For the past few weeks, I’ve been enjoying reading all of my friend’s “One Word” New Year’s Resolutions. Most of the words that they have been choosing are emotional, uplifting words like “grace”, “love”, “trust” or “gratitude”. They have shared beautiful and inspiring messages of how they will focus on the meaning of these words to help guide their purpose and energy in the new year. One after another, I find myself reading and nodding along thinking “That’s a good one – I should totally be focusing on that too.”
But instead, the one word that keeps coming back into my head over and over is “Edith”.
I haven’t thought about Edith Macefield for a long time. She was a woman that lived not far from our old house in Ballard, (a neighborhood just north of downtown Seattle.) I never met Ms. Macefield before her death in 2008. All I know about her is what I have read in numerous articles detailing the limited information that anyone knows about her mysterious life. And I know that she’s a woman who knew how to say ‘No!”
And that’s why “Edith” is my “one word” resolution.
In 2006, developers offered Ms. Macefield $1,000,000 for her tiny, 108 year old house so that they could build a new development including an LA Fitness, Trader Joes and various shops and restaurants.
And she said “No.”
Was it a statement against the modernization of this historical district? Was it a stand against selling out for the sake of commercialization? Was she holding out to see if they would offer more money?
Nope. She just didn’t want to move. So she said “No.”
I think a lot of women, me included, often say “Yes” when the answer should be “No”, even when there isn’t a million dollars on the line.
“Yes” to a volunteer position that we know we don’t have the time for.
“Yes” to going to that party when you really just wanted to go home and read on the couch.
“Yes” to a project at work that everyone else was already smart enough to say ‘No’ to.
We say “Yes” because we think it’s the nice and polite thing to do. We say “yes” because “no” feels rude and uncomfortable.
But what it really comes down to is that often when we say “Yes” it’s because we think someone else’s potential disappointment is more important than our own.
When Edith Macefield said “No” to those developers, they were no doubt beyond-disappointed to have to go back to the drawing board of their architectural plans. When she turned down the $1 million, she most certainly disappointed whoever would have eventually been at the receiving end of all that money.
But she was old, she was tired, and moving is a pain in the ass. She had a history in her home and it’s where she wanted to live out the rest of her life. Their disappointment was not her concern and not her responsibility. She was the only person she had left to take care of in the world, and she stood up for herself until the very end. And at her end, she was in her home.
Even after her death, she remains quite a folk hero in Seattle. People drive from all around to witness the 5-story concrete development that was erected mere feet from the walls of her tiny bungalow. People get tattoos of her. Disney even came and put balloons on her house as a publicity stunt when the movie Up was released.
She’s a symbol of many things to many people. But to me she’s just a woman who knew how to say “No”. And to me, that is definitely worth more than a million dollars.
Once upon a time, Susanne Kerns was a Senior Account Director at an advertising agency working for two of the top brands in the world. Ten years ago she traded in her corporate life for a life as a stay at home mom, raising two of the best kids in the world. She started her blog, The Dusty Parachute as a way to dust off her online advertising skills and begin her job search. Instead, she now uses it as a way to spend lots of time on the computer so her kids think that mommy has a job.
Susanne’s essays have been featured in Scary Mommy, Redbook & BonBon Break and she is also a contributor in the books, I Just Want to Be Perfect, It’s Really 10 Months, Special Delivery and Martinis & Motherhood – Tales of Wonder Woe & WTF?!
For more information on Edith Macefield visit
New York Times Article