(In no particular order of importance!)
1. Take pride in being a STRONG woman:
I come from a family of strong women. In my eyes, my own mother is the definition of a strong woman. We are living in a world that associates being a strong woman with words like “dyke” and “bitch”. Excuse my language, I try to keep it clean on my blog unless it pertains directly to what I’m writing, and in this case, it does. I feel compelled to express the concern I had when I dove into the teaching profession head first, and was quickly acquainted with the enormity of negative synonyms for the word “woman” my students could come up with on their own. If we don’t start broadcasting that being a strong woman means forming opinions, having a voice, and thinking critically, we are facing the loss of brilliant minds. Instead of putting women down, we need to cultivate self-worth, positivity, and possibilities. Mamma taught me to hold my head high!
2. Embrace your Scars:
It is your scars, not your make up, that make you beautiful. For my entire life, I have observed my mother put on her makeup. In my eyes, my mom is the most naturally beautiful woman I have ever met. A horrific car accident left my mom’s face scarred, and each morning she is greeted with reminders of this accident. Whether my mom knows it or not, I’ve never forgotten a single time she’s touched the now barely visible scars on her face and expressed grief. I can’t take that pain away from her, but over the years, it has taught me a valuable lesson: There is no “ugly” in scars, only experiences.
3. Be kind:
Be kind, even to those who hurt you. Be kind, even those you do not know. Be kind when it feels like your world is crumbling and your instincts tell you to take it out on the ones you love. Be kind when it’s most difficult.
When I was little, my mother and I took weekly trips to a little café. Momma Jo always let me pick out a treat, and behind a glass full of cakes and cookies, I always picked a meringue. On our way to the café, we passed a homeless man sitting on the steps of the church in the center of town. He wore tattered dark clothing. His face was dirty. To an adult, he may have looked scary and unclean, but to a six year old, he was just another human being. I asked my mom why he looked the way he did and my mom delicately explained to me that he was homeless. I asked my mom if I could buy an extra meringue to give to him because he looked hungry, and without batting an eye, she asked the girl behind the counter for two meringues. I skipped up to the homeless man and handed him the meringue with a smile on my face. I’ll never forget the way he looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, as if nobody had shown him any type of acknowledgment.
I know many parents would have said no. Many parents would have been in a rush to be somewhere else, or thought of the homeless man as insignificant or disgusting. My mom may not understand the way this small experience affected me. It shaped me into a person who believes that kindness surpasses convenience, social status, and money. Kindness is a type of affluence we can all afford. . A few years ago I found out the man on the steps passed away. I feel better knowing, even if for a brief moment, he felt cared about by complete strangers.
Blake and I were having a conversation a few days ago about ex boyfriends and ex girlfriends. Many of my friends ask me how I can still be friendly with people who have hurt me in the past, and many wonder if it is fake or genuine. My response is simple. If I held on to all of that hurt forever, I’d never be able to love anybody, including myself. I am happy, and I am glad that the people I’ve previously dated, and even loved, have hopefully moved on and are also happy.
My parents are divorced, and I know there were many years in between the divorce and present time that were painful for both my mother and father. I am more than blessed to have two parents who have given me room to grow, tools for understanding, and the ability to cope with tragedy. Seeing my Mom and Dad interact civilly now gives me so much comfort. They may not be the best of friends, and sometimes they still disagree, but when it comes to putting differences aside for the benefit of raising their daughter, I commend them.
Tomorrow, months from now, or even years from now, a time will come when you realize you are truly happy in the present moment. That kind of happiness is untouchable. At that point, I urge you to forgive the ones who have hurt you; whether that type of acknowledgment is internal, or you reach out and vocalize it, is entirely up to you.
5. Respect your body:
MammaJo comes from a generation where smoking made you look cool and nothing could ever kill you. Twenty something years later, I was born with severe asthma, and smoking not only harmed her body, it harmed mine. For years, I hid my mom’s cigarettes. When she realized I was old enough to understand that smoking was hurting both of our bodies, she quit.
There are women in dire circumstances who resort to doing devastating things to their bodies for drugs, money, or simply to support their families. There are women who stay in abusive relationships because they feel they do not have any other choice. I wish I could reach these women. I wish I could put my hand on their shoulders, wrap my arms around them, and tell them there are other ways to stay alive. I wish I could tell them that they won’t stay alive if they don’t respect the only body they have. I wish I could tell them they are loved.
My mom taught me that you have one body. There are no do-overs.
6. Learn how to cry:
“The sky doesn’t ask the ground
if it’s permissible to rain,
it just does from time to time.
The ground always looks greener the next day.
You don’t have to ask permission,
I recently preformed a spoken word poem titled “Little Me”, where I addressed myself as a teenager. This line from the poem was inspired by an argument my mom and I had when I was in high school. I was a difficult teenager, but then again, aren’t all teenagers difficult? I was mouthy, stubborn, and at times disrespectful. I held onto built up resentment, and unsure of where it truly came from, I unleashed it on my mom.
I remember once, during an argument, my mom began crying.
I shouted, “Mom! I can’t even take you seriously! Everything makes you cry!”
Cold, right? I know. I’ve apologized a trillion times for that one. I still apologize for it today. The truth is, having the courage to acknowledge that something is hurting you, accept it, and release it, is incredibly brave.
7. Take risks, even when people think you won’t succeed:
I came home from school one day in middle school and told my mom that there were kids on the bus who were making fun of a girl with a mental disability. She told me to stand up for what I believed in. The next day I told the kids that I thought they were mean, and that the girl didn’t deserve to be made fun of. A few of them made fun of me for standing up to them, and a few of them agreed with me and stopped. It doesn’t matter if other people laugh at you or think you will fail, if you truly believe in something, make it happen!
My mom was my biggest ambassador for going to Australia, even when money presented itself a problem. She was my biggest ambassador for trying to make my long distance relationship work, even when everyone else in my life looked at me with doubtful eyes. She was my biggest ambassador for stepping my foot into slam poetry, even when I had shaky knees. My mom taught me how to get on the plane, how to love irrevocably, and how to walk on stage.
8. Believe that you are truly beautiful:
There have been plenty of times in my life that I’ve felt ugly, and I’ve let others make me feel ugly. You are a gem. There is only one of you. There will only be one of you, (unless I perfect the cloning process and I am finally able to make my very own Ryan Gosling). Wake up every day, look yourself in the mirror, and tell yourself you’re beautiful. Then, believe it. It’s true. Whoever you are, you are stunning, captivating, gorgeous, capable, talented, and a true work of art. If anyone ever tries to tell you otherwise, they haven’t yet realized that they, too, are those things. The minute you let go of the things you feel you are “supposed to be”, you will become who you are.
9. Celebrate traditions:
My mother is a creature of tradition. It’s spectacular. Every year on my brother’s birthday, we stand together and let a balloon go. Every time we have been on vacation together, we each pick out a heart rock and exchange them. When my brother was still very young, the doctors said we might be able to communicate to him through sign language. To this day, my mom still signs I love you to me, when nobody else is looking. These traditions will continue for a long time, and some may even carry over to the family that I start someday.
10. Learn from Children:
I have been nannying two gorgeous girls for the past year. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of potty training, learning how to read, first day of kindergarten, and language development. Children are amazing creatures, and aside from how wildly intuitive they are, they are also diligent learners. By the time we reach adulthood, we become increasingly impatient with the learning process, yet children embrace difficult learning obstacles every day.
My mom has said a great deal of her life learning came from being my mother, and I am proud to say that a great deal of MY life learning came from being her daughter. Thanks for everything, Mom. I love you!
(In no particular order of importance!)