by DiAnna Michel

My mom always led me by example. She was able to take charge and put plans into motion, and was courageous and assertive. The values she instilled in me started me on a journey that continues through today. As a female leader I find myself reflecting back on lessons learned from the first female leader in my life, my mother. So for Women’s History Month I would like to share with you 10 Things I learned from my Mom:

  • Hard Work and Shopping are good for the soul. And sometimes, shopping can be hard work

My mom was one of the hardest workers I knew. She cleaned houses for more than 18 years, held part-time jobs, worked nights and evenings, raised 4 kids and managed our household, helped us with our paper routes, volunteered at school, you name it. She also enjoyed taking me shopping – but taught me from an early age that shopping takes work – coupons, sale & clearance racks, flea markets, craft shows and, once a year, getting up at the crack of dawn to go Black Friday shopping with the rest of the crazy people – but making sure we were done by noon so she could get back to work, cleaning someone’s house.

  • The importance of knowing the hours of your local bank

1987 – Mom and Dad were leaving on a European vacation to visit my brother who was stationed in Germany in the service, the biggest trip of their lives. Mom had everything together, ready to go – itineraries, plane tickets, passports, and placed it all in the safety deposit box at our local bank. However, the evening before they were to depart, mom realized that they would need to leave for the airport much earlier than the bank opened… luckily, living in a very small town and cleaning houses for almost everyone she knew paid off. She was able to make a phone call and get the bank president to open the bank and let her get into the safety deposit box after hours. Pretty sure I could not do that at my local bank today.

  • Do not be afraid of the sewing machine

I was in 4-H and signed up for sewing. I had to make an outfit that I would wear and model for judges at the county fair. I was so afraid of the sewing machine – you would push the pedal and it would move so fast and I would scream and jump and mom would just laugh. So being the wonderful person that she was, she sewed my whole outfit then gave me a crash course on what to tell the judges and how to answer the questions as we drove to the fair. Today, I have another one of her sewing machines in my basement, luckily I have gotten a little better at it and don’t scream as loud when I hit the pedal.

  • Keep your ears open so you can turn the TV off before your dad gets in the house

As young kids, my brothers and I would always ask to watch TV after school and mom would say yes – but she taught us that in order to keep the peace, we needed to keep our eyes and ears open – as soon as we heard dad’s car pull in the driveway from work, we had to jump up, turn off the TV and pretend we were doing our homework. Oh, if only we had DVR back then.

  • Camping can be fun. Making taffy when you are camping can be dangerous for your teeth

I was a Boy Scout before I was a Girl Scout. From as long as I can remember my mom was a scout leader, first for my brother’s in Cub Scouts and then me in Girl Scouts. She loved the camping trips and worked her hardest to make them fun, interactive and memorable. One Girl Scout camping trip she decided to teach us all how to make hand pulled taffy. It was sweet, it was sticky and it was dangerous… the first piece I tried ripped my braces right off my teeth.

  • Find a good hiding spot for your Christmas gifts – just remember where you put them

Mom liked to start her Christmas shopping early in the year and then hide things around the house until it was closer to time. One year, back in the 80’s when sticker books were all the rage, she bought me a huge box of stickers for Christmas. She was so excited to give them to me. Christmas day came and went and no stickers. She could not remember where she had put them. Early January, when we finally took down the Christmas decorations we came across a strange box, beautifully wrapped and hidden under the stand that our Christmas tree sat on… there were the stickers. I was still excited to get them, but man did it drive mom crazy for those few weeks when she couldn’t find them.

  • In a pinch, ziplock bags can double as snow boots

When my mom and dad first moved near me to Columbus and started watching the kids for us, there was a day in early December that I dropped the girls off before work and failed to bring snow boots, hats and gloves. And of course… it snowed. The girls wanted to play in the snow and Grandma was not one to deny them, so she improvised. She put Ziploc bags over the girls shoes, a rubber band around the ankle to hold them on, and outside they went to build the first snowman of the season.

  • Complaining gets you nowhere – accept the circumstances and do something about it

My mom would never complain. About anything. Whether she had too much to do, or it was freezing outside, or the car broke down, or she had a cold, or she was diagnosed with an awful disease… she didn’t complain. She smiled her wonderful smile and dealt with it.

  • No matter what you do or where you go – make sure you have friends beside you

One of the best and most important pieces of advice my mom gave me and continued to stress throughout my life, was to make sure to surround myself with friends.  She always told me – your spouse will be your best friend but they should not be your only friend. Us girls need to stick together – you need people to lean on, to do things with, to laugh with and to cry with. She was right, I am so grateful I heeded her advice and find myself surround by so many friends.

  • There is never enough time to do everything you want to do – so do what you can, when you can

My mom’s basement is stacked to the ceiling with photos, scrapbooking and craft supplies, kids toys, a treadmill, you name it. She always had the best intentions. One day she would set up the treadmill in front of the TV and exercise through her favorite show. One day she would put all of the photos in scrapbooks. One day she would make crafts and travel the craft show circuit and sell her wares… and then one day… she was told she had ALS and all of a sudden, even the best of intentions, seemed fruitless. After my mom’s diagnosis, we asked her what she wanted to do, what was on her bucket list. I was expecting things like go on a Disney Cruise, have a wonderful steak dinner, visit Europe again, but no, not mom. Aside from wishing and hoping she could make it through the holidays, the one thing on her bucket list was to get all the photos in scrapbooks. We started on the books, pulling all the stuff together and going through photos, but time started running so fast and there were just not enough days. It is something we will keep working on – to do what we can, when we can because you never know if there will be “one more day”.

Sometimes subtly, sometimes more obviously, the lessons and values we gain from our mothers propel us forward in our lives. Our mothers are the first examples we have as women of how to lead. I am forever grateful for the things my mom taught me, and the road map she provided me to complete my own journey.