Today I had an experience that illustrates exactly why I don’t want to own much stuff. A couple of years ago, driven by a sudden urge to be a bit hipper (I get these urges from time to time!), I bought an olive suede designer handbag on eBay. It was a bargain at $30. I loved the bag and used it often, but it was one of those big bags so I filled it with too much stuff (see September 10) and the shoulder strap broke. But I had a belt of the same color as the strap and figured out a way to use it to mend the strap. I took all the pieces to the local shoe repair shop and they fixed it for only $15. So for a while, I had a functioning trendy bag again. Until, of course, the weight of the bag caused the strap to break in a different place. Hoping I’d be able to figure out how to repair the bag again, I added it to my fixit pile.
Today was a long day. I had managed to get a haircut and finish another essay for my book, so it was somewhat productive, but I’d had tummy issues all day and by the evening getting our son Theo to study for his math test seemed like a particularly hard struggle. I’m not sure who won the homework battle in the end, but once Theo’s backpack was packed, the last snacks of the evening were consumed, and my husband David was snuggled up in bed reading to Theo, I tried to focus on my Giveaway.
I don’t always know what to expect when I stop working for the day and set off to pick our son Theo up from school. Usually, he’s happy enough to come home and have a snack, but when it comes time to do homework, things typically start going downhill, and unpleasantness and frustration often follow. I recently decided to encourage Theo to “make his homework disappear” by having him do his homework at school after the bell and then call me to pick him up, thus leaving no work to do at home, or homework. This tactic hasn’t worked terribly well, as more often than not, when I arrive at the school, he reveals that he has only done a part of his homework or none at all. But I’ve been determined to persevere with this plan and was only temporarily set back when the office administrators told me I couldn’t let Theo call from the office every day for me to pick him up. That happened just before his birthday, so I talked to my husband David about getting him a phone for his birthday. He’d been asking for one, and we’d been resisting, but maybe we could use it to our advantage. I found an inexpensive phone at Target (on a prepaid plan) and we gave it to him as a birthday present with the requirement that he use it to call home after he’s finished his homework. Well, it’s been a week since his birthday, and I hate to admit, my cunning plan has not been working terribly well.
A hachimaki (鉢巻, “helmet-scarf”) is a Japanese cotton headband or bandana, usually made of red or white cloth, worn as a symbol of perseverance or courage. These scarves are worn on many occasions, during sports and festivals, and by laborers, farmers and tradespeople, and can be decorated with writing, symbols or even pictures, depending on the wearer and the occasion. The origins of these headscarves are unclear but they may derive from the scarves worn by religious ascetics. More likely, they come from the headscarves samurai warriors wore to hold their helmets firmly in place, absorb perspiration and keep hair out of their eyes when in battle.
Aristotle is credited with postulating that nature abhors a vacuum, the idea that whenever there is an empty space, matter will rush to fill it in. Although he lived in the 4th century BC and since then later philosophers and scientists have debated his idea passionately, the Greek philosopher had a pretty good sense of how humans live their lives and occupy space, especially in the world today. The term Horror vacui can be applied to the way we build our cities, occupy our homes and use our containers.
Kensington is 6 years old, as cute as a button but as sharp and sassy as a hot pink thumbtack. She is also a brave young thing, smiling and chatting and doing the splits for us this afternoon, just a few days after having stitches on her forehead after being scratched in the face by a dog – her own dog too. Our little friend Kensi was adopted by our good friends Nick and Krista when she was just ten months old, first under a fostering arrangement, but then when she was two, officially. Since then she has been growing into a beautiful and clever little comedian who is every bit as much the child of our beautiful, clever and very funny friends as her older brother Lexington, or Lexi. Though we don’t see this dear family as often as we’d like, we try to visit them at Krista’s Red Dragon Café occasionally, and because my brother Alan is in town and wanted to see them, we drove over there today to spend some time in their company. Today, I feel like I got a real sense of Kensington.
On a few occasions this year, I have rushed in the evening to Trader Joe’s or Gelson’s bearing extra tote bags to give to people who might have left theirs at home. Typically I have rushed into the store in the evening and given the bags to cashiers and asked them to pass them on to customers “in need.” There’s a certain amount of satisfaction in this act but those times my own actions felt a bit forced.
We made it back home from the lushness and heat of our weekend in Ojai and settled back into our home. After dinner was done, I headed out into the evening wondering what and how to give now that the light was fading. I chose a colorful woven bracelet from Peru, which we bought on a magical vacation nearly 8 years ago, when our son Theo was four. He actually turned 4 at Machu Picchu, competing with the mountain wind to blow out the four little candles I planted in a breakfast bun at the café outside the ruins.
Today I dropped off a couple of books in the Little Free Library outside our son’s school. Beside them, I left a cute little bracelet with my son’s school’s name woven into it, a gift to another child from the school that I am missing today.
It was a sad day for me when Jim was forced from his position at Pacific Asia Museum. He became the COO shortly after I joined the museum and as such he was a very sane, responsible and well liked by most of the staff. Unfortunately he was there at a politically turbulent time when there was both a director and a president on staff vying for power. The museum’s budget couldn’t support so many upper positions, so to balance the budget, Jim suggested to the board that the three of them take a pay cut. Not only did they not choose to follow his wise advice, but they fired him while he was out of town. It was one of the coldest moves I have seen in my professional life.