Happy Mother’s Day, Viva

viva-mapesA week or so ago, I took a break from my usual reported stories on health, lifestyle and dating issues to write a personal essay about losing my mom — and finding her again in my four sisters. The essay went live today – Mother’s Day — on MSNBC.com. Here’s a link.

As I mentioned in the piece, my mom was quite a character. She loved to laugh, loved to cook and especially loved gathering her five daughters (and their husbands and kids) around her. Family get-togethers at the Mapes house were raucous affairs: barking dogs, squawking birds, screaming kids, clanging pots and pans, loud laughter, a blaring TV, and somebody inevitably pounding on that one lone bathroom door.

I miss it like crazy. I miss her like crazy. Thanks to the cookbook Viva gave me in 1998, though, I’m able to at least conjure up some of the wonderful dishes she served up for her “girls” during those infamous family dinners. Today, in honor of my mom and mothers everywhere, I thought I’d pass along Viva’s recipe for what my sisters and I used to call “Moldy Green Salad” when we were little.

Back then, none of us would touch this light green concoction save my sister Mary, who was always pretty fearless. Since we’ve gotten older, though, we’ve all learned to love “MGS” and it’s now a regular part of our holiday lineup. You may want to add it to yours since, as my mom notes in the cookbook, “it goes good with turkey.”

Molded Green Salad  “Mary’s favorite recipe”
Note to readers: My mom would usually include a brief notation as to who liked what with each recipe. One of my favorite notations, under Margaritas, simply reads “Mark likes.”

1 small package lemon Jell-O
1 small package lime Jell-O

Dissolve above in 2 cups boiling water. Stir well and cool. Mix together in a large bowl:

1 # carton cottage cheese
1 # can crushed pineapple
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup whipped cream (unwhipped)
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon horseradish (note: I never include this)
Dash of salt

Add cooled Jell-O to above mix. Mix well. Pour into rectangle Pyrex pan. Let set in refrigerator overnight. Serve with ripe olives on bed of lettuce.

And, of course, lots of love. My mom always did.

18 Responses to “Happy Mother’s Day, Viva”

  1. 1 Rosemary Franklin May 10, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Hi Diane,

    I just read your essay, “Losing my mom — and finding her in my sisters.” Thank you for sharing your story.

    Mother’s Day has become a Non-Holiday for me since my mother passed away in January 1999. It’s just a holiday that I totally ignore. My mother-in-law has also passed away, and I don’t have any children, so I feel quite comfortable in ignoring the holiday.

    I really enjoyed your essay. I, too, have many sisters (5). I can really see my mother in my sisters, also. I just spent the weekend with my sister Frances (yes, Frances!), and she reminds me more and more of my mother. With each passing year, she looks more and more like my Mom.

    Your essay brought all of this to life, and I thank you,

    Rosemary Franklin

  2. 2 Stacy in Detroit May 10, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Loved your Mother’s Day essay on MSNBC.

    … so much so that I’ve subscribed via RSS.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. 3 Jennifer McConnell May 10, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks Diane for sharing your lovely story about your mother and
    sisters. I just lost my own mother this February, and like you, I have two wonderful sisters in my life. It’s so important to keep a mother’s memory alive and to talk about her with great joy and laughter. This is what keeps me going! Thanks so much for writing a truly special piece.

  4. 4 Wendy May 10, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    I loved the story about the five daughters. I have five girls–scattered from Dallas, to Minneapolis, New Haven, Hamilton College in upstate New York, and Istanbul, Turkey.
    What breaks my heart, over and over, is that my girls do not get along at all. I always joke and say something about never having to worry about family reunions, but inside I cry. The baby of the family gets along with most of the sisters (but she is angry with sister number 2 right now because of the choice of a fiance. Sister number 3 is very difficult to deal with (even for me)–she doesn’t get along with any of her sisters very well. Sister numbers one and two communicate on FaceBook, but that is all. Sister number four gets along with sister number 2 andmost of the time with sister 5.
    I have had breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I feel that when I die, that will be the end of my family. Will my girls keep in touch? I don’t know. But every week I have a wonderful visit on the phone with my older sister. We hold the last memories of our childhood.

  5. 5 Anne from PA May 10, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Hello Diane. I just read your article “Losing my mom”. I really enjoyed it. You are so lucky to have such wonderful memories with your mother. She must have been a lovely mom. I don’t have any sisters (I wish I did)but I have a great mother. Thank you for the nice story and Happy Mother’s Day!!

  6. 6 Naomi R. Smith May 10, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Thanks for you piece about your MOM. So much of what you wrote about is like talking about all of us. There are four girls in our family. Our MOM passed away in the summer of 2000, when she was 79. We all live within 5 miles of one another. Your “our mom is gone, but she’s not gone. Or so it seems” is something similar to what we say all the time – “It’s not like she is gone but just seems like she is in the other room”. Like yall we had and still have big get-togethers. We still have our Father, who reached 89 years old yesterday. We had a big birthday party, a cookout, make homemade ice cream, played games all day long. We all (us four girls, our kids and their kids) get together at least once a month just to do something at “Mom” and Dad’s house. One of us girls cooks “Mom’s gumbo” at Christmas time for our holiday gathering. I’ve started canning like “Mom” which I never dreamed I would be the one doing this. We’ve even started a tradition of making “Mom’s” homemade scuppernong jelly. All her girls, grandkids & great grandkids come to my house & we all have a hand in making this great jelly that brings back so many wonderful memories. Like you said about your Mom’s presence permeating yall’s farm, it always seems our Mom’s presence is always with us, and not only for her four girls, but her grandkids have also made that very same statement. I think us four girls have a different part of her spirit that all comes together when we are around each other. I know we had a very special “Mom” and were very luckly to have had such a very wonderful person in our lives. I and my sisters miss her every day of our lives.
    Thank you again for your essay about your Mom. It touched me very much. It sounds as if you and your sisters also had a very special Mom in yall’s lives.

  7. 7 amyg May 11, 2009 at 2:17 am


    At the quiet time of 4 A.M. I am finding that reading your story of your wonderful mother and your close knit bond with your sisters is bringing a big smile to my sleepy face. I, too have lost my mother (and my father) and I have 6 sisters as well as 2 brothers and I am blessed to say most of us are together on a monthly basis, whether it be birthdays, holidays or KC Chiefs games. I thank God for them and I have had people tell me how jealous they are of the relationsship I have with my siblings. I completely relate to your story…..I, too, know when the phone rings that it is usually one of my sisters. And as for my mother, well, the thing that first comes to mind about her is if you went for 1 day without calling her and the next time you called her, she’d say, “Well, I thought you died and went to Hell!” Man, do I miss her!!!!!

  8. 8 ritferns May 11, 2009 at 3:27 am

    loved your essay….was totally brilliant and heartfelt…


    Corporate Gifts

    • 9 Shaoyen May 11, 2009 at 8:28 am

      Read your essay on msnbc, cried several times. Even though my mom is still alive, scared of the reality of she is getting older everyday and might die in any day not far in the future. Your story is really heartfelt, thank you so much!

  9. 10 Laksh May 11, 2009 at 6:40 am


    Caught your piece on msnbc.com and it had me choking up. I lost my dad three years back and I keep finding him in odd places. Your essay touched a chord. I wanted to stop by and say it meant much. Thank you.


  10. 11 Debbie May 11, 2009 at 8:52 am

    I just read your story and I am still in shock. It was like you and I are the same person. I am the oldest of 4 girls, my parents divorced when I was 8 and my Mother raised us all alone. She got a job at the DMV office and worked there 30 years. Just being girls in the house, we had lots of fun. She would come home every day, get into a hot bath and we would all go and sit in the bathroom floor and talk to her while she relaxed. Growing up, we laughed, we cried, we fought, we made up. She was our rock. Then on March 25, 2003, at age 60 and having just retired after 30 years, she died suddenly from heart failure. There were no goodbyes. My sisters and I planned everything and spent the next few weeks going through her things, crying and the next minute laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe. The four of us are extremely close and talk all the time. We have “sister” vacations and it always one of the best times I ever have. And on these trips, we always sit around and tell stories about Momma. She always called us “her girls” and that’s what we put on her headstone. I just wanted you to know your story touched me. I love my sisters and I have shared your story with them.
    Thanks for making me smile today!

  11. 12 Kim May 11, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I could never thank you enough for this writing.
    I lost my Grandma two years ago to ovarian cancer. Since then my mom and my aunt – even though they’ve always been close – had a newfound closeness…my aunt moved to a neighborhood 5 minutes away from my mom, they do everything together now, and they thrive in the spirit of living through the happiness and memories my Nanny left behind.
    Those two women mean the world to me and they are a joy to be around – always saying funny things she had said and telling funny stories (much like your mom – my grandmother was infamous for always mixing up her words, mispronounciations, and always putting her foot in her mouth…and above all, taking it in great stride). So in a way, it’s really like she’s not gone, her legacy shines through her two surviving daughters. It really struck a chord with me knowing that someone else acknowledges these feelings so vividly within their family as much as I do. I forwarded this on to my mom and my aunt and I think it was just the mothers day present they needed…something that allowed them to laugh and cry and served as a reminder that they were so lucky to have a mother like her and that her memory lives on as bright as ever through them.
    Thank you, and may God bless you.

  12. 13 monica May 11, 2009 at 10:33 am

    what a wonderful homage you paid to your mother. It is beautiful that your family can keep her memory alive. As you said, death can either bring a family together, or tear it apart. Thank you for sharing your story. Viva la memoria de Viva!

  13. 14 Candy May 11, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Hi Diane,
    I just finished reading your essay on your Mom. Thank you for sharing. I lost my Mom last July unexpectedly to congestive heart failure also. I have grieved so over not having been able to see her and tell her good-bye. I am the oldest of four children, 2 sisters and a brother. My middle sister and I are grandmothers now ourselves but there is not a day that passes that we do not miss our Mom acutely. She was our rock. I have found that since she has gone we have grown so much closer. We make the effort to travel to be able to get together now. My “little” brother turned 40 over the week-end and we all met in San Antonio, TX to celebrate with him. I too think Momma would be so proud, we truly enjoy each other and it helps so much to remember her, and keep her memory alive. She was a remarkable woman. It is such a shame that sometimes we do not truly appreciate every wonderful thing about our Mom’s until they are gone. Unfortunately, her death totally destroyed our relationship with our father–I think she must have spent her entire life covering up for him but thank God we still have each other.

    Thanks for sharing!

  14. 15 Luanne May 14, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    I read your article on losing your Mom.I lost my mom to lung cancer last year. I have 3 wonderful sisters. Two of us live in the same town ,One is out of state and the other about an hour away. Both my older sisters E-mailed this article to me for Mothers Day. We all think alike and get along so great (alway’s have.) We all act like our mother in some way. We are all planning to get together in July @ my sisters house in Va. Beach. I can’t wait!!!!!!! Every day will be cherished by all of us.I’m sure we will all have great memory’s to share about our Mom. Thank You for the article . Our memories of our Mom will live on and on.

  15. 16 Amy May 15, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Hi Diane,

    I read your essay on MSNBC, and loved the way you told her story with the perfect mixture of humor and tribute to her memory. My brother and I lost our Dad at 18 and 22 respectively, and have become quite a close little family, taking care of our Mom ever since.

    It’s amazing how siblings want to ensure that no one is missing anything they would have had prior to the loss of a family member. That first Christmas, I must have spent most of my recent college-grad salary ensuring that the number of gifts under the tree were as many as the year before.

    And my brother grew in to the spitting image of my dad- loud, laughing personality and all. How wonderful to have siblings to remind us of what they looked like, how they sounded, and to reminisce over times past!

  16. 17 Pat May 20, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    I just read your Mother’s Day article and trying hard to type with tears in my eyes. I have had a very complicated relationship with my sister and Mom was the best for advice as she knew us both. After she died, two years ago, I started to feel like I had lost my sister as well since there would be no more reason to interact. Your article made me sad for the sister I never had and would have loved to have. Although I do sometimes experience bits of Mom in her. Hopefully. we might someday grow to enjoy eachothers company like you so.

    Thanks for the beautifully written article. Mom would have enjoyed it as she was eldest of 6 sisters.

  17. 18 Tina T-P May 25, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    I, too, read your article on MSNBC (and have enjoyed reading your blog). You seem to have struck a chord with many of us.

    I laughed and I cried then I promptly printed out your MSNBC article for one of my older sisters who refuses to get on a computer, and a second copy to put in with a card (that said “I love you even though we don’t always see eye to eye”) for my other older sister.

    If it’s OK, I’d like to write about your article on my blog, and link to your website. Thanks, T.

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What’s my story?

I'm a former freelance writer, now gainfully employed at Fred Hutch (views and f-bombs all my own).

I write about health and health care; cancer research and the cancer experience; dating, lifestyle and singles issues and lots of other stuff including humor and fiction and a few songs here and there.

Book info below.

Looking for my breast cancer blog? Go to doublewhammied

Where are my books?

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Fifty Shades of Brains
Sex. Zombies. Really annoying present tense narration.

Follow me on Twitter!

May 2009

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