Thursday, February 24, 2011

For My Mom, On Her Birthday

Happy belated birthday to my beautiful mom. It just wouldn’t be right if I’d posted this on time. Here are tonight's Top Ten (ok, twelve) reasons I love her:

She gives love through food. And, my... does she love us very, very well.

She is a nervous passenger when riding shotgun with me, especially in the city, holding on to doors and closing her eyes as I weave in and out of traffic. Somehow this makes me feel like I’m a good driver.

Almost ten years ago, we spent a full week in New York City together and discovered shared passions for goat cheese tarts and Champagne (thank you, Balthazar), department store windows (sigh, Bergdorf) and brilliant performances on- and off-Broadway.

She gave me six brothers and sisters. I need say nothing more.

She still looks the same as she did when she was 35. And I look much like she did when she was 35. So, logic tells me that in 20 years I may look a lot like I do--and she does--now. Yes. I will take it.

As a young divorcee with two small children, she boldly and bravely (and blindly?) moved from the comforts of her college town hometown to a two-traffic light village of a thousand to marry a sweet young pig farmer/electrician. I don’t know what made her do it—his stunning blue eyes and curly blonde hair or if she just knew he would be a good father to Matthew and I? Regardless, she got it right.

She loves her friends with all of her being. She sacrificed time with them while raising us, but dammit if they aren’t raising hell now that we’re all grown.

She pushed me towards the right boys and pulled me away from the wrong ones. This usually had the opposite of the intended effect, until it really mattered.

She picks the best perfumes. Always has. Anything she wears becomes her signature fragrance. 

Her strength is incalculable. Peerless. Defiant and graceful. Even after losing both father and son to the worst fate imaginable, she marched on. Head held high. Heart broken, but open and able to give seemingly endless love to her family and her friends.

She’s a sucker for grand gestures, tearjerker movies, dramatic love songs and romance novels. This woman loves love, and there isn’t a thing wrong with that.

She really does know best.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shine On

Geoffrey Rush in Shine (1996)
My friend GiGi often writes lists of the things she loves most about a friend on his or her birthday. She shares the list with a group of mutual friends (I'm talking about the Writing Mamas in our case), and she always nails it. 

GiGi sums up what it is everyone loves about anyone, and tonight, as I'm settling in after spending a few hours with her and her son watching the brilliant Shine (see it if you haven't or if it's been awhile), I want to share what it is that I love about her. I hope these touch upon the things many others love about her, too. The list could go on and on. 

And on. 

I hope this may inspire anyone reading here to do little lists of your own about the GiGis in your life. I hope to do more such reflections in this space, as I am day-after-day overwhelmed by the number of incredible people in my life.

But up first, GiGi's top ten (er, eleven)...

She will guide me through the great Russian novels.
She will introduce me to classical music since I don’t know where to begin.
She loves my son and takes care of him so I can go on dates with my husband.
We love watching movies together and laugh at the same moments and cry in sync.
We both have deep appreciation (sure, that’s what we’ll call it…) for Javier Bardem and Colin Firth.
Her 11-year-old son brings me blankets and cuddles in tight against me on the sofa.
She gave up her bed and slept on the sofa when Matt, Beckett and I needed a place to crash.
She brings buckets full of chicken noodle soup when I am sick or sad.
Her son is sensitive, fair, just, kind, funny, irreverent and expressive. And there’s no denying where he got it all.
Her writing is rich, smart, playful, wry and honest.
She’s one of my best and most thoughtful readers, and one of my most enthusiastic supporters.

Love you, G.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Week 2: Progress

It's a strange thing, standing on the sidelines while your new home is built. We walked through last Monday and didn't go back until today. Since we came in late in the process---and since we fully trust our builders---we know it's best if we just stay out of the way. We have made our contributions, from signing a contract to choosing paint colors, but there's little else we can do. But my, oh my: There is much the building crews can do -- and have done!

Week 2's progress includes: Exterior paint almost completed, bathrooms' floors and showers tiled, kitchen countertops and backsplash installed, trim/baseboards/doors painted and most fixtures and appliances delivered. I'm probably leaving out many important behind-the-scenes (or walls) accomplishments, but here are many of the things that caught my eye today:

Front Door

Many Doors


Living Room (looking from kitchen)

Ridiculous Master Shower

Master Vanity

Upstairs Bath

Side & Screened Porch (ahh...)

Room of your own?

My last post left me wondering how many people are still able to go back to the room they grew up in.

I'd love to know:

Did your parents keep your bedroom intact after you left home? If so, for how long?

When you go home for visits, do you sleep in the room that was once yours? Or is that room now a sewing room or media room or something else?

Does the home you lived in for most of your childhood still belong to your family?

If you're a parent of teenagers or grown children, do you intend to leave their rooms as they are or have you already drawn up plans for something new? Has empty nest syndrome left you considering relocating to a smaller nest altogether?

Please, leave comments below!

Home Again

We returned last night from a weekend spent at home in Ohio. My family’s house isn’t among my 27 total. The longest I lived there was one week at Christmas the year my brother died. And again another week sometime the summer after, still looking for reasons and a connection to home.

Built while I was away at college, that house never included a room for me.

No, my room is gone. The bedroom I occupied for more years than any other – from 6th grade through 12th – actually still stands, but a stranger inhabits it now. House #16 belongs to a family I do not know (uncommon in Anna, Ohio), but I drive past it every trip to Ohio and look up at that window on the second floor and wonder if its new occupant has taped magazine photos of movie stars all over the closet door, as I did. I wonder if he or she has replaced the mauve carpet I so proudly chose when we built the house in 1989. Please, God. I sure hope so.

Nowhere is there a room that still holds my trophies and framed high school snapshots, dried prom corsages and boxes of love notes. I carried most of those things with me from homes 17 to 26, where they drowned in the basement during the flood of May 2010.

Back to the weekend. It was good. Filled with an uncommon sense of nostalgia. I went back in time, cheering in the stands at two high school basketball games. I clapped along to the Anna Rockets’ fight song. I still know every word. I could likely still do a good bit of the 1995 cheer routine, minus the short pleated green and white skirt. 

I drank beer at a local bar and shopped with girlfriends. I stayed in my pajamas until almost noon and ate biscuits and gravy and a jelly donut for Sunday breakfast. 

It felt much like a regular weekend of nearly two decades ago. Siblings lounging all around me, sisters giggling and little brother watching basketball on TV. Just one brother missing. I felt Matthew’s absence, as I always do.

But it still felt like home. Even if I was sleeping in my sister’s bed with my husband in the matching twin bed across the room and my son on a pallet on the floor beside me.

It felt comfortable and easy. Much different than our current living situation. I didn’t want to leave. Nor did Matt (he stalled) or Beckett (he cried - photos below might suggest many of the reasons he wanted to stay). 

But we did leave. We drove the long familiar road from Anna to Nashville, singing all the way with Huey Lewis and Chicago and Arcade Fire and The National. We ate Goo Goo Clusters. We napped.  We made it home safely, and we slept well, the three of us in one small room together.

And as always, we were just happy to wake up with one another. In a few short (or long?) weeks, our house will be complete. We will have rooms of our own once more. We will have our own beds back. And we will have a stove on which I can attempt to recreate Mom’s Sunday breakfast.

And so the countdown continues and, until the big day, I’ll wish I could be closer to my Ohio home-that-is-home-even-if-it-never-really-was. In fact, I’ll wish we could just stay there for the next several weeks. That we could go to my little brother’s tournament basketball game on Saturday night and have some drinks with friends after. I’ll wish we could spend our Sunday mornings gathered ‘round the family table. 

And that it wasn’t all so far away.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

House Beautiful

Earlier this week, Matt and I met Brett from Woodland Street Partners (have I mentioned how fantastic this group is?) for a walk through. We had not been inside the house in more than two weeks and, while we were expecting major progress, I don’t think I was prepared. I nearly cried. I nearly fell down and kissed the dust-covered oak floors. I could have curled up on the floor of the gigantic master shower to take a midday nap. I felt that happy and that comfortable inside those walls.

It is home.

Now, I could go on and on about our old home and why we decided to sell and why we decided to move to East Nashville and what we’ll miss about our old neighborhood and what we hope for in the new one. Some other day...

Tonight, here’s the short and sweet of it.  

Our new home is a Victorian Craftsman with a modern interior and open floor plan of almost 2,000sf. It will be Energy Star rated and boasts green features throughout.

We will be in the Eastwood Neighbors area of East Nashville, just a few blocks from the delicious intersection of Chapel and Eastland.

And amazingly, the house is scheduled for completion in 3-5 weeks.

An incredibly talented and sweet interior designer, Peggy Newman, was involved from day one and is the mastermind behind the super-smart floor plan. She and the guys at WSP selected the finishes for the home before we discovered the property and, fortunately for all, we loved every single finish and fixture they had chosen. 

Here’s a rundown on my favorite features:

Paint colors. Think light. Peaceful. Clean. The palette of white, gray, blue, green  and natural wood calms me in an instant.

An all-in-one living room, dining room and kitchen. The space is big and bright and open.  (see right)

And it is anchored by...

…a huge island with seating for four that will be covered in Carerra marble (see left). It's a risk, I know, but worth it!

Soaring vaulted ceilings in all upstairs rooms including the loft/playroom, three bedrooms and two bathrooms (see below).
Did you notice I said playroom? This is a huge deal for us. And for Beckett. And for any person who would like to cross our living room without impaling his or her foot with tiny toy weapons or hard plastic dinosaurs or Legos.
The master shower. It is ridiculous. I mean, two rain shower heads mounted over a space the size of a Cadillac. Seriously sick.

A screened-in side porch with an overhead fan. I am dreaming of the nights we will spend from April through October talking, eating, drinking and reading on this porch.

A covered front/side  that overlooks a sizeable but manageable fenced yard, ideal for hosting cookouts and birthday parties, playing fetch with a new dog, chasing a new baby (someday…) and simply playing with family, friends and new neighbors.

Isn’t that what I said this was all about in the first place?
The next couple of weeks will be marked by many interior and exterior changes, so better and more interesting photos will come soon.

In the meantime, we are headed north for a long weekend. Home to Ohio. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Popping the Question

Matt and I have no standing rule as to whether we do or do not celebrate Valentine's Day. We definitely did when we were dating. The first few years of marriage included some romantic but overpriced dinners. In more recent years, we have celebrated Beckett-style -- finding and signing cards to exchange at preschool, rationing out chocolates and pastel sugar hearts, eating casual dinners at home or at a local Mexican joint -- and that has been just fine with us. Better than fine.

Yesterday we made plans to meet after work for a family dinner at The Local Taco, away from the crowds of couplings, and we sent Beckett to school armed with a baggie of 3D dinosaur cards for his friends (only to discover he was once again the poor kid, as everyone else brought candy and stickers and treats, too). But he made out like a bandit, and dinner was good. Really good. It was Margarita Monday after all.

The highlight of my day, though, was a surprise visit from my sweet friend, Tara. She delivered a homemade cookie bouquet to my office, and we chatted and I shared all the latest exciting house plans. (My next post. Promise.) But back to those cookies. They were delicious, of course, but also carried a sweet message: Will U B My Bridesmaid. I first interpreted this as Will U B My Maid (the little white dress didn't register immediately), and thought to myself, "What the hell? Why would I clean her house? Why would she want me to clean her house?"

Then it clicked. I said "yes," of course, and am honored and excited to stand beside Tara when she marries Mr. Ben (as Beckett knows him) in the fall. I love them both and know they have many happy Valentine's Days ahead of them. Romantic dinners, cheap Margarita Mondays, tiny card exchanges and all.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Week 1: Snowed

One week down. We did it. We survived. In fact, we rocked it. We kept our patience in check, our showers brief and our food in a plastic tub just in case that scratching and crunching sound coming from the lower kitchen cabinets was indeed the buck-toothed attic neighbors we hoped never to meet.

The week’s major challenge was unrelated to our actual living quarters. As all of my Nashville readers know, Wednesday delivered upon us a complete whiteout. The snow’s accumulation was minimal, but it’s velocity was like nothing I’d seen before. The fury of white flakes came at 3:30pm or so, and any person not yet on the road home or already safely there was in for trouble. Big trouble. Self included.

The journey from my office to our makeshift home—a mere distance of 3.5 miles—lasted exactly two hours. My experience was no different or worse than most others', but it was possibly the worst car travel experience I have personally ever endured. I witnessed one car after another sliding backwards down hills, somehow avoiding other cars and usually settling into a ditch. Over and over I feared, “Now is it my turn. I’m next. I don't know what to do.” I ice skated in my weathered (but not all-weather) Frye boots to the small SUV spinning out in front of me and gave her a willful push, which, to my surprise, provided all she needed to get up and go. I inched my way up and down rolling hills and past abandoned cars and nearly cried when I finally pulled into the driveway. 

(Photos courtesy: The Tennessean)
Beckett and Matt endured a long and occasionally frightening drive as well. We were shaken but relieved. And, no matter its size, shape or location, we were simply happy to be home.

The week's other nights included many commitments away from home, so we haven't yet spent much time simply hanging out in the apartment. Though this is disorienting and stressful, I doubt we will ever spend a full Saturday afternoon lounging about. 

We are counting the days until we can settle completely into the comforts of our new home. We learned last night that the day may come sooner than expected. Our builders say we may only have three weeks left. Still, I remain skeptical and expect to wait at least four or five weeks more. 

No matter, the day is not far off, and the journey there surely can't be as painful as the one so many of us experienced this week.

Will post details on the new hacienda (with photos from our upcoming walk-through!) on Monday.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Homeward Bound

I once lived in a farmhouse on Hogpath Road. 

I lived in a modern industrial loft on Peachtree Street, in a dorm room on Melrose Place and in my grandparents' 14th Street four-square after my parents' divorce.  

And there was that two-story apartment with four bedrooms, a loft and cute neighbors on Grand Avenue, too, which actually wasn’t grand at all. The bedrooms had paper-thin walls, the creaky loft overlooked the living room’s built-in maroon vinyl sofa and wicker outdoor furniture set, and the cute boys next door included a pyromaniac, a drug dealer and, of course, a true heartbreaker.

I have lived in many homes. Twenty-seven and counting. The most recent was the first I owned. (Well, co-owned.) Five years into our marriage, Matt and I settled into a sweet Arts and Crafts cottage of brick and stone with a sprawling backyard and a good dose of character. We made improvements, and we made it our own. We brought Beckett home to this house on Mother’s Day weekend 2007, and we buried our young dog under a white-blossomed dogwood three years later. Also on Mother’s Day weekend.

I loved this home as much, or probably more, than any of the others. But last Thursday, we dashed out of there just in time for a new owner to enter for a final walk-through. He approved, signed some papers, wrote the bank a check. And now it is his. His office furniture likely occupies Beckett’s nursery. His dishes are by now displayed in the tall glass-paned cabinets I loved so much. 

And he looks out the breakfast room picture window every morning and sees that dogwood, covered only in winter’s white dust and glassy ice.

Despite a sadness that is just starting to settle in today, I am thrilled about our next home (#28!). I look forward to welcoming you in, whether you enter through this site or through the actual front door. The house is being built now by an incredibly talented firm, Woodland Street Partners. (more on them and many design details and construction updates in coming posts)

We expect to move in mid- to late-March. In the meantime, I’d also like to share our adventures in a three-room upstairs apartment. This home is the smallest I have ever occupied. (Shall I say coziest?) Matt, Beckett and I are quickly learning lessons in shared personal space and creative microwave cooking. And I am introducing them to a concept I learned at a very young age and practiced my whole life: adaptability. Making one’s self at home no matter where you are.

While home is certainly about comfort and style and all the things that surround, I became cognizant perhaps earlier than most that, as trite as it may be to say, home is more so about the people with whom you live and eat and drink and sleep and play and love. (and argue… and steal the covers and hot water from…)

As I seek to keep family and friends posted—and perhaps to reach other readers contemplating issues of home, family, necessity, independence and, yes, fun stuff like style and design—I have decided now is a good time to return to this blog space. I hope you will join us on the journey from one home to another to another. And here’s hoping that this most recent “another” is the last for many years to come.