my momma

There are many people in our culture who would say they love their mom.  There are slightly less people that would say their mom is a real inspiration.  There are fewer people still that would say their mom is cool and progressive.  There is only a small number of people who would confidently say their mom is a badass.  My mom is a badass.


If you have had the honor of meeting my mother, you are already aware of this fact.  If you haven’t met her, or just don’t quite know her well enough, I’m sure you will agree after reading this post.

In writing this I’m discovering that it is difficult to articulate just how important she’s been to my life and just how many ways that she has achieved her badassdom.  I will do my best but I feel like I do not have enough time to really get said what I want to say. I will try to describe aspects of her personality through select words.

Devoted. I’ll start with one of the things that I feel like my mother uses to get out of bed each day.  Gayle has always said that if you are really going to do something serious with your life, you might as well do it to the best of your abilities.  When it came to rearing children, she put her own personal and career opportunites aside and fully devoted herself to raising children to the best of her abilites.  She was above and beyond the soccer mom status quo in everything she did.  She wouldn’t just pack four lunches into appropraitely sized tupperware containers, she would put in a little note about how much she loved us.  We fell out of taking lunches to school while us kids were in high school, but if we needed her to make one, she would (complete with love note).  My senior year of high school, she would wake up early when I asked her to make a stellar breakfast casserole for the frequent potluck breakfasts I had in my first class of the day.

She reads as much or more than any college professor you ever had.  She read entire volumes of books to us as kids, and I am convinced that instilling a love for reading has been fundamentally important to my success in my education and my career goals.

When the kids starting leaving, she became a volunteer president of the kids soccer league and devoted herself to that.  When she started her own business and went to a massage therapy school she was devoted to that.  She is now in law school and is unquestionably devoted to it (via online courses thank you very much).

When she decided to radically change her diet and lifestyle choices to be a healthier person, she took devotion to a new level.  Ever try to run your first marathon in your fourties? Hmm?  What about a full ironman when you are 50?  I would wager that most people who end up reading this are much younger than 50.  Think for a moment about doing an ironman at your age.  I don’t think anybody other than Jake is anywhere close to such a feat.

Badass.  I could not think of a better word. I tried.  My mom is just a badass.  It takes a lot of guts to try for the things she has tried for in the first place.  She is pretty closely aligned with something Teddy Rosevelt said about life,

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Gayle said she was going to complete an ironman, and she godammed well did it.  Spilling over to her devotion, she has pledged to do absolutely anything with her kids as long as we will allow her to join us.  That is quite a tall order if you know what sort of activites us Jordan kids pursue.  Which brings me to her next quality:

Adventurous.  There is a famous quote section at the end, but to some up how Gayle has always viewed life, you simply need to hear one of the Jordan family mottos, “Life is an adventure.”  Four words that were so ingrained into my psyche I find myself college educated and choosing to live in a van, pursuing adventure.  My siblings and I soon were acclimated to total changes in plans or focus when it came to family adventures.  When we had to spend two summers in RVs with her parents as reluctant adolescents, we were kindly instructed to suck it up and realize just how lucky we were.  Look at any of her four children and this life-focus is readily apparent.  Anytime we have run something past mom, she just says “OK”.  This next week my brother and I will be far into the backcountry doing some ski mountaineering, she said, “be safe and call me when you’re out”.

Intelligent.  I have friends that come to my mom for advice on life, over their own parents and friends.  There are many other words that I could put in bold and use as adjectives, but I feel like many of these would ultimately stem from intelligence.  She is a compassionate, understanding, tolerant, introspective, gnarly, thoughtful, open, witty, courageous, detailed, energetic, wonderfully lovely lady.  This all stems from her life ethic and attitudes that she never loses sight of.  I mentioned that she is in law school.  An online law school.  I always resented the online components of classes in my undergrad, and she is pursuing an advanced degree wholly through an online classroom.  Holy cow.  If you think you’re a smartie yourself, try online law school.

Radical.  She just is.  She’ll talk about anything to anybody.  Try it out.  Does your mom wear a shirt that says, “question everything”?  Her journey away from Christianity to atheism has been one of the most inspiring and formative aspects of our adult relationship (I’m still a kid I just didn’t know what word to use other than adult).  I never had a chance to be in a box at all; she has constantly inspired us to be open, questioning, and never satisfied in the status quo.  She comes from a religious family, has religious friends, and lives in a religious society.  It takes a very brave person to denounce the faith of your upbringing and choose your own path.  How many atheists do you know?  How many  of those atheists are willing to talk about atheism?  If you are my friend, you are likely to be young and progressive and you might know a few.  Think of your mom’s circle of friends and how she would be recieved if she was openly atheistic.

My mom bought me condoms in high school and still sends them to me if she ever sends a gift box (like this last Valentine’s Day).  She helped a gay couple get through hard times with their families  as they become open about their sexuality.  She will argue to the death and make a stand for what she believes in.  No wishy-wishy once a week groupthink fix for her.  She is as independent and radical of a mother as I’ve ever met.  If you think your mom is more radical, please get them in touch because Gayle is always looking for friends who are not afraid to challenge convention.

Loving.  It’s a cliche adjective for a mother, but she really is.  She loves her kids and makes sure we know it.  This post is an inspiration from her blog where she has written love letters to her children.  If you are her friend, you know how warm and cheerful she is to be with.  She loves physical contact with people and is expressive of her feelings.  She also passionately loves her family.  Her father is exceedingly grumpy and difficult to connect with, and her mother and other family members have felt abandoned and hurt by her outspoken atheism.  Despite these difficulties she still cares very deeply about them and is devoted to maintaining relationships.  I also know that even through their divorce, she still loves Jess.

I don’t have another word to use to describe this section, but here are just a few of the sayings that Gayle is known for:

  • Carpe Deim
  • Life is an Adventure
  • Life is a sampler platter
  • Question Everything
  • Well behaved women seldom make history

That’s about my best stab at describing what my momma means to me.  She is truly an inspiration, a mentor, a friend.  The above picture is the day before she completed ironman.  I got choked up picking that picture out because I still well with pride and love for my mother when I think about that achievement.  I call her a badass because I finished that race with her and I was hurting, and she had been swimming and biking absurd distances since the sun came up.  I might mention that she crossed the finish line at midnight.  If you have ever been there to cheer your mother on through the pain, pushing to meet the deadline, then you understand why you still get choked up just looking at pictures.  She has always been and continues to be one of the most important people in my life.  I’ll be honest, I’m teared up now.  I am just so dang proud of her.  That’s my momma, and I love her.

Published by Sam Jordan

PhD student studying drylands at Arizona State University

One thought on “my momma

  1. Sam, I grew up with your momma and she is all you say. What a beautiful tribute this is to a truly beautiful woman. Thank you for sharing.

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