Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Home’ Category

Reality Bites

In Auntie Flat, Denver, Home, neighborhood on April 16, 2018 at 7:38 am

Once upon a time, my architect brother was trying to figure out how to make my property in North Denver work for both him and his wife and me. The idea was for him to redesign my house for them and add a small 5-600 square foot unit for me. They wanted out of Westminster, and I could no longer handle the upkeep of the house and yard by myself. He asked me to find houses in the area that I really liked for him to use as a model. I picked this house.
Located at the corner of 38th and Newton, this house had the historic character we all preferred. The yard was all garden instead of lawn. When I went to Carl’s after church yesterday, that house was gone, with nothing left but a hole in the ground.
I suppose they’ll build a modern, boxy, duplex and sell each unit for a million dollars. The same fate faces the recently closed and sold Dairy Queen one block west. In case you hadn’t noticed, the face of North Denver has changed. A lot.
I always loved Highland neighborhood and didn’t understand why others couldn’t see its potential. I longed for a little gentrification—a few shops with things I wanted to buy and a bit more variety in our restaurants. Be careful what you wish for.
I lived in the Potter-Highlands National Historic District, so my old neighborhood has remained largely unchanged by the mad development surrounding it. Unlike most people, I actually like the new modern buildings going up; I just wish there weren’t so many of them. I wish they hadn’t displaced so many of my neighbors. I wish they hadn’t taken over the whole area and changed the character of my beloved North Denver. I wish it were really true that the more things change the more they remain the same.
The street view of Google maps has some catching up to do.


Irrational Exuberance

In creativity, Friends, Home, music, Resistance on March 21, 2018 at 4:35 pm

The phrase “irrational exuberance,” was coined by Nobel laureate Robert Shiller and refers to the enthusiasm of investors not supported by reality. I’m using it here in a more general sense.
Even the most cursory glimpses of our world today reveals problems, so many problems that we can’t keep up.
If I turn on the news, I’m barraged with stories of women attacked in public places or their own homes, children abused,
childish and corrupt behavior from the man in the White House, the proliferation of racists crimes, threat of losing health care,
CEOs making 217 times the average worker’s salary, our crumbling infrastructure, the stimying of academic research for political reasons, sacrificing the environment to corporate greed, and reduced budgets for education.
I hear people screaming that anything they don’t like is “Fake News!” Other people scream unflattering names at the first group.
Wars slaughter men, women, and children all around the globe for stupid, petty reasons and new wars are threatened every day. And so on. Until I just can’t take it anymore.
I turn off the TV, sit back and breathe and try to clear my mind by turning my attention to the good things in my life.
It’s spring! Flowers are starting to bloom and trees to bud. I have plenty of books to read and words to write. I set my own schedule and answer to no one. I have love and joy and music and sunshine. I have church every week. To quote a friend, “It’s still a wonderful world.”
Yes, it is.
When confronted with bad news, I would like to think that I acknowledge it and do what I can, then, like the flower pictured, I’ll
find a scrap of soil and water and turn my face to the sun. I’ll put the shadows behind me and drink in the light.

Dream House

In Auntie Flat, creativity, Home on February 26, 2018 at 11:56 am

I have always longed to build my own house, but as a single woman with no money and no skills, that never happened. Instead, I read books about other women who built their own adobe casitas or cob cottages or log and stone cabins and envied them. Some, like Michael Pollan’s A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder, described building a studio space instead of a home.

As a child, I wanted a playhouse, a child-sized room of one’s own where I could play with my toys and read in solitude. Even after I grew up and a playhouse no longer made sense, I obsessed over literary characters who lived in minuscule houses—Kinsey Millhone and Laura Ingalls Wilder spring to mind. For a while, I thought about buying a park model RV, those just under 400 square foot mobile homes with their cunning floor plans and unexpected storage space.
In 1987, the same year I bought my not-very-large house in Highland, Les Walker published Tiny Tiny Houses or How To Get Away From It All. These little domiciles ranged from Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond to a fisherman’s shack and a Methodist campground cottage.
When the tiny house movement reared its little head, I was hooked and delighted to discover that most tiny house dwellers built their own mini domiciles, including some women of advanced years.
This movement encompasses a wide variety of structures including she sheds, writers’ retreats, granny flats, houseboats, and even commercial spaces.
In the book I’m currently reading, A Naturalist’s Cabin, author Cathy Johnson writes, “There was an enchantment in these tiny houses all out of proportion to their size.” Yes.
At age 70, I will not be building my own house, and I will probably never live in a tiny house, but I can dream, can’t I? Cathy Johnson’s dream came true because, “In the most serendipitous of lives, a lifelong dream becomes suddenly, inexplicably attainable. It appears like Brigadoon, where nothing was before and now, for reasons not yet quite understood, it is not only the chimera of dream but a distinct and tangible possibility. And more: it is fact.”
Sometimes dreams come true.

Something Old

In creativity, Home on February 21, 2018 at 6:39 am







For many years I had a big purple ceramic bowl. A gift from my brother and sister-in-law, who have excellent taste and know me very well, it was cone shaped with a flat bottom and served as the centerpiece on my dining room table at my old house. When I moved to my condo, I eighty-sixed the table because I no longer had room for it and never entertained anyway. The bowl moved to my breakfast counter. One night my cat went on one of those frantic random activity periods (fraps) that cats do, leaped onto the counter and skittered into my bowl sending it crashing to the floor. It didn’t quite break into a million pieces, more like 5-6 big ones and uncountable tiny fragments, and I reluctantly threw it away.
If I had known then about the Japanese art of Kintsugi, I might have saved it. The Japanese repair broken ceramics with a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum, making them even more precious than before instead of disguising the repair. It’s a lovely tradition and fits with my philosophy of “Use it Up, Wear It Out, Make it Do or Do Without.”
And yet, as much as I liked that bowl, I’m almost glad it’s gone.
I have a problem getting rid of stuff. Clutter-free gurus tell us that we need to expel things to give us breathing space and make room for something new to come. Things, they say, are just things and they need to flow through our lives so we don’t find ourselves mired in the past. Of course, everything we own comes from our past whether from decades ago or just this morning.
I’ve known people who threw out everything except what would fit in a backpack, which seems pretty extreme. I don’t really understand that impulse, and while I feel sorry for whoever has to clear out my belongings when I’m gone, I can’t see myself with so little stuff.
I like my books, even the ones I know I’ll never read again, and my collection of turquoise vases and Fiestaware pitchers and Beatles memorabilia and and and . . .
Still, when things break, I’ll continue to chuck them in the trash, even if I do it with regret.
Time to take Elsa’s advice and let it go.

My Favorite Holiday

In Arvada, Colorado, Denver, Home on January 31, 2018 at 1:59 pm

For a mostly ignored and disdained little bastard of a month, February has a lot going on. It’s Black History Month, plus features Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Chinese New Year, and my personal favorite, Groundhog Day. This year, the Olympics also run in February, so plenty to celebrate.
Why is Groundhog Day my favorite? I’m glad you asked. As you know, that’s the day Punxsutawney Phil ventures out into daylight and either sees his shadow or not. If he sees his shadow, he runs back into his hole for six more weeks of winter; if not, he predicts an early spring which will take about six weeks to get here. Either way, spring is on the way.
Even with six more weeks of cold and blustery weather, I always think of February as the beginning of spring because that’s when the flowers start to bloom in Colorado. It will probably be toward the end of the month when we will see the first crocus and daffodils begin to bloom, frequently poking up through snow. That will be an exciting day.
Next, come tulips followed my phlox and iris and snowdrops and then everything else. Everybody freaks out when we have snow after the flowers start blooming, but these are hardy Colorado flowers, I tell people. The only thing I worry about is a late hard freeze after the lilac buds are set because that could kill the lilacs, my favorite flower. A year without lilacs is a very bad thing.
Yes, we have plenty more cold weather on the way. February is, after all, the second coldest month her on the high plains. Yet, we will also begin to see evidence that spring is just around the corner.
I’m ready.

Walk of Life

In Home, Learning, neighborhood on January 26, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Now that I’ve started to establish my new walking habit, it has become blatantly obvious that I need new shoes. My old ones are several years old now and broken down so they provide no support for my poor feet. So today, I’m going to a running/walking shoe store to see if they can fit my weirdly shaped feet. I prefer something in purple (big surprise) but I’m not holding my breath.
Next, following the admonition to “make it so easy you can’t say no,” I need to find some places to walk, that I don’t have to drive to. That means staying here in Olde Town at least part of the time, which requires rethinking my pronouncement that it’s boring. I’ll enjoy it more as spring flowers start to bloom through the snow next month.
Even easier would be to use the treadmill in my condo’s gym. Yes, my condo has a fully equipped gym just steps from my door, but since I can think of nothing more boring than using a treadmill even while watching TV or listening to an audiobook, I’m keeping that as my backup plan for foul weather days.
I can do this.
I’ve found several places just a short drive away including
Lowell Ponds State Wildlife area
Prospect Park along Clear Creek
Ralston Creek Trail
Crown Hill Park and Wildlife Preserve
and I might go walk around my old neighborhood in North Denver.
Who knows? Someday I might venture to the mountains to (gulp) hike. People enjoy that I understand. Imagine.
Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.” I want to spend at least part of my life walking around. In musical terms, I won’t be walking on the wild side, but Dire Straits might say I’m doing the walk of life.
Update: I went to Roadrunner Sports today and bought a pair of good walking shoes. They were so comfortable I didn’t want to take them off.

High Country

In Home on January 17, 2018 at 4:40 pm

Let’s talk about beds. I visited a friend who showed me around her new condo, and when we got to her bedroom, I saw that her bed was about three feet high. “Do you need a ladder to get in that thing?” I asked her. She, apparently being more agile than I although not much taller or younger, said she needs a step stool when her grandchildren visit.
I’ve seen these monster beds in interior design magazines, but that was the first one I’d run across in real life. What is up with these things? Stores sell risers if you want to lift your ordinary bed into the heights, but I don’t understand why I would want to.
I like to sit on the edge of my bed to put on my shoes, something I couldn’t do on a bed that left my feet dangling a foot above the floor. I also worry about forgetting I’m at altitude when I have to get up in the middle of the night. At my age, a fall could break a hip.
Someone told me he heard they are to make women feel like queens. Really? I feel like a queen because of the way a certain gentleman treats me, not because of the height of my bed.
Another anomaly is the depth of your mattress. They now range from about three inches to sixteen or more. Maybe we just weren’t buying enough beds, so the manufacturers went crazy and started to offer scores of options. It causes problems when buying sheets, some of which, I understand, now come to fit multiple depths.
My mattress is a standard full size, although queen size is the new standard, so it can be tricky to find sheets in that size. A queen would have taken up all the floor space in my old Victorian-era house, and I only sleep on one half of it anyway. The rest is Radley’s territory. He doesn’t need more space.
If you know what the mania for big beds is all about or if you own one, please enlighten me. I don’t get it.

TV No More

In Home on January 3, 2018 at 6:15 pm

They called us the TV generation. The first baby boomers were born in 1946, the same year broadcast television started after WWII. Some called it a perfect fit.

We got our first television when I was about 5, a big, heavy piece of furniture with a small screen that showed only black and white shows because that’s all there was. In Denver, we had four channels—2, 4, 7, 9. Amateurish local shows (remember Fred and Fay?) supplemented the meager national shows like I Love Lucy, Dragnet (just the facts, ma’am), and Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts. Everybody watched Ed Sullivan on Sunday night.

The stations didn’t broadcast 24/7. There wasn’t enough programming for that. Instead, they signed off at night and ran a test pattern until programming resumed the next day.

Eventually, of course, production caught up with demand, and television aired all day every day. I’m not sure this was progress, although I certainly took advantage of it. I’d go home from school every day and watch TV or read. Back then I preferred old movies. Charlie Chan was a particular favorite. As I grew older, I stayed up to watch Steve Allen on the Tonight Show. You bet your bippy.

When cable finally came to Denver in the early 80s, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven until I realized that we really did have, as Bruce Springsteen said, “57 channels and nothing on.” We always had reruns. I remained a television devotee through the VHS years when I religiously taped my favorite shows if I couldn’t watch them.

My interest began to wane when the writers’ strike of 1988 ushered in the era of unscripted (really?) reality shows, which with one or two exceptions, I loathe. About then it also began to dawn on me that most TV shows were aimed at an audience of adolescent boys.

Still, cable was getting better, producing more shows for a more varied audience, and I hung in there.

About four years ago, however, I was over Comcast. I cut the cord, bought a Roku and digital antenna, and subscribed to Netflix and Amazon Prime. Suddenly it seemed that there was too much on TV. I couldn’t keep up.

And then something came along that made me more interested in my own life than in the made-up lives of people in a television series. Maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime. I realized that television was just a seat filler in my life, something to do when I didn’t have anything to do. The news is unrelentingly horrible, so I stopped watching everything but my soap opera and The Big Bang Theory on broadcast TV. I watch Longmire on Netflix and just started The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon when I can find the time, usually on Saturdays.

I don’t miss it.

The Christmas Plate

In Christmas, Home on December 25, 2017 at 6:36 pm

I have a special plate that I use for my Christmas meal. I don’t know where or when I got it, but I’m sure it came from a thrift store or garage sale many years ago. There’s nothing specifically Christmasy about it, no holly or Santa or Christmas tree image. Instead, it has a bunch of ordinary flowers–roses, asters–circled by a wreath of forget-me-nots. The plate itself is square with rounded corners and I just have the one, no matching pieces.

Maybe that’s why it’s my special holiday plate because, for me at least, it’s one of a kind.

I bought both red and green Fiestaware dishes to use for Christmas, but since they’re my everyday dishes, too, it doesn’t seem right to use them for special occasions.

It always struck me as ridiculous to have a set of everyday dishes and another set of “company” dishes although I think that’s probably the norm in middle-class America. So what’s up with my special Christmas plate? I’m never even tempted to use it any other time of the year.

I like the shape and the colorful flowers, but I like best that isn’t fancy. I bought it for maybe a quarter. It was made by the Crooksville China Co. in Crooksville, Ohio, probably in the early part of the twentieth century. I like that it’s old and well-used.

I used it today for my ham and scalloped potatoes and baked beans. Next time I see it will be Easter. It makes me happy.

Christmas Blizzard

In Christmas, Denver, Home on December 23, 2017 at 6:53 pm

Street lined with buried cars after the Blizzard Of ’82. Denver Post Library Archive

My Secular Advent, Day Twenty-one
Everybody has a story. If you were here in 1982, you remember the Blizzard of ’82. Snow started falling in Denver overnight, and by the time I woke up the morning of Christmas Eve, we already had several inches on the ground.
My parents and I were driving to Fort Collins to spend Christmas Eve with my brother’s family. I knew a little snow would never deter my dad, but because of the heavy snow, I left a little early for my parent’s house. I barely made it.
By the time I slid to the curb at the front of their house, we had well over a foot of snow on the ground and it was still coming down, harder than ever. My parents couldn’t believe I had risked the drive to their house and I was already regretting it because it was clear I’d be there until the storm ended.
If you lose respect for me because of what I’m going to say next, I’ll understand. I decided I couldn’t live without popcorn and Coke, so in whiteout conditions, I walked through snow up to my knees to the convenience store two blocks away. Much of the time I had no idea what direction I was going, so I only made it there by pure dumb luck. Emphasis on dumb.
I ended up with the mother of all colds, sick in bed at my parents’ house for the next three days. My mom and I didn’t get along well under the best of circumstances, and me being around other people for more than a couple hours at a time is not a pretty sight. Somebody could have died.
If you think this will turn into one of those stories where everything works out for the best and the people rediscover how much they love and cherish one another, sorry. The minute my dad and I could dig out my car and the news reports indicated that getting around town was possible, if barely, I hightailed it out of there.
I had to park two blocks away from my apartment, but I was thrilled and relieved to finally be home. My lesson that Christmas was, “There’s no place like home.” So, just in case you’re wondering, I’ll be home for Christmas.
That’s my story. What’s yours?