Monthly Archives: August 2014

Never again

It’s strange when you realize there are things, for one reason or another, you will never do again.

I’m physically strong for a woman and always have been. It’s something I took a little pride in; I liked being able to do things and not always stand off to the side or have to ask for help. “Let me do it,” was my go-to phrase. One time at a carnival, a midway booth was testing strength with hand grips. They had two, one for each gender. I surprised the attendants by testing past the top rating on the woman’s grip, so they handed me the one for guys, on which I scored “weak man.” (I could see it was a slur against men but I was happy to merit the rating.) In my glory days, I never did try one of those swing-the-hammer-ring-the-bell strength tests, but I secretly wanted to.

I can’t believe now, some of the physical tasks I used to do. I never hired anybody for any of my many moves; alone or with a few friends, I did it, hauling furniture, boxes, etcetera. I haven’t hesitated, when I saw a nice-looking piece of furniture by the road to pick it up and walk it home. Tables, dressers, a pine coffee table. For years, each season, I’d carry huge, old-fashioned window air conditioners – up a flight of stairs and back down. Again, I don’t know how I did it. They must’ve weighed 100 pounds or darn close, and given their sharp-edge boxy shape, were awkward as hell. The worry, in addition to losing a grip, was tripping over the stupid cord and taking a tumble, but I psyched myself up – you can do this! – and proceeded.

A couple years ago I managed to get a 6 foot long cherry wood dresser down a flight of narrow stairs. First I had to stand the piece on end to get it around a tight corner. There was a hairy moment or two when it got wedged against the wall part way down the stairs but was freed and it – and I – eventually reached the first floor unscathed. I knew that was the last time I would ever do a physical feat so extreme. I crossed a line. I was pushing it and my confidence in my ability to successfully pull off stunts like that was diminishing. (In this case, the imagined bad scenario was losing hold of the dresser and having it careen on down the stairs of its own accord, stopping only when it crashed into an immovable object such as a wall.) And I didn’t want to hurt myself. All my parts have a few years on them and they’re all originals. I need them to keep working. Never again, I thought.

I will never do a back dive into a swimming pool again, although to be honest, it’s been decades since I executed one. Still, for a long while, I imagined I could do one if I wanted. I no longer think any such thing. A back dive?! The hand-stands, which I never felt whoppingly secure with in the first place, are vague-ish memories. I do not expect to ever roller skate again, and ice-skating seems unlikely as well. I sucked at both, and my fear of falling, which rather impeded my crappy skills, I’m quite certain has not vanished.

I don’t know if I’ll ever go on a roller coaster again. I like amusement park rides but I never liked those. I remember just waiting for it to be over. Same for anything that turns riders upside down and/or suspends them in that compromised position. Or free falls, so that one’s internal organs feel as though they’ve been left behind. Never again.

If – and it’s “if” – I climb a tree again, I doubt very much I’ll venture as high as I used to. I get dizzy just thinking about far up I’d go, where a branch snapping, or a foot losing its hold, would have meant disaster. Besides, getting up there is one thing; it’s climbing back down that is the real pickle. How would I explain what I, a grown woman, was doing stuck up in a tree?! “I just wanted to see if I could still do it…” [Side story: I also liked trying to see if I could fit through small spaces. There’s a particular gate not far from where I live and not long ago I got tempted to see if I could squeeze between the rungs. It’s in a spot where people come to walk, run and bike, so I made sure no one was around before trying it. The mortification of getting myself stuck was definitely on my mind. I know exactly how peculiar a grown woman, who I dare say has been described as looking “elegant,” “sophisticated” and lord help me, even “glamorous” would appear doing such things in other people’s eyes.]

I will not be wearing a tube top again. They were never good news in the first place, providing no boobage support and constantly needing to be yanked up. Same goes for strapless dresses lest they have built-in structural features to keep them where they belong. It’s been a long time since I had a strap-less dress and any I previously owned were the keep-yanking-’em-up variety. Never again. I still wear short skirts and dresses, since I’m lucky to have the legs for them, but I’ve got limits now, or rather the hemline can’t be too limited. Sexy is one thing; foolish is another. Same goes for any apparel with kittens, monkeys, cartoon characters, or any other childish accents. No more. There will also be no big bows in my hair or on my clothes. Small ones – I do so like bows! – maybe.

Are there things you will never do again?

My bird bathing station is all the rage

These aren’t good photos (taken from a tablet on zoom, through a screen tent & cropped – shocking they aren’t high caliber) but I wanted to show you a couple visitors to the Bird Bath Station this summer. No, I don’t mean the stone lions.

This was just before the dove freaked out as doves are wont to do

This was just before the dove freaked out as doves are wont to do

Chickadees are the cutest

Chickadees are the cutest

Each titmouse gets their own pool

Each titmouse gets their own pool

Mr. Squirrel takes a dainty sip

Mr. Squirrel takes a dainty sip

Catbird had been shy but not today.

Catbird had been shy but not today.

How very refreshing!

“How very refreshing!”

Let me shimmy this way.

“Let me shimmy this way.”

Getting into this.

“Getting into this.”

This one might be better.

“This one might be better.”

Oh, I love it when I have all the pools to myself! The way it SHOULD be.

“Oh, I love it when I have all the pools to myself! The way it SHOULD be.”

Well, that oughta do it for today. Damn, I wish the snack bar was open.

“Well, that oughta do it for today. Damn, I wish the snack bar was open.”

Thrift store gold (oh ok, actually wood)

I like thrift stores and second-hand shops. And things from the past that have character. I don’t mean broken, lead-paint ridden, cracked, grungy, splintery, rusty, moth-ball scented stuff. Like when you go into a place that’s supposedly decorated with antiques and everything smells weird and you wouldn’t dream of sitting on the uncomfortable, festering furniture or walking on the decaying carpets that probably haven’t been cleaned in 60 years, and the bureau drawers can’t be pulled out by mere mortals, and the mirrors are so discolored they can only reflect suggestions of images and dust. No. Not what I had in mind.

I walked into a local thrift store and saw this.

It’s small, under 8″ high. Not only is it very cute with the whimsical painted touches, but it still functions as a stepping stool. It easily takes my weight (I don’t hear any bad crunching sounds when I step onto it). The construction is sound and this stool has obviously seen years of good use. (How long do you suppose those plastic stepping stools sold now last?) When not in use, it can stay in a corner where I see it unlike an ugly, pedestrian step stool that is best stowed out of sight.

But here’s the part that sold me.

I have no idea who Bethany Lynn was or is. Considering the spacing, there may have been an initial lost to a sticker between Bethany and Lynn. I love that somebody, likely a parent, either bought or made this stool for their little girl and then stenciled on her name. If I had a little step stool with my name on it when I was a kid, I would have been delighted. I think most kids – even today’s kids – would. (After all, no matter how many toys or other privileges they have, children are still out of luck if they can’t reach stuff. Like the sink.)

There are faded clues to its history on the underside of the stool. One looks like a typed label with possibly an address. A store name? Can’t make it out. The other is better. Handwritten in pencil by an adult: December something, and what looks like “1959.” The “195” is clear. So the stepping stool is certainly at least 55 years old. I don’t know where you are or what’s become of you, Bethany Lynn, but thanks. I’ll take good care of your bunny stepping stool.

Back the hell off already, I don’t know you!

In public, strangers, men and women alike, are overly familiar with me. Enough so that I sometimes ask myself if I really do know them after all: Am I living my own version of the film Memento?? My memory is gone but I’m the last one to know?

People march right up to me, they act like they know me, they just start talking, they interfere, they offer unsolicited advice, they presume, they get in my space, they make personal comments, and they pay little or no attention to how I’m reacting. Ruling out times when there’s actually something wrong with the person, I’m referencing behavior that is more than casual friendliness. Friendly is fine. I’m friendly! I know the difference. This week alone I had three Close Encounters of the Overly Familiar Kind.

In a store, an older woman who was on her way out, swerved and made a beeline for me where I stood looking at the store circular. She parked herself right next to me to, I’m guessing, look at the circular in my hand. Now, there was a big stack of them sitting right by the door and she was done shopping. I answered her when she spoke – and I took a good look to make sure I didn’t know her, which I absolutely didn’t – but I was perplexed. Also, she had kind of pinned me in, which ya just don’t do, so that with the stack of baskets to my immediate right and her to my immediate left, I was oddly stuck. I didn’t want to be rude, so when I could, I simply took a step forward to create space between us. But that didn’t work, because somehow before she left, she moved again so that her bosom actually touched me. Uh, if your boobs are making contact with me and we are not engaged in a friendly hug because I know you, you are standing too close!

In a thrift store, I was looking at clothes and had several items in my hand. One of the workers passing by suddenly reached to take them out of my hand. Only after the thwarted attempt did she say she’d keep them “at the front” so I’d have both hands free to shop. I looked at her and with some vigor said, no, I was going to try them on (which you are allowed to do, I am just saying). The woman didn’t apologize or say, “oh, okay” or any such thing. After that interaction, I remembered that this store has had trouble with occasional theft so I wondered if the “offer” to hold clothes was actually motivated to prevent thievery. Don’t know, doesn’t matter; ya don’t try to take things from strangers’ hands, especially not those belonging to customers.

At the grocery store, not only did the cashier volunteer he “heard change” in my wallet when it was time to pay for my purchases, he reached across the belt to try to take cash out of my hand. I promise you, I don’t ever dilly-dally around in a store, holding up the line and being a pain in the ass. My stuff is tidily on the belt, and if I’ve got coupons, they are in my hand, as is my wallet and cash or debit card. His impatience or presumption seemed to be more a matter of poor social skills which I might overlook but for the accompanying smugness in this fellow. I did not let him take my money, which I was counting, out of my hand. What I wanted to say was: “What the hell? If I was a 6′ tall, 200-plus pound guy, would you try to take money out of my hand?!”


I think a lot about stuff, things, and consumerism. Both how they play in my life and on a broader scale. It is easy in America, to fall into tunnel vision, where the focus is on gobs & gobs of possessions, forever trading up, keeping current, going bigger, and god forbid, not getting left behind. I live very simply; I don’t have money or things by the standards around me, yet even I am susceptible to the desires perpetually stroked by our consumer culture. I don’t know when exactly happiness and possessions became so inextricably linked here – likely further back in time than I’d guess, but linked they are.

At times I intentionally force myself out of the limited tunnel of vision, and think about how my life and possessions might appear to someone in the second or third world. It’s almost embarrassing to consider, especially when I’m feeling deprived in any fashion. I see an abundance. Food, clothes, entertainment. I see the positive effects of lifelong nutrition and dental care. I see plants, greenery and the upside of nature. I see education and access to books. And access is a great word here, because that may be the one thing, access of all stripes, that stands out in relief. This kind of reflection jogs my thoughts out of wanting mode and makes me see that what I have is enough for a happy life. That is, I’m reminded that if I am not happy, or more accurately, satisfied, it is not the fault of my possessions or what my life affords me, literally and figuratively.

Within the last couple years, I have put my hands on every last thing I own. There are no “mystery boxes,” no “what is this part for?” conundrums, no “I haven’t worn this shirt in 10 years but dagnabbit I’m keeping it anyway” stances. If I’m hanging onto anything extraneous or illogical, I know what it is and where it is. I’ve moved a lot of junk on down the road. It’s outta here. A woman I know told me that you spend the first half of your life collecting things and the second half getting rid of them. I’d never heard that before! It sure sounds like what smart people would do. I can’t exactly sign on for that plan though, because I never really had much in the first place, and what I mean by that are nice, quality things. I don’t have any family heirlooms, no good China, no investment pieces. What I’ve sent packing was detritus, even if it took awhile, in some instances a long while, to see that.

There are still things I want, still cravings and wishes. However, I can catch myself and decipher what’s motivating those urges. I think carefully before bringing anything into my life. There has to be room for it in every sense. I now buy smallish things that make my life easier or more enjoyable, that I did without in the past (whether I opted out, they didn’t yet exist, or I just didn’t know they existed), but even they are subject to standards. It’s a bit of a cliché that when you get rid of old things, space is freed for better things. I gotta admit, cliché or not, I’ve found it to be true. Habit, fear, and imagined senses of obligation (“I must hang onto this!”) drive much of what keeps a person stuck. And what I’m saying applies to objects yes, but it’s shown itself beyond that as well. I hadn’t figured on that. The thinking changes I’ve made are broad and philosophical in scope. You have to clear the decks of all the crap and clutter, create space and then consider what you want to fill in the spaces with, if anything. That’s where I’m at anyway.