Thursday, December 30, 2010

There's got to be before and after. My New Year's resolution? Out with the old.

I recently had a sit-down with my professional organizer friend, Deb. You might recall; she gave me all kinds of good information about hoarders. And not unlike being pulled over by a cop and just getting a warning or finding out everything looks good (as good as it can) after a colonoscopy, learning that I wasn't actually a hoarder was somewhat redemptive.

Deb actually shed light on the fact that there are fewer true hoarders than the television show and occasional odd news story would suggest. Most of us fall somewhere along a very succinct clutter continuum.

I learned so much that day with Deb. And even though I was casually interviewing her about what life is like creating order out of chaos, talking shop with Deb definitely compelled me to take a look in the mirror.

Not really.

It actually made me take a look at all the crap I keep and never use, specifically in the prime real estate known as my kitchen drawers.

I have 10 drawers in my kitchen. It's safe to say that well over half of those drawers are affectionately considered junk drawers.

Stuff accumulates. Crap has no distinct place to be put. Life twirls in a fashion that doesn't sometimes afford the opportunity to put things away with precision. And in that spin cycle, junk drawers are born.

But Deb motivated me, not with a pep talk or a shaming lecture. She just told me about her life, her clients, some of her wacky experiences introducing calm in peoples' lives where there once were piles of clutter. Deb's so passionate about what she does. She's loving, non-judgmental, understanding.

That being said, spending time with my old friend made me feel the need to clean. I wanted become less chronically disorganized. I wanted to be able to find a screwdriver or a hammer without using a swear word in the process. I never wanted the passport fiasco to happen again (I won't relive that crazy time, but you can: http://paradigmthrift.blogspot.com/2010/05/worst-weekend-ever.html). I want to be able to find my 2009 tax return before I need it.

So I channeled Deb one afternoon. I decided to start this Out With the Old decluttering project by cleaning out a few kitchen drawers. Ready for some before and after pictures?

So. The top drawer in the first photo looked like this. It was filled with spent Starbucks cards, old ishy chap stick, dental floss containers, hair accessories and other stuff that I can't even remember due to their complete inconsequentiality.



Now it looks like this. I still have the bowl of paper clips, nails, thumbtacks and other incidentals, but now this drawer just has fabulous note paper, extra glasses. I'll add the other photos with minimal explanation. Suffice it to say that I threw out a whole lot of stuff I hadn't looked at for years. Keys to cars I no longer own. Pokemon cards. It goes on and on.



Over to the right is what Drawer Numero Dos looked like before.


And now, it looks like this, filled with fabulous cloth napkins, all an arm's length away from the kitchen table.



The third drawer down was like a middle child; appreciated when noticed, but easy to overlook. It used to be filled with this stuff....


And now I honestly don't know what to do with this free space. See what I mean?
Then there's the bottom drawer. It used to be filled with a vast, mangled mess of cords and connectors and wires to equipment I probably don't even have any more. And the dog leashes were the cherries on top of this crap sundae. 

This bottom drawer used to be called the Toy Drawer when the boys were little. They'd toddle over to the drawer, which housed an ever-changing sparkly, magical world of tiny, fun items. It was empowering for them and convenient for me, to have the fall-back Toy Drawer. Eventually it became the cord drawer, when their toys became more electronic and complicated.
There's not much measurable outward change to this bottom drawer, which is now just known as the bottom drawer. Or the leash drawer. 

But none of these four drawers are junk drawers any more. Most of the stuff in these drawers was sentimentally, reverentially tossed. All of this old stuff once had some meaning, held some feeling of necessity. And like a hairy mole on an old man's chin, this collection got bigger year after year. Because one of us thought these things would someday acquire importance or function.

But it's time to say goodbye to the old. Of course the random photos and special treasures I tripped upon while cleaning out these drawers found an appropriate new home.

It was so easy, cleaning out these drawers, breathing new life into old spaces. It only took about an hour. And I owe my new drawers to Deb's refreshing influence. http://simpleorderdesign.com/.

I don't usually make resolutions. I generally approach resolutions more flippantly than resolutely. 

But I would like to clear the clutter this next year, on so many levels. 

Here's to finding order in chaos, calm among disarray. Equanimity. Let's toast to equanimity. 

Let's also celebrate four fewer junk drawers. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

What's the coolest thing you got for Christmas? I got a goat!

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Chinese proverb


I got something for Christmas that I never ever thought I'd get. And it's among the coolest gifts I've ever received.

I got a goat!

My dad and his groove thing Vel bought me a nanny goat.

No, it's not grazing in my back yard, annoying my dogs, upsetting the children, confounding the neighbors.

It's being sent to someone who's facing bleak times, somewhere far away.

Stop. What's this It stuff? I need to give my nanny goat a name. I think I'll call her Anita.

So Anita is a productive, scrappy upstart. My dad found her through Heifer, International http://www.heifer.org/site/c.edJRKQNiFiG/b.183217/.

It's a grassroots organization that helps the desperate and hungry. In Haiti. In Africa. In Romania. All over the place.

I'm sure that precocious Anita will definitely not disappoint, wherever she goes.

Because lovely Anita is a giver.

She can produce up to a gallon of milk every day.

Which means whoever she winds up with might decide to make some cheese, too.

Eventually, charming Anita will find her billy goat soulmate, thanks most likely to Heifer, International.

Anita will be coy and charming at first, and yet ultimately she'll relent to the seething, brooding yet whimsical charm of Tim (that's what I've decided to call Anita's billy goat gruff).

Tim and Anita will get right to it, to put it delicately.

And before you know it, Tim and Anita will be surrounded by their offspring. Because Anita can have two or three kids every year. Unlike the humans who are benefitting from her bounty, Anita apparently has no memory of the pain of childbirth.

Good for her.

And good for Tim! Because he's productive, too! And let's not even get started on the kids. So helpful, so charming, so many.

Which is good for the impoverished community where Anita and Tim have found themselves.

They're a happy goat family.

But Heifer, Intl. isn't just about goats. My children received flocks of chicks from dad and Vel.

Imagine the possibilities. The usefulness.

Imagine all the names we'll have to come up with.

And there's more.

Llamas. Sheep. Trees. Bees. Hogs. Water buffalo. And, of course, heifers.

Heifer, International teaches people to fish with all of this amazing livestock.

So little means so much to so many.

Which brings me back to Anita.

She's just a goat. But she represents sustainability to people who consider living without hunger their greatest gift.

You go, Anita. Kick some ass. Make some milk. Have some fun with Tim. Churn out those kids.

Make a difference.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm dreaming of a full mailbox: Acknowledging the slow death of the Christmas card tradition

I don't get very many Christmas cards any more, and I refuse to take it personally.

I choose instead to blame it on the economy and the internet.

Also, I guess the axiom of reaping what you sew also seems appropriate.

I used to send out Christmas cards religiously, so to speak.

But times change.

Back in the day, I sent about 50 Christmas cards, complete with detailed Year in Review letters.

But then the magic of sending Christmas cards was slapped with the Scroogy open hand of pragmatism.

I did a bit of math, and came to the conclusion that, between purchasing cards and postage, it was costing approximately $120 to send out Christmas cards.

The internet solved the financial dilemma.

So for several years, instead of sending cards with a letter stuffed inside, I opted for sending out a holiday email, which featured the highlights of a fictional, fabricated family: the Seracinos.

In her Christmas letter (which I channeled), Jackie Seracino vigilantly recounted the year's highlights of her kids Billy and Sue - classic underachievers -  as well as observations about her inattentive, problem-addled husband Stan. The Seracinos' dysfunction is their charm. But Jackie looked through the black. She consistently, lovingly annually painted her family with the warm watercolor beauty of holiday optimism.

I created the Seracinos because I figured that my manufactured family was much more interesting than what I could come up with about my own clan. And over the years, I grew to love the Seracinos.

Making up a family was so much fun. But admittedly, I haven't even done that for a few years.

So. I dropped the shiny Christmas card ball.

I'd like to assume the dearth of holiday cards I get is a reflection of the times. Spending a ton of money on sending out cards has become discretionary, and there are a ton of websites that offer a wide range of holiday cards for free.

People are busy. Times change. Priorities shift.

And maybe some folks took umbrage to the spirit of the Seracinos. Who knows.

Maybe some have opted out of sending Christmas cards because cards and their requisite envelopes produce a huge amount of waste, unless you're a hoarder, and you keep every card you've ever received.

Christmas cards, at least in my world, seem to be going in the direction of land line telephones, soap operas and being referred to as Ma'am instead of Miss.

Oddly, those realities don't make me feel better. Because my mailbox has lost the magical sparkle it had when it was filled each day with warm holiday wishes. Now I have nothing to look forward to when it comes to my mailbox but the inevitable trickle of bills and junk mail.

I certainly don't want to take it personally.

Admittedly, I love getting Christmas cards.

I look forward to digging my mail out of the box, especially this time of year, and I love every card that's shuffled among the bills and junk. I have a few days to go before Christmas, so I'll be dreaming of a white Christmas and a full mail box.

I get the feeling that Christmas card nostalgia has become just that. I love my trips to the mail box, but I have the sense that receiving a profusion of cards in these odd, tumultuous times is the definition of a Christmas miracle.

But I can dream....

Friday, December 10, 2010

Let there be twisty, cheap, efficient, compact fluorescent light.

I went to Ace Hardware yesterday, ostensibly to go to the post office. 

But who doesn't like to browse the merch at Ace? Ace has almost everything a person needs to fix, to clean, to create. The store even has that OCD aisle of nuts and bolts, each housed in a little teeny bin, marked with an informative visual rendering of the bin's contents. 

Solvents. Ace has lots of solvents. 

And seasonal stuff. As well as furnace filters. Tissue paper. Barbeque grills. Paint. 

An incongruous panoply of useful items.

Plus, Ace has that seemingly Prozac-addled helpful hardware man. 

And as I mentioned, the Ace right up the street also has a post office, tucked way in the back. So yesterday, my intention was to mail some stuff. 

But then, on my way back to the post office, I saw a dizzying display of compact fluorescent bulbs. Let's call them CFLs from here on out.

The CFLs were on sale, each bulb a mere 99 cents. Each.

So I bought six.

The cost of each bulb, when they're not at this freakishly low less-than-a-buck price, is 6.49. Each.

So essentially, I got six bulbs for the cost of one.

I call that a bargain.

But there's more!

I not only saved at the point of purchase. Once I twist these swirly bulbs into their sockets, I'll save even more.

Each CFL uses a fraction of the energy than their bottom-heavy incandescent counterpart. And CFLs have the lifespan of Superman, providing light where once there was none up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. This translates into approximately $30 a year per bulb in energy savings.

There's no down-side. Especially when each bulb can be purchased for less than a buck.

Of course, like people who think global warming is a hoax or Elvis is still alive, there are folks who refuse to take a peek at the evidence. There are people who actually hoard incandescent bulbs, refusing to see the obvious benefits of CFLs. 

Let me shed some light on what I think of incandescent bulb lovers. They're dorks. They're the ones who'd bitch about how cashmere is just too soft, or baby kittens are cloying, manipulative attention-seekers.

But soon, these incandescent-hoarding naysayers won't have a choice.

Not unlike placing a high priority on education or the eradication of poverty, America is behind the curve when it comes to transitioning from incandescent to CFL bulbs, despite the data.

The change is coming, people.

Other countries are mandating CFLs and eliminating the availability of incandescents within the next year or two. America, in all its progressive glory, will mandate the change very gradually, state by state, and eventually, most likely by 2020 (irony not intended), we'll all be hooked into the twirly goodness of CFLs. 

Change is hard when it comes to light bulbs, apparently.

But really, there's no boogie man in the closet when it comes to this innocuous switch. Especially when you can catch a bargain like I managed to find yesterday.

I bought a whole bunch of bulbs yesterday, and their combined cost was comparable to a venti whatever at Starbucks.

I'd say that's nothing less than illuminating.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A dream is a wish your heart makes.

So I've written about how we shop, and why we shop. I've just barely scratched the crusty surface when it comes to why some of us surround ourselves with way too much stuff. But there's another very compelling chapter to this stream of entries about acquisition.

Retailapalooza has kicked in. Christmas is coming, and that means it's officially okay to go shopping. In fact it's kind of weird to most people if you don't choose to darken the door of a store between now and December 25.

What better time ask yourself what you really want? If you could do anything - anything - what would it be?

I'm speaking of the things that don't fit in a cart. You can't shove these things in a bag. This brand of product has no maker, other than you. Of course I'm referring to the conscious accumulation of experiences.

So let's replace the shopping list with a bucket list, shall we?

A bucket list is a list of wishes, really. I've got one that's now on paper. Until recently, these savory dreams were nothing but passing thoughts; whimsical wishes.

Most lists of this nature are not unlike mine. Mine is an outline of things I'd like to do; not stuff I want to get. They're potential accomplishments, experiences, events that ideally will be achieved before I take my seat in the alto section of the Choir Invisible. It's essentially a list of stuff I want to do before I die.

I'm not the only one who has a list like this.

In addition to the Bucket List movie, which I must honestly say I never saw, there's a tee vee show called The Buried Life. The show follows the exploits of four young men who have compiled a list of 100 things they want to do before they die, and collectively they go about trying to accomplish what's on their list. Get married in Vegas. Make a million dollars. Get in a fight. Learn to fly.

Self-indulgent? Sure.

Experientially cool? Completely.

The redemptive element to the concept these four people have created is that they're givers, too. For every item they cross off their list, they also help a stranger accomplish something on their list. Today I watched as the lads reunited a man with his estranged family. I did a bit of boo-hooing at the episode's conclusion.

It wasn't just because they'd been instrumental in changing the lives of a vagrant father and a hopeful, receptive daughter. It was also because they care enough, are aware enough, to see that this crazy Game of Life isn't all about what we get out of it; it's also about what we give back to it.

And their tasty experiment has very little to do with procurement. It's about participating in life. It's about making a list, checking it twice, jumping into the moment regardless of the outcome.

So what's on your list? What would you love to do/see/accomplish/experience/fill-in-the-blank before you leave this lovely planet?

I asked a bunch of people what was on their list.

Bucket. Not shopping.

Travel. Learn a different language. Climb every 14er. There are so many wishes, so many dreams that so many people are quietly contemplating every day.

Mine?

I want to travel. I'd like to take my kids to New York City, and introduce them to the places I visited when New York was a frequent destination. I'd like to show them San Francisco. I'd like to take them to France. Just because France is so beautiful and old. Perspective is everywhere there.

I'd like to take a trip by myself. I'd start in South Dakota and see Christine. Then I'd visit Mark in Hollywood, make a stop in Portland so I could spend some time with Miriam and Sage. I'd swing up to Seattle and drop in on Scott, scoot over to Minnesota and gab with Dave, head over to New Jersey and chat with Jane, go across the pond to London and have some face time with Mike. I'd see people I love, in their elements. I can't think of a better vacation.

I'd get a book published. And a fabulous, whirlwind book tour would follow.

I'd make a record. Of the album variety. I don't care if it goes platinum.

I'd be part of a flash mob.

I'd hire someone to clean my house.

I'd go to the world's largest yard sale. It begins in Michigan and ends in Alabama, and it takes place every August.

There are so many more items on my list. Too numerous to mention.

Are any of these goals, these wishes, these dreams unattainable?

No.

Nothing's stopping me. Nothing, with the exception of my other lists.

To-Do.

Shopping.

Integration. That's what I'm aiming for - I'd love to pour my To-Do list into my bucket list and see what happens.

A dream is a wish my heart makes, in the form of a list. None of the items on any of my lists are impossible.

I'd love to accomplish a few more of the items on my wish list than I seem to regularly complete on my To-Do list.

I guess I have something to add to my wish list.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blinded by the light: it's the season of sparkle.

I know I'm being a buzz kill. It's the holiday season, for god's sake.

Literally.

Maybe my killer of buzzes comes from the way I've come to view the action of shopping. Most of us probably know by now that I have a jaundiced eye when it comes to retail.

Maybe I've been influenced in part by my lovely friend Debbie, with whom I shot the breeze at length today. Debbie's a personal organizer. http://www.simpleorder-deb.com/

I know it's a sparkly time of year. I understand that the day after tomorrow, the day after Thanksgiving - Black Friday - people will start lining up at stores all across this great land just as I'm crawling into my jammies tomorrow night.

But something very essential about the season is lost on me.

Part of what's missing, for me, is wrapped in the fundamentals of this holiday's essence, which seems to be tied with a lovely, sparkling bow of acquisition, topped with the promise of deep discounts.

One in ten of us doesn't have a job. Hunger isn't relegated to Africa - it's probably living right down the street. Millions are wondering how to pay next month's mortgage.

But we must have the flat screen that's 40 percent off on Friday.

Buzz kill, right?

But the sparkly is so alluring. It's such a beautiful, seasonal distraction. 

We deserve it, though. Right? What with all we've gone through lately? Don't we?

Sounds depressing. 

And as Debbie mentioned today, depression kicks the shopping gene into high gear, because shopping makes us feel better. It makes us, at least temporarily, feel like there's hope.

And according to the message of the season, it's the season of hope for a lot of people.

A whole bunch of people hope they'll be in the front part of the line when Best Buy opens on Friday.

Praise you, baby Jesus, whose birth we celebrate.

Which brings me back to my point. And I do have one. 

It's a beautiful thing, to acknowledge the importance of others, during this season of giving.

It's also a beautiful thing to remember, as Debbie reminded me of today, that it's good to celebrate the abundance that currently surrounds us. We don't have to spend a dime to appreciate what we already have. That doesn't even count what we already have that we don't even use.

Many of us are blinded by the sparkle of the possibility this season is designed to make so resonantly clear.

And sometimes what we have right now, in this moment, is just enough.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Dazzle: a brief history of hoarding.

I watched Hoarders last night for the first time.

I'd heard a lot about Hoarders, but I wasn't crazy-curious. I don't watch a lot of television. My motivation for watching Hoarders last night wasn't filled with schadenfreude better-than judgment.

But last night, I was doing research.

And to put it mildly, Hoarders is a wild ride of a show.

But back to the research.

I've recently written about where we shop, why we shop, and now it's time to delve into why some of us shop too much.

It seems that the act of shopping can be fairly benign when it's kept in check. But the retention of what we find and the attachment to its perceived value take the concept and act of shopping to new, fascinating places.

Historically, the act of hoarding has very old, deep roots. Some say hoarding may have first been identified back in the Bronze Age, when accumulation defined status.

More recently, and arguably most famously, the Collyer brothers' lives provide a haunting, cautionary tale.

Langley and Homer Collyer defined eccentric reclusiveness, having created a world not unlike the variety that's dazzlingly apparent every week on the Hoarders tee vee show.

Langley tried to protect Homer, because he was blind. Langley babied his brother, and saved every newspaper in case Homer's eyesight was restored.

But Langley had his blind side, too. He kept everything - not just newspapers.

Let's cut to the chase.

The authorities were notified because someone smelled something. After 100 tons of stuff was removed from the Collyer residence, both brothers were found among the remnants. Both brothers were dead, found at different times because of all the stuff that surrounded their bodies. They'd both died in their home, where apparently they felt most comfortable, among the stacks of what they'd collected. And like most hoarders, it seems that what they chose to collect was intended to enhance their private, reclusive lives.

A play about the Collyer brothers was written and produced in the '90s. Its title is The Dazzle.

Perhaps the title of the play was chosen based on how hoarders feel when they find something they think may potentially add an element of completeness to life; some dazzle.

Which leads me back to Hoarders.

I watched the show because I wanted to get a glimpse into what makes a hoarder hoard.

Not unlike the Collyer brothers, present-day hoarders seem to have issues.

To put it mildly.

Hoarding seems to be a symptom of a bigger, psychologically crunchy cause. And the stuff seems to be the physical manifestation of a much deeper strata of issues that requires much more than a dumpster.

But we'll go into that later.

I'm meeting next week with my friend Debbie, who organizes the lives of the scattered. The hoarders.

The dazzled.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I'll Take It: A few words on why we shop.

I had an interesting conversation recently with someone who'd read my last blog about authenticity.

Now I'm sure you're compelled to read it, if you haven't already.

In the case of my valued reader, after having read the Authenticity: Friend or Faux entry, she got to thinking.

Whether it's Target or Goodwill, why do we shop? What compels us to acquire? Regardless of the price point, why do we feel so much better when we buy a bunch of crap to add to the abundance of craptastic crap which we already have, in profusion?

What a good series of questions, I say.

So I did a bit of an unscientific study. I asked a bunch of people about why they shop, especially when it's discretionary.

And I'll add my two cents, too. It's not like I don't have a crap-ton of personal experience when it comes to discretionary shopping.

I tend to over-think things, and I've definitely scraped a few brain cells together thinking about what's so very compelling about the reasons why I/we go shopping.

For me, the act of wandering through a store has manifold intentions.

As I've mentioned before, shopping - especially thrift store shopping - is like going fishing. I could get nary a guppy, or I could snag a huge, fat trout.

Shopping is the pour person's Vegas. I could leave with nothing, or I could hit paydirt.

In my book, a lazy afternoon of shopping can be the ultimate luck of the draw.

Sometimes I strap on my shopping shoes when I don't want to do what I should be doing. Really - clean the bathroom or saunter through a store? The choice is clear.

And typically, after an afternoon spent browsing instead of producing, I invariably bitch about how I never have enough time.

But shopping is my time. That's my logic.

And it seems, based on my unscientific study, that everyone seems to have a very cogent intention when it comes to going shopping.

For many, shopping is considered retail therapy. It's a time to climb out of the cubicle we're tethered to most of the day and actually walk around.

It's a time to relax. Be still. Get away, while being close to your Real World.

The act of shopping is a time to be unencumbered by the You Should Be Doing Something More Productive Than This mantra. Because there's an outcome. We found what we wanted.

New, fresh stuff.

For others, shopping is less self- and more other-driven.

Jealousy. Competition.

It's the "I must have that because s/he has that and s/he looks like s/he has it all. So I must have that which seems to make him/her so very content and fulfilled" line of thinking.

Other folks in my unscientific study mentioned many other shopping motivations.

Acceptance. Addiction. Reward. Boredom. Loneliness. Stockpiling. Fear.

A pleasant shopping expedition suddenly sounds so wrong.

Of course there are many very innocuous, less acquisitionally prurient motivations surrounding an afternoon of shopping, punctuated by a delightful lunch with a friend, perhaps.

Socializing. Admiring. Browsing. Getting good ideas. Simply seeing what's out there.

There's a colorful shopping bag full of data that's been culled which sets its sites firmly on the psychology of shopping. And in these troubled times, the place where each dollar lands is a bit more sacrosanct.

I know how this may sound; I'm just a hippie, getting all heavy about something that's intended to be light. Now a relaxing afternoon spent shopping is somehow wrong? Gawd.

It's not wrong to do something that brings you pleasure if it doesn't bring you - or anyone else - pain.

But with big things like (you fill in the blank) or little things like shopping, it's good to explore intention.

And it's interesting to look at the data, if only to see more clearly exactly why you shop.

But I bet you know already.

It's all about intention.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Authenticity: friend or faux.

Everyone in my circle probably knows by now that I have an issue with authenticity.

I'm not fond of fake Australian accents. I don't like to see anyone wearing a John Elway jersey, with the obvious exception of John Elway. I avert my eyes when someone plays air instruments they don't actually know how to play, especially guitar.

That's my OCD thing. I value authenticity.

So how does my disorder translate into being thrifty, you ask?

Thrifting is the ultimate authentic act.

Let's go shopping at Target, shall we? We can buy loads of stuff at Target, and most of us breathe a sigh of fiscal relief if we get out of those whooshing red doors without dropping a Franklin. The stuff we buy at Target easily integrates into our worlds. That's part of the Target love.

But, like driving a car off the lot or washing a brand new pair of jeans, the big bags of stuff you'll soon forget you bought at Target may soon be found at the thrift store right down the street.

Thrift store shopping has its deficits, and its very obvious advantages.

The major deficit to going all kinds of thrifty is that you never know if you're going to find what you need.

And some may argue that the unpredictability of thrift store shopping is a complete bonus.

Because often times, you find something better than what you were initially looking for.

Mr. Fabulous and I were talking about this very topic earlier today.

Before he met me, he didn't do much thrift shopping. But he knows what the good brands are, so he's a thrift store natural. We both have a knack for finding diamonds in the rough.

We spent some time this morning chatting about the amazing brands we've found at thrift stores.

J. Jill. Coach. Eddie Bauer. Columbia. My favorite Levi's, already nicely worn in.

Yes, we live in troubled times. But they're a bit less troubling when armed with the golden ticket that, once accessed, makes great merch even better when it's so good, so profuse, so cheap.

Yes, there's an air of authenticity, of true ownership, when items are purchased at a retail store. It's nice to get stuff that's new.

But the new-smell of victory is a bit sweeter when what you need is found on the cheap.

So what's authentic? The bag of retail goodness from a mall or a big box store? Or does authenticity come from the moment of finding, of appreciating its real value, of acquiring something special that doesn't require a second thought when it comes to affordability?

It depends on what side of the fence you choose to sit.

Hard times require creativity. And I've found that the ease and reliably predictable acquisition of new stuff seems so so faux.

The world in which I spin finds authenticity, value and a whole lot of fun not only in the outcome of acquisition, but in the process.

If I could just make sure I avoid places who employ faux Australian speakers wearing Elway jerseys while playing air guitar, my quest for authenticity will be complete.

It's really very easy, on all counts.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Holey wars.

There are a few places I can go where I know no one will interrupt me.

Most obviously, I could just leave if I don't want interruptions.

But there are times when I'm more utilitarian; more outcome-driven.

Aside from simply driving away to be alone in my head, I like to mow the lawn.

Who can argue with the importance of this function? And for people like me who thrive on immediate gratification, mowing is all that; loud activity, no potential of disturbance, quick results.

Another series of self-directed "me-time" tasks takes place in the bathroom. I'm sure we can all think of several.

And a thought struck me as I took a shower this morning. Alone with my thoughts, I was prioritizing the day that stretched ever-so supinely in front of me.

It was then that I noticed, not for the first time, that I really need to apply some caulk to the areas around my bathroom window.

Ka-chunk.

The space between being alone with my ethereal morning thoughts and being tightly wound within my numerous, non-luxurious obligations became firmly enmeshed, in that brief moment.

My need to start a holey war became even more clear when I remembered the late-fall Colorado winds and impending sub-zero snow-filled days slash nights.

I need to caulk.

Let's be clear. There's nothing bad about the caulking gun. Unlike its counterpart that's often associated with the "spree" misnomer, shooting the caulking gun does a world of good on so many levels.

First and most importantly is the savings. One cheap tube of caulk can do so much good. How many guns can you generally say that about, unless you're in the mood to pop a cap in someone?

Very quick google research points toward the fact that weatherizing is good. One particularly illuminating site I visited provided a graph which indicated that I'd save about a grand every year if I got all jihad-dy on the cold air that seeps into the holes that are created in my house over time.

I've become an advocate of holey wars.

It's been an unusually tame season where I live. Tomorrow's November, for god's sake, and Colorado's seen nary a snowflake. I was in the sunshine for hours yesterday, and I got a bit of a burn.

But like Republican control of the House and Senate or the early onset of Alhzeimer's, I know what's coming.

And if both houses would agree, we'd have the Homestar program, affectionately dubbed Cash for Caulkers. According to Earthshare.com, "American homes would be more energy efficient and provide energy savings to consumers; the program would create more employment opportunities, and there would be an overall reduction in carbon emissions."

The program is much more detailed, obviously, than the quote from this piece that I just mentioned. But there's a lot to be said about plugging holes, and it really does make a difference on so many levels.

Cash for Caulkers, aka Homestar, is stuck in the Senate.

Shocking.

But a tube of caulk is a very affordable way to take a baby step.

It's a holey war I'll gladly wage, despite the personal and political obstacles.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sometimes you get what you pay for.

Logan and I needed haircuts this past Wednesday. It wasn't a question of want. It was definitely a matter of need.

We'd found a diamond in the rough right down the street in the form of Terri, who's an amazing stylist. And she worked at Great Clips. I go to Great Clips specifically to see Terri, and I'm armed with coupons. No down side.

Until we called Great Clips this past Wednesday, to see if Terri was working.

We heard that "Terri is no longer a part of the Great Clips team."

For a minute, I saw Terri as an escaped con from the Big House.

Good for you, Terri, I thought. You're better than Great Clips.

But then I wondered, what are we going to do?

We were shaggy, and we had coupons. So we opted to go to Great Clips, sans Terri. Anything, we thought, had to be better than what we were projecting from the neck up.

What could happen?

Logan went first. It was a Sophie's Choice moment when his stylist became available, actually.

She'd cut my hair before - pre-Terri - and I was underwhelmed. So I casually offered it up to Logan. Go first, I suggested.

I opted for the other stylist, who looked just a bit more, well, stylish.

I'll cut to the chase, so to speak.

We both thought our haircuts sucked. Sure, it was a bargain, but Logan thought his stylist was inflicting some sort of odd pleasure by playing rough with the scissor and comb, and my stylist simply couldn't take direction.

I believe that, once armed with the knowledge and implements required to cut hair, I should provide gentle assistance when it comes to the look I'm attempting to achieve. And my haircutting person was flummoxed by the simple instruction I attempted to provide.

But it's over now. The damage has been done.

Logan looks pretty good, despite his tender scalp. And yet, regardless of my copious use of product and tasteful application of hair accessories, I still look like an intellectually challenged hermaphrodite.

There's solace in the knowledge that my hair will grow out.

But despite the value, the necessity and the inevitable growth, I miss Terri.

And now it's become painfully apparent that sometimes you get exactly what you pay for.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friends don't let friends buy retail.

My mom and I used to love to shop together.

The mall was our destination, and we'd spend hours wandering around the fancy stores.

She was so easy to be with - we'd saunter, chat and shop. Then we'd lunch, then we'd shop some more.

Some stores featured a man in a tuxedo playing classical music on a grand piano. Each store smelled like fancy perfume. All the clerks were impeccably dressed, with manners and service that were Top Drawer.

My mom has been gone for 10 years, and if she were still around, she'd be shocked at the current state of retail shopping, what with the popularity of open air malls, Target, Walmart and thrift stores.

She'd be especially shocked at the stores to which I point my car. The world of thrift was not on my mom's radar. Ten years ago, it wasn't on my radar, either.

But I've learned this past decade that the homogeneity of malls may be comforting and predictable, but it's not very much fun.

Sorry, mom. I've realized that the retail world is a nice place to visit, but it's very, very expensive.

And like being raised a Lutheran, buying things at Full Blown Retail at malls isn't something that I have to do once I have a choice.

Like learning that your parents are actually fallible humans with lives that extend past your needs and desires, or that a woman you thought you knew used to be a man, I've met a cadre of people who make it a point to shop thriftily who would have otherwise flown way under my Thrift Store radar.

You'd never guess that these folks cull through the discards of others.

That being said, in homage to my mom, there are some things I'll always buy new.

Underpants.

Art. Usually.

And jewelry. I bought this totally cool ring in Evergreen last weekend. You may be distracted by my old lady hands, but the ring on my finger is totally cool - a large ring with two smaller rings inside the larger ring. I love it.

And I'll always remember the day I found it. I'll value the circumstance that found me in Evergreen, staring at this cool ring that I had to have right then. And I was willing to pay retail.

I had that special feeling. Just like the feeling I get in a thrift store when I find something I have to have right then.

Rarely have I found items that I stare at with complete admiration when I'm in the midst of the vacuous confines of a mall.

So that brings me back to my mom. If she were here, I'm sure we'd first have a tearful, beautiful, incredulous reunion. There would be conversation.

She'd be happy for my life's twists and turns that have brought me to the interesting, colorful place where I now find myself.

Shortly after our happy, decade-long separation, I'm sure my mom would want to go shopping.

I'd love to drive her to the places I currently enjoy, regardless of their lack of pianists and their profusion of All Things Casual.

Because it's becoming increasingly clear - friends don't let friends buy retail.

I imagine that moment of reunion with my mom all the time. Sometimes we're at the mall.

But times change.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The sound of sirens

Ah, Starbucks.

Among the long line of jobs for which I was highly overqualified (but I had a great time), I was a barista at Starbucks for a year or so. Back then, we memorized beverages by cup placement, and arm muscles were highly toned after a few months at the helm of the espresso machines.

The beverages, like the Norse siren that accompanies each cup, have become legendary. As have the Starbucks ceramics.

I find a whole lot of Starbucks merch at thrift stores.

A mug with Starbucks branding that I typically purchase for 50 cents generally sells for a whole lot more than a cup of Starbucks coffee.

I like those odds.

The thrift store folks have meted out what's valuable, for the most part. But Starbucks merch flies under the radar. What looks like an ordinary coffee cup has huge value for the coffee-crazy Starbucks lover.

It's not just the Starbucks ceramics that cause a stir, although the city-specific mugs have a special cache. Certain travel mugs are highly valued. As are certain Starbucks gift cards.

Like Cabbage Patch dolls and Beanie Babies, completely spent Starbucks gift cards hold huge value to some folks, simply based on the image on the card.

Who knew?

A simple cup of outrageously overpriced coffee means so much more to some people.

Back in the day, we should have accumulated those bits of memorabilia, when making a cup of Starbucks required nothing more than cup placement and a flip of the wrist.

The clarion call of those very loud sounds of sirens seemed so muted back then.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Let's talk about me for a minute.

I've been having a bit of a writer's block lately.

I have blog topic ideas scratched all over my chalk board. I've scrawled ideas for writing projects on bits of paper that litter the drawers and flat surfaces of my home and the interior of my purse. And yet, for the past week or so, nothing of value has risen to the surface and found its way into my laptop.

Like Violet Beauregarde must have felt when presented with the prospect of an unlimited supply of chewing gum, all the possibilities for writing topics have become a bit overwhelming.

I don't know where to start.

And I've done my share of starting lately.

I started to write about the implications of silence. Great idea in my head, but it didn't go in the direction I wanted, so I put it in the vault.

Then I started a blog about the plastic grocery bag issue. It's a big topic, and I did quite a bit of research. There's the recycling angle. The cultural lack of momentum for bringing reusable bags to the store. The story about states that have tried to pass laws to ban the use of plastic bags. Those laws have died, primarily because of the 'freedom of choice' argument. The creativity angle. Case in point, this lovely dress, which was made completely out of plastic grocery bags. The 1950s-style dress was accompanied by its own plastic grocery bag pillbox hat.

In addition to this very stylish garment, people make slippers, throw rugs, purses and so much more out of those pesky, ubiquitous plastic garbage bags.

But the topic seemed too vast once I did a bit of research and I realized all the directions I could go. So I put the idea in the vault.

I was beginning to wonder if I'd lost my mojo. I became concerned that, like Violet Beauregarde, I'd bitten off more than I could chew. I began to think that the blog, like so many great ideas and interesting outlets I've pursued in the past, would quietly be relegated to the "yeah, I used to do that for a while" personal history that people like me seem to accumulate.

So I thought I'd write about that. The attention span issue. I'd like to say I finished that one, but I didn't. I put the unfinished effort in a file, and I'll tackle it later.

I hope.

My brain was beginning to feel like Violet's jaw after a day of vigorous chewing.

Too many ideas, no clear direction on where to start.

There are the ideas I generate, and there are the hot tips I get from cool people who read the blog. James gave me some great leads on websites that buy books, as well as a craigslist-like site called freecycle.org. Once Freecycle accepts you as a member, you can peruse the postings of items people want to get rid of, and you can post stuff you want to give away. Freecycle combines internet reach with the old-world concept of trade, and it's a national program.

So many other ideas are bubbling in my brain, and I'm sure with some deep breathing, a spare few hours and a bit of clarity, I'll sort through the sticky mess that has become my In Box.

Once that happens, maybe I'll feel more like Violet did once she was rolled to the Juicing Room. The pressure will find sweet release.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Open wide.


I really should hate the entire concept of dentistry, but I don't.

After establishing a trusted relationship with My Dentist, who retired and left me to flounder in a sea of dental charlatans, I eventually found a dentist who I love. He started practicing dentistry the year I was born, and I'm 48. 

He practices all methods to which every dentist should aspire. He's orally intuitive, and doesn't do anything to my choppers that doesn't need to be done.

My only dental fear is that I'll outlive him, and I'll have to find another dentist.

And so I visit this Dental Marvel every six months. My visits are events I oddly anticipate.

I've developed a quirky rapport with the woman to the right. She probably will never see this blog, and I'm sure, what with the facial garb and interesting eyewear, you'd never recognize her in a lineup.

She's so straightforward, letting me know, very clinically, how my teeth and gums are doing. 

I feel very close to her. The last time I got my oral report card, she told me about how both of her parents died within a month of one another. And she described how she and her brother are cleaning out their parents' house, as clinically as she told me about my need to floss.

We've developed a bizarre connection, what with her divulgences and my tacit compassion. I can only affiliate so much while her hands are in my mouth.

It's soothing, going to the dentist.

I've had one massage in my lifetime. One mud bath, years ago. And it may seem hard to believe, but I've experienced neither mani nor pedi.

But when I walk out of the dentist's office every six months after my cleaning, I feel like I've experienced a bit of an oral spa.

So the many assets of vigilant oral hygiene have wide-reaching effects. Not only do I get a bit of a dental report card twice a year; I get my teeth cleaned much more thoroughly than I can do all by myself.

Everyone has dental horror stories, and I’m not immune. Bad experiences compel huge gaps in time between dental visits.

And despite almost everyone’s ambivalence when it comes to opening wide at the dentist’s office, it’s been proven that regular check-ups have wide reaching effects that go beyond my cathartic bi-annual exercise.

I recently heard a segment on some morning tee vee show that focused on how to avoid plastic surgery. The primary way, according to this morning show, to avoid facial plastic surgery, is to take care of your teeth.

Because when you don't take care of your teeth, teeth need to eventually be pulled. And pulling teeth changes the contour of your face.

And according to Annie Getsinger at herald-review.com, "poor oral hygiene has been associated with heart problems and infections in those with diabetes or artificial joints."


And, "aside from the problem of bacteria from the mouth entering the bloodstream and causing infection elsewhere in the body, gum disease takes a toll on a person's ability to fight off illness."


It's not brain surgery.

I'm sure that morning show covered brain surgery on another riveting segment.

Sure, it sucks to go to the dentist. And if you don't have dental insurance, seeing the dentist every six months may not seem quite so spa-like.

It's hard to justify something as fundamentally unpleasant as going to the dentist, especially if your dentist wants to sell you on dental planing, whitening, a seemingly necessary crown or root canal.

But if you're lucky enough to find a dentist who's not going to take you to the cleaners just because he can see what you can't while drilling you for all you're worth, it's no big deal to open wide every six months.

You may evade the need for bigger things down the line.

And you may find the whole exercise to be relaxing, kind of like a spa.

Monday, September 27, 2010

If I were a carpenter

So where do I start, when talking about Extras?

Do I start at the place where you walk into the warehouse, and you feel like you're in Home Depot heaven? It's heaven, because Extras is so much cheaper.

It's heaven because there's row upon row of kitchen countertops, and I need new countertops.

And there are sparkly things, like the ornate and huge and tinkling chandelier that was selling for a song. I only wish I had a room that would accommodate this beautiful bit of lighting. It was all I could do to walk away without stuffing it ever-so gingerly into the trunk of my car.

That's Extras. The cavernous Denver warehouse isn't terribly easy to find (near the 58th and I-25 exit - 400 W. 53rd Place), but it's worth the effort. Just give them a call at 303-296-8090, or googlemaps it. Because once you find this handyman's Shangri La, you'll most likely wonder how Extras has flown under you fixer-upper radar this long.

I'm sure if I were the least bit handy, Extras would be a Mecca to me. I'd feel so very happy to purchase a cabinet for $15 or a bathroom tub for $20.

But I know about Extras now, and I feel like it's my ace in the hole.

When I need anything for my house, I now know where I'll go. I'll go to Extras.

Because Extras has everything.

And anyone who knows about Extras can go there. It's no wholesaler's destination.

I know about this magical place because Mr. Fabulous is friends with Al and Marcie. Al owns Extras, and he and Mr. Fabulous have developed a bit of a kinship.

Al and Marcie are as magical as Extras.

And Cheryl, who's the backbone of the place, is just as fabulous as Al. She knows everything about Extras, and she seems to have a mental inventory of every unfinished door, every stack of drywall, every finish of cabinetry.
I wish I were handy. I would choose to die at Extras.

Because there's just so much great stuff here.

Rows and rows of material look just like this. And the prices are rock-bottom.

If I were a carpenter, Extras would be my destination.

I've mentioned the inventory, multiple times.

But the people behind Extras make Extras extra-special.

Quality: top-drawer. Inventory: extensive. People: extraordinary.

Unlike Lowes or Home Depot, there's no one at Extras who doesn't want to be there. Each employee is committed to the mission, and if you visit the website, http://www.extrabuild.com/, you'll see what I mean.

I especially enjoyed the travelogue of Don's house renovation, which you'll see on the Extras website. Don completely outfitted his house with material he'd obtained at Extras.

The website gives some Al and Marcie backstory, and it tells of how Extras began. When Al and Marcie were renovating their house, a need for Extras was identified.

I've been to Al and Marcie's house. It's one of the coolest, most eclectic, most creatively crafted, most comfortable houses I've had the good fortune to visit. Here's a photo of their ceiling, created from old railroad box cars.

Much of this fabulous house was created with unique finds not unlike what can be found at Extras.

Walk into Extras and possibility explodes. Extras is proud to be green, having culled its inventory from builders and contractors who have a little extra when their projects are completed.

Nothing is predictable at Extras, which makes it even cooler.

If I were a carpenter, Extras would be my second home.

Extras is the home I'd find myself wandering through while I'd be planning my personal sanctuary.

Ah, if I were a carpenter.

Lucky for me, I know a few.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A few sheepish words on widgets, and a belated thank you note.

It seems that wherever you turn, someone's asking for a few bucks.

The most obvious example is the person with the cardboard sign at almost every intersection. The most unfortunate fixture of today's economy, these folks are pleased to take a buck or two.

Political candidates apparently need money to convince me they're worth voting for, and my donation helps these people to communicate to me that they deserve my vote, via highly polished and expensive television ads.

Retail stores ask if you'd like to round up to the next dollar to support a local charity. 

Tip jars are everywhere.

Try to escape by listening to the commercial-free National Public Radio, and you may find yourself in the midst of a membership drive. "Oh, crap." That's what I usually say, usually out loud, with every change of season that's ushered in with a new membership drive.

In keeping with all of these annoyances, I've fallen lock-step in line with so many others who have come before me. As you can tell from the widget located on the upper right portion of my lovely bloggy blog, I decided to passively offer my readers the option to slide me a few simoleons.

And, not unlike giving some ching to your favorite NPR station, membership has its privileges.

No, I'm not fashioning unique Paradigm Thrift mugs created from the rich red clay I've dug out of my backyard, fired in my personal kiln and designed with my unique brand of quirky creativity and personal style. You won't be receiving a mug if you choose to monetize my blog.

What you'll receive is much more interesting and valuable than a simple, utilitarian mug.

I'll write something for you.

When you monetize (donate sounds so telethon-ish) at a certain level, I'll write something, just for you.

Maybe you want me to blog about you.

Maybe you're in need of a personal profile or bio at your job. Your job may need a bit of material about you; something they'll use to showcase how bright and interesting their employees are. I can make you sound very fascinating.

Perhaps you'd appreciate a piece of short fiction in which you're the protagonist.

Or maybe you've been toying with the idea of finding a significant other, and don't exactly know what to say on your match.com profile. I could help you with that.

You may not need anything written for or about you. Maybe you just like the blog, and feel like supporting it vis a vis some of your hard-earned money.

You certainly don't have to monetize this site at all. Because my payment, really, is your readership, no questions asked.

To be sure, part of me finds the entire subject of monetizing somewhat vulgar. I'm not a salesperson. I'm not comfortable even offering up the option of monetizing the blog.

But there it is, up there in the upper right area of this page. It's a lovely new widget, and I sheepishly wanted to point it out, just in case you were wondering.

My new widget is my bloggy version of a tip jar; my approach to rounding it up to the next dollar.

And if you choose, I'll write something, just for you.

And if you pass, I completely understand. I keep on top of the news, and I know our country's in the midst of an economic crisis, despite the recent odd revelation that the recession is over.

Whether you pass or play, just keep reading.

I love your input. I thrive on it. Your feedback is what keeps my chalkboard filled with white and my floor peppered with chalk dust.

Honestly - every time someone tells me they read my blog, the feeling I get is its own payment.

I value the reading people are doing, and I'm completely overwhelmed by the positive stuff I hear. I also value the controversy. Reaction to the 9/11 blog was completely unanticipated.

It's been interesting, hearing which entry some people like a whole lot, and other entries I particularly enjoy that have flown under the radar.

I appreciate every single person who's landed on my blog. Thank you so much for reading, and for coming back for more.

My ideas come faster than the time I have to crank them out on the blog. But rest assured, I'll keep coming back, and I hope you will, too.

So monetize me or don't. Either way, I'll keep doing what I do. I trust you'll continue to tell me what you think about what I'm doing.

Your input is more valuable than any widget.

And don't get me started on my opinion of widgets.

Sounds like a good topic for a blog.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dumpster diving: nothing ventured, nothing gained

This type of diving will never be an Olympic event, and thankfully, it doesn't require wearing form-fitting swimwear.

This kind of diving just takes a bit of patience, good timing and an ability to identify the treasure among the trash.

It's become quite a movement, the dumpster diving. More and more people are recognizing that very cool stuff is tossed in the trash.

There seem to be several types of divers. First and most unfortunately, there are folks who scrounge dumpsters for food because they have no other resource.

Next, there are folks like me, who pick dumpsters in search of one thing (me: packing materials and cardboard boxes), and find really cool stuff in the process.

There is an ever-increasing number of people who dive the dumpsters, and some are directing what they find to people who really need it. My friend Sue recently told me about a radio show she'd heard, which was dedicated solely to the sharing of dumpster diving stories. One woman who called the show said she dove dumpsters in affluent neighborhoods on a regular basis, and gave what she found to single moms, shelters, other folks in need.

Other people troll dumpsters to replenish their wardrobes. A fairly recent Today show segment spotlighted a woman who consistently finds designer couture in the New York City dumpsters she frequents. She did have a picking protocol; she wouldn't get anything out of a dumpster that she couldn't reach. And she'd found some amazing items. 

It's true. Some dive out of necessity, some out of curiosity and others have found a comfortable niche that's filled by what they find in dumpsters.

There's even a word for folks who regularly dive.

They're called Freegans.

Freeganism is an actual movement. Freegans are sharply focused on a strictly anti-consumerism philosophy, relying on dumpster diving, gardening, trading and (gasp) sharing to survive.

There's a ton of information on line about Freeganism, but suffice it to say that Freegans are to environmentalism as vegans are to vegetarianism. Freegans want their footprints on this crazy planet to be almost imperceptible, and one of the many ways they keep it light is by culling through dumpsters.

Snagging other people's dumpster discards is a very peaceful, sustaining act, really.

But every yin has its yang; every party has its pooper.

For instance, if you get caught dumpster diving in the ultra-progressive city of Boulder, Colorado, you'll be fined $1,000 or sent to jail.

Really.

They say this fine/jail consequence for dumpster divers has been created to keep people safe. Apparently the CU Boulder police department would prefer that I climb one of the nearby mountains or local Flatirons instead of a city dumpster. 

Dumpster diving is one of the most tactile, interactive ways to recycle. But dangerous?

Safety is the last thing on the minds of most divers, whether they dive for fun, for profit, for others, for fashion or to add a plank to the platform of a socially conscious life. 

Whatever the motivation, divers understand that if nothing's ventured, nothing's gained.

But for your safety and the safety of others, make a path around Boulder.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Some say it's stalking - I say it's love.

So I saw this thing at a art fair by my house. I originally saw it on Saturday, and I wanted it. Is 'it' a he or a she?

Reactions have been mixed.

Personally, I think it's a she.

But I digress.

I wanted to buy this on Saturday. But art is discretionary. I did a bit of bargaining. I thought about how little I get for myself. And then I thought of all the places my money needed to be spent.

And then I walked away.

On Sunday, I took my regular walkies. I timed my walk so that I'd be at the art show at the exact moment when it opened for the day. I brought my checkbook, fully intending to buy this interesting treasure.

I noticed s/he had not been purchased, but again, I walked away.

College next year for one kid. Senior pictures. Lord, those are expensive.

Mr. Fabulous and I ran a few errands later on Sunday, and we drove past the art show, still in progress.

He knew how much I wanted this freaky thing. He said, "just tell me to turn or go straight."

I said, "turn."

So after having done some personal internal negotiations and a bit of art-stalking, I bought this for myself. It's the first thing I've purchased for the sole purpose of my own enjoyment for a very long time.

Here's what s/he looks like from another angle.

Last night, Mr. Fabulous and I were sitting on the couch, admiring my new acquisition.

We both agreed that it was a steal. The cost, when balanced by the time it must have taken the artist to come up with the idea, acquire the parts and actually make this piece was definitely worth what I paid.

I think it's interesting that I tend to gravitate toward art that's created out of things that were originally created with a completely different intention.

Such is the case with my newest acquisition.

The body is an old muffler, The hair is a thick chain. The eyes move; I'm not sure what they were used for originally, but I think they came from an old car. The head turns. The fingers are nails, bent ever-so expressively.

Sure, sure. There are a whole lot of other places my money could have been spent.

But I'm so glad bought it, even though it fell in the Want vs Need category.

It seems I'm still falling lock-step into appreciating the beauty of all things recycled.

Maybe that's the justification I can use to validate my purchase.

Or maybe it's okay just to appreciate this thing that I bought, just for myself, that I completely enjoy.

I asked for suggestions via my facebook page on what to name this thing.

My South Dakota friend Christine offered up the name Gladys. Christine has a very colorful, dramatic, borderline disgusting story about an inanimate object she fondly referred to as Gladys.

In both of their memories, this thing I stalked for the better part of the weekend has a new name.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The origin of our present fears

Nine years ago this morning, my husband at the time called me while I was still in my jammies, and he told me about what had happened to the World Trade Center. Turn on the tee vee, he said.

It was one of several very serious conversations we had about terrorism.

But as it pertains to today and today's relevance, it's a part of my lexicon that I heard first about the issues in New York from him, and I'll never forget it.

No one will.

I spent this evening not unlike I spent my time nine years ago today: glued to my television, watching coverage of 9/11.

Tonight, the coverage of the events of nine years ago were on the History Channel, and it brought the morning of that Tuesday nine years ago right back into sharp, if not sharper, focus.

With the odd exception that the events that unfolded in real-time nine years ago didn't come with a "may not be suitable for some viewers" cryptic introduction, the hindsight version of the events of September 11 are almost 20/20.

And in trying to apply a bit of hindsight to those events as those moments correlate to the present day, perhaps the most evidentiary conclusion is that we've all become so much more fearful.

About almost everything.

We're afraid about who can pray where, despite our country's Constitution. It's threatening to some people. God knows - whoever's God knows - why it's so difficult to just let people be.

It may be because of what happened nine years ago. But is it justified, all of this hostility?

Watching the rewind of what happened nine years ago today doesn't seem to reflect the anger that's everywhere almost a decade later.

Take a look at the video. The audio.

On the actual 9/11, there was an atmosphere of caring that seeped into every crazed pore of our collective fear.

Nine years ago, we all seemed to care about where people were and if they were safe more than what they were doing or who they prayed to or slept with or voted for.

We were less fearful not only of the unknown enemy. We were also less fearful of each other.

The events of September 11 have robbed us all of a fundamental essence of who we are that made us great.

Trust.

The lack of that essence of trust has made us such cowards to fear.

I miss that element of trust; that piece of who we were that banded together for the greater good, for the love of the other regardless of our differences.

Fast forward from that day nine years ago, and the majority of us seem to be so afraid of almost everything.

I think that fear took root nine years ago.

I miss the easier, softer, more loving acceptance we all seemed to project to each other nine years and a day ago.

I miss the absence of fear; not only of the other, but of each other.

It almost seems like we've become our worst enemy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

No new stuff for a year? Really?

I recently heard the revelatory story about the woman who didn't buy any new clothing for a year. She got a lot of press for her restraint.

I did read the piece she wrote about going new-free for a year.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-492574/No-new-clothes-year-A-shopaholic-goes-cold-turkey.html

She divulged that she, like many other women, is a therapeutic shopper. Shopping is a treat; something we're apparently owed.

She eventually did experience the revelation that shopping is a bit of a red herring when it comes to how we consumers see the world. And she provided valuable information about how those who have, spend:

"According to the National Consumer Council, we chuck out about 80 percent of what we buy after just one use."

That's crazy.

Several sources I've resourced indicate that, collectively, Americans alone discard two quadrillion pounds of clothing and textiles every year. All of this most likely reusable merch winds up in a landfill that's conveniently out of our field of myopic vision.

And as I've blogged about before, one culture's trash is another's treasure. Much of what we benevolently donate to thrift stores that isn't purchased is ultimately shipped overseas in big crates, and is sold or given away to people who think that what we consider discards is golden.

As for me, I can honestly say that more than 80 percent of what I own was previously owned by someone else.

Maybe more than 80 percent.

Am I ashamed? No. Do I look like I recently sashayed out of a thrift store? I don't think so.

Because people throw away really cool stuff.

So living without new items for a year? Really? Is that considered to be some kind of a sacrifice?

Try it for a while. It's an experience.

Can you remember where you bought your last Coach purse or Vuitton tote?

I can.

I don't want to brag, but I bet I spent less than you did, and no one knows the difference.

Really, the only difference is that mine didn't end up in a landfill.