Great 365 Day Purge - Day One


January 1, 2014

Well, my eldest sister has organized what she calls "The Great 365 Day Purge of 2014." This sister...both of my sisters, in fact...are incredibly organized, with beautifully-decorated homes, always pristine. I suspect this sister of mine alphabetizes her daily to-do list and our middle sister rises at five AM for her Pilates class before heading off to the business she owns with her husband.

I do not share this penchant for organization with my siblings. On good days, I make my bed and brush my teeth (hair is optional). But the rules of participation are simple enough for even the queen of chaos to agree to: You must commit to ridding yourself of one thing a day, every day, for a year.

Of course, I signed on immediately. I like these sorts of things, these attempts at self-improvement. Turning over a new tree, as my brother likes to say (His to-do lists are computerized). Just thinking about this project makes me feel lighter. Freer somehow. Perhaps a smidgen organized.

Apparently pets are ineligible for giveaway, which is unfortunate because between five pets; the litter; two scoopers (blue and white); the forty-pound bags of cat food which we use to feed not only our own felines, one of whom adopted us three months ago, but also five neighborhood friends who stop by for a daily snack...between the leashes and the collars; the dog licenses and the rolls of blue scented poop bags that invariably fall out of my coat pocket and unfurl all the way down the street while the dog is yanking off my right arm trying to get to a squirrel...between the flea and tick medicine and Blind Cat's laxative and tummy pills (don't ask)...between the food and the water bowls and the upside-down lid my son uses to give Grey Cat Half & Half every morning before school...between the dog beds and the cages and the vet and boarding bills...Between all of that, I'd easily get through January.

And getting rid of the dog hair in my house would take me through March.


But, alas, it would get rather quiet 'round here if we were suddenly to divest ourselves of three cats, an elderly dog and an ingrate of a puppy, who sits on the bench in my library, barking at the mailman at 3:30 every afternoon.

So today, in the spirit of revolutions and good intentions, I will put into the recycling bin a letter from The White House. The letter was written in May of 1991 and was in response to this letter, also to be recycled, written by me, at the arrogant, untempered age of twenty-five:

Dear President Bush,

I would like to commend you on your education initiative introduced last week. I have always had an interest in education and am currently involved with education at its most basic level-that of literacy: Through the Northern Virginia Literacy Council, I became a certified ESOL instructor and now spend two evenings a week teaching English to a woman from Afghanistan. By becoming personally involved with teaching, I've been able to see the benefits of volunteering one's time. Your efforts at involving parents and the business community can have a similar effect of bringing the nation together to find solutions to the problems of education.

I am impressed with your resolve to learn computers. I believe that your choice in computers was a wise one. With that selection, you spoke to all of America. You told America's children that computers and other technological courses are important - important enough to warrant even the President's attention. This should influence more students to pursue the hard sciences in their studies. You spoke to the working class. Again, by setting aside time in your busy schedule, you've demonstrated to working Americans that continued education is important. Finally, and equally important, you told individuals who think they're too old, that it is never too late to learn.

Mr. President, I would be honored to offer my services to help you meet your goal of learning more about computers. After completing my masters degree six months ago, I moved to the area only to find job prospects gloomy. Rather than succumbing to the forces of the economy, I decided to start my own consulting firm. While starting a business is always difficult, I've been doing fairly well: I'm currently working with a former Senator as well as the Department of Energy and expect that in a year or two I'll have a good, albeit small, operation.

My work with the "former Senator" was strictly secretarial and my stint at the DOE lasted no more than two Saturdays when I taught administrative assistants how to use WordPerfect. Five months later, my fiance and I moved back to Ohio, broke, hungry, and dejected.

Once home, and ensconced in the safety of my parents' home (and food supply!), I wrote a letter to a local cosmetics company, offering to "take them international." I should have done my homework: At the time I mailed my letter, this company had a presence in every major international market.

The company didn't bother responding to my letter.

Perhaps they kept it tucked into a file cabinet, bringing it out occasionally for a good laugh.

I kept the White House's response in a steamer trunk my father made me, among my journals and letters and hand-made cards my children have given me.

Thank you for your message about President Bush's interest in learning to use a computer.

As a result of his comments, the President has received many kind offers of assistance such as yours, and he appreciates your thoughtfulness. However, the White House has a computer support staff, and this office will be responsible for providing training to him.

With the President's best wishes...

Reading these letters...knowing others will be reading them here...watching my children read them and laugh...revealing myself to the world in this way makes me cringe.

It makes me laugh as well: Practically a luddite today, whose cell phone is likely as old as President Bush (the elder); embracing the local market rather than international business, the letter is a map of how much I've changed twenty-two years. Now, I'm a working-class American who often thinks myself too old to try something new.
I take comfort in the fact that I'm not the only one who has done this sort of thing: My husband wrote to Margaret Thatcher's office, hoping to line up an interview when he went to Europe as a college junior. (He, too, was turned down. He, too, kept the letter. And when he shared it with our children, they mocked him as well.)

And I'm somewhat happy to share the letter with my children, knowing that when they do something equally arrogant, they'll be able to look at their parents and know they're not the first to make this blunder. Nor will they be the last.

So it is today that I recycle these letters (and the White House envelope as well).

Just for today, they have served me well, reminding me of the overly-confident person I once was, allowing me to share a glimpse of my past life with my children.

Let The Great 365 Day Purge of 2014 begin.

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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Great 365 Day Purge - Day One

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Great 365 Day Purge - Day One


January 1, 2014

Well, my eldest sister has organized what she calls "The Great 365 Day Purge of 2014." This sister...both of my sisters, in fact...are incredibly organized, with beautifully-decorated homes, always pristine. I suspect this sister of mine alphabetizes her daily to-do list and our middle sister rises at five AM for her Pilates class before heading off to the business she owns with her husband.

I do not share this penchant for organization with my siblings. On good days, I make my bed and brush my teeth (hair is optional). But the rules of participation are simple enough for even the queen of chaos to agree to: You must commit to ridding yourself of one thing a day, every day, for a year.

Of course, I signed on immediately. I like these sorts of things, these attempts at self-improvement. Turning over a new tree, as my brother likes to say (His to-do lists are computerized). Just thinking about this project makes me feel lighter. Freer somehow. Perhaps a smidgen organized.

Apparently pets are ineligible for giveaway, which is unfortunate because between five pets; the litter; two scoopers (blue and white); the forty-pound bags of cat food which we use to feed not only our own felines, one of whom adopted us three months ago, but also five neighborhood friends who stop by for a daily snack...between the leashes and the collars; the dog licenses and the rolls of blue scented poop bags that invariably fall out of my coat pocket and unfurl all the way down the street while the dog is yanking off my right arm trying to get to a squirrel...between the flea and tick medicine and Blind Cat's laxative and tummy pills (don't ask)...between the food and the water bowls and the upside-down lid my son uses to give Grey Cat Half & Half every morning before school...between the dog beds and the cages and the vet and boarding bills...Between all of that, I'd easily get through January.

And getting rid of the dog hair in my house would take me through March.


But, alas, it would get rather quiet 'round here if we were suddenly to divest ourselves of three cats, an elderly dog and an ingrate of a puppy, who sits on the bench in my library, barking at the mailman at 3:30 every afternoon.

So today, in the spirit of revolutions and good intentions, I will put into the recycling bin a letter from The White House. The letter was written in May of 1991 and was in response to this letter, also to be recycled, written by me, at the arrogant, untempered age of twenty-five:

Dear President Bush,

I would like to commend you on your education initiative introduced last week. I have always had an interest in education and am currently involved with education at its most basic level-that of literacy: Through the Northern Virginia Literacy Council, I became a certified ESOL instructor and now spend two evenings a week teaching English to a woman from Afghanistan. By becoming personally involved with teaching, I've been able to see the benefits of volunteering one's time. Your efforts at involving parents and the business community can have a similar effect of bringing the nation together to find solutions to the problems of education.

I am impressed with your resolve to learn computers. I believe that your choice in computers was a wise one. With that selection, you spoke to all of America. You told America's children that computers and other technological courses are important - important enough to warrant even the President's attention. This should influence more students to pursue the hard sciences in their studies. You spoke to the working class. Again, by setting aside time in your busy schedule, you've demonstrated to working Americans that continued education is important. Finally, and equally important, you told individuals who think they're too old, that it is never too late to learn.

Mr. President, I would be honored to offer my services to help you meet your goal of learning more about computers. After completing my masters degree six months ago, I moved to the area only to find job prospects gloomy. Rather than succumbing to the forces of the economy, I decided to start my own consulting firm. While starting a business is always difficult, I've been doing fairly well: I'm currently working with a former Senator as well as the Department of Energy and expect that in a year or two I'll have a good, albeit small, operation.

My work with the "former Senator" was strictly secretarial and my stint at the DOE lasted no more than two Saturdays when I taught administrative assistants how to use WordPerfect. Five months later, my fiance and I moved back to Ohio, broke, hungry, and dejected.

Once home, and ensconced in the safety of my parents' home (and food supply!), I wrote a letter to a local cosmetics company, offering to "take them international." I should have done my homework: At the time I mailed my letter, this company had a presence in every major international market.

The company didn't bother responding to my letter.

Perhaps they kept it tucked into a file cabinet, bringing it out occasionally for a good laugh.

I kept the White House's response in a steamer trunk my father made me, among my journals and letters and hand-made cards my children have given me.

Thank you for your message about President Bush's interest in learning to use a computer.

As a result of his comments, the President has received many kind offers of assistance such as yours, and he appreciates your thoughtfulness. However, the White House has a computer support staff, and this office will be responsible for providing training to him.

With the President's best wishes...

Reading these letters...knowing others will be reading them here...watching my children read them and laugh...revealing myself to the world in this way makes me cringe.

It makes me laugh as well: Practically a luddite today, whose cell phone is likely as old as President Bush (the elder); embracing the local market rather than international business, the letter is a map of how much I've changed twenty-two years. Now, I'm a working-class American who often thinks myself too old to try something new.
I take comfort in the fact that I'm not the only one who has done this sort of thing: My husband wrote to Margaret Thatcher's office, hoping to line up an interview when he went to Europe as a college junior. (He, too, was turned down. He, too, kept the letter. And when he shared it with our children, they mocked him as well.)

And I'm somewhat happy to share the letter with my children, knowing that when they do something equally arrogant, they'll be able to look at their parents and know they're not the first to make this blunder. Nor will they be the last.

So it is today that I recycle these letters (and the White House envelope as well).

Just for today, they have served me well, reminding me of the overly-confident person I once was, allowing me to share a glimpse of my past life with my children.

Let The Great 365 Day Purge of 2014 begin.

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