Friday, December 31, 2010

Hatching Renewal?

Today I am living to regret the chair/bed/cabinet I moved from one house to the house next door BY MYSELF yesterday (and without the help of my trusty dolly!), and the 4'x8' sheets of sheetrock that I dragged out of the house and loaded into the back of the truck BY MYSELF, and the whole room AND CEILING that I painted.  I'm not the 20-year-old man that I think I am!  Either that or I left my cape at home (personal to Mike Austin: next to the peanut butter, of course -- because that's where Mike says the capes are usually kept!).

 It always comes as a shock to me that I am a "middle aged" woman!  What a horrid term "middle aged" is!  But I suppose "elderly" is even worse and I will be that before I know it!  How did I get to be 44?  Today I feel stiff and sore and 94!

When I said to Mark on the phone earlier "I'm not the 20-year-old man I think I am", I was sitting in the office and a coworker overheard my conversation.  A sly, knowing smile came across his face and I realized what he was thinking!  No, there was no wild night of partying involved.  No alcohol.  No hangover.  I just think I can do it all and I think I have the muscles to back that up!  Those muscles, or, rather, the places where those muscles SHOULD BE, are complaining about how I've abused them today!  Usually I have a dolly and I can use that and leverage and spacial reasoning and I can move most things short of a sofa by myself and without hurting myself.  Mark gets a bit insulted that I don't need his help very much. Yesterday I left the dolly at home.  Oh, and there was that ceiling...

So, enough whining about my aches, pains, and inadequacies!  Let me show you what I did!

I have this little log cabin on Lake Tenkiller in Eastern Oklahoma.  We bought it because it's literally 20 feet from our cabin and we wanted a little say over who lived there.  BAD IDEA!  We should have trusted the fates on that instead! 

We sold the cabin owner-financed to the sweetest man whom we just adored.  I'll call him "Christian".  Christian looked after our cabin and even did minor repairs on his own volition and for free -- out of the goodness of his very kind heart.

Unfortunately, depression, health problems, chronic pain, and financial struggles were too much for Christian. 

I heard through the grapevine that he had shot himself even before his brother called to confirm to me the worst implications of that event.  He had shot himself on purpose.  And he had died as a result. 

Suicide is SO tragic.  I am always so sad to know that another soul felt such despair.  I wish he had let us help him.  In retrospect, I am very glad that I did not pressure Christian for the back mortgage payments he owed me.  I told him not to worry about it, that I knew he'd catch up when he could, and that I didn't need that money at the moment so to please not stress about it.  Regardless, I'm sure I was one of the faces in his head as the stress and worry about creditors swirled around in his mind in his dark moments. 

We got the house back through foreclosure against Christian's estate a year after he died.  His family had cleaned up "what a family should", as they said, (I still don't know what, exactly, that meant) and had removed the most sentimental of Christian's possessions, but, for the most part, the house was as it had been on the day he died.  His slippers sat abandoned in front of the recliner that he clearly spent most of his time in.  The walls were soot-stained because he had been using the fireplace for heat all winter.  Books and magazine with last-years dates were strewn around.  The calendar was still on April of the previous year.  Dishes sat in the sink.  His clothes hung in the closet.  All was as if he had just stepped out for a minute.  But, in the bedroom, a bare mattress, where Christian died, stripped of what were surely blood-stained bedclothes, sat looking as if it should have crime scene tape around it.  Very surreal!  I marvel that I never found even a speck of blood in the whole room. 

I am so very sad for Christian.  I didn't know him well but I know he was a sweet, gentle soul who loved and bragged about his big family and many brothers and sisters, and who suffered greatly though he didn't deserve it. 

There is a great lesson in Christian's story for me:  a week after he took his life, he was approved for disability, the long, cold winter came to a sunny, warm, end, and things might have been so much better for him if he had just been able to hold on a little longer.  I don't know that for sure but I will always remember Christian when I need inspiration to hold on a little longer through dispair or through a difficult situation.

My task yesterday was to paint Christian's bedroom.  It was the most soot-stained room of them all as the living room had just received new drywall (a task Christian had started and I had had finished) and the other rooms had, presumably, had their doors closed most of the time.  Painting the room was a necessity for selling the house (which I desperately need to do) but also, for me, it was somehow something I could do for Christian -- I could erase the despair from his walls and bring some cheer into a place that had seen such sad trajedy.  I talked aloud to Christian as I worked.  I even asked him to help with the other end of that heavy sheet of drywall!  And I think somehow he DID take just a bit of the weight off for me!

Here is what Christian's room looked like before:



I was inspired to use a bird/nest/robin's egg theme in the room so that's where the colors came from (a few more touches of robin's egg blue are to come -- I'm hoping to find a vintage dresser that I can paint "robin's egg"!). For me, there is something comforting and hopeful about this theme that captures imagery of rebirth and renewal. I hope Christian likes what I did to his room!
Darkness set in before I finished and the power is turned off so I don't have the spiffiest of "after" pictures but, hopefully, you can see the improvement! It's not the most dramatic make-over I've ever done but I think it's pretty good for having just a few hours and using what I had on hand.

I hung a picture of a bird's nest with robin's eggs next to the chair after it was dark so there's no photo of that but try to picture it.
Picture a nest in the branch above the bed until I find one for real -- with little blue eggs in it too!
Compare to "before" shot from the same angle.  Boo hoo -- hadn't put the branch up yet in this pic!

Those spots on the wall to the left of the chair are wet spots in the paint.  After it got dark I hung a picture of robin's eggs in a nest in that spot.  It looks great!  Too bad you can't see it!

I had the old Jenny Lind syle headboard and footboard sitting out in the elements for WAY too long!  I was planning to sell them and intended to paint them first -- if they weren't too far gone already!  Throwing them out was a possibility.  Then it struck me that they kind of fit with the texture of the rustic bird's nest theme so I tried them in this room and I really like the effect!

Chippy footboard.  I leaned it in the corner to see if it worked as art/texture just as it is.  Major fail!  But it looks good on the bed!

I know it's silly but as I looked over the made-over room for the last time before I left at the end of the day, as twilight encroached, I realized that, from the bed, you could look out the window and see the lake.  The sun was setting over the lake with the rolling, wooded hills beyond, shades silver and gold washed over the whole scene, the lake sparkled.  And I wondered, if Christian could have laid in his bed and seen that beauty and that picture of God's incredible majesty, if he might have made a different decision.  Or maybe he just took himself to a better place.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Emily's Artistry

I'm "a day late and a dollar short" (as the old saying goes!) posting more of Emily's creations since I said on Monday I'd post them "tomorrow"!  But, apparently, I was referring to that particular brand of "tomorrow" that never seems to happen after "today"  in my world!  "Tomorrow" can potentially land on any random day in the future -- kind of like "manana" doesn't necessarily mean the day after today in Spanish.  "Manana" also means "morning" so I think the general idea is just the equivalent of "not now".  As for the "dollar short" part, the whole point of this post (and most of my posts!) is not needing dollars at all!  So I can just disregard that, right?

Emily walks on water in my eyes -- a privilege granted by her status of being my firstborn.  But I also think she's very genuinely talented.  You are welcome to judge for yourself as I am about to lay out a smorgasbord of her creations for your perusal!

When Sara-Grace was born, big sister Emily was 7 1/2.  She welcomed her new baby sister with a handmade teddy bear that she created all on her own without any help from me at all.  In fact, I didn't even know about it until she was done.

This teddy is an interesting study of rudimentary sewing and construction techniques -- which makes it all the more dear and charming!  Hand-sewn with non-matching thread, constructed with the seams on the outside, detailed with a marker -- you can really see how Emily's little mind labored to figure out how to put it all together so as to come out with a bear in the end.  This is one of the first things I would save if the house was on fire!

The second thing I would save if the house were ablaze would be MY teddy bear made by Emily.

My teddy came shortly after Sara-Grace's and shows some evolution in technique (like, it has legs!).  It also has button eyes and a button nose (no, I won't lapse into singing "Frosty the Snowman" here!), a couple of shirt buttons, and a tie. 

The really touching, wonderful, great cosmic thing about my teddy is that, in scavenging for materials, Emily inadvertently happened on to extremely meaningful items that she combined into another extremely meaningful item in my bear. 

The striped fabric was a scrap from the shower curtain I made for the apartment I lived in in California for three and a half years.  It then moved with me to my favorite place in the world: Laguna Beach, California, where I lived for two more years.  That fabric was takes my right back to those wondeful, California, grad school years! 

My teddy's shirt buttons were extras from my favorite maternity outfit:  a white, sleeveless, knit top and pants set that I wore until Emily nearly burst through the front of it (and then both her sisters did the same later)! 

The gray-blue crepe covered eye buttons and the tie were from my mother's wedding dress which she wore on October 14, 1978 when she married my step-father, John Cromwell, in the livingroom of our house on Whippoorwill Lane in Enid, Oklahoma.  My life changed for the better in so many ways that day! 

Lastly, the black silk velvet nose button was my grandmother's.  She had a jar of buttons that she kept in her amazing built-in shoe cabinet.  She kept all the extra buttons that came with her very fine, glamourous clothes (my grandmother was all sophistocated and "40's glam" and was definitely not your calico-sewing, cookie-baking, country variety of "grandma"!).  Grandmother would let me pour the buttons out of her button jar and play with them (which I did for hours!).  That black silk velvet button?  It was my very favorite of them all.  Somehow, Emily chose that one to use on my teddy! 

Last year, Emily did some really amazing ink drawings for her art class.  We copied them and made note cards which we gave to the grandmas for Christmas.  Here is that series:

Aren't they amazing?

For Christmas last year, Emily gave Mark and I a really incredible, meaningful gift -- a framed photo she had taken of the two of us (a rare thing since I usually take the photos and am almost never in them!).  Emily had snapped this shot of us months before.  For Christmas she blew it up, printed, and framed it.  We were blown away (particularly because she didn't seem to like us much at that time due to typical teenage angst and all)!

For my birthday this year, Emily presented me with another of her amazing drawings -- this incredible, curly, bird that just has so much motion and grace captured in it's feathers!

As I finish this post I am reminded of other examples of Emily's artistry.  Perhaps there will be a third part to this series!  But I won't promise to post it "tomorrow" because that just gets confusing!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Thrift!

Christmas terrifies me.  I'm not good at gift-giving to start with.  Christmas just compounds the whole phenomenon and elevates it, in my mind, into the realm of the impossible. 

And then there's the financial side as well.  Even if I had unlimited money to spend on gifts, Christmas would be a challenge for me.  On limited funds, it's almost worth a trip to a padded room to escape it.  But that would be even more expensive. So I muddle through.

Once upon a time, I spent about $40 per gift.  Boy was that was a long time ago! 

I am so relieved that I pulled off Christmas this year.  I am also quite proud of myself!  May I brag? 

This Christmas, I managed to give my daughters 14-15 gifts each for about $50 per child .  Seriously.   I just told a co-worker this and he looked at me like I need that padded room I just mentioned.  But I DID IT!  I know 14-15 each is overkill but since I only spent $50 each, why not?  It was wonderful balm for my terrified soul.

Luckily, my girls are accustomed to thrift store clothes.  They were all "Oooh, that's icky!" at first, but they've come around to my perspective on thrift stores as their closets filled with Abercrombie and Fitch, Aeropostale, Hollister, Miss Me, Gap, Old Navy, and American Eagle clothes for an average of $3 per piece.  The most I paid for any one item was $7.32 for Sara-Grace's jeans.  The girls know that these clothes sell for $30, $40, $50, plus per item new in the store.  $30 can buy them one item in the store or 10 items in the thrift store.  No one at school knows the difference so what does it matter where it came from?

Let me show you some of what they got:
$2 Aeropostale and VERY Emily!

"True Love Always" with bird that matches Emily's bird earings.  Hollister $3.  Aeropostale $5.

World's cutest pj bottoms(Old Navy) $4, basic skirt $1.94, jeans $6.

Old Navy $3, ? $1,94, Forever 21 $2.92. 

Purple Old Navy shirt was FREE.  Black Old Navy $2.75.  Orange Gap $2.92.

Lavender Old Navy $2.78.  Pink Aeropostale $2.78

Green Old Navy $2.74.74.  Brown Old Navy $2.  Red Faded Glory 75 cents.

White Old Navy $1.94.  Melon Mossimo $2.74.

Brand ? but who cares because it's got our luckly number "4" on it! $4.50.

Old Navy, Old Navy, and Children's Place - $3.50, $2.78, and $1.75.

Jeans (2 Levi's and 1 Old Navy) $3.94, $7.32, and $7.32.

$4 Abercrombie and Fitch jeans.
$2.92 and $2.

$3 Aeropopostale.  $3 Abercrombie.  $3 Sketchers shoes.

$2.75 Old Navy.  $0.50 American Eagle.

$3.25 Ariizona sweater.

$5 Wet Seal sweater.

No fancy names but cute and $2 each!

I also bought several books for $1 each that went over very well and are already half-read!

I wrapped everything in brown paper packets and tied the packages with left-over yarn color-coordinated by recipient (so, no need for gift tags).  I love the old-fashioned look of it.  I just hope no one thought I'd made a big trip to the butcher!

I spent a grand total of $28 on Mark and I don't think he felt the least bit deprived!  Here's what he got:

Coffee maker $9 (for which he has thanked me every morning since!)
Old Navy gray and chartruse striped shirt $5

Blue windowpane Daniel Cremeax dress shirt $1
Gorgeous tie $1
3 books $1 each
Some hot new underware (3 pair) $7
Army men $1
Funions (always his favorite chip!) $1
Holder for his glasses $2

Mark went wild at the dollar store for me and I was delighted!  I will use everything he got me almost daily!
Milk Duds $1 (ok, so those will only last a day or so!)
3 pack of super glue $1 (3 repairs completed already!)
First aid kit $1 (I swear someone needs a bandaid at least once a day!)
Lint brush $1 (4 dogs, 4 cats, need I say more?)
Sham wow 2 pack $1 (see above)
Eyeglass cleaning cloth $1
Bookmark $1
Plus, he got me a BIG box of chocolates, a gift certificate for my favorite Origins lotions, and a custom sweatshirt with "Coppock" and our lucky number "4" on the back!  I think he's a keeper!

I'm pretty sure Santa had a few tricks up his sleeve as well.  I bet he'd LOVE to tell you about what he pulled off! 

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Daughter Is A Genius!

I am SO excited to show off to you my favorite Christmas present! 

Emily (my 17-year-old) MADE this purse for me!  I think it is absolutely a MASTERPIECE!

It's even fully lined!

Even more impressive is the fact that she made it completely out of things she found around the house!  The yarn was left over from my scarf-making days.  The knitting needles were just sitting around (I do have a set that came from a dumpster!).  The fabric either came from a thrift store or a dumpster -- either way, it cost no more than $2 or $3 if it wasn't FREE!  The ribbon was from the packaging of a shower curtain I used in the renovation of one of Mark's RV's.  And the floss at the center of the ribbon flower was left over from some woven bracelets Emily made. 

I am SO proud of Emily!  I am SO honored to be the recipient of her artistry.  And I am honored to have been able to teach her, over the course of her childhood, the skills to "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear", as the old saying goes!  I can't take any credit for her genius or for the artist that she is at heart, but I feel like a can claim a few successes as a mother in that I taught her to knit (and weathered the inevitable tantrums of THAT frustrating process) and, by example, I've taught her resourcefulness.  I'm beginning to suspect that she will survive in the world just fine!  She could probably sell her handcrafted purses and have her own empire!

Tomorrow I'll show you some of her other creations!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Show And Tell

When I was in grade school I LOVED Show and Tell!  Perhaps I needed just a litttle attention that I knew was rightfully mine.  Attention-seeking though my reveling in Show and Tell may have been, I knew I was within relatively normal parameters because of Matilda. 

My classmate, Matilda, would lug in a whole grocery bag (back when they were brown paper and voluminous!) full of trinkets to display proudly at Show and Tell:  "...and this is my stuffed hippopotomus that my Uncle Bob gave me... and this is a wheat penny...and this is a man I made out of legos..."  Until everyone was trying not to snore or throw things at her.  The teacher eventually put parameters on Show And Tell and Matilda was at least somewhat curtailed!

My blog is my own little Show And Tell forum.  I try not to abuse it by being boring or self-indulgent.  Just call me "Matilda" if I get carried away and I'll know that means I need to rein it in!  Maybe Matilda from grade school just needed her own blog?

So, classmates, here is my Show And Tell about what I made this weekend!

My amazing friend Vanessa makes the most incredible mosaics!  She is truly an artist and her mosaics are truly masterpieces.  You can see her mosaics and her other vintage wares at  Here's are a couple of examples of her artistry:

Vanessa SO inspires me!  She also indulges me by letting me learn from her and copy her from time to time!  I cling fervently to the hope that she sees this as the sincerest form of flattery!  I would never try to sell my creations or be in direct competition with her (and, as you can probably tell by a quick comparison, I pose absolutely no threat to her).  I just need gift ideas now and then!

I needed impressive but not budget-busting gifts for a couple of family members this Christmas so I borrowed from the Vanessa genius and made these mosaic platters.

Mosaic platter featuring broken blue Christmas plate, tan ruffled plate edges, and backstamps from several assorted plates.

Floral mosaic platter.

As I was unloading a plastic bin full of Christmas decorations on Saturday, I came across a broken Christmas plate.  I skipped over "sad it was broken" and rolled immediately into "wouldn't that look cool in a mosaic"!  If you can pick out the blue piece with the white dots on it you might understand why -- it was just screaming to be highlighted rather than tossed! 

So the blue pieces are the remains of the Christmas plate.  There are seven "backstamps" featured on the oval platter that are the maker's marks from seven different plates.  The rest of the mosaic pieces came from four plates that I smashed just for the occasion (quite fun!).  The silver platters came from thrift stores for $1.99 and $1.45.  The mastic and grout were both free from the City of Fayetteville paint and chemical recycling facility. 

Here are a few photos of the process:

Sara-Grace grouting for me.  She kept saying she was tempted to lick the knife because it looked like icing!

Sara-Grace grouting.

Floral platter while the grout was drying.

Works in progress.

It's a good thing most of my family doesn't read my blog or they'd be getting a preview of their Christmas gifts!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Welcoming Christmas

I'm hoping today that it is perceived as endearing that I am just simply open and honest.  To me, life is just WAY too complicated if you don't just put all your cards on the table and deal with things openly. 

With this as my mantra, I confess, I was at a loss for a blog post for today!  So, welcome to my front door!  These are a few of my favorite things and a couple of them happen to be Christmas-related so, TA DA!, quickie blog post!

I get lots of compliments on my house numbers so I know that they have more universal appeal than just that I like them. 

I started with a decorative plate rack -- $2 from the thrift store.  I find these EVERYWHERE because no one really knows what to do with them unless they are completely enamoured of a particular plate.  I added a platter from my daily ware -- also $2 from the thrift store. I use this dishware pattern because I like it but also because it is massively common and, therefore, available at thrift stores on a regular basis. I can and do easily and often replace or add pieces (translation: I've bought this set at least five times over!). On the surface of the plate I just stuck on some adhesive numbers (as is evidenced by the way the 8 is starting to peel a bit -- but that's ok because they're easily replaceable!). I found these numbers in the garage. I think they're left over from when my parents had to put numbers on their boat (in 1983!)!

You probably remember that thing about me being a Scrooge.  But I get the warm fuzzies over my Christmas door decorations! 

This wreath is made from a grapevine wreath form (found in a dumpster -- but you can get them anywhere for cheap!), a bunch of wonderful pearly berry things ($2 from the thrift store), and a bow made from gorgeous, decadent ribbon (bought at the thrift store for 33 cents for the whole roll!).   Total cost: $2.33.


The "Merry Christmas" sign is (surprise, surprise) a $3 thrift store find. I seriously wish I could say it was of my creation but, alas, I cannot. But someone DID make it -- out of spare cabinet door, some transfer letters, a stencil, some paint, and some drywall compound. I always hate to put it away after Christmas is over because it is just one of my favorite things!

I'll let you in on a little secret!  I would be just happy, happy, happy if Christmas decorating were so simple as hanging a wreath at the door and proping up a sign.  Maybe I'll simplify down that much in my old age someday!  But probably not -- "simple" is not really the way things in my world tend to be!  And now I'm off to tackle my complicated day!  Have a good one!