Angel here and today would have been my precious momma's 80th birthday.  As she celebrates her big milestone in heaven I'd love to share words of wisdom she left me here on earth.

Jean Stephanie Ballard was born, September 20, 1941, in New York.  To know my momma was to love her.  You could meet her in the aisle at Big Lots or a thrift store and become best friends after a 20-minute conversation.  She had a way about her she made you feel loved, welcomed, accepted.  Possibly because she was never made to feel those things growing up.  She wanted to make sure others left her better than before.

I remember her telling me at a very young age "be kind to every single person you meet and make them feel like they are the only person in the world when you're with them because you have no idea what battles they face."  Being so young I had didn't know the battles my own mother faced.  She was a single mom, worked three jobs to make ends meet, and constantly struggled.

My momma made "The Struggle" look easy.  She always had a smile on her face and when I did see her cry she always found a way to look for the positive.  She would tell me "we're gonna make, we don't have any other choice."  I always believed her.  And we always did.  At 29 I found myself single and raising two little boys.  I clung to those words and the memories I had of witnessing my momma take on the world her hand in mine.

Momma always made sure I knew she loved me. I mean I knew but she made absolute, positive sure there was never any doubt. She'd call me 10 times a day at work to tell me.  Leave me notes in the morning and she always kissed me goodnight.  She'd say "never go to bed mad at the person you love and always make sure you never miss a chance to say I Love You."  I find myself doing that a lot to my family (especially my kids) and friends. I say it so much so it may be awkward but it's a part of momma in me.

My education always seemed to be extremely important to her.  She wasn't the kind of parent that checked my homework or stood over my shoulder.  She would help me study for a test and give me cash for good grades but she always impressed upon me "Angel get your education no matter what you do in life, it is something no one can ever take away from you."  She was right.  I have been able to support my family because I stayed in school.

We prayed a lot and I mean A LOT.  It was the one thing she repeated over and over.  You pray, give it to God, and know he will handle it.  He did.  He has. He will.  When my momma passed she was found with her bible opened to Psalms 23 and it was highlighted.  You can't make this stuff up.  She held on to Jesus until the very end.  It gives me comfort knowing where she is and where I'm going.

While my faith is the absolute most important thing she ever taught her example spoke the loudest.  Momma loved people.  She would literally give the shirt off her back (I literally saw her take her coat off one time and give it to a lady) without a thought.  She told me "when you get older and can help others as they have helped us, do that."  

Of course, one of her best tidbits of wisdom is "always shop the clearance rack first!"  And to this day I always do.

Her home was always open to everyone.  I remember coming home in high school and college and my friends would be sitting with momma.  They would come out to get advice or a hug or just sit and talk.  They called her "Momma Jean."  She would say "what is mine is yours" and she meant it.

At 62 she almost died from a brain aneurysm.  She had to stay in the hospital for two months.  She ended up on the rehab floor for a month.  They had to shave her head, she had gorgeous black curly hair.  I cried and she told me "sweetheart my beauty is not in my hair or looks, those things go away, my beauty is in my heart and who holds it."  During her stay, she was named Valentine Queen of the rehab floor.  She wore that crown better than any Miss America I have ever laid eyes on.

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My mother taught me how to be a mom.  She made me her life.  She sacrificed it all for me.  And she was tough as nails.  When I was younger and people would say "you look like your mom or you remind me of your mom" I would roll my eyes.  Now when I hear it, I swell with pride even being compared to her.  She was a very special lady.  Teens if you are reading this spend time with your parents.  I wish I would have spent more time with my momma instead of being busy all the time.

Her memory lives on in all of our family.  I see her spunk in Charlotte.  I see her determination and drive in Parker.  I watch her humor and hilarity in Braden.  And Tucker is as ornery as she ever was.  I'm thankful God chose her to be my mother.

In the world, we live in I often look back on the time I had with my mother and it allows me to guide my own children past the crazy chaos we all face.  She was wise beyond her years and she knew what was coming.

As I smile and think of the celebration being had in heaven I can't help but think I know it is fit for the queen she was, is and ever will be.  Momma, I miss you like crazy and cannot wait to see you again one day.  Until then I'll keep passing on your wisdom.

SIDE NOTE:  Momma loved her animals.  She always told me  "talk to your animals, they understand and they will love you when the rest of the world fails."  She treated her dogs like people and I find myself doing the same thing to ours now and I really think they do.  They are so very loyal.

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