“A Clean Slate,” Jan. 4, 2022

There’s something about a brand new year that makes me want to wipe the slate clean, so to speak—clean house, clean diet, clean body, mind and soul—and start fresh all over again.

Not that I’ll ever do all of that. But I think about it. And I try. Today, for example, I’ve been working on a box of unopened mail from readers who were kind enough to read my column and to write back to me in reply.

These days, correspondence is mostly electronic, arriving daily in dozens of emails and posts on my website or Facebook page. I try to answer them promptly. But there are still, it seems, quite a few of us who prefer to write personal notes by hand, rather than on a computer.

So once a week, I go to the post office and pick up all the cards and letters I find stuffed inside my mail box (P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley, Calif. 93924.) Then I take it all home and stuff it in another box until I have time to open and read it.

I wish I could reply right away to every note I receive, but it often doesn’t happen. Why? It’s pretty simple: I have a life.

I once received a letter from someone who noted that I might be too busy to reply in person, but they hoped to hear from someone on my staff.

Staff? I looked at my cat. She flicked her tail and walked away. I don’t have a staff. I don’t have a cat any more, either, but that’s another story.

I have a family (my husband, our five grown children, their others, and nine grandchildren.) And I have a few friends that I hope still remember my name.

I’m also thankful for the help and friendship of editors and others at newspapers that publish my column each week. But no one can answer mail for me. Not even my grandkids. I need and want to do it myself.

And yet, there are times when I fall behind. Not just with mail. With laundry. And phone calls. And life in general. I’m not proud of it, but there it is.

Do you ever fall behind, too? It happens, I guess, to most of us. Well, to some of us more than others. It’s not a good feeling. And it’s certainly not a good way to start a new year that we’re all hoping and praying will turn out to be our best year yet.

So today, for hours, I’ve been opening and reading mail from readers who wrote to me in the waning days of 2021. If you were one of them (or didn’t write, but just read this because you had nothing better to do) I want to say thank you.

Thank you for reading something I wrote. Thank you for caring enough to write back and share your thoughts.

Thank you for all the stories you’ve told me about your life, your memories and your family. I love reading those stories. They remind me time and again, that with so many differences, we are all still so much alike.

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement and for being, I am sure, someone who offers them not only to me, but to everyone around you. You make the world a better place. I’m grateful to have you as readers, but I think of you as friends.

I especially want to thank those of you who wrote to share memories of loved ones you have lost. It’s an honor to read those memories. My heart and my prayers go out to you.

Years ago, after my first husband died, a friend sent me a card with these words: “Then, when it seems we will never smile again, life comes back.”

Those are good words for those of us who’ve suffered the loss of a loved one—and for all of us in this weary old world still enduring a pandemic.

Life comes back.

The last note I opened today was a Christmas card from “Helen” in Allegany, N.Y., who wrote: “Thank you for sharing so many wonderful memories.”

Thank you, Helen, for making me smile.

Tomorrow, I’ll go to the post office and hope to find the box stuffed again with mail.


  1. Lovely column as always. Happy new year !! Love from Philly !!

  2. Kate Sciacca says

    You never fall behind in blessing us every week… with a few weeks off every year of course 😊 No resolutions here… just hope to enjoy “one day at a time”— knowing whatever comes is good.

    Happy 2022!

  3. You are loved by your family, friends, and readers. We can relate to your life events. Thanks for your address. But my notes to you will be in these posts. You are so kind to read them and I thank you for your replies. God bless you in 2022!

  4. Vickie Garrison says

    A clean slate… In this current climate of every place being short staffed, I will thank those who do show up and offer good customer service.
    My clean slate project for 2022! No sense in pretending I will diet or set a reading goal. Unless you publish another of your books set in those Blue Ridge Mountains. Now that I would devour.

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