365/365 A year in review (here and elsewhere)

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364/365 In appreciation

When Maureen suggested we reconvene for a 365 blogging challenge I was delighted to be included, especially since I’d not finished the original 365 blog challenge from 2007. I missed reading Helen’s words and had fallen so far behind in Bridgett’s regular blog that I could no longer access it. I’d also fallen behind reading Kate’s 153 blog and only occasionally read Susan’s. I think the only blog I’d pretty much kept up on was Linda’s — although I rarely commented there. I was still writing in my blog, but nothing at all interesting except to me.

So thank you, Maureen for suggesting we do this. I am sad it is about to end, but grateful I will have time to read almost everyone’s words elsewhere. Helen, I wish you would consider blogging now and then, because you make me laugh. Kate, Linda, and Susan, I see you on Facebook, but will definitely make more time to read what you write. (Actually it is Google’s fault I stopped reading the blogs regularly because they closed down their RSS feed aggregator that I relied on.) Bridgett, if you still blog somewhere, let me know where and how to read it. Maureen — do you blog somewhere? And Kim  —  I am so happy to have met you through this challenge. I am in awe of your writing. I hope you write more on Root Fences so I can read your words in the future.

As this year ends I wish you all a wonderful next year. May your muses visit you often.

363/365 My favorite fishmonger

Yesterday I stopped and bought a couple pounds of tuna at the fish guys’ Friday-only stand a couple blocks from my house. I normally walk, but yesterday I was passing by after shopping with Clare. I bought the fish and went to leave the parking lot, pulling out carefully and waiting for the cars to disperse or stop at the nearby traffic light so I could turn right. Suddenly a car pulled up to my car, on the left and was clearly going to pull out in front of me since there is a concrete median between the lanes. Clare announced that he was an ass and then, at his car door was one of the fish guys shaking his finger and yelling at the driver of the car.

Clare called the fish guy our savior (to me, but I will tell him next time I see him).

362/361 With Clare

Clare and I have not had much time to spend together, just the two of us, this Christmastime so after she dropped her boyfriend off at the airport yesterday we went to my favorite cocktail bar for cocktails and a chat. It was good and even just that hour together made me very happy.

Today we went shopping so she could find a gift for her boyfriend’s mother. We ended up at the local mall. I rarely go there now because, besides the fact I hate malls, this one reminds me of the happy/traumatic/sad/excited times I spent there with Clare. As we pulled into the parking lot I told Clare about this and found I couldn’t talk because of the grief-like emotion that started in my chest and closed up my throat.

I miss having her around.

361/365 De-Christmasing

Except for the nearly empty box of Christmas crackers and two boxes full of candy canes that sit on the chair in the corner, it looks as if it Christmas never happened in our house.

Yesterday I was determined to take down all the decorations and did so while singing De-Christmasing, De-Christmasing, de-chris-chris-chris-chris-Christmasing,” to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree.”

Dean put the furniture back in its rightful places and all is well in the world.

360/365 Another Challenge

Clare gave me the The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition by Ursula Le Guin and illustrated by Charles Vess. I’m ashamed to say that I have not read any of the books before — in fact I have only read a couple short stories by Le Guin. I attended a lecture she gave at Georgetown in the 1990s and was impressed with her, but never got past the first few pages of A Wizard of Earthsea when I tried to read it.

I asked for this book because of Charles Vess. I loved his artwork in Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and follow Vess on Facebook. I actually have a connection to him. My brother was housemates with a guy called Josh who grew up in Abingdon, Virginia and his parents and Vess were friends.

The book is 1,008 pages long. I plan on reading it over the course of next year. At three pages a day, that’s not a big challenge.

359/365 Merry Christmas

I hope your Christmas was as nice as mine. It was wonderful having the kids+1 home and it was enjoyable having our neighbors over for dinner. The Woot Elephant Gift exchange game was a hit and we all had a good laugh. The one item that I hoped would stay at home did (a knife sharpener that I thought Dean would complain about because we own a knife sharpener — the long honing type).

The food was good, but a chore to make a huge meal for 9 (including a vegetarian). According to my Fitbit I logged over 10,000 steps without leaving the house.

Only 365 days until next Christmas.

358/365 Christmas Eve

When I was a child my mom’s family would take turns hosting their parents and brothers and sisters and their children on Christmas Eve. The parents would sit in the living room, smoking cigarettes, and drinking cocktails or beer. I imagine there was food, but I don’t remember it. Santa Claus would show up at some point and hand out presents. We knew it because we’d hear the sleigh bells and sometimes even noise on the roof where Santa’s sleigh was parked. Then came the mad scramble of opening presents, the shouts of joy, the tears, the happy parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles grinning at how the gifts they gave were received by the children.

Before or after Santa’s arrival (I’m thinking before) we cousins would gather in a bedroom or basement and plan a play to put on for the adults. Because I was the oldest, I was always the director, and probably the star. I don’t remember any of the plays’ subjects, but I remember having fun planning and performing to a tipsy and appreciative audience.

 

357/365 Nine for Christmas dinner

Our Christmas dinner was going to be low-key, just the five of us feasting on roast beef (portabello mushrooms for the vegetarian) and Yorkshire pudding, various vegetables and pie for dessert. Then my friend called to tell me she broke her shoulder and she and her family were not going on their planned trip to Mexico after all. Of course I invited them to Christmas dinner. It will be nice having a crowd for Christmas — we always had a houseful when Christmas was at my parents’ house. This way I get turkey as well as roast beef — another memory from the old days.

They’ll make the vegetables, a relish, and roast the turkey breast (or smoke it) and I’ll do everything else.

This is one time I was right in overbuying — I only needed 6 Christmas crackers, but I bought 12 fancy ones and 12 less than fancy ones.

355/365 Commercial vs Government work

The consulting company I work for works primarily on government contracts, but a few years ago bought a company that did commercial work. Until this year I only ever worked on government contracts, but I am now about 50% on commercial products.

I don’t like the commercial work. I like the people I work with, more or less, but not the clients. They are difficult to please and expect us to read their minds. The commercial work for the work I do (accessibility) is also based on lawsuits whereas the government work has definite guidelines. You know where you stand with government contract work, but not so much commercial work. The work I do is subject to interpretation as it stands, but even more so with commercial work.

Only 696 workdays until I can retire.

354/365 A year of less buying

I don’t make resolutions anymore. The last couple of years I made lists of things I wanted to learn. I didn’t get far, and pushed those lists to the next year.

This year I am keeping it simple, although I know it will be difficult at times, since I am an impulse buyer and might use shopping as therapy. I’m planning on not buying anything non-consumable (ie., food, wine, etc). I can still buy gifts for others.

I already wrote about having enough clothes and about my impulse buying habit. I know I must break that habit and hopefully next year is the year to do that.

This means I won’t be getting orders from Amazon several times a month, I will be deleting my Woot.com app, I will be canceling my StitchFix account and sadly, I will be canceling my Powell’s Indiespensibles account.

I’m actually excited about this and hope it works. Otherwise I am doomed!

 

 

352/365 Ten things that piss me off

…in no particular order

  1. People saying “I just wrote a blog about…” when they should have said they “just wrote a blog POST about…”.
  2. People calling Facebook groups (or email lists) a “site” as in this recent conversation on a naturalist Facebook group: tempsnip
  3. The damn squirrel that eats all my birdseed
  4. My husband’s negative comments on clothes that I feel comfortable wearing
  5. December 1 – 24
  6. People second guessing me at work
  7. Jargon
  8. Having to use jargon to be understood at work
  9. The phrase “as per”
  10. A Charlie Brown Christmas music

350/365 Comment

I have a WordPress app on my phone that alerts me to comments on this blog and I was happy to see I had a comment, but annoyed to see it was spam and was listed as being approved.

Then I looked at it carefully and had a chuckle. I certainly hope the advertisements that show on some posts are not things that Peaches & Screams would offer.

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349/365 Temporary Cat

A neighbor texted me last week telling me that her son and his partner were visiting this week and the partner was bringing her cat. The cat could not stay with the neighbor because they have a dog that is not used to cats and did I know any local cat boarding companies nearby. I said I never boarded our cats and that I’d be happy to have the cat stay with me for a few days.

It did and we got along. It was nice having a sweet cat who loved being petted but also was not too needy in the house for a while. It left this afternoon and I was a tiny bit sad.

348/365 Last night’s book group meeting

Book group was perfect last night. I didn’t read the book, but most people did and most people liked it. I could not get into it (Bruno Chief of Police or something like that).

What was perfect about bookgroup was that there were an even number of people there and we all paired off and talked to the person sitting next to us for a while, then everyone was polite and let other people talk and no one said anything nasty about things other people liked and we all agreed about how much we hate the warthog in the White House (thank you Kim for that phrase).

I think the reason it was perfect is because certain people were not there.

347/365 A bit of a rant

I’ve finally begun buying Christmas presents. I don’t go out shopping much anymore — nearly everything comes from online stores. I’m fine with that, although I feel bad for the people who work at the online companies and I feel bad for the delivery people and the people who work at UPS and FedEx in the distribution centers (my ex-sister-in-law-who-used-to-live-in-mom’s-basement has to get up at 11 pm to get to work at a UPS facility near Chicago’s Midway Airport.)

I will try to finish up this weekend. (since I am writing this on Saturday that means by tomorrow).

Once the shopping is over I’m good. I enjoy the wrapping, the unwrapping, the kids being home, the food, the company, but I hate the shopping and planning what to get everyone because I want everyone to be happy.

346/365 Happiness is… Being together for Christmas

A few nights ago I dreamt I was at my brother’s house. He was at the kitchen island, preparing ingredients for a huge meal. I was happy to be there, helping him cook because it had been a long time since we cooked together, especially Christmas dinner. We began to clear a place on the counter of the island and I turned around and saw that the kitchen and family room were full of people.

My cousin Pam was standing at the counter next to her mother and father. I noticed faces of people I’d not seen in years all through the house. Aunt Nancy and her family were in the family room near the fireplace. Beth, Ruth and Judy were behind Auntie June, their mother, who held a plate of blonde brownies in her hand.

My mom was there, my dad too. I felt that everyone I loved, from mom’s side of the family was in Kevin’s house getting ready to celebrate Christmas together; even though I didn’t “see” all of them, I knew they were there.

I was on my way around the room to hug everyone when I woke up, smiling.

This dream reminded me of a few things and I thought about each as I cleared the sleep from my brain:

  1. A short story I heard on NPR many years ago, but never found the name, about a woman who learned she could go to a picnic to which everyone she’d ever known and loved was also going, even those who’d died.
  2. Pastor Keith’s mention of the feast that awaits us in Heaven at my father’s funeral.
  3. My childhood picture of Heaven which was a table in a cafe where those I’d loved who’d died sat and drank and ate and talked.
  4. A drawing my mother made in the 1960s. It was based on a photograph of her family — she set everyone in the same place, but aged them twenty years or so.

Dreams of one loved one who’s passed on are very special. Dreams of the entire clan, passed on or not, in one room are phenomenal. Let’s make this come true, those of us who are still here. Maybe not Kevin’s kitchen (although it is a lovely kitchen) but let’s get together sometime.

 

345/365 Interior monologue of a Canaan Fir at Christmastime

“DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!!” I felt it in my roots. It happened once before, maybe more than once before, but I felt it then, I feel it now. “DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!!”

I should have known better but what could I do? I’m not like the flitty ones who perch in my branches. I cannot flit away. I’m not like the scampering ones that scurry on the ground. I cannot scamper away. I am most definitely not like the forked-trunk ones, the ones who trim my branches. The ones who cut through our trunks and fell us.

“DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!!”

A group of forked-trunk ones approach me. Make comments about me, my branches, my height, my symmetry. They ask if this is the one. They move on to another. They come back. It’s decided. I’m chosen.

The searing pain. “DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!!” I scream through my roots. “DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!!  DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!! DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!!”

I am done, I am felled.


Note: I’d probably get an artificial tree, or no tree at Christmas time since I feel bad that we chop down trees to put in our houses for a few weeks a year, but my family likes a real tree.

After I read A Telephone Call by Dorothy Parker while sitting in the living room near our undecorated tree I wondered what its internal dialog would be. I figured since it was dead now its last internal dialog would have been just before we cut it down.

Also The Fir Tree.

Also The Hidden Life of Trees which I have not read except for a few pages.

344/365 Only 41 books

I set myself what I consider a lofty goal at the first of the year. I said I would read a book a week. This came after years of reading a book a month or so. I am not going to meet this goal because I am 11 books behind and have no desire to read right now — at least not a novel.

I know when I stopped wanting to read this year, it was near the end of September after I finished The One-in-a-Million Boy. Back then I was ahead of my goal and thought I could actually read 52 books this year. A terrible book was chosen for bookgroup and I read a couple mediocre books in October. By November I was burned out and nothing sounded good to read.

I am trying to get my reading mojo to kick back in by reading a collection of short stories, one each day. I still don’t want to read a novel, but at least I am reading.

Goodreads sent my my reading year in review today. Better than last year, but not what I’d hoped.

342/365 Naked tree, bare mantle

Our tree stands bare in the living room, next to the fireplace upon which no stockings are yet hung.

Neither Dean nor I have the energy to root through the Christmas decorations to find the twinkly lights and boxes of ornaments.

We don’t feel like clearing space for the other decorations, such as the moose family and the Santa family. The wind-up toys, the pillows, the battery powered candles, the outside twinkly lights.

I thought today would be the day, but it wasn’t. Maybe next weekend. Maybe not.

At least we released the tree from it’s bondage.

341/365 Gutenberg

Have you tried the new WordPress editor? What do you think? I don’t like it. I have never liked the building block type of wysiwyg editor. I want to be able to look at the code and understand what is going on. I feel like it is a step backward, making WordPress authors even less connected with what lies beneath the editor.

I wrote a few blog posts using the new editor and it took me longer than with the classic editor. On one post, every time I checked the preview and after I published the post the first paragraph was missing. It took me an hour to figure it out.

So I am holding out until they force me to use it. Or maybe I might quit blogging altogether.

340/365 Irruption

In the past few weeks I have seen two birds in my backyard that I’d never seen there before.

On Black Friday I glanced out at the feeder that I’d just filled and saw a goldfinch-sized bird that, at first, I assumed it was a winter-clothed goldfinch — possibly a female. But then I noticed the white eye-ring and wondered if it might possibly be a ruby-crowned kinglet. I looked it up and sure enough, that’s what it was.

Then last Wednesday* I looked out the window and was surprised to see a red-breasted nuthatch on the almost empty feeder. I ran out and filled it and when I came back in the house it came back many times. Later in the week I went near the feeder and saw one swoop from a tree, fly inches away from me and land on the feeder. Those fellows are fearless!

I heard we might get birds who preferred to hang out farther north than Maryland because of a food shortage in Canada. I’m sorry about the food shortage, but delighted to see birds I normally would not see in my backyard.

*I’m writing this on December 9th.

339/365 Treebank

What do you call the area between the sidewalk and the street? The place where trees are sometimes planted and trash is placed on trash pickup day for the garbage men to collect. Verge? Easement? Berm?

Not if you were raised in or very near Elgin, Illinois. We call it a treebank.

One day Julia, my English roommate,  asked if she could help out at the apartment while I was at work. I told her she could put the garbage in the trash can and take the trash can to the treebank for the garbage men to take the next morning.

I got home and the garbage was not in a trash can on the treebank because she had no idea what a trash can or treebank were. We had a laugh when she told me she’d envisioned a bank where you deposited trees instead of money.

Note: I wrote the first two paragraphs of this post months ago but it never fit in to a category until now.

337/365 Better

As you may know, work was hell all year long because I became popular. I mean I was discovered, and being about the only person who does what I do in a company of over 5000, that meant lots of work for me and zero breathing time for me.

I finally bitched asked if we could pretty please consider hiring someone to help me and it happened. Monday the new person starts and she can take a couple projects off my plate.

I also was able to pull into our group someone I’d trained a few years ago. She’s a quick learn and motivated since she was about to be reduced to half-time. I also became her supervisor, so there’s that.

We’ll see how it works out and if I can leave my work laptop at home in February when we visit my sister-in-law and in July when I go to Colorado, then Europe in late summer.

Until then I can watch this counter because retirement is not that long away.

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336/365 PTO

You may remember my scary post about work and having to work on every single vacation I’ve taken since January. That caused a glut of vacation time (paid time off or PTO) that I needed to take before December 28th so even though I have a busy December at work, I am taking Friday afternoons off, then the entire time, more or less, that Clare will be in Bethesda.

So far* I’ve used my Friday afternoons to pamper myself, see my eye-doctor, price eyeglass frames that fit my abnormally narrow face, shop for clothes I don’t need, make pie, and have wine with my neighbor two weeks in a row.

January is going to seem like hell since I will be working 8 hours a day 5 days a week again.

*writing this on December 9th

335/365 Epiphany

I’ve read blog posts, articles, and book chapters on decluttering and nothing ever stuck. I’d get excited about a method, try it, and soon fail. It wasn’t until I read a chapter or two from Dana K. White‘s Decluttering at the Speed of Life that I reached that “aha!” moment. It was her words that a house is a container and can only hold so much stuff.

My husband and daughter think I’m nuts that this was a foreign concept to me, but I honestly never thought of it that way. I kept buying stuff and tried to find places for it without getting rid of anything else. Okay, occasionally I would get rid of things to make room for other things, but that was often accompanied by anxiety — what if I still needed that other thing that I just donated, gave away or threw in the trash?

White’s example about scarves is what did it for me. She used scarves just as an example of something we might have too many of. She asked the reader to imagine our closet floor covered in scarves and think of ways to organize them, but still scarves covered the closet floor. Then she suggested we imagine a box for the scarves and we could only keep the scarves that fit in the box. After that is when she blew my mind suggesting that our entire house is a container.

I’ve only read about a quarter of the book, but the container analogy reset my thoughts on stuff. Maybe I expected that we’d buy a new and bigger house to store more stuff. Or maybe I expected the kids to take their stuff so I could store more of my stuff. Neither of that is happening — at least not in the foreseeable future, so I need to remember the container analogy and get rid of whatever does not comfortably fit in whatever container I have for my personal stuff.

Yesterday I cleaned out the containers that hold my clothes and shoes: Dresser drawers and closets* (in-season and off-season). If I keep this up I think I won’t need in- or off- season containers — just one of each for all my clothes.


I have plenty of clothes now for both seasons and plan on not purchasing anything else clothes-wise for a while. I’ve got one StitchFix shipment on the way, but will likely send it back without buying anything and cancel my subscription. I think my clothes hoarding/impulse buying was a result of not having nice clothes for years and feeling embarrassed about that.

*We live in a 1940s house with tiny closets in each room (plus a coat closet I use for my hanging clothes — Dean gets the bedroom closet).