Life Lessons My Aunt Taught Me That I Will Forever Live By

10 Important Life Lessons My Aunt Taught Me That I Will Forever Cherish And Live By

In life and in death, my aunt has taught me these valuable life lessons.


My Aunt MaryAnn was one of the absolute funniest, kindest, and most family-oriented people I've ever met. These are just a few of the things I have learned from her untimely passing and beautiful life.

1. Don't take things too seriously.

MaryAnn having just received the help of her two eldest grandsons in blowing out the candles on her birthday cake. She captioned this photo, "Oh my gosh, I love them! There was some serious spit on that cake, though (pretty much Ricky's)."

MaryAnn O'Shinski Goodwin - Facebook

Life throws all sorts of challenges our way every single day. It is important to not take everything too seriously and keep in mind the bigger picture of what really matters most as to channel your energy in constructive and positive ways.

2. Appreciate the little things in life.

MaryAnn and her dear father in-law, Hugh.

MaryAnn O'Shinski Goodwin - Facebook

Sometimes we get to caught up in focusing on the bigger picture that we fail to recognize and appreciate the little everyday blessings right before our eyes. The untimely passing of my Aunt MaryAnn has significantly increased my awareness of such everyday blessings that I have so easily taken for granted and made me have an increased appreciation for each and every one of them.

3. Never hesitate to have fun.

MaryAnn giving "bunny ears" to her otherwise unwitting daughter.

MaryAnn O"Shinksi Goodwin - Facebook

It's no secret that life is stressful and can be especially trying at times. Just the thought of my Aunt MaryAnn makes me smile and laugh because I am so lucky to know what an incredibly witty and undeniably hilarious personality she had, always bringing the life to every party and laughs that filled the air.

4. Take lots of photos.

MaryAnn and Jim. ~1973.

MaryAnn O'Shinski Goodwin - Facebook

One of the many things my Aunt MaryAnn and I had in common was our love for constantly (some might even say excessively) taking and sharing pictures of, and with, all of the people whom we feel so blessed to know and love. On her Facebook profile, you will find over one-hundred and fifty photo albums, the majority of which capture quality time spent with her family, immediate and extended. After her passing, it has come to my attention that out of the thousands of photos taken at our family events over my 20 years on this earth, I have not been able to find even one picture of me with my Aunt MaryAnn, whom I loved so dearly. MaryAnn was most often the one behind the camera at family gatherings, and while I very much appreciate all the quality moments she captured over the years, I so deeply wish it had crossed my mind to even pose for just one picture with her.

5. Stay humble.

MaryAnn, the epitome of a proud parent, at her youngest daughter's college graduation ceremony.

MaryAnn O'Shinksi Goodwin - Facebook

As a dear family member of MaryAnn's wrote of her after her passing, "MaryAnn was always smiling and humble, even when everyone knew she was the best!" This serves as a reminder for me to keep my feet on the ground, remember where I came from, and to keep an open heart and open mind at all times.

6. Be a kind person.

MaryAnn picking dandelions with one of her grandsons.

MaryAnn O"Shinksi Goodwin - Facebook

If I had to use one word to describe my Aunt MaryAnn, I would have to choose kind. MaryAnn was always looking at the bright side of things. If she knew you were upset in any way she always did anything and everything she could to try and help make you feel better.

7. Everyone needs help from time-to-time.

MaryAnn and her father, Willie. ~1966.

MaryAnn O'Shinski Goodwin - Facebook

I found out about the untimely passing of my Aunt MaryAnn through a phone call from my brother. At the time, I was an hour and a half away from the rest of my family and in my apartment all alone. I immediately broke down and cried, and cried, and cried. I have never experienced a loss that has had such a great effect on me as hers has. Even though I knew there was ultimately nothing that could be done to so that I may ever see her again, knowing that I have such a loving family and caring friends to help me when I was down, makes a world of difference. I have learned that it's okay to ask for help - everyone needs help from time-to-time.

8. Always show gratitude.

MaryAnn sharing a most sentimental moment with her daughter on her wedding day.

Monika Anderson Photography

While my mother was visiting MaryAnn in the hospital on her final day, she called me to tell me it wasn't looking good. I cried to her over the phone, begging her to go tell Aunt MaryAnn how much I loved her, but I would have given anything to have at least been there on that day to tell her myself. I cannot remember if there was ever a time that I told my Aunt MaryAnn how much I appreciated her. I don't doubt that didn't ultimately know, but I wish I had actually told her that I loved and appreciated her, so, so much. This has led me to be more mindful in showing my appreciation to those I hold dear in ways that I hadn't normally done before.

9. Every day is a blessing.

MaryAnn is overcome with joy on her daughter's wedding day.

Kathy Goodwin Givens - Facebook

It seems to me that a lot of people, myself included, tend to have a "not me" mentality in which we see or hear of such incidences happening to people in the world around us but still think, "oh, that will never happen to me though." Sadly, this is not the truth. Life is a fragile thing. Sudden illness can creep in and tragic accidents happen. I am even more aware now that every morning I wake up and every night I go to sleep is truly a blessing and should not be taken for granted.

10. Stay strong.

MaryAnn by her husband Jim's side at their youngest daughter's wedding rehearsal.

Monika Anderson Photography

Even when mourning my Aunt MaryAnn's death, I found it almost impossible to do so without hearing her voice in my head telling me not to cry over her and that everything will be okay. I know that the last thing MaryAnn would ever want is for anyone to be upset, especially over her, even in death. Even now I have a sense of her comforting me, helping me carry on and to stay strong.

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I'm Not 'Spoiled,' I Just Won't Apologize For Having Great Parents

Having supportive parents is one of the best things that ever happened to me.


When I tell people that I am the baby of my family, there is always a follow-up question asking if I am spoiled. As I was a child, perhaps the situation was a little different because I did not receive material things but instead got my way or rarely was punished. I was most likely spoiled rotten in that sense, especially by my grandparents. Fast forward to the age of 19 and I can say that my parents give me everything that I need, not necessarily everything that I want.

But I still don't think I'm spoiled.

I might legally be an adult, but my parents still provide for me. I may live at school during the semester, but my parents don't charge me rent or utilities when I am at home. My mom still does my laundry. They pay my phone bill monthly. When my mom goes grocery shopping, she doesn't have me chip in to help. She will make sure the bathroom is stocked with tampons or shampoo so I don't have to worry about it. The both of them make sure I have the sufficient needs to not be hungry, cold, or without shelter.

They do all of these things because they want what is best for me.

While they pay my student loans, I give them money to cover it as well as a little extra each month for different expenses. If we go out to eat, I do offer to pay but often get shut down and end up leaving the tip instead. I help around the house and sometimes make trips to the store for food or cleaning supplies, not asking for money to be paid back.

I have a job that gives me decent hours, but my parents understand that money for a college kid is tough.

I pay for my own luxuries such as makeup, cute clothes, even to get my hair cut. Spoiled is typically defined as "damaged by having been given everything they want." Do I want another dog? Yes. Do I have one? No. Do I want a swimming pool in my backyard? Yes. Do I have one? Again, no. That is because both my mother and father still believe in working for what you want and even their daughter doesn't get a free pass unless it's her birthday or Christmas. Do I still have everything I could ever need? Yes.

My parents do the exact same thing for my brother and sister who are older than I am.

I know if I have a problem, whether it be financial or crucial, I can turn to them for help. A lot of people my age don't have parents like I do and I am extremely grateful for them and everything that they do. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

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This One’s For Africa


Read through to the end for an amazing Toto reference.


It's now been a week since I stepped foot on the African continent for the first time in my life. I first visited Johannesburg, where my dad and I spent a day on an 'apartheid tour.'

This tour consisted of visiting Shanty Town, one of the poorest communities in South Africa. The living conditions were indeed different. They had to steal electricity through homemade wires connected to the telephone poles. They had only a few porta potties for ten families to share. They had several spickets to obtain fresh water from. There was no heating in the houses, which were made from pieces of painted aluminum.

Such inconvenient circumstances have come from years of oppression towards black people in South Africa. It was incredibly sad to know that these problems still exist and that apartheid only ended so recently.

On the other hand, the people showed very little anger. Despite their living situations, the people of Shanty Town were so kind and welcoming. Everyone we passed smiled and waved, often even saying hello or asking about our wellbeing.

It brought some serious warmth to our hearts to see their sense of community. Everyone was in it together, and no man was left behind. They created jobs and opportunities for one another. They supported each other.

The next part of the day included a tour of Nelson Mandela's old house. We then made a trip to the Apartheid Museum.

Overall, Johannesburg did not disappoint. The city contains a rich history that human beings as a whole can learn a lot from. Johannesburg is a melting pot that still contains a multitude of issues concerning racism and oppression of certain cultures.

After two days in Johannesburg, my family made our way to Madikwe game reserve, where we stayed at Jaci's Lodge.

The safari experience was absolutely incredible. Quite cold (it's winter in Africa right now), but amazing enough to make up for the shivering. We saw all my favorite animals: giraffes galore, elephants, zebras, impalas, lions, hyenas, wildebeests, rhinos, you name it. While my favorite animal will always be the giraffe, I don't think any sighting could beat when two different herds of elephants passed through a watering hole to fuel up on a drink.

Finally on June 1st, I flew to George to start my program with Africa Media in Mossel Bay. On Sunday, we went on an 'elephant walk.'

The safari was certainly cool, but that makes the elephant walk ice cold. We got to walk alongside two male elephants - one was 25, the other 18. They were so cute!! We got to stroke their skin, trunk, and tusks. They had their own little personalities and were so excited to receive treats (fruits and vegetables) at the end of the journey.

My heart couldn't be more full. Africa, you have become my favorite continent. And it sure is going to take a lot to drag me away from you.

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