Books: A love story

I  generally get most of my reading material from our county library — or, actually, the eLibrary, where books are shared between several small counties. This means that the waiting list for a book can be six months or more (hello, Becoming by Michelle Obama). I’ve learned that, as soon as a book becomes available, to go into my browser and immediately place another book on hold. And also that purchasing books this year is going to be necessary if I ever want to actually read anything.

Saturday morning, I received an email I’d been waiting for: That The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre was ready for checkout. I went to the library website, got the book loaded on my Kindle, and began perusing the ongoing list of books I keep in my planner so I could add another to my holds list (I can reserve up to six. Boring).

I typed in About a Boy by Nick Hornby (been meaning to read that one for a while) and was shocked that it was immediately available. I’ve never had that happen before. Downloading that one, I decided to try Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling. ALSO AVAILABLE, WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?!

Okay, fine, how about The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King? Well, another six month waiting list there, but I was really feeling almost … it was an abundance of riches, really, to be able to check out three books at once. I guess I should browse more often.

(I’m only part of the way through Myers Briggs, and it’s fascinating. That’s another post for another time, though. I need to actually read it first before I start spouting off.)

*

My reading this year has been sparser than I’d like it to be. I spent most of January waiting for books to become available before deciding to just purchase a few (you’d think that, as someone whose livelihood depends on people purchasing a newspaper that I’d be more generous with my book dollars. Well, this could be the year for that, the way it’s all going with long library waits).

But here’s what I have managed to read so far:

Mirage by Somaiya Daud. I purchased this one after hearing Daud speak on public radio. She seemed like someone I’d like to have coffee with. And I really enjoyed it. It’s sci-fi and romance and, ultimately, a book about oppression. First in a series, apparently (which came as a shock when I read the last page and was like OH HELL NO THIS CANNOT BE THE END. It’s not. But now I have to wait a long time to find out what happens, boo). Recommend!

The Gospel of Trees: A Memoire by Apricot Irving. I also purchased this one after it was recommended to me by a friend. This is a memoire and, as such, it’s sometimes difficult to read because Irving is so open and honest. She’s the daughter of missionary parents and spent the bulk of her childhood in Haiti. It’s fascinating and difficult all at once. Plus she’s now an Oregonian. Also recommend.

Trainspotting by Irving West. I’m sad that I purchased this one. I just had a hard time with it for a variety of reasons: It’s mostly written in Scottish dialect, which was difficult for my brain to get used to (I kept trying to translate it into American English at first; eventually I got the hang of it and just read as best I could as written); these guys are junkies and make really terrible decisions, and I have limited patience for that; and it’s pretty graphic / there’s a lot of swearing (which I actually don’t care about, to be honest — words are just words — but it started to wear me down after reading the C word for the 8,000 time in 20 pages). I came away from this just really glad to have made the life decisions I’ve made. I can’t necessarily recommend this one. I’m okay with having read it but wow, that was hard.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I checked this one out from the eLibrary. This is a book set in the 1970s and 1980s, about a family who moves to Alaska from Washington. I really enjoyed it — great storyline, great writing — but I had to put it down periodically because the father is so abusive and crazy and that was difficult to digest sometimes. I wish I’d have purchased this one instead of “Trainspotting,” though, because this is one I’d like to read again … later. Recommend.

And a book I didn’t finish:

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfeg. I’m grateful that I checked this one out from the eLibrary because it made it easier for me to decide to peace out after 85 pages. I finish everything, but I could not finish this one: There are no redeeming characters and the plot is basically this narcissist who drugs herself into oblivion. But even BEFORE she started her year of sleep, she was not someone I wanted to spend any time with. There are no words to describe how much I hated this book … and how pissed I am that I wasted my life on those 85 pages. I picked it up, incidentally, because it was in the top 10 of multiple “must reads of 2018” lists. If there’s anyone out there who has read it and actually liked it, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Why is this book so highly recommended? I honestly have no idea.

In which KonMarie accidentally sparks a revolution in the Walker household

Last Friday, we added a Roku box to the household, because apparently our 2011 Wii is no longer able to act as a conduit between our TV and Netflix.

It’s okay, we had a good run. And the Wii still gets used by Eric and Johanna. They’re Mario Kart fiends.

Of course, we could have chosen to let Netflix go … and it’s basically my fault that we are not. It’s also my fault we have Netflix in the first place, since I’m the one who signed us up for the service many years ago, when Eric was hunting and I was left unsupervised.

It’s just that if this is the future — this tiny TV box thing — then so be it. We may not watch a lot of TV or movies, but it’s nice to have that option. Especially since we don’t have cable.

Anyway. Eric got the thing hooked up and I finished the setup part using my phone, which is now a remote. That’s probably old news to many, many people, but to me, it was like, what is this crazy Jetsons future?! I’m scrolling through Netflix options and before I even knew what was happening, we were watching “Tiding Up with Marie Kondo.”

Three episodes worth. And then I finished the series Sunday afternoon.

Eric thought it was boring and Johanna had no interest, so it was just me and the kittens. I mean, it was kind of boring, but I liked how the people featured were from all different backgrounds and places in their lives, and went through the same lessons regarding their stuff: What it says about them and the meaning they place on physical items. And how to get past the attachment.

And I liked Marie’s perspective, so different from the American way of looking at stuff. (Like, actual stuff: Houses and possessions and whatnot.) I liked her focus on keeping what brought joy to a person and working towards a desired future. I haven’t read her book, but I’d made all kinds of assumptions about the KonMarie method based on what I’ve heard about it. Turns out my assumptions were completely wrong.

I found her take refreshing. I can see why so many people swear by her method. It just seems so doable.

Saturday morning, I found Eric rattling around the laundry room making a huge racket. He had cleaned off  the top of the standing freezer and was sorting through items. The gist: He’d heard enough of the third episode, where the mom was responsible for everything in the house and how stressful that was for her, and he’d decided he could take on some of that stuff so I wouldn’t be saddled with it.

I am pro that plan.

And then he moved on to our recycling closet. I let go of some jars I’ve been saving. He sorted out a bunch of stuff that had gotten shoved there for no apparent reason. It was awesome.

That day, I noticed Johanna making several trips back and forth between her room and ours. She was in deep cleanout mode, making piles in my reading retreat (aka the room where everything gets dumped when we don’t know what to do with it): Books, shoes, clothes, random bits and pieces she’d collected. She also filled the recycle bin with old papers.

I guess she got KonMarie-d through osmosis. Not complaining. I can actually walk in there now without tripping over anything. Her closet looks more manageable and her shelves have room to breathe. I’m so proud! This kid is my hoarder; she doesn’t need new stuff, but wow, she sure hangs on to what she does have.

I guess the moral of this story is that even seasoned minimalists can learn new tricks. And those two sorting items gave me enough of a boost to get into my reading retreat and start packaging up items for donation.

My reading retreat is its own challenge … and I’ve never managed to get a handle on it in the 16 years we’ve lived here. I don’t use it as a reading area, that’s why, so it’s become a sort of closet instead. Maybe I need to just embrace that. Regardless, it could use a good cleanout. Again.

Yes, my internet friends, I have my decluttering challenges too. But that’s another post for another time. 😉

TW, minimalist

I was at the dentist sort of accidentally on Thursday (my appointment got moved up a few days) and minding my own business in the chair (after having to come clean to a new hygienist that I don’t floss AND always throw a fit when it’s time for x-rays because gag; she said she already knew that because it’s in my file), when my dentist breezed in and was like, as a way of introduction to this new woman, “Did Trish tell you she’s a minimalist?”

And I was like, well, I can’t actually respond to that because, you know, mouth stuff going on.

I was also kind of like, oh yeah. Yeah, I am a minimalist, huh?

Minimalism isn’t something I have to work towards or think about anymore. It just is how I live my life. I don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy. Actually, I think I could make a good argument that I am happier without stuff than I ever was with it. I don’t miss what I’ve given away and I certainly don’t miss what I don’t bring home.

I feel like the minimalism movement has really come to the forefront in the last few years, which mainstreams it a bit. But it’s still kind of weird to some people, I guess. Or maybe “weird” isn’t the right word. “Different,” perhaps.

(Um, I don’t see this current trend of purging and organizing items as true minimalism, incidentally, although I’m cool with everyone doing what they need to do. Nothing wrong with getting rid of what you don’t need.)

Anyway, I had a minimalist/zero waste win on the way out of the dentist office: The hygienist asked me if I wanted a toothbrush and floss, instead of just putting it into a bag and ignoring my refusals like the last one did. (Awkward.) I said no, and that was that. Although she did tell me that not flossing was “not ideal” and encouraged me to look for some kind of natural alternative, even if that “was more to throw away.”

I’m not sure what all is in my file, but I have never felt so understood.

P.S. Yeah, I know I need to floss. It’s more that it’s, like, 10 whole minutes a week that I don’t want to spend, actually, then a zero waste stance, to be honest.

Hitting the wall

Hey everyone — first of all, thank you so much for all of the good thoughts after my last post, whether written or not. I keep meaning to respond to the comments, but I haven’t had it in me.

Mostly because, slow learner that I am, I let myself not only hit the wall, but crash and burn these past couple of weeks. What I have learned about myself fairly recently is that I get a lot done by sheer force of will, and if someone is in my way, I just do their portion too and cross the whole ordeal off my list.

Delegation, my friends, is a skill I need to acquire.

I probably shouldn’t be too hard on myself, though, because sometimes life just tosses a lot at us and all we can do is try to keep up.

Last Friday night, a snowstorm — or one of many — hit our section of Oregon. I was a genius and went shopping with 5,000 of my friends at the grocery store ahead of the storm … but was not a genius in the fact that I was mostly thinking weekend survival, not weekly groceries. Things were pretty bare around here starting about Tuesday.

(Which is mostly fine. I want to clean out the standing freezer so it can be defrosted this summer anyway. Good opportunity to see what’s even in there. But Johanna was not impressed.)

After a fairly decent weekend of being snowbound inside the house, I went to work Monday via Eric and his truck. This is one of those times when working across the street from your husband really comes in handy, especially since my little Carola was stuck in the garage because her undercarriage clearance was too low to get out of the driveway.

The storm was bad enough that I was the only one in my department who was able to make it to work on Monday … and because of the storm, our publisher wanted our Wednesday newspaper out the door Monday end of day. We use a printing press that is two hours away, and getting papers back in time for delivery can be a problem, especially when the highway gets shut down because semi trucks are spinning out and crashing into medians.

So I put out a two-section newspaper with some help via email from coworkers (thank heavens I didn’t have to write all of the stories to be included, we’re talking getting the puzzle that is each paper put together). I worked a nine hour day without a lunch break, but we got it done. I kind of enjoyed it, actually. I like a challenge.

On Tuesday, one of my coworkers was able to make it in, so we did a bit of triage for the looming weekend edition. When everything is closed and canceled, that does make it a bit harder to fill a newspaper, FYI. I asked readers via Facebook to send us their snow photos, figuring that would, if nothing else, fill some space. Spoiler alert: It worked.

Wednesday it was just me again — the highway was closed all around us, mostly due to wrecks — but Thursday I had two join me, at least for part of the day. We got our weekend edition out the door by 5 p.m., a necessary evil to get it in the hands of the post office by Friday afternoon, which ensures (supposedly; they were a little lackadaisical with our Wednesday edition) Saturday delivery. Boring, boring details.

Also Wednesday, Eric and I hit the store after work. It wasn’t as crowded as I expected. There were several empty shelves, which wasn’t surprising, giving the state of the highway. We still emerged victorious.

Thursday night, I went to bed at 8 p.m. It had all stopped being a fun challenge — it was just challenging. The walls were closing in. My eyes hurt. And my legs were so sore from all that walking in the snow.

Yesterday, I was dragging even with all that sleep and was thrilled to realize my 40 hours at work were almost up; overtime is discouraged in my office. Eric dug the car out of the garage, and I was able to drive for the first time in seven days. But I wasted the opportunity to be free, since I ditched the office early and came home and took a nap with the kittens. I met Johanna at the door when she got home from school — Friday was the only day schools were running all week — and then went back to sleep.

This morning I’m still dragging, but I’m up. I’m looking outside and it’s snowing AGAIN and I’m wondering if I’ll be able to make it to my aunt’s celebration of life on Tuesday. I’ve decided not to worry about that just yet. Supposedly the snow will turn to rain over the course of this weekend.

I’m hoping that, if I hide all weekend, I will be able to face next week, whatever it brings … snow, funerals, early editions, no school, low groceries, crazy kittens and the like. That I will be able to back up from the wall and get myself together.

Oh, I can and I will. But I appreciate the opportunity to vent all the same.

Love you, Aunt Jan

My Aunt Janice is a miracle.

My grandma had multiple miscarriages and instead of just taking her ovaries and being done with it, the doctor took bits of them at a time. Janice was conceived when Grandma had one quarter of one ovary left in her body.

Things were different in the ’50s, I guess.

Jan is the sort of person who seems gruff on the outside, but is a puddle of goo on the inside. She is a gifted potter, cook and quilter. She hacked back blackberry bushes and has large vegetable and flower gardens that she is always working on.

She’s the baby of their family but totally the boss.

Almost 12 years ago, my aunt got really sick. Her doctors misdiagnosed her for so long that by the time they figured out she had multiple myeloma, she had only 5 percent kidney function. She’s dealt with spin-off cancers, a bone marrow transplant, dialysis. She just kept fighting.

We’ve had 12 bonus years. We’ve had family gatherings and visits. The last time I saw her was in October, when she came with my cousin Clara and her grandkids, Maggie and Ben, for a harvest festival. She wasn’t feeling very well, but she was there. And she was Jan.

My beautiful aunt passed away last night, surrounded by her family. I am devastated for those of us who are left behind, but grateful she is no longer suffering. The last year has been … well.

Anyway, just … love you, Jan. Thanks for loving me, my girls and Eric so much.

No shame

We are elbow-deep in basketball season. Johanna had an orthodontics appointment; I had a follow up doctor’s visit. Youth group happens every Wednesday evening. Our on-site printing press closed, so we’re now sending our newspaper to print at a place two hours away (as the crow flies, NOT as the traffic flows), which means earlier deadlines. Eric has a weekly racquetball game and work meetings. My cousin’s darling daughter was baptized and we ran from the after-party to my grandma’s apartment for a quick visit.

sarah-shaffer-729175-unsplash

Dude, I WISH. Photo by Sarah Shaffer on Unsplash.

It’s no wonder I’m feeling a bit burned out.

I’m sure we’ve all read the articles extolling the virtues of under-scheduling our days so the things we want to do can take place organically, whatever the hell that means. I’m not blameless here, either. During the holiday season, I had the audacity brag write about keeping events and activities to a minimum. (Sorry about that.)

I’m all for ending schedule shaming. But I’m beginning to realize that maybe there’s some additional shaming going on when you CAN’T under-schedule. Like it’s somehow your fault that everything falls on a certain day.

HA HA HA, I just got a text reminding me of a dentist appointment I scheduled for this month. I’d forgotten. I guess I need to add that to the calendar … (sob).

Anyway. I think instead of worrying about under-scheduling and schedule-shaming, we need to come up with a new plan. Like … not beating yourself up when things go nuts. Accepting the calendar for what it is. Allowing yourself to leave the dishes in the sink in favor of reading by the fire. Remembering that this, too, shall pass. Focusing on the appointments and then one or two other things per day and letting the rest go. Or simply being proud for doing that one other thing instead of feeling guilty about the other items on the ol’ to-do list that remain undone.

I mean, we’re adults! We can do whatever we want!

Um … that’s all I got at the moment, you guys. I don’t know. Thoughts, feelings, polar vortex stories?

Family gathering

I’m sitting by the woodstove in a rocking chair with Frieda my laptop this evening. The living room is littered with sleeping kittens. It’s COLD and rainy outside, but inside is rather pleasant. It feels nice to be so content.

This past weekend was the annual Walker family gathering. I’ve written about this before many times, which isn’t surprising, I guess, since this year was our 22nd. Basically: Instead of getting together and exchanging gifts for Christmas, we rent a house and hang out over the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. It is AWESOME. I’ve always thought this was rather genius, even before we became minimalists, because it’s experiences, not things — and my girls have such fun memories of time with their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins … and now their cousins’ spouses/significant others and kids.

Anyway: A house at the coast (on a lake, I think that’s hilarious for some reason) stuffed with 24 people (we were down four this year, including Abby), lots of chat and games and running around. I highly recommend it.  And props to Johanna for being on kid duty all weekend. Four boys under the age of 6! I’m sure you can imagine what THAT is like. (Hint: Loud.)

Before we left, I made myself a few dinners because I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat what was served to the group. And that worked out just swell, as Johanna would say — because I had something available, I wasn’t even tempted to eat any of the good stuff around me (cookies, sure, but also just the delight that is taco soup or a potato bar). Which is probably why I feel fairly decent at the moment.

Maybe I can be taught?

I also brought along my beloved breakfast granola. I’ve had to modify it since I first wrote about it on the Simple Year (swirl around 10 dried pitted dates, 10 dried pitted apricots, a generous shaking of cranberries  and a handful of walnuts in the food processor; add a couple handfuls of oats and a couple heaping spoonsful of sunflower seed butter, swirl around again until it looks like something you could call granola), but it’s kept me alive for literally three years, so … amazing.

And I don’t know, but it was sort of relaxing to just mess around all weekend and do nothing productive. I didn’t even read. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.