10 Life Lessons From My Grandmother

As I missed my grandmother, I began to think of all the wisdom and examples she set for me. Today, I’m sharing 10 life lessons from my grandmother.

10 life lessons from my grandmother

10 Life Lessons From My Grandmother

It’s been wonderful to watch my own mother with my children. The grandparent-grandchild relationship is so special and the loving bond between them is almost magical to watch. The burden of having to teach and discipline a child is set aside and the fullness of enjoyment between adult and child truly blossoms. As I watch them together, I wonder what my boys will remember about my mom, their grandmother. That got me thinking. What legacy did my grandmother leave to me? Here are 10 life lessons from my grandmother.

Start Every Morning With Prayer

Every morning my grandmother woke up while the rest of the house was still sleeping and began her morning prayers. Then once done, just about the time everyone else was waking, the smell of frying bacon and eggs would start filling the rooms. Except for Fridays which was pancake day!

Now that I am a mother myself, I finally understand why she rose so early to pray. Life gets incredibly busy and if you don’t make God a priority, you may miss the opportunity to pray at all. So these days, I follow her example. As much as I value my sleep, I wake early before the kids and pray before I do anything else. It sets the tone for my day and provides the strength and encouragement I need to get through the day. It’s an example my grandmother always set for me and one I hope to continue.

Be Your Own Teacher

My grandmother was one of seventeen children. Yes, you read that right. Growing up during the Great Depression, she left school in 2nd grade to go work picking cotton in the Texas heat. She left before she learned how to fully read and write.

My grandma was determined to learn how to read and write even if it meant learning it on her own. She taught herself arithmetic. The proverbial, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” that was my grandmother. She didn’t find excuses. Instead, she set out for what she wanted and she made it happen herself. She was a fighter. She was scrappy and I loved that about her. My grandmother was an amazing cook and was completely self-taught. She clipped recipes from the newspaper and wasn’t afraid to experiment in the kitchen. She didn’t wait for someone to teach her. Instead, she taught herself. I’m like her in that way. I teach myself how to do things just like her. Don’t wait for someone to teach you. Learn it on your own.

Marriage Is For Life

When my first marriage was ending, I was visiting my grandparents. She asked me how things were going with my husband (it was already known my marriage was on the rocks). My eyes welled up as I began to explain he had been cheating. Without missing a beat, she motioned me to follow her to her room.

Now, let me explain something. My grandmother’s room was very private. In her tiny house, her small bedroom was her private sanctuary. It was pretty well known that her bedroom was off-limits. So when she invited me inside, I was intrigued. She sat me down and shared with me how my grandfather (a man whom I idolized) had been unfaithful to her early in their marriage.

10 life lessons from my grandmother
Me and My Grandmother

Then she explained that this was still not a reason to cut and run. I know that will incense many people reading this, because today’s modern world says, “if someone fails you, get out because you deserve better.” But in her world, in her time, in her faith – it was not a matter of “if your spouse fails you” it was a matter of “when.” In other words, you can count on your spouse failing you because we are flawed people.

She explained that when you vow to be married to someone for life, you and your marriage will be tested in every conceivable way. Sickness. Infidelity. Financial trouble. Death. Miscarriages. Your marriage will be threatened by all of it – and marriage can survive it all. It’s a matter of choice. The hard times, she explained, they pass. You press on.

My ex-husband ultimately left me for someone else. There was nothing I could do to keep him from leaving and even after he moved out, I tried reconciling for nearly 24 months. In my second marriage, the difference is we both refuse to entertain divorce. We continue to be tested by those things and my grandmother was right. The hard times, they pass. You just keep holding on refusing to give up on each other. You choose your spouse every time, every day. Marriage is for life.

Stop And Dance

When I was a preteen, we were visiting my grandmother. We stayed in a room that had been converted from a screened porch. In the room, I found some old swing records of hers. At the time, the movie Swing Kids had come out and had ignited in me a love for big band swing music. My uncle Abel helped me play them on his stereo record player and my grandmother, who was working in the kitchen came over when she heard Benny Goodman echoing down the hall.

It was one of my fondest memories. My grandmother dancing with me in that little room. I still remember the sound her slippers made on the floor as she wiggled back and forth with the vigor of a twenty-year-old. Music made her feel young again and music was always there at her happiest.

From Mexican ballads to swing music, my grandmother loved music and dancing. She didn’t have the best singing voice, but that didn’t stop her from singing along. She was one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, but she always had time to stop and dance.

My grandmother fixing dinner at our house

A Budget Is About Giving Every Dollar a Purpose

Dave Ramsey has got nothing on my grandmother! My grandmother was using the cash envelope system before Ramsey was even born! My grandmother managed the daily household finances and she ran a tight ship. On one occasion when I was very young, I was going to accompany one of my uncles to the grocery store. She motioned me to her room and I stood there as she opened her dresser. In her drawer, she kept envelopes filled with cash. Her scratchy handwriting labeled the envelopes’ purpose. She kept tallies of the deposits and withdraws on the back of the envelopes. Every dollar had a purpose and a place.

She clipped coupons and she planned meals. She never shopped out of boredom and she never ate out at restaurants. I even recall she wore the same purple dress to church for years and had one pair of dress shoes. She was willfully disciplined in finance. “Save your money, Mare Mare,” she said as she pulled money out of the grocery envelope. “Only buy what you need.”

I still remember her advice. Now financial gurus, like Dave Ramsey, make millions showing people how to utilize the cash envelope system to stay within a budget. But my grandmother with her 2nd-grade education figured this out with her own common sense. Her rules:

  1. Save before spending.
  2. See what you spend.
  3. Only spend only what you need.

Frugality has been lost in recent generations. I find it sad that generations today can’t even tell the difference between a need and a want. You don’t need a cell phone. Really you don’t! Eating out? That’s a luxury. That’s why young people today haven’t figured out how to buy a house in their twenties as my grandparents and parents did. Save your money and give every dollar a purpose.

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

My grandmother was clean. Actually, I don’t think there is a word clean enough to describe her. I’d trust eating from her floor before eating off my counters. I mean, who washes their windows every week and scrubs the driveway and patio with Tide? My grandmother, that’s who! One thing I will always remember about her house it was immaculate. There was order and a place for everything.

As a homemaker myself I strive to be like her but admit I fall horribly short. I comfort myself with the fact that she didn’t have a 4,000 square foot house to clean like me. She did, however, have six children. Yet, she fixed three full meals a day for a family of eight and not just any meals, comfort food and hearty dishes.

She is my example of what a homemaker should be. I honestly don’t know how she did it. She may have been poor, but her home was so pristine and orderly, that her simple things looked incredibly tasteful. Her house always seemed peaceful and it was due to her organization and cleanliness.

Play In the Dirt

As busy as my grandmother was in the home, I remember her equally busy on the outside of the home. In fact, I was remembering that for years her washroom was outside in a small room on her back patio.

In my garden, I have her Irises. Over the years, the bulbs have yielded new bulbs and I even have an offspring of her redbud tree. Every time I see them bloom I think of her.

She was an avid gardener herself and loved to grow flowers and vegetables. Even though she’s been gone for around thirteen years, her flowers still bloom in my grandfather’s garden. She taught me to get outside and play in the dirt. It’s so therapeutic.

10 life lessons from my grandmother
My grandmother’s Irises blooming in my yard

The Heart of the Home is the Kitchen

Kitchens are for bringing families together. I underestimated that idea in my youth, but it’s true. Stories are relived around the kitchen table. Wisdom is imparted over dessert. Laughter so hard you feel like you might choke. The feeling of being so satisfyingly full that the most comfortable position is reclining in the dining chair. Memories are made at dinnertime.

My grandmother was an amazing cook, but an even more impressive baker. I miss her washing dishes at her sink. I recall the sound of her slippers clapping on the linoleum floor. The pies cooling on the window sill. The smell of coffee emanating from the tin percolator on her stove. Her 7up cake standing proudly on her kitchen table. The fragrance of freshly baked oatmeal cookies as you entered the front door. The fluffy boiled icing in the stand mixer. The scents and tastes immediately take me back and also one of the things I miss the most.

Share your recipes. Don’t hoard them. When someone passes away, a little piece of them is left behind when you recreate their recipe. Sure, it’s never exactly like the way they made it, but when you’re missing them, it’s a little slice of heaven on earth. Cook a homecooked meal. Pass down recipes. Don’t underestimate the memories that are created in the kitchen.

The Best Diet is Moderation

I’m not sure my grandmother ever topped 110 lbs her whole life, even while pregnant. My grandmother was a tiny little thing. She was only about 4’9″ and she never dieted. Instead, she enjoyed everything in moderation. A small spoonful of everything is how I remember her plate. I never saw her deny herself a dessert. In fact, she had quite a sweet tooth. But I do remember her small portions. She was never indulgent.

Her dinner plates were small and as my Aunt recalled, one loaf of bread would last their family of eight an entire week. The secret to her being thin wasn’t a fad or crash diet. It wasn’t Keto, Whole 30 or Paleo. It was moderation.

And exercise? She never went to a gym. She never worked out to get rid of the postpartum mom bod. Housework was her exercise. She earned her flat tummy by scrubbing windows and floors, making beds. Going all the way outside to load her washing machine and hanging clothes on a line. Gardening and vacuuming. I never recall her sitting until it was time to eat or sleep. Sewing was probably the exception. I don’t even recall her sitting down to fold clothes. She was pretty clear she didn’t think it was work if you were sitting.

10 life lessons from my grandmother

Hard Work Builds Character

My grandmother was the hardest working person I’ve known. I have a lot of them in my family. My father and brother are extremely hard workers. I myself, am a work horse. But my grandmother worked herself to the bone for her family.

I never asked her why she worked so hard. I’d be curious to know what motivated her every day to such perfectionism. She worked from sun up to sun down and I rarely saw her sit down to rest.

What I’ve learned from modeling her work ethic is that hard work builds character. When things don’t come easy, we appreciate them more. It molds an attitude of sacrifice and perseverance.

Until We Meet Again

I miss my grandmother more than I expected to. There are so many things I wish I could ask her now that I’m married and have children of my own. There are some days when I miss her dearly. It’s easy to cry at certain times when I consider how long she’s been gone and how much longer it will be until I see her again in heaven. But I’m so grateful for the memories and the life lessons my grandmother taught me.

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