Crystal's mother

"Always do your best because, regardless of whether you win or lose, you gave it your all" is a saying my mother lived by. I am grateful for these words because they have guided me throughout my life. They emphasized how much I could do in my life mentally, physically and emotionally if I just focused. I learned that the only thing that can stop me from achieving a goal is me. So I'd better work hard if I wanted things out of life because they were not going to come to me. I had to go out and get them. I began to live realistically instead of foolishly making up excuses for my faults. They were just that—excuses. It became clear to me that I didn't do well in school because I didn't study hard enough, and I was far from giving it my all. As I grew older, I focused more on important things and remembered my mother's words. I graduated with a 3.0 grade point average and received my business degree while married with two children. I made her proud when I didn't let anything stand in my way because, like she said, "The only thing that can stop me from succeeding is me." Thank you, Mom. I will have more for my family because of you, and I can pass to them the knowledge so they can have more than me.

Crystal; Fresh Meadows, New York
Karen as a child with her mother

My mom continues to teach me and my sister (and two brothers) about the strength of a woman who believes in herself and what she is capable of doing. My mother dropped out of high school her sophomore year to get a job in a drugstore and help support her family after my grandfather died. In her early 20s, she married my father, and despite the fact that she was a "city girl," agreed to move with him to a small farm seven miles outside my tiny hometown of Ackley, Iowa. I've watched this 5'2'' woman throw bales of hay and shovels of manure. She stayed up with sows all night to help them give birth, and she still made it to all our ball games, plays and 4-H activities. When something needs done, my mom just steps up without ever questioning whether she can do it.

My parents are in their 70s now, but they still live on the farm. They call it being "semiretired," but it would look a lot like work to most people. They do take time to travel now, but it is still centered around visiting family and friends. I am a 51-year-old doctoral student at Ball State, and if there is ever a day when I'm not sure I can do something "at my age," all I have to do is call my mother and there is no doubt in my mind that I can do what needs to be done.

Karen Neubauer; Anderson, Indiana
Briahna's mother

I am a great mom. I am a great mom because of the example that was set before me by my own mom. Growing up, I knew I always had at least one person in my corner, on my side. I was not the easiest child to raise. I have always been strong in my convictions and gone against the grain to some degree. My mom always supported that. I was always given the benefit of the doubt because she was confident that she'd taught me to make good choices. When I was pregnant with my daughter, my mom told me, "No matter what, be her advocate." I always will. So many people and situations cut into our spirit on a daily basis, I have always known that when I need repair, I only need to call my mom.

I hope both my children will be confident in the knowledge that I will gladly hold them up and bear any burdens to lift them higher to their goals. I want to foster their independence and right to make choices that are good for them, whether or not they are popular ones. I would not be who I am today without the wisdom and strength of my mom. I also have learned to take care of me first, so I may be the best I can be for my children. Date nights with my husband to maintain a strong and healthy marriage, exercising to stay strong and fit and minitrips to visit family or friends are all things I do to take care of me and that my mom did without apology. She taught me that to take care of yourself is putting your family's needs first because you will be better able to be 100 percent for them.

Briahna Connors; Grand Blanc, Michigan
Julie with her mother and siblings

Wow, there are so many wonderful things that I learned from my mother, but if I had to pick one lesson it would be that no matter how bad things might seem, always keep a positive attitude. Feeling sorry for yourself doesn't get you anywhere, but a positive attitude will take you wherever you want to go. "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade," she used to say. I was able to put this lesson to good use when my mother passed away right before my senior year in college. It was very unexpected, and my mother was my best friend. After she died, I knew I had two choices—I could sit around feeling sorry for myself or I could go on living the life my mom had hoped and wished for me all along. I chose to live the best life that I could, and I know that my mom is smiling down on me with a great deal of pride for all that I have done since her passing!

Julie Trindel; Summerfield, North Carolina
Jennifer's in-laws

This is about my relationship with my mother-in-law. The thing she has taught me is acceptance. Not only her acceptance of me into her family—that was hard enough with me "taking" her firstborn from her—but her acceptance of people in general. I have watched my mother-in-law—"Mom" as I call her—show unconditional love to everyone she meets. She meets people right where they are and just loves them the way they are, warts and all. If I have ever heard anyone speaking ill of someone in front of her, she is always right there to say something good about the person and why they behave the way they do. Not to enable the behavior, but to love them in spite of the behavior.

I now have four kids of my own, and I've received the tools I need to be accepting of them and their mistakes (we all make them) and let them always know that who they are is not defined by what they know or who they know, but how big their heart is. By her accepting me at a time in my life that I needed so desperately to have a female maternal figure think I was wonderful, she taught me how to give that to my children, my husband and everyone else I meet. That is a most priceless gift, and one I will treasure always. I will honor her for this on Mother's Day. I hope you will too.

Jennifer Humphreys; Sugar Land, Texas