Sunday, August 1, 2021

...a caretaker of the right-for-me details...

Life is too short for you

to be the caretaker

of the wrong details.
   ~Alexandra Stoddard


When I graduated from undergraduate 25 years ago, my high school English teacher with whom I am still in touch gifted me a copy of 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 to show how attention to detail is key in living a beautiful life. Stoddard who is an interior designer has a much different aesthetic than I have; however, 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. Her writing focuses on 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. I've been thinking about that a great deal lately.

And, I’ve been making many changes—some small such as changing out my old closet doorknob that has never been to my taste with a new black crystal one. I’ve also been doing some bigger changes in the yard by digging up, dividing and replanting iris bulbs and daylilies. I even moved the canna that was trapped under the hibiscus to brighter spaces where they have room to grow. I’ve had a good amount of nervous energy lately and limited time since the clock is ticking down the days until I return to my in-person work-life.

For the next two weeks, my bathroom is being renovated. I’ve saved for it for quite some time and even had the tiles in our garage since last October. Our contractor scheduled us beginning tomorrow and concluding on Friday the 13th!

I don’t want to say that I’ve hated this bathroom for three years because it was someone’s dream and choice; and likely the woman who picked this magnolia tile planted a garden here and had a say in the red brick path we unearthed and love. It isn’t to my taste and I look forward to big changes but I’m blessing the old choices as they leave this home. Maybe I’ll even keep a magnolia tile and plant it in the garden.


My designer glitter grout won’t arrive in time even though I ordered it weeks in advance of its estimated delivery date so we’re going with my pre-awareness-of-black-glitter-grout-plan. And per my fabulous contractor, the quality of glitter grout is somewhat questionable. He broke it to me gently and he is the one who had the idea to make the capstone of my shed into a coffin shape so I do trust him.

This weekend I had to go to two paint locations to find the paint I needed. Each store had only one and their response was that I was lucky. Everything is delayed and out of stock, and has been for a while. But for me, it’s finally coming together! This little toiletries-bag, the pumpkin, will be my best buddy for two weeks as I am sharing my fella’s bathroom, which I acknowledge we are fortunate enough to have two baths so this renovation is all very doable with little interruption.  

Monday, July 19, 2021

...a craft, witch brooms, and Bela Lugosi...

A few weeks ago, my father turned 83. Since the pandemic, he’s called me almost every night to check in. It first started when my mother became sick. But Dad and I get along well and always have a great deal to discuss so we’ve kept calling each other.

He’s of the Silent Generation, between the Greatest Generation and preceding the Baby Boomers and like Generation X, it seems they’re often left out of the discussion. As children of the Great Depression, my dad grew up with the mentality of “use of up, wear it out, make do” and that was something that I heard as far back as I can remember. It’s still a mentality that I try to live by and I admit that I have a hard time throwing out anything that is still sort of working. If we’re friends on social media, I admitted this morning that both my iPhone is a bit too old and hangs frequently, and my laptop doesn’t have a working camera, or sound, and also
the graphics driver is corrupted so part of the screen becomes black at various times. It isn't so bad. I just click on another tab and that usually fixes the issue temporarily. Neither of my parents had much money growing up but my dad’s father also died when my dad was just a boy. My grandfather was a coal miner and he died from black lung. Even today I have a hard time letting go of things that still sort of function even it they don’t function at their highest level. I know I’ve done this with people too but that’s a topic more for therapy.

With what seems like an endless supply of pine needles in our yard, I have wanted to make something with them. This week, I started making tiny broom art. The first one that I made is the smallest and I used the mountain mint along with the pine needles. It smells quite nice.

Today, I made one small broom with crape myrtle blooms that smells so sweet. We’ll see how well they fade and dry. The other includes Juniperus virginiana or Eastern Red Cedar. The mountain mint blooms were being enjoyed by a bunch of bumble bees so I didn’t want to disturb them. I think that I read that the *berries* of the Eastern Red Cedar are poisonous but probably only if they’re eaten and I don’t recommend that anyone eat these small brooms.  

I think they have a nice forest witch aesthetic and could certainly be nice to have on an altar.

Today's Bela Lugosi daylily...just because

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Infamous Everleigh Sisters

On Saturday, I had a fantastic visit at the historic cemeteries in Alexandria. I met David, the superintendent of Presbyterian Cemetery and suddenly I became the tourist instead of the tour guide!

There are 13 cemeteries on the 80+ acres and he took me to St. Paul’s to see the notorious Everleigh Sisters are buried there! That isn’t listed on any brochure, book, or even on Wikipedia that I’ve seen so without David, I would have never known!

Aida and Minna Simms are better known as Ada and Minna Everleigh or the Everleigh Sisters, notorious American madams. They operated a high-priced brothel known as the Everleigh Club in Chicago that was open from 1899-1911.

The sisters actually changed their last name to Everleigh because their grandmother had the habit of signing letters to them with "Everly Yours."

"Events that shaped Chicago," Chicago Tribune, April 1, 1997, 80 recalling the February 1, 1900 headline.

The sisters’ mother died when they were young, and the family lost much of their wealth during the Civil War. They both married but then divorced. To make ends meet, they opened a luxurious boardinghouse only to find out that the other boardinghouses in their district were actually brothels. Oops! But hey, they were business-minded and went on to run one of the most successful brothels in American history.

They’re both buried in St. Paul’s Cemetery in Alexandria.

Years ago, I read Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul (2008) by Karen Abbott, which goes into more details about the lives of the sisters. I may need to reread this again this summer.