Mama always said we should learn least one new thing every single day, from all sorts of teachers.
Naturally, she was my first instructor. Mom instilled in me a deep love of reading and writing, travel, art, history and science, the environment, public service and so much more.
From her, I learned to be curious, how to cook, write and edit, and — at a very young age — how to talk with a radio mic in my hand and speak successfully in front of big groups of people.
Mom also taught me the usual girl-scoutish things we all need to be, now more than ever: Kind, caring, thoughtful, respectful, helpful and truthful … and by the way, don’t exhale while eating something dusted with powdered sugar.
She made me take typing and shorthand in high school (thanks, Mom!). She taught me that making a mistake is a beginning, not an end, and she insisted that nobody else cares what I’m wearing or what I weigh. “Their only concern is how they look,” she said. It took me a long time to come to grips with that one.
Somehow, both of us survived my teenage years, a time during which many of us consider our parents to be the dumbest clucks on the planet.
Fortunately, I learned soon thereafter (sometimes to my chagrin) to shut up and listen to her, because she was nearly always right.
Despite her history of having survived so many diseases and ailments — from diphtheria and tuberculosis to blood clots, brittle bones and the asthma she got at the Grand Canyon, where most people go to alleviate it — my mom’s final lessons-by-example were to stay active, be creative and go out fighting, as she did.
Friday, Aug. 25, would have been her birthday.
Life’s other teachers
I’ve also learned a lot from being a woman, a wife and a mother, a business owner, a boss, an employee, unemployed and over-employed.
While some of those lessons have been profound and lifelong, others were hilarious.
For instance, according to our honorary granddaughter Carly Frith, being a mom (especially of young boys) means constantly having to ask questions like:
▪ “Why is there a stack of paper plates on my bedroom floor?”
▪ “Why is there a toilet plunger on the porch roof?”
▪ “What exactly were you trying to grow in this drinking glass?”
▪ “How’d you get candy stuck in the ammo clip of your Nerf gun?”
▪ “Why is the throw blanket from the couch draped over the top of the swing set?”
▪ “Why are you peeing out the window?”
▪ and “You ate what?!?”
Some things Mom taught me when I was young circled back later to help me during the 10 years we were her caregivers, and, more recently, as I’ve tried to help Husband Richard triumph over residual effects of a severe stroke:
1. Yup, Mom was right: Sit up straight. Watch where you’re going, not where you’ve been. Eat smaller meals. Eat slowly. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Take small bites of food or sips of a beverage. Chew your food thoroughly.
2. Patience is a virtue, but not always achievable. And that’s OK.
3. Say “no” … and be content about it … such as not traveling, no shopping trips when he’s tired (or I am!), turning down social invitations or community responsibilities, or just having a simple supper when I’d planned a lavish dinner.
4. Moods are contagious, especially grumpy ones.
5. Routine can be soothing, comfortable and reassuring. So are naps.
6. Don’t accept the status quo, which is why I encouraged Husband Richard to go back for physical and speech therapy “tune-ups” recently. He’s doing great, thank you, and even had to master hundreds of tongue twisters, such as the giggle-producing “I am not a pheasant plucker. I’m a pheasant plucker’s son. I’m only plucking pheasants until the pheasant plucker comes.” Try it. You’ll see what I mean.
7. Keep trying.
8. Take it one day at a time.
9. Be grateful for what we have right now, and enjoy it all.
10. And, of course, learn something new every day.
See, Mom? I really was listening, even when you thought I wasn’t.
More moms’ advice
Recently, I checked online with some pals to see what their moms had told them that proved later to be spot on. Here are some of their answers:
▪ “Difficult experiences often make the best art.”
▪ “Always put onions in the freezer 10 minutes before chopping and you’ll never shed a tear!”
▪ “Always look on the bright side.” She once said to a hot and thirsty child, "Yes, we have ice. It just isn’t frozen yet."
▪ “Don't be afraid to ask for something — the worst they can do is say no!”
▪ “Never say I can’t. At least try.”
▪ “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” (Bad advice to give a reporter!)
▪ “Everyone has a story — listen to their story.” (Good advice for a reporter!)
▪ “Pay your own way, and always say ‘thank you.’”
▪ “Don’t forget to have fun.”
▪ “Always buy good shoes!"
▪ "Always do something ... never do nothing!"
▪ “Invest in travel and real estate!”
▪ “Free advice is worth what it costs.”
▪ “You don’t have to like what someone says, but you need to fight for their right to say it.”
▪ “Don’t expect a man to solve your problems.”
▪ “Worry about things in order of their appearance!”
▪ “There is a price for everything.”
▪ “If you marry for money, you’ll earn it.”
▪ “When you shop, look up in the higher shelves to get the real deals!”
▪ “Reading a good book is more important than doing housework.”
▪ “Don’t sweep someone else’s porch till you’re sure yours is clean.”
▪ “Remember, when you point your finger at someone ... there are always three pointing back at you.”