Advice on Living from My Very Different Parents

My parents were very different people. My dad was down to earth; my mother was an intellectual. Their imparted wisdom influences me every day of my life. Here are the primary messages I learned from them either directly through their words or indirectly through their actions.

My father:

1) Care about people and they will care about you.
2) Make friends one person at a time, which means individual relationships are more meaningful than group relationships.
3) Family is central.
4) Don’t take yourself too seriously.
5) If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.
6) Be transparent and people will respect that.
7) Be able to make fun of yourself.
8) Take chances in life.
9) Tell those you love that you love them daily.
10) Be actively involved in your community to make it a better place.
11) Enjoy good food.
12) Have fun.
13) Enjoy the outdoors.
14) Get plenty of sleep.
15) Wash dishes as you use them, and they will never stack up.
16) Keep your surroundings tidy.
17) Dress well.
18) Include a few adventures in your life.
19) Laugh a lot.
20) Make and keep friends for a lifetime.

My mother:
1) People will disappoint you sometimes. Consequently, it’s best to have something besides people to love, a passion that will sustain you in good times and bad.
2) A belief in God can add depth and meaning to your life.
3) Reading will open up your world no matter where you are.
4) Dare to live aside the boundaries and make your own rules for your life.
5) Sexual sins are minor ones; pride and envy are the ones to watch out for.
6) Higher education can open up opportunities for a more fulfilling life.
7) March to your own drum.
8) Get out into the world and experience it fully.
9) If you don’t understand something, get books and learn about it.
10) Women need to be equal partners with men in relationships.
11) Don’t let ignorance (yours or others) influence decisions. Learn, learn, learn.
12) Don’t be so loose that your brain falls out.
13) Keep stretching yourself intellectually every day of your life.
14) Have engaging and fun hobbies that require you to use your brain.
15) Never allow others to define you. Define yourself.
16) Live in a home you find beautiful.
17) Make prayer part of your life.
18) Religion needs to be inclusive, not exclusive.
19) Understand the difference between primary, secondary, and tertiary relationships, and never confuse a secondary or tertiary for a primary one.
20) Accept that in your life you’ll only have a handful of people who really “get” you and that’s okay.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Sarah Fine says:

    Wow! Your parents both had amazing advice. My favorite is the reassurance that only a handful of people (even one is enough) will really ” get you”. Thanks for sharing! And for the gluten free dairy free cookie recipe. My new daughter in law has those dietary restrictions. Have a great day!

    1. Thanks, Sarah. Yes, that advice from Mom that only a handful of people will really “get you,” and all you really need is one has served me well over my life. Very happy also that the gluten-free recipe was helpful. Those cookies are easy and tasty!

  2. Judy Alter says:

    Len, your mom’s advice about sexual sins being little, and pride and envy being the ones you want to watch out for is spot on in this day of white Christian nationalism. I want to cross-stitch it for people like Ron DeSantis. Both sets of advice are interesting and good guides, but I can sure see they come from different personalities!

  3. Thanks, Judy, for tuning into the sexual sins advice. My mother was an informal Christian scholar – read everything related to Christianity – and she brought that wisdom to every conversation. She and my Dad were worlds apart before it was over. They loved each other but left one another emotionally once she started working on a PhD. After he died, she spent her final 29 years with a fellow student in graduate school, a woman.

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