I’m Ready to Evolve! Let’s Do Something Different!

“Think of it as a decompression chamber between lives.”

One thing we old ladies can volunteer for is fostering for animal rescue groups.

(It’s not only dogs that require fostering. There are rescue groups for cats and other critters as well.)

Many families had at least one dog (or kitty). If we had good luck with these critters, meaning we treated them like family and took them to training classes and regular veterinary appointments, we could offer our services to a dog-rescue group for fostering.

NOTE: Foster homes are not the easiest for rescue groups to find so we must control ourselves and relinquish the wee adorable darlings when the time comes to surrender them to their forever homes. We must be strong. Another foster will come along.

Besides, we are now elderly.* What happens if we decide to keep this critter and we suddenly end up in long-term care? What happens to the critter? Off it goes to a foster home until a forever home comes along? The exact same reason, in some cases, we would be fostering this wee dolly in the first place?

When my kitty crossed the rainbow bridge a few years ago, friends were astonished that I didn’t try to replace him. Not that he could be replaced, Bixby was unique.

Here he is as Mieuw Heffner.

And here he is audition-posing in case somebody starts up a Playkitty Magazine.

Yes. Bixby was a ham, among other things. When I was showing and breeding Rottweilers in another life, he was my good-cop puppy trainer. (His Auntie Zest was bad cop.†) Bixby came from a show-cat home, so I think that’s why he liked dressing up and getting his picture taken. He was used to being handled and used to the limelight. I missed him like crazy, but…

My thinking was that if a “replacement” kitty lived for sixteen years as Bixby had done, that would put me very close to 90 by then. What if the “replacement” kitty lived until it was twenty? Twenty-one? Twenty-two? Would I still be alive? My sight is going, my hearing is going. Could I care properly for a by-then-aging-too kitty? Nope. It wouldn’t be fair to bring a new kitty into my life permanently.

Fostering is a noble act of love.

What’s Involved in Fostering?

How does this blog writer know about animal-rescue groups and fostering in the first place? I do volunteer administrative work for a local dog rescue group, and have done so for years.

A friend of mine fosters for another Ottawa area dog-rescue group.

To foster, we need to have sufficient knowledge and experience with said species. Many of these animals come from horrendous conditions and need compassionate, experienced, patient, knowledgeable people to help them transition from Hell to new home.

(When I say “horrendous conditions,” I will only tell you that I worked for an emergency veterinary hospital as a receptionist for four years in the early 1990s. I tell people, now, that I saw things there that I would not put into the head of my worst enemy. So don’t ask.)

Foster parents need the ability to evaluate the critters in their care to help the rescue group decide the kind of forever home it would be best suited for. Would this particular dog get along with other dogs, with cats, with children? What age could children be or not be? Same thing for cats.

The group I volunteer for provides food, veterinary care, toys, collars and leashes and beds and anything else a foster dog requires. All that would be required from you is your kindness and expertise.

Perhaps we’re in a situation where we would like to do something to help out critter-rescue groups but for whatever reason, we aren’t able to house one to foster it. (I’m in that situation.) Or perhaps our experience/knowledge is not vast enough for the rescue group to allow one of their charges to be fostered by us. (Yet?)

If we have a vehicle, we can do something else wonderful. We can offer to drive a rescued animal from one location to another.

These “drives” work on a “relay system” and are an amazing way to get an animal from point A to point Z without any individual driver spending more than perhaps an hour or two (including their trip back home), but the animal ends up being transported for perhaps hundreds of miles.

I sat shotgun when a friend did this several years ago. It feels good. Really good. Those who are less experienced with animal behavior might consider riding shotgun until they learn more.

NOTE: Be sure to do background research before you jump into contacting a local rescue group, though. Most are well-intentioned. Most. Almost all of them, in fact. Find someone who does volunteer work for each of the groups in your area, approach them and ask for their opinion of the other groups. Ask several. Then decide for yourself.

This week’s tip: Offer to help out animal rescue-groups.

Until next time.

*REMINDER: This blog is geared toward pre-Baby-Boomer gals. That is, “girls” born before 1946.

†I remember one particular “recess” for one of my litters when everybody was running around in the living room, raising hell (essentially learning how to go potty on the paper). Bixby was right in the middle of it all. Not so his Auntie Zest. Zest had disappeared into the kitchen. I noticed that one by one, the puppies seemed to go into the kitchen and go out of sight there. Within seconds, I would hear a yike, then the puppy would run full tilt back to his buddies, probably yelling, “Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit! I’m never going anywhere NEAR that thing again!”

Illustrations from https://www.needpix.com/

Photos by Sherrill Wark

Three… Two… One. [*gunshot*]

“Wait! What? I was never trained for this!”

What are you talking about, telling me to get out there and do something new?

We old ladies don’t know how to do anything other than what we’ve always done. We aren’t supposed to be doing anything other than what we were trained for, created for, meant for. Right?

No, no, no. Doing something new is way too scary.

And isn’t it kind of “forbidden” or something?

Aren’t we supposed to carry on like always? Even though that “always” has changed so very much for us? Even though we’ve emptied our home of everything we don’t need and have no family around to do things for, we old ladies don’t know how to do anything other than what we’ve always done.

No, no, no.

Besides, if we do anything “different,” all the old ladies in our community will tsk tsk us so much, their dentures will come flying out. Haven’t we always “obeyed” our elders?

Wait! What? We’re the elders now. What are we doing being terrified of all those old tongues (and dentures)?

Hmm. Maybe… Doing something we’ve never done might be worth a thought. It might even be… fun?

How about we take it one step at a time? Ease into it?

How about we take our training and experiences and knowledge into the world outside our cave and massage it into something the real world needs?

In future posts, I’ll go into more detail about Things We Old Ladies Can Do outside the Home, but for now, here are some thoughts that might help transition us from the concept of always doing what’s expected of us, to doing what’s unexpected.

Things have gotten better and better and better. Of course, they have. Men today do housework and do it well. They sometimes work from home while their wives go out to work, and this includes cooking, cleaning and “babysitting.” Nobody (generally, right?) seems to care anymore who does what in the home.

But…

I’m talking about us old gals in this blog. We—and our men—were programmed much differently. And a lot more strongly, it seems.

One Warning

I really hesitate to say anything about this as I don’t want readers to think I’m anti-having-a-husband/boyfriend. I’m not. I’m speaking of (generally) North America because that’s where I live and where my parents were born and grew up, and where three of my grandparents were born and grew up.

But… Here’s the advice.

Don’t jump into a new relationship just yet.

Wait a while.

Wait as though you’re involved in a drug or alcohol rehab program where they recommend not being in a relationship with anyone for at least a year of sobriety.

Why?

If we do get involved, we’ll never learn anything new. We’ll never “escape” from the notion that we are of no value being other than a 3C*.

Men of “our generation” have been very strongly programmed toward the 3C woman just as much as we have, and it seems that nothing can alter their programmed view.

Our fathers were involved in WWII whether they served or not. When the war was over, women went back home. The only way to do this, to get women to go back home and let the men take the jobs again, was through propaganda. Propaganda aimed at both men and women. Movies were a huge part of this propaganda. (Yes they were!)

But it goes back much, much further than that and the trouble started when “man” became “civilized.”

What Am I Talking About?

I’m talking about the switch from caveman—er, sorry, I mean caveperson—to royalty. And apparently, we didn’t really live in caves, we were nomads, we lived where we could: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caveman

In the days of the caveperson, the females would have had children hanging off them or inside them or both, so would not always be nimble enough to dodge the hooves, horns, tusks, teeth or beaks of potential food. So generally—generally—the males were the hunters. The task of gathering would fall—generally—to the females. (Is this when we developed our shopping skills? Or lack thereof?)

These roles reversed when required. If not, Homo sapiens would have gone extinct. All members of the group shared their experiences, their knowledge, their abilities. And this is where storytelling began, too:

“You should have seen the look on your husband’s face when that mammoth turned around and started running in his direction.” General laughter all around the campfire.

And because the women did most of the gathering, they did most of the tasting and testing of berries and plants. The women, then, became the scientists, the doctors, but they shared this information with daughters and sons alike; and with the older men who no longer hunted for whatever reason.

The men, the hunters, would have developed an amazing ability to get back home no matter what. That’s right, they didn’t need to read directions. That skill has been retained. And it’s an innate skill, not something to be made fun of.

Everyone in the entire group was equal. Even the children were listened to with respect.

Then “civilization” came along and equality was gone with the wind.

Civilization: The Ruination of “Humanity” in Humans

Civilization meant staying in one place to tend to the crops.

Crops meant owning land.

Owning land meant protecting land.

Protecting land meant killing anybody trying to take it from you.

Oops.

Once again the men were away, but this time, they were away trying to get their land back. Or, in some cases, take over someone else’s land because they didn’t have any or they needed more because their families were growing.

They were impregnating other women and men were impregnating our women.

Women no longer “gathered” so were no longer the healers, the scientists.

And while the men were away killing people and taking back (taking over?) as much land as they could, they needed someone to take care of the crops for them so they either hired people or captured people (the beginnings of slavery?) to do that.

The person (man) who “owned” the most land was now the most powerful in the region. He’d killed so many people on the way “up,” everyone was afraid of him. And wisely so.

He would allow people to use parts of his land in exchange for either goods or “money.” People paid him. (Um. Would this have been referred to as “rent?” Or as “tax?”) These people were grateful to be safe and protected on his land and to be able to eke out a living there. He had become wealthy from the spoils of war, the “rent” from his property, and the sale of his wheat. He had complete control. He became ruler. King.

His son would take over from him. Had to be his son so “the wife” was watched carefully so as not to be impregnated by anyone else. (Women were regarded as incubators of the man’s seed.) Rules came about regarding what a woman could and could not do. What a woman should and should not do.

Men took over and any man who disagreed with the king’s rules (= laws of the land now) was executed. Good motivation to go along with the current views of society, eh?

The new land became a country ruled by its king.

Then along came the king’s advisor who could go by many names: soothsayer, wizard, diviner, prophet, religious figure… And this man—yes, a man—made all the rules for men and women alike. And this, as you know, has stuck like Gorilla Glue for millennia. (When I was in Chichen Itza several years ago, our tour guide told us that it was not the Spanish who ruined the Maya civilization, it was the soothsayer. This soothsayer had “mis-soothed” and an entire civilization went down the tubes.)

So let’s not blame “our men” for turning us into 3Cs. It’s been going on for a long, long time. When I think of the men of my generation, I picture the kids I hung out with in the double-dead-end-streets section of my small home town.

The young boys were the sons of fathers who’d served in WWII. (See above re fighting to maintain one’s land from those trying to take it from us.) Some of the fathers had been killed. Some of the fathers were “shell shocked,” today’s equivalent of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The father of my own best friend in the neighborhood had been shot down in the Netherlands when she was in utero.

These boys had learned from their fathers, fathers who were dead or alive or suffering from a mental disorder, to always be protective, even unto death. It was their duty to protect, especially to protect their women—called “girls” in those days. (The word “woman” back then bore the connotation of non-virgin. Tsk, tsk.)

The boys in my ’hood grew up with this idea firmly entrenched in their psyches. And so did the “girls.”

We’ve been trained—programmed!—to be and think and act a certain way.

Is it not time for a change? To take a leap of faith that we won’t crash and burn if we do something for ourselves for a change?

This week’s tip: Ready, set, go do it anyway. Evolve!

Until next time.

*The definition of a “3C” may be revealed in a future post. It’s rude and possibly shocking. But sadly apt.

Reference: The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind is Designed to Kill https://www.amazon.ca/Murderer-Next-Door-Mind-Designed-ebook/dp/B002IEUVBY/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+murderer+next+door&qid=1619783861&sr=8-1

Illustrations from https://www.needpix.com/

Photos by Sherrill Wark

Now What?

“I have nothing to live for. I am of no value to anyone.”

Life as I’ve always known it is no longer. I’m useless. I’m bored. I’m lost. I’m depressed. I have no value. If I can’t be someone’s 3C*, what good am I?

Before Women’s Liberation, certain things were expected of females. We were trained to not just act a certain way, but to be and to think a certain way. If we refused to conform, we could not ever expect to get a good husband. Or even a bad one. And all women were required to have a husband. Men needed wives, after all. They were out there working, making money, spending free time with their fellows to recharge, ruling the world, making important decisions. And there we were, all trained and smiling, full of hope while we waited. Me, hoping they wouldn’t notice my small breasts, my tall stature or my attitude of “but how come boys don’t have to do all this sh*t, too?”

Females were trained to cook and clean. Even in [most] homes in the old days when almost every home had a servant, the “lady of the house” had to know how to cook and clean so she would know what to expect from her servants. (I see on one branch of my own family tree, about five generations back, that one family of servants had servants, too.)

Let’s say someone is trained to do a specific task and for some reason, that task becomes redundant. They lose their job, their career, their purpose. They can plunge themselves into the darkness of depression and despair believing they are no longer of value. Or they can learn something new and do that.

Women of my generation were raised with one basic purpose in mind: to be a wife.

What is a wife?

Let me rephrase that: What was a wife? Things have changed! (Somewhat.)

During WWII (World War Two, 1939–1945), men went off to war and women stepped into their vacated jobs. Remember Rosie the Riveter? (https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/rosie-the-riveter ) That was what our moms did. That was what women were capable of doing.

When the war was over, the men came home and got their jobs back and…

Where did the women go? The women who had been “working?”

They went home to do what they were “created for.”

Single women were “allowed” to be in the workforce as secretaries, teachers, nurses and librarians, but as soon as that ring went on that finger… Pow. Zapped into the world of the 3C, the world of The Wife.

Women didn’t “work,” women were housewives. That wasn’t work. The natural state of the female was to be at home. Women loved it. They loved looking after the house and the kids and their husbands. (“And they lived happily ever after.”)

Remember what I said above? “They lose their job, their career, their purpose. They can plunge themselves into the darkness of depression and despair believing they are no longer of value. Or they can learn something new and do that.”

My mother was in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII. She worked as a telephone operator. She married my father who was also in the RCAF. (Dad trained wireless operators.) She was now a wife.

Mom did her wifely duties, of course she did. But she could also sew. Like a boss. She made my clothes and her own. She did my hair. She did neighbors’ hair. She was wife, nurse, teacher, fashion designer, hair stylist, chef-ette and often a single mom when Dad was away, still in the Air Force, then sick in the hospital for two months with a form of typhoid fever, then away at police school when I was around five. She did it all. That’s what women did.

What else was there to do? There were no cell phones. No TV. No microwaves. Not everyone had a telephone. Many in the boonies didn’t even have electricity. I remember visiting a cousin’s farm in the 1950s and they had these big glass lamps that they lit at night. No electricity. On a dairy farm.

Post-war times were tough. Mom had a washboard to do the laundry with until 1950. This I remember well because I got sh*t for blabbing to the mailman when he knocked on our apartment door one day: “We got a washing machine because Mommy is going to have a baby.” Pregnancy in those days was generally kept secret because there was only one way to get into that condition.

What Did a Wife Do in Those Days?

What occupations kept “the wife” occupied during those long, long days of being all alone in the house while her beloved, her prince, was away at work? What did she do all day to “fill in her time?”

She:

·        cooked and baked (Despite the idea that girls “didn’t need to know” arithmetic in school, our mothers could double, triple, halve and even third any recipe without the use of an abacus. There were no electronic calculators back then.)

·        cleaned (This, with mop and pail, watered-down vinegar for windows†, and cloths that had to be washed. There were no [affordable] vacuum cleaners, paper towels (as we know them) or “magic” sponges in those days. Floors were washed on hands and knees. The latter I know from experience!)

·        did the laundry (Mom and most moms I knew of did the laundry on Mondays in a wringer washer. Watch your fingers! Clothes were hung on the line no matter the weather, although we did have a folding wooden rack of sorts for emergencies.)

·        ironed (Pretty much every single thing that went through the washing machine—dish towels, sheets, pillowcases, Hubby’s undershorts—was ironed. And this was a Tuesday job. Imagine irons without electricity! https://www.pressrepublican.com/news/lifestyles/ironing-more-tedious-with-sad-irons/article_d5c1a6fe-749d-5eb2-a87a-a8400cac347e.html)

·        served as escort for public events with Hubby (Including all that that implies. [*wink, wink*])

·        “babysat”

·        home schooled (Helped with the homework. But Daddy was often called in for the arithmetic. (See above).)

·        made sure the children and hubby were fed, dressed and out the door on time for school, work and religious services

·        handled phone calls (In those post-war days, in our town, there were party lines or sometimes the neighbor’s phone if families didn’t have a phone yet.)

·        acted as doctor and nurse (Doctors made house calls and charged money for it, money people didn’t often have, so our mothers had to know all about mustard plasters, Mercurochrome, iodine, ice packs, a little gin for bad colds, how to take a sliver out or a bee’s stinger, diagnose when to actually call in a doctor, name it, she could do it.)

·        shopped (within an extremely strict post-war budget that usually Hubby was in charge of; girls didn’t know anything about arithmetic, right?)

·        dressed to the nines (especially in time for Hubby’s arrival for supper which was ALWAYS on the table when he stepped through the doorway)

·        had the newspaper and radio all ready for Hubby after supper so he could relax after his hard day at work

·        kept the children occupied in the evenings so Hubby wouldn’t be disturbed (All this while doing the dishes and helping the kids do their homework (see above) and later, getting them ready for bed. Then be all glamorous and spiffed-up (see “escort” above) to spend time with Hubby after the kids were taken care of.)

·        I could go on and on and on

“Imagine, if you will…” this wife having none of this to do anymore. No kids, no hubby. She has a vacuum cleaner (maybe even a Roomba, too), a microwave, restaurants for take-out, order from or dine in, a cellphone with reminders, TV that can be recorded then watched whenever, drugstores, OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) or equivalent (in most countries), mixers, blenders, juicers, frozen pre-made meals, prepared almost-everything, refrigerators, freezers, washing machines and dryers, debit and credit cards, a job/career/government pension that provides a stable income, pre-school, daycare, a car

Wow. Nothing to do. I’m of no value anymore. “They lose their job, their career, their purpose. They can plunge themselves into the darkness of depression and despair believing they are no longer of value. Or they can learn something new and do that.”

It’s never too late to learn something new. Something fun. Volunteer. Take an online course or go back to school/college/university. Write a book. Write two. Think of something. We now have 31,536,000 seconds a year to ourselves.

Today’s tip: Learn something new.

Until next time.

*The definition of a “3C” may be revealed in a future post. It’s rude and possibly shocking. But sadly apt.

†Dad helped out when it was time to do the outside windows

Illustrations from https://www.needpix.com/

Photos by Sherrill Wark

Shouldn’t Decluttering Be Called Ripping out My Soul?

“My place is a mess with all this stuff lying around. Stuff I don’t even…”

What am I doing with all this stuff? Stuff I think I want but don’t use. Some of it I’d even forgotten about.

I don’t need even half of it. Not even a quarter of it. Maybe none.

Aha. What I’ll do is move some of it out to the garage. Maybe rent a storage facility. Maybe put it all in the…

No. I’ll still have the responsibility of it, won’t I?

I have to rehome it.

But how?

How Indeed?

Let’s get hold of three boxes or containers. Big ones.

We will label them:

·      KEEP

·      TOSS

·      DONATE

Let’s think this through before we start:

“Toss” is a euphemism for “goes in the garbage.”

The “KEEP” box will later be divided into (1) hand down to kids(s)/whomever; (2) keep (because I need it); and (3) dayum, I can’t decide where this one goes.

Suggestions for the DONATE Box

Special stores in almost every community now sell used household goods and clothing that people have donated. The Salvation Army is only one. Any synagogue/church/mosque will gladly act as go between for getting household goods to those in need of them. There are donation boxes specifically for clothing here and there in most cities and towns.

One of the lesser-realized places to donate things—anything—is to women’s shelters. Many of these women have nothing but the clothes on their backs, literally, when they arrive at one of these shelters. (I was luckier.* Much luckier. In many, many ways.)

When I was in the women’s shelter back in 2005, the house I was in would often call us down to the office to announce that someone had just donated a box of items. During my six weeks there, I was able to get started with the basics: a set of ancient Corelle dishes, for one. They also took us to a special clothing store where I got a winter coat.

These items were anything from blankets to spatulas. Things we never realize we need until we open the kitchen drawer in our new digs expecting, out of habit, to find one. (I still have the blanket. A comforter. A comforter in more ways than one.)

Men and women in halfway houses also need pretty much every single thing all of us old ladies have doubles and triples of, too. Do we actually use all those sheets and pillowcases from when the kids had bunk beds? How long ago was that?

Donating is a bonus in all directions. They get to start stocking their new residences. We get to help them do that. Nothing in good condition needs to go to waste.

How?

Right now, let’s choose a cupboard shelf or a drawer we hardly ever go into and let’s just get at it.

One shelf or one drawer to start. This has to be a pleasant first time. Do one. Stop. I repeat: Do one. Stop. Why? Psychologically, when we stop in the middle of something we like doing, or before we get tired, we want to get back to it as soon as possible. Like, tomorrow first thing.

Set up the boxes close by and sit on the floor. (I don’t have trouble sitting on the floor, it’s trying to get back up that’s an issue. But this, too, can be accomplished with determination and mostly the will to survive.)

Using your own determination and will, take everything out of that drawer or off that shelf and put each thing into its respective box: KEEP, TOSS, DONATE.

Get yourself up off the floor. Grab a garbage bag. (You know exactly where you put those last time, right?)

Empty the TOSS box into it. Try to do this with neither regret nor flinching. Tie the top of the garbage bag and immediately march with pride to the garbage chute or garbage pail and let it slip from your fingers.

You did it! Woohoo. Yay!

Everything in the KEEP box goes back into that first drawer or onto that first shelf. (Bear with me.)

We will do nothing with the DONATE box right now.

Close the lids on the three boxes and stack them up somewhere for the next time. Tomorrow. Yes? First thing.

Walk away and forget about them. Go watch TV. Have a tea. Go for a walk.

“Tomorrow” Has Arrived

Get into position next to the second shelf (or drawer) and put everything there into its respective boxes.

The TOSS box gets emptied into another garbage bag and taken out. Immediately, right?

This time, the KEEP box’s contents get put onto the first shelf/drawer with yesterday’s things. There’s room now, isn’t there?

The DONATE box is starting to fill up.

The second shelf is empty. No kidding!

We will keep going like this until we’ve gone through every bureau/dresser/cupboard in our home.

When the first original shelf is full, start to fill up the second one. Then the third, etc.

We will keep using this same cupboard until all its shelves are full of our KEEP stuff. We’ll deal with it soon, don’t worry. We haven’t been using any of this stuff anyway, have we?

Each time the DONATE box gets full, we will donate its contents and start filling it again.

It won’t be long before our original bureau/dresser/cupboard is full but by then, we’ll probably have another bureau/dresser/cupboard empty. Start filling up its drawers now. One at a time only!

Eventually, we’ll realize that we have empty furniture and cupboards and storage units all over the place.

We’ll also realize that we have accomplished an amazing feat. We have decluttered our home from objects we didn’t need, use or want anymore and we have probably made some woman or man’s life easier by doing it. Our own, for one.

Let’s start over with the first shelf that contains our KEEPs.

We will re-label the three boxes:

·      KIDS/EQUIVALENT

·      NEED

·      DECIDE

Using the same technique, we will go through everything again.

We will decide also, where our extra bureaus and bookcases will be going. We definitely need some of these. Yes, we do. But not all. This is another set of keep, toss, donate decisions.

Let’s organize what’s left using logic. If we don’t know where everything is, what was the point of doing all this work in the first place? And from now on, we will put everything back where we got it from immediately after we use it. Immediately after we use it.

We’re done!

Look at all the room I have. I can even dance around or do my Tai Chi without smashing my knee or my little toe on anything.

I have reorganized all my shelves and drawers and bookcases and I know exactly where everything is. I have just accomplished something impossibly amazing.

Today’s tip: Life is all about choices.

Until next time.

*When I left my situation, I was lucky enough to be able to get some of my stuff into storage. My hundreds of books for one. But not much of my hundreds of dollars’ worth of kitchen equipment and other things that I had brought into the situation in the first place (like a bed). Something to sleep on (my couch doubled as sofa and bed for quite some time) was more important than a mixer or a blender. That donated spatula was appreciated to no end. Books? More about my books in another post.

DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to address hoarding. Hoarding requires professional attention. Hoarding is caused by as many reasons as there are hoarders.

Illustrations from https://www.needpix.com/

Photos by Sherrill Wark

Where Do I Find Room for “Everything in its Place?”

“Every time I turn around, something else has sprouted.”

Ah. The age-old question for us older gals who have accumulated too much over the years: Where did it all come from?

And where can I put it?

During Ice Storm ’98, I realized there is very little we actually need. We need oxygen, water, food, and shelter from the elements. Every species on Earth requires these things. (Yes, yes. I know there are “things” that can live in volcanoes, but you know what I mean.)

Do we actually need those four big salad bowls that probably still have our name taped on the bottom?

Do we need all of those exactly-the-same-size/purpose cooking pots that are now somewhere in the back of that bottom shelf/drawer? Possibly missing a handle or lid? When’s the last time we used them all at the same time? Ever?

How many sets of dishes do we need?

We are now living alone. No spouse. No kids. Twenty-four hours to ourselves but we never seem to have time to do anything other than what we always did. Here we are, doing the same things over and over as though life hadn’t changed in the last ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years…

Times have changed. We are old ladies now and we go to their place for special occasions. We don’t need all that extra stuff in our way, using up the time we have left.

It’s time to give all those extras to the children.

But perhaps our children are now beginning to downsize. They aren’t going to be wanting (needing) all those extra pots and pans and bowls and kitchen gadgets either. They most likely have doubles and triples of their own that they’re wanting to rehome.

It’s Time

It’s time to say farewell to that dear special bowl that holds only memories now instead of potential salad. Memories belong in our hearts, not on the back of a shelf.

If these things are of sentimental value (e.g., something that belonged to Great-Great Granny or Grampy), keep them in the family then. Were we not keeping them to hand down in the first place? It’s time.

Instead of keeping everything until we die, thus forcing our grieving children to go through every little thing in our home for days—perhaps even years—let’s give them to the kids now. Or to the grandchildren.

If we don’t have children or grandchildren, we can give them to our brother’s or sister’s kids/grandkids.

Let’s give them the story that goes along with these objects, thus wrapping these treasures in their own preciousness. Let’s hand over the responsibility of keeping the memories alive to them. Let’s tell ourselves it’s no longer our responsibility. Let’s convince ourselves.

It’s time.

It’s time to relieve ourselves of the worry and potential guilt that goes along with the assumed responsibility of keeping all the family treasures…

… in the back of the bottom shelf in that cupboard in the kitchen? In a box in the basement? What respect does it get there?

“But I don’t have time to sort through everything.”

What did you just say? You don’t have time?

We are going to dump this chore on our kids when we die?

While they are grieving us?

That’s mean.

Even if it won’t be our own children, it will be someone’s child, whatever age. Someone’s child will have to go through every single thing we own and decide what to do with it.

It’s time.

It Ain’t Easy

When we lose someone, even a kitty, the experience gets filed away in our brains. I like to think of the brain as a big, huge, giant filing cabinet with oodles of drawers. The Grief Drawer is labeled as such.

As you might imagine, words spoken and sights and things seen can trigger memories. Grief’s memories. And any time we want to file something in a filing cabinet, we have to open the drawer it will be going into and finger our way through the As and Bs and Cs and Ds…

When we open the Grief Drawer, we see all those labels on all those separate files. “There’s Mom. There’s Dad. There’s my cousin. There’s my aunt. There’s that guy I liked when I was in Grade 4, killed in a car accident when he was barely nineteen years old. There’s my first dog. There’s that boss who was always so kind and patient with me. There’s Ruffles. There’s Fluffy. There’s the lady who sang contralto in the choir. There’s that nice old man I lived beside back when I was in high school. There’s Hubby. Oh, how I miss him!”

We have to hunt through all these individual folders to find out where best to put this latest “grief” of ours. This latest triggering.

Pretty much all of this is done subconsciously, of course. But whether subconsciously or consciously, we re-experience every single “file” in there. And we subconsciously refile them over and over each time we must open that particular drawer.

It will be the same when we go through all the extra bowls at the back of the bottom shelf. It won’t be easy. But it must be done.

Next post: How to Handle Letting Go of Our Stuff.

Until next time.

How Can I Know Exactly Where Everything Is?

Have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night with this urge for a drink of water or milk or juice or that last chicken wing? Maybe a mouthful of yogurt?

Have you then stumbled through the dark of your apartment or house to the fridge?

How did you know where the fridge was?

You knew because it was exactly where you left it.

Might be a different story though, when you open the fridge door. Do you stand there with the fridge’s light gleaming into your eyes to fully waken you from your semi-sleep state so you can hunt around for the orange juice?

What if you had put the orange juice back where it was the last time you used it? What if you always put the orange juice in the same spot in the fridge?

I know exactly where my milk is because I use it in my coffee. Often.

I make a morning’s worth of coffee (half a pot?*) because I don’t want to waste time waiting for the water in one of those one-at-a-time machines to heat up again; and run through two little pods’ worth: one caffeinated and the other not. (I drink my coffee half and half. Decaf isn’t worth the water; and if I drink pure caf, it causes my patience to pack up and leave me stranded.)

Plus, I use big coffee mugs so I would need two pods—or maybe one and a half… umm… divided three-quarters and three-quarters… Or maybe three-ish pods? umm… (Who ever said that girls of our time didn’t need to learn arithmetic?) Is it going to overflow my mug this time? (Or geometry and physics.) I have to stand there (waste time) and watch…

Sigh.

Nope. As soon the coffee finishes running through, I remove it from the machine and cover it. Covering it is important; there’s not much that’s worse than stale coffee. Ew. I cover it with a folded dish cloth but I add folded paper towels between it and the pot. Coffee “smoke” stains. (More to wash, more to dry, more to fold = time wasted.)

I heat up my refills in the microwave and while this goes on, I walk around, stretch, look out the window… Because I work. I write books. For my business, Crowe Creations, I edit and design books for Indie authors. I do volunteer work. This means I am sitting at my computer for long stretches of time. I need to get up and walk around and adjust my poor eyeballs and the rest of my body.

It’s Not Always Easy But…

I know it’s not easy to know exactly where everything is in your home if you have offspring, a spouse, or the equivalent. Even those you hire to clean your house can put something somewhere else. Kitties can flick unattended objects under furniture.

Do you know exactly where your microwave is? Your toaster oven? Why do you know where they are but not your orange juice?

Where are your keys? Could you close your eyes and go put your hand on them right this minute?

Where’s your favorite sweater or blankie that you like to use when you’re watching TV? Same question: Could you close your eyes and go put your hand on it right this minute?

“One thousand and one. One thousand and two. One thousand and three.” Those are wasted seconds if you can’t put your hand on your keys or your sweater.

“My keys are in my purse. Where’s my stupid purse? Where did I leave it?”

Tick, tick, tick, tick…

We could be watching TV. Reading. Napping. Playing solitaire. Going for a walk/run/bike ride. Shopping (fun-shopping). Lunching or coffee-ing with a friend. Laughing our heads off while sharing jokes on Facebook. Knitting. Crocheting. Sculpting. Drawing. Painting.

I could be writing a book. Gardening. (Even in an apartment, one can garden.) Doing my volunteer work. Writing a blog…

Instead, I’m wandering around in a panic—bringing unhealthy stress into my life—looking for something when I could be having fun.

Someone might say, “C’mon, Sherrill. That’s really weird that you always keep everything in the exact same place and always return it to the exact same place. Doesn’t that indicate a mental disorder?”

I might respond with, “So… You’re saying I should be trying to make sure I put everything in a different place?”

If you want to s/h/ave time, stop wasting time looking for things.

Where Do I Keep Things?

I do my best to keep things in the most logical place for them. The handiest spot. If I use them often, they will be at the forefront of the shelf, drawer or cabinet. As Mr. Spock would say, “It’s only logical.”

My keys are on top of a small bookcase in the hall near the door. Why would I want to bring them to the living room and put them on the coffee table? Where the cat (when I had a cat) might see them when my back was turned and flick them onto the floor and under the couch?

If you leave something in a place long enough, a cat won’t assume it’s something new and get the urge to flick it to see what it ends up doing. Curiosity, eh?

And yes. My herbs and spices are in alphabetical order. I have dozens of them so if I don’t want to spend ages looking for what goes into the recipe I’m currently working on, I have to set them up that way. This also helps me from purchasing extra packages/bottles of stuff I already had but couldn’t find. Like about forty years’ worth, now, of rarely used marjoram. Sigh.

Oops. I see that my little glass teapot with its accompanying glass cup under it is in need of dusting. It’s on the shelf below the herbs and spices and between the big silver-colored teapot and the colorful, artistic cups and saucers. See?

(Excuse me… There. Done. Took about 45 seconds to dust that off. So 45 seconds shaved off my spring cleaning when it comes up. Well, maybe 47 seconds if you count opening and closing the cupboard door. [*insert smiley face rolling its eyes*])

Speaking of Cooking and Baking

When I cook or bake anything, I always go through the recipe, get out everything I’ll need from my cupboards and have it ready before I start. I measure out the flour ahead of time into a bowl; the herbs/spices go into a small bowl or dish together (if they are called for at the same time in the recipe); the eggs get pre-beaten (at the last moment, eh?); the baking pans are prepared as per instructions…

Then as soon as I use it, back the bottle or package or container or bowl goes to its space.

I clean up as I go. I made bread this morning. Albeit in a bread maker, but still, I had everything lined up.

As I added each ingredient (with a bread maker, one MUST do things in order so the yeast touches neither the sugar nor the water), I washed the utensils/bowls/measuring spoons and popped these things back where they belong.

Then I put the baking pan into its chamber, locked it in, closed the lid, tapped the required button to choose crust color (I had set the time when I plugged it in; why not? I was right there leaning over it anyway), stepped to the sink and washed the little bowl I’d measured the yeast into and the big bowl I’d measured the flour into…

Tada! The elves must have been around. I had nothing more to do, so back to the book I’m writing = having fun. Then on to editing this blog post = having fun.

This week’s tip: Always put everything back EXACTLY where it came from.

Until next time.

*I have recently taken a liking to drinking iced coffee year round so make a whole pot. And this is another reason why one of those one-at-a-time machines don’t work for me: I’d have to wait too long for it to cool off, even with milk and ice in it.

Let’s Go on an Adventure

“But to where?”

“Where, indeed?”

People often ask me where I get the energy to do everything I do. I don’t have any more energy than anyone else. What I have is time. Lots of it.

Where does that time come from?

No. I’m not someone who’s all obsessed with routine or schedules. Far from it! I’m a rebel. I don’t like to be controlled by anything or anybody. And I think that’s why I try to shave time whenever I can. (I just noticed that if you remove a letter from shave time you have save time or you have have time.)

How much time do I have exactly?

24 hours a day

= 8,760 hours a year

= 525,600 minutes a year

= 31,536,000 seconds a year

Same as everybody else on Earth. Imagine that.

I would need to take 10,512,000 seconds a year—give or take—for sleeping. This would leave me with 21,024,000 seconds per year to do whatever I wanted.

How Do I Manage to Keep those 21,024,000 Seconds a Year to Myself?

When I was a kid, we lived in a small town in a really great neighborhood where two dead-end streets crossed. William Street and Peter Street. Both of these streets were dead ends because the gully was there. It curved slightly to be at the end of both streets.

We moved to that neighborhood when I was six or seven, and out of there when I was about thirteen. I was the eldest of three. My sister was born when I was five-and-a-half and my brother, when I was eleven.

I had thirty-six friends that I played with. I remember that number because one Halloween, to know how many treats she’d have to prepare, Mom counted the kids and came up with thirty-six. I remember the number because I was worrying about what might happen if one of the kids had a cousin staying with them or an extra kid showed up or something. I didn’t ask. Mom, I knew, would come up with something.

Those were post-WWII days, the 1950s, so we were all pretty much of the same mentality and even social status. We all got along. Sometimes we didn’t get along. But we usually worked it out. We were kids. This was our ’hood.

We played tag. We played scrub (softball); I pretty much ended up as 30th fielder most of the time. We played Hide n Seek. We played Red Rover.

I especially liked playing Cowboys and Indians. I would get especially upset, though, when I couldn’t take a turn to play Roy Rogers. One of the boys always got that role. I wasn’t upset from missing out because I wanted to be Roy Rogers and couldn’t because I was a girl; it was because I wanted to be riding Trigger.

Everybody went to the Saturday Afternoon Matinees. Cowboy movies galore. The kids we knew from school would be there, too. And both Protestants and Catholics from every neighborhood in town. The theater would be full to the brim. Only the older kids got to sit upstairs in the balcony.

In the summer, we would catch bees and grasshoppers in jars with holes in the lids and in the winter we would risk death—no exaggeration—tobogganing down the gully’s hills.

Life was great. Freedom was wonderful. I even liked school. A lot.

Day of Doom

I think I was probably nine when my mother announced that I was now old enough to be doing the dishes on Saturday mornings. And if I wanted to be getting an allowance to go to the movies, I had better agree.

“But Mom. I want to go out and play. It’s Saturday morning.”

“You can play after you do your chores.”

Sigh.

The first thought through my head was an unspoken one: The neighborhood BOYS don’t have to do chores on Saturday morning! I could hear them all outside playing. I wanted to be there, too. A lot of the neighborhood girls were into dolls. And probably into washing dishes, too. Dolls, to me, were absolutely no fun whatsoever. Doing the dishes even less. I didn’t want to play with the girls and do girl stuff. I wanted to do the stuff boys did. That stuff was fun.

The first few times I did the dishes, I had to redo them. Because my hands couldn’t tolerate having the water hot enough to make the Tide laundry soap be absorbed and work, I couldn’t get the dishes clean enough.

“Do them over, Sherrill. They’re still dirty.”

You might imagine my reaction to that.

I devised a plan.

I need to get the water as hot as I can get it without causing damage to my hands. That way, I won’t have to do them over.

If I can get the dishes done faster in the first place, I can get out to play sooner.

How could I do this?

If I set everything up in certain corners in the sink, I would be able to just reach in and grab what I wanted fast. I wouldn’t have to deal with the water burning my skin while blindly searching around for a spoon or a fork under sudsy, opaque water. I would know exactly where everything was so I could dive my hand in and come up with whatever needed washing almost instantly. And since I would know where the paring knife was, I could avoid cutting myself. I could even start washing things while the sink was filling up.

It worked!

That was the beginning of my learning how to s/h/ave time. As I said, it wasn’t the least bit obsessive-compulsive on my part. It was solely so I could get out and play sooner.

And I’m the same way today: Get it done properly, but Get ’er done! and then you can go play.

This week’s tip: Always know EXACTLY where everything is.

Until next time.

The Hypersleep Method

“What is this place? I don’t recognize anything.”—Ripley, Aliens.

Wouldn’t it be marvelous to wake up in the morning and have had the elves in overnight to tidy up the house and to have breakfast on the table already? Well, at least coffee? Oh, and to have done the shopping for you, too?

It’s possible. Yes it is. But you won’t have to use fairy tale magic. You’ll be using a different kind of magic.

Over the next few months, I’ll be posting ideas about how to make your life easier and how to be more organized and thus have oodles of time left over to nap and watch TV.

Stay tuned.