The Good Life

Since our marriage 54 years ago, my husband and I have sent out a card and letter to friends and relatives each Christmas. I have read that it is rare to watch entire lives unfold through time; but over the years, our notebook of those missives has grown thick, providing a treasure of stories about our life together. In the beginning we often reported month-by-month the activities in our, and our children’s lives. As we received similar letters from friends and loved ones, we discovered that we desired a more nuanced (read interesting) approach. Consequently, we began sharing only the major highlights of our year and then adding our thoughts about various current topics in the news, movies we had seen, books we were reading. Sometimes we wrote a theme-based letter—the effects of moving, life changes when children arrive, becoming empty nesters, freeing ourselves through retirement.

This year our letter was about our current status in the process of aging. Our audience of mainly contemporary friends is contemplating the same, we know. We shared our diagnosed “conditions;” the fact that the list of our doctors, with whom we regularly personally interact, fills more than an 8 1/2 X 11 page; and our slower pace of life, preferring to complete only one major activity a day in addition to our daily walk. However, we emphasized our gratitude for the people to whom we sent our greeting, for living in a secure place where our greater physical needs are easily met, and where our sense of community provides emotional and psychological support as well as deep friendships.

As usual, friends have telephoned, written, and emailed their reactions to our letter. These are friends we have known since college and in both our early and later career days. Maintaining these, and newer, friendships have provided us with relationships we cherish, and regular interactions that keep us connected. We often invite friends—and always family—to our Michigan cottage, where we retreat for the summer months, sharing memories, eating well, and relishing being with one another through occasional outings and meaningful conversations.

I recently read an article, “The Real Secret of Lifelong Fulfillment,” by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, the director and associate director of the Harvard University Study of Adult Development. The essay was adapted from their book The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness. They write that the “one crucial factor” that “stands out for the consistency and power of its ties to physical health, mental health and longevity” is good relationships. The Harvard study findings are supported by similar findings across a variety of studies, the authors say.

Here are some statistics to give you context for the importance of human interaction: Waldinger and Schulz ask us to think of a friend we cherish whom we don’t see as often as we would like. They say that if you are 40 and you see them once a week for an hour of conversation, that is equivalent to 87 days together before you turn 80. It’s about 20 days if you see them once a month, 2 days if you see them once a year. Maybe this sounds like plenty of time to spend with good friends. But to encourage us to make encounters more frequent, they point out how much time the average American spends interacting solo with media, from television to radio to smartphones. In 2018, it was 11 hours each day. That means that “from the age of 40 to the age of 80,” media time would add “up to 18 years of waking life. For someone who is 18, that’s 28 years of life before they turn 80.” Over and over again, when the Harvard study participants reach their 70’s and 80’s, they say the thing they value most in life are their relationships with family and friends. The authors’ conclusion: “If we accept the wisdom—and more recently the scientific evidence—that our relationships are among our most valuable tools for sustaining health and happiness, then choosing to invest time and energy in them becomes vitally important . . . an investment that will affect everything about how we live in the future.”

As we begin to pursue the greater freedom of being in community together at UU Asheville, following the Pandemic, it is helpful to consider the importance of investing in relationships. Through interactions at Sunday service, at the Wednesday Thing, and at Coffee Hour in Sandburg Hall, we can re-engage with friends and acquaintances so important to the life of our congregation. In addition, we can select from the many choices offered through New Volunteer Opportunities in the UU Asheville survey on our website. All of these endeavors not only enrich our congregation but also provide us with good relationships.

Julie Stoffels, Clerk, Board of Trustees






Gardening Time is Near!

Come check out our table in Sandburg every other week. And join our garden crew for the growing season!

It’s so exciting to start perusing the seed catalogs and dream of the day when you see those tiny, succulent seedlings pop through the soil. But It’s important to have a schedule for starting because if you start plants too early, you’ll end up with stretched, overgrown transplants that will have a really hard time adjusting to being planted outdoors. 

The best, easiest-to-use seed-starting schedule I’ve found is at Johnny’s Seeds ( They have an interactive tool in which you simply put in your last frost date and the tool calculates when you should start all your seeds indoors. Our last frost date is usually between April 15 and 30 so I tend to use April 20 as my guide. Of course, any year can vary so it’s important to pay attention to the actual weather.  

Once the chart calculates dates, It gives a one to two-week window, so if you can’t get to sowing on the date suggested, you have some leeway. It also lists the safe set-out dates to help you plan your hardening-off process. Another interactive tool is found at

When you have your list, look at the set-out dates to time your seed-starting. For example, broccoli plants can be set out two weeks before the last frost. So you back up two weeks from April 20 for the plant out date. It takes about 4-6 weeks to grow from seeds into sturdy transplants, so back up six more weeks. You back up a total of 8 weeks from April 20 which takes you to the end of February. That’s when you start your broccoli seeds. Put all your dates on the calendar, including the seeds you start directly into the garden. Now your schedule is set!

Keep in mind that not everything on the charts needs to be started indoors (beans and corn, for example) and the charts may not have every vegetable you want to grow. You may have to do a little research. 

Gather your seed-starting materials together so you’ll be ready as soon as your schedule tells you to sow. Gather pots, labels and seed-starting mix. If you plan to use recycled pots, make sure they are well-cleaned and sanitized to avoid fungal disease transmission to tiny seedlings. I don’t advise using recycled potting soil. Take the plunge and purchase high quality sterile seed-starting mix. No guarantees, but new soil will give you the best chance of success. 

To start your seeds, moisten the planting mix with warm water and fill your containers to slightly below the rim. Firm the soil gently – don’t pack it down, and then scatter your seeds. Cover to the depth recommended on the seed packet and sprinkle the top with milled sphagnum moss to create a natural fungicide barrier. Gently spritz, cover with plastic and put the pots in a warm place. 

Check your seeds daily and remove the cover for circulation if you build up a lot of moisture. As soon as the seeds peek above the soil level, remove the cover and move them under fluorescent lights that are about two inches from the plants and are on for at least twelve hours.

Kate Jerome