Tag Archives: thrift store finds

These Boots were made for Writing?

26943464_1870425129635209_1410684589_nAbout this time last year, my friend Cami Ostman and I were tucked up four days near Naples, Florida. We’ve been friends since we were about 18, and writing buddies about ten years.

When I sold my writing cabin in Tennessee, we lamented that our usual retreat couldn’t happen, holed up with pre-made casseroles and wine, knocking out our latest narratives and reading them to each other to smooth the rough edges. Cami and I both find that drafting a book’s bones is best done in an intense huddle of anti-social time hoarding. To everything there is a season, and when writing time gets smooshed between all the other pulls of normal life, it gravitates toward the back burner. Better to start the year with a dedicated blast, upping the stakes to keep going.

Cami wondered it it were a plot for a horror novel when I sent her this message: “I’m sure there’s some nice person out there who’s read one of your books or mine, who’s got a she-shed or a rental property we could borrow for a week. Lemme ask.” But the response from Cynthia Piwowarczyk and her husband Jim sounded like heaven. She was a voice-over actor, he director of a non-profit. Two spare bedrooms, a pool in the backyard, a few blocks from a running trail around a lake, and don’t bring any wine or snacks because her husband’s job meant he had about a hundred gift basket items left over from Christmas, and they didn’t drink.

Cami messaged me: either this is set-up for the scariest movie ever, or we just hit the jackpot. Indeed we had. The worst moment of that time with the sweetest, smartest couple in the world was trying to spell their last name on the thank-you card.

We followed our usual pattern: three days of intense writing, emerging evenings to socialize (read: drink wine) and chat with the couple. And then a day of gleeful reward: Cynthia took us to the beach for the morning, and arranged to meet us in the afternoon for girl time. We got frozen ice juices, we ate crepes, we went shopping.

Cynthia and I shared a penchant for thrift stores, so left Cami in a cafe with her laptop to careen through a few big places, chatting and impulse buying and talking each other into and out of silly things.

Mindful that I’d flown with hand luggage, when I first saw the boots, I passed. But Cynthia had a good eye. The second time she saw me glancing back, she asked, “What? Those plaid waders?”

My guilty secret came out: I’d always wanted a pair of decorative gum boots, Scottie dogs or polka dots or some such. Cyndi studied the red and yellow lines of the pattern. “I don’t think it gets any more decorative than this, dear.”

So I flew home from Florida with second-hand knee-high rubber boots stuffed into my bag, dirty knickers stuffed into the boots. Security waved me through after one disgusted look. The officer changed her gloves.

And for a year, those boots sat in the back of my closet, because winter was mild and summer was dry in Southwest Virginia. They survived several closet purges and a Maria Kondo phase, because they brought me joy. Even if I never wore them, now I had a pair of cool hipster knee-highs.

Fast forward to the invitation to be writer in residence in Fayette, West Virginia from January-March of this year. As David, a long-time friend said, “You want to go where, WHEN?!”

I arrived when the weather had reached -4 just from temperature, windchill dropping it another few degrees. People were warned about freezing times of exposed flesh. No one was driving–except Amy and Shawn, owners of the flat that sponsored the residency. They took me on a scenic tour of the New River Gorge in their jeep. Nobody out there but us and one lone runner we encountered at the bottom. He stared at us like we were crazy.

And for the next three weeks, any time I stepped outside the apartment, I needed the boots. At last. I packed them more as a memento of the previous year’s week of glorious productivity, but also they were the only weather-proof shoes I owned. I tend to be a minimalist footwear girl.

So I guess these boots are now a connective theme. Next year, if I get the residency I’ve applied for in Yellowknife (yes, in the cold part of Canada) they’ll get use again. Meanwhile, they’ll sit in the back of my closet, a reminder that, to everything there is a season.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

The Plates of Breakage

Sometimes ya just want a little retail therapy. Even amidst the voices about “live simply, that others may simply live,” even after you’ve read “AFFLUENZA” and admitted to excesses, even taking Marie Kondo to heart, there are days when you just wanna go shopping.

Especially when your sister you rarely get to see is in town, and the two of you take Mom on a thrift store ramble. Off we went, three girls on a mission to visit all the thrift stores we could before Mom conked out. (Four.)

At the second one, SCORE. I found a brand-new duvet (those huge down comforters one rarely sees outside high end department stores) for $5. Those things are like $120 retail!

Standing in line to pay for this fluffy find, my eye fell on a stack of eight glass plates taped together. I picked them up. Old glass. Heavy glass. GOOD glass. Unusual design.

IMG_2480“I don’t need plates.” Feeling virtuous, I set them back on the counter.

My sister leaned over. “$1.25.”

“Each?” Mom asked, looking interested.

Tracy shook her head. “All together.”

Don’t judge me. They fit nicely packed inside the duvet. And I liked them, and I make my own money, and gosh darn it if I want to spend $1.25 on something silly, I can.

Home we went, where I opened the car door to unload the duvet – and all eight plates crashed to the ground. Sigh…..

Two were shattered, one lightly chipped. I did a quick attitude adjustment: now I only had to store six plates, and they’d just gone from 15 cents each to 20. Big whoop. I adjusted the dinner guest list: four friends over instead of six.

Back home that night I showed Jack my finds.

“We didn’t need plates,” said my Scotsman husband.

“Need didn’t have a thing to do with it,” I huffed, setting them on the table.

A few hours later, we heard a loud crash. Upstairs, where they were not meant to be, a kitten had gotten past security and hooked her claws into the tablecloth. Down one new plate, but the rest had simply tipped off the table onto the duvet I was going to put away later. One slight chip not mentioned, five usable plates remained. 25 cents each wasn’t really the point. Should I have bought something I didn’t need?IMG_2419

I called our friends Beth and Brandon. “Y’all need to come and eat before I break all the new plates I got for us to eat off of.”

Beth being the family vet and Brandon my chiropractor, as well as family friends, they’re used to idiosyncratic sudden phone calls.

“OK” was all Beth said.

Four plates to eat from, one to serve on… you know what’s coming, right? With an artistic cheese platter arranged elegantly amidst olives and strawberries (I repeat, don’t judge me; they made a nice color combo) on plate five, I tripped. Over thin air. Or maybe the kittens set up a yarn trap; they thought the resultant cheese spill was the Best. Thing. Ever.

We ate leftover pizza from the four plates of breakage. The plan now is to use them until Christmas is over, then throw however many are left into a fireplace. It’s not like 31 cents per plate prohibits this for fun. At this point, perhaps they owe me money.

Nor will they be wasted, these extravagant items purchased for no other reason than glass lust. I have a friend, Susan Powers, who Makes Things. She recycles broken materials, and inherited plate six the day after it fell. When we shatter the remaining Plates of Breakage, she will assist the phoenix that rises from their crystal splinter ashes.

Reduce, reuse, recycle–retail? I dunno, but those plates have bought us more fun than $1.25 ever should.




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Filed under home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch