Saturday, February 20, 2010

thrifts and gifts

The excitement of finding something beautiful where you least expect it.
The smug happiness of paying a few dollars when you know the alternative is an exponentially greater sum.
The creative euphoria of seeing the potential in an object others might see as useless or ugly... and re-vamping the object with your own personal touch.
The satisfaction of knowing your lifestyle is not filling landfills.

Thrifting. What's not to love?

I must admit I fell in love with an anti-consumer lifestyle rather by necessity. When I moved into my own apartment a few years ago, I was on a school-teacher's salary. Outfitting an entire house with brand-new, designer furnishings was out of the question. Stopping by the local Goodwill and perusing yard sales yielded delightful results. Here are a few of my favorites:

Why pay big bucks for a bed headboard? Metal bed frames are easily procured, and you can design your own alternative. Thirty-six inch-wide candelabra: $5 at Goodwill. Six yards of embroidered tulle: $6... from Walmart. Yup, I cheated. ;)

Bookcases and mirrors are ferociously expensive if bought new. I found this solid wood cabinet at Goodwill for $10, removed the hideous veneer doors, and, viola! A mini bookcase. The wood finish is rather dark. I still want to refinish it. Maybe a distressed ivory? Maybe I'll wait until I have a space I know the color won't collide violently with the rest of the room and paint it at distressed green, similar to this. The mirror was $2-$3 at Goodwill. Its frame was a ghastly black, pink, gilt, green, and purple floral. At the time, I settled for brown paint, but if I ever re-do it, I'll most likely choose off-white or ivory... or maybe a mustard yellow for a spot that needs a little color.

I absolutely adore trunks, but paying $50 or more for cute storage space seemed a little idiotic. When I saw this one for $12 at Goodwill (I think I was on first-name basis with the employees by then), I did a happy dance. It used to be black, but a previous owner painted it white and stuck brown-marbled drawer-liner on the lid. I rather like its character. 

The green-glass bottle is another Goodwill find: $0.75 Yes, the P. Graham Dunn plaque was new. No, I did not get it at Goodwill.

The fridge was a project I did for my land-lord. He bought it at a sale, and rust spots polka-dotted the doors. I bought a partial can of spray paint at Walmart for a few pennies and quarters. Spraying the paint directly onto the enamel gave it a flat, graffiti look... so I sprayed it onto loosely crumpled paper towels and sponged it on. I liked the slightly marbled effect, and my landlord was more than a little pleased. 

Oh, here's another fun project I did:

My friend David nailed two 2x4s together to make this cross for a Good Friday gathering I hosted. Later, I varnished it, sanded the edges a little, and this was the result:

Because I've been living with a family in the city, I haven't had occasion to do much scrounging for furniture lately, but I have been wanting a desk. It couldn't be too big; I wouldn't have room for it. It should have a few drawers, though; storing art supplies and paperwork somewhere other than the shelf in my closet would be a luxury. I've been scouring Craigslist, but hadn't yet found anything that fit the bill. My dad called me this morning, saying he saw this baby on a "free" pile beside the road:

He didn't know I had been looking for a desk. He just knows I am one of the many trash-scavengers and thought I might like it. Would I?? He loaded it on his truck and delivered it to my door. I have a good dad. :) A little research identified it as part of the "Country Oak" series by Young-Hinkle. Made in the '60's, it's solid oak and worth around $50. It's too perfect. I'm madly in love. :) The top could use a coat of varnish, so I'm immersed in a quandary. Do I restore it to its original look or paint it a fun color? Design*Sponge offers lots of painting inspiration... Any advice?

I've never done a re-upholstering project, but I've read so many how-to's that I've been wanting to get my hands on a piece that begs for new threads. The desk chair practically screams for it. The nasty black, shiny vinyl is split open. Despite its being sturdy as a mule, the varnish is bubbled and worn. I'll probably sand it down and paint it. Not sure what color, but perhaps something similar to this weathered goldenrod look:

See the before and after of the sunny beauty here on Design*Sponge.

Last, but not least... the third piece my dad brought me from the free pile:

A vintage hurricane lamp! On first appraisal, I thought I'd enamel the metal a shade of ecru and paint the glass a light turquoise or spring green... or yellow... I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to floral paintings on dishes and furnishings. A little research made me re-think the whole painting idea, though. A hand-painted "Gone With the Wind" hurricane, it's worth $200-$500. I love the way hurricane lamps can illume just the base for soft light, or both base and top... Considering its mint condition and worth, I might just learn to appreciate the flowers as well. :) 

I'm also on a Craigslist/ Goodwill/ trash pile hunt for a bedside table... but I just might steal the extraordinarily-talented Michelle's idea. Check it out on her blog

Who says living wisely and living beautifully are mutually exclusive? It's quite possible I'm hyper-moralizing things, but using the unwanted rather than buying new seems an extremely practical way to allow living restoratively to affect every area of life. Besides, it's great fun.

Hope your weekend is refreshing! Mine has been immensely so... and it's not even over yet!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Back to the start...

What am I doing here
If You're not with me?
What have I got to live for 
If it's just my own dream?
Take me back to the beginning
Back to the start
Gravity's pulling
You're still holding my heart

-Mat Kearney, "Crashing Down"

One of my many Mat Kearney favorites... It puts words to exactly what I've been telling God lately. I love to dream, and I hope that, should I live to a great age, I'll sit in my rocker, white head propped in hand, and think through the complexities of the world... the intricacies of its beauty and seamy messiness... and try with every ounce of logic left in my aging brain to conjure ways I can be a small part of restoring the world and its people to what they were meant to be. I hope I still get ideas and act upon them. More likely, my abilities will be limited to giving cookies to neighbor kids, but that sounds good to me.

The problem with dreaming? I can forget that the dreams aren't completely mine. I don't want them to be. I don't want to go into the Promised Land without God inside me, outside me, above and below me. I want my dreams to be shared property with God. I want them to be God, reaching through me, painting the world with color. Sometimes, I forget. And God has to remind me. He takes me back to the start.

Life here is breathtaking in its simplicity. Deliciously frightening in the breadth of its possibilities. 'Way back when being my current age looked far-away and rose-tinted, I visualized myself doing... or, at least KNOWING... what I'd be doing the rest of my life. Why am I laughing? :) I think I've learned that life just isn't that static, that predictable. I am both consoled and unnerved.

So. Here I am. All the puzzle pieces scattered around me. Stirring them around. Waiting for two to fit together and the picture begin to take shape.

Meanwhile, observing Lent is a sacred opportunity to quiet myself, to spend time just rediscovering that, most importantly, God is still holding my heart.

Friday, February 12, 2010

eagle and dove

in God we trust but
under the eagle we live
full of peace and prosperity
we got too much to give
we say it's our right
sent to us from above
raise our hands to the eagle
and shoot down the dove

so we say
close your eyes and pray
thank God for the eagle
and all the food that he kill
eat and drink to your health
amass and hoard your wealth
don't look back in history
or around you, you don't wanna see

wounded but hopeful
the dove is alive
watch as she carries
green life that will thrive
in the barest of places
if only you'll plant it
she'll teach you how
if your heart understands it

eagle and dove
eagle and dove
eagle and dove
which one will you love?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

View from Outside

"Come on! You can't be a Christian!" He laughed in disbelief.

"Well, I am." I laughed too, partly at the irony. I was in Wal-Mart, bundled to the teeth against the carnivorously frigid elements outside. It's not often I'm not identified immediately as a "church lady" because of my garb. I had just hit upon a CD of Handel... and another of some Bob Marley songs I'd been wanting... when the guy next to me noticed my selections and commented. We'd talked music for a little, then he had wondered who else I like. He had not recognized a few names, and I had said they were Christian artists.

"But you're not stuck-up enough. I can't believe it. All the Christians I know just go around thinking they're better than everyone else and voting Republican."

As his distaste for Christians poured out, so did a bit of his story. He grew up the delinquent, messed-up kid. Pain and subsequent anger colored his world in scenes of chronic estrangement from his class at school... and now from society. And the Christians in the scenes? They were the ones the furthest away from him, going about their lives with their own clean friends and programs.

I told him I was sorry. Really and truly sorry. I told him I'm not ok with how many people are hurt by religion, and that I'm trying to learn to live like Jesus did. "I guess you can just say I'm a Jesus freak."

He stood there. Quiet and looking at Wal-Mart's grungy tile floor. Then he laughed again. "That's the first time I ever heard someone call themselves that. Jesus freak. I mean, I've heard it used to mock people. But that's really cool. I'm cool with Jesus. If you're really trying to live like Him, I mean, that's really cool. I sometimes think that Jesus wouldn't be a Christian. But yeah, I don't want a part of this church stuff."

That was a mouthful.

Since our conversation, I've been thinking a lot. We church-goers cherish the notion that people will be drawn to Jesus by how we look or live our lives. Maybe. Looking like I march to the beat of a different drummer has given me opportunities to talk to people about Jesus. But maybe that's not enough. Maybe, just maybe, people need to feel respected as people. Maybe they need to be heard and loved. Maybe then they'll be drawn to Jesus.

Memo to Christians: we have some friends to make.