Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sentiment for sale

There are times when I'm thrifting that I have to flip my emotional switch to the OFF position. I've seen so many very personal items on the shelves, and it makes my heart hurt a little wondering how they ended up at the Last Chance Texaco of sentiment.

So many wedding dresses.

I was married for a long time. I had a lavish wedding that eventually came to a less-than-fairy-tale conclusion. But my white poofy wedding dress is stored inauspiciously in my cedar closet downstairs. I just don't have the heart to give it up. Little bits of the past might be worth taking up a corner of a closet, merely because those elements signify some kind of passage, good or bad.

Before I continue, I must clarify that I have very little attachment to most things. I'm barreling toward 50 at what seems to be a breakneck speed, and I've come to realize that people - not things - hold the most treasured sentimental worth.

But there are some things, like my wedding dress, that I simply can't relinquish.

My son Logan is a potter, and I've kept every piece - good or bad - that he's made. I love to see the progress in his pieces, and I love to imagine him at the wheel, working to refine his plate, cup, pot, wind chime.

I keep CSAP test results and report cards, drawings and notes from and to the kids.

I have volumes of journals written to my boys that tell them all about life through my lens. Those journals include lots of personal information, just in case they're curious a few decades from now. After my mom died, I wish I could have found some travelogue of who she was, just to clear up a few things.

But like Jackie O's biography (not to be read until she's gone for 50 years), there's a moratorium on reading my journals until the boys are old enough to absorb what's inside.

Other than those evocative bits of the past, I don't hold much stake in my stuff.

Some folks have even less of an attachment to stuff than I do, though. I've seen personalized pottery (a big pasta bowl painted with 'To Mom With Love'), certificates of merit, framed family photos, hand made artifacts, all on a shelf at a thrift store.

Maybe there should be some thrift store protocol that separates the highly sentimental from the purely functional. Like looking through someone's underpants drawer or medicine cabinet, some items don't need to be put on display.

Because those items on a thrift store shelf that had a very love-driven initial intention need just a bit of honor.

If only for those of us whose hearts twinge just a little when they see tangible sentiment discarded.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Trash talk

There are things in one's life that outlive their usefulness.

Whether it's a staying in a stale relationship, going to McDonald's, enjoying Kenny G or keeping crap you just don't need any more, some things simply don't keep a relevant place in a conscious life.

And there are opportunities to elegantly walk away, not participate, not listen, not do, not try, not accept less, not hold on just for the sake of holding.

It's no more tangibly expressed, this letting go, than checking out other people's trash.

The examples are everywhere. Lovely, classy Sue from work and I had a conversation today about what she terms 'garbage picking'.

She brought photos on her camera, and we strolled through several of her garbage picking outcomes. I'll add photos from Sue's trash finds later, but let me tell you: she knows where to troll the trash.

She showed me a beautiful vintage secretary which integrates perfectly into her home, which, of course, is classy. She noticed the piece sitting next to someone's trash, ready to go to the landfill.

She said she'd knocked on the door of the folks who'd set the secretary out for the trash man, and it was legit - they had no use for what, to Sue, was a complete free find.

Similarly, a few years ago I was in the market for a dining room set. And poof - on the way to work one day, a man had set a bunch of furniture by the side of a busy downtown street, and my dining room set was among his offerings.

It looks very Eames-ish to me, very '60s, very atmospheric. It's a drop-leaf that extends big enough to entertain at least eight people very comfortably. Here's what it looks like when it's all reigned in:

It fits so nicely in my dining room. And notice the chair to the right. So perfect.

And I particularly like the way this table gets bigger. Open up the center and the leaf is built in, just hiding there, waiting for more company. Here's the design:

Flip up the leaf, and you have a party. Pull up the drop-leaf sides and you have an event.

And the whole set cost me $200.

There's a lot to be found by the side of the road. What some people want to unload is exactly what you might like to weave into the fabric of your world.

It all comes down to conscious living. Sometimes the only drive is to get to work, single-mindedly and unobservantly getting to the next obligation.

But there are priceless gems everywhere, if we just look around. It's about seeing the value in the discards.

Trash talk can be a very rich conversation.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Higher education.

About a jillion years ago, when I was just about to graduate from high school, I made a last-minute decision. Just weeks before graduation, I decided I didn't want to go to the Ron Bailey School of Broadcasting. I wanted to go to UNC.

I'm no brainiac, but I think that was a pretty good move. And as I mentioned, it was very last-minute.

Times have changed. Apparently future potential collegians get started scoping out college possibilities long before I did back in the dark ages.

My oldest son Connor will be graduating from high school next year. That makes him a junior.

Real-live mail isn't dead. It apparently comes in the form of brochures and informational packets from colleges hungry for fresh brains. Here's the pile of mail Connor's received so far:

I don't know if you can grasp how large this pile of mail from colleges is, and the envelopes are, for the most part, unopened. Many will probably stay that way, at least for a while.

I'm thinking Connor's received this rock-star volume of mail because he did well on his PSAT test. He hasn't even taken the SATs yet. Imagine the mail once those results come in.

A lot can change in a year. But all of this mail has most likely been sent in vain.

I'm sure Connor will go to college. It's most likely he'll go somewhere close, in state, unless he gets a whole bunch of scholarship money, grants, loans, winning lottery ticket.

Interesting, that we haven't received one piece of mail offering up methods by which to pay for these institutions of higher education.

We'll find a way. More succinctly, he'll find a way.

Because tuition at UNC is around $13,000 per year. And UNC is among the cheapest colleges in the state. That's a far cry from 1983 tuition, when I graced UNC's halls. Back then, tuition was a fraction of what it is now.

Until decisions are made, we'll continue collecting this mound of mail.

Maybe we'll get a few slick brochures that address how to pay for the high price of higher education.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Books are good.

So after a very fast trip up to the mountains, I and one of my kids came home on Friday.

Mr. Fabulous and I had a free day yesterday, so it was only logical that we hit the bins.

Here's a picture to remind you of what it's like at the Goodwill Outlet, fondly termed 'the bins' by me and my people, thanks to lovely Miriam and our Portland bins experience. This photo was taken at the bins here in Denver.

Needle in a haystack to find anything of value, right?

It's true. There's a lot of crap at the bins. But the books - ah, the books.

The love of reading, the joy of expanding one's base of knowledge, the attractive price point....

All books at the bins are 49 cents. Each.

We found a bunch of really great books yesterday. I found a first edition Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Great Britain version. I found a first edition A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - a personal favorite title of mine, and I bought it solely with the intention of reading it again. But this version is a first edition from 1943, which makes it even more compelling.

And then I found this:

When we got home with all of our treasures yesterday, I eventually got around to checking on the worth of this particular volume.

Its market value is somewhere in the $200 to $300 range.


So for a 49 cent investment, it's very likely this book will translate into my car payment this month.

That doesn't suck.

What can you buy for 49 cents any more? Not much.

But I got this great book, and a whole lot of other wonderful bits of book learnin', for 49 cents a piece.

Like the fabulous Coach purse I found at the bins a few weeks ago, this book and others we found yesterday have monetary value that far exceeds the bins' price tag. Finding these items compels me to wonder how so many people overlooked these valuables before we tripped onto them at the bins.

It's perplexing.

Books attempt to answer the previously unanswerable. And ironically, I'm finding valuable books in the most unlikely place, at the most desirable price. It's a conundrum why these volumes are virtually leaping into my hands at a rock-bottom price, but I really shouldn't question it.

I'm liking all this new knowledge.

Books are a good thing.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Serendipitous illumination.

Mr. Fabulous found a brass lamp at Goodwill for 7.99. It's so very obviously very old, with areas for two bulbs, and it adjusts to the height you'd like, for book-reading illumination or whatnot.

Here's another view. It's made of heavy brass, its body is a Grecian column, with lots and lots of detail. I put my Virgin Mary-in-progress pin next to the lamp, so you can see just how big the lamp is. Mr. Fabulous spent quality time this afternoon cleaning the brass to make it so very sheeny.

Isn't it cool?

The story doesn't end there. This bloggy blog isn't about a cool lamp Mr. Fab found.

He found just the lamp's base. He'd seen a shade that looked like it would work, at a different thrifty location. So we picked it up today. Here's the completed lamp, from a downside view. Check out the duel attachments to the two bulbs. Those accents didn't come easily...
We went to the bins today. And there was a crappy-ass lamp among all of the other crap. It had all of the elements that Mr. Fab had found earlier, plus a finial and some hardware. So we snagged the finial and the attachment hardware that you see in the photo above.

What are the odds, really? An antique lamp that Mr. Fab found, bare bones, in one location. A lampshade that looks like it was meant for the lamp in another location. The detailed hardware to finish the piece, found in a completely different third location.

I think the lamp was meant to be here, illuminating the house. And I think Mr. Fabulous has an amazing eye for attaching some elements to other elements. One of these things belongs to another...

Mr. Fabulous spent quality time taking the raw elements of this lamp and bringing it back to its cleansed, beautiful state. He attached all the other elements we'd found at the bins, and voila. A completely fabulous antique lamp, with an age-appropriate shade.

What a day.

I also found a The Principles of Knitting book at the bins today for 49 cents, and it's apparently quite rare. I intend to turn it around for a tidy profit.

All in all, it was a good day.

We slapped together an antique lamp for less that twenty bucks. And I found a priceless book for 49 cents.

And adding great to good, the brief spring break respite I had with my kids was so very nice.

My past few days have been illuminating, on so many levels.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My favorite credit card.

When I was a kid, my family did a lot of traveling. We went all over the country in a super-long Recreational Vehicle. I was a kid, and I had no concept of how much it must have cost to shuttle us across these United States.

Times have changed.

I'm going on a very brief trip up to the mountains with my kids. We'll leave tomorrow morning, with Gigi and one of her daughters. I was on the fence last night.

Not literally, because the fence was being pelted by a foot of snow.

But today the forecast is sunny with a high probability of melt. The snow is leaving quickly, and we'll spend part of Spring Break and a nice chunk of change getting away from it all.

Money has literally taken on a new currency lately. Going anywhere any more is like buying popcorn at the movies or lunch at the airport. It's all crazy-expensive.

I won't put anything on credit. Credit, like I'm hoping it will be with inclement weather on our brief vacation, isn't on my windshield.

Fun will be had, money will be spent, mountainous beauty will be appreciated, relaxation will be top on my personal list of objectives.

I wish I could whip out the card in the photo that's conspicuously incongruous to pay for stuff during our trip. I think I should be able to use it just because it's so cool.

I recently received new health insurance cards for me and my two boys, and the format is designed for four cards. In the fourth spot, I received the "This Space Left Blank Intentionally" card. It's the coolest card in my wallet.

I'll be out of the loop for a few days, vacationing in the snowy Colorado mountains.

Maybe somewhere on our route I'll pull out my favorite credit card, just to see what kind of reaction I get.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Can't win for losing.

Meet Futility Lad. He was the vacuous sidekick to Captain Useless, who was a B-list superhero a few decades ago. Interestingly, the pair's popularity waned in a gradual way, and the less-than-dynamic duo disbanded in the late 1970s.

I think Futility Lad's not gone at all. I think he's living in my house. A hand-drawn ghost, an incorporeal wisp, an exhausting shadow-shrug.

Futility Lad takes shape in crafty ways. He's hijacked the light bulbs that I know are around here somewhere. He's the one who makes me say, at least every day, where did I put my coffee? He's stashed my garage door opener somewhere, and I just had it last night. I can almost hear him chuckling maniacally to himself as I look for my keys.

Futility Lad must know how to shape-shift, and he apparently has the added secondary super-heroic quality of inhabiting more than one place at a time. Because I chatted with my lovely friend Shawn today, and without me bringing it up, she mentioned she's been plagued by losing things and forgetting important events, just like me.

I need a superhero to take charge, saunter into my home with confidence and kick Futility Lad's ass.

I think Futility Lad's nemesis is a multi-tasking, capable, take-charge, intuitive superhero. And for the sake of personal relatability, I'll make her a woman.

I imagine that she'd come in my house and first work a few superpowers on me. Maybe we'd do some yoga, which would incorporate several deep breathing techniques. Then she'd probably walk me through where I saw my errant items last, and we'd recreate - most likely through very sophisticated creative visualization - my crazed moments just before I lost the item or forgot the event.

Maybe then she'd do a bit of recon on Futility Lad.

After he's been soundly schooled and summarily banished, she'd probably feel it necessary to further realign my personal karmic chi, patiently answering my recent questions about what the Universe is trying to tell me about why I keep losing things that should be conspicuous.

I have yet to come up with a name for this reconnaissance-driven superhero. Maybe Perceptivion, Goddess of Clarity?

Judging from the input of my friends, I think I'll need to take a number.

Perceptivion, like any superhero that supplies extra doses of clarity while ridding the world of futility, probably requires an appointment.

I think she's a busy lady.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The evolution of the Virgin Mary

So I've been working on the Virgin Mary pin. Here's how she started:

Actually, she started with a bunch of Brunswick advertising slapped all over her torso. But a can of flesh-toned spray paint took care of that.

Once I got all my elements of creation at the ready, here's what happened next. I particularly like the Graceland ticket, purchased from my lovely friend Miriam on ebay. I copied the actual ticket to Graceland that had its genesis in the 1960s or so, then mod-podged the copy, complete with ticket number.

Here's a shot of her early days here on terra firma:

Her hands are made of heavy metal. The better to mete out eternal judgment, my pretty! And if the heavy metal wasn't enough, at the end of each piece, where her 'hands' would be, are crosses.

I took a break after I did this first part. Everyone needs a day of rest. Jeez.

And on Friday afternoon, when it was snowing like a crazy blowing snowing machine was pointed right at my house, I took out the pin and the materials, put Monty Python's 'The Meaning of Life' on my MacBook, and got to work.

Here's what it looks like now, if you were prone to stare into those sparkly eyes:
Kind of like she can look straight into your soul, huh?

Here's a full body shot from the front. She, like her predecessor, has an old wristwatch as a prominent feature. Symbolism, perhaps?

And here's a view of her hinder. There's a great bracelet with globs of fishes dangling from her back-angled woman place. It's hard to see in the photo, but it's there.

And I love the hair. I found a strand of very untamed stuff at Porter Thrift for a buck. And that's her hair now: a collection of wild strands and coordinating beads. She looks like she just rolled out of bed. I love the unseemly incongruity.

She's not done.

She's not even close to being done. I still have a mini-creche and rosary beads that need a home.

Is anything worth having so simple that it's finished when someone slaps their hands together and pronounces "Finis!" in a flourish? Ah, if it were all that simple. She's a complicated lady.

Complicated is good.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Life, unplugged

When I was the age my kids are now, life was completely unplugged. 

The one phone we all used was on the kitchen wall, and the handset was connected to the phone with a curly cord that eventually became a blob of knots and twists. 

Calculators were way to expensive, and they were huge. No one had computers. Just electric typewriters - if you were lucky enough to have received one as a gift for high school graduation. And the computers that did exist took up an entire room, and only very cutting-edge companies had them. 

We had three channels on our black and white tee vee, and eventually, we got to watch in color. 

We had a record player and a radio. My first car had an 8-track tape player built in, and that was cutting-edge for 1978. When I hear an old Billy Joel song now, I can remember what part of the song was interrupted when the track changed. 

I was in my early teens when microwave ovens had their start, and I remember being completely in awe that you could put a glass of water in a box, and in moments the water would be boiling. 

If someone told me when I was an adolescent that in the span of 30 years I could put a bajillion songs on a device smaller than a pack of my mom's Salems, I'd have laughed in their face. Shut up, future freak, I'd say. And just imagine what I'd have told them if they let me in on laptops and cell phones.

So hop in the time machine with me and reset the time from 1980 to 2010, won't you? Times have changed, haven't they? And now, we're all plugged in.

In 1980, I graduated from high school. And next year, my oldest son will graduate from high school. I think it's safe to say that his world is completely different than mine was that blink-of-an-eye ago, when I was his age.

He learned how to use a mouse before he learned how to use the bathroom. He has an X-Box and all kinds of games. He has a computer in his room that's essential to his school work, and also apparently essential to his social life. He has an ipod, and he has a cell phone. I don't think he could function without texting. And everything I say about Connor's tech world holds true for his younger brother. 

All the tech dependence gets frustrating for me. Because I remember first-hand what 1979 was like, what with all the under-the-radar talking, hanging out, interacting. No one knew what we were doing.

Remember what that was like?

So a story I read today on especially piqued my interest. The article explained the National Day of Unplugging. And although the observed day is today and it's obviously too late for me, we can all unplug whenever we want to, believe it or not. Here's an excerpt from the article:

"Composed of Internet entrepreneurs, creators of award-winning television shows, community organizers and nonprofit leaders, these "Rebooters" are people who typically have their cell phones glued to their palms. Several of them go so far as to say they have an addiction to their devices.
But this weekend they will be observing 24 hours of freedom from their devices: a National Day of Unplugging lasting from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.
The day is being used as a launchpad for Reboot's ongoing project, the Sabbath Manifesto. Dan Rollman, a Rebooter and founder of the Universal World Record Database Web site, created the Sabbath Manifesto because he felt that technology was taking over too much of his life.
"There's clearly a social problem when we're interacting more with digital interfaces than our fellow human beings," Rollman said in an e-mail to CNN. "Rich, engaging conversations are harder to come by than they were a few years ago. Our attention spans are silently evaporating."
The Sabbath Manifesto consists of 10 principles. However, people are encouraged to discuss online which principles work and which should be tweaked. As they stand now, the guiding principles are:
1. Avoid technology.
2. Connect with loved ones.
3. Nurture your health.
4. Get outside.
5. Avoid commerce.
6. Light candles.
7. Drink wine.
8. Eat bread.
9. Find silence.
10. Give back.
The National Day of Unplugging specifically promotes the first principle.

Even though Reboot is technically focused on reaching out to hyper-connected Jews, the values behind the Sabbath Manifesto are meant for all denominations. ..."

My favorites on this list are 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9 and 10. I avoid commerce whenever possible, which can be verified by my meager bank balance. I can live without lighting candles, and I'll skip the carbs, thank you.

But reading the article did send me into my 1980s reflective mode, and got me wondering whether my kids could handle living like I did when I was their age, abiding for a day by adhering to the first guiding principle. 

I think we might give it a try. Maybe we'll call it something snappy and low-tech.

Because it's good to disconnect, to unplug, to just be, without any kind of link to anything but what's in your head and what's around you. 

I don't know how they'll handle it. But as I recall, without over-sentimentalization, it was easy for us.

And for the most part, we pre-tech folks seemed to have adapted well to this brave new world.

I wonder if our kids would adapt so easily if they unplugged.

Just for a day.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A man for all seasons.

Maybe I'm choosing Santa as a subject because it's snowing like crazy here. But maybe it's more than that.

I've always had a thing for Santa. More than other seasonal characters a la the Easter Bunny or that whimsical baby and old man who ring in the new year, or the Tooth Fairy nymph of passage, Santa seems to be the icon who holds the most relevance.

The Easter Bunny is illogical. A bunny brings eggs and other special treats, and as the name would indicate, the egg-distributing bunny signifies something about the resurrection of Jesus. Way too confusing, completely illogical. Way too many dots to connect.

I understand the ringing in the new and saying goodbye to the old that the New Year's iconography implies. It's not even much of a veiled message. Young baby = new year, old man = the passage of time. No college-level class that stresses imagery or subtext is required.

The Tooth Fairy attempts to put a loving, lucrative spin on a painful experience. Losing teeth is often accompanied by tears and drama, and what better way to assuage the moment than with a crisp bill under the pillow?

Santa is happy. Santa represents giving.

But Santa has his dark side, too. You're not nice, and not unlike his Jesuit counterpart, there are consequences. Coal in the stocking, for instance. Long story short: if you're good, you're rewarded. If you're bad, you're punished.

However my Santa is the giving Santa. The Revisionist History Santa. He's all about the giving.

So it's officially Spring, and yet Santa still embellishes the holly branches above my kitchen sink. I bought a few strands of bright Santa heads for a dollar a few years ago.

There are at least three explanations for this Santa presence, despite the seasonal incongruity.

The first is that I just like the idea of the giving Santa, and I want to express that symbolic concept all the time.

The next is that I haven't found anything else to replace the holly and Santa display that seems quite as interesting or incongruous.

The third - and most likely - explanation is that I'm too lazy to take Santa down from his perch of honor.

If I were to be completely honest, I think the answer is the latter.

I guess the jury's out. As it's been established in previous blogs, I enjoy incongruity. And I do like the idea of Santa.

Combine those facts with the reality that this is the snowiest season in Colorado, and Santa doesn't feel so out of place.

We'll see how I feel mid-August.

Although Santa and the requisite holly has been a fixture above my sink for a couple of years now.

No matter how hard I try, there's really no explanation that can be logically deconstructed to make any sense at all.

Kind of like Santa.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Be nice or I'll hit you.

So today, my sister and I had made plans to see Alice in Wonderland in 3-D, at 11.15 am. So we were stoked, because it's almost always assured that there are more empty seats than full ones that time of day.

We sat through all of our polite instructions. Please turn off your cell phone. Please don't talk during the movie. Please dispose of your trash properly. Please silence your cell phone. Please put your cell phone on vibrate, and by the way, no texting. 

Really. The calming voice asked us to cut the crap with our phones three times.

I'll cut to the chase. The magical film-turning machine broke just as the movie was about to begin.

So we all got our money back, and we also got a ticket for a free movie.


So what were we to do with the benevolent gift of time?

It was Kathy's idea. She wanted to thrift.

So we went to the bins. We both wandered in a low-key way. Then, one of the employees started announcing loudly and parentally - without the benefit of a microphone or other sound-enhancing device - that new bins were being brought out, and under no circumstances would there be pushing, shoving, or taking from one another's carts.

Okay, I thought. I'll just stay where I am, trolling though the bins.

The new bins were rolled out. The diehards, with their gloves on and eyes darting, went in like carp to a loaf of bread. Loud, frenzied mayhem.

After the first wave of crazy digging was over, I sashayed on over. Then the fighting started.

A highly acquisitional book-trolling man assumed an equally aggressive woman said some disparaging thing to his kid. And they got into a big brawl. It was like the Tattered Cover in Hell.

Security was called. Interventions took place. It was such a sociological study in annoyingly shrill vs. wildly dysfunctional. Thankfully, no blows were thrown, no guns were drawn.

And the end result?

Tempers cooled.

My sister and I stayed under the rule-driven radar at both of our stops. We silenced our phones and followed all the obvious rules that were outlined at the movie, and later we avoided the urge to provide conflict resolution at the bins.

As for the thrifty yield, I didn't find much. My sister found a cartload of cool stuff, including an amazing Smith Corona electric typewriter, in the case, with several ink cartridges and instruction manual. It was as if someone dropped it straight from 1974 into the bins. The whole works set her back a whole 3.99.

It was definitely worth the trip. But the theme of the day seemed to be that we as a culture apparently need to be told to reel our instincts and just be polite.

Sometimes it's good to just blend in; just go along to get along.

Miss Manners has many faces.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Danger, Will Robinson! Compost material at 12 o'clock!

Spring is in the air here in Colorado, despite the forecast for snow on Friday. Little green buds are sprouting, and the garden area looks almost ready to roto-till. After a winter of lawn avoidance, the abundance of 'matter' created by my two dogs has been located and discarded.

Didn't I dance around that stinky subject elegantly?

In any case, it's time to get prepared to do some outdoor planting. And my composter, which has a distinct resemblance to the robot from Lost in Space, is about to be served.

The composter is located in the northwest corner of my lawn. I pooh-poohed, so to speak, the idea of composting over the winter. I blame it on my dogs, their byproducts, and the northern exposure. It was an icy, trecherous path.

I guess that makes me a fair weather recycler.

Call me names, but the past is over, it's spring again, and it's time to compost.

And plant. And play Frisbee. And mow.

And compost.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The definition of style - you've got to have it.

Time, age, station, wealth, fame - it all becomes irrelevant as I get older. I can't gauge other peoples' ages, and sometimes it's a stretch to remember mine. Recently I put pen to paper, subtracting the year I was born from 2010 to remind myself how old I'll be in a couple of months.

And I heard a report on NPR recently that people who have money don't feel the need to show the world they're wealthy. The segment concluded that the folks who are spending the big bucks are the people who work for the rich people.

Sounds like an issue of comfort. The folks who are financially comfortable don't feel the need to show it. Maybe it's about confidence, and has nothing to do with money.

Maybe it's just about having it.

I was talking with lovely Sue at work today, and we were talking about thrifting experiences, we commiserated about how pricy thrift stores have become. And if you bumped into Sue at the grocery store, you'd never ever suspect she was a thrifter.

She has it. Class.

There are people who can drop hundreds of bucks at big name retail stores and look like they wandered out of Salvation Army.

And there are people who buy everything on the cheap and look like Mr. Nordstrom threw up all over them. Metaphorically speaking.

It's about style. It's about it.

Mr. Fabulous can wear a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and emanate a certain casual, confident style. He has it.

Maybe it comes from age, intuition, comfort. There are some people who inherently have it, some people who want it, others who wouldn't recognize it if it smacked them upside the head, and other people who don't care about it at all.

Ironically, the people who don't put a lot of effort into it have more if it than most people.

Chasing style is a race that's never won. Real style can be achieved very affordably, and it's not about what you wear. It's about how you feel.

Having genuine style is having it, without even having to try.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I think too much. But I like my soap dish, regardless.

For some reason, I gravitate toward odd artwork and home accents that have an animal theme. If you've read one of my previous blogs, you saw the dog in the cage by my front door.

And this little pair of pooches holds my soap in the bathroom.

Here's another view:

They're such obedient doggies. And they're so very functional.

Function is another important element of what I tend to like. As we've established, I don't particularly like to clean. And dusting falls under the umbrella of cleaning, so I prefer to purchase multi-functional items.

I'm no psychologist, but maybe I choose functional items because their usefulness justifies buying the oddities with which I surround myself.

But let's not over-think it. Some cool stuff is just too good to pass up.

As for my soap dish, I imagine that the pair of pooches in my powder room perhaps once held business cards at a veterinary office.

You've got to wonder - what was going through the minds of the folks who originally came up with the idea of designing two dogs holding a tray in their mouths? How did they sell it to their bosses, their money men? Who came up with the highly detailed mold? Did they think to themselves, Eureka! This 'dogs holding a tray in their mouths' idea is going to make me a millionaire! 

I haven't seen this item, which I choose to use as a soap dish, anywhere else. That's not to say it's ultra-exclusive. It may be that this concept was someone's pipe dream, someone's Million Dollar Idea that eventually wound up in my bathroom.

Oh no. I think I'm over-thinking it again.

I do like the animal art. It's not to the level of collecting little porcelain miniatures of one particular breed in such profusion that my collection requires a shelf, or, God forbid, shelving.

I guess if I were to over-think it, I like incongruity. And typically, the animal art I enjoy puts animals in positions they couldn't possibly get themselves into in real life.

Like two dogs facing each other obediently, holding a tray in their mouths. That would never happen.

Therein lies the charm.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

You take first class, I'll take Coach.

So among our many errands and accomplishments yesterday, Mr. Fabulous and I hit the Goodwill Outlet, known to us as the bins.

You may recall from a previous blog that the recently opened Goodwill Outlet features nothing but bins and bins of merch that didn't sell in their stores. So it's the call from the governor at midnight for these items. Last chance.

And Mr. Fab and I completely SCORED yesterday! We couldn't believe what we found! As you can see in the photo, I found this fabulous Coach handbag - no issues, very large, holds all my stuff, nice interior pockets - the only issue is a bit of corner scuffing, which you can see.

I also found a super-fine Tumi handbag. I didn't know much about this brand, but I looked up the style, and it retails for a hundred or so. It even has an interior heavy metal tag with a bar code, with instructions to scan the bar code if the purse is lost and it will be returned to its owner. Amazing! And double-cool is that it's in great condition!

I got a vintage melmac bowl, a couple of books and few other items.

Here's what Mr. Fab got - a patch cord for the ipod, a very timely Kiss Me I'm Irish baseball cap, a pair of black Levi jeans in fabulous condition, brand new towels, workin' man kneepads, washing machine hoses, a blanket, some computer software, a pair of leather Merrell shoes, and he got some books, too.

And what did we spend? Altogether, we spent $28.

We'll use everything we got, and it was so much fun poking through the bins - I couldn't believe it when I found my Coach.

I think I made a kind of "woo hoo!" sound.

Friday, March 12, 2010

One easy payment, millions of uses! Buy before midnight tonight!

I know of a product that can disinfect your filthy surfaces, remove unsightly stains, make your laundry cleaner, kill pesky bugs in your garden, tenderize your meat, and so much more!

Sounds crazy, doesn't it? How can one simple product have so many uses?

Don't take my word for it! Try it yourself! You'll get a half gallon of this magical elixir for less than a gallon of gas! Yes, it's affordable!

And the benefits don't stop there, my friends!

Dilute this half gallon of product with water, and you can virtually watch your initial investment stretch even further!

I'm not pulling your leg, friend! Really! This product is economical, non-toxic, safe to the environment and all natural!

Now you're asking yourself - how does it work?

You don't need to be a scientist to understand the clear advantage of this product! I'm not going to get too technical, but corn alcohol combines with water and natural ingredients, ferments just a smidge and creates acetic acid, which then becomes this miracle liquid!

That's enough technical talk!

I know what you're wondering - what's the catch?

That's the great part about this product! There's no catch!

It has a storied, colorful history, jillions of uses, and it's completely natural!

I know this product sounds unattainable and revolutionary, and I can tell you've figured out that, after you have access to its many uses, you'll no longer need cleaning products for your home, dangerous pesticides for your yard! Spray a dilution of this product on your fruits and vegetables, and poof! They're clean, too!

And when diluted, each application costs you a fraction of a cent.

Too good to be true? Would I lie to you? No way!

This product is easy to find, no strings attached. It's called white distilled vinegar, and it's available in every grocery store across the land!

Don't believe me? Check out all the details at!

You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The high cost of natural beauty

I got a haircut yesterday, and it was marvelous. Like cleaning my bathrooms or getting my oil changed, I wait much longer than I should to get my hair cut. Invariably I lull myself into the extremely false reality that I know how to cut my own hair, I do a hatchet job that I live with for a while, then I decide to relent and get it cut by a professional. 

I have a sparse collection of makeup, and when my blush gets all crumbly or the eye shadow runs out, I go buy another one. 

So I was nothing less than shocked to read that, according to Siren Magazine, American women spend an average of $12,000 annually on beauty products and grooming. 


I'm no mathematician, but if there are folks like me who spend significantly less than that crazy 12 grand, then it means there are other women who spend a whole lot more than that, too. The law of averages, I think they call it.

Looking like a natural beauty apparently doesn't come on the cheap for some women. I learned that the beauty industry attracts somewhere in the range of $50 billion bucks a year. 

That must generate a whole lot of pretty.

I guess if you factor in manicures, pedicures, massages, waxing, bleaching, plucking and other painful-sounding services, it might make that $12,000 price tag for beauty more understandable.

But I just don't get it. Primarily because, as an observer, I don't see a whole lot of a visual difference between the high priced look and, well, mine.

Maybe those value-added services are intended to make the purchaser feel the beauty they've received, which then is exuded to others vis a vis an increased level of confidence.

Kind of like my perky new haircut did for me. 

And perhaps the $12,000 average has gone down during these troubling economic times.

Caveats aside, I think you could buy a whole lot of beauty every year even if this average were reduced by $10,000.

All this talk of the high cost of looking fabulous is making me long for a mud bath at a day spa.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Table of contents

It's been a dry spell. This table represents my thrifting success as of late:

I haven't found much worth buying these past few weeks. I think it may be due to the calendar, partially. Folks classically brace for the typhoon of tax time right about now.

This dearth has compelled me to plot my course a bit differently lately.

To preface, here's what I like to do. I like to buy something for a few bucks and resell it for a profit that's very tidy. Lately, thrift stores seem to be pricing their items as if they're full blown retail stores, which they're not.

As a case in point, last week my sister and I hit a thrift store, and I saw a cool, substantially crafted ice cream scoop. Not an old one, particularly, and it wasn't marked with the logo of any maker per se. They  wanted 4.99.

I most likely could have purchased a brand new ice cream scoop for less.

I understand that the concept of currency has been turned on its head recently. We've all been incrementally conditioned to become increasingly comfortable with the fact that it takes a whole lot more money than it used to simply to stock the fridge, fill up the car with gas, go to a movie.

And I'm thinking that reality has seeped into the world of thrift.

Like a virus that becomes a plague, this high pricing mayhem hasn't seeped into every corner of the thrifting world - yet.

So many more people are thrifting now than in the recent past. It's not shocking, what with the economy. So maybe this empty table of contents is simply because there are more people at the party, picking away at the caviar. I'm no economist, but I'm fairly certain that supply and demand drives pricing.

I'd just like to see a table of contents that didn't price itself out of the market.

***And for those of you who may wonder about the outcome of a previous post regarding Gigi and her daughters, spring break and Glenwood, the jury's in. Gigi and her girls can join us for a couple of days, but a big stupid rock slide up the mountain may change our destination. Damn. Fun will be had, wherever we land.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Drowning in a sea of aluminum

In between our occasional snowstorms, it's beginning to feel like spring in Colorado. And over the winter, my back porch has become the repository for all kinds of things I didn't want to find a place for while it was cold. Or I was just too lazy.

And before I know it, I'll want to spend time in the back yard, on the back porch. So it's time to stop ignoring the mess outside.

In realizing I'll be an indoor/outdoor person soon, I've also realized that I and my kids drink way too much Diet Coke.

Okay. Logan and me. Connor doesn't drink carbonated beverages.

In any case, our consumption has become conspicuous. I have bags and bags of aluminum cans.

I can't seem to give them away. I offered them to my friend Greg, who's way into recycling. I offered them to my friend Pammy, who knows some folks who are going through a difficult time and can use the money from the cans. I offered them to my dad, who volunteers at a homeless shelter. No one has come for the cans.

I don't want to post a listing on craigslist. I don't have a vehicle large enough to transport this huge bunch of cans to a recycling center, unless I make multiple trips. So for the time being, I'm stuck with a crap-ton of aluminum cans.

Divesting myself of the remnants of our excessive Diet Coke consumption is becoming more of a priority.

And recycling the cans is such a good idea, on so many levels. Here are some facts:

     *Recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a T.V. for 3 hours.
     *North America is currently recycling 2/3 of its aluminum cans.
     *Aluminum cans uses 95% less energy over refining from raw aluminum.
     *The energy saved in one year from recycling aluminum cans in the USA would light the entire city of Denver for more than 10 years.

     *The energy saved in one year from recycled cans is equivalent to 20 million barrels of oil or 12 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

     *America alone uses over 80,000,000,000 aluminum pop cans every year (many of which are in my back yard).

     *Making cans from recycled aluminum cuts related air pollution by 95%.

Compelling information, huh?

So the only down side, so it would seem, is transporting this sea of cans to a recycling center. 

I won't get rich from the money I'll make, but I'll have more than I had before, and I'll have part of my back porch back.

And I'm definitely cutting back on the Diet Coke, so this craziness doesn't sneak up on me again.

No time to be lazy. Spring is in the air.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Unnecessary roughness.

This is my son Logan. He's 14. He doesn't always look so petulant. He wears it on the inside, usually.

And I have another son. Connor will be 17 in a couple of months. This is him, and this picture was taken last year. He's become taller, older and sassier since this photo was taken:

Their interpersonal relationship is like these two photos. Separate.

They bicker, a lot.

I try to keep it in context, the bickering. I have a sister, we didn't get along when we were kids, and now we almost never want to kill each other.

And I don't think my boys-to-men offspring want to kill each other, either. They don't spar, slap or kick. They just have this attitude.

It's so much fun to be around.

Therein lies my current conundrum. Connor, Logan and I have made it a practice for the past few years to take a few days of their spring break and head up to Glenwood Springs. We've always gone with my friend Gigi and her two daughters.

This year, we're still on the fence. Gigi doesn't know if she has the time off.

And I don't know if I want to go to Glenwood without Gigi and her daughters.

Gigi and her daughters are fun. Gigi's a fabulous traveling friend for me, and her daughters are friends with my sons. So everybody's happy.

And in an attempt to tie this entry into the realm of dollar-consciousness, I don't think (in my present state of mind, taking the rough-hewn nature of how my sons get along) I'd enjoy spending hundreds of dollars and a few days without Gigi and her daughters.

Spring break should be fun, right?

Is it just me? Am I being selfish here?

I know my boys are almost done with having me as their primary resource, and it hurts my heart a little, because I love them both so much. I know this stuff they throw at each other (metaphorically) is what siblings do. I know I should embrace each moment, good or bad, that I can spend with my kids.

But I sure hope Gigi and her girls can join us in Glenwood.

Because at this stage of the game, just thinking about the unnecessary roughness they might put me in the middle of if we go it alone to Glenwood makes me want to stay home and save the ching.

I guess this is what growing up is all about.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The waiting game.

I hate to wait in line. And recently I was thinking about the thrift of time, in all its ubiquity.

And in thinking about time not thriftily spent, there are lots and lots of examples.

Of course there's waiting in line. Banks, grocery stores, movie theaters, restaurants.

Then there's the driving. The traffic jams. The left turns. The construction that requires a detour.

And what about people we wait for and later pay handsomely? The doctor, dentist, hair stylist.

We wait for a human to answer the phone as we wait on hold. We wait for our computers to boot up, wait for music to download, wait for programs to start.

To bring the idea of waiting home, literally, here's a chunk from my world: I texted my kids this evening to let them know I was on may way to get them, specifically to avoid having to wait for them to get ready. And I waited. Waited.

While I was waiting, I thought about the idea of waiting.

No one waits because they want to. They wait because they have to. The waiting is a means to an end. It's the carrot on the stick of productivity. We wait, we get through the line, the download, the detour, and we're closer to where we want to be.

And where's that?

Everyone seems so busy, and I'm no exception. Calendars need to be consulted just to get together for coffee with a friend. Kids and their activities require a driver. The house needs to be maintained. And then of course there's the Real Job that needs its share of attention.

Despite how busy we all are, we're idling while we wait. I learned that each person who lives to be 70 years old spends, on average, plus or minus three of those years waiting. Just waiting.

So it's a paradox, this waiting game. As a culture, we seem to have virtually no extra time. Life's become increasingly complicated. Fancy electronic devices have been created simply to help us open our window of free time a fraction of an inch.

Yet we take it as a matter of course that we wait our turn. It's only polite.

And when years roll by, we've lost a big chunk of our lives to something very simple. Waiting.

I know there are meditation advocates who suggest taking those moments we spend waiting to practice mindful breathing and other relaxing pasttimes.

And I know I'm impatient, but sometimes I can almost hear my life passing before my eyes. The last place I want to spend it is waiting for things that simply get me closer to where I want to really be.

So what's the conclusion to attempting to be thifty with time, to minimize the waiting game?

Some of the waiting simply can't be stopped, unless you're extremely rich or very famous. Then you can afford to pay someone else to move your waiting game piece around the board.

But maybe we can simplify. Putting it even more simply, maybe I can simplify.

And at the core of the waiting is understanding that we're all in the same boat. Everyone waits, no matter how busy we are. Except that rich and famous guy with the assistant who's made to wait.

So a little compassion goes a long way in this busy world.

It doesn't mean I like to wait.

It does mean I can be economical in my impatience, and try a little tenderness.

We're all just waiting. We may as well make the best of it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Eschew the poo.

My lovely friend Miriam and I aren't girlie girls. Neither she nor I take loads of time prepping to look our level best.

So imagine my surprise when Miriam called a few months ago, and she was uncharacteristically eager to tell me that her hair has never looked better.

Miriam has beautiful hair.

And she spiritedly let me know that she hadn't used shampoo in over a week.

Miriam always seems to be on the cusp of the cool. She'd read about the No Poo movement, and she decided to give it a try.

And she achieved fabulous results. She has thick, beautiful, curly auburn hair, and apparently implementing the No Poo method did nothing but good things for the sheen and loveliness of her locks.

Interestingly, right about the same time Miriam called with her No Poo epiphany, I had this weird thing happening with my hair. Bits of build-up were forming in my hair in the form of flaky ishy clingy things.

Nothing I did in terms of product took care of the problem. So I harkened to mind Miriam's No Poo solution.

And it worked.

I stopped using shampoo on a regular basis. And the little ishy flakes went away. My hair looked great, without using the 'cleansing' shampoo.

Here are some facts, which I'll attribute to their source, MSNBC, from last year. To be fair, there's a ton of information on the crazy computer box about the benefits of skipping the 'poo:

In recent years, "no poo" has become something of an underground beauty trend (despite being saddled with an unfortunate moniker) that's split into two camps: beauty mavens who believe they've found hair care's dirty little secret, and environmentally minded folks who want to use fewer plastic products and products with fewer chemicals.
“I think we’ve been so conditioned that you have to wash your hair every day ... that it’s just bizarre for somebody to think something otherwise,” says Lynch, who fits comfortably within the eco-friendly category of no-pooers. ...
"Modern shampoo has been around since the 1930s, and in the decades that followed, it became one of America's most heavily advertised products. The harsher formulas of those initial iterations of shampoo meant that most women were washing their hair only once a week (and telling unwanted suitors, "I can't go out; I'm washing my hair."). But as formulas got gentler in the 70s and 80s, daily shampooing became the norm.
But some wonder if we were sold a bill of goods. That trend toward everyday cleansing might have triggered a vicious cycle, some experts say — shampoo cleanses by stripping the hair of its natural, necessary oils, causing the scalp to produce more oil in response, making it impossible for some to skip shampoo for even one day without sprouting a gigantic greaseball."
So this sniplet of validation, combined with Miriam's first-hand experience and the fact that I've hopped on the No Poo train means that it may be something to consider. 
There's a lot of information about No Pooing. 
And it's not just all about how great your hair looks. As the segment of the MSNBC article indicates, it's about the chemicals, the environmental impact of the big plastic bottles, the lack of necessity for the entire idea of shampoo. I think we've been sold a bill of goods, personally. We really don't need shampoo as much as they'd want us to think we do.
But we don't hear much about the No Poo movement in the media. Not using a product is the beginning of the end of a bunch of big business.
I'd suggest you check out the no poo thing. Just google no poo.
Its unsavory moniker belies a world of possibility.
As for my poo plan, I do the baking soda/water thing one day, don't wash my hair the next day, go with conditioner only the next day, skip the hair washing the day after that - you get the idea.
I think we've been conditioned, so to speak, to believe we need to wash our hair frequently, using chemical-laden big plastic bottles of shampoo.
We don't necessarily need to slather our locks with hair soap every day.
It's a lot to absorb, in a manner of speaking. But I'd suggest you try it for a month.
Miriam and I, and a whole bunch of other people, think you'll be surprised.

And that's no poo. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

The genesis of Virgin Mary

I started my Virgin Mary pin yesterday. I'd spray painted it a flesh color a few days prior, and hadn't had a chance to do anything but think about what I wanted to do.

I think a few days off will translate into all this random, relaxing time, and it never seems to happen.

But yesterday, late in the afternoon, I had some time. So here's what I came up with so far. View one is straight on, as if we were staring into the Madonna's sparkly eyes:
It's hard to tell what her arms look like, but they're made of heavy metal, and at the end of each, where her hands would be, are crosses. Super cool.

I started at the bottom, more methodically than I started my first project. I think the Virgin Mother requires design with just a bit of order. Here's a closer look at her ample lower section:

I thought it was appropriate to include a vintage ticket of Graceland on her side. I got some Mod Podge yesterday, and slathered the Graceland paper with the magical goo, on both sides.

The Mod Podge people really need to rethink their logo. It's so freakishly 1970s dated. But I guess we folk who use Mod Podge are the types who understand and appreciate the kitsch of decoupage.

And here's a side view.

Obviously I have a long way to go. But I have faith.

And thanks to lovely Sue from work, I have two sets of rosary beads that will find their way to this piece sooner or later.

And I have a teeny faux gold creche that's going on this pin as well.

I don't think I'll have time to decorate this pin for a while. I could have definitely used some spiritual distraction today.

The day started out well enough. Logan made an amazing brunch for a bunch of friends today, and it was so refreshing to be the fly on the wall. I was the fly cleaning the kitchen while they ate around the dining room table.

I was glad to do it. The atmosphere wasn't mine - it was theirs. And it was so interesting, listening to table conversation among my kids and their friends. It was all so civilized, and I hope I was some sort of influence. I love to entertain, and it seemed the boys were recreating a moment with their friends that I've done so many times.

This time, they were the hosts and I was a tertiary element. I was pleased to be in that position, just a parental fly with an ability to load the dishwasher.

Now both boys are tired from lack of sleep, and both have felt free to delve into the murky depths of several layers of adolescent emotion.

Sometimes the discordance wrings me out like a wet sponge.

So, at present, I could drag out all of the Virgin Mary items and get busy. But it's been a productive day already, and I have evening plans that start in an hour or so.

And I'm trying to wrap my head around the idea of them leaving for the weekend.

I do miss them when they leave to spend weekends with their dad, despite their occasional angst.

In addition to the imminent departure, I'm trying to get my mental and physical house in order to get set for going back to work after a few days off. After I'm done here, it's laundry time.

Someone broke a glass in the kitchen during brunch prep, and I need to sweep and mop the kitchen floor.

All in less than an hour.

Mother Mary, give me strength....