Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Shopper in Me

Now those of you who actually know me, know how frugal I am.  Got this from my mother and father; my father was the King of Thrift when it came to food, and my mother?  My mother was a terrific shopper and so was my sister, and so am I.

There is something I'm allowing myself these days (since I'm only taking care of me) and it is clothes shopping in real stores (NOT thrift stores).

Now Lord knows I have nothing against thrift stores and much of what I love has come from them, but after years of buying my clothes in them, I want to shop like normal people.  Certainly it was self-imposed, but, except for all my shoe purchases and the occasional Macy's sale, I told myself I had to shop thrift.   It was a sure-fire way of saving a significant amount of money on our limited budget by NOT "splurging," and for me, shopping retail was splurging.

This in sharp contrast to my sister-in-law who could be considered in the last decades of her life to have been a true shopaholic.  After her death the amount of clothing and accessories to give away was staggering.  Closets, drawers, storage bins filling her bedroom in New York, and her home, the attic, the barn, and the loft in Connecticut  an absolute massive quantity of goods, all very excellent quality  absolutely none from a thrift store.  Maybe a thing or two from a really upscale consignment shop  she would delight in telling me the great "bargain" jacket she got for $400 ("It cost eight- or nine-hundred new!") and I would smile and shake my head.  

When it comes to bargain shopping, the women in my family take the prize.

I went shopping and while I can't say I needed these things, I sure did enjoy shopping for them.  

I got (counterclockwise):

a white mock turtleneck, a black mock turtleneck, a black sleeveless mock turtleneck, an orange & black leopard Jennifer Lopez turtleneck (hear me ROAR), three Dana Buchman tops in assorted colors and prints (I am wearing the pink & silver trapeze top in the middle as I write), and an Apt 9 black & white tortoise print peplum blouse...

and the grand total for all eight tops?  Drum roll please....

Yippee for me!

I'm very glad to say  my daughter seems to have inherited the trait.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I've Gotta Have Art

I know I wrote that I've been living without all my things and that it was really the little things that mattered, but truth be told, I DO need some art in my life.   

While the place I'm staying is surrounded outside by natural beauty (I will show you one day, but today it's overcast and not the prettiest views), inside I felt I had to change the wall decor.  Though prettily decorated it didn't speak to me so I made a few small changes so the art would better suit me during this period.

The existing painting in my nicely appointed room is of Rockport, Massachusetts where my friend spent many a vacation. Below it, I hung my newest Wallace Nutting.  Unlike my other Wallace Nuttings, it is not a hand-colored photograph.  Found in a New York thrift store, it appears to be a very ethereal and dreamy watercolor, and yet it has his copyright mark on it, so I'm not sure.  I only know that when I came across it  in a box of small framed things in the Council Thrift Shop on East 84th Street  I was ecstatic.  

Together these two pieces (hers and mine) form an idyllic scene that greets me first thing when I sit up from sleep in the morning and makes me smile.

Then I head to the dresser and facing me I now see this brightly painted canvas of a lush garden scene and beside it a little Indonesian statue of a man carrying in a cup of tea.  For the bulk of my married life, my husband brought me my cup of coffee every morning, allowing me to awaken while still in bed.  It was a lovely gift each day but he stopped this ritual a year or two ago.  

He never said why; I never asked; we never discussed it.  When I see this little guy I can imagine this is my morning drink.

And the final adornment in my room is this colorful frame in which I put three "business cards" from one artist, plus one image of a flower, Bells of Ireland, I cut from a calendar by the artist Neil Seth Levine. [If you go to his site, please check out one of my favorites, Banksia, under Images, page 3.] 

Next to this collage, stands my sweet Chinese boy strumming his lute and this vignette is the last thing I see when I turn out the light every night.

Interesting that I have two statuettes of foreign men guarding my boudoir...

Monday, July 20, 2015

MY CBS Sunday Morning

Yesterday I watched a segment on CBS Sunday Morning (my Sunday ritual) about a college student who chose (as part of an assignment) to spend one hundred days of facing every fear she had, in the hopes of conquering them.

This young woman had a lot to conquer.  Holding a snake, eating insects, letting a tarantula crawl on her hand, jumping out of a plane, flying the trapeze, even frying food!  

Well, I'm not going to go THAT far, but I guess on some level this journey I'm on is about facing my fears.  Not physical fears (though I sure have them) and not practical ones either.  For me, at this point, the fear was all emotional.

          The fear of staying lonely in our relationship.

          The fear of being a failure at my marriage.

          The fear of losing some part of my kids' love, respect or connection.

          The fear of leaving the life I've been leading for so many years.

          The fear of facing it all on my own.          
          The fear of never finding what I yearn for.

When I was a kid fear ruled a great part of my life.  The fear of how my father could react or what my brother would do or what the neighbors or my teachers might find out, all of these everyday fears kept me in check, kept me in hiding for many, many years.  Little Mary Sunshine was filled inside with dark clouds and stormy skies and the unconquerable fear that it all might implode at any moment and there was nothing, nothing, nothing I could do to stop it.  

That was the world of my childhood and it was the emotional baggage I carried around with me all the way on into adulthood.

Michelle Poler  the subject of the conquering 100 fears story  having tackled the task she set herself, proudly summed up what she had learned by saying:

"Everyone can face their fears and enjoy life to the fullest."

Perhaps that is exactly what I'm hoping.

Friday, July 17, 2015

It's The Little Things

I don't know about you, but when I look around I see how stuffed my life is with things.  

For a long, long time, the things were a symbol of so much for me.  Having things meant I had possessions of my own.  The plates, the trees, the quilts, the state-shaped ashtrays, the Reagan cards, the pottery, the people-portraits  all held meaning for me and gave me a measure of happiness.

This isn't my platter. I couldn't take a picture of it 
because I don't have my platter with me  
but you get the idea, don't you?

When I was in 8th grade, I left my parents' dry cleaners to go and look around in a shop of oddities that had just opened next store.       In this narrow shop that smelled of things dusty and antique, there were many wonderful and interesting pieces  and one was within my reach.  It was an old oval platter with an intricate blue-and-maroon patterned border that was crackled but pretty, and looked very regal to me.   When I looked at this platter, I imagined that I would some day have a house, with a dining room and a table, and that one day, this platter would sit there in the middle of that table, my table, surrounded by people who would be talking and laughing and eating my food.  I spent a hard-earned dollar for that platter because of the riches it gave me.

From then on, I gathered things for my someday-future.  A time when I'd be away from the shouting and the banging and the hollering and the breaking of glass at home, and the oppressive heat of the dry cleaners with its acrid smell of cleaning fluid and our sweat as we handled and tossed and hung and bagged and carried the suits and the pants and the dresses and the blouses that were other people's fancy clothes.

Gathering things was a great pastime for me.  Sometimes it was in the search  the hunting for something I wanted to own, or something that spoke to me from a shelf in a shop or the wall of a store.  I pictured these things in my someday-home.  Other times it was about being able to buy the things, being able to physically spend the money on objects that were wants, and not needs.  And then other times, it was happiness in the pleasure these artistic things and how wonderful it felt to be surrounded by such things of beauty.

Much of my adult life I rejoiced in my things.

Now, decades later, for the first time I'm living without all my things!  Not only am I living without those things, I've even begun selling them off, giving them away, and trying to zero in on what my husband wants, what our kids might want for their some-days, and what I truly want for mine.

Most of my friends can't believe that I'm living this nomadic existence with only a bunch of clothes and little else.  I have no explanation for this shift other than to say that it's no longer the things that can fill me.

I'm looking for something else.

In the meantime, I have with me a little thing that I have carried in my travel bags for the past eighteen years whenever I've gone away from home.  A tiny gift card from my son  because this little thing means a lot.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Most Extraordinary Thing

I was putting on my lipstick looking in the bathroom mirror (getting ready to go out to eat and play bingo  NOT in some church hall I might add, but in a very nice bar/restaurant) when it struck me.

I didn't have a SINGLE solitary negative thought in my head.

Not a one.

It was the most extraordinary thing.

Whenever I'm looking in the mirror, here's what I'm saying:

           "You look SO old."  

 "Your hair looks awful."

             "Look at your skin."

              "This outfit makes you look fat."

I have been criticizing myself in the mirror  any mirror, every mirror  since high school.

In my family the conversation never focused on what was right, always on what was wrong.  What was wrong with the meal: too much salt/not enough salt; too cooked/undercooked; too tough/wrong texture.  There wasn't enough room at the table; there weren't enough people; so-and-so was over-dressed/under-dressed;  the company helped too much/they didn't help enough.  The house was too hot/too cold.  

Everything and every one was too this or too that.

This critical scrutiny, being on the lookout for every flaw, served me very well as an editor.  An editor needs to constantly search for the existing and potential mistakes.  And  I am an excellent editor.  BUT when one applies this same dissection to their everyday interactions, well, it makes for someone who is very hard to live with.  

Just ask my husband and kids.

The realization that I hadn't a self-critical thought  made me stop and think.  

What silenced that negative voice in my head?

Now a therapist will tell you that things just don't happen out of thin air.  SOMEthing happened that made me have a thought that translated into a feeling that made this change.  Honestly, I don't know what it was.  

I wish I did 'cause I'd bottle it and sell it.

All I know is that I wasn't knocking myself down.  In fact, I even felt I looked good.  

Yes, I still look old, my hair is in a weird stage of growing out, my skin is my skin, and my weight is my weight.  

But on that night looking in the mirror and seeing me, I just felt acceptance.  This is who I am.

Isn't it about time I treat myself as well as I treat others?