Looking Back at NaBloPoMo and the Challenge Ahead

Clump #273: Gift shopping with Giving Tuesday awareness; day one of “finish my holiday to-do list” week.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (?)  How old were you the last time that song lyric felt true?

I completed the 30-day challenge of National Blog Posting Month the day before yesterday.  It was sometimes exhausting, but ultimately rewarding.  The best part about committing to writing (and for me, clumping) every day was the momentum that developed.  It became not a question of whether, but when.  I began to trust that words would come to me when I needed them.

So with the jingle jangle holiday season upon us, I’ve decided to see whether I can call on that momentum to finish my holiday preparations in a week: between now and December 9th, an artificial deadline designed to give myself some breathing room before the usual crunch time.  Is it possible?  We will see!

Today I did a bunch of shopping and made an effort to honor the spirit of Giving Tuesday.  At Barnes and Noble I looked through a box of suggested children’s books one could purchase to donate to needy children.  I really wasn’t impressed with the selection until I spotted The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster.  I was not a stellar reader as a child, but I remember having been transfixed by the creativity in this timeless (ha) tale. Sold!

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Making a list of ways I gave today seems a bit like asking for a gold star for my efforts, which is counter to true giving.  So I will close the way I opened, with another photo from my recent trip to Longwood Gardens, featuring the color blue …

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and the observation that joyful gift giving can chase the blues away.

Popovers and Pictures

Clump #272: Sort old family photos; day thirty of National Blog Posting Month!  I did it!

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Popovers!  I finally made them this morning.  My husband, my older sister, her daughter, and I vacationed in Maine a few years ago and had lunch at the Jordan Pond House Restaurant at Acadia National Park. The restaurant is known for their popovers.  You end up going crazy for them (Why doesn’t every restaurant in the world serve popovers?).

This was before Clump A Day, but even then, when I spotted this popover pan in the gift shop, I knew it would take up valuable space in a kitchen cabinet … a big metal clump.  I was with the niece who was visiting this weekend, and I swore to her that if I bought it, I would make popovers for her when she stayed with us.  So far I’ve kept my word.  An item is not a clump if it is used and loved.

Here she is in front of the pond:

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This card came along with the pan … how could I resist:

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Ahh, summertime in gorgeous Maine.

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On the flip-side of the card is the popover recipe:

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I was reminded today of my mom who would always say after a holiday visit, “The house is too quiet!”  So I surrounded myself with photos of family while organizing the big bag of heirloom photos my sister and I had started yesterday.

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I could almost hear them again …

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and feel the warmth of their presence.

Important Papers and Cute Cats

Clump #271: Fifteen minutes of picture-sorting; day twenty-nine of National Blog Posting Month.

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The gentlemen above are some of our 42 Founding Fathers, immortalized in life-size bronze statues at Signer’s Hall at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.  I always get chills walking amongst them.

My niece and her mom are still here, thus the trips to places we usually only make time to visit with company.  Invariably, one of us will utter, “Why don’t we go here more often?”

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Our day went from sublime to ridiculous; from high-brow to low; from lofty to silly … or grumpy.  Yes, we whiplashed from touring Independence Hall and the Constitution Center to watching Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, the Lifetime movie starring the internet sensation.  Truly a yin-yang day, but thoroughly enjoyable, nonetheless.

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With all the holiday festivities and fun with guests, clumping and posting have been a bit of a stretch.  I was determined to get my older sister (on the right in the photo, in October at a rented cottage) to tackle a job left over from our last get together.  As you can see, we were plied with a few alcoholic beverages; we were also soaking our feet in the bath salts.  I had brought two very heavy bags of family photos that had been cleared out of a desk belonging to my parents.

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Unfortunately, the sister on the left was not interested in taking any of the photos.  Also unfortunately, the sister on the right wanted to keep almost all of the photos.  This huge bag remained, and has been an albatross around my neck for too long. Confront!  De-Clump!

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I experienced a rare moment of victory over my older sister.  When I reminded her that we needed to do this clump, she recoiled at thought. So I asked her, “Why would you want to keep all these photos if the idea of going through them is so repulsive?” Photos are so difficult to throw away, but there has got to be a limit.  And if they’re deemed keepable, we should find some way to honor them for the future.

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The only way we could face the job was by setting the timer for fifteen minutes and really stopping when it went off.  I had to check that I set it right, since it was a very looong fifteen minutes.

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Now I have an idea of how to continue organizing the pictures on my own, so we can finish the job when we’re together again at Christmastime.  My Christmas wish!  And look, our own slightly grumpy cat gave her begrudging approval, before trying to bat them around.

Fierce and Flowery Black Friday

Clump #270: Christmas shopping and paper purging; day twenty-eight of National Blog Posting Month.

There was no rest for the weary today.  My niece and I continued our tradition of Black Friday shopping early this morning … after sunrise, that is.

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Since the year we trooped out in the middle of the night to track down a large-screen t.v. for my dad, which was pretty scary, we’ve taken it easy both in time of day (7:00 a.m.) and number of stores (one).  The memory still lingers of the huge man vying for large electronics wearing a sweatshirt that said, “There Are Two Types Of People: Gun Owners And Victims.”  I let him go right ahead of me.  “After you.”  Actually, his was a pretty good Black Friday strategy.

My niece was looking like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with.

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But it was all for show.  (No foam swords were harmed by us for the photo).

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Later, we visited Longwood Gardens.  In the children’s garden maze, she punnily said, “This is a-maze-ing!”

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We weren’t the only ones getting into the holiday spirit … or with a penchant for silly hats (see yesterday).

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I was so thoroughly tired out that I fell fast asleep in my chair tonight.

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My sister said I should be able to count just getting out of the chair as the clump for today, but I moved my clump of aching muscles and another pile of paper.

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I was rewarded with a lovely handmade Thanksgiving card sent from my sister-in-law.

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We also received our first Christmas card!  I’m going to have to reevaluate whether I can still be friends with them.

Clutter Tips for Turkeys

Clump #269:  De-clump paper pile; day twenty-seven of National Blog Posting Month.

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The one thing you kind of forget when committing to the post-every-day challenge in November is a little thing called Thanksgiving.  This Thanksgiving was the year of the Pie-fecta: my husband’s Apple-Pumpkin-Pecan Pie.  The Turducken of the pie world.  I confess I wasn’t expecting to like it, but was won over by the yummy combination of flavors and textures.

And wasn’t it enough of a clump to get the pies made, the feast carried over the river and through the Amish farmland to be with our grandmother/mom?  Well, we had the easy part of the meal, with lots of help.  This is my very obliging niece, lovely enough to make the silly turkey hat look good.

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Later I had just enough time and energy to haul out a clump of papers and bust through them.

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In today’s issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer I enjoyed a spoof of the typical “holiday tips” lists that I’m attracted to like a moth to a flame.

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I loved the advice below on how to “distract guest from the clutter you were too lazy to pick up.”

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Is the picture a little out of focus, or is it the fog machine I’ve fired up? Hope your day was festive and fun!

Ode to Joy

Clump #268: Pick up (at last) Christmas cards; day twenty-six of National Blog Posing Month.

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The saga of our 2014 Christmas card printing continued with another little glitch.  We left off when the machine at Target was out of order. When I returned, the word JOY on the top of the cards did not look the way it did in the computer mock-up.  My comment, silly as it sounds, was, “The Joy is cut off.”  The gentleman at the counter told me to put the flash drive back in the machine and start over again.  We both looked at the computer screen and the way the card was supposed to look, with a little bit of space around the word.  He started the order over again … and the cards came out, again, with “the Joy cut off.”

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I heard a song today by a group called Lucius with the refrain, “She’s looking through the wrong end of the telescope/ Turn it around, turn it around.”  Instead of feeling put-upon for a little imperfection, I changed my perspective.  First, I’m pretty sure I got twice the number of cards I ordered … for free, and second, maybe the Joy isn’t cut off, but overflowing the page.

It was a day for inspiring song lyrics.  In an email from a local bookstore, this Leonard Cohen lyric spoke to my condition:

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There’s a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving with Joy and Light overflowing.  And if it is not, I hope you might “turn it around, turn it around.”

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I am thankful for you and your support of Clump A Day!

Speak Up!

Clump #267:  Send out flag; day twenty-five of National Blog Posting Month.

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This is a very big day in clumpville.  My father-in-law was a veteran of World War II.  When he died in 2003, my husband was given the flag covering his casket.  I have been procrastinating about how best to honor it for all this time.  I’ve looked at ready-made triangular cases in stores that looked cheap, and I’ve looked into custom framing that was very expensive.

I finally broached the subject with my husband today.  He suggested framing the flag along with a wooden name plate from his dad’s service that we inherited, as well as a photo of him in uniform.  I emailed one of my husband’s sisters to see if she had such a photo.  Not only did she say she’d look for one, she also said she knew someone who does that kind of framing.  Hallelujah!  I packed the flag and the name plate to send to her right away.

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I hadn’t realized how much this had been weighing on me.  Even subconsciously, every time I’d see the bag where the flag had been residing, it would remind me that we were not being responsible conservators. “Bad.”

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After procrastinating for so long, the minute I spoke up about it, a great solution had suddenly materialized.  Today’s lesson: Speak up! Get help! De-clump!

Now I’m really looking forward to a great tribute to a great guy.  Well, maybe not as great a tribute as the three swords in the photo below, where my father-in-law’s son and grandson posed in Norway, his ancestral home.  Imagine Grandpa’s spirit standing in front of the third sword.

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From Stavenger-web.com:

“Three enormous bronze swords stand monument to the battle of Hafrsfjord in the year 872, when Harald Hårfagre (Fairheaded Harald) united Norway into one kingdom. The monument was designed by Fritz Røed (1928 – 2002) from Bryne, just south of Stavanger. It was unveiled by Norway’s King Olav in 1983.

The swords, which are about 10 meters tall, stand for peace and unification. One sword is larger than the others. This was Fairheaded Harald’s sword. The swords are planted in solid rock – representing peace and are found at Møllebukta which is a bay area on the southern shore of Hafrsfjord.”