Friday, April 22, 2016

Being Someone's Mama

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I wanted to be many things when I grew up: a teacher, a lawyer, a writer. Rich and famous was probably on the list, too, though I've since decided famous probably isn't such a great thing, after all.

Number one on my list, though, was mother. Even as a child myself, I knew for sure I wanted children.
And this is the single greatest job, my most glorious accomplishment. The weird thing is that after all those hours of dreaming and then the reality of it, I can now see the end of my most pressing years of motherhood.

Don't get me wrong. Children always need their mothers in some capacity. As a "child" who lost her mother at 40, I know this firsthand. What I'm saying is that the years when my children need me intensely, pressingly will soon come to an end. Even my youngest daughters, 14 and 16, are finding their independence now. It's lovely to watch, actually. Terrifying, too.

My little girls have mostly grown up, which feels unbelievable to me. All those carpools. All those Halloween costumes, the ones I so laboriously hand-stitched (just kidding). The early wake-ups and sleepless nights. The clinginess and irrational childhood fears. The diapers! So. Much. Poop. The special meals. Potty training. Reading books in bed. Singing in the darkness. The pink nursery and then twin beds. The long trips in a goldfish encrusted mini van. Pictures hung on walls, crude drawings soon faded in sunlight. Learning to swim and write and read. Parent-teacher conferences. Listening to the CD "Multiply with Power" again and again. Watching cartoons and witnessing senseless heartache. Easter dresses and egg hunts in the too tall grass. Trips to the emergency room. Watching through the window as oldest daughter "played deer" in the yard or barked her head off on the trampoline, a mighty convincing bark, too, I might add.

The list of memories is endless and precious and funny and downright weird.
Childhood is such a strange and fascinating pit stop.

This is not a sad post. While I do feel the pressing passage of time and what that means for all of us, 
I also feel a sense of accomplishment. I can glimpse my own future, though what that will bring exactly I haven't a clue. I haven't dared to think of it in detail yet.

What I know for sure, especially as I see these girls are quickly becoming women I love and admire, is that the family dinners and time spent reading or curled up watching movies or having long talks on long drives or setting boundaries or letting children break rules was totally worth it. 

I love these girls madly, fiercely, crazily.
Being someone's mama, three someones, actually, is the very best thing.
Really, it's the only thing that matters.

To young mothers, especially those at home (for the short or long term), I have some unsolicited advice for you. Own your  most important job like a wild woman, like a badass. When the jerk at a cocktail party glazes over with boredom or tacitly downplays your meaning and relevance, pull out your phone and shamelessly share all those pictures you took. Approach this like Clint Eastwood: "Go ahead. Make my day." 

The end of it all does come, and if you want to find your position in the marketplace, you will. Or not.
It doesn't matter. The people you raised matter. The woman you became in the process matters. 

Okay, stepping off my little soapbox here.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pig Latin

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This is the last of my blue stuff post, but I love this fat girl in the corner here. Yay for Home Goods. Sometimes I go and find nothing; other times it's a big ole jackpot. Can you hear the ding ding ding sound yet?

I polished those brass candlesticks, too. I volunteer for my church's flower guild, which is right up my alley, let me tell you. I was arranging flowers with some other women right before Easter, and somehow the topic of brass came up. Anyway, this woman (who has an old stone farmhouse to die for!) confessed that she put all her brass candlesticks away. I asked why. Her reply had nothing to do with decor trends. She said, "I just got sick of polishing it."

When I was polishing these the thought did occur to me that I could just put them away.

There was an episode of Will & Grace a few years ago that struck a chord with me. Will got home and Grace was all worked up. "What's wrong?" Will asked. "We have to move!" Grace exclaimed. "We have to move right now. I can't stand this place another second!" Will looked at Grace and deadpanned, "You just don't want to clean your room, do you?"

I have a thing for flying pigs. It all started a few years ago when I decided to read John Steinbeck's East of Eden. On one of the introductory pages was a quote in Latin: Ad astra per alia porci (to the stars on the wings of a pig). Steinbeck said the winged pig "was earthbound but aspiring," and as a writer who worked hard and longed to be published, this quote spoke to me.

Not too long after that, a dear friend sent a gift in the mail. It was a winged pig (she had no idea about the Steinbeck quote), and not long after that, I had three book contracts with Penguin, the publisher not the bird. Winged pigs have always seemed a sign of hope, and who doesn't love a sign of hope?

This corner was looking too stuffy, so I plunked him up there. He has a nice view out the window.

This critter came from pottery barn. I'm not sure what he's a "sign" of, but he was lonely in that store and didn't seem to fit in, so I brought him home. Maybe he's a symbol for taking leaps of faith. I've done that plenty of times, too.

Here's to a Wednesday of hope, leaps of faith, and no polishing of brass whatsoever.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Settling into a Home

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New (or new to you) houses are exciting.
There is nothing quite so thrilling or utterly exhausting as moving.
We did this 6.5 years ago, and I honestly can't believe it's been that long.

One of the things I love most about this stage is that we are settled.
I remember working so hard painting and rearranging and hanging stuff
(trip after trip to Home Goods and other places, too) 
all in the name of making this new-to-us house feel like home.

And you know what? It's just now starting to feel like it.
Recently, we put our 17 year old Jack Russell to sleep, 
and as my husband was digging her grave, 
I said, "Well, I guess this makes it official."
He looked at me and asked what I meant.

Burying the dog and planting the trees and flowers
and layering your things, old and new, 
and making memories (good and bad)
make a house a home.

An endless budget (which we definitely did NOT have)
or the best decorator in the land won't make it home.
It's a slow process.

We had the most gorgeous weekend here! Sunny skies, green grass
and a few remaining daffodils, too.

Notice the new touches of blue? 

The light was so pretty coming through the windows.
I love mornings.

Another little touch of blue, and a bud from our red bud tree.

I did a post about my new mantel on Friday, and I 
mentioned these silver cups were from my in-laws' wedding day.
I had to fact check that. 
Turns out I was right.
Makes them all the more special.

A happy home is the best place to be, and I love being here.
Yes, I like to travel.
But deep down I am a homebody.

I hope you all have a good week.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Blue, Blue, Blue

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So I used to think mantel was mantle, but I think the correct spelling is mantel. I like to get those sorts of things right, but either way, it's that spot over my fireplace. Lately, I've been in the mood to change a few little things here and there, and the mantel/mantle was one of them.

Nice and simple. Where did I go for styling inspiration? Blogger world, of course.

The watercolor was something my husband had before we even met, and I LOVE it.
It has all the colors in our living room.

The silver cups belonged to my in-laws. I'm pretty sure they used them on their wedding day, 
but I'll have to fact check that.

The lovely candles were from Home goods.
As you all know, blue is my thread color, and I have it in almost every room.
There are some more blue touches, too, but I'll share those another day.

It is gorgeous here this morning, and I have had a long, long work week.
It's not over yet, as I have another work event this afternoon, but
first I will get in a loop walk and some stretching and maybe a 
few sit-ups, too!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lazy Susan

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The dishwasher is purring, the lawn mower is humming, and I am clicking away at these computer keys. The children are at school and husband is at work. I have a few precious minutes to blog and think before going into work myself. This last week we've had so much going on, which is probably a good thing since it's taken our minds off our little Maddie Mutt's passing. It's in the quiet moments when my mind slips into "this time last week" thinking.

So, let's move on to a more cheerful topic: Home Goods! In the depths of my despair, I did not head to the local bar or (sadly) the gym. Instead, I went to Home Goods and Target for some retail therapy.

A couple of new cutting boards. 

A spot for oils and such. I had planned on a pretty tray, 
but this acrylic lazy Susan seemed so practical.

Who doesn't love a lazy Susan, right?

I go back and forth on wine storage. Sometimes, I like the wine rack on the counter.
Other times, it gets relegated to the garage, and the wine goes in the cabinet.

You might remember I told you about using Blue Apron a few weeks ago.
We're still at it, and as a result I am cooking more. Like, real cooking.

So far, it's been fun. I put the music on and enjoy the process.

I love good styling. In my next life, I want to be a stylist.

You know those clever shots where it looks like some 
cool girl just returned from the French market?

Freshly baked bread and a bouquet of lavender on the counter.
So effortlessly glamorous.

A good stylist leaves things in the pictures that most of us take out, 
or at least things I'm likely to take out—a bag of groceries, reading glasses, the stack of mail.

We want our pictures to reveal our homes at their best.
But, as a reader I like looking at the stuff.

The truth is I was too lazy to walk over and remove those bags you see on the bench.

But I convinced myself it was okay to be lazy and not remove said bags
because it was good styling, you know, reflecting the life 
of the woman who lives here.
Effortlessly glamorous and all that.

I left that dead flower in the vase for the same reason. You know, because it told my story.

Are you buying any of this yet?

Who is the lazy Susan now, huh?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Spring in the House

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A few days ago, I clipped some of our forsythia and brought it into the house. I expected it would last a day or two. By some miracle it's still looking pretty, all these many days later. It has been a bright spot after several days of deep sadness. Our Maddie is resting peacefully now, and I am grateful for those of you who sent your love and support. She was with us for 17 years, so it will take a while to adjust to life without her.

Have a lovely weekend.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The End of an Era

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A few weeks ago I shared with you our struggle. Maddie, our very old dog, is seventeen and in seriously declining health. The entire family has wrestled with whether or not to put her to sleep. You can read about that here if you'd like.

Several readers left insightful comments about the matter, but still it was a difficult decision for us. Somehow this week we turned a corner, and after lots of conversations and some tears, we made the appointment.

As I write this, Maddie is still asleep on her bed. I bathed her today, a nice, long bath with bubbles even. She enjoyed that. It seems impossible that I am writing this. She has been our trusted friend, our loyal companion, and here and there a troublemaker, too, if I'm being honest.

As a young girl she was an expert at escaping our yard, and she had quite a few episodes we referred to as "benders." We have an especially vivid memory of her climbing a tree (not kidding!) and falling out of said tree. If you've ever owned Jack Russell terriers, this won't surprise you.

Years ago we had a raccoon in our backyard, and my husband thought it was acting strangely. Not having ever known any raccoons firsthand, I could not verify this. In any case we called someone from the DNR because my husband feared the creature might be rabid.

As it turned out, the raccoon was a baby and not yet sophisticated enough to deal with suburban husbands. After the raccoon situation was resolved (Have-a-Heart trap and the reassurance of greener rural pastures elsewhere), DNR guy said, "I've seen a lot of gross things in my life, but nothing so gross as that." My raccoon-fearing husband turned to look and (please don't read on if you are squeamish or having lunch) saw a worm, a real live squirming worm, emerging—how can I put this?—from Maddie's hinterlands. I don't think my husband has ever quite recovered from the sight.

When I picked Maddie up from the breeder more than seventeen years ago, I recall the children in this nice family referring to her as Puddles. The mother quickly shushed them, and I sort of laughed dumbly and went on. We soon learned the reason for Maddie's nickname.

My husband's parents dog sat for Maddie years ago, and it's a miracle they lived to tell about it. Not taking us seriously when we said, "You must keep her on the leash when you walk her" and "No, really, you can't let her run loose in the yard," they let her go. I am still amazed there were no strokes, heart attacks, or fractured hips during their wild chase through the neighborhood.

Only a year ago, we headed to the Outer Banks for spring break, leaving Maddie and Iris with our trusted friend to dog sit. I was on the treadmill at the gym when Kathy called. "Maddie's gone missing," she said. "I can't find her anywhere!" Maddie was sixteen, so we feared the worst. She had been losing weight, as ancient dogs do, and we thought maybe she'd gone off to die alone. Kathy searched and searched to no avail. My husband rose in the wee hours of the morning, drove seven long hours home. He walked our property and found Maddie drinking from a stream. Our little dog off on her Jack London-like adventure. He put both dogs in the car, drove seven hours back to North Carolina, and we resumed our vacation, critters and all.

This good dog of ours has led an amazing life. She's had humans to love her, a couple of sturdy dog friends for companionship, and she's traveled to the beach and Tennessee. She's sailed across the Chesapeake Bay, too. In warm seasons, she's stretched out in the grass and breathed good country air. In winters she's panted in front of fires and slept on a heated dog bed. She's eaten table scraps and regular old dog food. She's had nary a health complaint other than the aches and pains of aging. She's heard the words "You're a good dog" more times than I can count. She will hear them a few times more this afternoon.

I guess this is a nice life for anybody, dog or human. For sure this is the end of a special era, but like all good dogs, I know where Maddie is heading. She's off to chase the wild blue yonder.

Godspeed, my friend.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Getting the Right Light

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Life is just plain old hard sometimes. I don't mean the big stuff, cancer and dying and divorce and financial ruin. Those are the real tragedies, the things that make us realize the rest is just small stuff.

But sometimes life is difficult. Did you ever read that Scott Peck book, The Road Less Traveled? I still remember his first line: Life is difficult. And it is. It's filled with disappointments. It's filled with trying your heart out and not giving up, yet still not being successful. It's fraught with meanness and wretchedness some days.

And sometimes people…well, they just need to go into the not-nice box.

I find the yucky stuff is especially good at showing up on gloomy days and in threes. It prefers Tuesdays, too. And if you're having an "ugly" day, the kind where your hair is frizzy and no matter which way you turn, everything looks old and fat, it will come knocking on your door and waltz right in without wiping its muddy feet. This will happened after you've just mopped, of course.

And then, when you least expect the world to shift, it does. The light slants just right or the red bird lands on your blooming forsythia bush and you stop in your tracks. It's like somebody's knocking on your big, stubborn head and saying, "Hello? Anybody in there? Take a look around, would ya?" And then you do look, and a tiny nuthatch has landed on the bird feeder. You glance in the mirror and realize it's a good hair day!

Here's to a good hair day and the right light:-)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Good Morning, Bathroom

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I know exactly what y'all need on a Monday morning—a gander at my girls' bathroom! Just kidding. Okay, I am going to give you a gander, but I know that's probably not what you need right about now.

We are just back from a week-long vacation in the Outer Banks, one of my favorite places on Earth. It was nice to sleep in and eat out and not clean anything (much). My girls (minus oldest daughter) took friends, so I feel as though I haven't seen them for a whole week.

The kids were great. They got along and had fun, all the things you want for them on a vacation, but I have to say, I missed hanging with them. That said, it really was a blissful week. Sadly, I was too lazy to take ANY pictures. Seriously. What's up with that? And we missed having oldest daughter with us, but we're hoping maybe she'll come along this summer when we go back.

Without further delay here's what you've all been waiting for, but first let me explain my method when picking out the color for the girls' BR. You all know I have wallpaper in the upstairs and down hallway, and blue is my "thread" color.

When I went to pick out paint colors, I took photos of the BR tile and of the wallpaper. After that it was pretty easy, and I had the help of the Ben Moore paint lady.

The shades came from Next Day Blinds, and I love them.
They are pretty and durable. The one in the hallway and bathroom match.

For this room I wanted to keep things clean and functional. 
Girls have enough stuff to junk it up pretty quickly, so there's no need for anything extra.
The shower curtain is from Anthropologie, and it's perfect for this room.
It adds a little touch of fun without being overly fussy.

 Well, there you have it.
Here's to a not-too-stressful Monday.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Tweaks in the Master

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This is not an April Fool's post. 
I am not joking.
I don't have that kind of energy.

I really do want to tweak a couple of things 
in my master bedroom and bath.
We're talking little things.

You know you got it right when six years later, you still love a space.
First, I love the yellow.
Second, the white bedspread and pillows.
Third, the fabric for the curtains and chair and pillow (which I made myself!)
That is NOT an April Fool's joke, either.

But look at that space by the chair. It needs a pretty floor lamp.
And I am on the hunt.
It can't be too big or too little, though.

And I'm thinking about making another tweak in the bathroom.
Just thinking about it makes my neck ache.
I want to paint the ceiling.
A pale, pale, pale, ever-so-faint pinkish color.
It might even be in the salmon family.
We're talking faint!

We had to repair a leak a few years ago, and the ceiling colors don't match.

I might still be talking about this a year from now.
Lately, I've been lazy about house stuff.

I hope everybody has a good weekend.

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