Monday, August 3, 2015

Book list for July 2015

Ready Player One. Ernest Cline

Throw Out 50 Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. Gail Blanke*

I borrowed Ready Player One from Casey when we were at the beach and read it over the course of a few days.  It was a good beach read with a bunch of cliffhanger chapters and a generic dude protagonist.  I was really into it, wooden dialogue and all, as I was reading for most of it but started questioning things about three-quarters of the way through.  Sorry if this gets spoilery.

Are we not supposed to care that the great and powerful Woz character (I'm really proud of that pun) doesn't even notice or seem to care that that one character dies?  Does this author know any person from any kind of Asian culture ever and that's why he thinks it's okay to slap 'san' on the back of any ol' word?  Does he know any lesbians or did he just figure 'hey, I bet they're just like guys in lady bodies'?  Most importantly, has he ever seen a mobile home?  I get that this is a fantasy novel set in the near future where everyone's super poor and there's not enough fuel (even though some people can use solar panels and apparently the sun is still shining soooooooo.....????) and everyone's addicted to virtual reality (ha) and education is still funded by video game programming philanthropists (okay) but there's no way in any iteration of any poverty-stricken universe in which mobile homes can be stacked on top of each other twenty units high and the folks living in the bottom, uh, eighteen won't get smashed flatter than pancakes.  There's just no way.

I read that this will get turned into a movie, which I think was the Cline's real goal all along. 

As for Throw Out 50 Things, I liked parts of it and wasn't crazy about some parts.  But it's fine if I don't completely love the advice I get from a library book.  What I really appreciated was Blanke's acknowledgement that most of us don't have the means to throw out every article of clothing in our wardrobe and start over, and that most of us aren't the type of people who want to throw out every knick knack because some things just make us happy and it's nice to keep certain things around.  Like I mentioned in my last post, this was a good jumpstart to the big home overhaul I've been working on for the past week or so.  The thing with the '50 things' challenge is that your big pile of t-shirts counts as one thing.  Clothes = one thing.  Books = one thing.  I think I'm halfway to 50 large containers at this point, so I'm not keeping track of everything.  She has a workbook for that if you're interested, but I'm not.  Once something's gone, I'm usually glad it's gone.  It's been nice to let go of some things that had bad feelings attached to them and I only need a pretty general record of what I donated for tax purposes.  The rest of it is super gone and I don't even want it sticking around as a line on a list. Still, I would recommend this if I were telling you to check it out from the library. 

As for clearing out things, I have so far regretted donating exactly one skein of sock yarn because I think it would have been nice to make my very favorite nephew some tube socks while his feet are still small enough that I'll want to knit him socks.  I have more sock yarn, and if I want to go out and buy that particular skein of sock yarn, it will cost around $5.  Considering that I don't even know if his mom wants to keep up with handknit socks for a sweaty little guy who gets a bit obsessive about his footwear, this is a pretty small regret.  Ta da.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Clean and clear and under control

I don't know if Neutrogena still has "clean, clear, and under control!" as their creepily chirpy tagline for teenage skin care, but those commercials will probably stay stuck in my brain until I'm dead.  Their products weren't enough to get my adolescent acne under control--or even my adult acne, for that matter.  But when I'm cleaning something I think of the phrase and feel very, very much in control.

I've been going through some of our junk in fits and starts for the past couple of years.  But the last couple of months have felt way too crowded in our apartment.  We had a good start with the practice of getting rid of things during Lent, but my work's been busy and there are other things to do with our time.  Plus, I just wasn't ready to let go of some things.  And then I was.  So ta da!

I read a book about clearing out your physical and emotional junk a couple of weeks ago.  And one of the things I liked was the author's attitude to giving away some of your things.  Some things don't need to be thrown in the trash.  They just need to be enjoyed by someone else.  For whatever reason, a lot of times I feel like I've wasted my stuff if I didn't get a lot of use out of it.  Yarn has to be knitted up.  Clothes have to be worn until they're worn out.  Books have to be read.

Except, um, they don't.

If someone brings yarn to my knitting group, people are delighted to take it.  If I bring yarn to the knitting group, I'm always happy when someone else has a plan for it.  It makes me incredibly happy to give some of Evelyn's outgrown toys and t-shirts to Ellis.  I love finding things on sale at thrift stores.  None of this stuff is going to waste just because the original purchaser couldn't find a satisfying use for it.

So far, I've gone through our bathroom (again), our bedroom (finally, Cody's winter clothes are packed away!), most of the living room, and my office.  So many books are gone.

And it feels really good.

I expected to feel some regret about the books and movies we were donating, but so far it's been fine.  There were gifts that I felt obligated  to hold onto until I realized almost no one comes over.  And if they did, they wouldn't be making sure we held onto a movie they gave us 5 years ago.  There were things we gave back to people we borrowed them from, clothes we were excited to find and wear again, and approximately 5 pounds of dust and an hour of choking and sneezing for every bookcase and dresser we went through.

The dust problem was actually really gross and kind of surprising.  My work is still in a bit of a busy season and I've been a little lax on wiping down surfaces as much as I probably should.  But still.  I eventually faced facts that the vacuum that was old and tired when we inherited almost 9 years ago was just about done for.  So this morning we went out and got a new vacuum.


We're going to be making payments on the Sears card for this for quite a while and I'm going to smile like a crazy person every time we do.  I haven't cleaned our bare floors yet, or filled out the warranty, but it's only been a few hours.  I've vacuumed all the carpet and gone over the door frames and baseboards in the bedrooms, and Cody already had to dump out the cylinder.  Having a clean floor feels just as good, if not better, than clearing out clothes that didn't fit and old syllabi that I've had for over 10 years (whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, Jennifer?!  You made your family move those papers 5 or 6 times!!!!).

So.  I still need to go through part of the china cabinet.  I cleaned up a lot of it last fall, so it shouldn't be too terrible.  I need to go through the kitchen, and it's been nearly a year since I've done that.  Evelyn doesn't need nearly as many cups with lids as she used to. I'll wait for Cody, though.  And I need to go through Evelyn's room and closet.  I've had a hard time letting go of her clothes and some of her toys.  It's been strange to take things that I thought I'd be using for more of my babies and send them out into the world.  But.  I have to remind myself that I don't actually want any more babies, and I don't want to clutter up that one girl I do have with so much stuff that I can't squeeze new clothes into her closet.  And she's getting new school clothes!  That old stuff needs to get out of her way!

Trooper that she is, Evelyn's been helping us go through our stuff as well.  No really!  She knows that more space on her bookshelves means she can get some more books, or can at least find her puzzles and coloring books more easily. She's also been pretty thrilled with the jewelry I haven't worn since I was a teenager, and she's claiming a lot of picture frames I intended to donate.  One frame I've never really cared for looks pretty great with her new drawing in it. 

So.  2 more areas to clean up, and that's it.  I've already promised Cody that I wouldn't re-do our bedroom until the fall.  And I've already promised myself I won't have to go through the coat closet until later in the year.  By this time next week, I'll have gone through almost every single thing in our home.  We'll have a little more space to play and a lot fewer things to clean and it won't feel like the walls are closing in on me.  Maybe I'll even find the last of the pacifiers and toss them once and for all! 

Fine, probably not.  But it's nice to have goals.

Things I found helpful:
-How Long to Keep Records
-Just about everything ever published in Small Notebook, but especially the posts on simplifying.
-My friend Kelly posting links about minimalism on her Facebook.  She shared something yesterday about a thirty-day challenge by The Minimalists.
-Throwing Out 50 Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke.  I checked this out from the library and it gets a little woo in places, but I liked that she emphasized pulling out things and enjoying them.  People like having things.  Not every clean-up session has to be a slash-and-burn affair.  I found a bunch of letters my mom wrote me when I was in college.  I didn't remember getting so many! I was happy to have them in a file with my Mamaw letters and some other things I wanted to keep from my college days.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Planting a peach pit, however poorly

Evelyn got in her head that she wanted to plant a peach pit.

We had just finished eating a peach that we bought that morning and I was explaining that the pit was a peach's seed.  (Yes, I know it's really the seed's casing thingamajig.  I'm not getting into the details with her when she spends so much time asking why the peach a seed in the first place.)  She wanted to plant th epeach and get a peach tree.

She loves stories where people plant seeds, she's fascinated by which seeds she can eat (peas!) and can't (cherries!), and we had just watched an episode of 'Olivia' where her favorite little pig princess planted a mystery seed and grew a Venus flytrap.  So I told her she could plant her peach pit after her nap.

After we'd buried it in a bucket with no drainage and she'd watered it twice, I read that we should have buried it in the winter.

Evelyn thought it would be helpful to read to the plant, because the cartoon told her she should, so she read a book about Olivia to the peach pit.  What else? 

Her planted peach pit is currently sitting underneath two inches of water, and has been for a couple of days now.  She's pretty indignant that it hasn't sprouted yet.  I try to explain how germination works, but I'm kind of enjoying her expectant optimism.  Something something faith of a child and all that.  It's a little confusing to see her fully expect to get everything she wants after a lifetime of living with parents who try to keep her at least somewhat tethered to reality, but I like her confidence.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fort Morgan (finally, I am posting pictures!)

Fort Morgan was super exciting and I loved it.

Cody and I had just watched some documentaries on lighthouses recently and so it was pretty exciting to see the lights that used to be in the lighthouse here.

Evelyn didn't understand most of the stuff we saw, in spite of our explanations, but she like anything big.

And she took this nice picture of us in front of the fort's museum/gift store.

We loved all the tunnels. My goodness, tunnels are so exciting!

The fort was turned over to the state for public use in the late 1960s, and a lot of the area is overgrown.  Even before then other buildings around the site were abandoned because of damage from storms and general dampness.  It was such a cool place to see, though.

Evelyn wanted me to take a picture of her trying to lift this anchor.

We didn't realize she was serious.

We loved this.  It was so cool.  And by "we" I mostly mean Cody and I loved it while Evelyn tolerated the experience with a minimum of whining.  It was incredibly hot and bright and there were a lot of stairs.  But she enjoyed singing in tunnels and touching cold wet bricks.  She also helped me pick out some postcards in the gift shop.  It was a really cool place to see because, well, history is neat. There's even a bird-watching trail that's probably really cool to check out when it's not so hot.  I'm really glad that we went.  I keep meaning to read up on it some more and I hope I will soon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lists for everything

I have been hiking Pinnacle Mountain on Saturday mornings before Cody and Evelyn wake up for several months.  I take breaks for illness, extreme ice, and most recently a bruised tailbone.  I like the heat better than than the cold.

Spending more time outside just makes me want to spend more time outside.

I have mostly quit drinking Mtn. Dew in the past couple of months.  I feel calmer now, but apparently this is not noticeable to people.

The tiny sliver of relaxedness I brought back with me from vacation is pretty much gone thanks to a heavy workload, some concerns about loved ones, and my general inability to handle any stressors of any kind.

For example, I cried--twice--attempting to navigate a website and look at outfits for Evelyn tonight.  Maybe not having a working mouse is what does it.  Maybe I'm nervous about sending her off to pre-K.  Maybe the t-shirts were terrible enough to trigger a crying jag.  (Doubtful.)  Maybe the website was just that bothersome or maybe I just really would prefer to do this in a store even though salespeople make me sweaty and paranoid.  I want to touch the fabric and see if it's the 'right' texture and weight and hold the neckholes up to Evelyn's tiny shoulders.  Mom was offering to buy Evelyn some outfits (because Evelyn's grandparents buy most of her clothes) and I feel weird that I said "I'm just not feeling it" because that's rude and untrue but I didn't want to say "This is making me cry because that is what shopping does to me sometimes and has for a couple of decades now" even though we both know this fact about me.

I really don't like being on the computer all that much and have no idea what I'm doing on here when I'm going to try to go into work an hour early tomorrow to stare at a computer screen for the whole day and try to finish up some things on a deadline.

Sometimes I go to therapy.  I don't know how much it helps, other than I get to talk about things in my life for an hour while someone does not say "Why don't you just [do a thing that I have obviously considered before]?"  And that's pretty great.  That's actually huge.  We've discussed breathing and how I knit a lot and hike and try to get time with friends and also time alone and how it's still not enough because the major stressors in my life will remain giant stressors.  There are not enough hours in the day to take care of my family the way I want and need to because I'm not allowed to have them.  And that's it.  And that's how it's going to be, with a lot of time and energy allocated away from where I want to spend it.  We're hitting a busy and intense time at work that will go on for a couple of months where it feels like none of us can get away for fun or necessity. 

I miss getting to go to our library.  It's closed on Saturdays and it's hard to get there before it closes in the evenings.  I still haven't signed up for the summer reading program.  I want to and I will, but it's the middle of July and it bums me out that I haven't done it yet.

One thing I've been trying to do every day is make a list at the end of the day.  It's helping more than decluttering or journaling or exercise.  I write down what I've done.  I write down things I've done that make me happy, or that I felt were productive.  Seeing the words helps a lot.  Seeing things like "I threw out 5 magazines and moved 3 shirts to the 'donate' pile" or "I colored with Evelyn" reminds me of what I did that I felt were worthwhile and keeps the days from blurring together.  There are a lot of things that I get to enjoy, but they get overshadowed by all the things I worry about. 

So tonight my list will look something like this:
-ate 2 salads
-read a chapter out of The Horse and His Boy to Evelyn (we've been reading a chapter a night out of The Chronicles of Narnia to her)
-was honest on the Internet
-packed my lunch for tomorrow
-loaded the dishwasher
-unfriended someone on Facebook and unfollowed someone else because I don't like seeing them in my newsfeed
-glued a doll shoe back together

Lists always help.