Friday, March 4, 2016

November's books (reposted)

#15, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884) and #16, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925).

Another two-fer.

Huck Finn was another book I read in high school that whizzed past my head. Zzzzzzzp! No traces left from the passing. Later, as an adult, I reread it and discovered what Twain was all about: that sharp, funny "American" voice that speaks as if naive but in reality sees the world just fine, thanks. I cannot believe anyone reading this book thinks or thought that Twain advocated slavery or racial inequality. It is of course Huck whose world-view is undone by the discovery that Jim is a man, like any man, not an object to be owned or ordered about.

Then, as now, Twain's bluntness (in Huck's mouth) offended people. He intended to do so, and intended that people stop being racist by confronting the dirty secret of their racism and change. It is a satire, folks!

It is not a young adult novel. I wish people would stop treating it as f it were, simply because Huck is a "young adult." It is a grown-up person's book, and if we recognize that, we'll all be happier and more sensible. Personally, I dislike Tom Sawyer. He is a Ferris Beuller-sort of hero, a show-off and a bully, and I like Huck as a character much better. I know too many Toms and not enough Hucks.

Mrs. Dalloway wasn't the first Woolf novel I read, but the first one I understood. It certainly helped me figure out what Woolf was doing with space and time in her novels, which was the modernist key, I think. Or maybe I am wrong and never got it. But... this novel opened the world of Woolf's writing to me, and coupled wiht Hermoine Lee's brilliant biography, made me understand Woolf's art and voice. Better, actually, than all that talk about Woolf as a feminist and as a woman writer--how about just as a writer, like Twain or Hemingway or any other of the writers on my list.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

New Frugality and Becoming Clutter-Free (Repost)

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

Morris is one of my personal heroes, and I have this quote hanging in my home office, brought directly from Kelmscott, the William Morris home in the Cotswolds.

This quote alone has been making me think deeply about the many, many things in my house right now... and how some of them need to go to a new home. My second donation of the month--donated to the thrift store for a fund for breast cancer survivors--is growing and growing. Thus far, my 6.5 digital crockpot, my old canister vacuum cleaner, kitchen bakeware (including cookie sheets, pieplates, and a springform pan), 3 rolls of Contac paper, 4 pairs of shoes, purses, clothes, sheets and pillowcases, and a lovely beige throw are in the mix. In addition, I am getting 7 items out of my house and out of my life, back where they belong (7 in 7).

This entire exercise has made me realize that I own three of everything... "Just in case." The funny thing is that my taste makes me buy the same things, but I either forget I have two already or simply think I need three, all evidence to the contrary.

The energy that has come out of getting things out of my life has been tremendous and surprising. As I have said, the incoming new possibilities are also exciting. I am determined to spend the next several months paring down, donating and selling and throwing out. My goal is to create breathing space in my life and to get myself unstuck, in a variety of ways.

This has also been helped by commiting to the Express Lane Checkout Challenge: wearing only 15 items from my closet, not including outerwear, shoes, accessories, and lingerie. Week Two and going strong.

To get specific about my New Frugality, I also hope to generate some monies from selling clothes, books and media. That's Part II of the plan, which can't be initiated until I feel more energy and self-generated movement beyond simply bundling up and dumping off stuff.

Unfortunately, I can't say my spending habits have been exemplary during this month. I will have run through the saved money in my primary savings account by Friday, sadly. Next month I hope to have some left over to move into the secondary, long-term savings account. We'll see. I did make some changes already, paying myself first, by scheduling a transfer of last month's saved grocery monies, etc., into my long-term account as soon as the paycheck comes in (see counter at right); this puts my long-term saved at nearly half my goal.

Beyond that, November means:
  • creating a budget for weekly grocery buying, including planning to take advantage of gas discounts from a favorite grocery chain;
  • commiting to emptying out the pantry of beans, rice, canned vegetables
  • commiting to emptying out the freezer of broth, soups, frozen vegetables
  • limiting my eating out/drinking out events to Sunday breakfast, Tuesday dinner, and a weekly drinks with friends
It also means starting to pay down my two remaining credit cards in a serious way, putting me on a schedule to be debt-free of one card by April 2011, and of the other by May 2012. Given that I also plan to stay in Big D over the summer, writing and researching while teaching two courses... I might even get ahead of that schedule. Specifically, by the time I teach at Oxford again, I will be debt-free with savings.

3.2.16: In the spirit of clutter-free and recycling, I am recycling some of my most popular posts from the early years of this blog. Yes, I still have and believe in the Morris quote, I am still recycling items out of my house (this week: clothes, kitchen items, makeup brushes, magazines, books, and health & beauty items given to my students!). While I will never be a minimalist--lightbulb!--I am determined to have 25% less "stuff" in my closets, on my bookshelves, and in the huge plastic tubs that store... things. How about you? Any great stories about decluttering or recycling out there?