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moms-advicePieces of advice from incredible mothers

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, it behooves us to stop and remember what inspiration mothers have provided. Granted, we probably didn’t listen or heed their words when we were younger, because of course “we knew EVERYTHING”! But in retrospect, for those of us who grew up with mothers who were nurturing and loving, if we stop to think, there were many valuable lessons learned. We are in fact products of their guidance. Celebrity Mom’s, Their Advice & Impact Even the rich and famous know how much their mothers have influenced them! 1 They may not be so different from us after all. 2 “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” —Abraham Lincoln “To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.” —Maya Angelou “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” —George Washington “She raised us with humor, and she raised us to understand that not everything was going to be great—but how to laugh through it.” —Liza Minnelli (on mom Judy Garland) “My mother is my root, my foundation. She planted the seed that I base my life on, and that is the belief that the ability to achieve starts in your mind.” —Michael Jordan “The best advice my mom has ever given me is to never give up. She believes when one door shuts, another door opens. Always, always move forward. I admire her tenacity and her generosity and her ability to do 17 things at once.” – Melissa Rivers (on mom Joan Rivers) “I grew up in a family of strong women and I owe any capacity I have to understand women to my mother and big sister. They taught me to respect women in a way where I’ve always felt a strong emotional connection to women which has also helped me in the way I approach my work as an actor.” – Ryan Gosling My Mother’s Best Advice My mom was hardly a celebrity, but certain truisms she taught still resonate with me today. Whether it was “do unto others as you would have them do to you”, or never leave home with dirty underwear or holes in your socks because how embarrassing if you fall off your bike and end up in the hospital! We didn’t have a lot of money growing up and when I would grumble about not having a new dress or getting a fancy vacation, my mother would utter one of her favorite platitudes: “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet”. I would sulk off shamed by my discontent…and grateful for what I did have. And then of course there were the “starving children in India” we were constantly reminded of when we complained about whatever was on our plate and didn’t eat everything on that plate. We really were living like kings even if we only ate casseroles with Campbell’s mushroom soup and noodles. My mother’s other strategy with food was social humiliation. She used to lecture me about my inability to eat baked beans and that I would be highly embarrassed, in fact probably outcast, at future dinner parties if I was unable to eat them. I am not sure I’ve ever been to dinner party where they served baked beans, but I learned to eat them. Oh, and by the way, please behave at school, get straight A’s and make us proud. “Not everyone gets the education or has the opportunity you do.” Don’t screw up. My mom may have instilled the fear of failure in me, but it worked. I excelled in school and have had a long successful career. I put myself through school and have been a single, independent woman most of my life. Lesson learned: no one else is going to do it for you; you have to do it yourself. Here are a few more of the lessons I learned from my mom, which I hope inspire you to reflect on what you’ve learned from your mother or another role model in your life. Give back to the community; volunteerism: Help others less fortunate than yourself. At the ripe age of eight, I was volunteering with my mom at the JFK campaign headquarters, putting stamps on envelopes. Since then, I have served on more than 30 non-profit boards. I continue to do pro bono work and volunteer in the community. Waste not, want not: We were taught conservation long before it was fashionable! Leftovers were a meal-time staple. Never throw anything out. Save that mayonnaise jar (“recycle” was not yet a household term); reuse that paper napkin if it isn’t soiled. Good values: “Money isn’t everything; many of the best things in life are free.” My mother was quick to point out in these conversations how unhappy some of my really rich friends were. I was not always appeased by this (these were convenient sayings since we didn’t HAVE any money) but they made an impact none-the-less. Unconditional love: Most importantly, and it has been said in many different ways, in many different languages and in many different situations, good mothers (including my own), give their children faith in themselves. They love them no matter what. I failed to win the elementary school election; they loved me anyway. There would be other elections and I would win those. There were and I did. I came home crying because none of the 12-year old boys asked me to dance at the school sock hop. My mother hugged me and held me tight, saying it was because I was so beautiful (and a foot taller than any of them) and they were intimidated. I was too good for them she said. It wasn’t me; it was them. It was their loss, their issue, not mine. They would be sorry later in life and recognize how they had missed out. I never forgot that. Lesson: Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about yourself. Civility & good manners: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Be polite; write thank you notes; always say please and thank you. (What happened with all that these days?!) Wait your turn; be patient. Good things come to those who wait. Don’t put your elbows on the dinner table, don’t reach across the table, and don’t eat until everyone is served. Respect your elders; and don’t stare at the man in the wheelchair. Be kind. Be gentle. Be compassionate. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The value of education: It was paramount in my home, more important than anything, even more important than Sunday school at church. Reading, writing, books, a curiosity for learning, art, music, theater. It was better to read a book than watch television, even if we’d finished our homework. In fact, we weren’t allowed to watch TV. We made weekly trips to the Children’s Library and I returned with armloads of books which I relished. If I didn’t know the meaning of a word, my mother would make me look it up in the dictionary, which I then spent hours reading. (Yes, I loved reading the dictionary.) When I wrote my mother letters from summer camp; she sent them back to me marked up with a red pen correcting my spelling and grammar. Clearly, this stuff mattered. Lesson: Teach a man to fish, you feed him for life. It turns out these are the types of activities can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, so not only did she instill a lifelong value but she ended up encouraging a lifelong strategy for brain health as well. A respect for all creatures large and small. Our cats and dogs, household pets, were like family. Be kind to all critters. I couldn’t even step on a spider. For that matter, I still can’t step on a spider. The wonders of the wild. It was not glamorous in those days, but my family went camping. It was the only real vacation we could afford when I was young. Canvas tent, sleeping bag, Coleman stove camping. Not an RV. This was long before the Sierra Club and REI. It instilled in me such a wondrous awe and respect for nature and the environment. My mother taught me the names of all the flowers and how to talk to them. I canoed on silent waters, star gazed at night, and some of my fondest childhood memories are of playing scrabble at a picnic table by a roaring campfire and Coleman lantern. My mom made all this happen. Healthy body, healthy mind: Exercise, stay in shape, ride your bike. Don’t eat junk food. Personally, I felt we were culturally deprived as children due to this dictate. No Hostess Twinkies or Oreo cookies in MY lunch box. Oh no. She may not have know it but she also taught us how food can protect our brains from cognitive decline, which research now illustrates. My mother was way ahead of her time and imposed what we now call “trail mix” on us: a mix of raisins, walnuts and chocolate chips. An incredibly embarrassing “dessert” that I was forced to hide from my classmates. More miscellaneous but memorable maxims from mom: “There is no free lunch”. (The work ethic lesson.) “What goes around, comes around.” (We call it karma today). Oh, and “always brush your teeth”. Here’s to you, Mom. Thanks for the memories. And thanks for making me who I am today. Sources:

About the Author(s)

An accomplished freelance writer and editor, Cheryl is passionate on how to bolster our resilience in old age and reshape the course of decline. Her compassion and understanding for caregiving stems from acting as a caregiver for her mother, who struggled with dementia, and her father, who suffered from Parkinson’s.

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