family · Life Lessons · My Thoughts

A Graduation Address to My Two Girls!

Graduation cheers!

Across the country, it is high school graduation time which takes me back to my graduation fifty years ago. There were four in my graduating class, and I felt grown-up, scared, and not prepared to face the world before me. Fast forward fifty years, and I have two graduating seniors I love, but I am sad to say I wasn’t able to attend one great niece’s graduation on May 20 in Floydada, Texas, and I will miss the other one’s in Yuba City, California on June 4. I love these family get-togethers filled with storytelling, laughter and love. I have had the pleasure of participating in my two great nieces, Kaylea and AnnDeeClaire’s lives for eighteen years, so I want to share a graduation address with you.

Have the courage to follow

Your heart and intuition.

They somehow already know

What you truly want to

Become. Everything else is


-Steve Jobs

My two lovely graduates of 2021, you just experienced one of the worst tragic years we have ever faced, and here you are. You survived seeing the tumultuous end of one phase of your life and the joyful beginning of another.

Behind you are twelve years of education at the hands of many teachers, principals and educational assistants who helped form you. Both of you actively took part in extracurricular activities that broadened your perspective and enriched your lives. Remember to thank as many of the major people who influenced you as you can.

Graduation - tools
Photo by Adonyi Gábor from Pexels

Now, before you is your world! It might be daunting at this moment, but you have an arsenal of tools to help you get started now and for the rest of your lives. You come from a family who loves you dearly—parents who have stood beside you through thick and thin. You have extended family support from grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, and cousins galore! Also, you are supported every day you live by those who have passed away. Never forget your family.

On that note, a couple wise sayings from your great granddad who would have been so proud of you two. I’m sorry he died before you were born, but his advice is timeless:

  • “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
  • “Stay in there in and drink a lot of ice water.”

I’m so glad you knew, my mom, Grannie Horner and her quick wit and love of jokes. You were about ten years old when she died, but I know you have fond memories of her in California, Branson, and on the ranch. You may not have known a deep spiritual gift she would have passed onto you, so I’m sharing it with you: an acceptance of all ethnicities and beliefs, enjoying the diversity gifted you with a variety of friends. She grew up in Raton, New Mexico when it was a melting pot of immigrants working in the coal mines, and she celebrated the multicultural life she lived. When she was in high school, she worked for a Greek family at the Sweet Shop and often spoke of their dancing and food—adopt an open, loving heart like Grannie’s.

You two have faced loss and difficulties in your short eighteen years but have chosen to not let that hamper your dreams. Often, hard times make you bitter or better, and the choice is yours. I see you have both chosen the positive route and am excited about your choice of study.

You lost your grandmother, Grandma Lela, when you were young, and she cherished her grandbabies. I remember her infectious giggle and twinkle in her clear blue eyes. She had a deep religious faith, so I know she prays for you daily.

Your Poppa loves sharing our family ranch with you any time you come, and he celebrates the uniqueness of each of you.

So, here’s Auntie Mato’s (for AnnDeeClaire) advice to you today from my life experiences:

Graduation advice
  1. Spend your lifetime looking for you. Trust yourself—sometimes I hide from myself and it takes a conscious effort to keep looking, but look you must. The world tells us happiness is finding a partner. First, find yourself and then you will have something profound to share with a life partner. One of my favorite quotes about this topic is from Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”
  2. Find a spiritual home to grow in. Lucy Prichard, my first mother-in-law and spiritual mother, told us newlyweds, “Find a church, any church. Hang your hat somewhere.” Find a place where you can flourish spiritually and life will unfold much easier for you. In doing that, you will create a support system and have wise counsel if you need it (I guarantee you will need it).
  3. Be curious. Don’t be afraid to question the status quo. The curious mind sees possibilities everywhere instead of problems. In being curious, you become a part of the solution instead of the ongoing problem. Wonder and be in awe of what this world offers you.
  4. It’s never too late to embrace your passion. When I was in high school, Uncle Tanky read an essay I wrote and encouraged me to pursue my writing. Margie Miller, one of my teachers, told me in my late twenties at one of the Branson-Trinchera reunions on Mom’s front porch, “I want a copy of your first book.” Thirty-plus years later, I published my first book at 60 years old and sent her a copy. I loved teaching, but writing feeds my soul. Chase your passion for all you are worth, either now or later. It doesn’t matter, just identify it and go for it.
  5. Spend time in nature—the ranch. I know both of you have an attachment to the Horner ranch, and I thank you for your interest. It’s one of the best places to connect to God and myself. How can anyone look at Saddlerock silhouetted against a purple sky and not stand in awe? How about a laughter-filled ride around the ranch in the Bronco during the evening to celebrate being alive? A bumpy ride in the Mule and the chance to drive it, even when you were too young to drive? Obviously, I would recommend nature anywhere, but the trick is to be mindful of it—the birds, the trees, the horned toads and a Creator God who gifts us with such treasures.
  6. Ask for help. I wish I could guarantee you two lovely ladies a life free of pain and stress, but that doesn’t happen, as you already know. When troubles come, remember all the people who love you, pick up the phone, send a text or call, because we are all perched, ready to help.
  7. Failure to cry is a failure to live. As emoting human beings, we feel and sometimes feel strongly. A wise friend once told me that tears are liquid prayers, so don’ ever be ashamed of your tears.

This morning I asked Uncle Lin for his words of wisdom for you two, and this is what he said, “It is ALWAYS in your power to eliminate negative forces from your life, and my hope for you is that as you go through life, you are successful in doing that, as it will enhance your life experience immensely.”

In conclusion, I leave you with one of my favorite sayings which includes one of my passions:

Graduation message - Lin and me dancing


As though no one is watching you,


As though you have never been hurt before,


As though no one can hear you,


As though heaven is on earth.


Congratulations, Kaylea and AnnDeeClaire on a job well done, and I look forward to the futures you created! I will be a witness to your endeavors, one of your cheerleaders for life. World, get ready for these two!

Graduation - I'll cheer you on!
Your cheerleaders are ready!

Do you have someone graduating this year? What is your best advice? (Scroll down passed the items below to the Comment section.)

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