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reindeer

The filigreed reindeer built for themselves a primitive god, not recognizing the power they had unleashed until it was too late to dash away.

Because all Christmas decorations should come with a backstory.

A friend embellished the legend for me, complete with a short “Repo Man” reference:

And the caribou deity proclaimed, “For I am Reednier, and I have become Yuletide! Thou art my minions. Let us go forth and rejoice, defy gravity, eat apples, fine cheese and chocolate, and pause for decaf lattes! Yes, and not pay.”

Because everyone should have friends who add delightful details to your weird backstories.

 

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So, in awkwardly timed news, the husband and I are heading to Paris this week to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.

Am I scared? No more scared than I’ve ever been traveling to a major city.

I came of age in the ’80s and early ’90s, and I paid attention to the news, meaning that I knew England was potentially still a hotspot for IRA bombings when I traveled there in 1993 to take a World War II history class for the better part of a month.

I paid attention, but I also roved the city like a … well, like a girl who was raised in rural South Mississippi her whole life only to discover at age 21 that she BELONGED in a big city like she had never belonged anywhere else. I endured a couple of subway station evacuations, kept an eye out for abandoned knapsacks, as instructed, and went about my day, like you do.

European countries have dealt with more terrorist bombings and shootings than Americans can even imagine (hit up Wikipedia’s page for terrorist incidents in France – this isn’t the first day at the rodeo for Paris).

I fell in love with New York City a few years after 9/11, traveling there repeatedly with the knowledge that Manhattan is the quintessential American city, meaning that it’s a juicy target for terrorists. Again, I watched for weirdness and went where I wanted to go.

I realize that “See something, say something” only goes so far, and watching for abandoned backpacks in the train station seems like a very 1980s model of protection. At the same time, however, I won’t live in fear of the unknown.

I live in Atlanta, another major American city, albeit without the cachet of New York City. We have a pro football team, a pro baseball team (for now), several concert arenas and TONS of people – in short, Atlanta could very well be a target, too. Any place on the planet could be a target, frankly, if we’re including incidents of mass shootings that have nothing to do with international politics.

Paris is a lovely city, a lively city, a city that feels REAL. Unlike New York and London (and Atlanta, as long as we’re naming names), it hasn’t succumbed to to the outbreak of EveryCityLookstheSame that is rapidly spreading all over the globe.

To paraphrase Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Joann Sfar, Paris is music, champagne, kisses, joy and life.

So, I’m heading to La Ville Lumière, a city that I love, with the man I love, to fearlessly, if cautiously, eat, drink, talk and perhaps weep with its citizens. More than hating the enemy, more than demanding violence in the name of peace, celebrating life, love and freedom is the ultimate revenge on those who would like the world to cower.

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I have donated or thrown away five pairs of shoes over the last six weeks – none of the shoes pictured, mind you. These are stalwarts: my trusty gym shoes, my oh-so-comfortable short boots and my somewhat comfy dress heels that see the artificial light of holiday parties two to three times a year.

The ones that went away were relatively nondescript:

  • A pair of low brown work heels that should have been super comfortable given their brand and my experiences with it, but were instead torture after four hours of relatively low-key daily wear.
  • A pair of Clark’s mules, with just enough of a heel to feel dressy, but also with a fatal seam that threatened to rub a blister on my inner right foot if I dared to walk too much. A quick stroll to the grocery store next to my office was a no-no.
  • A pair of pricey black flats bought last year specifically for conferences, where I do an interminable amount of walking. They proved to be pretty much MADE OF SEAMS on the interior, and if I didn’t have Band-Aids strategically placed at various locations on my feet after three hours of wear, I was in trouble. They never “broke in.”
  • A pair of casual leather sandals that proved blister-happy after too much walking.
  • A pair of uber-sexy burgundy boots that made me look like a superhero, albeit a superhero walking unsteadily on 4-inch heels. They were, frankly, way too sexy for everyday wear, and I constantly felt in danger of imminent ankle collapse. Zooming up from 5’8 to 6’0 means that you’re not only instantly taller than 90% of the population, you’ve also got farther to fall.

Several months ago, I organized my shoes into these handy stackable boxes from the Container Store. One of the features (and, perhaps, consequences) of placing your possessions in clear containers that can reside in one small space is that you actually have to face the things you own. Like five pairs of black heels (all of which I wear, at some point or another, during the year, FYI).

The funny thing about owning the requisite average of 20 pairs of shoes, however, is that sometimes you STILL don’t have the proper footwear. After realizing last summer that I needed a nice pair of black dress flats to wear at a couple of upcoming fall conferences, I began a fruitless, infuriating search. I found sparkly ballet flats, flats with huge bows and flowers, and clunky loafers that screamed “I give up on looking cute, now get off my lawn.”

After a ridiculous amount of browsing, online and in stores, I finally found a promising, if expensive, pair of black flats that turned out to be horribly uncomfortable. When I wore them to the office for a few days to break them in and test them, they seemed OK, but the minute they sensed that I was away from home, without a backup pair of shoes and without an extra minute to find another pair, they turned into super-tight, seam-wielding torture devices.

That’s right: I owned the only pair of shoes in existence that broke out instead of in.

I finally found a pair of comfy flats on a quick trip to New York, during which I was decidedly NOT shopping for shoes simply because I didn’t want to have to stuff them into my carry-on for the trip back. Alas, there they were.

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They proved to be so comfortable, in fact, that I ordered two more pairs in black and one pair in gold, since they were on sale because they were being discontinued.

I won’t be caught without proper conference shoes again for a long time.

But back to my point (and there is a point): Why do women settle for uncomfortable shoes? How on earth are we convinced year after year that toddling around on high heels, unable to walk quickly or even comfortably, somehow puts us in a position of power?

I’ve known older women whose feet were completely reshaped by years of wearing heels every day. Bones shift, tendons shorten.

I’m on an all-flats shoe rotation at work – I put together a standing desk and got myself a decent gel mat. Heels are for parties and nice dinners out (provided I don’t have to walk a half mile to the train station).

These are only two feet I have, so I’m done making them uncomfortable.

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panniers

Maybe it’s a character flaw, but to be inspired to walk, run or bicycle, I need a destination.

That destination may be somewhat impractical – this is the time of the year, for example, when I try to talk the husband into strolls through the back, sorta swampy part of Piedmont Park, in hopes of spotting snakes. I’ve also had a bit of success getting him to stroll to the dog park, even though we have neither dogs nor any intention of getting dogs.

My go-to destination since we moved to Atlanta has been Trader Joe’s. It’s just within walking distance, although it’s a tad far in really cold or really hot weather. The parking lot is impossible to negotiate most of the time, however, and I would walk twice as far to avoid the ridiculous process of stealthily driving around trying to spot someone leaving. (Yes, there is overflow parking in the back lot by the movie theater, but it comes with its own set of problems, namely aggressive drivers who are angry that they were forced to use the overflow parking lot.)

But the walk is a slog, time-wise, 20-something minutes each way, with refrigerated items suffering in the sun all the way home on hot, sunny days. Not to mention my tendency to suddenly remember that I need 3 pounds of apples AND 3 pounds of potatoes, adding unplanned weight to the bags.

My rarely-used bicycle was, of course, the answer, but the only suitable bag choice, my reliable black JanSport book bag, didn’t hold very much, left a big sweat stain on my back and made the ride home less than enjoyable.

Finally, the husband remembered than panniers were a thing, and we were soon ordering bags and a rack from Nashbar. The Townie was our bag (technically basket) of choice, and we chose the Axiom Journey bike rack to hang it from.

The verdict? So far, so good. The bags hold a little more than I usually get during a standard shopping trip, and the three attachment accessories (hooks, Velcro and a bungee cord) mean they don’t bounce around too much, even with filled with groceries. As you can see, I forgot to bring bags to put inside the bags during the excitement surrounding my first trip with the new setup; the Townies are especially sturdy when the groceries are secured inside another bag and, therefore, aren’t bumping around inside.

The travel time to Trader Joe’s has been reduced to a mere 10 minutes, provided I catch the light at 10th and Monroe the right way, and go full speed down every available hill (which, of course, I totally do). The trip back takes a couple of extra minutes – you can’t go downhill on both parts of the journey, after all, and no matter how well-balanced the load is, it still adds weight to the ride.

All that time saved means more time to look for snakes and watch dogs. And I haven’t even mentioned the chipmunks.

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When we moved out of the house in Huntsville, I left my “china cabinet” behind. An IKEA shelf-turned-cabinet via the addition of a few doors, it was still in great shape (although mysteriously unphotographed), but entirely too heavy to move. Taking apart IKEA products seems inadvisable, especially products with hinges because, man, those things are hard to get right the FIRST time.

Thus, my favorite sunflower-patterned plates and bowls have been trapped in storage for the past year because buying furniture is THE WORST. Last month’s storage room flood destroyed one of my boxes, however, so the need to unload everything became a little more urgent.

Another trip to IKEA, another shelf-turned cabinet. This time we went for wide instead of tall, and chose a design that required six tiny doors instead of two or four larger ones. The hinge installation actually went pretty smoothly after we got a rhythm going – we almost went for eight doors, but figured out the liquor bottles were pretty attractive on their own.

Is it going to be too heavy to move? Oh yeah. But at a price of around $150, I can afford to pass it on in a couple of years if necessary. Our building has a healthy IKEA-reselling network, and not feeling obligated to move heavy furniture all over the place makes me extremely portable.

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I don’t know what to do with the two tins of cat ashes sitting on my top shelf.

I never intended to keep them forever — I’m not exactly an ashes-on-the-mantel kind of girl. I couldn’t WAIT to get my dad’s ashes out of the house, heading to New Orleans to scatter them in the Mississippi River as soon as I could after they arrived in the mail.

In. The. Mail.

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And it’s not like I want to scatter them someplace where I can return in reverence year after year — if I want to remember my cats, I can remember my cats anywhere.

I have two tins of cat ashes only because I thought that I should scatter Yin and Yang at the same time. They were together pretty much 24-7 for more than 14 years, after all.

We lived in a quite nondescript subdivision when they showed up, then moved to another subdivision, then moved to yet another subdivision before heading to Atlanta, where I don’t even have a potted plant, much less a yard or a garden. Besides, one of the reasons for moving to Atlanta was so we could be mobile, so it’s not like this place is necessarily going to be “home” forever.

In other words, I have manufactured a relatively rootless existence for myself, with no appropriately resting place for beloved pets. Dilemma.

They’re cool hanging out on the top shelf for now, I’m sure. There’s no higher spot in the condo, save for the top of the kitchen cabinets, which, I have to admit, they would have found a way to climb onto during their glory days.

Maybe this is one of those solutions that hits you out of the blue, like realizing that you can wear the same dress at the Monday-night conference reception AND on Wednesday so you won’t have to pack so many outfits.

I just want it to hit me: The cats would LOVE it here. Let’s go get the ashes.

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photo

Say what you will about Pier 1 Imports, but their director’s chairs will last FOREVER if properly maintained (by which I mean not having children or dogs in the house).

A little too long, really. We bought a set of four about 20 years ago, after we figured out we didn’t have enough money for the kitchen table we loved AND the chairs that went with it. We planned to replace them within a few years, only they never were really worse for the wear, and picking out furniture is HARD, you guys.

So they stayed. Only the little plastic tips started wearing out, and proved nearly impossible to replace (thanks for that bit of built-in obsolescence, Pier 1). Soon, we only had three functional chairs. After the move to Atlanta, that number dwindled to two.

IKEA to the rescue. A little over $400 (which is about what we paid for the on-sale table at a fancier Swedish furniture store two decades ago) and we had four perfectly functional, and quite stylish, dining chairs with replaceable covers. IKEA items run the gamut from flimsy to unbelievably sturdy, and these appear to be running toward the sturdy. No squeaking, no rocking, no signs of instability.

Plus, just look at them: all clean lines and comfort.

Meanwhile, two director’s chairs lurk in the storage room downstairs, awaiting a movie production company or a couple of extra guests.

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