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Kathy Magnuson, Norma Smith Olson

"Listening to our mother's stories is often the beginning of understanding our own." -Tami Mohamed Brown, click here to read her column

by Kathy Magnuson and Norma Smith Olson

Don't walk alone after dark. Be home before it's too late. These were life lessons Kathy learned from her mom, Helen. Kathy was a good girl when she was growing up and followed the rules. She didn't learn until later in her mother's life that these lessons came out of a life-impacting, negative experience in the dark when her mom was growing up. The insight gave Kathy a new understanding of these non-negotiable rules her mother enforced during her teenage years. As an adult they are a part of who she is, but she has chosen to relax the rules.

Norma's mom, Margaret, was raised with a strong work ethic. Retired for over 35 years, she often comments, "I didn't accomplish much today." Work is a measurement. When lacking energy, Margaret is good with self-talk. "I just pick myself and get to it" is her mantra. When Norma's plate feels too full and her wheels are just spinning, the mantra of just digging in and getting to work is one that Norma picks up, too.

We are our mothers' daughters. And we are our own people.

We are not all mothers, but every woman is a daughter. We may be daughters of Depression-era mothers or '60s hippies or farmers or immigrants. Nearly all of our mothers worked-whether inside or outside the home. No matter the strength of that mother-daughter relationship, our mothers' lives shape our own in ways that are vividly obvious and others we are not even aware of.

In this issue we share motherline stories-grandmothers, mothers and daughters. Author and naturalist Terry Tempest Williams talks about how we are mirrors of our mothers and grandmothers, how we are like them and also shaped by our own times.

Are there moments when you've peered through a window and understood something of your mother's life?

Kelly Fern talks about the moment she understood deeply what her mother had been through, as her own life mirrored her mother's. Fern was adopted from South Korea into a Minnesota family. As a teenage mother, she gave up a daughter for adoption. Fern shares her story of finding her biological mother and her biological daughter, completing her motherline connection.

Regular columnist Tami Mohamed Brown writes about the discovery of understanding her mother more deeply when she had a daughter of her own.

Writer Patricia Cameron was surprised to see her mother in herself. Aren't we all a bit surprised when we hear our mother's voice come out of our own mouths? Or when we look in the mirror and catch a glimpse of our mothers or grandmothers?

Rae Meadows writes about exploring the legacies of three generations of women and how we carry that legacy forward in our lives, knowing that connection at the gut level.

MWP readers shared their motherline lessons from being true to yourself to how to iron a shirt.

Whether practical or philosophical, motherline wisdom, knowledge, insights, lessons and rules are passed along from grandmothers and mothers to daughters and sons. As Terry Tempest Williams says, "Our mothers and grandmothers are in our DNA."

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