Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Sassy Grandma

Today's post is in honor of my sassy grandmother, Ruth, who passed away earlier this year.  This is her birthday week and she was one incredible woman, who taught me some deep life lessons about how to be happy. 

One of the first memories I have of my Grandma Ruth was staring down at her small hand (with painted finger nails) while she held a crochet hook in one hand and a mass of gauzy white yarn in the other.  Her thumb was bent in an unnatural position as she gripped the yarn between her fingers.  Her hands moved like a tornado through the ball of yarn, but instead of reaping destruction, she created order:  making knots form into perfect seashells across our laps.  

I thought she was a magician.  She placed the yarn in my own small hands and tried to guide my fingers to work the same magic.  Impossible.  My patience bested me.  Sensing my frustration, she taught me a simple chain stitch instead.  Hook under, catch yarn, pull through.  Long after her visit, numberless chains of yarn decorated our house, but weaving seashells remained a mystery.  I learned many, many things from my Grandmother, including eventually, how to make yarn into sea shells.  These are some of the things Grandma Ruth taught me.

The big problems in life will take care of themselves, as long as you move forward and do your best.  This life lesson carried her through the loss of a spouse at a tender age, raising two children, and putting herself through nursing school in the 1960's.  Ruth firmly believed that no problem was too big that it couldn't be overcome with a positive attitude.
Take care of yourself.  One of the great things I always admired about my Grandma Ruth us that she took the time to take care of herself.  All her life, Grandma Ruth dressed to the nines, had her hair and nails done and just 'took care'.  She understood that it was important to feel good about yourself and that one of the best ways to do that was to take care of yourself, physically, mentally and spiritually. 

Travel.  Ruth traveled all over the world.  She camped, cruised, walked and flew many places with unequaled vigor all her adult life.  Travel made Ruth's life full and rich, and she encouraged others to experience the wonder of travel.  So, travel!

Little things count.    Life is funny.  You spend the first third of your life trying to 'make it' and accumulate all the things you think you need for one reason or another, the second third of your life cleaning, managing, paying taxes and taking care of all the stuff you just accumulated, and the last third of your life presents a beautiful opportunity to realize that you probably didn't need all that stuff to begin with.  When Henry David Thoreau said, "Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!" he really knew what he was talking about, because he understood that little things count.  Ruth enjoyed the simple things in life, like a cold glass of iced tea on a hot summer afternoon, cooking a good meal, and gathering with her family. Little things count.

Be sassy!  When I was little, my Grandma Ruth was the sassiest person I knew.  She was not like other Grandmothers.  Her hair wasn't blue or pink and  she didn't smell like cookies--she smelled like Este Lauder perfume.  Her fingers were decorated with rings and there was always a necklace of scarf at her throat. 
         Twice a year, from the airline's open gates she strutted, jaw jutted, chin high, painted fingernails grasping the purse that perfectly matched her shoes.  Her sassiness was not lost in her later years either.  She new what she wanted and then went after it with gusto.  She had sass, so Be Sassy!

Serve others with love. The last few years of Grandma Ruth's life were spent in the company of my mom who attended to her daily needs.  It was a special gift for our family to have her so close geographically.  On occasion, she was able to visit our little family and we were able to be a part of her daily care.  Caring for her was not always easy, but I learned that when we serve others with love, that service is no longer "business getting done", but it becomes holy.  And when we make a moment holy, it becomes more special, real, important and lasting.  Serving others with love creates an opportunity for great joy in our lives.

Tell people you love and appreciate them often and without reserve.  During the last few years of Grandma Ruth's life, she often, and without reserve told me how much she loved me.  She always said, "I love you, honey."  In fact, everyone who was a part of her life heard those precious words from her.  Love heals, binds, forgives, and makes life's bitterness a little bit sweeter.  And the best part is, it's free!  (Grandma Ruth loved a good deal!)  Love doesn't cost a thing to give away, and at the end of the journey, the only thing that may really matter is:  How much did we love?

Do something you enjoy and in turn, enjoy the moment.  Ruth was a gifted still life painter.  When I was 12, she introduced me to painting during a camping trip.  She, patiently and with great love, taught me how to mix color, which brushes to use, and how to capture light.  She taught me to pay attention, and while I don't paint much anymore, there is not a day that goes by that I don't use the skill of watching the little things unfold.  She taught me how to capture and enjoy the moment; and learning how to delight in the moment through something you enjoy doing is one of life's greatest gifts.

I am grateful for the life of my Sassy Grandma Ruth.  She taught me many, many things.  Her life was one of hard work and much love.  I raise a glass to her this week and celebrate her vibrant and giving spirit!

What things did your grandparents teach you?
What kind of grandparent would you like to be?

Please email me at or leave your comments here!  Join us in celebrating the simple moments of everyday life! 


  1. Oh I miss her so much. I will never forget our mornings together. She would tell me "I may be old but I want to look good!" I loved hearing about her trips, when she'd get to see you and the kids, her time on the farm, plus her stories about living in Kansas. She could always brighten my darkest day with a big smile, kiss on the cheek and her perfect "I love ya!" We are all so lucky to have been blessed with Ruth! I know that I will attempt to emulate your wonderful grandmother when my time comes. She lived with amazing grace, spirit, dignity and LOVE!

  2. Thank you for loving her!!! Look how she brought people together! I too hope I can emulate her when my time comes, what a wonderful life and what a wonderful woman.

  3. I only had my two grandmas one was quite honestly evil to me most of the time, the other was my best friend through my younger years. She taught me how to cook and about God. The best lesson she taught me was that we show our love for God in how we serve and treat our nieghbors. I want to be the Grandfather that they come to when they have questions bout the world, like the movies, with a piece of straw in my mouth, peering over a fence dispensing pieces of wisdom. Will that happen? Hmm the straw and the fence I can handle, but wisdom may escape me.

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  5. Brady, you will make an awesome grandfather! Your grandkids will think you are the coolest--I had to delete my last comment because I can't spell tonight! ;) I can totally see you dispensing sage wisdom with the straw between your teeth while you lean on a very British fence. :)