Connections: Our Big Beautiful World

Nandini and boys

Nandini and our boys

Sunday morning I spoke with my long-time friend, Nandini via Skype. She currently lives in Chennai, India. It’s wonderful to connect.

I shared this passage on Facebook:

Nandini and I worked together at a start-up called Pretzel Logic Software in 1995. We became fast friends, then first time moms when we had our boys just six weeks apart in 1997. We supported each other through those sometimes difficult and perplexing first months of parenthood. We met weekly for tea, pushed our strollers through the park, and enjoyed time at our respective homes. It was a sad parting when she moved back to Chennai in 2000 in order to support her aging family. I’m grateful for the technology that allows us to continue our conversations, and to marvel at the fact that those baby boys will soon turn 18.

That’s when all the connections (my word of the year) started rolling in.

When you tag someone in a photo on Facebook, their friends can see it too. After several lovely comments from my local friends, Nandini’s cousin, Sujatha left a few words. When she did, it showed that we had a mutual friend named Akila. Akila’s son attended pre-school with my younger son here in California. Incredible.

Akila joined the conversation, saying she knew Nandini’s cousin as a family friend. That’s when Nandini’s friend, Parvathi posted, saying she also knows Akila. Nandini knows Parvathi because their sons are schoolmates in India.

It’s been amazing discovering these connections throughout the day. I’m humming with the joy of it.

How about you? Have you uncovered an unexpected connection between a friend or colleague? Please share your story in the comments section, below.

Any one person is connected to any other person through six or fewer relationships, because it’s a small world. SixDegrees.org is about using this idea to accomplish something good. It’s social networking with a social conscience.

When Technology Takes a Hike

Slinky lending moral support

Slinky lending moral support

Our resident tech support, aka, Mike, spent hours this weekend rebuilding my computer from the ground up.  It’s extraordinary my dependence on that technological gem known as a laptop.  Though grateful for Mike’s technological prowess, I’m also painfully aware of how little I know. The mechanics of operating systems, platforms, routers and all the other things that make computers go leave me cold. Don’t you hate it when technology takes a hike?

What I do know is that I want my computer to go and I feel like a spoiled child when it stops.  [insert stomping of feet, pouting face and colorful language here].

Okay, so it wasn’t that bad, but I can’t tell you how often I headed to the computer, only to encounter the latest system ‘updates.’  They’re not nearly as interesting as the updates I’m after: the blog and Facebook variety. I’ve got a social life to run here. I live with two teenage boys with zero interest in monopolizing my attention. So while they’re dipping into the latest and greatest on their mobile devices and dad is watching fall ball, I like to log on and catch up.

Instead I headed outdoors and pulled a few weeds. I did some pruning till it got too hot. I treated myself to an hour at our local craft store, shopping and chatting about the merits of water-based versus alcohol-based inks. I even read from the miniscule print on my phone, but these old eyes were never meant for teenage technology. Yes, I left some comments here and there, but it wasn’t long before my hand cramped and my battery failed. Then I was back to my panting dog impression: is it ready yet, is it ready yet, is it ready yet?

I started a craft project, but needed my Silhouette to cut some block letters. Nope…the computer wasn’t ready.

I went to address a few envelopes for my blog postage giveaway, only to realize I’d trapped the addresses  in email limbo. The individual email was too old to be on the server, but not new enough to be on my phone.  Addresses would have to wait for my Outlook rebuild.

At least I had Pauline’s address. I’d asked her for it twice. Alas, it still had not synced to my mobile phone. Tapping in the requisite letters, the phone turned up nothing. It was taunting me. I KNOW I have her address! Nope. Siri is never wrong.

Today, in need of a good Skype with my bestie, all technology-based bets were off. Sigh

These are all first-world problems. I know in my heart the extraordinary privileges of my life. But just for today, I’m reminded of the Judith Viorst classic: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

When’s the last time your technology took a hike?

Watercolor Hummer

lexi hummingbird

I signed up for a banner-making class a few weeks ago at locally owned A Work of Heart.  They’re a mixed-media art studio, with the wonderful tag line: Where everyone is an artist.

I went for the Christmas banner, but  left with so much more.  I met the wonderful,  Lexi Grenzer of The Shabby Calavera.  She led the class at A Work of Heart and teaches additional classes at  Scrapbook Island.  We connected on Facebook where I spotted this ethereal watercolor.

My dad was a painter and my mom a great sketch artist, but that level of talent didn’t trickle down. We had plenty of watercolor paint sets growing up, but I never got any good at it.  I have great admiration for Lexi’s skill.

Lexi Grenzer is a teacher, jewelry designer and animal advocate in the Bay Area. She has a great love of all things Shabby Chic and Day of the Dead, which lead to the creation of her blog and business, The Shabby Calavera. Lexi’s days are spent creating in the studio, teaching classes, snuggling with her four fur babies and doting on her son and adoring husband. She attributes her love of art and hand crafted beauties to her Grandmother’s amazing influence.

So in addition to appreciating her art, I really appreciate her heart, and her contributions to our local Humane Society.

And the banner…here’s what me made in class:

Joy Banner

Organized at Heart

I’m posting a series of articles featuring organizing around the holidays this week on my blog Organized at Heart. If the subject interests you, please go take a peak.

Green Friday: Repurposing in and out of the Garden

Re-purposing was common practice during the Depression era.  It’s still common in developing countries where nothing goes to waste.  I’m a huge fan of giving new life to items that might otherwise be discarded.  There is an entire movement afoot, people reusing items in clever and original ways.

So, in honor of Green Friday, check out these fun ideas.

Greenhouse-Made-from-Windows

Greenhouse Made from old windows
Between Naps on the Porch

sweet magnolia chair

Lovely old chair breathes new life
Sweet Magnolia Farm

umbrellabeantrellis upcycle

Umbrella Bean Trellis from Dirt du Jour

bird bath light fixture

Light fixture bird bath from Indulgy

I wish I had 100 hours a week to read all the fascinating blogs out there. Here’s a small sample:

Dishfunctional Designs: Creative Things To Make With Old (I love the clever title)

Indulgy.com: Light fixtures live again

Denim Do Over: giving new life to old denim

Pinterest: Set the timer or you’ll never get anything done.

Facebook: Re-purposed, Recycled, Reused, Reclaimed, Restored

I like to re-purpose my wall calendar each year.  I reuse the pages to make envelopes, bookmarks, gift tags, small stickers, gift-card holders and other small paper items.

Last year I made a wreath for our front door using scraps of tissue paper, candy wrappers (ahem) , a dry-cleaning bag and the plastic sleeve from the newspaper.

Katherine, over at Pillows a-la- Mode recently refashioned an old sweater into the most adorable teddy bear you’ve ever seen.

Diary of a Mad Woman uses a similar sweater to make Christmas stockings. 

I hope you have as much fun as I did, visiting all these fun sites.  Please share your own re-fashions, links or blogs in the comments below.

Sunflowers From Boomtown

sunflower postcard

Special Delivery from Edmonton

My dear friend Boomdee is coming to town. She’ll be here in a matter of days. When we’re not sharing via our blogs, Facebook or Skype, we fill in the gaps with tiny treasures via snail-mail. When you have a kindred spirit, it’s a bit like having a twin. You find yourselves doing the same thing at the same time without  realizing it until later. You fall into patterns as if you’ve known each other your entire life. The most incredible part of all is finding your kindred spirit through blogging.

Here is the latest from Boomtown aka Edmonton, Canada: a cheerful sunflower postcard with the glittery “Boomdee Touch.”

cat with postcard

“The older I get, the more I realize how rare it is to meet a kindred spirit.” – Ethan Hawke

Beijing and sunflower

Practicing her best sunflower smile.

DSC_0014

“True friends are always together in spirit.” – L.M. Montgomery from Anne of Green Gables

oranges and postcards

DSC_0005

Do you have a kindred spirit? Tell me more in the comments below.

Throwback Thursday, Garden Style

Today is ‘Throwback Thursday’ on Facebook.  Friends post photos from the past, and we all wax nostalgic. So why not some nostalgic photos of my garden during a simpler time?

It surprised me to learn that ‘experts’ once considered nostalgia a mental disorder or illness. According to this New York Times article, What is Nostalgia Good For?:

In the 19th and 20th centuries nostalgia was variously classified as an “immigrant psychosis,” a form of “melancholia” and a “mentally repressive compulsive disorder” among other pathologies. But when Dr. Sedikides, Tim Wildschut and other psychologists at Southampton began studying nostalgia, they found it to be common around the world, including in children as young as 7 (who look back fondly on birthdays and vacations).

“The defining features of nostalgia in England are also the defining features in Africa and South America,” Dr. Wildschut says. The topics are universal — reminiscences about friends and family members, holidays, weddings, songs, sunsets, lakes The stories tend to feature the self as the protagonist surrounded by close friends.

Most people report experiencing nostalgia at least once a week, and nearly half experience it three or four times a week. These reported bouts are often touched off by negative events and feelings of loneliness, but people say the “nostalgizing” — researchers distinguish it from reminiscing — helps them feel better.

Wow!  Just reading that article made me feel better!

Campbell apartment garden with cat

Apartment C…is for Cat

Campbell Garden Patio

Garden Patio in Campbell, circa 1994

I lived in Campbell, California for five years before getting married. My tiny apartment, behind a larger house, boasted a long concrete driveway, a smaller, concrete parking strip and a concrete stoop leading into my 400 square foot apartment. I was happy to find this tiny place to call my own, and a landlord that allowed cats! I didn’t rent if for the greenery. Landscaping the place was always on the owner’s mind, but sadly, there it stayed. I surrounded myself with houseplants of course, but it seemed a shame to leave all that concrete unadorned. One by one, plant by plant, I created my own little potted garden. As a renter, you never know how long the deal will last, so I started small, assuming I could always take my potted plants with me. Eventually, I dug into the soil around the perimeter and before I knew it I had a tangle of vines, herbs, flowers and succulents. I bought a tiny settee, relocated the cat climbing tree, and eventually had my own little garden oasis.

Of course the thing about nostalgia is that we tend to remember the good times and leave the rest. When I look at these photos, I remember the happy little garden, but I also remember the colorful neighbor up above. She worked as a stripper at a local bar, arriving home at 2:00 am most days, blaring her TV and screaming expletives at her boyfriend. Good times!

Do you like waxing nostalgic?

Mad Dogs and Redheads, Get Out of the Midday Sun

As temperatures heat up across the country this week, I marvel at the good common sense of our felines.  I continue to plow through work and household chores, miserable in this 100 degree heat. They on the other hand seek the cooler ground.

Early in the day they stretch out on the damp concrete patio.  As the sun rises, they come indoors and sleep away the hottest part of the day under a ceiling fan or in the cool recesses of a closet.

lindy under chair

Lindy, made in the shade

Beijing the cat

Beijing, looking frail but still hanging in there

The garden, too, knows exactly what to do on these over-heated days.  Sinewy roots reach down  to capture the cool water below, letting blooms open wide for the sun.  Then they pack up shop as the sun sets and store their energy for the following day.

sunflower

Helianthus, Sunflower

cosmos and forget me nots

Cosmos and Forget-me-nots, happy in the heat

Even our native ancestors had more sense than we do.  I see posts on Facebook of people running in the mid-day heat.  Several spectators arrived in Las Vegas area hospitals after suffering from heat stroke while sitting in an outdoor amphitheater in the mid-day sun!  And who do you suppose was offering the tomatoes a mid-day drink in the blaring sun?  Guilty!!!

So…today I’m taking a page from the common sense manual. I ate an early breakfast with my husband outdoors in the patio shade.  I finished my garden chores before 9 and now I’m writing with my feet propped up on the paper shredder under my desk, ceiling fan whirring overhead.  My afternoon client has A/C (hooray).

Once back home I’ll try avoiding my natural tendencies to go, go, go by referring once again to that common sense manual.  If you need me I’ll be doing (almost) nothing, until the blaring sun recedes for another day.

Hey…nobodies perfect.

Ways to beat the heat:

1. Drink plenty of cool water.

slinky drinks from the fountain

Slinky Malinki has a cool drink

2. Take a refreshing bath.

Mouse on board

Mighty Mouse thinks a bath might cool me down

3. Enjoy an afternoon nap.

mouse sleeping

Shine On

Special thanks to Tamara of Botanical Gardens for including me in her list of Shine On Awards.  It’s so nice to be appreciated.  Tamara writes:

I am passionate art and nature lover. As I work for the third age university I got the opportunity to develop a new field of education for our seniors-my idea was to start the senior garden volunteers program. I find it intriguing for this program is not only a bond between education and nature, but it mirrors connections between society, ecology, development, individuality. My wish is to start an inter generational project with our senior garden volunteers. So this blog is also about topics dealing with importance of botany education, senior learning,inter generational learning, ecology,garden volunteers, art. Because, as I have mentioned before-it is blog about My Botanical Garden.

Shine On Award