My Bingeing on Purging

I am reminded of a question posed in one of my grad school classes: If you had access to all of your music and DVDs online, would you actually need to physically possess them? This was back in ’08 when things were digital but not as digital as they are now. A lot of students protested. “Well, the internet can be flaky.” The response was, “Imagine that it’s not.” “Well, sometimes providers take away access.” “Imagine that they wouldn’t.” “Well, I just like having my things.” “Why?” I don’t think everyone was convinced at that point that they didn’t need their possessions, but I’ve continued to ponder that question ever since.

Marie Kondo poses similar kinds of questions in her organizational advice book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” about why we keep the things we do. She wants to know why we’re really hanging onto that thing from 5 years ago that we thought we might need but never look at or think about. And why on earth do we keep the box that the cell phone came in?

I had to admit after reading her book that I didn’t have answers for those questions, and thus began my decluttering journey. The real revelation of this book is to clean by category, not by room. Get all your shit that belongs in category A together, from all different parts of the house, then realize that you have way too much and start paring down. Thus, I awoke early last Saturday (okay, was awoken) and started on what Kondo suggests as the first category for tidying: clothes. This took me all day. Literally. About 9 hours total. I was surprised, but I got through it and filled up a medium-sized moving box plus a smaller box of clothes for donating.

The next day, I started on the next category: books. This didn’t take too long as I’d recently donated several things, but I still came up with another small box to take to the library. Then it was time for papers, which I started on Sunday evening. I was dreading this because I knew it was going to be a slog. Unlike the clothing and books, I didn’t have to decide if papers “sparked joy,” but I did have to go through them one by one and keep only what was necessary.

Oh, the treasures I found! Receipts from just about every cell phone Shaun or I ever bought – including one receipt from that brief period where AT&T went insane and called itself Cingular!

Cingular Wireless

Cingular Wireless

I also found receipts from Circuit City…

Circuit City. Where dat?

Circuit City. Where dat?

And that time we got married and then bought a bunch of stuff from our registry ourselves…

Wedding Registry Receipt

Wedding Registry Receipt (Little did I know how much of this stuff would eventually be clutter. Not the lamps. Those still spark joy. And electricity.)

And from that time we adopted a cat and immediately changed his name…

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…because Maxie? Yuck. Sid should really be nicer to me just for giving him a proper name.

And from the first piece of furniture we bought for our apartment…

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I also still have the papasan chair, but after last year’s new couch purchase, it resides in my office.

And from the halogen lamp I requested and my grandfather bought me when I was in college…

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I still have this but it was living in the garage and got mysteriously dented. I think somehow the cat knocked it over.

I also found instructions from the lava lamp that I bought and still have…

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I had no idea there were so many rules and regulations concerning lava operation.

By Tuesday, I was clearing out a second filing cabinet and having the time of my life. This was exactly the project I needed at exactly the right time. I hadn’t realized how long some of this stuff went unattended. We’ve been in this house for nearly 10 years now, when we expected to be here for a maximum of five. George Carlin said when you get too much stuff, you gotta get a new house, but we bought in 2007, so you do the math on that. With nowhere for us to go, it was time to say sayonara to some of the belongings.

After reading all those instructions, I decided to see if the lamp still worked. Here it is after turning it on for the first time in who knows how many years.

After reading all those instructions, I decided to see if the lamp still worked. Here it is after turning it on for the first time in who knows how many years.

And here it is after being on all day long. Sorry, lava lamp, no worky, no stay-y. (Sniff.)

And here it is after being on all day long. Sorry, lava lamp, no worky, no stay-y. (Sniff.)

Some decisions have been harder than others, but I am so very happy to unburden myself. One of the things that I have enjoyed the most about this process is the concentration I have applied to it. Rather than worry about making the house clean or presentable, I have allowed certain messes to stagnate and sometimes grow so that I can completely finish what I’m doing, knowing that that will help to keep the house cleaner in the long run. This is not a new or radical concept to me, it’s just been dormant the last five years as I’ve struggled to finish so much as a thought. I have to say that Sonja has been great this past week, allowing me to get more done than I ever thought possible. She also started making her own “keep” pile out of stuff I was trying to get rid of, but that was inevitable. Some of the things like old stickers and stamps and paper I gave her willingly. I’m sure I didn’t think when I bought that Pinky and the Brain eraser as a teenager that I’d one day give it to my daughter (I’m sure I didn’t think any future children would even know what Pinky and the Brain was) but clearly, that is why I kept it all these years.

Floppy Disks. Somewhere, somebody has the technology to read these.

Floppy Disks. Somewhere, somebody has the technology to read these.

Though I consider myself very organized, I was flabbergasted to find how many of the same type of thing (e.g. DVDs) were scattered in different places. I consider this the real value in Kondo’s suggestion to hold everything you own to see if it sparks joy. If you actually go through all of your things, then you know where all of your things are. The joy thing is secondary, really, and to me just means don’t keep anything for the sake of keeping it. Only keep it if you want it.

I wish I could say that the house looks ship shape. I am nearly through the third category, which is the large and nearly all-encompassing miscellaneous items (komono). However, I haven’t decided how I am going to store everything that I am keeping, and have piles scattered around the house. I am waiting to get everything done before making the final decisions. Still, even though things appear messy, everything just feels lighter. Boxes are lighter, drawers slide easier, there’s more space surrounding things and more sunlight coming in the windows – it’s wonderful.

I, however, am exhausted. I’ve barely slept all week. I’ve stayed up late tidying, then been unable to fall asleep. This weekend we’ll tackle the garage, and for the first time, I feel that I have a real handle on how to do that. Maybe then I’ll be able to get some sleep.

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My Four-and-Three-Quarters Year Old

Just how many years can a child go to preschool? This four-and-three-quarters year old just finished up her third year, and thanks to the strict no-testing policy of our school district, she will have to return for one more year before she ages into kindergarten. She loves her teacher and her friends, and already has a litany of items lined up for next year’s show-and-tell, so at least she’s excited to go back.

2016 PVCP Spring Sonja

Sonja’s preschool picture

Just how many height-weight checks can a child have? This year, I’ve taken Sonja in quarterly for this ritual, by request of her doctor. The office has vastly improved the print outs for the growth chart, but the numbers are still the same. 1% in height and weight. I’d like to say now that this has taken a greater toll on my psyche than I originally realized. There is literally nothing I can do to influence her size. I mean, look at me, I’m a tiny speck of a human being, and she is my offspring. But logic simply cannot refute the most basic instinct to feel like it’s all my fault.

Just how many episodes of The Odd Squad can a preschooler binge-watch? I actually think this show is pretty cute. They had me at “Symmetric Al.” It’s all about math and she’s actually learning something. When we were at the grocery store yesterday and I bought two avocados, she said, very enthusiastically, that if I bought two more, I’d have four. The guy standing next to us chuckled.

Just how many times can one read through the entirety of Where the Sidewalk Ends? Apparently, after at least four months of nightly readings, we hit our limit. Now, she’s complaining that she’s read all of her books too many times. I forsee many trips to the library in our future.

Just how late can someone under five stay up? Lately the stalling tactics include begging for food, which reminds me that I need to reinstate the hard line on the 8:00 snack time, and asking for more stories (even though she’s read them all) so that she can spend more time with me. I know that I worked more these past two months than I have the rest of the year, but it’s still a part-time job, and she gets to spend plenty of time with me. I’ve gotta hand it to her, though, it’s expert manipulation. She hits upon my weak points – my fear that she’s not getting enough to eat and my guilt about being a working parent.

She sleeps in weird positions

She sleeps in weird positions

Just how quickly can an almost five-year-old mess up a newly painted and reorganized room? Really, really quickly. In late March, I painted her room green (by request) and we finally got her a big girl bed, which she loves. I toyed with the idea of taking a picture of the way the room looks now, but better to remember this brief moment of cleanliness.

Sonja's preschool pictute

The newly renovated room

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New headboard and nightstand

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Closet full o’ stuffed animals

And just how many adventures can a four-and-three-quarters year old have? Never enough!

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Face painting at the spring fair

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Driving a car at the spring fair

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Helping mom cook

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Playing at the park on an unseasonably warm May day

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Having a picnic in the shade.

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Picture with a mermaid at the preschool spring festival

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Sonja dressed up as Elsa and thoroughly enjoying her special day at preschool

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Playing with the parachute

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She really wanted a picture with Geoffrey the Giraffe. Just not any closer than that.

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So excited about her brand new bicycle

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Neon/fluorescent kid paradise

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At a fun park on an unseasonably cool June day

Drawing by Sonja

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My To Do List

One of the perks of teaching is the break between quarters. In about a week, I’ll get some much needed time off. However, I am determined not to completely waste this time, as I did the last break, and the break before that. I realized that the problem with the last two breaks was not having a plan. As a teacher, I have to plan and plan and plan, and when I’m done planning, I like to sit on the couch and binge-watch something. While I still plan to do that during this break, it’s not the only thing I want to do.

There are a million things I can think of to do, and I have a tendency to want to do them all at one time. Anything less would be a failure. I get really psyched about a project, like cleaning out the garage, only to find myself in a state of despair an hour after I start, looking at the virtually unchanged mess in front of me, wondering why I even bothered. I decide to start on another project and in no time at all, I’ve got exactly squat accomplished.

So heading into the break, I know two things. First, I need a list. I need to select a few of the things I want to do and that have a reasonable chance of being accomplished in the time that I have, write them down, and stick with them. Second, this house has hit critical mass. I’m a little torn about this. I think with a little more space, everything would be fine. We’re not exactly hoarders. (Well, I’m not. I’m not sure about the other two residents.) However, this house with its three bedrooms, two-and-a-quarter baths, two living areas and dining room, isn’t that small either. In any event, none of the little projects or updates or even deep cleaning I’m always thinking about can get done without first freeing up some space. I stacked some Goodwill-bound boxes in the hall so long ago that they think they’re furniture, but I know that there’s much more that needs to go and I really only want to go once.

Two weeks ago, I decided I would need to make a list of cleaning projects and set a date to donate. Of course, I couldn’t just sit down and write a list, so as the idea marinated in my brain, I wound up at the library borrowing The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the Japanese self-help manual that encourages people to de-hoarde by holding all their possessions to see if they “spark joy.”

The idea that possessions can spark joy certainly sounds looney tunes, but when something like this plants itself so firmly in pop culture that my favorite shows and comedians are joking about it, curiosity kills the cat. In that vein, I’m sort-of enjoying this book. Kondo has some cogent ideas. Her insistence to clean by category and not room, and all at once, are ideas I can support. Unfortunately, the advice to thank your possessions for their service to you is just bizarre enough for me to understand. I’m sure that my spatula doesn’t need to be thanked, but I get the idea of me needing to thank it. It’s part of the thought process that one has to go through to get rid of things, and the idea of letting yourself have those thoughts, whether in your head or, if absolutely necessary, out loud, in order to let go of them seems perfectly reasonable to me.

I don’t know that I can completely declutter in the time I have. She doesn’t recommend that. But the goals of the book add some direction to my burgeoning list, and more importantly, have me excited to get to work. I’m also a little nervous, but anytime I have been really brutal with a particular space, keeping only what I need, I’ve been happier and the order has lasted longer.

Below is the aforementioned list of things I want to do, in addition to the stuff I have to do, like watch my kid, and the stuff I want to do, like cooking and exercising. This  list is still in beta. I still have to teach one day next week and turn in grades, so the quarter isn’t done yet and my break hasn’t officially started.  In other words, there’s still time.

To-Do List

3-week meal plan

Write quarterly Sonja update

Take Sonja to the doctor for quarterly height-weight check; take myself for triptan reup.

Read, read, read. Also, binge-watch, binge-watch, binge-watch.

Writing other than for this blog.

Declutter clothes, books and, if time, the miscellaneous category as described by Kondo.

Clean the garage on a weekend with Shaun. (This doesn’t fit the KonMari method in that it’s cleaning by room, but it really can’t be ignored any longer.)

Organize all digital photos by year and make new back-up discs.

Declutter computer work files.

Trip to Goodwill.

Trip to county dump.

 

 

 

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My Tour Merch

Five years ago, while on vacation in San Francisco, I picked up a tank top in one of those little tourist traps on the pier. It was blue, said, “San Francisco” on the front, and retailed for about $2. As you might expect of a $2 shirt, I found that it wasn’t exactly perfect. It seemed to be sewed a little crooked. I put it in my pajama drawer where it still lives today. It still lives there because I still wear it. All the time.

It is in this way that I find tank tops to be ever-so-versatile. It is why I wish and wish that when I went merchandise shopping at a concert, they would have at least one tank top for sale. That has never happened.

After years of accumulating concert t-shirts that are now living a life of solitude in an extra drawer, I decided a few years ago that I should stop buying them. But, without sounding too consumerist, I knew I had to buy something at the show to add to my Paul Simon collection. I mean, it’s Paul Simon. Things bought at shows and on vacations are the best things, because they have sentimental value and they live our lives with us, instead of being whisked off to Goodwill with the season’s change. So, with no tank tops available, I went with an overpriced hoodie, because next to the tank top, a hoodie is probably the most useful thing in my wardrobe. Do I wish the design was a little more intricate? Yes. Do I wish it was a slightly less drab color? Yes. Do I wish that when the hood was down, it didn’t cover the little design that the shirt actually has? A thousand times yes. But it’s soft and warm and come fall I will wear it, so it’s much better than having to add to that overstuffed drawer.

The Back

The Back

The Front

The Front

I also bought a key chain, because those are also quite useful, provided one uses them and doesn’t put them in a drawer or box as a memento. The older I get, the more I see the wisdom in using and loving the precious things you buy, instead of trying to preserve them forever. Does that sound like the plot to Toy Story 2 to you?

The Front or The Back (Depends on your perspective)

The Front or The Back (Depends on your perspective)

The Back or The Front (Depends on your perspective)

The Back or The Front (Depends on your perspective)

On the previous tour, I bought a poster, which hangs next to my desk in my office.

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I have found a few things more useful than a t-shirt at some of my shows, and the absolute best has to be the bag I bought at the Steely Dan show. I used this bag to carry (sheet) music, which makes sense for a bag bought at a concert. Plus, I love bags almost as much as I love tank tops, so it’s useful to me, even though I haven’t used it for a long time. I also got a free travel mug after signing up for a credit card. I still have the mug; I have no idea what happened to the credit card.

The Bag

The Bag

The Mug

The Mug

At a Pomplamoose show, my husband bought a hat, which he displays proudly but does not wear. We also bought a CD that is entitled, “the CD you bought at our show,” which is super handy for remembering that’s where it came from.

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At the last Caspar Babypants show, I bought these adorable magnets that were designed by his wife. They are sturdy and strong and are great for hanging kid art on the ‘fridge. (Although they simply would not get any closer to each other than this for their picture.)

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We bought a CD at the same show.

Signed by Caspar himself.

Signed by Caspar himself.

And then there are all the t-shirts. I wore the white Paul Simon one to the show last week, because I wanted to give it some love. It’s nearly old enough to vote. Of the four I have, it’s definitely my favorite design, and it probably fits slightly better than the gray and black ones, whose boxy fit and high-collars scream, “this shirt was made for a man!” The one that was actually made for a woman barely covers my belly button, which leads me to believe I bought it back when jeans were made NOT to show your ass crack every time you bent over.

The Fronts

The Fronts

The Backs

The Backs

So all of the shirts got trotted out for a little photo shoot, and are now back to hibernating in their drawer. I’ll keep them, because of the sentimental value, and who knows, maybe super giant boxy shirts will be back in fashion some day. One thing is for certain; Tank tops will never go out of style.

One of these is too big, one is too small.

One of these is too big, one is too small.

I actually wore the purple one out .

I actually wore the purple one out .

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Bob Dylan and Paul Simon were touring together in 1999. The white Paul Simon shirt is from that tour. This shirt is from a Bob Dylan solo show.

The Front

The Front

The Back

The Back

The Tank

The Tank

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My Recurring Dream

If you know me, you know I am Paul Simon’s #1 fan. Not in a Kathy Bates Misery kind of way, but definitely in a Nick Hornby High Fidelity crazy obsessive kind of way. Tomorrow night, I will see him live in concert for the fifth time. Fifth!* According to my records, I’ve been attending his shows since 1999. I think the only show I missed that took place within a few hundred miles of my home was the Simon & Garfunkel tour, and yes…yes I do regret that. #whatthehellwasIthinking?

I’ve also spent an extensive amount of time writing about seeing Paul Simon live. Again, after checking my records, I found I have two complete stories about seeing Paul live the first two times, and one incomplete and unsure-of-itself story about the third time. Re-reading the third story reminded me that I was in France when the tickets went on sale, and had to call home to get my parents to purchase the tickets for me. I apparently did so from a pay phone. My oh my, how times change. Continue reading

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My System for Pictures

I remember, very clearly, my French teacher in college commending me on my organizational skills. She said that it must take a lot of time to stay so organized, and I said no, actually, it didn’t take much time at all. Then, I conceded that it may have taken some time to set up initially, but that the upkeep was easy.

I remember this because I have always been an extremely organized person, and extremely proud of it. After I became a mother, I sensed that my organizational skills were slipping. However, the dent in my otherwise pristine skills that motherhood made has nothing on the massive system failure that occurred after I started teaching. As I said, I am a very organized person, so when I found myself drowning in papers, I started to wonder how people, not as organized as I, can even survive as teachers.

I have finally gotten my head above water, but I’m still working out the kinks in what is a large and, from what I can tell, ever-changing system. As such, I can’t share any words of teacher’s organizational wisdom with you just yet, but I did notice, during one of my cleaning sessions, a major flaw with my system for organizing pictures on my computer.

I don’t actually take all that many pictures, given how ridiculously easy it is to do now. Some people take thousands of pictures a year. I’d say I’m somewhere in the hundreds. But I do have thousands stored on my computer, and I had been storing them in folders that were grouped by subject and sometimes year, like Hawaii, Jun ’06. Pictures that were not as easily categorized just resided in the parent folder, pictures. And so it was that when Sonja was born, she got her own folder for her pictures on the computer. A folder which grew and grew and grew, with more pictures than I had ever taken before. When I needed to organize the folder, I grouped the pictures by year. Not the calendar year, but her age. So within ages 3-4, the pictures were named A_Sep 2014, all the way to K_Aug 2015. Pictures that didn’t include Sonja lived in the parent folder.

A few days ago, when I was searching for a picture and I couldn’t find it because I was looking in the Sonja folder and not the parent pictures folder, I realized that my daughter is not a category! Why, I wondered, did that take so long to figure out? Maybe because the cat and the dog each have their own folders. Maybe because she’s a category in my filing cabinet. (That file, by the way, is named baby, because the folder was started before she was born, and before she had a name. The file contains hospital information, ultrasounds, her birth certificate and various information from her check-ups. I haven’t bothered to change the file name because I suspect the whole idea of a filing cabinet is on the brink of becoming an anachronism.)

Sonja also has her own baby book, with pictures and stories all about her. I have a baby book and so does my husband, and that’s all that we have to refer to if we want to take a trip down memory lane. Sonja’s book doesn’t contain a fraction of the information available on this blog, nor a fraction of the pictures on my hard drive, and it probably will be accessed a fraction as much as this blog when I want to take that memory lane drive.

Somehow the crystal clear digital age has made so many things so very blurry. And that, I think, was why I didn’t see the obvious – pictures should simply be grouped by year. Calendar year. If I want to see a picture from her birth, I know what year to look in. It may be harder to remember just exactly when that decade old Hawaiian vacation occurred, but now I can tag the pictures for easy searching should my memory fail me on the dates.

I’ve also realized that this new system, which I am currently finalizing, will make it easier to back up my pictures. I always back up my pictures, but it gets really messy trying to figure out what I’ve backed up and what I haven’t. Yes, Hawaii Jun ’06 has been backed up, but how many pictures in the Sonja folder have been archived, and how many need to be? Same with the Sid folder. You get the idea. It’ll be much easier just to have one back up disc per year (providing all the pics from one year can fit on one disc – fingers crossed.)

This new system also saves me the hassle of separating where the pictures came from. I used to separate cell phone pics because the quality was so much lower, and I had some unfounded fear that I might actually try to print them. It’s really a moot point now. Even though the cell phone pic might not be as good as a camera pic, the print would still be fine, or if it wasn’t, I’d only be out like 19 cents. That is much better than not being able to find a picture I’m looking for because I don’t remember that I took it on my cell phone.

This system makes absolute logical sense, which I like and which appeals to my organizational side. But I hate undoing work that I have done, because, even though the system isn’t working, it’s an old and tested system, and I’d hate to forget something that turned out to be a really good idea. This fear is what separates college me from current me (well, one of many things.) I know now that organization in college did take time, I just didn’t notice it because I enjoyed doing it so much. I organized and reorganized all the time. Now I worry about embarking on any projects because I’m going to get interrupted, and half-done organization is no organization at all, so why bother? Current me just wants to stick with the broken system because it’s in place, but old, organizational me won’t go for that. She’ll slap me silly until I get everything in the right place.

So what do you think? How do you organize your digital photos, or do you?

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My Ms. Jackson

There’s a reason that I consider reinstating the Facebook hiatus I’ve been talking about all year – perhaps even permanently – and her name is Shirley Jackson.

I needed things to read during the hiatus, so I turned to my Goodreads “want-to-read” page and scrolled through. I quickly settled on a book called, Life Among the Savages because I like the memoir/autobiography genre, and I like stories about parenting, and it was available at the library. I couldn’t remember who’d recommended this book to me, but it didn’t matter. I needed content.

The library’s copy was well-worn, a paperback that could have stemmed from the book’s original publication in 1953. I started in, and by the time I read this passage on page two, where Jackson is talking about life with her kids, I was a fangirl.

I cannot think of a preferable way of life, but then I have had to make a good many compromises, all told.

I look around sometimes at the paraphernalia of our living – sandwich bags, typewriters, little wheels off things – and marvel at the complexities of civilization with which we surround ourselves; would we be pleased, I wonder, at a wholesale elimination of these things, so that we were reduced only to necessities (coffeepot, typewriters, the essential little wheels off things) and then – this happening usually in the springtime – I begin throwing things away, and it turns out that although we can live agreeably without the little wheels off things, new little wheels turn up almost immediately. This is, I suspect, progress. They can make new little wheels, if not faster than they can fall off things, at least faster than I can throw them away.

This passage was written in 1953 but change “typewriter” to “computer” and as far as I’m concerned, it could have been written  yesterday. I might concede the writing has somewhat of an old-fashioned feel to it, if only because we rarely see sentences and paragraphs and stories constructed with such skill in our current environment, where everyone must share everything they are thinking about immediately. There are plenty of other details throughout the memoir that alert the reader to its time frame, like the author reaching for a cigarette when she went into labor, but the parenting challenges and the house tribulations and the basic necessities of domesticity all relatable to me in the year 2016.

Here’s another favorite passage of mine.

I have always believed, against all opposition, that women think in logical sequence, but it was not until I came to empty the pockets of my light summer coat that year that I realized how thoroughly the housekeeping mind falls into the list pattern, how basically the idea of a series of items, following one another docilely, forms the only possible reasonable approach to life if you have to live it with a home and a husband and children, none of whom would dream of following one another docilely.

There’s so much happening in this one sentence, but it’s the dry wit with which she ends it that is at the heart of Jackson’s writing. I love the juxtaposition of the logical list with the chaotic family. I haven’t wanted to be an author this much since I first read Nick Hornby.

After I finished Life Among the Savages, I had to read more of her stuff. But I found myself in the odd position of having fallen for an author outside of her genre. Shirley Jackson is more of a Stephen King than a Nick Hornby, but I never would’ve guessed it after reading Savages. Luckily, she published another memoir, Raising Demons, before she died at the age of 48, and her kids published a posthumous compilation of short stories, essays and lectures called, Let Me Tell You.

After having read all about her personal life, I felt like I owed it to the woman to read her most famous work, a short story called, The Lottery, which is excellent. The writing is immediately recognizable as Jackson’s, and while it is hard to be surprised by a “surprise” ending, when everyone everywhere tells you, “oh that story has a really surprising ending,” I’m still haunted by it, which is pretty surprising.

I’ve decided when I finish Raising Demons, I’ll have to move on. I won’t read any more of Jackson’s fiction, though I imagine I might read some of the memoirs again. I am so happy that I found my way to Shirley Jackson this year. Reading works like Life Among the Savages remind me not only of how much I enjoy reading, but what I’m striving for as a writer. And I don’t care if the story is from the 1950s or the 1650s or 2015, there’s just nothing better than reading something written by a kindred spirit.

I believe that a story can be made out of any such small combination of circumstances, set up to best advantage and decorated with some use of the imagination; I began writing stories about my children because, more than any other single thing in the world, children possess a kind of magic that makes much of what they do so oddly logical and yet so incredible to grown-ups. (from the compilation Let Me Tell You)

So how about it, dear readers… Who’s your favorite author?

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My Peripherals

If you look to the top right of this page, you’ll see a quote that says, “never admit you can type.*” It’s from State and Main, and I think it’s hilarious. The obvious implication is that if you admit you can type, people will want you to type for them, and the last thing you (or I) want to do is type for somebody else. Typing is boring, but when you do it as fast as I do (in the 100 wpm range), it’s a handy skill to have, particularly if you fancy yourself a writer.

I don’t know if I can pin it on my typing speed, or perhaps all the years of being a flute player, but I’m picky about key action. The standard-issue Dell POS keyboard that’s currently hooked up to your work computer just ain’t gonna cut it. I’ve tested and typed on many keyboards over the years, but for the last ten years or so, I’ve been typing on a sublime Logitech keyboard that I adore, and that Logitech doesn’t make anymore. There is no mushiness; the keys bounce back right away. And the keys cradle your fingers so that your hands feel anchored and stable. It makes a sharp, high clicking sound, one that lets others know you’re typing but doesn’t make you physically ill like the sound of someone trying to use an ergonomic keyboard.

 

Perfection

Perfection

Though not related to typing, this keyboard also had volume control buttons on the right side, parallel to the number pad, and eventually I came to wonder why every keyboard manufacturer doesn’t do this. It’s the P-E-R-F-E-C-T place. My keyboard sits on a keyboard drawer, and when I’m not in full composition mode, it tends to rest half under the desk. So when I need to control the volume, instead of rolling the tray out and finding the button at the top, I could just slide my hand over from the mouse and turn it down. Pure, unadulterated genius.

Volume Control

Volume Control

A few years ago, Sonja broke one of the little kickstands that props the keyboard up, and while I consider this an essential feature, the keyboard and I soldiered on. Thus, I was very sad a few weeks ago when I started having issues with the keyboard. For instance, words that I only typed once started appearing twice. I changed the batteries but that didn’t help. I knew it might be time to put the old workhorse out to pasture, but what on earth could I buy to replace it? What do typists type on?

The internet recommended another Logitech, which is what I’m typing this post on. Gone are the side volume controls, and the finger-cradling keys. But the distance of the key press is shorter, and I might have to admit the response is quicker. I haven’t yet put away the old one – I have tried replacing it before and always come back home. But in this keyboard I may have found a new friend, even though I desperately do not want to admit it. So much so that two weeks in, I still haven’t taken the sheer plastic covering off.

New perfection?

New perfection?

On a related note, I also replaced my mouse. This isn’t as big a deal to me, but I did like my old one with two side control buttons and used it profusely to edit, back when I was editing. I must admit the new mouse, while not quite as comfortable, has so many other great features and advanced technology that I like it better. The only thing that bothers me is the oddly loud clicking noise, but it’s offset by the new, quieter keyboard keys.

So what about you? What do you type on?

 

*Unless you’re reading this post in the future and I’ve changed it.

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My Deprivation

I started this year out on a note of deprivation, vowing to kick my Facebook habit for three months. The experiment went fairly well, with only a few minor slip-ups. I got a significant amount of time back, and I used it to read words by people who put some thought into what they were going to say, and then ran those thoughtfully chosen words by an editor. Thus, the unexpected joy of this “deprivation” led me to undertake other deprivations.

I did a one-month dairy cleanse in February, or more accurately, a 3-week dairy cleanse. (I’ve done plenty of dairy cleanses before, with good reason, and I have over the years learned a little bit more about what my stomach can tolerate.) Somewhere in there, I decided to cut back on sugar, and I blame this and lack of preparation for throwing me off the non-dairy cow.

After getting back on the dairy bandwagon, I decided to try a sugar-detox, wherein not only can you eat no added sugar, you can eat nothing your body processes as sugar, such as fruit or bread or legumes. Had I not given up this pursuit almost immediately, I surely would’ve failed when I started teaching two classes for the first time. The low-carb, paleo and sugar detox ways of life market themselves as effective and science-based, and reasonable as those claims may be, I do not see them as anything more than another diet fad along the lines of Atkins.

As I reflect upon the various deprivations I undertook, it leads me to the not-unique conclusion that the immediacy of our current culture takes away some of the joy of life – of just being in the moment. It seems like such a sneaky and exhilarating way to “cheat” getting fat by letting yourself eat to your heart’s content, the only caveat being that you can’t eat one particular food or food group. But depriving yourself of one food eventually sucks the fun out of eating four helpings of the other food. (And hey, guess what?!? Diets don’t work!) It really is better just to be moderate and sensible in your eating, or your social media, or whatever else it is you blame for ruining your life. Yes, it’s harder too. I’m guessing that it’s harder than it used to be, before the advent of the internet and overnight shipping and midnight chats with long lost acquaintances, but I could be wrong about that. If there’s anything the extra reading I undertook taught me, it’s that after changes upon changes, we are more or less the same. (More on that in a forthcoming post.)

So the tally for the deprivations is Facebook-1, sugar and dairy-0. I would easily undertake another Facebook cleanse, and am really considering logging off until after the election. But bread and cheese, you’re here to stay.

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My Four-and-a-Half Year Old

“Why does the power hafta go out?” my four-and-a-half year old repeatedly asked me last weekend. “Well, it doesn’t have to,” I told her, “I just think it might because it’s so windy outside.” Cue the flicker and the familiar zap/whir of all the lights and electric gadgets shutting off simultaneously. Since it was still daytime, I think Sonja thought I’d just turned off the TV. “What was that pop?” she asked. “The lights went out,” I said. “Yeah, but why did it pop?” she asked again. This continued for several minutes. You get the picture.

We entertained ourselves for a while, playing games and lighting candles. As dinnertime approached, we were all getting bored. We went out to pizza at the best place in town, where Sonja gets to make her own pizza and tell the cooks, “pie up!” To which they respond, loud enough for the entire restaurant to hear, “PIE UP!” and put her pizza in the oven.

Returning home, it looked like we had power. Everybody else around us had power. We clicked the button on the garage door opener. Nothing happened, but that didn’t mean anything. We have to hit that button a minimum of fifty times to get the door to open. Unfortunately, this time, we didn’t actually have power. It was just our street, where a line had been downed. About 6 houses total. Around the region, 150,000 other houses were sans electricity. At this point, we figured we were in it for the long haul.

At 7:30, we made the unanimous decision to spend the night at my parents’ house. Some of this decision was influenced by the fact it was going to be a long night with a scared child in our own house, and some of it was influenced by the fact that without electricity to power his C-PAP machine, my husband (and I) will at the least get a very terrible night’s sleep, and at worst, die (or be killed by me when I can no longer stand the snoring.)

We gathered all the food we wanted to salvage and packed our bags for a night away. Sonja loves packing. She keeps asking if she can pack to go to Canada, a trip we may or may not take this summer. So she was all over this like peanut butter on jelly. She got her backpack and the toys she wanted, clothes, and a few bedtime stories. Packing for an overnight trip is much harder in the dark, and when you are trying to transport the entire contents of your refrigerator and freezer, a life-saving electrical device, a gallon of distilled water to use in the life-saving electrical device, and whatever armload of items that your child hasn’t looked at in months but simply cannot do without for one night. And the dog.

Once we got to the house, put away all the food, and unpacked our things, I then got Sonja into bed, stories read, and nightlight on. That’s when the screaming began. She didn’t want to stay at Grandma’s. She wanted to go home. “But we have no power,” I said. “You’ll have to sleep in the dark.” “But, I don’t want to stay heeeere!” she cried. The dog and I agreed to stay in the room with her until she fell asleep.

At 5 a.m., the screaming recommenced. This time, Sonja said she saw an ant in her bed. Since Shaun was getting ready to leave for work, she got into bed next to me. A few hours later, when she finally got up, I was the only adult person left in the house. A quick check of our security cameras let me know that power had been restored to our own abode, about 13 hours after it left us. So I made the beds, packed up all the groceries and all our stuff, and the dog. 50 button presses later, the garage door opened and I unpacked all of the groceries, all of our stuff, and the dog. By 10:00 a.m., I was feeling like I’d done more than a day’s work. And that’s when the questions started again, in earnest. “Mom, when will the power go out again so we can stay at Grandma’s?”

And that’s pretty much everything you need to know about a four-and-a-half year old.

Christmas morning with the "chocolate-making thing" that she asked Santa for.

Christmas morning with the “chocolate-making thing” that she asked Santa for.

 

 

New haircut.

New haircut.

Kids' Build day at the Home Depot.

Kids’ Build day at the Home Depot.

Playing in muddy puddles.

Playing in muddy puddles.

Sound asleep and hanging on for the ride.

Sound asleep and hanging on for the ride.

No power.

No power. 3-13-16

 

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