Sued51's Blog











{July 19, 2013}   Home is Where the Cats Are…

My cats and I are country girls, used to quiet and beautiful window views. We are trying to settle into our small new space, which is located in a much noisier and busier area (the trade-off is that it is much more convenient to everything). The heat wave is dictating that we keep our blinds closed; we’re now surrounded by blacktop on the outside, surrounded by boxes on the inside. It feels stifling in more ways than one. I make use of the empty boxes as toys for the cats.

I play the stereo a lot to diminish the “city” noises of traffic and trains and keep the girls (and me) calmer. We all react to every sound…the upstairs neighbor coming down the stairs to leave for work in the morning; the maintenance man going about his business outside; cars passing within feet of our window on the way to the parking lot. But it is cozy and clean, and I can afford it.

It is still a small town, but we’re on a busy street, and the commuter train runs close behind our building. I try not to miss where I came from; I know I must embrace change and learn to love it. I know that though at times I feel like I’m in a big city, that is not reality. It is only when I compare it with the sleepy suburb surrounded by farms where we came from; it’s all relative. Mindset is everything.

We will all get used to it, given time. We’re together…that’s what matters.

cat lying on the floor

Zoee relaxing in her new space…

PS. There is no picture of Aimee because she is still spending most of her time hiding beneath the covers in the bed…but she did that at the old place too. Tabbies don’t change their stripes!!

PPS. It’s weird that I posted this yesterday and the daily prompt for today was about what makes home for you…



{June 21, 2013}   But Where Do I Go From Here?

cat toy

The World on a Rope…

“When you get to the end of your rope. Tie a knot and hang on.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

I’m trying. But I feel like the world’s toy.

I’m in the midst of moving to a much, much smaller place…Alone. I’ve been doing it gradually, before work, after work, lifting everything I can by myself. Yesterday I hurt my back, I haven’t been sleeping; my rope is frayed.

I haven’t been posting much lately…I have found it difficult to find the time or the energy. But please hang in there, my readers, I’ll be back soon. Even if the rope breaks, I will roll away to somewhere interesting, I’m sure. When we let go is when we find the place we can’t otherwise find!

 




Veteran's Section Cemetary

Veteran’s Resting Place

Although Memorial Day in the U.S. started out as a holiday to honor the soldiers who have served the country during wartime — a day for parades and family cookouts — over the years it is has morphed into something completely different: a celebration of summer, the first three-day weekend after a long winter (in the North), or simply a chance for a short vacation. I’ve previously written about my memories of Memorial Day as a child, my enjoyment of the parades in my small hometown, my pride in my father who was a veteran of more than one war, so this change is not a welcome one to me.

I know I am not alone. For anyone without family or those who are going through troubles, economic or otherwise, “holidays” like these can be tough to stomach. It’s hard to block out the shreds of others’ conversations about vacations and social plans and how much they are “looking forward” to the long weekend. It’s hard to feel there is nothing wrong with treating these days as if they are any other or with celebrating them in a quiet or different way.

For some people, this is the right recipe to be cooked up for such a holiday: don’t compare yourself to others, don’t set up scenarios in your mind about what your life is “supposed” to be like. JUST ENJOY ONE MORE DAY IN YOUR LIFE.

I thought I would share a poem I wrote last year:

Alone on a Holiday

Holidays can be dreaded things:

the Social noise

salt on a wounded heart.

Silence feared, but solace found only there,

where the heart talks to itself

like a mumbling old fool –

Write it down;

Walk it off;

Alone,

Enjoy the fresh air —

stop and watch the delicate butterflies

at their colorful buffet;

the bathing goldfinch, hopping joy,

in a puddle a passing cloud discarded —

those very clouds are the excuse I give

for the pall, the aimlessness, the gray mood —

but excuses are poor crutches.

Some days searching for some high purpose,

some philosophical answer is like ripping open a hornet’s nest

that no amount of home remedy can assuage.

Take a holiday,

Give up the game;

Read, rest, live.




dumpsterI’ve reached that age when many of my friends are dealing with cleaning out older relatives’ homes. We talk about it a lot. I”m downsizing, myself (not voluntarily, it is important to note). The issue of accumulated possessions is taking over my mind like a hoarder’s stuff takes over their homes, and the resulting picture is not pretty. Why do we collect stuff and why do we hold onto it?

I’m not a psychologist (although I have a BA in psychology) and I haven’t extensively researched the subject because it hits too close to home (my beloved father suffered from it). I can’t even say I’ve watched the show, “Hoarders.” I tried, but it made me nauseous. This post comes from my gut, my intuition, and from my own feelings.

First and foremost, hoarders have spent their lifetimes amassing their possessions. It took a lot of money and work to collect all this; it is their “life’s work.”  I see this watching the TV show, “American Pickers.” Usually the people with barn after barn full of stuff say they have been collecting it all their lives, and they are proud of it. It is the sum total of their life.

I’m guessing that my feelings at being forced to downsize are very similar to what hoarders experience when someone forces them to clean out their homes. I spent a lot of money and energy accumulating my stuff; I spent many years at jobs I didn’t like to buy these things, and now I have to give them up. It’s devastating. If my life were a formula, it would look like this:

Energy + Stress + Boredom + Putting up with misery and disrespect = Things.

And when you get old and your things get old, they become unwanted, worthless, dumpster-worthy. How does that change the formula?

Energy + Stress + Boredom + Putting up with misery and disrespect = 0 (ZERO)

Having an outside party come in and determine what is worth saving is a humbling experience at best, a humiliating and heartbreaking experience at its worst. It’s possible that none of it is “worth” anything. Try putting your precious treasures up for sale on Craigslist or at a yard sale, and you face similar enlightenment…if you don’t want to “give” it to them, they don’t want it. I have come to the distressing conclusion that the only true intrinsic value of things, as well as people, lies in their serviceability to someone. I imagine this is what the hoarder thinks: My life has come down to this. Isolated and alone as a lot of them live, they identify with their “stuff.”  When other people make the decision to throw the hoarder’s stuff in the dumpster, they, in effect, are throwing the hoarder in the dumpster as well.

I also think some hoarders have a misplaced need to “rescue” things; it gives them self-worth. This could be a conscious rationalization or an unconscious thought. The rest of the world is the “enemy” that wants to toss these treasures in the dumpster; the hoarder wants to “save” them (in more ways than one). Thus they end up with items other people have discarded; these items become their community, their “followers,” their tribe. They are creating their own museum, preserving history, holding onto the world as they knew it.

And we, the caretakers, the “normal” ones, think we are smarter than them, somehow better than them. We are better able to judge the worth of things. But the hoarders are well-aware of the “games” we play — throwing things away when they aren’t watching; getting them to tell stories to distract them; slipping something inside something else and spiriting it away– we think they won’t miss these items amid the clutter. In reality, do they miss the particular item? Probably not. Do they feel that something isn’t right in their world, that someone has taken something from them? Yes, they do; you have stolen a piece of their life, passed judgment.

When my father was alive, I read articles about helping hoarders get rid of things. One suggested taking pictures of the items and listening to the hoarder’s story regarding that item (and there usually is one); this makes it easier for the hoarder to let go. Logic says, they can look at their items in a photograph without cluttering their house. What then happens to the pictures? They still end up in the dumpster when the hoarder passes away.

The caretakers/family feel embarrassed, angry, insulted: why does the hoarder need that stuff when he or she has us? WE are what they should consider important. The answer is: where were you when the hoarder was amassing the stuff? It doesn’t happen overnight. Whether you were unaware or turned a loving blind eye, you weren’t dealing with the real problem.

Nobody wants to look it in the face, but it is all about loneliness, lack of connection, and the feeling of a wasted life. Is this the legacy of capitalism?



{February 15, 2013}   A Book Lover’s Care Guide?

Has anyone written such a thing?

The last blog about bookmarks lead me to thinking about book care. I figured bookmarks were created to keep people from folding back the corners of pages (as a tool for book care), but I had no idea of their history until I found this link. Interesting! (I should have used that link in the last blog.)

I then did a search for book care and found most of the information that came up was directed at children and was regarding library books. The exception was this humorous video created by the George Mason University library, which was directed toward college students. Wouldn’t we treat our own books at least as well as we would treat library books?

I guess not. I recently pulled some old poetry anthologies out of my bookcase, and I have a confession to make. Book lover that I am, I found dog-eared pages. Oh, the shame! The anthology was from college, I believe, so I can claim I was just young (like the young people in the video) and didn’t know better…do you buy that? The book was Contemporary American Poetry, edited by A. Poulin, Jr. (2nd edition). The cover is damaged with folds too. (I’m really dating myself here because from what I could find online, this book  is now up to the 8th edition. There was also a 4th edition in my bookshelf that could have been from graduate school.)

Poulin Poetry Anthologies

I could try to defend myself by saying that they are paperback books. Paperback books were created to be more “disposable” versions of hard cover books. They were also more “affordable” versions of hard cover books, although nowadays they are pretty expensive as well. I have saved a lot of my paperback books because it would be pricey and a lot of work to go back and replace them with hard cover versions. I made a big “book care” mistake with my paperbacks though: I had them in a bookcase that got direct sun! So I have…bleached out spines.

So..there’s two book care no-no’s: don’t dog-ear the pages (#5 on the video) and don’t keep them in the sun!

And how many of us can claim we don’t eat while we read (#4 on the video)? I love my tea and toast with a good book. Some of my books have a butter-grease thumbprint or two on a few pages. That can be a reason why some people don’t like to read library books or used books…you don’t know where the book has been! (Anyone remember the “Seinfeld” episode with George taking the book to the bathroom?)

Finally…I come to book covers. Anybody else out there old enough to remember covering your school books with paper bags or other paper book covers? The paper bag ones were wonderful to doodle all over and personalize. Book jackets were originally used to protect the covers of hard cover books and now are pretty much a marketing tool.

How about it book lovers…do you have any “rules” for taking care of your books? Any book care tips to pass on?




World's Best Cat LitterI swear my husband and I have tried at least 5 different types and brands of cat litter for our two cats; this is less a review than an attempt to share the story of our quest with the intention of helping others make their own decision. There are so many features to consider: blocking odor, cleanliness and lack of dust, ease of use, economics, and ability to dispose of the litter. Our criteria for selecting the kitty litter has continued to evolve as our cats have aged. Thank goodness are cats are easy-going and have adapted to the many litter changes we have inflicted on them.

We adopted our cats as kittens from a display in a PetSmart store. One of our cats had been there off and on for weeks because she developed red eyes from an allergy to the cat litter they were using and that affected her adoptability. She had to be sent to a foster home to allow her allergy to subside and was then brought back with instructions. We were told it was the litter dust. So our first criteria was no litter dust. They had used paper litter to alleviate her problem; because of this, we originally used “Yesterday’s News.”

In our town we have to pay for trash collection, so I was also considering ease of disposing of the litter; I was looking for something I could dump outside. I thought because the litter was paper it would disintegrate over time in the rain outdoors. This did not prove to be the case. Every time I changed the box, I dumped the litter in a pile at the edge of our yard. After a couple of years of this, my husband went to discard some branches in the same area and saw my dumping ground: “You have a Mount Poopsuvius out there! You can’t keep doing that.”  So…now what? What wouldn’t be dusty and would break down better?

We initially switched to “Feline Pine” and then to a cheaper generic pine product. The cats were fine with the change and it broke down outside, but my husband couldn’t stand the odor. I could scoop the solid waste, but not the urine. The urine made the pine break down and there was no way to scoop it out. The box had to be changed too often. When you think about it, the odor of pine does have an acidic element; it seemed to magnify the ammonia smell and make it overpowering.

Pine cat litterCrystal cat litter

One week in a pinch I tried some sort of crystal product I found at a local discount store…dusty paw prints everywhere and the smell was still there. That experiment was over quickly.

My husband went to the Internet and read the reviews for “World’s Best Cat Litter.” We initially tried the “Multi-cat” in the red and black bag. Again, the cats were fine with it. I liked that it could still be dumped outside because it was corn-based, and that both types of waste could be scooped out because it was “clumping” litter. Unfortunately, despite my best scooping efforts, my husband still complained about the smell. The odor-control element was just not there. I managed to find a small bag of the “Multi-cat Scented” in the purple and black bag, a natural product scented with lavender. I thought we had found the answer. But it was hard to find the litter in stock, even at the pet specialty stores. And the odor was STILL an issue; the lavender smell was too delicate to mask the ammonia.

At this point you might be wondering whether I only have one litter box? No, I have multiple cat boxes in the house, but both cats insist on going only in the one box. (When they were kittens they would actually go into the box at the same time, which the vet said was very strange!) So in the end, odor control became the most important criteria for us in determining which cat litter to use. We are now using “Arm and Hammer” clumping litter with odor control. If I have to put the litter in the trash, I guess that is what will have to happen. My husband found it at the local warehouse store so the savings of buying in bulk probably cancels out the price for disposal. So far, my allergic cat has not developed red eyes, and my husband no longer complains about the smell. I guess we have finally arrived at the cat litter of choice for us and our cats.

Arm & Hammer Cat litter

 

So cat lovers…what’s your #1 criteria when it comes to cat litter?




Penny Jar

Penny Jar

I think there are two kinds of people: people who pick up discarded pennies and those who ignore them. I’m a penny collector and I have the jars around the house to prove it. And the jars do not even contain all the pennies. There are pennies in little dishes and on tables and in the car and in pockets of almost every jacket. And what are my plans for these pennies? Beats me. It’s a habit I inherited from my father; he always picked up change and somehow I don’t want to give up the habit because I would be giving up some piece of him.

Certainly it is not because of the money I make. When I was a child I would walk to the penny candy store (a couple of miles) and whatever I picked up along the way was what I could spend. But that was a long time ago. What do they buy now? I will admit that I have rolled some and brought them to the bank, but it is definitely a “round-to-it” task. It seems pointless with interest rates as low as they are. Another thought I had is that I would try to collect a penny dated for every year of my life. And do what with them?

A year ago my husband found this article. I certainly did not know there was such a thing as a penny hoarder! But I wouldn’t say I am one; the man referenced in the article has WAY beyond my meager amount of pennies. I did learn something though — that pennies before 1982 have more copper in them and are worth more than newer pennies. So what do I do with that knowledge? Now I have another “round-to-it” task: to go through the pennies and separate them. I put aside another big wine bottle for the process.

Big Penny Jar

Big Penny Jar

And how far have I gotten with that task? Hmmph.

But I’ll keep picking them up; I can’t help myself. It’s just been ingrained in me for too long. It’s free money after all.



{November 13, 2012}   Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Sometimes we find messages in what we read, and our interpretations of the messages coax us to action, help us find courage, or sometimes make us reckless. Even if we scoff aloud at superstitions, being human means that there’s a tiny part of you that wonders…

This morning I was reading a poetry anthology. Though I’m taking these lines from Lee Robinson‘s “Rules of Evidence” out of context, they spoke to me as I tried to decide what to blog about today:
What you want to say most

is inadmissible.

Say it anyway.

Say it again.

What they tell you is irrelevant

can’t be denied and will

eventually be heard.

I have a poem I wrote recently that I wanted to post here, but I felt unsure. I put it on my Facebook page, but I was nervous about putting it here because my blog is connected to my LinkedIn page. What would people think?

I almost never write rhyming poems, but I wrote this one to express myself, amuse myself, and get some frustrations out of my system. I wrote it because after talking to a lot of unemployed people — I HAD to. It would not be denied.

UNEMPLOYMENT BLUES

There are plenty of jobs employers say,

But if you haven’t done IT,

then go away.

We expect you to hit the ground at a run:

Tell us specifically,

what have you done?

You say you can proofread…Well, not OUR stuff!

You have a BA? Well, that’s nothing but fluff.

You must speak our jargon to earn our trust;

Key words on your resume —

An absolute must!

If not, our computer will spit you out,

And into the trash bin –

without a doubt.

You’re young — no experience? You can work for free;

MAYBE we’ll hire you later – we’ll see.

You’re older? We doubt you can learn new things;

And we don’t want the headaches your age may bring.

You haven’t been working? You need not apply;

Don’t bother us with your reasons why.

Will we give you training? Not on our dime…

We’ll just keep looking, take our time.

For those who score an interview,

Only a perfect fit will do.



{October 4, 2012}   PS: Irony is Bittersweet

I’m not unaware of the irony of publishing my last post (Drudgery – Perks = Low Morale) following a post about receiving The Sunshine Award, but I felt compelled to write it. (Besides, clouds help us to appreciate the sunshine!) Recent conversations with coworkers, news of more layoffs (they are still happening — not all of them make the news these days), and conversations with friends concerning the job prospects of their graduating children, all led me down memory lane.

I’ve held many different jobs in my life; there were good times and bad times at each one. When the bad outweighs the good, that’s when we are motivated to move on, if we can. These days that is a lot more difficult than in times past; sometimes the bad just has to be tolerated with the bravest smile one can muster. One thing I noticed though as I walked down that lane was that the good memories I held onto are about the people I worked with and about the “perks” I experienced during that phase of my career: free movies for me, my family and friends when I worked at the movie theater; amazing book sale events when I worked at the publishing company; socializing with coworkers after work, when competition was not the name of the game and we didn’t have to make the long trek home to the suburbs. AHHH…the good ol’ days.

I’m grateful for those memories. I feel sorry for younger people who will not get to experience those things or have those memories to look back on when they reach my age. It was a snapshot in time, like a Polaroid; something outgrown and discarded by our changing culture.



{October 2, 2012}   Drudgery – Perks = Low Morale

It doesn’t matter what field you are in, older workers can talk truthfully about the “good ol’ days.” Once upon a time employers wanted to encourage loyalty and wanted their workers to feel like family. In return, workers felt emotionally invested in their employers’ business and “whistled” while they worked. It was symbiotic — win-win. Legendary blessings called “pensions” rewarded workers for their loyalty and investment in their jobs. At that time, beautiful mythical beasts called “perks” were prevalent in the workplace: aka employee appreciation days, softball games and cookouts, discounts on company products or “field trips” like being able to work outside the office for a day at a company conference or event. Workers felt proud to wear those company t-shirts.

Did employers truly understand how important those treats were for their workers’ productivity? They seemed to, but maybe they didn’t; all that faded into history with the Recession. Employers don’t want to keep the old horses around anymore; they eat too much without providing enough present value. Heaven forbid they should care about them as anything other than a breathing copy machine or computer. What is the true value of morale? Does anyone really think the bean counters can truly figure that out?

Those who are employed now keep their heads down and try to do their jobs quietly, while they live in fear of making a mistake lest they be tossed out with the trash. Do they bring energy, a spirit of teamwork, a desire to volunteer for something outside their jobs’ parameters out of a feeling of goodwill towards their employer? Not likely. And I know this because…? I listen to the conversations in the cafeteria accompanied by furtive glances; I hear the swearing and sighing over the cubicle walls. My husband says the time wheel will turn back toward the worker; these cycles or eras in time do pass.

Is there stirring and creaking happening now? Some employers are desperately unsuccessful at finding workers with the skill sets they need. Do I have any pity? It doesn’t seem to occur to them that some of these jobs are excruciatingly mindnumbingly boring and without “perks” and appreciation, no one has any desire to do them. Money is not enough. If you are going to be miserable, isn’t it better to be miserable with less stress?

I know it isn’t healthy to live in the past or in a dreamland or a fairy tale world, but I can’t help but hope that employers will have an epiphany and the workers will be woken from their nightmare soon. I hope the Occupy movement helps turn the wheel in the right direction…back to a hopeful future.



et cetera
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