Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What we leave behind

Dear Reader,

We've been friends for what now, six years? That's a good stretch of time. You see, I have a couple of unusual hobbies that I typically wait until I get to know someone before divulging them. I did break my rule a couple of months ago in my youth group-- luckily everyone was sharing weird hobbies so I tried to gloss over mine as normal weird hobbies and everyone kind of went along with it.

You see, I like cemeteries. I find them fascinating-- I love wandering through the carefully arranged bleached forest of headstones. Behind each name lies a full and exciting life-- the details of which are tantalizingly just out of reach. The saddest stories call out the loudest-- a mother who outlived her son, a infant child buried without even a name. Happy stories-- like good deeds-- often stay interred with their bones which means that imagination tends to be a substitute for facts.

I also like reading obituaries-- I know, I know, stay with me. I scan the obits for anyone over 90, and then eagerly read what their relatives thought a fit summary of their life. It's a rather doomed interest-- I rarely find an obit that makes me feel like I caught a brief glimpse into at least some approximation of the fullness of their lives. More often than not it ends with frustration-- 100 years of life and all I get is who survived her? I want to know what it was like growing up, how she met her husband, all sorts of stories that rarely are published in an obituary.

While the common tie to my interests seems to be death it's actually a bit more subtle. What I'm really interested are stories, especially the ones we leave behind. Not anything as grandiose as a legacy-- I don't really care about the perhaps massive impact on future generations-- I'm more interested in the mundane. For example, anyone who read the obit of my great-grandmother probably didn't realize that she attended 8th grade twice. High schools were far off, expensive, and for boys, but my great-grandmother loved school so much her parents let her go to 8th grade a second time before she left academia for farm life. There are so many stories like that hidden behind every gravestone, every obit, and sometimes I can be lucky enough to stumble upon them.

If you ever visit a thrift store/antique mall with me and I find a heap of old postcards, you better resign yourself to the better part of an hour spent flipping through them. As you saw in my previous post I love old postcards because they have the rare ability to break down that barrier that death erects, to show me a small, personal glimpse into a life that has long since ended. 1909 seems impossibly in the past and out of reach, until you read a note between friends joking about hunting for the perfect husband and then the past collapses and you see that people back then weren't so different from people today.

But there is one big difference between us and them-- the physical remnants of our lives. In 1909 they didn't text, they sent postcards. Postcards that later their great-grandchildren would throw into a bag and drop off at a thrift store. We take thousands of photos but rarely print out one. Will our entire legacy be online? A hundred years from now, when my great-granddaughter is musing about the inaccessibility of the past, what will she use to reconstruct my life? Facebook certainly won't be around, my text messages will have long since echoed into silence-- maybe I'll print off my blog one day, stick it in an old binder, shove it into the attic for my grandchildren to stumble upon. Maybe that's why I write this blog-- to have a say in telling my own story. From high school, to college, to grad school-- a short time in the grand scheme of things but a massive span to me personally.

Maybe, one day, this will be the story I leave behind.

But until then, dear reader, thanks for listening.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Thrift Store Haul

I've always loved thrift stores. 

I love any place where the possibility of finding the perfect item is equally matched with the possibility of finding pure junk. It just makes any good find that much more exciting-- and the work needed to sift through the junk typically means that the good finds have equally good prices. 

This past weekend I had unusually good luck as I browsed a couple of my favorite antique/thrift stores. For those of you who aren't sold on the idea of sorting through old stuff to find the perfect item, then maybe the cool things I stumbled upon will sell you on the idea! 

But first, a cat.

Here's Otto in typical cat fashion sitting right where I don't want him to be. He's cute but I didn't buy him in a thrift store so let's move on to (perhaps) my most exciting purchase.

I didn't set out to buy a purse-- but that's how thrifting works. Sometimes you walk in with a set goal (like when I was furnishing my apartment) and sometimes you walk in with no goal in mind.

I found this Coach purse in the back of the thrift store, hanging unassumingly next to some other black bags. It was only when I picked it up that I fell in love. You see, it's a 100% leather Coach bag, handmade in the US. It's old but looks and feels brand new (that's leather for you!). The best part?

The purse was only 24 dollars. 24! For a leather messenger bag! From a good brand!

And now for something completely different-- a postcard, complete with written message, postmarked in 1909. In the message, the writer asks her friend how she was spending the winter. "Are you still teaching? Or have you captured one of the good looking widowers and are keeping house? I just have the 'bestest' one ever and a splendid home." The candidacy made me laugh and I had to buy it for one dollar. If I can dig up some info on either the writer or the receiver I'll write a blog post devoted to that!

To call my haul eclectic perhaps doesn't cover the full extent of it. Next up, I bought two small test tubes-- some manufacturer had gone out of business or something and there was a whole box of them for sale. My mom had the cool idea to use them as single stem vases-- I haven't worked out how I'm going to prop them up yet, but they were super cute and a steal for one dollar a piece.

I have a well documented (if you've ever been to my apartment) love with stained glass. Soon I'll reach maximum capacity-- you can only fill a small space with so much stained glass before it becomes too much. I have a couple small pieces like this one hanging on my kitchen wall-- and when I saw this being sold for five dollars, I had to pick it up and add it to the mix.

 And now for perhaps the most interesting find. I was wandering down the ailse in the massive thrift store when a pile of black and white photos caught my eye. They weren't priced, just dumped into a wicker basket (which was being sold for 12 dollars). I picked one up and flipped it over. I was surprised to see the back of the photo covered in beautiful cursive, a scrawling message from a sailor stationed in Japan to his wife. I began to sort through the photos and a lovely story began to emerge-- one that I am going to write a whole blog post dedicated to because holy cow how often do you find something so personal in the thrift store? Old photos are everywhere, but I've never found ones with messages written on the back. Keep an eye out for the whole story ;)

And that's it! A purse, test tubes, stained glass, postcard, and a smathering of photos of 1950s Japan! Part of the magic of thrift stores is that next time I wander through the ailse there could be entirely new treasures waiting to be found.

I hope I convinced you (if you need convincing!) of the benefits of sorting through sometimes overpriced junk in order to find something really cool.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hey there

Oh hello. I didn't see you there.

I'm surprised anyone is here, considering it has been a literal epoch (read: two months) since I last posted.

Why is that, you ask? Classes? Well...no. I'm actually class-free this semester, which will make the next time I have to do homework that much more difficult.

I am, however, teaching a full load-- which for me means two calculus based labs, one algebra based discussion, and two calculus based discussions. So there is that.

And I am researching-- whenever I can find time on the machine (Atomic Force Microscope for those playing along at home) and/or motivation to do the gritty non-exciting parts of research which strangely enough involve a lot of Googling. Seriously, Google should go ahead and hire me-- this semester I've turned into a Google Docs spokesperson. Need to keep track of your experiments? Use a Google Doc! Organize by date, procedure, and add photos of results. Need to update your professor on your work? Use Google Slides-- update it from whatever computer you happen to be closest too, and you can share it with them, which allows you both to fix mistakes, find typos, and answer questions with ease!

And don't even get me started on the ease of using Google Sheets to keep track of my lab grading books.

Sadly, however, no part of my paycheck is (currently) coming from the great company of Google. Oh well, here's to hoping?

Anyway, this is a short post is mainly intended to guilt trip me into writing a better, perhaps more thought out, post soon rather than waiting another two months. Maybe I'll post the weekly spreads I've been designing in the bullet journal with their associated pros and cons. Or maybe I'll post this scone recipe that I just made tonight. I've been making scones for years but this recipe is a GAME CHANGER. So moist yet so crumbly! With just the perfect touch of sweetness. Oy. I may have finally perfected my scone game, y'all.

Anyway, here's to setting the bar low for posts by future me!

Thanks for reading :)