Friday, May 30, 2014

Last Day of School (with kids)

It is here.  Delayed  a week by Snowpocalypse, the last day of school with students is here.
Not to be confused with the last day of the school year, which is on Monday, the last day of school with students is the sad one.

Every year, no matter what day it falls on, after the day, I feel a wide space open up.
I think this is typically called free time, but it is more than that.  Because I am in a helping profession, it is not just freedom from busyness, but is also a freeing of emotions.
And that can feel sad.

So I wrote a list.
I brainstormed things I am looking forward to doing after today.

I hung it in the living room so when I wander there aimlessly (this happens when acclimating to summer break) I see exactly what I am anticipating doing. 

This is my incomplete list for June, July and 12 days of August.
What are you looking forward to?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Everything Falls in the Toilet: a Weekend Project & Solution

I have a bathroom problem.
There is terrible little space.
The area between sink, toilet, medicine cabinet, and radiator is minimal.  Inches.
And my habits in getting ready in the morning render opening the medicine cabinet difficult.

On multiple occasions I have dropped important things in the toilet.
My toothbrush, for instance.
The replacement toothbrush, for another.

Understandably, I dislike fishing things out, which means I needed to come up with a way to contain makeup and toiletries that isn't on a very narrow ledge.

And here my solution has been staring at me for months.

Enter tea canisters.  
I love these tins, and in fact I love all boxes, so I greatly increased my tea intake to warrant purchasing more.
Bravo tea company, you got me.

Now I thought on my problem this morning and realized have many many empty tins (about 8).
I imagined a few different ways to suspend, elevate, the tins this morning.  One thought involved tension rods (it didn't go well on the test run) another 3M hooks.  

Apartment living, and trying to do no harm to keep your security deposit sure does help 3M doesn't it? Remind me to get their prospectus this summer to check stock options. 
I decided some discrete tea cup hooks would work best.  The holes (if properly placed) won't show up in an inspection. 

One of the good things about me being me is, I had everything I needed already:
An imagination.
A surplus of tins.
A Hammer.

Do you have those?  Good... let's get started.

First I drove a nail through each tin.  I poked about 3 holes per tin and you will need the metal to be up against a hard surface, if it isn't the sides will dent.  I decided to nail it on the back porch to utilize the crack in the boards.
The hole (if you are poking out) will make the metal around the hole sharp.  File it down if you have kids or are prone to accidents. 

Then I drove a nail in the medicine cabinet shelf to make twisting the hook relatively simple.  Depending on the wood, you may need to use pliers.  
Make sure that the hook will clear the wall when twisting before starting the hole.  It may seem like I am talking down to you, but even if your spacial skills are keen pretend to rotate the hook first, then start the hole.  Trust me. 

If you've made the hole in the tin 1.) large enough and 2.) close enough to the top to accommodate the hook, you're in business.  Everything is smooth sailing from here on.


And 25 minutes later, if you got distracted by texts, making coffee, or misplacing your hammer multiple times (it happens) you should be done.

I gave this a vote of confidence and then stood on the toilet to show you how logistically this is a difficult bathroom setup.

I can open my cabinet now!

Harney & Sons, you have been instrumental in helping me get organized and stay sanitary.
I salute you.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bright Spot(light) on Gretchen

I have this friend, Gretchen, who amazes me.

We have known of each other, then were acquaintances, then friends over the course of 6.5 years.
At every phase of our knowing each other, I have cocked my head to the side and thought, how is Gretchen who she is?

She is a joyful, honest, hilarious, comfortable in her skin, and brave.
She is one of the friends that often makes me think, "how did I get to be around her?"

I'm the battle stations girl.  The one who can tick off 5 worst case scenarios given any one circumstance.  
I'm scared of heights and the edge of things, so jumping off of them is not even an option.
Not Gretchen.

She is embarking on a journey overseas in a week.
I've traveled overseas, but not this way.  Gretchen will be gone for at least a year.  
When I heard her say a year I quickly wrote on her to do list, "come back to America" under "get stuff done."  (I'm good at writing lists.) She could just go and go and go.

Inline image 2

That is not to say that she has no map.  Gretchen's map is her heart and she listens to and follows it closely.
From leaving a corporate job, to work at The Journey church, to leaving her staff position, to throwing herself into clean cooking (and cooking well) at home then making a spot for herself cooking and serving at Juniper and now Element, Gretchen has stayed on her heart path.  

I've been honored to know her in these transitions and see her off now.  
She's funding her trip here: 

I hope if her story moves you, you'd contribute.

And I got to sit down with her to ask questions I already know the answers to, just so I could quote her.   
Because dear readers, I want you to hear from her.


When did you get the idea to travel overseas?

(We debated the year, and settled on this answer.) 

About 1.5 years ago. 

What prompted you to think of traveling?

The idea of knowing my job wasn't a good fit. And after quitting my job, not being sure what I wanted to do next. I knew I didn't want to jump into another serious 9-5 office-job. I was interested in culinary arts, but also saw this next chapter as an opportunity to do something I never took advantage of (or could afford) when I was younger - and that was travel. I don't have the responsibilities other 30 somethings do (no debt, no morgage, not married, no kids)so why wouldn't I do it? All of those thoughts prompted dreams of travel. 

When are you headed out?

June 2nd I leave for London, but first I am going to Seattle May 28th.

(At this point Gretchen uttered a Gretchen noise that has layers of excitement and nervousness coated in frenetic shell.) 

And how long will you be traveling?

(I shot her a look of horror.)
I have a one way ticket and will hope to be gone at least one year.

What will you be doing there?

I will be volunteering at places.  I found a ton of websites that connect host families with volunteers.  You volunteer 4- 6 hours a day for room and board. Like WWOOF: ( 

Help Exchange: (

And where will you be volunteering? 

Organic farms, hostels, bed and breakfasts.  I broadened where I would be volunteering. Originally I was looking only into organic farms because I am interested in sustainability. My first month I'll be in Paris helping a lady move into and decorate her new apartment!  Next I'll be volunteering in Italy at a vacation lodge that's also a working farm. 

That's called agritourism right?   

Yes it is.

I thought you were going to to that exclusively. 

I don't know much about gardening so I wanted to learn more about that. Obviously, I'm into slow food and local sourcing, so the whole organic farms idea (like what WWOOFing specifically is) was on my radar first. Since I started planning, I expanded where I'm working to non-organic. 
It's overwhelming the amount of opportunities that are out there. I don't want to limit my time in Europe to strictly working on farms, and I've discovered there are many more volunteer opportunities out there outside of just farming!

Overwhelming is one word for it.
I had to cut the interview short because Gretchen perhaps most limited resource is time.  
She's selling her car, renting out her apartment, canceling insurance, doing phone things, and selling/ storing all of her possessions to make her dream happen.

Meanwhile, all I know to do is to watch her jump and soar, and tell others to watch and possibly support her. You can find and follow her blogged adventures here:

I hope you enjoyed this first Bright Spot(light).  Gretchen truly is a Bright Spot to watch.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Adding Beauty

I woke up feeling brittle today.
Sad is a better easily defined feeling word, but brittle, able to break easily says it better.

I wandered around my apartment, read, moved one strange thing: a single bead, a paperclip, a glove, a power drill, from one unlikely spot to another.

And then I heard my good friend's voice in my head.  It's what she says to me after I've been dumped.  Yes, she's developed a line for that.

How will you put beauty into the world today?

Indeed.  How?
I wandered around more and out onto my back porch and spied my wall.
It's been heavily pooped on lately, because some black birds have nested and are in a family way there.

Sadness. Determining to end, halt, delete, or bypass it typically doesn't work.  It leaves a void.  And sadness is a kind of void, so the antidote isn't in cessation.

What seems to have a lasting impact is the manner I address sadness.
Shifting my thoughts toward beauty means then that I can add and contribute.
It assumes I am worthy and capable.
It says, you can do this.

But how?
The poop gave me an idea of what to do.

It also reminded me Madeline L'Engle's book A Two Part Invention.  In it she writes:

I come across four lines of Yeats and copy them down:
But love has pitched her mansion in 
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not be rent.

The place of excrement...How do we walk through excrement and keep clean in the heart?  How do we become whole by being rent?

I had a thought on how, found my flower pot sidewalk chalk, and set to work.

A flower pot of sidewalk chalk?  Yes.
Again, I have unlikely things in unlikely spots all over my apartment.

I set to work and clearly I am not able to do Mary Poppin's worthy sidewalk art, but the exercise broke into some of my thoughts, which was the point.

Here is my wall of doodles.  My chalk is at the ready and is now stationed outside for the next time.

Now, dear readers,
How will you put beauty into the world today?"

How do you "keep clean in the heart?"

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Weighty Matter

Do you think about math often?
I bet you do.  Let me prove it.

Yesterday I held up an archaic bathroom scale in my class.
I asked my students, do you know what this is?

They did, and then I kicked it up a notch.

What does this thing do?

And my beautiful student gave me her best answer.

It tells you what number you're standing on.  

Oh to be 100% right and 100% wrong all at once.

It's not who you are.
It's not what you aren't.
It isn't that you are too much or too little in this world to be loved.

It's the number that you're standing on.

Frankly, I needed someone to tell me.  And then tell me again.

So if you are staring down at this thing that is telling you about your heart, and being, and loveliness (and if you are a person, you have let this happen), then
Let me tell you and tell you again: it's what number you're standing on
and you can't be defined by one number.

Friday, May 2, 2014

My Vow to DIY An Upcyced Photo Booth After the Big Day

Did you know I work at weddings?  Surprise!  That's right.  I am a wedding assistant.
It's a job with many perks one of them being a insider look at The Big Day.
Can you imagine seeing people at their most stressed and (hopefully) most happy moment week after week?
Like I said, it's definitely an insider look.
Writers like that sort of thing, collecting snap shots of humanity, personality, quotes.  I get excited just reflecting on it.
But much as I would love to share some of those moments, I won't.  Not till I think it all out and make it tasteful and worthy of the vows these couples are taking.

I would like to talk a moment about things.  Talking about things is much safer than talking about people.

I have been surprised by how many things are created, labored over, displayed and then forgotten after the couple leaves.  Bows, petals, candles, ribbon.

It makes me cringe a little, being dedicated to recycling and up-cycling what I can.  I have a business idea swirling around in my head to help fix this conundrum, but for now I just whisk what I can aside or out of a trash can and try to find it a home or suitable purpose.

My reputation is spreading. I thought my diverting these items from landfill doom was discrete, but when I arrived to a wedding on April 12th, my coordinator said, if you want those flower balls, the bride doesn't want them after today, so you can have them or sell them or whatever.

Let's call these flower orbs, so that I might sound more lady-like for the remainder of this piece.
They are huge Styrofoam balls impaled with assorted creamy white flowers.  And when I looked outside to see if I did want the flower orbs, I saw them being blown about by the wind.  They looked like the tumble weeds of heaven.

Though I had no idea how I could use them nor do I want to begin a life as a flower orb hoarder, I agreed.  I was convinced I could sell them or give them away somehow.
I started to doubt this when I loaded up two industrial sized trash bags with flower orbs.

And a few weeks ago, I got a perfect opportunity to use them.

I had pitched an idea for the Shop 'Til You Drop fundraiser for The Covering House months earlier that we should have a photo booth at the event to capture pictures to promote at later times and to help boost the non-profits visibility on the Internet, specifically social media.

The only difficulty is, I don't know how to make a photo booth.  Also, I didn't want to spend a lot of money.

At some point, my creative spirit was stirred up and I thought...what about all of those wedding decorations? (By all I mean the orbs along with the isle runner I had snapped up and donated to my school's creativity
closet, where it lay untouched.)

These were my materials:
a tension rod (which I found somewhere)
isle runner material
fishing line
flower orbs
hot glue
a sharp object (mine was a stick)
duck tape
2 3M hooks (new)

Unlike photo booths I have seen in the past, I wanted the clothes of the event to be the thing that popped so my creamy neutrally colored materials were perfect.

First, with the help of my friend Natalie, I hung 2 hooks on the wall.  (If this is your space, use nails, hooks, etc, but we were borrowing it and needed to do no harm to the walls.) Wait an hour for the hooks to adhere/ set and do other things.

I decided to make the backdrop out of the runner to help give a clean look and absorb possible glares.

I used hot glue to create a pocket and cut the panel to be ridiculously long so it could be trimmed later.  I made and used 2 panels.
Then I ran the curtain rod through them.


Now for the orbs.  

This is one of the smaller of the spheres.  
To prepare them for hanging, I found a sharp object and plunged it through the center.  This took some doing.  The Styrofoam was much more dense than I had anticipated and it's a ball so it was rolling all over the place.  It felt a little violent jamming a sharp stick into what I know is not living but...I didn't document this step.  Because it felt icky.  
P.S. If you are making a flower orb and then hanging it, good luck to you.  You are a dedicated person.  Tell yourself that when you are about to give up.

After I made the hole, I sent another long dowel rod through the hole after having attached some fishing line.  I had to duck tape the fishing line to the rod and then pull it through.

Finally, I attached the line to a pencil by tying it 3 times and then taping it.  On numerous projects I have had this nylon thread undo its knots, and I needed it to stay hanging for more than a day.
Slipping?  Not on my watch.

I can't say that this part was pretty, but you can easily cover it up.

Think function not form on this step. 

And then cover up your unsightly but stable pencil/ stick/ ruler/ paint stick/ lollipop (anything that is longer than it is wide).

Repeat until you question if this is worth the time you're investing.  
Also watch something that will keep you rooted to your job and distract you a bit but not capture your total attention, because you could stab yourself.  I tried out The Good Wife.  It worked for me.

Make sure your line is again ridiculously long.  
I made this without knowing the space well, so I needed to make sure I had slack.

I was very fortunate that I had pipes overhead at the space.  I flung the threads over the pipes, (nice and sturdy!!) and then created a huge loop attaching it at the bottom of that dreaded unsightly pencil. 
It stayed put.

If you don't have conveniently placed pipes, use hooks, nails, or 3M hooks (buy ones that are made for the weight you need).  

My trooper of a friend Natalie helped me with loops, holding the ladder, and gave moral support as well as manufactured opinions about orb placement.
By the time we were nearing the end neither of us cared about the appearance anymore.

But this is what it looked like in construction.

I can't say it enough: it's important to have helpers...  
to give you that look that keeps you going and to be there smiling with you when the job is done.  

*Point of fact, my cat wanted me to stop and was trying to thwart and halt all photo booth production as it was cutting into our hide and seek and fetch times together.  But that doesn't sound as poetic and hopeful as I like to be in an ending sentence.