Seashells on the shelf

My father is planning on moving.  That’s an understatement.  He’s looking at moving into a retirement community that is closer to us, his family; yet this new to him community is 5 hours away from his current home.  He’s reluctant to move, for good reason.  I can’t fault him for that.

A few others I know are also downsizing, for similar reasons – age, shrinking number of household members, health.  They too are overwhelmed with all the decisions and packing.

Often in situations like these, the packing and leaving a place you’ve called home for over a decade, (or in some cases, decades) can be panic attack inducing.  At the very least, it’s a very emotional, draining, and stressful life event.  Moving is never easy.  There are a lot of decisions to be made, schedules to coordinate, and stuff to sort.

By “stuff” I mean all those items we have a tendency to accumulate that make our house our home; the souvenirs from travels, gifts from loved ones, cherished mementos of those who are gone, odds and ends that are necessary for our current situation but may not be necessary in our new location – like weather related wardrobe options.  All of these items create a home that reflects the life of those who live in it.

My dad has a lot of stuff.  Most wouldn’t call him elderly, he’s still on the young side of “Senior Citizen”, but he’s had a life full of loss; and as he gets older those losses become more frequent.  Like so many of us, with loss, certain odds and ends that were once viewed as meaningless or trivial, now hold a value that can’t be calculated.  Physical items start carrying an emotional value that greatly out values their monetary worth.

IMG_3044For example, I have seashells decorated by my late grandfather, a mini rocking chair made out of a beer can by my other grandfather, various pieces of jewelry that belonged to my mom, grandmother, or great grandmother, cookbooks with notations made by my great grandmother and great aunts.   All of these items carry an intrinsic value that only I can calculate.  To any one else, they’re just trinkets, cool old books, or stylish retro jewelry.

I imagine the thought of moving is even more stressful for a hoarder, whether they admit their hoarding or not.  And I’m often told that many hoarders do so because of a stress or lack of resources during some period of their life – like the elderly who lived through the depression and reuse aluminum foil or paper plates.  (Don’t get me wrong, I’ll reuse these items too, but there is a limit.   You won’t get eggs and toast for breakfast and then a PB&J on the same paper plate for lunch. )

Now, I’m all for the minimalist lifestyle, and am daily trying to purge and limit the stuff that accumulates in our home.  But how does one go about incorporating those meaningful odds and ends with the necessary items and yet maintain an uncluttered living area? That is a true talent.   And how does one cope with that “what-if I need it someday?” internal conversation that drives so many of us to hold onto things that we shouldn’t, and moves us ever so slightly closer to hoarding?

I have heard it suggested that to purge your house, pretend that you are moving or use the box it up and forget it method – you know, if you box it up and don’t need it in a set time period, you don’t really

need to keep it anymore.  I’m not really sure either of these methods would work for us.  I’m not sure why, but I have feeling we’d just end up with a well organized attic or basement that would only stay well organized for a few short weeks.

Every year around this time, I tell myself I need to get up into the attic and start purging – we only get a few days a year when the attic isn’t to hot or too cold to stay up there longer than a few minutes as you’re retrieving or returning the item for which you went up there.  And every year my window of opportunity closes before I make a dent in the task.

And that’s ok.  Because let’s face it, everyone has their own comfortable level of “stuff”.  All I need to work on right now, is maintaining a level that doesn’t go beyond our comfort level while keeping in mind that someday, when we reach the point of required downsizing, we’ll have to pack it all up.   Until then, I’ll just leave a spot on the bookshelf for Poppop’s seashells.



Building Community One Brick (and Mortar) at a Time

Open flagSaturday was “Local Yarn Shop Day”.  Yep. Apparently that’s a thing now.  I have mixed feelings about such things.  I understand the desire to showcase specialty shops, but I feel like the specialty shops need to do extra work to “observe” these designated days.  I had to keep reminding myself that there’s also “Record Store Day” and “Free Comic Book Day” so I guess we’re in good company?!

Thinking about these type of events got me thinking about brick and mortar specialty shops in general.  “Brick and mortar” is a term that’s recently been added to our vocabulary to mean a shop with a physical location.  To some, it might seem strange, that we need to designate that a shop occupies a physical space that a customer can visit.  But with the online stores and sites like E-bay, Etsy, and Amazon, there are ways to own a shop and not ever leave your home.  So, “brick and mortar” was coined as the phrase that designates a shop as a physical location that shoppers can visit during regular hours and seperate it from online retailers.

Besides yarn, records, and comic books, there are many types of  independent specialty stores – cheese, olive oil, pet, cigars, books, cards and stationary, scrapbooking, home brewing, housewares, running, cycling… you get the idea; and the majority of them are independently owned.  Years ago there used to be butchers, bakers, seamstresses, and other service oriented shops in every town, along with a variety of specialty shops. But these days we hustle into the grocery store and hustle out with our produce, baked goods, deli meats, and canned goods in our cart and stop at large box stores to pick up our random assortment of odds and ends.

We’ve grown so accustomed to convenience that we overlook the community that’s built by independent brick and mortar shops.

Sure, it might sometimes feel like you’re spending more time on your errands when you have to plan a trip to a butcher, a produce market, and a specialty shop when you could just point and click between phone calls, shop online from your desk, or stop at that mega box store on your way home.  But are you really saving time or just hustling to look busy?

When you shop at a butcher, for example, they learn your shopping habits – are you a freezer stocker or fresh daily shopper, the cuts you prefer, size of your household.  They learn this the old fashioned way, through regular interactions, not keystroke tracking cookies.

That personal touch that our grandparents took for granted (mostly because the world we currently occupy was the stuff of science fiction to them) is seeing a snail-paced resurgence as small specialty shops – think charcuteries and cheesemongers,  from scratch bakers, and small scale butchers, start popping up in quaint towns.

Are we starting to miss what seemed like mundane interactions to the generations before us?  Farmers’ Markets are popping up everywhere. Are we starting to crave the convenience of local over exotic?  I recently read an article about millennials frequenting book shops and record stores because having grown up in a digital age, they want the tangible, they want the hisses and pops of the recordings and the experience of turning a page.  Are we starting to notice the loss of human interactions and experiences?

Saturday afternoon, after closing up shop, The Goat and I went to an outdoor event at the local microbrewery located just a few blocks from my shop.  (Hurray! It was actually warm enough to be outside!) It was there that I realized that even if the shop didn’t have a great day, it’s part of something much, much, larger – a group of creative souls searching for the same thing – their community.

It was the little things that afternoon that made me reflect on the location of my shop; the hug from a fellow shop-keeper as she showed off her newborn and dog; the local kids playing tag in the street; an old friend The Goat hadn’t physically seen in a very long time, possibly years.  Even though I was exhausted, and it probably showed, I simply sat at a picnic table and watched the afternoon unfold.

I’m not opposed to online shopping, it’s a powerful tool.  I’m thankful that I can order from my suppliers either online or through e-mail because quite often, when the shop is busy, I can’t get to a phone to place orders during regular business hours.  However, I need to make a much more concerted effort to visit the brick and mortar businesses in my community – because without them there is no community. Will you do the same? Let’s rebuild our communities one brick and mortar at a time.

April (snow) showers bring May flowers?!

Image may contain: snow, tree, outdoor and natureUsually, around this time of the year, I start spending much of my free time in the dirt – planting, preparing areas for planting, repairing and updating garden structures, and yes, even weeding.  This year however, the muddy paw prints on the kitchen floor are the only sign that a garden exists in our life.

Enough of the snow and cold weather already!  I can’t really call it winter weather, because our winter’s are often bitter, grey, and miserable.  I’m really not a fan of them, and every winter I wonder, often quite vocally, why I still live here.  But this current weather pattern isn’t really what I’d call winter weather, and it’s most assuredly, not spring-like.

It’s still snowing, but since it’s not frigidly cold, the snow melts fairly quickly.  As you can see from the photos taken about a week ago, when it does snow there’s still enough of it to be measured in inches.  It’s heavy enough, that should you need to clear a walk-way, a broom just won’t suffice.  Same for our windshields, we’re still brushing and scraping it off as it’s too heavy for wipers.

And even though it’s warm enough to melt the snow, the temperatures are still low enough that most of us are still donning warm coats, mittens or gloves, and covering our  ears – especially when the wind blows!  We’re still wearing warm sweaters and layers, and despite Easter having been and gone, I don’t know many in the area who have switched to their “Spring/Summer” wardrobe (do people still actively do this in climates where the temperature swings aren’t so drastic?).

Anyway, all that to say, the peas have not been planted.  Nor the lettuce or any other crop that’s tolerant of cool to cold weather. The ground is still frozen and feels sharp due to the muddy ice crystals.  I’m not sure I’m going to get much gardening done in a timely manner this year.  I’ll try, but it’s likely by the time I am comfortable planting a few of the hardier crops, they’ll bolt because the weather will warm up so speedily.

I bought some paint to touch up a few rusting and deteriorating garden accessories – things like trellises, plant posts, raised beds, and ornaments.  But I’m not sure I’m going to be able to paint them before we need to use them as intended.  Take the hop trellis for example; the hops we grow on it are hardy here, and they are sprouting through the snow.  At the rate they grow, it’s likely they’ll be wrapped around the trellis before I get a warm 2 day span to paint it!

I have big plans for the garden this year – not the type that can be measured in bushels of produce, rather, these plans are more of the reorganizational kind.  Since Charlie Brown the Airedale came into our life last May, the way our garden gets used and abused has changed.  And those changes need addressed.  Beds need reorganized and possibly moved, pots and ornaments need relocated,  and the entire mess needs a great big overhaul based on his pouncing and trouncing.

But again, I’m inside writing this instead of outside reworking our garden.  Right now as I look out the window, the sun is shining, the patches of snow are receding, and birds are chirping.  But when I sat down to start this blog, giant puffy snowflakes were falling, the wind was whipping between our house and the neighbor’s, and the sun was hiding behind grey ominous clouds.

These crazy weather swings have many of us acting a bit edgy.  I can’t even recall how many times over the past few days I looked out a window or opened a door and said, “What?!  It’s snowing again!”,  usually with a few expletives in there.  If someone is within earshot, they often a reply along the lines of “Are you kidding me?”, and depending on the person, this includes a few expletives as well.

So I know I’m not alone.  Others are also expressing their desire to get into their garden.  Or go hiking without layers of winter attire.  Or ride their bike without getting mud frozen to it.  Or sit on a porch.  Or grill without freezing their hands while firing it up.  You get the idea.  And a few of these people like winter.  It’s this weird in between state that seems to be lingering longer than usual this year that’s making us all stir crazy.

I can’t decide if I should designate a pair of winter gloves as gardening gloves and just accept that they will never not be muddy again, find a heavy old sweatshirt and flannel shirt,  and put some long johns under my jeans and head out into our garden or stay in here and snuggle with the dog.  He looks pretty cozy right now, I’ll pet him for a few minutes and then decide…


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