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At the time she said it, you were putting the keys in the ignition. You had a thousand things on your mind and everything you owned in the back seat.

She had snuck out the kitchen door, and she made you roll down the window.

She didn't say much _ and it was mushy stuff, mostly. Be careful, take your time and other things you've long since forgotten.

You smiled at her and muttered something about how she shouldn't worry. And then you were watching her in the rear-view mirror.

Maybe the moment wasn't as dramatic as that, but if there is one thing other than love and affection that moms heap on us _ their children _ it's advice.

Moms start giving advice as soon as we're old enough to understand. They dispense it like cups of Kool-Aid on a hot afternoon _ not necessarily because they like to. More than likely, it's because they know that all children quickly master the technique known as selective listening.

Kids tune their mom out when she says, "Always tell the truth." "Just be yourself." Or "Your face will stay that way if you keep doing that!"

But if she uses the words "Disney" and "World" in the same sentence, kids from nine blocks away will mysteriously appear at her door.

At some point, usually as we approach adulthood, we think we don't need our mother's advice anymore. And then later on, we realize how wrong we were.

A mother's advice can be more than a series of words. It can be something that profoundly changes someone's life.

That happened to Mike Peters, who draws the Mother Goose & Grimm comic strip.

"My mom was kind of crazy," Peters said the other day from his home in Sarasota. "She had a TV show in St. Louis _ The Charlotte Peters Show on KSD-TV. It ran from 1949-74, and she sang and danced and interviewed the stars who came through town.

"She passed away eight years ago, but the biggest thing she ever told me, aside from "sign your work,' was something that really made my life wonderful.

"She said, "Do what you love.' You see, I wanted to be a cartoonist early on. But I didn't know any cartoonists or even if I could make a living from it.

"I was about 13 when I told my mother that's what I wanted to be. She said she was doing what she loved, and that I should, too.

"Because she knew that if you do what you love, even if you can't make any money on it, you'll do it well. And if you do it well long enough, people will throw money at you.

"That was the best advice I ever got from anyone."

In honor of Mother's Day, we asked some other people to give us the best advice their mother gave them. This is what they said:

Advice columnist Ann Landers: "Always tell the truth and then you won't have to remember what you said."

Bobby Palermo, Florida's Neil Diamond, and Bob Hodge, owner of the Iron Works Health Club: "Always wear clean underwear in case you get into an accident and they have to take your pants off."

Allison Williams and Todd Espeland, professional fire eaters: "Always get it in writing" _ Todd; "Don't worry . . . everyone in our family was a late bloomer" _ Allison.

Pop artist Kenny Scharf: "She taught me perseverance. Once I was doing a report in school. Back in the fifth grade maybe. Can't remember what the report was about, but we made flash cards and she kept me at it until I knew what I was doing."

Weiss Kelly, professional astrologer: "Being that I had a Virgo mother, she expected perfection from me. Virgos are usually very diligent about raising children. They try harder. The advice she gave me was to follow through on things and to accomplish something."

Shaquille O'Neal, center, Los Angeles Lakers (appearing on CBS): "She'll always tell me, when I go to the free throw line, to bend my knees and concentrate."

Dwight Gooden, pitcher, New York Yankees: "If I had listened to my mom as a kid, the problems I had off the field in '94 and '95 wouldn't have happened."

Smokey Robinson, singer: "My momma told me, you better shop around."

Andy Garcia, actor: "She always told me to follow your dreams and follow your heart. Just like that. Very specifically in those terms."

Larry Rivelli, Elvis impersonator: "She gave me so much advice, believe me. She always told me you have to do what you have to do no matter how bad and rough it gets. She taught me to always be a good person and be nice to people and they will be nice to you. Her telling me to do my best is reflected in my Elvis shows. I always acknowledge her when she's my audience."

Daniel Fite, magician: "Judge a woman by the way she cooks. Considering my size it was worthwhile advice."

Christina Hernandez, the 13-year-old host of El Pequeno Mundo de Radiomundo (The Small World of Radiomundo), on radio station WRMD-AM 680: "It doesn't matter what other people think of you; it's what you think of yourself."

Maria Conchita Alonso, actor: "She always told me to learn how to do everything by myself, to never depend upon a man. I think that's great, because that gives me a lot of respect for myself. At the same time, I feel kind of stupid because I see my friends who are being taken care of by their husbands or boyfriends. I'm such a rebel in that respect. Now that I'm older, it would be nice to have that."

Beth Doyle, director of community relations and development for the non-profit Centre for Women in Tampa: "The best advice that my mother ever gave to me, and she gave this message to me in a wide variety of ways, was: You can do anything. And, I believe her."

Shawn Bond, corrections officer, Arcadia Road Prison: "If you're gonna do something, do it right."

Joan Wesner, owner, Mother's Pizza, St. Petersburg: "Always treat others as you would have them treat you."

"Mother" Mike Albert, owner, Mother's Milk Coffee House, Clearwater: "In all honesty, she repeatedly told me, "Always wear beige to all functions, and don't throw up on the shag carpet.' "

_ Staff writers PAMELA DAVIS, STEVE PERSALL, JACQUIN SANDERS and NANCY WACLAWEK contributed to this report