Impressions

Somebody left his mark

Somebody left his mark

Check this photo out.  My friend Donna took this photo of an impression a bird made as it landed on her truck windshield.  As there was no birdy-body, it’s to be assumed that this wayward avian was able to recover from the impact and fly away, probably a bit dazed, and most likely making a mental note to avoid dusty windshields in the future.  Donna says she could imagine if a bird had smacked into a clear windshield, perhaps seeing something within the truck it wanted, but for the life of her, she cannot fathom what attracted this bird to a dusty piece of glass.

Whatever reason led to this bird’s amazing visit and subsequent impression, it got me thinking.

We all make a mark wherever we go; sometimes in a big way by helping a neighbor remove a tree stump, and some impressions are much more subtle.  Think about it.  As you go about your daily activities, chances are at least once you will interact with one or more other senscient beings, some human, some, in this bird’s case, non-human.  You click on a live chat, leave a voicemail, send a text, shake somebody’s hand, offer a smile to a child crossing the street, write a note, visit your grandma, pat your dog, or sit down to dinner with your family. 

And with each interaction, you leave an impression.  One would generally hope to leave a good impression – isn’t that what we’re taught as kids?  But even if the time spent with another was less-than-ideal, at least you always have an opportunity to make amends, clear the air, dust off the disagreement, and make things right.

All of us are on a life path uniquely our own.  Yet, as British poet John Donne reminds us, … “no man is an island.”  The waves of influence created by us and others wash upon our shores and reverberate throughout our lives.  Some waves are barely perceptible, others, like tsunamis, create chaos and transfiguration.

It’s up to us to remember these impressions and hopefully leave our imprints as an inspiration to others.

Thrift Store Kitty Volume 2

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

 

This is my second blog post about a couch getting donated, accompanied by a stowaway kitty.   Apparently couches are the primo spot for hiding for our feline friends.  You’d think the cat would have tried to escape once she/he felt the sofa moving but perhaps the springs were in the way.  However, as this came to pass (again!) I guess I must make a mental note to dig not only for misplaced spare change in the cushions but also to tune my ear for a telltale mewl from within the depths of any couch I may be eyeballing for my living room. 

There clearly must be a gang of rogue cats determined to infiltrate our thrift stores; their true intentions not entirely evident.  Must be an Al-Quatda plot to capture our hearts.

For the full article, click here:  http://tinyurl.com/catcouchthrift

Meow!

Published in: on 2009/09/22 at 6:21 pm  Comments (2)  
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Instant Ancestors

Not mine but somebody's great-grandma

Not mine but somebody's great-grandma

I was at an antique store the other day in my Fair City and stumbled across a collection of vintage photographs.  Not just one or two but an entire shoebox full of long-ago faces imprinted forever upon now-sepia paper.  Above the box some clever vendor had a simple sign, “Instant Ancestors.” 

I thought about that for a few minutes and it struck me both funny and a tad poignant. 

Here were somebody’s relatives from days gone by, dressed in their Sunday best, seated or standing for a formal portrait, most likely hoping to have their image honored for generations to come; that their stories be told from generation to generation, and that perhaps they would in some small way live on in their extended families’ homes. 

Yet for whatever reason, these charming photos instead found themselves stacked, sardine-like, wedged between who-knows-how many other portraits lost in time, collecting dust in a dim corner of an antique store.

What circumstances, I wondered, would cause a family to discard such an intimate keepsake?  It made perfect sense to find old Mason jars, vintage records, or pennants from yesterdays ad nauseum, but this was somebody’s mother, aunt, grandmother, uncle, father, son, grandpa, Nana, sister, or brother.  Why of all things was their carefully produced photograph tossed in with the other nondescript relics of days gone by?  Did the family forget when they went through the dearly departed’s estate and casually thrown the photo in with what they thought were useless trinkets?  Or did they have some sort of falling out and the remembrance had become too difficult to bear witness by facing the person every day within a picture frame?

Whatever reason led these photographs to languish amidst the chipped serving dishes and the rusty farm implements, it now seemed behooving on me to bring at least one of them home that day and honor their lives one more time.

I invite you to look at my “instant ancestors.”  That’s my new great-aunt Ivy on the right.

I think I look like her.

Great-Aunt Ivy liked to bike as well.

Great-Aunt Ivy liked to bike as well.

Radio Star Volume 2

Well hopefully I said something of value to folks the other day on the radio with Michelle Vandepas of  Your Divine Purpose Unleashed on Live your Purpose Radio/Blog Talk Radio on the 15th.  I was quite nervous, but Michelle was a great host and I think I was able to convey my simple message.  Please take a listen by clicking on my show and let me know what you think!  I’ll be eager to see all my reviews!  Thanks for all your support!

Back to School in Style

Spreading the Good Will

Spreading the Good Will

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Now those lyrics may normally be heard on the radio around Christmas but for millions of parents across the nation and around the world, these words convey an entirely different meaning…

…school is back in session!

And while their parents may be thrilled at the prospect of shipping off their kids for another fun-filled  year, the students more than likely are not terribly enthused.  The task of finding classrooms, memorizing locker combinations, and piling on hour of after hour of homework somehow overshadows the excitement at returning to the old classrooms. 

The only thing kids probably enjoy in preparation for the new school year is the annual ritual of school shopping. 

Now when I was a kid, it was mandatory to visit the ubiquitous Buster Brown shoe store to be outfitted with decent footgear for the first day of school.  This part, for me, actually wasn’t too bad.  I enjoyed all the fussing of the lady helping me try on my new lace-ups, and certainly secretly thrilled in the smell of the leather.  Buying a pretty new dress also was something to look forward to as my mother and I visited our local department store.  And so it was that on the first day back to school, I’d be resplendent in my red gingham dress, matching red socks, and spiffy new footwear shining in the sun.

Fast forward a few years and now as the mother of an emerging fashion-conscious tween boy, I find myself in the bittersweet position of rejoicing in his starting back at school and feeling the sting as I part with more money than I’d like to outfit him for his new middle school experience.

As I mention in my book, Second Hand Roses: Lessons From the Junktiquing Road, this whole buying-retail thing now, with my years of thrifting experience clouding my judgment on what constitutes a normal price for things, I take great umbrage to the thought of parting with more than $10 for a pair of jeans!  A visit to Sears a while back found me on more than one occasion laughing out loud at the prices displayed on the racks. 

“Avoiding the sidelong glances of the saleslady stacking T-shirts nearby, I muffled an indignant snort or two as I scoffed at the temerity of the store to price a simple hoodie at well over $50.  Are they serious, I thought to myself, looking over the cheap plastic zipper, destined for breakage within a month or two.  The thing looked no more substantial than an overgrown sweatshirt; the only seeming justification of such an outrageous price being the tiny label stitched in the neckline. Did they expect the wearer to turn the jacket inside-out, so as to impress anyone with sharp enough eyes to see the tag?” 

Nevertheless, my son has his heart set these days on certain brands and while I could afford that $50 hoodie, quite frankly it’s more often than not that I have returned from a thrifting run at my local Goodwill, bag full of clothes, (some of those very name brands he so covets),  paying LESS than $50 for at least five outfits.  And they’re outfits he can wear with pride, labels and all, and no one is the wiser as to how much actually got spent on them.  He’s cool for one-quarter the price, at least!

Seems I am not the only one out there checking out thrift stores these days for back-to-school fashions.  Check out this link.  Fox News apparently has latched onto the idea as well. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfsQOOPcC0Y

Now that’s what I call stimulating the economy!

Grandpa Charlie’s Medal

Distinguished Flying Cross

Distinguished Flying Cross

Trudging down Lynwood Lane on my way home from school one afternoon, something caught my eye.  Had I been engrossed, as usual, with watching for robins stalking worms I might have missed it.

 But this time, my attention turned to a curbside box.  Left out for the trash collectors, it sat, sagging slightly, its marker-scrawled side hinting at the contents within.

  My steps slowed as I approached, watchful for curious neighbors peering out their windows.  Sidling up to the box, I read, “Grandpa Charlie’s war stuff BASEMENT.”  The lid askew, likely from a gust of wind or perhaps a frustrated raccoon, I could see something twinkling inside.

  I stood there, a force drawing me to this nondescript container of old stuff.  Looking around again for anybody noticing, I finally ventured one hand into the box. 

 Grasping something metallic I quickly snatched my hand back to my pocket and ran home in the growing rain.

 I barely remembered to hang my raincoat on the hallway hook and shake my boots onto the mat as, with heart pounding, I darted upstairs to the safety of my room.  Shouting a greeting to my mother, I clambered up my bunk bed ladder to my bed.  I took a deep breath and unclenched my hand, revealing my booty.

 What dropped onto my pink floral bed sheet was the first icon of what was to become a lifetime of scavenging.  It was a World War II medal. 

 With its violet and white striped ribbon slightly tattered and pin bent, it was not much really to look at. Yet it held my attention for a long time as I read and re-read the letters, “RAF.”  The engraved date of 1942 on the back had been almost rubbed away, along with the recipient’s full name.  Stapled to the corner clung a tattered piece of paper reading, “Charlie’s medal.”

 Charlie.  So he must be the original owner of “Grandpa Charlie’s war stuff BASEMENT.”  I wondered about that for a long time, so long in fact that my mother had to send my brother in to see if I was napping and had not heard her call to come down for dinner.

 “Whatchoo got?” demanded my four-year-old brother, Jason, his grubby hands clutching a Hot Wheel.

 I stuffed the medal under my pillow.  “Nothing, just my pillow,” I replied.

 When I climbed down from the upper bunk my life had changed forever. 

 For the next few weeks I studied the medal, now carefully hidden behind a book in my room.  I’d sit up late at night turning it over and over in my hands, feeling the raised letters, sliding my fingers over the ribbon’s fibers, and occasionally poking myself with the bent pin.  I dared not show the medal to my family, preferring instead to keep it secret. 

(It wasn’t until years later that I discovered this was a Distinguished Flying Cross, an award given to officers for acts of valor, courage or devotion to duty done when flying in operations against the enemy. )  Apparently Grandpa Charlie had been a war hero.

I returned to the site of my discovery, often dawdling on the way to school, but the now-empty curb revealed no further trinkets.  Too shy to knock on the door, I’d linger on my rounds to and from Courcellete School, hoping to catch a glimpse of whoever chose to discard such a treasure. 

 I wondered if it had been new homeowners who had found this box of war memorabilia and simply opted to toss it out rather than examine its contents.  Or had Grandpa recently passed away and holding onto his possessions had become painful to the family?  No further deposits of anything more interesting than a broken lampshade made it to the curb, yet each trip past the house always drew my gaze up the long driveway to the curtained windows.  I had so many unanswered questions, and dreams brought my imagination to a time of war and bravery, fear, and relief. 

 That following Remembrance Day, along with many other Canadians, I proudly wore my poppy.  I sat in the assembly at school, listening to our principal, Mr. Moult, reminding us to never forget the sacrifices our fathers, uncles, and grandfathers had made.  I committed to memory the poem by John McCrae, In Flanders Fields

 Pinned proudly next to my poppy shone Grandpa Charlie’s Distinguished Flying Cross.

 From: Second Hand Roses: Lessons From the Junktiquing Road, copyright 2009 Dawn Edwards

Sharing the Wealth

One man's trash...

One man's trash...

I just read an amazing story about a postal worker from New Jersey who took the time to visit his local thrift store and procure items for his relations back in Ghana.  He was just honored by the National Association of Letter Carriers for this wonderful deed….

….On the Chicago Tribune website, from AP-  “National Humanitarian of the Year, Emmanuel Anim-Sackey, 50, of West Orange, N. J., who sifts through northern New Jersey thrift stores and yard sales to find used clothes, shoes and school supplies to send back to impoverished families in Abetifi-Kwahu, a village in his native Ghana.”

What a beautiful, yet so simple thing to do.  His time, money, and efforts may have won him some acclaim here but I’d hazard a guess that he’s even more of a hero back in his native country.  See, this gentleman took a look around him, realized that we as a country are truly rich by most of the world’s criteria, and decided to share the wealth. 

Now that phrase, “share the wealth,” was bandied about for a while back during the presidential campaign last  year.  But for all the outcry and debate, truly what is wrong with helping our fellow man; to give from those of us who have so much to those for whom clean water is a luxury rather than a common happenstance?  Isn’t what we all learn as children?  Sharing, cooperating, caring, having empathy, compassion, and love are all values instilled early and hopefully traits we carry over into our adulthood.  Whether it’s lending a neighbor a hand with felling a dead tree, bringing a casserole to a new widower, or even shipping a box of clothes to distant lands, it’s this spirit of altruism that connects and binds us all as a society, a race, a community, an amalgam of all things human. 

In these hard times, we’ve all tightened our belts, cut back on luxuries like vacations (preferring the new-cool “staycation”), and some of us have even learned from our grandparents to grow a Victory garden to supply us with food from our own toils.  Giving to others may seem impossible right now, as we are faced with dental bills, threats of layoffs, rising costs of living, and worries about our own circle of friends and family.  All the charities are taking a hit these days as donations are down.

But taking a cue from Mr.  Anim-Sackey, the time to consider the welfare of others even as we pray for our own salvation may be, curiously, the best time to share the wealth.  It doesn’t have to be in the form of a huge monetary donation.  We usually always have a half-hour a month to set aside in the service of others; be that serving food to the homeless, tutoring a struggling student, or collecting clothes to clad our far-flung relatives. 

Anne Frank may have put it best with her simple reminder, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”

Sharing the wealth may ultimately reap riches on us all.

To learn more about the other inspirational folks delivering our mail:

www.nalc.org

What’s Brewing?

 The nectar of the gods, java, cafe, morning joe, espresso, capuccino, latte, mocha….call it what you want, it’s one of the most addictive substances on the planet, yet completely legal and more often than not in our society, a necessity.  I know for myself personally I can’t even face my day without a sip of the stuff.  Almost ritual-like, it’s part-and-parcel of my very existence in the morning and without it I might as well go back to bed.  And that leads me to my next thought on the subject, purely random, I know,  yet quite valid…….how many coffee cups are in my cupboard yet how many do I actually use?  It’s  no lie to say that I’ve probably collected almost 50 vessels for my beverage of choice, and that’s not even starting to count the probably hundreds that have passed through my life up to this point.  I’ve got enough mugs on hand to host a coffee klatch of which any self-respecting hostess would be jealous. 
What level are you?

What level are you?

I’ve got the obligatory hand-me-down 1970s mugs from my parents’ house (yes I still have them all these years later), cute cat images on bone china, a mug I won by writing a winning essay on a website, various cups documenting my interests (from living in San Diego to having pet rats), the obligatory collection of employment-anniversary mugs (together my husband and I have five), one huge “cup” that could double as a soup tureen, and my latest acquisition, the Coffee Hound mug I just got from Goodwill a month ago.  Check it out…

Coffee Hound Mug Coffee Hound Mug

What attracted me to this mug is not the outside (which is cute enough) but rather the amusing graduated-line demarcation inside.  Depending on how much coffee you pour into this mug, you apparently are designated anywhere from “Kid Stuff” to the more likely “Coffee Hound” level I start off with each morning. 

Now this mug, according to some websites dealing in antiques, apparently dates anywhere from the 1950s to 1960s.  What I liked about it was its whimsy; the suggestion that ones personality somehow dictated what volume of the brew ended up inside.  Clearly even 40 to 50 years ago, the addiction to this magical beverage apparently warranted the making of this cup.  Now while most coffee back then was made at home in percolators and sipped at the Formica kitchen table before dear old Dad went off to work, it seems we’ve come full circle. 

Consider this statistic.  In the last quarter of 2008, Starbucks sales went down 97%.  It seems that as the economy took a tumble, so too did the extravagance of sidling up to the local barista for a daily latte.  According to the National Coffee Association, home brewing went up 5% at the same time, as folks revisited the joys of sitting with their spouses and kids prior to leaving for the office.  The benefits of home brewing, aside from the purely economical, also seem to expand into physical well-being.  Coffee can even be good for you.

On the WebMD website, it’s mentioned that “at least six studies indicate that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s, with three showing the more they drink, the lower the risk. Other research shows that compared to not drinking coffee, at least two cups daily can translate to a 25% reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80% drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and nearly half the risk of gallstones.” 

I’ll drink to that.  In my Coffee Hound mug, of course.  Topped off at the Hound level, thank you very much.

Goodwill Hunting Volume 2

The New Hot Store in Town

The New Hot Store in Town

What has amazed me is the national media just now getting on the junktiquing bandwagon.  All of a sudden what some of us have been doing for years has transformed into the New Thing To Do. 

Now it’s not just the thrift store Regulars haunting the aisles, but a whole slew of newbies are entering these hallowed halls, some out of curiosity and others more likely out of necessity.

And it’s our job as Regulars; the old school players of thrifting, to show these rookies around. 

According to MSN money’s website, author Melinda Fulmer notes the following,

“Driving this boom at the nation’s estimated 25,000 thrift and resale stores are big jumps in demand for clothing, especially work clothes such as dress shirts, suits and skirts, says Lauren Lawson, a spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries International.”

It’s no longer the diehards in the aisles.  It’s all of us. 

So to the Regulars, if you see somebody sporting a bewildered look as they march through the doors of your local Goodwill, take the time to clue them in to some important tips.

It’s not likely that some of these venturers will know how to navigate the aisles, how to spot a great bargain, and, most importantly, how to hang onto the item they discover and not put it back on the shelf, as one fact remains true of thrift stores.

There’s not a huge back-stocked inventory of duplicate items in The Back if they aren’t fast enough to grab what catches their eye.  And while this may prove frustrating at first, remind them that once they’ve got over this shock, they’ll actually find a vicarious thrill in whisking special treasures in their cart, drawing longing looks from other co-shoppers. 

And by the way, remind our new friends that if they find a fabulous coat, groovy pair of jeans, or smashing pair of heels, they’d better get it right then, because it won’t be there if they leave and change their mind.  Had I heeded my own advice a couple of years ago, I’d be snuggly warm in a gorgeous wool jacket rather than borrowing my husband’s slightly moth-eaten parka for another season.

So whether you’re a old-timer scouring the shelves for another trinket or a thrift store virgin, have some fun, relax, but be sure to hunt wisely and well. 

Since we’re all in this for the long-haul, like it or not, we might as well have a good time and help each other out.  Isn’t that what a compassionate society does after all?

Welcome, friends!

http://tinyurl.com/thriftstorescore

Let’s Get Cooking!

Just grillin'

Just grillin'

One of the many benefits of shopping at places like Goodwill, besides the obvious price-point issue, is that many times you can update your kitchen and literally feed your inner Rachael Ray just by paying close attention to the cookware aisle.

Check out this pan. It’s an All Clad 12-inch grill.  Borrowing directly from the Amazon.com website, the description says it’s a “high-performance grill designed with a heavy gauge, hard-coat anodized aluminum exterior for efficient, balanced heat conductivity and long wear. Quantum-coated nonstick interior. Solid-cast stainless steel handle. Carries the All-Clad limited lifetime warranty.” 

Sounds great doesn’t it?  If you only had the $49.99 in your pocket, plus shipping!  And that’s a bargain, compared to other sites, which list it as high as $89 and above! 

Now most of us these days can’t shell out this kind of cash for such a fine piece of cookware.  But as this lucky Goodwill shopper found out, with a little perseverence, occasionally these gems can be unearthed beneath the stacks of plasticware and mismatched cutlery.  What did I pay for this fabulous All Clad grill?

Three dollars.  Yes, you head that right.   For a whopping three George Washingtons, less than a footlong sub at a famous restaurant, I whipped that bad boy into my cart and home faster than you could say panini sandwich! And was this beautiful grill in a sad state of affairs to find itself wedged in between an old turkey roasting pan and a juice extractor?  Nope!  Probably because it was an All Clad, it was sturdier than its less-expensive counterparts and able to withstand the trip to Goodwill most likely jumbled in a large donation box.

See, thrifting is not what you think.  With a little patience, knowlege of product value, and luck, sometimes the most amazing things can come into your life that up to now may have been cost prohibitive.  Sure, we’d all like to be able to trek to the local gourmet cooking store and walk out with thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise, but as I see it, that trend is morphing into one of a simpler outlook.  Now even those on the most modest budgets sometimes can come away with items of superior value, intrinsic or otherwise. 

So next time when you’re in the market for a new frying pan, swing by your local Goodwill.  You just might be amazed at what you find.

Bon appetit!