“Nana’s Top Ten Tips on Life,” April 21, 2020

It was the first birthday of my first child’s first child. That’s a lot of firsts. I wanted to spend it with my grandson and his mom and dad. But the coronavirus quarantine kept us miles apart.

A few days before Jonah’s big day, I realized I didn’t have a birthday card to send him and I couldn’t go out to buy one.

Jonah wouldn’t care. But his parents might. And I’d probably forfeit any chance of being named Nana of the Year.

So I decided to make a card for him. I started with a photo that was taken a few months ago. Jonah is wearing a t-shirt that says “I’ll eat you up!” (from Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are”) and grinning his gorgeous wild thing grin.

I wish you could see it.

If the boy could be any cuter, he’d be illegal. Yes, I’m his nana, but if you saw him, you’d agree.

Anyhow, along with the photo I added “Happy birthday!” and “So glad you were born!” and “Nana loves you ALL!” (All is as much as anyone can possibly love.) Plus a few other things I thought he ought to know. Then I emailed it to his mom and dad to read to him for me.

I think he really liked it. When we FaceTimed on his birthday, he gave me kisses on the phone.

My husband and I share eight grandchildren. Our oldest is 9. Jonah is our youngest, so far. After I made that card for him, I realized that the things I wrote in it were things I want all my granchildren to know and to remember in years to come. So I decided to put those things, and more, in a column. Some people write books for their grandkids. Mine are lucky I don’t have that much to say.

“Nana’s Top Ten Tips on Life:”

  1. Decide what kind of person you want to be — not your career, but your character — and then, every day, be that person.
  2. Respect your parents and teachers and elders. Learn all you can from them. Welcome their advice. But in the end, make your own choices. You have your mother’s laugh and your father’s eyes, but your life is entirely your own.
  3. Try to like the people in the family you grow up in. Chances are, for better or worse, you’ll spend holidays together forever.
  4. Be kind — as kind as you can possibly be — to everyone, and most of all, to yourself.
  5. Be thankful. Nothing in life will make you happier, or more fun to be with, than keeping your heart filled with gratitude.
  6. Be wise. Use the brains God gave you and remember all the dumb sayings (“Pretty is as pretty does, money doesn’t grow on trees, and don’t count your chickens before they hatch!”) that I tried to drill into your parents, and your parents try to drill into you. Someday you’ll try to drill them into your kids.
  7. Forgive everyone, including yourself. If you hurt someone, apologize and try not to hurt them again. If someone hurts you, forgive them and move on. Holding a grudge will hold you back. Grace will set you free.
  8. Give more thought to your hopes and dreams than to your worries and fears. And spend more time looking at birds and clouds than at TVs and computer screens. Technology is important, but Nature is life.
  9. Listen closely to the stories people are longing to tell. And tell your own stories to anyone who will listen. Stories are how we get to know ourselves and each other and the world.
  10. Love with all your heart and soul and strength and time and money. Love your God and yourself, family and friends, neighbors and strangers and people you’ll never meet. Love the person you share your life with, the children you call your own and the grandchildren you’ll be given, if you’re lucky. Love the least lovable souls on Earth, but most of all, love life.
    Finally, know this: You are loved and will be loved every moment of every day by many wonderful people. But your nana will always love you ALL.


  1. Linda Dudek says

    I read your column every week and you are so inspiring. Nana’s top ten list really spoke to me, especially number 8. Very timely during this pandemic. Thank you for your perspective on life, kids, grandkids, etc. I love your column! Linda

  2. Sharon Balint says

    I love this Sharon! Great and wise words from a beautiful person. Love to you all as well. : )

  3. Lisa Shepherd says

    The first child of my first child celebrates his first birthday next week. I’m trying to decide if a drive by wave will make this separation lighter or heavier. So grateful for FaceTime!

  4. Diane Peacock says

    All Nanas feel the same about their grands! I’m going to share this on my FB page…wise words worth sharing. Thank you for always sharing your heart in a light-hearted way.

  5. Dick Daniel says

    What wonderful advice, and I’ll just bet those grandkids will remember because their Nana gave it.

  6. Love you, your God -given -simplistic wisdom, and your way with words. Keep spreading the good news! Katie, one of your many fans.

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