Posts Tagged ‘simplification’

It’s taken a year. Or as close as makes no difference.

Last year, I initiated a purge. As part of making the (involuntary) transition from office-jockey to a full-time work-from-home employee, I pulled my office apart, replacing the major furniture and culling the—there’s no other word for it—junk that had accreted over the years. Books, letters, electronics, avocational equipment, mementos, I put absolutely everything on the block, and a lot of it went out the door.

Out the office door, that is.

It didn’t quite make it out the front door.

Just to the garage. (more…)

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Kurt R.A. GiambastianiWe just passed the six-week mark since the Amazing Free Book Giveaway Weekend, and it’s time to start evaluating the entire process for success or failure. I’ll crunch the numbers later, but right now I want to discuss one of the “softer” aspects of the AFBGW.

As part of the AFBGW, I went out to LinkedIn and joined a few writers’ groups.

I joined these groups because it’s a quick way to reach a lot of people at one time. Writers are (presumably) readers as well, and some of these groups have membership up in the five-digits. With one post, I could (presumably) reach thousands and those posts could (presumably) drive traffic to my blog, my AFBGW promotion, and my books. In addition, the groups can (presumably) provide a venue in which to discuss Things Writerly, and I looked forward to entering discussions on style, debates on the value of writing disciplines, and reading posts on marketing strategies.

What I found was very different. (more…)

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Simple LivingIt’s time to make some pasta!

Why? Because if I don’t, I have to throw out my pasta maker. Them’s the rules. Yes, that’s right. I run my kitchen by Alton Brown’s “Use it or Lose it” system.

Foodies accrete clutter–That shiny new thingumbob at Sur La Table, that “People who bought that also bought this” add-on from Amazon, those stupid whatsit prezzies from well-meaning relatives. They all build up. (Some say they even multiply in the late hours of the evening, while the dishwasher is running.)

Alton’s “Use it or Lose it” system is a great way to de-clutter your kitchen and simplify your life. I strongly recommend it, if for no other reason than it provides a guilt-free excuse to get rid of all that junk. Here’s how it works.


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I rise early; dawn is just a hint behind the eastern hills. I slipper down to the kitchen for coffee, then, hot brew in hand, slipper back to the office. I snap on the worklamp, turn on the computer, then sit and sip while I wait for the heat to come up from the furnace,

Outside, dark grey clouds hang in an oyster blue sky. The rain has eased and all is quiet until, just there, from the south, down the street, I hear the call. It’s a faint “Honh!” Iike a French adolescent clearing his throat, first one, then another. I rise and step to the window. I pull aside the curtain and peer upward. “Honh, honh” gets closer, is repeated. Different voices echo the first, and craning my neck, I see them, a vee of dark wings just above the treetops. Black necks, white cheeks, beaks pointing north, they “honh” to one another. Passing instructions? Keeping tabs? Giving encouragement? They fly over my house, and I can see their fingertip feathers against the paling sky. Now past, continuing onward, their calls fade with distance as they travel, as they head north to their nesting grounds.

Every year, I hear them–south-bound in winter, north-bound in spring–and every time I smile. I live right along their route, right along the necklace of lakes and ponds that guide them: Green Lake, Bitter Lake, Twin Ponds, Ronald Bog, Echo Lake, and beyond.

They’re a bit early this year. A mild spring, then, and an early summer ahead.


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Simple LivingTo those of you who left comments and sent me notes of condolence, my thanks. They were very much appreciated in a particularly difficult time.

Upon news of my mother’s passing, my wife and I immediately left for the Bay Area. My father did not think there was much we could do to help, but I felt a strong urge to be with him and the others of our family who could make it through the weather. To grieve alone, to mourn without the consolation (and, to be frank, the distraction) of others, is a risky thing. Contrary to the old adage, Misery actually hates Company; Misery abates with each retelling of the tale, but when we are alone, Misery multiplies.

There were hopeful moments–the day-long communal effort that went into the making of our family’s traditional Xmas Eve Cioppino is a story unto itself–and there were moments of anguished heartache about which I will never tell a soul. I watched my father vacillate between anger, despair, resignation, and gratitude. Each phone call became a chore as he heard the warm words of kindness and had his own sadness renewed, his grief relived.

My father lost his first wife, my mother, almost fifty years ago after thirteen years of marriage. Now, he has lost a second wife, after forty-seven years together. The one recalls the other, and all our mourning is compounded. (more…)

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Simple LivingThese days, with so much on my mind, my natural inclination is to retreat, pull the blanket over my head, and hide. I want to shut out the world, shut off my brain, and think of nothing nothing nothing.

And some days I do just that. Returning from my mother’s bedside, I binged on the DVR’s  stacked up episodes of “Storage Wars” (both versions) and immersed myself in the mindless violence of “Borderlands 2” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops II”. Through the judicious application of Islay whisky and long bouts on the elliptical and treadmill, I’ve kept my body tired enough to sleep through the night (as long as I have to get up at 5am, that is). I’ve read nothing but posts on Facebook and emails.

In short, nothing of substance has entered my brain. I haven’t had a decent thought in days.

Enough of that.

Simplicity doesn’t come on its own. There isn’t a back-alley entrance to serenity. Peace comes from acceptance and understanding.

I must think, to accept. I must think, to understand.


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They don’t have a cool collective noun like “a murmuration of starlings,” but they were enthralling nonetheless.

Yesterday, I stood on the beach while a wing of plovers gyred and swooped around me. I stood transfixed, my feet freezing in the cold water, watching them, hearing the whispers of a thousand wings surround me. They flew as one creature, sides flashing like a school of fish in clear water, black wings, white bellies, gyring and twisting as one, creating shapes in the air above the sandy waves.

They rose in a mass, split into two amorphous shapes, each one moving around the other, until they merged like droplets of quicksilver. They spindled into a long roll and swept across the sand before piling up again into a heap, a mound, a pillar fifty feet tall.

As the wing spun and eddied, individuals would fly off from the body, peeping as they shot outward, slate-winged rockets ejected from a massive, living firework.

And then they settled, falling like heavy leaves back down to the sand, the rustle of wings replaced by a piping chorus that drowned out the roar of the surf. The wing of plovers in the air, now a congregation on the shoreline, dipping each black beak into the sand, searching for food, skedaddling back and forth in time with the waves until the ocean sent another big roller to make them take wing once more.

I stood there for the better part of an hour, rapt, giddy, grateful.


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