Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Is a Time for Adding Stuff

With a husband and children on vacation, I am by default on vacation, too! It is all I can do to get the boxes and those semiprecious puffy packing materials (that will be useful for mailing out things I sell) put away in the garage and attic. Boxes have been added to our collection this year. Not by me, of course. By others who bought things, mostly mail order. I wrapped my gifts in used (recycled) boxes from our collections in the garage and attic, and I will put those boxes back to be used again. Maybe I will throw away a few of the more common, less potentially* useful boxes.

*Potentially - a word that is loaded with implications for saving things. Boxes from mail order gifts this year have potential to be useful for wrapping things in next year. It is much easier to wrap something and keep it around under the tree for a week or two if it's in a box than if it has no box. Things of odd shapes, such as items with a cardboard backing and a plastic bubble are hard to wrap neatly; and wrapping paper is fragile and likely to rip on these oddly shaped packages when they are shaken or moved to let a newly wrapped package onto the table under the tree. Clothing wrapped without a box is easily identified through wrapping paper, thus ruining the surprise.

So, I will have to find room for a few more boxes.

I received a USB phonograph. I plan to use it to convert my old record albums to MP3 files. Then I can get rid of the old records! Yay! I will not set up a permanent table next to my computer for the phonograph...

Resolved: (1) I will set it up on a space I will clear on or near my desk; a temporary setup.
(2) I will get the records converted within a limited time frame. Oh dear - I don't think I'm ready to commit to a specific time frame yet. But I will scope the project and set it up and get it done without starting too many? any? other projects, so it will get done quickly.
3) I will dispose of the phonograph and the records, hopefully selling them for a price that both the buyer and I feel good about.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wish I Could Choose What Dates to List on my Posts

It's too late at night and there's too much to say. But the days keep getting away from me, and I can't predate posts, so now it says December 15th and it's a post about Thanksgiving. So, I'm here today to say that Thanksgiving was a blast going to Chicago and wearing so many clothes that I was hot more often than cold...but I was ready for what cold times there were, and there were some. And there were some interesting and funny things that happened, to where I could have described them in detail that day and they would have seemed really fun and important. But now they don't seem all that important. Except that it's so cool that a historical group in Chicago - I should go find out which group, because of course it's a very important and famous group in Chicago - took over the old main library building, so as to preserve it. It's such a great old library building, with so many mosaics and so much decor pertaining to books and literature and reading!

It was also special to go on the architecture tour on the river and learn a little more about some of the buildings I had noticed on previous visits downtown.

And then after Thanksgiving I have already done so many interesting things and shopped so much. I have spent so many best hours of the day shopping, I feel a kind of a loss, but I haven't pulled everything together and wrapped yet, and I do think that when I do, I will feel less of a loss and more of the excitement of giving. I hope everyone will like what I give them.

Haven't received any feedback on our holiday card yet...waiting for the opinions to come in. I suppose the less we hear, the more poorly the card was received. I think what has happened the last 2 days is that the postal service is a day slower than usual and that everyone will receive their cards tomorrow. I hope so, anyway.

I finished listening to all 17 cds of The Gravedigger's Daughter. Such slow steady writing, such detail, and then by the time it's done, such a momentous tremendous story. Joyce Carol Oates writes so well! I thinks she read aloud some of the letters from the end of the story when she spoke a couple of years ago at the Texas Book Festival. I know I heard or read a couple of those letters somewhere. I listened to most of the story slowly when I was driving, and only when driving. Until today, when I finished the last 3 CDs all at once. It was that good. I just sat and listened. Usually I don't just sit and do anything! Busy busy busy. Well, I can downsize my library due pile by returning that one.

So, here I am thinking of at least catching up to myself a little, if now getting to the business of cleaning out my excesses. And I'm cleaning out my inbox, which was up to 150, which is not the way I usually have it. I had it below 100 most of the year. And I see this one from Mensa from a week or so ago, about their 50 best websites contest. So I click the link to see whether I can do this voting and get it over with and clean the message out of my inbox. They have 300 WEBSITES IN THE CONTEST! 300 all picked out by Mensa members! There goes the rest of the year! There are about 10 categories, and I don't know how many are in each category, but you look at 2 listings at a time and vote for one. It's some kind of elimination round. So...say I turn out to be familiar with 50 of the 300. That means I need/want to look at the other 250 - or maybe some look totally uninteresting, let's cut to 225. At as little as 2 minutes each, that's 450 minutes, that's 4 hours. But 2 minutes isn't realistic. I already found that out by trying to look at a few of them quickly! The Brandeis website that tells all the cultural characteristic that make the freshman class what it is, eg, some of them had Nintendos in their cribs for toys, and they have always had Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court and they never knew WWW to be World-Wide Wrestling, and they have always had it illegal to drill offshore, and there was one I wasn't even aware of but had had suspicions about, which was that Club Med has always in their lives been for families. And that's just one page of one of these cool websites that the Mensans have picked out. So what hope do I have of getting my house in order?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

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My first thought was to say that today's activities would go under the heading "pets," but then it occurred to me in a woeful realization that would have undoubtedly brought forth a new wave of tears if there were any left; it was another form of downsizing. Today was the day my cat, Sassy, decided it was time to die. In many ways it seemed he made some of the decisions, but he was very weak and had almost completely stopped eating several days ago, so any time would have been appropriate. I would not have been surprised to find him dead after returning from a weekend in Houston on Sunday, and I would not have been surprised to find him dead at any time the last few days. But this morning, though I expected him to be dead when I checked on him; when he wasn't dead, I could tell that he was ready to die today. I had several hours before an appointment, and I gave him these hours. We sat together for a long time, until the morning matured. Then he jumped down and wanted to go outside. It was only 60 degrees, which isn't too cold, but for a wasted cat with only a short coat, it was a little cold. So, I set him up, or rather laid him down, on his outdoor heating pad. I put a towel over him and left him there to watch the bird feeder and be outside and maybe have the sun shine on him. It was mostly overcast. Over the next few hours, the cat didn't want much; but he did try to get up a few times. He wanted some water, and he wanted to be in the sun in the garden. I moved him here and there, leaving him for short periods and then checking on him. He was a little dazed but knew what was happening around him...and probably to him. The sun finally did come out, so Sassy got to lay in the garden with the sun on him. I didn't know whether to leave him alone or stay with him, so I did a little of each. Then one time when I went out to check on him, he gave a little cry. I sat down with him and soon he went through death.

I felt like the actual death was peaceful enough. There has always been the question as to whether to get veterinary intervention. Every day for the last year or so. There was less question as to whether to have him put to sleep, though. There was some. Even this morning, when I saw he was ready, weak and listless, I considered it. But I wanted him to die at home and in a peaceful way. I don't know how much discomfort he had over the last months, but he seemed to be able to enjoy his favorite parts of life for most of it, purring, purring, purring. That cat was the best purrer ever or was as good a purrer as the best!

Sassy was a good little fellow. He got annoying, as cats will. I don't know that I will ever open the door from house to the garage without bracing for his rush to sneak past me into the house! And there were the times, years ago, when he would get into the house and then run behind my bed and hide. And all the summer nights when I had to call for him and he would not come in until very late or not at all, but he would be there in the morning if not late at night. We had our routines. He knew his routines, even though they varied considerably. He'd always be at a certain door when I called him at night, for years, and then suddenly he'd change doors and always be at that one. He knew how to find me, to cry at a door or climb on a screen, doing what I called the Jesus position hanging on the screen with his front paws spread wide. He'd know whether I was in the kitchen or the office. He'd hear me in the night or the morning and meow at the garage door to be let in.

Although I had no proof and tried to ignore it, I did feel we had a psychic connection. Nothing big, but maybe sort of constant. With all the times he waited for me or I waited for him. The time I was camping for a week or 2 and either heard (I thought) or dreamed I heard an animal scream in the forest; and I didn't think much about it until I came home and found Sassy severely injured with a big gash in his chest, and then I remembered that scream. It was a vivid sound to me, just once. I still remember it. Kind of unlike the typical sounds of a forest that all meld into each other during a camping trip. I didn't think about the connection much. Our life together was kind of routine. I did what I could to give him time and attention, but I didn't let him run things the way people joke that cats do. I always felt a little bad about not giving him the luxurious life that cats are known for demanding, mostly in the house. But I felt the absence of that connection today, and it left me kind of cold and a little lonely. The world is a little emptier for me now.

I don't feel like I will get another cat, because I always felt badly about putting the cat into the garage at night and keeping him out in the cold and the heat. Alan thinks the cat had a great life and was pampered because I had a heating pad in the garage for him. Maybe so. He surely did love the outdoors, and he had free reign to roam if he wanted to. I am fairly sure he didn't roam far. I think he had a feel for home and how far, perhaps, my voice carried. Or maybe how far away he could be and still hear the garage door close at night, his cue to come in. For an animal, it is natural to be outdoors, though today's pet cats are far from natural cats. So maybe it was a good cat life, with interesting sights and smells outside, and wonderful places for naps. Or was it always scary and dangerous and a little on the edge, even while napping outside? Sometimes, as Sassy got older, I got the feeling that he liked coming into the house to take a real nap where he felt totally safe.

As Sassy got older, I finally sorted out the seasons. I always had felt sorry for him in the summer and let him stay in a little when it was very hot outside. But I realized as he got older, and after my friend Carla told me, that the Great Cats live outdoors in hot climates. It's the cold that is the enemy of the cat. Sassy had a nice soft undercoat, but he had overcoat issues always, ever since we got him. Maybe had he been able to develop a truly sassy coat, I wouldn't have felt so bad for him in the winters. But I did start keeping him out more during summers and letting him in more during winters the last few years. I'm glad of that!

How many lives did Sassy have? I'm not sure what to count. The gash when we were away, at least 2 abscesses from fights (always in the back, which the vet said meant that Sassy was running away), the cystitis blockages and finally the perineal urethrostomy, the move from Alabama and getting locked in the attic for the first few days we were here, having Pi move in and tree him several times and him avoiding the house for a while and finally making a sort of peace with Pi, numerous cats that would appear around the house for a while and obviously be invading Sassy's turf, the possum in the garage at least one night... What is a life? Were there 9 or more? At least 9, even though Sassy was a little young to be dying. He did live a high-stress life, I guess, much more dynamic than that of an indoor lap cat.

Death brings so many questions and really is an answer. I could feel the reality of Sassy's death. But there are so many questions with an animal. And yet, the connection between people and animals, the communication, seems to be universal enough to believe in. Cats and other animals do seem to have emotions similar to those of people. Sassy knew he was dependent on me, yet he was also independent in many ways. He let me know when he was happy by purring, lonely by bothering me for attention, cold by wanting to sit in my lap, miserable by miaowing in a most miserable way, hungry by meowing in another way. He communicated when he wanted me to follow him.

And I hope I will always be able to bring to mind the picture of him running on the driveway with his little legs sort of straight and sort of stiff, not galloping, all legs running separately, but running fast. His legs were very expressive and cute!

I will miss him most when I am outdoors. I dread that sadness that I face. He would appear and keep me company. I'm sure I will look for him, just an automatic quick, fleeting feeling of, "I wonder whether the Sass is around..." And then the realization that he is not.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Did I Downsize My Daughter or Did She Just Get a Job and Move Out?

My dear daughter, who I was so enjoying having here, has flown the coop! It happened so fast and will last so long...hmm, other things in life are like that, too.

I was so much enjoying our sort of routine. I usually got up first in the morning, and then she would get up and we would prepare our breakfasts sort of together, but with different food. She had her egg and spinach burrito with picante sauce. She filled the room with the morning smell of fresh coffee. I had one of my several favorite breakfast choices. Perhaps by the time she is my age, she will have more than one favorite breakfast, too. Who knows?

Then we would have our day. Well, so much for the routine parts! But it was great to have her here! And then there was the call, and then the interview. Such effort...the interview! The clothes and hair and makeup just perfect; the paperwork and planned topics and lines...the hope and excitement! And then she got a call and I came home from somewhere and she had the job, and I was so happy I cried. Because I knew she wouldn't be here every day any more.

Well, from the downsizing point of view, the upstairs is looking much more empty! She had a whole apartment worth of stuff up there. She took part of it in her car and we drove the rest of it to her in the pickup. And also upstairs, there was a big dish-pack box and several smaller boxes full of stuff, and some big plastic tubs my other daughter had filled and several big plastic boxes, and there were a few loose things sort of surrounding these separate batches of stuff. The girls had rejected all this stuff early in the summer. I was supposed to get rid of it, sorting it into Goodwill and things I might want and things to maybe sell. I don't really know why, but it had taken me all summer to get this stuff out of there. Once I focused on it, I was able to get it out of there while my daughter was packing to move! I think the incentive for me to get on the stick with this stuff was that she was going to do some cleaning before leaving. I know a good deal when I see it! I got everything out of there, and she cleaned up everything else. So now the upstairs den and the girls' bedrooms are looking more downsized. Not exactly "show the house" downsized, but different enough that it's refreshing for me to go up there.

I even got a truckload off to Goodwill, so the stuff from upstairs plus some other stuff that had been accumulating in the garage is gone! I took photos of everything so I can take off my $500 tax deduction for Goodwill. I give much more each year, but since about 2006, the only way to claim more than $500 of charity items is to list each item on a form, with receipts and listings of prices etc. I guess I'll have to do that if I give away some high-dollar items. Most of this stuff doesn't have receipts any more, but the value adds up. Our house is not situated well in the neighborhood for garage sales, so I have pretty much given up on that.

So, I have made progress upstairs, or the girls have, and I cleared some space in the garage. And younger daughter also took her oversized cast-iron frying pan that she was keeping on the kitchen counter because there was no place else to put it. (She used it most every day for her egg burrito.) She and I have been trying to find a pan that is easy to clean but doesn't involve potentially toxic Teflon. She is successful with both cast iron and stainless pots. With the stainless frying pan, she heats up the oil and puts some salt in before adding the food. It works for her, with minimum sticking! I haven't been able to get much success out of that. I guess the main problem is that tofu sticks worse than most other things. She took several other boxes and bags of food that she had been storing in the kitchen. I have been emailing her and calling her every time I can't find something in the kitchen, to ask whether it had been hers and she had taken it. For example, I thought I had 2 containers of vanilla; one with a tiny bit left and one with an inch or two of liquid. And then after she had been gone about a month, I made a cake to go with my chocolate chips instead of eating them from the bag, and there was only one almost-empty bottle of vanilla. I still don't know how I lost track of about half a bottle of vanilla...but the solution was simple enough. I bought a new bottle.

I miss my daughter, but I feel the importance of downsizing even more now that she has moved.

Other progress has been slow. I have a box of books in my office ready for Half Price Books (and an attic full of other boxes of books), and I have 3 bells chosen that I might sell. I sent one bell to a friend as a gift. One down and about 1,000 to go! I went onto the Ebay website a few days ago and set up a sales page for one issue of Cook's Illustrated, mostly to see how to do it. I knew it had changed since I last sold a few years ago; fortunately, it does seem to be a more efficient interface. I'll have to take photos of everything and write up all the defects. There was a tiny brown spot on the cover of the Cook's Illustrated, so I took a pencil eraser to it. Now there's a larger white spot where the color from the cover got erased. Even though it's only about 1/4 inch, I'd have to note it on Ebay and probably even include a close-up photo of it; that's how particular some of the buyers are...and rightly so. I think I might not bother trying to sell the Cook's Illustrated. Even though someone might want it, the individual issues are only selling for about $1.50. Add shipping and all the time and effort...the sum = Half Price Books!

Meanwhile, I rode my bicycle 25 miles in a community bicycling event and I went to a Yoga conference and did 6 hours of classes in one day. My neck is sore and isn't stretching nearly as far as I got it to stretch at the Yoga class, where the wonderful and magical Lilias Folan showed us how to stretch our hips to get our necks more flexible!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Chasing the Goose, Flapping All the While

Looks like my distracted divergence over the gutters just continued and continued until I had wasted way lots of time and effort. What brain power I burned, trying to find the ideal solution to gutter maintenance for my house that is surrounded by the most beautiful few trees one could ever expect to find within miles in this treeless land. I have trees right near the house. They are living with us. They drink water, get nutrients from the soil and the air, grow, spread, have parasites, get scabs and bugs and have lots of leaves. They shed their old and dried parts. They drop twigs. Their limbs spread over the house, over the gutters. They fill the gutters at least twice a year.

So why did I spend the last (I don't even dare look to see how many) weeks and days trying to find an ideal product to keep us from having to clean our gutters? I found products from $1 per foot to about $25 per foot. The most expensive ones do look good. They look good on paper and they look good on my neighbor's house. But there are still complaints about them. They get stuff in them and they are warranteed against full clogs only. But, really, in spite of all the complaints about them, I am fairly sure that they do offer an ideal solution. I am fairly sure that the top of the line (Leaf Guard) would achieve near perfection; and that even if stuff got in, the local company that deals in Leaf Guard would answer a call if I felt that clogging was starting. But I also don't quite believe their claim that rain won't drip past these gutters even during a heavy rain. I think at least some of it would during the heaviest downpours around here. They claim they can handle rains of 22 inches per hour. Well, it doesn't rain that hard...but, were you to measure the rain gathering on a big roof and falling into these gutters, I suspect you do come close to or go over that 22 inches. I think the reason there are complaints about these gutters is that they cost so much that any tiny thing that goes wrong incenses the buyer. At those prices, the gutters can't afford to get any leaves in them or to let any water drip during even the heaviest storms. And I can't afford that kind of money for gutters right now.

So, going down from the top of the line, I worked over about 10 different plans and combination scenarios for our house. After 3 salesmen visited and I called one back a second time, and after oh too much time trying to choose a solution, my favorite husband says to me during a bicycle ride through the neighborhood, "Gutters were developed in the midwest and north for houses with basements that were getting flooded. Look, lots of houses around here don't have gutters!" So, we talked about it for the whole ride, much to my excitement and his disgruntlement, and we looked at houses all around within 5 miles, and we found that many houses of all sizes have no gutters at all. I even stopped at a house where a man was outside, and I politely asked him how he was doing without gutters. He got chatty and told me he had grown up with gutters, and here he was pretty happy with his new home without gutters, but he has been thinking of getting just a few gutters installed, over the front entry and along the sides of his free-standing garage, which drips onto the grass, forming divots.

So, I looked at our house hard to find a no-gutter solution or a way to take down some of the gutters to reduce the maintenance requirements. I worked out some ideas but then realized that if we take off gutters, we have to putty and seal and paint the fascia left exposed. We haven't prioritized this, and the benefit wouldn't merit the cost.

Now, if I knew how long we planned to stay at this house, I might have a better idea as to whether I would feel it would be worthwhile to get rid of some gutters. We need to paint eventually, so we could get gutters removed when we paint. If we were planning to stay here long, it might even be the time now to remove some gutters and get the painting done. But if we are leaving soon, there's no point in customizing our gutter system, even if we would enjoy it for a year or two. The cost wouldn't pay off. No one new would care.

However, I don't know how long we want to stay, and I had decided to not do that thing of fixing up for the next people and missing out on enjoying the fixes ourselves. Now I feel like I'm right back at the beginning of the whole downsizing exercise, and I haven't done any downsizing. It's kind of a low and frustrated feeling; an out-of-control, indecisive, undirected feeling. You can't make progress if you don't have a goal.

We are so not decided about this house. I seem to want to do home improvements more than to downsize. The man of the house wants me to "lighten the load," so that we have more choices open to us. Could he possibly remember when we moved here with 2 large moving vans full? Could he ever forget? I think the truck to our house was filled with our stuff except for one fairly regular-sized dining room table that belonged to someone else! Most moving vans carry about 3 households of furniture. And DH might not remember but I do, when we were looking at houses here and we looked at those beautiful homes in the hills near the best schools, with the forested hills behind them, the beautifully set and affordable but a little bit small homes...that we knew we couldn't fit our stuff into. We would not have been able to unload our moving van into those houses without leaving stuff outside!

I think maybe DH remembers, as I do, that I vowed to lighten our load as soon as possible. For the first few years, I kept thinking about it but not making any progress. I was busy busy. And I did have the 2 part-time jobs instead of just the one. Then we took on all our parents' stuff, and I put it off for a while. We did get rid of a lot, especially 2 years after inheriting, when I had a big BIG garage sale. But then I stopped progressing on it and didn't think of it much. I focused on moving in and working with this house, instead of lightening the load to increase our options. And then, the kids were an excuse, and neither of us wanted the hassle of moving. And Mr. Man got complacent here too and didn't want the hassle of moving. And now the kids don't need this house and it almost seems reasonable to stay here, but not quite. There are things about it that I sometimes would be glad to leave behind. Too much lawn, too much yard. I can't take care of it as well as it needs. I can't do all the mulching and soil amendment any season requires. I can't keep up with the weeds all season. I can't add the extra touches that I know would be nice: the flowers around the tree trunks, the new plantings, or even the cleaning up of all the beds every spring. I just don't seem to be able to do it, even though I come close. I get a lot done, but it's not really enough. Not really.

The house has a nice moat of privacy, and yet, it has more neighbors than a squeezed in box of a house! With no fence in the back, and back-to-back cul-de-sacs, we have neighbors on each side, one right across the street, and 3 more in the back that all touch our yard! And yet, and yet, it is quiet and peaceful and has lots of nature around. The golf course is great to look at...but there are golfers, sometimes even into the yard. And with no fence, there are joggers and dog-walkers and bicycle-riders and walkers and runners. So it's really not private at all, and there are ever so many nicer places out there, with less upkeep and more privacy and fewer restrictions, and less wasted space, heat, and air-conditioning, and lower taxes. But they aren't ours. If I were handed one, I would take it, if it were nice. I have become fonder of this house as time and effort have proven it to work for us. But I think it's mostly laziness and complacency that are keeping us from being bent on leaving this house behind.


We need a plan. Of course, that brings me back to downsizing our load so that we have more options. We agree on smaller rather than bigger. Two of my favorite friends have recently bought bigger homes to move to. Both have found what sounds like a great place, not really too much bigger, and I don't think bigger was the main event. I am happy for them; but I guess their moves are relevant here because one of my fears is that there isn't something out there that isn't excessively high-dollar that we would prefer to this place. I would like to go to a place I like better than this, one with fewer of the problems of this house, but still a safe neighborhood with a private and quiet and natural setting. And I guess I'm afraid I won't be able to find it for a reasonable price. I want to be happy and excited about moving, not depressed. I was not happy about moving here. It is not as nice here as our previous house but that was a whole different world; a 2-family house with my parents. Maybe that's another part of these feelings. We think we can continue to afford to live here. But I'd rather find a nicer place for less. And I guess that's what I want and I don't know that it's out there, so my incentive is blunted, stunted, confronted.

So I need to get some downsizing done. Than my options will open. Why can't I get to it? I seem to think some other things are more important. Got organized a little, got a todo list going...and got lost in it. How am I going to do this? By blogging?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wild Goose Chase

Friday night on TV, I saw an ad for the local Home & Garden Show. The ad had a photo of a sink with fancy faucetry. I decided to Get Something Done! I was going to get photos of all our faucets that need replacing and print them out, adding measurements. Then I would bring them to the Home and Garden Show, where there would be great bargain prices for quality fixtures. I'd buy all the new faucets and spigots and sink drains and be ready to call the plumber on Monday.

On Sunday morning, I took the photos, processed them, and measured and wrote down the measurements. The photo looking up at the plumbing under the kitchen sink took some body contortion and several attempts, but I got a helpful photo, I think. On Sunday afternoon, no one in the family wanted to go to the show with me, but I figured I'd be on a mission and so decided not to call any friends, though I thought of a few who would probably enjoy this kind of event. I didn't want to jeopardize my comparison shopping among the plumbing booths by having a friend to distract me.

I had to park in a lot downtown. It was earmarked for the arena where the event was taking place, which I figured meant it would be free. No. It was not at all free. I parked on the first floor, so I had only 4 flights of stairs to walk down (or up again later), which felt relatively safe downtown on a Sunday. The event was just 2 blocks away.

There must have been close to 100 booths. There was an area with landscaping booths, an area with homebuilding booths, and there were booths of every sort imaginable for home stuff. There were bed sellers, home security systems, pots and pans and other kitchen gadgets, deck builders, countertop renovators, and remodelers of all kinds. There were no displays of plumbing fixtures! I went through the entire place. It wasn't really that big; certainly not the way I remember the shows at the NYC Coliseum I used to go to. But I was disappointed.

I settled for looking into gutter guards. Actually, I might have gotten some good advice. A remodeling expert told me that if I got the faucets changed and then was going to change my countertops, I'd have to hire a plumber to remove and replace the faucets.

I followed some folks out and ended up behind a couple who had their car parked very near mine. It's always nice to have company in a public parking lot stairwell!

So now I'm having to decide about countertops before faucets. And what before countertops? Paying back college loans, I guess!

2 steps forward, one step back.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Reading the Book Called Getting Things Done

I have now read Getting Things Done (by David Allen) twice. I started my list. I am starting to get the big things noted, but I don't know where to put the actions, and I feel it might be a waste of time to write down the little things. I feel like I could get a lot of little things written down, but then I would do some of them and there would be others coming along so quickly that I would be writing little things on my lists all day instead of getting anything done.

Ya Know Those Photos You Take From Bus Windows?

This past weekend, my daughter was in the mood to help me! She razzed me about not getting things done. She offered to help and began by giving me the following advice about cleaning my bathroom, which was one of the tasks I was having trouble getting to: just do it! She thought it would just take maybe a couple of hours and was perturbed at me for procrastinating and complaining. I blew up at her and informed her that I needed to deep clean the shower, buff the marble with "Gel Gloss," in a similar fashion to waxing a car, and seal every inch of the tile grout in the floor with a tiny paintbrush. But then, instead of arguing, I thought to get with the program a little. I asked my daughter to help me look through some old family slides. "Some?" "Some" isn't why I am blogging about downsizing. Let's try about 4 cubic feet of slide carousels plus about 6 plastic and metal boxes full of slides, say another 2 cubic feet. Plus several boxes of photos and slides. My daughter agreed to help, so I was inspired to set up a makeshift screen using the back of an old white posterboard science project that my daughter had done in middle school and I had saved. I set up one of the 3 slide projectors I found in storage, and we got busy. We decided to toss all my Dad's travel photos unless they had people of interest in them. This decision, fortunately, was reinforced more and more as we went along looking at slides. My Dad had many pictures of roads from inside windows of various transportation modalities, pictures of boats, pictures of bodies of water, pictures of hotels and motels, pictures of city streets with nothing recognizable to indicate which city they were in, and pictures of the display areas of small shops around the world. We could have made a great coffee-table book of photos of shops around the world! Instead we threw out all that kind of slide. I ended up with a sizable pile of photos of my Mom standing in front of all these sights. Mom's various outfits and hair styles are a trip, literally and figuratively! She always looked great, though. There are even a few photos of my Dad in front of sights. We figured the drill was that my Dad would go around taking photos for a while while Mom looked around; then Dad would take a photo or 2 of Mom and then be on his way again, or they would both go somewhere else and start over.

We also decided to keep my Dad's 2 or 3 carousels of photos from his stint in the army in Korea. I am thankful for my daughter's desire to keep these. I think they are interesting and they are certainly a part of our family history. I hope someday my brother will enjoy these photos.

We also gathered a couple of carousels of old family photos, many of me and my brother very young. It was lots of fun, and I got a lot of sorting done. One of the projectors was broken enough to get rid of, and I cleaned off the top shelf of the closet. I kept about 6 carousels, about 1 cubic foot. I did get a good handle on the equipment we have for viewing and storing slides, and I now have a sort of modus operandi for going through the other 4 or 5 cubic feet of slides. My daughter said she'd look forward to looking at more slides during winter vacation, her next time to relax here. If I can remember what I got going this time when next time comes, I'll be able to do a good and efficient job of downsizing the slide collection. I didn't get it all done, but I also didn't let it interrupt me from anything else. I found a good time to do it and enjoyed the effort! And I did get a good start.

I was also inspired to straighten up the living room by getting rid of a few books and moving things around. The living room has been discombobulated ever since we put the TV up on the mantle and removed all the dustables from the mantle and didn't find places for them. Now the TV/gaming area in the living room is better set up and the rest of the display areas of the room are OK for now. The fact that the living room is full of "display areas" indicates the problem! Too many bells, books, and other dustables!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Space to Open the Car Doors -Only 18 Months Late

I can't believe I bought the truck a year and a half ago and never even thought of cleaning out enough space in the garage to be able to open the truck's doors! The truck opens like a truck, with one standard side door on each side in the front that opens out and toward and front and then another door on each side for the back seat that opens from the middle of the truck toward the back. When both are open, voila! There is a big space for loading or unloading the back seat...hmm, about the size of the sliding door of the old minivan. Ever since I brought the truck home last February, I (and my long-suffering family) have used the squeeze and dodge manner of loading and unloading the cab of the truck. Go past the front door and open it as far as you can before it hits the boxes and the saw and the hand trucks stored next to the car; then squeeze into the space where that door is open and open the back door, creating a triangular space with you standing at the apex where the two doors meet and can't be opened any further. Then try to get a bag or box out, mostly by picking it up and squeezing and maneuvering the doors in the small space until you can get the box or bag clear of the doors and then closing the doors and shuffling sideways until you get to the front of the garage where there is an aisle wide enough for you and the box or bag to use to get to the door to the house. Then, back for more.

So, today, after being inspired by a family discussion wherein I was duly embarrassed for leaving the garage so full of junk that everyone hates getting in and out of the truck, I cleaned out the garage...just enough to widen the space on the sides of the truck to be able to open all 4 doors all the way and carry stuff. I threw out some old plastic boxes, mostly yucky filthy ones; some absolute garbage; and then even a bunch of small boxes of various sizes that I had saved. I moved some things around on the shelves along the front wall of the garage and was able to fit the huge robot-mower boxes up there. They do need to be stored in case we need to send the robot to camp...

It was a grand success and will make life easier in the garage. We still have to sell the college refrigerator and the wetsuit to clear the space in front of the car to make it easier to walk around the front of the car when it's parked in there. But, this was progress, and some garbage was removed without any regrets!

Thanks to Elissa for her help! I couldn't have moved the big boxes up onto the shelves without her help, but she went further than that, rolling up her sleeves after the box was moved and getting me to see to finishing the job of making all that space.

It was 100 degrees outside today. We didn't look at the temperature in the garage. It would have scared us back into the house!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some Days and Many Activities Later

Lots of activity this past week or maybe two, but not too much along the downsizing line.

I have fed the cat a lot! He seems to be eating excessive amounts and not gaining weight.

We went to the mountains for a week. Had a great time, in spite of a general agreement that the theme of the trip turned out to be "It could have been much worse." As in "it could have been 95 degrees instead of about 90 degrees during the hours between noon and 6 pm each day, even though the weather charts we had used to plan the trip had indicated that the high would be 80 degrees." As in "it could have rained more than 2 evenings, each storm leaving us wallowing in mud 2 inches thick under our shoes and having to carry the dog to the tent or clean her muddy feet with a towel before allowing her in." As in "the car could have been stuck for longer than a half hour in the mud and could have even required some kind of rescue." As in "the rattlesnake that crawled under my chair in the campsite could have..."

We did downsize by one leaky, ripped, poorly designed tent and one ripped and frayed tarp. The tarp covered the load in the back of the pickup on the way. It ripped along a seam close to the rear of the truck, in a line parallel to the tailgate. We drove all the way with the top layer of the tarp ballooning up about 2 feet. Fortunately, there was a layer of tarp under the ripped one that did not rip and did protect the load from the rain along the way, for the most part.

I have been thinking about my downsizing project. Mostly, I keep thinking how much I would rather be creating something that will turn lucrative or entering an exciting paid position somewhere fabulous. But I do feel that my work is ready for me at home. I started reading "Getting Things Done." I hope to get it finished soon and start a grand list of things. I keep thinking of things to put on the list, big things like paint the house and small things like...well, I really ought to get that list started, because even though I know I have thought of a lot of things to put on my list, I am drawing a blank right now.

I will probably spend the rest of this week and next getting ready for other things, including a dinner party with friends and a trip to my high school reunion. We're making Indian food, which will require much cookbook perusal and perhaps some shopping, and of course long conversations on the phone and via email. And, of course, I have to get away and go to my high school to see one person I really want to see, 4 or 5 I have fond feelings for, and 60 or so that I have no feelings for. I did think it would be good to get away and especially go to the beach, when I made the reservation in May. That was before quitting my job and going camping. But, I am looking forward to the trip. The socializing and the beach. And reading in the plane. It will be nice to not be driving!

Friday, June 27, 2008

First Friday

Today I started a blog: this one. I put away almost all of the papers from the job I just quit. I contacted my website host about why they have sent me billing notices the last 2 months even though they already took my payment. Not ready to mention the website. It's old and creaky and not cogent. I'd set up this blog on it if I could, but Blogger is so much easier to use than it would be to set up a blog on my website. I dropped my daughter off at a friend's for the weekend...wait, that's not true downsizing! She'll be back, I hope!

The rest of the day I did vacation planning and food activities.