Monday, February 25, 2013

#10 Books

My story: One of the longest love affairs that I have had is the one that I have had with books. My first memories as a toddler were that of my mother reading to me. Later, I often would hang upside down from an old tree branch and read my favorite books. I probably read “My Friend Flicka” a hundred times in that position.

Since then, the gratitude that I have for them has expanded profoundly. They have taken me on adventures beyond my wildest dreams. Even the not-so-good books that I have read equally present a different perspective on the world around me. Really, I can’t think of a book that I have read that hasn’t added some sort of depth to this, my human experience.

One of my very favorite days of every month is my book club night. On this night, a group of dear friends share their unique perspectives on one common book. Through books, I learn more about the people that I love. By keeping them on my shelves, people who love me will also get a glimpse into my experiences.

My dream-home is a library of books, music and art. I really don’t care how the structure looks, I just want these things within my walls. Even though I have converted to the Kindle and mp3’s in a lot of instances, there is something comforting about the ambience of a real paper book - the smell of the ink, the yellowing of the pages.

The truth: The majority of the books that I own will not be read again by me. They have already provided so much, and I am dishonoring them by not providing them to others to read. They are collecting dust. I can represent myself through discussions rather than things. The majority of books that I read come from the library, and my house certainly does not have to become one!

My action: 120 books lighter so far. Some of the books have been donated to the neighborhood used bookstore, others went to the thrift store. My favorites were given (or will be given) to friends who I know would enjoy the read. I kept only the ones that I will read or refer to again, and will make it my priority to get the ones I saved to their new homes.

One of the books that I kept was “Material World”, a photo journal by Peter Menzel. He went around the world and took pictures of families with all of their stuff outside of their houses. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Please borrow it from me! This is something I have kept in mind through this project so far. What would my yard look like if all of my stuff were on the lawn? 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

#9 Grandma's Quilts

My story: My grandmother was one of the most incredible women I have ever known. She developed a spunk that I adored after enduring a life of hardship. After surviving a very difficult childhood in the depression, she married my grandfather, who she met at the Ford factory where she worked on the assembly line for over 40 years. He left when my dad was only 8 months old, opting for a homeless, alcoholic life without them. She never received a nickel of child support while raising my dad, all the while being shunned by the small-town folk for being a divorcĂ©e. She married again when my dad was 16 to a war veteran with a young son. Even into her 90’s, she lived on a large farm, grew all of her own food, and delighted on making huge meals for her family. She also a most magnificent craftswomen and artist, constantly hand-sewing gorgeous quilts for her family.  Snuggling next to her as she sewed, it is a favorite memory of mine to hear her laugh when she would let me stay up late to watch “Hee Haw” and "the Johnny Carson” show. A lot of the patterns on the quilts are made with scraps of cloth that she also made dresses and aprons for me. I still can picture her delight in watching me wear them.

Her quilts are a comforting and warm remembrance of that time. Precisely six stitches per inch except for her name that she scribbled roughly, exactly as her handwriting. I sometimes catch myself gazing at her signature on these brilliant tapestries, and miss her so much.

The truth: I have only one bed, minimal closet space, and many of these quilts. Most of them, although gorgeous, are not on display because of space constraints. All those hours she spent making them, and they are pitifully folded at the foot of my bed on the floor.

My action: I gave a few of them away to family members who can use them now, instead of waiting for me to die so they can inherit them! I wanted to keep them with the people that can also remember her laugh when they look at her signature. I kept only the ones I will use and rightfully cherish.   

Sunday, February 10, 2013

#8 Creepy mink stole

My story: Somehow, I inherited a mink stole from my grandmother when she passed away in the early ‘80’s. It represents everything that is contrary to my style then, or now, or ever. I have no idea why I have moved it to from basement to basement since then, except that it was presented as valuable and a symbol of my grandmother whom I adored.

Thinking consciously about it, I don’t know why I think it is even a symbol of her. I didn’t even know about it until she died and it was in my hands. I never saw her wear it. It kind of blows my mind that she even owned a fur at all- she was such a lover of animals. The story behind it is lost. It does bear her monogram on it’s lining, which to me is the best thing about this coat.

The truth: The clear fact of the matter is that I’ve never worn it, the very thought of wearing it completely grosses me out! I can still love her without carrying this thing that does not even represent her, but her era. I’m in a dilemma as to what to do with it, my greatest desire is donate it to some animal with no fur!

My action: When I took it out to give it away, my daughter saw it for the very first time. She agreed that it would be hard to wear. Because it has some monetary value, I gave it to her anyway, advising her to sell it for money to help fund her schooling in Greece. When she agreed to sell it, but to raise money for the local animal shelter instead of herself, she made her mama proud. I'm quite sure her great-grandmother would be, too.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

#7 Bears

My story: When I was a kid, I went to an amusement park with my sweet cousin, Greg. One of the arcade games had those huge teddy bears as prizes, and I wanted one so badly. I had forgotten my “fun-money” so I borrowed a quarter from him for a chance to win one. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I threw the small wooden disk and it landed right on the top of the bottle.  The largest panda bear was about ¾ as big as I was at the time, wrapped with a big red ribbon and was now mine, all mine! This was the morning, and I lugged him around for the remainder of the day and into the night. It was so hot and humid outside, and carrying the bear was an equivalent of wearing a winter coat. It was also probably pretty entertaining to watch me ride the roller coasters and ferris wheels, clinging on to my new stuffed friend. I skipped some of the rides because he wouldn’t fit with me, and stood back and watched as Greg took those rides.

When we got home that night, Greg just started bawling. When we asked him what was wrong, he said that I had stolen the bear, it was rightfully his because it was won with his quarter. After much debate (and, I’m sure, bratty responses from me) my parents decided that he had a point, and made me give it to him. My turn to bawl! I couldn’t believe that my sweet Greg would do this to me, especially after I’d hauled that damned thing around all day.

He apologized several years later, and was forgiven way before that.  Just a few months ago, I received a package from Greg, stuffed to the brim with black and white teddy bears, ceramic bears, even gift cards to Panda Express, as an added hilarious symbol of apology.

The truth: I’m really not that fond of teddy bears anymore, even though these make me smile every time I look at them. My dog eats stuffed animals, so I can’t put them anywhere where she can see them. The old me would have held on to all of them for years because of their sentimental value, the new one won’t. My house is little. My love for Greg is big. That won’t change if these adorable little guys go to someone that will rightfully cuddle them!

My action: I gave the bears to my dear friend Tk, who had lost a favorite stuffed animal the week before. I hope they bring comfort and warmth.

When I was writing this piece I thought so much about the power of apology and forgiveness. I realized that although I had forgiven Greg, I had never acknowledged my own part in that conflict. Had I acted out of love instead of greed at the time, I would have handed Greg the bear the second that I won it. So, my other action was to forgive myself for being a greedy kid and not acknowledging his feelings that day.

Monday, January 28, 2013

#6. Dave Brown stuff

My story: I loved Dave Brown with all my heart, pretty much since the moment I met him. He was loving, gregarious, smart, creative, animated, flirtatious, romantic, attentive, expressive, handsome, curious and downright hilarious. He was a storyteller, and even if the story he was telling wasn’t that poignant or funny, it was applied with perfect delivery. Followed by a laugh that I can still hear today, even though I haven’t physically heard it for so long.

Between us when things were good, they were really, really good. From there, they were kind of good, and then it spiraled into not so good. Okay, by not so good, I really mean devastating.

I once shamed myself for not correctively diagnosing the depression that he was living with when it was kind of good. But a lover’s responsibility is not to diagnose, their mission is to love. That’s what I did, and that’s what I will always do. Not a counselor, I am a lover.

There are some objects that I still carry from that time, things I made for him when we were together. But, they are only with me because they made sense to me, I was the only one left on this Earth who knew what they were created for.  They were created from love, and how do you let go of that kind of thing, even if you are the only humanly voice left from that union that knows?

Some times, I think that by holding on to his things, I acknowledge and honor his existence and preserve his history. Other times, I think that I am not acknowledging his wishes by holding on. He didn’t want to be here, why would he want his stuff to be here?

The truth: The things I made for Dave were made for him as a representation of us, not of me. It makes me sad that I have them, they have brought me absolutely zero joy, and haven’t since I got them back. They made perfect sense at the time, but do not apply to the present. They are heavy in sadness. Hanging on to sadness is not healthy. My home is my sanctuary. Even if they were out of sight, boxed in my basement, they still carry an energy that does not belong in my sanctuary.

My action: Gone, gone, gone. I am so much lighter. In addition, the copy of “the note” hit the shredder, which is exactly where it should have gone 15 years ago.

Deep breath out…ahhhhhhh.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

#5. Gumby!

My story: Gumby is the first toy I remember owning. It is the oldest possession that I have that started out as mine.

It’s a miracle that I owned him to begin with. My parents had a real issue with advertising and the messages that they portray. They would not buy (or let us buy) anything that was advertised on tv. This sparked my fascination of marketing psychology, it’s kind of rebellious I chose advertising design for my career of choice.

Along with Pokey, he provided countless hours of entertainment and comfort. I used to gnaw on him when I was bored or stressed. There are teeth marks all over him, and his arms have spindly wires coming out of them. Pokey is no longer with us, after I bit his legs completely off. A collector would not be impressed. Nom, nom, nom.

The truth: Gumby has got to go. He represents the beginning of a lifetime of accumulation, and is not the better for wear and tear.

My action: I brought Gumby to an asana yoga retreat this weekend, as my totem of things that have passed. A symbol of my dedication to letting objects go that no longer bring me joy, that clutter my sacred present space, I surrendered him to the altar. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

#4. Clothes, clothes, clothes!

My story: They say that we only have one body and to treat it well. The truth is that we have several bodies in our lives. My toddler body looked little like my adolescent body, and I do not carry even one cell that I did 7 years ago. I still have clothes that belonged to many of my different sized bodies, thinking that some day I will be able to wear them again.

In the “dungeon”, I have boxes of clothes are from a time that was so unhealthy.  I was going through a divorce, raising two young children and working for a company that was going under. I was devastated, so stressed out that I couldn’t eat. This resulted in losing a lot of weight in a short period of time. That was the closest that I have ever been to what many people in our society consider to be the most desirable weight. This was confirmed by the greetings I would get by friends that hadn’t seen me in a while, saying “you look great!” I remember thinking in return, “how can I look great when I feel the worst I have ever felt?” I was a red-hot mess, but received the most compliments on my appearance that I have ever gotten in my life.

As I began healing from that trauma, my weight adjusted to what was more normal for my frame size. I hung on to the clothes thinking that I could shed the weight someday in a more healthy fashion, and maybe also be complimented for being tiny again.

The truth: I will never be that small again unless I am terminally ill. In reality, I never, ever want to be that size again! I don’t want compliments for being frail, only for being a healthy, vibrant, unique, authentic me. Even if they were a realistic size, they are so outdated. For crying out loud, half of them have shoulder-pads. They have to go!

My action: I am ridding myself of every piece of clothing in this house that doesn’t fit, is outdated, doesn’t make me feel good, or that I have not worn for a year. It’s all going to a thrift store. 

Along with the clothes, I’m purging any negative thoughts that I have about my body because it does not resemble Barbie. Mine is far better, serves me very well, and is all mine! It will be another body some day, and I promise to welcome that one in with a more accepting and loving attitude.

#3 Luggage

My story: As an avid lover of travel, I have acquired so many suitcases and travel bags over the years, it’s ridiculous. I have one for nearly every size adventure that I could ever dream of going on!

When I see them, the set that my parents gave me for my high school graduation present still make me smile. What a great gift they gave me as they sent me out into the big world. Here it is when it was new, when I could fit all of my belongings in that bag.

An hour after this was taken I was on a Trailways bus, departing to my new life in Colorado. Note that this was before they invented suitcases with wheels! How things have changed since I was 17!

One of my favorites (that I do not use) was given to me by my grandfather. I love the vintage style, and have often thought about repurposing it into an art installation or a piece of furniture.  It reminds me of him, and the adventurous spirit that I inherited from him. 

The truth: Even though I have so many sizes to choose from, I always use the same one when I travel, no matter how long the journey is going to take. I have learned to travel lighter when I take trips. It makes getting around so much easier!  It’s my goal to travel lighter in the rest of my life, too. Most of these are just gathering dust in my basement. Crap, my luggage has turned into baggage!

I have to be honest and say, if I haven’t made my art installation or furniture after having Hud’s suitcase for over 20 years, it probably isn’t going to happen.

My action: I gathered all my suitcases that I don't use and donated them to take to a thrift store that raises money for people with developmental disabilities. Some of them were in such poor condition they went to the trash. Nobody is going to buy a suitcase that is held together with duct tape, ha! Almost all of them still had remnants of the last trip that we took together, which I have either thrown out or added to scrapbooks. These  possessions are not needed to remind me of the profound gratitude I have of those adventures. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#2. Rose Heart Wreath

My story: When my daughter was eight years old she spent every other weekend at her dad’s house, and more often in the summer. That year she planted and grew a beautiful rose garden there, one that she was quite passionate about.  I remember how painfully hard it was to be away from her, and how much I would look forward to her return with an update of her “award-winning” roses. She would go into thorough detail about every one of them.

At the end of the summer, she presented me with a wreath that contained every single one of the roses that she had grown, dried and arranged in a heart. She was so excited to give it to me, so proud of her achievement. It was among the sweetest gifts I have ever received, made with such pure love.   

It still makes me smile, such a beautiful reminder of that time and of her love. My daughter, on the other hand, HATES it!  She frequently tells me how kitschy it is, how it embarrasses her that I still have it hanging in my house. She begs me to get rid of it, and even thinking about doing that is really hard. Everything molecule in my sappy soul tells me that getting rid of it is wrong, which is why it is still on my wall.

The truth: Nearly 15 years later, the rose heart wreath is not holding up so well. The color has faded, and petals fall off every time I close the door that is near it. It’s a dust magnet, and because it is too fragile to dust, it’s getting kind of germy. My daughter is living with me temporarily, and I want her to like the space where she lives. If I get rid of it, there will be a space on my wall that can be filled by one of her brilliant paintings. It is just a thing. She is the everlasting gift that continues, even if this symbol of her goes away. Plus, dead things are really bad feng shui.

My action: I took a picture of my favorite gift and am posting it here, just in case I ever want to visit it. The roses are in the trash, the “frame” is at a thrift store. I hope that another daughter finds it there and makes a new gift for her mom, one that brings her as much joy as this has brought me. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

#1. My Horse Collection

My story: When I was a kid, I was obsessed with horses. Not a liking or a fancy, it was a full-on obsession. Nearly all of my school assignments were decorated with sketches of horses that I had doodled in the corner.  The bed where I slept was surrounded with a plethora of horse figurines that my friends and family had given to me.

I can’t believe I am admitting this to the world, but there were actually days where I woke up and decided that I was going to be a horse that day. Seriously, I would get around on all 4’s, never standing vertically for the entire day! My dad would turn pink with frustration when the only conversation I would exude was a neigh or a whinny. My mom would defend me (to him) as being creative, not strange, and would gently ask if she could brush my mane. 

Here is a classic photo that highlights that time. Yep. I'm saddled up and raring to go!

Later in teen-hood my best friend, Geoffrey, would con me into scooping horseshit and scrubbing stalls in exchange for riding one of his gorgeous quarter horses. He wouldn’t even help! In his defense, he would provide amusing company and play excellent music as I did his chores. Occasionally he would show up on horseback at my house in the middle of the night, leading another horse that I could ride. With his tap on my window, I would slide out into the night, together we would ride for hours under a breathtaking moonlit sky.

This is what my horse collection symbolizes to me.

The truth: I have not even looked at my horse collection for years. Their poor old plastic/porcelain/copper bodies have been wrapped in newspaper, taking space in a box in my basement. They do not represent who I am now - unless you believe Carl Jung. He believed that the horse stands for the mother within us. Even with that belief, I have more significant, living symbols of that trait. Ones who aren’t taking up space in my basement!

My action: I am incredibly pleased to announce that the Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center has agreed to take the horse figurines that are in good condition. They will give them to kids with disabilities at the end of their ride as a memento of their experience. They will be adored again, definitely even more, I am so happy!

This probably does not sound significant to most, but it is kind of a big thing to me that I threw out the ones that were broken. There are a lot of things like this that I have that I think will make excellent art projects in the future. I see their potential, but realistically do not follow up with the action of actually doing it. Gone. Released to higher pastures!

My final action is believing my mother. I am creative. 

(I'm not sure why this image is so small, but you can click on it and make it bigger)

24 Things Project

Can’t believe that it has been nearly 3 years since I have contributed to this blog! I have reduced, but have neglectfully failed to journal, or even think about the reasons that certain physical objects that, for me, are hard to let go of. My intentions were divine; my outcome, not so good. Thankfully, this day gives me another chance for positive action.

Inspired by this website (thank you, Amber!) it is my renewed project to give away 24 things that I have been saving for significant reasons and/or an unusually long time, but have not been using. Time to really clear the clutter, journal the stories, break the habit of saving things that would be more useful in the hands of someone else. I expect this introspection to be both painful and hysterical, ultimately gratifying and freeing. So excited to travel 24 things more lightly!