My Mission Statement

I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Just Breathe

What is it about breathing that is so amazing? It's the kind of thing that we tend to take for granted until we have a stuffy nose or an anxiety attack or maybe even emphysema. But try it now. Just take a deep breath. (For my yogi friends, admit it, you took a deep cleansing breath.) Feels good, eh? To really, truly breathe, you need room to breathe, space to breathe, a pause of some kind. It doesn't always come naturally to take a deep breath, but it always feels good. (okay, unless you have broken ribs or are 9+ months pregnant with a stint in your bladder, but those situations are extreme) I had a wonderful (albeit itchy) week-end in Asheville this week-end. Our family enjoyed our stay with dear, special friends, and I experienced the amazing, brilliant Cheryl Klein, Senior Editor at Arthur A. Levine. (I confess, I hadn't been giving the "A" in Arthur A. Levine its proper due until this week-end, so I'll try to do better with that) If you are a novelist and you never take another course, take this one. If you are a novelist and you plan to take every course you can, you should still take this one! It was, perhaps, the most valuable 7-8 hours I have ever spent learning about writing. So after a long drive home yesterday with four darling children and going over taxes with my darling husband, I had suitcases to unpack, laundry to start, a shower curtain to hang (long story), dogs to feed, cat to console, mail to open, etc. But my mind felt like it was on overload. I'd had scenes from my book running through my head since the meeting on Saturday and lots of thoughts on revisions, not to mention a million other plates spinning in my world. So for whatever insane reason, last night around 8 or so, I began to clean out my pantry. Those of you who know me and my pantry are already laughing. Yes, it is not a project you begin at 8 at night. Truly, it's a project better left for the next occupant of the house, but it had to be done. For lots of reasons. But the weird thing was last night, I WANTED to do it. It was the perfect accompanying activity to my whirring brain. I could type all day about the interesting and fascinating metaphors of cleaning out my pantry (and granted, I will comment on a few...) Now that I am about 30% of the way through the pantry project (hold me accountable, people! Make me finish!), I have learned a lot. First of all, I've learned that giving everything a place is not all there is to a pantry. Everything needs room to breathe, too, so you can see what's there! I discovered a number of things in cleaning out my pantry (remember, I'm only about 1/3 finished!) that were hidden because there was no room to breathe. I'm going to share with you a few of my findings. *I had FOUR large boxes of trash bags. Yes, enough trash bags to take out one bag of trash a day for the rest of this year and well into next year. And here's the best part, I also had TRASH BAGS on my grocery list for this week! Why? Because I couldn't see them. They were smushed behind something else, in an unfamiliar box (when I bought a different brand) and in four different places in the pantry. And I buy those HUGE boxes, so they were taking up a LOT of space that is wasteful of time, space, and money. *I recovered (at only 1/3 of the way through, mind you) some 1200 plastic utensils. 90% of them were knives. So if for some crazy reason, I made meals that ONLY required the use of a plastic knife, I could use them every day for MORE THAN TWO YEARS before I had to buy more. Do I really need to have all those plastic knives? REALLY? What a waste of space and breathing room. If any has a great craft idea or something using plastic knives, let me know. But let's be honest, we ALL hate plastic knives. I shouldn't even keep ONE of them! Plastic utensils are not for food that requires cutting. Plastic utensils are for pasta salad on the porch on Saturday afternoon or birthday cake when there are 24 kids running around---and neither situation calls for KNIVES! *I found eleven (yes, 11) unopened bottles of salad dressing. So anyone in my neck of the woods, when you run out of salad dressing, don't run to the store, run to my pantry. *I found a jar of Retinol cream that just expired. For those of you who don't age, Retinol cream is excellent (and often expensive) anti-aging cream. Just IMAGINE, how much better and younger I would look today if ONLY I had used this anti-aging cream rather than let it expire beside the peanut butter. (I know! Why was it in the pantry in the first place???) I decided to name a couple of superlatives for my finds. MOST EMBARRASSING FINDS IN PANTRY -Wedding present for a friend who now has two children. We had to miss the wedding at the last minute due to chicken pox or something equally intriguing, and the gift box was large and too awkward to mail(beautiful platter if I remember correctly). Wonder what Miss Manners would say about THAT? -A can of Similac. Yes, my youngest child is 9, I breastfed all my kids. A can of Similac? In my defense, it appeared to be the free can they give you at the hospital (as if that is any defense at all). -A TEN year expired jar of jelly. (yes, 2002) THINGS I LEAST NEED TO HAVE IN MY PANTRY (that I had) -Ice cream starter (what is that?) -Yogurt starter (??) Both expired. Here's the thing, people. I need FINISHERS, not starters!! I don't need to START one more thing! (much less yogurt and ice cream--you can get that at the store now, you know, and it's pretty good!) And lastly, THINGS IN MY PANTRY THAT I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH (or what they are) -Rock hard water putty While it sounds a little sexy and the muscle man on the can is kind of retro and cute, I have no idea what the hell anyone would do with Rock Hard Water Putty, but clearly is must be better than the limp and soft water putty. -Wall repair fabric (??? Does that repair fabric or a wall?) -Super Tech 10W-30 (no idea but looks like oil or something--again, why is it in my pantry?) -Patching plaster caulk (It seems to me that if you have a crack in your plaster so big and deep and long that you would use this giant caulking gun thing to fill it, maybe you just need to replaster the whole wall, but maybe that's just me.) So now that many of these useless (and bulky and superfluous and strange) items are out of my pantry, the world feels bigger, calmer, more room for breathing. I know that if a nuclear war broke out today, we have enough rice and salad dressing (and possibly even coffee and Jello) to sustain us for a year, and trash bags to clean up the mess. We could possibly even repair our house from post-war damage with Rock hard water putty, wall repair fabric, and patching plaster caulk, although I'm honestly not sure. The super tech 10W-30 might even keep our generator running. The plastic knives could arm our entire neighborhood if we had to fight and protect other tribes from taking our supplies (um, like salad dressing and rock hard water putty), and the Retinol cream, though expired, might protect my skin from the harsh aging of nuclear fall out. Truly, I slept well last night. Lots of nice deep breaths. I can't wait to see what I'll find in the next 70% of this pantry project. For now, I'm off to write and begin to remove the stale jelly, expired Similac, and rock hard water putty-like items from my manuscript. I KNOW there are things like this in my manuscript, things that weigh it down, keep the reader from breathing. I know there are things in there that a reader might say, "What the hell is that and why is it there?" and maybe even "What IS that, anyway?" If I get all this garbage out, the true and necessary items will shine. I can SEE what's there, and maybe even organize it a little better. So hopefully today, my writing will fuel my pantry project and vice versa. Take a deep breath. Nice, eh? I am inspired and ready to purge them both because now I know how good it feels to breathe.

6 comments:

Pam said...

Oh Donna! you are too funny, lady! I love this post and am glad you directed me here. I know how you feel when you're excited and overwhelmed with excitement. You clean, I eat. Although when I feel like this I think stronger thoughts about cleaning. This was filled with fun! Love it!

Anonymous said...

That Rock Hard Water Putty was outlawed in the 80's...wow! BTW...LOVE.LOVE your blog!

Anonymous said...

That Rock Hard Water Putty was outlawed in the 80's...wow! BTW...LOVE.LOVE your blog!

Anonymous said...

That Rock Hard Water Putty was outlawed in the 80's...wow! BTW...LOVE.LOVE your blog!

Anonymous said...

That Rock Hard Water Putty was outlawed in the 80's...wow! BTW...LOVE.LOVE your blog!

Donna Jones Koppelman said...

I just HAD to add for your reading pleasure...I found at least 500 more plastic utensils today. No kidding. MORE PLASTIC KNIVES. And five cans of furniture polish. (which is really hilarious if you could see my dusty living room right now) And a baby gift for a child that is in the 7th grade. And a missing vaccuum cleaner attachment. At least a half dozen flashlights.

Isabel by Donna Jones Koppelman

Isabel by Donna Jones Koppelman

Major Bear at the Grove Park Inn by Donna Jones Koppelman

Major Bear at the Grove Park Inn by Donna Jones Koppelman