Thursday, September 18, 2014


Yesterday was gorgeous here with temperatures only in the 60s, and when an errand took five minutes when I'd been prepared to be tied up with it possibly an entire hour, I decided to walk around downtown awhile afterward.  It couldn't have been a prettier morning.  The sun made the city sparkle instead of swelter, more leaves had turned color, there was enough of a breeze to make the Goldenrod along the river dance but not enough to make walking difficult, and everyone around me seemed to be in the same high spirits.  And I found charming graffiti!  And an equally charming heart-shaped pizza slice.  These are days, indeed.  ♥ 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mantel Skirt

A year after finding the right paint color for the mantel, I've finished dolling it up by attaching a skirt to the bottom.  The pink gingham-with-roses fabric is a curtain valance I found at Goodwill about six years ago for a dollar and bought knowing I'd find a use for it someday.  Someday arrived a few weeks ago when I realized this would make the perfect finishing touch for the mantel.  Since I couldn't bear to cut into the material, I just slipped a tension rod through the opening at the top and am letting the extra length drape onto the floor at the bottom.  I now keep my boxes of note cards, holiday cards, stationery, and stickers in the space behind the curtain.  (The Cat in the Hat is the school's next surprise delivery.  He was finally packed away yesterday afternoon.)  The pink skirt ties the white wood and the pink wall together better, and the mantel looks cozier now than it did pre-skirt in the two pictures below. 
And the roses in the skirt match the wooden rose applique above it. 
 And I am much happier now that that's all figured-out.  The "mantel project" still requires--in my mind--some twinkle lights and a hooked rug, and I want to add a  red heart here somewhere too, and I'm thinking about extending the fabric "wallpaper" (in another pattern) to either side of the pink yardstick "borders" so the bare wall won't be showing at all, BUT the skirt, at least, gets me one step closer to the vision I have for this little wall. 
Ah!  The pure contentment of simply puttering around one's home like this! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The School Library Project

I've written about my love for my former elementary school before.  It holds a huge piece of my heart, and at least a few times a year, I have dreams that I'm again walking through its halls and peeking in on the spaces that used to be my classrooms. This January, it occurred to me to donate a few books to the school's library, and after emailing the current librarian to find out what the students would most want to read, I ordered a number of books from amazon and had them shipped to the school directly.  That was January.  In the months since, finding more books for the kids--and more recently, stuffed animals and dolls of book characters to accompany the books--has become a passion of mine.  As of August 23rd, I've donated 188 books and 21 book character toys/dolls to this sweet school.  That thrills me.  :) 

When the librarian emailed me a picture of one of the students holding a couple books from the Easter-themed order I'd sent in April, I was still smiling hours later when I showed it to Mike.   
And when she mentioned in a thank-you note toward the end of last school year that the books had been a "life saver" since the school had no money in its budget for new books, I was even happier that I'd decided to start doing this.  (That so many schools don't have enough money to buy books--or to maintain libraries at all--makes me shake my head.)   
Since I wasn't sure when staff would be in the school building over the summer, I had the books and toys and dolls I'd ordered in June, July, and August mailed to Mike's and my apartment.  It was fun but cluttered here this summer, then, until I could finally box everything up and we could walk it all to the post office a few weeks ago.  A bow-headed Junie B. Jones had for weeks been staring at us from the rocking chair while we ate.  A green-suited Geronimo Stilton mouse would watch us from inside a plastic bag until we nestled him down into a package.  The hutch had become Sorting Central for some of the classic characters from my own childhood.  Mike just shook his head whenever he spotted the latest googley-eyed stuffed animal on the wing chair or propped up on the dining table, but I got a huge kick out of seeing these characters' faces grinning all around us.  I probably have more fun with all this than the books' and toys' recipients do.  :)
I check the school library's online catalog before buying books so I have a better idea of what the students already have, what they need, which award-winners their collection is missing, and which titles and series and authors are the most popular.  And I also look for donation-worthy-condition copies of rarer but beloved-to-me books I simply want the kids to have, like Fifth Grade Magic and Holly Hobbie's Cookbook. 
One book at a time, the library grows. 
If the time comes when the school can no longer support a library, as the hometown newspaper recently suggested as a future possibility for all the schools in the district due to state budget cuts--and "God forbid," and it would break my heart--I will just mail books to the school's teachers for their individual classroom libraries, I suppose.  But (that would be harder and more expensive, and) I hope it never comes to that.  Libraries matter. 
A new school year has begun, though, and like little Pinkalicious below, I wave my magic wand to the extent that I can, which isn't much, really, but again:  One book at a time.  And I look forward to the next nine months of finding titles and toys for the kids who are lucky enough to be this dear school's current students. 
"The world is full of magical places, and the library has always been one of them for me.  A library can be that special place for our children."    Julie Andrews 

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I took this photo while admiring the Geraniums lining a neighbor's stairs the other evening.  The "eyes" the splotches on the sidewalk formed on my shadow's face without my noticing are what make it a keeper.  :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

On August Walks

I've been walking in the late afternoon and early evening when shadows are long.  Heading out first thing in the morning feels so much better but is too hard to coordinate with my work schedule, so I instead slather myself in SPF 100 sunscreen and hope for low-humidity hours between 2-6 pm. And no matter how disgustingly slick from sunscreen and sweat I am each time I arrive back at the apartment, the walks themselves are always therapeutic.  They are precious minutes of thinking, of praying--Grandma once shared the poem "Out in the Fields with God" with me, and it comes to mind during my walks--of telling people how pretty their dogs are as they bound past me, of admiring gardens and shadows and rock walls and faster-moving and better-looking bodies, of encouraging children as they wobble along on bikes as their parents jog along behind them, of breathing deeply, of being grateful for my health (because no matter how much slower or older I am than the Super! Toned! Twenty-Somethings! I am healthy enough to walk, period, and that's worth saying "Thank You" for), of wishing Mom were here with me so I could show her this sweet cottage of a home I'm hoping to get a good picture of without being spotted and shooed away by its owner; of remembering that between the tremors and other Lyme issues, Mom couldn't walk at this pace or for this long anymore anyway--and so then I just carry on a conversation with her in my head as I walk, the way I carry on with Papa and Grandma and Sommer and other loved ones I have to be content to hold in my heart since hand-in-hand is no longer an option, and the entire walk feels that much more like a prayer.  It's the Ivy that makes this house so sweet.  It's the dome shape that does it for me, Vally.  I love the Ivy, though.  Aunt Laurie had those beautiful bay windows, remember?  Yes.  I loved that house.  Love, love, love.  One of my college professors once told me that he thinks one of the keys to life is to be passionately in love with something every day of your life--a person, an idea, a cause, a flower, the moon, the ocean, a poem, a book, a movie, just something.  There is wisdom in that.  My younger brother and I would play a game of my invention on even car trips when we were kids:  We would have to come up with something--at least one thing--we liked about each house or yard we passed.  There we would sit, half-turned in the backseat of my parents' car, straining to take in the sights of fast enough to find that hurry!-just-one-thing! before it would pass from view.  Oh, yes, this is a Val game, for sure!  But I play it even now when I'm a few years shy of forty, and I hear us wildly laughing as little kids again as I find myself shouting out "That snowball bush!  That rock wall!  The way the sunlight's hitting that chair on their front porch!  That DOG!!!" in my head as I walk each afternoon.  And this week I think of dear Robin Williams and some of my own lowest lows, having struggled with depression for two-thirds of my life now, and I say prayers for him too as I huff and puff up the heights of hills and stairs.  Each return to the apartment sees me marking my mileage onto a calendar in the bathroom and awarding myself a pink "Thank You!" sticker for that day's walk.  "Who exactly are you thanking with these stickers?  Most people would do gold stars," Mike teased me the other night as I proudly slapped a new one into place.  But the "Thank You!" stickers suit me, and I enjoy seeing the strips of them I keep on the desk for this post-walk ritual.  I am thanking God, of course, and I am thanking myself for making the effort.  I am thanking neighbors who plant pretty flowers for no reason other than to add a little more beauty to life.  I am thanking animals and birds for existing.  I am thanking the children for being children--and their parents for giving them good childhood memories.  I am thanking my own parents and brothers and grandparents and friends for being there, period, and for all the love.  Oh, love!  Love, love, love!  I come back to it and come back for it and come back with it, over and over, day in and day out, and that is my biggest "Thank You!" of all.