Late-doers and Regrets

An acquaintance made an enormous improvement in her life. Despite her achievement, she has feelings of regret about it taking her so long.

I commiserated. I was a late-bloomer as a child, and a late-doer in many respects as an adult.

I didn’t tell her that I’m working on stories I started in childhood. Or that I became a teacher Quality-Control Inspector at a young human factory after working for almost a decade in the field I thought I loved. I also didn’t tell her about my beloved grandfather who, many years after retiring from the mining industry, became a stained-glass artist.

I gave her this advice, which I’m posting to remind myself whenever Regret comes to call:

Look at the past you as a person who wasn’t taught how to [do this thing you’re doing]. You wouldn’t say, “It’s about time” to an adult who returned to school to earn a high school diploma. You wouldn’t berate a person with unhealthy habits who finally mastered the tools to live a healthy life. Congratulate yourself and be happy you don’t have to spend another minute in the past.

April Update: Minimalism Edition

I finished the 12-week Uncluttered course. It was interesting, motivating, and irksome.

Interesting: Seeing how other people live. Despite demographic and geographic differences, I had a lot in common with a widow in a tiny NYC apartment and new parents in a UK two-up-two-down house. We minimized cherished belongings to free time and space for the here-and-now.

Motivating: The weekly goals and participation helped a lot, particularly when another participant would confess, “I’m behind.” Plus, occasionally someone would balk at a weekly assignment and other attendees offered work-around ideas.

Which leads me to…

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It’s the Thought that Counts

People who know me, know I can’t stand raw language.* It’s not a Midwestern quirk. Growing up, vulgarities and raised voices indicated violence was coming. Even now, a certain word said in a certain tone of voice curls my fists and makes me brace for a fight. And in my hometown, it was generally known that the more a person sprinkled foul words, the faster he lost an argument.**

In a professional setting, whether a nail salon or a dollar store, the norm is to be polite.

Therefore, I was surprised this week. I had taken my car in (leaky stemvalve) and was sitting alone in the waiting room. A male voice started lighting the air on fire with f-bombs. I could tell that the Neanderthal was on the phone because it was a one-sided conversation. I guessed it was a customer talking in the customer service area, on the other side of the billing/receptionist area.

Evidently, a parts guy somewhere in the US had dropped the ball and a customer’s work vehicle was stuck in the shop. The customer was losing money every day it was out of commission. Very, very heated.

After my own business was done, a service guy came to me and apologized for his foul language. I was rather shocked, but he explained that he couldn’t stand seeing his customer, already suffering because of the shutdown, unable to get his business running.

I accepted his apology and said I understood.

Then he said if I ever had a problem with my car and some f*** dragged his feet, he’d do the same thing for me.

Oh, dear.

*And as a certain English immigrant to Canada knows, that includes flipping the middle finger at me. I. Will. Break. Your. Finger. Off. And. Mail. It. To. Your. Mother.

**In college, I witnessed my upperclass roomie trying to “sound more authentic” (authentic what? moron?) by practicing vulgarity. I pointed out that, since she hesitated each time she said the f-word, it undermined her credibility. Ha ha.


I am rich… in masks.

Because of the Coronavirus epidemic in China, masks are selling out everywhere. I heard that news and supposed that surgical masks were in demand.

This weekend BabyBro visited for his Christmas present: a ticket to a musical in  nearby theatre. Before he arrived, he asked if I happened to have any dust-filtering masks he could have. He needs them for spring gardening due to high pollen.

“Sure! How many do you need?”

“Two. I can’t find them anywhere.” Continue reading

Looking Back on 2019, Ahead to 2020

New Year’s Resolutions are not my thing. In fact, I normally spend this time of year tidying and relaxing before The Young Human Factory starts up again.  If anything, I tend to melancholy and nostalgia. If only I had done…

But I can’t help being happily circumspect this year. It’s ending better than it began.
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Year of (gulp!) No Shopping

It’s that time of year again. The season of Black Friday sales and the slow trickle of tax documents.

And a horrible urge* to try a Year Without Shopping (YWS). according to my field notes, it consists of the following “rules”:

  • No new additions to the wardrobe
  • No new _______ until current supply of _________ is used up
  • No entertainment purchases with the exception of experiences (This seems to be popular loophole; for example a learning experience or roadtrip.)

If anything breaks or wears beyond prepare, there is a process:

  1. Substitute.
  2. Borrow.
  3. Buy used

I have already incorporated some practices into daily life. However, I’m daunted by the idea of committing to no sales or no stocking up.  And there’s the haunting sense that once I commit to it, sinister stars will align to break various necessities…

But I’m going to do it anyway. This coming week, I will make a list of five (5!) planned expenditures.  Wish me luck.

*By “horrible urge,” I mean a horribly sweet Puerto Rican has been urging me to follow his footsteps, if not hus vagabond ways.


On the Mend… clothes, that is!

I had the misfortune of walking through rotting mushrooms and neighbor-dog residue while gardening. They made quite an adhesive for pasting mulch and leaves to my white sneakers.  For a moment, I contemplated tossing them into the garbage. Then I got the bucket and the bristle brush. Then, after a spin in the laundry with a bit of whitening agent, they were ready for many more seasons.

That is, if I take care of them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the saying from the Great Depression: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

My quest for clothes that fit has shown me how easy it is to donate and buy, donate and buy, etcétera ad nauseam.

It’s also easier to toss than to mend.  Yesterday I discovered a hole in a nearly-new patterned sock. Contrary to rumors spread by Young Humans, I don’t have clawed feet (or eat children), so I wasn’t expecting early-onset sock failure. Luckily, it’s a seam opening, not a tear.

I’m grateful that my mother taught me rudimentary sewing skills, although I’ll never sew clothes like she and my grandmothers. A stitch in time saves nine and a little seam repair or darning saves space in the landfill.

Related Reading

Benjamin Leszcz writes about “The Life-Changing Magic of Making Do”

An oldie-but-goodie post about how to follow the philosophy Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make Do, or Do Without



A Nostalgic Walk

Earlier this month, I returned to my hometown. Besides visiting my parents and a dear friend, I went walking along the roads that seemed so very long when I was a child.

Some things hadn’t changed, such as cattails and Queen Anne’s Lace growing in the ditches. The cloud banks were still as bright in the wide open sky. The redwinged blackbirds trilled harshly in the cedars.



Cattails on the edge of a hayfield.


But more than one field was being taken over by young trees or sumac. The old small farmers aren’t being replaced, and there are far fewer heads of cattle or horses. There’s still beauty there, but all the familiar landmarks are falling to Time.


The beginnings of a softwood forest invade a neglected field.


As a little girl, I looked forward to watching the calves frolicking near this barn. They always looked so NEW because their white patches were so bright.

Blight-ful neighbor…

…. versus spiteful neighbor.

I’ll take the former over the latter, but it’s difficult to put up with extra work. As of today, I have sprayed weed killer, trimmed overhanging branches, cleaned a section of gutter, and cut the sod to drain water away from his foundation.

I have written about how blight control forced the neighbor to clear out the dozen or more trash bags he had lined up along his house. Unfortunately, blight control laws don’t stop indoor squalor nor overgrown gardens (just the lawn proper).


Street-view of the front of the house, about two years ago. The window is full now and plants overgrew the porch.

The cute little house is full of trash. The lawn is still mowed by the same disbelieving landscaper, but the garden is overgrown with weeds, wild grape vines, and young trees. A maple sapling was allowed to sprout in the seam between the driveway and the house’s foundation.

The Middle School Mafia, who seem to sense when potential victims might be a tad ragey (to use a local term), pulled a subtle prank to test the waters. This past autumn, someone tossed a Nerf football onto the lawn, where it formed a lump under the snow and an annoyance to the other next-door neighbor when spring gusts rolled it across the property line. In the spring, a damaged kick-scooter was leaned against his mailbox, where it remained until another neighbor picked it up for scrap metal after a couple months.

Satisfied by inaction, the Middle School Mafia steer clear of it. Why waste eggs on someone who doesn’t clean it up? Why ring the doorbell on their way home before curfew if, like a tree falling in the forest, no one cares if it makes a sound?*

The neighbor lives elsewhere now, most likely driven out by his own squalor. He retrieves things from time to time, like the boat and trailer sitting in the driveway. On the bright side, whatever vermin infested his house** will find no fresh pickings.

But it is maddening when the taxable value of La Casa de Tontería increases. I asked the folks in the township office: How will the nearby neighbors sell their houses if it comes with the view of a derelict?

*My Old Man began teaching my elder brother and I philosophy with the classic question. As a result, we have a plethora of snide remarks about it.

**The other neighbors are convinced the uptick in cats was due to critter infestations.