I bought a book called Springsigns when I was a teacher. I think I still have it — I don’t think it was discarded in the recent purge of books. One year I used it to make a bulletin board outside my classroom. I hated bulletin boards, but I liked that one.

Therefore I use the word Springsigns when I see signs of spring, even though I’m always chastised by my software that it is misspelled.

Here are some recent Springsigns from my yard.

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Fountain at Cair Paravel by Jeremy

Many years ago I was friends with an art student. He’s an artist now. He and I shared a love of the Chronicles of Narnia so he painted a scene from Prince Caspian for me. I believe this is supposed to be part of the courtyard at Cair Paravel.

I am too lazy to find my copy of Prince Caspian to find the passage where this is described, but let’s just assume my memory is correct.

I tried to translate the runes, but either my translator is wrong or Jeremy tossed in some non-standard runes.

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A Keychain for Mom

I’ve written about Mod Podge before, but only about my Mom’s use of it. I also made things out of ModPodge. I think my mom must have been losing her keys a lot so I made her a very large keychain using a block of wood, magazine clippings, and Mod Podge.

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Aunt Ginny in Profile

Not part of my personal declutter, but part of things I found at my mom’s — a silhouette of a young girl with a barrette that I believe is of my Aunt Ginny. I remember that this hung on a wall at my Grandma Green’s house — possibly in her bedroom. And I believe I remember her telling me it was of Aunt Ginny when she was a child. It looks like her profile.

Yesterday was Aunt Ginny’s birthday. She would have been 72 years old.

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Declutter 2017 — Creative Work for Your Child’s Hands

When I was very young — 3 years old, perhaps — my mother bought or was given a book about crafts for children (a Web search indicates that it came with the My Book House set). While I remember making one or two of the crafts in the book, I mostly remember looking at the book over the years.

The one project I remember doing with my mother was the Indian Designs project. It involved soaking a square cut from brown grocery bag in warm water, squeezing the water out and letting it dry while stretched out. When it was dry we cut it into a bear skin shape and decorated it with  “Indian” designs. I remember the rough feel of the paper after it was dried and can almost even smell the wet brown paper bag. This may or may not have been a school project, but I do remember having that pretend bear skin sitting around my bedroom for years.

Some of the crafts in the book seem complicated and requiring materials not found in an average person’s home (for instance, Bunny Doorstop which calls for basswood, whatever that is and a coping saw (again — whatever that is). Others involve only a few materials (for instance Paper Tearing).

I held onto this book first, because I thought I might be able to use some of the ideas with my students (never did) and second, I thought that I might use some of the ideas with my own children (again, never did). Now I hang onto it because I remember poring over it as a kid, dreaming of the day we’d make A Moving Picture Show in a Box or Valentine Hats or Scottie Caps.

So, joy? Maybe a little. It’s a keeper.



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Declutter 2017: The Treasure Chest

When I was very young my parents purchased a set of  books that probably set the course of my life as a reader: My Bookhouse Books. These were a set of books that began with nursery rhymes and stories for young children and progressed to stories for older children throughout 12 volumes. The stories were mostly classics and I learned about literature through those pages.

A Christmas present from my parents in 1971 was a sort of follow-up for me, although now that I think about it and where the book was purchased (a Christian bookstore) I wonder what was left out of the book for the sake of decency (yes, I am jaded these days). I was 15 when I was given the book. Mom bought herself a copy too — I found that in a desk drawer last summer.

I recently came across the book my folks gave me 46 years ago while sorting books in the basement. This is a keeper because of my feelings for its history (joy). Every single poem or quotation in the book can be found on the Internet, but it is nice to have these all in one place categorized by topic or intent such as Achievement, Creed, Determination, Influence, Joy and Work. I think used this book to find poems and quotations for when I’d send people cards or letters.

Now that I look through the pages for a sample to share with you, I notice that it is very Christian and God or Christ is mentioned in many of the quotes or poems. Here’s one that doesn’t, under the topic Criticism:

“I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.”

— Baruch Spinoza

I like that one. And according to Wikipedia Spinoza was a Panthiest.

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Mary Hamilton: Apparently our favorite artist

Dean and I were first introduced to Mary Hamilton’s work when we went to Pittsburgh’s annual “A Fair in the Park” when we lived in Pittsburgh. Her artwork was on the poster advertising it and we picked up a free copy while there (it turns out she does the posters most years). That could have also been the year we bought a print — but since we were poor back then, I don’t know how we were able to afford it. It is possible that once we were settled in Alexandria and had a little spare cash we went back to Pittsburgh and bought our Wolves Dining Out (Observed) print. That also must have been the year we bought the cat print for Neal and Marie. Anyway — we first heard of Mary Hamilton in Pittsburgh in 1984 and fell in love with her linocuts. Ms Hamilton’s work is whimsical, magical and colorful and it appealed to both Dean and me — which is very rare. We bought the Wolves, Dining Out (Observed) directly from her and she told us to make note that the wolves were eating peas and were very messy eaters.

The year I was pregnant with Clare, and we were paying a visit to Neal and Marie in early summer, I wondered what we could bring them for a host/hostess gift. We both wished that we knew where to buy a Mary Hamilton print since they loved the cat print so much. I did a bold thing (for me — I hate talking to strangers on the telephone) and called the telephone number on a card that came with my Wolves Dining Out (Observed) print. The next thing I knew, I was talking to Mary Hamilton herself. She told me that the only place nearby that I could purchase her work was at P Street Gallery in Georgetown (now closed, alas). So I did another rare thing — I drove to Georgetown, parked the car and bought a framed print. This one was of two children in a tree. Marie loved it — maybe Neal did too, I don’t know. It is possible that Dean went to P Street Gallery with me at a later date and we bought our “The Invitation” print. Otherwise, I don’t know where it came from.

The Invitation

The Invitation

Now we have this thing called the World Wide Web and I can find her work on Google Image search, Pinterest, Facebook, and elsewhere.

Somewhere, perhaps at P Street Gallery, I bought a box of greeting cards with Ms Hamilton’s prints on them. I only gave them to very special people (or Dean since he could give it back to me if I wanted it) because I loved her artwork so much. I recently came across the 4 remaining cards and plan to get them framed either individually or as a quartet.

I am not sure of the reason for this post except to show off our collection of Mary Hamiltons. I’m also thinking of planning a trip to Pittsburgh in early to mid-September to maybe buy more…

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The Corrections — a dysfunctional family as seen through a Diane Arbus-type lens

The Corrections The Corrections has been sitting on our shelf for years. Two people in my family read it and told me I would not like it so I expected it to sit there, unread by me, for many more years.

Then Erika chose to have us read The Corrections for our December/January book. I was not entirely pleased because I assumed, based on what family members told me, I’d not like it. It seemed like a long dull book about a family that I didn’t want to know anything about, despite the fact that the author may be a distant relative of Dean and, therefore, the kids.

I finished The Corrections on Saturday morning and rated it 3 stars on Goodreads from my Kindle (yes, I bought the book on Kindle — and Audible — because I could not find the book and we were in the middle of a basement remodel and I didn’t want to sift through the dozens of boxes of books). Soon after that I changed the rating to 4 and wrote a short review on Goodreads and responded to an online friend about her 1 star rating.

Last night I thought more about the book and discovered that I might like it enough to rate it 5 stars. The book was compelling enough to make me want to read it whenever I picked it up. The characters were very well fleshed out, although they all had many flaws. The story, though very depressing and disturbing, was well thought out and the book, was very well written.

To me, the most disturbing thing about the book is the fact that the family could, possibly, be any family. My family, my husband’s family, your family. Franzen, for the most part, focused on the negative traits of each character and accentuated their really bad decisions. While I didn’t want to identify with any of the characters, I did find myself giving most of my sympathy to Enid and Gary.

The Corrections made me think of the photographer Diane Arbus’ work. I remember looking looking at the photographs in her An Aperture Monograph collection and thinking that she could have photographed many of us in the same settings, with the same lens with the same film settings and we would have looked not much different from the people in the collection. That’s how I felt about how Franzen portrayed his characters and I wondered how Anne Tyler might have approached the Lambert clan — definitely more upbeat and more quirky than disturbing.

I’ve seen reviews calling the novel “Word vomit” and others complaining that they didn’t like the book because they could not sympathize with any of the characters. I disagree with both criticisms. I did sympathize with the characters, except perhaps with Caroline, Gary’s wife — but she was the least fleshed-out character in the book.

I am not a therapist or a psychologist, so I cannot speak to the depression that many of the characters seemed to have been plagued with. I got angry at the fact that everyone in the book made really awful decisions though — which may have been a result of the depression?

My biggest criticism is the ending. The ending was too happy for such a depressing book. Everyone seemed to have finally learned from their mistakes all at the same time which doesn’t seem real.

I did like the many references to Narnia — except naming the drug Aslan. I’ll have to think more on the relationship between the book and the Chronicles of Narnia. Maybe there is no relationship except that the author liked the series as a kid.

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Declutter 2017: Can Man (Mr. Man Can?)

red can manI wish I remember on which trip to England I came to possess a 5 lb coffee can decoration. It might have been 1976 or possibly 1979. Anyway, one of Jeremy’s relatives — an Aunt perhaps? bought me a can man — I don’t know how else to describe it — at a church sale or something.

It is possible she knew of my love of the Mr. Men books and perhaps this was a homemade version of Mr. Strong? Anyway, I still have it. And I cannot get rid of it. Does it bring me joy? Not exactly joy — more like nostalgia or familiarity. I’ve owned this decoration for 40 years or so. It used to have two “arms” but one fell off years ago which is probably somewhere around here.

Until the basement remodel it sat next to the hamburger pencil holder on a shelf in the basement office. Before that it hung around my classroom — maybe holding rulers? Now it will hang out with me (and the hamburger pencil holder — see it in the background of the photo?) in my office attic. Maybe in our next declutter I will finally part with it.

Updates 1-29-2017:

I received a Facebook comment from Jeremy that clears up the mystery of this object: ” I think it was Auntie Ella, not sure when. They are a spin off from a t.v. quiz show featuring a character called dusty bin. They were probably made by a resident in Auntie Ella’s old folks home.” (Auntie Ella was a midwife, I believe — Jeremy’s grandmother’s sister. His grandmother had been one too. I always think of them when I watch “Call the Midwife”.)

I’ve decided to use him to hold all of the broken items that need to be disposed of in a different way than tossing them in the regular trash.

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Declutter 2017: Aunt Ginny’s Book About Hunting Racoons

Today Dean forced asked me to go through the books that belong on the basement bookshelves. I did and found three book boxes full of books I was willing to donate. I found hundreds I am not ready to part with and I found about 40 that I want to examine more closely before making the ultimate decision toss or keep. (joy or no joy)

cooning with the cooners

One of these is a book by a D. Kuechler called Cooning With Cooners. At first I thought it said Crooning with Crooners and thought it might be about Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and company. But no. It was actually Cooning with Cooners and is about shooting raccoons. I assume that is what it is about because the cover drawing depicts a man with a gun pointing at a raccoon in a tree that a dog has spied and possibly chased up the tree. I have not read any of the book, nor do I plan on reading it.

Aunt Ginny's name and address

I wondered how I came to have a book (from 1924) about hunting raccoons, but then saw that it belonged to my Aunt Ginny. I still wonder how I ended up with it and why on Earth she was interested in hunting raccoons, but it will remain a mystery, I guess, unless she wanted to be a Lady Coon Hunter as described in a chapter written by Mrs. R. J. Merrick.

Lady Coon Hunters

I’ll likely send this to Uncle Jack along with two books I found that belonged to him as a child. He can decide what to do with Cooning with the Cooners.

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