Lost Places

I spent the time I had in SoCal when I wasn’t going somewhere or needed to be somplace at x particular time as much as I could wandering around my old home town. It’s beautiful, but not the place I left. It’s like a dream of the place I left, because it’s “off.” The buildings are basically right, but not, the whole place just feels weird, it’s not my stomping grounds any more. I wouldn’t want to live there, but I do miss the feeling like I belonged that I had when I lived there.

Except I really didn’t feel that way. I didn’t fit the culture. But the place was mine and that’s what I was trying to recapture when I could on my trip; and I couldn’t. I didn’t want to “go home” as much as I wanted to see/feel/smell the place that had been mine even if it had never been “home.” When you don’t really connect with the culture or your family you attach to something. In my case it was the place. The view of the water, the smell of the beach, the eucalyptus trees weeping on the drive, etc. The views were still there, the smell was the same, the trees had contracted something and were all removed, and what I had noticed the last time was still true: the place has been “Disneyfied.” That it is polished, and prettified and not a real town any more. The local shopping center small market became a deli and cafe. The drug store is gone, the liquor store is gone, almost everything is gone, except the bank, investment firms and real estate offices. The on again off again restaurant is in operation again as a chi-chi French place. See? No one actually lives in that place. It’s an investment. You go OUT to dinner there.

Same place, when I was a very small kid, still had the counter in the drug store. Jack cooked the best hamburgers around. When the drug store finally took out the counter, Jack moved around the  corner into the Bakery and still served the best hamburgers around, at Irene’s Bakery. Next to the bakery, by the time I was in high school was a real estate office,but before that, it had been the kids’ section and art section of the local bookstore. By highschool, that bookstore had folded, but another had taken up across the center. There was a “general” store that sold china and party linen and small kids’ toys and glassware. It’s a flower shop/bakery now, very chi chi.

I suppose you could still live in the place, but almost everything I could see was, “To be here, you need a lot of money! Let us help you spend it or invest it for you!” There was ONE gift shop and a flower stand; that’s it. Made me sad, no ballet school, no doctors, no advertising agencies, no drug store, no family cafes, no real market. Between that, the cost, and the crowding, even if I could afford it; I wouldn’t live there. Yeah, if I could afford it, I’d buy my Dad’s old house and stay there a week or two a year maybe. There were a few other houses I dearly loved I might do the same if I got the chance. But really live there? No.

Going home again wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to see home, to be in my home town again. That isn’t there either. As to the other part? Emotionally? I didn’t fit as a kid; I sure wouldn’t fit now!

Woodstove Going and . . .

our furnace is on the fritz (part is on order). This has meant that things in the living room have been majorly upset; a good thing. I’ve been whittling away at the bedroom a bit at a time, but the living room needs it too.

Had a friend over for tea last week, that got the table cleared off, which also needed it. Unfortunately, this meant the downstairs table was cleared off just in time for the colder weather (in an unheated house), when the inclination is to eat in the warmer rooms, upstairs! Backwards, that’s us.

So today started with me trying to make waffles. The waffle iron surfaced during the table clean out, for a long time I didn’t know where the waffle iron was, then the cable was missing. Found that. Thankfully I had marked it with a bread tag! (Do you use bread tags to mark things? I’ve done it for years, way before I ever saw a pic of such on pinterest!)

The waffle iron needed to be cleaned & seasoned, (it had been cleaned before it was put away, but the outside had gotten sticky somehow) so no waffles. Decided I was going to make pancakes instead. While looking for a missing ingredient in the canisters, one package of hull-less barley came open in the bin — another cleaning project.

My day, if you’re counting, before breakfast consisted of cleaning projects: the wood stove area, the waffle iron, and now the canister, sigh. At this point, DH took over and made pancakes. I finished cleaning/organizing the tools, etc. that had been used on the wood stove, so DH could put them away when he got there. He dealt with the barley (at that point I was still going to be the cook). And I put dishes away.

Almost every day now, when I put something away, I make a point of culling what’s stored with it, at least once a day. This has yielded a bunch of stuff, and the wagon is pretty full of things culled this way: a time card rack (factory type), a brass lamp shade, tape tins, etc. stuff — that’s going away, today (didn’t yesterday, stayed home, cleaned and wrote mostly).

The culling sort makes me almost miss the counting thing: combining stuff in the pantry, filing papers or tossing them, tossing excess clothes, etc. I know I’m doing it, not counting. I do notice though!

I sometimes wonder how I’ll know when I’m done? One paradigm I’d set was “being able to walk across my living room.” I haven’t accomplished that, yet. But the house is cleaner and I’m managing to not undo whatever I’ve done; a major victory, if you’re me.

For years, the idea of keeping some space clean would give me panic attacks. This going one-step-at-a-time isn’t fast, but I can sustain it, which having a professional organizer, spring cleaning or what have you doesn’t.

The dishes get washed daily (although I can honestly say they don’t ALL get washed all the time)! The toilet/sink/bath counter get washed regularly, but not on a schedule. The bed is made almost every day. The sheets have been getting washed every weekend. And I’m culling/selling/tossing stuff every week.  This is a slow but steady process, it has to be slow to keep the panic at bay.

When I wrote the memoir, I wrote about me and stuff and the woman who was my abuser. When I put the realities of what happened to me in a few succinct paragraphs, my being a “hoarder” makes sense. It also makes sense that I’m not attached to the stuff as much as the mess. I learned real quickly that anything of mine was subject to be “acquired” by someone else, or derided, or damaged, or broken, or given away. I learned that to protect myself I had to act as if my “stuff” had no value. The more I valued something, the more likely it was to be derided, broken, “lost” or stolen. I learned to hide behind mess, it was the only thing that worked.

Fifty-plus years later, I’m trying to undo that process. Not easy because most of it became unconscious behavior, and the panic is real. How often would you clean if the idea gave you a panic attack? That’s where i was for most of my life.

It’s changing. One piece at a time. Wish it was faster, but it is what it is. And, if this is like the PTSD behaviors, what will happen is that I’ll reach some point where 1)I’ll panic big time because the old behaviors are nearly gone and 2)I’ll ride that out and learn to live with whatever vestiges of the panic remain for the rest of my life, in a probably mostly clean & tidy home.

Took a lot of years and stuff to get here, it’s going to take some time yet to get out. Too slow, but it’s what works; and that’s inarguable, since the alternate just stops me cold!

Culling Down, Cleaning Up & Kitsch

I’ve had more stuff going out the past few days, things I’ve sold or donated mostly, which is good. I’ve got more staged to go to the antique store today as well.

But here’s what prompted this post. I belong to a site that had an article about “How to Decorate Seasonally.” Okay, I opened the link. The text said something about decorating for fall can quickly become kitschy, and that’s unacceptable.


If that’s your taste, it is. Why does anyone have to bow down to the Style Police and do what another thinks is not tacky? I see more posts & articles on how to decorate that I think are ridiculous or just dumb, and so? I’ve found decorating books that advocate looks I wouldn’t pay to live in, both minimalist and country clutter. So?

I just don’t get it. My style is pretty much the same it was when I was a kid, except now I’m buying the furniture. I like word art (well, that’s a stretch for a former bookseller, a writer and an editor, ‘eh?) and visual jokes. If I add a pumpkin or two and put a roller skate under one, why should anyone get to tell me that’s wrong because it’s playful? WHY do I have to decorate my house, who next to no one ever sees, to conform to others’ taste or to confirm I’m an adult?

I think this is more of the paradoxes that the internet has created. We’re all “connected” but don’t actually talk to each other or see each other except in passing. We’re all more “creative” but are supposed to have basically the same taste.

I’ll keep my taste and decorate my home to suit myself. I don’t care if the great internet herd likes it or not. For us, things have to be practical first. DH just got into a discussion in one of his groups about whether you should get a stainless steel sink or composite? Someone said, “Stainless steel scratches.” Well, yeah, it does, but so does Corian and everything else. Get one with a brushed finish, then forget about it. It’s a TOOL, in this house, it has to be practical, has to function correctly FIRST, then we’ll worry about how it “looks.”

When I went to LA recently for a funeral, I was reminded, again, how very focused many people I’ve known are on how things look: themselves, their homes, their clothes, etc. What I’m after is practical, functional, frugal, and not ugly. That’s true of my clothes, my cars, my makeup, and my home. My makeup takes me < 5 minutes to put on, when I put it on. (I use 4 products: foundation, old lady skin goo, lip stain, powder.) What I’m trying to do with my home, the cleaning plan, etc. is essentially the same thing: pare the stuff down so that the required work is fast and easy. What it looks like comes AFTER that.

I’m not trying to keep up with the Joneses or be the Joneses, and if they don’t like it? Well, that’s their problem, not mine!

Trying to Make it Work

Part of the  problem with trying to get organized for me is that anything I do on paper, with cards, lists, etc. is going to seem to be “too big” and my PTSD will rear up, again, like it always has.

It occurred to me that if I could use a computer to input all the data, then I wouldn’t “see” all the chores all the time, which might make it do-able.

I wrote DH a note about computer scripting. We’ll see if this can work! I have ideas about how to determine how often things should be cleaned, getting weekends “off,” and other ideas that frankly I haven’t seen in the 100s of cleaning/organizing books, blogs, pins I’ve read, got or found.


Making the Bed

Part of the routine I’m doing these days is making the bed. It’s to the point where I can say it’s a habit, so I can check it off the “get this to be automatic” list.

I find myself making the bed in certain ways:

  • Flannel bottom/top sheets because it’s fall and starting to get colder and they’re cozy.
  • The older hand-made coverlet we use,  this covers the entire bed, it’s soft and not scratchy and is what’s closest to our faces.
  • Then the secondhand wool blankets: the smaller one on DH’s side of the bed as he likes to “cocoon” himself in the night and the larger one on my side so I can still snuggle up to him without a tug of war.
  • The polartech light blanket, covers the entire bed and is the cat’s favorite.
  • The two hand-made, smaller (single bed size) Swedish blankets we bought to replace the one my Dad had bought me, and the one I’d bought to go with it. (They were destroyed in a fire at the drycleaner, long ago.) These blankets have fringe on the edges that needs to be tucked in to keep the cat from going mad AND to keep her from unweaving the blankets. At the moment, these are folded up at the end of the bed; it’s too warm for them!

When it’s really cold and we have the down comforter on, I alternate the small wool blankets (both sets) between the full size ones, like layers in a sandwich.

There: when I make our bed, I consider all of us (2 people and pets) who’ll sleep on it, our comfort, etc. It makes the “chore” into an act of love, not just being tidy because it’s expected or whatever. Every time I put things just so, it makes me smile. Self-care and loving sometimes are the smallest acts.

I just

reread this post


I’m dismayed to realize how much of this still isn’t done, sigh. It’s Saturday morning. I need to go get something done on the “TO DO” list!

The Hardest Part

The piece of the PTSD that seems to affect me the most these days is the “exposure” thing. People with PTSD feel as if they have a painted target on them and so want rather desperately to be below the radar, any radar.

Cleaning the house, working on the cleaning plan, working on the memoir, ummm, and writing this blog all lean on this. So did the 10,000+ items out annually. Sometimes I can overcome it; sometimes I can’t.

It just is.

The only way I know to deal with this is to just bull ahead, as much as I’m able. I’m doing way better than I used to. In the bad old days the idea of living in a uncluttered, clean house would throw me into a panic attack. These days, I can clean just fine, losing the clutter is going to be the bugaboo, and we think we have a plan for that too.

But still. . . I do things like I’ve done 3 times now . . . and “lose” the manuscript for the memoir. Yesterday I finally found the printout, but then lost my reading glasses. I just smiled and did what I could without the glasses. And when I found them again read the two or three things I hadn’t been able to before. But it’s that sort of thing. My brain fights me.

I’ve been having nightmares for the past two weeks or so, I expect this will continue for some time. It’s apparently a bleed valve I need, so be it. I don’t remember them, but it does disrupt my sleep. So instead of getting up at 6:30, this morning it was 8:30 before I finally rolled out of bed and I felt as if I needed another 2 hours, or more.

The unconscious  things my brain does are the main reason that I can’t “just ignore” the PTSD. I’m not where I need multiple anxiety meds, a dog, etc. but I have the same disorder. It shows up in weird and interesting ways: these days in nightmares and “losing” things.