Urgency Day 417

500 Things Items 81-84:  DVDs

  • Purchases
  • Wish they had been rentals
  • No ambivalence at un-possessing
  • Sell or donate

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me thrice?

Shame on George.

Yep. I blame George. And not Bush. This time.

What was George Lucas thinking?

The story is about, what? Trade issues or something. The kid cannot act. And the alien sidekick’s accent is insulting to viewers. And really insulting to Jamaicans. And really really insulting to aliens.

So why did we keep going to these abominations? And, oh my gawd, why did I buy even one?

I blame George.

Ditto the Pirates sequel included in this group, though I’m not entirely sure who to blame for that mess. Although Industrial Light and Magic did do the visual effects. Hmmm….

But Star Trek 8: First Contact? Pure bliss. The only reason it’s in this give-away is because Donna gave me the special edition with director Jonathon Frakes’ commentary. He is such a fan, it makes me giddy. And yes, I know, ILM did the fx. Exception proves the pattern or something.

Did you know there is something of a pattern in the Trek franchise? Films with even numbers have been considered the more successful efforts:

  • #2 Wrath of Khan (the pecs)
  • #4 Voyage Home (the whales)
  • #8 First Contact (the Borg)

Of course, that’s a selective list. I skipped #6 Undiscovered Country (arg) and the latest film simply entitled Star Trek would technically be #11 and it’s AWE-SOME. The point is– small pattern: 2-4-8, and I love patterns.

And I love Star Trek. No foolin’.

Inventory: (Bonus! 2 each for four days)

  1. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
  2. Star Trek: First Contact
  3. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
  4. Twelfth Night
  5. Thirteen Days
  6. King Kong (yes, the original)
  7. Johnny English
  8. The Neverending Story

Veiling My Baggage


truly not the problem

Urgency Day 421

500 Things Items 75-80: Purses

  • Only one notable acquisition, noted below
  • I got tons of use out of 4 of them
  • Great deflection (again, see below)
  • Sale or donate

What’s that I hear?

Is it a collective whoop of astonished glee that a woman collector of accessories could actually relinquish a few of them, tacitly admitting that she one perhaps has too many of them?

Or is it a collective gasp of horrified betrayal that a fellow tribe member would veer so close to such a tacit admission.

I don’t know, but I do know I’ve got baggage.

What I’m anxiously trying to do here is deflect attention away from my real accessory addiction, and it’s NOT shoes. You see, I have a few scarves. Actually, you won’t see at all until I have finished the 500 Things project, and all my lovely, beautiful, treasured scarves are safe from culling eyes.

Oh my, scarves.

Here are some indisputable advantages of scarves over shoes:

  • Less expensive
  • Easier to pack
  • Don’t need re-heeling, re-soling, re-pairing
  • Show when you are seated at a table
  • Never make you sore therefore grumpy
  • Never, ever reveal a change in weight

But I’m not doing shoes today. I’m doing bags. Purses, to some. The only one with any kind of a story is the striped one in front. I got it from a Battery Park street vendor on a trip to NYC with my boys, Kay and John, and the Ladies. We had a blast, and I felt very worldly bartering with the gents in the park.

Who am I fooling? I had rube written all over me. This little purse and a Kate Spade knock-off came home with me, as did a great memory.

And I’m keeping the ballet pink Kate Spade. It goes with a bunch of my scarves.



I don't think Sam will go that far, but we should have space available, August, 2011.

Day 107 of process not product,

and I finally put a few words together on the blog About page. My belated gravitation to this task must have something to do with a certain wistfulness I’m feeling. No need to guess the source: I put it right up front.

I’m not announcing a big shift or realignment. It’s just a relief to commit officially to what this is all About.

Now on with the show.

Still makes me shiver. Thanks, Janice.

Today, downsizing takes a philosophical turn.

I’m not talking about how, philosophically, I believe a more streamlined life is a more enlightened life.

Buddha beat me to that observation.

Nor do I intend to reflect on the connection between downsizing and eco-consciousness. There’s a daily reminder roiling in the Gulf of the wretched excess of our collective petroleum-based sins.

Nope, not pursuing either enlightenment or consciousness-raising. Today I will give a nod to Coincidence, the class-clown of the philosophy department.

I love coincidences.

I love it when Charles Dickens reveals a whopper of a coincidence in a complicated plot such as Great Expectations or Oliver Twist—and no 21st century complaining: he tips his hat right there in the titles! I love this characteristic of 19th century novels. Sign me up for more seemingly random, completely orchestrated, deus ex machina, tomato surprise endings.

Maybe I wish life were pre-destined. I’ve always said I wish I had lived in the Soviet Union and had been identified by my comrades at age 5 as the next great tennis playing-gymnastics performing- astrophysicist of Mother Russia.

Because life was just that lucky, Back in the USSR.

But here’s what’s tickling my philosophical funny bone this morning:

Two utterly contradictory explanations for the phenomenon of coincidence.

John Forster, biographer, on its appeal to Charles Dickens:

“On the coincidences, resemblances, and surprises of life, Dickens liked especially to dwell, and few things moved his fancy so pleasantly.

The world, he would say, was so much smaller than we thought.”

And Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s take:

“Oh, well, this would be one of those circumstances that people unfamiliar with the law of large numbers would call a coincidence.”

So, which explanation appeals to you?

  • It’s a Small World After All         OR
  • Given a vast enough space/time continuum– Everything Will Happen.

I must confess that even though the first words out of my mouth when I run smack dab into a living, breathing coincidence are almost always, “Well, isn’t this a small world!” I am very much in the corner with Dr. Cooper:

Enough time, enough space: shit’s bound to happen.

[We’re all understanding who Sheldon Cooper is at this point, right?]

Cut to this morning’s chase: I want to direct your attention once again to a blog called Man vs. Debt, where Adam Baker has posted a fun list called “25 Inspiring Blogs to Help You Sell Your Crap, Pay Off Your Debt and Do What You Love…” Lots of fun surfing to be had there, but I kid you not: the very first link I followed had an anecdote about a crazy coincidence the writers of the blog had experienced.

They discovered in their family snapshots from a childhood trip to Disney World long before they had met, a picture in which the other’s family could be seen in the background of the picture! How often have you momentarily wondered how many other families’ pictures you or your children are walking through? But who expects not only to have one be near someone who will wind up playing a significant role in your life, but also to have documentation of the almost-encounter?

It’s Dickensian, I tell you!

But wait! Because Coincidentally, I have a Kodak-preserved prologue of my own to share.

When Paul and I lived in Fredericksburg, we became friends with a woman who told us she had traveled to Philmont Boy Scout Ranch where Paul worked several summers in the 1970’s as a ranger in a historic reenactment program. She had traveled not just to the same ranch, it was during one of the same summers. And it was not just the same summer, she assured us she had experienced one of Paul’s programs. And we didn’t just have to accept her remote but insistent memory as proof; she had pictures! Pictures she actually located. Pictures of my 20-year old future husband, 7 years and three time zones before I would meet him, 9 years before she would see him again.

She gave me one picture, the picture above, on which she had written:

“One of the rangers at the trapping and skinning camp. He was in charge of black-powder rifles. Could only bathe once a month.”

That’s my sweetie, not much older but certainly far stinkier than my Sam. And that’s about as precious a gift of coincidence as I have ever received.

When Sam was 13, he wrote a great song called Coincidence. Because he was 13 and being forced to move to another state by his rotten parents, it has a dark tone, with a memorable line:

“Seems like coincidence, but there’s nothing funny here.”

His guitar teacher arranged for them to perform it at a local open mic night. Of course, his proud mama video taped it. What if I happened also to record Sam’s future significant someone?

It would be a modern Dickensian coincidence!

vol. 1 of 2

Urgency Day 427

500 Things Items 73-74:  2 Art Books Not Making the 250 Cut

  • Both from my days as an art history student
  • I tend to Google and I still have Janson (and more)
  • Too cumbersome to be ambivalent about them
  • Donate

I think I know what happened:

In the itty bitty blurb space allotted in Real Simple’s “Suggested Summer Reads” feature (I know! Two consecutive references to Real Simple. What can I say? It’s a good issue.), someone who hadn’t read the book and wasn’t aware that it really isn’t a comedy it just has some funny moments, extracted the reviewer’s toss-away comment about the book’s humor and ran with it.

Excuse me? What book? Huh?

Sorry. The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, one of the best books I have read in years, and really really not a comedy.

But you know how these things work. A magazine or newspaper editor wants to distill a review down to the bits that will attract the most attention. Currently what would those reliably appealing features be? The evidence suggests humor and, of course, vampires. No vampires in T.S. Spivet and wry observations rather than humor, but the review did its job. I immediately rushed to check out the book from the library.

I wish I owned it.

But what does this fabulous book have to do with this blog post’s promised Caravaggio and ballet?

I’m connecting some dots here. I hope you’ll stick with me.

I love art and I love ballet. I love art about ballet, which Caravaggio certainly didn’t create—him of Thomas skeptically sticking his finger in Christ’s bloody stigmata just to be sure fame. No tulle-bedraped Degas, he. But Caravaggio and ballet shared news space in the last few days, all of which reminded me of T.S. Spivet.

On Wednesday, The New York Times “Arts, Briefly” section reported on an attack on famed Russian ballerina Natalia Osipova as she was leaving the Met after a performance Monday night. She wasn’t badly hurt, but her bag was stolen which contained a pair of pointe shoes and the small hammer she used to shape them.

On Thursday, the same “Arts, Briefly” section contained a report on the positive identification of the remains of Michelangelo Merisi, the artist known as Caravaggio. His burial had been “a centuries-old mystery” which was solved through DNA analysis. The small article was accompanied by a fairly odd if not downright gruesome picture of a smiling scientist carrying a glass box containing the artist’s very visible bones.

The ballerina and the bones. Actually, the ballerina’s hammer and the artist’s bones. I couldn’t get these two juxtaposed images out of my head, especially as I was finishing The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet and processing its profound effect on me.

Many people are unaware of the significance of the tiny tool, the hammer, which was stolen in the dancer’s mugging. Over her career, a ballerina spends countless hours pounding the stiffness out of the hard boxes of her pointe shoes. While she goes through dozens of shoes a week, her hammer is unique, often selected very early in her training, personalized and prized for its precise heft and balance in her hand,  and its ability to persuade her slippers both to mold to and support her feet.

I am sure the muggers were disappointed in their cache. I know Ms. Osipova was devastated at her loss. She probably has other hammers which will suffice; they will have to. As she said in a longer article which was printed today, the crime was more shocking than physically damaging. Only her nose was bruised, for which she was grateful, but a sense of vulnerability remains.

Vulnerability, indeed literally “vulnerable remains,” shadows the scientific triumph of identifying Caravaggio’s bones. Certainly he will now get a proper burial and deserved monument, and no one more than I support scientific progress.

But those are his actual bones in that picture. His femur and, what are those? Bits of his skull and pelvis? I’m not usually squeamish about bones—no really! About gore, absolutely, but not pristine bones!—so, it’s not a bit of skeleton with which I’m feeling discomfort. It’s the overwhelming vulnerability permeating the scene, of a complete disconnect between his human life and the ignominious parading of his remains.

And so, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet. I think there must be different book jackets for this book, because the one I checked out of the library varies from the one shown in the Real Simple article. The one that has hardly left my side in the last two weeks depicts the skeleton of a sparrow and a cartographer’s sextant. Bones and tools. Each plays a significant role in the coming-of-age story of a gifted twelve-year old map maker and grieving child.

I won’t give away more; I’m so glad I didn’t know more before I read this amazing book. I urge you to make time for this wondrous, baffling, triumphant novel.

Bones and tools and maps; artists and ballerinas and dignity. It’s a heady mix for a “humorous summer read.” I hope you find out for yourself what happens.

Forward Thinking







69 Head's up, Donna



Urgency Day 429


500 Things Items 64-72: Assorted Detritus

Don’t go straight, go forward.

I love this saying. I love it as an admonition against moving without thought but proceeding with a sense of purpose. I love it as a resolutely supportive embrace of my gay family and friends. And I absolutely love it, because it was first uttered to me by my Paul, the most secure former cowboy-carpenter-Eagle Scout I’ve ever known.

I love you, dude.

I’ve been absent for 9 days. My poor blog has been neglected for 9 days. I’m not going to indulge myself in rationalizations and regret. Well, maybe a little regret, but no hand-wringing, door-slamming, pouty-faced accounts of computer turf wars and crushing sadness and my inevitable summer resentments.

I’m going to move forward. With purpose.

And so today I bring you 9 disparate items, culled from the mighty collection of our unused stuff. There isn’t a theme, or much of one other than it all feels burdensome at this point. And I think I’ll skip with my traditional investigation of each discard, because that would also be burdensome at this point.

What I will do is direct you to an interesting quiz I took in this month’s issue of Real Simple magazine (the quiz is on the second page of the article).

The quiz helps you identify if you are right-brained or left-brained which the writer posits will help you find a better organizational system, one based on your personality rather than one imposed by the Container Store.

Disclaimer: I love the Container Store!

Impose and contain away!

It asks about your habits and routines and what appeals to you visually. Of the 10 questions which were supposed to indicate right-braininess, I answered yes to only one. Apparently, I am going straight: straight and narrow and linear; controlled and rigid; deeply, deeply left-brained.

But at least I’m a lefty!

This certainly makes sense to me. I look at the right vs. left pictures accompanying the article.

  • Left-appeal show order and serenity, the sort of calm tidiness of a Bento lunch box: everything in its place, neat and pretty.
  • Right-appeal are a swirling mess of chaos and confusion, rushing, no careening toward entropy and lawlessness! Yes, Lawlessness.

What does the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten call a culinary mish-mash? The dog’s breakfast? Yeah, like that.

Am I being judgmental? Oh, I suppose. I just don’t know how right-brained people find anything, and finding things is very important to me. Actually, never having to find things because you’ve never lost them is very important to me. It’s a time-management thing and really the core of my motivation in this 500 Things effort. Clear out the clutter so no time is wasted; nothing is obscured; nothing is hidden and festering, and moving forward is easier.

Forward. Not straight or left or right. Just forward.

Quick inventory:

  • #64 Sam’s World History AP Test study materials. Never cracked ’em. Aced the test.
  • #65 Two Martha Stewart decorating books. Keeping cookbooks, discarding craft-guilt.
  • #66 Four pleasant place mats. I now only use woven ones which don’t show spills.
  • #67 Thirteen assorted mis-matched cloth napkins. Lord only knows.
  • #68 Three sets of petit-fours and tartlet pans. Too precious, too time-draining.
  • #69 Three fabulous heirloom tablecloths, going to Donna who will enjoy them.
  • #70 Weird dry-wall kit. Ask Paul.
  • #71 Shower curtain. Bought two, neglected to return unused one. <sigh>
  • #72 Shower head left behind by house-flippers. Happy w/the ones they did install.

Bloody Stuff


Urgency Day 438

500 Things Item 60: Student Desk

(and 61-63: Super-boring clothes)


  • From IKEA, when Sam wanted additional work surface
  • Prepared Sam for eventual over-crowded dorm room experience
  • Make it go away!
  • Yard sale, apparently

I really thought this desk would be a triumphant donation.

Last week, I offered it to my Families Helping Families client thinking how perfect it would be for her son to use for art projects and very soon for school work, only to be informed that my uber-generous mentor partner had already gifted our client with an “awesome” desk for the little guy. Weeks ago. Man, I hate a missed decluttering opportunity. Now I have to store the thing until my hypothetical yard sale.

Oh well, “stuff happens.” That’s kind of the theme, isn’t it?

A similar phrase caught my eye this morning in the Times book review of Justin Cronin’s new not-yet-released-but-already-a-best-seller, The Passage: “Civilization Goes Viral; Stuff Ensues.” Momentarily missing the fact that this was a book review, I got all jazzed anticipating an article detailing the connections between our wired civilization and wretched excess.

The book is about vampires.

There’s excess in that, too. An excess of vampires. But there’s nothing I can do about that trend. I already donated our Twilight books.

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