The Art of List-Making


The world provides us with endless beautiful musings about the morals, traits, and characteristics we pass along to our children. We want to make them good humans with big hearts, a sense of empathy, and a desire to be the best versions of themselves possible. I venture to say that all parents want these things for their children—and if they are paying any attention at all, they probably feel a little pressure to get this done right.

But there are so many other things parents pass to their children that are worthy of note—remarkable even—that make them the unique and wonderful humans that they are. Many of the practices and habits we inherit from our parents become souvenirs of our childhood. They serve as reminders of our parents, or even grandparents. They strum up nostalgia and bring smiles to our faces. And, in many cases, even contribute to us being the best versions of ourselves … just as our parents wanted.

For me, one of the treasured habits I inherited from my dad is the art of list making. I say “art” because it’s really more than a habit. Art is defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination,” and I really do believe the enrichment implied in this definition is synonymous with the quality that list making adds to my life.

white board

Flashback to high school when I was having trouble deciding whom to ask to prom. Leave it to my dad to bring a full-size flip chart into the living room to make pro/con lists on my prom date options. Yes … that really did happen.

And, also, when we were car shopping, my dad developed a full-on flow chart to aid in our decision-making. After all, it’s your first car … you have to get it right.

Nowadays, I make a list almost every day. Of course, I would never pack for a trip without a list; plan an event without a list; or, God forbid, go to the grocery store without a list. And I even make a list of tasks and goals for the coming week in my planner every Sunday.

checking off things on a list

My dad passed away a couple years ago, but I think of him daily, and, most definitely, every time I make these lists. I feel like this habit I inherited and learned from my dad has had endless positive effects on my life. I think I was a better student because of it, and I know I was a better employee and consultant because of it. Lists not only help you remember everything that needs remembering, but they also make you a better planner, a better taskmaster, and even a better visionary.

What wonderous habits or practices have your inherited or learned from your parents or grandparents? Since we are in the South, I know someone out there would point to cooking as the answer—I have no doubt several Southerners’ lives are enriched by their grandmama’s biscuit recipe. Or maybe your dad taught you how to work on cars? Or maybe your mom taught you how to knit? Or maybe your parents were expert sandcastle builders? Or maybe they were really good at exercise, meditation, or even carving out quiet time?

Whatever it is, I hope it’s something you treasure all your life. The pieces of our parents that live on in us that seem to be the least important are often the most remarkable.

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Cara is a freelance journalist and strategic communications consultant living in Germantown. Born in Illinois, she moved to Memphis at a young age; and, having moved away a few times for college, graduate school, and other adventures, she likes to joke that she’s moved TO Memphis more times than anyone she knows. Mom to the cutest little boys, Everett (March 2017) and Gavin (October 2018), and wife to Rob, who works as a financial planner, Cara is adjusting to her new gig as a stay-at-home mom after almost 20 years as a magazine editor and corporate communications practitioner. When not “momming” or consulting, Cara spends her time volunteering with the Junior League of Memphis, where she served on the Board of Directors for several years. Admittedly, Cara has an unreal obsession with escape rooms, an unhealthy addiction to Frappuccinos, and an uncontrollable desire to correct every grammar and punctuation mistake she sees. Learn more about Cara at