The Tea Cup List


For years, in the quiet hours before New Year’s festivities, I dutifully crafted a list of resolutions, usually on the flyleaf of a brand new journal.  They ran the gamut from good thinking  (“Be comfortable in your own skin”) to the painful (“Find a good man”) to the absurd (“Publish that book of poems.”) Almost without exception they became instead a list of failures, mocking me each time I opened the journal. Good God, who needs that to start the new year? Or any time. Eventually I gave up making resolutions (and became comfortable in my own skin and found a good man) — for that matter I gave up keeping journals: much time is wasted contemplating one’s own belly button.

When I turned 50, it seemed like the right time to make a bucket list, so I did. It’s a good list and it’s holding up well. But a Bucket List is like a Lifetime Achievement award, a road map for the things you’d like to eventually accomplish. Some of them are less practical for the short term.

Last week while making quiche I thought, “this year I’m going to teach myself to make a pie crust that is both dependable and delicious.” This thought was soon followed by another: what else would I like to accomplish in the coming year? The usual self-castigating cast of characters danced their way across my consciousness. “Lose weight!” they sang. “Write every day!” they crooned. “Get your thank you notes sent promptly!” rang out the chorus.  No, no, no. Those are all worthwhile and virtuous. But I want something else. Something fun.

Like a bucket list, but smaller and more immediate. And thus, dear friends, we have it. The Tea Cup List. (And many thanks to my dear friend, Fran Menley, for supplying the name of my wonderful new list for the New Year.)  I hasten to add here that I’m not posting this because I think that you are all so fascinated with what I’d like to do in the year to come, but because I think some of you might want to borrow this idea to make your own happy plans for the new year.

Larkin’s Tea Cup List for 2014

1. Gild the living room ceiling.

I bought the paint for this nearly two years ago. The previous owners of the house painted every surface of the living room a kind of golden ochre, in flat paint. The color works, but the texture is wrong.

2. Throw away all my old tired undies.

You know the ones. A little hole here or there, a stretched out elastic, that pair that was never comfortable. I can either buy new or go without. 

3.  Spend more time with friends.

Facebook alone is not good enough, especially when you compare it to a great meal together or time spent on a treasure hunt. For Trisch, who wrote to say “Come see me in L.A.” and Pam, who wants to share lobster rolls again on PEI, I’m intending to include you in this. Distances may be long, but the will is there. 

4. Go riding once in awhile.

I miss horses. I don’t want to own one again, but I’d love to be  seeing the world through the ears of a horse. 

5. Buy a kitchen torch and use it.

This is actually related to something on my Official Bucket List, which was to make a Baked Alaska, or just eat one. In any case, having a torch is useful. 

6. Take Ransom to the beach.

My Chesapeake Bay Retriever will be 11 in June. He needs another trip to the beach.  We live in Ohio, so the beach is something to be pondered;  though Lake Erie is not that far. There’s always  his ancestral homeland, the Chesapeake Bay. Perhaps I can combine it with Number 7. 

7.  Go to Kitty Hawk.

I’m writing a book about Orville Wright, and I live in the Omphalos of Aviation history. But I have to go to Kitty Hawk all the same. I wish I could take the train there, as he and Wilbur did, but alas, those days are gone. I can however . . . 

8. Take the train to the Library of Congress

The train goes from Cincinnati to Washington for less money than it costs to drive. I figure if I get a room at a hostel and don’t take a car, I can walk to the Library to do the research and I won’t be so tempted to waste time goofing off.  Which brings me to 9…

9. Write Five Days a Week

I am a writer, goddammit. It is my job to write.  This may seem to be one of the Mean Fairies of Resolution, but sometimes just defining how you’re going to do something is an enormous boon to doing it. Plus which, I get two days off. 

10.  Renew my passport, and go.

It makes me uncomfortable, almost itchy, that my passport has expired. Time to get a new one– let’s see, passport number five. Canada is not that far away. 

11.  Find a place to swim.

The old YMCA downtown has a wonderful pool, done up in 1920s Egyptian-inspired tile. Time to join. I bet my friend Martha will go with me. 

12. Re-tile the fireplace in the living room.

Speaking of tile. Our house was built in 1913, as Dayton was recovering from a godawful flood. (And yes, it’s built in the flood plain; which strikes me as a wonderful faith and foolishness combined). Over the years it’s been both well-tended and utterly neglected. The previous owners bought it for a dollar from the city. They did a lot of wonderful work in terms of restoration, but some things were a miss– like the dusty pink bathroom tile they used on the fireplace surround. It’s designed to have tile, just not that tile. 

13. Kiss more.

This is a philosophical position. I don’t have to be quite so prickly. 

14. Explore more.

There are so many things left to discover ’round these parts that it still feels like we just moved here. It’s been nearly six years.  Long past time to make time to see flea markets, abandoned watercraft, draft horse farms, haunted places, coonhound gatherings, caverns, dives, and museums of the obscure. I want to go to Henry’s and eat pie. 

15 .  Learn to make a pie crust that is dependable and delicious.


The List

In response to yesterday’s post, my friend Donna offered her own suggestion from getting out from under being overwhelmed: make a list and start checking things off. It’s a good solution and it has worked for me before– not always because I get the things checked off but because it helps me to at least organize my thoughts about the debris fields of my life.

You are not expected to read this list. You certainly may, if you want to– after all I’ve published it. But I don’t expect the minutiae of my life to have much interest for others. Suggestions are always welcome. If I can figure out how to do it, I’ll try to come back and cross them off.

1.  Orville

a. Email WSU for a parking pass for the rare book room for next week.

b. Unearth and re-organize the Wright material.

c.Further develop the outline for the book.

d.I need a title for the book.

e.Develop a proposal for publishers

f. Go to Dayton History and just sit with the plane awhile.

2. House

a. sort out and organize study

b. paint the livingroom

c. paint the hall closet

d. paint the winter bedroom

e. buy new shower curtains

f. sort out clothes and other stuff for Goodwill

g. organize closets and clothing and shoes

h. build shelves in closet for shoes

i. hang shelf over bed

j. hang pictures

k. deal with the clutter everywhere

l. make peach pie

3. Dogs

a. train puppy every day

b. make arrangements for upcoming shows- hotels, entries, cars.

c. contact fence contractor

d. draw plans for shed

e. zoning permit for shed

f. call Kelly Leonard

g. Blue  :’-(

h. Sign up for agility with Holly the Boston terrorist

i. Follow up on paperwork for Grace

j. Work Rowan

k. Monthly flea treatments for dogs and cats, again.

4. Habits

a. limit Facebook to one hour a day.

b. do something active every day.

c. organize food for the house instead of eating out so much

d. Go to bed earlier.

5. Health and Fitness

a. Join the YMCA

b. Go to the YMCA at least twice a week

c. Find a doctor for E.

d. Review health insurance changes

e. Find a health fair for blood work.

f. Buy a U-lock for the bike.

g. Get out in a kayak

h. Back to the pool with Martha

6. Loose Ends

a. Go to Montana to sort out storage units there.

b. Ohio Driver’s License

c. Julian’s WSU application

d. See about the Indiana tax refund

e. cell phone

7. Finances

a. Cancel Netflix and other subscriptions (Highbeam, yousendit) not being used.

b. Crank up eBay sales again.

c. Develop resume

d. Look for a job.

8. Kennel Clubs


i Send meeting notices for August picnic

ii. Make judging assignments

iii Send contracts to judges

iv Contact AKC about loose ends and sanctioned match

v. Match paperwork

vi. Membership roster

b. Dayton Kennel Club

i. Produce and mail August Newsletter


a. Edit and post Dachshund pictures

b. Dinner with Rahn and Gina

c. Get up to Montpelier to see Grannie

d. Spend more time with friends

e. End of summer party?

f. Letter to Sherrod Brown.

Target today 54. Steps today (though its early still) 3618. Breakfast: two hardboiled egg, peach, packet of trail mix. Lunch: chicken salad sandwich and yes, a maple frosted donut. Dinner: two tortillas with leftover grilled chicken, shrimp, chorizo plus avocado and a little cheese. Two peaches, diced.

Swimming Through Jello

It seems I just can’t get started on anything. Or if I get started I can’t finish. A meme floated through Facebook tonight in which a woman muses “I’m very busy doing things I don’t need to do in order to avoid doing anything I’m actually supposed to be doing.” Yesterday, I didn’t even get to this. There’s no decent excuse– reading the New York Times online shouldn’t count.

When I lived in Boston, my landlord, an itinerant architect, lived and worked upstairs. Often he would call downstairs to see if I wanted tea or  if I’d like to accompany him out for breakfast or would I come upstairs and give my opinion on how he’d arranged his closet. (None of these were the come-ons they sound like on paper.) They were the telling clues that he had drawings he had to get finished. Nearly a quarter of a century later, when he calls me (from San Francisco now) just to chat mid-morning, I may ask him “Arranging your sock drawer, again?” and he will laugh and say “Yes, oh my God, I’m so busy.” He’s not kidding.

My own to-do list is so long that if I actually wrote it out on paper it would cascade off the desk and across the floor, rolling through the dining room (which needs straightening badly) and out the kitchen door (which I meant to paint six months ago) and out into the garden, which needs so much work I don’t even know where to begin.

Perhaps that’s the problem. I don’t know where to begin. My most important project got off to a great start this spring and then ground to a halt. I will come back to it, but the neglect eats at me. I have a puppy that needs training. I thought she still needed a name, but my husband put his foot down and said that she will either go by the last name we tried out or she’ll have no name at all. So, Grace she is and will be. He has a point, I’ve been spinning my wheels on that for a month, longer. Last week it was going to be Aurora (Rory for short). I jettisoned that about Wednesday, less than 100 hours before some madman ruined the name for most Americans, like Columbine or Katrina.

This morning when I awoke, my husband was doing something in the little annexed corner of our room. When I was fully awake I realized that he and our son had removed the daybed from that corner and put a tall bookcase and desk there. They must have done it last night while I was messing around on the computer, looking for dog names, but by the time I came to bed I was too sleepy to even turn my head that way.  I lay back on the pillow with a sigh.

“What’s the matter?”

“I dunno. I’m depressed.”

“Depressed?”  I didn’t answer back. I just had nothing to say. They’d worked hard, it would seem ungrateful to reveal I’d just been thinking about it, I wasn’t sure that was a change I wanted to make and gee, maybe that’s not the right spot for those. Especially given the wet, sticky heat that clings to us like a blanket of jello. Maybe I’ll like it better as time goes on. Of course, the daybed is in pieces stacked up against the wall and that will have to go to storage now. One more thing for the list.

Am I really depressed? I shrug in answer to my own question though I know you can’t see that. It’s hot, I’m not motivated. I’m plagued with guilt over the things I’m not getting done. I haven’t been getting enough exercise. I did look at bicycle locks, in preparation for riding the glorious bicycle, but I didn’t buy one. Maybe racquetball?  It’s this feeling of ennui, or just not being able to bring myself to bother, and I struggle against it, but not very hard, because, you know, it’s hot.

Yesterday’s target: 55  Today’s target: 54  Yesterday’s steps: 1806  Today’s steps: 3831. Yesterday food: yogurt with blueberries and granola, two peaches sliced, two scrambled eggs. Lunch: ham sandwich, half cup of cottage cheese. Dinner: Two hard-boiled eggs, 6 ounces of raspberries.  Today food: Two hard-boiled eggs, yogurt with blueberries and granola. Lunch: ham sandwich, two peaches. Dinner: 6 corn chips, three small tortillas filled with grilled meats (La Parillada, one of our favorites), three tablespoons refried beans, three tablespoons rice.