10 Things My Mother Taught Me about Life, Love and Farm Animals (Well, mostly farm animals.)

May 11, 2014


In honor of Mother’s Day I thought I’d talk a little bit about my mom and the things she has taught me. Which may not be quite like the things other moms teach other daughters.

You see, my mother never really taught me how to walk in heels or how to wear lipstick. Or if she did, she failed miserably because I still can’t wear heels without breaking an ankle and lipstick gives me the heebie-jeebies.

However, she did teach me a lot of other important things, like how to react if you’re being chased by an angry bull and how to milk a goat.

Admittedly, I haven’t needed either of these life skills in recent history.

But you just never know when an angry bull might appear or a goat might need to be milked. (Actually, you do know when a goat needs to be milked. You can tell by the size and shape of its udder. Just FYI, folks.)

10 Things My Mother Taught Me about Life, Love and Farm Animals (Well, mostly farm animals.)

1. There isn’t anything a little super glue can’t fix.
True story: My mom once super-glued the head of a chicken back on after it had been attacked by a fox.

And the chicken lived. LIVED!

It’s like my mom is the MacGyver of at-home chicken surgery. She should probably have her own show on Animal Planet.

2. If it can’t be fixed with super glue, it can probably be fixed with pie.
Because PIE.


3. Have a “thing.” That way everyone will know what to get you for your birthday or Christmas.
Don’t you hate shopping for people when you have no idea what to buy them because they don’t really have any hobbies or passions or anything they particularly like?

My mom is not that person. In fact, my mom has a number of collections and hobbies, so it’s always pretty easy to figure out what she’d like. Basically, anything with chickens on it and power tools.

My “things” are unicorns and envelopes full of money. Voila! Now you all know what to get me for Christmas. So easy, right?

4. It’s your own damn fault if you’re bored.
Growing up, when my siblings and I were bored, we’d ask our mother what we should do, and she’d always say, “Go spit in your shoe.”

At the time this was probably the most annoying thing on the earth ever. I mean, WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? Does she really want us to go spit in our shoes? Because I have a feeling we’ll get in trouble if we do that.

As annoying as this response was, it did teach us to stop asking our mother what we should do to entertain ourselves and just go out and entertain ourselves already.

And that’s how my siblings and I came up with such exciting games as “Lock Each Other In the Chicken House” and “Climb on Barn Roofs with Chickens.”

So. Much. Fun.

So. Much. Fun.

5. How to tell a story.
Basically wave your arms around a lot and use lots of facial expressions. Make sure your voice gets high and screechy at important intervals. Always make fun of yourself.

And, when in doubt, exaggerate.

6. You’re never too old to wear a costume.

Or to dance around in your kitchen.

My mom. Last year.

My mom. (P.S. Please don’t tell her I put this picture of her on the Internet. Again.)

7. Learn how to do things. Even things you don’t think you’ll need to know how to do.
My mom is probably the most handy person on the planet. She knows how to sew princess costumes and lay kitchen tile and drive large vehicles. She can lift a couch and paint a barn. Most likely at the same time.

The only thing she can’t do is type. When she was in high school, her mom wanted her to take a typing class, but she refused because she thought only secretaries needed to know how to type, and she had no intention of becoming a secretary.

As an adult it drove her crazy that she couldn’t type, so when I was in high school, she forced me to take a typing class even though I tried to use the same argument she had used. After all, I wasn’t going to be a secretary. Besides, this was the nineties, back when computers and the Internet were creepy things geeks did.

She still forced me to take the class. And, thank God she did because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have graduated from college if I hadn’t been able to type up five-page papers at three o’clock in the morning.

I also would have never gotten my first “real” grownup job. As a secretary. (Oh, the irony.)

8. If you fall off the horse, you need to get back up on it.
You probably think I’m talking about a figurative horse.

I am not.

I am talking about an actual, real-live horse that I fell off of when I was twelve, and my mom forced me to get back up on it.

9. You can’t change someone. They have to change themselves.
Actually, Sally Jessy Raphael taught me this lesson.

It was during an episode where she had these women on who had married men who were cheaters or drug dealers or bad-pants-wearers or whatever. And the women were talking about how they thought they would be able to change their husbands with love and Sally was all like, “Nope, honey, that’s not how love works.” And my mom was yelling at me and the television screen at the same time: “Do you hear that? LISTEN TO THE WOMAN! YOU CAN’T CHANGE SOMEONE! THEY HAVE TO CHANGE THEMSELVES!” And I was all like, “Umm, okay, mom, but can you drive me to the mall or not?”

10.  Love isn’t always expressed through words. It can be expressed through actions. And styrofoam unicorn horns.
My mom is the type of person who will make a costume for your guinea pig. Because, seriously, what guinea pig doesn’t need a costume?
My mom made this! (The guinea pig costume. Not the guinea pig.)

My mom made this! (The guinea pig costume. Not the guinea pig.)

My mom is the type of person who will fashion a unicorn horn out of styrofoam and glitter if you tell her you need one for this blog post you’re writing.

My mom made this! (The horn. Not the horse.)

My mom made this! (The horn. Not the horse.)

She’s the type of person who will drive a minivan full of furniture for eight hours to your new home in Michigan and then put up a whole wall full of shelves pretty much by herself.

My mom made these shelves, too!

My mom made these, too! (The shelves. Not all the other things.)

But she’s never really been the type to gush on about her feelings.

None of my family is really.

We make things for each other. We do things for each other. But we don’t really talk about our feelings for each other.

We talk about a lot of other things. Usually things related to at-home animal surgery. And usually while at the dinner table. You truly haven’t spent a proper dinner with my family until someone brings up cow castration or that barn cat with the infected eyeball.

That’s why this Mother’s Day, I probably won’t be calling my mom up to tell her how much I love her.

That’s not really me.

Or her.

But maybe I’ll call her up to tell her I made her this thing. On the Internet. It’s not made of styrofoam, and it didn’t require any power tools.

But I hope she likes it.

What life lessons did your mom teach you?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On May 11, 2014 at 4:51 pm Ross said:

    Super gluing a chicken’s head back on! Wow. My brother once saved a snake by giving it mouth to mouth resuscitation (he was implanting a radio transmitter in the snake and the surgery went bad). But I think super gluing a chicken’s head back on takes the cake. You have an awesome mom!
    Ross recently posted..Sand in Black & White

  2. On May 11, 2014 at 4:52 pm janice said:

    I also played “Lock Each Other in the Chicken House” when I was a kid except it was more like “Lock Everyone Else Out of the House” because sometimes a kid needs her alone time, ya know? WHEE!
    janice recently posted..Passwords

  3. On May 11, 2014 at 9:54 pm Priya said:

    Your envelope full of money is on it’s way. It will arrive in approximately 5-7 years. You’re welcome.
    Priya recently posted..You Fight

  4. On May 12, 2014 at 2:55 pm Nat said:

    Your mom sounds awesome!

  5. On May 12, 2014 at 3:58 pm Pauline said:

    I love this! I laughed so hard reading #8! My mom taught me that it’s okay to “waste” your money every once in a while – Oh, you want to buy those senseless flip-flop that makes it feel like you’re walking straight on the asphalt? GO FOR IT! Did your mom do this? Mine seemed to think that would teach me a better lesson than her words could!

    I hope you and your mom had a beautiful weekend, Sally!
    Pauline recently posted..Pacific Northwest: the Highlights!

  6. On May 12, 2014 at 4:05 pm Carol Berthelsen said:

    Best tribute to a mother ever! haha Love it even more knowing that I’m related to her. 🙂

  7. On May 12, 2014 at 8:06 pm Leslie in Portland, Oregon said:

    Your mom is awesome! Thanks for writing about her.

    My mom, who died 29 years ago, showed me what it means to be a good person. I wish that I had paid better attention.

    • On May 14, 2014 at 8:10 pm Sally said:

      Aww, yeah, there’s lots of lessons I wish I had paid more attention to, as well. Like how to sew. And bake. And not be a selfish person. But at least I know how to milk a goat…. kind of!

  8. On May 12, 2014 at 10:42 pm Sine said:

    I love this. The perfect mother’s day gift. And the perfect blog post for mother’s day. I wish I had thought of that while my mother was still alive. But I guess they were only starting to have blogs then.
    Your mom sounds like an amazing woman. Well, duh, she’s a mother after all. Comes with the territory. Still, I wish I had one who’d have helped me move 7 times (across continents) and put up shelves for me!
    Sine recently posted..How to Translate a Book

    • On May 14, 2014 at 8:09 pm Sally said:

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’d still be sitting on a yoga mat eating off a Rubbermaid bin if my mom hadn’t come and sorted out my apartment! That’s at least one reason it’s good to be back in the States! Mom’s always a minivan-full-of-furniture drive away!

  9. On May 12, 2014 at 11:42 pm Ruth said:

    Yay Mom! She is very proud of you!

    And I just have to say, because I was an editor for La Leche League when I lived in China, that it’s udder, not utter.

    And if you’re clever enough to understand the significance thereof, then Yay!

    Cheers from Ruth in Victoria BC Canada.

  10. On May 13, 2014 at 4:03 am Nick @ theboywander said:

    This is a really beautiful article and made me think of all the things my mum has done for me too!
    Nick @ theboywander recently posted..Walking with jaguars.

  11. On May 14, 2014 at 12:11 pm Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    I’m still waiting on that unicorn I ordered for you. I’m hoping it’ll be here by this Christmas. I’ll hold off on the envelope full of money, just in case it arrives.

    Oh, and this post literally made me laugh out loud. Especially the yelling at you/the TV. But it’s totally justified because SALLY JESSE RAPHAEL IS ALWAYS RIGHT, GODDAMMIT.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Teaching In Taiwan vs Teaching In South Korea

  12. On May 21, 2014 at 8:07 pm Rachael said:

    My Mom taught me that if you are stupid enough to turn the beaters on before putting them in the cake mix, make sure to clean the ceiling before your Mom comes home.

  13. On May 24, 2014 at 11:06 pm Ceri said:

    I love this. This is real – It really describes the type of amazing woman your mother is and how she impacted your life. 😀 I knew she must be fabulous if she’s *your* mother.
    Ceri recently posted..When Teachers Beat Their Students


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