Theo Can’t Fly

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I’ve been carrying around this piece of pink paper for years. On it is a poem that I wrote in the hours between school and supper back in December 1981. I was in the second grade, and could entertain myself for hours with my pink doodle paper, markers, crayons, and imagination.

Trying to keep my lines straight was no small feat. I can remember writing out several versions, but my words just kept sloping down. Even still, I was quite proud of my creation. Especially sounding out all those big words. Like pueugeuns.

But carrying around this relic of my youth—one of my earliest writings—was getting to be burdensome. Every year or so, I’d come across it somewhere in our house—filed with invoices from the vet, tucked inside of a notebook, buried under blank notecards and address labels from the MSPCA—and think to myself, someday I should really do something with that.

Finally, in a mini decluttering spree a couple of weeks ago, I decided to take action. I brought it to the framers. I’m so happy with how it turned out! Now I just need to find somewhere to hang it . . .

© 2010 Good Karma Housekeeping. Because my walls are decidedly less cluttered than my drawers. 

On Butterflies, Elvis, and Somebody Else’s Aunt Edna

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A few months ago, I posted something hugely sentimental on Craigslist: a butterfly-shaped candle holder that my boyfriend had bought for me when we first started dating—way back when Eisenhower was president. Or maybe Clinton. I don’t know; it was a long time ago. Anyhow. The candle holder was tremendously sweet, albeit not quite my style. Nevertheless, I held onto it for years, giving it a place of honor on my dresser. Then on top of a bookcase. Then on top of a stereo speaker. Then on top of a pile of miscellaneous things in our spare room closet.

That’s just no way to treat a pretty, little thing. Especially one with such sentimental value. After much deliberation, I posted it in the free section along with everyone else’s cast-offs. But in the ad, I told a little story. I wanted to make sure the person who inherited this candle holder knew its history. And more important than that, I wanted to know theirs. At least a little bit of it.

Boy, did the e-mails pour in! Several people just wanted to tell me that I was crazy for giving away something so sentimental. (Thanks for the guilt trip!) Others, in typical Craigslist fashion wanted me to call them if it was still available, disregarding my interest in why they were interested in my candle holder. And then there was this guy who wanted me to deliver it to his Aunt Edna. Despite my “you must come and pick it up” rule, I agreed to make this special delivery without hesitation.

One of her elderly friends had recently passed on, and despite Edna’s usual upbeat disposition, her nephew knew that she was hurting. He said that if I could just leave at her door with a note that it would absolutely brighten up her day. Aunt Edna loves anything and everything with a butterfly motif, and would most certainly give it a good home.

Aunt Edna lived in a public housing complex that was not too far out of the way on my way home from work. It was an unseasonably warm day—our first after a long winter—and my boss let us out a bit early. Perhaps it was all this bright sunshine, or the gift of time, or knowing I was going to brighten up a stranger’s day, but rather than leave the candle holder in Aunt Edna’s lobby, I had decided to ring the buzzer and deliver the gift-wrapped candle holder in person.

After a few technical difficulties, Aunt Edna buzzed me in. I stepped into the elevator and wrapped my way down the institutional-looking hall. Standing in the doorway was a short, grey-haired, smiling lady, ready to welcome me into her home. In an instant, I recalled all the after-school specials and cautionary tales of my youth that warned me about unsuspecting strangers, brushed aside my qualms, and stepped into her apartment.

Aunt Edna was delighted to have a visitor (her nephew had given her a head’s up that I’d be coming that day), and in her sweet, septuagenarian way, proceeded to tell me the story behind each and every one of her butterfly knick-knacks—as well as her Elvis memorabilia, and the lone rooster decoration from her ex husband. She introduced me to her family members, both living and passed, whose pictures hung on her metal closet door, and showed me the 40-year sobriety medallion that she had received at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting the night before. She whispered as she spoke. “It’s not something that everybody in the building needs to know about me.” The butterflies she surrounded herself with gave her a reliable sense of carefreeness and joy.

A good 45 minutes later, after we recounted the stories of so many of her belongings, Edna gave me a hug and thanked me for choosing her to take good care of the butterfly candle holder from my beloved. She had set it on an end table in her living room, right in front of her rotating fiber-optic butterfly lamp. A place of honor, no doubt.

© 2010 Good Karma Housekeeping. Because the perfect space for that knicknack may be in someone else’s home. (Amazing, luminous butterfly photo by audreyjm529 via Creative Commons.)

Enjoy the Silence: Meditation with Mantras

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I’ve been attending a weekly Kundalini yoga class for the last two months. It’s a style of yoga that’s very different from the power/vinyasa flow I am used to. The poses are dynamic (i.e., you’re moving) but you do the same pose for several minutes. It might look easy on the surface, but I can attest–this stuff is intense!

What has really captivated me about this style of yoga is its bevy of mantras. Lots of chants and hand motions. It’s like cheerleading in Sanskrit–but without the kicks, flips, and squeals. The mantras serve as a form of meditation.
Generally speaking, a yoga class is a meditative experience in and of itself. But there’s something about throwing around all those Kundalini gang signs (better known as mudras) and the lullaby of all those foreign words that has swept me into a place where to-do lists and everyday woes are just a tiny blip on the horizon.
“Your strength is how quietly, calmly, and peacefully you face life.”
                                                                                           –Yogi Bhajan

© 2009 Good Karma Housekeeping. Making the space–mentally and physically, on Tuesdays at 7:15 p.m.–to live happily ever after. (Image courtesy of stevoarnold via Creative Commons.)

Made With Love, Covered in Dust

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There are a few things on my not-for-me list: sushi, anime, tanning beds, and tchotchkes are four that come to mind. I have no problem dodging the first three. Tchothkes–those little knick-knacks around your home that serve no real purpose other than to collect dust–have a way of cropping up around my home. Exhibit 4,832-b: this little handmade pottery jar that was specially designed for . . . um . . . my clever retorts. Note the sprig of holly etched on the front.

Clever Retorts

True, I’m full of clever retorts, witty comebacks, and the occasional snarky remark. And I do have a soft spot for things adored with holly. But what was I supposed to dowith this jar? Fill it with my written quips? Rubber bands and binder clips? Grocery and pet store receipts? (Yes, I know that last one doesn’t quite rhyme–though it looks like it should. Doesn’t it?)

Craigslist to the rescue–again. Yay!

I posted an ad in the free section and got two respondents: one from a guy who had to get something for his friend’s birthday tomorrow and wrote “She loves crap! When can I come pick it up?” (Hey, you’re not allowed to call it crap. Only I can do that.) And the other respondent was a polite and friendly woman who said she “adored” my clever retorts jar and would be happy to give it a new home. Perfect! This cute, little handmade pot–while not my style–deserved to go to a good home.

What’s even better than finding this doodad a new home is that its new owner rode her bike to pick it up–from four or five towns away. Way to cut back on the carbon footprint!

And while I’m bummed that I didn’t get to meet its new owner (I love being able to tie a face and a name and a story to my old possessions, if you haven’t noticed), I’m delighted to know that this quirky little catch-all (or catch-nothing, as was its case in my home) is sitting pretty on a kitchen counter waaay on the other side of Boston.

© 2009 Good Karma Housekeeping. Making the space–mentally and physically–to live happily ever after. One tchotcke at a time.

The Blind Spot in My Kitchen Cupboard

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For as long as I can remember, Andrew and I have had a can of store-brand peaches in our cupboard. These peaches were so old that they predated our relationship. So old that the grocery store they came from had since changed its name–twice.  So old that “in heavy syrup” once had some appeal. If I had to guess, I’d say they were purchased around the same time that the Presidents of the United States of America were singing about the sweet orbs. In other words: these peaches had no right hanging out in our cupboard.

Growing up, I remember there being an ancient box of rice pudding in our pantry. “Nope, not that,” my mother would say when my brother and I were trolling around for something dessert worthy. That box dated back to their newlywed days. It was a relic–and so too would be our can of peaches if I hadn’t thrown them out this evening.

I had just finished watching Hoarders, a new show on A&E about people on the verge of crisis because of an inability to part with their belongings. One of the women featured had an inordinate amount of food in her home–most of it inproperly stored, forgotten about, and seriously spoiled. It turned my stomach just to watch. The whole time, I kept thinking about our peaches–envisioning the nastiness inside that can–and that they had to go. Now.

I pitched the peaches, can and all–my recycling feathers all a ruffle. To my suprise, I noticed a number of items in the cupboard that were past their prime. A can of tomato paste that was meant for a pasta fagioli recipe I last made in 2004. Three bags of slivered almonds best used by August 2008. More canned fruit. An imported can of Bachelors mushy peas. Raisins from our west coast road trip trail mix two years ago. One of my best friend’s half-used bag of lentils from 2006. All of it now in the trash.

I knew that some of these items were in our cupboard; others were a complete surprise–even though I’m in there daily. Huh. Makes me wonder: What else is lurking in all those other blind spots in our home? And what ever happened to the Presidents of the United States of America?

© 2009
Good Karma Housekeeping. Making the space–mentally and physically–to live happily ever after (and eat more peaches of the non-canned variety).