Saturday, February 23, 2008

Kicking it to the Curb

A couple weeks ago, I did something new; liberating; even brave: I took a deep breath and heaved a large percentage of my clothing into an oversized goodwill bag.

I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, dreamed of it even, as I stared blankly each morning into a cloth maze of marginal pants, iffy blouses, and unloved dresses. You know the stuff, it’s in your closet, too: the pair of khakis with the grease stain from a hasty drive-thru lunch in late ‘06; the off-shade blouse you’ll find something perfect to wear with “someday”; the misshapen sweater Aunt Lib knitted for you several Christmases ago; the tired T’s.

I’d wade through the sea of fabric, eventually settling on trusted anchor pieces upon which I can always depend: a trio of jeans, dark solid tops, a shapely sweater, or, if the occasion called for it, a staple pair of slacks or skirt.

What with my daily deliberations and reliance on the thin ranks of the tried and true, I was convinced that purging my wardrobe would leave me with nothing to wear. This, of course, is the thinking pattern of those psychotic “hoarders” one sees from time to time on the evening news. The illusion of a vast and varied wardrobe imparted a false sense of security with which I was reluctant to part.

But part I did with a massive heave-ho to the curb on a recent Friday morning. Two factors joined forces in inspiring this bold move: a trip to the antique store and some financial backing in the form of Christmas funds.

The antique store trip was prompted by a do-it-yourself decorating book I picked up on the discount table at Barnes and Noble. According to the text, the antique store was my low cost, one-stop solution to all my household needs. With clothes in all stages of cleanliness spilling from laundry baskets and hampers bursting at the seams, I figured some sort of rustic shelving or chest of drawers would present a decorative-yet- functional storage option. The financial backing served as a safety net against public nudity should I get carried away in my zeal.

Sadly, the book was only half right. While I did find an attractive piece of functional furniture, I can hardly label the turn-of-the-twentieth-century walnut armoire as “low cost.” Let me skip over the droll financial deliberations (I, not my husband, was the reticent party) to say that my decision to limit my wardrobe to what could be contained within the armoire's confines was as solid as the piece itself.

True, I purchased a few new items, and, better yet, salvaged a few with the aid of a seamstress. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit to keeping a few ridiculous items, like the scoop-backed tuxedo tank I’ve always wanted to pair with a classy black jacket for some sort of day/night affair (“From boardroom to ballroom,” my husband mused, when I attempted describe the socially-improbable occasion that would prompt such garb).

As an English major, I’m not much for clich├ęs, but if I did adhere to shop-worm maxims, my current wardrobe would certainly be a case of “less is more.”

Recent mornings, it seems I have more choices than ever, and they’re all good. My drawers are full, but not stuffed, and everything in them makes me smile.

In fact, my style’s so polished I’m looking for ways to extend the streamlined concept to every area of life, and I’m not just talking closets. I’m eyeing bloated corners in every arena and I’m poised to toss.

Friday, February 22, 2008


No school.
Fingers eager for the keyboard.
Stay tuned.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Musings Over a Warm Mug

Glug, glug, sputter, pshhh…glug glug…the coffee was brewing.

My son, his hastily packed lunch, my daughter, her buzzing cell phone, and my frazzled husband were miles down the road en route to school and work.

I was alone. This is an important fact to file away at this point, because momentarily, you’ll want to foist responsibility for subsequent phenomena upon someone—anyone actually—in an attempt to maintain your sense of structure and order. But I’m going to take that from you here, at the outset, because I never had the sense that what happened inside my kitchen cabinet was normal, so I’m not going to let you think, or even suspect, it , either.

Because it’s simply not normal to reach into your cabinet for your favorite coffee mug, the one you always reach for when it’s clean because your daughter got it for you when she was seven and it makes you smile—it’s just not normal to wrap your hand around the mug and discover that it’s already hot.

I’m not talking maybe-some-stray-sunbeam-seeped-in-though-a-crack-in- the-cabinet hot. I’m talking just-came-out-of-the-kiln hot. So hot that the shelf beneath it is warm to the touch and the surrounding mugs have soaked in its heat sort of hot.

Now, of course, the first thing I’m thinking is fire, because it’s not like I haven’t been right in that very spot of the kitchen, warming leftovers with my walls on fire. It happens. And I’m feeling a little more confident about fires ever since I met a new friend at church who is a firefighter and says he’s totally got my back if I ever set the kitchen aflame, as I'm so prone to do. So I’m kind of looking for the source of the fire, wondering why I didn’t have the presence of mind to put Firefighter Friend on speed dial, when I realize that the cabinet is adjacent to another cabinet containing nothing but--what else--books— in this case stone cold books. All the other dishes in the burning mug cabinet—pots, pans, glasses, and plastics—were all behaving in their typical, cool-to-the-touch manner on the surrounding shelves.

Curious, I cradled the mug in my hands, enjoying the mystery of it’s warmth—which, I must note, did not measurably subside during the entire time I waited for my coffee to brew—even after I poured cream into the bottom.

See, as disturbing as it is to have an inexplicably toasty mug in my kitchen cabinet, I know better than to question the event. No good will come of it. There are no answers, any more than there were during that disturbing incident in the late eighties when I dozed off while watching a daytime drama and awoke to find that a wardrobe—complete with all my clothes, on hangers—had appeared in my dorm room.

It didn’t matter, then, how many times I retraced the events of that afternoon, meticulously interviewing witnesses and establishing timelines like a Crime Scene Investigator on a tricky case—there were no answers to be had. Yes, witnesses could verify that my clothes had been draped over chairs and heaped in corners for weeks prior to the arrival of the Mysterious Wardrobe. Yes, others had been watching the same daytime drama, and verified that indeed, I’d missed mere minutes of the eposode. Yes, everyone could plainly see the large wardrobe and my neatly hanging clothes, situated in the room. But not a single soul knew how, or when, it happened.

It’s the same now, with the mug. It’s one of those mystifying events in life that defies rationalization. I’ve decided to embrace this ambiguity, and count it among the blessings of life. The random, unexplained events of life keep me interested and engaged—on my toes. In fact, if there is an explanation, I don’t think I even want to know. I'd rather spare myself the discovery that life might be mundane, because I’d find the news unbearably devastating.

I’m currently not inclined to view the semi-burning mug as any sort of sign. If I wake up tomorrow to find my bushes aflame, I’ll reconsider.


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