Tuesday, December 8, 2009

You Can Make a Silk Purse Out of a Sow's Ear

This is my Mama...she was raised during the Great Depression....She lived in grinding poverty...just look at the natural grace and class she had.... so read on.
Well, I don't mean that literally. What I mean is, no matter what your station in life economically, there are ways to make things pretty. These are "the girls", who came running everytime we were working in our 4,000 sq. ft. garden in Wisconsin. The first few seasons, we grew too many vegetables to put up, and much of it went to the local food bank...the no longer fit to eat, went to the "girls". I've always wanted to use this in a greeting card, with the caption, "Your name came up at lunch today"....don't steal it...mine, all mine. I love the photo. We are by no means wealthy; in fact, the recession and my move from Wisconsin has pretty much shut down my business, but I do have a resourceful husband, who has been consulting for nearly two years, so I thank God everyday that I still have my lovely home, and way too much to eat.
What does this have to do with design, you ask? You don't have to live in a "McMansion", or have a house in "The Hamptons", to live with beauty and grace. When I was first married - not to this husband, by the way. My father-in-law said to me; 'you have a way of making simple things beautiful"..which started my foray into interior design.

I lived for awhile in my Grandparent's "shack" in Oklahoma - Cherokee...dirt floors, tin roof (they are fashionable now, but I bet they don't say "RC Cola" on them. This is me, in my grandmother's arms...my sister (the whitest Cherokee kid on the block), and my cousin, who's mother was full-blood - I am a bit over a quarter, but proud of my heritage. As you can see, that porch doesn't know whether to stand up, or fall down. Even though the floors were dirt, my grandmother would sprinkle them with water, and sweep and tamp them down until they were like concrete (funny, my house has stained concrete floors, all the rage, don't you know). She made rag rugs out of scraps of fabric, and quilts, and even clothes and curtains for us out of flour sacks (they were printed with flowers back then). This wasn't a hundred years ago...I am 61, but don't tell anyone.

This was my grandfather, who was a mule skinner...I once had a city friend ask, "what did they do with the skins?" - a mule skinner drove a team of mules. He was rough, tough, and hard to diaper, and drank homemade "shine", and lived to be 96. He used to take me to the woods, and set me on a stump, while he smoked out bees from the hive in a tree, and always gave me a chunk of beewax, dripping with honey. He also would shoot mistletoe down from Blackjack trees, and we would sell it in town.

My grandmother (center) loved to fish...she didn't like to eat it, but we did eat a great deal of catfish...She would take Rex Lard buckets (quite a pretty red, actually), and plant "moss rose" in them, and hang them on the porch (not too many, as it would pull it down on top of us).

This was my grandmother on my father's side...I took the photo when she was in her late seventies...all those years of chopping cotten in the fields took their toll. Remember ladies, sunscreen...She sat by my grandfather's bed for ten years (he smoked, and was on oxygen all the time), and pieced together quilts...not beautiful, but pretty...and functional. Remember...form follows function

I came across this photo this morning, and the one of the pigs, and that's what got me started on this - We lived in poverty, but we had beauty around us...we lived in beautiful country, with hills, and lakes, and trees to climb, and berries to pick, and wild flowers...It's much easier being poor in the country. At least now, inner city kids are getting garden programs and hopefully, some introduction to art by taking them to museums.

So, if there's not enough money to paint the entire house, or even a room, go to Home Depot to the "whoops pile" of paint, and you can get a gallon for $5.00. Go to the supermarket in July, and you can find glads for $2.00 a bunch. Or just stop for a moment, and gaze at a wildflower.

I have done multi-million dollar homes, and I have done modest homes...I have also learned that just because a person is wealthy, doesn't mean they have good taste.

There is the dictum, "If it isn't beautiful or useful, get rid of it"....Which is what I am doing this afternoon...cleaning out my closet.

I hope this hasn't been too self indulgent. But for those of you, who feel you are not able to have a lovely home...a clean home, a simple home, and alot of love for it is just fine.


  1. Loved this! Your family story is facinating, the photos moving (is that you touching heads with Grandmother, your Grandmothers hands tell a story, Oklahome homestead in the late '40's,eager piggys waiting at the fence!), your philosophy of home beauty, engendered I think from your Grandmother and her moss roses, is true and kind. Thank you for sharing some of YOUR "interior" and I look forward to more.

  2. What a beautiful story. Oh how I would love to go back to those simpler times. They said it was hard but I think I would take that more satisfying hard than the hard we face today. You have a beautiful family. Take care. I am glad I found your blog!

  3. Isabelle,Darlin',
    Yes that's me with the fat legs that Grandma was holding...I was a chunk, (still am, with a long time of being slender in between, what comes' round, goes rounder)...HA!
    My grandmother struggled and worked harder than we can imagine..she did washing in a huge, wrought iron tub, over an open fire..she hauled water-not from the well, but from the creek. When people would stop by to "visit", she would offer up a dipper of water, out of a bucket, but she did it with grace and with a good heart. Yes, she taught me so much.

  4. Hello, and thanks,
    I joined your blog, and loved the Nativity film...
    Things are hard now...they were hard then...
    I think we worry more about our children now...before, parents (and grandparents) truly believed that their children (and grandchildren) would have a better life than them..now, it's so hard to say.
    Treasure these times with your family, for it passes in the blink of an I.
    Boy, I am getting sentimental these days!

  5. I love family photos. Those sound like wonderful memories. My husbands mother just turned 87 and she still yard sales and sells at the flea market every Saturday.(yes, she's on the road still driving. Yikes!)All 4'10" of her. They're somethig else aren't they.

  6. Let's hope we can be as active as them..my mother-in-law is 88, and I can't keep up with her!

  7. What a beautiful, touching and timely post! I am so glad you told your story and the story of your heritage.
    I also got an New Year's resolution ( and I wasn't even looking for one) from this post.
    "If it isn't beautiful or useful get rid of it". I am going to use this as my mantra as I go through my home in 2010! Thanks for the very special post!

  8. What a beautiful and "rich" heritage you have! Thank you for sharing it so eloquently!

  9. Brakes and Gas,
    You area building a "heritage" for your daughter...and doing a great job of it.