I’ve loved this festive day since I was a child. My sister and I enjoyed dressing up, making costumes from this and that, and anticipating the night. Of course, there were strict rules about where we could go, how long we could be out, and with whom, but we made the most of it.
We arrived home long before 8:00 with cold cheeks and a bag of candy. The candy haul would fuel a trading game in the weeks to come. We would spread the goods on the living room floor, count each item, then trade back and forth. We each had our favorites. It was also a way to extend the thrill of the night.
As adults, we found the excuse to dress up for parties or work events. We fixed each other’s hair or wig and donned false eyelashes. Sharon usually helped with my makeup since I’m an amateur and she’s the pro.
My sister and I no longer dress up, and the thrill of the day has passed. Sharon’s MS has advanced to such a degree that she can no longer walk or drive. She struggles to dress, and she needs help putting on her shoes. At the end of this month, the water therapy that helps sustain her is no longer covered by her health plan. The powers that be, determined that since she can’t get well, she can’t have physical therapy. Health “care” in this country often boils down to health insurance. It’s beyond depressing.
Today, I shampooed my sister’s hair in an inflatable sink, then wrapped it in a towel to dry. She’s lost the chance to shower two days a week after water therapy, robbing her of the dignity of basic hygiene. We are both bereft.
It’s hard to know where we go from here, so we’re improvising. Costumes and wigs no longer apply.
Tomorrow I’ll toss candy into the bags of costumed children after they knock at our door and yell, “trick-or-treat!” The night will be bitter and sweet.
It’s October 15th. Do you know where your scraps are?
Our ScrapHappy host, Kate, invites bloggers to join in the fun of making something entirely out of scraps. We create something useful or beautiful (or spooky!) each month and share details on our blog.
I love Halloween, and I love paper crafts. October is my birthday month, so in addition to the paper I buy, friends treat me to Halloween treasure. I may never run out of scraps, but not for lack of trying.
Once again, I assembled small craft kits that I offer next to our Little Free Library. Some of my Halloween paper goes back 15 years. If I haven’t used it by now, it’s time to send it out into the universe for someone else to enjoy. The scraps are leftover from paper kits or freebies from craft weekends past. I used black ink and a couple of my acrylic stamps so I could include a couple of small embellishments.
Last night, just before dozing off, I thought it would be fun to decorate a themed box for the craft kits. So I pulled out the box I used last summer for kits and covered it with scraps of Halloween paper, leftover Washi tape, and the remnants of my son’s haunted house phase. He’s a senior at university, so those scraps have also been around.
The box is too deep to display the kits, so I used a cardboard lid to divide it, covering it with gauzy Creepy Cloth.
The cloth drapes along the back and intersects with the paper. I raided my fairy garden stash for the “broken fence,” and it was finally ready to go. I recycled a cellophane bag on the bottom of the box in case it gets damp. We’re unlikely to see rain in the next two weeks (BOO!), but I’ll bring the box in at night anyway since it will get damp.
There are twenty kits in total, but if they go quickly, scraps remain.
That, dear readers, brings me to the other fun part of these posts. Here are links to several other ScrapHappy bloggers.
Once a month, Kate inspires a group of bloggers to dust off their scraps and embrace the ScrapHappy vibe. I’m always up for the challenge of creating from scraps. Kate is a talented quilter, a raiser of chickens, a gardener, and an all-around good soul. Check out her blog for more inspiration and fun.
It’s fair to say that I took the directive to “dust off your scraps” literally. My friend Donna gave me a pair of National Geographic magazines several years ago. She knew I would appreciate the flower prints in the magazine’s fold.
I’ve pulled out both issues from my drawer many times, but I couldn’t decide what to do with them. It’s one thing to use a five-year-old-scrap but quite another when the scraps are pages of a magazine published over one hundred years ago. The fragile paper doesn’t leave any margin for error.
I decided to turn some of the smaller prints into cards. I trimmed them to size, leaving a small border and the identifying state and the flower’s name.
They needed a little oomph, so after testing on one of the magazine’s ads, I cautiously proceeded. I ran each print through my die machine using a floral embossing folder. It applies just enough pressure to emboss the card without tearing the paper.
Using my green scraps, I found the perfect paper to create four cards.
I had one tear when I tried removing the tape backing. As a result, the California poppy description is on the back of the card. Otherwise, I’m both pleased and relieved with the results.
I’m looking forward to mailing the cards to dear friends.
Are you crafty? Scrappy? Come join us on the 15th of each month and let us see your ScrapHappy creation.
Autumn weather is a few weeks away, but our tomato crop is throwing in the towel. We’re facing a brutal heatwave with triple-digit, record-breaking temperatures this weekend. Unfortunately, it seems to be the world’s trend this summer, either brutal heat or devastating floods.
San Jose had the driest January on record, followed by an equally-dry February. We average 14.9 inches of rainfall annually, with 6 inches falling in the first two months of the year. It’s disheartening.
Given these drought conditions, we can no longer justify a large vegetable garden. So instead, we limited our planting to three tomato varieties and watered them exclusively with captured rainwater. Unfortunately, I mistook some watering advice and let them dry out for too long between watering. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our small harvest in salads and supplemented from a local farm stand.
Tessa finds the warm soil in the raised bed irresistible, so I wrapped the front of the box with tulle to keep her out. As you can see, she simply figured out a way to gain access from the back of the box.
Our Bushman tanks hold 130 gallons each, and we have three. Unfortunately, the tanks are nearly depleted and are unlikely to fill again for several months.
We’re ending the season reflecting on our meager crop and a serving of humble pie. Better luck next year.
Several years back, I discovered Postcrossing while researching vintage postage. I’ve always loved snail mail and for years kept up a correspondence with friends worldwide.
Postcrossing is the creation of Paulo Magalhães. Simply put, he started the project so he would receive more postcards in his mailbox. To date, 68 million postcards are in circulation.
“The goal of this project is to allow anyone to send and receive postcards from all over the world! For each postcard you send, you will receive one back from a random postcrosser.”
I set up a Postcrossing profile in March of 2016. Over the years, I’ve sent and received 257 postcards from 40 countries.
The organizer in me enjoyed sorting the cards by country, but as my collection grew, I started sorting by subject. As a result, my collection includes gorgeous cat photos and illustrations, botanical drawings, and clever garden illustrations.
It seemed a shame to keep these miniature works of art in a box, so I came up with the idea of laminating several cards to use as a cover for my garden bench.
First, I created a template using a piece of thick gift wrap, then arranged the cards within the parameters of the bench’s surface.
Our local teacher’s supply store has an oversized laminator. They charge by the inch, so it’s a bargain. I used the laminator to fuse the cards to the gift wrap, returning home with what looked like a large placemat.
I slid the sheet of laminated postcards below the clear acrylic top.
I’m pleased with the final results and reminded once again how a bit of creativity soothes the soul. It’s fun remembering when each of these cards arrived in the mail, and what a joy it is to send and receive cards around the world.
Postscript: May I send you a postcard? If you would like a card in your mailbox, please send me your name and address via my contact form. I’m happy to post your card anywhere in the world.
We received several charming thank you gifts from a friend who knows me well. In addition to delicious Scottish shortbread infused with lavender and a chocolate bar laden with strawberries was a Diorama Kit for Houseplants.
Be still my heart.
The packaging describes the small, water-resistant spikes as “Yard art for your houseplant.” It goes on to say, “Arrange whimsically for maximum fancying.”
I’ve been reworking my birdhouse gourd, once home to a tiny tea house. Unfortunately, the neighborhood squirrels “rearranged” it last fall, so I brought it indoors for the winter.
I bought an old-fashioned plant hanger two weeks ago and asked Mike to install a hook near our back door. I nestled the hollow gourd in the hanger, and I’ve been playing around with decorating ideas.
The Fancy Plants spikes are just the inspiration I needed.
After fussing with different materials, I settled on a piece of florists foam, rescued from another gift earlier this year. I cut the foam into two sections, one tall enough to hold the spikes and a thinner section to create the back “wall” of the mole’s nest. I applied a thin layer of glue to the back, then wandered the garden looking for natural debris. Finally, I tossed a few micro-pebbles at the surface and spritzed the wall with dark ink.
I filled a piece of bark with micro pebbles to emulate a pathway and poked some debris up the neck of the gourd to emulate roots.
I’m not sure why creating in miniature is so appealing. There is something about the limitations of size and the challenge of scale that invites a creative focus. It’s fun.
I started researching a mole’s natural habitat in the category of one thing leading to another. Moles live underground in a burrow and travel through tunnels they create in a small territory Moles dine on earthworms that fall into these tunnels and rarely surface unless food is scarce.
While it’s unlikely moles will ever need a wheelbarrow or a watering can, the notion of this scenario reminds me of the treasured hours spent reading to my boys.
Reading, writing, creating, and gardening are all gifts for the soul. It’s been an energizing day.
I’m joining Kate and a cadre of crafty makers this month for what Kate and her friend call ScrapHappy. Fellow bloggers create something functional or beautiful, perhaps even whimsical, made entirely from scraps.
My project this month is a small cushion for the cats. It’s designed to cover what’s left of a tattered cat condo. I merged two unlikely scraps: the former padding from an ironing board and a remnant of upholstery fabric that once graced our garden swing.
The padding is soft and easy to work with. Tessa came along to investigate.
We have what remains of a kitty perch sitting on the steps in the back garden. Unfortunately, the cat perch did not live up to its potential! The top-level broke after one of the cats jumped from the perch. I removed the top, leaving two levels, but the hardware poked through, making for what must have been an uncomfortable surface. I eventually moved it outside and removed the second level, placing the base on some pavers. This cushion hides the ugly surface and provides comfort for the four-legged royalty of the house.
I used two layers of the padding for the cushion, then shredded the rest to offer as nesting material to the squirrels.
I made a simple envelope style cover for easy washing. The cushion is more pleasing to the eye.
So far, the kitties aren’t impressed, but I enjoyed dusting off my sewing machine and using up some scraps. I had to resort to bribery to coax Mouse onto the cushion. He hasn’t been up there since.
The second make, also for the cats, is a hit. I used the last bit of green fabric to repair a beloved cat toy. The upholstery fabric is rugged enough for cat claws and teeth, and the fine stitching keeps the loose Nepeta contained.
It’s good to know I can still sew a couple of rectangles. (Ha!) Wait till you see what the other creative makers have been up to at the links below.
Interestingly, Kate’s scrappy project this month is for her four legged Mouse. Our Mouse is a feline and Kate’s Mouse is a pooch. Is anyone out there sewing for a real mouse?
Thank you, Kate! I hope you are feeling better soon.
Six weeks ago, I found myself at the back of a church with a man I didn’t know. Within seconds I realized he had set the church sanctuary on fire, before traveling along the ambulatory to the hallway near me. When I encountered him in the hall, he had two lighters in his hands and he was surrounded by smoke, but it didn’t wholly register at the time.
A distant smoke alarm and the smell of smoke drew me out into the hallway; however, adrenaline sent me running for safety.
That man is the suspect in the St. Paul’s UMC fire. The sanctuary of the church is beyond repair. They estimate close to two years to rebuild it.
Lifted Spirits has been serving vulnerable clients from rented rooms at the back of the church. Although those rooms didn’t sustain fire damage, they are now closed due to smoke, asbestos, and lead contamination. The building is without power as well.
Asbestos can’t be easily washed out of clothes, and professional remediation costs are prohibitive.
Our entire inventory is gone.
My dear friends, along with other supporters in the community, rallied quickly. As a result, we’ve received donations of men’s and women’s t-shirts, some shorts, and new socks, underwear, and hygiene items. Friends have also donated gift cards and cash so we can purchase items as needed.
Before the fire, I had set up canopies and washable rugs and tables in the outdoor serving area. This area provides a shady place to sit and relax. In addition, I’ve started serving lemonade and scones, a welcome treat for people coming in off the streets.
I rented a portable storage unit (PODS or Portable on demand Storage), bought some shelves and plastic bins. The POD provides 128 square feet of surface space and vertical space from shelves. We were operating with 1,900 square feet indoors.
I’ve been emptying a shed to allow us some extra storage. We donated fifty like-new chairs since it would cost more to store them long-term than to replace them. It feels good to pass them on to another non-profit. One of our board members agreed to keep the Christmas items, and we offered the remaining contents to those in need.
Lifted Spirits has weathered many storms in the four-plus years of my tenure. First, I started volunteering in the clothing boutique and eventually became the lead volunteer. Then, I spent three years as Board Vice-chair and poured my heart and soul into every aspect of our programs.
The church that started Lifted Spirits sold the property out from under us. Then the pandemic hit, stopping the respite portion of our program. Finally, last year, the new developer gave us four months to move, and we landed at St. Paul’s UMC in the eleventh hour. Then eight months to the day, the sanctuary went up in flames, and we find ourselves renting a fenced parking lot.
We serve our clients in the middle of the day. The summer temps are high and the overhead sun heats the blacktop surface where we operate. It takes an hour to set everything up. As a further complication, ants quickly invaded the food pantry while lingering soot drifted down from the church.
It’s hard not to feel discouraged. The program’s future is once again uncertain. Most days, I wilt in the heat. We leave exhausted at the end of the shift, lucky to have homes where we can retreat.
In the end, that’s why I continue to show up. But, that said, it’s not easy.
Adrenaline kept me on my feet for another two hours.
Firefighters were on the scene within minutes of the first 911 call. I hung up with the dispatcher and ran toward San Salvador Avenue, where crews tackled the fire. I scanned the scene, making eye contact with a firefighter and explaining my concern. He led me down the street to the rear of the building, where the suspect found himself trapped in the children’s playground, trying to climb the fence.
I spoke to the San Jose State University police, the first on the scene. They took my statement but asked me to hang around to talk to the San Jose police. The suspect tossed two lighters over the fence into the shrubbery, and a nearby resident caught it on camera. She started recording the fire and saw him throwing the lighters, later recovered by police.
I texted Mike in couple’s shorthand, “Church on fire. I got out ok.”
I sent the same abbreviated message to our program executive director, then climbed a few steps of a nearby dorm to catch my breath and to document the scene.
Another police officer arrived and said, “come with me.” He wanted me to identify the suspect. I made it clear that the man I saw had been in the building but that I did NOT see him set the fire. A third officer asked more questions and then kicked around the bushes for the tossed lighters. I directed him to a patrol car, where another officer had placed the lighters as evidence. Every moment seemed surreal.
Then I texted Mary.
Mary is the person who introduced me to the Lifted Spirits program several years ago, and we became fast friends. We compliment each other’s strengths and make a good volunteer team. She’s the kind of friend you want by your side in a crisis: calm, supportive, present, and willing to jump in her car and head downtown with a bottle of water.
The church property brimmed with firefighters, paramedics (in case a firefighter fell off the roof), police officers, and investigators. Newscasters appeared with cameras and started interviewing the church pastor. People wanting to make a buck approached to offer boarding-up services. As it turns out, the fire department does that for you.
There were no injuries in the fire, and they arrested the suspect. I’m not an expert on mental health, but my layperson’s observation is that he needs help. I’m sad for the church and heartbroken for yet another Lifted Spirits setback. Additionally, I’m disappointed in this country’s broken mental healthcare system. Perhaps this could have all been prevented if he got the care he needed.
The fire went to two alarms, but crews contained the heavy damage to the sanctuary where it started. Our rented portion of the building suffered water and smoke damage, and of course, the power is out on the entire property.
My final interview of the day took place just outside the sanctuary doors. The arson investigator asked if the suspect had said anything to me, and I said yes, but it sounded like gibberish. She nodded, saying she had tried speaking to him as well. She said he would be arrested and charged with arson, but he would also get help. When I asked how long it might be before we would be up and running, she said, “It’s never as fast as you would like.” Of course, I already knew that, but I still hoped for some brighter news. She thanked me as well, saying that only about five percent of arson fires are ever solved.
Another firefighter offered to recover my purse and car keys from the building so I could drive myself home. Unfortunately, he couldn’t locate it, so he escorted me through to find it. Thank goodness for N95 masks. The smoke burned my eyes and caught in my throat.
I found myself alone in a church with an arsonist last month.
The stress of the day sits heavily in my chest, disturbing my sleep and leaving me exhausted and, at times, weepy.
I lead a team of volunteers serving unhoused and vulnerable women in downtown San Jose. We rent space at the back of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. Our Lifted Spirits program offers clothing and hygiene, a hot lunch, and, most of all, support to women in a non-judgemental environment.
As I prepared to leave for the day, just half an hour behind our last volunteer, I heard what turned out to be a distant smoke alarm. I dismissed it at first as it seemed far away, but then I smelled smoke.
Entering the main corridor just a short distance away, I encountered a man I had never seen before. He stood in the hallway enveloped in white smoke, holding something in both hands. He turned to me and said something incoherent. I fled.
I returned to our serving area, locked the door, then fumbled to call 911. Unfortunately, my phone wouldn’t work, or more accurately, my fingers couldn’t seem to work the phone. I tried clearing the screen, searched for the 911 number that I knew had to be there, and finally managed to call for help.
As the dispatcher picked up, I saw the man from the hallway exit our building, then walk along the enclosed patio area where we serve our clients.
I blurted out on the phone with the dispatcher: “I’m alone in a church with the man I think set the fire, and I’m scared.”
Knowing he was outside and fearing his return, I fled through the smoky corridor to the front of the church. Small puffs of white smoke emanated from the sanctuary’s roof.
A couple of passersby had stopped and also called 911. As the engines arrived at the scene, I remained on the phone. Then I ran to the street to tell one of the firefighters that I didn’t want the suspected arsonist to get away.