(Too) close to home

The neighbors live in chaos. I grew up in chaos.

I’ve had two years to think about this. A lot.

In a way, that adage about not ever really getting away from your past is true. You don’t. It shows up in other people, in other situations. This time I’m a witness. No – that’s not right to say “this time.” The FIRST time I was a witness too. Not a participant.

(I see grown children who continue their parents’ legacy all the time; participating in the chaos they learned on the home front. That is, they never rejected it in the first place. It was normal and it stayed normal. That was never me. I rejected it very young.)

I am the kind of person who has to find meaning in my experiences. I am compelled. In the neighbors I see what I rejected as toxic in my own family a long time ago. Oh, it’s not exactly the same and the differences initially kept me from seeing the parallels. But – people who live in chaos, who thrive on drama, who have shitty coping skills – they’re more or less the same. The specific details are usually interchangeable and not all that significant.

It might be all well and good to just say “So what, go ahead and live like that, who cares; just stay in your four walls and ‘kill’ each other.” But it doesn’t work that way does it? Other people, bystanders, invariably get dragged in, by choice and not. Other people are affected. Toxicity has tentacles.

Also, people who live in chaos recruit new cast members for their ongoing dramas because old ones get burnt out or move on, and besides, a big dramatic production can always use more players and audience members. And again, even if they don’t actively recruit, the mess such people make is not tidy and contained in those metaphorical four walls. It seeps out and contaminates whatever it touches.

People choose drama and chaos to fill emptiness in their lives. It keeps them busy. It keeps them from thinking too much, from real reflection and introspection. Nothing like a good scene, a knock-down-drag-out fight, shallow distractions, an addictive habit or three, or constantly “helping” somebody else with their “problems” to keep a person busy, no? It’s so transparent to me now.

I wholesally reject everything about this. Decency can trump toxicity. It has too. Decency springs of a better place, it has deeper roots. I chose a long time ago to live in decency not in chaos. It is a choice. It’s one I made with my own original family and it’s one that I continue to make throughout my life.

People whose lives are filled with meaningful pursuits and positive activities to occupy their waking hours are not attracted to and do not thrive on toxic chaos. That is the challenge isn’t it? For everybody. Everybody who gives a damn about how they conduct their lives.

Gliding into summer…

I love being outside. I am a summer girl. I like decorating the outside too making it a comfortable, beautiful place to be, on the cheap.

I recently posted about several lovely things that have come my way of late, including a free bench style glider. Now, I’m the sort who likes to rearrange items till they’re “right.” This season I started with a red bench in my seasonal screen tent. I had finally needed to knock apart and throw out my preferred bench because it passed the point repairs could keep it going. While the red bench looked cute it really isn’t too comfortable because of the shallowness of the seat. I don’t want to sit rigidly upright like I’m in a church; I want to shift positions and sprawl at whim.

I moved another bench in, a legless one that is intended to be a porch swing (which I sit atop cinder blocks instead) but out it came once the glider arrived. Space-wise it made the most sense to put the glider in the tent, space being not “spacious.” I wanted to share with you my inaugural glider ride and popcorn snack.

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With shredded cheese and Nutritional yeast, yum (seriously)

But of course I must show you the view from inside which is really what it’s all about.

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Panoramic view (sorry, it’s not the clearest)

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Calibrachoa

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Lydia, the One-armed Watering Girl

Watching the wheels turn, literally

I’m an unlikely fan, albeit a very casual one, of skateboarding. I’ve never been on a skateboard nor do I have any desire to be. But of the few people I follow on Facebook, Shaun White is one. He’s an obvious choice and frankly, I’m not sure I can name any other famous skateboarder other than Tony Hawk (I think that’s his name). I follow Shaun because he amazes the hell out of me; to stay so dominant for so long is quite a feat with so many youngin’s nipping at his wheels. He snowboards too. The funny thing about him is he kind of presents like a typical Californian – this is a guy who played “air guitar” on the podium one year while the National Anthem was being played at the Olympics – and yet he is clearly so driven and skilled. He posts unbelievable photos of himself in action – how is a human being doing that?! – and is funny and charismatic as well in his comments. (He also is the “Zelig” of the sports world; he seems to be everywhere and know everyone. I would not be surprised to see him in a photo op with the pope, doing “rabbit ears” over the man’s head.)

Back in high school I liked a guy who skateboarded. The skateboard was incidental. I just mention it because that’s really my only personal acquaintance with skateboarding in general. I don’t even remember watching him skateboard. I did know he was a member of the skateboarding club at school but I couldn’t even tell you what the guys in the club actually did. Did have they have competitions? Merely get together and try to learn new tricks? I couldn’t say. The main reason I remember that at all is because there was a photo in the high school yearbook of the club, where they were all holding their skateboards and one of the guys (not the guy I liked) was giving the finger to the camera (while smiling of course). I knew who that guy was and I’m sure it was deliberate. How the picture was allowed to be printed in the yearbook I don’t know. Here we go. It’s not the clearest but still.

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Tasteful no?

My community built a skateboard park ten years ago. It’s a nice looking spread with a “low bowl” and a “deep bowl.” It attracts an assortment of people including little kids, tough looking guys, and even adults. They held a fancy skateboarding exhibition way back when it opened and I went. There were talented guys plus there was free pizza. That part I remember well. I’ve mentioned this before but I once read that if a cat jumps up on a counter and finds food by happenstance, it’ll jump up on the counter a hundred more times on the off-chance it finds food again. I can appreciate this. Although it’s ten years on, I remember getting free pizza.

The park stays in my mind for another event too. I don’t remember this event as well but it was another kind of exhibition and I stopped by. A woman I knew showed up and sat with me while we watched. Then a guy I also knew sat down on the other side of me. Although they may have previously exchanged a word that day, I introduced them properly. Well, next thing you know, they are kind of having a conversation “over” me; like he was asking her questions and such. It wasn’t quite like I wasn’t there but if I’d gotten up and left I don’t think anybody would have minded. I mention this because afterward they started dating and in time got married. The funny thing was I wasn’t match-making (not that I matchmake ever) and wouldn’t have put the two together. So what do I know?!

So this past weekend the park had an anniversary exhibition and free pizza was advertised yet again. Yay! I would have wanted to go anyway but a little extra incentive can’t hurt right? It was billed as a two hour event but apparently most of the show took place in the first hour so I didn’t see too much when I showed up at the second hour. The event wasn’t well attended and there was a lot of pizza so I got lunch out of it. It was delicious – I make my own pizza and very rarely eat any other because frankly mine is damned good and healthy to boot – but this was a novelty. I was so content. The weather was fine; I had food to eat and skateboarders to watch. Just the relaxation I needed.

I don’t watch football, basketball, or baseball but I sure like watching skateboarders. The wheels make an appealing whirring sound too which I’m not I sure I realized/or remembered. (Whereas the sound of kids slamming their boards up and down in a parking lot and bouncing off curbs – which they do here despite the park in spitting distance – is irritating.) Enjoying the skaters at the exhibition I was thinking how much of the sport is in the knees; lordy they must take such a pounding.

A woman passed by me with her young granddaughter who was asking about the skaters and how you could get like that. The grandmother responded, “Practice, practice, practice.” I didn’t say it out loud but I thought, “Or you can eat pizza and watch.”

Short Thought 188 (neighbor)

I heard that an actor who had a part on a well-known TV show was moving into the neighborhood. I was curious. It was close enough that I could actually see the move-in but as it turned out it was the day the man I knew killed himself so I no longer cared or paid any attention. I had other problems to deal with as well last year and trying to get the scoop on a neighbor-on-TV was a low priority.

Time passed. He instead became “the guy who habitually runs stop signs.”

It’s May show and tell time!

A number of nice, free or cheap things have come my way in the last month and I’d like to share them with you. I always loved show & tell in grade school and well, I still do. I figured I’d pack a bunch into one post.

I lucked into these Sloggers rain boots in my size at the small local church thrift store. Sloggers is a U.S. brand that makes oh-so-cute rain boots and garden shoes. I already had some I bought from Amazon. They have nice thick treads and since I don’t have a car and walk a lot  I wear them often. This particular pattern is one I’ve covetously eyed and knowing their usual price, I didn’t mind paying a modest $5 for a second hand pair, ones which are perfect for spring/summer in this beautiful pastel shade.

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Last week I saw what I thought was trash in the street and I was going to get it out of the roadway (doing a good deed natch) but when I got closer I saw it was two Holmes window fan boxes with fans inside. I wasn’t optimistic that they’d work but I took one home to see and lo and behold it was a working fan so I fetched the other one. My best guess is they’d been left on the curbside but the grass cutters mowing a “common” area had knocked them into the street. It was odd there wasn’t a “FREE” sign on them; if I hadn’t picked them up they’d likely have gone to the landfill because who expects random roadside appliances to work?? Especially when they appear to be trashed boxes.

They were really dirty, especially one, so I had to take it apart, even breaking a small, unimportant piece in order to clean it but I looked online and these sell for $40 each at Target so not such a bad deal. Not only are they digital but they have a reversible “exhaust” feature.

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I paid $2 at a community school yard sale for these Levis 314 “shaping straight” size 29 jeans. The people were nice enough to let me take them into a close-by building to try them first and they were perfect.

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Someone tossed out a small set of drawers. The drawers were cheaply made and I didn’t want them but the solid metal drawer pulls were great so I only took them. This isn’t typically something I’d do particularly if I think it’ll render an item useless for the next potential grabber (I once didn’t take an IKEA bed frame because I only wanted it for the lumber and it seemed right to leave it for someone needing a bed, only to later learn from another person that a fellow came along after me and took it for the lumber!). However, drawer pulls are easy enough to procure so I didn’t feel too guilty.

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I set them in the dish drain to take the picture to show you

I’m not sure what I’ll do with them; they could be drawer or door pulls or if I attached them to a board I could make a little rack for hanging things.

Someone advertised a large, free glass bowl on line along with other items. I was delighted to be the first person to request it. The bowl turned out to be good quality Anchor Hocking, perfect for making breads. It was great timing because I’ve been looking at large bowls online but thought they were too pricey. Here it is next to a measuring cup to show size.

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I think this next is my favorite. I happened to see this IKEA Poang chair on the local Freecycle group (other than to give stuff away I rarely look at it because the group is very popular and nice items get plenty of replies). For whatever reason though, I saw this listing with a photo about an hour after it went online and somehow I knew this chair was mine. Sometimes I just get those feelings. I was right! The lister contacted me and I picked it up promptly. The cover needed a thorough washing (not dissing the owner; it had been used on a screened porch and abandoned by the previous home owner) and the arm rests needed sanding, both of which I did right away.

It happened that I found a tossed-out IKEA Pello chair several years ago (and after cleaning it and washing the cover of course) I put it in my room. It’s been fine but the white cover gets messy fast and it’s not my favorite shade. I thought I’d swap it for the new chair. However, a Poang chair is a bit larger than the Pello and it seemed too big for my little room. I had an idea: I swapped the covers! Even though each is made for its specific chair they still fit the other. So, here is the Pello chair I already had with the “new” Poang cover.

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After having a plain white chair for years this in-your-face print is a big change but I love it! I put the Poang chair with the white Pello chair cover in the living room. Perfect!

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Let me tell you about these two chairs. When I sit down in either I say, “Oooooohhhh“, close my eyes and promptly start yawning. Either I am too tired or these chairs are quite comfortable. I mean look at that chair above – it even appears to be leaning back & relaxing by itself!

And finally, I just got this ” glider” style bench curbside. You can make it move back and forth with your feet. Or you can just sit there sprawled on its unusual depth. It was kinda blackened when I found it but I scrubbed it up. I “willed” a new bench to come my way because another I’d found and had for many years finally had to get trashed; I’d made several repairs over the years but the wood had deteriorated too much. What’s cool about this one is I could remove the glider mechanism if I wanted and just have a bench. It appears from the bottom of the wood that it sat directly on the ground without protection so I may have to get rid of that part eventually. Benches like this are expensive and I love getting them as freebies.

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think that’s everything – for now.

p.s. The day after I wrote this I found a beautiful 7′ umbrella thrown out for trash. I had to add it to this post!

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Karma?

This story is interesting. One to puzzle over. I have no direct involvement in the situation – I’m just one of the (semi) outside, curious observers.

In my community, someone who was fairly well known was accused of a theft, an ongoing theft actually. The accusations were documented, not off-the-cuff or with no evidence. In fact there was video footage. I did not see the footage – nor was there any reason I would – but a number of people saw it and all who did agreed on what was on it. I know some of those individuals and have no reason to doubt what they reported. If they say they saw a theft on the footage, multiple thefts, I believe them.

Curiously, despite the evidence and the “eye witnesses” many people doubted that a theft occurred, and yet another contingent essentially said, well if it DID happen, it was justified. That fascinated me. The person at the center was a somewhat controversial figure to start with – the opinions held about this individual were mixed. This person wasn’t universally loved prior to the theft accusation. That’s important to mention because the incident seemed to serve to further polarize people in their views; many used the situation to justify opinions they already held. Perhaps some changed their thoughts, but most of those talking publicly – online – stuck to their guns be it for or against.

Although the police were consulted and their advice taken in gathering evidence, the central players decided not to take legal action but essentially to cut ties: Let’s just go our separate ways, we’ll all move on and this will be over.

That might have been the end of it but for a new weird twist. The person accused of the theft won a bunch of money, a substantial amount. Oh my gracious. Now some people were saying this event was karma. The win was taken as EVIDENCE of something. The person accused of the theft had been badly treated, they thought, by being accused and cast out, so in their minds the universe was righting a wrong. (No doubt others were thinking, “Great, now they can pay back the money! The thought certainly crossed my mind.)

I found this all very strange. I mean on the one hand, stealing is an act, a choice someone makes (independent of what their reasons are and/or whether or not anybody else might find them valid or excusable in some fashion). Winning money on the other hand, is random. However, because the two events happened so close together, a group of people were inclined to find them related even when there was no evidence one had anything to do with the other. I wonder how much time between the two events would have to have passed to make them unrelated in most people’s minds? 6 months? A year? 5 years?

And – too often people apply the theory of karma only when it suits them. But it seems to me if you’re going to believe in karma you’d have to apply it more universally (and even to bad things and EVEN to bad things that happen to you).

It isn’t that I don’t ever use the word karma or don’t think it is at work at times. But I can’t buy in wholesale. For example, innocent children get abused and sometimes killed by their guardians or parents; how on earth could karma be found there? (The child brought it on themselves somehow?? Their ancestors screwed up and this is karmic justice? No way.)

Yet another twist to this story has occurred. The person accused of the wrongdoing has gone into business, one which will be direct competition for the original group that decided to cut ties and not pursue legal action. I really don’t know what to think about this.  Very strange indeed.

Overheard in the grocery store

Customer: Should you be putting the cherries that were on the floor back on the shelf?

Employee: Yeah. They’re going to get washed anyway.

Suddenly I was glad I don’t like cherries. And thinking that buying a bottle of “vegetable wash” might not be quite the needless and frivolous purchase I’d always presumed it was…