Sunday, March 28, 2010

Yard Sale Part II - The real purging begins

After the success of last week's free sale, I started looking around my house and realized how much crap I have. In a frenzy I started purging. First to go were all the glassware odds and ends. How I ended up with so many is anyone's guess. Dozens of empty jars went to the recycling, and any glasses with less than 3 mates went into the purge box. Next came the Mikasa Chrystal Champagne flutes, which I've owned for over 20 years, but used maybe once. Into the box they went, as did all stray cups and mugs.

I then moved to the bookcases. We have several. First to go were those which I've read and don't care to read again or share with anyone. Next were those that looked interesting enough to pick up second hand at some point, but clearly were not, because they were never cracked. As a rule, classics are always retained, as are those which I want my kids to read at some point.

Once I finished with books I noticed the linen closet door bulging with sheets obviously trying to escape. So they too were liberated. How many sheets do we really need anyway? All of the double sized went, followed by at least half of the twins. Sheets were followed by table cloths which I don't even remember acquiring.

As I was doing all this, my husband went through the CDs and DVDs, and my younger son collected a milk crate's worth of VHS tapes. And to top it all off, my other son cleaned out the coat closet.

A quick posting to craigslist on Friday night, and a couple of hand-made signs Saturday morning, and we had a yard sale. The media seemed to be the most popular. We sold DVD's for $2 and CD's for a buck. We also sold a couple of guitars, and two of the coats. Nobody touched the kitchenware or linens. Oh well.

The glassware odds and ends went into a milk crate with a free sign on them and by morning they were gone. Everything else went into our spare room for the next yard sale. Eventually it will all go to Goodwill, but for now, all this stuff brought us a little money we didn't have the day before.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yard Sales

When I was a kid, we use to get up early on Saturday mornings to look in the classifieds for Yard Sales. It was a ritual. First we marked the paper, then we plotted them on the map, and then we established a route to avoid crisscrossing and wasting gas.

It was a hoot. Very seldom did we go out looking for something specific. And almost always we came home with treasures. I usually looked for books and sheet music. My mother had a penchant for rot iron pieces.

Some days were epic. We'd make two or three trips back to the house to unload the station wagon and then go back out again. So, one can understand why I still get excited when I see boxes on a lawn and hand drawn signs.

The highlight of the year though, was when we had our own yard sale. We would prepare for weeks, set up goods like a department store, and place color coded stickers on items. My friends and I would scheme about how we would make hundreds of dollars selling baked goods and lemonade, and my mother would bring out a cash box my father made in metal works class at the local junior college. In an odd way it was like being queen for a day. It was our day to offer the things that were once part of our lives to the rest of the community. The only other events I can remember feeling as special were when my mother hosted Tupperware and Mary Kay parties.

I still stop at yard sales, but my Saturday Odessey now is pursued with surgeon like precision. Often now when I go, I am looking for something specific, and I no longer use the newspaper classifieds. Now I rely on Craigslist.

As for having my own yard sales, I'm more likely to take bags of items to Goodwill than spend days planning and setting things up in my driveway. I do sometimes have "Free Sales" though. A free sale is when you put stuff out in the yard with a sign that says "FREE". Somehow it's deeply more satisfying than the former practice. The best part is when people knock on the door and ask, "Is it really free?" "Yup," we say. And then we thank them for taking things. It's both fun and exciting.

This year is going to be a purging year for us. We are downsizing to the nth degree. We have too much stuff and it's time to simplify. We started today with a free sale. Within two hours five left-over playa bikes (in dire need of some love) went to new homes, as did a set of Star Trek NG VHS tapes, and books that fell victim to the first cut. There will likely be more to come. We may even go through the trouble of having an actual sale, but for now it's enough to know we were able to give something that someone else wanted.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"...the only thing we have to fear is..."

In 1933, at the opening of his first inaugural address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt told the nation, "the only thing we have to fear itself." These words were uttered at a time when unemployment was at about 25%, and two million Americans were homeless. It's easy to understand how fear could grip the country in such a situation, and why we should be leery of its effects. Fear after all is a powerful emotion that can elicit a fight or flight response, a response that is directly linked to our instinct to survive. Thus fear can also be a powerful influence upon us. It can incite, provoke and encourage behavior. So yeah, we should fear fear.

At a conference I attended recently, writer Rebecca Walker spoke to us about propaganda. She spoke of why we should be wary of it because the action it invokes may not be in our best interest, and her words resonated with me. Propaganda are messages intended to evoke action. Propaganda often relies on an emotional response, and quite often the emotion of choice is fear.

Right now in this country, there is an entire dialogue based in fear. It's the one that told us about Death Panels, American Fascism and the Nuclear Option. It's the dialogue that brought us the Tea Party, the Oath Keepers* and Survival Seeds. These are all the products of fear.

Yes, people are scared, but not rightfully so. They are scared by design. They are being told that in a country with a "free press" in the midst of the Information Age, that they can trust only one side of the story, the "Fair and Balanced" one.

Yes we should fear fear, but we should also be mindful of those who wield it.

*highly recommend this article.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lady in Waiting, PART 2

Waiting it seems is my new past time. As I recently wrote, my whole life, as are the lives of us all, is an exercise in waiting. We wait for time to pass so that we may come to the next happening in our existence. And then, we wait for death.

Waiting invokes patience and understanding. Without these two components waiting can be aggravating, frustrating, and a source of immense stress. Anticipation coupled with a desire to achieve solutions feeds into that stress, until you want to yell out at the world, "THIS IS FUCKING RIDICULOUS!"

Yes, I had to do some heavy duty waiting this week. And once again it involved a State of California bureaucratic system. This time it was the Secretary of State, Deborah Bowen's office.

When you call Secretary Bowen's office, the first thing the intended calming voice tells you is something along the lines of "Due to the state's fiscal problems, we are unable to answer your call, so listen to this endless phone tree so you can spend the next 20 minutes of your life listening to several possible options that may or may not solve your problem." It continues, "You may also find helpful information on the FAQ page of our website," blah blah blah.

You mean the one I got the phone number from? Uh...apparently not.

I've come to believe that phone trees are actually ironic reminders of why we should be wary of automation. Often when confronted with an automated voice I just start randomly pressing numbers and keys to try and get to someone...anyone who can tell me who I'm supposed to talk to. I've also come to believe that the people who write the copy that is uttered on those phone trees, are the same people who write standardized tests and 8th grade algebra problems. You know, the one's where a train leaves from one place and intersects a car that left from another, and you have to figure out who is going to go insane wondering which one get's there first.

After several rounds of options, I finally found the one I was looking for. "To talk to a technician press 0."

Really?!? Oh yeah baby! Give me your piped in music and tell me to stay on the line. I'm in this for the long haul. I've got a speakerphone. I can wait as long as you make me. Yeah...make me wait...I've got snacks at my desk...I could hold out for days, weeks mo...."Hello?"

"Thank you for waiting how can I help you?"

I state my case and find out I'm gonna have to wait some more, because they only update their records online once a week on Monday. Oh well.

What amazes me most about this most recent wait I had to endure, was that I was seeking basic service that any business would need. You know, businesses those money making ventures that create jobs and generate taxes so we can get out of this fiscal crisis mess thingy we're in. Services the state can no longer afford, because it doesn't earn enough income.

And yet there are still those who want to cut taxes even more. Seriously. I'm beginning to thing I should invest in a cleavage ascending fancy dress. If I'm going to be a Lady in Waiting, I might as well look the part.