This correction is mostly directed at the blog’s email subscribers as the error was corrected for later visitors.

There was an error in the first paragraph of yesterday’s post, FRAUD ALERT, which significantly changes the meaning of the post. The line should read, “I promise: It was NOT my intention.” The word NOT was left out. This tiny omission makes all the difference. I promise this error was NOT my intention! And I invite you to re-read the post with this crucial little word in place.

Thank you for your time and understanding.

And thank you so much for your subscription!

error message!

Fraud Alert


sometimes the pen is mightier than the pixel

Urgency Day 27

500 Things Item 468: Laptop Computer

  • History: This is the same dead laptop that sent me aknockin’ on Sam’s desktop last year
  • Value: It’s still dead; Pixie dust couldn’t rescue this pixelated processor
  • Parting pain: Not at the parting, just the replacing
  • Un-possessing: Conscientious recycling

I am a fraud.

I promise: It was NOT my intention. It just kind of snuck up on me; uncomfortable realization after uncomfortable realization. Then, one day– not at all out of the blue– it smacked me in the head:


That day was April 26th. I downsized a small shelf unit that day, April 26th, the day I announced the winner of the Self-Contained Unit’s college search: Vassar College. Corks popped, fireworks sizzled: Hazzah! Sam is a Brewer (BTW: All-time least ironic college mascot). He had successfully navigated high school’s end game: college admissions. Sweet relief.

Yes, I downsized an item that day, as I had for 375 days prior to that and would (and will) for another 125. But do you know what happens after the college selection is made, the college deposit mailed, the college-admissions-process guard dropped?

College shopping.

Methodical, strategic, predestined accumulating.

Lists, lists, lists of absolutely essential stuff… and oh my, I love a list, but every lovingly descriptive, coupon coordinated, Mapquest-aided list I compile, I feel the smack again:


I write a blog about DOWNSIZING, for goodness sake! I am getting rid of one thing every day for (what will be) 500 days. I giddily proselytize about decluttering my shelves, my drawers, my life. I patiently defuse incredulity about how Less Really Really is More. And in the presence of More is More zealotry, I keep the eye-rolling to an absolute minimum.


I am now re-acquiring, magnificently.

See this list?

  • 41 Kitchen items
  • 58 Decorative items
  • 54 Items of clothing
  • 21 Wardrobe accessories
  • 35 DVDs, CDs and tapes
  • 4 Pieces of furniture
  • 8 Electronics
  • 43 (+ one trunk load) Toys and games
  • 28 Household items such as tools
  • 1 Christmas Wreath
  • 1 Box of Mouse Memorabilia
  • 186 Books

That’s the list I posted on May 17th of the first 400 Downsized Things. Since then, I have downsized an additional 67 items. More books, more household items, more CDs, more toys. Or I should say fewer. We have 67 fewer Things, because of this Project. Except…


College. Requires. Stuff. Apparently.

Yes, some items on the lengthy college-stuff list will come from the family collection. He doesn’t need brand new mugs or utensils. A blanket? Plenty of those to contribute. And we’re tickled to send him off with the trusty corkboard that aided and abetted his four-year dash toward independence.

I just don’t happen to have any extra-long sheets kicking around. A shower caddy? In our home, we encourage him to keep the soap and shampoo in the showering area. And a suitable portable computing device? What a revelation.

I have heard that— and I intend no bias here; I’m simply reporting a pattern— many girls are very interested in the college shopping process. Some even take charge. My boy hasn’t shown a similar level of investment in tracking down sheets and stuff. Except for the suitable portable computing device. Suddenly, the boy was all about the hunt. And the kill.

One down.

And I don’t mean down-sized.

Next post: My thoughts on resolving this conflict of interests.



practice fx

Urgency Day 29

500 Things Item 467: The Broken Guitar

  • History: Broken NOT from practicing Pete Townsend moves; cannibalized for parts
  • Value: None, now
  • Parting pain: None, now
  • Un-possessing: Sadly, trash

The Self-Contained Unit left home today.

Not for good, just for practice.  Still, it’s close enough to his Real Launch Date that it feels like a tune-up. This trip is our family’s Downsizing Dress Rehearsal.

Many pursuits benefit from practice; some, such as music and sports, require daily application for improvement. And I suppose there is some merit to practicing sending your child off to college.

Certainly each of us will be “practicing” different college skills. I will ask the Self-Contained Unit’s aunt and grandmother whether over the next week he practices choosing to eat some vegetables, changing his sheets, or going to bed in time to get up for an 8:00 class.

And what will I practice?

Well, I will not practice wailing and sobbing. I will not practice glancing wistfully at the pictures of Sam cavorting with his cousins, his best friends, his mama. I will not practice missing his breezy “Love you” called toward my office after grabbing another granola bar from the pantry. I will not practice smelling his pillow for the last trace of his baby scent.

I will practice letting him text me first. I will practice patience. I will practice letting him go.

And, I will practice having my sweetie’s undivided attention. I will practice enjoying a clean house (particularly a certain notorious bathroom sink area). I will practice having a car all to myself whenever I want.

And I will practice worrying.

Travel Tape


better travel with tape

Urgency Day 34

500 Things Items 464-66: Worn-out Bed Pillows

  • History: So tired and worn, I AM SPARING YOU THE PICTURES!
  • Value: New $45; Now $00
  • Parting pain: Horror at still having them
  • Un-possessing: Donate to animal shelter

Got tape?

If I’m traveling, my answer is always, “Of course.”

It is uncanny how often I need– or someone I am with needs– a piece of tape on a trip. The need can usually be satisfied with any kind of tape—masking, Scotch, duct, painter’s. It simply has to adhere one thing to another.

And the needs don’t vary much:  A gift requires securing; a note, sticking to a hotel room door. This was a more common need before cell phones. (That’s true of a lot of things, isn’t it?) But as predictable as the needs tend to be, it is surprising how few people tuck a roll of tape in their luggage.

I’m not complaining. I love hearing the incredulous gasps of “You do?!” from grateful friends in their moments of adhesive want.

But proving the adage “You never know,” Paul and I had an unusual tape need last weekend. As I mentioned in my last post, we were invited to the gorgeous lake house of dear friends. Our bedroom was in a turret-shaped feature of the house, with a panoramic view of the lake out of 5 large windows.

Now, Paul is a very early riser, and I’ve become an early riser (a shocking evolution for the teenager who could easily sleep until 2:00 in the afternoon; these days, I turn into a pumpkin at 9:00 in the evening). But even as a person who enjoys an early cup of coffee in a quiet house, I figured quite a lot of sun would be streaming through those 5 large windows a little too early. So, down went the 5 large rattan shades without a second thought.

Who knew you could buy black-out rattan shades?

Our room was absolutely pitch dark, which meant two things:

  1. The early-risersons didn’t get out of bed until 8:45 (Early to some, I know, but precious vacation hours were wasted!).
  2. More importantly, the white LED power-light on the wall-mounted TV was like a high-wattage laser beam BORING INTO OUR EYES all night long!

When Paul asked me how I had slept, I said,

“Great… except for the Big Brother Eye interrogating me all night long.”


The second night? We slept as soundly as teenagers.

I had tape.

FOLLOW UP: In my last post, I stated that I had been accused of copyright infringement. Turns out, the transgressor was not me at all. Needless to say, I am MIGHTILY relieved, and I very much hope my suddenly completely gray hair can be returned to its usual only gray-at-the-roots state very soon.




Urgency Day 37

500 Things Items 458-63: 6 Super Soakers (TM Larami Co.)

  • History: From the last fabulous summer visit of the Brothers Bonney
  • Value: $20? And/or priceless
  • Parting pain: Yes, 6 era-ending markers
  • Un-possessing: Gifts

FABULOUS way to wake up: Surrounded by friends at a truly spectacular lake-front home.

NOT FABULOUS way to wake up: Slapped with copyright infringement notices.

  • I am chastened.
  • I am worried.
  • I am ready to scurry back to my hole.

Ah well, the Universe giveth and It taketh away. We had a lovely water-filled weekend, bursting with story-telling, belly laughs, clinking glasses and almost enough big fat still-warm-from-the-sun Michigan blueberries even for me.

And do you live somewhere where you could see That Moon Saturday night? That was the Universe giveth-ing.

If I hadn’t managed to time gasping over That Moon with breaking my clinking glass, well, I guess I wouldn’t be me. Yes, hide the stemware: I’m a glass-breaker.

Why am I the only one worried about this?

The 5 multi-hued Super Soaker water guns (TM Larami Co.) I am downsizing today come from the arsenal of the Self-Contained Unit and are being dispersed with his blessing. There were a total of 8 young men ranging in age from 15-23 at the lake house this weekend. There was not a single water gun battle.

Trademarked or otherwise.

Postscript: In referencing “scurrying back to my hole,” I had a past-life flashback. VERY past. I think I was one of those tiny mouse-like creatures that lived a perilous life; dodging enormous, rampaging dinosaurs by day; and at night, darting out to nibble on plants and tremble.

And worry.

Elbowed Out


grapHITe, FINAList, OVERsized

Urgency Day 42

500 Things Items 456-57: Tennis Rackets

  • History: One is ancient, one only 5 years old
  • Value: Originally, around $150
  • Parting pain: Yes and no; read on
  • Un-possessing: Offerings to family

MY mom knows more about sports than YOUR mom!

And yes, you should read that in a taunting, playground voice.

Basketball, golf and tennis? Mom played them. Basketball, golf, and tennis, AND cycling, football, futball, baseball and every Olympic event, summer and winter? Mom follows them, avidly. Rabidly, some would say. When she had her recent second cataract surgery, her biggest concern was that she would be out from under the anesthesia in time to see the fourth-round matches of Wimbledon.

The fourth round. Not even the finals, or quarters, for that matter.

I grew up in a sports-loving family. It goes way back. My father wrote long and beautiful letters to my mom while he was stationed in Korea. Beautiful? I mean that man’s penmanship was stunning. He was taught the famous Palmer method as a kid. Ironically, he became a dentist. But the pharmacists never complained about his handwriting.

The length of the letters, though; that came from his meticulous analysis of every at-bat of his favorite baseball player, Ted Williams.

As a kid, I remember reading his loving descriptions of “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived” and questioning my father about how he was able to pick apart every nuance of every swing merely from hearing the games on the radio.

“Passion, kiddo,” he’d say with a wink.

It was only later, as a young woman with a more seasoned perspective on courtship that it occurred to me: My mother might have enjoyed the same passion being brought to descriptions of missing her as to parsing a game. He did tell her she had great legs, but that would transition into paragraphs about batting stance.

I guess it would have been understandable, if my mom had lost her own passion for sports and everything about them given how much time and energy my father put into sports.

I am so grateful she didn’t. Her enthusiasm is infectious.

Mom and the guys in her life—sons-in-law, grandson, boyfriends, boy friends, random guys in line at the store—always have something to talk about. Often, their talk turns into trash talk, which turns into stakes. Mom loves a dollar bet, just to give watching a little spice. And she collects-– even from her grandson– since she usually wins.

The tennis rackets I am downsizing today leave my possession with wistful pragmatism. I loved playing tennis. I loved peppering puppies and chasing down balls. I did not love losing gracefully. Years ago when my feistiness would test the patience of even my Eagle Scout, my friend Sean didn’t mind my tantrums competitive spirit, and he would play with me on muggy summer nights on the marginally maintained Fredericksburg municipal courts.

But my right elbow ain’t what it was then.

Now, the sport I vigorously pursue allows me to nurture my competitive fire and make peace with my aging elbows. Ah, cycling:  It’s all about the legs.

As my dad would say, I got my mom’s legs.


Urgency Day 44

no tempests here

500 Things Items 452-455: Teapots

  • History: Once and perhaps future yard sale inventory
  • Value: Depends on who’s buying and who’s selling
  • Parting pain: If I’m selling, depends on who’s buying
  • Un-possessing: TBD

Yard sales were on my radar last weekend.

They kept popping up, around the neighborhood, sure, but in conversations and various on-line sites I follow as well. My friend Elizabeth commented on Facebook that on Saturday morning she was just cleaning out her garage, you know, simply pulling stuff out to tidy up, and made $7 from some determined drive-by bargain hunters.

I think this might put a question mark next to how important advertising is for yard sale success.

I have a good track record when it comes to staging yard sales. But it’s been so long since I held one, my record on the matter is literally that: a record, an l.p. Vinyl. So, my advice may be a bit out of date.

Recently, I’ve heard many sellers complain that buyers haggle too aggressively or show up too early, before the bleary-eyed seller has even had the first bracing cup of coffee.

It sounds like determination on both sides to me: One party is determined to make money; one, not to spend money. Problems arise when someone takes it personally, the making and the not spending. But how do you not take it personally? It’s your stuff and/or  it’s your cash.

One of the references to yard selling I saw over the weekend advised going to a local Goodwill or other thrift store and buying a bunch of cheap stuff that you could resell at a profit. That certainly takes the personal out of the equation, since it’s not your stuff.

<Insert the sound of my soul-weary sigh here>

Buying stuff and counting on reselling it and making a profit on it at a yard sale sounds like a risky venture at best and a fantastically tedious usage of time at worst. Thinking of my life-energy being spent in that way makes me cranky. But that’s my determination.

I have determined that I prefer donating to Goodwill. I don’t get cold hard cash as I would at a yard sale, but I do get a tax break. If you scrupulously itemize all donations then use the government’s tax-deduction guidelines to determine write-offs, you always get more for your stuff than at a yard sale.


Okay, fine.

  • Do I occasionally miss haggling chatting with my fellow humans on a fine Saturday morning? I guess.
  •  Do I miss making a very little actual cash for my clutter? Of course.
  • Could I imagine trying sales over donations ever again? NO. Sure…

but I have a very good imagination.

So, HERE is my ONE HARD AND FAST, GOLDEN RULE for a successful yard sale:


And label label label with tags that won’t come unstuck in the morning humidity.

Yes, it’s more time consuming than just tossing your stuff out on the driveway. It also saves time and frustration in dealing with people. So if you can’t or don’t want to price (and label),  just tidy up and head for Goodwill. Maybe you will still make $7 cash. And your blood pressure will thank you.

It’s Friday: Watch out!

I’m connecting dots.

Today, I saw a recommendation on the PBS Facebook page (like) for a new book about an old event:

“The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral—and How it Changed the American West” by Jeff Guinn.

Hmmm, “Changed the American West.” Intriguing. I adore non-fiction that sheds new light on or gives a new interpretation of familiar subjects.

So, my dots:

  • Gunfight
  • Guns
  • Winchesters
  • Winchester, Simon—author of
    • The Professor and the Madman
    • The Map that Changed the World
    • Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883
    • A Crack in the Edge of the World

among other books.

But these are four that I own, and I love, and which are now occupying position #44 on my 250 Library list. Four books, one position. That’s what I said.

I could have connected the O.K. Corral book with other dots, say, to a truly wretched episode of Classic Trek: Spectre of the Gun. This time, aren’t we all glad I went with classy non-fiction instead of Classic Trek (see #42)?

Well, most of us.

More downsizing to follow.

Pushing Past 50


a brassy old lady

Urgency Day 49

500 Things Item 451: Old Lady Purse

  • History: I gave it to my mom b.h.s. (before her stroke)
  • Value: Orig.  price $139
  • Parting pain: No
  • Un-possessing: Gift

Act you age.

Is this one of those “fake it till you feel it” commandments? Or just “fake it,” period?

I know I’m a fairly youthful 49. The vague “fairly youthful” assessment is based on Facts: I can ride a half-century in under 4 hours due to my strong legs, but I cannot hit a tennis ball with any zip due to my pitiful right elbow. Fairly youthful.

“Forty-nine” is also based on Facts and easier to prove. But don’t ask my mom to verify, because she’ll tell you I can’t possibly be 49, since I was born just the other day.

I know what she means. I feel that way about my Sam. No way is he old enough to go off to college in 49 days. He’s just a baby!

He’s my baby!

So when your baby goes off to college, does that make you an old lady? Do I have to start acting my age?

Is there a rule book I should consult for pushing 50?

Back in 1977, my sister, not quite brother-in-law, mom, and I went to London together. We were uber-tourists. We gazed at every jewel; marched through every museum; cheered every guard; munched every crumpet; got on the bus at Luton Hoo and off the bus at Stonehenge…

Ah, Stonehenge.

Can I just say that I would like to be buried at Stonehenge?

I felt (feel really) about Stonehenge the way my sister and brother felt about Westminster Abbey. We each wanted to look at every single bloody stone. Twice. But my stones were way better than their stones.

Mom just gamely went along with everything. Every single bloody thing. Here’s the kicker for me to realize: My mom was just a little older then than I am now. She was only 50! Fifty! She was a baby. She was better than “fairly” youthful. She was a hoot!

And yet…

We had to, well, push her up one of those ridiculously steep escalators coming up out of a Tube station, because she was feeling a bit fatigued.

Literally: we were pushing 50.

The “old lady purse” I’m downsizing today used to be my mom’s. I gave it to her, once upon a time before her stroke. Besides the styling, you know how you can tell a purse is old? No cell phone pocket.

And by the way, my past-50 mom is still a hoot.

No faking.



Illinois: capital, Springfield

Urgency Day 50

500 Things Item 450: Wooden States Puzzle

  • History: My sister has the family original, so this spare can be shared
  • Value: If Sam’s charge is a geography sponge, you never know…
  • Parting pain: None
  • Un-possessing: Gift to a young friend

The Big 5-0.

That’s where we are to-day. In 50 days, the Self-Contained Unit’s big adventure begins. And an era ends.


There was a collective toasting of our 50 States yesterday. Paul and I joined a fabulous group of, as it happens, 50 volunteers from Families Helping Families serving beer, wine and—because this is the Mid-West—pop! at Naperville’s annual Fourth of July extravaganza, Ribfest. Vegetarians, beware.

Vegetarian or not, I love pouring drinks at this corn-fed event with such a boisterous group. People watching from behind the tips jar is completely worth a sweaty décolletage and beer-soaked tootsies.

It took us a while to figure out why the mood was a little subdued yesterday, as compared to previous years. We reckon it was because the Fourth fell on a Monday. While most everyone was tickled to have a Monday off, there was the awareness that tomorrow was a work day.

Tomorrow is today.

And today, as the drumbeat of my 500 Things Project gets ever more insistent, I am downsizing a beloved wooden puzzle of our 50 States.

In my family, there is a long and improbable history of interest in domestic geography. As a young girl, my sister taught me the states and capitals while we washed and dried the dinner dishes at our grandmother’s house. Fifty states and capitals, in alphabetical order.

And it’s a darn good thing she did, too.

Years later, it was this very knowledge that confirmed my suitability as a partner to my darling Eagle Scout, who had also absorbed this information while performing mindless tasks. His was baling hay on a ranch in South Dakota (capital, Pierre). We figured this out over drinks at the party where we met in Virginia (capital, Richmond).

See kids: Study up! Your sixth-grade social studies teacher told you there would be a test.

Naturally, the geography geeks indoctrinated their progeny. The Self-Contained Unit had 50 States puzzles, 50 States coloring books, 50 States playing cards, 50 States plush toys—

Kids! Kids! Cuddle up with Rhode Island!

Well, it worked. Now he’s excited to teach one of his young charges about the States.

Fifty of them.


And it’s Providence, by the way.

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