6.29.2009

Thinking of Billy

Billy Vance lived next door to my in-laws for over twenty years. She became a surrogate grandmother to my husband. George remembers her fondly, and even though I only knew her for a few years before she passed away, I will never forget Billy.

One afternoon, not long after George and I married, we were sitting on Billy's porch. She returned a food storage container to my mother-in-law, and in so doing, gave me a precious morsel of advice.

"Never return an empty container," she told me. She had filled the container with candy.

I took her advice to heart, and have tried to remember (though not always successfully) to include a little something - candy, cookies, muffins - when returning a container to a friend.

I thought about Billy this morning as I sat down to finish some hand sewing I volunteered to do for a mother on Avery's synchronized swimming team. She's making 8 elaborate headpieces for the girls to wear in their water routine next month. She pinned several pieces together for me to stitch up, and when I finished, I had a pile of her straight pins. I thought to myself, "Billy would return these in style."

wrist pin cushion

So I made a little pincushion, which I will give to the mom tonight when I return her straight pins. The pincushion, inspired by Green Kitchen, took me about twenty minutes to make and made but a very small dent in my stash. In fact, I have more ribbon and more elastic and I'd like to make another. Would you like one?

Leave a comment and I will randomly choose a winner at the end of the week. Have you had a Billy Vance in your life? If so, I'd love to hear about her and any nuggets of wisdom she passed on to you (though it's not a requirement for the drawing).

63 comments:

  1. Thank you for an inspiring post!

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  2. i do the same with the containers. your idea was perfect and i'm sure it will be remembered. and it's a great idea. constantly moving mine around the sewing room, then not finding it :)

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  3. Very pretty. And Billy had such style. It's sad that society has lost some of those manners.

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  4. A truly inspiring and beautiful post Molly!
    How lovely for you to have listened so closely and in turn honoring Billy's memory through your extremely sweet and touching gesture! Thank you for passing this gem along, I will certainly take this to heart!

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  5. How lovely-- much more inspiring than my abused little fabric store red tomato.

    What a lovely idea-- one I'll adopt!

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  6. Yes, and even though I only aspire to sew, I love looking at my little mushroom pin-cushion that you made for me when returning my pins in a project you helped me with. (pretty sure I got the better end of the deal on that one ;)

    I've had many giving people in my life... I like to remember and take a little from each person to pass along.

    xoxo, m

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  7. What a great way to remember Billy. You are so thoughtful and kind. I wish I had met Billy she seems to have had a great Joi de Vivre.

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  8. What a wonderful pin cushion and great way to return the pins. I need to start doing things like that!

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  9. I love the idea of never returning a container empty. I'm going to start doing that. :)
    The pin-cushion is adorable! I am currently gathering fabric and lining up projects so that I can start sewing gifts for Christmas...this will be my first time sewing since high school!

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  10. I had a neighbor when I was a child (from birth to 9 years old) named Mrs. Peihler. She never had any children but had some grown nieces. She always had toys for me to play with and one was my favorite. It was an Afro-American baby doll WITH clothes. I didn't know any people that weren't Caucasian at the time and I was intrigued and in love with that doll. Mrs. Piehler taught me about how wonderful our God is and how vast His creativity. She was a genuine warm loving woman beyond the 1960's we were living. She really made an impression on me. Hope to meet up with her again in heaven.

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  11. I love the "never return an empty container" one and I can't think of anything better.

    You are so good.

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  12. You read my mind...as I was reading I thought to myself can I give you some pinned up fabric for a lovely pin cushion like that?

    My husband's gram had a lot of little pieces of advice some we only learned later in life how valuable they were others make us mimic her speech and laugh fondly. Such as..."if you let the baby stand up like that he'll be bull-legged". She was an avid gardener and one of the gramisms that stuck with me was the way she called every flowering bush a "beauty bush". And now I do the same whether its a plant I know or not.

    What a lovely way to remember Billy.

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  13. I love the idea of never returning an empty container...in fact I have some to fill for my neighbor right now!!

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  14. The world needs more Billys.

    In fact, I was just thinking today - how much time I spend learning things like gardening and sewing and knitting, etc. - online and from the library.

    Maybe someday I can aspire to be someone's Billy.

    I better get cracking!

    But as far as sage advice - one that I have always liked was from Anna Quindlen - "I show up. I listen. I try to laugh."

    That one has always struck me as a good way to approach things.

    Thanks for the giveaway Molly - I imagine that you are our (your readers') Billy in a lot of ways!

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  15. Oh my goodness...I love this post. I'm constantly returning dishes to my sister-in-law (just did this afternoon, as a matter-of-fact)...the very next time I do, I'll be stacking them high with cookies. Thanks for an inspiring post.

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  16. It is funny to read your post. Recently I had a glass pan that my daughters friends mom had drop by for them one night. It had the most delicious nacho dip in it. She brought it special for them and another friend to eat while watching a movie at our place.

    The dish ended up staying and I had the thought that I should not give it back empty. How it was so sweet of her to have brought it over for the girls. So I did some chocolate chip muffins and filled it up and sent it back the next night when they met up for basketball practice.

    I thought after doing this that I want to do it more often....make it a habit. Your post only cements this for me. It does feel awful good to do stuff like this.

    Things like that make each day sweeter.

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  17. I agree with everyone else that the world needs more people like Billy. I can't at this moment think of any particular thing that was said to me that I carry with me, but there were many non verbal things that my Grandmother did that I try to emulate. Laugh often, love others, give with an open heart expecting nothing in return. I strive to love life as much as she did. Thank you for such a beautiful post :)

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  18. How touching! I love the pin cushion you made, and am sure that the mom will be delightfully surprised.

    I also love Billy's advice. I am kind of sad I never thought myself to do that. I am always looking for ways to be more thoughtful. Thank you!

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  19. What a thoughtful post. I had never thought of that before, and I appreciate the new wisdom.

    I've had several Billy's in my life, but the one I hold near and dear is my high school Spanish profesora. We're still friends to this day. She told me a story about how she had been at her fitness center, and ended up talking with another lady there. The lady ended up finding out that Prof was a high school teacher, and asked, "Aren't you afraid for your life every day?" To which Prof replied, "No, why?" And the woman said, "Well, there's all those kids wearing black..." And Prof told her, "Well, one of those kids in black held the door for me today as we were leaving school." And she walked away. I love the story because I was one of those kids in black that she stood up for. I love the lesson of not judging.

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  20. i love the pincushion, what a great way to support the mama who asked you for support.

    i wish i could scrape up a morsel of a story for you but my brain is a bit fried tonight. thanks to billy for such wisdom.

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  21. my billy vance was my grade 5 teacher who told me "quality is more important than quantity"...i rushed to get things and wasn't giving my best, she saw it and challenged it!

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  22. Lovely! (Both the story and your pincushion!)

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  23. thank you for sharing this. I just returned an (empty) container to my neighbours today, and I wish I had read this first - but i'm always going to remember, from now on. such wonderful advice! xo sharilyn

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  24. great little nugget of wisdom :)
    all I've got for ya is "Don't squat with your spurs on!"... :D

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  25. My mother was full of gems like that - in fact, I think that's where Iheard that you should never return an empty container.

    An older,extremely well-travelled friend once told me _ "Wherever you go, you always have to take yourself". "I've been everywhere" he said,"and there I was!".

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  26. What a great post! I had a thrid grade teacher that was like a second grandmother to me. She went to our church and became a close family friend. I miss her very much. Thanks for bringing back memories that made me smile!!
    Great pin cushion too! Love the colors.

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  27. you've been blessed by a memory that will bless another today as your share your creation. billy lives on in your actions!

    I had a friend (who we've moved away from) who was traditional, tasteful, and loving. she only had boys and gave me this saying: "the resting spot for our toilet lid is down." I've always remembered that seemingly silly little saying. and now that I 'have only boys' the resting spot for ours is down as well.

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  28. My grandmother was like that. I miss her. She made casseroles alot.

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  29. What a great idea. I've never thought to add something to a container when returning it, but I will now. Thank you for the inspiration.

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  30. AnonymousJune 30, 2009

    Such thoughtfulness. One in which I won't forget! Thank thank you for sharing Billy with us~

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  31. wow. delightful! both billy and her advice, and your inspiration from it. So sweet.

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  32. CassandraJune 30, 2009

    What a wonderful note! I will now and forever keep that in my mind! Thank You.

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  33. I had an aunt who always told me, "It doesn't matter what other people do. YOU must always do what's right. What another person does is between them and God. What you do is what you are accountable for."

    That advice has helped me to keep my focus and do the right thing.

    What a great use for such pretty ribbon! Beautiful!

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  34. An inspiring post. Wish I had a Billy in my life. Some great advise, though, and I will remember it next time I return a container. =)

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  35. My mother-in-law, who raised 7 children (6 boys/1 girl) - her word and advice help shape the mother I am today, favorite "they all fall out" and to remember everyone develops and grows when it is right for them. The pincushion is beautiful, what a great idea!

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  36. I have a lovely friend named Joyce who, although she could technically be my grandmother, is more hip than many young people. Joyce is an artist, and she taught me some basics about how to see the world through different eyes. I have some of her paintings, which are beautiful and colorful.

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  37. What a great story. I think I will definitely start taking that advice too. I love the pincushion too.
    My Billy Vance is my grandmother. Right after my first child was born she came to visit and my house was a mess (I had a 3 week old baby and just couldn't get things clean). I kept apologizing for the state of the house. She finally said to me that "there will always be a mess somewhere in the house, but your children won't always be there. So, enjoy your baby and leave the mess for later." You won't always find a clean house when you come to visit me, but you will always find me loving on my kids.

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  38. How sweet! My mom is my Billy Vance. She's a lot to live up to!

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  39. I recently found your site & am totally loving your posts! Today we are making (probably VERY close to your own!!!) the seedless blackberry jam! Kids are really excited...my gma is my inspiration...she made growing up an adventure & its something we strive to do with our 4 kids...from snow ice cream to finding ways to make those frustrating moments good memories...

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  40. Great advice. And great pin cushion!

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  41. Well, I have 3 containers, 1 vase and a huge bucket to take back to Andrea. Now I need to figure out what to put in each of them! (LOL) I love the material you used on the pincushion.

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  42. AnonymousJune 30, 2009

    I also do not return a item empty, just yesterday I returned a bowl that had been filled with potato salad from a BBQ at our home and slipped in a hand knit wash cloth, and a few pinwheel cookies. just old fashinoned manners.

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  43. That is a great tip to live by. I love that pin cushion idea too. How handy!

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  44. as long as you are certain that i won't stab myself wearing my pins. ;)

    xo

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  45. Love this post. My mom is a Billy, she is always sharing and giving to others. Many of my childhood memories are of delivering food or goodies to neighbors who needed some homemade love.

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  46. I have never heard that saying before. I can't tell you how many times I have returned a container empty. I bet I won't let that happen again. Thanks so much for the wonderful story and many wishes to you.

    Kelli Lusk

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  47. The heroes in my life are older ladies. They are very wise and every single one I know seems to have a genuine interest in me.

    One bit of advice came from one of those friends, her name is Modena. We were out walking in her yard, watching her chickens, one hen or two picked on another and fussed and squawked at eachother. Modena chuckled and said "Now isn't that interesting." "What?" I asked.

    "How similar us humans and the hens are."

    I thought about it some but not really. Not until the very next day I hurt my best friends feelings very badley and couldn't get a hold of her to tell her how sorry I was. Texting her a message, asking for forgiveness, I waited for the reply. In the meantime I walked over to Modena's, She told me "You will mess up from time to time. Be thankful for new beginnings! Be patient with her and if you love her, that will fix everything. Us hens have to be careful with the things we say. Our tongue is our beak."

    I could've floated home I was so happy. Thank you Molly for awakening that memorey in my mind. The pincusion is beautiful so it seems was Billy!
    -Molly Rhea Darling-

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  48. Love this...no I've never had a Billy Vance in my life, but I think we all need one. Great tradition.

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  49. Adorable pin cushion and lovely post. The ribbon reminded me of a wonderful woman named Katherine who passed away years ago. Her cottage was two doors down from the one we rented on the lake when I was little. I would get up at the crack of dawn, sneak out the door, and head straight to her cottage. She would wait for me (in her wicker chair on the porch) with powdered sugar doughnuts and tea. We would sit and chat until the sun rose over the lake. She taught me to play cards. I think my mom still has a piece of wicker from her porch. Thank you for making me think of her today..

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  50. I don't have a Billy Vance per se, but I was told a very keen bit of advice from a friend... When given some treasure in a canning jar ALWAYS return the jar. It's often not expected to be returned, but we all know how valuable those jars are, so I think the thoughtfulness is appreciated. If it's returned full then - WOW! - that's a friend!

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  51. I love your idea - I have some ribbon I would like to try it with too. And I have some pins I need to return to a friend who let me use them when we sewed together last week!

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  52. SeattleMommyJuly 01, 2009

    Sweet story - wouldn't it be nice to be remembered this way? I love the pin cushion.

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  53. Seattlemommy, yours is my favorite post.

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  54. What a lovely sentiment ... it is one I will follow from this day forward.

    And the pin cushion? Perfect! Yesterday I was sewing and found myself thinking of your elastic cushion and how dang useful it would be (and gorgeous to boot). I may just have to make one for myself!

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  55. That is a great way to thank people! I never thought of it, but I will definitely start using it. I've never had a Billy in my life, but I'm looking forward to it hopefully someday!

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  56. Your last post "eleven" was just beautiful. My husband and I are celebrating eleven this month as well :)
    You are a thoughtful soul . . . this will be in my thoughts now for good.

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  57. Reading your post is so timely for me...it must be kismet. I am going to teach myself to sew...my mother-in-law threaded and set up my machine, I found a very easy pillowcase market bag pattern and I am ready to sew...except...I haven't any pins (pretty ones with large heads) or pincushions. These items are both on my to-do list for this weekend. I will wait for your decision in hopes that I am picked, because I could never find a pincushion as beautiful as yours. This is my first time visiting your blog, but not the last. I'm not sure I was as fortunate as you were to have a "Billy" in my life...I would have loved that, but I have taken away the "never return an empty container" advice she gave, from now on. Thank you for the inspiration! Cathe.

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  58. Those are beautiful! I was going to post before to let u know how much I appreciatr all your inspiring reporsing ideas!!!!!

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  59. The pin cushion is great. My friend Shelley is totally different from the Billy you describe, but shares the kindness and sense of decorum I think you conveyed. Even in our modern age, she cares about manners and returning favors.

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  60. Beautiful post- loved it. THe pincushion is very pretty, I will remember from now on when I return something I have borrowed I will not return it empty. Thank you

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  61. VermontMommyJuly 05, 2009

    would you leave directions as to how you made this? :) thank you.

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