We both put our families first and tried to make a difference in our own ways.  And we both loved chocolate; there’s always that.

My mom kept chocolate in her cabinet and whenever I was upset about a boy or school we would take a walk and then eat some chocolate.  (Now that I’m a personal trainer I’d probably suggest to eat the chocolate first and then take the walk to burn off the calories, but whatever.)

My mother never cooked.  Everything was instant mashed potatoes, pre-packed, frozen TV dinners or from a box.  We also ate pizza or McDonalds once a week.  She did like to bake though.  Not from scratch, but we would get the cookie mix and I’d add in the eggs and butter and get to lick the bowl and the giant wooden spoon.  My best memories were baking cookies with my mom and grandma.

Mom and Grandma in the 1960’s

Grandma was obese.  She wasn’t even five feet tall and pushing 200 lbs. She knew how to cook.  My mom said she could never compete with her mom in the cooking department, so why try?

Anyway, I grew up never knowing how to cook until I turned 38 and entered my first bodybuilding competition.  It also took that competition prep for me to figure out how to turn to things beyond chocolate for handling stress.

As she got older she put on some pounds because she hated to eat anything remotely healthy.  Too many fad diets left a bad taste in her mouth.  She did love to exercise though.  When I was 11 we used to do Jane Fonda’s Workout video in our family room every night at 7 pm.  She took a Pilates class when she was in her 70’s and looked way younger than her real age.

With my mom in 2002

But more than just good genes she acted young.  She told dirty jokes and went to Atlantic City with her friends.  When I was living in California she came out to see me and we drove to Vegas.  We watched the male review “Thunder Down Under” for a laugh, and, no kidding, the hottest guy in the entire act comes up and plants a giant kiss on my mother.  I looked at her with my jaw dropped and she shrugged, “When you’ve got it you’ve got it.”

We were different people but I always felt like she supported me, even if she didn’t know exactly what she was being supportive of.  Like when she moved in with us while she had lung cancer there was a really rough night after her chemo when she got a very high fever and pneumonia and we weren’t sure if she was going to make it.  I had applied to be in the Arnold Amateur, the second biggest bodybuilding competition in the world, a bikini competition I had absolutely no business applying for.  As dawn came her fever broke and then I got a message from the promoter – I was in.  I started jumping up and down in the hospital room, “I’m in the Arnold!  I’m in the Arnold!”  “That’s great!” she said,  “What’s the Arnold?”

She watched me practice my poses and shook her head at me, saying she had a dream that I won 3rd place.  I actually came in 20th out of 38, but that was pretty damn good for a 41 year old next to 20-somethings.

A few weeks later I did the Texas Shredder…and won 3rd place.  It’s funny how much I wanted to show my mom that I could do it.  Even in my 40’s I wanted to impress her.  The simple truth was that I didn’t have to do anything to impress her; she loved me as I was.

Two weeks later she passed away.  She waited for a moment when she was alone.  I was dropping off my kids to school and my brother (visiting towards the end) was eating breakfast.  She didn’t want some emotional goodbye, she was too stoic for that.  She did things her way.

A few people thought I might gain back a lot of weight after she died; thankfully bodybuilding kept me on track and goals to look forward to.  Now I eat chocolate for a happy indulgence.  And to think of my mom.  Especially today, which would have been her birthday.

Standing with my mom and son in 2014




Available on Amazon

Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, on FOX!!! (c) 2012-2017 Lisa Traugott. All rights reserved. No portion of this blog, including any text, photographs, video, and artwork, may be reproduced or copied without written permission.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment