Failing Farmer Flees To France

Want to know one of the most satisfying parts of being a 50 something? It’s simply the ability to do what I could not do as a child. I’m referring to creativity mess making here. How many tantalizing dreams did I entertain, lo those many years ago, only  to be thwarted by some short sighted adult saying “Girls can’t do that”, or, “I will not take you to the store”, or “PUT THAT DOWN RIGHT THIS MINUTE!!!!!”

Before long I was an adult myself and  in charge of OTHER people’s messes. I was all for turning a refrigerator box into a spaceship, or the living room into a cavern made of bedsheets. I tried never to say “Girls can’t do that,” but I did on many occasions say sternly, “PUT THAT DOWN RIGHT THIS MINUTE!”

Now, as an empty nester, I can come up with whatever big idea suits me, and proceed to make as big a mess as I want to. If my first mess making attempt does not pan out, I am free to try the same schemes over and over again! There is no one stop me, which is one of the reasons why I need to go to France right now.

Didn’t you ever want to get as close as possible to the very beginning of whatever you wanted to make or do? For instance, to not only paint your own picture, but to stretch the canvas as well? Or to not only make a quilt, but  to also dye the fabric yourself? That’s my approach to farming. I want to grow plants from the seed right to the table. Also I will admit  that colorful seed packets remind me of the penny candy we used to be able to buy at the TG&Y. And I want them all.

Each spring, having had the winter freeze my memories of  whatever farming peccadilloes I got myself into the year before, I  vow that this year I will be organized and efficient as never before. And because of my vow, now seems like a good time to go to France.

Here is where I so carefully planted one million seeds.

Here is where I so carefully planted one million seeds.

After planting

After planting


DSC_0323This year I kept meticulous records of which seeds were planted in which little container. I didn’t want to wind up not knowing what was where. On April 12 I transplanted almost every seedling into my garden. It was a calculated risk, because I knew I was going out of town before long. I thought the plants might do better in their natural habitats instead of crammed in those little plastic trays.

I moved the tender plants onto the patio in preparation for planting. I likened  their journey from seed packet, to seed tray and to the garden as a kind of Middle Passage. My young plants had not chosen to come to my yard. Rather, one day they were dislodged  from a seed packet and packed together, head to toe, in plastic seed trays. Today I would free them from their rude vessels and release them into a New World, where they could  freely reach toward the sun. I am nothing if not a benevolent farmer.

 

DSC_0328 Did you know that it is very difficult to get  a miniature seedling out of a plastic tray section which is only 1/16th of an inch wide? As my planting day progressed, despite my lofty plans,  I grew weary of trying to gently pry out the seedlings. More often than not I turned the whole tray upside down and shook, then tried to turn the seedlings right side up. There was no one to stop me.DSC_0336 I also ran out of room. I resorted to finding a spot that didn’t look already dug up, and stuffing the darn things down right there. So much for organization; I could find out what things were whenever they got big enough. At 3:00 I stopped, having only one more tray of peas and a couple more seed packets to take care of at some later date.

That Tuesday night we had a FREEZE warning. I spread tarps over as much of the garden as I could. It was out of my hands now. This past Saturday it was warm again. It seemed some  bedraggled seedlings may have pulled through. In a hopeful mood I gave the garden a good drink from the irrigation system. Two hours later my husband came in and said, “By the way, I’ve watered your garden for you.” DOH!!!DSC_0327 When it finally dried out a little, things didn’t look too promising. DSC_0325 Is that something growing up there??? Maybe???

All I can do at this point is to say that I had a big idea and made a big mess to go along with it. Mostly it has been glorious fun. I can’t bring myself to believe that NONE of my one million seeds will make it. Four o’clocks and peppers, for example, are fairly hardy. Since I can do no more now except wait, I’m going over to France for a few days. DSC_0329 If worst comes to worst, when I get back, I can try again with these babies. Isn’t it great being a 50 something? There’s always another big idea around the corner. See you when I get back!

Magpie Meditation: Reset

I’ve been in an unmindful hurry in the last few months. rushing to be creative, introspective, helpful, attentive, and healthy.  With the best of intentions I  spread myself too thin. In hindsight I see how, in increments, I knocked myself right out of balance.

I work three days a week.  On those days it is my job to be there for people who are in difficult life situations. I provide a safe, accepting environment in which people can examine their thoughts ad feelings and make the changes they want  to make in their lives. It is an unbelievably  rewarding career. I have learned more from those who have walked through my office door than I could ever express in words.

On the four days I do not work one might think I  had   plenty of time  to break out of professional mode, put on my sweats and….read, write, cook, daydream, garden, blog, ….an organic, rejuvenating flow of energy.  On paper it works nicely. In reality, on my days off I still have to answer work calls, schedule doctor’s appointments, and wait for the cable man.  On some days off I may still be  so tired from the three long days I have  worked that it is a struggle to be as creative as  I would like to be.

Shouldn't you be knitting right now? At the same time that you are painting, writing and relaxing?

Shouldn’t you be knitting right now? At the same time that you are painting, writing and relaxing?

I was juggling it all flexibly enough until  late October 2013 when  I impulsively signed up for  my first NaNoWriMo challenge.  All of November I hunted and I pecked and I came up with the required number of words. I loved, loved, loved, participating in NaNoWriMo. And what do I have now? I have a teeny tiny little novel that needs big editing. I’m convinced that my characters deserve to be brought to life in print, where they will be loved and cherished by all.  With all the pride of a new mother, I think my baby book is  uncommonly beautiful.

Now, on my “off” days I am  trying to teach myself what we do after we write a draft of a novel. Do I know what I am doing? Not at all.  Do I have a writing group? Not at all. I spend my time reading books about writing books, searching on the internet for what to do with a book manuscript, and on the actual editing of the book. Also, for a person with the technical skills of the main character in The Gods Must Be Crazy, being gifted with a new computer for Christmas proved a mixed blessing. I can’t tell you what  all the problems have been because it will cause flashbacks of my having talked to every single Apple support employee, except to say that I did not have Pages ’09, and therefore  for a time could not open up my poor little book on the new laptop. Sigh.

On a more serious note, in  the middle of the frenetic NaNoWriMo month,  I learned that a very close friend, not a blogger, has  a life threatening illness. I spoke with her on a Tuesday while  she was getting ready for work. By Saturday of that same week, after an emergency room visit for severe pain, she had a diagnosis and was meeting with her treatment team. While she wasn’t looking, she left her old life and started a new one. The gods really MUST be crazy.

Even now when I say to myself that she is sick, part of me says, “No she’s not.” But she is. For now she is doing well, but still has a hard uncertain road ahead. Though her illness is not my story, my role as her friend has changed. I need to gather strength in order to be a person who to whom she can  say anything, especially those things she cannot say elsewhere. I need to pay attention in order to be a person who steps in when needed, and out when not. I need to be a person who does not always treat my friend as though she is a sick person.    I need to be honest with myself in order to  accept my powerlessness to change the progression or outcome of her illness.  I am honored to assume these roles, but of necessity I have had to learn them on the fly.

The realities of the last few months  left me feeling frantic on days when I was not working, longing to be alone, and to be needed by no one SO I COULD  GET SOME WORK DONE!!!!  Yet when  alone, I did not experience the peace I and contentment I sought. Fear that I would run out of time on this earth, that I would never be able  to learn and do all I want caused me to try to wring every productive moment out of every day. When was I going to get around to editing my book? Knitting? Working on my new scrapbook? What about that online photography class I needed so sorely? When would I research my trip to Paris? What about my blog post?   I began to feel overwhelmed with that dread that says “You should be _________ right now.”

  I do know better than to try to be a “human doing”. Because of my vulnerability  I must have deluded myself into thinking that because I enjoy learning, making, and doing, that it would be appropriate to do them all at a breakneck pace without savoring the individual moments.  I worked myself into ignoring the part where I was going ninety miles an hour. I’ve been here before.  But apparently  learning to just be is one of those life lessons  I am destined  to learn over and over again.

The funny thing is how I came to notice all of this. I knew I felt  unsettled, not right.  Good  detective work on my part. But guess what my solution was? I TRIED TO ADD SOMETHING ELSE TO MY SCHEDULE WITHOUT ASKING ME!!!!!!! That’s right folks; I decided that just a few minutes of scheduled meditation, along with study of same, would bring me back to a peaceful place. Part of the absurdity of this is that I purely cannot stand for my time to be  taken up, even if it is taken up by me. I want to do what I want to do WHEN I want to do it.

So when I tried to implement my ill conceived  plan, I heard the most distinct voice inside myself saying,”NO. NO. NO. This is the problem. YOU are the problem.” At least that time, if not for the preceding weeks, I did listen. And I knew I had to start back at the beginning. For me, that means with a notebook and pen. That means every day, not just some days. That means asking me what I want to do, and listening to the answer. It means that once I check in with myself, I have accomplished the most important task of the day. Whatever I do afterwards I will do  more mindfully by default. That’s what matters.

Where the rubber meets the road. Source: caps.umich.edy

Where the rubber meets the road.
Source: caps.umich.edy

I am a few days into my reset now. Once I attend to myself through my journal I find I am quite ready and willing to meditate. Though everyone’s experience is individual, I can report feeling less rushed and less anxious.  When I breathe I am aware of more  inner space. I am also aware of a deep weariness in my shoulders. What better way could my body tell me I need to let go?

I am still busy, but I am busy differently. Busy noticing. Busy being. Busy starting over and feeling more balanced.  I will never have time to do everything that interests me. I will never be able to control the passing of time.  But however I do spend my time, I want to feel alive and present in that moment, for it will never come again. It is comforting to know that if from time to time I veer off of the  course I  want to follow that I can simply reset.

What about you? Do you ever need a reset? And if so, what works for you?

Little Ole Ladies In Pasadena: Advice From Professionals

Magpie TV, devoted to bringing viewers the very best in practical information, is pleased to bring you travel tips from two very special little old ladies: The Magpie herself, and her stalwart companion Readmegirl. Hey, there’s precedent:

She's such a copycat! Source: starpulse.com

She’s such a copycat!
Source: starpulse.com

Martha Stewart appears on her own network. Tune in today to learn how to make sure YOUR trip feels as smooth as the zipper in your properly sized and packed suitcase  from start to finish!

Commercial Break: Planning a trip to Pasadena? We’d love to help, but we’ve only seen a few sights  there: Huntington Gardens, a famous bridge, and the Rose Bowl. What we can recommend is walking the neighborhoods and admiring people’s yards. If you happen to see inside their homes, so much the better. Here are a few neighborhood highlights:DSC_0382

DSC_0401DSC_0416Part One: The ladies, recently returned from visiting Krug The Thinker in Pasadena California, were not available to appear live, which is fine because this is not a live show anyway. Nor is it taped ahead of time. Our unique no audio/no video format made it oh so possible for our guest stars to compile some dos and don’ts from their most recent peregrination.We are also privileged to have some of their photos for our commercial breaks! ( We suggest some music now, but all we can think of is “Leaving’ On a Jet Plane.” Lame.)

1) Trip Planning: Arranging conveyance by airplane is more complicated than ever, warns  the Magpie.The fares, the routes, the service – all have become so unpredictable and frankly, unsuitable for civilized beings. What one wants and what is available often do not mesh conveniently. However, if possible, when arranging a trip, depart the morning AFTER the clock springs forward, depriving you of the one hour during which you sleep most deeply. You’ll be in such a daze you won’t even notice the delays or the bad breath of  the man behind you in the TSA line.

2) Airport Transportation: Never make assumptions about ground transportation. The wise traveler learns ahead of time what is available and makes arrangements accordingly. The alternative is to stand at the exit with one’s mouth open, inviting native insects in for a visit. IF one arranges a pickup by limousine service as the little ole ladies did, it is helpful upon landing  to respond immediately to the driver’s text announcing his arrival at the airport. But don’t call the one who most recently texted you. Ignore THAT text and call the one who picked you up last December!! That will really surprise him on his day off, and make for a zany good time leaving the airport!

Little Ole Ladies in Limo

Little Ole Ladies in Limo

3) Footwear:  Magpie makes it a point to have comfortable walking shoes. Last year the Magpie had occasion to own two identical pair of walking shoes, the first pair having rudely hidden themselves in the closet until after the second pair was purchased. Magpie’s response was to immediately put one pair inside her suitcase so she would always have a pair of walking shoes. Upon arrival at the Saga Court Motor Hotel, congratulating herself on her forethought, Magpie whipped both of those left footed babies right out of the suitcase.

Oops!

Oops!

4) Packing Light: Be creative! The Magpie never checks bags, so she tries to use multi purpose garments. For example, a bathing suit cover up can double as a nightgown. If, as happened to Magpie, you underestimate how cool it gets at night, especially with a roommate who wants the air conditioner running,  and you have to add a couple of shirts on top and a pair of jeans on the bottom so you won’t freeze, that bathing suit cover up will tuck right down in your jeans so that you barely have any bulges when you appear in the lobby in  your two left footed shoes and an ice bucket in which you plan to stack three or four cups of coffee to take  back to your room. Decorum is everything, Readmegirl reminds us.

This is a very nice look for the hotel lobby.

This is a very nice look for the hotel lobby.

5) Be Courteous! Some travel companions have odd proclivities, such as announcing that they cannot sleep while being serenaded with the combination of honking, sawing and gurgling that makes up snoring. If  you are awakened by a nudge in the middle of the night, and  are surprised to find a frowning yet familiar face hovering above you, demanding that you cease and desist, simply say “Thank you,” and go back to sleep. That’s how the Magpie handled it , and she’s convinced that the gentle approach to the nudger made all the difference.

Commercial Break: ( We recommend narration in a calm dignified tone.But you do what you want.)  Today we feature the Saga Court Motor Hotel  of Pasadena.

View from the second floor. Source: Saga Motor Hotel

View from the second floor. Source: Saga Motor Hotel

This 1960s gem, located on Route 66, offers palm trees, a heated pool, and 1980s bedspreads. (Now  a little suspenseful music.) In addition, the  Saga’s peach colored stucco walls, retro atmosphere including jalousied windows, will make you sure that a noir mystery is occurring on the premises. We can’t be sure one did NOT take place, as we had a mysterious call from someone asking for “Marcia.”Who calls anymore on your room phone?? Keep the Saga in mind when you visit Pasadena. It’s reasonably priced, has an air of mystery about it, AND has a few books to read in each room.IMG_2664

And now we return to our show: We’re learning so much about how the smart set travels. But there’s more!

6) Don’t Avoid Responsibility: When you have been invited into town to see someone, don’t make THEM do all the heavy lifting. Specifically, Readmegirl tells us, when your hostess announces that her one of her sweetest friends who is also an incredibly talented chef is in town and wants to cook for all of you, insist on supervising! You may look as though you are only snapping peas, lounging on the couch, and drinking a purple drink called an Aviation, but in fact you are making sure those kids don’t burn the house down. In the name of safety, search your heart for the humility needed to complete this noble task. You won’t be sorry!

Stealth  Supervision

Stealth Supervision

Can you trust a man who makes beautiful crusts with his bare hands?

Can you trust a man who makes beautiful crusts with his bare hands?

And makes you a beautiful purple drink in the middle of the afternoon????

And makes you a beautiful purple drink in the middle of the afternoon????

Supervision has its own rewards.

Supervision has its own rewards.

7) Clarify, clarify, clarify: Readmegirl reminds us of the importance of communication. Here’s the kind of ubiquitous situation to which she refers: When you are  enjoying a glass of wine at an Italian restaurant where the decor is reminiscent of the Ratpack days  and your sister returns from the restroom and announces, “We’re all going to have to go on a field trip to the bar after dinner. It’s got gold wallpaper with black stripes with  machine guns on the walls”, DO NOT JUST ASSUME THAT THE SHOTGUNS ARE REAL!!!!!! You will be so, so disappointed!

When they get so disappointed you have to let them sit in the special chairs for a few minutes.

When they get so disappointed you have to let them sit in the special chairs for a few minutes. I won’t say who thought the machine guns were real, only that between these two there are 78 years of formal education.

8 ) Don’t be territorial: You don’t have to be the center of attention at all times. Allow your travel companions to get ahead of you on walks and have their own conversations. After all it’s not THEIR fault you can’t keep up because you are having to wear someone else’s too large shoes that squeak so loudly that you have no chance to practice your favorite pastime of eavesdropping. Try not to take it personally when they get ahead of you while you lag behind to take pictures because after all, life is art, and that while ahead of you THEY witness a woman  watering her flowers clad only in a shirt and some shiny underpants. It won’t be easy, but in time you will get over it.

You can't be talking every moment when there is such beauty to capture...

You can’t be talking every moment when there is such beauty to capture…

Ahey're probably NOT talking about you.

And they’re probably NOT talking about you anyway. Right??

9) Use your Southern hospitality! Expect to be included in your hosts’ lives and activities. When invited to drink celebratory beers with a group of Cal Tech astrophysicists and assorted other left brain specimens, accept happily and chances are they’ll never dream you know nothing about science. Instead, choose a topic of universal interest, such as your own wedding 35 years ago, and how your seventeen year old sister had to drive home the car that your male guests had adorned with inappropriate sayings. That’s something everyone can relate to!

Nonmembers cannot make purchases at the Athaneum Club. So all we could do was amuse the geniuses with our wedding stories. It seemed an even trade.

Nonmembers cannot make purchases at the Athaneum Club. So all we could do was amuse the geniuses with our wedding stories. It seemed an even trade.

10) Getting Home: All good things must come to an end. If you are reluctant to end your voyage, chances are you will be packing, inexpertly, at the last minute. Some of the inexpertness could be due to the lateness of the hour, to the wine you are drinking to assuage your sadness, or to the knowledge  that the new suitcase you just  bought at the thrift store because luggage was 40 percent off does not unzip all the way around. Though Readmegirl is a very efficient little cuss, she could not make headway with her suitcase situation and was forced to avail herself of her sister’s help. Magpie’s expertise at least got all items packed, but put Readmegirl over the line for  carryons. Should this happen to you, advises Readmegirl, decide what you will give up if challenged at the airport. Should you decide to let go of the  red duffel bag you brought, as was Readmegirl’s choice, only leave your ignition key in the bag if you think it would be funny to call your husband and ask him to come pick you up at the airport one hour away from home at midnight. That joke never fails to get a response!

Readmegirl struggles with her unzippable bag. Note the expendable duffel on the floor. Who knew it contained one tiny loose ignition key?

Readmegirl struggles with her unzippable bag. Note the expendable duffel on the floor. Who knew it contained one tiny loose ignition key?

Well everyone, that’s all the time we have for today. We hope we’ve left you with some useful tips from this peripatetic duo. Viewers, as always, if you have tips to share, or simply want to validate the ladies’ experiences, we welcome your comments!DSC_0372 DSC_0407

Living Memories

Today’s post is inspired by this bloghop prompt: Write about your earliest memories.

Emily at the waiting spends all the livelong day in tasks large and small relating to the health and wellbeing of her precious tot Cee. One day, when Cee is an accomplished young lady, will she remember the times when her Mama cut her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches just so, the days when Cee climbed the slide and went down over and over, or any of the other daily routines that once made up her teeny tiny world? It would seem only fitting that the child be able to recall something of those most important years during which Emily will have worked harder than she has ever worked before.

In her blog hop prompt Emily referred to the term “childhood amnesia”, meaning  the inability of many adults to access early memories. I don’t really like that term. To me it sounds as though someone took our  babies over to some Scientology place and vacuumed out their  brains. Whatever this amnesia may be, do  mothers really need one more unfair situation to contend with, after all the parenting challenges  we already face?

It seems as though   mothers  are saddled with the knowledge that although we guide our  children through every single day of their formative years, that most of that fun and laughter will live on only in our own minds. In the end, some number of former children will just have to take our word that their younger days were filled with all the magic we grownups were  able to summon. But take heart, mothers; not every child reaches maturity with no remembrances of their younger days. Take me, for example. IMG_2667

From the time of my birth until the time I was and two and a half, I lived with my parents and older brother in a small house in East Memphis. It was my parents’ first house. In a marriage typical of the 1950s, my father went to work each day in the only car while my mother kept the house and the children. In the afternoons we napped  and our mother  polished our white leather shoes and bleached the shoestrings a pristine white. I don’t remember my father at that house, but that is not a criticism; I believe that like many fathers of his day, he left the hands- on work of parenting to my mother.IMG_2673

My memories from that house come to me in snippets. They don’t make a complete narrative, but here they are, in no particular order:  My Mother had  beautiful, intriguing hat boxes in her bedroom. Inside each box was a delightful, colorful array of feathers and textures. I don’t know if I knew they were hats.  I coveted them but they were off limits to me. I recall seeing the large figure of our maid, Lucinda, blocking my way to the desired stack of round boxes. Our house was on a small hill that seemed giant from my viewpoint.The thought of traversing the hill filled me with terror.  How would my short legs get me up or down that steep driveway? I remember lying on the floor in the morning,  giggling  in the galley kitchen while my mother pretended she didn’t see me. “What’s that on the floor?” she asked as she poked me gently with her bare foot which was attached to a slender, shapely leg.IMG_2674

In the afternoons my mother would close the  brown wooden shutters in the combination living room and dining room to signal that it was nap time. I would watch as with each closing louver the sun went out in the room.I didn’t mind seeing the sunlight fade, but I did mind the idea of a nap. Finally, I recall sitting perched  on  our living room  couch that was piled so high with things that there was barely room for me,  listening to a recording of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain”. I  believe that was the day we were moving to our new house.

This I do not recall!

This I do not recall!

For each of these vignettes I have a corresponding feeling of “rightness” in my body, a knowing that I was there. Here are other facts  that I have been told but do not remember: that my brother and I rose early one morning, leaving a trail of bread crumbs for my mother to find us, and she followed them, locating us  us around the block on someone else’s swing set. That must have been my brother’s idea. Another of his ideas was to wash my hair with Elmer’s glue. My mother told  me we played out in the backyard every morning, and that each  afternoon all the mothers and children gathered to play in someone’s  fenced back yard, but I  don’t remember that either. I wish I could.

Now there is no one alive to verify or add to those early experiences, unless my brother remembers things I don’t.  I am left with only my memories  and my own truth to connect me to the time in my life when I was learning to navigate the world and myself.  My memories are few, but the way they resonate in my body tells me  I was the center of my parents’ world. That awareness seems to me to be the most sustaining memory  of all.

I take such comfort in being  able to remember even a little from  such an innocent time of life when my parents were so young and vibrant. They were still in their 20s, and they thought they had the world by the tail. It was the height of my parents’ physical and emotional intimacy with me. My parents were fallible, but I had no knowledge of that as yet.  I’m not sure if they knew it yet either. It was not until later that I would see their imperfections and learn the important life lessons of acceptance and cooperation.

No one grows to adulthood without some wounds or disappointments. Though as parents we know this intellectually, we hope life will be smooth for our children. We do all we can to pave the way, and tend to let go only reluctantly, often only after our fingers have been forcefully removed from whatever corner of control we believed we had. Maybe it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.

For those of us who have become parents and devoted our best efforts to our children, perhaps we can console ourselves with the idea that later in their lives, our children might retain some grain of remembrance of what to us was our most significant life’s achievement. If they can only remember one Christmas tree, one trip to the zoo or one sunny afternoon in the front yard, we hope that it contains the knowledge that they were loved and cherished beyond compare. And for those who have no specific recollections, let us hope that all of our hard work has crystallized inside our children’s beings as a preverbal sense that trustworthy adults were on the scene when they were needed the most. If our children can internalize, consciously or unconsciously, the love laced into each daily interaction, no matter how mundane,  we  can rest assured we will live on in their hearts.new-rtt-badge

new-rtt-badge.jpg

Dear Pen Pal

It’s March in Memphis, as evidenced by temperatures in the high 60s yesterday followed by predictions of a quarter inch of ice tonight. I’ve learned not to get too excited over predictions of winter weather here, especially this year when seemingly all our snow predictions have dwindled into just more swirling brown leaves at the curb. Luckily I have the March 2014 30 Days of Lists to keep me company. I completed this challenge once before in 2013 and found, to my surprise, that I was able to complete the entire month. My success inspired me so  that I decided that I could probably also complete NaNoWriMo in 30 days, and I did.

So when I saw the 30 Days of Lists announced  again of course I accepted, for who knows where it may lead me? I’ve done it for the two days of March, and so far it has led me  right to… the fourth grade! Today’s list prompt was to describe yourself to a pen pal. I like to follow these prompts as soon as I read them, writing the first thing that comes to mind. Here is what came to mind:

Does anyone else my age remember entering contests as a child? As I recall there were often contests involving prizes or giveaways. One contest was the Happy Hal Secret Toy Contest, in which you sent in your name and address, and Happy Hal, on his show, would draw the name of some lucky boy or girl to win the  toy of the week. And once a year he had the BIG giveaway, in which a child got to go in his toy warehouse for some predetermined amount of time and CHOOSE WHATEVER HE WANTED!!!!!!!

 The Happy Hal Show Source: ClemensArt.com

The Happy Hal Show Source: ClemensArt.com

I am sure I begged my mother to enter me, her most suitable child, in the contest, but whether she did  or not I do not know. The truth is that by  the time I was in elementary school I was starting to notice a disturbing pattern in my mother’s behavior. More and more it seemed, she was  willfully not following my directions. Clearly, with nothing more to do than all the cooking , cleaning, shopping, sewing, laundry, ironing, and child care in our home, she could easily have complied with my wishes.   I felt it necessary to remind her repeatedly of what I expected her to do, a strategy which did not always yield positive results, but that I was willing to proceed with if it meant I would eventually win the Secret Toy Contest.

On one occasion, my hounding must have paid off, for  when I was in the second grade she sent in my letter and picture to the Memphis Commercial Appeal to the Pen Pal of The Week Column. Oh, I was  the smug one at school for a time, for one of these days, all my classmates and teachers would open the paper and there I’d be, a celebrity from one end of the Mid South to the other. But when week after week passed without my picture in the paper,  I concluded the Commercial Appeal choosers were not going to select  me for Pen Pal of the Week.

The second grade passed, and the the third. I began to lobby my Mother for more sophisticated favors, such as having her take  me to see The Beatles. Sharon, a girl on my street whose father played the drums, got to see them, but I did not. I would have had a better chance at winning the Secret Toy Contest, now that I think about it.

Before I knew it I was in the fourth grade, writing flowery poetry modeled after ideas I’d read about in Little Women.   I argued my case with my teacher that I be given the lead part in a play about  a Christmas tree. After school most days I rode my bicycle  over to a vacant wooded strip of land in our neighborhood where my friends and I swung on hanging vines. I was confident that I could achieve the fame I wanted on my own, without depending upon my mother to sign me up for contests.

I was sophisticated, all right.

I was sophisticated, all right.

And then. THEN. Out of nowhere, with no warning, the Commercial Appeal published my second grade letter and picture in The Pen Pal of the Week. I had to go to school to be greeted by jeering fourth and fifth graders calling, “Hey, Pen Pal of the Week!” ” Tell us about your pets and pretty clothes!!!” What an intolerable humiliation! The paper might as well have published a picture of me as a baby, naked in a bathtub!

The damning evidence!

The damning evidence!

Not only was the picture out of date, although they had adjusted my age which just made me look even more babyish, but so was the two year old letter which stated among other things that my favorite subject was Math! What had I been thinking in the second grade? By now I had established myself as such a mediocre math student that Mary Ellen Somebody had to quiz me on my multiplication tables before school. Whoever I had been in the second grade, I was someone else now.

This was all my Mother’s fault for letting the paper do this. But my mother did not have to wait for the school bus after school, nor did she have to ride it. No, she was at home playing innocent! Once again the butt of jokes by these insufferable boys, including my own sixth grade brother, I took matters into my own hands one at a time, whacking them repeatedly with my purse.

Reenactment. Do not attempt this at home!

Reenactment. Do not attempt this at home!

Somehow I made it home on the bus, and home from the bus stop. Getting home from the bus stop could be tricky, in that it was a long run home if one were being pursued by one’s sixth grade brother. But I did get home, and maybe not that day, but in a few days there were letters – I don’t remember how many in all  - from second graders!

I wish I had kept or could even remember the letters. Away from nasty, sweaty, fourth grade boys with crew cuts with their derisive comments, in the partial privacy of the room I shared with my sister, I was FAMOUS. I had the letters to prove it. But I was conflicted. I loved receiving the letters, but public opinion was against me now. What did I want with letters from second graders who loved arithmetic? I had enough to deal with having to share a room with a first grader! I know I did answer one letter from a girl in Rosedale Mississippi, because I remember writing, “Rosedale Mississippi reminds me of Rosedale peaches in cling syrup.”  ( A brand we ate regularly)  I think I thought that if I sounded sarcastic and rude the younger child would realize I was out of her league  and buzz off. I wonder if my Mother mailed that letter?

The Magpie’s Jewel Box

Welcome again to Magpie TV, the unique low tech television show which challenges YOU to use your imagination! In Episodes One and Two, and also Three we detailed the Magpie’s journey to find and renovate a little treehouse of her own. Today’s show is the Magpie TV version of the typical last day of HGTV renovation shows, in which we see a fast forward ( in our case, imaginary) video of a renovated space being furnished.

For those who are new to  the show: You’ve followed the HGTV shows which depict  a hapless individual or couple completely renovating their home or yard over the weekend. It’s easy, right?  Two skinny celebrity do- it- your- selfers come over and show you how to operate heavy machinery on a Friday afternoon. You get four or five friends, and together you rip out those passé  walls and smelly hi-lo carpet, laughing and laughing at the sheer hilarity of tearing up your house.  That’s Friday night. On Saturday you rebuild the walls, install the new kitchen cabinets, and paint. Some of you work inside while others outside make new furniture and decor by gluing sequins to  pieces of board found by the roadside.  Or maybe they reupholster or even spray paint the fabric from a thrift store chair which will eventually be placed in front of the fire place. And finally, on Sunday, all the  magically chosen new furnishings are moved in, curtains and pictures are hung, candles are lit, and everyone lives happily ever after.

But of course it’s not that easy.  Magpie found out it takes a LOT LONGER than a weekend!  In today’s episode we hear it straight from the Magpie herself. ( The show has a fairly low budget.)

Part One:  As far as furnishing the condo went, for many months I had only vague ideas of a midcentury modern space, which included an attractive credenza housing a hi fi, a snazzy bar holding all the cocktail accoutrements I did not yet own, and a teak hutch from which I could serve my guests. As far as upholstered goods went, I came to the conclusion that although I would have loved to furnish the place with all vintage furnishings, I didn’t really want to sit on fifty year old upholstered items. I would therefore look for vintage case goods but buy a new couch and chairs.

It was too soon to buy furniture, but I felt as though I MUST start finding things for the condo. The solution? Art from silent auctions. I readily confess that silent auctions bring out the most desperate acquisitive parts of me. I never leave an auction without something. That is because I bid on 500 things. I will leave my silent auction behaviors for another post but suffice it to say I have left auctions with items  ranging from the doors of railroad cars to hand knit scarves. Since I could not yet hang my selections, for many sad months they languished in a closet. One silent auction find was a painting so shiny I had to have it. Look at the upper left of there photo below:

I bought a painting that reminded me of this Sputnik from outside Joe's Liquors in midtown Memphis. As HGTV would say, it was my "Inspiration" Source:joeswines.blogspot.com

I bought a painting that reminded me of this Sputnik from outside Joe’s Liquors in midtown Memphis. As HGTV would say, it was my “Inspiration”
Source:joeswines.blogspot.com

Also we had this former swag lamp turned into a dining room chandelier.IMG_1908And suddenly it was time to find things.  My ideal method of furnishing the condo would have been to stop in at consignment places and estate sales, waiting until I found just the right thing. But that method wouldn’t work for two reasons. Number One: I didn’t feel I had the luxury to shop slowly over time. I had a mighty powerful hankering to see the place finished. Second: Folks, I don’t like to shop, in part because I don’t like to drive the car around. I did make a stab at shopping locally for furniture when my sister was here, when  we hit a consignment place and found these two tables.

Table Number One. And on the right a partial view of the “Sputnik” painting.

IMG_2060But after that I went straight to…Ebay! I have to laugh because prior to this I had never bought one single thing from Ebay. Instead of starting small, with a dish towel or kitchen implements perhaps, I started with a dining room table!  So you can Imagine my surprise when, as a complete newbie,  my bid was accepted. And now  imagine my further surprise when I realized my bid was only for the TABLE, not the chairs! Oops!

But the table… I loved it! Look what it does!

Its smaller diameter.

Its smaller diameter.

But it expands! This baby is from the50s, but it was in its original box. Never used!

But it expands! This baby is from the50s, but it was in its original box. Never used!

So after purchasing a table I got busy looking for chairs. I could have spent more money, but after the table incident…. I thought these would work, and they did.

These do have signs of wear. Well, so do I.

These do have signs of wear. Well, so do I.

And while I was at it, I found some nesting tables that could be used in lieu of a coffee table.

These hail from Denmark.

These hail from Denmark.

I now had a bed, a table, chairs and two side tables and nesting tables.  The next step was to find the living room furniture. What did I actually have room for in this Magpie’s nest?  Not very much,  as it turned out. After lots of measuring I  got together with Jane the Designer and chose a couch, a chair and an ottoman. At the same time I chose fabric for a curtains and sheers at the sliding glass patio doors. I particularly wanted that big glass door to be covered by the time winter winds came through.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Hum a peppy “Susie Homemaker” type tune to yourself. Read out loud to yourself: Looking for ways to go greener during the next holiday season? Mindful Magpie has a free tip for you.

I'll et they've never seen a present like this!

I’ll bet they’ve never seen a present like this!

Out of bows and ribbons? Or too lazy to walk all the way up the stairs and find them? Do what the Magpie does and decorate your packages with STUFF YOU ALREADY HAVE!!! Look how nice that coaster looks with the wrapping paper.  It almost keeps you from noticing the bunchy wrapping job. You’d be surprised what items can be used: Mardi Gras beads, small statues, even a nice ripe bell pepper would be festive. Next year get out of the wrapping rut and see what you can come up with.

Part Two: We placed our furniture and drapery orders and waited eagerly for delivery. Weeks and weeks went by. Since I could not speed up the delivery of these items I returned to Ebay for more instant gratification  mid-century modern pieces. We had only two possible spots in the living room for a bar. The space limitation meant we could only use a very shallow piece. Eventually I found this:

And there's another glimpse of the Sputnik painting as well.

And there’s another glimpse of the Sputnik painting as well.

The wire to the little lamp inside had been cut, but it was configured to use in England anyway. Replacing the light is on our to- do list. Now we were getting closer to being able to have those Manhattans! After purchasing the bar my budget was a bit maxed out. Until the furniture came in I really couldn’t make any more decor choices anyway.

Finally, some time in the fall, the drapes and sheers came in. My husband thought we did not need to pay someone to hang these, that he and my taller son could handle it themselves. He and the son did eventually get them hung, but it was a lot of trouble, so much so that when the curtains proved to be a little longer than I expected I chose to leave them as they were rather than take them down for hemming. Ready to see the drapes?

Drapes, a definite improvement over the vertical slat blinds.

Drapes, a definite improvement over the vertical slat blinds.

Drapes and sheers.

Drapes and sheers.

Light coming in through the sheers. Have you ever seen such cuteness?

Light coming in through the sheers. Have you ever seen such cuteness?

I was so pleased with the  drapes. But when would the furniture come in so I could sit and read in that room? Find out when we come back!

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Cue some music with building tension. Newscaster’s voice: We interrupt this commercial for a Handknit Sock Alert. The mate to this sock has been reported missing at the home of local citizen Mindful Magpie.

Will this sock become a permanent singleton?

Will this sock become a permanent singleton?

Some say it is unfair for her to use her own show to broadcast information which may only pertain to her. But Ms. Magpie is convinced of the existence of a global sock abduction conspiracy. No doubt some of you are as well. We at Magpie TV want to give this issue all the attention it needs. If you have seen this sock, please return it. No questions asked. More updates as the story…unravels?

Part Three: Fall 2013. Thanksgiving approached and the furniture had still not arrived. Since we had ordered it in the summer, we were beginning to doubt we were ever going to get it. The manufacturer kept assuring Jane the Designer it would be delivered but then… it wouldn’t be.  How did I manage my impatience, you ask? It wasn’t easy! Sometimes, audience, it seemed the only thing that kept me going was to  remind myself that ONE DAY I  was going to be able to write a blog post showing this whole process. ONE DAY!!!! became my mantra!!!

We decided that if we did not have a true delivery date by Thanksgiving we would simply scrap our plans, go to Macy’s with our tails between our legs, and make the best selection from what they had on the sales floor. Luckily at just the last minute, the company did load our things on the truck and deliver. I had forgotten what I had ordered, it had been so long, but when I saw it I was so grateful I had not had to scrap the all my carefully made plans.   ( Furniture will be shown momentarily.)

Now at long last we could do the part that looked so easy and fast on television: hang the pictures, ( as though that could ever be fast with a male involved) roll out the rug, turn on the lamps and set out the accessories!!!!!!! Drum roll, please!!!!! Close your eyes, and OPEN!!!

Come in the front door!

Come in the front door!

The living room

The living room

The comfy chair and ottoman.

The comfy chair and ottoman.The picture on the wall is a by young local artist, Joey Evangelisti , who also happens to be autistic.

A few accessories...

A few accessories…

DSC_0919

The photo on the wall is from a collection of vintage downtown Memphis scenes.

So here we are. We’re not completely finished with the condo, but what is undeniable is that what started as a treehouse has turned into a Magpie’s Jewel Box. Shininess Abounds!  True, I haven’t solved the hi fi problem, but I’m working on it. Some walls still need pictures. We haven’t done much to spruce up the balcony. But each time I unlock that front door and walk in, I feel as though the condo is welcoming me to sit down, prop up my feet and relax. After eighteen months of condo work, I’m more than ready to do that! Manhattan, anyone?

The first Manhattans!

The first Manhattans!

Closing Credits: A few before and after shots. Sing the song of your choice.

Magpie with her first condo visitors: Jane the Designer and her Ubiquitous Mother, AKA Mimi.

Magpie with her first condo visitors: Jane the Designer and her Ubiquitous Mother, AKA Mimi.

Memphis Sesquicentennial glasses, an early find for the bar.

Memphis Sesquicentennial glasses, an early find for the bar.

In the kitchen.

In the kitchen.

A Word From the Magpie TV Staff: Thanks to all who have faithfully tuned in to a show with no staff, no budget, no audio and no video. We’ve tried to give  a realistic but hopefully not too tedious picture of the making of the Magpie’s Jewel Box. If you have questions or  comments we want to hear them, please!  After all, this is our  first television series; we depend upon your feedback!

Magpie TV – Hurry Up And Wait!

And the beat goes on here at Magpie TV. We know House Of Cards comes out today, OK? WE KNOW. But you DO have time to watch this teeny tiny show before you start streaming. Think of it as a warmup for a second season of shenanigans from Frank Underwood.  Remodeling is not without political intrigue, you know. Now, cue some mysterious music and let’s get on with:

Magpie TV Episode Three

Part One: Magpie and her husband found themselves in a bit of a predicament. They couldn’t put in furniture until they replaced the floor, but they didn’t want to replace the floor until they painted the walls. No work could proceed until Magpie gave Bubba the paint details. But Magpie would not be able to provide paint details until she inveigled the services of Jane the Designer. For you see, Magpie and her husband had a pitiful record in the paint picking out department. Again and again they had had picked out their own paint and been horrified that the sweet pink for their daughter’s room looked like pepto  bismol, the restful pale green like a shade of monkey excreta, and the red a shimmering pulsating shade suitable for scenery paint in The Telltale Heart. Nope, they had learned NEVER to pick paint, no matter how impatient they were to complete a project.

IMG_1796

We turned the paint samples into large popsicles. This is as close as the Magpie has come to painting wild murals on the wall.

Eventually Magpie did persuade Jane  the Designer, who had plenty of other things to do, that she should, on a weekend, not only pick paint samples but take them down to the condo and try them out. From Jane’s suggestions they quickly chose the colors for the whole condo. Now they had the paint picked; how much longer would they have to wait before the little hideaway could be used?

Commercial

A sad road accident. I do hope the driver was wearing his seat belt!

A sad road accident. I do hope the driver was wearing his seat belt!

Part Two: Mr. and Mrs. Magpie felt the project was taking on momentum as Bubba painted, replaced the bedroom window, and the molding in every room.

New baseboards

New baseboards

In addition he built a cornice for the sliding glass door where they hoped eventually to hang curtains. By now it was Spring 2013, but still they could not use the condo. Suddenly, just when they thought they were ready to choose the new floor, Mr. Magpie suggested that it would make more sense to go ahead and do the kitchen next. It need not be stated that  Magpie knew this was the most sensible path, but since they had already spent more money than they had anticipated,the Magpie had chosen to allow Mr. Magpie to reach this decision on his own. When Bubba the Contractor readily agreed that it made MUCH more sense to do the kitchen next the couple set aside their impatience to use the condo, and went ahead with kitchen remodeling first.

DSC_0009

Remember this?

At least they already had their granite, so the Magpie was not starting from scratch. Magpie set about choosing tile and accessories to develop the urban look she hoped to achieve in the kitchen. Meanwhile Bubba got to tearing out that 1980s kitchen.

Bye bye old appliances!

Bye bye old appliances!

IMG_0488A voice in the back of Magpie’s mind kept asking, “What will we put in this empty condo? When do we get to pick out shiny baubles? shiny baubles? SHINY BAUBLES? ( The voice enjoyed repeating itself )  But she just couldn’t make those decisions yet. They waited patiently as well as impatiently for the tile to come in and to be installed. They opted for the plain stainless sink though Magpie preferred porcelain, to save costs. Magpie had her usual difficult time choosing lighting, because she really didn’t want halogen. By the time she pored through 8000 pictures of light fixtures, however, she neither knew nor cared what she was choosing. Whatever. The new tile, cabinets and appliances went in without a hitch.

Backsplash Tile

Backsplash Tile

Sophisticated Plans

Sophisticated Plans

The Magpie was pleased with her idea to tile one of the kitchen walls in brick.

The Magpie was pleased with her idea to tile one of the kitchen walls in brick.

And the cabinets are in!

And the cabinets are in!

Eventually it was time to lay  the floor. Back when Magpie had chosen the paint she had also chosen an engineered hardwood floor from the floor contractor recommended by Bubba. But by the time they were actually ready to install the floor Magpie had changed her mind, necessitating another drive to an obscure Mississippi warehouse for samples, and an excruciating delay while said samples were compared at the condo. At length one was chosen. The flooring was the last obstacle before the Magpie could get to  the wished for stage of furnishing the condo. But would this last project go as planned?

Floor Samples

Floor Samples

Commercial:

This show is partly sponsored by a sock monkey on a fence.

This show is partly sponsored by a sock monkey on a fence.

Part Three. Sadly, the floor installation did NOT go well, ruining the perfect workmen track record the project had thus far enjoyed. When Magpie and her husband tripped delightedly into the condo to inspect the new floor, it was  gorgeous,  but flawed.

The Beautiful and The Damned.

The Beautiful and The Damned.

There were definite scratches on the wood and NO ONE HAD EVEN USED IT YET. In addition, some pieces were damaged in places.

No floor comes this way!

No floor comes this way!

I don't think so!

I don’t think so!

So yet again there was another frustrating delay waiting for the floor contractor to make good his work, a task he seemed disinclined to do. First he said the couple  had to file a claim with the floor manufacturer.  He promised to get them the form to do so, but never did. Then he said the  floor was  just a very soft floor and inclined to scratch. What???! They  didn’t even have any furniture on it yet. They  were not happy. Nor was Bubba the Contractor who had told Mr. Floor Man specifically to make his workmen lay down butcher paper on the floor, not to walk on it directly until Bubba inspected it. Mr. Floor Man neglected to give his men that directive. So Mr. Floor Man was responsible, right? No, he still insisted the manufacturer was at fault and that he would have to contact the rep, a task which he also appeared disinclined to do. Time went by. The couple  did not pay the balance on the floor, pending action from the floor man.

After several weeks of runaround Mr. and Mrs. Magpie  decided to go ahead and deliver a bed to the condo, and let the chips fall where the may regarding the floor. They  had decided to replace our current bedroom furniture and to take what they  had been using to the condo. Finally the bed was delivered to the condo. Magpie and her husband spent some sweaty hours trying to put the thing together, but at last they completed the task.

At last! A bed!

At last! A bed!

The finished kitchen!!!!! Raise your hand if you love it!!!

The finished kitchen!!!!! Raise your hand if you love it!!!

On May 31, 2013, almost one year after purchasing the condo, Mr. and Mrs. Magpie were able to use the condo. Now they could spend the night there, but what about the other furnishings? You’ll have to wait, because Magpie TV is signing off now to catch House of Cards, but don’t worry. Magpie TV is also made for binge watching. We won’t make you wait too long!