Credit Where Credit Is Due

If you were told that someone had a talent that only a handful of people on the entire planet had, wouldn’t you be impressed? Wouldn’t you be even more impressed if you knew that person was also a free speech advocate, had been in a few films, organizes for street performers, is a storyteller and has a radio show?

Meet Abby the Spoon Lady. This woman is talented beyond measure. She’s also intelligent, well-traveled, and dedicated. That should be all anyone needs to know about her.

But that’s not how the world works. If you check out her Youtube channel or Facebook page, both of which show you dozens of amazing performances, you’ll be enchanted. Unless you start reading the comments. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll be infuriated. While many people recognize her talent, trolls abound. They criticize her looks. They criticize her clothes. They criticize her lack of teeth.

It seems to me that if Abby were a man, she wouldn’t get this type of feedback. But being a woman in the music world, you’re supposed to be glamorous and perfect in every way, or you can’t be taken seriously. I don’t find Willie Nelson particularly attractive, but you don’t hear people discussing that to the point where his talent gets forgotten, do you?

Give Abby a break. I think she’s beautiful. I think her talent is also beautiful. I think the world is a much more beautiful place because she’s in it. I hope I get to see her perform live someday. And if I do, I hope the trolls stay home.

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Wearing the Clothes of the Dead

I love thrift shops. It’s a rare occasion when I buy my clothes retail. Why would you, when there are perfectly good clothes out there for one tenth of the price? I must say, though, it’s getting harder for me as I get bigger. Thrift stores are for skinny people. And that only stands to reason, because people tend to cast off their old clothing as their waistlines expand.

When you get to be my size, though, I can only think of a few possible scenarios for the clothes that are available in the thrift store.

  • The clothes are hopelessly out of style, in which case I’m getting what I’m paying for.
  • Someone lost weight and they are confident that the pounds will stay off. Then, yay! Good karma for me!
  • They’ve gained even more weight and have given up hope of ever losing it, which is sad to contemplate.
  • But even sadder to contemplate is that they died and their family gave the clothing away.

Of course, there is no way to ever know. The reason I’m thinking about this today is that while unpacking I came across my mother’s raincoat. When she passed away 24 years ago (my God, how time flies) it was one of the things I asked to have, because I had given it to her.

She once told me that she always wanted a London Fog raincoat, and when I went off to college I was rooting around in a thrift store and I found one. What are the odds? It was in perfect condition except for a tear in the lining, so I paid 50 cents for it, sewed up the lining and gave it to her for Christmas. She loved that raincoat. It’s been sitting in a box on my closet shelf ever since she passed away.

I may just have to take it out and try it on, because it’s possible that I’ll be moving soon to the Pacific Northwest, in which case a good raincoat will come in handy. Odds are pretty long that it will fit me. (My mother weighed 100 pounds soaking wet.) But it will be hard to take it out of the box to find out. The first thing that always assails me when I do, even after all these years, is the smell of cigarette smoke. (Cigarettes where what ultimately killed her.) But then come images of her wearing it, looking quite pleased with herself. That is a nice memory, so I’ll power through that cigarette smell.

The funny thing to contemplate is that someday I will leave behind that raincoat, and no one will know its history. It will most likely wind up in a thrift shop once again. The next person who wears it will have no idea of its significance. That’s the way of things. Inanimate objects are filled with emotions and memories by their owners, but they mean absolutely nothing to other people. It’s as if our own stuff is endowed with some sort of magic that is lost on those around us.

I often wonder about the history of the outfits I’m looking at in thrift stores. How often am I wearing the clothes of the dead? Have I ever worn something and passed a relative on the street, causing them to have painful memories of a loved one whom they’ve lost? I hope not. And I hope if there is some form of afterlife, that person is looking down and is pleased that his or her wardrobe is being put to good use.

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[Image credit: ecommerceboy.net]

The Futility of Accumulation

I long to have one of those minimalist homes with wide expanses of floor space and no tchotchkes to dust or arrange. No clutter. No collections. I want to be able to move all my stuff from one house to the next in just one or two carloads.

I often look around at the mess in my life and wonder when, exactly, I lost all control. When did the stuff start controlling me instead of me controlling the stuff? This has been in the forefront of my mind quite a lot lately since I’ve moved 3 times in the past 3 years. It gets old, lugging boxes.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those hoarders you see on TV. My home is sanitary. I don’t pick things out of the garbage, and you won’t find dead cats wedged behind my dresser. But I definitely have more than I need to survive, by a country mile.

The irony of it is that 2/3rds of my possessions currently reside in my sister’s garage, 4 hours away, and they’ve been there for a couple of years now. If I can live without them for years, do I need them at all? But there are things there that I love and miss. Certain pieces of furniture, much used tools and items that would really come in handy should I ever be lucky enough to own a home again. These items would also be expensive to replace, but what does it cost me, figuratively, to keep them?

I’m profoundly grateful that cameras are now digital, because I have a ton of photo albums from a bygone age. I’d hate to think of what life would be like if I were to have to collect hard copies and photo negatives for the second half of my life as well. What will become of these albums when I die? They won’t mean a thing to anyone but me, most likely.

And clothing. Don’t get me started. It’s high time I accept the fact that I’ll never be a certain size again. I keep telling myself that if I haven’t worn something in a year it should go. But I never seem to get around to doing that.

Thank heavens I’ve never been the type to own exercise equipment or highly specific kitchen gadgets or, I don’t know, action figures. Things could, indeed, be a great deal worse.

But I often think that if there were a fire, as long as my dogs and I made it out alive, there would be relatively few things I would be heartbroken about losing. Stuff won’t love you. It won’t even like you. It won’t keep you warm at night (unless it’s a blanket or a pair of thermal underwear). The more stuff you accumulate, the less you will be able to travel lightly through this world. And that is something to consider before making your next purchase.

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(Image credit: truewoman.com)