Friday, December 26, 2008

Word of the Year

Today tastes like blueberry muffin tops fresh from the bakery, with the decadent crumbled topping; piping hot dark roast coffee with just a little cream; maple sugar bacon; and wet silk.

I've written before about Christine Kane and how she doesn't form New Year's resolutions, but instead, sets an intention by selecting a word to live by for the next year. Not something to beat yourself up with ("Excel!" "Perform!" "Flagellate!") but something to quietly guide you ("courage", "desire", "dream").

I've decided on "Complete."

See, Mormons have been known to envy my stash. Food, yarn, paper, fabric, cosmetics . . . honey, I could be snowed in here for a year and come out with my sanity, leftovers, and projects still in the works, with my face freshly scrubbed and hair washed. I have cut all the easy stuff, I'm doing better about not bringing in more stuff, now it's time to dig a little deeper.

I need to finish the dribs and drabs of this and that. I need to use it up and toss it, rather than cutting it in half all the way to Zeno's Paradox. 1 I get about three-quarters of the way done, and then I get fear of completion. I will never have another project/bottle of conditioner/bar of soap again, so I have to get another whatcher available in the stash. Then I start using less and less of the nearly done item, so as to make it last.

And then I finally get down to the last use and instead of taking inventory (what do I have already that will serve this purpose) I put it on the list and get a second . . . only to discover the original first waiting in the stash for me.

Enough. Use it up and toss the empty. Check the stash and replace from stock. Complete what you started.

And what about the stuff that you buy, try once, and don't care for? The projects that seemed like such a good idea when you began, but now you find you can't stand tole painting/needlepoint/crocheted toilet paper rolls?

Simple. If you cannot complete a project started, then be complete with the process. Have the pleasure from having enjoyed whatever it was and wherever you got to (the quilt from cherished t-shirts that you drew up a sketch for and never cut out, the pants you were going to make into shorts that no longer fit, the layette set of one bootie and half a sweater for the child now in middle school) and then repurpose or get rid of the materials. Send the pants to Goodwill if they aren't shreddy junk, rip the layette and make a Linus binkie, throw out the t-shirts.

Make some peace, and make some space for the things that matter to you now. Soon enough, they, too, will fall by the wayside--and that's okay.

1. You can never get from one point to another, because first you must travel half the distance from here to there, but to get to the halfway point, you must get half of that distance, but to get there you have to get halfway from the start to the quarter-point, and so on so on so forth. So yes, the three year old is right--Christmas is never going to come!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Read the Small Print Between the Lines

Today tastes like cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, and avocados. Like champagne and creek water, like belgian chocolates and crostini. Like proscuitto and melon and gunpowder.

It's been one of those days, and it's not even half-over yet. A co-worker heard me muttering about taking the whole world on a picnic.

"Oh, that's so sweet and generous of you!" she cooed. "You're so giving and nurturing! You want to sit down and make peace with the whole world."

I almost--ALMOST--didn't have the heart to explain that when you "take someone on a picnic" you take them to a pristine and deserted place full of wildflowers and trees, near a babbling brook. You feed them lovely morsels of finger food, and chill wine in the icy stream. You laugh and talk in the sun, gentle breezes ruffle your hair, and you share a deep and intimate connection.

Then you kill them, and bury the body where no one will ever find it.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Batteries Not Included

Today tastes like london broil, chives, and ink, with a side of tinsel.

I can really feel the turn in the economy and the presidency, as well as the mood of the nation. It's not so much the news stories (if I hear ONE MORE fluff piece on how bleak everything is, I'll scream) but in the way the holiday is proceeding.

First, a confession. This year, Gareth and I are doing Christmas the way you're supposed to do it. Make a list of everyone you gift to and a tentative list of what you're doing for them. Decide on your budget, scale back, and as you spend, track what you laid out. (Before, Gareth would say, "Try to keep it under a grand.")

We have three overlapping circles of folks we gift to. One set is the Grimm's Christmas people (with whom we sit down and swap horror stories every mid-December, as a palate cleansing skeleton at the saccharine feast), one is a group that meets at another couple's house (amusingly, it's the same people year after year. We've joined Gwydion and Callidasia for Xmas Eve for something like FIFTEEN YEARS RUNNING; it's practically a family reunion at this point), and then there's blood kin.

With the second group, it's easy to figure out what the gift is--Christmas ornaments. We've been doing that for several years.

Ornaments are easy to come by, sentimental, and require very little space. Bonus: They're fragile and seasonal. If you can't stand what I bought you, a simple nudge while dismantling the tree will take care of THAT issue. And I won't expect to see you wear it, or see it prominently displayed in your home when I visit.

So out we went this weekend to shop ornaments for group 2. (Group 1 is getting embroidered T-shirts like souveniers . . . from a place that only exists in a handful of my stories.) We'd learned our lesson last year--while you can get deep discounts on ornaments the weekend before Xmas, the crowds and noise are all but unbearable.

This year . . . you could hear the crickets chirping in the aisles. And we were able to scoop up armloads at 15-50 percent off the ticketed price. The malls were about as busy as they are in mid-July, maybe even a little slower.

And tellingly, there've been no catalogues in the mailbox for hyper-priced, super luxy goods and nonsense. Hence, no holiday rant.

I suppose that's a tradition I wouldn't mind discarding . . .

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Mills Grind Fine . . .

Today tastes like cinnamon and bosc pears, turkey and tourmaline, cardamom and snail caviar.

Gareth and I were talking about getting what you need, and going about getting what you need, and who to ask, and what to ask for. He had spent the afternoon holding his boss's hand in small claims court (boss plaintiff, victorious) and had been impressed that the officer of the court was a volunteer with some legal background--but not a lawyer. In Arizona, that's how it works--the only position where you don't have to be an attorney to preside over a courtroom.

Gareth spent a few minutes after the hearing talking with the judge. He's torn about serving his own self as a small claims judge a couple of time a month. On the one hand, it's a great service to the community. Very few intrapersonal disputes ever need to see the inside of the Justice Courts, never mind Superior Court.

On the other, he's not sure he could restrain himself when people stand up and yatter on about it not being the money, but the principal of the thing. The only recourse we have in this society for civil losses is monetary. If you wrong me by killing my pet, I can't have your dog taken out and shot in front of you. The judge will order you to pay me some money.

So the only thing you have any hope of receiving from the court is a money judgment, which it is then up to you to collect. Rule number one: Be clear about what you want. If kneecapping that jackass is the only thing that will make you whole, you need to talk to Guido on the corner, not file suit.

Now, last week, Gareth and I were in a supermarket parking lot, picking up some groceries on the way home, and a fella stopped us, clutching a gas can. Could we spare a buck or two for gas?

Uhm. On the one hand, I've been in a tight spot myself a time or three. On the other, I don't like to hand out money, because money buys all kinds of things and supports all sorts of habits. Carrying a gas can does not mean you'll use the gas can.

So we turned him down, saying we had no cash on hand. Which was indeed true. We find it easier to manage the budget on plastic, and pay in full at the end of the month.

Funny thing though--I was hit up last month by a guy asking for a hand filling a gas can, and I chose to help him out. This other fella approached me at a gas station, can in hand, and explained he just needed a couple bucks' worth to get where he was going. Could I help?

Absolutely. I filled my tank, and then ran a couple of gallons into his can for him. Rule number two: Ask in a place that makes it easy to get what you want. Ask for gas at the gas station. Ask for an item off the dollar menu in front of the McDonald's.

So then we come to tonight. Walking home from the gym, Gareth was in a surly mood. Tonight's workout of the day was a beast--45 pullups and 45 thrusters for time. Good time is under five minutes, ideal time is under three. It only sounds easy.

My best time for this workout was 4:45--hey, that's under 5:00! Tonight I hit 3:31. Gareth took . . . longer than 5:00. So I got the lecture on "Can you see why it pisses me off when you say you're not making progress?"

Let's get this straight--I an athletically DECLINED. (Go for a run? No thanks.) I do the workouts because I have to. However, there is no force in this world that will ever make me like sit-ups, and I hate pull-ups only slightly less. And frankly, instantaneous gratification takes too long.

However, I have to work out, and this program has given me better and faster results than anything else I have tried, so I keep at it, even though a lot of the time I feel like I'm flailing weakly about; a fish in the last hypoxic ecstacies.

And in the course of our discussion, I realized that what I really mean when I say I'm not getting anywhere with this is that I feel like I should be able to do this much better than I am, and the body just isn't co-operating and falling into line.

Rule number three: say what you mean.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Today tastes like paper, sand, and plastic bags from the cleaners.

Blame it on the turkey. I seem to have slept through a week. No knitting, no writing, not even a cribbed poem.

You Are Midnight

You are more than a little eccentric, and you're apt to keep very unusual habits.

Whether you're a night owl, living in a commune, or taking a vow of silence - you like to experiment with your lifestyle.

Expressing your individuality is important to you, and you often lie awake in bed thinking about the world and your place in it.

You enjoy staying home, but that doesn't mean you're a hermit. You also appreciate quality time with family and close friends.

I should have something to talk about soonish . . . or maybe laterish.