20 March 2011

Spring cleaning: Less Stuff, More Fun!

It seems that I will be staying in C'dale for the summer. I have found suitable employment and am being given time to complete my degree.  However, in the rush that I thought my life would be if I had actually gotten that job--the interview for which I thought I had "aced"--I had already began thinking about moving.

Moving costs money--something I have precious little of.  I am not interested in lugging around the kitchen sink with me on my next move.  When I was divorced a bit over a decade ago, I learned the hard way that there is a certain lightness of being in getting yourself free of your emotional baggage and we humans put a great deal of emotional baggage in our stuff.  But divorce demands splitting up the stuff.  I walked away from my marriage with a bed, a futon, two wicker chairs, and a patio set, a mismatched, incomplete set of kitchenware, my clothing, my dogs, and a distant memory of my sanity.

And I started over.  Cleaner.  Leaner.  And with greater purpose.  I did learn that most furniture can be replaced at your new place.  People will give you furniture.  You can pick up stuff second hand.  It is amazing how often nice stuff is available around you.  More interesting to me is that as I prepare to move, it is the furniture that I brought with me that I intend to keep.  I have or will donate the furniture that was donated to me.  Paying it forward, so to speak.  It is time to remember that lesson and let some of this emotional stuff go.  In the spirit of spring cleaning, I am sorting through all my stuff.  All of it.  And I am turning a critical eye to it as I do so.  The goal is getting rid of the old, tired, outdated, unused, not-really-feeling-it, outlived-its-usefulness objects in my house and  streamlining.  Opening up the space I live in so I'm not tripping over the clutter.

I realized over the past several months that I can borrow or rent a great number of things that I thought I had to buy.  Did you know that Home Depot rents tools?  Kid you not!  This is going to save me a fortune.  So with that in mind, I can open up some new space possibilities.

Here's the rules.
  1. If I use it frequently, it can stay.  No questions asked.  What's frequently?  Daily to once a month.
  2. If I use it infrequently (less than once a month, but more than twice a year), I ask the following questions:
    • Does it improve my quality of life?
    • Is it convenient to store?
    • Would I be inconvenienced if I didn't have it?
  3. If I never use it, it's gone.  No questions asked.  
  4. Do I have more than one?  Can another object I use more often fulfill the same purpose (multipurpose tools)
  5. If it is an emotional object, do I display it?
  6. If it is an object intended to beautify my living space, does it?  Do I still like it?
  7. Would it be cheaper to replace it at my new home than the cost to move it?
  8. Do I have more of this object than I could ever use?  Prioritize them by desirability and let the rest go.
  9. Some items were purchased for a one-time project.  This includes a lot of tools.  How to decide what stays and what goes?
    • If I needed it again, could I borrow or rent it?
    • How likely is it that I will need it again?
Questions I purposefully avoid:
  1. Can I sell it for what I put in it?  This really doesn't matter.  I am paying to store it.  I am paying to lug it around.  I am paying to keep it safe.  Objects cost money to keep.   They are the hidden costs.  The only question that matters is "Is this useful in my life?"  If it's not, nothing else really matters.
  2. Will I use it one day?  An object would have to be pretty damn small and pretty damn expensive for me to keep just because I will use it "one day".  If I use something once a decade, it is really worth it to store it that long?
The garage will be the repository for the not-a-useful-part-of-my-life objects.  The first object heading out there?  A bread machine.  (Unless, of course, Liv wants it so she won't have to knead).  And this spring, when the task is completed, I'm gonna have one hell of a garage sale.  What's left over after that will be given to friends, family, or donated to charity.  

13 March 2011

I love demo

So I've been seeing this guy.  We'll call him Carlos.  And he came to see me in January.  And the date went well, but when he went to leave it was dark.  And he backed out of my driveway and ran over the wheelchair ramp.

He knocked it a good foot and a half toward the street.  He went up over top of it and his wheels crushed the boards and sort of fell into the ramp.  It was starting to come away from the house.  You can see it in this pic.  It used to be relatively straight.

Now I could have gotten mad, but so many people have hit that wheelchair ramp that I really couldn't blame him. And considering how many people have hit that ramp, I didn't have the nerve to ask him to pay for the repair.  To his credit, he did offer to come back and fix it.  I never pressed him on it.  So today, I went to Lowe's to get some wood to fix the eight (yes, eight!) boards that were damaged.   Less than $50, nails included.

Only I get the eight boards off and I see that the damage is far more extensive.  The entire ramp is off it's moorings.  Well, that's not exactly right.  The ramp was still on the moorings, but the moorings were broken and just hanging on for dear life to the joists.  The joists themselves were twisted and broken.

This is supposed to be straight.  And the other side didn't fare much better.

Long story short:  its was no longer structurally sound.  It had to go.  So at about 5 pm this evening, I got busy.

The impressive thing?  The job was done and cleaned up before 6:30.

And this is what it looks like now.

That's the best I could do in the dark.

I got all my aggressions out and got rid of what I have always considered an eye sore.  I have decided to learn how to set posts and I'm going to put a small landing on the front and use the ten boards I bought today to make stairs.  With a long path before you get to the driveway.  Someone would have to really be trying to hit that.  But the whole time I am tackling this project, all I can think of is how when I am done, I'm going to go enjoy some time on the sun porch that I cleaned up yesterday.  Only I forgot that I have to go pollinate plants tonight.  So no sun porch for me.  Maybe another day.

06 March 2011

Women I admire

Life is a roller coaster.  It goes way too slow uphill and way too fast down.  It has lots of interesting twists and turns.  Sometimes you can't see around the next corner.  Sometimes you can and wish you couldn't.  But that is how life goes.  And the people we pass along the way may all become just a blur, but we usually remember the ones that held our hands through the tough times, and screamed with us during the scary parts, and laughed until tears flowed when the excitement finally slowed.  You don't forget the people who touch your life.  This is my homage to them.  And because each person comes with a backstory, I'm not sure that this will be the last post on this topic.

1.  When I was a kid, my two favorite shows on television were the Carol Burnette Show and the Mary Tyler Moore Show .  In the 60s and early 70s, there weren't many shows on TV with what we might today call "positive role models" for girls.  Oh there were smart, saavy, tough female leads in shows (That Girl, I Dream of Jeanie, Laugh In, and so on), but they generally were obviously subsurvient to the men in their character's lives.  That Girl spent 90% of her time on the phone with "Daddy" and her fiance "Donald" spent all his time getting her out of the jams she got herself into.  I didn't want to be like her.  I wanted to be like Carol Burnette.  She was funny, smart, and she could do a Tarzan yodel.  What else could a girl want out of life?  And Mary Tyler Moore was the first "working woman" I remember seeing on TV who wasn't a secretary or a nurse.  She was also:  A) beautiful, B) cosmopolitan, and C) an executive.  She had a bitchin' apartment with a murphy bed.  It shocks me now to watch that show and realize that Lou Grant was her father figure, Murry Slaughter was her mentor, and that she didn't seem to have readily identifiable set of job responsibilities.  But, hey!  Let's not get caught up in details.  Still, there weren't many shows on TV featuring single, professional women and she would do in a pinch.  And that is all I had to teach me about the working world until I jumped into it myself with both feet.

When I got out of college, I took what I always saw as a temporary job at a greeting card company.  After my father died, I sold everything I owned and moved to Chicago to "make it on my own".  My first boss was a woman named Dorothea Vicari.  She was a tall, beautiful woman with dark skin and dark hair and dark eyes and gentlemen looked at her longingly.  Interestingly enough, she had a mole on her face--on her chin if I recall.  She used to unconsciously place her hand over it when she spoke.  That one movement taught me an interesting lesson.  Even beautiful people can have a perverse sense of their own image.  That mole did not detract from her beauty, but she was self-conscious about it nonetheless.  But that isn't why I bring her up in this post.  I admire her because she taught me what it means to be a professional.  She was everything I wanted to be when I grew up.  She was my Mary Tyler Moore. Except she was better than Mary Tyler Moore.  She was funny, intelligent, competent, good at her job, respectful of other people, industrious, creative, and she trusted me to do my job well.  She taught me, through example, how a good boss behaves.  I think one of the reasons I stayed at that entry level job so long was because she was so good to me.  I wish I knew where she was today.  I'd love to thank her again.

2.  My Grams is 94 years old.  She sure doesn't look it.  She damn sure doesn't act like it.  She lives alone.  She was the oldest of four children.  She married at 17 and had one child, my father.  She spent the better part of a decade caring for her elderly parents, all the while her own husband was dying of lung cancer.  She outlived all her siblings.  She outlived her son.  One would think that she would be hardened from all that loss.  But she is perhaps one of the happiest people I know.  She laughs all the time.  She sends me little clips out of the local newspaper about "finding a man after 40" or something she read about education, or some pertinent advice given out by Dear Abby.  My grandmother is a classic.  But the reason I admire my grandmother is because she taught me one of the most important lessons in life.  She taught me that it costs nothing to make someone's day.  A smile.  A laugh.  A pat on the back.  A pleasant demeanor.  Letting the little things go.  Cutting someone some slack.  You don't always have to be right.  You don't always have to win.  Sometimes, it is better to take one for the team.  And the team is humanity.

You'll be talking to her about people long gone or things that happened so long ago, and she'll open up with some incredibly personal experience that most people would hide.  Like when her husband, my grandfather, struggled with alcoholism.  I was in college when my grandfather died, and I never knew him to have a problem with drinking.  But apparently, he did.  And she speaks of it honestly.  Not with blame.  Not with regret.  But just with a calm understanding that marriage in her day was for life and if she were a young woman today, she'd probably not have put up with those shenanigans.  My grandmother is the kind of life teacher that everyone should know.  Not perfect.  Not by a long shot.  But good at the stuff that counts.

3.  I have my own biases.  I have always liked people older than me. And I have always been attracted to big personalities. Probably because I was the youngest in my family.  I was always racing to keep up.  Always trying to look badder, smarter, quicker, and tougher than any other kid my age. Trying to emulate the one person who could hold everyone's attention. So I have spent a lifetime associating, fraternizing and ingratiating myself with people who were older than me.  Until I was almost 40, if you were born after 1959, I sort of ignored you as a matter of course.  And then, I went back to graduate school where the only people who were older than me were emeritus professors.  And really, how much fun are they to impress?  So I began to talk to the younger crowd.  They're not so bad.  And I'm glad I gave them a chance, because really, wouldn't that have been a loss to have ignored an entire generation of people?  What I didn't expect to find were younger people I admired.  I mean, seriously.  How much could they have lived?  What could they possibly know?  But sometimes, amazing people are lurking in unassuming packages. They are so unassuming that at first you don't recognize how amazing they are.  I almost enjoy discovering this kind of person.  Because you never see it coming and then suddenly, you're like POW!  A.  Maze.  Ing. And that's Liv.  She shows up in the lab one day and I see this little, squeaky, mouse of a girl and then BLAMMO!  She's this Abronia-finding, mountain scaling, wild-west adventuring, good luck charm with a dog.  She can out bee anyone on the planet.  She doesn't lose her cool when an inexperienced driver looses traction behind the wheel of her Jeep on a mud-soaked road.  She bounds up mesas like they are made of Tigger tails.  She leaves the rest of us mere mortals in the dust. But she has one of those personalities that doesn't make you covet her abilities or her accomplishments.  You just admire that someone can pull it off so easily.  And you're damn sure glad she's let you tag along for the ride.  And I don't think anyone who has ever spent any time with Liv would say that a little bit of her didn't rub off on them.  She makes you believe that you can climb that mountain.  That those rocks aren't going to crack the drive shaft into smithereens and leave you both with only a 5 gallon jug of water to split as you make your way back into civilization.  I have no doubt that we'd be swearing and swapping stories and laughing the whole way back.  And picking cactus tines out of dog's feet.  I've had the best adventures with Liv.  She is surprisingly timid.  Then she's brazenly bold.  She is sweeter than rock candy and fiercer than a bobcat.  I've only seen her cranky once.  I thought she might be sick.  I think she was just tired.  She puts me in infinitely good humor.  She introduced me to the West, which stole my heart.  When I see Liv, I certainly don't see myself.  I see myself better.

4.  I grew up in a family of people who don't touch.  We don't hug.  We aren't demonstrative.  We are more than a little bit uncomfortable with having our personal space violated.  But I have always looked upon those people who are with a mixture of curiosity and awe.  They are so unselfconscious about themselves. They just grab hands and dispense of slaps on the back without a second thought.  And the next person is one of those people.  One of those people who can get close to others without feeling weird.  Who is so completely comfortable with themselves that they inspire me to rethink who I am. Someone who is selfless in an effortless way.  Someone who seems to feel closer and be closer to her friends than I think I have ever been to anyone in my life.  And she is full of joy.  She's always smiling in a way that makes you think nothing bad has ever happened to her.  But surely it has, just like the rest of us.  It just never got to her.  And this someone is so completely right for the guy she's with, it's just not funny.  This next person is a sleeper.  She has no idea, I'm sure that she has left such an impression on me.  She is, in fact, the wife of my office mate.  Julie Dumper Schmale.  I wish I had half the compassion and ability to give that she gives away every single day.

This list can go on and on.  But I think it's interesting that the names that came to me today were all women.  And all for very different reasons.  I'm glad I've gotten to know all of them.  And I wonder who will come along next.

04 March 2011

On how I came to be flashed by a police officer

 Don't blame me.  Liv asked.

Over the past week or so, a work crew (See: chain gang) has been working in our town.  It's a group of roughly ten inmates, mostly black, dressed in denim jumpsuits and wearing bright orange toboggans.  They have been sweeping gravel out of the gutter, picking up trash, and raking leaves in the park.  They are quiet, polite, and friendly.

They are usually accompanied by two officers, sometimes one.  The officers are dressed in black.  They wear heavy black jackets.  They carry guns.  They never smile.  Never join in the work.  They stand by idly and look mean.  They don't nod when you pass them, even though a nod is the preferred greeting between neighbors and cars on the road.

I'd seen them nearly every day as they were doing a lot of work in the park.  I saw that they would all watch me toss frisbee for Scout.  We had a thing going on.

Until last Thursday.

Scout and I were out in the park like we usually are, and so was the work crew.  And you know, Scout isn't exactly quiet when he plays frisbee.  He barks when he thinks he's made a particularly spectacular catch.  And the frisbee is bright red with a donut hole in the middle.  And it flies through the air for Pete's sake.  And I was wearing a bright white down jacket.  It's not like we exactly blended into the background.  And we had been out there for a full 20 minutes already.  Which is why what happened next is so perplexing.

Conspicuous, huh?
I noticed suddenly that all the inmates had piled into the van.  I saw the officer lock them in and begin to walk over toward some garbage cans that were lined up next to an outbuilding.  He walked out of the view of the inmates in the van and directly into my view.  He was standing in full view of anyone actually in the park.

And he lifted his shoulders, hiked up his jacket, and began to fiddle with his zipper.

Immediately, I called out to him, "Seriously!  You are going to piss right in front of me?"

He didn't look up.  He just kept moving forward with the process.

Scout brought me the frisbee.  I held it up high and waved it at the guy.

A nice big arch of urine is how he returned my greeting.

So I cleared my throat and shouted, "HEY!  OFFICER!  I'M STANDING RIGHT HERE!"

Now I've got his attention.  That stream began to waver and sway.  He didn't know which way to turn.  Eventually, he decided to walk over and pee on the building.  When he finished, he rezipped and without looking at me or apologizing, he returned to the van and drove away.

I hope the inmates laughed at him the whole way home.

For my part, I headed to the city building.  I was pissed.  No pun intended.  I was pissed because if anyone else had done that, they'd have been arrested.  I was pissed because he was an officer in charge of inmates and has a responsibility to set a good example.  I was pissed because it was only by luck that he had pissed in front of an adult and not the kids that usually play in the park.  I was pissed because it was dereliction of duty.

I told the city clerk that if they were going to invite a work crew out they might want to make accommodations for them.  She was appalled.

"Did they urinate in the park?"

"Not the inmates," I told her.  "The police officer in charge of them."

Now, she was flabbergasted.

"He makes THEM wait."

"Apparently, he couldn't."

"They have access to a restroom in this building," she said.

"They aren't taking advantage of it,"  I replied.

"Don't worry.  I'll see that this moves up the line."

And that was how I came to see a police officer's junk.

The end.