Stories

That time I took Abby grocery shopping

The day before Abby headed to school, we had a weird weather day of rain, then snow, then more rain, then nothing, then more snow — with a forecast that was, as Eric put it, for snow accumulation that amounted to anything between a skiff and 10 feet. Knowing she would be facing snow at school, we decided to meet at the grocery store (with 10,000 of our best friends who were also freaking out about the forecast) and get her weekly groceries so she wouldn’t have to worry about that once she got back.

cats for blog

This photo of all my furry children will make more sense later. Left is Goose, Bean is center and Pearl is ignoring everyone as per usual at top.

We were in the meat aisle and I was looking at roasts for the ol’ crock pot (because I still don’t have an oven) and coming up short on the inspiration, and anyway Abby is going vegetarian for environmental reasons. But out of the corner of my eye, I see her place two packages of hamburger and one roast at the bottom of our cart, and I’m like, Hey, what did you get?

And this woman I’ve never seen before was like, Well, I got hamburger and …

And I burst out laughing because, I mean, I tend to have weird interactions with people anyway because I’m just an awkward person so this is par for the course, but wow, totally not my kid. I pointed to Abby and explained that’s who I thought she was (and my astonishment at her meat choices because again, vegetarian) and she was like, I just thought you were really interested in my selection! and I was all, I kind of was because I can’t decide what to get myself but also sorry about that, and she laughed and we wished each other good luck in getting through the store on this crazy, crowded afternoon.

And I ended up with chicken from the meat counter, in case you’re curious.

Speaking of ovens … 

We have movement on the oven front! For those of you who are new, my oven tried to kill me way back in July (I think; whatever, it was a long time ago) and we have been without one since. We researched replacement parts and other various options (and when I say “we,” I mean “Eric.” I like to make a fast decision and live with the consequences whereas he likes to take his time. Which should adequately explain why we’re six months into this oven-less journey), and finally, we decided to accept the reality that we were going to have to get a new one and ordered the thing. The drama!

Christmas sales, got a deal. Well, sort of a deal. Turns out ovens without hoods are SUPER expensive. Why did we think putting an oven in the island was a good idea again?

The oven was supposed to be delivered last week but then we had another snowstorm and it got pushed back to this week. It doesn’t actually matter when it’s delivered, though, because Eric has informed me that he’s not taking out the old one until this spring or summer. Something about retrofitting the space and online reviews that point to huge hassles and, like, not wanting to rip up the kitchen in the winter. So the thing will live in the garage for a bit.

That’s cool. It’s amazing what you can cook in a crockpot. I could write a book at this point. Okay, fine, a pamphlet.

Kitten friends

The snow has excited the boys to no end. Bean and Goose fall over themselves trying to get out of the house every morning so they can go play and hunt and do whatever it is cats do. Yes, they’re in 10 minutes later because they get cold and need pats on the head and reassurances they are good boys and to make sure the food dish is still there (it always is and that always surprises them), but then they’re ready to go back out again. And come in again. Over and over and over.

Well, they’re cats.

Pearl, on the other hand, is greatly offended by the snow and cold and wet. She turns her nose up at the open door and hides behind the couch, where she can look out the window in warmth and safety. She shakes her head at the boys’ antics. I can feel the distain just rolling off her, for them, for the snow, for anyone who is dumb enough to go out into that dripping mess.

I feel you, Pearl. We are idiots.

The end.

Self-care: Changing my definition

What I thought of as my self care routine was the equivalent of considering that picking someone up in your car, not saying a word, and then driving them around the block and dropping them off 10 minutes later is the most romantic date you’ve ever been on. You’d never do that to someone else, so why would you do that to yourself?

— Kyle Nicolaides (HERE)

So. Self-care. I’ve had an epiphany. Um, over the course of like three months or something because I’m an idiot and it takes time for me to sort through whatever it is the universe is trying to tell me. And also because “health” is one of my grand plans this year and self-care is certainly a part of that whole ordeal.

I found the above quote when I was researching bullet journals — I was setting up my 2020 January-June journal and thinking about what sort of habits I wanted to track. That quote struck me as being sort of funny — in a sad kind of way because wow, relatable — and then I forgot about it.

Until Abby and I were at Friday Lunch one (when else?) Friday and I had a lightbulb moment. Abby was talking about the guilt she feels when she rests / practices self-care. How she can’t turn off her brain. And I was like, Oh, well, why don’t you just journal about what makes you happy and then cross stuff off that list? and she was all, Do you think I haven’t tried that yet? Because I have and it doesn’t work.

Hold. The. Phone. That sounds vaguely familiar … because I’ve also read the articles and made the journal entries and I am also terrible at it.

Ah, it’s so humiliating to find yourself giving pseudo-advice to your kid and then getting called on the bullshit that it is.

What I think of as self-care is really the bare minimum a person has to do to maintain any semblance of health. Because there’s always something else that is more important, or I don’t have time, or I feel guilty about taking the time when there’s so much else I should be doing.

The lightbulb: I think of self-care as special treats. And if something is a treat, that means it’s not necessary. It’s frivolous. It’s stupid. It’s easy to toss aside.

But in reality — and a shout out to Oxford Dictionary — self-care is “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”

And then it occurred to me that taking care of myself is already routine, in that I have to, like, shower and brush my teeth and stuff. I just don’t think of those things as “self-care.” Could those things help me protect my well-being and happiness? Maybe even give me a buffer on the anxiety front?

Hmm. I have to wash my hair — but I can use a lavender bar and an organic conditioner.

I have to shower — but I can use the pumice stone Mom gave me for Christmas (hi, Mom!) on my heels.

I have to wash my face — but I can use a nice bar of soap and moisturize afterwards.

Which made me wonder: What else could I do to make what’s already routine into something more restorative? What could I add to my routine?

Meditation as self-care? Music? Reading? Eating for my guts? Exercise and family time and allowing myself to be bored? Being honest with myself and saying “no” to those things I don’t actually like but feel like I have to do?

I’ve been looking at this all wrong, in other words. I practice self-care every day — I’m just not mindful about it. I have to take that extra whole minute to apply moisturizer before I go to bed. I have to get up from my desk and leave the office for a real lunch break. I have to open a book instead of an app on my phone. I have to tell myself that nothing else is more important in that moment. The chores of life can wait their turn. And that this is nothing to feel guilty about. You can’t save anyone else if you don’t put on your own lifejacket first and all that.

I’ve got the theory down! Um, just keep your fingers crossed for me on the actual practice, which is the part I always fail.

New year’s grand plan no. 3: Health

I’m blessed with relatively good health, sensitive stomach and anxiety issues aside. Genetics mean I don’t have to worry about things like high blood pressure or diabetes or bad cholesterol or obesity. My doctor told me once that I could pick up a bad habit and still be okay. (“You could start smoking!”) Too bad I’m not interested in vices beyond coffee and books.

But that doesn’t mean I’m healthy. I’m worry because I’m 6-feet tall — and how many tall older women do you see? I know exactly one. (Not me.) I’m thin-ish but not in shape — I get winded walking up steps. My water intake is whatever is in my coffee. I have a job that consists of sitting in a cubical at a computer. About the only thing I really have going for me is my diet, and that’s just because I have so many food sensitivities, I can’t eat anything that’s super bad. Sugar makes me feel gross, but that is my weakness, and I eat a lot of (fair trade, slave free, minimally packaged) chocolate. And am rather fond of one (dairy and sugar free but packaged) chocolate coconut “ice cream” bar. I worry a lot. And when I get stressed, which is often, I self-destruct.

So I added “health” to my list of grand plans in 2020 as well. Not as fun as reading books, but to be fair, it’s also not as overwhelming as trying to clean out my reading retreat. This one is more about mindfulness:

  • Remembering to drink actual water. Not counting coffee as flavored water.
  • Remembering to take breaks.
  • Remembering to shop and eat for my gut.
  • Remembering to breathe and meditate.
  • Remembering to turn off my phone and do something constructive with my time.
  • Remembering to get out my yoga mat.
  • Remembering my body needs exercise.
  • Remembering my body needs rest.
  • Remembering that I have ways to deal with negative emotions and spirals and that it’s best to acknowledge and work through than numb and ignore.
  • Remembering to make self-care appointments (massage, acupuncture, reflexology).
  • Remembering that self-care is not special occasion stuff, but an everyday need.

It’s a lot to keep track of, at least now in the beginning. Why, yes, I do have pages devoted to this in my journal, how’d you know? My hope is that eventually, this will all be a part of my routine — I dearly love routines. I’m slowly figuring out the parts of my regular routine that can be cues for healthy habits, like: Hey, I just finished editing this story, time for a drink of actual water! Hey, it’s lunch, let’s take a walk around the block! Huh, just brushed my teeth, time to floss!

Here’s what’s motivating me: Every year during my year-end journaling sprees, I go back over previous years’ entries. I always see that health is a goal — and have to confront the fact that I’ve taken zero steps towards restarting my yoga and walk break routines, that I’m still making bad choices when I’m stressed and that I make no real effort to rest beyond taking naps on weekends. That I’m dehydrated as hell.

And I don’t know, having lost so many loved ones last year, I’m thinking that what I have is a gift and I’m squandering it on stupid stuff that I don’t even care about, aka my phone.

I want to be a tall, cool old lady. I want to be an old lady, period. I want to review my 2020 journal in December and know that this year, I took actual, tangible steps towards being healthy.

So that’s my focus this year: Read more books, clean out the spaces that I’ve been ignoring in my house and get healthy. (In addition to my 47th birthday goal of learning how to retrench faster when Plan A goes awry, of course.)

I’m excited. And I’m never excited.

New year’s grand plan no. 2: Decluttering projects

I’ve mentioned my reading retreat a couple of times, I think — you can see it if you click HERE (an old post on Pointless Ramble from Dec. 2012) — and if I have, then I’ve also mentioned that while it was a good idea in theory, it turned out to be not so good in practice. Um, as you can see in THIS post (March 2015).

I’ve never actually used my retreat as a retreat. Well, when the girls were young, they’d find me, and then I’d feel like a jerk for hiding. And then, when we started decluttering at the beginning of our minimalist adventure, the retreat was the dumping ground for all the crap we planned to get rid of.

Because there were always more pressing areas of the house to tackle, like the kitchen or the bathroom or bedroom closets. I’ve tried a couple times over the years to go through my retreat, but I’ve never been successful; that room is stressful and I hate even going in there. So I always tell myself I’ll tackle it later.

Well, it’s later.

I’ve been thinking a lot about energy flow, stagnation and resistance. How I crave peace and calm but have this dusty, dirty, cluttered, overwhelming space in my house — inside my own bedroom — that is a panic attack waiting to happen.

And maybe I will realistically never use this as a reading retreat — but I can tell you this, I’ll never know if I don’t clean that thing out. I’ve given myself until the end of March; I need a hard deadline or I will continue to put this off. I’ve set up a page in my journal to keep track of my progress. And I’m keeping this advice from Martha Beck in mind (full post from her website HERE):

Don’t try to de-clutter everything at once. Choose ONE drawer or ONE shelf or ONE flat surface in your home. Clear everything out or off of it. If you are a natural-born de-clutterer, you’ll find yourself throwing away or donating items you don’t use. If, on the other hand, you are more a natural-born hoarder type, you might feel clutching anxiety when you try to let go of an outmoded object. This reflects an unwillingness to let go of outmoded beliefs as well. As you do the thought work, your anxiety and resistance will ease up.

UNWILLINGNESS TO LET GO OF OUTMODED BELIEFS? Have you been reading my diary, Martha Beck?

The thing that just kills me is that I am a seasoned minimalist, I’ve done the hard work, I know what it takes to declutter AND I STILL have this issue! What the hell! And I know that I have this issue because I’ve put off cleaning this area for so long — because I don’t want to make the hard decisions on what to do with film negatives or old cards or my scrapbook supplies or collection of Everyday Food magazines. I don’t want to sort through photos or letters or old decorations that I put in my retreat in the first place because I don’t know what to do with them. I’ve got years and years of layers in there.

No wonder I’m overwhelmed. But I figure if I can just hang in there for 20 minutes to start, maybe I’ll eventually be able to last a half hour, then an hour, and then it will be over and done.

So far it’s going okay. I’m trying to dust as I go and get rid of the easy items first — like books I’ve read once and will never read again. It’s simple to toss those in a bag and donate them to the library board’s book sale. Film negatives can wait for February. 😉

And since apparently I am all high on the new year and possibility, I’ve decided that, after my three months are up and my retreat is squeaky clean, I’m going to start in on my laundry room. I tackled one cupboard during my Simple Year (HERE) and have yet to go back. It’s another chaotic dumping ground.

Wish me luck. Also: Anyone else have a decluttering goal for the new year?

New year’s grand plan no. 1: Reading more books

Last year, I read 32 books in total. And, I mean, yay me, I guess.

james-tarbotton-367-unsplash

Hello Kindle, love of my life.

But I’m disappointed in that number — because it reflects how much time I waste online instead of reading. And the fact that I am prone to slogging through books, no matter how much I dislike them. Which means I resist reading at all, so it takes forever to finish a title.

Um, and it also reflects the fact that I am a rather disorganized reader who relies too much on the eLibrary — the trend there is nothing nothing nothing for months, and then all six of my holds becoming available at once. Not an exaggeration.

Well, this year I have the goal of reading 60 books — that breaks down to five books a month. I don’t actually know if I can read 60 books this year (that might be too optimistic), but I’d like to see how close I can get, anyway.

Here’s how I’m going to do it:

I am not going to read books I don’t like. As an English major (I know, gag), I was trained to read what was assigned. That carries over even now, in that if I start a book, I’m going to finish it, no matter how much I dislike it. Dude, I’ve read hundreds of books I don’t like. Well, no more. This year, I’m making a pact: If I don’t feel it in the first 50 pages, it’s time to find something else. Um, it will be hard to remember because the urge to slog through is strong. But that shit needs to stop.

I am going to be realistic about my eLibrary checkouts. I try to cheat the system by keeping my Kindle on airplane mode and then plowing through titles just to get through them … which I may or may not be able to do, given that books tend to come ready for checkout in clusters over the course of a week. If I know I won’t get to a title, I will check it back in for the next person, and then put myself back on the waiting list. Maybe I’ll have better luck in a few months when it comes ready again.

I am going to buy more eBooks. I kind of feel bad about feeding the Amazon machine, although to be fair, my girls and Eric prefer real books so we buy a lot of those, too, mostly from independent bookstores. Justification!

I am going to read Abby’s real books. I like my Kindle. No, I love my Kindle. I haven’t read a real book in years because I’d rather read on my device. Abby has a huge collection of books that I’ve never read, however. It’s time to utilize this resource.

I’m going to reread my favorites. I have a lot of favorites.

I am going to get into the habit of reaching for a book instead of my phone. This will be HARD. I’m trying to break my phone addiction anyway and this seems like one solution. The only potential issue will be that when I read, I like to read — like for at least a half hour, none of this reading in spurts stuff — so this is not my natural response to having a couple of minutes of downtime.

If I read the same title twice, I’m going to count it as two books. Is this cheating? Wait, who cares, these are my resolutions. Anyway, I like to read books twice because the first time, I’m too busy trying to figure out what’s going on to pay attention to all the finer details.

I’m tracking books in my journal. I do this to a certain extent anyway, but lately I’ve gotten out of the habit of reviewing what I read — and just a list of titles doesn’t help me on that front when I’m trying to write my year-end review. 😉

I’m sort of interested to see how January goes, actually, because by the end of this month, I’ll know how realistic my plan is. As of right now, I’ve finished two books and have started a third. But I’m still in the honeymoon phase of my goal, so …

P.S. If anyone wants to throw a title or two my way, feel free.

More reading on reading more (ha!): Austen Kleon, “How to read more books” (HERE).

A day of rest

Three days into the new year, I decided to take a day off from work. There were a few reasons for this: I have some vacation and personal time I need to burn before my work anniversary comes around in February and everything resets (and I am a firm believer in using your vacation days); the girls are both off from school so Mama Fun Time; and I had scheduled a massage for 10:30 a.m.

And also: I’m tired.

Pearl for blog jan 4

Pearl is GREAT about resting.

I’m kind of terrible at resting. I’m also kind of terrible about self-care — I do the bare minimum you’d give, like, a goldfish, to keep myself going. And that’s one of my goals for the new year, to up my level of care to at least what I give Bean and Goose. 😉 (That’s another story for another time. I have a series of “New year’s grand plans” posts coming up.) It’s occurred to me that you can’t get by on goldfish-level care of yourself and not expect to be run down.

ANYWAY. I succeeded! And I’m terribly proud of that because, again, goldfish. I slept in until 8 a.m. and then I had my coffee and journal time. I took a long, hot shower. I remembered to breathe. I went in for my massage — this woman is a genius — and came out feeling like a new person.

Then I hit my favorite Friday Lunch spot and ordered my usual salad and Americano. Um, and a side of chips, because I was in the mood and they come on a plate, not in a bag. I had plans of having lunch with the girls, but they both have lives so that didn’t work out. Abby was able to meet me for some of the time; the rest of it I spent journaling about my massage (why was my anxiety triggered by driving to a massage, of all things? Why did my body resist a particular stretch she was performing? What does all this have to do with stagnation and flow?) and reading.

Tangent: When Abby came in, I asked if she had any quarters because the guy who checks the meters in our town is ON IT and there’s a 98-percent chance you will get a ticket if you leave your car unattended. And I had scrounged up all the spare change I could find in the car but came up a bit short. A lady I’d never seen before was all like, I have a quarter! and instead of being like, No, no, that’s okay, as is the Trisha Way, I accepted it and thanked her, and then fed my meter. People are kind, so why is my first instinct always to decline? Maybe if we let each other help out, we’d be less divided.

I spent two hours at the coffee shop, and it was lovely — I never have time to just hang out because I’m always worried about what’s next. Well, what was next was a nap with kittens and my weighted blanket. Which was also lovely.

After my nap = more writing. Then I sort of got dinner going, except Eric came home and I was all, This day has been exhausting with naps and massages and lunch out, and he was like, I’ll cook, and I was all, BLESS YOU. So I just kept writing. The girls were both home for dinner and everyone sat at the table and talked — that’s pretty rare and it was appreciated.

And then I read. And then I washed my hair. And then I read some more. And then I went to bed. I woke up Saturday morning at 6 a.m., ready to go.

Huh. That’s what you get for resting, I suppose.

Lessons from my day of rest: It is possible. I always think of it as holing up at home and doing nothing, but this showed me that it’s more just doing whatever you need to fill up the reservoir. And maybe that self-care doesn’t have to be / shouldn’t be a special event for that to happen. How can I translate this to a random Sunday? It’s interesting to think about, anyway.

Best books of 2019

I had big plans at the beginning of 2019 to keep on top of sharing my book list … and then life happened and I got into a reading funk, like writers block only with books. That’s probably why I only read 32 this year. To put that in perspective, I read 44 in 2018.

Instead of listing all the books I’ve read, I’ve decided to just go with my favorites. Some are new, some are old, some are nonfiction but most are fiction. (My whole life is nonfiction and I need a break, that’s why.)

No links on the titles, sorry about that, I’m tired. Also, I was going to wait until Thursday to post this but then it would be 2020 and I want to be done with 2019, if that makes sense. This is the last piece. So here we are.

*

Mirage by Somaiya Daud. When does the second book come out again? Clever, well written, makes you think.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Alaskans are tough, that’s what this book taught me. Entertaining, aggravating at times, quick read.

About a Boy by Nick Hornsby. Adorable.

The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test by Merve Emre. After reading this, it made me rethink my attachment to my INFJ-T “ranking.” I mean … it’s all kind of just made up, really. Interesting read.

An American Marriage by Tarari Jones. Crushing and great.

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. Fun, quick reads with interesting characters.

Educated by Tara Westover. I will forever be amazed at this woman’s story — it’s fascinating, heartbreaking and insane.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. This book crushed my soul. Nonfiction but written in story form. HIGHLY recommend.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I don’t know why I was so surprised to like this book so much — The Graveyard Book is one of my all-time favorites, after all. Great story, easy read.

There There by Tommy Orange. Outstanding. Made me ponder my own white privilege and all I take for granted.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Excellent all around — World War II-era Europe, tight storyline, I can see why everyone raved about it.

Becoming by Michelle Obama. Here’s what I learned: Michelle Obama is my best friend. She’s kind and strong and flexible and knows herself, and her insights into life in the White House (and the constant scrutiny her family was under) were really interesting. Come back, Obamas!

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell. Book two of a Simon and Baz series. Three magic English kids go on an American adventure. Entertaining and easy to read. Rowell is American, but her commentary on America through her characters’ eyes is hilarious. And, I mean, also spot-on.

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meisser. Another World War II-era book. I learned new things about American history from this little work of fiction and I am not impressed, but that’s half the plot so I’m keeping my mouth shut. Some of the storyline seems contrived, especially at the end, but eh, it didn’t bother me that much.

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer. The third and last book in the Supernova series and a satisfying conclusion.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Noah is a gifted storyteller and is hilarious. And it was eye-opening. Recommend.