Mother's Day wisdom: Successful kids share Mom's most unforgettable advice

Chicago Tribune
Mother's Day wisdom: Successful kids share Mom's most unforgettable advice

“Unless you can afford a car and driver, ditch the stilettos.” That’s among the best bits of advice she received from her mom, said Patricia Morrisroe, author of “9 1/2 Narrow: A Life in Shoes.”

Every mother sends her child into the world with “mom-isms” that she hopes they will follow — or, at the least, remember until they are mature enough to put the wisdom to work. In honor of Mother’s Day, read on for more answers to the question, “What’s the best advice your mom gave you?”

“She quoted (British clergyman) Charles Kingsley as I left for school each morning: ‘Do noble things, not dream them, all day long.’”

— Sara Paretsky, mystery novelist whose latest book is “Critical Mass”

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“Stand up straight — not just literally. Stick to your values and do what’s right.”

— Daniel Rex, CEO, Toastmasters International

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“My mom made my Halloween costumes and prom dress by hand. We had a budget. Debt was unthinkable. When I got my first job, she expected me to save the money for college, which I did. What better way to teach financial prudence than to live it?”

— Jane Bryant Quinn, financial journalist and author of books including “Making the Most of Your Money Now”

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“My mom died when I was young, so I was raised by my grandmother. She told me, ‘Marry rich and do it quickly so I can dance at your wedding before I die.’ I said, ‘But Grandma, I’m only 11!’”

— Michele Balan, New York City, stand-up comic

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“At my ninth birthday party, she told me it wasn’t my job to have fun that day; it was to make sure everyone I invited had fun. I was too young to heed her advice, but now I do every time I host an event.”

— Patricia Park, author of “Re Jane,” a contemporary retelling of “Jane Eyre”

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“Friends are lovely, but they come and go from your life, while your family will always be there. Put family first.”

— Cristina Ferrare, host of Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family” show

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“Never go anywhere without tissues, breath mints and $5 in your purse. Be the girl people count on to have them.”

— Bettina Bush, actress, singer, host of Working Mother Radio

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“No matter how hard you work and how tired you are, remember there’s always someone working harder. Slack off, and your competitors will get the best of you.”

— Danny Chon, CEO of AccelSPINE medical device company

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“While in Catholic grade school, we were advised to not play with the children from the public school who practiced different faiths. But my mom said playing with them would not change our beliefs. Her influence is why I shifted to novels about religious intolerance and parents who resist policies that others in their communities take for granted.”

— Susan Froetschel, suspense writer

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“Change your shoes several times a day, your sheets once a week and, once in a while, the olives in your martini to vermouth-soaked, miniature onions.”

— Ann Imig, editor of “Listen to Your Mother” live-performance series and newly published anthology of essays

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“ ‘Try new things.’ That keeps me connected to the child inside of me, which I appreciate in my career.”

— Laurie Berkner, children’s musician

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“ ‘You need to go someplace and sit down!’ Usually this was Mama’s best advice for my siblings and me when we were working her last nerve. It was a warning of sorts that we were getting dangerously close to one of her classic backhands. But as I grew older it occurred to me that when I heeded these words, I always came away more clear-headed and focused. It gave me a chance to reflect and regroup. Now that I’m a mom myself, I use it on my own kids, but more importantly I use it on myself — as a self-check. When you think about it, nothing in our daily lives is as bad as it seems. We just seldom think about it because we’re so busy reacting.”

— Ylonda Gault Caviness, author of “Child Please: How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked Myself”

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“ ‘Don’t be a sneak.’ By ‘sneak,’ she meant a fake, or someone who appeared to be sweeter, nicer, better than they were. And, ‘Be real.’ If you pretend to be someone you’re not, you’re actually nothing at all.”

— George Hodgman, book editor and author of “Bettyville: A Memoir,” about caring for his aging mother

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“ ‘Stand up straight!’ My mom is from Mexico, and she was so militant about (my posture). It made me so angry then, but she was right. I now have a curved spine. I wish I had listened to her (pause for laughter) but I wish she hadn’t sounded so angry when she said it!”

— Patti Vasquez, stand-up comic and radio host

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“Everything you do in life is a lesson — even the mistakes.”

— La La Anthony, actress, from her book, “The Love Playbook”

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“Never leave the house without lipstick on.”

— Jo Dee Messina, country music singer

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“ ‘Get to know your banker and whomever you do business with regularly.’ My mom is a big fan of calling folks by their names in her regular stores, etc. I have definitely taken that advice to heart.”

— Carla Hall, chef and co-host of ABC’s “The Chew”

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“So we would focus on the positive, every night at dinner she told each of her six kids, ‘Tell me something good that happened today.’ ”

— Bert Jacobs, CEO of Life is Good clothing and other products

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“Food is love and a way to share what’s in our hearts.”

— Ramani Durvasula, psychologist and author of books including “You Are Why You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life”

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“We need to teach our daughters to know the difference between a man who flatters her and a man who compliments her.”

— Karina Smirnoff, professional dancer on “Dancing With the Stars

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“You can’t get matzo-ball soup from a Chinese restaurant. In other words, you can’t get something from someone who is not equipped to give it to you.”

— Mallory Moss, psychiatric nurse practitioner and co-founder of BabyNames.com

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“My mom told me to study, study, study, so I got my bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. I could have started a career in music without all that education, but it all helped because I was no prodigy. And, in addition to music, I learned about other languages, cultures and how to run a business.”

— Andres Salguero, singer-songwriter

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“You are no better and no worse than anyone else. Be humble, be kind and be considerate to people.”

— Virginia (Ginny) Clarke, senior partner, Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions

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“ ‘With time, you’ll realize what’s important and what’s not.’ After my dad died and we were helping her move, a pile of her dishes broke. She said, ‘It’s OK; now I have less to pack.’ ”

— Allen Klein, retired stage designer, humorist and author of “You Can’t Ruin My Day: 52 Wake-Up Calls to Turn Any Day Around”

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“Make sure that you develop a career when you feel it is the right time. You need to use your mind and you will feel more confident when you are not totally financially dependent on your husband.”

— Julia Tang Peters, business adviser, leadership expert and author of “Pivot Points: Five Decisions Every Successful Leader Must Make”

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“ ‘When other kids taunt you, don’t call them names.’ In the rough-and-tumble neighborhood where she grew up, she learned not to dignify the tough kids.”

— John Kapelos, actor, currently in Disney sitcom, “I Didn’t Do It”

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“ ‘Take risks and embrace your sense of adventure.’ She showed me instead of telling me by becoming a psychologist before many women did, winning watercolor competitions and becoming a pilot at age 51.”

— Gail Saltz, psychiatrist and author of “Becoming Real: Defeating the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back”

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“ ‘Take a day off.’ At least, take a nap or a walk or get a massage. Recharging helps you focus.”

— Megan Bearce, marriage/family therapist and author of “Super Commuter Couples”

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“Mom was an elementary school teacher and tutored students from home on weekends. I directed ‘traffic’ as the kids came and went. I watched and learned. Now I know to treat every one of our students like my own children, making lessons fun and rewarding. It works. Mom is still alive, still giving me advice and still passionate about education.”

— Hao Lam, CEO of Best in Class Education Center

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“It’s not enough to love your children. You have to enjoy them.”

— Karen Joy Fowler, author of books including “The Jane Austen Book Club”

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“Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. That advice was useless as I was headed to my middle-school dance, but was important to remember later on.”

— Eddie Joyce, lawyer and author of “Small Mercies”

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“ ‘When things are not going well, focus on someone else’ — by, for example, volunteering at a hospital. That puts your problems in perspective.”

— Erin Olivo, psychologist and author of “Wise Mind Living: Master Your Emotions, Transform Your Life”

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“Before you buy anything, think about how hard you worked to earn that much money.”

— Barry Maher, motivational speaker and author of “Filling the Glass: The Skeptic’s Guide to Positive Thinking in Business”

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“If you aren’t sure it’s the right thing to do, it probably isn’t.”

Lea Black, CEO, Sudden Youth Skin Care

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“ ‘Just do it — without fanfare or complaints.’ She moved us to L.A. so my dad could pursue an acting career. She stayed up late to pack our lunches. She always set a place at the table for one more.”

— Jeff Werber, veterinarian and frequent TV guest

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“To fully enjoy life, participate with gusto.”

— Jodi Stolove, CEO, Chair Dancing Fitness

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Leslie Mann is a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

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©2015 Chicago Tribune

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