A Life Well Lived

People sometimes marvel at my busy schedule and ask me how I find the energy to manage it. I don’t think I’m some kind of superwoman. I pretty much take things as they come and deal with them one at a time. If life starts to get a little crazy, there’s no reason to go crazy along with it. Stay calm, keep moving, and you’ll always find a way to work things through.

My mother-in-law was a much busier woman than I’ll ever be, and I never heard her complain, not once.  Grandma Hole knew what it was to work. In an era where child-rearing was largely the job of the mother, she raised nine children—seven boys and two girls—and she was there for each of them. And this was a woman who didn’t even have a washing machine until after her fifth child was born!

She always found a way to make every minute of her day count. If a friend dropped by for coffee, Grandma Hole always had her mending bag handy, so she could darn socks while she chatted.

Likewise, she never wasted a single speck of food. She fed nine children on a very limited budget. But nobody cooked a better meal. Nothing fancy, but always very tasty. She prepared the big meal at noon, and in the evening it was a salad, some cold meat, some nice bread, and lots of tea. She was great at making bread pudding and other puddings with sauces. Those puddings taught me that there’s something to be said for English cuisine after all!

From todays’ perspective, Grandma Hole’s life might seem overly traditional and confining. I know she never felt that way, though. She took great pride in running a comfortable, supportive, efficient household. Although she was never involved in her husband’s plumbing business, they both recognized the indirect role she played in its success. If she hadn’t been able to handle things so well at home, that business wouldn’t have stood much of a chance.

She also saw her own success reflected in the lives of her children. She was determined that all of her children would be educated—including her daughters, an attitude not shared by everyone in those days. If she found one of her girls doing housework, she would say, “Don’t bother with that. I can do the housework, but I can’t do your studying for you.”

As a result, all nine of her children graduated from the University of Alberta. At the time, this was an astonishing achievement. The Edmonton Journal published the story, complete with a picture, and that clipping remained a treasured keepsake for the rest of her life.

If I do one thing differently form Grandma Hole, it’s that I try to take time to truly relax. I remember her telling me once, “I always felt guilty if I was reading a book, because I thought I should be doing something more productive.” If she was reading when her husband came home, she quickly put the book away and got busy doing something else. When she got older and could afford to relax a little, she realized she really didn’t know how.

Just the same, she has always remained an inspiration to me. She taught me that by caring for others, and helping them succeed, you can create a truly successful and fulfilling life for yourself. Anytime I feel I’m under too much pressure, or have too much to do, I take a deep breath and ask myself, “How would Grandma Hole have dealt with this?”

Thanks, Grandma Hole.

-Lois Hole I'll Never Marry A Farmer