December 7: Finish every day and be done with it

“Finish every day and be done with it … You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. To-morrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Photo by Oliver Kiss, unsplash.com

Emerson wrote the above in a letter to his daughter. I cannot even tell you how much I love this. Maybe because it’s something I struggle with.

I have a hard time letting go of the day’s events, judging from how my mind spins as soon as I go to bed. So whatever happens today, I’m going to let it go by this evening. Because I’ll be “too high a spirit” tomorrow morning to be weighed down by this pointless crap.

We may or may not succeed in beginning the day “well and serenely,” but we sure as hell can try.

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Catching up

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged that I’ve almost forgotten how. 😉

I did something this week and last that I haven’t done … ever, I think: I took a vacation. And pretty much just stayed home.

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Hello again!

It was awesome.

I had five vacation days to burn before my work anniversary (it starts over on Feb. 21, ready or not), and I decided that I wanted to take them while Abby was home. Not that I necessarily thought I would see her, but just because I theoretically could. I wanted to be able to take her to lunch, hang out, and help her get ready to go back to school.

Which I did. I also finished a book, took a nap (why only one? I aimed low), played with kittens, and went to the coast (Eric’s family does a big reunion once a year. There were 29 of us spread out among three houses. That was also awesome, and another post for another time). There was a lot of coffee. I started writing about the lessons I learned from my zero waste Simple Year. I screamed at broken jars (that’s also another post for another time), tried not to pay too much attention to the news, and embraced the quiet. I tried to meditate, but I’m really bad at it. I’ll keep trying.

In the past, I’ve always felt like I needed to save my vacation for a specific purpose, and then the time runs out and I take a day here and there and never really feel rested. After my week off, I came back to work ready to go. That’s a good thing because I’ve been feeling burned out on that front — journalism is draining. So note to self: Take the week! Do nothing! Who cares?!

P.S. Winter break was lovely all around, and it was fantastic having Abby home. I love having all my kids under one roof. And yes, Abby made it safely back to school.

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I always pick a word to guide me through the new year, and this year I’ve settled on “peace.” I tried really, really hard to pick another word, but I kept coming back to that one, so I decided I may as well just go with it. Like contentment, I feel like peace is a choice much of the time. I keep coming back to the quote I found for the December Wishes series: “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It mean to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” –Unknown

There’s been a couple times this month I’ve literally yelled, I AM CALM IN MY HEART, because while I crave peace, I find it rather illusive. But my hope is that this word will serve as a reminder to myself that peace is possible — that I can rewrite my internal narrative by proactively seeking alternatives to … well, the chaos, I guess, that tends to plague me (although there’s plenty out in the world too). Because I tend to make things harder for myself than they need to be is what I’m saying.

And so far, so good. I mean, we’re only 19 days in or whatever, but you’ve got to start somewhere. For me, that’s been identifying what I hold dear — i.e., books and coffee and my family — and incorporating more of that into my day. I’m also limiting my social media (and greatly cutting down my “friends” list and sites I follow), taking walk breaks, never being without a book, and taking time to introvert.

It all leads to peace. Or at least, that’s my hope.

Anyway, if you have a moment, update me on what you’ve all been up to. I’ve missed you! I’ll be back Tuesday with a real post.

On the second day of December …

Acceptance

This isn’t the wish I originally had in mind for this day, back when I was planning this whole ordeal out. But then it occurred to me that acceptance is an important piece of the puzzle that is this entire month.

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you chose it. Always work with it, not against it. — Ekhart Tolle

I think there are serious limits, Ekhart, to what we should accept, FYI, but I get your drift. And this is what I’ve been working on lately — to not only live in this moment, but to work with whatever it brings.

Because I need to accept myself, my life, and where I’m at — and to accept others in the exact same way — if I want to have any hope of getting through December gracefully.

I need to accept that I’m just not a holiday-spirit kind of person. That I count losses and am way to introspective at this time of year. That I look old and tired because I am old and tired. That my body is what it is. That life is changing way too quickly and I can’t go back to the way it was when the girls were little.

I can work with all that. I can allow those around me to be as spirited as they want. I can be grateful for the people I love. I can keep track of successes instead of failures. I can eat for my gut and make rest a priority. I can enjoy the time we have with Abby when she’s home on winter break and our family is complete again.

What do you need to accept this month? You can share in the comments, or just to yourself or in your journal.

Thanksgiving highlights

There are some days that happen and, even in the midst of things, you know it’s special and you’re going to remember it all for a very long time. And that’s how Thanksgiving was for us this year.

Just lovely. Good food, great people. Bad weather so no walk, but there was football (I’m sure someone cares about that even if it’s not me) and, for my father-in-law, at least, a nap.

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Pearl is also a fan of the nap.

The minimalist and zero waste aspects of this day were on point, so there’s another win. The packaging around the turkey was the major waste of the day. But we got the biggest one we could find — almost 20 pounds — because it’s technically less packaging for one big item than two or more small ones. And I wanted leftovers for us AND to be able to send food home with anyone who wanted it.

Everything else needed for the day was low waste: Freshly squeezed orange juice, sugar, flour, salt and pepper, a crapload of butter. The fresh cranberries were wrapped in plastic, but I use two packages that my mother had bought … sometime … and had in her freezer (eh, they were gorgeous), so I figure points there because we didn’t buy a new package.

Eric put the leaf in the table and we covered it with blank newspaper — Jo is an artist and I can’t get all the paint spatters off, and I don’t have a tablecloth that big. It was leftover from work and recyclable, so I figure that’s okay. Johanna went through her crayons and put a jarful on the table. She was a little disgusted by my lack of decorations, so she found a couple of candles and then made an origami turkey. It took 10 minutes, Mom, she sighed, exasperated, when I said she’d just whipped it out, because apparently I wasn’t being truthful enough.

Oh, almost forgot, I had exactly enough plates for everyone, I brought out my double set of silverware, my in-laws brought wine glasses (but our everyday pint glasses got a workout too), and we used cloth napkins.

Mostly it was family who joined us, but we also had Abby’s boyfriend and parents over. Everyone else left around 5:30, but they stayed, and we played a rousing game of Apples to Apples, interrupted by leftovers at 7:30. It was awesome. I was slightly worried because these people are engineers and we are … um, goofballs, basically … but it was fun. That game really shows the inner workings of a person’s mind and values, which can be problematic 😉 but it’s also a good conversation starter, so.

Leftovers were forced upon them, either in their containers, or my jars, and when I ran out of those, I dug out some foil. I don’t really have plastic, I told them apologetically — I mean, this is my jam, I don’t expect everyone else to understand — but they didn’t seem too worried about it. I appreciated their ability to accept and adapt. (Ha.)

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Action shot.

Saturday morning I made turkey broth. I figure that’s another way to honor the sacrifice of the bird (I know, deep) as well as get all I can out of something I had to buy in a package. Plus, homemade broth, that’s just full of win.

The only other thing I can think to mention is that it was so great having Abby home, although she wasn’t necessarily at home much — her friends were in town too. We are all looking forward to winter break, when she gets a month off. That’s just three more weeks!

How was your holiday? I want stories!

 

Maintenance: Can you see this font?

UPDATED: I just changed the font to what appears, on my computer, to be darker and easier to read. Is this true for you too? And isn’t technology fun?

I received an email this morning, noting that the font I’m using here makes it difficult to read posts. I’m just taking an informal poll — who’s having the same issue? Is it the font or the color of the font?

Thank you!

Repost: Iced coffee with vanilla syrup

Trisha’s Note: Today I finish up my year on The Simple Year blog, and I’m feeling a little emotional about it — it’s been a very intense zero waste project. So to simutanously celebrate / wash away my sorrows, here’s a post detailing how to make iced coffee and vanilla syrup. Apparently this is my fourth year on the bandwagon. P.S. Just last night I added a cinnamon stick to the syrup to see what would happen. Huh, who knew I was such a genius? P.P.S. Any idea how many I can drink before it just gets pathetic?

Confession: I’m sort of addicted to Pinterest. And by “sort of addicted,” I mean “I check it like six times a day.” This is slightly hilarious and kind of unexplainable because I cannot take anything on there very seriously. Half of the pins are for things that are completely unattainable and the other half are crafts (or “craps,” as Johanna used to say, which is way more accurate). I guess I just like seeing what crazy junk people are pinning. I like a good laugh, as well as self-righteous snorting.

But anyway, last summer this pin from The Pioneer Woman blog was making the rounds:

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Pioneer Woman Perfect Iced Coffee

Perfect. Iced. Coffee. Really, what about this isn’t a win? So I pinned it. And then forgot about it. And then when I remembered again it was winter.

I’ve been going through an iced coffee phase lately, though, and those things are starting to add up. So I’m all like, hey, didn’t I pin something like this once? and then I scrolled through my recipe board and yep, sure enough, sometimes my optimism pays off.

Scanning the blog, I quickly deduced that Ree’s recipe calls for one pound of ground coffee and two gallons of water. Let me repeat that: TWO GALLONS OF WATER. While I have no doubt that my family of four could put away two gallons of coffee-infused awesome, I don’t have anything that would actually hold that amount, both in the soaking and in the storing. So I adapted it, if you can call it that, because: You’re just soaking coffee grounds in water all day. This isn’t rocket science, people.

The Trisha Way: 1/4 pound of ground coffee, 2 quarts water, stirred up in my biggest pot. Then I added a little more water to rinse the coffee grounds from the side, which immediately went back up the side as soon as I moved the pot. Whatever, just let the coffee be for at least eight hours. I went more like 10, I think, I don’t know, details are boring. It’s the concept anyway, not the amounts.

I don’t own cheesecloth, so I put a couple layers of paper towel in my mesh colander to separate the grounds from the liquid gold. (UPDATE: Now I use an old kitchen towel.) This worked quite well. I put the liquid gold in a couple quart jars and capped them off and stuck them in the coldest part of my refrigerator.

Because if I’m going to go big, I’m going to go BIG, I did a quick search for homemade vanilla coffee syrup, and thank you, Google, I found one from Paula Deen. Iced coffee with a shot of vanilla? That’s like my favorite thing ever.

Since this was my first time to the dance with this recipe, I halved it. I like to know what I’m getting into before I make a commitment, you know? What I learned is that I should have just made the full amount because at the rate my family is going, it’s not going to last probably two days.

The Trisha Way: 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 cups water, all stirred up over medium heat for like 10 minutes until it gets syrupy, and then 2 tablespoons homemade vanilla extract when it’s cooled down, put into another quart jar because apparently that’s all I own. (Update: Now I use a repurposed Pendleton whiskey bottle because why would I not?)

Putting it all together: Fill a glass with ice, add liquid gold/chilled coffee base half-way up the glass, then add milk the rest of the way up the glass, and then, of course, add vanilla syrup to taste. Stir that puppy up and be ever so pleased with yourself.

I’m serious, people: Aside from the cleaning recipes I gleaned online, this is the best thing the Internet has ever done for me, period. Abby is ever so impressed with me, and even Eric announced he could drink that all day — and he’s not a coffee person. Johanna, who IS my coffee person, took a drink and then promptly forgot about it. Huh. I CANNOT WAIT to take this into work with me today. It’s like I have a coffee house in my kitchen.

Repeat, repeat, repeat, all summer long. Hooray! I love when something works out better than expected!

The story of our cats

Once upon a time, when Eric and I were first married (21-plus years ago, who’s counting?), we brought Madison into the house literally the day after we got back from our honeymoon. It was a planned adoption from a family who thought they’d be able to keep her, but could not. I wrote annual letters on Madie’s birthday (also my birthday) for the kids so they’d know how she was doing.

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Madie

Madie lived to be 17, and we probably let her go on too long — at the end, she was just super cranky and pissed to be alive, but she was our firstborn, and how do you let go?

In the fall of 2009, I went into my favorite farm stand and saw a crate of kittens. The one in the middle had the most insane whiskers I’d ever seen. I knew this cat was destined to be part of the family, so I brought him home (well, at that time I thought he was a she) even though Eric said that a kitten would probably the death of Madie.

And that’s how we got Skilly. And Madie lived on.

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Our beloved Skilly.

Skilly and Madie were opposites. He was a ball of fluff, she was sleek and skinny. He was friendly and open, she pretty much hated everything at that point. Skilly was an innocent, Madie was super smart. Skilly loved to play with Madie. Madie lived to hiss and scratch at Skilly.

Skilly took it pretty hard when Madie passed in 2012. He was just confused.

And we were confused last July — July 4, I’ll never forget that date — when Skilly went from perfectly fine to completely NOT fine in literally a minute. July 4, being a holiday, meant no vet was open, and we didn’t think it would be a problem if we waited until July 5 to get him in.

It was a problem. Skilly died of kidney failure that evening at the age of 6. Our hearts broke. That cat … I can’t even put into words how much a part of our family he was. He loved us so much, and we loved him so much back. He was the best.

Three months to the day that Skilly passed — October 5 — I came into work to find a coworkers in tears. She’d adopted Pearl from cat rescue, but couldn’t keep her — she had another cat who was bullying Pearl, and she’d decided the best thing would be to find the girl another home. I instantly said yes. I figured our next cat would find us, and there she was.

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Pretty Pearl.

Being Pearl’s fourth home meant — and still means — that our girl has some issues. She’s prickly. We’ve been bitten more than once. I’m pretty sure she was just waiting for us to drop her off somewhere else.

About a month later — Election Day, can’t forget that day either, only good thing that happened — I went out to compost my coffee grounds and heard a LOUD mewing coming from somewhere in the yard. I went to our woodpile, lifted the tarp, and a kitten literally fell out. My cat rescue coworker (and Pearl’s former Mom) advised that I put him back and see if Mama Cat came back for him.

Mama Cat did not. And that’s how we got Bear.

Bear was two or three weeks old when he came into the family, and that was a little scary. I was afraid that I’d inadvertently set him up to die — I’d rescued him from the woodpile, but now what? He was too young to know how to lap milk yet. My sister-in-law had a friend who’d had to nurse kittens, and we were able to borrow not only a kitten-sized bottle, but kitten formula.

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Baby Bear.

Bear thrived. He grew and grew. But he had absolutely no fear of anything — and he didn’t really know how to be a cat. We hoped Pearl would teach him, and she did kind of take him under her wing (he didn’t know how to clean himself, so Pearl took it upon herself to do the job. Sitting on his chest most of time to keep him from squirming and playing with her tail). But apparently you can’t teach cat skills.

Bear loved us so much. SO MUCH. Even more than Skilly, who loved us a lot. The base of his tail would shake when he got excited, which was generally when he greeted anyone at the door. He didn’t know how to jump, so he’d climb — the bedspread, the cabinets, our pant legs. He liked to see what was going on, his preferred seat across our shoulders. He would instantly purr when we’d pick him up or he’d come to cuddle, which was all the time. He fell into the toilet twice. He liked to pick up his dry food from the bowl and put it on the floor, and then eat it. His favorite toy was a sock filled with rice that Johanna made him — he’d carry that thing around in his mouth. He loved to sleep in boxes, with Pearl at first, and then on his own as he grew.

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Yin and yang.

I had to separate Bear and Pearl once because they would just not leave each other alone  and I was getting tired of Pearl’s hissing. I put Bear in the bedroom and shut the door. I was blogging and didn’t notice at first that he had assumed a watchful position by the door. When I went to investigate a little while later, I saw that Pearl was on the other side of the door, and they were touching paws through the crack.

When we got Bear, Pearl started to settle down, like maybe we could be trusted to keep her after all. When the weather got better, we started letting Pearl outside, and that additionally helped — that cat is way, way too smart to be stuck inside all day, and we’ve always had inside/outside cats. We started letting Bear out, too, but he was generally supervised. Either by us, or by Pearl.

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Last Tuesday I got a call from Abby — she had let the cats out after school and had just found Bear in the road. He’d been hit by a car. I stood up, grabbed my stuff, and was out the door.

I found Johanna sobbing on her bed. Abby and her friend were in the garden burying Bear. His body was perfect — no broken bones, just an odd wound to the side of his head, which had been enough to kill him.

We are heartbroken. And I feel terrible. He was a mere 6-months old, and I can’t help but wonder if I set him up for failure after all. When you have no fear, how can you survive?

Maybe we should have made him an inside cat. Maybe I shouldn’t have babied him so much. (Although how you don’t baby a kitten that needs to be bottle fed, I have no idea.) Maybe we weren’t supposed to find him in the first place.

I don’t know.