Dec 2011

Dear Friend

The entire month of November was magical. I had the delicious treat of anticipating going to Paris for my 70th birthday. I’d finished the first draft of my book, and soon upon our return, we were able to spend Thanksgiving with our grandchildren.

When we returned from Paris, friends asked us about the trip. I referred them to Peter, who gave such a glowing report, saying it was his happiest time in Paris. And, I agree, it was. We’d made a pact that we’d pretend this was the last time we’d ever be in Paris together. There is something amazingly poignant about treasuring every single moment, experiencing the most simple, ordinary rituals and details as though they were major celebrations.

We were living the message of my book, Living A Beautiful Life: 500 Ways to Add Elegance, Order, Beauty and Joy to Every Day of your Life. We were in Paris seven nights. What a tease. Time stands still and we couldn’t believe the week marched forward without exception. We perfected the art of be-ing. Paris is the best landscape for our senses.

This experience was a big deal for me. The eve of my 70th birthday our family had a birthday dinner party for me in New York City, and we flew to Paris on the night of my birthday. I admit I do enjoy birthdays, but this one was my favorite – ever. My age kind of sneaked up on me. I still think someone made a mistake with the math. I truly can’t believe I’m in my 71st year.

These big birthdays are important markings. As I approached my 70th year, I’d spent several months soul-searching, reflecting on where I was and what I hope for my future. As I’ve shared with you, I’m trying to remain healthy and do whatever is necessary for Peter and me to thrive in the months and years ahead. One of my favorite OP-ED columnists for the New York Times, David Brooks, just before my birthday, wrote a column, The Life Report. He challenged any of us who were 70 years or older to write an evaluation of what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong and what we celebrate and what we regret. At the suggestion of our daughter Alexandra, Peter and I met the challenge. We both wrote and sent our essays to David Brooks. Peter’s will be in his new book, Keep Figuring It Out, and mine will be in my book, in an essay, Write Your Own Story. We found the assignment great fun and I’m recommending it to you.

Don’t wait until you’re 70 or older. Write your life report (review) now. In this busy, complicated month of December, when we abruptly move from giving thanks for our abundant blessings, to giving gifts to our family and friends, our energy shifts in so many conflicting ways.

December, historically, requires our time, energy and money, the three resources essential to living a balanced, productive life. I suggest you pause, in the midst of your busy-ness; and write a brief essay about your own life. I believe you will find this exercise extremely liberating as Peter and I have.

What will happen, in the process, is that you will write about the lessons you’ve learned from experience. As Brooks says, “from those who’ve been around.” Where do you give yourself high grades? Home? Work? What have been the pitfalls? What have been the positive lessons? What can we learn from you?

Many of the thousands of writers, Brooks observed, with all their ups and downs, wove everything into an “enveloping sense of gratitude.”

When you put black on white, and count your blessings, everything seems to be in perspective. Being in Paris for my 70th birthday brought everything about my life into sharper focus. I could see with clarity and appreciation all the blessings of my life, and they are too numerous to count.

Thanksgiving day we went to the National Cathedral on a sunny, unseasonably warm morning. The stained glass windows spilled pools of rainbow-colored prisms of light on the walls, floors, and even illuminating the chairs with this spectacular natural phenomenon. For the second year in a row, Nicholas, Anna, Lily and Alexandra carried the elements to the altar. I couldn’t ask for a more memorable, meaningful moment.

At the end of Peter’s beautiful Thanksgiving toast that he lovingly thought out, he wrote, “In these delightful moments of Thanks Giving, we gather together to engage in the blessings of mutual love. Bless Your Hearts!!” If we are fortunate to live to be in our 90th year, I hope Peter’s example of how to live will lighten our path.

I would love to extend the season of thanksgiving to the busy madness of the Christmas season. When a granddaughter realized Santa Clause doesn’t come to us, she understood he is busy taking care of children. Older people don’t need toys, and if they do, they should grow up!

At a lovely party at the home of close friends, Peter and I were able to spend some time with their adorable, energetic, bright daughters. What a thrill to watch a 13 year old champion jump roper demonstrate her skills and to see the three blue ribbons her 9 year old sister won in a horse show that morning.

This is a huge month for me. I will finish re-writing my book and it will go to my agent and then to my publisher. I hope you will enjoy some quiet, peaceful moments in this holiday season. And, if you wish, share with me your life report. I hope you’ll invite family and friends to do the same.

Great happiness to you, your family and loved ones this holiday season. However you celebrate, I hope you will experience an “enveloping sense of gratitude.” The good life is here, now. Life is good. Life is also precious. Happy December – every day.

Love & Live Happy

Have you taken photos at one of Alexandra's events that you'd like to share? If so, you can email them to AStoddardInc@aol.com. Please be sure to include the names of those in the photo and where and when it was taken! We will try to include them on the website in the future.

Cooper, Nicholas, Anna and Lily selling lemonade in front of the cottage ~~ such fun!

A beautiful photo of Alexandra and Peter at their cottage, shared by Jim Hicks. Thank you Jim!

Peter & Alexandra with Paris friends Zenon, Glias, and Sade

Geraldine and Alexandra at the Athena Awards

Figure It Out: A Guide to Wisdom

Please consider giving Peter's new book to family and friends for the holidays. Make checks for $25.00 per book to:
The Stonington Free Library

Send to:
Peter Megargee Brown
87 Water Street
Stonington, CT 06378

Peter will pay shipping. Your contribution is 100% tax deductible.