Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A New Year--A New Year Without

The whole reason I've dredged up this business of going a year without is that I'm trying to make some resolutions. I want to think about what would be good to do without this year. Am I ready to takle the things that are really hard for me? Am I ready to make meaningful changes?

I think I am--but I have to think about it for one more day.

A Year Without: Volume 3 "IKEA Comes to Town"

A sore test--IKEA. I don't know when my love affair with IKEA began. It is not an uncommon love--many of my friends have it and most students do too. You'd think by the time I was 40 that I would have outgrown it, but not me. So there I was three months into "A Year Without" and it opens. The first store in Utah. I had not planned well. Why didn't I start this crazy test in June or better yet next year.

I love the clever furniture, the affordable dishware, the spare decor and the wonderfully exciting and sometimes challenging Scandinavian minimalism. Okay--this is all a high falluting way of saying I love all the style for the cheap prices. It was always so easy to justify shopping there, almost a duty, with all those great bargains. Every vacation to California I felt very justified in filling the back of the car with IKEA must haves.

I watched the news, saw the people waiting in line, sleeping out two nights to have the privileges of being the first in the new store. I never understood sleeping on the sidewalk waiting for the new Star Wars movie, but waiting for the new IKEA this I understood. I kept trying to figure out a scenario where I would just go and window shop, but really I knew that I just had to stay away. I did it until Feb 17, 2007--my next birthday and on that day I went and ended "A Year Without' at IKEA. I bought a whole new set of dishes and several different types of drinking glasses. It was fantastic!

To be continued--...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Year Without: Volume 2, "The First Three Months"

After not biting my nails for two weeks I was ready to take on the world. So on February 17, 2006 I decided to do something much more grand. I decided that I was not going to buy anything for me or my house for one year. I made up rules, first I could replace things if they wore out and I had nothing similar. For example, if all my jeans wore out then I could buy one pair, if a water heater went out I could replace that. I could also buy necessities like shampoo and replacement cosmetics, but not fancy things like scented lotions or perfumes. I could also still buy things for my children or my husband, they were not part of the deal--but I could not transfer my materialistic urges to them.

Why did I take on this task, you may or may not have asked. I'm not a particularly big spender. I didn't have oodles of cash around that I was wasting. It's just that I was tired of feeling a little desperate every time I went to Target or Smith's Marketplace. I was sure that if I found just the right white, grey or black t-shirt or just the right pair of pants that I would feel great about myself. I had a closet full of basic clothes and I kept buying more. I had an epiphany (one that I should have had long before that moment and one that I'm sure most of you don't even need to have)--maybe it wasn't clothes I needed to feel good about myself--maybe I just needed to stop and think.

At first it was such a relief. I could go and get groceries and not feel compelled to look at the clothes. I knew they were off limits. It was wonderful. I felt so superior. One month later I'm faced with an incredible temptation. I stained my favorite deep purple dress shirt--a grease stain that I could not get out. This was a necessity. I justified and hemmed and hawed, but I knew it was not part of the deal. I had other dress shirts. I had to either get it clean or do without. I treated it and washed it with every load of darks and finally after about 10 loads it came clean. I cannot tell you the utter rapture I had wearing that shirt. I had been living in an environment where I would have considered that shirt disposable--what a waste. (I wore that shirt Christmas Eve 2008 and I still loved it.)

Our society has considered so many things disposable. Take computers in and you will be told that it is just cheaper to get a new one. Rip a hole in your pants, you don’t mend it with a patch, you buy a new pair—I seldom see anyone with obviously repaired clothing nowadays, but when I was little I remember wearing flower patches, sun patches or just the good old ubiquitous blue rectangle patch.

During this time I was movie "Bleak House" on PBS, the young heroine received flowers and she immediately pressed some in her book, then gazed on them tenderly from time to time. I loved that. Because she had so little, she really prized what she had. Often I think we can just replace things, even something sentimental. Nothing is precious--or everything is too precious and we feel desperate for more of it.

Two years later it all seems a little silly in time of recession. Willingly giving up things, things considered luxuries to the rest of the world, is much different than being unable to pay for housing or food. I hope I understand that--but putting conscious space between myself and materialism changed the way I acted. I hope it changed it forever.

To be continued, "IKEA Comes to Town"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Year Without

Two years ago I was feeling a little drastic--not unlike today or many other ordinary days. I think life is made to force you to the edge and at least peer over. Well, here is where I was. . .

February 2007,

I have some ideas about what this means and where it all began. Was it a gap in my understanding of God for the first time in my life. Where I came to doubt my own relevance, my own ability to decipher the will of God for myself my basic self. When suddenly I was cast alone upon the blind waves of the universe and found myself trying to fight my way back upon solid ground. I took for granted the solid ground, took for granted that I thought it was my lot never to stand on the cliffs of the gates of hell and look in and wondering if it just wouldn’t be better to fall in. My turn to have doubt. Then slip into the fathomless depth of not exactly self pity, but it’s kin self-deception. That somehow consequences do not stalk actions. That inactivity, isolation and denial don't breed death. A death ugly with fat cells and a numb brain drowned by an abundance of unearned riches.

Now if that first paragraph of self-indulgent rot didn’t make you shut off your Internet, nothing will.

I needed a victory. Not something grand, just something I could achieve. Now let me describe how I hoped the small act of stopping myself from biting my fingernails for one year would bring me back from the afore mentioned brink. Brink of what I'm not sure.

The beginning of a year without. . .

It all started on my fortieth birthday. A forty year old who still bit her fingernails. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t. If it gives you any idea about my need for self comfort I sucked my thumb until I was 8. (Only in private--I at least understood some social taboos) I only desisted at that time, because my bishop, who was also my dentist, told me that I would not be baptized unless I stopped biting my fingernails and to add extra pressure he also said that he would put tubes on my arms over my elbows so that I would not be able to bend them and put the offending thumbs into my mouth. Tragic. Of course I stopped, I have a secret though, I think it must have been that day that I began biting my nails.

I now make my disclaimer. Biting nails is not a bad thing. It hurts no one, and may greatly alleviate stress etc. It is good for cellists, violinists and many other musicians who must keep their fingertips free of the stain of excess--what is that stuff that’s in jello--collagen? They are saved from that clicky sound nails make on the instrument and nothing distracts from the purity of notes unhindered by vanity.

With that stated, know that I do not judge you biters and find you superior in you ability to avoid social pressure. Pressure that at forty I felt impossible to ignore. I live in a neighborhood that I have come to call the land of the unearthly beautiful, and I have come to believe that it is time to concede one point. I say it to myself quietly, so as not to disturb my sense of superiority at being above all this—I want to have pretty hands. I want to put my arm around my husband, child, or just rest it on the bench at church and NOT curl up the tips to hide the nail. I don’t have to have a manicure, polish or acrylic tips, I just want them socially acceptable. So, at forty I pulled out an old bottle of the putrescent stuff that is painted on nails daily to make them so disagreeable to taste buds that I will actually notice that fingers are in my mouth. It was all the reminder I needed.

I know it sounds weird but that was what bothered me the most on my fortieth birthday, even though I also happened to be many pounds overweight, an unfinished book in my desk, a house that was slowly being inundated by cobwebs, dust and dirty clothes. There you have it. Here began my year without.

To be continued. . .

Just a few more wishes from Lily

I cleaned out a bureau today and I found just a few more of Lily's wishes. I've often wondered when she stopped wishing, or at least verbalizing her wishes. I don't think she suddenly became satisfied with life--but maybe she called a truce with it.

"I wish I were blind because then I could have a dog all of the time."

"I wish we were hamburgers and then we wouldn't have to go anywhere I didn't want to."

"I wish we had a family live with us downstairs, because then I could always sleep upstairs."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lily Makes a Wish

My daughter Lily, who is 11, went through an incredible faze of wishing when she was 4 years old. I'm lucky I didn't get into an accident during this time because she almost always said these things while I was driving--and I of course had to write them down.

The thing that amazes me is that she is complaining, but they are all phrased as wishes. First she gives a solution and that is almost always followed by the problem. It shows an amazing dissatisfaction with life's little annoyances at the age of 4. She's still creative in her problem seeing and solving.

She also seems obsessed about wanting things to be sticky.

Lily's Wishes at 4 Years Old

"I wish I were invisible so I could walk through walls--then if my room was hot I could sink under the floor."

"I wish I were a tree. They only need air and water and dirt--and the don't need sleep."

"I wish I could walk up things." I ask her "Like what Lily?" "Like walls" and then just as she is falling asleep, "All we'd need is really sticky shoes."

"I wish there were beds at church and pillows."

"I wish we could put another car on top of our car and then we could take another family wherever we go."

"I wish we had water cake and water plates and water candles, then we wouldn't have to wash our hands after we eat birthday cake."

"I wish we were a house, then people could open the door and we could say, 'Hey! don't open that.'"

"I wish we had a snack machine for everything, because then we could have banana bars, vanilla bars, butter cups, everything we don't have at home."

"I wish we had sticky hats and gloves, then we should never lose them."

"I wish I was a spider, then I could climb on the ceiling."

"I wish we were goers, not stoppers."

"I wish there was a t.v. in our car because then Joey would be quiet."

"I wish back packs could fly because when we're too tired to carry it it could fly."

"I wish I could be on top of a cloud factory because then I could float and jump and not fall." Lily said this as we drove past a refinery with smoke billowing from it's stack.

"I wish I were shy then I wouldn't have to talk to anyone."

"I wish walls were soft, then they wouldn't hurt my head."

"I wish we had sticky shoes and we could climb Mt. Everest and stay on the trail and we could do cart wheels up and not fall and we don't even need to use our hands because everything is sticky."

"I wish I had taste buds on my hand, so I could taste everything." Lily said this as she put her hand flat against a table, a wall --her hair. --This is my personal favorite.

"I wish I had three hands because then I could hold three cars, and three barbies at the same time."

At the end of her wishing faze as we were once again alone in the car--with all the other girls in school she said, "If you didn't have me Mom you wouldn't have anyone to talk to."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Squash Proves "The Secret"

The other day I had a lovely experience watching The Iron Chef, a show I really like especially if Bobby Flay is cooking. He's great, it's like watching a Japanese game show (oops it is an American re-make of a Japanese game show) where there actually is risk of someone getting seriously hurt--but still triumphing. Well, Bobby is always about to get hurt, he slips on the wet floors, almost cuts off fingers and always seems to grab something hot with no protection. Anyway, all of this is beside the point, because the other day the "secret ingredient" was squash. Squash. I like squash as much as the next guy, but let's just say I found it amazing that Bobby managed to make it exciting. (I was sure he was going down a few times--I counted three slips on the floor) He even won.

Okay so here's where The Secret comes in. For the next week I dreamed of spagetti squash marinara, butternut squash soup, stuffed acorn squash, and banana squash topped with caviar and truffle oil. It was as if squash was using The Secret--and yes I made an apple and butternut casserole just so I could get it out of my system.

Squash took over my mind, and I thought that maybe--just maybe if I stopped watching cooking shows and switched to running shows I would no longer crave food but exercise. That suddenly I would go from obsessing about cooking to obsessing about running--or use t.v. for the good of my family and only watch cleaning shows, or best yet achieve world peace through television shows about Gandi and Martin Luther King.

Maybe I didn't prove that you are what you think--but I did prove that you eat what you think!


"Thai Coup"


Aiport imprisoning all

scary and annoying.

"Thai Coup" Haiku Two

Countless dollars spent

re-routing to bright Dubai

lovely Thai no more.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Often wrong but never in doubt.

I have never been a doubter. Never. In fact for a large portion of my life I though I knew everything. Worse than that I thought I was the only person on earth who was normal. I didn't understand the wordy nickname my father gave me, "Often wrong but never in doubt." I agreed with the never in doubt, but not the often wrong--seriously--what could he have meant by that?

Life was easy. After a sketchy bout of adolescence pudge and fuzzy brain in 8th Grade, things went pretty smoothly. I had enough sense of humor to get through high school and be one of those lucky or rather deluded kids that thought it was pretty fun. I wasn't pretty or ugly enough to be a target. I liked people, said "Hi" to everyone I saw. Felt and gave that wonderfully shallow high school love and avoided complicated people. Most things I really wanted I got. I had great boyfriends. I felt like I had empathy and understanding for those less blessed (I'm sure they looked at me as out of touch but benign--I hope).

Until I had twins at 23. Having twins felt like running into a brick wall going ninety miles an hour. After about six months of night merging into day, of adorable babies exercising their right to cry and express their feelings about colic, of never seeing the sun in the sometimes velvet prison that Oregon can become, of a husband in graduate school who was hardly home--I went crazy.

Suddenly I was mystifyingly unable to meet the demands of normal life without crying or exhibiting ragingly inappropriate gallows humor. I dreamt about sky diving, driving far away--alone, getting really drunk and weirdest of weird I had this enormous desire to smoke cigarettes. Somewhere in that dark time I ate six servings of pudding in one sitting. (That is a story for another time labeled, "Sometimes your significant other really is that insensitive.")

This was my logic. Picture this; I'm on a long and winding road so typical of Portland suburbia. I see a bar--I think, "Wouldn't that be nice to go have a few drinks." Then common sense comes shining through and I say to myself, "I'll have to wait for another day, because I have two babies in the back of the car and it's a really bad idea to drink with babies in the car." That is exactly how the conversation went. The funny thing is I hadn't even tasted alcohol before--I've always been a teetotaler. That is when I first had a glimpse that maybe there was something wrong, that maybe, just maybe I wasn't thinking straight

At about this time my loving husband made me take a day off each week (glorious Tuesdays) and organized a babysitter. Genius!

At that moment, while I dreamt new and scary dreams I realized that I was crazy. Suddenly I liked mankind so much more! I had joined them. We are all crazy--and my biggest realization was that the only people I should watch out for are people who were like my previous self. The people who did not know they were crazy and just thought you were. They were the only delusional ones out there, and they were dangerous.

I am still rarely in doubt; a fact that mystifies my husband. I always know where I want to vacation, what I want to eat, what comforter I want to buy. I don’t second guess decisions and seldom feel remorse. With all that decisiveness I don’t assert it is the only way to live or that it is even right. It just is.