This year I made the biggest gift-giving mistake of my life.  I got Mary Ellen a Fitbit for Christmas. My wife has become somewhat of a health nut, which I should clarify, includes eating about six varieties of healthful nuts. She also wanted to keep track of her walking. I am not a walker myself.  Truth is, I have walked back several promises I made when we first got married, as well as three 2017 New Year’s resolutions. That’s about as much exercise as I’m comfortable with.

Wait, I do walk to my office every day (it’s not my fault I work from home) and I walk to the pro shop to get my golf cart. Oh, and to the garage to get on my riding lawn mower. I guess I’ve never given myself enough credit.

One of the purposes of the Fitbit is to track 10,000 steps in a day, which is what the NASEWA (National Association of Something Else to Worry About) is now recommending. They say that the average person walks only 1,000-3,000 steps. 10,000 steps a day is equivalent to a few miles, something most people won’t consciously do. Unconscious exercise does sound a lot less strenuous.

The Fitbit does not come with directions. The manufacturer assumes you either know how to hook it up, or you can look up the specifics online. Remember, this is not just a pedometer, a simple device that tracks your paces. This puppy monitors your sleep and your food intake, and then rewards you with elaborate twinkling of lights when you have reached that 10,000-step goal.

Mary Ellen and I had a lot of trouble getting the Fitbit and the laptop to sync, so we called Kevin, our computer guy. Kevin is used to dealing with people who sit in front of a laptop all day and he thought that helping people set up their Fitbit could lead his clients to begin a physical fitness regimen—leaving less time for them to download viruses and malware, the bread and butter of his computer repair service.

“I can’t find your dongle,” said Kevin to my wife as he fumbled though the Fitbit box. “Does your husband have one?”  I didn’t know what a dongle was, but I’m pretty sure in Yiddish it’s a dirty word. I learned that it’s a small plug-in that allows high tech devices to communicate with each other.  I always called it a thingamajig.

Soon, Kevin got everything to work. Everything.

“Did you get a good night’s sleep?” I asked Mary Ellen the next morning.

“I have no idea. Let me check. Well, it says I did, but for some reason I’m exhausted.”

I reminded her that the Fitbit vibrated on her wrist as a warning that she hasn’t moved for an entire hour.We had no idea how to turn that application off, so I told Mary Ellen that if she didn’t want the Fitbit to wake her every hour, she needed her sleep to be more restless. Yeah, I actually said that.

I don’t want to own a Fitbit of my own. So instead, I plan to follow my wife around. I’ll never reach that 10,000 goal, but it’s a step in the right direction.





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In 2005, famed political humorist Art Buchwald entered hospice in Washington, DC.

Last week, I described how I first met Mr. Buchwald in l967 in an encounter that lasted a mere two minutes. I was a 22-year-old college kid who read his feature every day in the Washington Post. He was one of the most successful syndicated humorist in the world. As he read my own column in his office, a flick of his wrist over my byline in my school newspaper made an indelible impression on me. There, he curmudgeonly wrote:


                                     Wolfsie, stay out of my racket!        –Art Buchwald

When I first reminisced about this in local Indiana papers 11 years ago, several friends suggested I send the essay to the facility where Mr. Buchwald was spending his final days. How presumptuous that would have been, I thought, imposing on a man cherishing time with close friends and family who were holding court daily. 

Oh, why not?  I stuffed a couple of different newspapers that contained my Buchwald column into a large envelope, and included a short note describing our brief encounter four decades earlier. I had some contact with him over the years, but it was unlikely he would remember me. Anyway, my envelope would have little chance of reaching him. He probably got thousands of cards and letters.

For the next few days, my mailbox became the watched pot that never boiled. Finally, my sophisticated defense mechanisms took over, protecting me from disappointment. I simply forgot about the entire matter.

About a month later, I was rifling through the mail. Bills, magazines, promotions, more bills. Then, what’s this?  A large envelope addressed to me. From Washington, DC.

My tax refund? Not that year. Maybe I owed the IRS more?

I ripped it open and out tumbled two newspaper clips, each one featuring my column about Art Buchwald.  And there, above my byline, scribbled in his very recognizable, but somewhat shaky handwriting, were the following:

To Dick Wolfsie: Anyone who writes a column about me, can’t be all bad.      –Art Buchwald

And this, on the other newspaper:

To Wolfsie: Thanks for the column. Now I can die happy.       –Art Buchwald

And finally, typed on his letterhead, with his signature:

To Dick Wolfsie: I’m glad you went straight. I figured you’d be sticking up 7-11s.    –Art Buchwald

In my office is a huge framed display of these notes along with the original photo of us and the warning to stay out of his profession. If my house is in flames, once my wife and cat are safe, that’s what I’m going back inside to save.

This experience taught me to never underestimate the power of an act of kindness. A few brief minutes of Mr. Buchwald’s time made my day. Heck, it made my decade. Mr. Buchwald knew it’s never too late to touch an audience. Maybe without his regular column to write each day, he decided to do it one person at a time.

Mr. Buchwald lived on for several months, even writing a final book, Too Soon to Say Goodbye, a remarkable look back: “…uncertain and unfazed by the inevitable, living life to the fullest.”

After he passed, the New York Times posted a video he made: “Hi. I’m Art Buchwald, and I just died.”

Yes, he truly died laughing.


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