by | Apr 14, 2019 | Chris Goff, The Writer's Life | 9 comments

by Chris Goff

The family I’d never really planned on having.

Everyone has a list.

Admit it. All through childhood, adolescence and adulthood, we bear witness to the world around us and make mental notes of everything we’re never going to do. Sometimes we learn from others mistakes, and never do. Other times we discover some of the things we thought we’d never do are those that bring us the most joy and happiness. The things that free us to live our best life. Or not!

Here are a few of my emphatic no-nos:

#1 - I’ll never smoke pot.

Did that! And, I have to admit, I inhaled. Let’s face it. I went to high school and college in the early ’70s. The irony is, now that it’s legal to smoke pot in Colorado (where I live), I don’t smoke. That said, learning they have marijuana engineered to treat pain, I did try edibles. My discovery: pot doesn’t help my arthritis pain, and what they’re smoking and eating today confirms—no one in the ’70s was breaking the law. We were all smoking oregano!

#2 - I’ll never get married.

Just as drug usage escalated in the 70s, so did the rate of divorce. I decided the only way to beat the odds was to never, ever get married. I’m batting a thousand. Not only did I tie the knot, I married a man with three kids, and then had three more. Me, the girl who was going to travel the world and live like a vagabond. What is this world coming to?

It’s funny how some things work out. April 3rd marked our 37th Anniversary. During our marriage, we’ve traveled to four of the continents, children in tow. And this year, just weeks after our youngest gets married, Wes and I will embark on a cruise to Antarctica. Departing from Santiago, Chile, we’ll cruise the Chilean fjords, land on the ice in Antarctica in Zodiac boats and walk among the penguin poop. Then we’ll head to the Falkland Islands and our end destination, Buenos Aires. I’ll be checking two more continents off my bucket list, leaving only Australia to conquer. You might be able to corral her, but you can’t take the wanderlust out of the girl.

#3 - I’ll never say to my kids, “Because I’m your mother and I say so.”

Did that! It was one of those statements I hated as a kid. What do you mean “because you said so?” If there’s a rule against doing something, there ought to be a reason. And, for full disclosure, this may not be the worst of my indiscretions. There’s the I’ll never use my own saliva to clean my child’s face in public, I’ll never bribe them with candy, and I’ll never use the TV as a babysitter. Raise your hand if you can sing the soundtrack to The Little Mermaid—or worse, The Barney Song. I can. That said, I do have my limits. I can honestly say, I never put my child on a leash—though I will admit to entertaining the idea.

#4 - I’ll never live in a condo.

I’m still wrapping my mind around this one. This is part of my new reality. It’s not all bad. It’s not like the apartments I lived in before buying a house. And it’s not one of those high-rises where the entrance resembles a hotel lobby. Or worse, a nurses’ station. It’s a third floor, 1727 sq. ft. unit, with wood floors, marble counter-tops and a view of my beloved mountains. Now that we’ve added some built-in bookcases, we have adequate space for all the stuff we absolutely must have to survive. Granted, it was tough downsizing from 4,000 sq. ft., but we don’t have to mow or snow-blow, and—on most days—Wes has a three-minute commute to his office.

Will this be our forever home? Doubtful. But, for now, we can lock and leave and know our treasures are secure.

#5 - I’ll never be a pack rat like my father, mother, and grandparents before them.

Marie Kondo and I are working on this! She’s the author of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” My daughter, Mardee (a former pack-rat), gave it to me three years ago, when we began our downsizing adventure. The concept is to go through every item you own and keep it ONLY if it “sparks joy.” You are supposed to go through every item in your home, hold it in your hands and ask yourself, Does this fill me with happiness? If the answer is no: Hello, Goodwill.

My husband is a major offender. When we moved from the house where we’d lived for 30 years, I found a box marked 1971, meaning he’d moved it-UNOPENED-from house to house to house. Three moves and, in truth, it may still be in storage. I also unearthed two small steam engines on the back of shelf in the garage. When I asked him why we had them, he replied, You never know when you’ll need one. Hmmmm.

Of course, I only poke fun because then I’d have to face my own pack-rattery.  I had drawers full of clothes I hadn’t worn in 40 years. You’ll never know when they’ll be back in style, ignoring the fact I will never again fit into any of them. There were cabinets full of writing supplies (I’m a sucker for pens and sticky notes), three separate seashell collections (I love the beach), and boxes full of other boxes (you never know when you’ll need one). There were linen closets packed with towels that should have been ripped into rags years earlier, hutches full of crystal and silver (some we never knew we had), and a pantry full of canned goods that expired decades ago. And let’s not forget the boxes of treasures given to us by the kids over the years. We’re talking: 30 year old macaroni necklaces, paper-mâché statues, wreaths made of paper plates and stamped with their toddler hand prints….

Need I go on?

Needless to say, some things were pitched, some things were re-purposed and some things went straight into storage. It’s the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy. But, as an only child of an only child, I’m just not ready to get rid of all of the things my ancestors saved across five generations just so I could have them. Who cares if they “spark joy?” It’s the guilt of getting rid of them I’m avoiding.

#6 - 

Sure, I have more, but I’m going to stop here. How about you? What have you sworn you’d never do, yet did? Please don’t tell me I’m the only one with a list?

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Lisa Black

    When I was a kid I swore I’d never dye my hair, like about my age or have plastic surgery. I dye my hair and I’m saving up for the surgery, but I’ve never lied about my age. Except may accidentally because I forget it sometimes.

  2. Robin Burcell

    Can't tell you how many times I've forgotten how old I was! A few years ago, my neighbor asked me my age. I truthfully said I was 53. My husband corrected me. I was 57. Who knew? (When you stop counting, you forget to count?)

  3. Robin Burcell

    Ha! Chris, I so identify with the pack rattery. We just moved into a house with a larger kitchen with way more storage. I found stuff that I'd forgotten I owned–mostly because it now has a home. But I have a lot of china that I'm going to use–and put in the dishwasher! Honestly, who even owns china anymore? As for other things I swore I'd never do, one was tell my kid something more than once. He/she better mind me the first time! (This thought occurred to me before children, watching a neighbor and her toddler daughter at our house for dinner one night. She had to repeat something more than once to get kid to mind (regarding eating food or some such in her high chair). Talk about clueless! (Me, that is.)

  4. Chris Goff

    I'm getting old enough that I think I conscientiously block it out. I really didn't like it the first time my husband told me I was old enough for a senior discount. Yikes!

  5. Chris Goff

    I have china–three sets. Only one set can go in the dishwasher. The other two sets were bought before the dawn of the dishwasher. They're beautiful, with gold leaf on the rims. You have to hand wash everything if you use them. I pull them out on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter (maybe).

  6. Rogue Women Writers

    About your being a "pack rat" — when my parents passed away, I had to sell and clean out the house they had lived in for 55 years! Should I have kept the adding machine with the hand-crank on the right side or the 1944 "steamer trunk" they took on the Queen Mary or the manual typewriter? Perhaps I could use that last item while trying to channel Hemmingway (yeah, right). As for your travels to exotic locals, I'm at a point when I think I'd rather forgo the airlines and watch the video! Karna Bodman

  7. Chris Goff

    LOL, I have TWO of those Steamer Trunks that came from Sweden in the 1880s. One of them my cousin painted and made into a toy chest. We use it for dress up clothes–even though we don't have any children or grandchildren who are still in the "dress-up" phase. I admire you for being strong enough to let that stuff go! I once told my husband when feeling overwhelmed, that "I don't want to be defined by dead people's stuff." It felt a little disrespectful, but so true.

  8. Jamie Freveletti

    Hi Chris! I didn't own china but inherited a set with gold rims as well, so I'm with you and always hand washing them. But, to your Kondo "spark joy" point, when the table is set they look beautiful and spark a lot of joy, so I'm happy to hand wash. Glad your downsizing went well and happy spring!

  9. Chris Goff

    It's true, and a great way to look at it. I love my china. It reminds me of my mother, who I miss every day.