Category Archives: Life Lessons

A Life List

I wondered what had happened to all my “life lists.” The Life List is a technique I used for many years to help me figure out who I was, without the overlay of abuse, the abuser, and others’ opinions.

I found one this morning in a box of papers. This list is over 30 years old. I quit smoking in my 20s. My current reactions are in bold below.

Much of this list, 4 pages, were pictures of china from the Sunday newspaper’s magazine. The patterns are mostly pastel, stylized flowers on white backgrounds.  I still like the china patterns, although of the seven I cut out, only one is something I still really like. It’s yellow spider mums on a white background, called “Dreaming” by Denby. I’d include an image but can’t find one to copy, sorry!

Aside from the china, the list says:

…herbs hanging by a string, I do this.

an orange/clove pomander in every closet, I don’t do this.

growing vegetables in pots, I don’t do this.

a fave radio station’s call letters I’d probably still listen to that station, if we didn’t live on the other side of the country!

small white ashtrays at pier 1 I don’t smoke any more.

The white German china which was my Mom’s and the Corning Centuraware my Dad used as everyday. I have some of each, so they’re still “me.”

A list of flowers: columbine, lily of the valley, miniature roses, daffs, vinca, Icelandic poppies I still like all of these, but don’t grow many flowers.

Linen placemats/table cloths, Definite change here: I have cloth placemats, but rarely use a table cloth.

Berries for breakfast.  Yum!

I thrive on change – a man who can rest but not stop. Not the way I see my former self. I don’t think I  really thrived on change, but I desperately wanted it since this is from the time in my life when the emotional pain was constant. 

Not interested in a man who rests but doesn’t stop — in some ways. In others? Yes, this is still true. 

Wrap around skirts, bell sleeves, capes. I still like these, but don’t wear them. I’m pear shaped, so they’re not flattering any more.

A plain shoe doesn’t drown out you! Who cares? But I still wear shoes which are pretty simple.

Lastly: Perky, smart, happy, pretty … such are dreams. I find this sad.


Some of this is taste, obviously. Some of it’s who I wanted to be or how I wanted to be seen.

It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t understand the need for this how much these lists meant. They were affirmation, vindication, and hope all in one.


I threw the pages out after I wrote this. Interesting? Yes. Do I want to keep it?

No.

Advertisements

Books & Reading: Legacy & Healing

My parents met because of books. Mom was a bookseller, Dad a book collector.

Books saved my life. For decades, I read compulsively first thing in the morning and last thing at night. They were my only constant: no matter how bad or good the day was, the words on the page remained the same.

The abused, wounded little girl I was to the young woman I became, desperately needed a constant. God had been blocked from me, and any belief system or group of people, as part of the abuse.

Then I met this quiet 6’1 man who decided he was going to take the person he said was, “the most cynical person I’ve ever known,” and be the rock she needed. It worked, but it took years.

During those years, I still read compulsively. I opened the shop, in part to thank the literary world for saving my sanity/life. Then, at 45, I was diagnosed with PTSD, and the therapist, DH and I slowly but steadily unpicked the knot of my abuse and traumas.

My therapist said that when people get PTSD, the first thing which eases the pain becomes the addiction. In my case, I was 3 and it was books and reading.

stack-of-books

(Not sure where I got the image, I’ve used it before, sorry!)

More years, more books, more healing. The store closed in 2005. Sometime afterwards, about the time I started knitting (2015), I stopped reading compulsively first and last thing every day.

I’d gotten to where I almost resented books. I had too many, they cluttered up my life and were a continual reminder of how wounded I’d been.

I count people who write, illustrate, publish and edit as some of my dearest friends. There are 6 books with my name on the cover, and two more scheduled to come out late this year or early next.

One of the future books is the memoir and that’s the period, for me, on the end of the abuse/PTSD sentence. If one person, just one, doesn’t commit suicide or tries again, just once, the ten years it took me to write the memoir will be worthwhile.

Behind that 10 years are hundreds of hours of therapy, both effective and not. Also behind it are thousands of hours of reading: recharging my batteries, giving me hope, giving me respite, and telling me to try again and again.

Recently, I plucked a copy of Helene Hanff’s Q’s Legacy from a box. I was completely prepared to get rid of it, and will, but I hadn’t read it. I’ve read everything else she wrote, except her text books, and I skimmed those! So I picked it up and started.

In the course of reading about how she became the person associated with the Marks & Co. bookshop and all that happened to her because of that association, I found a new way to adjust for my past. Having books and reading is fine. It’s no longer my refuge, safety and salvation, it’s a pleasant way to spend some time.

I still have way too many books — but somehow, it’s hard to resent it.

 

 

Inspirations and Data

There are various places I’ve been getting inspiration, my batteries “recharged,” and just getting useful information.

One of these is the website choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com, which is filled with common sense, realistic advice about living with less stuff, spending less money, and doing so more deliberately.

Another is the woman Lefie, on YouTube. (Link) Most YouTube folks who talk about simplicity or minimalism I find to be rather “holier than thou” an attitude I frankly want to watch about as much as I want someone to pull off my toenails!

Lefie is the only one I’ve found who’s human enough, informative enough, and entertaining enough to keep me interested. Not a lot of what she says is new to me, but it makes me think about whatever again and I don’t resent it. I don’t feel lectured at, and I don’t feel like it’s a preen job where she gets to show off how cool and accomplished she is.

I find most  lifestyle YouTube videos so bizarrely slick that I think it’s like bad TV, rather than other people talking to me about what works for them.  If I want to watch a production, I’ll get a movie, a TV show, etc. with professionals. Most YouTubers are not those things, and they do things like make up and manicures and very spiffed up houses, and then lecture.  (I call these “preen jobs.”)

They don’t have the presentational panache professionals do, their information isn’t fresh enough for me to be interested to watch the entire piece, and in the process, they’re for me, a bad infomercial. I started to watch one yesterday where the woman was doing a house tour. She moved the camera/phone around so much she made me dizzy and I stopped watching.

I’m not their intended audience, I know, but still. Did no one tell her that she can’t just pan around a room at normal walking speed for several minutes without making viewers kind of loopy?

There are a swathe of “frugal substitute” and “what we don’t use any more” YouTube videos, most of which I also find pretty silly or irritating. You can find 2 flavors of these: frugality/save money and minimalist.

I’m glad you use a bullnose clip instead of a chip clip. Terrific! But why use one at all? We use rubberbands, but chip-type snacks are rare here, because, doh, we’ll eat them and we don’t need the calories or salt or to spend the outrageous amount per pound for the snacks to begin with. So when such things make it into the house, they’re usually gone in 1 day, no need for a chip clip or bullnose clip or anything!

dollar sign from zazzle.com

My point there is that it’s MORE frugal and minimalist not to buy them to start with!

The other reason those videos irritate me is that I’ve been doing frugal paring down and substitutions for decades. I have tried 1000s of the ideas already. I keep hoping someone will find a new way to save money, but so far, I haven’t found one.

One way to save money: spend less.

Three strategies to do this: 1) Cheaper substitute. 2) Do without. 3) Use less.

What I’m really looking for these days and haven’t found yet, is the minimalist equivalent to the save money statement above.

That statement took a long time to crystalize from decades of reading, watching, trying, listening, etc.


I’m not a minimalist. I’m a recovering hoarder.

I’m not a frugalista. I’m a person trying to save money for a heating system, get ready for retirement, or just not waste money, because why would you want to waste a resource?

I’m not a YouTube fanatic. I only have subscribed to one channel, Lefie’s. It may be the only one I ever subscribe to!

I am not a 20-40 year old young professional or mom, looking for help, either.


I can come up with the blanket statement for minimalism, but not the detail. The detail requires the understanding that actual usage brings. I’m not a minimalist, right? But here’s the first piece:

One way to be minimalist, that is have less stuff is to get rid of stuff.

Revision: To be minimalist and have less stuff, get rid of stuff.

Revision 2: To become minimalist, remove excess.

It’s the same, obvious statement which can be overlooked amidst all the noise on the subject!


Trying to Be Organized

It’s remarkably difficult!

One thing I noticed early this spring was that much of the frozen food I’d pitched were the random combinations of veggies: bok choy and onions, or, or …? Because I composted about 20 of these “soup and stew” vegetable mixes, I decided that this year I need recipes for whatever I froze instead.

So I searched through my cookbooks and came up with some. Then I made a spread sheet of the recipe name/source/page as a column head and the ingredients as the rows. The quantity req’d for a recipe goes into the appropriate cel on the spread sheet. It’s two pages long at this point.

Why did I do it this way? Because all the ingredients aren’t available from the farm at the same time, so some will be frozen first and then I’ll add the others.

But then, how did I know how many I had? Were they complete? And, and . . . . and so I made a grid for that.

So, this morning (it’s farm day) I went through the “shopping list” I’d made for the farm, from the email about what’s available this week and a survey of the food in the kitchen and marked what was needed for the food to be put away.

So, now I have:

  1. Two shopping lists: one for the farm, the other for the supermarket
  2. A check list/grid of the completed/in process frozen foods
  3. A spreadsheet with recipe names, where I found them, and the farm ingredients
  4. Three cookbooks, with the recipe pages flagged.

I intend to make a large grid/checklist page that I can just tape to the fridge, combining #2, #3 with recipe cards,  (replacing #4) in a library pocket.

This is waaay too involved!


When I first conceived of this, I thought I’d do 2 recipes, maybe 3: summer veggie combo, winter veggie combo and something else. The 3 became 13, and the chaos began. When the list of recipes grew exponentially, my need for tracking and organization did the same.

Every week, I thought, “Okay, I’ll do this piece of organization/tracking and that will fix it.” and then discovered I’d forgotten some vital piece, again. (The last is the check list of how many containers are done. Are they complete? Not?)

For the past three weeks, I’ve added a new form of tracking and organization to this every week. Let’s hope that combining them on one page will get it to “use it at a glance”  that I want!


It’s done. I have room for the library pocket, but haven’t copied the recipes out yet. I added a 14th recipe.

So two more major steps: copying the recipes onto cards and proofing the data.

 

Email Update

I’ve been purging email all along. Just so you know, there’s 1,3xx emails in my trash and 25,2xx in my main in box. Still going down and I’m going to keep it that way!

web-hosting-3Mhgvrk4tjM-unsplash

Photo by Web Hosting on Unsplash

The messages to “increase my file size” have also mostly stopped, thankfully. But I’ve gotten in the habit of deleting unwanted emails every day, and see no reason to change that!

J

I Have Been

Working hard — on the house. I’ve been following my cleaning plan.

It seems to me that a major shift is in order. Instead of trying to sell the memoir as a psych. program auxiliary piece, maybe what I need to do is sell the cleaning plan and make the memoir the back piece to that.

It would solve the problem of the memoir just not having a plot, being first-person, too short, and a mess of other issues. Of course, I still haven’t heard from my publisher, but my feeling is that I will not. Not now and not in the future. It will be as if it dropped into a black hole and vanished… poof!

This has completely stopped the work I was doing on the memoir. I had even talked to a friend about coding it for an ebook. Okay, fine.

I can’t sell the cleaning plan if I can’t use it, right? I can’t set myself up as an expert on anything unless I can actually DO whatever. (Well, that’s not true. These days the woods are full of blow-hard know-it-alls who make pronouncements about any and everything. EVERYONE is an expert, about anything they feel strongly about!)

But I was raised by someone who genuinely was an expert in his field. My brother is. My husband is too. I have been surrounded my entire life by men who are really good at their jobs, and became “experts.”

So I have standards about about what it takes to BE an expert:

  • You must know what you’re talking about.
  • You must be able to do something rather than just talk about the subject.
  • You must have some sort of track record, that is a history, of successfully being able to do whatever it is.

My dad taught aeronautics  and designed airplanes for 40 years, my brother has worked in his field for the same amount of time and he’s still teaching and writing about it, my husband has been in his field since the field started, about 30 years now.

Me? The only thing I’m expert in is the inner workings of my head. The memoir is 50 years of life & learning and took me 10 years to write. The cleaning plan started in one way when I started this blog in 11/2011. I’ve been whacking away at the problems since.

I couldn’t do the memoir until I did the trauma work.

I could write, but not use, the cleaning plan until I did the memoir.

So, we’ll see if the next step is what I want/hope it to be? That is, using the cleaning plan, make it  a habit, and a book and/or app is the next step. (Habits take 90 days to be established.)

I sure hope so! I don’t know that I have the patience to spend 10 more years on this project.

So, I’ve shifted gears. I was all set to publish the memoir, whack away at the cleaning plan, then when I finally got it to work, get it ready for publication.

Nope.

Doing it the other way around. Going to get the cleaning plan working,  finish up the writing related to it, get DH or someone to make the app I have in mind, then publish the CLEANING PLAN, with the MEMOIR as back material.

Then the lack of “plot” or “arc” or sex, drugs, rock n’ roll won’t matter. I’m not selling the memoir; it’s explanatory material, I’m selling the cleaning plan. Want to know why I set the cleaning plan up the way I have? Read the memoir and you’ll find out.

street signs

Image is not mine, not sure where I got it. Sorry!

This Week & the Neat Muscle

This week is going to be centered around the upcoming flea market. (If you’re local and want info, let me know!)

Afterwards, I hope to have a hole here AND a hole in the storage. As with April’s flea market, I’ll set aside a wadge of the unsold items to donate, hopefully to the thrift shop down the street. If we can’t donate it there, I’ll put it in storage to donate it elsewhere or take it to the dump’s swap shop.

A major purge: a box of books and 10 bins worth of leaves, that’s 260 gallons were taken to the dump! There remains 2 small leaf piles I missed on the lawn and a larger pile next to the compost heap, I just had to get them off the grass!

Today’s work:

  • The bean trellis needs to be anchored further and the beans planted. That’s the next step in the veggie garden. Of course, more leaf raking.
  • The dryer is acting up, so clearing the porch under where the clothes line is getting put up for the summer is another. Moving the dryer away from the wall and see if the drain is plugged? DH did this. The dryer is back in place, hopefully usuable — I had a large load of rags, kitchen towels, etc. to wash and did so!
  • The living room also needs to be cleaned, amongst other things, our chimney will be swept Weds.

Other projects:

Dining Room & Rug:  The rug effort made great progress yesterday. I got the 3 rugs stitched together and started on the first border. I need to do 2 sets of border stitches. Then I need to clean up the stitching, knot and tie off the ends. THEN I’m done! Still several hours away, but definite progress!

The rug effort required the dining area be cleared out a bit, which it was. Still more to do there as well, quite a bit, with the furniture move I have in mind, but it will happen, eventually! We are loaning our old table to a gallery, that will help, but the table top detaches from the legs, so that’s only 2 pieces in what is an overcrowded room. Still, every bit helps!

Electronic Purge: Re the electronic purge? I have about 2800 emails in my email’s trash folder. They are purged automagically when they’re there for 30 days. That leaves approx. 25,300 in my in box.

We went to the dump THREE times yesterday, so aside from the 10 bins of leaves, there are definitely fewer items here!


Much of this process, which now has gone on for years, has seemed futile. I keep relearning what I’ve happened on every once in a while. That is, that the people with neat houses make it a priority. To them, the mess is simply unacceptable. For me, for years it was inevitable and another sign of how “flawed” I was.

kristian-seedorff-149178-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Kristian Seedorff on Unsplash

I’m not flawed, I just need to learn to think in new ways. The bins being used in the leaf effort is an example.

The bins were bought to hold twigs and other kindling. Fine. Most of them were empty on the porch this spring, making a bit of a mess, but not much, they stack. However, I’d run out of trashcans, used most of my reusable leaf bags, and still had many piles of leaves in the yard. A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that a summer use for the kindling bins could be holding leaves before hauling them to the dump’s leaf pile! And the yard became instantly more attractive as the full bins were stacked in front of where the cars park and the leaf piles disappeared.

I just don’t have the “neat muscle” yet.  But I’m working on it!