Thursday, September 22, 2011


In my former life, I worked on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged. I raised money, I created public service campaigns, I did some policy the non-profit world, everyone wears many hats.  My LAST non-profit job, before I got pregnant and became a stay-at-home mom, was as the Communications and Development Director for Goodwill Industries of Central Texas -- a very large and extremely well-run non-profit, which operates thrift stores to raise money to provide vocational training and other services for people with disabilities.

I don't know if it's a response to Texas being so bad at taking care of its poor and disadvantaged through governmental policies and agencies, or if it's that Austin is such a hippy-kind of Reduce/Reuse/Recycle kind of town, but whatever the cause, the effect is that the non-profits are really well organized for accepting donations and getting them to people who need them.

When we moved from Texas to New York, one of the big differences that was immediately apparent was how people put their perfectly good household goods out by the curb for trash pick-up instead of donating them to various local charities.  It made/makes me so sad to see so much useable stuff going into the landfill when I know poor families would love to have it.

But here's the thing: I totally understand it now.

Trying to donate up here is just an exercise in frustration and bad juju. We've tried donating to the Goodwill by our house, which is small and dingy and not even very welcoming as a STORE. Every time we went to donate, we were greeted by surly people who informed us of all the things the non-profit no longer accepted, including furniture, books and TOYS.  Which...



Anyway, we stopped even trying to donate there because it left us with such a bad feeling.

Today, I had a van load of donations that I'm clearing out of my old house. It included very gently worn children's clothing, barely touched toys and puzzles, some expensively framed artwork, curtains, dishes, bed linens, etc.  I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that this was good stuff.  If we had any family up here, we would have given it to them.

I decided to try the Salvation Army.

I drove into the parking lot. The huge gate was open, but the store was still closed.  There was a donation area, but it was clearly marked, "Shoes and Clothing Only." I drove around the building again, looking for a sign of where to donate the other stuff.  There wasn't one, but I could clearly see flower arrangements, toys, furniture, candle holders, etc. in the windows of the store, so I knew if they SOLD that stuff, they had to take donations of it. Not knowing where to donate, I stacked a bunch of boxes of my donations in a corner by the clothing and shoes donation area. I knew this wasn't the right thing to do, but I couldn't see where else to put them. As I was putting out the last box, a guy came out of the store and approached me, still smoking a cigarette.

He surveyed my donations.

"Well, I guess I could get a shopping cart and move them up to the front," he said.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't tell where to donate these items.  I'd be glad to move them if there's a different place."

He began to berate me. "There's a sign on every single one of these bins that says, "Please don't leave anything outside of the boxes."

I said, "I know, but I couldn't find a sign of where else to donate.  Is there a sign..."

"On every single box."

"No, is there a sign that tells me..."

"It says "Don't stack things here" on every single box!"

"I saw that, but what I couldn't find a sign about where..."

"ON EVERY SINGLE BOX.  People dump stuff here!  Now I have to get a cart and move this stuff and it's a real pain." He blew his foul cigarette breath all over me.

"I'm very sorry. I couldn't find another place to donate these things that aren't shoes and clothing."

"How about the front door?"

"Is there a sign there that says it's okay to donate there? How do donors find out where to donate things that aren't shoes and clothing?"

"Uh, common sense?"

At which point, I said, "I am leaving now. And you're welcome."

I drove away, sick to my stomach. What should have been feel good exercise (my husband donated a 32-channel Mackie mixer to our daughters' school last week. The school practically threw a party for him.), ended up being yet another situation where someone unleashed his unspent fury at me. I kept reminding myself that I was trying to do a good thing by donating. I really was. I know that if those donations get into the hands of people who need them, they'll be appreciated.

I wish I'd never taken my stuff there, though.

And the rest of my donations?  The one that I think would be welcome in the homes of most poor families with kids?

Going out by the curb.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Settling In

There are still a lot of boxes hanging around from our move, but they are gradually decreasing in number. Today I hung a bunch of pictures, which made me feel really at home. I mean, I may be stepping over boxes, but at least there's something on the walls, dang it!

Some pictures of our pictures:

Living room. (Yes, that picture was hanging somewhere else initially.)

Sun nook(?)  (I don't know what to call this cool space.)

Dining area. (There is a formal dining room, but it currently has Jane's drum set and our piano in it.)

Bar area in kitchen.
Hallway to kitchen: home to my beloved Kandinsky print.
New home of the gorgeous antique German wall clock that my Father-in-Law gave us.

Guest bathroom
I was just reveling in how at home I was feeling when there was a knock at the door and these were delivered:
They were from our new landlords, along with a note welcoming us and hoping that we were settling in.

It's been about 20 years since I last rented a house, but I don't remember this being standard operating procedure back then.  How lucky did we get to find not only the perfect house but these lovely and gracious people to work with?

You know how sometimes you get these moments filled with near-painful happiness and hope for the future?  It's like that.

(Also, I swear to patch every last one of the holes made by those pictures.)

Saturday, September 10, 2011


We've been really busy.

We've survived an earthquake, a hurricane, moving households and a plague of locust. (Okay, okay, so it was really just an incredibly loud cricket who chirped the entire night from up high in our living room, but still.)

We really DID have an earthquake, though, all along the east coast.  The girls and I didn't actually feel it because we were outside, but Coop really felt it at his office and made everyone evacuate to the parking lot.  I love this Facebook picture that made the rounds after the quake:
(I don't know who created this or I would give credit to that person. Love to give credit to people who make me laugh!)
So, then we had a hurricane.  A real hurricane which knocked our power out early Sunday morning for six days, which wasn't as much fun as you might think, even if we hadn't been trying to pack for our big move. In some ways, I feel like we lost the last week of summer vacation dealing with the aftermath of the storm, even though we escaped much of the destruction felt by some of our neighbors.

I'm convinced that you underestimate your dependence on electricity until you suddenly have none.  It's not just the isolation of being (shudder) without Internet, either. Luckily, my husband's car has an outlet in it so we could recharge our cell phones and lap tops and even try to make coffee:

The coffee pot kept shutting off so we were reduced to heating water in a fondue pot over a sterno can and pouring it over the grounds.

Sterno: also good for cooking eggs.
We made s'mores in the fireplace:

and did some watercolor painting by candle light:

and then, by golly, the novelty wore off.  About the time I had to throw away everything in our freezer (except the tortillas my parents had just sent from Texas, thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster), I was about DONE with the whole experience.

Especially because we were packing by flashlight.

Luckily, our new landlord, who was in town emptying our new house and opening the pool, etc., during the hurricane, turned the house over to us  a few days early.  (The rental house never lost power, but is equipped with a generator just in case...yesssss.) We dragged some mattresses over to the new house and by Tuesday night (August 30), were happily camping in the new house.

And thus began the move.

Ana, 13, moving in essentials.

First load of laundry.  It was almost the first thing I did since we'd been without power for several days and had a lot of wet towels from drying everyone's feet...
First attempt to move the tea cabinet.  Alas, it had to be moved again.
First game of fetch at the new house.
First pizza.
First plant planted. (Basil.)
First picture hung.
First chocolate-chip pancakes.
First flowers.  (Because my husband never, ever forgets, even in the midst of ultimate chaos.)
We moved the cats on Wednesday.
Thomas, exhibiting a bit of stress over the move.
First sighting of The Tail in the new house.

 The movers moved all of the big stuff on Friday and Saturday.  I was too overwhelmed to take pictures.  But gradually, we're settling into the new house.

First official party
The puppy has forgotten he ever lived anywhere else.

Edward is feeling at home.

We're still cleaning out the old house, but should be finished with that over the next three-four days and then we'll really be able to settle into the new place and make it our home.