A Less Wild Welcome

Clump #98:  Clean (most of) upstairs to prepare for Thanksgiving guests.

At holiday time I usually greet my guests with the vacuum cleaner in one hand and the can of Comet in the other.  (When I started this blog I never realized it would become such a confessional!)  I thought I’d give myself one more challenge — get the house cleaned before Wednesday — within a challenge — Project Enjoy Christmas — within a challenge — the 30-day, 30-clumps, 30-posts.  Kind of like a Turducken. (Just googled the name for correct spelling, and wouldn’t you know Paula Deen has a recipe for it?)

This calendar page belongs to a friend who is a wild woman in the best sense of the word:


Just getting started is sometimes the hardest part of the job.  So True! And now I’m on a roll.

I’m ashamed to say that when my kids were young, whenever I got out the vacuum cleaner, one or more would ask, “Who’s coming over?” Also, when I’m feeling stressed out for any reason, I’ll soon notice that someone (usually my son) has put on the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, composed by the incomparable Vince Guaraldi.  With the first eloquent piano notes of  O Tannenbaum , I relax and smile.  It’s a surefire way to get Mom to chill.


Today I discovered that just one of the benefits of cleaning early is that I have enough time to do a much more thorough job.  I even started with my husband’s and my bedroom.  Usually this would be last priority, after the guest rooms … “the shoemaker’s children go without shoes.”

Note to self: books left on the floor are not more likely to be read than books on a shelf.  Here’s the second Hunger Games book, which I mean to read before seeing the movie.  (Have the books been out since the first movie of the series was in theaters?)


The trees I photographed this morning are a testament to the beauty of clear and clean.


This year I might just arrive at the door to greet guests with a calm demeanor and nary a cleaning product in sight.  The funny thing is, my Thanksgiving guests will probably miss the traditional greeting and the laugh we have about it, but it’s a tradition I have to let go!


Clump #95:  Look through and order from catalogs; make one more plea for family gift ideas.

I put out the last call for gift ideas today.   It’s now or never, but the task shouldn’t be too hard.  Buying presents for loved ones should be a pleasure for both parties.  When I was emailing my kids, I wanted to put one word in italics, and then couldn’t get the italic icon to un-click.  My note ended:

“…Please let me know soon!”

Thanks, Mom (can’t seem to get out of the italic setting, so just continue to hear the desperation in my voice).”

A wonderful comment was left on yesterday’s post: “Would that our lives were ordered with the peak of beauty coming at the end.”  This was a reference to the deep, red, gorgeous leaves of the Japanese maple.  It really affected me, especially since I’ve been thinking recently along the same lines.  I was purchasing a gift for someone “over 50.” Without giving away the specifics to a person on my list who might be reading, I could choose this item either billed “for older people,” many “for seniors,” but the one I was attracted to was entitled “… for enlighteners.”

It made me want to start a new movement to change the lexicon, and of course, then, the image of older people.  Instead of worshiping youth, we would revere enlighteners.  No more “crones,” evoking crooked noses and hairy warts.  A new definition of beauty would certainly follow.

Here is a photo of a beautiful rose in full glory, not in June,  but late fall:


I must acknowledge that today is the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy.  I still have a scrapbook I kept during that time.


Between torn out magazine photos of babies and dream rooms, I placed the Weekly Reader insert that was given out to our class to explain the tragedy:


I must have had a sense of the historic importance.


The flyer introduced our new president:


And contained a very factual description of the murder:


I remember sitting that night, on our front steps, in a state of disbelief. The phrase “trying to wrap my head around it” hadn’t been coined yet. But that was the feeling.  Lost was the trust I had previously felt for the adults in running the world. I know I wasn’t alone.

“the peak of beauty coming at the end.”

Write Christmas

Clump #90:  Write and address Christmas cards, part one.

At first, I was stressing about not having the time to finish addressing these Christmas cards and blog about it.  Then it suddenly occurred to me: writing the cards in November means I don’t feel under the gun to crank them out in haste.  This is what life is like for a person who does not procrastinate. What relief!  Joy!

To get in the mood, I set up a little table in front of the TV with the cards and our old address book.


I can tell how old “the cat address book” is by checking inside its cover. When was the last time I was known as “Mommy” instead of “Mom”?


I turned on one of my favorite seasonal movies to get in the mood, Irving Berlin’s  Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  How can you go wrong with those two …


Well, they managed to go very wrong with the song Abraham, in a number celebrating Lincoln’s Birthday.  This musical number done in blackface is beyond cringeworthy:


The dance where Fred Astaire lights fire crackers with his cigarette, in the spectacular Fourth of July number, dates the movie.  But what style and beautiful line.  I could watch any film featuring his peerless dancing. Fred Astaire’s daughter talks about her father in a special feature,  Ava Astaire MacKenzie In Conversation With Ken Barnes.  She reveals that the fire cracker dance number took 38 takes to film.  That’s a lot of smoking!


She also shares that her father took two shots of whiskey before the first take of the number where he was to dance inebriated, then apparently took one more before each subsequent take … and there were seven takes.  So, as she says, by the final take, “he was well on his way,” and that was the take they used in the film.


I love the witty repartee between Bing and Fred.  The morning after the drunken dance scene, Ted (Fred Astaire) wakes up and asks Jim (Bing Crosby), “Where am I?”  Bing tells him, “Holiday Inn.”  “How did I get here?”  “You were clinging to the undercarriage of a Jeep, I think. Then, pouring him coffee, “Here, have a slug out of the mug.”


(I also love Fred Astaire’s hands.)

The plot is inane: Bing’s character wants to get out of show business so he doesn’t have to work holidays.  Farm life gives him a nervous breakdown, so he comes up with the idea of working only on holidays … fifteen days a year.

Japan bombed Pearl Harbor during filming, thus, the patriotic war scenes were added to the Fourth of July number.  The song White Christmas originated in this movie (not the movie White Christmas) and became an anthem for homesick troops in WWII.


With every Christmas card I write   May your days be merry and bright.

Short/Long-Term Solutions

Clump #89:  Place some online gift orders; clear garage doorsteps.

I really hope I can learn the lessons of this 30-day, 30-clump, 30-post challenge: Project Enjoy Christmas.  Ordering Christmas gifts in November is much easier than in December.  The likelihood that an item will be in stock is so much higher.  And if there’s a glitch that adds a little more time, no problem.  Wow.

Of course, Christmas is not the only holiday to be mindful of in November. Thanksgiving is coming!  I love Thanksgiving.  Every year the holiday gets pushed farther and farther out of the public sphere by earlier and earlier ads and decorations for Christmas … where the big money is.  The introspective holiday for gathering and giving thanks gets short shrift.

In the spirit of welcoming guests, I took a hard look at the doorway to our house from the garage (sorry for the fuzziness of the photo; hands shaking with sudden awareness):


My long-deceased sister once gave me sage advice about moving into a new house: “Be careful of short-term solutions … they so easily become long-term solutions.”  How many times do I need to live that lesson before it sticks?

New home for boots on a tray I’ve been meaning to make into the “boot home” for ages:


Old, old kids’ video games on left (aww, The Jolly Post Office — loved that), to Goodwill; pile on the right, recycle.


This is the container where they were stored in the garage.  Looks like it was trying to set down roots.  Almost!


The whole garage could use a cleaning, but that’s a clump for another day.  Just getting the entrance swept and the door mats shaken out was a big improvement.  Aiming for better, not perfect.

My husband helped with the sorting.  I told him that in Feng Shui the entrance to the house is very important.  He replied,  “We were all Fenged-Up.”


Three things I’m thankful for: my husband’s help and sense of humor, light rain on red berries,


and color in trees, even though devoid of leaves:


Life Cycle

Clump #88:  Get a move on Christmas shopping; recycle printer cartridges.

Day 15 of my 30-day, 30-clump, 30-post challenge: Project Enjoy Christmas.  Halfway through!  Today I had to remind myself of the feeling I get when I know I only have a couple of weeks left in December before the 25th.  Crunch time.  I’m artificially inducing the adrenaline that kicks in at holiday time.  It worked.  Shop, shop, shop.


I also got rid of a few things.  It’s been a while since I’ve recycled our spent printer ink cartridges:


To the lobby of Best Buy they go.  Not to be too paranoid, but I could imagine someone checking the video from the store, “Yeah, there’s that woman again, dropping off recycling.  No, she didn’t go in the store to buy anything.  Why does she always take a picture?”  If I had the chance, I’d tell them that my husband is the one in our family who buys technical gadgets.  I throw them away.


I saw this great poster in a lovely gift shop on my travels today.  But I couldn’t help thinking that if I bought the poster and put it up, would it become like wallpaper … invisible after the novelty wore off?


One thing helping me “to be wholly alive with all [my] might” is looking at the world more closely through my camera.


As the glorious colors of October burn out …


and fade into November’s grays and taupes …


we don’t need writing on the wall.  The whole natural world is reminding us: “Try to be alive.  You’ll be dead soon enough.”


Today may you live like hell.


Clump #85:  Go through, sort out, and recycle catalogs.

The catalogs are coming — the catalogs are coming!  My 30-day, 30-clump, 30-post challenge: Project Enjoy Christmas continues with one of the most vexing problems of the season.  Just when my mind gets overloaded with extra holiday planning, the volume of mail explodes with catalogs.  Vendors I never hear from the rest of the year know I’m a soft touch for their products in November and December.  But at a certain point I become overwhelmed and let them pile up.  Here’s the current collection, de-clumped from the study where I had guiltily stashed them:


The job: sort through; recycle ones I will not be ordering from; order — now — the gift items I’ve identified.  Trouble comes when I see a good idea, and even with a turned-down page corner, I put the catalog aside and it falls into the void of piled up paper.

Plus, I get distracted.  I have a tendency to look through catalogs and realize I’m wondering about the models rather than the products the company is advertising.  “They’re really featuring her more than the others,” I think. “Are the other models jealous?”  This season’s Lands’ End catalog featured a few models with relationship stories.  Maybe I’m not the only one who wants to know the scoop about these beautiful people.  A mother and daughter pairing was on the cover, in the photo above.

Also, this caption accompanied the photo below: “Colin is used to having his sisters, Anna & Adrienne, put him through the ropes.  But he never expected his wife, Ashley, to take their side.”  I’ll never get through the pile at this rate, Lands’ End!


And then there’s my annual letter from my friend, Robert Redford, on behalf of Sundance.  When I was in my teens, I was driving with my sister one day and we saw Robert Redford driving the other way. Really.  It was over in a flash: “Was that–?!”  “Yes!!”

So, naturally, I feel a kinship to him as I read his poetic (cryptic?) holiday letter:


I think he’s telling me to go outside and experience the wonders of nature, but the letter is prefacing a whole lot of beautiful stuff I can buy to clutter up my home.

I did go outside and this is what the sunset looked like this evening.  And the birds were singing.  Thanks, Bob.


Peeling Away

Clump #79:  Clean out lower, flat drawer in refrigerator; make holiday-related calls.

Day Six of my 30-day, 30-clump, 30-post challenge, No-sweat November for a Dread-free December: Project Enjoy Christmas.

Yesterday and today I tackled a job I never would have had the time and/or energy for during the frenzy of the holidays.  I grossly underestimated the difficulty (and also the grossness) of performing yesterday’s refrigerator clean.

Long ago, in a universe far, far away, I put a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of the drawer in which we store meats.  I’m trying to remember why I thought this was such a good idea.  Maybe because I tend to be squeamish about meat.

When I took everything out to clean yesterday, I realized the darned foil was almost fused to the plastic drawer.  I didn’t think there would be a way to get it off, so I put a layer of paper towel over it, and doused it with the super-hero of the cleaning world: white vinegar.


This morning I looked into our blindingly clean fridge, and the foil came off “like buttah.”  Hooray!


In the past, I would have wanted to postpone this task so that the refrigerator would be at its cleanest and clearest for company. The reality is, by the time company is about to arrive, I’m in putting-out-big-fires mode, and it wouldn’t qualify.  Just stuff more and more stuff into that fridge!

Today I also started the wheels in motion to reserve space for a private dining room where my mom lives for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and started researching the timing and pricing of sending a package overseas to our son.  These are two things that have been nagging at me.  Instead of putting them off as usual, I’m being proactive.  Who am I?

It’s strange for me to begin tackling my holiday to-do list while it still looks like fall outside.  Up until just recently it was warm enough that I could sit at my computer with a window open next to me.  Late at night, a bird would always give off a screech that I found companionable, sometimes feeling as though we were the only two creatures awake in the dark world.

Last Friday I noticed that the leaves outside the window, which had been green and in abundance not long ago, had all turned yellow and fallen, except two:


And then there was one:


The rain and wind really picked up, buffeting the tree to and fro (yellow leaf in upper left):


I thought the leaf would be a goner, but it held on and the sky cleared (at this point I took down the screen and opened the window to snap the photo):


Excuse me for getting slightly obsessed with one leaf against the the changing sky and fall colors.


But, alas, one morning it was gone.


Autumn is a big, loud, blazing, flamboyant going-away party for leaves, sun, warmth, and color.


Goodbye for now.