This 1960 photo of Wendy Newmeyer’s family was taken at Niagara Falls. Wendy said she has always been inspired by her mom to dream big. From left to right are Robin, Sandy, Randy, Mom Jeanne and Wendy. Courtesy of Wendy Newmeyer

As a special Mother’s Day tribute, we encouraged our readers to share advice their moms have dished out over the years — whether it was asked for or not, of course. What we got were words of wisdom that ran the gamut from practical to poignant, loving, quirky, hilarious and in some cases downright puzzling.

This story’s writer, Karen Schneiber, left, stands with her siblings, Deaetta, Bill and Corinne, surrounding their mom, Agnes, who always likes to “play it by ear.” Courtesy of Karen Schneider

My own dear mother, Agnes (bless her heart), has plenty of advice for every occasion, including, “Don’t go empty-handed.” (Up the stairs, to the garage, from one end of the house to the other, God forbid we walk by an item that needs to be put away.)

Mom constantly told my brother, “Don’t play with sticks.” Did he listen? No. One cold winter day while playing “swords” with a neighbor boy, he got swiped across the face. Yes, there was blood and stitches. Billy took it like a man, but Mom has never gotten over the “terrible scar on his beautiful cheek.”

Another famous Agnes-ism: “Let’s play it by ear.” Mom hates to make plans ahead of time and has been going with the flow since way before it was fashionable to do so.

Her most oft-repeated nugget of all time is, “You have to make your own sunshine.” In other words, you have control over your attitude, no matter what, so quit your whining.

And with that, we present some of our readers’ motherly stories, bits of advice and words of wisdom.

Hydrate! Hydrate!
Yes, we’ve all been warned to be sure to wear clean underwear in case we’re in an accident, but our reader, Tony Morin, whose mom was a paramedic, knows different. “She claimed that didn’t matter. However, she always said, ‘Never walk by a water fountain without taking a drink.’ She knew the importance of hydration, and we didn’t have fancy water bottles back in the ’70s.”

Charles Bouchles as a young man, wearing a hat, stands with his mom, Phyllis. Courtesy of Charles Bouchles

Brain teaser

Charles Bouchles of Mechanic Falls said his mom admonished him more than once: “Use your head for something besides a hat rack.” He added, “To this day, I have no idea what I did or didn’t do (to prompt that remark).”

Slippery when wet

Lori Morrell of Rochester, New York, wrote: “Every single fall from the time I got my driver’s license, my mom warned: ‘Leaves are slippery when wet.’ She died in October and shortly after, when I passed the fire station on the way to work, the sign said, ‘Remember, leaves are slippery when wet.’ Apparently, Mom wanted to remind me one more time!

“Also, during the last conversation I had with her, she said, ‘Never lose your smile.’ I remember that every time I feel the world attempting to take it away.”

Mom’s lasting influence: ‘Dream big’

Wendy Newmeyer of West Paris recalled that the best advice she ever got from her mother, “a true realist,” was: “Life is a self-fulfilling prophesy so think good thoughts and dream big dreams.” Inspired by her mom’s dream to live off the land, Wendy has lived in Maine for over 40 years and started a successful business, Maine Balsam Fir Products.

According to Newmeyer, Mom Jeanne (Jeanette) liked old quips, including, “Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone” and “Boys are like streetcars, if you miss one, another will be along in five minutes.”

Jeanne encouraged her children to “walk to the beat of their own drum.” Wendy described how blessed she felt to have such an interesting mom, someone who was also interested in others. The family traveled all over the country seeing the sights, visiting family and friends, and experiencing the world. By the time Wendy was 15, they had visited 45 states, 10 Canadian provinces and 15 countries, including spending a year touring Europe in an RV.

Wendy recalled: “We collected friends, not souvenirs” so their home was always open to others and full of music and laughter. Jeanne played the piano, cello and harp, and sang with the “Sweet Adelines,” encouraging her kids to be musical.

Katie Thompson’s mom, Jean, offered her sage advice about the “terrible twos.” Courtesy of Katie Thompson

Terrible twos

Katie Thompson, a Lewiston native who now lives in Louisiana, wrote: “My mother, Jean, raised six girls and she told me, ‘Your kids need to go through the ‘terrible twos’ whether they’re 2 years old or 20. They need to get it out of their systems.’”

Early is late

Jim Palmer of New Auburn always chuckles when he remembers the clocks being set back in the fall. His mom would say, “You kids don’t go too far; it gets late early now.”

Unspoken lessons

Pam Webber Carrier wrote, “Mom had never written a check or paid a bill until my father passed away. This taught me to learn these things and to take care of myself. However, she was so kind and was always there when we needed her. If I live long enough, I hope to be just like her, and that’s good.”

Beth Shaw’s mom, Marge, always told her to put God first. Courtesy of Beth Shaw

God is No. 1

Beth Shaw of Dixfield has this memory of Mom: “She told me, ‘Put God first.’ She said this nearly every day as I left for school, and always wrote it on my birthday cards throughout my entire life.”

Pursue your education

Connie Ailing of Auburn described how her mom was brought up during the Depression and never threw away anything. “She always said, ‘People can take things away from you, but never your education.’ She encouraged her four daughters to take advantage of any educational opportunities we could. When she was young she wanted to be a nurse, but didn’t have anyone to encourage her. However, she encouraged her daughters and gave us a lot of support.”

A different role model

Unfortunately, life isn’t always “peaches and cream,” as moms used to say. One Lewiston reader — and I’m sure there are others — wrote about her painful childhood filled with dysfunction that included a broken relationship with her mother. She wrote: “The best lesson I learned from my mother was to try hard to not be like her.”

Linda Barschdorf of Lisbon Falls, left, said her mom, Myrtle, instilled the love of music in her daughter. Linda’s husband, Ken, is pictured right. Courtesy of Linda Barschdorf

Musical inspiration

Another musical mom was Linda Barschdorf’s mother, Myrtle. Linda, who lives in Lisbon Falls, recalled, “My mother taught me the love of music.” When she was a child, Linda’s mom played upbeat ragtime songs on the piano. She also played regularly at the Durham Grange in the ’40s and ’50s. “I’ll never forget the night in 1964 when she came home from shopping with a copy of ‘Meet the Beatles!’ for me. I was 15 and just over the moon.”

Over the years, Linda was able to repay her mom with several trips to concerts. They saw Engelbert Humperdinck, Tammy Wynette, George Jones and Tom Jones, to name just a few, and even enjoyed having front row seats at George Strait’s 1989 concert in Augusta. Linda added, “I was especially honored to take her to see her favorite, Liberace!”

Now 70, Linda still dances to music every chance she gets and goes to a George Strait concert whenever she can.

Sue Paige of Winthrop said her mom, Doris, advised her to “Love every girl your boys bring home.” Courtesy of Sue Paige

Love your daughter-in-law

Sue Paige of Winthrop shared, “Because I’m the mother of sons, my mom told me, ‘Love every girl your boys bring home because you never know which one will end up being part of the family.’ I’m lucky because my boys chose wisely and I love my two daughters-in-law like the daughters I never had. They have wonderful qualities, such as being independent women, great moms to their daughters, equal partners in their relationships with my sons (and having) open hearts, caring spirits and welcoming attitudes to change — so important in this day and age of change!

“I don’t ever worry about my sons because they’re living their lives with women who lift them up.”

Lou, the mother of Rose Dubay of Poland, instilled the need to always having a tissue handy. Courtesy of Rose Dubay

Carry tissues

If that last one made you a little teary, here’s the perfect advice from the mother of Rose Dubay of Poland: “My dear mother, Lou, gave me a lot of advice, but what I remember most is, ‘Always carry tissues in your pocket. You’ll never know when you’ll need them!’ Mom always had tissues in her purse. They smelled like wintergreen gum because she also had some of that, too, just for us kids. Sixty years later, I still always carry tissues. Each time I use one in an ‘emergency,’ I thank Mom.”

Proud to be like Mom

Julie-Ann Baumer of Lisbon Falls is exceptionally close to her mom, Helen. “Most of the good advice I’ve ever been given has been from her. She has a plethora of quotes fitting every occasion. One such gem is: ‘What other people think about me is none of my business.’

Julie-Ann Baumer, right, and her mother, Helen, both of Lisbon, are two peas in a pod. A favorite Helen saying is: “What other people think about me is none of my business.”  Courtesy of Julie-Ann Baumer

“Our mother often used different teaching maxims to shape our young minds, such as, ‘Too much togetherness breeds contempt.’ ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness,’ and one of my favorites, ‘Haste makes waste.’ It was true when I was little and it remains so true today. We live in a hasty wasteland.”

Julie-Ann, who is this year’s annual Moxie Festival coordinator in Lisbon, recalled that “As a reckless, free-spirited teenager, I often heard, ‘You can do anything you want if you just put your mind to it.’ I knew Mom was right, but there were many days when I just didn’t want to put my mind to it, whatever it might be. I could do my algebra homework if I put my mind to it, but it was so much easier to contemplate Friday night football games, goof off in study hall or daydream about busting out of Lisbon Falls and going to college. Why isolate variables and solve quadratic equations?”

Yet despite those young and natural yearnings, Mom Helen’s encouragement had the effect of leading her daughter to be the busy woman she is today, working in the insurance industry, freelance writing and actively involved in the local area, including the Moxie Festival, the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston and much more.

Julie-Ann added,  “Nothing makes me happier or prouder than when someone says, ‘You’re just like you’re mother.’”

Writer and editor Karen Schneider has been a regular contributor to the Lewiston Sun Journal for over 20 years. Contact her at [email protected] with your ideas and comments.

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