April 30, 2015

A damp and chilly spring: April 30th, 2015

So at the beginning of this month, my friend and I had a conversation (of despair) about the quality of this spring.  She was of the opinion that there would still be snow on the ground in June.  “Nonsense,” I exclaim grimly, “the snow will all be gone by May.”

Tomorrow is May.

Thus far, she is winning.

I am hopeful we’ll both be wrong.

But the cold is so insidious at this time of year.  It seems to creep into the bones and lurk all day long.  It’s been damp, too, and as soon as the sun peeks out (if it does, one of these days) we go from aching dankness to squishy barely-thawed muddiness.

It is a thing of glory, this spring.

The month of sleep has crept to a close, the beginning seemed so hopeful only to have it cough, backfire, and coast to a shuddering halt.  Hopefully both the sleeping and the waking up of the earth can catch fire and take off next month.

Here’s to May Flowers and being well-rested.  A girl can dream, right?

Day 181 scorecard: 905 down, 920 to go

April 29, 2015

Aged: April 29th, 2015

I have reached that age whereby things that happened to me in my youth no longer make sense to young people.  Things require back-stories to make sense.

For example: we wrote letters.  Lots and lots and lots of letters.  It was not just me, either, because I have oodles of letters from friends, families, exchange buddies, pen-pals, you name it.  Almost entirely written by hand.  One notable exception was a fax, sent by my cousin Erika, to me that was also typewritten.  It was a letter (ie: personal) rather than the immediate association one has with faxes these days.*

The other thing “kids today” probably don’t understand is that there was not just no texting “back then,” but long-distance phone calls were crazy expensive.  Forget about it entirely if you were trying to call someone out of the country.  Long distance calls were an event requiring absolute silence in the house and rapid-fire talking to a set period of time.  When Mike phoned me collect from South Africa, it took months to pay off the phone bill. Ah, the good old days.

For all the nostalgia that comes with the homey touch of handwritten letters, there is also this thought: because we all know that we can reach each other quickly, we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about hanging onto our correspondence.**  Or, if we do, it does not clog up our storage spaces.  I cannot imagine hanging onto an email for 20 years or more.  I honestly think this is a benefit, both psychologically and environmentally.

Of course, I do realize that computers have generated far more paper than the paper they were intended to rid us of (odd as that sounds).  And they put the post office out of business.  Actually, come to think of it, I think I single-handedly put them out of business when I stopped writing letters.

Day 180 scorecard: 900 down, 925 to go <– so close to convergence…can you feel it?

* or, the associations I have, at least which are: 1. oh, this must have been sent by someone over 50, or, 2. oh, this must have been sent by a bank (mortgages are always faxed to lawyers.  I do not understand), or 3. this must be some kind of official document sent by someone who either does not have access to a scanner, does not know how to use a scanner, or who is somehow unable to access/use the Internet, OR 4. this must be from Legal Aid.  Perhaps these assumptions are only part of my world view, but they account for at least 99% of the faxes I have received in my life.

** it behooves me to remind anyone embroiled in anything legal to hang on to your correspondence because you never know when you might need it for evidence or to give context to the other parties’ bits of correspondence s/he saved from you.

April 28, 2015

Big Garbage Season: April 28th, 2015

Today is known, in this household, as Father of 5Down* Day and Day Max Was Expected Day.  I guess Max didn’t want to share, because his actual birthday isn’t until next week on May 5th (as every year since 2001).

As the month of sleep screeches to a halt, with some snow still on the ground, last night Mike asked me whether we had a theme for May.  I have not yet come up with one, but I will keep you posted.

In the meantime, although we’ve yet to enter real springtime weather, we have entered a seasonal event that always brings much happiness and very much consternation.  It’s called “Big Garbage Day.”

For those of you who don’t live in my neck of the woods, BGD is that yearly (or, until last fall, bi-annual) day on which the garbage collection throws caution to the wind, and accepts just about anything you want to put out there.  Of course, all the usual sorting and clear-bagged rules apply, but you can also put out pieces of furniture or household building materials.  Importantly, the bag limit soars from 8 (including recyclables) to a giddying 20. I cannot claim to know all the rules or inner workings, but if you actually care, go to the VWRM’s site where you will find they erroneously refer to it as Spring/Fall Clean-up.

Why do I call it a season, though?  Because it goes on for 2 weeks and putting waste out a full 2 weeks ahead of time is permitted. Therefore, in theory, there can be heaps of discarded stuff at various locations over a 4 week period.  Luckily, we live in an area that seems to be made up of people who apparently feel that 2 weeks is far too restrictive.  Hence, we get to spend at least 3 weeks to one month driving through ever-increasing piles of trash on the shoulders of the road.  Ever-increasing is not really right, though, because this season also includes the scavengers.  Much like the blossoming of spring flowers attracts the pollen gatherers, the items by the side of the road beckon folk from all over.  It’s kind of like an on-going, all-day yard sale.  Some people seem to prefer to come after dark, so you can hear rattling around at all hours.  Other people prefer to drive around and screech to a stop at the sight of something interesting.

I’m all for re-using, but it is a little (okay, a LOT) nerve wracking by the time it is finally over.

The hardest part is The Day.  The Day that you are assigned to have YOUR trash heap removed is very exciting, but very hard on the nerves.  See, in spite of adding extra guys and working as hard as possible, there is no way to possibly collect it all by the usual end-of-day for garbage collectors.  Instead, they start at the crack of dawn and keep going long after dark.  One year, it was past 11:00pm when they made it to our house.  It’s almost as great as Christmas except suddenly all the mess and hazard is gone, rather than mess and hazards suddenly arriving.

Each year has a theme, too!  One year, it was all toilets.  It’s truly remarkable how many people stockpile a broken toilet for up to 6 months (or, this year, up to 12 months) in order to avoid delivering it to the “dump” themselves.  Some years, it’s all about the worn-out mattresses.  So far this year, I’m giving sofas the win, but we’ve barely edged into the beginning of the season.  I can’t wait for the year of broken ladders.  That sounds like a great opportunity for art.

In all seriousness, though, I think it is a great idea because it forces people to be careful with what they waste throughout the year.  Do you really need that crap you’ll not be able to rid yourself of for 6 months?  I didn’t think so.

Sadly, one of the reasons our area is so piled is that we live near a low-income housing area and it seems this means folk have lots of GIANT plastic toys and totally run-down furniture.  My thought is that likely people take what they can get and then have to hang onto it until BGD.  Then, of course, out it goes…a picker grabs it…it goes into someone else’s house…who sends it out the next BGD.  It’s kind of a closed system.

BGD: when everyone 5Downs in a big, big way.  If I’m feeling gross, I might snap some photos in the coming weeks.

Day 179 scorecard: 895 down, 930 to go

* well, this year, because it IS my Father’s birthday, but 5Down was not around last year

April 27

The Month of Sleep in Review: April 27th, 2015

My long-suffering and ever-loving husband was kind enough to source, chalk, and photograph the items for 5Down tonight.  See, I read research as soon as I got home from work, then I went running, hopped into the shower, and then book club.  A gal can’t do everything.

You will note it is past my lights-out time. I really did so want for this whole sleep month to work out well and in some ways it has.  We’ve more or less committed to the bed-time, and I feel like it’s healthy to have it there as a guideline.  The other fantastic benefit (don’t laugh) is that I never have to re-set the alarm clock.  This has been a massive stress reduction for me.  I never worry I’ve set the wrong time, or I’ve forgotten to set it at all: I know it’s right.

I have not had the greatest success kicking my lifelong insomnia, but I’m not going to say this has been a waste of time.  I think both of us have benefited from the routine it has imposed on us, and it’s a great thing to keep in mind to prevent other bad habit-formation.  One of the “rules” is no heavy foods in the evening, another is no coffee after 4pm.  These are good habits, no matter what effect they have on our sleep.

There was that one night (the night-before-last), however, that I just could not stop reading.  I blame Lionel Shriver because she is a genius.  Book club introduced me to her writing and I just can’t get enough.   Maybe you will understand what a fantastic writer she is when I tell you that the book I read was about professional tennis players: something I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever.  The moral of (this) story is, then, Lionel Shriver promotes poor sleep hygiene.

Day 178 scorecard: 890 down, 935 to go


April 26th, 2015

You’ve Got Questions? April 26th, 2015

Every two weeks, I get to write two blog posts in one day.  The two blogs do not particularly intersect, so one does not tax my ability to do the other.  However, on those days, my brain tends to tick off the “blog” box in my list of daily mental habits…and I frequently end up suddenly remembering that I’m only half done.

(If you’re interested, the other blog is RootLocal, it’s published every other week (usually) and it also runs in a local newspaper named The Grapevine.)

My mother, faithful reader that she is, expressed that she is still not entirely clear about the “packing party project” in which Max is our first participant.  As I know from years of schooling (and my 2 year stint in teaching) it is rare that only one person has a question.  Usually, for every person asking a question there are at least several others who are grateful s/he was brave enough to ask the question.  In that spirit, then, I’ll try to explain the process with a little more clarity.

The purpose of the packing party is to go through the same process most people face when they’re packing to move…but skipping the part where you move.  You pack up all your stuff into boxes and label them.  Then, as you need things, you unpack them.  3 weeks later, you see what you use the most frequently, what you never use, and what you use sometimes.

There are several opportunities for thinning things out along the journey.  No one packs things they don’t want into a box.  Sometime the very act of packing results in having less to pack than one had counted on.

Unpacking brings another opportunity.  As you become more aware of your essential “things,” it becomes easier to loosen the grip some of your stuff had on you.  It’s kind of the opposite of “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.”  This is more out of sight, out of mind.

There are caveats to this, of course.  In a 4 season climate, there are inevitably things you will use frequently in one part of the year (snowshoes) and things you will use frequently in another part of the year (rain boots).

But the point, however, is not to ruthlessly whittle ones belongings down to the absolute minimum. Well, that’s not our purpose, at least.  It’s a way to re-evaluate our “things” and force ourselves to interact with stuff we wouldn’t normally rifle through.  Max, for instance, tends to skim the top piece of clothing off what is in his drawers.  Actually taking the pieces of clothing out and putting them into boxes is making him make more conscious decisions about what he’s wearing.  And, likely, causing him to remember that he has X piece of clothing that he’d thought was missing.  Of course, at the rate he is growing, if he hasn’t seen it in a while, it likely does not fit anymore.

I will let you know how his unpacking proceeds.

Day 177 scorecard: 885 down, 940 to go

…as for the ongoing month of sleep…I hit an “I can’t stop reading” roadblock last night.  More on that tomorrow, probably.

April 25, 2015

Max Packs: April 25, 2015

Because she was off gallivanting with her fellow Sparks*, Clara was unable to consent to having her room “packed” so the boys flipped a coin.

Max lost.  Or won?  Max won – his room is first.

"Before"...on a relatively clean day.

“Before”…on a relatively clean day.

The first step was getting boxes.

Then the boys built them.

Then you tuck slot A into tab B...oh, wait.

Then you tuck slot A into tab B…oh, wait.

Because life is basically MineCraft.

Because life is basically MineCraft.

Our ceilings are 9 boxes high.

Our ceilings are 9 boxes high.

We realized that the smartest way to do this is to label the boxes with the contents, but to let someone else fetch the “needed” item as he goes so that he doesn’t have the “oh YEAH, that thing!” moment everyday.

Storage is going to be outside of his room…except for his clothing.  He swore that he would abide by the rules: take out what he needs to wear, put it in the laundry when he’s doing with it.

It took him most of the afternoon, in fits and starts.  Solomon helped and Nick-from-next-door popped in and helped out, too.  It really is far more enjoyable to pack up/clean up someone’s else’s crap than one’s own.  I think he kind of enjoyed the chaos and challenge.  I know Max appreciated his contribution.

Nick is the friendly neighbourhood giant. He and Max share an affinity for fedoras.

Nick is the friendly neighbourhood giant. He and Max share an affinity for fedoras. Max also looks tiny here because photos (or, at least, this photo) are not 3D.

Now that we have our “packing guinea pig” we’ll see what the experience is like.

It echoes in here.  But for how long?

It echoes in here. But for how long? Also: spot Max…and yes, he does have two computer screens.  Why? Also: he packed up 9 bankers boxes and there is no visible difference.  *sigh*

Day 176 scorecard: 880 down, 945 to go

* Sparks are like mini Girl Guides (or Girl Scouts, if you’re American).

April 24 2015

Better Late? April 24th, 2015

Tomorrow I plan to actually spend some time thinking about 5Down before it comes time to choose and post.

The one thing I seem to be dispensing with, more than anything else, is time these days.

I promise more interesting and insightful stuff tomorrow…compared to today’s post, which will be a piece of cake.

Day 175 scorecard: 875 down, 950 to go