2011.05.24 A prefect mess can be perfectly delightful

Written by David Green.

It always feels like cheating when I reuse an old column instead of writing a fresh one. But, I hope you’ll understand—my grandbaby Caroline is here and I’d rather be holding her than just about anything. This column is from four years ago, Feb. 21, 2007, when Maddie—who just graduated from the University of Michigan—was still a senior in high school. 

By COLLEEN LEDDY

An emergency situation arose Sunday when David couldn’t find the sleeve for a Netflix movie he wanted to send back. I last remembered seeing it on the dining room table. Maybe it should be called the dining room tornado.

The table displays the vestiges of a whirlwind of activity from Observer business-related stuff like bill paying and payroll to recent birthday cards and presents. There’s a melange of receipts, unread books, components of the next library project, David’s laptop computer and attending stack of notes for pending stories, and a host of other flotsam and jetsam.

The urgency in David’s voice set off a spate of semi-frantic cleaning as I cleared items in search of the sleeve. Nothing is ever really lost at our house. It’s not like we live in squalor; we just tend to use horizontal surfaces in a vertical way.

Still, it’s always a good thing to be forced to wade through piles of stuff and I soon found the joy in the job. I unearthed things that really needed my attention, such as college-related financial aid forms for Rozee and Maddie, and fun things like some really cool note cards from our friend Brenda. 

Those cards inspired me to write Brenda a letter, and a recipe for sticky toffee pudding, which Liz made for my birthday, evoked memories of probably the single most delicious thing that ever passed my lips...and I’m including Green and Black’s Maya Gold organic dark chocolate and Black Bottom Cupcakes in that comparison. DVD sleeve forgotten, I settled in for the long haul and began a letter to my friend Adrienne, who’s been waiting more than a month for that recipe.

I had told her about the sticky toffee pudding—really, it’s more like a cake and it’s so divine—and she was eager to try it. She thought it sounded like a flavor of ice cream that won a Häagen Dazs contest on the Food Network.

I wrote Adrienne, all the while thinking, “It’s been a long time, I should really just call her.” Not three minutes after I sealed the envelope, the phone rang and it was Adrienne. This happens to me often; it’s a little eerie, but it saves on phone bills.

So, I wrote my two letters, gathered and sorted many documents I needed to photocopy, placed post-it notes on items reminding me where they belonged, plucked pencils and pens and paperclips from the sea of papers, put like with like, recycled the old, tossed the useless—I was at it for chunks of time before David said Maddie had already found the sleeve and he had tucked the DVD inside.

I could have griped, but I had such a delightful sense of accomplishment. And I’ve been reading “A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder—How crammed closets, cluttered offices, and on-the-fly planning make the world a better place,” by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman.

So, instead of wallowing in the usual remorse and shame at the state of my table, I was cheerful and energetic, filled with expectancy and a twinge of excitement—what would I come across next? What misplaced jewel would rise to the surface? It was a process of discovery and glee. It was a perfect mess.

Now, I am awaiting another book, eager to see what impact it will have on my lifestyle: “Not Buying It: My year without shopping,” by Judith Levine.

Maddie wasn’t too thrilled to hear that title. I’m guessing she figures it doesn’t bode well for her last months at home if I’m not going to shop much.

“I don’t think I’m going to like that,” she said.

I don’t think I’m going to like her leaving. No more kids at home. The nest: truly empty. Maybe it’ll cut down on the mess. I’m doubting that, though. However, it does give me an idea for a title of a book I could write.

The Empty Mess: What’s Left When All Your Children Leave Home and Don’t Take All Their Crap with Them, but You Don’t Really Mind That So Much as the Fact That They Are Really Gone and All You Are Left With Is a Lot of Really Useless Crap.

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
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    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
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    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
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    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
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