I have found in my years it's highly likely that any person at any given time will be in the midst of their present situation or job or endeavor, not really there in mind and soul, but actually living regretfully in the past or anxiously in the future. I, for one, have caught myself doing that time and time again and, as hard as it is, somehow I drag myself back into the present, trying fully to be "present in the present" before once again the past or the future begin to tug at me, threatening to judge me for what's come before or condemn me for the future I desire.
Have you ever been there? It's a giant tug-of-war in my life.
So what is the "present"? The present can be many things. It can be the hardest thing you've ever done. It can be pain and suffering. It can be a transitional period. It can be your happiest moment (even though you may or may not know it at the time). It can be a time of learning and growth. It can be a nightmare. It can be a fantasy. It might be everything you've ever dreamed of or everything you've always dreaded. But here's the thing about the present: It most surely will pass, at which time it will become the past and lead you into the future. But I've found, sometimes much to my disappointment (or to my exhilaration), the present usually passes as quickly as it comes, and then you're moving onto the next thing. Sometimes that's a blessed occurrence and other times you realize you were not in such a bad place after all.
Transition, for me, has been a given the last ten years of my life and now that I'm in my "senior" years (really?), I find myself longing for stability. For the first part of the last decade, I suffered with breast cancer. I was diagnosed in the late summer and found my autumn and winter months filled with chemotherapy sessions, surgeries, and the "present" situation of being the sickest I've ever been. There were days when I felt as though I was hanging in the middle, somewhere between life and death. That Christmas was the hardest Christmas of my life. With no energy to make the holiday a special family time, I was in the depths of a huge pity-party and literally (not meaning to) ran my family off where I sat alone for most of the day after Christmas, my faithful kitty at my side. Thankfully, he didn't so much mind my foul state of mind. But, as present situations do, that time passed (albeit very slowly), I got my strength back, and things pretty much returned to normal. Today, except for the ugly scars left and the uglier memories, it's hard to remember the actual pain and suffering. And even though it was probably the hardest time of my life, I look back on it now and realize how much I grew during that time. Today I believe I am a stronger person, and I owe a lot of that to my experience with breast cancer.
Since that time my life has truly changed in my activities from day to day. When the hubs and I re-did our first little house in Alabama, I had no idea that it would lead to buying and renovating houses and become a lifestyle for us. We have lived in most of the houses we've renovated and it's been hard at times. That scenario has included moving many times, living in apartments along the way, even an RV for a short period (remember that one?!), periods of moving furniture in and out of storage, and having long droughts of uncertainty. It definitely has had its moments of excitement but, as I've gotten older, transition is becoming less and less attractive to me, and now I find myself longing for a place I can call my permanent home, a place where I can remain until they take me out feet first, as they say.
But in and between these times of transition when I almost always encounter struggle and hardship, I have moments of epiphany where I inherently know deep down that there is a purpose for what I am experiencing at the present moment. Am I being groomed for something in the future? (maybe) Am I being punished for something in the past? (haha, just kidding) Am I just being taught another hard life lesson of patience? (probably) But I really try to take time to reflect on my present and see how it can make me a better, stronger person if I'll let it. I have learned over the years to say, "Yes, teach me. Show me, hard times, what I need for this moment in my life and how it can make me better." That is an absolute given, that if we allow changes, hardships and challenges in our lives to mold us, they will do that. But you know what it takes? LIVING IN THE PRESENT. Taking today and asking what it has to teach us. Looking for all the lessons today has to give. Looking for all the blessings today has to offer. Taking today and making it the most important time, more valuable for learning than the past and more satisfying than your greatest hopes for the future.
I don't know where you're living today. Maybe you're stuck in your past with regrets and memories that not only hurt, but haunt you as well. Maybe you're longing for a future that brings all the things you've ever dreamed of. But may I challenge you to live in the present to see what it has to offer? There is a lot of talk today on "being fully present." And even though I think that term is way overused, its connotation rings true. Our presence is asked for or maybe even required in so many situations, but is it our body only that is present or also our heart and soul and the giving of our entire self to that particular moment in time? Something to think about.
My present situation is kind of a limbo game right now, and I have never been very good at playing limbo. How those people get down so low in such a compromised position is beyond my range of motion. But I am in limbo now in my life, moving from one situation to the next, trying to soak up all the moment has for me. I'd be lying if I said it was easy. It's a constant battle, looking back on what I could've done differently and looking forward to what I perceive as so much better. Sometimes waiting -- no, always -- waiting is the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
But if I let her, my friend "the present" will teach me great things. I just have to sit still and listen to her instruction. I also have to hold tightly to her, grasping with joy, thankful for this fleeting time, anxious to learn what she has to reveal, because we all know...she is here today, but will be gone tomorrow.
P.S. Those months I was going through treatment led me to writing...putting on paper my thoughts and experiences and realizing that writing is an outlet for me, whether it's chronicling our house renovations or just sharing my heart. Thank you for listening; I never take that for granted.
"You will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."
-from the Book of Isaiah
And almost three months to the day, I am baaaaack. Talk about taking the summer off!
For those of you who have been wondering, yes, I am still around and breathing, and much -- MUCHO -- has happened since my last post. It seems more like three weeks than three months since that post and, in referencing my last comment on that long ago day, I have indeed been trying to make my own happiness. I have been working, problem-solving, taking care of tiny humans while mama and daddy gather worms for their little beaks, and trying to keep it together as we struggle to maintain some sort of a peaceful existance -- you know, the kind where your sanity is in tact, and all your ducks are in a row? Ha! Is that even possible?
But it's been hard. So, spoiler alert, don't read this post till you've got a minute. I think it might be a long one.
As our projected date of releasing our 1892 Georgian Cottage into the real estate market neared, it seemed as if there was more to do than ever. How can a project keep demanding more and more of you when you have so little left to give? If you know the answer to that, please advise.
At the end of July we turned in our notice, packed up our two-bedroom apartment, and moved into #our1892adventure. Yep, it's not only our adventure now, but apparently our home as well. We have taken up residence in our Georgian Cottage and have settled into some sort of rhythm of normalcy for however long we might be here. We continue to work at finishing up all that small but treacherous detail work that only a house this old can demand...like adding trim to literally every wall, floor, door, window, and opening where there was none before, painting and re-painting, repairing and stabilizing a run-down shed in the backyard, closing up every little hole where critters might feel invited in, and addressing some re-zoning issues -- to name just a few. The critter saga is a whole other story for a whole other day. Why is it that we continuously have to deal with critters trying to get in or take up residence on our land that we paid our hard-earned money for? It is a constant battle if I ever knew one. But the positive side to moving into a place where you've designed new bathrooms and included other conveniences where there were none before is seeing if your improvements are practical and will really work for the next buyer. That has been a good thing, and we have been able to tweak a few things to make them more user-friendly.
I have been fighting for time to even photograph the house so that I can share with you some final results. But -- finally -- I am doing it today. I never for a million years thought I would ever move into this house. My vision was to finish, stage it, put it on the market and sit back and wait for closing day. But as with so many things in life, it just didn't go that way. I've had to readjust my thinking from "How can I make this picture perfect?" to "How can I make this work for us to live here?" We have definitely pared down from our last house which was around 2700 square feet with hub's office included. We have a work space that we share now and, let me tell you, it will test your patience to the max sometimes. I am a person who relishes a good bit of "quietness" in my life...and the hubs? His idea of a good work environment is talking to a client on speaker phone (very loudly I might add), with the blue tooth blaring Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress. If the dishwasher and washing machine (which are in close proximity to our office space) are on, no worries! It's enough to drive even the most stable person straight down the road of no return! A common sound is the smack of the power hammer putting in a nail somewhere and then, when you least expect it, the air compressor kicks in and scares the wits out of you. Sometimes I think there are folks out there who are afraid of quietness. If you are one of them, I DO NOT understand you. Are you afraid of your thoughts? The boogey man who might be lurking? That you might hear God speak loud and clear? Please don't be offended by my thoughts on that; just trying to better understand (again, another subject for another time). One last thing...it doesn't bother the hubs one iota if there are tools covering the floor and dust on literally everything. If that's the case, well, he's just more in his element.
But if you know me at all you know that I try really hard to be positive and look at the bright side of things. Like how far we've come in the time we've had. I read about renovations of old houses taking years to finish. Add to that the fact that you're doing most of the work yourself and it makes sense. I even read about one old house that took 16 years to finish (it was a much larger two-story house, but still...). When we started this project, we were thinking nine months, maybe a year, but alas we're still here staring at another fall and possibly a winter. Even though this house is still in transition and not officially on the market, IT IS FOR SALE, so if you're out there looking for a true rare gem, private message me and let's talk. Another blessing I try not to ever forget is the mere fact that we have a roof over our heads. Granted, it's not the roof I was counting on at this point, but having a roof over your head is always something for which to be thankful. We've lived in the majority of the houses we've renovated (like moved six times in less than 10 years), so what made me think this would be any different? Wishful thinking, I suppose. But I still have breath in my lungs and a marriage that is still (mostly) in tact, wonderful children and grandchildren, and life is overall good.
In referencing the title to this post, I must admit to feeling a bit crazy at times -- no, not a bit crazy but off-the-rails totally nuts. I wake up most mornings wondering where I am and how I ended up getting here and doing what I do at this stage in my life. But I am a firm believer that everything in our lives makes up the greater sum of who we become -- good and bad and, if we'll be honest with ourselves, it's the hard times that truly mold us. I definitely would not call this a bad time in my life, but a challenging one for sure. It's what we do with those challenges that shape us. They don't have to define us, but (whether we like it or not) they definitely contribute to who we are. Hardships can break us beyond return, or they can make us stronger for the journey ahead. We have the choice to decide which road we'll travel.
Anyhoo, I think I've finally realized that being a little crazy at various and sundry times just comes with the territory. Dang.
Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.
- Sigmund Freud
Some "befores" and "afters" for you...
Recently I saw on an Instagram post that we have reached the "half-Christmas" mark, meaning we are six months back around to the Christmas season. Really? You gotta be kidding me. Christmas in July? No, thanks.
This got me to thinking about the many different ways we, as humans, measure time. Of course, the earliest most primitive way of measuring time was by the sun, and literally today in the 21st century we are still measuring time by the sun and moon and the passing of a 24-hour period, which morphs into a full 365-day calendar year. We measure time by birthdays and anniversaries and holidays and other special dates. One way I personally measure time is by the clock tower that stands sentinel in my little downtown where I live at the moment. Just as the faint and distant passing of trains gave me peaceful moments at my last house, so does the clock tower. It is literally yards from my bedroom window and many mornings as I lie there wondering what time it is, if I am patient that clock tower will let me know. It is consistently counting out the hours and every single day of every single year calls to the folk in town that time is surely passing. There is something strangely comforting about the sound of the hours being announced and, even though I will not miss the traffic outside my apartment window, I will miss the clock tower one day when we move.
Right now, I am mostly measuring time with the renovation of our 125-year-old house. In some ways, I simply cannot believe that we have passed the one-year mark but, at the same time, it seems like it has been five or ten years. It's getting harder and harder to remember life before this renovation came along, sucking us into its possibilities, and dragging us along as we have learned and grown and made what feels like a forever friend in this old house. The memories we have made renovating her will be with us I'm sure till our final days. We laugh sometimes as we talk about sitting in our rockers at age 90 reminiscing about how a 125-year-old house just about kicked our butts. At the onset of this renovation project, it seemed like time was all we had. It was a new challenge; a fresh start; a project that was all ahead of us and our energy soared. Now, as we count down the final weeks and literally days of this project, it's hard to see that far back to when we had the energy that some days seemed boundless. Now most days are marked by fatigue and the ever-pressing urgency to get finished, get this house on the market, and move on to our next adventure. But don't get me wrong; it is indeed bittersweet. As I've said before, I have never renovated a house that I didn't think for a short minute that I wish I could live there, that too bad I wasn't re-doing the property just for me. Because, if budget allows, we do our best to incorporate all the things into a property that we'd like to have if we were to live there. I dream of the long soaks I'd have in the beautiful tubs we've installed...or watching a rabbit scamper across the acreage on a regular basis as I wash dishes in the big farmhouse sinks. I envision family and friends gathering around large tables in the common spaces to eat together or piling into the living room for a movie night around a roaring fire. It is absolutely the case that every bedroom we design or re-do I imagine my bed in there and ask myself a million and two questions about the layout and comfort factor for every guest room. Is the placement of the bed best here or there? Are there plugs and light switches conveniently located to where they'll really be needed? Is there enough lighting and is it beautiful? Have we enough natural light and, if not, can we make more with added windows? All the things I want in a home I try to do for the person who will one day in the (hopefully near) future make it their very own and, even though I may never see it for myself, enjoy my efforts on a daily basis.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for following us on this journey. The next time I post, it will most likely be to announce the listing of this house into the market. Thank you for all the encouraging words when the days have gotten long and words of affirmation for my design choices. It really encourages me to have folks out there that are willing to take their time to listen to my (sometimes crazy!) thoughts on life, love, people, and a daily journey that can be mundane and repetitious and just might include an ample dose of complaining. If God gives us grace and a few more years on this earth, we will be finding another project down the road a bit (metaphorically speaking), and will begin the process all over again, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, I will continue to guide you through life with my very-opinionated thoughts and philosophies (haha) and remind you constantly to be grateful and kind, hopeful and positive, to always put family first, and to never give up on your dreams.
We have to make our own happiness, you know.
"There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age."
- Sophia Loren
(couldn't agree more, foxy lady!)
When I was in high school I struggled with algebra. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why we even needed to know what a or b was in a problem because I didn't have a problem for which that formula was needed; my problems were centered on who liked who and when the next social event was coming up. But my husband has since convinced me that algebraic formulations are key in figuring out some things in the computer world. Well, since I consider him a computer whiz, I will take his word for it, but I'm still not convinced. Geometry, on the other hand, I dig, and I was quite good at it in class. I have the ability to take a box and see through it to the other sides, and imagine the area of each side of that box standing there empty or filled with something and the ability to take a formula and measure what the area of that space will be; to me, that makes perfect sense and is totally usable. I love geometry and it has helped me in recent years to see beyond the door, beyond the room, beyond the broken down shambles of a house, see what it could be, and put it down on paper. If I have one gift, it is probably that -- being able to see how things will look before they're finished. Maybe it's a gift; maybe not. But I do believe it has been hugely instrumental in my abilities to design spaces and then see them magically come to life.
I said all that to say this: I AM FINALLY BEGINNING TO SEE MY VISION FOR #OUR1892ADVENTURE COMING TO LIFE! It seems that just a short time ago, I was seeing only the same boring, ugly things I had been seeing for going on a year -- old dirty wood, nasty floors, things broken and sad. I have been longing (as you know) for the beauty of a finished project...clean, fresh, beautiful, but it has seemed so long in coming. In fact, I've wondered at times if it would ever happen. And I owe that to my tiredness. Folks, I am tired; I go to bed tired and I wake up tired. The fact that I am at home working on the blog and not at the jobsite tells me one thing -- that I was tired this morning. And if you don't believe that, would hearing that I literally slept 12 hours last night convince you? I thought so. Plus, we were down to our final underwear so I had to stay home and do laundry. You know you need to do laundry when you have to wear underwear from your thinner days that are a size or two too small. I'm telling you from my heart, friends, this girl is worn slap out.
So since my underwear conversation is probably a bit too much info, I'll get back to the renovation at hand. We are literally seeing the last stages of this project, and are on the final lap. For the first time in a year, I am beginning to see a beautiful old farmhouse rise up out of the ashes of a neglected home that only God knows what has seen in its 125-year-old history. I just know the person out there who will see the beauty in this gem of a home is looking, just waiting for it to come on the market for them. We have taken the best this house had to offer (a great little floorplan; solid wood construction; history; a gorgeous piece of property in proximity to the best shopping and business in the area to name just a little) and morphed it into a beautiful two-bedroom cottage for living in the 21st century (technologically friendly, luxury amenities; open-floor plan) and it will be the perfect home for a young couple starting a family, a single person, or a couple who are ready to retire and wanting to downsize. If you love history and repurposing and preserving the past, this beautiful 125-year-old farmhouse will fill your senses. How's that for a precursor for what's to come soon?
The past two weeks have brought those changes that are bringing us closer to completion. The heart-pine floors have been completely sanded, stained, and finished. The painting and trim are well under way. We are beginning to put up the lighting that has been patiently living in storage for over a year now, including a chandelier in the master suite that just about drove me and the hubs to the nuthouse during installation. Plans are in the very near future to host a reveal and an open house. We are truly on the road to being finished.
Sometimes when we languish in the present over our long-term responsibilities, our daily duties, our inabilities to get rested before we have to go at it again, we fall short in seeing how far we've come. It's so easy to forget what we were up against in the beginning and how perseverance and hard work have brought us to a much different place...to a place we were only dreaming about but are now seeing come to fruition. Sort of like life, right? Life is a long, hard road sometimes, but we must never lose sight of the goals we have set for ourselves and we must never -- NEVER -- forget how far we've come. I would never try to make someone think that every single little thing has come out exactly how I had imagined in the beginning with this renovation. You know that isn't true just from reading my monthly confessions. There have been changes, setbacks and, most of all, lots and lots of compromise. But isn't that what life is all about? It's the challenges, the hardships, the day-to-day stinkiness of the normal life stuff that molds us into completeness.
I'll sum it up with this...I'll take a broken down needs-some-love house any day over a brand-new one because it reminds me of how much we all need a second chance. Although, building one from the ground up has recently been added to my professional bucket list, but only time will tell.
In the meantime, I've got to put my painting britches on over my too small underwear... and head on over to the jobsite.
Happy Hump Day, ya'll!
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
- Eleanor Roosevelt
First, with a slice of chocolate chip pound cake from the local bakery for breakfast. Then, just now, with a bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream. Tonight, I plan on preparing goulash for dinner like my mama used to make...tomato based with lots of beef and noodles; the ultimate comfort food. Sorry, broccoli, I'll get back with you tomorrow.
What brings on a day where there is only one way to survive it with comfort in the form of food? Total and complete stress of the 125-year-old-house-renovation kind! But the fact that I can even joke about it is progress that I have not gone completely off the deep end of the pool with no swimming lessons because there have been some days lately when I thought I truly would not make it through with my sanity intact!
The last few weeks have been beyond stressful. I'd like to follow that comment with this: If you are even thinking about renovating an old house and have never done it before, please think about it long and hard. Okay, that was your official warning. It'll take way longer than you think it will, it'll cost way more than you think it'll cost, and it might be looked upon one day as the one thing in your life where you look back and remember with great angst all the things that practically took away your religion not once, but more than once a week and sometimes multiple times in a day. I'm being honest with you at the risk of upsetting some, there have been moments when the only thing that would give me instant relief from the stress at hand was to yell as loud as I could (thankful this house is on a two-acre plot!) or just to cuss (as we say in the south). I'm not talking "down and filthy" language and it takes a lot to draw a curse word out of me, but I'm talking a couple of four-letter words that seem to be useful for relieving stress in probably not the best way, but the only line of coping you seem to have at the moment. There is no taking a wee nap for stress relief when you're working against the clock to achieve X, Y, and Z before sundown. There is no time for the luxury of a mani-pedi for stress relief, even though such things are definitely needed for the dirt that seems perpetually stuck underneath your fingernails (and toenails, ugh!), even though you shower every night. No time for a relaxing glass of wine when you're surviving on granola bars and nuts and peanut butter crackers and whatever you can stockpile on the kitchen shelf. Sometimes, you just need to cuss.
Now, with that being said and I hope you won't judge me over the aforementioned, I am taking this day to rest, recoup my sanity, catch up on some overdue chores and just BE. If you know me well, you know that taking time to just "be," is crucial to my sanity. It's what gets me through so many weeks. Today is my day. I took it without guilt, and I am enjoying it without guilt. And I'm self-medicating with all my favorite foods.
Yesterday was a day from hell. And I'm not cussing when I say that, I mean it literally. It started off innocently enough, but by late afternoon it had deteriorated into a day that -- how can I say it -- was a pivotal point not only in the renovation, but in my life! Painting has begun in the house and, due to the fact that we're painting 125-year-old tongue and groove and have no idea what kind of stain or sealer was used back then, we're covering our tracks with oil-based primer. Have you ever worked with it? No fun...no fun AT ALL. It's sticky and messy and has horrendous fumes. Now, I won't say who -- and you will never get it out of me -- but someone on the crew inhaled too many fumes (in spite of face and breathing gear and open ventilation) and went into serious crazy mode, to the point that I threatened to call the paramedics and sit on this person till they arrived if necessary. And if you've ever had me sit on you, then you know it's not a pleasant thing. Ask my sister (my older "smaller than me" sister). She experienced it firsthand growing up. The day was only to get worse...for the first time in this year-renovation I fell on the jobsite. There have been numerous uncovered vents in the house for months and I have never stepped in one but, you guessed it, yesterday was my day. Thankfully, I came out of the fall unscathed, save for a scraped elbow, a scraped shin, full-body soreness, and a cut on my toe. Those poor, pitiful toes. Not sure they will ever be the same.
Ironically enough, our daughters are deep in the throes of house renovations right now. They both just bought fixer-upper's and have delved into the unknown land of attempting to take a house (one is 50+ years old and one is 70 years old) from so-so to whooooa! I surely would've thought that seeing the crazy things their parents have encountered in renovating homes (unknowns like snake infestations and rot and mold) that they would have literally run in the opposite direction, fixating on buying homes that are turnkey, ready to move right in. Both of our daughters are smart, educated women and have careers and family that keep them very busy, but they chose to renovate. In a great pondering of this phenomenon, I think I've come upon an astounding truth: it's in our blood! And when something is in your blood, it gives you life no matter how hard it might be at times. I have pretty much decided I will stick to less than 125-year-old properties for future renovation projects, though. Give me a 20 or 30-year-old home to renovate and, baby, I'm on it.
So I think I might be finished venting now. It really helped; thank you for listening. At least I didn't cuss. In spite of having the day I consider the worst one so far in this current reno, we ended the day still alive and having moved the project forward a bit. I'll say it again for the record: "I will NOT do another house this old!" But while reading Southern Living magazine (June 2018 issue), there is an article about the restoration of a four-over-four Greek Revival mansion in rural Georgia that has been painstakingly restored over the last 16 years and it totally stirred my soul. I mean, I've never done a two-story four-over-four Greek revivial, and I love those! Don't you just love Greek Revivals and any old house because of the history?
I'm not sayin' it was me whose brain was affected by the inhalation of too many fumes but, in light of that last paragraph, it sure sounds like it, right?
Naw, I'm pretty agile for my age, but even I can't sit on myself!
"Energy and persistence conquer all things."
- Benjamin Franklin
I have been trying to get this post written for a week now! Crazy times. Crazy times.
Now that the excitement of the wedding and all the festivities that go along with it are just a memory (albeit a sparkling one!), it's time to get back to work and finish this renovation so we can move on to other things. Just as I've felt in the past with other projects, I am SO READY to be finished! Even though this house will forever hold a special place in my heart and memory, it is time to birth this baby that has been gestating for right at a year now. Sometimes I walk into the house and I feel quite attached and protective and then other times (mostly!) I have less than positive thoughts like I am SO tired of this house! If I see another piece of wood or encounter another problem, I am outta here! But then I come to my senses and remember that every project eventually sees completion and I take another day to make some progress, another moment to reflect on how far we've come and, before I know it, I'm off the struggle bus and onto the gratitude wagon once again. It is gonna be a stunning cottage home for just the right person filled with history and awesome repurposed materials, but with all the modern day conveniences that we've come to expect. I know you're out there, beautiful buyer, and we're getting your home ready for you!
This week the drywall is being finished! I am excited about this because I know once drywall is complete, there are two major things left to do: 1) PAINT! and 2) FLOORS (the refinishing of, that is)! I commented to our drywall contractor that I'll bet he's never seen anyone as excited about drywall as me and the hubs! But then I explained to him we have literally been looking at dark, open, empty walls for probably nine months now. Understood! By the time this sweet little cottage is put on the market, we will have completed brand-new electrical, brand-new plumbing, brand-new HVAC, brand-new appliances, granite and quartz countertops housing a huge white country sink in the kitchen (where there was NO kitchen), and the cutest, tiniest little sink in the half bath you've ever seen, a luxury master bath complete with twin vanities and a fabulous soaking tub, added that master bath, half bath and laundry closet where before there was NONE, put down repurposed floors where there were none, completely refinished floors original to the house, and a million other things (such as adding closets and renovating four beautiful fireplaces--two of which are operable). Whewwww... As I sit and think through this list, many small things come to mind that only the hubs and I know but that help to make this home comfy and livable, like trying to add storage wherever possible and wifi in the master bath. Countless hours have gone into planning, repurposing, and reconfiguring the square footage to make the spaces functional. And we've done all of this keeping in mind the history of this house and trying to preserve that history and honor its roots. We've come such a long way! But if I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times; the devil is definitely in the details. It's those little things at the end of a renovation that take so much time ...like making sure every piece of trim is installed correctly, that every little nook and cranny is just the way it's supposed to be, making sure everything is buttoned down, and lots and lots of touch-up on literally every room in the house -- oh, the finishing touch ups!
Looks like I'm finally gonna get to post today and, with it being Mother's Day, I'd like to comment on this annual day that we set aside to honor these heroines that so many times go unrecognized the rest of the year. I don't care what you've done in your life, if you have mothered a child -- biologically, through adoption, through fostering, however -- you have been involved in the most critical work of your life. It takes a person committed to a lifetime of sacrifice to be a good mother. And don't be misled, just because your kids might be grown, it doesn't mean you stop mothering. Good mothering is a lifetime affair...from the day you become a mother till the day you leave this earth. One of the things that stand out the most in my mind when my mother was in her last days...she wanted pictures of her kids all around her. She knew that was her life's best work and she loved us beyond measure. Thanks for all you do to invest in not only the future of this world, but eternity as well. Every good thing done by a mother for a child I believe is eternal, because those acts of love and sacrifice will be passed down generation after generation. Your sacrifice does not go unnoticed by me.
If you want to know just how much I really appreciate mothers, scroll back to my post from last year on May 13th. It's a essay dedicated just to mothers and their sacrificial work on this earth.
Happy Mother's Day!
"All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."
- Abraham Lincoln
I flew into Houston an entire week before Abbie's wedding. As the plane lifted above the misty clouds covering Atlanta, my view heading west was of the sunset, and you know how I love to photograph the world from up high! It gets me every time. It's always one of the highlights of flying for me...seeing God's beauty at 30,000 feet. As the crew readied to make our final descent into Houston, I had never been on a plane so quiet...even the children were silent. Looking back on that moment, maybe it was slightly prophetic -- a sign that this week was gonna be one filled with busy times but quiet moments and peaceful hearts.
We dove right into the pre-wedding week with a host of things to do and a list of chores to check off as long as my arm. But in actuality, we probably got started checking things off that list around Tuesday. The first few days Abbie had to finish up some work, teach a class, tie up some loose ends, and take a little time with her mama to lunch and dream about the big day. Every time I go to Houston I visit a new restaurant (this time was no exception), but I also re-visited a place I haven't been in about 25 years, La Madeleine. It was delish! We have them in Atlanta and I will be going again soon! But I know you don't wanna hear about my eating experiences this time, so I'll get on with it! However...BB's Cafe did the catering for the wedding, and it was some of the most delicious wedding food I've ever had. Pecan encrusted chicken, jambalaya, cilantro rice, and more -- food fit for a king and honoring Chap's creole history. And last but certainly not least, Shipley's Donuts for dessert -- on a five-tiered stand, no less!
Donut Cake, anyone? Yes, please!
I don't care how much you plan or how meticulous you are about every little detail, the last few days before a wedding are hectic and crazy and more than a tad bit stressful! Abbie and Chap knew early on the aesthetic they were looking for and so all I had to do pretty much was take the vision they had, the items purchased for creating that vision, and make sure it all came together. Easy enough, right, no pressure!!! As the mother of the bride, I felt that it was my duty to make sure it was everything they pictured and I felt responsible. But Abbie had asked a precious friend to coordinate and, let me tell you, she was the glue that held that day together (I love you, Brooke!). But it all came together in one minimalist "greenery/white candles/and touches-of-gold" aesthetic that had truly a WOW factor. It was stunning! Which reinforced in me that less is almost always more. The only flowers to be seen were in the bride's bouquet and the attendants' tiny nosegays, but it was a breathtaking scene when people began to arrive and the room was aglow. The ceremony and reception took place at the Houston Event Venue, which is an old steel warehouse where a lot of the steel that went into the skyscrapers in Houston had been stored in the past. It was rustic, it was historic, it was elegant...a juxtaposition of the old and the new and all the things they love!
Having been involved in multiple weddings of family and friends' children and also having photographed quite a few, I know only too well that things can go wrong...usually it's something minor and many times it's one of the memories that can still bring a smile to your face when you reflect upon that day years down the road. The rental company who was bringing the tables, chairs and tableware showed up an hour and a half late, which sent the set-up crew into panic mode but somehow the very capable team of friends helping out made it happen in record time...one mishap that wasn't very pleasant at the time, but reminded everyone of what can be done when folks pull together! My very capable son-in-law shared in the officiating and served communion to Abbie and Chap, and then they served communion to their parents which, in and of itself, is something we're not likely to forget in the distant future. But there's one thing about that part of the ceremony we will always likely chuckle about. When Adam was ready to administer the elements, there was a lovely loaf of bread in the dish, but no wine in the cup. Handling it like a champ, he quietly asked the couple if we were just gonna pretend there was wine and, receiving a negative to that, handed the cup to Pastor Rudy who gallantly scampered to the back and returned with wine for communion. One of my favorite parts of the ceremony! We all have visions and the expectation of that vision being manifested to perfection and, even though there are usually uh-oh's, the things that go right far outweigh the things that go wrong. No matter what mishaps seem to sometimes work their way into weddings, the couple always ends up married and luckily life goes on, hopefully to a fantastic honeymoon where they can rest from all the craziness!
I am a very blessed woman to have added to my family a man such as Joel Chap Edmonson. He is compassionate, wise beyond his years, responsible, loves my girl beyond measure, and a million other qualities there's not enough space to list. I know down the road I will grow to love him even more than I do now, and I wish my baby daughter and him many years of love, growth, and laughter. I am so incredibly fortunate to have two sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law that most women can only hope for. They are a beautiful addition to our family and I am so beyond grateful for these "children" God has given me.
To Abbie and Chap, may God bless you abundantly in the years to come, and may all your dreams come true.
I love you both!
"Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning.
Yeah, everything is beautiful."
**Postscript: For all the precious family and friends who flew to Houston, helped with anything and everything they could, and to one special lady who worked like a dog (you know who you are), a million thank-you's for helping to make this day magical.
It is the wee hours of the morning and, despite the long treacherously-tiring previous two days, I am awake and my mind is swirling with all I have to do and the excitement that awaits me over the next couple of weeks. We're making good progress with the renovation and that certainly makes me happy, but the excitement comes from the event shortly to come and that's the wedding festivities of my youngest child.
This post is a tribute to her.
Thirty years ago, we had just moved to a brand-new house. It was by no means my dream house because I don't know when or if I'll ever get that and, right at this moment, I don't even know what my dream house would be. But it was brand-spanking new...no one had ever lived there and we were gonna make it our own. This house was built by a good friend of ours who was also a master mason, and this little home had a huge masonry fireplace which was one of its best features. It had cute wallpaper in the kitchen, butcher block countertops (faux, but still...), and a bedroom for each of our kiddos, two at the time. It had un-walked-upon carpet and fresh new paint which, for some reason that perplexed me, made me feel sick to my stomach. Little did I know I was pregnant with my third baby, a girl. That summer I spent the days lying on the sofa while my other two children ran around the house attempting to entertain themselves. It was an unusually hot summer and, even though the smell of fresh paint made me nauseous, the heat outside my door made me just as nauseous. The summer of '86 was brutal and, needless to say, it was a very long summer. I just lay on the sofa, looking at unpacked boxes that were calling my name from every corner, feeling torn between having so much to do and no energy with which to do it. I was pretty miserable to say the least.
But, as we all know, great hardship many times comes with great reward. And, boy, was that ever true in this case. Abbie was born near Valentine's Day and I have always thought of her as my little heart child. It was a fitting time for her to be born. Being a child of the seventies, I called her my love child because I had no idea when she was conceived or that I was even pregnant until that relentless wave of nausea pushed me down on that sofa for a good six weeks. She also has always been a "loving" child, kind to others with a heart of compassion. I remember we hardly ever had to discipline her because all it took to correct her was a stern look and she cried. She was a good baby, a sweet child, and an uneventful teenager for the most part. And if you are or ever have been the mother of teenagers, you know this is a good thing! To this very day, Abbie is tenderhearted, cares passionately for the downtrodden, and couldn't hurt a soul if she tried. She has only ever fought with her sister which is completely normal and, even though they are 800 miles apart, today they are the best of friends. She's argued with me a couple of times over the years, but it was mostly because of her passions and convictions. Abbie has never given her mama an ounce of trouble...well, maybe an ounce but that is all! We too, are very close. In fact, she and her sister and I are thick as thieves. Sometimes we get into a "texting conversation," the three of us, and my phone blows up with all the pinging. It drives the hubs a little nutty.
Now she is getting married and her sis will stand by her side as her matron of honor (which also makes me cry). She is my final child to marry and, for some reason, this makes her mama even more emotional! It is the end of an era. She has taken her time to find the one who is right and, for that, I am so thankful. Unlike her father and me, who married after four months of laying eyes on each other (THAT I wouldn't advise!), she has dated Joel for three years and quite a few other fellows before that who broke her tender heart. Joel is quiet, very thoughtful, and never speaks unless he's carefully selected his words, and I would do well to allow him to teach me how to do that! He is so smart and extremely devoted. He treats Abbie with respect and dignity and has been one of the best things that has ever happened to her. He treats her like the princess she is.
Very soon I will be boarding a plane to take me the two hours west where Abbie has made her home with the man she loves. Over the remainder of the week the rest of my family will trickle in from various places in the states, where we will all gather to celebrate the "giving away" of our baby girl. Yeah, I know she is no longer a baby, but never tell me that because when I look at the beautiful, strong, determined, focused woman she has become, I still see the little doe-eyed baby girl handed to me so many years ago. And, even though her daddy will actually give her away, we really all will because in my mind, she belongs to all of us. But now she will have a husband who really has already become her no. 1, and rightly so. We have all fallen to the background as he has risen to truly be the king of her heart.
So bring on the craziness. Bring on all the feels. Bring on every emotion that marrying off your youngest conjures up -- I am ready for you! But more than that, I am willing. It is time. We all give you away to the man who has, is, and will always be your everything.
Mrs. Joel Edmonson-to-be, mama's comin.' Houston or bust!
"Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind."
- Nathaniel Hawthorne
It has been said that the busiest of times is the happiest of times. I don't know that I've always believed this, but I'm pretty sure now I do indeed believe that busy times are happy times. I guess it all depends on what you're busy with, but I think a lot of this line of thinking relates to the fact that, when you're busy, you don't have time to complain about all that is not perfect in life. Of course, you may be busy trying to improve your life so it's hard to not think of the bad when you're in improvement mode but, hey, at least you're trying to do something about it, right? You might be busy serving others, if you're a mom, or the child of an elderly or sick relative, or called to some mission greater than yourself. And you just might be busy just trying to keep your head above water, if you know what I mean. I personally think that's where most of us find ourselves in daily living!
I recall a brief period in my life when my kids were gone (as in married or off to college), at the time I wasn't working and it was "pre-grandchildren," and I experienced a rough patch. I don't think I realized it at the time, but I had lost the only purpose I had ever known, and that was to be a mother. Now, if you know me, you know I believe that parenting is the highest of all callings. Not everyone is called to motherhood but if you, like me, have always felt that being a mother has been your greatest work, then you know what I'm talking about. Of course, once a mother always a mother, and I don't care if you're 90 and your child is 70, they're always going to be your baby and you never step out of the mothering mentality, not one minute. But there are definitely periods of motherhood where you're not as needed and, relating to this period in my life, I now realize I needed more in my world than just mothering. I needed something that I could put my hand to and draw satisfaction for myself alone that would make me feel productive and worthy -- something that would make me feel growth as an individual. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20. I've tried to pass that wisdom on to my daughter who is now a mother of two little girls, did you know that, haha? I've always sensed in her that, as important to her as motherhood is, work also brings her a great deal of gratification. Of course, she worked hard to get her nursing degree and she is very good at what she does, so to me her going back to work part-time was a no-brainer. And she is a happier mother for it, so everyone benefits (me as well, because I get to keep the kiddos!).
The renovation is purring along. Some days feel like we're making tremendous progress and, in the words of the hubs, "Some days we have to fight for all we get!" There are times it feels like the smallest of chores takes 100 times as long as it should, and things that should be easy mysteriously morph into problems. Then some days at the end of the day, we look back and see that we've accomplished quite a bit (those are my favorite days). We have made significant progress on the kitchen design and the master bath add-on and these two areas are almost complete! The sheetrock is almost finished (one of those things that's taken one million times longer than it should've), and the floors are coming along. I am beginning to see some of my dreams for this house that I've been sitting on becoming a reality recently, and I'm really loving what I'm seeing. It's during these times that I am so grateful to be able to do what I do.
Today, in my sixties, I am literally busier than I have ever been in my life! Between children and grandchildren, doing things for my elderly father, renovating houses, and being in a marriage where there's never a dull moment, I am maxed out to the limit. And it is a very good life, I must say. But today on this Good Friday 2018 leading into Easter weekend, I'm taking a moment to slow down, embrace thankfulness for this life God has given me, and count my many blessings. I don't know how I'm gonna do that because my blessings truly are too many to count. I'm looking forward to actually cooking my family a meal on Easter Sunday, and I'm dreaming about upcoming wedding plans for our youngest. Houston-bound soon!
I'm hoping to have many more pictures to share soon of the renovation. My life is far from perfect, but I don't have time to think about that!
Wishing you the hope of that first Easter so very long ago...
"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. "
- Maya Angelou
Inspiration is a welcomed visitor who sometimes doesn't come around as much as I'd like but, when she does, I drop whatever I'm doing to entertain her, make her welcome, feed her, and then squeeze out every little bit of her satisfying charm that I possibly can.
I come from a family of creatives. My family includes the following: A bonafide ceramic artist; house renovators (moi & hubby and my sister & her hubby and others); folks trained (and very good at it I might add) in wood-working and building stuff; floral designers; wedding planners and directors; home decorators and green-thumb gardeners; photographers; and last, but certainly not least, a chef. And these are just the talents I can recall at the moment. We encompass a whole host of do-it-yourself-ers who in most any given case would rather just -- well, do it themselves.
Now, whether these fine creatives have been born out of pure talent, utter necessity, or a combination of both, is still not completely clear, but I do know this: We love to do things on our own and feel the satisfaction of a creative endeavor accomplished. So when we go through periods where we feel uninspired, it can be a Debbie Downer (I speak of myself). Creative juice is truly one of the things that keeps me going, gives me energy, and boosts my booty off the sofa to see where I can go and what I can achieve in any given day.
Many things spark my creative flow. Nature ranks right up there at the top of the list. Just give me a beautiful flower or a tree bursting forth in the spring or a scenic fall landscape and I feel I could fly. Travel is a big one. There's something about seeing new places and cultures (even if it's just the midwesterners or new England yankees or Florida sun-seekers) that sparks my perspective and feeds me. Even better if it's on foreign soil with people speaking a different language all around me, dressed in strange attire, eating exotic new foods, and enjoying a life that is completely the opposite of mine. It helps me to remember that my little corner of the world is not all there is. My children and grandchildren fuel it. When you have children who they themselves inspire you to be a better person, you pretty much have it all. And those grandchildren; do I really need to explain how they inspire me? I don't think so. They're as pure as the new fallen snow; they're funny; they're honest (sometimes painfully) and as true and real as anything you can find on earth. Family inspiration has permanent residence in my heart and my family never ceases to energize me. Great design is a big motivator for me. Having a room or a house to decorate or something beautiful to photograph is like lighting a big ol' firecracker underneath me, sending me soaring into the heavens, not knowing exactly where I'll come back to earth but most definitely it'll be a beautiful spot...one where I want to linger and rest awhile, admiring the thing I have created or developed or improved and truly questioning how I, this "lowly grandma from Georgia," could've done such a fine thing.
So, if you are a faithful reader of this blog, you know that 2018 has been a struggle for me at times in the inspiration department. I am what I call a "quicky creative." Now, in case you're scratching your head, a quicky creative is just this: I like projects that pretty much have instant results. Give me some flowers I can arrange in 30 minutes or less or a piece of furniture I can paint and transform in an hour, and I'm in hog heaven. I love recipes that are simple and easy and quick, and yield amazingly delicious results. I once took up a bit of cross-stitching in the nineties, but never did do a substantial sampler because it took too long. I stuck to those tiny little pieces and finally gave it up because cross-stitch was just not my thing. So sticking with a project that is eventually gonna take up the better part of a year has been really hard for me. I've had moments of intense satisfaction, like laying down tongue and groove wood that came off walls and found a new home on the master bathroom floor...that was about a day project, so short enough that I felt accomplished at the end of the day. I can go a day or a week or several months even, but a year? Oooo, kinda hard for this girl.
But there is no turning back now. We have way too much invested in our 1892 renovation project, things are plugging along, and I feel my inspiration once again beginning to gain momentum. Could it be that in a few short weeks I will FINALLY see some of the vision I've had for this old beauty coming into focus? In my mind's eye, I've been seeing it for months and months now, but waiting to physically see it has been one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Doing a good job and taking the time needed to accomplish that good job takes a whole lotta time on a project like this, and I've had to learn that the hard way, through patience and perseverance.
So...inspiration? Yeah, I'm talkin' to you. Stay awhile; let me feel you; let me pick your brain and bathe in your warm bubbles; let me take you on a long, relaxing walk because you are truly one of my best friends and I'd like to have you around more often.
A glimpse of the master bath vanities in their final resting place, with mirrors resting on them (NOT in their final resting place; they will be hung!), and sans the gorgeous sconces. I love how the painted tongue and groove came out in all its glory, with all the cracks, nail holes, and imperfections. Farmhouse style at its best!
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."
- Steve Jobs
Posted by CC
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