Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chasing Christmas.....

There is a book that I want to share with all of you.  I read this book, every year to my classes, when I was the librarian at Parkside Elementary.  It's a children's book by Richard Paul Evans, "The Light of Christmas".  It gives a very clear view on what's truly important, not just at Christmas, but all year long.  Children and adults have lost sight of what the day truly represents...and I too am guilty.

Yes, I am already thinking about Christmas!  Not shopping, but decorating and baking!  I've always been an 'extreme' decorator, at Christmas.  I used to do a different tree, every year.  It was a wonderful challenge to take on; coming up with a new idea each year.  I would not 'purchase' an idea, I would create it.  It's not like I was spending an exorbitant amount of money.  Anyone can purchase decor, there is no creation in that...but to make it yourself...that's where the fun lies!

One year I did a gold fan tree.  I purchased cheap gold glass ornaments from Walmart, but I made a series of different sized fans, out of heavy gold wrapping paper.  The tree was then trimmed in all white was simple, but very elegant.  Eventually as life became busier, i.e. children, I decided I needed to find a tree decor I could live with for a number of years.  I could no longer have a new themed tree each year.

I wanted a tree that felt like 'home'.  I didn't want it to be singular in color or design, I wanted it to feel old fashioned.  I knew I couldn't do the store bought feels very cheap to me.  Sooo I made, by hand, my own garland.  I rummaged for every piece of red, green, and white plaid material I could find and cut 2 inch hearts out of it.  The plaid didn't need to match, in fact it was much better if it didn't.  I stuffed and hand sewed I don't know how many of these little hearts, then strung them together.  I loved that garland, not only was it homemade, but I could tell you where each piece of it's material came from.  This tree is so stuffed with everything from tiny birdhouses to reindeer, to quilted Santas, and lights that could rival Chevy Chase's house.  The final touch is Baby's Breath spread throughout, and the top is a fountain of cranberry sprigs, with a wonderful heart made out of pine cones.  A tree I could live with for a very longtime....

With all this being said, I believe the one thing I've been chasing all those years, and have yet to catch, is the Christmas of my youth.  Again, it was moments from my childhood that rekindle those warm feelings; individual ornaments, distinctive days, special gifts, and time in the kitchen with my mom...and the way my dad always bedded the barn down with straw, for the cows, every Christmas Eve.  He always told me that at midnight, if you were to walk out to the barns, you would find all the animals facing towards the North star.  I never wanted to put his words into question, the idea that an event like that occurred was just too magical to witness, it was just enough to believe!   And I know, you can never go back and capture those moments again...but the 'look', of that time, I can recreate.

I've been on a mission, that's what I call it.  I think Bill might say it's more like an obsession, possibly true...mission, obsession...they're both 'sion' words, let's not quibble over meanings   I had been thinking a lot about our Christmas Tree.  I am in a different house, without my old tree, nor any of my decorations. It's not a bad thing, in fact it's about re-inventing yourself.  We get stuck sometimes, just because of what we have invested...or so we think.  We stay in jobs we don't like because they are paying us just enough and we have benefits (ooo, ahhh), or a marriage because of the years we've spent together, or a decor because you spent too much money on it to do anything else.  Time people, we only have a certain amount of time on this earth...need I say more...refer to the blog before this one!!  I do digress...I decided, or should I say I followed the signs, to do a retro tree, looking for the ornaments of my childhood.

It sort of all started when I found these very cool turquoise colored, glass ornaments, at Goodwill.  They were could I say no?  Then I hit nirvana...Bill and I followed the signs one day to a garage sale, marketed as "Hoarders Estate Sale"....again how could we say no?  Hoarder was putting it mildly, but what great fun to rummage through this amazing stuff!   We found books, go figure...that's another story for another day.  Bill is very into old textbooks...he's a teacher, need I say more.  We found some interesting texts, along with a couple of calendars from the 1960's, with pictures of popular decor of the times.  I want to tear these calendars apart, very badly, and put them into frames...I've not convinced Bill that this is a good idea.  They are in pristine condition, he hates to see them! lol

 So long story short, Bill is paying for his finds of the day (which by the way happened to be a set of leather bound encyclopedias dating back to 1936 ...very cool) when what to my amazement I find a big box that no one has gone through, or priced, and it's full of Christmas stuff.  I start digging through this box...I had hit oil!  Bill looks at me and sees that I have found something.  He walks over, after having unloaded the first round of treasurers, and asks what I had found.  I didn't want to say this too loudly, I didn't want someone else edging into my territory.  I say, "I found stuff"!  He looks at me and shakes his head, grins, and asks, "So how much is this 'stuff' you've found?"  I shrug my shoulders, I've no clue, but I didn't grow up around horse traders for nothing.  I told him to give me a minute.  My objective is to get one low price for this entire box!  The people running this shindig have to go into their house and bring out the all knowing soothsayer of pricing...grandma I guess.  She tells me she didn't even know they had this box..."Let's see what's in it!" I am thinking noooooo, don't go through this, it's rainy, you're old, you have no business bending over that far to dig in this box, it's just not healthy or wise....AND I DON'T WANT YOU TO SEE THE ANTIQUE ORNAMENTS!  Well she digs through the entire box, I remain silent, not wanting to appear too excited.  She then stands up and says, how 'bout $25.00 for the lot, and I say DEAL!!!   Bill hands her the cash and we are off ornaments in my lap, doing Show and Tell for Bill, as we drive through the quiet Amish country had been a good day!

Well that's how it all started...Hoarder's Paradise, it's been downhill from that point on...or actually uphill!  I've found some great buys on Ebay, and at a wonderful second hand shop in Ligonier, Indiana.  I've a growing collection of  'stuff'!  Now I doubt I will see this tree in the same wonder as I did as a child...that's child magic, and once you are an adult that magic has passed, but you can remember the feeling!  In fact, I was sure some other world lived within my Christmas tree, if only I could shrink down and experience the life that lay beyond those branches...and who knows, perhaps it does if we believe hard enough.  What I do know is this...I will look at these ornaments and remember moments...those moments are the real treasures, the gifts we hold onto for a lifetime.

I'm looking forward to finding more of those gifts locked within some old ornament.  In the meantime I will keep up the the end, even though this is not a memory of mine, I will probably go looking for one of those old aluminum trees of the 60's, for our 60's know the one with the color wheel.  It will be a second tree, we have to have a real one to put gifts under.  Bill has to experience his Christmas, in Indiana, with the tradition of going out into the snow, on a horse drawn wagon and cutting your's pretty Currier and Ives!  But life is all about experiences!

And another book before I forget, one that will make you cry, especially if you loved your rocking horse they way I did...."Rocking Horse Christmas" by Mary Pope Osborne!  A great book for the holidays!

Think about your childhood Christmas' and what makes your favorite memories so special.  Which is better, Christmas Eve or Christmas daughter and I both agree Christmas Eve, it's all about anticipation for us!  Oh, and stop throwing out your Christmas trees the day after Christmas.  It's like seeing the death of Christmas all along the roads...just a personal pet peeve!

Enjoy the journey my friends...Halloween is on the shelf, Thanksgiving is that middle child that gets forgotten, and Christmas is already starting to make an will be here before you know it!

You Can't Buy Back Time!

“My sorrow, when she's here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; she loves the bare, the withered tree; she walks the sodden pasture lane.”   Robert Frost 

A wonderful makes me pensive...along with the cool dark days, and the rain of fall.  My rather pensive mood has led my hands to jot a few thoughts about the amazing season before us.

Autumn has a way about her, she feeds fire to one's soul.  Fall is pure magic to me.  There is something about the way winds shift, and the leaves fall, it's as if the season knows something we do not.  

Summer has a way of dulling one's senses, especially if it's a rather hot summer.  It seems to drag on and you long for cooler weather.  It's so funny, and so slight the change, but suddenly as if a switch had been turned, everything starts it's metamorphosis.  This brings out the baker in me...I made wheat bread and fresh peach pie yesterday.  The girls, my daughter, and her best friend made chocolate chip cookies after school. The air just feels different, the sun starts to slide, the sounds and the would not need a calendar to know it's Autumn in Indiana.  

I grew up on a 200 acre farm; 100 acres was nothing but woods and wetland.  I was enveloped by the seasons.  I experienced it with every sense possible.  Time moved so slowly as a child.  It's such a shame that we have to become responsible adults.  As a child I remember planning wonderful birthdays for all my pets.  Mud cakes, grass salads, and horse tank water.  Say what you will but my German shepherd never complained about the food.  ;)   You would wake and take the day by storm, and you would not stop until you fell into bed that evening.  

My woods was my "other world".  Anything I could imagine lived in that woods, and I could be anyone I chose.  As soon as I climbed the gate or ducked under the electric fence, my world transformed.  It was also a place of great solace.  I do not think there is a church where you can be as close to God as you can in nature; in the very essence of all that he created.  

Interesting story about solace....I grew up on the back of a horse as well, practically learned to ride before I could walk.  I started showing competitively at about age (8).  Competitive I was, I had a fierce training schedule...because I liked to win!   Horses are no different than athletes, you can over train.  Whether you know this or not, animals get bored.  Horses can become what we call "ring sour".  You suddenly start to have issues with them that were never present before; they just appear.  I had an amazing paint mare that I showed.  She had been through some heavy training, was doing wonderfully, but then started to have an 'attitude'.   A dear friend, and AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) judge, came out to the house one night for dinner.  I told him what my mare had been doing, and that I didn't understand why.   He asked about my regimen with her, how much time I was spending in the arena, etc....  He said I think she's bored, she needs a change of pace.  He told me to not set foot in the arena for a month.  He wanted me to spend the next 30 days doing nothing but trail riding in the woods.  I was appalled, 30 days with no ring work...OMG!!   Dad agreed with the with was like Moses coming down from the mountain, I now had my commandment to follow.

You know what, I needed the change as well.  She and I started spending a couple of hours in the woods each night.  We ran the hills, jumped logs, played in the swamp, and dodged Deer flies.  We were both having fun again.  You could feel her joy out there, in the could feel her excitement underneath you when she saw a hill, she knew I was going to give her her head and let her run.  Her eyes would dance, unlike anything I had seen in her before.  

After a month of just pure fun I came back to the arena and found a different horse.   We were different together, we had bonded differently on our rides in the woods.  She was right there for me, did as I asked her to do, and never complained  once.  I made it mandatory that we would ride at least one or two nights a week in the woods.  

We all need that downtime, it's why kids need a summer break.  As adults we seem to have the idea that if we are resting or enjoying ourselves, we are somehow less than, we are being lazy, non-productive.  If I've learned anything this past year, it's about reconnecting with yourself, learning to let go of other's expectations.  Think back to a time when you were most happy...what was it that made that time so different from the now?  Chances are you were doing exactly what you wanted to do, you were living in the moment...the now.  I bet you weren't concerned with what others thought, you weren't caught up in a bunch of man-made rules.  
Sooo what is my point!  I do digress...  Autumn traditionally is a time to gather in the harvest, and prepare for winter.  It's great time for reflection as well...what seeds have you sown this year, what harvest will you reap.  I will say that I do not buy into the saying, "We reap what we sow".   I have to tell you, with my farm background, what we reap has a lot to do with the weather as well.   A favorable climate can do wonders for rather poor soil and cheap seeds!   (That line should be the title of a book on the education system..don't even get me started!)

Take time to sit by a roaring fire, wear wonderfully warm woolen sweaters, pick apples, rake leaves, walk through a pumpkin patch, smell the crispness of the mornings and evenings, embrace the rain, bake, and dance in the wind.  My hope for you....favorable climates no matter what you've sewn, and the chance to truly enjoy your harvest.    

Oh and by the way...I've found another woods, a beautiful place, in Howe Indiana!!  Bill and I go walking or running, depending on our mood.  The trails are beautiful, the parks dept. need to be commended on this park.   Pine Knob in Howe, check it out...but don't tell your friends, it's a nice secret right now and I like it that do the animals!!  ;)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Life in Moments...

Moments.... Life lessons do come in the smallest of moments.  The difficult part is recognizing them when they happen.  A little orange chair, that we rescued from the middle of a field, has given me back myself.  In order to understand this journey you must first understand where I started, and where this chair has been.

The chair... As fate would have it, our road, the one in front of our house, was closed this summer so that we could have a new bridge, one that we didn't need...but that's another story.  This forced us to use new roads into civilization, thus putting us on our path of find our orange chair.

We live in the country, in the middle of Amish country, so the picture I am about to describe is rather unique to this area.  As I ponder this I would suppose it would be unique to most areas.  This was one of our normal trips into town, the very big town of Sturgis Michigan.  We probably were heading into Walmart, I don't quite remember why we were on this road trip.  As we are traversing through the back country roads, about 3 miles from our house, we happen upon a field of furniture.  It was like a pasture of cows, but not, it was furniture.  Now being the brilliant analysts we are, we thus deducted that perhaps they were getting ready for an auction, and we left it at that....

Two weeks later we are once again heading out to the big city, and our brilliant minds are a bit perplexed.  Our field of furniture is still there, looking a bit haggard.  We have had a lot of storms and rain this summer.  Inside furniture is inside furniture for a reason.  Once again we surmise that perhaps they have already had the auction and these were pieces that did not sell.  We will find out later that we were correct in that assumption.  Assumptions do not always make an ass out of u and me, sometimes they are quite on the money.

This furniture is starting to interest us.  We start to wonder what will happen to all of this furniture, will they simply pile it all together and burn it, or leave it to rot.  Now my time frame may be a bit skewed here, but rest assured my companion in life will correct me once he reads this.  However as we speak he is working on getting into peak physical condition while I sit on my butt and write. :)   I will estimate that it was approximately one to two weeks later that we once again journeyed back out into the world.  You might ask why we venture out so often, or maybe you don't care, but I need to tell you anyway...because we have, what some would term, an addiction!

We are addicted to Goodwill, used furniture stores, thrift shops, and Salvation Army stores.  Mostly it's Goodwill though...why you ask?  Frankly it's like new age treasure hunting.  We are the "new" explorers in a very old world, looking for unwanted treasures.  We have found some of the most wonderful pieces.  Pieces that truly have meaning to us.  Pieces that bring us joy, and that's how the orange chair came to be.

We are on our way back from Goodwill in our red pick-up truck, another find!  We call her "The Red Baron"...Bill has this plane and flying obsession; this truck sort of sounds like a plane taking off, and I think he feels very close to flying when he drives her.  The Red Baron is our partner in crime on these little excursions, because without her we couldn't haul half of what we have found.  She is very important to our little operation.
Anyway, I digress.... We are on our way back and we pass the field of furniture, which I guess could be called a field of memories.  Someone once owned these pieces, they were important to someone at some point, but as people become sidelined and discarded so does their furniture. But for us it's now a field of possibilities.

You will never believe what we see but a "Garage Sale" sign.  It's all we need, it's our door into the realm of this mystical field of furniture.  As it turns out, a very old house next door, was someones relative...I couldn't quite keep up with the relations.  Suffice to say that the person in this old house had passed away and apparently she was a hoarder!  Let's just say that there is still furniture in this field and they are still having a garage sale, well over a month since we first stopped by, if that tells you anything about the amount of junk they still have!  Junk...bad word, treasurers..yes, they still have a lot of "treasures".

We ask about the field of furniture.  I will put it to you this way...I heard $1.00 anything in the field, that's all I heard.  It was like some magical incantation was coming out of her mouth.  I had hit nirvana, and Bill could see it in my eyes.  He just smiled and we headed out to the field!  I saw this amazing old wooden chair and before words could escape my mouth Bill said, "It's coming home with us isn't it?"   I know I must have looked like a kid in a candy store, I just shook my head and nodded yes.  Now Bill really is not any better than myself, in fact, in some cases he's much worse, i.e. books...that however is a story for another day!  Bill is looking at this little orange lassie, sitting there all alone, and the only color in the entire lot. He calls me over to look at this little gem.  It's orange, it's orange...he has a rather soft spot for orange.  He remarks about the Asian design in the pattern,  on the vinyl, covering this chair.  Now this poor little chair was very dirty, it had set out in all kinds of weather, in a dirt field!  I have to say though she was well made, and still in pretty good condition.  And she did tricks too, both rocked and swiveled, which delighted her enamored fan, Bill!  I was thinking orange, in our house, orange?  I figured we could find a place for her somewhere...and for a $1.00, why not.  Karma...that's all I am saying...when we were both finished picking out our chairs to adopt we were 13 in all.   Bill said, "I have like $8.00 in my pocket, how much cash do you have?"  I had one $5.00 bill, we looked around, counted up our chairs...13, and we had $13.00.  It was meant to be...fate, destiny, call it what you want but we were in the zone!

The minute we get home we unload our chairs, except for the orange one, which Bill leaves on the truck.   Methodically he gets his bucket and cleaner, and starts to work on his orange chair.  I jump into the fray and help to scrub the weeks of field dirt off the chair.  It's cleaning up remarkably well.  After it meets inspection by the two of us, it is now "house" ready.  We take it in and put it in a little room we are calling the library.  As I look at this chair, and I mean really look at this chair, I fall in love.  I looked at Bill and said, "You know what this chair needs, a zebra print pillow!"  The next day it had a zebra print pillow for it to hold!

This chair has made me re-examine what I have around me.  A dear friend of mine, upon seeing my former house for the first time, remarked that it was not what they expected.  I know now why he said that, because the person that he saw was not represented, and I mean the essence of who I really was, in that house.  I fell into the trap of decorating for others, majority rules!  The rule here, in the Midwest, is country, country everything.  It's like country came and threw up on Northern Indiana.  I realized I had been living my life based on someone elses rules rather than my own.  We have all of these rules bestowed upon us from the time we can begin to understand words.  Did you ever wonder where these rules came from and why we have them.  I have always been perplexed by the bra.  I am here to tell you I hate bras.  It does create a more pleasing affect under clothing, and I am all for perfecting the form, or at least the illusion of a perfect form.  ;)  But to say you have to wear a bra because it's proper.  What, proper, where does this stuff come from?  It goes much deeper than a bra but I'm not sure today is the right day to start down that road.  But it's like mowing your grass, how many of you are ruled by your neighbor and their lawn. It must be manicured down to within one inch.  Bill believes that Hoosiers are manic about their lawns. (Bill is a California native, but we don't hold that against  I do see his point, his perspective is interesting.  Lawn tractors, in Indiana, represent power.  Mowing is taken very seriously here.  You know, at best, we only get a few months to cut and perfect the grass!  Perfecting to the point of annihilating every weed known to man.  Frankly, I like dandelions I always have, since I was little.  They are adorable yellow carpets in the spring, and then their fluffy fly away seeds are just magical in the right wind.  But society tells us they are bad, evil in fact, and we have a entire shelves of chemicals to prove it!

This little orange chair made me realize the color that's been missing from my life.  I have no one else to blame but me!  My daughter is all about color, and my son has a room, that I decorated for him, entirely Asian themed.  I free handed a Ying and Yang mural on one of his walls.  What the hell happened to me?   Second guessing yourself, and trying to fit a mold you were never made for is what happened to the catalog life.  You want your life to look like the pictures of perfection you see in catalogs and magazines.   Look around you, can you honestly say that your furniture brings you joy, does it have meaning for you?

So how has it changed my decor (big smile on my face right now)...I love the 60's, and the 70's!  But I don't want to just have all of one theme, because we aren't one dimensional, our likes aren't either...well maybe some people....I shouldn't go there.. ;)   The orange chair room aka library is 60's, or becoming, everything is always evolving around us.  I need that constant evolutionary process, I like change, it feels like you are always growing through change. We have this totally cool lamp via the Salvation Army for $2.00, a steal!  A "I don't know what it was" thing.  Don't laugh, it's true!  Bill thought perhaps it held those little acrylic paints found in craft stores, for display purposes.  I thought it was some kids discarded 4-H project.  It was well made, totally virgin wood, and waayyy cool.  It is now an awesome 60's "I don't know thing", but it looks great sitting beside the orange chair.  I will put up pictures, you have to see to appreciate!  The point is I love what this room is becoming, and for the first time in a long time I could care less if anyone else likes it or not.  If they think I am nuts then so be it, nuts is not so bad, it means you have not been assimilated by the norm.  Bill and I have these jokes about being assimilated into the's a Star Trek thing.  However it carries a pretty powerful statement.

I realized that I don't really like country, I liked it because everyone else did, and I am so not like everyone else.  What I do love is antiques!  They have stories and history, but that doesn't mean I have to have a green checked country couch to go along with it.  I have a 1962 turquoise Wolfe and Dessauer Cantebury House sofa, like new, that found us.  It was born the same year I was, and it still looks great.  Bill's great uncle worked at Wolfe & Dessauer, a Fort Wayne landmark, as an accountant around 1910.  Connections my friends, connections...see how it all starts to flow when you listen.  I don't think there is a day, that at some point, I don't say, "I love that couch!"  Because I do love it, it makes me happy when I see it!  Bill just laughs and says he loves it too!

So while I have been restoring old furniture this summer I've been restoring myself as well.

Everyone needs to find their orange chair, let go of the rules, and live the life that makes you smile!

I will tell you later where my journey journey to find my soul.  But I will leave you with a quote, that was posted today, fate...I'm just say'in!

Whenever you judge anything, try a small experiment: try to find out who has given you this idea. And if you go deeply into it, you will be surprised: you can even hear your mother saying it, or your father, or your teachers in the school. You can hear their voices still there resounding in your memory, but it is not yours. And whatsoever is not yours is ugly; and whatsoever is yours is beautiful, it has grace. OSHO