A fairy stained my fence while I was at work today. Okay, maybe it wasn't really a fairy, but that would be a very cool story. Except I guess it would take a fairy an awfully long time to stain a big huge fence and she probably couldn't even lift the paint brush with her little arms and getting stain on her wings would be disastrous. So, it probably wasn't really a fairy. But it was some secret, Tom-Sawyer-good-Samaritan-fence-stainer. Nice, huh? It's incredibly hard to feel sorry for yourself when you come home to a beautiful, golden-brown fence on a sparkly fall afternoon.
I have a sneaking suspicion I know who it was (or at least one of three possibilities), but I'm really loving the not-knowing part. I should probably try to track down my generous stain benefactor, but then that whole idea of the fairy would be gone forever. I figure I might as well live in the fairy tale as long as I can.
Have you ever had one of those moments when you suddenly realize that your life might just be defined by before this moment and after this moment and you are pretty sure everything is going to change? I might have just had one of those moments. Just wanted you to keep track so I can say, "See, I knew it!" in retrospect.
The following is a public service announcement. By taking my errors public, it is my sincere hope that I can save you, the grocery-buying public, from the egregious embarrassment of making these mistakes yourself.
First, never buy sugar-free hot fudge sauce. It's really a dark, shiny, melted-down plastic goo made to resemble a rich sauce for ice cream. This trick is doubly cruel because by labeling it fudge, this deceptively crafty manufacturer leaves you with the mistaken impression that it is some kind of chocolaty goodness. Just believe me when I tell you...it's not.
Second, never buy the frozen 5-pound bag of deluxe tiny green peas from Costco. You will never be able to use even a half pound of those green little BBs before they turn into bleached out, icy, pea raisins--not even if you buy the 5-pound bag of frozen carrots to go with them.
Third, never buy Absolut Pears vodka from Sweeden. Yes. I know the bottle is cute and it looks enticing, but it bears no resemblance to either vodka or pears and will only light your head on fire.
Fourth, never buy cocktail pep, smocked sausage sticks. "Who would?" you ask. Well, someone who is obviously craving that great smoky flavor of pork hearts, beef fat, and potassium and sodium nitrate. If you insist on disregarding my warning and buying them anyway, don't, under any circumstances, read the ingredient list.
Fifth, never buy a cat toy that chirps. It will never stop chirping no matter how dark and still the drawer is you put it in. And like a crazed bird stalker, the phantom chirp will increase exponentially in volume when you are walking quietly by in the dark at 2 a.m.
Okay. You can now go back to your regularly scheduled program already in progress.
"Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O no! it is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken."
It's senseless how much I like Sense and Sensibility. I've seen it no less than 25 times and every time Margaret Dashwood says, "He's sitting next to her. He's kneeling down!" I burst out crying. Yep. Crying. Every time. I'm such a girl.
This Need Less, Give More experiment is chock full of catch-22s.
Like Dr. Dolittle's pushmi-pullyu, sometimes I can't decide which direction is right. For example, I want to cut back on my use of paper goods. Like my friend Dana, I want to stop using paper towels and napkins and use cloth instead. But that would mean I would have to buy cloth napkins. And so, I run headlong into the Need Less experiment. Under a strict interpretation of the rules I can't buy "things," but I can buy consumables. (I'm trying really hard not to mention soap.) Because paper towels and napkins are technically consumables, I could buy them. But I don't want to because the subcontext of this little experiment has to be creating less waste and using less of everything.
Do you think finger bowls are acceptable? Or should I just make all my guests use their sleeves? I guess I could start tearing up sheets and make my own napkins, but that just seems wrong.
Then yesterday I was at the grocery store actually buying groceries. As anyone who has looked in my fridge can attest, this is something I rarely do. But thinking I would turn over a new leaf (and because all the guys at work have me convinced that I should get prepared for inevitable Armageddon), I decided to put something other than Jägermeister and blue cheese dressing in my fridge.
Along comes the catch-22 again.
I only have two cloth grocery bags and I'm pretty sure all the groceries I need won't fit in just two. I don't want to use plastic bags, but under the rules of the experiment I can't buy any more cloth bags. Is there really anything wrong with just marching your cart full of loose groceries out to your car? Every place except Costco frowns on this practice for some reason. Maybe I should use pillow cases? Or hat boxes? I have plenty of those. But I think even the nice people at Harmon's would look at me funny if I walked in with a cart full of hat boxes and started filling them with bananas and tortillas and string cheese.
There has to be a way to stay true to the Need Less experiment and also use less of the consumable stuff too. Any ideas?
Because I'm freaking out and feeling sorry for myself about this slap-you-in-the-face winter weather, I decided to try to come up with ten things I like in the winter.
1. My instant gratification fireplace. I love curling up by it, reading a good book, and dreaming about summer. 2. Taco soup. I'll admit that taco soup is pretty good any time of year, but it's the perfect thing to chase away the winter chills. 3. Electric blankets. I absolutely love turning my blanket up to high a few minutes before I get in. It's so toasty and comforting. Almost as good as having a man in there warming the bed up--almost. 4. Hot baths. I'm a year-round bather, but a hot bubble bath is even more enticing in the winter. 5. Pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream. This is a sweet indulgence I save for this time of year. 6. Skiing. I don't ski nearly as much as I used to or as much as I wish I could, but skiing is definitely a winter bonus. I remember years when skiing was so high up on my agenda that I would be thrilled to see the first snow flurries and feel joyfully excited waiting for that first run of the year. My friends and I would meet at the quad (a big, open grassy area at my university) during the first snowfall of the year and dance around with glee, catching the snowflakes on our tongues and thinking about all the perfect ski days to come. I'm going to try to tap into some of that excitement again this year. 7. No more yard work. I love the thought of the alfalfa patch getting covered with snow so I don't have to think about it until spring. No more lawn mowing or weed pulling. Let's not think about snow shoveling. 8. Coffee. I drink coffee all the time too, but there is something visceral about it during the winter. I love holding the hot mug and breathing in the rich aroma. It's only during winter I have to remind myself to stop drinking it by noon or I'll never sleep. 9. My red and green down blanket. I love this blanket. It's soft and fluffy and cosy and comfortable. Plus, my sister Heidi gave it to me so I love it. 10. Candles. I love lighting candles during the winter. I like them everywhere--on my nightstand, on the side of the tub, on the kitchen counter--wherever I can put one. 11. Sledding down the hill behind my house with my nephews. It's fun, they love it, and we get to cuddle up, drink hot chocolate, and read stories after.
So there is even one extra. Please tell me all your winter favorites. I'm going to need some new ones to help get me through.
"A Thneed's a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove. It's a hat.
But it has OTHER uses. Yes, far beyond that.
You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!
Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!"
--From The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
I want that.
Not a day goes by without the thought of something I want (read NEED) flashing through my mind. It's funny that I somehow thought that once I decided to swear off shopping, the desire for stuff would go away. But it never really does. I'm hardwired to want more and better and bigger and nicer and more comfortable stuff. There is always something that pops into my mind unexpectedly and I think, "I really, really want that." In fact if I think long enough about that thing, it gets to the point that I'm fully convinced that I NEED it. I need it. I need it. I need it.
But I don't.
I don't need it. I just want it really bad and I'm used to getting nearly everything I want. So, it's a mental fight to calm that need down.
I'll use this morning as the example. I got up and it was still dark and surprisingly chilly. Dark and chilly...dark and chilly...what would make that better? Of course! One of those cute little flickering fireplaces that you plug in and it casts a nice (albeit fake) fiery glow around the room. Yeah! I need one of those. Then I could turn it on before I get out of bed and it would warm my bedroom up and then I would actually feel like getting up. Yep! I really need that thing because it is going to turn me into a morning person and I will jump right up into my cosy, glowing bedroom and I will get ready faster and get to work earlier and my boss will notice and give me a raise and then I can get two little fireplaces and the whole cycle will repeat itself only now I will be so cosy that I will feel like getting up and working out and I'll get in fantastic shape and feel like a new person and my life will be perfect. Perfect I tell you! I have to have one.
But then I remember the Need Less challenge. Damn. So I start talking myself down off the need cliff. Come on now. It's not like I live in an igloo. And really, wouldn't making my room that cozy just make me want to stay in bed longer enjoying the cozy goodness of it? And come on. It's absurd to think that one little fireplace is going to turn me into some kind of bounce-out-of-bed-morning-exerciser.
And so the need dissolves a little and my rational mind starts to kick back in and I push it down to the want category where it belongs. And then I resignedly remind myself that I want to consume more responsibly and use less stuff in this big, overpacked world of ours. In fact. That want is bigger than my desire for a little fireplace and my NEED is tamped down.
But, it turns out, it's only tamped down. It's not out. That hot flame of NEED will crop up again and again and again in many insidious ways. I just have to tell myself it's sort of like going to bed a little hungry. It feels like that cookie will be the answer when you are contemplating that long night of craving, but then you wake up in the morning and realize that you got through it, you really didn't need it, and you really don't crave that thing any more.