12013118013_69a7fa2bb8_mI lost my leather jacket about three weeks ago. I had it on, I took it off, I laid it down, I apparently left it wherever I was and now it has vanished, seemingly forever.

I bought that jacket when I was 19, at Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa, where I had taken the bus after classes at the junior college. I was working part-time for my father in his then-new brass wind-chime factory (housed in a barn on our rural property). I strung wind-chimes together: three knots for the center, five knots for the pipes, a jerk and a flourish and it was done. I made 60 cents apiece for assembly and $5 an hour for poly-bagging. I couldn’t usually string more than two batches, because my father was working ahead of me, and if I worked too fast, he’d have to stop polishing brass or cutting parts and set me up. That messed up his rhythm and made him irritable.

So I played the radio loud, heavy metal music to cover the sounds of the drill press and band saw, breathed through my hot face-mask to avoid the brass dust and assorted other toxins in the air, and strung wind-chimes.

I earned about $40 per week, put most of it into the bank and spent a little on bus fare and snacks at school. I was taking classes in general ed and journalism, and going to see lots of bands perform. I liked reviewing music and had wangled my way up to entertainment editor at the college newspaper. I got to emcee shows and introduce the different bands that played at lunchtime on campus. I wrote a column called “Park’s Peek at Entertainment,” where I used such scintillating lines as, “Be there or be a hexagon.” I thought I had found my niche.

I definitely had the look down. I had a punky haircut. I had the de rigueur ear piercings, black eyeliner and pencil-leg jeans. I had vintage red leather pumps. I even had fishnet stockings at the ready. But one thing was missing. Obviously. A leather jacket.

So I took about $20 with me to the mall and went straight to Wilson’s House of Leather, where about two minutes confirmed that I was never going to be able to afford a leather coat. Disappointed, I walked down the mall, poking into shops and stores, until I happened across an old favorite, Foxmore’s Casuals. And there I saw the perfect jacket. It was black and supple, hip-length and double-breasted, its sleeves just the right cut. It sat on my shoulders like a guardian angel: snug, protective, devastatingly cool. The $80 didn’t stop me because I knew at Foxmore’s I could buy it on layaway. So I did. And four weeks later I had my jacket.

vintage leather jacket motorbikes 1280x1024 wallpaper_wallpaperswa.com_21I loved that jacket with the zeal of a convert. I wore it everywhere, including in the rain – which I discovered was a big mistake. But you can’t tell a 19-year-old anything, so I learned those kinds of lessons the hard way. I wore the jacket with my mini-skirts, I wore it over jeans, I wore it to school and out to clubs at night. In that jacket I felt tall and tough; I felt smart and pretty; I felt cool and confident. It gave me that certain élan when I went to interview a band. It gave me authority when I took the microphone to introduce the metalheads who were playing that gig. It gave me an edge, which is what a petite, tongue-tied girl with no street smarts from Petaluma needed.

A year later I moved to San Francisco to finish college. The jacket came with me, but when I found myself married and expecting a child, the jacket went into the closet. I moved from San Francisco to Concord, to Oakland, to San Leandro, and had three children along the way. Having babies put some meat on my bones and I couldn’t fit the jacket anymore. As a mom, pushing the double-stroller and serving on PTA, I didn’t even think about the jacket. But I kept it as a relic from my misspent youth. When my eldest hit about 14, she found it in the closet and wore it once in a while, just for fun. My daughters grew, my marriage crumbled and we sold the house in San Leandro. Somehow, the jacket came along to Alameda, taking up space in another closet.

A few years ago I noticed that leather jackets were getting shorter and a retro look was back in style. I took that coat out of the closet one day, slipped my hands into the sleeves and felt it settle on my shoulders like the arm of an old friend. The satin lining was intact, the leather as supple as ever and it fit me even better than before. And the timing was perfect; somehow, in the midst of all the life-changes going on around me, I needed it – that boost of confidence — again.

Friends, if you’ve seen me in the past two years, I’ll wager that at least once you saw me in that jacket. I loved that jacket, I tell you, because it was me: not just me now, but me when I was 19, before the footprints of life had marked me, before the wear and tear that three children can wreak upon a woman’s body or that losing love (and finding it again) can bring to a woman’s heart. That jacket remembered the curve of my arm, the jut of my shoulders and never failed to remind me of where I came from and where I am now.

Ah, well, though. It’s gone. What can I say? I’ll buy another one come fall. I’ll get something new, with the rich, earthy smell of leather and a lining so silky that my fingertips will float through the sleeves. This one will have pockets I can actually use and maybe a zipper, and when I wear it I’ll feel 10 feet tall. I’ll wear it till I’m 90. Watch for me.

green guilt, green quilt

The book, Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, has been recommended to me a couple of times and I wanted to offer it in case anyone else wants to read it. It’s on my request list at the library; I’ll post a review when I have read it.

Yesterday was a hot one — hot and smoggy, so they declared it a Spare the Air Day: don’t drive, don’t BBQ, don’t have wood fires, and try to keep energy use low. But I was in my car, driving up the highway to meet the roofer at our soon-to-be house, and man, it was really and truly hot on the road and smoggy in the air. I felt “green guilt” about the driving and have realized once again that my eco-lifestyle has become my new religion. As a recovering Catholic, I’ve noticed this before, and I won’t say a lot about it, just that I notice similarities in “doing the right thing,” “green guilt,” knowing “the litany” and “the sins.” Purging plastic is akin to a Lenten purge, isn’t it? Or maybe, since it’s supposed to be for life — a vow of celibacy from plastics? Something to think about as I ponder (pray?) over my choices and light candles instead of flick on a light switch.

On my journey through Sonoma County yesterday, I visited my parents, and my mom gave me some of her childhood toys to sell at an antiques dealer here in town. Apropos to our current conversation here about toys and plastic, it was interesting to see what her toys were made of:  paperboard puppets and doll furniture; Halloween masks made from starched and painted cheesecloth/muslin layers; aluminum and wooden pots and pans and rolling pins; cloth doll clothes and bedding; wooden beads to string. And the toys are still in good shape. Although there were choking hazards and perhaps lead paint in these older toys, at least they have held up over the years (70+). And they’ll eventually go back to the earth, since they’re all made of organic materials (the aluminum may take a little longer).

Chatting with my parents, who are children of the Great Depression, reminds me again of how many ways there are to do things: to save, to reuse, to resuscitate and revive. My father is an inveterate straightener of nails. My mother makes award-winning quilts (look for hers at the upcoming Sonoma County Fair) for the family, and as part of the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild’s ongoing mission to make baby quilts for the homeless or less fortunate. My parents use what they have, either in the barn or in the fabric stash, to make their creations. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to live with less plastic, look back a generation or two in your own family or neighborhood, and see what you can learn from our elders. (Feel free to post what you’ve learned in the comments section.)

For the past 18 or so years, I’ve slowly been working on what is perhaps the world’s ugliest quilt. I chose some rather bold purple, green, and hot pink fabrics back then, and set to work on it when Ana was a baby. Ana is 19 now, and I finally finished what I could with this ugly thing. I took it to my mother’s and we looked through her stash of fabrics, found some calmer green for the sides and back, and a friend of Mom’s is going to quilt it and finish the binding for me. There were several leftover squares from this Ugly Quilt (it’s so vivid that it will scare the beard off my husband when he sees it). My clever mother took the “orphan” squares and made a couple of baby quilts, using her fabric stash and some very calm lavender and dark green. The result of my mad fabric purchase from two decades back is that two babies will have handmade, warm, soft quilts to sleep in, besides the finished cover for our bed in our new (old) house.

There’s no plastic in this story, but there’s also no waste. There’s no trip to the dump, there’s no plastic bag, there’s no shipment from China, there’s no toxic side effects, and there’s no mountain of refuse. There’s fellowship, years of quiet handiwork; there’s the creative act and the act of sharing and giving. There’s the handing down of tradition, and the act of generosity toward others with less in their lives. I can’t think of a single negative in this story. And that’s a success, in a month of purging plastic or any time.

Guilt or quilt? I think I’ll take the latter.

the Ayatollah of plastic

Do you think I’m judging you? By the looks on people’s faces these days, they do. Since I started the Plastic Purge, just about everyone who talks to me says, “Well, it was plastic, but…” or, “You would have hated it, there was so much plastic…” and, “I know it’s plastic, but…”.  There are the more aggressive folks who kind of snarl at me, “Is that plastic? Are you drinking out of a plastic cup? Is your Bandaid plastic?”
It’s kind of funny. I suppose I’m making them think about their own choices, and that might make them a little uncomfortable. I’m not really the Ayatollah of plastic, though. I’m just a poor slob dragging along and trying to make plastic-free choices. If I were the Ayatollah of plastic, I’d start chopping off fingers for every infraction. You’d have 10 chances to mend your ways, and then you’d pretty much be hosed and have to live in my Plastic-Free World, under my rules. On your knees, heathens!

I’d much rather be the Green Queen (as opposed to the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland). I wouldn’t say “Off with her head.” (Much.) I’ll say, “Off with your plastic!” and trade you a real silver fork for your plastic one, offer you a waxed paper bag for your sandwich, a ceramic mug for your beverage, a reusable canvas bag for your vegetables, and perhaps some wooden chopsticks or hair ornaments instead of plastic ones. Then we’d scamper naked with whales and butterflies and eat homemade tofu together happily under Mother Redwood Tree while fairies sang.

So back to reality. I spent some time Friday shopping for some necessary household items, and took a turn around the local mall just to see what kind of plastics were for sale, and what alternatives. In the clothing department store (Kohl’s), all that clothing has the stupid little piece of plastic with price tag, and their bags are plastic. I recommend that you take your own large bags when clothes shopping, and try to recycle those little plastic scraps in your weekly bin. The cosmetics counter is redolent with perfume and with plastic — hard to escape the cases and compacts. I was able to purchase a pretty, vintage compact the other day at Thrift Town for about $3, and that is refillable with powder. I notice that if you spend more, you can often avoid plastic — true in cosmetics as well as in food. Glass bottles of perfume and boxes of talcum powder are two pricey examples.

Bed, Bath & Beyond had many plastic and silicone choices for use in the kitchen. I don’t own any silicone products, and frankly am skeptical as to its safety with food use. We thought plastics and non-stick pans were fine until recently, when their toxicity was reported. So I plan to continue avoiding silicone bakeware for the foreseeable future. Call me suspicious, but I just don’t trust manmade materials, based on past performance (silicone breast implants, anyone?) However, there were many bamboo implements, cutting boards and practical items like towel bars. Bamboo is very sustainable since it regrows so quickly. Lots of glass and plain metal pots and pans, tools and gadgets, too. I also saw the eco-non-stick pans, but I think I’ll just leave these be for now.

Alameda Beauty Center has a very nice selection of sustainable and vegan hairbrushes and combs (vegan means no boar bristles). There is also a nice variety of Burt’s Bees cosmetics and soaps. Surprise! Burt’s Bees makes a spray deodorant in an aluminum bottle. It has a recyclable plastic cap and inner tube, but this is the first packaging I’ve seen that is not entirely plastic. I (heart) Burt’s Bees. We have often purchased large bottles of shampoo from the beauty supply store, because we figure that one large bottle is the same as three individual bottles, and less packaging is better than more. I don’t have a way to actually measure this belief — it would be a complicated algebraic formula.

“If gasoline costs X and the shampoo is shipped from State Y to State Z, and if the plastic is made in State F and shipped to State G for packaging, and if the shampoo is made from baby squirrels which are not endangered but the exhaust from the shipping kills X many squirrels on the road, then buying one large bottle of shampoo at Store Q is/is not a better eco choice.” (falls down in mathematical coma…)

If anyone can actually work out a formula like this so that we all have a simple rubric at hand, with a tap on the screen of our favorite pocket devices, please let me know. Is there an app for that? Until then, I’m going to continue to try and avoid plastic, excessive driving, imported items in general, and toxic substances.

By the way, Alameda Beauty Center has a nice punch card and takes off $5 when your card is full. I take my own bag because they offer plastic bags. As far as the mall, it’s also nice to note that See’s Candy is almost next door (at our mall), offers delicious free samples, packages mostly in paper and foil, and adds sunshine to my day. Plastic-free chocolate…mmm.

My last stop was at Beverly’s, where I fondled the yarns and stroked the fabrics and flipped through crafty books. Lots of plastic here, for sure — but also many paper-wrapped or unwrapped items, if you want to get your craft on. The bead aisle, scrapbooking and the fake floral departments scare me, with whatever mountains of plastic-making fumes spewed into whatever Third World country in order for us to make necklaces, memory books and floral centerpieces for our hapless friends and families. (This is as good a time as any to mention “The Story of Stuff,” a 20-minute short film by Berkeley gal Annie Leonard, which shows you the consequences of our cheap stuff and where it comes from and where it goes after we’re done. It’s online and it’s free. Be brave and watch it, and then tell me if it doesn’t affect what you plan to buy next.)

I didn’t go into Radio Shack, Anna’s Linens, Old Navy or Big 5 Sporting Goods — I was already exhausted from touching and looking and the smell of all that new stuff was actually beginning to nauseate me (really). But I imagine those stores, as in any store in any mall in America and beyond, that there is plastic aplenty, and that you can easily take your own bag, and that if you choose to avoid buying plastic, you probably can.

Caveat emptor, as always.

Today’s to-dos (and to-dids)

Nurse sore finger.
Feed chickies. Feed cats. Feed birds.

Make coffee. Eat breakfast.

Load dishwasher, clean up kitchen. Drink more coffee. Think about sore finger.

Wash a load of Mr. Husband’s shirts. Hang to dry outside, since it’s sunny and windy.

Straighten up where the smaller people have been. Do these chores with index finger elevated and try to keep it out of harm’s way.

Look at garden and try to figure out how to add in extra raised beds and where the wood will come from. Buy it new? Bite your tongue.

Post a want-ad on Freecycle asking for corrugated aluminum or plastic to fix the chicken coop roof.

Dig through Freecycled box of fabric that broke my fingernail last night. Find that it is almost entirely full of cut-up jeans, ragged ends of denim, seams, T-shirts so filthy they are untouchable, and some fiddly bits of nylon, satin and polyester fabrics. Most of it goes into trash. A small handful of felt squares, 2 bandanas, some purple tissue paper and one piece of quilt material, the size of a handkerchief, is all that is salvagable out of this finger-breaking monster. Well, the box is big enough to use for the growing chicks by next week. I’ll grant you that. Aside, it was a crappy thing to do to call it quilt material and then shove a box of moldy jeans in tatters at me. Karma — she’s a bitch. That’s all I have to say about that item.

Bring in shirts when they are dry. Sort what needs to be ironed. Save ironing for Tuesday.

Receive a Freecycle email that offers me some plastic roofing for the coop. Make plan to pick up on Tuesday after farmer’s market venture.

Think about tonight’s dinner. Stale bread and stale cheese plus pizza sauce means pizza strata. Kids say yum.

Put honey-whole wheat bread ingredients into bread maker. When the dough is ready, dump onto counter, knead and put in pan to rise and bake. Turn on oven. Bake. Cool. Slice. Eat.

Nurse sore finger. Did I mention that I hurt my finger last night? I did? Well. It still hurts.

Water remaining veggies in garden (in small containers), potted plants on back patio, and then venture outside the yard to the fence plot. Nothing growing there just now, so why not plant some sunflowers? Poke about 20 holes and put seeds in. Spray with water. Go inside for cup of tea.

Think about how there is no tea cozy in the house. Decide again that I will make a tea cozy. Ponder for a few minutes how best to do this, while wrapping teapot in hand towel to keep it hot.

Spy the plastic bag “sack” that is supposed to corral all our plastic grocery bags. Realize I haven’t used this little random purchase in several years. We try not to use plastic bags. Recognize that there are cats and tea cups on the fabric print of this random object. Decide that this could become a useful tea cozy instead of a random unused plastic-bag caddy. Drink tea while picking the two seams out of this material. Set newly emancipated fabric aside to be ironed tomorrow and made into a tea cozy. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe soon after.

More tea. More finger-gazing. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.

Notice when it startes to rain and congratulate self on good timing for laundry but not so good for watering garden.

Still to come: dinner, knitting, finger-coddling and general pottering about the house until bedtime.
Film at 11.

chicka chicka boom boom!

The chickies are here! Meet Daisy, Poppy, Rosie, Violet and Bluebell, one of each of several different breeds of chickens that were waiting to come home with me from Penngrove Hay and Grain. They are happy in their little box-home and as soon as the rain stops, they will go outside and get a little bit of sunshine. We are set to get a premade chicken run from good neighbors Erin and Jack (bee- and chicken-keepers, awesome writers, good people). They also have a hen house for us but it may be too big to get here. We shall see. Sunday is the day.

But here they are, and aren’t they cute?

My days now have an added activity, to care for the chickies, and make sure the kitties stay away and that young people don’t handle them too much.

I was away in Penngrove over the weekend and did lots of thrifting and meandering, plus hanging out with my parents and good friend from long ago, Melinda. We went to dinner Saturday night for my birthday dinner, and sister Carolyn came, too. Good food included Sonoma wine, local veggies, goat cheese, mushrooms and cream. Eat locally, get fat, wherever you are…mmmm.

I did a lot of wandering through antique stores and thrift/consignment shops. I came away with a boatload of vintage embroidered linens, linen fabric, laces and doilies, fabrics and funky items — including a wind-up alarm clock (love it!), a washboard, and a cookie cutter shaped like a peeping chick. Plus I got 100 lbs of black oil sunflower seed for my birds. Plus the chicken feed. I am now washing my way through piles of laundry — my own, Mr. Husband’s, since he was away all week on business and pleasure, and these new-to-me linens.

Today I got back to my sewing machine and finished the Sur la Table-inspired napkins. Here they are, as well as a closeup of the fun fabrics I used:

And other than that, not much new here. My sewing room overfloweth. I’m trying not to get sick with Simone and Austin’s cold. Dinner tonight is Mexican-ish. I am baking an enchilada casserole and boiling pinto beans (no cans for me). Corn and green beans for veg on the side. American Idol is on tonight, as are many other shows that got set aside for the Winter Olympics, which, btw were really cool. I love Canada. I’m glad they won the hockey game. And I think I want to live there. Not visit. Live. It’s tropical there, right?

Peace out, chicken-lovers.