My mom, Janet, turns 65 on Friday. She’s awesome. My relationship with my mom not only defines my relationship with women, it’s also taught me how to live with a disability and to joyfully and fiercely include folks in a community. According to science, mother-son relationships are key to healthy emotional development, especially with boys. On the other hand, having a narcissistic mother is terrible for everyone. And it’s really important for parents to devote some extra care to boys because we mature slower in pretty much every way and are more likely to react negatively to stress. These are just a few examples of how moms can build and sustain a healthy sense of community for their kids and I’ll focus this article on 65 ways that mom positively impacts my work and life.

I’m a father of two boys and it’s the greatest. In her almost 65 years, Janet Horn has developed a truly unique approach to life and the skills and attitude to make it the best one possible. She is hilarious, demonstrates strength through kindness, and is fearless. The way she loves my dad and her family embodies human goodness to its fullest extent.

Two days before she turns 65, I thought it fitting to share a list of) 65 things (more or less) that I love about my mom.

  1. She birthed me. I’m grateful for this fact.
  2. I was a semi-giant baby (a certain father of mine referred to me as “the beached whale” as he observed me plugged into things in the hospital’s intensive care unit). Thanks for that, mom!
  3. Also, my mom is diabetic (type one), so being pregnant is no easy thing, especially in a rural community; as someone with a disability I needed a role model to help me be comfortable in my own skin and take good care of my body and mind (there was a lot of teasing).
  4. Speaking of taking care of my body, my mom doesn’t look a day over 55.
  5. Janet Horn is a fashion icon. She makes Northern Reflections look good. I said it.
  6. Two words: pant suits.
  7. Two more words: jogging suits.
  8. Five words: the lime green jogging suit.
  9. Thirteen words: the lime green jogging suit. With a bird on it.    Two birds.
  10. For her 50th birthday, my sister Kim and I delivered an incredible skit about what it was like to have Janet Horn as a parent; Kim wore the jogging suit. It was epic.
  11. Here is a list of presentations or performances that my mom organized during family, friend and/or professional parties:
    • Original songs
    • Covers of songs where the re-written words say something special about the subject
    • Skits
    • Quizzes
    • Poems
    • Award ceremonies
    • Probably an art/puppet show or something
    • Fashion shows
  12. She has a sense of adventure
  13. Her hairstyles represent the stuff of human history. They are a snapshot of a woman simultaneously leaning into a trend, but also setting her own trend because of how everything fits together. For example, anyone can have an ‘80s perm, but Janet Horn rocks it with a grey MEC fleece and cut-off jean shorts.
  14. Her apple pie is the best pie on Earth and I will have words and taste-tests with anyone who disagrees.
  15. In fact, it might be a top-five best-ever dessert. Period.
  16. She is a very resilient human being who has lost special people, like her brother, earlier than she should’ve and, yet, remains positive about life.
  17. She is a tough person with a high pain threshold. One time she slept in a lay boy for five months to recover from a shoulder injury.
  18. In her yearbook there are, like, fifty notes from people lauding her for how great a teacher she would become. (Her classmates had an eye for talent, it would seem).
  19. I have spent time in her class and she is an absolutely awesome teacher.
  20. She also has an inspiring work ethic, which Fast Company will tell you cultivates resilience, work ethic and smarts in kids.
  21. There’s no way that I wouldn’t gotten through Math 12 without her expert tutoring. She was also handled Kim’s “math tantrums” in high school with grace and agility (apparently flying pencils were dodged).
  22. While at UBC, she minored in physical education, which in the ‘70s was kind of a big deal and pretty badass.
  23. She is a very well-read human being.
  24. Her book club has been operating for over 45 years and they’ve read about 450 books.
  25. While she prefers the countryside, she is perfectly comfortable in the city, too. She really likes riding the bus.
  26. No matter who you are or where you’re from or what your “deal” is, you have an interested conversation partner in Janet Horn.
  27. She’s a feminist socialist environmentalist activist.
  28. My friend Stewart – those who know him would say it’s fair to call him “a bit of a cynic” and “good at criticizing things/people” – pulled me aside during a weekend of friendly bonding at my parents’ family home and said, “John, your mom just stood up in front of 30 semi-drunken twentysomethings and commanded our attention for nearly 20 minutes while she explained fairly complex rules for this orienteering course we’re about to go on. That was amazing.”
  29. Name a thing and Janet Horn can make it edutaining.
  30. When we play Balderdash her answers often skew “dirty” and it’s hilarious.
  31. It’s hilarious because she is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
  32. She is a very generous person who opens her home, family and resources to people who need it.
  33. We both love the movie Point Break.
  34. FACT: we have never robbed a bank. Or a credit union.
  35. I learned a lot about how to be a kind person and a strong person from my mom.
  36. She is an excellent cook and here are some of my favourite meals:
    • Tuna casserole
    • Spaghetti with red sauce*
    • Braised beef with green peppers
    • Macaroni and cheese
    • Full turkey dinner
    • Chicken Italiano!
    • Various pasta salads
    • Greek salad
  37. She makes a huge mess when she cooks, which is probably where I got it from.
  38. *Her spaghetti sauce recipe became legendary at Bishop’s University because my roommates and I hosted a weekly spaghetti dinner for anyone who wanted spaghetti and we shared the praise showered upon us with my mom.
  39. My parents visited Bishop’s University in the winter of 2003 and they stayed with me; I lived with three guys from Cole Harbour Nova Scotia and our home, “The Worch”, had a reputation for joyful gatherings. Everyone involved in this experience earned a lot of street cred.
  40. Speaking of street cred, my mom returned to Bishop’s in June of 2003 because I was elected Valedictorian of my grad class and she is the only parent who loves me her and my dad decided that it made sense for the family to stretch their wallets and send one representative to experience “the show” in person. So, after a moving ceremony, a decent speech and many delicious beverages, a few of us decided that it would be a great idea to ski down our front steps (from the second story to the ground) and out the front door. Some of the people who made these choices are doctors and professors now, by the way. Anyway, between skis – après ski, I guess – we heard a rustling upstairs. It was my mom and she was descending, undoubtedly to see what was going on and, perhaps, make us feel bad for being loud and reckless. Well, maybe your mom would do such things, but Janet Horn had a video camera and she filmed a few runs down the stairs and then proceeded to interview everyone in the house about their experience at Bishop’s. It was magical.
  41. She likes to party.
  42. She is a very lovable life of the party, too.
  43. She is a very fair person.
  44. She is a very fair person who enunciates points with spectacular hand gestures. She also gives directions over the phone using hand gestures – she rocks at drawing ‘air maps’ with her fingers.
  45. It is inspiring and funny to watch her gamify diabetes with her grandchildren. All questions about insulin pumps are answered in the Horn Household.
  46. Being an Amma becomes her; she is exceptional as a grandparent. She sends postcards to her grandchildren from wherever.  Most of them also include stickers.
  47. Her patience is almost infinite.
  48. She is politically-savvy and knows what’s going on in the world.
  49. When my sister and I left for university she bought me condoms and Kim “a big brown bag of birth control”. Being two years older than Kim I prepared her for the experience.
  50. When we lived away, our mom always sent fantastic care packages that brought a little bit of home to wherever we were in Canada.
  51. She introduced my dad to her family with an explanation that he was taking her on a multi-day canoe trip through the Bowern Lakes.
  52. I am probably the most well-prepared person you’ll ever go with on a day hike, camping trip or road trip; when we’re together and shit starts falling apart and I look at you and say, “don’t worry, we’re doing to be okay because I prepared for this moment and brought supplies” you can thank Janet Horn.
  53. NOTE: when no one is prepared and we somehow survive anyway you can thank my dad.
  54. She is very digitally literate.
  55. One of her favourite hobbies is making scrapbooks of weddings, anniversaries and grandkids using photo programs.
  56. She has very nice penmanship.
  57. A thing that I need to be better at in life – especially in my relationships – is letting little, unimportant things go. My mom is a master of this and a good role model for thinking about the next five years, not the next five minutes.
  58. Nobody gets injured quite like she does.
  59. Whenever I parallel park I tell Miles, “do you remember who taught me how to parallel park so well?” and he says “Amma!” because my mom is an excellent driver and a kick-ass parallel parker.
  60. Her extended family is loud and ridiculous and it’s super-fun to have everyone together making memories…and damaging ear drums?
  61. Because of her bloodline I can legit claim to be of Viking ancestry, which is pretty great.
  62. We play Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” during the holidays and its fine. My mom’s love of the album and the memories it conjures is adorable.
  63. She’s been on a winning team for the Comox Valley Snow to Surf race. She was the downhill skier.
  64. A favourite memory and experience of mine (because it happens every time we visit) is sitting on the kitchen counter in my family home and talking to my mom about life while she makes a snack (#diabetes) before bed. Whatever the subject or the tone of the conversation, everything seems grounded and loving and wonderful by the end of it.
  65. She is living her best life and the enthusiasm she brings to every experience is wonderfully contagious.

Happy birthday, Janet Horn! Thanks for cultivating such an inclusive and fun community. We’re all positively impacted by the experience.

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