The True Measure of Wealth


Ever since my children were small, we’ve encouraged them to give handmade presents, wanting them to learn early on that time is a far more precious gift than money.   Of course, the truth is, we’ve always had more time than money.  But even if we won the lottery tomorrow, I’d still value most those hours that my children spent creating something just for me.

When Ariel was six, we gave her a potholder loom.  You know—the kind with the loops that you stretch and weave into colorful potholders and trivets. I had one growing up, and my mama always loved the potholders I gave her most every Christmas and birthday when I was small.  I treasure the ones that Ariel has made (and still makes) for me, too.  Even now…fourteen years and many potholders later.     

As Benjamin got older and became a guitar player of considerable skill, he began to offer, as his gift, to learn any song on the guitar we wished him to.  No matter how hard.  We each get to pick a song, and this year, I chose Jingle Bells played like Tuck Andress plays it on one of my favorite Christmas albums—Hymns, Carols, and Songs about Snow.  Of course, one of the songs I love most that Benjamin has learned for me is Ave Maria (by Schubert) played in the style of the late, great Chet Atkins.  It always makes me cry.

When Ariel was eight, she surprised me one Christmas with a pop-up book she’d made just for me.  It was a pop-up book of fairies.  I’ve been fascinated with fairies since I was small, when I could actually see them.  Or, at least, I thought I could.  As I got older (and more cynical), I stopped seeing fairies, but I continue to love and believe in them and hope that one day I’ll be able to see them again.

In the years since, Ariel has made a fairy pop-up book for me about every two Christmases. (They are way too time-consuming to make every year.)  It has been a delight to witness her artistic growth through the fairy books over time.   Of course, I treasure every single one, but I’d have to say that the one she made me last year is probably my favorite.  Below is a spread from it:


This year, for Christmas, she made me a bead fairy.  She designs them herself, and they are different every year.  Here is this year’s fairy:


And here is one she made me for my birthday last year.  This fairy’s wings are made from actual peacock feathers:


For her daddy, Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man, Ariel made a bead flower.  Over the years, she has made him an entire bead garden—daisies, irises, Turk’s Cap lilies, ferns, pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, and columbine.  This year, she made one of his favorites (and mine), the zinnia:


So, despite the melancholy I wrote of earlier, I still had a lovely and most blessed Christmas.  How could I feel otherwise as I gaze at my new bead fairy shimmering in the morning sun and listen to my son playing Ave Maria just for me?

As a lower-income person, I would never be one to romanticize being poor.  It is most often a grim business—struggling to pay your electric bill or buy food or keep a roof over your head.  But, in a society that so often encourages the pursuit of material things, having less money with which to buy those things can free you to focus on what is really important.  To focus on what is true and pure and genuine…and unaffected by economic downturns. 

I can’t say I thank God for being of modest means.  As I said, it’s often been a grievous hardship.  But I do thank Him for the clarity to see that, in so many ways, I am already rich and blessed with abundance.  That, truly, my cup runneth over.


19 Responses to “The True Measure of Wealth”

  1. Pat Says:

    This post made me smile and cry at the same time.

  2. Benjamin Says:

    I love using my music to make other people happy…not the least of which is you! I love you!

  3. Ariel Says:

    Anything to make you happy! 🙂 I love you too!

  4. Judy Says:

    You are very lucky to have such lovely and talented children and know that they love you so much. I keep all the stuff my children have made me, too, and cherish each item. I made those pot holders as a child and I remember we would try and sell them all over the neighborhood. We charged a quarter for two of them and would have stacks and stacks made up. We were lucky if we sold any!

  5. Nancy Says:

    Such beautiful expressions of love…I agree, you are truly blessed!

  6. June Says:

    Truly heartwarming…you’re a wealthy woman!

  7. Margie Says:

    I agree! You are far wealthier then most of us.!

  8. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Beautiful post, Beth.

    You do have very talented and wonderful children and I love how close your little family is. I hope that my children grow up to be like them.

    You’ve done well.

    Ariel–Your work is truly amazing. I love love the pop-up book and the bead fairies. And the flowers. How imaginative and detailed. You are a telented artist.

    Benjamin–Your music does make your mom happy so you have certainly succeeded there.

  9. CountryDew Says:

    That left a wee tear in my eye – not to mention gasps of admiration at the talent in your family. The fairy book cut-out is amazing, as are the beads.

    And as a guitary player myself I know what it must take to learn those songs. I am in awe.

    You are indeed blessed.

  10. Going Crunchy Says:

    Hi Beth, I’m catching up on your posts! I’ve been late in reading and posting to my favs.

    I’ve never been a want, want, want for money. I just get really tired about the worrying about it. I feel like I have to focus more on it when I’m trying to meet the mortagage and bills. A couple of months ago when we had to wait on filling a perscription for a day despite have insurance until payday really sucked. But we ALL have those times.

    The wealth is who you are, what you leave behind.

    I frankly still think that you have a good ‘ole Southern Ficton novel inside of you. You can write it and suddenly be on a bestseller list and take us all out for a round of drinks. Or fairy hunting.

  11. wesleyjeanne Says:

    I agree with Shannon! I think you are a Lee Smith in hiding…we are all anxiously awaiting your own version of Oral History.

    I will be first in line to buy it.

  12. Linda H Says:

    What a sweet and talented family! You truly are blessed.

  13. colleen Says:

    I love her pop up fairy scene. And the beaded figures! She could teach classes on both or could go to Seeds of Light in Roanoke and sell some of her work. It’s a bead and gift shop my friend owns and I used to work there and also sold my jewelry there.

    I love the pot holders too. I like to buy little friends slinkys and etch-a-sketches and toys that have stood the test of time. I remember making those potholders.

    Families like yours are few and far between. Wish there were more.

  14. Clara Melvin Says:

    Beth, you are so rich. I would rather have a close family and a caring family than all the money in the world. I love to see how talented your children are. Those are beautiful creations. When I see something like that, I think of all the hours spent making and putting it together. It has to come from the heart!

  15. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    Is your daughter an artist? She ought to sell those bead fairies on the etsy site. My daughter is an artist and she sells on there. Here’s her address if you want to check out these cute things she makes called Plinis: She does pretty well on this site–Etsy is the place for artists and crafters.

    Anyway, I love those fairies. The colors are incredible. And the peacock feathers–what a beautiful touch. They could become a collectible. I can see some rich person collecting them and them being featured in Country Living magazine or something.

    I gave my husband some guitar lessons for Christmas. I read your other post about your mother’s record player. Music does put you in a good mood, doesn’t it? If I’m in a down mood, I just pop a favorite CD into the stereo and start singing and it just lifts me up. When my husband learns to play, I’ll have to request songs for presents–that’s a great idea!

    My younger daughter made those pot holders for people for Christmas this year. Homemade gifts are the best.

    Hey, we’re all hurting for money. Everyone’s struggling. We have to keep our heads and keep finding strength. I get strength from meeting nice people like you online, blogging away, swapping stories and finding out I am not alone.


  16. Jeff Says:

    Wow, Beth! The first time I saw some of Ariel’s art work – I think it was a drawing – I was very impressed. I can’t even imagine how to make a pop-up book! I was always entranced with those kinds of books when I was a kid and I am *most* impressed that Ariel can make them. Her bead fairies are wonderful. Such a time-consuming task! And Benjamin is to be commended too – I love to listen to music, but I have no idea of how it is done. The closest I came to success was playing bass on Red River Rock. I’m always astounded when I listen to musical talent. You are so very fortunate to have two children who have turned out so well. So many families struggle with their children going off the track and making poor choices. While you may not have a lot of material wealth, you have so much of what really counts in life. I don’t imagine that St. Peter asks how much money you have when you are asking for admission!

    It is always a truism that you either have time or money but not both. Those who have money don’t have time and those who have time don’t have money. Sounds like the topic of a blog post for me!!

  17. Kate Stockford Says:

    Hello Beth,
    I am writing to you all the way from New Zealand in the South Pacific. I came across your blog when looking for inspiration for making a beaded fairy! 😀 Your daughter is so talented! I have only just started beading and have attempted a few fairies that haven’t work. Debbie Kelly Van Cleave is right she could sell them on Etsy! I was wondering if she had any instructions or tips on how to make her beautiful Peacock Fairy Princess. I have just made a beaded dragonfly brooch, will see if I can attach it. I hope this finds you well and would love to hear from you.
    Kind regards
    Auckland, New Zealand

    • Beth Says:

      Hello, Kate…thanks for commenting. I really do love how a blog can bring folks together from all over the world.

      I wish I could be of help with your beaded fairy, but unfortunately, I don’t have the same artistic talent that my daughter does! 🙂 However, I’ve written Ariel and asked her if she could respond in some way (she’s now married and lives a good distance from here). I do know that she doesn’t work from a pattern, as every fairy has been different, so she wouldn’t have instructions. But perhaps she could recommend a beading book to you that would be helpful. She has said that the fairies are quite difficult to make and that she’d only make them as a labor of love. I feel quite fortunate to have them.

      Thanks again for writing…good luck with your bead fairies!

      All the best,

  18. Kate Stockford Says:

    😀 Thank you soo much for replying,
    A labour of love is right! I have been trying to copy it from the picture and having trouble :D. She is soo clever!
    Thanks again and enjoy your festive season with those you love.

    Take care
    Kate xx

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