Let’s Talk with Maggie Toussaint

Mama Says
By Maggie Toussaint

My Mom as an older teen

With Mother’s Day on May 10, I reflected on life skills my mom taught me. Manners were the first thing she drilled into all of us kids. We had to speak and comport ourselves a certain way. Before you start thinking we were putting on airs, we weren’t. We were a blue collar family all the way. Mom taught us to treat others as we’d like to be treated ourselves, and she always championed underdogs.

Mom stressed that it wasn’t enough to take care of yourself. Looking out for others was important. This was easier when I was a kid because my world was much smaller and I had fewer health challenges. I’m not out on the frontlines helping now, but I help with behind the scenes stuff. As an introvert, that suits me better.

Leading to another point she taught, be true to yourself. It is much easier to go through life knowing who you are and what you like or don’t like. Living a lie is never good as it can destroy you from the inside out.

The most important thing Mom taught me was “you can do anything you put your mind to.” This was mind-blowing to a shy girl growing up in an isolated fishing village. My first reaction to anything different/new that came up was to shake my head no as I physically retreated. But, life is everchanging, and I’ve encountered many situations to date that seemed impossible at first. Instead of allowing fear to close my mind, Mom’s words rang in my ears and gave me courage to accomplish more than I ever dreamed possible.

Book writing for publication is a good example of her influence. I liked writing stories from the first time I ever put pencil to paper, but I had no training in plotting, characterization, dialog, setting, pacing, or tension. My first book-length trilogy, long deleted and mercifully forgotten, was beyond awful. Even so, Mom believed in me and she read everything I wrote during her lifetime. It took me ten years to write a story that was up to market standards. During that time I sought advice through writing organizations, reference books, and critique groups. Gradually, my writing improved and now I’ve published twenty-two books.

Mom would’ve loved the title of my latest culinary cozy: Seas the Day. That slogan would’ve been right in her wheelhouse. Taking charge of yourself, helping others, and moving forward each day with grace are Mom’s prescription for life.

Though restrictions for the pandemic may be lifting in your area, I hope you will “Seas the Day” and yet still exercise prudence when it comes to your health.

For a chance to win a digital or print copy of Seas the Day (US addys only for print books), share something your Mom taught you as a comment.

Also, be sure and click over to enter our monthly Booklover’s Bench contest. Entries are welcomed between May 1-18, and the winner will be announced on May 19. CLICK HERE.

Comments

  1. Shannon Murphy says

    My mom taught me so many things! One of them is kindness and empathy. I’m trying to make sure I pass that along to my kids!! I think that’s such an important lesson in today’s world.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Those are wonderful qualities, Shannon. Your kids are lucky to have you as their mom!

  2. Alice Liu says

    Growing up, my mother and I had a complex relationship. She came from pre-Communist China, went to Germany, then came to the states. She didn’t even speak English when she applied for her first job, and eventually became an international consultant for IBM. She’s not afraid of change. My life path was almost the opposite of hers, but I’m finding a mirroring in our paths as I view our lives more conceptually. The lack of fear in change is what is guiding me these days in moving through our current times.

    • maggietoussaint says

      I hear you, Alice, about complex relationships. Sometimes, relationships with family members go sideways and there doesn’t seem to be any help for it. I’m glad now that with the perspective of 2020, you see commonality with your parent. We all have our paths to walk and basic understanding of ourselves and our past are keys to present and future success.

  3. Libby Dodd says

    With both my parents from Georgia originally, I got a goodly dose of southern manners. “Yes, Mam.” “No, Sir.” Anyone older (even by a small amount) was Miss, Mrs, or Mr. Unless they were a family friend, then they were an honorary Aunt or Uncle.

    • maggietoussaint says

      I hear you, Libby. I have a cousin that everyone called Sister. These things happen! But you can never go wrong with good manners.

  4. My mom’s been gone for 27 years, and I still miss her every day. She taught my sister and me how to be strong and independent when we need to be and to go after what we want as long as we don’t hurt others in the process. Her #1 rule was to treat others the way we’d like to be treated.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Strength and independence were valued where I grew up too. Your Mom’s #1 rule was on my Mom’s list too. Maybe they were operating out of the same rulebook.

  5. Jana Leah says

    My mom taught me to never give up & to always give 110% no matter how much you may want to quit.

    • maggietoussaint says

      She taught you self-reliance and gave you the confidence to keep going when there are obstacles. Those are wonderful life lessons, Jana.

  6. Teresa Warner says

    My mother has taught me how to make so many of here different recipes! Some of my favorites are her pot roast, liver and onions and our usual famous broccoli and potato salads!

    • maggietoussaint says

      That all sounds so good, Teresa. I envy you that cooking time with your mom. My mom must’ve cooked but I didn’t get to help. I was off practicing independence and courage. I learned to cook on my own, well, me and Betty Crocker, who’s still my right-hand gal. I’m a big fan of broccoli salads.

  7. My mom always taught me that you can only control yourself and not others.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Amen to that, and that rule applies to all aspects of life. Writers get to discover the impact of this rule when reviews and/or publishers don’t meet expectations. (Maybe they feel the same way about us!). Anyway, my feeling is that getting upset about things out of your control is counterproductive.

  8. My mom taught us to always think of others and put them first. She reminded us that we were so blessed and we needed to help and bless others.

    • maggietoussaint says

      My mom and your mom must’ve gone to school together or something. Bless you!

  9. SARAH TAYLOR says

    My Mother always taught us to have respect for other people and how to cook and bake!

    • maggietoussaint says

      Hi Sarah. I try not to dwell on this, but so many times today’s troubles could be resolved by adhering to that “have respect for other people” rule. I’m glad you learned how to cook and bake from your mom. Those are lifeskills I’m sure you use every day.

  10. Maggie, what wonderful memories of your mother. She sounds like an awesome lady. And I love the pictures you shared. My mom was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known, and from her I learned that it’s OK stand by my principles and say what I think, no matter if it’s not the popular opinion. In her last year, I am sure she must have had some small strokes (we never could get her doctor to confirm), because she lost most of her ability to communicate and remember. That was the worst possible fate that could have happened to someone like her, but after she passed we all laughed a little and said that everything is fine now, that she’s up in heaven telling God what to do. I consider myself very fortunate to have had her as a mom.

  11. My mom taught us girls that when you are traveling or don’t want to do laundry, you can always buy what’s missing!

    • maggietoussaint says

      I like your mom’s attitude. I once forgot my entire suitcase for a writer’s conference. It was majorly traumatizing, but a quick shopping expedition and I was back in business.

  12. Pat Dupuy says

    Mom was an extrovert and absolutely fearless. Me? The opposite. She was always telling my much younger self to quit being a worrywart. If only it was that easy!

    • maggietoussaint says

      My mom was that way too, Pat. She seemed larger than life when I was little and also when I was fully grown. Facing fears is hard but I realized early on that I didn’t have to face all fears alone. Reaching out to trusted friends and family and being open to their encouragement has been a lifelong blessing. Something I learned a long time ago is that everyone has fears but courageous people act in spite of their fears. I bet if you think back, there are a good many things that used to scare you but you now manage quite well. You have that courage, Pat. Your mother saw it and so do I!

  13. Mom taught me to enjoy cooking and books (and cookbooks!) We’re always swapping books and recipes, it’s nice having common interests we can discuss.

    • maggietoussaint says

      I love that you share these interests with your mother, Alicia. That makes it so much easier to stay fully present in each other’s lives. It is much too easy to get busy with the trappings of life and take our family for granted. This pandemic has helped me refocus on what’s important, and for me that means spending time with family.

  14. Maggie, how I wish I had a mom like yours! My mother’s motto was “Do as I say, not as I do.” 🙁

    And thanks for switching weeks with me. We finally got power back at 4:15 this morning. It was heavenly to take a hot shower and wash my hair!

    • maggietoussaint says

      Thank you, Lois. The switch worked out for both of us. I hope you called dibs on the first shower!

  15. Lloyd Young Flanders says

    M y mother always admonished, “Pretty is as pretty does.” And my father’s was : “Manners will get you where money won’t.” We were expected to be helpful and gracious automatically and we did out best. I liked this piece, Maggie. I miss choir.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Thank you, Lloyd. I also miss choir and seeing people. Your parents sound wise and pragmatic!

  16. Sounds like you learned a lot from your mom. My mother said, “Always look your best.” I still take this to heart, although it doesn’t matter as much during a pandemic. “This, too, shall pass,” was another favorite of hers. She also taught me leadership skills and had innate writing ability that I didn’t learn about until later. But mostly she taught by example, being a wonderful mother and a great cook.

    • maggietoussaint says

      That’s wonderful, Nancy. Sometimes Mom’s are so good at teaching us that we don’t realize it, and those are often the best moments and memories.

  17. cherylhollon says

    My 93-year-old Mother is a promoter of “You can do anything you put your mind to.” Her four children are proof of that premise. We’re musicians, engineers, business owners, and authors. She is still a force for prodding us to try new things. She raised us up equally. By that, I mean she taught both the boys and the girls how to cook, clean house, do our laundry and she made sure my dad took the girls fishing, hunting, and camping. I’m a lucky woman.

    • maggietoussaint says

      I can feel the love and admiration for your mother ringing through your words, Cheryl. You and your siblings are lucky to still have her in your life. We learned to do everything in our household as well and those early experiences grounded me in a personal strength I didn’t appreciate until much later.

  18. I love what you wrote about your mom. One of the most important things my mom taught me was that people always matter more than things. Give them the care and respect of your undivided attention, always listening without interruption. I hope youl have a happy Mother s’ Day!

    • maggietoussaint says

      Thank you for your kind words.Your mother gave great advice, Gloria! “People matter” is a wonderful mantra for life.

  19. What a lovely tribute… what a lovely smile in the picture with your mother. She was a wise woman…and she must have met my mother because they both taught us “That we could do anything if we tried.”

    • maggietoussaint says

      Thank you so much, Debra. The occassion for the photo of the two of us above was the wedding of my youngest daughter. I was thrilled to have my extended family around me to enjoy the occassion. The picture is precious for another reason. It was truly an act of patience to get a photo of Mom with her eyes open. God bless her. We all miss her so much, but she’s here in our hearts.