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.

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.

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

Parts of a Whole

It's the little things that count

It's the little things that count

We are all parts of a whole.  Like building blocks, one individual block is important but put together a lot of blocks can make amazing things.

Life is like that.  How many of us go through this existence feeling alone, separated from others, cut off and dispassionate?  We live in a world now where it’s possible to never stray outside.  We can order all our necessities online, have them delivered, do research with a click of a mouse, get an education, download music, connect with others on social networks, and self-diagnose our medical problems.  In one way this is very convenient, safe, practical, and for some, the only way to function.  We become mere bytes on a computer, ID numbers on an order form, and quirky handles on Twitter.

Yet how does that ultimately serve our true essence?  We are more than just ourselves as individual consumers, patients, researchers, students, or contributors to Facebook.  In fact, one could say that perhaps with the advent of social networking, even those of us least inclined to venture outside and deal with others ultimately end up doing so anyway whenever we update our status or upload a photo or video. 

Deep down, the human psyche needs to connect; to be more than an individual block, but rather a part of something.  Look at all the organizations out there, from charities, school alumnus groups, sports teams, political committees, and clubs as varied as the NRA and PETA.  Each of us, it seems, finds some way to connect; to make more of ourselves than a single imprint on society. 

As Alfred Tennyson, Poet Laureate for the UK once said, “I am a part of all that I have met,”  so too are we a conglomeration of all our connections in life.  We are parts of a whole;  individual, beautiful parts, powerful by ourselves, yet unconquerable in our collective soul.

Goodwill Hunting

It's affecting us all

It's affecting us all

This economy has taken its toll on all of us, some more than others.  People are taking notice and at 9.7 percent unemployment, more people should take a second look at an area heretofore left to the “fringes” of society….thrift stores. 

Seems that people are having to cut corners everywhere in ways that even six months ago perhaps they would not have imagined.  One contributor to the “Speak up!” section on Goodwill.org says that she’s having to learn how to use her microwave a lot more.  Others must get creative in different ways in order to cope with the widespread financial mess that pervades our society these days. 

Even those of us fortunate enough to still be employed are seeing the proverbial forest for the trees and resorting to venues up to now not considered for our budgets.  In my trips to my local Goodwill, for example, it’s been in the past year or so that I have noticed many different customers coming through the doors for the first time; some out of curiosity and some more of necessity.  Bad economy or not, employment status questionable, it’s still a fact that kids need school clothes and that coffee won’t brew itself in thin air.  Gone is the heyday of cruising the malls and parting with hundreds of dollars on life’s essentials.  Now we’re all having to trim the fat and until this situation improves, I foresee many more folks coming to this previously dark corner of commerce. 

There’s no stigma in saving money; in fact one could say that it is wise to bargain hunt when possible as while there may be some leeway in clothing allowances, the gas bill or the car insurance won’t likely go down anytime soon.  Something’s gotta give.

Check out this interesting article from Goodwill Industries and perhaps you can contribute a story or two of your own.  It’s the only way we’re going to make it these days….by working together and sharing our life experiences.

Come along and try your luck at Goodwill Hunting one day!

http://tinyurl.com/goodwillspeakup

Published in: on 2009/08/14 at 5:48 pm  Comments (4)  
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Books books books

Look within the covers

Look within the covers

I just got back from Goodwill and found some fabulous additions to my home library. It’s amazing that for usually under two bucks a pop, I can stock my shelves with some of the greatest literature, the most informative digests, or the trashiest novels known to man. 

Other than borrowing books from the library, I can think of no finer source of reading material than my local thrift store.  How many hundreds of dollars have I saved over the years by merely taking the few extra moments to peruse the jumbled aisles for a treasure or two?  It staggers my mind. 

I am grateful for stores like Goodwill who see fit to lovingly set up shelves for those of us wanting to expand our minds, learn a new recipe, or just while away a few beachside hours.  Without the tireless work of these charities, I’d hazard a guess that many thousands of pounds of paper, not even mentioning the information written uponthem, would head to the landfills. 

And I am even more grateful to those folks going through their home bookshelves, sorting out what they no longer want, and making the effort to transport these books to their respective charity of choice.  Without them, so many others may not have the opportunity to be introduced to the likes of Huckleberry Finn, Jackie Collins, Sherlock Holmes, Julia Child, and even Maurice Sendak. 

So thanks to  you all, for today I decorated my life just a wee bit more, while parting with less than $10.00 for the whole lot.  I’ll brew up a cup of Darjeeling in honor of your altruism while I curl up in my bookreading chair. 

Now if I could just remember where I put my fuzzy bunny slippers….

Published in: on 2009/08/11 at 10:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Shadow Effect, Volume 2

Can you face it?

Can you face it?

 

Lurking in the Shadows

I’ve just finished watching The Shadow Effect by Debbie Ford. 

Let me pause for a minute while I catch my breath. 

Okay, now I think I can, hopefully, give some semblance of a cohesive review.  First off, let me NOT recommend this powerful movie to the following people:

Those in denial

Those caught up in substance abuse

Those in difficult relationships

Those for whom “change” is a scary word

 

Okay, did we clear out the room?

 

Now let me invite in the following folks, as each would find something in this film of benefit.  These folks include:

Those in denial

Those caught up in substance abuse

Those in difficult relationships

Those for whom “change” is a scary word

 

What just happened?  It seems that this moving piece of art has something to offer to all of us; we are all on our unique life paths yet interconnected in so many ways and all of us are seeking one elusive thing.
Love.

 

For that’s what this film is ultimately about.  Love of those around you, whether they be good to you or bad.  Love of those whom you may never meet.  Love of those passed on.  Love of your family, biological faux pas as that may turn out to be.  Love for the policeman issuing you a ticket for speeding.  Love for the politicians who set policy and law whether or not you voted for them.  Love for the lost, the abandoned, the addicted, the frightened, the imprisoned, the diseased, the forgotten.  Love for yourself.

Why love when the title has to do with shadows? 

Because it’s only through facing these shadows; these demons haunting all of us as individuals and as a society that we can emerge into the light of beauty, transcendence, and love.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a woo-woo video that will make you run for your favorite  metaphysics books.  It has no pretty images of pastoral nature scenes.  Black and white, stark and dusky, this film strips it down to one thing and one thing only.

Do you love yourself enough to face your shadows?  It asks you, “What do you dislike most about yourself?” 

Wow.  Now for most of us that’s a hard thing to face.  Then Debbie Ford goes on to suggest that some of the worst characteristics you see in others is a case of one finger pointing at the offending person and THREE fingers pointing back at you.  Are you projecting your innermost failings onto others in order to make yourself feel better?  Do you find it much easier to condemn others rather than change yourself?

It’s that gnawing tiny voice in the back of our minds that keeps us up in the wee hours.  It’s true, as the film says, 

WHAT WE CAN’T BE WITH WON’T LET US BE.

What does that mean and how can we finally BE in the moment and accept and LOVE ourselves?  Debbie Ford and her incredible contributors remind us that it’s only when we face these shadows, drag them out into the light, accept them, and forgive them and ourselves that we can truly find love. 

How many of us are yearning to find closure, to finally conquer those beasts rising up within us, yet embrace them too and learn from them and use them as a tool to move on and improve our lives? 

In this incredible, beautiful, daunting picture, this question comes up again and again.  Can we face our shadow and instead of hiding from it, try to gain something instead?  This is an important tool for anyone seeking something better for themselves; to rise up and cleanse themselves of past errs and violations, to purge pain and instead clothe themselves in the arms of….

 

Love.

 To purchase the DVD
http://store.debbieford.com/product_info.php?ref=59&products_id=16

To buy the online version:
http://store.debbieford.com/product_info.php?ref=59&products_id=18

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/debbie_ford

Featuring as guests in The Shadow Effect
Deepak Chopra
Website:  http://deepakchopra.com/
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/deepakchopra

Marianne Williamson
Website: http://www.marianne.com/
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/marwilliamson

James Van Praagh

Website:  http://www.vanpraagh.com/
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/JamesVanPraagh

Mark Victor Hansen

Website: http://www.markvictorhansen.com

For the two disc set

 http://store.debbieford.com/product_info.php?ref=59&products_id=17