October 21, 2014

The Thing I'm Most Afraid Of


The thing I'm most afraid of is the thing I want the most. Well, almost the most: what I want the very most is a happy marriage and two happy, healthy daughters who know they can always count on me and who outlive me. But beyond THAT, what I want is to write a novel. It's what I have always wanted. Since I was a little girl. I'm one of the lucky ones who always knew what I wanted to "be" when I grew up--a writer. Having Tessa 4.5 years ago gave me the courage to break away from the corporate world, where I was doing editing and writing work, and go out on my own as a freelancer. Even when the babies were little, I needed to contribute my fair share to our bank account or else go back to office work, so I have taken most everything that's come my way: most notably, I've written hundreds (thousands?) of blog posts about chimney sweeping. And while I'm proud to make a living with the pen/keyboard, there's been one blaring item on my bucket list that tops all other items. And I have let it scare the pants off me.

Around a bonfire on New Year's Eve 2013, some good friends and I all wrote down on a scrap of paper what we most wanted out of 2014 and then tossed our hopes into the fire. Mine said, "Start writing my novel." One of my best friends wrote, "Have a baby," and her baby is almost fully cooked now. But it has been a slow start for me, mostly because I started all wrong. At some point in January, I Googled "How to write a novel." Ha. Ha. How lame is that? I was looking for info about length and organization, stuff like that. I came across some dude who writes sci-fi novels like it's his job (oh, because it is) and he advised this really strict methodology for outlining all of your chapters before you start writing. That made sense to me, so I did a little bit of work on that, then put it away ... for months. I found it incredibly boring and also daunting to map out every plot point ahead of time. What I had/have was a pretty general idea of how I want things to go in my book, but most all of the details are outstanding. Trying to foresee all of it robbed every bit of joy from the process.

And then my friend Reid gave me the perfect book for my birthday, which as Angela Chase would say, "just fit into this empty place in my heart." It's Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg, and it's a book about writing. Which is basically the last thing I wanted to read, as I've read so many, and there comes a point when it's just like, OK, go write something already. But this book beguiled me right off the bat, and it appealed to my creative process, which I realized was not at all the same process of that sci-fi writer dude. When I read the following, why I had squandered the past nine months not writing my novel made all the sense in the world to me:
"I believe that fiction feeds on itself, grows like a pregnancy. The more you write, the more there is to draw from; the more you say, the more there is to say. The deeper you go into your imagination, the richer that reservoir becomes. You do not run out of material by using all that's in you; rather, when you take everything that is available one day, it only makes room for new things to appear the next." 
Oh, God, yes. So I just started writing. And it's been so very fun; I fall asleep at night thinking of my characters, and whenever I have a moment to daydream my mind goes to them (or else to home decorating and redecorating, which is almost as fun). I may end up writing a stupendously shitty novel and it may never be published and it may take me five years to write, as these kids take up damn near all of my time, but I promise I will just be glad to have done it and to be able to tell my daughters that I did it.

Finally, I read something else that has helped me get over my starting-to-write-my-novel hump, and it's this, said by Elizabeth Gilbert on, yes, Oprah:
"What you don't want to do is walk out of here and start treating your fear like a precious object ... If you cherish that fear and you give it all kinds of attention and you treat it like it's something very special, it's going to end up keeping you from what you really want. Here's what I'm going to tell you about your fear: It's the most boring thing about you. The most interesting thing about you is your creativity, your passion, your love, your joy, your faith--all that stuff is fascinating. Your fear is just as boring as mine is ... It is not precious. It is not special. It is not singular to you. It's just the one we all got wired with when we came in."
Which made me realize I really have been paying homage to my fear of getting started on this book--I've spent far more time telling my friends and family that I'm intimidated by it than I've spent actually sitting in front of my computer and doing something, anything, with that blank screen. Sometimes you've just got to shut up and go for it--even if, especially if, what you're going for is the thing you want the most.

October 9, 2014

32.

A few weeks ago I turned 32. It was a Friday, and Nekos took the day off. The weather was just my style--sunny but not sweltering. I indulged many of my generic guilty pleasures--country music and Panera and pumpkin spice lattes--and we took the girls to the zoo. We weren't there long; mostly we walked around Grassmere, this historic mansion built in 1810 and situated to one corner of the zoo. It's encircled by old buildings, barns, cemeteries, and lazy, grazing farm animals, and it's almost eerily quiet so it feels that much more sacred. Later that day, after the girls had naps, I had a massage (a gift from my mama), and Nekos and I went to the mall so I could pick out some new Ray Ban Aviators. It had been a couple of years since my other pair had crapped out, so new Ray Bans were a big treat. To seal what was the perfect day for me (in a wildly imperfect life), my mom took the girls for the night and Nekos and I went out for dinner. I am all about the burger at Holland House. And the Palomas. So we did that, and then we went to bed early-ish. Because I am a granny now, being 32 and all. The next night a few of my girlfriends came over with vodka and wine and a "bruschetta bar" and we played old school jams and danced in my living room. A great birthday, full of love. For that I am very grateful. 

For the record, the ages of the other people in these photos is: 34, 4.5, and nearly 2.



October 1, 2014

Before & After We Cut a Doorway in a Wall And Doubled Our Living Room

Longest I've ever gone without blogging? Nearly three months. I think so. Been working my tail off and, also, enjoying summer. But I'm back with a good icebreaker--probably our biggest renovation to date. Essentially, we doubled the size of our living room and made our house feel bigger, airier, sunnier, and certainly more functional for us. The renovation happened a few months ago now, but I've been having fun all this time tweaking things and creating fun new nooks. Also, trolling Craiglist for the perfect petite midcentury sofa to go in what we now call the "music room," since it is home to Nekos' zillions of records.

Our friend T.J., who is also the realtor who sold us our house, suggested to me about six months ago that we cut a doorway in the wall behind our couch. We had just moved Tessa and Livvy into the same bedroom upstairs, and Tessa's old bedroom downstairs (behind the wall the couch was against) was pretty much useless to us. Plus, we were craving more space for dance parties and dinner parties and family hangs. Being a realtor, T.J. was sensitive to the notion that we wouldn't want to lose a bedroom and thus decrease the value of our house, so he said we should just cut a door in the wall instead of knocking down the wall entirely. That way, when it's time for us to sell one day we can just install french doors and call it a bedroom. Plus we still have three bedrooms, so once the girls decide they're done with sharing a room, we can separate them. Anyway, T.J.'s suggestion felt like a revelation, as it would be a relatively easy and hopefully inexpensive way to totally change the feel of our house.

Here's what our little living room looked like before. We live in a 1926 bungalow so the rooms are all small cozy.


On the opposite wall is our mantle, which had our TV hanging over it--blegh. Our front door is just to the right.

Here's one last look at the untouched wall, right before demo:


Here's the demo process. This guy estimated that labor and materials would cost around $500. It cost $1,700 total. Is this just par for the course with subcontractor people or what? I literally had to tell him, "Uh, I don't have that much money. I can pay you half now, half next week?"


Anyway, the work itself was really solid. He did an awesome job of recreating a historical doorway so that it perfectly matches the existing doors. And he said this demo part took much longer than he anticipated since the walls were like a fortress. It took him and another guy the better part of a day to clear away all the wood and concrete between these two rooms.

Afterwards, Tessa and Livvy and I couldn't quite believe it. It didn't look or feel like our house, as we could now see from room to room and the girls can run in a circle now through the rooms. Would you believe I had all of this done while Nekos was out of town? And the mess? It was profound. Dust like you wouldn't believe. But totally worth it. 


Before I show y'all the finished photos, here's one last mini-makeover I did with the fireplace. I painted the ugly pink-ish tile the same gray as our kitchen cabinets. And after patching the wall where the TV used to hang above the mantel, I painted it "Alabaster" (Sherwin Williams), just to brighten things up, though I still love the sky blue that the rest of this room is. 


And let me back up a minute. The very first thing I did, before any demo, is to paint Tessa's old bedroom (our new living room). It was a sunny yellow; now it's "Wickham Gray" (a watery blue-gray) by Benjamin Moore. The deeper blue in the "music room" is "Salty Tear" by Behr. 

So here's the new view from our front door:



Here's looking into the new living room:



And the new, TV-less mantel, which has been so fun to decorate:


I am loving this sailboat my mama got me for my birthday last month:



After this renovation, we realized we had basically no furniture to go in our old living room, so I found this sweet midcentury piece of ass on Craiglist. We adore it, and it is so comfortable.


I am dreaming of putting this CB2 acrylic coffee table in front of it one of these days. And I want a pair of these chairs (look how cheap!) In the meantime, my mama loaned me these two handsome armchairs for seating.



And here is our new living room/TV room. The TV is on the wall opposite the couch:





Thanks for having a look. I am always going for cheerful, colorful, comfortable, and eclectic. I think we got it. 

July 11, 2014

Beach Times Infinity.


Last week we got to spend five days and nights in Sandestin, Florida, with plenty of daytrips back and forth to Grayton Beach and Seaside, too. There is a chance you guys may be thinking, "Are these assholes always on vacation?" Because there was our Outer Banks trip not so long ago, and I got to escape to California for a business trip recently. But here's the deal--we have just been super blessed this summer with generous friends who have helped make all of our family vacation dreams come true. This go 'round, we went to Florida with our friends Johnny and Tara (and their two sons, ages 4 and 2) and were able to stay in their family's beach house. For the record, I recommend making friends with people whose lineage includes beach houses. It also helps that the dynamic between our kids is pitch perfect at the moment, so we could enjoy lots of adult hangs while our kids played together. Tessa has an epic crush on four-year-old Sawyer, who she has known since birth, and she said all kinds of moony, swoony, nauseating things like, "Mama, don't worry, Sawyer will protect me" and "Sawyer, we are gonna get married when we grow up, right?"


It felt like our first real family vacation because it was long enough for us to get comfortable and settle into the easy rhythm of it, and we had all four of us there. When we went to the Outer Banks we didn't get to take Liv with us. I liked the freedom of being baby-less, but I missed the snot out of her. This trip I really bonded with her. Because I felt lighter, buoyed without the pressures of everyday life, I could just carry her around on my hip as much as I wanted and fully snuggle into her sweetness. I feel very aware right now of her fleeting babyness. It is almost gone, so I am drinking up every last baby drop before she traipses off into full-on toddlerhood. God willing and the creek don't rise, she is my last baby. 


It was Livvy's first visit to the ocean. She was not a fan. The waves and the cold water overwhelmed her. Instead she loved the pool. Loved it. We found a baby float for her and could hardly get her to part with it for the whole trip. Tessabean has definitely proven to be a water lover this summer--unlike last summer, when we endured the world's most traumatic swim lessons. She ate the ocean up with a spoon and then went back for more. The pool was equally delightful to her. It's hard to believe that her fingers and toes aren't still wrinkled. 


I am a landlocked baby who was born with saltwater and piƱa colada in her veins, so I am incredibly grateful for having gotten to lay eyes on--and float in--the ocean so much this summer. On Monday, the day we headed home, we weren't in any particular hurry to get on the road for the seven-hour drive back to Nashville. Instead we drove out to Seaside again. Nekos wanted to take photos, and I wanted to take one more dip in the ocean. It was the first time since our vacation had begun that anxiety found me again, a tight knot in my throat. I felt myself getting irritated with the kids and with Nekos, with myself. No one wanted to get in the ocean again except me, so I walked down to the beach myself and stripped off my dress. I waded into the water, layered as far as the eye could see in shades of clear blue, turquoise, and navy. And then I just floated, palms to the sky, hot sun, cool water. All I could hear was my breath, deep and even. The anxiety fell away. I have to keep this feeling with me. I think I will.