Pre-Vacation Stress: A Top 10 List

I’m one of those annoying people who gets stressed out before vacations. At least when my kids are involved.  Which is usually the case, since there’s no Maria Von Trapp in sight to watch them and make clothing out of curtains while we whisk ourselves away.

In just a few days, we’re getting in the car and driving to The Outer Banks. That’s at least ten hours by car.

Ten hours. Without traffic. Each way.

I realize that many people do the long-drive-with-kids-thing all the time.  This will be our first attempt.  And I’m skeptical.  Because, I don’t know about you guys, but my kids are not what I’d call road warriors. In fact, they often make me a little crazy just driving within a five mile radius of our home. But in a moment of either insanity or drunkenness, I overlooked this detail.

And now departure time is drawing near.  So here are the Top 10 Points of Concern (not necessarily in order):  

1.  The drive. As I mentioned. And no, we don’t have a DVD player in the car. But my engineer husband has assured me that he has fashioned some sort of homemade contraption to keep our iPad in place for optimal kids’ viewing. I am picturing some balsa wood and a bungee cord.

2.  The packing. I hate packing. And I since I like to have options, I tend to overpack — which results in a lot of stuff.

3.  The mountain of laundry that, despite all my staring and willfulness, just won’t wash and fold itself.  Don’t the shiny new front loaders have that feature?  I need to get some of those.

4.  The fact that there is a birthday in this family to be celebrated between now and then. A birthday belonging to a certain youngest child.  And that means I need to get on the stick and ensure that merriment ensues.

5.  The dread of my husband’s horrible Sirius radio stations never going out of range on the drive.

6.  Did I mention the drive?

7.  The more-than-casual curiosity about the availability of wi-fi. You know, because I start to twitch if there’s no signal. Yes, I know it’s America and all. But you just can’t be sure.  It would be reckless of me to prematurely rule out the need to tweet using carrier pigeons.

8.  Bringing the translucent-white, pasty skin of my whole family ten hours closer to the equator. (See also: Where is the closest natively grown aloe plant?  Or ER?)

9.  Can the blender at the rental property handle the amount of alcoholic concoctions I plan to prepare and consume, or will a back-up generator of sorts be necessary?

10.  How many baby gates defines crazy? My daughter is still a stair risk, and this house — as far as I can tell from the photos — has about 367 steps encompassing multiple levels.

Here’s the thing.  It’s all going to be great.  We are sharing the house with my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and their four kids.  This fact has not been revealed to my children because they will spontaneously combust with excitement.  And they will also pepper the ten-plus hour drive with questions about the color of their cousins’ bathing suits, who will get first pass at the Teddy Grahams and who is bunking together. 

So the aunt/uncle/cousins component will be in the “pleasant surprise upon arrival” category.  Right after we exhaust the “Why the hell are we still in the car and where are we going?” category.

The point is that, despite my preparation anxiety, everyone gets along famously and we’re going to have a fabulous week. 

Once the laundry is all done.  Once the birthday girl blows out her candles.  Once the balsa wood/bungee  contraption is built.  Once I figure out how to block the 80s British Pop station from Sirius. 

And once I pack the industrial-sized blender.  Just in case.


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Spaghetti Western

I called my father last night for his birthday.  He’s not a big phone talker, so we had our usual 5-7 minute catch-up.  As we were wrapping up, I asked him about making plans for his annual visit to our house.  We both agreed that we’d aim for late August, and then he qualified it with this casual, throwaway detail:

“That should work, but I have to check and see when I might be helping my buddy do some digging for gold.”


Of course. 

Because, why wouldn’t you have to check your gold digging schedule?

Here’s the thing.  My dad is a transplanted cowboy.  Without a lasso or a horse.  He’ s a guy from Brooklyn and New Jersey who, in his 30s, began a love affair with the State of Montana. It started with fly fishing trips.  Then hunting and skiing.  It was him and some other mid-life-crisis pals (remember the movie City Slickers?).  Then he brought my mom a few times (not really her thing).  After a few years, he knew the lay of the land well enough that it was just him and the locals on his return trips.  He sort of became an honorary citizen — Fake Cowboy in one part of his life, New York City General Contractor in another. 

This went on for the better part of two decades, with increasing frequency.  He made it clear that he’d retire there.  And, true to his word, off he went about eight years ago.  Now, he fishes some of the most beautiful and revered rivers whenever he wants.  He’s a licensed river guide, which means he’s now the local who brings the visiting City Slickers fly fishing.  He has come full circle. 

The last time I was there was about six years ago with P, and my father took us on a day trip out on the Madison River.  In my mind, a river is, well, a narrow little body of water.  But this — this — was majestic.  I’m no nature gal — I prefer sidewalks and cities — but it was abundantly clear why they call it Big Sky Country. 

He knew exactly where to spot the wildlife.  He knew all the best spots to catch the fish — depending on the direction of the wind.   He tried to teach us.  Let me tell you, fly fishing is incredibly difficult — and he made it look effortless.  I was watching him, standing alone, waist-high in the river, weaving that fishing line like a gorgeous ribbon in the air.  And I thought about how these were the same hands that parallel parked a truck in Manhattan every day. The same hands that pointedly made deal after deal to run a business that stayed in his family for many years. 

These hands had moved on to fishing.  And pointing at mountain lions.  And to driving open, gravel roads.

As I was thinking about this, out in the middle of the river, two guys float by on another boat, see my dad, and address him by name.  As if they expected just to see him there, ribbon and all.  We were a good 40 miles from his house.  The man is a fixture on the river. 

When he took us to Yellowstone, he knew every bend in the road, every fire-swept part of the park, every body of water — all of them had a story from his many visits there over the years. 

When he needed six arteries bypassed urgently about four years ago, he opted to do it in Montana.  I couldn’t understand, could not fathom, why he wouldn’t go to Denver or Seattle — somewhere close enough to travel safely and yet slightly more renowned for such a complex surgery.  Thinking back on it, I think he wanted to face any potential mortality issues right there, near the place he now calls home (he’s fine now, don’t worry). 

His life back here in New York and New Jersey is all but unrecognizable at this point — apart from his family, he no longer relates to it.  Yes, he misses The New York Post, the good Chinese food and having something other than Wal Mart open 24 hours.  But the pace, the lifestyle, the attitude and possibly the house pet (who may or may not be a now-domesticated bobcat of sorts) — he’s all Montana now.  Even if he looks more than a little like an Italian gangster out of central casting.

He golfs.  He takes part-time delivery jobs.  He tells you that the traffic on the Madison River moves faster than that on Madison Avenue.  And, apparently, he digs for gold. 

It’s funny.  I’ve never had a place like that in my soul — a place I visited and knew I had to live in at some point, had to make part of me.  I’ve lived my entire life in the Northeast, and most of it in the NYC vicinity.  I’ve traveled far and wide, and I’ve had places speak to me and loudly beg me to return.  But not to return permanently. 

I envy him in this respect — taking action to re-invent himself and lay new roots.  I swear, it has added years — if not decades — to  his life.  And, while I wish he lived closer and I wish my kids knew him better, I admire the loyalty he’s had to a place that has become so much a part of who he is.  It’s easy not to do what he did — we’re all busy getting through each day.  But for those people like him, who step back and say “I want to live my life somewhere else,” I tip my (non-cowboy) hat.

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Not So Simple

I have a love/hate relationship with Real Simple magazine.

The love comes from my Type A-ness and the imaginary affair I often have with a well-organized life.  In those moments, I pick up a copy of Real Simple a few times a year and gush over some of their home solutions and great ideas.  If I’m getting a pedicure or commuting (the only times I can read a magazine in peace), I fold the pages I like.  I marvel at the brilliance.  I vow to implement.  I consider a mail subscription so that I can read more great organizing tips that will surely change my life for the better.

And then our relationship begins to deteriorate.

I’ll be at home, in the grind of daily life, and I’ll spot the pile of Real Simple issues I’ve saved.  A pile that is adding to the clutter with which I wage a daily battle.  All with folded pages.  All ready for brilliant idea implementation that I never started.  Which adds to my already huge to-do list.  Which stresses me out.

And that’s when I go all Sybil and cross the fine line to resentment of Real Simple, followed by mockery and hatred. 

Who reads this nonsense, anyway?  In my now least favorite column, “New Uses for Old Things,” let’s just take a brief look.

  • New use for a shower cap:  A shoe bag.
  • New use for an oven mitt:  A curling/straightening iron heat guard.
  • New use for a mitten:  A carrying case for sunglasses.
  • And — wait for it — New use for popcorn:  Packing material for fragile shipments.

{Photo: Real Simple}

OK, people of Real Simple, let me tell you something.  If there is a batch of popcorn, a fragile shipment requiring packing materials and me in the same room, it’s going to go down like this:  I’m going to inhale every last kernel of the fucking popcorn and then drive my fat ass to the UPS store to pack up the shipment.  And, because my disdain for you at this point has now crossed into irrational territory, I might make that drive wearing the shower cap on my head, with the oven mitt and single mitten on each of my hands.  How’s that for simplifying?

You can see how our relationship is complicated. 

I’ll then purge the pile of magazines, ideas unimplemented (maybe with a few gems mentally filed away) and feel human again.  Until I spot the next issue on the shelves, when the cycle begins again. 

Real Simple, I wish I could quit you.

Perhaps I should refer to their column entitled “Relax in an Instant,” and then go back to reading People, while finishing the popcorn.  That might be for the best.

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The House That Al Gore Furnished


“We need another chair in the living room — it still looks kind of bare,” my husband says.

“Hand me the laptop.”

He knows better by now than to suggest we go furniture shopping in person, an exercise in futility that I have pretty much abandoned. 

God Bless the Internet, I say.

Not just because I can log on to Facebook and Twitter, buy cute clothes and all of my groceries do research and get up to speed on hard-pressing issues, but because my family now has places to sit and to eat.  Pretty things on the walls to look at.  Storage solutions galore.  Without Al Gore’s modern invention, it’s very likely that we would still be using boxes or milk crates as furniture, and our son’s pre-school craft projects as decor, a year after buying our  house.

It all started innocently enough after we moved in.  Some decorative accents from Pottery Barn or someplace  similar.  A coffee table.  Pretty bedding, some rugs.  You know, normal Internet buying activity. Nothing crazy.

The turning point for me came when I decided to replace every single light fixture in the house — no small undertaking.  But let’s be honest — I didn’t have the time nor the insurance liability policy to drag a one and three year-old into lighting stores.  There’s a special place in Hell for that kind of torture. Can you hear the sound of glass (and my nerves) shattering to pieces?

So, my keyboard and I conspired with my monitor and some URLs to find a light for every room in the house without seeing a single fixture in person.  And I had a great success rate (except for the sconces that haunt me). 

It was fabulous.  So I kept going. 

A new bedroom set for my son:  Check.  Window treatments:  Check.  The outdoor swing set: Done.

The week before Christmas, I realized we had nowhere to store all of our china that had lived in boxes for years.  And so a new hutch arrived on our doorstep.  What to do about that empty space in the living room begging for a sofa table?  Twenty minutes later, ordered and ready to ship.

I was on a roll, so I moved on to things that I had previously reserved exclusively for in-person shopping visits — items I wanted to sit on, touch, see, ensure comfort in, etc.  A couch, a chair — done and done.  My new opinion:  Sitting on furniture before you buy it is so very 1990s.  If 16 out of 18 online reviewers told me the couch was comfortable, their asses are a fine proxy for mine.  Ship it here, please.

It got a little ridiculous. 

Boxes upon boxes on the front porch.  A familiar exchange with the UPS guy.  An arched eyebrow from my husband.  My new neighbors probably thought I was running an upholstery cartel.  But, hey — it was no different than spending the money in person (yeah, I got some great shipping deals, don’t you worry).  

Hi, Frank. Want to spend Thanksgiving with us?

It was better this way.  Because let me give you a brief list of why I can’t shop with my kids effectively:

  • Something will break.
  • Somebody will cry. 
  • Somebody will be hungry or thirsty.
  • The window of opportunity to make a decision is about 17 minutes.
  • No adult can complete a thought or a sentence.

All of this leads to either giving in to a crappy purchase or leaving empty-handed.  Again.

At home, I type away.  Kids are fed, happy, entertained.  I can even have a glass of wine while spending money.  Everyone wins.

I’m considering how to take this to the next level.  With spring here, who has time to visit those pesky nurseries to pick out plants and flowers?  Google, let’s make a date and get me some landscaping.  And that basement renovation staring me down?  I might need a better monitor for that one.

Maybe you are one of those “I must see it in person” shoppers.  I respect that.  If you have small children, I am in awe of you.  I am particularly in awe of you if your house doesn’t look like this.

My fate without my keyboard

But for me, it’s a losing proposition.  So, I’d say, 95% of our new house was furnished and decorated online.  And most of it happened to work out swimmingly. 

I don’t care to discuss the other 5% right now, because my “must return” pile is an ongoing thorn in my side.

That’s for another day, and a small price to pay in the name of progress.  So, thank you, Al Gore, thank you.

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Sheer Value

There are certain things you expect to cost a small fortune in life.  Rare jewels.  NYC pre-schools.  Prosthetic limbs.  Eradicating polio.

But window treatments?  Now, that was a rude awakening.

Maybe the guy could smell my desperation.  We’re coming up on a year living in our house, and the main living areas on the first floor have nothing on the windows.  I’m completely tired of the fishbowl effect, and I’m sure my neighbors are sick of seeing me chase two toddlers around in full view.  I mean, we’re not nudists (well, the kids are, at times), so I don’t think we’re offending anyone, but — still — it’s just odd to have no privacy filter.

And why haven’t I just gone out and bought some cheap, makeshift temporary blinds?  The short answer is I don’t know.  The point is that now I’m ready for the real deal.

Or so I thought.

The window guy wants to charge me the equivalent of one child’s future orthodontic work.  He tells me about my 100 year-old windows and how their sizes and shapes are no longer standard.  He tells me how they are also, due to the age of the house, all just more than a little askew.  This, of course, translates to the word you never want to hear.


I decided to tell P about the quote while we were trapped in endless crosstown traffic in Manhattan on Saturday.  I figured he was a captive audience.  But we were going on 45 minutes to cross two city blocks, so in retrospect, maybe he wasn’t in the best frame of mind.

I remember the look on his face when I told him the quote.  I can only describe it as blinking audibly.  He’s a calm and collected guy and so he had a few questions, which were not dissimilar to my own.  They went kind of like this:

  • Are you sure that’s the number?
  • Seriously?
  • We’re talking about fabric, right? 
  • Fabric?
  • Not replacement windows for the entire house?
  • Is said fabric spun from gold?
  • What else will these insanely priced, custom window treatments do for us?

The last question is a good one.  At that price, we both felt we should get more than some white fabric that drew up and down and rotated to angles to block the sun.  I mean, that was the original intention, but, upon further reflection, here’s what we’d like to see the window treatments do for us at the proposed price point:

–Of course, self clean the fabric.  Also, clean the window panes themselves, and possibly, by extension, the living room in its entirety.

–Rotate on their own to accommodate the position of the sun, and adjust their own height based on the time of day and year.

–Serve as a motion detector and house alarm as necessary.

–Babysit the children when we want to grab a quick dinner in town.

–Produce matching clothes for my kids, spun from the same gold (I’ve always had a soft spot for the VonTrapp kids).

–Write a blog post for me from time to time.

All things being equal, P and I think that these features would help us feel like we are getting sufficient value for our money.  So now I have to circle back to the window guy and discuss these customizations.  Surely he’ll understand.  I mean, everything is open to negotiation, right?

What do you think — am I missing anything we should add to the list?

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Ensconced in Crazy

{photo courtesy:}

When you have things on your mind, do you sometimes choose to focus, or even fixate, on much smaller, less important issues?  I’m sure there’s some sort of official term for it — redirecting, maybe? 

Do you do this?  I think I do.  Here’s why.

I have some things on my mind.  Don’t worry — nothing disastrous or horrible, but enough to keep my brain more than occupied.  Regular life stuff.  But you know what I have decided to focus on instead? 


My hideous entryway sconces.

So, in the category of “highly frivolous but slowly driving me insane,” can we just talk about these for a minute?  That would make me feel better. 

Thanks.  I knew you guys would be there for me.

OK, not to be dramatic, but these sconces haunt me.  I have been trying to replace them for the better part of a year, with no luck. 

Maybe you don’t think they are hideous (in which case, I will ship them to you, or I’ll pay for your eye exam — your choice).  Let’s have a closer look.

Are you with me yet?  Can you see your own reflection in their shiny awfulness?  Do you see how they cast a gold glow that reaches far and wide?

And, no, they are not tucked away.  They are in our front entryway, where I had immediately noticed them the first time we walked into our house as prospective buyers.  I think the morning sunlight bounced off of them and nearly cost me a retina.  But I  dismissed them and figured they could be easily replaced — because I’m not one of those dipshits on House Hunters, who walks away from a home purchase over the wall color or light fixtures.  A quick fix, I thought.

Ah, not so.  Because it turns out that the “easy to replace” approach didn’t factor in some very specific and restrictive measurements — meaning, I can’t install any sconces that are more than exactly six inches deep in this space, or we can’t open the basement door.  And we can’t have that. 

Trust me, I have combed through lighting websites and searched every variable of sconces online until my head throbbed. 

And here’s the conclusion that my research has produced.  Anything under six inches in depth either:

  • looks exactly like what I already have
  • costs a fortune or
  • is even more hideous 

By “even more hideous,” I mean something  like this.

My eyes.  They burn.

It seems we’re at a crossroads, me and my sconces.  So, maybe a more pragmatic approach would  help — like applying the Five Stages of Grief to my dilemma:

  • Denial:  This can’t be hard.  They are just sconces.  Surely I’ll find an easy and quick replacement.
  • Anger/Resentment:  How can this be so hard?  I’m an intelligent person, looking for a damn light on a wall.  And where is the address of the former-former-former owner who shopped at a 1970s Light-o-Rama showroom?  What the hell was she thinking, and why has she done this to me?   I think I hate her.
  • Bargaining:  If I find the right sconces for the right price, I swear I’ll never complain about another fixture in the house.  Or maybe if we spend less on the basement renovation and sacrifice the wet bar, we could spring for the proper sconce solution. 
  • Depression:  I just don’t think there’s a viable answer except to live with the sconces under their far-reaching golden glow.  The members of Fordeville are destined to look jaundiced forever.  Or we could find a new house.  Maybe we should just move.  I hate moving.
  • Acceptance:  I can begin to move on — gradually — to other home projects and overlook the eye sores that greet me in plated faux gold every damn day.  I will start small.  I will frame a print for the kitchen.  Mantra:  My happiness does not come from lighting fixtures.

[Just FYI, I’m still firmly in the Bargaining phase and not ready to move on to Depression or Acceptance yet.]

Alrighty, I think you just got a very generous peek into my crazy Type A mind.  It’s a fun (and well-lit) place to live — there’s really never a dull moment.   

I do realize that my fixation is not really about the sconces themselves (I’m quick like that).  Like I said, sometimes it’s easier to focus on the unimportant.  Not the three year-old with the croup, or the 18 month-old with the ear infection.  Or the distinct possibility that our temporary fill-in nanny stole beer from us last week — and drank it — while caring for our kids.  More on that another time.  Or the pile of other pretty important things I really should be doing right now. 

Nah, I’ll stick with the sconces.  Because crazy lives on a sliding scale.

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Kicking the Bottle Habit

Goodbye, Old Friend

I said I would be greener in 2011.  I’ve got plenty of room for improvement but one thing I know I must do right now is kick my bottle habit. 

It’s time.

It’s never easy to say goodbye to an old friend who has been through so much with you.  The 1.5 liter Poland Spring bottle has been by my side every day for several years — a move that now seems short-sighted, irresponsible and, well, selfish. 

PS 1.5L was a constant companion.  She was with me for my daily commute and hung out with me in my office every day.  She joined us for every car ride we’ve taken as a family, right there in her dedicated drink holder.  She had a special place on my nightstand,  was there for every outdoor walk I took these last few years, and even attended the births of my children. 

Excessive?  Sure.  Uneducated of me?  I’ll own it.  Environmentally hostile?  Gulp (no pun intended).  OK.  

(But damnit, I was well-hydrated — you have to give me that.)   

We’ve all had friends who were not good for us — friends that our parents, our spouses and our other friends have gently told us to reconsider, to even abandon.  But it’s hard.  You don’t want to believe that this friend is not really a friend.  I knew, deep down, this day would come, but I wasn’t ready until now.

PS 1.5L, I did some reading up on your contributions to society and, as I suspected, I didn’t like what I saw.   The Daily Green and Ecosalon have told me this much about you and your kind:

  • 1.5 million barrels of oil are used every year to manufacture disposable plastic water bottles for the U.S. market. That’s enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year according to an article in the New York Times.
  • The bottling process itself wastes two gallons of water for every gallon of water that it actually packages.
  • Americans buy an estimated 28 billion plastic water bottles every year, nearly 80% of which will end up in a landfill. One bottle can take thousands of years to decompose.

I knew, in generalities, what the facts would point out — but the specifics are staggering.  There’s no two ways about it.

And then there’s the cost.  If I do the math, I might weep over what I’ve spent on this friend (you’re welcome, Poland Spring headquarters).  So let’s not do that — let’s just silently agree that this has been an unnecessary and steep expense.  Thanks.

If I may put up one last morsel of protest, I just plain like PS 1.5L better than my (free) tap water.  My husband laughs at me and often challenges me to a blind taste test.  (I know I would prevail, by the way.  You drink as much water as I have and tell me you wouldn’t know the difference.)  But, still.  It’s not enough – not nearly enough — of a reason to keep my old friend around any longer. 

{Photo courtesy:}

So, PS 1.5L, I guess that’s it.  I wish I could say, “It’s not you, it’s me,” but that won’t work here.  It’s definitely you.  It’s better to just walk away then to drag this out by slowly diminishing our friendship.  I’m not proud of how long it has taken me to get to this point but maybe my parting letter here can convince other holdouts to leave the likes of you behind as well.  Then I would feel like some good could come out of our destructive friendship.

Oh, and by the way, tell your evil cousin, the plastic bag, that she’s next.

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Auld Lang Syne

“What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?” — When Harry Met Sally

2010, I don’t want to part with you.  You were good to me, and I am so grateful.  With you, I saw all of this happen:

  • We moved out of the city and became suburbanites.  Although P claims I left claw marks at the Lincoln Tunnel when leaving my city life, I couldn’t be happier in our house.  This also meant my return to driving a car — fellow motorists of NJ, sorry about that.
  • Our daughter went from sweet little infant to crazy, climbing, mind-of-her-own toddler who is (in a genetically inexplicable turn of events) obsessed with shoes and bags.  And cute as hell every step of the way.
  • Our son rolled with the change of moving homes and two new schools.  His imagination exploded and I love to hear his stories unfold every day.  He also mastered potty training (OK, so it took almost all of 2010 and cut years from my life, but in the end, we got there).  And, in a trend that I expect I’ll continue to report in upcoming years, he continues to be obsessed with trains.
  • Fordeville came to life in this very space.  A very big development for me, even if only four or so people read it (thanks, Mom, and three random car buffs who came here accidentally after googling “De Ville” and promptly left).
  • And, most importantly, our loved ones are healthy, our friends are dear to us, we are both employed and life is good.

Did bad things happen?  Sure.  Dramas, change and general chaos reared their ugly heads a fair amount but I can’t complain.  Really, I can’t.  And although my grandmother passed away this year, we were grateful for the long and healthy life she had.  Grateful for getting to see her that last day.  And grateful that she did not suffer.

So, 2011, I see you peering around the corner.  And I won’t lie to you — I am hesitant.  I don’t like change.  And, in a freakish but entirely true admission, I don’t like odd-numbered years and am especially afraid of prime numbers.  I prefer my numbers even — from passcodes to roulette picks, you’ll rarely find an odd, and certainly not a prime, number from me.  I can’t explain it but please know that 12 months of 2011 is freaking me out a bit. 

Anyway, filed under “things I cannot change,” I will have to embrace 2011 soon enough, or at least cordially shake its hand until we get to know each other a bit better and see what’s in store.  I resolve not to list any formal resolutions but here are a few things I’m thinking about tackling to make 2011 a good year.

  • Be greener.  I can’t promise any homegrown compost or swear to a minimalist lifestyle but I will say goodbye to plastic bags forever, be more conscious of consumption and think about other easy and meaningful ways to stop being an eco-terrorist (yes, that means the end of my beloved 1.5 liter Poland Springs bottle habit).
  • More tech stuff, please.  This was the year of the Facebook, the FourSquare and the Fordeville for me (the tweet was 2009), as well as the loss of my Apple virginity via iPhone and, now, iPad.  Pretty good progress.  But let’s see what’s next (Tumblr, I’m looking at you) or how to make these things work together better.  Or how to wed my gadgets into better “make life easier” co-existence.  Because this seems stupid.  
  • Be less digital  — sometimesWhatchoo talkin about WillisYou just said to amp it up next year.  Yes, but I’ve got to step away from the online life when I’m with my kids.  That whole balance thing — never was my strong suit.  Being more present for them is something I can’t imagine regretting someday, even if I do miss your awesome tweet, email or Facebook post in the meantime.
  • On a related note, I will slow the fuck down (also, see “clean up my language” under past failed resolutions).  This year was 500 mph.  Every day.  The breathing room was little to none.  And though I’ve always thought that I thrive this way, maybe I don’t.  Because the sad truth is that I am missing things that are right under my nose.  And not just paying a bill on time because I can’t find it (again).  I mean the real stuff that life is made of.  Note to self in 2011:  Stop missing it.
  • A return to current movies, books and music — ones that don’t revolve around toddlers. Enough said.
  • Cook more.  By “cook,” I mean the use of the big appliance on the bottom, not the one with all the buttons and the rotating dish on the top.  I know how, trust me — I just, well, went 500 mph too often. 
  • Oh yeah, and get in better shape.  I’m not out to lose a bunch of weight but just be a more fit person.  Make the time for it regularly instead of that ad hoc run. (Running for the train in heels doesn’t count anymore.)

So, 2011, that’s what I’m thinking.  I hope you have good plans for me too. Let’s try to get along for the next year because, prime number fear or not, we’re stuck with each other for a bit. 

How about you guys?  Anything you want to unofficially resolve to do?  Don’t worry, I won’t hold you to it.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

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Look What Santa Brought

Did I mention that one of my less glamorous holiday season tasks is to really tackle the basement purge?  We made some headway with our ill-prepared garage sale in October, but we are going to bring in contractors to properly finish the basement after Christmas and that means it has to be cleared out. 

I thought this might be motivating.

Isn't it pretty?

The name really says it all.

I’ve given P a choice — move his stuff into this lovely pod or take up residence in there.  I know the latter choice sounds mean, but in reality, it’s probably not much smaller than our first NYC apartment — he would really be just fine.  Yes, I do joke with him that he’s a borderline hoarder, but let’s just clarify now — he’s not — well, at least not reality show-worthy by any stretch.  And, yes, I’m becoming increasingly Type A  — so the ever-present boxes of old stuff aren’t so funny anymore.  Time to throw. the. shit. out.

Obviously I’m in the holiday spirit — threatening my husband and obsessing over a clean basement.  I’m great at parties. 

While visions of a clean basement dance in my head, I know it will take a while — I’ll keep you posted, if for no other reason than to keep us accountable.  In the meantime, maybe I should go back to more traditional merriment like making pie, drinking wine and Cyber Monday purchasing now.  Ho, ho, ho.

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Tales From a Garage Sale Virgin

I’m a huge nerd for being so happy about the success of our garage sale this weekend.  I hate clutter, so the purger in me was thrilled by the cleansing aspect of the whole thing.  Plus it’s just fabulous people watching, right in your own driveway.  I didn’t have the nerve to take photos of people as they were shopping (and risk losing the sale), but let me tell you, there are images distinctly embossed in my mind, for better or worse.  Hello, cross-section of America — welcome to the side of my house.

Let me first say that we never made any progress on the prep front.  I mean, none.  My neighbor Donna was in her garage and basement for a couple of nights leading up to the big event, sorting through her stuff and getting it all ready.  She made all the signs to hang up around town (which were fabulous).  My meager contribution was a posting on Craigslist.

P and I vowed Friday night, right in line with our last-minute ways, to get into that basement and at least mentally sort through what was staying vs going.  Didn’t happen — I fell asleep on the couch at 9:00.  We rolled ourselves outside at 6:45 Saturday morning (for a 9am start time, now advertised all over town) and found Donna had practically set up a retail establishment in her driveway.  Apparently, while we foolishly slept, she had been outside until midnight and back out there at 5am getting ready.  She had so much stuff, all organized and merchandized.  Racks of clothing hanging up.  Rows of shoes.  Major furniture.  And a bunch of items in between.  She had a nice little home base table with a calculator and a fanny pack full of small bills and change.  Donna was a garage sale rock star.

We were humbled novices.

We were dragging our stuff up from the basement and realizing that this garage sale was forcing life decisions.

“Aren’t we putting all the baby stuff out for sale?”

“I don’t know, are we?  What if we need it again?”

Family planning conversations in the driveway at sunrise before coffee — yes, we were sorely underprepared.

But I will tell you that it all went unbelievably well.  Donna’s signs brought us tons of foot traffic, despite the early birds (What is with these people?   You have to show up for first dibs 30 minutes before start time?).  And we had a perfect weather day.  I’m sort of convinced Donna arranged that as well. 

For me and my Type A-ness, I really just wanted the stuff gone.  Yes, I was happy to get money for it but the value of purging it far outweighed its retail value in my mind. 

And because we have a little history of keep vs purge debates in our marriage, there were a few items that we each were keeping a watchful eye on during the sale. 

Item #1:  P’s rollerblades.  I have known him since 1999 and have never witnessed him on rollerblades, though he insists on moving them from home to home with us over the years.  (Sold!)

Item #2:  Rolling dice glassware set.  This is a very kitschy set that was gifted to us.  P wanted to get rid of it.  I don’t love it but it has some sentimental value to me.  (Not sold — though plenty of folks considered it, or maybe just pointed at it.)

Item #3:  Bucket of noisy children’s books.  I’m all for cute kids’ books, but you know that feeling of wishing for a particularly noise-making book to break?  I was done with some of the key offenders in this category and felt other families may not be annoyed as easily by them.  Many noisy books sold, except for the one I hate most — because I was dumb enough to keep it in plain sight where my son could notice and promptly reclaim it.  (Epic fail.)

Overall, I’d say we sold 90% of what we put out there — and managed to make some good money too.  So it was ok to be underprepared.  I think my sales associates were also helpful and quite charming.

My daughter handled the rug and pillows department.

And my son was the general greeter/sales manager.

So why is there still so much stuff in my basement?  We may have to do this again, come springtime.

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