Lesson 7: Look for the good and let the rest go.

Welcome back! I hope the new year is off to a great start for you my reader! If you’ve been following my blog you know that I’ve devoted 10 posts to lessons my husband and I learned from our grandparents. If you’re new around here, you can start with my post Looking Forward, Reflecting Back.

Lesson 7: Look for the good and let the rest go. This lesson is timeless. Every generation, every century has its different people and different challenges. Isn’t that what makes the world so exciting? If we were all the same, it would be so boring. I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued to learn from people of different backgrounds. The more I talk to people, the more commonalities I find we all have. We all gravitate towards those who share similar experiences to our own, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also accept others who are different from us. Accepting others is not to say you have to be BFFs with them!

Our grandparents, Bop and Gram were both introverted. They were good listeners. Bop would talk to pretty much anyone as he got older. He always asked for people’s names, and would ask questions about what they did, where they were from. He enjoyed hearing  other people’s stories and sharing his own. He never judged someone or compared himself to others. Going out to eat with Bop was a fun adventure because he always conversed with the waitresses and listened to their stories. Bop saw going out to eat as an opportunity to socialize. With people he didn’t even know. In Bop’s lifetime he moved around a lot, which gave him the ability to make friends easily. As a young boy he was often responsible for finding food and a room for himself and his father who had a drinking problem and hopped from one job to the next. Bop didn’t harbor his feelings on his father who struggled with drinking, he focused on making connections with people so he could survive. Later in life, when Bop would tell stories about moving about so much, he always focused on the positives and what he learned along the way.

Gram was a little more outspoken at times, yet she had a very quiet way of letting you know when she disapproved of someone, but she also had a way of saying, “It’s not for me to judge.” She forgave easily and didn’t hold grudges. Even when Gram was hurt by people, she stayed strong, and I can still hear her voice in my head saying, “Let’s just let it go.”  Gram knew that putting energy into the positive was going to get her farther than exhausting her energy on the negatives. She was also a strong woman who spoke up when she felt it was necessary, but she did it in a productive, nonviolent way.

Bop and  Gram grew up during a different time when acceptance of others wasn’t always the norm. Not even close. They also lived in a time when great changes amongst different races evolved. They were not perfect. They were human. They had social biases, we all do, yet they accepted people for who they were. They weren’t trying to change others to be what they wanted. They did not use violence or hatred towards others.

Times are very different now, and we’ve come so far from the early to mid 1900’s, but we still have A LOT of work to do with accepting others for who they are. And who they are NOT.  Recent events in politics and the pandemic of 2020 has shown us that people won’t always agree with you. Are we accepting others for who they are? Or are we creating more inequalities? While I’m disheartened that when we wear our masks we can’t see each other’s smile, I do see the positive aspect of all of us having to look one another in the eyes!

Here’s a song to remember to look for the good!

Thank you for reading!


Lesson 3: Travel to make yourself rich.

In continuing to share the lessons we learned from our grandparents, here’s the 3rd lesson: travel to make yourself rich. This is a tough one right now in 2020, some of you might still be traveling while others are waiting it out. This holiday season travel plans look different. Or maybe they’ve just been postponed. I don’t consider myself a collector, but I do buy a Christmas ornament every time we travel. Every year when we decorate our Christmas tree, our ornaments are reminders of the places we’ve been. This year, as I’m safe at home and looking at my tree, the memories of fun trips are comforting. Here’s how Bop and Gram taught us to travel.

It didn’t matter to Bop and Gram where you were going, they both were always willing to get in the car and just go!  Bop is known for his yearly trips driving from the Southern states to the Northern states. If you were lucky enough to accompany him on one of these trips, as Kevin and I were, (You can read about my road trip with him in 2010 here) you got to see so much more than the house where Bop grew up. He didn’t grow up in one house. And it didn’t matter to him. He moved around a lot, his father liked to drink and often lost his job. Bop traveled from places to stay often whenever his father lost a job.  Hearing Bop tell stories about traveling on foot with his father and always having a spot with his grandparents taught us that it’s about the journey, not the destination. In our current day lives we are bogged down with success being measured by achievement and acquisition, yet experiencing these long road trips with Bop have been worth more than any dollar amount.

Me and Bop in Canada, summer of 2010.

Gram traveled internationally, and always brought back treasures to share. Yet, she was always happy to put her grandchildren in the car and drive to her beach residence, or a few hours away so we could visit our cousins. She told us a story about tasting black caviar once on a trip to Russia with my grandfather, yet she was happy to come home and eat a tuna sandwich again. 

Times are different, and many of us do have to work and save for retirement. However, Bop and Gram didn’t compare their travels to anyone else’s. They owned their journey and shared it with others. Many of us just want to get in the car or fly on a plane and reach our end destination. Bop always had his stops planned out, and how long he wanted to spend in a certain place, but he didn’t let detours or traffic, or flat tires spoil his travel plans. Bop and Gram showed us how to stop along the road, take time to enjoy the sights, and connect with people along the way. 

2020 has been a year of less travel for our family, and even though we had plans to travel for Christmas this year which we’ve postponed, we are looking forward to getting back on a plane, in the car, and on the road again!

Wishing you SAFE travels!

Looking Forward, Reflecting Back

My next 10 blogposts were inspired by our grandparents, members of the Great Generation. These lessons have helped me focus during this unprecedented time of 2020. They remind me of our roots as human beings. I hope they help you reflect on all the good in 2020 and give you hope for what’s possible in 2021. 

Looking Forward,

Reflecting Back

In 2018 when the last of our living grandparents passed, my husband and I spent a lot of time talking about how much we learned from them. We both spent a lot of time with our grandparents growing up, naturally we talked about all the things we learned from them that we as parents want to pass onto our own daughter. Fast forward to March 2020, we had NO idea that we would be living in a pandemic. We had NO idea that life as we knew it, life as our daughter knew it, would change so abruptly. But, as parents, who does? That’s part of the fun and adventure of parenting. And Life. Right?!

In order to look forward, we have to look back, we have to reflect, contemplate, and ponder. These 10 lessons are not just lessons my husband and I learned from our grandparents, these are lessons our own children are learning from us RIGHT NOW, during this lifetime.

Let me first introduce you to our grandparents.

Henry James Newhard was born on June 18, 1915 in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania in an upstairs flat above a Chinese Laundry.  Friends called him Henry, yet to us, he was known as Bop. Upon meeting Bop you would never have known his life journey endured great challenges, yet he was always joyful. His stories always offered a simpler perspective in our hectic lives. 

Margaret McIntyre Matich was born on August 4, 1925 in Elsinore, California on a walnut and apricot ranch. In her youth, friends called her Maggie, she grew up not liking the nickname much. To us, she was known as Gram, or Mama Matich by the youngest of her grandchildren. Despite much family turmoil and circumstances beyond her control, she remained positive and optimistic. 

Lesson 1: Find the Joy in Life

Where does joy come from? It comes from within. No matter what, Bop, never let you see him sad. It’s not that he didn’t feel sad, but he always had something to be joyful about. Bop had a mindset to not let things stress him out, and it showed. These days we call this Grit. We call it resilience. Bop didn’t have an easy life by any of today’s standards. Growing up in the early 1900s his father worked for the railroad while his mother took care of Bop and his 2 siblings. His first home was a small flat above a Chinese laundry with no indoor electricity or plumbing. Yet, he always had friends to play with from dawn until dusk. Highlights of his free time were riding the cab of locomotives because his father worked for the railroad. Nowadays people pay hundreds of dollars to ride a refurbished train at Christmastime, known as The Polar Express.  Another joy for Bop was his violin teacher showing up in a 1924 Dodge, which back then was a rare gem, to own a car. 

Gram grew up during the Great Depression. She recalled people coming to work on her parent’s walnut and apricot ranch, not for money, but for a meal. She found joy in the small moments, such as cracking the walnut shells and eating the nuts raw. She was an only child, yet she found ways to entertain herself. Often, she would immerse herself in books. Reading was a lifelong joy of hers. She loved reading so much and saw the importance of reading, that she gave much of her wealth to her town’s library. 

As we enter the last month of 2020, reflect on what has been joyful about this year. Find your joy. Spread it.

I hope you will come back to read Lesson 2!