Life’s Little Instructions

planting-flowersThis wonderful list of William Snell’s “Life’s Little Instructions” was written when William was 95 years old, and shared in 1993.  Almost 25 years later, these instructions still ring true. They are timeless.

When you look through this list, note how many of these things you do or have done. If any are missing from your list, add them.

Your attention to these simple things of life will have far-reaching and long-lasting impact for both you and those with whom you interact.

Life’s Little Instructions by 95-Year-Old William Snell

  • Sing in the shower.
  • Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.
  • Watch a sunrise at least once a year.
  • Never refuse homemade brownies.
  • Strive for excellence, not perfection.
  • Plant a tree on your birthday.
  • Learn three clean jokes.
  • Return borrowed vehicles with the gas tank full.
  • Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them.
  • Leave everything a little better than you found it.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Think big thoughts, but relish small pleasures.
  • Continue reading


Be Happy Where You Are | Gracious Living

Meredith Sweetpea was enjoying the little book,  “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff,” by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. and came across a chapter that struck home. It is about how too many of us think that there is a point in life where we will be happy. Maybe it’s when we purchase that new car, or get that promotion. Richard Carlson tells us that happiness is in every day.

Order your Copy of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff”.

I thought I’d share this chapter with you in the hopes that you will find happiness in the little moments every day.

Be Happy Where You Are

Sadly, many of us continually postpone our happiness–indefinitely. It’s not that we consciously set out to do so, but that we keep convincing ourselves, “Someday I’ll be happy.”

We tell ourselves we’ll be happy when our bills are paid, when we get out of school, get our first job, a promotion. We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough–we’ll be more content when they are. After that, we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire. And on and on and on!

Meanwhile, life keeps moving forward. The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than rightr now. If not now, when?

Choose to Be Happy

Your life will always be filled with challenges. It’s best to admit this to yourself and decide to be happy anyway. One of my favorite quotes comes from Alfred D’ Souza. He said, “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin–real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be got through first, some unfinishede business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”

This perspective has helped me to see that the is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.

Richard Carlson, Ph.D.

Gracious Living Quote: Leave Worries Aside

Leave worries aside and you will be surprised by the beauty of the sky and the color of flowers, of the freshness of the breeze and the generosity of the sun. You will feel you are part of creation, and life will start to make sense. The greatest wealth is to appreciate what we have and what we are.

Frédérick Jézégou

How to Plant a Garden of Daily Living | Gracious Living

Meredith Sweetpea came across this poem recently, and although she does not know it, she takes it words to heart. Please allow me to share it with you so that you might add grace and beauty to your life.

How to Plant a Garden

For the garden of your daily living,
plant three rows of peas:

  • peace of mind
  • peace of heart
  • peace of soul.

Plant three rows of squash:

  • squash gossip
  • squash indifference
  • squash selfishness.

Plant four rows of lettuce:

  • lettuce be faithful
  • lettuce be kind
  • lettuce be patient
  • lettuce really love one another.

No gardens should be without turnips:

  • turnip for meetings
  • turnip for service
  • turnip to help one another

To conclude our garden we must have thyme:

  • thyme for each other
  • thyme for family
  • thyme for friends.

Water freely with patience and cultivate with love, there is much fruit in your garden because you reap what you sow – become a caretaker of Community, become a master gardener.

Formal Place Settings | Gracious Living

Formal place setting actually used at the White House

Meredith Sweetpea remembers the first time she went to a formal dinner and was baffled by the quantity of flatwear and plates, and which fork to use when. But she always loved dressing up the dinner table with, as her parents called it, “fancy service.”

Now she likes to entertain with the best dishes, in formal style. It is not unusual for a guest to be served the first course on a charger plate, and enjoy four or five additional courses throughout the meal.

So that the formal versus informal setting won’t baffle any of you, here is a brief overview of the Formal Place Setting in this first of a two-part series.

Formal Place Setting

A quick rule of thumb is to use your flatwear from the outside inward. One set for each course should be provided as necessary, unless the table has been set incorrectly to begin with.

For a formal place setting you will receive exactly the flatwear you will need, arranged in the correct order. it is also good manners to assume that the host or hostess has designated each piece of flatwear to its task.

As each course is finished, the corresponding flatwear (used and unused) will be removed with each dish, leaving you with the correct flatwear for the next course. If the meal has more than three courses, it is proper for common sense and aesthetic reasons not to place many forks and knives along side the plate or charger plate. These will be provided along with each course as it is served, after the original place setting has been exhausted.

When setting the forks and knives in place, point the blade of the knife toward the plate.

Removal of flatwear

As you finish each course, the utensils (used or unused) will be removed with the dish, leaving you ready for the next course. If there are many courses, however, it would be silly for common sense and aesthetic sakes to have numerous knives and forks laid out alongside the charger or dinner plate, so on that occasion, the proper new flatwear will be delivered with each course after the original settings have been used and removed.

Removal of plates

When finished with a course, the diner should never push his or her plate away from themselves, or–heaven forbid–stack the empty plates. All plates and flatwear will be removed by the server. Courses are served from the left and removed from the right.

The service plate

There may be a service plate, known as a charger plate, set for the first course. This plate should never be used for eating. The dinner plates are set upon it.  It may be removed prior to the first course, along with the dish from the first course, or used to hold all plates throughout the meal.

Setting the specialty flatwear

Soup Spoon
The soup spoon may be in place at the right of the plate–the only time a spoon is  provided in a place setting, or served along with the soup. When you are finished using the soup, the soup spoon should be left in the bowl.

Oyster fork
A small fork for eating oysters. It will be placed to your right (an 3exception to the rule that all forks go to the left of the plate.)

Salad fork and knife
The salad fork may have a thicker tine on its left side. This is convenient for right-handed people (the majority), and enables the fork to be used in cutting large greens without the use of the salad knife.

Fish fork and knife
A special fork and knife should be provided for fish. In the old days, the fish knife often had a silver blade that would not react with the lemon served with the fish (steel blades caused an unpleasant taste). Stainless steel knives do not have this problem. The fish fork is usually shorter than the meat fork.

Meat fork and knife
In the Western hemisphere, the innermost fork and knife are provided for the meat course. In countries where the salad is served following the main course, the innermost fork and knife are for the salad. The meat fork and knife are always larger than the salad fork and knife.

Dessert spoon and fork
The dessert spoon and/or fork may be set initially, or may be brought in with the dessert. If they are part of the initial place setting, they are placed horizontally north of the plate, parallel to each other. The fork is closest to the plate with the tines pointing right. The bowl of the spoon should point to the left.

The teaspoon will be provided when coffee or tea are served. It will be brought in on the saucer next to the cup.

Butter knife
If a bread plate is provided, a butter knife will be provided. This knife is only used to spread butter and never used to cut. The bread should be simply ripped apart. The bread should be buttered one bite at a time, never all at once.

Setting the formal glasswear

Glasses at a formal place setting should be placed to the upper right of the dinner plate. The white wine glass will be to the right, and moving left, is next to the red wine glass and the water glass. As each course is served it is matched with its chosen wine. When the course is finished both the plate and the wine glass should be removed. Glasses can be set in a straight line or on a diagonal from the plate.

Living with Grace Through Discouragement | Gracious Living

Meredith Sweetpea loves the little book by favorite author Alexandra Stoddard titled, Grace Notes, A Book of Daily Meditations.

On each page is a date corresponding to the day of the year, and under that date are an inspirational quote and daily thoughts to ponder.

Today, for example, is July 27th and the quote Stoddard shows is:

…To get where you want to go,
you must keep on keeping on.
–Norman Vincent Peale

This inspires me, because I sometimes get discouraged. Don’t you? I want to throw my hands in the air and just give up. “It’s all too much,” I cry out to the universe.

Today Stoddard shores me up with these two thoughts:

  • Norman Vincent Peale preached a sermon where he inquired, “Do you know what a big shot is? A big shot is a little shot that keeps on shooting.”
  • So often we become discouraged prematurely. Hang in there. Cling to what you believe is true. But most important, never give up on your dreams. Keep moving your feet.

Doesn’t gracious living demand that we have some strife in our lives, as well as grace and beauty? Sadly, it’s true. But it’s how we get through times of crisis that show our true character.

When you had a hard time in your life, did you give up? Probably not. You adjusted and moved forward.

My own grandfather used to say, “Never look back. Always look forward.” This is how to get through a discouraging time with grace. Sometimes circumstances are truly out of your control, so all you can control is yourself and your reactions to them. Look ahead and choose the best path to get you through to the sunshine again.

I love Stoddard’s idea of putting “grace notes” into each and every day, and I encourage you to read this book.

I know I will take the words of Norman Vincent Peale to heart, pick my bat up and swing again. Who knows, this time I might hit one out of the park!


Order your copy of Grace Notes: Thoughs & Inspirations for a Beautiful Life, by Alexandra Stoddard here.

“Spending” the Summer | Gracious Living

As Meredith Sweetpea sits in her sunroom, writing this and listening to the June Bugs, she reminisces about the long languorous summers of her youth where time and daylight seemed to stretch from pole to pole.

When returning to school in the Fall, the teachers often asked, “how did you spend your summer?”

That got me to thinking how we are given the days of summer, like golden coins, to be spent wisely and freely.

How will you spend your gold coins?

How will you spend your coins? Will you use them to take a vacation? To rent a boat and take to the water? To nibble on shaved ice and turkey legs at a summer fair?To buy a new fishing pole? To have the neighbors over for a backyard barbeque?

When you think about it, it’s not the things you buy that you’ll remember, but the experiences and joy you’ll receive from spending your time wisely.

  • You’ll recall of going fishing with the grandchildren and teaching them how to cast off the shore, then watching their excited faces as they reel in their first ever catch.
  • You’ll talk about the new roller coaster at the theme park and recant how you were frightened but bravely went on the ride.
  • You’ll look through the beach vacation photographs and say, “remember when…”

What will you remember about how you “spent” the summer?

I remember taking the elderly couple who lived next door out for an “adventure.” I drove us all out to pick fruit at a local farm and set up chairs for the couple to sit in near the laden plants. What joy was had in eating more than we basketed and baking pies once returning home. We talked about our adventure for weeks.

I am glad we took the time to enjoy a slice of summer, because not long after this trip, the gentleman of the couple passed away. Now, instead of emptiness, I am filled with the wonderful memories of the days we spent together in all of our adventures.

Do not hoard your coins. Spend them or they will disappear.

“Things” bought will real money disappear. Experiences and memories do not. You keep those forever and can draw them up at any time to enjoy again.

You are given a summer’s worth of gold coins to go out and spend.  Do not hoard them, because like chocolate left in the summer sun, they will melt away if not used and you will be left with neither the coins nor the invaluable experiences and memories you could have purchased with them.

It is all too difficult for many people nowadays to take the time even for a two-week summer vacation. But it doesn’t take actual cash to spend the summer making memories. I call them “having adventures.”

  • Take the bicycle on a ride through a ritzy neighborhood with its well-manicured lawns and paved streets.
  • Feed the ducks at the local pond with the nieces and nephews.
  • Visit a state or national park.
  • Learn a new skill, like rollerblading or making a peach cobbler.
  • Try a new food.

Adventures don’t have to cost money, they only take time. And what else does the summer offer but time? Long days and plenty of outdoor opportunities. Time can easily disappear though, so you must consciously MAKE the time by putting “dates” on the calendar and then enjoying them. make dates with your children, your significant other, your friends, or even just yourself. (Some of my favorite experiences are when I’ve adventured out alone.) Or just be spontaneous and pick up and go. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re making memories.

So, how are you “spending” your summer?

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