Thank you, Vicky

Recently, I said that I thought my blog should have been called  “The Laundry Room.”

I don’t really.


In fact, every day I realize how much more affinity I have for the concept of process over product.

I’m a Zen-girl, though right now, Zen-like calm eludes me.

I wish I could evoke the serenity of Atticus Finch. How did he do it? Do you think he meditated? Probably not. More likely, it’s in your wiring: you’re either serene by nature or you’re a mess who has to work really really hard most days just to hold it together. I think I’ve used the phrase “blind panic” five times in the last few days to describe my mental state. I’m definitely not in my happy place.

But I do have a deep appreciation for living a life without finish lines, of process not product.

Lots of activities are sharply defined. They have beginnings and endings and sometimes even gold stars and participation trophies. That’s fine, I just don’t happen to do any of those things. And I’ve been asked through the years with varying degrees of interest and pointedness,

“So, what do you do?”

“So, what do you do?”

<deep deep sigh>

When I was a sleep-deprived new mom, I would shoot back, “About what?”

When I was a little better rested, I would deflect with, “Oh, you know, I used to study Shakespeare,” because I thought that would suggest that, despite the enervating whiff of capitulation, at one time I had been clever.

It took me a long time before I learned to smile at the questioner and respond,

“Thanks for asking. I’m the glue.”

I’m really sincere when I thank people for asking. What I realized through a million gruesomely awkward conversations is that people mostly just want to talk about themselves. We are all our own most fascinating subjects. So when someone expresses interest, I am sincerely appreciative.

Gratitude is a universal principal, and this I know for sure:

I am grateful.

I have received so many expressions of love and support– I am tearing up right now in befuddled amazement. But the tempo of loving concern has definitely increased in the last few weeks, as our troubles continue and deepen.

I am fully immersed in the process-phase now, no finish line in sight.

And what do I do?

I say thank you.

(And thanks for asking.)

Here’s a sampling of gratitude.

Thank you, Donna and Jim

Thanks, KK (and John)

Thank you, Sherry

Thank you, Sheryl

Thanks, Erin and Phil (you too, Bodhi)

Thank you, Laura and Sam

Thanks, Elizabeth (htam tuoba).

Thanks, Sean and Syd.

Thanks, Mom (you too, Mel)

Thank you, Paul

Thank you, Lois

Thank you, Toni


The Laundry Room


Where do they all come from?

Urgency Day 326

500 Things Items 166-75: Pile of Sam’s Tee Shirts

  • History: We only bought two– they bred! Plus he plays sports.
  • Value: Absorbed a lot of sweat and a few tears through many wearings
  • Parting Pain: Only of the growing variety
  • Un-possessing: Donations

I think I should have called my blog “The Laundry Room.”

When you’re telling stories and dishing up regrets, sometimes your dirty underwear shows. I try to be respectful, especially of the Self-Contained Unit’s privacy. And I can just hear him now: “Geez, Mom. Don’t mention me in the same sentence with the word underwear.”

I promise, sweetie: it’s just a metaphor.

Today a pile of Sam’s tee shirts go out the door. Twenty-two in all. Oh, the stories they could tell. Oh, the stories I wish I could tell. But those are Sam’s stories.

I do his laundry, but I won’t air it.

Instead, I will divert your attention to the actual laundry room, or the actual laundry nook. In a house with plenty of bedrooms and a disproportionately large master bath, we have what can only be described as a Woefully Inadequate Laundry Area. And no pantry.

How did a person who lives to cook and bake end up with no pantry? (I’m really not complaining, just observing.)

The first holiday season we lived here, we hosted an open house. One of our neighbors told me she would have bought our house when it was for sale, except for the woefully inadequate laundry area.

“I have four kids; I don’t have time for leisurely baths. I need an adequate laundry room.”

Fair point, Carolyn. She bought a house with a tricked-out laundry room, and her four children always look neat and pretty.

My one child? Well, mostly neat enough and, okay, quite pretty.

But I still rue my laundry nook.

Paul has agreed to give the woefully inadequate laundry area a smoke and mirrors make-over: a little paint, a counter over the washer and dryer, some shelving– the remodeling equivalent of a spot-treatment. I’ll take it.

My handy guy and I respectfully disagree over how much this simple improvement will benefit the resale of the house.

  • Me: 100% positive it will make a huge difference.
  • Paul: 100% unconvinced.

And isn’t that revealing.

Sure, it may be a gender-thing– although the Eagle Scout has been doing his laundry since his mother introduced him to the washer/dryer when he was 14 and washed her hands of the chore. (He was the last of her four children, and she was weary.) So, the man knows his way around a washer and dryer; it’s just that the amenities of the laundry are not important to him. But he’s willing to lose a couple of weekends to lifting and painting and spitting and polishing, because it matters to me.

And doesn’t that just make me sparkle?

Woeful and inadequate: Before

[I’ll post the After pictures when available.]

Save our Libraries!


Hey! I know those Librarians!


As seen on the World Wide Web and Chicago’s own NBC5!

The librarians at the Central Rappahannock Regional Libraries in Fredericksburg, VA have made a video and have become overnight YouTube stars!

They don’t just think they can dance;

They can!

Here’s why you should care:

  • You love libraries, no matter where they are.
  • You love librarians, because they do the 1st Amendment heavy lifting.
  • These actual librarians are some of my Very Best Friends in the World! (Okay that’s why I care, but I’m just so proud.)

I’m not even going to give you the link to the edited version. Pop some corn, grab the family and take 10 minutes to love on some amazing people doing important work on a vanishing budget.

PRESS below to watch now:


They MUST Survive!

Oh, you know there are more to come.

Urgency Day 336

500 Things Items 157-165: 9 Stuffed Friends

  • History: Remember the Beanie Baby craze?
  • Value: Oy.
  • Parting pain: Okay, I will miss Elmo (but we have another)
  • Un-possessing: Yard sale

I speak in code, everyday. I bet you do, too.

If you’re in a long-term relationship—such as having been married for 22 ½ years– you know the good things to say and the things you should never ever say. It is very powerful knowledge, and, when wielded in the wrong mood, very dangerous.

Paul and I still ebulliently enjoy each other. He can make me laugh quicker and messier than anyone in the world. All he really has to say is Ping Pong and liquids come out my nose. Every time.

I’ve learned that “Ping Pong” doesn’t translate well beyond our wacky relationship, so you’ll be spared the attempt. It is enough to say that for us, it’s code for somethin’ funny! But we do have one phrase that’s code of a different kind, which just might resonate for a few other people.

Paul: “We’re here; we might as well have a look-see.”

[Shivers literally just started at my hairline and cascaded down my spine.]

Back in the days before GPS technology, an Eagle Scout was a pretty handy person to have around. If you were stranded in the wilderness with only a pocket knife and a Q-tip, he could build you a shopping mall [bonus points if you get that reference]. And you might reasonably conclude, having traipsed across much of the country for most of my adult life with an Eagle Scout as my companion, that I have never been lost.


The other thing about Eagle Scouts is that they are really adventurous. Like, no tent/no toilet paper/no problem! adventurous. To properly convey his bright-eyed excitement at moments of potential adventure and exploration, I should quote Paul with a subtle variation in text and more insightful punctuation:

Come On!! Let’s Have a Look-See!!”

If he had a tail, it’d be wagging.

Now, it’s not that I think Paul should never get to make this exhortation. Not never. Just somewhere between the number of times he does and never.

I think our most famous real life “look-see” adventure was in 1990 on a remote logging road in remote western Oregon. With less than a quarter of a tank of gas, no map and really no idea where-in-the-hell we were, I hear the words. The. Words.


That day, I was pretty sure all logging roads in Oregon wound up at the business end of a black bear. Or at the wrong end of Deliverance. Or with me trying to roast a chipmunk Paul had snared with his pocket knife and my Q-tip.

Yeah, okay, we survived. We got home. I think it was something like two more left turns, and we were out of Danger. But you see, for me, it’s about security. I like a map. I like a plan. Friends of this blog will know I even like my maps and plans to be—wait for it—laminated!

But laminated plans fly in the face of the “Come on! Let’s have a look-see!!” spirit.

So here we are, not just in the Wilderness but in our Life, and we’re having a look-see.

There’s “kind of” a “plan:”

  • Get jobs;
  • Get Sam into college;
  • Get out of this house.

But I’m sure you will recognize that there are plenty of look-see opportunities within this very unlaminated plan. For example:

  • Jobs: Hey, we’ve never tried running a bike repair shop! Why not?!
  • College: Hey, Wabash just guaranteed Sam 17K! Okay, it’s in the Midwest, which he said he didn’t want, and there are no chicas, which he said he did want. But other than that, why not?!
  • House: Hey, no buyers can qualify for a mortgage anymore, but our house will surely sell! Why not?!

Is that a gleam in Paul’s eye? A waggle in his tail? <shiver>

And what’s code for “That’s a good one, Honey:”

Ping Pong!

Update: The long-rumored, recently scheduled Yard Sale has had to be rescheduled. The cloying stuffed animals (and Elmo) pictured above will still greet you when you arrive. Unless you’re late. But hey, come have a look-see! October 3rd unless otherwise noted.

Molte Grazie!



We are garden-sitting. It’s heaven.

Our lovely neighbors are in Eat-aly for a 50th birthday celebration. They asked us, please, to tend their garden while they are traveling. “Tend” by picking and enjoying the bounty of tomatoes, basil and peppers they’ve endlessly nurtured all summer.


Oh, the pesto. Oh, the fresh pasta sauces. Oh, the joys of biting into a juicy, sweet tomato still warm from the sun.

I don’t know how we got so lucky.

Buon compleanno, mio amico. Grazie!

Pillow Blight


Urgency Day 345

500 Things Items 152-56: 5 Random Throw Pillows

  • History: Fluffed their way through Virginia and Illinois
  • Value: Delightful for naps; ignored–no doubt– by guests
  • Parting Pain: None– naps and guests will still be welcome
  • Un-possessing: Yard sale

In all the frantic discussion I’ve read about electronic readers being a sign that The Apocalypse is Upon Us, there’s one observation I don’t remember seeing anywhere:

It’s hard to imagine the future Inauguration Day when the new president will take her/his oath by placing a hand on a former president’s Kindle.

But I am certain somebody somewhere has already made that observation, because there really is nothing new. Ever. Try Googling the most random thing of which you can possibly think. Google will find 713,826 results (in 0.40 seconds) for you. Just in case you thought you had an original idea. Ever.

But Originality isn’t the goal anymore, just being top of the search-engine heap.


I look at my clutter and realize I haven’t prioritized originality much anyway. Somewhere around house #2, I drank the Pottery Barn/Crate and Barrel/Pier I ubiquitous decorating Kool-Aid. I have throw pillows and candles and tchotchkes enough to decorate several similarly unoriginal houses. It’s as though I’ve been preparing for HGTV to show up at any moment and film my staged house.

That’s a well-paying gig, right? Do they like gluten-free snacks?

Today’s discards will go in the long-rumored yard sale which has finally been scheduled: September 18th, rain date September 19th, just in case you’re in the area and also covet unoriginal throw pillows and more.

At least they will cushion the landing at the bottom of the search engine.

Mind the Ghosts


Measured in certain "units:" priceless

Urgency Day 350

500 Things Items 143-151: Set of 9 Books (not shown)

  • History: Details can’t be revealed because they are to be a present
  • Value: The bindings match and have made a lovely addition to my shelves
  • Parting Pain: None– I love the eventual recipient
  • Un-possessing: Christmas gift

Do you believe in ghosts?

Even existing outside of a purely doctrinal construct, I do.

What happens to discarded books? I have dozens and dozens awaiting their eventual fates. Will they go directly to good homes? Will they linger on used-bookstore shelves or in the sorting space of our local library in anticipation of the Friends of the Library book sale? Right now, they are in actual Limbo piled on my basement floor.

One book expressed its discomfort last night.

I’m reading Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger’s follow-up novel to The Time-traveler’s Wife. I adored Time-traveler’s Wife— the book NOT the movie– and it became something of a phenomenon in our house: widely recommended and even earning a featured role in the infamous Sean Turns Forty! video gift. I remember when Fearful Symmetry came out being very excited to read it. Until I read the reviews.

Every author I know personally—and you two know who you are—is groaning right now. And they should be.

I count on book reviews to do several things for me: First of course, give me a sense of whether I should add yet another book to the toppling tower on my bedside table, but second and more importantly, help determine whether I am constitutionally capable of reading the reviewed book. Ask John Gilstrap—almost-family member and well-known author of popular action thrillers– how many of his books I have actually read. That would be zero. Why? In a word: wimp. As in, I am one.

So when the review of Her Fearful Symmetry revealed that it is a ghost story, I sighed and chose to read something else. (What did I read instead? I wish I had an index of all the books I’ve ever read such as the comprehensive one my sister has kept since she was a teenager, so I could pinpoint exactly what I read instead. Alas, not all the family’s organizational genius went to me.)

But recently, I was at the public library picking up another bushel of college admissions guides, when I noticed Her Fearful Symmetry. Why not? I thought. I really have gotten tougher since I’ve watched Battlestar Galactica (just to repeat: NEW not 1970s version). I can handle a few ghosts and ignore a less than glowing review. Why not?

Soooo, cut to the chase. I am really enjoying Fearful Symmetry. And you would think that was my point.

Um, no.

Last night, lying in bed with a non-Earl related storm howling outside and reading this spooky story, I was reminded of another ghost story I have enjoyed. In preparation for my family’s trip to Scotland in 1996, I bought Sam a cute picture book called The Ghosts’ Trip to Loch Ness by Jacques Duquennoy. Four little ghosts decide to make a journey to Loch Ness to see the famed monster, and much Highland fun ensues. It’s such a delightful story, and after Sam actually spotted Nessie on our trip (and we have the official Certificate to prove it), quite the requested bedtime tale.

Something about the Niffenegger book and the rattling windows and the vagaries of firing synapses caused me to leave my comfy bed last night to locate this little ghost story. In my basement. On a dark and stormy night.

The hundreds of books I identified way back in July for sale and donation have not been moved since. Sam’s band practices around them, the guys who bought Asteroids stepped over them, and the cat has graciously ignored them in her quest to eat everything she possibly can. But I know, even if the piles of books had been disturbed in the ensuing months, I never did and never would include The Ghosts’ Trip to Loch Ness for un-possessing.

Why, then, was This One Book I went downstairs to find, of all our books, lying near the pile of discards? Not on its appropriate shelf. Not open as if recently consulted. Just nearby, but not safely stored.

Ghosts. That’s why.

Appearances of supernatural phenomena are thought to have many perfectly reasonable explanations and, on certain cable “reality” shows, are even “scientifically” measured in “units.” Mostly, I think it all has to do with Regret. I try so very very hard these days not to linger on regret. It takes a lot of energy– trying so hard– energy that can probably be measured in units: Regret units. Finding this little ghost story lying inexplicably on my basement floor was a gentle if somewhat mysterious reminder:

Keep the memories; lose the stuff.

And the regret.

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