Finding a Flag on Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day serendipity

A couple of days ago I saw a note in the local newspaper about a place to take worn U.S. flags for ceremonial disposal. I thought aha! – bit by bit I’ve been cleaning out the garage, and I’m ashamed to say there’s a dilapidated old flag hidden back in the corner –  now I know what to do with it. But wait. I may not be a girl-scout, but I should be respectful. I don’t know how to fold it…but there’s always youtube. Minutes later, armed with knowledge, I headed for the garage, found the flag, and guess what? It wasn’t dilapidated at all, just wrapped up.

Crisis averted, I headed out for errands. Along the way, I saw flags hanging everywhere. I don’t know why it hadn’t registered — here in the U.S. it’s Memorial Day weekend, of course it’s time for flags. So when I got home I put it out.  Here it is.

A found flag

My found flag, after seven years in storage.

Bob brought that flag home years ago, and hung it out for July 4. He loved Independence Day (especially the opportunity for fireworks). Somehow in my memory the flag became worn and ragged, but now that I think about it, he wouldn’t have let it go like that. So, the last time he took it down, he wrapped it up for later, and it’s been there ever since.

In my childhood, what we now call Memorial Day was “Decoration Day”, and we all picked flowers (peonies and iris, in the mid-west), arranged them in glass jars, and took them to the cemeteries. Putting Bob’s flag out for the weekend seems to me an equally poignant remembrance.

Re-using is better than Recycling

It’s hard to get back to work after a few days away. I’m quick to grow accustomed to having a maid clean the hotel room, having breakfast ready downstairs in the morning, and having nothing more to decide than which art museum to visit next or where we should stop for coffee in mid-afternoon.

Now I’m home, deep into vacation-entertainment-withdrawal, and trying to focus on the next organizing and downsizing task. Maybe if I write about the last thing I did before vacation it’ll lead me to what to tackle next.

Serendipity at the UPS Store: a couple of weeks ago I was dropping off packing material when someone came in with a load of cardboard boxes. Inspired, I asked if UPS took boxes for re-use. “No,” said the lady behind the counter,  “she’s just dropping those off to be picked up by the recycling truck.”

“Too bad,” I said, “I have several large wardrobe boxes and I’d like to find someone who could use them.”

“I could use some for storage,” she told me… and I have to admit, I was thrilled. It was like little bells and whistles went off in my head.  Really.

Tall clothing boxes side by side in the basement.

I get a lot of space back by finding a home for these boxes.

Three boxes fit in the bed of my pick-up truck.

Three boxes fit in the truck (I wish she’d wanted ALL the boxes).

Just before leaving on vacation, I got three of the storage boxes delivered. This is becoming my mantra for getting things out of the house (I like it so much that I’ll say it again) — Re-using is better than Recycling. I’m slower for being picky about getting “stuff” to someone who wants it, but I like finding the right homes for things.

I’m still not sure what to work on next, but here’s an idea — with my history of starting too many things and not getting any of them done — how about finishing something I’ve already started?

Neglected Leaves Can Compost Too

Hoarding the Compost, Redux: A Secret in Plain Sight

The four garbage bins sitting at the side of the house were there when Bob and I moved in. We never used them. Years ago, when we were out of town for several weeks while Bob was in the hospital, my saintly friend Susan came over and cleaned piles of autumn leaves off the driveway for us. She brought her leaf eater, crunched an amazing number of leaves, and (my compost was full) put the results into those garbage bins for safe keeping.  I thought that was brilliant, so after working her leaf litter into the compost, I filled the garbage bins again myself. Then I forgot all about my new hiding place, though I walk by there several times a week.

Now I wonder what’s inside: could there be secret compost?

secret compost IMG_2433

One has compost, one still has leaves.

secret compost inside one of the bins

I know, “ewwww”. It’s not pretty, but it’s compost. It really is wonderful stuff.

Two bins leaked, and over time, moisture allowed the dark and mysterious process of composting to take place.  It may look disgusting, but it’s good stuff. Sam helps me haul the “black-gold” to a flowerbed and take the leaves to my newly reorganized compost containers.

secret compost IMG_2431

The leaves in the dry bin look like I stored them yesterday.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with the empty garbage bins. There’s no recycling emblem, so I’ll ask at the Recycling Center and/or write to Rubbermaid. Soon I’ll have a clutter-free driveway.

Do you have a secret hoarding-place that you walk by every day?

Houseplants: I have too many.

Admission: I hoard houseplants. When I trim the big plants back I see the cut tips of their stems or their tiny hopeful rootlets, and I just naturally put the cuttings in some dirt. Voila – more houseplants.

My houseplants and I love my back porch. Each year when fall comes and I move them inside, they’ve grown too much to fit at the windows any more. I’ve already saturated the market of giving plants to friends, so now what?

Red Christmas cactus blooming in May 2013

I even have a Christmas cactus blooming NOW, May 7.

In my neighborhood there’s a lady who raises and sells many bedding plants and houseplants in her greenhouse. I see her driveway full pots, with a “plants for sale” sign, and think aha! Maybe I can take some of mine over and abandon them as foundlings.

Instead, honesty wins out and I simply ask her if she’d like some. Yes! Elated to find a good home and help with downsizing, I load up two boxes of plant-babies and take them to her.

It’s difficult to part with them, like parting with memories, and for the first time I realize that is exactly why I keep so many plants.

Bob brought a dieffenbachia from Kansas City when we moved here, and it’s made babies more times than I can remember. I just gave one to the guy who installed blinds for me and I have three pots of it left. The hoyas are descended from a plant my mother had. Hers bloomed with an otherworldly fragrance, and tangled itself all around the corner window of the living room in the house where I grew up. She started it from a cutting of a plant in the back window of our hometown drugstore, a childhood hangout since destroyed by fire. Major nostalgia.

Hoya ready for its close-up.

My hoya ready for its close-up.

My hoyas don’t bloom as often as my mother’s did, but when they do, I feel like she just stopped by to check in on me and leave a blessing.

This post surprised me. I see I have more reasons to hoard plants than I thought. Can anyone suggest some help for me to break this habit?