About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Category: Beautiful and useful

Always buy yourself a birthday present

Billie full size

This is, to my mind, a small but important secret to a happy life. You should get yourself a Christmas present too–or one for any and every holiday you believe should be accompanied by a gift you really like.

This way, no matter how many boring gift certificates you get, or flowers that are already wilting, or chocolate that’s bloomed, or clothing in a size from 10 years ago or a size you have never yet worn, you can smile pleasantly and think of the really satisfactory present you’ve already gotten. From you.

This was mine this year–posted per Hannah’s request to see the frame. (You can also see that the world did not lose a great photographer when I decided to write.) I was in San Jose on business around my birthday, and after dinner I wandered into the Bruni Gallery. This print of a Billie Holliday portrait–after a famous photograph–spoke to me. For awhile anyway, despite a difficult and painful life, she raised her voice and used it to call attention to injustice (which seems a weak word for lynching), singing the haunting “Strange Fruit” to cap every Café Society performance.

I see her doing just that every time I walk in my front door–a reminder to raise my voice in service of justice, and everything else that’s truly important.

Billie frame closeup

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Make magic

I read a few of my SoulCollage cards last night (including two new ones I made at last month’s archetypes retreat, the Warrior and the Magician, and two older ones, Thoroughbred and Joy), and found the reading encouraging, so thought I’d share it with you. My question was basically, Why am I feeling bummed, and what can I do about it?

Warrior

 I am one who knows how to fight for what I need–and want. I am well strong enough, and so are you.

What I have to say to you about your question is: You know what you need, and now you must fight for it. That is all.

Magician

I am one who creates magic with my bare hands–so can you.

What I have to say to you about your question is: Make magic. It is within your grasp, within your reach. You know what to do. Reach for what you want when you see it. That is all.

Thoroughbred

I am one who loves to leap. I am centered, I am focused, I know what I want–and so do you.

What I have to say to you about your question is: Stay focused. You will get where you’re going. Broaden your sights. Take it all in–you can have it all. There’s no reason why not. You’ll see.

Joy

I am one who loves life with all my heart and soul.

What I have to say to you about your question is: Stay focused, as I am on the butterfly and the bird. Keep your goals in sight, and go for all of what you want. You will get there–faster than you think. That is all.

Fun fact … I took the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator at the retreat, and found that the Magician is my most prominent archetype. Other significant ones for me are Ruler, Creator, Sage, and Warrior.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

A reading for the New Year

Happy New Year! And thank you for being with me for the journey in 2014, the year now passed. It was a proving ground for sure!

I’m thrilled that my words here were read in 57 countries last year. When I think how much communication has changed in just my adult lifetime, this amazes me. Early in my career, I was secretary of the local chapter of my professional organization for several years, and I printed, copied, stapled, stamped, and mailed the minutes to the other board members. In those years, having 56 penpals would have been a great way to be read in 57 countries! Now, I can just click Publish. A little miracle right there.

I’m also really pleased that some of my most-read posts last year were also some of those that meant the most to me, about some pretty important things … letting go of judgment, releasing bitterness, and rising above the ego. I’m so glad you found them!

This year I continued my tradition of a SoulCollage card reading for the new year (below). Last year I made a single card on New Year’s Eve, the first one in the reading, to represent my unknown path in the new year. This year, I made two cards for this reading ahead of time to represent two major themes–the heart card and the thoroughbred card.

All my best wishes for a New Year that brings you every change your heart desires!

path

2014 was a difficult year, but you came through it with flying colors.

Winding was the path, stony the way, but you were guided every step of the way.

That is all.

Heart 2

Your heart will indeed expand, in many ways. It will be beautiful–and enlightening.

That is all.

Time to go

It is time to go, now–it wasn’t before. You will be even calmer this year. You have plenty of time for all you need to do. Just one way now–forward.

That is all.

Thoroughbred

This year you will leap over the competition with ease. You will no longer be confined–you will be free. Free to do more of what you like–respected for your abilities.

You will remain pointed in the right direction due to your spiritual path.

You’ll feel the wind in your hair–exhilarating.

That is all.

The writer

You will continue to write–what you do best, what you’re meant to do. … Keep your pen sharp–to distinguish between right and wrong.

That is all.

 

There will be love–much love. Much comfort. Much grace.

That is all.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Stay the path

This is my SoulCollage card reading from last night … I was feeling a bit jangled after Thanksgiving dinner, which was pleasant, but nonetheless necessarily involved many disparate energies. I thought that a reading might be helpful, and it absolutely was. I was reminded of why this process is so worthwhile.

Compassion

We have compassion for you–have compassion for yourself. You are learning, continually learning. That’s as it should be. That is all.

The writer

Writing is what you are meant to do, and you’re doing it. That is as it should be. That’s all.

Fawn

You will open the gate for others; that’s what you’re doing right now, and doing it well. Be proud of yourself–you are doing just what you should be. You will get better and better–practice makes perfect. But for right now, you’re doing fine–very well. That is all.

Understanding

Here you see the two paths. Don’t be distracted from yours. There’s much that is not the main event–don’t be distracted by that. Stay the path, keep to the path. That is all.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

Putting the house in order

kitchen

This week, I’ve been putting my house in order–but not, of course, in an end-of-life way, though I do sense that a new phase of my life is coming. Usually, when I feel this urge to organize and improve my surroundings, or do some serious clutter clearing, it’s because something wants to be birthed or realized in my life. I suppose it’s really a nesting instinct.

Some previous instances have involved the acquisition of a major piece of furniture to be used for storage–a linen press, a sideboard. I clearly remember seing my Prohibition-era Art Deco sideboard at the antiques shop and getting an adrenaline rush because it was, though I hadn’t known it until that moment, exactly what I wanted. I still love its beautiful curves, chevron and fruit carving, exterior and interior nickel fittings, and clean, restored silver drawer. The little liquor cabinet hidden in one side isn’t particularly useful, but adds to its charm.

I gathered dinnerware, glass, silver, and cloth and paper napkins from all over the house, and arranged them neatly in its drawers and on its shelves. I enjoy little more than organizing something well; I find this kind of thing deeply satisfying for reasons I can’t fully explain.

This week there was no new sideboard or linen press, but there was a new dishwasher–delivered and installed at last. I was loading it for its maiden voyage while my plumber was still here, and he observed that I was wasting no time. After more than a month without a working dishwasher, I’ve never been so excited about using one. This is also the first time I’ve ever had a new one. I believe in using things up and wearing them out, and that certainly happened with my 32-year-old former dishwasher, which came with my house. I can remember–and perhaps you can too–when almond was the ‘it’ color! (No one can deny that it was a huge improvement over the avocado green and harvest gold of my childhood–colors I recognized as truly hideous even at the time.)

I ordered the new dishwasher in a color meant to tone with my restored Kelvinator refrigerator called pastel turquoise. The manufacturer inadvertently added a metallic finish to the paint, which resulted in a silvery green. They said they’d make and send a new front panel in the color I ordered, but meanwhile I am thrilled to have a functioning dishwasher once again.

I’ve been hand-washing the dishes, flatware, glasses, mugs, pots, and pans I needed to have a functioning kitchen, but since I collect dinnerware and kitchenalia, I have extras of almost everything–and thus I had a backlog of dishes to do. As of this morning, I’m caught up with running the dishwasher, and my kitchen cabinets are satisfyingly full of tall stacks of plates, bowls, and the refrigerator dishes I collect and use (food keeps better in these old-fashioned containers than it does in plastic).

The electricians have been here this week as well–only painters and carpenters were missing, though they would have been welcome too! They replaced a bad pull chain over the kitchen sink, as well as various outlets that had been missed on prior visits. Best of all, they took care of a scary-looking (and live, I found out) hank of wiring and electrical tape at the back of one of my kitchen cabinets. I think it’s all that’s left of a former wall oven. The young electrician expertly (and impressively–I’ve seen experienced electricians make a mess of similar jobs) sawed a small hole in the back of the cabinet, recessed the wiring in a box, and covered the whole thing with a plate. A small thing, but quite gratifying to have something annoying so well addressed.

I also went and bought additional clear shoe boxes this week, as somehow I’d managed to accumulate more shoes than I had boxes. All are now properly housed. I also brought home another mini filing cabinet, twin to the one I already have, for those filing categories it couldn’t accommodate. I’m labeling the drawers as I remember missing categories. I also used my discount card (the large women’s shelters here raise funds in the fall by selling discount cards that can be used at many retailers for 10 days) to buy the new skillet I’ve been needing–Le Creuset this time as I have other pieces from them I love–and some Equal Exchange fair-trade coffee to give at Christmas.

I replaced batteries in two clocks that were running slow (bad feng shui, I know) with new lithium ones that should last for years. And my plumber replaced the curved shower curtain rod that came with the house, which had bent, with a new one fashioned from thick copper piping–very industrial chic. I couldn’t rest till I went out and bought a new fabric shower curtain liner to go with it. The plumbers also made an impromptu improvement to the flooring in the laundry room, which I truly appreciated.

The dishwasher being installed provided me with the opportunity to pull everything out from the kitchen sink cabinets, which I tend to do only when the kitchen plumbing needs attention. I cleaned, culled, and organized there, and also cleaned the dishwasher enclosure, which I suppose hadn’t seen the light of day in 32 years. Completing these and other cleaning tasks, I didn’t use quite every cleaning rag in my arsenal, but I did come close.

My new dishwasher, with its solid metal door and superior insulation, is exponentially quieter than the old one, and with its Energy Star rating, probably equally more energy-efficient. Interestingly, though, my old dishwasher cleaned just as well. While I generally like to keep my home relatively low-tech (no TV, no stereo, etc.), dishwashers will always be beautiful and essential technology to me.

Now that I’ve cleared the decks, and am well on my way to getting my house in order, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Kissed by the Universe

Alber

I suspect the Universe is always smiling on us, and pulling for us–but I’d be the first to admit, it doesn’t always feel that way. This past week, though, I felt like the Universe was not only smiling, but blew me a kiss.

A little over a week ago, I was experiencing a delay, and cast about in my mind for tasks I’d been putting off to a more convenient moment. I remembered that I hadn’t bought any clothes in more than 6 months, not even a pair of socks, and that I’d been noticing I needed some tops.

I surfed over to a discount site, and checked out the work of my favorite designer, Alber Elbaz of Lanvin, the oldest fashion house still operating today–founded by a woman, Jeanne Lanvin, and owned by a woman today, Shaw-Lan Wang. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a beautiful teal silk dress I’d pinned on Pinterest last summer, just one left, in my size, at a very deep discount!

Lanvin dress

Reader, I ordered it. It arrived last night, and it fits beautifully. Alber Elbaz has said he thinks about what a woman wants to hide, and what it is she loves about herself–and may I say very few people involved with the clothes I try on seem to do that!–and that thought process shows when I put on this dress. Take just one feature, the sleeves, for example … the bottom of the sleeve is like a bell sleeve, but at the top, the fabric is origami-folded and stitched down to show the shoulders, but still feels like a sleeve, so comfortable. It reveals without feeling revealing. It’s unlike anything I’ve worn or seen, and I think it’s pure genius.

And that is why I feel kissed by the Universe.

The practical among you may be noting that a dress is not a top, and of course, you’re quite right. I was looking for a dressy one as well as a casual one, and this dress will serve some of the same purposes as the dressy top I had in mind. (This dress was also made as a blouse, but one has to be open to receiving a kiss from the Universe in the form of a blouse with a skirt attached!) I’ve also ordered a sweater that I haven’t received yet.

And I think that when you enjoy something, and when you bring a good energy to it, it shows in the product. I mean, I think that we create what we are. Basically, when we are sad, we create sad, when we are happy, we create happy, and when we are miserable, we create miserable. And it shows, and it feels. It feels on the body. –Alber Elbaz

Illustrating this post is the SoulCollage card I made this past weekend at an Open Studio I attended (which is just getting together with others to make SoulCollage cards), in honor of my new dress. This card has several images of Alber at various ages, and the rest is his work at Lanvin–clothes, sketches, costume jewelry.

Alber Elbaz is a man who I believe loves and respects women–something I feel we could use a lot more of in the people who make the clothes that announce who we are to the world.

May the Universe blow you a kiss of your very own this week!

Patience rewarded

Kelvinator restored main

This purchase could be considered proof positive of my alleged antiques fetish. To me, though, it is a symbol of patience rewarded.

I ordered my then-to-be-restored 1948 Kelvinator from Antique Appliances in January 2013; the “6-8 weeks” of restoration work was scheduled to begin in December of last year. At the end of this past June, I learned that the custom color painting had been completed (matched to a piece of vintage pottery I’d sent), but my refrigerator was still in pieces–not yet reassembled. In early August, I was notified that the restoration was finally complete! I could hardly believe my ears. The picture above is one of the ones I was sent at that time, taken in the shop with the chrome trim on the feet not yet replaced.

This past week (September, but who’s counting?), the refrigerator was finally delivered, plugged in, and stood in my kitchen doing the job it was hired for.

Kelvinator logo

Interestingly, response to the project has split along gender lines. In my unscientific sample, men have a lot of respect for the restoration, pronouncing it “really cool.” I learned from them that this refrigerator is basically a stationary vintage car (check out all the chrome!) that keeps stuff cold. Women–unless they are also old-house people–tend to be considerably less voluble. I think they probably want to say I’m crazy and should have gone to Home Depot, but are too polite. Some allow that Grandma had one like that. Others question what I’ll do if something goes wrong. (I have kept my former refrigerator as a backup, and 13+ years as an old house owner have taught me how to find people who can fix things the old-fashioned way.) They look at me in disbelief when I explain that many of the refrigerators of this age that have survived still run, and on a very simple mechanism. (“Built to last” is a concept most people have forgotten.) Refrigerators manufactured today have an average life expectancy of 14 years, and this one has got that beat. (Hey, it’s even got 20 years on me.)

Everyone wants to know what I’m doing about ice! Clearly it’s not being delivered straight to the cup through the front of this refrigerator. The answer is that I don’t really like ice, and only have it in my drinks when I’m at restaurants. I keep an ice tray in my chest freezer, and use it to clean my DisposAll when I don’t have any lemons or limes in the house. So–no ice problem, and no need for the chilly metal ice trays of my early childhood.

Kelvinator restored open

It would definitely have been possible to match restored refrigeration exactly to the original 1920s period of my house. But I’m not a purist, and to me, the Deco-influenced refrigerators and stoves of the late 1940s and early 1950s look just the way appliances should–and far more beautiful than any modern expanse of stainless steel and plastic. But I am most charmed, as a collector of vintage glass, by this refrigerator’s virtually pristine interior. Ridged glass shelves (the ridges are on the underside), the shadow lettering I remember seeing as a child, Deco ridges and stepped effects.

Kelvinator inside before

The restorers did a great job. I was probably most impressed by something not shown in these “after” pictures. There’s a defrosting drain at the center of the base of the freezer, and below that another piece, a narrow, oblong plastic defrosting cup with a stepped exterior. In the picture above, you can see it had quite a large hole in it. Looking at the outside of it now, you can’t tell it was ever repaired. Only inside is there any evidence of the restoration. The person who worked on it did an absolutely beautiful job–one I waited almost two years to see. I can’t say I enjoyed the wait, but I do appreciate the results.

I foresaw when I bought my house–a 1927 English-cottage-style bungalow–that I would need a whole new level of patience, and promised myself I’d have it. It has indeed been absolutely necessary, and not just for awaiting this refrigerator with forbearance.

I grew up in a house of about the same age, and I don’t remember any major inconveniences occurring. Probably in the 1970s, a 1920s house just wasn’t old enough yet for major systems to fail. In my house, I’ve been without hot water for a total of three weeks, first while having the hot water heater replaced, dealing with minor water damage (the old heater was sitting directly on the floor with no pan or drainage whatsoever), and bringing it up to code, and then replacing my gas line and bringing the entire house’s gas system up to code. (It took me several additional years to get the gas company to finally identify and fix the gas leak in the alley behind my house, which I’m sure was the reason I could smell natural gas in the first place.) The three weeks provided ample Little House on the Prairie moments as I boiled water for washing dishes and other household tasks.

I’m washing dishes by hand once again as just a few days before my refrigerator was delivered, my valiant 1982 dishwasher decisively retired. It had been groaning as it worked lately, and so I was planning to replace it in the next few months. The time to do that, however, is clearly now.

I find the refrigerator has raised the aesthetic bar for appliances at my house. I found a vintage-look brand, Big Chill, that I think will blend well. They offer a custom color palette, so I’ll be able to get a close match. And the nearly two-year wait for my refrigerator should help put the approximately five-week lead time in perspective–lightning-fast by comparison! Just another opportunity to exercise my old-house patience … and eventually, have it rewarded.

1948 Kelvinator before

The Versatile Blogger award

Versatile

Thanks to Lisa van Reeuwyk of bloomlisa and Blazing Light of Glory for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award! She shares my interest in totem animals, card reading, and spirituality, and is always a bright, optimistic, loving, encouraging voice–and who doesn’t want more of that? I remember seeing someone’s “seven interesting things” post around the time I started blogging in earnest, and thinking this looked like a fun award. So thank you, Lisa–I accept with pleasure.

So here are the requisite seven interesting things about me …

  1. I have no cavities, so I love going to the dentist. My dental hygienist has a great sense of humor–we laugh and laugh, no laughing gas required. No one has a better time at the dentist than I do.
  2. The thing people seem to find most surprising about me is that I don’t watch TV.
  3. It wasn’t too many years after Molly Ringwald moved to Paris that people stopped telling me I looked like her. I love Molly, but I don’t mind not looking like any celebrity at all. (I found being compared to Molly a vast, vast improvement over being told I looked like Laura from Little House on the Prairie as a child.)
  4. Before I knew William Morris had said anything about it, I believed that everything useful should be beautiful, and increasingly, I want the beautiful things I own to be useful as well. There will never be a blue safety check in my life (even as a child, they grated on me–Why so ugly?!). Though I rarely write a check now, I get compliments when I do on my pretty Art Deco ones.
  5. Once I’ve gone to the trouble to find beautiful, useful things, I want them to last. I’m on my third car, and my second cell phone. Planned obsolescence is lost on me.
  6. I am known for my shoes. It’s not an Imelda Marcos situation, but each pair–leopard, polka dots, red patent–makes a statement. Even my gardening clogs are purple. Once a chiropractor prescribed orthopedic inserts for me (another case of the cure being worse than the disease). I mentioned that they wouldn’t work with the vast majority of my shoes; he said I would no doubt start buying shoes they did work with. My mother said, “I don’t think he understands how you feel about shoes.” She was right.
  7. Someone who visited my house not long ago remarked that I had an “antiques fetish.” I protested, pointing out many new items. “Ah, but even your new stuff looks old!” Perhaps it does … perhaps it does.

I’d like to pass this award on to the following versatile bloggers I enjoy …

  • Michelle Hedgecock posts about her art, SoulCollage, animals, nature, clutter clearing–and her experience of all of them. She has a beautiful, loving voice, and isn’t afraid to put herself out there.
  • Dee Mallon posts about her lovely quilting and other textile art, crafting, museum exhibits, makers, travel, gardening, family, photography, SoulCollage, and no doubt more that I’m forgetting! Just about every one of her posts is versatile.

Thanks for all you’re sharing with me, and the world!

How to go with the Flow

Flow

I remember when I first started reading about the Law of Attraction, in books by Esther Hicks/Abraham and others, one of the first things that struck me was the emphasis on ease–the implication being that life shouldn’t be a struggle.

But my life was a struggle. I fought for everything, and always had. I thought that’s how it was done. (Maybe you think so too.) Every day I felt like a salmon swimming upstream. I decided I’d like to try living life a different way.

I started setting positive intentions for experiences I wanted in my life to flow to me, using intention to align myself with the Flow, and the Flow with me. I figured that if I did this, I’d no longer feel I was swimming against the current.

This turned out to be quite true.

If you find yourself struggling today, here are some ideas that may help …

  1. Be sure your purpose is aligned with the Flow. You may notice that striving for things that are, when you come to examine them, actually unimportant, feels like an uphill battle. After all, there’s nothing natural about a lawn without weeds–or even a lawn, full stop. Maybe there’s a reason you feel like giving up when you try to please a difficult person, or lose those last five pounds, or climb a ‘ladder’ someone else invented. Instead, try getting in touch with the Love inside you, and find a purpose–even a very small one to start with–that springs from that place of love. Then turn your attention to this purpose that’s in alignment with the Flow, away from the goals that aren’t.
  2. Plug in to the Flow by getting out in nature. Take a walk. Plant something you find lovely in your garden. Feel the beautiful life Force all around you. Inside you.
  3. Be creative–just like the Universe. Cook something delicious, or make a collage. Look at your handiwork, or taste it. Observe that it is good.
  4. Try a guided meditation that makes you feel 100% better, and puts you in touch with your higher Self.
  5. Listen to uplifting music that raises your vibration. Anael is a favorite of mine.
  6. Keep a gratitude journal to help you become aware of all that is right and beautiful and Flowing in your life.
  7. Ask a favorite saint, angel, or ascended master for assistance. You may just be amazed at the results. (Doreen Virtue’s Archangels and Ascended Masters is a favorite resource of mine. My copy is seriously worn.)
  8. Set some intentions that align you with the Flow, and the Flow with you.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, One with the Flow.

The lovingkindness meditation

Hope

The limits of our goodwill form the ultimate boundaries of our peace of mind, for we cannot achieve peace while aversion is present. –Josh Korda

The lovingkindness meditation is a beautiful–and challenging–practice in which you offer lovingkindness first to yourself, and then to others … those who love you unconditionally, your loved ones, beloved pets, acquaintances, strangers, all sentient beings, relatives, and those who annoy you greatly. (These last two categories can overlap. OK, these last two categories do overlap.) I find it especially easy to offer lovingkindness to those who are now on the other side, as they are now even more purely loving than they were when they were here.

I’ve found in the past that serious resistance can arise to offering lovingkindness to those who seem to be doing their utmost to make my life difficult, or to those who’ve seemed to do so in the past. That’s why I’ve really enjoyed following Beth Terrence’s May is for Metta, which really eases into the lovingkindness practice, and helps build a strong foundation for it–to get in touch with your loving heart energy before you begin.

These are my favorite phrases to use during the meditation …

May I be safe.

May I be happy.

May I be at ease.

May I be peaceful.

May I be healthy and strong.

May I have a calm, clear mind, and a peaceful, loving heart.

May I experience love, joy, and wonder in this life just as it is.

And today may you experience love, joy, and wonder in this life–just as it is.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made to represent my 4th chakra companion, a joyful bird, and also to celebrate Hope, that thing with feathers.

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