All This Stuff Has Me Worried

Thimbles, sewing, antique
Thimbles, sewing, antique
Thimbles: The little brass one is from England. The large, ring-like one was my Dad’s.

The message to aging Boomers is that our kids don’t want our stuff. OK, got it.  There is even “Swedish Death Cleaning.” No lie. Basically, you begin decluttering in your 50s or whenever you get around to it hopefully soon enough so you complete it before you die. And, the premise is you get rid of useless crap and pass on those things that hold memories. But, let’s circle back to the “Boomers, your kids don’t want your stuff” message.  I feel like I’m in a damned if I do and damned if I don’t loop here.

This legacy of things I possess holds a lot of memories for me, but virtually none for my children. My mother, now 100, is in assisted living and a few years ago all of her stuff became my stuff. My mother, a lifelong sewer (seamstress, not an underground plumbing system) accumulated enough thread, notions, thimbles, sewing machines (yes plural) rulers, cutting mats, cutters, various sized ironing boards, hams (things you iron collars, sleeves et al on), thread pullers, scissors (oh golly do I have scissor), and fabric that I could likely open a store.

Let’s take thimbles and scissors as an example:

There are scissors that are for cutting fabric and those for paper. You never ever, ever, EVER use the fabric scissors to cut paper as paper will dull them — and so in a way paper beats scissors over time.

This was drilled into me from childhood and there were times, when I really needed to cut out a photo or wrap a present and well, the paper scissors were God knows where and just this once, could it hurt? “Candy? Were you cutting paper with my good scissors?” How did she know that? Using the pinking shears to cut paper was an even greater offense as they are not as easy to sharpen, I guess. I never asked, but I was in a world of crap the day I made some really delightful little shapes that I was gluing on some paper. I mean c’mon give me an A for creativity, not a lecture on the cost of pinking shears. My father was somewhat amused, however too large a smile on his face and he’d have been in the dog house with me.

I now own many of these scissors. Old scissors that I remember having been the good scissors. I remember the little scissors as having been allocated as my own personal scissors when I was a little girl. There are newer scissors that are now the good scissors that I have squirreled away in the sewing machine drawer, hidden, a treasure of value known only to me. Kind of.  Once, when my husband was looking for our ever vanishing kitchen shears, he drifted dangerously close to the cache and I had to reveal that yes, there are scissors in there, but they are not to be used for cutting anything but fabric. “But you don’t sew!”

But I might – one day. I mean I did, may want to again. I have ideas.

Thimbles. Thimbles, little cups of plastic or metal that protect ones fingers when one is hand sewing. Hand sewing — threading a needle and stitching hems, finishing garments, or doing embroidery or needlepoint. Not sure many people even use them anymore. I have a collection of thimbles. I remember my parents using them. The large ring one was my father’s. He was a tailor.

I was born into a world of fabric. In fact fabric, fiber, weaving, cloth, have been metaphors for my life, and words when I first starting writing poetry. The idea of running threads to form patterns in a cloth are like a musical counterpoint. My earliest memories are of my parent’s dry cleaner and tailor shop – The Governor Clinton Tailor & Cleaners, which they owned before the Catskill Valley Hobby Shop.  It started out in the Governor Clinton Hotel in Kingston, NY, but then my parents bought it after the war and they moved it to Foxhall Avenue. It was my earliest playground, my home.

I was a toddler and when I grew tired I would be put to sleep in the dirty clothes bin — I mean, I couldn’t be in the clean clothes-to-be-pressed bin. My toys were various sized empty wooden thread spools, pieces of cloth, needles, thread and buttons. When I grew restless, my mother would put me to work sewing buttons on pieces of cloth.

When all of my mother’s sewing items were deposited into my possession, it took me awhile to start going through boxes and I’m still on that journey. Every item holds a memory for me.

I have darning eggs, collar point maker things (I have no idea what they are actually called, but I know what they do), thread pullers that pull thread or an elastic or what have you through a gusset such as a skirt waist (in college they were often used to hold joints. I remember seeing one once and laughed when someone called it a roach holder. You had to be there. Hell, I had dozens at home, but they weren’t drug paraphernalia), patterns — I have patterns from the 40s, 50s, and 60s — vintage as they are called now.

Where in Swedish death cleaning do these things go? I don’t know. In the meantime, they are a treasure trove of memories that I’ll catalogue and find homes for before my children face Swedish death cleaning. I hope.

Just a small assortment of thimbles, scissors and darning eggs that have come into my possession oh and the “roach holder.”



Considering Getting a Standing Desk?

Standing desks are becoming more and more popular. A rage probably in response to articles such as this one from the Huffington Post that start with the sentence: “Sitting too much can kill you.”  Well, alrighty then, I’ll stand. But is a standing desk right for you?

The HuffPost article outlines some of the benefits of the desks, so I’ll focus on my experience.  I first became aware of such things when one of my coworkers,Corine, aka Zucchini Runner, at Banner Health got one. A real, nifty electronic one that raised and lowered. Corine is likely one of the most fit people I know and she is a fan of standing desks. I was intrigued by the thing and her enthusiasm for it. When she left Banner to go freelance, I happened to “inherit” her desk – meaning I claimed dibs before anyone else and moved my stuff into her cube. I also, got a less fancy-schmancy one for my home office — an Ergotron desk, that basically sits on my current desk and transforms it into a standing desk. Now that I’ve left the corporate world and am back to contract work, I’m glad I have it.

Continue reading “Considering Getting a Standing Desk?”

Aurora Borealis

My father, Chic,  was an artist and a quiet dreamer. He was a hard worker starting as a house painter, then a dry cleaner and tailor, owner of a toy and hobby shop, then a realtor and house builder. All of the businesses he was in were driven by the motor of my mother, June. She had the ideas, the energy for movement and the will to make things happen. My dad, often went along for the ride.

I think he might have been happiest when they had the toy and hobby shop. A lifelong model railroader, it gave him the outlet for his hobby and introduced him to other artistic or fanciful outlets such as ceramics, radio-controlled airplane and even knitting and sewing.

Dad never did anything like anybody else and this vase is a perfect example. He could have simply painted it and glazed it and been done with it. After all, the reason for making anything in the shop was to have examples of the greenware in its finished state.

Continue reading “Aurora Borealis”

A Legacy of Things

close-up detail of vase

When I was a little girl, my parents owned The Catskill Valley Hobby Shop in Kingston, New York, which is located just 90 miles north of New York City. It was a boutique shop before boutique shops were even a thing.  The toys ranged from Matchbox cars and Legos to Steiff stuffed animals and Barbies.

The hobbies reflected my parents’ interests — for my father HO, N and TT gauge train sets and radio control airplanes. For my mother knitting, sewing, copper enameling, painting, and ceramics. There was even a kiln in the basement of the shop. I was 7 or 8 and I learned everything from how to clean greenware to prep and decorate copper pieces. I also learned to sew and knit, not well, but learned the basics nonetheless.

Now, as an adult, I have a legacy of things throughout my house, which I’ve decided to chronicle along with the memories I have with their development. As I age, I’m not sure where these will end up — most do not fit in with the modern open-concept most people aspire to now. They hearken back to the age of the arts and crafts movement and a time before free time was spent traveling in cyberspace. Continue reading “A Legacy of Things”

5 tips to successfully work from home

Whether occasionally telecommuting or full-time freelancer, these tips will help keep you on track.

  1. Go to work. You should have a dedicated space in your home for your work. It might be a formal office set up, with a desk, files etc. or it might be a place at the kitchen table or a nook in your bedroom, wherever this space is — it is where you go when you go work.
  2. Establish a routine. It’s really easy when working from home to tell yourself you’ll tackle that report or article as soon as the bathroom is clean, the closets are organized, the laundry is done and the kitchen is sparkling. Don’t go there. Get up, do what you can do in household chores, but set a time to be at your desk.  You can build chores into your schedule, but that’s the ticket — schedule them. For instance, I decide each day when I’ll exercise.
  3. If your job requires a lot of sitting — invest in a stand-up/standing desk. I invested in the Ergotron desk and I absolutely love it. It’s easily adjustable. Very sturdy and looks really nice.
  4. Shower and dress and if it suits you, put on some make up. Sure it’s easy to simply grab a cup of coffee, stumble to your desk and start wading through that pile of work, but don’t do that unless you’re fighting the flu and on deadline. This comes under “go to work.” Anna Quindlen in a long-ago column once noted that people can sense the sound of terry cloth through the phone.  While my work-at-home clothes are sweats and yoga pants, they’re nice enough that if someone arrived at the door, I wouldn’t feel like running and hiding. I also do my hair  (even if just a quick comb)and put on a bit of makeup.
  5. Invest in comfortable clothes. This is seriously the biggest plus of working from home — comfort. Again, don’t schlep around in your jammies, but dress in a way that makes you feel good. If you occasionally also need to visit with clients or attend conferences in the real, have some go-to meeting/travel clothes that are at the ready.