Tag Archives: New Year

A New Decade — Here We Come

Wednesday marked  not just the new year, but a new decade, at least it seems that it is marking the new decade. In truth, 2020 is the last year of the teens—the last year in a series of ten. But there is something nice and round, satisfying pleasant about beginning a decade or century or millennium with a number ending with zero, so that is what we do.

If you are a stickler, you can view this as the last year to get it right, prepare and reshape yourself for the new decade to come. Or you can jump right in with wild declarations and bold plans and good on ya, I say.

I have chosen a hybrid approach, taking this new year as a time of fine-tuning, casting off some worn out ways, adopting some new ones. I think of 2020 as the first year in a fresh decade but it will be a year of transition, too, so I have some practicing to do to get it right before the ’20s begin in earnest.

I spent much of the past eighteen months working on my health, my weight in particular, and I had some small success. Then I went to France. They celebrate food there, and wine, and both are fabulous. I did my best to fit in.

I fit in very well.

It wrecked what small accomplishment I might have made, and over a year later I am trying to get back to the plan that worked for me, sans French bread and cheese, paté and aperol spritzers.

After a lifetime of obligation and work and taking everything very hard, 2020 will see a bit of change in my free time. You would think this is a joyous thing, but trust me when I say, I am not so sure. I enjoy a good gripe, and there is nothing more satisfying than complaining about the terrible constriction of time you are under, to the concerned cooing of caring friends.

It lets you off the hook for the beds being unmade, the vacuum sitting in the middle of the floor, a sink full of dishes. You are an object of pity and concern.

However, be able to go to bed without setting an alarm, have most of the day at your disposal, at least the flexibility to plan as you see fit, and those dishes in the sink — and you — become objects of scorn.

I scorn myself.

A decade yawning before you is a long time and the changes it brings are huge. That two-year old toddler will be twelve at the end of it. A delightful, or more likely, sullen, child working on the perfect combo of sneer and disgust and ennui that every teenager masters. Ten more years and they are grown, facing the world as a newly minted adult, a little fearful but excited.

If you are just starting work and a career, the 2020s will represent one quarter of your work life. Sit with that a minute. Sobering, no? If you are mid-career, the next ten years will represent the time of your most fruitful earning, the time when you arrive, whatever that means.

For some of us, the last of the baby boomers, the new decade will see the end of work and the start of retirement. Some of us will putter around our yards, some of us will putter around Europe, some of us will putter around quietly while the grandchildren sleep.

The decades I passed in my early life came and went without much notice. I didn’t even know what a decade was until I was fourth grade or so. Then time was marked by weeks, with Christmas and birthdays and summer holidays gauzy dreams in a land I couldn’t quite imagine.

Most of my adulthood I made note off decades approaching, made big plans, declared my intentions for self-improvement, career moves, lifestyle changes, and then abandoned most of them in the moment of expediency, practicality, or distraction. We say we want certain things, but the universe doesn’t always agree, and sometimes we are just too tired or bothered to put forth much effort.

I’m wondering, baby boomer that I am, what the next decade will bring, what it will look like, as one kind of work ends and another begins. I am making plans, of course. I have new pens and notebooks to keep track of it. For a month or so, anyway. Let’s get cracking.



2019 – Not Resolutions, exactly, but…

Here are some things I wish to improve in the new year. Not resolutions, because I don’t make those, but just some things to think about and work toward. Things that, in my rich fantasy life, will make me 5’10” tall, thin and blonde.

I had little expectation of enjoying France this fall, beyond seeing my pals, Beth and Kris, and maybe eating some great cheese. I didn’t plan on falling in love with Bordeaux, the vineyards, the lifestyle, and the great service.

That’s right. You heard me.

Great service.

I attribute this, in part, to the crash course in shopping protocol that Beth hissed in my ear before I entered my first shop. The French greet you before the bell stops tinkling, and the custom is to offer a pleasant bonjour in return. And not just any bonjour, but one offered in a sing-song lift, an octave higher than normal.

I excelled at it.

The inflection is almost exactly the same one Czechs use in their greeting and I have years of practice with that. So now I think I have an ear for languages, and am toying with the idea of taking French lessons, because I clearly have a gift, and it is just how I see myself. All five feet, ten inches of me.

Some of my pals met up with some of their pals in London, and when they came home they talked about their admiration for the way their British friends live. Let’s start with the fact that they are just lovely people, down-to-earth and creative, and accomplished in interesting ways. But more than that, my friends were graciously treated, and they both made mention of it.

I wanted to know more about that, so they told me. It is about being invited to their friends’ home and all the attention to detail that surrounds their lives. The food was delicious, well and lovingly prepared. Abundant Everything at table, just, well, right.

The guest room wasn’t large and fussy, but the linens were luxurious. Falling asleep and waking up were events cradled in comfort and ease. Indoor living and outdoor living were seamless, pleasant and easy. Striped sling chairs in the garden, a little table for the lemonade. Flowers well attended.

I have friends who create the same kind of graciousness right here at home. They build fires and read by them, on rainy afternoons or snowy mornings, with coffee and warm socks. Friends who would rather cook for you than meet at a restaurant—because their food is better. Which is true, but it is also true that the act of feeding people, and doing it well, has at the heart of it the gift of time, attention, care.


Over the holidays a pal and I were talking about our lives, our hopes for the coming year. We were discussing, as always, clutter. I have too much of it, she doesn’t have enough. Naturally neat, she purges and curates her belongings to the point of austerity, and then she feels untethered, impermanent. At which point she goes and gets more stuff, and the winnowing begins anew.

We decided that the idea of gracious living might guide us both. So, I am working on that, one comforter, one bedside lamp at a time.

I ain’t getting any younger and the time has come, is long overdue, for paying attention to my health. Blessed with my father’s prairie stock genes and my mother’s hardy constitution— she could eat anything, could our Gretchen—I am rarely ill and surprisingly fit for someone as out of shape as I am.

I am paying more attention to what I eat, and when, and I find myself committing to memory articles I read about how to tell when a calorie isn’t a calorie, and why we must debunk the myth of metabolism, followed in a few days by new articles on how to fire said metabolism up.

You won’t find me eating kale, or chia seeds. Chia seeds, come on. I tried them once and the gelatinous mess they made in my teeth gave me nightmares for a week. I figure, if chia seeds are a superfood in their native Central and South America, then it is only sporting that a similar, but alternative, superfood must grow around here.

My father would have voted for the pinto bean.

So, I am dedicating myself to healthier eating in the coming year, and working on my house—adding gracious elements, removing clutter. I may download Babble for a laugh. If I can speak French, do I need to be blonde?