My younger daughter's senior year in high school was a little bit of a joke. I admit, I hadn't been paying that much attention -- I thought we had counselors to do that -- but her story was that she had taken all the credits she needed to graduate, and that basically her whole educational responsibility consisted of going to a single English class. One hour, gate to gate.
It was a little disconcerting, thinking that this was the generation that was about to take over the world. She barely got out of bed.
Oh, she did make it to English class, often in what I believe were her pajamas. But were they reading world literature, doing research papers, writing the great teen novel? No. They were learning to write thank-you notes. Isn't that a curriculum appropriate for an eight-year-old?
We went round and round about this, and she won, of course. The real kicker came at graduation, well, really, post-graduation party, when my neighbor made a point of catching me backing out of driveway specifically to tell me that she had received a letter from Afton -- and, goodness, did that girl know how to write a thank-you note! She has never let me forget it.
The Short Course in Expressing Gratitude
I'm going to shorten that last semester for you: writing a thank you note is as easy as 1-2-3.
1. Address the giver / hostess / friend as "Dear" and open the note with a reference to the specific gift or kindness about which you are writing. An example: "Thank you so much for the lovely dinner you treated us to the other night."
2. Add a little something about how much you enjoyed the gift / kindness / hospitality. Something like: "This was the perfect book to take to the beach, and I was hooked from the get-go."
3. Your closing should be something personable and friendly (I look forward to seeing you at our family reunion this summer), and it doesn't hurt to mention your gratitude again. Sign off with something warm -- if not "Thanks again for thinking of me," then something like "Warm wishes." There, it's done!
The Modern Thank-You Note
Some experts want you to embellish your notes with a little news, but I am personally a true believer in the pure thank-you note -- single-minded, purposeful, heartfelt. It works for anything from a large endowment to a light lunch. Keep it simple, I say. But make it prompt.
There's a tendency to write thank-you email,s which is of course technically fine -- but there is NOTHING like a written, mailed thank-you note to show that you are a civilized person, capable of wondrous things -- like finding a stamp and getting to a mailbox.
Seriously, if you've gotten a good thank-you note, you know how much it means. The secret is how little it takes -- although if you want to turn this into a high school semester I'm here to say, it can be done.
Show your distinctive style with clean, contemporary note cards from Beyond Her.
Two unique sets of stationery are available at the Beyond Her etsy shop
Man Speaks: 8 correspondence cards with nature images, in kraft with kraft envelopes
Summer Postcards: 6 postcards on bright white cardstock, self-mailers
When we moved to our contemporary "faux warehouse" home, we loved everything about it but one thing: the front door.
It was the archetypical modern front door you see on all the townhomes -- clear glass with a wooden frame. It does let in light, but let's talk about privacy.
People could see us watching tv literally from the street. And the Texas sun just beat in every afternoon, raising the temperature in the entry about 50 degrees.
Something had to change.
So we looked for new front doors. Waaaaay too expensive, and this was a perfectly solid door that needed a little discretion.
Here was the solution, inspired by a friend's door
and he got it from someone else: I bought a 10-foot roll of rice paper (Kozo paper Speckle, specifically from eshoji.com. It cost about $30 per roll and arrived in about a week. There are lots of patterns and blends, all of them delicious.
I had a contemporary design in mind, but those OCD among you might want to have a pattern of some sort. To create my design (see below) I measured and cut a piece off the roll that would cover the door and the adjoining light entirely. (You'll do better if you let it lay flat overnight -- mind animals). Since you'll be using several pieces of rice paper to create this door, you needed worry about making just one piece fit.
As you can see, I wasn't too concerned about things matching up.
So the other secret ingredient in this project is liquid fabric starch -- the old-fashioned kind used to iron shirts and make pinatas. Believe it or not they still sell it at grocery stores, Sta-Flo being the cheapest and most popular brand.
I watered it down using a one-to-one ratio, and got a cheap paintbrush to dip into a small bucket. I made up about a half-gallon of the stuff, which I loved because it smelled good -- it's not chemical free, but it is made mostly of borax and corn starch.
I expected a mess, but there wasn't one.
I did cover the table I was using with newspaper, so painting the strips of rice paper with the starch solution was simple.
The big surprise was how forgiving the starch was while I was positioning the strips. Want a bit more space? Just slide it on over.
I did start in the middle so both sides got an even distribution. The entire application, which I had set aside the day for, took exactly 45 minutes!
Clean-up consisted of letting the entire door and side light dry for an hour, and then going back with a damp rag and my fingers to get rid of residue. Again, very water soluble and easy.
From the street, utter seclusion, just what we needed.
And from our entry, precious light and many many ways for humans and animals to get a look at the street scene. Sweet.
And the best part? This was five years ago. No peeling, no yellowing, no "I'm ready for real door" whining. So a big score for durability and style and ingenuity, whoever dreamed this up!
I've always been pretty cold-hearted about death. Can't explain it -- I believe that I'm emotionally functional, and I do form strong relationships with people, and animals, and things.
But when they die -- whether it's my 83 year old mother of Parkinson's, or my 40 year old friend of AIDs, or my beloved, panicked, rickety dog after a slow drip of poison administered by our vet -- I don't get too emotional. I tend to move on. Even I have wondered what it would take to shake me loose.
As usual, I have found the answer to my question. My friend Glenna died a month ago, just a few months after learning she had pancreatic cancer. And after a couple of debilitating bouts of treatment that could not budge the outcome.
Glenna and I were unlikely friends, given that she was a devout and active Baptist, and I am . . . not. We disagreed on many, many things, but we just kept quiet about it. What did we have in common? A sense of humor (see previous post).
While one was never in doubt that Glenna was Christian with a capital C, she also had a funny bone, and could mimic anyone or anything she found amusing. We shared many bouts of glorious hysteria while pretending to watch our daughters' softball games, plan parties, and attend wedding showers.
She was also a person of service, meaning that she was always doing for someone else, whether that was her daughters, or her Sunday School class, or me, in desperate need of a ride home for one of my kids. Her phone number is the only one I can still remember -- given that it was the one I could call at the last minute and get a clean, non-judgemental "Happy to help" on the other end of the line. She saved my life many times.
A true believer
The last time I saw Glenna was before Christmas. She was smaller than usual, but her eyes burned bright, and her sense of humor was in tact. We had a wonderful conversation about "Friday Night Lights" -- she shared my devotion and thanks to a friend, had recently received a signed head shot of Kyle Chandler with "Clear eyes, full heart, can't lose" on it. God bless Coach Taylor.
At that moment it was hard to see how, although the prognosis was bad, this light was going to go out.
Her faith was very much at the forefront that day, as I guess it was every day. She spoke about how she was not afraid, although she was sad. She had been reading about heaven, she said, and it was just the most glorious place. She had nothing to fear.
What occurred to me as I listened to her that day was that this was what religion was supposed to do for people: give them strength, and comfort, and peace. When it came to being a Christian, accepting God's will, Glenna walked the walk.
Even for a cynical ex-Episcopalian like me, it was inspirational.
Feeling the loss
When one of the many prayer requests came via email, I sent Glenna a card saying that I certainly was praying for her every day, though not in conventional ways. This email came in return:
Dear Paule, I just had to respond to your card and tell how how thankful I am for your love, concern and prayers. Jesus Himself was not considered traditional during His ministry! The blessings He has poured on me during this storm in my life have been so numerous...among them the love He shows me through dear friends like you.
See what I mean? This was a rare soul.
So, earlier this week, when I was running through the woods and a random memory of Glenna popped into head, I took advantage of the solitude to let my heart break, sobbing so hard I had to hold on to a tree, and the dog came back, eyes asking, "Are you okay?"
I'm not, but I will be. And I'm much better for the experience. It's a relief to know I'm human.
Dear Glenna, Good-bye, darling girl. Heaven is lucky to have you. Your friend, P
Her Point of View
Designer Paule Hewlett takes on design, culture and modern life.
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"Life is too short for ugly dish towels. Really, ugly anything."