Posted in Family, Just Funny, Minimalism, Uncategorized

It’s Not the End of the Road

For the last 20 years, a print entitled, “End of the Alley” has been on display in my house. I fell in love with this picture, I think because it reminds me of a print my mom had when I was growing up.

Whatever the reason, I spent my birthday money on it some years back, and hung it in the most prominent location in my home: the wall behind the toilet.

Sidebar: I have this long-term goal of one day becoming a successful minimalist by eliminating one possession per day. Unfortunately for my online-shopping-self, it’s kind of a ‘one step forward, two steps backward’ process.

8d4ab-end2bof2bthe2balleyAnyway, my quest for simplicity finally led me to this 16×20. I love it dearly, but it is woefully dated and needs to go (much like that herb-laden wallpaper border in the kitchen.  But that requires a stepstool and a boxcutter and two hours of my time, and I’d rather whine about it than strip it. But I digress.)

I took “The End of the Alley” off the wall behind the toilet and placed it in the Goodwill box.

A couple of days later my husband announced he was having urinary issues. “What’s the problem?”  I asked, “UTI?  Prostate?  Asparagus?  What?”

“Well,” he said, “for years I have been peeing at the ‘End of the Alley’ and now I don’t know where I’m supposed to go.”

Good grief.

Later, my son was generously helping me pack up the Goodwill box when he saw the frame and mourned the loss of the familiar picture that brightened our bathroom since he was in Pull-Ups. “Don’t you like it anymore, Mom? Cause I think it’s kinda cool.” And I admitted that I really do still like it, but the frame makes it look out of style.“Maybe I could reframe it and hang it in the bedroom.”

“You COULD reframe it,” he said, “but I wouldn’t advise hanging it in the bedroom. Dad may still try to pee at the ‘End of the Alley’.”

Good call, son. Good call.

Posted in Beauty, Just Funny, Minimalism, Quirks and Other Weirdness, Uncategorized

Monogamy & Handbags

For the last three years I have been in a serious monogamous relationship… with my purse. I have carried this faux-leather sensible black handbag (with a frivolous lime green lining) through better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, forsaking all others and remaining completely faithful to my beloved handbag “until death do us part.”

We are very much alike, this handbag and I:  practical, organized, oversized, and somewhat amusing (reference the lime green lining). She has been a faithful companion.  She supported me without fail, and we have, for all practical purposes, been inseparable.

Regrettably, my $40 faux leather partner had a lifespan rivaling the career of an American Idol contestant or the shelf-life of an incandescent light bulb. “For as long as we both shall live” turned out to be about 32 months, thus I found myself in mourning.

After her untimely demise, I must admit to a brief rebound relationship with an adorable little buckle bag, but at only 5” tall, she turned out to be much too shallow for any kind of meaningful relationship. I’m also ashamed to admit to a lust-based one-night-stand with a flashy metallic copper number. However, she proved to be nothing more than a vacuous tote, a hollow single-compartment chasm in which I could find nothing.

I’m happy to announce my grieving phase has finally ended. I am once again in LOVE. My new purse is practical – large enough to hold my grown-up coloring book, but small enough to wedge into the console between the front seats of Eddie van Honda. She is designed for organization – monogamy handbagcompartments with magnetic snaps, a separate pouch for the progressive trifocals I never wear, and a small zippered pocket so I always know where to locate my elusive keys.

Most importantly, my new bag is a bit whimsical – ivory leather with silver studded fringe.  She’s nearly perfect. I love her.

I’m sure I could draw some sort of spiritual analogy here about how we were all created for a specific purpose, or about the wisdom of choosing good companions, or about the how our physical life is just transient, but, after all…it’s just a purse.

Posted in Family, Minimalism, Quirks and Other Weirdness, Uncategorized

In the market

After completing a three-hour road trip where an antifreeze leak kept us smoking a good deal of the time (I should clarify: the car was smoking, Kevin and I were not), and also left us driving in 27 degree weather with no heating capabilities, I am reminded that I am in the market for a vehicle.

Now, when I say ‘in the market’ for something, this merely means I am beginning to think about a purchase. I tend to think and plan and shop for an item so long  by the time I decide to pull the trigger, I’m mentally tired of it and change my mind.  I’ve been ‘in the market’ for new living room chairs since this time last year and still have yet to purchase any appropriate seating for said room.

That being noted, I am in the market for a perfect vehicle.

It should:

*Have seating for 8. Or better yet, 10.
*Have a relatively short wheel-base so it’s easy to parallel park next to the coffee shop.
*Have cup holders wide enough and deep enough for my 32-oz Contiga flip-top water bottle and my 16-oz latte-to-go.
*Come with voice activated heat/air and stereo controls. You know, Distracted Driving is Deadly Driving.
*Get 30+ miles to the gallon. In town.
*Be self-cleaning, like my oven. Although, in all fairness, I actually USE my vehicle, so that gives the oven an unfair advantage.
*Cost less than the remaining mortgage on the house.
*Have a nifty little compartment specifically for my diva sunglasses.
*Have a center console large enough that my daughter doesn’t inadvertantly buckle my purse straps into the passenger seatbelt, leaving me frustratedly fumbling for my lipgloss while driving.
*Be a pretty color. Not like a “SWEET, there goes Stephanie!” pretty color, but more like
“That vehicle is nicely understated and Honda-Odysseyis unobtrusive in the driveway
and doesn’t at all clash with the shutters.”

There. Like I told daughter-face earlier this week, “I am not that picky”.

“MmmmHmmm,” she replied, as she buckled my purse strap into her seatbelt.

Posted in Just Funny, Minimalism, Uncategorized

Perhaps her heart was two sizes too small

Everyone, it’s assumed, liked Christmas a lot
But Steph, who’d felt scroogey, most certainly did not.

Oh, she loved all the sharing and wee balls of rum
And songs about drummers who rum-pa-pum-pum,
But she hated the shopping and wrapping and glitter
And taking the tree down alone made her bitter.

Utility BeforeIt could be perhaps
that her socks were too pinchy
Or the stuff in the utility room
made her grinchy.
But whatever the reason,
the socks or the junk,
She stood here in January,
feeling the funk.

She snarled with a sneer,
“I can take it no more –
This house is too full,
the stuff has to go!”
Then she got an idea!
An awful idea!
Why, Steph got a wonderful, awful idea!

She gathered some empty containers and sacks
And took down the lights and the ornament of Max.
She packed up the wrapping and shiny red balls
And rolled up the garland that decked out the halls.

“Now all I need are some boxes to fill.
I’ll pack up my stuff, and I’ll go to Goodwill”
She cleaned out the closets and shelves of the clutter
And emptied the fridge of the last Nutter Butter.

She boxed up a wreath and a vase and a candle
And even got rid of the “R” on the mantle.
She slithered and slunk with a smile almost gruff
And cleared out the house of all excess stuff.

She got tired more than once, and thought she was through,
But she mustered the strength of ten women, plus two.
She kept working all day and into the night
When she heard a deep voice that gave her a fright.

She turned around fast and saw You-Know-Who
The teenage boy Kevin, who was no longer two.
He looked at his mom with gleaming blue eyes
And said, “Why are you cleaning and boxing up, WHY?”

And you know, that ol’ Mom, was so tired and so sick,
Of working alone, that she schemed really quick.
“Get out the step stool and climb really high,
Take down the tree topper, then be a good guy

Haul these to the dump and then when you can
Load the rest that’s for charity, into the van.”
Her jobs hushed the boy, then she patted his head
And said, “Thanks for helping!” and sent him to bed.

utility AfterNow the chaos was vanishing
from under her roof,
The odds and the ends
were all going “POOF!”
She’d bah-humbugged throughout
the whole holiday season
But please don’t ask why,
no one quite knows the reason.

It just could have been
that her socks were too pinchy.
Or maybe her heart
had become mean and grinchy.
But the most likely reason
for holiday gloom
Was all of the stuff in the utility room.

Posted in Family, Just Funny, Minimalism, Parenting, Uncategorized

Refined Taste

 

Standing here at the stove, making a big pot of chili (and wondering just exactly how much cumin is too much?), I realize I’m going to have to make a cracker run before the cowboy packs his lunch.  Eating gluten-free has had so many benefits, but good crackers is not one of them.  In fact, I have come to the conclusion that gluten-free crackers are not crackers at all, but merely packing material disguised with flaxseed.

cracker clubI don’t know if you’re a fan of crackers or not, but they rank pretty high on my snack food list. Club crackers, much like eggs and toilet paper, are a staple at our house. Remember when they used to be in 2-packs in a basket on every table in every restaurant in North America, and how you would make a half-dozen sweet-&-sour cracker sandwiches waiting for your WonTon Soup to be served?

Anyway, one time the kids asked me if I would buy them some more “Good Crackers”. I assumed they were asking if I would replace the Club crackers, you know, since I had finished them off prematurely in a big bowl of milk as though they were corn flakes. So, next shopping day, I brought home a couple of the green boxes.

They never complained, but the next time I was Kroger-bound they asked again,“Please Mom, would you buy The Good Crackers THIS time?”  Sure!  Since Clubs weren’t “the good ones”, cracker goldfishI splurged on a sack of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (which are price-equivalent to a 16-oz ribeye).  This time I was met with enthusiasm! Yes! Score one for Mom! Goldfish crackers are practically CANDY to children. I mean, how do you not love the snack that smiles back? They enjoyed feasting on them for several days.

However, the question was soon asked a third time:  “Mom, you keep promising to buy the Good Crackers.  This time, please?”  The Goldfish weren’t right either?  What ARE the Good Crackers?  crackers wheat thinsThe children couldn’t tell me by name. So, again I perused the Ritz and Cheese Nips and Triscuits, and  decided they must want Wheat Thins. Once home, I waved the yellow box in front of them with a satisfied smile and asked, “Are theeeeese what you wanted?”  Two disappointed little faces told me I had failed as a parent.

More weeks passed, and on this trip to the market, the kids were with me. As we strolled down the cookie/cracker aisle, they came to a screeching halt.  

They stood, frozen in their tracks, staring at the floor. Heaven opened up. Beams of light illuminated the place at my children’s feet, and I heard the faint singing of the Hallelujah Chorus.

“Mom!!! The GOOD crackers! Please!?”

I looked, and there, at their feet, were the Saltines.

The good crackers.

Posted in Minimalism, Quirks and Other Weirdness

Desperately Seeking Simplicity

elfilm.com-the-jerk-302431“I don’t need this stuff…I don’t need anything except this ashtray. That’s it. And this paddle game. The ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle game. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this! And this! And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.”

Sitting barefoot under a tree on this serenely gorgeous September afternoon, I should be content to just be. But I can’t get my mind off all the stuff.  The stuff in the house. The stuff in the garage.  The stuff in the barn. The stuff in the other house. (Yes, we just bought a 2nd house). The stuff in the other garage. The stuff in the other barn. The stuff in the cabinets and closets and boxes and drawers.  

This is not the first time I’ve proclaimed this, but
I AM SO TIRED OF ALL THE STUFF.

I don’t deal well with clutter – physical or mental. Disorder and chaos make me feel overwhelmed and out of control. Truthfully, the “Where’s Waldo?” books even kinda stress me out. I spent the first half 5706126657_cca84635bdof my adult life wanting and wishing I had more; a bigger house, nicer car, more shoes, and an endless supply of essential throw pillows.  But now all I want is less. It’s not exactly the Amurican Dream, but collecting and cleaning and organizing useless junk is not how I want to spend the remaining 301,128 hours of my life (give or take a few).  

I’ve been on this journey of simplifying for about 4 years; unfortunately most of it has been verbal. I talk a good game. I get on a kick and clean out a couple of closets, haul it off to Goodwill/consignment/the dump, but to be honest, I haven’t made notable progress.  I continually bring more in than I remove.  The closets are overflowing, the utility is packed, and there is such a quantity of food in the house we could survive the apocalypse by bartering frozen okra and jars of salsa.

minimalism-empty-shelf (2)Do the cowboy and I really NEED 16 towels and 32 washcloths? What about the collection of coffee mugs in the cabinet or the accumulation of boots by the garage door?  Does every flat surface in the house have to be “decorated” with lamps and vases and picture frames? And have we EVER used the pickle fork that came with the flatware?

My makeup bag contains no fewer than 27 cosmetic items, when I’m certain paring down to 8 items would achieve the same underwhelming morning makeover. I have an entire drawer devoted to hoarding nail polish and Jamberry stickers, and I haven’t done my nails since April.  And don’t even get me started on the clothes (the ones that fit now, the ones the optimist in me hopes to wear, and the ones the pessimist in me is afraid to let go of)…and shoes…and bags…and oh my goodness, the jewelry.

Why do we feel the need to possess 207 dvds when we have Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime and a library card?  For that matter, why do we have Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime when we hardly ever watch tv? And can I confess the only reason I stockpile books is because smart people have books and I want you to think I’m smart even if I never intend to read most of those books again???

ZZ08EBF772I may not have the body of a minimalist, but I sure have a frustrated one living in my brain. One who needs to go home and start decluttering. Again. But it’s so much nicer spending this afternoon lounging under a tree, soaking up the 72° weather, and pinning dozens and dozens of great ideas to my “Minimalism” board on Pinterest.  

Yes, I get the irony.

Posted in Just Funny, Minimalism, Parenting

Jeep Thrills

Amazon gives it 5 stars.

I know, because I read the reviews. Hundreds of satisfied customers raving about the quality of this toy – the speed, the size, the durability. Important details to know when purchasing a $300 ride-on Fisher-Price Jeep for your favorite 5-year-old.

The biggest perk in all of those reviews, is that not one of them mentioned the phrase “some assembly required”. WHOO HOO!

I say “whoo hoo” because I am not a woman with skillz.  With a world population of 7.125 billion, my mechanical competency ranks near the bottom, only slightly higher than community college philosophy majors.  Seriously. Just getting my lipstick to roll up and down without breaking off is a pretty big deal for me.  

So when this package arrived, it was in a box.  A box.  And not the jumbo kind you might see on The Price is Right where they drop open one side to reveal an assembly-line-fully-manufactured 3-dimensional vehicle, but a FLAT box that could contain, oh say, a chalkboard . I felt a stabbing pain shoot down my left arm.  I consoled myself, “It might not be so bad.  Maybe it’s just a matter of slipping on a couple sets of wheels and popping up the roll-bar. Yeah, I’m sure that’s it.”


And with that, I drove to my daughter’s house where this little Jeep would find its new home.  She met me at the garage door.  When I opened the back end of the van, 
she mumbled something nondescript and ispygave me that look.
You know… the one that says,

“What have you done, woman???”  
We proceeded to unpack the box. Once we had all 169 parts – please don’t skip over that number – ONE HUNDRED SIXTY-NINE PARTS scattered across the garage floor, it looked like an impossible page from “I Spy Extreme”.

3952b87d8faaba39d9b9d78607b71c4cThe Fisher-Price
I knew and loved
as a child
had just become
my mortal enemy.

I reached for the manual.  Kacey immediately swiped it from my hands.  “Oh no you don’t.  We both know what happens when you try to read instructions. Just sit down and look cute.”  She reconsidered. “On second thought, go to the kitchen and and get a screwdriver.  You DO KNOW what a Phillips head is, don’t you??”

Do I know what a Phillips head is?  It’s a crosshead screwdriver named after Henry Frank Phillips of Portland, Oregon, but actually invented by John P. Thompson who sold his self-centering screw design to Phillips in 1935.  Duh. Do I know what a Phillips head is.  Then I mumbled something motherly like, “I’ll Phillips your head” and went to retrieve the tools.

I unwrapped parts and handed her pieces and made up cheers as she moved through the  42-step instruction manual for the next hour. I even pre-assembled smaller parts that she would, of course, later have to disassemble.  During the dashboard installation she discovered a working radio that plays songs from Disney’s “Frozen”. She mumbled curses my direction and sent me away to fetch food and coffee.

After Step 16, Kacey had a conference call for work, so I decided to try my hand at connecting the pieces. She glared at me over her reading glasses,
skepticism oozing from her eyeballs, screw (2)but I stated emphatically,

“I CAN screw things!”

“Oh…that’s what SHE said,” she grinned mischievously.

I managed the hood, doors, hinges, steering column, wheel, and even the seats before she rejoined me.  I was patting myself on the back when she found a leftover pin. After backtracking the steps, seems I had neglected to install said pin in the steering wheel mount.  So while she undid what I had wrong-did, I flipped ahead to the final few pages of the manual.  “Hey! Don’t read ahead and spoil the ending!” she teased.  I told her I found no intrigue in this tragic saga, and just wanted to see how many more pages I had to endure.  With that, she threw a sheet of 44 decals at me and said, “Shu-up and put on stickers.”

jeepThree-and-a-half hours from start gun to finish line, and the 12-volt battery-powered 5-star-rated Fisher-Price Frozen Jeep Wrangler, suitable for children ages 5-8, was complete and ready for the birthday girl.  

But for Christmas, that kid is getting socks.