One of the aspects of spring, easy for urbanites to ignore, is the culling. The birthing season for many farm animals means deciding which of the newborns will live, which will be sold, which will be food for the family. With gardening, the sprouts need to be thinned, the weeds need to be pulled, bushes are pruned and flowers are picked or left to bloom and eventually seed.
Part of the process of dealing with my kitchen cupboards falling off the walls is preparing to have my house torn apart for months. This isn’t just a kitchen project. It also involves the bathroom, the basement, the driveway, and some of the yard. I have water issues, mold issues and years of neglect.
My basement has been the land of denial for more years than I can count. I spend as little time as possible down there (because I have massive allergic reactions if I stay). There’s a lot of plain trash. Paper and fabric and wood that has been ruined by water and eaten by mold. I haven’t been able to deal with it because I can’t:
- touch it (without breaking out and/or having an asthma attack)
- haul it up the stairs
- stand to be there long enough to see what is salvageable
So, in fits and starts, I have someone (equipped with gloves and a respirator) doing steps 1 and 2 for me. Step 3 is a little more difficult. There is a lot that I never have to see. It’s undeniably trash. It walks out my door in a bag. I may sigh at a loss, but mostly it’s good riddance.
But there is plenty down there where the distinction is not so clear. Mostly that would be books. The books in bookcases are probably a little (or a lot) moldy. The bookcases themselves are falling apart. But the books look okay. The books are my references, my treasures, my comfort. They’re books!
If I’m a hoarder, it’s about books. There is always money for food, and books. There is always room for food, and books. There can not be enough bookcases. As soon as I get a new one, it’s full. I’m a writer, which means I’m a reader. My basement is full of books.
They come up the stairs box by box. They are no longer in any order, packed more for viability than placement. I have to sort, and cull. Do I really need 3 large boxes of children’s picture books? My children are 23 and 27 and I have no grandchildren on the way. How many herbology books do I need? When do the mythology references just become an indulgence?
There are memories in those books. Some of them survived the house fire when I was a teenager. I open them and smell the smoke, but they also hold the memories of childhood escapes. I spent late nights under the covers with a flashlight, long afternoons in hammocks, curled up on the limbs of a tree with these books.
“Declutter” is the catch word of the day. But this is not clutter. The books without places went out in black trash bags, damp and falling apart. These are the ones that had places on shelves that will no longer support them. These are the curated books that survived multiple moves and life stages. This is culling, and it’s necessary, and it’s hard.
When I was in Junior High my Mother went back to working full-time. She arranged her schedule (and also the schedule of the doctor she worked for) to allow her to commute with my Dad and his odd hours. She also recognized she needed some time in the week for herself, and so she had Fridays off.
One of the things my Mom chose to do with those Fridays was get together with other Moms interested in the school district. Mom was very involved, not just with PTA but with the school board, policy making, busing. Politics in my house included campaigning for school board candidates. This was how Friday Club was born.
This group of women would get together for lunch (while the kids were in school) and theoretically hang out until we right before we got home. They were going to solve the problems of the day over coffee. “Ban the Can”, “Computers in the Schools”, “Arts Funding vs Sports Funding” and eventually even school closings were all on the table at one point or another.
The longer Friday Club lasted the more likely it was that they were still sitting around the table sipping coffee when I walked in the door a little after 3pm. I loved these women (we all did). They were all Moms. Some of them worked at least part-time. They all had kids in the school district. They were a range of ages and backgrounds.
They were solid friends. They talked about the problems they were having with their kids, their husbands, aging, working. They had high tea for Princess Di’s wedding and mourned Pope John Paul (the first one). They were there for each other when they turned 40, when they faced cancer, when they got divorced.
Because I was both quiet and well spoken I could be “unobtrusive” enough to listen in on the ends of those conversations. I’d putter in the kitchen, or grab a book and sit in the corner. Every once in a while the topic was something where my opinion was solicited. What an honor to have these women listening to what I thought!
Over time the group disappeared. People moved, got jobs, their kids grew up. Many of those friendships persisted. One of those women has been my Mom’s best long distance friend forever. She died this year. She was in the state last summer, but got sick enough that they couldn’t manage to connect. Mom knew she’d never see her friend again.
I’ve mentioned my women’s group once or twice in this blog (Here’s one). This weekend I had the opportunity to take some of them up to the “North Woods” and then stop in for dinner with my parents. Did I have sense enough to take a photo of my Mom with my GOM Girls? No. But it was a brilliant day.
We all had fun. It was a good road trip, perfect weather. We went to Deep Portage Nature Center and had the place pretty much to ourselves. Mom and Dad went all out for dinner. We had a fancy pasta with brie and cherry tomatoes. Salad with two kinds of homemade dressing. Dad made his bread and also made popovers. There was a clamor for leftovers to take home and sent bars as a treat in the car.
My Mom was exhausted (not a surprise) but also really thrilled. She said, “It’s Friday Club! They’re all so different, but it’s clear they all are supportive.” She got to sit in on the edges of the conversation, and was honored when her opinion was asked for. She got to host the ladies, and she got a little help with clean up as well.
It’s a memory I’ll cherish. It was a fun day for me. For her it was priceless. For me to be able to bring this gift full circle was truly an honor and a privilege.
We’re getting the spring greening early, but now I’m starting to see the colors coming as well. It’s been so lovely Orion and I took a walk to get his haircut. (We usually drive.) Quite the adventure.
I had the opportunity to notice the flowers are starting to bloom. My hyacinths popped as promised. (So has the little bleeding heart.) The magnolia at the end of the neighborhood is blooming. (I know that seems late for those of you who live in places where magnolias are native. But they are a light-sensitive bloomer and we finally have enough!)
Unfortunately those aren’t the only colors that have started popping up! It looks like there will be a lot of sewer repair. I’ve run into cones on the highways as well. The second season (road construction) is also getting an early start this year.
I took Orion and his new haircut to the hardware store to look at paint. Another way to procrastinate is to get ahead of yourself. I don’t have a contractor yet. I don’t have the loan I need from the bank. But I’m looking at colors and cabinets. It’s just more fun!
There’s a blog that’s been spinning around in my head for the past week. It just won’t seem to come out. I’ve had time to work at it, and have found plenty of other things to do instead. I have tried to make it coalesce in my head, and have found myself dozing in my chair.
Now it’s Monday and I’ve got, nothing. The problem with procrastination is that it adds stress to what’s usually already a stressful situation. It anticipates things will get easier, but there is no basis in empiric evidence.
I’ve been putting off getting Orion a haircut. I keep thinking it will be nice enough to walk. Then it snows. This week there are temps predicted in the 70’s. (There are also temps predicted in the 30’s). If I wait, will that happen on the day when I have time? Will I feel up to it physically? Will I have overbooked myself?
I’m trying to get through my list of things “to do” without putting things off so long. Inevitably something slips through. I don’t get enough sleep and something falls off the list. I get stuck in traffic and time runs short. I am faced with something that HAS to be done RIGHT NOW and so the thing that’s been put off gets put off again.
He loves going on Weekend Ventures. They’ve changed their notification system for registering. I no longer have a piece of paper lying around that I have to keep moving (and therefore am continually reminded). I get an email and in less than a day it’s no longer on my screen. Out of sight, out of mind. I didn’t do it IMMEDIATELY and now I hope I’m not too late!
It’s spring in Minnesota. We’ve had unseasonable warmth and a very early spring this year. But the weather is still unstable. Yesterday there were highs approaching 70. Today we can expect it to stay in the 30’s. The weatherman is talking about snow.
Snow isn’t unusual in April. It just seems unexpected after a warm week like last week. I’ve started taking some planting risks with cold friendly seeds. I’ve put in some peas. I’ve set in some radish. I’ve even sprinkled a little spinach about.
I found some onion sets that wintered in my garage. I’m tucking them in as I dig up preparing beds. It would ordinarily be too early. But when I look at my volunteers I have to think I’m being reasonable.
It’s cold today, and promises to be all week. I’m hoping to get out in the yard again but my priorities are still in the house preparing for contractors. I’m not sure how much I can or should plant, not just because of the weather. I don’t know how much damage this construction project will do to my yard.
Things are popping up all over. As I sit bundled up waiting for the snow to fall I’ll take that as a hopeful sign. It may be slow going, but the seasons do turn. Likewise with this remodeling project, right now I’m waiting for contractors to write up proposals with actual numbers. I can’t hurry it along, but I trust it’s still moving forward.
Like most things in life there are good and bad parts to having Minnie around. The hardest thing to deal with is that Minnie doesn’t like Orion. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say she doesn’t like it when Orion has my attention. She’s also a little scared of him moving about in his wheelchair.
Of course there’s another side. When Orion is planted in place eating Minnie is right underfoot. She is very much aware that the person most likely to drop food on the floor is Orion. She’s pretty sure once it hits the floor, it’s hers. (Minnie is a very food aggressive dog.)
I’ve got a dog run set up out the back door, so the whole in and out thing isn’t difficult. Timing seems to be challenging. Minnie has her moments when she’s in 15 min, out 15 min, in 15 min, out 15 min. She also sometimes waits a little too long to ask to go out (and I’m not always quick to get to the door). I mopped up a puddle or two over the course of the week.
On the positive side she and I took a walk every day she was here. I like being out. I like walking. I just don’t, unless I have a good reason. I’m not fond of walking aimlessly through the neighborhood, and I’m not motivated enough to go to a park or the lake just to walk. It didn’t hurt that the weather cooperated. I bundled up a couple of times, but we never had to walk in the rain (or snow).
When I look at the exercise I get when Minnie is around I think about how beneficial it would be to have a dog. Then I remind myself that I’m trying to reduce my ties to external responsibilities, not add to them. I could walk to the coffee shop (and write). I could walk to the grocery store (as long as it was just a few items I needed). I could walk to my volunteer shift at Gilda’s Club (even in dress shoes).
The thing I miss most when Minnie leaves is the company. She goes and I find myself looking for her every few hours. I miss the cuddles. I miss her sleeping on the couch while I read a book. I even miss the evening, going to bed, routine. But not enough to need a dog of my own. I am reminded that the best part of being a grandparent is that you get to send them home.
It’s been a whirlwind of a weekend and it may take me a bit to come back into my regular routine. Paganicon happened, which was fun and exciting. I did a presentation on Friday. It was well attended and I got some very positive feedback. I have to think it went well.
I spent plenty of time socializing on Friday. This is a local convention, but it’s getting some buzz on the National scale. Some of the guests and folks coming in from out-of-town are good friends. It’s always nice to have the opportunity to touch base in person with those long distance relationships.
Saturday was our political district convention. Both Orion and I were delegates. This year Orion is excited about politics and I’m feeling fit enough to make it possible for him to participate at this level. We struggle with accessibility in these venues. On caucus night it was the crowds. For the district convention it was the convention set up itself.
The building this district historically uses for its convention is technically ADA accessible. There is a ramp and an elevator. There are handicapped stalls in the bathrooms. However the signage is horrible.
To make matters worse the convention was in the auditorium. You may know most auditorium seating has a small designated area to accommodate wheelchairs. Depending on the auditorium they may or may not have seating near them for companions. But at a political convention the rules require that delegates sit in their precincts – not in the special seats on the other side of the room.
We found a spot in a little used aisle. Little used because the door to that aisle was locked the entire day. Every time we left we had to get someone to go around and let us back in. The lighting was horrible. I had eye fatigue and a burgeoning headache from trying to read the amendments. Orion is legally blind. He can read, but he needs good lighting. I drained my cell phone battery using the flashlight.
In spite of being worn out we swung by Paganicon after the political convention. It gave Orion a chance to visit with some of his friends. He picked up a beautiful drum that he’s enjoying. Orion has an inherent sense of rhythm and perfect pitch.
Sunday morning I was back at Paganicon to do a book signing. It went pretty well for me after one of the organizers kindly found me a decent cup of coffee to get me through. I spent the afternoon actually attending the convention, going to workshops and participating in rituals.
It was a good weekend. I couldn’t have done so much, and at that pace, 3 years ago. I am so grateful to be able to do these kinds of things again, and to be able to do them with Orion in tow.
I was talking about my bariatric surgery and the outcomes with some folks I hadn’t seen for awhile. These are people who have been in that internal debate about their own weight issues. I said that I think part of my success is because I’m not focused on the weight or the numbers as much as I’m focused on the things I can do.
I can get down on the floor and up again. I can go up and down the stairs. I can walk from one end of the convention to the other and not sit down. I can stand for my entire presentation and still manage to pack my stuff up when I’m done. Gratitude keeps me on track. Excitement about what I can do keeps me pushing to do more.
As I pack boxes, clearing out my kitchen so that “someday” I can get those cabinets replaced (and a few other things taken care of besides) I find myself disheartened. There is so much to do that it can seem overwhelming. There isn’t even a start date, much less and end goal in sight.
I’m talking to contractors, talking with bankers, packing boxes and still the day-to-day life goes on. I have a lot to be grateful for. Many of my friends have been sick with the spring crud. Several families I know are experiencing the family member in the hospital in critical condition trauma . It’s not as though my kitchen is entirely worthless. I’ve managed to deliver a few meals since I started packing things away.
I’m grateful that I have the time to be helpful to my friends in need. I’m grateful to be healthy enough to face the tasks of the day. I’m grateful it’s not Orion in the hospital this time, or me. I’m grateful for the unseasonably warm weather. I’m grateful for the blossoms on my jasmine plant.
As I go through my things and pack them away I find myself unpacking old issues that I apparently still carry around. There have been moments where I’ve caught myself in a memory vortex. I’ve run into out dated cans and remembered my parents moving out of their “forever” house into their retirement home in the North Woods. I’ve come across baby spoons and sippy cups and remembered both the child who used them and the one who didn’t. I dug up cookie cutters and remembered back when I’d bake for large events.
Packing is bittersweet. I’m trying to keep it reasonable with a one box a day goal. I’m trying to remember this is an opportunity to declutter. I can use this to bring more tranquility into my home. But right now it doesn’t feel tranquil.
I’m shopping this week with a friend of my parents. I chauffeur her around to run errands. Occasionally I pick something up for myself along the way. Now I have to resist. I can’t be bringing new things in, knowing I’ll just be packing them away. New things are for later. Right now it’s time to pack up the things I’m keeping and to unpack the things it’s time to let go of.
March is a long month, and this week is only half way through. Best wishes for more sunshine and spring awakening!1
I don’t want to sit inside and write. It’s been unseasonably warm these past few days. Sunny and up into the 50’s! That may seem entirely reasonable, but typically we would expect another 3-8″ of snow in March not greening grasses.
Many of my friends are throwing open windows during the day just to air things out. I’d like to do that as well, but then there’s that little allergy piece. The warmer weather brings out all the mold. I’m not miserable yet, but I can feel it in the air (and in my eyes and in my breathing.)
I’ve been out and about quite a bit in the past week, birthday dining. I went to tea with a good friend. My kids took me out to dinner. There were seasonal rituals with much feasting (not really birthday related, but this one happens every year in competition with my birthday weekend so I’ve adopted it.)
I picked up some tulips at the grocery store to brighten my inside. Since the kitchen is becoming more and more useless I need the “pick-me-up”. I’m anxious to spend another day buried in seed catalogs and garden designs.
The spring thaw is an important lesson in balance. It’s easy to pick up a cold when the allergies are threatening the immune system. It’s easy to dress too warm, or not warm enough. It’s easy to put off the things that need to be done and just sit in the sunshine.
It’s too early to be out planting the gardens yet. Patience is part of the lesson here. It’s probably fleeting. Chances are very good we still have some freezing days ahead. Theres an unsettled feeling. A sense of growth, bursting forth that isn’t quite ready to happen.
The equinox is still a few weeks away, so spring isn’t officially here yet. Even when it comes, experience tells me that it won’t necessarily feel like it. Still the sun is shining, the days are longer and it doesn’t hurt to enjoy it while it’s here.
Happy birthday to me! I started the week ready to celebrate. There were meetings, cake, cupcakes and not enough protein. I neglected to take photos. I’ve always believed that the older you get the longer you get to celebrate. I do have plans for high tea this week along with a dinner out with the kids.
There seems to be a gap, a gap between expectations and reality, a gap between celebrating and aging. I’m a year past my last brush with cancer. I’m celebrating. I’m grateful. I’m thinner, have more energy, get a lot more accomplished and have better general health. I’m also ordering off the senior’s menu.
I’ve chosen to apply my birthday celebration logic to bridge the gap. Every time this year I order off a senior menu I’m officially celebrating my birthday. WOO HOO! Honestly, the smaller portions make a lot more sense post bariatric surgery than they would have without it. Another thing to be grateful for!
Gap number two is the time vs money gap. There is a saying if you have the time you don’t have the money, if you have the money you don’t have the time. I have found this to be generally true, although lately I’m feeling like I don’t have either. Clearly I need another round of rescheduling and rearranging priorities.
I’ve started seriously working on my next book – about Daily Practice. You would think that if I’m writing about it I ought to be able to put some of those things I’m writing about into play. That helps with the time piece, but doesn’t address the money part. I’m afraid if I go out looking for the part-time job that would bridge the money gap I’ll lose the time I’m spending writing. Such a dilemma!
I could also write like a mad fiend and then work like crazy to promote the new book. I could create opportunities to speak on the topic, and get paid for it. I could invest in my new lifestyle vision. It sure sounds good on paper!
The time vs money dilemma runs me headlong into the third gap. Which is an actual gap – as my kitchen cupboards are slowly falling off the wall. I’m looking at a major expense, no two ways about it. My kitchen was “old” when we moved in 23 years ago. It needs a serious remodel. Lot’s of planning (and time) and potentially moving for a bit. Certainly there is deciding what stays out and what gets packed away.
Disruptions happen, it’s part of life. Finding the way to stay on our feet, keep moving forward, continuing our Daily Practice, that’s balance. It’s an active word. It’s about making choices. So I go back to the first gap and decide I’m old enough to have earned a new kitchen for my birthday.
Happy birthday to me!