neighborhood cats

While walking Mimi the other day, I met one of the neighborhood cats, a long haired marmalade I have seen from a distance, sleeping in a front window. He dashed up the stairs as Mimi and I approached, but stopped at the top with his paws hanging over the edge, lolling around, watching us. As we passed by (with Mimi in her elderly obliviousness) he came down the stairs and followed us up the street a little. He was headed to see his owner who was working on his motorbike in his garage so we said hello. I admired the cat and commented on how big kitty’s white feet were and he told me that it was a Hemingway cat with 7 toes on his front feet. No wonder they looked so big! I looked up Hemingway cats and found out a bit about the history of Hemingway’s polydactyl cats and that they are also called “mitten cats” – that was what our neighbor cat was called – Mittens! The picture on the website is pretty similar to what he looked like too.

He was such a beautiful cat. I wished I could’ve caught a photo of how cute he was, lolling around at the top of the stairs. I could imagine just how lovely the photos would look.

We have another neighbor cat who is very friendly – I met a gorgeous, slim, silver tabby named Ozzy when he was visiting the park and following everyone he encountered. I was worried that he was an indoor cat who had escaped so I checked his collar and found his address. He followed me down the street and hung out as I knocked on the door and then called the owner. No, he’s just a really friendly outdoor cat, she said.

This morning I thought he was in my back yard but it was a different grey cat, a blur of panic as I walked outside and startled him sleeping on top of the large cabinets we have stored on the back porch. Mimi came out but she had no idea until I told her there was a cat in the yard (yeah, I’m bad – I find her overreaction endlessly amusing). She went out into the yard and found the cat still there, but couldn’t keep track of him once he jumped into the tree. She finally spotted him when he moved over to the fence but she didn’t freak out too much. And he didn’t care at all. I wonder if he’ll show up again.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have cat allergies… they are such cute little psychopaths.

I’ll be back with a Project 333 post very soon. It’s spring and I’m ready to refresh my wardrobe!

Thanks for stopping by.

Jo:)

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Wanderings: Lunar New Year celebrations in Seattle

Happy Lunar New Year!

(and happy spring, if you live in the Pacific NW! These daffodils are from my garden and this is my second vase of them this season. The ram/goat card is a wood block print from my favorite dreaming nomad.)

blogHappyNewYearThis past weekend I was finally able to do something I’ve been wanting to do for years – I went to Seattle’s International District to celebrate the new year. It was a perfect day for an outing – mild temperatures, sunny, breezy, clear skies. I met my friend Space and we had a fun day out.

blogIntlDistrictfeetThe district put on a food walk with 40-odd local restaurants serving $2 sampler plates of deliciousness – everything from dim sum to desserts. Space and I planned out our day based on which foods we most wanted to eat, sticking mainly to vegetarian offerings. We started with taiyaki (adzuki bean filled fish shaped waffles) and moved on to crab Rangoons, vegan sesame beef skewers, dim sum, Thai tea, mango tofu curry and pad Thai.

bloglunarnewyearfoodWe joined the crowd gathered to see the cute kid’s fashion competition. We only saw the very end – the top 3, but there were lots of cute kids in fancy outfits on the streets. Lots of cute puppies too!

A little later we watched a group playing taiko drums. Sometimes those youth performances can be kind of awkward, but the taiko group was excellent. I just looked up their website and discovered that they were the same taiko group we came across randomly one day last summer while wandering in Seattle. BTW in the picture below the stage is on a slope! I know it looks pretty weird.

blogtaikodrummingLater we were watching an awkward performance on the stage when the lion dance started out in the street. I guess there were other lion dances, maybe popping up randomly around town? They weren’t on the program. But I saw photos on the event Facebook page later of different colored lions. We crowded in with the group and watched on everyone else’s phone screens. Isn’t that how the world works these days? I wasn’t expecting firecrackers since Seattle banned all fireworks. I heard about the community asking for a special religious exemption last year. There were a bunch of police on horses supervising the crowd nearby so I assume the exemption was given. blogliondancecrowds

It was a good day. The food was excellent and we got to try a lot of restaurants that we might not have ventured into otherwise. The dim sum place we went to had tasty, filling food for very low prices. And the vegan place up towards Beacon Hill is great to know about. I would never have made my way up there otherwise.

I had been debating treating this day as a photography outing. I had my film SLR out to bring but at the last minute I decided that I would have more fun if I focused more on the food and hanging out with my friend. I was able to take these photos for instagram sharing and memory keeping using my iPhone. They may not be the best photos, but I really only needed a few decent shots to remember my day by. I definitely made the right choice.

Seattle is a beautiful place when the weather is clear (and pretty cool even when it’s not, I should add). The ferry ride home was beautiful.

blogeveninglightSeattle

blogLNYoutfit

I was being my weird stubborn self by wearing short sleeves on a day when everyone else was wearing coats, but I keep warm by layering heavily around my trunk (merino tee, double layer knit dress, cotton dress, and a cardigan) and trying to keep moving. Sunny brick walls are also useful for warming up next to. But I had a sweater to add for the ferry ride and walk home when it was really cold. It just wasn’t as cute an outfit with the sweater on ;)

Thanks for stopping by,

Jo:)

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around here, late February

Sigh… I have been neglecting my poor blog a little bit lately.

I guess that’s what happens when you keep up with other things.

So, what’s been going on around here?

I have been…

walking regularly. I have a walking buddy and we can usually get our 70,000 steps a week in even if we have a couple of very idle days. We take a couple of mornings a week and walk a lot. Yesterday we took a couple of detours and wrong turns and clocked almost 20,000 steps!

buying new walking shoes. I ordered online and got 5 pairs to choose from. I’ve almost narrowed down to the final two. I think I will keep a pair of cross trainers and a pair of ultra-light-weight barefoot shoes.

making lots of pages with Ali Edwards’ digital story kit – about life right now, and stories from back in the day, both way, way back stories of my childhood, and back in my uni days. I’m doing most of the work on my laptop and just putting the pieces together on paper at the end.

gatherpages

reading! I’ve read 7 books (although one was very, very short!) so far this year. Check out my 2015 shelf on goodreads.

catching up on doctor’s visits that were long overdue. I still have a couple of appointments to take care of. I’m thinking I might make February my month for taking care of annual self care appointments. I try to think of it as a gift to myself, but mostly I think of it as a hassle!

closing tabs, minimizing chrome, saving links to evernote, so I can be done with the internet here and there and get on with other things.

looking forward to the Seattle International District’s Lunar New Year celebrations on Feb 21st. They have a $2 a plate food walk that sounds delicious.

恭禧發財 (wishing you a happy new year!)

tracking what I eat much more closely, making sure I’m not overdoing the unhealthy things. I haven’t been very good about “eating (real) food, not too much, mostly plants” lately.

noting what I wear each day in my planner, even though I haven’t reviewed what I wore in January yet.

seeing signs of spring everywhere! We’ve had a very mild winter in the west. I heard them say on the news that the cherry trees on the UW quad are blossoming a month early. I had to mow the lawn the other day. That’s not normal here in February.

watching and loving Jane the Virgin (the best!), How to Get Away with Murder, The Mindy Project, Nashville, Gotham, Forever, New Girl, Downton Abbey, and the final, most excellent season of Parks & Recreation. (waiting for Once Upon a Time to come back – soon!)

wishing I could have seen all the awards nominated movies, but enjoying that some of the films I did see and love are being praised (recommending Boyhood, The Imitation Game, Big Hero 6, and The Boxtrolls if you haven’t seen them).

What have you been loving lately?

Jo:)

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a silly KonMari follow up photo – oshire/oshiri

Hey there,

I found this old film photo the other day when I was doing some file backups. It has always made me laugh… in part because of the look on my old friend Kev’s face, and in part because my friend Jenni was caught in such an awkward position, looking for something in her oshire (her huge Japanese closet) but presenting us a view of her oshiri (her butt!)

It’s hard for an English speaker to keep these two words straight and pronounce them correctly. I just had to double check that I had them the right way round.

oshiri oshireAnyway, I thought I would share this for Ms Ant Hill (and anyone else) who was curious about the size of Japanese closets to get some context for KonMari’s organization book. This is about half of one side of the closet, with an equal amount behind the doors to the right, plus an extra space up above. My friend’s level of organization was pretty typical – making do with a collection of plastic drawers and bookcase and piles o’ stuff.

Photo from 2000 or 2001.

Jo:)

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memory keeping, memory loss, and burning journals, part 2

There was a another thread to the discussion about memory loss and memory keeping that I was talking about last time – a reference to a blogger, Danielle LaPorte, who burned 20 years of journals. All of the participants were horrified.

But I went to see what the blogger had to say about it. They weren’t memory keeping journals. They were ‘write it out to process it’ journals, a purging, a brain-dump. This blogger strongly declares that she doesn’t care for nostalgia or leaving a legacy, she wants to live in the now, not in the past, so she felt that burning her journals was a release.

But of course that’s still a horrifying thought to most memory keepers.

I have a small collection of old journals from my early teenage years. And yes, I destroyed one a few years ago, and sometimes wonder if that was the right choice. But I did it very deliberately while saving the rest of the journals carefully. It was an utterly worthless journal. It was rambling and incoherent, an 11 year old kid trying to write a journal without really having anything to say, so it became a long catalog of who likes whom and who is cute (or spunky, in 1980s kiwi kid slang) and really, it was a bunch of nonsense. The following year I kept another notebook that was similar but somehow I think I had begun to find my voice. That’s the one I kept. That’s the one that’s embarrassing and silly, but doesn’t make me feel physically sick like the oldest one did. What’s the point in keeping something that makes you feel so horrible? I would have hated anyone to read that first journal and think that they were getting some insight into my 11-12 year old self. (I don’t think I was as crazy as those pages made me sound. I think I was trying too hard.) I’m not keen for anyone to read the later stuff either, but I think I could laugh at it, especially as I get older and more distanced from it.

I still have a suitcase full of brain-dump journals. I used to write pages every morning (“morning pages” of stream of consciousness writing) and I used to reread them. I haven’t been through them in a long time but I seem to remember being surprised that during some difficult times I never even mentioned the things that were really bothering me. That makes me wonder what value those journals hold for a future me. Their purpose was probably fulfilled as I filled them, getting the stuff out of my head and letting me release the emotions I was struggling with. Someday soon I might dig some out and see how reading them now makes me feel.

As Danielle LaPorte said about her old journals:

I’ve come to the conclusion that reliving pain is actually not that conducive to my joy, growth, or creativity. Nope, it just isn’t. I’ve tried recapitulation and obsessive attachment as a means to self-improvement, and it blows. I can find plenty to be sad about in my current life — I don’t need to dig up old material.

If all those old journals do is remind me of old grievances and sad feelings, are they worth keeping? If all they were meant to do was be a dump, a garbage bin for random thoughts, is keeping them the right thing to do? Or is it better to be rid of old rubbish?

Perhaps it’s not the right question to ask but if I woke up with amnesia tomorrow would reading these journals help me understand my life any better? How would I feel about digging into these old thoughts, long since past and forgotten?

It all depends on the contents of those journals and the feelings that they bring up in my life. As Danielle LaPorte said, she’s not advising people to burn their journals. She’s just sharing the lightness and relief that she feels since she burned hers, opening people to the possibility that it’s OK to choose that option.

On the podcast everyone reacted strongly in the negative. Of course self-proclaimed memory keepers are not likely to want to burn journals, but then again, they are probably keeping different types of journals for a different purpose. Memory keepers are defined by wanting to save the past.

I’m sure genealogists shudder at the thought of burning papers too. But again, the journals genealogists are seeking are not the scrap paper notes or brain dumps that most of the journal burners are destroying, are they? Would we really want to keep all of our ancestor’s pages of notes and complaints about what a prick John is being right now? Maybe we think we would, but would we really read through all of those notes to find the little bits that are significant? And will our descendants, who will operate in a digital world and will likely inherit thousands of photos and documents from us? And maybe even a Facebook feed. (Oh my goodness, I find my own Facebook feed hard enough to trawl through looking for the good bits. Can you imagine inheriting years of someone else’s feed?! And no, don’t trust the algorithms to show you what’s valuable. They have no clue!) I asked my genealogist friend and she agreed both that no one really wants to inherit everything. It’s too overwhelming.

I also noticed that everyone was concerned that she would regret burning her journals. Regret is a funny thing. We worry a lot that we’ll regret doing something or not doing something. But only certain types of people really dwell on their regrets. Most people have at least a few regrets, sometimes pretty big ones. But regret is such a pointless emotion. There’s usually nothing you can do about something you regret. You can apologize, or make a different choice in the future, but what’s done is done and dwelling on it is pretty unproductive. I don’t think Danielle LaPorte is the kind of person who beats herself up over regrets. Not that I’m not particularly familiar with her – I just got that impression from this one post on her blog. She’s not going to sit around crying about her lost journals in the future.

She might occasionally wish she still had them (or at least the IDEA of them, because as often as not it’s the ideal memory we wish for, not the actual reality of what something was). But so what? I regret not writing diaries during my college years. But I didn’t. I can’t change that fact now. So I write down what I remember and try to retrieve some of those details, and I keep a diary now. Would I feel worse if I had kept journals and then destroyed or lost them? Perhaps. Human psychology is a funny thing, and losing something is a lot harder than never having had it. But those of us who beat ourselves up over things we did (or didn’t do) need to work on that bad habit. It’s unproductive and unhealthy and we can’t live our lives protecting ourselves from the possibility of regret.

I don’t regret destroying that 12 year old me’s journal. I wish I had written a better journal when I was 12, but I did the best I knew how to at that time. Reminding myself of that part of myself that was pathetic and fake and trying too hard really doesn’t help me now. The other journal from the following year has enough of that anyway. I trust that I made a good decision.

And as for my brain-dump journals, in theory, and possibly in reality, I used those journals to process thoughts that, once refined and worked through, came out in the other writing I was doing. I guess that if I’d done those pages on loose sheets of paper I might have placed less value on them. Maybe it’s better to do that brain-dump on scrap paper and go through them regularly to glean the best ideas and words so that the rest of it can be dumped. Part of me wonders if I should read them and see what I wrote, but another part of me thinks that if I don’t know what I wrote, would I miss it if it was gone? If I lost all those pages without having read through them for years I might never really think of them again. Or I might fixate and dwell on them, mourning the idea of the lost thoughts, wishing I could re-connect with my younger self and see what she thought about things. Which version comes true is as much about my future psychology as anything. And that is unknowable. I am as likely to be upset that I kept the journals for some reason or other as I am likely to be happy I kept them. Even if I scanned them (another months long project I’m not even considering) I am likely to regret not having the paper copies because “it’s not the same!”

Ah well. I have rambled on for long enough. Burning journals is neither good nor bad. If you want to do it, you should. I have no plans to read through my journals right now, or scan them, or shred them…

…although I did just shred more than 5 pounds of old receipts and papers… maybe that’s a story for another day.

Thanks for stopping by,

Jo:)

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memory keeping and memory loss, part 1

Can you imagine waking up in the morning and not knowing where you are because you’ve lost your memory while you were sleeping? Can you imagine how confusing that would be?

It sounds like the plot of a movie, and it is. But it also happens in real life.

I’m currently reading Before I Go To Sleep by S.J Watson, which was made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman last year. I didn’t see the movie and don’t know anyone who did (the lack of buzz suggests it wasn’t as good as Memento, the crazy backwards memory loss thriller released in 2000, a presumption that the star ratings online support). I’ve been waiting to read the book for ages and so far it’s quite good. I have no idea who is lying to whom but there are a whole lot of secrets and lies waiting to be revealed.

Every morning when Christine wakes up she experiences a panicked moment of not knowing who the man she is sleeping next to is, or where she is, or how old, or really, who she is. She has lost access to her memories, but she’s able to make new ones, unlike some people with amnesia. The only problem is that going to sleep seems to reset her mind each day and nothing that she’s learned or experienced the day before remains. Sometimes she wakes up with no memory of her adult life, other mornings there are glimmers, and each day she remembers different things, only to forget them again the next day. It’s only once she is given a journal to write in (and has someone to call her each day and remind her that she is keeping a journal and tell her where it is) that she can start to carry over enough information to start piecing together what has happened to her.

I’m a couple of days into her journal. I think it’s going to be a pretty good thriller.

But it reminded me of a true life story I heard a couple of years ago on this scrapbooking podcast. Jackie Wood spoke of her experience with amnesia, waking up 3 times in her life with big chucks of memory lost to her. It wasn’t caused by an accident or trauma, and the memories were not “gone” as such, but she had no access to them. It happens to her about every 4-5 years or so. The most recent time she woke up one morning and didn’t recognize where she was. Her husband explained what was going on and reassured her, and then gently probed to find out how much time she had lost. It turned out that the daughter she thought was 5 was actually 13 years old, and she couldn’t remember any of the previous 8 years. And so far, a few years later, those memories haven’t come back. When she had lost years before she did end up recovering access after some time (although her most recent loss has wiped out the memories of the last 2 times it happened). Since there is no physical reason for her amnesia there is hope that she may remember again, but it’s also highly likely that she will lose memories again.

In the comments someone mentioned that their mother has the same form of amnesia (transient global amnesia, or TGA) but in her case she only loses hours of time, finding herself standing in a parking lot not sure how she got there or where she had been.

Imagine if Jackie had lost the years that included her daughter’s birth. Imagine waking up and not remembering that you had a child. In the novel the character doesn’t remember her husband (probably for sinister reasons, but still). Imagine waking up next to someone and not knowing your history. Imagine having to trust someone so completely.

Memory is such a tricky thing. It isn’t linear. It is fallible. I was writing this post with a fragment of memory that told me I’d shared this podcast and story on the blog before. But no. I can’t find any sign of that. I think perhaps I shared it on Facebook. Or perhaps with a friend who has an interest in memory and memory keeping. There was only a fragment of truth in my memory.

Memory keeping is what this podcast is all about. Usually it’s about the business of writing down stories and taking photos and decorating pages, but in this case it got deeper into the philosophical. What would you want to remember if you lost your memory? What would you wish you had documented?

Jackie Woods was a scrapbooker and memory keeper from way back, so she had albums to look through to recapture some of what she lost (what her daughter looked like at 7, 9, 12 years of age, what kind of parties they had thrown, what vacations had looked like). And her husband reached out to her friends and family to share their memories and fill in the gaps. But what about the everyday? The bits that were lost where the littlest things, the mundane and ordinary and every-single-day things that we take for granted.

Of course they’re also the things we think little of. They are so everyday that we assume they’ll stay the same forever, but life moves on and we realize we don’t go there or do that any more, and in fact we can’t remember what it was really like at all because we haven’t thought of it in years. The hours each day at home with a baby – the other guest remarked that she can’t remember how she used to fill all those hours – it was a blur (of tiredness, mundane, sameness). We all lose memories every day and don’t even notice what we have lost until we try to retrieve it.

Jackie is consciously memory keeping to help herself the next time she wakes up with lost years. It won’t be the same, looking through an album. But she wants to capture more of those little things, now that she knows what it hurts most to lose memories of. (She uses the Project Life system and approach). And most importantly, she is celebrating every day, marking small occasions as well as big ones, making sure her she is there for her family today, even if she wakes up not remembering it tomorrow.

There are so many aspects to this story. I recommend the podcast. Jackie has a blog but it’s about what she does to celebrate life, not about her memory loss – after all, there’s not much to say about something you have forgotten. The other panelists have some good questions and thoughts about memory and memory keeping after they get past the stunned “wow”s of imagining losing so much memory.

And so far I also recommend the book Before I Go to Sleep. I’m getting into the meat of it now but until the shit hits the fan and we see how it all gets resolved I’ll have to withhold final judgement. Interesting premise though, and so far it reads really well.

I’ll be back in a jiffy with Part 2 of this long blog post which is about journal burning. (Ooh, controversial!) It came up during the podcast and I started writing a bit about it, but it turned out to be a bit long to leave in this post.

Until then,

Jo:)

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an idea for saving holiday photo cards

Hello again,

I absolutely love the photo cards that more and more families send out each Christmas/New Years. I know some people prefer the folded cards with seasonal images, but (even if there’s no personal note) I love seeing photos of families, especially from friends I don’t get to see in person very often. We don’t get a lot – only about half a dozen each year. I put them on display until Jan 6th along with my Christmas things, but then all the cards go into a box marked “correspondence” which I go through a couple of times a year. I keep letters and papers from people I care about in there, and most cards go in there for at least a little while – before I transfer them from the small box in the living room to the shoebox in my closet I check to see if there’s a personal message and generic cards that just have a scrawled signature go into the recycle bin.

My December/Christmas/Project Life pages have provided a good home for photo cards I’ve received in the last couple of years. But when I went to sort my cards out this year I noticed that I had quite a backlog/collection of old photo cards. One family has sent us photo cards of their kids for over a decade (and hubby might actually have some that are even older). Another family didn’t send photo cards every year, but even those sporadic cards show their kids growing up.

I’d seen a blog post about a plan for holiday photo cards from Becky Higgins a couple of times and this year I decided I might be brave enough to actually do it. The thing is that you cut up the card, which is hard for me if the card is really well designed and meshes with my taste. Luckily most of the cards I was handling weren’t really my style, so I was able to see past the designed card and just see the kids in the photo. And almost every card was easily able to be trimmed down to a single 3×4″ photo of the kids or the family – the bit that really counts, the bit which is worth keeping. If there were multiple photos I focused on the one with the family together but usually had space to add one of the kids, piecing them together on a scrap of 3×4″ paper.

photo cards growing up

kids growing into teens

Once I started I got braver and braver and soon all of my cards were cut up. I added dates if that information got cut off, if I could figure the date out (half of the cards didn’t actually have dates). I slipped the card into pockets in order, making spreads of families growing from toddlers to teenagers. Well, for two families at least. The rest are a little more sporadic or recent, but I collected them all together and tossed away all the extra bits of the cards that didn’t really add anything to the memories.

new years and Xmas cards

Now I have several pages of photos of our friends and their kids through the years tucked at the back of my Christmas album where I can easily browse through them. I treated photos the same way as photo cards – just trimmed if necessary to fit in a pocket. I also cut up a few pretty Christmas cards of the store-bought-image variety to add in where there were gaps – just for fun. The cards I’m keeping for their messages are back in the correspondence box, sorted by who they are from.

I know some people might think me silly for keeping all these cards at all. And others are probably horrified that I would even think about cutting them up. The cool thing is you get to decide how you feel about things like this. If the pieces of cardboard and paper are not important to you, don’t keep them. If they mean a lot, keep them all. I think it’s worth considering whether the important part is the picture, the words, the design, or the whole thing. That will help you decide what part(s) to keep and in what form. The pieces I threw in the trash had no value to me and in some cases distracted from the part that really did matter – the photos and the message (whether written or implied) that we are important to each other. Putting these cards together into a timeline, a collection that I could see at a glance, increased their value to me.

So, do you have a correspondence box? Do you keep letters and cards? If you throw them away do you wait a while? Or are you like one of my dear friends (opposites attract) who would read the birthday card I gave her and toss it straight into the bin in front of me?! What do you think of this project?

Thanks for stopping by!

Jo:) 

PS. Sorry that the photos are not the best. We are sunlight-deprived here lately.

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