I hope I’ve done a good job preparing you for life on your own, but I know I’ve missed a lot. This isn’t going to make up for all those misses, but I still want to pass along a few things I think you need to know. Most of these, I’ve told you before, so just look at this as your “what was it mom used to say about. . .” refresher course.
And if all else fails, text me. In fact, feel free to text me even if all else isn’t failing. I like hearing from you.
1. When in doubt, wash clothes in cold water on the gentle cycle.
2. Treat people gently, too.
3. You also want cold water to get out blood and chocolate.
4. Speaking of chocolate, when you’re buying it, the following words are good: cocoa butter, cacao. The following words are bad: partially hydrogenated. Bad chocolate is sad, whereas good chocolate will change your life for the better.
5. Dish soap is great for dealing with that grease spot on your favorite t-shirt.
6. Hand sanitizer, meanwhile, is great for getting ink and Christmas tree sap off your hands. To say nothing of 99.9% of germs, even though I know that is not quite good enough for the germophobes among us. Youngest child, I’m looking at you.
7. Ironing is a pain. To de-wrinkle your clothes, just throw them in the dryer on medium setting with a damp washcloth for a few minutes, then take them out right away and give them a good shake. You can use the time while you’re waiting to text your mother.
8. If someday you’re trying to decide between buying a house with a clothesline and buying one without (and all other things are equal), pick the one with the clothesline. Sleeping on sheets that have been dried in fresh air and sunshine will automatically improve the quality of your life by about 50 percent.
9. As often as possible, try to “disrupt the world with grace” (Shane Claiborne).
10. Don’t be afraid of being a little nervous before you perform or do something else you don’t do every day. Your nerves are just telling you that you’re getting ready to do something amazing and out-of-the ordinary—which is why you don’t get nervous before you brush your teeth. Remember what Maria Shriver says, “Anxiety is just a glimpse of your own daring.” Dare to be daring.
11. Just because something is good to do doesn’t mean it’s good to do right now. A season for everything.
12. When buying lemons or limes or oranges or grapefruit, pick heavy over light. More weight means more juice. Which you want.
13. When you are tired, make yourself breathe deeply, drink more water, and get natural light into your eyes.
14. The best gifts show the person you’re giving them to that you’ve paid attention when that person has mentioned what they like and don’t like. Bonus points if those gifts don’t require maintenance, storage, dusting, or batteries.
15. “Right is right though all condemn, and wrong is wrong though all approve” (Charles Spurgeon). Or, put another way, right is right even if no one else is doing it, and wrong is wrong even if everyone else is doing it.
16. Who you are is not something you have to wait for someone to give you. Who you are right now is already a gift.
17. True friends know a lot about you and like you anyway. Look for this kind of friend. Be this kind of friend.
18. If you’re thinking something nice about someone, tell them. Don’t let the thought stay stuck in your head. The world needs more encouragers.
19. Life is not about perfection. It’s about process and progress.
20. When you’re overwhelmed, just do the (one) next right thing.
21 I like you. I love you. And being your mom is one of the greatest joys and privileges of my entire life.
Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two teenage daughters who regularly dispense love, affection, and brutally honest fashion advice. She writes about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by spending time on Facebook and Twitter.