In which there are nieces, and craft projects, and side effects.

Holy Thursday

Right.  So as you may have noticed, blogging has been a bit… sparse around here lately.  This is partly because I haven’t figured out how to talk about my health right now, and partly because of the way the medication I’m on is affecting me.  And then there’s the traditional, oh Lord I’m so behind better blog about ALL the things which is way too overwhelming, so then I don’t blog at all.  But I figure a little blogging is better than nothing.  At the very least you’ll all know that I’m still alive and kicking, even if I’m not writing much about it at present.  So here is a quick roundup with pictures of some of what’s been going on.

2014-03-23_14-34-14_56[1]First of all, I believe I mentioned a while ago that we have another baby in the family.  I still don’t have a nickname for him.  So far I haven’t had much face time with him.  He’s got an awful lot of competition for aunt-ly attention, and his competitors have had a lot more practice.  But he’s awfully cute, and tiny, and sweet.  Speaking of his competition, however…

2014-04-05_19-49-14_390[1]Indy organized an Epic Easter Egg Decorating party with all the nieces currently in town.  The older girls did most of the decorating, but even the toddlers got into the act.  We swaddled them in t-shirts to protect their clothes, which made them even cuter, if such a thing is possible.  Sweet Pea enjoyed herself enormously.  She dunked eggs in dye until she got bored, and started using some of the egg shells as scoops to mix the dye colors.  When she was banished from the dye cups, she came out to the dining room where she climbed up on my lap and helped me make cardboard egg displays.  And I don’t mean the usual toddler “I’m helping!” kind of helping that ends up in the usual preschool art project.  No, she really helped.  I was in charge of wielding the glue bottle while she applied paper flowers with great elan.  She also gave her very decided opinions on silver mini rickrack (no), and silver beads versus tiny buttons for flower centers (buttons won).

2014-04-05_19-49-24_483[1]We also had The Little Philosopher.  Don’t let her sweetly woebegone expression fool you.  That’s her default “I’m thinking deeply about world domination and in the meantime don’t you want to give me cookies?” look.  I’m pretty sure she has a brilliant career in Mad Science ahead of her.  If you could see the way her eyebrows crinkle up in slightly maniacal glee when she’s happy, I know that you would agree.  I’ve been teaching her to say, “For science!” just so that she’s prepared.  You can’t have too much of an edge when you’re going up against your fellow mad scientists.  Someday I’ll get a picture of that grin to show you, and then you’ll understand.

2014-04-05_15-54-15_196[1]Besides preparing for Easter (and of course as usual I have a highly ambitious crafting project that may or may not get finished and/or photographed to share), I’ve been working a lot on my house.  It seems that one of my standard reactions to stress is nesting.  I’ve been working on all the finishing details on my bedroom that got painted right before my surgery in December.  I made a lamp to hang over the bed (my first ever electrical project), and I’ve been getting things up on the walls.  I knew that I wanted a gallery over my fireplace, but my design process tends to be rather evolutionary.  This is one iteration.  The blue birds on the mantle are heirlooms from my grandmother, and the wooden cross next to the alarm clock is one I got at a monastery in South Dakota when I was on NET.  Someday the branch is going to be a floral candelabra/chandelier thing, sort of like this one, except perhaps with birds instead of candles, and maybe a small steampunk airship or two.  However, one of my favorite things so far about my arrangement is this:

2014-03-28_16-41-09_763[1]I just love it.  I got the little icon of the Risen Christ from the retreat house where we went on vacation last summer.  I had saved the picture of myself with baby Sweet Pea for a long time, and finally framed it up.  I had both of them on the mantle while I decided where to hang them, and then I noticed how the lighting of both of them work together.  It made me laugh, and it made me think of several happily sappy things, so I had to hang them like that.

2014-03-29_22-01-34_209[1]Besides getting ready for Easter, and working on the house, we’ve also been starting to get ready for AnniPott’s wedding this summer.  Indy has been working hard on the most gorgeous invitations ever (which is quite a thing considering her usual standards), and a little while back we had a Wedding Craft Night to start work on some of the reception decorations.  Indy and AnniPotts have worked out a decorating scheme featuring lots and lots of different kinds of garlands, including the mini pennants Dad is showing off here.  There are leaf garlands, and flower garlands, and I don’t know what all.  It’s going to be very, very beautiful!

I have also been working on a Super Secret Wedding Present for AnniPotts and Cuthbert.  I can’t show you pictures just yet because AnniPotts reads this blog, and some of it is a surprise.  But it’s beautiful!  I’ve been so excited about how it’s turning out that I think I’ve shown it to just about every woman friend I’ve seen over the last month.

2014-04-11_16-21-24_789[1]However, my other sewing project for the wedding, the one that I can show you,  is making myself a dress to wear.  You see, a while ago AnniPotts told me that she was going to have Mexican Sugar Skulls for her wedding cake toppers (Indy is going to make them for her, so you know they’re going to be gorgeous).  She fell in love with that style of Mexican folk art when she was in San Antonio, and although she’s not using it throughout her wedding decorations, she wanted to have a little of it at least.  It really fits with her personality, and whimsical sense of humor.  I also have a whimsical sense of humor, and when I came across the fabric you see above (Calaveras from the Alexander Henry Folklorico line), I knew I had to make myself a Dolly Clackett dress out of it for the wedding.  I mean, it’s just so awesome: the turquoise background, the gold glitter (hard to see in the photo, I know), the flowered skulls.  How could I not?

I tried to resist.  After all, there is no way I actually need either more fabric, or one more project on my plate right now.  But it was in vain.  When I found myself repeatedly musing over my collection of repro vintage patterns looking for just the right one that I gave in.  Sometimes you just have to accept your fate.  Luckily, I used some of the few shreds of sanity left to pick one of the simplest patterns in my collection (seriously, I think this thing has four pieces, and that includes the optional bow).  I can totally have that done by June.  Totally.  No problem.

Sigh.  I am insane.  But I will have an awesome dress.  So I have decided that I don’t care.  My only regret is that I didn’t have the idea to make it in time to join the Dolly Clackett Sewalong.  But you can’t have everything.

Which brings me to the topic I’ve been avoiding: my health.  When people ask me how I’m doing, I say that I’m hanging in there.  I don’t really know what else to say.  I had my first shot of the super scarey chemo meds about a month ago, and I’m due to get my second on Monday.  So far the side effects have not been quite as bad as I’d been afraid they would be.  That sounds all nice and positive, until you consider that I had been truly terrified, due to a severe case of over-googling.  So in this case “not as bad as I thought it would be” means that the side effects are merely pretty unpleasant instead of completely horrific.

To be honest, I don’t know how to talk about this.  When most people ask how I’m doing, they really aren’t interested in hearing the whole laundry list of uncomfortable things I’m experiencing.  I don’t want to turn into that one person who does nothing but complain about her health all day.  It doesn’t help that when I do go into a little more detail, I can’t get more than a couple items down the list before I start to feel like I’m whining, and I have to stop.  Plus, choosing to think positively has been one of the things that has really helped me get through this.  Going into detail about exactly how much I’m not feeling well does not help me have an optimistic outlook.  On the other hand, while “it could be worse” is an almost universally true statement, it’s not really the whole truth about what I’m going through.

I have one sweet friend who keeps eagerly asking me whether my medicine has started working yet to make me feel better.  Each time I have to gently break it to her that this is not the kind of medicine that makes you feel better, at least not in the short term.  There’s another friend who keeps complimenting me on the improved color in my face, telling me I must be feeling so much better!  I don’t know how to tell her that, while I am taking my iron supplements faithfully, the color in my cheeks is much more likely to be from the persistent low grade fevers.  Another friend gets all outraged on my behalf, and tries to insist that I call my doctor and make him do something.  I try to explain that everything I’m experiencing is well within the expected reactions, and that unless things become much worse, there is nothing that can be done except let the treatment run its course.  But it doesn’t seem to get through.

So this is how I’m doing:  I’m hanging in there.  I’m not feeling well, and if you are really, genuinely interested in getting the whole laundry list of ways that I’m not feeling well, message me privately and I’ll tell you.  I’m dreading getting my second shot, because I’m pretty sure it’s going to make me feel even more not well.  But at the same time, I’ve managed to make it so far, and I’m still hanging in there.  So I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and doing my best to trust God that, since he’s carried me so far, he’ll keep carrying me the rest of the way.  One day I really am going to be on the other side of this.  I just have to keep hanging on until I’m there.

In which it is Spring, so have some links.

Bl. John of Parma

Because today, at long last, it is Spring, have some links!

  • A sweet story about a boy and his plant
  • A lost Faberge egg almost gets sold for scrap, but instead hangs out on the owner’s kitchen counter for years.
  • Remember when you were twelve, and you made yourself a mixtape by taping songs off the radio to help express the heartfelt, endless sorrow of your first crush being, um, crushed?  Turns out, those glory days can be back again.
  • And now I want to make my own coffee liqueur.
  • Princess bed sheets.  Which I want so, so much.
  • Irish Soda Bread Scones with Salty Whiskey Butter: I made these (the scone part anyway) and brought them in to work for St. Patrick’s Day.  They were tasty.  In the interests of full disclosure, I only used 1 T of sugar,  skipped the sugary glaze, substituted the lovely Amish butter they sell at the Farmer’s Market for the whiskey stuff (my work is quite strait-laced when it comes to alcohol), and added caraway seeds to one batch (cuz that’s how my mother always made Irish soda bread).  No one seemed to miss the sugar at all, and the caraway seed batch was more popular than the regular one.
  • Pom Pom Fruit.  Because of course.
  • A Victorian Architectural Alphabet by Antonio Basoli.  That’s all I know, because the rest of the site is in Russian.  But you should still go look.
  • A Bee Ballerina paper doll (plus other assorted insects).
  • Dinner Party Necessity: Napkins stenciled with quotes from the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey.
  • Massive peony pinatas: so gorgeous and over the top I am seized with the desire to have an epic outdoor tea party just for the excuse to make these as decorations.

And now I will sit back and enjoy the fact that the National Weather Service says it will be over 60F here tomorrow.

In which there are hard decisions about pretty things.

St. Patrick

My dears, there is too much news to tell, none of it is all that much fun, and I’m trying to give up negative thinking for Lent.  So let’s look at some pretty things, and I swear I’ll fill you in later on all the Murphy’s Law ridiculousness that’s been going on the last few weeks.  Deal?  Deal.

Needle Felted Clam

Needle Felted Clam Pincushion by IguanaMakeIt

This, my dears, is my most recent Christmas present.  Yes, I know halfway through March is a bit late for Christmas presents.  However, in this case, it’s a good thing.  You see, this past Christmas, I got a regular treasure trove of presents from Lucy and The Auteur.  Wine glasses, a movie I adore, a post-it note that’s still taped up on my closet wall, and then to top it all off, a gift card for Etsy.

It was an embarrassment of riches.  And suddenly, although I have over 1000 items on my Etsy Favorites list, now that I could actually get something I was seized with indecision.  Should I spend my lovely gift card on crafting supplies, like gorgeously colored 100% wool felt, or would a new purse be more useful?  Maybe I should be practical, and get a cute project bag made from matryoshka print fabric, or waterproof fabric to sole the shoes I’m totally going to sew for myself any day now, or pretty washi tape to … I dunno, be pretty.  On the other hand, maybe I should go for something frivolous and fun, the kind of thing that would make me smile every time I saw it, like swing dancing flamingos, or a silly print to hang on my wall, or a really cute egg cup.  And then there were the Things of Beauty, like these delicate seed pearl earrings, or embroidered lace that makes me think of bright summer days, or a moonrise print that makes me think of Jacob.  Or maybe I should just finally buy the St. Walter of Pontoise medal (patron of those with stressful jobs) that’s been sitting in my cart for, um, over a year.  The more beautiful things I saw, the more I couldn’t decide.  It was hard.  But, you know, the good kind of hard.

Today I made up my mind.  I clicked on a link, and instantly I knew that I had found just the right thing.  You see, I have come to realize that I need a better pincushion to keep near my main sewing spot, the comfy chair by the window in my bedroom.  It should be somewhat heavy, so I can perch it on the windowsill without worrying about it getting knocked off, it should have a way to keep the needles and pins separate so that pins won’t get all tangled up with excess thread, and it should be something that I will enjoy seeing every day.  I had been mulling over ideas for making something, but was feeling a little discouraged about it, since given my current backlog of projects, I might get around to it sometime next year, as long as I didn’t make any Christmas presents.  I never would have dreamt that the solution to my problem was needle felted mollusc.  It adds another layer of ridiculous to the whole thing that really takes it to the next level.  Just like that, my decision was made, and I had bought a pincushion for my windowsill.

Let the Rain Come necklace from Enchanted Leaves

Let the Rain Come necklace from Enchanted Leaves

I still had some of the gift card left , so I decided that since I had bought one thing that was equal parts whimsical and useful, I should spend the rest on something that would (and I can’t think of a way to say this that doesn’t sound like a cheesy self-help manual) comfort my spirit.  It’s no secret that the last four months or so have been hard.  The challenges, they keep a-coming, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to let up any time soon.  When it rains, it pours.

So I decided to get an umbrella.  Lately I’ve been learning again (still, always) how many people I have in my life who are ready to support, encourage, and care for me in every way.  It’s so many people: Mom who worries about whether I have groceries in the house, the nurse coworker who administered my shot so I didn’t have to pay my doctor’s office to do it, AP and Boy-O giving me rides to work, The Duchess making me dinner even in the midst of moving, an aunt deciding that instead of sending her regular contribution to Catholic Charities, she’d rather help me pay my medical bills, my boss helping me run errands, Johnnycakes offering to carry my loaded laundry basket upstairs, and my sweet cousins giving me this opportunity to buy something beautiful and unnecessary. There have been so many kindnesses that I could not list them all, but I am so glad for every one.

The rains may be here, but I have an umbrella.  Several of them, actually.  Every time I wear this necklace, I will remember.

In which there is the promised Medical Update.

St. Caesarius Nazianzen

No greater love hath any woman than to wipe up blood for her friend.  Which is why I am so grateful to have Ms. Jones as my work friend and lunch buddy.  Cuz, dudes, the last few days have not been pretty.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me back up a little.

Last time I wrote about my ongoing Fun With Health, I believe I had just had my first visit with the specialist.  For those who are just jumping into the story (feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph if you’ve been following along), I was seeing a specialist because back in October my regular monthly cycle turned into insane bleeding, which landed me in the ER receiving my first ever blood transfusion.  They discovered a “mass” on or near my uterus which they thought might be either a large fibroid or possibly a benign ovarian tumor.  I had surgery in December, during which they discovered that it was a quite large fibroid (10 cm – about the size of a small grapefruit) embedded in the wall of the uterus.  The doctor didn’t think he could take it out without doing a hysterectomy, which I had been very clear that I did not want.  So they patched me up, and told me to go see a specialist.  So I did.  And now you’re pretty much caught up.

The first specialist recommended that I take two months of a hormonal chemotherapy drug to hopefully shrink the fibroid (which I’m sometimes tempted to name, except I don’t like it that much), followed by abdominal surgery.  I was ok with the surgery, but I really didn’t like the drug he wanted me to take.  The side effects start out with migraines, insomnia, upset stomach, hot flashes, increased irritability, mood swings and depression, and go from there into short term memory loss, muscle and joint pain, bone loss, and suicidal thoughts.  Among others.  The more I found out about it, the more it sounded like a horror show.  So I went to see another doctor, hoping that they would have another way I could go.

Unfortunately, the answer turned out to be no.  She did give me some good information, and some hope that perhaps this drug might not be quite as awful as I am afraid it will be.  However, in the end her proposed plan of treatment was four months on the drug instead of two, and a different version of the same surgery afterwards.  Six of one, half a dozen of the other.  Except when it comes down to it, two months on the drug is far preferable to four, and I think in my case the open surgery makes more sense.  So after much angst, hand-wringing, and cranky whining, I decided to go with the first doctor’s plan.

At that point things got even more interesting.  I took my prescription over to my friendly neighborhood pharmacist to check out how much this horrible drug was going to cost me.  As soon as I saw the look on his face, I knew it was going to be bad.  Turns out that, since it’s early in the year and I haven’t met my insurance deductible yet, a one month dose of this drug would cost $879.  Yep.  You read that right.  For one month.  Friends, that’s more than my entire paycheck.  It was a stunner.

After passing through the usual Bernadette stages of dealing with things (numb/overwhelmed, frustration/anger – complete with a rant about Institutionalized Misogyny in the Medical System, anxiety, the optional detour into emotional paralysis, and whining), I decided to ask for help.  My work has an employee mutual aid society – employees contribute to it, and can ask for help when hit by big, bad, unexpected things.  It took me a while to write my application, since all my early drafts were still filled with too much whine.  However, eventually it was done and in the committee’s hands.

Last Thursday I got my results: the committee approved paying for my first month on the drug.  They wanted to pay for both months, but when they independently verified exactly how much it was, they couldn’t cover both.  Fortunately, we discovered that once the first month of the drug is paid for, I will be very close to hitting my deductible.  That means that for the second month, I’ll just have to pay off the rest of the deductible, plus the prescription co-pay.  That puts it in the painful but doable range.  So at long last I can start moving forward.

So this is how things look: you have to start taking the drug at a certain point in your monthly cycle, which for me will be between March 10 & 15.  I’ll finish my two month treatment about May 15, at which point the doctor will hustle me pretty quickly into surgery.  So I’ll probably be having my surgery about the third week of May, and then be off work for six weeks.  That takes us up to the beginning of July.  And then maybe at long last this whole thing will be over.

Which brings us up to yesterday.  I think I must have been feeling a little bit too relieved, a little too confident that I could at long last see a way towards a manageable future.  Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking either.  Cuz remember the insane, terrifying bleeding from last October?  Yeah, it’s back.  With a bang.  Starting as I was leaving the cafeteria after lunch yesterday.  Which is why I will never stop being grateful that Ms. Jones decided to walk back up to my office with me.  There are times when having a friend with you who doesn’t hesitate to do what’s necessary makes all the difference.

Hopefully this go-round will be shorter than last time.  We’re also hoping to avoid another trip to the ER.  I was able to call my doctor’s office very soon after it started.  They called in a prescription, which is supposed to slow things down.  It seems to be working.  At least I think it is.  Soon I’ll start the meds I don’t want to take, and hopefully before I know it, my surgery date will be here.  It can’t come soon enough.

St. Caesarius Nazianzen, physician, pray for us!

In which I do my Aunt-ly duty, and there is much consumption of black olives.

Bl. Anthony Middleton & Bl. Edward Jones

So I’ve always figured that becoming an Aunt carries with it certain rights and responsibilities.  There’s several rules and regulations surrounding presents (thou shalt give them, and forever cherish any you receive in return, at least until the child who gave it is over the age of 18), and some regarding babysitting.  There’s also the sacred right to pump the child full of sugar/caffeine and then send him or her home to the parents.  That one carries a corollary that should the aunt acquire children of her own, the parents have the right to reciprocate in kind (this also applies to any noise or mess-making presents), so the wise Aunt only indulges in it judiciously.

However, one of the Aunt responsibilities I cherish most is teaching my siblings’ progeny important life skills (see also: teaching Sweet Pea to say Crivens!).  For example, when I discovered that Sweet Pea loves black olives, I immediately saw that it was deeply necessary that she should learn to eat black olives off of her fingers while her fingers were still small enough to fit into the holes.  This past Sunday I happened to have a spare can of black olives left over from making the salad Indy requested for her birthday brunch.  So once the salad was assembled, I poured the rest of the olives into a small bowl, and went out to do my duty.

2014-02-16_13-57-16_117It turns out that it’s pretty easy skill to teach.  Pretty much I just popped olives onto Sweet Pea’s fingers and let nature take its course.  She was initially a little confused, but she caught on pretty fast.

2014-02-16_13-57-24_12And then she was hooked.  She loved it.  She couldn’t get enough, eating about equal amounts off her fingers and straight from the bowl.  When I finally took the bowl of black olives away from her right before lunch, she cried, “Where my olives go!”  It was kinda awesome.  But it got better.  When The Little Philosopher saw Sweet Pea eating olives, she decided she needed to get in on the action too.  So I stuck some olives on her fingers too.

2014-02-16_13-58-25_517She had to consider it a little, but pretty soon she was munching black olives down too.  The whole having an olive on her finger tip seemed rather fascinating.  She didn’t really want to eat as many olives (after a while she opened her mouth and gave me back a mouthful of chewed up olive bits that she hadn’t bothered to swallow).  But even then she wanted me to put more on her fingers.  So I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.

I’ve also been working on other Aunt-ly duties, specifically those regarding presents.  Fleur had a birthday recently, and finally received her much-longed-for American Girl doll.  She has been wanting this for quite a while, and had been disappointed a couple of times, so this was a Very Big Deal.  This was also a big deal for her aunts, since several of us had been busily bookmarking American Girl crafting projects that we’d had to put on hold.  As soon as I heard for sure that Fleur’s doll had really, truly arrived, I quick printed out a couple of patterns and started work on some very small pajamas and a couple pairs of underwear.  I had a t-shirt and a pair of undies done to give Fleur on Sunday, but unfortunately I ran out of time to take pictures.  However, I’ve got two pairs of pajama pants cut out, plus another t-shirt and pair of undies, so hopefully I can make that up.  So there’s lots of very cute small clothes in my, and Fleur, and your future.  Just thought I’d let you know.

Also, stay tuned, and I’ll have an update on my medical situation coming later this week.

And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming.

In which there is Shirley Temple, depressing lullabies, and finding the courage to embrace our past.

Our Lady of Lourdes

First of all, Shirley Temple is dead, and that makes me sad.  I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time.  I think my favorite movie is Little Miss Marker, about a child whose father leaves her with a bookie as his security on a gambling debt.  He never comes back again (he commits suicide when he cannot raise the $20 to redeem her), and the bookie and his group of assorted gangsters and ruffians adopt her as their own.  Although little “Markie” starts out idealistic and innocently starry eyed, the cynical outlook of her new group starts to rub off on her, and they have to band together to help restore her belief in goodness, and even save her life. 

Sound sappy?  Oh, yeah!  It’s Shirley Temple!  But it’s also adapted from a story by Damon Runyon, so you know there’s plenty of snark and grit.  It also features Charles Bickford as the Big Bad who ends up experiencing a little conversion in time to save the day. This is a surreal casting choice for me, since I will always, always remember him as the gruff but deeply good parish priest in Song of Bernadette. It also has probably the saddest lullaby I have ever heard in my life.  The Hooker With A Heart of Gold character sings the little girl to sleep, and here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

Go to sleep, you gorgeous little rascal.
Thank your lucky stars you’ve got a bed.
You better get your shut-eye while the gettin’ is good,
You’ve got some tough times ahead.
You’ll grow up and find it’s all a racket.
Cards are stacked against you from the start.
Us gals have got to take it from the time that we’re born,
Because we’re born with a heart.
You’re only a doll – some man will [not sure of the rest of the line]
‘Cuz after all – you can’t even trust the man in the moon.

It’s so gorgeously depressing, and so not what you think of when you think of Shirley Temple.  I love it.

Another reason why I love Shirley Temple is because her life didn’t end when she started to outgrow her acting career.  She made a couple of movies as a teenager (including The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, which gave birth to the immortal “You remind me of a man – what man? – the man with the power! – what power? – The power of hoo-doo! – Who do? – You do! – Do what? – Remind me of a man!” routine), but eventually married and stayed married for 54 years until her husband died in 2005.  She forged a life for herself, and a long, successful career in international politics (US Representative to the UN, US Ambassador to Ghana, US Chief of Protocol, and US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia).  She also fought breast cancer, and after she won, became one of the first US women to speak publicly about her fight.  She was herself, a full human being.  She didn’t try to avoid or deny the enormous impact of her first decade, but she was so much more.

There’s a lesson to be learned there.  Sometimes the past can feel like such a huge inescapable weight, like all our past choices are unbreakable links in chains binding us so that we can’t be free.  But that’s not true.  You can be yourself here, now, in the present, no matter what you did ten or twenty or thirty years ago.  You are more than the sum of all your past choices, more than what others think you are, more than what others expect you to be.  You are yourself, and you deserve a life full of goodness.  When I think about that, I also remember a quote from John Paul II: “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son.”  Our past is real, and it impacts our present and our future, but we are not enslaved to it.  I think Shirley Temple’s life is a good example of what that can look like lived out in our own time.

So rest in peace, Shirley, and may you be greeted by all the angels in heaven.  We’ll miss you.

In which there are Good Resolutions. Well, one anyway.

St. Brigid

Maybe it’s a little late in the year to be talking about New Year’s Resolutions.  I know you’re supposed to be thinking about them in December so you’re all ready to go January 1.  But, hey, I’m a champion procrastinator.

One of the things I’ve been working on for a while is reducing the amount of clutter in my life.  I have a lot of stuff, and since I’m very strongly out-of-sight-out-of-mind, I tend to have a lot of it out.  It’s like keeping a To Do list as piles of things instead of on paper.  Unfortunately, sometimes that defeats the purpose.  When you don’t notice the bag of library books that need to be returned by the door because it’s perfectly camouflaged by the stack of reusable shopping bags, plastic containers that need to go back to your sister, mail that’s waiting to be sorted, and part of a border punch that you need to return to your aunt, the system isn’t working anymore.  After a while it all becomes kinda like visual static, drowning out whatever signal you want to be receiving.

I had a goal last year of getting rid of at least half of my stuff.  I didn’t do that, though I did drop an awful lot of stuff off at Goodwill.  I think that’s going to be an on-going battle, one I do hope to eventually win.  However, recently I’ve been getting rid of clutter in another area: my e-mail.  Somewhere early in January I read something about people who were dedicated to keeping their email inbox to 0 emails.  It made me think about my own inbox, stuffed full of emails, notifications, and random stuff.  Some of it was things I really wanted to read, or important information, but that tended to get buried by all the other stuff.  A lot of it was emails I didn’t have to actually open to know what they were, which meant that at any one time I had thousands of unread emails sitting in my inbox.  I won’t say how many thousands, but, um, yeah.

I decided to take action.  I started going through my inbox and deleting things.  At the same time I started unsubscribing to things.  No more emails from the ballet supply store I shopped at when I took adult ballet classes six years ago, or the bird feeder company I bought something from back when I lived with Johnsy, or the health food website I accidentally subscribed to when all I wanted was that one recipe.  It was both liberating watching the flood of emails slow down to a trickle, and also unexpectedly a little sad.  I hadn’t realized how having emails waiting for me made me feel important.  Regardless, it feels really good watching that number of unread emails go down.  I’m not down to 0 yet, but I’m getting there.

It’s also been a little like taking a trip back in time.  As I work further back through the depths of my Inbox, I come across bits and pieces of what I was doing at the time: facebook invites to parties that are long over, messages from friends about trips and events, receipts for purchases I had forgotten I made.  There’s a notice from Netflix that a particular movie will be arriving in my mailbox (back when I still got my movies in the mail), and I remember sitting on the couch watching it with Rosie.  A receipt for a yarn purchase reminds me of the shawl I knit Fleur for her First Communion.  Some of it is fun, bringing up memories of good times, happy surprises, the good things.  Some of it is sad, reminding me of friends I’ve lost touch with, that one event that turned into one of the hardest nights of my life, the job I didn’t get.  And some of it is just embarrassing, mostly emails I should have replied to eons ago but forgot, or never realized I received, because they got buried.

I know once I get things cleared out, the next step will be to put systems in place so that I don’t build up such a backlog again.  There are lots of systems and apps and websites our there to help with that.  But I figure I’ll deal with that part when I get there.


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