Sunday, July 29, 2018

Quote for the day: What trees really want

"They wait.
They have no fear. Their fate
Is faith. Birdsong
Is all they've wanted, all along."  
~~ from 1991 #8 in This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems, by Wendell Berry

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: Comings and goings

The packing-travelling-unpacking process this month stirred up my less-is-more instincts, and I wound up taking a bunch of stuff to the thrift store. It's kind of weird shopping there and walking past your own clothes. (I didn't buy any back this time, though.) I think that this fall my closet is going to be leaner/meaner than in the past couple of years. Space is good.

Between a Salvation Army stop last night, and my volunteering morning today,  I did add a couple of new things that were calling my name.
Viscose top in my favourite shade of purple
Blue unlined feels like linen, but the fabric tag was snipped out, so maybe it's a cotton blend.
And something to read.

An Infrequent Traveller: Musings on getting around

I have made exactly four sets of airplane trips in my adult life: that is, four trips somewhere and four trips back. Across that decade, several things have changed, and maybe they're more noticeable to an Infrequent Traveller.

Strangely enough, I think airport lineups are getting better. Maybe it was a fluke, but it seemed to me that even the dreaded security and customs lines at Pearson (Toronto) moved quicker and smoother than they did in the past. Is it because passengers are now so familiar with taking shoes off and showing liquids, that things flow better? Or are the agents just moving them through better?

Where I did notice a hangup, more than once, was with the greater number of people bringing carry-on bags, some of those possibly over the size limit, aboard relatively small airplanes. These planes have three seats on the left and two seats on the right, and the overhead compartments are correspondingly deeper on the left. Passengers were having a terrible time finding places for their bags, especially on the smaller side. The airline is obviously aware of this problem, because they were asking for volunteers to check their bags (for free). On the return trip, I took them up on it, because I had a connecting flight with little extra time, and I was happy to have one less thing to trundle through the airport and fight for space with on the plane. (And my carry-on did get to Toronto with no problems.)

Airport food is horrendously expensive, even at the grab-and-go booths. Sometimes you are just stuck with it, so be prepared. But even short flights usually offer free drinks and snacks, so it's not worth paying for airport coffee or pop or bottled water if you're boarding soon anyway. I did buy a sandwich during one stopover, and a fruit salad while running through the Atlanta airport, see above.

It is definitely an advantage these days to have a computer, phone, or other device to keep you current on check-ins and changes. It's also a good idea to have a plan for accessing airport Wifi, if (like me) your life doesn't run with a phone. I put a shortcut to a site called Boingo on my home screen, which helps access public Wifi that doesn't just pop up automatically.

The biggest change, I think, was not in the physical or digital navigation of things but in my own perceptions, and the fact that (even being very Infrequent) I don't get mixed up as much anymore. The first time I ever came back through Toronto, I got hopelessly lost trying to find the shuttle van home. Turned out I was on the wrong floor of the terminal. Now I'm not even sure how I could have done that, because the van counter isn't that hard to find. But I was the kid who got lost coming back from the bathroom on the first day of school, so anything's possible. Moral of the story here: you're not stupid if you get mixed up in a new place; and after two or three times, you are going to feel, if not exactly at home, at least a little more in control.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: reading writing before writing

My spring-term course has wound up, and I now have the rest of the summer to work on writing projects.

But I need help and inspiration, so I brought some home.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print, by Renni Browne and Dave King
The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, by David L. Ulin
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by a Two-Time Pulitzer Prize Winner, by Jon Franklin

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Quote for the day: Perhaps this is the answer to everything.

"Captain Sisko (voiceover): Captain's log, stardate 50929.4. Two days ago, this station felt like a tomb. I'd never seen so many of my crew depressed at the same time. But for some reason, it now seems as though a new spirit has swept through the station, as if someone had opened a door and let a gust of fresh air blow through a musty old house. Why this is happening, frankly, is a mystery to me. After all, nothing has really changed. The Dominion is still a threat, the Cardassians are still threatening to retake the station, and I can still see the clouds of war gathering on the horizon. So why do I sense a newfound sense of optimism in the air? But maybe I'm overthinking this. Maybe the real explanation is as simple as something my father taught me a long time ago: even in the darkest moments, you can always find something that'll make you smile."
(Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "In the Cards")

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Quote for the day: Just human beings

"By thinking of myself as just another human being, my perspective of others has also changed...I can now meet people who own a lot of things or are blessed with enormous talent without feeling embarrassed about myself...Rich or poor, famous or ordinary, we're all just human beings who come into contact with one another." ~~ Fumio Sasaki, Goodbye, Things

Thursday, July 12, 2018

An Infrequent Traveller, Part Six: In the end

I tried the backpack, etc., and settled for the good old tote bag. I don't know why I was having such a hard time making it work before. Case of nerves?

All set to go and spend time with friends I haven't seen in much too long.

An Infrequent Traveller, Part Five: Sort of a 10 x 10 Challenge

In a 10 x 10 Challenge, you're supposed to have only ten clothing items for ten days. But The Vivienne Files website sometimes does a mini-wardrobe called Whatever's Clean 13. That's what this is, except that I have only twelve items. If I could fit in a thirteenth, and if it was going to be cold at all, I'd take a lightweight pullover sweater. But it is not likely to be cold on this trip, unless I get into arctic-level air conditioning. Well, maybe the pullover's not such a bad idea.

(Almost all the clothes came from the thrift store.)

Clothing items:

Grey cardigan (for cold airplanes)
Raspberry button--up shirt

Blue linen t-shirt
Violet cotton t-shirt
White t-shirt with silver dots
White lace top (the two white tops can be worn together)
Long navy t-shirt
Long pink tank top

Grey jeans
Navy cropped pants
Navy shorts
Navy print maxi dress, worn as skirt



1. Grey cardigan, grey jeans, blue t-shirt
2. Navy shorts, blue t-shirt, scarf
3. Navy shorts (or cropped pants), violet t-shirt, necklace, hat
4. Navy print dress/skirt, violet t-shirt, necklaces
5. Navy print dress/skirt, white tops, necklaces
6. Navy cropped pants, white tops, hat, scarf
7. Navy cropped pants, navy t-shirt, raspberry shirt
8. Navy shorts, navy t-shirt, raspberry shirt
9. Navy cropped pants (or shorts), white t-shirt, circle scarf worn as shawl

10. (No photo) Navy pants, blue t-shirt
11. (No photo) Bonus outfits: any top plus grey jeans

(That's more outfits than days than I'm gone, but that's fine.)

Is decluttering only for the wealthy? (How to be a better materialist)

Minimalist blogger Joshua Becker recently linked to a Wall Street Journal article about Baby Boomers downsizing. The story seemed to be aimed at upscale readers whose biggest downsizing headache is selling off their art collections.

On the other end of the scale is this blog post at This Simple Balance8 Tips for Decluttering on a Low Income (from a mom who's been there). This writer points out the difficulty of asking "Does this bring joy?" when the bigger concerns are "Is this still functional?" and "What if we can't afford another one?"

Our family lived on one income for a long time, and then on even less as we moved to self-employment. We did go through tight-budget, don't-say-no-to-anything times, especially when the kids were young and seemed to need different-sized shoes and clothes every time we turned around.

And even that, compared to serious poverty in this country and overseas, was really nothing. We still had lots of clutter and overload, partly because we got too good at scrounging, and partly because we figured we would eventually find uses for stored stuff. (Often we did.) We were also holding on to many childhood and family items.

So are minimalism and decluttering only options for those who don't have to get anxious about living with less, or about giving away possibly useful things?

I agree with This Simple Balance that some minimalist maxims and strategies work better for those who have more choices. But everybody needs a little of what Amy Dacyczyn calls "margin": clear spaces around things and events, so that we appreciate them properly.  And we may actually benefit when we use our imaginations to repurpose things, or our generosity to share them.

Many of us have stories of our children, or ourselves as children, cherishing one toy, or improvising playthings. When our oldest was a toddler, she used a kitchen chair as her toy stove, with a few yard-saled toy pots. A few years later, we found a large plastic "play kitchen" on Kijiji for her younger sister. Yes, they played with it, but it was an eyesore in the room, and it was always a mess. Then there was even more stress when they outgrew the thing and we suggested passing it on. That would never have happened with a kitchen chair, right?

We also need to claim the right to say "enough," no matter what our income. Someday, sooner or later, the whole economy could change so that we can no longer easily access consumer goods. We might be trading chicken eggs for plumbing work, and making over old clothes because we can't get new ones.  But even then, we have the right to live with, use, and enjoy just enough, and to say no to whatever multiplicity we're stepping on and tripping over. We should feel free to be That Family or That Person, the ones who always sing the same songs, play the same card game after meals, or stop at the same deli on weekends. Maybe your grandchildren will remember your one and only cookie recipe, or your beat-up hat. Call those things quirks, call them traditions, call them your signature item; but don't call them bad things. The author of Affluenza says that if we were a truly materialist (vs. consumerist) culture, we would resist buying new old couches and coats, because we're so fond of the ones we have.

For a few of us, choosing to live with less may start with trimming down the artwork. For others, it's cleaning out the basement once and for all. But the key seems to be, not idolizing, but learning to cherish.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

An Infrequent Traveller, Part Four: I bought a suitcase

Things turned out totally different from the way I expected, so this is a totally different post than the one I first planned. 

I messed around a bit yesterday, stuffing things in and pulling them out of backpacks and shoulder bags. The circumstances of this holiday are such that I will probably be living out of those bags (vs. unpacking).  I have made a similar trip with just a shoulder bag and a purse, but that time I was counting on drawer and closet space, so I could cram everything supertight. So my problem amounted to this: I could get everything in, but could I get it all comfortably out, and in and out and in and out?

I went with Mr. Fixit to the usual Monday night Cruise Night, which (if you don't know) is also my chance to check out the Salvation Army thrift store. I headed for the luggage corner, and they had two nice carry-on bags for the equivalent of US$10. The bags were the same except for colour, so I picked the red one.
I feel like I have finally joined this century. I too can now pull out a handle and wheel my bag around.

And everything fits.
As a personal item, I am going back and forth between the satchel and backpack (see previous posts). Or the freebie law bag, because, pretty as the satchel is, it doesn't have a shoulder strap. The backpack...I'm worried that it might not be counted as an okay personal item (vs. baggage). Well, I still have a couple of days to figure it out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

An Infrequent Traveller, Part Three: Dry run, tough choices

This is a practice-pack for my upcoming trip.

First attempt

The blue satchel and the backpack managed to hold most of what I had collected. Clothes and shoes in the backpack, everything else in the satchel. Left out: the water bottle, which was too big. I will probably buy a small bottle of water after Security, and refill it if needed.

First layer in the backpack: a little Kon-Mari helps.
Second layer, ready to zip:
Some stuff for the satchel, which is heavier than I'd like. It has to hold anything that comes out for customs and security: liquids, electronics. 
Liquids bag. Actually the easiest part of the whole thing. 
Second attempt

I thrift-bought the blue satchel just for this trip, but I was not happy with the way it packed. It has two disadvantages: the thick handles and hardware make the bag itself heavy, and there are no shoulder straps. The law society daypack, on the other hand, is very lightweight, has a shoulder strap, and is a bit wider at the base. I was counting it as a potential suitcase rather than tote bag, but it can be either. I hate to say no to the prettier satchel, but shoulder straps and less weight are making this a better choice.

Clothes in the backpack, stuff in the law bag?

Third attempt

Brain wave: clothes in the law bag, everything else in the backpack, which should still fit under the seat.

For now, I'm going with #3.

Monday, July 09, 2018

An Infrequent Traveller, Part Two: What to pack it in

Some infrequent travellers have proper suitcases stored away. I don't, so when I do make a trip somewhere, I have to haul out the possibilities and try to remember how much I managed to get in them last time. 

 On this trip I am limited to one carry-on bag and one personal item.
The backpack, the heavy shoulder bag, or the nylon quick-business-trip deal? (Two of them are freebies from relatives.) I have an older weekend bag, but when it's packed it just barely fits the maximum size for carry-on, and it gets stuck in overhead compartments, not good. So it's a choice of these three, or (at worst) thrifting a carry-on suitcase when I'm volunteering tomorrow.
The new tote/purse or the old one? 
Makeup bags, grocery bags, Ziploc bags, laundry bags?

Here are the necessaries, more or less. (There are a few things I can't show in public.)
10 items of clothing (the rest I'll be wearing)
Sunglasses, tissues, makeup, pillowcase, Daytimer, reading material (could be left at home), two scarves (or maybe just one)
Toiletries, snacks, vitamins, towel, handy magnifying glass, gum to stop ear popping
Hat, extra shoes (could be left at home if absolutely necessary), brush, water bottle, and socks I use for slippers

So here is the suspense story: will it all go in? (And in what?) Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

An Infrequent Traveller, Part One: How to get a big hat in a small backpack

Oh, the things you can learn on You-Tube. "How do you pack a sun hat?"

Here's mine.
I used a rubber band to secure it.
I will be posting more "tips from an infrequent traveller" this week.

Friday, July 06, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter has a very quiet week

It was not a week for much finding or choosing. The weather was hot, and I was more interested in finishing a term paper than I was in accumulating anything else to take care of, launder, or read. I did bring home one tank top, one pair of pajama pants, and two books.
The Benedict Option, and This is not a Book: Adventures in Popular Philosophy.