Happy Thanksgiving!!


These are troubled times around the world, but I still have so much for which to be thankful, not the least of which is the fact that, in a nation that is protected by the First Amendment, I have my blog and all the wonderful blog friends I’ve met over the years.  Thanks to all of you for adding such happiness to my life.

Kondo mania! Or why I’m throwing away as many things as I can

Marie KondoSorry for the silence, but I am a woman possessed.  I finally read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Kondo does something no other professional organizer does:  She gives you permission to throw out just about everything.

All other organizing books tell you precisely what to throw out.  Throw out clothes you haven’t worn in one year, or two years, or three years.  Throw out financial statements that are more than “X” years old.  Throw out pots without lids or lids without storage containers. And so on and so forth.

Then, they tell you precisely how to organize:  For your remaining clothes, hang the shirts to the left and the pants to the right.  Put the socks on the second from the bottom drawer, and make sure all your underpants are white or hot pink.  File your papers away in green folders for paid bills and red folders for things the tax man will want.  Separate them by year, month, day of the week, and hour. Stack your pots in precision rows and line your cutlery drawers. Of course, I’m never able to conform to any of those things, either because I have problems throwing away the items the book insists must be tossed or because the organization defeats me.

Up until Kondo’s book, the best organizing book I ever read was Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System For Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life, which I still look upon as an extremely valuable book.  Morgenstern’s principle is that people don’t change their basic habits no matter what a book tells them to do.  If you’re the kind of person who slips off your shoes the moment you enter the house (as I am), having your shoe storage area at the other end of the house is pointless; the shoes will never make that journey.  The more intelligent thing to do is to have a shoe cubby at your point of entry. It may not be a thing of designer beauty, but it will be better than having shoes strewn higgledy-piggledy around the front hall.

Thanks to Morgenstern, I’m extremely organized in that I can put my hands on anything within five minutes.  My problem, though, is that I still have way too much stuff.  Some of it I bought, only to realize too late that the item wasn’t right for me. Some things I bought but they’ve worn out their usefulness. Most of the things that burden me, though, have come into my life as freebies, gifts, and hand-me-downs.

Putting all this stuff away, searching through it, and just being aware of its useless presence in my house weighs me down — but still, up until Kondo, I couldn’t make myself throw the things out.  It just seemed so wasteful or, if the thing was a gift, disrespectful.

Kondo’s shtick is that, if something doesn’t bring you joy or have a strong utilitarian role in your life, throw it out.  She says that you should empty everything out of your closet or cupboard or chest of drawers and then handle every single item.  If you hold it in your hands and don’t feel pleasure, get rid of it.

Importantly for me, Kondo says that, when it comes to gifts, the gifts highest and truest moment as a gift is the moment it is given.  That moment highlights the relationship between giver and receiver.  After that, the gift is just another object.  If you love it keep; if you don’t, get rid of it.  After all, you’re not going to forget your beloved granny simply because you’ve decided that someone else might appreciate more than you do the garish Christmas sweater that’s been hiding in the back of your closet for 30 years.

My metric is a little bit different.  Although I definitely am keeping things that give me joy, I’m also looking at things through a negative prism:  When I pick up this object or that item of clothing, do I get a horrible feeling of ennui just thinking of the effort it will take to put it away?  That too is a reason to toss.  After all, a lot of things don’t bring me joy, but I can’t of like them, and don’t mind the effort of caring for them.

Over the past week, I’ve bagged for charity or thrown away 50% of my clothes.  I will not forget my mother because the Salvation Army will get her used, but beautifully maintained, cashmere sweater from 1985.  The reality is that it’s out of style, the wrong size, the wrong color, and it makes me itch — but someone else will be delighted with it.

Nor will my grandmother recede from memory because I’m also giving to charity the throw she knit.  She didn’t knit it specifically for me.  She just knit endless patchwork throws to keep her hands busy.  They’re heavy, hard to wash and, again, make me itch.  Surely there’s someone who will enjoy these blankets.  I sure didn’t, since they’ve sat on top of my closet shelf collecting dust for 30 years.

I’ve also cleared out my pantry, cleaned my kitchen containers, done a clean sweep through my medicine cabinet, and purged all that make-up I never use.  I’m having fun doing all this too.  With every item that leaves the house, I feel lighter and more free.  Whatever my future holds, it won’t be a future that sees me weighed down by useless objects.

Mom’s finally back home

(This is not my mother.)

(This is not my mother.)

Mom’s back in the skilled nursing facility in which she normally lives and not a moment too soon. Not only was the hospital experience bad for her, because even Marin General’s superior nurses can’t make up for the dislocation affecting a nonagenarian in the hospital, it was bad for me too. I truly lost a week of my life. I haven’t paid bills, returned phone calls, bought food, or done laundry. Indeed, the week was so thoroughly lost that I thought my beloved cleaning lady team was due next week instead of today. They come every two weeks and, for me, last week simply never happened.

The return home is good for my mom too. She knows and trusts the nurses, aides, and physical therapists in her community, and will get along much better with them. They also know her well, and will know how much to push her when it comes to the hard work of recovering. Her 11 day ordeal took a lot out of her and, while I’m certain she’ll be back to normal, it won’t be easy.

I’m going to regroup this afternoon and live in hope that I’ll regain some semblance of order in my life. That means getting back to blogging speed too. I’ve really missed my blogging.

A request for help for Liberty Chick, who is still recovering from a massive stroke

Thunderclap header
I received this message from Legal Insurrection:

Our dear friend and colleague Mandy Nagy (“Liberty Chick”) suffered a massive stroke at the young age of 45 in early September 2014.

Mandy suffered significant brain injury from the stroke, and her recovery has been steady but slow. She will need long-term care and assistance.

A Supplemental Needs Trust has been set up, with Mandy’s mother as Trustee. Last year we held a successful fundraiser, but it is not enough to sustain Mandy’s needs long-term. Her mother is not young, and help is needed.

We are holding a second fundraiser on this sad anniversary. All money will go to Mandy’s Supplemental Needs Trust.

Please help us spread the word by signing up for a Thunderclap scheduled for September 22? If we don’t get 250 people to sign up, it doesn’t happen. You can sign up using your Twitter and Facebook accounts.

I never followed Liberty Chick, but I’m passing this along for a couple of reasons. First, she is a conservative in need. And second, something that flows from the first thought: Government welfare supplants communities. If we want to shrink government, we have to help people believe that communities — real ones, not faux government ones — can take care of their own.

Mom update

(This is not my mother.)

(This is not my mother.)

I’m happy to report that, when I left the hospital last night, my mother was doing extremely, indeed surprisingly, well. Nevertheless, when it comes to nonagenarians and brain surgery, bad things can happen during the recovery phase. I’m therefore cautious in my optimism.

I have to admit that it was unnerving when the surgeon told me she had one to five hours to live. Fortunately, approving her for brain surgery was a no brainer (pardon the pun), since Mom wants to live.

The ICU nurse asked Mom a question she asks all her patients over 90, which what the patient believes is the secret to such a long life. Mom answered “I want to live.”

The nurse, thinking Mom had misheard, started to repeat her question. I politely stopped her.

“What Mom was saying is that the secret to her long life is that she WANTS to live.”

“Ah,” said the nurse. “I get it. Will power.”

Random blogging for the next few days

(This is not my mother.)

(This is not my mother.)

(UPDATE: Mom is doing incredibly well. She’s alert, oriented and, once I assured her she wouldn’t die, amazingly cheerful. I still will have limited access to blogging for the day, but I’m much happier than I was at this time yesterday.)

I don’t know how much posting I’ll get done in the next day or two or even the next few days. My mother got sick this weekend, with a combination of intensely felt back and leg pain, coupled with confusion. She’s had both of these problems before.

The care facility in which she lives attributed the pain to a diminution in the amount of opiates she gets for pain relief, something done because she falls all the time (as she did a few weeks ago). As for the confusion, Mom’s gotten that from going on opiates, going off opiates, having bladder infections or pneumonia (with confusion being her only symptom for either), and from random drug reactions. Given this history, her caregivers opted to adjust her pain medicine up, to test her for bladder infections, to keep an eye out for pneumonia, and to assume that she would get better without too much intervention.

By yesterday morning, though, it was clear that Mom wasn’t getting better, so off she went to the hospital. Given her fall history, even though Mom doesn’t appear to have fallen again in the last two weeks, she got a CAT scan, which showed massive fluid intrusion into the brain. The choices given to me were immediate brain surgery or wait for her to die, with death occurring within one to twenty-four hours. My mother, although she is a deeply negative person, has a ferocious will to live, plus good organ health, so it was a no-brainer for me to authorize the surgery.

I don’t care that Mom’s old. She’s someone who values her life and I’m only grateful that her insurance is such that I was able to make the decision for her. It would have been awful if the decision rested in the hands of some DC or Sacramento bureaucrat who sees only my Mom’s age and health problems, rather than her vitality and lust for life.

The surgery went well. Mom’s brain has shrunk, which is typical for nonagenarians, and shows signs of multiple falls, with old blood and new, as well as fluid build-up. The surgeon cleaned up the stuff that shouldn’t be there and put a shunt in to keep the drainage going. She survived the night and seems to be stable as I write this. Interestingly, she’s sweeter than usual — compliant, gracious and, although confused, seemingly happy. Every hour that proceeds without complications presages an optimal recovery.

I’ll spend most of the day with her today (she finds my presence calming) so blogging will necessarily be intermittent.

As for me, I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic. I’m sorry we didn’t get her to the ER sooner, but that’s water under the bridge. Given Mom’s complicated health history and personality, it’s not always easy to know what to do. That’s my perspective. Whether her medical caregivers made the right call is another question because it may be that their fund of knowledge should have dictated a different decision tree. That too, though, is water under the bridge. Mom seems to be getting excellent care in the hospital, so the thing to do now is to make her comfortable and then to wait and see.

Technical difficulties

Yesterday afternoon, my phone died. I went to the Apple store where they concluded that it had a problem that was under the warranty and they issued me a new phone. That was at 7:00 p.m. my time. Now, at 3:00 p.m. my time the following day, I finally got my phone running again. The problem seems to have been that no single person — and I dealt with multiple people at Apple, Sprint, and Best Buy — had sufficient knowledge to solve the problem. Instead, every person to whom I spoke, starting at 8:00 this morning, had another piece of information to add to the puzzle. And of the many people to whom I spoke, only two were useless. The rest were very helpful and very kind. But I’ve still spent my day bouncing from phone call to phone call and store to store on this treasure hunt.

I’m incredibly happy that the situation is finally resolved, but I regret the lost day. I’m only now getting to the business of the day. It’s a reminder that technology is wonderful . . . right up until the moment when it’s not.


Getting back in the groove

Back in the grooveWhen I’m on the airplane heading home from a vacation, I always mean to dive into blogging the moment I get home, but I never do. I’m always a bit tired, often a bit jet-lagged, usually have a cold I caught on the trip (as is the case this time around), and have mountains of things that I have to attend to after having been away.

So here it is, 5 in the afternoon, and I’m only now getting around to reading the news. I’ve been tracking things a bit but, to be honest I’ve found the news of the past few weeks so deeply depressing, I was grateful for a vacation intermission — even if that intermission took me to the tragically blood-soaked battlefields of the Civil War. Contemplating Antietam or Gettysburg was actually nicer than thinking about the Iran debacle, or the Supreme Court’s unconstitutional arrogance, or any of the other toxic issues poisoning not just the headlines, but the world we’re about to hand to our children.

I’ll be back in the blogging groove tomorrow, but for today, I’m opting for the music and a blank mind:

And a fun cover of an old song:

Washington, D.C.

We did another of our mad dash tour days, once again in D.C. We made lightening visits to the Air and Space Museum (crowded and cheesy), the new Native American Museum (gorgeous building paired with slender hagiographic exhibits); the Botanical Garden (very beautiful); the Capitol (under construction and reeking of hypocrisy as gun-control Congress-critters are heavily protected by armed guards); the exterior of the Supreme Court (I truly felt like egging it); the Library of Congress (too self-consciously awe-inspiring, but I was in fact awed by the Gutenberg Bible); and the Natural History Museum (I adore the mineral and gem collections).

Here’s a kaleidoscope of pictures:

















Tomorrow is a travel day. I’ll be returning to blogging on Wednesday.