Tag Archives: musings

Stuff and Nonsense

Okay, here’s a true confession. I think I might have borderline hoarder disorder.

And I think it might be getting worse.

I spent the day today (my one full day of the week off) moving stuff around in the garage to try and make a more winterized space for the ATV, the ride-on mower, some furniture pieces my daughter has lined up to refinish, and for, well, other stuff.  All that stuff that is too good to throw away, but not good enough to keep is stashed in my garage and storage shed.

Where does all this stuff come from? It’s not all mine. Every family member who comes home or who moves away, or who even comes to visit, leaves possessions that they want, but not in their own houses.  This includes the belongings of my partner’s ex-wife, whose extraneous stuff takes up an entire corner of the garage. I have seriously considered changing the name of the place from Everyday Grace Farm to Everybody’s Stuff Farm.

I took a break from re-organizing to take the garbage and recycling up to the transfer station, and could not resist peeking into the cool sheds there; the book barn, the take it or leave it shed, and the clothing bin. The last thing I need is more stuff, but shopping at the dump is fun, free, and (I rationalize) fiscally responsible. It’s retail therapy that doesn’t cost anything.

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Sometimes I feel odd when I take more away from the dump than I bring up there, but then I remind myself people are getting rid of this stuff, so in a way, aren’t I helping out?  Isn’t it being green to repurpose and re-use? I get nearly all of my clothing and reading material from the dump, and have stocked my home daycare with awesome toys culled from the TIOLI, many of them in really good shape or only needing minor repair to make right as rain again.

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It is almost a channeling technique. Come Saturday or Sunday morning, as I am sorting out the bottles, cans and paper recyclables, I find myself getting excited for the serendipitous adventure that is in store. What will I find today that I can use? It is astonishing to me how often a book by an author I have been reading or thinking about is right there waiting for me.  I have been re-reading Madeleine L’Engle and three books were right there on the shelf this morning. The older girls who spend Wednesday afternoons at the farm asked for clay, and voila, a nearly full package of 24 colors.  It’s almost like magic. True, the euphoria dissipated a bit when I got back home and realized I had to find room for the so sweet, only slightly damaged watercolor from 1937 (possibly of value, something that old?), the great casserole dish (with a LID, and I can always use another casserole dish, right?), and an armful of 4T clothing (Oshkosh, B’gosh!) that will come in handy when Gracie gets her clothes wet and her mom forgets to pack a spare outfit.  Plus, I still wasn’t finished with the garage project; all of the stuff I had dragged out now had to go back in the garage, in a hopefully more organized fashion, but which in reality more often feels like I am playing a life-sized version of Tetris with STUFF.

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One of my cute dump finds is a deck of black and white postcards with those 1950’s style housewives spouting smart remarks. You know, like, “Make yourself at home, clean my kitchen’. My very favorite is the lady languishing on her couch and thinking: ‘I dream about storage space’. I can totally relate.  Maybe it’s not hoarder disorder. Maybe I just need a dry basement, an attic and a barn! Now that is the stuff dreams are made of!

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(Photo source)

Mavens of the Unknown: in which nin thinks about blogging

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Mom, I made us a blog.

(Gulp. Now we’ve done it. Made the leap.)

What’s it called?

Maven Haven.

(Oh, no. That was my idea, but now I’m not so sure. It’s catchy, I think, but does it sound a little arrogant? But it’s a fait accompli, the deed is done, the die is cast, here’s hoping for the best).

First, some stream of consciousness thoughts on blogs and blogging.

I have mixed feelings about the “I, I, I”-ness of blogs. I sometimes get irritated with people who (I feel) overshare on Facebook and aren’t blogs like Facebook entries on steroids?  Some of the words of Emily Dickinson’s poem pop into my mind, with a twist:

I’m nobody, who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

How dreadful to be somebody,

How public, like a BLOG.

Blogging is putting it right out there; you hit publish and it’s there for anyone to read. Maybe there’s a way to edit or retract a post, but, digital immigrant that I am, I don’t know how. And they say no one is reading it anyway. So why bother to do it at all in the first place?  For me, blogging is a practice, a discipline; it is putting on the writing miles with a purpose; like weight watchers with words, it holds you accountable. Blogs are a bridge between freewriting and a personal essay, a way to discover what you think and to practice making your thoughts clear. Plus, the fact that no one will read it is liberating and the thought that someone might is exciting.

This brings us back to maven-ry. Webster’s dictionary defines a maven as one who is experienced or knowledgeable (also a freak). Well, the former has a presumptuous tinge and the latter a little Asperger-y. But the Yiddish roots add this spin: one who understands, based on an accumulation of knowledge. And in The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell calls mavens those who are intense gatherers of information and impressions and adds that mavens work well with connectors (those who have a wide network of casual acquaintances by whom they are trusted).  Now we have more to work with.

What right do I have to call myself a maven? Maybe none. Maybe Maven-in-training would be more accurate. Maven-in training Haven doesn’t have the same ring to it, though. Then again, between us, Vicky and I have nearly fourscore years of living as accumulated experience, we both seek to understand, and truth be told, fit the weird quality of the definition, too. (Who isn’t weird?  The older I get, the more I relish being me the way I am and don’t worry if other people think it’s strange.  I always liked Louisa’s plea in The Fantasticks: please God, don’t let me be ordinary.) But I digress.

Back to the definition: where better than the web to find connectors and connections? True, trust (and true trust) must be earned, and that leads us full circle back to the purpose of the blog. The blog is not a place to show off knowledge, but a chance to work with words each day, a place (a HAVEN, a refuge) to explore ideas and thoughts, and to offer them up in that effort of faith that says, here I am and here’s a notion and what do you think?

Rilke says, “We must learn to love the questions themselves.” It strikes me that the thing I am expert in is asking questions, and that we are all mavens of the unknown.

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in which nin makes a change

I’m not sure who said it, but I think often of the quote: “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.” When I was younger, I always had the idea that smooth sailing was just over the next wave crest, that the present challenge of whatever choppy life crisis  I was dealing with would (and could) be dealt with and then the life I wanted to live could begin. I was well into my thirties before I realized that I don’t think it works this way…that life IS the ebbs and flows, the peaks and valleys, the daily challenges that don’t really ever stop at all…like that beautiful line from Christina Rossetti’s poem about the road going uphill all the way. I know this is not original thinking, but the notion hit me with the “blinding glimpse of the glaringly obvious” that has a visceral- and changing- effect.

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It was the desire to live a more fulfilling, more authentic life that prompted the move from eastern Long Island to western Massachusetts. And while it is true that “wherever you go, there you are” it is also the case that a change in geography can re-route old patterns of thinking, habits, and ruts. Driving around the Pioneer Valley on my exploratory missions to find a place to live, I could almost feel new brain cells developing as I tried to suss out the lay of the land and the different vibes of different towns.

ImageWhen I finally leapt, the net did appear, though not in the way I thought it would. (In retrospect, I realize I didn’t think, I acted: I was ‘done with the compass, done with the chart” as Emily says (her words are palpable here, they seep into your soul after a while).  I got caught in the net that appeared, ensnared in it, bogged down by all the effort I had exerted to make the move happen.  (All that paperwork involved in buying a house! Packing up forty-five years of stuff, leaving my job of a dozen years, the place that had brought me along as a teacher, where my daughter and I had spent a decade of learning together, and where I had built up a fairly lucrative tutoring gig in the summers). I was not expecting to be sidelined by depression, a trifecta of midlife crisis, empty nest syndrome and dark night of the soul all rolled into one. It didn’t help that I had no job, and I was pretty sure that if I had a financial planner, her advice would not be to live off my home equity loan for the next year. The feeling I had when I had bought my first house six years before was that of being totally stoked about my achievement: that I, a single mother who did not get child support or have a parent or a rich aunt or uncle to help out with the down payment, had managed to buy my own little corner of the earth that would always be mine as long as I paid the bank $650 every month; it was a victorious feeling and I was proud of myself.  Perhaps I should have remembered that pride goeth before a fall…I have ruminated long and hard on the paradoxical applications of giving something your all and yet not being attached to outcome, of walking the mystical path with practical feet.

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In any case, my feeling about this new place was nothing like that. As family members and friends congratulated me on the great find, the sweet spot, the beauty of the brook bordering the property, the wide open meadow, all the fencing and landscaping already in place, and the functionality of the studio building on the property, I nodded and smiled, but inwardly, all I could think about what that I had overextended myself. Yes, it was a great deal by Hamptons standards and with Hamptons tutoring income, but it was still a hefty chunk of change to come up with each month, and the thought of opening the daycare I had so airily announced I would start was exhausting and unappealing at the moment. All I wanted to do was cry and sleep.

Image I named the place Everyday Grace Farm and desperately wanted to start farming it. But just exactly how do you farm grace? I yearned for the plentiful abundance that I was sure the universe wanted for me if only I could allow it to happen. Instead I got all the mundane everyday bills and headaches, the dishes and chores. Six acres to mow and the weeds grew so fast.  Where does good old third chakra will come into play? First the gesture, then the grace.  I thought I had made the gesture by getting here. But I was ruefully realizing it was only the beginning of starting all over again.  It was not the most auspicious start. Or maybe it was; like the lotus whose beautiful blossoms are rooted in mud, my deep, if not deeply thought out, desire for change set the wheels in motion. Change is inevitable. My growth, it appeared, was up to me.

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in which vicky moves to the country

Today marks two months since exchanging my bustling city life in Washington DC for a much slower paced lifestyle in rural Western Massachusetts.

I spent the last eight years working very long hours with few– sometimes no– days off each week. While lucrative, it was not fulfilling work. As I approached a decade of this lifestyle, I realized that the perpetual exhaustion and empty feeling in my soul was no way to live. So, I quit my job, packed up my cat and possessions, and made the move back north.

I feel so blessed to be able to spend this time in my life with my best friend, my biggest supporter and motivator… my mother on her farm up in MA. I’m looking forward to sharing our adventures along the way 🙂

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“Very little is needed to make a happy life;

it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” – Marcus Aurelius

 “A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life,

for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live.” -Bertrand Russell

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