Thursday, December 20, 2012

Things Forgotten While Packing

I'm always forgetting things and then feeling guilty about them.  For this vacation I was getting things squared away at work, packing, getting Christmas ready early, and dealing with end of the year finance decisions.  Oh, and keeping tabs on my social life.  I'm not used to having one of those.  More than a few balls were dropped on the way to vacationing in Minnesota.

On the outside chance that this will be a reference to help the next time I'm preparing to vacate, I'm going to list forgotten things.

Only two were a big deal.  I forgot to pick up my meds, even though I had arranged to have early refills ready at the pharmacy.  One of them is something that's a federal offense to mail, or I'd have had Dear Son pick them up and mail them.  After some coordination and stress, I think we have a fix.  DS has picked up the paper prescription from the local pharmacy and mailed it overnight.  It should be here tomorrow afternoon.  

There's a pharmacy only seventy-five miles away that can take my insurance.  They've already pulled the other prescriptions.  It should work.  It won't be convenient, but it should work.  Maybe we can combine it with some other shopping, so that S-2 gets something out of the drive.

That's one.  Two was losing track of where I put the Barnes & Noble gift cards.  DS found them this morning.  They had been tucked for convenience and safekeeping into the big box of Christmas cards.  It would have been a perfectly sensible place if only I had remembered that I did that.  DS will be mailing them out later today.  

With those two things fixed, the other little things seem minor.  I forgot shampoo.  The recharger for the phone is in one of the boxes that I got ready to mail before I left, but that didn't quite get mailed.  DS took care of that, too.  I left him cash for that.

The last noticeable thing was the thumb drive with all of the stuff that I was bringing to work on.  I had carefully filled it with everything.  I filled it early and I thought it over and added a few more things here and there.  I thought that having my bookmarks would make life easier, and, since DS was asleep, I left it in the computer to ask him in the morning.

I did remember to ask him.  And he sat at my computer and took a shot at transferring them.  Then we got distracted and left it there.  I had a spare thumb drive packed, and DS and S-2* did a son-to-son transfer of everything that had been gathered.  But the spare was too small to hold it all, so we had to go to Target and buy a new one.  

So I am set up.  Things should settle down from here.  I'm going to get a tour of the Mayo Clinic this weekend.  I got to look at some cytology slides last night.  It was cool.  I got showed the difference between and HPV infection and HPV genetic insertion, which is a pre-cancerous state.  



* If my youngest son is being called Dear Son, but I'm visiting his older brother, I really should use something more attractive and affirmative than S-2.  I think I'll go with Beloved Son, or BS.  If he reads that, he'll laugh.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Apologies for the delay.

Sorry for the delay, but first my computer stopped talking to outside devices, like the screen and keyboard, then I had to prepare for a trip and Christmas at the same time. I'm not sure I'm doing either one well, but they'll both be done after a fashion.

We're not sure what's wrong with the computer, but it works as long as there's nothing plugged into its rear USB ports. So my USB hub and external hard drive are both unplugged.

I feel a little guilty about this.  It could definitely have been handled more quickly and with less disruption.  On the other hand, I feel rather pleased that I've gotten into enough of a habit of posting that I really miss it when it's disrupted. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

More Pictures Pruned

I have sorted through another wad of photos and more of them have hit the wastbasket, some of them (gasp!) unscanned. I have to say again, if you love your children, label your pictures.

I didn't throw any away because they were unidentifiable, this time.  I threw away the tilted and slightly out of focus pictures of the animals at the San Diego Zoo.  I'll have to tell my kids (grown, now) about the trips we used to take to see the animals, there.  Although the Los Angeles Zoo would have been closer, we always went to the San Diego Zoo.  I think I was in junior high before I was aware that there was a zoo in Los Angeles.

I threw away the snapshot of the headless woman holding a cake, even though I can recognize that it's my Grandma D.  The legs angling leasurely into the photo are my Grandpa's and 3/4 of my youngest sister can be seen in the playpen to the right.  She's obviously too old for a playpen.  It would have been set up for a younger grandchild that didn't happen to be using it at that moment. 

I threw out this, too.

I have no idea what that is.  There is a frame.  There are springs.  There are ashes.  It's looking too big for the frame of a rocking horse, but maybe that means it was a big one.  Usually the ones with frames were plastic, though, not wood. 
It is a mystery.  A mystery that I will not be passing down to my descendents, unless they should happen to stumble across this blog. 
I also decided to let these photos go.  When I first described them, I guessed they were from the early sixties.  The children in them are the stepchildren of an uncle's short marriage.  I have since found his divorce papers in my mother's files.  He married in 1961 and the divorce was final in 1965.  But it took a year to finalize and I think they had to live at least a year apart before she could file.  So early sixties was a good guess.
I met them in 1962.  My previous guess of being 'about eight' can be corrected to six years old.  And it's been a solid fifty years since I've seen them.  There was no alimony or child support assigned, so it looks like the break was total.  I think I can let go of the pictures. 
I also chucked a handful of files that turned out to be bank statements and paid bills that were more than six years old.  Anything that was referred to in her taxes has been grouped in big manilla envelopes, rather than left in the files.  So I'm pretty sure I'm safe. 
A friend came by to visit and I found a home for a tiny tea set, a glass pitcher, and a big, Christmas sleigh shaped glass candy dish.  I feel lighter.
I scanned Gerry's Army photo album and chucked most of it.  I have a small box of other Gerry photos that I haven't sorted or tossed.  I added a few good ones from the album to the box.  It's a small box, about the size of a pound of See's candy. 
I only mention See's candy because that box is a similar size and the family has a holiday history with See's.  The actual box isn't a See's candy box, it's the box from one of the Memoriam books that I sorted and scanned earlier.
Which reminds me, I have to do some Christmas shopping, still.  I did the important and obvious bits yesterday.  It's down to the fiddly bits, now.  If I keep going through the boxes, maybe there will be room for Christmas.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

NaNoWriMo Has Left the Building

NaNoWriMo is over and I did not win.  I did not write 50,000 words in 30 days. 

I also haven't really written in the last three days.  There has been a small grumble of guilt in the background trying to make itself heard.  Am I listening?  Do I feel guilty?


At least not about that.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

An Odd Photo Album

In a recent post I talked about a big quilted and lacey photo album that I'd inherited from my Grandma D.  I said:

Oddly, there are a lot of pictures of Presidents in this album. I would have really been shaking my head over them if one of them didn't have a printed statement on it that it had been presented to Uncle B.

Having dismembered the photo album for scrap, I must say that I was mistaken.  That was Grandpa's name on the picture of Reagan and it was either a donation request or a thank you for a donation.  There were about six pictures of Reagan, total.  Some of them were post cards.

There were also a few pictures of GHW Bush, one of Deukmejian, and two copies of a picture of Howard Jarvis with In Memoriam on the back.  These are interspersed with pictures of grandchildren, old pictures of their children, pictures of friends, and . . . other things.

There is, for example, mounted as if it were a photo, a 3x5 post it note with the words:


There was a small stack of envelopes with peoples names on them, but nothing in them.  There were a few of my Uncle B's business cards, an ad for condominiums, and a couple of pictures that turned out to be solicitations for Libery Godparent Homes.

The album was a real time warp.  Not only were different pages filled with pictures from different decades, two or three different decades could be on the same page.  I have a certain sympathy for that.  If fact, I can't swear that I don't have a similar album, somewhere.   

Perhaps I should make a note to myself to put a few random notes and grocery lists into an album some day, just to make my kids shake their heads when I'm gone.  A little mystification is good for the mind. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Old Style Photos - The Sixties

Does your family have these kind of pictures?

This is just the latest set I've found.  My parents also had each of us photographed when we were one year old.  They also were delivered as a Tube O' Photos. 

You may not know if your family ever purchased a Tube O' Photos, if your family happened to show foresight.  If the photos had been cut apart and put into frames or into a photo album, they would not have become set in their curl over the course of years.

This big long strip of photos is only laying partially flat because it's being stretched between a heavy diet vanilla steamer (not milk) and a box of photos.

Were you to reach into the photo and lift up that cup of milk, that strip would snap back into its tube shape fast enough to startle you.

The tube was taken in the early sixties.  So those unseparated pictures have been rolled up like that for fifty years.

These are my Uncle B's step children.  I don't remember their names.  I only met them once or twice.  I'd have been about eight and it was, as mentioned, about fifty years ago.  The marriage didn't last very long and while Uncle B was in it, they lived in San Jose, which was Somewhere Far Away to my eight year old mind.

I used to think that my parents had handled the Tube O' Photos years wisely.  They had taken each of us to be memorialized for posterity when we were one year old.  I knew that they had received a Tube O' Baby Faces for each of us.

But I had seen a few of the photos in frames, on the wall.  And I had been shown other photos, cut apart (as below) and laid flat in the cedar chest (a place of deep storage).

So, although they talked about the tube, I thought that they had done what was necessary to forestall the effects.  But, no.

Later I was to find that they had cut a few pictures loose, but had left the rest to fossilize in their tubitude.  True, Mom had gone back at one point, and cut one tube into three-picture sets, then laid that out in the cedar chest with things weighing them down. 

But the rest had been left to curl.  I wonder how widespread this is.  True, my parents and my uncle are only two instances, and they're related instances at that.  But I've inherited other tubes. 

I also wonder why photographers in the sixties would deliver photos in a tube like that?  Was it a recent change in technology, so that it looked new and modern?  Was it supposed to be cool, seeing all those faces in a line?  Were these the proof copies, with the tubeness implying that you'd get a nice flat picture if you paid the full price?

I don't know.  I only know that I've cut apart those photos.  And I'm flattening them out.  And I don't even know if I'll be throwing them out when I'm done.  Because I may never know these people's names and after fifty years there really isn't much of a connection. 

I Can See Why She Kept Them

Last night I sorted through two full file boxes of old paperwork and put most of them in the recycling bin.  That makes the stack of boxes sitting in the back yard that came from my mother's place just a little noticably shorter.  Not significantly shorter, just noticably.

I can see why she kept them, though, so I don't feel even a little bit of frustration or annoyance.  Most of them are papers related to Uncle B's estate and to the trust that it set up for Grandma & Grandpa. 

Uncle B was Mom's older brother.  He died of leukemia in middle age.  Mom was his executor and then the executor of the trust for the rest of their parents' lives.  It was a big job and she was diligent at it.  I don't find it odd that she kept the evidence of it packed in boxes for decades. 

She probably could have pruned out G&G's old utility bills, but what the heck.  She probably just put all of the old files in a box at some point without sorting through them at all, just to get them out of the way fast.  And she'd have no reason to go back through them once they were packed away.

Some of the papers were official documents, and I'll be keeping some of those.  I probably have other copies of Uncle B's death certificate, but I know I don't have copies of his birth certificate, honorable discharge, and military reserve papers. 

The big stack of continuing education certificates, on the other hand, I scanned and then recycled.  The older ones were police related and the newer ones were real estate related. 

I'm going to keep what look like public relations photos.  They're professionally done and taken at the police station.  I recognize Uncle B but have no idea who the other folks are.  The shots are obviously posed.  No one is looking at the camera.  Everyone is looking up and away at exactly the same sort of posed angle. 

I'm wondering if that was a standard pose back then.

I also found several more copies of my mother's high school portrait, in nice thick book-style cardboard matts.  Guess what my sister's will be getting for Christmas.  Well, maybe not Christmas.  That might be ghoulish, since Mom died last May.  But I'm starting to get quite a stack of these and it only seems fair to share the wealth.
Last night was also the night for opening what looked like a Rubbermaid bin full of pictures.  There were pictures in it, and I was surprised at some of them.  But a fair bit of bin space was taken up by six boxed In Memoriam books. 

I made a bet with myself on what I'd find when I opened them, and I won that bet.  The ones from my family were mostly empty.  We've never been good at filling these kinds of things out.  Two of them were for Gerry's first and second wives. 

Gerry was Mom's second husband.  He was a great guy and an appreciated addition to the family.  (Here comes the guilt.) He was also adopted.  He had no children and his parents are dead.  So far as I know, he has no relatives, certainly none that I know about.

I've been collecting his pictures and papers.  For instance, there were a handful of his pictures mixed in with pictures of our older relatives in that bin.  It kind of made it hard to sort relatives that I didn't recognize from Gerry's friends.  Eventually I learned to recognize Gerry when he was young, and that made it easier.

I was able to remove the pertinent pages from the In Memoriam books.  Tossing the bindings and the blank pages will save a lot of space.  I may recycle even the pertinent pages after I've scanned them.  I'll have to look at them again before I decide.

Two surprising things in the bin were military photo albums.  One was Gerry's and one was my Dad's.  Dad had pulled out his military mementoes from time to time to share with us, when we were kids.  It's odd that he never showed us this album.  Stray thought - it might have been something that Grandma L kept tucked away, so that Mom and Dad didn't have it until after she died.  But that's just a stray thought.

Dad was an airplane mechanic during the Berlin Air Lift.  Gerry was in World War II.  His album includes a picture of him in a kilt, but I don't think that had anything to do with his military service.  If I had to guess, I'd guess that there was a photographer near a base who supplied costumes for photos and some of the guys liked the Scottish Costume thing.  It's definitely done by a photographer, rather than snapped by a friend. 

The biggest thing in the bin was a photo album that turned out to be Grandma D's.  It's a huge, square album.  Its cover was made of wood covered with quilting with lace ruffles around the edges to make it look even bigger.  It's heavy. 

The pages are those thick sticky things with transparent covers that can be pulled back.  I know from experience with other albums I've inherited that those things don't age well.  I'll be taking the album apart and just keeping the pictures that I don't already have copies of.  And it looks like I have copies of most of them.

Oddly, there are a lot of pictures of Presidents in this album.  I would have really been shaking my head over them if one of them didn't have a printed statement on it that it had been presented to Uncle B.  Either Uncle B was more of a go-getter than the family acknowledged or they give those out with donations.  I'm going to have to check on this.
Let's see how the guilt's doing.  I got rid of some papers that I don't feel guilty about.  I got rid of some book covers that I don't feel guilty about.  I've filed some papers and pictures that I don't feel guilty about.  And I have a plan for some of the rest of it.

I kind of feel guilty about the little voice in my head that just wants to chuck Gerry's things.  I'm feeling a little down about the military albums, because they're bulky if I just keep them and work if I take them apart and sort and scan them.

And at the moment, my desk looks like this:

Beside my desk looks like this:
But I have a plan.  You may not be able to tell, but those stacks on my desk are sorted stacks.  They will not stay there long. 
Oh, and those thin cardboard boxes under the ipad in the lower right of that last photo - those are the Fortune Magazines that are going to be Worth Something One Day.  I'll tell you about them another day.  Right now I need to clear that desk.  See you on the other side

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What I Should Have Said About the Lottery

In the previous post, I talked about what I answered when someone asked me what whacky thing I'd do if I won a big lottery.  It was an honest answer, and it was something I'd been thinking about doing for years.  But there's a better answer, or at least a whackier one.  And it's also something that I've though of doing for years, although it's something that's probably completely beyond me.

Let me explain.  Once upon a time, I read The Panda's Thumb, a book by Stephen Jay Gould.  In it was an essay titled 'Nature's Odd Couples' that told the sad story of hermit crabs in Bermuda. Other crabs may make their own shells, but hermit crabs borrow theirs.

Hermit crabs have fairly good shell on their heads and claws, but their backsides are much more exposed.  They cover it by sliding it into an appropriately sized snail shell, which then rides on their back, protecting them.

Unfortunately for Bermuda hermit crabs, the shells that they have been using come from a species of snail that has been extinct since the 19th century. They survive by fighting over old shells, which are becoming rarer and rarer.  The day will eventually come when the hermit crab of Bermuda become completely homeless, unprotected to the world. They are expected to die out completely when this happens.

Fortunately, for me if not for the snails, I was reading this essay while my oldest son was at work.  He had been working at Jack-in-the-Box.  It was his first job and he was kind of stoked about it.  He had brought home a Jack antenna ball for everyone in the family, even his brothers, neither of whom had a car to provide them an antenna to stick it on.  They enjoyed the smiling balls, though, and found creative ways to display them.*

The idea of the homeless hermit crabs combined in my head with the image of the Jack Ball, which sort of looks like a snail shell if seen in dim light on the floor where one of your kids has carelessly left it.

A Jack Ball is a promotion, right?  How nifty a promotion would it be to make Jack Balls in the actual shape and weight and strength of marine snail shells.  Scatter them around Bermuda in various sizes and soon every hermit crab will be sporting a Jack-in-the-Box advertisement.  Jack gets credit for saving a species, the crabs get homes.

Of course, that would also make the crabs a target for tourists.  Perhaps it would make them a more attractive target for preditors as well.  Or maybe it would scare preditors off.  Jack does look kind of spooky in the right light.  So maybe Jack could throw in some plain shells along with the Jack Shells.  All the housing benefit and not as likely to get them grabbed by a guy in a Speedo.

If it worked for Jack, maybe other companies would try to get in on the action.  Baskin Robbins makes antenna balls with a similar shape.  Disney is sure to throw in some hidden Mickeys.  It could go places.

Yes, I know it isn't that simple.  Use the wrong material, and the shells could become a matrix for algae mats, or bacterial slimes.  There would have to be research and testing to develop a good substitute shell.  Do I imagine that I'll be able to convince a big company to pony up for that research?  Only in my dreams.  I'm not feeling guilty at all about not working on this one. 

But if I were to win a big lottery?  This would be a much whackier way to waste that money.  If anyone wants to photoshop a picture of a hermit crab in a Jack Ball shell, I'd be willing to post it here.  Come on, you know you want to. 

* Did you know that if you take the head off of a Ken doll, a Jack-in-the-Box antenna ball will fit right on in its place.  And then you have a Jack doll. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Not Really Waiting for the Lottery

Someone asked what whacky thing I would do if I won a big lottery.  There are all kinds of things that I’d do, but the only one that’s a little odd is that I’d set up random contests and scholarships.

$500 for the best song/poem about sewage* treatment.

$500 for a floating, remote controlled mini-raft that strains small trash out of a small lake or pond - must be powered by a shop vac.

And one that I keep fiddling with thinking about doing small scale: $25-50 grants to fund elementary school science projects.**

I'm sure I'd come up with bigger and better ones if I had the cash at hand.

* wastewater for the PC

** I keep trying to put together the ideas that:

1) a lot of kids dismiss the possibility of a science career when they're very young, just on the grounds that it's not the thing that their sort of person does,

2) not just kids, but most people don't know that scientists spend about a third of their time writing grants to get next year's research funded, and

3) a lot of kids don't think about doing science projects because they don't have the equipment or the funds to do them.
Maybe some day I'll do more than think about that last one.  In the meantime, this blog was meant to be a place to list the things that I've wanted to do and feel guilty about not doing, and I haven't been doing that much.  In fact, this might be the first time I've done it.

I've thought about this idea for years. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Recently Thrown Out

I was not the one who started saving this elementary school workbook.  My parents did that.

It may have been in one of the boxes that my mother brought down a few years before she died "to get things sorted out."  I kept it for years because the comment that my dad had written on it was just so like him.  He took our education seriously and deliberately showed that he was attending to what we learned. 
Fun with Dick and Jane would have been about first grade.  I know I was less than excited, at that age, to sit while he reviewed my work.  Fortunately, he did not keep the in depth review process in place for very long.  I don't remember drawing my own comment on it, but I approve of the idea. 

I threw this one away awhile ago, but just ran across the picture on my computer.

That's the pictures of my knee before and after the ortho surgeon cleaned it up.  The feathering is typical of osteoarthritis.  In addition, I got a high tibial osteotomy, which I affectionately refer to as a bone wedgie. 
I suspect that it was G, Mom's second husband that collected the coins from other countries.  I still haven't done anything with them.  They sit on my desk and would get in the way if I didn't have them covered with other stuff that's getting in my way. 

Yes, I feel a bit guilty about that.  Counting by the picture, I've been successful with two out of three items.  I refuse to count by the coin. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

An Older Legacy

This is a replay of an old guilt release from before I started the blog.  When Grandma D died, I was given her shoes.  They had been bought for her after she had moved to the nursing home and had only been worn when she was taken to visit one of her children, usually my Aunt E.

When I say "when she was taken," I mean that the shoes were put on her, then she taken by wheelchair to the car, driven to Aunt E's house, taken by wheelchair inside, and sat where she wanted to sit.  Then the shoes were taken off, so that she could be more comfortable.

She had Parkinsons and was largely immobile by that time.  So when she died, the shoes were far to much like new to be thrown out.  By communal consent, or maybe just because my feet were the same size, I was given her last shoes.  I wasn't broke at the time, but I had been recently, and I had been raised by the people who considered it a family duty to be frugal and see that someone got the use out of those shoes.  Even if I hadn't had a recent memory of scrimping and pinching, it would have felt perfectly right.

As you can see, I got the full use from them.  In honor of Grandma and in honor of my thrifty relatives, I wore them until they wore out.  They were yardwork shoes after one sole came lose and had to be duct taped.  Then another pair of shoes descended to yardwork status.  No one needs two sets of yardwork shoes.
So I entered the phase of guilt.  Do I throw it out, and feel guilty about throwing out Grandma's shoes.  Or do I not throw it out, and feel guilty for having an extra pair of ugly shoes taking up space in my small closet.  (Throwing out the better pair of worn shoes wasn't an option.)
So I took a picture.  To remember.  And it worked.  I could throw the shoes away.  And now I've written about it, which is even better.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sometimes It's The Little Things

Sometimes it's the little things that are hard to get out of the house.  For instance, this:

is my Mother's bowling league champion patch.  It doesn't take up much space, does it?  What can keeping it hurt? 

Well.  Now the picture is here, as a memorial, and the actual patch has been thrown in the trash.  It may be just one little thing, but there's alway one more little thing, and another after that.  And yes, I need the space. 


was, oddly, a little harder to get rid of.  It's one of those sets of sunglasses that your optometrist gives you when you weren't expecting him to dilate your eyes.  It unrolls and clings to the sides of your face.  It will get you home, but that's about it.

It was rolled around the turn signal stem of Mom's van.  In case she ever needed them.  She had a pair of actual sunglasses in her purse, so the odds of her ever having to use these were slim.  But they weren't broken, so there was no reason to throw them out. 

They stayed tucked out of the way, but ready to leap into action for years, maybe decades.  She and I both wore/wear bifocals.  I tested it.  It won't stay on over a pair of glasses.  So she never could have used them. 

They left the house a week or more ago.  I don't remember if I chucked them or sent them to the thrift shop. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Collage of Mom's Frogs

This is a collage of photos of some of Mom's frogs.  Many of them were given to her by her good friend, DeeDee.  They were all over her house and yard.  I got most of the obvious ones in the house, but didn't get more than one or two of the outside ones.  By got, I mean photographed, not kept.  Photographing them was enough.

I kept the little candle holder frog.  I don't remember if my sisters took one or not. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The House Clears (Photo Later) And NaNoWriMo 2012 Starts

Dear Son and Devoted Girlfriend have cleared the front room.  Well, they've cleared it of most of the things that they brought back from Mom's place.  Some of it is in the garage waiting to be sorted, but that counts because Dear Son first had to clear the garage to make space and then he assembled the wire rack shelves that everything to be sorted is now sitting in.  This is Great Progress (a Capitalized Essence).  I am grateful.

I am also able to walk around in the front room, which is nice.  I'm feeling far less claustrophobic.  Many boxes in the kitchen have been cleared away as well, making the kitchen a much more useful place.  (Contented Sigh.)

Dear Son motivated us to gather a Young Friend and to go IHOP last night so that we could all begin NaNoWriMo at midnight.  I'm keeping the gathered words in a separate blog.  I'm surprised that Patchwork Riddle was already taken as a blogspot address.  I had to add the nano to it. 

Thankyou to Dear Son for getting us all started.  I'm up to 1,092 words so far.  Only 48,908 to go.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Does the Pile Look Any Smaller?

I've been sorting through things.  Dear Son and his Devoted Girlfriend have been sorting through things.  There's just a lot to sort through.

I've taken some pictures and let some things go.  I'll post the pictures, but later.  I want to reminisce over them a little and, well, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is about to start.  I want to save the word count and the introspection for that.
 It's also too late at night for introspection.  And I have to drive an hour in the morning to attend a workshop.  I need to remember to take a book on tape to keep me awake.  Hey, mornings aren't my strong suit.

I swear that I've thrown things out and put things in boxes and bags for a trip to the thrift store.  That's assuming that Devoted Girlfreind doesn't organize a yard sale.  It could happen.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Ads Aren't Supposed to Make ME Want to Buy Things!

I wonder if it's because I used the word Toastmaster.  There's now an ad for something called the Ideaboard at the side of this blog.  It might not be there when you read this, of course.  I don't have control of that.

Unfortunately, as a Toastmaster who often gives speaches in small rooms, it looks like it would be really handy.  Visual aids really add to a presentation.  They smooth a presentation out, too, because there's less worry that I'll forget something.  The small one is even within my current whim purchase limits.  Fortunately, the big one isn't, and I want it slightly more than I want the small one. 

It may not be obvious why that's a fortunate thing, wanting both of them.  The key is that I'd feel bad (guilty?) if I made the wrong purchasing choice and now one of the choices isn't within the whim limit, so I'll have to stop and think about it for awhile.

One of the blessings of having a bad memory is that I can use it with confidence to weed out the purchase of things that I don't really want.  I just tell myself I'll think about it.  Let it sit on the back burner.  If it's not something I REALLY want, I'll forget about it. 

If I keep remembering the nifty way it sets up and the way that the transparancies turn the paper tablet into a white board, I may end up buying both of them.  But if I forget . . . hey, more money in my pocket. 

I just had to grouse.  I didn't expect the ads on the side to bring in any money.  I just didn't expect them to make me want to spend money myself.  Grumble, grumble.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

You Thought the Last Two Were Bad

I'm not sure what to call this one.  I had Christmas Has Left the Building.  I had Unpacking Grandma.  Now Youngest Son and Devoted Girlfriend are back from the far away state where my Mother's house, garage, and various sheds are finally empty.  
(Pictures below)

They returned in a van and a truck hauling a rented trailer, all three of which were filled.  My house is now very not empty.

 At one point, YS&DG had run the two nearest small towns out of large trash bags.  The nearest town that still had some stocked was 45 minutes away.  He estimates that they filled and hauled away 200 large bags of old paperwork, broken things, worn out things, and long expired food.

That's not counting the twenty bags of old paperwork and obsolete maps and advice books that went bye-bye both of the times that I went up.  And this was after she had spent maybe two years trying to sort and disburse as much as she could. 

I'll talk more about what sort of thing she couldn't or didn't get around to parting with, later.  At one point she and Dad had shoe boxes containing every cancelled check they ever wrote, and those had been sent to the great balance sheet in the sky.  So it could have been worse.

Since this is The Guilt List, I always sort of listen inside myself, straining to catch a whisper of guilt, whenever I post.  If I listen now, I perceive within myself guilt that YS spent so many weeks doing this work.  Fortunately, I feel more gratitude than guilt.  He was doing it for Mom and Dan and for the rest of the family that couldn't be there, as much as he was doing it for me.  I think it was a wonderful thing for him to do.

It's not over, yet.  I'll get to help sort and disburse or store the things that they brought back and the boxes and boxes that came back on previous trips.
It's a relief that there's not much to add to the kitchen.
The biggest pile inside.
Devoted Girlfriend is sorting.  There is an aisle, there.
Boxes and half-sorted pictures on the table.  Boxes under the table.
I'm sure that going through everything will bring up memories.  It has every other time.  It won't just be memories of Mom.  Mom sort of inherited pictures, papers, and bits & pieces from the two generations before her.  Not to mention, the collections of two husbands. 

YS&DG have been in purging mode for weeks, now, and they're determined to continue, going through their stuff and my stuff after we've purged or controlled the old relatives' stuff.  I'm going to do what I can to join them.  We've seen what it can build up to if you're not willing to be brutal and send things out of your life. 

And if I have trouble letting enough go, I'll be writing about it here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

One Guilt Leads to Another

The trouble with feeling guilty about clearing your desk is that when you do start to clean it, you'll find many things that you haven't done and they'll make you feel more guilty.  Not that I can say that I'm cleaning my desk right now.  Right now I'm watching a DVD from Netflix:  Arctic Dinosaurs: Nova

Watching the DVD is making me feel guilty, and not because I've stopped cleaning the desk.  Partly it's because I've had the DVD for so long.  It's been waiting here for weeks months.  Netflix charges a monthly fee and if you just hold on to a disc, they won't send you a new one and then you're not getting your money's worth. 

Mostly, though, the reason for the guilt is that it's been waiting that long for me to take notes from it and possibly write up a small blurb or article.  In the past, I've thought of writing books.  I have another blog for pieces of fiction, some of which are even complete.  These two book ideas were non-fiction, though.

Over the years I thought about the subjects and collected bits and pieces, but never sat down and wrote, never even sat down and outlined a structure.  Also over the years, technology changed and about some years ago I started thinking that the two subjects could make a website.  I never sat down and outlined what the sites should look like, but I collected a bunch of online articles that could be used for reference or linked to. 

Three years ago, I bought domains for the two ideas and, uh, well, once I started thinking of websites instead of books, I had another idea for one, so that's three domains I bought.  I say bought.  With a domain, it's more like renting.  I've renewed them twice, now. 

One of the domains is  I'll explain why I'm interested in the concept later.  Explaining here would be like writing the About page for the website, except I wouldn't really have an actual About page at the end. 

I almost don't feel guilty that I've spent the money for three domains and all I've done to make something out of them is cruise the web looking for articles, harvest the addresses and some quotes, and email them to myself (there are two computers involved, it's not quite as schizophrenic as it seems).

Well, it's time to pop that guilt like a zit.  That is, slowly and hesitantly, because being to firm might hurt.  And quitting after a bit to whine, telling myself that it will be easier if I wait until it's riper.  But before I quit, I'm going to start another blog.  And it shall be named (sound of heavenly choir):  Fossils Without Dinosaurs.

It won't be much more than a placeholder.  But before I go to bed, it will have, if not an article, at least the notes for a possible article inspired by part of the documentary that I've let sit on my desk for far too long.

Go me. 

(Oh.  For anyone wondering why an article inspired by Arctic Dinosaurs should be suitable for a blog called Fossils Without Dinosaurs, it's because they used fossil plants to determine how cold it was in the arctic at the time the dinosaurs were there.  Fossil plants, folks - there are lots of them and they deserve a bit more cred.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Unremembered Stories

I'm not feeling guilty about the thing I'm going to write about.  It's something that I found in a doc in my writing folder.  I was going through the writing folder because I was feeling guilty about not writing in too long.  But the actual subject is not guilt-inducing.
Each of us has some childhood memories that we don't remember.  What we remember is hearing relatives talk about us doing that when we were younger.  The stories get repeated fondly and occasionally become the cause of false memories, triggered by the stories.  I'm lucky in that I have absolutely no memory of this event.

My Mother and Father had slightly different versions of the story.  This is because my Mother saw it happen and my Father . . . well.  To set things up properly, you have to know that my Father had some habits. One of his habits was a little relaxing dance that he did with a cookie and a cup of coffee.

Some people might have described what he did as pacing.  But when I think of pacing, I think of anxiety and strong motions and pacing back and forth in a line.  This was more like a waltz with no particular rhythm. 

He'd stand and take in a slow sip of coffee, the take a bite of cookie, then take a step or two . . . possibly three, then relax and lean back, curving his back, then straighten slowly, perhaps take a step, then settle for another sip.  The steps would slowly cover half of the front room and half of the dining room (no door between the two).

He describes looking up and seeing a black mark on the cream colored plaster of the ceiling on a day when he was drinking coffee and I was playing on the floor in the front room.  (Plaster, not wallboard.  He had a full rant about that.)  He asked, "What's this black mark on the ceiling, here?" expecting my Mother to answer from the kitchen. 

I looked up, and off-handedly answered, "Oh, that's where I stuck my banana," and went back to playing.  Mother had to come out and tell him her version of the story.

Mother had given me a quarter of a banana.  One that had been cut in half width-wise and then cut again length-wise, so that there was a flat side to the banana a few inches long.  Either I wasn't hungry, or I was feeling energetic or whimsical, because as I ate it, I also tossed it up and caught it.

Mom says I should have seen my face the time that I tossed the banana up and it didn't come down.  I stood with my hands out, waiting, then looked back up.  It had been thrown just hard enough to hit the ceiling, and the flat side was soft and slick enough to make a suction that held it there.

As I was peering up and had finally located the cream-colored banana on the cream-colored ceiling, the suction gave way to the pull of gravity and it fell on me.  I don't remember hearing if it landed on me or if I made a grab for it. 

I also don't remember any discussion between them, but they must have worked out that the banana-damp, that hadn't looked like anything on the day of the event, and that had been forgotten, must have molded, unnoticed, on the ceiling until my Father, doing the slow dance of coffee and cookie, had leaned back and looked up and seen the black mark.

By the time they told me the story, years later, there wasn't much of a mark to see.  They had washed it as well as they could, of course, once they had noticed it.  But they could still see a shadow of it.  I couldn't tell you what shape it had, by then.  I mostly remember that they both loved telling the story. 
There were other things in that Writing Notes doc, but I'm going to leave them out of this post.  I think that story can stand on its own.  Well, I could add one thing.  It's a quote that I collected.  See below.
"I was reminded of an elderly mathematician who had told me years before of his vision of paradise.  Imagine, he said, a long corridor, drawn in perspective, stretching back toward a narrow point at infinity.  Then imagine that each side of the corridor is lined with straight-backed cane-bottomed chairs.  Then imagine that on the seat of every chair there is a kitten."

Laura Gould, Cats Are Not Peas:  A Calico History of Genetics

Monday, August 20, 2012

If You Love Your Children . . .

I gave a speech, once, with a recurring motif of "If you love your children: . . . "  (I'm a Toastmaster, I'm allowed to give speeches for no reason in particular.)  There were three sections to the speech.  The first was: Write a Will.  The second was: Prepay Your Funeral.  And the third was:  Have a Living Will or Medical Power of Attorney on File. 

These are important things.  If you do these things, your children will bless you.  Well, unless they're the sort who are always looking for drama, and you shouldn't be encouraging that anyway. 

But if you really love your children, you will LABEL ALL OF YOUR PHOTOS.  This applies particularly to photos that have been in a box under your bed for decades, photos that you never take out and reminisce and share stories over.  I may have to start a blog called:  Who The Hell Are These People?  (Yes, I did notice that I've written about this before.  The photos still aren't sorted and labeled, so the irritation continues.)
I will give Mom credit.  Last year she brought over two boxes of pictures and we labeled all of the photos that she could identify.  Unfortunately, she didn't bring the other four boxes, including the ones that she had inherited from her mother (and that were possibly inherited at least once before that).  Some of these people will never be identified.  Some of them might.  There's a chance that some were identified in other photos.  But a lot of my second cousins look very similar as toddlers.  If the whole family is in the photo, I can go by birth order, but singletons are mysteries.

Now to the guilt.  I felt very guilty when I started throwing away vacation photos.  At first.  As I got further and further into the box, I became almost gleeful.  It was liberating.  If it's just a photo of a mountain or a lake, with no person in it and no date and no clue who took the vacation, it's going.  Sorry.  Bye, bye.  If the people by the lake or the bridge are too small or too blurry to identify, it's going.  Postcards are going.  Joke postcards are being hurled into the waste bin.

I feel just a little guilty about some of these just because they were kept for so many years.  How do I know?  Well, after the fifth picture of Great Grandma B standing next to her car to show that she was on vacation, I started tossing those, too.  So they would have been hers, to start with (or Great Uncle L's - he lived with her for years, and may have taken the photos).  Then they would have been kept by Grandma B, then by my Mother.  I am breaking the chain.  Sorry.  I can get a better picture of that lake on the internet. 

I also feel a little sad about the milestone pictures and the way they accumulate.  There are multiple copies of my Mother's high school graduation picture, for instance.  Some are unsigned and others are dedicated to other relatives from her.  It's obvious that the photos went out, and then, over the decades, the relatives died and the copies slowly collected back.  I've been able to toss multiples of me and of my kids.  I haven't tossed one of Mom's graduation pictures, yet.  I may be able to find homes for them.  We'll see.

I'll write about other things that were collected some other time.  Hint:  you folks who started collecting pre-1964 silver coins from your pocket change when the sandwich coins came out made a good investment.  Buying coins as an investment doesn't work as well; but you folks who didn't pay anything but the time to roll them and the space to keep them came out nicely ahead.  Or rather, your kids will. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Maybe Should Have Mentioned

In between my Mother being diagnosed with cancer in March and dying in May, I had knee replacement surgery in April.  The knee had completely gone, prior to that.  Some days I could get by with a cane and some days it was crutches.  Mom didn't want me to put off the surgery waiting to see how things would go.  Then things went faster than any of us expected.

Three things have kept me from feeling hideously guilty about going ahead with the surgery.  Two of Mom's friends, DeeDee and Paula, formed a wonderful support group for her, and my Youngest Son more or less went to live with Mom, except for during my actual surgery and the first weeks back from the hospital.  Then his Devoted Girlfriend took over driving me around while he went back.  He was the one who took her to the emergency room when she started to be unresponsive and, weeks later, he was the one who was with her when she died.  In beween, he ran all her errands and kept her in contact with the rest of us with an iPad and Facetime.  She loved that. 

It's been about three weeks, now, since the pain has gone.  It's odd not to have it there after all these years.  It's started building up around 1999, give or take a year.  So I have my mobility back, but I need to build up the muscles that weren't used, not just after the surgery, but for months before.  It's embarrassing the little it takes to make different muscles sore.  And if I make the mistake of thinking that I'm a regular, fit person, I end up pulling something. 

I'm still behind on a lot of things and it would be nice to put in some straight-ahead hours catching up.  But I have to potter instead.  I always think both that I'm not doing enough, that I'm using the weak muscles as an excuse to be lazy, AND that I'm doing too much, that I'm risking racking myself up so that I'll have to take time off.  It's a very busy sort of laziness. 

Time to let the dogs out.  Whatever else happens, the day is always punctuated with looking after the dogs. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hoarding vs Archiving

It probably says a lot about me that the thing that finally goaded me into posting was a webcomic.  This is the first post in 2012.  My Mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March and she died of it on May 24.  I'm still not sure what to post about that.  I think I'll stick to her situation as regards the comic,

There are two things that are related.  One, from the time she started feeling bad*, she started going through all of the things she had accumulated, throwing things out, selling things at a flea market, and giving things away.  I really appreciate that.

Two, she sent two boxes of photos, a box of 8mm home movies, and a box of vinyl albums home with me in March.  She had already given me two boxes of photos, which we had gone through together and labeled, and I thought that was the last of them.  No.  There were still two large boxes under her bed filled with photos.  Some of them must have been ones she inherited when her mother, my Grandma B, died.

A fair bit of the inherited photos are not labeled.  I'm guessing that they were photos that Grandma B inherited when Grandpa B's mother died.  Grandma B was pretty good about labeling. 

Now I look at these pictures and have no clue who these people are.  One of them is on a small piece of glass, about 1.5" x 1.5", instead of on paper.  I suspect that I can identify some of them through the labeled pictures, but it's going to take awhile, and I have my Mother's estate to settle first. 

I think about the boxes of Grandma L's photos and letters that I still have to go through, and the box of Aunt D's things.  Now these.  Then I look at the webcomic and wonder if I'm archiving the family heritage or hoarding things for others to toss after I'm gone.  There's no way to know.  It will depend on whether anyone in my children's or grandchildren's generation becomes interested. 

Note to self:  Find Mom's Christmas Stocking pattern.  Learn to knit.

* the length of time it took her doctor to diagnose her is a completely different rant