My mother taught me to cry with dignity.

She taught me how to be strong in a man's world and yet, at the same time, to cling to that which makes me most feminine.

She taught me the value of a well-timed, passionate rage and the beauty of a fluttered eyelash.

She taught me how to walk with my shoulders back and my head up, at all times, and in all circumstances, even the ones that want to swallow me whole.

My mother taught me how to make hospital corners.

My mother pointed out spring bulbs as they pushed their way through the last of Michigan's harsh snows; every year she did that, and now I know their names like they are my own children: daffodil, iris, tulip, hyacinth...My garden has her to thank.

My mother taught me that the bathtub is really a sanctuary of warmth and sweet-scented bubbles to be enjoyed privately and often and for hours at a time.

My mother taught me to make love to myself first, and that way I would always have enough to share.

She taught me how to throw a perfectly spiraled football - better than most men I know.

She showed me how to cook without measuring, and to love the same way that I cooked.

She showed me how to laugh with my whole body.

My mother showed me that grown-ups make mistakes, too.

And my mother, bless her, taught me to listen to my heart and to my mind and to find the narrow space of truth that lies between the two.

My mother taught me how to use power tools, hang pictures, make potato soup and rhubarb pie, hold a crying baby, sing without fear, dance without shame, decorate like a cross between a Victorian lady and a wanton gypsy with a dash of magpie thrown in for good measure and end up with a beautiful and eclectic nest, and how to tell when the cookies are done by smell instead of a ding. That is how I learned what brown smelled like. She taught me how to harness domestic synaesthesia and make edible beauty. Colors, flavors, textures, smells, nuance and vapor. Cookbooks became grimoires, wooden spoons became wands, soup kettles became cauldrons, and my mother taught me magic.

She taught me to let the laundry sit and watch Masterpiece Theater instead, it's not going anywhere anyway and this week it's Lorna Doone, besides, tomorrow is another day. She taught me that the first step to changing your life is to dream a new future for yourself to take the place of the one you can see you've got. If you can imagine it, you can do it. She taught me that life really is that simple. Also, she taught me how to rewire a lamp, strip furniture, and renew wood with Danish oil.

She tried to teach me embroidery but I was ornery about it so I had to figure it out myself later, which is basically what happens when you ignore what your mother is trying to teach you.

My mother taught me that men are basically exasperating so what you do is breathe deep and maybe go for a walk, but never settle ever never ever no matter what. She dated a handsome rich boy when she was younger and his family had a plane, which was pretty amazing for a girl who grew up in Ohio country, but she still left him just because she thought he was kind of a jerk. I'm glad because I love my dad and she's glad because they've been happily married for 35 years. So there you go. Also, how to make chicken stock clear and strong, plant a garden, heal a burn, bake dill bread, and to be kind to strangers always even if you're having a bad day.

My mother taught me that the best presents are the ones you're not expecting. Also, that sometimes you just need to go to bed and read a book.

She taught me to sew, which I'm not good at, and how to paint a room, which I am good at. She accidentally taught me to throw my arm over my passenger to protect them when I have to come to a sudden stop while driving, which mostly freaks people out. Also, how to make unbelievable long-jumps to conclusions, the kinds that would win gold medals if there was a non sequitur Olympics.

My mother taught me that love is more powerful than fear, anger, depression, nightmares, the IRS, sickness, death, and math homework. She taught me that love is a long enough lever to change the world.

She does it all the time.

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