2021: The Year of Decluttering

That title up there? I like to call it “Double-click Bait”

Because you might have opened this post to figure out how I could possibly get the year so wrong,
or because you thought, “Ooooo, more hints on how to declutter!” Or both.

Decluttering, as everyone knows who watches TV, reads books, or keeps up with social media, is the new national religion.
It’s the current mania.
Our version of 1999’s biggest trend—stocking up on survival skills for when Y2K crashed the world.
It’s replaced determining our love language, and developing habits to be a Highly Effective Person.
It even nudged out learning to dance the Macarena.

Any time there’s a trend everyone is doing, and everyone is telling me I want to do it, my contrary nature and stubborn Dutchness exert themselves.
I dig in my heels and refuse.

So far I’ve bucked the infatuation with decluttering. But it’s so widespread that no matter how fast I scroll past ads and accolades for it, I at least know we are supposed to ask ourselves this:
Does my stuff bring me joy?

This is my answer.
You betcha.

For the sentimentalist, (of whom I am chief) every three-dimensional object has an invisible hook. Attached to the hook is the memory of a person, place or event. Ditch the item and the memory disappears with it.

But, here comes The Big But.
My son and highly organized, uncluttered daughter-in-law invited me to see their newly remodeled basement playroom. Along one wall, an army of plastic bins sat on rows of shelves and on each bin a label was plastered and on each label was written, in my daughter-in-law’s neat penmanship, the contents. It all looked neat. And clean, and spacious, and pleasant.

A strange desire kindled in my heart. A desire for less stuff and more space.
Before the tiny flame could die, I flew home to begin my journey to unclutter.

Where to begin? Start small, Anita.

With this Avon tin.

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This over-half-a-century old container that used to be filled with “Lady Skater” talc.
It has that invisible hook on the side.
Attached there is the memory of my little brother and sister, who’d saved their pennies and bought it for me as a Christmas gift.
THAT memory is linked via a long chain to the one wrapped around my entire childhood—we were only a few pebbles removed from dirt poor. My dad felt called to teach in small, struggling Christian schools. Mom worked every possible job to keep us from bankruptcy and there weren’t a whole lot of toys, trinkets, floo-floobers or tar-tinkers.

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The two littles in our family

So when a gift from the two littles in our family showed up under the tree one Christmas, I was charmed and delighted and smelled like Sweet Honesty powder for a solid year.
About a decade ago I showed the tin to my sister, thinking she—also a sentimentalist—would be impressed I’d kept it. But she had no memory of giving it to me. Therefore she saw no hook, and was aghast I still had it.

Filled with zeal and a desire to be trendy, I hauled the tin out of the ‘miscellaneous” Christmas bin. That’s where I keep all the decorations I don’t set out but can’t throw away. They either have memories hooked to them, or show great potential for the hypothetical craft project of my dreams.
I held the tin before me and set my face like flint toward the garbage, trying to disentangle the joyful memory from the hook as I walked.

You know where this story is going, don’t you?

Whether by accident or subconscious intention, I took the path leading past my Dickens-style Christmas decorations.
Newton’s first law kicked in and the body in motion (me) was compelled to change her action (dumping a precious-memory holder) by an external force (the gladsome comprehension that Avon’s little Currier and Ives tin would look perfect tucked into a corner by the cricket on the hearth and the Christmas Carol carolers.)

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See my Dickens shelf? Carolers, the Cricket on the Hearth and the Goose getting fat? The shelf below has a Norman Rockwell Dicken’s print next to Samantha, who is only slightly anachronistic in the display.

The tin has moved from “miscellaneous” to the “Dickens” bin, waiting—Lord willing—to join Christmas festivities 2020. Come 2021 we’ll revisit the Avon Lady Skater and see if she still makes me happy.

An epic failure to be one of the cool, decluttered in-crowd. But I comfort myself with this:
By keeping those memories hooked on tangible objects, my brain stays more organized and less cluttered. What could possibly bring more joy?

The Ratio of Ick to Glory

 

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I live in one of the American States in an area vaguely designated as the Upper Midwest. It’s not so northerly to suggest all Paul Bunyan all the time. And not mid-westernly enough to call up images of cornfields, wheat and the occasional soybean.

My state has so much to commend it!  Rolling hills. Picturesque farms. Colby Jack cheese. And many bodies of water.

The problem is this:
There are only two months of the year during which I can fully, without encumbrances, enjoy and participate in the Great Outdoors.

June is one. Many folks remain outdoors for the 30 days June hath.
With good reason. We seldom need buckets of citronella, pallets of Deep Woods Off
or thousands of dollars of homeopathic insect repellents. But that day comes soon enough.
Because a primary function of some bodies of water making my Upper Midwest state so appealing is mosquito hatcheries.
They perform it admirably, and from July through September, my fellow statesmen and I don Deet, erect screen houses, engage in the state dance (The Mosquito Swat, Slap and Sidestep) and cower indoors after dusk like the residents of Transylvania avoiding Count Dracula. Because often, mosquitoes don’t depart till October.

Speaking of October, it is the other month that beckons us upper Midwesterners
with open arms. “Come outside,” this tenth month calls. “Leave behind your insect repellent, your Uggs, your mosquito netting and your fuzzy mittens.”

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Isn’t October pretty?

Like June, it compels us to spend the entire month outdoors.
Because we know that the months of November through May often bring this:

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We are either anticipating the above dump of white, living through it, or cleaning up after it in those 7 months.

But we endure. Because we anticipate June and clasp memories of October to our hearts.

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Friends who may consider a move to the Upper Midwest, know this:
The ratio here of ick to glory is 10:12. That is 5/6th of a year we can’t head outside without layers of outerwear or layers of insect repellent.
Is it worth the struggle?  Mathematically the odds are against us.
But aesthetically it can’t be beat.

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Up ain’t pretty

Here’s one of my new life mottos:
Smug goes before the grunt.

In its expanded version the motto goes:
If we’re smug because we can sit down cross-legged on the floor at our age, (60+), we’re sure to be humbled to the dust when we grunt getting up.

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Oh yes. Once, maybe only a decade or so ago, my fellow 60+ers and I were able to perform a feat of beauty:
We could rise from a legs-folded-and-tucked floor position and STAND UP by merely rising. No arms needed.
Note: In our less culturally and politically woke days, this seated position was known as “Indian style” (but whether from Native Americans or Indian swamis, I can’t say).

Apparently, once we hit late middle age, this graceful upsweep of levitation has become more complicated for many of us.
As our cracking and creaking days increase, rising can involve several steps, including but not limited to:

flexing, shifting, rotating, bending, hoisting one’s backside, and praying. And grunting.
Sometimes all limbs, including both hands, AND a piece of sturdy furniture get involved.

Up ain’t pretty.

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People my age should build an additional forty seconds into our estimated time transitioning from the floor to wherever we’re headed after the floor.

To be fair, the process isn’t always this complicated. I can often go from cross-legged to a squat to a stand using only one hand for support. A sort of flash-tripod move. (Usually only accomplished with speed and precision when there is no one around to witness my two-step triumph.)

I say this not to brag but to encourage. Another of my life’s mottos is: If I can almost do it, almost anyone can.

To be fairer, just last winter I witnessed a woman— a scant 30 some months younger than I—perform the single-sweep elevation. But she’s a vegetarian, so there’s that.

I, however, am an omnivore, I’ll never see 60 again, creakiness is in my DNA, and I never remember to regularly take my glucosamine and chondroitin.

Right now I’m going to enjoy the fact that I can still sit on the floor. Great things happen there. Stories with grandchildren, circle songs, a direct view of lost items cowering beneath the sofa.

And if up ain’t pretty, it is still up. A good place to be.

Hoist with his own petard. How the Sam Hill?

 

Wile E Coyote Quotes image in Vector cliparts category at pixy.orgLife is full of surprises. I thought everyone knows what it means to be “hoist with your own petard.”
Not surprisingly, I was wrong.

If you don’t know the meaning, read on and expand your universe. If you do—well, you’ve read this far. Why not stick with me to the end?

A petard, according to my extensive research on Wikipedia AND two other sites whose names I can’t remember, is a small bomb you construct to blow something up.
To hoist something is to lift that something into the air.

The pithy little phrase is found in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet has two friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. (Are those not the greatest names? I’m so jealous Shakespeare thought of them first.) Hamlet learns they are going to betray him by carrying a letter to the authorities requesting Hamlet be killed. Great names do not always great friends make.

When Hamlet finds the letter, he substitutes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s names for his own. Thereby writing their death sentence.
Then he chuckles that
“… ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petar’(d)*

In other words, Hamlet considers it sporting when the one who engineered the bomb to blow up someone else gets lifted into the air when it explodes under him.

Sort of like Haman in the book of Esther, being hung on the gallows he built for Mordecai.
Or a poacher accidentally stepping into the trap he set for a rare white rhino.
Or Wile E. Coyote getting beaned by the anvil meant for the Road Runner.

So now you know how to be hoist and what a petard is. If I were you, I’d be asking ‘WHY?”
Why do I think you need to know this?

Because not everyone is familiar with this evocative and very descriptive phrase. Even literate, well-educated everyones haven’t heard it. Like some of my writing critique group. While reading aloud to them from my current WIP (Work in Progress for those of you with enough sense of self-preservation to never try your hand at authoring), I came to the “hoist, etc.” phrase. I’d written it in because it was JUST PERFECT for a scene where my antagonist got snared by his own evil devices. My fellow writers, with clearing of throats and furrowing of brows, asked what the Sam Hill “hoist with his own petard” meant. I sensed immediately that they were under-impressed.

But I kept the line in there anyway.

So.
IF my WIP ever becomes a finished manuscript, and
IF it gets contracted and published, and
IF you happen to read it, you won’t need to contact me and ask what the Sam Hill I mean by sticking “hoist with his own petard” in there.
Because now you know.

It’s something writers like me and ol’ Billy Shakespeare throw around.

*The “d” is my addition. All this is confusing enough without dropping consonants.

Slashing Syllables

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That tears it. When not one, not two, but three to five friends tell me I use a lot of big words in my books, I have to throw up my hands and fess up.
I am a big-word fiend.
Not a big word SNOB.
Don’t think I mean to make you think I am smart.
I’m not, you know. Smart, that is.
But words are SO GREAT.
Some are JUST RIGHT.
Why not, I think, use one big word if it fits? If it says what I want to say?

Now I know why. Folks don’t like the big words. At least not the way I use them. Not in the light weight books I write about love and crime and snow and dogs.
I hear you.

So as of this date I turn o’er a new leaf.
I vow to tone down the length and breadth and width of the terms I use in the books I write.
I shall look at each word.
If it won’t pass the snob test I pledge to slash and burn. To pare down to words that make the heart glad of each gal (or guy) who reads my work. Words that don’t tax the brain past where it wants to be taxed.

Of course, I would not have known how vexed folk can get, had not I asked some of those good folks to proof read my tales (those not yet in book form). They seemed to think I have a poor chance that these tales get put to print lest I cut the fluff of out sized words.

So it starts. I wrote this blog post to work on my vow to toss those big words. Only one beat per word. Feel free to proof read. Did I miss some long words? Are some still so big that you must clap twice or more as you read each one?
Give me your feed back. Please. Feel free, too, to use words with more than one beat. ‘Cuz it is quite tough to keep those beats down to one. Trust me on that.

(I made free with the name of this post. A two beat word and a three beat word. At times, one must be kind to ones self.)

Oily Grace

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Blog post titles are so hard for me.
Here’s a confession.
Oily Grace” is my version of clickbait.

Unfortunately it sounds like the name of a slimy gang member’s repellent girlfriend.

That is not what I’m writing about, although gang members and their girlfriends need grace.
My focus isn’t even how much I need grace.
I know.
I’ve got grace. By the bucketfuls.

God rains grace on me. I’m forgiven, justified, in the process of being sanctified, someday to be glorified. All showered on me by grace.

It’s the giving of grace to others that I struggle with.
You’d think someone drenched in it would be able to give big ol’ soggy grace hugs to others.
But no.
Grace pours over me, refreshes and rehydrates me. And then it seems to dry up before I can extend it.

I could swear I’m made of microfiber.

Here’s what a Christian like me needs.
Oily grace.
The kind that doesn’t absorb right away.
I need the kind of grace that will drip off from me onto others.
So anyone who gets close to me can’t help but walk away soothed and softened by
the essential oil of grace that I have in abundance. So I leave footprints and fingerprints of grace everywhere I go and on everything I touch.

Not that I haven’t been known to extend grace. And to gracious people, it is SO EASY to give. It’s trying to grant grace to everyone else that dries me up like a potato chip.
By ‘everyone else’ I mean all humans from the ungracious, nasty types to the person in front of me in the checkout lane. Whose sole fault is that they are in front of me in the checkout lane.

One of my favorite hymns starts like this:
“Gracious Spirit, dwell with me, I myself would gracious be;”
It’s a favorite not so much because of the tune or great poetic phrases.
It is my heart’s cry.
And yet every day—EVERY DAY—I grasp more grace for myself than I spare for others.

This is getting old. I’m getting old.
And I don’t want to be one of those greedy, grasping old women who behave as though grace were so limited it needs to be hoarded and stockpiled and hidden.

Lord, let me ooze grace. Let me shine with it. Let them smell me coming a mile away.
Let my oily grace be a sweet aroma, let it improve flavor, let it make hurts slide off me, let it give light and energy and let it reflect and refract your iridescence.

I’m too self-absorbent for grace like rain, dear Lord. Give me oily grace, please.

40 Winks and the Woman

Refurbished from an old post (November 1, 2012) on my old blog.

Want to see a twinkle in the eye of a lady on the plus side of 50?
Brawny-chested men won’t do it.
Chocolate? Possibly, but there is a more immediate craving.
Jewels? Vacations? A lifetime supply of Oil of Olay Deep Wrinkle Remover? Is that the best you have?
Fuzzy slippers, an afghan and a recliner?
Oooooohhhh.
Now you are talking.
We don’t always want our pulses to race, our taste buds to quiver or our social status to elevate.

We want a nap.

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Not a long one. Enough to release stress but not so long that we forget what year it is. Or which millennium.
Our sleep should be deep enough for little cherubs to do a happy dance in the corners of our mind, but not so deep that the cherubs metamorphose into winged dust globules with digestive issues.

A satisfying nap will do a woman more good than a shot of Botox, a shot of 5 Hour Energy or a Valium shot. It will give her brain a chance to clear, her creativity and energy a chance to recharge and those funny little wrinkles along her top lip a chance to relax.

We’ve been storing away missed nap opportunities for years. Now, with kids a bit older and fewer commitments, we want to cash in on all the naps we pined for during our education years, our child-rearing years, our career-building years.

The nap helps build stamina. It is good for our hearts. It helps make up for sleep lost at night because of demented hormones, a snoring spouse or a barking dog.

Ladies. Throw off the shackles of guilt, the fear that we’ll be labelled as lazy and libeled as slugs.
Stonewall Jackson, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, JFK, and Napoleon Bonaparte all benefited from naps. They achieved greatness.
And they are all men.
This, my friends, is why women our age do not get the notice we deserve.

We aren’t famous because we’re behind on our naps.

Let’s change all that, starting about 1pm today.
Cuddle down, cover up, and snooze. Rise up, go forth, and change the world.

A grateful nation may name an airport for you.

Or at the very least, a dessert.

 

 

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash