My mother died last week. She had lived an excellent, long life, and died well–in her home, without pain, surrounded by her children. Now, we are left to celebrate her life, mourn her loss, and reflect on what made her the very special woman she was. As we raise our own children, many of the lessons she taught us are repeated without thought, as instinctively as any daily habit. But sometimes, it helps to write them down, both so we don’t forget them, but also so that we can share the wisdom. As we ready our children to go out in the world, I can think of no better preparation than to make sure they have a firm grasp on these basic lessons, handed down from our parents. If they can master these skills, and understand these truths, they will be ready for what lies beyond the college experience–real life. So, here are a few of the things my mother taught me:

There is something greater than yourself, however you name Him.  Know that you are not your own creator.

Respect yourself and others.

Be grateful.

Family is your beginning and ending.  Nurture it.

Grammar matters.

Have fun, life is short.

Work hard and make good habits.

Life is not fair, so don’t wait for an equal piece.

Love mother Earth.

A person’s worth is not reflected in his bank account.

Smart takes effort.

Gold stars are earned, not given.

If you serve others, you serve yourself.

Always know the cardinal directions.

Testosterone is real.

Time is time and money is money – don’t confuse them.

Marry the one you love.

Don’t get in the car with a drunken sailor.

Put your napkin in your lap, and don’t speak with food in your mouth.

Flesh wounds heal, but angry words can last forever.  Choose your words carefully.

Don’t charge more than you can pay at the end of the month.

Learn how to cook real food.

It’s not always what you say but how you say it that matters.

A simple gesture of kindness can change someone’s whole life.  Take the time to do for others.


It is never too late to send a thank you note.

Don’t give up.  Try harder.

Things are just that.  People are what count.

There is no substitute for good manners.

Don’t spend principal.  You are holding it for the next generation.

Leave a bathroom cleaner than you found it.

People will remember your kind actions longer than your kind words.

There is beauty in everyone if you look for it.

I am comforted to hear my mother’s voice in these words.  My children would do well to listen.