Sunday, March 1, 2015

Making lemonade...sometimes easier said than done.

You’ve all heard that platitude “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  It sounds rather simple and rather practical, with the proviso that you actually have a need for lemonade.  Things get a little tougher if you don’t have sugar or water to mix with the lemon juice in order to concoct this saving grace that is “the lemonade.”  Of course, attempting to solve the problem of what to substitute for the other ingredients will serve to temporarily distract you from the original issue…what to do with all the lemons.

Finding ourselves with too many lemons happens far too often in our lives.  I remember one time when it was peanut butter.  We were young and struggling with two kids and little income.  A work friend of my husband’s offered him a box of government peanut butter, and he took it without question.  He proudly hauled the 50-pound box into the kitchen and announced that we wouldn’t have to buy peanut butter for a long, long time.  I was thrilled…until I opened the box to find that the entire 50 pounds of peanut butter was encased in one, single, heavy plastic bag.

My heart dropped.  There was no way that I could store a 50-pound bag of peanut butter in my tiny pantry cupboard.  There was no way that we would ever use that much peanut butter, once opened, before it turned rancid.  The thought of attempting to even scoop peanut butter out of such an awkward package, without having it on every conceivable kitchen surface, was daunting.
Brainstorming began in earnest.  How could I preserve the tasty goo?  It was a real prize, because my husband took PBJ sandwiches for lunch almost every day, and it was a “go to” lunch for the kids on Saturdays.  It would save us a lot of money if I could figure out how to keep it.  We had purchased a chest freezer before the arrival of kids, and it housed dozens of loaves of Wonder Bread that I would buy at a discount at the Hostess outlet in a town nearby.  I also used it for freezing veggies we grew in the garden each year and to buy things ahead if they were on sale.  I had never heard of anyone freezing peanut butter, but I decided that the risk was worth the try.

We scrounged every plastic container we could find and every quart freezer bag we had left in the drawer.  Jim lifted the bag of peanut butter out of the box and laid it on the counter.  I gathered all the containers within reach, then took a pair of scissors and snipped off the tip of one corner of the bag.  Together we filled the containers as though we were milking a cow, slowly squeezing the peanut butter through the opening to fill each container and holding the cut end closed when switching from one container to the next.
It took most of the evening to accomplish the task.  I put multiple containers in the refrigerator, hoping it would stay somewhat fresh, and we made a space in the chest freezer for the rest.  I’m happy to say that the idea worked like a charm.  We had peanut butter as needed for about 18 months.  For some unknown reason, that peanut butter made the best cookies we ever had.
Life is like that.  Sometimes you just have to brainstorm for an answer and try it, even if you have no idea whether or not it will work.  Then have faith that it will.  You might be surprised at the positive outcome.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Redux - more office purging success!

Ten days since my last progress report.  Progress is the key word here.  The amount of paper removed from my office, in the form of scrap, newspaper, magazines, catalogs and other things piling up, now totals about 150 pounds.  You would think I had a hoarder’s room with that kind of number, but much of it was confined in drawers and old files I no longer needed to keep but had not yet discarded.  It is truly amazing how heavy paper can be.
My work table is now completely purged, along with a desktop utility shelf, a rolling book shelf, four of the five shelves on the computer desk, the file desk file drawer, the clutter under the work table, my rolling file and the floor to ceiling storage shelf.  I also cleaned out the rolling file, gathered all my tax paperwork for last year into one box (though it isn’t sorted yet), and filed all the paid bills and receipts for 2015 so far.

And, most importantly, I finally framed and hung the papal blessing from Pope Francis!  His is directly beneath the one from Pope Benedict.  Actually, it is pretty cool.  After all, I don’t know another person who has a papal blessing, in writing, from one pope, much less two…seems “A Mystery in the Mailbox” made an impression on both of them.

But regarding the purge, I have about 1/3 of the office to go.  I will attack that section once I sort all my tax stuff so I can get to the preparer quickly when my W2 and my 1099’s arrive.  I hereby declare that I will NOT be filing my taxes in April this year!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Progress promised

I can hardly believe it myself, but I made actual progress today.  All recycle materials have been cleared from the room (pop bottles), and I believe I removed about 60 # of paper, newspaper, magazines and catalogs.  I managed to get some things sorted and filed.  I still have a way to go.
I did clear enough space to hand feed postcard stock into my printer and I replaced the cartridges.  So I managed to get 120 cards printed for my recipients!

All in all it was a good day!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

12 Days Post-New Year....hmmm

Since last I sat here to write, much has happened, yet little has been accomplished.  Although, we did manage to undecorate the house, and I actually purged my ornament boxes of things broken and sorted out a small box of treasured ornaments to pass on to my daughter.  I really felt I had to “downsize” at least a little.  I gave in and purchased a new ornament for myself this year (something I swore I would not do), and I was given two new ornaments as gifts.  The tree is not getting any bigger, so a few things had to go.  Now if only I could manage to do this in every room of the house, life would be simpler.

My office has still not been completely purged.  I have not yet found the other ornaments I was looking for last week.  I’m starting to think the paper in this office has nothing better to do than reproduce itself at a phenomenal rate every time I vacate the premises for an hour.  And now I am searching for the wall calendars I bought for the office and kitchen.
I’m fairly sure they are hiding with those secreted ornaments.

I have sworn myself to progress today.  I’ll write a progress report before my head hits the pillow tonight!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve...the Herald of 2015

This morning I awoke to a world of white.  Snow covered everything, and the temperature was in the teens, though with the blowing wind, it felt more like zero or below.  This is our first real snowfall of December.  Likely it will be the last snowfall of December as well since it is now clear and sunny and the ball drops in Times Square in about 9 hours.  Right now we are ranking this as the third least snowy December in history for our area.  This is in stark contrast to November, when Mother Nature dumped close to 2 feet on our heads.  It seems that even our weather world has become one of extremes.

Before I embark on my bucket list for 2015-2016, I need to get my office purged and organized.  I’ve done a good bit in the last week, but I know I still have a long way to go.  This is evidenced by this morning’s find on my work table of a small brown paper bag containing a piggy bank and a Christmas ornament personalized with “Olivia” for the baby daughter of an old friend.  Olivia is now 12.
I am also determined to unearth some special Christmas ornaments I know I purchased at “Art in the Park” a few years back.  I was disappointed that they were not hiding on my office utility shelf, which is the one thing I have managed to completely purge and organize.  I did some paperwork reduction by taking the 9 months of paid bill receipts that were spilling out of a small gift bag, throwing out whatever was unnecessary, such as return envelopes and inserts, and stuffing it all into a Saucony shoebox.  It’s not sorted, but it is now manageable.

I may or may not return to the computer before the bell tolls midnight, but if I don’t, then I wish you all a very happy, and healthy, and prosperous New Year, filled with only the challenges that make you grow in wisdom and in love.  

Remember, the joy is in the journey!

Resolution or no Resolution? No even a question!

Resolution is such a restrictive word.  Is it any wonder so few people manage to stick with the resolutions they set for themselves? I have found that if I make a 2-year bucket list, I manage to accomplish better than 50% of the items on that list.  For 2013-2014, there were 22 items on the list.  I have only 9 items remaining as of today.  These 9 items will be at the top of my 2015-2016 list.  Of course, I can always add to the list anytime during the 2-year period.  I certainly don’t want to run out of goals.

What exactly does someone look forward to if there is no anticipation of completion?  The joy is in the journey, and once the destination is achieved, a new journey needs to be planned.  I can’t imagine having nothing to work toward.  Knowing that I’m moving forward, rather than rooting myself like unwanted vegetation, makes me happy.  I feel sorry for those who look forward to retirement as a time when they no longer have to do anything.  I know people who retired and ended up dead in six months because they had nothing to replace the job in their day-to-day living situation.  The human mind and the human spirit were meant to be challenged.  And only challenge keeps us moving forward. 

When people have the type of jobs where they work and work and work with no end of the project or task, they become very unhappy.  Those who have goals to accomplish and a light at the end of that tunnel, feel fulfilled when the task is complete, and are more than willing to take on a new task.  They are happy, relaxed and suffer less depression when they know there is an end to the project.  Yet when you ask them what they feel best about, it is generally their ability to work hard and stick with it until finished, not the end result in and of itself.

And so, my bucket list for 2015-2016 is momentarily complete.  It is a thing in motion, and I will add to it as needed.  But I feel confident that I will accomplish my first 9 list items. 

Isn’t it time for you to make your own bucket ist? 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mom...

Had she lived another year, my mother would have turned 90 today.  I think of her every day, but she was prominent in my thoughts today.  I wanted to write something meaningful about her, about her life, about what she means to me, but I am still having difficulty putting my feelings into words.  This seems a bit strange for someone who describes herself first and foremost as a writer.  And so I decided to post the eulogy my brother, Tom, wrote and delivered at her funeral in the fall of 2013.  I don’t think I could do justice in describing Mom as a person with as much eloquence as he managed at such a sad time for us all.

“I want to thank Father Tom and the music director for making this a holy and special mass.  I want to thank all of you who have come, for celebrating this mass with us, and for your prayers for Mom over the recent past.”

“Over the last week many people (such as nurses and doctors) have asked about Mom.  What did she do for a living?  What organizations did she belong to?  What did she like to do? Etc.  At first I was embarrassed because I was drawing a blank.  Don’t get me wrong, I had lots of wonderful individual memories that I could have shared, of happy moments, of sacrifices she made, of her strength, or her sense of humor.  I’m absolutely sure that everyone here who knew her has their own favorite memories, and we should be sharing these with each other.  But her life seemed very simple, so, I answered the questions by saying, that she was a really great mother, and a great wife, and a great cook (as you can plainly see).  And I also felt, at the same time, that I was leaving something out or saying something that was inadequate.”

“In the last two days I realized what was wrong.  I was trying to evaluate or describe or even judge her life (at least the parts I knew) based on the way I have to evaluate the importance of the many people I encounter in my life and my work:  what important jobs they have, what great things have they accomplished, what successes have they had, what obstacles have they overcome, what important people do they know, and how many peoples’ lives did they change.  This is how the world around us might judge our importance, or our greatness.”

“But the problem is that none of this stuff really defines greatness.”

“In the end the only thing that will determine our true greatness is how much we loved.  How much we loved.”
“It is the singular teaching of Jesus Christ, who Mom loved and worshipped.  It is the singular focus of the life of Mary, who she honored.  And each of the saints that she learned about and respected and had a special fondness for.”

“When Jesus caught his disciples arguing with each other about who was the most important he told them 'anyone wanting to be the greatest must be the least, the servant of all'.  I believe that that kind of love was at the heart of most of the things Mom did in life; the focus of her life, despite any flaws she had.  She LOVED.  She loved greatly.  And because of this, we were in the presence of someone great even though her simple life kept it from being obvious.”

“She was not a great cook because she liked cooking; she became a great cook because she loved the people she was cooking for so much.  She certainly could not have always loved being a mother with all the trouble and heartache I must have caused her; but she became a great mother because she loved her children so much, despite all the flaws we had, even the ones that she was powerless to fix.”

“Now what I wanted to say to all the questions at the beginning of the week was clear.  This was a person of greatness.  A great daughter because she loved and still loves her parents; a great wife because she loved and still loves her husband; a great grandmother (no pun intended) because she loved and still loves all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren; a great friend because she loved and still loves her friends; and she is now saved, because she loved and still loves Christ, and is with him in that love right now.”

“I hope that my memories of her will inspire me strive for her kind of greatness, and that your memories of her will inspire you as well.”

“Thank you Mom and God bless you all.”