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What’s your Advice to Graduates?

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 7.56.24 AMTake care of the little things, and the big things take care of themselves. That’s my advice. No matter how old the graduate. A six-year-old moving on from kindergarten or an eighteen-year-old headed to college or a university graduate ready for that first real job. Life is about little things.

            Children don’t learn to read a book. They learn the sounds of letters and how those sounds combine to make words. The words become phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and finally, a book. School assignments divided into small parts can be mastered. One problem completed begins a thirty-problem math assignment. Gathering materials for a science experiment is a small task.

In the workplace, few people begin in their ideal position. They do the mundane work so fellow employees can finish a big project. It’s documented that workers who do small things, such as get to work on time and complete tedious tasks well, have better chances for advancement.

I’m not sure when I first heard about little and big things. Maybe from Mom as she stood over me and taught me to thread her sewing machine and then sew. And finally complete a dress for the 4-H contest. Or when Dad insisted I make an outline for a fifth grade oral book report.

By my high school days taking care of little things became my motto, even though I didn’t always follow it. When I was a first year teacher, I was jerked from failing an enormous task. I was overwhelmed. Too many students, too many lessons, too many meetings and conferences, too many papers, too many bulletin boards. A wise principal handed me a tissue to wipe my tears of frustration and told me to go back to my classroom and teach math for one hour. Do one small thing.

My motto has served me well. I preached it to myself while raising children.   Swaddle tightly. Wipe up spilled milk. Wash diapers. Get them to school on time. For supper, serve two foods they’ll eat.

I preached it to my elementary students. Do daily homework. Write one paragraph. Memorize the multiples of 2, then work up thru 12s.

I’ve recited my motto to Daughter and Son and my Grands. And sometimes I get it back. Elaine, age 6, told me last week that I had to measure exactly ¾ cup water or the strawberry jam we were making wouldn’t turn out right. “It’s just a little thing, Gran.”

My maxim isn’t original. During the 19th century, Emily Dickinson wrote, “If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves. You can gain more control over your life by paying closer attention to the little things.” John Wooten, who coached the UCLA basketball team to ten national championships beginning in the 1960s, said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Take care of the little things. Words to live by. For people of all ages.

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Aunt Anne’s Recipes

imagesAunt Anne would be proud – at least, I think she would.  Husband and I are celebrating our anniversary this week and I’ve tried to follow her advice.  When we married, Aunt Anne gave me a card file box filled with 3 x 5 cards.  On the first card, she wrote “Recipes – Family Favorites and Other Things.”  There wasn’t one single recipe for food.  “Someone who likes to cook will have to fill out all those blank cards,” she told me.  Aunt Anne, really my great aunt, shared other things.

How to live on a budget – Have it printed on the rug.

How to avoid in-law trouble – Stay away from them.  But remember that your mother-in-law and father-in-law spent a whole lot of time and money to produce that man and they are handing over the finished product to you —- for free!  Be kind to them.  In twenty-some short years you might be a mother-in-law.  (It was 27 years.)

Aunt Anne used two cards, front and back, to write about Money and Marriage.  Let’s face it girls, it’s still a man’s world!  (This year was 1969.)  Oh, we get jobs and sometimes make more than the men.  We vote.  We stick our little pinkies in the world affairs, but we still rock the cradle.  In the biological process of filling that cradle, we’re just as old fashioned as Grandma.  For a time, we are dependent.  So it might be a good idea to know how Grandma managed money long before the female executive with the fat salary came along.

Grandma raised chickens, sold cream, taught music, sewed, and resorted to trickery.  She padded the household accounts, filled his wine cup, then raided his pockets, and she had the vapors.  Now there was a malady worth money!

Grandma swooned, looked fragile and clung to Grandpa’s big strong hand.  All the while sending out messages with her fluttering eyelids that penetrated the depth of his protective instinct.  Grandma just wasn’t able to make that kettle of soap nor do the week’s wash so Grandpa hired it done.

This was not the devious trick that it sounds.  Grandpa felt ten feet tall, with a large chest expansion and everybody was happy.  Some variation of this theme has been used thru the ages.  Applied with discretion, it will rate a washer and dryer to this day.

Aunt Anne might not have liked to spend time in the kitchen, but she knew the importance of putting food on the table.  Tis’ said, she wrote, that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  There are times it seems like the long way around.

And she gave me a recipe entitled How to Hold Your Man.  Tie Him!  Tie him with a mixture of kindness, consideration, honesty, truthfulness.  Leaven with common sense.  Spice with a pinch of temper and a good argument now and then.  Frost with lots of hugs and kisses.

So here I am, 44 years later, still happily married to Husband and relishing Aunt Anne’s recipes.  There’s one bit of advice that’s as difficult to master as it was as a newlywed.  She stated it simple and straightforward.  How to avoid a fuss with your husband – Shut your mouth.