I had been looking forward to the balloon glow all week. A friend was meeting me and my son. A balloon glow is an outside event, so we could socially distance ourselves from strangers. I’ve been to balloon glows before in a rural setting and enjoyed the contrast between ambient light and the light filtering through the balloon’s fabric.
I had big plans to take some great shots of the balloons starting their glow while dusk was starting to fall. My idea was to use them to illustrate the concept of needing contrast to see certain things. The balloons don’t glow in daylight.
But I didn’t get any great shots. We got there as the sun was setting and there were dark clouds making the sky a dramatic backdrop. It should have been the ideal set up. But my son wanted a funnel cake, so we got into a long and crowded line. As we inched closer to the food truck the light went from being just perfect to being-meh. And the vendor didn’t take debit cards, so we walked away without a funnel cake.
No great photos. No funnel cake. A lot more people than I care to be around these days. (We masked up when the crowd got too close.)
And yet, it was a lovely evening. The weather was perfect, the company delightful and we had a nice bit of exercise walking to the field where the balloons had gathered. It was nice to get out on a Friday evening. Good enough.
Beloved readers-I am so excited to share with you a first for this space: another person’s project. A dear friend of mine recently replaced select portions of her kitchen. She was mindful to make choices that were both ecologically responsible and also pleasing to her esthetic. We will start with the beautiful before and after photos, and then I will share a bit of the history of her home and kitchen.
The stove was in the home when my friend purchased it in 2003, and had become more worn and dysfunctional over time. It had several rust spots that had gone clear through the top, and the knob on the oven temperature selector had broken, so that it took some finesse and/or pliers to adjust the temperature. A simple fix would have been to just replace the appliance. Unfortunately, it was pinned in by the lower cabinets on one side and butted right up to the exterior wall on the other, where a window sill further hemmed it in. If the stove was coming out, so were the cabinets. As my friend began shopping for lower cabinets, the sales people pointed out that if she replaced only the lowers, they would not match the uppers. She considered it, and decided that she did want the upper and lower cabinets to match. The kitchen designers assumed “Of course, you will want to replace that tile.”” Oh No!” my friend responded, “the tile is my favorite element in the house. I don’t want to tear it out!” She would have to repeat this preference to each kitchen designer she consulted, as well as the laborers who came to do the work. The sink was also broken and needed to be replaced.
Also, by placing the stove several inches from the wall and adding cabinet and counter space between, the usefulness of the space is exponentially improved. The home owner splurged on glass fronts for two of the upper cabinets to display some of her attractive dishware. The modern sink is two inches deeper than the previous one and the faucet higher, which also improves the functionality of the sink.
In order to minimize any negative environmental effects of the kitchen renewal, all salvageable materials were donated. The cabinets went to Habitat for Humanity and the stove to a local metal recycler.
No change was made to the flooring, which is still in good shape. Earlier design choices include adding an island shortly after buying the home.
The standard size of shower curtain (72″ x 72″) was not long enough to suit me, I wanted it an 8 ” longer. Fabrics those dimensions at the fabric store cost a fortune. So I kept my eyes open for an attractive sheet set to be on sale. When I spotted one I liked, I kept the pillow cases and fitted sheet for my bed, and converted the flat sheet into this shower curtain by trimming it to fit and adding holes for the hooks.
When I planted these pots in spring, my main two objectives were to bring some native species to the balcony and to block the view of the parking lot. If I look up, I can see the park and some skyscrapers 10 miles away. They both look magical in early light and sunset. The parking lot is an eyesore all the time. But a much loved convenience. I love my assigned, gated parking space so I don’t have to parallel park on the street every night, which city dwellers know, is an urban lottery more emotionally charged than Lotto tickets.
I gently untangled the Virginia Creeper tendrils from the table and chairs and bottom of the railings and wove them through the lattice grid, as you see above.
Notes for next year: the Morning Glories never climbed the rails or grew over 4″ from the top lip of their pot. I had thought that they would out-perform the other vining plants as they are hybrid annuals. Clearly, that was a false belief and next year, I will devote far more pot-soil to Virginia Creeper and Dutchman’s Trousers, which has been vining up the rails nicely.
Virginia Creeper will turn beautifully red in the fall, and hold onto those leaves for a bit of show. I hope to have another update of my fall balcony with a red, pointy leaved screen between me and the parking lot. Stay tuned!
You all have likely heard the phrase “Work hard and play hard!” I must have misheard it when I first encountered it. For the past 50 years or so I have “Worked hard and then worked hard some more.” I was busy working as a nurse and raising my kids and taking care of the house. I thought that there wasn’t much playing going on. But now that I get enough rest every day, I can see that I did mange to sneak some fun in.
I did have fun blogging about cooking and living on the amount of food that Food Stamps would allot us. It brought out my creative nature. And I loved making homemade Halloween (and Latin Club) costumes for my kids. Bonus fun if I figured out how to do it on the cheap. That also brought out my creative nature. And I loved studying about voluntary simplicity and putting into practice the mindfulness of setting down the activities and objects that did not serve us and focusing our time and money on the things that did. That, too, brought out my creative nature.
It turns out, I am an artist, whose medium is a life lived in creative frugality. I feel most free when I figure out what is just enough (clothes, food, furniture, transportation, learning, community) and lean in. And then I want to share what I have learned, to help others find the freedom in “just enough.” The thing is, nobody else’s “just enough” will look like mine. We all have different personalities, responsibilities, creative natures. Just Enough by definition provides for our bodies, our emotional needs, our intellect and our spirit. It will reflect our unique ways of being in the world. It can be useful to study other people who are living their authentic natures, to get a reference for how it looks different than what our culture tells us to do. Our authentic self will not look like anyone else. We can find it by trying new things and seeing if they are fun or meaningful. We can become curious and playful. We can empty our calendars of the events we find irritating and boring. We can rest. And when we are refreshed, we can look around to see what work looks juicy; what play looks intriguing.
And those green toes? Part of the fun is the impermanence.
Those who have followed me for awhile know that I usually do an annual count of my personal possessions each June. Clearly, I am late this year. I’m late this year for two main reasons and probably a hundred little ones. The first is that I have been quite busy with completing the reno of the new condo and also the Master Life Coaching class that I am enrolled in. The second is, after 20 years, I’m a bit bored with it. It takes a bunch of time and I have new interests. So this is the last count. Thank you all who have let me know that you enjoyed these postings! Now, to work.
Clothing is a total of 67 items, including 21 undergarments which are not photographed.
Many of you will remember this black dress and sparkly silver sweater.
Every morning I walk my dog Rosie in nearby Forest Park. I grew up in the suburbs, which was okay, but no match for the splendor of this public space. There are buildings which are remnants of the 1904 World’s Fair. There is a fantastic art museum, miles of bike and walking trails, a restored prairie/savannah/woodland area, a golf course, a cricket field, a open air theatre which hosts musicals each summer and boasts a section of free seats, lakes, underground rivers, a skating rink, a world class zoo and a whole lot more. Forest Park is about 1,300 acres in the middle of a city. In recent weeks I have seen cranes, blue heron, a bald eagle!, a family of white-tailed deer, loads of squirrels and chipmunks. I have been watching a family of goslings grow bigger and take to the water. I have heard frogs and red-wing black birds, crickets, cicadas, other creatures that I don’t know enough to identify. Plus all the usual human noises. I love it!
Sometimes we take a path that is both steps away from three teaching hospitals (Barnes-I was born there, Jewish-I worked in the ICU in the late 1980s, Children’s-my oldest son spent a night there) and this beautiful boardwalk through a wetland. Cranes! Frogs! Water lilies!
This daily walk in nature is so soothing to my soul. There is the physical movement to help process negative emotions. There is the overwhelming beauty of the place that triggers thoughts of gratitude. There are other people and dogs and sometimes music that remind me of my connection to the larger world.
And the water lilies! These beautiful flowers grow out of the mud. Need the mud to blossom. This metaphor is healing for me as well. Yes, there is mud in my life. Messy and not desired. But I can use the mud to grow something beautiful. Sure, it takes more than mud. Sunshine, water, rhizomes. So I can reach out to others for the bits I do not have and we can create amazing things out of difficulty.
More and more, I find myself looking to the wisdom of nature to teach me things that culture has not yet.
It is the rare person who makes it through adulthood without suffering some devastating loss.
I have to remind myself that after the terrible thing happens, and something precious has been irrevocably lost, that life will be good again. In the midst of grief, it feels impossible. But the day arrives when the burden is not so heavy. I look around and see seedlings pushing through the soil or a baby at the grocery store smiles at me.
It does not restore to me what was lost, but it gives me hope for joy and connection in the future. The experience of being hollowed out fills me with kindness for others in suffering. And the connection with others increases the joys and decreases the sufferings.
Thank goodness we have each other. The letting go breaks us and in the loving again, we are healed.
In recent weeks, I seem to be presented with three kinds of problems. The first is the kind of issue where the next right step appears clear and straightforward. You spill the milk. You get a sponge and clean it up. Done. No need for discussion or drama. A fair amount of my time is spent in these kind of tasks.
The second type of problem is something that is beyond my abilities to tackle alone. I might need the help of other people or more research before I can begin to address the concern. This makes the solving of the problem more complex. When working with others, we need to elicit our shared goals and determine our individual roles. This requires dialog, negotiating, feedback and creativity.
The third is something beyond my reach, something that can not be solved according to my current level of understanding.
I have written before about my friend who lives with a serious mental illness. I help her out as I am able. Recently, during an exacerbation of her illness, she destroyed all of her identification. Driver’s license, debit card, bus pass, everything in her wallet. Which made her complicated life even more complicated.
I was able to drive her around to the DMV, the bank, the Metro station to replace all the cards that had been destroyed. [completing the tasks] With her permission, I contacted her psychiatrist to let them know that the current regime of medications was no longer working. Friend, doctor and I discussed the immediate and long term goals of her treatment. We came to agreement on next steps to take and how we could know if they were effective. We agreed on a feedback loop so we would be in communication how things were going. [working with others for common goals]
There are a lot of scientists working to discover the causes and find new treatments for serious mental illness and I read some of what they publish to keep myself aware of new developments. But in the meantime, my friend and I live with the mystery of mental illness.
A friend gifted me this dated collage of Paris scenes. It was left behind by the former owners of her new home and she did not want it. (Really?!) I had been wanting some art on the blank wall at the north end of the living room as this has become my new Zoom background. I wanted something soothing, not distracting, so that when I speak on a Zoom call, what I am saying is more interesting than what is behind me. Am I the only one that sometimes gets more interested in the books on the shelf behind the speaker than the speaker themselves?
I tore this image out of a shelter magazine like Architectural Digest or Dwell. I don’t really remember which one. I like the proportions of the color blocks, but this is a rectangle canvas and my free one is a square. Plus, I’m not copying it, just using it as a starting point.
Did I mention that I wanted to do this on the cheap? And not buy a bunch of resources that I will only use part of? So I used the wall primer that I have been using in the condo renovations, and some of the ceiling paint that is left over and some of the blue paint that I used to create the blue circle in my bedroom (and if you remember, that quart of Robin’s Egg blue I first bought to paint the closet in the apartment. I needed a few more colors, so I bought these:
This is the total cost to me of the painting. All the other supplies were my leftovers from other projects or gifted to me.
When I have done projects like this before, the reactions I get from others tend to fall into two camps. One is “I could never to do that. You are so creative. What a gift.” And the other camp is “What is the big deal? That isn’t art. That is a bunch of paint smears that a troupe of drunken monkeys could have achieved.” My response to those statements is:
I could never do that–You can if you want to.
You are so creative–I am. I have been practicing creativity for most of my life. You get good at what you practice.
What a gift–It is. But it is an exercised gift. If you don’t practice your piano, it doesn’t matter how much talent you are born with. You have to use it.
What is the big deal?–It is not a big deal. People all over the world express their creativity with what ever medium they have at hand. Drums, fabric, paint, orchestras, technology, drama. What is weird is that here, in the world populated by Europeans and their explorer offspring is that we have created hierarchies. There is “high art” and “folk art.” There is big money in the “high” art. I went to two of the “high” art universities. Washington University in Saint Louis (1 year)and the Kansas City Fine Art Institute (6 months.) I still visit Art Museums from time to time, but mostly I find them uninteresting. I could write a whole post on this topic alone.
That isn’t art–Says who? You? I say it is.
That is a bunch of paint smears that a bunch of drunken monkeys could have achieved–Perhaps. Doesn’t matter. I like it and it is on my wall until I get bored with it.
Beloved readers–please tell me how you get creative on the cheap!