Saturday, November 9, 2013

Preparing For the Future Is a Full-Time Job

            I was looking at my grandmother’s vanity the other day.  I use it for a make-up table, because we never did get the bathroom set up with good lighting and a countertop, and then I put a little rocking chair that I got at the dump for $5 in front of it because I meant to get a real little vanity chair but couldn’t find one.
            Next to the vanity is a big pink antique chair.  I don’t like the pink, and we were going to reupholster it, but Ed has resisted taking up upholstery as a hobby.  I would like him to learn upholstery and also auto mechanics, but he has steadfastly insisted on choosing his own hobbies.  Go figure.
            But the chair is looking better now, since my sister-in-law gave me a little lap quilt that has pink and black squares in it, and I hung that over the back of the chair.   Then I found a little pillow that has pink and black in it that says, “Too Much of A Good Thing is Simply Wonderful,” and then my mom gave me a big wooden red elephant to use as a side table, and now the whole corner looks pretty good, even if it is by accident, so when we do reupholster the chair the whole effect will be spoiled.
            And the vanity sits in front of the window because there’s a fake stained-glass window piece of plastic stuck to the window, which makes it so you can’t see into the neighbor’s bedroom, and I don’t like the plastic window covering so I put the vanity in front to hide it until I can peel it off or even replace the window.  But then I put the bed in that part of the attic because now that corner looks pretty cool.  So when I fix everything up the way I want it, I’ll have to put the bed back where it was, and I can’t really, because I have made a temporary walk-in closet with some IKEA cabinets and a laundry room clothes-hanger-upper-thingie where the bed used to be, until Ed can make a real walk-in closet.
            And this all makes me think of the Accademia Bridge in Venice, also known as “The temporary bridge.” You see, the old bridge fell down about 80 years ago, so they put up a temporary wooden one, and then it got a little rickety over the next 50 years, so they put up a second temporary one to look like the old temporary one, and now they want to replace it with a real stone bridge but there’s a lot of controversy about it because, you see, somehow the temporary one became a historical structure and now some people can’t bear the thought of changing it. Kind of like my bedroom.
            Anyway, this all has to do with preparing for the future.  You know that I used to always have a 20 year plan, until I noticed that I had to revise my plans really often, so the 20-year-plans became five-year-plans, and then those never worked out either.  Then I just came up with some general goals.  My general goals last year were:
  • Be a concert soprano again
  • Start up a jazz singing career
  • Become a writer
            Then I left the singing stuff by the door (forever!! Back of the hand to the forehead), except that last week I bumped into one of the leading chanteuses in Portland and it turned out, in a conversation over a vintage tie I was buying because it made me think of a book I was going to write, that we knew a lot of the same people and would I like to come to one of her salons and sing with some friends?  So then I started thinking about cabaret repertoire again.
            And then I almost got a job in educational software sales, and that made me start to think about working as a grant writer or a sales person or maybe a project manager, but then I signed up to write a novel in a month for the National Write a Novel in November marathon, and then a writing friend of mine asked for all my essays so she could show them to her publisher.  So by the end of November I will have written four books, if you count the children’s book and the fitness book.  And I have three more ready to start.
            This made me get serious about organizing my time.  So now I've decided that I will write from eight in the morning to noon, then spend the afternoons teaching voice or doing informational interviews or learning music.  That way, when the future gets here, I’ll be ready for it. 
            So maybe the vanity and the bathroom and the bedroom and the closet will have to stay the way they are, like the Accademia Bridge in Venice.  Because preparing for the future is a full-time job.  Even if you aren’t sure what the future’s going to be.  Go figure.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Wisdom Learned from Tom and Della

I can't believe I have never posted this before.  My parents are two of the wisest people I know.  Here is a compilation of their best bon mots for your own personal resource library.  If you nail it to the wall of the kitchen, you'll always have it available for handy reference.
Always look in the direction the car is moving.
If you clean up the kitchen as you go, it is clean when you are done cooking.

A slice of potato in the doughnut fryer cleans the fat, and you can eat the potato afterward.

Always carry a calculator and nail clippers in your pocket.

You can make a great fort out of a table, three chairs, two blankets and a sheet.

Iron the collar last.

Do not be afraid of butter when making a sauce.

Spend money on really good ingredients.

It is more important to spend time with friends than to sleep.

Spend money on ephemera, like trips to Europe.  It is worth getting a second job to have the money, too.

Play music loudly so everyone can hear and enjoy it.  You can do housework or just sit and listen.  It’s all right to insist that people stop and listen to the really good parts.

Reading is fun.  Poetry, history, recipes, short stories, novels, maps, science fiction, and comic books.

Opera is a good thing and it’s not just for stuffy rich people.

Magic is real, including ancient, arcane Egyptian practices, thiotimiline, and fairies.  How do you know elves don’t exist if you’ve never seen one?

You must eat pickled peaches at Thanksgiving.

It is worthwhile to spend three days making a special dish, like sauerbraten.

You can’t make enough potato pancakes or lefse.

Keep the water running when it’s below freezing outside.

Always keep your options open.

You don’t have to do something just because you’re good at it.

It is not hard to make homemade chocolate pudding.

Use the good dishes.

Cover the blueberry bushes with netting so you’ll get some blueberries.

Sing loudly.

It is always a good time to play the ukelele.

Grind the coffee beans the night before.

Lift from your knees.

Cooking is an end until itself.  It is recreational, social, and creates works of art.

It is important to spend chunks of time and money to gather friends for talk, food, and drink.  Do it often.

Be nicer to your spouse than anyone else you know.

Toothpaste will stop mosquito bites from itching.  Usually.

If you have hiccups, drinking a glass of water in a steady rhythm will make them go away.  Every time.

Don’t open the door to the dark room.  All the dark will leak out.

When playing gin rummy, discard the high cards first.  But sometimes you can panic your opponent into error by throwing a low card early.

Talk to your spouse a lot.  Make sure you spend a lot of time with him or her.

If you walk by a weed in your yard, pull it.

Be involved in your community, your street, your city, your state, and on the national level.  Make things better, no matter how busy you may be.  Stay informed.

Make friends with all kinds of people, all colors, ages, backgrounds, religions, nationalities, and professions.  Most people are good, kind, and interesting.

Learn new things – how to cook a complicated dish, deciphering land use regulations, a language so you can travel somewhere you’ve never been before.

Let go of things you don’t need.  Make room for something new.  Or just enjoy the empty space.

You don’t always need a coat.  Sometimes it’s okay to just be cold for a few minutes.

Pay attention to how you look.  It’s fun to dress up.

You can clear a stuffy nose by standing over a steaming kettle with a towel or a newspaper over your head.

Gargling with salt water eases a sore throat.

Write.  Stories, poetry, and letters.  Show them to people.

Sing to, and with, your children.  Sing harmony.

Share new recordings with your family.  Rock and roll, jazz, Sibelius violin concertos.  It doesn’t matter as long as you are excited about it.

Take pictures.

You don’t have to heat the whole house.  Light a fire or put on a sweater or go out for a walk to get warm.

Growing some of your own food is not that big a deal.

Camping is fun.  Keep a box stocked and ready go to.

Spray the tablecloth with water before you iron it.

It’s not a big deal to bake a birthday cake from scratch.  Black Midnight is the correct cake, although June birthdays may prefer strawberry pie.

If you use a lot of something, figure out how to get it wholesale.  Sometimes you can get others to go in on it with you.  This works for cheese, beef, wine, beach condos, and lots of other things.

Don’t bother with mixes or frozen food.  Food made from scratch tastes a lot better and usually it’s surprisingly easy to make.

Popcorn should be made in a pan, not a microwave.

Cold pizza makes an excellent breakfast.

So does popcorn.

Radishes and green onions are good with a little salt in the palm of your hand.

Sprinkle pepper on your buttermilk before you drink it.

Learn more than one language.

Recycle, even if it’s not convenient.

You don’t have to follow a recipe too closely.  Sometimes it’s okay to guess.

You can make up recipes.  It’s good to write them down.

You can design your own house or dress pattern.

If some things are in a routine, it gives you more brain space for the other things.

Don’t cook the eggs or the coffee too long or too fast.

You can choose how to live your life.  You are not stuck with what you did before or what your family or friends thought was normal or inevitable.

It’s okay to spend money on new cooking equipment.

The candle will stay in the holder if you drip wax in it first.

Antique furniture often costs less than furniture from Ikea, and it’ll last longer, too.  It already has!

What you cook at home usually tastes better than restaurant food.

The family eats together every night.

There should always be a candy bar on a shelf in the cupboard.  You can slice pieces off of it.

A batch of chocolate chip cookies makes anything better.

You don’t need a lot of champagne to make it flow in the streets.  Scraping it with your toe makes it go farther.

You must play a bagpipe recording really loudly on New Year’s Eve at midnight.  Open the door so the neighbors can share the experience with you, and to let the New Year in.

Ketchup is good on scrambled eggs.

Make your own syrup with brown and white sugar.

And my personal favorite…if the pasta sticks to the wall, it has cooked too long.

There.  If you nail this list to the wall, it will be  handy for reference, although you may eventually want to memorize it.