Category Archives: Things I never did before

“Good enough”

This post was inspired by an article by my friend Deborah Reigel – who is, without question – the greatest life coach, motivational speaker, Jewish mamma eva.

Now that I’m mowing my own lawn, I’ve developed the mantra “it’s not a golf course.” In other words, so what if there are a few stray blades that didn’t make it under the mower this time? So what if I don’t trim the edges? If there are weeds? My favorite sister-in-law, by the way, tells me weeds are necessary for a healthy lawn. And she’s an environmentalist, so I trust her.

Since having 100% responsibility for the house, the car, the dogs, I’ve had to learn to silence my inner perfectionist and let some things go. It’s been hard. For much of my life, good enough was never less than 100% perfect.

Not too long ago, I had a lot of work done in my house. I had ceilings replaced, the entire house painted – expensive stuff. As soon as it got warm and humid, I noticed some nail pops in the newly-done ceiling in the living room. I was devastated. Okay, I was devastated as soon as I got over being worried that the house was going to come down around my ears. But I was devastated – here I had just spent all this money on the work, and it wasn’t perfect any more.

Unperfection happens.

And I’m gettin’ okay with it.


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Filed under Creating a new life, Singleness, Things I never did before

Pass me a margarita

My day today began with fishing a dead mouse out of the pot that was soaking in the sink. I don’t know whether to be grateful that it was (a) dead and that (b) I didn’t have to dislodge it from a mousetrap or grossed out. Or both.

Then, after I discovered that I washed – and destroyed – two checks to me totaling over $500.00, two checks that I had written and put in envelopes to mail, and one certified copy of my mother’s death certificate in an envelope to a life insurance company, I went to let the dogs out. Right outside the back door was one dead bird. Right there, on the ground, waiting for me to pick it up and dispose it in my garbage can which is beginning to take on a morgue aura.

So now I feel like I’m living in a Stephen King novel.

Pass me a margarita.

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Going up . . . alone

Blessing the Torah before a public reading is called an aliyah, which is translated as “going up.” We read Torah every Monday and Thursday, as well as on holidays and other festive days. Today happens to be Rosh Chodesh Elul – the beginning of the Jewish month Elul, so at services this morning we read Torah. I was asked to take an aliyah and recite the first blessing. It’s an honor to do so, so I accepted (and, well, you aren’t supposed to decline anyway).

I was nervous for a few reasons. The first is that I was with all my colleagues, many of whom speak Hebrew natively. The second reason was because I have never, ever done this by myself. I’ve done it with groups of people and oftentimes with Mr. Ex. But never alone.

So there I was, alone, blessing the Torah. I was lucky to be surrounded by my friends and colleagues, as well as my beloved former boss/principal, who was the rabbi for the service. I whispered to her that it was the first time I had done this alone, which was pretty significant because of my divorce earlier in the week.

A. Powerful. Moment.

I made it through the aliyah just fine; no stumbling or anything. After I was done I totally indulged myself and said that it was the first time I had done it alone. The group spontaneously responded with singing a mazel tov to me – kind of a Jewish “for she’s a jolly good fellow.”

Another milestone.


Filed under Things I never did before

I am woman . . .

So this week I finally decided to keep my art/craft workspace (studio just sounds so, eh, pretentious) downstairs as part of the dining room/family room L. Sidenote: is it a family room if there is no family to sit in it? Should I call it the den now? But den sounds so wood paneled, and my family room/den/TV space is bright and airy and open.

Anyway, the choice was whether to leave the artspace (I like that) downstairs, where it’s open to the dining room/family room, or move it upstairs to the office. Now, office is a bit of a misnomer (I have this problem with misnamed rooms, I guess), because all it does is house a couple of printers and a computer that I never use. Never. Well, except for when I have to scan because the scanner is hooked up to it. But I do all my work on a laptop, generally in the bedroom. So the office turned into this, well, storage space with a couple of printers and a computer. When Mr. Ex lived here, it was virtually unusable because he had crap all over it. A mere 10 months after his departure, it’s getting a little bit better, but it still was this hodge-podge of big bulky shelves and, well, junk. A certain daughter who just left for Israel also used it as her junk spot so it took on that neglected, filled-with-important-stuff-that-doesn’t-go-anywhere-else space.

Moving all my art/craft stuff up to the office didn’t exactly appeal to me. First of all, the moving part didn’t. But I also grappled with the space itself. The upstairs office (which at one time was a bedroom – and at one time or another each of the girls used it) is tiny, tiny, tiny. When it was a bedroom it essentially housed a bed, a dresser and a desk. And no more. It’s also hot. I don’t know why, but that room never cools off. It faces southeast and has two windows, but never ever cools off. In the winter I never even open the vent.

I just couldn’t see myself sitting in there. I would also have to put a TV in there (I need the news and views for a muse, I guess). And I would have had to move these 7-feet tall cabinets up from the artspace. Two of those suckers.

The other issue is the space downstairs is adjacent to my laundry room, which means I have ready access to the laundry tub for cleaning off paint brushes, etc.

So, after about two weeks of consideration I decided to (a) keep the artspace downstairs and (b) clean out the rest of the junk from the office and move books into it. There are books everywhere – the family room, the art cabinets – everywhere.

In order to create a nice book space in the office I had to clean it up. First the items placed there by my youngest had to be neatened up and put in the closet. That was easy. Then there was the issue of the bookcase. There was a bookcase in that office that matches the 7-foot cabinets in the artspace. 7 feet high and about 2-feet wide. And 16 inches deep. It’s a big sucker. I didn’t want it in the office. It dwarfs the space and, since it matches the cabinets downstairs, I figured it would make more sense to move it down there, and get rid of a smaller bookcase in the artspace.

Follow me so far?

So I had to move the monster bookcase out of the office. By myself. Using a shift, push, tilt maneuver, I got it out of the office, around the corner and down the stairs. I have discovered that by carefully tilting large furniture you can kind of slide it down the stairs. Without killing yourself or breaking the furniture. I got it into the artspace and replaced the existing bookcase with the monster one. Then I moved the smaller bookcase into the garage (which actually was harder because I did it by moving it over the patio, which is a bumpy aggregate of some sort, so dragging it wasn’t really an option). This stuff is heavy – it’s fiberboard or laminate or whatever, and it’s heavy.

Then it was time to figure out what to do in the office. After I cleaned it out I figured out I needed two smaller bookcases – no more than 4 feet high. I don’t own those, so I had to buy a couple. The last time I needed bookcases (which was right after Mr. Ex moved out), I went online and found the magic words “no assembly required,” but I didn’t want to spend that much money this time.

Of to my friend Target to find some.

Sometimes you just live right, I guess. Or, it was because I was buying small bookcases during “get ready for college” time. At any rate, I found exactly what I was looking for – at $20 each to boot.

I pulled them off the shelf. Put them in the cart. Bought them. Got them out of the cart, into the car, out of the car, into the house, up the stairs. Put them together. I rock.

Things I learned:

If a nice lady offers to help you get the bookcases out of the cart and into your car, tell her yes. And offer to buy her dinner if she follows you home and helps you unload them too.

Don’t try to put them together on the bed. it doesn’t work. You need the floor or a desk.

Don’t pull the identifying stickers off the pieces until you know it’s all put together properly.

Keep the cordless screwdriver charged.

If the house is hot, it will be especially hot while you’re shlepping bookcases and putting them together. If ever there was a time for air conditioning, that is it.

Oh – and I did it all without breaking a nail OR messing up my fresh manicure. Life is good.


Filed under Haven for one, Things I never did before

I feel like Bob Vila!

The Home Depot, Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

One of my spring break tasks was to deal with the moldy grout in the shower. Yuck.

I tried Oxy Clean. It got the tiles cleaner-than-clean, but didn’t tackle the grout at all. Boo.

So back to Home Depot I went and I purchased a Clorox Bleach Pen. I also purchased some stuff that I need to create the mosaic I want to make for the table I plan to paint for the living room (this becomes important later).

So, last evening around 8:00 pm I started to bleach the grout (what? you don’t do that at 8:00 pm? Well, there was nothing good on TV). It worked great.

It also ran down the wall – of course – and attacked the nasty caulk around the tiles that butt up against the tub.

Hm. Attack is a good word.

It came off, as did the tiles. Whoops.

I called Mr. Ex to find out what to do, and emailed his BlackBerry. No answer. I go look at the tiles again. Yup; still coming off. Six of those little suckers.

So – I decide that I need to deal with this myself. I Google “replacing bathroom caulk” or something like that, and within 30 minutes I’m an expert at what I need to do. I removed the loose tiles (not hard – the bleach had pretty much done that for me) and took them to the newly-cleaned out laundry toom to soak them in mineral spirits to remove the old cement, grout and caulk. I scraped off the old stuff from the tiles on the wall (not having a screwdriver I used a wooden paint stirrer from Home Depot – it worked) and cleaned and dried the area. The soaking tiles were clean and the remaining cement scraped off easily.

Now – I needed ceramic tile cement. Luckily, earlier that day I had already gone to Home Depot to get some for my mosaic project. How good was that? I also needed something to spread the cement on the tile. Did you ever notice that there are special tools and gadgets for everything in home repair? Well, I went through my craft supplies in the laundry room (again, newly cleaned, so it was easy) and found the tools that I had used when I was in my paste paper phase. Well, they’re just perfect for cementing tiles! Whoohoo.

So, back to the bathroom and the tiles. I put some music on, and did me some cementing. No big deal.

Crept back in an hour later – tiles still up.

Wow. I rock. The biggest problem is the the six tiles are waaaaaaay cleaner than the others, and when I’m done grouting and caulking that’ll be cleaner too. Oh well – this project will wait until this summer when Allie’s in Israel and I’m alone in the house. That way a few days or so with no upstairs bath won’t be a disaster.

So today it’ll be back to Home Depot for grout and caulk. I’m so cool.

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Wanna meetup?

One of the things that I did after my husband moved out was to check out Meetup is a website where people can organize events. There are all kinds of groups ranging from dining out groups to hiking and camping groups to groups for single or divorced people. There are quite a few groups in my area and I’ve done some of the activities. One was an incredibly reasonable dinner at a wonderful French restaurant; a restaurant that I would never have gone to on my own. I’ve found the other people who participate to be really nice and easy to talk to. Going to meetups was a good way for me to ease into new social situations.

This past Saturday was an event for a new meetup in my area – one devoted to doing good deeds. Saturday was just awful outside; there was another Chicago snowstorm and the roads were just terrible. I had an early appointment that morning (gotta do that annual mammogram!) anyway, so I figured I would go to the meetup. To be honest, had it not been for that mammogram I may not have gone anywhere, but I was out so I went. I was kind of worried that the organizers wouldn’t have anyone show up in that yucky weather.

To my surprise, 26 people showed up. How lovely. Twenty-six people braved the snow and messy roads to come out and talk about doing good deeds. Just that.

I got involved because I decided that, at this time of my life, I was a little tired of it being “all about me,” and it was time to get out of my skin and do something for somebody else. I don’t know what everyone else’s motivation was, and it really doesn’t matter. It was incredibly heartwarming, though, to see 25 other people who didn’t let the snowstorm stop them. Right now it seems like every time I turn on the news it’s all about corruption in politics (I AM from the Chicago area), war and foreclosures. It was really nice for a couple of hours to get away from that.

So, if you’re looking for something to do that’s pretty low-risk – a great way to ease back into new social situations, check out Meetup. And if you’re in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, check out the good deeds meetup. Or start one in your area and maybe you’ll be surprised too.

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Can we talk about the garbage?

For all the years that we’ve lived in a home where you actually have to put the garbage and recycling at the curb (as opposed to when we lived in a condo with that wonderful invention – the trash chute), it’s been his job to put the cans out.

Well, for many of those years, it seemed like it was always such a big deal. First of all, he never did it until the morning. LIke, when I would be getting ready for work and I’d hear the big truck down the street. I would call out to him (okay, maybe I would scream…) “it’s garbage day!”

He would jump out of bed (because when you’re not really working, there isn’t any good reason to be OUT of bed at 7:00 am, I guess) and run around like a crazy man, emptying garbage cans and running out.

So, now it’s my job.

Every Wednesday morning the Waste Management truck comes. Every Wednesday, unless Monday or Tuesday is a holiday (in which case we get annoying reminder robo-calls, but I digress).

Well, I leave for work at 7:30 am, and I am extremely unwilling to get up one minute earlier than I must. I already have to get up 15 minutes earlier than I did before he moved out, so that I can let the pups out and get them fed and let them out again. And pour my own coffee because the dogs refuse to learn how to do it and bring it to me.

So, like every other woman I know, I take care of this task AHEAD OF TIME.

Really. I know. Amazing concept.

On Monday and Tuesday I already empty the garbage cans in the house (and it is amazing how much garbage two people can generate). I get the recycling ready; going through old magazines and getting rid of paper from the printer. Yesterday I even emptied about a dozen bottles of beer that were left over from a birthday party in September that have been sitting around. I figure if nobody drank them by now, it isn’t going to happen.

Then, on Tuesday I put the cans out when I get home from work. I park the car, I get out, and I move them to the curb. Before I hit the house, before I take off my coat, before I settle in for the evening.

No big deal.

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