Sunday, July 25, 2010

One Step Closer to the Asylum - Or, it's Time to Move

Years ago, diligent homemakers participated in an annual ritual when the snow melted or they no longer required their heaters to warm the house—it was called Spring Cleaning.

As a kid, I helped my aunt and a few others with this task. Of course I thought it was mind-numbing and totally pointless. Why would anyone take all their pots and pans out of the cupboard, wash the shelf, and put the stuff all back? While “helping out” at my great-aunt’s house I remember thinking that she was just trying to find stuff for me to do.

It’s only been during this move that I realized the wisdom in the annual “Spring Clean.” Oh, how I wish I would have done it every year. Since I haven’t, now I am faced with the joyful task of separating through five year’s worth of priceless treasures a.k.a. clutter in order to downsize our home.

I wonder, vaguely, what the trash man thinks of my near maniacal filling of the can. Does he think I’m disposing of dead bodies—or illegal substances—or does he think I’ve lost my mind and am feverishly emptying the contents of my home regardless of value?

Well, that last one was close.

As most of you know, it’s up to the mom to decide what stays or goes, so I’ve had but little help with my task. My daughter complained to me, “I don’t know how to pack glass.” Nor do I want her to. I wouldn’t let her or any other member of my family take on the task of packaging my heirloom china. They could, I think, pack the Corningware or Pyrex, however.

At one end of the house is the Yard Sale pile. It grows to new heights every day, and I have to wonder…Where did all this stuff come from...Where did I store it all…and WHY? But, (I’m gritting my teeth as I smile) my husband just informed me that he doesn’t want a yard sale. He doesn’t think we have time to bother with it.

Right smack in the middle of our house is the I-Want-It-But-Can-Live-Without-it-For-A-Week pile. This boxed pile nearly reaches the ceiling and includes food storage, books, and general pantry items. It starts at the living room door, heads south to the dining table, goes nearly to the kitchen bar, and is a real pain to walk around. My china and other important breakables are red-tagged and in a separate area in a safe corner. Hopefully safe.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve thrown away ten bulging bags of garbage—things I don’t want now and probably never did—magazines I’ve only read once, if ever—plastic containers with and without lids—a whole mound of canning rings—I actually did want those, but who cares??? I’m tired of storing them.

I’ve got hundreds of canning jars that I don’t know what to do with, and two flats of lids—do I take them with me, or put them in storage for later—and I vaguely remember getting rid of at least that many when we moved here. It seems they’ve multiplied like rabbits.

The problem is I’ve still got a whole houseful of stuff/belongings to sort through. It seems never-ending. Yet as I consider, I think my real dilemma is that I’m going to have to do this in reverse when we get to the new place.That reminds me of an old pre-school song: "This is the chore that never ends, it goes on and on my friend..."

I can totally see the wisdom in being a minimalist. Who needs all this stuff?

Word of CAUTION: When you get extra packets of sauce from your favorite fast food joint—THROW IT AWAY!

P.S. My dear husband had pity on me. Maybe he was just nervous about my state of mind—but we had the yard sale. It was quite successful and that made me feel good for about a minute and a half. Now, we’ve got people from our church coming tomorrow afternoon to help us move, and as hard as I’ve tried, we’ve still got tons of things that aren’t in a box. And, I've still got all my pictures on the walls!


Friday, July 23, 2010

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

I must admit that I am not familiar with the fable, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, which this novel is a reimagining of, and I was a little hesitant to buy the book—but the cover was so pretty—and the blurb inside the jacket cover so intriguing.

It was money well spent.

Long ago, in a kingdom far away, there lived a wizard so powerful and so evil that none of the good wizards were able to subdue him or put him to death. Finally, through a combined effort, the good wizards cast him and his followers forevermore to a land where the sun didn’t ever shine—and he became known as the King Under Stone.

The story begins with a prologue—Queen Maude has finalized her second bargain with the Under King—she will dance for him 12 years if he will grant that her husband’s kingdom reigns victorious in their current war.

In chapter one, we meet Galan, a young lad of nineteen who has spent the better part of his life at war. His father was a soldier and his mother an army laundress. After they died, he spent the remainder of the war as a soldier himself.

Now, after many long years, the war is finally over and Galen is going to the city of Bruch hoping that his aunt and uncle will take him in and help him find employment. Along the way, he meets a hungry old crone and shares his last tidbits of food with her. In return she gives him an invisibility cloak, and Galen knows the woman is completely off her rocker.

It’s at his new job as an under-gardener for the king of Westfalin, that Galen meets Rose—she is beautiful and he is immediately smitten with her—and becomes involved in a mystery so dark and dangerous that the princes who try to solve the puzzle all die.

As in most fables, there are hidden messages, and it’s the same in this story. Galen, who has seen more than his share of suffering in the world has an amazingly pure heart. In the end, he is blessed for his righteous choices.

Queen Maude, who decided to strike a deal with an evil wizard, reaps the fruit of that decision—as everyone who strikes a deal with the devil would—because King Under Stone is tricky and has a hidden agenda. As the story begins, Queen Maude has already danced herself to death.

The twelve dancing princesses have to pay for their mother’s mistake, which is what the evil king wanted all along since he has twelve half-mortal sons.

The princesses are required to dance every night with the Under-princes from midnight to dawn even when they’re sick, and since they’re under a spell, they cannot tell anyone of their plight. As with all of us in this life—they need a savior—someone who will save them from the life threatening consequences of their mother’s pact, because they certainly cannot save themselves from the evil that has befallen them.

This is a very sweet fable of the power of love, and of good triumphing over evil. Jessica Day George has a writing style that’s welcoming and easy to read, and now I’m interested in reading her other books.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Sights and Sounds of Illinois

On our trip to Illinois, it was easy for me to see, or to envision, it as where the Garden of Eden was—well Adam Ondi Ahman is really in upper Missouri, but the landscape is so similar. There were flowers and plants there that I’d never seen or imagined before.

This picture is of a weed that grows off the side of the highway.

And now I also know what it would feel like in the jungles of Africa. The (summer) air there is so thick that it’s almost something entirely different than oxygen, and extremely difficult to breathe. And, while walking through an untouched patch of forest, the sounds were strikingly similar to my TV idea of a jungle. I half expected a boa to come and wrap itself around my leg.

We had a lot of fun just hanging out and visiting with my son’s family, but we did also venture out to see some pretty spectacular sights. We went to Nauvoo, and saw the Nauvoo pageant. They were both very interesting—and I saw one of my cousins (from Arizona) there that I haven’t seen in ages. Very interesting. It’s a small world, right?
We also went to Carthage and saw the small jail where the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how such important events always seem to happen in such insignificant places. I felt the reverence there, and know that the place where the Prophet Joseph died is hallowed not only to those in this life, but to those in the Heavens as well. This is the original door with the bullethole that went through and shot Hyrum Smith.

I hadn’t realized until I saw it, that the Mississippi River is still flooded. Yes, this is the tip of a statue near the Saint Louis Arch.

We got to go into the arch, it’s inexpensive and well worth the $10. The visitor’s center underneath the arch is full of interesting displays of American history, and also sports a few shops.

It’s an old tram that looks like an old TV version of a space capsule that takes visitors to the top viewing tower. There are eight on each side of the arch that go up every 15 minutes. Come to think of it, the people of Saint Louis shouldn’t have to pay city taxes because they make an insane amount on the Arch alone.

We went other places, too, like the Saint Louis Zoo, and to a really great park called Boo Park. It sports a castle, dragons and fun things like that for kids to play on. Now we’re back in AZ, missing our son and his family, and find change staring us in the face. We’re moving back to the big city, and are faced with the daunting task of squeezing the belongings on an acre property into a smaller home and a city lot.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's a dry heat

“Yeah, but it’s a dry heat!” I’ve heard Arizonans say this since the summer temp reached 120 several summers back. I’ve said it, too—with a smile—always a smile. I never really got the joke until we went to Illinois to visit my son. I learned something. Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas—they’re all really humid in the summer. Duh!!!

No. Really. We went to the Saint Louis Zoo, and I could barely breathe. It wasn’t that hot, and there was a slight breeze, but still, I thought that I might pass out from heat exhaustion. The sweat poured off me as though I’d never experienced temperatures over 70—like I was from Alaska, instead of being the desert rat that I am. I love the heat. Honest.

On the way home, when we were driving through Texas, we stopped at a Dairy Queen. It was the weirdest thing; the windows were all fogged over. But, by the time we got back in the car, the windshield was also fogged over—from the heat and humidity—not the cold.

I didn’t know what to do. When windshields get foggy in the winter, you turn on the heat. That didn’t seem to work. It took a half an hour to clear the windshield.

When we got into Phoenix and I breathed in that hot, dry heat, I just had to smile. I get the joke now, and I don’t know why anyone would live in an area where the air is so thick you can cut it with a knife.