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What I Do Here

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I write about whatever I am thinking about. It helps me think about it and remember it later. Because I live far away from many of my longest term friends, we don't always get to participate in each other's daily life; sharing my blog is a second-best.

My interests change over time, but at any given time, I am usually very intensely interested in a few things. This might look more organized and logical than it really is. I have two children with autism spectrum diagnoses, and they seem completely normal for my extended family; if I were a kid growing up today, I'd have a diagnosis, too. Try to keep that in mind, if you're trying to figure out what kind of person would write the kinds of things I write.
Yesterday, D., T. and I went to Town Hall to vote. That was interesting. I owe T. a round of SchoolHouse Rocks because he wants to know about the branches of government now. We had dinner at Crossroads afterwards, which was really fun.

I am catching up on this season of Agents of Shield. It has a very Halloween flavor in the first few episodes, with all the ghost/haunting type imagery.

I was thinking to myself, Self, your jeans fall into two categories. Too short, and too worn. So off I went to Kohl's. Fortunately, it occurred to me to ask google where Kohl's was before driving off to one of the ones I knew about because I had not realized there was one in Chelmsford, which is closer than Burlington or Nashua. Jeans and some shirts have been acquired, and I took the bag I brought the new clothes home in and loaded it up with clothes that no longer Spark Joy (a little KonMari humor there, since she is NOT a believer in the one in/one out method, but I am).

I also opened up a bin in A.'s closet that I haven't opened up in ... far too long. I basically emptied almost all of it into a kitchen trash bag, but I did extract a velcro belt pack that used to go on an Ergo that I am pretty sure I gave to A. It attaches to a belt, and I wear a belt. And it is the perfect size for a pair of sunglasses and a cell phone. I'm thinking it may be traveling with me, or at least going on walks with me. I got out a seam ripper and removed the Ergo Baby fabric label.

New ants arrived for the ant farm. I think the gel that shipped with the farm was old or something, because the ants like the replacement gel a LOT better, and it is must easier to see through this gel.

ETA: I also emptied out a bin in the living room, by decanting many of the stuffies into a trash bag and moving the rest into one of the other bins.
I bought this hardcover at Valley Wild Books and plan on handing it off to my fellow cultofdomesticity member, D. probably later today. I have an e-copy now, too.

Advice in managing abundance does not change over time. Here is William Morris:

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Of course, the details matter. When Oprah was still on the air, she brought Julie Morgenstern to her viewers. Morgenstern's loving and compassionate off the cuff analysis of how people's homes reflected their pain and uncertainty -- and how going through everything in those homes with the SPACE approach could help resolve that pain and uncertainty -- was revelatory.

Marie Kondo's book falls within this tradition, but it also shares a lot with David Allen's own cult of time management, _Getting Things Done_.

Kondo's young, but she has been doing this for a long time. She has been obsessing over women's magazines and their ads and articles about storing and organizing since she was wee (five, by her account). She has come out the other side ruthlessly opposed to containerizing and organizational systems. She -- like every other hard core manager of abundance since at least William Morris -- is ruthless: ya gotta get rid of a lot of it.

So why Kondo now?

I don't know why Karen Kingston's _Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui_ never properly took off. I loved it, and I'm not even a big fan of Feng Shui. It's just an excellent, highly readable, motivating book about getting energy flowing again by getting rid of stuff. Kondo has a chapter on Feng Shui, but Kondo's spirituality and psychology is simultaneously much more pervasive in the book and much more concrete. People talk about the "spark of joy" that is the criteria for keeping an item. People titter about saying good bye to objects as one passes them along. They flat out object to thanking objects for their service. But I wonder if perhaps this concrete spirituality is more accessible because it is so resistant to an intellectual take down. You can mock it, but unless you know quite a lot about the tradition that inspired it, it is tough to rally a solid argument against doing what she advocates, and if you actually start doing it, it really will change your perspective. It is Sneaky. I approve.

I've name checked some excellent books in the same subgenre; I haven't named a dozen others that are not nearly so good. The good ones -- including Kondo -- all have basically the same approach. Collect all like items. (Sort). Get rid of some/most of them (Purge). Find a home for what you are keeping (Assign and Containerize -- in Kondo, this is basically put it in a shoebox in the cupboard, or some variation on that theme, but with the expectation that you will replace that shoebox with something else that sparks joy when it enters your life). Maintain (Equalize; Put Everything In Its Place, etc.). Kondo's weakness, predictably, lies in Equalize/Maintain. She asserts that if you Really Do This Thoroughly, you never need to do it again.

Morgenstern, I'm sure, knows much better.

That said, if you really do a thorough job of it, and if you do not experience a major life change (person in household changes: someone is born, dies, moves in or out, becomes chronically ill; household moves to a new location, possibly several times; fire, storm, etc. damage affecting most of household, etc.), then yeah, you probably won't have to do this again. (Note that long, long list, and remember that Kondo is young.) And once you have done it, you probably won't need to hire Kondo a second time. She believes it doesn't need to be repeated because she never has repeat customers while having an amazeballs international word of mouth business that, in true cult fashion, she has wound down in favor of training acolytes. It is arguable that Kondo does Equalize/Maintenance harder than any declutterer/organizer the world has ever seen. It's just that she denies the existence of maintenance. Which sort of offends me.

Super fast read, very entertaining. Also inspiring. She is so relentlessly mono-focused that you really cannot actually misunderstand the core point: if it doesn't spark joy, you probably should get rid of it. In a world where a lot of environmental messaging causes hoarding behavior in people who would otherwise not hoard (hey, if you can't figure out how to get rid of that filter for the appliance that broke, it is gonna be there in the basement for a long while; and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Kondo would say, that's what happens when you stockpile, and she is Not Wrong. In the meantime, I have directed husband to freecycle, where I suspect he will eventually find a taker for such otherwise difficult to donate items), a book like Kondo's -- a book that batters you into throwing away the shit you can't stand anyway -- is a Very, Very Useful Thing.
T. and I went to lunch at Applebee's followed by the horse. I had a nice conversation with my friend M. (at the horse, not my walking partner). Then it was back home to have a snack with M. (my walking partner, not my friend at the horse), which was disrupted by arriving to discover that the kitchen table was completely covered with ... stuff.

Poor M. Well, I didn't scream or yell or anything, but I was firm. Everything went into a bin and upstairs to A.'s room (it was all hers except a couple items, and T.'s item went into the trash after consultation with him). Once there, I said it all had to be put away and since there was no space to do that we had to create space by getting rid of things. We now have a full bag of stuffies, a full bag of Minnies (the snap on dress up ones and various paraphernalia), a half full bag of Doc McStuffins toys and a partially full bin with a bunch of my clothes, and a few other odds and ends that came out of A.'s room. In the course of packing up the Minnies, I found the Minnie music player that I found the book for in the playroom a few days earlier. A. and I moved from her room to the upstairs hall, and decluttered many stuffies there as well. She was a completely good sport. I didn't pressure her about anything and she got rid of a ton of stuff. The "keep" criteria seems to be: is it pink? And/or a Ty toy? There are other things she is keeping, but that accounts for a shocking amount of it. We got everything from the kitchen table put away and the room still looks much emptier than it did before, and the hall is amazingly better. M. and her dog P. departed fairly early on in this process (as we were packing up the bin to clear the table out to make space for snack).

When playdate arrived, R. got out the sewing machine, because R. (A.'s friend) and A. wanted wings attached to some of their Ty unicorns. A. and R. (husband) had gone to Michael's earlier in the week for supplies. I served coleslaw to R.'s parents (my friend D. and her husband I. also my friend of course!), and then he returned home to monitor a roast chicken and coach other child through the week's homework. D. and I had manhattans and I ate the chicken that R. had cooked on the grill before settling in to make wings. (In answer to your question, it was not wings and wings, it was drumsticks for the chicken. I know, would have been funny, right?)

Partway through our manhattans, D. brought up the topic of Halloween decorations, so I went down to the basement, pulled out that bin, and deployed the decorations. So that's done.

R. (husband) has a dehumidifier (or possibly a humidifier) filter that goes to an appliance we no longer own. Anyone got any ideas? It is NIB -- I'm thinking we may be approaching that moment where I set up a freecycle account. Ugh.

ETA: I also noticed a line of dust bunnies along the wall in the master. R. says that when he made the bed today with fresh sheets, he may have done so quite "vigorously". Dunno. I vacuumed the room, tho, because it clearly needed it. A. is having a blast with toys that she has been recently reminded of by decluttering everything else.

_The Anatomy of Addiction_, Akikur Mohammad

I did NOT finish this book. I hit the chapter on pregnancy and the number of false assertions just Got To Me.

The first assertion that caught my attention was the claim that there isn't any good reason to smoke marijuana. What, chemo nausea doesn't count any more? He thinks you should take marinol in pill form, instead, when all the research I've seen over the last few years suggests that the desirable compounds in marijuana for most purposes are NOT THC -- that's just the part that makes you high. Worse, of course, if you've got bad enough nausea, you aren't gonna be able to swallow, much less keep a pill down. But you know, he is in favor of recreational marijuana as a harm reduction strategy, so I was prepared to allow his bigotry and ignorance pass.

The first one that made me do research was the claim about MET. I'd never heard of MET.


Mohammad makes a variety of claims for MET, none of which seemed all that plausible to me. From page 99 in the hardcover:

"Motivation enhancement therapy (MET) has been thoroughly researched in the field of substance misuse and has been proven to be exceptionally effective at enhancing an individual's motivation to make positive changes in behavior."

Assuming that actually means something, let's focus on "thoroughly researched" and "proven to be exceptionally effective".


Effects are small, highly variable, especially by program site. This does _not_ sound like "thoroughly researched" or "proven to be exceptionally effective". MET probably does help, and in fact, if you wanted to claim it worked better than other forms of beginning counseling for substance misuse, I wouldn't even argue with you. But he is overselling it here.

While I absolutely support the use (and think it should be much more widespread) of Suboxone, I think there are points in this book where he oversells that, as well (altho I'm having trouble finding the one I remember right now).

The chapter on teens and drinking/drugs has a tight focus on harm reduction, rather than abstinence, and I completely agree with the argument there. However, it is immediately followed by the chapter on pregnancy that caused me to completely abandon the book (apparently, a non-pregnant teen gets harm reduction strategies because, you know, they work. But a _pregnant_ teen or non-teen gets hard core judgement.

In fact, the author is advocating for nothing less than insisting that _all_ women of reproductive age stop drinking entirely (at this point, I kicked myself. It's not like I couldn't have seen this coming, right?).

"All of this diagnostic and treatment services would be unnecessary if women would simply not drink while pregnant, if they plan on becoming pregnant, or run the possibility of becoming pregnant."

Basically, if you are pre-menopausal and haven't been sterilized, he thinks you shouldn't drink. He may be thinking, well, you can drink if you aren't having sex. But then he has clearly ignored the possibility of rape and sexual assault. As far as he is concerned, if a woman who could possibly become pregnant still drinks despite knowing the risks of FAS:

"the mother, despite understanding the danger, has the medical illness of alcohol addiction known as alcoholism". That sentence is framed as once she's pregnant, but just a paragraph earlier is any woman who might become pregnant. Given that as many as half of all pregnancies aren't planned, and given that he doesn't seem to think that abortion is an option, he figures adult women who drink are, per se, alcoholics.

Honestly, he's a fool and tool. And worse. Don't read this book. I am _so_ glad I got it from the library because at least this way he doesn't get any money for it.

Also, as bad as these detailed complaints are, they are just the tip of the iceberg with the problems in this book. I knew that there was developing resistance to evidence based medicine, but since I mostly read stuff by H. Gillbert Welch and his associates, I was a little puzzled about why. Well, this guy answered that question. If he thinks he is doing evidence based medicine, then I would resist it, too.
A. was really sad going to bed Friday night, so we talked about fun things we could do on Saturday. We did them. But T. gets up first, and he'd had Saturday planned out for days. So the day started with Whole Foods, then putting away those groceries, followed by a haircut for T., then more groceries at Roche Bros. Then I turned T. over to R. They had lunch at Costco then came home with Stuff, while A. and I went to Burlington Mall. Since she had a late breakfast, she ate very little of her grilled cheese and fries. She wanted to go to Build a Bear, but I am a little appalled by the sheer volume of Build a Bear already in the house, so I distracted her with a visit to Macy's. We never did find the kids shoe department (presumably they have one) but we did buy her a pink Barbie glam convertible (with Barbie in it) and a make your own charm bracelet kit with a Trolls movie theme. Also, a pink north face fuzzy jacket, a shiny pinkish purple puffy vest, some shirts. Then it was off to another shoe store. We got her some Boggs for winter boots (I know, technically rain boots, but they are insulated so they should be fine). We tried Sorel, but they didn't have anything pink in her size. We got her some pink New Balance lace up sneakers, to join the massive array of sneakers she refuses to wear.

I returned A. to the house, and set her up with the new Bubble Guppies episode while I did some things around the house. When T. got home from ice skating, we went to the Pub on the Common, and then we stopped at the new new-and-used bookstore next door, Valley Wild Books. The used stock is so-so, however, I did walk out with three new books (as in, not pre-owned): a NYtimes book about Hillary that T. wanted, the color illustrated first Harry Potter book (we had already bought the second but I somehow missed the first one), and Marie Kondo's book, which I've been running across mentions of since approximately forever and have finally given in and am now halfway through reading. It is eerily like David Allen's GTD. Hopefully, a review will follow. Equally hopefully, I will not be sucked into what is clearly a cult in the making (altho boy, there are some amazing insights in this thing, and people have been massively misrepresenting this book in reviews).

Busy day, spent some money, had a lot of fun. Normally, I don't try to do this much on a Saturday, but I'm glad I did this time.
Today, R. helpfully lifted the lower bin out of the freezer so we could clean the floor of it. Yuck. But less yuck now!

We went out for Chinese for lunch in Chelmsford. Haven't been there in a while. I figured I'd try something a little different this time and got the duck and veg; that was yummy.

A. wants unicorn wings on her Ty Fantasia(s). So R. took A. to Michael's to pick out some fabric. Maybe they will work on that this weekend.

I didn't walk much today; D. and I did a shorter walk and by the time M. came over it was raining. It is now thunder and lightning; hopefully we will not lose power. The grass and trees could sure use the water, not to mention the aquifers.

I struggled a bit getting photos to upload to Flickr from my phone (broken internet or unrelated -- who can even tell?), but eventually collected enough to place a holiday card order on Snapfish. I also ordered the CD for A.'s school photos two years ago when she was in kindergarten; we don't know if we never got it or we lost it. Either is possible.

I did some decluttering, and in the course of doing so found some missing pieces for things I have already given away. Fortunately, at least some of those things went to people I know, so I can pass the little bits along. Also, the radio flyer horse went to the sitter's grandsons (twins). My kids have mostly outgrown it.

I made blondies, thawed chicken and soaked black beans. But I didn't really do any cooking. R. is going to grill the chicken tomorrow; I'll probably do something with the beans then, too.
So far, I have taken T. to a dermatology appointment and then school. I also had a walk with D. (a shorter one) and a walk with M., which we diverted and reversed when we ran into our neighbor R. That's always fun. I had a nice long phone call with J.

The sitter arrived early to hang out with A. When she comes back, she'll take T. and I'll take A. off to play therapy.

ETA: We ordered pizza and wings tonight. In an unrelated order, I ordered more ants for T.

ETAYA: In an even more unrelated order, I ordered red Fartacus shirts for the kids. Looking forward to having the kids wearing them in a foto with their uncle wearing his beige Fartacus shirt!
On Wednesday, T. had a half day. I picked him up and took him to gymnastics after stopping at home to pick up his phone. Then it was back to school to go to a clinic. Think teacher conference, but with therapists/aides present, too. T. is old enough that he asked to go, and so that was new and interesting, but it went really well. We finally made Spookly cookies (graham crackers, orange frosting, chocolate chip or M&M eyes and nose, chocolate frosting stem and mouth). We used red and yellow food coloring, which we actually had and it wasn't all dried up. Miracles really do occur.

Since we had two sitters, R. and I went out to dinner at Red Raven.

Also, I got a haircut in the morning, and walked with M. I did a long walk with R. after dinner. I took the compost out, collected the trash from around the house and R. got the bins out.

Yesterday and today I have been uploading school pictures to Flickr, updating the framed school photos on the wall and I requested the digital print we never received for last year's school photo for T. I have no idea why I completely blew off last year's school photos. Sometimes, I just get a lot behind. Like, a whole year.
I did not have a Dutch lesson today; we'll start again in November, I think.

I did get a couple walks. A. had a short playdate in the afternoon with R. Then I took A. to gymnastics and got to see K. and G., so that was pleasant.

I got some joke books for T. at the library. Oh, and D. and I had lunch at Benjarong.

I vacuumed the remaining drawers in the island in the kitchen, and decluttered the plastic container drawer as well. I'm thinking I'll start working on the shelves in the pantry next.
R. had bought tickets to Teenage Fan Club last May but never put it on the calendar. People who know me IRL may wonder, did you check the other calendar to see if it didn't get transferred to your new calendar when you did the switch in August/September (I'm a 17 month or 18 month calendar person)? Yes. Yes I did. It wasn't there, either. Nor was it on the electronic calendar that R. and I share (it may have been on his).

So that was tricky, because I also had book group last night. But our sitters came through for us and were willing to juggle their schedules and stay later so that we could both do our Own Things. I'm glad I went to book club; it was a great discussion.

This month's selection was Ta-Nehisi Coates _Between the World and Me_. I read it on Monday during the late morning and afternoon and then we discussed it in the evening so it was quite fresh in my mind. Upon further reflection on the book and the discussion, I have concluded that my quibbles -- and they were quibbles, as I gave it a 5/5 in our rating at the end -- because Coates isn't too positive about police reform, and because I think he may be underestimating how corporal punishment creates an apocalyptic and paranoid worldview are irrelevant to what this book is absolutely incredible at, which is consciousness raising. It is some of the very best consciousness raising I have ever encountered (that became utterly clear in the course of the book group discussion), so if you have already been through some of the process which this book does such an amazing job of evoking in the reader, you might not realize just _how_ good a job it is doing.

Part personal memoir, part intellectual journey, part letter to adolescent son about the hardness of the world, part paean to The Struggle, Coates provides all the narrative momentum anyone could ever need to continue to read something that, for many readers, is probably fairly difficult. If you have some familiarity with the issues, it's like a freight train: there is no stopping reading this book.

What this book isn't: policy suggestions. So don't go looking for them! (That is as much a reminder to me as anything else.)

The cover of my large print edition from the library has a quote from Toni Morrison: "This is required reading." I'm inclined to agree, at least for most people in this country.

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