WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: PART TWO

 

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WASTE NOT, WANT NOT:  PART TWO

Of my 61 previous posts, the one that has come back to me the most often in ripples from readers was Waste Not, Want Not (January 14th).

I have long considered writing a Part Two as a follow-up, and when I received this tea towel in the mail this week from my friend Bridget, I knew it was time:

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I wish I had counted the number of people who have told me they think of me every time they use a paper towel.  I’m glad I admitted this idiosyncrasy.  Perhaps it is not so strange after all.

I have had several other people come clean about their miserly habits.  I thought I was the only person who ever did this:

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Then I got a picture from someone I didn’t even know who does the same thing.  His mother reads the blog, and she knew he did this, too.  She had him send it to me.

Suzanne said she does it, too.  Gail confessed that she does it to lotion bottles, and toothpaste tubes as well.  I don’t remember learning that one at home, but all three of us do it.

Suzanne and I were discussing other money-saving habits we have.  I did this in college, but I have decided I can afford to leave this one behind.  I was careful then to buy the ones made of paper and not plastic, so that I could easily snap them in two.  I still buy the paper ones, but I no longer break them in half.  I’m guessing Suzanne could afford not to do this as well now, but old habits die hard…

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Gail simply uses both ends before she throws them away.

I learned the hard way it’s okay to re-use plastic silverware, but PLEASE don’t put them in the dishwasher.  The heat cracks them, and then they easily break.  My experience could have been disastrous, but it was averted.  One of the fork tines broke off in my mouth, and it could have been deadly.

Suzanne’s disaster was costly, much more costly than simply throwing them away and buying new plastic silverware.  One of the tines broke off a plastic fork and created a dishwasher disaster, creating the need to call a repairman.  Again, it would have been much cheaper to simply throw it away buy new plastic silverware.

But that would cost a dollar or two…

**********

Old habits die hard.  After the first Waste Not post, I tried to loosen up.  I watched in horror as one of my son’s friends pulled off a long string of perhaps four or five sections of paper towels just to dry his hands.  I’m sure my face showed how aghast I was, but I didn’t say anything; I didn’t want to embarrass my son.  I wanted to loosen up about this; I really did.  So, I experimented with using more paper towels in a more liberal fashion, trying to let go of the taboo of using them generously.

No way.

That one is not going away.  As a child, they were an expensive commodity.  Now, all three of us can afford to use them however we choose, but we continue to choose to use them sparingly.   Mom and Dad taught us well.

We used everything sparingly because we had to.  We no longer have to watch our spending that closely, as evidenced by my patterns of spending.  I realize the dissonance between this practice of frugality, and the excessive clothing and jewelry purchases I make.  I feel it, I know it; I realize my patterns don’t align.

Yet I continue to do it.  I am trying.  I truly am.  I am making progress, but it will likely always be a work in progress.

***********

I just re-read Waste Not, Want Not– January 14th.   I was reminded of the commitment I made to myself in writing for the world to see that I was actively and passively working on getting rid of stuff.  Stuff, both material and non-material.  Then, I re-read Time for Letting Go, Part Two.  Again, I reminded myself that I have publicly proclaimed my efforts to purge stuff.  I had already decided, once again, to accept the one-month challenge to give away/throw away/donate one thing on the first of the new month, two things on the second of the month…This time, I decided to determine the grand total—465 things for the 30 days of November—and purge accordingly by the end of the month.

So far, on the morning of the 4th of the month, I have purged 97 things.  Things like old pens and markers I no longer use–as well as the container they were in.  Someone else can put them to better use.

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The beautiful clock that no longer works.  I finally had to concede to that reality after changing the battery—again—and setting it back an hour this morning.

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And the widowed earring that lost its mate years ago on a theater floor.  It likely isn’t coming back. It’s about letting go of things small and large, and letting go of ties to the past.

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Books.  I’m like a crazy cat lady with books.  I have several hundred, and they are all special to me. They are a part of me, and when I adopt one, I rarely let it go.  However, I realized perhaps there were people who could gain more from these books than I could as they sat on the shelf, likely never to be picked up again.  There is someone out there who could take better care of them than I do, even if it is a cool cookbook by a woman with a cool name.  I haven’t cooked from it in years; it’s time for it to go.

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My owl collection was so 2017 for me, so I let it go.  Again, someone else will adopt them and take better care of them than I could.

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The good news is, I’m on a roll.  The bad news is, I haven’t yet made a dent.  I feel a bit lighter, but no one else will notice—yet.  No one, meaning my minimalist husband.  God bless him for that, and for his patience with my non-minimalism.

Wasting not and wanting not truly do go hand in hand.  The more stuff I get rid of, the more I want to keep going.  (I know my husband is over-the-top thrilled at these words as he reads them.  He has been gone all weekend and has no idea what I am up to.)  It makes me want to bring less in, and wisely use what I already have without waste.  Action begets action, and I have been going strong all weekend.

Like paper towels.

And it reinforces my eco-friendly, Mother Nature-loving practices like hanging out my laundry, which I did this morning, even though it was only 46 degrees.  It will get warm enough to dry them; the northwest wind will see to that.

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The dryer generates heat, and that costs money.  I dried the tea towel gift on the line after I washed it, and it was wrinkled.  So, I ironed it to make it look spiffy and crisp for the picture, which, of course, generated heat, thus counting against my clothesline savings.

I feel my mother’s gentle presence as I hang out my laundry, perhaps that’s the biggest reason I keep doing it.  She, too, loved to hang out the laundry.

Gail reported to me that she conserves in a manner I don’t, and likely never will:  If she is the only one drinking it, she reheats her coffee from the previous day if it is left.  I am a fresh coffee snob; I need it newly-brewed and freshly flavorful in order for me to savor it, as I do each morning.

Suzanne doesn’t yet drink coffee, but Gail and I still have hope that she will one day see the light, and savor the flavor.

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Suzanne doesn’t have much to contribute this week because she is the material minimalist, eco-friendly, non-consuming sister and citizen.  Gail and I keep trying to take notes from her, but we are wired a bit differently.  The important thing is that we keep trying.  And, with Suzanne’s influence and gentle coaxing, there is hope for both of us.

Gail has agreed to purge 465 things by the end of November.  I don’t think Suzanne owns 465 things, and that is a good thing.  Therefore, she will not be participating in this challenge.

I’ll call it fall cleaning.  Kind of like spring cleaning, but in the fall.  While I had the house to myself this weekend, I not only purged, I actually dusted.  As in, I picked up the things on the shelves and table, dusted them, and dusted the surfaces.  It’s been awhile.  As I examined each thing, I questioned my need to keep them.  I asked myself these two questions that I asked myself in the last sweeping round of purging I wrote about:

1:  Would I take this with me if I moved?  (Suzanne’s good idea.)

2:  Does it make me feel good?

I was surprised to find myself discarding a few things that, in fact, made me a little blue.  Perhaps a sentiment that turned sour, a heaviness that wasn’t necessary.  Or maybe it was just an ugly, useless thing.

So now they’re in the donation box.

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My friend Bridget who sent me the tea towel has been with me since graduate school in the early 1990’s.  She is a bit older, and a lot wiser.  In one of our many discussions, she told me this nugget that didn’t shine like gold until many years later.  Forgive me, Bridget, if these are not your exact words, but this is the message I took away that has become profound for me.  It went something like this:

We all have holes inside we try to fill up. Try to figure out what those holes are and what you are putting in them.  You may be able to fill them with good things instead of not-so-good things, or perhaps nothing at all.”

Thank you, Bridget, for the tea towel, but especially for the wisdom.

Please take her wisdom with you from this post.

And please, try not to fill up those holes with useless things–or paper towels.  That would be a waste.

 

 

 

 

TIME FOR LETTING GO: PART ONE

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TIME FOR LETTING GO:  PART ONE

It’s peak season for maternal nostalgia.

It’s back to school time.  And I’m not talking about the partially-feigned sadness moms like me exhibit for the first fourteen or so of their children’s back-to-school years.

I admit it was mostly relief when the magic school bus showed up in our driveway like clockwork at 7:50 a.m. Monday through Friday.  God bless that bus, and the Superwomen drivers who commandeered it, safely shuttling my children back and forth for years.

I’m talking about when the children drive themselves away—to faraway lands where universities lie, not six miles down the road where the preschool-through-high school, all-under-the-same-big-roof school where our two younger boys spent their at-home school years.  My husband’s firstborn son lives just 100 miles down another road with his delightful wife, two-year old daughter and soon-to-be-born son.

This faraway land for Jude, my first-born son happens to be all of 70 miles away from our home.  Still, it is worlds away from where we once inhabited the same home, slept under the same roof each night and had dinner at the same table every evening.

**

We had our last first day of school this week.  Wasn’t it just last year, or perhaps the year before, when this was the scene outside our front door?

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Joel, my second-born son drove himself those six miles today, just as he did last year.  The magic school bus hasn’t been in our driveway for several years now.  If he chooses a post-secondary institution in a faraway land next year, the wound will re-open.

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I will survive.  Again.  After all, this is what we groom our children for during the first 18 years.  They are welcome to live in my basement, but I’d really rather they don’t, at least not forever.  The time comes when our goal of making them independent is met, so we should be happy, right?

 

**

When I was pregnant the first time, I recall secretly worshipping any woman who had already endured childbirth.  For surviving this rite of passage, she was a goddess in my mind.  Knowing full well I would have to endure the pain, I still somehow denied the inevitable.  How did she do it?  How could any woman do it? How will I do it?  There’s no way I can do it. Then I did it.  I had no choice.

Then, as I prepared to send that baby off to college, I secretly worshipped any woman who had already endured this separation.  For surviving this rite of passage, she was a goddess in my mind. Again, denying the inevitable, I asked the same questions:   How did she do it?  How could any mother do it?  There’s no way I can do it.  Then I did it.  I had no choice.

Four days ago, he left again.  This makes the third year.  It was easier, but the day was blue.  Here we go again.  There he went again.

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Joel followed him those 70 miles down the road with the big stuff in his little truck.

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They made it to the university, and Joel made it back.

I don’t recall giving a flip about how my parents felt when I left for college.  Granted, I was the fifth of seven children, so it was likely old hat for them.  It meant one less hungry mouth in the house, but still, I know they missed each of us.  Perhaps a little less acutely each time, but each of us had our own niche that we filled, and then vacated in our family of nine.

**

As I write, Gail is going through it again.  Wyatt, her third child, is moving into the dorm at the same university with my son.  She has two older daughters from her first marriage who are 33 and 31, and her two younger children are 18 and 17.  This is her first son, and her husband’s first experience with a child moving away.

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Her last child will be a senior next year, and, like me, she will have the empty nest the year after that.

**

Suzanne, the youngest sister, the expert on so many things Gail and I have never experienced, has lived in an empty nest for three years now.  Her only child, Julia, happens to be at the same university.

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There was no official departure picture, as she has lived there all summer.  We only staged this to match the others.

The cousins, as I write, are together at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.  Another cousin—my brother’s oldest child—is there too.  Another cousin graduated from there last year, and Gail’s oldest daughter graduated from there as well 11 years ago.

**

Six hundred is a conservative estimate for Gail’s CD collection.  Ever since they came into production, she has been collecting them.  Her tastes are mostly in country and rock, peppered with a little bit of everything else.

I recall perusing her behemoth collection 25-plus years ago when we lived in the same town.  She had the coolest bands, artists and soundtracks.  One artist jumped out at me because of his name:  Jude Cole.  That name sounded ultra-cool to me, and I tucked it away.  “That would be a great name for a boy someday,” I thought.  But that was pre-husband, pre-“he could be the one” days.  Still, I didn’t forget the name.

Seven years later, I had a baby boy, and we named him Jude.  My husband had a favorite teacher by that name, and he liked the name, too.

I have one of Jude Cole’s songs on my iPod.  Just at the right moment during my run the day before Jude left, it played:  “It’s time for letting go.”

Again. So we did.  All three of us.

**

A dear friend—as I write—is moving her first child into his dorm room further down the road for his first year.  I know it has weighed heavy on her for months; I know because I remember those months of carrying around that anvil of heaviness, dreading the departure day in months, weeks, and then just days away when it’s time for letting go the first year.  I told her there is nothing I can say or do that will prepare her for this.  No wise words, no gestures, nothing that will deaden the pain; lift the weight.  The rite of passage must be passed through.  Through, not around, not under or over, but through. 

Another dear friend whose mother has been ill for months made the decision with her siblings to place their mother in hospice care.  They, too, know it’s time for letting go.  I told her the same thing just yesterday:  my heart breaks for you, but nothing I can say or do will prepare her for losing her mother.  She, too, must pass through this.  She lost her dad when she was 17, so she knows the pain already. Still, there are no magic words.  She understands.  She knows her dad is with her, and her mother will be, too.

**

I survived childbirth twice.  I survived losing my parents.  I survived my firstborn leaving for college—again.  So have so many other women.  So many others will continue to survive all three rites of passage.  And their dads will survive the departure too.

If you are struggling in the process of going through any of these, or perhaps facing the pain in the near future, we are with you.  The girls of The Sister Lode have made it through, just like thousands—millions—of other women.  You will too.

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