I recently read the suggestion of taking on cleaning/de-clutter projects for 20 minutes at a time as a way to make the mountain of a task seem surmountable.  The book that made this suggestion also recommended cleaning from the inside out (starting with dresser drawers, closets, etc) because those areas need to be clean/organized in order to put everything else away.

So I started with dressers and closets.

Friends on Facebook may have noted that for eight days (not always consecutive) I have attempted to de-clutter my home. I knew this could be a months-long project of 20-minute sessions (longer sessions on weekends) when I started on it. What I did not know was how hard it would be to free my life of some objects or how many old and unused objects I still possess.

The problem is that I grew up in a family where sentimentality was attached to nearly every object. I sometimes heard a parent suggest that an item may become a valuable collector’s object someday — not likely since  most of those objects show plenty of wear and tear.

For me, objects were used as a way to feel secure and safe in the world. As in, if I am surrounded by everything I might ever need on any occasion, then it must mean that my life will be easier to go through and I will not get bored (always having some project to do).

I also have to fight thinking that by not throwing something out, I would be saving myself the cost of buying it should I ever find myself in need of such a thing.

The reality is that the things that I rarely to never use or haven’t touched for years (my old high-top roller skates, tennis rackets, bulky winter ski suit) take up a lot of space. For most of these items, I would be able to rent substitute equipment or make do without those objects if the need for them comes up again.

Then there are the objects that were a part of my past, that remind me of younger and crazier days. These include my wide-legged jeans with reflector stripes, plastic bead/candy jewelry, wigs, glow in the dark things, childhood toys , stuffed animals and children’s books. It turns out I also have a pretty big collection of music CDs (including a box of empty jewel cases) and audio tapes — yes tapes.

I was able to make myself put most of these things in the donation pile. However, I am keeping the children’s books that I’m pretty sure are now out of circulation and that I would like to share with my own children or future nieces and nephews someday.

Then there are the objects that belonged to or were gifts from deceased friends or relatives. Last night I came across a small porcelain decorated mask that a grade-school friend (Derick N.) had given me as a birthday gift. He died in a car accident some years ago. After staring at it for some time, I decided to put the object in the donation box and keep the memories of my classmate in my heart.

For some objects, I take a picture of them so that I can still have the memory but just use up less space in the house.

Another challenge is deciding what to do with the clothes that my grandma wore, including some things I don’t think I’ll ever wear. The obvious answer is to get rid of the things I won’t wear and keep a select few items, which I am doing.

I also had filing cases full of tax, bank account and other important documents to sort through. Some documents went back to the early 1990s.

The end result of sorting through those files, is that I am keeping the necessary things (useful maps, car titles, notes of loans being paid off, and the last few years of necessary tax records) but have several large bags of papers that need to be shredded before they can be recycled. I imagine this will take several evenings to shred all those pages.

As of now, I have filed the backseat of my car with stuff to give away and my outdoor garbage bin/recycling bins with broken and useless items. But I can tell there will be many more trips to the donation site and full dumpsters to go before my life is organized enough to make it easy to keep the house clean with daily maintenance.

Although many of the books I have read suggest selling the more valuable things for some revenues, I know in my heart that I will never find the time nor make enough money to justify spending the time on a yard sale or eBay. It is more important to me to get those things out of my house before I change my mind about them.

What are some objects you would have a hard time parting with?

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While I love a pretty pair of high-heel pumps, lately I’ve become a huge fan of flat-heeled shoes. They may not be the most attractive for my calves but I find flats have several benefits.

1. Flats = less reluctance to exercise/walk on a daily basis

I am more likely to walk a couple of blocks rather than get a cab or take the metro to my destination if its less than eight blocks away.

2. Flat shoes are wonderful in emergency situations and for dancing

It make running a heck of a lot easier and in a good pair of flats, I find the latin dances and swing are much easier.

The other day I took a late train from DC to my home metro station and stepped out of the train car to see my bus ride home pulling out of the stop. Because the Takoma station straddles DC and Maryland, cab sightings at the station are about as rare as seeing Big Foot.

In other words, I had to walk home. Thanks goodness I had on comfortable flats and the temperatures were moderate.  I would have been in a lot of pain if I had to walk the 40 minute trek home in heels.

2.  Flats = less blisters and callouses in weird places on the foot and a savings in the costs of band aids and blister bandages. Enough said on that.

3. In flats, my shoe heels do not sink into the dirt in my yard on my way to and from work. While it’s true that my yard — I must go through the yard to get to the road/sidewalk —  is more often a swamp than not, it’s a lot easier to walk back there when wearing heels.

Overall, I like flats and I’m hoping that it will inspire some more healthy activities now that the warm weather is coming around.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I last wrote in my blog. But I’ve made some adjustments to my life and have taken away a big time consumer from my life, for now.

I entirely expect to write much more frequently.

Have you ever stopped to consider what your key chain says about you?

If a stranger looked at mine they would know that I own a foreign vehicle — based on the manufacturer’s symbol on the car keys and door lock remote.

By the mini silver abacus, which also includes a small gender symbol, one might surmise I have some interest in Asian things and/or math and that I’m a female.  All except the math image would accurate.

I also have two library cards,  a CVS card, a grocery store card and AC Moore Rewards card attached. From this you might guess that I like books and crafts and shop at a chain grocery store.

Finally I have a three fairly indistinguishable keys (house and office) attached and I’m not sure whether this tells anything about me unless you have Sherlock-like sense of observation.

What is on your key chain and what might it say about you?

Last year, I spent a week at a monastery and came back a calmer, happier and more peaceful woman.

I’ve begun to feel the itch to do so again and reboot my soul and mind, although in a less costly way.

I have found a place in Smithsburg, Maryland, where a retired Episcopalian priest has recently started a retreat hermitage where she welcomes guests for prayers, silent worship,  overnight stays, etc. It’s called the Hermitage at St. Anne’s,  a mission of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Smithsburg, MD.

I am signed up to stay there next weekend (December 3-5) from Friday evening through late Sunday.

After checking in, I will spend my two and half days there in silence. Moreover, I will turn off all my connections to the outside world, so don’t expect to reach me by phone, social media or email.

I desperately need more silence in my life. I know this because I have become addicted to noise, feeling anxious when without it.

It used to be that I would relish sitting on my couch crocheting in silence, or riding in my car without the radio/music. But now I need an audio book or music when crocheting.

Moreover, I no longer feel centered, balanced or the inner solitude that I felt after visiting the monastery Mepkin Abbey.

As far as I can tell, the hermitage is a house on a town street. Yet there are some advantages to its location.

I attended high school in the nearby area of Mount Aetna (near Hagerstown) and so I am somewhat familiar with Smithsburg. There is a really beautiful cemetery nearby the house where I can go and sit in relative solitude and think/pray, etc.

I’m also really grateful that the retired Priest, Elizabeth, has inquired into my food allergies and seems keen on accommodating my needs at the hermitage. It will be much easier to eat without talking (asking the ingredients to food) as a result.

Anyway, this weekend will be busy and filled with dinners with family and friends. This weekend I will be thankful for every moment I have here on this earth and for the wonderful people in my life who enrich it all the more.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Hugs and love to you all.

For those of you who still check in on this blog occasionally, I apologize for the long period of silence.

Now that I can rant about things on the phone to my boyfriend each night (and he patiently listens and gives input where he can), I have had less of an urge to write.

But I’ve recently realized how much ranting I do on the phone, and I’ve decided to give my boyfriend a little break.

Also, it’s fall now, and I’m starting to have more breathing room in my schedule.

Therefore, come November, I will be back on the blog bandwagon and again resume posting stuff weekly.

In the meantime, my choir is performing this coming weekend in McLean, Virginia, at 4 p.m. Sunday October 31.

We gave a wonderful concert last night in Washington, D.C. (standing ovation from the audience) and I’m really looking forward to singing the same music again this weekend at a different location.

I had been struggling with the German diction in the Brahms gypsy songs, despite practicing the words for hours each week, and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get almost all of the words right and even be able to look up at the director every couple of measures during the concert.

My goal this week is to get the German all but memorized so I can bring another level of emotion to the singing and more attention to the director for this Sunday’s concert.

If you want a break from Halloween-related activities this weekend, come hear me sing with the National Master Chorale. For tickets and more information see our choir’s website.

We’re performing a relatively unknown, but absolutely stunning, mass by Rheinberger, as well as some other chant-like pieces. And for the second half, you’ll get to hear a rousing round of gypsy songs by Brahms that are sure to bring a smile to your face and make you want to tap the floor with your feet to the music.

Dear Metro executives,

I have a very simple solution for you to cut costs instead of making us pay higher fares. Hire more people. Seriously.

A WMATA employee recently suggested to me that the metro is hemorrhaging money because it allows its employees to rack up thousands of over-time hours a month  rather than hiring new employees. I mean why shouldn’t you hire someone when you are already paying another person a time-and-a-half rate to stay on the clock?

If this is true, it’s the most asinine thing I’ve heard. The metro should hire more people and eliminate managers who allow employees to rack up overtime like a slot machine.

I understand that WMATA had a couple of major unexpected costs in recent years, what with the HUGE metro train accident and the winter storm that cost it rider fares and snow removal expenses.

In addition, the metro board never really thought out prior to implementing the SMART trip card that people would take advantage of the fact that they could get off the metro with a negative balance. I’ve had plenty of out of town guests over spend their card and then leave town.

But my biggest frustration today, in thinking about the metro and the state of Maryland raising transit fares, is that the metro clearly is improperly managed.

My conversation with that metro worker kept reappearing in my mind all day.

So again, here’s my suggestion to the metro board.

Instead of making it nearly impossible for low-income families and the unemployed to get into the city or surrounding areas, make a few hundred employees unhappy by cutting their annual income down to five digits instead of six digits, and spur the existing economy by hiring more workers to take up the hours that you are making your current employees work.

Ever since the Supreme Court recently ruled that a suspect must speak up to invoke his or her right to be silent, I’ve been mulling over whether I should start carrying a Miranda rights card a friend gave to me last year.

The card essentially states that the person (suspect) who hands this card to the police officer is invoking his or her Miranda rights to remain silent, to an attorney, to not be questioned without the presence of an attorney, to secure his/her belongings (if I am to be taken into custody) before being arrested, and more.

I’ve been raised in a culture that teaches its children to trust the police. We’ve been taught they are our friends.

While the police are to be respected and treated as such for they carry out a very important role,  it is even more important to protect yourself from being charged, and even convicted, for a crime you did not commit. Those rights are just as important even if you did commit a crime. You should know your rights, including what the police are allowed to do to you or tell you while in custody and how long they may hold you without charging you with a crime.

The police have a duty to assume you are guilty until proven innocent because their job is to find criminals and get confessions.

I was riding with a friend a few weeks ago when we were pulled over.  My friend offered to let the police search the vehicle — thankfully they did not search the vehicle.

In the moment, it seemed like the right thing to do, especially since it caught the police off guard and probably led to them letting us go. But in retrospect, no matter how innocent we were (and we were), it is my belief that we should not have given up those rights so easily.

Innocent people have been known to be convicted, even executed, and later found innocent thanks to DNA tests alone.

According to the Innocence Project, there have been more than 250 post-conviction exonerations in the US due to DNA tests.   Seventeen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the US after serving time on death row.

Even more shocking is a list of 138 people who were sentenced to death and their conviction was either subsequently overturned and they were acquitted or all charges were dropped.  Some people on the list were given an absolute pardon by the governor based on new evidence of innocence. The list runs from the early 1970s through November 2009. Also, more than a dozen people who have been executed were later found to be innocent.

These facts make it clear that our court system is unable to make an accurate determination in every case as to the innocence or guilt of a suspect.

Here are links to two sites where they have printable cards to hand to police if arrested or pulled over.

http://www.norml.org/pdf_files/freedom_card.pdf

http://blog.motorists.org/wp-content/uploads/aor.pdf

It might be wise to have a copy of one of these laminated and in your wallet and a second copy in your glove compartment paper clipped to your registration.