This month, I celebrated my mother’s 95th birthday with her.

We had pizza and ice cream cake and lots of laughs and memories. Among those memories now are all the things she used to say when I was younger that evoked eye rolls, snide laughter, and even “a fresh mouth,” as my mother used to call it.

In fact, as she ages, I often think of “Cynthia-isms,” those catchphrases she would use constantly — much to my annoyance. The most relevant one was “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

And damn — she was right.

Among the other fave quotes from my childhood are:

  • “What’s cheap is dear.” What that means is that if you scrimp on something, you end up paying the price later on. I’ve found that to be very true when hiring contractors for my business and buying shoes.
  • “Feh!” That was an all-purpose statement of displeasure. Whereas “meh” means indifference, “feh” contains an element of disgust.
  • “Farpitz” (which I just needed to Google and found in a Yiddish/English glossary on JDate) means all dolled-up. That word sometimes pops into my head when I encounter people overly-dressed for an occasion, sporting overly-long lashes, giant fake boobs, and heels that look dangerously high and uncomfortable. My mother was hardly a hippie, but she definitely had a different fashion style from the other 1960s moms. She had a long braid and then a pixie cut (as opposed to a bouffant or behive) and rarely wore make-up…just lipstick. (Her favorite color was a bright blue-red from Revlon, which she only wore on special occasions.)
  • “When you have a daughter, you’ll get it.” Totally true. Although my daughters treat me way better than I treated my mother during my teens and 20s, they will occasionally give me that “Oh Maaaaa!!!” expression, and I know that I’ve embarassed or annoyed them.

When I reached adulthood, she sent me a postcard that says, “A cowgirl gets up early in the morning…decides what she wants to do, and does it.” It has become something of my mantra, serves as my Facebook page slogan, and motivates me to keep on going even when times are tough.

Learning to heed some of my mother’s lessons took 65 years. I don’t always agree with her. She still sometimes irks me. Mother/daughter relationships are often complex.

But her wise and witty expressions are now stuck in my head, like some maternal earworm. I’m grateful for those words and hope that at least some of the things I say will live on for 95 years!


  • Nancy A Shenker

    The Silver Hair Playbook: How to Be a Bad Ass >50™

    Nancy A. Shenker is a marketing innovator, brand builder, writer, speaker, and self-proclaimed rule breaker. Over the course of her 40-year business and marketing career, she has been a C-level executive, an entrepreneur, and a mentor to hundreds of small businesses at all stages. Founder of theONswitch marketing, Nancy was formerly a senior executive for major consumer and business brands, including Citibank, MasterCard, and Reed Exhibitions. She has written four books, and publishes a women’s entrepreneur community (, as well as AI/machine learning/robotics site and travel and lifestyle site She also wrote a column for called Bots & Bodies (about the human side of tech) and is a contributor to a wide range of consumer and business media. She recently won the "Killer Content Award" for a major project for a fast-growing technology company.