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Priorities

PhotoFunia-4ac1f83

Off to the supermarket we went to provision ourselves in our new home sweet home. I picked up extra virgin olive oil and yellow mustard and eggs and hamburger. My Beloved stocked up on beer. And fresh flowers.

“Fresh flowers … are like a bundle of sunshine, a gift from nature that glows with good cheer.”

~ Martha Stewart

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Home, sweet home

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, as noted by author Neale Donald Walsch, but to there’s something to be valued in one’s comfort zone, too. Let her sleep. For when she wakes, she will move mountains.

Top 10 things to do when you’re home alone

I am savoring a few rare hours of solitary seclusion.

My Beloved and my Adored stepson are on an overnight business trip, leaving me home alone with the dog. This is rare because my Beloved works from home, as do I; we often dine on every meal together for weeks at a time and we usually travel together, even on business trips.

But not today. I have the whole house to myself. I purposely didn’t schedule any client visits. And here’s what I’m gonna do:

  1. Turn off every single, solitary room fan. I hate fans. I hate how fans make my eyes dry and my skin clammy. I’d rather sweat. My Beloved, for all his wonderful traits, drives me nuts by flipping on the fan no matter what time of year; he’d prefer the highest setting in all circumstances. But not today. Today, the air will be as still as a coffin.
  2. Leave the radio on, tuned to 89.5, the local National Public Radio station. What do you wanna bet the radio requires less electricity than the fan?
  3. Wear no bra and the baggiest, ugliest sweat pants I own. Why wear anything at all? Well, with the fans off, my thighs might stick together so I’m not subscribing to the strip-and-go-naked lifestyle.
  4. Spend ridiculous amounts of time in my office surfing the internet and writing whatever I want — a blog post, a book outline, a chapter in my next book. Ha! Human interaction?! I laugh at you!
  5. Eat supper whenever I get hungry, even if it’s 4 o’clock. Or 8 o’clock. Or both.
  6. Cook whatever I want to eat with no regard for the consequences to those around me. One word: Garlic.
  7. Read the newspaper — or a blog, or a magazine, or a book — while I eat. My Adored stepson (quite maturely, I might add) forbids iPads at the dinner table. I agree with this rule, but he also forbids my iPad at breakfast. Well, I am my father’s daughter, and I prefer reading my e-newspaper over my eggs or oatmeal.
  8. Watch the Oprah channel. I will use the “record” button frequently and ignore “recording conflicts.” Any shows with “DIY,” “house” or “food” take precedence over shows with “car,” “fast” or “pawn” in the title.
  9. Arrange the pillows on the couch. Once. Our couch gets a real workout, and the decorative pillows on it are constantly thrown out-of-the-way on the floor. But for the time being, the pillows will sit prettily where they’re supposed to be — and that’s not on the floor.
  10. Pee with the door open! Rebels unite! One of the marriage rules I abide by (some of these rules work better than others, but I’m stickin’ with this one): Never let your spouse see you on the commode (and make him close the door so you don’t have to see that either). It preserves the tiniest shred of mystery between two people who know each other better than anyone else in the world.

I can’t wait ’til your return, Sweetheart. (But don’t hurry on my account.)

Care to add to this list? What do you do when you’re home alone?

Crystal landscapes

When I woke up yesterday, it was 60something degrees and I luxuriated in a 60-minute run wearing a tank top and shorts. When I went to sleep, I turned on my heated mattress pad and tucked my sweet little dog under the covers.

crystal 1

Nothing like a sunny beach to attract a crowd.

Yesterday was the last day of vacation, and in the space of a few hours I traded the crystal sands of Clearwater Beach for the crystal snow of Harmony Road.

The sun sets on a snowy field whizzing by my car window.

The sun sets on a snowy field whizzing by my car window.

It was a glorious few days away, and I don’t want to rub it in to those of you who endured more sub-zero temps and snow flurries.

Despite Florida’s lovely weather and the opportunity to catch a couple of Twins spring training games, I was so grateful to get home to:

  • My perky little dog with whom I was reunited in a barky, tail-wagging frenzy at my mother-in-law’s.
  • My own king-sized, comfortable bed.
  • My clean, super-flusher toilet (seriously, public bathrooms are a drag).
  • My burr grinder, new coffee maker and a fresh bag of beans from Peter James Coffee. The best part of waking up.
  • My glorious private hot tub.

My point? Even if you can’t get away, maybe you can appreciate the wonderful aspects that make home, sweet home.

The habit of housekeeping elevates the mundane to the sublime

The Power of the Mundane resonates with me.

Rachael at Frugal Faye blogs about this in “The Power of the Mundane: Why I Love Housekeeping.”

She describes the Power of the Mundane as “sameness and routine that creates that sense of ‘this is how life is,'” and she argues that there is beauty in housekeeping exactly because it involves “repeated activities that are completed predictably over and over and over”:

“The cumulative years of those daily activities: cooking dinner, folding laundry, tidying up all matter. In a frantic, unpredictable world, these monotonous chores and exercises are comfort and stability.”

Is that the most beautiful description of housekeeping you’ve ever heard?

It makes so much sense to laud the power of repetition, however boring it may be. Exercising or eating a banana for breakfast can be boring, too, but exercising every day or eating fruit for breakfast every morning can change your health. Socking away a little bit of every paycheck in a 401(k) plan is not nearly as fun as spending it, but do that with every paycheck and in time, you’ll have a nest egg worth thousands of dollars. Arriving on time to work, lunch dates and appointments takes constant effort, but over time, it earns you a reputation of dependability.

Mahatma Gandhi knew the power of repetition, too, when he said: “Your actions become your habits, your habits become your values.”

Among my “what matters” resolutions this year is to “Make a comfortable home: Cook, clean, decorate, organize.”

It is not exactly the sort of resolution I would have made 10 years ago when I aspired to climb the corporate ladder and I was married to a man who did almost all the housekeeping.

But I am in a different place with a new man now. Part of my desire to create a comfortable home is altruistic (because I know my Beloved values it) and part of it is selfish (because if I’m going to spend as much time in my home as I do, it might as well be clean and pretty). Mucking out and redecorating my home office last year reminded me how peaceful a beautiful space can be.

The cooking part of the resolution is easier for me. Cooking is creative. I love assembling various ingredients I happen to have on hand into a creative dish (like frittata or soup). I love garnishes, too. Even when it’s just me and my Beloved, the plate is not complete unless it’s sprinkled with parsley or there’s a pickle on it, and I love putting dip into little metal cups on my plate.

Still, I hate housekeeping. Hate, hate, hate. But I realize if I want to achieve this resolution to make a comfortable home, I need to figure out how to make peace with these repetitive tasks.

Do I want to be known as the grumpy woman with a clean house or the cheerful lady with a clean house? The house deserves to be neat and clean in any case; I have the power to change my attitude.

I am reminded of what Thich Nhat Hanh writes about washing dishes in Peace is Every Step:

“To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren’t doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water and each movement of my hands.”

I shall attempt to harness the Power of the Mundane this year and be mindful about housekeeping. I may not be able to change the world, but I can change my little place in it.

Pantry makeover beats reality TV

I don’t know what it is about my personality type that I adore before-and-after pictures so much, but I must not be the only one because room/closet/hair/body makeover photos can be found everywhere.

I found myself staying up late last night waiting for the after images of the conjoined twins on the latest episode of Oprah’s “Where Are They Now,” and I don’t know why I was so entranced. I’m not a conjoined twin. I don’t have a conjoined twin. I don’t even know a conjoined twin. Why did I feel compelled to see these strangers made famous by Oprah?

I don’t know. I guess I’m a sicko.

Apparently, TLC is making lots of money off this rubbernecking fascination. When I was checking on OWN’s TV offerings tonight, I happen to notice tonight’s TLC lineup includes “900 Pound Man: The Race Against Time,” “The Man with the 132-lb Scrotum” and “40 Year Old Child: A New Case.”

Really?

Instead of indulging in TLC’s car accidents, I worked on one of my own today: My pantry.

Pantry: Before

Pantry: Before

It was such a disaster area that when I resorted to “storing” my latest Costco staples on the floor, I knew I had to do something. What’s worse is that this pantry is in an often-used entryway to our home, so it was an eyesore to guests, too. How embarrassing (not as awkward as a 132-pound scrotum, I’m guessing, but still, it’s unseemly).

I removed absolutely everything, washed the floor (yes! the woman who doesn’t mop floors! swept and mopped! I know!), dumped most packages less than half full (I did keep a half-dozen well-wrapped Thin Mints, however) and replaced everything by theme: Cleaning supplies, paper products, breakfast foods, crackers, pasta, chips, sweets, coffee, dog food, etc.

Pantry: After

Pantry: After

I discovered I have enough aluminum foil, quart-size storage bags and paper plates to last a lifetime, but at least they’re all in one place now. I need to get a few organizing devices, but I made vast improvements without spending a cent (and no surgery either!). I’m left with a pile of paper bags, which I think I’ll just toss, and a bunch of kitchen linens for which I need to find a home.

Perhaps my before-and-after photos here will satisfy your rubbernecking inclinations and you can ignore TLC tonight in favor of something more redeeming. Like Oprah’s highly anticipated interview with Lindsay Lohan.

Kidding!

Sweet home Minnesota

Words have power, and I believe one can speak perceptions into reality.

For example, when one tells a child he’s stupid, he’ll come to believe it and ultimately fulfill it. When a worker tells himself work sucks, his labors will be a drag. When a woman tells herself she’s good enough, she’s smart enough and people like her, she’ll carry herself with confidence.

It’s like the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz” talking himself into faith: “I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks. I do, I do, I do, I do.”

To which the Wicked Witch of the West replied, “Ah! You’ll believe in more than that before I’m finished with you!”

But to a certain extent, one can’t rise above one’s roots no matter how many personal affirmations one repeats. I want to believe I’m cosmopolitan and worldly. I do, I do, I do.

I eat sushi. I’ve been to London. I don’t wear high-rise, pleated, ankle-length khakis.

But I’m a fraud. I’m just a Minnesota girl at my core, and I can’t escape it.

I had a moment of perfect contentment this morning. I was left alone in my 1983 motor home at the Minnesota campground that had been crowded during opening-of-fishing weekend but now sat practically empty and quiet. I sipped a cup of coffee, not quite Lutheran but not too strong either, reading my Minneapolis Star Tribune on my iPad. A gentle breeze blew through the screened windows, and Minnesota Public Radio played in the background. I was looking forward to the afternoon Minnesota Twins game that was about to begin.

For a little while, everything was perfect. I was just so happy.

But then the coffee got cold, my stomach growled and the Twins failed to score with the bases loaded (again). So my perfect contentment didn’t last forever, but I reflected at how comforted I am with my Minnesota security blankets.

I haven’t lived in Minnesota for five years — the longest we’ve ever lived apart — but my psyche has been forever shaped by my home state. I can’t outgrow it.

At least that’s what I say. And words have power.