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.


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.

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.