Lessons my mother handed down

In honor of Mother’s Day, South Sound residents were invited to share the most significant lessons they learned from their moms. And a few moms shared lessons they’ve learned from their children, as well.


“My mom raised me on her own – working as a short-order cook to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. As she worked tirelessly, she told me there were three important things in life that can never be taken away from you: education, education, education. Her constant reminder of the importance of education, and her incredible work ethic carried me through high school, on to college and eventually through law school. I miss her immensely.

“Like all parents, there’s no doubt my two daughters have taught me patience – to take a deep breath, slow down a little and just enjoy the wonderful life we’ve worked hard to create. My daughters have also prepared me to expect the unexpected – and go with it.”

Gov. Chris Gregoire


“My mom has a saying: ‘If you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all.’ She taught me to try to find the good in people – that everybody has a good streak.

“We grew up in a logging community. There weren’t a lot of fine restaurants and fancy things. My mom wanted her boys to act properly, so she bought an Emily Post Book of Etiquette and made us read it. ... It’s something that actually served me well. I’ve ended up in situations where I think, ‘OK, this is tuxedo time.’”

Bill Lahmann, superintendent of the Olympia School District


“(My mother) was engaged in every aspect of supporting her kids’ lives. She was our advocate in school. If we weren’t doing well, she’d be there, and want to know why. But if something happened that she thought was unfair – as what happens sometimes with African American kids – she was there, right in their face. And it was not the kind of thing she did behind closed doors. She took us with her. It was a powerful lesson about advocacy, and about love.”

Les Purce, president of The Evergreen State College


“The most significant thing my mom taught me was how to be spontaneously generous. I can remember her passing a stranger she thought might be in need, go get some food and go back and give it to them. ...

“Mom poured everything that she was into us children. I recall all the elaborate outfits I wore for dancing recitals, while she wore the same dress to church for years.”

Cyndi Noski, owner of Grocery Outlet stores in Olympia and Lacey


“I was with my mom, holding her hand, when she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and given a six- to 12-month life expectancy. I was holding her hand when she took her last breath and passed away nine months later.

“During that time period, she showed so much courage, strength, and even during the toughest times she had a great attitude and sense of humor.

“The most significant thing I have learned from my mother is to always live your life to the fullest and cherish your family and friends.”

Trooper Guy Gill, Washington State Patrol, District 1 (Pierce and Thurston counties)


“There are many things but something that has resonated with me over the years is a quote she had on the fridge that said, ‘It is not what happens to you, but how you cope.’ She had challenges like we all do that she overcame with grace. ...

“The most significant thing my children, and now my grandchildren, have taught me is what it means to love unconditionally. Who knew the capacity we have for putting up with tantrums one minute and the sheer joy we feel when they give us a hug or accomplish something big like emptying the dishwasher without being told!”

Annie Cubberly, executive director of the Child Care Action Council


“Living in Olympia, during the Depression, (my mother) still cooked great meals out of nothing. She sewed her two daughters’ dresses to wear to school.

Mom never complained and always looked on the sunny side of life. ...

“After the Depression, we lost our home, and mom shed a few tears and said we will survive. We did. Mom got busy and papered the old house, painted the woodwork and it just looked great. She said, ‘Again, didn’t I say we’d survive?’

“She was a good example for her children, showing them there was always a better tomorrow.”

Arleta Kerstetter of Olympia


“The most significant thing I have learned from my mother is the art of selflessness. ...

“As I work to raise my 2 1/2 year old, and have another on the way, I have learned that I don’t have to lose myself, and who I am at the core, in order to be a mother. I can have a career, uphold a social life, and most importantly, maintain my humorous outlook on life – my audience has just expanded a bit!”

Sarah Wilkins, program director, Youth Employment & Education Services at Community Youth Services

“The most significant thing I learned from my mother is ‘the gift of unconditional love.’ My mom has always put the needs of others before her own. As a mother now myself, I truly can appreciate how difficult it can be to set your own needs aside so you can lovingly serve your family. Thank you, mom, for all you have done for me and my brothers and sisters through out our lives. We are truly blessed.”

Stephanie Schilter, Schilter Family Farms in Olympia


“I didn’t give birth to my daughter; she was dropped on my doorstep more than two years ago by her caseworker a few weeks after I became a licensed foster parent. ... She has strong bonds with my friends and co-workers, she volunteers every week at a local non-profit she calls her ‘work,’ and her current stability has given her the courage to try doing well in school, learn to swim, cook, and make sound friendships with her peers.

“On Mother’s Day, I will look at her in amazement and think to myself that this is what the village can produce when volunteers take responsibility for kids who need them.

“I am her mom -- the community is her family.”

Emma Margraf, acting executive director of the Volunteer Center of Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties


“My mother passed away from breast cancer when I was in my mid-30s. I spent 22 consecutive days at her bedside in the hospital; during that time, we shared a number of thank-yous for what we had learned from each other.

“I thanked my mother for teaching me the importance of saying grace. If there’s one thing I’d offer for the transformation of any community, it would be that we embrace the ritual of saying grace and making grand toasts. ...

“I thanked my mother for teaching me to respond not from the stature of my position but in regard for the feelings of another person. My mom grew up literally dirt poor, and was a fierce advocate for humility and the common good. This, as much as anything, shapes how I walk through the world today.”

Eli Sterling, founder and director of Earthbound Productions


“As the daughters of Tamie Herridge, we have the gift of being loved and loving an incredible woman. She has taught us to love with open arms; there is never a meal that does not have enough for whoever walks through the door. Tamie is an appreciator, she frequently tastes the best soup, smells the sweetest flower or sees the perfect green moss for a future weaving. We have had to pull off the road to look at the light on early morning frost, or have gotten lost taking an out-of-the-way tiny road in the joy of finding new sights. Tamie lives in a state of perpetual delight at the world around her that is contagious. Her sight for beauty has taught us to see the world in a way that we will always carry with us.

“Tamie is a woman of conviction and has taught us to feel with strength and passion. As a mama, restaurant owner, artist, social activist, and best friend, she inspires us to love, create, think, question, and give. We love our mama with every cell in our bodies. We love being alive with her, to share in the daily delights of being her family.”

Chaela and Zannah Herridge-Meyer of Olympia


“The most important thing I learned from my mother is never be afraid to do the right thing and always be strong. As a mother, I have tried to show my kids how important it is in life to pay it forward whenever you can – it may come back around when you need it most!”

Christie Agtarap, of Lacey


“My mom taught me the importance of compassion; if you treat others kindly, help them when they are in trouble or in need, and cover for those who may not deserve it, you will not only help make the world a better place, but it’s more than likely that you will find true happiness.”

Christine Hoffmann, Rochester Boys & Girls Club Branch Director


“Mom read to us every night before bed and we loved that special time with her. The most important thing I learned from my mother, and my kids, is to take time to read together. Your kids will treasure these memories forever and so will you.”

Jennifer Williamson Forster, executive director of the South Sound Reading Foundation


“When it comes to dating, there’s no pot so crooked there isn’t a lid to fit it.”

Ken Adney, owner of Furniture Works in Olympia


“The most significant lesson I learned from my mom is that it is not about yourself, but caring for the people you love.”

Justin Wimberly, Olympia Boys & Girls Club Branch Director


“On this, our 16th Mother’s Day together, I want to pause and thank you, my beloved daughter, for the joy you bring to my life daily and for the lessons that you have effortlessly taught me, as my beloved daughter. ... You have modeled strength and resilience that very few possess. You move through the challenges in your life with a grace that is unparalleled, accepting what is put in front of you with kindness and ease. Thank you for teaching me to be thoughtful and to take time out to appreciate the loving things that people do for us.”

Rachael Jamison of Olympia


“The most significant thing I learned from my mother is the importance and difficulty of truthful expression.

“The most significant thing I have learned from my daughter is that it’s possible to smile your way through chronic sleep deprivation.”

Heather Grob, director of the MBA program at Saint Martin’s University


“My mother is first generation from Thailand; she married my father 48 years ago and moved to a tiny town in Kansas where they started our family of five. The most significant thing I have learned from her: remember who I am always and all ways.

“As a mother of a 16-year-old and a 3-year-old, the most significant thing I have learned from my children: remember to play and to come home.”

Dae Shogren, program director, Services for High Risk Youth, Community Youth Services


“My mother was a very strong woman. She taught me that I could do things that I didn’t think that I could, and to never give up. I know that I got my optimism from her.”

Steve Boone, owner of Northwest Harley-Davidson in Lacey


“The most significant thing I learned from my mother is that amazing things can come out of bad situations if you only have faith and keep trying. The most significant thing my son has taught me is that kids want to be listened to and to have their opinions valued just like the rest of us do.

Karen Shaffer, co-owner of Mark’s Drywall in Lacey


“My mom used to say that the only way to do something well is to start by admitting everything you don’t know how to do about it.

“And raising my child forced me to relearn that lesson every day.”

Stephanie Coontz, author and professor at The Evergreen State College