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Cookies from a friend in heaven, losing the lottery, and more (7 Quick Takes)


Our neighbor Loretta passed away a few weeks ago, just a couple months after her husband had died. We had such a natural, easy friendship with them. It is hard to believe they are gone.

The other day Loretta’s daughter knocked on our door and gave me a few bags of homemade cookies. She told me they were made from dough that Loretta had made before she passed away. I was so struck by the gift of cookies that Loretta’s daughter baked using dough Loretta made.

Loretta and I exchanged baked goods many times over the years, and hers were always delicious, but these cookies are truly special. What a beautiful reminder that the end of life on earth doesn’t mean the end of a friendship.


Like many, many people in the United States, we bought two lottery tickets this week. I know we’ll never win the lottery, and we hardly ever buy tickets. And I don’t actually care all that much about money. We have what we need. But I love imagining the possibilities of winning millions of dollars.

We sat together as a family and speculated on how we might spend our winnings. Would we quit our jobs? Buy a beach house? Buy a new house? Build a large addition just for our finches to have more room to fly? Start a business?

We talked about the organizations we would donate money to and the trips we might take.

Then the boys picked their numbers. We lost, as we knew we almost certainly would. But it was still fun to dream.


Even though our male finches are in a separate cage from our female finches, we’ve been finding eggs in the girls’ food dish. I know they aren’t fertilized, but they’re still so perfect and sweet—these tiny little eggs.

Being a finch owner is work, of course. It’s also so wonderful to watch our little finches fly and play on their swings and enjoy one another.

My advice on surviving a pandemic is: Stay home as much as you can, wear your mask, and get some finches. Finches are just so much fun.


My sons and I ordered sushi and udon noodles to eat as we watched the presidential inauguration together. I told them about other inaugurations I have watched and tried to get them interested in history.

I was in awe of how the poet, Amanda Gorman, stole the show. We could all use more poetry in our lives, especially around important moments and issues.

When was the last time our nation stopped to consider the tremendous value of poetry? Or the importance of words? Amanda Gorman and our national response to her give me hope.


Because, according to the Chinese Zodiac, we have an Ox in our family, and the Year of the Ox will begin in a few weeks, I let our Ox pick a stuffed Chinese ox to order. He chose a pair of oxen that came together, and they arrived this week.

He also helped me order some Ox party supplies for a party that will just be the four of us—as every party has been for every holiday since last March. His big brother talked me out of ordering an inflatable throw-the-rings-around-the-ox’s horns game, but I still think we’ll have a good time.

In case you’re making your own plans, Chinese New Year starts Friday, Feb. 12. I can’t wait.


This part of winter always feels particularly bleak to me. The days are short and cold, the trees are bare, and it feels like we’re living in a world of browns and grays that Andrew Wyeth would have enjoyed painting.

The days are starting to feel a little longer, though, and there’s just a little more light in the sky at the beginning and the end every day.

How do I know that? Because, you see, the finches wake up when there is light in the sky, and they start their excited, energy-filled conversations across the house. I realize I may need to start covering their cages again the way we used to during the summer and early fall because they would wake up too early.

But for now I’ll let them cheerfully remind me that it’s time to get up and see the first light in the sky—and refill their food dishes.


A few weeks ago, John asked me to order some Scrub Daddy sponges. He’s the one who does most of the cleaning around here, and he had heard they were good. I went online and realized these sponges had smiley faces, so I extravagantly ordered them in three colors.

They looked practical and fun, which, as a flyswatter collector, is all I ever want in a household item.

Now I have a smiling sponge hanging out at my sink, and it makes me happy every time I see it.

Find more quick takes on Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum, and have a wonderful weekend!