Bonus Time


Martha turns 4. That’s me on the right. I don’t know who these other children are.

I’ve only had a few birthday parties in my 60 years on this earth. Birthdays weren’t something my parents made a big fuss over, although the celebration was always enough. Hamburgers on the grill, chocolate cake with white frosting. “Milestone” birthdays are usually a bigger deal (until they aren’t). Although this year, celebrating with my two sisters, brother-in-law, and husband was one of the best days ever.

I’ve never liked having my picture taken, so I don’t get the obsession of some people with selfies. I see myself in photographs and cringe – bad hair, fat face, goofy look, whatever, I could always find a flaw. Adding three pictures of myself to this blog post feels self-serving.

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We were all young once.

Through the years, I’ve celebrated my birthday with family and friends, most of the time. In 1981, I was working as an au pair in Switzerland, living with an unhappy couple and their badly behaved little boy. On my birthday, I broke a lamp in their house. It was an accident, but oh. Not a good day. She was much more forgiving than he was.

The year I turned 40, my husband and I went to Boston, and, as it turned out, we were back there for my 50th ( I spent my birthday facilitating a roundtable discussion with fellow fraud investigators). But, our hotel room had a view of Fenway Park and I ate chocolate-covered strawberries.

I’ve lost some friends over the years. By the time you reach this age, it’s not completely unexpected, although I do expect to attend wakes and funerals for the parents of my contemporaries, not my contemporaries. Still. Jeff, Steve, Lucy, Kevin, Sue, Paul, Kathy, Jack, Patty, Susan, Michael, Andy, Danny, Carole, Tom, Pat, Karen, Joe, Tim. Always remembered.

My friend Tommy Hobin (we’re going on 48 years now) says we’re living in “bonus time.” How many of us can say we’re still alive thanks to good fortune or dumb luck – those narrow escapes we reminisce about but don’t want to share with our children or grandchildren. Bonus time.

This year we won’t be in Boston, but I’ll be somewhere near the Atlantic Ocean. I had a new headshot taken, by my dear friend Dianna Solimeo of Vee’s Photography. It’s me at 60, with my Coke-bottle eyeglasses and lines on my face. It is a true photo of the real me. Maybe, finally, I’m okay with it.

BONUS!

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a reward! Every single one of my books (all eight) are discounted to 99 cents for the digital version. Seven novels, including my Swiss Chocolate trilogy, and one nonfiction. I’ll keep the prices low for a week or so. 💛💚💙

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Fifty-one


plastic bags

I’ve been thinking a lot about plastic – bags, straws, packaging, utensils – there’s just so much plastic. And we all aware that our oceans are filling up with plastic at an alarming rate.

At the conclusion of this year-long project, I’ve just discovered Tippi Thole. Tippi Thole is someone you should discover, too. Check out her “tiny trash can” website here – and you’ll be amazed/inspired/ wowed. Because Tippi Thole replaced the trash can in her kitchen (10-gallon capacity) with a small wastebasket (like the kind you probably have in your bathroom). She began to shop mindfully, and within a few months, the amount of trash her family produced each week fit into a Mason jar that is under 3″ tall!!!

Could I do this, too? I’m sure as hell going to try. We’re only two people.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Fifty


LIVE

Maybe you’ve figured out, like I have, that material things don’t make you happy. Yay! But, like I was last year, you’re wondering where to begin. So. Much Stuff. Right?

I hear you! I feel you! And perhaps I can help. So here are 10 things you can do now:

  1. Start by reducing items. Look in your linen closet – how many towels, how many sets of sheets, how many tablecloths? Do you need all of them? Betcha you don’t. Keep what’s necessary – you also don’t want to be doing laundry every day – but donate or ditch the rest.
  2. Get in your closet. Remember when I wrote about Project 333 ? I did it, for the summer, and I love it. I have a few work-appropriate pieces for when I go into the office where I work one day a week, and the rest of my clothes are simple pieces. I’ll do this again in the fall.
  3. See if you can donate something to a well-deserving charity each week. The extra set of dishes that you never use. The winter coat and the boots that you don’t wear.
  4. Sell your unwanted but still good stuff. Yard sales and online auctions work for some, and you might pocket a little cash in the process.
  5. Have cloth shopping bags in your car always. Use them wherever you go, not just the grocery store, but everywhere. If you do have plastic bags, find a place to recycle them.
  6. Living minimally also means spending mindfully. If you keep track for even a week of your mindless spending, you’ll be shocked.
  7. Getting rid of paper has been one of my biggest challenges. I’m still working on digitizing everything, from photographs to insurance policies to tax returns.
  8. Unplug when you can. And you can more often than you think. Unsubscribe from mailing lists that clog up your inbox and never get opened. If the news in your feed is making you angry or depressed, let it go. You can still be informed.
  9. Borrow books instead of buying them. Or buy a digital version, if you like that. I read both, and I like to support independent authors by buying their books (both print and digital versions), but if I buy a print book, I pass it along to someone else. For better-known authors, I’ll use the library.
  10. Do you give a lot of gifts? How about an experience instead? Treat your girlfriend to a manicure, send your parents to their favorite restaurant, give your kid’s teacher movie coupons.

 

I’m sure there are plenty more ideas you can come up with!

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-nine


Living minimally is circular. By that, I mean we continue the practice on an ongoing basis. As I come to the end of this year-long project, I’ll no longer post each Friday morning. But I’ll still give this way of life my best effort. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes not.

I’ve cleaned out closets, drawers, cupboards. Brought boxes and bags to the donation center. I’ve thought twice before making impulse purchases and I regard “things” with a more critical eye.

I’m still concerned with the amount of plastic we use, even though I’m recycling as much as possible. But my paper straws are working just fine and my fancy glass straw is pretty (www.glassdharma.com). I’d rather frequent restaurants that use cardboard takeout containers. No more Styrofoam! Cloth grocery bags go not only to the supermarket but also to CVS and Target.

A few more weeks to go. Onward. 🧡

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-eight


Kind of hard to write this week. I’m not sleeping, because I’m so worried about this country. These poor children and their distraught parents. The daily barrage of hatred and condemnation from the White House, the silent acceptance by the elected Republicans. The false information spread by those who don’t take the time to educate themselves to the facts.

“I’ve seen several tweets comparing this to Nazis / The Holocaust and saying things like ‘this is how it begins.’ I teach Holocaust Literature so let me be clear – this ISN’T how it began. This is already several stages along the way.” (Aviva Dautch)

“Make no mistake – no matter where you stand on immigration, what we are doing to children and families in the name of the law is evil. And we, as Christ followers, have a moral responsibility to speak and stand against evil. You cannot remain silent.” (Pastor Stan Cardwell of Community United Methodist Church in Crofton, Maryland)

Chobani chief executive Hamdi Ulukaya, an immigrant who is known for hiring refugees, tweeted that “separating a child from a mother or father is not political. It is inhumane. It is against everything this country stands for. I have seen it in other parts of the world but never thought I’d see it in the land of the free.”

This week I shredded paper and put it in the recycle bin. I used less stuff.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-seven


There’s an early episode of “Mad Men,” when Betty is speaking with her brother, reminiscing about how much their father hated small talk (“Remember how he’d fine us?”)

Part of living more mindfully is cutting out the excess, whether that means clearing out a closet, a cupboard, a drawer, or all the excess noise and information we’re barraged with constantly.

As an introvert (yes, I am), I get anxious in casual social situations where small talk rules. Because you generally don’t want to discuss heavy subjects with strangers, you end up trapped in small talk.

When is the last time you truly felt calm? Quiet? At peace? Do you hike in the woods? Walk by yourself on the beach? Read without ambient noise? I’ve been cherishing my quiet time lately, and while I do stay connected – to the news, to friends, to my readers, certainly with my husband, there’s beauty in quiet – no TV, no radio, no social media.

Even if you can only find 15 minutes today, seek it out. 🧡

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-six


Smile

The death this week of Kate Spade struck me. I don’t own any of her products, but the death of a celebrity usually makes the news, and in Spade’s case, because of her relatively young age (55), her vast success, and the fact that she took her own life, her death was the lead story on evening newscasts. Many people were shocked – why? Because her inner struggles weren’t obvious. Like so many people, she suffered from depression.

And where does this fit in with living minimally? Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist writes, “It is [also] helpful to intentionally make time to think positive thoughts, to practice looking for the silver lining, to choose happiness. At first, it might feel phony if you’re not an optimist, but even the staunchest realist among us can acknowledge that there is at least some lesson to be learned in every situation.”

I agree, it’s easier for some than for others. And this is not to suggest that decluttering your living space will eradicate your sadness and depression. You can clear out all your junk and still be unhappy. However, as my friends Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists) will tell you, “Getting rid of the excess in your life will…help you discover what does in fact make you happy. (Hint: it’s not your possessions; most of your possessions are actually in the way of your happiness.) And it’s much easier to find the path toward happiness once you’ve cleared the debris.”

Isn’t it worth a try?