July 31, 2015

We ARE Animals: July 31, 2015

Somehow Max came home from a week at camp about a year older than when he left.

I may not let him go again; this is all too much for me.

Tomorrow, Mike and I are leaving for a brief getaway that includes me fulfilling one of my bucket-list dreams.  We’re going to participate in the Not Since Moses run.  I am very, very excited about this, but I hate being away from home (gosh, I wonder where Solomon gets it from) so I’m entirely unprepared to leave.

I have, however, found and disposed of 15 items this evening (I’m getting so good at this) so that the blog will not suffer in my absence.  Of course the computers come with us.  We’re not animals.

Day 273 scorecard: 1365 down, 480 to go

July 30, 2015

It’s All About Me: July 30, 2015

I helped myself (and my sister helped, too) to the last of the cherries clinging to my sister’s tree.  Cherries are a really great design for a fruit: they’re cheerful looking enough (with those goofy stems) that the red doesn’t make them look poisonous and they’re so easy to pit I can do it with my eyes closed (literally).  I experimented and pitted some with my eyes closed, but I don’t recommend this when cherries are as close to ‘done’ as these cherries were.  There is a lot of bug stuff clinging onto these cherries.

(Don’t worry, I washed them.)

I went ever-so-slightly off script with the cherry picking.  Joan grows other things, too!

I went ever-so-slightly off script with the cherry picking. Joan grows other things, too!

I’ll be honest, though, in spite of pondering the cherry shape and blind pitting, my mind was really elsewhere.  I received news tonight that I am having trouble remembering it is not about me.  My bestest most favouritest running buddy, my most reliable and infinitely inspirational running buddy was x-rayed and diagnosed with a stress fracture today.

Of course I immediately read all about it on Mayo Clinic (after enjoying a few moments of “I KNEW it!”) and I am very sad.

I’m sad she is in pain and I’m sad she is not going to get all the joy and benefit from running for at least the next 6 weeks.  But, dang it, this is MY blog and I’m selfishly sad that I am not going to have her to run beside me for who-knows-how-long.  It’s like a death!  She’s my social life, almost entirely. She’s my accountability and my conscience.  I can’t believe how gutted this is making me feel.  What am I going to do?

This is not the kind of 5Down I wanted!

And this is not the only unexpected 5Down of tonight.  Tonight, Mike made an official time-of-death call for my laptop.  It had been limping along, badly, for quite some time.  It was always on the verge of self-immolation and it made the oddest noises.  Frequently, it got tied up and confused and things crashed.  It’s been long past its expiry date for a long, long time.  But, like a cockroach, it just kept trudging along, undeterred by ill-use and battery death.  The end came in the most haphazard of ways.  An elbow.  A glass of water.

It was all just too much.

And so, tonight ye olde laptop has been consigned to the electronics scrap heap (after Mike combs through it with some sort of weird computer witchcraft to extract the bits I’d like to keep).  It will be replaced.

My running buddy?  Not so much.  I think I may need to assuage my self-pity here by bringing her a jar of cherry jam the next time I see her.  And maybe I’ll have to take up swimming, for a while.

Wish me her luck and speedy healing.

Day 272 scorecard: 1360 down, 485 to go

July 29, 2015
July 28, 2015

On Apologies and a Book Review: July 28, 2015

We have a famous family story that involves a visit to another province when I was about 11.  During this visit, we met some second cousins for the first time.  One of these cousins was an only child who seemed not entirely used to hanging out with other kids.  At some point, this child kicked my sister’s hand.  Asked for an explanation, she replied, “Oh sorry!  I was aiming for your face!”

Of course, it was not at all funny at the time, but it became hilarious as the explanation for anything incredibly stupid that was made worse by the explanation.

This little snippet doesn’t have much to do with de-cluttering, but it is an example of how all-over-the-place my head is tonight.  It also came to mind with the story of the (now)notorious dentist who mercilessly slaughtered a fan-favourite lion in Zimbabwe.  “Oh, sorry!  I was aiming for the NOT famous lion!”

There are, however, times when an apology is both necessary and meaningful.  People do do stupid things.  I did something incredibly stupid today, for which I am going to agonize for the hours, days, and weeks to come, but I really wanted to acknowledge the grace with which the apologee (is that a word?) accepted my apology.  I have a lot to learn.

With that said, I will now shift gears onto the raison d’être of this blog: de-cluttering.  I had promised a review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I have now finished the book.  I am here to tell you that, while my life has not changed, I ended up being more entertained by the book than I’d expected. I also dog-eared a page so I could find this quotation to share with you about the effects her assistance in tidying-up have had on her clientele:

Their figures are more streamlined, their skin is more radiant, and their eyes shine brighter.

I don’t know if they also became wealthy and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but certainly the author seems to truly feel that there is something magical about purging.

This is not an attitude one generally encounters in books about dealing with cast-offs.

That, and the glee with which she tallies up the sheer amount of GARBAGE her clients generate is rather astonishing.  I kept thinking “Japan is an island” and wondering where all the garbage ends up.  It’s odd that she never mentions any environmental concerns other than to occasionally suggest recycling a thing or two, as an option, if you want.

My overall impression was of having met with someone who is charmingly bewildering in the earnestness with which she espouses her nutty ideas. I’ll admit I shuddered at her accomplishment of having convinced a lawyer couple to just turf all their documents.  It’s kind of like the Atkins diet of de-cluttering books.  Does that comparison not work?  I guess I’m thinking of comparing it to the fad diet of the past – a diet everyone shakes their head at because it was just so darn single-minded.

If you’re reading this book just for the tips, I’ll give you the tips to save you the cost of the book:

1. Sort your stuff by category, put it all in one place, then throw out everything you don’t love, and do it all at once.

That was going to be a list, but really that’s the entire deal.  If, however, you’re planning to read the book to enjoy the adorable kookiness of the adventures of a woman who falls to her knees (literally) in gratitude in the homes of her clients and offers warm chatter to the actual house, please enjoy the adventure.

I did appreciate the fact that she even prompts her readers to get rid of the book itself it if didn’t spark joy.  I’m happy to lend it to you, I think I’ll flip back through it now and again just for the joy of it all (however silly).

Day 270 scorecard: 1350 down, 495 to go

July 27, 2015

Handling: July 27, 2015

Being a temporary single parent is the pits.  It’s even worse when the kid who can babysit is away at camp.

Fortunately, the kids are being great and understand Mike is coming back from Utah soon, even if they’re unclear where Utah actually is.


I am continuing to wade through the KonMari book, in spite of an overwhelming urge to roll my eyes and turf the book.  I have decided that I will instruct myself to make allowances for cultural differences.  I’m going to assume that everyone in Japan believes that inanimate objects need our gratitude and appreciation and that storage containers with labels make one’s home noisy and disruptive.  This will make it all a bit easier to swallow.

It can’t possibly be that she’s just a little off her nut.

With that caveat in mind, I do have to say I’m beginning to warm to the idea of handling everything before deciding whether to keep it.  To me, this just means making oneself aware of all of one’s possessions.  It’s hard to ignore the sheer volume of ‘stuff’ if it’s all passed through your hands and been considered.

Tonight, though, I’m just grateful that my kids did the handling over the weekend, and I have a surplus of 5Down stuff at the moment.  Three cheers for planning ahead!

Day 269 scorecard: 1345 down, 500 to go

****UPDATE: the taste test of cherry jam (as sampled by Mike, Solomon, Clara, and me) made us all conclude that the cooked jam is superior to the freezer jam which tastes, predominantly of sugar.****

July 26, 2015

Managing Children: July 26, 2015

I took another kid to sleepaway camp today.

What a different experience.  This kid can’t really quite conceptualize what this thing called “homesickness” actually is.  Oh sure, he loves us, he loves being home, but also he loves going away.  I was reminiscing with him about the first time I left him for longer than a few hours.  I’d gone to Toronto for a 3 day conference and I was nearly broken in two by missing him so much.  As soon as I got home, I rushed to pick him up from daycare.  I burst in and he looked up and … waved … and went back to what he was doing.

Ah, the love.

It boggles my mind when people think they can actually ‘make’ their children into who they want them to be.  At best it’s a fruitless endeavor.  At worst, you’ll drive yourself (and probably your kid) insane.  Of course there is worse than that, but I’m sticking with the range of normal, decent, loving parents.

While I was off driving, the younger two focused (as much as they can) on cleaning their rooms.  Solomon was ready to pack everything but a blanket and a pillow, so I had to talk him down a bit so he could accept that we are putting our house up for sale, soon, not moving by morning.  Clara, on the other hand, is a wonder to behold.

We purged a lot, and you’ll note the list for today is entirely from her room.  Nonetheless, it still looks like a bomb exploded in her room.  I think she is actually rather gifted in the art of expanding the limit of how much mess each individual article can possibly make.  Give her a length of ribbon, for example, and it will be tied around multiple clusters of purloined straws and interwoven between spindles on her bed.  True story.  Or take a half-empty coffee cup.  Seriously: take it.  There are several in her room.  She doesn’t even drink coffee. That I know of.

It is kind of epic in there.  We found Max’s missing messenger bag – complete with wet towel and trunks.  We came across an umbrella and her missing lunchbox.  There is stuff in there that no one has seen in years.

I have been advocating, in this blog, the notion of slow, steady, habit-forming de-cluttering.  I’m starting to wonder if the KonMari method might be the trick with Clara – just turf it all.  The problem with Clara, though, is that EVERYTHING sparks JOY with her.  With that kind of yard stick, we’d still have the sticks from the first popsicle she ever ate.

Send help.

Day 268 scorecard: 1340 down, 505 to go

July 25, 2015

Fun With Fruit, etc: July 25, 2015

The kids have finally taken on the task of cleaning out their rooms and they are astonished at the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ they’re finding.  Solomon, in particular, lost his double bed today (5 Downed a week ago, actually moved out today) and found a stratum of stuff.  The underside of beds seems to be akin to black holes.

But more importantly, today I put the cherries to use.  I noted that my package of Certo* contained a recipe for Sour Cherry Freezer Jam as well as the standard cooked variety.  Never one to shy from any kind of taste test (unless it involves mystery meat) I immediately decided I needed to make both. Freezer jam is foolishly easy to make; there is almost no way to screw it up.

Cooked jam, on the other hand, is rather mad-scientisty.  It requires equipment, boiling points, and bubbling baths of sterilizing jars.  The kids think I’m cuckoo when I chant “don’t touch the jars, don’t touch the jars!” once they’re filled and sitting on the counter, but I’m not crazy.  Mike also thought I was being paranoid and took a jar, the first year I made jam, to a friend’s house.  Of course that jar did not set at all and the rest was perfect.  He doesn’t touch them anymore.

Cooked jam is really satisfying to create because it’s become something of a lost art.  It’s literally filled with the fruits of your labour and, if all goes well, it’s as fresh and vibrant as the day you bottled it.  Of course, if it goes wrong you can kill your audience, but I’m extremely careful.

Ironically enough, as I typed that last sentence, I knocked a glass of water over my (home) computer.

In any case, the great jam experiment of 2015 will come to fruition (so great) tomorrow and I will let you know how everyone voted.  I might even go pick some more cherries to make more of the #1 pick.

Who will win?  The suspense is killing me.

Who will win? The suspense is killing me.

Day 267 scorecard: 1335 down, 510 to go

* I don’t care if you’re a purist, Certo is made from apple peels and stuff anyway and I don’t care to spend hours cooking fruit down, so I am NOT a Certo hater.

Max is heroically using up the rest of the cherries in a cherry pie.  I can't say it's not motivated by self-interest, but I know he'll share so it's all good.

Max is heroically using up the rest of the cherries in a cherry pie. I can’t say it’s not motivated by self-interest, but he’ll share so it’s all good.