Spent from a day of appliance and linen shopping, and collapsed on the funky couch of my overly warm, sparsely furnished apartment, we were waiting for a couple of friends to drop by (who, like me, were in their twenties), when my mother, now deceased, endowed me with her best housekeeping tip: "Gather all the small bowls you've got in this place and fill them with nuts. Do you have any nuts? If you put enough nut bowls out, people won't notice your apartment looks like hell."
Forever after, I noticed this about her: Consumed by appearances, at times deception's mistress, she was beautiful and truly quite generous. She hadn't grown up with much, but she believed in the bountiful nut bowl as both a distraction and assuagement.
Amy Cunningham's been writing things up since a house fire down the block captured her teenaged attention in the late 1960s. She became a New York state licensed funeral director in 2011, and now helps dying people and their families plan end-of-life services that ring true to their values. Visit her site at The Inspired Funeral.