Girl, put your records on, tell me your favorite song

Ever notice how Pandora internet radio plays the same 10 songs by Sting over and over or how Maroon 5 eventually appears on every playlist?

You might not get irritated by Pandora’s lack of variety if you’re an infrequent listener, but this lowest-common-denominator approach to deejaying becomes apparent on a long road trip.

That’s when you’re grateful for having had to clean out your entire house and rid yourself of a decade’s worth of detritus. Or at least consolidate like items together and make neat piles. I know exactly where to find every single fingernail clipper I own, for example. And every single music CD.

Whatever cassette tapes I might have accumulated in the ’80s are long gone, but my Beloved and I invested in a couple hundred CDs in the 2000s that we couldn’t bear to shed when digital music came along. There were a few in my car, a whole bunch in my office, a stack in Tyler’s office and a couple more stashed in various cupboards and drawers around the house. They’re all in one place now — the pickup truck cab, and we’re working our way through the pile during long days of driving.

After enduring an earworm of Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On,” I was sadly disappointed to find the jewel case with her smiling mug empty. Her CD was not stashed in someone else’s case either, so that means it’s gone and the earworm’s two lines of lyrics continue to ring. But they also make a great title for a blog post.

Today’s treasure trove of music CDs purchased and loved a decade or more ago offered up an eclectric music mix: Sonya Kitchell, Marvin Gaye, Five For Fighting, Train, Stone Temple Pilots and The Who. Oh, and the soundtrack for “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” I skipped over a custom-burned CD lettered with my Beloved’s distinctive script as “Trip 1.” There’s also a “Trip 2” and “Trip 3.” Some other day.

But I popped in a sparsely labeled disc with what I believed was code for something even he had surely forgotten: “S.R.V. In the Beginning.”

Before the first note even played, he smiled at the road ahead and said, “Stevie Ray Vaughan.” He hadn’t forgotten. One of his favorites. An hour’s worth of incomprehensible guitar proceeded to fill the cab of the truck while we drove past mile after mile of small mountain ranges and semiarid climate.

Not my first choice. But better than Maroon 5.

Dog trap

Through all the turmoil of the past few months, the dog’s been a trooper. Paranoid that we’ll leave her behind at every step, maybe, but a trooper nonetheless.

The day we whisked the last of our belongings out of the house, the nine-pound miniature schnauzer followed at our heels and howled like a much bigger dog every time we stepped outside with another load. “Don’t forget meeeeeeeee!” she telegraphed in her unmistakable dog tongue.

Of course we didn’t forget her. She, in fact, was probably our most important bundle.

She also endured many long days as we drove south, chasing weather warm enough in which to camp. In the cab of the truck, her space was cramped and so was her style. “No! You can’t be on Daddy’s lap when he’s driving in eight lanes of traffic, hauling two and half tons of our belongings!” Some days, she didn’t get to eat until the sun went down.

Now that we’ve arrived in mid-central Texas where it’s warm (if not green), she romps through the streets of the RV park trailing all sorts of scents, blissfully content to live in the moment (like always). Persevering. Like the trooper she is.

dog-trap

Today, we came home after performing a long list of errands to find her new dog dish in the middle of the floor, a good yard from its normal home by the cupboard.

How strange, we thought.

An hour or two later, when she was eating (for the third time today, making up for lost meals last week), we heard her dish go ka-THUNK!

Huh.

Upon investigation, I discovered her collar, which taps the bowl in an urgent patter during a feeding, could slip into the pretty spaces of the wrought iron dish holder.

Light bulb!

During an earlier meal when we were gone, her collar probably got caught in her bowl and she dragged it halfway across the room.

My heart broke, thinking of her, panicked to be trapped by her own food bowl, pulling her little bearded face away from the place she normally found comfort food.

At some point, she probably relented, and that’s when he collar came free.

Free! Free at last! And off she went to nap, leaving her bowl askew in the front entryway.

Among all the things I’ve shed in the past few months (we even dropped another load at Goodwill last week during our journey south!), I still have the dog’s former food bowls. So I can give away the new bowls that represent an entrapment danger and reintroduce the old, less scary ones.

Serendipity. Feels like Someone’s looking out for even the canine.

 

A new day, a new name for ye olde blog

You might have thought I dropped off the face of the earth, but in fact, I’m simply crawling the face of the Earth now.

In an RV.

Not actually the one in the updated header for this blog. A different recreational vehicle. This picture features the tried-and-true 1983 Pace Arrow in which we traveled many happy miles.

[If you’re a subscriber who is enjoying this post in your email In Box, this is the header image I’m talking about.]

cropped-rv-004.jpg

We own a different camper now. A slightly newer model that we like to call “home.” Because, yes, we sold the house. The house otherwise known as the millstone around our necks that I spent five months emptying of its contents. Not a big fan of home ownership nowadays (oh, you can bet you’ll hear about it but probably in another post on another day). I’m sure I’ll own another house filled with Costco-sized quantities of quinoa and paper towels. Just not right now.

So yes, without roots, I can hardly be a transplant, now can I? So I’m calling this blog Minnesota Wonderer. [Subscribers, you’re going to have to visit the blog to see this. The name has changed, but the url hasn’t; you can still find me at minnesotatransplant.wordpress.com. And, to complete the transition, I updated my About page, too. In my new description, I got to use the word “vagabond,” which is pretty exciting to a logophile.]

Wonderer is a perfect homonym to describe what happens here. Because I do wonder. I wonder about a lot of things. But I also wander. So you’ll still get a lot of philosophical yarns but you’ll also be reading about tiny living and traveling, too, which I hope makes this blog more appealing to you, not less.

Stay tuned. Because you wonder what’s gonna happen next.

She stuck a feather in her cap and called it macaroni

Be creative is my mantra for 2017.

cre·a·tive /krēˈādiv/ relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work

That’s me this year. A regular fountain of original ideas.

But it’s tough to be creative when one is preparing paperwork to have the taxes done or packing, say, every single thing you own. Paperwork and packing are boring.

But I’m sneaking in a little originality when I can.

So today, I’m cleaning out the pantry.

(Any good native of Minnesota starts every story with “so”).

Anyway, I’m cleaning out the pantry, and I find a plethora of pasta.

I didn’t exactly “find” it. I knew it was there, haunting me in my dreams. I’ve tried to think up ways to eat it up, but there was just so much. Or more precisely, so many. Lots of packages, mostly half empty (or half full, depending on your perspective on the world).

Lasagna noodles, soba noodles, egg noodles. Rotini, cavatelli, gemelli, fusilli, elbow macaroni, skinny elbow macaroni, spaghetti, angel hair spaghetti, quinoa spaghetti, supergrain spaghetti, multi-grain spaghetti, ready-cut spaghetti. And stelline (for your chicken and stars soup, you know).

Seventeen packages.

Yes, I know. Please don’t heap any more guilt on me. Why did I buy so much? Why haven’t we eaten it? Why did I keep it?

So I came up with an ingenious way to get rid of it without just throwing it away.

I posted the following on the local Facebook classifieds page:

Do kids today still do macaroni art? I’ve got 17 opened boxes and bags of various kinds of pasta that would work for a daycare or preschool. Yes, 17 — don’t judge. I can’t give away to the food pantry because it’s open, but the waste of dumping seems extravagant. FREE — all you’ve got to do it pick it up. Anyone interested?

As any good marketer knows, presentation matters. So rather than post a picture of a messy pile of half-empty pasta containers, I got creative. (Do you feel like you’re listening to a Lake Wobegon story yet?)

macaroni-art

This is me. Looking at you.

Hey, it worked! Someone’s coming for my leftover pasta on Monday.

What I cast away in 2016

Americans, I think, tend to think about things — everything — in terms of gain. Bigger means better. More is good. The best houses are mansions. Personal income and the stock market should always go up. Value meals are valuable because they offer more calories for the buck. The Grand Canyon is worth seeing because it’s, well, grand.

I look at my accomplishments like this. A job worth doing is even better when I can multi-task. Any day is a better day when I can look back on a long list of things to do that got done. A year is always better when it was full.

But 2016 was not of year of making gains for me, it was a year of losing things. Mostly, I lost clutter, an untidy collection of people, places and things no one wants.

A big thing I lost was a court case. I wrote about this court case last January, when we were in the midst of trial. To summarize a seven-year ordeal as succinctly as I can, I was among four named plaintiffs suing on behalf of 400 fellow employees to recoup our retirement fund. I was hopeful a year ago that we would prevail, but we didn’t. The judge issued his ruling in September and I learned, much to my dismay, that losers have to pay the winners’ court fees. Yeah, first I lost my retirement, then I lost the court case and then I was on the hook to pay literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in court fees. That would explain why I never blogged about the judgment; I struggled to find a bright spot.

But after much back and forth, we were forgiven the court fees and legally put the whole drama to bed. So even though I lost the case, I gained peace of mind and the gift of putting all the stress and sorrow behind me.

My Beloved and I also observed the end of an era when my stepson (the younger of my two stepchildren) graduated from college and got a job. He’s still our child, but he’s no longer a child. He’s a self-supporting adult. What we lose in terms of a dependent, we gain in the form of a new approach to parenting. Less control, more equality.

I also helped my stepdaughter scrape a barnacle off the hull of her ship. Without getting into the details, I relished in the opportunity to live in the same house with her for a while, a chance I didn’t get when she was a teenager. Living together with anyone breeds familiarity and in this case, affection.

I effectively and definitively kicked my 40s to the curb in 2016. On Dec. 23, I officially became a member of the AARP crowd. Honestly, I hate aging and I’m not thrilled to be 50, but let’s just say, I discovered some elixirs to dull the effects. Thank you, modern pharmaceuticals.

abundance

An image of abundance, captured at an outdoor market in Barcelona, Spain. I didn’t need to buy pounds of dried fruits or nuts to appreciate their beauty.

Other losses in 2016: The Cubs ended a long drought of World Series wins. That was fun. The Dems lost the White House. No matter what you think of the result, a poli-sci major like me found the whole messy process fascinating. I gave up my post-a-day blogging habit, having written something on this blog only 81 times this year, the fewest since 2008 when I posted three times (I’m hoping to turn this bad habit around in 2017).  And I lost 17 glorious June days on a European vacation. In fact, I traveled 161 days in 2016, and the only thing I missed about home was the bills stacking up.

Most significantly and triumphantly, I lost an ugly pantry, some disgusting bathroom flooring and a literal ton of household ephemera. When we decided to list our house on the market (the house itself was the reason for the aforementioned bills), we knew we had to remodel the pantry (did you miss the before-and-after shots? Not to worry — click here) and replace the carpeting in the master bath. Yes, carpeting. Can’t believe I lived with it for nine years. My Beloved and I learned how to tile, and now I can see each individual stray strand of hair I leave behind after a shampoo. After sorting through every last closet and drawer in the house, we shredded 14 boxes of paperwork, filled the trash can innumerable times and dropped off 15 carloads (or at least trunks full) of stuff at Goodwill. I won’t miss a single one of those things, and I’ve learned how to curb my propensity to accumulate.

To fair, not all that I cast away had an upside. I also lost a few treasures.

Like my uncle, who succumbed to a brain tumor in September at age 65. I got one last visit with him in August that feels like a gift.

And my youth, which died quietly of an overdose in April in an elevator in Paisley Park. Of all the shocking celebrity deaths in 2016, Prince’s was personal for anyone who considers Minnesota home.

These sorts of losses serve as reminders that time is short and should be spent carefully, with people and in places we love. So here’s to 2017: May we all spend our time well.

Mooning about

If you think you’ve heard about supermoons a lot this year, you’re not mistaken. Today’s full moon (occurring at exactly 6:05 this afternoon in Chicagoland) is the fifth supermoon of the year, following similar displays in April, May, October and November.

A supermoon is a full moon when the moon is in its closest orbit to earth. We won’t get another supermoon of the magnitude of November’s impressive display until 2034, but today’s full moon is also considered a supermoon. Some will call it a Full Cold Moon because it falls so close to Winter Solstice. I’m calling it Stone Cold Awesome (apologies to WWE fans).

Astrologically (if you’re into star signs and horoscopes), people get loony when the moon is full so theoretically, they go super crazy in a supermoon. Are you going super crazy? I go super crazy with every full moon because I believe anew that I can get a good picture of it.

supermoon

I’ve tried and failed to take decent photographs of the moon, but the camera on my iPhone is just not designed for night photography. This is a photo I snapped during last month’s full moon. That’s no filter; as blurry as this image is, it could be a watercolor painting.

You might also notice the lack of snow cover a month ago. We have plenty now, thanks to Jack Frost and his army of nimble flakes.

Here’s to the last full moon of the year. Wishing you lunacy.

“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.”

~ George Carlin

 

 

Key to blogging longevity: Fingers on keyboard

You know that saying “if you want to get something done, ask a busy person”? It applies to writing and blogging, too, at least for me.

Busy bloggers write more.

That’s what I’ve learned from two blogging experiences this year.

I’ve had a spotty year in terms of daily blogging. I did a decent job of showing up regularly in January, May and November, but in the other nine months of the past year, I posted only 20 times, which is less than once a week.

Previous to 2016, I was a blogging fiend, and in eight years here, I’ve posted 1,934 times (for an annual average of 242). Not bad for a casual blogger.

In May of this year, after three months of poor work, I pledged to myself to post a blog entry every day.

And I did! Yay, me! But I realized I hadn’t written one word on the manuscript I was working on. So I promised myself I wouldn’t write a blog post unless I did at least a little work on my book (I guess I do a lot of self talk,  huh?).

Epic fail. I only wrote five entries from June to October.

So I made a new promise in November, which is when writers everywhere celebrate NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month. The stated goal is to get 50,000 words down on paper. Writers everywhere are racing to the finish Right. Now.

I figured if some people could write 50,000 words (or 1,666 a day), I could shoot to write something. Every. Day. No matter what.

As we say farewell to November, I accomplished my goal, writing 15,525 words this month (averaging more than 500 a day). Between this blog, my author blog and my photo organizing blog, I’ve posted every day. And I finished my work-in-progress manuscript and sent it off to my editor!

My success only proves Newton’s Law that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion and bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. My slothfulness this summer just cultivated more of the same, but my creative spark tended to stay lit when I fed the fire.

Admittedly, some days’ writing is better than others. But you know what they say: Eighty percent of success if showing up.

Here’s to showing up.