Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Home’ Category

Detritus of Daily Life

In Auntie Flat, Church, creativity, Home, Learning on October 19, 2017 at 9:55 am

As much as I need to declutter my house, I also need to declutter my mind. Things pile up in there and multiply when I’m not paying attention.
If you’re familiar with David Allen’s OCD book, Getting Things Done, you know that his secret is to list everything you need to do. I mean EVERYTHING. Need to do a load of laundry? Put it on the list. That reminds me, I need to put a load of laundry in the washer.
Okay, that’s done. Now I need to remember to put it in the dryer in about half an hour and then take it out of the dryer, fold it and put it away. Sorry, but it just seems dumb to write all that down on a list.
Now Radley is letting me know that once again he got shut in the laundry closet. Coming back from letting him out, I see the dishwasher and remember that I have to unload it and put the dishes away so I can start filling it again with dirty dishes. And I still have a pot soaking in the sink that I should wash and put away.
Will I ever get past these chores and get to the (slightly) bigger things like taking my car in to have the tires rotated and balanced or making an appointment to renew my driver’s license or calling to have my 401K switched to an IRA?
Then I want to get back to writing the mystery I started two years (!) ago. Maybe I should participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November and punch through that.
I did manage to finish the church history I’ve been working on or (mostly) procrastinating for months and just in time for our 125th anniversary this Sunday. Come one come all. It’ll be fun. We’ll have special guests and singing and stories and food. What’s not to like?
Okay, I’m a little distracted.
That’s life.


Sparking Joy

In Auntie Flat, Home, Learning on October 18, 2017 at 7:23 am

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo has taken the decluttering world by storm. If you haven’t read it (the audio version is available free on YouTube) I’ll give you the short version. Separate all your stuff into categories—long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes, books, etc.–and pick up each item while asking if it sparks joy in your life. If it doesn’t, out it goes.

Nobody needs more help with tidying up than I do except hoarders and they need more help than one slim book can provide. But really, everything has to spark joy? I really need my underwear even if it doesn’t bring me joy (it doesn’t). I also need my pots and pans and towels and flash drives and medications. I like some of those things, I appreciate their various qualities, but not a single one of them brings me joy.

English designer William Morris makes more sense to me, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. While I also believe that useful things can be beautiful and vice versa, sometimes they still don’t bring me joy.

My toy cupboard made for me as a baby by my Grandpa Darr is crudely made and beat up after 69 years of wear and tear. Neither particularly useful nor beautiful, it’s my most prized possession and always brings me joy, so maybe I need to combine Morris and Kondo.

I’m embarking on a project to clear more stuff out of my home. If I don’t get it done, I pity the fool who will have to do it after I’m gone.

I never had to get rid of my parents’ things. My dad took care of it when Mom died, and his second wife handled it, sometimes to my displeasure, when he passed away. Friends tell me it’s a particularly ghastly chore.

Since I don’t have kids, my best guess is that some anonymous estate liquidation company will descend on my condo to haul away my treasures. They won’t care that my dad made the spice rack that fits on the end of a kitchen cabinet or that my dear friend made the quilted throw pillows or that the frequently read Dorothy Pillsbury books tell of a magical time in Santa Fe.

Meanwhile, I need to make sure the little cupboard stays in the family.

Let that be my legacy.

That’s Entertainment?

In Books, creativity, Home, Learning on October 13, 2017 at 7:44 am

What do you watch on TV?” has become a standard question I ask everybody I meet. Other than The Big Bang Theory and This Is Us (plus my guilty pleasure, The Young and the Restless—don’t tell) I can’t seem to get interested. We have far surpassed Springsteen’s lament of “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).” These days, we have literally hundreds of channels and there’s plenty on.

I cut the cable cord several years ago, so old favorites like HGTV are no longer an option. Still, I have Netflix and Amazon Prime and YouTube in addition to my local broadcast channels, and while I dip into them every once in a while, mostly I’d rather read a book or listen to a podcast or write in my journal.

Maybe it’s my age. I’m reminded of the quotation, “I wasted time and now time is wasting me.” At almost 70, I just don’t have that much time left to waste. Plus, 98% or more of all TV shows aim at a MUCH younger demographic.

The thing is, I know there are good shows on. Just this week, I’ve heard good things about Blackish, The Good Place, and Schitt’s Creek, so they will join my growing list of shows I might watch someday–maybe if I get really bored or really sick. And I’m eagerly waiting for the final season of Longmire to start.

I can’t even watch the news anymore because, like Jake Tapper, I’m “overwhelmed by the relentless tidal wave of incompetence, idiocy, and bigotry pouring from the White House on a daily basis.”

I used to love TV, watched it constantly and thought people who claimed they “never watched” were either liars or snobs. As the screens got bigger and reminded me more of 1984, I grew warier. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, far from it, but I have to wonder if they’re watching us whenever we’re watching them.


In Colorado, Home, Learning, spirituality on October 2, 2017 at 7:29 am

“Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow.”

That was written by an unknown author and is sometimes identified as a wiccan chant, which seems appropriate for this time of year.

Most people name fall as their favorite season and October as their favorite month. In Denver, October usually encompasses three seasons. We transition from fall to winter and, if we’re lucky, back to Indian summer unseasonably warm dry weather after a killing frost. That first frost comes around October 7 and the first snow on October 18. Get ready.

This is the only time of the year when almost everyone takes a drive into the mountains just to see the scenery. You have to be on your toes because fall color doesn’t last long in the high country. Blink and you’ll miss it. We’ve already had our first major snowfall above 10,000 feet.

Here in the city, the leaves turn more leisurely from green to yellow to red. It still ends pretty quickly. One day the trees will be glorious in their fall color, and then a wind comes overnight and the limbs are bare.

That begins a cherished fall ritual, raking leaves. Meanwhile, a few stubborn flowers still bloom –zinnias, pansies, asters, mums. People start stocking up on Halloween candy and decorating their houses and yards with witches, black cats, goblins and ghosts. We ask one another, “What will you be on Halloween?”

First, though, we have to endure the annual culture clash of Columbus Day, aka Indigenous Peoples Day.

This year the harvest moon—the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which usually comes in September—rises on October 5. I still have my windows and back door open for at least a few hours on most days. The farmers’ markets have ended and pumpkin patches and corn mazes sprout all over.

Grab a cup of hot apple cider, carve a pumpkin, and enjoy the show.

Winter soon will come.

Power to the People

In creativity, Home, Learning, small houses on September 13, 2017 at 7:58 am

The longest I’ve ever gone without power is a couple of hours.

Between my Alexa, laptop, iPad, Fire tablet, Kindle, and phone, my superpower may be using electronics. They all require electricity, although except for Alexa, they will last more than the time it takes to get the power back on.

When the power goes off I remember how much we rely on it.

My friend in Florida has already been without power for several days and it won’t come back on until Sunday.

It must be a little like camping out. Maybe you saw the meme I posted that said “My friends asked me to go camping, so I made of list of what I will need: 1) New friends.” If you like camping, and I know there really are such people out there, you could think of this as an adventure. Just don’t go building any fires in your living room.

Remember William Kamkwamba, the 14-year-old Malawian boy who built a windmill to power his family’s home using old bicycle parts? You can listen to his TED talk here or read his book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. He had the right idea.

The twin disasters in Florida and Texas have me thinking that instead of regional power grids, we need power sources for individual houses or buildings. Solar would do it here in the sunny southwest. Many of the tiny houses I find so appealing rely on solar power, and Europe is taking the lead in developing it while the U.S. remains bogged down by the oil industry and its lobbyists.

Decentralized power sources might not prevent outages, but they could shorten the time needed to get things up and running again. It might help us feel not so powerless.

Against the Wind

In Colorado, Friends, Home, spirituality on September 8, 2017 at 6:31 am

All I know about hurricanes is what I see on the news. Living in Colorado, we’re protected from such things by hundreds of miles of land. In fact, as natural disasters go, we don’t have much. Wildfires frequently rage out of control, destroying forests, homes, and wild life, although aside from stirring up our allergies they don’t affect us in the city. We don’t have major earthquakes, and tornadoes generally touch down in wide open spaces. We do have the occasional devastating flood, but again, since 1965, not in the city. The worst a blizzard does is make leaving home inadvisable for a day or two. Big deal.

I have never known anyone personally who was directly affected by any of these things. No one I know lost their home or their life in any of these events. To me, they’ve always just been stories I watch on TV for a couple of days until the next news cycle kicks in.

I go about my business, watching the carnival for this weekend’s Harvest Festival assemble in the theaters’ parking lot, wondering when the remodeled theaters will reopen, and looking forward to my church’s annual bluegrass tent service on Sunday.

Hurricane Irma is different, not only because it’s the biggest, baddest hurricane on record but because I have a friend in its path. That changes everything. He lives on the Atlantic coast of central Florida and gives me regular updates on his preparations. I’m scared this time, for him. If he decides to leave, given the gasoline shortages and traffic jams, will he be able to get out? If he stays, will he survive? What will he lose?

Having someone you care about affected makes all the difference, even if it shouldn’t. So, while I pray for all the people in Florida and the Caribbean, I’m really praying that God will protect my friend.

My Indian Name is Nose in a Book

In Books, Home, solitude on September 4, 2017 at 5:27 am

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry tells the story of a reclusive, widowed bookseller whose prized and very valuable book disappears just before a suicidal mother leaves her baby girl in his store.

Ultimately, it’s a book about people who love books. Each chapter begins with a short story recommendation. The title character moves from grieving curmudgeon to doting father to romantic, and every other major character is equally charming from the quirky publisher’s representative to the precocious foundling and the crime-reading police chief.

The reader can pick up dozens of book referrals as the characters discuss their favorites. I found myself stopping frequently to look up a title and order it from the library.

When I first read it 2014, I went on an evangelical frenzy, telling everybody I knew that they had to read this book. The smart ones listened.

Here are a few upcoming books I’m looking forward to.

To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon is the latest entry in the Mitford series. If Mitford weren’t in North Carolina and, you know, fiction, I’d want to live there.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan, the guy who wrote Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which would be enough of a recommendation for me, but this is also about an isolated software engineer who learns how to bake sourdough bread. How can I resist?

Happy reading! For me, that’s what Labor Day is all about.

Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying

In creativity, Home, Learning, music, solitude on August 22, 2017 at 6:01 am








The day started out pretty well with a visit to my doctor. She beamed at me and took me off one hated medication and reduced another. Good news, which she had to spoil by scheduling me for both a mammogram and a colonoscopy. Ugh. It didn’t help when she told me she had recently had her first colonoscopy and learned first hand how awful the preparation for that is. “I can’t believe I tell people all the time they have to do that.” Wouldn’t you think medical science could come up with a less dreadful test?
Things went downhill from there. I felt put upon, ignored, and misunderstood, all of which increased my pique about the over-hyped eclipse. Geez, people. It got a little dark. I dutifully took my stupid glasses out on the balcony and looked at the mostly covered sun for 30 seconds. So glad you all enjoyed it. Now can we get back to normal?
As my mood tanked, I tried a few of my standard remedies to cheer myself up. I played my eclipse-themed music, which was fun. My favorite song was “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” by Gerry and the Pacemakers (remember them?) although it made me cry. It was that kind of day. I finished reading a book by my second favorite mystery author, Marcia Muller, so I could read the latest by my favorite mystery author, Sue Grafton, today.
I wrote an email telling someone to “back off” as nicely as I could while feeling pushed around.
I ate a couple of dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses.
I pulled myself together for a mostly unproductive interview for the church history I’m working on, and then I was done. No TV for me because seeing that orange monster preening and congratulating himself for his non-existent accomplishments would only worsen my disposition. Have you seen the tee shirt that superimposes a graphic of the twin towers against 45’s silhouette and says “The worst days in U.S. History—9/11 and 11/9? My sentiments exactly.
This morning I’ll take myself out for pancakes. Then I’ll continue my self care with reading, writing, and listening to music, trying to find my way back to an even keel and banish the darkness.
It could work.

Morning Has Broken

In creativity, Home, Learning, solitude, spirituality, writing on August 18, 2017 at 6:23 am

I love mornings.
I won’t apologize for being a morning person. My circadian rhythms were set at birth or maybe at conception. Who knows? You may hate me for what I’m going to say next, but I’m just trying to tell the truth.
I never have to use an alarm clock to wake up in the morning.
I’ve never had a cup of coffee.
Those particular morning rituals strike me as a really hideous way to start the day. Using an alarm to blast you out of sleep means you miss that wonderful floaty moment or two when you first rise to consciousness, when you don’t quite remember what day it is or what happened yesterday and what’s to come today. That momentary amnesia lets you ease into the day slowly, gradually, naturally.
Coffee brings the second mini explosion to wake up your brain. Having never experienced this myself, I rely on cultural stereotypes, and they seem singularly negative, as in “I can’t do anything until I’ve had my first cup of coffee.”
Things I love about mornings:
The soft pink and gold light that comes with sunrise. The windows of my apartment all face north, so I can’t see the sunrise without leaving the building. Instead, I enjoy the way it paints everything like a watercolor wash.
The quiet and time alone with my thoughts. Many writers get up early to write before being distracted by the ordinary busyness of the day. Even the dog walkers aren’t out yet.
Maybe what I appreciate the most is the promise of a new day. Yes, I have things on my calendar that I need to get done, even though I’m no longer working in the accepted sense of the word. And, yes, these days bad things seem to happen every day that TV news channels, online newspapers, and my Facebook feed insist on pushing into my awareness.
But for right now, I can ignore those things and imagine a day when only pleasant events occur and enlightening thoughts fill my head. Someday, that will come true.
Maybe today.

Homeward Bound

In Church, Denver, Home on August 9, 2017 at 6:48 am

“Daddy, everyone should have a place to live,” said five-year-old Joey.

When we started talking about homelessness, we quickly realized what a huge and overwhelming topic it is. In the Denver metro area, more than 6,000 people are unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing. Efforts to solve the problem run into ignorance and misconceptions.

A 2015 report from The Denver Foundation, found that 64% of homeless people are families with children, not single men. They are more likely to stay with friends or live in their cars than on the street while working or looking for work and trying to save enough to cover the ever-increasing rent and deposit requirements for housing.

The family living in my church’s studio apartment have a typical story. Both the husband and wife were working and, with their sons, living a good life in New Mexico. Within one month both lost their jobs. It seemed as if we blinked and found ourselves struggling to stay above water,” the wife said.

They came to Denver to find work and spent the last of their savings waiting for the new job to begin. They found help through Family Promise, a nonprofit that helps families with shelter and support services.

The wife’s favorite thing about living in the church apartment is being able to do normal things like clean dishes, cook meals, watch TV, and be together as a family. She also enjoys spending time alone with her husband after they put their sons to sleep.

Soon, they will move into permanent housing and their lives can really get back to normal.

They are among the lucky ones.

As T.S. Eliot said, “Home is where you start from.” Without a home, you’re untethered.

The Denver Foundation survey revealed that homelessness is much more common than many believe. One in ten respondents had once been homeless themselves, and one in five had come close. Many of us are only one crisis away. What would you do? What would you miss?

Our extraordinarily low unemployment rate (2.1%) helps, but housing costs continue to rise. We’re a long way from Joey’s vision that “everyone should have a place to live.”

Meanwhile, we’ll keep working in our own little corners to do what we can to help one or two or ten people and take some comfort in knowing we made a difference to them. We’re trying, Joey.