Category Archives: Women and midlife

The Ins and Outs of the Thank You

FullSizeRenderOne time someone did something really nice for me. I was full of gratitude so, naturally, I wanted to thank her. I could have immediately sent a text. I could have taken the extra 10 seconds and sent an email. I could have opened a drawer, pulled out a piece of stationary and written a note. But this was a really, really nice thing she did, so I decided I’d deliver the note with homemade cookies.

I set the butter on the counter to soften and realized I was out of flour. Not to worry, I’d get to the market the next day, get the flour and make the cookies. I went to the market the next day and forgot the flour. When I got home and saw those sticks of very soft butter on the counter, I cursed myself. I put them back in the fridge and within a few minutes I’d forgotten about the cookies altogether.

Two weeks later I ran into the very nice person, and I was mortified. I assaulted her with verbal thanks for the nice thing, but no matter how sincere, thanks served two weeks late is a dish served cold. What I really wanted to do is explain about the flour and my personal tendency to want to go the extra mile, which frequently results in my going no miles at all. I should have sent the text.

Thanking is important. Growing up, thank you notes were a mandatory ritual like any other. You couldn’t open the gift until you’ve read the card. You couldn’t really enjoy a gift until you’d written the thank you note. It was like every gift came with a liability that would take a sheet of paper and 90 seconds to repay. At age 5, writing thank you notes was probably my first lesson in accountability.

A thank you is the end of a transaction. Someone gave, you thanked. In cases where a gift wasn’t delivered in person, the thank you note serves as a return receipt, an acknowledgment of delivery.

A woman once asked me to read and comment on a draft of her book. I did and returned my comments by email. Now this was not a thank-you-note situation, but I did need some sort of acknowledgement. For a week I had sort of a dangling feeling, worrying that the email had been lost, hacked or rerouted. I finally broke down and emailed her to see if she’d received my comments. She replied: “I did, thanks.” Apparently she’d run out of flour too.

IMG_5969You have to be careful that thanking doesn’t take on a life of its own. I scratch my head at the thank you gift. Like when someone thanks you by bringing you a present. What to do? You have to acknowledge it because it was nice of them and also because it was probably left by your front door. The first thought a person has when they’ve left flowers on someone’s doorstep is: Did she just tell me she was going on vacation? If it’s cookies, their first thought is raccoons.

So in acknowledging the thank you gift you start to wonder where it will stop. I’m careful not to use the actual words so that it doesn’t come across as “thank you for the thank you.” You never want to mix sarcasm with gratitude. I go with something like: “These brownies are delicious.” That roughly translates to: “The raccoons did not get them.”

So my kids (mostly) write thank you notes. They are not always moving works of gratitude, but they (mostly) get it done. But on the occasions that I wait to mail them until we have prints of the photos from the birthday party to enclose with the note, no one gets thanked.

My Dishwasher and Me

Sometimes the deepest friendships take a while to solidify. They don’t seem obvious at first. Maybe you have different interests, different backgrounds. Maybe one of you is a human being and the other is a dishwasher. Whatever the barriers are, they can often fall away once you spend a lot of time with someone. My… Continue Reading

Growing Up in a Marriage

When I was a newly engaged 25 year old registering for wedding gifts, I chose two sets of champagne glasses – fancy crystal ones and the cheaper, boxed ones for everyday. Yes, you read that right. In my mind, we’d definitely need everyday champagne glasses, like for Mondays. Marriage isn’t exactly what I thought it… Continue Reading

The Time Warp of Back to School Night

As publishished in The Week on October 21, 2015   The cool kids are hanging by the lockers, laughing and talking a little too loud. The nerds are in the classroom early, eager to shake hands with the teacher and nab the seats in the front row. The girls are put together in skinny jeans,… Continue Reading

Now Extinct: The Cringe-Worthy Prom Photo

As published in The Week on May 27, 2015 As I feverishly photographed my son and his friends before the prom, it occurred to me that something was not right. The boys looked as I expected in black tuxes and combed hair. But the girls were all wrong. Their dresses were simple and flattering. Their… Continue Reading

Cracking the Dress Code

As Published in The Rye Record on April 3, 2015 A few weeks ago, before the thaw, I was invited to a dinner party and was told in plain English to wear a dress. Honestly, I was just as happy to have been told what to wear as I was to be going to a… Continue Reading

Double Identity (or How I Became Irish)

I am almost always called out of the line at airport security for a “random screening.” Statistically, it can’t be random. I suspect the fact that I’m traveling with a bunch of kids who don’t share my last name has something to do with it, as my stature and demeanor aren’t really that menacing. It… Continue Reading

The Siri Relationship

I enjoy my one-sided relationship with Siri. I press a button when I need something and she is always there with the correct answer or a promise of a reminder. In return, she asks nothing of me. I don’t have to respond to any of her needs. Actually, I’ve never even bothered to ask what… Continue Reading

Crisis Concluded, But Not Averted

As published in The Rye Record on January 24, 2014   I’m pleased to announce that my midlife crisis has come to an uneventful conclusion. I have emerged untouched by an obscure tattoo, a tennis pro, or the leather seats of a new sports car. I didn’t even start wearing cut-off shorts with boots (you’re… Continue Reading

Paddling Through The Small Stressors

As published in The Rye Record on January 11, 2014 I’ve just come back from a vacation where I spent a lot of time on something called The Lazy River. The Lazy River is loop of chlorinated water, just wide enough for two inner tubes, that pulls you along with a gentle current. You travel… Continue Reading

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