The Joys of Craigslist

I didn’t think garage sale folks were the type to buy cement mixers.  “That should go on craigslist,” I told dad.  “Yeah?  You think you can sell it on there?”  His look said, “I’m not so sure about this, but you’re my daughter, and know more about technology than I do, so I’ll let you try it.”  He knew of the many things I had done with craigslist – found roommates, found apartments, found a subletter, bought a bike, sold some furniture – but he didn’t really trust it.  “I’ll need a picture of it,” I said.  “What else can you sell on there?” he asked as we looked around the odd collection of stuff in his barn.  I took pictures of a sink, a tub shower, and an air conditioner.  “Wait – let me show you something,” he said and took off towards the pool.  “You think you can sell this?” he asked.  “What is that?” I asked.  “It’s an old pool cleaner.  Still works.”  “Who knows,” I said as I snapped my picture.

That day I posted his stock on the craigslist site for our area.  The next morning, as a friend and I drove up the hill towards my parents house to do more garage sale prep, I saw a pick up truck coming in the other direction with a cement mixer in its bed.  “You think that’s your dad’s cement mixer?” asked my friend.  “Do you really think it’s anyone else’s at 7AM on a Saturday morning?” I responded.  When we got to the house I asked dad, “Did I just see your cement mixer going down the hill?”  “Yeah – isn’t that amazing?  That guy drove a few hours to pick that thing up – and he even paid me for it!”

Dad couldn’t believe it.  By the next morning he found a taker for the pool cleaner and decided I should post an ad for some paving bricks.  “They’re 4×8.  I have about a thousand of them,” he told me. The next morning I posted the ad with my dad’s cell phone number and went about my business.  An hour later dad called.  “Craigslist is amazing.”   No hello, no how are you.  That was his first line.  I laughed.  “You have to show me how to use that.  I’ve got all kinds of things I want to get rid of,” he told me.  This from the man who steadfastly refuses advances in technology until he’s forced into them, and then promptly becomes their biggest fan.  I had converted him.

There’s a certain kind of joy in teaching your parents something new.  For years and years and years they’ve taught me new things, provided me with advice and insights.  I know I’ll never repay them, but in some small way I feel like I decrease my debt each time I open their eyes to something.

How many do you need?

I’m helping my parents get ready for their garage sale this weekend.  This is a momentous occasion as they have lived in this house for over 25 years and in that time have had only one other garage sale I can recall.  On the other hand, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen stuff being moved into their house.  They take a Honda Odyssey when they drive from NY to NC to visit my sister.  When I was younger, that van was filled with kids.  Now-a-days, they return with it full of antiques they found on their way back.  Mom has enough furniture to furnish a whole other house.  Which, I must admit, comes in handy as I don’t own much in the way of furniture.  People ask where my end tables came from and I say “the Gallo Family Collection,” as if it’s its own brand.  And my parents actually are thinking of building another house (though that was not on the horizon when most of the furniture was bought).  But I’m not entirely sure they’re building a new house because the property would make a great place for future grandkids to visit or simply to house their extra furniture.

Having helped mom work her way through some of the basement last week, she offered to help me work my way through belongings I still had in the barn.  I have just about everything I need where I live now, so didn’t have much trouble parting with the remnants in the barn.

Then mom and I started looking around the rest of the barn.  And here’s my question:  How many coolers does one man need?  We counted 11 on the second floor of the barn (yes, it has not one but two floors of stuff).  And these were just the coolers in the barn.  Mom and I both knew Dad had a few more in the garage.  And who knows how many elsewhere.

When I mentioned the plethora of coolers to my father, he said, “Yes – but these are really good coolers.”  As if their quality has anything to do with the number of them a person needs!  “That’s fine,” I said, “but how many do you really need?”  With a huff he started looking at them and pulled four off the towering pile.  “But you know – your brother might need one of these,” he told me.  “Ok – so that’s one.  You’re telling me you need the other six?”  His patience with me was waning, so I let it go, happy of my success at getting him to move four out of there.  “These are good coolers,” he said again as we brought them down the stairs.  “How much to you think these are worth?” he asked.  “No idea,” I said.  The only cooler I have is one dad let me borrow – a small one that fits on the shelf under my microwave.  And he’s never missed it.  “I’ll have to go to Kmart tomorrow and find out what these things cost, because they’re worth something.”  Apparently they are – worth so much that the man thought he should “invest” in 11 of them.

When I told a friend I was helping my parents prepare for their garage sale, she said, “Oh – good to do that now.  Otherwise you’ll be stuck doing it later.”  She meant when they passed on.  Which made me realize – they could easily live another 25 years.  Twenty-five more years worth of stuff?  I pushed that thought out of my mind remembering the best line I learned in Philosophy class:   Epictetus said, “Don’t worry over things you can’t control.”  It’s a good policy.

Spiritual Spa Day – Part 2

I’m a believer that if something works for you, then do it.  If walking across hot coals makes your sciatica disappear, then fire up the grill.  If a two hundred pound man walking on your back somehow improves your digestion, then go for it.  So when the third presenter at my Spiritual Spa Day brought out her Reflexology map, she certainly had my attention.

In case you don’t know, Reflexology is basically the idea that all parts of your body are somehow linked to a certain area of your foot.  For example, if you’re having trouble with your breathing, there’s a specific place on your foot that can be massaged to help with that.  I know this made sound a little crazy to some of you, but don’t knock it til you try it.  I didn’t, though I wish I had.  You see, the morning of our day was spent with the presenters.  The afternoon was for us to choose: massage, reflexology, spiritual direction, the labyrinth, or nothing at all.  Since I tend to be such a planner, I decided I wouldn’t plan my afternoon.  My goal was to just relax and do whatever came to me.  So I brought some books and a crochet project.  I had some spiritual direction, then went out to walk the labyrinth on the property, and returned to my favorite spot: A recliner in front of a window looking out on the Hudson.  There I started a new baby blanket.  I had a splendid afternoon.

When we gathered at 3:30 for the conclusion, the leaders asked for feedback.  We had no shortage of it.  What did people love the most?  Trying something new – something they never would have necessarily done in another setting.  “They offer reflexology at my nail salon,” said one woman, “but I’d never have tried it if I didn’t come here, and I love it!”  “I think I’m addicted to it,” added another.  The same sentiment was expressed about the body movement activities I wrote about yesterday.  We offered ideas for other Spa Days – we wanted more information about the labyrinth, maybe a presenter and guidance in meditation.  The leaders took it all in and then thanked us for taking the time for ourselves today.  We talked about how important it is to care for yourself in this way.  And I very much look forward to doing it again.  And maybe try some reflexology next time.

The Spiritual Spa Day – Part 1

Back in January, I signed up for a Spiritual Spa Day at Linwood – the retreat center three miles from my house run by the Sisters of St. Ursuline.  I signed up far in advance of the May date.  It was not just the content of the day, but the date that caused me to sign up.  This Spa experience was being offered on Tuesday, May 11.  By my calculations, that would be the first Tuesday that I didn’t have to teach Anatomy.  What a great way to celebrate the end of the semester, I thought.

The brochure promised a day of “relaxing, praying, reflecting and sharing” with an opportunity for massage and/or reflexology.  Sign me up! I said.  Unlike my mother, it is not so easy for me to relax in my own home.  I find a whole list of things that “need” to be done and do those instead of relaxing.  For me, I relax best when I’m someplace else.  Lucky for me, this someplace was just down the road.

I went by myself, so this counts as an artist date as it surely spurned some creativity and learning.  The day started with a delicious homemade coffee cake.  The brochure doesn’t advertise it, but one of the perks of these events is the food.

Then, we listened to a talk about the body/soul connection and how religion has at times connected or separated the two.  The presenter talked about the natural connection between body and soul and read bible passages supporting this.  She then asked us to think about our experiences of religion either encouraging or discouraging what our bodies naturally wanted to do.  My first thought was sex and how the religion in which I grew up only had one thing to say about it: don’t do it until you’re married.  The lack of discussion anywhere in my childhood about this topic has always bothered me.  Yes, here I was in a room full of women – two of whom were pastors, and at least two of whom were sisters – and I was thinking about sex.  In high school, I would have immediately squashed the thought as good Catholic girls are taught to do.  But in this simple conference room overlooking the Hudson, God and I had a good laugh over my current state of mind.

Our next presenter was an Episcopalian priest – a woman.  I’ve just about given up on the Catholics ever coming around to the idea of equality of the sexes, so the Episcopalians and any other religions that allow women to be ordained hold a special place in my heart.  And should I ever decide to return to church, it will be to one that allows women to run things.  I must admit when I had first walked into the room and saw the Reverend my first reaction was not too good.  She didn’t look at any of us, had a sour expression on her face, and didn’t really seem so friendly.  But once the morning was turned over to her, she just lit up and her presentation ended up being my favorite one of the day.  Whereas our first presenter grounded us in the spirituality of the day, this second presenter brought body and soul together in us through music and movement.  It will sound quite hokey if I explain it here but let me just say this:  don’t knock something until you try it.  God keeps sending me this message over and over again, and she’s right.

The presenter first set the foundation of a very welcoming space where nothing we could do would be wrong – that there was no right way to do what she was about to show us.  How many times do you hear that in your everyday life?  Not often enough I say!  She then told us about the Taize music we were about to hear.  Taize?  Oh how I love Taize!  I can’t recall when first I heard about Taize.  But ever since then, I’ve wanted to go there.  The music is a kind of chanting.  But there are no complex verses and choruses to memorize.  They want everyone to be able to participate so it’s just one or two lines repeated over and over again.  In that way, you don’t have to focus on getting the words right as you can quickly learn them.  Then, as you repeat them over and over you can really listen to the words, mull over them, pray with them, or whatever happens – and at Taize in France you can join thousands of young people doing this in community every single day.  Locally, you can experience it on a smaller scale at Mount Saint Alphonsus on the first Thursday of every month.

But it wasn’t just that we were going to sing Taize music.  We were going to involve our bodies in it as well. Most of us at this point are thinking, “uh…I’m not so sure about this.”  But the women who come to these things come in part to step out of their comfort zones a little bit.  So we were at least open to the idea.  She showed us the simple movement we could do with our arms as the music played.  “But you can do any variation on this – whatever your body tells you to do.  If you want to walk around while doing it, or close your eyes, or dance, do whatever comes.”  Oh boy, I thought.  This is SO not me.  But my sister wasn’t here to judge me.  In fact, no one here was going to judge me.  So I went with it.

I’d forgotten how much I used to like ballet.  The arm movements were what I loved the most.  And this brought that all back.  One woman turned to face the river when doing her movements (I kept my eyes open – I wanted to see what the others were doing.)  One was doing almost what looked like Tai Chi.  Some were walking around moving their arms like a belly dancer would.  And all to the rhythmic Taize music.

Our presenter lamented how many faiths require that you are still while music is played.  Even if you feel it in your bones, you were taught to sit still in church.  She took us through another piece encouraging us to now acknowledge the others in the room.  We did our movements, but when we came to another, we put our hands in the prayer position and bowed to each other.  We looked each other in the eyes when we did this and without speaking there was so much being said. One women I met was covered in tears.  I would not find out what it was that moved her so, but it was a powerful moment to see someone able to show so much emotion in front of strangers.

Then we did a group piece.  We were holding hands in two concentric circles,walking in one direction and then another.  Then, we’d clap a couple times to the music and spin around.  Oh how silly it sounds, but oh what fun we were having!  And really not nearly as silly as I thought it would be.

Whatever you think about the whole thing, I will tell you I enjoyed it so much that I can’t wait to attend this woman’s workshops that she’s going to start doing.  But isn’t this the best way to experience life?  Step outside your comfort zone and discover something you never knew before?  You experience something new and say either, “well, I did that once and that was enough,” or “wow – that was actually pretty cool.  I want more of that.”  I can tell you I’ve felt both many times.  And no matter which reaction I have, I have never once regretted trying something new.

The Mother’s Day Shrimp

There is definitely some sort of brain growth that happens – almost palpably – when you’re learning new things.  I don’t mean things you find in books – though perhaps you can feel it there as well.  No, I mean things that you experience that you’ve never experienced before.  And the great thing is that you have the opportunity to learn something new nearly every day if you just keep your eyes open for it.  Such was my experience on Sunday with shrimp.

On Mother’s Day, my father and his best friend prepare a meal for their wives.  Gary picks out the recipes and serves as head chef.  Dad and us kids are sous-chefs.  I’m usually amenable to preparing whatever needs doing.  As a child helping mom prepare for holiday meals, however, I steered away from tasks that involved food I didn’t like to eat.  Namely, mayonnaise and mustard.  Deviled eggs?  Nope – someone else can do that.  Stuffed mushrooms?  Nope.  Shrimp would have also fallen into this category.  I have only come to like it in the last five years.  And that was only because the guy I was seeing cooked it for me and, not knowing him too well, I felt bad telling him I didn’t like it.  So I tried it, figuring how bad could something be that was cooked in butter and garlic?  I’m half Italian, after all.  Now, shrimp scampi holds a special place in my heart (though they guy doesn’t!).

So when dad’s friend Gary asked me if I’d peel shrimp, I hesitated for a moment.  The only thing I’d ever had to do in the way of preparing the little guys was taking off the tails in order to pop them into my mouth.  These ones had legs!  But I’m more cognizant now of the fact that a lot of what I eat once had legs (or once was a leg) and I think it’s good to know what your food goes through from farm to table (or from water to table in this case).  So Gary showed me how to peel them – which I must admit is much easier than peeling garlic.

Once I was done with that, the next line in the recipe instructed you in deveining the shrimp.  I’d heard of this, but never done it.  Gary came over and together we figured out how to do it – or so we thought.  But our first two shrimp didn’t appear to have their “vein.”  Family members debated as to if the shrimp had already been deveined (which I didn’t think was the case since it seemed silly to do it without peeling the little guys first).   Our third one finally showed us what it had – and as an Anatomy instructor I had a feeling it wasn’t a vein.   Human anatomy was my favorite course (no pun intended).  And I could definitely identify the veins of any dead animal – human or otherwise.  I commanded my brother who was sitting at the family computer to google “deveining shrimp.”  He one-upped me and found a you tube video.

The instructor from Epicurious told us, first of all, that deveining wasn’t necessary but that the shrimp sure looked prettier peeled open like that.  She confirmed that my technique of making a shallow groove along their backs and peeling it open was indeed correct.  Then, she explained that what I pulled out was not a vein at all, but their digestive tract.  Ha!  I knew it!  I figured our first two shrimp had done me the favor of clearing their digestive tracts prior to being pulled from the ocean.  I went back to the process of deveining our future meal, carefully pulling out digestive tracts filled with – well, I knew, but no need to dwell on it.

After coating the shrimp in oil, tossing them in the rub my sister prepared, and skewering them, I thanked Gary for expanding my culinary horizons.  He gave a jolly laugh and went to find the ginger root my father needed to make his recipe.  “What the hell is this?!” my father, definitely not the culinary expert, asked upon seeing the stalk of ginger.  I guess I didn’t get my appreciation for learning new things from him:)

The Final

I give my final to my anatomy students today.  (Yes, on a Saturday.  No, I didn’t choose that.)  Friends know this and I found a lot of them saying, “Good Luck!” to me yesterday.  My response was, “I’m not the one that needs luck!  My students do.”  But now that I think about it, I don’t think they need luck either.  If they’ve made it this far (I have only 24 of my original 40 left) they have what it takes to pass my final.  They simply need to show up and believe in themselves.

A random, bizarre thought

A most  bizarre thing happened this morning.  I was standing in front of my full length mirror in my underwear and thought I looked good enough to pull off a bikini this summer.  This is bizarre because I have never in my life had this thought.

The closest I’ve come to wearing anything that looked like underwear in public is a tankini – one that completely covers everything a regular one-piece does anyway.  I’m not sure that I will become the owner of a bikini this summer (the word on my lips even feels foreign), but the thought crossed my mind for the first time ever, which is momentous in and of itself.

Do not be envious that I have this thought.  Be happy that there stands a woman who actually thinks positively enough of herself that she thinks she could pull this off.

Now I know there are millions of women who have what it takes to pull off a bikini each and every year – some have the body, some the confidence, some both.  But I can’t say, in my thirty-three years on the planet, I’ve ever been one of them.  I’m not taking action on the feeling anytime soon.  I’m just going to sit with it for a bit; try it on if you will.  And wonder where on earth such a thought came from.

The Artist in You

I continue to go on Artist Dates with myself, and continue to be fascinated by not only how much I enjoy them, but the connections I’m able to make.

For those of you that don’t know, an Artist Date is a date with yourself.  Yes, just you.  Yes, alone.  If this scares the crap out of you, then you really should try it.  (Eleanor Roosevelt said do one thing every day that scares you.   That’s a tall order.  Once a week though?  Totally doable and a good place to start.)  Where do you go?  Someplace you haven’t before.  Do something you haven’t done.  Something you would like to do or something you said you’d never do.  The point is to do it and see what comes.

The nice thing is the dates don’t have to cost money.  A visit to a cute town you’ve always wanted to mosey around.  A gallery opening – especially if you’ve never been to one.  A walk.

A couple months ago I chose as my Artist Date to check out the local knitting group at my library.  Grandma taught me to crochet when I was very little.  (I’d say around 8, but everything I learned “when I was little” I seem to think happened at 8, so I could be off there.)  I go through phases with it.  I made a series of blankets when a bunch of girlfriends got married.  I made the most adorable sweater for my niece, then an equally adorable sundress.  I’ll have to figure out how to post pictures to show you.  Anyway, I hadn’t made anything in a while.  Which is probably because I used to crochet anytime I was sitting in front of the TV, and I don’t have a TV anymore.  (By choice – but that’s another story.)

I knew there was a Saturday knitting group at the library not because I saw it advertised somewhere but because I had been in there on Saturdays to drop off books and saw them.  They were doing what usually happens when you get a group of women together – laughing.  And making pretty stuff, besides.  So one Saturday, I set off on my walk to the library – not with books to return but with a crochet project in hand.

Oh what fun I had!  The leader of the group knows everyone in town, but in a good way (not a busybody way).  She happily introduced me to everyone as they came in  -turns out showing up on time for this group is not required so I was one of the first ones there.  The good news is that nothing is required in this group.  You show up or you don’t.  You make something or you don’t.  Doesn’t matter.  They love having you there and if you disappear for a while they’ll welcome you back with open arms.  This was good because I didn’t want to “commit” to the group.  But guess what?  I go nearly every Saturday now.  I look forward to it.  It’s one of those things in my schedule that I won’t plan something over.

So one Artist Date and here are the perks:

1 – I met a fabulous new friend.  She’s just five years older than me but has six children, all of whom she homeschools.  And she’s got chickens.  And this week they’re getting goats.  And she knows how to can tomatoes and said I could help.  Woohoo!  Since our first meeting, her science-minded eldest came to my Anatomy Lab one day with me and loved it.  And she and I went to a flea market with another one of her children one Saturday after the group.  Oh how wonderful to have friends who are all so different!

2 – I’m being creative again.  I made a fabulous baby blanket with scraps from a community yarn box they have at the library.  One of our group members takes baby items to a local non-profit at which she volunteers.  So I took a picture of my blanket and then sent it off into the world.  I then made an adorable beanie for my niece.  My next project is from a pattern I found in a crochet magazine that was also in the community yarn box.

3 – I feel like I’m part of my community.  When they found out my love of organizing, the director asked if I’d give a talk on the topic.  Or a series of them.  I did my first one on Saturday on paring down your stock of books – and then bringing the extras to the library for their book sale in two weeks.  Ten people showed up!  And they loved me!

If every artist date turned into this much, my life might get a little overwhelming.  Thankfully, there are some where I go and never open my mouth.  I still have a blast.

Try it sometime.  And let me know how it goes. Oh – and if you think you’re too “busy” for it, turn off the TV or the internet for a couple hours.  And just like that: you have time:)

What You Think You See Is What You Get

There are messages that pop up over and over in my life.  God realizes I don’t always get them the first time, so he keeps on sending them.  And even when I do get the message, invariably sometimes I forget.  And then he sends another reminder.  We work well in that way, me and God.

The lesson I was reminded of yesterday was the one that says that you perpetuate that which you think you see. If you think your life is miserable, you notice all the things that make it miserable.  You use those to support your theory that life is miserable.  If, on the other hand, you acknowledge your miserable life but instead of looking for evidence to support it you start to notice places where it’s not miserable, things very well may turn around.  They may not, but it’s a lot easier to get through tough times when you’re recognizing, and giving thanks for, the good things.

I’ve been pretty good lately at acknowledging and giving thanks for what I have.  Mainly because I have committed to putting it to paper each night before bed: five things for which I’m thankful.  But on occasion, I’ll wonder what on earth I’m doing.  I’ll think I my life is miserable.  I have no regular job, no steady paycheck, no knowledge of where I want to settle.  I think I should just cash it all in; get a full-time job, a steady paycheck, buy a house – all those things you’re “supposed” to do.  Then I remember my friend Lois who wants to start a blog called “Who says?”  I can hear her in my head.  “Who says?” she asks.  “And by the way – since when do you like doing what everyone else is doing?”  Lois is not the only one who tells me this.  My friend Tara talks me off the ledge on occasion.  “Rebecca, you’ve done this successfully for ten years now,” she’ll remind me.  “You will find something to do next – you always do.”

Then I start to look around and recognize all that I have: a home I love going home to, a family I love to spend time with, a lifestyle that allows me to take a walk to the library at 10AM, a lifestyle that gives me the opportunity to take 6 weeks of vacation every year, a lifestyle that gives me new challenges, friends that love hearing what my next adventure is.

So here’s a thought.   If you think life is crappy, do me a favor.  Try thinking it’s not.  Then see all the wonderful things that come your way.  They were there all along, of course.  You just didn’t notice them before:)

My Morning Jolt

Lots of people use coffee to get them going in the morning.  I was never a coffee drinker, but have finally found something that energizes me first thing in the morning: working on something for me. My inspiration came via my friend Stacey.  She’s a writer, a runner, a wife, and a mom of two adorable kids.  We met at the John C. Campbell Folk School in March.  Upon hearing that our writing teacher gets up at 5:30 each morning to give herself time to write, Stacey decided to do the same thing.  And you know what?  She said on the days she wrote, the whole day went better.

So a few weeks ago I started getting up at 6:30 to work on my organizing business.  When I first awake, I lay in bed just giving myself time to get used to the idea of getting up.  Then, I pull my Simple Abundance book off the nightstand and read today’s passage.  I reflect on it for a spell, and then get up.  I make myself a cup of tea, and sit down to work.  Today’s project was the web site.  I worked on the Services Page.  In the past couple weeks, I’ve used this time to prep for the organizing classes I’ve been teaching, to get my printer working so I could print things for my class, to read organizing books, and to talk with my fabulous web page guru (we had a 7:30 phone call one morning!).

I can say Stacey is right – my days feel so much better when I start them by taking care of myself.  This has been a Monday-Friday thing, but I found that my weekends didn’t have the same spirit about them as my weekdays did, so I’m extending my plan to the weekends.  So yes, I’ll be up at 6:30.  Quietly working away in the stillness of the morning.  Thanks for the inspiration, Stacey:)