When you wonder about the value of your work…

Last month, Steve and I visited the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania

Picture of Andrew Wyeth print
Andrew Wyeth’s: Lobsterman

to see a closely guarded exhibition of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings.

In the museum gallery, as we admired one of Wyeth’s large, detailed paintings, Steve motioned me closer to the painting and, with his index finger, pointed to a wooden table in the picture. He wanted me to notice that the painted wood’s grainy, uneven surface looked so vivid it seemed that if you ran your hand across it, you’d risk a splinter.

As I leaned toward Steve’s finger and the painted tabletop, a talking human head bobbed between our heads, “Don’t get so close to the painting, Sir,” a museum guard quietly commanded. Continue reading “When you wonder about the value of your work…”

A secret to moving beyond all that divides us…

Porch swing and woods

The moment Steve claimed he could smell Sycamore trees, I was swinging–ever so slightly so as not to spill my coffee–on a wooden bench swing on the porch of a cabin we had rented during a recent vacation for just the two of us.

Before he spoke, I was sitting alone on the porch, gazing through the woods, past the Virginia Creeper bicycle trail, to Laurel Creek where sunbeams glittered on moving ripples of rushing water. I’d put the book I was reading, still open, in my lap and was half-listening to the ambient sounds around me. Birds chirped. The creek water gurgled. The gravel crunched when the occasional biker pedaled by.

Laurel Creek

From the cabin, Steve came out to the porch and sat down in a chair beside the swing. “Look at that walnut tree.”

Immediately, I was victim and judge. He was guilty. His crime: interrupting my reverie. Continue reading “A secret to moving beyond all that divides us…”

What’s in a name?

The daily schedule of the writer’s conference I attended in early June did not coincide with my usual routine and by the time the early morning workshop concluded, the time for my usual second cup of coffee had long passed. I eagerly joined other attendees for a coffee break.

Coffee pots, cream, sugar, pastries and fruit were available on a long table that was set out on the campus lawn under the trees.

I made my way to one of the large coffee pots and fully engaged to adjust the spigot to fill my cup with coffee. My focus on pouring that beverage was so intense that most people would be pleased if their brain surgeon used half as much concentration when performing an intricate, high-stakes procedure.

My cup filled, I sidestepped to the cream station, added a splash of half-and-half, stirred, and, anticipating a big gulp, I surfaced from the act of preparing the coffee to find my nose almost touching the nose of a man who was equally intent on getting coffee.

Awkward. Continue reading “What’s in a name?”

When you feel like you don’t belong…

Dressed to face the cold a few years ago

I was 12-years-old when I first felt a pang of not belonging. I stood on the sidewalk at the corner of Drewry and Valleyview with my back to the wind. My chin dipped deep into a woolen scarf which was tied around my neck. My crossed arms held school books tight against my chest–another layer to keep out the biting cold—and my mittened hands were pressed under my arms in search of warmth.

I waited for the school bus with my friend—for this post, I’ll call her Sally. At the bus stop that morning, I considered Sally my very best friend; even though she was a grade, maybe two, ahead of me in school. We shared seats on the bus. We played marbles in the snow. Every Monday evening, I went to her house to watch “The Partridge Family”.  We spent hours in our fort in the woods paging through a wallpaper sample book discussing which wallpaper pattern we’d like to paste on our fort walls. We both had crushes on the teen idol of the year, Donny Osmond.

That morning on the corner, I chattered away proposing activities to do after school once we finished homework. Maybe we could put on a play and invite neighborhood friends to come watch it.

I was thinking about what the play would be about, who would act in it, and whether we’d serve refreshments when Sally said, “I’m not going to be your friend anymore. You do baby things.”

For a moment, the cold air seemed less gripping than the cold that took hold of my heart. Continue reading “When you feel like you don’t belong…”

Living on the fringes of sorrow…remembering Columbine…

bouquet of dandelionsI stood in the shower with water streaming over my suds-filled hair when the garbage cans that line our home’s outside wall pinged and rattled. The noise sounded like a clattering tambourine and lasted a few seconds. I thought a bold creature was rummaging through our trash–in daylight. With my fist, I banged on the wall and shouted, “Get out of those cans.”

The clatter stopped. My stern command had sent the creature fleeing.

A few minutes later, equipped with rubber gloves, I checked the cans. I was prepared to pick up strewn trash and look for signs of the scavenger. Bear? Cat? Skunk?

No mess. No signs of a creature.

Eventually, my daughter messaged, “Did you feel the earthquake?” Continue reading “Living on the fringes of sorrow…remembering Columbine…”

Would you make this sacrifice?

Steve and I had our yearly daylight savings time disagreement Sunday morning. He thinks that when we spring the clocks ahead, we should spring our kitchen clock one hour and four minutes ahead. He claims that setting that clock a few minutes ahead of the actual time will help him get to work on-time.

I think that setting our kitchen clock ahead of the actual time by four minutes would be a nuisance and necessitate daily intricate arithmetic. For me.

Remember story problems from elementary school arithmetic? My story problem would go something like this: Faith needs to get to work at 9:00 in the morning. Driving to the parking lot takes 15 minutes. Walking from the lot to her office takes 20 – 25 minutes, depending on the weather, the beat of the music streaming to her headphones and the weight of her book bag. If she gets behind people who saunter slowly down the sidewalk, she will need even more time. (Even after all these years, she’s unsure about the etiquette of passing people while walking down the sidewalk, so she prefers to stay behind.) Add 5 minutes.

Calculate: what time does Faith need to leave home to get to work on time? What time will the kitchen clock read?

Plus, I always set my target leaving time 15 minutes earlier than my actual leaving time. To compensate for a clock set ahead, I’d have to subtract 4 from 15 to determine my target departure time.

It’s just too many numbers.

I’ve thought about ways to resolve this conflict between Steve and I. We could compromise. We could set the clock ahead by a small amount, like two minutes—I wouldn’t notice, so there’d be no need to solve the story problem. But two minutes is not enough for Steve.

We could get his and her clocks. But I like every clock in the house to be set at the same time.

Maybe we should remove all clocks from the kitchen and both use our phones as private clocks?

A few years ago, I addressed the problem by buying an atomic clock. The atomic clock used some kind of quantum science (way beyond my comprehension) to synchronize with The Main Clock that ticks out the time for our entire time zone. I really liked knowing our kitchen clock displayed accurate time. A bonus: setting the atomic clock four minutes ahead is impossible—even for mechanical wizard Steve.

However, our atomic clock is now so old that the synchronizing function doesn’t work.

That’s how many years we’ve disagreed about setting the clock.

Sometimes, Steve says, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

But I’m not a fan of unspoken conflict and I say, “None of that silent treatment.”

I know that, spoken or not, conflict is conflict. And unspoken conflict gathers power and, when the harborer lets down her guard, explode.  Been there. Done that. It’s hard to regroup.

The best resolution to conflict, of course, is authentic self-sacrifice. But would you make the sacrifice?

I’m not clear on who should make the sacrifice. Do we measure the degree of self-sacrifice the act requires, compare and then designate according to degree? This act takes less sacrifice for you, so this time, you sacrifice.

Or, this act takes more sacrifice for you, so you sacrifice and get bonus points?

Speaking of sacrifice, I recently noticed on social media that people are posting sacrifice challenges for the forty-or-so days of Lent. Some people are giving up Facebook. Others are fasting from types of food. The challenge that caught my interest was de-cluttering. The goal is to get rid of one item each day during Lent.

I determined to tackle the challenge.

As I sort through my clutter, I’ve mused through my clutter-related memories and have one to share.

When I was young, our family occasionally drove from Canada to visit our New England relatives who had what they called a Fibber McGee closet. We’d ask our aunt where something was and she’d say, “It’s in the Fibber McGee closet.” The closet’s name came from an American radio comedy series. In the show, Fibber McGee’s closet overflowed with an unorganized variety of remarkable items. My aunt’s did, too.

We’d open the closet doors, hold the contents in the closet with one hand, and use the other hand to rummage and find what we wanted: Tennis racquets. Tennis balls. Chalk. Softball gloves. String.

As a kid, I so wanted a Fibber McGee closet at our house. But my mom said that we couldn’t have one because we moved a lot. And people who move have to get rid of clutter. They can’t keep it in a closet.

As an adult, I remembered the Fibber McGee closet, and realized Steve and I  have lived in the same house for two decades, and we have two Fibber McGee closets, a Fibber McGee attic and a Fibber McGee garage.

While I think every household should have one Fibber McGee closet, I believe we currently have too many Fibber McGee areas.

I’ve decided to get rid of more than one item each of the 40 days of Lent and I’m gearing up to convince Steve to declutter, too.

For us, the de-cluttering argument is like that daylight savings time disagreement. We have it periodically.

So I am preparing for it.

When I try to throw something away and Steve objects, “I might need it someday.”

I’ll say, “Yes, that’s true.”

Often, I get rid of something and later I realize I want it. On day one of my Lent de-clutter challenge, I got rid of a decade’s worth of old glasses frames. Today, I thought, “A decades worth of old glasses frames would make a cool picture for today’s blog.” Still, I’m glad they’re gone.

Plus, in our current disorganized mess, we can’t find the things we need. Better to have a few things organized than many things so haphazardly stowed that you can’t find what you need.

Sometimes, Steve objects to my throwing things out because, “Someone somewhere needs this.”

I think relinquishing the item to a thrift store so that person can find it is our responsibility.

The reason for not parting with something that is most difficult for me to counter is: this item was given to me by someone living. Or dead. I keep many items because through them I feel tied to a loved one. But sometimes the tied feeling grows stronger than the love memory.

I own a serger that a friend gave me before she died more than a decade ago. I have never used the machine. As cumbersome as a tombstone, it sits in my closet. Recently, another friend pointed out that people in heaven probably don’t care what we do with their things.

I think I can remember my friend fondly with out the serger. I’m getting rid of it (message me if you want it) and all my other clutter.

While I’m good at recognizing and congratulating myself on my sacrifices, even I realize that I’m enjoying de-cluttering way too much to consider it (as I originally intended) a Lenten sacrifice.

I’m positive that coercing Steve to de-clutter doesn’t count as self-sacrifice, for me, either.

Maybe my Lenten sacrifice should be to let Steve spring the clock ahead one hour and four minutes. Maybe I should agree to setting the the clock his way. The daily mental arithmetic can be my sacrificial act. Would you do it?

Problem is–and you can check my calculation–in 40 days, when I’ve completed my Lenten sacrifice and I re-adjust the clocks, he’ll be 8 minutes late for work.

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Forced to wait for it?

Recently, while I was getting my hair cut in a hair salon, I overheard a woman say, “I don’t mind slow Internet. I’m not in a hurry when I go online.”

And you’re thinking: Said. No one. Ever.

That’s what I thought. But, again, she loudly declared her on-line patience to everyone in the room.

The stylist who was cutting my hair had my chair turned, so I couldn’t see the woman.

Was she a relic? Facing future embalming and delivery to the Smithsonian?

Or should she be protected as the only remaining member of a species quickly becoming extinct?

I wanted to get a good look at her.

When the stylist put the scissors down, I swiveled my chair. I was careful not to gawk obviously, but I had to see this rare creature.

She looked like a regular woman with foils in her hair.

But I certainly didn’t consider her perspective normal.

And I think I would have been less incredulous if the woman had said, “I don’t mind when I get a parking ticket.” At least parking tickets can be paid quickly. Continue reading “Forced to wait for it?”