Sticky Notes

I bought some sticky notes today, a lesson I learned from Mom.


When I was in my early twenties, she worked ten-hour shifts as a hospice nurse. Before that, she worked in the Transitional Care Unit as the Activities Director playing balloon volleyball and chair yoga with sick folks. And before that, she folded and stocked women’s clothes at a discount clothing store. Even earlier, she was the night manager at Video Connection where she got to bring home life-size cutouts of Dick Tracey and Roger Rabbit. Mom worked hard.

She also attended every home varsity basketball game so she could watch me dance, and every football game to see my sister twirl her flag. For dance competitions she made matching bows for all my teammates.

Our tiny house would have been in shambles had Mom not managed it with the precision of a surgeon. She swept the floors twice daily, folded my stepdad’s shit-stained underwear into perfect squares, hand-washed the dishes to a pristine shine, and often she yelled.

Her temper short-circuited daily. She ripped the phone cord from the wall after I dragged it into the bathroom to talk friends one too many times. She threw bills into the air, chain-smoked her menthol light one hundreds, and cried.

She cried too much, but I didn’t know how to stop it.

My mother’s mother and father had both died, so she put everything she had into us, her job, and the house on Custer Drive to keep herself busy. But she wasn’t great at delegating chores, or maybe we just refused to listen to her. I would rummage through the pantry for pretzels and Pop-Tarts, forgetting to close the cabinet and leaving a trail of crumbs that led to the couch. Jim would leave his dirty dishes on the living room end table and used undershirts balled up in the corner of the bathroom floor next to his wet towels. My sister never filled the toilet paper when she emptied it. Instead, she ’d rest the new roll on top of the old. Just writing all this stuff makes me cringe.

This lack of respect and help went on for as long as I can remember, until one otherwise normal day when I walked in from the bus stop two long blocks away, seventeen and too lazy to get my license. I tossed my backpack in the middle of the living room floor next to one of our three miniature Lhasa Apsos, and bent to rub her belly. That’s when the first note stuck to a case on top of the DVD player came into the corner of my vision. Put away after watching. “Huh?”

I stood and walked into the kitchen, at the time decorated with flying geese, Mom’s latest kitchen craze. In the midst of all the geese, yellow notes with permanent marker scribbled on them clung to everything. Throw me away after you drink me on the milk inside the fridge. Don’t leave me open on the pantry cupboard door, and don’t leave your junk here on the counter, cluttered with unpaid bills.

In the bathroom, replace me when empty above the wooden toilet paper holder and flush me on the toilet with the cracked seat.

Take things up with you on the steps, next to my pile of clean clothes. 

“My mom has lost it,” I whispered. But before finding her, I reconsidered my decision to drop my crap in the living room, jogged back to grab it, then scooped up a pile of clothes on my way upstairs and placed them on my unmade bed.

“Mom?” I hollered.

“In here,” she called from her bedroom, the room next to mine.

I found her clipping hot rollers into her hair in the master bath, a cloud of smoke surrounding her and a cigarette burning in the filled ashtray on the back of the toilet.

“Where are you going?”

“Out for dinner with Dad,” she said, smearing burgundy lipstick across her lips.”

“On a date?” They never went out. Especially on school nights.

“Yes. A date.” She added mascara to her eyes, applied some rouge to her cheeks. “You’ll watch your sister. We won’t be long. I need some…time.”

“You okay?”

“Yep. Just great. Why?” Mom sprayed a bit of perfume.

“Oh, you know…the yellow notes. They’re everywhere.”

“Those? Oh, nope. Just tired of yelling.”

Photo by G. Crescoli on Unsplash

19 thoughts on “Sticky Notes

  1. 🌹This flower is for your mom.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love how you didn’t have to circle back at ALL to your own state of mind for us to see where you were going with that. As a point of nuance, I probably would have used “skidmarked” over “shit-stained” because it’s…it’s a dingier word, in keeping with that segment of the essay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great advice, thanks Rowan! As for the ending, I held back because I had this editor in the back of my head reminding me not to. 😉


      1. So, that would be Asha, then 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There are several that come to mind 😁


  3. Danielle, the more I read your mom stories the better I like her. I saw this through the eyes of both mother and daughter. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! She had a crazy streak, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As an inveterate sticky note user, I so get your mother’s urge to write it instead of yelling it. I really like the way you moved smoothly between your own perspective, and your mother’s. I found “shit-stained” sufficiently jarring that it drew me out of the flow of this piece, and I think Rowan’s solution is a nice compromise — it still gives the reader a vivid image, but is less confronting.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really like the way you recounted the slobbiness of all the kids in your house. There was something dispassionate about it, but still with a tinge of horror. And the last line of that paragraph nailed it. The whole piece was great, so I don’t know why that jumped out to me like it did. And your mom, bless her. I love her creativity with the sticky notes. I hope it works as well for you!


  6. Today was my first visit to Yeah Write, and I love it. I plan to submit some non-fiction of my own soon. I really liked a couple other pieces, but your piece was my favorite of this week’s submissions. I disagree with the previous suggestions to change the word “shit-stained”. It was the word at which I started to pay closer attention to the piece because it was a little edgy and jarring, and I like that. I also love how real and unforgiving you are in describing your mom’s kookiness, yet totally validating her at the same time. It was very relevant to me as a mom. Great writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! Please do stay with Yeah Write. It’s the best place online to hone your writing with peers and editors who genuinely want the best for you.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Your mom sounds so strong. I love how she dealt with the mess of the house and how you phrased her response to you: “Nope, just tired of yelling.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your mother sounds an awful lot like mine, in a lot of ways. I love the way you structured this glimpse into your mom’s personality around a particular object – the sticky notes.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your mom sounds a lot like me in many ways. I once used two packs of those notes to wallpaper the entire bathroom with “LIFT THE SEAT” in Sharpie because I got so sick of sitting in pee. There’s a sticky note on the front door right now that says “LOCK ME” and a note on the dryer reminding certain soon-to-be exhusbands not to put anything on top so I have room to fold stuff. This portrait of your mother was engaging to read and makes me want to know even more about her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a sticky on my front door that says “keys, wallet, badge, phone, lunch”


      Liked by 2 people

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