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Lessons from My Grandfather

My Pop-Pop’s 71st birthday was just a few weeks ago! A veteran, historian, photographer, coach, and all-around nice guy, Pop’s been one of my closest friends for as long as I can remember.  In one of the first posts here on the blog, I shared lessons I’ve learned from my grandmother, his wife and my Nanny. It’s only fitting that I should also share some lessons from my grandfather!

Pop is the kind of person who walks down the street and is immediately met with a chorus of “Hello, George” and “Hey, Mr. Lord!” Despite a lifetime of health problems, he always has a smile for everyone.  He spent years working with local sports teams, so literal generations of students and their families have fond memories of their “Coach”  His photographs have appeared in a series of local history books, and he’s even donated a portion of his remarkable collection to the local historical society.

He served with the United States Air Force as a young man and is always happy to share stories of his time under Mount Fuji (though he refuses to eat rice to this day).  Pop knows more about the American Civil War (especially the Battle of Gettysburg, his favourite place in the world) and local history than some professors I know.

All of these things considered, Pop is most importantly just that: my Pop-Pop.

Lessons from My Grandfather

There is always something to learn from the past

Seeing as I graduated with three different kinds of history minors, this one definitely stuck with me! Since I was old enough to grasp it at its simplest, Pop has taught me about history, especially the American Civil War, the Titanic, and John F. Kennedy. Now, these are some of my favourite historical periods.

As I mentioned above, he’s also quite the local history buff. In addition to working with the Schuylkill County Historical Society, he’s got a story for nearly every street in and around his city.  I didn’t get much (if any) local history while in school, but he made sure to make up for it.

Always (always!) keep a camera at hand

This is certainly a lot easier with today’s cell phones, but Pop taught me to always have a camera on me long before I could slip an iPhone in my back pocket and call it a day. You never know what you might stumble across that’s photo-worthy!

I’ve gotten some of my best shots over the years just by happening to have a camera on hand.  In this smartphone era, this has translated to my having at least three different camera apps (not counting all the editing apps) on my phone at any given point.

Similarly, always take pictures

My friends and other family members think I’m a bit mad when I insist on taking pictures. But from Pop’s lessons and my own experience, photos are permanent in a way that so much of life isn’t. People pass away, buildings are torn down, and your life changes beyond recognition when you least expect it. Through photos, you can hold on to a piece of that regardless.

Pro tip:  Google Photos is an absolute lifesaver for the memory issues that inevitably come with taking so many photos!  I’ll be posting a full review soon, so stay tuned.  

Learn something new every day

I can honestly say I’ve become a “lifelong learner” thanks to Pop’s insistence on learning something each and every day. I’m constantly reading articles and taking classes to learn more. These lessons (how meta!) might not give me another degree to show off, but I’m constantly building a mental “library” of knowledge that can come in handy when I least expect it.

I take classes on sites like Coursera and FutureLearn, study with apps like Duolingo and Google Primer, and I’m even working on a course of my own to help others learn new things!

Make sure you’ve signed up for updates to learn more about our upcoming course!

Keep a journal

Even now, Pop reminds me to write about day-to-day life in a journal. I’m not quite as adept at this one as I’d like to be, but I try really hard to write when I can, even if it’s just a few lines about the past few days. Not only can you look back on your journal yourself and see how much you’ve grown, but it can give insight to future generations who might stumble across it!

When I’m not able to keep up with a standard journal (life gets busy!), I try to at least jot a few notes in my bullet journal.  I’ve started keeping a “Memories” page for each month where I write in some of the month’s events, both positive and negative.

Really read a book

I’ve always been a bit of a speed reader, but Pop takes extra time to read a book.  He takes notes in the margins, underlines important points, and adds his own commentary.  I don’t do this myself very often, but I love picking up his and getting these bonus commentaries.

While I don’t annotate much, this does remind me to keep my focus as much as possible while reading. This comes into play especially while reading nonfiction pieces, even now that I’m out of school. I don’t have the greatest memory, so this sometimes involves re-reading passages

It’s the little things

This was one of Pop’s go-to phrases for years and it still rings true. No matter how much life is getting you down, there are little things to remain grateful for and little things to make you happy.  It’s the little things that make you fall in love with someone. It’s the little moments you remember when you think of your favourite times and places.

Happy belated birthday, Pop!

Family photo


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