Disheartened & overwhelmed

Through the process of Mom dying, I rarely got stuck. When I started thinking, “I can’t do this,” my inner voice would say helpful things like, “Just make the next phone call”, “Take a minute to breathe”, or “You don’t have to fix this, you just have to be here.”

Over the last month, I’ve gone through some of the grief stages I know I must go through. I spent the first two weeks in a tired fog, and when I came out of that, it has been to the acknowledgement that this is going to be a very long process (practically and emotionally) and I’m just going to have to deal with that.

Frankly, there has been a lot of procrastination. Whenever it felt like too much, trying to take on the next form or sort through another website, I pulled a Scarlett O’Hara.

It’s been pretty effective. In the last month, I’ve  accomplished a lot. Probate started, insurance claims filed, banks contacted. But Mom’s house has been the “big thing” that I  have been dreading facing.

From the beginning, I knew that I wasn’t going to make a decision about the house (whether to keep it or sell it) for at least a year. (To recap, Mom’s house is at the Oregon Coast. Mom and Dad bought the lot before they had me, built it from scratch with their parent’s help, and I’ve been in and out of it all my life. While I was growing up, we’d go down there about once a month for a little break, and Mom and Dad retired there in about 2004. It’s been extensively remodeled and is well set up for retirement, being a single-story home with two handicap-accessible bathroom.) My original, long-term plan was to retire down there, but that was when I expected Mom to live until at least 2030.  Right now, my best guess for my own retirement is 2035 (and that’s an early retirement.) I don’t know if I want to “carry” the house for another 16 years.

Regardless of my eventual decision, the house needs to be cleaned out. Perishable food is really all that has been addressed. You can imagine the other details.

A few weeks ago, I sat down and with Marie Kondo‘s help, drew up a plan for tackling Mom’s house.

And then… well… I procrastinated. I had “too much to do” or “was too tired”. Or had to pet the dog. (Note to self: Now, look, it’s only been a month, and you know it. You get a break whenever you want.) At heart, I didn’t want to go down to the beach and do what had to be done. I knew I’d go down and work myself until I was sore and tired. I’d get emotional. I’d forget to eat and then have low blood sugar problems. Then I’d come back and have to to back to work on Monday and be reasonably professional.

Finally, I asked a friend (the amazing Gretchen) to come down with me and help me by saying things like, “Have you eaten?” and, “Let’s take a break.”  So, Friday I picked up Gretchen and we took off. The plan was to stop by Baskett Slough before heading down to the beach. Once there, we’d go for a walk with the dog and then start on the two tasks, per Marie Kondo.

The KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.

Gretchen, Key (the dog), and I got down and did our walks, and then we hit it. I set Gretchen the task of rounding up clothes and books, then I started on bagging up Mom’s clothes. Gretchen kicked butt. It turned out that Mom’s clothes were very well organized and essentially in one room of the house. The books were scattered around, but easy enough to identify and bring to the designated area. It was hard, but in the end it wasn’t difficult to get rid of things when they don’t fit and are not your style.  They needed to go out into the world.

By the end of Saturday, Gretchen and I had loaded up the car twice to go to the thrift shop. I had given all baking items (including ingredients) to the next door neighbor and Mom’s friend Nancy had been excited about the Keurig. A total of twenty-five 30 gallon bags had been removed (in addition to the 10 bags that had been removed at my house.)

And I was nearly hysterical over the mountain photographs and memorabilia.

As Gretchen had been scoping around, she kept saying things like, “Do you want this photo album, too?” or “Gosh, this trunk is filled with genealogy papers…” And I kept saying, “Yeah, bring them out and put them on the bookshelf. That’s where I’m keeping the sentimental stuff for the last stage.”  Gretchen kept finding photo albums, Aunt Carol’s genealogy stuff, Grandma Eunice’s diaries, and Great Grandma’s family Bible.

What am I going to do? I am an only child. I will not have children. My mom had a sister, Aunt Carol. She had two children. While both my cousins have gotten married, neither has had any biological children. Aunt Carol was very into genealogy and over the years amassed a huge collection of material about both her family and her husbands. Neither of my cousins have shown any interest in it. My dad had a brother. Uncle Darrel had two children, and both of them have had children. However, they have always said they aren’t interested in any of the older photos and memorabilia that has been kept around.

In short, for whatever reason, I am now the owner of a huge collection of historical items that I have neither the time or interest in cataloging.

I can’t do this. I am just completely stopped. I can’t figure out the next stage for that pile.

Technically, the next stage in KonMari is Lesson 3: Papers. Mom was excellent at accumulating and keeping papers, so that’s going to be a very big task. I may cheat and do the easier (for me) kitchen lesson. Items like these photographs are Lesson 5; in other words, the end. The theory is that with everything else straightened up, you’ll know and understand what you really feel about things.

But still, that mountain awaits. And it’s really discouraging.

Five lessons from a Little Free Library

As I approach the anniversary for my Little Free Library (LFL), I have been pondering a few things I’ve learned from the experience.

1. Enjoy your surroundings

On the advice of LFL, I created a Facebook page to go with my LFL. It’s my understanding that these kinds of FB accounts are better received if they post occasional updates. I have incorporated the idea of “Shelfie Saturday/Sunday” (going out and taking a picture of the shelves on either Saturday or Sunday). I occasionally make a recommendation based on my own reading. Once in a while I post a funny “pro-reading” cartoon.
And I post pictures of happenings in my yard or around the neighborhood.

This has made me more aware of what is happening in my little segment of the world. I’ve posted pretty flowers, interesting skies, and children’s chalk art. Berries, birds, and books. Vistors, vegetables, and vines.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoy coming across a pretty little site on walks around the neighborhood and snapping a quick pic on my phone to post later.

Many times over the last year I have seen families  come down the sidewalk, mom, dad, stroller, dog, and kids. They selected several items and I had a nice chat. I was so happy “my” Little Free Library was a local family stop. Since adding a geocache to the library, new people come around and a few minutes later I’ll get a nice little email with a complement about the library.

2. What is value?

Books are an odd thing in terms of value. To a bibliophile, there is little more precious than a good book. However, the surest way to put me in a foul mood is to recommend of a bad book. The value of the reading experience of any given book clearly outstrips the retail price of the item, whether for good or ill.

Then there is the retail price. Books are a physical item with a price. But all you need to see to question that is to go into a used bookstore and see copy after copy of “Twilight” or “50 Shades of Gray” to ponder the issue of value versus price.

And then, regardless of value, I am giving books away. What does value mean? What else am I holding onto as “valuable” that ultimately is just an object.

3. Ponder social justice

There is something inherently odd about the idea of putting out an item for others (who you may not even know) to take. The first time I acknowledges this was when I took out a book I had really enjoyed (The Spellman Files), that I had kept for several years, but felt I did not need to keep any longer. I put the book on top of a pile of lesser books to take out and paused. I didn’t want the book to go. But I didn’t want it to stay either. As I thought about it, I realized I wanted it to go to a “good home” and my reluctance had more to do with not being able to choose the home than about releasing the book itself.

I still grapple with this idea. I try to focus on the books getting to good homes, not the books being sold to support a drug habit or a homeless person’s hoarding. And even in those cases, it’s only my ideas about what people “deserve” that makes me feel bad.

There is an entire system behind the individual choices we make. LFLies are the tiniest DROP in an attempt to make that system better.

Some people add a “community box” to their library, where people can deposit food or other needed items. I am thinking about adding one soon.

It’s still hard to see the books disappear.  Before I got a stamp for my LFL, one day I took out a batch of my personal books that I was ready to release. The next day, all of them were gone. Someone had come along and taken all the “trade paperbacks” and newer books, the kind that sell pretty easily at the local bookstore. I ordered a stamp, but I still mourn that none of my neighbors got to read “The Hidden Lives of Owls.”

4. Let go of your expectations

I’ve always wanted a LFL, but I really didn’t know what to expect. I just loved the idea. Books going to people and neighbors and children. I quickly learned that you can’t count on what will happen with your “customers.” As I mentioned before, my library has been cleaned out several times. I never expected adults to use it, but I have a gentleman who comes over a couple of times a week and carefully selects a book, but only a certain kind. I’ve had to start shopping Westerns just for him.

My proudest moment was when a neighbor told me that her grandson finished his first book ever on his own, and it was a LFL book. My most confused was when I went out one morning to find the little metal owl I had affixed to the post had been ripped off, the jagged remnants mournfully poking out.

5. Embrace the new

From the first moment, book turnover in my LFL has been good, but periodically things just started sitting there. After a few weeks of no movement, I’ll swap books with another nearby LFL or my inside stash and things began to “sell” again. From the beginning I’ve tried to keep children’s book in stock, but there are weeks when nobody touches them and it’s all about the adult books. Then I’ll get a few new items and suddenly there is a run on board books.

Here’s to another year of “Books on Breys: Little Free Library Charter #67289.”

Please, be halfway through

This weekend marked the third Women’s March, and (hopefully) the half way point in the worst American Presidency in recent memory.

The highlights? Frankly, it’s hard to know where to start. Insensitive and tone-deaf statements and actions? Corruption allegations that turn out to be startlingly true? The systematic dismantling of a budding environmental conservation hope? A government that is 1/4 shut down for the longest period in history.

History, folks. The American government may “only” be 243 years old, but it’s still a grim statistic.

There are some bright spots on the horizon. In the “mid term elections”, Congress became noticeably more diverse, particularly on the Democratic side. And… well, so far there haven’t been any nuclear incidents, but I’m not holding my breath.

Due to digestive issues, I did not attend the Women’s March on Saturday. But I feel it’s necessary to restate my objections (see above) and my action plan (see below.)

Action Plan

  1. Ignore the Trump PersonaMr. Trump and his team have lead a world-class, Machiavelli-worthy press scheme that keeps the media focused on the trivial. I’m not going to engage anymore.
  2. Take it down to its rootsWhen something posts with an abuse, don’t engage it as a problem with Mr. Trump. Look at the reason it can happen and engage with that.
  3. A Marathon (Not a Sprint)Baring incident, we will have four years two more years of this. 1448 days 731 day and counting. In addition, we can look forward to whatever the national election has in store for us starting (probably) in just a couple of years (if not sooner) now.
  4. VolunteerVolunteer early and often.
  5. The funnier sideAmong the more important things, I believe, will be to find the funnier side of this situation. Bring it to the surface.

I’ll sign off with this thought, originally posted just under two years ago.

I, Donald J. Trump, am exhausting. It has been 11 days, Stephen. 11 [expletive] days. Eleven. The presidency is supposed to age the president, not the public.

The reason that I, Donald J. Trump, am exhausting is that every instinct and fiber of my pathological self-regard calls me to abuse of power. I want — no, deserve — not just your respect but your adoration. Parades with the tanks and the synchronized dancing, and why can’t they train 10,000 doves to spell out “Trump” in the clouds? How hard can it be? They’re already flying.

I, Donald J. Trump, am exhausting because it is going to take relentless stamina, vigilance and every institutional check and balance this great country can muster to keep me, Donald J. Trump, from going full Palpatine, with the lightning coming out of the fingertips and “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate.”

We have never faced this before. Purposeful, vindictive chaos. But perhaps therein lies the saving grace of my, Donald J. Trump’s, presidency.

No one action will be adequate. All actions will be necessary. And if we do not allow Donald Trump to exhaust our fight and somehow come through this presidency calamity-less and constitutionally partially intact, then I, Donald J. Trump, will have demonstrated the greatness of America. Just not the way I thought I was gonna.


Out of the fog

The last few days, I have been noticing that I feel a little clearer. Concentrating seems a little easier. I feel less raw and emotional.

Of course, this isn’t to say I don’t feel emotions. I am still tired (as an emotion), but it’s getting better. It seems to be replaced with irritation or anger. I’m not sure it’s an improvement.

It’s been the better part of three weeks since Mom died. And just over two months since “the diagnosis”. Time marches on.

I’ve made good headway on working her estate.

  • Notified banks
  • Notified life insurance
  • Gone through bills
  • Identified and called medical/prescription issues
  • Changed and cancelled auto-pay items (except for house)
  • Identified a CPA (done early in process)
  • Meet with estate lawyers (today) to start probate

As for the physical side of her stuff, Mom has essentially been moved out of the Salem house, though there is the beach house to address. Sigh.

I had intended to go to the beach this weekend, but it’s just too busy, so it’s on the schedule for next week.

I recently read Marie Kondo’s book, and I’ve decided to try to use it (heaven help me) to go through this process. My goal is to sort all my stuff, Mom’s stuff, and my various grandparent stuff (4 in all) into one house of things that I love and value. It won’t happen overnight, but I’m trying to take steps so that over the course of the next year, I can achieve my goal.

2019 promises to be hard. The trick is to keep things as simple as possible (yes, I hear you laughing along with me). But maybe by 2020, I’ll know where I’m headed.

Healthy Steps – 4.39

Because I don’t push my “healthy steps” set of blogs out to Facebook, my sense is that this set of blogs is mostly my own. That’s okay. It’s really just my log to try to keep myself motivated and accountable.

Wednesday, at check in, I had gained .2 lbs. There are several reasons that is a big victory.

I took a fall on Monday and I was on painkillers (known water retention) and stiff and sore (known water retention). So, that gain felt like a win because it was so small.

Since then, I feel like I have been making strides toward getting back on track. My work desk is no longer filled with candy, the house is out of ice cream, and I’m generally getting back to eating “normally” which is to say not staggering around eating whatever I want.

I sat down this evening with the solid intention of recording all that, but I also had been thinking a lot about time.

I’ve been (continuously) on Weight Watchers now for almost 5 years. April 21 will be that big anniversary. With my weight and history, I have accepted that WW is just going to be part of my life now.

So this week, I changed my “numbering system” of these posts so I could keep track of years and weeks. I could have just said “247 weeks”, but it feels hard to remember when a year hits.

I’m not sure that this is a stellar plan because immediately I have started to worry about “how much time has passed.” But here’s the deal.

This has been the ONLY 5-year period in my life, since I was 13, when I did not GAIN weight.

So, that’s enough for me to keep trying. I know it’s hard, but it’s also important.

My goals:

  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 10,000, taking at least one break/lunch walk
  • Tracking breakfast and lunch
  • 2 Frappuccino per day

I actually toyed a little with the idea of increasing them, but I’ll see what I can do about nailing them before adding more.

WW makes a big deal about knowing your “Why”. There are a lot of reasons I am still working on this. But here’s one from a few years ago that still touches me.

Not so in order

I have a habit of writing emails and posts  that contain numbered lists. Occasionally, I find this a little obnoxious, but there is something extremely comforting about a list.  I had 18 things I wanted to accomplish this weekend. At the same time, I’m having trouble remembering how doors work.


Friday was day two of the replacement of one side of the backyard fence. For once, I stumbled across a contractor who kicked rump! He started on Thursday and was done by end of day on Friday! Wow. Should I b buy a lottery ticket?

As though to prevent too much good feeling, Friday night I had to hurry over and pick up Mom’s ashes and her death certificates. While the ashes are, essentially, just sentimental, not too much can happen without the death certificates.

On my way home, I stopped at Minto Brown with Key and enjoyed the evening light.


Both Saturday and Sunday the highlight was pretty much walking the dog. I took my camera out and got these photos.

These things happened too.

  • Deep water exercise class
  • Laundry
  • Took dog for walk
  • Paperwork for Mom’s estate
  • Little Free Library restock
  • Reseed grass seed around NEW fence
  • Worked in studio


Though I  had the best of intentions for art, the day went very similarly to Saturday.

  • Groceries
  • Food prep
  • Laundry
  • Paperwork for Mom’s estate
  • Go to the library
  • Took dog for walk
  • Go to church
  • Worked in studio

But even though I tried to hit the deadline, I missed entering the NWWS show by 75 minutes (I thought I  had until 8pm, but it was 6pm). This is what I would have entered…

Page 1


That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

On the bright side, I did manage to enter the Wild Women show (don’t know if I got in) and I finished my application for Community Supported Art.

This week I’ll continue to work on the things I didn’t get done.

  • Vacuum
  • Mom’s estate (target insurance)
  • Haircut and pedicure
  • Entering the Coos show
  • Entering the WSO show
  • Play in studio

This coming weekend is a 4-day weekend and my original idea was to head to the beach to work on the beach house. But I have to meet with the lawyers on Friday, Saturday is critique group and the Women’s March, Sunday is nose work class (Key has some shows coming up), and Monday is an appointment with the therapist, so I’m not sure I’m going to make it. I’d like to start clearing out some things, which I think might help me get closer to figuring out what to do.

But I suspect that it’s just going to wait. As I remind myself daily, there is no hurry to make decisions.

Healthy Steps – Weeks 51 &52

Wednesday (January 9) I checked in at WW. When I did, I realized it was a big day. It has been 1 year (and 4 before that) since I said I was serious about working on a healthier lifestyle.

So… have I done it?

While I am currently on an upswing, I have lost a total of 22.2 lbs this year. At one point, that number was closer to 40, but the point is that I made progress.

A year ago I was saying this:

I am morbidly obese. This last year has shown me that this burden is going to get harder as I age.

  • My feet hurt; I’m still struggling with plantar fasciitis.

  • My knee hurts: I have a torn meniscus.

  • My breathing is not great: I’m recovering from the flu, but also just fat.

  • My back hurts.

  • My hips ache.

With Mom’s death, I am starkly aware of the burdens obesity puts on the body. When I was closer to -40, I have to say most of those had improved a lot. Currently, I can only report that most of these things are better, but not where I want them to be.

So, looking forward to another year, am I willing to keep trying.

Hell, yes.

It’s been 12 days since Mom died, and I can’t promise to really get into this yet, but even over the last week, I’ve made steps. And for this week, I’m going to work on being kind to myself and adding these goals.

  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 10,000, taking at least one break/lunch walk
  • Tracking breakfast
  • 2 Frappuccino per day

I started a year ago with these two thoughts.

Indeed. I’m signing up for a few more steps.

2019 Goals

For the first time that I can remember, undoubtedly due to Mom’s recent death, I find myself looking forward to the year ahead and not really knowing how it should look. In some ways, so much is on my plate that wasn’t before. In other ways, there is a lot I don’t have to worry about or do.

The goals that I feel most drawn to right now are goals like “take it easy on yourself” and “give it time.” A Facebook friend posted this thought:

Instead of resolutions, ask yourself:

  • What do I need to Stop?

  • What do I need to Start?

  • What do I need to Continue?

So, as I sit down to contemplate the year ahead, I am going to reorganize my list into those categories.


  • Taking painting commissions
  • Stop entering plein air unless you really find you enjoy it
  • Take fewer workshops (limit to Skip Lawrence)
  • Mom’s Estate (the goal here is to be done with it by the end of the year)
  • Trying to fix other people
  • Taking things personally


  • Establish MY style when I paint
  • Get my website current and keep it that way
  • Submit my paintings to these new events:
  • Taking care of my body
  • Find a source for yoga and/or meditation and go to it
  • Get 8 hours sleep (this means going to bed early)
  • Making time for friends
  • 52 books for the Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge
  • Allowing  myself to admit that I don’t like certain things


  • Blog at least once a week about art
  • Attend critique group
  • Continue to enter these shows:
  • Go to Weight Watchers regularly
  • Caring about the environment
    • Not taking plastic bags at the store; use reusable bags (2013)
    • Using coffee cups at coffee place (2014)
    • Picking up after the dog every time (2015)
    • Not consuming palm oil (2016)
    • Less car, more bike (2017)
    • Energy audit my house (2018)
    • DIY household products (2019)
  • Training Key in nose work
  • Remember that alone time is an important part of my mental health

2018 Goals in Review

2018: A year that changed dramatically from what was planned. Still, progress was made.

The items in blue were accomplished. Items in red were not. Items in green are partial.


  • Keep painting
  • Finish the commission that is taking FOREVER
  • Do RB homework
  • Write at least once a week (goal on Sunday) about your art
  • Attend critique group (did a few times, but more often was doing other things)
  • Enter both WSO shows
  • Enter the Equine Art Show (Emerald Downs)
  • Submit to the AAEA Show
  • Submit to both NWWS Shows (new goal for 2018)
  • Submit to Emerald Art Center show
  • Organize and attend Ruth Buchanan workshop (2018 drawing)
  • Participate in local art group Artists in Action
    • Participate in Paint the Town
    • Fall Studio Sale with Artists in Action


  • Go to Weight Watchers regularly
    • Eat more vegetables
    • Eat less sugar
    • Eat more fiber
    • Drink water
  • Participate in walking challenges (particularly with the dog)
  • Find a source for yoga and/or meditation and go to it
  • Go to physical therapy; improve knee and foot – I believe I did this, but as I’m still struggling, I am not giving myself full credit for this.
  • Write at least once a week (goal on Wednesday) about your weight loss
  • Get 8 hours sleep (this means going to bed early)


  • Goodreads 2018 Book Challenge: 104 books (accomplished 86)
    • 2017 goal – 86 of 104
    • 2016 goal = 100 of 100
    • 2015 Goal = 100 of 100
    • 2014 Goal = 80 of 90
    • 2013 Goal = 118 of 125
    • 2012 Goal = 111 of 200
    • 2011 = 56 of 50


  • Edit and finalize the book I “finished” during the 2017 NaNoWriMo
  • Participate in the 2018 NaNoWriMo


  • Do a walk after work, hike on the weekends
  • Get Key Odor Recognition Trial (ORT) certified
  • Participate in 4 trials (including ORT)
  • No more cats if Bob dies

Home and Garden

  • Water my new front yard to ensure the plants don’t die
  • Put in my Little Free Library area
  • Improve kitchen table area


  • Continue 2013 goal of not taking plastic bags at the store
    • Use reusable bags
  • Continue 2014 goal of using coffee cups at coffee place
  • Continue 2015 goal of picking up after the dogs every time
  • Continue 2016 goal of not consuming palm oil
  • Improve on 2017 goal of scaling back on car use
    • Bike to work at least 3 of 5 days per week
  • 2018 goal: energy audit my house


  • Finish four projects
  • Investigate a knitting group


  • Let’s just put it out there that I can improve…
  • Donate to charity


  • Church – website and tech team
  • WSO – website and fall convention
  • State Food Drive planning
  • Decide on a volunteer project (either Food Bank or Fostering Dogs) and do it!


  • Remain employed
  • Say hello in the morning


  • Go camping at least once
  • Explore the local art museum (Ford)
  • Visit the Salem carousel
  • See 150 species of birds
  • Remember that alone time is an important part of my mental health

How’s the blogging going – 2018 version

For each of the five years I have been blogging, I have posted a fairly geeky post about my progress and numbers.It’s something I look forward to, and it helps me get an idea of what the next year might look like.

Posts and Other Numbers

  2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Posts 158 124 71 64 112
Sessions 2899 7081 2700 2277 3545
Users 1262 5108 1691 1334 2795
Page Views 9790 13586 7009 7925 9888

I did VERY well this year on posts, almost doubling my total last year. I tried to blog each week about my weight loss journey, but that still leaves a lot of art and life posts

The users have picked back up after dropping last year, and the analytics reports that Facebook is my main source of engagement (no surprise there.)

Data Trends

I’m going to go light here this year. I have a lot of data that I find fascinating, but I’m not sure how readable it is!

Most popular posts (by month)


My next post will be about how I did on my 2018 goals. After that, it’ll be 2019 with a list of new goals.

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