Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dumpster Diving... sort of

Although I'm inspired by true dumpster divers, and think that it makes a lot of sense, I'm mostly too scared to do it. Maybe one day...

But last weekend, our neighbors' trash heap taught me that patience is, indeed, a virtue.

I've been wanting chairs for our back porch. This may be the ultimate example of the category of stuff that I decide I HAVE to have, but decidedly do NOT need. I sweep the porch, put away the toys, weed the herb garden, and decide that the chairs that most people only take camping or to outdoor concerts but that we use every day are completely unacceptable. What yesterday seemed like a perfectly acceptable place to sit down today seems like an eye sore that no respectable person would actually use.
I have actually gone to several stores, looking for either vintage or new chairs. And I have resisted all of the chairs at places like Home Depot that, at that moment, I think would transform our backyard dramatically. I decided that I wanted the adirondack chairs that aren't actually all that comfortable, but are relatively affordable and secure a spot in the DIY makeover page of my imaginings. I have nearly loaded them into my car on 2 occasions, but then remembered this damned resolution and resisted.
And then...
I saw a perfectly good adirondack chair and table in our neighbor's trash.
Patience and thrift rewarded.

Friday, April 30, 2010


April wasn't a good month for blogging, ok?

But... I've been saving up some observations and tales of recent acquisitions that I will share.

First... Target.
I have boycotted Walmart for years (which I might need to rethink now that they have pretty legitimately become a "green" company and have pushed other stores to do the same thing), but I have a weakness for Target. It is so obviously classist of me. I prefer the people that I see in Target more than the ones in Walmart. The $6 teeshirts at Target are just as likely to be made in sweatshops as the ones at Walmart. There are no websites (that I know of) making fun of people who shop at Target. Famous designers (that I've never heard of) design the clothes that are then made in sweatshops and sold at Target. So I have historically made a huge exception by shopping at Target. The biggest issue for me is that I walk into the store needing toilet paper and leave with a new bathing suit cover up, some notecards, and a system to organize my shoes--none of which I needed or intended to buy. I once was weak.

But now I am strong.

I went to Target last week for the first time since January. As I walked in, I was initially drawn by the $1 bins, lured by the canvas handbags, and tempted to look at the bathing suits. But.... I took a deep breath and said (aloud), "I do not need any of this."
And I didn't.
We went in to get stencils for a project with Jasper, but left deciding that we could just write our own letters. It was empowering. So, so silly that I felt empowered by NOT shopping at Target, but I did.

I never realized how much money I dropped on incidental crap at Target until I made this resolution to buy nothing new. Try going a month without entering Target. It helped me see how that bullseye was shifting my perception of "need."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Station Wagons

When I was a kid, we had a station wagon. The kind with the fake wood on the outside panel and a seat that faced backwards. This thing was enormous. Aside from a reconstructed memory based on a photograph of my scowling dad after he put regular gas in the diesel tank or vice versa--either way it was bad news, I have fond memories of this station wagon. On trips, we would lay down the back and sleep or read without the constraints of these new-fangled carseats. I remember especially riding on the bumpy farm roads facing backwards. It always made me sick, but it was so freakin' cool that I'd do it every time.

When I was twenty and a college student in the mountains, I desperately wanted a station wagon. A Subaru wagon. I imagined that I would use it to drive up to the parkway for hikes (I hiked a lot once upon a time), and somehow this Subaru wagon of my dreams would hold my muddy boots as I slipped back into my birkenstocks (oh, yes, I did) better than whatever car I drove when I really was twenty. I thought that if I had the Subaru wagon, I would have to learn to kayak and mountain bike. I would get my brother to give me his old climbing gear and I'd take that up with verocity. Essentially, this car of my imagination would make the sort of dorky girl who read a lot of books and was a little bit too talkative in class (with the important exception of Spanish) into a whole different person. Maybe I'd start to like Phish. Maybe I'd finally dread the long hair I usually just wore in braids. Maybe I'd use the bumpers of this car of my imagination to encourage people to recycle and be tolerant.
Instead I moved to Atlanta for a job in "publishing," leased a new car, immediately regretted both decisions, retreated quickly to grad school and made my way through a series of cars--many of which are hand-me-downs.

For some reason, people give Jeff and me cars. We inherited a Saturn from a relative that neither of us had ever met. We inherited my Granny's Buick, which was 15 years old and had under 30,000 miles on the odometer. We were recently given a Ford Taurus when Jeff's mom upgraded. And then...

My mom gave us her Subaru wagon.
And suddenly, all of my fantasies of being the sort of woman who can drink scotch and keeps a sleeping bag in her car (just in case) are clashing with my fear of being the sort of mom who slathers her child(ren) in antibiotic hand sanitizer and keeps baby wipes in the glove compartment (just in case). Both of these are valid positions (although I think the hand sanitizer bit is overdone in our culture). It's just strange to look at this old/new car in my driveway and try to figure out what it says about me today--at 33 with 1.7 kids AND some very worn in hiking boots. I suppose it mostly says that I'm lucky to get an old/new car from my mama.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

These boots were made for...

On a recent Spring Break trip to the land of collared shirts, khaki pants and golfgolfgolf (aka South Florida to visit my dad), I lost my soul a little bit. In these moments, I somehow feel pressure to return to the preppy girl that I never was. I question my little eccentricities and begin to think that banking might be a better career than my own. As we flew North and prepared for a weekend trip in the mountains with friends who love my eccentricities as much now as when I was 17 and frustrated my dad's undiscovered inner South Floridian (read: New Jersian) with my Doc Martens and Dead Milkmen teeshirts, I began to reclaim myself. And this led me to a favorite thriftstore in Asheville, North Carolina... The Enchanted Forrest It was here that my non-buying karma graced me with some purple boots.

Jeff saw these boots, asked my size, and offered to pay half because they were so very cool. I mean, really... who has PURPLE boots? They are Justin boots (which is a name I trust because I can read billboards and I believe billboards), and were priced at 68 bucks. I imagined myself at Merlefest, at the Farmer's Market in these boots, listening to Wilco with a glass of scotch in my belly and these boots on my coffee table (even though I don't have a coffee table)... $68 for all of those experiences is truly a bargain. But... there was one little problem. A hole in the bottom of one of them. So I pointed this out to Ms. Enchanted Forrest, even though I was perfectly willing to pay $68 bucks and could already feel the warmth of the scotch in my belly and the sun on my back from these various fantasies, and she said, "Oh, how about I give them to you for half price?"

Next up, more karma brings us a new (to us) car!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I'm sure that this will happen a few times in the 10 months remaining in this experiment, but I caved in today. That part of me that wanted to be cool when I was 12 kicked in and wanted my son to be cool today. Before he is aware of what that means.
He has shown interest in his first real activity--a soccer league with his best friend, Owen. Owen's mom sent the form to me today and as I filled it out* I realized that this means that I'm paying $65 for a. the experience of being on a team with a coach and practices and games and the whole 9 (or 25 or however long they make a 4-year-old soccer field) yards, and b. a tee-shirt. I foresee, as well, a trip to some superstore (although I will vow here and now to go to a local mom-n-pop sports store) for the purchase of shin guards and soccer shoes and shorts. The shoes might be available barely used (my own soccer shoes from high school might be a good example of barely used sporting equipment, although I was the co-captain). Pretty much, though, I'm caving in so that my son doesn't have to suffer for his crazy parent's silly resolution.
All his underwear I'll buy used this year just to make up for this.

*As I was filling out this form, on the line that said "Mother's Name," I wrote Phyllis Braswell (my mother's name). Then I realized, "Oh. I'm a mother. I'm the mother." I also signed up to be a coach, referee or team parent. I'm getting a minivan and heading to West Knoxville suburban hell.
Can I add soccer coach to my CV?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Next Non-Purchase: Dresser

The fact that we're expecting a new baby and we've decided to not buy anything new is not exactly a coincidence. I think that we were partly inspired on this journey because of the temptation to justify stupid purchases. I can justify many things. And I can easily convince myself that I need a new pair of jeans or I need a new pair of boots or I need a visit to Boston or I need a weekend in Atlanta. So here is the next challenge...

Because Jasper and new baby (who I refuse to give any nickname, even though I think that is an especially bloggerish thing to do) are going to be sharing a room, they are also going to be sharing a dresser. Jasper currently uses a dresser that I think we got at a used furniture place here in Knoxville, but it may have traveled with us from Boston. If it did, it should not have made the journey. It is in rough shape. I painted it white and put purple knobs on it when I was pregnant with Jasper. It has served its purpose, but it is very flimsy and very small for two wardrobes (as petite as they are). So I have set out in search of a new dresser.

The problem with only buying used stuff is that I'm picky. I went yesterday to a very weird and potentially illegal warehouse that had everything from stacks of tires for 4 Wheelers to records to a minivan. They also had some dressers. All of these dressers, though, have this overly ornate thing going on. I want an Ikea-style dresser. I just want to find it for $40 in a sketchy warehouse where the "owner" literally walks me through the place with a flashlight because there is no electricity in the building. (As we left, Jasper said, "This place is WEIRD." He is astute.) Actually, I don't need that precise experience. I would just like a used dresser that isn't trying to look like something it is not. It seems that dressers of the 1970s made up for any inadequacies with overly ornate knobs. I know I can change knobs. I'm trying to be imaginative. But really, so far, I've just found ugly dressers.

Meredith of last year would break down and get the dresser from Ikea that matches the crib. But Meredith of 2010 will find a way to scrounge up a dresser that adds to the eclectic look of this new room which already features a bed made of apple crates. I'm radiating that a well-built dresser with simple, clean lines and 6 drawers will makes its way into my life. Do I dare go the Craigslist route?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Short Pants

Just an update that Jasper's short pants evoked sympathy and action from his grandmother. No.... he didn't get new pants, but he did come away with a sort of jersey which might distract from his short pants.