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More mom-isms: Readers share their moms' advice

A verse to live by Yvonne Wentz, Fargo The best advice from my mom, Mrs. Joe M. (Eugenia) Wentz of Balta, N.D.: "If a task is once begun never leave it until it's done, Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all." I used to tease her t...

A verse to live by

Yvonne Wentz, Fargo

The best advice from my mom, Mrs. Joe M. (Eugenia) Wentz of Balta, N.D.: "If a task is once begun never leave it until it's done, Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all."

I used to tease her that I couldn't do it well. She said, "You can try." I feel her advice is still a great idea today.

She raised seven children and we all were proud to call her mom. She died in August 1989. I still miss her today.


Think before you speak

Judi Hudson, Fargo

My mom told me when I was young something that I've tried to follow. She said you don't have to blurt out everything you are thinking. She said think about what you want to say before saying it. Some things are best not said.

Speak up for Mom

Ruby Hokana, Moorhead

I grew up on the farm during the Great Depression. I had three older brothers and one older sister.

The advice my mother, Clara Natalia (Moberg) Stockstad, gave to us five children was: "Speak up. I want to hear you and be proud of you."

I listened when Mom drilled my siblings, espe-cially on the memory work that was required for speaking plays as well as the weekly assignments required in confirmation class.


Mom would not give up until each of us could recite each week's required memory work. Since I was the last child I had listened and learned right along with my siblings. Memory work came easy for me and I so craved knowing Mom could hear me and be proud of me.

I grew up and spent 20 years with roomfuls of junior high students. I taught adult bible classes and was a guest speaker at neighboring church ban-quets. My husband and I served as recruits, getting high school students inter-ested in attending Concor-dia College, Moorhead.

Always, at the back of my mind was that I should speak up clearly so my precious Mom would be proud of me.

Give the gift of time

Tamara VanWechel, Argusville, N.D.

The best advice my mom ever gave me is something I have to remind myself of almost daily.

After getting up early to work out, going to work from 8 to 4:30, stopping for groceries on the way home, picking up my boys, then running home to make a quick supper, I am wiped.

After supper there is usually only one and a half hours before the boys have to go to bed. That is just not enough time to clean the kitchen, fold the laundry, help with homework and spend time with the boys before I put them to bed.


At times I feel so overwhelmed thinking about all the tasks that need to get done.

That is where my mom's advice comes into play. When my kids were babies/toddlers, my mom was at my house one day and told me, "You know - the kids will never remember if your house was spotless, if the clothes were folded or if the dishes were done. Your kids will remember, however, all the time you spend with them."

So - some evenings when I'm standing in the kitchen, looking at the dirty dishes and thinking about the list of chores that need to get done - I think about this advice from my mom, leave the dishes where they are, and go outside to play with my kids. Thanks, Mom!

Good, cautious fun

Tina Lee Swanson

"Have fun but be careful."

Both my mother and my best friend Laura's mother said this to us without fail as teenagers whenever we went out. Two separate mothers who rarely spoke to each other yet managed to come up with exact same cautionary warning. We usually listened to at least half of it anyway. (And we're still best friends, 28 years later.)

Don't listen to gossip


Genevieve Tougas, Fargo

Mom gave me two pieces of advice that have made my life much easier.

  • Never judge or envy anyone, for you do not know the burdens they conceal so well, and ...
  • Do not listen to gossip for if someone spreads tales about another to you, he or she will spread tales about you to another.

It's a state of mind

Sonja K. Peterson, Moorhead

This advice didn't come from my own mother, but it does concern mothering.

I had to have a hysterectomy at age 24 (now 25) due to adenomyosis. I have no children.

I started going to a therapist to help with processing the loss from my hysterectomy and how I would never conceive, and the best advice she gave me was, "Mothering is a state of mind."

Just do the best you can


Mary L. Seidel, Detroit Lakes, Minn.

My mom, Rose Rickenbach, to me regarding work: "Don't be slipshod. Let one job rest you for another." Regarding life: "Be your own best friend. Don't get married too young." Or, anytime things weren't going well: "Oh, we'll do the best we can."

My daughter-in-law, Jodie Seidel, to sons: "Don't say words that you don't know what they mean."

My mother-in-law, Myrtle Seidel, to my husband Merle when he was a teen: "Don't go chasin' girls. The one you're supposed to have will be there."

Mom-isms cross cultures

Leonor Valderrama de Sillers, Moorhead

Not a day goes by that I do not use one of the many words of wisdom I learned from my mother when I was growing up in Colom-bia, South America. My mother, Eva Moreno de Valderrama, who lives in Bogota and will be 100 at the end of May, had a proverb or word of advice for every daily event.

Her day would begin with: A quien madruga Dios le ayuda (the early bird gets the worm), which was her way of exhorting my sister and me to get up and start the day. El que quiere celeste que le cueste (nothing ventured, nothing gained) was her answer every time we wanted something, but complained about the difficulty in obtaining it. We lived in a "sea" of proverbs. They were so prevalent that I didn't think of many of them as specific expressions, but rather as just a natural part of communication.


When I came to the United States and began to learn English, I realized there was a universal component to sayings and proverbs. When I entered the profession of court interpretation, I became more aware of the prevalence of proverbs used to express a wide range of concepts.

With this in mind I asked my mother one day to write down a few of the proverbs that had been so influential in my life. She took the task to heart and began writing, and writing and writing. Before long she had filled several legal-size pages with proverbs and sayings from her memory. I was thrilled and amazed to have this bit of personal, cultural and linguistic heritage that was so close to my heart.

When studying for my master's it became evident that my mother's words of wisdom, along with my desire to produce a useful reference book for interpreters, was the perfect basis for my thesis.

The result was "Proverbs, Idioms and Expressions, a Guide for Interpreters and Translators," and I owe all to my mother.

'Paper is patient'

Pat Schaffer

Mom always told me, "Paper is patient." Or in other words, don't believe everything you read.

Acting lesson from Mom

Matthew Graham, Jamestown, N.D.

My Mom didn't often give advice, but when she did I often didn't listen to it. Now, looking back, I wish I had.

When I was afraid to try something new, she'd always say to me: "Matt, if you always stick to doing the same thing, then you're never going to expand your talents."

Boy was she right.

I remember my first year on the Tuttle-Pettibone High School speech team. Mom was my coach. I wasn't doing that well at the start of the season. My voice was always too low for the judges to hear, and I wasn't putting the right amount of dramatic flair into my speech when I presented it.

One day in practice, Mom told me to place myself in the main character's state of mind emotionally. She told me to "mirror the father's emotions, as though they were your own."

My speech season started to improve almost immediately.

By the regional speech meet that year, my Humorous Prose speech was getting 5s and 4s across the scorecard. I looked at the finals postings and found my name and my speech on the sheet for Humorous Prose finalists.

Because I followed Mom's advice that year, I got eighth place in the regional meet. Better than no place at all. Thanks, Mom.

Grandma looks to the positive side

Karen A. Hendrickson

My grandmother would always remind us in the cold, dark days of late January or early February that "by Valentine's Day we will be able to eat sup-per without the overhead lights on."

Teaching by example

Carol Rensvold, Fargo

Mom had kids in the house for 34 years. She had a schedule we had to conform to.

Clothes washing was Monday; if you wanted something washed after Monday you were out of luck. Tuesday was ironing and mending, baking was Thursday, the upstairs got cleaned on Friday and the downstairs on Saturday.

Mom taught by example. Her weekly work pattern showed how to be dependable. Her church and community work showed us to be of service to others. She taught us fairness, which was illustrated with a candy bar. When we had a candy bar from the store one of us would get to do the cutting. The general rule was whomever did the cutting would have to choose last.

She was not wasteful. That was probably the result of raising a family during the Depression and World War II. If we didn't finish whatever was served, it would go into some container that we would see again at the next meal. Her theory was there were starving kids in China.

Mom was a healthy woman. She worked hard, rested well, ate sensibly and never used alcohol or tobacco. She had a good sense of humor and wit that never left her.

So, by example, she taught us how to be de-pendable, keep the Christian faith, work hard, be of service to others, treat others fairly, take care of our health, keep a good sense of humor and have fun. She died at 94 years.

Go before you leave

Jessica Pitzel, Moorhead

My mom, Rose Pitzel, always told my brother and me: "Always use the restroom before you leave the house because you never know when you'll get an-other chance to go."

It seems so obvious but she's right!

Party now, pray later

Becky Barry, Fargo

My Mom died a year ago in March from bile duct cancer and I really miss her. She was quite a woman. She raised a family of seven and always kept her sense of humor. Some of her rules:

  • If you don't go to church on Sunday, you can't do any extra-curricular activities.
  • If you are going to party all night still expect to get up for church in the morning.
  • You have to play with your siblings before you play with your friends.

The best nugget of advice was, "If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all." There are times when I followed this advice and times when I wished I had followed this advice.
Blame is your friend

Joe Bush

"If you can't find something, blame someone, but keep looking, and you will find it right away."

She's got 'The Look'

Marcene Hardy, Minneapolis

I think the advice that has stayed with me most was when my Mom, Jan Stetz, didn't say anything at all.

Overall it was knowing that no matter what I did there was a safety net that I could always depend on. It was found in my Mother's hugs. Knowing that has allowed me to take risks in my life that has provided much success because I wasn't afraid to fail.

The unspoken advice has also shown itself in that look only a mother can give - that look that can cut through the densest crowd. It demands your attention and only subsides when you acknowledge that you saw it.

Sometimes the look was to let me know that I was doing something that wasn't representing myself in the best light. (Like when I was trying to undo the "wedgy" I was experi-encing while standing in front of the church as a flower girl.) Other times it was to let me know that she was proud of me. (Like when I was confirmed.)

Other unspoken advice that Mom provided was in how she treated others, which stemmed from my parent's solid faith in God. I remember as a child shopping for Christmas gifts for families who couldn't afford to buy their own. My Mom would ask the priest at our church if he knew of a family in need during the holiday season and asked that he keep it anonymous. She would then assign each of us kids one of the family members of the needy family to buy a gift for and she would buy gifts for the parents, which included a cash gift so they could buy gifts themselves and groceries for Christ-mas dinner. I didn't know it then, but there were times when Dad and Mom were barely making ends meet themselves. She taught me that no matter how little you may think you have, you always have something to share.

Create family traditions

Shamayne Gerlach

My advice: create simple traditions and celebrate the little things in life.

For example, every Sunday, we celebrate our week by having "Junk Food Night" - everyone gets to pick what they want to eat - healthy or unhealthy (as long as it doesn't involve too much cooking!). We also have another tradition of "Snuggle Night" - we curl up in bed and watch TV or a movie. These little celebrations and traditions help solidify us as a family.

Be parents, not friends

Onalee Sellheim

The advice I would give to all parents is be the parent. We do not have children to be their best friends but to be their parents, to teach them right from wrong, good from bad.

Know what your kids are doing, where they are at and who they are with, be involved and ask questions. They may not al-ways like it, but it is your job and your right.

Make sure, however, that you listen to them always, hear what they have to say, and don't be so quick to judge them and their friends.

I have an 18- and 22-year-old and let me say it has had its good times and bad. We have learned as the years go on that it is one of the most difficult jobs being the parent. They will tell you they hate you and all I say back is, "I don't always like you ei-ther, but hate is a very strong word and I love you!"

My best advice is hang in there. I never thought I would be seeing my first-born getting married al-ready and my baby graduating and moving on to college and being an empty nester, but here I am. It's been a whirlwind of laughs and tears, but I would not trade it for anything else in the world.

Frozen-face syndrome

Leah Fujimoto, Fargo

My mother used to tell me not to make funny faces because my face was going to get stuck that way!

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