Thursday, March 31, 2016

Missing The Good Mamas

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I had never known such grief as when my mother died twelve years ago today. I was 40 with young children still and a very bereaved girl for quite a long time. Still, springtime helped. My children helped. My friends and husband did, too.

Now it seems all the good mothers are falling like rain. I can't log onto a social media account without hearing about yet another mother passing away, and I find myself recalling them from sporting events of my childhood or the carpool line or classroom parties. They were room mothers and Brownie troop leaders and youth group sponsors. They organized band booster fundraisers and school festivals and church suppers and bazaars. Some worked outside the home; others didn't. I loved them all, even if I didn't realize it at the time.

A couple of summers ago, a childhood friend's mom was in town for a very sad reason. Her middle child, a "girl" in her mid 40s was suffering from late-stage breast cancer, and they were participating in  a clinical trial. We met for a quick lunch, arranged by the sick woman's sister. She was hoping social visits would help them both cope during a very rough time.

That afternoon we did not discuss cancer. I had been down this evil road with my mother, and I knew firsthand that no one really wants to talk about it all the time. Instead, we caught up on 25 years of births and marriages. I could tell my friend's sister wasn't much interested. She'd been forced into a "play date," and we all know how that goes past a certain age. Still, it was good to see her  grown up, a bit like being thrown into a time machine. And there was not a hint of sickness or even sadness about her.

What I recall most about our lunch was my friend's mom, a beautiful, stylish woman, one I had admired as a child and a teenager. She was funny and feisty and fierce. She had a lovely home, had survived a terrible divorce, yet through it all she maintained a sense of fun, a sparkle others might only envy. As a motherless daughter, I can't tell you how comforting it was to be in her midst. She was not a sad mother with a sick daughter on a desperate mission for a cure. She was just a mom, like so many of those moms I had taken for granted in my childhood. She was a woman who was interested in my life and my story, then and now.

At some point during lunch, and I confess I am struggling to recall her exact words, she looked at me and said, "I always thought you were such a sweet girl." And there it was again, her beaming smile, her focus on me. It caught me completely off guard. It had been a long time since I'd had that kind of attention, especially from someone who remembered me in my youth.

This is entirely lost as we age. People are no longer focused on us, on our well being and our place and promise in this world. No one tells us we are "sweet girls."

For that one brief lunch I felt it again, the presence of a mother, not my own, sadly, but one of the same generation, one who had known me as a child and teenager and young woman, one who had a lovely bridal shower for me, though that first marriage (like her own) was ill fated.

She has since lost that middle daughter. I watched the remarkable and inspiring story unfold on Facebook. Through it all she smiled, both of them did, a miracle I still marvel at regularly.

What does any of it mean? I haven't a clue. Why did my mother die at 64 instead of 94? How long will I be here for my girls, and maybe, if I'm lucky, for their children? I have no idea. What I do know is we leave an indelible mark on those around us. That Sunday school class you teach? Your biggest fan might be the child who seems not to pay attention. That rather impolite kid your son or daughter insists on having sleep over again and again? Your family dinners may inspire him or her in ways you can't fathom.

I write this in tribute to my mother. But I write this also in tribute to the mothers who were kind to me (and tolerant) as I struggled on my bumpy road to adulthood. Here's hoping I might pay it forward.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Screen Porch Fever!

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I'm having serious screen porch fever. It's early yet, I know. We will have cold, dreary days still, days that feel like winter instead of spring, but that doesn't matter. I am still having screen porch fever!

But first I must take everything out of said porch and give it a good cleaning. After that I can put it all back together and wait for a warm day (or night). Here's what it looks like after the place is settled and my ferns have started to grow.

No filter here, blogger friends. I took the above photo from outside the porch.

Normally, orange is not my color, but I found when I was putting accessories together, orange was calling to me. I love the pop of cheerful color, too.

My little buddy loves the porch as much as her people do.

A couple of years ago, these cushions needed recovering. I didn't even order a swatch. I had seen this color on cushions over at Vignette Design. I looked up the name of the fabric and said, "I'll have what she's having." Given her beautiful taste, I knew the fabric would be perfect, and it has been so far.

This is my chair. Yes, I have a streak of Archie Bunker in me when it comes to where I sit. 

Well, that's all, folks!
Now I just have to get to work.

Hope you have a good Hump Day.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday, Monday!

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I can't believe it, but I think that may be sunshine I see!
It was a gloomy Easter around these parts, but a good day just the same.

For this Monday morning, I thought I would share some tweaking plans 
for my mud and powder rooms.

A year ago I repainted this space. It was a cheery shade of yellow, and I mean 
really cheery.

And just so you know, I loved this space in its previous state.
That happy color just made me…well, happy.

But, you know how it goes, it was time for a change.

The new color is what I call soothing, and the navy blue details pop against the neutral backdrop.
This is an old picture. No, thankfully we don't still have snow!

The only thing I plan to add to this little space are a couple of details.
I want something in which to store the lacrosse junk.
I don't plan to go looking for this, however. 
I figure it'll find me when I least expect it.
And I may add another picture or something.
Again, it'll find me.

In the powder room I have been wanting to add wallpaper, something kind of wild and fun.
I haven't found that yet, either. Am I'm getting lazy or what?!

Right now the theme in here is boats, and I've added a collection of 
prints and etchings that tie in with this theme.

It's nothing special, and I guess that's what I'd like to achieve in here, "specialness."

The other idea is to paint it a pretty shade of dark green.
I keep seeing this color in magazines, and it's talking to me.
Except, I have painted many bathrooms, and I know it's no picnic.

All those corners and all that cutting in and with a dark color.
Maybe I'll just add another boat picture.

I hope you all have a good start to the week!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

To Believe

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At a time when so many choose not to believe, I believe. I guess I have always been a rebel that way, but somehow, when I'm drifting off to sleep at night or driving alone to work in the morning, I feel the presence of God. In my darkest hours, He is with me. In my happiest moments, when I am most likely to forget His presence, He stands by, loving me all the same. When I am a sinner and others judge me, He forgives.

People come and go. Friends let you down. God is ever-present and abiding.

Quite simply, I choose to believe in a benevolent and loving God, a God who will work out all our differences, a God of loves us, no matter the details.

I wish you all a loving and happy Easter.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Every Minute!

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It's probably not possible to enjoy every minute of child-rearing. In fact, I know firsthand it isn't, but what I can tell you is that I enjoyed shopping with my girls (minus oldest daughter) on a pretty spring day. First, we went to lunch and afterwards the mall. Not our local, easy-to-deal-with mall, but the big, overwhelming mall a few miles away.

I had promised a "surprise," though they had no idea what it was. We are so overwhelmed with work and school and sports and lessons and a very busy social schedule (the girls, not me). It was so nice to sit across from them, to have real conversation, to eat a meal in the middle of the day without rushing. They are beautiful and smart and funny and so energetic. Finally, I filled them in on the secret: shopping. They both needed some spring things, so we headed to the mall.

As I sat in the fitting room waiting for youngest daughter to emerge in the dress she was trying on, I reminded myself to enjoy the moment, to relish this time when they are still at home with me, when they value (somewhat) my opinion on clothes and style. Let me emphasize the word somewhat.

I am proud to say, thrilled to say it, actually, that they thanked me, not once but several times throughout the day. "Thanks for lunch!" "Thanks for the clothes!" "Thanks for the dress!" It occurred to me then that I'm doing okay. It's far from perfect, but on days like this it's good to remind myself I'm doing okay and my kids are doing okay, too. The sacrifices and struggles, the discipline and rules are all worthwhile in the end.

The only missing ingredient was oldest daughter, but she is raised and doing well all on her own, without the daily influence of her mother.

This right here is my greatest accomplishment.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Open Space Concept

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Y'all know I love color, and while I have some colors in my house that are soft, I also like bold. Lately, I have been drooling over a few of the houses in Romantic Homes. I love decorating magazines, but recently this is the one that "speaks" to me. I think it's because there is a story in the houses they feature. What I want most when browsing blogs or looking at magazines is a story. I want a touch of funky or funny or travel or passion. Not collections picked up just because it's good design to have a collection of some sort, but a collection that has evolved and really means something.

The other trend I'm not especially fond of is the open kitchen/family room. I know. Everybody knocks out walls. When Property Brothers finishes a house, there's nary a wall left! Same with Fixer Upper.

But, I am a mother and a writer, and I need someplace to hide so people can't find me.

Also, it's noisy when the kitchen is smack in the family room. Given the size of our house, though, there wasn't much choice but to knock out the wall between the kitchen and family room. Otherwise, I'd be cooking in a hot box, and I don't want that, either.

In my dream world, I would convert this family room a breakfast nook with additional storage. Pretty light fixture in the middle, round pedestal table, comfy chairs, and maybe a built-in of some sort.

That said, I still love this space. I love my off-white cabinets and granite. It's not big, but it gets the job done, and it's easy to clean. 

We are getting a new sofa at some point. This one is worn out. I want a neutral color 
with durable fabric. My husband isn't crazy about the neutral idea, but if the sofa is dark, I will have to repaint and probably get a new rug. About the last thing I want to tackle right now is a major paint job.

I love all the windows in here. First thing in the morning, I raise the shades and eat my toast and drink my Diet Coke (yes, I know) and watch the birds flit from shrub to feeder. 

It's home. It's the place I long to be most of the time.
It's the place that comforts and warms me, inside and out.
I hope it tells a story of some sort, though I think it's hard for us to see what stories our houses tell. 

I hope you all have a peaceful weekend and a Happy Easter.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What Home Really Means

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It was a stressful work week—to say the least. I came home this afternoon feeling the need to vent, and I confess I did so with oldest daughter. Afterwards, I realized, as I often do, that venting doesn't help much of anything. So, I set to work making dinner. As I did so I pressed Etta James into Pandora and began the preparations. It was soothing, the cutting, the chopping, the sautéing and sprinkling and dashing. I began to relax. Youngest daughter had lacrosse practice. Hubby was at work. It was just the middle daughter and me. Table was set. Candles were lit. Good food was consumed by just the two of us.

Big mistake: I watched the news. Bloody pictures of the wounded in Brussels, and I found myself wondering about those people whose photos were snapped. You've seen the images. A stylish but wounded women in her bra, face bleeding. A man stunned on the airport floor. Might he have lost his legs? I felt a responsibility to watch, so I did. When it was over, I cleaned my kitchen, letting thoughts of the day, of this troubled world, tie new knots in my head.

I started the dishwasher, and as I type, I am listening to its hum. My husband is home now, eating his supper, which was left warm on the stove. The dog snores between us on the sofa. My girls (minus the grown one) are upstairs, chatting with friends, showering, doing homework, normal things for girls to do on a Wednesday evening.

Still feeling unsettled, I switched off the television, poured a glass of wine, and began looking through my trusty decorating magazines. How frivolous! Really? No, not frivolous. Soothing. It is home and food and hearth and dog, the sounds of a purring dishwasher and the upstairs shower running, the glow of lamp and candle, the smell of good food, the taste of wine—these are the things to soothe us. Whether it be a tough day (or week) at work or a great and unthinkable tragedy, home, in so many countless ways, really is where the heart is, at least this heart anyway.

When I joined this "club" of bloggers, I knew I had found my people, smart and accomplished and talented women (mostly) who understand that home is the place that matters most.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Wallpaper in the Hallway

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It was a leap of faith.
Wallpaper is risky.
Wallpaper is a PAIN to take down.
But wallpaper is also daring and stricking and fun.

My husband selected this paper.
I had chosen something that when I think back on it
might have been disastrous!

Blue is the thread that ties it all together, upstairs and down.
But unlike lots of modern homes, our entryway is quite small.

I needed something that would make a big statement.

I knew the minute our fabulously talented wallpaper lady started to work
we had made the right decision!
It's light and bright and happy, 
and even several years later, 
I STILL love it.

I have since replaced this winter wreath for a happy spring one, 
but no photos yet.
It's been cold and dreary here all weekend.
The sun is out on this Monday morning of Holy Week, however.
And spring is finally here.

I hope you can take a few minutes today to count all your blessings
and maybe enjoy some sunshine.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Bright Colors in the Basement

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Welcome to our basement. 

This is where my kids hang out.
They watch movies.
They do homework.
They have sleepovers.

When I was picking out colors, I knew they had to be bright.
Otherwise, the basement would feel…well, like a basement.

I picked fun pieces for the walls, many of them made by my girls.
Mostly, I used what I had, and it worked well.

The pocket door straight ahead goes into my office.
We used pocket doors on the downstairs bath and office.
What a space-saver! 

A few years ago, I added the build-ins.
This made a huge difference.
The space felt more permanent somehow, 
like an important part of our house.

My decorating philosophy is just to have fun.
I want to come home from work, move through my space
and feel happy.

I wanted this room to be happy, too.

Speaking of happy, I hope you all have a great weekend!
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