A Snag with Shelfster

shelfster screenshot

As I posted earlier about being asked to beta test the Shelfster application I am working to give this Evernote competitor a fair shot.

I’ve run into a snag however. I can’t get the clipping software to run on my computer again. It ran fine the first day, but now will not load.  I will email them in the morning to see what can be done to troubleshoot but I’m rather disappointed that I couldn’t play some more!

Death - Take a Holiday!

Every evening I call my mother, and as much as we try to keep the conversation jolly and light, lately the news she imparts has to do with death. My mom will be 87 in May. She has outlived many of her friends, but the older she gets, the more frequent death visits those she loves (all of whom have been dear friends of our whole family). The other day, after our usual greeting, she told me, "We have another one down." It was, I believe, the third one in three weeks.

You have to understand that death is not something my mom likes to talk about. She has great faith, and is not afraid of death, but she gets very nervous talking about something that has always made her awkward and uncomfortable. After her terrible car accident a couple of years ago (has it been that long?), Rachel and I flew down to be by her side in the ICU, joining my sister who had been there from the first moment, and instead of feeling comforted, Mom started crying. When we asked her why, she said, "I think y'all are all here because you think I'm not going to make it." I was shocked she even mentioned it. We tried to reassure her. Occasionally after that, she would say things like "I wish the wreck had just taken me," but on the whole, Mom has always preferred to talk about other things - anything - rather than death.

Of course, death is something that, on the contrary, fascinates me (maybe it's partly the medical aspect that it is interesting). Even in my twenties, I remember buying a book about the history of body-snatching (grave-robbing). Later I read an expose of funeral industry and another book on the physical aspects of death - in what order the cells and organs die one by one. This week I'm reading a book called Stiff, detailing how cadavers have helped science research and therefore humanity as a whole (its very gory details don't even bother me when I read it during lunch). I have already written my obituary; after all, I'm the only one who knows what I want included in it.

What about death is not intriguing? I can't find anything. The whole process of one minute a body has a soul inside and then next minute the soul has moved out is fascinating to me. One minute you're a living, breathing, feeling being, then you die and your empty shell can be a research instrument to help scientists learn how to build safer cars - or your organs, all of a sudden useless to you, can be used to donate to living humans who need them to survive or thrive. Of course, I can be intrigued by death and not like it at the same time. I have lived through the normal number of deaths in my circle for one my age, I suppose - grandparents, an elderly aunt, etc. My dad died at a younger age than expected (64) when I was only 26, so that was difficult. My close friend Bernie died of hepatitis before she turned 50, and my first cousin Mike died unexpectedly in his 40s also. I have had several friends and acquaintances from high school who are gone.

But then, I'm only 55. Mom is 87, and she has had visits by death to loved ones many, many times over. I remember when a gifted organist (and close family friend) in Memphis died years ago, Mom bemoaned the fact that her funeral was not well attended only because "so many people who knew her and appreciated her had already gone before." You don't live to be 87 years old and not think of death, whether someone else's or your own, on a frequent basis. It's coming to all of us at one time or another. I am entirely comfortable - even eager - to discuss it. It's one thing we all have in common, and it's the great Unknown.

But after hearing of these three friends of Mom's (and mine) who died this month, and after seeing prominent local folks in the obits column, I am a little weary of death right now. Like the wonderful old movie "Death Takes a Holiday," I yearn for a little break. I'm tired of thinking about losing people I love. I'm empty from missing "those who have gone before," who have left a big hole in my heart. Oh, I certainly believe the soul lives on, and Ed reminds me that my dad, for instance, is now with me in a way he could never be physically on earth, but it doesn't make me stop aching for one more time to give him a big hug and kiss.

Death fascinates me, intrigues me, transfixes me. It is reality for us physical beings. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. Sometimes I just think it should just give us a break.

Simplifying the Dog Walk


I currently have two little dogs in my life right now: a Chihuahua/terrier mix rescued from a shelter and my cousin’s little Pomeranian. They are sweet little dogs but taking them on a walk can be a challenge. While the Pom is good about staying close the Chihuahua likes to dart here an there--moving so quickly I fear for her when walking beside busy streets!

As a fan of the Dog Whisperer I remained skeptical of Caesar’s method of dog walking. Despite the beauty inherent in those packs of dogs all walking peacefully on a leash I kept thinking “heh, he hasn’t met my dog yet!”

I’ve tried so many other things I finally decided to give his advice a shot. I called the pups to me, snapped on their leashes and immediately had to challenge the Chi as she tried to beat me to the door.

We had a couple of more challenges between the door and the driveway but to my absolute amazement she was walking calmly beside me by the time we reached the end of the drive!

She seems a little confused by the change in my behavior but so far she is walking much better than she ever has on a leash! Yesterday I took them through a busy intersection and upon an overpass just for a test and while they were nervous there was no darting or attempts to act retarded!

I’ve only been using this method of dog walking for a few days but it has definitely simplified the logistics of walking the animals. No longer do I have to constantly juggle leashes to keep them untangled or spend ages untangling them when I’m not fast enough for them—that alone is a blessing! It is also so much more peaceful to walk two dogs who are heeling peacefully beside you than even one dog trying to wander where it will!

If you have dogs you may want to give the Dog Whisperer’s method a try. I can’t guarantee anything, but I do know it has simplified walking these little guys!

A Competitor to Evernote?

shelfster screenshot

This morning I received an email from Noemi Szoke asking me to take a look at Shelfster.  They had seen my post on Evernote here and wanted me to see this application.

I have downloaded the software and am now looking through the application.  One thing that is very obvious is that Shelfster is geared toward sharing and social media whereas Evernote was not. For each clip you have to choose whether to keep it private or share with the Internet at large.  You also have the ability to have connections on Shelfster by exploring other users and what they have saved publicly.

I just installed this application a few minutes ago so I am still learning but I will post discoveries as I go along.

Shelfster is in the beta test stage and I have the ability to share a trial with 10 of my fellow readers.  If you are interested in trying out this competitor to Evernote give me a shout and I’ll send the first 10 a link to the beta sign up site.

Back to the Futon


I wrote here that I had been sleeping in my sleeping bag again.

However a couple of nights ago I fished out the futon again and went back to sleeping on it.


For one, it’s out of my closet.

Two, I don’t get twisted up inside of it when I toss and turn.

Three, it’s easier to get out of when I have to make a trip to the bathroom at night.

The bathroom one is the biggie. I’ve about killed myself a couple of times half asleep thinking I’m out of the bag and trying to take a couple of steps!

Anyhow, I’m not eliminating the possibility of sleeping in a bag in the future but for now I’m back to the ole’ faithful futon.  Maybe I should just cut it down to a single size and be done with it..(maybe I’m too lazy to do that much work too…).

I haven’t done much  downsizing lately, though I have noticed that my dishes are done more often now that I have downsized my silverware collection, so I have less dirty dishes piling up the place—a very good thing…

Anyhow, gotta take a moment to give some kudos to David for eliminating a huge shelf and downsizing his car.  He has also downsized his apartment to one half the size (and $400 less a month) and only needs 10 boxes to move now! David, you rock dude!

The Beauty of Evernote

When I first heard of Evernote and how wonderful it was I was more than a little skeptical.  I’m not one for particular programs because I tend to switch computers and operating systems frequently during the course of a day, but I decided to give it the old college try.

At first I started clipping little snippets off of webpages that interested me with the add-on for Google Chrome.  Then I started scanning notes I had scribbled.  Next it was my receipts that I needed to save.

I think I really like this program.  It is easy to use, uploads your stuff to a server (if you want) to protect them in case of a computer crash and makes it really easy to tag and categorize items for later retrieval.

I’ve not been combing my house looking for things to place in Evernote;  instead as new things come into my life I’ve been slowly adding them to the notebooks I’ve created. Even with this simple foray into the world of Evernote I have noticed a decrease in the paper around here which is wonderful. 

I haven’t come close to the 40 MB limit on uploading for the free account, but the value it is providing so far makes me think the $5 a month fee ($40 a year I think) is a reasonable price to ask for the additional features I understand you receive as well as the increased uploading capacity.

I don’t like promoting things that potentially cost money to use, but this service provides some bang for the buck as well as a free version that kicks butt.

If you would like a simple way of cataloging all those scraps of paper digitally I encourage you to give Evernote a try.  It’s a good service.

Please save the whales

Friends, once again the insatiable restlessness of Mammon seeking to enlarge its kingdom is on the move.

Since 1986, the countries of the world have stood firm against commercial whaling: though Iceland, Norway and Japan have found loopholes to enable them to continue killing whales.

Now they are pushing the boundaries again, wanting to reintroduce commerical whaling. All around the Earth other governments are watching keenly, ready with their 'Well if you can, so can I,' eye to the main chance.

Please sign the petition to stop this happening, here.

To learn more about whales and whaling, you can buy Heathcote Williams' amazing book Whale Nation either as an audio book, read by the author, to download here, or as a book to buy (it has some amazing pictures) on Amazon here or here.

Rough Night

Hello everyone!

Last night was a rough night. After spending the day working outdoors I guess I didn’t drink enough water and ended up paying for it with an intestinal attack of some sort. 

I followed the Water Cure method of sipping water when I finally calmed down enough to think (the pain was rather bad) and eventually it faded enough to where I finally slept. 

I do NOT want another night like that.

One note: sleeping bags are not fun during a night of discomfort. Being up and down all night, it seemed as if I would get snuggled into the bag and then have to get back up. 

I’m sure it was just me and the discomfort, so I am staying with the sleeping bag, but it was a miserable night.  I want to go back to bed but have things I need to get accomplished today.

I think I am going to get dressed and write at the library today for a change of pace. I have got to get some work done today.

Surprising Myself

Today I decided to stop procrastinating and eliminate the shelf from the kitchen that I no longer needed. Through my simplification/minimalism efforts I had purged more than enough from my cabinets to contain what the shelf held so it was time to take the next step.

I began cleaning off that shelf, getting sidetracked and forcing myself back on track.  I saw things here and there that needed to be tossed or purged—then would force myself back on track.

It was a challenge just to stay focused today but part of simplicity is doing just one thing so I plodded on and ended up surprising myself.

Not only did I eliminate that shelf but I also eliminated the little metal shelf as well!  Both are now awaiting repurposing in another area of the house…

At this rate one day I will find myself with shelves to eliminate from my life.. I like that thought!

While in the midst of simplifying this kitchen area  I decided to rework my laptop area.  Instead of using the cheap speakers and letting the good ones go unused I moved the good speakers in here. Where is the logic in not using the good stuff?

I also drug out my wireless keyboard/mouse set from storage and hooked them up to eliminate some cables from this area. Yes, they will use batteries, but I have rechargeable batteries I can use in them.  Also I already had this set so why let it sit and rot when it can make life a little easier? This will eliminate a USB hub from this area while keeping a port open on the laptop for when I need to plug in additional devices like my external hard drive or my printer.

I moved the phone and speakers off of the table, which will make moving the laptop to reclaim the table for other purposes.  Now instead of having to move the laptop, speakers, phone, keyboard and mouse I will only have the laptop, keyboard and mouse to move.

I ended up with another pile of things to give away from my roamings elsewhere in the house today.  Even made it to the storage building for a bit to get the wireless set and eliminated a few things there as well.

I could list everything here but tonight I don’t feel like it is appropriate. I am simply content with eliminating even more from my life.

To celebrate I fixed a quick stir fry and filled my hungry belly.  Now I’m ready to walk the puppies and settle down for the night.

This day may not have went in the exact direction I planned for it, but I accomplished a lot today. I hope that today was every bit as productive for you as it was for me.

Simplicity Side Effects

I have noticed something as I work toward a more simple, minimal lifestyle.  Something that may sound silly or may make perfect sense.

While simplifying my life and eliminating the dross a couple of things have happened.

One, my house stays cleaner. I guess it is because there isn’t as much to clutter the areas now—to get rearranged or dusty, but it takes less time to clean when I do clean, and I have to clean less. It just doesn’t get as dirty anymore.

Two, My dishes don’t pile up as much. I have posted in this blog about my dishes in the  past, even about failing to keep them washed as I want.  However, by simplifying what dishes and silverware I own I am inspired by necessity to keep things washed up, which means I am washing dishes more frequently and so there is less dishes to pile up waiting to be washed.  This is a big boon to this girl!

Yes, I could get a dishwasher but I don’t want the expense, I don’t want the maintenance, I don’t want the thing in my way, I don’t want another heavy appliance to move—I just don’t want one!  Doesn’t take much water to wash dishes if you use two dishpans and don’t leave the water running!

I get more accomplished. Even though I have stopped using disposables in favor of cloth and started using a clothesline even indoors to dry things. Even though I have gotten rid of my mixer and other “convenience items in favor of a cutting board. Even though I started a frugality blog so as to simplify my thoughts and not bore you, making for additional posts to keep both active—I still have less to do.

I don’t understand it, yet I do.  My life is much more peaceful with less in it. I think back to all of the years I would hunt and hunt for things—now I go to a single wall of shelves in my tiny room and locate it within minutes!

I think back to all of the years I tripped over things in the floor—nothing to trip over now!

I think back to all of the things that have been destroyed accidentally by being stepped on, knocked over or whatever—it just doesn’t happen these days!

I look at this shelf in the kitchen I placed here recently—it was stuffed full and now I may eliminate it from the kitchen entirely soon, for it is almost empty.

Amazingly during this whole process not once have I needed something that I have eliminated from my life! That’s a big one with me—when I was  a kid my father would hold on to almost everything!  He would become frustrated at all of the junk he had piled around and toss some of it—only to need something he tossed a few days later (it never failed).  Then there was the common occurrences of having to re-buy something that he knew he already possessed because he couldn’t find it when he needed it—only to locate the needed item a week or so later while looking for something else!

The last side effect I have noticed is that while my possessions have been reduced the quality has increased. I find myself using the “nice things” that I would never use because I have eliminated the cheap stuff from my life. I have also determined ways to increase the quality of my food without increasing my grocery bill.  Simply buying a small chunk of meat and slicing it myself at home has saved me an amazing amount of money—I purchased 5.5 pounds of beef round in a single section for a little over $13 and sliced it up into thin steaks that normally cost me almost five dollars a pound! It wasn’t hard, didn’t take any special equipment and I froze them on a pizza pan (it was the sheet I kept because it was newest and my baking sheet was in horrible condition) and transferred them to freezer bags for individual use. So now I have the quality of meat that I adore (the thin, versatile steaks) at a price ($2.48/lb) that fits much easier on my budget.

By investing less in junk food I have extra money in my budget for things I prefer, like mung beans from the health food store for sprouting and all-natural sea salt instead of the bleached regular table salt.

I’m even a bit healthier, by eliminating soft drinks from my daily diet in favor of water somehow I manage to wake up earlier without the help of an alarm clock.  Coffee is drank a lot less now, as water is my morning libation of preference.  Somehow I find that I don’t miss it.  This morning I brewed a single cup—only to find I wanted about half of the little amount I brewed!

I am quite pleased with these side effects thus far, and look forward to experiencing even more of this phenomena.

I'm voting for Gordon Brown - and here's why

In the days following the anticipated announcement of a UK general election, I was at the Christian gathering Spring Harvest, and missed the news of the Labour Party manifesto. But on the way home, on the car radio we listened to the main points of the Conservative Party manifesto.

The BBC picked out what presumably were its main points, which included:

Vote for us and we will bring more power to the people by enabling UK citizens to...
...start their own schools
...veto rises in local Council Tax
...share responsibility for the work of the police

They also promised to reverse Labour's planned National Insurance hike, and to set an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants.

There are a number of items like scrapping ID cards, reducing police paperwork, and giving Parliament the chance to vote again on whether our Hooray Henries can once more gallop around the countryside with their dogs tearing foxes to pieces - 'the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable', as Oscar Wilde once most accurately described it.

Where should one begin?

So many Conservative voters were privately educated that I should have thought it had not escaped their notice that citizens already have the power to start their own schools. Among my friends are those who home educate and those who have joined forces with friends to start community schools. What kind of a manifesto makes a fanfare of promising to give people the freedom to do as they have been already empowered to do by the 1944 Education Act?

Veto-ing rises in Council Tax? A similarly splendid idea. Our Council Tax pays for our local services like hospitals and doctors' surgeries, maintenance of roads, the Environment Agency, police and fire services. Imagine if last spring the Council had proposed an increase in Council Tax, and some citizens had chosen to veto that increase, thus preventing it occurring. Then we had gone through the weather we saw last winter, with prolonged snow and severe frost, leaving the roads covered with potholes and the surface compromised. Oh dear! We'd have vetoed the increase that would have paid for the work that we needed to do to fix it.

And giving power to the people to share the work of the police force? What? Vigilante groups? No thanks! Or do they simply mean cutting back the police force and making citizens do it themselves instead, as volunteers?

Scrapping Labour's planned National Insurance hike would save every one of us a few pence. Whoopee.

Setting a limit on non-EU economic migrants sounds like 'sending desperate people back home to be tortured' by another name to me.

And 'reducing police paperwork'; now there's a crisp, incisive, focussed, visionary objective!

Gordon Brown has become a face the media love to hate in recent months. The pack has howled and sneered and done what it can to bring him down. As the likelihood of an election drew near, deeply disillusiuoned by the shenanegans of MPs and bankers alike, I listened very carefully to the political views of both public figures and personal acquaintances.

The thing is, I am in many ways a natural Conservative. I don't want to be interfered with. I don't want to be paid for. I want to pay my own way and support my own family. I believe in family not government covering the shortfall of the needy. I like to make my own choices about education, health, and the countryside. I believe in the buck stopping with me. And whatever life throws at me (and it's bowled me quite a few googlies) somehow I survive.

But when I cast my vote as a UK citizen, I vote not for my personal interest but for the interest of the UK community, within a Europen and world context. I vote for the meta-narrative, the big picture I seek to put in place - not for a precentage decrease in the dosh I can get my hands on when my parents peg out.

I vote for a society that will care for the vulnerable, the incompetent, the frail and the unintelligent - because the gifted and able and diligent and thrifty and prudent will always look after themselves.

When I began looking into the political views of others, I discovered some interesting facts about Gordon Brown's government I never had learned from our media.

Hastings (where I live) is a poor town. One of the Gordon Brown initiatives, Sure-Start, has made an amazing difference to poor mothers. It's not just about childcare places so mothers can return to work. For example, each week a free healthy lunch is offered to pregnant women, and health care professionals, including a midwide, are on hand to answer questions. A greengrocer who will deliver to homes attends offering vegetables at a specially affordable price.

I believe the charities Book-Start and Home-Start are linked to the same endeavour.

In a recent article in The Times newspaper, JK Rowling has spoken about the support offered by a Labour government to young families struggling in poverty, and about the contrast this presents with the Conservative approach. Not only is the article very informative and revealing, so are the many comments by Conservative voters that follow it. Read it, and you will see what I mean!

Outside the UK, Gordon Brown has been greatly respected for his achievements. Here he has been vilified at every turn. The economic crisis was blamed on him: and yes, he took the decision to take this country deeply into debt. But faced with a choice of borrow or sink, I guess he didn't have too many options.

Something I love about Gordon Brown is that I believe him to be a man of passion, integrity and vision. He is a serious man, as the Amish say - and I value that.

But for me, in deciding which way to cast my vote at the General Election, there is one clinching factor, and it is this:
The leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron; the shadow chancellor, George Osborne; and the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, all were members of the Bullingdon Club. Please do take the time to follow that link and read carefully all it has to say.

In the 1980s, the biographer of Boris Johnson, Andrew Gimson, described the Bullingdon Club in these terms: "I don't think an evening would have ended without a restaurant being trashed and being paid for in full, very often in cash."

The Chancellor? The Prime Minister? That sort of man? No, thank you.

My mother is a true-blue Conservative, and has never voted anything else. I am the Red under her bed! I pointed out to her this link with the Bullingdon Club, and she laughed it off, saying those men had grown out of those youthful high jinks now. But when they were young bloods at university smashing every window in the restaurant after sinking a skinful of booze, who footed the bill? Them? Of course not! Their parents. So their behaviour was condoned and encouraged by the elders and authority figires who brought them up. My mother is fond of saying that as we grow older we become more and more like our parents - we return to our roots. So presumably Cameron, Osborne et al will mature into the men who think money is for getting drunk and trashing restaurants. And they are hoping we will buy the notion of their manifesto of a more responsible society?

I ask you - whatever you think of Gordon Brown; can you imagine him behaving like that?

20100414 – Two out of Ten Things

I eliminated two things today. I guess this wouldn’t be news except those things meant something to me once upon a time.

The very first backpack I used when I started working on computers

It was old and tattered but still I held on to the hope that I would still use it when in fact it is in such poor condition I am afraid to trust anything valuable in it. TOSS!

My favorite Summer Sandals

Okay, so they were falling apart and looked hideous—they were still comfortable!

I have to realize that there comes a time when we need to let go. They were so tattered I would not wear them in public which means I would not really wear them at all. Goodbye, dear shoes.


I know this may sound silly to most of you out there, but eliminating just these two items was a big thing to me today.  It shows me that I am becoming less attached to stuff, and more committed to simplicity and minimalism.

I look around this kitchen and see open spaces where once clutter reigned. Even the shelf I placed in here recently is becoming more empty with each passing day. If I applied myself I could eliminate it from the kitchen entirely, so little is contained upon it. Amazing when you consider the fact that it was packed full!

I’m not where I want to be, not by a long shot, but I’m getting there. One little piece at a time.

Sleeping in a Bag

The last couple of nights have made me realize that my sleeping bag is not as warm as it used to be.  Despite the fact that it is rated for 40F I have woke up chilly indoors with a backup heat source set to 55F.

To solve this I am using a blanket to cover my sleeping bag at night—this keeps me much warmer. I gather all of the use this poor item has received over the last two or three years has paid a toll on it.

Other than that I seem to be sleeping well.  With the extra blanket it makes covering the little dog easier when she gets chilled at night.  She is a Chihuahua mix and is as cold-natured at night as I am. She no longer tries to get inside the bag with me at least!

Even with this challenge, I think I prefer the sleeping bag to the futon. It is much smaller so I can roll it up and put it away during the day instead of tripping over the futon.

Of Pigs and Dogs and Undying Love

We weren’t supposed to get her. The breeder handed us a boy, a black and brown Australian shepherd puppy that we immediately named Pippin. Pippin seemed to be a playful pup at the breeder’s house, frolicking with his siblings, but when Ed and I took him home, he was withdrawn and seemed sad. Pippin was not interested in toys or other games. He wanted to lie silently in the foyer. His eyes were cloudy. His walk was slow. The ride to our house even made him carsick. After a few days, we thought Pippin must be ill, and we sadly took him back. The minute he returned to his brothers and sisters, his whole personality changed and he was happy, running around and playing. We then realized Pippin was not sick; he was just not content to be by himself, and was meant to live in a house where there were other dogs to play with.

At this point, we saw another Aussie puppy in the room - a dog with blue merle coloring, with patches of black, gray, white, and touches of tan. The first thing that stood out was her nose, which was almost totally pink with a few tiny black spots. The second thing was her one blue eye and one brown eye. We fell in love at first sight and took her home. The car ride did not bother her at all. We called her Pinky.

She didn’t bark for a few weeks. She just grunted. We even thought maybe she had a physical inability to bark. One day on the porch, Ed, who was outside trying to housetrain her and trying to hurry her up, said quickly, “C’mon, Babe.” The puppy’s ears perked right up and she stopped in her tracks and looked up at Ed. Ed thought, “She likes the name Babe.” Her breed of dog was bred to herd sheep, and we remembered that wonderful movie, Babe, about a pig who thought she was a dog, who became a champion shepherd. This puppy would be our Babe, our pig-dog with a pink nose who only grunted for the first few weeks. She would be our constant companion for 7 years. She was Ed’s special friend, keeping him company while I was at work. I can’t tell you how many times I came home from work, and he’d say, “Babe and I were talking and we came to a decision. I need to cut down on my pipe smoking/I don’t really need to buy a new pair of jeans/I need to drink more tea and less coffee....” When she’d come in with mud and gravel attached to her fur, Ed would smile and say, “We need to clean you up, you dirty little pig!”

I am so sorry to say that Babe developed epilepsy about 4 years ago. At first it was mild, then it progressed into cluster seizures, 9 in 24 hours, 15 in 24 hours. The electrical storms in her brain was starting to do damage. After this last round of 15 seizures, finally, it affected her ability to walk without stumbling, her ability to recognize us. She forgot how to move her back legs to stand up from a sitting position. She forgot how to tell us she needed to go out. She would get into a tight spot and forget how to back up to get free. She even forgot how to climb into the car. The seizures had done their work and taken our beloved Babe to another dimension. We made the agonizing decision to have her put down on Friday.

It was not an easy decision, and we will never be totally assured that it was the right one. But she had suffered so much. We had all suffered so much, because love will do that to you.

We were in line at the grocery store shortly thereafter, trying to hold the tears inside, when I heard the customer in front of me tell the cashier she had just had surgery and had beaten breast cancer. She was understandably overjoyed. There we were - the happiness of life and health, and the overwhelming sadness of grief and loss - side by side in line. I realized I was in the midst of the very cycle of life. Our third grandchild, a boy, will be born this summer, a few months after Babe will have been gone. Death and birth, within months of each other. Losing and gaining, and experiencing life, as they say, “In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish ‘til death us do part,” - and life goes on.

We weren't supposed to get her. But it turned out we were supposed to get her. The hole she has left never gets completely healed. The memories will stay forever in our minds and hearts. But in the ebb and flow of this earthly existence, we pray to experience acceptance, reassurance, gratitude, and grace, thankful that we were blessed with such a dog as Babe.

Simple Amusements

For so many, including myself—amusements involve spending money. Going shopping, visiting the movie theatre—almost everything we know to do involves spending money.

We have become so jaded that even watching television does not have the appeal it used to in ages past, instead we must rent a new release of access Video On Demand.

What about trying some simpler amusements? Taking a walk, reading a book—just sitting in the sun perhaps. These things are not only simpler, but much less expensive as well.

Today my daughter was bored and restless so I suggested a trip to the library.  They have video game machines, movies and even a large television available for children all free of cost.

She looked around and decided on a couple of books she would like to read this weekend while I worked here on the laptop in the computer section. After that she settled down with her laptop and started playing her Webkins.

While at home she refused to play on her laptop because she was bored but now that we are in a different environment she is happily amusing herself while sitting quietly beside Mom. The cost of this: a little gas to drive to the library. The benefit of having her sit quietly so I can work: Priceless.

We do not have to spend a fortune to amuse our kids, but we do have to pay attention to their needs. We don’t have to spend a fortune to amuse ourselves if we can only remember how.

When I was a child before the days of computers, video games and cable TV I would play out in the yard, take walks with the dog or read books I checked out from the library. I was taken to different worlds and lives, experiencing things that I would have never experienced otherwise, then I would lay in the grass and daydream that I was there in the world of those books.

What did you do then, and what do you do now for simple amusements?

10 Things Challenge: 20100408

I am having difficulty keeping up with how many times I do the 10 Things Challenge so I’m going to give up and just begin dating them.

Yesterday and last night I eliminated much more than 10 things, but I did not classify it as such. The post before that I thinned out even more. April 4, 2010 saw me reduce and downsize my bedroom to one almost half the size of my previous one. I have tossed egg slicers and even completed the 10 Things Challenge on April 3, 2010, February 26, 2010 and February 25, 2010. If I thinned out in March, apparently I did not feel the urge to blog about it, and for that I apologise.  Thinning down is beginning to become a fact of life here.

I even simplified this blog to enable me to concentrate better on the different aspects of my life (and to better help the reader by making posts more pertinent).

All in all, it has been a busy few months, yet I feel that I am only beginning the journey I began when I started this blog.

I am not eliminating 10 things every week; but overall I am making progress which is the important thing. Already I have a closet filling with items to hand on to my sister, who lost all of her possessions in a move that went awry some time ago and has been slowly trying to regain the quality of possessions that she lost. She cherishes her things and feels the loss keenly so my gleanings are happily going to use rebuilding the possessions she loves, going to a place where they will actually be used (or passed on to someone who will).

The interior of my kitchen cabinets are becoming sparse in comparison to how overstuffed they were when I began.  Soon I will have to rearrange in order to better utilize the empty spaces. To celebrate my growing space I have a small batch of bread rising on the stove. A single loaf that will actually be shaped into dinner rolls to prevent waste—I can freeze them until needed which means that less material used, less wasted yet more enjoyment out of a single batch of bread. Even if I had the freezer space I do not know if it would be practical to make more than a single loaf for just me and a young child.

This morning to my delight I discovered that all of the towels I washed last night were dried on the makeshift line I created in the hallway.  This is a wonderful discovery, for it means that I can use the dryer even less! I may want to consider eliminating it from my life entirely if this continues as well as it is.

Oh, to be free of one more large thing! That would mean that the only real large items I possessed (besides the van) were the washer and the refrigerator!

So far today I have not eliminated 10 Things, unless you count the duplicates and lids, but such is life.

  1. Pyrex casserole dish with lid
  2. Large Pyrex baking dish with lid
  3. Smaller Pyrex baking dish with lid
  4. Two Pyrex pie plates
  5. Large Tupperware bowl with lid
  6. Plastic Pizza cutter (my knife can do the job)

All of these items were duplicates with the exception of the Tupperware bowl. Some time ago I had purchased all of the Pyrex bakeware I needed/wanted, but then I was unexpectedly gifted with another complete set.  He was so delighted at gifting me with something he “knew” I would use (he had been watching me slowly gather my Pyrex collection)!  Honestly I was so astounded that he purchased me more of something he knew I had a surplus of that all I could do was politely thank him!

I kept the items and tried to use them for other things—in fact some of the collection did get incorporated into my functional collection of bowls and storage containers, but the baking dishes were too much.  I have already given away several large Pyrex baking dishes so these are the last of my overstock (I hope).

This leaves me with one large and small Pyrex baking dish, two Pyrex pie plates, two Pyrex loaf pans, one Pyrex casserole dish, an assortment of nestable Pyrex bowls and a few Pyrex storage containers—all of which are used on a regular basis. Far from minimal to the extreme minimalist, but the perfect amount for me with the amount of cooking I do from scratch (and the occasional leftover).

It is time to shape the bread, so I must close for now.  I hope you have a wonderful day!

Further Elimination

I am still inspired by The Happy Minimalist. As a result I managed to thin down even more.

Like a lot of people I have a lot of things I do not need.  Some of that stuff (a lot of it actually) falls under “why did I buy that in the first place?”

Two more pairs of jeans, some outdated computer books, a phone book that never gets used, some craft books, a crock pot (I had 2) and several other items have been sacked up to go to my sister’s.

The futon mattress has been placed in the closet for when company comes.  For now I think I will sleep in the sleeping bag.

I found that I have unnecessary duplicates of a lot of stuff, and those duplicates are slowly leaving. I am even passing on the stainless steel skillet that goes with the rest of my cookware.  It hasn’t been used in years since I started using a cast iron one.

It is rather hit and miss as I purge these items. If I am the least bit nervous that item will stay—I do not want to push myself harder than I am ready to go.

My closet has been thinned out considerably yet I still have a lot of things that I enjoy wearing.  I have yet to thin out a single item that I actually wear other than some of the jeans cause the cut looked horrible on me and I have several others that look nice and are still comfortable.

It feels good to know that I don’t NEED all of this stuff around here. To know that I can get by with less and still be happy.

Right now I am curled up in one of those heavy duty folding chairs that store away in a bag.  I have had this thing for several years.  It is comfortable and has survived a lot of abuse. I sit here in my much smaller bedroom with the laptop on my lap.  The only electric devices running are the refrigerator, an LED nightlight in the bathroom, an LED desk light in here, my router and this laptop. The LED desk light uses 1.5 watts of electric.  I do not know how much the LED night light uses—it is one of those that doubles as a small flashlight that comes on in the event of a power outage.

I was getting low on towels so I washed them despite the rain.  I am using a clothesline placed in the hallway to dry them. This way it is no issue if the rain continues for a day or more, and I am still not using the dryer.

To my surprise I  have not had the desire to fire up the kerosene heater this evening.  The laptop on my lap has generated more than enough heat to knock off the chill.

To move to this home, I sold my couch, loveseat, bedroom suite and Katie’s oversized bunk bed. By doing this I avoided having to beg people to please come move me, help me carry this.. The two moves before this ended with me hiring a guy off the street to help with the heavy stuff the first time and begging a friend the second. 

This time, with the exception of the refrigerator, washer and dryer—I moved everything in my van.  It took multiple loads but overall was not that bad.  I could have lay the big appliances down in the back of my van and hauled them that way but I had a volunteer with a truck and did not refuse the help. :)

My friends considered me insane for selling most of my furniture (well, technically I traded it off for this trailer) but I considered it smart.  If I can’t move it, I honestly don’t need it.  I can move the appliances with a dolly, but the things that take two people to maneuver just HAD to go.

I am thinking that instead of a refrigerator that a small chest freezer and a large cooler may serve my purposes better than what I have (and use less electricity). Not much actually gets stored in the fridge honestly.  When I get meat I freeze it individually on a pizza pan before transferring it to bags for individual portions without the packaging expense. Figure if the big companies can do it, why can’t I? I would have more room to store things that I actually use, like meats on sale, with less room to house things that normally go to waste here (a.k.a. leftovers). Two liter bottles could be frozen and used to chill the contents of the cooler, exchanged on a regular basis with fresh ones from the chest freezer.

I have no intentions of getting rid of my refrigerator and buying a small chest freezer—that makes no practical sense when I already have a refrigerator, even if the freezer on it is smaller than I would prefer.  It is something to consider for the future, especially since small chest freezers are almost half the price of even a small refrigerator!  I have no idea how old this little fridge is, though it looks fairly new, so it is nice to plan for the future a bit.

If I could go a whole year without my dryer I would sell it and not look back. I’m sure that thing has contributed substantially to my past electric bills. People the world over do without clothes dryers and they survive just fine.

I would have to make small changes, use lighter blankets instead of heavy comforters, especially in winter when they would take a long time to dry indoors—but if I’m sleeping in a sleeping bag that point would be moot.  Katie’s bedding is small enough not to be an issue.

Here I am rambling about what I think I can do without.  It is almost midnight here, contributing to the diarrhea of words tonight, sorry.

I’ll go to bed and leave you to your life. Good night, good world!

The Happy Minimalist

The Happy Minimalist: Financial independence, Good health, and a better planet for us all 
Yesterday I read a book by Peter Lawrence titled “The Happy Minimalist.”

Sixty minimal pages of distilled knowledge. I questioned the price of the download but curiosity won out.
It was worth every single penny.

Peter lives a drastically Spartan life, with a lawn chair for seating, a sleeping bag for a bed, minimal tools and cookware but a full life living as he pleases. His electric usage? A measly 2 kwh per day.

After devouring his missive I hit my closets and thinned down a bag full of items I have not worn in ages.  These will be passed on to my sister.

I mastered cooking rice on the stovetop using the absorption method, so my rice cooker is going to her as well. Also included in that will be a heavy stainless steel skillet that I do not use in favor of the two cast-iron skillets I use for everything.

Last night I even flipped the switch to turn off my dsl modem before going to bed. Flipped the power strip for the cordless phone as well. Seriously, my phone is a MagicJack, turned off at night when the computer is shut down, so why keep the phone powered on? If it were not for mobility I would eschew the cordless phone in favor of a lower-energy corded one but we all must make decisions on what we will actually use.

Last winter I used a sleeping bag instead of my full sized futon because of the extra warmth that comes from being snuggled into one.  I pondered his choice to use one full time when it occurred to me that sleeping bags are the Western World’s version of the Japanese futon.

Instead of unfolding that heavy futon I snuggled down in my sleeping bag last night. The puppies were confused but still faithfully curled up next to me. To my surprise I didn’t toss and turn the way I normally do at night. Perhaps a sleeping bag is a valid option for full-time sleeping.  If this is the case the full size futon can either be put away for when guests arrive or discarded entirely.

I want to read his book again in a few days, but his missive really struck a chord with me. While I do not know if I would want to go as extreme as Peter he has definitely given this aspiring minimalist some things to consider.

If you buy one book this year, make that book "The Happy Minimalist." It will definitely give you food for thought.

3 endings

1) I finished writing my book on time, which felt very satisfying; and it's gone off to the publisher. So that's done (and the next project is begun).

2)There is this thing that Carlos Castaneda said (in which book I don't know): "… I have no personal history. One day I found out that it is no longer necessary for me and, like drinking, I dropped it. If you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts. It is best to erase all personal history, because this makes us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people."

I have become fascinated with this idea, which continually calls to me.

This summer I am contracted to work on a book which involves the recording of a certain amount of personal history: that will be the last shred of it. after that I am letting it float away like a balloon, or like a leaf on a river. I have no further use for my personal history now. I've noticed that in bureaucracies and institutions personal history becomes crucial, and one carries around a CV and a CRB check, two utility bills, a passport, a birth certificate and a driving license in a futile gesture of demonstration that one exists and is not dangerous. I am beginning to think I would prefer to be dangerous but not exist.

3)Do you know this poem by C.P.Cavafy? I love it. The third thing I am finishing with is socialising. I have spent too much of my life being with and talking with people whose preoccupations seem irrelevant to me, who are not at all interested in the visions and glimpses that fire my spirit, but want me there for the sakes of appearances and form - to fill an hour, a space, an event that would otherwise be empty. I am not going to do this any more.

Here is the test I shall apply:
If the occasion and the company are such that it is OK to say: "Religious faith can be very helpful and a surce of great strength" but not OK to say: "It's having a personal, living relationship with Jesus Christ and being plugged into the Holy Spirit that makes the difference" then I shouldn't be there.

The only conversations I am interested in, the only events I am interested in attending, are those that have the hallmarks of humility, simplicity and authenticity. I've seen as much posturing and snobbery as I need to in this lifetime, now.

So: the Lent book, with much struggle and essental intercession from praying friends, is complete: I am relinquishing my personal history; and I am no longer willing to socialise.


I decided to see how to live in a much smaller space.  In our 2-bedroom home, one of the bedrooms is 8 x 10 feet with a built-in dresser. The other is 12 x 12 feet.

My daughter has had the little bedroom since we moved here, swapping out her numerous toys and keeping her pets elsewhere in the home.

I decided to surprise her by switching the bedrooms.

This is a challenge.  My bedroom also doubles as a storage room and the smaller one must do double-duty as well.  This should give me ample incentive to downsize.

So this morning I removed everything from her room and started placing my stuff within.  One wall was perfect for my shelves so it was completely lined, floor to ceiling with my personal items and the extra stuff we haven’t managed to part with yet. To conceal this I took a piece of wire and some hooks to hang up two white sheets—it totally changes the look of the room!  Even though the space is smaller it actually looks a bit bigger somehow with all of the white. I wonder what that room would look like if I painted the walls white as well? Give it a combination of minimalist/shabby chic look or something…

I didn’t think to take any before photos but I took some after photos.  The room is not decorated yet, but I wanted to give an idea of what I’ve been doing. 

I am hoping that not only will my daughter enjoy the much-enlarged space (I even put the guinea pigs in her new room), but that I will learn more about myself.  I am already trying to figure out a way to obtain a twin-sized futon pad—anyone in Western KY want to trade a twin futon for a full?

Honestly, I only use my bedroom for storage, reading and sleeping.  I spend most of my time in the kitchen on the laptop so how much space do I actually need? If I managed a futon frame I could put it in the living room as a couch and allow that to serve double-duty as my bed.

Anyway, here are the photos:

Photo_040410_001 This is the view from the doorway.  The light is a wall-mount and a bit glaring.  That big white fabric wall is hiding floor to ceiling shelves (mismatched of course!). It looks kinda neat in there with all the floaty white fabric, especially where I used it for the curtains as well.


This is my full-size futon folded up in thirds for daytime storage. I would love to have a twin-size one, small enough to fold and put away like the Japanese are famous for, but right now a Japanese shiki futon is out of my budget.


This is from the  fabric wall looking toward my closet.  I am really thinking of painting all of the paneling in this house white to brighten up the place!  White on white would be a fascinating look, and if I got sick of it at least I would have a base coat already down.  :)


This is the little built-in dresser.  There is a LOT of wasted space above that built-in and I don’t have so much as a mirror to fill it with.  I’m thinking of scavenging some old wood I have outside to put a small shelf or two in all of that space. For the moment those old crates will have to do (sigh). Sorry about the light glare.. Next time I will try to take pictures while it is still daylight outside!


Overall it looks pretty good for a day’s hard work!  Almost all of my stuff fit, though I am placing a shelf in the living room that was a bit much for the small area!

I will keep you posted on how I cope with such a small bedroom though I must admit—so far it feels like a good change!  Just today I eliminated several boxes worth of items and consolidated some more, making for a bit less junk than I had…

On a sad note, I stumbled upon the papers from my mother’s death several years ago.  I took about an hour to go through them, reading the statements (she was killed in a car accident in December of 1992), looking at the photos and the picture of the officers freeing her from the car after the accident (it made the front page even so I have that article).

What do you do with stuff like that?  I detest that memory.  I was 22 and she was my last surviving parent. I want to take that bag and burn it—and the memories with it—but what if Katie wants it when she is older? I really want it out of my life, but Katie is only 10 and too young to understand what it contains.. What do you do in that situation?  Every time I look through it and my father’s papers I just sit and cry, but I gather I’m under an obligation to keep this stuff for Katie for when she grows up—but she never met them—she was born many years after they walked this earth. I’m just torn by the entire subject.  A need to eliminate things that trigger painful memories and an obligation to pass things on to their grandchildren.  What would YOU do?

The Egg Slicer

This is funny so I have to tell on myself!

I set that egg slicer in front of me,  planning to use it on some eggs tonight.  Boiled the eggs, fished one out---

--And chopped it up with a knife!  I was on the second one before I realized what I was doing!

With a laugh, I tossed that stupid egg slicer.  I don’t need what I never use!

It was cheap anyway!

10 Things Challenge Update

I wandered to the outbuilding today and tossed a few things from there. Most of what was discarded was in the building before I bought the place, but such is life.

  1. Three mismatched Hubcaps
  2. non-functional lamp
  3. empty box
  4. cigarette making gizmo
  5. Bag of unknown items
  6. Broken carafe from unknown coffee maker
  7. Springs from old chair
  8. rusted brake drum
  9. Some broken toys
  10. Broken knife

There were some other things, but I didn’t know what to call them-enough to almost fill my Herbie. I left space within it for any trash I will need to discard between now and next Thursday.

I did discover some things I had considered lost: my whetstone, some matches, the missing clothespins (how they got there I will never know), 2 plastic glasses and an egg slicer.

I probably should just discard the egg slicer—it’s not like I ever use it.  In fact, I didn’t realize it was lost until I located it because I always use a knife to slice and chop my eggs!

It really feels good to thin down. I am in hopes by summer’s end to have that outbuilding thinned down to a degree where I can shift some of my more permanent storage items down there. I know—the ideal situation is to get rid of the junk, but some of this stuff I am just not ready to part with yet.  As they say on that hoarding show, if you part with things too quickly or easily you will accumulate more junk.  My goal is to do this gradually, for a more permanent result instead of a temporary fix.

Overall, I’m not doing too bad.  You can see some other things I have discarded here and here.


I've written frequently in this blog about making memories. Today I want to talk about preserving memories.

Part of the journey to simplicity is clearing out useless stuff and saving important things. Lord knows that is one of the most difficult and time-consuming parts of the process. One only has to revisit my early posts from 2005 (has it been that long??!) to understand the heart-wrenching details of our trying to weed out the clutter as we struggled with what to save and what to trash at the beginning of our journey. At that starting point, it was hard enough to make the decision of whether to save something, let alone worry about how to save something. But, as my sister and I have come to learn last week, without the proper preservation, the initial decision to save becomes irrelevant.

I spent last week in west Tennessee visiting my family, and during my visit, my sister Joy and I spend some time cleaning out our mother's house. Mother has done marvelously recuperating from her auto accident (and her subsequent broken hip and ankle) at Joy's house, but Mother's own house still needs some attention and maintenance, and we took the opportunity to do just that.

The old attic, of course, proved to be the worst part. Our beloved childhood family church, Harris Memorial Methodist, has been officially disbanded for decades, but our choir-director/church-leader father saved every bulletin and every canceled check from that congregation. We laughed when we came across choir attendance record books from the '40s - if you were a choir member of Harris Memorial and your life depended on knowing whether you attended choir practice on a certain Wednesday in 1942, just contact us! Dad died 3 months before age 65 and his planned retirement, so we figured he would have spent some time up in the attic had he lived in order to sort out some of this stuff himself. But it fell to us to do that for him. Some things we easily discarded, but we were bewildered with old magazines and newspapers, most of the time not having a clue as to why they were saved.

So lesson #1: If you save something for future generations, please put a note with it about why it is important! Your kids and grandkids will not be mind-readers. A birthday card is easy enough to identify, but what about that old fountain pen? How are we to know it was a gift from a special person on a special occasion? What was the article in the yellowed magazine that you wanted to save and why? Who's the wise guy behind the old textbook that on the flyleaf says, "Turn to page 102," then on page 102 says "turn to page 14," then similar random page-turning instructions until you come to the message of "You're a damn fool for doing this!"? Who is that unidentified old lady or little girl in the black-and-white picture? Is this baby dress mine or my sister's?

Summary: If you take the time to save things for future generations, please label, label, label!!!

Lesson #2: Consider your chosen method of saving your important things. Time, moisture, insects, dust, sunlight - they all do their best to destroy your precious memories. As a quilter, I have always been aware that, for instance, a wooden chest is not an appropriate way of saving a quilt unless you use special acid-free paper to wrap the quilt in, because the acid in the wood will ruin the fabric. Baby clothes, old embroidery, tatting - anything that is made of fabric - needs to properly stored. Especially photographs! Hint: Storing photographs under what would become mildewed curtains is not a good plan. A box like that could easily have been misidentified as trash and thrown out without even sorting through.

Summary: If you take the time to save things for future generations, please store carefully! If necessary, do some research on the method that will be the most appropriate for your treasures!

Lesson #3: Don't let the family stories die. This one is tough. When you're a kid, the last thing you want to do is sit with some old family characters as they ramble on for hours about this and that from their childhoods. You're too young to realize the importance of this moment. Even in young adulthood, you're usually busy with raising kids and making your own memories that you forget to sift through and salvage the irreplaceable memories of your parents and grandparents before dementia or death takes them away. Our mom doesn't talk that much about the past, and to get her to give us details is like pulling teeth, but our Uncle Tommy, bless his heart, likes nothing better than to tell story after story, and he is a treasure trove of family history. Only now do we appreciate this. The time will come when, unless remembered and preserved, those stories will be lost forever. Let your relatives talk, and listen carefully. Write it down, retell it, make a video - whatever it takes to preserve something you can't see or touch but which is irreplaceable.

Summary: Preserving these memories is just as important as preserving those baby shoes. Take every opportunity to appreciate and pass on.

And there you have it - my three "journey to simplicity" lessons I learned last week in my childhood home in Memphis. Some of the most wonderful things we possess are memories. Be careful with your family history or one day you won't be able to locate and identify your great-grandfather's photograph or even be able to retell the story of Aunt Bessie as a girl with her dog whose eye barely hung on by a thread (those lovely stories always told at mealtimes)!