Thursday, July 17, 2014

Make a Difference

This handsome fellow is made of scavenged lumber,
chicken wire, and Tyvek. He is the work of Katherine Settle,
a gifted artist and writer.

          My goal for this blog has always been simply to write essays that entertain people.

          However, today I'm going to do something that is pretty much the definition of the opposite of entertaining.

          I'm going to ask you for money.

          I have a friend—Katherine Settle, the artist who made the buffalo above—who works hard, is a great artist as well as a wonderful writer, and is unfailingly generous and kind. She's taught me to be a better writer and a better person. She is also divorced, with a kid, in rural Kansas, and she's struggling financially.

          She works as a university Teaching Assistant, a job which pays a little above the minimum wage. She sells her art work in a local gallery. She prioritizes the emergencies that seem to visit people with little money so very regularly. She scrambles to make it all work. But, as anyone knows who has ever tried to make a slender paycheck stretch all the way to the end of the month, those emergencies keep happening, and she's tapped out.

          She needs our help. Please, go to her page and make a donation.

          If you love the arts and want to make a real difference in an artist's life, please make a donation to Katherine.
          If you looked at the buffalo pictured above and said to yourself, "Wowza, what a great buffalo!" please make a donation to Katherine.
          If you're an avid reader, and want to make sure that the voice of a wonderful writer is heard, please make a donation to Katherine.
          If you remember the days when you struggled to make ends meet, please make a donation to Katherine.
          If you've been a single parent, please make a donation to Katherine.
          If you've ever had to forgo medical care because you couldn't afford it, please make a donation to Katherine.
          If you've had to jerry-rig a house repair because you couldn't afford it, please make a donation to Katherine.
          If you've ever looked at your elderly car and prayed, "Please don't die today," please make a donation to Katherine.
          If you've ever had a student loan to pay off, please make a donation to Katherine.
          If you've ever been the recipient of an act of kindness you weren't expecting, please make a donation to Katherine.
          If you've ever wanted to make a difference right here right now, please make a donation to Katherine.
          If you've ever enjoyed something I've written on this blog, please make a donation to Katherine.

          Thank you for making a difference in the life of my friend.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Summer Fun, According to K

          K's idea of a fun family project is anything that requires Digging Holes* and Lifting Heavy Things. Thus, last week's Fun family Project was a five-foot-tall Maximum Security Compost Bin that was, in K's opinion, both refreshingly heavy to lift and deliciously awkward to move into place. Unfortunately, no digging was required.

There is no escape for you now, compost!

          K rectified that tragic oversight with this week's Fun Family Project: a brick pad next to the back gate for the compost tumblers (we love our compost chez BanksWrites). Not only were there heavy things to lift (bricks! sand!), but there was also a hole to be dug in clay soil.

Precision digging skills were required.

          I discovered, while shifting bags of sand to their final destination**, that I can still hoist 50 pounds and carry it around. This surprised me, since I have long since given up the sport of my youth—throwing a 50-lb. sack of chicken feed on my shoulder and walking it up the hill to the chicken coop—for more sensible activities, none of which require horsing around 50-lb. bags of anything.***

          At a certain point in the laying of the brick, it became clear that this project was going to require the application of power tools.

          Now in both K's and my minds, the one thing that can turn a Fun Family Project into a Fabulous Family Project is the application of power tools. (It was how K lured me into helping him build the Maximum Security Compost Bin. "You can use the circular saw, Nancy!" he told me. "And the cordless drill! And the electric staple gun!" I was putty in his hands.)

          "We need to cut some bricks into smaller pieces for the edges," K told me. "It's too bad we don't have a tile saw."

          "Oh, but we do have a tile saw," I said. Several years ago, during the kitchen remodel on our previous house, I'd seen one of the crew use a portable tile saw and had become convinced that no well-managed household or art studio should be without one. And so I hied me to Home Depot and acquired one.

          K was awe-struck by my prescience. (This does not happen as often as I believe it should.) We located the tile saw, fired it up, and in no time at all the Fabulous Family Project was a Finished Family Project.

A perfect project—the finished brick pad does just exactly what it's supposed to do.
And power tools were required to make it.
*Preferably in heavy clay or stony soil.
**Filling the precision-dug hole so we could set the brick in it.
**Back in the day, I had not yet read the memo discussing the invention of an exciting new device—the wheel—and outlining its usefulness in the shifting of heavy items over long distances.