Category Archives: home

Attention Span

While I was standing next to my car last week, filling up the tank, I realized that the screen embedded in the fueling station didn’t just have some pop-up ads showing but an actual video stream of a basketball game. TV.

At my gym, there is a speaker OUTSIDE that plays music as you are approaching/departing the building. Equipment like bikes and treadmills all have individual tv screens and for the weight-lifting machine there are big screens hanging from the ceiling.  There is even a TV in the locker room.  In most airports you can’t find a space that doesn’t have something blaring at you. With everyone glued to their phones these days, it seems a waste of electricity.

It made me think that we have become a society with such a limited attention span that we need 24/7 entertainment. There are several folks here at my office who use earbuds all the time – even when they are away from their desks and I often see people walking along, looking like they are talking to themselves, but of course they are on their phones.

In college I had a professor who had memorized all of Paradise Lost by John Milton.  Today he’d have it downloaded to his phone so he could access it whenever he wanted!

What the largest thing you have memorized?

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today’s post is by Steve Grooms.

February 20 is my dad’s birthday. Or, I think it is. I used to have documents about such things, but I have moved too often, and I’ve lost much of the paperwork I once had. I once asked my mother if Dad had been born on the 20th.  She said, “George was born on the day George Washington wasn’t.” Mom sometimes talked like Gracie Allen.

My sister recently wrote that my dad and I were exceptionally close. We probably were, although I regret some differences that divided us. My father was socially and politically conservative. He was distinctly uneasy in the presence of assertive women. He came from a family that uncritically endorsed military service. Dad served in WW2, although his experience left him troubled about his government and the military. My hatred of the Vietnam War became a real problem for my dad. All in all, I think we were closer than almost any father and son pair I’ve seen.

We were both divided and united by a love for hunting and fishing. Dad taught me how to fish, and he introduced me to pheasant hunting. In the end, I drifted away from fishing the way he did it, and my style of hunting pheasants was totally unlike his. I tried to disguise those differences, for I didn’t want to hurt him. He chose to emphasize our common interest, although I’m sure it sometimes bothered him that I went my own way.

My dad was a storyteller. I could fill several books with stories he told me on an astonishing array of topics. I keep and treasure so many stories from him that I sometimes wonder if I have forgotten anything he told me. My memory is actually porous and fallible in many areas. My memory for stories, however, is awesome, and my dad shared an amazing treasure trove of stories with me. My love for stories is the most obvious of his legacies to me.

Several years ago I decided to write a book about my parents’ lives. I spent six years researching, writing and editing book. I began the project believing I understood my parents, especially my father. But as I retrieved more and more memories and contemplated them, I realized that my original sense of my dad was shallow and often wrong.

One odd discovery was learning that my dad was so handsome that women sometimes had trouble keeping their composure around him. This just is not a way people think about their parents. As I worked on the book I encountered stories about his impact on women. One reason I missed this so long was my dad didn’t care what women thought of him. He was a one-woman man.

Another surprise: the better I got to know my dad, the more I respected him. I have never met a man with as much integrity. I know his many flaws and shortcomings. He had a terrible childhood that left marks. I’ve witnessed his worst moments of weakness. I know what terrified him and what gave him hope. In the end, he stands as one of the finest men I’ve personally known. That, believe me, was a surprise.

Why do I write this now? When I was dating after my divorce I was surprised to learn that many children don’t know much about their mothers and even less about their fathers. All the women I got to know well had adult children. Those kids, without exception were absolutely clueless about their parents’ lives. Young people are usually too busy with their own lives to think much about their parents. That is surely the norm, and it was probably foolish of me to expect anything else.

When I understood my parents better I was moved by the drama of their story. I continue to wonder if they were exceptional that way. Perhaps most couples that seem boring actually are boring. Or perhaps many people lead fascinating lives but nobody ever notices their moments of great courage and passion.

Do you believe you know your parents well?

Snowstorm

Today’s post comes from Barbara In Rivertown.

WELL, I guess we’ve finally got our snow, at least here in Minnesota. I remember, at the end of that December-January dry spell saying “Oh, we really need some snow or there will be a drought come April, when there’s supposed to be a thaw.” Watch what you ask for – request was granted!

It was so pretty that I took some photos, and Ben sent a few taken from his driveway. A friend of mine has allowed me to post one she took on her patio, that is quite naturally dubbed The Birthday Cake.

There will no doubt be more snow – heck, we’re not even through February!

What’s the longest you’ve been snowed in somewhere – where you really couldn’t get out?

What’s a great “snowed-in” story from a movie or book?

Garden Dreams

It is so cold here this week, and there are so many disasters galore regarding my husband’s frozen-up pick up on the rez, that it has been a real relief to receive garden seeds in the mail.  We will start tomatoes and peppers in the next week or so.

What are your garden dreams? What are your hopes for the next year?

The Six-Tripper

You saw what happened to my studio a couple of weeks ago. I got advice from a construction buddy of mine about how to re-hang the shelves so they would be sturdy, to hopefully avoid ever having them fall down again.  As you can see from the above photo, everything is back in order, but it’s a good thing I like the folks at my local hardware store.  It was an epic number of times stopping by before I was done.

  • Trip #1: Bought the new shelf brackets and toggle screws
  • Trip #2: Bought the correct drill bit since I apparently didn’t have that size after all
  • Trip #3: Bought the little washers when it turned out the screws were a teeny bit too small for the holes in the brackets.
  • Trip #4: Bought longer screws when it turned out the first screws weren’t long enough to push the toggles all the way through the plaster and wood
  • Trip #5: Bought 3 more toggle screws to replace the ones that fell down behind the wall when I put the first bracket on upside down.
  • Trip #6: Bought the spackle to fill in the spots where the old shelves had been attached.

I’ve never had a 6-trips-to-the-hardware-store project before. I’ve had lots of 2-trippers and a few 3-trippers, but never more than that.  The worst part of this 6-trip debacle is that each and every step was a different day;  I was working on this at night and every time I realized I needed to go back to the hardware store, they were closed for the night!

If you’ve seen photos of my studio before, it probably doesn’t look any different to you but it feels different to me – all put back together as well as nice and clean now. And I doubt anything will bring those shelves down again – fingers crossed!

When have you had a frustrating project?

Marie Kondo is a Big Deal

Today’s post is by Steve Grooms

The title of this article is a joke. Marie Kondo is tiny, actually. Her height, according to the national press, is five inches short of five feet. And yet she is unquestionably a big deal in the culture. Kondo has become famous and influential by teaching folks how to reduce clutter in their homes. She wrote four books that have been translated into eight languages. She has produced a series of videos on the art of tidying up one’s home. A series of her videos has been airing on Netflix under the title of “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” A newspaper article yesterday said Twin Cities resale shops are stuffed with bargains now because Kondo has encouraged so many people to offload unwanted stuff.

The title she prefers is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Note how that differs from the simple idea that most people have way too much stuff. Kondo wants to change lives, not just tidy up messes, and she hopes to use “magic” to accomplish that. Working from her background in Japan’s Shinto religion, Kondo finds magic in inanimate objects. Before she helps a client declutter a home Kondo kneels reverently in an effort to introduce herself to the home. She asks clients to touch each object they own and keep it only if it “sparks joy” in their lives.

Kondo has a fairly rigid process for tidying up a home. It starts with clients making a pile of every single article of clothing they own. The piles are usually massive. Then she asks  clients to attack that pile, chucking out every item that fails to spark joy. The process moves along deliberately, taking several weeks to play out, concluding with an emotionally wrenching effort to jettison sentimental objects.

A few observers have criticized Kondo. Oddly enough, a woman who has written four books doesn’t seem to revere them. She has said nobody needs to keep more than 30 books. Kondo thinks a book one hasn’t read in three years is ripe for dumping, and she sees no value in keeping a book one has already read. My daughter, the person who urged me to get to know Kondo, vehemently disagrees on the topic of books!

Kondo could come off as a nag were it not for her sweet personality and spiritualism. Her approach to life and the stuff people accumulate keep attracting converts. I believe most people in our culture are troubled about how much stuff we own. Many of us would like ourselves better if we could dump a lot of that stuff and live in an uncluttered environment.

Do you currently suffer from having too much stuff? What sparks joy in your life?

Adventures in Moving

Husband moved yesterday on the reservation from one quarter of a double wide trailer to  half of a double wide trailer right next to his work.  The old trailer, where he has lived for four years, was across from the casino and right next to a gravel pit, so it was pretty dusty.  The fridge didn’t work, and he kept his food cold in a camping cooler. It was sort of like a studio apartment with a bathroom.  Now he has a bedroom and a bathroom and a kitchen. The fridge works. He has a dishwasher and a washer/dryer.

The trailer set up is thus: two double wide trailers are attached to one another end on end, one intended as a sober house for men, and one for women.  There was never enough staff to make the sober houses functional.  They connect in the middle in a laundry and furnace room.  Husband and I were moving things into the laundry room when we realized that the door had closed and we were locked in. We had no key . There was no one nearby to hear us call for help.  We were possibly locked in the room forever.  Neither of us had a phone.  Luckily, there was a kitchen knife above the washing machine, and I pried the lock open. It was a very frightening two minutes.

Tell about some of your moving adventures.