Monthly Archives: October 2011

The basement in the basement

Cleaning a basement seems like such a simple thing.  You sort things, you throw things out, you organize what’s left.



When you clean a basement, you confront your past.  You argue with yourself about your future.  You even face failures.

Think I’m being melodramatic?

All I’m saying is no one ever puts their Academy Award in the basement.

As I (finally) took some of my ‘before’ pictures today, I spent some time just looking at my basement.  What’s in it?  What do I want it to be?  What do I need?  These thoughts quickly turned into conversations (remember the conference room of Shelby’s I have in my head?).

First, the gift wrapping station.  Yes, I have a whole bunch of wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, and craft supplies.  I used to be crafty.  When I was just out of college and had no money, I made up for my humble gifts with awesome wrapping.  As I got busier, and let’s face it, had more disposable income, keeping things simple was most important.  Family gets green wrapping paper at the holidays, friends get blue.  Seriously.

So that one wasn’t so hard.  I don’t need a gift wrapping station.

Next up, the workbench.  I have lots of tools.  My ex-husband wasn’t terribly handy, but he tried.  And he liked to buy tools.  So I have tools I’ve never used, tools I’ve never heard of, and tools that have never been opened.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know how to use a hammer and a power drill (thanks Dad!).  I understand how to use a level and a stud finder.

(Heh. Heh.)

I own a home.  And I like to imagine that I am a smart independent woman so I SHOULD BE SOMEONE who can repair things.  But the truth is this: with the exception of doing the most basic tool-oriented tasks, I would just rather ask someone or pay someone to do it.  I will never, ever, figure out how to put up crown moulding.  I just won’t.  Not because I can’t.  But because I just don’t want to.  It’s hard to admit this to myself, let alone to the world.  I like to think I’m more self-sufficient than this.  But I don’t think I need my tool bench either.

The pantry is easy – thank goodness.  An emotional break since I cook all the time, I use most of the items in my pantry, and the ones I don’t I can easily let go of.  I can check some expiration dates and pitch the year’s supply of store-bought spaghetti sauce that has been there since before my divorce.  (My ex-husband was also a big fan of Sam’s club.  Seriously, I have been using the same jar of capers since 2002.)

But oh no.  There’s another room.  And in that room is the memories.  And the dreams.

All of the jigsaw puzzles we built.  Supplies for the camping we were always going to do but rarely did.  Decorations from our annual Halloween parties.  Framed photos I took down but can’t bear to throw away.  The box of ornaments we exchanged every year.

What do I need to let go of?  What will I regret throwing out in ten years?  What represents a hobby I should return to and what is an old dream I should forgive myself for abandoning?

Egad.  This is hard.  And you know what?  If this is cleaning the basement, I think cleaning the basement sucks.



Filed under Divorce, Family, Organizing

BEFORE – Otherwise known as “The Mess.”

Just a few before photos.

The "pantry" - UGH!

This is supposed to be a gift wrapping station

 And yes, I took these with my new iPhone.

And it made me smile.




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Complete failure….

…or minor delay?  YOU DECIDE!

I admit it.  Since I named my October(ish) resolution, I have only gone into my basement once.

To get an extension cord.

To charge my new laptop (MacBook Pro!) and my new phone (iPhone 4s!).

So yea, I’m a little distracted.

Before pictures coming soon.

I promise.


Filed under Uncategorized

Talkin’ About a Resolution

So what if it’s the 8th of October?  These RULES about when months begin and end are just silly.

Anyway, it’s true.  I live in an obscenely large house for one person (2,300 square feet) and I have an equally obscene large basement to go with it.  I have a house mate, and lots of her stuff is downstairs.  Another friend is storing ALL of her belongings there while she is away on her Fulbright Scholarship.  And I STILL have enough room to house a small village.

So what do I do with all that space?

I put stuff in it.  In no particular order and with little consideration as to whether I will ever need that stuff again.

It’s not out of control, but it’s annoying.  And since the rains of 2011 (we’ve had some flooding here, and even though my house didn’t flood, the basement did get a bit wet), I have some damp items that are turning moldy and need to be removed.

That and, um, my freezer died.  A terrible and smelly death.

So it’s time.

But here’s what I have to do.  I have to make a list of what this resolution will NOT become.  I have to do this because organizing projects have a way of taking over, well, everything.  I just love them so much.


FIRST, I will not refinish my basement.  Even though it will look better and more tidy if it has dry wall and a ceiling, I just DO NOT NEED more finished space in this house.

SECOND, I will not buy new shelving, containers, etc. unless ABSOLUTELY necessary.  I will not purchase storage items just so that my basement looks like a crate and barrel catalog.

THIRD, I will not start any craft/building projects simply because I discover materials in my basement that could be used to make a mosaic plant stand.  No.  I wont.

So, tomorrow will come the before pictures and we’ll see how it goes.
Wish me luck!


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Filed under Resolutions

Dear Kitty

I vividly remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank for the first time. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I do remember that shortly after finishing I started to keep my own diary. I was a rather uncreative child, and so I called my diary “Kitty” too. While I understood that her situation was bad, and the her story had a sad ending, I was more taken by the idea of the diary itself than anything else.

At the time, I am certain that I had a limited understanding of World War II, and even less of the Nazis and their idea of an ideal race. It wasn’t until the tenth grade, probably five or six years later, that I saw my first film footage of the Auschwiz liberation. The gas chambers, the emaciated survivors, the mass graves. I had to change my understanding of the world that day. I had to include the idea that someone, anyone, could want to exterminate a whole religion. A whole people.

In my early adulthood I went to the (then) brand new Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. I saw the shoes lined up on the floor, heard the voices of survivors telling their stories, and stood in a train car. I was old enough then to imagine letting go of my own child in hopes that her destination might have a less final fate.

This week, I went to the Dutch Resistance Museum, an excellent and powerful tribute to the many people who took small and large, and even enormous risks to fight the war, the Nazis, and the hatred. I learned about the stories, present in almost every European country, of outrage and solidarity in the face of overwhelming power and strength. I had to think hard about how different it is to be an American learning about this war, or living through it, than a Frenchman, a Dutchman, a German. If you live in Europe, how does your personal story ever recover? How does your country?

Also this week, I stood in the room where Anne Frank wrote her diary. I walked through the bookcase that hid the door, climbed up the very steep stairs, and stepped into the secret annex. It was hard to breathe. I cried when I saw her diary pages, her writing, and especially the photograph of her father, Otto, when he returned to the annex after learning that his wife, his children, indeed all of the people he had hidden with in that annex, were dead.

In preparation for this trip I read Anne’s diary again. As a grown up I now realize that part of what makes it so remarkable is how much like a normal girl’s diary it reads in spite of the fact that Anne and her family were hiding from the Nazis.

My older sister is the favorite.
My mother yells at me too much.
I want to be a famous writer some day.
Gosh that boy is cute.

Of course, then there are the passages where she longs to walk outside, to touch the earth, to dance and sing loudly and not care if anyone will hear. Those are the passages that break your heart. And then the ending which isn’t an ending at all, but just silence. Death.

Even today, no one knows who betrayed Anne and her family. The people who helped her were arrested too. So many of the resistance fighters lost their lives. When you are faced with such hatred and power, do you stand up and risk your own life or do you just try to survive? What would I have done, if faced with such horrible choices? What would I do now?

I like to think that I would have been a resistance fighter. That I would have stolen money to help Jews in hiding, or carried messages to Allied forces. But the truth is, I don’t know what I would have done. I can only wonder. And hope.

As I left the Anne Frank Huis Museum, there was a quote on the wall from Otto Frank:

“To build a future, you have to know the past.”

Perhaps that is the best I can do. That, and, in my own small way, speak and act against discrimination, injustice, and hate whenever I have the chance. In honor of Anne.


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Indulgence in Amsterdam

Ah, Amsterdam.  For many, this city is a place to indulge in things not normally allowed – not normally legal, in fact – in their own countries.  It’s true that I’ve smelled my fair share of pot in the past two days, and last night I was encouraged to purchase the services of a prostitute.  That was a first for me.

In my Amsterdam, however, the great temptation  so far has been –  and there are no surprises here – CHEESE.

Gouda – pronounced HHOW-da – is everywhere here.   Young (jong)  is more mellow and old (oude)  is stronger and saltier.  Both are DELICIOUS.  At almost every turn there are shops selling colorful wax-covered wheels of this miraculous cheese.  And where there are wax-covered wheels of cheese, there are samples.

I have resisted the urge to just go from one cheese shop to another.  I limit myself to those I wander past as I am exploring parts of the city for other reasons altogether.  But I have not let an opportunity to sample cheese go by, nor do I intend to.  I have not, interestingly, ordered much food with cheese in it – these small bits of perfection seem to be enough for me, so perhaps I am not indulging after all?

When I told people I was coming to Amsterdam, without exception everyone told me I would love it and that I could “do Amsterdam” in about two days.  I’ve been here for two days and I can tell you, I haven’t gotten anywhere near finishing with all of the wonderful cheese sights the city has to offer.  The buildings are just miraculous  with charming canals and boat houses, parks and courtyards at every turn.  The people are, well, TALL, exceptionally blond, but most noticeably very friendly and almost entirely bi-lingual.  (Seriously, I have never seen so many adults with natural blond hair in my life).  The vibe is that everyone is on vacation, even the locals.  How could you ‘do’ this in two days?  I want to stay forever.

Or at least until they run out of cheese.

Which won’t happen too quickly.


Filed under Cheese, Travel