Last chance pool days of summer.
My friend and fellow writer Rina tagged me in that old-school way to do an exercise in which I list three things that make me grateful, five days in a row. But it was on Facebook, and I still have my love/hate relationship with Facebook dialed too far into the wrong side to want to do something there consistently, so I decided to do it here.
I still can’t quite articulate why I cringe about the Facebook. I had no problem sharing stuff there last week when I was at an event for social media promotion. That was fun, and I liked engaging with my friends about the updates and images I shared. But something feels off to me lately about sharing deeper feelings, like feelings of gratitude. Not always, but more often than not. So, I will wait for the pendulum to swing back around to the love side and then I will act like my old Facebook friendly self again.
I have no problem sharing all kinds of personal feels here on my blog, especially because its 10th birthday is approaching. With that in mind I have slowly but surely been crawling through each post, one at a time from the beginning, recategorizing, tagging, correcting, deleting, and even pulling some posts for my book. That’s 120 months of blog posts – it’s definitely slow going. In the process I feel like I am revisiting my old self, my 10-years-ago self, that woman, that new mother, that new blogger, navigating the world of journaling online just as “online” was becoming a thing that people knew about.
I am SUPER nostalgic for those times now, and for the way I wrote, and for the way I shared. If you want to know what the heck I am talking about, here is a link to the first full-fledged story post that I wrote, back in October of 2004: The Great Flu Shot Caper. Let me know if you agree with me – that shit stands the test of time, in my opinion. I am proud of what I saved here.
Back to gratitude. I’m totally going to cheat on this tagged challenge. I’m going to pick one headliner for the list of three, and then include two others at the bottom, almost like footnotes, but you the reader may intuit that a gratitude footnote is much more than that, and maybe I’m just burying something huge in a footnote. Or maybe it’s just a footnote.
Gratitude List Day 1
1. Estate Planning
Morbid and unsavory as it is, the task of estate planning is absolutely necessary for someone who has children, or a spouse, or even any person on the earth who cares for him or her. And if you don’t have an “estate” (I would not argue that Casa de Prince, with its lack of direction-labeled wings, pool, and butler, is an estate) that doesn’t mean you are not a person who needs a will and/or trust depending on what state you live in. My primary goal with our estate planning was to draw up easily-found instructions about how to care for my children in the event of disaster. And also a will and trust etc. etc.
I tried to do it myself and save money. How hard could it be? It was hard. I was too afraid of making a misstep and mucking the whole thing up. So we finally buckled down and hired a lawyer, the same guy who does our taxes actually. We met with him and his paralegal in a polished wood conference room while the kids were at school. I tried not to but I pretty much wept through the whole thing. It was awful. I had that terrible post-cry headache the rest of the day. But I got through it.
And now we have our official documents, and the people who will care for our children in the event of disaster know who they are, and our healthcare proxies are in place, and our house will transfer easily without the interference of California probate (P.S. I read the code while I went through the drafts of the documents and holy cow is that stuff boring. Great sleep inducer for the insomniac.), and I can rest now knowing that it is all handled. I am grateful to have found a person to handle this for us at a reasonable cost, and I am grateful that it’s done.
Overall, I am, eternally (as they say), grateful for what it protects.
2. Two working cars, even though they both have over 100K miles and almost 10 years on them.
3. The forgiving nature of children.
Last week I spent at least an hour and a half scrubbing my stainless steel teakettle. And I blame this book.
We’ve had this teakettle for 12 years. It was a wedding gift – that’s how I know how old it is. It lives on the stovetop, where I saute and fry and brown and boil, so it gets splattered with grease and then the grease gets baked on forever and every few months or so I have feebly wiped at the thing and then given up on it altogether. Because gah, who wants to spend all that time scrubbing a pot?
I had finally decided to demote it to Camping Kit status and replace it with a shiny new teakettle, maybe something like the ones on my new Pinterest board that I made instead of scrubbing.
But I was also making my way through this book, which, aside from its chirpy tone, is filled with smart ideas. Overall, author Madeleine Somerville stresses that you don’t have to keep buying stuff to be happy. It’s not necessarily an idea that could fill a whole book, so she adds information about making your own stuff like cleaning supplies, shampoo, reusable dust mop covers, etc. All of this can be found on the internets, but since I don’t surf around looking for home remedies and cost saving measures, I found it interesting to read about apple cider vinegar as the cure for all ills, or the retro-cool concept of hanging your clothes out to dry.
God bless her, Somerville even takes a dainty stab at minimalism for parents, because at the time of publication she had a brand new baby girl, you guys, and she also has a smelly dog so she kind of already knew what it was like to be parent. I must say I expected more from the baby care section, more cloth diapering advice or how to make your own toys out of cardboard and dreams, but the book simply dances over this gold mine of content. Maybe that’s the stuff readers of her site can follow as she navigates the tricky world of morphing from eco-blogger to mom-blogger.
Somerville rounds out the “make your own” suggestions with self-deprecating stories about her OMG-so-weird obsessions or straight-up insults toward her gas-guzzling, environmentally irresponsible slob of a husband. But she’s only 30, you guys, and the kids love her blog, so I’m obviously a jaded old hag (just ask the Kirby vacuum cleaner fans who hate my dissing of the appliance). Anyway I think it’s just the tone of the book that irks me, not necessarily the content. Because I actually read the whole thing and it clearly made an impression on me.
Exhibit A is the teakettle which I finally faced and attacked with baking soda and steel wool. I was pretty proud of myself when I could once again see my own reflection in its rounded sides. And then our coffeemaker threatened mutiny, so while my husband contemplated its repair, I investigated obtaining a replacement via Craigslist or Freecycle or simply switching to the French press we already own. (Luckily the coffeemaker recovered after an hour of being unplugged, so crisis averted.) And I’m actually considering washing my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar because the promise of a healthy scalp without manufactured chemicals in it sounds great to me.
My point is, her message articulated what I have already been carrying around somewhere in my brain, which is not to just consume, use, and toss aside so many things. My friend Andrea lives in Costa Rica and just told me that her family’s sum total of possessions fits into 9 suitcases. That is the exact number of large U-Haul boxes that once fit the total of my own possessions, way back in 1995 when I moved from Connecticut to California. Now I have a family and our stuff takes up an entire 4 bedroom 3 bathroom house in the suburbs. While I sit on my mountain of things pinning images of a simpler lifestyle, I at least try not to waste what we have, one frayed-T-shirt-turned-dust-rag at a time.
All You Need Is Less – The Eco-friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity
$12.10 on Amazon