As mothers and daughters, we are connected with one another. My mother is the bones of my spine, keeping me straight and true. She is my blood, making sure it runs rich and strong. She is the beating of my heart. I cannot now imagine a life without her.” KRISTIN HANNAH
Happy Mother’s Day! I love Mother’s Day because I have been blessed with the most amazing Momma and I love an excuse to unabashedly proclaim how awesome she is.
I sat down to write her card yesterday and- as I thought about what to tell her- I realized just how much her wide-open heart has taught me, and how her daily example has inadvertently prepared me for this adventurous life we lead. And so, in the hopes it helps you embrace this life as much as it has for me, here is some of the wisdom I have learned from her these past 26 years…
1. There are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet
My mom has never gone anywhere without making a friend. She is the kind of person that keeps in touch with people she sat next to for an hour on an airplane, she knows the names of the homeless people in the nearby park (and their pets!), she stays in shared-room hostels when she travels, and she actually knows all of her neighbors (and, incidentally, mine). When I occasionally join her on her daily beach walk, I am suddenly Horace in “Hello Dolly”:
Dolly: Hello! Hello there, how are you? Oh Hello!
Horace: You know too many people.
Dolly: Total strangers!
Horace: Then why do you greet them?
Dolly: It makes me feel good to have so many friends.
Horace: Oh, say hello for me too then.
Dolly: I already did.
Growing up with the Dolly-Momma (Yes folks, I’ll be here all week) warmed me up for a lifetime of new “hellos.” As military wives, we know we have, at most, a couple of years in each location and we have to learn to make friends fast. Over the years her sweet confidence has taught me it’s not as hard or as scary as I often assume it will be, and the rewards are well worth the risk.
2. Never stop learning
If you ever ask my mom about the jobs she has had in the past, you’ll learn she wasn’t qualified for pretty much any of them at the time she was hired, but nobody ever found out because she learned the ropes so fast once she got the job. When something interests her, you can’t tear her away from researching whatever it is. This is one of the most valuable things I’ve absorbed from watching her through the years, and while I’ve always loved to read, it is now an automatic habit of mine to read voraciously on each and every new possible location/job/port visit until I know it inside out, which makes me feel a lot more confident on all the little decisions we have to make in a move.
3. Be open to new places & experiences
If love of travel is inherited, I got mine from my mom. Together we have explored underground apothecaries in Mexico City, walked the streets of Barcelona at midnight searching for our hostel, wandered into random restaurants throughout Italy asking owners to just bring us their favorite dishes, had a beach picnic of nectarines and cheese from a local street market in Juan-les-pins, and played with monkeys in Costa Rica, among other things. While we read everything we can get our hands on about each place we visit beforehand, we leave the guidebooks behind once we get there and let a healthy dose of spontaneity be our guide. Traveling with her has taught me that new experiences and places (even less desirable stations) are something to look forward to and enjoy, not dread.
4. Don’t underestimate the value of a kind word or gesture
My mom is the master of thoughtful gifts and an encouraging word in season. Whether it’s in the form of flowers for an elderly neighbor, green juice for a tired momma (hello!), a prayer, or a handwritten note, she spreads positivity like wild fire. Seeing how much optimism her generosity sparks, I am constantly reminded how much good even the smallest kind gesture can make, especially to another tired military spouse. Her example inspires me to stay alert to the needs of others in this unique community.
5. It never hurts to ask
When I was in college, my mom, my brother, and I flew to the Riviera Maya for a quick escape from the real world. We had booked very cheap accommodations (as in, it had no bathroom…), and when we showed up we decided we weren’t jazzed about staying there for a week. My mom took a little stroll down the beach, found out the casual beach front room pictured above wasn’t filled, and asked if we could have it for dirt cheap. We thought it was was amazing that it worked out, but my mom just shrugged and said, “It never hurts to ask.” This happens everywhere we go with her. Upgrade to first class? Why not ask? We slept the whole way home from Spain on the beds at the front of the plane. It would be impossible to list all the things she has gotten just by asking kindly, and while it doesn’t always work, she’s right that it never hurts to try. So whether it be orders to a specific location, getting a certain housing unit, requesting a different moving company, etc… it never hurts to ask, and most of the time it works out pretty well.
6. You’re not really in control anyway
No matter how positive I try to stay about some the difficult sides of military life, there are a lot of days when the “what ifs” start to take over. What if Jake is gone with the ship during the baby’s birth? What if we don’t find housing that fits our needs? What if we get sent back to where it snows 3/4 of the year? Whenever I start to go down this road, she always says the same thing: “You’re not in control anyway.” And because I know her so well, I know the sub-text: “Because God is.” I’ve watched her trust God with some really difficult transitions through out her life that have given her the experience and the empathy behind her reminder, and it’s a great one to embrace. You’re not in control anyway, so you might as well enjoy the ride wherever it takes you and trust that it’s where you’re meant to be. And I’ll tell you: breathing gets a whole lot easier when I take her words to heart.
7. And finally…
She showed me that Ray-Bans don’t ever go out of style…
Love you, Momma!