My son Jackson told me a few weeks ago after reading an old blog post that he's thankful I write this stuff down here, in case anyone ever wants to read it. (Tip for my kids: find more posts like this one kinda-mostly organized over here. You're welcome. Sorry it's a bit of a mess but, well… you know me.) 🙂 If you're here only for the deals, scoot on past to the next penny pinched post. ❤️
My sweet mother-in-law passed away early yesterday morning in the midst of Amazon Prime Day madness, Co-vid craziness, and my-kid-just-had-bigger-than-I-expected-surgery overwhelm. It made me take a step back and pause for a moment, and take a much needed deep breath.
I met James's mom Jennie when I was just nineteen, and she was one of so very many kind gifts God's shared with me. She taught me a few of the best things any mother-in-law could ever teach, so I'm writing them here, hoping I'll remember them myself one day. 🙂
Jennie showed me how to paint a wall, the best way to re-upholster dining room chairs and how to plan a big Thanksgiving meal.
This was Jennie fluffing up her hearth a few years ago. We had so much fun decorating together!
She showed us how to make the absolute best turkey dressing, deviled eggs, and strawberry pie.
(She actually taught my hubby how to make those things, which was way better than teaching me.)
She helped me wallpaper, designed and built the most lovely cornice boards so our tiny ranch “felt” fancy, and spent a whopping seven hours straight cleaning out my mess of an oven right after my youngest kiddo was born.
She even taught James how to be a seriously gifted landscaper, and for that I will always be grateful. 🙂
As my husband and I were talking today, there are so very many things she taught us along the way, but these were a few of my favorite lessons she shared.
1. Learn to paint.
I can't even count how many rooms Don and Jennie helped us paint as we were fixer-upper-ing our first few homes. We painted brown-paneled walls in our first family room (she showed me KILZ worked best on stubborn-bleed-through-paint stains), wallpapered the dining room, and we spent hours and hours poring over Waverly patterns at Hancock's of Paducah searching for just the right yard of fabric on a penny-pinched budget.
(Those were my favorite Saturday mornings. James and his dad would take care of our small kids, and Jennie and I spent hours walking up and down aisles of the most perfect fabric dreaming up pretty window coverings. Then we'd hustle to Hobby Lobby for a quick….ish? trip, and head home before lunch. Her best tip? A cornice board looked fancy but took hardly any fabric at all, so it was a great way to fake expensive looking design on a frugal family's dime.) 🙂
She showed me to make “W's” in the paint with a roller as I painted, taught me that the length of almost any paint roller can be extended by spinning it into a broom handle, and that when you make two “L's” out of your thumb and forefinger, hold them “just so” to make a square and step back a smidge, you can envision what a new paint color will look like on your wall.
She also showed me that true white is on the back of every paint chip, so always compare to that when picking out paint. And you should ALWAYS paint trim white. And ALWAYS go lighter on paint, because when it gets on the walls it'll alllll feel darker. Thank you Jennie for that!
2. Splurge on the important stuff.
Jennie in most ways was pretty frugal, but she splurged on the important stuff.
One day we were talking about mashed potatoes, and she was pretty much convinced you couldn't whip up a bowl of mashed potatoes without a Kitchenaid. (As a girl who'd never even seen a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer in real life until she was twenty, I was pretty sure mashed potatoes worked just fine with a regular $7-hand-held Sunbeam. But, it sure felt better when her Kitchenaid did all the work.)
She aways had the right cleaning supplies, the best cookware, the cleanest Pyrex, and the most perfect stainless I'd ever seen.
She shined her silver every Thanksgiving, then tucked it carefully into pretty blue bags a few days after the family feast.
She had her table linens laundered at her local dry cleaner (to support them of course!), then rolled onto a big cardboard roll to save them from wrinkling.
(Seriously the most genius idea ever. I've tried to find a local dry cleaner now to support as a happy gift to myself, but sadly folks don't do that often these days!)
3. Be a Mary.
If you've hung out at PPP long at all, you've maybe figured out that I'm a much better Martha than I'll ever be a Mary. (Not sure who Mary and Martha are? Read Luke 10:38-42.)
Jennie was simply a lovely Mary. When her kids or family or friends (or even a solicitor selling a vacuum . . . ) stopped at her door, she immediately stopped everything to simply be present with the person there.
As a true Martha at heart, it sometimes aggravated me (my nature often thought “goodness Jennie… can't you see there's work to do?”) But when anyone walked in her home, Jennie dropped all the work, the cooking, the cleaning, and the dishes ~ to care simply for those around her well.
This Martha needs to follow her lead a little more each day.
Jennie lived as a cheerleader. (I'm so thankful that my hubby James has that gift too).
She always said her kids, grandkids and husband were simply amazing.
She rarely criticized them.
She bragged on her family, spoke it right out loud, both for me and all those she loved.
More than anything else though, Jennie taught me the precious gift of making others truly feel valuable, worthy and included, something I sure hope to pass on to my own bunch one day. (This one's not easy for me to do naturally, but for her it simply came from the inside).
She never-ever-never once made me feel intimidated, which was such a gift since I'm pretty much intimidated by everyone. (WHEW.)
So thank you Jennie, for being the sweetest mother-in-law this wee-bit-lost-nineteen-year-old girl could have ever asked for. From the moment we met, you welcomed me with open arms, and for that I am so very grateful.
Thank you for always cheering me on, graciously inviting me into your home and your family, and maybe most of all for all those hours you spent hanging out with me and a can of fresh paint. 🙂
(And goodness. Thank you for teaching me that a big ole' bowl of mashed potatoes absolutely DO require a Kitchenaid.)
“Teach me to feel another's woe, to hide the faults I see.
That mercy I to others show, that mercy show to me.”
Thank you truly for modeling a beautiful life so very generously ~ I am forever thankful. ❤️