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Most of my heroes are mothers.

First and foremost, my own. I could spend pages telling of some of her heroic triumphs—like the year she broke her back—or the month she had a daughter get married, a son go on a mission, and another daughter compete in (and win) the Miss Pocatello Pageant (there were other such months)—or the time all her children got the chicken-pox and she bed down five of them (those that usually slept in the basement) on the living room floor (we called it her hospital ward) and nursed us 24-7 until we were better (repeat with mumps). However, I remember best the day to day preparing meals, sewing dresses for her seven daughters, laughing at her sons’ antics and rocking babies in the upholstered rocker. And through it, she became one of my heroes. Sometimes when I am rocking my granddaughter, I sing “I’m a lonely little petunia in an onion patch,” in tribute to my mother who probably didn’t even know.

Next, my mother-in-law, who has endured multiple car accidents leaving her with scars, trouble with an ankle and other effects, decades with a challenging health condition, and now severe osteoporosis. Yet she does not complain about her health or the frailty of her body. She always thinks of others. The family joke is that after a meal if a child would ask, “Is there more dessert?” she’d very sweetly reply, “Sure, I didn’t want mine anyway.” My granddaughter, on our last visit, stood at her chair side, with her small hands on the arm of the recliner, and they “visited.” She felt totally loved and safe.

And my sisters: Terry, Cathy, Tami, Amy, Marilee, Nanette, and Shirley with a combined total of 43 children. And Jana, who is like a mother (seriously the favorite aunt) to all of them. These women, with their individual challenges, heartaches, and joys are each my heroes. I love and look up to them so much.

Finally, my daughter, who I admire and am tremendously thankful to have in my life. Each day she makes the hard choices of being a mother. She is talented, strong, intelligent, successful, beautiful and loves deeply. She is becoming, each day, a hero her own daughter can learn from. I love you always.

Mothers do not punch a time card or retire. They do not receive a handbook of instructions or a degree after years of hands-on learning. They influence lives and shape the future, one story at a time, one band-aid at a time, and one child at a time. Tell your mother why she is your hero.