The Blog

thanksWriting thank-you notes wasn’t little-kid Katie’s idea of a good time. Getting presents was, though. It’s a package deal, I told her. So to speak.

Of anything the twenty-something version of Kate thanks me for, inspiring a devotion to thank-you notes is right up there. One lucky recipient recently told her a thank-you letter she wrote him was the most beautiful thing he’d gotten in all of his forty-five years. Can you imagine? I was lucky enough to see a copy of it, and I doubted the guy would ever be the same. Heck, I was only a witness to it -- and I’ll never be the same.

As Katie grew up I’d occasionally think about what I learned from my own parents, that you aren’t doing your job if your kids don’t hate you sometimes. Thank-you notes didn’t fall into that category, thankfully. But a few other things did! I’ll elaborate in my next post.

How do you know you rate?
November 12, 2018

A woman I know has a last name that’s difficult to spell. That’s why, when she gets a handwritten note in the mail with her name spelled correctly, she’s touched. She knows the person went letter by letter to get it right.

It reminded me I’ve been corresponding with some people for more than twenty years, signing every note as “Maureen and Darrell,” and have yet to get a note back with “Darrell” spelled correctly.

It also reminded me there are people in my immediate orbit who don’t pronounce my first name correctly. It’s “more-een,” not the blurred together “mreen.” You wouldn’t think the second version, which almost sounds like a baby engine trying to rev up, would be that much easier to say -- but it does save a fraction of a second, so…maybe.

This isn’t a buffet. There’s one right answer. I mean, it’s up to you. But you’ve probably heard there’s nothing sweeter to someone than the sound of his name. Why not double the fun by spelling it correctly and pronouncing it that way, too?

What holds you back?
November 11, 2018

When Katie moved out of the house Darrell and I decided we weren’t going to turn it into the Museum of Katie. We knew we’d be moving closer to where she settled, eventually -- and now that she’s closer to settled we’re closer to moving. My piece of that for now is deciding what to do with a lifetime of things she left behind. She wants me to save some of it for her, but not much. Not much at all. The rest? It’s up to me.

Here’s what I’ve learned. Katie’s clutter isn’t her. Keeping it won’t bring little-kid Katie back.

Things have a sort of gravitational pull, don’t they? The toughest part of the process was getting started. It was saying goodbye to every last T-shirt and dress and pair of heels she’d left behind. Once I’d cleared all that, though? Oh! I could imagine living somewhere else. I had begun.

My heart almost stopped the day I wrote this post, though. At the bottom of a pile of toys I discovered the little cloth Christmas rattle she got from Santa when she was a baby. I remembered that rattle. It’s actually a bracelet. It was a big deal back in the day.

Now here it was. Stained. Kind of gross. I tossed it.

The faster I part with the memories, the sooner we can make new ones. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Are you growing?
November 10, 2018

I get an annual checkup every two years. A couple of years ago I was told I’d lost an inch and a half of height in the previous two years. Not good.

Not good, but what can you do? People my age don’t have growth spurts.

Or do they?

In the two years since, I’d done everything I could think of for bone health. I gave up coffee, started eating cheese, whatever the Internet suggested. Nothing too scientific. And nothing that amounted to anything, I bet, compared with the main change I made. I started stretching. A lot. With gusto. I stand up straighter and I walk taller. I stopped being afraid, as my friend Jane Brody says, of taking up space.

I kept stretching.

At my last checkup I’d reclaimed half an inch in height. I had the nurse measure me again, just to be sure. Sure enough.

“Your bones aren’t growing,” the doctor told me. “But something good is happening, right?” I asked. “Oh, yes,” he said, smiling big. “There’s more space between the vertebrae, that’s all.” I think that’s what he said, anyway. I was so happy for this progress report.

That’s what visits to the doctor are, right? Report cards. How well do you take care of yourself? There’s so much outside your control, granted. But don’t let that stop you from taking control of what you can.

“If you keep anything long enough you can throw it away.”

presentIt’s an echo I’ve heard often over the years when I’ve decided it was okay to part with a present I hated. You have a few of those yourself, I bet. A ghastly sweater, a garish picture frame, a ghoulish lawn ornament.

I’ve shrunk the time between thanking someone for a gift and moving it on. It’s the thought that counts, after all, even if you wonder what the bestower was thinking.

If that bestower requires you to don or display the present, it wasn’t really a present, was it? It was an order.

Thanks, anyway!

When Darrell and I were first married I’d occasionally tell him I had a really, really bad feeling about someone. He’d smack the observation aside like a fly at a picnic, only to tell me months or years later I’d been right.

It took several rounds of this kind of thing before he gave me the credit we both now think I deserve.

It took me a few years to allow he’d had a point, too. Intuition is a mysterious thing. It’s knowing you know something, as someone once explained, without knowing why you know it.

To Darrell my spot-on observations could’ve been dumb luck. To begin with. Once he realized how persistent and consistent they were, he changed his mind about them and me.

I had to earn his trust, and that’s okay.

The guy who sold me my first car -- a red Honda Prelude I still sort of pine away for, I loved it that much -- owned a boat. We dated for the few weeks after I’d finished college but before I started working.

We spent most of that time at his cabin, cleaning his boat.

And I thought, “No, thanks.”

The time he spent enjoying the boat was a fraction of the time he spent maintaining it. Come to think of it, maybe that was fun for him. And it wasn’t wasted time for me, because it got me thinking seriously about what was fun for me.

I decided the more toys I accumulated, the more space I’d need to store them. I’d probably want to insure them, keep them in great condition, maybe even downplay them when I was around people who didn’t have as many of them.

To what end?

I decided to play a different game. Instead of being on the hunt, I looked for things I could do without. It’s how I continue to live, and it’s one reason I feel light -- and bright.

You can’t take it with you, as the saying goes. You might find that easier if you never had it to begin with.

You’re getting ready to walk out of class, the restaurant, a subway car. Do yourself a favor. Glance back at the spot you’re leaving behind to make sure you aren’t leaving anything behind.

I can’t take credit for the idea, but I’ll take credit for passing it along!

Your purse, your phone, that contract that was supposed to be between you and one other person only -- some things are one heck of a hassle if they make it into the wrong hands. Anyone who’s been on the losing end of a scenario like this will tell you those few seconds are worth it.