August 17, 2015

Blogging my Blog: August 17, 2015

There are always firsts.  Today I had a client tell me his story was “interesting” and it actually was.  That is a first.

Sometimes the things people say really have a way of sticking with me.  One of the stickiest things I ever heard was from a student way back when I used to teach ESL to groups of students from around the world.  This particular student (whom I remember only as male and South American) had a little notebook he carried around with him for his collection of words.  What he was collecting, however, was not just random words, but words that could serve both as nouns and verbs.  He thought this was about the most amazing thing ever and he would chortle with glee whenever a new one came up.

Some examples:

Gardening in my garden.  Shovel with that shovel.  Plant the plant.  Hammer with a hammer. Chalking something up with chalk.  And so on.

He would sometimes take words and randomly add an -ing onto them to see if he got a winner.  Tabling.  Charting. Papering.  Nothing made him happier to randomly stumble across a “new” word by -inging things.

It stuck with me because it was such a fresh take on something I used all the time but had never thought about before.  It’s one of the few instances when English can be said to be “easy”.

Interestingly, braining does not mean thinking hard.  Hmm.

And you thought I was going to tell you the “interesting” client’s story.  I’m not.

Also today I’m going to let you draw your own parallels between having an outsider’s perspective to one’s native tongue and the way in which one see one’s house when items are being considered for removal.  I’m sure there is a connection to be made there.

Day 290 scorecard: 1450 down, 375 to go

August 16, 2015

The Strange Land of Camping: August 16, 2015

We have returned from one night and two days of camping.  This is enough camping for me.

As regular readers (and friends, because those don’t always overlap) you are aware that we are pondering moving.  We spend a lot of time talking about what we want in a house.  We have never come up with this particular list:

Noisy neighbours

Bumpy, damp ground

An abundance of insects of the flying/crawling/or otherwise being disgusting variety

Communal washrooms with fluorescent lighting

Coin-operated showers

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve never understood why people cram their belongings into their vehicle and drive to a spot where they can pitch a tent next to strangers and sleep in a damp, uncomfortable sleeping bag in a plastic hut.  It’s just really weird.

Everything is dirty and gross and everything is vaguely gritty.

People seem to find this fun, though!

My children (who are unaccustomed to living in a high-density area) kept exclaiming loudly (embarrassingly) over things like “look, why would you have a garden next to a camper!  It’s like they live here!  No one would live here, right?” and “why do they have a television? aren’t they camping?”. This morning, Mike made a casual observation about the kid in the tent next to ours.  Because he knows his name now.

I live in a low-density part of the world on purpose.

But also I got to observe some truly astonishing stuff:

There was one couple who were sitting by their fire each of the 20 or so times I walked past over the 12 or so hours we were their neighbours.  Every single time, no word of a lie, the woman was puffing furiously away on a cigarette.  I tried to figure out if it was just a remarkable coincidence that she was smoking each time I strolled past, or whether she was just systematically smoking her way through all the cigarettes.

There were packs of kids.  Scary.  It seems funny to say that, but when you see a group of kids (that always includes at least one scrawny kid who is probably about 12, but he looks 8, with the meanest scowl you’ve ever seen in your life) roaming around in the dark, silently…you give them space and you hold your breath.

There was one little kid who chose Mike and me as her people of special interest.  We were watching out kids in the playground, but she kept up a running vaudeville show of each of her talents (she is an accomplished whistler, at the age of six, who takes requests…er…demands requests). Fortunately, she was a sweet little thing who did seem to have a parent…somewhere out of sight.

I guess it’s kind of like visiting a foreign country: one with mysterious customs that make some kind of logic to the residents therein but which remain impenetrable to those of us (and by “us,” I mean ME…all the rest of my family blended in like they had citizenship).  I felt informed, educated, happy to return home.

The best part about the whole trip was that I got a chance to read Tina Fey’s book.  It was hilarious.

And the kids seemed delighted to have me there.

Sometimes letting go of the comforts of home does have its own reward (even if it is a very grubby, vaguely ‘icky’ reward).*

Day 289 scorecard: 1445 down, 380 to go.

* The reward being that I think the kids actually think I had some fun camping!  Hooray!

August 15, 2015

Sacrifices: August 15, 2015

So, we’re going camping.  For one night.  Those of you who know me in real life know that this is shocking stop-the-presses news.  Allow me to explain.

See, as I was growing up, one of the family stories was of my Grampie Bud (James). Grampie had been a motorcycle scout in the Second World War, which means that he was basically not expected to return home.  Return home he did, though, and I have fond memories of his mesmerizing cigarette rolling machine and his proclivity for mixing up my name with my cousin’s Shelley’s.   He was missing the tip of one finger from the top knuckle (I want to say the ring finger on his left hand?) and he would, ominously, tell us kids that he lost it “in the war”.  We added that it happened when he drove over a landmine.  Apparently he did drive over a landmine and was injured, but the fingertip was lost to a power saw.

In any case, the fingertip was one of the two times I ever heard him refer to “the war.”  The other was whenever anyone uttered the word “rice.”  It seems rice was a rather frequent feature in his war rations and he had vowed that if he ever did make it home rice would never pass his lips again so long as he lived.  He made good on the promise.

I felt the same way about camping by the end of my second summer of tree-planting.  Granted, no one was shooting at me, and I wasn’t compelled to be there, but I felt as though I had spent at least one lifetime worth of tenting and it was never, ever going to happen again.*

That, combined with childhood memories.  Camping was all about being out of my comfortable bed with weird noises and over-close sleeping neighbours.  It was bugs and dirt and grumpy family members.  I’ll admit the time the tent collapsed on us in the midst of a howling storm while our parents were in the borrowed trailer was fun (just because we’d been yelling our heads off “it’s going to collapse” and Mom was yelling back “go to sleep!” so we got that most delicious of opportunities: the chance to tell a grown-up “told you so!”).  I also enjoyed the sound the mallet made as Dad hammered the tent pegs into the ground.  And I feel a wistful nostalgia whenever I think of that enormous orange tent.  But mostly I think of arguing and fighting and discomfort and bug-bites and fuss and not being able to read non-stop.  What a torture.

yes, I was a great kid, why?

And so, even keeping all of the foregoing in mind, I’ve decided to join the kids and Mike for one night of camping.  I went with them about 2 years ago and they’ve been pining away ever since.  I figure that makes me the absentee parent who blasts in for a quick one-off and whom the kids see through rose-coloured glasses, much to the consternation of the always-there-and-therefore-boring-and-under-appreciated parent.  I’m in it for the glory.

Enjoy the early post and wish me strength.

Day 288 scorecard: 1440 down, 385 to go

* And herein lies my ever so tenuous link to the concept of 5Down and minimalism: nothing says minimalism quite like living out what you can carry on your own for an entire month (tent and all).


August 14, 2015

Sleepaway Camp Done! August 14, 2015

The sunshine is back in our lives.  The house is livelier and more cheerful.  The bounce is back in our step.

Clara had a wonderful time at camp and was cheerfully announcing (to all) that she’ll be back next year.  She did not have time to be homesick, nor did she have the insight to soften that statement (even a tiny bit) to make Mama feel a little missed.  It’s all good.

At the same time, my friend rescued picked up her child, who is only teeny a bit older than Clara.  We had both been holding our breath all week, and we’re both grateful we let these little folk see if they were brave enough.  They were.  They are (and were) far more convinced they could do it than we were.

“I guess I’m braver than Solomon,” Clara opined.

No, well, maybe in just this, but there are things he’s braver at than you.  She agreed.

Letting go for a few days brings back far more than what we could have hung onto.

(Also, I got a second hug tonight before bed.)

Day 287 scorecard: 1435 down, 390 to go

August 13, 2015

Let’s Be Clear: August 13, 2015

Overheard (Solomon to Max, while they were finding 5Down stuff and apparently Max was poo-poohing Solomon’s suggestions):

“Oh Max, you’re such a 5Downer!”

Day 286 scorecard: 1430 down, 395 to go

***fewer than 400 things to go!!!***

And here is Clara’s room (this is like 1,000,000x better than it’s ever been before ever):

So clutter-free (relatively speaking)!

So clutter-free (relatively speaking)!

August 12, 2015

Blood, Sweat, and Tears (A 3-part blog post): August 12, 2015

Some nights I don’t know what I want to write about.  Tonight I have THREE things I want to write about.  Ack.

So I will write about three because it’s my blog and I can do what I want.

1. The first thing I want to tell you about is that my mother is a Ninja.  Today, whilst hanging out with my sons, she did a stealth attack on Clara’s room. We (and by we, I mean “I”) were just picking away at.  Solomon reports that she said “it really wasn’t that bad in there!” which, you’ll recall, is entirely relative.  I had whittled it down to the size of a TNT blast site, rather than an H-Bomb blast site.  She did an amazing job, even consolidating some stuff I could quickly locate and shred.

Also, Mother, PLEASE do not panic that I destroyed all the crafts and all the art.  That would be impossible and I would burn out the shredder first. Never fear, I’ve just done some sorting and purging.

2. The next thing I want to tell you about is that I am going to two weddings this fall.  Well, technically the first one is in the summer, but no one calls September summer (except me, because I have a September birthday).  This, naturally, led me to think about ME, because what are weddings for if not to focus on oneself? But seriously, I was specifically thinking “I need a dress.  Right, I can’t buy a dress because I am on a one year clothes-buying hiatus” at which point my brain did that DJ record scratching thing and I realized the year is over in September.  As in: August is the last month of buy-no-clothes-year.  I can’t quite believe it.  I mean, I’m not a big shopper, but I hate to walk past a used clothing store and not pick up a thing or two.  I’ve been perfectly fine and no one but me has noticed (I think).

Take this to the bank, friends: have a de-clutter-your-closet that is 100% free and effortless*.  From time to time, I’ve purged a few things that I really dislike, but I haven’t replaced anything.  End result – my closet is much roomier and my spending has been far lower.

3. The last thing I want to tell you is: I wanted to find a way to make blood, sweat, and tears the title because it’s just too perfect.  If you can’t write about something just for the sake of fitting it into the title, why bother writing at all?  I know!  In any case, here’s how it fits in: yesterday I 5Downed some blood (at record speed – for me – of 7 minutes.  Yes, I’m still celebrating).  For some reason, I can never remember that donating blood leaves me fatigued for at least 24 hours.  Here comes the sweat part: tonight I ran with the Helenator group and I was just obliterated.  I was dizzy, I was nauseated, my legs felt like the blood had been replaced with molten lead.  It was only 6k, but it felt like a marathon (okay, it felt like a half-marathon because I really don’t know what a full marathon feels like).  And finally, the tears.  They weren’t real, the tears, but it is dang hard to give oneself a little pep talk during/after a run like tonight.  I realized, later, that to anyone driving past we looked like an energetic, pumped, fit bunch of folk. People probably thought we were all committed athletes who were patting ourselves on the back.  People, that is, who don’t run.  It’s incredible how hard we are on ourselves.  I fought off the tears by just reminding myself that I was there.  I did it.  I did it badly, but I did it.

Also, the blood donation was worth it.  You should go give blood, too!

(and run, but not right after, that’s just dumb).

Day 285 scorecard: 1425 down, 400 to go

* or your money back.  Oh, wait…

August 11, 2015

Clutter vs Employment: August 11, 2015

In spite of my misgivings, we’ve made it to Tuesday night with not a peep from Clara.  I am going to assume this is because she’s having a marvelous time at camp and not because she is pining away quietly in a corner.

I’ve also decided to think of anything but how small she looked when we left.

Man, this whole summer sleepaway camp thing is very traumatizing!

I’ve not made as much progress as I’d hoped yet, in her room.  It’s overwhelming and it’s been a busy work week.  I figure I should probably just ditch the whole employment thing and then I can keep on top of her perpetual clutter generation machine.

Day 284 scorecard: 1420 down, 405 to go