Thursday, May 29, 2008
That is me, in my other happy place. The first one, where I'm in a Weezer video, is great and all, but I really like to shop at antique or flea markets. The above image was taken years ago, by Steve, at Round Top. Then he left for the beer tent and let me keep shopping. Ah, bliss!
These days, it takes a lot out of me to get to that happy place, literally. Admittedly, I have my dream job in a cute store where every day I get to handle great things. It's just that I like being out there, exploring the potential, not the existing.
Nowadays, it takes more planning for even a simple flea market outing. Organizing. Behaving. Modifying. Shopping used to be more impulsive, but I have a different relationship with it now. It's more about fishing than hunting - though that doesn't quite explain it.
Let's talk about it this way.
Last weekend was the occasion of the Christie Antique Show. One of the reasons that was a good one to trek to with the family was because it's in a fantastic area. That's something to consider, you know, because four year olds HATE flea markets. There's nothing but table after table of frustration there for them - a litany of "don't touch" and too many toys that aren't for kids anymore.
There's also now way I'm going to get there for 8:30 am. And no way I'm going to get to see everything. My mantra that day was an old one revived from days when I was employed more professionally: "Lower your expectations!" (That's a great mantra for retail. Also: "Strive for mediocrity!") It's easier to modify myself than to expect my family to sigh in chorus with me over every flake of gorgeous old paint.
While there were some things that almost followed us home...
...such as this darling kitty priced at $15 .00, the only thing we bought? $3 popsicles. The kitty was tempting, but embroidery was missing and she had stains and I knew Josie would love her for the day but not for ever. However, if there had been a Steiff fawn, I'd not have hesitated even one heartbeat.
We made a day of it. We'd packed a picnic lunch, and found a grassy spot under a tree where we could have a break from the hubbub of the show. Two fawns hid themselves in the grass nearby, waiting to find out if we were friendly humans or not. So, I unpacked the basket, and soon the larger fawn decided I was friendly. Soon she was eating trail mix, bread and cheese and dried apricots out of my hand!
Though she was still shy, and I often had to persuade her to come back.
There was a lake in which to wade...
And after, she was content to be pulled around while I tried to see if there was anything we couldn't leave without.
One particular booth caught my eye.
Aesthetically pleasing retro kitchen stuff galore! And you'd think I found some kind of orgasm-inducing kitchen object, there, right? Something that floated my boat? That I bought it and carved our initials in a tree and married it and now we have darling little enamelled/gingham/darlingly illustrated babies? Right?
No. I was able to walk away from the $55 sifter.
We headed back to the car.
Josephine was so tired, she fell asleep within minutes of leaving the parking lot, nodding off with her hand just about to get another pretzel.
And it was fine that I didn't find anything. Fine that I only came away with things to think about.
I'd been mulling over my love of flea markets this past week, as I've known that Jen was going to present the spiritually rewarding side of previously enjoyed objects as part of her lovely new endeavour, Bliss Notes. I was honoured to be asked to contribute.
You see, my days are often all about objects. It often seems that all I do is pick up something, clean it, and either replace it or move it elsewhere - so the item had better be worth it. That's part of my job as a mother, and as someone who runs a funky little store with a lot of stuff. For all their physical space, they also take up a lot of room in my head.
In working on the Mighty Project, I've been helping a friend to become more mindful of belongings. Even as I sorted and moved my own along, the real work was discovering where the pleasure came from, and how it could be sustained without the items themselves becoming a burden. Photographs aren't the answer - feelings are.
I strongly feel there's enough "stuff" in this world. That, as it's said in Funky Shui, "...that generic art from Pottery Barn is squeezing out space for your own precious memories" and "Be reminded of your trip to the Bahamas, not the last time you shopped at Bed, Bath & Beyond".
It's why I oppose a Smart!Centres development in our neighbourhood -- the world doesn't need more shoddy goods.
I understand that some people *cough cough Jen* are a bit nervous about buying previously enjoyed items, and there are many who can't get their mind around any used items as having as much or more value than new. Which is why, as I must admit, since I've been outed, that I've reserved a blog under the name of Fussypea, where I can talk about the items I'll be offering for sale in various outlets. One such place is Pantry, where one of my dear old friends, Liz will be carrying a selection of vintage greeting cards and aprons. I'm also rolling ideas of Etsy around in my head, kind of like I'm powdering a donut. We'll see.
The idea behind Fussypea is its tag line: Carefully Curated, Practically Perfect, Very Vintage. The items branded under Fussypea will personally chosen by me, and offered as seasonally changing or themed collections. They are guaranteed to be in amazing, if not perfect condition for their age. They will be vintage, not reproductions, likely focused on post-war and mid-century small items. And each and every item is something I'd be proud to give as a gift, or would buy all over again. I cannot offer a more heartfelt condition of sale. My goal is to introduce the idea of buying lovely old things to people who would never otherwise think of doing so -- kind of like cool hunting. So, if you're not one to meander into a dusty little shop with a lot of stuff, where some of my other items sometimes end up, it's having the items find their way to you, instead of the other way 'round.
I like how the Bliss Notes find their way into my inbox - bringing thankfulness and lovely thoughts to mind, and hope more people discover how sweet it is to have mindful thoughts of abundance, balance and beauty. I hope that someday something from Fussypea finds its way to somebody, and brings the idea that there are wonderful old things to be discovered, if you're just opened to them - because the world is full of them. Just as Jen frames a beautiful picture with her Bliss Notes, I hope to showcase not just the objects, but the ideas that accompany them.
So, there it all is. For now.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Within ten minutes I could see exactly how awesome it was going to be for her, and how much and how well she'd learn.
One idea we brought home was as simple as this:
A box of salt.
It's perfect - for any kid, but especially for Josephine, who loves kinesthetic learning. The ability to erase as if performing a magic trick - a clean slate with just a shake - is brilliant. Making letter shapes with objects then repeating them with her fingers - fanf*ingtastic! She and I were able to sustain a "game" where I wrote a letter and she repeated it. I wrote words, we sounded them out as I did it and she guessed them. We talked about what other things that we could use besides salt, and how some boxes at the school had coarse salt; some fine. And what is salt? And where does it come from? I can't believe that in four years I never once thought of doing something this simple and yet so enthralling for her (and me). That's what good kindergarten teachers are for, I guess.
Then, she decided it was a snowy field for her little plastic reindeer family to play in, and was absorbed for the rest of the night with that, which wasn't as fun for me. So, I quit after a while and moved onto mommy things like the neverending laundry and perpetual kitchen tidying.
But since then I've been thinking: I cannot wait to see what else I'm going to learn in kindergarten.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Boo Boo: Ehrmmm...excuse me. You! House- woman!
Marla: What's up Boo Boo?
Boo Boo: Well, I was going to tell you about something, but then I got all distracted by the incredible amount of Basset Hound snot all over the glass door. It's like you have hot and cold running Basset slobber in this place. It's unbelievable.
Interrupted by Molly: LOOK! THERE! THERE! AT! THE! DOOR! ONE! OF! THOSE! GUYS! EATING! BOO BOO-AHOOOO'S FOO--OO--AH-OOOOOOOD!
(Marla locks Molly behind the gate, and resumes the conversation despite the sound of claws on the wood floor and whining Basset Hound noises at the front window)
Boo Boo: So, as I was saying, before I got distracted by the smears of dog spittle, is that my food dish is being invaded. You might want to do something about it.
Marla: Boo Boo, if you ate all of your cat food when I put it out in the morning, we wouldn't have this problem. It's your breakfast, it's not a buffet. I mean, nobody likes Raccoons, and we all know I love trotting out Racoon Roundworm facts...but seriously, if you're not going to eat your damn kibble, this is going to happen.
(in the background, Molly: I'LL! EAT! THE! KIBBLE! DON'T! GIVE! IT! TO! THE! THING!)
Josephine: Let me see! A raccoon friend! I want to catch him! He came to see me! I love him! I looooove hiiiiiiiimmmmmm!
Marla: Boo Boo - Eat your frigging food. Josie, the answer is just plain no, the little guy is only here for some stale Fancy Feast and I'm sorry to break your heart but they are nasty scavengers who kill with their poop. Molly, enough, cease, STFU and please withdraw your slobber! And you! Hey! Buddy! Raccoon guy! Buzz off! Git! Scram! Shoo!
Raccoon: You know what? I'm leaving anyway. Your cat food sucks - it's that stuff you got from two doors down because their cat won't eat it, I can tell. Your cat is useless, your dog could move the breed's status from a 3 to a 5 when it comes to slobber standards, and your child thinks she's Grizzly Adams. I'm making my exit, and I suspect all that will come of this incident is that it'll become cheap blog fodder.
Boo Boo: Wow. That was harsh dude. First, and foremost, the people do love the Boo Boo posts, and she has been know to sling a can of tuna now and then. All you have to do is show up and look cute, and there she is, pushing the treats, and wiping the drool, and cripes does that kid ever take a lot of looking after. I suggest hanging around for the sweet deal chez Good. It's like taking candy from a baby living here...
Marla: Boo Boo, I'd thank you, but I believe there's a quote out there...something about "It's no crime to steal from a thief."
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I think I've alluded to special projects, and being busy with things. I was, and am. Aside from the basement reno, and some other projects, my attention from that and this and those was diverted for a while.
Without knowing how to write about this, really, because it's not my story to tell - I'll direct you to this article, in today's Toronto Star, by Rita Zekas.
The Mighty Team was amazing - and I think the article captures wonderfully how so many wonderful people wanted to do something, anything, to help. I didn't do much, except to provide my hands once in a while, and my head and my heart to Erella. I started a blog to help distribute information, but became overwhelmed and I'm afraid it's a bit dusty. Okay, it's been abandoned. Perhaps it may disappear, or it may need to be resurrected in a new form. There'll always be a need for information such as that.
Erella had been in the periphery of my life ever since I moved to Toronto, until this project drew us closer together. Her sister is one of my very favourite friends, and while originally I wanted to help to honour our friendship as much as to repay Erella for some kind deeds it became something else. It felt good to be good at something. I think I really helped, in a few small ways that mattered to Erella; even if I wasn't there a fraction of the time that others were. It may be that I understand the way to help - or that Josephine taught me that helping is doing what someone needs, not what you want to do for them.
Friday, May 16, 2008
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.
"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.
But the Skin Horse only smiled.
Last night, we got out our doctor's kits. Josie's full of plastic band-aids and various implements; mine with needles, thread, and a swatch of black upholstery velvet we'd been given at EuroFab by a kind soul who knew it was going to a good cause.
Bambi took it all very well.
I have never experienced such trepidation as when considering this repair. Though we had the material for a week, I postponed it until I could complete it all in one go, and with more confidence - though the wear on his hooves left Bambi in dire straits. One day he had to borrow a Groovy Girl's boots to wear to daycare with Josie to protect his protruding "bone".
He was perfectly, beautifully worn - and anyone could see that he was "real" to Josie. And so, to me.
Once I made the mistake of trying to tell Josephine exactly how much I loved her. "I love you as much as you love Bambi" I sighed, holding her close and breathing in her squirming, sandy and sticky little girl essence. My huffs of her seem to grow farther and fewer between, and in my withdrawal, I often try to lure her back with words.
I didn't expect the following hysterics. "YOU CAN'T LOVE ME AS MUCH AS I LOVE BAMBI !!!! NOBODY COULD EVER LOVE ANYBODY AS MUCH AS I LOVE BAMBI !!! YOU CAAAAAAAAAAN'T !!!!!!!!"
After my most insincere retraction, we continued with our day.
I tried again, last night, two hours into blind-stitching by hand the hooves, to let her know how much I love her. I asked her, instead of telling her, if I might love her as much as she loves Bambi - and was secretly thrilled with her doubtful yes.
This morning, I creeped in to rest my eyes on the two of them.
When she woke up, and came downstairs, she asked to see the pictures we took last night of Bambi, the ones from before we fixed him. I had already been looking at them.
"I miss the way he was." she said.
And I had to explain why my eyes were moist and I got sniffly, because, well, I know.
Children are born real - but it's not until they grow and love things to tattered bits; and you spend the mornings untangling snarly hair and wiping yogurt off the costume scrubs they slept in and shushing the ear-splitting shriek that came home from daycare yesterday that you realize that "it's a thing that happens to you" too.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
First, her caution regarding comments. I cannot top it, and long to adopt it:
"I love to get interesting and relevant comments. Comments from morons are mocked and then deleted."
Second, at the top of the page:
"This is what a feminist writes like:"
So, when she asks:
I think the Moms/Mommies/Mamas in the blogosphere spend more than enough time admitting our shortcomings and not nearly enough time celebrating our strong points. So, I'm suggesting that on Mother's Day, or the day after, or at least some time in May, you take a moment and make a list of three things that you do well as a mother and either post it in the comments here or in your own blog.
Oh...that wasn't a question or suggestion really...that was an order, since I was tagged....
Here are my three things:
1) I have worked hard to keep a good photgraphic record of Josie's childhood, thousands of images - and very very very few of them are posed. My own childhood photos are comprised mostly of me standing miserably in some holiday outfit, frozen like a deer in the headlights. Vacation photos of me, standing awkwardly in front of the ocean or at a photo-op in an amusement park, tell me nothing of how I appeared to my mother or father. There is nothing to tell me of my experience with day-to-day life, just my own faulty memory or my mom's, which is even worse. So, if I have twenty-three images of Josephine exploring a log on the beach, or sitting in a chair in the back yard with a snail crawling on her leg, I can hopefully show her that days often passed just like that. That she often had messy hair, and could play with bugs for hours, and that she almost always was running ahead of me - or away from me. And there are things that I imagine will always be, and I want to show her that too. She almost never is still, and that her body and motions are expressive and amazing; and she is always more beautiful when she's not smiling with some cheesy manufactured grin. And that to me, my parenting was more about the mess, and the process than the result. It's important to me that she knows thatt the moments of watching her climb and explore were as wonderful as her moments on top of it all. Also, that I hopefully knew when to put down the camera - that as much as I am the architect, and the observer of her life - that I was involved in it too.
2) I often engineer miracles. I don't always have to, because Josephine is gifted in a way I've never seen in another. Her wishes come true, often without my help - but sometimes with. For example, when we went on a vacation to the Jersey Shore, and on the way we asked her what she wanted most from it, she said she wanted to see dolphins, pet a shark and meet a real deer. So, what happened? She and Steve walked out to the beach one morning, and dolphins appeared and did dolphin things just for them, with no one around. A whole tail-dancing, flipping dolphin show. We didn't have to buy those $30 tickets on the dolphin-watching boat tour after all. And there was also a boardwalk aquarium, and it had a shark petting tank. But when on the way we stopped at a state park where there was a deer feeding station, and there were none - we were sad.
Then, when staying in the last hotel just hours from home, I saw in the brochure bin an advertisement for a small roadside zoo that used as an illustration a cartoon of a child feeding a deer, and as it was only twenty minutes out of the way, we went.
And so Josephine not only got to meet a real deer,
She got to feed an albino doe with a bottle.
And sometimes, Fairy Raccoons appear in our trees, seemingly out of nowhere. I don't remember stuff like that happening to me as a kid - but then, I can't prove that because my mother did not provide me with any photographic evidence.
3) I think like a kid. When Josephine sees a pile of sticks from our neighbour's cherry tree, and knows we have big marshmallows (a rare treat, and I don't even remember how I came to buy them), and asks if we could have a campfire in the back yard "some day"; and I'm just lighting the barbecue to cook dinner, well then, I can figure out that roasting a couple of marshmallows before dinner is going to be one of the highlights of her day. So we do. Even though she's had all her allotted treats for the day, even though dinner's cooking, even though I could say no - I like the idea of making today better, than promising some ethereal "some day". The teachers at her daycare know that if she comes home dirty or painty, I won't complain because it means she had fun. I don't care that she didn't bring home a foam ladybug like the other kids because she wanted to play house instead - that's some excellent rebelling there, kid. Foam ladybugs won't matter down the road - learning to assert what you want to do will. Aside from a few toys and books that I'd like her to really care for, all of her other toys are to be explored and enjoyed. Stuffies go in the bath with her if she wants them to, because they can just get washed and then go in the dryer. Bugs and rocks and dirt are just nature's toys. And if she wants to be referred to as Bambi's Daddy for days at a time, fine. So, things like yogurt and cereal in an ice cream cone with sprinkles for breakfast, or story records after dinner, dancing after dinner at a deer party, lots of climbing and stuff are all part of the childhood she's designing for herself - I'm only letting it unfold.
I like that her world is still full of innocence, and fun, and imagination and that her heart is still wide open. I'd like to keep it that way, but I can't always engineer that to keep happening - I can often only understand, and encourage.
Monday, May 12, 2008
At least, that's what I'd say to Andrea, if I called her on the phone, which I never do.
But it wasn't my fault, you see. The day started out innocently enough, with the usual getting Josie ready for daycare and planning out my errands to take advantage of the glorious five-hour window I get once a week to do things like...get my teeth cleaned and buy toilet paper holders
Oh, there was the odd stick-in-the-old-bicycle-spokes: the rod in the brand-new closet that was built in the basement fell off the wall, taking five feet of pressed shirts and suits with it...but that was just a glitch.
I dropped Josie off, and set out for destination one: carpeting for the basement stairs. The store that has what I want actually doesn't have what I want, until mid-June. But, since I'd paid for parking for an hour or more, I decided to explore the area, and found a store that sold brand-name closeout stuff closing. So, I bought the toilet paper holder we needed, plus an also-needed curtain rod, and then a hand-mixer followed me home (I have been whipping cream by hand for ten years people. I went to make mousse last week for Grandma Joan's birthday, and it was NOT fluffy enough.) And then, I'll admit it - two pairs of Grandma Pajamas followed me home.
I love Granny PJ's - you know, they come folded in packages with little pins at the corners. They've often got piping, and fussy flower prints. They have baggy bums and pockets. Because that's the problem with modern pajamas - no pockets. Sometimes you need a pocket, for a tissue or a ponytail holder. I found these:
And then, because I still had time on the meter, I walked a little further up the street, and found that Goodwill was having a surprise 50% off day. Now, I've never been to this particular Goodwill, and found it as smelly as expected - but when I started passing white linen blouses and designer sweaters that made me wish I had a grown-up job again, I looked a little closer.
In the ladies blouse section, I found it - a vintage Ben Sherman shirt in a mod print for Steve. Score! And a ceramic hand by Nancy Funk - they retail for around $22 -- for $8 total.
So, ignoring that the $30 parking ticket I received from the fact that I did waste valuable minutes of my life in a lineup eight either toothless, muttering, hygienically-challenged or too-hip people long, I still felt I'd done well.
And since the next item on the "To Do" list was to pick up my new contact lenses, and if I travelled down one particular route to get there, I'd pass another Goodwill having a sale...I just HAD to stop at another.
So I did.
And that was where I found the excellent turquoise melamine bowl, and the blue suede vintage Pro-Keds, and a paint-by-numbers landscape with a deer, and a never-worn Gap cotton skirt in a retro print, and some Asian iron-on patches that are perfect for covering up spots and stains on Josie's clothes, and a brand new stuffed raccoon...
...what? The raccoon? I'll get to that...
...all for $11.
And then, since I had to walk past another thrift store to get to the car, I had t0 stop in there. Because, you see - books were on sale: buy one, get one free. And pink-tagged items were 30%off. So I had to buy that pink polo shirt, because it was brand new with the $25 Jacob tags on it - for $12, less thirty percent. And the books - they threw in one, since I really couldn't find another. Five books for $1.
So look - in the picture below. All of these items for approximately $30 (I am not counting the parking ticket).
...and the Raccoon?
It was a brand-new Webkinz, sans the tag. Stores donate them when the tags are stolen. For a little girl who doesn't care about Webkins, but was dying for a Raccoon stuffy - the timing was perfect.
On Saturday Steve took her to a Fun Fair, where she ignored the three choices offered at the face-painting booth, and chose to be a Raccoon. The bewildered teenager did her best - and after a prize of fairy wings was won, Steve and the Fairy Racoon spent a lovely afternoon together.
Josephine's been keen on raccoons lately, what with their Springly resurfacing nightly interest in Boo Boo's food bowl on the porch and the stories of how Steve's cousin had a pet raccoon as a child. They're just one of "the things" lately - there's always a "thing", and so now it's baby raccoons and how can we have one.
When I saw the $1 raccoon, I knew it was meant to be. So it came home, and I found her wings and hid it in a tree to wait for Josie's return home.
And so, for $1, her squeals of joy peeled paint; and her entertainment for the evening was set. It's all about Mrs. Bosley Ticklewhiskers now.
With the rest of the afternoon, I only did the boring errands - because after the high of finding such neat stuff, the lampshades I'd looked forward to shopping for seemed a bit dreary.
But it's good to have that done, and you cannot bring a four-year old Josephine into a lighting store with a waist-high pile of drum shades on the floor. You just can't. I'd found a vintage wrought iron floor lamp with two matching table lamps (for $15) in Buffalo a few weeks ago, and they needed shades. The teak floor lamp we were using has been moved to the new basement lair for Steve. Aristocrat did well for me, and the perfect shades came home with me for less than I'd expected to pay. Now, I look at this, as I was trying it out to make sure it was a good fit - and I'm reminded of something from my childhood.
My Polish Grandma's house:
Yes. From thence I sprung.
Now, I still have more stuff around and about that's new to me - like this mangle chair:
Which I bought in Buffalo from a rummage sale at a church for $10. I saw one at Hideaway Antiques on Queen West priced at $245 when I was buying the settee for the basement, and they were calling it a medical chair. I call it bullshit - but either way, it's a really surprisingly comfortable chair, and I quite like it. Or, I may sell it to subsidize other finds.
It'll allow me to use some of these...
...which I found at that sell-off store for 85 cents. They're perfect for the "catch and release" program I seem to employ when finding finds.