July 28th is an important date. It’s the date my Grandmother Arky was born in Philadelphia in 1926.
It is also the date that her first born, my mother Donna, was born in West Philadelphia (born and raised, on the playgrounds where she spent most of her days) in 1951. The first grandchild on both sides of the 100% Italian families.
Those who know my mom and grandmom know that they’re always trying to instill knowledge for the younger generation. Whether it be how to not kill yourself accidentally, or how to seek out the best bargain, these ladies have wisdom. In honor of their birthday — I’m going to share some of that wisdom with you all.
In true 2015 form, I’ll keep in a list. 10 Things I’ve Learned from my mother, Donna Shuey:
- You can’t trust nobody these days! My great grandmother (Arky’s mother Frances), made it a point to remind all of us, that these were different times. You have to watch out for robbers, tricksters, and people who try to serve you NOT FRESH coffee. I often think about the span of their lifetime and all of the historical, cultural and technological changes they’ve lived through. She has been around for World War II, Woodstock, JFKs assassination, The Beatles, Atari. She’s watched overalls and jean jackets go in and out of fashion a few times. Even in our relatively short lifetime, we’ve gone through substantial development. We’ve gone through 5 presidents, been introduced to the internet, and watched as gay marriage was legalized in all states. I now look forward to the email chains I receive from Donna with regards to new methods of abduction with perfume samples in the parking lot, escaped local convicts and tornado watches (which I now take seriously after this summer). I also don’t mind getting tazers and pink portable pepper spray bottles in my Christmas stocking. Because I know bad things do happen to people, and I’m reducing my changes of them happening to me because my mom has prepared me for the worst case scenario. For that, I love her.
- Don’t take IB Profen on an empty stomach! If you do this, the medicine will eat a hole in your stomach and you will die. While I sometimes roll my eyes at her, she was an RN and taught nursing school, so I secretly and respectively obey, just in case.
- Don’t use your cruise control in the rain! I think I probably gave my parents 6 solid years of anxiety when I started driving. I crashed into 3 day old cars, was in a vehicle that flipped outside of Scranton PA, crashed into the Hershey’s Mill sign around Christmas in a snow storm in my friend Lisa’s car, and hydroplaned/spun off Route 42 on the way back from Atlantic City one summer. I am now more afraid to drive in the rain, than I am in the snow. So, hopefully if you didn’t know this already, driving in the rain on cruise control is not a good idea. The reason behind this is because cruise control’s job is to make sure you stay at the same speed (NO MATTER WHAT). So imagine hydroplaning, and your car is like, stop slowing down, you told me stay at 60 MPH so let’s do this. Be safe!
- Don’t buy ANYTHING without doing online research for 2 months prior! And then even then, you’ll likely find a better deal after you purchase it, so keep that receipt or be prepared to hate yourself. Everyone knows Donna worked at QVC for 13 years and now has a lifetime discount. She loves good jewelry, a good gadget, and a good bargain. She had the selfie stick 2 years before it was all the rage, and the entire extended family depends on her for present ideas. If you don’t check with her before making a major purchase decision, you will regret it. She will say “oh that’s super nice, I bet QVC sells it for cheaper.” So save yourself the post-purchase dissonance and just ask mama D before you press submit order.
- Don’t point out that flaw, they probably know it’s there! In line at the post office as a child, I noticed a woman with a mustache. I stared and stared at her and finally turned to my mom and said, “that lady has a mustache.” On this day, I learned a serious life lesson. Don’t point out physical differences or “flaws” on others, because it’s likely something the person already knows exists. From that day forward, I made a point to look past any differences, because the person probably does enough self-analysis and self-depricating evaluations of themselves. And if they don’t, then good for them! Who am I to bring attention to it?
- Be generous and be kind! My friend Gillian Ryan loves to tell the story of how we met when she first moved to West Chester. We were on the bus, and I was nice to her and immediately asked her to hang out some time. I remembered being “the new girl” a few years back, and how uncomfortable and awkward it was, so I wanted to eliminate that for her. She thought I was weird, but came around a week later, and we’ve been friends for nearly 20 years. My mom always instilled in me that being kind and generous would never come back to bite me in the bum. It started with my grandparents who would spend what little extra money they had buying toys for single parent families. My parents often find a Kmart or Walmart layaway with children’s clothing and pay it off anonymously at Christmas time, donate their time and earnings to various causes and I can’t wait to carry on these traditions when I have the means. Life is full of surprises and obstacles, so why not be nice to each other and give what we can to those who need it.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things outside of your comfort zone! My mom used to send me to camp when I was young. Neighbors would say “oh, who is Ashley going to camp with?” and my mom would say “with herself?” Because of these experiences, I feel so comfortable trying new things and thrive when meeting new people and having new experiences. I know I will make friends wherever I go, and make the best of any situation. I value new experiences and value continued learning. So, thanks ma.
- Have a good work ethic! I got a job when I was 15 years old at TCBY in the shopping center about a mile away from our house. I couldn’t WAIT to get a job. At an early age, I learned about sacrifice, money management, and work ethic. Since then, some of my best friends are people I’ve met at these various jobs. I take work seriously, and always try to excel and be the best. I attribute a lot of my successes to being exposed to the restaurant industry and work in general at an early age. Seeing how well respected my parents were in their positions, made me want to excel in any role.
- Laugh at yourself! Although my mom and I have a very different sense of humor, she always taught me to laugh it off. If someone is being mean to you, say “are you having a bad day?” and move on. 9 times out of 10 when you ask someone this, their response is “actually, yes, sorry, I am.” I recently found a card that said on the outside “Laughter is the best medicine” and on the inside it said “Unless you have diarrhea.” No truer words have ever been spoken.
- Travel! This is my most cherished lesson from my mom. Both her and my father were wonderful enough to expose me to a variety of places starting at a young age. We visited my god-parents in London when I was 12 and I was captivated by the history and scenery. We visited our friends in Texas for passover one year and learned about other religions and traditions. We visited Costa Rica when I was 15 and saw an impoverished country with happy people living with significantly less than what I had. Since then, traveling has been one of the true and purist joys of my life. I’ve now been to 14 different countries and learned so much about other people’s way of life! The world is a huge place and I can’t wait to see more of it.
Maybe you learned something by reading this blog, maybe you didn’t. Either way, it doesn’t really matter because it was for my mom.
Love you Donna! Happy birthday and thanks for being the best support system, caretaker, and cheerleader a girl could ask for!