My (Non) Weather Event

The Northwest and the Puget Sound region in particular are famous for seeing a flake of snow and immediately clearing shelves in grocery stores and hunkering down in our houses, bracing for the worst. But, since we live in the Northwest, nothing particularly remarkable happens. Usually.

A few days ago, we started hearing rumblings of a windstorm that would rival the region’s 1962 Columbus Day storm, where wind gusts upwards of 80 miles an hour downed trees and power lines, and caused memorable chaos. My initial thought was, oh thank God, we’re finally going to have something to talk about besides the election. Though I don’t usually do this, I turned on the news last night to get the latest weather update. The storm, itself remnants of Typhoon Songda, was no longer going to rival ’62’s Big Blow, but it could reach the level of 2006’s Hanukkah Eve storm. I for one did not realize that storm had a name, but do remember it. We were out of power in our apartment complex for a few days, and I permanently marked our brand new kitchen table with purple candle wax.

This year’s “wind-pocalypse” was set to hit us in the late afternoon or early evening hours today, so I went to the store this morning and bought a big flashlight and an LED lantern. I was, so help me, “preparing,” just as the news suggested I do. Now, this might not seem like much. “Big deal, you bought a flashlight,” you might be saying. But I don’t believe in preparing for Pacific Northwest weather, because our local media has a tendency to blow things out of proportion. I already have flashlights. I already have candles. And surprisingly enough, my faucets are not electric, so I can get water from them even when the power is out. But that’s how bored I was. I watched too much news coverage, and I ran to the store like a lemming.

And then, come 5 o’clock, a few leaves descended from the trees, making their way peacefully to the soggy ground. Storm of the century.


There have been a few memorable weather events in the northwest, but none that I ever prepared for, and I’m still here. The most memorable was 2012’s ice storm. That one actually changed our landscape, when the tine of a three-tined tree broke off, leaving us with a two-tined tree. It was also memorable because our daughter was only four-months old, and we were struggling to keep her warm and heat bottles of formula under hot tap water. And nobody predicted that storm; no one even knew to be prepared.

The Ice-Storm

The Ice-Storm

Sonja's First --pocalypse.

Sonja’s First –pocalypse.

Then there was that time a few years ago (sorry can’t remember and can’t find it online) when it snowed and it took Shaun 10 hours to get home from Redmond. That was pretty memorable. Especially for him.

And last spring we lost power for a day when a tree fell on a power line on our street. That was memorable for being the second time that year we lost power, and one of only a handful of times we’ve lost power.

Today was unremarkable and insufferably boring, but I’ll always have the flashlights to remind me not to take the forecast too seriously.

Totally prepared and completely underwhelmed

Totally prepared and completely underwhelmed



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My Five-Year-Old Well-Child

I’ve spent the past year taking Sonja for quarterly height and weight checks, at the request of her doctor, to keep an eye on her steady but slow growth. When the doctor first suggested this, I asked what on earth could possibly be wrong or be done to correct it. He said, if I recall correctly, something about potential developmental issues, of which Sonja has never had any.

So it was a surprise to me when Sonja and I left her well-child check and I realized not a single thing had been said about her height or her weight. I guess we’re done caring about that now. Personally, once I realized that I didn’t actually have to wait for Sonja to grow out of her clothing to buy her new clothing – that I, as an adult with income could just buy her new clothes if I felt like it – I let it go. As I have reiterated time and time again, there is literally nothing I can do to make her conform to American growth standards. I want to note that while it is a struggle for me to find pants that fit Sonja – jeans are pretty much out of the question – she had a pair of hand-me-down shorts that came from France and she outgrew them. In the waist. She has size 12 month shorts that she hasn’t outgrown the waist.* Perhaps she is just the victim of American sizing.

The doc agreed with me that she is ready to start school, but here’s yet another situation I can do nothing about. Since she’s such a picky eater, I’ve decided to use Sonja’s pre-kindergarten gap year to get her more comfortable with lunchbox foods. We’re working on ham sandwiches.

And that’s about all she wrote for the checkup. She’s 39 inches and just shy of 30 pounds. She did not need vaccines this time, but I made her get a flu shot, which she was not happy about. She seemed to have a really good time telling everyone that she DID NOT like getting a flu shot, though.

She also went to the dentist this week. She kept asking me, “Mom, when can I go to the dentist?” I think she sees it as little more than a ride in a chair and a prize at the end. She doesn’t like the flavor of the polish and I don’t blame her. The dentist says her arch looks great as do her teeth. No indications of decay. He praised me for doing well with brushing at home, but, due to a general lack of supervision, I think it’s a combination of good genetics (solely and completely on Dad’s side) and the fact she doesn’t drink soda or juice and doesn’t like candy all that much. Except for chocolate. Some apples don’t fall far from the tree.

When Sonja was a baby, I used to think I wouldn’t make it the two or three months between scheduled doctor visits. I had so many questions. Now, the scheduled visits are a year apart, which is remarkable not because I think it’s too long but because it feels so short. It feels like two or three months between visits. I take her to the dentist twice a year and that feels like we’re there every week. Time is hurtling along, so I’ll see everybody again in a couple of months for the six-year write up.

*I have no idea what size the European shorts were. They could have been 12 months.


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My 5-Year-Old

Jumping for joy that she's 5!

Jumping for joy that she’s 5!

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen a couple of posts in which I lament that my mid-September baby, who is overwhelmingly ready for kindergarten, can’t go to kindergarten because she just misses the cutoff. When I complain about this, people kindly say that at least she will do really well when she finally starts school. I am not an obtuse person but this makes no sense to me. What is the point of delaying this development? Are we really, as a nation, that fearful of Bs and Cs and grades that show that work is needed? Work is good.

But then I think, because I am nothing if not introspective, about the real issue at hand. Is it that she is ready for school and I am mad at the system for being so bureaucratically rigid, or is it that I, whose birthday is the cutoff date, was always the youngest in my class and know my daughter will, for her entire school career, have a very different experience than I did? That would not necessarily be a bad thing.


If you ask Sonja, she is excited to go back to preschool and meet her new teacher, but she would also really like to ride on the school bus.

She is ready, though. She can write all her letters, spell and write her name, and read a few small words like the, go, zoo and no. We are working on reading with learn-to-read books. When I leave her bedroom at night (still a terrible ordeal), and she complains that she can’t sleep, I tell her she can read a book to herself. She finds the one she wants and looks through the pages. When I go in to check on her, I usually find the book open and propped up against the wall or a stuffed animal, as if being exalted.

Sonja is (still) very independent. She picks out her own clothes with the assistance of a small chair, and dresses herself. She buckles herself into her car seat. She insists on helping me with anything I’m doing, like laundry or cooking, because anything I can do, she can do better. The one thing that she shows no interest in doing whatsoever is cleaning up after herself. At least at home. She’ll do it in a group or at school. When I ask her to clean her room, she says, “but Mo-om, I like it messy.”


She doesn’t have as many temper tantrums these days (still a few), but there are battles of will over things such as cleaning up, going to bed, or entertaining herself for 10 minutes while Mom finishes the dishes. The other day she yelled that she didn’t love me anymore because I was always yelling at her, which was heartbreaking in its reminder that my impatience has impact on her, and terrifying in its preview of teenage dramatics.

We have Netflix and she knows how to use it. She will watch the same show for a couple of weeks (sometimes the same exact episodes), and then she’ll move on. She loves going to the movies. I took her to see The Secret Life of Pets on my birthday. She loved it. And we rented the new version of The Jungle Book, which I thought might be too scary for her, but which she also loved, because Mowgli defeated the scary lion tiger. She had a pair of tan cargo shorts that I tried and failed to get her to wear this summer, until she watched The Jungle Book and decided that those most closely resembled Mowgli’s shorts. She doesn’t love everything she watches. Notable exceptions were The Good Dinosaur and Home, and I agree with her on both fronts there. Those were terrible movies.

For reasons I don’t understand and won’t remember, I decided to try Pokemon Go. Sonja loves spinning Pokestops and catching Pokemon for me. She’s pretty good at it, and she already understands video games so well it’ll only be a couple of months before she surpasses me.

I remember Shaun and I wondering, when Sonja was an infant, what she would be like when she got a little older. At age 5, she is smart; she is precocious; she is musical; she is verbal; she is outgoing; she is easily frustrated; She is a picky eater. But more than anything else, she is happy. You won’t meet a happier 5-year-old, you just won’t. We love you Sonja, and we can’t wait to see what year 5 brings.




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Mining My Own History

I’ve been doing some fine-toothed decluttering and reorganizing that of my past which I wish to keep. And what do I wish to keep? Writing, apparently. I came across a very nice, three-ring purple binder full of old material, neatly organized and divided into categories of time and place. As I flipped through it, the tabs came off the dividers, the glue being so old as to have disintegrated. I went back to the beginning – the very first tab – which was labeled “favorites.” I turned to the first story, Peter, William and Mary, completed on April 22, 2003. As I began to read, I didn’t know what the story was about. The introduction rambled, and I was embarrassed for myself. But then, I got to the point and I wound up with a story that I actually liked. I liked it for two reasons. First, I like it when I see my current self in my old writing. It probably sounds narcissistic, but life is constantly changing, and people (including you!) are constantly changing, so to recognize myself in writing I did 13 years ago makes me feel permanent. When I describe London’s weather as “ass-numbingly cold” and write lines like, “the fact that I was not having a good time only spoke to the fact I never had a good time,” I say, “yup, that’s me.” The second reason I like it is because I’m SOOOO f***ing glad I wrote this stuff down. I wrote this piece about London, two years after I was in London, and as I reread it, I realized I had forgotten most of the situations I described. So, although it may again sound narcissistic, thank you, past self, for being smart enough to write this shit down. (Just so you know, I don’t think all my old stuff is good. I have a whole section of teenage girl poetry and – yeesh – Maya Angelou I wasn’t.)

School is starting in our district. Sonja can’t attend, for just missing the cutoff, and because she is so smart and so well-adjusted, it’s killing me that she has to wait. In my mirthier moments, I think, “what will become of her gap year? Surely, she’ll be too old by the end of high school and have to go straight to college.” I myself did not have a “gap year” as that was not a thing 15 years ago, and probably won’t be 15 years from now after someone does damning but inaccurate research on its consequences. Still, I took time at the end of my college career, when I was ready to graduate a quarter early (or two quarters late depending on how you look at it), to do some exploring. And while all signs point to Sonja being a completely different person than I am, perhaps someday she will find this story interesting. And so it is that I share it with you.

Continue reading

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My Recipe Template

Behold the Template

Behold the Template

I am officially on summer break. I don’t have an official to-do list this time around, which is making me somewhat nervous that I’ll fritter away my time. I berated myself the other day for spending the few child-free hours I did have updating my recipe binder, until I realized that perhaps I was being an eensy bit hard on myself. I like my recipe binder. I have, for many years, put old-school, pre-mom attention to detail into it, making it as useful to me as possible. Old-school, pre-mom attention to detail is a very, very good thing.

The Big Blue Binder

The Big Blue Binder

Once upon a time, I thought of the recipe binder as a finite project. Cooking was a means to an end. It merited some attention as a domestic endeavor, but only in service of function. I did not anticipate that cooking would turn into a thing for me, or the hunger I would develop for trying new recipes. I have recipes that I love and that I make over and over again, but cooking for me, and thus the binder, is evolutionary. As I get better at cooking, I try different, more difficult recipes. As I more clearly recognize my taste preferences, I try different recipes that cater to them. And when I find recipe sources I like (Alton Brown, America’s Test Kitchen), I try their versions of old favorites.

As I have a few weeks to cook and experiment in the kitchen, I realized that now would be the perfect time to update and refine the recipe binder. I don’t add recipes to the binder until I have tested them and consider them binder-worthy. When I find such a recipe, I type it or copy it into a template I made. Then I print it and put it into a plastic sheet cover, so that when I’m cooking, I don’t ruin the paper. I put the sheet into the appropriate section of the binder, and voila! Instant cookbook.

Of course, due to the evolutionary process, some recipes are discarded in favor of stronger ones. And I don’t update everything instantly, so I eventually get a backlog that need to find their place among the worthy.

Binder Tabs

Binder Tabs

So why am I clogging up the internet with this piddly information? Well, I’ve decided to share the template (see picture at top.) If you’re still reading this blog, you may be a candidate to download the template, but believe me, you gotta want to be this organized. And you have to be a recipe person. More power to those of you that cook al fresco, but I have to have instructions. The only time I cook without a recipe is when I have the recipe memorized.

Wait, sorry, why am I doing this again? Because shit stuff like this is all over pinterest, and I think my version has more to offer. I borrowed the look of this template from several years ago (the recipes on their site no longer look like this), but I created it from scratch. The formatting is all set up and it’s easy to tweak if you know how. You don’t have to write anything by hand. Just type it up and print it out. I have a section for family member ratings, which you can use or delete. I used to have a section with nutritional info, but I found that hard to come by so I deleted it, but you could add it in. All you have to do to change the picture is click on the existing one and either import one you’ve taken or copy/paste one from the web and resize.

The recipe in the template is a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe; the picture of the cookies was taken by me. There’s plenty of room to add ingredients and instructions for more complicated recipes. Without further ado, for your downloading delight, here it is:

_Recipe Template


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My 2nd Day Tripper

Seattle and the Pacific Northwest have been having what you might call an abysmal summer. It’s been cold, windy and wet. There was this one nice day in May, and a day or two that neared 80 in July, but other than that, it’s been consistently un-summery. To make up for it, said weather decided it would give us a weekend with temperatures nearing 100 degrees.

A sweater was required for fourth of July fireworks this year.

A sweater was required for fourth of July fireworks this year.

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100 degrees is pretty rare around these parts, and we are ill-equipped to handle it. (Air-conditioning…What’s that?) However, when I saw the forecast, I was excited. I said way back at the beginning of summer that I would wait until we got a day that was too hot to handle – one of those late summer, hard-to-breathe days – and take a day trip to the ocean. Finally, that day was here.

This was going to be another impromptu trip, and when I mentioned it to my husband two days beforehand, he said he didn’t want to go. I had already promised Sonja a beach day, and I could not renege. She was much too excited. I decided I could handle the 4-hour round trip drive by myself.

Then, I decided to invite an out-of-town friend to meet us there. I was very surprised when she said yes to the short notice plan and travel. But then things started to evolve as things do, and on Saturday morning all three of us wound up headed down to her place in Vancouver, WA for a visit to the Columbia River. Where it would be 98 degrees.

Our first stop after arriving was lunch on the riverbank. We sat outside because it was such a beautiful view and it wasn’t that hot, right? We were obviously delirious from the heat. Before we made our decision, Sonja asked,  “if we sit outside, will there be shade?” I said that all of the tables had umbrellas, so yes, there would be shade. We were sat at the one table on the terrace that did not have an umbrella. By the time we left, which seemed like many hours later thanks to the slow service, we were heat weary.

The girls coloring.

The girls coloring.

Stepping into the river made a world of difference. I no longer thought I would die of heat stroke. Since Shaun isn’t fond of large bodies of water, I sent him Pokemon hunting while the rest of us alternated between wading in the river and building sand castles.


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In the Columbia River

In the Columbia River

When we got back to my friend’s place, we tested out the pool, but Sonja was getting tired and wasn’t happy that the shallow end was three-feet deep. So we returned to the air-conditioned apartment and prepared to head home.

Other than a quick stop at a non-air-conditioned pizza place, that was our trip. Unlike the previous daytrip, this was all play and no shopping. It was fun and exhausting and we all left a few shades darker than when we arrived.

None of this touches on the great conversations I had with my friend, with whom I wish to start a parenting podcast. I always leave with a new, “first show topic.” This time, it’s personal life assistants. Because you can’t be expected to take your own pictures and post them online by yourself.

Finally, I think Shaun caught several new Pokemon types, so we can all call this trip a resounding success. There’s still a little bit of summer left, and probably this is when we’ll get the bulk of our warm days. So, what’s next?

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My Library Fridays

Statistically speaking, parenting is 97% missed opportunities, lost tempers and general astonishment that someone you love so deeply could annoy you so greatly.* But, three percent of the time, something will go right and you, as a parent, will feel very accomplished, indeed.

I have been taking Sonja to several activities at the YMCA this summer to keep her entertained, but gymnastics, ballet and Tae Kwon Do add up to less than two hours a week. When she started to complain that she’d read her extensive collection of children’s literature too many times, I decided to institute regular trips to the library. Then I came up with a name for the trips – Library Friday.

I chose Fridays because I don’t work and there is a corresponding story time for preschoolers. Then, I came up with the name, because naming an idea automatically lends it credence and legitimacy. Giving it a schedule lends anticipation. Library Friday immediately became Sonja’s favorite day of the week. She gets to sing, listen to stories, and do a craft project at the story time. Afterwards, she picks several books to take home, and the next week, she returns a few of them in order to get more. We’ve found some really entertaining stories this way (as well as some not-so-entertaining ones.) One of her favorites is A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell. In this story, the main character gets upset because whoever is reading the book keeps getting it dirty. Sonja got mad at me because I picked it for her and checked it out without her permission, but now she won’t let me take it back. And she insists on reading all of the new books as soon as we get home, so we get more reading time than we would otherwise.

We also signed up for the summer reading program, and last week when she took in the ticket to claim her first prize, the excitement was palpable. Things petered out when the prize was a small, orange carabiner, but she is still psyched to get the next prize.


Summer Reading Prize #1


Phone for scale.

While we clocked a decent amount of reading time previously, and while Sonja has always loved books, I feel that Library Fridays have simultaneously increased her understanding of how the library works (it’s not quite as painful now to take back books that she really likes) and its vast offerings, and more importantly, solidified the library as a great resource and wondrous place to go.Very accomplished, indeed.


*Not actual statistics.



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My Day Tripper

I didn’t plan any formal vacations for this summer. After the exhaustion that was our 2015 trip to Victoria, I thought a gap year between vacations was in order. I didn’t rule out another Canadian excursion, because I wasn’t sure if the begging to go back to Canada would ever stop (it subsided), but I was hoping to put our energy into house projects instead. Fast forward to the middle of July, when the Pacific Northwest has gotten a sum total of 3 days of summer, and I threw my hands up in disgust. If summer wasn’t coming, then we’d have to do something to make it feel like summer… And what, I ask you, feels more like summer than a road trip? So Sunday morning we embarked on a nearly 3 hour drive to Leavenworth, WA, a cute little tourist trap in the north Cascades decorated to look like an Alpine Bavarian village.

By chance or circumstance or happenstance, our last minute plans were crashed by a last minute friend, making the trip that much more summery. We caravanned our two Subarus up and into the mountains, flanked left and right by other Subarus.

When we arrived in the small town, we had to find parking, which was not easy to do. We lucked into an open parallel street spot, and my husband’s exact words were, “I’m glad you’re driving because I could not do this.” My husband and I are two very different people with very different skill sets, but the one thing that I can do that he can’t that surprises me the most is parallel park. I will say that I’m never happy about parallel parking, and it always makes me nervous, especially when there are cars in the street behind me, as there were Sunday. But, aided by the fact that the truck that exited the spot was the size of a tank, I quickly executed the most beautiful parallel parking job that surely has ever been seen. We didn’t even have to walk to the curb! I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture.

After a lengthy wait time on lunch and a few stops in shops along the main road, it was somehow time to go. We were trying to make our way to mini golf for the kids, but our propensity for shopping multiplied by the quantity of shops equaled a day. Or at least the part of the day that is available in the middle of two three-hour drives. Still, the day fit the summer bill. There was driving. There was a cooler. I went somewhere I’d never been before, and I got to spend time with family and friends.

On the way home, Sonja fell asleep in the car early on, but then startled awake about 20 minutes later saying she needed to go potty. She’s really good at holding it for a four-year-old, but we were in the middle of nowhere and I could hear the urgency in her request. So we made our first ever pit stop along the side of the road. I ran her down a small but steep hill into the grass and let her do her business. When we got back to the car, Shaun said, “next time, just open both car doors and let her go in between.” I, having never to my recollection had to stop and pee on the side of the road, had no idea there was a protocol. So not only was the stop educational for me, but Sonja says that, “peeing in the grass” was her favorite part of the trip. Who needs German town when you can urinate on the side of a mountain highway?

For the record, she says her other favorite parts were riding in the stroller (her friend’s, because we gave up on trying to get her into the stroller years ago), and buying a stuffed animal at one of the toy stores (the propensity for shopping lives on.) She also said, in the unique hyperbolic way she has, that it was the best day ever and she was so glad we took our vacation in Leavenworth.

When we were almost home, we stopped at Taco Time for dinner. Before entering the restaurant, Shaun and I both paused. He said he wasn’t sure it was a good idea, and I agreed. The last time we ended a vacation at a Taco Time (albeit a really bad one in Oregon), Shaun was laid off from his job and we had a terrible drive followed by several terrible months. Of course, this was Sunday night and such news was surely not coming right then, so we  bravely and without prejudice ate our tacos and mexi-fries. And I’m happy to note that on Monday morning he got a promotion, and my class, which had been teetering on the brink of cancellation due to low enrollment, was picked up. So it turned out to be the perfect way to end the vacation.

There are still no plans for any formal vacations this year, but I think it would be nice, possibly even preferable, to do another day trip or two before fall sets in. The sheer amount of planning I do for, let’s say a two-night stay in Victoria, and the ensuing disappointment when said plans are not fully realized, is enough stress for an entire summer. This trip required virtually no planning, was unencumbered by preconceived notions of how it should go, and was still fun. Yes indeed, let’s do that several more times and call it a perfect summer.

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It’s good we had someone along to take a family portrait, because when I had to dredge one up for Sonja’s preschool, it was from two years ago, and incidentally, taken by the same person who took this photo!

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Friends. These two were so well-behaved for such a long and tiring day that was not geared towards children.


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The city streets of Leavenworth

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Portraits of moms and daughters, sort of a tradition for the four of us.

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Stroller break

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Heading home.

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My Done List

I’ve heard that keeping a done list is as motivating or more so than keeping a to-do list. It is naturally rewarding to your brain to see all the things that you have accomplished, squished together on a single piece of paper. So I thought I should take this opportunity, the weekend before I have to go back to work, to check off all that I accomplished with my two-and-a-half weeks off.

Here’s the original list, with notes:

3-week meal plan
Eh, I didn’t do three weeks in advance, but I did cook a lot and tried several new recipes, so I’ll say that’s a check.

Write quarterly Sonja update

Take Sonja to the doctor for quarterly height-weight check; take myself for triptan reup.
Sonja: 28.8 lbs, 38 in; Me: 6 triptans in hand.

Read, read, read. Also, binge-watch, binge-watch, binge-watch.
Nope, nope, nope. Also, nope, nope, nope. I started on The Americans, which is good but very dark and I wanted a little lighter fare. I’ve just started Mr. Robot, which is still dark but has occasional moments of humor and no body count (so far). I’ll see what the rest of season 1 has to offer.

Writing other than for this blog.
Sadly, no.

Declutter clothes, books and, if time, the miscellaneous category as described by Kondo.
Yes! I made tons and tons of progress with this.

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.)
Check. It’s still messy, but it’s not as messy.

Organize all digital photos by year and make new back-up discs.
No, but it will be easy to transition to this when I finally get all the decluttering done.

Declutter computer work files.
No, but I still have to start lesson planning (eek), and some of that will go hand in hand.

Trip to Goodwill.

Trip to county dump.
Goodbye console TV!

So there you have it. Not bad, if I do say so myself. Perhaps you notice, as I have, that the more specific things on the list (declutter clothes) were the things that actually got accomplished. It’s the vague items (read, write) that are left to languish in the summer heat. I’m still in the process of actually getting the actual stuff that I decluttered actually out of my actual house. This is going to take far longer than the tidying did. My plan is to continue with the decluttering throughout the summer quarter, and transition from that into decluttering the computer. Then I can make a whole new to-do/done list for the second, longer summer break. If that doesn’t spell summer fun, I don’t know what does!

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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…


…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…


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…


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…



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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