Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Sometimes my family wonders why in the world I sign up for enewsletters.  Doesn't it clutter up your email? they ask.  Well, yes.  It does.  But I simply hit the Delete button once I've read them.  I am circumspect about it, only subscribing to things that might turn out to be wonderful.  And most of the time they do, like this morning's twice-weekly missive from Wondermark.  

David Malki added a blogpost to today's comic, pointing to a book he was reading:  Overqualified by Joey Comeau.  It was an intriguing book review.  I immediately logged into the KRL catalog but was disappointed.  We don't have it.  I'm reluctant to buy a book on the basis of one review, no matter how engaging the reviewer may be, so I hunted around the Web for a little more information.  And there it was!  I can read it online, courtesy of the author.

Joey Comeau had filled out many job applications and was working on yet another when he was struck with the canned nature of cover letters, his or anyone else's.  He decided to write cover letters that would catch the eye of Human Resources.  He ended up making a blog of them for the enjoyment and inspiration of job-seekers everywhere.  Overqualified is that blog.

Begin with #1 and work your way up.  It's entertaining reading but be warned - some of the letters (#54, for example...whoa) have some inappropriate bits.  Keep in mind which company he's applying to.  And, he got into trouble sending #37 (as well he should have, as you'll see if you read it), trouble for which he apologized in #38.  This event convinced him to continue to write the cover letters but refrain from actually sending them.

It's unlikely I would have heard of this Canadian author or his book without the nudge from an enewsletter.  So there, I tell my family.

Next time:  the Five-Year Box.  Really.  Stay tuned.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Part of my day, every day, is involved with the effluvia of two lifetimes that is currently stored in our garage.

Lifetime #1.  My mother, bless her, was an inveterate collector.  She loved garage and estate sales and she had an eye for stuff that had real value.  When she died in 2004, there was so much to sort through that we gave up.  We feared that we would toss or give away something that we shouldn't.  We didn't want to be the garage sale in which someone paid $5 for an item and then went to Antiques Roadshow and discovered it was worth several thousand.  So we boxed it all up and put it in the garage to be sorted through over time.

Lifetime #2.  My grandmother had already sorted through her household things.  When Mom died, Grandma moved from her home of 40 years into a Senior Living apartment.  She had very little attachment to inanimate things (and often commented derisively about Mom's stuff), so when the time came to move, she went through her belongings and kept only those items that meant something to her.  Despite that very major winnowing, when Grandma died there were still quite a number of boxes that came to our garage.  Grandma had a lot of family history in her apartment and we didn't want to sort too speedily and toss something that mattered.

It can be daunting, this sorting of stuff, especially when the stuff is so esoteric.  I ask myself how much is this really worth?  It would be easier if Mom had simply bought things because she liked them, but I know that she was savvy about "collectibles" and so the doubt rises.  The internet has helped greatly, as have many library books on the values of collectibles. But after five years, I've just about had it.  With the economy so slowed, is it worth the time to try to sell the rest of it?  I'm in the process of setting up an Etsy shop, but honestly, who collect salts cellars?  Or butter pats (my grandmother's sole collecting interest), as wonderful as they may be?  And what if a particular item is part of family history of which I'm ignorant?

Because of this experience, Ken and I are resolute:  we will not leave this much stuff for our children to deal with.  We are documenting family heirlooms, the who and the when.  Sometimes even the why.  Our house is full of 25 years' worth of married life, a good bit of it still here because we're sentimental about it.  Ha!

I checked out It's All Too Much, a book with practical advice on jettisoning clutter and reordering a home.  I've checked these kinds of books out before, but this one is by far the best.  The best advice - three questions to ask ourselves:  What is the purpose of this room?  Does this item contribute or detract from the purpose of this room?  Does it contribute to another room's purpose?  These questions have helped break the logjam, as it were.  We are now on a mission, and this mission will be the subject of most of my blogposts for awhile.

One of the things unearthed yesterday - my mother's Funnies Folder.  It contains humorous email she had received, clippings, newspaper comics, whatever made her smile.  Beneath it was one of my CPR class folders.  Well, here's a prime example of how disorganized things are, I muttered.  But no!  They were actually related.  On the Notes page of the class folder, I had written some of the instructor's comments.  His name is Dave and he does an excellent, and hilarious, job of teaching CPR/First Aid.  His suggestions on how to fill out the class evaluation sheet:

How'd you like the class:
a.  Nobel material
b.  Better than a weekend with the in-laws
c.  I've learned more from a book of stamps

The Instructor:
a.  is an expert in his field and related the information in a concise, easy to understand format
b.  did a decent job keeping our attention considering we're just here because our job requires it
c.  isn't qualified to provide Emergency First-Aid Services to a stick

Dave's classes are never dull.

Next time:  the box that hasn't been opened in five years.  Stay tuned.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You never know what you might find

Has it really been over a month?? Good heavens.

Alden, who works in the Special Collections department of a UW library, was home this weekend. One of the things our family likes to do is browse through the second-hand shops in town, so that's where we headed in the afternoon.  Mind you, we rarely purchase anything because we have our own second-hand shop in the garage, three estates' worth. I'm slowly winnowing through it all but that is grist for another blogpost.

When browsing those second-hand shops, we're always drawn to books. There's something about paging through an old book. The scent of old paper and bindings, the texture and visual interest of the cover, the discovery that this book is over 100 years old.  We can't help but think about the people who once owned this book and we are tempted to buy it, to rescue it from the shop, for their sake.  We are shamelessly sentimental about books.

During the Saturday browse, Alden made a surprising discovery:  a 1923 volume of The Tyee, the University of Washington's college annual.  He was astonished to find it.  He has seen these books in the Special Collections vault, highly treasured volumes, and here was one right in front of him.  It was in good shape, only two torn pages (repaired with scotch tape, which caused a cringe).  The binding was intact with very little wear on the edges, and there was a bonus item tucked within - the bookmark that came with the volume when it was published.  The price was $20.00.  $20.00!  Alden, of course, bought it.  He plans to bring it out with a flourish when he goes to work today.

What does this have to do with humor?  We had a lot of fun looking through the annual, visiting an era long gone.  The language and fashions of the day, the names and photos of the graduating class, pages dedicated to student groups and activities...it was fascinating.  Alden discovered that his current 'apartment' housing was a fraternity in 1923 - there was the photo to prove it.  Each College had its own page, listing the faculty and department accomplishments.  The best college page belonged to the Law College.  The first paragraph, to quote:

The law gang's yell is the first thing to be heard in University assemblies:
"Assault and battery, broken jaw, murder, arson, Washington law!"

If you don't think that's funny. . .well. . .it cracked me up.

Next time - the Lee Family Second-Hand Shop.  Stay tuned.