Tuesday, July 29, 2014

…. summer days drifting away to, uh oh, those summer nights...

The term "dog days of summer” dates back to the ancient Romans who noticed that Sirius, the major star of the "Big Dog" constellation, rose with the sun from July to August. Sirius is the brightest star in the nighttime sky. The Romans assumed that the sun and the star were in an alliance to create the "days of great heat." Katz notes that animals on his farm share an interesting way of accepting the heat by gathering together in the shade and not moving which is a departure from humans in the United States, who just go about their busy lives. (Dog Days, Jon Katz).

But y’all, I’m Southern; and, we do slowdown in the summertime. In fact, it’s therapy-approved for me considering my therapist thought I needed to literally stop and smell the roses… one of the many reasons I became a gardener. I am still very active in the summer and I like to think that I do embrace the summer heat. Without the heat and the sun, I wouldn't have such beautiful flowers including the lovely hibiscus I've included in this post. And to have such flowers, I have to prune, prune, prune which means I'm outside pretty often.

  1. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen… I don’t care what they say that a certain SPF is enough. I look for the highest amounts partly because I am on a medication where I can’t be in the direct sun for prolonged periods of time (as in 10 minutes is pushing it).
  2. Parasol and hats… my parasol is a TOPTIE Anti-UV Sun Umbrella, Triple Folding UV Protected Parasol because I mean business when it comes to sun protection.
  3. Appropriate makeup- Urban Decay’s Super-Saturated Ultra Intense Waterproof Cream Eyeliner; Physicians Formula’s Mineral Wear Talc-Free Mineral Makeup including the *Oh So Radiant! Powder SPF 30* which goes on top of my moisturizer that has SPF 20; I also just transitioned to Benefit’s creaseless cream eyeshadow. I use the color Always a Bridesmaid which is pearly lavender. I also use their they're real! mascara beyond mascara which is waterproof.
  4. Take morning walks or find the shaded spots in the cemetery. While I’m planning my tour, I have joked that mine will be the shade tour (i.e. I’ll only give facts and tidbits about those graves in the shade). 
  5. Wear cotton! 
  6. I actually let my hair grow in the summer and wear pigtails and buns.
  7. Limit my necklaces to a few lighter pieces. 
  8. Iced coffee, iced tea, lemonade with ice! But nothing beats a cool shower washing off all the bug spray and sunscreen.

Summer is going by too fast! I’m trying to hang on just like this morning’s Morning Glory bloom.

Monday, July 28, 2014

... cemeteries, graveyards and memories, oh my!...

She loved animals. Fitting the cemetery is across the street from a pet cemetery.

Yesterday was the funeral. After my long rant about funeral homes, I decided that I could and would skip going. I’m not sure if a stranger or even a loved one can reveal anything about one’s own friend during the service inside the funeral home, and I knew that I would be so distracted about all that I loathed that it wouldn’t penetrate me anyhow. Instead, I opted to go straight to the cemetery which happily is across the street from a pet cemetery. Graveside seems more honest. Some might give me the stink eye or say that I was obligated to go to pay my respects to the family; after all, I am culturally Southern but I’ve made peace with my decision. For me, it was right.
Today I decided to call out of a meeting for work. I’m not going into the office daily during the summer but today (and tomorrow) this week I have scheduled meetings. I was initially annoyed that when I called out of today’s meeting, my colleagues asked if I would be in tomorrow and could we postpone until then. I’ll go back on Wednesday. The Victorians had weeks and weeks of respected absence from work and social events depending on how close one was to the loved one. I suppose by today’s standards, I have two days. Or at least I forced two days. Perhaps if she were a parent or a child others would respect my grieving period.
I did do some work from home. Really, I’m just not up to being around a large group of people. I don’t want the questions “how” because the answer isn’t pretty. The answers never are but this type of death leads to follow up questions that inquire “why” and more “how’s” and while it isn’t anyone’s business (it isn’t any of my business), it is human to wonder.  
Much of my day was headed to Olivet Cemetery in New Kent, Virginia. One of my very best friends, who was really more like my sister, is buried here with her husband. She died just shy of turning 30. She would then correct me and say that she died in April and her birthday is in February and in no way was she even close to 30; but to me who celebrated nearly every childhood birthday together (having our birthdays two weeks apart), she was almost 30. The almost matters because unlike some who grumble about their birthdays, I toast each year that I *made it*. I have outlived 17, 18, 17, 17, 19 and 29. Now I have outlived 38. It’s always sad that my friends could see another year. What if they could have lived to 18 or 19 or 20 or 30… wouldn’t an additional year have mattered? I am fortunate not to suffer from the level of chemical imbalance one must have to take one’s own life. I have loved ones who fight this; and, I have loved ones who lost their fights.
Olivet Cemetery is creepy and it has always been creepy to me. New Kent County, the tiny place East of Richmond, VA and West of Williamsburg, VA was the birth home of our first U.S. President’s wife, Martha Washington.  The graveyard (I’m using the technical term since a graveyard adjoins a church and a cemetery does not) is off a winding back road. There is hardly a gravel parking lot. I mostly noticed dirt. On the property, there are large Oak trees stretching out toward the heavens, and there is woods surrounding what must be less than an acre.  Built in 1856, Olivet Presbyterian Church is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It is a small frame church building in the Greek Revival style. It features four fluted Greek Doric columns. It would be perfectly charming if it weren’t in the middle of nowhere, and I weren’t alone. There used to be an old shed or outhouse on the property. I always felt like someone was watching me before it was torn down.
While there I put flowers on her “Poppy’s” grave. Her father passed away six years after she was killed in a freak boating accident; like my friend, he passed before his time and was not yet 60. His funeral saved my life. It’s odd to think back on it but I was sitting in the church where I had buried her, where I had been in her wedding, where I had sat beside her during church as children, and this preacher who didn’t know me or even my friend (because he was a new pastor to the congregation) gave a sermon where he repeated, "Don't fake your life". I’m Catholic so maybe it was the rhythmic preaching or the repetition of his words that touched me because it felt so different from a homily but I truly believe that that message was directed to me… and most likely the one who was channeling the message was my late friend. I went home that afternoon and confronted my now ex-husband about our sham of a marriage. There were so many things that were wrong and I was so unhappy. Poppy’s funeral opened my eyes. My friend had always been the one who helped me see what was honest and true. She was doing that again even from beyond.
They have a directory. It's weird to see my friend’s name listed.

I had blue flowers because they were her favorite color. The blue dye got all over my hands. The whole adventure there was a mess and I felt like if I really listened I could hear her giggle.
Olivet Church is in the middle of nowhere. There's nothing around it but woods. I swear I can always hear something. Today while there, I sent another friend a text saying that the place was creepy. She responded, “When a girl who loves cemeteries thinks it’s creepy, it is!”

Friday, July 25, 2014

... I love Pottery Barn's Halloween....

demonstrating how to shake salt :p

Part of my order from Pottery Barn just arrived and I'm just so excited to share it!  I bought the Hanging Skeleton Salt & Pepper Shakers.

... happy buys, and a ridiculous splurge before my gloom...

Before yesterday's gloom, I headed to Michael's and ended up splurging on the Spooky Town Box-of-Bones Coffin Factory. I don't usually buy animated displays but come on, it's a coffin factory run by skeletons! Plus, I had a 20% off the entire purchase coupon.

My spending season is already upon me. I try to hone in on a few big ticket items and then hope that some of the cool stuff lasts until after Halloween where I can catch some sales. Because I'm on sabbatical this upcoming semester, I'll be saving myself $500 monthly in commuting costs so it doesn't help that I can rationalize the extra spending. Just a little while ago, the first few boxes arrived, and nothing lifts one's spirits (as much as possible) as friends, in this case cute little inanimate objects.
Michael's Crafts in store

Here are some of the not-so-pricey purchases.
ornament Pier 1 Imports online
Pier 1 Imports online

Lastly, I actually didn't buy these two to go together. In fact, Pier 1 Imports includes each of them in different relationships (i.e. they each have different online pairs). I bought the Day of the Dead guy because he reminds me of one of The Gentleman from Buffy, and she reminded me of The Corpse Bride...but they look like a happy couple to me.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

... an incoherent rant about loathing funeral homes and swollen eyes...

"Sadness is but a wall between two gardens."  ~ Kahlil Gibran

My mother hates this picture of me.
I hate funeral homes. I can’t stand the smell, the d├ęcor, the formal attire, the strategically placed tissues, the easels which hold portraits, the drapes, the guest books, the compartmentalized rooms, the air conditioning, the color palette, or (typically) those who greet families and friends.

There is a fine line between the macabre that brings me joy and actual death, especially when the loved one is young and good and should have lived. I have been crying; mourning the loss of an old friend. I actually think the Victorian mourning rituals make more sense than some of our contemporary ones. Dressing a certain way, excluding oneself from social events for a certain period of time... perfectly acceptable to me. This isn’t a post about unfairness of death or customs, this is a post about loathing funeral homes because on Sunday, I’ll be returning to one. And by returning, I’ll note that there are apparently so few funeral homes in the Greater Richmond area that I have dark memories about several… but then, I did bury more friends during my high school years than most bury in their youth… or in their adult lives. My fella hasn’t yet buried a friend. He has buried relatives. He worries about it sometimes. Now 40, burying a friend should be old hat but it never is. Death is sad for the living. We feel loss. There is a distinct difference between burying one’s relatives of a certain age as an adult and being a 15-year-old viewing the guy who used to sit behind you in Business class and poke you in the back citing Echo & The Bunnymen lyrics from one’s t-shirt. It is very different to hold your best friend’s hand, a friend you’ve known since before preschool, at this boy’s funeral and then within a few months bury said best friend who now has put a bullet through his own head even after promising you he would always hold your hand… but who can blame him. He wasn’t even 18.  Now repeat this scenario with different pronouns four more times with car accidents instead of suicide and this pretty much sums up my high school extracurricular activities.  I was thinking today that if we had had Facebook check-in’s, I would have been tagged in nearly a dozen funeral homes. I would have given them 0 stars in their ratings too… but mostly because I was a snarky teen. After high school, I thought it was over... but then my close friend who was more like a sister (since we attended each other's family vacations annually, and celebrated our birthdays together since they were only two weeks apart) drowned in a boating accident. We were not yet 30.

I never mind the standing out in an open cemetery rain or shine. It’s the funeral homes that feel artificial. I even read Caleb Wilde’s Confessions of a Funeral Director, but I do not like funeral homes.

A few years ago, a friend jokingly gave me Demeter’s fragrance, Funeral Home which “is a blend of classic white flowers: lilies, carnations, gladiolus, chrysanthemums with stems and leaves, with a hint of mahogany and oriental carpet”. On the website, the company explains, “This scent actually started out to be Flower Show… When a friend first smelled this one and exclaimed: ‘it smells like my Grandfather's funeral... call it Funeral Home!’, so we did.” I politely smiled and stashed it in my medicine cabinet only later re-gifting it to someone who absolutely adored the scent. To me, it reminded me of sadness. Not because my loved ones have passed, but because it truly did smell like a funeral home.

So, on Sunday, I will go to a funeral home for a memorial of a life snuffed too soon, and I will go through the motions. I think of the funeral home as that wall between the two gardens. Her life was beautiful, and her memory will be lived on in her babies and in those who loved her. In that, we will find beauty.  Everything else is the strange wall we build.

Monday, July 21, 2014

... transforming the mainstream and Halloween is here!!! (sorta)...

My best friend who isn't goth but certainly loves the darker side of things had an Origami Owl party. Actually, she had two. One was last year and one was an online party last week. I can almost always find something to buy at these parties whether it be Origami Owl, Pampered Chef, Tupperware... you name it.

My new items arrived today and here it is to prove that Everyday CAN BE Halloween. Here is an ordinary bubbly company which has items that when put together can be a bit dark. I will note that the pumpkin is more salmon than orange and it kind of bugs me. The bat is also not an official Origami Owl but one that fits the necklaces. Nevertheless, I like this new combination.

I also want to note that Pottery Barn Halloween is out! They're not officially advertising on their main page but if you search, you can find the new 2014 collection. I bought the Hanging Skeleton Salt & Pepper Shakers this evening. My Walking Dead skeletons are back! Technically it's a serving bowl but I use it as a flower vase!

... ^o^ conversations with my folks...

Mom has Dracula beads?!?
Mom makes an anklet
I've mentioned that my mother is super crafty. Today, I headed to my folks for a visit. Here is a typical conversation among my family members on a Monday afternoon...

Me: What's this? (picks up bracelet Mom has made)
Mom: It's a bracelet but it's too big.
Me: (hooks it around her ankle) It needs a bat.
Mom: I have a coffin bead. Will that do?
Me: Gweee!
Mom: (Looks for coffin beads) No, these are the Dracula beads.
Me: You have Dracula beads?
Mom: Yes, I made you that bracelet. Remember?
Me: (argues) No, you made me a coffin and bat bracelet.
Mom: I guess you're right. The Draculas weren't as cute
Trying to see my new Dracula earrings

Dad: (walks in) Did you get that email I sent you about the coffin listed on Craig's List? 

... a bat veil and thoughts on the big day...

Earlier today, I was playing with a hairstyle that I saw on Pinterest.  I had considered calling a salon about wedding packages but they’re closed on Mondays, and they’re also a new salon to me. A few years ago when I earned tenure at my university, I treated myself to purple highlights. In undergrad, my hair was Manic Panic Plum and I loved it. This time, nearly two decades later, instead of dying my entire head, I decided to pay a professional.  I had been going to the stylist for years and while she gave a great haircut most times, sometimes she was hit or miss. My highlights were totally a miss. In fact, she burned my face. At that point, enough was enough and I stopped going. I had friends who were hair stylists cut my hair when possible but eventually I had to find a new place. 

Finally, I found a new place that was not only aesthetically pleasing but also gave a pretty good haircut. I still have a few more times to test it out before it is officially *my* salon. Flash to today when I am thinking about my winter wedding. Should I do my own hair… CAN I do my own hair? 

I’m divorced so while I’m not planning a big wedding for others (we’re only having four friends total and no family) I do want everything to be perfect for my fella and me… down to my perfect bat veil from EmeraldAngel.

This isn’t intended as a venting post but I was thinking about my previous *big day* when all I wanted was for each of my bridesmaids to have their bouquets of their favorite flowers and for my bridal bouquet to make up all of their favorites. I envisioned a wildflower bouquet especially since one of my close friends picked sunflowers for her bouquet. Instead, my previous grandmother-in-law aka the florist decided that my vision wasn’t quite right and took it upon herself to assure that my bouquet was one of white roses. I think I ended up hating white roses for years after that.

This time, I want to reduce my stress as much as possible because it isn’t about the wedding but about my future marriage. Reducing my stress will make my fella’s day better too. Our wedding is already an hour away so I don’t need to pack the day with hair appointments. I’ll plan a manicure and pedicure along with a nice trim a week in advance and go into the darkest night as stress free as possible.   

Thursday, July 17, 2014

... "sleep is the daily end of life, a small exercise in death"...

I recently came across a post on Facebook “How Making Your Bed Can Improve Your Life”. As someone who makes her bed daily, at 4:30 a.m., I skimmed the post to see how my life has been made better (per their reasoning). The post noted a sense of accomplishment, how the visuality of a made bed encourages a positive state of mind, and so on.

I make my bed for several reasons. I like my bed and the pillows and bat friends who live on it. I can see them better when it’s made.

It actually does calm me. Having everything in order reduces my stress. This is probably because I may have a touch of the OCD (self-diagnosed), my dad was a type-A personality, and because my… okay, I didn’t realize this would be hard to admit but it deeply personal and private and while some friends know I do feel like I’m outing her a bit… mother is a hoarder. Sometimes I talk about this in a humorous way but it is always to cover up the fact that something serious is and has been wrong for over a decade. I didn’t plan for this post to go into this but just wanted to note that it is a reason that my house may appear to some as freakishly clean. It’s my house and I live alone but I CAN NOT go to bed with a mess. Dishes must be put away and the house must be tidy. I even dislike when people wear shoes in my house because it tracks in dirt.

Years ago when I was just finishing my undergraduate degree, my high school English teacher who was my absolute favorite teacher ever gave me a book. This teacher was insanely preppy wearing knee socks and bright gingham. Yet, as a young goth girl who was incredibly odd for my small country high school (as in the graduating class was under 100 and 80% of us had attended pre-school together), she never treated me as anything other than one of her favorite students. I did my homework; I was passionate about literature; I sought her advice. She even wrote a recommendation to a Young Writers summer program at a nearby university for me which completely changed my life.
Upon my college graduation, Mrs. P. gifted me with Alexandra Stoddard’s Living a Beautiful Life: 500 Ways to Add Elegance, Order, Beauty, and Joy to Every Day of Your Life (1986). Stoddard cites the great authors, including Gertrude Stein, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf, to show how attention to detail is key in living a beautiful life. There are aspects that may read as a bit dorky and I’m sure that Stoddard who is an interior designer has a much different aesthetic than I have; but, her emphasis on rituals and even her “grace notes” such as “lift your mood with a new fragrance” and “have a special basket for the mail. It looks pretty, and it’s fun to bring into the living room or library, to open at leisure” have stayed with me over the years. Alright, so maybe most of us only receive bills but I actually have a pretty clip that I secure all my paper bills together until I can sit down and pay them (usually online). She mentions even bringing a pretty tea cup to your office at work. Overall, she discusses transforming space to make it something that one can live within. It doesn’t require money or status. It’s simply living what one considers a beautiful life.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

... channeling my inner Craftist...

I needed a little project today. I saw Shadow Manor's Origami Bat post this morning and decided that I was going to try that even thought I haven't historically been so origami-skilled. I'm fairly spacially-aware but often lack patience.

Many many moons ago, my good friend and I used to get together in Boston and do projects together. They weren't quite crafts and we weren't sure if we really wanted to call it art because that seems somewhat weighted so we laughed and called ourselves "craftists" and it stuck. I like to think that I inherited my father's eye for seeing the potential in everything and my mother's overly gifted crafty spirit (she has made me everything from a Nosferatu doll, to pillows, to jewelry). I also grew up in a world where the macabre wasn't *as easy* to find as it is now via the internet. 

I had some work to do earlier today and then went out to run a few errands. I stopped at Michael's and low and behold they had two displays of Halloween merchandise! I bought the Trick or Treat bat tray (it's about half the size of a traditional tray) and a little skull glass plate. And just for the record, the sugar skull Betsey Johnson iron-on was not Halloween. The iron-on got me thinking about how I used to transform items all the time; so, outside of the Halloween merchandise I gave myself a challenge. I have all of my journals since early high school, and I'm frequently in need of blank books. I have some pretty amazing ones but my favorite is a Vampire's Coffin journal by aLexLibris. It's pretty special and I keep it on display. Today I wanted to put together a useful on-the-go-it's-okay-if-it-gets-a-little-weathered journal.

I picked up what I considered to be a somewhat boring but with potential blank book from Michael's. It's nice because once I fill the pages, I can undo the ribbon and add a refill. I found a Betsey Johnson iron-on! I had no idea she had her own iron-on line! I added the iron-on and then changed out the rope for some black ribbon and tada! An easy project that took less than 10 minutes.