Ten Things My Mom Taught Me

September 1, 2020 | My Jottings

This is a repost from May of 2013…. been missing my mama these days.

Did you have a nice Mother’s Day on Sunday? If you’re a mom, did someone give you a card or a hug? If your mom is still living, did you spend time with her or give her a call?

My daughters blessed me on Mother’s Day with cards, a soup/salad cookbook, lip gloss, and some home-fried corn tortilla chips, homemade salsa and homemade guacamole to munch on while we visited. That was my mouthwatering Mother’s Day dinner — piles of fresh salsa with cilantro or chunky guac balanced on still-warm chips, about seventy-nine of them, with some iced tea. Yum.

sc000fc163My own beautiful mama died in February of 1993, so it’s been a long time since I’ve picked out a Mother’s Day card. I think of her so often, and thought in her honor I’d share some things she taught me:

1.  Always cook twice as much food as you need at every meal, just in case an army stops by unannounced. I think Tupperware was invented for my mom, because she was unable to make a meal without a huge heap of leftovers. She was definitely one of those 1950s/1960s moms who showed her love by serving good food, with second and third helpings urged.

2.  One of the joys in life is to take a drive in the cool of the evening while eating an ice cream cone from 31 Flavors. I was the youngest of three children, but I was born late in life to my parents, and I thought going for a drive was totally boring. What does a seven year old want to do with her free time? Probably not sit in the backseat of a behemoth Buick LeSabre station wagon for two hours while her parents gawk at fields, trees, houses and flowers. I think that’s why ice cream was always involved, so they could bribe me to go along without pouting. Now that I’m older, I love taking drives too. It’s always a treat for Michael and me to take a drive up the North Shore of Lake Superior — the blue splendor never gets old.

3.  Little girls’ hair looks best without bangs. My mother could have started a rabid anti-bang movement had her personality been a little more fiery. You can see here and here how her “foreheads should been seen and not covered” philosophy was enforced with her only daughter.

4.  Blues and greens are classic, soothing colors to decorate with. mdXjfXWkpgklY5hPfz8piaAIn our home we had avocado green carpeting, a blue and green floral couch, a deep blue velvet chair and ottoman, dark green painted kitchen cabinets, blue and green kitchen wallpaper, textured blue wallpaper in our foyer, blue and green glass grapes on our coffee table, and a dark green recliner in the living room. I didn’t pay much attention then, but those colors must have seeped by osmosis into my bone marrow because to this day they’re my favorites.

5.  Always buy Duncan Hines cake mixes, never Betty Crocker or Pillsbury. I rarely make a cake with a mix, but when I do, I’m a total Duncan Hines snob, turning my nose up at the other brands in the baking aisle. There really is a difference. 🙂

6.  Doing something artistic or creative each week feeds the soul. My mother had creativity oozing from her pores. She was musical, artistic, and crafty. She had long slender fingers that danced over our Hammond B-3 organ keyboard and she could of course read music but never needed to. Once she played a song, it was in her brain forever and she could play it thereafter in any key. She loved taking classes to learn how to china paint, macrame, decoupage, and knit. I still have china plates hanging in my house that were her first attempt at painting, that look like a master did them. She loved needlepoint and rug hooking and sewing. I didn’t know it then, but I can see now that my mother loved beauty, and was innately drawn to create beauty in our home.

7.  Morro Bay, California, with its huge, brooding rock and morning fog, is one of the best places on earth. While my friends who had younger parents were being taken on water-skiing vacations to Lake Nacimiento or to beach houses in San Diego, my parents loved the little central coastal town of Morro Bay. It was sleepy, foggy, cooler than our city in Los Angeles County, and they dreamed of living there someday. They both eventually did, but only after they divorced.

8.  A clean, clutter-free house really does make life easier in the long run. I was not a fan of my mother’s clean-up-a-mess-as-you-go policy when I was little, preferring instead to “store” things under my bed or in the back of my closet. Today, clutter-free is what I crave, and I think a little maintenance every day is better than an exhausting overhaul once a month.

9.  Grandchildren are some of the greatest treasures God gives. Had there been such a title, my mom would have worn the sash and crown awarded to The Ultimate Grandmother Supreme of the Universe. She loved her grandbabies, sacrificially devoted her time to them, taught them how to cook and bake, powdered their bottoms with Estee Lauder dusting powder after a bath (“because they’ll sleep better if they’re dry and powdered!”), and had them spend the night often. I wish I were half the grandma she was.

10. Being a good friend means listening, laughing, encouraging, sharing, remembering, and being real. In spite of her many gifts, my mom wasn’t an overly confident person. It’s like she was unaware of how deeply she was affecting peoples’ lives. I thought having 100 friends was a normal thing when I was a little girl, because both my parents knew how to be loyal friends and were sought out by many people. I look back in my memories now and see that my mother somehow always made her friends feel as though they were her favorites. And she wasn’t duplicitous at all so it’s not like she planned this. I think each friend truly was her favorite friend; she knew them well and made time for them and laughed and cried with them. After my parents’ divorce and my mother’s nine-month emotional collapse, my mom’s loving and generous employer Helen Hasabales hosted a Virginia Sooter Day, to help welcome Mom back to work as an organist, and to the land of the living, basically. Over one-thousand people signed the guest book on that day. I will never forget how my humble mama touched lives, mostly without ever knowing it.

So I guess I have a few of these lessons my mom taught me down pat. I have tested her Duncan Hines theory numerous times and totally agree. Morro Bay is truly a wonderful little town and I wish I could visit more often. Have any of you been to Morro Bay? And having grandchildren is one of the happiest things that has ever happened to me.

But many things my mother demonstrated I am only now beginning to learn. Hopefully.

How about you? What are some things your mom taught you?


  1. Tauni says:

    Oh Jules ~ how wonderful to read so many wonderful and very true things about your loving mother. Almost makes me cry to think of her. I loved your mom, she always made me feel welcome in your home and I remember so many happy times. I am very glad to have had the opportunity to see her again as an adult when I visited you so many years ago. I never see anything with “black walnuts” without thinking of her ~ She is always in my mind when ever I hear organ music! What talent! My mom taught me many things as well. Only have time to list a few ~

    1. Kindness is the best thing to turn away ugliness. If someone treats me with disrespect or is cruel, I pray Phil 4:13 and seek to respond in kindness no matter what the circumstances. If nothing else, it lessens the bitterness in my own heart toward others.
    2. Treating myself like my own best friend is often required when I find I am being overly hard on myself. She taught me to talk to myself as I would someone I loved, giving sage advice or just letting myself off the hook after a bad decision.
    3. Entertaining is an art. My mother knew how to put out a spread. When it came to entertaining, my mom was THE BOMB! I would see all the prep work sometimes starting days before, but it would all seem so effortless during the event. A definite class act!
    4. Life holds no guarantees. Similarly, my parents divorced after almost four decades of marriage. The trauma in my life of that event scarred, but changed me for the better as well. Even though my family was severely fractured at the time, my parents remained respectful towards each other and continued to care about each other. My brothers and I were never put in the middle.
    5. We are never too old to learn. At 77 years old she continues to learn new things all the time, scripture, computers, accounting, writing, and anything else she comes across. If determined enough one can master what one sets out to accomplish.

    As the years roll on by I realize how precious life is. While my mother and I don’t always agree, one thing we definitely agree on, life is meant to be lived out with purpose and love. We continue to learn from each other the things which are meant to be passed between mother and daughter and on down through the generations. I am blessed and seek to remind my mother how blessed I am because she is my mother.

  2. Just Julie says:

    Tauni, when you retire from Risk Management you should write, because your words are always so heartening. I have wonderful memories of your mom too, and will never forget how she welcomed me and invested in me. I am so moved by how you honor her with your words and with your life. You are blessed to have her, and she is blessed to have you. I love you both…. xo

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Oh Julie, I loved this post! You were a cute little girl, no bangs and all. Your mama sounded wonderful. When you mentioned that your parents divorced I wondered what the story was. Mine divorced after 24 years of marriage, when I was 9 years old. You can read the three part story I wrote about it on my blog. It’s on my sidebar under archives, A Journey of Forgiveness.

  4. Just Julie says:

    Thank you so much Elizabeth. I have read the story of your parents’ divorce — it’s what brought me to your beautiful blog! I cried as I read it.

    The post with some details about my parents’ divorce is here:


    I’m so glad you stopped by Elizabeth…God bless your day! xo

  5. Shari C. says:

    What a sweet post, honoring your mother, Julie!
    I loved reading your thoughts on what was important to her, and I couldn’t help but think, as I read, what a good job she did…your life is such a beautiful tribute to her!
    You’ve “done her proud!” 🙂
    I loved reading, what Tauni wrote about her mother, too!

    It’s hard for me to put into words what all my mother taught me…this may sound odd, but I feel like, at this current time in my life, I am just beginning to see, and to understand more clearly, all that my mother taught me.
    Two main things that first come to mind are – how to love others and secondly, how to take time to see, not just look, but really see.

  6. Just Julie says:

    You are so kind, Shari.
    I wish I had known your mom better. She seemed like such a warm, wise woman to me. And it occurs to me that if we learn the two lessons you’ve mentioned, then our lives (and the lives of those we love) will be rich beyond words. You’ve given me my food for thought for the day, friend. xo

  7. Ember says:

    A fab post. Thank you Julie x

    A tree surgeon once badly overcharged my mother, back in the early 70s. We had five acres of land and lots of trees, but very little money. To feed us, my mother raised sheep and grew fruit and vegetables, kept hens, and often worked far into the night preparing and freezing food to keep us all year round. One of our trees overhung the road that wound round the boundary of our place, and a branch had rot, so the tree surgeon was hired to saw it off. He charged £100, a LOT of money at that time. My mother said very little, but I think she must have felt worried and upset, because we had such a tight household budget. He saw that she looked none too pleased, and he said to her: “Let me know if ever you’re in any trouble and I’ll do what I can to help.”
    I, a teenager, standing watching, listened to her reply:
    “If ever I’m in trouble, I’ll find a way out of it somehow without coming to you.”
    Now, my mother is not an ungracious woman, and she didn’t complain abut his charges, but her words modelled a courage and determination I have remembered always. She accepted what he was and what he did; but she would never go back for more.
    She has spirit. She is very brave. I love that about her.

  8. Just Julie says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Ember. I love the picture of what your land must have looked like, and the strength your mother demonstrated in more ways than one… God bless her, and you…. xo

  9. Christy says:

    Like you and Tauni, I could share wonderful traits and values that my mother tried to teach me. However, the first thing that comes to my mind was something she she was unsuccessful at teaching me. My mother tried to teach me that it was unlady-like to eat the piecrust. I’m pretty sure she got that from reading “Gone with the Wind” and Scarlet O’Haras 20 inch waistline. Ladies were to eat the filling but leave the crust on their plate along with their fork. Didn’t work. I love piecrust and my waistline isn’t 20 inches……even with a corset.

  10. Just Julie says:

    Christy, this made me laugh! I think the last time my waist was like Scarlett’s I was around 12 years old. I think my mom would have been thrilled if I had even agreed to have a single bite of pie (food pusher that she was), but I never had one until I was an adult. And yes, including the crust. xoxo

  11. Jessica says:

    GASP!!!!!!!!!!!!! Blasphemy!!!!!

    Betty Crocker Super Moist cake mixes DEFINITELY take the cake!!! (Pun intended!!!).

    I supposedly have a “secret cake recipe” and my neighbor tells everyone that I make the best cupcakes she has ever had. My secret? Don’t tell. It’s Betty Crocker Super Moist. I used Duncan Hines once and was SOOO disappointed.

    I think we can still be friends. =)

  12. Just Julie says:

    Maybe Betty has changed her formula since I’ve tried her cakes, Jessica! Last time I tried (lemon cake mix) it tasted like sweet sponge — we didn’t like the texture. We like dense cakes. I also don’t remember the words, “Super Moist” so maybe it’s time to broaden my cake horizons. 🙂 Have a wonderful summer Jessica! xoxo

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