Minimizing Books?

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15940520_10155669691989554_7515230624747204347_nA common theme in minimalism is that people cannot give up their books. In this photo, 95% of these books are my most favorite and beloved books. I gave them all away. 

Once upon a time, books filled every wall from floor to ceiling in my bedroom. I consolidated that into 3 large bookcases when I moved into my very first home on my own. Then, I bought a house with my partner and to prepare for the move I minimized it into one regular-size bookshelf. This is a collection containing most of the books that made the cut, several times over, and that I willingly lugged around for over 10 years. Some of them aren’t mine but my partner’s or some of them I found in the attic of the house I bought (the reader’s digest, of course) and shelved for some reason.

They are all gone. I’m sitting here, looking at this photo, feeling nervous. Why? Who knows. These are books I’ve always recommended and loaned out — but I have not reread them once in the 10+ years of ownership. Seeing them on my shelves felt like greeting old friends. I guess, in a sense, I’m wondering if they are happy in their new homes.

I remind myself I had the privilege to watch the joy on the faces of those who came by to go through my collection and left with books in their arms. What better can I do, than to give away my most favorite books, so that others can enjoy them for the very first time — like I did when I opened that first page?



Becoming Minimalist

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Context – I joined some group on Facebook called “The Minimalist Life” and shared this as a post there. It’s been fleshed out a bit here.

I’ve been lowkey reading up on minimalism for the past few years, some blogs here and there, tiny houses, less carbon footprint, less waste, you know how that goes.

I think the main thing we need to remember when we BEGIN, is that we can’t do it unless we’re truly ready. So for most of my life, I’ve been hoarding STUFF (yes just stuff) and moving it around and attempting to find the perfect organizational hack. I wasn’t ready to let go of things, to be content with having less, and I was saddled with guilt and burden of my mom’s entire material possessions. My mom died when I was 20, still in college, and my sense of home died with her.

It felt like by holding onto these things, I was keeping a semblance of her close. What’s ironic is that she specifically told me that if something happened to her, it was OK to just trash her things. I didn’t have to feel responsible for keeping them. She went through the same thing with hoarding her parents’ possessions (also died unexpectedly) and felt if she had permission from her parents, she could have let their things go.

Regardless, boxes and furniture from her house followed me around and they have haunted me ever since. To cope and fill any emotional void I had, I dived into collections: shoes, purses, makeup, you name it.

So my things were: extremely sentimental but of no value or use; poor quality items that I felt I had to “use up first” because I spent money on it; and things I got because I felt like I needed them to “complete” something in my house.

So the cherry on top of my journey began in Dec or Jan of 2015/2016 when I decided to pick up Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I really appreciated her perspective on the purpose of gifts and how to let go of sentimental items. I ruminated on that for almost another year and in the past month I’ve let go of about 2 SUV-fuls of stuff. It is insane how much emotional burden your physical stuff really can cause.

Over time it’s been a gradual process of letting go of furniture pieces to upgrade or just to eliminate. I went down from 3 bookshelves to 1 — only my most favorite books are shelved. These days I buy or download on my kindle. I had not been able to purge aggressively until very recently in the past month because I had a series of realizations (not really epiphanies):

A) I deserve to wear and use my good makeup or nail polish or items. Why am I forcing myself to use things I don’t like or that don’t wear well on me?
B) I have permission.
C) Things deserve to be used and valued. If they are not being used, they are not being valued. Does the sight of it bring me stress? The answer was 97% yes.
D) I can’t control the past or the future.

So here’s an anecdote. I had a punch bowl with matching cups. That punch bowl was a wedding gift for my mom and it spent its life in the back of her cupboard in original packaging. She died, I inherited it and moved it around with me these past 6 years. Still in original packaging. In the summer, I went to a really fun murder mystery dinner and FINALLY used it. Today, my partner and I were combing through our china cabinet and buffet, looking for things to eliminate. He pulls this punch bowl out. My knee jerk reaction was to say “I’m keeping that!”

Why? It followed my mom around and haunted her. I have a better drink dispenser that I enjoy and have used more in its short life. The punch bowl is gone.

I’ve found myself often having an impulse to keep something. I take a deep breath, put it aside, and 10 minutes later I’m ready to say goodbye. It’s just stuff.

Do not weep

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Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling fligh
I am the soft starlight at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Mary Elizabeth Frye

Reflections on Prior Experiences With Grammar

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I will be the first to admit: I don’t really know grammar. I’ve always considered myself an intuitive user of English– the rules and appropriate do’s and don’ts embedded somewhere inside me.  I have my mother to thank for my good grasp of English—she instilled a need to read voraciously when I was a very small child. I had an ambition to read Charlotte’s Web when I was five, and she worked with me to read that book. In two years I was reading R.L. Stine religiously all by myself. I would check out a 20 plus stack of books and return them all before their due dates in my childhood summers. So this let me acquire language completely naturally. I learned how to use words based on a very strong skill of using context clues—I rarely had to look anything up (and often didn’t.)

I think this fault I have with grammar rules may come from either being inattentive during my elementary years when the basic rules were taught, or it came from poor teaching. I have a vague recollection of a classroom with bright colorful signs marked “Verbs” or “Adjectives” and examples of words dangling from them on colorful index cards. That time, it was second grade and I was mainstreamed in a hearing environment. I really do not remember much “teaching” coming from there. I recall that I doodled constantly and I have no idea what my interpreters did to gain my attention.

Then came middle school, I remember turning in an essay and when it was returned to me, the paper was pockmarked with red corrections. I accepted all of them, except for one that confused me. I requested the teacher to tell me why this particular expression was incorrect, and I was fiercely reprimanded. “Just change it! It’s wrong!” But why? I still don’t really know. That teacher and I never quite got along anyway, and it appears she still teaches at the same classroom to this day. It kind of dawned on me a few years into high school, that maybe she had been an intuitive user also, and did not really know her rules either.

In high school, I can recall easily a lot of grammar exercises. Every week, Ms. Chase presented us with a new rule. We learned about prepositions, pronouns, and gerunds. She would explain them to the class with a snazzy PowerPoint presentation, and afterwards we filled out a worksheet. At the end of the week, there would be a quiz. I remembered only enough to pass the quiz and then I moved on. What’s a gerund? I can’t tell you.
Being in a deaf school and possessing proper grammar meant I got graded easier, teachers were thankful they did not have to wrestle with awkward sentences and confusing word choices when they read my papers. It also hailed me a certain status of entitlement among my peers—they trusted I knew what I was talking about, and I was asked often to peer review. Oh peer review—how I hated it! I never got adequate reviews on my papers, and my papers often benefited very little from this annoying activity—even to this day in Gallaudet. I was always the popular choice for doing peer reviews to others, but my pickings for reviews were slim.

Then came my job at T.I.P, where students questioned me for my corrections! It was often the international students, who had come here and had been armed with a set of grammar rules to strictly follow. They weren’t students who had used English all their lives and were comfortable receiving corrections without argument. I felt guilty for not being able to answer their questions, and forced myself to be comfortable answering with “I have not really thought about that, but let me look it up for you and explain it to you.” Through this job I’ve been able to “re-learn” my grammar rules, but it seems that despite how often I try to review, I constantly forget the “names” for these rules and find myself stranded without an ability to explain and categorize these sentences.


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Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann


My mom had this on a plaque– I realize now that this was always in a place that she was often at; our apartment it was in the living room/kitchen then in our last home it was in her master bathroom. I remember as a child, I decided this was extremely important and that I must read and understand it. I was probably seven. Naturally I got bored at “placidly” because it was a hard word and too big for me. I quickly abandoned the idea and back up the wall the plaque went.  But the word “Desiderata” always fascinated me. Only today did I look it up– it’s Latin for “to desire”. I wish I asked her what it meant to her, and why she kept it close but that’s another addition to my list of too-late wishes.

I have often, as my brothers, seen a side of her that nobody has. But now that she’s gone, I don’t wish to dwell on the bad. I remind myself of her positive strengths, and my eulogy spoke of only the positive. At the memorial so many people went up to me and told me stories about her and I realized how little I really knew about her. But I can see that the principles of Desiderata was what she truly embodied when she met these people. That’s all these people saw in her. I’m glad for that, I guess. I’m glad nobody had a negative memory of her.

I was often at the receiving end of her criticisms and opinions of other people, but that was because she trusted me. Everyone at the memorial did not know this about her, because to them she never said a bad word– why would she, anyway? That’s not really who she is.

This has been a sad year for me already, my dog that I’ve had for 17 years was put down (we all saw it coming but I always saw her as something of a last link to Mom) and my other dog hurt his knee. I won’t see him until May. And finally, today, the true meaning of Desiderata has appeared to me. I understand it now, I think. Maybe I will be able to be at more of a peace with this. It hurts, but maybe it’ll help me be more accepting of the circumstances that she left under. Her birthday is approaching, she’d have been 58. I’m not sure what I’m gonna do on that day, but I’ll do something if I can.



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This is my mom, circa 1960. Her first driving license. This is the woman that worked 2, a little into 3, jobs so I could be Miss Deaf Teen America and whatever the hell I wanted to be. This is the person I miss the most.


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Notice the trends going around on Facebook? The events we’ve had on Gallaudet?

“Change your profile picture to a cartoon to support stopping child abuse!”

 “Wear purple on this certain day to support anti-bullying!”

There are also different methods to post your support or anti-support of a certain topic. Putting in an amount of inches and accompanying it with a 😦 to “raise breast cancer awareness” on your status. Nevermind the fact that quite a bit of people got SO confused over it. Kind of an oxymoron there, isn’t it? Don’t tell people what the game is, and expect to raise awareness. Hm. Okay. That’s some smart marketing, there.

There’s a new term being coined that’s currently running all around the Internet: Slacktivism. Obviously, this word is a mixture of two words:  slacker and activism. Slacktivism is an enigma that lets people hide under the illusion that if they do any of the following: re-tweeting this, or posting a certain type of a profile picture, signing an internet petition, or don a specifically colored shirt, write something on their arms, they are “doing something” by effectively doing nothing.
They’re too lazy to get off their butts to attend events, fundraisers, or places where they could actually contribute something with their resources. They would just rather hide under a comfortable “activist” bubble of illusion (also known as the space behind your laptop with multiple windows of social networking sites open.)

Go ahead and argue, say that all this is spreading awareness, bringing us together, whatever. A person I know kind of sums up the whole cartoon-profile-picture ridiculousness, currently on Facebook right now, well. “I was going to punch a 6 year old this morning, but when I got on Facebook and saw all the cartoon profile pictures, I decided not to.”

Some people argue that we can successfully raise awareness by rallying together the slacktivists—tell them to wear something, tell them to re-tweet this, post a status update about that. They’re too lazy to come to rallies or fundraisers, so might as well utilize them to be public relations. They’re already on all sorts of social networking sites, and the “real” activists don’t have time to spread awareness. Problem solved! I don’t like it. It lets them continue the destructive cycle of apathy.

Participating in slacktivism is a way to allay guilt for being too lazy to actually do anything. The problem I have with this kind of “activism” is just this: it creates illusions. I don’t like illusions. Do you? Get out of your bubble there. It also allows really evil people to continue hiding.

A person may have just beat up a gay person, but pressured by others to wear purple, he wears purple on October 20th and effectively erases his action. Now people think he’s an ally. I saw a status that really ground my nerves that day—“I don’t have any purple shirt to wear, so I borrowed a girl’s but it’s too small. Gay ain’t it?” He is wearing the right color on the right day, but with the completely wrong attitude. Someone might have hit their kid for crying too much but hey, erase the memory by putting up a profile picture of Sleeping Beauty!

Slacktivism. Next time you’re tempted to post a profile picture or a status update, think about the effect it really is going to have (I’ll tell you now—none.) Don’t just wear purple to support anti-bullying. Stand up for the kid you know is being bullied. Suspect someone of being suicidal? Instead of writing something on your arms, smile at them—be the one to extend contact. That spreads a much stronger message.

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