Colorful Junk Store by Jen Spaker

Long before it was trendy, I had a thing for junk shops.

Fully aware of the shift in common parlance since the days of Fred Sanford, we now call them thrift stores (aka 2nd hand), resale outlets, consignment shops or the really big show – the proverbial swap meet. But for all of that, I still like junk. There is just a certain ring to it I like. There is no halogen accent lighting or wide aisles designed to compliment the retail experience in a junk shop. You do however, run across some really neat stuff and equally interesting people.

Years ago I had such a gestalt experience when we were out looking for a dresser. Neither shiny or new, it knew its’ function. It held a lot. But beyond that, I saw a beauty in its’ form from across the crowded room. I don’t know all the buzz-words, but I knew I liked it. I could see it was all good wood…maybe walnut with some ash thrown in for good measure. No pressed board or plastic anywhere in sight. This dresser was serious furniture.

That being said, it wasn’t all harp music in the Hallways of Wood. We were, after all, in a junk store.

When the dresser was first built, there were three drawer pulls for the top two drawers – one at the top and a middle drawer using handles to make it look like two. That day, my adopted walnut dresser was sporting two broken ones, each handle halved with the third having entered the witness protection program, leaving only two little holes as testimony to where it had once been stationed. I remember saying at the time, “That’s no big deal. They’re just handles. We can replace them easily…if that’s all that’s wrong, we got a deal. $50 bucks? Can’t beat it.”

Though dirty and covered with years of dust, I could almost hear the dresser speaking to me, ‘Take me home’. So we did.


Sweating the dresser up two flights of stairs, its’ heft served as Exhibit B to its well-made pedigree. Once inside, we cleaned it up, giving the wooden skin a much needed facelift thanks to plenty of elbow grease and a hefty dose of Murphy Soap. Next, we followed its bath by rubbing tung oil into her grain with a soft cloth.

Wax on. Wax off.  The dresser loved it so much she glowed.

That was 20-years ago and this morning, as the sun was rising, another realization dawned on me. The dressers’ handles remain today, just as they were the day we found each other.

I know, I know. It’s not like stores don’t sell replacement handles to fit the pre-existing holes waiting to receive them. They do. It is also true that for years now, opening the drawers has not been as easy as it could have been had I actually gotten around to replacing the handles. Actually, it isn’t that I haven’t replaced them. I simply haven’t completed the restoration, or at least that’s what I’ve told myself over the years. It’s just that there always seemed to be something else that always took precedence. “I’ll get to it later…” Not surprisingly, ‘later’ never seemed to show up. All of which brings me to the subject of suffering.


Suffering is all about perspective. A hard-working mother struggles for years in order to put her kid through college. She suffered. And we think it noble. A cancer patient slogs through chemo and we marvel at their resolve in the face of their suffering. So sad. Noble, but sad. Totally unaware of the translation problems with the King James Version (KJV), I remember wondering as a child why Jesus would ‘suffer the little children’ to come unto Him? Who does that?

Here’s my unique twist on the suffering thing. Despite what Hollywood may want us to think, not many folks I’ve ever known want to admit they are, or have suffered from depression (now or in the past). But I have. In fact, it can still bite me on the ‘where I sit down’ if I’m not watching. I had a wise old clinician draw a useful parallel for me between depression and alcoholism. You always have some of it in you. The key is all about how you manage it; how you function in the face of it. Ask any diabetic walking through Willie Wonka’s factory and they’ll tell you pretty much the same thing. Any one of these scenarios can be filled with suffering. I should know. I do it well. I should have been a monk.

But back to the furniture.

Broken Dresser

It isn’t like it was impossible to open the dresser drawers. I have adapted my motion to just pull on the remaining stubs in order to open the drawer and get the clothes I need. On the Humanity Scale, it may not be high on the suffering index, but it has been more difficult than it ever needed to be. And that’s where my theme comes back in.

Having felt ‘less than‘ for the first 2/3rds of my life, doing things the hard way seemed like character building and penance all rolled into one. 2 for 1! Who doesn’t love a sale?

What dawned for me this morning was I’ve been doing things the hard way for so long, it has become my ‘normal’. So much so that I don’t even realize it when it is happening. So let’s do the math. When I don’t communicate, simple things (or things someone would have been happy to help me with) get complicated. And if my life is complicated, or things are harder than they need to be, the chances of me being happy (or at least content) go way down. And if I’m suffering (ergo, not happy), I must be doing something right. Yes, that’s the sum-total of the life I was taught to lead from my earliest memory. If it makes you happy, it’s probably sinful. Ergo, the best way to be holy is to insure misery and suffering at every opportunity. There will be plenty of time to be happy in Heaven, right?

chained elephant foot

And now? Those people are dead and gone. Yet, like an elephant trained from infancy, there are times I still continue acting like I’m wearing a chain on my leg. In fact, it can happen (without warning) more often than I would like to admit. But truth be told, the only place left where such mind-control still lives is between my own ears. It’s particularly vexing when I’m on autopilot and just going through the motions. Intellectually, I know all this. But in the moment?

This just in…having found Love, suffering is not really all that noble and it doesn’t make us holy”.

When I’m suffering (or going out of my way to make simple things complicated), I’m in effect, telling the Cosmos it’s OK. The Cosmos, trusting my judgment says, ‘all righty then. Have it as you have wished it to be’. It’s like deciding to rob a liquor store in the name of god and flush with imagery of a 1930’s style prohibition rally, putting on a belt…around my ankles before I leave the house. You don’t have to be genius to draw those dotted lines.

Besides, if you suffer long enough, dealing with complicated becomes ‘easier’ than it is to open up and communicate. And there it is – it is exactly like opening dresser drawers with broken handles. ”Ah, at least I’m suffering. How noble am I.” OK. It isn’t actually any easier – in any way. But it is familiar…even if it feels like your own personal hell.

Just Cuz_Random Act of Kindness

But guess what?

Asking someone if they’d bring you back a cup of coffee or make your favorite meal is proving to be pretty cool. I’ve been doing it for quite awhile now. And when they do, not only do I feel cared for, but I catch myself being more aware of things I can do for them. And I do it.

So today, deciding to insult the residual slime from my old destructive behaviors, I did two things for no reason at all.

The first was dropping off a contribution at a local vet who runs a no-kill adoption service for abandoned pets. The second was walking into my local home improvement store with a template of the knob holes from my drawer fronts clenched firmly in my hands. “What aisle are your handles in?”

My dresser has always worked. It has always held its good form. All it was waiting on was me. And now, its drawers have been restored to their original condition. I even gave it a good polish to commemorate the event. Glow.

With all that said, I now know two things I didn’t know this morning:

Mid Century Modern Walnut Tall High Boy Dresser Cropped-crop

1) Our dresser is actually a classic walnut mid-century modern high boy…there’s actually a name for it and our local hospital ladies auxiliary resale shop has one in its front window. It’s selling for $400. No junk in that window.

2) The drawers are happy because they know I’ve made them whole again. Which in turn, has made it easier to open them and get dressed in the morning. Not only do they work like they were meant to, but they look great from across the room.

My epiphany has taught me that my thirst for suffering has been an elaborate sham; a flimsy shield to keep others from helping me. Who knew what the classic walnut mid-century modern high boy already knew about easing my suffering?

Chances are you’ve got some holes of your own. Do yourself a favor. Clean it up and buy some knobs. I genuinely believe the capacity to choose exists inside each of us. I think each of us already has a pretty good idea of what is involved in building our own working version of our own happiness. So when you’re getting dressed tomorrow morning, consider this. Whatever your dresser is, it won’t care which way you decide to go, but it will notice. Who knows? Maybe the first step towards fending off depression starts with something as simple as getting a handle on it.



Things I Can't Afford Quote - dan4kent



Mother’s Day Edition


 Michelle Knight, 32, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Amanda Berry, 27

Freed May 6th, 2013

Inside the dungeon-like basement of alleged kidnapper Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man reportedly raped his three victims for a decade, caused one woman to abort five pregnancies by punching her in the gut, and required a second victim to deliver his baby in a plastic kiddie pool.

The women, individually abducted a decade ago, were kept bound by chains in the home’s cellar until their “spirits were broken” and they were allowed access to the rest of the house, a police official told ABC News.

A decade of torment ended on Monday when the women escaped, and charges today were brought against Castro, 52, including four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, prosecutors said.

Castro’s two brothers, Onil Castro, 50, and Pedro Castro, 54, who were arrested with him, were not charged, officials said.

“There is nothing that leads us to believe that they were involved or they had any knowledge of this,” Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba told reporters.

Ariel Castro is expected to be arraigned in a county court on Thursday. Following a grand jury hearing, Castro may face additional charges, Cleveland Chief Assistant Prosecutor Victor Perez said.

All three women — Michelle Knight, 32, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Amanda Berry, 27 — were abducted within miles of each other between 2002 and 2004.

The women, Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said, are currently “doing very well under these circumstances.”

“It really is amazing,” he said. “It has to be a tribute to the girls, to be perfectly honest with you. They must be some really, really strong individuals.”

Source: By RUSSELL GOLDMAN, JOSH MARGOLIN and MATT JAFFE | Good Morning America – Wed, May 8, 2013 5:35 PM EDT: http://gma.yahoo.com/cleveland-kidnap-suspect-charged-rapes-abductions-213547079–abc-news-topstories.html




PHOTO CREDITS and ATTRIBUTIONS: Colorful Junk Store by Jen Spaker: http://www.jenspakerart.com/2013/02/colorful-junk-store.html; wax-on-wax-off (crop): http://powerplantmen.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/wax-on-wax-off-and-other-power-plant-janitorial-secrets/; lower-back-pain: http://blog.dealdecor.com/furniture-basics/is-furniture-bad-for-your-health/; Broken Dresser: http://l.yimg.com/g/images/spaceout.gif; chained elephant foot: http://bootnik.com/ (a WordPress blog); Just Cuz_Random Act of Kindness: http://blog.bookrenter.com/2011/02/top-5-ideas-for-random-acts-of-kindness-week/; ; Mid Century Modern Walnut Tall High Boy Dresser (© All rights reserved by Kinzco):http://www.flickr.com/photos/kinzco/6286490895/sizes/o/in/photostream/; Things I wished Jed Clampet would have said (dan4kent); Three Cleveland Girls: http://gma.yahoo.com/cleveland-kidnap-suspect-charged-rapes-abductions-213547079–abc-news-topstories.html; Mid_Century_Walnut_Highboy_Dresser: ; http://i1067.photobucket.com/albums/u438/etcraigs/Mid_Century_Walnut_Highboy_Dresser_5_zpsd8c9bb20.jpg




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About dan4kent

Born and raised in the Midwest, Dan lives in the Chicagoland area. With a grown son from a previous marriage, he has since built a committed relationship of 34 years with his partner Rick, the Love of his Life. Having written his whole life, he blogged the past 7-years because he has to write…he can’t help it. Know the feeling? There’s ‘good‘ to be found in all of it. “If all I do is leave someone (or something) better than I found them, then I’ve done my part. Thanks for letting me grace your screen, if only for a little while.”
This entry was posted in Hope, Inspiration, Life, Life Lessons, Love and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to HANDLES

  1. Pingback: THE FLIGHT INSTRUCTORS OF SOLE | dan4kent

  2. Dan,
    I really love how you can take everyday things and find deeper meaning and share life lessons from them. BTW – I’ve been playing around with word images and excerpted from your shared wisdom in this post to create the image you can find here: https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/13377_360533094048382_152854521_n.jpg. I shared it on my fb page, so if you get some unexpected and new visitors, that could be why.


    • dan4kent says:

      Kina – LOVE it. As for lessons? Mi lessons, Su lessons. We know we’re lucky when we get to get ‘there’ together. Again, love your graphic tinkering. Very cool. Dan

  3. purplemary54 says:

    Nice dresser! I’m learning to enjoy a good furniture restoration story, and it’s that much better when you toss in a little epiphany, too. Buddhists believe that all life is suffering, but that enlightenment brings an end to suffering. I’m not there yet. But I’m trying. (Thanks for your kind words, btw. I’ve got enough reserves to read and comment, but I’m not up to original thought of my own just yet.)

    • dan4kent says:

      PM — Pardon my delay. Life is coming at me fast this week (something you know just a little bit about). Walk quietly, pause occasionally…it’s as much my own guidance to myself as it is sharing something with you. Dan

      • Dan & Mary,
        I too, have been experiencing life in the fast lane. Dan, your words reminded me of what I posted on fb a couple of days ago when we had some difficult things happen unexpectedly. “As the commercial states, life comes at you fast. When it’s something beyond the scope of insurance coverage and human capacity to cope, I’m reminded that I can go into worry and fear or I can choose a different path.”

        I’m glad to know that both of you are to be found on the different path I’ve been learning to choose.


      • dan4kent says:

        I so get it. You’d think learning to choose would be easier than it is sometimes. But hey, when it comes to being on a more effective path, there’s plenty of room for one more…but then again, you were already here. Happy trails to us all. All the best. Dan

  4. katecrimmins says:

    Love the chest! It’s gorgeous. I had something similar in the 60s but it wasn’t made well and eventually fell apart. Loved the lesson you turned it into and very happy about the donation for the homeless animals! You rock!

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