Happy New Year! Too much?
2023, 2024, Auld Lang Syne, Memories, Murrison Syndrome, Squirrels, Nut Organizing, Spatial Chunking, Once a Month Cooking, and Wine Coolers (and Beer)
When I started writing this, it was to say goodbye to 2023 and hello to 2024. It seemed simple: list off a few memories for which I’m grateful, allude to bigger things ahead that will require a greater degree of strategic planning, and publish. Then celebrate the New Year. Until I brought Auld Lang Syne into it. And squirrels, nut organization and strategic chunking. Yikes. First things first.
Auld Lang Syne, as defined by the Scots, is a lot more complicated than reviewing just a single year, it can include a lifetime of fond memories. Tonight, the song suggests we think way back to dear old mom and dad, little Suzy, our neighbor in grade school, the kids with whom we cut classes, wee little babies, and grandbabies. No wonder people cry when they sing that song at midnight. It’s all too much. Especially when they’re drinking. Who remembers all the memories that song evokes? Not me.
I used to suffer from Murrison Syndrome, a malady my coworkers said was causing me to have no recollection of conversations we’d had. I could only surmise (lamely) that from time to time when my brain got overwhelmed by great volumes of information, it rebelled and decided what information to retain and what to toss (without consulting me). The only way we finally outsmarted Murrison Syndrome was by my locking eyes with them when they spoke to me, preventing my brain from tuning them out, and repeated their words back to them. This had the effect of strategically organizing (and prioritizing) our conversations and thus, memories, shelving them where I could recall them when needed. It really worked.
Well, in the process of writing this newsletter today I learned that if squirrels don’t resort to a similar strategy in gathering and storing their food they could starve to death over the winter. They have lots to remember (like where did I put those nuts?) so they organize them. Atlas Obscura claims that they store thousands each year and use spatial chunking, an organizational strategy where they group their food by like types and sizes to remember where they hid them. As I was years ago, I’m still all for organizational strategies these days. As I age, I find the list of things I want to remember is growing while my capacity to keep track of them is contracting. On the bright side, I suppose that will make singing Auld Lang Syne less painful over time.
Now, instead of eye-locking with people I use Teri’s Doing It! as my organizer of memories. I write about them right after they happen, categorize them by type of posts (travel, food, etc.), and send each newsletter out into the ether, promptly forgetting them. If I need to remember, I page back through the posts on my website. This is what happened in 2023.
I worked, went to Uganda, stayed in a Benedictine Monastery (with nuns) for a month, I attended a conference, visited friends, and wrote some more in California in August, attended another conference and visited family in Portland in September, and in October, traveled to England where I wrote, laughed with girlfriends, and stayed in a castle, and I worked. In between, the Professor, our daughter and her husband, and our grandkids had birthdays. We ate out and even spent a few days wine tasting in the Columbia River Gorge. If I want to feel the feels I need only reread what I wrote. So that’s that. 2023. In short, a very busy and epic year.
But now here we are on the cusp of a new year with a new legislative session about to start in the statehouse in Boise. There’s lots of work to be done, personally and professionally. I’m also trying to build my newsletter readership (please subscribe if you haven’t!) and I recently started releasing video and audio podcasts. I’m trying to balance things, so last week I prewrote some newsletters in advance and am recording February and March’s podcast interviews this week.
I thought I was doing well until I remembered that we’ve got to eat next year too, and I realized that the one thing I hadn’t considered was how much time it will take to prepare meals every night. How ideal it would be if all we had to do was pull something out of the freezer that we didn’t buy at a store. Today I was reminded too of how a squirrel strategically gathers and stores nuts. I guess you could say that’s what we did last week.
When I was in my thirties, I had a book called Once a Month Cooking that allowed me to do that.
“Let’s get the book again and cook ahead,” I enthused to the Professor. “Not only will we freeze a large number of meals in advance, but all the shopping and the cooking, the hassle, will be over in just a few days.”
So, we did but started cautiously, cooking only 2 weeks-worth. It was a good thing. On Day One I shopped at WinCo for the budget prices which meant that I bagged and shlepped a ton of groceries out to the car. Once home we put things on the counter for the morning and cooked chicken, blanched and froze green beans, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower, marinated a flank steak, made twice baked potatoes, set up the prep area for the next day, and cut up 2.5 pounds of cooked chicken. Our feet were sore and we were exhausted.
Cooking Day started at 9 am. First came prep – washing, chopping, and laying things out. That was probably the hardest, but it was the first thing we did so that wasn’t so bad. After that, we began assembling meals. Some things got dumped into pots and cooked and stirred while other recipes involved multiple steps. We stopped at noon after we’d completed 7 meals to eat lunch and rest. It was hard to come back and finish the last 7, but we did. 14+ meals were prepared, labeled, categorized, and in the freezer. By the end of Cooking Day our feet and backs ached.
Would we do it again, we wondered. We wisely put off answering that question until next week and I’ll admit to being loath to start eating the meals for fear we’ll have to do it all again... It was pretty sweet to sit down, put our feet up, and start on wine coolers, drinking them, not making them. And oh, yes. And before the day ended there were beers too (see photos).
Well, you’ve reached the end of my goodbye to 2023 and my hello to 2024. I’ve woven together old and new years, Auld Lang Syne, memories, Murrison Syndrome, squirrels, nut organizing, spatial chunking, wine coolers, and beer.
It’s all too much but I’m glad we did it. But before we go, I’ve one final question I’m still pondering... All those nuts – the squirrels must be exhausted - do they drink wine or beer or both?
Happy New Year, friends! Thanks for joining me on this adventure we call life. I can’t wait to see where this one takes us! Let’s Do It! together!