Words have meaning

Deep thoughts these days, about many things.

For one, I’ve been reading Dan Pallotta’s book, Uncharitable.: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential. I work for a nonprofit, so I find it especially thought-provoking. I’m just one chapter in, and so much is making me take a look at the whole paradigm anew. Even the way he defines terms by going back to their roots is revealing. If you have any interest in the nonprofit world, or causes, or social issues, just let these roll around in your head and see what you think:

Profit comes from the Latin profectus, meaning progress. What does that say about the meaning of nonprofit?

Charity comes from the Greek work charos, meaning love or grace . . .

The circles I travel in consider it inappropriate to talk about charity, yet we freely and even proudly identify ourselves as nonprofit — no progress. Go figure.

Onward, but still. . .

Onward, but still . . .

I wish I still had the 1950ish-vintage stove that came with the house we bought in 1976 and we left behind in 1979. You know the kind, four burners and a sunken soup pot, an oven on one side and a drawer for pots and pans on the other, the whole thing looking distinctly automotive, rounded edges and all. Practicality says I have no place for it, but still.

I wish I could go back to Crescent View Cottages on Siesta Key.  Little duplexes each with a little front porch where we hung our beach towels, on a crushed-shell drive that deadended on the beach. They aren’t even there any more.

I wish I still had the yellow ceramic lamp we got with S&H green stamps in 1971. Tall and just short of gaudy, with gold braid around the top and bottom of the white drum shade.

I wish I had the aquamarine ring my parents gave me in high school, that I lost a couple of years later. Careless youth.

I wish my kitchen had the old built-in cabinet that was part of the kitchen where I grew up. Floor to ceiling on the wall next to the kitchen table, painted white. Plates, glassware, serving dishes, and vitamins in the top part, canned goods in the bottom part, with a middle shelf where paper clutter landed.

Good stories are always told in sensory specifics. These are details of memory, parts of my story. Every day has been, is, and always will be filled with details. How many slip by unnoticed? How many of them will I long for later? How close to true are the details of my life? Does memory change them?

Good stories need great characters, too.

I had two tough grandmothers. They withstood a lot. I miss them.

I miss talking easily and often with my brothers.

I miss sharing life with my children.

How many people whom I know today know me, a multi-layered me, a 3-dimensioal me?

Missing won’t bring anything back. What colors my life today? Who do I treasure today? Will I pay attention, or will I let the days slip by?

I replaced my computer last month. I won’t go in debt for such things, so that plus all the accompanying software and a car repair put a dent in my emergency fund. Over the next few months my goal is to replenish it. Therefore I’ll be even more careful to live simply, frugally.

For instance, when do I really need to buy groceries? How about shopping in my cupboard and fridge/freezer first?

My last trip to the supermarket yielded an 8-lb. bag of locally grown potatoes for $1.50. Usually I don’t use that many potatoes before they grow  sprouts and go soft (baby sprouts I just break off and use the potato anyway), but I’m determined not to waste them this time. So breakfast this morning — a day off so more time to cook — was one potato, shredded and fried in olive oil, with one egg fried in the same skillet. Yummers, and it’s real food. I know for a fact all the ingredients in my breakfast. To drink: OJ and coffee. By the way, regular coffee in a regular drip coffeemaker, black. Pennies, not dollars at a coffee shop.

Being frugal empowers me to move forward rather than being tethered to paying for the past. In fact, if you think about it, simple living is a future-oriented mindset.


January Self-Defense

Temperatures are plummeting and we’re in for days of deep cold where I live. It’s January. This is what January does. But I don’t have to like it.

I keep my thermostat set economically low. That’s my choice. Then of course I’m chilly. My body responds by clenching up. Drawing in. That is what living things do in the winter time. It’s what winter is for in the natural cycle. I accept that on a metaphorical level but not on a physical comfort level. Therefore I fight the cold in several ways.

  • I keep rolled up towels against the bottom of my exterior doors, except when I know a realtor is coming to show my house. Years ago I sewed a tube and filled it with kitty litter for the same purpose. Now I don’t have a cat and I won’t spend money on kitty litter just for this Hence ratty towels rolled. up. The guy who recently did my home energy audit said that would work just fine.
  • My rice bag is my best friend at bedtime Heat it up in the microwave and take it to bed. Last night I fell asleep with it between my feet.
  • The flannel sheets someone gave me for Christmas help a lot too.
  • Tea. Right now it’s Earl Gray beside me. The next cup may be green.
  • Layers. Today I’m learning how warm cashmere is over a long-sleeve tee. Never had a cashmere sweater before. I found this one at a thrift store for $6. Love that!
  • Roman shades that I keep shut unless the sun is shining directly in.

Time spent drawing in is so much better wrapped in a fleecy throw. And it’s only two months till spring.

You know you’re thrifty when….

You go to Kohl’s to return a gift and shop with a gift card, and you leave with one sweater from the 80% off rack, marked down another 15%, and the rest of the money left unspent.

You iron the tissue paper you get in gift bags and stash it in your gift wrap box to reuse.

You make your own laundry soap.

You have made crackers — even if you then decided they are not worth the effort or the mess. Hey, you’re not fanatical.

The wardrobe that recently was complimented as classy is composed of things you’ve worn for years, thrift shop and deep clearance rack finds (see above sweater), hand-me-downs from wealthier friends, items you make yourself, and here and there a new piece or accessory.

The gift of time

My personal list of things to do with extra time off, as I head into this 4-day Christmas weekend, to be followed by a 4-day New Years weekend:

  1. Learn to make passable coffee. With the coffee maker I have. With supermarket coffee. Because I’m not spending any more to accomplish this. Coffee is not that important to me. I’m a tea gal.
  2. Read. Fiction, even. Last night I started The Last Girls, by Lee Smith. I think I’m going to like it.
  3. Find cloud storage for my genealogy files. Free, preferably. My version of the software that currently houses my family history is so old I can’t even transfer files to my new computer. Surely now there are other options.
  4. Create a throw from scraps of fleece I’ve collected.
  5. Take a look at the upcoming year. Personally, what do I want most? Professionally, what do I need to accomplish? One of these years I’ll actually live intentionally instead of intending to live intentionally.
  6. Reconnect with some people I love.

There may be more, but that’s enough for now.

Bare to the Bone

In the midst of “onward,” sometimes you get stopped in your tracks. In this morning’s paper I read the obituary for a 60 year old man who “was a former member of Alcoholics Anonymous” and who was “a wonderful man with a horrible disease.” Clearly alcoholism killed him. He had one wife and a child. And immediately I feel again the pain and confusion and destruction in a visceral way. For everyone involved. The pain of watching someone you love go down. The shifting ground that your family lives on for years. And then I realize that this is the unnamed man whose self-inflicted gunshot wound death made the news a day earlier. Fatal despair. .

I know nothing of this family. Yet I do.  I pray for their path, and my own. Nearly four years of healing later, I think I’ve learned that when the feelings come back, the path forward leads through them.

And so we journey on, “Bare to the Bone,” as Carrie Newcomer sings.



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