Sunday, June 14, 2009


June 14th is my mother's birthday. Her name was Sally, so every year on her birthday, my sisters and I do something special to "Sallybrate" her life. I want to keep this tradition going with my own children throughout their they can, in a way, "know" their grandma.

The first year after her death, my sisters and I invited a few close family members and friends to come to our home for a "Sallybration," and we all ate brownies (my mom's favorite food) and went around the circle and shared a memory of her.

Since then, we've never been together on her birthday, so we've figured out ways to "Sallybrate" long-distance.

The second year (which would have been my mom's 50th birthday), my sisters and I compiled 50 memories of my mom, which we sent to my dad via-email (we were literally spread all over the world that summer), and he responded with many of his own memories of her. That year, I also wrote my first children's book in a series entitled The Grandma Sally Adventures. These are self-authored, self-published, self-illustrated (poorly, may I add) books which relate true events in my mother's life. I've written three and have a few more planned. I make several copies of each book and send them to my dad and sisters, so we can read them to our children.

Last year, my dad surprised us by having a professional slide show of photos from my mom's life put together. I plan to show this video to my children every year on June 14th and talk about their incredible Grandma Sally.

My mother truly was incredible. I think of her every single day, directly or indirectly, and she still has a profound influence on my decisions and actions.

This year, to "Sallybrate," I am going to post some thoughts about my mother right here on my blog. I love to share her with others. It makes me feel like, somehow, she is still impacting people for good.

She was a woman who valued people--not things or beauty or trends or money. She was remarkably kind and generous and drew all types of people into her circle of friends.

Some of my favorite anecdotes about my mother:

-For their 24th wedding anniversary, my parents went on a Scandinavian cruise. (They weren't sure if she would be alive on their 25th...which she was...she was a fighter.) During the cruise, my mom insisted on buying a tacky t-shirt from each of the countries they visited. She came home with about ten over-sized, dorky t-shirts from places like Estonia, Norway, and Sweden. These shirts and a pair of Nike "tear away" basketball pants became her "uniform." Every day, she wore a different country t-shirt with her comfy pants. According to her daughters, Mom was a "dedo" (delightful dork)--she knew it and was proud of it.

-When my mother first got diagnosed with breast cancer, she had three little girls (ages 8, 6, & 3), and we were understandably very frightened by her condition. To ease our worry, she always made a joke out of herself. When she lost all of her hair from chemotherapy and puffed up from steroids, she would call herself "Mrs. Potato Head." Sometimes, she would take off her wig and hold up our Mr. Potato Head toy next to her face so we could compare them. Later, when they removed her lymph nodes and her arm swelled up, she started calling herself "Monster Arm." Her healthy sense of humor about her illness helped us feel comfortable and unafraid. She always put our happiness before her own.

-When I was in middle school, I went through a phase when I missed the school bus almost every day. I just could not get my butt out of bed in the mornings. (I still have this problem.) My mom was fed up with this irresponsible behavior, so she told me that if I missed the bus again, she would not drive me to school...I would have to figure out a way to get to school on my own because she was not going to enable me anymore. So, the next time that I missed the bus, I called a taxi. I love that my mother fully supported this creative problem-solving. I paid for the cab with my babysitting money, and she gave me a quarter to call her from the pay phone when I arrived safely at school. Can you imagine the shock of the school attendance lady when a 12 year old girl in suburban Littleton, Colorado (This wasn't NYC!) rolled up to the middle school in a yellow taxi? But guess what...I rarely missed the bus again!! (I think I only had to take a taxi two more times during the school year.) My mom was an extremely wise parent, and I will miss her advice when I have my own children.

Here are a few photos to capture my mom's "zest for life:"

Story time was always the best!

Mrs. Potato Head

Here she is with lots of hair...and loving it!

This photo was taken at the theme dinner my mom hosted when my older sister returned from a semester in China. If you look closely, you will notice the Estonia t-shirt and tear-away pants.

When my dad served as the leader of our church congregation, my mother planned a booth at the church Halloween party titled "Pin the Wart on the Bishop's Nose." I think some people thought it was irreverent...Mom just thought it was hilarious.

Even at the very end of her life, she was always smiling...

I love her and miss her and am so grateful for the immeasurable impact she had on me--and will continue to have on generations to come.


  1. Thanks for sharing Rach. I love that all three of you have always shared stories about your mom. I remember reading the essay you wrote about her funeral. It brought me to tears. I would have loved to know her.

  2. So. . . I don't know how anyone could read this and not cry! How special Rach. Your mom rocked. . . and still does through you.
    It sounds like you and your mom were a lot alike. . . especially about being so loving and caring toward people. Seriously. When we first came to Buffalo you were my friend *right* from the start. . . no questions or hesitations about who I was (or the fact that i have two crazy kids). . . or where I came from. . . you accepted the whole Plant fam (and loved us and our girls) and we love you and we love your mom for raising you SO right!
    what a wonderful way to sallybrate your mom :)
    p.s. my mom had breast cancer too. . . a very scary thing to hear and know about your mom. Sad to hear your mom eventually lost the battle. I don't want to sound insensitive. . . but this makes me appreciate the little things about my mom and that she is still a survivor. Thanks for sharing Rach!
    we should do a breast cancer awareness walk? that would be fun :)

  3. Thanks for sharing her today Rach. I love hearing her memories, and seeing how strong your family is. You are all so lucky to have eachother and such amazing friendship! Love you!

  4. I know I have told you this before but I too think of your mom frequently. In my own mothering and in my own interactions with others I still think about how she would have done things. I know she was always planning fun things and always anxiously engaged in a good cause and I try to be like that too. I will always remember how at her funeral there was standing room only basically because so many many people were touched by her in their own lives. In fact, I have shared little things about her in RS lessons and things. And I still tell myself all the time the phrase that I think of as her motto (even though it wasn't necessarily in these words or verbalized by her) "No excuses, no regrets."

    And really, she raised such amazing daughters-really amazing. What a wonderful woman. I was thinking about her today too because Laura mentioned the other day that today is her birthday.

    OK, and that Taxi thing is just downright hilarious!

  5. Thanks sissy. That cheered me up immensely. Love you.

  6. Your mom sounds like a beautiful lady, You are too!

  7. What a wonderful post Rachel! I love that you have such a great, vivid way of writing! It makes everyone who reads this love your mom too, even though we don't know her :) XOXOXO

  8. The other day I was looking through my scrapbook and found some "good luck" notes that your mom gave me at Young Ambassador's Camp. They made me smile.

  9. Love it, love it, love it. Love you. Love her. And I love the Mrs. Potato head story and picture!! I don't ever remember hearing that one. That cracked me up.
    Well, thanks for sharing some great memories. Keep them coming...

  10. What a beautiful tribute -- both this post and the whole Sallybration concept. Thank you for continuing to share your mom's sweet influence, even with those of us who didn't know her.

  11. Although I never was lucky enough to meet her, I do think of your mom from time to time...because I know she must have been good to the core. I remember her too when I feel like whining because of some temporary lack of energy or health. What a blessing to know that you girls and your dad were everything to her. I'm glad you are holding on tight and keeping her alive in so many ways!

  12. So, I knew it might be a tear jerkier when I saw the title. But I love reading things you write that I did the only sensible thing. I grabbed a Costco sized jar of chocolate covered rasins (currently the only chocolate in the house) and read away!
    Can't join in the Sallybration without chocolate!

  13. Rachel,
    This made my day, and stirred memories. My Sallybration memory is that when she was a little girl she always thought people were flying flags for her birthday. It was many years before she realized it was flag day. Flags always make me think of Sally.
    Vicki Varela


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