A Place for Everything

My favorite part of moving is settling in. Finally. All the rush-hassle of packing, arranging movers, schlepping items to the Good Will or new home and living with ceiling-high piles of boxes subsides. Energy slowly creeps back, each day a sliver closer to being able to walk and think without creaking.

Figuring out where everything goes, the human trail of do-dads and odds and ends and artifacts and books and notebooks that I drag from home to home like a colorful kite I hope to fly.

My sister and I are both our engineer father’s daughters, with an innate sense of organization. An ability to be both creative and logical. Just as I can organize a story in logical fashion and my sister a website, we can also figure out the most efficient way to lay out and store items. And to make them look good too.

Each new home presents a unique set of challenges. What worked beautifully in one kitchen, such as putting all the pots and pans in a cupboard next to the stove, doesn’t work in another, with the stove cupboard so narrow it will only hold a wire rack. Or the bizarro cupboard with 6-inch deep shelves that worked for cookbooks now replaced by a pull-out wood tray that wobbles and sticks and makes all the plastic ware fly out onto the floor.

My sister is fortunate enough to have designed her kitchens and other spaces to exact specifications. She takes a place for everything to a level that would have awed our OCD father. That is a challenge, of course, just as working with what’s there is also a challenge.

I’m always pleased when items fall into the right place and are aesthetically appealing too. It doesn’t always happen immediately. Sometimes I sit in a room for a few weeks before it hits me that the couch would look better a few inches over, the tables and lamps need to be switched, and the ottoman should be moved out of sight completely. (It’s a small room.)

So far, I have really lucked out with the turquoise bureau. Originally enamel black with a slight Chinese accent, my mother bought it after dad died and she moved into a modern condo with a whole new look, including bright red and green glossy tables.

It was her bedroom bureau until she married our step-dad. I think he used it for awhile. When they bought a larger house, the bureau was moved into the guest room and painted white. A neutral palate for neutral guests, or for those of us in the family needing safe havens, including me, my son, and my niece (at different times).Turquoise Bureau

The bureau has big, deep drawers and when I visited I was able to comfortably tuck away my basic items. But as time went on, I noticed the drawers began to fill up with my mom’s and step-dad’s overflow. They took up photography and my mom calligraphy and designed greeting cards and eventually got computers with all the design software. Each time I yanked open a drawer it got harder and harder, with paper and photographs and camera parts and computer gizmos jammed together and spilling over. Finally, there was no space in the bureau at all for guests and so I would just lay all my clothes on the other twin bed. (There was no room left in the closet either, which my step-dad filled with his elephant-sized Ansel Adams cameras.)

After our step-dad died and mom coped with running a big house by herself, I didn’t have the heart to say anything about the bureau. She finally agreed to downsize close to my sister and the time came to give away much of her furniture. I asked for the bureau and my younger son transported it in his truck from Hermosa Beach to La Jolla.

I had the perfect spot for it in my office, a little alcove in the wall. And I knew right away it should be painted turquoise, my favorite color. I hired my artist-photographer-musician friend Patrick to do it – bright shiny enamel. It pleased me to look at it every day and know it held all my office supplies beautifully.

Then I moved around the corner and what do you know, there was an alcove in that office too! And now, two years later, I move again. This time I have a walk-in closet off my office – and the CLOSET has an alcove for the bureau. They were made for each other. The moving guy couldn’t believe it when he hefted it in.

Yes, some things are a perfect fit, fall into their right place.




Saying Thanks

The other morning I was sitting at the hairdresser’s letting my color sink in. My iPhone rang. I almost didn’t answer, since one, I did not recognize the number, and two, my iPhone is new and the last thing it needs is a color job. Something made me accept the call anyway, holding the phone a few inches away from my ear.

It was a gentleman – I say this in the full wonderful meaning of the word – calling to thank me for a story I’d just written about him in the local newspaper. I was so surprised I almost fell off the swiveling chair. Do you know how seldom anyone I write about says thank you?

It has been a full year. In that time, I’ve written 14 stories about local churches and synagogues. Of all the ministers and rabbis I interviewed, only one said thank you. (One accused me of misquoting him, but that’s really another story. Okay, I did get a word wrong, but he invented whole paragraphs!)

039Before that, maybe two people sent thank you cards and took me to lunch in three years as a way of thanking me for stories. In general, saying thank you has fallen by the old-fashioned wayside. Thank you cards belong to another era. Nowadays when someone, especially a young person, sends a card, it’s considered exceptional.

Why is this? Is there a decline in manners? Are people too busy? I leave it to historians and social analysts to answer. My guess is that there’s always been a mixture of civility and rudeness depending on time and place. Loosening standards of dress and social interaction is not always a bad thing. Working hard and having less time for tea parties and calling cards is not always a bad thing. Two parents working because they love their careers and also need two incomes is not a bad thing either. But do we have to let go of all standards of caring, all time to say a thank you and teach our children to say thank you? I hope not. And hope is out there in cyberspace in the many creative forms of insta-thank yous.

Nowadays there is a lot of emphasis on “expressing gratitude.” Feel grateful for all we have! Take time to thank the universe for every morning and night! Thank our bodies for getting us out of bed and walking us through the day. Thanks for friends, family, dog, cat, parrot, food, yoga, music, new book ….. you get the idea. Even express gratitude for BAD things. They are teaching us something, even if it is just new swear words. I assume death lets us off the hook here, that we can then be eternally grateful, ungrateful or just plain non-existent.

The problem with gratitude is that it only goes so far. It is like a selfie of the soul. It’s silent and yeah, selfish. Thank you universe for acknowledging wonderful me.

145Not thank you OUT LOUD to another human being. Thank you for being a good friend. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for being there. Thank you for helping me move. Thank you for keeping your advice to yourself. Thank you for the birthday wishes, the Christmas present, the dinner you cooked.

Thank you for the wonderful story you wrote. I tell you, that made my day. And my week and my month. And it may have to do me for another year.