Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Truth About 50

It's my birthday and I've kind of been making a big deal out of it. What is it about the numbers with the zeros at the end? If I'm being completely honest some of that complaining about it is a bit because we live in a culture that tells us youth and beauty are the measure of value especially for women, but also because being unhappy about certain numbers has become kind of expected. And because I can get a few laughs out of it.

Here's the truth:

I don't feel any different today than when I was in my twenties. Physically and in every other way I feel the same. Okay, except that I can't read without my readers. The face I see in the mirror has some lines I'd remove if I could, but they don't bother me enough to consider anything drastic. My hair is pretty much all gray but you can't tell thanks to my stylist. The thing that keeps me coloring it is when I pass a slow driver the first thing I do is check to see if they have gray hair or if they are on the phone. Or both.

My advice: Keep moving, do some yoga, and get outside. Wear sunscreen. Stretch. I knew early on I'd never be a runner, but I walk most days. Your body simply cannot be healthy if it's sedentary. 

This is the smartest I've ever been.  I'm a genius compared to my 25 year old self. Wherever you are in life this is the smartest you've ever been too! I would never be willing to turn back the clock unless I could take my 50 year old brain with me.

My advice: Get a library card. Read. Everything. Read history, political science, self help books, books on other religions, spirituality, biographies (!). Go back and read all the classics you skipped in school. Read how-to-books,  on gardening and cooking and decorating. Read Science books. If you want to know about something complex, like physics, start with a book written on a 5th or 6th grade level and then work your way up.  Read travel essays and books about explorations and expeditions. Do not limit yourself or tell yourself that there is anything you can't understand. The great minds of every field have written down what they learned, don't waste that knowledge.

I know how fortunate I am.  Every day I'm more aware of not only fortunate but privileged I am. A real calamity in my life is if I run out of coffee. I have never had to worry about my next meal or where I would sleep. I have never faced a serious illness. My children have never been seriously ill. I turn on the tap and clean water comes out. As I write this the heat just kicked on. On a global scale most of us are incredibly wealthy.

My advice: Count your blessings. It's cliche, I know. Do it anyway.

I'm wiser.  I'd be less than truthful if I said that some of that gaining wisdom up to this point wasn't a painful process. Coming to terms with truth is hard. Letting old ideas go is uncomfortable. Having an open mind is a challenge. Admitting you were wrong can make you squirm.

You can read about what I've learned in the past five years here.

My advice: Open your mind to the possibility that you may have ideas that are wrong. That you may be uninformed, or misinformed. Don't be so sure you are right. Make sure you know lots of people who have different ideas about politics and faith than you do. Assume that people who have different opinions than you have come to those conclusions, not because they are evil, but because they have had different life experiences. Make allowances for people's weaknesses. Be kind and generous and forgiving. 

I don't compare myself anymore. "Comparison is the thief of joy." That may be the truest statement ever. Someone is always younger, prettier, smarter, richer, funnier, more well read...and on and on. Get over that and only compare where you are now to your past self. You'll be encouraged if you just keep moving forward in your own life and mark your own progress.

My advice: Pray for wisdom. Count your blessings. Don't compare your inside to someone else's outside, but don't compare your outside to theirs either. Focus on what makes you happy. If you are feeling sorry for yourself, volunteer someplace.

I'm excited about the future. There's so much more to learn and do. I'm constantly encouraged by some of the people I know and volunteer with who are decades older than me. They still travel and work hard to make a difference in their communities. They are interesting people and they are interested in the world. They are always excited about learning something new and sharing their experiences with others.

My advice: Never stop being interested in the world and surround yourself with people older than you who are aging in a way that you find encouraging.

You can read more about what I've learned about "living young" here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why Would Anyone Want to be a Parent?

You pee on a stick and it turns blue. Wow. What a less than grand beginning for a relationship that is going to be magical, messy, and maddening.  Today my daughter turns 29 and I'm trying to imagine what it is that makes people want to have children.

 Really. Think about it. It's going to tie you down, cost you a small fortune, and drive you crazy. You'll spend sleepless nights imagining the worst scenarios possible when they are late. (We always went with  "dead in a ditch") You will spend hours awake in the dark, first listening for them to cry, and later for the key in the lock and a sneaky foot on a squeaky step. When they've wrought all this damage, they leave. And this is AFTER you've risked your life for them.

Not in labor. I mean teaching them to drive.

So what makes us do it?

There is something built in that makes us want to care for and nurture our offspring. There is also something a bit selfish going on as Shelby tells us in Steel Magnolias (the font of wisdom--right after the Bible-- for all Southern women) when she announces her pregnancy to her mother:

"And when it's all said and done there will be a little piece of immortality with Jackson's good looks and my sense of style, I hope."

I think she hits it on the head at the end:


We hope the world will somehow hold itself together at least long enough for our children to grow up. We hope they'll be part of the solutions and not the problems. We hope they'll be better than us. We hope they'll be braver, more confident, smarter, and not make all the mistakes we made. We hope that they won't sit silently by while injustice rules the day. We hope they'll stand up for what's right.

I think something in us hopes they will change the world. 

Happy Birthday, Baby! You make the world a little better place every day.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Ten Dollar Picture Ledge

One project I've been meaning to try for a long time was building a picture ledge. I'm using the term "building" loosely. It is the easiest thing possible and doing it yourself means you can make the exact size you want. Plus you are saving a bundle because the ones from Pottery Barn regularly price out at way over 50 bucks.

You need 3 pieces of wood. There isn't even any cutting since these items are sold in 6, 8, and 12 foot lengths. You are looking for a small, medium, and wide width of board. I just played around with them at the store until I found the 3 I liked best together. The version I'm making is 6 feet long.

 You are placing the medium board on the back, this is to attach the ledge to the wall. The wide board on the bottom actually holds the photos, and the smallest board (or piece of decorative molding if you choose) on the front to create a lip to hold your pictures in place. I nailed it together using long finishing nails. I sunk them, and filled the holes with Spackle, since that's what I had on hand. In the back board drill holes to secure the ledge to the wall.

 I cut a notch out of the back board to create a space to run the cord for a picture light.

 I hung the light first, but was unhappy with the way it looked. The LED lighting was cold and harsh. I decided to forgo lighting for now and took it down. This room needs more light but I'm looking for something else. 

 I sanded and primed the wood before attaching it to the wall. Oops. Needs a bit more paint there! Once I painted over the filled nail holes on the front, they disappeared.

So there you have it! The hardest part of the whole project was getting it level on the wall. I'm still playing with what to put up here and how it's all going to work together.

Friday, August 22, 2014

All Things Great and Small Love a Potting Shed

Here's a picture of my potting shed. See the white shelf at the top? We'll get back to that.

We love little things around here. Yesterday I was positioning the concrete blocks that the rain barrel is going to go on and I kept having to stop to move baby toads so no one got smushed. Remember the movie, 7 Years in Tibet when the building of the movie theater came to a halt because of worms? It was like that. We'll get back to this project when the gutters are attached and the barrel is painted. You knew I was going to paint it, didn't you? I also think the window needs shutters. And maybe a window box.

I'm also being extremely quiet and cautious in my potting shed currently because we have baby Carolina wrens. They may be my favorite bird. Quick and curious, they are like the cats of birdom. They are very amusing and nest in unusual places. We've had them in a baseball cap my husband left hanging on a post. You can see it in this picture.

 This spring, we put off using the grill until the nest inside was empty. That was a particularly beautiful nest covered with moss.

 Our current residents are beginning life in a bee box. When you order bees they come in the mail in a screened wooden frame. This is what it looks like.

There is a large hole in the top where a can of syrup is placed to feed them in transit. In this photo it is covered by the label. You can't see the can because it is covered with bees.

I thought this box might be useful for something in the future so I put it on the shelf in the potting shed. A pair of Carolina wrens thought it was the perfect site for a nest. We had some build in it last year too. We've been hearing them but today the first brave one left the next only to find himself in a bird playpen. Mama wren is pretty smart.

Brave baby wren is in the bottom left corner. I know that lantern is in the way. I have a thing for rusty lanterns.

At one corner of the potting shed I have this out of control morning glory. So gorgeous early in the day.

At the other corner is the beagle. Baby birds and beagles. It's practically paradise.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Yard Sale, Birthday, Idea Kind of Weekend.

After cleaning out my own mother's apartment in June when she went to assisted living I was stunned at how much one person could cram in a one bedroom apartment. Last week we started tackling the Mother-in-Law wing. You may recall that we lost his mom the week of Mother's Day. There wasn't a time limit on cleaning out the space so we put it off until now. The first step was emptying all the shelves and drawers so that the large pieces of furniture could be removed. Here's a pic of what it looked like once that happened. 


The hutch on the opposite side of the room is still available. The pic at the top of this blog is a detail. If it doesn't sell it's getting painted. Maple. Boo.

 These are gone...

A darling family with a little boy and another one on the way snapped up this chest of drawers and matching dresser from Craigslist.

 I was tempted to keep this retro set and stain it espresso.Those funky square knobs were really cool.

Saturday was my son's birthday so getting to help people load things was his present. I know. We are awesome parents. He also had some stuff to sell he'd scored big on at an estate sale, so he was pretty happy.

So now I'm waiting for my husband to sort out his mother's important papers and pictures, while I scour Pinterest for ideas for a guest cottage. But the other day he said "Hey I could move my games and stuff over there."

Let the man cave vs. guest cottage battle begin.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mr. Snarky Graduates College

Mr. Snarky graduated from college. Let me tell you, if you can arrange it,  have your child graduate in the summer commencement. Parking was a cinch. There was no traffic. The restaurants surrounding the venue weren't even crowded. By comparison May and December are circuses. And I do not like circuses. But circus I will in December when our very own little Bossy will be getting her Masters.

Mr. Snarky walked because we made him. He would have been happier at the skatepark on Sunday, waiting for his diploma in the mail. His sister, whose favorite thing in life is graduating from things and being recognized as the over achiever she is, was in charge of making sure he didn't get away. Her husband was away on a camping trip so her brother spent the weekend with her at her downtown loft. On the phone she and I went over possible scenarios:

Me: He could go to a bar close by and watch the golf tournament.  I can imagine him saying to us later, "What you didn't see me? They called my name and everything!"
Bossy: Oh, I hadn't thought of that. I'll make sure he gets there.

When we met up with her for the ceremony she told this story:

He was exhausting. He's upset about his birthday this week. Who gets depressed over birthdays and graduations? I finally told him he should leave so he could get his cap and gown and line up. He threw his arms up and said "What? I have to go EARLY?"

Luckily for all of us she has the nickname Bossy for a reason. She's really good at making people do things. And this kid? She's been bossing this kid since day one.

My husband, daughter, and I arrived at the arena and started looking for his name in the program while we walked to our seats.  We didn't see it. We looked again. We looked at each other.

"You don't think he..."

"I'll bet he didn't fill something out he needed to."

"Isn't that just like him!"

We continued flipping pages and running our fingers down the lists of names.

"He's not here."

We signed, exasperated.

My phone buzzed with a text. 

"Just found out I got cum laude." 

I held up my phone for them to see. "Look at this! Maybe his name is in a special section or something."

We looked again and there it was.

We all just laughed and laughed.

You see The Kid worked really hard at school and never missed a class unless he was very sick, and then he still e-mailed professors to let them know he'd be absent. Or unless his dad booked a cruise that overlapped the beginning of the semester.  "You know I'm missing the first day of class." He would remind us while lounging by the pool. In an odd bit of role reversal we'd roll our eyes. Over a trip to the beach for fall break a couple of years ago we asked if he didn't want to go to the Flora-Bama with us. "Yeah, I really can't go out, I have to study for an Egyptology test." One semester he took 18 hours, held down 2 jobs, and coached his high school cross country team. 

But while he's fierce about working hard and learning as much as possible the ceremony didn't excite him so much. "Can't they just mail it to me?" he ventured a few weeks ago.

"And break your sister's heart? No." 

As soon as the ceremony ended my daughter and I started texting him to say "DO NOT TAKE OFF YOUR CAP AND GOWN, we want pictures!"

The reply came back. "Too late."

When we found him near the front entrance we all expressed our disappointment. "Yeah, we had to turn them in." He told us with a twinkle in his eye, while looking around at the 50 or so graduates in caps and gowns having pictures made with proud families. And what had he worn under his gown? The same soccer shirt he'd worn to breakfast with his sister at the Arcade. Here's the pic she had to settle for.

We laughed because, well...that is just so him.

And him just being him is what we all love most about him. He's just his own man and that's perfectly okay because he's so awesome at being himself that all we can do is laugh. When he was 3 we were in a bookstore and I said "Jared, it's time to go." The kid he'd been playing with looked at me and said "Jared? He told me his name was Picasso!" He's always been marching to the beat of a drum no one else could hear. So in a couple of weeks he leaves for Arizona for six months to volunteer with the American Conservation Experience. An adventure that he is hoping will be a first step in saving the planet, defending animals, and living out his own version of success that is likely to be just a little bit different than the standard version.

Who wants to be the standard version of anything anyway?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Leftover Beadboard Sign

room in your heart.

 I saw this quote by Mary Oliver last week on Facebook and fell in love with it. I thought it would make a great porch sign:

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable. 

From the two sheets of bead board I purchased for my bathroom ceiling I had enough left over to add a detail to the kitchen island and make today's project. I like to use ALL the materials that get brought home. Bead board is perfect for sign making because you have all those lovely straight lines to work with.

I started by using stick on letters I had leftover from another project. I'd used some of the ones I needed and in those cases I peeled off the outline and used it as a stencil, tracing inside instead of outside the letters.

Here's an example:

Once I had traced all around the letters in pencil I removed the stickers and went over the pencil with a Sharpie.

The reason for using the permanent marker was because I wanted it to bleed through the coat of paint I was applying before filling in the letters.

I wanted a bluish gray and it took me a couple of tries to get the look I wanted.

See how clearly the letters are visible through the paint?

My first idea was to paint the letters in but the coverage was terrible and it was going to take forever. I used this champ, the Sharpie Magnum. It worked beautifully for this project since I was putting paint on top. If however, you want the letters to look and aged and intend to sand them do not use a Sharpie! If you want to age the letters by sanding off paint paint you should use a chalk paint or other non glossy medium.

I really liked the lines from the bead board through the letters.

I could have left it like this but the blue was a bit much for me and it was very bold. If you like that look you could stop here. Because the quote had the word unimaginable in it I wanted something dreamy and ethereal so I added a layer of cream chalk paint.  
painting a sign

 I painted lightly over the letters with almost a dry brush. I went a bit heavier on the areas without wording. I sanded a couple of edges...

Next it was time for the aging wax to take a bit of the starkness out of the piece. I just make my own by adding stain to furniture wax.

Buffing is required.

A bit more sanding just where the words are and it's finished!