“I write, therefore I am”

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‘You read, therefore I am grateful’

I was sitting around the other morning, trying not to think about how weird it is that it’s not even 12 degrees outside and I’m scratching away at chigger bites (from our recent Panamanian Adventure; see last week’s post for deets and pix), when I noticed I got a ‘pingback’.

Our two lovely guides plus one irritating Panama tour participant who, among other things, insisted on being addressed as ‘Raven’. She got chigger-bit too. But she deserved it

For non-members of the Blogosphere, which would be darn-near all of you, bless your Faithful Little Hearts, this ‘ping’ meant somebody cited my blog, good ole Lutheranliar looks at life, in their blog. Which is an incredibly nice thing to do, and doesn’t happen all that much. At least not to me. Before I go on, I simply must thank this nice Blogger Person, Orla by name, who writes “Fancy Paper: little things that make you happy”. When I checked that ‘pingback’, I found that she had nominated me for something called the Blogger Recognition Award. (It’s protocol to thank your nominator, but I like to think that I would do so anyway.) Thank you, Orla!

What does happen to me? Cats hiding in plain sight. Or Sitting on Guys’ Heads in Times Square

Again, according to protocol, we Nominees are also supposed to say how we got started blogging, give two tips to beginning bloggers, and last but not least, list some blogs we like and follow.

Whew. Let’s dig in. So, how did I get started?

It was actually to stop driving my daughter (known in the Blogosphere as The Child) crazy. See, before I started writing my stories down in this blog, I told them. To friends, to colleagues, to family. And I told them many times. They’re pretty good stories, if I do say so myself. But I told them over and over again, and sometimes multiple times to the same audience. (Sorry, Mr. Technician in Recording Studio A at Ogilvy; I know you must have heard about The Time I Dated Steve Martin like, 50 times.)

A photo from The Time Everything in Australia Tried to Kill Us. I haven’t written this one yet. Stay tuned

So one day The Child caught me winding up to launch into The Boss and The Silo or The Client Who Thought We Were Shooting a Movie in the Bois de Boulogne or The Time Vladimir Horowitz Woke Me Up In The Middle of The Night one too many times, I guess. Because she said to me “why don’t you write those stories down?” I explained that I didn’t want to do that because — thinking she meant write them down in a diary — I figured no one would ever see them. Well, maybe after I was dead, but what fun is that?

And she goes “no, not a diary; you should write them in a blog.”

Me: “What’s a ‘blog’?”

Well. She ‘splained it all to me. (Did you know that ‘blog’ is ‘web’ plus ‘log’?) And now, given that I have a whole sidebar category devoted to her and her exploits, I bet she’s as glad about helping me set up my blog as she is about helping me set up my Facebook account (see incriminating photo at top).

So I guess I sort of backed into blogging. As in, I didn’t start out to blog — I started out to write. I’ve written stuff my whole life, sometimes for fun and sometimes for pay, which was in the Ad Biz and was (mostly) even more fun. (If you’re bored and/or have a minute or two to spare, you can dig into my Writing Past in ‘Who is LutheranLiar?’.)  Since no coin has crossed my palm writing blog stuff, I’m thinking it’s for fun.

It’s been loads of fun writing about my Long-Suffering Family and its scandal-ridden history. You can read all about Some Forbears Who Were Related To Each Other And I Don’t Mean By Marriage right here

As for helpful tips, I honestly can’t think of any. Unless it’s to have a Very Clever Tech-Savvy Child. Oh, she did also say it was a good idea to read other people’s blogs. So, without further ado, I’ll give you a few to try. (The nominators suggest 15, but gosh, I couldn’t possibly follow 15 bloggers — not and do them all justice, that is. So I’ll list five now — in no particular order — and promise to add more soon.)

Fatty McCupcakes. Yes, you read that right. ‘Fatty’ is stretching things a bit, so to speak, but she is indeed loud, proud, and funny as all get out.

Actual Conversations With My Husband: The humor and horror of a happy marriage. The title alone makes this one worth a peek, n’est-ce pas?

The Dependent Independent. Some guy in Maine, who usually posts photos. In a verbally-laden world, he’s a breath of fresh, usually nippy, air.

Maid’s Day Off: stuff I’m thinking about when I’m doing other stuff. She “only hopes to tell you stories that will make you smile – or laugh if I’m doing it right.” You’re doing it right, Miss Maid.

And, last but certainly not least, the Horse that Brung Me: Fancypaper: little things that make you happy.  Which is totally true. (Thanks again, Orla!)

So, Faithful Readers, feel free to stray. As I say in ‘X-tra Reading Pleasure’, where I sort of semi-permanently keep a not-just-me list of Other Bloggers Worth Reading, even I get sick of Lutheranliar.

If a (b)log falls into a pond in the woods and there is no one there to read it, does it still make a splash? Just ask The Dude, who, by the way, never ever reads my stuff. Not even the stuff about him. Heh heh heh

New York City. January 2018

Put a bird on it

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Tippecanoe and Tyler Too: a totally tired, totally cheating travelogue’

I picked the picture at the top of this post for two reasons. One, because it has a bird (actually, many birds) on it. (Hail, Portlandia!) And two, because it shows a bed.

We flew home very late last night from our latest birding adventure, and boy are my arms tired. (Sorry, fatigue has made me giddy and prone to awful puns.) Meanwhile, don’t you hate trendy gerunds like ‘birding’? Like ‘parenting’ and ‘mothering’. What’s next, ‘kidding’? Oh. There already is a ‘kidding’.

Anyway. Since I have a mountain of sweaty stinky birding duds to burn (er, wash) I’ve decided to take the easy way out and just show you all some pictures from our trip. (I know, I know. Shades of the Olden Days when vacationers would bore their friends with their slides. (Which were like photos, but were these things they’d put in a ‘projector’ and show on a ‘screen’.) But really. If you’d been on a post-holiday night flight full of screaming kids accompanied by adults sorely lacking in Basic Parenting Skills, you’d choose this option too.)

So on with the (not-slides-but-close) show!

Happy Trails. The Dude in his element. And I don’t mean mud

We were in Darien Province, which is where there is this big ole gap in the Pan-American Highway. I won’t get into the reason there is a gap here. (Yawn.) But you can read about it here if you are curious. 

The sign at the end of the road — er, the gap in the Pan-American Highway

It’s really muddy and really hot and sticky here. I know because I tried to wash our icky birding clothes in the sink after the first 90-plus degree-and-humidity day and it took three days for them to dry. I gave up after that. (Hmmm. Should have worn those clothes on the plane. We would have had the row to ourselves.)

The Graveyard Shift. It was hotter than hell in there. Which is probably where we’re going after tromping around on dead people

The birding was also hot. And heavy. We were all over the place chasing little (and big) avian critters. We birded on foot — lots of ‘on foot’ — by van, and by boat.

Our ‘boat’ was an actual dugout canoe. (Note hand-crafted evidence on the sides and bottom.) That’s The Dude, digging it. That’s me, or at least my squinty fear wrinkles, in the foreground

Where did we go in that dugout? To a remote island, to find the Dusky Whatnot. That’s the (very muddy, very slippery) Stairway to Birder Heaven. And no, that’s NOT me descending it

Another Roadside Attraction. Our guide would listen (while driving!) and stop whenever he heard anything interesting, birdwise

We also brake for cute monkeys. Look closely and you’ll see a critter poking his head out of that tree trunk

Tromping around on trails and splashing around in dugouts — or even pulling up by the side of the road — means forgetting all nods to fashion. One accessorizes one’s neck with binoculars. And no one leaves the tent for the day without a personal stock of TP. BTW, birding is one of the few occasions when I envy men. Squatting in chigger-infested bushes is not for the dainty.

This village allowed us Birding Gals the use of a real potty, complete with TP. It was padlocked securely when we were done

And when we were really done? As in, for the day? Well. We collapsed on our tent-side deck. Which I wish I had access to right now. Instead, I’ve gotta get back to business — and those muddy clothes.

Happy Canopy Camper. (It’s a good thing this picture is not scratch-and-sniff)

New York City. January 2018

Out with the old year, but not out with the old stuff. Yet.

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‘I’m so not ready for Swedish “death cleaning”, thank you very much’

As if The Holidays weren’t bittersweet enough. (You know what I mean: You’re happy because it’s Christmastime, but then Christmas is over and you’re smack-dab in the middle of that weird Week-Before-New-Year’s and everyone is telling you they’ll “see you next year” and you’re deciding whether to put away the decorations now or wait and be confronted with them when you walk back into the apartment after your trip to Panama.) Or wherever. You get my drift.

And as if all this Seasonal Sturm und Drang weren’t bad enough, the other day I innocently opened the Times to find a review of this new book called, I kid you not, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.

I have Amazon Prime and could have this book in two days. But hey, two days from now might be too late

Apparently, the Swedes have been doing a decluttering thing called “dostadning”, or “death cleaning” for ages. But this Swede Chick wrote this book and now she’s out-Kondo’ing Marie with her take on getting rid of stuff. If you need a little reminder, Marie Kondo is the one who had everyone (including The Child) tossing their stuff and turning her pages a couple of years ago. Her deal was to get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy”.

Well. Margareta one-ups Marie by suggesting rather strongly that we get rid of stuff so that our survivors don’t have to (gulp) deal with it when we die. Wow. Leave it to the Swedes to base a lifestyle on guilt instead of joy.

But she doesn’t mean we should distribute our belongings to our near and dear now instead of making them wait to inherit. Oh no. She suggests that it might be better to throw your stuff out than give it to your kids. She asks — reasonably, if depressingly — “If you can’t pawn off your stuff on family members when you’re alive, why would they want it when you’re dead?”

Sheesh. She must have some pretty sorry stuff. As for me, I kind of have the opposite problem. I actually have some not-all-that-expensive-but-still-pretty-nice stuff. Take my clothes closet. (No, don’t; I’m still using it.)

At least The Child thinks my closet stuff is pretty choice. Until I caught her at it, she was rifling my wardrobe right and left. I had no idea that, say, my one-of-a-kind brocade top I bought on a trip to London had gone to a party without me. It was only when she quite naively posted a photo of herself on Facebook partying in my duds (a purple silk skirt, it was) that The Child got busted. (I guess she forgot that it was she who set me up with Facebook in the first place.)

The Child unwittingly pre-busts herself by setting up my Facebook account. I ended up giving her that stripey orange sweater

Well, in my defense I can say that I didn’t get too mad. In fact, I gave her the skirt. Eventually, even the brocade top. Not because I’m super-nice — or, sorry Margareta — because I’m “death cleaning” (ouch, it hurts even to type that). It’s because I have this rule about myself and my clothes. I don’t ask myself if a particular item “gives me joy”. No. I ask myself if it “makes me look ridiculous”. Much better test.

As far as Stuff That’s Not Clothes is concerned, I’m not ready to give any of it up. Those platters and wine goblets and that “nice china” cluttering my shelves? Guess what? I use it. All the time. I never ever “save something for Company”. After all, who’s better Company than me? Even when I’m all by myself, I whip out the silver. (The other benefit to actually using your silver, by the way, is that the more you use it, the less you have to polish it.) So there, Miss Give-Your-Stuff-Away-Because-It’s-Just-Sitting-There Swede.

My Good Stuff gets trotted out for some people (besides me), like at this early Tree Trim gala. Some day all this will be yours (to sort out), O Child. Oh, you’ll have to wait for that velvet top. I still wear it. A lot

All I can say in closing is that I am super-glad The Dude didn’t get me this book for Christmas. (Can you imagine giving this book as a gift? Those fake grape leaves my sister-in-law got me that one year — which you can read about in ‘Is that stocking half full, or half empty?‘ — are looking pretty good right about now.)

Nope. As you may recall from that same post, I got ‘gifted’ another nice piece of jewelry. Which reminds me. According to my fellow Swedes and their “death cleaning” credo, “when surfaces clear, serenity settles in.” Well. All I can say is that the more cluttered my dresser top — and my wrist — the more serene my household feels.

Of course, The Child will end up getting the jewelry, too. Someday. And yes, she’ll have to sort through it, poor thing. In the meantime, I’m still considering giving her those spiffy Marc Jacobs boots she’s been eyeing. Maybe next year. That is, if I’m still alive enough then to realize that I finally look ridiculous in them.

New York City. January 2018

“I’ll be (at Somebody’s Else’s) Home for Christmas”

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‘”You can count on me (not to give you a hard time about it)”‘

Or not too much of a hard time, anyway. I mean, what did I expect? The Child is a Certified Grownup now, and not even a freshly-minted one. (She is not only ‘over 21’, she is ‘over 25′.)

Hmmm. It’s a wonder she didn’t spend Christmas Away even earlier

Even when she was a wee Santa-Believing Child I knew that, at some point in the Foggy Festive Future, there would come a Christmas that she would want to spend Elsewhere. And, even though we’ve been guilty of ‘downsizing’ our Christmas festivities as the years have whizzed by — going from super-sized Trees complete with all the Tree Trimmings (including a big ole pot-roast-fueled Tree Trim Party) to ever-smaller sort-of-decorated Trees In Pots to No (gasp) Tree At All — I still took it for granted that she would be with us at Christmas.

After all, she made it home for Christmas all through college. Why, even the year she spent studying in Cambridge (the England Cambridge, not the Massachusetts Cambridge), she managed to get herself Home in time for December 25. (Gosh, I hope I fed her some pot roast.)

But this year, since she was going skiing with her Boyfriend’s Family in Canada right after Christmas, and since Said Family lives in Canada, she said it “made more sense” to spend Christmas there. Logistics, you know. Plus, they had met her before and wanted her to come.

I will spare you a digression about how this Boyfriend has passed the Meet (Us) The Parents Test — and how he even Mixed Well With Everyone At Thanksgiving. (Me, when asked if Said BF could spend Thanksgiving with us: “But won’t he want to spend it with his own family?” Child: “He’s Canadian. They have a different Thanksgiving.” Me: “Oh. Right.”)

The BF (he’s in here somewhere) Mixing Well at Thanksgiving

Suffice it to say that we like this BF. Though we don’t talk about it with The Child, or not much anyway. If you have children old enough to have BFs or GFs, you will understand why without me even having to go into it. There’s the Contrary Factor, of course. Of which I was a horrible example. That’s when you date completely inappropriate people just to annoy your parents. Check out my piece ‘Yes, there are plenty of fish in the sea’ for gory details.

The Child, thank the Parenting Gods, is not like that. Not at all. But The Dude and I do tend to refrain from comment. Partly because we don’t want to interfere, but mainly it’s to protect ourselves. I mean, what if we express dismay with one of her choices — even after they’ve broken up and it’s ‘safe to comment’ — and then they get back together? You just can’t put that toothpaste back in the tube, if you get my drift.

So, we gave our blessings to the Christmas Away From Home idea, and celebrated our own Family Christmas a week early.

A week before Actual Christmas. Tree, no. Child, yes.

And then The Child scampered off to the Frozen North to join Someone Else’s Family Christmas for the Very First Time. I was comforted by the fact that it looked very warm in spite of the fact that it was actually very cold. (She was smack-dab in the middle of what looked like one of your more frigid parts of Canada.) She kept us posted, mainly via Instagram. (See photo at the top of this post for a chilly example. That’s The BFs Dad’s Man Cave, where you could see your breath indoors, even with that iron stove blazing away.)

And I was happy to see that her Christmas there was full of children and pets and food and fun — it seemed to be a whole heck of a lot like Christmases I remember from my own youth. Why, they even played games.

In fact, last night she sent an excited Instagram message saying that the whole family had joined in playing this new game craze called HQ (a trivia game which you can click here to find more about) and won the game! 

But even before ‘gramming’ us the gaming news, she and the BF (who’s identity I’m doing my best to protect, which is why part of the picture below is cropped off) sent us even gladder tidings. Which I will share with you.

She (and He) with warm Christmas wishes from the Frozen North. (There was a minus in front of the 16F that got cropped off along with most of BF)

Now I simply must call it a (Boxing) Day on this post and go join the rest of my family (yo, Dude!) while I still have one.

Merry (Day After) Christmas, all!

Amagansett, New York. December 2017

Is that stocking half full, or half empty?

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‘The Philosophy of Gift-giving. It’s all how you look at it.’

One of the few times I saw my mother weep was one Christmas when she opened a gaily-wrapped package only to discover that my well-meaning father had given her an electric toothbrush. “It’s the latest thing,” he protested as he tried to comfort her. It didn’t help when he pointed out that it came with different heads, one for each member of our family.

Poor Dad. He was one of those well-meaning people who give gifts that they really want. He loved gadgets; ergo, Mom got gadgets. I think it was the next Christmas that he gave her the electric knife.

My Mom later told us about a Christmas when she was very little — a Christmas when she really really wanted roller skates. There was a largish, heavyish roller-skate-appropriate box under the tree that looked promising. But her Uncle Warren Who Liked To Tease (didn’t everyone have one of these?) kept telling her it was a hair ribbon. Poor Mom.

I’m not sure if this was the Christmas Of The Electric Knife. Or the Christmas Of The Electric Toothbrush

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Hygge for the Holidays

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‘Making a list, and checking it twice’

Okay. Confession Time. First, the idea for this post, which is to make a list of Blessings, comes from a Blogger Who Has Many Many Followers. (Which is kind of a blessing right there, wouldn’t you say, Susie?)

Susie mentioned she had ‘Hygge’ in mind when she made her own list. I would define “Hygge’ for you, but (Second Big Confession Coming Up), I had absolutely no idea what ‘hygge’ meant until I googled it and found an article titled, aptly, ‘What the Hell is Hygge?’ Continue reading

Deck the halls with bough of holly

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‘A Grinch Guide to Holiday decor’

Well, maybe not ‘Grinch’. Make that more of a ‘minimalist’. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Christmas (well, not as much as I enjoy Thanksgiving; everybody who knows me knows that.) And it’s not that I don’t appreciate a nice Christmas Tree. In fact, I remember gazing out of the car window as we worked our way through small town after small town on those long pre-interstate drives up to my Gramma’s in Northern Illinois, admiring the Trees that were strategically placed in front-room picture windows for maximum drive-by impact.

But I’ve never been one of those people who fusses with the ornaments on her own Christmas Tree, arranging and rearranging them every time she walks by, striving for Holiday Perfection. In fact, I do everything I can to avoid having my own Christmas Tree.

Oh, there for a few years, when The Child was an Actual Child, I condescended to allowing a Tree on the premises. But I got The Dude and The Child to go get the tree. (I made this sound like a fun Daddy-and-Daughter outing, while I cleverly stayed home and sipped champagne.) And I threw a Tree Trim Party to get other people to actually do the decorating of said tree. I made this sound fun, too, by luring friends over with the promise of more champagne — and my Famous Pot Roast — in return for their bringing over an ornament (and this is the important part) hanging it on the Tree. (I’ve told the story of my Tom Sawyerish get-someone-else-to-do-the-work Tree Trickery in a previous hilarious/nostalgic post called ‘(N)o Tannenbaum’, which I invite you to read when you’re done chuckling over this one.)

I decorate myself in preparation for bribing friends with pot roast in return for decorating that bare tree, stage left

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