Friday, August 31, 2012

Slow and Steady

The year I turned 59, my body went to hell. In about six weeks, I gained 15 pounds, and it was all in my midsection. You've heard body types being described as apples or pears? After a life of being a pear, I suddenly morphed into an apple. My clothes didn't fit. I hated what I saw in the mirror when I turned sideways. I was mortified.

No matter what I did, no matter how I tried to increase exercise and decrease food intake, nothing changed. The scale display sat on 175 each morning. True, I'm 5'8", so 175 isn't a terrible thing. But when I examined BMI charts, I was in the "overweight" category. I had never been anything approaching overweight.

When I was in high school, people would tell me that when I turned sideways, I disappeared. That high school image is what we maintain of ourselves, right? How could this have happened?

The very worst was looking at this new body when trying to buy clothes. I'm sorry, but with a hormone-induced post-menopausal bulging belly, Spanx can only do so much. And it's not enough! I put on my black elastic-waist skirt and my white shirt to sing at Blossom and looked in the mirror as I walked out of the dressing room. Who-who-who was that very round older woman? Certainly not me!!!!!

After watching the scale go back and forth between 174 and 179 for several years—and during the same period suffering several knee injuries that impeded efforts to take more walks—I slowly started changing.

The Jazzman needed to take in more fiber to fight his diverticulosis. The Jazzman was told by his doctor that he needed to cut down his sugar to avoid adult-onset diabetes. The Jazzman decided to take more salads for his lunches. And since I'm the designated kitchen staff, I just started doing those things along with him. Then I heard Dr. Oz talk about green coffee pills. It may be a bunch of hooey, but there were guests on the show who had real and actual weight loss results, so buying one bottle of the pills couldn't hurt that much, could it?

Slow and steady, ounce upon ounce, day by day, five trips up and down the stairs each day. This morning I got on the scale and it said 169. One Hundred Sixty-Nine Pounds!!!!

Now to you skinny minnies and petite pollies and sweet young non-hormone-affected things, that may not seem like a big deal. But for me, who has wanted to cry for THREE YEARS each time I looked at the scale and it read 17x, 169 is One Great Big Deal!

And so I will keep putting one foot in front of the other. I go to Cleveland Clinic in three weeks to get a second opinion on my knees. Less weight means less stress on my aching knees, means greater ability to walk without pain, means easier access to exercise, means greater ability to lose weight.

At even one pound per month, by next summer I will be able to look at myself sideways in the black skirt and white blouse and not shudder.

And once I reach the "Normal weight" category on the BMI calculator, you can bet I'm going to feel like a winner. Hell, I might even spring the $70 for a new CleveOrchChorus dress that will actually fit me!

(And an enormous salute to PianoLady and to my daughter-in-law, both of whom have lost a Whole Lotta Weight this year. You inspire me.)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Knowing the Meaning of Enough

Continuing on the theme of destashing and decluttering, I have a number of beautiful Longaberger baskets that are slowly finding new homes. But because my primary purpose of the destashing and decluttering is income augmentation, I am constantly asking myself, "is that enough?"

Which brings to mind a quote I heard on WOW (Women on the Web) Radio on SiriusXM. The host was interviewing investment banker and philanthropist Pete Peterson, who told this story on himself:

Authors Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller were at a party at billionaire Pete Peterson's home on Shelter Island. Vonnegut asked Heller how it made him feel that the host may have made more money in one day than Catch-22 (Heller’s most famous work) did in its entire run. Heller replied that he had something the host could never have, "the knowledge that I've got enough."
When Peterson told the story, the punchline was "I know the meaning of 'enough'." I like that ending better, actually.

This thought—the meaning of "enough"—relates to my situation in two ways. 1) At what point do I have enough whatever. Fabric, baskets, handcrafted mugs, shoes, clothes, … ; and 2) When liquidating items (e.g. selling on eBay or Etsy), is any amount greater than $0 enough?

For example, today I was searching listings for the Longaberger Large Gatehouse Basket Combo (meaning it's got a fabric liner and plastic protecter). This is a beautiful, useful basket that I'm not using. Searching closed listings on eBay lets me know whether the item sold and, if so, what the selling price was. If I bought a basket for, say, $75 in 2001, am I willing to let it go for $15? Am I only willing to let baskets go for x% of the original price? Is there a threshold price below which I'm unwilling to go through the busywork of finding a box, carefully packing the item, and driving to the post office?

Or, if my goal is income augmentation (don't you like that phrase?), do five items sold at $20 each equal a) $100 I wouldn't otherwise have had and b) freed-up space on the basement shelves?

If you have a magic answer, I'd love to hear it!

And in closing, I'll share my two most favorite recent destashes.

In 1988, when John and I were setting up housekeeping together for the first time, I bought some absolutely gorgeous Liberty of London polished cotton in a pink/blue/lavender/cream Sweet Pea print. I made a curtains and shams for our bedroom, and a coordinating comforter out of a companion fabric. I think I've still got the comforter packed away in the attic someplace. I had 4.5 yards of the Sweet Pea fabric left over. It's been rolled on its cardboard tube and has moved with me too many times to count since 1987. Two weeks ago I pulled it out, measured it, and posted it on eBay. It sold for $40. That $40 then funded over half the purchase of new drawer/door pulls for the breakfast nook that's currently being repainted.

The previous owner of my home had collected some lovely 1930s and 1940s lithographs, which I sold through an auction house in Cleveland over the past year. But there were two prints that were mid-century and inappropriate for that house. Their value, according to every art site on which I could find that artist listed, was $200-$400. But I have no emotional attachment to these prints. In an ideal world, they'd give me a month's worth of income replacement. But this isn't an ideal world. I placed them on eBay, two separate listings at $20 each. They sold for that amount to the only bidder. It's $40 I didn't have the day before, and it let me buy the paint for the breakfast nook.

Sometimes less is more. Sometimes enough is enough.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Live and Learn

Regular readers know I've lost most of my income this summer and am unsuccessfully hunting for suitable employment. To fill in the holes during this stressful time, I've been decluttering the house and trying to unload offering these items to deserving buyers on eBay.

One place I have lots of clutter is in my sewing room. I have a fabric stash that could keep me sewing for over two years with no trips to the fabric store. I also have dozens of patterns. Some are very dated, but a number are virtually collectors' items.

Earlier this week I sat down with a couple of pattern storage boxes in my lap and pulled out the patterns I was certain I wouldn't use again. Many were thrown straight into the trash can, but a couple of very special, expensive, and hard-to-find patterns went onto eBay. I didn't package them first to properly estimate postage. I just accepted the postage that a previous seller charged. eBay tries to make things easy for sellers, and I thought that was easy. Unfortunately, it wasn't smart.

I set the starting price at 99 cents. It was a very desireable pattern, after all, and had originally sold for $13.00, plus shipping. So it would surely bring in at least $5.00, right? Nope. It sold for 99 cents. And the shipping was set at $2.12.

I just ran to Walgreen's to get a shipping envelope when I realized I was all out of that size of envelope. $2.19 plus tax for the envelope. (You see a pattern here, don't you?) Plus the gas to get to Walgreen's. Now, as I print the shipping label, I find the postage is going to be $1.81. Plus the gas to get to the post office.

Can't somebody just hire me so I can quit throwing away so much money trying to generate income?!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Who Do You Think You Are?

A friend from my IBM Tucson years posted a great piano-as-garden-art picture on my Facebook page today, and my mind started whirling around how people see me.

I see myself as a musician—and primarily a pianist—and have since childhood. But nowadays that's not necessarily what comes across first.

One of my COChorus colleagues somehow figured out I'm an accompanist and has asked me to accompany a performance he's doing in November. This! This is what I excel at!!

I also have a "permanent" gig with the Opera Western Reserve (OWR) Young Artists program. (But really, what is permanent these days? Look at the unemployment numbers. Look at funding cuts in the arts. This gig has lasted about six months so far and I feel lucky!) Several times a month I do what I do very well with delightful and very talented 20-something opera singers.

But each time a person moves to a new city or area, it takes a long time to get established. My son's friends occasionally heard me play at parties at his home. I introduced myself to a friend of his who had a few overflow accompaniment gigs he shared with me. Word started very slowly spreading around town. The artistic director of OWR called my son and said, "I keep hearing your mother's name." (Actually, he said, "I keep hearing your mother-in-law's name," but Tyler quickly disabused him of that notion!) And slowly, slowly over the past four-and-a-half years, I've built things up to one permanent gig.

Anybody can say he or she is anything. Nobody knows you're a dog on the Internet. I can say I'm a [really good] pianist—or a CIA-level chef or a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist—but until you see evidence of that identity, you'd best remain skeptical!

So a little proof comes out here and there, and a few more people in my new city see me as I see myself. And a little more income arrives to supplement my sadly lacking "real" income as a Web/technical/legal writer and editor.

Okay, it's not enough income to get the trim on the house repainted or the driveway widened before snow comes or the attic insulated to hold down the gas bills.

But it's income I will have enjoyed producing.

Aren't I lucky?!

(And a quiet salute to all those friends who think of me primarily as a pianist — thanks!)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Door to Door

Nine years ago I left a relationship and started all over again, again. My beloved heart-of-my-heart grandchildren were two years old and three months old. When choosing my venue for starting all over again, again, I found a house that was one mile away from their house. We said, "Someday the kids will ride their bikes to Grandma's house."

Last week it happened. They are now a-few-days-short-of-11 and two-months-past-9. Yes, their mother drove alongside them for the inaugural ride, but they did it!

And may there be many more bike rides to and from Grandma's!