Practical Minimalism: Things Can Lead to Experiences

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Experiences are better than things, but a thing can lead to experiences.

The minimalistic creed that experiences are always better than things is untrue, for I say it depends on the experience (and the thing).  

The experience of going to the library was okay, but the experience of a book I buy and read multiple times is better. Since Covid, I have subscribed to Amazon Kindle Unlimited for me and have added many more books to my daughter’s physical library.

The experience of shopping for a new phone was a hassle, but using that phone to group text my friends for a girls’ night out, promote my Instagram poetry, or play Scrabble is better; buying a new TV was forgettable, but having a 42″ screen where my husband and I watch Wheel of Fortune is better. We bond over skewering Pat for some of the !@#$ he says and the contestants for the bad calls they make. 

The experience of going to the Pensacola Interstate Fair was all right (I make better, and cleaner, fair food at home), but I’ve had just as much fun playing with my daughter in the big blow-up pool (a “thing”) in our backyard.

Some experiences have sucked (like revisiting the Italian restaurant where my husband and I used to go when we met ten years ago), where my time would’ve been better spent watching the current Holiday Baking Championship.

However, some experiences have been wonderful. Sometimes, the simplest experiences are best, such as having a meal at Chick-Fil-A with my family (before Covid), meeting friends for drinks and tacos (or one-on-one for coffee), reading a new bedtime story, playing board games, singing Christmas carols, trying a new baking recipe (will be making my first savory cheesecake next week), making Christmas placemats (a laminator is a must for any homeschooling classroom), creating unique Christmas cards via TouchNotes for some of my friends, and so forth. 

Experiences like these are what life is made of, and most of them aren’t Facebook or Instagram picture-worthy.  

There’s a great quote in the movie Tully, in which Tully tells Marlo (a married mother of three young children who seems to be struggling with the baby blues) that she hasn’t failed but has made her biggest dream come true: “That sameness that you despise, that’s your gift to them [Marlo’s children]. Waking up every day and doing the same things for them over and over. You are boring. Your marriage is boring. Your house is boring, but that’s … incredible! That’s a big dream, to grow up and be dull and constant, and then raise your kids in that circle of safety.”

You don’t have to experience something new every day because every day in and of itself is an experience. My best experiences haven’t always included pictures but are in the stories I tell and the memories I share.

When my job situation often changed (the nature of being a student worker), with my husband and I moving every two or three years (you have to go where you can afford to live), I found myself in a constant state of anxiety. However, we are finally reaching a level of homeostasis that feels an awful lot like contentment (not to be confused with complacency). 

I love my life as it is, which doesn’t mean that I don’t want more; I am just working towards being more. I tell my daughter in homeschool: The more you know, the more you can do, and the richer your life will be, for the more you will be able to do for yourself and others.

I remember a motivational speaker once saying that the two things that make us happiest are helping others and creating something. This Christmas season, I have been fortunate enough to do both. I would also say that staying connected to friends and family (in-person, if possible, or via telephone, not text) is the third part of that, for being giving of your time is the greatest gift.

” … remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Book Review: The Arrow Finds its Mark (A Book of Found Poems)

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This is a cute little introductory volume on the concept of “found poetry.”  I love the idea of “finding a poem” because it shows that poetry is omnipresent–in dictionaries, crossword puzzle clues, book titles on a shelf (the word version of a “shelfie”), advertisements, social media posts, et cetera.

For me, the difference between poetry and prose has always been strategically-placed line breaks, but then, everyone has their own definition of what a poem is.  (It definitely doesn’t have to rhyme.)

Some of the “found poems” are a stretch (ironically, “A Bird Poetry Reading,” for example, which would drive one nuckin’ futs to read) and “Texto” (a column of meaningless texting abbreviations which were found on some teen website), but others are gems, like “Man’s Best Friend” (an excerpt in a speech by George Vest–U.S. Senator from 1879-1903–and one of the leading orators of his time) and “First Wins” (from selected words in a SPRINT newspaper advertisement).

The cover is eye-catching, the illustrations cute, the font and layout pleasing to look at, but the book is much more useful as a tool in getting an idea of what found poetry is, as well as a guide in how to find your own poetry.  (Maybe more poets should work in advertising.)

This book helped me see old things in new ways, or rather, look for poetry in the most unlikely places.

5 Really Cool Things About Kindle

  1. Free books.  I don’t consider PDF downloads “real” books, but I love the free ones (especially on writing) offered on amazon.com.  It’s a great way to connect with other authors and learn something about the craft.  (I highly recommend “How to Write Poetry, by Cynthia Sharp; it’s not free, but it was well worth the $2.99).  I already have a free e-book idea of my own I am developing (writing prompts with examples), as a way to gain followers, and perhaps even contacts.
  2. Samples:  I can sit anywhere (like in bed) and read a sample of the book before I buy.
  3. Instant gratification:  I don’t have to wait for a book in the mail.
  4. It’s minimalist.  I hate clutter (I can count on both hands the number of DVDs I own, and there is a cap on how many of anything I allow myself to own); nothing looks junkier than a bunch of dog-eared paperbacks.  Plus, the electronic device is also much more sanitary than a used book that someone may have read while on the can.  (Hey, going to the bathroom is boring.)
  5. I can send documents.  http://www.amazon.com/gp/sendtokindle/email.  This is my favorite feature, because I’ve been wanting to print up a booklet of all the kids’ songs I sing to my daughter (as I haven’t learned all the verses to them yet–even the lyrics I wrote myself), but now I can just send a Microsoft Word document with all the songs as an attachment to my Kindle e-mail.  I can also read my own work, thus saving ink (but I can’t edit it).

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There are a few drawbacks to an e-reader, like not being able to give away a book you will never read again.  (I don’t pay $3.99 for a book to just delete it.)  A few of the authors I read, like Lisa Jackson and Sandra Brown (mainstream fiction authors, whose focus is on plot, unlike literary fiction, where the focus is on characterization), I won’t read again.  I know the plot, and the characters aren’t compelling enough to revisit.  (I like to compare mainstream novels to milk chocolate, and literary novels to dark.)

Furthermore, I was under the impression that Kindle books were cheaper, but they are not, considering I rarely ever buy a new book.  I generally by “Like New” books in hardcover, or, unless they are by one of the authors I mentioned, I buy a cheap paperback.

Also, there is nothing like browsing the bookstore for an hour.  It’s one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon (usually with a coffee).  I say, I will never buy an illustrated children’s book on any kind of electronic device.  My daughter likes turning the pages, and I like the aesthetics of a shelfie.

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So, I am what I call a hybrid reader–beloved books will still have a place on my shelf, but pure escapism can be relegated to my Kindle.

Having fun with lists and languages

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a fan of Shakespeare.  I have always found  his work boring (even though I’m supposed to like it).  Maybe there isn’t enough yolk in my head to like what I have been told is one of the greats.  However, I do think it is possible to appreciate something without liking it.  Shakespeare did invent many new words, many of which I like, so, I came up with a few myself.

Snowblowhard:  one who chooses to live in the South, but complains about everything Southern (like the weather, for instance).  A friend of a friend (on Facebook)  referred to Florida Christmases as fake because we didn’t have snow.

Raggedbagger:  woman who carries a designer handbag while dressed like a bum.

Paddyfibber:  one who claims to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

Stackie (see shelfie:  http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=shelfie):  a stack, or tower, of books that have not yet made it to a shelf.

Crucifixation (I can’t take credit for this one, as my brother made it up):  one who is fascinated by the macabre elements of religion (exorcism, speaking in tongues, etc.).

Manicurist:  I know this is already a word, but I think it should be brought back.  Nail technician just isn’t an accurate of a description, and this is coming from someone who was an administrative assistant (which is really a glorified secretary with receptionist duties).

Multi-tabber (liken to multi-tasker)–one who has at least several tabs open on their Internet at one time.  This is me.

Mom joke (a.k.a. lame joke):  if you knew my mom, you’d understand.  An example of a mom joke:  Q:  What did the one casket say to the other casket that had a cold?  A:  Is that you coffin?

Femoir:  a fake memoir.  See:  http://listverse.com/2010/03/06/top-10-infamous-fake-memoirs/

Fictionary:  This list!

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Maybe one of the amendments to my list of New Year’s Resolutions should be to learn at least one new word a day, but to learn that new word, I have to use it.

One of the reasons I enjoyed the Shopaholic series so much was because it was set in England, and I learned some British words/slang.  One of my favorite English phrases is “cheesed off” (which means disgusted or fed up).

When I lived in Montana, they used the word “spendy” to mean pricey.  In Southeast Missouri, where my family is from, they use the term “whopper-jawed” (I think that means jacked-up), and my parents still say “warsh” instead of “wash.”

Local lingo adds an authentic flavor to a piece of writing.  A setting is an important character, even if the place is made up.  I’d rather see an author make up a setting than do injustice to a real one.  Peyton Place was made up but felt very real (I’m referring to the movie and not the book).  Of course, it was based on a real place, like Sinclair Lewis’s Zenith, Missouri, in Elmer Gantry (another example where the movie was far better than the book).  Even Oz felt like a real place–just not on Earth.

One of the many reasons I love Christian author Linda Hall’s books is because almost all of them are set in Maine–a place I’d love to visit someday.  I also tend to gravitate towards books set in New Orleans (ironically, a place I have no desire to visit); the only reason I read any of Elin Hilderbrand’s novels was because most of them were set on Nantucket Island (where I’ve wanted to visit ever since I became a fan of the Wings TV series).  Dorothea Benton Frank’s Sullivan’s Island has made me want to go there, too.  However, the last two authors only made me want to visit the settings of their novels, not read another one.

Setting is great, but character still matters.

Updated 1/13/2020

Musings on log cabin stories, stay-at-home momhood, and the art of regifting

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They say (and by they, I mean certain political pundits) that anymore, a candidate needs a “log cabin story” to relate to the voters.  I don’t believe one has to have been born in poverty get elected.  Let’s face it, even if they sprung from humble beginnings, most of them don’t relate to the common people anymore by the time they reach the higher echelons of office (they are not public servants–our taxpayer dollars serve them).

I love it when new words (I like shelfie) or phrases are coined, though I have to say, my favorite thus far is still “Bush derangement syndrome”.

I do loathe the term “mommy blogger,” though.  Stay-at-home moms are already maligned by modern society, but at the same time, I don’t believe having and raising five children is not a qualification to be elected President.  One of my favorite things that Greg Gutfeld has every said is that women are equal to men, but different.  Women don’t have to be like men to be equal to them.

I would actually prefer my husband to expect dinner every night upon coming home from work, just so I felt I was earning my keep.  When I don’t bring home a paycheck, it is hard for me to feel I am contributing to the family, even though I take care of all my daughter’s needs when he is away, and sit up later to take care of her when he is trying to sleep, so he can go in to work rested.

I feel like if he expected more, I’d be more motivated to try new recipes, but he’s happy with a peanut butter sandwich and beer.  I admit, I hate cleaning, so I try to keep everything as clean as possible all the time because that’s just less big cleaning I’ll have to do later.  I try to make as little mess as possible when I cook.  I am an anti-hoarder because I don’t want to have to worry about sorting through a bunch of junk later.  I try not to own too much stuff (no more bath towels or plates unless one breaks or we can’t use it anymore) because the more stuff you have, the more there is to clean.

I am a huge regifter, and have never bought a Christmas present for my husband’s family’s Dirty Santa parties (there’s a shrimp deveiner that’s been regifted for the past twenty-five years).  I used to collect scented candles and have far more than I could ever use, so I’ve been regifting those for the past few years.

Rather than spend money on such a thing, buy a gift for a child on the Salvation Army Angel tree.  So much money is wasted on gift-giving when people buy whatever they want for themselves throughout the year.  I’ve always found that food gifts and any handmade items are the most appreciated.  Even a phone call or a handwritten letter can be a gift.