Why She Thinks?

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She Thinks started when Cindy decided that she and her daughter, Ally, should write together, and Ally couldn’t come up with any good reasons to say no. We wanted to see how our perspectives differed as a younger/older woman, mother/daughter, less/more experienced persons, brunette/blonde. Each week, we pick a topic sent to us from our readers that makes us think. We then go on our own and spill our respective guts/brains/hearts out on the page, and then post our thoughts here. To keep things interesting, we don't read each other's posts until we publish them. This means that sometimes our opinions and stories match, and sometimes they don't. That's what makes it fun!

We’re not trying to solve the world's problems, but who knows? Maybe we will.

Read more about Cindy and Ally.
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Topic: Thank You Notes

Cindy Thinks

Ally Thinks

I love receiving a handwritten thank you note.  It warms my heart to think that someone would take the time to sit down and write a personal sentiment, in a card, and put it in the mail…to me.

Unfortunately, I don’t seem to feel any kind of yearning to do the same for others.  I have always failed miserably at writing Thank You Notes and, I believe, I have also failed at teaching my children to write them as well.

Clearly, I was a lousy parent.

Writing a Thank You Note is a classy thing to do.  It’s thoughtful and sweet.  It’s what my mother taught me was “the right thing to do.”    And, according to my mother, anyone who wasn’t raised in a barn knows that there are some basic situations when sending a handwritten Thank You Note is REQUIRED.

They are (for your reference) as follows:

1) Any gifts received from a grandparent.

(otherwise the parent will hear about it and that’s never good for the kid)

2) Any gifts received from relatives sent through the mail for birthdays or holidays.

(otherwise the parent will hear about it and that’s never good for the kid)

3) Any gifts received for Bar Mitzvahs (or other such cultural “coming of age” celebrations), Weddings and/or Showers and new baby gifts.

(otherwise the parent will hear about it and that’s never good for the kid)

Fortunately, (I thought) my kids always lived near their grandparents and were able to give them a huge hug and thank them directly for any gift they received.  So I didn’t “make” them write thank you notes to their grandparents (bad parent!).

And, my brother’s the only one who ever sent them gifts on holidays…so he probably thought they were raised in a barn, because I’m sure he never received a Thank You Note from either of them…EVER!

And alas, my kids never had those coming of age celebrations (at least none thus far, other than graduations from high school & college and I think, maybe, I hope, they wrote some Thank You Notes!?!) so they haven’t really been exposed to the absolute joy of writing hundreds of thank you notes to tons of people who gave them gifts (poor babies).

But gifts aren’t the only reason to write a Thank You Note (I’ve been told).

There are those really thoughtful people out there who exceed all Thank You Note expectations and write them as a lovely follow up to:

1) A job interview.

2) A lunch with a friend.

3) A dinner out with friends.

4) A nice conversation on the phone.

I hate those people.  They give the rest of us a bad name.  They make us look lazy.  They make us look like we were raised in a barn.

So for the record…in case you haven’t figured it out yet…I HATE writing Thank You Notes!

I hate trying to find a card cute enough to write on.  So I buy those stupid little pre-printed thank you cards in packages of 10 at the supermarket with blank innards that are anything but cute.

I hate trying to find the matching envelope that has been buried somewhere in the back of my desk drawer because invariably the cards have gotten separated from the envelopes in the package.

I hate my handwriting (or more accurately, my printing), so I’m actually embarrassed to have someone see how immature and ugly my penmanship is.  I know that anyone who sees it must think to themselves, “How has that woman gotten through life with that horrible handwriting!?!”

In fact, I hate the idea of writing Thank You Notes so much that I’ve totally talked myself into believing that a well crafted, hugely sentimental and well thought-out email more than qualifies as a perfectly valid form of saying “thank you” in lieu of the more formal handwritten Thank You Note.

Case in point (I swear!), as I was in the middle of writing this blog post, the doorbell rang and the postman dropped off a totally unexpected package from my boyfriends’ sister.  She sent me a present for no reason at all (literally…that’s what it said on the card).  OMG…how thoughtful was that!?!  Totally Thank You Note worthy.

And yet, I instantly thought to write an email to her expressing my joy at receiving and opening that unexpected package.  Not for an instant did I think to sit down and write her a note….not even when I’ve got “Thank You Notes” solidly on the brain!

Lazy?  Raised in a Barn?  How about…just damn efficient!

The polite part of me thinks that thank you notes are a great way to show your gratitude and should be written and sent by all.

The other part of me thinks they’re a silly waste of stationary.

As the sender of thank you notes, I feel kind of stupid.  I feel silly sending something that you’re just going to have sitting on your counter or stuck to your refrigerator until spring cleaning rolls around the following year. I have a hard time seeing the value in writing “Thank you Grandma for the 20 bucks for my birthday.  It was very thoughtful.  It was nice.  I bought lunch with it.  Love you!  Xoxoxo!”

When I sent out my thank you notes for graduation, I sort of felt like a fraud.  I was absolutely grateful, but my thank you cards didn’t really express that.

Because really?

How much does an obligatory thank you card really say?

And there’s the key word: obligatory.  The minute I’m expected to send one, I feel like all of the love and kindness gets sucked right out of it.

And the same goes for receiving one: the minute I get one because “it’s the right thing to do” and not because the person really wanted to thank me, it looses some of its charm.

(Side note: am I the only one who feels like I have to write a thank you note for the thank you notes I receive?)

The best thank you notes I’ve gotten have been thanking me for something I didn’t realize I had given.  My best friend once sent me a thank you note after her birthday.  First she said thanks for the book I’d gotten her (which was the right thing to do because it was Twilight and it’s awesome), but then she said how much she appreciated our friendship.  How much my being in her life meant to her.  THAT’S a thank you note that I want.  That’s the kind of thank you note that I’m happy to have on my fridge.  But I wouldn’t even call that a “thank you note”.  It was a letter that expressed her feelings, which meant so much to me.

I just feel there’s a better way, like sincerely thanking the person when they give you the gift.

Or calling and saying how much you love what they did for you.

Or sky writing.

Before you write a thank you note I think that you should ask yourself, “Why am I writing this?”  Then think if there’s a better way to show your gratitude.

And maybe that card is the best way (because sometimes it is), but maybe it’s not…

AND NOW, I can’t write about this without a rant of sorts:

I hate hate HATE when you go to a wedding or baby shower  (basically any gathering of women where a registry is involved) and they make you fill out an envelope so that the woman of honor can easily send you a thank you note.


It takes absolutely any thought and care out of it and I’d rather not have any part in it.  You have my address already since YOU SENT ME AN INVITE.  Do you know how disappointing it is to get a card in the mail with your own handwriting on it?  First, it freaks me out, like I’m getting a message from Past Ally for Future Ally (“Don’t drink the iced tea, Ally, it’s poison.”).  After I realize what it actually is I’m disappointed because I knew the damn thing was coming.

Just thank me for the thing you already knew you were getting (don’t get me started on registries) at the party, and we’ll call it even.

(End rant.)

Topic: Who Were You in High School? The Mean Girl? Or the Outcast?

Cindy Thinks

Ally Thinks

I try to think back and imagine the girl that I was way back then, but I can’t really recall too much of anything (OY!).  I know that would normally be a sign of someone suppressing a traumatic time in their life, but I had a great childhood, and from what I can remember…a fine time in High School.  For me this is nothing new …my memory just sucks.  I can hardly remember the details of the births of my children let alone the thousands of hours I walked the halls in my high school or the names of the kids I’ve known since the 3rd grade.

So, who was I in High School?

Was I popular?  No.  But I was cute…in an unremarkable kind of way.   I was nice and fun to be with, but not popular.  More like “middle of the road” on a scale of having no friends…………….to being popular.  And, for the first year or so, I wasn’t loyal to (or was it that I really wasn’t a part of?) any one group in particular, but sort of glided around the edges of many.

And then I met…“the boys in the band.”

They called themselves “Oakfield” which combined the names of the two towns the boys lived in.  And they made me feel like I was finally a part of a group.  And I liked the bass player.  And he liked me.

And he had amazing long hair that flowed down to his shoulders and hung in his eyes when he closed them to play the bass guitar, and in High School…that whole musician with the long hair thing was a pretty big deal.

So, for a long time in High School…I was unremarkably cute, with a boyfriend who had amazing long hair, who played in a band.  And, because I was hanging out with boys in a band who DIDN’T EVEN GO TO MY HIGH SCHOOL…it also made me kinda cool.

But I wasn’t popular.   I didn’t do sports.  I didn’t have particularly good or bad grades.  And I didn’t consider myself to be a “joiner.”

In my Senior year however, I decided to join the  “backpacking club,” which was made up of a small group of kids who were into hiking and camping.  As a Jewish kid from the suburbs who had never hiked before (later I found out it was just walking on dirt), or gone camping (I did go to “camp” for 5 years…but it was a high-end Jewish camp where they unpacked your clothes for you before you arrived…so it wouldn’t really qualify as a “camping experience”) it was really a kind of mysterious and almost rebellious thing for me to join.

So imagine my surprise when they nominated me to be their Homecoming Queen candidate.  I hadn’t even gone on any hikes or camping yet!  But I was flattered…and a little confused.  I didn’t really fit the typical mold for a Homecoming Queen.  But as the two boys who organized the club explained to me…that was the point.  They didn’t want a “typical” girl to be nominated for the Homecoming Queen from the backpacking club…they wanted a typical “backpacking girl.”  Aha…that explained it.  I, apparently, had backpacking girl written all over me!

Which I thought was pretty cool.

Unfortunately, my elation at being labeled as a backpacking girl was almost immediately shot down when I was called into the principals’ office after he heard that our “float” for the homecoming parade was a little red wagon…complete with towering cardboard buildings with colored smoke pouring out of their tops depicting the rampant pollution being poured into our atmosphere by Corporate America (which I do credit as the start of my early political career).   He was not happy.  He firmly believed we were trying to make a mockery out of the Homecoming Event and threatened to pull our Club from the whole thing.

OMG…I had NEVER been in trouble in High School before.  I was a pretty good kid.  Some would probably say too good a kid.  I always respected authority and followed the rules, and if I didn’t, I didn’t get caught…except for the time I got caught smoking within 1 foot of the “no smoking” zone and they called my mom, but that time it was really about getting in trouble with my parents, not in school.

I talked my way out of the situation by claiming that we were not in any way making fun of the sanctity and tradition of Homecoming…but rather, we were expressing our views about our love and respect for our environment, which was pretty cool back in 1974!  And he bought it.

So following the big Homecoming football game, we were allowed to roll out our little red wagon with it’s colored smoke pouring out of the top…while I followed behind sitting atop an old Mustang (we tried for a cool jeep, but nobody owned one in suburban Michigan at the time) dressed in matching denim over-alls, flannel shirts, and yes…backpacks, with my date (the boy from the band) feeling and looking pretty damn cool.

I didn’t win as Homecoming Queen.  BUT NOW I was an unremarkably cute member of the Homecoming Queen’s Court… with a boyfriend who had amazing long hair, who played in a band.

Other than that…I didn’t have anything else I was known for, or for that matter, any identifiable talents at all.  I didn’t excel at anything.  But I didn’t fail at anything either.

So I guess at the end of the day, I was…pretty average.

I was an average student, with average looks, an average number of friends, who did an average amount of “stuff”…in High School.

Who was I in high school?  That’s a hard question to answer.  My gut reaction is to say, “fuck if I know”, but that doesn’t really make for a compelling answer, does it?

I spent a lot of high school in my head.  It’s kind of a lonely place, in your head.  I just thought a lot.  I listened to music a lot.  I watched a lot.  I didn’t speak a lot.  As a result, lots of people called me stuck-up and rude (which is really helpful and totally awesome).  Others called me shy.  I was just nervous.  Though “just nervous” doesn’t really cover it.  I worried about everything and anything.  I was nervous about getting bad grades, about writing papers, about what people would think of my clothes.  Turns out I have a pretty severe anxiety disorder that was WAY out of control.  In a sense, I was paralyzed by fear.  My nerves kept me from doing anything.  And the truth is, I just accepted that and decided that I didn’t WANT to do anything.  I didn’t really want friends.  I didn’t really want to have fun.  As a result, I never snuck out to meet a boy, I never took my parent’s car for a joy ride, and I never got drunk in the bathroom at prom (though I can totally name names).  I just kept my head down and my mouth shut.

I was always defined by my relationship to others.  I was “that girl’s friend” or “that guy’s prom date”, or “that really awesome kid’s sister”.  (I’m still “that awesome kid’s sister”, but I’m okay with that).  I was never really “Ally”.  Because of this, it’s hard to say who I was in high school.

This also meant that I didn’t participate in anything.

I never played sports, because competition mixed with physical exertion scared the shit out of me (still does).  I remember going to my counselor my freshmen year and asking to be excused from Freshmen Fitness (HELL ON EARTH).  It was required for all students, but I was so freaked out by it that I went and asked if I could get out of it.  My counselor asked me why this class made me nervous.  I said I didn’t really know.  Then she asked if my parents were divorced.  I said no and she just sort of shrugged and let me take another class instead.  So, I guess the lesson is that your parent’s marital status influences your athleticism?  Or your anxiety around team sports?  I never found out, but my parents are divorced NOW, so who the hell knows what THAT means for my future in physical education.

(Not that I’ve put a lot of hopes and dreams into PE or anything, but now I feel like I don’t even have the OPTION.)

(Just another thing I can blame my parents for.)

I’m not good at art, either.  Most kids like me are able to find a niche in high school by painting or drawing or building sets for the school play.  Not me.  My drawing skills have not improved since I was 4, and the only painting I truly enjoy (or am good at) is the kind you do with your fingers on a table your mom covered in newspaper.

I dropped out of band and color guard (you know, those girls who twirl flags).  See?!  I was so much of an outcast that I didn’t even fit in with the band kids.

I once went to a meeting for the Amnesty International Club, but that was because a cute boy named Mike was going… and he just went for the free pizza, so that didn’t really last.

(But stalking the cute boy TOTALLY PAID OFF.  It’s the best thing I did in high school…)

Needless to say, high school was a bit depressing (except for said cute boy).  Weren’t these supposed to be the “best days of my life”?  Someone once asked one of my favorite teachers that, and he said “hell no… I promise, life gets better than this.”

And I gotta say, that made me feel a whole lot better.

And he was totally right.

Topic: Writing

Cindy Thinks

Ally Thinks

I never realized that writing routinely would be such a challenge.  I’ve  always enjoyed writing in the past, whether for work or for fun.  Maybe, it’s because I knew what I was writing about, so it came easily.  But writing articles for a blog on topics provided by others, has proven to be quite a challenge!

What on earth were Ally and I thinking when we decided to start this type of weekly blog together???

It takes every bit of self-discipline and more often than not, self-bribery, for me to sit down and write each week.  Luckily, I respond well to my own bribery.  Today I told myself that  once I finish this post I’ll get that bracelet I saw the other day.  The next post…a new pair of shoes.  Maybe next week I’ll let myself have a piece of chocolate cake!  It doesn’t take much.  I’ll write for just about any kind of “stuff.”  Jewelry, clothes, food…whatever.

I’m thinking maybe that makes me…a writing whore.

Or…an enterprising woman.  Your call.

Writing on this blog however…is wonderful, because I get to do it with Ally.  I LOVE IT.

I love being able to talk with her about  the various topics we get from friends (YOU!) to write on.  I love going off on my own to write, and then getting her reaction (which I hope beyond hope will be one of approval – OY!).  And, I love being able to plan our next steps together for this venture.  It is the most fun I’ve ever had writing in my life.

But it’s still challenging.

Now…I just have to figure out how to get Ally to give me some stuff for writing this blog!

I’m uncomfortable calling myself a writer.  Call me a blogger, as it seems to take some of the pressure off.  I write for fun.  I write when I get the urge to.  I write when my brain can’t hold in a story about a killer deer any longer. I think in blog posts.  When I’m in a situation, especially if I’m left to my own thoughts, I think of how I would write about it.  How I would space it on the page.  What I would link to.

Writing when I HAVE to is tough.  It’s painful to write when I’m not in the mood.  It’s frustrating and not fun and everything that hits the page is terrible.  At those times, even a quick email is difficult for me.  But when it’s on… it’s ON.

“But Ally,” you may say, “you write about Lady Gaga and calling 14 year old girls serial killers (by accident), that doesn’t seem hard.”  But it is.  If I don’t want to write about those things, I can’t.  My posts usually stew in my brain for at least a week before I’m ready to write them out. I made a deal with myself a while ago not to hit publish on something that I don’t love, and I only love things that I had a good time writing.  (This is my excuse as to why I don’t post as much as I would prefer.  Plus, I’m lazy.)

Lots of people have told me that I should keep a journal and write in it everyday. I have dozens of notebooks and diaries (because who doesn’t love a beautiful new notebook?) with only the first three pages written in it.  The first page is usually dated January 1st, with promises of writing everyday.  The next page is dated sometime in March.  It’s just not my thing.

Like most things in life, starting is the hardest part.  For these blog posts, I’ve taken to writing in a notebook.  The blank screen of a computer is too hard to deal with.  The blinking cursor mocks me.  It’s too easy to delete shitty sentences, rather than just write.  So I write with a pen and paper, and try not to care what comes out.

There have been times when writing has been a safe place for me.  When I went to the Blissdom Conference in 2009, my blog saved me.  It gave me a safe place.  It allowed me to see the funny when I wasn’t comfortable.  (The prescription drugs I took also helped, sure, but so did having my own place to share.)

I have a hard time thinking that I’m any good at this stuff.  I hope I am, and as long as I have fun doing it (at least sometimes), I’ll keep doing it.