July 8, 2014

Design Project: Dresser and Shelf Stand - Gumball's Bedroom

I understand the concept of carrying basic elements of a particular home design through every room of the house. I'd love to hold to that principle, but with six kids of varying ages and fanatic interests under one roof, we've simply chosen to follow each individual's inspiration. Who knows. Maybe it'll work out.

Gumball's bedroom was previously a little boy's room. I aim to transform it into a sweet, feminine space suitable for toddler girl.

Her namesake aunt has always collected carousel horses. That theme was not only fitting but absolutely brilliant as I adore the Victorian era and the dusty roses that invariably accompany a carousel horse.
The accent wall is currently blue. I have the paint I need to replace the blue with pink and white stripes.

Fortunately, we already have Gumball's main pieces of furniture. Unfortunately, every piece requires new paint. We began with her dresser which belonged to a different aunt.
Years ago, we bought a three-drawer bread stand. It was a cheap piece and the cabinets broke after a year, but the shelves were handy so we kept it.

I removed the plastic fasteners. Miner stained it dark walnut ($5 in the oops paint section). It turned out to be such a beautiful little unit. Now I need to find some pretty light-colored baskets.

July 7, 2014

House Honeymooning & Hornets

We've been in our new house for nearly a week now. Still honeymooning -- the rooms still smell like fresh paint, are still echoing because of the lack of furniture and rugs.

When we arrived, the yards and flowerbeds were overgrown and weedy. We didn't connect with the lawn pro in time to have him tend the acreage during his most recent visit to the neighborhood, so Miner bought a big, bad push mower so he could at least tame the wilderness a bit before he leaves tomorrow.

He got 3/4 of the front yard done. He might've finished except he unwittingly discovered a ground hornets' nest when he passed over it. They swarmed out and got him three times on the back of his left calf.

Miner's not allergic to stings, but ground hornets don't play. The pain was severe and lasted through the evening. He said the venom gave him an all-over, achy, flu-like feeling, too. Fortunately, his body fought off the toxins by morning. I'm just glad one of the little ones weren't near him when it happened. The closest ER is 10 minutes away (a subject for another time).

Boxes still line the walls of every room, but we've been tackling them a bit each day. All the major pieces of furniture (minus the pieces still in Lafayette (next trip) are in place, but the windows and walls are bare.

The budget is just about sapped this pay period, so my immediate goals are endeavors that require no purchases.

The current focus is Gumball's bedroom and the two pieces of furniture we have for her right now: a dresser (mirror is in Lafayette) and a small shelf unit/nightstand. Refinishing details in the next post.

July 4, 2014

DIY Craft: Laundry Tip Jar

I spent a couple hours setting up and organizing the laundry room last night. I was happy to get it clean and tidy, but there was nothing pretty about it. That's par for the course of moving into a new house, though.

This morning, after washing a load of kids' clothes, I found a full 31 cents in change! My coin jar from the old house didn't make the move, and I didn't have any pockets, so I made up my mind right then to craft a pretty tip jar for the new laundry room. It wouldn't transform the space, but it would be my very first lovingly created project for the new house.

I didn't buy a single item to make this. I used what I had around the house.

lined paper
clear clipboard, or any clear surface
clear packing tape
permanent marker, fine point
cloth napkin

1. Find a font. I looked up "antique type" and found dozens of samples.

2. Put lined paper inside clipboard so the lines are visible through the plastic. Put a stack of other papers or maybe a folded towel beneath the lined paper to stabilize it.

3. Tear off a piece of tape long enough to wrap around the jar. Place the tape on the clipboard.

4. Using the lined paper as a guide, draw the letters on the tape. Be careful not to smudge. In case of smudges, use the corner of a twisted paper towel to remove any unwanted ink. To start over completely, simply wipe off or use a new piece of tape.
5. Tear off another strip of tape and place over the first piece to seal. Smooth out any air bubbles. The ink will feather between the layers of tape. This is a good thing -- the feathering is what gives the letters a true antiqued quality. Remove handmade decal and carefully tape to jar.
6. Fold a cloth napkin, right sides together,  lining up two corners. Cut the pieces for the pouch in the shape shown. Be sure pouch pattern pieces are large enough to fill the jar.

7. Right sides together, handstitch or machine sew along the edges.
8. Cut a rectangle along the edge of the leftover napkin piece.
9. Wrap the rectangle around the sewn pouch to conceal raw seams. Stuff both pieces into the jar.

10. Fold the corners over the lip of the jar. Secure with a bow, twine, raffia, or any other cord of choice.

11. Wash clothes and collect! $$$

July 3, 2014

The Reality of an Anticlimactic Goodbye

Closing on Saturday was rather uneventful, despite the dramatic build-up and anticipation the night before. It was an hour of "sign here, print name here, initial there." We were looking at one form, signed the next, and suddenly, the paralegal announced, "That's it."

Our realtor gave us the keys on a pretty pink ribbon, I hugged her as if she'd just pulled me from a rushing river current (which, in a manner of speaking, she did), and the house was OURS!!!

We drove straight to the property to see the house in the new light of ownership (only the second time ever that we stepped foot inside). And I would've been blown away by its beauty if I weren't so physically and emotionally exhausted from the early morning trip to Leesville and the draining expectation. All the waiting, and when the moment finally arrived, I was too burned out to fully enjoy it.

But we did get a family picture. The best we could do in 95° heat.
On the flip-side of the coin, I was too wired and exhausted to fully process our final hours in the old house. We thought a 26'-truck would suffice -- it was the largest truck Uhaul offered -- but it became clear pretty early on we'd have to triage our belongings. Among the items left behind until the next trip: the chaise lounge (third in the sofa set), all books, two bookcases, the computer desk, all of Miner's power tools and yard equipment, all shelf organizers, everything in the attic.

We tried our hardest to load the fridge. We took the front door off its hinges, pulled the Uhaul all the way up to the edge of the porch, and ran the ramp clear to the threshold. We tried to move the fridge with the wide dolly, tried hoisting it onto the flat furniture dolly (which has no handles), but the only thing all those efforts accomplished was to give me a sense of impending crushing death by refrigerator. We left it behind.

My vision of driving tearfully away from the house proved false. As a matter of fact, I didn't even really say goodbye at all. Instead, I loaded the kids into the van around midnight while Miner worked to put the front door back in its frame, and I said, "Okay. I'm gonna find a place to get some food for everybody before we hit the road. I'll meet you at the gas station." And that was how I left our home.

June 26, 2014

The Terror of Saying Goodbye

We grossly underestimated the possibilities of change. Closing will not happen on Friday. The attorney will meet us in his office on Saturday instead. Not 50 days until we move. Only 5. On Wednesday morning, we will relinquish our full-time Lafayette Parish residency and begin our permanent citizenship of the City of Leesville.

We are not prepared. Virtually nothing is boxed or labeled, and yet, the truck is reserved for Tuesday morning.

I'm not ready. Dislodging ourselves from this house will be pressured and painful. I'm not ready to take apart the scenes that have surrounded me for a quarter of my lifetime. Once the images are deconstructed, they won't be seen again. The full force of permanence is crushing.

I'm scared. Moving is indeed a form of loss, and the summation of this season is an impact I'm not quite postured to absorb.

Truthfully, these are simply a series of moments of weakness, and intellectually, I know I'm strong enough to see it through. I'm just terrified of feeling the sharp cracking of my heart as we pull out of the driveway and down the street with our abandoned home shrinking in the rear-view mirror.

June 24, 2014

Falling in Love (and signing the contract)

I'd venture to say most people are actively hunting a house when they find what they want. Not so for us. The house of our most fantastic hopes caught us completely off-guard.

For three years, Miner and I stalked the market. We probably reviewed every 4+ bedroom home ever listed in both Lafayette and Vernon parishes. Most didn't make the initial cut -- not enough square footage, no yard, no privacy, no heart. On the other hand, we watched some stellar houses come and go -- lots of square footage! (but no yard), tons of acreage! (but no square footage), perfect in every way! (but selling for your firstborn child. and your legs. both of them.). There were an abundance of beautiful homes out there, but none that ever really struck us or inspired us to action.

Three years of spectating...the sensible thing to do would have been to continue ogling but start socking away that downpayment, so when the right house did present itself, we'd be ready for it.

Honestly, I think Miner and I genuinely didn't expect to find "The House" so soon. Or so unexpectedly. Ever hopeful, but never quite convinced. Silly -- that kind of discovery is not exactly a process.

No -- for us, finding the house was like slipping yet another old, random key into the mysterious lock of our future and finding...it turned. And clicked. And opened the beautiful 3/4-lite double front doors. The House we've prayed and pined for, year after year. MLS #02-3347. Just nine photos.

And the second photo...prophetic. I jokingly remarked to Miner, "Look at the welcome mat. It's a sign! See? The house already has our name on it."
We poured over the listing photos again and again, fawning over the amenities and details.

Oh, love the portico. 
Look at those railings! 
Hardwood trees?!
The acreage! 
Jacuzzi tub?!

It was a constellation of all our little "I wish"es and so many "I wish"es we hadn't even thought of, together formed at one address. But could the reality truthfully reflect the vision?

We drove to Leesville the very same weekend and made an appointment for a viewing. Reality not only reflected the vision -- it surpassed it.

We turned up the long, wide driveway, and what we saw took my breath away. Trees all over the property, both new and mature. The shady porch and double door wreaths invited us to imagine this house as our home, our land, our piece of the earth.

Inside, the owner guided us from room to room; it took great effort for me to restrain my awe and excitement. I saw glimpses of our family occupying those bedrooms, passing each other in the halls, meeting in the kitchen for breakfast.

It's one thing to love a house for its features and character. It's quite another to look at the building and the grounds and actually see your family living there. I didn't just see our family living there -- I felt it, in my bones, in my heart, in my spirit that acknowledges the future and dusk of my life.

We would've put the house under contract that day, but the responsible thing to do was to cool off over the weekend, review our finances (which were none), and evaluate the change we'd really be accepting if we decided to purchase.

That Monday, we arranged to sign the contract, and we accepted the responsibility of coming up with a downpayment from scratch.

It's been almost two months since we toured the new house. For weeks and weeks, I've tended to practical tasks like budgeting; emailing and texting the realtor; signing, scanning, and sending documents -- in addition to parenting and homeschooling routines.  I've been well distracted from spending too much time daydreaming about what it will be like for me to brew my first cup of coffee in that kitchen, or take my first bath in that tub.

We close on the house this Friday. After that, it'll be another 50 days before we move. The eventuality feels real, but the dream is still mist and fog.

Looking at the photos of the house now, I admire it as a suitor may admire a sweetheart he intends to make his bride. He is ever in love and imagines how her hand will finally feel in his, but the thought of belonging to her, and she to him...almost too wonderful for his heart to contain. What he knows for certain is, she is The One.

June 20, 2014

When a Door is not a Door (or a jar)

We've had an antique 5-panel door (very similar to the ones pictured) for the past 10 years. It was a scavenge find, and we left it unaltered from the state in which it was discovered: chipping ivory paint, natural distress marks, bare wood where the door knob and hinges used to be.

Turned on its side, the door served as a headboard for our king-sized bed (similar to the headboard pictured, but ours was not mantle style). That was when our decor was predominantly shabby-chic/beach driftwood.

Ten years and several furniture additions later, our decor has developed into a blend of rustic and refined Old World. We've removed the headboard door in anticipation of acquiring a bed similar to the Treviso panel bed by Pulaski (pictured below). 

The rest of the house will carry the same rich, heavy textures. Sadly, I'm beginning to think the antique door will have no place in the new design scheme. 

But I love the door. Granted, it's rather anonymous. It has no sentimental value other than it's served our marital repose for the last decade. The door is a standing link to the distant past, though whose past that may be, we'll never know.

I believe the door will retain its aesthetic value, and instead of wasting it by letting it go, I'd much rather find a new purpose for it where it will fulfill its potential. (Any purpose other than a headboard.) I must research and survey.

June 17, 2014

Too Short for the High Road (at least for today)

First thing tomorrow, we're supposed to meet with an attorney to sign some related paperwork for the purchase. Originally, I'd been looking forward to the trip, but now, I'm undecided about whether or not I'll even go. We're not..."in a good place."

I preach the High Road. That is my conviction. Humility is probably at the top of my list of values. Just because it's at the top of my list, though, doesn't mean I've mastered it. Not even close. Especially when the chips are down.

I preach Forgiveness. Letting go. Even if it means making peace and walking away. I believe in forgiveness through and through. But when it comes to my most important, intimate relationship, forgiveness is at such a sad, pathetic deficit.

And yet, I don't view my weaknesses as hypocrisy. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. My values and ideals are something I will always believe in and strive to fulfill, even when my pride strangles my conviction. I recognize the truth, and I acknowledge it. But for the moment, I am in far too much pain to fight off the indignation.

Yes. I'm holding a grudge. I also know I won't hold it forever. (Three days has been the record in matters like this.) Seeing as I'm only wrapping up Day 1, the immediate future looks quite bleak.

June 9, 2014

Hoarding & Discernment

What could be more physically and emotionally taxing than sorting through every personal possession you've acquired? Especially if the primary objective is to throw overboard any excess?

I don't think I'm a hoarder in the strict sense of the word. I don't have 23 cats or 180 handbags, and the dining room is not floor-to-ceiling trash.

What does comprise my gross collections of unnecessary surplus are...
  • a (large) hope chest so full of fabric yardage and bolts that I can barely close the lid
  • a (large) coffee can stuffed full of ink pens, some over 20 years old
  • at least two bookshelves full of outdated, uninteresting books that I won't read and suspect no one else will either
  • two (large) gift bags of more gift bags and Christmas ribbon that have aged beyond use
  • oh-my-goodness...the homeschooling stuff: books, games, flashcards, learning aids, science kits, craft kits, craft supplies, cds, charts, printouts, several (large) plastic tubs containing all work for every kid for every year of their education
And why do I keep it all? Because "Someday" I "might" "need" it.

Someday -- ambiguous
Might -- hypothetical
Need -- subjective

I'm afraid. I'm afraid the day will come when I am fiercely compelled to unearth (fossilized item of your choice), and I'll no longer have it. And then I will have to endure days-maybe-weeks of self-loathing because,  "I had it but I got rid of it and now I need it."

Miner says, there are very, very few things that are irreplaceable. Can pens be replaced? Yep. And I LOVE buying pens. Can homeschooling supplies be replaced? Absolutely. Most of what is stored, is stored for a reason -- we tried it and didn't like it, the kids outgrew it, or it was never all that interesting in the first place.

Loss. I recall all the irreplaceable items of sentiment and historical value that I lost in storage years and years and years ago. I get sick to my stomach just thinking about it, so I make a point to never think about it. But among those items: the paper chronology of Dad's creative process that would eventually formulate his martial arts system, my very first diary which I kept from age 8 to 22, all other remnants of the childhood I lived and the keys to the associated memories I'll probably never be able to unlock on my own. 

Gone. And it needs to be allowed to be gone. And I need to allow myself to go away from it.

Pens and gift bags are not heirlooms or family artifacts. They really have no associative value at all. I recognize that now, and I need to spend some time letting that sink in so I can throw the damn things away.

June 6, 2014

This House

I look around at this house we've inhabited for the last 13 years. We've deeply loved it, and it's loved us back. This structure -- all brick, wood, and sheetrock -- has been a member of our family, almost mother-like in the way it's held us, protected us, hosted some of the most important events in our lives, including the wedding Miner and I anticipated for so many years.

This house has a spirit and a memory. It keeps all our moments, even the ones we've already forgotten or will forget.

For Squeak, Sprout, and Gumball, this is the only home they've ever known. As adaptable as this family has learned to become, the younger kids have never had to adapt to a transplantation. This home has been our king stability; in the shifting of everything else in life, this house has been our anchor.

2014 has been "The Year of Letting Go" (No thanks to Disney for yet another enslaving pop culture association!). I've learned to let go of my 21-year-old and allow him the fullness of his independence with no judgement or fearful admonitions from me. I've learned to let go of so much of my perfectionism and unreasonable expectations of myself and the kids. (And my husband, too!) I've learned to let go of my resentment and defenses that have done nothing but poison my marriage and rob us of our completeness for far, far too many years. I've learned to let go, too, of my death-grip dedication to Acadiana, which I have come to love and adore even more than I did Hawai'i.

In 2014, God has taught me: If I want to see the next chapters of my life the way He intended for them to be written, I'll have to find it in me to let go of my crude, incomplete visions of the future...let go of the fear and bitterness I've nurtured for the most painful settings of my past. Let go, and go ahead.

This house, I have deeply loved. I'll remember it always, and it will remember me. I may never look back -- maybe I will -- but only to say "Thank you, Home, for holding us so long and so well."

January 4, 2014

Day 2 Writing Routine: Children's Literature & the Natural Voice

I'm discovering it's easy enough to compose meaningful, engaging literature for a young audience. What's most difficult, however, is finding the natural voice. Children mature so quickly; it's almost a mystical undertaking, summoning a voice they'll connect to. Their regard is like a delicate cluster of butterflies in the palm of your hand, ready to flit away and scatter if a breeze sweeter than the story happens to drift by.

I find the natural voice is already there -- I am a mother, after all -- but it's as thin and fragile as a newly spun spider web. Tug too much this way or that, and the thread will snap. The natural voice suddenly becomes synthetic and alien, and away the butterflies go.

research: picture book manuscript formatting, Louisiana publishing houses
revise: The Proposal (FINAL)
  • Look at My Hat!, sight word children's book
  • Draft 1: bedtime children's book
  • Draft 1: regional children's book

Total time = 8+ hours

January 3, 2014

Day 1 Writing Routine: Magic

I had to pull up my old writing routines from four years ago in order to get a template for recordkeeping. I don’t know what I was thinking back then, but it was not uncommon for me to critique four or five peer works per night. I must have been out of my mind.

My perspective of approach to the writing routine has drastically changed since then as well. These days, there are no “all-nighters.” I can’t afford to push myself like I’m training for the Olympics. “Slow and steady wins the race.” But I’m not racing anyway, am I.

Like knitting a ten-foot scarf through nightly goals of only seven lines each – Why? Because seven lines were a guaranteed accomplishment. Dread-free.

Nothing I attempted today was a painful stretch to complete. Before I even began, I made peace with myself: I’d begin and attempt. If I found my heart wasn’t in the task, I gave myself permission to invest my effort elsewhere. What I discovered was, the “begin and attempt” were the hardest parts. With low expectations of what the “begin and attempt” might produce, I was comfortable and confident enough to just keep going. It really felt like magic.

critique: 1 peer work
read: various dog poems
  • Dog, Weldon Kees
I am no growling cicerone or Cerberus
But wreckage for the pound, snuffling in shame
All cold-nosed toward identity. –Rex? Ginger? No.
We find a dog, hungry and sad as a suitcase kicked open
And showing nothing.
  • The Dog Stoltz, August Kleinzahler
  • February, Margaret Atwood (cat poem)
  • 1 letter, 2 min.
  • 2 min. association
  • prompt: “On the other side of that door…”
write: first-draft poem, The Proposal (126 words)
revise: The Proposal (v. 1-3)
Total time = 6 hours