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Up-Cycling Before Up-Cycling Was Cool

I have to say that I love the term up-cycle, it is so cool. It implies not only recycling and reducing but remaking something as well. I love the idea of taking something, say a twin size foot board, and painting it with chalkboard paint then mounting it on the wall as a communication center for your family. Up-cycling means crawling out of the box and re-thinking how we use things, assigning a new value if necessary.

My mother and grandmother were doing this sort of thing before it was cool. Their motivation was normally driven by a lack of funds rather than an environmental concern but it was keeping things out of the landfill either way. One of my fondest memories, now that I am no longer an embarrassed teen, is driving over to the community of Summerfield the first week of June to scrounge through the ditch beside the church. I can imagine what you must be thinking at this point so let me explain what we were doing there. Where I grew up, Southwest Virginia, it was very common for each church/cemetery to have what we called Decoration Day where folks could come and place flowers or other items on the graves of loved ones. It just so happened that the cemetery where my grandfather and other maternal grandparents were buried, Mt. Vale, had Decoration Day on the third Sunday of June each year. This was great timing for my resourceful maternal teachers as Summerfield Cemetery had Decoration Day in early May and would toss the plastic flowers off the graves into the ditch around the first of June. We would put on pants and long sleeve shirts, drive over to Summerfield and tromp through the tall grass to gather the plastic flowers from the ditch and take them home. Once home we would lay them out in the back yard and spray them off with the garden hose to get the spiders out. Then we would pull each flower out of the florist foam and recreate new bouquets in large white baskets that my grandmother  had on hand for just this reason. She would tie fresh new bows on each arrangement in the baskets and we would keep them in the outbuilding until it was time to deliver them to Mt. Vale where they would grace the graves of loved ones long gone. After a couple of weeks they would be tossed over the bank and we would go gather them up, take them home and watch as my grandmother again would recreate smaller arrangements in vases bought at thrift shops. These arrangements would be sold at our annual summer yard sale.

How funny it is to think that it never entered her mind to go purchase new artificial flowers for the memorial baskets. It taught me to look at things not as they may appear in this very moment but to see them as they may be, given a bit of time and creativity; a valuable lesson indeed.

Tammy Sparrow

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Owner & Co-Chick; A California transplant who crew up in a tiny town on the Virginia/North Carolina border, Tammy roamed through the woods and dreamed of traveling to exotic places. She has a BA in English/Creative Writing from Hollins University and a certification in Interior Design from Orange Coast College. She has a background in retail sales, merchandising, interior design,customer service,and delivering (often unsolicited) advice to friends and customers. She has been a fan of yard sales, flea markets and second hand stores for as long as she can remember.

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