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What do I, as a mother on Mother’s Day, want my children to know? To know for real, down to their bones?

1.Be the host of your life. Hold hands, give hugs, introduce yourself, capture every moment because it is yours to curate. Include yourself as a member of a community because the people you bring into your life will help you grow in ways you can design if you are hosting your party of life for you.

I had a math teacher who demanded that we fold our papers vertically, with our name and assignment number in the top corner before turning them in. Clearly he reveled at the tidiness of the stack of papers he collected, “You will easily be able to search back …” he’d justify, but his students by and large didn’t relate. He was peculiar.

I, however, adored him. I have regularly thought about the precision with which Mr. Math approached the world and how his quirkiness served him and made an enormous impression on me. Now that I have to motivate myself, I appreciate the lesson of repeated patterns to create a habit.

I lack precision in my life at this moment, but I am able to reach all the way back, 35 years, to Mr. Math and his offering that a simple pattern repeated will help me to find my way. I didn’t listen to the other tenth graders who blew him off as a wacko when he said, “Raise your hand if you appreciate that statement,” six or seven times each class period. I saw the soul of a man who loved learning and wanted to extend that precise love to his students.

2.Keep your feet tended. Your feet hold you up all day. So make sure you’re not wearing socks when you are hot. You’ll get sweaty and your feet will prune up, inviting a fungus. Some people, jobs, or even recreation will make you feel hot as well. Take them off. Don’t invite that bad stuff.

When your feet are cold put on warm socks. It’s easy to forget and walk around the cold kitchen tile in the morning making coffee or tea and begin to shiver. Notice when your feet are cold. Then take the minute to go to your room and get the warm socks you need. Everything will feel better.

Do something to make your feet feel appreciated. I never painted my toenails because I have ugly toes. This is dumb. When I finally got a pedicure and kept glancing down at my toes, I got this little lift in my spirits. My ugly toes were prettier. I felt prettier too. I remember the date I had with your dad in brand new spiffy, sport, snappy sneakers. I ran and jumped the whole time because my feet were happy.


3. Eat well. You are both grown people and I still ask you what you’re eating. This is because I love feeding you, and I want you to be well fed. It’s up to you to feed yourselves now, please do it with pleasure and a purpose. Enjoy what you eat and pay attention to how you feel.

my kids holding family portraits in our albuquerque house 2006

4. Love yourself because it is the least selfish thing you could do. When your needs go unmet it is very difficult for you to extend compassion to your friend who is struggling at work or school. When you are hurting it is difficult to see beyond yourself. Love yourself first because it is the least selfish thing you could do.

5. Be grateful for your sleep and don’t take it for granted. There are people in the world who don’t get to sleep in a comfortable situation. Can you imagine how different your life would be if you didn’t get to sleep on a soft bed? If you didn’t get to sleep for hours at a time, uninterrupted? You have so much sleep privilege. Take advantage of it by resting and then using your lives to make the world a better place.

Logan and Kaitlin singing in the rain
6. Exercise. Today is Mother’s Day and I am certain my mother would have known each of you longer, and you would have known her, had she paid more attention to exercising. I miss her more each year. I fluctuate between sadness and anger that she didn’t take care of herself. I wish I could have her with me now. I wish you could experience her tenderness and care. Kindness needs to be tended. Please, please exercise.

Right now I need you healthy. Some day your children will need you. Eventually your grandchildren will need you. Take Mr. Math’s advice and develop a habit. ☺

7. Change your sheets. When I was 19 and living alone I was a zealot about changing my sheets. While you were teenagers, I didn’t always change your sheets and it’s one of my big regrets.

I didn’t change your sheets because you did your own laundry and I thought, “I don’t want to intrude,” or “I don’t want to send a message that you should change your sheets…as if you are dirty.” This was dumb too. Changing sheets is like saying, “I’m worth it.”

Sure, you could postpone it. But why? When it feels so fresh to get into wonderful smelling soft sheets? Choose the best sheets you can afford at the time. Stretch just a little for sheets that bring you comfort. Comfort is a wonderful thing.

sledding with Samantha
8. Go outside. Do you remember the February that almost killed me? Of course you don’t, because all you will remember is sledding. That was the year dad was in school 80,000 hours a week, everyone in our family had died, and we had moved to a new city where I knew no one.

You kids were little and I was working for the University of Colorado doing those video tapes. You were crazy bored and begging me to play with you. I had no desire to play because I was so sad and I felt very hopeless. But I had the two of you to take me outside and get on the sled every day. I am just realizing right now that this is probably why I love sledding so much. Packing your three year old and six year old bodies into snowsuits and heading out into the Omaha frigid February air was the hardest thing I did that year. But sledding saved my life because I came alive again out there on that sledding hill.

I’d laugh and fall into the cold and it would wake me back up to realize my children needed me and I needed them. It was the three of us and then we’d hike inside for cocoa and graham crackers. I was full of smiles and could handle another day. When your life gets hard, kiddos, go outside.

9. Call your mother. This one sounds like a command, but really it is because I finally believe I am the primary source of comfort for you, my children.

For years I thought you would want to leave me and get on with your life. But lately I’ve been thinking about how unbelievably good it would feel if I could call my mother. It’s been 16 years since I spoke to my mother. I don’t have anything to say to her, really. What I want, actually, is for her to tell me she loves me.

My mother loved me so much. And I felt it. I want you to call me so you can feel how much I love you. I do. So very much. Thank you for being my family.

Pettit family portrait david rebecca logan kaitlin

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