Friday, January 20, 2017

Packed and Ready!

I am packed and ready to head out early tomorrow morning for a standby flight to Washington DC for the Women's March.

I packed and re-packed: there are lots of rules and regs about what to bring and what is not allowed, about how to dress, etc etc.

Got a clear stadium bag (who knew there was such a thing?) and managed to get a change of clothes in there along with essentials, meds, small camera in case my phone gets full, and so on. Figured a way to carry ID and money safely. Arranged to meet up with my sister for an overnight stay. And I think I'm ready.

I'll post all about it when I get home.

This is going to be an adventure, I think. I hope!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Making Do and Making Waste

I found this compote at the local thrift store. It's a cobbled together affair, made from the base of a lamp and part of a glass compote.

The lamp could have been an old whale oil lamp, predecessor of the oil lamp we know today. The compote was probably broken, and maybe the lamp was too, so some enterprising and thrifty soul put the two together to make one useful piece. They did a good job too. The compote is sturdy as can be, if a little rough at the seam.

photo from pinterest
The compote, and a radio ad promoting new appliances for people ready to upgrade their kitchens, made me think about the fridge we had when I was a girl. I believe it was like this one in the photo, a Philco with a domed top and a straight up-and-down handle. We loved to open that heavy door and just stare at whatever was in there, feeling the cold blasting our faces. Of course if our parents caught us we were in trouble for wasting electricity and making more work when it was time to defrost.

We opened, and apparently swung on, the door so much that the handle broke off, leaving only a short nub. We knew we were in trouble then! I can vaguely remember the explosion when Dad found out. And I remember how he fixed it, with a piece of copper pipe bolted to the stub. It worked.

In fact, the old fridge lasted for years. I think it was replaced finally just before I left home when I was 17. It was ugly and beat up, the white enamel finish scrubbed down to the metal in places, but it still worked. I remember how much Mom hated it because it was ugly and the freezer was tiny and it seemed to need defrosting so often, a job she didn't like and often passed off to us kids to do. We didn't mind although I expect the mess we made doing it caused her more work anyway.

People kept things back then. they kept them until the appliances were worn out. Coming out of the Depression and World War II when metal and many other things were scarce, people made the best of what they had and wastefulness was considered a sin. This applied not only to appliances but to everything they used. Cars, furniture, even clothing were repaired and stayed in use rather than discarded. Getting rid of good things was almost showing off your affluence. People had only a few sets of good clothes, then they had work clothes and around home clothes. A new dress for Easter and maybe Christmas or a birthday was about the norm for adding to your wardrobe for most people.

The ad for upgrading appliances really pointed up the difference today. We shed belongings regularly as we redecorate or see new features we want. The world is awash is discarded clothing, piles and piles of it--according to an Atlantic article, we buy 5 times more clothing now than we did in 1980, and even in 1980 we were probably buying 5 times as much as we were in the 40's and 50's. All those clothes have to go somewhere, and the fact is a lot end up in the hands of textile recyclers--even those we "donate" to charities like Goodwill and Salvation Army. I remember being in a Goodwill one day and overhearing a staff member say that "the ragman is coming today." I'd never thought about what they did with all the stuff that didn't sell. Now I know.

The thing is, those old appliances worked better and lasted longer. They were built for 20 years of service, I think! Most lived up to that standard anyway. The clothing was for the most part biogradable natural fabrics until mid-century when the synthetics were discovered. So they rotted away once they made it to the dump. Today's clothing will last for decades, maybe centuries, in landfills. It doesn't rot away. Appliances have a large percentage of plastic now, and again, they don't biodegrade.

We've come a long way but in this area, I think perhaps we've taken a wrong turn. Those of us into vintage and antique furnishings and clothing are in our way recyclers, reclaiming the discards of society and making them new and useful again. I doubt manufacturers will change their ways, but the more we know about what happens to our waste the more aware we will be about what goes out our doors as trash.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Remaining Relevant: Pill Bottles, Trash and Prayers

And continuing the thoughts about aging:

I thought of my parents the other day as I was throwing out some empty prescription bottles. They took a lot of medications as they got older, and they had so many empty bottles all the time. How they kept up with refills I don't know, but they managed quite well somehow.

 They saved the empty bottles and there were usually several bags of them stacked in a corner. When I asked, they explained that they donated the bottles to a charity that sent them to Africa to be re-used. Apparently in Africa finding ways to get the pills safely home with people is difficult, and reusing the bottles saves a lot of money for the medical missions. So Dad would carefully remove the labels with a scraper, which took quite a bit of time as he had bad arthritis in his hands. At the time I thought, how silly. Now I see it differently.

Because, you see, it was really about remaining relevant even as age and accompanying health issues restricted my parents' ability to be out and doing. Travel was difficult, painful and time-consuming and they spent more and more time at home. Eventually Dad had to give up driving; Mom had stopped years ago. So they were reliant on others to take them shopping, to appointments and to church. The priest began coming to their home in the last few months of Mom's life because getting to church became too much for her.

But they found things they could still do, ways they could contribute to the wider world. They kept table scraps and composted them. Mom had a back-porch herb garden on a stand so that she could care for it easily. Sometimes they grew lettuce and onions there too.

They recycled their trash, carefully separating paper and glass and metal. Dad flattened boxes so they took up less space, smashed cans flat and rinsed out glass and plastic containers before putting them into the recycle containers. Mom saved magazines to pass on to nursing homes and anyone else who wanted them rather than toss them in the trash. They shredded paper and recycled that too.

They were fierce prayer warriors. Their prayers lists were long, and their morning and evening rosaries and other prayers took quite a while to complete. They prayed for many, many people, some that they knew, others perfect strangers to them. They took this mission seriously and devoutly.

35th wedding anniversary, 1980. They shared 61 anniversaries
 in the end.
When they passed away, I was in my mid-fifties, working full-time at a job an hour away from home. I was busy, stressed and tired most of the time. The time Mom and Dad spent on these endeavors seemed to me to be a waste of hours. Now I know differently. My parents were finding ways to stay involved and active, to give something back to society even as their ability to do so waned.

Today I am humbled by the words I've written here. In the past year I have been seeking ways to help. I may not be able to give much time, but I can give in other ways. I am finding what I care deeply about, like the flood victims, like this upcoming march. It's time to give back. It's time to honor my parents' wordless teachings.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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