Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Law of Attraction

The Big Daddy and I have been in the market for a new lawn mower.  Correction: He wasn't until I convinced him that he was. 

It has rained almost every day this month - so much so that it feels like Seattle.  While this is great for the garden, it is not so great for lawn mowing if you have an old-school push mower.  The Big Daddy adopted this method a few years ago and would spend hours mowing.  A more generous person might think this is a quaint throwback to another era.  A wife thinks that a looney idea that has gone on too long is looney.

With all this rain and a very busy work schedule, my husband wasn't getting the grass cut very often. If there's anything I have plenty of these days it's time and I don't mind cutting the grass, but Mama wasn't about to use a push mower for that business.  I spent my childhood picking up sticks in a huge yard before my dad mowed.  After the middle school years with my faux boyfriend, Bud, down the street watching me, I considered it child abuse.

I suggested to my hoosband that we get something that was a little more current for his Modern Lady Wife.  "No gas," he said and so that's how we found ourselves at Lowe's on a Friday night looking at battery charged mowers.  Fortunately we weren't there long when we got a text from the neighbors saying that they were on the patio at the bar and grill by the house and so we skedaddled from that nonsense for some nachos and beer.

The next morning I recalled seeing a Black & Decker mower on Craigslist a few days earlier and gave the number a try.  It was still available and the woman selling it would show it to us at the office park she was renting to store her stuff until she moved.  Hence the sale of a mower - she was no longer going to have a lawn to maintain.

We found the place and went in.  It looked like a sale at a very bad thrift store.  There was crap everywhere.  On tables, on the floor, in boxes.  The side rooms, the back room, the back back room.  We found the mower and it looked brand new.  She had everything that came with it and had the blade sharpened.

Oh Craig!! This is sweet and I don't think she's going to try and kill us!!  

"Take a look at everything," she said.  "See if there's anything else you want."

I poked around.  There was an entire room that was baskets.  Not the vintage, sturdy kind but more of the cheap kind that came with cheesy silk flower arrangements.  "Oh there's plenty of great baskets in there," she said.  "Pick some out and we'll talk price."

While I was trying really hard to find something nice, Mark got on an exercise bike.  "Kath, look at this.  This would be great, don't you think?"  Before I could answer the seller started talking price with Mark.  "Oh yes, that's a very nice bike.  Unfortunately I have a condition that prevents me from sitting for long periods of time so I can't use it."

Please God do not allow her to explain this condition.

They talked money and then Mrs. Craigslist set her scope on me.  "Do you need landscaping lights?  A ceiling fan?  Motion sensor lights?  Still in the box.  I was going to put them outside the lab my husband and I own but never got around to it.

"Lab?  Do you have any old lab glass?  Cylinders, beakers, that kind of stuff?  I love that."

"Not here but I could get you some from our lab.  I'll give you a good price."

"Okay.  I'd love to look at that,  My husband works in a lab but he won't part with that stuff."

"Oh he does?  Well then I have just the thing," she said talking to Mark.  "How about this box of slides?  Look at these.  You could do something with this."

"Kath?"

"What is this on them," I inquired.

"Oh those are tissue samples."

Tissue samples.  And what does one do with glass slides with tissue samples on them?  Do you string them together with fishing line and and make wind chimes?  Do you get a tetanus shot before or after the fact?

On and on it went.  The sofa bed that the cat dug a hole in.  The bedroom set under mounds of blankets.  The wine glasses.  The dishes.  The Virgin Marys.  The tinsel.  The clay pots.  The microwave cart.

"No no no" I said over and over until I wanted to curl up in the hole that the cat made in the sofa in the back room.  Finally when the deal was cut on what we were getting neither of us had the correct change.  We were off by $5.00 and she wouldn't budge on price.

At that point I was ready to walk away but instead we got in the car and drove thru the McDonald's drive-in to break a twenty.

"Mark, do you believe in the law of attraction?" I asked as we drove there.  "Because if the universe works within that law then we are doomed.  We attract nut jobs all the time like this dotty old lady trying to unload her crap on us."

"She is quite the character," Mark said.

"That's being generous.  She's as dotty as they come and we're at her mercy for a lousy five bucks.  Now we have to go back in there and she's going to make us look in the Christmas room again with the cheap tinsel and awful silk flower arrangements.  How many times do we have to say no before we're set free with our lawn mower and stationary bike.  Ten times?  Twenty?  Thirty?  How much, Husband, before she wears us down and breaks us?"

"Stay strong," Husband advised.

We drove back and handed her the five dollars.  Mark got to talking to her about her lab and some of the things he's working on.

She has a PhD. in chemistry.  She's gotten $20,000,000.00 (that's million) in government contracts and told Mark how to work within the system to get funding for his lab.  They talked about mass spec and atomic force microscopy.  I was an outsider in this conversation.  After another fifteen minutes had gone by I said, "Okay, we'll let you get back to your garbage stuff.  We need to be on our way."

"Yeah, thanks," Mark said.  "Can't wait to use the lawn mower and Kath is really going to love the bike.  She's been wanting to exercise more."

Kath is really going to love the bike?  She's been wanting to exercise more?  What???  Kath who?

There surely was somebody dotty in there all along and it turned out to be me.




Thursday, May 14, 2015

Robert

When my favorite job came to an abrupt end due to the store closing, I followed my manager and friend to a new place in the arts district of Kansas City.  Though only twenty minutes away, I had never been to this part of town and when I went for the interview it felt a wee bit like my working days in Chicago (minus a big lake).  A deal was struck and I accepted the job.

The area was known for its funky, bohemian vibe for artists of all types.  Somewhat neglected for years, it was experiencing a revival of sorts with lots of interest in that part of town and the old buildings.  The store was located on the street level of a unit that had many condos and lofts right above us.  Our space had previously been a home goods shop and the owner of the company I would work for would spend months putting her funky stamp on it to sell women's clothing.  Massive windows lined the street side which turned out to be a good thing.  Though the area was well-known for many things, it was not a shopping destination and hours would go by without a single customer.  Watching the comings and goings out the window helped with what at times was overwhelming boredom.

After a few months of us arriving a new tenant moved into the building.  He was from Kansas City but had lived in New York for many years.  He decided to move back to be closer to his family - particularly his father who was getting on in years. 

We got to know him well.  He didn't know where his mailbox was.  He seemed to always miss the UPS man who would drop his packages off with us.  He couldn't figure out where to park or how the movers should go about getting down the crowded one-way street..  The first few weeks of his new life seemed to be in constant confusion and he would pop in the store for help on a daily basis.

Nobody minded helping him at all.  He was gorgeous.  Fiftyish, silver haired, lean and blue-eyed, he walked up and down the sidewalk in the sweltering heat of August in his cargo shorts, tshirt and flip flops without so much as a drop of sweat.  If you didn't know better you'd think he walked off an ad for Ralph Lauren and his horse was tied up around the corner.

He was always grateful for the advice and help but never lingered.  He went about his day with a purpose and many a time I could see him out the window going to his yoga class with his mat tucked under his arm.  I would find out later from some customers that he was an artist.  When I waited on them they kept talking about the art classes they were taking every week from Robert.

"Our Robert," I asked.  "The Robert around the corner?"

"That's the one," they said.  "And isn't he gorgeous?"  We all laughed and I would find out from them that he also taught ballroom dancing in that loft of his and occasionally hosted art shows.

Our Robert was a true renaissance man.

One day Robert came in to ask me something, turned to leave and came back and said, "I think you have a real unique look with your hair and eyes.  Would you mind if I took some photos of you?"  If Our Cute Robert made my heart flutter when he asked if the UPS man had delivered anything, imagine what it did when he asked to photograph me.

"Sure," I said like this was a common request and something that would never come to fruition.  Little did I know that he'd appear ten minutes later with a camera.

"Just act normal, pretend I'm not here and I'll take the pictures."  How does one act normal when they have a camera a few inches from their face?  How does one do that when this sort of thing has never happened to them before?  I did my best which means I tried extra hard not to be a dork.

"I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with these yet but I'll let you know," he said as he left the store.
A few weeks later I left that job for something closer to the house and so the photos Robert took of me slipped my mind.  Occasionally I would stop in the store to see my old work friends but I never stayed long enough to catch up on everything in the neighborhood.

It was more than a year later that I recalled the photos and so the next time I was in the store I asked about Robert. "He's still in the building isn't he?  Does he pop in once in awhile?"

"Oh," my friend and manager said.  "You wouldn't have known.  Robert died a few months ago."

"Robert?  Robert died?"

"Yes.  We hadn't seen him in awhile and then this woman came in and introduced herself.  She was his sister.  He got pancreatic cancer and she took care of him until the end.  It all seemed so fast.  It was as if he was here one day and fine and then gone the next."

"Oh.  Oh.  I wasn't expecting you to say that.  I can't believe that.  Our perfectly good-looking and talented Robert?  That doesn't seem possible."   But it was true.  The silver-haired art teacher who was oblivious to the fan club all around him had moved on.  So had the customer that day who told me she was in his art class.

I left quickly after that.  I had to process this news I heard about Robert - as if sitting in my car in disbelief would make the outcome any different.

Once in awhile I wonder about the photos he took of me that day and if he waved his magic artist wand over them and made them into something special.  I'd like to think so but mostly I wonder what it would have been like to have him twirl you around that loft on 18th St.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Containing My Enthusiasm

There is a popular organization store opening up in Kansas City that have had the bees buzzing about for months. Though I have never shopped in this particular store, my sisters have and gushed over its variety of tools to help the cluttered get tidy.  "You have to go there," Ann said. "You'd love it."

So when my neighbor called me excited and breathless saying I HAD TO APPLY because the pay and benefits were so great, I did so without question. Utterly confused about which direction to turn, I take the advice of anyone and everyone with little thought.  Oh you heard McDonalds is hiring? Well, I have always loved their fries so I guess that's a good idea.  Off I go in my look-how-I've-got-it-together-clothes to wow another would-be boss for a job that upon thirty seconds of reflection I realize I don't even want.

Some people live and learn.  I leave learning to the scholars.

I filled out the application and submitted it before noon.  At 3:00 I got a call asking me to come in for a group interview and to read the email that would be coming to get my homework assignment.  An interview already?  They must think I'm special!  A homework assignment?  Huh.  I hope this is being compensated.  On a rainy Saturday morning I woke with the first thought of  the rest of my work life being, "I don't want to go".  If it weren't Saturday and I was home alone like I am the rest of the week, I would have lied and said I went and nobody would be the wiser. Mark and Will were there, however, and so I had to fake that this was all such a wonderful, exciting opportunity. You guysI can get shelving to get our spices organized!  At a discount!!  How awesome is that?  You know?  To organize all our spices??!!

Since the store isn't finished yet the interview was at a hotel connected to the convention center.  It was packed that Saturday morning with both a dance and barbershop quartet competition.

I'm not making that up.

I found the meeting room passing dozens of barbershop quartets along the way.  I was the second to last to arrive with the exception of Anne who was supposed to be sitting next to me but decided not to show.  I already wished I was Anne.

We did introductions.  I can't remember what I said.  Probably something hilarious, endearing and hire-worthy. The managers read off a script and then we watched a video.  After the video we were each asked what stood out to us. There were smiley responses that were very positive and it was clear that the desired response was to say that this company LOVES its employees which does seem to be true.  The first one to respond, though, stole the thunder so the four of us remaining had to blab it in a different way that didn't seem like we were repeating what she said.

I gave Manager's Pet the stinkeye for sitting at the end and pilfering all my good answers.

Next was a video about the organized way they unpack their truck and stock their store.  We have to unpack a truck?  What?  I've unpacked boxes of merchandise for years but a whole truck? Employees were literally running from the truck to the cart to load boxed merchandise to wheel out to the sales floor, all in record time.  Whoa, whoa, whoa, sisterCan you back that up that because it looks to me like employees are expected to run on this job?  

Next up on the hiring checklist was to share our homework.  We had to go on the website and choose an item we would buy and explain why.  My fellow interviewees each had a different item.  The gardening center for the garage that corrals all your lawn and garden items in one place.  A complete closet system. A folding bookshelf that is easy to fold and pack for the frequent mover. The laundry center to keep wash day tidy.

What did I choose?

I picked The Lidded Box as an organization tool to store our tax receipts since the brown paper bags didn't work out so well this year.  Letter-size.  Blue canvas with a faux leather handle.  Great reviews because ummm, it's a lidded box. What else but four stars could something get that a monkey could make in his sleep? Coming in at a whopping $14.95 I said I'd even spring for the document size as well at $16.95.

Nailed it.

Lastly we saw a video about their selling strategy that goes like this:  If a man is in the desert and has crawled his way to an oasis and asks for water what else do you think he could use.  Sunscreen? A cell phone?  A pillow to rest?  Food?  Yes, all of that.  Your customer is The Desert Man and you need to sell him everything he needs and not just what he asks for.

Just then you could hear a barbershop quartet outside the meeting room practicing I've Been Working on the Railroad which is what this interview was starting to feel like.

We talked about selling to The Desert People and I thought, "Boy that sure seems like a heartless thing to do to a man dying of thirst."  I didn't say that, though.  I repeated what Answerer #1 said with a big smile and warm eyes. Look at how engaging and friendly I am!!  I bet you can't even tell I'm making this shit up because I didn't even listen to the question!!!

A few days later I got an email.  Not the one I expected asking me to come in for a 2nd interview and maybe a management position, but the one that said they were going forward with some other candidates.

What?  I was insulted.  How could they not hire me?  Didn't they know how many times I sold dresses to women with the advice that a good pair of Spanx would make them look more like low-fat sausage in casing than a polska kielbasa?  I'm retail gold.

It didn't take me long to slide down into The Sads.  Where did I go wrong?  Was it the snorting when the barbershop quartet started singing?  Was it when I really looked at the full-blown poster of their store shelves and realized that crap has to be dusted every single day? Was it when I looked at Absent Anne's chair and longed to be her?  Or my empathy for The Desert People, who like Californians, really only need water?

I realized it was none of those things.  It was the homework assignment that I spent all of ten minutes on. Who hires somebody who takes great pride in touting the beauty and functionality of  the cheapest thing they sell when there's big money to be made on closets to stuff?

With no interviews on the horizon my days are even more free so I think I'll go to Target and buy a couple of those Lidded Monkey Made Boxes.  One for our tax receipts so that next year won't be such a hot mess......

And the other to contain my Dashed Dreams, Hopeless Job Prospects and Really Bad Ideas.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Sabbatical

In Mark's world, going off the work grid for awhile is called a Sabbatical.  He is always saying he's going to whisk me off to Portugal for a few months while he's there to work with a colleague.  What a sweet deal I've always thought to myself. When you get sick of the people you work with every day, you pack up and go somewhere else for awhile and still have your job when you come back - refreshed and ready for new challenges.

I thought of calling my current stint many things (like Oh Shit Now What) but settled on the collegiate Sabbatical. It's got more of a professional ring to it and holds the promise of exciting things ahead instead of panic and self-loathing.

While I would have loved to have gone off to a beach on foreign soil where the port wine flows like water, my personal introspection and career refreshment must take place here in Kansas.  While not totally undesirable....

Sheesh.....who am I kidding? The only people who choose to come to Kansas these days are the ones passing through on the way to Denver to legally buy some pot.

Anyhoodle, the 1st day of my Sabbatical was ripe with land mines.  I was sad.  I was bored.  I was wallowing in a pity party of the largest magnitude.  Hey, this is just like being at work!  I took to my bed for an afternoon rest of my gurgling feelings but couldn't sleep.

"Buck up you Big Whiny Pants," the Sabbatical voice said.  "Get a plan.  Get something done."

And so I got up and got my creative juju ducks in a row and headed to the fabric store.  Three fabric stores to be precise (Who cares? I've got nothing but time!) for some fresh, happy fabric to cover the patio chairs. That little field trip changed my perspective and the week has flown by with many, many Sabbatical activities.  Activities like......

WALKING

Every morning I head out the door like back in the day when Henry and I started each new day with a brisk walk.

Day 1:  4.5 miles
Day 2:  6.5 miles
Day 3:  2.0 miles (cuz my legs felt like noodles from Day #1 and Day #2)
Day 4:  2.6 miles

What have I learned while walking?  I could use some new gym shoes and rich people in big houses don't pick up their dog's crap.

COOKING

With more time on my hands I could try some new recipes like these pork chops which were easy peasy and a big Big Daddy pleaser.  That wasn't the only new recipe.  Tonight is Newness #3 thanks to my new BFF and Sabbatical partner, Pinterest.

What have I learned while cooking?  That I could never, and I mean NEVER, write a cooking blog. The comment section was filled with these gems....

"My husband doesn't like spicy.  Can I make these without the cayenne pepper?

"I made these and they were dry but I think my pork chops were thinner than yours.  Should I cook them for less time?"

"In your breakdown of cost, you didn't include the 2T of olive oil."

Each question was met with a lovely reply explaining that you could omit the pepper, turn down the temp and oh-dear-how-could-I-have-forgotten-the-cost-breakdown-of-2T-of-olive-oil.

My standard reply if I were the blogger?  How about you pour some gasoline into that noggin of yours, rev up the engine and see if you can get some cylinders to fire.

DAYTIME DOCTORS

Aren't the kind you should go to if there's anything wrong with you.  Dr. Oz had a woman on who did a juice cleanse for three days.  Three meals and a snack for three days all in a glass.  "I never had a craving," she said.  "Not one single craving AND I lost four pounds."  The audience cheered.  Dr. Oz hugged her.  I was highly skeptical.

What did I learn about watching daytime doctors?  That sometimes you have to help a sister out and eat for her.

EATING MY FEELINGS

Though I had healthy options in the house to prevent going down the fat hole, I still succumbed once a day to one unhealthy alternative.

What did I learn about eating my feelings?  All of my feelings all of the time like chips and salsa.

WARDROBE

I went from cute work outfits with accessories to yoga pants, a hoodie and no makeup overnight. Mark came bursting in the door on Monday and said, "How was your first day of not..........."  And I'm not entirely sure but I think it was my appearance that stopped him in his tracks.  "Oh.  Oh.  You took it easy, I see."

What did I learn about looking like a slob?  That a good pork chop recipe will compensate.

COMPANY

With my car in the driveway every day (because I spent all of my meager budget on the very first day), I had plenty of time to visit.  Drive-bys, walkers and the mailman became my new friends.  I showed them my pile of weeds, my mulch, my petunias, my recovered patio chairs and my soul.

What did I learn about company?  That they sometimes look like they want to get away.

WRIGLEY

The breeder dog with undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome had the place to himself most days and now has to deal with me. This is traumatic for him and he doesn't know what to do other than lift his leg and pee on everything.  Then he goes and sits in the corner for doggie time out because he knows he's a little turd on a big chopping block.

What did I learn from Wrigley?  That a dog from the shelter that's been marked down to a sale price is not a good deal.


For Sabbatical Week #2 I have plans to paint the bathroom, craft some macaroni necklaces for Mother's Day and and tool some leather.

And if nothing happens by Sabbatical Week #3?  This turd and I are getting in the car and driving to Denver for a lookie loo.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Flowergate

The Big Daddy and I are deepdeepdeep into our annual landscaping and garden beautification process.  To date, we have hauled home more than forty bags of mulch.  I am using it for the beds in the front of the house.  He is using it on the back for a project that will one day make the cover of Better Homes & Gardens.  If it doesn't kill us first.

Every weekend is mulch buying, mulch loading, mulch unloading, mulch bag dragging to here and there, mulch spreading and then more mulch calculations.  "Well, don't you wish you'd just ordered it by the truck and had it delivered?" Mom said when I told her our weekend project.  "Well yeah but we don't want to pay the delivery charge. We'd rather be mules for the Mulch Cartel every Saturday until we collapse our stinking, dirty selves onto the couch by 8:00."

This Saturday had bouts of pouring rain, steady rain or threatening rain.  When the rain had slowed down we went on a mulch run at a nursery center.  This particular one happens to be the only one in town to carry the kind we want for the back path Mark dug, and so we bought and loaded ten more bags.  No shopping around we agreed.  We'd only get the mulch and then go on our other errand.

That errand was to a local home improvement center that has a Friends and Family sale every spring on hanging baskets.  The 8" baskets of flowers are $4.99.  If you are in the "club" the price is $3.99.  I have been going for years but always alone.   The Big Daddy isn't interested in flowers.  He's planting crops to sustain us for the long winter yet to come and flowers are a distraction.  This time, though, since it was on the way home from the nursery center he got to witness the Hanging Basket Sale for himself.

There is nothing I could say to prepare him for what lie ahead.  "Wait inside," I said like a mum talking to their toddler.  "I'll go back to the nursery and come back when I'm finished.  Don't go out there.  You will see things you can't unsee and it will traumatize you."

He snorted.

I took a deep breath and said, "I'm goin' in."

In the pouring rain I trekked outside to the nursery.  With such lousy weather I didn't think there would be many people there, but crammed down the aisle like refugees waiting for a bag of rice and fresh water from the Red Cross were dozens of gardeners. Surging forward when the metal gates opened to reveal dozens of ten foot tall rolling racks of hanging flower baskets, the frenzy started. Some people had carts so crammed on the inside with baskets that they had to hang their baskets on every inch of the perimeter on the outside. Twice I saw two carts start to tip from the weight of all those hanging baskets.  

I quickly decided on my color scheme and got four baskets of orange zinnias.  When I spotted some various coleus walking by I asked where I might find some of those.  "In the back corner," the woman said.  I never found the ones she had and stopped looking when a woman in her 60s was scaling the side of the rack to get to the baskets on top as it was rolling forward.

It was then that I feared for my life.

The Big Daddy must have thought I'd gotten lost and wandered out there in utter amazement.  "This is all for baskets of flowers?"  "I know," I said.  "It's sick, isn't it?"  As if I wasn't fully participating. We threw some tomato plants and a peach tree in our cart and headed out of Dodge.

Exhausted from the rain, the mulch hauling and the flower pot recon mission, I came home flopped on the bed and turned on the t.v.  I settled on Hoarding: Buried Alive.  Twin sisters up to their necks in garbage were being forced to clean it up or have their property condemned by the city.  When the shrink and the hazmat helpers came along to start hauling stuff out of the house the fragile sisters lost it.  Shoveled out garbage was thrown onto the lawn including books that were headed for the dumpster. "Look at this," one said to the other picking through the garbage.  "They say we can't even keep these.  Sis, they're throwing our library away."

And by library she meant the pet urine soaked books with mildew all over them.

"Who do those f****** think they are trying to take our library away from us," Sis yelled back.  And so they got out some paper and pencil and wrote down the name and author of every book in that pile so they could replace it.    Even that didn't go so well when the writer twin couldn't keep up with the reader twin. "Why don't you pay some f****** attention to me so I don't have to keep saying it twice?  Can you f****** do that?"

Whoa, Nellies, I thought to myself.  Where do they find these people who are so knee deep in mental health issues that they have to keep bringing home crap they don't need until it's stacked to the rafters?

The next day Maggie called me to go to Target.  "Let's check out the Lilly Pulitzer stuff," she said. "Yes, let's," I said back and I washed my stinky mulch hair and put some makeup on so I'd be pretty enough to try on Lilly's expensive-resort-wear-gone-cheap for the masses.  

Twenty minutes later she called back.  "Forget it.  It's sold out everywhere."

"Sold out????  It's the first day and the store's only been open for a couple of hours."

"I know but everybody says there's nothing left in the stores or online."

There I sat with my freshly washed hair, my sparse eyebrows filled in (with a bit of lip gloss to boot) and longed for a sister by my side to ask, "Who do those f****** think they are taking all the pretty flowered dresses away from us???"

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jesus & The Gays

My Facebook feed is always rampant with links to articles about the gays.  When our own son came out I read everything I could find about how to not be scared shitless when your kid comes out of the closet. That lasted a couple of years and then absolutely nothing eventful happened so I stopped reading.

Somehow, though, the articles about the gays want to stalk me.

I rarely click on any more, whether they are on Facebook or a news site.  I can predict where they are going to go and heading down the rabbit hole of righteous shame is not healthy for me.  Occasionally I'll read an article that chastises the Christian right on this subject for their failure to put love into practice and I'll pump my fists, open the front door and yell, "YESYESYES.  A thousand times yes." Then I'll read the comments with their wagging fingers of preachiness and Bibleness and say to myself, "Oh, sister, you had to know that was a bad idea."  Again.

As I have loved you so you must love one another.

As someone who was raised in faith and raised their kids that way, who jumped through the Catholic hoops, (Confirmation, anyone? What exactly is that?) and reminded even the littlest of my tribe that they were accountable for how they treated each other, I think the playing field always has to tip to the disenfranchised.

It is what we are called to do, isn't it?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

And yet......

When I was in a study hall in senior year there were three of us that secretly played word games in the corner of the room three boring times a week.

John was his name.  It was the mid-70s.  It occurred to me that he might be gay even though that wasn't much of a thing yet.   At seventeen I worried about how he was treated outside of that room in that big, rough school.  A thousand times since then I have wondered how his life turned out.

Love what is sincere.  Hate what is evil: cling to what is good.

I was in grade school in the 60s and vividly recall the struggle for civil rights.  I have watched women in the workplace struggle for equal rights and equal pay for decades.  I am witnessing the battle for gay rights with some skin in the game. I know that despite all this incessant shouting and laws passed for headlines rather than common sense, that the tide will turn very soon.

There is no fear in love.

I do not need to read the words of another Christian donning the cloak of Jesus and shaming my kid.  It is a horrible waste of my time.  Instead, I am better off using my energy to help push the boat of love and justice for as long and as far as I can, and when I feel my shaky legs giving up I need to push harder.

Love does no harm to its neighbor.

For my kid and for the kid in middle school that is terrified of who they are attracted to.  For John, who kicked my butt in dueling-back-of-the-room-word-games in a study hall at Thornridge High School.  He went on to graduate.  I had another year to go.  In the end of the school year craziness we scribbled our names in each other's yearbook but I forgot to look at him and tell him that he was always the highlight of my day.

When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

I will follow him.




Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Shopping The Curb

This weekend is large item pickup here in Mayberry.  It is a once-a-year event that rivals Christmas in its participation and scale.  Homeowners can set nearly anything they want (as long as it is no bigger than a fridge) on the curb to be picked up by the trash company at no extra charge.  It is the ideal time to clean out the basement and garage, and though some things are easy to load up and take to Habitat Restore or Savers it is much more fun to haul it to the curb.

Why?  The customers.

Days ahead of the scheduled date, piles start appearing and then the cruising starts.  By far the biggest drive-bys are the metal scrappers.  Truck beds scraping the ground overflowing with washers and dryers, storm doors and grills.  If it has metal in it they are scavenging it, and by Friday night some streets are bumper-to-bumper.

Next are the people looking to outfit their home or apartment with a halfway decent couch, a chair or two and maybe some bookshelves.  They are not as hearty as the metal scrappers, just friendly thrifters looking to score some freebies.

Lastly, there are people like me and my vintage neighbors.  No longer willing to put the hours or gas into it like the old days, we just hope to find something unusual and old as we take the long way to the grocery store.

A young intern at work asked me once about curb shopping when she overheard me telling someone what I found. It started years ago when I saw some old windows on the curb and couldn't believe they were getting thrown out. With my mortified teenage daughter sinking into her seat, I popped open the back of the van and put some in the back.

Was I embarrassed about being seen?  Yes.  Was I hooked?  Like a senior at the slot machines.

Spring is the perfect time to curb shop and the thing I have found to be true nearly all of the time is this:

Nice neighborhoods with big houses don't have the best stuff.

Older homes are the goldmine of great finds.  Cleaning out after a parent or grandparent has moved out, most people seem to want to just get rid of all that stuff.  That's what happened when my neighbor popped open a box on the curb and found it full of glass dishes and quilts.

Here then are some of my favorite freebies....

I have been wanting to learn how to upholster and stopped to look at some chairs  that were on the curb.  I decided to take one of them with me and the homeowner came out to help me put it in the back of my car.  "I have a dresser and mirror in the garage I'm getting ready to put out.  Do you want to see it?"

Mother of all finds.



A friend saw this wicker piece on her neighbor's curb, pulled it into her driveway and called me, "Come right away.  I have something for you."  It was hideous but I didn't have the heart to say that and so we loaded it into my car where it sat for two years in my garage.  One spring day I decided to tackle this ugly duckling. I ripped all the old fabric off and a thousand tacks.  I stained it darker and Mark cut a piece of wood for the seat that I covered in foam and new fabric.  It was a labor of not-yet-love-but-getting-there.  When I was working on it I found a brass plate on the back that said Heywood-Wakefield.  She's all kinds of cute now.



I loved this old little cabinet but it drove me crazy.  It had some broken glass on the sides and old glass is ridiculously hard to break and get out.  It took me forever and it was filthy dirty so I scrubbed and scrubbed until it was clean enough to spray paint.  I filled in where the glass was with chicken wire.  Now?  Swoon...



This old wood trunk on casters was on my neighbor's curb.  The house belonged to his parents and he seems to have no love for anything in it. When I went over to see this he said, "This old thing? Whaddya want this for?"  For eternal happiness.  




Last year the kids found a pile of old pickets on the curb and we have used every single one to replace the broken pickets on our fence.  My neighbor once found an old metal sprinkling can that made me jelly.  Years ago I found the sweetest little red wagon.

In a few days when things start piling up on the curbs I'll say what I've been saying for years now.  "Not this time.  I don't need a thing,"

Then I'll think of something random I need at the grocery store and slowly cruise the streets and terraces of my neighborhood looking, looking, looking.......

Looking for love in all the free places.