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Find what makes you happy – a lesson I learned from my Grandmother

Written by: | Published: June 08, 2012 | Updated: August 10, 2015

After over a year of injuries, illness and a complete change from her active lifestyle, my grandmother, Patty Barnard (aka Mamo) passed away last night – she just turned 90 a few days ago. She was an amazing woman full of gumption and gettup! Throughout her life she was active in a gazillion different organizations, planning events and mingling with people from around world. She traveled the globe exploring new places and making friends where ever she went. She loved animals and gardening. I learned so much from her over the years and I’m so thankful I was close enough to be able to see her regularly.

Patty Barnard 1922-2012
Patty Barnard (Mamo) 1922-2012

11 things I learned with love from my grandmother
Patty Barnard June 2, 1922 – June 7, 2012

  1. Work hard – starting at 9 years old, I spent a good portion of my summers working in my grandmother’s gardens pulling weeds and taking care of the plants. I learned that if you keep working on something, it will eventually grow into something you are proud to have been a part of.
  2. Love all animals – my grandmother raised a whole slew of different animals from horses and mules, cats, dogs birds and who knows what else – I hear they had a monkey when my mom was a kid. I watched her help a new baby horse into the world a few times. Animals are amazing and she gave me shared that love with me.
  3. Gardens are beauty you create yourself– working in the gardens all those summers I learned how beautiful nature is and how we can have a hand in creating that beauty. I have a rose in my garden now that she gave me for Mother’s day a few years ago. It’s blooming today.

    Cookie making day 2010
    Cookie making day 2010

  4. Everyone makes mistakes, we love you anyway – right after high school I went through a really rough time. My parents and I rarely spoke, I was struggling to find myself and at times even struggling to find a place to live. My grandmother would call me to check in and see what I was doing, remind me that I needed to get my act in gear and offer to take me to lunch. Of course I wanted lunch, I was broke (and she knew I couldn’t decline). Those lunch dates, although at the time I didn’t want to hear the messages of “clean up your act”, were my reminder that someone did indeed care. She was there for me despite my choices and she made sure I knew it.
  5. Don’t let fear stop you– no matter what struggles or obstacles I run into, I can conquer and move on. Fear, worry, skill level, whatever is holding you back, fix it and move ahead. When I was really little, about 5 I think, I was learning how to ride horses with my grandmother. At one point, I was on the horse alone and something spooked it so it took off – cantering around the arena. I was terrified!! My grandmother started shouting commands and somehow through the fear I heard her and was able to find the strength to pull on the reigns and slow the horse down. I still stop myself from making progress when I’m afraid of what’s on the other side, but that lesson still reminds me that we can make it through and come out a stronger, more confident person if we ride through and hold on tight – especially when people that love us are watching out for us.

    Mamo and my Mom
    Mamo and my Mom

  6. Try new things but Chicken Gizzards are gross – she was a big advocate of trying new things, new food, new places, whatever it might be, “try it and you’ll probably like it”. Usually she was right, I did like whatever it was. Chicken gizzards, however, I did try while visiting her one night – they are not good and I do not like them Sam I am – I’d so much rather have green eggs and ham.
  7. Spend time with each other and truly enjoy being together– I was fortunate to live close enough to be able to see and spend time with my grandmother over the years. Over the last 3 or 4 years we started a new tradition of making Christmas cookies together. It was our special time, just me and my kids and my granny – making cookies and enjoying the time chatting and getting a sugar high.

    Mamo and my sister
    Mamo and my sister

  8. Take time to send a card – easy enough, handmade or pre-printed, it really doesn’t matter – I have a pile of cards she’s sent my family over the years – they’re an awesome way to make someone feel special.
  9. Don’t waste – I think my need to keep everything definitely came from my grandmother! I remember one year, we were shucking corn that she had grown in her garden. there was a cob that had maybe 2/3 bad kernels and 1/2 worth eating. I started to toss it and she said OH NO, that’s good enough to eat! And took some bites right there, raw corn I guess is good. LOL.
  10. Be proud of who you are – I still struggle with this one regularly, but she seemed to have it down! She had bright red hair and could be a bit of an eccentric dresser with her wild animal print outfits, bright colored sneakers and earrings of various wild life. But she was surrounding her very being with things she loves and she was proud of it all. I’ve tried the bright red hair – I’m not feeling spunky enough to pull that off.
  11. Stop to talk and listen – all those years of working and learning and watching, she would always stop to listen to what I had to say. She didn’t always agree but she took the time to hear me and talk through whatever the topic was. When we do stop to really listen and hear each other, it’s amazing what kind of conversation you can have!
  12. Always look for the happiness in every situation – no matter what the situation was, she always found the good. Sometimes it seemed like she was just ignoring there was anything negative, but I think she just figured there’s no reason to dwell or even acknowledge the negative if it’s not doing you any good. Find the happy in every day.


A rose my grandmother gave to me now growing in my garden
A rose my grandmother gave to me now growing in my garden

There are so many things in my every day life that she was a part of. She might not have been there physically, but she had an impact on who I am on so many levels. From the long talks to the life lessons and the experiences we shared. I have a huge archive of memories to draw from and I will miss her very much. I’m happy she is no longer suffering – I hope she’s finally laughing with my grandfather again.


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Jen is Passionate about Creativity. She is the owner and "doodle in charge" of JGoode Designs, a Denver based design studio. She is an illustrator, mixed media artist and creative lifestyle blogger. Jen has been a creative professional since 1998 but says she's been an artist since she was old enough to eat glue.

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7 thoughts on “Find what makes you happy – a lesson I learned from my Grandmother”

  1. Jen, I’m so sorry for your loss. She sounds like an extraordinary lady, someone who was a loving force in your life. She will be greatly missed. This post is a lovely tribute. Visit it on those days when you feel especially low. Her smiling face will lift you up again.


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