The Junk Whisperer. Part I

I must be nuts, because this is definitely on the list of, “Things I don’t need to do to my self” and yet, without more than a moment’s hesitation, I happily hit the confirm button and my new EBay purchase is on its way to my greedy little hands. After the initial giddiness wears off in the following seconds, I get a minor case of the regrets.

Dear Lord. Why did I just buy that? It was hardly out of my budget at a whopping one cent (plus twelve dollars shipping and handling), but I can’t help but think of the time it will take up in my life once it arrives.

This is a very bad habit that I need to get a better hand on. Somehow, I just can’t listen to the rational voices in my head when it comes to hobbies, especially when they are old, anachronistic and involve unappreciated pieces of history. The bit of my brain that knows better than to linger over stuff like this tends to get shouted down but the other voices in my head screaming, “That’s so cool! You can do this! It’s going to be so much fun!”

And therein lies the root of the problem. I can do it… And it WILL be fun!

All my life, I’ve approached much of my world with the attitude that I fix something if I can just get it apart and set my mind to it. Over the years, it’s given me the opportunity to joyously get way, way, WAY in over my head in all sorts of situations. Oddly, it’s really my ideal definition of a good time.

Most of the doodads we encounter in our lives is not beyond our ability to noodle with if we just try. You have to be ready to be really, really horrible at it first, but if you keep trying, you’ll see that you get a little less horrible each time you return to the task. Most of what we see as someone’s neigh-magical ability to make a cake, do electrical wiring, care for a newborn, build a greenhouse or identify types of trees just comes down to being okay with looking like an idiot until you work it out and get proficient, and most people don’t want to appear to be that fool, so they never try.

Having spent much of my life looking foolish, I don’t tend to shrink away from a little extra dose. I guess that I figure that if you’ve got egg on your face, you might as well just shrug and order another omelet.

The excuse is that someone, “can’t do that” when face to face with something that falls outside their area of expertise, is at heart, a huge copout. It’s not that they can’t, but rather don’t want to try and fail… Which makes sense too, I suppose.

It’s just not how I’m wired. I should know. I’ve rewired much of myself.

BZZZT!

The cool part is, the more that you poke at random tasks and skills, the less intimidating the world becomes. Without hesitation, you’ll start picking up tools to give something a try. You’ll open the cookbook to soufflés and give it a wing. You’ll crack open that electronic gizmo to see what exactly is making that crunching noise when you turn it on. It’s not magic, after all!

The downside to this state of mind is that you simply can’t look at something without wanting to dive in and try it your self. Couple that with a love of all things old and semi-forgotten, and antiques shops turn into your personal crack house. Access to EBay is like having your drug dealer on speed dial.

All that stuff.

All that broken stuff!

All that broken, cheap stuff that, with some care, might just work AGAIN!

Soon, you’ve visualized the sad, broken widget staring up at you with big, mooneyes and you, yes YOU, are its only hope. If you don’t fix it, then it will become trash and rust away to time. How the hell are you going to ever look at your self in the mirror again?

So you buy it, you clean it, research it to the best of your abilities and perhaps buy two or three more of that same item to scavenge for parts. After all, they haven’t made tin radial sprockets in that size or shape since… oh… 1932.

Being a sufferer of this type of thinking, I have leaped head first into far too many such projects and though I often succeed at breathing life back into some heavily patinaed (read: rusted) and misused whatchamacallit, what I don’t have is the time, space and money to pursue many more of these little diversions. I’ve tried to call it quits on this sort of endeavor, but complete success is an illusive thing. I have managed to stem the flow a bit though. That’s why my latest transgression was bugging me so much. Not only was it a failure on my part to stay the hell away from some new/old machine that would need my attention, but it involved a whole new array of potentially cool and fun items that I could oh-so-easily slide into picking up for bargains here and there. Naturally, a whole bunch of bargains tend to equal real money once it’s all added together.

Oh, and I’d need a new place to set it all up.

AND utilities.

Plus a secure cabinet for chemicals.

And some ventilation.

What I had bought was a camera.

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Miffy, To The Rescue

We are a TV-less family. I have to admit that I do rather wear it as a badge at times but to be completely honest, it didn’t start out as a noble experiment to better our lives and save my quickly softening brain.

When Action Girl and I got our first apartment together, we were… shall we say, on a highly restrictive budget. Back in those days, we were both working as substitute teachers for the Vermont School System and to say that the pay was spotty and meager, would be charitable indeed. It was also a little slice of hell, but that’s another story.

Our apartment was simple, a third floor walk up on a winding road, tucked in a valley. Most of Vermont, as a matter of fact, is on a winding road, tucked in a valley. What this meant was that though we did not have enough money to purchase a TV, it hardly mattered. With the best rabbit ears on the planet, all we could possibly hope for was possibly two channels, only watchable if I made a tinfoil hat and hung on to the end of one of the antennas like a deranged stick bug.

Cable? Ha! Not only was that not in the cards, but I’m pretty sure it had been removed from the playing deck before we got the pack out of the cellophane. No. No cable.

So, for the first time in my life, I was TV-less. Let the D.T.’s begin. It didn’t take long actually. As soon as you’re a month or so out from the shows that you follow, you realize that as far as the stories go, there is no way to get back on the crest of that wave and you might as well let it slip along with out you and paddle home.

Then, a discovery was made. Suddenly, I had time. LOTS of time! I really got into reading for fun, again. Hobbies that had been set aside years ago were once again picked up and enjoyed. Once the hallucinations and the shakes had subsided, I really got into doing fun things rather than watching other people do them on the tube.

The other side to this component is that I’m a TV whore. I’ll sit there and watch a 2 hour documentary on felt making, no problem. After an evening with a TV at my dispasal, I tend to look up and wonder what just happened to that six hours that I had. I’ve really come to dislike that feeling. If we go anywhere with a TV playing in the background, I have to sit with my back to it or I won’t hear a word my friends or relatives say. I’m that hopeless.

So, it’s been about fourteen years now with out a TV and I’ve never been happier. Now, there’s YouTube and the like to keep up on the things that are culturally important, but for the most part, I’m pretty disconnected with what’s playing on the black boxes all over the country. Then, we had kids.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still don’t own a TV and I really don’t intend to. My problem is that I also don’t want to cut my kids off from what is really the strongest social bond we have in this country. It’s what kids (and adults) tend to lead off conversations with and so many little TV sayings are sprinkled throughout our everyday chatter, that it doesn’t seem right to make the awkwardness of youth any harder by missing out on such a huge part of the culture. Here again, I call on YouTube.

It’s a wonderful bastion of new and old. On YouTube, we watch a lot of good ole’ “School House Rock”, coming straight out of my childhood memories. Short Stack likes them, especially “Conjunction Junction” but his all time favorite request, is Miffy. He adores Miffy!

For the uninitiated, Miffy is a little white bunny who lives in a small house with Mother Bunny and Father Bunny. She has a red scooter, a proclivity for exclaiming things like “Oh dear!” or “Thank you, Mother.” and plays with various other woodland friends including Poppy and Grunty Pig, Boris Bear and Melody Bunny. I don’t mind him watching this on the computer. Miffy’s been around since 1955, is very easy going, teaches nice, simple lessons such as, ‘butterflies come from caterpillars’ and is pretty slow paced. That and because it’s not on TV, there were no commercials to tempt him and thus, the evils of merchandising were held at bay.

Wrong!

I miscalculated… and I really should have seen this coming. My two year old doesn’t have any money. I have it. The other things I have are access to the internet and the burning desire for my children to have things that make them happy. So, one trip to EBay and bingo, I’m ordering Miffy merch. It started off with a DVD. All the episodes I found on YouTube are pirated, naturally, and thus, being constantly taken down by the powers that be. With the happiness of a two year old at stake, reliability is more than a little important, so, I bought one Miffy DVD. That’s fine. No biggie. It’s not like I’m hooked.

Then, I noticed that Amazon was offering a new Miffy DVD. By now we had watched the other DVD until images from it were burned into my computer’s screen. Short Stack was now capable of quoting long passages and started narrating everything he was doing to an invisible audience. The new DVD wasn’t out yet, but you could pre-order! I didn’t even have to think about it. Out came the plastic. Hey, I can quit any time I want.

Then, one night as Action Girl and I were relaxing in the half hour we get after the kids go to sleep and before we fall apart, I found the motherload. It was the Miffy equivalent of heroin. It was a fifteen inch tall, plush Miffy WITH an accompanying DVD. Needless to say, it was quickly ordered. Ok… We’re hooked.

I was starting to feel a bit ashamed now. After all my high falootin’ talk about no TV and it’s endless barrage of “buy, buy, buy!”, here I was taking up the challenge of finding this stuff on my own and getting it for my kids. What had I become!? AAGH! I’m a consumer of kid’s merch!

Then, a couple of nights ago, as related in my last story, Short Stack had a life changing moment. He learned to be afraid of the dark. It’s the most basic human instinct and an inevitable stage for the vast majority of us. As a parent, it made me feel powerless to help. After all, I can’t stop night from coming.

The day after his first frightening night, a package arrived on our porch. I honestly forgot all about what was inside. It was Miffy. All fifteen inches of happy, white bunny. Short Stack was beside himself with glee. It was the bunny whom he had come to love and quote at length, right here! In his house! In the fur! That night, Miffy went to bed tucked tight in Short Stack’s embrace. The happy little bunny had a place of honor on his pillow and kept the night safe. Nothing could go wrong with Miffy at your side.

So, consumerism isn’t all bad. With the DVD’s. we still get to avoid the annoying ads for various plastic items that your child didn’t even know they needed. We can watch them when ever he wants and more importantly, can pause them to watch later, or over and over and over again.

Now, if I can just cut back on my Miffy habit, I should be all set.

Yah. Right. I’m doomed.

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