1. Stop and smell the roses. When I was trying to “have it all,” crazy busy with work and family, Mom constantly counseled me to “stop and smell the roses.” I didn’t, of course. Then all the busy-ness faded away, and I realized what Mom was talking about. I have a ‘life’ now. I smell the roses all the time. Thanks for your persistence, Mom. I finally understand.
  2. Values. Every Sunday my mother shuttled us all to church. The teenage years must have been the worst, when we grumbled and complained and napped through sermons. But over the years of catechism and church, important values seeped into my heart that make me a better human being. Thanks for raising us under God’s watchful eye, Mom.
  3. The satisfaction of growing things. As Father John describes it, “Your mother’s green thumb.” I grew up on a farm, surrounded by growing things, but it was my Mom who instilled a love of gardening. I think of Mom always when I am nurturing my flowers; I still have nothing that comes close to her beautiful iris garden, which was so pretty we took our wedding photos there. And she is the inspiration for the spirited veggie gardening competition among her children. (Just ate the first garden radish, sibs!)
  4. Try something new. Mom is the champion of trying new things. Her natural curiosity leads her to strike up conversations with perfect strangers. She went back to college in her 50s and earned a master’s degree. She loves to try ethic foods, new “taste sensations,” as she calls them. One piece of advice: Never stand between my Mom and any sweet made with coconut.
  5. Savory memories. By the time I could reach the stove (8? 9?), I learned how to cook from Mom. This is pretty funny in retrospect, because she didn’t learn how to cook until she was married. But Mom patiently taught me how to make the perfect flaky pie crust (her secret was lard!) and meatloaf and other staples. When I left for college, she gave me a Betty Crocker illustrated cookbook that I still use for classics. She bakes tastier French bread than the French.
  6. Savor memories. Every summer, my raucous gang of siblings chews over family lore from decades ago. No memory is left unturned, as we tell and re-tell stories about growing up. At the center of this gathering is Mom, chuckling even when the stories grow a tad risque for her 83-year-old ears. It is a testament to Mom that her far-flung children still like each other, indeed, love each other.

204584_189765237736368_7208097_o So here’s to you, Mavis Benner Johnson – your children may be far away but we carry you in our hearts.

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