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Wednesday, March 7, 2018


I have been retired for about 33 months.  Most of that was spent preparing to go to China, being in China, and getting home form being in China--no small task.  I am often guilty of vast amounts of unaccounted for time.  I  can read days away or knit days away.  So in an attempt to grab time by the necktie, I got up last Monday morning and made a to-do list.  Here is my accounting of that list:

What I Accomplished
1.  Read 30 minutes of scripture.  This isn't a true confessional blog, but I will say here that I wish I could be the person who says they do this every day...

2.  Forty minutes of exercise.  Yes, I biked and glided all to the background of "Hello Dolly" on the VCR.  I did NOT know that Gene Kelly directed that!  It's a great one.  Go watch it.  I remember when it came out and I was working at the movie theatre, I went in three nights and watched the second movie after my shift was over.  This was Day 1 of my exercise recommitment.  Hold your applause.

3.  Mend two sweaters.  I'm pretty good at this.  I can take a snag or an unraveling and fix it!  A weird talent, I know.

4.  Finish alpaca mittens.  Mittens made out of alpaca, not mittens FOR alpacas.  My youngest son accuses me of ambiguity when I write.  I am trying to become a FINISHER of projects!  My problem is that I absolutely LOVE starting a project.  It gives me an adrenalin rush.  I have a closet of unfinished knitting projects.  I am committing to finishing one a week.  

5.  Finish It's All Relative.  Yea, verily I did!  Punish me with the briar patch of finishing books.  Go on.  I dare you.  This is a smashing book!!  I wrote about it on Goodreads.  Get thee there.  Everyone should be on Goodreads.

6.  Catch up on my Q&A 5 Year Journal.  I have been keeping this journal for four years this month!  I answer different questions each day on four lines--at the end of five years I'll have five different responses for 365 questions.  It's kind of a hefty little book, so when I travel I leave it home and consequently get behind.  Every October 22 it asks me to write a haiku about my day.  I ignore it every October 22.  Here's a random example:  April 18, 2017--Write down a problem you solved today.  My response:  Lots of problem solving today!  Five students came to cook Chinese food in our apartment.  Logistics.  Space management.  Ingredient substitutions!

7.  Catch up books read on Goodreads.  I am usually religious about this, but I finished a couple of books on the same day, so I was a little behind.

8.  Email students in Beijing.  I had to write a very sad note to tell them all that we passed through Beijing while they were all on spring festival holiday...We had been planning a get-together...

9.  Get plants from Sheryl.  She's been babysitting my plants for the past 5 weeks.  I am happy to report that my avocado that I sprouted from a seed is 14 inches high and has about 9 leaves!!!

10.  Get books from the library.  Yep.

11.  Do laundry.  Boring.

12.  Finish Jana Riess' talk on youtube.  Fabulous.  She gathered all kinds of stats about millenials.  Email me for the link.  I met Jana in our Princeton ward.  She had been a graduate student at Princeton some years earlier and often came to visit.  We chatted in the hall about Mormon kitsch.  She has a particular fondness for it.  Jana was introduced to the church at Wellesley by a good good friend of ours, Anna.

13.  Drink 64 oz. of water.  I only made it to 32.  Water consumption is not my strong suit.  But I soldier on.

14.  Eat only between noon and 6 P.M.  My new intermittent fasting regime.  I should post on it someday. 

15.  Transcribe 10 pages from my Survival journal.  I crank away at this.  It's a delightful crank.  

16.  Wash car.  I was a little concerned that the outside temperature of 27 degrees would freeze me into a Chevy  cocoon.  

17.  Practice piano for 30 minutes.  I'm teaching myself basically.

18.  Visit Virginia in the care facility.  She is 98.  We laughed and laughed, but that was after she shed tears as she told me about being left on the john for waaaaaaaaay too long right before I arrived.  It is very very painful for her because he spine is deteriorated.  She is the mother of my best friend from high school who has lived in Alaska for nearly 40 years.  

What Didn't Get Done
1.  Finish a blogpost I started a few days ago.

2.  Spend one hour working on photo sorting project.

3.  Do the business that I have been procrastinating for two months.  Shame on me.

4.  Find some yarn for my friend's summer hat.  I have to move a bunch of stuff, and I just wasn't up for it.

There.  I am kick-starting the new me--one who is productive!  Yeah, yeah, yeah...

Go Team Grammy!!!!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

In an Attempt to Explain Why

If the reading police stopped me today, I would surely get a ticket or a citation for the number of books I currently am reading.  My record is 15, but I usually hover around ten to twelve.  Who knows, they might even arrest me with a disgusted shake of their heads.  You might hear them mutter, "Why in the...?" 

My reading habit goes back to the very beginnings of my memory.  I have no memories of anyone ever reading to me, although I don't doubt that someone probably did as I was the youngest.  Nor do I have memories of anyone hounding me to read or making a chart to encourage me to read. I just did it.  All. the. time.  I have no clear recollections of anyone praising me for it.  I have never received any awards or prizes.  When I was a kid the library didn't have summer programs or incentives.  No fanfare when we entered the library EVER.  Yet, for some inexplicable reason I became a reader.  Perhaps if I brought this up with a sibling, one of them might say, "Oh, I take credit for that!  I did it!"  And then a long narrative would begin.  I think I'd have a little inkling of a memory if that were true.

We always had a bookshelf.  No one thought to cater to young appetites, so I read what was there as my skills grew.  I read my father's Farm Journal magazine, the newspaper, and even my mother's Relief Society Magazine  with its pitiful fiction.  I memorised all the titles in our bookcase too.  My grandmother's cases fascinated me because at least someone had added My Friend Flicka and a few other horse books there as well as a few children's classics  Her books were housed in old apothecary cases--one of which I inherited where I now store my Icelandic knitting wool.  These solitary bookcases shaped my early habits.  Their presence dictated that forevermore I would have a shelf of books or a bookcase of books or the library room of books that I now have.

My circle of friends did not always include readers.  Some of my friends had no interest at all.  I would play happily with them, but when the time came to go home, I knew my book friends were there to continue the same commradery my human friends gave me.  But then as I got older, my friends WERE readers, and we went regularly to the library, shared titles and carried on literary conversations.  My graduating class was unusual that way.  We passed around books like candy.  It seems we were ALL readers!  I still remember big thick books read in high school with yellowed softly worn pages or better still tissue-like pages which signified not only a book's extreme girth but it's classic nature.  As a junior and senior in high school I was employed at the local movie theatre.  I remember the intimacy of sitting in the box office with a little space heater perched on a stool reading reading reading.  Every now and then someone would come to purchase a ticket, but not very often. That suited me just fine.

I remember hiding books inside my textbooks in school.  I remember sneaking off to a quiet corner of the house to read where no one would interrupt or find something more productive (wash dishes, clean bathtubs) for me to do.  The reading habit is so ingrained in me before bedtime that I have been known to  read phonebooks when I get caught without a book in a hotel!  It has ALWAYS been about the book for me.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend with whom I worked in a university library thirty years ago.  When I asked her what she does she said, "Well, mostly I read.  Nonfiction."  One would expect as much from a retired librarian now widowed.  Isn't it wonderful?  She told me she'd recently been reading books about adult attention deficit disorder which she professes to have.  But I was fascinated by her reading habits.  She also has a "fetish" for printing off copies of what she reads.  She used to love standing at a copy machine during her librarian years!  Sitting in the presence of such magnificent life direction almost felt confessional.  I admitted my weakness, we smiled knowingly at each other, and the rest of the money-grubbing world can just blast right on by us.

Does reading get in the way of my life?  Most assuredly.  The dust accumulates, the conversations go unsaid,  the sonnets go unwritten, and the concertos go unplayed.  That is a choice I've made.  I read for joy, for knowledge, for reinforcement, for a foray into my soul, and for the quiet zen of the ages.  I buy books, I give books, I trade books, I crane my neck to see what strangers on trains are reading, and I jot down countless titles of books to read on any scrap of paper available.  I find those scraps everywhere and wish I'd saved them all so I could paper a corner of my library with them.

There, my attempt to explain why.  The why has never really concerned me.  Mostly I've just been about the how.  The everloving how.  And the when.  The nagging relentless when.  And of course, the what.  The what. The what.

Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley