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Family Matters

Lessons from Mom

May 1st, 2015

By Sheena Johnson

Having the opportunity to talk about my mom to readers who will likely relate, and could possibly be positively impacted by, fills my heart with happiness and invites a new phase of healing into my life. I have always looked back in admiration and awe of her energy, thoughtfulness, and resourcefulness, and as the years add up since the last time I was with her, I notice more and appreciate her in new ways. I'm grateful to be able to honour her life by sharing it with others.

She was a normal woman who loved and worked endlessly for her family, friends and community. She stood up for what she believed to be right. She laughed and she cried and she loved a cold beer. She rarely said no when asked to help, and she put time and effort into wholesome living, before it was trendy to do so. She also had her faults, which only ended up serving us all even more.

There are countless lessons I take from my mom’s 39 years on Earth. Those lessons have kind of evolved and have certainly shaped the life I have lived since losing her. But now that I'm the mom of two feisty, spirited girls (like there was any doubt these were the souls meant to spend this life with me), I am often reaching back to my earliest memories to find her examples of how to handle the many situations that arise, when a mom needs support and guidance the most.

A million times I have longed for the wisdom of my mom. Sick babies, broken arms, trying to achieve balance between home and business…. certainly no less than a million times I have missed her presence. But strangely as it turns out, she has always been here, tucked away within my memories and experiences. Suddenly now, though, I recognize the look on her face, the tone of her voice, and occasionally the sarcasm and adult-only humour in those memories, which is the way she brings a smile to my face. Things I would never have picked up on as a kid, I can laugh now knowing what was likely going through her mind.

I can’t deny to you all that I am guilty of yelling… often… at a six-year-old who refuses to agree with anything I say, ever. In overwhelming aggravation I reach to the sky screaming “WHY?!!???!!” (Drama runs in the family) and I know without even a second’s passing that my mom is loving every minute of it. Because I was that six-year-old. That’s part of my pain. I butt heads with my oldest constantly, and in her words I hear the same things I would have said to my mom. But I’m not six anymore, so my blood pressure elevates, the evil element of time ticks by suddenly faster because I have five places to be right now, and my temper gets the better of me, and I’m yelling. Sometimes throwing things across the room. But my mom’s lessons are there, reminding me there are better ways to handle it. Plus, obviously, I would give anything to have mom here, scolding ME when I make the wrong choice. Again I’m reminded that I’m right here, right now, with a heart bursting with love for this little… err...girl…. so I take a deep breath, centre myself, close her door, and come back in a few minutes when things are calmed down. Small successes, experienced with my mom right beside me, even though I can’t hear her words of be comforted by her hug. She too was a yeller. And I got yelled at a lot. The threats of the wooden spoon came to reality on my rear end every now and again too. I wish I could say I was strong enough to end this style of parenting, because I can’t say I always agree with it, but I think I am getting better. I know she coaches and guides me, often with humour, as was the way she lived her life.

Another time I feel her close is when I’m standing in the living room, cold coffee in my mug, feeling utter shame and hopelessness at the state of our home. Wrinkled laundry in baskets. Dishes piled in the sink and on the counters. Toys and crafts and crap EVERYWHERE. I just want to close my eyes and make it all go away.

Then I think of Mom, who spent every extra second she had desperately trying to keep up at home. She spent countless hours yelling at her kids for help. I know that would be one of the first things she would change if she could go back. For her sake, and for ours. I’m very good at becoming overwhelmed and often I feel like I’m walking the fine line of sanity, but I again I draw from her example and try very hard to just do what I can do. More importantly, I am getting better at asking (slash demanding) that my family help out. My mom took on all the responsibility of the home, the finances, the kids, and didn’t request help in any way. She should have. It shouldn’t have been so hard for her. My dad still comments on how we kids would not be tucked into bed for 15 minutes and Mom was already fast asleep on the couch. She filled every single minute of her day, and then finally when the house was quiet and she had time for herself, she couldn’t stay awake to enjoy it.

Let’s be reminded of her reality: her life was cut short exactly 2 weeks after her 39th birthday. She was ripped off. Should she have spent a little more time feeling content and blessed and proud of her achievements? Yup. She sure deserved a lot more than she got (catching my bitterness?). But her life was not in vain: she refocuses my attention on the important things, and she reminds me of what she lost and what I still have every day. I have a house full of crap just like she did. But I have two beautiful babies who would way rather get outside with me than pick up toys, and I know she expects me to make a better choice.

One of the most important lessons she taught was about money. Our mom was very cautious with finances. We didn’t have a lot. But she made responsible choices and we never went without. Very early on she expected us helping with household chores every Saturday morning. Ooooh, the dreaded Job Jar. Pick 3 tags out of the jar, and those are your morning chores. Nothing else was done before those three things. Later, we were given $2 each. Then she took us to the local convenience store, and while we went in with the $1 we were allowed to spend (half was always put in our piggy banks), she sat in the car and waited. She never came in to help us figure out how to spend it. It was our choice, and if we needed help with money we were to ask the person working. We had to choose between one or two more expensive things, or a bag full of 5 cent candies. It’s amazing what that Saturday ritual did for our future. She gave us confidence, she gave us independence, she made us entrepreneurs. You can be sure we are doing the same with our girls.

The lessons are endless. I’m grateful for them. I’m a better wife, mom, sister, friend, dog/home/business owner, and community member because of her. Her blood runs through our veins and she is more a part of our everyday lives than I ever dreamed she would be. I haven’t forgotten, like I was scared I would. I still miss her every day, but my memories offer comfort through my tears on tough days. My girls know her because of who I am, and they will grow into amazing young women, because of her influences. Her legacy lives on, and we are so lucky to be the ones sharing it with the world!

Sheena is part-owner of The Bra Lounge. For more information visit

Tags: advice, Moms

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