Tuesday, February 26, 2013

10 Reasons Why I'm Looking Forward to Spring

After a long, cold winter with more snow than I wanted to deal with, I am looking forward to spring. Maybe because last winter was unseasonably warm that this winter seemed harder for some reason. Regardless, it is making the thought that spring is only a few weeks away even more inviting.

One of the things I look forward to are the first perennials that emerge and bloom in the spring. The bleeding hearts and ferns under the front pine trees are some of my favorite plants.

Bleeding Hearts
Bleeding hearts under the pine trees
in the front yard.

I enjoy being able to explore the trails at local state parks with Sophia, Olivia, and the dogs.

Girls Running on Trail at William O'Brien State Park - Homeschool Phy Ed
Sophia and Olivia running with Gretel at
William O'Brien State Park.

Seeing the migrating birds return is always uplifting. Some are simply passing through while others will stay here the entire summer.

2 Re-Introduced Trumpeter Swans
Trumpeter swans that Olivia and I saw 
in the next door neighbor's cornfield in March 2012.

The fruit trees are covered with white and pink blossoms in the spring. Having apple, cherry, pear, and plum trees here at the farm means lots of beautiful trees during the spring months.

Pink and White Chairs Under the Apple Tree
The apple tree covered in blossoms.
Sophia and Olivia enjoy climbing this tree
during the spring and summer.

St. Patrick's Day is one of the girls' favorite holidays. They enjoy building a leprechaun trap each year with the hope that they will capture him. So far...no luck capturing him.

Yet, they are never disappointed for long because he always leaves gold coins and gold dust. The leprechaun has even been known to write messages to the girls in coins.

Girls by the Leprechaun Trap
Olivia and Sophia by the leprechaun trap 
they built one year.

Although dandelions are looked at as a nuisance by many, Sophia and Olivia always have enjoyed the deep yellow color that the lawns and fields turn each spring thanks to the dandelions. I always like the bouquets of dandelions that the girls bring me.

Dandelion Bouquet
Olivia handing me a bouquet of dandelions she picked.

Easter is another holiday that we enjoy. Sophia and Olivia look forward to dying eggs each year. I always ask them if they want to decorate them with patterns or do something different. No...they just want to color them in the boldest colors possible.

Easter Eggs
Easter eggs the girls colored.

A sure sign of spring is when the rhubarb and strawberries emerge. I'm always surprised at how quickly the rhubarb grows.

Rhubarb Continuing to Grow
Rhubarb starting to grow in the early spring.

Hanging clothes out to dry is something I like to do. There is no comparison to the fresh smell of clothes that have dried outside. This year - rather than hanging the clothes over the fence, I would like to have a real clothesline.

Another Amish Home
Clothes drying outside a home in 
an Amish community in southeast Minnesota.

And...just because we like celebrating Easter so much, I have to include a picture of the lamb cake. Olivia and I make a lamb cake each year...it's become our tradition.

In the picture below, someone got a little excited about candles and decided to make sure the lamb had a dramatic entrance to the Easter table.

Lamb Cake on Fire
Ten candles on the lamb cake -
8 on top and 2 out of the mouth.
Needless to say, it was a memorable cake that year.

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Alfred Lord Tennyson - Poet/Poetry Study

Alfred Tennyson (August 6, 1809 – October 6, 1892) was Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular British poets.

Tennyson excelled at writing short lyrics. Much of his verse was based on classical mythological themes, such as Ulysses. Tennyson also wrote some notable blank verse including Idylls of the King, "Ulysses," and "Tithonus." During his career, Tennyson tried to write drama, but his plays enjoyed little success.

A number of phrases from Tennyson's work have become commonplaces of the English language, including:
=> "'Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all"
=> "Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die."
=> "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield," and
=> "Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers."

Below are six poems that I read to Sophia and Olivia; and their reactions to them:

The Poet's Song

The rain had fallen, the Poet arose,
He passed by the town, and out of the street,
A light wind blew from the gates of the sun,
And waves of shadow went over the wheat,
And he set him down in a lonely place,
And chanted a melody loud and sweet,
That made the wild-swan pause in her cloud,
And the lark drop down at his feet.

The swallow stopt as he hunted the bee,
The snake slipt under a spray,
The hawk stood with the down on his beak
And stared, with his foot on the prey
And the nightingale thought, “I have sung many songs,
But never a one so gay,
For he sings of what the world will be
When the years have died away.

Sophia: I thought it was a bit sad and gloomy. I could picture him sitting out in the field. It was a quiet poem. I kind of liked it.

Olivia: I am not quite sure I liked it because I didn't really understand it. I liked the swan part because I like swans. 


The Oak

Live thy life,
Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,
Living gold;

Then; and then
Soberer hued
Gold again.

All his leaves
Fall'n at length,
Look, he stands,
Trunk and bough,
Naked strength.

Sophia: Well...that last part was kind of interesting. I liked the part about the gold and how it described an oak. I thought it described an oak quite well.

Olivia: I liked it, but it wouldn't be my favorite poem. I liked how he described the gold. I thought it was neat because I like the color gold.


The Princess: O Swallow

O Swallow, Swallow, flying, flying South,
Fly to her, and fall upon her gilded eaves,
And tell her, tell her, what I tell to thee.

O tell her, Swallow, thou that knowest each,
That bright and fierce and fickle is the South,
And dark and true and tender is the North.

O Swallow, Swallow, if I could follow, and light
Upon her lattice, I would pipe and trill,
And cheep and twitter twenty million loves.

O were I thou that she might take me in,
And lay me on her bosom, and her heart
Would rock the snowy cradle till I died.

Why lingereth she to clothe her heart with love,
Delaying as the tender ash delays
To clothe herself, when all the woods are green?

O tell her, Swallow, that thy brood is flown:
Say to her, I do but wanton in the South,
But in the North long since my nest is made.

O tell her, brief is life but love is long,
And brief the sun of summer in the North,
And brief the moon of beauty in the South.

O Swallow, flying from the golden woods,
Fly to her, and pipe and woo her, and make her mine,
And tell her, tell her, that I follow thee.

Sophia: It was long and sort of interesting. I really didn't like that one because it wasn't to the point. 

Olivia: I didn't understand it too well. I liked how he described the swallows flying. 


Cradle Song

What does little birdie say
In her nest at peep of day?
Let me fly, says little birdie,
Mother, let me fly away.
Birdie, rest a little longer,
Till thy little wings are stronger.
So she rests a little longer,
Then she flies away.

What does little baby say,
In her bed at peep of day?
Baby says, like little birdie,
Let me rise and fly away.
Baby, sleep a little longer,
Till thy little limbs are stronger.
If she sleeps a little longer,
Baby too shall fly away.

Sophia: I thought it was a cute story. If you change a few words it could be a book or something. I liked the second part of the poem that focused on the baby because it is all about growing up and doing your own thing...flying away from your nest or your home.

Olivia: That one was good because it was about a bird learning how to fly. The mother and the baby are talking to one another. The mom had good advice. I liked the part that says: "Let me fly, says little birdie, Mother let me fly away."


Flower in the Crannied Wall

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower - but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

Sophia: It's complicated for being a short poem, but it's a nice poem. I don't know why, but I like the fourth line ("Little flower - but if I could understand"). 

Olivia: The poet is thinking about the flower in the wall.  He wishes that he could know everything in the world if he understood the flower. I liked this poem a little bit, especially the part about when he was picking it out.


The Deserted House

Life and Thought have gone away
Side by side,
Leaving door and windows wide.
Careless tenants they!

All within is dark as night:
In the windows is no light;
And no murmur at the door,
So frequent on its hinge before.

Close the door; the shutters close;
Or through the windows we shall see
The nakedness and vacancy
Of the dark deserted house.

Come away: no more of mirth
Is here or merry-making sound.
The house was builded of the earth,
And shall fall again to ground.

Come away: for Life and Thought
Here no longer dwell;
But in a city glorious -
A great and distant city -have bought
A mansion incorruptible.
Would they could have stayed with us!

Sophia: I liked at the end how the poet wrote about how a mansion is incorruptible or can't decay like the house did. It basically is about an old house that is deserted and quiet. They were talking about how it was and how it could be if it wasn't corruptible. 

Olivia: I thought it was kind of depressing and sad because it was telling about an old house. It was kind of creepy, and I don't like haunted things. 


Monday, February 18, 2013

Circle Art and Abstract Painting

Sophia, Olivia, and I have begun volunteering this year at a care center near our home. It's a new one that opened within the past couple of years, and has a wonderful set-up: all the rooms are private ones with the exception of four corner ones where couples are able to live together.

So, the facility is much smaller than other ones, with the nursing home part having about 40 residents and the assisted living part having about 20 residents.

Last week, we lead a pie-making and hot chocolate social which was well-received by the seniors. (About 35% of the residents participated in it.)

This week, we did a painting session. About 20% of the residents showed up. We did two different projects which I found on Pinterest. The pin for Easy Abstract Painting led to Craft Pond.


We did a sample ahead of time to show the seniors. Olivia chose several colors of paint - red, yellow, blue, purple, and white. We squeezed the acrylic paint tubes and various sizes of paint blobs went onto the canvas.

Canvas with paint blobs on it.

Then Olivia took her brush and gently blended the paint together. At times, when the brush had a lot of different colors of paint on it, she would wipe it off on a paper towel.

Olivia blending the paint.

When she was done, she had a canvas filled with abstract shapes and blends of colors. She likes it on its own. It could also be used as a background for a collaged-mixed media piece.

Olivia's final painting.

When we were working with the seniors, we had them choose two colors plus white. Some of the seniors needed more encouragement and direction, depending on their skill level.

This 98-year old senior mixed red, yellow, and white together.
She is receiving help from another a resident at the nursing home.

 For the abstract painting, most of the seniors didn't need assistance once they started blending the colors.

Sophia helping the seniors with painting.

They seemed interested and engaged in seeing how the colors blended together.

Focusing on blending the paint together.

The resulting paintings were beautiful.

The finished abstract painting done by one of residents
at the nursing home.

Some of the seniors painted objects instead of simply blending the colors together.

Concentrating on blending the colors.

The result was a different type of painting than we envisioned, but one that was equally as rewarding for the senior to create.

A painting done by one of the seniors.

There was one senior who chose to dab the paintbrush into the paint blobs and create lots of different random spots on the page.
One of the paintings done by the seniors.

It was interesting to see the variety of work that is created by giving people the same materials - acrylic paint, a canvas, and a paintbrush - and see the creativity they showed through art.


The pin for Circle Art led to Skip to My Lou.  To do the circle art project, the first step is to put some acrylic paint on a plate. Dip a plastic lid or container into the paint and apply to the paper.

One of the seniors dipping a lid into the paint and
applying it to his paper.

Fill the page with various circles overlapping one another.

Sophia's example.

Let the paint dry and then decide if you want to fill in the circles with oil or chalk pastels...

My example.

or with various doodles.

Olivia's example.

When we were working with the seniors, we provided a sheet with various doodle ideas.

The idea sheet we showed the seniors.

This was a challenging project for about half of the seniors. They needed help with dipping the container into the paint and then placing it randomly on the pages. The other half was able to do this step without assistance.

Some of the seniors chose to color in some of the circles, while others patiently filled in the circles with a variety of shapes.

One gentleman filled in each space with a variety of designs.

Friday, February 15, 2013

3 in 30 February Goals - Update #1 and #2

During February I set three goals for the 3 in 30 challenge. Here's how I am doing on them:

1. Take Sophia and Olivia on two field trips for homeschooling. The field trips will be happening during the third week of February. We will be going to Vertical Endeavors for indoor rock climbing; and to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The latter field trip will be with my Mom who will be on the "white glove" tour which allows visitors who have vision impairments to touch various pieces of art work while they are being described by a docent.

This week I talked with the docent who will be doing the tour at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. She wanted to know if we all wanted to wear white gloves and do the tour...not just my Mom. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity. 

Sophia and Olivia are even more excited to go the MIA because now we will get to touch some of the artwork that we've enjoyed seeing, but haven't had the opportunity to touch since the MIA is a hands-off museum. 

2. Do one cleaning/de-cluttering project each week. The four areas that I want to concentrate on during February are:
=> the linen/towel/medicine closet;
=> the fabric bins in my office;
=> the "to-do" projects in my office; and
=> the items in one section of my office which need to be put away or donated so there is more space.

I have not made any progress on this goal. We adopted a puppy last week, and the majority of my time is focused on getting Cooper acclimated to his new home and homeschooling. 

Montague (the golden retriever) and Cooper (the puppy) 
spending some time with Bailey (the pony).

The plus side of having the puppy is that I have been taking walks each day - anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour. Perhaps I should change this goal to an exercise one instead...at least I could say I made some progress on it then. 

The dogs on their first walk together.

3. Get federal and state income taxes done. 

This week I grouped all receipts, paperwork, and tax statements together by category (e.g., mortgage payments, medical, dental, business). I also began totaling some of the categories (ones that begin with letters A-D are done; categories that begin with letters E-Z remain). Then I need to enter the totals onto the form for the CPA so she can complete the taxes.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A New Puppy!

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. 
For me they are the role model for being alive. 
~ Gilda Radner ~

On January 12th, our almost-five year old dog, Gretel, passed away. We were devastated by her unexpected death.

In Memory of Gretel - January 23, 2008-January 12, 2013
Photos from Gretel's life with us.
She was a wonderful dog and loving companion.

Shortly after her death, I let Northwoods Humane Society (where we adopted Gretel from) know about what happened.

I had debated about whether to do this because I didn't want them to think that I had somehow failed my commitment to provide Gretel with a long life in a loving home. Yet, the veterinarian said that her death was not my fault or something that I could control. (Gretel either suffered from a heart attack or brain aneurysm - most likely the former).

So, I was touched when the executive director, Brenda Zelinka, extended her sympathies and said it would be her personal mission to find us a new companion.

Surprisingly, on January 22nd, I received an email about a six-month old puppy named Deacon. Brenda didn't share the puppy's name with me in her initial email because I had made monthly contributions through our 12 in 12 challenge during 2012 to Northwoods Humane Society in memory of my Dad (who was ordained as a Deacon in 1991; and who had passed away on January 5, 2012). She didn't want the puppy's name to affect my decision.

The first puppy we visited: Deacon.

Sophia, Olivia, and I went to Northwoods immediately to see if Deacon would be a good fit for us and with Montague. When he was brought to the visiting room, he initially seemed interested in us, but it was short-lived. He seemed to want to be somewhere else and with someone else...not us.

Reluctantly, I told Brenda that Deacon seemed to be waiting for another family. In fact, as we were standing in the lobby another woman came out and Deacon excitedly responded to her. I knew, in my heart, that Deacon was waiting for someone else.

I also told her that this visit made us aware that a puppy - a much younger one - would be a better fit with our family...especially with Montague.

As I turned around to leave, Deacon was sitting so nicely next to Brenda. I said and waved "goodbye." I repeated in my mind, "Goodbye, Deacon," and then immediately a wave of sadness came over to me as I thought about my Dad.

In a way, it reminded me of the many and difficult "goodbyes" I said to my Dad. So many times, I would say and wave "goodbye" to him while he was in the depths of Alzheimer's - both at home and then at the nursing home...and I would walk away questioning if I was doing enough...or if I had done the right thing (especially after having to make the decision to place him at a nursing home).

So many emotions...unexpected ones...in choosing a puppy.

She had no particular breed in mind, no unusual requirements. 
Except the special sense of mutual recognition 
that tells dog and human 
they have both come to the right place.
~ Lloyd Alexander ~

Then, on February 7th, I received another email from Brenda to let me know that a puppy named Cooper was at Northwoods. She wrote, "Cooper is about 12 weeks old, the lady who surrendered him said Golden mix, he is however black. I don’t see the golden but…"

Cooper's referral picture.

My initial reaction to the photograph of Cooper that Brenda attached to her email was, "His eyes look sad."  Then I wondered why he was available.

Brenda said the woman who surrendered him "just wasn’t up for a puppy. She continued, "I think she just did not realize how much work puppies are." (The previous owner had Cooper for only three days and then brought him to Northwoods.)

Sophia, Olivia, and I drove to Northwoods and arrived there within 1 1/2 hours of receiving her email. As we were ready to turn into the Northwoods driveway, another car turned in ahead of us.

"I hope they're not here to see Cooper," Sophia said.

I parked the car and Sophia practically jumped out and began walking to the front door. She was going to get there before the person in the other car got to the building.

As we opened the door, there stood Cooper being held on a leash by a young couple. My heart sank. I could not believe that in such a short period of time there would be someone else ready to leave with him.

But wait...they were debating about it. They weren't quite sure if they could adopt him for some reason.

Brenda came out, listened to what they were saying, and then took Cooper's leash and led us to the visiting room.

Cooper was excited, happy, and seemed thrilled to see us.

Cooper hugging Olivia.

It was like he had been waiting for us...and we for him.

Puppies are nature's remedy for feeling unloved...
plus numerous other ailments of life. 
~ Richard Allen Palm ~

We spent time playing together in the visiting room, took him outside to go to the bathroom, and then had Brenda bring in a cat to see how he did with a cat. This was very important since we have five cats and need to have dogs who aren't aggressive towards them. Cooper was curious and respectful of the cat.

Brenda gave us more time alone with Cooper. Sophia, Olivia, and I discussed how we felt about Cooper and if we thought he'd be a good fit with Montague. We knew he was already a great fit with us.

We decided to adopt Cooper. After picking out a few chew toys and anti-chew spray, I completed the paperwork. They made an identification tag for him which is on his collar.

We had Brenda take a picture of us outside as we did with Gretel in 2008. And then we were headed home.

Cooper made himself comfortable on Olivia's jacket in the backseat. Within five minutes, he was fast asleep, and slept almost the entire way home.

Cooper on the ride home.
This was minutes before he fell asleep.

About 3 minutes from home, I noticed an eagle flying from the west towards our car. "Girls, look! It's an eagle!" I said. We watched it soar overhead almost right over our car. It was breathtaking.

It seems like I've seen eagles at times in my life - particularly in the past year or so - when there's a major life change (both positive and challenging), I need some reassurance, or I've been in the depths of grief.

True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, 
the zest of creating things new.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery ~

When we came home, we had to carefully introduce Cooper to Montague. I went inside the home first and pet Montague and told him we had a new friend for him. I let him smell my hands, jacket, and pants since they were covered with Cooper's smell.

Then, I put the gate up between the living room and kitchen, with Montague in the living room and me in the kitchen. Meanwhile, Sophia brought Cooper into the mudroom and kept the door closed. 

The next step was for me to hold Cooper and introduce him to Montague. I did so by showing Montague Cooper's back - not face- so he wouldn't feel threatened.

Montague sniffed and barked...but didn't seem aggressive or angry. So far so good.

The next step was to take them outside to neutral territory - the street - and have them meet one another face to face. 

Sophia holding Cooper before the dogs met face-to-face.

Sophia held Cooper and walked him out to the street with Olivia; and I got Montague on his leash and walked him to the street.

Introducing the dogs to one another.

She held him while I said positive things in a very high-and-happy voice while Montague and Cooper met one another. I lavished praise on both of them and urged them forward on a walk.

Montague and Cooper on their first walk together.

They did so well together - walking next to one another, playing in the snow in the ditches, and exploring the scents along the road. I couldn't have asked for a better experience.

If it wasn't for puppies, 
some people would never go for a walk. 
~ Anonymous ~

We came back from the walk and explored the backyard together. Cooper saw Bailey for the first time and was startled that such a large animal was only a short distance from him.

Cooper meeting Bailey for the first time.
The next day, he wanted to be a helper.
So, I held him after I put hay down for the horses, and
they came galloping out to see us. 
Cooper was fascinated.

The dogs played and ran together in the backyard. 

The dogs playing in the backyard together.

When there was a new sound for Cooper, he would stop and Montague would do so as well. They would listen to the sound together, and then resume playing. 

The dogs and Olivia listening to new sound
that Cooper heard.

It was a joy to see how happy both of them were. We knew it was a perfect match!

Dogs are our link to paradise. 
They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. 
To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, 
where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace.
~ Milan Kundera ~

The first late-afternoon and evening, Cooper had a tremendous amount of energy. We thought he would never settle down. He seemed thrilled to be home.

Olivia and Sophia with Cooper.
He fell asleep on the couch in the same place that
Gretel and Casey use to sleep. 

The first full day that we had Cooper (Friday, February 8th), we were getting to know one another and establish a routine. 

Since Cooper is in the process of being housebroken, he needed to be let out during the night (12:30 p.m.) and then again in the morning (5:00 a.m.).

Once the dogs had breakfast, they played for two hours. Much of the play was each of them showing the other how wide their mouths would open. Cooper would nip at Montague, and Montague would "nip" in return. 

As a human being, this game would have gotten old after the first...oh, I don't know...two minutes. For them, the first minute was exciting as the 120th minute. 

This is the "mouth game" that went on for two hours.
They move so fast that the only pictures I have were blurry ones.

At that point, it was light out and I needed a break from listening to this "mouth game." It was time for the morning walk. This time Montague took Cooper on a different walk than yesterday. 

We were able to see about 40 turkeys resting near the tree tops next to a nearby field. On the way past them, they were roosting, but on the way back they flew off. We could hear the turkeys' wings flapping as they flew to the next cornfield.

The dogs are resting after their morning walk and 
play time in the backyard.

Friday also marked Cooper's first day of homeschooling. He sat with Montague and cats as the girls did their schoolwork.

Sophia working on math with Eenie on her lap and 
Cooper at the end of the bed.
Look at Cooper's pink tongue...someone is happy!

Cooper has quickly learned how to climb onto the bed and rest. He often sleeps next to me while I work and sleep.

Cooper resting on my arm as I make window stars.

After less than one day of being carried up and down the stairs (since he didn't know how to climb and descend steps), he learned how to walk up and down them. Having Montague walk up and down the steps throughout the day helped Cooper learn this skill. 

We have had Cooper now for 3 1/2 days. Having a routine to our days has helped Cooper calm down and feel more secure. Although there are times when he has a high amount of energy (because he's a puppy), there are equally as many times when he is relaxed and content with observing or resting.

He is learning that if he is calm, the cats will sit on the bed near him. They, in their own way, are training him about the way they want to be treated.

Montague and Cooper even play the "mouth game" outside. 
Although it looks like both dogs are about to attack one another, they are playing.
Gretel and Montague use to play this game all the time.
I'm happy to see Montague and Cooper like this game too.
(The Dog Trainer has some information about how to tell if your dog is fighting or playing.)

I am incredibly grateful to Brenda and Northwoods Humane Society for letting me know about Cooper, and providing such a valuable service to the community. Our lives were positively affected and forever changed because of Gretel; and now we are have another opportunity to share our love with a new canine friend and family member.

Cooper and Montague relaxing on the bed.

Cooper has been such a delight to have over the past 3 1/2 days; and has acclimated himself well to our family. It feels like he was meant to be here.

We are truly blessed by having Cooper as the newest member of our family!

Dogs are not our whole life, 
but they make our lives whole.
~ Roger Caras ~

Sunday, February 3, 2013

3 in 30 - February Goals

My 3 in 30 goals for February are:

1. Take Sophia and Olivia on two field trips for homeschooling. We will be going to Vertical Endeavors to do indoor rock climbing one day; and visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts another day.

The former field trip is part of a homeschooling day which is nice. Other homeschoolers from around the area who enjoy rock climbing will be there, so it should be a fun way to connect with others with similar interests.

The latter field trip we are taking my Mom on. We have requested a "white glove" tour which is a tactile tour of the museum. A docent accompanies us to explain various pieces of art. My Mom will be wearing white gloves so she can touch the different pieces of artwork that the docent will be describing.

My Mom's eyesight is failing and she is struggling with the loss of vision, and how that impacts her life. Hopefully, this tour will be a positive and inspiring one for her; and educational for the girls and I to see how we can better help my Mom cope with major changes in her vision.

2. Do one cleaning/de-cluttering project each week. The four areas that I want to concentrate on during February are:
=> the linen/towel/medicine closet;
=> the fabric bins in my office;
=> the "to-do" projects in my office; and
=> the items in one section of my office which need to be put away or donated so there is more space.

3. Get federal and state income taxes done. I want this done this month so that any refund can be quickly received.