Monday, August 27, 2012

The Storm's Aftermath

Well it certainly has been an interesting few days here at The Farm  as I become more and more obsessed with completing this challenge.  Every day I try to think of what else I can sort when I get home.  It's getting a bit out of hand but in the best of ways.  Since my last post I've been working intermittently on stuff as I haven't been home all that much.  I did get a new refrigerator delivered this morning.  And that is where this story begins.  Well, actually, it starts about two months ago....

Now, if any of you recall, the US was hit with a freak storm back in June - apparently called a "derecho" - that started in Chicago around lunchtime and by midnight was slamming the Mid-Atlantic.  I stood in my spare room upstairs (I realize...not the best decision) looking out the window as the lightning lit up The Farm in ways I have never seen before.  The wind was blowing the rain in every direction you can imagine.  If I was smart, I would have set up a cot in the basement and slept there.  But what we've learned from this is that I don't always make good decisions.

That storm knocked out power to my house for about three days and a storm later that week knocked it out again for a day.  Once that week was over, my refrigerator was making awful sounds and not really keeping cool.  Also the microwave was shot, but that's another story.  I eventually unplugged the fridge because I couldn't take the grinding noises anymore, then cleaned out and threw away all the contents.  With my job feeding me three meals a day, it wasn't overly necessary for me to have a working refrigerator and I am curious to see what my electric bill is going to be without it.  But as the summer came to a close, it was time.

So I contacted the old landlord to let him know the situation and a couple days later I got a call from the local appliance store to schedule delivery.  How lovely.  But then yesterday evening when I arrived home I realized that throughout this whole project I had been focusing mostly on my bedroom for starters and the mud room was kind of a disaster.

I keep my shoe rack in the mud room for two reasons: A, because my shoes tend to smell on account of how I don't like to wear socks and 2, because when I get home, I like to immediately kick off my shoes before coming inside.  I sorted and organized all the shoes, discarding three pair to the donate bag and four to the trash.  The hardest part was my favorite sneakers...this pair of Sauconys that my dad bought me one year on spring break.  They are quite possibly the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. I knew it was time, though, when I could do this:

Since the delivery guys would have to come in through the mud room, I knew I needed to do some serious work in there.  And after the shoes were put away (and some mourned) I started tackling the rest of the room.  The first ridiculous thing I found was this half-full bottle of champagne.  If my memory serves me (and it usually does) this is leftover from the mimosas we made on Christmas morning.  IT IS THE END OF AUGUST.

Next up is what is perhaps the most random collection of items to be found in one bag.  A Royal Albert serving platter, a casserole dish, my copy of Breaking Dawn (don't judge), a gladware sandwich container, my favorite pair of flats (been looking for them for a while), my Hester College umbrella (roo roo roo go hogs!), and two bottles of nail polish (Ms. Can't Be Wrong & Ocean Love Potion).  This is my life in a reusable shopping bag.

Speaking of reusable shopping bags, I also found proof that some of them actually are biodegradable!  This bag has been sitting on a shelf in the mud room for approximately 19 months.  Every day, the sun has risen and shone directly in the screen door and onto this bag.  It is falling apart.  I touched it and it crumbled in my hands.  This was a good find!

This one is kind of weird and I am pretty unsure how it ended up here.  A quart-sized ziploc bag full of sweet relish packets.  I don't even like sweet relish all that much.  I prefer dill 100%.  Add this to another of life's great mysteries.

All in all, the mudroom produced a bag full of trash, a box full of recyclables, and a broken down ironing board.  Speaking of that ironing board, I remember visiting my friend Kristin in North Carolina the summer after senior year, going to Walmart and seeing it with the fun blue bubbly cover, and then calling my mother and asking her to go pick one up for me to take to college.  That ironing board has moved 14 times.  It's had a good run.

But what is likely the best find of the entire project up till now is this.  From approximately November 2011-April 2012 there was an awful smell of rotting death that was lingering around my kitchen, living room, and sometimes spreading throughout the house.  Last night, while cleaning the mud room, I moved the snow shovel and found this pile of gooey looking sawdust in the corner.  It was kind of dark in there so I waited till tonight to inspect and clean it up.  I'm not even sure Dr. Temperance Brennan could identify these remains, but I did find what appears to be a mouse arm in there.  It's all cleaned up now, but I am impressed that something so small could cause such a stench for so long.  Well played, Mr. Mouse, well played.

Days to go: 31
Bags to go: 30

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Fond Farewell

I don't like to admit it but I do have hoarding tendencies. My sister would have you believe that I'm next in line for an episode of Buried Alive on A&E. It's not that bad. But I have noticed that I collect a lot of things over the years. Books, kitchen gadgets, and t-shirts.  Tonight, I am going to talk about the t-shirts.  Mostly because of the three bags getting added to the list tonight, two are boring trash in which I found nothing worth sharing. 

But as for the third bag of the day. It's is a bag chock full of t-shirts. The oldest one in the bunch appears to be from senior year of high school. It means that in this bag is ten years of marching bands, special events, travels, gifts, conferences, laughs, and most importantly, good times. Some of them are tattered and torn, others have never been worn.  But since I decided at the start of this week that I would get rid of items of clothing I haven't worn since moving to The Farm, I'm sticking to it.  Luckily I have a future brother-in-law who can make use of these shirts.  And the ones he doesn't want, we'll give away to someone who can use them!

This is potentially going to be the hardest part of this entire project.  I love my t-shirts....even the ones I never wear anymore. I need to be realistic though, as this collection that I'm giving away is approximately half of my total t-shirt ownership. I thought their importance in my life warranted an extra special send-off. So sit back, relax, and try to enjoy three minutes of your life you won't be able to get back.

(PS Thanks to my male model, Boritch Ingabingabinovovitch!) (That's not his real name.)

Days to go: 36
Bags to go: 32

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Science Fair

One of my many life accomplishments, but one I leave off my current resume, is that I placed First in the Alaska State Science Fair in the 5th grade.  My project that year was called, "How Much Vegetable do You Really Eat?" and basically was nothing more than determining what percentage (by weight) of various veggies was actually water by using the fancy new dehydrator that Mom and Dad got for Christmas that year.  I was pretty proud of that project, and would have had the opportunity to take it all the way to the national science fair if I had only been in the SIXTH grade!

But tonight, I'm here to talk about a science project of which I am not proud.  But first, let me tell you about what all was accomplished this evening.  I am very aware that the idea behind this challenge is to FILL 40 bags and get them out of your house.  However, tonight I tackled, emptied, and sorted seven bags o' junk and one box full of things that are so old they are now irrelevant, so destroyed they are no longer recognizable, and in one particular case, so rotten that it is no longer possible to determine what it once was:

As you can see, this bag contained a collection of travel mugs and such that I brought in from my car approximately eight months ago.  And I think that at one point in time, that might have been an orange in there with them.  Once I took out the travel mugs and put them to soak in bleach water, i went to throw away the bag and noticed that it weighed practically nothing.  It had rotted away so much.  Had I still been in sophomore year biology class with Coach Lange (may he rest in peace), I would have been all over identifying what kind of bacteria was growing on that gem. Not tonight.  It went straight in the garbage.

Other exciting finds tonight include what is perhaps the best valentine I ever received.  This past winter, Marisa and I got a little obsessed with the final season of One Tree Hill and the fact that Nathan Scott was missing because he was kidnapped by the Russian mob for reasons we couldn't be quite sure of.  We literally walked around asking everyone we saw, "WHERE'S NATHAN?!!?"  And then on Valentine's Day, this was  what I found: 

While I'm on the subject of holidays and cards, I found the birthday I bought but never sent to my dad last year.  I put it in the "To be Mailed" bag, which is good, since his birthday is next week....

And, my most exciting find of the night (aside from the tin of Blue Diamond wasabi & soy almonds) was this set of pens from Ken Dixon Automotive.  Ken Dixon had this brilliant idea - they had several hundred thousand of these pens made and went around to almost every business in the county and left the pens there for customers to use when signing receipts.  Just about every server at every restaurant in the county has a pocket full of them.  And for giveaway pens, they write really nicely.  The funny thing is that, apparently, when you actually GO to Ken Dixon Automotive to buy a car, they don't give the pens away for free.  

With all that emptying/sorting/organizing done this evening, I am proud to say that I have three bags of trash...

and a roasting pan full of stuff to go.  This being the first non-trash item, it is worth noting that all of the stuff seen here actually belongs at work.  So while my house is getting a clean sweep, the same might not be said for my office.....

Days to go: 38
Bags to go: 35

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Step 1: Admit you Have a Problem

Since I'm all excited for my new Ikea nightstands and all that stands between me and them is a total of 40 bags of stuff getting removed from my house before September 28, I found myself extremely motivated this morning.  So much so that I lost track of time and ended up going in to work three hours later than I had planned.  Oh well.  

I've started by sorting.  I know it is no secret that i have so much STUFF.  I have no idea where it comes from.  Well, now that's a lie.  My whole life I have had a knack for accumulation. I'm one of those people who saves almost everything on the off chance that I "might" need it again some time. IT IS A PROBLEM. But no more.  If I don't have an immediate use or a legal responsibility to keep it, it's going away.  (Exceptions: books, winter clothes, shoes, extra bedding, cake pans, and holiday decorations)

Something I didn't expect to come of this challenge was all the funny, weird, and nostalgic things I would find as I sort through my life.  Luckily for you, I've decided to share the best of today's findings:

First is a desk calendar I used my last summer at CGT.  That was THREE years ago.  That means this calendar went with me to New  York after that summer, then moved to my Laurel apartment the following January, then came with me to The Farm at the end of 2010 and has been gathering dust in a tub on my bedroom floor ever since.  WUT?

In the spring of 2010 I had had enough of my long, unmanageable hair.  I convinced my sister to cut my hair for me as I'm terrified that if I go back to a hairdresser, he or she will ruin my hair like every one I've ever visited.  I am a rational person and I know that this is most likely not true, but my concerns are not unfounded.  Emily gets my hair and understands that the underneath layer is, in fact, straight. She also knows that the top layer is curled tighter than the rest of my hair, so you can't just layer it like normal hair.  That's how I ended up with haircuts like "The Diamond" (11th Grade), "The Shelf" (circa 2003), and "The Hot-Ass-Mess" (circa 2008).

Anyway. I had enough hair to donate to Locks for Love, now that they accept naturally curly hair.  So we braided it, chopped it off, and set it aside to be mailed in at a later date.  Apparently that later date has yet to arrive.  So this braid is the first item in the bag labeled "To be Mailed".

 I am a responsible adult.  I am not, however, a receipt keeper.  Something tells me, though, that I should keep this one in a safe place, just in case.  The good news is that the bottom of a bucket designed for apple-bobbing is a safe enough place that it hasn't been lost, and my car turns 4 next week.

I always go back and forth on whether or not I should save birthday/Christmas/special occasion cards.  It's not like I'm ever going to go back and read them again. But, how could I NOT keep this one?  It's from Wiam Haddad, a South African Greentopper who is the epitome of all things wonderful.  This one might even get framed for the library....

There are about a half dozen other bags started with sorting.  They include labels such as Recycle, Return to Rightful Owner, Put Away, Donate, Belongs at Work, Emily, and ?.  I hope that there are eventually several bags of trash, recycle, and donate.

By the time I left for work, I had one large bag completely full of trash.

Days to go: 39
Bags to go: 39

Clean Sweep: Take 2

Last spring (2011) I tried to clear my house of a lot of junk that I no longer need.  I had read about someone who had done a "40 bags in 40 days" challenge during Lent as a way to get her life together.  So I gave it a shot.  I failed.  Miserably.

So here we go again.  I'm leaving for the first of my fall vacations in 20 days.  I've been in this house for almost 20 months.  There are still boxes not unpacked, shelves not set up, rooms not decorated, and junk not sorted.

Last time I really didn't have any rules for myself, which I think was a large contributing factor to my failure.  And let's be honest, I don't really care for rules that much anyway.  So I'm going to call them "guidelines" for success.....

A.  If an item of clothing hasn't been worn since I moved into this house, it's gone - either to the trash or the local thrift store, depending on condition. Same goes for shoes (and those probably smell so bad they need to be burned immediately).
2.  If something for a craft project was purchased before I moved to Maryland, there's a good chance that project is never getting done.  Give it to someone who can actually use it!
3.  I do not need to save every piece of paper from everything that ever happened.
4.  I doubt I will ever have use for the scanner and digital camera dock that was purchased in 2002.  Just saying.
5.  There is no standard size for the bags that need to be filled and removed, but anything smaller than a standard grocery bag is unacceptable.

The reward for completing this challenge will be new nightstands from Ikea that match my dressers!  Anybody want to place a bet on the outcome?  I hear Vegas odds are 10-1 on this race....

Days to go: 40
Bags to go: 40

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Bedpan Incident

This story starts long before the actual bedpan incident.  Approximately four weeks ago I started taking horseback riding lessons at work.  I figured it was the one program I know the least about, so it was high time I learn.  A week ago today was my third lesson, and I have been riding this beautiful percheron named Bo-Vine, So-Fine (so named because of his cow-like markings), but we call him Bo for short.  Oh, and did I mention that he's the biggest horse EVER?
It was getting to the end of the lesson and we had learned how to "reverse" (did anyone else just get the Cha-Cha Slide stuck in your know, "REVERSE, REVERSE...REVERSE REVERSE"?) our horses.  So our instructor had set up an obstacle course in the riding arena that included 10 posts between a set of cones, a figure eight around some barrels, "parking" in a "parking space" and then backing out, then trotting a victory lap around the arena.  

Now, back up another week to my previous lesson, when we worked a lot on my balance while trotting.  A lot of it has to do with the fact that my left ankle is significantly weaker than my right.  It goes back to a high school softball injury that never healed quite right.  So in this most recent lesson, when it came time for me to  do my victory lap, I was fairly confident that I could make it the whole lap around the arena without too much trouble.  

But I was wrong.  Bo and I were almost finished when I started to lose my  balance, regained it, but over corrected a little and just came right off and hit the ground.  From about six feet up.  I just laid there, probably yelling a mixture of obscenities and 'oh, God!'s.  After lying there a while and attempting to stand up, we called an ambulance.

I will spare you the rest of the painful details about getting strapped to the backboard, an ill-fitting collar, and a rather bumpy ride to the hospital.  Once I got into my room, initial assessments completed, et cetera, I OF COURSE had to pee. And since I had yet to be x-rayed or CT-scanned, they wouldn't let me up to go to the toilet (not that I probably could have walked at this point, anyway).  

So in comes Amber the nurse, Maria the CNA, and a bedpan.  After getting me all undressed and situated, Amber promised me that I was appropriately positioned on top of the bedpan.  SHE PROMISED.  But then I couldn't go.  It wasn't like I was bladder shy...I pee with other people around all the time.  It was because I am used to going while sitting down, not while lying flat on my back.  But Amber, being the professional she is, walked over to the sink, turned on the water, and it was like MAGIC.  

Magic that I quickly felt running up my back.  When I said something, Amber and Maria both assured me that there was nothing to worry about, that there was no urine pooling underneath me, so it was going to be fine.  Except then when I was finished and she took the bedpan away, she realized that I, in fact, had not been totally peeing into the bedpan.  

BUT AMBER, YOU PROMISED!!!  hahahahahahahahahhaah

I felt so bad, though.  And after they cleaned up the mess I'd made, they just covered me up with a gown and some blankets.  I'm not sure if it was the pain, the drugs, or just me being ridiculous, but I felt the need to tell all three people who came to take me to various x-rays and scans that I was pantsless.  

This is my life.  And this is my bruise:
Pretty sweet, huh?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Great Debate

We've all been a part of a discussion that went something like this:
Have you seen the new __________ movie?
Yeah, but the book was better.
As usual.

In some sense of the word, it's true.  Books are generally more detailed, tell a fuller story, and give the reader more freedom to imagine the characters and events in his or her own mind.  But books aren't accompanied by musical scores, nor do they have the advantage of live performances.  Movies do.  

The point I'm trying to make is that comparing books to movies is futile, because they are so different.  It would be like saying eating at Chipotle is better than eating at the authentic Mexican restaurant.  Chipotle is, of course, inspired by Mexican food, but is a little bit of a different take on it.  It is the product of Steve Ells's creative culinary license.

In the early 20th century, there was a scientist who suggested that as a human race, we had discovered all there was to know. We had reached the end of the discovery phase of mankind. (I could go on about that for quite some time, but will save it for another day.)  While we obviously know that he was wrong, there is something to be said for the slow down in original ideas.

While I am by no means claiming to be an expert on the film industry, it does seem that the majority of movies these days are inspired by something else, whether it's a novel, a series, a comic book, or a real-life event.  And when you're in the story-telling business some of the details always get changed.  I love to tell stories, and it just so happens that I almost always have a story for every occasion.  But I will also be the first to admit that I do some embellishing from time to time.

The important thing to remember is that the details that get changed never affect the overall outcome of the story.  Let's talk Lord of the Rings.  Those of you who know me know that, given the chance, I would go live out my days in Middle Earth, barefoot and drinking tea with hobbits, chilling and talking slowly in Fangorn with the ents, and riding all over Rohan and Gondor with the Rohirrim (on Shadowfax, of course, since Gandalf would be my homeboy and lend him to me whenever I asked).

So, when the LOTR movies were released, I bet you can imagine that I was initially disappointed at the exclusion of (among other things) Tom Bombadil, the Battle for the Shire, and what could have been the most epic cliffhanger in the history of cinema.  (For those of you who DKDC about LOTR: at the end of The Two Towers book, we are left to believe that Frodo has been killed by Shelob, a giant spider, in her lair in Mordor.)  But now I am able to look at the three films as a whole and see that while they do not tell every single piece of Tolkien's story exactly as he told it, they still tell the story.  And beautifully so.

Okay, I'm trying to reel it in, since I could go on about LOTR forever, and you very well might not care, but I just have one more point to make.

Now that I can view the movies as a whole, I have come to the realization that my favorite scene from the films is something that never even happened in the books.  In The Two Towers movie, at the Battle of Helm's Deep (which, btw, is only one chapter in the book), the army of elves shows up to aid in the defense against the orcs.  I love that scene.  I love that the elves are there, without question, to fight a war that isn't theirs to fight.  I love their fancy helmets and bows.  I love that they never seem to run out of arrows.   I love that they don't think twice about losing their immortality for the greater good. That scene really makes that movie what it is.

And that, in the end, is the beauty of art. It's the realization that each genre is different.  And, as with people, differences should be celebrated and enjoyed.  The fact of the matter is that none of us would want to sit through a movie that was exactly like the book...because it would be a 72-hour film!  I've decided to stop making "better or worse" comparisons between books and movies.  Rather, it should be a question of "Was I entertained? Was it a good performance (either written or acted)? Is it thought-provoking? Does it evoke an emotional response? Would i read/watch it again?

We spend so much time complaining about how movies aren't as good as their inspiration that we fail to see that they are, in their own right, works of art.