Archive for the ‘Random’ Category

It’s my birthday!

I have always been a kind of “it’s my birthday month!” kind of person. I have been known to remind people all year round, in fact, of the exciting day at any time of year. I used to post on FB items that might make a great birthday present, reminding people that it was only 6 months away and it was never too soon to buy. Not that I really expected to receive hundreds of gifts – nor did I. I considered it fun – or funny, even, to let the world know what I wanted.

Like this beauty I saw for the first time last year

Like these beauties I saw for the first time last year

This year, I’ve found myself flummoxed twice when someone asked me about a gift for my birthday. I couldn’t think of what to say and really, didn’t answer either person with a very direct response. I think part of the reason is because I’m really feeling the strain of the end of grad school (read: educational poverty) and I have many things on my “Wish List” which seem to me to be necessary items. Like shoes. Or car repair. Or glasses.

lems primal

Dude. They’re zero-drop and I can wear them to present!

I decided to set about making a wish list that I could share with people. It was really hard to do. It caused me a lot of brain energy, wondering what to put on the list, adding things and then deleting them over and over again (all this while I was studying, you understand). And then last night it came to me – I remembered/realized why making a list was so hard!

birthday list 0

While I used to laugh and joke about what people could buy me, in real life, telling someone what I want for a gift is actually the LAST think I want to do.

Here’s why:

In my family, my mother had a real thing about gifts. There is a long (probably apocryphal) story about my father’s first gift to my mother, which was disdained by my mother (for cultural reasons that my father could not have possibly guessed). Since that first, fateful gift, my mother made it a habit to tell my father, and even her children, what to buy for her. I remember gathering up my babysitting money at 12 years old to pay for a portion of a shoe and purse pair (sharing the cost with my sister and probably my father) that my mother requested.

Till the day he passed away, my father never bought a gift for her (as far as I know) without her direct (or indirect via one of us kids) approval.

The older I got, the less I liked this, although I surely understood his point of view. I remember my mother’s response when I brought something I’d made at school to give as a Mother’s Day gift – “What is that, anyway? Huh. Dust catcher.” Yeah, who wants to risk that kind of response?

Some mother’s like them, apparently...

Some mothers like them, apparently…

But I did, occasionally, give my father a hard time about it. I’d ask him how many years he had been buying gifts for her (40 years) and then run down a list of her strong likes/dislikes. Then I’d encourage him to choose something he thought she’d like. But he never did.

Even now, when she is “forced” to engage in Secret Santa or some such gift giving thing at work or church, she tells people to wrap a gift for a child for her, so that she can then give it, un-opened, to some child at her church.

wrapped-gifts-rbkcgjsw

After leaving home, though, I had a friend who bought me a book by an author I’d never even heard of, and I loved it. She knew my tastes well enough to find something for me that I didn’t even know existed yet was completely engaging to me. And other friends repeated that amazing feat, time and time again. A friend I haven’t seen in years has sent me fabulous gifts from Italy. One friend knows how to pick the perfect shirts for me. One far away friend has delighted me every year since I left MN with treats and surprises that quickly become parts of my every day life.

On the one hand, I can understand not wanting to receive things that you don’t want or like. I do. But when I compare that to the absolute DELIGHT that comes from receiving a gift that makes you feel like the other person really knows you…well, that just seems silly. Those are my favorite gifts. The ones that called out to you, when you saw them, that they would be perfect for me. They are things I would never buy for myself, and am delighted to own anyway. They are things that may or may not actually arrive on my birthday or any other holiday, which suddenly and immediately become irreplaceable. So there you go, that’s my wish list.

Pop_Fresh_No_Pressure-front-large

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Facebook FTW!

I’ve moved around my whole life, and one thing that happened over and over again when I was a kid was that I would totally lose touch with people as I moved, no matter how much we swore to each other that we’d stay in touch.

When I moved back to the States from Italy, I swore again not to lose touch. Email worked a little better than the plain old paper and pen, air mail envelope method, but that and visiting once a year didn’t seem to be enough.

envelope

Enter Facebook 2007. Yes, it was that long ago. The first year or so, it didn’t make much difference, but by 2010, many of my Italian friends were on and those that weren’t contacted the others. I got to see everyone I know and love in Italia that year.

This week, I had another fabulous visit to a town I love and guess what? Facebook helped with this visit, too. I got to see people I haven’t seen in 20 years. I was talking with someone this morning and he asked me why is one social media any better than any other. He mentioned MySpace, which cracked me up. You know me, I’ll try to answer anything but it took me a few minutes to come up with my answer to Facebook’s popularity (I’m sure there are research projects and advertising geniuses who actually know the answer, this is just my own opinion). I think that one of the things that really improved Facebook’s staying power was the popularity of smartphones. Being connected 24/7 with my people from all over the world has definitely improved my social life.

Today, I’m grateful to Facebook and modern technology.

Stockpiling…paper?

I used to be a huge fan of buying in bulk. Working at the group home I went to Sam’s once a month in order to make our food budget work. I liked the savings and bought lots of my own groceries there too. In the last couple of years, though, the more invested I became in eating/buying local, the less trips I made to Costco. I was going every three or four months before I left MN. They had a few frozen organic veggies I liked and of course, popcorn.

I tried to keep it to a minimum, but there were things that I just couldn’t stand to buy in other stores (not that I really went into other stores, either). Like toilet paper. Then I moved here, to Mass. I went for popcorn (which I didn’t find) but I was very happy to discover that the Nashua Costco carries tofu – the same tofu Bodhi eats every day. At a great price.

That’s 6 days worth in 1 box!

Now I go to Costco every month for tofu. I don’t buy a lot of other things – I don’t need a lot of other things and my finances are pretty tight. They still don’t carry my favorite popcorn, but after the CSA closed for the season I have bought some frozen veggies there, too. I didn’t mean to go shopping at all today, but my early morning appointment turned out to be much shorter than anticipated, so I headed over. As I passed the toilet paper, I paused. How much toilet paper did I have at home? I couldn’t remember exactly, and I was sure I hadn’t bought any last month…finally I decided that I probably had enough and passed that section by.

I got out to my car with my tofu and broccoli and opened the trunk. Here’s what I found:

From last month’s visit?

I had to laugh. Apparently, I had toilet paper. I totally planned this blog in my head as I was driving home. Of course, I got home and I had to do other stuff, clean, move furniture, cook, search for cat pee, you know, the normal Friday tasks. I went to get a hammer this evening and there, behind the toolbox:

I am still giggling about this...

Books I haven’t read

Before I go on to tell you about the truly insane life I’ve been leading since arriving in Massachusetts, I will veer off into randomland.

Whenever I think about packing, I think about books. All the other junk I haul around with me is just so much..stuff. What’s really important to me are the books. I have packed up and moved my books about…22 times in my adult life (yes, I counted). The books in the first 12 moves were kind of a group, added to and deleted from, then there was a big break and I sort of lost a good many of those books, so the next 10 moves or so started small and then built up again.

Everyone in my immediate family (and most of my gathered family) loves books. In my immediate family, sometimes the acquiring of books superseded the need to read said books, and due to the stationary nature of their lives (1 address in 30 years in stead of 22), the accumulation there is truly amazing.

I’ve always been proud of my ability to purge books – to sell them or give them away as necessary. Although I was in my house for 8 years, I still had the opportunity to purge (as people I loved moved in and out). I was glad to do it, especially since my new method has to do with how easily I can find said book online if necessary. It makes it nearly painless. And the last purge before moving was just that. I knew I’d be moving and I knew I wanted to move as few books as possible.

And yet, today, as I pull books from the shelves I find myself looking at some books and saying, “This wasn’t a very good book in the first place. Why am I carrying it with me?” It was just after one of these moments when I came across a book that I didn’t recognize (which is unusual for me – generally I do read all the books I own – apart from school books – and even those I recognize). It was a hardback, but no slipcover. Even reading the title, Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership, I got nothing. Author? Joseph Jaworski and Peter M. Senge. Still, nothing. I opened the book and found some small writing inside, in pencil in some margins. I don’t recognize the handwriting, either. It first occurred to me that it might be one of my ex’s books – he also bought books he never managed to read and loved a yard sale.

Then I opened it and checked the table of contents and realized it must be one of my dad’s books. This made me smile. Before my dad died, I gave away hundreds of his books to the library at his request. There were hundreds more to be dealt with after he passed and I managed to snag a few for myself despite the opinions of other family members. I’m not completely sure that this was one of his, but I tucked it away in the box on the off chance that it was. Maybe I’ll stay with tradition on this one and never read it.

 

Everything’s relative

For anyone who hasn’t sat still and listened to me complain about my car in the last few months, let me give you a brief synopsis. I got caught on the road under a tornado the day before that tornado hit Minneapolis (I love google – that was May 21) and my car sustained $6500 worth of hail damage. The car was in the shop for 2 weeks. The week after I got the car back, it got hit in some parking lot and got a ding in the driver’s side door. I didn’t mind that much except that the door latching mechanism seemed to have sustained some damage so that frequently when I attempted to shut the door it would bounce back open, as if something was caught in the door. So I called up and set another appointment with the body shop. The next day, I went out to my car and discovered some punk had robbed it right in my driveway (I’m assuming it had something to do with the fact that I was having trouble closing the stupid door and it worked better if I didn’t use that delay lock feature). I had to replace my driver’s license, which was no big deal (apart from paying for a license two weeks before leaving the state), but replacing my ipod was a bit more painful. Before I had time to get it in to the shop, someone hit the driver’s side mirror and hey! pretty much took it off.

I got my car back from the shop just before I left for Mass. Whew.

I didn’t drive the car here though, I towed it behind the uhaul (wish I’d gotten a picture of that!). I was really worried about something bad happening to the car and so drove extra slow and the drive took extra long (32 hours instead of the predicted 24).

I’ve been here since August 22nd. Work/internship is going well, home is crazy, but that’s another story. Driving has been fine – I live just 3.8 miles from work and so am not even on the road much. Friday, though, just as I was leaving work early (yay!) my car started overheating and dude…pretty much shut down the engine…while I was on the highway. I was suddenly doing 35. The car kept flashing things to me, including, Stop when it is safe to do so. I got off the highway at the next exit and stopped at the stop sign. When it was clear I pressed the gas…but nothing happened. I tried a couple of times, but nothing. I shut the car off then started it up again an luckily it drove a few more feet so I could get off the off ramp!

I called my insurance company for a tow, gave them the name of a mechanic that someone from work recommended. No one ever answered there or called me back, plus I realized that maybe a cooling problem would be covered by my extended warranty so I checked my handy dandy phone for dealerships nearby. I made about 8 calls on the side of the road and sent out half a dozen text – besides alerting folks on facebook and twitter – before the tow truck showed up.

Once at the dealer I heard the speech that the warranty might not cover it, etc. and no loaner. The shop was closing when the guy at the desk said he’d drive me to the rental car place. I got there and agreed to pay the ridiculous sum of $35 a day (starting Monday – they gave me a deal for the weekend).

I got in the car (it’s a newer Camry) and headed home. I remember there was a time in my life that a newish car would have thrilled me – but since I’ve been driving the LaCrosse, nothing even comes close. I love that car!

Anyway, I got home and realized that damn! I forgot that the new bag of rice I just bought was in the car. My car. The one that is at the now closed dealership. All I wanted to do was sit down, but there was no rice for Bodhi so I got back in the rental car and headed back to Trader Joes. I splurged slightly and got some frozen pizza for myself and made my way home.

Ok, that was just the background. Now, on to the actual blog…

As all of this was occurring Friday afternoon/evening, I was struck by my level of distress/frustration throughout the “ordeal.” All of my texts and posts about my situation were situation updates: “I’m on the side of the road,” “Tow truck is here,” “At the dealership” that kind of thing. My first post was even kind of a joke, “Sittin on the side of the road (you know the tune), watching the cars roll away…”

While I was at the rental place the guy said “Oh, because this is a debit card I am going to have to check your credit” (bad news for someone who just filed bankruptcy and has a house going into foreclosure) and THEN said, “oh, we aren’t supposed to rent to people who don’t have a valid state id.”

I put my head down on the counter. He was a nice guy and just took a $300 payment from my card.

That’s when it really hit me – how different my life is these days. There was a time, not so very long ago, that a car on the side of the highway meant some friend would need to come and pick me up, and maybe we’d need to try to drag the thing home with a stout rope. At that point I’d need to find someone who knows a little about cars and beg them to come over and fix my vehicle. There would have been no tow truck, no rental car and certainly no $300 cash available in my bank account to ensure that I got the rental. There would have been no extended warranty which might pick up the repair and maybe some of the rental car fee. Even as I was considering what would happen if the warranty didn’t pick up the bill (delayed payment on my loans/bills), I never considered what would happen if I couldn’t pay it at all. I thought I might have to tighten up some and stop buying stuff in the next month, but not that I might not be able to pick up my car.

In fact, in the beginning, the thing I was most worried about? My cell phone dying. I am not even kidding.

Not too many years ago, this might have been a real tragedy. I mean, I would have been worried about who would fix it, how much would it cost, how would I get to work… The interesting thing is that it still seems like a tragedy to me, even though it really just isn’t any more. I mean, yes, it will cost me money that I didn’t expect to spend, but really, I’m home safe and sound, the car is going to get looked at, it might even be covered by the extended warranty. I have a rental car right here in my parking space and my rent is paid up till the 15th of October.

My life is good – no matter what I’m complaining about today.

Just as I was posting this, someone posted this link on facebook:

http://playspent.org/

Try it, I dare you.

Add this to your vocabulary

So, generally speaking I’m not too bitter about the LTR that ended a few years ago, but I have been heard to say that the two things I got from that relationship are my step son and a skill for popping popcorn. But that may not be completely fair. There were other gains, too. I’m sure of it. In fact, I just thought of one today.

First, you have to know I’m something of a grandma driver. I do the speed limit almost everywhere (yes, I did get a ticket last year but that’s another story), including the places the limit is 35 mph. I make full, 3-second stops at stop signs and never change lanes in an intersection. Lest you think I am some kind of saint, let me tell you that originally the reason I started driving so very carefully was because Detta was always riding in the back seat of my Blazer, and it just wasn’t safe to go fast!

ANYWAY, here I was, driving home, doing the speed limit, when roaring up behind me came one of those many white, suburbanite men driving a gigantic truck – one of those huge suckers with 4 tires in the back? He raced up so close I couldn’t see his headlights, then slipped by close enough that I thought he was going to hit me. He raced forward in time to stop at the next light, where I rolled lightly by him.

You know who I’m talking about, guys (and, I suppose, to be fair, there are women too) who drive enormous vehicles, trucks and hummers and suburbans, who think they own the road and that you are just an obstacle to get around. They race up to every stop light and change lanes with a frequency that seems ridiculous. I don’t see these guys as often as my ex did, but whenever I see them, my mind immediately goes to the term coined by B….macholeptics.

You know who I'm talking about

Who me? Vain?

While it is true that I sometime tease my leg-shaving friends about…well, shaving their legs, or stressing over what to wear, let it not be said that I am without vanity. I don’t shave my legs or buy new shoes for a date, but I do spend money and time on other things. Hair and skin. Yes, it’s true that today my hair is about an eighth of an inch long – so we’ll leave that for another day.

You may think that this means I spend a lot of money on product – and that was once true. I used to use 4 different kinds of conditioner on my hair – at a time. I got very exclusive about which conditioners I used. For my skin I was just as vigilant. I always pat dry – never rub my skin with the towel. I was always on the hunt for a great product. I used oils and gentle soaps, and I bought body butters from the Body Shop. This was my favorite:

Cocoa butter

Smells a little like candy

A few years ago, everything changed. My mom sent me a great product (from QVC, of course) that I found delightful. It said it was 100% shea butter and I really liked it. When it was gone, I decided to give up my longtime favorite from the Body Shop and buy some more from (gasp) QVC. Then I looked it up. I admit, I balked at the price. I kind of always felt like Body Butter was expensive at $15. $39 for even fewer ounces seemed crazy to me.

I thought, surely I can find shea butter for less money! And I looked online and, in fact, found some. I bought it and hey! It smelled really bad. Like goat shit. No, I mean it, not speaking metaphorically. Of course, I don’t really know what goat shit smells like, but this stuff really smelled like barnyard shit. I tried a number of places till I found a site where the butter smelled better. While hunting around I found an entire world online that was all about making your own product. I started looking at all the crazy chemicals that are in most products and how to avoid them. I experimented with different recipes and methods, and for a while also tried to add scent (never did get that candy smell I like so much).

That was 4 or 5 years ago. Now I buy fair trade, organic (sometimes) ingredients and mix them up in my own kitchen one or two times a year. I don’t add scent any more, but I usually use some cocoa butter that adds a light chocolaty smell I love. I have used a number of different suppliers, but right now I like Mountain Rose Herbs for the oils and butters and Bath Body Supply for jars and such. There is a highly technical and secret process that makes the ingredients really soft and silky (freezing and blending).

Looks good enough to eat, doesn't it?

It takes a little time, but it is worth it. I make lotion bars, too, that I put in little push-up containers so I can keep one with me, in my backpack, my desk or my car. Let me tell you, nothing is too much for my skin. Except paying $39 for 5.6 ounces. And no one has ever complained that I don’t shave.

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