Tuesday, August 30, 2016

An Exceptional Life in Moderation

*Disclaimer: I realize that I made a sweeping post about how this blog had to be on hiatus. Some eat their feelings. I write mine. Lucky you.

My Grandma Mary lived 102 years on this Earth.

102 years.

In her years, she saw so much advancement. The highway that now cars zip past over 60 (or more) miles per hour, was once a dirt road where she and her sisters played tennis.

Lying in twin beds with my brother, she used to tell us stories of her getting a ride in the sleigh to church or school on winter days, pulled by a HORSE. A HORSE! The eight year old Emily freaked out at a HORSE taking Grandma to school. I was also the kid who had to be told what the window cranks in a car were. #firstworldkid

When a cousin of mine was trying to convince Grandma of the importance of the Internet and its impact on the world, Grandma answered simply, "Can you imagine something else making such an impact? Electricity."

Mic drop.

She headed to college during the Depression, wanting to be a school teacher. She did it bit by bit, coming home to teach in the country school alternately, saving money for the next semester's tuition.

She was a third grade teacher, most famously, in the local school district. While her world was small (never having lived any place for too many years but the home her father built when she was born), her reach was broad. When I moved back to the area and would reference her, there were so many former students who expressed their gratitude and love for Mrs. Shortness.

She was kind, understanding, level headed, smart, and soft spoken. Where I came from, I have no idea. However, this woman is exceptionally organized, one of my better qualities that must have come from her genetics. There are empty closets in her home. She has labeled everything. My girls each have a quilt from either Grandpa or Grandma's families. They all have a tiny white bag (that she sewed) with a note on a small piece of yellow legal paper explaining who made the quilt and sometimes for whom. No fluffy story, no long explanation. Just the important facts.

That's Grandma Mary.

She is an exceptional woman who lived an exceptional life, but exercising exceptional moderation.

She believed in exercise, working in her garden, walking the farm, playing sports as a young (and somewhat cavalier) lady. However, when I took up marathoning, she asked me if that particular distance was necessary. When I explained my reasons, she remarked, "Everything in moderation, Emily."

Duly noted.

When dinners were served at Grandma's (and by dinners, I mean lunch), it was an affair. A main dish followed by colorful sides. Always. Potatoes, fruit, veggies...a cheese and pickle tray. Her homemade rolls. Pie for dessert. However, in typical Grandma Mary manner, she always ate slowly. Not because she was overly chatty, just because she enjoyed small servings of all the dishes slowly. Pie was usually the dessert of choice, and if you were Grandma, you'd truly enjoy it because you had room. You ate everything in moderation.

Except ice cream.

And pop.

Those were the things she despised, but never made a stink about it, just said no thank you and moved on.

Oh these stories make me miss her. I am so lucky. Grandma was something special. She was so influential in my decisions. When I would do something ridiculous in college or even now make some smarty comment, I feel remorse when I think about what Grandma would feel if she knew about my actions.

She set an example that was good and a bar that is high. I'm hoping to achieve that.

There are so many more stories and happy times I could share, but I know that you all have memories of loved ones that are similar.

I will leave you all with this perspective. In a world where excess of stuff, loud voices, extreme opinions and craziness are celebrated, a life like Grandma's, one in moderation, is one that should be highlighted. This was a life that was lead in a way that the world should look to. I am so lucky to have had such an influence in my life, one that was shared in my children's life, and one that I will always cherish.

Thank you, Grandma Mary for teaching me to live a life in moderation, but having loved me in abundance for 38 years.
Grandma and Amelia at the first of their many shared birthday parties.

Grandma holding Amelia just after she was born. She drove to our house that day at age 95!


  1. Emily, I am so sorry for your and your family's loss. Mrs. Shortness was truly exceptional. What a wonderful tribute you wrote for her. I loved hearing your stories about her. They made me miss my grandmother terribly. I was always amazed at her ability to call me by name every time I ran into her at the grocery store. She never seemed to forget a face. I'll be praying for you and your family this week. Love, Heather

  2. Great tribute. Cherish your memories.

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  5. What a beautiful tribute. You truly were lucky to have such an amazing woman in your life. Someone who exemplified how life should be lived. It made me wish I had had a grandma like that. I am glad that you did. My condolences to you.