In honor of my mom’s birthday today, I would like to list five things she told me that I used to blow off but now think were good pieces of advice. This kind of thinking happens as you become an adult; you get some distance and realize that your parents were not completely right, then completely wrong. Some of the stuff they knew was from VALID SYNTHESIZED EXPERIENCE. I’m just glad Oprah wasn’t my mom because she’s so damn smug. I’d be compelled to do everything the opposite of what she said. I’d be out there beating up Rhianna and never starting a school for underprivileged anyones and I’d be able to maintain a healthy weight by eating right and exercising. F U, Mom Oprah.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Mom, here’s your life validating moment, courtesy Diarrhea Island. Aren’t you proud?

1. Cold? Put on a hat and socks. Growing up in Wisconsin, you get cold a lot. Starting in September, my town would apparently be renamed “Goddamn Siberia” by my father and would remain so until about May, when he would start calling it “Shitville.” In the Goddamn Siberia months, I would complain terribly about the house being cold, walking around in a t-shirt and maybe pants, maybe not. I would turn up the furnace and then my dad would yell, “YOU THINK WE’RE MADE OF MONEY? TURN THAT DOWN!” and my mom would tell me that body heat is lost first through the extremities. I would frown horribly at everyone and think, “I SHOULD HAVE TO WEAR A HAT AND SOCKS IN THE HOUSE? COME ON!” But mom was right. You do feel significantly warmer if you cover your head and feet. I say this now as it’s 24 degrees outside today, I have on no hat or socks and I am sneezing.

2. Don’t drink and drive. I solved this problem completely by waiting until I was in my 30s to get my driver’s license and had little interest in alcohol.

3. Natural whole foods are better for you. In the ‘60s and early ‘70s, my mom really got into growing vegetables in our big garden in the front yard, and the books of nutritionist Adelle Davis. Oh, did I give her crap for this. For one, I hated all vegetables except corn and potatoes and peas. Rutabagas? Beets? Sprouts??? Get out of here! Secondly, I hated weeding that garden, a miserable endless backbreaking dirty task, fully on view to all those driving by on the busy road in front of our house. I think I heard HA HA! shouted at me more than a few times. And finally, Ms. Davis did not believe in food additives or colorings or unnatural anything, which totally discounted CANDY, so she SUCKED. When she died of cancer in 1974, I went up to my mom and said, “HA HA! LOOKS LIKE SHE WAS WRONG!” and my mom said, well, maybe so, maybe so. But she wasn’t. The crap we eat from the supermarket is a horror show and it does affect us. This is why we have 8-year-old girls getting their periods, 200-lb. Kindergartners on Maury, and everyone has cancer of the everything all the time. Garbage in, garbage out is true true true. I still despise the idea of weeding, though.

4. Education is a gift. I also despised school, so I was just completely skeptical when my mom would tell the story of how at 17 she left home to go to college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and how thrilled she was. Not happy, not pleased – thrilled. Her parents thought educating girls was a total waste of time and were actively hostile towards her plan, but she did it anyway, and paid for it by working two or three jobs while going to school full-time. I thought this was madness and couldn’t understand her hunger for knowledge, her need to get that degree, that anyone would work so hard to listen to some drone in a lecture hall. But once again – and it took me a long time to get this, too – she was completely right. Having access to information and the experiences and knowledge of others broadens your world immensely when you are actively engaged in learning and sorting it out through your own skill set. Watching the news and the History Channel is not the same. Listening to and interacting with lots of people who are all learning and thinking and reaching is stimulating, and changes you in unique ways. It is a gift, and as it is said, no one can ever take it away from you.

5. Manners are important. Oh my gawd, there were so many little things to remember to do – hold the door for people, put your napkin in your lap, don’t burp, say please and thank you and you’re welcome and excuse me, don’t chew your mouth open, don’t speak with your mouth full, don’t speak until spoken to, don’t fidget at the table, don’t talk at the movies, never fart anywhere, never say the word “fart,” rinse the soap off after you use it, rinse the tub out after you use it, put a new roll of toilet paper on the roller if it runs out, never ask people about money, politics, or God, pretend to pray at the dinner table even if you are an atheist, pretend to say the Pledge of Allegiance even if you don’t want to, don’t clank your silverware on your plate, take small bites of food, don’t reach for food at the table, don’t ever take the last serving of food, ask to be excused from the table…I could keep going on like this for a page or more. There were so many “don’ts” that I thought were stupid and repressive (that whole don’t speak until spoken to thing was SO not going to work for me). But for all that semi-neurotic instruction, I am better for it. Good manners make us more thoughtful and less ape-like. You get in the habit of thinking how your actions might impact someone else's experience, which is why now when I go to concerts I don’t stand up and dance in front of sitting people or throw up on them.

I hear myself passing these things on to my own kids. I am sure they think as I did, OH WHAT BILGE, but maybe it will sink in similarly over time. Note to my children: I’ll babysit my future grandkids, but I AIN’T GONNA WEED. Get out of here!