5 Questions with SPPR Featuring Grandma Phelan

Whether it’s in history books or biopics, at SPPR we love hearing the stories of wise women who’ve blazed a trail before us. This week we’re excited to welcome a woman who has played a vital role in the history of our own Kelly Phelan Johnston: her grandmother. Grandma Phelan recently turned 99 so we asked her to share some of her experience with relationships, stress and remembering what’s really important.

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1. How do you think that women have changed since you were little?

Women now have more confidence in themselves.

  • When I was born in 1916, women were not allowed to vote. That came four years later, in 1920. They depended upon their husbands for everything they needed. The names of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan were names we hadn’t yet heard. Now females owe a lot to them both. They gave us confidence.

Women take more pride in their appearance.

  • This is a good thing, within reason. My mother wore no make-up so I persuaded her to let me put a bit of rouge on her cheeks. We were on the screened-in porch of our home. There was a glint in her eyes as she allowed me to work on this “slightly naughty” (for her) project. I had a very good time modernizing her. However, I don’t remember her ever doing this on her own.

Women now travel much more than they used to.

  • When I was young, most roads were badly paved. One summer my mother, sister, cousin and I drove to Buffalo, NY to visit relatives. I was twelve years old at the time and that was the longest trip I had ever taken, it never occurred to me that someday I might go to Europe. But time passed and yes, I did go to Europe.

2. You continue to maintain long term relationships with many different people. What are your tips for others to do the same?

“In order to have a friend, you must BE A FRIEND.” This is so true. I am no authority but here are a few ideas:

  • If a person has a birthday, send him/her a card plus a little personal note. Make it more than a regular birthday card.
  • If he/she is ill, send a card with a note added. Make it special; it is no fun being sick. Send some flowers if you can afford it. At least let them know that they are being thought of.
  • Listen to what your friends tell you about their lives. Most people are poor listeners. Do others a favor and listen while they speak. Don’t let your eyes look around the room as they talk. Don’t be anxious to top the stories they have told you.

3. What in life are the most important things to you?

  • Color – I must be surrounded with colors I enjoy. French blue with a punch of raspberry near it makes me smile. Add a bit of soft yellow and it looks even better.
  • Music – Going to a good classical concert makes me forget any sadness in my life.
  • Humor – People who have a good sense of humor are fun to be around. It is fun to laugh.
  • Reading – An inspirational book clears my mind.
  • Praying – For people who have so little.
  • Using my hands – To knit, to play the piano, to make stamp pictures and to crochet.

4. What are the things in life that you worried about but weren’t worth the worry and stress?

I still remember when I had to go to Speech Class in high school. I was so worried about having to speak in front of others that I was almost paralyzed. That now seems so strange. When I was young, I worried more than I do now but really, I was never much of a worrier. I kept very busy. That is the trick, I suppose: Keep busy doing worthwhile things. 

5. You have a philosophy of spend, save and share. Why is this such an important lesson?

Perhaps, it should be: save, share and spend. If you have to ask why these three things are good, just try them. You will see. Saving is the hardest part, so make yourself do it. Very few people save much. That has to be learned and it is difficult. Share with someone who has less than you do. Then spend and enjoy whatever you buy for yourself! You will deserve it.


One thought on “5 Questions with SPPR Featuring Grandma Phelan

  1. Kelly, this is a wonderful piece, and I cannot agree more with your grandmother. How wonderful – 99 years old so youthful, wise and absolutely lovely!

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