This is Part II in a four-part post. Read lesson I here.
“Mom, it’s like, a thousand dollars for an exterminator. We’re going to have to wash everything we own. And Michelle said that when she had them, they did seventy loads of laundry. And—“
It was my second night in DC. My. Second. Night. The day before, I drove a uHaul from Boston, MA, through Providence, Hartford, NYC, and Baltimore before finally landing in DC. Seventy percent of my belongings were still in boxes. Totes were piled five feet high in the kitchen. The arrangement of my living room furniture was heinous.
It was my second night in DC, and we had bed bugs.
I could hear my roommate crying on the phone to her parents in the next room. Without hearing a word of their conversation, I can promise you there was zero overlap to what her parents told her, and what my mom told me:
“Kara, you can do this on your own. You do not need to throw out your mattress. You do not need to hire help. You can do this on your own.”
And that is exactly what I did. The next morning, I bought one hundred garbage bags, two gallons of detergent, and transferred $200 into quarters. I called my college roommate Michelle, and did everything she told me. Then I went back to the same uHaul I visited just forty-eight hours earlier, rented a van, and drove everything my roommate and I owned to the laundry mat.
We dried, washed, and re-dried eighty loads of laundry for eleven hours straight.
Because of my mom, I never feared I couldn’t handle something.
When I was in college, I was talking on the phone with my mom when she said, “Kara, that’s what I love most about you. You’re not afraid of anything.” To this day, it is the best compliment anyone has ever given me. I scribbled it on my bedroom mirror (it’s still there), so every day I can look at it and be reminded of the strong, independent, fearless person inside me.
And that show-no-fear, you-can-do-this-on-your-own person, all came from her.
My mom will never hand-off a task she can do herself.
My mom grew up on a farm in the middle of Point Nowhere, Iowa. Every kid in that community did chores before or after school, but as one of my mom’s childhood friends once told me, “No one worked harder than the Amundson girls.”
In the Glossary According to Ardel McCartney, there is no such thing as grunt work. There is only work that needs to be done. If that work is placed in front of her, she will do it. To this day, I’ve never seen my mom hand a task off to someone else. As the athletic director of my high school, she was never above sweeping gym floors, driving kids to practice (kids with absolutely zero blood relation, mind you), or even washing uniforms.
Intentional or not, my mom raised me to be equally self-reliant.
To her friend’s complete and utter horror, she put me on a airplane—alone—when I was six. She didn’t blink when I told her it was “pointless” to come to town when I had surgery on my foot in college. And when I made the seventeen-hour drive from Des Moines to DC, she said, “Drive safe!” as I made the solo trip.
My mom never taught me to feel sorry for myself.
She didn’t try to shield me from the unknown. To her, it was, “If no options present themselves, find another. If you dig yourself a hole, crawl on your hands and knees until you get back out.” Calling my mom was never about finding sympathy—it was about finding solutions.
And I thank God for that.
Where I come from, it’s not common to move far away from home and see your family every six months. In the past five years, I moved to three different cities where I knew no one when I arrived. Four times, I drove a moving truck across state lines with no one in the passenger seat. And my mom—someone who lives three miles from her childhood home—is the reason I knew I could do it.
Because each and every time, I repeat in my head, “You can do this on your own.”