Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bird by bird; or, Don't Look Now, but there's a squirrel on the wall.

Am I the only person who finds hanging that first picture and those first curtains in a new place completely and totally nerve-wracking? There is something about blemishing a perfectly smooth, freshly painted, and clean wall that causes me to live with stacks of framed photographs, paintings, and posters lined up around the perimeter of every room in a house for weeks or months at a go. 

I finally gave in, got out the hammer, and went to work. Thirteen pictures on the wall, probably three times that many crammed in a closet, little by little, it's going to get done. I'm starting to feel like I actually live here and we're not just squatting amongst 15K lbs of fine quality junk that I really, really wish I would have gone through years ago. 

One of my favorite books on writing (and life) is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. If you are an English teacher/major and haven't read it, or if you like to write, do yourself a favor and go to a bookstore or library and pick it up.

Keeping in mind that it's been years since I've read it, and my apologies if I get some of the details wrong, here's the origin of the title as I remember it---and a phrase I've come back to so many times in my life: 

The author's brother had several weeks to get a big report on birds due, and he did what so many kids do---he waited until the night before to do most of the work, and found himself totally and completely overwhelmed, exhausted, and frustrated. 

This was SO me as a kid, bawling my eyes out and pulling a near all-nighter to do a science fair project, a book report, a research paper. I totally empathize with this kid---AND his poor parents

Anyhoo, he is crying and ready to give up, when his father sits down beside him and tells him, "Just take it bird by bird." 


So when I process dozens of new books while trying to answer emails, stay on top of scheduling, and take care of everything else at work, or I'm trying to cram boxes Jenga-style into a garage or closet until I can finally get to them, I tell myself it will get done, bird by bird. 

One little bird, or in this case, squirrel, who is doing great is Rodney. 

Why did my grandfather feel the need to shoot a squirrel and have him stuffed to put on their wall? Nobody really knows. My grandparents had it on their Crystal Springs wall for all of my life plus some. When they moved from that house to the house next door to my parents, the squirrel did not make the cut. They were actually going to throw him out. 

I rescued him from the trash heap and took him back to Texas. I can't tell you how ridiculous he looked, all taxidermied into a state of half-shock, half-oblivion, riding atop the dog's carrier in the back of our Expedition for the 10 hour trip. He was just "Squirrel" until we hung him on the wall, and my husband christened him in his new home as "Rodney." New beginnings, new name.

Just like my sister and I had to fight the urge as children to touch him every time we got near him, my youngest was grabbing at his tail as soon as he could sit up and focus. And now, Rodney is at home. . . in Cuba. He is, to my knowledge, Cuba's only squirrel. 

A group of teenagers came by Saturday to pick up our oldest to go to the beach, and the conversation between one of the girls and myself went something like this: 

Yeah, we're going to Windmill Beach because we have the two little kids and the waves aren't bad there, plus it's fun to play in the sand there and OH. MY. GOD. IS THAT A REAL SQUIRREL ON YOUR WALL????!!!!! 

Then the little kids-- a 3 year old nephew of one and a 5 year sister of another---had to be picked up so they, too, could touch Rodney. He just has that effect on people.

I'm not 100% sure, but if you look at him just right, Rodney seems to have a bigger smile with his little crooked squirrel buck teeth than usual. I really think he likes Cuba. 

One taxidermied squirrel and a vase of artistic sticks. 
Bet you can't find THAT on Pinterest. 

But I imagine you aren't reading this blog because of my non-stop ramblings about unpacking--- you want more about Gitmo, right? 

So how's this for a weather report? This was last Thursday: 

Most buildings around here require a sweater, jacket, etc because of the chill factor. In order to keep the humidity (and mold) down, you apparently have to freeze it out. I have to dump gallons of water out of several dehumidifiers every day because humidity = mold, and books + mold = librarian's nightmare . Storing moldy books just spreads it to non-infected books. It's a constant battle, keeping the mold at bay. I guess it would be ironic (or just sad) at this point for me to admit that I'm allergic to mold, yet I chose to spend my career in a place that seems to attract it, so we'll skip that part of the story.

I took these sunny day pictures as I was on my lunch break, getting gas. I know, a quick trip to the gas station during lunch, no biggie, right? You know, you queue up at the tanker truck which is between the car wash and outdoor movie theatre because the only gas station on post has been closed for months. I hear the pump broke and the part is "on the barge." It's full service, which I guess is good considering it's $4.09 a gallon.

the gas station in all its glory

But you see blue skies and the sun blaring off the car windshield? 

Driving 25 mph only a few miles to work every day, carpooling with my husband, getting home long before dark, I can't ask for everything to be perfect, right? I walked home from work tonight and it took a whopping 25 minutes. That was about 2/3 to 1/2 of my commute time each way to work until we moved here. So, in the words of our youngest, "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." 

And that is how we roll here in Gitmo. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Groundhog Day; or, It's Déjà Vu All Over Again

My three guys---Windmill Beach, opening weekend post-Sandy, December 2012
Windmill Beach, again---one month later
Last week, someone who has been here three years (and is now leaving) jokingly told me beware because "every day on Gitmo is kind of like Groundhog Day." (The movie, not the actual holiday. . . It's the dead of winter and 87 today. Tomorrow will be within 4 degrees of that. . . and the same the next day. . . and the next. . . for 365 days). 

It does really seem like you run into the same people in the NEX, you see the same people when you eat at the Galley, you drop off kids at school the same time as a small group of parents who you also see at all the student/parent functions. Also: I can predict the Commissary will be out of either a)bread, b)plain yogurt, c)sour cream, and/or d)bacon this week. I will take my grocery buggy down the narrow aisles and upon seeing that there is no bread, I will run into at least one person who, upon seeing no bread, will the say the same 2-3 curse words as I (maybe even in unison). 

I will also see at least 4 curly-tailed lizards when I go back to work Tuesday morning, and the iguanas, who are very territorial, will be in the same 3-4 places on the roadside during the morning commute. My neighbor's cat, Reggie, will be on the car when I leave for work, and will be stretched in the driveway when I try to park the car. 

No matter how much it is stateside, gas will still be over $4/gallon next week. Nothing at the Commissary or NEX will ring up as the price on the shelves (it is usually cheaper). The same 5-6 songs will play on the way to and from school over one of the three local radio stations (usually Katie Perry or Rihanna---kill me now). Even the menu for most the restaurants will be the same weekly rotation. 

Every electric clock in my house will, inexplicably, lose 5 minutes or more this week. Does time really stand still here at Gitmo? We'll never know. 

There's that ugly, poisonous toad that took up with the plumeria in my backyard that I thought I discouraged from coming back when I moved the plant to the front yard. Want to guess who now lives in the front yard? 

And then, there are the little surprises. For only the second time since we've been here, there have been donuts at the Commissary. Nope, we don't get donuts here, so when we do. . . wowza. 

We found another great place to eat---a group of Jamaicans grill every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night on a hill near the Lyceum. It's not a restaurant---just a group of guys grilling, and for a donation, you can get a plate to go (or sit on the hill and listen to some reggae while eating). We got grilled fish with okra and Scotch bonnet peppers, Jamaican flat bread and rice and beans---and it was the best fish I've had in forever. 

There's the book I found at the base library I've been wanting to read forever---and for the first time in a long time, I've been sucked into that vortex of a great book, where you don't want to eat or sleep or socialize if it interrupts with reading time. 

There was the decision of Happy Hour or Yoga (you can guess which one I chose), and there was the thrill of doing something different on a Friday night (and having a great time meeting new people and sharing many laughs with people I already know). 

There was also the thrill for the youngest son of seeing, for the first time here, a tiny eel in a tide pool when we went to Windmill Beach yesterday. 

Every other Tuesday brings new merchandise on the barge, and as silly as it seems, leaving work as early as possible and seeing what's new is a sport in itself. The aisles are crowded, half of our neighborhood is in the store, and we share our knowledge of what's new and its location before it sells out (usually by Wednesday). 

So there's the familiar ad naseum, but then there are the little things that more than make up for it.

As I've said before, I hate the question of where I'm from, but the question of where I'm going is a whole other thing. 

The answer is. . . who knows? 

Life was not always easy before we moved here, and living here has its difficulties (no bread, limited/mega-expensive flights off island, isolation), but there are SO many pluses to consider, it is easy to forget the negatives. Twice in one day last week, I was asked the same question: "Are you happy you made the decision to come here?" It was not an easy decision, but as of this weekend, the 3 month anniversary of moving here, I am most definitely thinking "yes." 

In regards to where I (we) are going. . . I will probably be here for at least 3 years with my job. Then we may be able to transfer to another military base somewhere else in the world---with all the budget cuts and military base closures, there was a recent announcement that there will be no transfer round this year. 

Does this really affect me right here and now? Not at all. I can't wrap my head around the idea of leaving here because I am still trying to figure out the place. Unbelievably, there are still a few (two, I think) roads I haven't traveled on in this tiny area. There is the Bay to kayak and ski. There are manatees and sharks and turtles and rays to find. Once I get well, there is diving! (I am still sick with the Gitmo crud---three weeks and counting). There is bowling, 5Ks, hiking, lots of festivals and parties and fun events. There is so much to see and adventures to take, I can't imagine doing all of it in three years. 

There is also getting everything unpacked. One month after 15,000 lbs of our fine quality junk made it, we are still going through each and every box, and going through the mentally and physically (and sometimes, emotionally) exhausting task of dividing up what we want to keep, to give away, or to throw away. And now that the "keep" pile is a bit much for our very small house, we are going back through cabinets and closets and drawers and doing more weeding. I was hoping it would be done in a month, but more damn shoes and books keep showing up. I think they are multiplying over night. 

I also can't even consider leaving my job here when I have so much to learn, so much to do. I have two offices, which means two desks, two computers, two storage areas, two sets of records, two sets of book processing supplies, two collections to maintain. And what do I do at work for much of the day? The same--- the arduous task of figuring out what to keep, to give away, or to throw away---as at home. 

So I guess that does make my life, at the present, very Groundhog Day after all.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Question I Hate; or, (d) none of the above

"So where is home?"

Can I tell you how much I hate that question?

And it's not because I'm ashamed of where I was born or raised or where I just moved from. It's just I don't really know where "home" is.

I spent most of my life in South Mississippi, in a small paper mill town (smells like money!) that not many people have heard of.  I haven't lived there full-time since I was 17, so even though it's where I'm from, I can go to the grocery store today and not recognize a single person. That doesn't mean my heart doesn't pitter-patter every time we exit the interstate and we're finally on the way there. My parents have lived at the same address most of my life, and although my bedroom looks different,  it's still "my" room, my house, my corner of the neighborhood.  It's just not where I call home anymore. My family, my classmates I've known and loved since I was five, the friends from my youth, they are home.

There is a certain snobbery and hierarchy amongst Mississippians, where many Deltans tend to think of themselves as the top of the social strata. I realized a few years ago that to some extent, I, too, am guilty of this. Most of my life, when asked, I've said,  "I was raised in South Mississippi---but I was born in the Delta." Of course, being born somewhere and living there five years doesn't really qualify it as your home.

Except, of course, the corner of Main and E. Clay, where my grandparents and great uncle/aunt shared a large yard adjoining their two houses, which is also my home (even if one of the houses isn't standing anymore). The big oak tree with acorns---I'd make little hats out of the caps---and the forbidden leaf pile my sister and cousins and I would sneak into while my Papaw wasn't looking--they are as important to me as my childhood house. That tree is also gone. My love of books started at the rickety old McCormick Book Inn, an independent book store, just a block away, and I'm incredibly sad to hear of its recent closure. Like so many important things from the past, all these places will just have to live in my memory from now on.

My cousin took this pic of the McCormick Book Inn in 2010.

I've heard that smell is the strongest of the senses, and I can recognize the scent of black Delta soil anywhere. 

Even though my birthplace isn't it, magnolias and gardenias and Delta dirt smell like home.

Then there is another place, the bend in a road where my grandfather and grandmother built their first (and until 60 years later, only) house, across the street from the house where my grandfather was born. All around is land that at one time, my family farmed. They had an amazing yard for Easter egg hunts and my last time there, my sister and I and our families got out in the field next to the house---the one in front of the packing shed with a huge, walk-in freezer---and played soccer on what used to be a big garden plot. I feel a strong connection to that land.

My grandparents sold their house and property and my grandmother now lives next door to my parents. She is home. But her house is not.

Shelling peas with Grammaw = love

There's Georgia and Colorado and Washington and Texas. We have a child born to the last two states (and lived in those longer than I lived in my birthplace), so I guess part of those states will always be part of us.

But that still doesn't make them home.

The people, however, are. I have a core group of friends who know just the right thing to say or the right advice to give, and we can comfortably pick up our conversation from where we last left off, no matter how many years or miles apart.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from the beautifully written book The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles. He sums the life of a wanderer much more eloquently than I ever could, in the character of Port:

He did not think of himself as a tourist; he was a traveler. The difference is partly one of time, he would explain. Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler, belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly, over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. Indeed, he would have found it difficult to tell, among the many places he had lived, precisely where it was he had felt most at home.

This is the quandary of many a military brat. I know because I married one. He tells people, "I'm from all over." As one of my colleagues, also a brat, says, "I'm from everywhere. I'm from nowhere." And now I'm raising kids who one day may tell people the same thing.

That's one of the issues of living on such an isolated base. Some people never get out of their houses for their entire time here, never go to the beach, never take advantage of many of the free or almost-free recreational activities. They are homesick, and they isolate themselves, making themselves even more miserable. They hate it here and can't wait to leave. They don't even try.

Seriously, how could someone hate living with this view? 

Then there are those of us who go with the flow and really can't answer the question of home. For me, it is not one geographical place. It makes globe-tripping somewhat easier, although I am really a little jealous of anyone who can answer that question with strong conviction.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Drive-bys in Gitmo; or, How a Gang Took My Youngest and Brought Back Pigpen

Kids here do a thing I like to call "drive by friending." It starts with one kid, picking up another on foot or bike, working their way through our winding neighborhood, knocking on doors, collecting classmates and friends until they have a large group to go to the park, bowling, the movies, etc. Part of being one of NINE kids in your entire grade means that as a high schooler, drive-by friending is a social necessity. Our oldest ends up at the movies at least once a week. There is a base bus that runs every 30 minutes from our housing area, and it works out beautifully for exhausted parents who don't always want to drive kids around. The theater is outdoors, and the evenings are usually in the low 70s with a nice breeze. Here's what is showing this week:

Not bad for free transportation and free movies! 

Overheard, at the high school: "My friends in the States just sit in their houses and text each other. They are so boring!" 

A gang of children came by and got our youngest for his first drive-by friending this weekend. (By gang, think "Peanuts," not "Crips"). A vagabond group of elementary-aged munchkins rode their bikes to the park right behind our house, which has a basketball court and huge (covered!) playscape. We all have gates on our back fences opening to a path to the park. It's great. 

Best part? 

H was filthy when he got home. We're talking a 2 bath cloth, scrubbing until you turn bright pink filthy. His face was smudged, his hair and clothes were caked with mud, and the smell. . .  In the immortal words of James Brown, "Good God, Y'all!"  It took me back to my childhood in small town MS, hanging out with my friends from The Subdivision (yes, my town was so small that my neighborhood was called---you guessed it---"the subdivision"). We would be ride our bikes to the ballpark, the town pool, or the Icee store, with me sometimes riding my Siamese cat Me-Me-Ow in the basket (wearing baby doll clothes, of course!), and always coming home to my mom's protestations: "Wash your knees! Go re-wash them! They are brown! You are dirty!" "But Mom, my knees are always brown!" Even today, when I have a tan, my knees, elbows, and toes turn dark brown. But that didn't keep my mom from trying her best to scrub me clean. Then there was my precious Granny who would tell us grandkids, "You've got the goats!" which was her way of saying we were nasty and smelled, of course, like goats. 

(If any of you reading are city-folk who have never gotten close to a real goat, trust me---their smell is not pleasant.)

It's one of my favorite Granny-isms and I try to casually drop it in conversation when the opportunity/smell arises. 

So having a son who a)looks like a feral child; b)smells like a goat; c)hangs out all afternoon with a group of kids and NOT A SINGLE ADULT; and d)passes out by 7 pm from exhaustion all makes me a happy mom. Exercise, socialization, and independence---mission accomplished. 

Santa, also known as my parents, brought us grownups (and kids) a beautiful dining room set for Christmas, and part of the beauty of everyone being at home at dinner time is we can actually sit around a table and talk like civilized humans. 

When you are married (to the same person) for almost 20 years, you can narrate each other's childhood stories. I think of them as our "greatest hits." We both have trauma stories involving sharp objects and our faces. It's like us getting together was destiny. My story is about a gruesome freak Thanksgiving accident---I ended up in the back of my mom's old Oldsmobile with a wire coathanger stuck in my eye (eeeewwww!) as we were trying to leave for my grandparents' house. Talk about ruining the holiday. 

But my husband's story of getting radio antennae to a remote control car (oh, technology of the seventies) stuck up his nose, all the while his brother is giving it gas, the wheels spinning as the car is violently dangling, is one of my favorites. And the way he tells it is really funny. 

So funny, in fact, that the youngest fell out of his chair laughing hysterically, and then he threw down the gauntlet: all dinner time conversation must be exciting, riveting, and dramatic. No more, "How was your day, honey?" B.S. He wants laughter. He wants entertainment Actually, he wrote out a list, called the "talk list," and this is what he wants: 

Oh. My.Gobble. My son has a genrefied table topic list. You'd think his mom is a librarian or something. 

In addition, here is yet one more H incident this week (or as my friend Amy likes to say, "sh*t my H says").

One of his last moments in his hometown in Texas was getting his hand slammed in the car door on the way to the airport. Not an auspicious way to end one chapter and begin another, right? His pinky nail turned green, then purple, then black, until this past week, it finally fell off. There was a nice new nail underneath, and being a boy, he wanted to keep the nail (naturally). 

He also has two teeth that are dangling in the front of his mouth. It totally grosses me out (Like, totally! Gag me with a spoon! Fer sure!). So Snagglepuss has wiggled and twisted and even tied floss to his loose teeth, but they are staying put. 

He wants to know this (and maybe some of you know): if there is a tooth fairy to give you money, why can't there also be a fingernail fairy? 

Good question, right? 

Something for you all to ponder. Maybe for your talk list. 

You are welcome. 

for Mrs. Brown: Rock Lobster, Thursday Nite. B There or B L7.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bread is Overrated; or, Just Another Day at the Beach

Sitting and thinking about purging is a lot different than the real thing.

Today, shoes have caused me much pain. And I'm not talking about my old lady bunions.

I'm talking about the boxes that I've been bumping into for weeks now and decided to tackle. Remember what I said about you really only need 10 pairs of shoes?

Yeah, who was I kidding?!?

Box one---about 10 pairs of shoes, joined another 10 or so pairs from the express shipment. Found a shoe organizer nobody remembers purchasing (and nobody remembers ever seeing in our old house) and filled it. Felt good about my purging efforts, as I managed to get rid of 5 pairs or so.

Then box number 2. More shoes. Hmmm, maybe I don't really need these, I can double up and make room for these, definitely need these.

Then box number 3. More damn shoes!!!

Welcome to hoarders, shoe edition. I won't tell you how many pairs of shoes (boxes and boxes) I got rid of in Texas before The Big Move, and I won't tell you how many I just put in a big box for the thrift store.

I will tell you that I still have over 50 pairs of shoes. Oy vey! I am a shoe hoarder! Get me in a 12-step program. This is going to be a lot more difficult than I envisioned while I sat up in bed, sick as a dog, waxing philosophically about how I need to downsize and get rid of excess stuff in my life.

I'm blaming the codeine cough syrup for my delusions of purging.

Anywho, we may not have bread at the commissary going on four days now (seriously, folks, we have no loaves of bread), but we have the beach!

Today we decided to take the beautiful drive out to Cable Beach, which is at the farthest end of the island from the housing areas. Even if you don't plan on swimming, who could resist a drive that looks like this?

This is what Gitmo looks like. Mostly brown/dry. Mountains in the background. Amazing blue water. Usually all in one frame. I even get all three looking out my front door. But this view on the way to Cable Beach is the prettiest on the island. 

Before hitting the beach, we had to stop to see the progress at The Slot. It's a dive spot that was washed away by Hurricane Sandy, and with lightening speed, has been rebuilt with concrete steps leading to a dive platform. From there, I took an obligatory lighthouse shot. This is the picture everyone who has lived here has taken at least once. 

And finally, a day at the beach---our first in three weeks, thanks to a nasty case of the Gitmo Crud (this is what the doctor says I have, so it's an official diagnosis) that I am finally getting over. 

Since last unpacking update, found: 1 3/4 bedroom lamps, Pedro the Yard Chicken (pics to come), electric guitar. Still looking for: 1/4 bedroom lamp, mates to 5 shoes I really, really need, and glass shelves for china cabinet. 

Stay warm, my friends.  Tomorrow I'm hoping to join Pedro the Yard Chicken for a little quality yard work/amateur landscaping/poisonous toad relocation/bottle tree reconstruction  before returning to work/school on Monday. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Thinking, Not Doing; or, Give it Away Now

Buddha leading the way, France Summer 2012

Der mentsh trakht un got lakht.---Yiddish Proverb "Man Plans, God Laughs."

A respiratory infection has knocked me flat on my butt for most of my two week vacation, so my unpacking, relaxing, sunbathing/swimming, and even reading has gone by the wayside. So much for plans.

So instead I've slept. Or tried to sleep. I have had such a persistent cough, my sternum and ribs hurt. I've pulled neck muscles. I'm in pain, I'm wheezing and up all night, and my doctor appointment is NEXT Wednesday.

I finally gave up Saturday and did what any sane person in the US hates doing---I took a trip to the ER out of desperation.

Except here, people don't crowd the ER because they don't have insurance and they are using it as their primary care physician.

Instead, people go to the ER because. . . wait for it. . . they are having an emergency. And everyone---contractors, active duty, dependents, civilians, foreign nationals---has to have medical clearance, which requires proof of insurance, before they can come on the island.

The years I was an Army wife, my husband (and our military friends) would always laugh about no matter what your ailments and diagnosis are, the military always gives you 800 mg Ibuprofen.

Guess what I got for my neck pain? :)

I also got something for my horrendous cough, a nice and shiny new inhaler for my wheezing, and even though I didn't sleep great last night, I got more than my usual 3 hours since this started.

Even better, I really, really was happy with the staff at the ER. They were friendly, thorough, and because I was the only (yep, the only) person there, it was efficient.

I don't plan on going again, but it's good to know that on our little chunk of the island, the medical care has been, so far, really good.

I'm going for a follow up on Wednesday to meet my new primary care physician. We were sad to leave our wonderful family practitioner of the last 10 years, so those are really big shoes to fill.

Buddha in a rare Texas snow, 2010

What sitting around, hacking and trying to rest for six days does do is allow you to slow down. It also gives you time to do a lot of thinking.

Instead of unpacking, I'm thinking about unpacking. I've also done a lot of thinking about what is in the boxes. Why do I own all this stuff?

I've read a few blogs and web pages about living a minimal lifestyle. There is one that encourages you to pare down to 100 possessions---just my books alone would knock that out. (Although, maybe I could call my book collection 1 item. Would that be cheating?). Then there are sites out there that talk about French women's tiny (compared to American women) wardrobes and their habit of buying quality, not quantity. The "ten item wardrobe" is a catch-phrase being thrown about.

I'm not even close to 100 possessions or 10 wardrobe items---but think about a rule of 10, for example. Do you really need more than 10 of anything? Seriously? Ten pairs of shoes. Ten towels. Ten tools. Ten pots and pans. Ten toiletries. The possibilities are endless.

I'm faced every day with the fact that I am one of those awful consumers who buys lots and lots of crap I really don't need, stick it in a drawer, and then end up giving it away later.

Living where there is so little choice for shopping, where online shopping is excruciating, where the mail is freakishly irregular, actually helps curb those urges to shop out of boredom (or even necessity).

But more than material objects, I'm also giving up the time I spent on so many other things that caused me stress.

No more leaving home at 7 am, getting home at 6 pm. No more sitting in traffic, trying not to get angry or frustrated. No more having my son be the last kid picked up at after-school care---again---because I work in one town and live in another. No more missing my kids' activities because I am commuting or working.

Don't get me wrong---there are some stresses. Instead of working one location with a partner and an assistant, both of whom I depended on for so much, I am by myself and split between two locations. Did I mention I'm by myself? And I work at two locations? Yep, so that's rough.

But the time I save allows me to balance where I'm going to be on what day, and gives me time (while I'm actually at work and not at home---what a concept!) to let everyone know when I'm going to be where. And my desk is *gasp* actually organized and clean for once in my career.

The same Buddha, springtime in Texas 2012

The concept of letting go is not new to me. 

I just feel like, for once, I'm finally following it. 

Fourteen years ago, shortly after having my first son, I tried to make sense of the new chaos in my life and sort of stumbled upon Buddhism. 

My favorite book I've read--and reread at least four times---is Lama Surya Das' Awakening the Buddha Within. No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs are, Buddhism offers lessons about life and mindful living that can enrich anyone. 

One of the Noble Truths is "Life is Hard." Seriously---how can you not want to know more with a philosophy that tells you like it is? 

And guess what causes life to be difficult? Attachment to material possessions. 

All these damn boxes in my house are making my life difficult. I can't move around because of them, and I can't think of doing anything but getting them unpacked and sorted. 

So I'm trying to make life easier and I'm trying to give away my possessions. And by "giving away," I don't mean just a box or two---I mean giving away an entire closet worth of clothes. Boxes and boxes of extra linens. Lots of toys the kids haven't missed since we've been here.  

Once I went two months on a week and a half's worth of clothes, my boxes of clothes seem very unnecessary. I can live with so much less. 

And please don't think that I'm speaking as this enlightened being who doesn't have some attachment issues---I'm having the damndest time getting rid of several things because I suffer horribly from sentimentality. That box of letters my Granny wrote me while I was a college kid? I'm never getting rid of those. Ever. When I'm dead and gone, my kids are going to have to wade through her indecipherable wanderings about clouds and  neurotic pet poodles and what she cooked for lunch and "Why don't you ever write me?" (She was going senile---I wrote her---often---but she still chastised me in all her letters). Like my hundreds of books, I'm all warm and fuzzy inside just knowing they are in the house. 

Onwards to 2013---purge, purge, purge, and give it away. 

I already feel lighter.