Venetian Gold

When we bought our house, there was really only one thing I disliked about the house: the granite in the kitchen. I just think the pattern in the granite is busy and would have preferred something less colorful. The problem – then and now – is that granite is expensive to replace and it would feel wasteful to remove it anyway. I feel guilty about not liking it – like someone handed me chocolate cheesecake and I said I would prefer key lime pie.

Chocolate Cheesecake.

The kitchen is almost 10 years old now. It’s holding up very well considering the pets and children running amok around here – but we have some water damage from splashes around the sink and fridge and there are scuffs on the cabinets.

A view with the lights off… Very little natural light!!!

Have you ever taken photos of your house? A photo hides a multitude of sins. I lived in a 100 year old townhouse in England that looked adorable in pictures. It was tired and worn out in real life. Charming, yes – but worn out. Anyway, these iPhone shots of my kitchen don’t show you the wear – or the crumbs – or the sink full of dishes! Ha! Just looking at pictures, I’d think we should leave it alone. But the day is coming that we will need to refresh the cabinets with paint or stain…

A view of the kitchen with the lights on.

This photo makes the counters look almost green. They’re brown and gold – not green at all. The first photo I posted up top is the most accurate. Anyway, I am trying to figure out what will look best for 1-5 years from now when we do this project… because I like to plan ahead.

Check out my board on Pinterest with several kitchens that mixed Venetian Gold granite with painted cabinets and tell me what you think!

Owls and gold in the office…

My office is completely “me”. I realize the whole house reflects my great love of brown with baskets, etc. But in my office, there are no compromises – it’s my corner of the house – and I love it in here. (Freddie does, too! But I can share.)

I have slowly been adding pops of gold and bronze in the past year or two – mostly via spray paint. (Of course!) First, there was the owl pencil holder, then an old lamp and picture frame and the footstool…

The other day, I was helping Mom pick out knobs for a table in her breakfast room and I spotted these pewter owl knobs. Owls! They were $3 on sale but they had a pretty cheesy ‘antiqued’ blue finish. Nothing a little spray paint can’t fix!

This had to go… boring hardware.

After surveying my inventory, I decided to use the FolkArt metallic paint that we found in the garage when we bought the house 7 years ago! Haha! I guess I hated to throw away a good can of spray paint? It worked very well, although it came out really thick and briefly clogged up.

My desk had 4 little round knobs. Owls are awesome, but 4 in a row would look silly, so I decided to put the two owls on the middle drawer and keep round knobs on the side drawers. (I painted all 4 gold so the old knobs would match the new ones.)

See, I don’t need fake ‘antiquing’… my desk is has authentic wear and tear! Ignore the scratches and dents, please.

I like how the color of the brassy gold matches from the two owls to the globe. Coincidentally, the style of owl is the same for the knob and my pencil cup. I don’t know it’s originally intended purpose but I think it was a flowerpot. I found it in the seasonal department of Hobby Lobby years ago. It was orange!

This is how it all turned out. I love it! The owls make the desk a bit more fun. This desk is only a few years old, but it gets a lot of use by the kids and me. It’s very strong – I stood on it today to reshuffle the paintings.

Here’s a quick view of the rest of the office:

I am already tired of the crazy fabric I put on the stool and lamp last year but that will be an easy fix!

Leah wants this mini sleeper sofa in her room for guests when she has a friend to sleep over. She may have to fight Freddie for it! Ha! I am rarely envious of people, but I am often envious of Freddie!!! Especially when I am working and he is snoring right by me!!!

Here’s my view from the sofa. This room gets a ton of light so it’s never dark in here – even with chocolate brown walls.

My favorite plant next to my favorite antique.

Speaking of office space, Bryan’s Man Cave is coming along! I got him a new TV this summer and a really cool bookcase that my brother Steve graciously assembled. Once we get in the hardwood floors and the new door, I will share pictures.

Brothers…

On a related note, it’s not just younger brothers who think underwear counts as an outfit… My brother Steve never has liked clothes very much so it may be genetic. I posted this to Facebook last year: Michael fishing in boxers – carrying on a family tradition.

Super Fudge

I loved Judy Blume books when I was a kid – but I couldn’t quite relate to Peter Hatcher’s complaints about his little brother in Tales of  4th Grade Nothing or its sequel series: Super Fudge, Double Fudge, Fudge-a-mania, etc. I was the youngest child – and, of course, not irritating at all – and I always desperately wanted a little brother!

Lucky Miss Leah!!! She has a little brother!!! Oh the joy!!!  

Leah loves Michael very much – with all her heart – but about half the time she wants to clobber him. Michael has already realized that singing, “Leah and Andrew sittin’ in a tree…” infuriates her. (She and Andrew are BFFs – period. I told her to just roll her eyes so her reaction is less rewarding – ?) Michael will positively torture her as a teenager. I can just picture him wanting to tag along on dates someday…

Using a fork is just soooooooo taxing.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ve seen these pictures. Michael said to type in jungle man! I just wanted evidence of his manners for his senior/graduation slideshow someday! Or perhaps the rehearsal dinner for his wedding?

This is the stuff that bugs Leah now and will absolutely have her come un-done in a few more years when everything is “sooooo embarassing”…

Michael insisted on riding to the Chick-fil-A drive through wearing only underpants. I said, “What if the drive through worker says [in a sing song voice]: Underpants! Underpants!” Michael just shrugged and said he wouldn’t mind. So Leah and Andrew pulled their shirts over their faces. They said they were hiding their identities.

You can see how deeply offended Michael was by their reaction. (Ah, sweet satisfaction!) He’s going to have fun with this. Maybe I should buy Leah the Judy Blume boxed set?!?

Volleyball and Soccer

I am so happy about volleyball and soccer right now. You know why? Because Leah and Michael are really enjoying it! <insert happy dance>

Leah is the one in the pink hairband.

I really don’t know anything about volleyball so the learning curve is steep. What I do know is that I’m getting a lot of photos of Leah’s bootie!! Haha!! They haven’t gotten their uniforms yet as you can see…

Here’s Leah serving.

Leah’s team had their first couple of scrimmages last night and played really well! The pace was quick and exciting! Leah is strong and seems to be good at serving. I love that she’s totally into the game – so focused and still having fun!!!!! The other day, she asked me if there is a middle school volleyball team she can play on…

Their season starts next week. :)

Michael’s soccer team has already played two games! The other night, we had a full moon. Beautiful!

Michael is playing left fullback – my old position! He’s so excited here – jumping up and down as Charlie takes a shot at the ball (and/or the kid). Haha! Michael occasionally yells, “Defend the goooooaal!!!!!” in a tone reminiscent of a young Mel Gibson yelling “For Scotlaaaand!!!!!” in Braveheart.

Go Ninjas!!!

And… the cheering section clearly needs a heads up on the team colors!! Ha!!

This month in the yard: September

I opted against a zillion pictures of the yard this month since very little has changed in recent weeks… with one significant exception!

My “dead” River Birch tree is sprouting new growth! Yippee!

My Day Lillies have continued to bloom all summer but I’m learning it takes a copious amount of flowers to drench the beds in color a la Southern Living magazine. The flowerbed around the back patio looks pewny!!! Seriously, the Lemongrass looks like a feature plant – it now dwarfs the blueberries – and all my flowers are so small and spread apart that they disappear.

Bleh.

I have a lot of work to do in the years to come!

The Crepe Myrtle is starting to bloom!

These little annuals are still my favorites – so easy!

Freddie barks and growls at everyone who jogs by – if he doesn’t know them and/or they don’t pet him – and particularly if they have a dog. He is so obnoxious! I’ve learned recently some joggers think he is “mean”. I may need to put out a dog treat station with a little note explaining our rotten dog’s behavior: he will shut up if you pet him!

Claire likes stalking the butterflies that hover around the Lantana and Night Salvia.

The Hydrangeas still haven’t bloomed!!!

Open House

Leah’s school held an Open House the other night so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on school today vs. back in 1979 when I was a 4th grader.

Here’s the 4th grade hallway. Leah’s school is about 20 years old but still looks very fresh and new. They have everything – a gym, library, cafeteria with a stage, specialized classrooms for music/art/technology, a track and several playgrounds. It’s so nice!

The school I attended for 4th grade was very small. We had classrooms and a library plus a make-shift baseball diamond out back. The lunch ladies pushed a cart down our hallway and we took our trays to eat in the classroom. It had been a black school before desegregation and was replaced in the 80s. Our PE teacher told us not to play in the woods behind the school because “the buck-necked weazel” would get us!!! Haha!!!

Leah’s self portrait includes orange and blue braces and a rainbow top. Girls in 4th grade have always loved rainbows.

Leah’s school library has so many books I remember! Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys plus the Boxcar series and all my favorites by Beverly Cleary.

Our school library did have a card catalog and did not have QR codes on the shelves!

The kids were supposed to fill out each section of the star to tell about themselves – what they like to do, what they hope to accomplish, how they see themselves and how their classmates describe them. I liked that Leah said she wants a doctorate degree in every subject. :)

Leah’s school has the exact same water fountains that my school had 35 years ago!!!

Leah’s school has a SPACE program for students to stretch their thinking – same program with the same name from back in my day. Leah’s teacher had them write/describe and draw a metaphorical representation of themselves. (She’s showing me her work in the picture above.) Leah’s class has done really cool projects. It’s her favorite part of school.

The kids still have state history in the 4th grade – just like we did – but they’re learning new things we could have only imagined. Leah has a class this year where they are learning coding, game design, robotics and video production as part of a broader STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum. The kids have been using PowerPoint to do presentations since kindergarten or 1st grade. Technology is so intuitive for them.

Teachers still put a label with the student’s name on each desk.

Leah speaks more openly about her faith than I think (?) I did as a child. In both this poem about herself and in the metaphorical activity for her SPACE teacher, she talks about Jesus. In Alabama, students are free to express their faith without reserve. I recall 4th grade being the first year we didn’t pray as a class before lunch. Our high school band director completely ignored that policy change and always had the drum major lead the band in a prayer before we performed – and always arranged for a local minister to lead a prayer over the loud speaker before every football game.

When I was in 4th grade, our textbooks were actual books! Now, they’re all online. As a parent, it’s nice having immediate access to Leah’s school work and test scores. Each child in our city’s school system has a laptop. Very modern!

My school had bean bags we could lounge on – and shag carpets! Some things never change!

Friends are still the best part of the day!

Fun with MS

The title of my post is intended to be facetious – just to be clear. Oh, I am just being dramatic. Thankfully, thankfully, thankfully, this year has been pretty uneventful. Bryan has felt crummy this summer, but that’s the ebb and flow of things. The good news is that the FDA has until November to make a final decision on Lemtrada. This is the drug we tried off-label two years ago but haven’t been able to continue because the FDA rejected it. (It was approved by 33 of the other 33 countries who reviewed the trials… ) So if it gets rejected in November, Bryan and I are headed to Canada for treatment. As much as I love Canada, I’d much rather do this here.

Bryan’s neurologist always runs late because he’s a very popular doctor and well known MS Specialist and he gives every patient his full attention. He was 3 hours late for our last appointment! But we’re grateful for all the times he stayed longer with us. Sometimes it’s us. Sometimes it’s you. All the time, it’s worth waiting.

Bryan has begun a monthly steroid infusion in preparation for the Lemtrada (here or Canada). The funny thing is that a home health nurse came by, poked a needle in his arm, handed him infusion bags with steroids, syringes filled with saline and a sheet of instructions for giving himself his own infusions!!! I am not kidding. Bryan and I were clamping down lines and swapping out bags like pros. Who needs a nursing degree when you’ve seen as many episodes of ER and Royal Pains as we have?!?

Seriously, it reminds me of the instructions in a box of at-home hair color.

Pursuing Happiness

This post is for my children – but you’re welcome to read it. This is a conversation I want to have with them as teenagers, but I am writing it down in case I get hit by a bus. :)

A core component of our human existence is a desire for happiness and an ongoing search for meaning in this life. If you Google “the meaning of life” you’ll find all sorts of self-involved pithy quotes about gifts, dancing in the rain, self-actualization and personal discovery. You can find happiness (pleasure) in all these things – and probably some meaning, too. Most people live this way. It’s not a bad life.

nonsense

Throughout your life, you’ll see friends and family pursuing happiness who never find it and inadvertently hurt a lot of people in the process. You’ll see people you care about make a royal mess of their lives. My hope is that it will never be you. My hope is that you’ll have early wisdom to see the true meaning in life – that it’s so much more than the pursuit of happiness, as much as we all love happiness!

Dr. Martha Stout, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School, said something notable in talking about the intersection of religion and psychology and the failure of the late 20th century’s over-emphasis on self: “A psychologist would say that when we take some responsibility for the welfare of others, our actions feel natural (or “ego-synotic”) and our own life satisfaction is enhanced. The Bible says simply, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” 

A jillion years ago, I was a teenager in a Sunday School class reading the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians where he says, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” That sentence irritated me. It didn’t make sense grammatically. I wondered if something had been lost in the translation from the original Greek into English – maybe an important word or two had been left out. The verse bugged me – for years. To live is Christ? And to die is gain? What??? Many years later, I was all grown up and strolling past all the blue cubicles in the office at EDS when it suddenly struck me what this verse is saying.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh no. My heart sank just a bit. It’s not about me. (What?!?) My life (My! Life!) is not about me. I am not here to pursue happiness. I am not here to dance in the rain or discover my true self or my gift or to create my own meaning. I am here – you are here – to live to the glory of God.

Full stop.

The good news? Happiness is a by-product. The other good news? There’s plenty of space for rain dancing and adventures and gift finding (and giving). There’s oodles of space for joy in every day life. But the meaning of each day is to live to the glory of God and that means loving others as much as we love ourselves. For some people, there will be grandiose gestures of using your medical degree to treat people with Ebola – or selling what you own to go care for orphans halfway around the world. 

Most of us will simply be God’s hands and feet on the ground every day right where we are – advocating for those who need our voices, giving to the poor, making casseroles for the sick and bereaved… I’m laughing about the casseroles, but you know what I mean. We’ll each do whatever we’re good-ish at doing to be a light of His love in the lives of people hurting right next to us. That’s the meaning of life.

Kids, I hope you will be happy. Of course, I do! But I hope you’ll always be keenly aware of God’s love for us and His enormous blessings and let that guide the meaning in your life so that you can play a key role in bringing happiness (and peace and healing and all good things) to others.

I hope we can talk about this for many, many years to come!

Dog Day

According to Facebook, yesterday was apparently National Dog Day. (What on this earth?!?) Anyway, I thought I would share an update on Freddie. For the first several months after we adopted Freddie, I sincerely considered him to be my greatest parenting mistake – perhaps my greatest LIFE mistake. He was positively exhausting to live with. I cannot overstate how miserable he made my life. He chewed up everything – seriously hundreds of dollars of lost shoes and toys and throw pillows and dog beds – plus, he jumped on everyone and ‘bit’ the children like they were his litter-mates and he peed everywhere. It was constant mayhem.

My neighbor Barbara would say, “Just love him,” and I would sigh.

 

Fast forward three and a half years: Freddie still jumps on some people – mostly the ones who pet him as they say sweetly, “No, Freddie. Don’t jump on me.” Love love love. Pet pet pet. It drives me crazy that he jumps on people, but my powers of dog-and-people training have been insufficient to correct it. I now stick him in the office when the doorbell rings. As for the other stuff, he’s so good!!! He stopped biting and chewing on the kids like puppies and instead bites and chews on Claire who seems to love the game! He never, ever pees in the house. Mostly, he naps.

He is a good dog.

Love really does have a transformative power and sometimes (all the time) we all need that. I will never forget what Leah said when we first got him and I asked the children if they thought Freddie would ever settle down and be a good pet: “No, but I want to give him three more chances anyway.” I have seen that love and acceptance change people – and at least one dog.

Not long after we adopted Freddie, my neighbor Barbara got a little crazy puppy of her own who nearly drove her to the brink. He was so naughty! When she called him, he would run the opposite direction and she’d have to chase him. It was hilarious! One day, she pulled up to my house and handed me the puppy. “You can have him,” she said – and drove away. She was just kidding (SORT OF) and I was laughing hysterically when she came back to get him. “Just love him!” I said. Her puppy turned out to be a great little dog. It’s like a magic!

When in doubt? Add more love.

I saw this throw pillow the other day and thought of my friend Molly. ;)