05/10/2013 07:59 pm ET Updated Jul 08, 2013

Angels of Mine

Mother's Day is less than four days away, and I think it's time to shed light on some of the important women in our lives -- not only our moms but our aunts, grandmothers, cousins and everyone who plays a significant role in our lives, whether it's every day or just a few times a month. Some people play bigger roles in our lives than we ever imagine.

I didn't have a typical, normal childhood, I had a mother and father, plus my aunts and uncles played a key role in everything I did. My victories were theirs, my failures were theirs. Literally everything I am is because of them, and I would never want anything to change that because I was taught at an early age that family comes first -- whatever there is in life is second compared to family.

Being an only child has its disadvantages, because I had no one to set an example of what to get away with or how to manipulate my way out of things -- so I had to learn on my own, but I knew in the back of my mind that any screwups or falls on my face because of stupidity would cause them to look down on me and I couldn't handle that. I couldn't even handle staying angry with them over ridiculous matters. Besides in the end, what would it prove?

The lessons I was taught from my mother and aunts were all about humility, self respect and humor -- because sometimes you have to look at a situation and just laugh, saving the tears for later on when you need them the most. My aunts use humor for everything, especially my Aunt Mame who's got the same dark sense of humor I do which she says I inherited from her. We tend to break the awkward ice using sarcasm.

A key lesson from them was never get an ego about anything -- because there will always be someone who can do it better -- but to try as hard and to the best of my abilities. It's a humbling lesson, especially as a writer to learn because for one story I write, someone has written an entire book.

A bigger lesson I was taught more than anything from my aunts was to just to listen and observe people, and how to read someone when they are speaking to you -- listening for clues and meanings behind peoples' stories. It helped a lot when I was in school and I couldn't read social cues. It helped many years later when I went digging through my family archives and discovered this whole big piece of a puzzle I never imagined and learned more about the past that had been kept silent for so long.

I feel lucky because although I didn't have a grandmother to go to, I had the equivalent, who literally were everything that a grandmother is supposed to be: They were loving and spoiled the hell out of us, but also kicked our butts when it was necessary.

I carry the lessons I was taught from them everywhere I go because they taught necessary life skills that could only be taught through experience. Although as a teenager, you think your whole family's full of baloney, I realize now it's so important to pay attention so that when I have a kid I can pass along what they taught me.

What are some of the lessons you've been taught, by your mother, grandmother or aunts?