Monday, October 27, 2014

Mudroom Reveal!

Okay, let's talk mudrooms. Again.

I have always wanted a mudroom but none of the four houses Tim and I have lived in have been able to accommodate one.

This one doesn't either, unless you think outside the house box.

We realized we had some extra storage space one side of the garage, so we hung hooks there, stored a dresser for me to rehab (eventually), and used a beloved old church pew that belonged to my mom as a place to put backpacks.

It worked well for us, but after a year I had visions of something more, something drool-worthy that would make our lives more organized and would increase the value of the house when it's time to sell by blinding the buyers to the fact that there is no coat closet inside.

Here's the before:

Fine and functional, right?

Here's the after:

I wish I had used a decent camera instead of my phone, but trust me.


And the workmanship is outstanding.

Maybe I'll post better pics with better lighting tomorrow, if I think you'll indulge me more mudroom pics without unsubscribing entirely.

And speaking of more pics, how about one of these narrow shelves by the door that hold sunscreen, ball caps, compact umbrellas, and the dog leash? Two of those baskets are empty, just waiting to hold something!

Or these four lockers, with storage for shoes below, and hats/gloves above? The very top shelves are too high for stuff we use every day, so I put some of Jack and Margaret's artwork up there for the time being.
This is an open area on the far right. I love how I drew an example of a board and batten look, and the contractor did it exactly how I wanted it. This will be for overflow, shopping bags, etc. We used black iron hooks above and two bee hooks below that the kids used to hang their coats on when they were preschoolers.

Here's one of Jack's Yankees hats that I wear at every opportunity.

Who doesn't love a bin? I was going to buy baskets or galvanized tubs for the shoes, but they were pretty expensive. When I found exactly seven of these green rubber bins on clearance at Target for 4.18 each, I knew what to do!
Shadow has a bin, of course.
The "junk drawer" of the garage: Stuff I can't figure out what to do with right now, but don't want to decide to get rid of yet.
 My favorite, the DONATE bin. Already overflowing. Easy to scoop up and take to the thrift shop.
And what about soccer?

 Another high shelf gets this sign from our old kitchen, plus my grandma's corn pitcher.

I spray painted baskets that I already had around the house.

These two don't quite match because I got them new at Michaels.

One reason I don't need to fill all my new shelves with ugly stuff like weed killer and paint cans is that we already had three HUGE cabinets with sliding doors in the front of the garage.

One is for gardening supplies, one for sports equipment, and one for coolers, vases, trays, small appliances, and party supplies.

Here's a closer look at them. Because they offer closed storage, I don't worry too much about keeping them organized. Does a shop vac count as "party supplies?"

Those big cupboards gave me the freedom to keep the new built-ins wide open.

I'm in LOVE.

To be honest, I must confess that in the dead of winter I will be keeping my coat inside the toasty house.

So what do YOU think?

Helping Someone Else-- That's Not Scary!

Sure feels like fall with the leaves turning, the chill in the air at Margaret's soccer games, and the terrifying traipse through the woods we took this weekend at a "haunted forest." Nothing like paying  to have strangers grab your ankles and chase after you with chainsaws. Still, it felt good to wear flannel, a puffy vest, and warm my buns by a blazing bonfire.

When I was thinking about how much money we spent this weekend, hoping to get scared, I started adding it up, plus the other "fall touches" around our house-- a wreath on the door, pumpkins real and fake, ample amounts of burlap decor, and candy for me this coming weekend,  and I wondered, "what am I doing RIGHT NOW to help someone else?" We have plans in the works for Christmas, with Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, but what about NOW?

So, I headed over to Scary Mommy's page to see how her Thanksgiving Project fundraiser was going. So far 775 families will receive gift cards so that they can cook a holiday meal. I take the turkey, potatoes, and pie for granted at our house, but these families do not.

Reading the testimonials I was moved, once again, to support this wonderful cause, and make a difference for one family this Thanksgiving. When I checked back this morning, I saw that 690 families are on the waitlist and that number is climbing! These families are afraid, too, but it is a different kind of  fear than what I felt as I stumbled through the dark woods on Saturday night:

I know that things are tight for some of us this fall, and that there are many options when it comes to how we spend our money, but for those who are able to spare what would equal a few tickets to a haunted house, or dinner and a movie out, would you consider providing a Thanksgiving meal to a family in need? The Thanksgiving Project is a 501(c) charity.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Itching to Talk to You

So much and yet so little to write on a Monday.

I could update you on my shoulders...(torn labrum is feeling MUCH better, thank you, and my husband and I are back to sharing the same bed!)

Or on how it feels to have the book "out there" for real people to read (not weird at all)

Or how I coped with our town's high school homecoming festivities without Jack (left town, had a great time, tried not to look at FB. Peeked anyway, gah!)

Or what it's like to have a kid whose math homework is now way too hard for me to help with (humbling)

Or that Tim and I almost jetted off to Paris for his work, but instead stayed home and got hooked on the True Detective DVD's he got me for my birthday (saved money, scary, good)

Or whether you think I should start signing every text with a simple new embellishment. (To Tim: "Please buy dog food. XOXO, NYT Best Selling Author" To my sister: "Period through jeans again. XOXO, NYT Best Selling Author" Is that too much? It's not, right?)

Oh I just don't know. Monday is making me feel all over the place, so let's just go with this morning's events-- a visit to the dermatologist followed by a wait at the pharmacy that was, I'm certain, long enough for me to pick up every single germ that lurked in the back of Rite Aid. And far too long for my bladder to hold its 3 cups of tea, but heck if I was going to use a bathroom in a PHARMACY, so I held it during a drive home laced with an, "I think I can, I think I can!" pep talk for myself.

But then, because of leaving the garage door open for our garage-mahal builders, the door to the house was locked but I had no key. I was locked out with a full bladder and a yard not wooded enough to provide an acceptable level of privacy, should I have to go outdoors.

A plan emerged.

Tim was getting a physical back in town, where I'd just come from; perhaps I could head him off at the pass and get a key from him before he headed to work. And instead of just waiting for me in the doctor's office parking garage, he suggested Starbucks. So we had a 10:30 a.m. date, which is pretty spiffy for a Monday morning.

Yes, my part of the date consisted saying, "Hey!" and running to the bathroom, but moments later it  seemed pretty date-like as he slid a house key across table with a smile. Had this been Mad Men, not my suburban life, and had I not just come from a dermatologist who diagnosed me with an itchy, creepy skin virus  over my entire body, well, this story could have ended differently.

Instead, Tim headed to work and I to the gas station.

But you should have seen how hot he looked as we parted ways and he whispered,  "Try Shell. We might have gas points there."

After a few more errands and an ill-fated search for red lentils at the store, I'm back home, Shadow at my feet, trying to ease my way into this week.

I hope your week is filled with love, laughter, and non-rashy days.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review!

I love hearing how Rare Bird affects people!

For example, here's a lovely review of the book up on Mamalode today.

Perhaps you would be willing to rate/review Rare Bird on Amazon or Goodreads to help readers decide whether they should take a chance on it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Hour

I just turned 45. I feel so young, but am also aware that my wonderful Mom only lived to be one year older than I am now. It has me thinking about purpose and how to use the time that I have here. It also reminded me of this post:

Tomorrow and Tomorrow:

In the dark theater, made darker by the wood paneling and Elizabethan flourishes, I prayed. Hard. I didn’t care about anyone seeing me, eyes closed, hands clenched tightly, lips moving quickly and noiselessly. What mom wouldn't understand my praying right now?
Jack’s class was about to take the stage at the Folger Shakespeare Library to perform an abridged version on Macbeth. Jack, who had just turned twelve, was playing Macbeth. It was almost more than my nerves could take.  “Please don’t let him forget his lines. Help him not to be frozen like a deer in the headlights and then run weeping from the stage. Help him!”
When Jack confided the night before during snuggle time that he was afraid of getting up on that stage, I dished out my regular fare. “Your nervousness just means you care about how it goes. That’s adrenaline. It will help you focus and do well. That’s always how it works with me,” said the woman who had never, ever graced a stage unless you counted delivering one line as Tiny Tim in a church basement production of A Christmas Carol “God Bless Us Everyone.” Indeed.
“God, please bless Jack. Now!”

The spotlights turned on. Jack hit every line and nailed his entrances and exits. He even had to go with a change of plans when time was short and change from one shirt to another on stage versus offstage.
Acting was Jack’s sweet spot.
Even though in conversation he spoke so quickly he was sometimes hard to understand, in acting he enunciated clearly. When I’d pick him up from school or a sporting event I’d find my mother heart asking, “How did it go?" but really meaning, "Was it a disaster?” but when I’d pick him up from theater camps, it was like picking up a mini rock star. “Hey Jack’s mom! Jack rocks!” counselors would yell across the parking lot.

We didn’t record the whole play, but Tim did turn on his phone to capture this famous soliloquy:

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

Act 5, scene 5, 19-28

It guess it was Shakespeare’s version of our 1980’s mantra, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” It’s tough to watch any movies with Jack in them, but even more so as he delivers such a depressing indictment of our short, meaningless lives, only 3 months before his accident.

I have the hope of heaven, and like many bereaved moms, I operate with one foot here and one foot there. Death holds no sting or fear for me at all anymore.
But what about now? But what about the in between time, when I'm charged with continuing on, with living? Did Macbeth get it all wrong? Is there meaning in this life? Is there vitality and spirituality and significance right here? Right now?
I believe there is. Our lives may be short, but they are not meaningless. I don't  know what I plan on doing with the rest of my days, but I know I don't want to just strut and fret my hour on the stage. And I'm guessing watching reality tv and eating ice cream, which are my current past-times, are not quite the meaning and significance I'm thinking of...
What about you?
What are you doing with your awesome, hard, significant hour?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Garage "Mudroom" Part 1

I have never had a garage in my life until this past year.

Bird doo, snow, and icy windshields, were all just a part of life. When we were looking for a new (30+ years old) house a little over a year ago, I wasn't too concerned about having a garage, but boy am I enjoying it!

I love the privacy, I love the extra storage space, and pushing the button is fun, too.

A nice aspect of our garage is that there are 3 large storage closets in front of where we park our cars. They have sliding doors and deep wooden shelves. We use one for garden supplies, one for sports equipment, and one for party supplies such as vases, platters, ice buckets and tubs. There is a ton of storage!

An area of the garage I want to improve is the right side that leads directly into our kitchen eating area. I told myself I would not buy another home with a kitchen all on its own in the front of the house, and certainly not one where you walked directly into the eating area, but here we are.

And even though there are only three of us here now, we still seem to pile a lot of stuff on the floor right inside the kitchen door. This house also does not have a coat closet, which is kind of strange, but that's because they removed the closet a long time ago to add a desk area in the kitchen during a  remodel.

We have a few hooks right inside the kitchen door for coats, and we TRY to use the garage for the rest. Shoes are a crap shoot.

I was going through my blog and found a post from 2009 where I presented some of my small-space solutions for houses without mudrooms. Looking back at that post now is poignant, and I saw a cute pic of Jack that I'd forgotten about.

Here's how that wall in our garage looks now. I love my old church pew from my house growing up:

It functions pretty well for us, but I got a wild hair a few weeks ago. If I did not have a house with a mudroom, why not outfit this area like a pseudo-mudroom, with built-ins and everything?

I think it will add value to the house and look oh so pretty. Here's some inspiration from Pinterest. Those big windows could pose a problem, but we'll see.

The work crew is getting here in 5 minutes, so I'll report back later. I'm so excited!

Friday, October 3, 2014

I am

I am a loathsome and despicable creature. Embarrassing. Annoying. My voice grates. My butt sags. My pores are large enough to park a bus in. My breathing is far too shallow. My sighs too deep. My scent must be odious or cloying if I even have one. Oh yes, my breath. Not good. Not good at all.

My words are ill-timed and poorly chosen. They show no understanding of the ways of the world. I should be locked away somewhere so my too loud laughter won’t infringe on the well-being of others. It would be best if I were to be brought out only at mealtimes (and could you just drop it at the cage door and back away slowly, no eye contact or conversation please?)

I am moderately useful at times of low grade fevers, existential crises, and the middle of the night. Perhaps it would be best for us all if I could be launched, set sail on an ice floe for the next, say, 4-8 years.

I want to argue that I am not who you think I am. I am likable. Kind. Strong. I was a really good friend this week. Brave, even. Sometimes I make people laugh. I am becoming an expert at sitting next to someone, holding a hand, saying nothing. When I do speak, there are life experiences I could share. And I remember what it was like to be young. The world may have changed, but I remember the thoughts, the feelings, the needs.

I want to say, let’s not play this game. It’s such a cliché. Could we just jump ahead to the part where you see the good in me and the filter of time will show that these, while never destined to be the good old days, were the days when I helped make you feel stable, and safe? When I dragged my paltry self out of bed each day and kept showing up? 

I know you have affection to give, climbing on your father’s lap, a mash-up of estrogen and testosterone fitting together tightly-- so different than the magnetic poles of like and like that invite the two of us close, close, closer then push us apart. You say, “You are getting even better looking, Dad! Those gray hairs look so cute on you!”

I peek at you when you sleep. You don’t have my eyes, or my nose, but you do have my spunk and spark. And the quick responses come from me, too. You and I have the power to be witty and charming, but our quick minds can be dangerous when we choose the cutting retort. And beware if we are tired or hungry. I can tell these are my legacy to you, but you would rather have picked them up from a used urinal cake in a bus station bathroom than from my DNA. Because you are your own person. You are not me. This life is yours and you need to live it for yourself. ‘Tis true.

So my inward pep-talk about my own worth stays inside. Spoken aloud it smacks of desperation, and I’ve seen enough of life to assure myself that while challenging, our situation is far from a desperate one. So I keep it to myself, repeating occasionally:  I am Okay. I am Kind.
I am...

I am...

I am...

…the mother of a teenage girl.

I am strong and worthy. So are you, my beautiful, amazing daughter. I love you, I’m not going anywhere, and I know we can ride this thing out.