From finding a missing book to the search for storage solutions

It’s called Assholes: A Theory, and I was missing it for a good two months. 

Strangely enough, I’m having as much trouble getting through it as I did before. 

It’s a good book, more like a treatise than anything else, with each chapter reading essay-style with footnotes that  sometimes take up almost half a page. I find the examples to be most helpful, because the formal / clinical language is confusing at times, or off-putting. I’m not sure why. Makes me practice doing my own annotations, though — I’m just taking my time with it, highlighting as necessary, making notes in the margins here and there (although up to the point I lost it, only in highlighter, so I’ll have to go back and remedy that with a pen or a pencil), and reviewing chunks or paragraphs when I start to feel lost. 

   
 

quick aside: WHY is it I cannot manage to keep my book covers clean and tidy these days? 

Glad to have found it, though. Might be time to go through my library again, marking or setting aside the books I haven’t yet read. I did have them organized like that a few years ago, but then bookshelves got moved, and moved again when I used one for a set piece in a play, so everything got mixed up. It might be better to wait until I’ve actually replaced my bulky living room pieces (TV cabinet and an old glass-front bookcase) with real shelves. 

   
   
I know it’s a terrible cluttery mess right now, mainly due to lack of effective storage (no basement and few closets), but picture it with seven, eight, or even nine shelves on that wall, cleverly cut and arranged to fit the TV and hold the lizard tank. I know hubby likes the glass cabinet (he considers it “his” because I’ve got my Gran’s old glass cabinets for my treasures and collectibles, on the other side of the room — the one doesn’t really match anything, while the other is part of our vintage dining set), so it could stay if I could move it to the short wall and make it part of a computer desk set-up. 

  
I would like to keep books behind glass, particularly my vintage and antique copies of Shakespeare. But I also need a desk with a rising surface for standing while I type. I find, when I’m trying to get things done and multitasking, sitting in the wheely chair is more of a deterrent because it’s hard to get in and out of, whereas if I’m moving around the room, back and forth between cleaning and reading and writing and so on, standing would be much more convenient and better for me in general. Maybe I could put the glass cabinet on that wall, fashion a desk in front of it, but also add the standing desk to the right, where our current desk is sitting. 

You can’t see it in these photos, but the glass cabinet doesn’t have its own stand — it rests on an extremely ugly 1970s or 80s wood dresser. So ANOTHER thought I’ve been turning over is going to the local second-hand building supply store to find some old kitchen cabinetry that might fit better underneath and as part of a shelving scheme. In fact, it would be perfect to find cabinetry that could go the length of the wall, too, and become a base for the shelving, plus be concealing storage. I wouldn’t mind if it doesn’t all match in style, so long as the heights and widths work and I can paint everything to match. 

Oh, if only I could get away with one of these ideas . . . 

   
   
That last one has potential with the glass cabinet we have, but still, we need a desk.

Love to do something like this, found on decoist.com:

  
Or, I could just keep drinking wine and save up the bottles for this great idea from thankgodfordesign.com:

  
I’m half tempted to try using ladders, but I’m not sure they would suit my particular style, which swings between or combines romantic / rustic with novel / Addams family. 

From decoratingyoursmallspace.com:

  
and topdreamer.com:

  
Because if I want to keep my books clean, their covers unstained and undamaged, sorting what I haven’t yet read from those I have enjoyed over and over, plus keep safe framed photos and paintings and all our assorted knick knacks and collectibles, I’m going to have to do something, soon. What we’ve got just isn’t working, even with the effort of decluttering. 

Here’s to All the Last-Minute Moms and Dads out there!

I — we — don’t mean to do it. Sometimes the events, the appointments, the important dates just sort of sneak up when we’re busiest. And at some times of the year, it’s a shitstorm of sneakiness: medical appointments blending with birthday parties and end-of-year school trips, impending in-law visits and changing work schedules and due dates for tasks. Thank heaven for the alarm on my phone — but if only I would remember to put everything into it . . .

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So here’s to the parental grapevine, and those moms I know who keep their phones handy. I appreciate the stress relief of the jokes, the shared moments, and I’m eternally grateful for the loan of last-minute supplies like bug spray. I may have known about Tuesday’s Pond Study trip since Friday, but somehow, we skipped out on gathering what he needs until about an hour ago. The kid’s got the clothes and the water bottles covered. It’s the bug spray that has me concerned. The voracious local insect hordes love him as much as they love me, so for the kid to go out in the marsh and pond areas gathering samples, he’s going to need to be virtually soaked in something that will keep them bastards off him. I’ve got Skin-so-Soft, but I know he’ll need something stronger, plus maybe a netted hat. Thank heaven that I’ve got friends . . . We’ve nailed the bug spray for tomorrow, and I should be able to get him a netted hat in the morning from the local bait shop.

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Here’s to keeping to a budget, and knowing where to shop for the little things. Although I forgot about the Pond Study tomorrow, I remembered at 3:50 that he had a birthday party to go to at 4:30, and made it to the pet store and back again with plenty of time to wrap the mini decorative beta fish tank I picked up there for $16.99 (I had to get a new bulb for the lizard’s tank anyway, so I was fortunate in killing two birds with one stone!), find him a card from the stash I keep in a shelf under a side table, and drop him off. Had I remembered the damned Pond Study trip, that would have been a good time to keep going to CanTire and get the rest of the stuff he needs . . . but I went home and napped until he had to be picked up again at 5:55 and taken to karate, to do his last training session before his grading tomorrow. Shit, that means I have to make sure the camera battery is charged, too.

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Here’s to making lists (even if we don’t look at them or stick to them or even know where they went to). The act of making the list itself is important. It’s like tying the string around the finger. The brain knows something’s up, even if that thing is still a little distant for a while. Alarms on the phone are better. Sadly, alarms can also be turned off and completely forgotten.

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Here’s to charging the phone! The alarm will only go off if the damned thing has power.

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Here’s to taking care of business right awayMy nine-year-old daughter is annoyingly good at this. She will pack her bags a week before a scheduled visit with the grandparents, or a sleepover with a friend. She insists on shopping for birthday presents the day she gets the invitation. Last week, Bridget brought home a form about Safe-Swim training being provided through her school, but we still had to get a new swimsuit on the quick, because I didn’t move on finding her stuff as soon as she told me. Procrastination, my old enemy . . . we meet again and again and again.

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Here’s to finding out the absolute last final due dates. The good news for ordering school photos is that these days, if you miss the school order deadline, you can still order online through the photography studio for up to a month after the end of school! I know, because I had to search for the info today having not yet ordered the spring prints for either of my children, particularly the one about to graduate from middle school . . .

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So here’s to all the last-minute parents out there, whether you’re single or attached, foster or grand — I raise my coffee to you. We always swear that the next time we know about an event, we’ll be fully prepared. We’ll store extra presents in the closet and spare wrapping paper and tape where we can easily find it. We’ll go out as soon as we get the field trip permission form (damn, I still have to sign that for the Pond Study) and get the kid’s supplies ready days in advance. We won’t be out cruising the streets at 10 pm at night, trying to find an open store that actually has the stuff that we need.

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Here’s to getting creative, when we have to be. And the crazy ideas we get, trying to make do on short notice. I was contemplating buying a hanging mosquito screen door thingy, to cut into a hat-cover for the boy, but I’m holding out hope for the bait shop in the morning.

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Here’s to getting up on time, after staying up late trying to get the things done that couldn’t be done while the kids were still awake.

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Here’s to double-duty, for those who have to keep straight multiple lists and children and schedules and appointments. There’s a set of things to do at home, and a set to do at work. Sometime’s it’s just a nightmare of juggling timetables and rides, and it’s hard to avoid the blame game.

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Here’s to avoiding the blame game. It doesn’t do any good to get mad when time is short and supplies are missing. We can talk about the mistakes later. If the clock is ticking and something is missed, we problem-solving parents know how to hustle — and kids learn how to cope. That doesn’t necessarily mean subjecting my son to slow torture by mosquito hell — if we can’t get everything he’s going to need, he’ll have to miss out on the experience. I know one perspective is to allot the responsibility to the boy: Some parents might blame their child who’s old enough to know the deal for not stepping up to the plate and taking care of business. But I extend that to myself for not providing a better role model or insisting that he get the job done. I’m the parent. It’s up to me to set the example and the tone. Blame can paralyze, though. Blame doesn’t get things done. Guilt’s a motivator, sure, but blame wastes time. Do the mea culpa part after the kid’s on the bus with a full backpack and bug spray.

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(deep breath)

Here’s to you, last-minute running, caffeine-loaded, sleep-deprived moms and dads and guardians. This one’s for you.

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New Game: Furniture Tetris!

My family and I don’t live in a tiny house (although I think they’re super-cute and I’d love to do that), but the space in our little three bedroom, one-and-a-half storey is at a premium. Part of that has to do with the eccentric layout — I think the original dwelling has been added onto and altered at least three times since the original construction in some time in the 1920s — and with the fact that we have too much stuff. Decluttering is still a losing battle. But this post is not going to focus on the little things that cover surfaces and fill boxes and baskets — I’m able to deal with those. Sort of. No, this is about the big things that we need to arrange to make optimum use of the space available to us.

My friends, I give you Furniture Tetris.

The rules are simple:

1) You can’t get rid of any piece of furniture that you cannot replace. the_floor_is_lava__by_finnishfox-d4psdnt

2) You have to be able to move easily from one area of the house to the next, particularly the living space, without starting a side-game of Lava Floor.

3) You have to be able to move the furniture alone, without assistance from children or partner, who will just occupy the precious space needed to adjust the hulking pieces on the board: couch, love-seat, coffee table, bench, cupboard, side table, TV stand . . .

4) The game can only be played at night or on a weekend, and must be completed within a 24 hour period, or you run the risk of the pieces freezing like the screen on an overburdened computer, and possibly NEVER MOVING AGAIN.

5) The new configuration of furniture must be significantly different from what you had before — just moving ONE piece of furniture doesn’t count. The default number of moving pieces is three. Maximum points are awarded for moving everything.

6) Washing the floors and vacuuming at any time before, during, or after Furniture Tetris constitutes levelling up, with the reward being the ability to invite friends over for coffee in the brief 24-48 hour period during which the new arrangement feels workable and the house is still acceptably clean.

I like playing this game at least twice a year, but I don’t always get my fix. It all depends on my personal energy levels, the degree to which clutter is covering the working surfaces, whether visitors from out of town have been scheduled, a holiday requiring space for a large fake tree and the requisite spread of gift-wrapped boxes underneath it, or the approach of a child’s birthday. It’s tricky, too, trying to make sure that the rest of the family is amenable to the proposed changes. After all, what works in winter (put a couch right next to or just over a heating vent and we will fight over who gets the “warm seat”) doesn’t necessarily work in summer (couch + window = HOT seat). And heaven forbid the new arrangement of furniture make it difficult for the watching of TV . . .

For example: I would love to move my dining area, making it adjacent to the front window to encourage us to actually eat at the table instead of the couch. Then I could make that nice cosy corner into a separate office space, move the couches by flipping them in the opposite directions they currently face, and putting the television in the spot where the filing cabinets are. Trust me, it all makes sense. But certain family members are resistant to my Master Plan. They might have a point about the location of the internet connection cords, but still . . .

I’ve also envisioned moving the dining area to where the computer desk and filing cabinets are — I know, I know, same problem. Damned plugs!

Honestly, I think that computer desk has been in every other corner of the room than that dining area!

I find myself envious of those who can afford or obtain those awesome pieces of fold-away furnishings. Like this stuff:

And this stuff . . .

And these things!

http://www.amazinginteriordesign.com/5-incredible-folding-furniture-designs-saving-space/

But something interesting to note: we’re looking at magazine-photo-op-ready spaces. I do know of people who are able to live and function in spaces like that, but I’m not one of them. My world is not built that way, as much as I’d like it to be. I just think that if I had some fold-away pieces, maybe my Furniture Tetris skills would improve exponentially. I’ve often fantasized about doing away with the couch and love-seat altogether, going to big fluffy floor pillows and hammocks instead, but when you live in this climate, floor-oriented furnishings simply aren’t practical. (Unless you have heated floors — heated floors are Da Bomb. I covet heated flooring.) And I doubt my lower back would appreciate the journey up and down, although I am the first to admit that I get more done before I am comfortably ensconced in my couch groove.

I am hoping to complete a successful round of my game soon, although I haven’t yet worked out all of the details. Tonight would be perfect as it’s garbage day tomorrow, making it a perfect time to declutter as well as shifting large objects. It’s also necessary, as we are looking at adopting a bearded dragon in a few days and we’ll need room for the tank. But it requires following the rules as laid out above, so at the moment, it’s a waiting game. I must wait for the room to be cleared of children and spouse. I must be able to find my steam-mop to attack a certain sticky spot left by the dog and her find of a chewy candy or drink box or whatever it was. I have to find new homes for a massive pile of random books that I’ve moved out of a cupboard I shifted in order to store my record collection under my record player (I could probably put the books into the trunk currently housing the record collection but then they’d sit unused and unseen and that’s not the point of having books!), and I’m thinking of putting a row or two of books on the top of the TV cabinet but that will require moving the framed photos and lamp and assorted thingies on display up there and where on earth will they go?

Sometimes, just sitting with things as they are seems like the simpler option.

But then I would not have the victory that awaits me — winner of another round of Furniture Tetris . . .

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Semi-Annual Paper Freakout

Every six months or so — well, actually, every break from work or when valuable papers are needed — I determine that I will get organized, use my filing cabinets, recycle what is useless and properly label everything that needs it.

It never actually happens, of course. Or, if it does, the effort lasts approximately 48 hours, and then random “filing” (read: stacks and piles shoved here there and everywhere) resumes.

This means I lose things. Not all things. Sometimes I find things long after I actually needed or wanted them. But it’s annoying and frustrating and unnecessary.

But rather than make some kind of resolution to once again get my papers in order, because it will just suck when I can’t stick to it, I am going to breathe in and out. Pick a day (maybe tomorrow) to at least go through the random piles and stacks of envelopes, old bills, new bills, correspondence, fliers, etc. Watch a few episodes of organizer shows to bolster myself. And maybe move a filing cabinet closer to the door, alongside a recycling bin.

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Three steps forward, one step back…and Ostara around the corner!

I promised an update! Here’s how my break has been going so far:

-Haven’t had daily walks — I blame the weather. Yeah, it’s a cheap excuse, but it’s snowing again, third day in a row.

Welcome to March Break in Northeastern Ontario!

Welcome to March Break in Northeastern Ontario!

I did manage to take the kids to the pool but it wasn’t great fun once my daughter started crying because she missed her grandmother. (Hope my parents are enjoying their cruise! According to their itinerary, they should be in Aruba right about now…)

-Have improved my egg boiling skills, thanks to advice from Tara Fox Hall! Now they are both edible AND tasty!

-Have made cupcakes with my lovely daughter, and both children had fun decorating them.

It was a drizzly-wet snow, cloudy, cold day -- perfect for cupcakes!

It was a drizzly-wet snow, cloudy, cold day — perfect for cupcakes!

(I think I may have eaten the bulk of them… *bites lip)

-Have cleaned my living room, my dining table is visible at last, and while I haven’t gotten to folding my laundry yet, it’s almost all clean.

The trouble I am having is with maintenance — keeping up with the order and organization once it’s all done. My daughter can destroy a room in 10 minutes or less. But we’re all improving on working together to clean and keep things clean, so that’s something.

It’s occurred to me, too, that Ostara is getting closer and I’ve not made any plans for celebrating it. I find it somewhat ironic to mark the equinox with springtime decorations because we’re still locked deeply in winter’s grip. That lovely warming we had last week is completely gone.

My children haven’t yet known what it’s like to hunt for Easter eggs in green grass and flower gardens, like they’ve seen on TV. They’re the opposite of children who’ve never seen real snow at Christmas. So my solution, in the past, has been to lay out trays of soil and grass seed on shelves by the window around Ostara, as well as planting potted flowers indoors and starting my seeds for outdoor planting later on in the spring. It’s actually quite lovely to hunt for eggs around an indoor garden. And since I’m getting back into boiled eggs, this year I can plan for some decorating fun in the coming weeks. Maybe we’ll focus on egg dying and colouring on Ostara, as a fun family activity. One year, I cut out a tree using brown packaging paper and taped it to the window, so we could hang little decorated paper eggs from it. I probably should have taken a picture of it…

But that was before we had our lovely pooch who likes to stand at the window when we’re not home…

Sometimes, passersby have wondered if Skittles is even a real animal, or just a stuffed dog!

Sometimes, passersby have wondered if Skittles is even a real animal, or just a stuffed dog!

If we tried the same decorating now, it would get wrecked in a day.

I would definitely like to start adding springtime decorations to the rest of the house, once I get my long list of chores caught up. If the house can stay clean, that is. I don’t think I used any of my Easter things last year. Maybe even bring in a likely branch to make an Ostara tree in a pot.

Reminds me also that Beltane is six weeks away. Typically, we still have snow on the ground by then, although the temperature will be much warmer. Ah, the challenges of being Pagan in the north…

So, my goals for this evening therefore include:
-finish cleaning off the dining table
-wash the floors
-sort the laundry to assist my children in folding and putting away their stuff
-editing at least two chapters of my novel, Wind and Shadow (come on, April!)
-marking journals for my Drama class

Feels like a roulette wheel is spinning with my choices marked on it. What will I accomplish? Stay tuned!

And… Enjoy some cupcakes!

Decorated by my 12 year old -- tasty good!

Decorated by my 12 year old — tasty good!

Cupcakes by my 7 year old -- tooth-achingly good!

Cupcakes by my 7 year old — tooth-achingly good!

Post-NaNo, Pre-Christmas/Yule, with Injury to Boot

So. I feel great that I met my writing goal for November, and now have a second completed book — to which I must now devote time in editing and revisions. Meanwhile, I have three weeks of marking to catch up on (that’s actually kind of normal for this time of year, for me).

My daughter’s birthday is this week, and her party approaches on the coming weekend. I haven’t done any present shopping as yet.

Nor have I decorated for Christmas/Yule. The house is still in its disorganized, jumbled, frightening state that it was in October.

I have held off my seasonal affective disorder for 30-odd days, but since I sprained my ankle badly over a week ago, it’s looming in the background like a great shadowy cloud. Not being able to move is definitely contributing. I recognize that there are many people who sustain worse injuries and anticipate being off their feet for much longer. What concerns me is how mine might potentially impact my mental health.

It’s not for lack of trying. I obediently took to crutches for four days after the incident, and then attempted to move without them for a day. It was a mistake. I had a number of colleagues tell me with great delight (haven’t heard so many “I Told You So’s” in a long time) that it was too soon to try walking solo. Returned to crutches. Took a day off work. And then had someone tell me, “You’re still on crutches?”

Yes. Yes, I am. Although I have much more mobility and much less pain, I’ve been told and have read all about how sprains — especially bad ones — take a long time to heal, and if you’re not patient, are never really the way they were. So instead of cleaning the mess of my home, shopping for Christmas cards and Christmas lights, going with my children and our dog for some lovely walks in the fresh snow, I’ve been sitting. And sitting.

And sitting.

I’ve attempted some writing. After 30 days of daily writing, I’ve taken about a week’s break, and now I think I am ready to get back.

But what I really want is a clean house, decorated for Yule, with room for yoga and wrapping presents.

Santa, can you hear me?

Also, some help on how to make my children pick up the slack — that would be nice.

I do have to say, though, that my adoring husband has been doing what he’s able, on top of his 12-hour work days driving taxi, to stay ahead of the dishes and laundry.

What this experience has brought home to me (um, yet again) is that I need to turn a deaf ear to whines of not wanting to do things and engage my children in helping with the upkeep of our home. That will require training, patience, and consequences.

And motivation on my part. Motivation is something I lack in the darkest part of the year.

Santa, I repeat — can you hear me?