Back to the Land of Bad Memes

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Well, the whole “cord-cutting” experiment didn’t go as smoothly as expected. I won’t go into the ridiculously complicated and frustrating installation fiasco that lasted most of June, but let me just say that it involved two weeks without Internet. That’s TWO WEEKS, fellow readers, cut off from the sustenance of the cyber webs!

Two weeks of waiting for a repair that didn’t need to be done, arguing with several reps on the phone who were incapable of deviating from their scripts, multiple miscommunications and errors that couldn’t be replicated or fixed if you tried, and two weeks of data overage on our cell phones.

BUT it was also two weeks of ignorant bliss, removed from the horrible news reports and vicious Facebook posts by righteous vigilantes, of less time wasted on online games and more opportunities for naps, and finally, the return of a peaceful and calm bedroom devoid of the squawking black box that lulled us to sleep for years with the mayhem and murder of the late local newscast.

Now that speedy connection to the horrors of bad memes and incomprehensible spelling has been restored with many apologies and a little compensation from the corporate goliath we are forced to use, I can look back on the whole nightmare like you would that horrific camping trip where it rained the entire time and your body was covered in chiggers. You’re very glad it’s over but you can afford to be generous, proud, nostalgic even. Was I frustrated? Of course. Angry? You bet. Paranoid that this was all an elaborate plot to punish us for cutting the cord? Guilty as charged.

But I’ve haven’t slept better in years.

Leaving the Nest

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Here we are again at the end of the month and edge of the nest. For me, March has been full of fearfull flights, fledgling emotion, grounding relapse, molting ineptitude and wind. In my travels I’ve seen old friends, learned new history, felt familiar pain, entered fresh territory, shaken off recurrent doubts, and given myself a good talking to on several occasions.

My clipped wings are sprouting new feathers in spite of national extremism, world pessimism, and the personal bogeyman under my bed who grows more aggressive each day. I don’t get up early. I eat like a bird but continue to gain the weight of a collective conscience. I dismiss social media but can’t stop pecking at it. I look for worms in all the political promises. I tweet desperate songs.

Yet, here I am on the ledge to renewal, twigs of shame and muddy negativity crumbling beneath me, what I called home a shell of my former idealistic imagination. I’m ready to look for a better roost in which to lay my hopes and dreams.

Tomorrow, I open April’s door in search of the great birdhouse in my soul.*

*Apologies to They Might Be Giants

Bad Hair Day

Day 10: Shadows
Day 10: Shadows

The cat grass was having such a crazy bad hair day last week, that I just couldn’t resist. (Humor in strange places.)

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.

In the Name of Progress

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Day 21: Real Life

Today every path to and from our weekly visit to the grocery store was blocked or delayed.  My state has put off crucial repairs to its infrastructure and now we’re all paying the price. Welcome to real life.

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. I’m looking forward to my third go at participating in Susannah Conway’s August Break by posting prompts here on the blog and on my Instagram account. There are no rules, really. Simply take a photo every day for the month of August, based on the prompts or not. I take a photo a day all year long, but you can’t lose no matter how many days you keep this up. And the more, the merrier!

Slippery Slope

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It was second grade recess on a windy day. After weeks of watching kids fearlessly hurdle down the big kid’s slide, I lined up with the others, climbed endless steps while watching the legs in front of me — and froze at the top. The air was different up there. From that great height, I clearly saw the terror of my ways. How could I foolishly believe I was just like the others?

The line behind me hanging off the rungs and on the ground began to whine and grumble. The playground authority was called over, and yet I would not move. The lady tried to coax me down but I wasn’t buying any of it. From where I sat, this was a fast track to quick destruction and untimely end.

Finally, the long-suffering teacher stuck with recess duty made the kids behind me get off the ladder and back away from the scene of the crime. I crawled down through unforgiving disgust and crept off humiliated, once again an alien among my own kind.

For weeks after my cowardice, I hung around that slippery nemesis until my classmates’ attention was preoccupied with tether or kick ball, monkey bars, see saws or a scuffle under the one basketball goal bolted to the school’s red brick exterior. When I was sure no one was looking, I carefully positioned my bottom in the seat of triumph at the base of the sinister slope, and scooted up as far as I dared, using my shoes’ rubber soles as traction. When I was high enough, I pulled my feet up, and slid down in an all-too-brief moment of pure joy.

Each time, I rose a little higher out of the doldrums of my shame and disgrace. Each time, the feeling of release and flight lasted a little longer. Until finally, one day, I ascended the infinite ladder once again, adjusted my breath in the thin air, took in the bigger picture at the top, and pushed off into my life.

Last month, fifty years later, my family and I came upon a playground in a state park, clearly built in the Sixties. And there stood my old nemesis, with the same tall silver board reflecting a forest of memories, and the thin metal poles supporting my recollections on either side. Each rung on the ladder spelled out America as I climbed up and I wondered if I believed in them anymore.

When I arrived at the top, I found to my surprise that the air was still rarefied, and the view still too big for me to comprehend. And when I let go, the journey to the bottom was just the same, only slower.

The Downsizing Dozen: Make It Stick

Tape, anyone?
As long-suffering followers of this blog have read ad nauseam, I’ve been on the minimalist path for quite some time now, posting one-hit wonders such as Don’t Minimalize Your Bangs, Goodwill Hauling, The Urge to Purge, Hobbling the Hobbies, and my biggest blockbuster to date, What’s In YOUR Garage? Since 2009, I swear to you on my mother’s outdated china pattern that I’ve tried to walk the talk. So, imagine my surprise and shame while packing to move, when I repeatedly pulled out of various drawers and pandora’s boxes an endless assortment of . . . tape.

In shock, I felt moved to document the phenomenon in the photo above. That’s right folks, you counted correctly. There were no less than ten dispensers (couldn’t get them all in the picture) of sticky stuff. For every act of stickiness imaginable, I had all the bases (or folding flaps) covered. And this number doesn’t even include the medical tape I found, or the tower of duck, masking and electrical tape hiding in the garage, but that was to be expected.

No, the big mystery to me was how on earth a family of three had managed to buy and then forget about all that packaging tape. During her formative years, my daughter was (and still is) a very creative child who went through yards of tape to hold her projects together, bind her handmade book pages, fasten her abundant artwork on the walls, and ultimately leave waded on the floor only to be cut out of the hairs of a wandering family cat or dog later.

With all this taping of hers going on, I rarely had enough on hand to wrap the occasional gift much less mend a careless rip, in which case I was stuck with the ugly duck or masking tapes, and if we were out of those, then house caulk or chewing gum often came to mind. With the necessary scotch tape truly invisible to my naked eye, yet another entry to the weekly shopping list was made.

Here’s what I think happened: as the years went by, and my daughter’s appetite for temporary paper creations switched to sketchbooks and computer art, the tape dispensers disappeared into the gaping cavern of her closet, and fell behind the beanie babies and spirograph sets lurking on the back shelf. Our holiday gift wrapping has diminished (maybe that’s why we don’t have as many friends), and even when absolutely necessary, by then I had discovered the wonderful world of gift bags to fit any oddly (or normal) shaped object.

But here’s the big reason why I found so many. You ready for this? The reproductive habits of scotch tape are little known, so it’s my theory that they breed in any dark corner or unattended shopping bag. And in my case, they are known to disappear for years, only to reappear in multitudes. Furthermore, they are not the only office supplies known to do this–rubber bands and paper clips are also likely suspects.

So what can the unsuspecting suburbanite do when they open the door to a cascade of slippery plastic dispensers with their guillotines of tiny razor teeth? Follow these next steps carefully:

1) You evaluate possible causes of your dirty little secret, vow that you will go to great lengths not to recreate a similar environment ever again, and make that resolution stick.

2) You may be tempted to fling all humiliating signs of tape debauchery into the trashcan, but please take a deep breath, and think of a daycare center, classroom or craft program that would benefit, turning a bad situation into good.

3) Whatever rolls of tape you do keep, for the love of tidiness, I plead with you to store them in a well-lit area, out in plain sight, and NEVER, EVER allow them to wander off in pairs. You, your wallet, and your pets covered in little bald spots will thank you for it.

Once a month for the next twelve, I’ll feature another step in the downsizing journey that didn’t just begin when we sold our house and moved to a small walk-up apartment in June of 2014. This shift to a simpler life has been years in the making, and I hope you’ll join me in my family’s quest to get down to basics. My inaugural post entitled Giving It All Away was featured in July.

How’s the Water?

DAY 18: JUMP
DAY 18: JUMP

The apartment complex we live in now has an outdoor pool. My entire life I’ve never had daily access to a pool all summer. Since we moved in, I have been swimming in it a grand total of — once. My husband even less.

The child in me, the one who spent summers swimming in leach-infested watering holes while dodging the cow pies (and sometimes the cattle) would have stayed in that beautiful blue water safe from blood-sucking worms until her skin shriveled to the level of morel mushrooms and she sweated chlorine for days afterwards. The teenager would have filleted herself out along the neat rows of lounge chairs with a bottle of Johnson’s baby oil by her side, and the college student would surely be night swimming with friends and beer.

Maybe it’s the cold-bloodedness of my age that shrinks from unheated pool water, or the lazy afternoon view of beautiful young things with their pounding music and flawless flesh that makes me avert my eyes on the way to our mailbox. But I will go back under stealth of night if I have to, before Labor Day comes and summer truly ends.

Because there is always the hot tub.

This month I’m taking a photo a day and following the topics of Susannah Conway’s August Break 2014. And why don’t you join me? I double-dog dare you!

The Downsizing Dozen: Giving It All Away

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This July marks the beginning of a new series on Suburban Satsangs. Once a month for the next twelve, I’ll feature another step in the downsizing journey that didn’t just begin when we sold our house and moved to a small walk-up apartment in June of 2014. This shift to a simpler life has been years in the making, and I hope you’ll join me in my family’s quest to get down to basics.

What do you do when you have a houseful of furniture to get rid of, and less than two weeks to do it? You panic.

And then you email photos of all the stuff to be sold to your local consignment mogul, who ignores you. Then you panic again.

As you wait for a reply that never comes, hours tick away and you realize that it’s really too late to contact an estate or auction company, organize your own yard sale or set up that dreaded Craigslist account that you’ve put off forever. You panic some more.

To my great surprise, our house sold so fast, with such a tight deadline to closing, that we were faced with the interesting predicament of either a) taking it all with us b) placing everything in storage or c) piling anything combustible in the front yard for a giant neighborhood weenie roast.

Well, you guessed it, none of those were viable options and here’s why: we were attempting to stuff three adults and a cat (who needs his space) into a 900 square-foot, third floor apartment without an elevator. There was no way we could fit all the furnishings from 2,000 suburban feet of house acreage into that space, much less carry everything up two flights of stairs. Nor did we have any desire to move items that we didn’t need or want twice, once to a storage facility and then later to the nearest auction house or high, windy cliff. And as for the third option, well, the fire station around the corner wouldn’t have been amused by the bonfire and burnt front lawn, much less our buyer.

So back to the initial question of what to do when you have no time to deal with the disposal of home furnishings? You open your doors.

That’s right, you fling the front door open and invite your neighbors in to take what they want. You hop on Facebook and ask all your local friends to come and get items for free, as long as they can haul it away for you, or spread the word on your behalf if they don’t need anything themselves. You lift the garage door and drag stuff that nobody wants out to the curb with a big “free” sign on it.

Here is what we gave away: two sets of living room furniture, a dining table and chairs, computer desks, two dressers, one full-size bed and mattress, numerous side tables, armchairs, lamps and accessories, a 24-foot ladder, the overworked lawnmower and gas can, our well-used Weber grill, an old patio set and yes, even the trash can!

Here is what we gained: pleasure in one more chance to visit with our neighbors and in some cases, get to know them better before we moved; relief that our unwanted stuff was recycled and re-gifted rather than dumped into a landfill; the satisfaction of knowing that our friends were benefitting rather than a dealer or company making a profit off our plight.

This is what I learned:

1) Your stuff isn’t as valuable as you think it is. Antiques certainly aren’t worth as much as they were before the recession. There are too many consumer goods out there and everyone is trying to sell theirs. If you enjoyed the item and it served its purpose, then you got your money’s worth.

2) Luck is on your side. When you can genuinely let go of your attachments, the Universe helps you. Our next door neighbors just happened to hold a yard sale on the very weekend we desperately needed some help. We brought over the dining set, a sofa and matching love seat, and our neighbors added to their summer vacation fund. It was a win-win.

3) Don’t forget charities. As extra insurance in case anything large was left that we couldn’t drop off ourselves, I scheduled a truck pickup with one of the local charities for the day before we sold our house. (I’m happy to report that I was able to cancel the pickup due to lack of stuff.)

4) I was dismayed to learn that no charity accepts gently used mattresses anymore, thanks to the bed bug epidemic. It really is a shame to haul a perfectly good guest mattress to the dump, so if you can find a new home for it through word of mouth, Craigslist or Freecycle, by all means, take that opportunity. At the very least, put it out by the curb on a sunny day. I guarantee someone will take it.

At final count, our belongings were distributed to 10 households. We hope they enjoy them as much as we have, and we look forward to a few carefully chosen furnishings that suit our new home, and benefit rather than burden our lives.

Shredded Times

On a shrediing tear

Let’s see what’s left of the overly ambitious and forever

doomed to expire coupons, nagging unredeemed

receipts, disappointing printouts for hopelessly worthy

causes, important junk mail, abandoned daily schedules full

of unlikely schemes, embarrassing parking tickets flirting with

farfetched formulas and disillusioned delusion, awkward

pauses, hysterical assumptions, pretentious plans plus

a recipe I will never make, impossible dreams, undiluted

hypocrisy, muddled medical bills, personal information that

is too personal, unrequited love, something I have always been

completely ashamed of, a really bad day that I can never do over,

and a single sheet of blank paper, wrinkled beyond use.

NaPoWriMo #24

I’m writing a poem every day in April as part of NaPoWriMo’s celebration of National Poetry Month. Won’t you join me in poetry?

Love Poem to a Watering Can

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The rose of your spout blooms
with life-giving torrents for me,
your capacity for care overflows.
Across the years, there have been
others, bright young things without
your rust or dings, but they never
last. Even when your tired handle
fell to pieces, I gladly gave up my
tender hands to a callus that fits
only you. Throughout love’s droughts,
I will carry your galvanized spirit with
me always, to the gardens of my
heart, where no hose can reach.

NaPoWriMo #7

*This (er) homage was inspired by NaPoWriMo’s Day 7 prompt and an old blog post from 2011. Today’s mission was to write a love poem to an inanimate object, and I knew immediately that it could only be for my long-time gardening companion.

I’m writing a poem every day in April as part of NaPoWriMo’s celebration of National Poetry Month. Won’t you join me in poetry?