An odd title for a scribbler’s blog post, I suppose. As I sat down to compose this post, I discovered a scarcity of words that surprised even me. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am rarely, if ever, at a loss for words. Fortunately I rediscovered my words, so here we go:

I’m full of emotions right now. Emotions threaten to knock me off my feet the same way a wave knocks you on your backside when you venture too far off shore when the Gulf is choppy chocolate soup. The emotions vying for my attention spring from what seems a multitude of sources: preparing my childhood home for sale, readying my daughter to move into her first apartment away from home, and observing the first anniversary of my mama’s passing.

The house is coming together finally. Now that it’s been almost completely emptied of all the things that made it “home,” I don’t get quite as sad when I walk through the front door. I still have vivid memories though, and I remember lying on the green 70s’ carpet in my bedroom — a first grader trying to stay out-of-the-way while my parents moved all our worldly possessions into our brand-new house. Lying on my stomach, I read fairy tale after fairy tale from the hardcover copy of The Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales my mother had given me. It was protected by a glassine dust jacket that still allowed the colorful illustration centered on the front of the navy cloth binding to show through. A companion volume of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, bound in burgundy cloth, completed the set. For some reason, I always preferred the Grimm Brothers. They were a little darker, a little more melancholy.

Mine are similar to these, but I didn’t have a slipcase. I’d take a photo of mine, but the college girl is sleeping and I don’t want to wake her up.

My college girl is scheduled to move into her apartment two weeks from Friday. Two weeks. How did the time fly so quickly??? Yesterday we went to IKEA, where we bought a small desk, swivel chair, bedding, and a few other small things. After grabbing a late lunch at Buff Burger, we stopped at Homegoods and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Truthfully, I think she has just about everything she needs for now. We have the luxury of only being an hour down the road, so if she forgets something or gets in a bind, it won’t be too difficult to help out if she wants our help. The challenge will be leaving her alone to figure things out herself. It’s part of the process, and so I’m going to sit on my hands, hide my keys from myself, and resist the temptation to call three times a day to see how things are going. Isn’t this what we’ve been preparing her (and ourselves) for the last 20 years?

I’m dreading tomorrow. Actually, today because it’s after midnight. So it’s August 3.

A year ago today, mid-morning, I got a phone call from my sister. She thought our mama had a stroke. Because our mama didn’t like the hospital in Clear Lake and any EMS that served her area would take her there, we drove her to the hospital in Pearland, at her request. The initial symptoms that we thought were symptoms of stroke must have been related to the cancer that had metastasized to her brain several months before, because after a little time passed, the symptoms were gone. Sitting in the triage area at Pearland, we made little jokes and she requested that they allow her to keep her underwear when they helped her into a hospital gown. As doctors and nurses came and went, she asked when she could go home, and they explained that they needed to send her to a hospital with a neurologist consult. So they made arrangements to transfer her to Memorial Hermann. I wish I’d known that would be the last time I saw her awake and cognizant of her surroundings. I wish I’d made sure to hug her before they took her in the ambulance to Memorial Hermann. Little did my sister or I know that around 4:25 am the morning of August 4, we would say our final goodbyes to our mama.

Truly, our mama had very definite ideas about the way things should be done, and as I’ve spent the last year going through things from the house — reading letters, mementos and the like — I’ve come to the conclusion that some of the high standards she set for us were rooted in her own heart-felt desire to be better than she believed herself to be. Growing up in a small east Texas town, her family lived on land leased out around the South Liberty oil fields. Her parents were good, hardworking folk who loved and did well for their kids, especially considering neither of them went past grade school. We knew our mama was sharp and talented because of the things we witnessed her do for us throughout our childhoods — she was very active in our classrooms when we were small and she eventually worked hard to establish a library (properly organized by the Dewey Decimal System, no less) at the private school my sister attended.

Surprising things we’ve learned this year or so:

  • Our mama was a member of the homecoming court when she was a freshman in high school.
  • Our mama was president of the library club at Liberty High School, and she served as regional president when she attended the state convention of high school library clubs.
  • Our mama wore ladies’ dress gloves (we found white and black gloves, elbow and wrist length), beautiful heels with thin spike heels, and she had a black cashmere coat with a detachable mink collar that makes me think of Audrey Hepburn.
  • We found a snapshot of our teenage mama standing in front of the Christmas tree at our grandparents’  home — Mama wore a Norwegian style sweater with black pants. In my entire life, I never saw my mama wear pants.
  • Mama worked at the Liberty County courthouse after she graduated high school, but before she got married, and her supervisor liked her to fill out the marriage licenses because she had such beautiful handwriting.

Mama was a stickler for honesty — she disliked untruthfulness with a passion, so we were a little amused to discover our mama had sticky fingers, at least as a teenager, when it came to hotel souvenirs. The Library Club attended a couple of conventions and we found a shoe box with odds and ends from a hotel in San Antonio, the name of which escapes my memory. The mother lode was a cache of goodies from the Shamrock Hilton in Houston, Texas. We are now the proud “owners” of an ashtray, a seafood fork, a teaspoon, and a room key with brass Shamrock Hilton key chain attached.

Photo found on Google — our key chain has the key still attached.

There was something entertaining, reassuring, and comforting in realizing our mama had been a silly teenager, just like us. I can almost imagine my mama, who I always thought of as very prim and proper, getting excited over Elvis’ latest song.

Today, when I’m tempted to be sad, I’m going to focus on that teenage girl growing up in Liberty, Texas — getting dressed up, with hat and gloves to shop at Foley’s Downtown and eat apple pie with rum sauce at the Azalea Terrace upstairs.

I miss you, Mama. Thank you for everything, including the stories and the seafood fork. I love you.

Mama in high school. I think she told me she was 16 in this portrait, so it would have been 1959.


Before and Almost Done

One of the things that I’ve been working toward is throwing out what’s not needed and organizing what’s left behind.  You might look at these photos and think I still need to throw out a lot more stuff.  But truthfully, I HAVE thrown out or donated a lot of things.  Most of what you see here is necessary — at least it is to me.

I was very happy to have recently scored the desk and two bookcases shown in the top two photos on VarageSale.  We are book people, and we’re not talking “only fiction” or “reference” or whatever.  We love almost anything that can be printed and bound between two covers.  We dabble in “ebooks” from time to time for convenience’s sake, but we’ll never give up our beautiful book collection.

If you look at the upper left-hand photo, there is a bookcase on the left that I got at IKEA a number of years ago.  It’s solid wood and the shelves are supposed to hold up to 77 lbs.  This was a huge selling point for me, because I didn’t want the shelves to sag over time.  That bookcase holds my cookbook collection, as well as a number of stitchery books (mostly cross stitch).  The cabinet below holds some crafting supplies.

And you can see in the lower left-hand photo an identical bookcase on the other side of the window that holds some of my favorite history and literature textbooks from college on the upper shelves.  Below them are some storage cases holding photographs that are organized, but need to be put in albums.  In the cabinet below I store scrapbooking magazines and idea books.

But I digress from my VarageSale score.  The desk and two bookcases visible in the upper righthand photo — I was able to buy them for $135 last week and, while they aren’t super high-end pieces, they are solid wood and pretty well made, as long as I keep their limitations in mind.  (The drawers are stapled, not dovetailed, so I’m thinking it wouldn’t be wise to load them down with too much weight.)  Now that I’ve gotten them semi-organized and know for certain that they will serve my purposes, I plan to paint them and replace the drawer knobs on the desk with something a little more my style (the current “frogs” are NOT my style — amphibians weird me out).

The hutch above the desk has all my business materials (client files, pricing binders for calculating quotes).  The bookcase immediately by the desk has:  Shelf #1 – Photography references; Shelf #2 – Writing magazines, rough drafts of my novel, critiques; Shelf #3 – Office supplies; Shelf #4 – Old novels that belonged to my grandmother; Shelf #5 – High school and college yearbooks.

The second bookcase needs three shelves cut and then I will do a little fine-tuning of my organizational efforts.  Over all, I think my purchase is really going to help me with organization and time management, since I won’t be searching for things that are scattered all over the place.

My Old House

Eddie Bauer "Craftsman Bungalow" Palette (Valspar, available at Lowes)
Eddie Bauer “Craftsman Bungalow” Palette (Valspar, available at Lowes)

I’ve lots of dreams for our house, but some are more expensive than others. I’ve decided that paint will give us fairly immediate gratification with the smallest expenditure. Yesterday I prepped the entryway from the garage between the laundry and kitchen. Patched holes with wood putty, smoothed them over with some sand paper and wiped everything down with environmentally friendly mineral spirits to get rid of years and years of dust and grime. (The entryway is still wearing the same coat of paint it was when we bought our house 14 years ago. Yeah, I know.)

I also bought a desk, hutch, and two bookcases off Varage Sale the other day. They aren’t fancy and only cost me $135. I think they will look pretty good after I paint them. I really needed the additional bookcases for things in my office, so this seemed to be a pretty inexpensive solution to my ongoing battle with disorganization. I’m going to go ahead and organize the things I plan to use the set for before I spend a lot of time prepping and painting them. That way, if it doesn’t work as I hope, I’ll just turn around and sell them again. Sometimes you have to try it out to know if it’s the right solution.

The color palette I’ve finally settled on for the majority of the house, and have already used in the living, dining, and kitchen (after YEARS of trying to decide) — Eddie Bauer’s “Craftsman Bungalow” in these colors: Mercer Blue, Cattail, Craft White and Limestone.  (Disclaimer:  I do NOT live in a “Craftsman Bungalow” — it’s a 1950s/1960s Ranch (?), I guess . . . but I love these colors and I love Craftsman-style furniture, so whadyagonna’ do?)


Valspar "Limestone"
Valspar “Limestone”

The image above is a fairly accurate representation of Mercer Blue and it is the color that I painted our living room walls several years ago.  In fact, it is the color that wraps around the perimeter walls of our entire common area, which is somewhat open.  When you walk through the front door, if you go straight ahead, you walk into the living room and as you go to the right, you see the dining area.  If you keep going to the right, you go through the kitchen and end up back at the front door.  There is a wall separating the living and kitchen — on the living side, it is paneled and on the kitchen side, it is covered with a closet housing the hot water heater, cabinetry, and the stove.  So the Mercer Blue takes care of the outer walls of this part of the house.

The Cattail is the color of the paneled wall on the living room side.  This representation is not quite as accurate as it appears real life.  On our paneled wall, it appears to have more of a green undertone.  I really like it with the Mercer Blue.  And when I get to it, all the trim will be painted Craft White.  I’m thinking about doing the kitchen cabinets with the Craft White, too, but adding some sort of antiquing glaze to make them stand out a bit from the rest of the trim.

In a few weeks, I hope to paint my office and the hallway that leads to the bedrooms and bath the Cattail with the Craft White trim.  And last, but not least, I plan to use the Limestone in our bedroom.  This representation is the closest I could find.  If you look at the paint chip at the store, it is a really pretty grey — and definitely warmer (but not too warm, since I like cooler colors in the bedroom) than the Shale blue I selected from this palette and used in there a few years ago.

There are lots of other projects we want to tackle (my husband is working on replacing our siding with Hardiplank as he has time and money), like putting bead board paneling over the 1960s’ acoustic tile in the front part of the house and tearing out the weird closet/cabinet thing I use for a closet and putting in a REAL closet for both of us.  Those are a little more expensive, though, and I’m thinking that a fresh coat of paint on everything will be a nice compromise in the meantime.

The real excitement is knowing we only have about four years left on our mortgage!  So fresh paint or no, this old house is looking better and better as time goes by.