mother's day

10 Things I Learned From My Mama

1.  Time is precious.

There are some things in life that, for the most part, you just have to do (like learn to tie your shoes, go to school, earn yourself a living). But there’s also a whole bunch of other things that you don’t have to do if you don’t want to (like go on that date because you feel bad for him, be friends with the girls who make you feel bad, attend the book club meeting you always dread), because time is precious, and life is full of choices and if it doesn’t make you feel good, what’s the point in doing it?

2. Enjoy yourself exactly where you are, for exactly who you are.

“Appreciate what you’ve got now,” my mother always says.

“Because outer beauty fades and you’ll never be this young again and while you’re busy worrying about all the things you don’t like or wish to change, you’re missing out on everything that’s already so beautiful about you.”

We spend so much time worrying about what we don’t look like, that we fail to appreciate everything that we already are. And we set these goals for ourselves; we make these promises like, if I just lose 10 pounds, my clothes will fit better and I’ll be happy. And then we lose the 10 pounds and our clothes do fit better, but now it’s our hair that we hate and if I could just take Blake Lively’s hair and put it on my head, then I’ll be beautiful and subsequently happy. And while we don’t actually get Blake Lively’s hair on our heads, we get a hair cut and color that looks just like it, and we enjoy it for a minute before finding something else to fix.

It’s a dizzying merry-go-round that will make you sick if you don’t get off it. Stand still. Enjoy where you are. What you are. Who you are. For all that you are. 

3.  You can decide to be happy. Or decide not to be happy. The choice is yours.

And if you want my mother's advice, choose to be happy.

My mother’s 10 secrets to happiness: 

1. Decide to be a happy person.

2. Watch and read less news. Information is important but skip a lot of the details because you can understand the principle of the news without the worry of the media emphasis.

3. Practice the attitude of gratitude. Say “thank you!”

4. Take time.

5. Laugh every day: with others, at yourself. Share your funny stories.

6. Love well. Express your affections and appreciation to those around you.

7. Work hard. One of the great sources of happiness is to do work that is worthy to you and to do it well. Be competent and take joy in completing your assigned tasks.

8. Learn something new every day. Take in new information (but not the news), read, listen, challenge yourself and stretch your mind. 

9. Use your body as it was designed. Walk, run, stretch, throw things, lift things, dance, make love, make cookies, give back rubs! Choose to make your body either a source of joy or a source of aches and pains—your choice.

10. Avoid toxins—stay away from negative people, bad chemicals, stressful noises and unsafe places (for my children, that includes nightclubs and drinking places).

4. “Don’t smoke anything…ever. It ruins your lungs and you need those for life.”

Spoiler Alert:

I kind of rebelled against this notion, but at the end of the day my mom was right. Smoking isn’t good for your lungs and you most definitely do need those for life. 

I did, however, extract from her in one of our many debates about how “she doesn’t know what it’s like to be a teenager,” where I, no doubt, tried to sell her on the fact that, “I don’t smoke because I’m addicted, I do it to look cool* like at parties and stuff,” that despite her conviction on the statement of “don’t smoke anything…ever,” she has, in fact, dabbled in the dark arts of cigarettes.

And when I say dabbled, what I really mean is that she and a girlfriend illegally acquired a pack of cigarettes and spent an entire afternoon (on a rooftop, if my memory serves me right) smoking those cigarettes and coughing until they were all gone. 

So maybe my mom does know what it’s like to be a teenager (I sometimes forget that she ever was one).

“I have never smoked again.” She declared proudly. (Which was true, until that time at my brother’s wedding out in Montana, when she caught me sneaking menthols and—noticing the mostly empty glass of wine in her hand—I convinced her to try it, just this once, because “it tastes just like mint gum!”)

*This was in the early 2000s, before “not smoking” became cool, before “health” and “vegan” and “yoga” were cool. I don't smoke anymore.

5. Girls are like phones. We love to be held, talked to, but if you press the wrong button, you’ll be disconnected.

She once wrote this in a "just because" card she snuck into my purse. I can’t be sure if they’re even her words because they sound pretty Hallmark-y to me. Maybe she saw this written on another card she almost bought and was simply recycling the sentiment. Or maybe I’m an asshole, and these are her words, and it should be her writing this blog post and not me.

6. Don’t run with your cell phone against your skin in your sports bra.

Because apparently, according to my mother, whose had plenty of experience with water-damaged cellphones, sweat will activate the “red dot” inside your phone that renders it “water damaged” and exempt from warranty.

However, this fact may be outdated. Do they still put those red dots inside the latest iPhones? I doubt it. But if you happen to be texting on a Motorola Razr, then I’m talking to you. Or rather, my mother is.

7. Nothing good happens after midnight. 

Naturally, as a writer (who feels most verbose and productive in the wee hours of the night), I’ve debated this statement with my mother so many times, that I think in the end, we’re both a bit undecided.

“EVERYTHING good happens after midnight,” I’ll argue with her. And it might be after midnight and she might have a half full glass of chianti in her hand, and she might have all her kids sitting around the fireplace with her and so on this occasion, she might not be so apt to disagree.

But other times, I might be calling from some noisy establishment that over-serves alcohol, plays top 40 music all night long, and doesn’t check ID’s and she’ll be prodding me to “just come on home, now,” offering even, to come pick me up, and telling me, “you’ve had enough fun for one night,” (which she can likely hear in my voice—mother’s are gifted that way).

It truly is an age old debate in my family, but I’ll give it to my mother…the older I get, the more I’m starting to see her point, agree with her even, and when it’s my turn to raise children, I’ll likely be borrowing her words and hoping they listen better than I did.

8. There are some things about being a women that boys just really don’t need to know. 

Examples include:

  • The fact that we tend to get gassy during our periods, and also that menstrual diarrhea is a thing (I dare you to try to casually explain that to the opposite sex).
  • Sometimes—no matter our marital status, and/or despite our endless devotion to our S.O.—we still crush on that guy from the coffee shop we’ve never actually talked to, or imagine what it might be like to make out with Tom Hardy. And that’s OK!
  • Our real weight. Quite frankly, I don’t even see a reason why we need to know our weight. Let’s say “see ya later” to numbers and body fat percentages and let our mirrors do the talking! Face it, you’re beautiful!
  • How much we spent on that dress we didn’t really need. (Okay, we needed it.)
  • That sometimes, when we say we’re “running errands,” we’re actually just taking some much-needed “me-time” (which may or may not include a mani/pedi combo).
  • That those glasses we suddenly started wearing aren’t actually prescription (we have perfect vision), but we just like the way they make us feel smart when we wear them. 

9. There's nothing a woman can't do or accomplish on her own.

I don't ask for help very often. Quite frankly, I don't like asking for help because I know from watching my mother that there's nothing I can't handle. 

It's because of my mother that I know to lift with my legs when moving heavy furniture, what a hacksaw is, and that there's no such thing as "man jobs," because anything men can do, women can do too (and often better).

10. The most beautiful thing a woman can be is herself.

My mother is the most beautiful woman I know. She is unapologetically herself. She is perfect and flawed in that beautiful way we are all perfect and flawed. And she owns it. 

It is from watching her, admiring her, and observing her that I have learned that to be beautiful is to simply be yourself. 

Thank you, Mom.

(And Grandma too, because likely everything I've learned from my mother, she's learned from you.)

happy mother's day

Don't forget to wish your mom a Happy Mother's Day, Sunday, May 14th!