By PATTIE MIHALIK

newsgirl@comcast.net

Sitting in my husband's yard is a new, sleek kayak.

Well, it's not exactly new. I bought it for his birthday a full year ago.

One of the reasons why David and I were attracted to each other is because we are both passionate about kayaking. We go as often as we can.

For his birthday, I replaced his old, heavy kayak with one of those lightweight, high-performance kayaks that make it much easier to carry and use.

So, with all that for background, how many times do you think he has used his new kayak all year?

I believe the answer is only about half a dozen times, maybe fewer.

Mostly, he takes his old, beat-up kayak.

Either the put-in is too muddy, he'll claim, or there are oyster shells that might damage the new one, or the concrete boat ramp might scratch it.

We are going on a kayaking-biking trip for his birthday. But he doesn't want to take his new kayak there, either. Someone might steal it, he says.

David calls all that taking care of his new kayak.

I call it foolish.

We can savor something every time we use it, getting a lot of pleasure out of it. Or we can save it, keeping it pristine and protected. But not used.

I keep telling my husband we bought the new kayak to use it, not protect it. If it gets a few scratches, so what?

He looks at me like I'm committing heresy when I tell him that.

I'll say this. David takes great care of everything he owns. Often, "taking care of something" means not using it.

Case in point. He has lovely wineglasses that once belonged to his grandmother. He keeps those beautiful wineglasses, along with all his grandmother's other dishes, locked in a china closet. He doesn't want anything to get broken.

I think we should use and enjoy the things we own. If we don't use them during this life, when will we?

There are a lot of people who don't use what they have because it might get dirty or broken or ruined in some way.

I remember how my grandmother made doilies to cover the arms of every sofa and chair. My mother raised the bar on protecting new furniture. She covered it in sheets.

When I would visit and see her sitting on a sheet instead of just enjoying her new sofa, she would insist she was "taking care of it."

Years later, when she would decide to buy new furniture, the so-called "old stuff" would be passed along to me looking showroom perfect.

Trust me, I enjoyed having the furniture. Of course, it was never once covered with a sheet.

But I am not immune to the practice of covering furniture instead of using it.

For years, I owned a gorgeous Pennsylvania House dining room table. It was antique blue and white and quite stunning, I thought. But no one ever saw the table top. Not even me. From the time I brought it home I kept it covered with a thick pad so it wouldn't get ruined.

Thirty years later, when I was moving, I gave the dining room table away. The table top didn't have a scratch on it. I looked at it and wondered why I never exposed it so I could enjoy it.

OK, one would think I learned a lesson. Last year I bought another wooden dining room table. At first, I put pretty place mats on it for our meals and enjoyed using it every day.

But when I saw how the wooden top marked and smeared too easily, I started worrying the table would get ruined if something spilled on it.

I covered the lovely table top with a cloth that's far from attractive and left it there for months until I returned to my senses.

Off came the ugly tablecloth in favor of the pretty place mats. I intended to use the table, not worry about it. Or so I thought.

There have been times when I've saved something instead of using it because it was precious to me and I didn't want it to get ruined. So for years I put away the pretty candles that have sentimental value to me, never burning them, never displaying them so they wouldn't get dusty.

Isn't that silly?

I think a lot of us fall into the trap of spending more time protecting something rather than using it.

I like the wisdom that says life is short. Burn your candles for you, not just for company. Use your best china and silverware for your own pleasure.

Don't hide all your good stuff away, pulling it out only for company.

Enjoy it now while you can.

I'm hoping I can convince David of that. When we take off for our kayaking vacation, I hope the new kayak comes along with us.

If not, it will sit home wrapped in a tarp, protected from the sun and the sea. But it will bring no joy to anyone.

When I was cleaning my dining room table this week as I get ready for a visit from longtime friends, I noticed it was hard to get the newspaper smudges off the table. And there were also some food stains.

Back came the ugly cover so I can protect the table from getting ruined.

Savor it or save it?

Sometimes there is no clear-cut answer.