list 4: things I unpacked that I love, vol. 1

I have been here almost a year, and there are still a number of boxes that have not been unpacked yet. This is plain old embarrassing. I did a good enough job packing that the things I needed would be available right away, but other things--things that could safely stay in boxes for a year--well, they stayed. We still have yet to build a replacement wall of books for the basement, and books are probably about 75% of what's still boxed up. The rest of it? It's getting unboxed, slowly but surely. Since one of my goals for 2014 is to finally unpack all the things, there will be a few of these TIUTIL lists throughout the year when I come across the lovely things that I forgot I had. Don't you believe all those minimalists who say "If it stays in a box for a year and you don't need it, you never will, so throw it away." Some of those things are waiting for the right time, and they were worth the packing, the boxing, the freight charges, and the waiting before they saw the light again. 

(Note: Mindy Kaling used to run this blog called Things I Bought that I Love here and later here. In my head, I use this structure all the time: Things I Cooked that I Love, Things I Read that I Love, and so on. In fact, now that I think of it, most blogs are basically Things I Thought that I Love. Anyway, that's where the name comes from, for me.)

good candles.JPG

1. My box of GOOD candles. I packed these fuckers like I dug them up out of a sarcophagus and was sending them to a museum instead of an old house in the North End. Then they wound up somehow in the stack of still-packed boxes. I opened up so many searching for them. I tried sniffing every available box in "my" section, and only found my Lesser Candles. This box? Myron SWORE it was just a box of teenage romances. HOW WRONG HE WAS. The other night, we went downstairs looking for a particular box of books and it crossed my mind that the Good Candles were still down there somewhere. Lo, my people, they were found and cheers of joy were shouted. Pictured are a few: Sleeping Under the Stars by Lollia, Agadir by Tocca, Yuzu by Bluewick, Napa Valley Harvest by Illuminations (now Illume), and Amber Dusk by Lumière Candle Co. (sadly defunct). I could not resist lighting the Yuzu. You probably would not have, either, so that's okay. There's only one link in that series because the rest of the candles aren't made anymore. I should burn them or else I think I qualify as a hoarder.


2. Grammy and Charlie. One of my cousins (both of whom are talented artists) made this, though I can't say for sure which one. There is a series of these composites with my (holy cow gorgeous) Grammy and various famous people from long ago. During the move it got a few water splotches so I've requested the files and hopefully I can print them out. In the meantime, I have that smile to look at and sometimes I can't believe there's still snow on the ground outside when she's around to heat things up. 


3. Three photo albums. (There's actually a fourth, too, but without initials.) My mother kept a vast library of photo albums when I was growing up but until a few years ago, I had genuine photo apathy and did not care about taking any pictures at all. And yet, somehow I wound up with a few hundred printed photos. I want to cull them and keep the best in these albums, and then I want to start printing some of my favorites that I've taken since I went digital. I'm never going to have an entire shelf full of albums--I have a hard drive for this--but getting rid of the hundreds of pics that aren't worth keeping will be a good project. I cannot even tell you how many scone pics there are in my files right now, because it would require math and greek letters, but I know there are more scone pics than there were ACTUAL EATEN SCONES. I know that when the albums are filled and the rest of the extra pictures are tossed, I am going to feel a huge amount of stress lift away.


4. This Pendleton blanket. It's spread out on my guest bed in that pic, but mostly it lives on my bed because it's 100% wool and warm as my Grammy's smoldering eyes. With winter the way it is, I would be lost without it. It was waiting patiently in its box, wrapped up in dry-cleaner plastic, and one of the only good things about remaining catless is that this blanket is not covered in cat hair. It's a limited edition blanket that was made for the school where I taught in New Mexico, and it is seriously gorgeous. Everything on the blanket has a meaning and it is profoundly important to me.

52 lists is a thing I stole without shame from hula seventy. 

paper hugs

I sent a lot of mail during February! Here’s most of it:

Some of the cards I forgot to photograph before I sent them out, and so I’m hoping I can get images from the recipients. In the meantime, well—this is enough! Only one duplicate—the paper I used for Mary Robinette’s letter is the same paper I used to send one to Jennifer of Little Yawps.  Aside from that, the slideshow is a whirl of color, black-and-white photography, and lots of love to strangers and friends alike. And I feel like I made a huge dent in my stationery stash. (PS—I’m still sending a few letters a week, and if you’d like one, just send your address using this form. No worries: It doesn’t obligate you to send one back.)


two views, one weekend

After I shredded my journals Myron asked for the leftover hardcovers. 

“Why?” Every muscle tensed. Myron likes to create gizmos. He inherited this from his dad; both Samsin men are perfectionists and often want things that no manufacturer has already created in just the right way. Sometimes this backfires. 

This time it didn’t. He took a glossy green marbled cover and filled it with a DIY day planner. Pre-printed planner pages are weird; they put things in the wrong spots and nothing is sized to your handwriting and there are flowers and inspirational quotes when you want clean lines and logic. He designed the pages in AutoCAD and put in enough sheets to give the layout a good trial run and change it if some aspect of the design doesn’t work out. And I love that he took something that I’d filled with so much idiocy and turned it into something useful, especially something that he’ll have with him during the day at work. One man’s trash, and all that.

With the wind blowing and the early darkness, Sunday night called out for Scrabble. I set up the board and Myron retrieved the chess clock from its display shelf.

All I know for sure about the clock is that it’s Soviet and that sometimes the clock on my side doesn’t like to work properly. But it smells like old wood and I love to hear its echoing noise while I’m staring at my miserable rack of Q K T W W R X. Scrabble can use a shot of adrenaline, and somehow the clock seems to make all the difference—I’ve won both of the games we played since we started time limits, and last night I defeated the bookbinder by more than a hundred points. (Poor thing, he had all the vowels.)

It was a tiny, close to home weekend. I wrote a gigantic letter and immersed myself in reading about paper and calligraphy. I made bok choy with ginger and chili and forgot about the clothes in the dryer, as you do. (Or maybe you don’t, you housekeeping marvel you.) Finally, finally, I am breathing normally again and barely coughing at all. I feel like this week has possibility in it—I know they all do, really, but this Monday morning, I really feel it. I look at the calendar in that first picture and think yes, let’s fill this one up right.

in bits and pieces

I said back in May that I would be shredding my journals in June. It didn’t happen. It became something that lived on a never-ending to-do list, a task that would take an undue amount of time in exchange for the teeny payoff of a few inches of shelf space. Occasionally I would remind myself of my vow and finesse the order of the to-do list, and I would imagine the photos I’d add to this entry, the hardcore proof. All I needed to do was read through them first, just to prove to myself that there was nothing in there worth saving.

Boy howdy.

I had been poised to find charming sentences, raw pearls, but it’s possible that I put it off because my lizard-brain knew what was in there. In the reading, I made myself more than a little ill. I was not the kind of journaler who wrote regularly about the events of the day—I only turned to the notebooks when I was having a hard time, in the kind of mode where everyone around me made me see red. From the vantage point of many years later, I could see the way that the writing reinforced negativity, obsession, and self-doubt. Oh, and vainglory; that’s always fun. I actually once wrote this sentence in earnest: I have such ennui. I shredded 1993 to 2003, ten years worth of the worst of me. And as I read, I relived every emotion, every mood swing, every insult. By the end, I had a hangover, even though I drank nothing but water during the process.

If you click the image, you can see the covers. Far too pretty to be filled with so much sadness.I wish I had done the shredding without reading the pages. For a few inches of shelf space, I exchanged more than a little blissful oblivion. I wonder what I’ll be able to forget and what might be in my memory for good. I’ve been rumpled up this late winter-early autumn season and this didn’t help, but it’s something I’ll never have to do again… until I decide to take on 2004 and beyond.

#my7links: part 3... and a little more

Last installment of My 7 Links, and thanks again to Jen for nominating me. (Part one here and part two here.)

A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved: Fangirl, which is about my favorite night of last year’s International Festival of Authors in Toronto. This year I went to Toronto to bask in the glory of Vince Clarke and Andy Bell; last year I did it for David Mitchell. (This year Lev Grossman is going to be there, and OH! It is killing me to stay home. Alas, money is finite and stupid.) Anyway, I do not usually get emotional and become fangirlish about famous people, but I was in the presence of very smart people at that festival; Myla Goldberg and Paul Harding were standouts as well. But no one rocked me like David Mitchell. He was fantastic. It only “didn’t get the attention it deserved” because it was written before Reverb when Heather and I were just starting out, but you might just like it.

The post that you are most proud of: Open Spaces and Heat Lightning, which is one of the truest things I’ve ever written. You may have seen this picture in the Link Within widget below current posts. I know I see it often, and I get a twinge every time. The most wonderful thing that came out of this (besides crystallizing a few thoughts that I have about growing up without knowing very much about my father) is that late last year, one of my father’s nieces got in touch with me after finding the blog. She saw that picture and had to write to me, because—and you guys are not going to believe this—she was actually there the day that picture was taken. She’s been able to send me more pictures of my dad, from when he was younger and looked like a kid straight out of Stand by Me. If I hadn’t taken the risk of writing it, she may not have had the impetus to write me. 

I don’t usually take part in viral blog things, but this one appealed for some reason, and I think it’s because of the household purge (which reached full steam this weekend). I’ve been doing a lot of looking back, because looking ahead is a little bit impossible right now. If you don’t wear glasses you might not know this feeling, but there is always a moment when I first open the oven and peer in, and heat fogs up my vision. For just a second, I have to wait until things clear up. And every time I wish that I’d kept my head farther away or that glasses didn’t do that or that I had put in my contacts that morning. And then everything clears and I turn over the butternut squash. Right now, I’m stuck in that fog moment when it comes to everything about my life, and the dissipation rate is out of my control. 

So I control what I can. I purge. 

The odd thing is that I have no interest in current phone books, but these old ones have been company for me on sleepless nights for years. They remind me of my wanderlust and all the different Kims I have been. I told myself at one point that I might set a book in Lock Haven circa 1996, and this phone book might become invaluable. But no, I know what I need to know about Lock Haven. I know the blast of the trains flying through at night, the way they would wake me up the first two weeks that I lived in that jewel-town by the river. I know the ways we walked the levee and the bat that lived in the corridor that took me to my friend’s apartment and I know the third floor of Raub Hall and I know bottles of Blue Moon and Melanie’s perennial Midsummer’s Night Yankee Candle jars and fried pierogies and the drive home from the shoe store in the quiet snow.

None of those things are in the phone book. It can go.