The good towels

December 31st, 2007

It’s a good time of year to institute change. It’s the time of year when change is instituted whether you think it’s good or not. Fact is, it’s always that time.

If you have a particular notion of what Zen means, you might think that we don’t go in for setting high-minded standards such as New Year’s resolutions. It’s true that we don’t go in for setting standards and making judgments. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t see when our favorite pants no longer snap. No one blisses out when that happens and so, resolutions can be useful.

The best resolution I ever made was the only one I ever kept. About five years ago I resolved to floss my teeth every day. My friends got a chuckle over that, thinking perhaps that a Buddhist priest would have a more noble aim. But that’s the problem with noble aims. They rarely hit their mark and you could develop gum disease in the process.

Having spent the greater part of my life as a cynical, wise-ass, know-it-all, I never made New Year’s resolutions before that. I didn’t believe in New Year’s. Hell, for most of my life I didn’t believe in anything, except maybe that hard work trumped all. I believed that at the end of the long, bitter, bare-knuckled crawl up the crest of the rainbow to a better somewhere, there was a pot of gold with my name on it. The name would have been Karen K. Scrooge.

I believed in the reward system, and I held myself to it. I would save today for a rainy tomorrow. I would put the new shoes at the top of the closet, the pricey liquor at the bottom of the cabinet, the jewelry at the back of the drawer. I would save the good towels for company and the good dishes for a special someday. Everything had a better use, a brighter day, some other day.

The thing is, somedays never come, and that’s why we call them someday. I saved my china and crystal in the boxes they came in, and after my eleven-year first marriage, I sold them that way too. In the original bubble wrap. No worthy meal had ever been served on those painted plates; no lips had ever taken a salutary sip from the gold-rimmed stemware.

It’s easy to fall into that trap. That someday trap. Someday have a party. Someday treat yourself. Someday go somewhere. Someday have fun. Someday celebrate. Someday be happy. Someday raise a toast to the life you’ve been saving for.

2008 Someday Resolutions

1. Use the good towels.
2. Get a lot more good towels.
3. Dump all the crappy towels in the house and replace them with good towels.
4. Wear the diamond necklace.
5. Wear the silver locket.
6. Wear the gold chain.
7. Damn it, wear all the real jewelry I keep in the back of the underwear drawer.
8. Wear something else from the back of that drawer.
9. Celebrate with a martini.
10. Use the special martini shaker and glasses we’ve never used.
11. Wow, these are good.
12. Let’s make another batch.

The Morning After Someday Resolutions

1. Blllechhhhhuuuuuhhooowwwwwwhhhhhh.
2. Use the good towels.

And tell my husband every day that I love him.


  1. All good – especially the last one. I will add this one to mine NY resolutions too. Great work.
    Cheers !
    Off to have a spa and use the good towels with the one I love.

    Comment by baby~amore' — December 31, 2007 @ 12:02 pm

  2. Crummy towels make really good rags.

    Happy New Years Eve!

    I think I’ll go tell my wife that I love her.


    Comment by Chris Austin-Lane — December 31, 2007 @ 12:03 pm

  3. Going to make some rags, buy some new towels, definitely. This I can do.

    Comment by Moanna — December 31, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  4. i love the post. i always say – use the good china. why leave it sit there for “special” occasions? rachel naomi remen has a wonderful story about this in one of her books, about a whole bunch of silk stockings that her mom never wore and then they were stolen and she never got to wear them. use your stuff that you love.

    happy new year. may it be full of the good stuff!

    Comment by Phyllis Sommer — December 31, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

  5. When I was a kid, my grandma set out brightly colored towels for me & big white ones for the adults. I believed that when I was an adult I would be allowed the big white fluffy towel. When I was in high school, grandma moved & bought new peach colored towels to match her new bathroom. My first night over I figured I could now have the white towel since they’d obviously been moved down in status. I hoped my grandma wouldn’t mind. And I tried to casually walk to the bathroom w/ my great white towel. She saw me & said, “Why don’t you take one of the new towels?” “But, I’ve always wanted the white ones,” I whispered in reply, looking at the floor.

    All that time she thought the colored towels were a treat for a kid. At any time I could’ve used those white towels. Boy did she laugh.

    ANyway, towels remind me of her, remind me that we don’t always know how our acts of kindness are perceived, and remind me to use the good towels.

    Happy New Year. Thanks for the post.

    Comment by marta — January 1, 2008 @ 4:20 am

  6. With regard to the good china, I solved that problem by simply NOT having good china. We have dishes we like, and we use them daily. But I take your meaning, and now I’ll turn my attention to whatever it is I’m saving for “someday” that might be a good candidate for now.

    Thank you for being part of my wonderful 2007. I toast you and 2008!

    Comment by Kathryn — January 1, 2008 @ 4:43 am

  7. I love this.
    It reminds me of my my grandmother and how when I went to visit her I was so infatuated with how she used and enjoyed pretty, luxurious, even glamorous things. No saving for a rainy day. She said yes to it all, in every moment.
    May your coming year be filled with good towels. And may the wrap you in comfort.

    Comment by bella — January 1, 2008 @ 5:51 am

  8. Towels are one of those things we never invest in, and as a result ours are ratty and rugged. This year, my parents gave us a set of plush, multicolored towels with polka dots and stripes – and we’re using them! I have to say, they do brighten up the bathroom.

    Your post also reminds me of the birthday Greg gave me a certificate for a personal chef to come over to our house to cook a meal. I saved it and saved it and saved it for just the right occasion. When I finally called, the woman had skipped town, with no forwarding number. Lesson learned.

    Enjoy the jewels,

    xo Jena

    P.S. I have that same underwear drawer!

    Comment by Jena Strong — January 1, 2008 @ 2:47 pm

  9. It’s the best idea to make a resolution that is easy to keep. We can feel so good about ourselves afterwards. But that is exactly what I have been struggling with recently (as you know), why is it so hard to floss our teeth?

    I always use my good stuff, but I find it hard sometimes to throw away the unused “bad stuff”

    Happy New Year!!!

    Comment by Mika — January 1, 2008 @ 8:06 pm

  10. Mika, what a wonderful question and one so worth asking, because until we learn the answer for ourselves our lives are a mystery. Flossing teeth is difficult because it requires self-discipline. It is such a little, quick, painless, process. We “know” the benefit. But until we have the supreme self-discipline to reach for the floss once each day, it is impossible to accomplish. When we cultivate the self-discipline, the practice becomes a positive, life-enhancing habit.

    Now, realize this: self-discipline is the foundational aspect of all spiritual practice (meaning all self-transformational practice). That’s why if you floss your teeth once each day, your life will change in profound, immeasureable and eternal ways.

    And as for throwing away: why not change the way you look at it. Not, perhaps as “waste” but as “giving new life.” Sometimes that’s in the trash bin, but othertimes it is as rags, donations etc. FYI, I’ve heard that animal shelters really need donations of old towels and blankets.

    Comment by Karen — January 1, 2008 @ 8:23 pm

  11. You have made me think of this commercial:

    Poor lamp.

    Ok, I will try flossing, and I will let you know. Hopefully it will make me lose weight!

    The problem with self-discipline is, that like all musicians, it has constantly been hanging over my head, and has been a weight on my shoulders for practically my whole life: I should always practice, and practice more, until one day I can’t, and I realize that it doesn’t matter.

    Comment by Mika — January 1, 2008 @ 8:47 pm

  12. Love the lamp ad! And so did husband, who tends to sentimentalize anything old. (Cue garage sale.) Yes, flossing your teeth will help you lose weight. Because any practice of self-discipline is practicing self-discipline! It is a physical practice of making a turn in a different direction. Toward the floss, away from the fridge, doesn’t matter the particulars, you get better at stopping and turning.

    Comment by Karen — January 1, 2008 @ 10:15 pm

  13. Happy New Year!

    Thanks for that excuse to buy good towels.

    Comment by Shawn — January 2, 2008 @ 1:30 am

  14. Shawn, you’re welcome! Only it’s not an excuse, it’s a resolution . . . I’m treating it like a marching order. Because who said resolutions had to be stingy and hard?

    I’m reminded in all this of one time that I wrote a real estate piece about an absolutely fabulous vineyard estate near Santa Barbara. I drove up to interview the owners and have a tour. The day I was there I saw stacks of white towels on every table. The owner waved it off and said, “Oh excuse that. We’re re-toweling the property.” Re-toweling? I’d never heard the word. They had something like 8 bedrooms and 14 baths. I thought to myself, “These people know how to live.”

    Comment by Karen — January 2, 2008 @ 4:40 am

  15. I need new sheets. You inspire. I am buying good ones, like really good ones…maybe organic or bamboo, or 1600 count. I usually buy the cheapest sale clearance at Target. in 2008 I will sleep on good sheets and enjoy every minute of it.

    Please tell me how I can remember to floss everyday. When I keep the floss out so I can remember, my girls snag it and use it as an art tool to thread their entire room.


    Comment by mb — January 4, 2008 @ 2:25 am

  16. Lovin your writing, Karen Maezen Miller…and I may just get a bunch of new Spring towels! ~ Kat

    Comment by Anonymous — April 5, 2008 @ 2:27 am

  17. You wrote this post for me, and it’s taken me nearly a year to see it!

    Comment by DQ's Windmill — October 3, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

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