I’ve decided to collect coffee mugs. The other day, I was standing in line to purchase a coffee mug and some other merchandise from the Choose901 pop-up shop in Memphis when I decided that I am going to start collecting coffee mugs.
My mother collected coffee mugs. She had a make shift shelf where she displayed them at one end of the kitchen in the old house.
“The old house.” My siblings may have other names for the beloved, big house in Stanton, but that’s what I call it: the old house. It was almost a hundred years old when we moved into it. It was over a hundred years old when the folks moved out of it. It was well over a hundred years old when a June tornado swept it away.
I call it “the old house” because the house that the folks eventually moved into seemed like their new house; although, it was neither new nor a house when they moved into it. I call it “the old house” because it’s where I grew up. I spent all but one year of my childhood there, all of my adolescence, and quite a few years of my adulthood living there. A lot of years drinking coffee in the kitchen of that old house.
My mother’s kitchen was rectangular. At one end, a window opened to the neighbor lady’s massive flower garden that, I like to think, my mother enjoyed, wishing she had the time and the energy to cultivate one of her own. She had too many children, too much to do to spend her time whiling away in a flower garden. My mother was practical like that.
At the other end of the kitchen was the make-shift coffee mug shelf where a door used to lead into a bedroom. When my father made the extra bedroom into a over-sized bathroom, he closed the door in from the other side with a piece of faux blue marble wood paneling. When in the kitchen, the door frame was left, but the opening was covered by the drab brown back of the paneling. My mother had Dad nail some left over 2x4s horizontally, making the doorway into a pocketed shelf to display her mugs. It wasn’t pretty, but it was useful.
I miss that kitchen. It wasn’t pretty, but it was more than useful. Life happened there. Sistering happened there.
During family gatherings, usually Thanksgiving and Christmas, my sisters and I gathered around the brown, formica table drinking coffee or tea and talking about inappropriate things. From the looks of shock on my face and our body positions, #4 must have said something uproariously inappropriate for which I punched her in the shoulder. #8 is amused but keeping it to herself (no doubt a little later in the day one will be able to find the two of us sitting in a corner of the house discussing this exact moment) as #5 enjoys the moment.
The door directly behind #4 and me eventually was made into the pocketed shelf, but for this moment it is just a door. And we are just sisters.
It’s interesting what time will do. A door turns into a pocketed display shelf that one day disappears and is only now a memory.
We, the sisters, have changed with time, too. In this picture, we are younger versions of ourselves, some with husbands and kids, some without, connecting through advice, opinion, laughter, and coffee.
But soon, over time, the living of life changes relationships. There aren’t many pictures of this time. Advice is not sought. Opinions hurt. Laughter fades. Coffee cups are left empty. Pain is the tie that binds. We remain just sisters.
Then time does what time does best. It marches on. Each of us has to learn individual lessons about ourselves and about each other. Each of us has to learn how to reconnect with one another; how to let by-gones be by-gones and to let love be love. We can do it for others, so we learn to do it for each other.
This past Thanksgiving, we came together again over coffee around #4’s round oak table, my mother’s formica table long since lost but not forgotten. We are all a little nervous, but soon fall into an old familiar routine of chatting about inappropriate things, giving advice, offering opinions, and much missed laughter.
It’s much easier now, being sisters. We have settled into our lives, dreams met, dreams deferred, perspectives solidified, perspectives changed. We have settled into knowing and accepting each other, understanding rather than judging and forcing change. We have settled into relationship with one another, choosing it rather than just being born into it.
This circle of coffee ushered in a new phase in our sistering, a more mature, satisfying relationship. A relationship based on respect, honor, and love, not treading on areas where uninvited. I like this phase of sistering. It took us awhile, and many times I mourned it, believing that we would never have it. But now it is here.
Now, we are sisters.
I collect little bits of unknown facts, otherwise known as useless knowledge. Especially invigorating to me are the books that help me collect those facts.
A Ton of Crap (Kleinman/Adams Media) is my newest acquisition to my growing library, and it is filled with a lot of, well, tidbits of information that you might find fascinating.
Here is the first fascinating crumb I’d like to share:
I know you have been sitting around wondering where punctuation started. Well, Paul Kleinman says,
“Use of punctuation dates back to Ancient Greece and Rome. Orators placed marks in their speeches to indicate where and when to pause. These marks were given names such as period, comma, and colon, correlating for eh kind of pauses needed. Punctuation was used infrequently, and it was not until the fifteenth century, with the introduction and rise of printing in England, that the punctuation we know today began being used.”
Attention: This the second part of a series. To read the first part of the story, please click here.
The day after my car had the unfortunate pleasure of running into a deer, I began the arduous task of dealing with the insurance company and making plans to get back to Tennessee.
I called the insurance company, filed a claim, ordered a rental, called the body shop for an estimate, and waited for the inevitable pronouncement of “your car is totaled” from the insurance company.
It all seems so easy, except it wouldn’t be a good story if things went easily.
Rising Action: further complication add to the main character’s struggle
Our policy only covers $20 a day for a rental car. The agent happily informed me that would cover a Kia Rio, and for $6 a day (out of pocket) I could rent a Nissan Versa. Apparently, they didn’t know that I have was supposed to bring home a 5 foot long picture that my sister bought for me a month ago. It won’t fit in a Rio, nor could we and all our luggage.
For $6 extra, I actually got a sweet little Chrysler 200s that had keyless entry, pushbutton start, and a knob for a gearshift (I nicknamed it Sweet Little Thing). But there was one stipulation: the car was not a one-way rental. It had to be returned to the Nebraska location. This complected matters. If my car was deemed fixable, then I could drive Sweet Little Thing home and then return once my car is fixed. If my car turned out to be a total loss, then I was stuck driving Sweet Little Thing back to Tennessee, only to drive it back to Nebraska once I bought a new car in Tennessee.
The claims agent sent the rental request to Enterprise in Memphis instead of the Norfolk, NE. No wonder no one called me within the hour.
Our insurance carrier doesn’t have an adjuster in Northeast Nebraska, so I was given the task of getting an estimate from a body shop I trusted. Good thing I was in the town I spent the first 40 years of my life in, or that would be a difficult task.
Both Z and I got head colds. Snotty, coughy, droopy headcolds. Yay!
Saturday afternoon we attended my niece’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony in a beautiful church on a beautiful summer day. My kids I visited with grown ups and other kids we hadn’t seen for a few years. My sister who I was co-cake cutting with had been smart enough to call and reserve a room a few weeks before I had, and took the kids to The Lodge’s pool to go swimming. Two of my other sister’s and their grandkids joined them later in the evening and had a swimming party until midnight.
Everyone slept in Sunday morning and then met for an early lunch. It was relaxing and enjoyable 3-hour lunch with lots of sister chatting and smatterings of children interrupting. We left each other after giving hugs, sending our love, and speaking safe travels to each other.
When the kids and I headed back to Uncle Ed’s and Aunt B’s to transfer our belongings from the Scion to the rental. In the middle of doing just that, I sent Effy to the kitchen to get a plastic sack. She came back looking very forlorn and apprehensive.
After a few moments of her insisting that I was going to be mad and me insisting that if she doesn’t just tell me what was wrong or I was most certainly going to be mad, she finally told me what was wrong. Actually, she had to show me. She took me to the Chrysler’s driver’s side windshield, and I looked to where she pointed. A softball-size spider web of cracks stared back at me. It was smack dab in the middle of the driver’s side with one long crackly leg reaching midway across the windshield.
“What. Did. You. Do?” came out of me in a deep, serious tone. My kids know that the slower (my attempt at self control) and deeper (my overcompensation when trying not to scream) I speak the angrier I am.
Apparently, my ADHD baby saw a bug on the Chrysler’s windshield and decided at that moment it must be erradicated from the earth by slamming it between the windshield and the heel of her hand. Really hard. Twice.
I didn’t know I was the mother of Hulk-tress, but it looks as though I am. Good gracious.
Amidst her insisting I was mad, I continuously repeated, “No I’m not. I’m frustrated. It’s fine” until I got into the house where I burst into tears and cried to my sister, “What else can go wrong?!”
Don’t ever say that. From me to you, you’re just inviting more trouble.
That evening, to give Effy and myself something positive to think about, the three of us went to Jurassic World with Aunt B and Uncle Ed. Nothing like watching an island being ripped apart by wild, angry dinosaurs after having your car torn apart by wild and (assuming) angry monstro-deer, or maybe it was a pterodac-deer – after hitting us, it just flew away. It would explain why it seemed to just disappear.
About 10 a.m. Monday morning, I returned Pretty Little Thing to Enterprise, explained what happened, and exchanged it for another car. I was held responsible for the damage done to Pretty Little Thing. It cost me $185 to replace the windshield, but the good news is the replacement car is a one-way rental. At this point, I just wanted to be home, so I didn’t argue the fact that the windshield must have been faulty if my 11-year-old daughter could break it – with her hand – and fained a smile and said “great” to being able to drop the car in Memphis if need be. I just didn’t care. They gave me a Ford Focus (which was a wordless scolding equivalent to “you can’t take care of nice things, you won’t be given nice things”), and off I went.
I then called Bob, the body shop owner, to arrange for my car to sit on his lot until the insurance determined it was fixable or totaled. He informed me of the estimated amount it would take to fix the damage, and I really thought it would be totaled. So did Bob. If it was fixable (which both of us highly doubted), I would return to Tennessee until the repairs were made at which time I would return drive back to Nebraska to collect my Scion. If it was totaled (which both of us thought it was), i would arrange for the insurance company to pick it up there.
With smoke rolling off the engine, I hobbled the Scion to Bob’s and then walked back to my sisters to begin packing the Ford Focus. Halfway through loading the car, I realized that I had left all of our belongings from the Scion in the trunk of Pretty Little Thing which was now tucked away somewhere in the Enterprise parking lot.
Crapolio, I thought. I just want to go home.
Around 1 p.m. on Monday, we finished loading the car and getting our snacks and all the odds and ends into the car and set off to retrieve our belongs from Enterprise. We stuff the extra cargo into the trunk of the Focus, grab a bite to eat at Runza, and head East on Hwy 275. The kids’ conversation quickly turns to debating the pros and cons of driving back to Nebraska to pick up the Scion.
“Only if it’s fixable,” I quickly add. “The insurance company hasn’t called back, so I don’t know what’s going to happen.” I was starting to hope that they would just total the car. That would be the easiest thing to do
The insurance company didn’t call back for another 4 hours. We were just outside of Kansas City, MO (sounds like the beginning of a Western) and had gotten back into our traveling groove – me listening to my Audible book, and the kids playing games and watching shows on their Kindles – when the claims adjuster called. I got this hopeful smile on my face when I heard it was the adjuster with his determination. “After examining the estimate and running the numbers,” my smile got bigger in anticipation to his ending the sentence. “Our preliminary decision is that it is financially feasible to fix your car.” The smile left my face, quickly.
“You’re going to fix it?” This was a question mixed with astonishment, so “fix it” came out about two octaves higher than the first part of the sentence. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. “Your car is fixable.”
The weekend of June 13th, my great-niece married the love of her life, and the kids and I attended the lovely ceremony. It was held on a beautiful summer’s day in a quaint, pre-1900, Catholic church in a tiny town in Northeast Nebraska.
It was supposed to be a quiet trip, but it wasn’t. Murphy’s Law – or Nincompoopery – ensued shortly after trip planning began. This trip played out in a perfect elemental plot fashion.
Exposition: Introduction of characters, establishing setting, and main problem
In April, my great-niece, Ali, had asked me and one of my sisters to attend the cake table at her wedding. Although I didn’t like the idea of being old enough to be considered the aunt that cuts the cake, I was excited to have family and friends all in the same building, so I could get to visit with everyone at least for a few minutes.
Although I had said yes, I waited until 5 days before the wedding to book the room. This is northeast Nebraska I was travelling to, not Omaha or Lincoln. County fairs are the only major happenings in that part of the state. Those do not begin until late July and are finished by the end of August, so I thought I was pretty safe waiting until a week before the wedding. I wasn’t safe. The Lodge (and all area hotels) was booked solid by the time I tried to make reservations. The Christian Cross Festival has grown to a two-day, free event that apparently attracts people from afar who inevitably need lodging. Even with ample free tent camping at the lake, every available room was booked. Luckily, I have family in the area that still like me. My kids and I were to bunk at my sisters.
I had downloaded some new books onto my Audible app, and the kids loaded their Kindles with movies, music, and shows. The plan was to leave no later than 10 a.m. Thursday morning. We were an hour and a half late leaving our house in Tennessee, putting our arrival time to my sister’s house at a little past midnight.
Even with the late departure, the trip was going so smoothly: the kids were watching movies on their Kindles, and I was listening to either the radio or to Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on my Audible app. We were each in our own little worlds and traveling a route we knew like the back of our hands. It was quite a peaceful seven-hour journey across Missouri.
We were in Omaha by 11 p.m, and once Effy and Z spotted the big train engines at Kenefick Park that welcomes visitors crossing the bridge from Council Bluffs, IA. the kids fell asleep by the time we reach Boys Town.
I had driven another peaceful hour when my travels were rudely interrupted by a deer the size of a horse trying to play chicken with me in the middle of the dark highway. Nebraska deer are so rude! and huge!
In an instant, Monstro-deer (or rhino-deer or Jurassic-deer as my friends have now taken to calling it) was challenging me to a 70 mph, head-on collision: I was going 70 mph; he was standing still, shocked, as if I had been the one to appear out of nowhere. I slammed on my breaks and yelled, “NO!” hoping that he’d regain his wits and, with a harrowing leap, jump to safety. It wasn’t to be. Instantly after yelling, I felt the deep thud of impact, and my car stopped dead in it’s tracks.
I don’t remember closing my eyes, but I must have because I remember opening them only to see the entire front end of my car smashed in to windshield.
Rising Action: Main character battles crisis
Z woke screaming “What did we hit? What did we hit?” which woke Effy, who wondered what we were doing stopped in the middle of the road. She had slept right through the whole thing. Bluntly, I said, “We hit a deer,” and then began to audibly walk myself through the next steps:
“Are there any cars around? Check my mirrors. Look over my shoulder. Nope, no cars.”
“Car is still running. Car is still in gear. Pull it off to the side of the road.”
Pulled car to the shoulder of the road.
“Turn car off.”
Effy begins to ask questions Gatling-gun style.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I DO NOT KNOOOWAH! I can’t answer any questions right now. Sit there and be quiet, so I can think.”
The car is silent for 15 seconds.
“And I need to think out loud. Who do I call first? 911? Dad? Road-side assistance? Claims?”
“911 and then Road-side assistance.”
While I waited for the deputy sheriff to find me in the dark at a not-so-certain point on Hwy 275, I got out of the car to inspect the damages. It was bad. And the deer ran off.
I then called Roadside Assistance. The young man on the other end of the line tried to be helpful, but stranded out in the middle of nowhere, the closest tow truck was 45 minutes away, and then I wasn’t guaranteed a place to stay or a replacement car to be able to continue on to my sisters that night. My husband was 10 hours away and asleep in Tennessee, and I couldn’t think of anyone near my wreckage that would be able to tow a car.
While I was talking to Roadside Assistance, the county deputy sheriff arrived. He looked over the car, noted that the deer had run, or limped, off, and that the car was not to be driven. He could have called the tow truck but confirmed that it would take 45 minutes for them to arrive. He did say that he was able to stay with me until someone came to help or until he had another pressing matter.
I decided to call my brother-in-law, who was sound asleep, warm and cozy in his bed an hour away from me. Within the time a tow truck could arrive, so could my brother-in-law with the added bonus of delivering me to my destination. So I called him, and like the good guy he is, he came to our rescue.
The deputy, Ed, and I decided I would hobble my car 8 miles to the gas station in next town. Ed would pick us up there.
Nebraska in June is not the same as Tennessee in June. It is cold and windy in Nebraska. The kids and I were dressed for Tennessee’s hot and muggy. When Ed arrived, I stood out in the cold wind shivering like I hadn’t spent the first 40 years of my life there, trying to assist him with tethering my Scion to the car trailer.
We drove the hour back to his house, unloaded my crumpled car, drug our suitcases into the house, and went to bed.
The next morning I call the insurance company, filed a claim, ordered a rental, called the body shop for an estimate, and waited for the inevitable pronouncement of “totaled” from the insurance company.
It all seems so easy, except it wouldn’t be a good story if things went easily.
To be continued…
While G and I were in New York, she told me about this closet decluttering idea called “37 Things” that she wanted to try. (http://www.un-fancy.com/) The idea is to divide your wardrobe into 4 “capsules” that coincide with each season. 37 things are allowed in each seasonal capsule, not including pajamas, workout clothes, or underwear; however, included in the capsule is outer wear (sweaters, jackets, and coats) and shoes. The idea is to pare down one’s wardrobe to the color scheme one wears the most. One is left with the coordinates that can be mixed and matched to make endless outfits.
After returning from our trip and getting a day of rest, we dug everything out of my closet and began the experiment. We first discarded all the pieces that I haven’t worn in the last year (or beyond). G had the arduous task of being my strong-minded, unyielding accountability partner. She gave me no longer than a heartbeat to answer the question, “When was the last time you wore that?” There were three articles of clothing that we struggled over: my wedding dress, my grandma sweater, and the dress I wore to her Missionette’s Honor Crowning. I’m not going to rehash why logic for keeping those pieces here, so let it suffice that I won the argument.
The second step of dividing what was left into seasonal capsules proved a little more difficult. We decided, since I live in a climate that only has two distinct seasons, summer and winter-ish, and I wear most of my clothes all year long, I would have two capsules: work and everyday. We got it down to 32 and 23, respectfully. I was quite proud.
G tried to whittle my wardrobe down even further, but I wasn’t having it. Her argument was that I had to purge more to find my base color scheme. Once I identify the colors I wear the most, I could then buy additional items to round out my 37 things. My counter argument was that I already know what my base color scheme is (brown and black), I don’t care if I had an item that only goes with one outfit, and I hate shopping so I don’t want to replace anything. G countered with the fact that I wasn’t playing by the rules. I then countered with the fact that I’m wasn’t playing at all, so I don’t care what the rules are. And so it went until I eventually proved more strong-willed than she, but she did a good job. Not everyone can work with a whiny, begging, justifying baby like me.
I am happy with the results. No more overstuffed closet means no more wrinkled clothing, no more wasted time flipping through an endless collection of old clothes, no more lamenting because I have nothing to wear. It takes no time whatsoever to chose the days outfit, and I’ve mixed and matched clothing that I didn’t before.
The biggest bonus: I’ve been looking rather fabulous lately. Thanks, G.
This month I am determined to declutter.
My house isn’t a clutter-fest, but there are corners and some rooms that just have too much stuff in them (my office mainly). It seems as though when no one knows exactly where something goes, they put it in my office. My office has accumulated an array of items from broken sunglasses to a couple of gallon bags of seashells, from leftover charging cords to Christmas wrapping paper. Many a day I have sat at my desk wondering why this stuff is in here.
While G and I were in New York, she told me about “37 Things,” a system to declutter one’s wardrobe. The day after we returned home, we drug everything out of my closet and whittled it down. I love the results (I will be writing a post about that adventure in the near future) and was describing the process to some friends of mine when they told me The Minimalist Game, a challenge of sorts to declutter and reduce the stuff in one’s life.
The idea is to get rid of a number of things that coincide with the day of the month, so day 1 throw away, sell, or give away 1 thing; day 2 throw away, sell, or give away 2 things; day 3 throw away, sell, or give away 3 things; so on and so on for 30 or 31 days. By the end of the month, 465 (or 496) things should have found their way out of your house and out of your life forever.
I want to play.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been eyeing things in my house in preparation for the Big Toss that starts today, June 1st. What is going to be the first thing that I toss, sell, or donate? I identified some things, but I then notice that the one thing is really a part of a group of things that can actually be tossed, sold, or donated on one of the larger numbered days, which I’ve read, is when most people lose the game. I don’t want to fail on one of the big days because I broke up a group of things. I’m trying to think ahead and plan my attack. I don’t like to lose!
Last night, I finally found the first thing to begin the game: an empty box.
I bought a Photive HYDRA portable Bluetooth speaker and was planning to repurpose the box as packaging for a future gift. Socks or a couple of scarves would fit perfectly inside this sturdy little receptacle.
That is exactly why I need to throw it out. I have a lot of empty boxes intended for repurpose floating around my office and closet. I’m tired of them, and they make my office look ugly. Into the recycle bin that well-constructed beauty went this morning.
It felt good – really good – to toss that box. I feel supercharged! I want to start purging everything! My eye has lit upon several things that I have continually moved from place to place on the kitchen counter and never thought much of until now. Now I look at them with a suspicious eye, giving them a silent warning that I’m calculating which day they will be next. Nothing in my house is safe anymore. Everything is held suspect: it has the reset of the month to prove worth or be tossed.
There are three shoe boxes I have tagged to go on Wednesday morning. I’m still on the look out for what goes on Day 2.
My daughter G and I recently took a mother/daughter vacation to New York City. We tried to take in as many sights as a leisurely week would allow. We had no schedule, no time table, and it was glorious.
One bit of advice I will pass along is to turn off your phone apps before depositing said phone in any pocket. Here’s why:
G and I were walking from Park Ave and 5th to the American Museum of Natural History on 80th and Central Park West. A pretty straight shot, but I used my Google Maps app to help navigate in fear of getting sidetracked talking and ending up at the Hudson River. For easy of retrieving the map, I just left Google Maps on and clicked the screen off before depositing my phone in the back pocket of my mom capris.
I assumed that would work for me because it has worked for everyone else. It could be that I just suppose it works for everyone else when, in fact, there is a step of which I am not aware – or my cellulite has a mind of its own and acts like fingers – because I ended up with a bunch of butt screen shots!