Sunday, July 15, 2018

Minding Monday



Did my Parts 1-4 wear you out? I don't blame you if they did, they pretty much wrung me out too.

Or was the past week a hard one for you? Did you laugh and cry, wash dishes and get them dirty again, weed the garden and they're back again, did you get your feelings hurt and/or hurt someone else's feelings, vow to get to bed early and then not be able to sleep until dawn? 

Did you forget to pay a bill on time, forget to hang your favorite shirt up to air dry and into the dryer it went, forget to get a prescription filled, forget to turn the sprinkler off?

Do you feel fragmented and flustered? Or do you feel like everything is in control and you're patting yourself on the back? Beware of that one, my friend!

Okay, my words need to end because not only did I have too many pictures in 1-4, I had far too many words also. 

Here's my gift to you, words I've turned to for years--except when I didn't. They're not Scripture, you can't beat that, but they help me as I'm contemplating Monday morning and the week that lies ahead. I hope they'll help you.

People with great projects afoot habitually look further and more clearly into the future than people who are mired in day-to-day concerns....They do not easily grow sad or old; they are seldom intimidated by the alarms and confusions of the present because they have something greater of their own, some sense of their large and coherent motion in time, to compare the present with.

Robert Grudin
Time and the Art of Living


Do you have a great project afoot?




Saturday, July 7, 2018

Part 4, Home Hill

What is it that makes one place more than another home to one?...I think it is compatibility.
Elizabeth Goudge,
from The Scent of Water




Have you ever fought for something really hard, trying to force open a door that stayed closed in your life, and then finally surrendered to it, accepting it only to find that the door soon opened with the slightest touch?

 [Home Hill]

That is what happened to me in my desire to come home to Tennessee.

[Our front porch, neglected so far but lots of potential,
gets the afternoon sun full force in summer.]

On September 7, 2016 I wrote in my journal, "Four of the loneliest months of my life...RH will pick me up this afternoon for a 3 o'clock appointment with our new dermatologist to see if this growth on my nose, near where the other cancer was, is malignant or not."

["Our" pond, actually our neighbor's but
he told us we were welcome to share it.]

That night I wrote that the doctor cut out from my nose what she said was a subcutaneous horn, most likely, from what she'd seen before, a malignant squamous cell one. 

[The view of the pond from our kitchen sink
entertains us daily. We've seen Canada geese
goslings born, mallard duck families,
a Great Blue Herron, large turtles.]

In three weeks I was to go back and discuss treatment after they received the pathologist report. 

[View from our kitchen window last spring.
The only thing there was a tree and a few things
previous homeowners had planted.
RH put a bird feeder by a pipe that stuck up from the
old well and some sunflowers sprouted.
We sat out in the grass last year and dreamed of having
a patio that I could sit on and watch our dogs play, a patio that
could be done inexpensively.]

I googled treatment and found that radiation or chemo usually followed this kind of cancer. I wrote: "Life on hold. Is this why we moved? For me to die in the sunshine state?"

[View from my kitchen sink now,
after all of RH's hard work.]

One week later I received a surprise call from the doctor's office. The pathologist report was back and showed that the growth was benign.

[Phase I: Now we have a beautiful patio in the shade,
done very inexpensively.
RH painted a garden table we've had for 40 years
and 4 chairs we've had for about 20 years
3 different shades of pretty green--
an idea I got from blog friend Tara Dillard.
Coffee in the morning and wine in the
evening taste better here than inside.]





I hugged Otis and Milo, crying and laughing, and called RH and then called or texted or emailed family and friends. 

[Free concrete tiles for the patio!
A customer at our family roofing and siding company
wanted these tiles removed from his roof that another company had
recently installed, to be replaced with the steel metal
shingles that we specialize in.
And he wanted us to get rid of them.
Recycling at its best and we love all the colors and striations in them.]

I thanked God for this answered prayer and vowed to accept where I was and be grateful for my life there.

[Phase II: An old cupola came to our garden for
a focal point instead of to the dump.
It covers the ugly pipe to the well.
RH and a son--our dear landlord--built a firm base for it
and laid out a small bed on each side for
perennials and herbs.]

Two weeks went by and I refused to let a single negative thought about Florida into my mind.



But on an October day that felt like July, RH came home from work and was very quiet. We sat outside on the back porch after supper and he told me that he missed living in Nashville.


He missed working with our sons there in the family business of 30 years. 


He asked me if I would still want to move back?

Would I? Is the pope Catholic?


[Phase III: The sand bed is ready to be tiled the same as the
small patio is. RH is waiting for cooler weather for this 
large one, most of it in the sun.
Meanwhile the birds take sand baths in it,
something that is very cute to see.
BreeBree and James Mason are pursuing the pesky chipmunks.]


It took a village to move us back to Tennessee, just as it had moving us to Florida, and that village was family.

[The listing photo for the galley kitchen.]

It was a physical and financial drain on so many and I will always be grateful for the sacrifices our family made to help us come home. 

[It was obvious that the previous owners didn't do much cooking.
We do a lot of cooking, rarely eat out, and so we replaced the
refrigerator and range, and turned a coat closet into a pantry,
freeing up valuable kitchen cabinet space.]

You'll be glad to know that I won't write here any of the three months of my journal entries documenting each day that passed as we waited while our youngest son and daughter-in-law drove several times to Nashville looking for a house to buy for us and then went through the hours of paperwork required and inspection and finally the closing.

Yes, that's right, we have the sweetest
landlords ever!

[RH and his brother built the open shelving I wanted,
making all the corbels themselves, and the pretty rod and hooks
hold all our All-Clad and iron skillets,
freeing up even more kitchen cabinet space.]

Another son flew down to help load trucks and drive us back, and our daughter and son-in-law in Florida took time away from their jobs to drive vehicles also, then flying back home. 

[RH and I have learned to work very efficiently together in a
galley kitchen, even with two dachshunds under our feet.]

Meantime, work was being done on the house before we returned, a new dishwasher installed, a safer path for me to walk on outside and the bathtub being converted to a low step in, all for my safety.

[If you want to know what accessories I love,
then this sweet old picture and frame from Goodwill
should give you a clue.]

And the third son, our firstborn, brought his wife and sister-in-law here the day before we moved and spent a whole day cleaning the house from top to bottom.

Best family ever, right?

[My bedroom; the biggest project in here was tearing down a bad ceiling
and installing bead board. New ceiling moulding and a paint job.]

When we drove up the driveway to Home Hill in January, 2017 on one of the coldest days of the year, the yard and roof dusted with snow, I knew this 1935 farmhouse was home.

[My bedroom is not large but it is room enough
for me and two dachshunds and my reading chair.]

I was home. Otis and Milo were home. 

I was in love with a house again.

RH, not so much, not at first.

[RH's bedroom. The knotty pine walls and ceiling in here 
made all his western things look better than ever before.]

He was exhausted and he was cold and he wondered how we'd ever get by with one bathroom.

[My writing room. BreeBree is in there guarding it and
heaven help anyone who tries to come in except for her mommy
and James Mason. 11 pounds of dachshund can be ferocious.]

We sat down the night that all the family left, in the large room that was paneled in the beautiful wood boards that pre-dated the 1950s pine paneling in the Pickwick pattern that was in his bedroom and my writing room.

[The listing photo for the large room that much of our living is done in.
It was slightly underwhelming with its furniture lined up around the walls.
But I studied it for two months and knew exactly how it would work.]

No lamps were unpacked, no pictures, no mirrors, no books.
We were surrounded by cardboard boxes.

[Remember when I asked your help in naming this room?
Well, it became the dinning room, the breakfast room,
and the sitting room, depending on which part we were in.
The harvest table, with both leaves in, seats 10 comfortably,
12 in a pinch. All we have to do is pull it out from the sofa back.
The breakfast table is over by the red curtains.]


I told him, "Give me a month. I promise you that in a month you'll think it's pretty and cozy...

[This red leather Ethan Allen sofa that we ordered 14 years ago
will last us our lifetime. We love it as much now as we did when
it was brand new. 
The black and white ticking Ralph Lauren pillows are 14 years old too.
I simply turned them inside out to hide the ruffles when we moved here
because this is not a froufrou house.
The blue and green 100% wool hooked rug was $19.99 at Goodwill and I stood guard
over it until RH arrived to put it in our basket. It suits the house
better than the braided rugs I first thought the house would need.]



Let me get our things unpacked and lamps around and curtains and mirrors hung and you will love it...

[Mirrors helped tremendously, 2 large ones, 1 medium one and 2 small ones.
All in one large room.
A storm door installed both here and in the kitchen let in even more light.]


I promise you," I told him.

I did and he does. And we both hope you like it too.


Most of you know that we lost our dear dachshunds Milo and Otis to leptospirosis last fall. We thought we'd never recover from losing them. And we didn't. But we went on to adopt BreeBree and James Mason and discovered once again that we are dachshund people. 

A house is just not a home to us without a dachshund or two in it. 

I know that many of you understand that. 

She had loved it at first sight; and now, as it companioned her day by day, she made her impress on it as it made its mark on her. She fitted into it as a body slips into a new and shapely garment made to measure, and went on her way warmed and protected and subtly changed. For it altered her, as a garment can alter personality, giving fresh confidence.
Elizabeth Goudge in 1939's
The Middle Window








Friday, June 29, 2018

Part 3, Florida



We pulled into the pretty gated neighborhood with our convoy of vehicles. Even though I wasn't sitting on a quilt covered wooden settee beside Elly May Clampett on the back of the truck like Granny arriving in Beverly Hills, I wondered if the neighbors were thinking, "Oh no, there goes the neighborhood."




But it was a beautiful April day in Florida with low humidity and a breeze blowing from the Atlantic Ocean only a few miles away. And there was the excitement of unloading our furniture in a 5,000 sq. ft. house that would be our home for maybe a year while we looked for a two-bedroom house that I pictured something like the one below, with old Florida style and lots of character...



and with a small yard and unusual landscape, something with the uniqueness I saw below during one of our many house huntings.




Much later on I realized I was only dreaming but at the time I felt hopeful.

For three weeks I unpacked and rearranged. What woman doesn't enjoy nesting? I fell into bed exhausted each night.

After RH took the last empty box to the second floor, I thought I would at last have time to get back to blogging and to writing my stories. 

I had the perfect "writing room" to work in, even if the two windows looked right into our neighbor's garage wall. 




Our red leather sofa went in the room and an extra television, and I'm ashamed to admit that the sofa and the television were used more than my desk and computer. 




The muse rarely visited me.

But the laundry room was close to it and a powder room. Towards the end of the hot summer I spent most of my time there, discovering a channel with Law & Order reruns, a show I had never before watched. [A strange thing is that the only time I've watched it since moving back to Tennessee is when we lost Milo & Otis last fall, when it helped pass the time of being lost in grief.]

I carried my breakfast and lunch to my writing room and sometimes my supper too.

I did spend a lot of time in the kitchen simply because we had to eat.



It had everything a cook could want including all Thermador appliances, a large gas range that I was terrified of, separate convection wall oven, dishwasher, refrigerator. 




It had a walk in pantry, miles of granite countertops, cherry cabinets and the same Brazilian cherry flooring as the rest of the house.

I tried everything to make it look cozier, friendlier, but it never did.



Still, I cooked and cooked and cooked and took hundreds of pictures for blog posts I never wrote...





and set tables that no one saw or ate at but me.




But at least the kitchen was used daily. I think we used the dining room twice, when family was in town. If you think that our furniture didn't quite live up to the style of the room, you'd be right.



The foyer was only a place to walk through, our foyer furniture nonexistent, gleaned from other rooms.





I chose the large master suite in the west wing for my bedroom, mine and Otis & Milo's...



thinking it would be nice for once to have all that space, much more than my small bedroom at Valley View. 

I ignored the fact that I had been used to RH's bedroom being right beside mine at home, our headboards pushed against the wall between us where all I had to do was reach up and knock if I needed him.



I could even hear him snoring faintly at home but here he wouldn't have heard me if I yelled my head off, or I him.

My bathroom here was larger than my bedroom at home, with massive vanities on opposite sides of the room, separate water closet, huge stone walk in shower, humongous jetted bathtub, and two walk in closets. I carried a chair into the bathroom in case I felt faint and needed a place to sit down quickly. I could have easily put a sofa in there.





RH chose a bedroom in the east wing that got the morning sun with a bathroom and a window in the shower and a glass door that led to the outdoor shower. 



There was a small office for RH that he spent days organizing and then never used once.

Beside it was our guest room with another full bathroom. I toyed with the idea of moving to it but it seemed like far too much trouble, and I had wanted the big bedroom, after all. 

Six months later I spent all day moving all my things to it, and closed the door on the master suite.



Upstairs, I think RH told me, there were two more large bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. I kept meaning to go up there and look but I never did.

I spent a lot of my mornings when it was cooler on the back porch...



tending a few pots of herbs and flower baskets while Otis and Milo did their business in the small fenced in grass area off the terrace. Sunday mornings were usually spent out here after our big breakfast of the week. RH finally had time to relax. He didn't have to worry about yard care as an army of professionals came through regularly. I soon learned not to walk around the house in front of the big windows in my nightgown.



A grove of tall pines offered landing pads for unusual birds and I watched them and counted new hibiscus flowers that opened every day. I must not have made a full picture of this one but it bloomed magnificently all summer.



And every evening at 6 sharp there were carillon bells from a Methodist church nearby that played beautiful old hymns. I timed feeding Otis and Milo their supper early so we'd be outside for that.

The living room was large and was RH's television room, our large German corner sofa one of the few pieces of furniture we owned that actually suited the house, along with the large coffee table my father had made from Ponderosa pine water barrels.




Between it and the kitchen was the breakfast nook in front of a large window. You needed sunglasses there. We finally resorted to temporary paper shades. I'm sure the neighbors loved them.




For the first three weeks I was in nesting nirvana and the heat was bearable and there was a Mother's Day lunch with our daughter, son-in-law and his sweet parents at the beach, an ocean breeze cooling us off from what everyone kept assuring me was not a normal summer. That it was usually much cooler on the First Coast.




By Memorial Day weekend I was pacing from room to room, tears flowing, not sobbing, these strange tears that just seeped from my eyes as I whispered, "Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God."

I numbly wandered through the vast rooms, ceilings soaring above me, walls so far apart. I remembered my friendly walls at home that held me up as I sleepily moved from my bed to my bathroom in the middle of the night, in 8 steps, not 18.

I thought of the hills that surrounded my farmhouse on all sides and my daily habit of lifting my eyes to them. I thought about the three huge sugar maples that were a green umbrella over my backyard and about having missed the blooming of the huge Kousa dogwood outside my bedroom windows that in May became a bridal bouquet of loveliness.

[I know you may be wondering about all these "my's", thinking they should be "ours." Suffice it to say that at the time I was experiencing this, and writing it in my journal, I felt that RH had walked away from it all and so they were mine. And when RH read the rough draft for this post, as he does all of them, he was very emotional and I think understood for the first time the complete upheaval this was for me and why I had never before posted about it, but needed to. It brought about our first really good conversation about it. So all is good, okay? He understands!]

I thought of a son, our firstborn, who was also my neighbor, coming down for coffee every morning, and many times for breakfast. Of another son who popped in often, and our youngest son, only 3 hours away from us back in Tennessee who used to bring his family to stay with us five or six times a year.

I thought of the days when RH would pop back home during the work day, as many as three times a day, and who now was gone before I got up in the morning and didn't return until at least 7 in the evening, often later, eat supper too exhausted to talk, then would shower and go to bed right after, six days a week.

I don't know what I would have done during the long days if it hadn't been for Otis and Milo. 

I didn't drive alone there once, too afraid of the heavy traffic and confusing new roads. Most Saturdays I was lucky if RH picked me up to rush to Publix and then back home again before returning to work. Otherwise we did that on Sundays.

On a rare free Saturday or on Sunday afternoons, we drove up the coast to three other local beach towns, me turning from side to side taking in the small towns that were quaint and funky...



unlike the one we lived in that was staid and stuffy with gates and luxury cars and office buildings, where I always felt I was a stranger in a strange land.

[I have to tell you here that this viewpoint is probably unique to me. My sisters and brothers-in-law who live in central Florida absolutely love visiting Ponte Vedra Beach. And our adult sons love to visit their sister there. I used to love to visit there!]

I lived for family times when my sisters or our children came to visit.












But when the time came for them to gather their belongings at the front door I was bereft again.




There never was time to explore other towns. I never once got to visit St. Augustine, the oldest city in America, full of history, that was less than 30 minutes down the coast. I never got to visit Fernadina Beach or Amelia Island, in the opposite direction, all destinations I had felt sure we would see. Twice we got on the interstate for Orlando a few hours away to visit my mother in a nursing home. [I won't count here our evacuation across the panhandle of Florida getting out of the way of a hurricane that year.]

There just was not time.

There wasn't even much time, for me anyway, with our daughter and son-in-law. Not their fault at all as Christy worked at her desk in Jacksonville from 7 until 7, and our son-in-law building luxury homes, a job that was pretty much 24/7, dealing with clients and subs. The one below near the beach, in progress, was one of RH's favorites and becoming very close to the nice homeowners.



The times we were able to spend with our daughter and son-in-law were wonderful and I'll always treasure those memories. [Perhaps I was spoiled by them coming up to Tennessee so often to see us previously? And we're very lucky that they still do!]




I enjoyed the Sundays when RH and I would get in the car and he would drive me across the Intracoastal Waterway. I felt something come alive in me when I saw the marshy grasses waving in the wind, the golden color that changed to pinks and greens. 

Whenever we crossed the bridge and turned into old neighborhoods, searching for that perfect two-bedroom old Florida bungalow with lots of charm, and wound around streets of older houses where it was like driving through shady green tunnels instead of down sunny wide boulevards lined with palm tree after palm tree, there were neighborhoods backed up to the marshes that I felt I could have lived in, with their small communities, if I could never see my Tennessee hills again.

It soon became clear that marshland neighborhoods were almost as expensive as beach town property. It began to look like the only house we could afford would be an hour away from our daughter and from RH's job.

Elizabeth Buchan writes in The Good Wife Strikes Back, "My situation was hardly intolerable--I was neither oppressed nor abused--but my spirit was dented."

For nine months I lived in a house and town that people dream of retiring to, especially if they golf or fish. 



I was neither abused or oppressed but my spirit was dented.

As the months went on and on, I lost myself.

John O'Donohue writes that "Home is where you belong." I didn't belong here and I felt more and more invisible and completely alone except for my dachshunds. 

Those of you who have followed me for a long time and knew our home called Valley View, understood why I was not home here. I was as lost as our bits and pieces were in this large house.

When I end this series with Part 4, Home Hill, by telling you why and how we made our way home to Tennessee, I think you will see what a miracle it was.

And when you see our new home I think you will understand why we love it so much. Even if it is not your own "style," and it probably won't be, I believe that you will better understand now that it is mine.

And everyone should feel at home at home, shouldn't they?