I’m in the middle of a project and am in Procrastination Mode. I know so because I have redecorated, rearranged my books, organized my purses, and categorized everything in my 9×10 dorm room office. Tapestries are still a thing in our house.
I found my calendars from 1987 on. Not found but pulled off the shelf. I’m going through each one jotting down interesting facts. (I’ve done a lot of birthday parties for kids and have also seen more concerts than I literally remember.)
Some years included a lot of eating out. Other years have a lot of dinner parties in.
I’m only up to 2010 but what’s interesting to me, so far, is it takes me an hour to go through each year. I’ve timed it. That means that no matter whether I was confused or confident, solvent or squeaking by, focused or figuring things out, time was and remains constant.
Perhaps my information processing speed is faster or slower than others.
Nevertheless, the past years may have felt like a blur but they weren’t. We don’t know what blocks of time feel like until we think about them for more than a second or two after. That’s when memories can start drifting in. Memories, whether fabricated, recovered, or honored are what remind us we are human.
It’s interesting to notice trends from decade to decade or relationship to relationship. It’s fun to see how diverging career paths makes sense. It’s fascinating to notice what gets highlighted and what doesn’t. It’s reassuring to notice that sometimes names disappear and then return.
I’m comfortable taking 35 hours to remind myself of 35 years of my life. Any more and I would bore myself to death.
Being a productive procrastinator, I’m now going to separate the metal bindings, plastic dividers, and paper for the recycling bins.
If you aren’t a knitter, the utter horror of what I’m about to describe may not be fully appreciated. However, if you believe that most kids are brats by nature, keep reading.
Last week I was up at Merck Forest doing my volunteer job of labeling the maple syrup bottles. It isn’t as easy as it looks. (The boss, my sister, is somewhat of a stickler for details.) One sticker gets lined up on the bottle cap, another next to the logo, and one of four barcodes adheres to the back depending on the bottle size. That’s the one that takes the most concentration. I’m proud to say, so far, I’ve only had to correct the barcode about 3 times in two years.
After my chores were done, I sat and knit amidst the cartons and waited for someone else to restock the shelves. I can only take so much manual labor.
Sometimes knitting can be meditative, zen like in rhythm, a time to enjoy the ease of soft focus… not this project. This was a complicated headband I’d already started, pulled out, and started again at least three times. It involved a circular needle, really thin yard, a provisional cast on, 4 cables, and the kirchner stitch. It took a lot of concentration to zone in or out.
Sometimes knitting projects don’t want to be knit, and I know when to quit. Not this time.
Earlier in the week I planned to email the designer and tell her there was an error in her instructions. I sure am glad I didn’t.
(Don’t quit reading, the brats are about to enter the story.)
“33-34-35-36. Phew, still haven’t lost any stitches.” I congratulated myself.
Two siblings wandered into the room, “Whatcha doin’?”
“We want to knit. Can you teach us?” asked the six year old.
“No but I’m sure someone could.”
“What’s this?” she continued.
“It’s really hard to open.”
The father ambled in and sat down next to me showing the same amount of respect towards personal space as his children. “I hope they aren’t bothering you.” Interesting comment considering one child was spinning two of my completed (no frills) headbands around her wrists like mini hula hoops and her older brother was clacking a pair of extra needles together. “Look, I’m knitting air!”
“Oh, they’re fine.”
I felt guilty not giving my attention to the kids so I pushed my project deep in the bottom of the knitting bag and wondered whose fault it would be when someone lost an eye.
“Oh, this is so soft,” said the urchin as her arm disappeared into my bag of wool as I looked away for a second.
“Hey! What’s this?” With that she pulled out a circular needle without any stitches attached. I was frozen with horror for 1.5 seconds and then moaned “NOOOOOOOOOO”.
This got the father’s attention as well as my sister’s. I didn’t hear if the child apologized as instructed but I did here my sister say,
“Give me those needles. Get your hand out of her bag. Move away from the bottles. This isn’t safe. Go outside. It’s too nice to be in here.” They obeyed.
I couldn’t speak for the next four minutes. My total concern was on saving my work.
“33-34-35-36, oh thank God. You saved me! Those kids just caught me by surprise.”
“Maybe you assumed the father would have a little control. Meanwhile the mother is on her cell phone at the picnic table. I hate bratty kids.” She announced.
I agreed with her and packed up my stuff so I could go home, lie on the couch and knit in peace on the most beautiful day of the year.
Bratty kids are no fun whether they are 6 or 63. Unfortunately boredom, hunger, fatigue, impatience, frustration, or just a bad mood are inevitable at any age.
Ideally family or friends will ignore our behavior (within limits) or say “Knock it off!”
However, it’s best if we can say the latter to ourselves – before someone loses an eye.
Namaste- It’s okay to be bratty, just don’t stay that way!
Peter has been out of town for a few nights. That doesn’t happen often so I take the opportunity to clear out clutter. I’m not going into details on what got culled, I like to see if he notices- and believe me- he will look when he returns home.
I got inspired by a friend of mine who pretends her house is going on the market. She goes around cleaning, tidying, and staging each room. “I’ve got four rooms finished and even touched up the trim with paint!”
The least I could do, after chucking two bottles of fish sauce with 2014 expiration dates, was to continue to go through old beauty products.
The 24 mini bottles of body lotion I purchased on EBay that smelled so good in a hotel ten years ago were among the first to go.
I also tossed an assortment of brushes that would have had more use in a kindergarten art class. I’m sure they came from a makeover in NYC around 15 years ago. I wasn’t aware that you should look for an advisor with similar skin tone or whose makeup you liked.
My makeup artist was a very attractive African American man half my age. He smelled nice.
My next cosmetic advisor, Nadia, was a better choice. Because she is my friend, she wasn’t making a commission. “Try this stuff, it’s excellent!” So I did.
I looked radiant, dewy, and downright perky. The products were fantastic! It was as if I were wearing no makeup at all. I could feel the appreciative, and perhaps slightly envious looks from others.
On the fourth day I realized I’d never broken the seal, nor removed the clear protective covers on the balm, stick, or bronzer. No wonder this product felt like I was wearing nothing at all.
I was literally and figuratively wearing Puss’s boots dressed in the Emperor’s new clothes.
I sure fooled myself. I love placebos, they get me all the time. Then again, confidence comes from within.
It was the summer of 1972 and Dee and I were ten and twelve respectively. We were trapped in a house of, surprisingly clean, plastic panels. It was a House of Mirrors with no mirrors. “Over here!” I called. Her look of relief didn’t last long as she ran into the invisible barrier.
I didn’t feel bad because I hadn’t intentionally misled her. No one should feel bad for her anyway, I was the one wetting my pants laughing.
Since that episode I have been more of the catalyst rather than the reactor.
As we started down the aisle at Mom and Pen’s wedding rehearsal, my Wicked Witch of the West impression made her run out of the church.
In my defense, all I did was point one toe forward and say “Are you ready to go my pretty?”
More than once she’s had to sit on towels, after I’ve ordered iced teas at McDonalds using a clever blend of foreign accents.
So many great memories!
It’s just by chance that our 50th year would culminate in two definites and at least four really close calls over a three day period in Burlington last week.
That’s a lot of urine.
Dee‘s best line, “Let’s ask in the restaurant if they serve anything without liquid”.
My best was anytime she said “Stop… Stop talking now…I really mean it!” (I hear that a lot from her. It’s a sure sign that I’m on to something.)
Mom intimated that making Dee lose control is a mean thing to do but she’s dead wrong on that one. It’s not like I’m tickling her. That would be abusive.
I just can’t seem to stop talking. Although I am the first one to pull the car over or say “You can’t see a thing with my sweatshirt tied around your waist.” I appreciate her release.
Engaging Muhla Banda is really helpful in circumstances such as these. By contracting the muscles in the pelvic floor, accidents rarely happen and your energy (prana) doesn’t cascade out of you.
Unfortunately for Dee, she had to leave me and race out of the yoga class before that got explained.
But, yogis don’t engage Muhla Banda all the time. Releasing energy is also important.
Laughter is cathartic. It cleanses the system. Tears of laughter are the most delightful and the most joyous.
A year and a half ago our dishwasher got put out to pasture. It joined the microwave, the oven, the refrigerator, the washing machine, the dryer and the toaster oven. It wasn’t by choice. Peter spent years keeping all the appliances operating. After watching many YouTube videos and reading repair manuals, he had to say “Uncle” after all seven quit within two weeks of each other.
Each month or so after, an item got replaced. The first being the dishwasher. Its arrival was quick and its subsequent problems were immediately apparent. A leaking dishwasher means the floor in front of it is cleaner than the rest of the kitchen.
Despite a repairman’s assurance that it would be replaced, Peter spent the last 17 months on hold or getting ghosted by the company.
I wish I could say that living without a dishwasher changed our lives or gave us a new appreciation for water conservation, but it hasn’t.
It did however magnify some water related differences between us.
I’m quick in the shower. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve let the water drum pleasantly on my back long enough for the steam to open my pores.
“I can’t wait for a long, hot shower” is something I’ve never said. Just standing there is tiresome. Regardless of years of yoga, I don’t feel like being in the moment in some places.
It’s the same in a bathtub. The idea of reading a book in a mountain of bubbles sounds good, but I have to keep my toes pointed and pressed against the faucet end so I don’t submerge. It’s not relaxing.
Peter and I watched a show where the ne’er do well son was once again disappointing his family.
In one of my funnier peanut gallery moments I said, “Look! He’s fulfilling every parent’s dream. After years of education and ample opportunities, he’s become a DJ. Can’t get much better than that, unless of course he becomes a yoga teacher as well.”
Those DJ’s and yogis who know me, know that I find myself very funny. They also know that I have a deep respect for anyone who loves what they do.
Admittedly, I get a kick out of some of the less conventional career paths. Probably because there are so many out there that I never paid attention to before. Or maybe because I’ve had a number of them.
Actors, teachers, nurses, writers, artists, mechanics, gardeners, restaurant staff, driveway restorers, yogis, athletes, researchers, curators, health care providers, craftsmen, DJ’s, veterinarians, UPS and bus drivers, sports professionals, resort workers, town officials, and tour guides have something in common. Their income doesn’t often reflect the benefits, passion, commitment, and effects of their endeavors onto others.
Don’t stop reading!
I’m not going to pontificate on inequality of pay or how I’ve never managed to get health insurance as part of my employment status. (That fault is mine. I’ve made my choices.)
I’m by no means knocking those with more traditional, better payed occupations. My aim is to clarify that we all do what we do so that we can do what we want to do. I may be speaking for myself but let’s say I’m not.
Because I hadn’t seen the UPS man around town for awhile, I asked if he was switching his route. “I had a substitute last month while I was on vacation and I have two more weeks coming up in July. We’ve been hiking the Long Trail and only have 25 miles to go. I live for that” he replied.
You could have pushed me over with a feather.
Why do you do what you do? Does it allow you to do what you want to do? Are you improving the quality of life for yourself and others? I’m willing to bet you are if you get some satisfaction out of what you do do.
(Yes, it makes sense to read that last paragraph again, just for fun.)
Namaste- everyone has the possibility to make ones day.
“I tried yoga once and hated it. It’s not for me. It’s too slow.”
When I hear this (at least four times a year) the reaction in my gut is not pleasant. A few weeks ago, I had the same feeling after being yelled at -twice- by some cyclists when I errantly stepped into the bike lane in front of their invisible selves.
Oh my gosh! What a look of contempt that man had on his face. I feel terrible. Is it really necessary to make someone feel more idiotic by screaming and shaking fists? Do you really need to be riding your bike at 20 mph down 5th avenue? Well maybe you do. I’m so sorry. I’m leaving tomorrow and you will never see me again, although I will see you in my mind over and over for a long time.
Do I really need to revisit my missteps? Didn’t the guys do me a favor by making me aware that bike paths are serious business?
Is my bruised ego so fragile that the slightest embarrassment makes me sick to my stomach?
What does it say about me if I’m upset that some people hate what I teach?
This is a perfect example as to why I practice yoga. It’s no longer an exercise option for laziness, it’s a way to investigate my big emotions.
Yoga is different from aerobics or circuit training. The physical practice is a way of tricking the ego into taking a break.
A good teacher WILL ask us to note how we feel when we can’t seem to stay in a tree pose longer than five seconds. Is it the worst thing ever?
A good teacher WILL encourage us to focus on physical and emotional sensations and then remind us that they are often unavoidable but temporary.
A good teacher WILL suggest that reactions on the mat are similar to actions off the mat.
A good teacher will listen to someone say “ I don’t practice yoga because I need to go go go” and NOT reply, “Evidently you lack the ability or discipline to sit with a quiet mind, and ask why?”
A good teacher will NOT demand to know “If yoga is not for you then who is it for?”
A good teacher will NOT write “If you tried skydiving once and hated it, okay, but a yoga class? Come on ya big baby.”
There are many people who don’t practice yoga because they feel calm, centered and content, or simply can’ t find the time. Not surprising, they aren’t the ones who tell me they hate it.
If I never got back on a bicycle after first falling off, I’d never have fallen off again. If I’d never taken more than one yoga class, I’d never have become a teacher.
When the doctor told my mother in law that she couldn’t drive anymore, all of us breathed a sigh of relief. No one wanted to broach the subject.
It’s not like her driving was that bad, it’s just that the kid who last ran into BT’s car was worse.
She was in her early nineties so it was only a matter of time before she would have a more serious accident, whether or not it were her fault.
Although I had been married to her son, Peter, for nineteen years, this was when we really connected. I became her chauffeur.
Our weekly trips to town were predictable, post office, pharmacy, grocery store, drugstore and dry cleaners. She had a list and we stuck to it, unless of course she had off the list requests.
“I’d like to go to Brooks Brothers, I’m running out of white handkerchiefs,”
“Let’s stop at the art gallery and see if they’d be interested in displaying Herb’s paintings.”
“I want to stop by Dorr Oil, there’s a problem with my bill.”
I’m not a spontaneous chauffeur; I like a planned route, so I pretended I had all the time in the world and was paid by the hour. It was a valuable lesson in patience and futility.
One day we ran into her postmaster, of many years, at the drugstore who said he was retiring at the end of the week. “Oh noooo,” she wailed as she hugged him. “I will miss you so much!”
Afterwards, in the car, she got angry and slammed her tiny fists into her legs. “Why do things have to change?”
She had progressive speech aphasia that made communication difficult at times, although this was not one of them.
“Well, people want to retire eventually, just like you,” I said calmly.
“Yes, but don’t they know I’m old!”
I took a deep breath. “You are old aren’t you?”
My delivery was good. She laughed. Another lesson learned; timing is essential when dealing with difficult matters.
Another morning, as we waited at the check out at Shaws, there was a distinct smell of an electrical fire near the meat section. As dark smoke started to gather at the ceiling, and move to the front of the store, an announcement was made. “Attention all shoppers. Please leave the building immediately. This is an emergency!”
BT may not have been able to speak clearly, but there was nothing wrong with her hearing. It’s possible she didn’t smell the fumes but I choose to think she chose to ignore them. She wasn’t budging. As the fire trucks pulled up I said, “We have to leave this stuff and go, unless you want to go out in fireman’s carry.” She was not happy, and my patience and timing had gone out the window.
“I can go back later and pick up your things”, I offered contritely as we picked up cat food at the vets.
“You don’t know what I had!” She snapped back at me.
“I do too, we’ve gone over your grocery list once a week for at least two years now, I can recite it from heart, here test me!”
She acted impressed at my recitation, and used that moment of flattery to beg me to go back to Shaws “just in case”.
In the nearly empty parking lot, surprisingly agile, she moved quickly to the entry. “Don’t move my groceries, don’t move them” she repeated twice loudly.
Oh my gosh, is she going to scream at the poor traumatized employees?
“Wait, don’t yell at the workers!” I yelled after her.
“I’m not! I’m talking to God!” Oh phew.
Yet another lesson, how one practices one’s faith is personal.
Inside, the floors were slick with water and some mysterious foam that someone was trying to dry up with cat litter. “STAY HERE. DO NOT MOVE” I ordered her. Then, softening my voice I added, “Give me your credit card and I’ll see what I can do.”
I swear she was smirking at me.
“These are my mother-in-laws groceries, is there any possibility that we can check them out now?” I begged as I motioned back at BT who looked suspiciously calm. Then again, she knew many of the employees and regularly gave and received hugs from most of them. She was much more at ease than I was.
As we walked out with her three bags of groceries, and others were turned away, the doors were shut and locked behind us.
“Boy, you really do have God’s ear don’t you?” I said admiringly.
Later that day, her son Stephen called, “I hear there was quite a scene in town today.”
I explained what had happened but assured him everything worked out fine.
“Yes, except for a slight problem. She was charged just over $200.”
(I may have slightly panicked and not payed attention earlier.)
“Okay, here’s what would have been purchased.”
I recited her list, that came to an average of $65 a week, by heart, something I will be able to do until my dying day.
The electrical snafu had wreaked havoc with the registers, however, he got a refund, no questions asked.
BT was a woman who loved her children, her extended family, her God, her friends, and lists. I will miss the predictable unpredictability of her.
When I can’t sleep, I make lists of what I’ll pack for a trip I’m not taking. Nevertheless, I’ll be prepared to look casually hip for a spontaneous excursion to the city, or for an overnight in the Northeast Kingdom if the opportunity pops up.
I’ve written about Bucket Lists before, as some of my reading friends know. I don’t care for them. In fact, hearing about them bugs me almost as much as the thought of making one.
A bucket list, in my definition, reinforces what one has yet to accomplish. That’s depressing and too much of a challenge.
Instead, I have a Next Life List (NLL). It’s not so much about physical accomplishments, like running a marathon, or climbing mountain peaks, as it is career options.
I have no medical skills, nor have I been in hospital administration, however I’m good under pressure and quick on my feet. I would be an excellent diagnostician doing triage.
I’m unable to clip my cat’s claws or my mother in law’s toenails, but I can see developing compassionate living arrangements for old people and animals to spend their twilight or dark days together, safely and comfortably before going over the rainbow bridge. I’d be a great community organizer.
I can’t make up my mind between regular pencils, mechanical pencils, fountain pens, roller balls, and cheap hotel retractables when I’m dilly-dallying, nonetheless I know the relationship between hand and paper is important. I’d be an intuitive inventor of things that allowed people to enjoy writing even more.
This current life of mine has involved a lot of patience, or learning about patience. How will that be of benefit in my next life?
It will make it easier to see the forest and the trees, to listen and provide what is needed, to improvise, and create.
What’s really nice is that an item on a NLL could get ticked off in this life. You just never know.
I like being prepared almost as much as packing and making lists.
Namaste- Reinvention? Reincarnation? Who’s to say?
I have a tendency to believe that if I’m intrigued, interested, or inspired by a person, and want them to be my friend, s/he will feel the same. I can count on one hand the number of times that has worked out.
I can count on two hands the times it hasn’t.
Those instances have been massively embarrassing and emotionally discouraging, however, as with most situations in my life, the worst stories end up being ones that make my friends double over in laughter. Then again, most of my friends are kind and prefer to learn from my mistakes.
This past September, Peter and I heard David Sedaris,the prolific American humorist, speak at the Paramount in Rutland, Vt.
I wrote him a fan letter in March of 2020, one of the 1500 or so he gets a month. I was inspired to write because I felt he wrote like me, and I told him so. I was intrigued that he never had to establish a social platform in order to get published and interested to know if he thought that was still possible in this day and age.
It’s not too difficult to read between the lines. Dear David, I know everyone wants to be your friend, but we have so much in common as you will see in my blog.You may even wish to save me from jumping through hoops and find me a publisher.
Six months later I received a postcard from him. He had read one of my blogs and wrote, “I think a beginner chainsaw class for women is a great idea. After 15 years someone just asked me to write a book so I don’t have much advice.”
To be clear, that blog entry wasn’t one of my best. In fact, there wasn’t much funny about it except for a photo with me in my PJ’s making a smoothie wearing a hard hat and ear protection. That’s only funny if you know it was the only time I donned any of the safety equipment, much less looked at my chainsaw, since the class ended a year ago.
The evening in September was going to be my chance to show him, or remind him, who I really was, a smart, talented, pleasant, witty, and likeable person. Someone he would be honored to call his friend and protege.
I’d been carrying his postcard with me for almost a year, but due to my constant switching of pocketbooks, I couldn’t find it that night. I pretended not to be distraught as I planned my outfit.
What was I going to do anyway? Wave it in front of his face as he signed a copy of his book screaming ‘YOU WROTE ME!’”
I’m much too cool for that.
Because I couldn’t find the postcard, and I couldn’t bring him my book, Virtuous Sinner (of course I sent him a copy a few months back) I needed something to make an impression.
So I penned a list of “Five Interesting Coincidental Similarities Between David Sedaris and Alexandra Langstaff” and put it on a piece of matting board suitable for framing.
There were about 20 people in line ahead of me after the show waiting for David to leave the stage and get set up at a table, with a protective plastic barrier with his pens and markers.
The oversized card was a good idea because I used it as a fan. (Note to self, scarves should only be worn outdoors in blizzards, not as the perfect accessory to tie an outfit together in a crowded theater lobby.)
The people in front were all couples. I was alone because Peter was leaning against a wall pretending to be part of security in his black fedora and tweed jacket.
That was just as well because I had no ability to speak. My legs had gone to jelly and my heart was beating so that I could not only feel it, but I could hear it, sending the blood coursing through my carotid artery. I was slightly worried that I would explode.
As the line shortened, one of the real security guards brought David two plates. Obviously the man needs to have choices of what to eat.
How humiliating for the people in front of me, I thought, I’m so glad I’m back here. Is he going to talk with his mouth full or focus on his food rather than his fans? I hope he’s a fast eater.
As I grew closer and Peter continued to act like the Secret Service, my brain, obviously unappreciated, left the building and went back to the car in the Walmart parking lot, where we had sushi before the show. It was evident that my wits had left me as my turn came. Up to the table I walked with a slight limp, my legs had gone numb, and the first thing I did was to point to one of his plates and say, “That looks horrible.”
Needless to say, he was slightly taken aback as was Peter, who had left his post to accompany me, unaware that I was about to implode.
“We’re so sorry to interrupt your meal” Peter apologized.
Wait, this is a book signing, we aren’t asking for a selfie at a diner for god’s sake, I thought wildly.
“Uh, do you accept gifts?” I whispered.
“Sure, what is it?” he asked while taking a small forkful of something that looked delicious. Some jokes fall flat.
“It’s a list of five interesting coincidental similarities between David Sedaris and Alexandra Langstaff.”
Notice I didn’t say between “you and me” but used our full names as if being formal was a sign of reverence and respect.
“Uh, it’s sterilized”, I added as I passed it under the barrier.
“What do you mean?” he questioned.
“Uh…I mean it’s sanitary, no cooties or anything.” I mumbled.
What if he asked me to prove it?
“Read me some of it”, he asked while drawing falling leaves next to his signature.
“Uh, David Sedaris once saw a dead wallaby on the side of the road. Alexandra Langstaff once saw a dead kangaroo on the side of the road, holding a can of Foster’s.”
How to ruin someone’s appetite and put a damper on the conversation.
It was clear that I was untethered, so Peter said, “You sent her a postcard!”
Rather than be grateful for his interjection, I wanted to elbow him in the ribs. This was like going up to a famous author in a grocery store and gushing, “We’ve read all your books”. How crass, how gauche, how… helpful.
Peter broke the ice. We had a conversation starter.
“If I wrote to you, you must have written to me. What did your letter say?” David asked beaming.
Because my brain, in defeat, had gone back to the car earlier, I drew a blank.
Think! Think! Say something original and clever.
“Uh, I asked you about the publishing business.”
Time is running out. Why is my head so empty?
“Uh, the picture on the postcard you sent me was of Mr. Smith’s runaway horse and my maiden name is Smith!”, I jabbered.
I felt a wave of relief. Maybe my mind was returning. Maybe I just needed to warm up.
“Well thank you for coming, I love meeting people I’ve written back to,” David said as he slid my book towards me.
“And thank you so much for your words”, I blurted rapidly as the Secret Service agent, Peter, escorted me away from the table. “You read my blog and agreed that a chainsaw class for beginners was a good idea” I announced over my shoulder.
I know the 30 people still in line were glad to see me go.
On the 45 minute drive home, I replayed the embarrassing and discouraging experience over and over. So much for being at home in the world. What happened to the confident, sparkling, easy to speak with, refreshing burst of energy person that anyone in their right mind would want to exchange phone numbers with?
I was pretty sure that Peter was to blame for me making a fool out of myself in front of an author I was interested in, intrigued and inspired by.
Poor guy, it’s taken me weeks to get over it.
Namaste: want to read the 3 other similarities ? Send a message my way.