Archive for February, 2013

Moved to help

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

In the past, whenever there has been an opportunity to help friends move, I have put on my cloak of invisibility and hoped that the subject quickly changed before my unwillingness to sacrifice a little of my time became too obvious.

However, this weekend, some close friends were moving and in my heart of hearts, I couldn’t ignore what I’m sure was divine inspiration to volunteer. They had a big household to move so they were certainly going to need as much help as they could get to pack and schlep boxes. Besides, I spend lots of time in the gym working on my endurance and strength; rather than just doing it all for vanity, why not put my muscles to use in a very practical way?

So yesterday, I showed up ready to do whatever was asked of me. While I don’t think I would want to spend all my Saturdays as a free-lance mover, as volunteer jobs go, it just wasn’t that bad. In fact, I enjoyed it. Part of that is because I enjoy manual labor. Give me a pile of mulch that needs to be moved from Point A to Point B and I’m ready to take on the challenge. Maybe I’m just not a very intellectual person because I actually enjoy mindless tasks. My kids are still whining about all the summers in our old house that they spent moving mulch with me. Unfortunately, they have yet to discover the gratification that I feel when I look at my work and see what was once a mountain of mulch is now a molehill. It’s the same with a big pile of moving boxes. Keep at it, and before you know it, the boxes are out of there and you’re sweeping out an empty room.

Moving is also a very different experience when you’re not the one moving. Just being a helper, all I had to do is show up and see where I could be useful for a few hours and then leave at the end of the day and go home to my orderly house. When you’re the one moving, the satisfaction over completing clearing out your living space is short-lived knowing that there is the chaos of unpacking it all waiting at the other end.

I found that moving someone else’s stuff isn’t really that different from moving mulch because in both cases, there isn’t any emotional connection with what you’re doing and that makes the work easy. When it’s your own pictures, books, linen closet, kitchen drawer, every item that you pack has an emotional component. “I always regretted buying that;” or “That never worked right and it made me angry every time I tried to use it;” or “That reminds me of when the kids were little and we used to have such a good time cutting out the cookie dough.” It becomes so emotionally draining.

Being slightly OCD, when I’m moving my own belongings, it’s easy for me to agonize over finding the perfect way to organize and pack. “I know this will fit!” And then I spend the next 30 minutes trying to pack a box like a Tetris game. But hey, when it’s not my stuff, the goal is just to get it done. As Steve pointed out, it’s more a “Kill them all; let God sort them out” approach to packing. A clock radio in the same box as the beach towels? They’ll figure it out on the other end.

When it comes to helping our friends with the unpacking…I’m ready.

Remembering Doris

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Steve got the news this morning that his mother, Doris, who would have turned 90 this year, had finally slipped away. She had suffered for many years from Parkinson’s-related dementia so although her passing was not a shock, it’s still sad when it actually happens.

I really didn’t know my mother-in-law well. Around the time our kids were elementary school age, Doris started having memory issues so Steve’s sister moved their mom from Southern California to be closer to where she lived in Washington State. As an aside, I think there must be a special place in heaven for the child who takes on the responsibility of caring for an increasingly infirm parent. As I saw with my older sister who moved, cared and advocated for our mother, Steve’s sister sacrificed countless hours and emotional energy to make sure that Doris felt loved and attended to throughout her decade-long battle with Parkinson’s.

What I will remember most about Doris is her talent and skill as a seamstress. Had she been of a different generation, she would have been a star competitor on “Project Runway.” She totally understood three-dimensional design and had perfected her pattern-making skills working for a designer in Los Angeles. And she was a student of fashion; until the magazines had to be given away prior to moving from Los Angeles, I think she owned and archived every issue of Vogue magazine.

Because I liked to sew, this was a way that she and I could connect during her occasional visits. Although she was very gracious and complimented me on a couple of maternity outfits I made for myself, I was really a sewing dilettante compared to her. Her skills were amazing; I remember helping her wash a plaid jacket that she had made. Not only were the horizontal stripes in perfect alignment, but the entire plaid pattern was sewed in such a way that the seams became invisible.

Doris wanted to help me create a “sloper” which is a basic pattern for a fitted, scoop neck bodice and narrow skirt that would be made to my measurements. From that I would make a muslin, which in turn I could use to make patterns of my own design. While this was all way over my head, it would have just been in a day’s work for her.

I admired the confident fashion sense that she expressed in the way she presented herself. Although she never had a lot of money – I know she scrimped and saved for a pair of Cole Haans from Nordstrom’s, she never left the house without looking totally pulled together. A petite lady of the “matching shoes and handbag generation,” she understood proportion and color and always looked classically fashionable. Stacy and Clinton of “What Not to Wear” would have approved.

The ability to design in three dimensions, a love of style, good taste – these are all qualities that I see in my daughter that I can trace back to her grandmother. Thank you for sharing that. We honor your memory.

Super Bowl is the new Thanksgiving

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Which is the more celebrated event – Thanksgiving or the Super Bowl? The energy and time that people put into planning their Super Bowl parties has begun to rival Thanksgiving. In fact, I’m beginning to think that for a lot of people, the first Sunday in February has a lot more going for it than the fourth Thursday in November.

The food. Anyone who tried to park at Safeway or Costco on Saturday knows that food is as much of a big deal – and maybe even a bigger deal – for the Super Bowl as it is for Thanksgiving. For one thing, as much as most people like turkey, it’s not exactly fun food. Whether you brine it, deep fry it, or barbeque it, it comes out tasting like turkey. Yawn. But for Super Bowl food, you can indulge, your food fantasy with saltiness, spicyness, chocolately-ness. Bring whatever strikes your fancy and I’m sure it will be okay with your host. And by the way, I’ll bet no one ever brings Green Bean Casserole to a Super Bowl party.

The company. Super Bowl isn’t obligatory so you can spend it with whomever you like, not just people you’re related to. Again, there’s a lot more freedom to Super Bowl. At Thanksgiving, people tend to go to Aunt So-and-so’s house just because that’s where they’ve always had Thanksgiving. But you can host a Super Bowl party one year and then never do it again; the day doesn’t have any burdensome expectations associated with it.

The conversation. The great thing about the Super Bowl is that no one has think of something to make small talk about. The game and the commercials are instantly a shared experience. Or if you don’t want to talk at all because you’re so into the game – or at least pretending to be so into the game – that’s okay too. Watching the Super Bowl with a room full of strangers isn’t all that uncomfortable but having Thanksgiving with people who you don’t know all that well, has awkward silences written all over it.

The day after. This may be the one place that Thanksgiving trumps the Super Bowl. While I’m not a Black Friday shopper, knowing that the next day is a day off of work is wonderful. However, a friend told me that she read that 6 percent of the American workforce doesn’t show up for work the day after the Super Bowl. My guess is that they’re home sleeping off the Buffalo wings and beer. Blackout Monday may yet turn out to be a national holiday.