Lost in Wonderland (or Wasting Time on Pinterest)

I was not an early convert to Pinterest. Even when a friend helped me set it up, I dragged my feet. Messing around with it might be fun, but there were so many other things I needed to do. However, when we moved to a new house, I began to see why people like the app.

At first it was strictly business—a shopping tool and resource for household tips. Our new house needed shower curtains, porch furniture, light fixtures, and a stool for the kitchen counter. The app became a good place to save photos and links for furnishings that I wanted to show to my husband.

Next, I searched for advice on nontoxic ways to clean the shower. I was immediately bombarded with pins for shower cleaning tips along with photos of gross toilets that needed an intervention. I wanted to say, “Wait, no need! I’ve already know what to do about the shower, and God help me if my toilet ever looks like that!” But like most online apps, it’s programmed to show you more of whatever you searched for in the past.

The real magic happened when I followed a few friends. They like such cool stuff—who knew it even existed? ceramic sculptureI’d never have found such amazing ceramic sculptures or incredible fiber art if I hadn’t started following a sculptor friend and seeing her pins. That led to people across the world pinning my pins. Amazing.fiberart

My friends’ pins also led me to explore in a more playful way—not searching, just wandering in playland. That’s how I learned more about jadeite glass and how to grow fragrant lemon seedlings from lemon seeds . . . in case I ever want to.

Now Pinterest is my first stop for recipes, crafts, and garden ideas. I’m not a clever person who thinks up how to make Santa hat appetizers from strawberries and banana slices, but now I can impress my friends with that trick if I ever need to.

Messing around in the quilting and sewing pins gave me a zillion ideas for projects. And I never would have seen antique sewing scissors and sewing kits without Pinterest. antique sewing kit

This year, when I started planning my flowerpots for the patio, I turned to Pinterest for inspiration.flowerpot

What I’ve discovered is that at worst, Pinterest is harmless, but addicting, fun. I can collect eye candy and daydream (without obligation) about cool projects I might do. At best, it’s a good resource for inspiration.

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Why I’m Done Deferring Joy

Recently, I’ve decided that I’m done “saving it for good.” Nothing’s too good to use. Nothing’s too good to wear. 

Mimmie's lemonade set

Mimmie’s lemonade set

When Mimmie (my father’s mother) died, I received her handpainted Nipon lemonade set. She’d promised it to me because I’d admired it for years. I also received Grandma’s (my mother’s mother) crystal goblets after Grandma died. I am pleased to own both sets—they are part of my heritage and they remind me of women I love. For 30 years, I’ve “saved them for good,” dusting them but rarely using them.

I also have dresses, blouses, and a suit I’ve saved for good, which means I rarely wear them. Too often, the clothes are too small or out of style before I need them again. I wind up giving them away—which is OK, maybe someone else can use them—but why didn’t I use them?

I don’t know whether or not “saving it for good” is a generational phenomenon. As a Baby Boomer whose parents experienced the Great Depression, I was taught that it was important to hang on to and care for the things you had, because somebody worked hard to get them, and you might not to be able to replace them if they got ruined. But somewhere along the line that practical impulse got subverted.

My special things began to assume too much importance—they had to be protected in glass breakfronts, handwashed and dried, and only admired occasionally. That’s the impulse I’m rejecting. My sons never knew my grandmothers, so the meaning and memories go when I go. If the lemonade cups get chipped, so be it. They are meant to be used and enjoyed, not wind up in an estate sale. I will think of Mimmie and Grandma more often if I use their things regularly than if the items stay in my cupboard.

Grandma's goblets

Grandma’s goblets

I’m also rejecting the idea of deferring joy—that there’s some bigger better moment in the future—some truly important occasion when I should dress up or use crystal. That’s akin to waiting until retirement to travel and then having a heart attack or some other debilitating illness and not being able to go.

Instead, I’m choosing to live in the moment more—I’m not saving for a rainy day or waiting for the right time. Well, OK, I’m still saving money because, if heredity is any guide, I’m going to live a long time. But I’m spending more joy right now.

So I’ll use Mimmie’s cups to drink iced tea and sip cabernet from Grandma’s goblets. And when I show up at work in a dress or suit, my coworkers can wonder if I have a job interview, but you’ll know the real story!

Do you save anything for good? How do you seize the day and spend more joy right now?

Stuffed

Unlike Elizabeth (I’ve Never Had Something Not Burn), I have lots of stuff—a houseful of it! More than I need. But I have trouble parting with it.

I really like my stuff and so much of it has a story.

I got the 1930’s wrought iron floor lamp from my parent’s basement. Now it’s painted blue, but before that it was red, and at one time it was black. I made the small nine-patch quilt because I loved the 1940’s retro print fabric. My bookcases are filled with books that mean a lot to me. I like the mission style desk I bought and refinished years ago.  I still like this stuff.  It makes me happy to have it around. I feel at home because it’s here. And that’s just my office. Lamp & quilt

Lurking in my office closet are piles of old writing samples and presentation supplies related the freelance writing business . . . that I gave up a year ago. I also have paper, clay, jewelry, knitting and craft supplies that I rarely use.  But I might.

Just a few of my bowls . . .

Just a few of my bowls . . .

Or what about all of the bowls I own? Bowls I made years ago when I had access to a pottery studio. Bowls I bought at art fairs. Bowls I picked up in antique stores. I could dirty bowls for several weeks before I’d run out of clean bowls.

And mugs! That collection is even bigger. I could tell you where each one came from—Spain, the North shore, a friend, and on and on. I love them all, but really, how many mugs does a person need?!? Occasionally I give some away when the cupboard gets too full, but there’s still a box of mugs on a basement shelf (don’t tell my husband).

These are just my favorites . . . I have more!

These are just my favorites . . . I have more!

The stuff I’m keeping is still good. I might need it someday.

The classy interview suit I don’t wear—the pants are kinda tight and I’m not looking for a job right now. Will it be hopelessly out of style the next time I’m interviewing or have a funeral to go to?

My box collection. I save shoes boxes and Amazon boxes so I can send cookies and presents to my family in Toledo.  Really, three or four would suffice, but I’m sure I have at least a dozen. My husband has learned to nest them so they take up less room and he weeds them out carefully so I won’t notice and squawk.

Lately, I’ve realized that having a lot of stuff can be oppressive.

I have to dust it, protect it from breaking, or store it.  Managing my stuff takes time and thought. Not just the housekeeping, but also the emotional upkeep of caring about my stuff—remembering the person who gave it to me and feeling torn when I want give it away. Deciding what to keep and what to give away is hard, so I don’t do it very often.

Even divesting myself of all this stuff will be hard. 

I’ve visited too many estate sales in which old hot water bottles, empty picture frames, spare light bulbs, rusty garden tools and other stuff nobody wants was lined up for sale next to kitschy-enough-to-be-cool Christmas decorations. But the sad useless stuff tainted my pleasure in getting a deal on some cookie sheets or a pie plate that my sons actually needed.

Recently, my sister spent hours cleaning and pricing stuff for a garage sale. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but in the end, she didn’t sell that much, so a lot that stuff went to Goodwill anyhow.

A good friend just pitched 19 years’ worth of teaching materials—all those lesson plans, readings, exercises, student samples—that treasure is irrelevant now that she’s retired. But I know she was sad to say goodbye to several decades of a profession she was passionate about.

My husband and I talk about moving to a smaller house someday. If we do, we’ll have to shed a lot of our stuff. I wish I could give it directly to someone who needs it—somebody just starting out who wants a lamp . . . or some bowls. I’d like to give my still-good stuff in a more personal way than just having Goodwill or the Vietnam Vets collect it. I wish I could hand it to somebody who will actually like it and enjoy it the way I have.  I daydream about placing an ad that says, “Come get some great, well-loved stuff—FREE!”

No doubt I’ll be sad when the time comes to move, because I’ll be shucking off an identity and lots of memories. But I hope my life will feel a lot lighter and simpler—more carefree.

Free Vase

For more than 30 years, I’ve displayed a hand-thrown porcelain vase in my home. It has an opalescent glaze that I’ve always liked. As an off-again, on-again potter, I admire the skill needed to make the vase. Recently, when I wiped the shelf it sits on, I saw the artist’s name inscribed on the bottom and recalled the odd coincidence that led to me having the vase.  Inside Vase

My younger sister Margo and I are two years apart, and during college, we ran in different social circles. One quarter, we each took an introductory ceramics class at the Toledo Museum of Art (my class was at 9:00; hers was at 1:00). Consequently, we worked in the same ceramics studio but at different times of day.

Two assistants—both accomplished potters—helped students figure out how to use a kick wheel to throw a pot. To do this, you have to balance on your left leg and use your right foot to regularly kick a bar that keeps the pottery wheel spinning fast enough so you can use both hands to center your gray lump of stoneware. I was WAY too uncoordinated to do this, but gamely tried for the duration of the class.

Fortunately, I was better at making hand built pieces, so my grades on those pieces kept me from failing. Margo was a little better at throwing pots on the wheel, but not much. We both produced awkward heavy bowls we should have trashed.

Unbeknownst to us, the two assistants were good friends, and they had taken an interest in us. Jeff was attracted to Margo, while Pete was interested in me.

With her waist-length dark hair and dimples, Margo had been turn-and-stare, good-looking since she was 14. I didn’t come into my own looks and style—honey blonde wavy hair—until I was in college. I wasn’t as used to being noticed as Margo was.

30 years later . . .

30 years later . . .

We both enjoyed flirting with our respective guys, but neither Margo nor I mentioned the minor flirtation we each had underway. We both had jobs and school and didn’t see each other that often. Similarly, the guys didn’t know they were chatting up sisters until one day during finals. After our pathetic bowls and mugs had been fired in the kiln, Margo and I came in together to pick them up. Jeff and Pete were cleaning the studio while they waited for students to claim their pieces.

Jeff was about to discard the porcelain vase he’d made because it had a small chip off the bottom and the some of the glaze on the side was too opaque. We asked if we could keep it—it was so pretty, especially compared to what each of us had made. Pete, in turn, gave Margo two tall porcelain vases.

But although I have dusted it a thousand times, I rarely see it anymore, so I think it’s time to give it to someone who will like it as much as I have. Do any of you want it?

This blog was inspired by a book called The Secret Life of Objects by Dawn Raffell.