Stories that are so important I almost forgot about them

I’m writing this in a rather noisy gym, keeping half an eye on Johanna and her teammates as they go through basketball drills at practice. I’m not necessarily feeling antisocial, but I also learned last month that if I pull out my laptop and start typing, everyone assumes I’m writing a newspaper article and they leave me alone.

And it’s too convenient not to utilize. It’s been a long day.

Anyway, now that I’ve shown what a jerk I am, let me tell you a couple of minimalist / zero waste stories that I forgot to write about earlier.

Story one: Bulk aisle connection

Once upon a time, I was in the bulk aisle of my favorite grocery store. It was, I will admit, an unplanned trip, so I didn’t have any of my jars with me. I was purchasing items in paper bags, as paper can be reused, recycled AND composted. The only downside: They’re made from trees.

Anyway, OF COURSE I noticed someone filling their jars. A man had several that he was systematically filling and putting into his cart. On one hand, I was so jacked — seeing another kindred soul was rather thrilling. On the other, I’d forgotten my jars, which made me feeling like a failing failure.

Still, I couldn’t help but talk to him a bit about zero waste. I told him I was happy to see him filling his jars because usually it is only me with mine, even though I’d forgotten mine that day. He was grinning, so I decided I wasn’t being too weird. (Yes, I get the irony that I am the sort of person who will talk to a stranger in the bulk aisle, but here at basketball practice surrounded by friends, I am pretending to be working. I’m a complicated woman.)

He said that what he liked most about bringing reusables to the grocery store is that, when he gets home, he just has to put them in the cupboard — there’s no decanting. I agreed. That is definitely the best part about the whole ordeal. No packaging to deal with later is another big plus.

Spoiler alert: Just as I wrote “I agreed” above, a friend came over and told me to quit working and be social. That made me laugh. Anyway, now I’m back at home to finish this thing up.

Story two: New old dish towels

When Eric and I got married … 23 years ago … my great-aunt gave us a set of seven hand-embroidered dish towels that she’d purchased from a craft sale. They were adorable (kittens!) and I was young, so instead of using them, I stuck them in my cedar chest and forgot about them.

Last month, though, when I took all the crap out of my chest and made it into blanket storage (a dream come true, I’m still thrilled with myself, post HERE), I found those towels. And I washed them and put them in a drawer in the kitchen and we’ve been using them ever since.

A couple of them are already stained by paint because my artist in residence, aka Johanna, would apparently rather use a pristine towel than one of the thousands of rags we have when she’s creating her masterpieces. Well, kids are terrible. I’m trying to remember that we live in a house, not a museum, so who cares anyway.

Story three: Goodwill, bad vibes

Forty-six going on … 55, apparently.

I took January 2 off from work to eat up one of the vacation days I’m about to lose. I’d planned to hang out with my girls, but instead I found myself at home alone and decided what I really wanted to do was take a trip to the next town over and check out their Goodwill.

I’ve been wanting another pullover sweater because DAMN this winter has been cold. I also wanted to see what they had in the way of standing light fixtures, as I am looking to add a reading light to the living room. I never have complete luck when I go to Goodwill — I think it takes a patience and perseverance that I lack — but I was exited to try.

And lo and behold, I found a pretty awesome gray pullover that fit well and rocked my world. Feeling rather cocky with my sweater success, I took a spin around the furniture section to see if I could find a suitable lamp (and then the houseware aisles … all those homeless coffee pots make me so sad). I did not, so I made my way to the checkout line.

The girl behind the counter thanked me for my patience (the line was looooong) and asked if I’d found what I was looking for. Then our conversation took a rather interesting turn:

Checker: So do you qualify for our 55 and older discount today?

Me: Um … no.

Checker: Not yet, huh?

Me: I’m … 46.

Checker: …

Me: …

Me: … I don’t need a bag, incidentally.

Oh, lord, it was so awkward. She had no idea what to say to me after that, and it was all I could do to keep it together — not because I was angry, but because I was afraid I’d start laughing and that would make it worse. Well, that answers THAT question, I said to myself as I got into the car, and then I really did let myself laugh it out. Ah, I needed that.

Look, I do not dye my hair, so my bad, really. And I had a great time relaying that story to my coworkers, especially since I had JUST had a conversation with two of them about how, despite my graying hair, I do not look “old.”

Uh, apparently I do …

And that concludes our three thrilling tales of awe and wonder. I know. Sometimes I can’t believe this is my life, either.

The end.

New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately on New Year’s Resolutions and how to make them stick. The consensus seems to be to focus on themes rather than specifics, stacking new habits on top of old ones and priming your environment for success. To concentrate on the process instead of the outcome, and to know your “why” — the motivation behind the goal.

So: Getting healthy vs. exercising daily, making coffee and adding morning stretches or whatever, and packing a lunch the night before so you make good choices.

According to my reading, if you’re doing something because you think you should, you’re probably not going to get as far as you will if you’re doing something for a specific reason — otherwise you’ll see it as deprivation. It’s the difference between being reactive and being proactive, if that makes sense.

I don’t know, I find all of this fascinating.

I’m still trying to hammer out my goals for the year and what implementing them would look like. That is perhaps another post for another time, but I will say that I’m leaning towards a theme of health — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Taking care of my stupid guts. Connection and introvert time. 

That sort of thing. Eh, the year is long, I’m not rushed.


Just in random news, I’ve been asking for world peace or an iPhone for decades now (wait, have iPhones even been around that long?) and … it looks like world peace is going to have to wait because Eric got me a phone for Christmas. It’s a BIG step up from my flip phone (well, technically a slide phone). I’m alarmed by how much I love this thing. It’s been so much easier to keep in touch with friends and family. Um, which means mostly Abby, who also got a phone for Christmas. Eric and Johanna are keeping their “dumb phones” for now. Eric is anti-technology so I don’t see him upgrading to a smartphone until he literally has no other choice. And Johanna doesn’t care.

Books this year

I regret posting a partial list of the books I’d read through May 22 HERE, just because now it seems a little anticlimactic. Although no I don’t because I was really excited to share what I’d read.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

One of my goals this year was to never be without a book, and I mostly succeeded. I only read two all of December because I was waiting for the eLibrary to come through and I went through a dry spell in February for reasons I no longer remember. I used to write down all titles I’d read on a bookmark and move it from book to book, but now I keep a running list in my journal. I read one “real” book all year (Abby’s copy of “Dreams from my Father”) and the rest were on my Kindle. Kinda hard to go the ol’ bookmark route with that routine solidly in place.

(And I know, real books are great. My girls and Eric are real book fans and we do our part for the local bookstore. I just prefer my Kindle — I like having my entire collection in my backpack. It’s one of my anxiety coping methods, so …)

Anyway, here’s the first half of my book list, to review:

  • A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (second in a series of three and fantastic)
  • Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham (entertaining)
  • Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson (reread; heartbreaking and wonderful)
  • Renegades by Marissa Meyer (love this author)
  • Heartless by Marissa Meyer
  • Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama (eye-opening!)
  • All Those Things We Never Said by Mark Levy (don’t bother)
  • Wolf by Wolf and Blood by Blood by Ryan Graudin (SO GOOD)
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (wonderful, one of the best all year)
  • Iron by Iron by Ryan Graudin (novella, also great)
  • Cinder and Scarlet and Cress and Winter, all by Marissa Meyer (rereads, totally entertaining)
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (loved)
  • The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (cute)
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (amazing)

Since May 22, I’ve read:

  • Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (both rereads, two favorites of mine)
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen (lost count how many times I’ve read this one. It’s my favorite Austen)
  • The Fates Divide by Veronica Ross (Carve the Mark II; even better than the first one)
  • Dreams of Running by Mara Fields (my best friend in high school, really great — she tackles ALL the issues)
  • A Reaper at the Gate by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes series)
  • The Wrath and the Dawn, and The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh (both were really great)
  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (wasn’t sure I’d like this one at first but found it entertaining enough)
  • The Leavers by Lisa Ko (seriously great)
  • One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus (also seriously great)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG? This book was amazing; Abby recommendation)
  • The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg (don’t bother)
  • Harry Potter — the entire series (rereads, still in love)
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (so great)
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (nope)
  • Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass IIV; I’ve put COUNTLESS hours into this series so I was damn well gonna finish it!)
  • Archenemies by Marissa Mayer (Renegades II; great)
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine by Gail Honeyman (one of my favorites this year)
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (another favorite and an Abby recommendation)

It turns out that I read 44 books this year, and while I’d kind of like to crank another one out before the year ends to make it an even (odd?) 45 so my OCD calms down, I’m going to take a breath and let it go. And P.S., I was going to keep track of pages read, but it turns out I don’t care. I’m more interested in the stories.

Most of these were checked out from our county’s eLibrary. A few I enjoyed so much that I purchased them AND any subsequent sequels. I’ve also learned that the books available on Amazon Prime are lacking as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve got a new list of books I’d like to read in 2019. I looked up best book lists on Goodreads and fell into a couple of “best book” articles (one from Time Magazine, I think?). I’ve got more nonfiction on my list for the coming year; we’ll see how I do with that. My whole life is nonfiction, so I prefer the break that comes from reading fiction.

What were the best books you read this year? I got a little space still on my 2019 list. 😉

December 24: Grounded awareness

“We sometimes get so caught up in the world that we forget who we are. We need to return to a sense of grounded awareness rather than forcing our minds to be busy with worries, work and future obligations.” 

— Trevor McDonald
Photo by Sabri Tuzcu,

I am one of those people who takes too much on and then wonders why I’m stressed out.

You’re a wise dude, Trevor.

I’ve put some thought into how I can personally attain what seems to kind of a lofty goal (ironic though that is … lofty … grounded … uh, maybe it’s just me) and what I’ve come up with is this:

Instead of worrying today, I am going to simply notice my surroundings. Just for today, I’m not going to get caught up in the world. I’m not going to allow my mind to worry about what I’ve done in the past, stress about work or anything remotely out there in the future —not even Christmas tomorrow.

And when I find myself spinning off in that direction, I will take a breath, remind myself that I am choosing to notice RIGHT NOW, and then ACTUALLY TAKE NOTICE. Because Christmas Eve is actually pretty fun.

What would be awesome is if I could live like that every day. I could, of course, if I had a brain transplant. Or just paid more attention to the ground beneath my feet.

December 21: We don’t have to do it all

“I’ve been a victim of my own ambition and crumbled under the pressure to keep up with everything I’ve taken on.” 

— Christine, “Living with Margins” blog
First day of winter and longest night of the year … so I thought we could use some sunshine.

Self-inflicted victimhood is overrated. I don’t have to be a martyr this season. I don’t technically have to do anything (as we established HERE).

What can we delegate? What can we leave behind? What do we need to do to fill ourselves up this season? It’s like December is a competition that we’re bent on winning, come hell or high water.

I think I’d rather take a nap.

Several years ago, Eric took over purchasing presents for the girls; I just do stockings (which is way more fun). We don’t put up holiday lights — but we do like hopping in the car as a family to take in the lights around town. And there are a couple of holiday gatherings we attend every year because we enjoy them.

And that’s about it.

So this is just a reminder: We don’t have to do it all. We don’t have to crumble under the weight of our own expectations. Trisha says so, that’s why — okay?

December 19: Accepting where you’re at

“When we do something big and life-changing, we might be expecting life to radically change and sometimes, it stays the same. You’re living in a different house or in a different country or with a different person, but fundamentally, things are the same because YOU are the same.”  

— Suzanna Conway
Photo by

Reading the above was one of those lightbulb moments — even when I’m not doing something utterly big or life-changing, just doing small things, I still expect big changes: To feel different or be different or something radical. But that’s not the way it works.

I like to look back in December and evaluate the past year, and I expect to see changes and growth and good things. But maybe that’s unrealistic. And maybe that’s also a lot of pressure. I didn’t do everything on my 2018 goal list, and some of what I did do didn’t stick. Does that mean the whole year was a bust? Is it bad that things are fundamentally the same because I am fundamentally the same?

Maybe just accepting where we’re at is the best wish for ourselves today.

December 17: Daylight

“Deal with problems in the daylight.” 

— Austin Kleon
Photo by Jan Haerer,

This is probably the best practical advice ever given.

Everything looks so much brighter during the day. At night, the walls seem closer, everything is dark and that can mess with your mind. (It messes with my mind, anyway.) Screw that, you guys — we’ve got a new rule: No thinking about our problems after the sun goes down. There’s plenty of time for that tomorrow when we’re all serene, like Emerson taught us HERE.

P.S. Kleon has a fun blog HERE.