Tuesday, September 29, 2009

MY FAVORITE PART OF THE TRIP WAS . . .

Just got back from seeing the kids in Arizona. I think my favorite part of the Arizona trip was hearing Colbie wake up in the morning, sneaking her bedroom door open just a crack, and seeing her four-toothed smile waiting for me. “Da da da!” she would call, grinnning her little 9-month-old grin.

Well, no, I realize I’m not dada. But I’m dada’s mama, and that’s close enough.


No, wait . . . on second thought, I think my favorite time was feeding Colbie breakfast—and she wanted to do it herself, but I had to get that rice cereal in her someway: her physical development depends on it. She makes a grab for the spoon—and success! She gets a mitt-full of cereal and smears it, finger paint style, all over her hair. One point for Colbie, goose egg for Grandma.

Wait a second . . . maybe my favorite time is when she’s playing on the living room floor with Grandpa pushing her in the little car. Colbie sticks her feet straight out, throws her head back, and laughs like she’s going a hundred miles an hour.

Hold on. I forgot that for sure my favorite time is when she’s playing in the pool or the bathtub. I think she’s half water spaniel.

Or maybe my favorite time is when her lips turn blue and fingers are pruny, and it’s time to take her out and dry her off. When you're 9 months old, people wrap you in towels shaped like monkeys or birds or cartoon critters. It goes with the territory.

Or maybe my favorite time is when she sees Tally, the yellow lab, her best friend and big sister. Colbie loves her Tally. Their love is palpable, even through a double-paned thermal glass patio door--and that's one hunka hunka burning love.


Or maybe my favorite time is when we’re going for our morning walk . . . Colbie in the stroller and Tally on the leash. Tom and I still get to walk unleashed and unstrollered at this point. Colbie never misses a thing—every sound, every passing car, every bird. Her little head is swiveling as fast as it can swivel. No 360-degree head turns, thank goodness, but several impressively snappy 180's.

Or for sure my favorite time is when our Phoenix kids are all together and we’re just hanging around—or horsing around—or eating around—or laying around--or any kind of around. I just like being around them.
Living the large life in Arizona. It's ALL my favorite part.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

LEAVING ON A JET PLANE

This blog will be out of order for a couple of days while I make a jaunt to Arizona to see my granddaughter, Colbie.

Stay tuned for the next installment in a few days. Here is the 1950s test pattern for you to look at while I'm gone. For those of you who weren't born in the 1950s and have no idea what a test pattern is, just hum a little. I'll be back before you know it. Colbie! Here comes Grandma!

Monday, September 21, 2009

MORE REASONS TO GET OUT OF BED

Way back in April 2008, I wrote about my love of early rising.

For many years, I had an ingrained habit of setting the alarm for 5 a.m. and getting up, even on weekends, to start the day. My reasons were valid: getting ready for work, meowing cats, a cup of coffee, a crossword puzzle, taking a walk, and a general anticipation that this just might be the day (which day was never really specified).

In my retirement, the most incredulous looks I get occur right after people ask me how retirement is going, and if I enjoy the luxury of sleeping in—just lounging in bed until noon or thereabouts. When I explain that I still get up sometime around 5 a.m. or 6 a.m., I am met with looks of disbelief and disdain. ‘Retirement is just wasted on you,’ they seem to be implying. ‘Why don’t you keep going to work and I’ll retire if you’re going to be up at dawn anyway,’ their sneering thoughts seem to insinuate.

Even if I try to sleep late, my body lets me know that I’m just not meant to be a sleeper-inner by kicking into the BDS (Bizarre Dream Syndrome) mode. These are the dreams that occur when you’re half awake, just barely floating unconscious—weird dreams that make you more tired than rested. Admit it: you have them, too. This morning, I knew it was time to get up because I was having the “crawling through a narrowing sewer pipe” dream, where the pipe gradually narrows until I can’t move forward anymore. Usually there’s a line of people crawling behind me and I can’t communicate to them that they’re crowding me into an opening that’s too small to crawl through and we all need to back up—NOW!! (I would make a terrible illegal alien trying to sneak into the U.S. from Mexico.)

So this morning at about 6 a.m., unwilling to participate in BDS, I was drinking my coffee and doing a crossword puzzle when I looked out my window at the morning sky. We’re supposed to be getting thunder storms and rain today, but that didn’t stop the sun from trying to break through as it rose in the east.


Then, in the western sky, big cumulus storm clouds were building into thunderheads, reflecting the sunrise from the east.

And this is why I have to get up so early in the morning—so I don’t miss all this beautiful drama. What’s the point of lying twisted in my sheets dreaming about getting claustrophobically trapped in a sewer pipe with other Guatemalan refugees illegally entering Texas when the sun is rising and the thunderheads are gathering?

I don’t want the day to start without me!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

DUCK!

This morning, I stepped outside onto my deck at about 7:15 a.m. to check out the weather. Boom! Boom! Boom!

I dove back in the house to take cover under the dining room table. My neighborhood isn’t exactly South Los Angeles, so the gunshots took me by surprise.

When I finally realized that nobody was shooting at me personally, I tried to figure out what was going on.

Aha! Hunting season!?! Already? I thought duck hunting season didn’t start until October.

A quick check of the internet shows that today is Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day when hunters age 15 and younger may hunt from one-half hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. if accompanied by an adult.

Adult mentors are not allowed to carry firearms. Just the 5- to 15-year-old kids are armed. Why don’t I find that comforting?

So in case any youthful hunters are reading this right now, remember that a duck looks like this:



And an old lady looks like this:


I would appreciate it if you took the time to notice the difference before pulling the trigger.

Friday, September 18, 2009

NAPS

Yesterday, I took two naps. Before yesterday, I don’t think I’ve taken two naps in twenty years.

Well, maybe in the car, but I try to limit it to when Tom is driving.

I was attempting to finish reading Life Sentences so I could bring it back to the library. First I sat reading in my chair in the living room—the same sentence five times. I couldn’t remember who the characters were. Was Calliope the police officer or the murderer?


My head kept nodding—bob, bob, bob, snrrrtt, bob, bob. Drool. Not attractive.

Then I thought maybe if I read in my office, I’d stay awake. Change of scenery and all.

The reading went better in my office—two whole chapters.

Pretty soon my forehead was plastered to page 267, and I couldn’t even remember reading page 266.

I finally gave in and closed my eyes.
In my own defense, we’d had a house guest for the past two nights so I stayed up way past my bedtime. Wa-a-a-y past. And then I had gotten up at my usual time in the morning.

Gotta have my seven or eight hours.

Then KONK—out like a light. A half hour later, I forced myself out of some bizarre dream about monkeys and ATM machines and woke up enough to finish the book, although I doubt if I could write a book report on it.

Like some pre-schooler or some old lady in the nursing home. Mid-afternoon naps. Nod, bob, snort, zzzzzzzz . . . .

Is this retirement great, or what?

Monday, September 14, 2009

MONDAY MORNING WALK

It’s Monday morning in September, and there’s a part of me that feels antsy. Aren’t I supposed to be somewhere doing something? Like at work—teaching? Then the anxiety evaporates and I remember that the only place I’m supposed to be this morning is out walking my two- to four-miles a day. Heaven.

This morning, I just grabbed my camera and walked around my neighborhood. I never got more than six blocks from my house as I wandered up and down the hills, past the abandoned gravel pit, down by the lake, through the neighborhood park, and in and out the cul-de-sacs and winding streets. It reminds me why I started walking in the first place, way back in February of 2000.

I have two doctors, my left leg and my right. ~G.M. Trevelyan

If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk. ~Raymond Inmon


A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

I dream of hiking into my old age. ~Marlyn Doan

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. ~Soren Kierkegaard

We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down. ~Robert Sweetgall

If you pick 'em up, O Lord, I'll put 'em down. ~Author Unknown, "Prayer of the Tired Walker"

Walking is good for solving problems - it's like the feet are little psychiatrists. ~Pepper Giardino

If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish. ~Charles Dickens

Walking takes longer... than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. ~Edward Abbey, "Walking"

Don't let people drive you crazy when you know it's in walking distance. ~Author Unknown

My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-three today and we don't know where the hell she is. ~Ellen DeGeneres

If you can’t find me at home, I hope I’m out for a walk. ~ 2to4aDay

Sunday, September 13, 2009

VIOLENT WEEKEND

It’s not often that my Saturday is filled with two social events containing the words “Stomp” and “Wild.” It’s more likely that I would be attending a kitten-petting festival or a nursing home soiree.

But yesterday, I attended the Carlos Creek Winery Grape Stomp Festival in the afternoon and a Wild Game Feed in the evening. Very exciting stuff for an old person. Be still, my beating heart.

Carlos Creek Winery was inundated with people—thousands of them. There were people from all over the country, hoping to win a t-shirt proclaiming “I Came, I Stomped, I Won” by trampling more juice from a half-barrel of grapes than the other contestants.


Most of the people just wandered through the vineyards, like Tom and me. But there were also those who took the Festival more seriously. One group of four middle-aged blond women had matching purple shirts announcing they were “Wine Divas” and sported flipflops to which they hot-glued purple plastic grape clusters. Musical groups played on three different stages: bagpipers, a country band, an Irish duo, songs from the ‘80s, and more. Food stands, crafts, art, chainsaw wood carvers . . . and people?!? People all over. Cars parked in neighboring fields. People lined up for miles for the wine tasting--$10 a glass for unlimited samples. The atmosphere was festive!

It was West Central Minnesota trying to be the Napa Valley, and it seemed to work.

Then in the evening, we were invited to a friend’s home for his annual Wild Game Feed: pheasant lasagna, elk chili, smoked duck, piles of deep fried walleye pike, smoked ribs. If you are vegetarian, your choices would have been limited. The cooking was done outdoors and we partied in the garage, which is where you must, by law (or at least by common decency) have a wild game feed. This is NOT indoor activity. Wild Game Feed participants’ dress code includes sweatshirts proclaiming your favorite college football team or your favorite sporting outfitter (Minesota Gophers, Lund Boats, and Cabella’s seemed to be the winners).

It was redneck West Central Minnesota at its finest.

I was kind of hoping that today would bring the same type of excitement: a public flogging? a pit bull fight? two rival gangs rumbling in the street in front of my house?

But it was more along the lines of church, a visit to the nursing home, a four-mile walk, and turkey burgers on the grill—and a little kitten-petting on the side. Back to the usual. Nuts.

Friday, September 11, 2009

THE ORIGINAL ‘BLANKET’

My parents needed only two photo albums to completely document their lives: their own growing up years, their marriage, and the subsequent birth of their six children. Imagine—two albums. A baby born in the 21st century has the equivalent of two albums of pictures on a memory card in the family’s digital camera within an hour of birth.

That’s why this picture is special. The picture was taken in the spring of 1953—most likely Easter, because we appear to be dressed up at someone else’s house and all eight of us are on the photo, a rarity. There’s no snow, so it’s not Christmas. Martin Luther King Day hadn’t been invented yet, and we weren’t Irish so didn’t dress up on St. Patrick’s Day. Process of elimination: Easter. Lutherans always dress up for Easter.

My youngest sister would have been about three months old or so—and no disrespect to Michael Jackson (may he rest in peace), she was the first, the original “Blanket” baby. Evidently, in our culture, we believed that babies could not be photographed until they were a year old or their spirits would be stolen by the camera.

Not only that, but my younger sister and I (front row, center and right, ages 3 and 4½) appear to be emerging from our blanket status. Instead of having our blankets over our heads like our baby sister, we have been promoted to baring our faces and tying the blankets under our chins.

My mother and my two older sisters, who were 7 and 11 years old at the time, are completely bareheaded, indicating that they are now fully grown women of marriageable age. I believe we were allowed to discard our blankets when we learned to bake lefse, a symbol of womanhood.

My brother and father, of course, wear hats. Males in our culture wear hats forever (see TA AV EDERS HAT, PAPA) unless the women or children in their lives remind the men to remove them. It has to do with male pattern baldness and, in the case of young boys, preparing for male pattern baldness.

Every old photo has a story. Every story is a peek into a time and place that no longer exist, but which make us who we are. Blankets and hats—part of my cultural history.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

TA AV EDERS HAT, PAPA

Another story from the nursing home as told by my 90- and 92-year-old parents.

“Ta av eders hat, papa.”

When I asked my dad, age 92 and incarcerated in Room 117 of the Knute Nelson Nursing Home, what he remembered about his first day at school in 1923, that is what he said. “Ta av edera hat, papa.”

“What does that mean?” I asked. Norwegian is not my first language, nor my second language, nor any language, I guess. My parents both spoke Norwegian in their homes until they went to school, but by the time my brother and sisters and I came along, we spoke American!

My father’s eyes twinkled. “It’s what I said to my father when we walked into school,” he said.

“So what does it mean?” I asked.

“Take off your hat, papa,” he laughed. His father, my Grandpa Albert, always wore a fedora hat. Felt in the winter, straw in the summer. And when he came inside, he had a habit of pushing it back on his head—not removing it, just pushing it back on his head. It looked kind of jaunty.

So when my dad and he walked into the schoolhouse on that first day, my dad saw the teacher eying his father’s hat. “Ta av eders hat, papa,” little Elmer said quietly. My grandpa removed his hat.

The teacher understood Norwegian—and she remembered that story until Elmer was all grown up. She teased him about it when she saw him, even when he was a man.

I asked my mother about her first day of school. She remembers it was raining. Her father, Edward, was the clerk of the school board, so he felt it was his duty to come to the school the first day and make sure that everything was all ready for the school year. (He was a conscientious, responsible man--honestly, a pillar of the community).

Note: In the 1920s, my mother's grandparents boarded the school teachers at their house. Several of their sons, including my mother’s uncles and my mother’s father, married schoolteachers. Imagine that!

So on the first day of school in 1924, my mother’s father hitched up the horse and the buggy, loaded her and her brothers into the buggy, and headed to the schoolhouse in the rain. She remembers that her father walked with her into the schoolhouse and asked the teacher if everything was all right for her first day of teaching. The teacher said everything was fine, and he left. He had done his duty as the school board clerk.

Some readers encourage me to write more stories from the nursing home. My parents tell me stories, but some of them aren’t so pretty. Even in the old days, there were suicides, still births, tragic broken engagements, brothers angry with brothers, unhappy marriages, and all kinds of sadness. I hesitate to write those stories because there are still people living who don’t want their sadness all over the Internet. I respect that.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

THE WHEELS ON THE BUS GO ROUND AND ROUND

I’ve been thinking this morning of the young moms and dads who are sending their children off to kindergarten for the first time. A big orange school bus just drove past my front window, and I couldn’t help but think of my son’s first day of kindergarten, way back in 1981. Was it really that long ago?

Tom and I are gung-ho educators. We believe in school. We take it seriously. So when our son was ready to start kindergarten in 1981, it was a huge, big deal. We had made the pre-requisite kindergarten roundup visit in the spring and the open house visit a week before school started to meet his teacher and see his classroom. Ryan knew his alphabet, his numbers, his colors, the pledge of allegiance, twenty seven nursery rhymes, his address, his telephone number, and the names of emergency contacts. He had even taught himself to read. Clear conscience: we had done everything we could think of to pave the way to kindergarten success.

We were all set.

One of the things he was most looking forward to on his first day of school was getting on the school bus with his best buddy Danny from across the street and riding the bus to school. We had rehearsed it a thousand times. Stand here, don’t take off your backpack or you’ll forget it, don’t step off the curb, wait until the bus stops and opens its doors, find a seat and sit down right away. . .

The bus was scheduled to stop at the corner right by our house at 7:25 a.m. and would easily get him to school in plenty of time for the first bell to ring at 8:00 a.m. Easy as pie.

At 7:15 a.m., the boys went to stand by the bus stop: very grown up, five-year-old Ryan and his friend Danny from across the street.

Danny’s mother watched from her window and I watched from mine. At the time, my daughters were ages 22 months and 4 months, so to avoid a three-ring circus at the bus stop (a distracted mother, two babies under the age of 2, and the two antsy little kindergartners waiting for the bus), I opted for the ‘watch-out-the-window’ form of supervision. Remember, this was 1981 and bus stop abductions weren’t invented yet.

7:15 a.m. came and went. 7:20 a.m. 7:30 a.m. No bus. 7:40 a.m. No bus.

I started panicking, trying to figure out Plan B (which had been nonexistent until this point). School began in 20 minutes, and the boys still stood out by the corner. They had started slugging each other with their book bags just to pass the time.

Plan B kicked in: both girls were still in their pajamas. I began to throw clothes on them—a sundress with a little strappy tie around the neck for Shannon. Skip dressing the baby—babies wore pajamas all the time anyway, right? Who would know the difference?

I could see Danny’s mother backing her car out of the garage. I called to Ryan as I started putting the girls into the car. He reluctantly dragged his feet all the way to the car, still hoping that he’d get his bus ride to school. I threw everybody in the car. (This was 1981, remember, when parents just threw their kids in the car because there were no laws about car seats and seat belts and other types of safety devices. My children, according to child endangerment laws, should never have survived to adulthood.)

Halfway to school, I made sure the kids were all right. Baby J9 was still safely wedged into the glove compartment or some other safe place—I don’t recall exactly. I glanced in my rearview mirror to check the kids in the backseat and noticed that Shannon’s little sundress was down around her waist. The strappy tie around her neck had broken, and that was all that had been holding it up. She looked unperturbed as she flashed her naked torso at the passing traffic. Ryan’s little face, which should have been wreathed in first-day-of-school smiles, had little worry lines between his eyes. Just great—my five-year-old would spend his first day of school developing his first crow’s feet.

I did a right turn on two squealing wheels around the corner onto Irving Street and skidded to a halt about a half a block from the school. That was when I noticed that I was wearing a pair of stained jeans and a size XL sweatshirt with baby spit up on the front. I may have been barefoot. I don’t recall. The clock in the car said 7:55 a.m.

“C’mon!” I shouted to Ryan, grabbing my entourage. We nearly knocked over the school crossing guards with their little yellow flags as I barreled across the street to the school’s front door. The classroom was upstairs, and we took the stairs two at a time.

Notice the smiling, happy children dressed in clean clothing. This picture of our kids was DEFINITELY not taken on our son’s first day of kindergarten.

As we screeched to a stop by the classroom doorway, I noticed another set of parents carefully acclimating their daughter to her new environment. Both the mother and father were neatly dressed in professional business suits. “See, Becky,” they said soothingly, their arms protectively around her shoulders, “you’ll sit at these little tables to do your work. And if you need help, Mrs. Maack will help you.” Becky looked dubious, but her parents’ reassuring faces remained calm and smiling.

I looked up at the clock on the wall: 7:59 a.m. I shoved my son into the classroom. I wish I could quote here the calming words I said to him, words that he could repeat someday as the inspiration that caused him to excel in his education and strive for his goals. Unfortunately, I believe I muttered something inspirational like, “Gotta go. Don’t swear in school.”

When I got home, I called the bus company lady who apologized for the route confusion and assured me that the bus would stop on our corner the next morning at promptly 7:15 a.m. I admit I may have alarmed her just a little as I related my story, probably using the first-day-of-kindergarten-mother-tearful hysterics that I hadn’t had time to express earlier. By the time I got done, I seem to remember that she volunteered to drive the bus herself the next day if I would just hang up the phone.

I still wonder about Becky, the kindergartner whose parents were giving her such a professional, loving send-off to kindergarten. Did her school years go more smoothly because of that fine start?

But my kid is a survivor, right? Even with the worst kindergarten send off in the history of kindergarten send offs, he overcame his humble beginnings and went on to excel in school and in life. Just goes to show you, the wheels on the bus DO go round and round, despite the failings of amateur mothers.

Monday, September 07, 2009

IS LABOR DAY STILL LABOR DAY?

We humans have always been stymied by philosophical questions. The most common one is:

· If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

It’s the question in every Philosophy 101 course description in every college catalog in the country.

Here’s another one:

· Answer ONLY yes or no: Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

No matter what you say, you’re in trouble.

Then that childhood question that never gets answered:

· Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

After not being able to answer those three questions, there’s always:

· If you ask a philosopher a question, will you still remember the question when he’s done answering you?

But here’s a brand new question for the freshly retired:
If you no longer labor, are you still eligible to celebrate Labor Day?

Or do we just have to sit in our chairs and watch other people go for boat rides and send thank you notes to their local union reps?

Another philosophical question for the ages.

Friday, September 04, 2009

ELLIOT AND LORNA PATRICIA, PART II

This post is a response to my daughter J9 who wrote a comment to the previous post, ELLIOT AND LORNA PATRICIA. Here's your picture of the Colorado trampoline. I was surprised all of your internal organs did not shift around, given the amount of time you and your siblings spent jostling them on this trampoline:

And about the fake Cabbage Patch dolls that I sewed for you before I broke down and bought Elliot and Lorna Patricia: They invented the old saying, "They don't have two nickels to rub together," to describe your father and me in our early years. I don't know exactly how much they pay teachers on the low end of the pay scale these days, but back then it was about $1.99 a month.

So yes, I admit I bought heads at Ben Franklin and sewed you fake Cabbage Patch dolls. But I'd like to point out how well you and your sister turned out. I think your poverty-filled youth was a character building experience--in an Angela's Ashes sort of way.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

ELLIOT AND LORNA PATRICIA

It's tough to admit you’re a phony, but I guess I’m a phony. I wrote about not being Andy Warhol and saving banana peels in cardboard boxes. I wrote about being a minimalist.

But now I’ve found my Achilles’ heel.

A couple of weeks ago, I opened a huge box in the corner of the basement. Inside was a jumble of dolls and doll clothes that hadn’t been sorted in 15 or 20 years, or whenever I decided that my daughters weren’t playing with dolls any more. I couldn’t really tell what was what, so I decided to just throw everything into the washing machine—dolls, clothes, everything. After all those years, who knew what lurked inside that box.

After the washing . . . 13 clean dolls

After the box’s contents were washed and dried, I started looking a little closer—and that’s when I recognized Elliot’s little face. Oh, Elliot—the bald-headed boy Cabbage Patch baby. Where was Lorna Patricia? The little red-head with one front tooth? I looked carefully at the three red-headed Cabbage Patch dolls, and Lorna Patricia grinned back at me, as if to say, “Don’t you recognize me?”

It was Christmas 1985. Our family, the Stay-at-Home-Stuck-in-the-Muds (mostly for financial reasons) had decided to go to Colorado and spend the holiday with Tom’s two sisters and their families. The kids (ages 4, 6, and 10) were excited beyond description—first airplane ride, skiing in the mountains, traveling!

However, Tom and I explained carefully to the children, all our Christmas money would be spent buying airplane tickets. Did the kids understand that the trip was their present this year? There wouldn’t be anything wrapped up under the tree for them? Yes, they all nodded solemnly, they understood. (Do you sense a Hallmark Christmas story unfolding here?)

We bought the airplane tickets and began planning what to pack. The closer it got to Christmas, the worse I felt about “no presents.” I knew the girls were just dying for Cabbage Patch Kids like all their friends had—so somehow or other, I found the money to buy them each a doll (through legal means, I am certain, although I refuse to divulge the particulars). Secretly, I mailed the dolls to their aunt in Colorado and asked her to put them under her Christmas tree.

On Christmas Eve night, with all the relatives crowded into the living room, the tree was bursting with packages. Two little girls from Minnesota knew there wasn’t a present under the tree for them, and they tried to be brave and cheerful. But it was hard to watch their older cousins open mountains of gifts when they had none (although by the ages of 4 and 6, they were pretty used to being deprived).

Suddenly, their aunt reached under the tree for two wrapped boxes. Smiling, she handed them to my daughters—who looked confused, and then excited. Off came the wrappings, and there were Elliot and Lorna Patricia. My youngest daughter trembled from head to toe. “A bald-headed Cabbage Patch boy!” she kept repeating in disbelief, her little hands shaking as she held Elliot.


My other daughter, a more reserved child, was wide-eyed and quiet, as if she were afraid that the red-headed Lorna Patricia would disappear.


Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing. My nieces sat amid their mounds of gifts and just beamed at the two little girls who each got only one present, but were by far the most excited people in the room. A couple of the more tender-hearted relatives brushed away a tear (or maybe I just made up that part).

Elliot and Lorna Patricia waiting for their first plane ride back to Minnesota. (I have no recollection of what we gave our son for Christmas--evidently just an overnight bag as that is all he is carrying at the airport.)

So now it’s 2009 and I’m trying to minimize my belongings. I certainly don’t need 13 dolls with their 40 changes of clothing.

But Elliot and Lorna Patricia? I think they need to stay.

Elliot and Lorna Patricia, age 24, still lookin’ good in 2009

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

MINIMALISM

Here’s my new favorite sign. Yesterday I hung it at the bottom of my basement steps so that every time I go downstairs to do laundry or take care of the cat, it will be the first thing I see.


It seems to me that when we were young and first starting out—new careers, new marriage, new house, new life—that we were pretty intent on accumulating. The list of stuff that we thought we wanted and needed was long. We whittled away at the list as we could afford it—appliances, furniture, clothing, leisure time toys, home d├ęcor, etc. Our goal was to add to our collection of belongings.

However, for me, a funny thing is happening on the way to old age: I want to get rid of about 50 percent of what it took me the first two-thirds of my life to accumulate. It could even be as high as 90 percent.

Here’s what I’m discovering:

1. The more “stuff” I have around me, the more stressed I feel.
2. The less “stuff” I have around me, the calmer I feel.
3. Everything should have a place to be put away.
4. If I don’t wear it, donate it.
5. If I don’t use it, sell it.
6. If I don’t like it, throw it.
7. If I don’t need it, give it to someone who does.
8. A quiet, minimal environment makes me feel peaceful.
9. A cluttered environment with too much “stuff” makes me feel agitated.

Okay, so I’ll never make it on the cover of Home Beautiful, but I also seem to be missing that gene that causes old ladies to hoard cats or save twisty ties from bread bags. Thank goodness. It could have gone either way.