Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Saga of Verna Oller: I Get It -- It's a Game!

Recently, I found myself transfixed by a news story about a little old lady named Verna Oller.  Miss Verna died last May at the age of 98.  Much to the dismay of everyone who had thought of her only as an old lady on a meager fixed income, she left more than memories.  She left 4.5 million dollars!

Below is a link where you can read the whole story about Verna Oller.  I won't attempt to recreate it.  But I do want to use the opportunity to discuss misers.

The thing that fascinated me most about Verna Oller (and maybe my own proclivity is showing here!) was that she used a broken jacket zipper as a shoelace in her thrift store work boots.  Most people would think of this as proof of psychopathology.  I, on the other hand, was jealous of the incredible depth of  resourcefulness!  And I actually think it looks kind of grunge-trendy!  Maybe Miss Verna could have been something of a trendsetter among young counter-culture rebels?  See the link below to view her boot!

Before you diagnose and dismiss me, let me explain:  I can appreciate a nice new pair of shoe laces.   Really, I can.  But I also "get it".  I think I understand the inner workings of a miser's brain!  First, they're just simply practical.  Terminally practical.  They don't see the need for frills because they've had to do without and know they CAN.  There is peace in knowing how little one really needs.  Secondly, maybe not at first and maybe not ever for the most fear-motivated misers, but, for many of them, eventually, it's a game!  When someone with a miser's mindset spends absolutely as little money as possible, they "win" in their sparing match with "the system" or with their feelings about financial security or with their pride in their creativity and resourcefulness.  I get it. 

Some of my most satisfying projects and victories have come out of this scenario.  I want X.  X costs ____ dollars.  I don't have ____ dollars.  How can I get X for 0 dollars?  Nothing turns on the creative juices for me like this challenge!  And nothing is more fun for me, more primal and life-giving and central to who I am, than creativity!  Usually, especially if I have time to wait for things to come to me, I can pull it off.

To my knowledge, the first time I ever "won" this game, was a snowy day in January about 10 years ago.  I was making the best of being homebound by re-doing the girls' bathroom.  For some unknown reason, there is a niche in the drywall behind the door. In the five years since we'd bought the house I'd wondered what to do with this niche.  On that day, the niche and some glass louvers from an old Florida-style window that I had in the garage came together in the equation in my mind:  niche + glass strips = shelves!  Ta Da!  The louvers even happened to be just the perfect length!

I needed some small pieces of wood to use as shelf supports but I had nothing on hand.  A quick trip to Lowe's would have done the trick but the roads were icy and it would have been stupid to risk my life for shelf supports.  I really wanted those shelves NOW!  What could I use for shelf supports?  I thought and I thought as I continued to work on the rest of the bathroom.  And then it came to me!  I put on my stocking cap over my thinking cap and I went out into the yard and found some branches which I cut to appropriate lengths.  A handful of finishing nails, a hammer, and a few minutes of pounding and I had shelves!  I like the rusticness of the branch pieces as shelf supports even better than I would have liked milled trim pieces.  They just add character!

Yikes!  Another of my less-than-wonderful 6 a.m. photos! 
Now I have a new project:  to restyle this scene and come up with really spiffy pics for later!

It's still a thrill for me every time I see those shelves and I remember the creative brainstorm in the snowstorm that brought them about.  It if hadn't been snowing and I hadn't been thwarted in my impatient desire for instant shelves I would never have had the epiphany that I did and the satisfation that I still enjoy from the experience and the lesson that I continue to carry with me from it. 

Today, it's MUCH more fun for me to get what I want with creativity than it is to get it with money.  Anyone can walk into a furniture store with $10,000 and come out with a beautiful room.  I want that same beautiful room but I also want to win the challenge of getting it for as little as possible.  It's the inherent overachiever in me -- give me a challenge and I want not just an A but a 100+%!

Verna Oller and I could have had some fun together.  I'm sure she had creativity and resourcefulness skills far beyond mine!  I wish I could pick her brain -- AND get stock tips from her!

The whole Verna Oller story:

The boot photo:

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