Extra Mileage

12/28/2010

re-wrapped in love

Urgency Day 234

500 Things Items 256-67:  Re-gifts

How far would you go for a friend?

Most of us would say, “Anywhere;” to any lengths. And most of the time, we would mean it.

We would then have to confront those nagging memories of inconvenience, when we didn’t answer the ringing phone, or offer to take the children, or visit the nursing home.

Go the extra mile.

Last Thanksgiving, my niece flew, and my sister, my brother and my mom drove 726 miles to share a few precious hours and one iconic meal with us.

Last week, our best friends drove their three young sons 772 miles to celebrate Christmas morning with us.

726 miles and 772 miles, each way. That’s 2996 miles of love.

In a lifetime, that’s probably relatively insignificant. In the span of a few weeks, that’s an intervention.

Like so many right now, my family is enduring some tough times. The specific details vary; ours happen to be financial; others may be medical, emotional or spiritual. When you’re stuck in the middle of your particular pickle, however, the details matter less than the oppression. When, when, when. When will our life improve? When will my life improve? When?!

In the middle of this crazy myopia, we have been buoyed by an entire community, very near and much too far, of hearts walking around, driving around, flying around, trying to distract us from a wretched case of the “whens.”

“Now,” they say. Now we love you. Now we can be together. Now matters.

An on-going debate on these pages has been about striking a balance between regret and reform. I regret, often and obsessively, past profligacy. Every ridiculously misspent, overspent dollar now haunts me. Can even one of those dollars be recalled? Can any be regretted back into my back account? Oh my, no. But if they could, my regret would be the engine of redress.

So there’s no going back. But going forward, redeeming and reforming a profligate life, what does that look like?

It looks a lot like that bin of old wrapping paper pictured above.

As I downsize our possessions, through this project and through other calculated means, I have been asked if it wouldn’t be better just to hang onto our stuff, eventually use it up and not have the potential scenario of needing to repurchase something I am now downsizing.

That’s a very thoughtful query, one I can appreciate in a way I cannot the “More is always better!” rebuff I have received. And truthfully, is there some stuff I am simply using up instead of downsizing? Of course! Candles come to mind. I have a great many decorative candles which I will systematically burn through for as long as they will last. An abundance of candles is my least concern.

But the other items and broad categories of things that are being downsized:

  • the books,
  • the clothes,
  • the toys,
  • the decorations:

For the preservation of these, I feel no conflict, no internal debate. Downsize.

And so, our Christmas this year was themed around frugality, and one highlight was re-gifting. Our steadfast family and those same dear friends–those friends with the three boys who still believe– they accepted and embraced gifts from our downsizing efforts. Toys and clothes and books, gently used and specifically chosen, were wrapped as presents in whatever bits of paper could be found in the house. No new rolls of designer wrapping dressed up hand-me-downs: there was enough old paper and then some, if the gifter didn’t expect one continuous sheet to secret the gift under the tree.

The effect was still beautiful; the sentiment was priceless.

We’ve said our goodbyes, to our beloveds and also to some of our things. A new year quickly approaches. I can’t fly to anyone’s side to express my gratitude for all the love I have received this last difficult year, but in any way I can, in any way that truly matters, I would go to any lengths for each of  you, my dears.

Thank you. All of you.

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I'm hearing a certain Sesame Street song...

Urgency Day 275

500 Things Items 218-222: Five Glass Redundancies

  • History: After a while, does anyone really remember?
  • Value: Some, I suppose
  • Parting Pain: Zip
  • Un-possessing: Donations

This hasn’t happened very often. Today, I pulled an item out of the “To Be Downsized” box.

I keep a box for my 500 Things project. As I come across things I can easily imagine living without—usually while I’m having to dust, clean, store or otherwise maintain them—I put them in the box. Time in this holding box varies based on any of several factors:

  • Scheduled donation opportunities
  • Blog worthy moment still needed
  • One last hurrah desired

So far, not many things have fallen into that last wistful category. Probably as I approach the end of the 500 days, as we downsize into smaller digs and the Self-Contained Unit takes up residence in his ivory yet-to-be-determined tower, I will find it necessary to downsize many more things that, with a less minimalist sensibility and a different life course, I would have kept.

But for now… I still have a lot of crap!

My holidays start on Sunday with the arrival of my beloved niece Laura. If you refresh your memory by reading the birthday tribute I wrote for her last May, you’ll understand why “It’s a Jolly Holiday with Laura.”

Then, a few days later, the rest of the par-tay arrives: Sister Donna, brother Jim, Mom and Charlie the Dog. We won’t be an excessively large group for Thanksgiving, but that’s in keeping with the theme of my project, isn’t it? Still, this wonderful group can hold its own, “spirit-wise.” <ahem> We will certainly miss my niece Erin and Phil, Erin’s husband of exactly one year last Sunday. And Bodhi. We will all miss Bodhi.

Well okay, Mel our cat will not miss Bodhi, a VERY ENTHUSIASTIC! Vizsla our Mel doesn’t find quite as manageable as Charlie the zippy back up Dog.

Anyway, in anticipation of my darlings who are very very partial to their morning coffee and afternoon tea (and midmorning tea and late-afternoon coffee), I was thinking about our downsized collection of coffee mugs and its possible inadequacies. Loyal readers of this blog may scratch their heads trying to remember when I culled our mug collection. Please, stop scratching. Our collection has been “downsized” in a very traditional way:

By the too frequent dropping of mugs down onto the floor which changed their size.

I, however, decline to purchase new mugs and certainly reject any paper or Styrofoam option. But I also hate the idea of the endless dishwasher loads of mugs and glasses used only once. The easy solution came to me when putting another item into the to-be-downsized holding box. I saw that a while ago, I had put in the box some of those stemware baubles people use at parties to help guests identify their misplaced beverages.

Eureka!

I retrieved them and intend to use them constantly with my visiting family, so everyone can keep track of their mugs, wineglasses, cocktails and anything else I can attach them to in hopes of downsizing our holiday washing and purchasing.

And maybe I’ll even attach one to the dog’s tail.

Lord knows the cat may try to “downsize” him.

Charlie waits for his turn on Facebook.

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.

We’re having a blast with visiting friends, but I’m missing blogging! And by the end of their stay, I’m going to be woefully behind. Yikes. I’ll have to think of some wicked-efficient way to catch up. In the meantime, I did add a new page dedicated to my 250 Books Project. If you like, have a peek.

Hope you’re having fun, too. Talk with you soon.

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