Wisdom Gap


In this case, time really is money.

Urgency Day 23

500 Things Items 469-77: Gold Jewelry

  • History: Sundry items of assorted provenance
  • Value: INTRINSIC!
  • Parting pain: Gold is at a historic high, so parting is the opposite of painful!
  • Un-possessing: Our local reputable dealer

Sam was taught the Golden Rule early.

But with only 22 days to go before Launch Day, I’m starting to realize there are a few lessons of intrinsic and extrinsic value I will not have time to teach Sam before he leaves for college.

Sure, I think we’ve done an admirable job in several crucial areas:

  • Because he knows to take the popcorn out of the plastic wrapper before nuking, he won’t burn down the dorm.
  • Because he knows how to separate lights from darks, he won’t turn all his clothes pink.
  • Because he can work and play well with others, he won’t become the dorm hermit.
  • Because he knows about predatory lending practices, he won’t graduate with future-crushing debt.

Not a bad list for anyone.

Plus, he can do a lot of things I can’t: Tune a guitar, for example, and at this point, ANY algebra. So maybe the few things I’m ruing say more about my regrets rather than reveal a wisdom gap in Sam. Probably.

And probably the things he will wish he knew are things that aren’t even on my radar.

The third week Sam was in Kindergarten, Paul and I went to our very first Back to School night. We were eager young parents delighted to sit in our tiny assigned chairs, marvel at the vivid surroundings, and beam at every class chart that held a laminated index card with Sam D. printed on it. We were thrilled to anticipate all the knowledge our five-year old would gain that wondrous first year of his formal education.

We did not anticipate being sharply reprimanded by his teacher, Mrs. K., who said she was

shocked  that not one of these children can cut along the lines!”

Paul and I leaned into each other and whispered, “Isn’t that what they’re supposed to learn in Kindergarten?”

I will keep that Kindergarten Back to School Night in mind as Sam departs for college. Lessons will fall on both sides of the ledger: learned and not yet learned; expected and lacking. Some skills he will proudly display and share; some he will acquire for the first time. And he will be just fine.

Really my regrets aren’t about running out of time to teach Sam skills or share lessons.

My regret is simply running out of time.

Follow up to the last post Fraud Alert (but not to the Correction to Fraud Alert):

In an effort to minimize as much as possible the hypocrisy gap between my downsizing efforts and our college shopping frenzy, I will try to downsize a similar item for each of the ones we need to purchase. So for example, if we need to purchase extra-long bed sheets, I will downsize a regular set of sheets; if we need to purchase shower flip-flops, I will downsize a pair of sandals. This will be in addition to the existing project, but at this point, I don’t intend to document it. Just know it is going on. Thanks for your understanding.





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!

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.

The interactive survey blog post can be found here.

Thanks for playing along.

Caught in an act of serendipity.

I may love serendipity more than any other unsought faculty.

Just as I was having Paul take this picture of me ascertaining the collected weight of my recipe albums—because, seriously, the expanse of them is getting absurd–two things occurred simultaneously:

  1. A package arrived from the Bonney-Simpsons with copies of Hello, Cupcake! and What’s New, Cupcake?— the two best cupcake guides in the universe which I have only been able to enjoy from library copies;
  2. A college classmate—who is also a very great friend of the Bonney-Simpsons– asked to friend me on Facebook.

At the same moment! Hello universe, I’m listening!

But wait: there’s more!! (At least if you’re a pattern seeker like me, there is.)

The combined tonnage of the recipe albums plus the gift cookbooks equals 26.2 pounds. Are you shivering yet? If the weight of these recipes were measured in miles, they would be a marathon.

PLUS! 26 is my favorite number.

I love everything and everyone right now.

For dinner tonight, I will be preparing pico de gallo and guacamole from un-downsized recipes in honor of Sydney, who loves a salsa nosh as much as I do.

Thank you, my darlings. Here’s to many more good cupcake times.

Oh, you know we have to play along with this.

US Magazine and Entertainment Weekly have published a list:

The 100 Greatest Characters in

Pop Culture of the Last 20 Years.

And Starbuck is only #72?!

Let the games begin.

Submit your choices, as many as you like. I’ll compile yours and offer 5 or 10 of my own– and certainly much better than their stupid selections.

I’ve created a page with their list, so you can either create your list with clues or tabula rasa.

It’s feeling pretty SKREWTY around here!

Hey Sam, gimme shelter?

Where does your blog live?

Some blogs live on wordpress or blogspot, blogger or blogher dots com. Some are private, some public. Some are cozy, some are edgy. Kind of like our real homes, our virtual homes reflect an aesthetic we either live by or aspire to. That’s part of the appeal of starting a blog. Free decorating.

Unless you upgrade.

Since some blogs are still gestating, maybe your blog only lives in the most virtual space of all—your brain. Like Zeus with Athena, I hope you are able to birth your brain-child. If that’s what you want.

When I invited you to my blog, I gave you the address at wordpress. That’s the virtual home of process not product, and for me, it has been a surprisingly welcoming address. I certainly appreciate how easy it’s been for this tech-know-nothing to construct a site.

My blog’s actual, physical home is where I do the writing, on my computer, in my office, in our home. I would say sentimental whimsy is the decorating theme of this space.

While composing, my gaze often lingers on the perfect purple lamp, the precious triptych of Lord of the Rings posters (Ballantine first edition covers), the totally cool Jonny Quest Hallmark ornament,  the framed flowchart of “Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock.” This is my perfect work environment: kind of silly, very tidy, achingly familiar. I work best when surrounded by at least a few threads of continuity.

For the last few days, I have been unraveling.

On Sunday, my computer developed pixelization.

Yes, let us bow our heads and despair in quiet tones.

It’s an 8-year old laptop. The repair would be “at least” $470 to install a new video card and replace the wires in the monitor.

In the Venn diagram of:

  • Things that make sense and
  • Spending $470 on an 8-year old laptop–

there is zero overlap.

So for now, my blog lives in Sam’s office, on Sam’s computer. It can play with games called Guild Wars, Morrowind and Oblivion; it can listen to thousands of iTunes; it has access to a lot of naughty YouTube videos. Unfortunately, there are no themed lamps or out-of-print dorm posters or Hallmark ornaments nearby. There is very little whimsy and even less, well, tidiness. But we are guests, my blog and I. And we will not criticize our gracious host. In fact, I am sure we will do something nice for Sam and his computer.

Like vacuum the crumbs out of the keyboard.

I’m confident I can get used to the new digs; you know what they say about a change of scenery being good for the soul. Okay, I’m not at the spa or the beach or a mountain lodge, but I will endeavor to embrace this experience and try not to pick up any traveler’s scurvy. (That’s less about Sam’s cleanliness than about my finicky constitution.) And I will try to be a good guest and not rearrange the desktop too much.

I am asking for some forbearance from my gentle readers. It may take some time to unpack my things and get about my business. Work feels urgent but suddenly doing the work feels unfamiliar.

I wonder if Sam would mind using a purple desk lamp for a while.

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