Cat · Organization · The Dreaded House

Vacuuming Scares the Cat (and other excuses for not cleaning my house)

I have a great title for a book. The ADHD Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together (and throwing it out.)

I’m a really good housekeeper on the inside. Inside my mind, I mean. I absolutely love the idea of a comfortable, minimalist home where there is only what we need and use, and everything has its storage place, and everyone puts stuff away properly after they use it. I fantasize about hiring one of those “we take your junk” services, and a couple of strong men, and ruthlessly going through our house saying, “Take that, and that, and that, and that, and that…” and ending up with so much stuff just….gone. I don’t want to have to sort it, or have a garage sale, or haul it away myself, or sell it, or donate it, or see if one of the kids wants it. I just want it out of here.

But that is a fantasy because … I have slight hoarder tendencies. Not like newspaper to the ceiling, or anything. I have lots of stacks. Books I bought and don’t have room for on my shelves. Mail, both important and unimportant. LOTS of yarn. Three junk drawers in the kitchen. I am very territorial about my stacks. I have a general idea of what is in my stacks, and I get anxious if anyone moves them around.

I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I found it inspiring. I know people like to make fun of the spiritual aspect of it, but for those of us who have anxiety about letting go of things, it sort of helped. I would never take the time to address each and every item before letting it go, but there are some things that do require a little ritual to get that tiny extra push to get them out of the house. What I really found most useful about the book was Kondo’s different technique for purging. She advocates tidying by category of stuff, not by the room, or the drawer, or the closet. This appeals to my ADHD ability to hyperfocus (which is a negative term – I like to use the term super-engage). I can super-engage with purging one category of stuff without running into the constant problem of distraction (mostly).

For instance, if I start, in the traditional way, to clean out a junk drawer that has hundreds of items in it, I have to make a discard or keep decision about every item. That part is not hard, I am pretty ruthless. But then I have to make a “Where does it go?” decision about all the keeper items. If I find the stapler and the staples that fit it, I have to decide, “Does this really need to be here? I only staple something about twice a year. Wouldn’t this be better in a plastic box with the hole punch, and extra ink cartridges, and paper fasteners and large mailing envelopes? And where would I put that box? In the downstairs closet under the stairs! Oh, but there’s stuff in there already… .” And before you know it, I’m downstairs going through that closet and all the keeper stuff from the junk drawer is still spread out on the kitchen table. You see my issue.

I’m actually a good cleaner, once a room is uncluttered and everything is stored away. It’s that “putting everything away” part that kills the ride. That and the neurotic cat that hides for hours under the bed every time I vacuum.

Organization

Is a clothing box subscription for you?

There are many different clothing subscription services available that offer you a personal stylist who selects items for you and ships them automatically. There are many possibilities, from high-end, rentable outfits, to quirky, inexpensive monthly t-shirts or socks. There are also subscriptions for cosmetics, jewelry, lingerie, accessories, and just about anything you could think of, but let’s focus on clothing for a moment.

Is a clothing subscription service for you?

Are you comfortable with someone else picking clothing for you? If you love to shop, love trying on outfits, love shopping bags and bringing your purchases home, then a subscription service won’t scratch that shopping itch. Likewise, if you are a bargain hunter who enjoys finding that great sweater or dress finally on sale, a subscription service will rob you of the thrill of the hunt. But if you’re like me, and feel overwhelmed and anxious in a store full of choices, you just might like having your choices made for you and sent in a fun mystery box every so often.

Are you disciplined enough for a subscription service?

There are rules, and if you don’t follow them, you can end up paying a lot for items you never wear. For instance, what is your clothing budget? Make sure you know before you sign up. Don’t agree to receive a box every month if you don’t have the funds to pay for it. Why tempt yourself to overspend? Take time to assess your wardrobe and really think about how often you buy clothes and how much you can spend. Make sure the subscription service you choose allows you to space out your boxes, and to cancel a box or change the frequency of your boxes if you need to.

Can you trust yourself to make returns in a timely manner? Most services provide return packaging and free shipping for returns. The trick is, you have to try the clothes on, make a decision, check out on the website, and get the package to the post office on time. Remember, they have your credit card number, and you have agreed to the terms. If you are too much of a procrastinator, you can end up paying for clothes you don’t want and will never wear.

stitch-fix-april-2015-packing

 

Can you work with your stylist to get the most out of your subscription?

When you sign up, you will be asked to provide your weight and measurements. Be honest! You want clothing you can wear NOW, not in a few months when you lose ten pounds. Also, the more detailed you are in describing your lifestyle, favorite colors, age, activities, and preferences, the more likely you are to get items that you will like and wear. If you never wear jeans, tell your stylist “no jeans.” If you like to choose your own jewelry or shoes, say that. Tell your stylist about the climate where you live. Also, and this is very important, give instructions about what kind of care you want the garments to receive. For instance, I specified that a few dry-clean only items were okay, but nothing hand wash only, EVER!

Will you be comfortable sending feedback?

Make sure the service you choose makes it easy to send feedback when you check out. You are not likely to go back and do it later, after you have sent your unwanted items back. Every time you send feedback, you improve the choices you receive in your next box. (If the service doesn’t listen to your feedback, you need to switch services.) Likewise, check to make sure the items are within the price range you set when you signed up. If a service is sending you items that exceed your budget, send them back and SAY WHY YOU ARE NOT BUYING THE ITEM. They will correct the problem, because they want you to buy. If you accept items that are out of your price range, they will keep sending them. You can’t really blame them, you know?

Make sure they don’t require you to give referrals. You don’t want to have to do that. However, some services will give you credit when you do make a referral, so make sure you know how to claim it.

Can you discipline yourself enough to evaluate how the service is working for you?

Keep records of what you buy. It is as easy as printing out your receipt when you check out. After two or three boxes, evaluate the cost and see if you are staying within your clothing budget. If you are a really diligent record keeper, make notes of how often you wear each item and calculate the cost per wearing. Nick Saban is not going to be there to say, “Young lady…” and guilt you into not making purchases you shouldn’t make.

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If you are going over your budget, is it because you are buying items that you are not 100% satisfied with, buying items unintentionally because you didn’t return them in time, or because you are receiving boxes too frequently? Whatever it is, take action to fix it. I suggest doing this within three months after you start the service. Any longer and you might get into credit card trouble, which we don’t want.

Wouldn’t you love to clean out your closet?

After six months, get rid of things you don’t wear. Let go of those pants that are frayed at the hems, and that jacket with the broken zipper. Don’t keep your fat jeans and your skinny jeans. Keep your “right now” jeans.

Can you be brutal?

You are the customer. Do not be afraid to cut the cord if the service is not working out great for you. If a shirt falls apart the first time you wash it, send it back with a note asking for a credit and explaining that you need clothing that holds up. If a service is not responsive to problems like this, then cancel and try a different one. Make the service work for you.

Which service is the best?

That I can’t tell you. Here is an article that gives the basic info on several services. Be sure to check the website of the service before you sign up and read the fine print. I use StitchFix and I give it a B+. I would give it an A, but they do tend to have price creep, and they have sent me a couple of hand wash items when I asked not to get any. But overall, for me, it is a terrific service and keeps me from EVER having to go to the mall!

travel

The Total Newb’s Hot Take on NYC***

Four days. Three total newbies in Manhattan. Here’s some of what we learned.

  • DO spring for a cab for the trip to and from the airport. LaGuardia is a very nice airport, but only an expert could get you there. It is surrounded by a morass of construction and barricades and one-way narrow ramps and not that much helpful  signage. I feel bad for the people who are there when the Rapture happens. They will be left behind because Jesus will not be able to find them. I was told it would cost about $40 for the ride into Midtown, and it was just about that, with moderate traffic.
  • DON’T be disturbed by all the horn blowing. They’re not mad, it’s just something they do, like geese honking as they fly from one lake to another. “Here I come! ::HONK:: This is my space! ::HONK:: Don’t come in it! ::HONK::”
  • DO walk, as much as you can. It’s free, and you get the hang of getting around so much more quickly. I took one pair of shoes; dark colored, supportive walking shoes. I wore them everywhere, even to the theater, and no one cared, and my feet felt great. There is definitely an etiquette to walking in Manhattan. Don’t make sudden stops, don’t walk three abreast, don’t weave around. Be alert at pedestrian crossings. Watch the locals. They are super efficient at getting around without being hit by cars.
  • DON’T eat McDonald’s, or Burger King, or Subway. I think that needs no elaboration. McDonald’s is for emergency bathroom stops. More on that later.
  • DO use Google and Google Maps, plus your own reconnaissance while you are walking around to find local places to eat that have character, and food you like at the right price. The choices are endless. Food is expensive, but it is part of the experience and you can save money by grabbing lunch at a pizza counter. They are everywhere, and the pizza is delicious.  As for the ubiquitous food carts that serve hot dogs and pretzels and various meats on sticks – we didn’t, but I would not judge if you like that sort of thing. People obviously eat it and don’t die.
  • DON’T spend too much time in Times Square. Of course, you need to see it, but it is super touristy, super crowded, and over-stimulating. It was also the only place we ran into pushy panhandlers. There are guys who approach, loudly asking for “donations for the homeless.” Ignore. If you want to help someone in need, there are actual homeless men sitting huddled against walls on some of the side streets. Also, don’t accept anything that someone thrusts at you, even from the sweet little Buddhist monks. They expect money.
  • DO go up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building. I know some people say it is not worth the wait, but we went on a Thursday afternoon, and there was hardly any line at all. It is a beautiful building, and the views are amazing. It was cold and windy up there – take a jacket.
  • DON’T be intimidated by the Subway. That being said, DO study up a little before you go, and make sure you have a good app on your phone. The app I had was crappy and didn’t work at all, but Ben had a good one. Also, he had spent time in Paris and is used to a big, complicated subway system. We each bought a Metro Card and put about $10 on it a day, and only once ran out of fare before the day was over. The card machines are agents of Satan, but be patient. Also have some cash in small bills because they only give change in coins.
  • DO buy a CityPass online before you go. We bought the one that gave us access to any three attractions, out of a list of about 12. It saves you money, but just as important, lets you bypass the long line to buy tickets. We walked straight in to the 9/11 Museum on a Saturday morning, bypassing a huge line.
  • DON’T try to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on a Saturday afternoon. It is a sea of humanity, plus part of it is taken up by souvenir stands – and we had to pee. This is where McDonald’s comes in. There are few public restrooms in Manhattan. Make sure you can locate a McDonald’s in case of emergency. Their sign says for customers only, but they never threw us out.
  • DO tour the United Nations. Buy tickets online before you go, and make sure you read up on security procedures. This was one of the most interesting things we did. I was so impressed with the knowledge of our lovely, multilingual guide. The artwork and sculptures in the UN are impressive, and the UN Bookstore is well worth a visit. There is a snack area and a public restroom in the building. Our tour was small, but they are equipped to take large school groups, too.  You can get a tour in English, or in several other languages.
  • DON’T expect the bars to have college football on TV. We went to a lovely small restaurant for dinner on Saturday about the time the Alabama game was starting, and asked for a booth in the bar area. They had BOXING on all three TVs. Gary said, “What is wrong with these people?”
  • DO see at least part of Central Park, but also enjoy the smaller parks around the city. Central Park is amazing and lovely, but it is also the outdoor space for millions of people, and a good part of them are there on a nice Saturday. (Also, the Trump Tower is just as tacky as you would expect.) It was a little disconcerting that these places, particularly Central Park, are just like you see them in the movies, except with hoards of people. When Harry and Sally were strolling through Central Park on that fall afternoon, you only saw a few other people. In reality, on a nice fall afternoon, there are throngs.
  • DON’T grieve over the things you don’t have time to see. You can never see it all. Enjoy the things you do see, and especially enjoy the little unexpected treasures you happen upon by accident, like a neighborhood street fair in the South Seaport neighborhood, and a delicious and cheap hot food bar in the Amish Grocery.
  • DO visit the main branch of the New York Public Library . See the lions, and watch the men playing backgammon and chess in the park. Do have your bags open when you go in, because the security lady is TERRIFYING. Once you make it past her, if you aren’t too traumatized, you can go upstairs and wander through the amazing reading rooms. Note that there are areas for gawkers, like us, and areas for the actual library users. Try not to disturb. See how many movie and TV references you can make (Ghostbusters, The Day After Tomorrow, Carrie and Mr. Big’s wedding that didn’t happen.)
  • Also DO spend time in Bryant Park, which is essentially the back yard of the Library. It is lovely. I read that in the 80’s it was referred to as Needle Park because of the crime and drug use that happened there, but there is no trace of that now. If you are interested in historical public spaces, read about Bryant Park. It is old. George Washington’s troops camped there during the Revolutionary War. It was a potter’s field for a time, until the city undertook to exhume and move the remains elsewhere. It was, for many years, surrounded by an iron fence and tall hedges, and was therefore a dangerous area where things could happen unseen. When the park was renovated, it was excavated down to be more nearly at street level, and the fence and hedges were removed. That, combined with movable park furniture that visitors could arrange as they liked, transformed it into a place where people felt safe to gather and spend time.
  • DON’T try to get your picture taken with the Charging Bull and the Fearless Girl in the Financial District. Seriously, there were a million people on that tiny sliver of pavement between two streets. We stood across the street and stared in amazement. You know the Biblical story of Moses coming back with the Ten Commandments and finding the people worshiping a golden calf? I’m just saying.
  • DO see the 9/11 Memorial pools. I was never all that impressed with the design, until I saw it in person. It is really beautiful and moving, and the symbolism is so clear. The names of all those lost in the attack are around the edge, and they aren’t just engraved into the stone, they are pierced through it, so that you can look right through the letters and see the water underneath. The water flows over the edge between hundreds (thousands?) of evenly spaced stone projections that are reminiscent of the outside of the towers. I got the impression of individual lives merging into a great fall of water that travels downward and then flows toward the center, where it falls again, into a place we can’t see. It is moving. We went to see the pools twice. The Museum itself is another post.

There is so much more I could say, but I’ll end here by saying that New York is amazing. I can’t wait to go back. I found New Yorkers to be  nice and polite. They hold doors, they give up their seats on the subway to old folks, and they are very efficient in getting around and very aware of personal space.

I will note that I saw more penises in New York than on any other trip – two – One onstage at the theater, and one in Central Park. The one in Central Park was my fault for choosing to sit on a bench that happened to have a direct sight line into the open door of the very busy men’s restroom. Don’t do that.

***I wrote this post before the attack on citizens that happened in lower Manhattan on Halloween. My heart goes out to the victims and their families, and also to the witnesses and first responders who were forced to face the incomprehensible yesterday. I love you, New York.

Entertainment · Inspiration · My Local World · Nonsense · Writing

Things I Love

I am blatantly ripping off this idea from Angie at Freckled Foolery, because I enjoy reading about what other writers love and how they spend their time. Note that Things I Love is about things not people. That is a whole other post. Also, I’ve been struggling a little with negativity in my writing ideas (who hasn’t, these days?) and Angie’s post lifted my spirits and made me smile.

I love:

  1. Cats. The only reason I still use Facebook these days is for pictures of people’s kids and cats. I am a bona fide cat lady, even though I only have one of my own, and she likes my husband better than me.
  2. Reading. I own WAY too many books. I need to purge, but it’s so hard. I love how social media allows us to feel as if we know writers personally. I love Stephen King and Margaret Atwood. I read a lot of non-fiction, too, like Naomi Klein and Ari Berman. I like to read books about physics, although I struggle with those ideas, it feels like good exercise for my brain. I love a good book controversy, like the one going on about American Heart. The arguments over it have gotten crazy heated, and wild horses could not keep me from reading it now. (It comes out in January.)
  3. Notebooks, journals, note paper, and pens.  My bad memory requires that I write everything down that I really want to remember, so I always have a small notebook and pen in my purse. I write my longer writing on computer, but I am a fanatical list maker, and typing a list into my phone is laborious, so I keep paper and pen handy. I am constantly searching for the pen that writes just the way I want it to (and somehow makes my messy handwriting better.)
  4. Stone walls, fences and bridges. I love how they blend in with nature, and how they last forever. I love them covered in moss, and surrounded by fall color. My dream house would have a stone foundation and stone walls in the yard with wildflowers spilling over them.
  5. Spider solitaire. It is the most soothing game. It takes just enough concentration, but not too much. I only compete with myself. It is my version of a fidget spinner. It is impossible for me to sit with nothing in my hands, so I can play on my iPad while I watch tv. (I have become my mother.)
  6. Pasta. Angel hair, bow tie, penne. If I had to pick a food I could not live without, it would be pasta. Chocolate glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts are delicious, but I would be okay if I could never have another one. Fresh strawberries would be missed. But life without pasta is unimaginable.
  7. Coffee. I don’t think I need to say more about that.
  8. Analyzing data. I can go for hours. Give me a set of data and I can mess with it for days, looking for patterns, outliers, correlations. Spreadsheets, graphs, visualizations – I love it all.
  9. Snow. I doesn’t snow much anymore where I live, but I still get excited when those first, fluffy flakes come down, even if it means the streets will be paralyzed and the power may go out.
  10. Group Me. My husband, sons and I have a family Group Me chat, and we use it to pass along important family information, but more often to share jokes and stupid memes and funny videos and comments on Game of Thrones. And of course, pictures of our food when we’re not all eating together.
  11. Yarn and knitting. My mom was a knitter, and I learned at about age ten. I love knitted sweaters and afghans and hats. Sadly, it is mostly too warm here to wear them, but I take advantage of the cold when we have it. I have an almost completed fisherman knit sweater that I have been knitting on and off for about 12 years. It is a complicated Alice Starmore pattern, and all that is left is part of one sleeve. When I finally finish that, I will wear it if it is 100 degrees!
  12. Craftsman houses. I would buy one and fix it up in a hot second, if there were any in my city. Birmingham has lots, but Hoover is a fairly new city and didn’t exist at the time they were being built. We have tons of 60s and 70s ranch houses, and there are some newly-built, fake Craftsman houses, but sadly, no real ones.
  13. Milk glass. I am not a collector, at least not of one particular thing. The knick-knacks in my house are mostly kitchy, non-matching things I inherited from my mother and grandmother. I have a set of Russian stacking dolls that someone gave my grandmother, and a Hull pottery pig bank that my daddy won for mother at a county fair when they were dating in the 40s. I treasure all these things, but especially the couple of pieces of milk glass that were mother’s. There is a flower bowl that sat on our dining table and almost always had fresh flowers in it. There is a tall pitcher that she used for daffodils in the spring. It has a chip in the base, but I don’t care. I love these things because they were part of our house when I was little.
  14. Libraries. We make it a point to visit the public library in the cities we visit. We’ve seen Seattle and New York this year. Those are two awesome ones, and completely different.
  15. Strong Wi-Fi. Yeah.

Well, that’s a lot, but there are so many more things. Writing this did the trick of putting me in a good mood, head cold and all. I may have to do a Part II later!

Politics · Society

Sick and Numb

Reading the headlines and the tweets, it is clear the search is on for a reason why this particular guy planned and carried out a mass murder with guns. Same as always.

Was it his religion? His race? His mental health? A grudge? Was he just a bad guy with a history of violence or run-ins with the police? Nope. Oh, wait. His father was a bad guy.

What a stretch. A contortion to explain away the most recent horror, and make it about the man and not the guns. He’s a lone wolf, you know. An aberration.

Except he’s not. He joins a very long list of people who have used guns to commit mass murder of strangers. There is no useful profile of these murderers. All we can know is at some point, they came into possession of one or more guns that can kill a lot of people quickly, and the ammunition to do so. And they made a plan and carried it out.

We also know that no amount of locked doors, metal detectors, security personnel, school resource officers, or space and distance can keep the innocent safe from such a murderer with the right weapon. He can drive long distances across state lines to kill, or he can walk down the street to the local elementary school or church. He can kill on a military base, or from a tall building, or in his workplace, or a shopping mall.

Our elected representatives are powerless to keep us safe from gun violence. If they advocate for any laws whatsoever regulating guns, they will lose their seats to someone funded by the NRA. Gun stocks rise after a mass murder because speculators know that the NRA will attempt to raise fears that this time, Congress might do something, triggering a spike in gun and ammunition sales.

This is how we choose to live. Recently my city was forced to hire a police officer to monitor the entrance to the public library. This is because the city posted a sign that notified patrons that no firearms are allowed on the premises. Our state legislators insisted that the open carry law allowed open carry in all public spaces, even libraries, unless entrance to the space was restricted at all times. So, in order to keep guns out of our public library, where people are reading books and working on computers and children are listening to story hour, our city has to hire an armed police officer. Because the state of Alabama insists.

I saw an armed man when I was buying a new muffin tin in Bed, Bath and Beyond the other day.  My brother who just retired from a long career in law enforcement, has taught me to check how a person secures his openly carried weapon. A loaded, unholstered gun carried in a pocket, or a purse, or stuck in a waistband is a danger to the owner and all those around him. In my opinion, a person who takes his gun out and waves it around for show, as our Republican nominee for United States Senate, Roy Moore, did at a recent campaign rally, is a danger to all those around him.  Some people do not have the training necessary to safely carry guns in public. But our elected leaders are afraid to even mandate training.

Congress just announced that they will be looking at a bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. That seems completely unrelated to the massacre in Las Vegas but it is not. It is a message. “We are so very sorry about all the dead and wounded in Las Vegas, and our legislative priority right now is … preventing abortions.” In other words, don’t worry, NRA.

This is how we choose to live. There is no “common sense” solution anymore. After Sandy Hook, where the murderer shot each of the six and seven year olds three to eleven times at close range, nothing changed. If we are powerless in the face of that horror to make even the smallest changes to protect innocent lives from gun violence, then this is who we are.

 

travel

Vagabond Shoes

I have never been to New York City.

Can you imagine? My mom went almost every year with her girlfriends, usually in the fall. Over the years they saw a ton of shows, and all the museums, and stood on top of the WTC about a year before the towers came down. She loved New York.

So, in a very uncharacteristic moment of impulsiveness, I booked a trip for the fam. Just a four-day long weekend. Ben wants to tour the UN, I want to see one museum, Gary wants to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. We’ll see a show on Friday night. We’ll ride the Staten Island Ferry. We’ll go to the top of something, maybe the Rock, or the Empire State Building.

This will be our First-timers Trip: touristy, but not too touristy. We have to do it without Will, because he has plans and can’t really take off work. He’s our Yelp! Manager, and we will miss him. He has a very good record of picking places to eat that are good and local. Ben is going to have to pick up the slack there.

I have my usual travel anxiety/excitement (anxitement? exciety?). I’m obsessing over shoes, weather preparedness, and camera choice. I’m aiming to cut the amount of unnecessary shit I pack by half.

I’m a little scared of pissing off New Yorkers. Gary lives for breaking “the rules” and I’m afraid New Yorkers won’t put up with his shenanigans.

I would love to hear advice from folks who have been to New York. What is the one thing you wish you had known/done/not done your first time there?

Awards

Sunshine Blogger Award – Whaaat?

I’m a little overwhelmed, because Angie at Freckled Foolery nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger award. Being nominated by Angie is very cool. She is one of my small list of bloggers I read immediately every time she posts. She is refreshing and honest, a terrific writer, and her blog is pretty to look at. Thanks, Angie!

sunshinebloggeraward

Also, she made it clear that a little cheating is allowed. I’m following her example.

Here are her questions, and my attempts at answers:

  1. If you weren’t worried for your health or your life, is there anything you would choose to do differently?

As unlikely as it sounds coming from an introvert/depressive/pajama-clad cat lady, I would be out in the streets where marches and protests are happening, interviewing people and taking video and intervening in the screaming matches and violence. I would be sitting in the halls outside my worthless Senators’ offices, demanding that they LISTEN to the PEOPLE who elected them, and basically calling out the powerful on their bullshit.

2. What is your guilty pleasure?

True crime. My grandfather used to tell us stories about the mobsters and criminals of his day, because he loved that stuff, too. I read Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter in high school, and later Ann Rule’s book about Ted Bundy, and on from there. My husband thinks its freaky, and he doesn’t even know about the podcasts, like My Favorite Murder and Serial.

3.  If you could’ve been born in a different time or lived through a certain moment in history, which would you choose?

I used to think I lived in a very boring time, but looking back now, I’ve seen a lot. I think I would not prefer any other time. I’ve seen the entire United States Space Program, almost from the beginning. I saw men walk on the moon. I received the first widely distributed polio vaccine. I saw television on a tiny black and white screen, and on a 60″ “smart” tv. I saw the beginning of the Internet, as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis. I searched for information in heavy, tiny-print encyclopedias, and on a 5 inch device I carry in my pocket. I have listened to my favorite music on vinyl albums and beamed by satellite to my car. I saw 9/11, and Katrina, Sandy, and Harvey. I have seen automatic weapons become accessories carried around like handbags. I saw hundreds of thousands of women march on Washington. What a time to be alive, said the Simpsons. It has been. It is. I wouldn’t change it.

4. Apple or Android?

Apple.

5.  Do you have a favorite blog post that you’ve written?  Why?

This one.  It was one of those posts that was so easy to write, it just burst out onto the screen, without giving me anxiety. I’m not sure there was even a second draft, so be kind.

Thanks again to Angie for choosing me. I am honored to be in such good company, and I will post my nominees tomorrow when I have time to think up some questions. Today is a nutso day, and off I go!

 

 

Inspiration · Making things · Memories

Buttons

Last fall, thanks to my friend Cindy, I went to Christmas Village at the BJCC. It was my first time ever. We hit the door at 9:00 am, and covered every inch of the HUGE arts, crafts, food, and gift show. Thank goodness Cindy is a veteran, and knew the best system to get around and see everything.

It is a mind-boggling event. Craftspeople and vendors from all over the southeast are there. I heard there were over 700 booths. We saw them all.

The trick and the challenge is finding the real jewels in the truly amazing amount of things for sale. I had in mind some things I wanted to look for, and for the most part, I found them. I wanted some unique Christmas tree ornaments for my sons. Found those. I wanted a “W” initial to hang on the wall in my kitchen. Found it and it’s lovely and unique and handmade.

I wanted a wooden tray to sit on my kitchen counter to hold the salt and pepper, olive oil and other things that are frequently used. I did not find that, but I found a beautiful, hand-carved bread bowl that will display on my open shelves in the kitchen. It is EXACTLY the style I love.

But the best finds of all were the people. It would not seem plausible that in that crowd of thousands, you could strike up conversations with busy vendors and laugh so much and have so much fun! I love that they live this life making things with their hands – pottery, wood, silver, paint, clay, fabric, ribbons, sauces, and dips and soups. My favorite booths were the ones where some individual person designed and created truly unique beautiful things that you couldn’t get anywhere else.

That is why the buttons are my favorite purchase. The are handmade glazed and fired knitters’ buttons. The artist made them especially for knitters, every one different, with large holes for the yarn to go through. She is truly an artist. Her pieces are beautiful and obviously made with care and love as well as talent. She was so friendly and adorable that as Cindy and I walked away, we agreed that she should be our friend.

I admire the creators of beautiful things. Today’s world needs more beautiful things made by loving hands and creative minds. Whether practical, decorative, or edible, things made by hand add a richness to our lives. A loaf of banana bread, a hand-knit sweater, a crocheted baby blanket, a monogrammed bag – I believe that they carry within them some of the crafter’s or cook’s joy.

Many thanks, makers. See you soon.

Christmas Village Festival is 2017 is November 1-5. Tickets go on sale October 2.

The quilt pictured above is a pinwheel crib quilt I made when my children were babies. It is machine pieced, and machine and hand quilted.

Beach · Family · Inspiration · Memories · travel

Vacation

I have spent the last few days slathered in sunscreen, dozing under an umbrella with this as my view and soundtrack.

Gulf of Mexico, Aug 2017

For 25 years, one week each summer, we have gone to the same beach, eaten at the same restaurants, shopped at the same grocery store, enjoyed the same delicious seafood. It is truly a relaxing vacation. We read, we nap, we walk, we cook if we feel like it. And when it is over, we come back home, more calm and more tan, and ready to fit ourselves back into our “real” lives and responsibilities.

Memories · travel

I rode in a helicopter

DSC01035In Alaska. Over mountains and lakes and snow and many a rocky precipice until we landed on a massive glacier.

I have a fear of heights, but I love mountains. I know I should have a little fear of flying, because that is very high, but I don’t. During the safety briefing before we boarded the helicopter, there were many instructions about how to walk out on the helipad: stay between the yellow lines, stay with your guide, if your hat blows off DO NOT run after it. Don’t deviate from the instructions, and load in the order the guide tells you. It was all about not getting chopped up by the rotors, which I was definitely pro that.

But, instructions about what to do in case something happens to those (very flimsy) rotors that are holding us up in the air and we start to go down? Not so much. In fact, nothing. Because, I realize now, what would be the point? If you fall out of the sky onto a mountain in a thing roughly the size of a Volkswagen, emergency exits and flotation devices are not really going to figure in. But I didn’t think about any of that at all while we were flying. I think my whole thought process during the 30 minute flight over the mountains consisted of, “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh. Wowwwwwwwww. Ohhhhhhhhh.”

I’ve seen movies and National Geographic specials about the glaciers, but to fly over one is stunning. There is no sense of scale because there are no roads or buildings to compare. You just know it’s huge. It is blindingly white because new snow was still falling regularly in late May, and the mountain peaks threw dark blue shadows across the vast whiteness.

As we continued up the glacier (it was the Mendenhall, not far from Juneau), we spotted a faint grid of black dots on the snow far up ahead. It had to be manmade, and as we got closer, we realized it was the dog camp where we were going to learn about dog sledding and meet the dogs and finally ride a dogsled. Each tiny dot was a doghouse. There were probably 200 of them, flat-topped, and on many of them, the occupant was happily standing or sitting on top, barking and howling as if welcoming us.

Our guide explained to us that sled dogs are not the blue-eyed Huskies that you see on commercials that are bred for their beauty. These dogs are small, strong and amazingly eager to do one thing, and that is pull the sled. They don’t mind the cold. In fact, the May weather was a little warm for them. They prefer the frigid air, and hard-packed, icy snow. Running is what they do, and they each burn more calories on a race day than an adult male human.

The two lead dogs of our team were veterans of the Iditarod. This team runs only for one particular “musher,” and they respond to his voice. It was amazing to watch them watch him, waiting for his voice signals. They pulled like their lives depended on it. There was joy in every muscle in their bodies.

When we stopped and got off the sled, we went up and petted each dog, telling them they did a good job, and they just about wiggled out of their skins with delight. We got kisses. When we boarded the sled again, they were ready to go, jumping up and down with excitement.

Back at the camp, we thanked the dogs and our musher for the ride and went over to visit the puppy pen. A mom dog had a litter of 9 day old pups and we got to hold them! Incredibly adorable! They fit in our two hands and their eyes weren’t open yet. It is so hard to believe that those little guys will grow up to be strong, eager sled dogs like the ones that pulled us.

After a while, the helicopters returned; three tiny red dots against the blue sky. They landed one by one, a careful and precise distance apart. The dogs howled their good-byes and we boarded to fly back to the heliport. The trip back seemed way too short. I couldn’t look hard enough at everything – the vast glacier, the moraines of ground up stone and dirt pushed up by the pressure of the slowly moving ice, the sharp mountaintops, the light and shadows. I knew I probably would not see these things again, and that this incredible place is undoubtedly thawing away, and someday will be gone entirely.

The Mendenhall Glacier. I was so lucky to see it. I am proud that my children saw it. I hope their children see it.

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