estate sales, march 29.

I get a weekly email with details about all the local estate sales. I generally look through the pictures, and sometimes we end up going to a sale if the pictures are interesting and we didn't stay up too late the night before. Friday, one of the pictures featured a gray metal box with a NASA sticker on it, along with the words "METEOROID DETECTION EXPERIMENT, LANGLEY RESEARCH CENTER." I was not necessarily interested in going to the sale, but I sent the picture to Josh, because he likes space stuff.

I should not have been surprised the next morning when Josh wanted to get up and go to the sale. That was entirely predictable and my own fault. So this was our day.

Most of the NASA goodies were gone, but there were tons of prints of space pictures. The guy whose stuff we were looking at had worked at NASA as an engineer and photographer for thirty years. Some of the pictures were printed on transparencies, maybe for some kind of educational presentation? Anyway, I bought two of them. A couple other people looked through them, remarked that they were neat, and then put them back down. They couldn't imagine what to do with them.

Uh, put them on the wall! I mean, they come with their own frames.

As long as there is a light-colored background behind the pictures, you can see them. If you only had dark walls in your house, you could use a light piece of paper. But I really like the wall color behind them, because it draws attention to the fact that part of the picture is see-through. The top picture of the rocket launch is marked "9/13/61 first orbit of capsule," which refers to the Mercury-Atlas 4. No idea about the bottom picture. Just some scientists doing sciencey things.

This is dumb, but I've been looking for a new kitchen rug. We have two, and they are getting increasingly ratty. I've been looking for new-to-me ones, but it turns out that small rugs are just kinda hard to find used, or maybe I haven't been looking in the right place. I was even thinking of - gasp! - buying one new, that's how bad my old ones were. But the secondhand gods smiled on me yesterday, and I find a nice big one for just a dollar.

I felt stupid taking a picture of the kitchen floor, so I made the dog sit on it first. Now it's a picture of a dog.  Doesn't she look especially cute on the new rug?

At another estate sale, which was just packed with stuff, there was a room with tables along three walls and a rack of clothing on the fourth. Dumped in the corner was a pile of books, where I found this art book.

It looked intriguing, so I squeezed myself between a lady perusing the clothes and a dude playing with an abacus on the table. Upon opening it up, the first thing I saw was a small poster print of this painting.

I know this painting! The artist is Gérôme. I came across his name in another book a few months ago and spent an evening googling his art. I think my favorite is this one, with the soldiers stomping on the tulips. The informational blurb in the art book about him is fairly insulting, calling him technically impeccable but basically a hack. If I were him, I'd be going "Pfft! And yet here I am in your silly little art book."

So I figured that having a nice frameable print of a painting that I liked was worth the $2 for the whole book, whatever else might be in it. It turns out that the book itself is pretty amazing. There are twenty-four prints of paintings, and the text goes through them and talks about why each one could be considered under the umbrella of Realism. The paintings vary a lot in style and subject, yet they are curated such that you can see what is "real" about each one. The writing is geared toward the layman, and hey! that's me. It's like taking a little class at the museum. I was so impressed that I came very close to buying the whole twelve volume set used off Amazon from a thrift store. Update: have now bought the whole set. Have extra volume 2 to spare.

I never received much in the way of art instruction. We had some art classes in grade school, but they were mostly about making art and not about studying existing art. I learned a bit by dating an artist, but my education was limited to the things he was interested in (which meant a lot of surrealism and African religious folk art). I've learned some by going to museums, but that was mostly self-guided. For a long time, I've found art to be very intimidating. I spent so much time worrying about what a picture was supposed to mean (and having no idea) that I was often unable to just enjoy it or take my own meaning from it. Art should not be scary. I'm hoping that these books will help my poor malnourished art brain.

Finally, about two and a half years ago, my sister-in-law asked me to be on the lookout for Club cookware for her. I'd never heard of it, and couldn't say that I'd even seen it before. Yesterday, I finally found some. I was about to just pass it by, figuring that since so much time had passed, my sister-in-law was probably not interested anymore. But this is the age of instant communication, so I texted her a picture of what they had and the price information. She did want it, so after all this time, I was finally able to fulfill her aluminum cookware dreams. Don't say you can't find good stuff used! It just takes a while sometimes.


klezmer anniversary.

"What are you doing the 16th?"

"Spending it with you, I hope."

"Want to go to a klezmer concert?"

"Uh...anything with you. Don't you have to work?"

"Oh, I already got off that day anyway."

I do not have a particular interest in klezmer. My only exposure to it was in a movie where a punk lady joined a klezmer band and made it a punk klezmer band. Klezmer started as dance music of the Ashkenazi Jews. As people immigrated to the States, klezmer met jazz and never was the same again.

I learned most of that by looking it up. So I have never expressed interested in Jewish folk music, and as far as I can remember, neither has my husband. Why would he pick that event for the first anniversary of our marriage? I did not know, but I was going with it. See, Josh has never planned anything for us before. I have a friend who complains that her boyfriend never plans anything, and she just wants him to sweep her off her feet once in a while. In listening to her, I realized that Josh was not a planner either. I was beginning to be a little grumpy about never being swept off my feet, but then I remembered that it hadn't bothered me before that day, and I should just go back to that state.

Now, while you can't make someone change, that doesn't mean they won't change on their own. So you could be tripping along thinking you don't have the planning type and then all of a sudden, you're being swept off to a klezmer concert. We talked about dinner afterwards, and I suggested we keep with the theme of...Jewish...stuff? I guess, and eat something along that line. He assured me that he would take care of that, too. My heart fluttered.

The concert was being thrown by the the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild. I'd had no idea there was such a thing as a Raleigh Chamber Music Guild. I had to ask Josh what chamber music was. It's music played by a small number of performers. It's often called the "music of friends," due to the intimate nature of the performances.

The show started late, and there were several announcements about filling empty seats in the middles of rows. It turns out that RCMG does not get a lot of sold-out shows. Apparently, the secret was klezmer. If only they'd known earlier about Raleigh's hidden passion for Jewish dance music!

As the performers walked onstage, one of them stepped up to the mike. "My ninety-seven year old grandmother died last week, and if it hadn't been for her, I never would've picked up a violin. So this is for her." It was a bit jarring and kind of a downer, but then - but then - they started to play. By the end of it, I wanted to thank that guy's grandmother.

What can I say about the music? It was marvelous. Klezmer is noted for being very expressive, including sounds that mimic the human voice. Indeed, I had noticed the clarinet laughing. I hadn't known a clarinet could do that. Maybe I just haven't told a clarinet a good joke before.

I love to watch performers. Musicians seem to enter a trance-like state when they play. The violinist, the one who'd lost his grandmother, looked like he got more exercise playing music than some people do all day. I watched how they communicated between each other, using eye contact to start their parts in unison. These guys were having a fantastic time, which is one sure-fire way to entertain your audience. Fun is catching. During one song, a few people started clapping to the beat and then more and more joined in. Music of friends, indeed.

During the reception, I was all juiced up on chamber music, so I picked up a survey for the Chamber Music Guild. Participants would be entered into a drawing for free tickets to their next event! However, I soon found myself out of my depth on the survey. What is my favorite type of chamber music? What types of chamber music ensembles do I prefer? Does the architecture of the chamber affect my enjoyment of chamber music?

After a stop at the grocery store for corned beef, rye bread, and sauerkraut, we went home and made delicious reuben sandwiches. It was not an extraordinary day, but a very good ordinary day spent with the person who makes every day better.


not myself.

My last Stephen class was about crises. They had several definitions of a crisis, including that old chestnut about the Chinese character for crisis being a combination of danger and opportunity (which is apparently not true). The one that I like is that a crisis is something that makes you reconsider your place in the world. You had a certain idea of how things worked, right or wrong, and then something happened, and now you have to figure everything out all over again just so you can go back to some kind of daily existence. You are not yourself, and you may not be sure who your self is anymore.

Everything in Stephen class is broken down in various ways, which I find really helpful. There are accidental crises, like a sudden illness or a job loss. And then there are developmental crises, meaning they are caused by expected changes in life, but they can still knock you over. They can even be good things, like getting married or having a baby. A crisis can affect you socially, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually . Dealing with a crisis, or multiple crises, can make you overwhelmed and disorganized. Your decision-making will likely suffer.

We had to do a workbook exercise where we answered a sort-of survey about a crisis that we had experienced and how it affected us. For my crisis, I picked something that happened nine years ago - the break-up of a long-term relationship. In answering questions about how this event affected me, I remember feeling like I'd lost my mind. I was not myself, and I was not sure who my self was anymore.

I realized that the people I will be helping as a Stephen Minister are going to be in the middle of all this. I will meet someone for the very first time on a bad day in the midst of bad days.

I met several brand new-to-me people at my own wedding. I don't always make good first impressions, but I think I knocked it out of the park that day. Radiantly happy, in a fancy dress with my hair done, handing out free food and alcohol. I felt like I needed to explain to these new friends that I was actually a regular person and not always like this, otherwise they were going to be very disappointed the next time.

In a way, I was not myself that day. Well, I was myself. I was incredibly myself. Just the happy parts, though. And nobody would expect me to be that version of myself all the time, even if they had just met me that day. And yet, had I met someone when in the course of losing my mind, they might think that I was always that version. I was incredibly myself then, too, but again, a very specific subset of myself that is constantly confused and makes rash decisions.

Dude, rash decisions. I mean, everything turned out great for me, but that was probably luck.

It is with good reason that openness and acceptance are stressed in Stephen Ministry. You can't help someone if you are obviously horrified by the ways they are handling their situation. Nor can you help them if you write them off as basically bad people. Maybe it's easier if you know up front that this person is having some kind of crisis, whereas if that crisis just manifested itself by making them cut you off in traffic, you might not be so generous. Every person is walking around right now in a specific context of their own lives. You never know which version of yourself will be the one people meet that day.


arizona rangers.

When Josh's band started touring, they bought a used van from a church. They probably had grand dreams of painting it with some super cool design, but in the end, it just continued to say INTERDENOMINATIONAL WORSHIP CENTER. They did add a bunch of stickers, from anywhere that gave out stickers. Bars, other bands, tourist stops, anywhere that had a sticker was represented on the band van.

I don't know how or where, though I can assume it was in Arizona, but they picked up a great big magnet that said ARIZONA RANGERS on it. Josh told me they had to take it off while actually in the state of Arizona. I guess the Arizona Rangers don't have any authority in the other states, or maybe the residents of other states are smart enough to figure out that a church band covered with stickers was probably not actually a vehicle for the Rangers.

Now, I liked that magnet. I really liked it. Blame it on my mother, but I like magnets. Plus, this one was big, shaped like a badge, and said ARIZONA RANGERS on it. I mean, even if you didn't have a magnet-mad mother, you would think it was a pretty cool magnet. You might want it so bad you want to sneak out in the night and take if off an unsuspecting band van.

But I know my place with regards to the band, so I knew that I couldn't take it or even ask for it in exchange for a some passionate kissing with the bassist. But then, the band broke up. The sticker-covered van is sitting in my driveway, waiting to be hit by a tree. It still mostly runs, but the back door doesn't seal quite right, and so water gets in and mold develops.

I saw my opportunity. I asked my husband, "Can I have that ARIZONA RANGERS magnet?" and he loves me, so he said, sure it's in the van. He did not love me enough to run out to the van immediately and fetch it. He did not love me enough to fetch it from the van within the next few weeks. It's almost like getting into a moldy van and digging out a busted magnet for his beloved wife wasn't his top priority.

The van's name is Wapakoneta. Have I mentioned that yet? It's a good detail.

Despite my husband's lack of commitment to obtaining his life partner's heart's desire, I was still very invested in the magnet. I was also invested in maybe getting the van out of driveway, and cleaning it out was a first step. It was a dirty deed done dirt cheap, retrieving anything that might be salvageable and not too moldy. There was mold, and it probably got in my lungs. There were also some t-shirts, CDs, and a water bottle full of what I think was urine.

Band vans are gross.

However, there was not a giant ARIZONA RANGERS magnet. So I got spores in my lungs for nothing, and the van is still in my driveway.

Last week, a friend called to tell us that the band had left some stuff in his basement. Maybe it's just this band, but they seem to accumulate a lot of stuff that then gets left on other people's property. There were two large crates worth of stuff, most of it bits and pieces of metal from the drum kit. There was also a giant ARIZONA RANGERS magnet.

I washed it carefully and pressed it between books to flatten out the kinks developed in storage. I can't do anything about the one missing tip or the cracking, but at last, I have fulfilled my novelty magnet dreams. Huzzah!