Sunday, January 30, 2011

What's up, doc? Cheap entertainment can be enlightening.

This was the first weekend in a long time that I had the chance to map my own course. A weekend with no work, no tracking down free stuff, no planning for the next thing, no agenda. It was a weekend of true Free Time.

Of course, there was the catch-up stuff to do.

There was socializing. There was grocery shopping. There was cleaning. There was laundry. There was a whole lot of lazy. There was the tapping into netflix. There was going to The King's Speech last night with Logan and my lovely friend Erin.

It's such an expensive, delicious, frustrating treat, going to a movie at a movie theater.

Such a crap shoot.

To be honest, it pisses me off to spend $10+ to see a movie at an actual theater, only to have the movie be wildly disappointing.

Then there's the people who talk to each other, as if they're watching this costly moment in the privacy of their own home.

There's the noticing of the loud munching of popcorn.

And if I get popcorn, it's my popcorn. No sharing.

And I have a 'thing' about not sitting in front or behind anyone. I'm sure it's a complete delight, going to a movie with the likes of me.

Then there's the disappointment that comes from spending a whole lot of money to see a movie that's worthy of the waiting until it's an offering on the netflix.

Let's review.

Lately, almost everything involving Meryl Streep has been a crapfest of disappointment.

To be fair, I did enjoy Julie and Julia. Amy Adams was gratingly annoying. Jane Lynch as Julia's sister was a wasted moment of necessary but frustrating backstory. But the movie, on the whole, was a lovely gift. For some crazy reason, I did a bit of boo-hoo-ing when I saw Julie and Julia.

In contrast (and I know I'm in the minority), I found It's Complicated completely embarrassing for everyone involved.

Ditto with Mamma Mia. Painful to watch.

That Prairie Home Companion movie was a flagrant waste of talent. What a terrible last entry to Robert Altman's filmography resume.

I do love myself some Meryl Streep. I'm just using her recent handful of choices as an example of ripe possibility gone bad, to the tune of out-of-pocket first-run-movie money completely wasted.

Good movies lately? The King's Speech was nice, despite the cartoonish Churchill characterization. Black Swan was stellar.

All of this high-priced first-run movie magic brings me to netflix.

I love myself some netflix.

I receive the netflix movies as fast as I can watch them, and then netflix sends me more. I can watch a panoply of netflix choices every month, either by mail or by watching whatever I want immediately via my interweb connection.

The cost?

A month of unlimited movie options costs less than going to see one first-run movie and a bucket of popcorn if I go to a theater.

And that first-run movie magic might actually be a crappy disappointment. It may very well have been worth the wait for that expensive, enticing movie to be available on netflix, due to its potential crappiness.

But there's so much good stuff.

Lars and the Real Girl. 500 Days of Summer. Me and You and Everyone We Know.

Dexter. Weeds. Californication. Nurse Jackie. United States of Tara.

Such fulfilling things to watch.

And lately, I've been all about the documentaries.

So many good ones. Such a hindsight-ish mirror, the docs; a thoughtful way of looking at ourselves.

There are the docs that are informative:
Chow Down.
Food, Inc.
Super Size Me.
There are a few others in addition to these offerings that are all about what we should be doing, just to make ourselves more healthy.

The observational docs:
Grey Gardens.
Man on Wire.
24 Hours on craigslist (recently relevant).
Facing Ali.
The Parking Lot Movie.
Between the Folds (highly recommended).
Exit Through the Gift Shop (I'd vote for this one this year, if I were a member of the Academy).

The historical, relevant docs:
Why We Fight.
The Most Dangerous Man in America.

I'd love to get recommendations of other documentaries and movies that are worth watching.

I completely glom onto watching movies at my pace, in the comfort of my home, on my magical computer box.

And this weekend was all about relaxing free time, documentaries and the implicit goodness of easy netflixability. I did venture out into the Real World, and spent $12 to see The King's Speech. I'm glad I did, on so many levels.

But my most redemptive movie moments lately have been spent on the docs.

There's something very enlightening, watching a documentary. Someone chooses to shine a light onto a place that deserves a bit of clarity.

Seeing the world through someone else's lens can be cheap, and very enlightening.

Getting a glimpse into other peoples' worlds vis a vis the watching of documentaries was such a great way to spend this weekend's Free Time.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A wrap-up of the wrap-up. Taking time to notice.

Something keeps biting at me, ever since this whole Free Time experiment wrapped itself up into a delicious, colorful, comfortable, furnished place recently.

Has some fundamental change occurred in me because of the pursuit of my whimsical Free Time idea?

There have been some signs that have pointed me to a bit of a personal paradigm shift.

Prior to my Free Time time, I'd spun so fast.

Let's look at the facts, in a purely emperical way, without a shred of poor-soul pity.

Underemployed single mother of two teenaged boys. Too many interests, not enough time, never enough money. Constantly catching my tail of obligations, just in time for the next wag.

Did I not notice all of this kindness, all of this interconnectedness, all of this conspicuous beauty, before this Free Time experiment?

As they say, whoever they are, hindsight is 20/20.

A few weeks ago, I spent an evening picking up and dropping off kids. It was rush hour. I turned right at the light, but the light at the intersection wasn't working. I said to the kids in the car, "let's visualize. By the time we pick up Joey, let's hope the light is working."

I had to drive a car full of kids downtown at rush hour, and I had to take a left onto a very busy, rush-hour-crowded intersection after picking up Joey. No easy feat.

After picking him up, we hit the intersection.

Just as we got there, the light started working again. Red, yellow, green. No flashing yellow.

I have witnesses, although I think most of us tossed it off as coincidence.

A few days ago, I texted my friend Miriam. Moments later, she called me. She hadn't received my text that I'd sent, just moments before.

We had a lovely chat.

Tonight, we went out for dinner. We were handed a box of magic that was programmed to light up when our table was ready. We were told our wait time was somewhere in the range of 60 to 90 minutes.

But we could sit in the bar, if we could find a table.

Within a few minutes, we were seated at a lovely booth, after just a moment of eye contact with someone who was getting up to leave.

I know how it sounds.

It can all be passed off as coincidence.

Right place, right time.

And if I were way deep into ego, I might think that all of these lovely moments could be attributed to my recent Free Time media overexposure. Oh, be nice to that gal who looks vaguely familiar, they might say.

But that would be crazy. I'm sure my face nicely blends. Some folks may have heard the story, but they're generally not tied into the visual recognition.

These and several other moments seem just a bit too magical to fit nicely into my daily predictable comfortable box. These moments have accumulated into something that seem too special to ignore.

But therein begs the question: have these magical moments been happening all along? Have I simply wrapped myself so tightly in my personal busy-busy crap prior to this point to render these moments as inconsequential prior to recently?

I think that's exactly what's happened, until lately.

Opening myself up (just a little teeny experimental bit) to the possible, seems to have colored up my world in a way I was completely not expecting.

The change seems to revolve somewhere in the noticing.

The taking a moment.

The recognition that we're all fragile, and we're all strong.

Again, I'm sure that, to some, I'm speaking to my hippie stereotype.

But I don't care.

It's been so nice to notice.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Free Time wrap up. A moving experience.

For the first time in over 20 days, I took yesterday off from the blogging.

But tonight I feel the need to do a bit of a recap on the wrap-up of my Free Time experiment that took place on Friday.


I asked a few people to help, let some other people know they could help if they wanted to, and I went from there.

I'd figured we'd need a while to pack up all the stuff in Englewood and drive it over to our destination in Aurora. Chantrice had access to her apartment at 3 pm. It seemed logical to meet at the storage area at 1:30, load up, drive down and be in Aurora by 3.

Anyone who knows me understands that I'm chronically early to everything, and Friday was no exception.

My friend Cara came over a bit before 1. She, Mr. Fab and I left for the storage area, each in our respective vehicles, at 1:10. My kids met us there right on time, and Mr. Fab's friend Jeff was there by the time we got to the unit.

So far so good. The 1:30 part was perfect.

As you can see from the photo, Logan was enjoying himself. Everything went swimmingly well. Worthy of happy jazz hands.

It took approximately 15 minutes to load up all the stuff. Ahead of schedule isn't a bad thing.

So we headed to Aurora in a clumsy vehicular parade. We located our destination, and we were about 30 minutes early. Big surprise, the being early. It's a curse.

But Chuck was there, waiting to help. Chuck has a very low-key, very helpful, very what-can-I-do loving presence. Chuck is the husband of a friend of mine from work, who chose to help with this project during his free time.

Sue from work arrived as well. She's one of the most giving, participatory people I know. And she also assumed the role of photographer. I'm glad she brought her camera, because I completely forgot that mine was in my back pocket.


At this point, we have Connor, Kirk, Jeff, me, Sue and Chuck, just waiting around. Logan and Cara took a trip during this unexpected free time to chase down some pastries at a Mexican bakery that was close by.

I'm so grateful for Cara. So is Logan. I don't think we tell her enough.


Eventually, Chantrice, Myasia and Michelle arrived. Eventually, we got access to Chantrice's new apartment.

Then, it became a moving experience.

Everyone unloaded with a beautiful symmetry. It was a barn-raising moment.

Then Corey from channel 9 arrived.

Game on. The filming began.

She was somewhat disappointed that we'd moved as much as we had, because she and Woody, her cameraman, wanted to capture it all on film. But some choice shots were taken of the freakishly heavy sofa sleeper being lugged up three flights of stairs. Woody got some tape of the mattress and box spring. The table assembly. The arrangement of stuff.

Corey interviewed Chantrice. Corey interviewed me.

I hope they got my good side.

Once the heavy lifting was over, some folks stayed. Most folks left, understandably, to their next thing. We'd created a generous, giving, loving flash mob of furniture movement.

Just as I was about to leave, Deanna from work arrived to give Chantrice a bit of her generosity.

I don't think Deanna knows how cool she is, how much she mattered on Friday. But I do.

And then it was time for me to go home.

It all started at 1:30 pm, and it was all done by 4:30 pm.

So much happened in three hours.

Regardless of what happens past this point, those three hours were so worth it. To see people react so selflessly, so enthusiastically - for someone they hadn't even met - made me feel so good about the essential nature of people. This entire project brought more to me than it took away.

To be honest, it took nothing away from me.

This Free Time project did nothing but provide warm additions to my already toasty world. I have an increased belief in the intrinsic good that exists in people. The selflessness. The willingness. Friday was beautiful. Not because of what I did or because of what other people lifted or because of what someone received.

It was beautiful because it was proven that it was possible.

All the graceful giving, all the mindful receiving.

All free, save for free time, gas and my storage space score.

I think this free time experiment was worth it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Free Time. An overwhelming need to send a very long Thank You card.

Skip and Trish
Laura and Hugh
Linda and Joe
Cara and Patrick
Corey and her amazing cameramen
9 News
Sue and James
Chuck and Ann
Kathy and Sam

Thank you. This experiment would never have happened without your joyous complicity.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Free Time: Who knew?

Look at how I have no time to find graphic interests that are relatable to this entry.

Look at the lack of measurable Free Time content today.

Look at how my entries have become abbreviated.

It's because of the busy.

Tomorrow is the culmination of my Free Time experiment.

I chose 1/1/11 to start this project not only because it seemed like such a great day to begin anything, but also because January is a long month. January has 31 days. And I thought it would take a long month to complete what I set out to do.

Obviously, I proved myself wrong.

Because tomorrow, we're loading it all up and bringing it all over to Chantrice's new digs.

I'm so excited!!

Channel 9 will meet us at Chantrice's apartment complex tomorrow, at 3:30 pm. They're doing a follow-up story.

And as for what I really did today:

I touched base with Corey from 9 News, just to confirm the deets for tomorrow.

I did get a third truck.

And there's a new thing.

Channel 9 contacted me last week. I've been working on a segment that will air a week from today, at 8:10 am. It's about January retail furniture clearance sales.

So today, I did my research, and I sent all of what I found to my producer.

Again, I had so much fun!

Who knew? Who could predict that this would come of that?

I have no idea what will come of this. But for now, I'm enjoying what I'm doing. It can all go away tomorrow, and it won't decrease the value of this initial project.

So as for now, right this minute, my research for next week is done. I'm completely focused on tomorrow, and I'm excited.

I understand that good things are often accomplished with the help of many. This simple thing has become a barn-raising fun-fest. And all it's cost any of us is $45 and change for the storage unit, some gasoline, and a tiny chunk of our Free Time.

Who knew it would be so easy?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Free Time: Planning Friday's moving party.

I'm now done with my real job until Saturday. And after untethering from my cozy work bunker this afternoon, I dotted a few Is and crossed a few Ts in preparation for Friday.

Because I'd hate for anything to fall through the cracks. Reference several of my past blogs (i.e.,, or maybe and you'll understand that I may have a reason for this heightened need to prepare.

We're moving all the stuff from the storage area to Chantrice's new home on Friday afternoon. I currently have two trucks lined up, but we have a lot of bulky stuff. I think I need a third truck.

But I do think we have enough person-power.

I talked with Chantrice today, just to make sure everything's okay on her end.

I left a message with Corey from Channel 9. They're going to do a wrap-up story.

So, like making a grocery list before hosting a dinner party, I'm trying to make sure I'll have all the necessary ingredients for the final Free Time fete this Friday.

Today I am metaphorically preheating the oven.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Free Time: Keeping it short.

Not a whole bunch to report today, at least when it comes to my Free Time project. I do need to mention the completely cool generosity of my work cohorts, who have provided some great stuff for Myasia. But I'll go into that in more depth later.

Because when it comes to today, this moment is my first taste of free time.

I'm finally relaxing after a long day at work.

I made lists.*

I got a bit twisted when I tried to wrap my head around all the elements that need to be nicely bundled within the next week.

So I'm staying true to the writing every day part of this project. But there are no rules in this amorphous bloggy territory, so I can keep it short.

Which I'm going to do today.

*Please check back next week. I made lists today for a very cool reason!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Free Time: Widening the circles

I live my life in widening circles 
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
 - Rilke

It's interesting, how everything seems to happen the way it should.

Kind of like this Free Time project.

I know myself well enough to know that I'm not a good joiner. If I have a task that's self-directed, it gets done. But sign me up for a class, for instance. Expect perfect attendance, and I can almost guarantee it won't happen.

I've been way too busy lately. Too much in the noggin. So for a while, I thought I'd take the lead of a friend of mine and sign up for a meditation class. I need to relax.

I have just a dusting of self-knowledge, and I knew the minute that idea popped into my head I'd just wind up wasting money, feeling guilty for my tardies and absences.

But then I remembered that I have this delicious piece of technology in the palm of my hand.

I listen to a ton of podcasts. I recently added a particular podcast that was so appropriate for today, for my personal lately, for how my world seems to be widening.

The podcast was just a sidebar to the interesting events of this day. I worked from 8 am to 4 pm at my real job, but I did get a chance to chat with Chantrice and Michelle.

Michelle was checking in, just to make sure all of the wheels were still in motion for Friday.

Chantrice let me know that she's nailed down the details on her apartment.

I was kind of worried after talking with Chantrice yesterday. I was concerned that maybe she was reconsidering things. I became connected to these people a handful of days ago, and my offer combined with Michelle's generosity and Chantrice's hard work has to be a bit overwhelming, for all of us.

I asked her about that today. How she was feeling.

She said that she threw a disheartened vibe yesterday because she'd talked with someone in her circle. The word has been spread that Chantrice is heading for some brighter days. A job. A place to live. And they wanted a piece, as if the small slice she's creating translates into a lottery ticket onto which they've laid stake.

But she was better today. And it's Game On this Friday.

Whew. What a calming sigh of relief, for all of us.

Also today, while I was working, I sent an email to my coworkers, cluing them into what I've been up to lately.

Within moments, I'd received emails indicating that several folks are completely on-board. One of my complete favorites, Corki, purchased some items especially for Myasia. Because it's her birthday on Wednesday.

And let's be honest. You don't turn 1 every day.

The circle continues to widen, almost effortlessly.

Let's review. I just wanted to see if I could accumulate a house-full of cool stuff for free on craigslist. I had no clue that this oddly shaped grain of an idea would manifest into such a beautiful garden.

Like most days, today's events became clear in hindsight, tonight, while I was cleaning up the kitchen, catching up on my podcast. The theme of the podcast was secular. But I hope the message matches the secondary intention of this Free Time project.

The podcast was all about benevolence toward all beings, without discrimination, free of selfish attachment. A strong, sincere wish for happiness, all around.

Another quote from tonight's podcast, which I listened to while shuffling through the events of the day - 

Relationships are the mutual polishing of diamonds in the rough.

I know that to some, this entry simply adds to my stereotype. But it's been good for me, to see how so much can come from so little.

It's nice to see the circles becoming wider.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Free Time: Managing the details.

After yesterday's meeting with Michelle and Chantrice, I realized today that I still have a bit of work to do before I'm done with this particular kind of Free Time and I can transition back to what my free time felt like a few weeks ago.

I need to rally the troops, but I think we have enough people and vehicles to move these home furnishings from my storage area to Chantrice's apartment. Me, my kids, Mr. Fabulous, Michelle, Chantrice, maybe my friend Cara, maybe a few other folks.

I work at my real job tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday is planning day, Friday is Moving Day.

I'm sure everything will go off without a hitch.

I hope I'm sure.

Today I wish I had a bit more energy to write about how much I admire Chantrice. I'd love to go into greater detail about her life. But I'm tired. I'll get rejuvenated tomorrow.

As for today, I've been thinking about yesterday. My meeting with Michelle and Chantrice was the beginning of the end of this Free Time endeavor, and I hope the result of this crazy 'let's see if I can find a house-full of free stuff on craigslist' experiment makes Chantrice's world a bit more comfortable.

Because I really feel like I chose the right person. I'm impressed by Chantrice's spirit. She's a very smart woman. She thinks like a winner; not like a victim. She has a beautiful smile, a charming cadence. And her daughter Myasia, who will be 1 on Wednesday, is precious.

Interwoven in their personal details is the reality of the difficulties we all have the potential to face, and the strength with which we choose to react.

Details can be daunting. But keeping mindful of the goal makes the details seem a bit more manageable.

I'm sure of that.

At least I hope I'm sure.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Free Time: Getting closer to solving the puzzle.

I met Chantrice today. She's going to take the majority of what I found for free on craigslist during this wacky Free Time experiment.

I also met Myasia, Chatrice's daughter. Cute cute cute.

It was important to me to talk with Chantrice. How does someone become homeless? How do resources dry up? At what point do circumstances become so dire? What crappy combination of dominoes have to fall to find that you've landed in the middle of a desperate, lonely sea of nothing?

Not everyone starts this race at the same point of privilege.

Chantrice started her life, 22 years ago, swimming in turbulent waters. Born in Kansas, Chantrice has five siblings, ranging in age from 11 to 23. Three fathers. One neglectful mom.

When Chantrice was three, she entered the foster care system. She and one of her sisters were placed in a foster home together, but eventually, they were separated. Her brothers went to different foster homes. It's not easy, keeping that many kids together.

Chantrice hasn't seen a few of her siblings for years. Her youngest brother was adopted, and the family who adopted him wanted to make a clean break. Chantrice knows her youngest brother's name, but she doesn't know much more than that, because his adoptive parents required that his family of origin retain zero contact.

There are dominoes in Chantrice's personal history that were set from the start with very dysfunctional assymetry.

In saying that, I'm not judging at all. It's just the truth. Sometimes the hand that's dealt is full of really crappy cards.

But back to Chantrice.

She did get adopted through the foster care system when she was 15. She graduated from high school, applied for some student loans, received a Pell Grant, and started college.

But there was a man.

She'd met him through the foster care program. He was a foster child, too. They hooked up. She got pregnant. He enlisted in the military, and they moved to Colorado Springs, where he's stationed.

She couldn't find a job. He lost the housing on the Ft. Carson base that could accommodate the family. The relationship soured.

So Chantrice headed north, to Denver. She couldn't find work. She had no resources. She had no money. She'd left Myasia with the dad, while Chantrice tried to find a foothold in the big city.

No such luck.

No job. No place to live. No prospects. Her relationship had literally gone south.

Chantrice looked for a job. She tried to get connected with organizations that could provide support.

This is a terrible time of year to be homeless. Need vastly exceeds availability.

Her ex ran through his child care options. So, without a home or job, Chantrice faced the reality that she needed to take care of her daughter, too. No support from the dad.

Chantrice wound up, despondent, at the parking lot of the St. Francis shelter. She was thinking she'd have to put her daughter into the same type of system she'd come from. Foster care.

This is when she met Michelle.

It's a beautiful team, Michelle and Chantrice.

Michelle hears a lot of down-and-out stories in the profession she's chosen. And she's intuitive enough to recognize Chantrice isn't asking for help because she feels entitled. Michelle sees boundless promise. She understands that Chantrice simply wants to work, to finish an education cut short by circumstance, to provide for her daughter.

Chantrice applied twice to a marketing firm, and just a few weeks ago, she was hired. But because she was employed, she was even less of a candidate for some space at a shelter.

Michelle has done everything within her power to help Chantrice. Michelle was able to line up some vouchers for a room at a motel on east Colfax for Chantrice and her daughter. The vouchers are about to expire.

But Chantrice has been working. And she recently put down a deposit on a 1-bedroom apartment with her first paycheck.

Chantrice gets paid again this upcoming Friday. That's when she'll seal the deal on her apartment.

And that's when we'll be moving the items I found in my Free Time into her new place.

I asked Chantrice today how much money she has between now and Friday. She has $6. But she says she has everything she needs for now. A job, shelter, the kindness and generosity of Michelle.

There's so much more to write about. More about Chantrice's history, her optimism, her clarity.

But this is enough for today.

It's good to know that Chantrice - as well as my Free Time items - have found a home.

All the pieces are beginning to fit.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Free Time starts again tomorrow. Today I kept it real.

There was no prospect of free time today.

I worked at my real job from 7 am to 4 pm. After work, I washed away the crust that had found its way onto the hardwood floors; footprint-shaped remnants from our last storm's runoff. I picked Logan up at Macy's. I applied a fresh coat of beauty to my face. In moments, we're heading to Phil and Christine's for dinner.

I did do a bit of diversionary work today, during my random moments of free time. It's a story I'm hesitant to tell, just in case I jinx it.

And tomorrow we pick up a queen sized bed with all the trimmings, all for free. Then we'll drop our latest treasure at the storage area.

Also, tomorrow I meet the woman I've heard so many good things about from Michelle.

Today I blended into the landscape of my real life. Tomorrow I'll connect a few dots during my free time.

This is the calm before the storm, I'm thinking. Or maybe I'm just hoping.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Free Time: Noticing the nice.

Today was a day off from my real job, so I had a bit of free time.

I spent most of today out in the world, navigating through the slush and melty wet remains of our last snowstorm.

I love Colorado. Arctic one day, sweater weather the next. But note to self: waterproof boots are a better choice than Converse tennis shoes on days like today.

In any case, I don't know if it's because of this Free Time project or if it's because I've just taken the time to perk up my ears to the sound of nice. But everyone was so nice today, even when they didn't need to be.

Is this the way everyone normally conducts themselves? Have I not been picking up nice when it's tossed in my direction? Have I really been this disconnected to noticing nice while I wander through my busy life?

Maybe so.

But not today. It's like everyone I met today put a teeny but potent long-acting Nice pill in their morning coffee.

Definitely not complaining.

You know what else is nice?

The fractal that began just a few days ago is getting bigger every day.

Because I read a few emails and I sent a few emails before I left the house today.

I received an email from Marilyn, who emailed me on Monday about the house full of items she wants to give away before she relocates to another state in March.

She let me know that she and Jan from Jubilee had made a connection.

That's worth a whole lot of nice.

I'd intended to pick up a fully functional washer and dryer from Martha on Saturday.

Then I got to thinking.... Ronda emailed me on Monday, and she needs a whole bunch of stuff. So I called her, asked her if she needed the washer/dryer set, and she does! She even has the vehicle - and person-power - to pick up this set of functional goodness at Martha's house.

Nice! Another connection was made. Problem solved.

As I was negotiating the details of this connection, Sue and James called.

I work with Sue at my real job, and I simply love her husband James. They're such a wonderful couple.

They'd read my blog about Michelle and the connection we'd made with the young woman who truly needs what I've found in my Free Time. Sue and James want to provide some items that might make this woman's load just a bit lighter.

So Sue and James are putting their thinking caps on about what a young mom with a young child might need, in addition to what I've found.

I did have a span of actual free time today, during which I had a lovely lunch with my friend Shawn.

What a necessary, nice respite. Our waiter at Pasquini's on Broadway was extra-special nice.


As Shawn and I were wrapping up our time together, I got a call from my Free Time recipient. We'll meet on Saturday. I keep forgetting to ask her if it's okay to mention her name on my blog. So for now, she's my recipient.

We nailed down the time we're meeting on Saturday. She, Michelle and I will finally have some face time.


Once I finally got home, I had to quickly leave again. I headed to my bank. Typically, the drive-through is pokey, and the drive-through tellers deliver a formulaic "My name is '______,', I'll get this right out to you..." patter.

My teller today seemed extra-nice. Ebullient, even. Totally off the script.


Is it me? Have I not noticed the nice all around me before now?

What with my typical crazy To-Do list, my overwhelming need to try to not forget something important, my attempt at multi-tasking, my desire to be organized and task-driven during my free time, my spinning about just to keep ahead of the next thing, have I not noticed the nice before today?

Is it this project?

Regardless of why, I've been noticing so much more nice. After this Free Time experiment is over, I fully intend to notice the nice that's right in front of me, despite my distractions.

Nice is good. It's very catchy.

Nice has been nice to notice today.

And today, I've noticed that nice is everywhere.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Free Time: Connecting the dots into a fractal.

Distance and time provide clarity. Sleep mitigates grumpiness.

I got some sleep last night, which was great. A full eight hours. That hasn't happened for a while.

And today was a day off from my real job.

About 11 am, I started really thinking about my next step.

I re-read all the emails with Mr. Fab. We did a bit of processing, and I scraped a few brain cells together during some alone time, trying to connect the dots.

And the dots seemed to eventually take the shape of a fractal.

Not to condescend to my Smarty McSmarterson readers, but a fractal is something that can be split into parts, each of which is a copy of the original.

Today was Fractal Day.

Because I realized I can't do this project all by myself. And I also realized that everyone can do just what I've done.

While culling through the emails I'd received, I thought that perhaps the charitable organizations that were offering to take my Free Time items could be partnered with the people who have offered to donate items to my experiment. I sent a few emails, and I think those connections have a good start.

I talked with Jan from the 32nd Avenue Jubilee Center, and she was very receptive to the idea of distributing items to her clients. The Jubilee Center is a non-profit community center in northwest Denver that works with low income and homeless individuals and families. The center hosts a food bank as well as varying levels of assistance, but it has a tough time finding furniture.

Jan seemed to appreciate the contacts I gave her when it came to finding some furniture, thanks to the people who emailed me with a wish to donate to this project.

I'd encourage other folks to contact the Jubilee Center at 303-477-3944. I'm sure the people at Jubilee would be jubilant to hear from you. As Jan wrote to me as a follow-up to our conversation today, "this is a fine example of the power of one combined with the power of many, particularly when the one and the many are seeking to do justice in the world."

Well put. Sounds like a societal, community kind of fractal.

I also emailed back and forth a bit with the folks from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (303-293-2217). A'tif works for the coalition. He mentioned that the coalition is constantly looking for items to provide to needy families and individuals. He, like Jan, indicated that they can pick up whatever you don't need. Both groups are especially in need of furniture, which goes to those who are transitioning from homelessness to having a place to live.

Which brings me to my most fun fractal. I chatted today with the woman who will most likely receive the majority of my Free Time yield. I'm meeting with her and Michelle, her case worker from the St. Francis shelter, on Saturday.

There are so many other people I wish I could accommodate, but I realized today that there are resources that extend past my 10'x20' storage area, and every single resource is filled with people ready to give.

In addition to the organizations I've mentioned, people in need can contact the Denver Rescue Mission, Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army. I'm sure these organizations will be receptive to those in need.

Because if I've learned nothing else from this experiment, we're all in this together.

Like a beautiful, interconnected, colorful, generous fractal.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Free Time: There's got to be a morning after.

Note: I just strapped on my ipod and put my music library on shuffle so I could listen while I write. The first song on my personal juke box was Simple Life by the Weepies. So appropriate for right this minute.

It was a day of busy. It was a different kind of productive than finding stuff for free on craigslist.

In addition to working at my real job from 8 to 5, I read and printed out every email I received from yesterday's 9 News story and last night's blog.

My sister and nephew came over for dinner at 5:30. Kathy helped me organize the emails.

My sister also gave me a tremendous, calming focus. Because I want to meet the needs of every person who emailed me.

Kathy and I talked about why I started this Free Time experiment in the first place. What was my purpose? Honestly, I just wanted to see if I could fill a house with quality furniture for free. Then I wanted to give it all away, because I don't need anything.

This whole idea might sound absolutely ridiculous to some people.

In fact I did get a couple of comments from people on my blog and on the 9 News site who obviously thought this project was a complete disservice. I'm selfish. I'm not serving the right population.

Please. A simple experiment doesn't have to get so complicated. And I definitely don't take those comments personally.

It took me a long time, but I'm finally comfortable owning the fact that I'm a middle aged, eccentric hippie single mom of two teenagers who likes the spice this type of project adds to my life. Instead of fitting myself into a tight, uncomfortable box, attempting to live up to what I assume everyone expects me to be, I'm finally comfortable not having to explain myself.

So I'm not going to. Chapter closed.

So back to my Free Time.

In less than 24 hours, I've had quite an overwhelming response.

I received emails from representatives of the 32nd Avenue Jubilee Center as well as the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. I also got an email from a gentleman whose son is involved with a youth division of the Habitat for Humanity. These people are completely amazing givers, and it's obvious from what they had to say that they understand the profound level of need that takes shape in the person who just sold you your lunch, walked past you on the street. It's that person relaxing on a park bench, the woman sitting next to you on the light rail. People who are living in a state of profound need are everywhere, and they're often overlooked. But not by the folks who emailed me today.

I got six emails from people who have items they'd like to add to my storage area. One woman has a whole house full of stuff she's parting with when she's moving to another city in March. There's a working washer and dryer combo. A recliner, sofa sleeper, coffee table. A tee vee or two.

As of right now, I've received 19 requests (more in my in box I have yet to read) from people who need what I found during my Free Time. But get this: 12 of the 19 requests were made by someone for someone else.

I think that's significant.

And this email had me at Hello. Well, it didn't exactly start that way.

Here's what Michelle had to say:

"Mary, my name is Michelle and I'm an outreach worker for a homeless shelter. I work with the less fortunate. I have a client I am working with now and she has a young child. I have searched all over Denver trying to get her in shelters, but they're all full. I have been able to put her in a motel for the time being. This young woman is very impressive. She very recently became employed, and used her very first paycheck on a deposit for an apartment. She takes the bus every day to work and to drop her child off at day care. She moves into her apartment on the 21st. I know this would help her tremendously, as she is starting with absolutely nothing but the clothes she has for herself and her child."

At 5:01, when I was untethered from my job, I gave Michelle a call.

Michelle is an amazing woman, and it's obvious to me that she picked the right profession. She graduated from Metro in 2009 with a BA in Human Services, with a concentration in high risk youth. She's an outreach worker/case manager for the St. Francis Shelter.

Outreach, in Michelle's case, means that she walks through Denver's less gentrified areas, looking for people who obviously need shelter.

She met my potential recipient at the shelter this past July.

That's where I'm closing the book on this chapter for today. Believe me - the rest of the story is worth revisiting. I have a few more facts to gather, and I want to talk with this woman. Michelle told me she works until 10 tonight. Then she has to take the bus to pick up her child and head to the motel.

And I thought I had a long day.

I don't think she'll be up for talking until tomorrow.

I have so much more to write about, but frankly I'm exhausted. I'm going to close this book until tomorrow, and listen to a little night music.

Note: Poker Face, Gaga, on the ipod, right this minute as I'm finishing. Say what you will. You can't not put a little groove on to this song.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Free Time Bonus Day! A shot in the dark achieves a bull's eye. What are the odds?

If you want to cut to the chase, here's my email information! 

Please let me know who needs the items I've found in my Free Time. And please give me a bit of back story regarding circumstance. The big why. I'd love to give this collection to someone whose life would be somehow better, easier, with a few creature comforts.

Also, please include the best way to contact you. 

I completely value your participation in this project. Simply by reading, you're participating. And I hope this Free Time exercise might show that stepping out of the race of self-involvement for just a lap or two can really make a difference. Trust me, it's a whole lot of fun, on so many levels!

And now, on to the blog...

Let's start at the beginning - at least the beginning of this last part.

I'd been perplexed about how to partner with an organization that can help me distribute the outcome of my Free Time experiment to someone who really needs what I've found for free on craigslist.

So yesterday, I thought I'd try television.

I emailed two local news stations, and poof! This morning, a gentleman from 9 News called me! He wanted to meet at the storage area quick like a bunny. But I had to work until 4 pm today. No free time for me until Wednesday.

I thought they'd taken a pass, due to my unavailability.

But no! I got another call at 2:41 this afternoon, according to my iphone.

They wanted to do a story, as soon as I was done with work!

Completely surreal.

So Mr. Fabulous and I got to the Public Storage spot right on time, as did the folks from the station.

I feel so shame-faced that I didn't take any pictures, I didn't get the correct spelling of the reporter, I didn't remember the name of the camera man.

I have a journalism degree, for god's sake.

But I was blinded by the light of a world spinning quickly.

I had no idea that my shot-in-the-dark email to 9 News yesterday would result in a response, especially so quickly.

My hypothesis has been proven, hopefully after today. It's possible to collect a whole bunch of great stuff for free. It's possible to set a goal and achieve it. It's possible to realize there's someone else who would benefit from what's completely extra to you. And it's possible to find a resource that's the conduit to finding that someone.

Today was a total bull's eye.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Free Time, Day Eight: No rest for the wicked.

What does someone do with a house-full of great stuff that has nowhere to go?

I don't know.

I took a day off yesterday from writing the blog. Hell - I'd been blogging three or four times a month prior to this point, and I felt like something was missing yesterday when I didn't crank out an entry.

I've noticed that the site's received a whole lot of hits in the past week or so.

And lately, I've been so absorbed with the balancing of work life versus real life, experiment versus reality.

But it's cool, all the hits, regardless of who's hitting.

In any case, the experiment continues, regardless of the day off.

And was it a day off? Not so much.

I went to my real job today, despite the inclement weather. While I was at my real job, my friend Cara called to let me know that she and Patrick have a dining room set to contribute. And a bed.

I have no imagery of the bed, but we all can imagine what a queen sized bed looks like. Obviously, it's Fit for a Queen.

But here's what the dining room set looks like. It's a totally fabulous drop-leaf table, with four matching chairs. The whole set has a retro-cool vibe.

This set is just like the leather chairs that are sitting in my storage area, waiting for a recipient. I'm kind of jealous. I'd totally put this in my house.

It was crazy-ass snowy today, and despite the good intentions of Cara, Patrick and Mr. Fabulous, today was not the day to haul stuff to the storage area.

So despite their good intentions, this set is in my garage, as is the sofa I've mentioned, waiting for a new home.

I have to work at my real job; tomorrow at home, on-site on Tuesday. I'm slated to be way across town on Tuesday morning at 7 am. Sounds unpleasant, considering the crappy-ass crapload of snow that's been falling, and will apparently continue to fall between now and then.

And I'd like my garage to be free of furniture by tomorrow at some point. Whether these items are nicely stowed in the storage unit or covered on my back porch, I'd like to know that I can slide my car into the garage before I have to go to work on Tuesday morning at dawn's crack. I'll have to leave by 6 am at the latest on Tuesday, based on the most recent weather report. And I'll have to make sure both my kids are up before I leave.

I hate that part; the making sure everyone is where they need to be when I have to be somewhere else.

But I'm sure, not unlike this entire project, that everything will work as it should.

Everyone loves a conclusion. I want one, when it comes to who receives the cool stuff I've been finding.

And I want a concise conclusion when it comes to the ease with which I'll get to my job at the ungodly hour of 7 am on Tuesday; a day that portends frigid weather and crappy road conditions.

I hope my car gets into the garage tomorrow. That's my goal.

Seems simple enough.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Free Time, Day Seven: On the 7th day she rested, and it was good.

Today I've reached the One Week mark when it comes to this Free Time project.

And I had to take a day off.

No trolling the craigslist today. No moving of furniture. Nothing palpable.

But the wheels continue to spin in my noggin, and my brain is consumed with the next step. Because I think I've accumulated enough to nicely furnish a house.

A modest house. Let's be clear. Whoever will be needing the items I've collected won't probably have an overabundance of square footage.

Let's review.

There are two matching leather chairs. Their color, espresso. I'm actually quite covetous of this pair.

A large coffee table, made of heavy oak. It's about 4'x4' square.

A sleeper sofa that's still in my garage.

Poof! It's a living room!

There's the kitchen/dining room table, made in Italy. Two barrel-back wooden chairs to match. Two high stools. A baker's rack, for incidentals. Pots and pans, utensils, a toaster oven. Some dishes.

Blam! Welcome to the kitchen!

There's a queen sized bed, almost new. A very cool wicker dresser. A side table and brand new lamp. A nice little desk.

Kazaam! A bedroom!

As for what gets hung on the walls, I don't really feel that it's appropriate to look for artwork on craigslist. Buying art for others is impossible. It's like buying underpants, shoes or panty hose, if people still actually still wear panty hose. Some things are better chosen by the end-user.

There are a few other items I'll most likely continue to look for, but today was less about acquisition and more about catching up on the rest of my life. I turned the Free Time project from boil to simmer while I took care of some other business.

I went to the grocery store. I got gas, before the impending snowstorm. I organized stuff for my kids. Cleaned the house. Did laundry. Went to the post office. A dizzying list. Compelling and fascinating, I know.

Essentially, I spent the day getting prepped for going back to my real job tomorrow, which will take me out of the loop until next Thursday.

So much for free time.

But I'm not done!

I still need to find someone who can use what I've found!

The wheels were spinning in my head as I was traveling around town today, dealing with the details of my real life.

This entire project has been touched by serendipity thus far. So I have a feeling I'll find someone when it's time, hopefully long before the lease on my storage space hits its 30-day mark.

But when it comes to right now, it's time to step back, take a breath and plan my next move.

Tomorrow I'm back on the wheel. My days off for holidays and the kids' winter break and tasty Free Time are over. It's back to work time.

So tonight, I'm going to let my project cook slowly while I take the evening off.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Free Time, Day Six: productivity.

What a jam-packed, exciting, productive day.

I was the first responder on a couple of choice craigslist postings that I responded to very afterthought-ishly yesterday. And poof! I got dibs on a couple of cool things!

So this morning, somewhere around 9:30, Mr. Fab and I hopped in my son's big truck and drove to Gil's house to pick up a coffee table. Gil lives approximately 8 miles away, which is truly the art of the deal. Proximity.

By the way, Gil and his wife are artists. I was tempted to ask if a few of the pieces that peppered their house were expendable, because their stuff was uncharacteristic for Highlands Ranch. Experimental, with a Folk Art sensibility. But I reeled in my art envy, kept my mouth shut, and we loaded up this square oak coffee table. And then we left, having chalked another item off the inventory list.

Then we figured we'd load up the truck with some stuff that's in my garage before we headed to stake our claim on the storage space.

So we went home, picked up the leather chairs we scored last weekend from Skip and Trish. Then we went straight to Public Storage, and I signed my life away.

At least for a month.

And the Public Storage deal is great. This shiny aluminum 10'x20' space is all mine until February 5, all for the low cost of 45.96.

And that's one of my end games. Keeping the cost down.

If I don't wrap this crazy experiment up in 30 days, I'll have to shell out a huge chunk of ching. What's worth 45.96 for a month of storage space today will cost me $140 a month 30 days from now. Very motivational.

So much more is left to say about the whole Public Storage experience. So much to say about Joe, who was our PS Point Man.

So much more about the surveillance. The security. The locks. The keys. The James Bond-like special codes we now need to learn to access our special, vast, aluminumy quadrant.

But I feel compelled to move the day along. There's so much more to say about today, and I have dinner plans. So I'll continue...

Mr. Fab and I were distracted by a craigslist posting that piqued his interest when it came to the part about the free Macintosh computers that were going to be dragged to the curb.

So we headed back to the very beige Highlands Ranch. Thank God for the GPS on the iphone, what with the circuitous nature of that area. No offense to those who live in Highlands Ranch.

We snagged a totally cool first generation Mac. Very heavy. We have yet to see if it works, but Macs are  almost indestructible. And I thought it was cool when Mr. Fabulous pontificated on the possibility of getting the Mac user-ready for someone else.

After stowing the Mac in the truck, we headed downtown.

Jillian had respected my dibs on her kitchen table and two chairs.

And what a bonanza! We procured this Italian-made, very large oval kitchen/dining room table, as well as two barrel back chairs (not shown), two very cool high stools, and a whole bunch of other very useful items.

Jillian's probably far afield from her computer this evening. Her mom is coming to town to help Jillian move back to Vermont. Jillian's been in Colorado to complete a practicum in her pursuit of a degree in environmental law. She found out, very recently, that this Colorado stint wasn't quite as long as she'd have liked. So Jillian and her mom are heading back East tomorrow.

Not unlike Gil, Jillian has a lot of work to do before she vacates her space.

But Jillian was completely generous, because she's a smarty-pants, and she understands there are bigger fish to fry than to attach herself to this monumental task of moving way way across the country.

She seemed grateful that we were taking these totally great items off her hands. She told us that we were actually helping her. Jillian has a lot on her plate between now and tomorrow, and the last thing she wanted to do was to have to drag the stuff that won't fit into her rented U-Haul to the Goodwill.

So right now, Jillian and her mom are most likely packing her items into a big moving van. And tomorrow they'll be on the road, bound for Vermont.

I think we both did each other a favor.

She provided so much more than the table and chairs to my project. And I hope we lightened her load, just a bit.

So. As I just mentioned, Jillian had more to give than the table and two chairs she'd put up for grabs on craigslist for free yesterday.

This is what we put in the gleaming and what-was-once-almost-vacant storage space, all because of Jillian.

The table and two chairs, as advertised.

Two raised barstools.

A brand new lamp.

Which is resting on a very cool little table.

Which is in front of a highly cool 6-drawer wicker and metal dresser.

Off way to the left is a highly functional and useful and almost new toaster oven.

On the barrel back chair (now shown) is a collection of kitchen items: pans, utensils, a cutting board.

Behind the wicker piece is a disassembled but very nice baker's rack (not shown).

Thank you, Jillian.

Because your items are now safely at the ready for the next step.

And I think we're getting close.

It's been less than a week. I'm thinking we need a bed, maybe a couple of other random items, and we're close to making someone we have yet to meet very comfortable.

This has been so much fun! I still have a few steps to go, a few aspects to resolve, but I and my complicit cohorts have kicked ass.

It's all become very tangible, very possible. Just within our reach, the goal.

Yes, we have a few details to iron out.

But to review:

I, Mr. Fabulous and my kids have spent a piece of our discretionary time on this project.

I understand that I'm still in need of a beneficiary. But according to my calendar, I still have a few weeks before I'm officially done.

Lots can happen between now and then.

I have a feeling we're going to be very productive, based on what we've done so far.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Free time, Day Five: The devil is in the details.

Today was a day of low productivity, primarily because I worked at my real job. And I needed a bit of a breather after yesterday.

And frankly, there was a crapload of crappity-ass crap on craigslist today.

Non-working tee vees. Apple tree branches. Scrap wood. Mulch.

And everything I enquired about that had any kind of functional promise was dibs within a few minutes after having been posted, regardless of my refreshing sensibility.

I can't tell if this tide has changed in the past few days because I'm becoming more discerning, if it's because it's a weekday, or if this dusty dearth of offerings is because there are people more skilled than I am at snagging the good stuff.

So I have nothing new to report when it comes to procurement.*

But as I mentioned yesterday, I need to work on my end game. Because I'm not giving up. This Free Time chase is too much fun.

This whole crazy idea has such innocuous origins. I've browsed the Free Stuff postings on craigslist before, because frankly, I'm not made of money. And I was amazed that people were handing off such great stuff for nothing.

Someone with a bit of tenacity, I thought, could get everything they needed for free on this Free Stuff area of the craigslist. Everything they needed.

So I thought I'd give it a try.

I don't need anything, though. There's the wrinkle.

But the process sounded so interesting to me.

Therein lies the conundrum, and the opportunity.

Because last time I checked, these are troubled times. One in ten of us is unemployed. Another percentage (myself included) is underemployed. And yet another group has simply fallen off the radar. There's a whole subset of unemployed people who have given up. They've stopped looking for a job, or they've run out of unemployment benefits altogether.

There's another subset of subsets who are old. Maybe they're disabled. They're escaping abuse. They're looking for a new start. Whatever the circumstance; it creates a need.

And for whatever very human, very there-for-the-grace-of-god reason, these folks could use what I could find during my Free Time.

As I reported yesterday, Lois received a couch and chair from what we'd found over the weekend.

Yesterday morning felt good. Color me selfish.

But as I mentioned yesterday, the true end game of this Free Time is to find someone who can help me find people who truly need what I'm finding for free.

So today, I tried to dot a few Is and cross a few Ts.

On the suggestion of a friend who works with the elderly at Social Services, I called the Colorado Care Transitions Program. This organization has a primarily health-based focus. And after talking with the very affable Shelly, I was directed to the Agency on Aging, which is a part of the Denver Regional Council of Governments.

I found it's hard to explain what I'm doing while leaving a voicemail.

Regardless, someone from the Agency on Aging returned my call today. But I was working, and I missed the call. I left another message, but I haven't heard back.

I do need to find recipients, and I'm definitely persistent. I'll call the Agency on Aging tomorrow.

And my friend Gigi suggested I contact a women's shelter. What a good idea! You flee with your kids, and you have nothing.

But do you?

Not if I can help it.

Because tomorrow I officially lay down some ink and some ching on my storage unit. I tripped into a great value, as I mentioned in a prior blog. So there's no down-side.

And according to the crazy Colorado weather report, I'm going to need my garage very soon.

And since I started this entry, I've heard back from my Social Services friend, who reiterated the fact that there's a definite need for the hole I'm very selfishly trying to fill.

Because for me, it's fun to find. And the ancillary, selfish benefit is that there's someone who needs what I've been finding.

So tomorrow, I'll seal the deal on my storage space. It's a detail I feel the need to complete, because the weather's getting increasingly inclement, and I don't like to scrape my windshield before I have to go to work.

Color me selfish, but I like to slide my car into the garage, which, at present, is full of other peoples' stuff.

So regardless of how I hate to drown in the morass of detail, tomorrow is filled with just such stuff.


Not so much about the detail when it comes to what I've found, because I know I'll find more. It's because of the prospect of what's still yet to find, for free.

Sometimes, regardless of how much I hate having to focus on such things, the devil is in the details.

That's what's happening tomorrow. Sounds hellish.

*I'm picking up a cool square coffee table tomorrow at 9 am. Refreshing bonus!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Free time, Day Four: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

What a schizophrenic day this was.

It started off as the best of times, when my lovely Lois friend stopped by around 9:30 am.

Lois is going through some transitions in her life, and she's moving into a new place. She'd read my previous blogs, and she knew that I've been accumulating what she needed.

All you have to do is ask, I say.

Lois put a dibs on one of the couches we'd found over the weekend.

Always respect the dibs, I say.

She had her pick. We'd found two. And she picked the standard sofa, as opposed to the sofa sleeper.

Thank God. Sofas + beds =  heavy.

And get this!! The coolio comfy wing back chair I procured from Suzie yesterday goes perfectly with the couch Lois chose! And Lois needed a chair, too! It seemed only logical that we load both pieces in the truck and deliver them to Lois. We're nothing if we're not logical.

Because we were going to Aurora to pick up a mattress and box spring I'd dibs yesterday.

So we loaded the sofa and chair into the truck. So far, it's all good.

I'm so happy that these pieces went to Lois. And you can tell from this completely ROCKING photo that Lois was happy with her Free Time.

Thankfully, the brief Colorado cold snap is over, and we weren't barraged by snow or sleet or sheets of ice. Today was melty. Today required no jacket after 10 am. This was good, because the new apartment Lois found is on the second floor.


It was tough, lugging the couch up a flight of stairs to her new groovy pad. No one tripped on the melty slush, no one was crushed in the maelstrom of upwardly mobile furniture, and only a light salting of F and S words were tossed in the process, mostly by me.

And now, the chair is next to the fireplace.

Just as an FYI, the initial intention of the wing back chair was to protect the its occupant from the heat of a fire.

Back to the story.

Thank God Lois chose the couch without the bed tucked inside. She, Mr. Fabulous and I were very, very grateful. Because moving the sleeper sofa upstairs would have been really hard.

The process of moving one's belongings from one place to another is such a pain in the ass. So I feel for Lois, because our two pieces were the first items to hit her new digs. She's only just begun.

I'm glad we could help, and I'm also glad that moving is nowhere on my landscape.

Transporting these pieces to the House of Lois was the best of times when it came to today.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

While we were at Lois' new pad, I did a bit of refreshing on the craigslist. And poof! There was a couch, love seat and coffee table that were being offered for free, just a short drive down the street.

There was no photo of these offerings, but the copy indicated that the couch and love seat had been stored in plastic, implying pristine.

I called, and the owner of these undoubtedly quality items required that we take it all or nothing, sight unseen.

I wasn't willing to commit to that.

Frankly, the time I have when I'm not working and I'm with Mr. Fabulous is too valuable to be spent being bullied into taking at least two truckloads full of stuff I haven't even laid eyes on, so I passed.

I'd had my first exposure to the craigslist vibe of entitlement I'd heard about. Like your stuff is exactly what my world needs to become fulfilling.

No, thank you.

In any case, we were close to the mattress and box spring.

We twisted through the winding streets of a homogenous subdivision, and spotted the set we were looking for, on the covered porch, as promised.

They were sub-par, to say the least. The mattress, especially, looked like a pretend mattress. A prop. As Mr. Fab said, despite being advertised as new, every bed in my house that's been slept on for years and years was of higher quality than the mattress/box spring combo we'd intended to take.

So we left it.

This experience was our first brush with true junk.

Until now, I'd gladly put anything we've found into my home. We've found some amazing items these past few days.

Today brought a seed of doubt.

I started this project on a weekend. I'm thinking weekends are when the really good free stuff is up for grabs.

And I think there are a lot of refreshers out there. Typically, by the time these listings become available when I refresh my iphone, they've been on the market for 7 to 9 minutes. And when we're on the road and I'm refreshing, the items I've called about have already been dibs.

This amalgam of post-Lois circumstances planted a kernel of doubt that grew into a burning bush over the course of the afternoon. Is this project possible? If I do continue to collect these items, I thought, I really really need to partner with an organization who can help me distribute what I find to people who would otherwise go without.

So as the sun was setting today, I was re-thinking the game plan.

Before I go a whole lot further, I need to establish that end-user partnership.

I decided that I'm not stopping, by any means. I'm just catching my breath.

I completely enjoyed the early part of the day, when I had the opportunity to see how happy Lois was with what we'd found for free, despite the sweat equity. I'm so glad she's benefitting from my folly.

But if this day were a person s/he would be easily diagnosed as bipolar.

I got my groove back, eventually.

Tomorrow portends a day of planting seeds for Thursday, because my real job is taking me out of the loop.

What in the hell have I gotten myself into?

Or onto?

Because today was a roller coaster.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Free time, Day three, Tip One: Being a first responder is refreshing.

So Day Three was an odd, practical, twisted denouement; a stark understanding of what exactly I'm up against spearheading such an optimistic project.

I think I realized today what a big job this will be, this accumulation. Because today, in addition to piecing together what will hopefully become the elements of someone else's surroundings, I had to work at my real job.

I must say, I was highly productive, from 8 am to 4 pm.

But in those few vacant moments, I was thinking in a completely different, non-work-related direction.

I need a place to store this stuff I'm getting for free.

So during a break from my real life, I called Public Storage. There's a location just a few miles away from my house. I talked with lovely Linda, who is skilled in the art of customer service.

Apparently, Public Storage offers a variety of empty spaces.

I have no clue how much room I need, and Linda was so very helpful. She let me know that typically, the interior of a 3-bedroom home can fit nicely in one of their 10'x20' units.

And today was my lucky day, because Public Storage is in the midst of a crazy-ass promotion.

Typically, a 10'x20' space would cost $126 every freaking month. So much for my Free Time.

The cost was deflating, but only for a moment.

Because Linda told me that Public Storage is offering pinch-me-you're-so-full-of-S-cheap rates right now.

What's the bottom line, you ask?

Public Storage is charging me $1 for storing my treasures for the first 30 days. After that, we'll talk.

I'm sure they're banking on my stuff sticking around a while, so that they can make a bundle on my procrastinatoritude; my hoarding essence. But I intend to be done with this project in 30 days, maybe less.

Yes, there's a $22 administration fee. And Linda suggests that I purchase their very sturdy lock, for 13.99.

Let's review.

For a shade under $40, I'll be able to store my stuff for a month. I'm no mathematician, but I think that evens out to a daily rate of a buck and change.


Maybe my car will see the inside of my garage before the next Colorado snowstorm.

Okay. So the storage part is a done deal. I'll wander around my fabulous empty space tomorrow.

As for today, I realized that the refresh, refresh, refresh sensibility has its benefits when it comes to craigslist.

Because some of the groundwork I laid yesterday completely paid off today.

Suzie called me today. I'd been the first responder to her wingback chair craigslist post.

I drove my son's freakishly large truck to Suzie's house as soon as I was done with work at 4 pm. Oddly (...or is it? This entire exercise continues to confound me with its seemingly intricate serendipity...), Suzie works where I work. And she lives four miles away.

So I picked up Suzie's chair. Everything she said is true. This chair is to my hind quarters every bit as a comfortable as a well-worn shoe is to my bunion-spackled feet. Like an old shoe, this chair has seen a few miles, but it's solid and issue-free. It's an inanimate version of the perfect friend, if the friend were a wingback chair.

So there you go. This chair is the tangible benefit of being a first responder.

And that's not all! In addition to laying claim to my little patch of storage space heaven and adding Suzie's wingback to my collection, I made plans to pick up a new queen sized mattress and box spring from Thomas tomorrow!

Thomas emailed me today, solely because I was the first to have responded to yesterday's post.

So, despite being tethered to my job today, the groundwork I laid yesterday with the borderline OCD refreshment paid off today.

I think this project of furnishing someone's house (who I don't know yet), for free, in a month, in my free time, is exhaustingly possible.

An ancillary benefit? The exhilaration of finding great stuff.

Another ancillary benefit? Meeting such generous people.

Now I just need to work on the end game.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Free Time, Day Two: A day of dibs.

I started today so refreshed, while refreshing.

Refreshing the craigslist free stuff, after having taken a refreshing shower.

I was up long before I needed to be, ready to pick up the chairs I dibs yesterday. That wasn't happening until 11 am.

So while enjoying my coffee, I hit the list.

I know a bit about mid-century items. So cool, so atomic, so retro-fabulous. So this ad compelled me to call, straight away:

Free 1960s era mid century minimalist desk

And there was a phone number on the listing.

So of course I called, and a charming gentleman answered right away.

It was 8:30 this morning, and he was already on his way to seal the desk deal with someone else.

But he and I chatted, and he let me in on the fact that he had a pod full of stuff he was giving away that is his mother's. She's moving into an assisted living setting, and he's in charge of her stuff.

I told him what I was doing; accumulating necessary items for people in need for whatever reason, and he was intrigued.

He told me about a book. Material World: A Global Family Portrait. Photographer Peter Menzel took pictures of 30 families all over the globe, in front of the accumulation of all of their possessions.

This photo is the result of a family's stuff who lives in Japan.

I didn't get the desk, but I did have a great conversation with this person, who indicated that he gives this book to his friends, because, as he said, it's life-changing. The items we collect, culturally, truly resonate in terms of sheer mass.

Early score! A great conversation with a totally cool guy. He had no monetary attachment to stuff, which was so refreshing. Our conversation was an education.

And it was also a teaching tool, because the early bird does catch the worm when it comes to free stuff on craigslist.

Refresh, refresh, refresh.

I was doing just that as Mr. Fabulous and I headed to our 11 am destination. Leather chairs with a bit of wear, my dibs from yesterday. When we arrived at the home of Skip and Trish, this is what we loaded in the truck.
We travelled a total of 48 miles. I think every mile was worth it.

There are a few scratches, made by pets. Mr. Fab and I surmised that Skip and Trish probably didn't have kids, save for their pets. And their house was fan-freaking-tastic.

Again, a sign that no kids were present.

I have nothing against kids. I have two of them, myself. They're great! I wouldn't change a thing! But I do know that Skip and Trish have a house with the look and feel of a show home, and I'd venture to guess that their pets are the ruling party when it comes to offspring.

I do love these chairs. Yes, they have a few scratchy scratches, but it was very easy to google all kinds of information about how to mitigate such flaws. The chairs are so lovely, so leathery. Their shade, according to the label I found, is espresso.

And now the chairs are in my garage, despite the fact that I'd like to put at least one somewhere in my own house.

But this is not about me.

Would that it were. I have the perfect spot for at least one of these chairs.

But I digress.

Mr. Fabulous had an afternoon planned with his kids. So he couldn't help me pick up the couch I'd put my dibs on. And I'd told Laura I'd be there between 3 and 4 pm.

So I switched up vehicles with my son, who was at his dad's.

Sounds complicated. Maybe we'll get into that later.

In any case, my son Connor has a big truck, and I had a couch to procure. So I dropped my car off, and I took my son's truck.

Then, I drove home, got my other son out of bed (it was well after 1 pm at this point. Jeez.), and he and I drove to Laura and Hugh's house.

This bad boy is HEAVY. Because much to my surprise, it's not only a couch; it's a bed, too!

Logan and I dragged it into the garage after I took this picture.

It was a great score, on so many levels.

Just like this day became, it was more than I bargained for. I found a fabulous couch that's also a bed, and I got it for the price of 28 miles. That's the round-trip journey from my house to the home of Laura and Hugh.

They were glad to get rid of it. Hugh was completely cool when I told him it was going to be given to someone who really needed it.

And tonight, I got a call from Lois.

She needs a couch.

Lois and I work together. She's moving soon, and the one piece to her puzzle is a couch.

She read yesterday's blog, and thought she might want the couch we found yesterday, until I told her about what we found today.

She's most likely going to take this couch/bed item on Tuesday.

She really needs it. And I'll still have a couch to spare.

All for the cost of 78 miles and a few dibs.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Free Time, Day One: 1/1/11

It seems so appropriate, to start this project on 1/1/11.

The purpose: to see if it’s possible to find enough free items advertised on the Free category of Denver’s craigslist to furnish a house. I’m giving myself a deadline. I’m doing this in my free time, and I intend to complete my mission in 30 days. Maybe less.

Then, after spending my free time finding stuff for free, I’m going to give it all away. I have so much, and there are so many people who don’t have anything. I have a few good leads on organizations that know of people who need exactly what I intend to find during my Free Time.

So what better day to start than today?

Today was the morning after Denver’s first measurable snowstorm. It’s odd for Colorado to be so dry so late in the season, but it was ripe for staying inside, ideal for hatching a plan.

So early this morning, I threw together a bit of an inventory list. I looked around the main floor of my house, and figured I’ll try to find items I’d need if something crappy happened and I lost it all and needed to start from scratch.

After making my inventory list, I started trolling the other list. The craigslist.

The day started with some promise. There was a listing for a free washer and dryer, and another listing for a free refrigerator. No phone numbers, so I emailed these folks. No quick response, so I let those items simmer on the back burner while I kept cooking.

Refresh, refresh, refresh.

That seems to be the key to the capture. Strike quickly, like a puma snares a deer. Like a snake swallows a mouse. Like how quickly a ding-dong like me can refresh the craigslist free category.

Among the offerings this morning were a whole bunch of cardboard boxes, a car without an engine, broken furniture, hobbled appliances, a collection of random used toys. Then, there was this offering:

Free unassembled snowman.
Can be picked up on the driveway and sidewalk – bring shovel and containers. No delivery.

So seasonal, so wry, so timely.

Then, a bit later, there was this:

Free rooster. Four months old. Very friendly and handsome. Can’t have roosters where we live, or chickens. Someone gave him to me not knowing this.

This made me and those around me laugh, as they say, out loud.

Eventually, I reeled it in and got back to my inventory list.

Then there was a couch. Poof. Free. Clean. Pick it up today.

So Mr. Fabulous and I did just that.

We headed downtown in his truck and picked up a couch. Very nice, very clean, as advertised. This couch will make someone very comfy.

We procured the couch from Zay Rios, a man in his late 20s. He was so gracious. When I mentioned what I was doing, it seemed so obvious to him, the passing stuff along to people who don’t have anything. He and his woman were moving from downtown Denver to the mountains, and they no longer needed their couch. So they were giving it away.


So we brought the couch home, after a ride of 18 miles, round trip. I had to relinquish my garage to the couch, but I intend to procure a storage area on Monday. My car will be fine outside in the meantime. 

Bottom line, the couch cost me the use of my garage, temporarily; and in terms of dollars and cents, it cost us somewhere around $3 in gas. Score.

On the way home, I did a bit more trolling. I responded almost immediately to two free leather chairs that look totally cool.

Skip called me after we got home. I’ve got the dibs on the chairs. We’re picking them up tomorrow.

I can see that this is going to be an interesting experiment.

I just checked the free listings again.

There’s a goat someone’s giving away. A goat by the name of Bill. Go figure.

Here’s exactly what Bill’s owner posted:

Bill. very gentle and loving, reason we re giving him away is because we no longer have his horse out here with him so he has become very lonley.

It would be just a touch funny if it weren’t just a bit tragic and sad. Poor Bill.

I’m not getting anyone’s goat tonight.

I do have a better understanding of this process after Day One. Actually, day 1/1/11.

I think this Free Time trip’s going to be quite a ride.