Tag Archives: life

Yo-ho, let’s Kondo!

Marie Kondo made a splash a year or so ago when she brought her style of de-cluttering spaces into the mainstream with her book (and website and Instagram and … and….)

Kondo’s services command a waiting list a mile long in Japan, but for the rest of us, her book breaks down her radical, two-pronged approach to tidying. First, put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it. Second, once only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to grab and then put back. Only then, Kondo says, will you have reached the nirvana of housekeeping, and never have to clean again.

from this post about 8 lessons one author learned when she tried the Kondo method

Of course, almost as soon as Kondo’s method went mainstream, so did the critiques: does this woman really expect us to talk to our spaces and objects? And isn’t it the height of privilege to spend a month or a year lovingly handling every item you own, giving it a lovely goodbye, and moving a mass of materials to Goodwill or friends down the line?

Well, sure.

But I think Marie Kondo is on to something I’d like to get behind as well: Modern life dulls our senses. We own SO MUCH CRAP that we can’t even remember what we own.  The drive to earn so that we may buy is a nasty form of idol-worship, often excused when the items we buy are good things in themselves.

For example, I love books. We have hundreds of books. I’ve never counted all the books I’ve read in my life, but it’s probably a thousand or more. Bookstores fill me with glee. Books smell good, feel good, make my brain happy.

But do we need two rooms of our house devoted to them? Increasingly, we’re both starting to answer that question with No. Modern living is wearing all of us down to nubs, shells of empty people with shouty social media friendships lacking meaningful relationships. Piled higher and deeper with stuff but all of it will burn.

Yesterday’s pile of books culled from our shelves, ready for the trip to Mr. K’s Bookstore for trade-in (*fingers crossed*)

Kondo, who is Japanese, raises eyebrows among Westerners in the way she enters a home of one of her clients for a deep cleanse. She seats herself on the floor to meditate, and asks the permission of the home or space to be part of it for her mission to pare down the owner’s objects to the core.

Sounds weird, right? Sounds “Eastern” …. I can still recall the disdain the devout people who raised me threw toward anything mystical or Eastern or “New Age.” (Anybody else remember how Christians were terrified of the New Age in the 1980s? Is the New Age here yet? lol)

Seems to me that there’s wisdom in Kondo’s respect for a space and its arrangement. Like we Westerners would consume less if we were more aware of what’s already here.  I don’t think Lewis or Tolkien or James KA Smith would rail against Marie Kondo’s recognition that spaces themselves can have meaning beyond their physical structures. Is there a “spirit” in my house I need to placate? Nah. But that doesn’t mean my home isn’t more than the sum of the nails and boards that hold it together.

In the Kondo method, you go through your belongings by category (clothes or shoes or kitchen dishes or books) and handle each one. Your goal is to determine whether that object still brings you joy. If no, then give it away or get rid of it. If you’re not sure, then consider whether the item has outlived its usefulness to you. Thank the item for serving you well, and let it go.

Let it go.

What’s left will be more precious, more valuable because it’s not drowning in the flotsam of our consumer culture, with our “planned obsolescence” and throwaway junk. I’ve walked ruins built by Romans two millennia ago, or the Etruscans centuries before them. They laughed in the face of obsolescence.  We’re still paying good money to walk through the foundations of their houses.


I’ve decided to embark on a lot of Kondo-ing in 2018 –for more than just my possessions, though I hope to pare down what we own significantly by the end of the year.  But I’ve realized that I can Kondo a lot of things: my ambitions, my to-do list, my time spent on Facebook, my relationships that I spend emotional energy trying to maintain but that no longer bring me joy.

I don’t think I’m in danger of turning into an ascetic monk living in a cell, but my 40s have become a decade of heightened clarity and awareness of a deep drive for meaning across the entire spectrum of my life.

There are some friendships I’ve realized have run their course. Like Marie Kondo’s method of thanking and releasing a beloved souvenir that needs to go, I’m taking time to think through the people in the more distant edges of my life. I tend to feel guilty about not keeping up with so many folks who have fallen out of my regular orbit because our lives no longer cross paths. And I’m realizing it’s ok to examine those relationships, thank them for making my life richer at the time, and let those people go. (For clarity, let me note that I’m not calling people up and saying, “Bye, Felicia!” None of these folks have interacted with me in years, and if they were to pop back into my life, I’d be happy to reinvest.)

We don’t realize the weight of all of this clutter… until it’s gone.  A messy desk IS a sign of genius and a place for creativity, but there’s a difference between productivity and living an undisciplined life.

I realize it’s going to take more than a year’s resolution toward dejunking the corners and weeding my Facebook friends list to provide me the clarity I’m searching for. But I can tell the journey itself IS the blessing.  Forcing myself to confront the way I seek to use objects for fulfillment makes me recognize what really does bring me deep satisfaction.

It’s time to let go:  of dreams deferred but no longer as tempting; of reference books we bought in a former life when we thought we would be in full-time ministry; of people who are good folks but there’s only so much emotional energy in my life.  I want to make room to enjoy the the friendships and books and art and games and food and spaces that remain.

Needing is one thing, and getting — getting’s another.

PS. We’re selling some great theological books on eBay, if you’re into that kind of thing.   I’ve cleared out most of the minor and major prophets; working my way backwards from Psalms to Genesis right now, and I’ll start posting New Testament commentaries in a week or two.  We’re hopeful our lovingly curated collection will go forth to help many others who need it more than we do.

Sunsets, artistry, life…. nothing really to see here.

Man, it’s been awhile. Sorry ’bout that.

Then again, it’s summer. And what is summer but for relaxing, going to the beach, reading books, and seeing horrible news stories about racism and death. Oh wait….

It’s been a rough month with the Mother Emanuel murders, the ongoing burning and vandalism of black churches in South Carolina, the death of Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga, the mysterious murder of Sandra Bland. So many people writing and thinking and talking and processing. Not even gonna try to add to that pile. :-/

So let’s see. What else have I got?

Well, there’s this cool hairdo, for one thing:

sunset hair

Yeah, that’s me sporting some sweet locks in a fiery sunset of color. Totally happy right now, enjoying the raised eyebrows from people who are like “Wha–?” when I pass them in the hallway.

OK, OK, you twisted my arm, here’s another pic….

Instagram shot by my lovely stylist Kristina. She rocked.
Instagram shot by my lovely stylist Kristina. She rocked. I, on the other hand, probably could have worn a less distracting shirt.  I need to stick with solid colors for a while!

Kristina was assigned to be my stylist by the receptionist who took my call last week. I explained that I wanted color, and she correctly booked me with Kristina. And when I walked through the door with my normal brown locks, I think K was initially a bit disappointed….. until I whipped out a couple iPhone photos that I’d saved for reference.

“I’d like something like this,” I said, pointing to an Instagram photo of a girl with longer hair tumbling down in cascades of sunset gold and orange. “Do you think I can pull this off without just looking stupid?”

YES. The response was instant.  “You are one of my people!” she told me later. The people who aren’t afraid to do something just plain nuts (if we’re being honest).

Coolest thing about the whole thing:  Usually people who cut/style hair just do what you ask (in my experience, since I rarely splurge on a true salon haircut). I’ve walked away with plenty of decent cuts and highlights, but it’s not like either of us are bouncing with enthusiasm. Not so with Kristina and color.  Oh, no. This girl LOVES color. She lives in it. Plays with it. Studies it.

And she immediately understood the artistry necessary to turn a head of hair into a sunset. She hand-blended the colors together, forming those yummy pinks and reds near the top. She created.  And it was so much fun to just let her go at it, doing her thing and making it awesome.

That’s something I’ve grown to value in the past 5 years of my life: it’s a worthy pursuit to find artisans who love their craft and invest in giving them the chances to ply their craft in my space.  It yields beautiful artistry, a lot of joy, delightful serendipity, some risk, and a tiny sense of adventure to my otherwise non-remarkable life.

And every masterpiece acquired comes with it’s own background story. Totally worth it.

Do it.  Find the locals who love what they do (and do it well), and scrape together the dollars to let them work. It benefits you both.


Things around here will be quiet for another couple weeks. I want to soak up as many rays of summer as I can before the crush of the returning school year cramps my style. That, and I’m behind on reading the nominees for the Hugo Award, so I’m going to be spending a lot of time on the couch with my iPad reading in the next 10 days.

If you don’t see me before August, keep shining! I’ll be back. I can’t hold in my opinions too long. 😉


Music Mondays: hxc blue

I dunno what the rest of y’all will think of this post. Here we go…..

I don’t know why it feels juvenile to admit that sometimes I just want music to be melancholy.  Songs that would emit shades of grey rather than shimmering color; songs that taste sour with a bitter tang.  I’m not often in a “bad mood,” though I move through seasons of irritability and dissatisfaction.

But surely we all have those days when nothing quite fits, when the wrongness of the world rubs up against the brokenness inside my heart, and I’m drawn toward introspection and a dark acknowledgement that we live as broken people in a broken world.

A lot of people mock hardcore and emo music for being immature, overly dramatic, and too dark. Those criticisms are warranted. But when I am looking for a playlist for a less than perfect day, I end up here, with a mix of music from several genres but mostly hardcore.

So here. If your day is crappy, and you need to commiserate instead of pretending to be happy, here are songs to make you un-merry:

“Sowing Season,” Brand New
This is my go-to song for when I feel like nothing I’m doing is making a difference. Yeah, anyone who works with people knows what that feels like.  Sometimes this mood drives me to write poetry, but it’s easier just to pop in this album, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, and let my thoughts follow their words.

Is it in you now,
To watch the things you gave your life to broken?
And stoop and build them up with worn out tools. (lyrics)

(if you’d prefer to watch a great LineRider video while listening, here ya go)

“How to save a life,” The Fray
I don’t consider The Fray to be hxc or emo at all, but this song fits this list, at least for me. I don’t know how to save a life, but I’m wired to “care”: a paradox which often leaves me melancholic and disappointed that I can pour love into someone else but it doesn’t mean they’re going to care or get better.  “Where did I go wrong / I lost a friend / Somewhere along in the bitterness / And I would have stayed up with you all night / Had I known how to save a life.” (Wiki)

And as a close runner up, I really appreciate their song “You Found Me,” which is a pretty honest look at the problem of evil as we encounter it in our daily lives. (Wiki)

anything by From Autumn to Ashes
I mean, the band’s entire catalogue is downright depressing. Some great guitar work. Check out The Fiction We Live or Too Bad You’re Beautiful for several greatly depressing songs.
Also, the guitar opening on “Sugar Wolf” remains one of my all-time favs. Oh, and their drummer sings while he plays as a second vocalist. WHAT?!

“The Leaving Song,” AFI
One of the first “emo” bands I ever encountered, AFI is a granddaddy in the genre. This entire album (Sing the Sorrow) remains in my top playlist. I often listen to it en toto when doing design work, because the tunes are familiar and therefore comforting, despite the fact that the lead vocalists is kind of whiny (if we’re being honest) and this is a slightly embarrassing music selection to admit to my adult reading audience. lol

“In the End,” Linkin Park
I sometimes find their songs like this one or “Breaking the Habit” to help me let off steam when I don’t want “chill” music. Old Linkin Park is da bomb for exploring a crappy day in a crappy week in a crappy month. “In the end / It doesn’t even matter.” Yeah, some days are like that.

“War all the time,” Thursday
War sucks, whether it’s the real thing or a metaphor for the battles we face. This world is a messed up place, and this song captures that (for me). And Thursday is a good example of hardcore without much screaming.  Musically, I like the drum + bass lines in this song, and the simple but effective guitar work. And it’s a good example of musical responses to 9/11 that aren’t country music.

“9 Crimes,” Damien Rice
And now for a genre entirely different….I mostly just like the song itself, apart from the lyrics…. But for our purposes here, it’s not cheery and the slow quiet melody seems to sap energy rather than giving it.  Love lost makes for good melancholy. And disembodied heads are weird, so this video pushes all the right buttons…. lol

“Hurt,” Johnny Cash
I think Cash’s cover of Trent Reznor’s song (written originally for a Nine Inch Nails album) is stunning. When I first saw it as a music video, I literally stopped and stared at the screen. The piano pounds its way through my soul in the second and final choruses, while my emotions feel the weight of the lines: “I hurt myself today to see if I still feel.”  “You can have it all, my empire of dirt. I will let you down, I will make you hurt.” I see it as an honest statement of failure more than of intent, but I think we twisted humans swirl them both together as we batter our way through relationships.

This video got a lot more attention since it was released not long after Cash lost his wife, and I’ve always associated the imagery of the video with the deep sadness he must have felt. “Everyone I know goes away in the end.” He died a few months after this was filmed.


Most of us aren’t too open about our melancholy days. I’d love to hear about where you turn for musical commiseration.  Comment with song recommendations if you’d like. 🙂

“Productivity” and I have a love-hate relationship

It’s 2015 (as all the posts and blogs are reminding us, not to mention my cell phone and the TV).  Woo-ha!  And January always brings a flood of media about organization, planning, productivity, resolution, and change.

Cool, I guess.

I’m all about being “productive,” for the most part.  I’ve got a lazy streak like anyone else, and nearly anything will win out over house cleaning, when I’m given the option.  That said, I get a ton of stuff done in any given day/week/year.  My “day job” absorbs about 50-55 hours a week, once you’ve thrown in the commute; I cook good meals and do laundry and yes I actually do clean house; I hold down side jobs in freelance design and scoring essays.  Life is busy.

But when something like this comes along and tells me that the perfect productive day would be a micromanaged death march from before dawn until late at night, accompanied by hours of meetings and yoga and eating nothing but greens for lunch, I rebel.

(click to play)
Your Most Productive Day

^ That looks like hell, honestly.

As a society, we are driven to consume, to possess, to own, to earn.  To buy (for buying is everything in a capitalist economy), we must earn.  To earn we must work. And in this world we have build, working to earn enough to live “the life” takes the bulk of our time.

Understand, I don’t have a problem with Work.  The Preacher in Ecclesiastes notes that work is one of God’s good gifts to fill our hands.  Nothing is more exhausting than doing nothing.  I crave accomplishment and investment of time and energy to produce something valuable and meaningful.

What I’m aiming at is this notion of all-in, obsessive cultivation of career-as-life. The perpetuation of the machine of consumption.

It’s good to love what you do enough to spend a lot of time doing it. Great. As a former teacher, I understand.  Teaching is the job that never ever lets you go.

But when did “success” turn into a machine that grinds us down into little cogs in a big day? Micromanaged by our calendars, the clock, our smartphones, we “can’t” stop to talk, to walk, to play hooky on a beautiful warm day, to just read a story or sit and watch clouds. The schedule or goal or deadline shoves us forward forward forward forward.

I have a brother who lives simply on a very small income.  He “works” only  enough to pay for what he needs, and grows or makes the rest. And he’s a lot happier than most people I know.

Stop being so damn productive in 2015.
Go do something….

Delightful Discoveries of 2014

My listicle-gift to you, O Reader, for the new year: Things we loved in 2014, in case you missed them.  (Photo credit, above: This shot of the Denver skyline taken by my friend Mark while we were out there visiting.)

  • Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate.  Oh yes.  Mix it into coffee, or stay on the straight and narrow with for hot chocolate
  • The life-altering bourbon mocha by Methodical Coffee, soon to be opening a shop in Downtown Greenville, prepared by the delightful Vagabond Barista. Seriously tho….
  • This recipe for carnitas and this recipe for carbonades flemandes, aka Belgian stew. I’ve been on a mission to recreate that incredible dish from The Trappe Door in Greenville, SC.  Meanwhile, the carnitas have become a monthly staple in our household. Just can’t beat them.
  • Cooperative board games.  Sure, sure, we all have a competitive side, but there’s something so satisfying about collaborating with a small group of friends to beat a game that keeps kicking your butts.  There’s all the strategy and emotion and tense moments without the anger and flipping over of tables…..oh, games don’t go like that in your house? lol — Ghost Stories pits 3 or 4 players against a wickedly difficult series of evil Chinese spirits. You and your ninja buddies battle back the demons for what seems like forever, and when you’re the most bloodied and beaten down, Wu Fang emerges from the deck to kick your ass unless you’re really holding it together. And getting some lucky rolls of the dice. Stunningly beautiful and captivating game. — Pandemic can play up to 5 people as bio-researchers and disease specialists who must stop worldwide outbreaks from 4 or 5 different diseases before time runs out or the diseases massacre humanity.  Each player brings a special ability to the game vital to the success of the group.
  • The joy of an asymmetrical game, where each player pursues a totally different objective.  I’m loving Android Netrunner and Archipelago as two very different examples of this kind of game.
  • Can’t ignore video games – our household plays a LOT of them. 🙂 Gems we discovered in 2014:
    • Risk of Rain:  Want to get smashed again and again, along with your friends, in a brutal co-op that’s somehow fascinating and adorable? this is the game for you.  It’s fantastic. You’ll yell phrases you would have never expected to come out of your mouth, like “I want to destroy that demon jellyfish and send it back to the hell from whence it came!”  (Steam)
    • Transistor:  Gorgeous art style, interesting story, amazing soundtrack (Steam, PSN)

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The Hudson

A post shared by RameyLady (@lorojoro) on

A photo posted by RameyLady (@lorojoro) on Jul 7, 2014 at 8:40pm PDT

  • Shoutout to Flagstaff, Arizona, for being beautiful and to Poughkeepsie, NY  (photo above) for being a whole lot cooler than I expected.
  • Shoutout as well to AirBnB for consistently providing us with good places to stay, and to Southwest for hauling us around the country with minimal kerfuffle.
  • Happy discovery of 2014:  Belgian beer is great, actually.  I’ve struggled to find beer that I could honestly say I enjoyed. Then I met Belgian beers (Thanks, John!) and all that is behind me.
    Oh, and in the non-Belgian category, Allegash Cerieux is the best thing I drank all year, hands down.)
  • Authors I enjoyed:  Thomas Pynchon; Paolo Bacigalupi; Octavia Butler; David Drake; Anne Lecke
  • Musical discoveries: Snarky Puppy (so good!) …. Hiatus Kaiote ….. Thomas Giles …. The Bad Plus
  • And, this isn’t a “discovery” for 2014, but I enjoyed a great year of productive work alongside a very fine and fun team of people at my office. How fun are we, you ask?  Fun enough to turn our office and outer corridor into a Whovian paradise for student appreciation day! Here, I’ll prove it:
You can't handle this much coolness. Admit it.
You can’t handle this much coolness. Admit it. You wish you worked here too….

And with that, friends, I depart – leaving you warm wishes for a great 2015. 

The present hysteria (Quotable)

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it.

It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.

…and sometimes you just run across an article that beats you over the head with truth…

A few choice morsels….go read the whole thing. It’s short, but man, it packs a wallop.