It’s a Beautiful Life

My life is beautiful.

Constancy, variety, clutter, simplicity.

Because my life is beautiful, I take pictures. I take lots and lots of pictures. I take lots of criticism for taking lots of pictures. But that’s what I choose to clutter my life up with; pictures. I take pictures of everything I eat, for example. I do this for two reasons; to kind of keep a journal of my dietary escapades in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle and, because, frankly, I think food is beautiful. I take pictures of all the places I go, all the things I see, the people I love, that is the diary of my life and, as I am lousy with dates, it is also a record of events I oft refer back to. I can remember the month and the day, almost to a freakish degree, but don’t ever expect me to remember the year without referring to my pictures! They bring me joy and they are a ready and practical guide to my history.

I experience a certain level of frustration with some of the pictures I take, my food pictures, at home, in particular. There is so much “ugly” and so much “sameness” in my home environment, I feel they compromise the beauty of the subject matter, food, or otherwise. Like power lines across a lovely landscape, I am challenged with finding varied and lovely backdrops for the food I consume several times a day, several times a week. At home. It’s not that the kitchen, or the house, is unattractive, it’s that it is always the same tablecloth and there are cords and phones and appliances always visible in the background. There are the little piles of papers on the table I can’t seem to omit from the frame no matter how I aim the camera. Petty annoyances. Very petty. But, annoyances all the same.

When I take pictures of my meals in my room, my office, or while dining outside on the deck, I have many, I think, lovely options for backgrounds, for landscapes, to enhance the beauty of my feast. This is of my choosing and by my design. This is my beautiful life.

I believe, to my core, that I have a beautiful life, literally and figuratively. True, I am always seeking change, but I like change, I crave the excitement, I flirt with the variety, I tempt the adventure. Whether that change is moving to a new city or using a tablecloth different today from yesterday, it is change and it is welcomed. So, as beautiful as my life is, I’m counting on it to change. You can look out the same window or at the same painting, every day of your life, and it is no less beautiful, but there is so much more to see. My beautiful life, by design, will be ever changing, and this, I wish to collect in photos. Photos are the only clutter I wish to keep, and digital, at that.

What it is about the kitchen I often eat in that I abhor is the clutter and the constancy. Clutter and constancy are two things I try to hold at bay in my beautiful life. It is not my kitchen, it is my mother’s, and, as I currently live with her, in her advanced age, it is the kitchen I use to prepare and, sometimes, consume my food. My mother loves constancy and allows clutter. I’m not standing in judgement, she has a beautiful life that just differs from mine. I am mostly tolerant, but dream a different dream.

As an example of our differences, for the brief and lovely time I lived alone, after leaving my husband and the kids went off to college, and before returning home to accompany my mom, I had a few lovely tablecloths and a variety of colorful napkins and placemats. No two meals were on the same combination of linens! Each was unique and lovely and fun and stimulating. Beautiful.

Different plate, different napkin
Different plate, different napkin

Variety.

My mom has two tablecloths for daily use, oil cloth and elasticized about the edge, big floral patterns that remind me of what interior designers crammed homes with in the 1980’s. There is one tablecloth for winter and one for summer, exactly like the bathroom décor for the past twenty years. May I also confess to you that beneath the everyday tablecloth is a second tablecloth, for padding, and beneath that is the most beautiful, solid oak table, cut on the quarter grain, that you will never see, like the special occasion tablecloths that only adorn the table briefly if company is nigh, or the stacks of lovely china and the sterling silver that have only seen the light of day twice, ever, that I can recall. But, really, you will never see the oak table in the buff, no matter how special a guest you are.

Same tablecloth.
Same tablecloth.

I came home from a business trip to find a package on the back counter. Contained in clear plastic wrap was a tablecloth, an exact replica of the tablecloth presently on the table. With grave concern for my mother’s mental acuity, thinking she had ordered the tablecloth not realizing she already had it, I inquired. She said the elastic on the old tablecloth was stretched out, had I not noticed? So, a new, an exact duplicate, was ordered as an improvement to our well-being and lifestyle.

Same tablecloth. Different plate, different bowl, different napkin.
Same tablecloth. Different plate, different bowl, different napkin.

Constancy.

As for clutter, I find it tiring, truly, it drains my energy and zaps my enthusiasm. I am not immune from clutter, none of us are, I have my own clutter, and pots calling kettles black, Mom and I are always intolerant of the other’s clutter. I truly believe mine is to a minimum. I moved five times in five years, I have kept only what I’d be willing to move again. I have made continual and concerted efforts to further declutter, on a regular basis. I have limited space in my rooms, my storage unit, and my life, for anything, much less the unnecessary. I find a great deal of satisfaction and a real sense of freedom in letting go of things I truly don’t need or use on a regular basis. I love to liberate things that weigh me down to become someone else’s stuff.

Same tablecloth.
Same tablecloth.

Mom’s clutter consists of unused items that have just always been there, décor and dated electronics, and paper. Lots and lots of paper. She carefully writes the date on each and every piece of mail that is received and files it for further handling at a later date. Further handling may consist of paying the bill within, ordering the items advertised, sending the donation requested, or letting it pile up precariously in “the office” until shredded. She shreds junk mail. She spent an entire day, a full eight or ten hours, shredding the accumulation of worthlessness one day last week. What doesn’t make its way to the pile in the office, resides on the kitchen table or on two of the four chairs around the table. It was occupying three of the four chairs until I moved home and wished to sit to eat. When company threatens, the piles are shuffled away to the office at the very last moment before the doorbell rings and are quickly returned to their respective kitchen resting place as the front door closes behind them upon the guest’s retreat. The company only tablecloth as quickly disappears. I don’t even see it happen, it just occurs, quickly, as if by ninjas.

Different plate. Different napkin.
Different plate. Different napkin.

Until I required two of the three bedrooms this house affords, those two bedrooms were for overflow. When company came, all that was about was put within and the doors were closed. I have no idea where all that stuff has made its way to, with my occupancy, but I am certain it is somewhere.

I’ll admit, I’ve lived similarly, but not entirely by choice, when I was living with my husband, who I would have to say is as close to a hoarder as I’ve ever known. Entire rooms in our various homes were “off limits” to guests, and every surface was filled to capacity with all the things. The accumulation. The stuff to be dealt with at some later date. Like when we moved, but, even then, most of the stuff, including piles of long dusty, faded mail, was tossed into a cardboard box, taped shut, labeled, moved, and never again reopened. If something of importance was buried in such a box, a copy was requested from the original issuer and then piled somewhere until dusty and faded, boxed and moved. I’m breaking out in hives at the recollection of this.

Different plate. Different napkin.
Different plate. Different napkin.

Clutter.

“My” kitchen, my beautiful kitchen, is in storage. All of my beautiful things, my pretty plates, my beautiful bowls, my lovely linens, and my special serving pieces. I don’t have a lot of things, just a few carefully selected pieces. Please. Remember, I moved five times in five years; I’ve kept only the very few things I absolutely adore! And, in “my” kitchen, I only have an item or two out at a time. In “my” kitchen, there are so few things, in total, that all the things have ample and generous space in a few cupboards. In “my” kitchen, one beautiful piece or another is brought out to compliment the meal of the moment, it is put away when the dishes are done, which is immediately, and the next meal is entirely differently accompanied.

Kitchen appliances bore me. True, there are some I find indispensable, a couple I don’t have I find highly desirable. But kitchen appliances, like Victorian children, should not be seen or heard, unless or until absolutely necessary. If the appliances don’t have a place in a cupboard, they don’t have a place in “my” kitchen. I honestly think I could keep kitchen appliances to a toaster and a coffee grinder. I might enjoy a really nice espresso machine, but that would be an obscene luxury item and it would require quite a bit of real estate in a cupboard. And constant care and cleaning. I gave my last not very expensive espresso machine to my son, but then, for a bit, moved in with him and had to endure its very infrequently used existence on the counter top. It required dusting. I loathe dusting.

Truthfully, as for pots and pans; I could thrive with my cast iron skillet, a high quality sauce pan, and a stock pot. The cast iron skillet serves for everything from Dutch oven to sauté pan. I yearn to keep it simple.

Different bowls. Different napkin. Same tablecloth.
Different bowls. Different napkin. Same tablecloth.

Knives and forks and plates and bowls and chairs and napkins; in my dream kitchen, there’d be just enough for me, for mine, and for a bit a bit of company, and no two items would match! They’d be eclectic and collectibles, new and ancient, and I’d let each guest select the color and pattern that struck them! And, when not in use, they’d be tucked in a neat stack in their appropriate cupboard or drawer.

“My” spaces would be decorated only with flowers, an ever changing bit of art or whimsy, a seasonal and varietal splash of color from a valance, a pillow, a candle, a picture book, a cozy throw, and a few photos.

Clothes and shoes, if they don’t fit in the closet or I haven’t worn them in a year’s time, off they go to Goodwill. I caught myself, only once, replacing my thick plastic hangers with thinner wire hangers so as to fit more into the closet. I can be cagey like that, brilliant, but devious.

Books are down to just the ones I am likely to refer to or reread, and, unless of a whimsical, interesting, varietal, and only occasional coffee table picture book, they are being replaced with electronic versions as can be afforded.

I am as paperless as this still paper dependent world will allow. I scan and shred daily. Mail that is not vital or relevant does not even enter the house. I subscribe to electronic statements and no print literature, and I call catalog companies who send me print catalogs and beg them to stop. I threaten to stop doing business with those who will not honor my “paperless please” requests, and I follow through.

As Mom and I “clutter bash” each other I have to remind her, like dieting versus a healthy eating lifestyle, simplifying and decluttering is a lifestyle. Simplifying and decluttering is a lifestyle you choose and that you live, each and every day of the rest of your life, it isn’t something you do for two weeks and then pray for lasting results, like the cabbage soup diet. Like choosing wholesome ingredients and carefully planning and preparing healthy meals, keeping the clutter that accumulates in our lives to a comfortable level takes commitment and a permanent change in behavior.

My beautiful life, in its perfected form, is a life where company can arrive unannounced and my world is clean and inviting, simply, effortlessly. Simple, uncluttered surroundings require so much less effort; less dusting, less scrubbing, cleaning happens daily with a quick swipe of a cloth across a smooth, empty surface. Dishes are done as they are used. Nothing accumulates. Everything has a place and is replaced in its place after use. This is so exciting to me I can barely contain my glee in describing this! This is my beautiful life, I have lived it briefly and yearn for it again.

Simplicity.

My life now, in my childhood home, beautiful in execution, but not in aesthetics, with all that I need and all that I use, quartered in two bedrooms, with the exception of one of the two closets, and some highly contentious space in the middle of the garage floor. My beautiful things that do not fit into Mom’s home, that I don’t require regularly, are stored, at a huge expense, in a storage unit a couple of miles away. Were this house, or a house a fraction the size, vacant, my beautiful life would easily fit within, without clutter. Simply. This is my vision, it has been my reality, and it is what I lust for now. It is the lifestyle I choose, like being active and eating clean, it’s what makes me feel joyful. I love my life. It’s a beautiful life.

Happy Place

I have been so grumpy lately. Me, the person who preaches “positive mental attitude” and always being “in charge of your own feelings”. Hey, at least I’m honest! No amount of wine seems to help. Truth? It just makes me grumpier when morning rolls around. And I’ve fallen into that vicious cycle of “one more glass of wine” in the evening, which then results in “one more cup of coffee” in the morning. I’ve switched to half-caf in an effort to regain control, as of yesterday, and I was nearly homicidal. Today I made it a little less half and a little more caf and so far no one has cowered when I’ve tried to “explain or clarify” something.

I know I’ve mentioned in previous articles, but I have moved five times in as many years. Maybe more. I may have lost count. I’ve packed and unpacked the same boxes several times and they all, finally, fell apart. Now I have $300 worth of nice, sturdy boxes, piled four high in my room, my office, and in the garage. Partly due to my independence, my freedom and my autonomy, all of which I cherish and nurture, I am the “floating family member”, moving in to assist with rent when my son’s roommates moved on to other schools, and now, moving in with Mom to help her keep up with the house I grew up in. Can you imagine the culture shock moving from a house with a twenty-something and friends to a house with someone on the far side of octogenarian? My life has gone from trips to the gym and the pub in the same evening to a brisk ten minute escorted walk down the toothpaste aisle at Target. I know that moving in to help my son, and then my mom, is the right thing to do, given my flexibility and adaptability, but geez. I also preach that “change is good”. Well, then, I should be in excellent fricking shape! Change is all I’ve had! Constant upheaval, a complete change of locale, having to find my “vibe”, places to shop, to work out, to hang out, and the constant packing and unpacking, temporarily take their toll on my usually sunny disposition.

The move in with Mom has been much harder than I anticipated. We are both very strong willed, opinionated women with slightly, or not so slightly, different outlooks on life. True, and she realizes it, the circumstances have provided quite a bit of good blog fodder. And made me really, really out of sorts. I feel like I am reeling to regain my balance, teetering, not sure if I’m going to land on my ass, on my face, or on my feet.

The recent relocation has been the most difficult. I love Sacramento. I miss Sacramento. I know it may seem like a weird place to love and to miss, but I do. It is a “just right” town. I left Napa for Sacramento thirty some years ago, for a reason. Sacramento is just big enough without being too big. There is plenty of really decent shopping, lots of nice new developments, a great restaurant scene, lots and lots and lots of outdoor recreation possibilities and a decent wine region an hour in any direction. On a clear day there’s a view of the Sierras to the east and the coastal range to the west. How cool is that? Okay, so you can count the number of clear days per year on your fingers and toes, but they are that amazing. And really, the three or four months of hundred degree temperatures aren’t really that bad.

Moving back to Napa is hard. I know, I know. Everyone I meet is so jealous, “you live in Napa?” Um. Yah. No big. True, there are better than stellar wineries within an hour and the restaurant scene is world class. So, too, are the prices. Shopping? Nothing. You either have to go to San Francisco, an hour and some, or, Sacramento, an hour and some. My gyms, all three, “national chains”, don’t have facilities here, causing me to have to pay to end my contracts early and find a local, “single location” gym. I know. First world problems. I’m a spoiled rotten bitch.

Work has had me a bit out of sorts, too. I’ve been dreading the go-go busy travel season, which begins, um, Monday and ends, maybe, in December. It has been our “slow season”, meaning we’ve been working from home re-writing our class materials. It has been nice working from home, I guess, though I don’t really feel quite at home, living out of boxes and all. And the work, re-writing materials? Mind numbing doesn’t even begin to describe the pain and suffering involved. So, beginning next week, I guess I’ll just unpack my boxes into my suitcases and, well, see ya. My life becomes a travelling road show. Ironically, my first two weeks of travel are to Sacramento! I’m making a list of restaurants and shopping and work-outs and hikes and visits and …

Today, however, marked a change. Maybe even a paradigm shift, a much needed paradigm shift. First of all, I worked with a client on the phone and web, providing eight hours of software training. I dreaded getting up at 5:00 AM to call in on time, but once I was online and talking and joking and providing a valued service to these happy and appreciative people, it kind of rekindled what it is about my job I love. The people. Bonus, not monetary, no, but a figurative bonus. Beginning that early, I got to end my workday early, and begin “my day” while it was still bright and sunny outside! The veil of grumpiness budged, ever so slightly.

I went on a mission last week to try to figure out which of the three local gyms I am going to sign my paychecks over to. I toured them all and was given a couple free passes to each. It’s kind of like Goldilocks and the three bears, Scarlett and the three gyms.

The first one was nice, clean, had a decent offering of classes, including Zumba and yoga and spinning. But, the equipment wasn’t all that and it was affiliated with the local hospital, which, when approaching the age of fifty, is not something I really wanted to think about. I mean, most gyms have defibrillator devices posted on the wall, here and there, but I don’t think they actually ever get used. This gym had, like, crash carts, and the staff all wore surgical scrubs and stethoscopes and it was a little too close to the emergency room for my comfort.

The second gym was in the “supposed-to-be-trendy” downtown Napa area. Downtown Napa is about four blocks long and two blocks wide and consists of nice restaurants that open for a few months, then close, leaving the investors in ruin, a few short-lived tasting rooms, and a couple of really scary and totally desperate shopping venues aimed at, well, my mother. There are a ton of vacancies, and in an effort to keep up appearances for the tourists, the windows are full of displays of local artists. It all looks quite nice, but is an illusion. There, in the midst of all this “splendor”, a gym, that used to be a Woolworths, complete with a breakfast counter serving, somehow, greasy pancakes, for most of my childhood. As I toured the gym with the overmedicated customer service representative who reminded me of Joan Cusack, in character as an overmedicated, struggling not to be middle-aged woman, all I could smell was an overwhelming deodorizer-slash-air-freshener, with underlying tones of musty sweat and somehow greasy pancakes. To top this delight to my overactive olfactory senses, they were missing a crucial piece of equipment, the stair climber. I refuse to even use my free passes there, even they smell like strong air deodorizer, musty sweat and greasy pancakes. It is hard to hold your breath and pant at the same time.

The third gym is what I would call a “glitz palace”. A showcase. It is modern, bright, light and vibrant. Appointed with expensive tile half way up all the walls and nice, expensive, shock absorbent flooring. There are windows everywhere, and beautiful, clean, state of the art equipment in several locations throughout, each with a different view. So I can work out and overlook the pool one day, the basketball court another and the free weight room another. I love a workout with a view! All this and only thirty dollars more per month than the other two gyms. But, it was extremely well ventilated, had free Wi-Fi and two stair climbers. The class offering was decent and the clientele did not look like they’d be in need of resuscitation any time soon. I used my second and final free pass today. After an hour of intense cardio and a good day of working with actual people, my foul temper was, yes, almost as sunny and warm as the weather outside.

Exercising is very important, not only for my long-term health, my ability to fit into my nice jeans I rewarded myself with over a year ago for reaching my weight loss goal, to my energy and my productivity, but, probably most importantly, to my disposition. My mom isn’t in tune with this, yet. But K-man, my good, good man from the far, far north, he knows. He can tell within the first two words of a conversation with me whether I’ve managed to exercise that day, or not. If I am sad, or mad, or out of sorts, he will often say something like “why don’t you go for a run, or go to the gym, you know you’ll feel better.” He is right, always. I do feel better.

Tomorrow, my last day for mind-numbing project work. Ugh. I will drink my half CAF and fuss with headers and footers and pagination, page breaks and font size, consistent indentations for bullet lists and things that are not at all natural for an accountant to be doing. But with mind numbing project work and no scheduled class to teach, I will have the freedom and flexibility to go to the “glitz palace” gym and tithe a portion of my earnings and partake in a much needed attitude adjustment. I have found my new happy place!

Think Outside the Box

I have always had a thing with boxes. I can’t explain. Bah. I lie. I can explain.

You know how kids are, they’ll play with the box, not the toy. That was me. I always loved boxes. Again, I lie. I loved the toys, too, I still do. But when I was a kid, I wanted it all, I played with the toy while sitting in the box. Now I just want the toys, preferably electronics, and I’m happy to discard the box. Once the warranty has run out.

As a young girl, by dad worked as a traveling salesman for a bicycle distributor. Later, he bought his own Schwinn bicycle shop. I always had a new, shiny bicycle. Or two. Schwinn used to make an enormous three-wheeled bicycle for adults, and it came mostly assembled, in a gigantic box that was occasionally printed on the outside to look like a log cabin! My dad would bring it home in the back of his Chevy El Camino, bring it inside, cut the windows out and cut the door so it would open and shut. It was amazing, and I remember having a couple of them during the course of my childhood, in my room. The ultimate indoor fort. One in particular, I remember, somehow, had pink shag carpet inside. Another of my earliest fond memories of the color pink. And of boxes.

I remember constructing other forts out of lesser boxes. Another glorious box fort comes to mind. I had boxes up against the wall by my desk and bed, which I had pushed away from the wall just enough that I could crawl around behind the furniture, beyond the boxes. Near the boxes, though, was a nightlight which illuminated the space. I had a red balloon in my fort, and if I had the balloon close enough to the nightlight, it created the most wonderful, pink glow. My second, very fond memory of the color pink. And of boxes.

I have moved a half dozen times in about as many years. My life is cursed with boxes and right now, having recently moved back in with my mom, I have piles of boxes in my bedroom, in my office and in the garage. If my mom would let me, I could easily arrange them into a fortress and live within the cardboard walls, defended against whatever or whoever may seek admission. There would be a password, guaranteed. I also have a ten foot by ten foot storage unit full of boxes of family heirlooms I need to contend with, you know, like Legos and Barbies and merit badges and prom gowns.

My box story isn’t pretty, but it has a happy ending. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve recently moved in with my elderly mom. I’m back in the house I grew up in. In fact, I am, at this moment, facing the corner of the room where the amazing log cabin fort bicycle box was, once upon a time. Now there is a short filing cabinet with a printer atop it. I kind of wish it was the fort. With pink shag carpet. I’d be in there, with my MacBook, typing happily away, sipping my Bitch Creek Extra Special Brown ale, listening to my most excellent music mix.

Without going into gory details, I have spent the last several years weeding through an unimaginable number of boxes, ending up with, for the most part, only what I absolutely need, love, and adore. Plus the Legos and Barbies, merit badges and prom gowns. This has been pared down from what once filled a house big enough for a family of four, a forty-acre back yard, a “shop”, almost as many square feet as the house, and another outbuilding full of nothing but saddles and related accouterments. And quite honestly, all were bursting at the seams and spilling into the forty-acre backyard. Five moves later, I have taken a pile of boxes that filled two ten by twenty foot storage units in addition to what items I appointed my living space with and pared it down to, well, what still looks like way too many boxes, because I really could build myself a fairly impressive cardboard castle.

I still have work to do, it’s kind of scary, the accumulation of a family of four over the course of time it takes children to grow to young adults. How much stuff do people really need? I’ll tell you. Not that much. My ultimate goal is for everything I own, love and desire, to fit into one small U-Haul that I can drive comfortably, all by myself. So I either need to get rid of some more stuff, or go to truck driving school.

To my credit, during this timeframe, I have also migrated from family car camping to backpacking. Ten years ago, when we went camping, it required an SUV and a utility trailer to haul all the crap we thought we needed out to the woods for a weekend. Our getaway weekends ended up being a bring-it-all with weekends. And I’ll give you one guess as to which family member packed it all, drove the damn SUV, towing the trailer, all the way out to the woods, unpacked it all, set up the house-sized tent, cooked and cleaned up all weekend, then reversed the whole process in time to get to work Monday morning. I was never so happy as when I donated all that camping crap to Goodwill! Backpacking is where it’s at, everything you need in a nice, small, confined space, with a zipper. Okay, so my first couple of treks, I might have had a forty-five pound pack, but I’m so over that!

With my busy travel season soon upon me, I am beginning to panic a bit about all these boxes. I’m afraid I may have to get a larger storage unit, move the boxes there and out of our way and deal with them like I did the last batch, one Honda Civic load at a time. This is an exhausting, but manageable method; drive the Civic to the storage unit, cram as many boxes into it as possible, drive them home, go through them, dividing everything into three piles, keep forever and ever, donate to charity, take to the dump. The three piles are assembled into boxes and distributed between the storage unit, Goodwill and the dump. This process can be repeated several times in a weekend. Last fall, I spent entire weekends doing this, for several months on end.

The somewhat frightening thing, though, is, as I sit in my mother’s house, the house I grew up in, the house she has lived in for nearly forty-six years, it occurs to me that the only reason my already pared down pile of belongings only seems overwhelming is because every closet, cupboard, drawer, cabinet and even the spaces under the beds and behind all the doors, in every room, are full of the accumulation of a family of three. There is no space for the few, select items I have chosen to keep. And, this, too, must be dealt with. Boxed. And dealt with. Probably by me.

My childhood affinity for boxes has ended up as a recurring nightmare of boxes, but, I am confident, in the end, I will be able to overcome the situation. How is this a happy ending? I find with each and every box of stuff I discard, I lighten my load, I become less encumbered, more free. It is so completely liberating, ridding oneself of the unnecessary stuff. This reached beyond boxes of belongings, I realize. I have trimmed my life of many unnecessary, hurtful, unhappy things. Clutter of life, be gone! I’ve lost weight, I’ve chosen to populate my life only with people who are positive, supportive and adoring. I realize I don’t need things to make me happy. Those things never made me happy, they were just proof that I had money with which to buy stuff. Just stuff, not happiness. Now I have genuine happiness and I only have a few more boxes of stuff to deal with. I can do it! I simply need to think outside the box.

Scarlett’s Daily (or so) Diary 2/19/2013 – Tampons, Ice Cream and Beer

Tampons, Ice Cream and a Beer

The highlight of my day? I guess so. A trip to Walgreens for tampons and ice cream. Now, to cap it off with a beer.

Moving is a bitch. Especially considering it’s my fifth move in five years. I’m moving the contents of a three bedroom house to two bedrooms in my mother’s house, which, by the way, are both stuffed full of the accumulation of the nearly fifty years she has lived there. Everything she thinks she should keep but doesn’t really want or know what to do with has been sequestered into every nook and cranny in these two bedrooms. As far as I can tell, this matter consists mostly of old, dusty bank statements in boxes so ancient, the black magic marker has faded to pink, utility bills so old, the monthly bill cost, in total, about what a kilowatt hour costs now , recipes she’s never cooked, newspaper clippings, old paperback books, magazines from the 1960’s, a stack four inches high of my Facebook timeline news my dad printed for her to read over the course of several years, that are now well over a year old, and so, no longer news, and other oddities people gave her that she is keeping out of duty, or guilt, and that require dusting. This has required three telephone conversations, so far, today. I’m a little afraid of what may be stuffed in the mattresses, as they are a bit stiff and unforgiving to sleep on, and so will be replaced with my lovely, new, pillow top mattress immediately upon arrival this weekend.

On my end, I am orchestrating the exodus from Sacramento, where I have lived (or nearby) for the past thirty plus years, back to Napa, where I grew up. I am not particularly delighted by this, though everyone I talk to seems a bit envious about it all. According to The Atlantic, today, Napa is the happiest town in the United States, based on a 10 million tweet study. How? My assumption is that the tweets, which were measured on their contents of “happy words”, like “food”, “wine” and “cheers”, were strictly from tourists, not residents. Tourists who got to go home after luxuriating in Napa and shop in their town’s nice shopping malls and work out at premium health clubs and shop at a grocery store like mine, that has a bier garten and live music. These things do not exist in Napa. I guess what Napa lacks in good shopping malls and gyms it makes up for in wine. Truthfully, I can get a wider selection of Napa wine for way less dinero at my favorite shopping center here in the Sacramento area. I guess I’ll come back here to shop, work out, and buy wine. I’ll sleep in Napa.

Regarding the move, though, I am quite proud of myself. My adult children are all off, busy with their lives. I have no man about the house, mine is not so conveniently located 3,000 miles away. My mom is 89 years old and though she means well, is not much help at moving stuff. I single handedly packed 55 boxes, loaded them all into a cargo van, drove it to Napa, unloaded it completely, went out to lunch with Mom, drove back to Sacramento, and helped my son move an enormous couch, television and entertainment center to his new abode. In one day.

This coming weekend, again, without any assistance other than my VISA card and the internet, I have carefully delineated the rental of two different moving vans, two men in Sacramento followed exactly four hours later by two renta-men in Napa to load and unload the big stuff. I have also coordinated with to the moment precision, the transfer of all my utilities, internet, and phone services via a chat session online. I think I could run a war.

Tonight, after my beer, while enjoying my Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, right out of the carton, I am going to try to bundle up another twenty boxes of my life, all carefully labeled and sealed shut with color-coded, room specific packing tape. I am preparing for full mobilization this weekend, carefully balanced with looming project deadlines at work, a strict fitness schedule which was forsaken yesterday and today, and a social life. So, as they say in Napa, “cheers”!

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