Journey Mercies . . . Life’s Lessons

Journey Mercies . . .  Life’s Lessons

When do “life lessons” begin and when do they end?  From the time we are born our days are filled with rules and regulations.  Do’s and don’ts that are supposed to make our lives easier, richer, fuller, better.  Don’t touch this, don’t do that.  Don’t hit, don’t say bad words, don’t be mean to your sister, always say your prayers, wash your hands before dinner, say yes ma’am and no sir, please and thank-you.  Don’t yell, keep your room clean and don’t say “hate”.  Just writing this takes me back and makes me wonder  . . . did I respond well to the life lessons I learned as a child?

In Robert Fulghum’s book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” he states “All I really need to know about how to live and what to do I learned in kindergarten.  Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.”

You can see a list of Fulgham’s lessons from kindergarten here.

My paternal grandparents were well-to-do Orange County business owners, who entertained regularly. Since I was with them every Sunday, I remember my grandfather, who I loved dearly, helping me with my life’s lessons.  He would say things like “Be kind, speak no ill against anyone, love you parents, be a good girl.”  He also spent time teaching me the proper way to sit at dinner  – no elbows on the table, left hand in my lap, right hand holding my fork.  He taught me to say “Would you please pass the gravy?” because you would never reach across the table for anything that was not right in front of you.  He taught me how to respond to an adult as I was being introduced.  I would put out my hand and say “very nice to meet you.” And if they were leaving I would say “Very nice to have met you.” I was all of 7 or 8 years old.  Those and a myriad of others were life lessons that I remember vividly. Reflecting on these has led me to ask,

What life lessons have I imparted to my children?

Well, it would be verbatim from the opening paragraph of this blog.  It’s what we do as parents to help our kids along.  We share our life lessons, with the hope that sooner or later they will “get it”.

I realize now that the “get it” factor doesn’t always resonate and sometimes our life’s lessons are learned the hard way.

What I saw as my children grew was that in learning what life was all about, they created their own set of standards, ideals and boundaries. Growing up means that all of those preset ideals will change. And so will the person who created them.  As Kelly Cutrone, author of If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, says “In breaking away from the familiar and the expected, you’ll be forced and privileged to face great challenges, learn harder lessons, and really get to know yourself.”  For me, that happened at 50!  The school of hard knocks was alive and well.

What I know now is the lessons we teach our children are only as good as the examples we demonstrate.  How we live our lives and how we show them that honesty, integrity, and character will help them achieve a life of goodness.  With that in mind, I know that I failed in many ways raising my kids.  I know that I put work before their needs at home.

I was a full time employee and a part time mom.

God has been good to me these past 16 years.  After making it through my divorce and some tough life lessons of my own, I realized again that honesty, integrity and character are qualities that give you perspective and the ability to rise above any adversity or failure. I made it part of my restoration to manifest these qualities in my life.  That decision was purposeful. It empowered me to become a strong “mom” figure with my adult children and a better woman.

Do I regret some of those perfectly BAD decisions? Of course I do.  But I also celebrate the way they changed my life.  The way they gave me a deeper sense of who I really am and who I really want to become.  The life lessons I have learned and the life that I live right now . . . I would not change.  I have hope, power, perseverance and love beyond measure.

One of the most incredible revelations for me now is that the wisdom of my years and the life lessons of the past have given me the opportunity to walk along side my children and support them as they come to me for advice or just to talk over how their doing and feeling.

We can never go back . . . but we can change past behaviors, relationships, and decisions.  We can and should mirror our own life’s lessons in the most positive way.  We can be kind, respectful, and be a person of integrity.  We can show compassion, justice, and love. And we can reserve the word “hate” for liver and onions and limburger cheese.

What life lessons did I learn in kindergarten, that are profoundly part of my life right now?

“Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone” and “Clean up your own mess!”

•  What life lessons have stuck with you since kindergarten?


Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Jeannie Dorris says:

    Good thoughts, Pat! Keep it going, please. Now that I know about this blog, I will be reading it regularly. Thanks!

    • Hi Jeannie:
      Thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog, and, because we have been friends for so long, you will remember some of the things that I will be writing about. I know you are a blogger as well, and any input from you would be greatly appreciated.
      Thanks so much.

      • Jeannie Dorris says:

        Hi Pat,
        You are doing such an excellent job with your blog articles, I can’t imagine having any “input” for you. I am so happy to see how you have grown through all that “wrecked havoc” in your life. God has been GOOD to bring you back into an even closer, sweeter walk with Him! Spending time with Him, daily, is the key.
        Your sister in Christ,

        • Patricia Kolstad says:

          Thank you for your sweet response. It has been a journey, and one that has taken me from the deepest valleys to the mountain tops. Here’s what I have found to be true . . that in the deepest valleys – that’s where all the hard work is done. I have become a better woman and a better mother. I have become a stronger woman, and one that is so very grateful for friends like you and Larry. Thank you again, and I hope to see you back here with me soon.

  2. Shayna Mallik says:

    You are such an inspirational women. Every blog I read from you I am touched in so many ways. I love reading about your life journeys and hope I can be as inspirational and as strong as you are. Thank you for sharing!!!

    • Hello Shayna
      You’re such a sweet woman. Thank you for taking time to read the blog. Someday, you will have life lessons that you can share with your children and later reflect on as you move through your life. We won’t know how profound they can be until we reach that moment in our lives.
      Thanks so much!


  3. Sharon says:


    So many of your remembrances are my remembrances too and reading them took me on a memory journey. It is so true that many of the things we needed to know about life we started to learn in kindergarten and have just expanded upon the rest of our lives.

    I too believe that our families also play into that learning curve to a great extent – especially our parents and grandparents. I didn’t get to see my grandparents very often and so my visits with them are a treasured memory. Their words had a big impact on my young life.

    Thank you for taking time to express your thoughts. They always lift me and cause me to pause and think and remember.


    • Hi Sharon:
      Thank you so much for sharing your memories. When reading the blogs from other team members, no matter what they are talking about, my mind travels back to another day where I reflect and smile, remembering some of those things that they talk about. It’s all about moving through our life and learning those hard life lessons everyday.
      Thank you!

  4. Amy says:

    You are an inspiration!

  5. Greg Forster says:


    This was absolutely beautifully written. You have notable courage for being so honest about your life journey amid its struggles.

    As you stated, we teach our kids (and ourselves) lessons that are important. The depth of field comes when we have to pull back after the lesson has been given, and wait to see how much of it has been absorbed, accepted, internalized and made part of our behaviors. Sometimes the lessons are rejected “dude…SHUT UP…I’m gonna do what I want. This is what my friends do!” But sometimes a stronger satisfaction comes back to us when they quietly return, sometimes years later, and say “I was a jerk for acting that way, a real jerk…and I don’t want to be a jerk this way again”. Great, I think in my head, now you can go off and work on the other 99 jerk lessons I told you about that are floating around in your “head cheese”. I remind myself, however, of those times that I, in my pre-adult, pre-matured testosterone emerging youth of those life chapters that I bury in my head, and, thanks be to God, manage to keep from surfacing thru remembrances or triggers as much as possible,

    How much energy could have been used elsewhere if I didn’t have to waste it on burying from memory my own “jerkishness”?

    I enjoyed reading about the way in which you learned proper manners. Manners, good or poor, show us to the world for what we really care about….and if we really even care about how others perceive us. My wife and I have always been on the same page with this as being a priority in raising our 2 boys. We would silently smile when they would come to us after being “grossed out” by someone’s behavior or language. They saw for themselves how acting poorly cheapens one’s opinion of others. How tragic that that person does not come to terms with a goal of moving forward and upward, but instead settles in for a routine of “dumbing down” themselves. What opportunities that life could offer have then been wasted or not even perceived?

    Pat, it’s good to hear that your “good Ship of Life’s Lessons” is weathering our life of stormy days.


    • Greg . . you are an amazing soul. You in-depth perspective resonates with me – we are from the same generation. You made me laugh out loud at your response to “so glad you got that one . . . now work on the other 99! Isn’t that the truth? But. . . there have been more times than not, where my kids have said, “Mom, I completely understand now, what you were trying to tell me, show me, teach me” I guess we live for those moments when the hard facts of life hit us all straight between the eyes and the lessons of old become new and precious. Manner were so very important when I was growing up and my children learned them as well. Now that I’m a “grammy”, I’m always on my grandkids when we are all at the dinner table. I remember learning that we had to ask permission to be excused from the table. Now, everyone just gets up and walks out, dishes still sitting there. AHHHHHH!

      Thanks so much for your perspective and insight. You are gifted!


      • Greg Forster says:

        The dishes, yes! But never, EVER…the cellphone…God forbid we lose our means of non person to person communication! Greg

        • You’re so right, Greg.Interestingly enough, my daughter Kari, passes around a basket when everyones together to eat. In go the cell phones! It’s tough today – kids are taught the value of “face to face” communication. When they reach the real world, their job might insist that they do . . . what then?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.