“There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.” — Edgar Allan Poe
Last night was a beautiful win — but oh, the strangeness.
Come-from-behind wins in the final minutes of a game are the stuff legends are made of. The stuff that makes victory taste even sweeter.
But they are also some of the strangest game-scenarios of a coach’s wife’s life.
They are not my favorite. But they are. They are a paradox. (And as an English teacher, I love a good paradox.)
Last night was a hard-fought defensive battle. (As a defensive coach’s wife, you love it AND you hate it. Again, with the paradox.) And what you really love when your husband coaches defense is a shut out. And our defense DID shut out their team’s offense, but THEIR defense… well, that’s where their 14 points came from.
And you have to hand it to that defense. They played hard. They hit hard and charged hard and sacked hard.And our offense will feel the effects of that HARD for awhile.
But our defense, they played hard too. They hit hard and charged hard and stole that ball hard when it mattered most.
And our offense scored when it mattered most — and scored just enough when it mattered most.
And while we might have liked a few more points on that final scoreboard, and a few less battle scars at the end of the fight, it was still beautiful.
Yes, there was some definite strangeness in the proportions — but oh, what an exquisitely beautiful win. #CANES
So there was this one hiccup in our Dream House – a diaphragmatic spasm worthy of killing the whole deal. The bathroom in the owner’s suite was a nightmare. A nightmare of Freddy Kreuger proportions.
It was a sliced up, diced up disaster. A dumpster fire.
Could it be saved? Could we cut away the thickness, the clumsiness, revitalize it to something functional and aesthetically pleasing?
It was our biggest challenge.
When we first saw the bathroom, it consisted of two maimed spaces – one housing a massive vanity with a single, way-off-center sink and the other, the bathroom proper.
How should we proceed? Even without the wall separating the two areas, there wasn’t a lot of space to work with.
We knew we wanted a shower and a tub, but not a combo. My dream was a soaker tub. And Mike’s desire was a large shower. But how? There was very little functional space to work with.
So we borrowed from Peter to pay for a Potty. We took a game room closet that backed up to the master bath from the great room and converted it to a toilet closet. It’s a snug fit, but still functional.
This rearrangment of assets freed up some space for a tub and shower, but not a lot. My sister, however, had supplied a solution: a wet room. Putting a free-standing tub INSIDE the shower area.
She pulled up pictures. She showed me pictures. She had me at pictures.
Even so, it would be tight. The soaker tub would have to nestle into into the space where the original combo had been. It would have to be short. Fifty-four inches short. I am tall. Seventy inches tall. Would I have to cramp and crimp my legs?
And Mike’s shower. He has shoulders. Wide shoulders. Wide, lineman’s shoulders. Would he have to dip and curl his shoulders?
Stress segued to satisfaction when we stepped in for a dry run. There was plenty of room for the both of us. The tub rests on a slightly slanted ledge for run off into the plenty-wide-enough shower.
We used the same warm, white subway tiles and dark grout from the kitchen for the wet room walls and traditional hexagon tiles for floor, veined slightly to match the faux marble tile on the floor in the dry areas. The faucets throughout the bath are long-necked and matte black and remind me of old-fashioned water pumps. We surrounded it all with seamless glass, for the illusion of even more space.
The vanity is one of my favorite parts of our entire remodel.
It’s a pickled teak piece I found at Signature Hardware. (The only purchase not made at a discount or overstock site). I wanted it. I needed it. I designed the rest of the bathroom surfaces around it. We topped it with the same creamy risotto-flecked granite as the kitchen and twin vessel sinks in white ovals to replicate the lines of the tub.
The cabinet’s pale, Scandinavian lines allowed us to continue the black and white color scheme from our kitchen. It also lent itself well to the industrial finishes I was seeing and loving so much. We placed two simple, black-framed mirrors and two strips of exposed-metal vanity lighting on the wall behind it.
After all was said and done, we turned our worst nightmare into a wide-open, light, bright, absolutely dreamy space.
In the last few weeks, I’ve pilgrimaged back to my book. Sitting down and showing up, morning after morning. Forcing my fingers along the familiar keys, like beads on a rosary, like a prayer, making my meditations, tapping out my thoughts — meager though they are — and willing the deeper ones to surface. They’ve been buried since November. Buried with my father.
It’s slow going. My mind aches from the labor of it all. Still, I’m keeping at it. Which is progress in and of itself.
I wrote 300 pages in the six months of quarantine. It was the one clear blessing that came out of Covid for me.
But then, quick as a heart attack — all was lost. Mourning after mourning. I would stare at the screen. I would falter. I would fail. And I couldn’t really say I even cared.
I wanted to. To care. To fight for the writing. To wrestle with the words. But they’d withered all when my father died.
To be a writer, Stephen King says, you must do two things: read a lot and write a lot. And since my words died with my dad, I’ve really only done the first. I’ve read. I wouldn’t say voraciously because with twin boys and a teaching schedule and a coaching husband and the settling of the will and the buying and remodeling of a new house and the selling of the old one… well, voracious was not on the menu.
But I could read in small handfuls. Snack size sittings. So I picked the heartiest fair I could find, and I assembled a charcuterie board of books and nibbled at them whenever I found a smidgeon of a second. The Goldfinch. The Year of Magical Thinking. Priest Daddy.
And I grazed. And I gained sustenance. Slowly. Steadily. And in the last few weeks, I’ve found the strength to go to the altar again and search for a sliver… a finger or toe hold of the book that was buried six feet under six months ago.
And this week, the hard work began to produce. Words, gummed up and clay-clogged though they may be, have emerged. They are far from hardy. They are sluggish, sallow sorts, most decidedly disinterred, blinking and dazed in the hot summer sun. But they are words. And I am feeling hopeful again.
And so I am back at it again this morning. Back on my back porch till my battery fades, then into my library, backed by those who’ve come before, cheering me on from my shelves of inspiration. Among them, those who helped me find the strength to mine for the gold in a year where all the magic died and so did my preacher dad: The Goldfinch, The Year of Magical Thinking, Priest Daddy.
So much has happened in the last five days. The flooring was laid. The countertops installed. The light fixtures hung.
Y’all… the harmony, the rhythm, the texture of it all.
It’s like a symphony. It’s like some poetic promise was poured through my dreams into a reality beyond beautiful. The perfect notes curled into the perfect chords to create the perfect composition.
So much depth. So much light. So much energy.
I can’t even.
So just look…
So now come all the finishing touches. The rest of the paint, too. (No, that Great Room in the distance of the first picture is not staying yellow.)
And the kitchen backsplash is being laid. And the shower fixtures are being installed. The tub is in place, but not anchored in. The same with the console sink in the powder bath. And the mirrors will be hung and the appliances slid into place.
Well, except for the ovens. The double ovens, scheduled for pickup and install yesterday, are now not coming in until July.
Cue the scratching hiss of a needle on spinning vinyl… The one major hitch in our harmony.
No ovens for at least six weeks.
Thankfully, I’ll have a cooktop on the island. We’ll be doing lots of saucepan suppers. But hey, who bakes in the heat of the summertime in the south anyways?
And as long as I have them in time for a gazillion batches of cookies for the football players come fall, I can take this in stride.
Still, the fact that we move in next Friday — one week from today — with the help of a slew of football players who will be richly rewarded this fall when those double ovens finally do come in — is music to my ears.
This past week, the remodel was rolling right along. The cabinets were installed. The kitchen and office, painted. The tile set, the grout, smeared. But then… snags.
The office was painted the wrong color. The sink and cabinets didn’t line up. The couple buying our current house slid another financial contingency our way (an easy hurdle, but scary when it arrived).
All in a single day.
And now the painters have slowed their progress. Too many jobs for them, too little time.
Mike and I walked through last night. To think, in two weeks, we should be settling in. But then, there’s so much still to be done.
I’m doing my best to stay patient. All the things are scheduled – if the schedule sticks. We’re kind of at the mercy of subcontractors.
The ceilings are being painted this weekend. The flooring will be laid on Tuesday of this week. Lighting goes in on Monday. Countertops arrive on Thursday. Plumbing and fixtures hit Friday. Appliance install is at the end of the week, too, along with our new mantel. The rest of the painting, the following week.
It’s happening. But some weeks it feels like wading through sorghum.
And speaking of slow as molasses, I’ve got to make it through two more weeks of the hardest school year ever. The year that laid claim to my father and aunt will finally be over in another two weeks. The sadness won’t end, but hopefully a shift will occur. A pivot. A pointing toward positive.
In two weeks, a new chapter can begin. Two weeks.
My favorite, oh-so-British, unit of time. Such a mysterious, promising span. It’s appropriate that I first encountered it inside the pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The term is an abbreviation of fourteen nights. And when I began penning this blog, that’s how many there were until our June 4, move-in-day: fourteen nights.
A promise that after all the nights, comes the day…
Thank you, God. I’m so tired of the nights. And so much mystery and promise typically does come with the two-week time slots of a fortnight.
Two week notices
Vacation and travel schedules.
The cycles of the moon, from new to full.
From the ping of ovulation to a pair of pale pink lines.
New life springs eternal in so many ways. Here’s to the mystery and promise of a fortnight.
There’s a giddy little feeling in my belly every time I walk in the door of our remodel. Butterflies flitting; bees buzzing. It’s a bit like falling in love.
Our project has hit the really sexy stage — and at dizzying speeds.
Wet paint. Hung cabinets. Hard granite. Stripped floors. Silken sheens. Phew! It leaves me breathless.
And the kitchen, in particular, makes me swoon.
Two days ago, it stood empty, a mottled mix of drywall mud and tired blue paint, Today, it’s dazzling, simple, clean, and bright. Like salt licks and sugar cubes.
It leaves me drooling..
And then there’s the dark, deep, urbane bronze island. Y’all. I can’t. It’s too gorgeous. Too perfect. Holy hotness! (And the floors and countertops aren’t even in yet!)
Then there’s our master bath. The shower lip and tub platform are erected. The niches recessed and waiting. Waiting for the grout to get laid. The fixtures to be put in, turned on.
And have I mentioned the newly-installed custom bookcase in the study? The floor-to-ceiling bookcase? Inside what will soon be a dark, moody, north-facing study painted the same deep, urbane bronze as our handsome island in the kitchen?
I have to confess I’ve never done this sort of thing before, and I’m finding it an endorphin rush like no other. (Well, almost.)
So, y’all — remodeling. I finally get what all the fuss is about.
We closed on the last bit of property in my father’s estate today. In April, my husband, boys, and I took a little ride through the land of the pines from Cartersville, Georgia to North Caroline, from there to Virginia, then east from the Cumberland Gap to Johnson City Tennessee.
Along the way, we visited several gaps, including Big Stone Gap, Cumberland Gap, and our primary destination, Fancy Gap.
Virginia is chock full of ’em.
Since I knew what a “thigh gap” was, I found myself wondering if the mountainous ones were sort of the same.
Turns out, a geographical gap is the lowest point between two mountains, providing relatively easy passage for settlers; the other, the anorexia-driven absence of topography on the sexualized female body (and therefore, easier passage).
The two are synonymous. And both are societal low points, as far as I’m concerned.
The land is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong. But not only is Daniel Boone territory chockfull of gaps, it’s also chockfull of rebel flags.
Fancy Gap is nestled between Mitchell Knob and Harris Mountain, an hour’s drive north of Winston-Salem. Back in pioneer times, a trip down and back to the tobacco giant would’ve taken five treacherous days.
So treacherous, in fact, that legend has it a team of mules — one named Peter — was positioned along the pass to pull wagons out of danger. The area came to be known as Peter Pull, and between Dad’s love of mules, the fact that a gap was involved, and the double entendre of his patronym, is it any wonder my long-suffering bachelor father bought property here? (My father’s name — Randy Peters — was oh-so apropos.)
Fancy Gap’s a town whose population is nearly as tiny as its dimensions. In 2010, there were 237 citizens (down from 260 in 2000.) and there are nearly as many stars and bars on porches and posts as there are people.
Which brings me to another piece of this place’s past I uncovered while there — a stream called Yankee Branch. The story behind it is far darker than the humorous Peter Pull. This creek got its name after two rebel brothers slaughtered an encampment of union occupation soldiers on its banks. One brother purportedly wore a Yankee uniform jacket to church every Sunday for the remainder of his years, bullet holes proudly displayed on his back.
Is it any wonder Mike, who is both of mixed parentage and a Damn Yankee, has muscles still aching from the tension, weeks later? Is it any wonder my heart is still aching from this hate-filled heritage held tight a century-and-a-half later?
I even hate using that word. Heritage. It’s how people around here defend that damned flag. I don’t want to celebrate the customs and culture of treason and hate — one that enslaved and dehumanized an entire population. One that continued to refuse rights and deny opportunities to that population for decades after the war, and one that persists in flaunting the hate and privilege that flag promotes from pickup trucks and front porches to this day. Old times there are not forgotten.
But they should be. Or at least not idolized.
Southern Pride is not my kind of pride. Nor was it my father’s, thank God. Still, it’s a complicated inheritance — the property we were there to deal with in the first place, and then the equal parts love and revulsion I feel from being southern born and bred.
I love the flora and fauna here. The accents and cooking. The smiles and sunshine. I do not love the fixation with confederate army relics and the past.
And here, I’ll take my stand.
That past was not some noble, God-fearing kingdom. It was a festering swamp of slavery and manslaughter. It stunk then and it stinks even worse now, after percolating in its own poisonous putrid presumptive self love.
Kind of like my Dad’s trailer…
It’s why we went there in the first place remember? And we found it, sinking into itself at the ankle end of a dogleg gravel road within a mass of fallen leaves, broken windows, coroded beer cans, and moldy siding– the remnants of past seasons, now nothing but decay and detritus. Inside, more shattered glass and cankerous ceiling tiles stewing in a slurry of insulation, rat droppings, and rain.
The closets were open and empty, as were the cabinets in the kitchen. A spongy rug in the den oozed the faint hint of skunk – whether animal or meth aftermath, who knows? One chair, a folding vinyl one, stood upright and pulled up to a greasy, head-shaped inprint on a pillow atop a murphy desk.
The place had been ransacked who knows how many times by who knows how many people. Even the toilet was upended, a sneer of cold command on its toppled visage.
It’s glory days long gone, nothing of value remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, the lonely, lore-filled mountains stretch far, far away.
The inheritance left behind will need to be hauled off and something new built in its place. It’s hardly worth the scrap metal left behind, tarnished and tainted as it is. And honestly, that’s as it should be.
What can I say that hasn’t been said about Trevor Lawrence? Not a thing.
Still, it’s worth saying that the reason our family — and so many families in this, his hometown — are so proud of him and love him so much isn’t because he’s the football player who was just drafted # 1 overall.
No, we all love him because of his heart.
How he pours his heart into his faith, his people, his community, and his sport… and in that order. (The order of priorities that got him trolled recently by social media hate-mongers.)
Because in a world accustomed to egos and bad behavior, Trevor is an anomoly. And people don’t know how to deal with it. They’re so used to celebrating celebrities celebrating themselves, that they don’t know how to handle one who seeks purpose beyond the spotlight.
But Trevor does just that. Relying on God and his conscience to guide him. Trevor has real conviction and a moral integrity that often takes years to come by (if ever). None of it is an act. This is no finger-point-at-the-sky-for-the-cameras kind of faith, and he is no press-conference-full-of-pomp-and-promotion kind of player.
There’s a reason he didn’t have major news networks at the high school when he committed to Clemson in 2016 and why he didn’t travel to Cleveland for the 2021 draft yesterday. Hype and hoopla, football and the fans don’t drive him. Love does. God’s love and his heart.
And we in his community love him for it. How he’s hyper-focused on where he’s going, but hasn’t lost sight of where he came from. How he surrounds himself with folks he can trust and stays loyal to the ones who helped him get where he’s at.
Our two boys have grown up seeing Trevor play ball. From the practice field to the Friday night lights to the Saturdays in Death Valley, they know Trevor. But they know him for more than the player with the golden arm. They know him for the person with the heart of gold who always has a smile, a hug, a high five, and a “how y’all doing?” when he sees them.
They know him for his heart. And I would like to think America will get to know him for his heart too. To focus on who he is, not just what he does. Because Trevor Lawrence is so much more than the NFL’s 2021 #1 Draft Pick.
He is a really, really good human ready to accomplish really, really beautiful things, all while slinging a really, really mean football.
It didn’t feel like that big a deal until I realized I’m almost 55. With seven year-olds.
And it still didn’t feel like that big a deal until after I spent the weekend at a water park. Two days. At a water park. With twin seven year-olds. At almost 55. Surrounded by 20- and 30-something-year-old parents. And did I mention the water park.
And it STILL didn’t feel like that big a deal, even though I was there with my own 30-something daughters while we all ran after their seven-year-old brothers along with my three grandchildren — two of whom are younger than their uncles by 18 months and 3 years, respectively. At a water park: wave pool, lazy river (hardly!),speed-racing slides, hurl-you-ass-backward slides. At 55. (Almost.) Whew.
You know when it felt like a big deal? When Parker told me proudly that he’s now “two fingers on the second hand years-old.” Now THAT’S a big deal. That feels huge. I’m not really sure why.
Where has the time gone?
Wasn’t it just yesterday they scrambled their way out of my belly six weeks early, looking all the world like the most photogenic naked mole rats on the planet, rocking skull caps and feeding tubes? Wasn’t it just yesterday I was a sleep-deprived milk machine, twins hanging off my body, growing faster than mushrooms from middle-of-the-night, near-constant feedings?
Feels like yesterday. As in, I’m still feeling the exhaustion 7 years later. I’m feeling every minute of it. And the water park added to my exhaustion. But it also added to my joy. Because despite the tiredness delivered daily, the twins delivered seven years ago this weekend deliver joy to me in abundance. Daily. Nightly. Yearly. Eternally.
I love seeing them laugh and explore the world around them. I love seeing them grow their way into individuality. They’ve evolved from wrinkly rodents to fiercely independent fellas full of piss and passion. Parker loves Italian sports cars, Trevor Lawrence, and jotting notes in small spiral notepads at bedtime. Tate loves mermaids, Billie Eilish tunes, and every Magic Treehouse plotline ever written.
Despite their vast differences, they have shared passions too. Like their endless supplies of poop jokes, their newfound love of water parks, their long-standing love for their big sisters and their Daddy.
And me. I am blessed with their sweet love too. And their shitty punch lines. Thank God they don’t use THAT word — yet. Though Mike assures me that will arrive in good time too. Just like they arrived — all in good time.
In God’s time.
He knew what he was doing when He blessed me with twin boys at 48. He has faith that I have what it takes, even if my nearly 55-year-old body doesn’t think I do. Even when the energy and patience is siphoned down to the very dregs, He always makes sure more is delivered by way of hugs and snuggles and smiles and joy. He refills the cisterns of my soul with their love so I can handle it all.
All the water parks and sleepless nights.
All the never-ending potty humor.
All the homework and horseplay.
The skinned knees and sibling rivalry.
The fidgeting and farting.
The saltiness and sass (both mermaid AND smart mouth varieties).
With all the things.
Times two. (Pretty sure its way more than doubled. Pretty sure its all the things SQUARED.)
Still, their snuggles and joy are squared too. And that sustains me. Their love (and God’s faithfulness) keeps me keeping up with them. Me and my almost fifty-five-year-old mother’s body and them and their just-turned seven-year-old boy ones — we can do this hard thing.