If asked to name the three people with the greatest influence on my life, my mom tops the list. She has known me longer than anyone else on earth and loved me through it all. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a mentor and parent who loves without limits – always available to offer advice, wisdom, a pep talk or a firm push in the right direction. Mom is turning 88 today and she is absolutely extraordinary. During my frequent phone calls, when I ask how she is, her typical response is said in her melodic way. “I’m fit as a fiddle!” is music to my ears.
A Woman of Influence
My Mom was a steel magnolia long before the popular movie acquainted the masses with the term that describes a southern woman who is strong and independent yet very feminine. In fact, she comes from a long line of steel magnolias that weave a colorful history. Many in our family have a traceable lineage to early settlers of Florida and can be called crackers – but Mom is more a southern tea cookie. She was born in Tallahassee and has been a resident of Florida all her life. When she started FSU as a freshman, it was still the Florida College for Women. Her mother was from Samson, Alabama and her frequent extended visits there are evident in her speech.
Bettye Banks is from the generation who wore white gloves and pretty little hats. Her influence surpassed that of Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis – in our house at least.
She taught me everything I needed to know for success in life before I was 12. It just took me the next decade or two to realize the tremendous value of that education. I asked for her help when I wrote the chapter on respect in Win From Within: The Heart of Success and Significance. She didn’t miss a beat in coming up with the ABCs of Magnificent Manners.
She has filled 88 years with love, laughter, and beauty. She still lives in exclamation points! Here is a short list of nuggets for living well absorbed from her:
1. Keep your priorities right. Faith, family, and friends are first. Time spent with those you love is a wise investment.
2. Beauty is often hidden. Train yourself to find it.
3. Good grammar and good grooming are ways anyone can improve themselves.
4. Don’t write something down if you would be ashamed for someone to read it.
5. Children are carriers of joy and hope. Spend time with them and you will be a carrier too.
6. Always do your best. Excellence is its own reward.
7. Travel is one way you can spend money and get richer.
8. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
9. Be generous. Giving is one of life’s greatest joys.
10. Though you often don’t understand God’s ways, you can always trust Him.
11. Everything’s going to be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.
12. There’s a song in your heart. Share the music.
13. Act like a lady. There is no excuse for rude or crude behavior.
14. You’re stronger than you think.
15. The possibilities are endless.
16. Don’t just do what you can. Do what it takes.
17. Education is a lifetime endeavor. Never stop learning.
18. Make lists and have a plan.
19. Have a backup plan. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.
20. Books will take you anywhere you want to go. Read everything.
21. Remember the stories of those who have gone before us. Preserve your rich heritage.
22. Voting is one of the greatest privileges of our democratic society. Even if you must vote for the lesser of two evils, go to the polls.
23. You don’t have to agree to get along.
24. Be gracious to everyone.
25. Love without limits. Even when it hurts.
I am thankful. Find someone you can look to who lives and loves fully. And most important, be that man or woman of influence for the next generation.