Monday, September 22, 2014

Dimes from Heaven

My mother died suddenly the day before Thanksgiving. A respiratory condition had ravaged her lungs, tethering her to an oxygen tank for two years, and a recent outpatient procedure proved to be anything but routine, so there’d been some time to prepare. But we always assumed there would be more. More visits. More conversations. More holidays. More time.

In early November, I’d begun making plans to move her from Indiana to my home in Texas where I could care for her. At the doctor’s visit I had hoped would give her permission to make the long flight here, he instead admitted her to the hospital where she died hours later. The call early that morning from a caring nurse took me and my family by surprise. Instead of preparing her room, I started planning her funeral. As her executrix, I also had the responsibility of closing her accounts and paying final bills, so I had her mail forwarded to my house.

The day after her memorial service in Indiana, my cousin Kelli and I sat on the floor of my mom’s sewing room and sorted fabric and patterns, lingering over half-finished smocking projects Mom would never complete. “Have I told you about the dimes?” Kelli asked. I shook my head. “Ever since Grandpa died, I keep finding dimes in random places. Once at a church retreat, I returned to my bed after showering and there was a dime—right on top of my sheets!” The other dimes she’d found were just as unexpected and never among other coins. Just a dime. “Yesterday after your mom’s service, my friend sitting next to me stood up, and a dime fell out of her purse and landed on the church pew between us. She knew about my finding dimes and said, ‘There’s one for you from Aunt Mari.’”

Kelli’s story brought a measure of comfort in a difficult week of settling my mom’s estate before returning to Texas, and my grief subsided a bit as I fell into a familiar cadence back at home—work, kids, chores. Then one day in late December, I pulled out a load of wash and heard a ping against the metal drum. I reached in and found a dime. One dime. Shiny and clean. I sank down on my laundry room tile floor and clutched it to my chest like a long-lost treasure. Surely Mom was watching over me.

Dime I found in Lowes' parking lot.
As the weeks passed, I found a few more dimes—in a parking lot, on a desk at my daughter’s tutoring center (which I kept after trading it for an ordinary one from my wallet), and in the middle of the floor in the den. My sister found dimes, too. Once three at a time in her washing machine! The weeks following also brought many firsts—my first birthday without Mom. Her first birthday in heaven. Her first Easter apart from us. Every new first no easier to bear without her here.

Then in April, when my niece Ashleigh announced her first baby was due in the fall, we were faced with another milestone: The first grandbaby my mother wouldn’t rock to sleep or read a book to. No precious handmade outfit or smocked dress made by Mom would be given to this new baby. Weeks later, when Ashleigh said she was feeling a bit overwhelmed with work, buying a home and trying to sew some special items for the baby, I offered to help. “How about I make your bunny quilt?” I asked. She had shared a photo of a stroller quilt she wanted to make with a bunny appliqu├ęd in the center. “You wouldn’t mind?” she asked. “That would be great! Just no pink and don’t make it look like a boy’s either. Whatever colors you choose, I know I’ll love.” She and her husband were keeping the baby’s gender a surprise to everyone—even themselves.

So I printed out a picture of the quilt, determined how much fabric I’d need, and went shopping. After the third fabric store, I’d finally collected the right combination of colors and patterns I needed to make the bunny quilt. The only piece missing was Mom. She would have helped me choose the best weight of batting for the middle, the perfect thread and binding. Plus I missed having her with me. As a small consolation, I picked up a tin of candies near the checkout, the kind she always kept in her purse.

On the drive home, I cried. I missed not only my mom but what she was missing—holidays, birthdays and a new baby to love. Plus it had been over a month since I’d found a dime and couldn’t help feeling envious when my sister would send me a text with her most recent discovery: “A dime! Under the dresser I just moved!”

When I got home, I stopped at the mailbox and gathered the mail. In with a stack of bills and ads, one envelope stood out. It was addressed to Mom—a donation request from one of the many charities she supported—The March of Dimes. And right in a circle cutout on the front of the envelope was affixed a shiny new dime. From Mom to me.

Photos of my mother with my children:
Mom with Jacob
Mom with Benjamin

Mom with Amelia

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Trash Picking

It's trash day tomorrow. So, that makes tonight trash-eve. Or, as I like to think of it: Your trash is my treasure. Honestly, you won't believe the stuff people throw away. Sure most of it is truly garbage, but you can score some pretty good stuff if your timing is right and your standards are low attitude is optimistic.

A few weeks ago, on trash-eve, I was walking the mutt around 10 o'clock at night (once it was finally cool enough to be outdoors), when he slowed his pace and started this low, menacing growl. I assumed my best ninja stance and strained my eyes to see whatever he had locked his night vision on. A figure. In the dark. Tall. Not moving. Big. Really big. We crept a little closer, keeping a protective brick mailbox between us and the scary, hulking ... angel.

A neighbor had placed an 8-foot tall Christmas angel beside their trashcans. We got close and I inspected her. Hmm. I'm not a huge fan of yard art, but she looked pretty sturdy, lots of lights on her, maybe.... Before I could make a yes or no call, I looked down to see that the mutt had lifted his leg and was peeing on the angel. I took that as a 'no' and we kept walking. (It was gone by the morning, so my apologies to whomever took it. I hope you didn't take it indoors.)

Last year, my friend Tracy texted me a photo of two chairs her neighbor had out on the curb. She didn't need them and wondered what I thought. I hopped in the minivan and drove a few streets over.
Club chairs before 
Baby blue and certainly cat-clawed, but with some new fabric...I could definitely see potential. First I followed the advice of my BFF-I've-never-met, Lara Spencer, and checked the label on the chairs. She wrote the book on thrifting: I Brake for Yard Sales, and her sage advice includes salvaging name brand, well-made quality furniture. "Look for good bones, people," she preaches and I listen.

Lifting the cushion, I found a tag that indicated the chairs had been custom-made by a tony Dallas furniture shop. I did the sit-test for comfort (another tip from BFF-INM Lara) and a quick sniff test (for 'cat'), and gave Tracy a high-five. We asked the homeowner if we could haul them away, and he not only said yes, but offered us first dibs on his matching cat-scratched sofa. I passed but thanked him, and under my breath suggested he de-claw the cat. Or at least call me when the feline destroyed something else pretty nice.

I found a nearby upholsterer to recover the chairs and purchased fabric online. A few weeks later, I had two pretty sweet custom club chairs for a fraction of what I'd have paid to have them made for me.
One chair stays in the den after being covered in an over-sized floral by Richloom, legs painted gray.

The second chair I had covered in gray linen, legs painted black and placed in the living room. 

Someday I may recover them again in a matching fabric if I live someplace where I need a pair, but for now they work well apart. And while most of my rescues are DIY, I know when a project needs a professional to complete it.

I've never climbed inside a Dumpster, but I'm not afraid to see someone's castoff as a potential score. I just hope I never toss something into my van that a dog has lifted his leg to and watered. Again, my apologies to the Christmas angel and her new owner.