Friday, November 30, 2012

November Pointless Lists

November 30 is a good day to be born.  That's because it's Eric's birthday, and he's my most very favorite person in the whole wide world.  Tonight we're going to party like it's 1970, if they ate a lot of tacos and oatmeal cake and played Mario Kart on the wii.

I've been kind of overwhelmed this month.  Too much going on, although that's a good thing, right?  Who wants to spend all their time just staring at the walls?  I imagine next month will be even more awesome, what with Johanna's birthday and Christmas and all.  P.S. I am seriously thinking about putting "Happy Holidays" on my cards this year because there seems to be a war on that.  Seriously, why is it so wrong to acknowledge that there are different religious celebrations in December?  Just calm down people, jeez.

Also: I'm attempting to blog while making Eric's aforementioned oatmeal cake, which is a recipe for disaster, except it appears to be already a disaster because the thing is looking ugly and very undone even though it's been in the oven for almost an hour.  But that, my friends, is why God gave us frosting.

Special Section:
Take Your Cake From Blah to Rah!

Old timey frosting under the broiler.

Close enough.

Pointless list time!

Movies watched:
Whatever.  Although Abby went to see Breaking Dawn II with her friend Lily, and Eric and Abby went to Red Dawn.  That was back-to-back movie going for Abby, which is worth mentioning just because we never go to one movie a month, let alone two.

I could have seen Breaking Dawn, but I decided I'd rather walk around town and get some shopping done.  So I did.  I'm dangerously close to being done with the whole Christmas ordeal* which is good because all I want to do in December is eat cookies.

Books read:
I'm reading A Storm of Swords and am like 40% finished!  That's what I have to show for a month of reading.  People are dying off like crazy in this one.  Don't get attached to anyone is all I'm saying.

Refrigerator update:
Our new shelf came within a week!  Except it was the wrong shelf, and the one we really wanted is on back order, so that's been exciting.  Well, you just stack stuff up is all.  I'm also finding it's easier to see what I've got in there.  Not that I won't be thrilled when the shelf finally does come.  Two shelves is for the birds, minimalist or not.

Things I learned:
Old people are kind of awesome, blue sky (even partially) after a week of fog and rain is a welcome relief, my brown cords are getting a little tight so I'm rethinking my couch and sugar diet except I'm partial to sugar so it's really hard, and it's good to pay attention when you're putting more vodka in your homemade vanilla or you could end up with a whole bunch of alcohol on your counter and make your house smell like a bar.

*It's a very minimalist Christmas!  Well, actually, it's always a minimalist Christmas because Eric and I set the bar extremely low early on due to our natural laziness awesomeness, so the girls don't have the highest of expectations anyway (they're asking for things like art supplies).  Um, and we don't really exchange with many other people, and most of what we do give comes in the form of peach butter and pickles I canned in the summer, so wow, I am a total poser for even starting this paragraph.  Never mind.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Untitled. Because I forgot

I would like some props right now because instead of sitting by the fire reading the third Game of Thrones book (whatever it's called, I've completely lost track, but the good news is that after a month of reading, I'm 29% through the thing!), I'm over here writing and pretty much freezing my tail off, even though I'm wrapped in my birthday Christmas quilt* from last year.  The things I do for you people, honestly.

Lest you think I'm a wimp, consider this: It's like 35-degrees outside.  I swear I saw some very tiny flakes today going into work.  Except that was maybe frozen fog, I don't know, but it's cold, okay?

So today was supposed to be my volunteer day at the care center, except when I got there I learned that the activity director was out sick.  I had the choice of striking out on my own and visiting my usual suspects, but since I've only seen them a couple of times and only in a group setting, I decided to just go to Walmart. This makes me lamer than lame, yes, I realize that, but on the upside I was able to procure toilet paper and all natural milk chocolate chips.

Hey, by the way, the care center gig is going well, despite this little hiccup today.  Geraldine went so far last time as to say it was nice of "the kid" (that's me!) to come back again. Also: I was sitting next to Geraldine the entire hour, looking at a magazine, and then suddenly she was gone.  The activity director went searching for her and found her out in the hallway, headed back to her room.  She'd had enough.  I had no idea Geraldine could move that fast.  It was actually pretty awesome.

(Skilly is under the desk and batting at my hands on the keyboard.  It's treacherous in here.)

My furry son this summer.

P.S. I am wondering if maybe I can break up with Walmart in the coming year.  Mostly what I buy there is the aforementioned TP and cat food and cleaning supplies, except I make my own cleaning supplies now and you can pretty much get vinegar and baking soda anywhere. Every time I go into Walmart I feel dirty and faintly smacking of The Man.  I would say that Walmart is what is wrong with America but I don't want to get sued.  If I can successfully break up with Safeway, why not Walmart?

I would also like to break up with Netflix.  We're thinking about Amazon Prime.  Thoughts and/or feelings, anyone?  ...Anyone?  Oh, never mind.

Fact: Abby keeps calling everyone Shanaynay** and it's driving me insane.

Another fact: Last night Johanna was reading this story about a kid and his parents who make a castle out of some cardboard boxes, and she was wondering what turrets and buttresses were.  I'm a modern mother, right, so I grab my iPad and do a quick Google search.  Turns out she didn't care.  She just wanted to call her sister a buttress.

So that was relaxing.

Um, the end.  Sometimes there's only so much ramble even I can stand.

*The quilt photo is near the end of that post.  I was apparently feeling wordy that day.

**No idea how to spell that, and spell check isn't any help.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

We ate cereal

I'm having problems writing this morning.  What I had hoped would be a funny assessment of Black Friday / whatever color is assigned to Thursday actually just sounds kind of shrill.  Not really the look I'm going for, so I'm starting over.  Well, words are expendable, you see.  That can be a hard lesson to learn, but it's the cold hard truth.

So here's the deal.  I'd rather just write about what makes me happy instead of focusing on something that drives me nuts.  The commercialism of Christmas isn't going away, and nothing I can say will change that.  I can only control myself.  I like to think of that as a sanity saver instead of a cop-out.

Well, anyway.

We had a really lovely Thanksgiving.  Only seven guests, but they were all people we love, so it was fun and quite perfect, really.  We ate a delicious meal together, took a two-mile walk around the neighborhood, watched a lot of football and just chatted.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Johanna decided we were going to "wrap" the dining room table in clean newsprint this year so everyone could draw during dinner.  She filled two half-pint jars with crayons and led the charge.  That was a surprising hit.  Mostly people doodled while watching football and chatting since, you know, we were sort of busy when we were eating.  I forgot to take pictures during, but here's some of the after:

Happy Thanksgiving indeed.

Another Bad Creation, Iesha.  Um, when my cousin Seth was eight, this was his favorite song.  I think.  That's how I remember it, anyway.  I introduced this song to Johanna recently--since she listens to it like 85 times a day I'm beginning to question my decision a little--and we played it for Seth after dinner.  Ah, the early '90s were really something.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Eve

Life is hilarious.

I got a beautiful 22 pound turkey on Saturday morning for Thanksgiving.  So what if 11 people are coming for dinner?  Thanksgiving is about leftovers that last for days.  I feel I need to mention that in case anyone here isn't up on the finer points of the American Thanksgiving holiday.  Which is basically all about gluttony, now that I think about it, but it's not commercialized gluttony, which makes it way better than Christmas.*  It's about stuffing yourself with your family at your side and being grateful for your blessings.  That's why it's so awesome.

Also: Turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce?  THE BEST.

Anyway, last night I decided to take the turkey out of the refrigerator for a few hours, just to make sure that the inside wasn't all icy and crusty and cold for Thursday morning.  Having my hand all up inside a half-frozen turkey is not my favorite way to start the day.

The plan was genius.  Until I left the thing on the counter all night.

It was still cool when we remembered at 6 a.m., but not cold.  Since food poisoning isn't exactly the look I'm going for when I feed people, we tossed it in the garbage (feel sick about that, but what do you do?) and I was at the grocery store by 7.  Incidentally, that's a really good time to shop.  I had the store to myself.

So Plan B it is.  I found a kind of partially thawed (read: Not) 12-pound turkey in the bin. Perhaps I should have just gone for the defrosted turkey breasts, but damn it, people, I want bones for broth.  We've got traditions to uphold, for crying out loud.

Well, anyway.  That's been all 3 hours of my morning so far.  Now I'm off to make cranberry sauce, roast the sweet potatoes and clean the bathroom.  Oh, and eat the apple fritter I bought while I was at the store.  I mean, come on!  There has to be some bright point.

*I'm a little confused about the Black Friday sales that are actually now Black Thursday sales. Um, calm down, people.  This needs to stop.  BOYCOTT!  Or, you know, just stay home and eat your turkey.  Good lord, no one needs anything that badly.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Minimalism, week whatever this is

Huh, I guess it's been a while since I've mentioned anything on the minimalism front.  That's mainly because there hasn't been anything new to mention.  Still decluttering*, still fighting the girls' natural tendency to bring crap home, still finding the balance between too little and too much.  Yadda, yadda, yadda, let's just skip to the part where the hard work is done and we're just pure awesome, shall we?

If only it were that easy.

Anyway, though, I read an interesting article recently about how minimalism is essentially just lifestyle porn.   Meaning it's a fun place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there. (Now that I've linked it up I notice the article is over a year and a half old.  So much for being cutting edge of research.)

It got me thinking: What the hell am I doing?  It's a valid question (even though I shrugged my shoulders as I typed that it's a valid question).

Do you see a list coming?  Oh, good.

1. Creating peace.
2."Attempting to," I mean.

Actually, I guess I don't need a list.  That's what I'm doing in a nutshell.  The more I shed, the happier I feel, whether it's paper clutter or unfinished projects or items we do not use.  It brings me peace.

But are we truly minimalists?  We are never going to live in a clean white box, I know this, and I don't actually want a clean white box anyway.  We are never going to have just four bowls in the kitchen or three outfits apiece or no furniture.  That may mean automatic fail, I have no idea.  Also, I'm finding consumerism is a train you cannot just hop off of.  We need food (duh) and a certain amount of clothing (Abby's gunning for new basketball shoes) and the stuff that makes life worth living, like books** and coffee and hair dye (and gum if you're Johanna).  We go places in our car and have a pantry that's overflowing and hold onto certain things that we may or may not ever use (looking at you, tart pan). We've got kids.

So I don't know the answer to that.

Labeling myself a minimalist helps me focus, though.  I tend to be a big picture kind of girl, and details stress me out.  Being able to say "I am a minimalist" sorts out of some of the confusion in my brain and helps me make better choices with my time and energy and resources. Sometimes that's dead easy.  Sometimes it is really, really hard.  Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes it seems kind of stupid, and sometimes pure genius.

Words suck sometimes.  Labels, too.

So that's the State of the Union, in case you were curious: Striving for more than lifestyle porn, defining what minimalism looks like for our family, wondering if this is really minimalism or more like mindful consumerism or even just attempting not to be so overwhelmed.

Does it matter?  When I open my cabinets and see empty space, "minimalism" isn't even remotely what I'm thinking about.  I'm just happy.  Maybe I'll just concentrate on that.

*My newest decluttering project is my retreat, which was supposed to be a cute little reading area but is really just a small space off the master bedroom that we throw all our crap into. Going over one piece at a time, making some hard decisions, not sure what to do about all the photos I've unearthed.  Gah. Makes me long for the glory days when I was cleaning out the kitchen.

** eBooks for me, that's minimalist, right?  Oh, wait, I forgot I'm trying to get past the label.  Man, this is hard...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lifetimes are catching up with me

After what seemed like months of waiting (and actually was months of waiting, now that I think about it), I'm finally volunteering regularly at the local care center (if twice in two weeks counts, which I think totally does).

And you know what?  I really like it.  I wish I could tell my 11-year-old self.

Last Thursday I went in to meet a couple of ladies who don't get a lot of visitors. It was an interview, I guess, to see if they liked me.  One was too busy watching a game show and the other was too busy falling asleep in her wheelchair to notice I was there.  It was sort of awesome, and I felt bad that the activities director kept apologizing for their behavior.

But since I was there, the activities director (whose name I forget.  Ironically they're doing memory tests at the care center this week.  Maybe I should look into that) took me around to a few other rooms to introduce me to the residents and give me a feel for the building.

I ended up in the rehab wing with these two guys, one maybe in his 60s, the other 83.  Mr. 83 told me right off that he was trying to "convert the heathen," aka Mr. 60s, but he'd "already found the Lord."  So we all know where this is going, right?

Wrong.  He rambled on and on about how he grew pot for ten years in Colorado and how he'd told his wife when the good Lord wanted him out of the business, He'd put him out of the business, and lo and behold, He did, but wow, that was a good decade with a to be unnamed here professional basketball team as his biggest customer.  And then calling some judge an off-colored, homophobic name in court and the trouble that got him into.  And how I need to dress sexier if I'm going to be volunteering here.

Um, wow.  That was a lot to take in.  I was not impressed with most of what he was saying, but was torn on whether or not I should tell him to shut up* because he's 83, for crap's sake, and his wife died on Leap Year and he doesn't care if he wakes up tomorrow or not. Although does that give you a free pass to say whatever you want,** no matter how offensive?

I'm a wimp.

Moving right along.

After meeting the peeps last week, the activities director and I decided that I'd come back on Tuesday and have a little "magazine party," as she called it, with a group of residents in the activity room.  She thought maybe that would be a better scene for everyone involved, plus apparently Tuesdays are field trip days but not everyone is in a position to go, you know?  So this would be something different for those left behind.

And that worked out amazingly well.  She wheeled in Geraldine, my TV watcher from last week, and Francis, who is practically nonverbal.  Westine (is that really a name?) wheeled herself in and was a kick.  Then later another lady wheeled in her husband just because she saw we were in there, and Francis' daughter came, so it was QUITE the group. Magazines, cocoa, trying to figure out what the hell*** tripe is (cow stomach.  Gross). Some were just there for the ambiance, others were there to chat.  Maybe a couple were there for the cocoa.

Anyway, afterwards the activities director was like, do you want to call me when you have another free day? and I was all, um, how about just next Tuesday at the same time? and she was very pro-that plan.

Next week we might scrapbook or something.  It's hard to say.

I thought that I wanted just one person, but this group thing seems to be the way to go. Who'd have thought that hanging out in a care center for an hour and a half would be so entertaining?

I guess I did make the right choice after all.

P.S. This story is for my public: Remember Blaine?  He wheeled himself in at one point, and I was trying not to make eye contact because he used to corner me at the store to talk about Dad, aka "Coach," and I was not really in the mood because he is still kind of icky. He abruptly left, so maybe he was thinking he didn't want to go down that road either, or maybe I look significantly different from my teens and 20s that he didn't recognize me. Close call!

*I would never actually tell an old person to shut up, but I could have said, Mr. 83, would Jesus use those words?  Honestly, I feel badly for not speaking up, but I know deep down that I still wouldn't.  Like I said, wimpy.  Confrontations are not my strong point.

**I was going to write "talk crazy shit," but I'm trying not to swear.


Pearl Jam, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town. Lyrically, this is my favorite PJ song of all, just FYI. My children do not get the whole grunge thing, which is disappointing. You can lead your kids towards good music, but you can't make them listen unless they're stuck in the car with you and you won't let them touch your iPod.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mormon Chicken*

Cranky Steve is a Mormon. That doesn't matter in real life, but I bring it up because it's sort of an important detail as far as this post goes.


The other day when I came into the office, Stacey was all like, Steve, are you going to give Trisha your spiel? and I was all like, whoa, am I about to be converted? because sometimes Steve likes to invite me to his worship services or whatever, but actually all that happened was that Steve's church was ordering 40-pound boxes of chicken and he wanted to know if I was interested, and then Stacey wanted to know if I'd like to share a box with her.

That's a run on sentence, yes, I know this, but I don't care. I actually shrugged my shoulders when I wrote that last bit.

Now THAT is a box of chicken.

I have food issues because I am mentally unstable (but that's what the meds are for, so no worries) when it comes to what I put in my mouth. Well, when you feel crappy most of the time,** you tend to... what?... control that aspect of your life as much as you possibly can. So I did venture to ask where exactly this chicken was from, and since I got a reasonable answer (I guess. It all seems kind of shady if you ask me), I said sure, bring on the chicken.

Incidentally, when I first told Eric about it, he thought I'd bought 20 chickens instead of 20 pounds of chicken. That was a fun conversation. That was also when we came up with the whole Mormon Chicken thing, which is pretty damn clever. (It's not bragging if it's true.)

So basically I ended up paying about $29 for 20 pounds of chicken breasts, which seems like a hell of a deal. Just please God, let this chicken not be from some industrial feed lot where a thousand chickens share a space equivalent to a small bathroom.

The boxes arrived on Thursday. Steve had an entire trunk loaded down with chicken. He'd given the spiel to half the office, it seemed, and we practically shut down as everyone tried to figure out how to split their boxes. Stacey and I decided I'd take it home and divide it up and then bring her share to work the next day, except then Steve opened up a box and discovered they were in bags (unsealed with liquid squirting out everywhere, whatever, the main bag was sealed so it's probably all totally legit), so then Stacey and I divided ours in the parking lot. That was totally disgusting and also kind of awesome.


Fast forward to that evening, and tons of chicken on the counter. I felt a little bad about the plastic wrap, but I'm not sure how else to get it into the freezer. Sometimes it's hard being environmentally conscience.

So then Abby was like, why does Steve's church get all this chicken? and we explained the two year rule (is there a two year rule or did I just make that up?), which she thought was a little excessive (as Catholics I guess we don't worry about that sort of thing, and I'm glad because when Steve talks about his cans of freeze dried potatoes, I have to wonder how that is a good idea on any level, the freeze dried potatoes, I mean), but then Eric pointed out that all that flooding and bad weather on the east coast? The Mormons are totally set.

Huh. This wasn't really much of a story after all.

*I am NOT calling Mormons chickens.  Had the chicken been, say, from the Presbyterians, we'd have dubbed it the Presbyterian Chicken. Or the Catholic Chicken. Or the Methodist Chicken. You get the picture.  I mean no disrespect.

**Actually I've felt so good lately that I've gained at least ten pounds. Um... that was unexpected, but I cannot seem to lose any of it on my couch and sugar diet, so whatevs.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Well, that was unexpected

I needed to clean out the fridge anyway,  I guess.

Thursday morning, making lunches, nowhere near the fridge, BIG BOOM that sounded like the ice maker exploded, open the door and see this. Close the door and hope it's all just a misunderstanding. Open the door and realize not so much. Close the door and wait for Eric.

"I guess I shouldn't have drilled it yesterday," he says thoughtfully as he examines the destruction.

Lesson learned, people. Tempered glass is NOT to be messed with. Good news: He's ordered a new shelf, which takes care of the problem he was trying to rectify with the drill (i.e. the meat drawer or whatever it's called came off and he was trying to fix it).

The end.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I think I'm done nursing the patience

So awhile back I alluded to the fact that I was in the process of "adopting a grandparent" at our local care center. I haven't said anything else about it because I wanted to wait until I had something to report. And actually I guess I still sort of don't. Not that THAT is any different than any other aspect of my life, now that I think about it.

Short story long: I lost my Grandma M. four years ago, and I can still remember that last time we visited before her stroke, when she sat on her couch and held my hand and told me over and over how she had hoped I'd come, and there I was. The next time I saw her, she was basically unresponsive in a hospital bed.

Anyway, I've been thinking about that, and about visiting someone. Originally I thought I'd volunteer in one of the assisted living centers, but after writing an article about the care center for the paper, I decided to take that route. Just because... I don't know. Lower income, maybe needier people. Maybe someone's grandma could really use a visitor.

Ironically, my sixth grade elementary school class used to visit this place during the school year, and I hated it: The smell, the old people who would catch you and not let you go, the dark halls and aura of sadness. Hate is too weak a word. I despised that place with the whole of my being and would come up with any excuse not to have to go.

Life is hilarious.

But anyway, the process has been progressing at a snail's pace. Yadda yadda yadda, I won't bore you with my frustration or doubts the past six weeks. Let's just say that there's a lack of communication and/or commitment that grates on my nerves, and I have wondered a thousand times if I'm doing the right thing by volunteering here. When the activities director missed the appointment she set up on Monday, I was really thinking the time had come to just bow out.

I rehearsed my words carefully before we finally met up. But before I found my nerve*, she was all, I have two women in mind who don't have a lot of family and would feel so special to have someone come just for them, and I was like, oh, FINE. So I held my tongue is what I'm saying. And I have another appointment later in the week to meet these ladies and see if they like me, I guess.

We shall see.

*Confrontation is not my strong point.

Foo Fighters, Learn to Fly. Huh, looking at the lyrics, this song is a little angry. Ah, well. Learning to fly is hard. "Fly along with me, I can't quite make it alone."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I'm on the verge, I'm on the verge

Sunlight filtering through fog is beautiful. This is not how I meant to start this post at all, but I just got up to refill my Ron Swanson coffee mug and happened to look outside. Fall is a stunning season.

Eric has been elk hunting--he comes home today!--and even though it's only been like four days, it's been four loooooong days. The good news is that we had so many distractions I've hardly had time to miss him.

Distraction #1: Lunch with my high school friend Anita on Friday, who is freshly back in town. I had an IBS attack--stress induced, I'm positive, yes, that happens--so that was exciting, but thanks to modern medicine and the fact that I am a boss, I made it not only through lunch, but through my four hour work day as well. Hey, it was the day Eric left, and I was so good this year about him going, you would totally not even believe it. Lesson learned: Don't hold in your negative emotions. (I'm sure Eric will LOVE that.)

Distraction #2: My Aunt Ann and Uncle John came on Saturday to bring us some flooring samples from their shop, and their car broke down once they'd reach town. That's the lucky part, that they weren't stuck on the side of the highway with the creepers (hey, I typeset the sheriff and police logs, I know what's going on out there, people). I got to ferry them around a bit, which rocked, and also helped my aunt figure out her own Vanilla Project. I only wish they could have stayed longer. Or maybe their car would have behaved so most of their time wasn't used up in repair shops.

Distraction #3: Sunday my public and I (hi, Mom!) worked TEN STRAIGHT HOURS at the church's annual holiday bazaar. Well, Mom did. I got out of there a time or two on various errands, aka "Sanity Savers." Mom runs the baked goods booth and I am the sidekick. All the good that I did was probably overshadowed by my rude observations about some of the altar society members who could not keep out of everyone else's business (drove me crazy, made Mom laugh), so bummer there, but anyway, we managed to sell quite a bit, even if no one but my own father bought the fudge I had painstakingly made in individual cups for optimal cuteness, but whatever, that did not hurt my feelings AT ALL and now I have fudge in my freezer for Christmas presents, so win-win, I guess.

Cellophane wrappers... and biodegradable muffin cups
to make myself feel better.
Bread is a hit. Candy is not. Weird.

I'm not even sure that paragraph makes any sense, but I'm not in the mood for a rewrite. Let's just say it was a heck of a day, but on the upside, I scored some homemade, all natural caramels that rock my world. And isn't THAT what this was all about?

Distraction #4: The girls didn't have school Monday--report card day or something--so I spent the morning trying not to tear my hair out and the afternoon trying to cross off as many items from my work list as possible. I failed on both accounts, but an attempt was clearly made. And then Eric called to say he was coming home early, so yay! I didn't pay attention after that.

So now you know why I haven't had time to blog this past week. Um, I guess.

The end.

Jack's Mannequin, I'm Ready. I so love this song. My favorite part: All of it. But especially this:

I wake up to find it's another
Four aspirin morning, and I dive in.
I put on the same clothes I wore yesterday.
When did society decide that we had to change
And wash a tee shirt after every individual use?
If it's not dirty, I'm gonna wear it.
I take the stairs to the car
And there's fog on the windows.
I need caffeine in my blood stream,
I take caffeine in the blood stream.
I grip the wheel and all at once I realize:
My life has become a boring pop song
And everyone's singing along.