Sometimes, I love buying gifts. Finding that perfect something makes me giddy. Other times, I am filled with dread. What can I get the person who has everything he needs or wants? How can I surprise him?

My husband is such a person. It’s not that he’s picky. He possesses that lethal combination: disposable income plus penchant for internet shopping. This means, once he thinks of something he “needs,” he goes off and gets it. I have to be quick or I have to be clever.

With his birthday arriving, I panicked. He’s got hobbies aplenty, but I’m not going to buy more electronics, more drums, more cookbooks, or more gardening equipment. What’s a gal to do?

Meet Zeke. The gift for the gardener who has everything, because surely he doesn’t have a gardener zombie. Nom nom nom.

Mmmm….mint. Nom nom nom.

I recently shredded a piece of my past. While cleaning out a box full of outdated papers, cards, and scribbled notes, I found old employment reviews. I considered filing them. Instead, I shredded them. While the shredder chewed and spit out the pages, I wondered if it was a form of denial to destroy the documents that outlined all the ways in which I was not an ideal employee. Was I shredding them to erase the negativity? No, I shredded them because they’re no longer relevant. I don’t plan to return to fundraising, and even if I did, I wouldn’t hand a potential employer my performance reviews.

I’m having a harder time with old journals. Part of me desperately wants to shred them; the packrat-writer part feels compelled to keep them. I’ve had this internal debate for decades, probably. In fact, I had a journal my senior year of high school that I threw in the trash. Years later, while looking for something in my parents’ house, I found my old journal. My mom had fished it from the trash. I was simultaneously angry, horrified, embarrassed. I feared she’d read it. A friend said, “No offense, but she probably got bored with it.”

It's like fairy tale. The bear looks sweet & inviting, beckoning you to sit down and read. But watch out! He'll cut you.

It’s like a fairy tale. Sweet & inviting bear, beckoning you to sit down and read. But watch out! He’ll cut you.

Yesterday, I decided to read it again. I would love to say my teenage journal is exciting, riveting. It’s not. It’s boring, filled with the minutiae of a high school senior – going to the mall, liking boys, dreaming about the prom. If it were just boring, that would be fine. But instead, it’s laced with doses of teenage angst, the worst being “I’m getting down on myself, feeling I’m too fat. I think maybe that’s why guys don’t like me – I’m too ugly.”

I vacillated between longing for connection and worrying about getting labeled a slut. How could I have worried about being called a slut when I’d only kissed a couple boys? Where did all my loathing come from? I wrote about a sweet grandfatherly gentleman I worked with who asked me “if all the guys were deaf, dumb, and blind” when I told him I didn’t have a boyfriend. I wish there were more Mr. Prindevilles in my life, and that I’d really heard them.

In the middle of this journal, pages were torn out. If I left all the anguish and doubt, what the hell did I rip out?

The problem with my journals is I only wrote when things were really good or really bad, thus they’re like manic-depressive roller coasters.

I’ve read this journal and now re-read it at least once. All it does it make me sad. That sadness is no longer relevant to my life. It’s going back in the trash, where it should have stayed in the first place.

A friend and I made a pact that if one dies, the other would take her journals and dispose of them. I’m going to save her the effort.

  1. Bubble tea: “Balls” is an expression to express disgust, not something you should eat.
  2. Princess cake: I like white cake, and I like marzipan, but putting them together does not make a to-die-for cake.
  3. The bacon craze: I love me some bacon, but not in my vodka, my chocolate chip cookies, and especially not in my soap!
  4. Claw-foot tubs: Designer magazines make them look amazingly gorgeous. They can be, if they are only tubs. When they’re converted into showers, they suck. At least ours does. The shower curtains attack and have to be held in place with magnets. Plus, there’s no good place to put your stuff.
  5. Houses with “character”: Ours is filled with charming items such as claw-foot tubs with attack curtains and creative wiring. At a recent party, a guest said to me, “You two are so brave to take on an old house like this.” I laughed and answered, “Oh, no. We’re renting.” Relief washed over her face.
  6. Salespeople who use abuse your name:”So, Mariana, what I can do for you?” “Well, Mariana, we have a sale going on today.” We are not buddies, and even my buddies don’t use my name to start every other sentence!
  7. Music everywhere you go: I have thoughts of my own, thank you very much. I don’t need your loud, crappy music worming its way into my brain. At a restaurant the other night, we were “entertained” by KTLS – all Tortured Love Songs, all the time! There’s nothing like being serenaded by Michael Bolton…to make you want to jam a chopstick into your ear.
  8. Fortune cookies: I don’t love the flavor, but that’s not even my issue. I want a fortune, not a platitude. In the good old days, you might read, “You will meet a handsome stranger and travel the world.” Today? “Answer only to yourself. You know the questions.”
  9. Game of Thrones, the HBO series: I haven’t read the books, but I tried to watch the series to keep the husband company. I barely made it through the opening credits before someone was beheaded. Mind you, I have a very low threshold for violence and gore in movies and television. So #9 could simply be “violence for entertainment.” I don’t want to spend my money on something that’s going to give me nightmares. That said, I got convinced to watch another couple episodes of Game of Thrones – during which I closed my eyes quite a few times, when I could see the violence coming. What I couldn’t anticipate? The beheading of a horse! Yes, they beheaded a horse. I jumped up, screaming, “I’m done. Out of here. Going upstairs!” I think I even put in earplugs.
  10. Stupid numbered lists.