It might be September but man is it still hot! My heat tolerance is down around zero at the moment, so I’m focusing on a few indoor mini-projects to keep busy and make myself at least somewhat useful. There’s a lot of time to think and reflect, though, and the theme of changing seasons – literal seasons, and seasons of life – keeps surfacing.
NOTE: I realize I’m a only a list-maker and listicle writer anymore, so I’m going to try to keep my “lists” to once a week and maybe actually write some paragraphs once in a while – but, Sunday Seven seemed like a good way to catalogue a few ideas so – here we go –
Scripture I’m pondering… “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven”. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 “Duh” you might say. But really this beautiful passage has a stoic meditative quality that calms a racing mind and dissuades self-pity. Sign me up.
Quote of the week….”Good.” – Jocko Willink I’m working on this one – simple doesn’t mean easy. I understand his point to be that all circumstances are just that – circumstances – and not only is our attitude toward them the difference between winning and failing, but challenge is what makes us better physically, mentally, and spiritually, and we should be grateful when it comes our way.
Change I’m making… I’ve halfheartedly dabbled in observing dietary abstinence, in the no-meat-on-Fridays Catholic/religious sense, but I’ve never been consistent. I either forget it’s Friday, or skip it because ENCHILADAS!!!. I’m doing a self experiment for the rest of this year and am going to abstain from animal products each Friday, perhaps fast all together. I’m motivated by a few reasons, practical and spiritual. My diet has shifted to a mostly ketogenic format, which has helped with weight-loss and some inflammation issues I struggle with, but at times seems plain gluttonous. I also have concerns about industrial agriculture and the effect it’s having on the health of people, the animals and the elements we rely on to keep ourselves fed. We buy as much grass-fed/local/organic stuff as possible, but I feel like we could tighten up our game even more on the food waste and general pollution fronts. It’s about my paying attention, I guess.
What I’m reading… I stumbled across a New Yorker article about SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas. Let me just say that other than his having been raised by his Grandfather, everything written about him in this piece – which is excerpted from the author’s book The Enigma of Clarence Thomas – was news to me. I’m putting the book on my reading list. I’m also about two chapters into a book I chose at random from the Prime Reading library, The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau. It is a free download if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, and it was a Pulitzer Prize winner so I decided to give it a go.
Something I’m creating – I’m adding to and refining some of the recipes in our family cookbook. I’ve never quite finished this on again/off again project, but it’s important to me. We don’t have a huge family or a deep knowledge of our ancestral history, but the threads of cooking and food persist. Chocolate pie, cornbread dressing, whisky sours are our ties that bind.
Now that summer is coming to a close it’s time for some between-the-seasons (and between the couch cushions) cleaning. Two dogs and three teenagers – now two – the first to leave the nest is happily ensconced at college – lolling about all summer, with Mummy functioning at about 25% and Daddy dedicated to heroic feats to keep us housed and mostly sane have resulted in an inordinate amount of unkempt-ness. I don’t think I’ve dusted certain things since Easter. Haven’t opened any mail either, apparently.
There’s A LOT of general grunge and clutter that need to be eliminated so we feel like we live in a house, not a hovel.
I keep a handful of standard cleaning products on hand – Murphy’s Oil Soap, glass cleaner (I like this one, though it’s easy enough to make your own), a homemade surface spray for quick clean ups, something bleach-y for nasty stuff, Bon-Ami powder – the usual assortment most people have I imagine. They’re not expensive, most last a long time or are refillable/concentrated. I try to be conscious of the chemical load we’re surrounded with, so while I might not get an A+ on my green report card I feel comfortable that we’re not living inside a gas can. That said, I have a little collection of things that I buy once or twice a year at the dollar store (specifically Dollar Tree) that I’ve found to be super helpful with a seasonal refresh, but also with day to day things like laundry and spot cleaning.
Dawn dish washing detergent – the blue kind. I buy the small bottle and keep it in our laundry room – it’s great for pre treating spots, and occasionally diluted with water will usually last all year long. A second small bottle floats around in the kitchen, and will even be pressed into service as cleaner in the bath
Tide Simply Clean and Fresh – again, the small bottle, specifically for freshening up whites before they’re stored away at the end of the season – linen clothing, coverlets and throws, sheets, etc. I learned about it’s special powers from Janet at the Gardener’s Cottage when she wrote about using it on her white slipcovers, and I’m a believer. In years past I’d used another brand for this purpose but the Tide works better – I use it sparingly, along with vinegar in the rinse, and our clothing as well as our linens stay fresher longer, and are much brighter white than when I use our regular soap. The bottle says it contains enough for six loads, but I usually stretch it to 8 or 10.
Washable/reusable microfiber mop fringe duster – I like this little guy for quick no-nonsense dusting, around books and other things that shouldn’t be exposed to liquid sprays, natural or otherwise, ceiling fan blades, for my 30+ windows worth of wooden blinds. They’re also small and easy to tuck into places – like behind books on bookcases, in an upstairs closet, etc, so if you see something that needs a quick once-over it’s only a matter of a few steps and a few seconds to make a big improvement. Of course a few times a year all the books come off the shelves and everything is properly wiped down and polished, but in between these are perfect. So far I think I have four stationed around the house, and two others dedicated to the blinds I mentioned.
Mini paint tray/roller/brush kit – this is great for touch up paint. I first discovered these when I wanted to create large paint samples for clients, and they come in very handy for touch ups after filling nail holes, covering scuffs, etc. The foam roller is sturdy enough that I can wash and reuse it a few times, so it’s not a one and done, and I’ve used the trays for all kinds of messy projects. It’s just a great little kit to have around. The paint brush isn’t the greatest, I wouldn’t recommend it for large surfaces or a high quality finish, but it has come in handy for dusting, dry brushing for craft paints, and school projects, so it definitely gets used.
Lightweight Spackle – I don’t use this often, which is exactly why I buy it at the dollar store. The name brand kind I’ve purchased at the hardware store costs 5x as much, and if I get to use it twice before it dries up it’s a miracle. I have finally figured out that keeping it in a sealed plastic bag helps considerably, but again, I haven’t noticed that the name brand performs 5x as well, so dollar store spackle for filling the occasional nail hole suits me just fine.
I’m trying to get some of this cleaning and organizing done during my “good” hours, so I can actually get around to making something pretty and have it not look like lipstick on a pig. Plus, this place just plain needs it!
How are your homekeeping Summer to Fall transition plans going? I’d love to know!
With love and optimism –
PS I have on occasion pressed both the Dawn and the Tide into service as sink and bowl cleaner in the bath with excellent results – far less caustic than commercial bowl cleansers. It’s not a terrible way to use up unwanted/unused body wash either. Soap is soap, sometimes.
PPS Of course the laundry and dish soap are refillable from larger containers, but I like having the smaller ones that are already labeled and use-specific. I do refill the Dawn bottles from a larger bottle, but I don’t use enough of either product during the course of a year to justify investing in a large bulk purchase
PPPS I’ve linked to some specific products that I really do use and like, but this is not a sponsored post
My digital life is bugging me. Like keeping me up at night bugging me. With health issues compounding an already very busy season for our family, and with so many digital loose ends creating an extra layer of stress, I’m asking myself a serious question:
What is REALLY important, electronically speaking, and what is merely a conditioned response to being constantly connected?
If everything is important then nothing is important – I have proven this to be true more than I’d like to admit. The 4000+ unread emails of which I am constantly reminded by the little marker on my account tab simply cannot all be important. Just as in the physical paper world, purging and editing of electronic documents are musts.
I have photos, documents, old news of all kinds on my all devices that should be deleted, rearranged, forwarded, etc. Most of the emails I receive are spam that should be immediately unsubscribed from and deleted, others should be sorted into proper files and/or given proper answers. I need to run a digital cleaner thing-y through the systems and a physical cleaner thing-y over the screens of every device. Maybe write a post or twenty…..
I created a little check list for myself, to get a bit more organized, and to make sure the devices I own are actually working for me as opposed to the other way around:
1) Physically clean screens and key boards – a difference of opinion at my house on how to go about this results in a lot of dirty computers, etc., which I have declared to be far worse for the machines than the potential damage a single cleaning with a less than ideal cleaner might cause. I’m not an expert, so your mileage may vary, but I’ve never ruined a computer or phone this way – I use a few sprays of canned air to clear off anything caught in the keyboard, then Endust for electronics (sprayed onto a soft, clean lint-free cloth, NOT the machine) to wipe off all the surfaces. Last, I use a little non-ammonia window cleaner on the screen.
2) Delete 100 old emails a day – This usually takes less than a minute, and I find it very satisfying. It’s a great waiting room activity, and finding myself spending more time in them these days I give myself however long I have until my name is called – way more entertaining and useful than reading a two-year-old People magazine. I realize accumulating emails isn’t a problem for everyone, and I have only admiration for folks who clean up their inboxes on the regular, but I’ve got a runaway number of notes and notices that are of little to no importance and tend to bury the things I really need or would like to know.
3) Unsubscribe from 10 unwanted sources a day – I do not believe the phrase “we never share your email or personal information without your permission”. That I’m on the spam lists for kinky dating sites and advertisements for alpaca properties in California tells me otherwise. At any rate, emptying the spam file and unsubscribing helps avoid having to repeat item #2 on the list.
4) Tighten up social mediaand news feeds – edit profiles, privacy settings, delete accounts, etc. This can be sensitive – some folks really enjoy all things -book and -gram for sharing fun and business and keeping up with far-away friends and family. I use a couple of accounts with some regularity, and really don’t see them as intrinsically evil. That said, (the collective) we clearly have a case of cultural voyeurism which simply isn’t healthy. I have finally trained myself to unfriend, unfollow, unplug, without guilt. No one ever died from not snapchatting, and according to my kids, Facebook is for old people. We are under no obligation to participate in social media. If it’s a source of stress for whatever reason, ditch it or edit it in such a way you’re only receiving the posts and articles that you find interesting or bring you some happiness. Win/win, this clears up digital AND mental clutter. Author Cal Newport writes compellingly on the advantages of skipping social media altogether…
5) Purchase new case and screen protector, all portable devices – this is for me, specifically – if you saw my phone you would know why! I’m a huge phone klutz, so this is urgent. I don’t know of a phone that isn’t an investment anymore, and if you rely on yours that way I do on mine it’s definitely worth the relatively small expense of a decent case and screen cover.
6) Check power cords, earbuds, and chargers – order replacements if necessary. Usually inexpensive for basic earbuds and phone chargers, definitely more expensive if you need a new power cord for a computer.
7) Schedule pending updates, all devices, and run diagnostic/troubleshooting tools. This is pretty simple – I never manage it well, though, because I either forget to plug in the phone for the automatic updates, or hit the “remind me later” prompt if I’m working on the computer, that sort of thing. I absolutely need to keep these current, though, because I have the patience of a gnat when it comes to operational issues when I’m in the middle of a call or trying to work, etc.
8) Delete unused apps, install any that will truly add value – not to be conflated with convenience. Look, I like Door Dash as much as the next gal, but if you’re looking to streamline your budget and your waistline (like I am) it’s probably not the best thing to have on digital speed dial. Also, avoiding having the apps for social media or click bait sites that might not fit into your ideal digital hygiene scenario would be a good plan. Adding a couple could be helpful, though – I love my local grocery store app for example – they notify me of sales, automatically load digital coupons, etc – actually quite helpful. If I didn’t have a driving directions app, I’d be wandering around in circles, so that’s a keeper for sure.
9) Delete and/or organize 100 photographs (and/or documents) a day – no, I don’t need every document I’ve drafted or photo I’ve taken, and others would be more useful/accessible if I had them filed properly.
10) Update/add/delete contacts – this could be important for a lot of reasons. I just realized the other day I don’t have my husbands new work phone number. Not too good if I needed to reach him in an emergency. The contact list on my phone is cluttered with names of people I honestly don’t remember adding, and who in all likelihood I won’t ever need to be in touch with (like the air conditioner repair company from two jobs ago – why???). Removing unused and outdated contact information relieves me of more mental static – done!
This seems like a big fat list, but really each action item is pretty quick, especially when approached in bite size/spare minute pieces. What’s your method of keeping your digital life organized and under control? I’d love to know!
Well, damn. My design business has come to an abrupt halt just as I was discovering the rewards of a 25 year practice. I’ve gone from the highlight of my professional career, and looking forward to having my work published for the first time in about 15 years, to the lowest moments I’ve experienced both professionally and personally, all within a single year. That I’m not happy about this is the understatement to end all understatements, but I have to accept the realities of my situation. I am assessing what my work life for the near future will look like given current circumstances and trying to organize a plan to move forward.
The truth of the matter is people with more dire circumstances than mine and less to work with than I do have accomplished great things – I am grateful for their examples and for their willingness to share their trials and triumphs.
Despite not being in tip-top shape I have a handful of productive hours during these long hot days of the interminable Texas summer. I’ve turned to Etsy to list a small but growing assortment of textiles, home decor, and gifts. I am hoping items in my curated collection will add value to your space, or delight as gifts for others. New items will be added daily during the month of September – checking in often and sharing the shop with folks who might be interested in my products would be very much appreciated! I thank you in advance.
My design services are available locally, on a consulting basis only. I’m not able to manage projects at the moment, but if you need guidance with basic selections of paint and surfaces I can absolutely help you maximize beauty and function in your home. If your needs are beyond my current scope I can put you in touch with terrific folks who can see your project all the way through. If you (or someone you know) would like more information on working with me I would love to visit with you.
PPS This post has been edited to exclude some of my complainy-pants ungrateful sounding whinging I succumbed to yesterday – I apologize, my purpose in writing is to be encouraging and suitable, and in it’s original form this post was neither.
As I might have mentioned a time or ten, I love to cook. Recipes abound in cookbooks and online, and while I’m not opposed to posting them or reading them, I think that’s putting the cart before the horse for a lot of people. My preference, and the advice I would give anyone setting up a kitchen for function, high quality meals that aren’t ridiculously expensive, and a deeper dive into cooking, would be to assemble a group of wares and basic ingredients before cracking open a shiny new cookbook or binge watching the Food Channel.
I’ve found the best place to start for most new cooks – or even experienced cooks looking to bring new perspective to their kitchen and meal prep – are pantry and refrigerator basics. Equipment can be accumulated according to what time and budgets allow, and I’ve rarely met a kitchen utensil or gadget I didn’t like, but even the most humble of cookware can produce delicious and nutritious meals. If my choice is between ingredients or fancy equipment, the ingredients win every time.
I keep a variety of condiments and “accessory foods” on hand that make it easy to dress up something simple, like a salad, or elevate a pizza, or make a chicken into something less predictable than – well – chicken. A little stash of this and that also comes in very handy if an occasion for hospitality arises since it’s so easy to pull together a quick bite or supper that doesn’t present as strictly utilitarian. None of this is particularly fancy or exotic, and most can be found at the every day grocer. Not all are inexpensive, but they have multiple uses and because of their versatility and long shelf lives none goes to waste. Ounce for ounce they are a much better investment than the dread assorted processed things most of us have become accustomed to calling “food”.
My own pantry and fridge are rarely without the following (in no particular order):
Red and white wine vinegars
a small variety of cheeses (Parmesan for grating, sharp cheddar, gouda, maybe a goat or sheeps milk variety, and something melt-y)
heavy cream, Greek yogurt
a small variety of cured meats and/or cooked bacon
soy or tamari sauce, worcestershire sauce, hot sauce
good coarse salt, pepper corns
fruit preserve (fig, apricot, etc) and a good jam
canned beans, canned tomatoes, canned tuna
raw honey, maple syrup
assorted staples – sugar, flour, baking soda, dried pasta, etc.
I have (and will again) prepared many a meal for family and for company with only these items. It requires a bit of planning – you’ll want to have some nice bread ready for a cheese board, for instance – but these are meal makers that with very little effort come together for dishes better than 99% of what most people eat everyday.
What’s your favorite assortment of basics? What is your kitchen never without?
Folks, it’s true….September is upon us!! Just after getting children back to school the Holidays loom large – September even starts with a Holiday for Pete’s sake.
(Happy Labor Day, by the way – what are you doing to celebrate?)
The calendar, like the scale, doesn’t lie.
Embrace it or perish!!!
That’s a little dramatic, but if not literally true, it’s true enough. When stores sweep away the back to school goods in early August to make room for Halloween and pumpkin spice everything you know you’re awash in the trap I mean joys of American consumerism, though nary a golden leaf has dropped, nor a temperature below 95F has presented itself for your relief.
So, what to do with September, especially if one is a Southerner (possibly a Californian)? If one can ignore the protracted grasp of summer, like scorched gardens contrasted with tropical storms, and pools and lake swimming areas prematurely closing while the Costco parking lot appears as an undulating asphalt mirage, it’s a great time to do great things. Really, it is – stay with me….
September is the perfect opportunity to get ahead of the Holiday game, and to start a New Year without the burden of the Holidays on top of it all. And do most of it in the singular bliss of air-conditioning. I wrote a long while back about my New Year’s calendar not even starting until February. That worked better for my family than trying to cram our whole life plan into January, but it was still not entirely user-friendly for us and usually ended in unmet goals and a lot of aggravation. So, against my nature (rebel, though true to form, according to this model, I resent the label), I convinced myself that it was my idea to move the annual reset back to September 1.
Here’s how we’re rolling out our (almost) Autumn-onto-Winter season:
Scheduling of Dr’s appointments, routine and specialists, that have been overlooked or put off during the course of the year – I’m known to be provincial regarding all these new fangled medicinal practices. I’m uncomfortable with multiple elective exposures to radiation and dyes, etc., but keeping up with baseline physical health markers is very important, and we have the means, and no reasons not to keep up with those (this year it’s a must for me)
Cleaning out the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, and replacing lazy summer snacks with healthy foods for brain and body, easy to prep and serve – making sure our diet is healthful and aligned with our physical health goals, and it doesn’t hurt aligning our food choices with our social values. We’re also taking advantage of pre-season sales to supply our pantry and contributions to food drives and charitable needs
Checking in on everyone’s emotional/social well being – hey, fam – how are you??? Starting with our immediate family, and reaching out to check on our extended family, and friends, and acquaintances…(did you watch Dave Chapelle’s new special? The first few minutes are worth it, even if he’s not your cup of tea. And if he is your idea of funny, it’s a terrific couple of hours of cringing and belly laughs)
Decide what we’re going to do to move our bodies and get it on the calendar – it’s so damned hot during the summer months it’s easy to let ourselves slack off of physical activity – it’s counter-intuitive, but the nicer the days around here the less likely we’re outside. A little tropical depression makes for a good time to get back in shape, so we’re planning for that
Make and update work connections, send out a few CV’s, develop prospective clients. Everyone is coming back from vacation, evaluating the fresh fiscal year, and looking to get new hires and position retention secured. Now is a great time to explore career opportunities and set right things that have been put off kilter, professionally
Evaluate our mental diets. I’m not mad at TV, in fact I love good television programming. I enjoy an average novel with a decent story line. We binge watch a lot of good shows over the summer, and take time for books we might not otherwise read just for the fun of them, but we also take in a lot of peripheral crapola just because it’s there. September presents an organic constriction of available hours to consume the unnecessary, so it’s ideal for a hard intellectual reset
Getting back in the religious swing of things. Summer in and of itself is very spiritual – the heat, the fun with friends, the separate nature of the season from the “usual”. Still, I’m an advocate for orthopraxy – there, I said it – I believe the practice informs the spirit for a lot of us, rather than the other way around. For me, the individual nature of spiritualism is a complete derailment of the purpose of worshiping together – September is a fitting prompt for reengaging with religious community
Defining financial goals – wow, this is sticky – we’re historically terrible with this one. It’s uncomfortable and very difficult for us to have productive conversations about money. Not our best moments of adulting, but based on sheer necessity and the fact we’re facing down a burden of fresh expenses I’m hopeful for our ingenuity this year
We’ve never, ever been on a vacation as a family, just the five of us. This will change this coming year, no matter what. We are privileged First World creatures, I realize, and we have a hermit-like love for our home base – but recreation and celebration are legitimate God-given concerns of all people, and I am determined that my children will have at least one memory of us together, away, someplace interesting and outside our cultural comfort zone
Give as much as we can, and more – meaning finding ways of giving that don’t seem possible but really are given a change of perspective. Mental and spiritual work to do on that one…
So – there it is. What I suppose is our list of New Year’s resolutions, born of September.
PPS If you think Dave Chapelle was making fun or light of Anthony Bourdain‘s death, he wasn’t. Watch again with an open heart for what’s being said (I wish I could excerpt it here but can’t figure out how). It was a poignant reflection on a very difficult to understand loss of a celebrity contemporary.
I’m resurfacing after something of a health crisis.
It’s been frightening, overwhelming, disruptive, expensive, frustrating, and ultimately exhausting. The problem – the biggest part of the problem – now that I’m returning to a certain level of daily activity – is that the actual problem still has not been identified nor resolved.
I’m not okay with that.
“It” came on suddenly, and resulted in an emergency room visit and a hospital stay. It continues with daily negotiations of how I’m feeling and how functional I might be – might because things change day to day, and throughout the days. It is coupled with multiple doctors appointments, scheduling of tests, procedures, and follow up appointments. It has no symptoms to see with pedestrian eyes, and no treatment to prescribe other than best guesses by medical professionals who are by nature problem solvers but cannot be certain of what “it” is. Not yet, anyway.
The “not yet” gives me hope.
I’m very grateful for access to the level of care I’ve experienced, and for the dedication of the practitioners in whom I have placed my trust (and my life!). No one has said to me “we don’t know”, shrugged their shoulders, and walked away. No one has said “too bad for you” or “it happens” or “it’s all in your head” and abandoned the search for an answer. They have allowed that some diagnoses are slow to come, or the issue is classified as “non-specific” for the purposes of treatment and moving toward healing, but they’re on the job. It’s imperfect, but hopeful.
I still don’t feel well. I’m dependent on my husband for check-ins on my baseline emotional health (being sick isn’t fun for anyone involved!!), I’m being chauffeured around by my family like a diva, and I’ve all but gone underground with regard to my work and life outside my house. Day to day chores, aren’t – just making my grocery list is tiring. Going to the grocery store is like running an ultra-marathon*, every aisle feels like climbing a mountain**….and on and on and on….
….except I’ve had enough quiet time during all of this to find the good on the fringes (like I can barely tolerate looking at a scrolling screen) and discover a profound gratitude for things I’ve been taking for granted. I’ve also had to face some difficult matters that will require my attention sooner rather than later, but as has always been true, if it’s not a matter of life or death nothing is ever really as bad as it seems. All in all, I am extraordinarily blessed. I am happily obligated to act like it.
How are you, friends? Doing okay?
With love and optimism –
PS *that’s funny ha-ha because the idea of me running – pffft