Life Lessons from Iowa

I am convinced that I am part of the most amazing family in the world.

I grew up in a small town a few miles north of Ames, Iowa. My parents were high school sweethearts and we lived 45 minutes from their hometown of Iowa Falls, IA. Throughout my childhood we regularly made the 45 minute trip to see my grandparents. They were there for every major event in my life. Birthdays, sporting events, holidays, first communion, graduation- they were always there.  As you can imagine, my grandparents  have been a huge part of my life from the time I was born.

In September of 2006 I lost my maternal grandfather. It was bitter sweet as he had spent the last few years of his life suffering from Emphysema. I saw him a few weeks before he passed and he was struggling so hard for every breath. It was difficult to see him that way and I could tell he was ready. The weekend of September 16th many of us traveled to San Francisco for my cousin’s wedding. The morning of the 16th my sister and I woke up to hear the news from Iowa that he had passed in the middle of the night. After a good cry, we attended my cousin’s wedding and as a family we could feel his spirit there with us. I don’t think it was a coincidence, I think it was the only way he could be there with us to celebrate his oldest grandson’s wedding. After returning home from San Francisco I had the honor of giving a speech at his funeral. Writing the speech was incredibly therapeutic and I hope it made him smile.

In January of 2010 I was in London for work when I got a call from my mom that my paternal grandfather was not doing well. I had been home over the holidays and made the trip to Iowa Falls to see him in the nursing home. Just like my maternal grandpa, I could tell he was ready. I knew it wouldn’t be long and I made my peace with it while I was there. I struggled through the last few days in London and spent almost the entire 9 hour flight home crying, praying and laughing to myself as I reminisced.  The next morning I got the call from my dad that grandpa had passed in the middle of the night. Jet lagged and emotional I jumped in the car to head home for the funeral. In the middle of January, only a few short days after his passing all of his 8 children and all of almost 30 grandchildren were there to say goodbye. From all across the country (Colorado, California, Illinois, Kansas, South Carolina….) they dropped everything to be there. The faith and love surrounding me helped ease the pain of saying goodbye to such an amazing man.

At the age of 32, I am incredibly blessed to still have 2 living grandmothers. I have learned so much from both Grandma P. and Grandma O. over the years. They have been amazing role models and I cherish every moment I get to

spend with them. The life lessons they have taught me have helped mold my perspective on motherhood, marriage, work,  friendship, health and faith.

My maternal grandma (Grandma P.) is in her early 80’s and lives on her own just north of Des Moines. She is very active at the senior center and her church. She enjoys reading a good book, socializing with friends and family and she never misses a birthday, holiday or important event in our lives. Grandma P has a strong sweet tooth and she might be the world’s most amazing baker. Her pecan pie, homemade fudge bars and cookies are to die for. She enjoys playing cards and talking politics, and she is pretty competitive. Growing up I loved going to Grandma P’s house to dress up in my mom’s old clothes, try on Grandma’s jewelry, indulge my sweet tooth, and listen to stories from well before I was born. Every time I see Grandma P. , she is so excited to see me and always says how proud she is of me.  She has always been one of my biggest cheerleaders. She has taught me many lessons including the importance of gratitude,  how to be proud of who I am,  and how to cherish precious moments with family and never take it for granted. Growing up she told me many stories about working and motherhood. Through her stories she was modeling to me how to balance work and family. I am grateful for the conversations we have each time I see her and look forward to many more. My 2 sons call her “Grandma Great”. It couldn’t be a more perfect name for her.

My paternal grandma (Grandma O.) is in her early 90’s and lives in a nursing home in Iowa Falls. The past few years her mind has started to go and most people she does not recognize. I was able to visit her over the summer with my dad.  She called me by my mom’s name (anyone who has met my mom would agree it’s an incredible compliment- she is beautiful) and thought she was back on the farm with all of her 8 children. Just like when I was younger, she was concerned about having something for me to eat and worried about how her hair looked. Growing up my  grandparents had a winter house in Florida. All 4 years of college I took a road trip with a few cousins and friends and stayed with them for spring break. Grandma O was constantly cooking for us and cleaning up the mess we made. All she wanted in return was a compliment on the food. She would light up like a kid in a candy store when you gave her a compliment on her cooking.  I’m not sure how many made from scratch meals she has cooked in her life, but I’m willing to bet it would set a world record.  Even when all 8 kids and almost 30 grandchildren were visiting the farm grandma could be found in the kitchen cooking all 3 meals with a smile on her face. She had a gift for making each one of her grandchildren feel special. She remembered every birthday and would greet you with the worlds biggest hug and kiss each time we saw her. Grandma O would welcome anyone into her home and I loved bringing my friends to their Florida home to be spoiled by her for a week. She taught me the importance of entertaining family and friends though a good home cooked meal. She taught me how to be a nurturing mother and not sweat the small stuff.

As an adult I now realize just how blessed I am to have two of the most amazing role models still in my life. I only wish I lived closer and could see them more often. With 2 young boys I now get to experience their excitement when we are “going to Iowa” or “going to Atlanta” to see their grandparents. My parents and my in-laws adore our boys and I can’t help but sit back, smile and think of the countless memories I have of my grandparents when I watch them interact. My family is the greatest gift I have been given.  I will never take it for granted and I appreciate every moment with my family, craziness and all.

Grandma P and Grandma O- Thank you for all of the life lessons you have taught me.  It’s impossible to capture them all in this blog. I hope you know just how much I love and admire you both. Thank you for raising 2 of the most amazing parents. With Thanksgiving around the corner, I couldn’t think of a better time to say THANK YOU for being such a big part of who I am and who I aspire to become.

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