Rudey's Room

My Grandma’s Rules for Happiness

“If nothing is going well, call your grandmother.”

-Italian Proverb


I am swept away by whimsical charm of the children’s book, In Grandma’s Arms.

Katz says, “In grandma’s arms, in our storybook chair, we can do anything – we can go anywhere … I can hear her sweet voice sing a soft lullaby – as I rock in her arms I can dream … I can fly.”

Until recently, I rocked my daughters at bedtime. (They’re 3 and 6!) Not to sleep, but to a cozied, drowsy state. I stopped only because our chair broke.


The frame shifted and the bolts fell out of our rocking chair. Try as he did, my husband could not fix it. The chair wasn’t a piece of junk; really, we’ve just rocked that much.

I bowed my head. The time had come to bid adieu to our rocking days.

Still, bedtime is our special snuggle time. My oldest confides her secrets, her fears. We sing, give thanks, and say our prayers. Mind you, my mind does loop-de-loos and I have to reel in my to-dos, reminding myself, “Now. Be present. You have enough time. Stay in the now.”

Veronica often prays for Grandmema, my maternal grandma, “Dear God, please take care of Grandmema.”

I tear up, missing my Grandma. Every time.

She died three years ago. I was heartbroken, and not ready for her to leave this world. Are you ever really ready?

The last time we spoke, I was preggers with Stella, my youngest. I called my grandma to tell her, “It’s another girl.” She was in a nursing home suffering from a broken hip, and nearing the end. My moms says she smiled a huge grin.

She died the next day.

When my oldest asks about Grandmema, I tell her simple stories.

She had the most amazing 1920’s black dress coat. She saved hard to buy it. Growing up, I coveted it. In my late teens, she passed it on to me. I still wear it. With big fox collar and a dozen faceted black buttons down the front, I feel close to her in it. As in Midnight in Paris, I transcend into a magical world when I wear it.

She was competitive.

To no end.

Yet she wanted you to win. She took me bowling – a lot! I was pitiful. Mostly gutterballs. It took all of her will not to throw the ball for me. It drove me crazy. Probably drove her even crazier.

She was a remarkable seamstress. (Below is a picture of my veil. She made it for my mom’s wedding, and my sister and I wore at our weddings – a cathedral-length Mantilla lace veil. A stunning heirloom.)




She laughed. Her grin filled her face. She savored a good joke.

She listened, quietly observing.

She understood.

She understood me.

At her funeral, during peace, my mom embraced me and said, “You are so much like your grandmother.”

Wow. What an honor. I want to believe that.

Today, I call on her strength when I’m stumbling.

I stand taller because of her.

The beauty of life is you get to design your own.

It’s often at crossroads that we stand face to face in the mirror of what really matters.

My grandma was a mere 59 years old when my grandpa unexpectedly died of a brain aneurism. Clean bill of health on a Monday; dead on a Tuesday. She wrote her “Rules for Happiness” in 1978. To herself. She never shared them. My mom found the list on a piece of scratch paper in my grandma’s personal things.

I asked my mom for a copy, and she framed it for me. Today it hangs in our guest room.

Below is her manifesto:

  • Don’t dwell on the past, and don’t worry about the future.
  • Don’t expect others to make you happy, and don’t reach for something that does not exist.
  • Do what you want to do, and enjoy it.
  • Get in the habit of doing things alone.
  • Make friends with yourself.
  • Be strong, realistic and a little hard boiled.
  • Take care of your health.
  • Learn to cope with problems.
  • Sharpen your senses.
  • Always look forward to something.
  • Be interested in others, but find joy of your own.
  • Fix up your living quarter and get rid of everything ugly.
  • Count your blessings.
  • Don’t sit with unhappiness.
  • Learn to roll with the punches.
  • Treat yourself to something.

She wrote her rules, and then began a hot streak of bowling. She took up bowling after her husband died. Throwing rocks, she could take you down. She beat my husband – straight up – when she was in her late 80s and he in his 20s.

My favorite keepsake from her:




Perfect for me, as I am oh so familiar with gutterballs.

Cheers grandma! Whenever the sky thunders, I imagine you throwing a strike.

Ciao for now.


11 Responses to “My Grandma’s Rules for Happiness”

  1. brynnharrington

    This is the most beautiful post you have written. I love it. Love it. Love it. Maybe it’s because I too adored my grandmothers…maybe it’s because I adore yours…or maybe it’s just because you’re right, we have the utter privilege of designing our own lives. Thank you for this post. XO.

  2. bryceandkathleen

    Awh..makes me sad! Funny how we all love our grammys and mine died when i was nine!

    Whats was your sleep training philosophy? We need to start someyhing soon

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Joan Radue

    Well, that made me cry! Excellent, but probably not the thing to read when you are already having a hard time falling asleep. She was quite a lady, and yes you do remind me of her. Especially in your strengths. Love the story, even though it makes me miss her. Mom

    Sent from my iPad

  4. Joan radue

    Love this, even if it does make me sad, cry and miss her! Makes me think of my grandmas too. They were both quite special and strong women. Maybe that is why we are such strong women!! I hope I can be as good of a “mema” to mine. That’s for the great tribute to the best mom!


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