The Art of Sentimentalism

The Art of Sentimentalism — are we defined by our stuff?

[Crossposted to Medium]

The collection of “me” stuff began in my late teens after one of my mother’s manic episodes when she tossed out most of my brother and I’s childhood. Since then, pictures, mementos, and anything helping to define who I am or was I saved no matter how insignificant it can or could be. (I saved the certificate for the year I won the school spelling bee which cracks me up years later as I’m a terrible, terrible speller. Long live autocorrect!) There is not much that marks my childhood other than spotty memories, a small wooden box of things I saved from grade and middle school, my baby book, and a handful of print pictures. My younger brother has fared much worse as his amount of childhood things is even less than mine.
I think often of what will happen to my stuff when I die. While my sites will go dark (no one would be paying the bills), I diligently have them crawled so one day, I hope, someone will stumble across my work and say, “Goddamn! This woman was prolific! (And far interesting as well.)”

Like most, I want to not necessarily be in the index but at least a footnote to the memories of the world.

As I continue packing, I occasionally find bits of past Lisa and now I debate, “Do I keep it or do I toss it?” While I have not read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I do know the book posits you should only keep things giving you joy. Imagine the shock of my bookish friends when I told them, since October 2014, I’ve donated nearly 1500 books to various library systems. My collection remains mostly of my Austens, my Pratchetts, my collection of Anglo-Saxon/Medieval/Viking histories, my Salingers and Fitzgeralds, and my TBR pile which is too fucking enormous. I got rid of books I didn’t see myself reading again, or referencing, or even in some cases, caring about. My Austens, my Pratchetts, and the rest of “my” books spark joy so those got kept. I slashed through my DVD collection as I spent several long nights converting the 100+ collection of physical to digital media to be placed on my server with 90% of the physical media to be donated. If I want to watch Bridget Jones’ Diary for the 900th time, it is simply a matter of a few clicks rather than digging out the DVD and going through that ritual. These are things bringing me passion and joy where as 4-Eyed Whores does not. (It’s nerd girl porn. Literally.)
(4-Eyed Whores was given to a friend and not buried in the pile to be given to the library. What kind of monster do you think I am?)
The book cull will get even more severe as I sort what I’m taking to my next future home versus what is going in storage until it can be retrieved – again. My Austens, my Pratchetts, and most of the books bringing me joy will be snuggled in their cardboard homes while a smattering of them will be placed in my new home while even more will be donated to the local library system.
(And for those nearly hyperventilating, I was vaguely smart into cataloging this current collection before the donated books went into their box. I did not do this to the first culling back in October 2014, which is my shame but I’ve already come to terms with that.)
(And I haven’t gotten into the details of the hundreds of books I lost when my brother’s basement flooded in the winter of 2008. My stuff was stored there between moves and I lost most of my paper everythings.)
Even with the great cull of books and physical audio / visual media, there are many, many boxes I have cataloged (of course, I am a librarian) simply labeled “office knickknacks.” Lanyards from the many conferences I’ve attended. The remnants of the Etsy shop I used to maintain and the items I cannot get rid of. Tchotchkes from vacation pasts like the miniature of the Pieta from when I was in Rome. (The Vatican has a killer gift shop, yo.) Plastic photo boxes of things saved from trips like brochures, plane tickets, and other small items (one plastic photo box for each European trip = six boxes). Stuffed animals made or bought for me. Various electronic doohickeys that belong to something but I have no idea what and I should probably not throw those things out. I am keeping those things, though those cardboard boxes outnumber the book boxes 2:1. Those things do give me joy and mark me as a person.

Lee Randall, in her piece “For the Love of Stuff,” furthers my argument stuff is a narrative of one’s life and “my things are me and I am my things.” I felt some relief in reading this essay because I was growing tired of the constant barrage of pieces written on the new “minimalism” and you’re saving the world when you get rid of things that you no longer “need.” Not want, but “need.” I want people to get a sense of who I am when they come into my home, to get a feel what I like and what makes me happy. White walls, sterile furniture, and smattering of arty pieces just don’t cut it.

I want physical reminders these are the things “sparking joy” which also give deeper meaning to my person.

We have come to the point of things given to us by boyfriends past. There is a tiny collection of Beatrix Potter mini-books M. gave me which I kept, the love note still inside. The picture of P. and I at his brother’s wedding and we both look extremely happy. The nightclub t-shirt given to me by A. when he was working as a graphic designer. The earrings given to me by TheEx though their matching necklaces have long since been donated. These trinkets do not pain me and for most of them, I smile at those memories. These are things kept.

When I got to my apartment in Connecticut, I found many things given to me by TheBassist which got tossed into a box. The breakup was still too fresh and I was indecisive on whether or not to keep them. Friends suggested, since the breakup turned out to be brutal rather than amicable, I burn them. Instead, I kept them. They’ve been taunting me since with their presence in my storage locker a reminder of a time in my life when things weren’t going so great. When I was unpacking, and now packing again, I pushed that box out of mind to be dealt with at another time. Now that time has come where I must ask myself, “Do I keep, toss, or donate these items?”

Memories are sneaky bastards. What seems so clear one day can be muddled the next.

I strive to keep a positive attitude on the relationship between TheBassist and I as a whole as it wasn’t all bad and we did love the other, but clearly not enough to give the relationship a foundation it needed to keep going. I have these things that while they no longer give me pain at times, I have given them some kind of value and I wonder if I get rid of them, will the memories fade even faster and soon to be forgotten? Do I want to forget him as completely as possible? How important was he in my life that keeping those items won’t intensify what pain is left even in their innocence of just lying in that blasted box? Will I “find joy” in getting rid of them?
These may seem like insignificant answers to many of you — the obvious answer would be, of course, to get rid of them. But these things, I’d argue, are not things to be easily replaced. The signs he made me when I got off the plane or his band’s CD he has lovingly inscribed to me or the Neil Gaiman book he gave me years ago, also inscribed. Once those things are gone, they can never be replaced since their tangibility and worth is only for me.
But I must reframe these questions to how keeping these things will affect my relationship with TheExHusband. As most of you know, he and I are working on getting back together and when I land in Louisville in October (after spending September at the cabin), we are seeing a couple’s counselor to work on the things we should have worked on in our marriage. TheExHusband has been and always will be my always. Is it fair to him for me to keep the mementos of TheBassist, even if I claim their innocence in value? Are they worth keeping as a potential sharp thorn to what has happened these last few years?

What fills me with joy?

For many, if not most, the building of one’s personality through things seem kind of silly, maybe even trite. We should be known, it would be pointed out, for what we have done and how we treat people rather than what decorates our homes. But I cannot agree to that point, at least wholly, just yet. My mother erased much of our childhood when she threw almost everything out and while many have things that spark them with joy about their growing up years, those years are empty for my brother and I. Keeping things, no matter how insignificant, allows me to fill in the holes of my life where once nothing existed. But I ask again – should I save anything or everything? Curate my memory to be only of joy and light and not negative reminders of things gone wrong?

Aren’t I, in effect, whitewashing my own history to satiate whatever I think will help me be whole?

I have issues with people wanting to erase our social history by, for example, taking cigarettes out of movies from 50 years ago now we know cigarettes are carcinogenic. The past isn’t always sunshine and roses and the idea of “the golden years” is a myth.

Each generation has its own atrocities and in the attempt to remove the bad, we’ve gilded the good and gilt can flake off.

In the end I will more than likely keep the book and the CD (and the Joy Division t-shirt I left at his house since it’s my favorite one) and the rest will get tossed. I don’t need the hand-lettered signs, the letters, or the random knickknacks he has given me. They are just “things” where as the book and the CD have whole different set of values. I’m sure, knowing me, the tossing of the rest will be some kind of exaggerated march to the bin shoot and the ceremony of dumping the items down the incline into the bowels of the apartment building. Those items blur the line of worth between keeping and donating and in the end, they are just simply junk.

Collection of Cunning Curiosities – July 18, 2015

Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A weekly compendium of things that delight my fancy.

Dear Internet, You can follow all mentioned items here and past on the Pinterest board. x0x0, lisa


I’ve been plowing through my book list these last few weeks. I finished Goddess of Buttercups & Daisies, which was a fun read and The Devil’s Detective, which posits that terrible murders are happening in hell and Satan hires a detective to find out why. Yes, murders in hell, but go with it as the horror/mystery novel is able to pull it off quite well.
This last week I started research on a sekret project that involves learning as  much as humanly possible about SEO, however, the current titles that are regarded are so terrible, I’m embarrassed to list them here. You can check out the list on Pinterest.
To wash out the bad books, I picked up Jane Goes Batty which is the second in a series that presents the idea: What if Jane Austen never died, but became a vampire (turned by Lord Byron no less) and was living in contemporary America, owning a bookshop? I know, AGAIN, another book where the summary sounds implausible but the series is quite fun and a quick read.

Fanciful Delights

Did you know the word “awesome” has been in use since the late 16th century? Neither did I. The word usage in the 16th century was more along the lines of, “made you shiver in terror” rather than our current usage to mean, “things that fill you with awe.” This is why English language and it’s constant growth is awesome. (See what I did there?)
Digital Manuscripts Library at the British Library recently wrote an article about one of the oldest papyrus’ found, which they nicknamed “Exit, Pursued by a Bear.” Regular readers of this journal may remember this journal is named after a scene from Shakespear’s The Winter’s Tale, It seems natural enough, then, that the article on the oldest known papyrus nicknamed the same would delight my fancy.
To the delight of some, and annoyance to others, I refer to American soccer as football. But I have always wondered why we call it soccer when the rest of the world calls it football. Well wonder no more my friends, has the answer.
Having been a user of the Internet for a solid 20 years (!), I’ve always wondered what it look like mapped. The Optae Project answers that very question. “Since the Internet is basically a vast constellation of networks that somehow interconnect to provide the relatively seamless communication of data, it seemed logical one could draw lines from one point to another. The visualization is a collection of programs that collectively output an image of every relationship of every network on the Internet.” (Click on the image on the right to get a large image and other images created by this project.)
I did not get into Joy Division until I was in my late ’20s or early ’30s, which is surprising since I was a huge New Order fan in high school. No matter, Joy Division remain one of my top five bands for the last decade and that more than likely will not change. What’s interesting about this revelation is the band released only two full albums and the lead singer, Ian Curtis, committed suicide 35 years ago. Despite their small catalog, JoyDiv remains one of the most influential bands of the late 20th century. This even though the remaining members went on form New Order and other multi-album bands, and yet, yet, JoyDiv tops them all. Recently, The Guardian wrote up a piece on the 10 best Joy Division tracks, which prompted me to add them to to this weeks list. Below is the video for She’s Lost Control, one of my favorite Joy Division tracks, natch. Or you can open up Spotify to listen to their tracks.

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 2014, 2012, 2011, 2003, 1999, 1998


Dear Internet,
It’s the night before our country’s big anniversary weekend and I’m spending my time organizing my wish lists, but there is a reason for my staid evening. But first let me tell you a short story: TEH and I went walking around downtown today as we ran errands we’ve been putting off for a week or two. One of those errands was getting our local library cards (I now have 13 library cards from various academic and public libraries. Yes, I am a nerd.), which then necessitated we needed, or I did, to get books. How else was I going to know what to read? By going to my Amazon wish lists, of course.
Since my day to day information gathering spans across RSS feeds, social media, and other sources, as well as podcast listening, project prep, and personal recommendations from friends, my book lists come from everywhere. In order to keep track of it all, I started organizing the lists by topic on Amazon.
(Bethums once pointed out she thought it was adorable that I organized things to an OCD level, but hey, if I am not anything but a librarian?)
There is a reason to my madness and that is Amazon is my list of lists.
The lists serve as reminders such as hey, I may need these things when I get my own place or birthday/holiday ideas, which TEH and my brother found extremely useful.  There are books on particular topics I want to know more about, music I need to check out or DVDs I need to buy.
But as I organized my lists this evening, for things have been bought and or no longer wanted, I noticed patterns erupting.
I like gadgets and geegaws. Everyone needs silicone and bamboo salad hands, a set of 10 nibs, or a professional grade laser hair removal device don’t they? Of course they do!
My interests are varied, which probably owns up to my ADHD. I have things on knitting, clay molding kits, calligraphy, to books on linux, user experience, fairytales and viking poetry. I was surprised to find I had many non-fiction books as I did fiction, on a wide variety of topics such as cartography, biographies, and how things are made as examples.
I like fictional and non-fictional tales about women, primarily those who rejected the ideals of their times. Courtesans, serial killers, scientists, artists, or royals; it doesn’t matter. If there is a tale about a woman, in some form or another comes off as a rebel, I want to know who she is.
I like knowing how things are they way they are. If there is a book about the history of paper, on racial politics, the creation of gender, the history of the breast, the story of the great flood, and the lost art of letter writing or everything in-between, I probably have a book on it in one of my lists. (We totally cannot forget The Library: A World History as what kind of librarian would I be?)
I like to research. My current book, the Edwardian mystery, has stalled and I can’t seem to jump start it but of course I have a list for that. I found similar genres such as decopunk (speculative fiction subset of dieselpunk, which is a subset of steampunk) that incorporates the aesthetic of Art Deco with diesel engines just as steampunk splices Victorian era with steam technology. Decopunk is so specific, Amazon only has a few books that claim that genre, but it piques my interest. Of course mythology, Vikings, and middle ages have me in raptures. Any period that predates post modern seems to be my mainstay though I tend to dip into contemporary novels here or there.
I don’t read as widely as I should. Over the years my tastes have regulated itself to particular authors (Terry Pratchett and Kate Atkinson as example) or genres such as mystery, period, or speculative fiction. I do read mainly women but I’m definitely lacking in books by people of color or translations from countries where English is not the primary language (though Paulo Cohelo and Umberto Eco are excluded but everyone reads them). Or books from other countries, period.
I don’t think I’m that well read but I’m much further than most, I suppose, and I really want a lot of things. Though, I could do a lot better by NOT adding so much stuff to the damn lists but hey, you just never know. It might go on sale.
p.s. If you think this is a bit ridiculous, you should see my RSS feed organization.
p.p.s. If you visit the site regularly, you may notice some changes. I took the justification off since it is a design no-no, changed the font to a more pleasing one, and swapped out my header which I am using with permission from Forgotten Heritage Photography.

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2014, 2013, 2003

Bookstores and Questionable Steakhouses

Our latest book haul.

Dear Internet,
Tuesday night, TheHusband and I went out on a mini-date to a questionable steakhouse, thanks to a gift card we received from my brother. Interestingly, on a Tuesday, the line was longer and thicker then we had anticipated so we opted to head to a local bookstore conveniently located behind said questionable steakhouse to kill some time before heading in for dinner.
This particular bookstore is the one that is part of a local chain and is closing its doors in a few weeks. I felt a sense of foreboding entering the building as the atmosphere was that of vultures picking a carcass clean rather than folks enjoying a nice bookstore.
I speculated on Twitter recently several reasons why I was grumpy about this local chain, why I had issues with its current business model, and why thus was not surprised at the demise of this particular store. A roundup: they started all new employees (with the exception of management) at minimum wage regardless of past experiences; the space was allocated mainly to used titles (larger profit margin) and gifts, with new titles pushed to the perimeter and becoming less prominent; their outreach, which was one of the best things about them, had dwindled down to almost nothing; the location was terrible and hard to get to. Would you not have done a survey before opting to get a lease somewhere?
I digress.
So there we were, book stacks at home piled up past our eyeballs of things we should be reading and yet we were stockpiling more titles in the carnage such as:

Interlude: As I had been toying with the idea of asking for patron support on the site for months, I figured now would be a good time to do so since I’ve been upped my linking to Amazon. A longer think piece will be forthcoming in the near future on this decision, but I can assure you, it was not taken lightly.
It was slight madness. 45% off all new titles, 65% off used titles, and 75% off all gift and merchandise. We picked through the carnage with discerning eyes, pulling out titles we felt we had to have NOW rather then wait because the prices were too good to pass up.
I looked for titles in all my favorite sections (SFF, mythology, fiction, and history) and of things I was desperate to get right now.  TheHusband, ever omnipotent snob he is, only looked for the tell-tale spines of Penguin classics.  We put things back we knew we wouldn’t touch for months, no matter how good the price.
All but one of the titles is for me. We almost came home with volumes 1 and 3 of the The Graphic Canon, but decided to wait since volume 2 was not available.
With arms bulging with books, we dropped them off at the car and then headed into dinner. Since it was a questionable steakhouse, we opted for burgers rather then the steak. This turned out to be a most excellent decision the burgers turned out to be fairly delicious. Who knew?
Day one with no social media was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I had deleted almost all of the apps from my devices and my computer, and cleared out my browser history so no autocomplete when I input the letter, “t”, “p”, or “i”.  I kept TweetDeck installed for work purposes and for scheduling out blog tweets. But the desire to look wasn’t really there.
I dug into one of my books from the spree from the night before, covering 2/3rds of if before 3PM. I did more job hunting stuff and had started writing  before my brother called to take me out for dinner, so he could whinge about his girlfriend and current theories of government.
Neither he, nor TheHusband from the night before, noticed I wasn’t on my phone during the meal. I had to point out to both that I was not Facebooking/Tweeting/Instagraming/etc anytime during our night out and TheHusband watched sports ball at the restaurant and the brother was furiously text fighting with his girlfriend while attempting to complain to me about her. Next time, I’ll make it a point to them both if we’re going out to dinner, no sports ball even if the game is on at the bar and leaving phones in the vehicles. This was kind of ridiculous.
It should also be noted TheHusband and I had a long standing rule my phone only got pulled out for emergencies at dinner, so it was not as if I was ignoring him all these years before today. But you know, men. Can’t live with them, can’t reasonably feed their carcasses to pigs.
Not that I thought about feeding his carcass to pigs or anything.
It was a very quiet day and I am reveling in the mindfulness away from the chatter. I woke up in the morning with two distinct story lines running through my head, which of course in the few minutes from the time I woke, face down in pillows with one leg hanging off the bed, to being cognizant of what I was dreaming about, the lines were gone.
Tonight, I sleep with pen and paper on my bed stand.

This day in Lisa-Universe: 1999

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