Soaked

07/18/2011

disarming

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 HAVE TAKEN DOWN THE DISPUTED IMAGE.
  • 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.

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Fifty

07/05/2011

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.

Fifty.

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.

Fifty.

And it’s Providence, by the way.

Traction

06/06/2011

suspended time

Urgency Day 80

500 Things Items 407-08: Watches

  • History: Similar to my scarf obsession, I like novelty watches
  • Value: New and working—maybe $40
  • Parting Pain: None until I saw them together looking cute
  • Un-possessing: Donations

I love the idea of traction:

Of feeling a sense of efficiency and commitment as all parts are pulling and adhering in unified coordination even over rough spots: Traction.

Yesterday, I fell off my bike. So much for traction.

That was a very literal instance of traction giving way to friction; I’ve got the bodily scrapes and bruises to prove it. Recently, I have also experienced a more figurative loss of traction. I haven’t posted in over a week. I’ve got the mental scrapes and bruises to prove it.

Every one of us is busy, but busy-ness ebbs and flows. I am just emerging from a very busy stretch which included the Self-Contained Unit’s graduation from high school and the attendant valedictory celebrations– obviously lifetime milestones– which I consciously prioritized over a simultaneously appearing opportunity to increase my Project’s traction. But hey, we all know parenthood involves some sacrifices.

A few weeks back, a wonderful local website, Go West Young Mom, graciously ran an interview with me about the genesis of the 500 Things Project. A few initial interview questions from talented editor Tara Burghart evolved into a far-reaching conversation about my family’s experiences with downsizing during The Great Recession; my highly personal thoughts on raising children based on the successful launch of the Self-Contained Unit; and how we managed the transition from Easterners to Mid-westerners with a child in tow.

In other words, all the things I’ve been blogging about for the last 420 days!

The publication of this profile was the perfect moment to capture some energy and invest my Project with increased traction. It was the perfect moment– except the timing was all wrong.

Instead of seizing this opportunity, I chose to huddle with family and friends in a cold windstorm and watch 785 graduates receive their diplomas with hilarious solemnity; I chose to attend award ceremonies and commemorative tributes in sodden wonderment; I chose to belt out lyrics personalized by my talented sister to the tune of “High Hopes” wishing Sam success in college:

I chose Sam’s moment over the Project’s future. And really, there was no choice.

Sam’s moment was about the future and about ensuring continued traction in his life. My Project, for all its traction and skidding, its zeitgeist and ephemera, is still here, a few days late, and it will be here for another 79 days.

As will the Self-Contained Unit.

Sam in the moment. (photo by Marianne Mather, Sun-Times Media)

Pressing Concerns

02/08/2011

pressed out of service

Urgency Day 192

500 Things Item #305: French Press

  • History: To see me thru Paul’s absences
  • Value: Reinforced my lack of javablilty
  • Parting Pain: Zilch
  • Un-possessing: Gift for the first requester

How many cups have you had today?

I’m on my second cup of cafe de Paul. I’ve said it before, there are several things I simply cannot do. Coffee is my most co-dependent addiction.

Every evening, My Beloved prepares the automatic coffee maker: Hand-washing the parts, filtering the water, adding the whole beans. The entirety of my involvement?  Pushing the button at 6:04 a.m. Occasionally, I endure a withering hairy-eyeball, because I neglected to buy the beans, but it’s totally worth it. Fresh coffee, every morning, at the push of a button.

This is our ritual. And for the almost 15 months of Paul’s un- and under-employment, there was a comforting reliability to this ritual. A bit of continuity from our other life. Got coffee? Okay, on with the show.

When Paul was a traveling man, I usually resigned myself to tea. I do love tea, and I love that the Self-Contained Unit loves tea. (He has recently been completely won over by Kara’s fantastic Chai tea.) But on the days I just couldn’t manage without a cup o’ joe, I had a French press.

It is a wonder of efficiency. And that’s about it.

But maybe it’s me, again.

Not long after we moved to Naperville, I stumbled on a vastly, scathingly more satisfying way to score my coffee when Paul traveled. At the end of our street, the dry cleaner we use gives away FREE FULL-SIZED CUPS OF STARBUCKS COFFEE when you drop off and pick up your cleaning!

So, let’s say Paul would be traveling for 3 coffees– I mean 3 days.  Day one, I would drop off one shirt, get a free cup of coffee. Day two, pick up the shirt, get a free cup of coffee. Day three, latte rinse repeat.

Bye bye, French press.

One coffee-related point Paul and I both very much miss, our favorite independent coffeehouse in our old stomping grounds of Fredericksburg, Virginia:  Hyperion. It has everything you want and expect in a great locally-owned coffeehouse, and it has dear friends running it and running in and out of it.

There was a piece by western-suburbs blogger Tara Burghart in the Triblocal today that caught my attention:  “5 Great Locally-Owned Coffeehouses.” Her reviews have me plotting some fun weekend outings. The closest of the five is about 20 minutes away, so none of these is likely to become our new Hyperion. But one, Arcedium Coffee House in St. Charles, is right off of our favorite half-century cycling route.

Oh man, I am suddenly looking forward to mile 29!

Sizing Up Regret

02/03/2011

past-lights

Urgency Day 197

500 Things Items 292-96: Five Failing Flashlights

  • History: Why do flashlights never light when needed?
  • Value: Misplaced peace of mind
  • Parting Pain: Replacement costs
  • Un-possessing: Recycle

Okay, locals. What did you buy for the snowpocalypse that you regret?

After Paul and the Self-Contained Unit shoveled our driveway and helped dig out several neighbors’ drives and as much of our cul-de-sac as humanly possible– and mind you, my guys were working without snow blowers– Paul and I walked the neighborhood. There was a great deal of bon vivant.

It was Day One.

A couple we spoke with observed that even though none of us was likely to be driving anytime soon, they would be just fine. They had

  • bread,
  • toilet paper,
  • and wine.

They. Were. Just. Fine.

I am an East Coast girl by birth. More specifically, a Washingtonian, Virginia suburbs. If you’ve heard but scoffed incredulously at the reputation that region has for snow preparations– i.e. that school is cancelled before the first flake even falls, if it ever does fall— as a native, I implore you to adjust your opinion. I want you to multiply your scoffing by a factor of 100. Absurd. No, pitiful sums it up.

When I thought about the provisions this ex-pat Easterner had laid in for our recent storm, I felt pretty smug. No crazy trips to the store— tearing the last loaf of Wonderbread, the last can of deviled ham, the last ten eggs (because two were cracked but you bought them anyway) so your family would survive—not here in Chicagoland. A little extra wine, yes, but that could be justified by any number of Impending Events. A Tuesday night, for example.

Putting aside my Midwest-transplant smugness, here’s the thing I bought that was pure East-Coast apocalyptic impulse:  Extra size C batteries.

Why size C? Double A’s, sure. Every gadget in kid-land runs on double A’s, but why the heck did I impulsively grab extra C’s?

NOAA: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I had a vague memory that our NOAA radio runs on C’s. A sudden concern flashed into my brain while waiting on line at the grocery store:  If the blizzard knocked out the region’s power grid, we should track the storm through our battery-operated NOAA radio. Ominously eyeing the half-full racks of batteries at the check out, the ability to track the storm, if the power went out, suddenly seemed imperative. I grabbed 3 packs of C’s for the radio. Six zippy back-ups:  Check.

I love my NOAA emergency alert radio. It chirps every Wednesday at 10:00 in the morning just to reassure me that it’s still standing sentry; monitoring everything from climate emergencies to volcanic eruptions, from boil-water notifications to approaching-iceberg warnings.

Shortly after we moved to Illinois, I began to notice that a lot more tornadoes occur in this part of the country than in Virginia. This was especially inescapable with the routine tornado sirens that go off every Tuesday morning in our township. It seemed sensible to this skittish Easterner to have an even more localized emergency alert system, say one next to my side of the bed.

Perhaps buying some last minute extra batteries to ensure the working of my emergency alert radio may not seem like such a panicky precaution to take before a predicted Apocalypse. And it wouldn’t have been, truly.

If I had bought the right size batteries. In the right number.

(Our power never went off.)


Today, half the Pumpkin is buried in snow!

Urgency Day 198

500 Things Item 291:  Pumpkin Coat

  • History: First purchase during first Illinois winter
  • Value: $125 and still priceless
  • Parting Pain: We’ll keep in touch
  • Un-possessing: Auction

When the Apocalypse comes, what will you be wearing?

I never really gave this much thought—any thought—until last night when the Apocalypse came. I was wearing seven layers of polypropylene and wool. Turns out, the world will end in ice, and you can’t possibly be wearing enough polypropylene and wool.

So why on earth am I un-possessing this gorgeous LL Bean full-length down coat in the middle of the Apocalypse?

Because I’m not a soccer mom anymore.

This coat was magic, sitting on the sidelines of soccer fields on the plains of Illinois. Remember the line from Oklahoma?

Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain!

I think maybe Messrs. Rogers and Hammerstein couldn’t rhyme Illinois, so they settled on Oklahoma instead for their musical. The wind sure does BLOW here. Chicago is the Windy City, after all.

FUN FACT: Chicago was originally called the Windy City, because we Chicagoans are a bunch of blowhards, full of hot air. But it is windy here. Probably the windiest place on earth.

At least our soccer fields are the windiest.

This coat, the Pumpkin Coat, wrapped me up good-n-snug during those crazy days of sitting in canvas chairs or on metal—METAL!— bleachers, bundled up in as many layers of down and wool as I could warp [sic.] around me and still root on boys who were running around in shorts.

Our kids are the toughest.

Here’s what the Pumpkin Coat is not good for:

  • Getting in and out of cars.
  • Walking though snow.
  • Walking period.

For driving, for getting in and out of cars and scurrying back to my so-far-still-heated home  (Deo gratias!),  I much prefer my Michelin Man, high-tech, wind-destroying parka.

The Pumpkin Coat will not be what I’m wearing for the next Apocalypse.


 

Urgency Day 198

500 Things Item 286: Pumpkin Coat

  • History: First purchase during first Illinois winter
  • Value:  $125 and still priceless
  • Parting Pain: We’ll keep in touch
  • Un-possessing: Auction

 

When the apocalypse comes, what will you be wearing?

 

I never really gave this much thought—any thought—until last night when the apocalypse came. I was wearing seven layers of polypropylene and wool. Turns out, the world will end in ice, and you can’t possibly be wearing enough polypropylene and wool.

 

So why on earth am I un-possessing this gorgeous LL Bean full-length down coat in the middle of the apocalypse?

 

Because I’m not a soccer mom anymore.

 

This coat was magic, sitting on the sidelines of soccer fields on the plains of Illinois. Remember the line from Oklahoma?

 

Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain!

 

I think maybe Messrs. Rogers and Hammerstein couldn’t rhyme Illinois, so they settled on Oklahoma instead for their musical. The wind sure does BLOW here. Chicago is the Windy City, after all.

 

Fun fact: Chicago was originally called the Windy City, because we’re a bunch of blowhards, full of hot air. But it is windy here. Probably the windiest place on earth.

 

At least our soccer fields are the windiest.

 

So this coat, the Pumpkin Coat, wrapped me up good-n-snug during those crazy days of sitting in canvas chairs or on metal—METAL!– bleachers, bundled up in as many layers of down and wool as I could warp [sic.] around me and still root on boys who were running around in shorts.

 

Our kids are the toughest.

 

Here’s what the Pumpkin Coat is not good for:

  • Getting in and out of cars.
  • Walking though snow.
  • Walking.

 

For driving, for getting in and out of cars and scurrying back to my so-far-still-heated home, I much prefer my Michelin Man, high-tech, wind-destroying parka.

 

The Pumpkin Coat will not be what I’m wearing for the next apocalypse.

Molte Grazie!

09/08/2010

Bonus!

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.

Perfetto!

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!

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