The For Nothings


“The second best thing after a gift itself is the way of giving it” ― Ali Boussi

In the middle of the mom’s-been-rushed-to-the-hospital-with-a-UTI saga I thought that rescheduling our, now annual, Christmas in July celebration might be appropriate. But we could make it look a bit different she said.  Ok?  Let’s just be together.  And so it was that I found myself with my best friend and her daughter at Kinchley’s on Friday night.  Not the elaborate sleep over we had planned but a fun dinner at a place that defies gloom on every level.  We ordered and while waiting they both began to fidget a bit in their seats.

We got something for you.

You did?  I was genuinely surprised and they were both pretty happy with themselves about that fact.

Do you want to go first, no you go first.  Should we give her this first or that first?

There’s a this AND a that?

From out of the bag emboldened with the words “shopping is my cardio” came the first something.  Prefaced by the disclaimer: “you know we are big believers in “for nothings” so we found this at a tag sale in Lake George and we thought of you.  All I heard was “we thought of you” and then the book came out of the bag.  What else would you give a person so enamored with legacy but a book titled Pioneer Women, Voices from the Kansas Frontier.  The introduction by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr alone made my heart skip a beat.  I know I’m a history legacy crazy woman. But how perfect, even after the man holding the tag sale said all the good books were inside, these were just the cast offs.


Now which one? They looked at each other. Oh this one is really cool Aunt San.  It was a book, no it is a book but they carved your initial out of it.  It’s repurposed.  And damn cool if you ask me I said.


This one’s from me.  In the box were two spoons one small and one larger.  I know where these are from, they looked at each other as if I were crazy or knew their every move, no not where you got them but where they’re from.


They are from Malaysia.  I have a set very similar to them.  Turns out on one of their pop-ins at a local antique shop (because after all one must get in their cardio) my dear niece exclaimed, look Mom, spoons for Aunt San. The spoons are wonderful but even more wonderful; I’m in there. There are references that only equate to me in that beautiful little girl’s mind and I had all to do not to…well you know.  In my heart I hope that I was gracious in accepting these wonderful thoughtful gifts and not seem so selfish in my discovery that my legacy is growing with this future woman.

Dinner was fun; the movie we watched was fun.  We three had fun.  It was indeed a “cost nothing” kind of night that will forever be precious to me.  I may not be the Aunt that comes to the birthday parties but I am the Christmas Eve Aunt, the cool in some weird kind of way Aunt, the Aunt that stands in for Grandmas that can’t make performances and the Aunt that collects spoons, pottery and chairs.

“Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving…. Accepting another person’s gift is allowing him to express his feelings for you.” ― Alexander McCall Smith

P.S. I stand corrected on the proper “nothing”.  I was mistaken in thinking it was a “cost nothing” when it was a “for nothing” an even better nothing than the first.  It remained a cost nothing kind of an evening however.  Hopefully I’ve made it right this time.  

Conditioning the Air

wind chimes

The apartment above me has finally been purchased after months and months of being empty.  You may recall my former neighbor was…something…reliant…addicted.  She was in trouble. The new owners are a lovely family with two young girls.  Now that the moving and fixing and tiling and hammering and sawing are mostly done, the sounds from above are giggly and joyous and alive.  A far cry from the former sounds…or lack of sounds which could be even more disturbing.


One of the more aggravating sounds from what seems like long ago and far away was the sound of the air conditioner running…constantly…right outside my deck.  You know the deck that looks out on the enchanted forest, the deck that induces long-lasting exhales, the deck that makes coffee taste better, the one that has all that antique-salvaged-from-estate-sales furniture. Seems part of addiction is that you don’t know how to work the thermostat…but you do know how to wear three sweatshirts.  It was a very sad state of affairs.   As soon as the air conditioner would turn off it seemed to turn back on.

Now, enter a young family on a budget….ahhhhh.  The air turns on and off at reasonable intervals but even better is the epiphany moment when I heard the wind chimes tinkle.  I had never hung the wind chimes from this particular hook before, they always hung inside, so when I just threw them up to get them….someplace. I didn’t even think about the fact that each time the air conditioner runs it sends up just enough breeze to move the chimes.  Double ahhhhh.


The wind chimes were a little house warming gift from my sister.  Meant to induce peace, which I sorely needed to induce at that time, I hung them in the pass through between my kitchen and dining area.  Every time I needed a little peace I would just pucker up and blow and the sound would help me switch direction.  Toward peace. A lifesaver many a time; this little set of chimes continues its peacekeeping legacy on my beloved deck.




I was bound and determined to work through a few things this week, you know once and for all. Yeah it didn’t happen, somebody needed something, somebody went to the hospital, and somebody did something they needed help reconciling… you get the picture.

And I watched the news. I don’t watch the news but it was breaking and there I was sucked in to a police officer killed on Route 17 a minute from Stowe Lane. It happened at 1:30ish in the morning when, I believe, no good can come from being on Route 17 anyway. I pretty much don’t believe being on Route 17 is ever a good idea and I avoid it like the plague. But there it was, officer killed after a tractor trailer rear-ended (these two words, although true, cannot convey the magnitude of the force) his vehicle into a retaining wall.

In all the things that rattle around in my head, this one got stuck. A few days later I was riding down Route 17 and passed the accident site. It took my breath away, bought tears to my eyes and reflexively I crossed myself something I haven’t done in years. I watched this retaining wall going up, little by little, and realized it had just recently been finished. I remember seeing the family all standing looking at it with their hands on their hips. I can’t imagine the sound that woke them. I can’t imagine their confusion and that one split second when they realize the crash had destroyed all their hard work before they also realized that this is a tragedy that can’t be resolved and that they might not want to live there anymore. You see where my head goes.

You can’t help hearing your heart break for the family of this distinguished young man. But I can’t help thinking about the man who has to live with this the rest of his life. This was a working man who got in his truck at 11am and found himself…what? Avoiding something in the road? Asleep for a split second? What were his options? There is just no good in this. And there are plenty of people wondering the same thing. I was surprised to read many of the comments relating to the trucking industry’s lack of driver care. I was also surprised to read about the radar practices of many of the police forces bordering on blatant entrapment. For some reason I can’t get my head around the universe conspiring on so many levels to an end that may possibly NOT have something good come out of it.


It pains me when I believe someone has been taken too soon but I know that there is something far bigger than me at work when that happens. I can merge it in my head with things like perhaps they were destined for some horrible disease and they were spared that. I don’t know why things happen and mostly I don’t involve myself in trying to figure it out, I’m a tiny piece of the puzzle just one drop in the web and I appreciate the reminder to stay in today.

With all the things I’ve had to reconcile, with all the things yet to be reconciled, I just need a sign that I can let this tragedy go because it’s really not mine and concentrate on my own “once and for all” resolutions. It’s been a week.

The Not Really a Strativarius


It takes a certain kind of child to draw the bow instead of blow into an instrument, that’s not really my story but my violin has a story.

It was purchased by my grandmother for my Uncle Jerry during the Depression. Take that in for a minute, during the Depression. She paid 5 cents a month, or when she could, so that he could feed his love for music. Do you know how much 5 cents was during the Depression? How the hell did she do that? Well according to my mother she always had her crocheting in one pocket and her rosary in the other.   She made paper flowers with Mrs. Legore and Mrs. Marco (no Terri not Mrs. Spadafranc). And they sold their goods to…we have no idea. Milliners and nunneries and florists and retailers.

My Uncle Jerry grew tired of the violin, more a blow into an instrument kind of guy, so my Mother began to play. She was pretty good she thought ehhmm… She and my first cousin Nancy, who was around the same age as my Mother (it was a big Italian family, don’t ask) played together. In the attic. Because just how bad could Mary Had a Little Lamb be??? After the two hundredth time, you get the picture.

The violin lay dormant in someone’s attic, next to someone’s cedar chest until I entered fourth grade. I took up the violin, or rather it took up me. Yes I was the next generation to drive everyone to distraction with “Mary Had a Little Lamb” but I tried other things too. I do have one memory of being in the orchestra, sixth seat maybe, and during a pizzicato section actually hitting all the right notes. Really, it was a miracle because I was more about how cool I looked carrying it to school then becoming the next virtuoso.

My mother had it appraised at some point, I think when they were downsizing, and it came in at about 400.00. She thought it might be a….something…not exactly a Stradivarius but…something because her old music teacher really wanted it.

I’m not sure if my sister had any interest, I don’t remember her dragging it out. And so it went up in my attic, next to my cedar chest until I moved to Stowe Lane. Did I mention that magical things happen on Stowe Lane? I might have. My dear friend Mary Jo Anzel gifted me with some of her wonderful charcoal pieces. There was a huge study of a man with a cello which just begged to be hung over my fireplace accompanied, of course, by my tiny little almost hundred year old violin.

I don’t know what it’s worth, I don’t care to put a monetary value on it. I know that my Mother loved telling the story just recently, I know that if the house were on fire it wouldn’t be the first thing I grab but it has a rich story and a place in my home. It has a wonderful legacy.



Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like….Will Rogers

What is it about stuff that makes it so addictive?  Is that the right word?  Should it be comforting?  Should it be impressive?  Whatever the description the rampant accumulation is frightening to me.  I had the advantage of living in a small space my whole life and stuff wasn’t always an option.  God bless himself, he loved stuff but had the good sense to live in anticipation of the big green garbage bag coming around every six months so it didn’t get too out of hand.  That’s been my answer to too much stuff for many years now, the big green garbage bag, I’m talking construction grade, no fooling around.  Other people find a periodic tag sale a good way to make purging fun, gotta love the art of the deal.


I also had the advantage of a mentor who’s decorating philosophy was to surround yourself with only those things you loved so everywhere you looked, wherever your eyes set, they set on something with meaning.  This can present as a problem only if you’ve got to decide what to take with you if the house is on fire….no worries all I’m taking are Toto and Lina.

DSC_9424 (2)

I’ve noticed that it’s at certain turning points (there’s those words again) that one begins to shed their stuff.  Big life changes like divorce, moving, or illness seem to bring a clarity that no longer includes stuff. Starting over in a life can give you pause; it also gives you the advantage of presenting your life the way you’ve always wanted. I’ve been following a blogger named Joshua Becker for some time and his becoming minimalist philosophy presents a rational approach to minimalism.  “It is written to inspire you to intentionally live with less. And find more life because of it.” I encourage you to follow him, and his family, on their journey.  They are not lacking for anything but the need for a big green garbage bag…

That said, as I look around my home I am indeed surrounded by only things I love.  Every single thing has and is a story running the gamut of joyous to profoundly ordinary accompanied by a laugh or a sigh.  Each thing has a legacy.  So it’s not just people it can be things too.  It’s a legacy thing…you see where this is going right?  As part of our continued story of ordinary legacies I’ll be incorporating an additional blog post each week on a “legacy thing”.  I hope you’ll look around your own home and find those things that summon up a story and let us know about them so we can share them here.

Nobody brings home the point quite like George Carlin, so enjoy one of his most famous rants about….stuff.

Stay tuned.