I was raised in a small church that has a reputation for being extremely freewheeling, very “believe whatever you want.” And in many ways, that’s accurate. However, in my experience, they actually offer very strong guidance on how to live; if you need advice on consumer behaviors that will fit bourgeois bohemians’ cultural norms, they can definitely give you a fair trade catalog or two. That advice, taken to its logical conclusion, has left my generation low-key terrified about the planet, the economy, etc., and willing to make great sacrifices to try to improve our future.
For example, my friend Will. Will is a Yale-educated descendant of Russian intellectuals, who, when we met, was *really* trying to walk lightly upon the earth. He practiced extreme frugality, which let him retain financial solvency while he worked as a community organizer and built his career in nonprofit. He showed up at church every week in one of the two sweaters he owned, which drove my girlfriend insane. “I want to buy that guy a sweater,” she said. “Does he not know about stores? What is with the two-sweater lifestyle? When does he wash them? You have weird friends.” But to me it made perfect sense that a person with all the privilege in the world would deliberately choose to opt out of capitalism as much as possible; to decline to buy garments made by slaves out of crops raised by slaves in ecologically unsound farms, to save his resources for making a difference.
I talked to Will about his no-shop lifestyle, and he said, “Well, hmm. I guess, if I want to buy something new, something that isn’t food or soap or whatever, first I wait a week and see if I still want it. And then if I do, I wait another week, and if I still want it, then maybe I buy it.”
This sort of attitude is difficult to pull off, especially if you’re just getting started in life; Will lived with his parents, so he didn’t need to buy measuring spoons or towels or a Crock-Pot. But for me now at midlife, with a house full of thrifted clothing and housewares and furniture and art supplies, honestly, there is very little that I need to buy, especially new. So I made myself this printable shopping list, to help me be mindful of Will’s practice. If you need help resizing it for whatever planner you use, here is some advice.
I’m sharing this now because a few of my friends were talking about budgets, and I thought it would be relevant. But I’m also working on a printable of Krista’s Famous Comparison Shopping Method, and also of What Shopping Does For You, so stay tuned if you want to see more printables about ethical consumption and mindful budgeting!
Guest Post: Cha Cha
THIS IS CHA CHA
I AM TOLD MY HOUSEKEEPER IS WRITING ABOUT “EVERYDAY CARRY"
HERE IS THE THING THAT SHE CARRIES FOR ME WHEN WE GO OUT
IT HAS DOGGY BAGS AND TREATS
AND IS A SPARKLY GRAY THAT I ENJOY
ON LONG TRIPS, SHE ALSO CLIPS ON A COLLAPSIBLE WATER DISH
AND A SECOND PURSE FOR SNAX
THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION
Happy New Year!
I’ve come down with an awful cold, and as I plow my way through box after box of tissue, too sick to go places, I’ve been Tidying Up around the house. I’ve also been making art, and I’ll have some new projects to share over the next few months (Planner printables! Feminist merch! Habitats and radios! Spoken word!), which I’m really excited about. I’ve been organizing my paper files, shredding old stuff that’s outdated, and catching up on Adulting.
One thing that really sets me up for success is organizing my purse. I thought I was the only one who's obsessed with this, but Hester Browne writes about Purse Prep in her book The Finishing Touches, which has completely validated my belief that I Am The Best at packing purses. There's also a hashtag, #everydaycarry, which I always thought was about handkerchiefs and marbles and string and pocketknives, the stuff kids keep in their pockets, but ah...turns out it is really heavily focused on the weapons. These are my weapons, though, in the endless fight against fascism, racism, and the stultifiying sameness of capitalism. So I'm using it anyway.
Since I’m a ladytype, my clothing generally does not come with pockets, and I always end up carrying a Mary Poppins-style endless handbag. But I like to switch bags pretty frequently, and since my work is distributed, I need to carry most of my “office” with me. I’ll share my notebook system sometime, but for today, here is my everyday carry strategy for self-care, preparedness, and not forgetting my work nametag or keys or lunch.
I get all the bags at thrift stores. I’m not ever paying more than a dollar, and yes, that included the Prada perfume bag. This is end-stage capitalism; manufactured goods have very little cash value. Those Clinique makeup sets are a godsend for fashionable organizing. I’ve been gifted that book cart bag repeatedly, and honestly, can you ever have too much book cart swag?
I’ve been trying to repair this compass keychain for like...six months. Yesterday I found the glue and the pieces at the same time. Honestly making art always reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s advice on letter-writing: you need the paper and the pen and the stamp all together in one place in advance or that thing is never getting mailed. Yes, that red heart is my Aldi/parking meter quarter, and the purple heart tag was an oddball gift from a date, that's turned out to be very very handy over the years. The amethyst came from a former supervisor, who I still miss, and the spork multitool is because I hate hate hate using disposable utensils and also need to not starve just because I can’t find a freaking fork. The USB drive came from my old library job, the robot girls bring me joy, and can I just say, a carabiner never stops being handy???? As for the keys: car, house, work, and Magic Machine. More about the Magic Machine on the bookstore’s website.
My friend the Sandwich Maker was hassling me about how I should make a sash for my book pins, and wear it on days I need that Girl Scout/TGIFriday’s/pageant queen vibe. First off, when do you not need that vibe? Second, good idea, Sandwich Maker; here’s a Skeletor pin, a burning river pin, and a book pin to go with the sun tag reel that was a gift from Library Boss. Yes I need to put the nametag in a plastic sleeve. No I am never there when HR is there and HR has the plastic sleeves. Yes this is on my to-do list and I am excited to share my to-do list printables in a future post.
Two small bags, each with the materials for an ongoing project. I only carry these when I’m going to an office to do work; otherwise I yank them out and leave them at home. I got the zipper pull crystal at Upcycle Parts Shop, my favorite art store.
You know what’s handy? Cigarette holders, for nonsmokers. These have all my Wallet Stuff in them, neatly corralled in the same place as my Oops I Went To the Library reusable shopping tote and the bookstore’s business cards. We put these postcards in each book we ship and we also gave them out at Pride.
I'm notorious for my love of external battery packs. Repairing your car’s cigarette lighter can be very pricey if you drive a historical vehicle and I might as well carry around an actual car battery; my phone GPS uses all the power during long rural book-retrieval trips. Also, never date an electrician; in my experience it is a really great way to lose all your power both literally and metaphorically. I get these cords and battery packs at Five Below, where they’re much cheaper than an electronics store. I very much regret buying the solar charger I bought on Wish, because that thing has literally never charged and I think the “solar cell” is just a fancy sticker. Also pictured: pens, ruler to help with handwriting, Cha Cha’s signature stamp for her correspondence, pencil sharpener.
You know what’s great? Snacks.
Trail mix, reusable straws, bobby pins, chapstick, eyebrow pencil (I could write an essay on the importance of having eyebrows; my deceptively friendly, round and smiley face has no oomph without eyebrows, so if I’m relating to children, dogs, or male professionals, I make sure to draw some on), Rimmel Provocalips.
I get a lot of questions about this lipstick. The color is Playing with Fire and yes, it lasts; in fact it’s a two-day commitment so buy some lipstick remover before putting it on. I like e.l.f.
Sweater chain; since I work in so many different environments, I am a lover of the cardigan; fake engagement ring to ward off sexual harassment in the customer service roles I often take. Funny/not-funny story: at the height of the Kavanaugh trial, as I was recovering from a really awful breakup, I mentioned to my doctor that being sexually harassed by patrons at my old job was stressing me out. “But isn’t that your job?” he said. “Maybe those men are just lonely.” A ) If they were just lonely, they would be talking to each other or to the male security guard as well as to me, or they’d be hanging out at McDonald’s for the morning coffee club. B ) No, it is not your friendly library lady’s job to provide female companionship for lonely men; I provide light reference, computer assistance and the occasional program, but all the nope to that idea. I just wear a fake engagement ring, some days, which cuts down on the aggression. So depressing. At least it’s pretty!
Anyway. This entry is a memorial to the Pixel camera's manual white balance adjustment feature, which I miss desperately; RIP. I could keep messing with the photos but I'm not as good at Photoshop as I am at organization!
I've always loved glass, especially stained glass. I haven't wanted to learn the actual art of cutting and foiling glass, but I've been thinking about ways to create a stained-glass effect without those techniques for decades. I also, given my incredible gift for killing houseplants, have developed a large collection of glass decorative pieces; the light shifting and changing in a wine bottle full of marbles, or a piece of volcanic obsidian, or a vintage telescope lens, looks almost like life, but marbles cannot be killed through overwatering or neglect. I have gone to glass museums in Toledo and Chicago, and although I haven't been to the Corning museum in New York, it's on my bucket list. I keep meaning to take a glassblowing course at a local studio, and not making it there.
Over the holidays, I asked my friends: should I clean the house, or should I make art? The resounding answer was "Make the art!" I did; here's the project.
These links go to Amazon, but I don't get referral fees; I highly advise buying art supplies secondhand, at thrift stores or creative reuse centers like Upcycle Parts Shop.
Clear painter's caulk
Clear school glue
Framed piece of clear acrylic (thanks, Upcycle Parts Shop!)
Glitter (also upcycled)
White Elmer's Glue
1) I thought about this for thirty years.
2) I tried other strategies and failed. I talked to Home Depot clerks at length. I worked at a paint store. I read a bunch of books about Louis Comfort Tiffany and women artisans and William Morris and opioids. I went to a museum and half drowned myself in the Apostles of Beauty exhibit. I worked at a church that had a Chagall exhibit. I read some Raymond Chandler. I read about the purpose of cathedrals, and the effects of centuries of smoke, and architects' fantastic egos. I visited the Kraft family's Baptist church for an architectural tour and a Bach concert and enjoyed both, even though the concert was delivered via a boom box and the lecture focused very heavily on the Bach family's influence on Baptist theology.
3) I talked myself into making art, instead of doing housework. Thanks, Facebook friends, for reinforcing this healthy practice!
1) Since it's easier to make fine lines with caulk when it's warm and thin and runny, I heated the caulk in the heating pad for half an hour while I set everything up on the table in my living room. I wish I'd waited at least an hour, but eh, patience, not my thing.
2) I drew mostly random lines on the acrylic. I had planned to make a six-section rainbow pattern, so I marked six equal sections on the frame of the window, and then connected those pencil markings with straight and curved lines.
3) I let the caulk dry (half an hour).
4) This is where we get into color theory from elementary school: I wanted to be tidy, mixing, so I started with the lightest color (yellow) and worked into deeper colors from there. I didn't end up using all of the food coloring in this pack, but I did use about half a bottle of each color to make a cup or so of colored glue.
5) I poured the colored clear glue into each section, trying not to let the same color be next to itself in two neighboring sections. I hit a snag here: I used up my 32-ounce bottle of clear glue about halfway through. So I mixed the blue and green into white glue, which dried opaque. That's not what I intended, but I like the way it turned out.
6) I let it dry for three or four days. The glue spread as it dried, and leaked through the cracks in the caulk. I was nervous that it would turn into a big black smudge (as has happened before), but the caulk kept it from blending too much or too quickly. Note: it dripped everywhere and this frame is not glue-tight. I put a grocery bag under the leaky corner, and stuck my hatrack over the glue puddle on the hardwood floor of my living room, so that my tiny dog, Cha Cha, couldn't walk through the yellow glue and track it everywhere. Once it dried, I was able to just peel the glue off the floor, but it left a bit of a yellow mark. So if you're houseproud (or sensible, or slightly less lazy than I am), maybe do this project in the art studio or the garage or the basement or put down newspaper or something.
7) I mixed metallic glitter with clear glue and filled in the empty spaces. I knew I was going to install this window in my upstairs reading nook, which is lit by sunshine from outside as well as by an electric light inside, but since the glitter is opaque, I wanted to keep it thinly mixed, to let the light through. If it were solid glitter, it would block the light entirely and make a shadow. You can see the streaks left by my paintbrush, which I didn't plan for, but I think it looks okay anyway. Note on glitter: microplastics are super bad for the environment. I buy all of my glitter secondhand, at thrift stores or creative reuse centers, and I'm only providing the Amazon link so you can see it's the fine powdery glitter, not the coarse sequin-y kind. I haven't tried the biodegradable glitter yet, but if I ever bought glitter new, that's what I would buy. Second note: this required googling Leonard Cohen; I don't know how I ever made art without the Internet at my fingertips.
8) I let it dry.
9) I propped it in the window in my reading nook. Note: if this were glass, I would recommend hanging it on hooks or a chain, but since it's acrylic, it's not too heavy. Also, I paint in this room sometimes, so I need to be able to get more light and ventilation easily; this is secured with a tension rod so I can remove it if I need to. The photo below has not been filtered or edited; it was taken on a December morning around 10:00 a.m.. The second-story window faces west, and it changes color and brightness as the tree outside goes into and out of leaf, as well as throughout the day.
“The Sorry-in-the-Vale library was one of the ugliest buildings in town. It was a squat brown-brick building that did an amazing impression of a bungalow from the outside and had three stories inside. The roof tiles were crumbly and a strange apricot shade. Inside, the worst part was the carpets. They were weirdly mottled orange and brown, as if someone had skinned a vast diseased orangutan.
“The best part was a computer with an Internet connection that Kami did not have to share with two brothers, one intent on watching every funny cat video the Web had to offer, and the other having a star-crossed love affair with Wikipedia.”
--Sarah Rees Brennan, Unspoken, the Lyburn Legacy, Book One
When I was a kid, I loved garage sales. I would go poking around other people’s castoffs, and carry home trophies: porcelain figurines, vinyl records, old clothes. Weird souvenir ashtrays from places I’d never been. Antique Christmas decorations. Scarves. Old stationery. Paperback books. A mishmosh of mismatched stuff. Other people’s trash; my childhood treasure.
Once I got an envelope of posters, a set of Maxfield Parrish’s calendar illustrations. I had never heard of Maxfield Parrish or the Edison Mazda Lamp Works, but kneeling there in Inez Bosco’s driveway, a suburban mile from my house, bike flung down in the grass, I fell in love. The pictures were perfectly tuned to my taste, as a teenage girl: beautiful, fanciful, just a little mysterious. I wasn’t equipped to unpack the iffy Orientalism of the Arabian Nights illustration, or question the extremely-pale-and-skinny appearance of the models, but I sat in the driveway and marveled at Parrish blue. How did he do that? The sky was glowing. How?
Years later, once the Internet was invented, I spent hours reading about his technique. Maxfield Parrish worked at the same time that the color separation process was being invented for machine printing, and he basically used it, or a manual version of it, for his paintings. A layer of blue; a layer of green; a layer of red. He said, “One does not paint long out of doors before it becomes apparent that a green tree has a lot of red in it. You may not see the red because your eye is blinded by the strong green, but it is there nevertheless. So if you mix a red with the green you get a sort of mud, each color killing the other. But by the other method, when the green is dry and a rose madder glazed over it, you are apt to get what is wanted, and have a richness and glow of one color shining through the other, not to be had by mixing.” You can see his process in his painting Dreaming, also called October, which he finished and reworked in 1928.
I carried that envelope of posters around for years. I hung them in dorm rooms, at church camp, in my first office for my first job. Sure, I had a couple of other posters, bought from the art sale held on campus each October, but I was faithful to that set. They made me feel good. Norman Rockwell loved Maxfield Parrish; so could I. I didn’t think of myself as an artist, or even someone with sophisticated taste in art; I just loved his blue. As it turns out, his first innovation was simply not mixing the factory-made blue paint with anything. “Parrish blue” is just stock “blue.” His second innovation was layering thin coats of Damar glaze and varnish. The light seems to shine through his paintings because it actually is shining through his paintings, through layer after layer of translucent varnish and paint.
This knowledge, acquired in my off hours in college, seemingly useless, not relevant to anything, has come in handy in my own recent work. I use layers of nail polish, which is technically a lacquer glaze, to give depth and richness to my upcycled objects. This water dish, for example, has several coats of different shades of brown, and this swimming pool is blue over blue over blue, ornamented with polka dots and the rune Laguz, for “lake.” I knew how to do it because of time “wasted,” reading Wikipedia articles about Maxfield Parrish in 2002.
No time is wasted; no learning is wasted. I’m making art out of discarded nail polish and found objects, out of the trash, and out of knowledge gained while wasting time. That bike trip over to Bosco’s in 1996? Wasted time. My lifetime of garage sales and thrift stores? Wasted money. My star-crossed love affair with Wikipedia? Wasted effort. And I couldn’t be happier with the result.
Further reading, should you wish to waste some time: