Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Simplifying is ONE of the things I want to talk about today, but first can we all agree Henry David Thoreau’s philosophy does NOT apply to exclamation points? (Spoiler alert: I’m using extra today!!)

Punctuation aside, I’ve long been tempted to travel down Mr. Thoreau’s spare path. Then I remember Walden Pond probably required a lot of sweeping. Plus it may be difficult to get pizza delivered there promptly.


I’ve decided to overlook such negatives and also the fact that Henry David Thoreau left stiff-ish transcendentalist boots to fill.

(Gardening and Civil Disobedience? Let a girl catch up!!)

Anon, I shall trim the fat around here (figuratively, of course. I like a well-marbled steak). And to that end, let’s examine the aspects of my life where I might be a little cluttered:

….Children: Let’s face it. Shaping future contributors to society is a complicated task. I want to raise happy, healthy, generous teenagers who appreciate Modern Family and recite state capitals in alphabetical order. But in the interest of simplification, I’ll settle for teaching them to put their dirty socks directly into the hamper. Because if Phil Dunphy can pare life down to six keys, so shall we.

….Marriage: Who are we kidding? After seventeen years, we’re already simple. Bill likes chipotle flakes, Chardonnay, jigsaw puzzles and me. I like string cheese, Cabernet, HGTV and him. I think he’d agree there’s nothing much we need to cut. (Except maybe the puzzles. They take up counter space.)

….Friends: Old friends and new, Facebook friends and twitter; blog friends, friends who text, and friends who (whywhywhy) still try to connect by phone calls. But y’all? I can’t quit you. So I just won’t answer. Sorry, friends. Simplicity has taken me from Luke Warm to Ice Cold. (And also made me too fond of parentheses. Plus exclamation points!!)

….Writing: I revise the old and compose the new; help others edit manuscripts while dissecting my own. I work at this blog and craft posts, spewing my words across the internet. But I can’t stop this madness anon—although I could stop using random Shakespearean words. (Let’s keep this in the ‘maybe’ pile.)

Housekeeping: Ha. Hahahahaha!! This one’s as easy as it gets. Cheers to lesssweeping and morepizzadelivery. Done. And. Done.

Dogs: THEY STAY. (And sit!!)

To recap: I’m keeping exclamation points, Modern Family, friends who text, a furious writing pace, and my dogs. I’m cutting dirty socks, jigsaw puzzles, phone calls, anon, housekeeping, and cooking. (Sorry, well-marbled steak. I’m Ice Cold!!)

I know. It’s a lot to pare down. But the sacrifice brings me one step closer to the uncluttered heart of my true inspiration. And no. It’s not Henry David Thoreau.

It’s my grandpa. Knute Anderson.

Yes, this 93-year-old knows what matters and keeps life S.I.M.P.L.E. (But not in a way that means small-minded. He’s got the biggest brain and heart.)

He refuses to stop learning and remains curious about the world. He’s open-minded and embraces differences; never sidesteps an opportunity to grow or try something new. He’s a man who built a house with his father and also learned to email and Google before I did. (True story.)

Simply put, he loves his wife, his dog, his family; and every day he wakes up grateful for his freedoms and humble about his gifts.

His politics and religion embrace the Golden Rule and he can rock a joke, spin a yarn, and drive a golf-car like a pro.

This man spent last Sunday with all four of his great-grandchildren who are blessed to enjoy their singularly wonderful patriarch. When he turned ninety, these same kids conducted an interview about his life from 1919 through the new millennium. Each of them questioned him about being an immigrant (from Sweden!!), about watching history evolve beyond imagination, about becoming a journeyman of this earth. We recorded the session and hope to recreate it at his centennial celebration.

Until then, I’ll pause each January 13th to thank Knute Anderson: for his unfailing support and his lessons in joy; for teaching me to whistle and reading me Heidi; for inspiring me to simplify, simplify, simplify!!

Henry David Thoreau’s got nothing on you, Grandpa. (Except for maybe a prison rap.)

Happy Birthday, GGpa. Now and always.

And text me when you finally get your smart phone.

Grandpa steals a bite of Grandma’s sundae. Because when you’re the birthday boy and cute, you deserve hot fudge.

Fact: All Creatures Great and Small love Knute.

Grandpa and the ladies—my lovely grandmother, Reny; me (bending awkwardly); and my sister, Nancy. She got those  long legs from Knute. Grrr.

P.S. And this is important: The K in Knute is not silent. It’s pronounced Kuh-Noot. Because when you’re 93 and cute, you deserve to have every letter in your name heard.


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62 thoughts on “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

  1. Di

    And who knows, there is still time for a prison rap. Happy Birthday Knute…you’ve done well by your family!

  2. I love this post – and such sweet photos!

    Happy birthday indeed.

    🙂 Anna

  3. Julie


    I haven’t seen him since Sunday…good point.

    Plus it’s his birthday. On Friday the 13th.

    Look out.


  4. I used to talk on the phone all the time, especially since my family lived far away. By pure necessity (the volume my children operate at), I’ve had to cut way back on using the phone. It’s one of the reasons I started blogging.

    Happy birthday to Knute! He sounds amazing and I’m so glad you’re blessed with him and your grandmother.

  5. Just the other day, I was talking on the phone with a friend who always demands to talk on the phone. And I realized that I should be watching Modern Family at the time, and if she were just texting instead of calling, I’d be able to do both.

    And then I realized that I might not be a good friend sometimes. Especially in the era of DVR.

    I’m trying to simplify in my life as well. I’m thinking about just cutting out laundry entirely.

    Happy Birthday, Knute (I love knowing that your grandparents are reading this, Julie).

  6. Awwww – I love this (although I originally read it as you viewing yourself as a well-marbled steak, which I may steal…). Your grandparents look like rock stars in their early 60s – well done! I’m jealous of your genes (not to mention your sister’s jeans…grrr indeed).

    Good luck with the simplifying!


  7. Absolutely loved this post. I think, as a society, we’re finally starting to shake off some of this you’re-a-lot-older-than-most-people-so-that-must-make-you-a-sympathy-object attitude. My grandmother lived to 99 years old and was pretty much sharp as a tack (a tack with a penchant for cribbage and crosswords) until she left us three years ago. So what if people are in the 90s? They’re just a little older, and a whole lot wiser.

    I would love to meet Knute. He sounds phenomenal–completely independent of his age. Happiest birthday to him.

  8. I always wished for a grampa.

    How lucky you all are.

  9. Happy Birthday to Knute, a man who clearly wonderful and very beloved by his beautiful family. I see where you get your charm!

    I, too, dislike the telephone and promise not to call unless it’s about a book deal or in an emergency situation.


  10. What a great name Knute is. And I love your birthday tributes. Always the best.

  11. I love to read your work. It just…I don’t know, flows.

    I absolutely agree with your ideas on simplification, less sweeping and more pizza delivery sounds like the way to go.

  12. Heather (from Chicago)

    Happy birthday Knute!

    and OMG, I had that same ice cream sundae when I was out in the desert. Yes they pour chocolate on the of the glass too!

  13. Heather (from Chicago)

    outside, outside of the glass I mean! chocolate on the outside of the glass damn it!!! it’s unheard of!

  14. Do we share some Norwegian genes, perhaps?

    What a fab tribute, J. And what a gorgeous group you are!

  15. Gramma made it to 94. She was a Crandall – hearty stock.

    Great post about family, age-not-an-issue (I like to rock my punctuation, too), and yo’ simplifying!

  16. To “Simplify” is a veeeery beautiful thing.

    Great photos.

    Happppppy Birthday.

  17. Happy birthday, Knute! He IS cute. Can I borrow him? No grandpas here…

    I agree with all of your list, and think I need to remove the burden of phone calls, too. I am not a phone person, with the exception of a couple people (people who don’t text or email – even though they’re much younger than Knute).

    Oh, and no punctuation simplification. Sometimes only an extra ! or ? – or the combo, of which I’m fond, ?! – will do.

  18. Love your Grandpa. I could just tell I would.

    I’m so with you and not being able to cut out all the stuff you mentioned and instead cutting out things like clean socks and, let’s be honest, general hygiene. I’ve been wearing my glasses more even because putting in my contacts is taking too much time. True story.

  19. Dolores

    What a wonderful tribute to Knute. He deserves it. He is an inspiration and a wonderful uncle.

  20. Happy Happy Birthday. Love him. Thanks for the K tip.

    Love this sweet Julie. xoxo

  21. Julie

    Tracy –

    The tip is great at parties, too. Endless opportunities to say things like, “Pass the K-nife, K-nute.”

    and the like.

    You’re jealous now, huh?
    I know.


  22. Duffy

    I miss my Pappou and Yiayia every day. I feel more connected to their memories reading this, so thanks. I am also impressed with your grands’ technical savvy. I once tried to explain the internet to my grandmother. It did not go well.
    Also, Renis, if you are reading this, I’m married to your favorite, John. Am I not a smart lady?

  23. Dude. He is so YOUNG looking. I want to look like HIM when/if I get to be 92. I don’t care if he’s a man, I’ll take it!
    Also, anon is the best word ever. Also, when you mix anon with yo you make magic. Enough magic to make up for my wonton disregard for punctuation and grammar in you comment box. I’m ice cold in that regard.

  24. This is awesome on so many levels. That your sweet granddad is 93; that he looks incredible for 93, and at least a good 10-12 years younger than his age; that he learned to use e-mail and Google before you did (ha!); and that you’re obviously completely smitten with and inspired by him. So, with all that said, Happy Birthday, K-Nute! 🙂

  25. Happy birthday to your Grandpa! What a lovely {and funny, of course} ode!

    {And *obviously* anon cancels out yo! 🙂

    Fabulous Julie, like the kind with hot fudge!

  26. Okay, I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that I will never near your voice. And I don’t text. Does this mean we are breaking up? I’m heartbroken.

    What about Skype? You can watch HGTV at the same time. Or clean up the puzzles… 😉

  27. NannyK

    Anon cancels out yo FO SHO!

    Sweet post sis! We are lucky indeed to have great genes…and even greater role models in gma and gpa:). Someone in the grocery store once told me I am a better than average whistler. Knute definitely deserves all the credit for that…and for hanging a swing from the patio cover for his granddaughters’ enjoyment, for teaching us to play croquet (not so easy for a 6’2″ Swede to bend down for hours on end), for transfering endless hours of family home movies to VHS (when VHS was still new), for assembling the Christmas train well into his eighties, so he could get down on the floor and enjoy it with his GREAT-grandchildren, and for showing us how WE should be treated… by how he’s loved and cared for Grandma for almost 70 years!!

    Happy Birthday Grandpa!! We love you very much!

  28. Princess Claudia Moon

    Julie, you are such an amazing writer. You probably get that from Knute. Afterall, Nancy got the legs, right? Please tell Knute Happy Birthday for me and give my love to the family!!!

    Love you,

  29. Princess Claudia Moon

    Your comment is awaiting moderation? What the hell does that mean? I didn’t write that. I finally reply to a blog and this is what happens…..Julie, explain this to me please…

  30. Your grandparents are the same age as my folks. I was one of the younger siblings in our family…yeah I’ll go with that. I can’t abide telephone calls. We still have a land line only because… wait for it…we own a trailer park and I am not giving out my cell number to tenants. Amen and amen. Anon may have to be my new word. I am a sponge like that. And grammar and punctuation I gave up for lent years ago. I can’t care about my ignorance.

  31. Happy, happy birthday to Grandpa 🙂

    He looks so content, and one day I hope to be 92 and sharing hot fudge with my husband.

    (Also, Abbey is starting to love the puzzle. And yes, all those little pieces can start to take on a life of their own.)

  32. He is adorable. Truly. When my grandfather was 93 he flew across the country because he refused to miss my wedding. He was amazing.

    Also? Nancy looks like she’s 17. And I forgot you cut your hair. It’s like i don’t even know you anymore. xo

  33. NannyK

    Cheryl is now officially my favorite person on the planet, yo!

  34. Awesome. Grandpas (and grandmas) are the bomb. You’re a blessed lady, Julie Gardner. (And don’t ever give up the pizza delivery.)

  35. Happy Birthday to your Grandpa Knute (not-silent-K)!

    Cutting out cleaning and cooking sounds like an awesome plan. I may have to reconsider the simplification of my life.

  36. What a great post! I think I can pledge to cut jigsaw puzzles, too. Nice tribute to the patriarch! I love the idea of interviewing a family member of his or her life. I bet it was fun!

  37. I love Knute with an audible K! His name is a rock star one, that certainly matches his personality. Happiest of days to your awesome grandpa.

    Simplifying is such a wise and lovely thing. Although, as a mom/wife/domestic servant, oftentimes I feel like my life is being eaten away in small pieces by soul-killing housework and just trying to keep up with all of them. I hate laundry and I abhor socks! In fact, I don’t even bother sorting them anymore. I have 3 baskets in my laundry room. One for sports socks. One for footies. And one for regular socks. (I do sort my husband’s socks, since he does bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan for all of us. I figure it’s the least I can do.) The kids, on the other hand, have to find their own damn socks. It’s such an emancipating feeling to get rid of that icky chore.

    And talk about not calling back! I’ve been seriously deficient in sending love to all my wonderful, wonderful friends. And you all have been so good to me. I don’t deserve such kindness. But even though I’ve been a bad friend, know my darling girl, that you and all of you other lovely, lovely blog friends are always in my thoughts and my heart. XXXOOO

  38. This makes me smile.

    I hope my grandparents are around when Eddie is old enough to interview them.

    But I am afraid they won’t. They are already in their mid-eighties. And Cort’s only living grandpa was just admitted to Hospice, which we all know means his time is short.

    So we enjoy them now.

    Because they are old and frisky and wonderful.

    Happy Birthday, Cute Knute!

  39. Julie,

    Love this post, the accompanying photos, and the sentiments. All of my grandparents have passed and I wasn’t close with any of them, sadly. I hope one day I can be a wonderful grandparent worthy of a post like this!

    Happy birthday to him!

  40. Your grandparents are both adorable. May we all be that wonderful at that age!

  41. I love great-grandpa already. Dallas’ great grandpa Reese lived to meet his great, great grandchildren (including my Reese). A photo of their hands together, his old and wrinkly, Reese’s only 8 months old is my favorite. Happy Birthday K-Nute you make 93 look like 39.

  42. Tracie Madden

    Your posts =smart girls’ sitcoms…Smart, relatable, and challenging, yo! (have you been watching “Breakng Bad”? I found myself using that word a lot in while catching up on the series via Neflix and still am unsure if it’s a noun or an article….)

    Please enlighten me.

  43. liz

    I think we need to start an iPhone fund for Knute. That man deserves that life experience!

  44. Lovin’ the angle you took with this one…and the Modern Family reference. If only Phil Dunphy would run for President … life would be so much “simpler.” *wink. How blessed you are to still have your grandpa! You’re right, he IS cute!

  45. Julie! I’ve been trying to simplify too. (But really, those blazers from the 80’s with the shoulder pads could come back… I think…) And how blessed you are to still have your grandparents. It must be the hot fudge that keeps them so young. (And hey – I like parenthesis too!)

    I promise not to call you…

  46. Happy Happy Birthday to your GGPa! Fabulous pictures. And while I have always loved Thoreau’s writing, I, too, would find Walden Pond just a bit too reclusive. When I want Chinese food, I want Chinese food! And I’m not cooking my own freaking duck, either.

  47. He’s certainly a Kncutie.

  48. Happy birthday, wonderful grandfather of Julie C!

  49. How lucky you are to have both your grandparents in your life and how lucky they are to have each other! Great tribute as always. But this one has a lesson. There is no need for me to answer my mother’s phone calls. I’ll just tell her- learn to text or else YOU’RE OUT!

  50. Love your decisions on what to eliminate. And I agree about punctuation. Parentheses:absolutely necessary for adding all those extra thoughts as they come along. And commas stretch the text. That has to make reading easier–for my friends who refuse to wear the glasses they need to see well.
    Your humor is a relaxing break at the end of a writing session.

  51. I agree about cutting mundane chores to make time for the more important things. Could we eliminate cooking 3 times a day, laundry 3 times a week, and ironing…who thought of ironing? of course that’s probably why your grands are so young-looking. They worked hard and it kept them active and going forward. Now…if I could just get off the couch and find the iron.

  52. I’m starting to wonder if maybe you’ve made them all up. Like cut pictures out of magazines and pasted them together to make the perfect family. Knute is probably the name of some tasty Swedish doughnut, isn’t it? It’s the perfect name for the sweetest person. Only way your grandpa could be real is if his name were Herbert or Albert or Bert.

    Seriously though, you are one very blessed woman. I love how much love there is between you guys. And also that the k is not silent. And that sundae. It’s glorious. Your whole family is. Just perfect.

  53. Your grandpa sounds just perfect. Maybe in 50 years I’ll learn to simplify, simplify, simplify.

    In the meantime, I’m with you on the phone thing. I know I make enemies, but I really hate to talk on the phone.

    And I’m not sure if I live in another country or another planet, but I didn’t understand about HDT and trying to catch up and transcendentalist boots and all that. What am I missing? (Besides my common sense)?

  54. Oh, seriously. This post just MADE MY DAY. Several reasons – Knute sounds like someone I want to meet in his awesomeness.

    The words “anon” and “yo” clearly CAN be used in one blog post.

    And I really like HDT – EXCEPT for the reason you find challenging – living in the woods would be dirty and BUGGY.


  55. I love grandpas like Knute. And people like Knute for that matter.
    And also simplifying. But in addition, jigsaw puzzles. Which cancels out the simplifying.

    Go Knute!

  56. Aw, what a sweet tribute! And there should totally be more men named Knute. And don’t give up jigsaw puzzles, those things rock!

  57. Ann

    Feeling very “call me try to do everything now” lately, so I especially appreciated this post and sweet tribute. Thanks.

  58. The “k” is not silent?! I knever kuh-new that! I loved this post, as I love all if yours! It was so sweet & funny. (And anon totally cancels out yo, yo.)

  59. NINETY-THREE?!?!

    Is he perhaps a vampire? How about half-vampire?

    I’m sure I saw a little sparkle glinting off of that kute face.

  60. Hanne

    Silent K’s are for wimps, of course it must be Knut, it’s an old royal name! It sounds like he’s Norwegian, is that right? If he is, I have to say “Gratulerer med dagen”, from one Norwegian to another;) I guess he could be swedish or danish even, I will have to add “Grattis!” and “Til lykke med dagen”.

    I very much envy you having your grandparents around, I miss mine a lot..

  61. I love that Knute’s name is Knute. LOVE.

    What a lovely and inspiring post. I am moving toward simplicity myself. ALL OF IT.

  62. I loves your grandpappy & grandmammy! I never had the luxury of really knowing my grandparents.

    I also want to say something really witty, but can’t because I am tired and want to go to bed and my eyes are burning and I can’t think. Suffice to say your post was well written (but you knew that) and you made me look up anon.


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