Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Room of Her Own

Blondie moved into her own room last August. She had patiently bunked with Brownie here while Cupcake slept peacefully in his nursery until we were ready to move him in with his older brother.

Blondie is 9 and needs her privacy, you know. She is a contemplative girl who appreciates space and quiet to think and play by herself sometimes. Honestly, I don't know where she gets that from.

The room re-do has been a months-long process. We did the room switch at the absolute busiest time of the year. I'm not sure what I was thinking. But I had promised my girl that by summer's end she would have her own room and a place of privacy from her brothers and I felt like I needed to keep my promise.

Here's what her room used to look like. It was Cupcake's sweet nursery and I must admit, it tore me up to part with his baby room.

And here's the room now. {Sorry for the blinding window light...I'm not a professional.}

I must admit, it looks like a candy store boutique and I wish it was my room. I hang out in there all the time.
I also wish I had taken pictures of the many moments-turned-months of sheer mayhem as we transitioned kids around to new sleeping arrangements, painted after bedtime, and put together furniture. The crib was in the hall for I don't know how long. We had beds in various states of assembly, painters tape that stayed on walls for entirely too long. There were many stages of ugly and mess as we waited for time and extra cash to finish her space.

So here's the low-down on all the stuff and probably more information than you need about this space.

Bed: a consignment sale castoff that I bought for $12.50. No lie. I stored it in my attic for 2 years. It was off-white and I spray-painted it green. It sat in my garage for days to defumigate from all of that spray paint! I still need to spray paint the bed risers so they blend in. We have a mattress stashed under the bed for sleepovers and since Blondie's room also serves as our guest room.

Bedding: Duvet and pink pillow from Ikea. Turquoise dot sheets from Pink chenille body pillowcase from Walmart.

Polka-dot bed-skirt fabric from Ikea, marked down to $1.99 a yard! My mom sewed it for me because I only know how to sew with hot glue and velcro.

Curtains: Polka-dot part was a window-in-a-box thingy on clearance at Home Depot for $5 and included the rod and hardware. I spray-painted the rod and hardware hot pink. Bottom strip of fabric and pink ruffle trim from Hobby Lobby. Again, snaps to my mom for stitching the bottom part on.

I was all set to mistreat {a la Nester} with my hot glue gun but my mom said she could stitch in no time. Yay mom!

We took the closet door of its hinges and put up a curtain instead. Luckily there's room in her closet for her dresser and a good bit of mess...all hiding behind pretty polka-dots.

Desk: Ikea

Hutch: Not quite the length of the desk but works just fine: $25 from Pottery Barn outlet {retailed for $500!} Yay me!

Desk Chair: Ikea

Pink lamp: The top dangly part of the lamp was from Blondie's cousin. I rummaged around my attic and found this gold lamp base that I'd gotten for $2 at a thrift store.

Two coats of pink spray paint and voila! I dig this lamp.

Chandy: This may be my favorite part of the room, probably because it came together in the coolest and kookiest way and therefore it's got a story. Most of my stuff has a story. That's what happens when you are equal parts bargain hunter and historian {we history folk tend to love stories and old stuff.}

The light fixture was leftover from The Nester's swapmeet. All the stuff had been swapped and there were a few items left that were going to Goodwill. Lily told me I should take that plain old kitcheny-looking chandy, turn the 3 sconce thingys up {instead of pointing down}, and remove the frosted globes. So I did. And then it sat in my garage for a year and a half. I was going to paint it pink but one day my dad showed up to install the light fixture and I decided I'd rather have it installed and white than pink but still sitting in my garage. Also? The Man was tired of the pink overspray decorating our garage floor.

The sparkly part was super fun. Blondie and I worked on it together. I bought fishing line at Walmart and a pack of clear beads. Most of the larger "gems" were from Blondie's collection of jewels. They have little holes in the top so that you can string them. Who knew? I did buy a 3-pack of magnetic jewels on clearance at Hobby Lobby. They just stick on. Brilliant.

And last but not least, some of the jewels were purchased from The Nester's yard sale, all of them in a baggie for a dollar. Thanks Nester!

The shades are from a thrift store. I used spray-adhesive to stick leftover fabric to the shades and hot-glued the pink trim. I ran out of trim so that one in the back is missing its frou-frou. Gotta fix that.


The room makeover process was not an easy one. Blondie has her own sense of style and so does her mama. She agonized over paint selection. I'm pretty sure the nice paint people at Home Depot have never met a more deliberate 9-year-old. I tried to narrow her options and make suggestions and ultimately it's a room we both love. But really, it's her room and she's only a girl once and I left most of the decisions {within reason} to her.

And I have to admit, it's fun to teach her that a space can be beautiful and personal without being spendy.

We have some finishing touches yet to complete. We're hoping to make one of these big bulletin board thingys that she found in PB Teen {but smaller.}

I'm on the hunt for a giant thrift store frame for that project. I'm also on the hunt for a big white furry rug. She thinks that would be cozy and pretty and I think she's right.

It's been fun to take a departure from my normal string of posts on marriage and motherhood and take some time to dish about this girly space.

I hope there will be a few more sprucing-up sorts of post throughout the spring. My creative spirit has been restless during these busy, messy months and I'm in the mood to pretty things up a bit. How about you?

{P.S. I'm back to good ol' blogger commenting system. My "new and improved" commenting system was being mean and not letting people comment. So sorry if that happened to you!}

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Home Well-Spent

The clutter and chaos can weary a mama by mid-morning. My visions of domestic tranquility are often tainted by airbrushed
Better Homes and Gardens vignettes and books I've read about how to implement a more organized homeschooling schedule.

I've tried methods for a better home and better schedule but none of it seems to stick. In fact, the only thing that seems to stick is my bare foot to the juice-christened floor.

Real life is messy and real houses are too.

But sometimes grace-filled, Grace-given perspective washes over me and I see it all differently.

Piles of laundry reminding me to give thanks for well-worn days of play and dirt and sweat and spills...

And that I chose to spend my time writing and reading and cooking and teaching and sitting with my neighbor girlfriends in the driveway instead of getting the wash done and put away.

Everywhere I look, I can see clutter or I can see creativity.

Beds made out of decorative Kleenex and jewelry boxes for Playmobil people and their pets...

Cushions she fashioned out of my scarves for her stuffed animals...

Laundry baskets filled with stuffed animals rather than stacks of neatly-folded shirts...

Lego ships and escape pods as far as the eye can see...

I'd be lying if I said that I didn't want to climb inside one of the pods on any given day to be whisked away to Better Homes and Gardens.

But I don't think I'd last long in the land of perfect.

I'd miss this little guy wearing a mouse-eared crown and yogurt smeared across his face.

And this sweet girl studying in the light of the sun.

And this poor, feverish boy who can do nothing but sleep and watch movies.

Because one day my house will be quiet and magazine-ish. There will be fewer spills and fewer fevers and I won't curse as I step on a Lego in the middle of the night.

And when that day comes, I think I'll be homesick for the home I live in right now.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Word Therapy

I've said this before but it bears repeating. For me, writing is free therapy. There is freedom in confession and sweet clarity as I spill thoughts one letter at a time.
Lately I've thought a lot about why I write. Because the truth is, I can't not write. It's a real and legitimate need. I'm still reluctant to admit that it is, in fact, something I have to do. When I don't write, I become cranky.
My blog has evolved a lot since the beginning. Once a hodge-podge of posts about everything from furniture rehabs to recipes, it has firmly settled into its destined identity: the place where I write about the real. And while I promise to still do fun posts every now and then about room makeovers and chocolate torte, this is the primary place where I write.
Some posts are on topics I've worked through and I'm able to share from a standpoint of resolution. Internally, it's all been processed {past tense} and the writing part somehow makes me feel complete. Other posts are very much about issues that are in process {present tense.} I use words to unpack and flesh out and find sought-after perspective. I tend to walk around in a very pent-up state, thick thoughts a tangled up mess of knots. But as the words come, my mind clears and the tension drains and I feel a sense of relief that's hard to explain.
I have people dear to me who achieve this by talking things through with someone else. And while I enjoy conversation and I love my friends, I rarely go to another person in order to process thoughts or to figure something out. I will vent and lament and share and laugh and cry with my husband or my best girls. But the figuring out? That typically takes place through thinking, through prayer, and through writing.
I write plenty of stuff that never sees the light of day. Sometimes I feel better after writing for a bit and have no compulsion to tidy it up and hit "publish post." Sometimes I begin writing about one thing and end up with something entirely different. I love it when that happens. Writing has a way of laying bare the issues that really need to be uncovered. For me, penning thoughts can be something very intentional or very serendipitous, but always, it is therapeutic.
I've also thought a lot about the sharing of words, wondering why I often share my writing with others but sometimes I don't. I've wondered if the writing is indulgent or performance-driven. And it probably is to a certain extent. Of course I'm honored and elated when people tell me that they love what I've written, that it resonates with them. Because while writing is my therapy, it is also my art {as Emily would say,} frightened amateur though I am.
I'm sure that artists who create with paints and brushstrokes keep some of their work private. Maybe they think it's not good enough or maybe they simply feel better after putting color to canvas. But they also put pieces on display and place their work in galleries. They put it out there for the world to behold and connect with and find beauty in.
Those of us who write are no different. Yes, our souls find rest as we string words and thoughts, as we nod proud and feel complete. But there is such joy, such satisfaction, when what we've strung together strikes a chord with other souls.
Tangible typeface stringing two or three or a thousand souls together--it's such a beautiful, magical thing to be part of. And beyond the comfort writing provides for the writer, I think it's the stringing souls together part that propels us to keep writing.
What about you? If you write, why do you do it? If you don't, what sort of writing do you return to again and again as a reader?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Love Story

Sixteen years ago today I trudged through foot-deep snow up Prospect Hill, hand-in-hand with the love of my life and quite suspicious that he was up to something involving sparkle. I borrowed his mom's snow boots and winter coat since a girl from North Carolina did not have an arsenal of wintry garb like a proper Michigan girl would have.
I can't recall all of the words but he was on one knee, professing real love, holding out a diamond ring and asking me to marry him. I was crying so hard that I couldn't even get out a "yes," just vigorous nodding and tears and wondrous disbelief that he chose me, a girl who was fickle about everything but him.
I don't even remember the trip back down the hill. I just know that I was happier than I'd ever been. And I would need every bit of it to sustain me through wedding stress and living apart for the entire summer and the muffled sobs in my family's living room closet because I had no privacy with five other people living in the house. He told me I'd regret elopement and that we could make it to August 12th. And he was right.

I thought that once we got married, those difficult, sobbing-in-the-closet days would be behind us and I could simply bask in the happy love that floated my blissful self down Prospect Hill on February 10, 1995.
We didn't know it then but trudging up that snow-covered mountain for the proposal was more symbolic than it was romantic. For 16 years we have hiked and labored and slid to the bottom and climbed back up again and plateaued get the picture. There were times I wanted to make it to the top for no other reason than to push him off the dang thing. I know he feels the same way about me.
They don't make Hallmark cards for that occasion.
Both first-borns and terribly strong-willed, we hold on to pride and are prone to just a wee bit of blame-shifting. We have loved hard and fought hard. But first-born or not, marriage is simply not for the faint of heart.
The Man and I, we love each other something fierce and our strong-willedness came in handy when we were fighting for our marriage.
But love and will are not enough.
And while our story, half-written though it is, is one of grace and triumph, the daily work to make marriage {in this season} something other than cohabitative child-rearing is challenging.
Yesterday we exchanged sharp words with clenched jaws and folded arms. Resentment swallowed us whole and we hardly looked at one another until the morning when we once again commenced to finger-pointing. And as he left for work, I felt wretched and sick.
There is no joy in holding tight to blame.
Midmorning, we talked on the phone and relief came. The making up was not the stuff of movies. His shirt-and-tied self sitting in his office, my pajama'd-self hiding behind locked door from the three-year-old who thinks that getting his fire-truck fixed is more important than fixing a marriage. There was no glorious fanfare and smeary kissing and You had me at hello. We simply laid down our swords and 'fessed up to the ugly.
Between the busy and the baggage, the babies and the burnout, our issues tend to get pushed aside. Love smolders like a day-old campfire instead of the blaze it once was. We feel neglected and disrespected, overwhelmed and overlooked. I choked out on the phone, I work so hard to meet everyone's needs and I feel like I'm not enough. He said he feels the same way.
And so here we are, two totally insufficient people trying to be all things to all people and failing miserably.
That's because being fully enough for one another and for everyone else is impossible. And while we all nod our heads in agreement over that statement, we tend to live each and every day in opposition of what we say we believe.
This week we have repented and forgiven and resolved to take a hard look at this crazy beautiful season of life. Resolved to make our relationship a priority in the midst of children and homeschooling and throw-up and too much laundry.
And I remind myself that even the noblest of resolutions will fall short.
Because there is only One who is enough. Daily, I haul my baggage and brokenness and cluelessness and give it to Him. Boldly, I ask for perspective and fresh love. I thank Him for the gift of my marriage and I remember all that He has done, all that He has given.
And so I have faith for all that He will do and provide...this merciful, rich-beyond-measure God who is always enough.
And that's the real Love Story.


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