The Mareli List and Not Exactly Resolutions

What is the Mareli List, Anyway?

My husband has this mental list he calls his Mareli List. It is named after his maternal grandmother and is from her custom of how she looked back on a specific year. To the end of her life, she always looked back trying to find things she had never done before. They could be big or small, but she made a specific effort to do new things. She had just turned 90 when she passed away, so this means that she lived a pretty rich and varied life.

2015 has been a good year for me in terms of my Mareli list. In no particular order, I:

  1. Learned to do a flip turn.
  2. Swam in 50-degree water.
  3. Swam 2 miles in open water
  4. Swam 2.5 miles in a pool
  5. Swam across Boston Harbor
  6. Rode a Segway.
  7. Visited Bermuda
  8. Visited Cape Liberty and saw the Teardrop Memorial.
  9. Took a salsa dancing class
  10. Took a class in how to make cupcakes.
  11. Saw the Statue of Liberty in person.
  12. Learned a new method of knowledge management (Knowledge Centered Support, or KCS)
  13. Konmaried the house.
  14. Negotiated with an airline for a better flight.
  15. Visited Mt. Vernon
  16. Visited Ferry Farm. (I mean, I grew up on the land, but I’d never visited the historic site)
  17. Tried Glendronach Scotch.

With these things in mind, and feeling like I had a decent year, I’m looking on to the next year and what I want to do with it.

Not Exactly Resolutions for 2016

marelilist-1I know some people don’t like the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, and ya know, I get the point. Often it’s some self-improvement thing that people approach as something they oughta do, but without any real serious plan or genuine purpose. Lose weight, get their finances in order, or whatever – it’s not something that’s really got a plan behind it.

My resolutions are more goals than any real attempt at habit change. I’m sure good habits will happen during this process, but this year, I have more specific things I want to do or accomplish. In no particular order, I want to:

  1. Implement KCS at my office.
  2. Write the first draft of a novel starring three middle-aged ladies.
  3. Swim 6 miles in Lake Mephremagog.
  4. Knit myself one or two sweaters.
  5. Travel cross-country by train.
  6. Swim from Alcatraz island to Aquatic Park without a wetsuit.

This is a good mix, I think. I have professional goals, I have physical goals, and I have enjoyment goals. One of the habits I am going to have to develop better along the way is the habit of consistent over heroic effort. Some of this stuff will require something in the way of heroic effort, but that won’t sustain what I want to do in the long run. It’s going to be the dailyness of plugging away at it that will get me there.

A Very Important Christmas Stocking


My parents are not perfect. No, there’s nothing wrong with them, it’s just that they’re human and perfect people don’t exist. As people, we get things wrong and we get things right.

I want to talk about something my parents got spectacularly, stunningly right.

About <mubmlemurf> years ago, a young couple was speeding along King’s Highway from Dahlgren into Fredericksburg in a VW Bug, with the wife begging her husband to be careful and watch the bumps. She was in labor and it was two o’clock or so on Christmas morning. The closest hospital was about 45 minutes away. Well, 25, given the way her husband drove.

At the hospital, there was some blasé behavior from the nurses. It was a first baby, after all. But at 4:35 that morning, she had her baby. The little girl was then cleaned up, given all the medical tests that were usual at the time, then put in a stocking and given to her parents.

That cemented an idea that had already been settling in my parents’ minds – that a Christmas baby was Important and Special.

It was treated that way from then on. I was named Noel. (I didn’t add the trema for another 12 years when I got sick of my name being mispronounced, and being misgendered). My birthday was treated as something wonderful and awesome rather than an afterthought.

Did I get a birthday party? Well, I kinda got two. I got one with my friends the week before Christmas with a cake (I got some pretty awesome cakes – winter scenes, dolls in ball gowns, Miss Piggy. They were great). That was all kinds of fun.

Then on Christmas Day, my birthday was celebrated with my family. Oh, we did Christmas as a holiday with Santa and presents and feasts and family and fun. It was wonderful. But I always got a couple of nice presents wrapped in birthday paper, and usually another cake with another rousing version of Happy Birthday from the family.

Heck no, I didn’t hate my birthday, nor do I now. I love it. All the emotional stuff surrounding my birthday goes on for a whole month. I’m lucky beyond belief.

But not everyone gets that.

When I was turning 13, the Free-Lance Star did a piece on Christmas birthdays (there were three in my neighborhood, and a few others in town). If I recall correctly, I was the only one who had much positive to say about it. Everyone else felt like the afterthought, or celebrated their birthday in June.

Lots of December babies, Christmas or not, get their birthdays treated as afterthoughts – another burden at an already overwhelmed time. I hate this for them. It’s utterly awful.

So, I’d like to propose some Rules for December Birthdays.

  1. If the birthday is not on an actual holiday, let the WHOLE CELEBRATION be about them. Don’t wrap it in with a Christmas party.
  2. If they are a Christmas baby in a family that celebrates Christmas, they get the whole day can’t be about them. It’s really okay. But let a part of it be Birthday and not Christmas. A cake and a song doesn’t take enormous amounts of time.
  3. Don’t wrap birthday presents in red or green, or use any other standard Christmas imagery surrounding their birthday.
  4. Avoid using Christmas stamps on birthday cards, if you can.
  5. Find out in advance if it bothers them that Christmas and birthday presents get combined. (This varies. If you ask and get a weary shrug, it probably does bother them and they’re just too polite to say so)

For those of you who are parents of December children, keep in mind a lot of how they feel about their birthdays rests in your hands. Don’t let them be afterthoughts.