Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Thing I Am Apparently Over

Little things have been bothering me lately in bigger ways. I am not sure why this is. I suspect that as I emerge from this hollow space called "grief" and begin to look around me the little things start to seem big again. This no doubt will benefit the rest of humanity - no longer will I glare at people relaying normal life problems at me while sullenly thinking "Really? THIS is upsetting you? ARE YOUR PARENTS ALIVE??" Suddenly I want to vent, and about something so petty, so inane... and you seem to like to read me, so I will vent here.

I am really sick and tired of online store stalking. Not me stalking them, but THEM stalking ME. WHAT IS UP WITH THIS? The first time I saw targeted ads in my right hand sidebar while using Gmail, I felt ill. Big brother, reading my emails and pointing me to websites selling bee supplies or yarn. It just wasn't ok - my paranoid self freaked right out and said it was walking away from the internet for good. But I made the trade because after all we are an information tech society, and more and more the internet and online shopping have become de riguer and blah blah blah. Fine. I use Amazon like it's my local mall. I don't like going to the mall. Given where I live now, I don't like going shopping period, except maybe for groceries, and then only to the Walmart Neighborhood Market that I could walk to if I chose. I liked the concept of online shopping, but the practice has become ...well, let me back up.

When I was a child we shopped very locally, right in downtown Greenfield, most of the time. The overwhelming majority of what we needed could be obtained in, at most, a half-day-long shopping trip that had us home well before supper. Furniture, paper goods, food (even the exotic things like yogurt and bagels!), the occasional trip to Kentucky Fried Chicken to eat chicken out of a paper bucket and mashed potatoes from a spork while my mother noshed on fried fish wrapped in fake newspaper - it was all right there. If we needed dance- or skate-wear that usually required a separate adventurous trip to downtown Springfield, where it was still safe enough that I could be sent from The Shoe Box to fetch my mother a Coke and a pack of Marlboro's from a tiny nearby market hocking newspapers, magazines, and candy along with it's short list of preferred beverages and tobacco products. This would change over time, and eventually that walk would be removed from my 'allowed activity' list - the little market went out of business, no doubt destroyed by a culture more and more focused on one-stop destination shopping, and Springfield became a less safe place to roam. Why buy your Coke at the little market down the block, then walk a block for your produce, and another half a block for your meat when you can just get in your car (or take the bus) and drive to a shopping center where everything is laid out neatly for you in one handy stop - and cheaper, too! But I digress. For my riding boots and helmet, it was Northampton. But otherwise, everything we needed to live, from back to school clothes, to the ridiculous Polly Flinders dresses that no one else had to wear to my Brownie uniform, to the hideous caricature of tomatoes tucked in a white plastic tray in cello wrap and even the occasional very fresh lobster, were all handily available in one town, a mere fifteen minute drive from home. Thirty years before that, you probably wouldn't have had to leave Northfield for your needs - and if it wasn't available at Fred A. Irish's store you probably didn't need it.

During those shopping trips to Greenfield we would stop in at the stores that dotted Main Street like sparkly jewels to my childish eyes - each one a treasure chest of adventure, filled with unique sights and smells, each holding different merchandise and a plethora of opportunity to lose myself in clothing racks or restrooms. At McClelland's there were parakeets like a rainbow in cages, and tanks full of inexpensive tropical fish, and a deliciously creaky old wooden floor. At Ann August, where we certainly couldn't afford to buy anything, we could stop and visit my grandmother. From Peggy Parker to Goodnow's to Wilson's...and if I was lucky to Brown's Toy Store...and maybe a stop at The Corner Cupboard for a grilled tuna and cheese and a Coke from the fountain, Greenfield had it all. We would find whatever was on the list - knee socks, t-shirts, and probably at least one turtle neck as my mother attempted every year to shove me, resisting, into one of the miserable things. It was small. It was provincial. And it was home. At Wilson's Department Store, and here is where this gets back to my point (I promise) we were generally stalked by one or more sales ladies. They created an overall feeling of discomfort, and it was here that I would do my best to disappear into the racks of ladies dresses and pretend I was in a fairy home, surrounded by brightly colored wall-hangings, with the outside world full of those disapproving eyes partially hidden behind horn-rimmed bi-focal glasses far, far away. I never have been able to determine if this stalking behavior was to prevent shoplifting, or because they really put the 'sale' in saleslady, but there they were - around every corner; continually hovering and in general making the whole experience uncomfortable with their intrusive presence. "Can I help? Can I help this other way? What if I help by doing this?" One never entered Wilson's without feeling extremely..."helped".

Last night I experienced this thing that I despise - the thing that makes me feel like I am 7, hanging around on the inside of the large circular racks upstairs at Wilson's, avoiding my mother and those ever-present saleslady eyes, and amusing myself while she shopped for her fancy Barbizon peignoirs, or was being wrangled by the 'helpful' crew of salesladies into a girdle that appeared tasked well beyond it's abilities. I was once again stalked by 'helpful' salespersons - this time in the form of an email, another damned email in the relentless, endless stream of the things that flows into my inbox from every blessed retailer or service provider with whom I have ever done business... "Melissa! Have you forgotten something?". And in the email was the usual link, which took me immediately back to the shopping cart I had abandoned about a half an hour before.

Yes...I did forget something. I forgot to unsubscribe, close my account, run away from your "store". I forgot to NEVER shop with you again, Jockey, Sierra Trading, Uniform Advantage, et al. I forgot how much I loathe feeling stalked and watched and hovered over; made to feel as if I am a bad consumer because I didn't complete checking out - as if by not buying your stuff I have taken the bread right from your very open, wide, gaping mouth.

It happens all the time. My innocent 'window shopping', thanks to cookies and tracking, turns into a full-on sales assault; one with an air of desperation that makes me feel twitchy in my skin. Do you really need me to buy that one bra so very badly? Will my failure to buy those two scrub tops and coordinating bottoms in a color I don't yet have and don't really need break you this month?

We have been on a vaguely minimalist path for a while now, and as a result purchasing is more a rarity than a common occurrence. Sometimes I "window shop" to amuse myself, and usually - now as in the 90's when I trawled catalogs with a pen - circling things I would buy if I could but never did because we couldn't afford it - I do not buy. But I shop. I amuse my eyes with sparkly jewels in the form of fancy undies, or a new coat when mine is perfectly fine, or a pair of shoes when my closet space is currently full. If you let me wander and roam, and make me feel comfortable and welcome, then when I need a new bra, or a new coat, or scrubs, I will be back. But if you stalk me to my inbox, adding yet another damned miserable email to the endless stream that I delete daily, you become more annoying background noise, and like the mosquito you are, I will slap at you, and eliminate you if I can. I will unsubscribe, and if that fails I will mark you spam, and when I need that bra I will likely just order one from Amazon - who has sense enough to leave me mostly alone (although I do find the recommendations annoying, at least they don't stalk me all the way to my inbox!).

The young folks don't get it, having grown up in a world where privacy is an antiquated notion from the past. Or maybe they do get it, some of them. Maybe these movements toward minimizing, downsizing, tiny-house-lifestyle, living from and with the land...maybe they are a sign that deep within some of us still lie the desire for freedom and privacy. I live in hope. And I delete. Constantly.




Monday, February 20, 2017

Dear Jacinda - The Kitchen Post

I can't believe I haven't done this. When you mentioned wanting to see more updates, I didn't realize just how long it had been. You missed it all, man. It's been forever. So here's some images to amuse you, and update you on the craziness we put ourselves and this little house through last fall.
This is what we started with. To the right you can see the studs of the wall that divided the dining room from the living room and kitchen. I discovered after pulling all the sheetrock off that the wall was indeed load-bearing. The consequence is a 22' long beam in my attic that cost a tidy sum, but was well worth the investment.
 I think this may be the first time Gene has ever demo-ed a kitchen on his own. I had taken the wall down, the carpet was all up, but I was working a lot and he hadn't started work yet, so he got the brunt of the kitchen demo. My favorite moment was when he announced to me that removing old built in cabinets was "a big pain in the ass". Yes, dear. Yes it is...how well I know it.

 He proceeded with the demo and we eventually were down to nothing. The plan was to sheetrock the entire space; living, dining and kitchen, including the ceiling. I wanted to save as much of the old crown and baseboard as possible, not so much for money but because there isn't anything wrong with it. Why throw it away? The contractor was pretty sure I was nuts, but I really didn't care. In the end, all the crown and baseboard is original with a few small exceptions. I just primed and painted it all after pulling all the nails. 
 This is into the living room from the dining room - you can see on the floor where the old wall and closet were. 
 From the pictures above, to this...still in progress, but that partial wall/bookshelf with the pillars is about where the old closet was. The near edge of the gray rug would have been the original wall the divided the kitchen and dining room. 
Another view of the bookcase things - I wanted to create an "entry" feel, which I accomplished beautifully, I think. The remaining closet on the left is perfect for jackets, etc. The pillars and bookcases are now painted white to match the trim and cabinets. The flooring is "luxury vinyl", which was a cost saving decision. If the entire space had been hardwood, I would have made different choices. Because it was mixed old vinyl over plywood and hardwood, it was more cost effective to just go over it with the vinyl and save the money for other things, like granite on my island.
Kitchen almost done. Lights are not in yet, and the backsplash isn't up. But you get the feel. We still need to paint the interior doors white. 
I will put some more photos of it "done" at the end. But now an update on what we do with our spare time...Gene went on that roller coaster, repeatedly. It is called Fury 325 and I love it. It's huge and fast. It's about 45 minutes from here at Carowinds. We also went to Dollywood and rode the coasters there, including a new one that may have ruined me for all other coasters.
 I work sometimes, when not wearing glasses with lights on them. Honest, I really do work. 
Jen and I went horseback riding in Tennessee, and then I dragged Gene and made him go too a few weeks later. It was fun. Very pretty scenery. I like Tennessee a lot. Jen and I had planned to go to the beach, but Hurricane Matthew changed the plan. Mountains, beach, whatever.
 We went to Florida (as usual) but without seeing Mickey Mouse not even ONE time, and ate insanely fresh strawberries from a roadside place. It was amazing. We also were advised to visit a place called "Robert Is Here", which we did - and ended up eating some of the most intriguing fresh tropical fruit I have ever experienced. Highly recommend. We sat outside watching chickens while slurping down smoothies made from crazy things. Very fun.
Everglades visit - we took a boat tour into the 10,000 Islands, and the dolphins followed us around and jumped in the boat wake. At one point the whole pod was there, including a baby shepherded by two adults. It was really cool.
I think this is from the keys. We drove all the way down to Key West, and then drove back to Key Largo where we were staying. This isn't a thing I would probably repeat.
We took selfies. This was snorkeling somewhere...maybe? Or maybe just a swim. We stopped at a bunch of beaches up the west coast, because instead of flying back we drove home. We swam and snorkeled wherever it was possible. I loved the beaches, particularly Venice. I did not like Naples much. Entirely too chi-chi for me. 
When I sent you the text about the place we had dinner at in Everglades City that you would love?  This is it, Camellia Street Grill. Lights on strings, a dance floor to the left out of the frame, lots of bare feet and beer and stone crabs caught that morning. They have a wonderful salad with fresh herbs, and just generally are the sort of laid back image I have of old Florida, before the Damn Tourists Showed Up and Ruined It.
 This was also in the Everglades; a board walk through a jungle, surrounded by wildlife. Snakes, gators, birds. It was picturesque and slightly intimidating. I was happy to be on the boardwalk. We did see tons of gators lying on the bank of a channel beside route 41 between Miami and Everglades City, and a couple of large things draped in trees that I suspect were pythons. They weren't gators, and weren't birds, but they were something big and drape-y. 
Quilt 1: Started for my father, but the lady wasn't going to get it back to me "in time" back there, so it sat until now. Now it is done and has no home, but there it is. 
Quilt 2: Jelly Roll Race quilt made with a jelly roll I got for free somewhere. We like this one and will probably keep it.
The quilt that made me hate quilting. I started this when we lived on Jewett Road I think, and it sat forever unfinished. I finally just threw a back on it and had it finished on a long arm here, and sent it away to Texas to a good home. The good news is that I like quilting again. 
The finished kitchen. Granite on the island, the legs we got for $1 a piece at the ReStore. There is a prep sink in the island, which is right close to the fridge for easy prep. The "big" sink is under the window, and is a single-bowl 32" long, quite deep one. I was really frustrated by not being able to fit my half sheet pan easily into the sink, because we use it fairly often.
Quartz countertops on the perimeter. Kitchen backsplash tile is ceramic wood-look planks intended for flooring. I love them. Plus they cost me less and 1/4 of what a wall tile would have cost. We got these at a discount place in Charlotte. I LOVE this tile SO MUCH. It echoes the floor, and gives some interest without being overwhelming or pigeonholed to a color. 
 There used to be a wall there, separating these two spaces. Crazy. 
And there. Wall-be-gone! Dining room into living room, everything open and light now. It was SO dark at the back of the house before, but now light penetrates everything.
And last one - the living room. We kept the built in, which houses the TV perfectly. The picture over the fireplace is a poster of a picture I took in Plymouth mounted on canvas and framed. Loved the picture and it its perfectly. 
So that's it, that's the nutshell update! Lots of other things going on, but mostly just working and being in this place, which we like...but we're open to more change in the future if we feel led to wander again. I like NC, but the road is always open and seems to be calling! 

And a note for Sally...yes, we are right down the road from you, and have been to Troutman a few times! I am starting a new job in Statesville, so I am up and down 77 through there more often now. Small world! :)