EDIT: Sorry if this reposts! Came through without pictures for some reason… and on the wrong day! WHOOPS.
Blogger’s note: I created this blog primarily to share my experiences in, and love for, food and travel, including my life in the Peace Corps in Africa. But I also created it because I love to write, about anything and everything. So while most of my posts will revolve around those main topics, my Sunday Stream-of-Consciousness posts are for me to write about any sort of random thoughts that I want, from the totally inane to the most important things in life: like my mommy.
For better or worse, we all learn a lot from our parents. Each year I get older and I realize more and more things in my life that I have learned from my mom and dad, and how lucky I am to have amazing parents who have grown from my nurturers to my confidants to my best friends and supporters. My mom, Vicki, is not only my mother, but also one of the people I love the most in this world, and look up to the most. On this Mother’s Day, I just wanted to take the opportunity to dictate a few Lessons I Have Learned from My Mother.
Family comes first. Growing up in a family of 10 children, my mom (Vicki) learned ALL about family love (and exactly how to order successfully for 12 people at the McDonald´s drive thru). She has always prioritized her family, whether it be taking the time to make a call or jot a note, and the same importance has been passed down to us. I have never doubted for one second that my mom didn’t love our family more than anything else in the world. Her strong sense of what is truly important—God and family—reminds me that while worldly frustrations and difficulties will always be present, there WILL be enough time for those that are TRULY important, if you prioritize it.
Love those who can’t because you can. Meaning to say that, sure, there are people out there who seem unlovable. You know, the person at work who makes your heart rate skyrocket a la Michael Scott as soon as they step into your office? Or the clerk at the grocery store who seems to offer a sneer and a snarky comment instead of a smile? Or your jerky teenage daughter who thinks she is too cool for school and especially too cool for her parents? (See above.) “Be kinder than you need, because everyone is fighting some sort of battle.” My mom reminds me that while it is normal to get frustrated with others, to try to love them, as it is a gift to be blessed with the capacity to love and accept others in spite of their flaws.
Take time to breathe. So often we talk about “balance” in this life, and so infrequently to we achieve it. My mom works HARD—incredibly hard—with commitment and devotion to her work. This can be overwhelming, but instead of letting the stress and the work take control of her, she makes an effort to carve out time for herself, whether it be a long walk with the dogs at dusk or a yoga class. There will always be more work to do, more piles of tasks yet unfinished, more people who need something from you. But if you don’t take care of yourself first, you impede your ability to do other things successfully. My mom recognizes this (even though it is still hard for her sometimes) and makes an effort to find balance in her life.
Take joy in simple things. My mom has a self-professed love for the simple things in life. While this may have led to my then-teenage sister “affectionately” calling her a Simpleton (you jerk, Caitlin! haha), a simpleton she is not. Yet, she has an ability that we should all envy: the ability to appreciate the beauty in simplicity, the tremendous offering of life’s simple pleasures. For all the running around crazy that we do, how often do we truly sit down and fully enjoy a morning with the newspaper, a cat on your lap and a hot cup of coffee in hand? The sounds of bird calls as they soar over the neighborhood lake at sunset? The incessant wagging of a dog’s tail? The feeling that you get after a great run? My mom recognizes these things, and inspires me to get back to basics in some areas of my life, too, and connect with myself and the world around me on a deeper level.
Go ahead, be a dork when you want to. That thick skin (necessary with 10 brothers and siblings) gets put to good use in our household, as my mom constantly catches a lot of flak from all of us. Really, she doesn’t deserve this seeing as several years after my dad purchased the big-ass TV I still don’t know how to turn it on, yet my mom often receives the crap from the rest of us after her dorky moments. (No offense, mom.) But I love it—don’t let any overly sarcastic daughters or husbands act like they’re too cool for school. Embrace the inner dorkiness! : )
GOD is DOG spelled backwards. My mommy LOVES dogs, for all they are. Pets, companions, best friends, accompaniment on a walk or a run, constant reminders of how important it is to take joy in life. A wildly thrashing tail at the mere whisper of the word “walk” or “kibble.” A sympathetic nuzzle and deep, empathetic eye contact when you seem sad. The ability to be entertained for hours by a butterfly. Unconditional devotion and love. I see the way my mom looks at dogs—almost as little angels sent to Earth to love us (no matter how un-angelic they may behave sometimes)… and guarantees that for the rest of my life, I will have a doggie companion.
Marry your best friend. I took my parents for granted growing up, as many teenagers do. Not because I didn’t love them or anything, but because I just had no recognition of how LUCKY I was to have parents that not only loved me, but also were still madly in love with each other. As I have grown older I have started asking my mom more questions about marriage. Her advice? Marry your best friend. I see the love my parents have and it fills me with joy to have been born into this family. If I am in a relationship half as loving as the one my parents have, I will be happy. Not only someone you love, but a real partner in everything. That partnership, that best friendship, is something that I see as true evidence of a successful relationship, and something I hope I am blessed enough to have someday.
Have Faith. My mom chooses to put her faith in a higher power, and it shows. Regardless of your religious beliefs, it is impossible to not respect someone who lives with the belief that there is a rhyme and reason to all this, that the world would be better if we just all loved each other a little more, and that the best IS yet to come. While I do share my mom’s faith, more so than that I respect the way she lives her life, seemingly focused on loving God and loving people. We may not understand why bad things happen, but we just do all we can to make the world a better place, knowing that the best is indeed yet to come.
Choose HOPE always. My mom is a fighter, competitive and strong-willed. (Wonder where I got that from?) But she has overcome some pretty spectacular challenges. Diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia several long years ago, my mom fought her way through a difficult treatment and emerged, true to her name, victorious. Yet only two years later, the cancer came back—and much stronger. Facing the odds that she did, many others would have given up. But after months and months of a crazy clinical trial, followed by a bone marrow transplant, my mom not only survived, but she came back stronger! To celebrate five years of remission, she ran a marathon. But not just for herself: raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, she dubbed the race “Running on Gratitude,” and ran each of the 26.2 miles in honor of someone who had been alongside her during her battle with cancer. Throughout it all, my mom inspired many with her decision every day to wake up and choose hope, no matter how bleak the day appeared. She even wrote a book about it! When in doubt, when faced with uncertainty and challenges, choose hope. Always choose hope.
I don’t know if I will ever really be able to tell my mom how much I love, admire, and respect her. For some things, words just never seem to be enough. If there was one thing I could say to my mother on this Mother´s Day, even though I am over 10,000 miles away from her, it would be this:
That if one day, long from now, I blinked and realized at that moment,
“I have turned into my mother,”
I would smile, close my eyes and know, that my life had been a success.
Happy Mother´s Day, Mommy. I love you!
What have you learned from your mother?