Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

Our Fine Dining Room

Just before we left on vacation, I got our dining room close to complete. It sits in the footprint of the former formal living room. But our family – well, we would use a formal living room like we would use tickets to an opera. Never.

It’s not that we are uncouth. (Well, some of us are. And the others, well, we’re a far cry from couth… but three of us are pretty cute.) It’s that we have seven-year-old twin boys. And they would ruin the experience for everyone. They jump on things. They stain things. They treat things like they treat each other — with wild abandon and multiple punches to the junk.

Formal living rooms can’t handle multiple punches to the junk. The junk in there is not as resilient as their junk. And it wouldn’t be as funny. 

So we made it into a formal dining room instead, which we will at least use on special occasions. When we can dress them up and threaten them with junk removal if they do anything too untoward while they’re in there. They enjoy food and they eat fast, so it’s less torturous than it seems.

And the things I put in our dining room, they make me feel sort-of-couth. (Hey, if you can’t be cute, you can try to be couth.) The two sets of china I have – one a gift from my mother and the other a gift from my dearest Aunt Ann — I placed inside a legal bookcase. You know me and bookcases. Well, if you don’t, just know I obsess over them the way our boys obsess over their junk.

Our dining table is big and stained dark with clean, almost-Asian-inspired lines (for Mike), and small, spool-turned details (a nod to my casual Appalachian heritage. “Casual” implying common and far from couth… but hey, a girl can try).

The seat cushions are cream (the way we bought them), but they’re going to have to change. Our boys and their stain-making ways have already left their mark.

Over the table, we hung an oversized chandelier, reminiscent of those giant iron ones with a gazillion candles found in the Tower of London. I had wanted something similar since I first laid eyes on them way back when.

Plus, it pairs nicely with the hand-colored Shakespeare prints gifted me via the AP Psych teacher and a designer friend of hers last year during quarantine. I had them matted and framed and they now flank the entrance to the library, my favorite room in the house.

On the opposite wall from the prints, is the entry hall and the entrance to the dining room, with the legal bookcase on one wall, balanced by an Asian-print screen in ebony, gold and jade on the other. In the background, you can even see my grandmother’s antique sideboard and the Shisa dogs Mike’s parents gave us. We truly are a marriage of Appalachia and Asia.

There is a massive bay window looking out onto Maple Drive on one side of the table and a whitewashed hutch that houses more china and my hand-painted collection of martini glasses. So I guess I do have junk after all. Junk tucked in and masquerading as fancy (wink, wink), topped by a massive mirror, gilded when we got it, now painted matte black.

So there it is. Our dining room. With that Henry VIII chandelier and prints of Shakespeare’s greatest characters, it gives me all the feels.

Feeling couth. Might go to the opera later, idk.

our out-of-this world kitchen

I had big dreams for this big kitchen — a kitchen vast and rare for a house built in the early 70s. And the outcome has far exceeded even my wildest dreams.

It is filled with light and glinting, gleaming surfaces, flooded in alabaster, and seemingly sprinkled with stardust. 

It started out as a big — but clumsy and cluttered — space, with too many walls, floral wallpaper, an awkward island, and narrow cabinetry.

So we took out a wall, stripped the wallpaper, repositioned the fridge, and added brand new custom cabinets and a massive island (since the room had the dimensions to house it).

The cabinets, by Tony Martin’s Allwood Cabinets here in Cartersville, soar floor to ceiling, and are painted to match the SW alabaster walls. For the backsplash, to add to the airy, lofty feel, we put in creamy, oversized subway tiles, pressed vertically and grounded in dark, wide grout to pull the hues of the matte black fixtures and deep, dark island.

Not the original sink choice, but the best one for the job

This fireclay apron sink turned out to be the only SNAFU in our kitchen remodel. We’d originally picked a 33” masterpiece with a gorgeous lip even Angelina Jolie would envy. But that one ended up too big for the allotted space. Turns out, it was a fortuitous measuring mishap because this beauty’s clean crisp lines are a perfect match to the shaker cabinets that flank her. The result is exquisite harmony with absolutely ZERO lip envy to disturb the peace.

Our light fixtures have all sorts of symbolic significance. I secured the sputnik chandelier for above the table before I bought another single purchase. It pays homage to my aerospace-engineer-and-physics- professor father, whom I lost in November.

A little Space oddity in my kitchen proved perfect

Once it arrived, though, I had more than a few misgivings. It’s so midcentury modern. So jutting and angular. So… different from everything else I’m drawn to. What if I couldn’t make it work? What if it threw my kitchen vision off orbit?

Well, I think I managed to coax and cajole everything back into my trajectory by keeping the other fixtures all matte black, with consistently visible Edison bulbs, and even an educator theme. Classic school house pendants hang above the island and sink to lend plenty of brightness for food prep, along with six additional can lights dotting the island perimeters. 

And let me tell you about the island! It’s colossal and sublime, painted SW Urbane Bronze. It houses approximately a gazillion cubbies for storage and is topped with a hazy nebula of granite snagged straight from heaven herself (with a good bit of help from Araceli at RS Solid Surfaces, also in Cartersville).

The floors, which run throughout all the common areas, are weathered nine-inch planks, chockfull of browns, blondes, and grays to pair and pull any and all wood-tones and paint hues into happy consensus. 

These floors just might be my favorite part.

So there she is. Our new kitchen. She’s out of this world. We couldn’t have done it without the help of Jeffrey and Jennifer Vann, of Native Construction.

But she’s not complete yet. There’s still a few projects and backorders to go. Just this week, I painted an old table my mother had gifted me with when I first struck out on my own after my divorce. It was scratched up and scarred, but still had her beautiful lines. I added a bit of chalk paint and wax, and VOILA! She shines with new life. 

New digs for a Grande Dame

Now if only our double ovens would arrive from their backorder – the blank space is currently safekeeping artwork from the shenanigans of seven-year-old boys until they can be hung (the art, not the boys, though I swear on some days…)

Making a Room of my Own: the Library

Tomorrow marks one full week since moving day – a day that arrived with hurricane force. Literally, in a manner of speaking.

Nine Cartersville Purple Hurricane football players helped get us here. They blessed us with their hearts and their strength. My daughter and son-in-law were here to help too. Without them all, we couldn’t have gotten it done. Words can’t express my love and appreciation.

Since then, we’ve unpacked boxes, set up the kitchen, arranged furniture, assembled beds, unpacked more boxes, unrolled rugs, learned to cook with a toaster ovens (backorder backstory), hung artwork, unpacked more boxes… well, you get the picture. And we’re not done yet. 

But one room is finished: the library. It needed to be. For my sanity and soul’s sake.

A room without books is like a body without a soul


Thus spoke Cicero… and he and I, we’re in philosophical agreement.

And this room — it has soul. Lots of it. My daughter and I exhumed an entire library of souls, including Darcy, Dalloway, Celie & Shug, and granted them a new resting place. We even shelved a few who sold theirs — Dorian Gray, Young Goodman Brown, Nathan Price, the Vampire Lestat. And there’ll soon be a new girl named Addie LaRue!

I will feed on these souls like the Vampire Lestat. I will stoke the rich, yellow flame that rests in the seat of my own soul with the content of the greatest of creators. Austen, Walker, Kingsolver, Woolf, and so many, many more. Because, as my famous mentor said:

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

So just this morning, I carved out a couple of minutes to settle in for a seance with the GOAT herself. No, really — Woolf was nicknamed Goat as a child by her family back before GOAT meant what GOAT means today (Nailed it!), and she famously said:

A woman must have money and a room of one’s own if she is to write fiction.

Well, I now have the room.

A beautiful room where the beauty of the world with its two exquisite edges — laughter and anguish — may ripple and ripen beneath my fingers. A room where my soul sings to me in concert with the souls singing all around me.

Virginia Woolf and I are also in philosophical agreement. A woman must have money and a room of one’s own if she is to write fiction.

Well, I’ve got one covered so far.

2021’s Promise-Filled Purple Hurricane Class

Last night, the Cartersville High School Class of 2021 graduated. And in true pandemic fashion, the year of never-ending challenges refused to let up.

Storms came. The sky raged and splintered. The clouds shuddered and roared. Sheets of rain raced across the stadium, pummeling the stage where the seniors were at that very moment supposed to be receiving their diplomas.

About forty people (school administrators, teachers, and techies) huddled beneath a tiny tent just right of center stage (to protect the sound equipment inside, not themselves).

The stands were empty, families and friends recently vacated to parked car interiors, teachers hunkered down in the field house. It would prove a stuffy, stormy, two-hour delay.

The seniors, robed and tasseled and anxious to get the show on the road, were huddled inside the school gym, appropriately named The Storm Center.

The graduates knew the rain was coming. School officials knew the rain was coming. They’d all been watching their weather apps the entire week. Watching as the chance of thunderstorms kept climbing, finally topping out at 100% .

But the seniors had taken a vote. They didn’t care if it was midnight, come hell or high water (and oh, how that high water came), graduation would be Friday. Too many had too many plans Saturday: family leaving, family vacations, graduation parties, Life.

And close to midnight, it was — 11:22 PM to be exact — when the caps were finally tossed.

But first, came the ceremony… and 2021 was’t done making mischief just yet.

The families and seniors had just taken their seats when class representative Alli Archer welcomed the crowd. As she commented on her class’s perseverance, the lights in the stadium flickered and failed.

But this was just one more hurdle the seniors sailed past. They cheered their defiance. Friends and family took up their cause and thousands of phones lit up the stands in solidarity.

The effervescent energy of this class is contagious and God took note.

Class secretary Robert Novak concluded his prayer with a hallowed Amen when God restored all the lights. Chill bumps and cheers erupted in the stadium.

2021 would not, could not, win.

Photo Credit: Trevor Shipman

Despite the hardships and hurdles flung their way, this senior class — this beautiful, resilient 2021 class — didn’t just weather the storm, they owned it. And how could they not? They are Cartersville Purple Hurricanes. It’s in their genes.

Granite and Fixtures and Floors, oh my!

One week till we move in. One. (EEEEEEK!!!)

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.

The Mystery and Promise of a Fortnight

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.

A fortnight.

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.

Repainted to be dark and twisty like me ☺️

remodeling is hotter than down below

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!)

So sleek. So long. So girthy.

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.

I’m feeling all tingly inside…

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 feel flushed. Is it hot in here? No? Just me?

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.


Our Raw and Exposed Remodel

Walking into the remodel this week, it feels rather bleak. It’s been cloudy or raining, which doesn’t help any. The progress seems stalled. Everything smells sort organic, like sawdust and drywall mud. There are wires dangling and pipes poking out.

It’s all the underbelly stuff, raw and exposed, and just waiting for life to take root.

It kind of reminds me of another raw, exposed point in our lives when Mike and I were deep in the underbelly of the IVF process and, likewise, waiting for life to take root.

It was also that germinal stage, where the boys had been conceived (under the guidance and care of contracted experts). My uterus had been scraped and prepped and chemically insulated, and I was lying there in the stirrups, plumbing exposed, tubing and wires hanging out, waiting for the transfer. Waiting for the professionals to come swooping in to fill my interior with life. The life we’d planned and prayed for.

And that’s where I feel like we’re at with our house — in that germinal stage where all the ideas have been conceived, the prep work completed, the progress multiplying — although almost invisible to the untrained eye.

But the professionals tell me the progress is substantial.

And tomorrow — tomorrow! — the connective web of visible changes begins. Tomorrow, one after another, the replicating pattern of tile will take hold in the bathrooms, doubling and tripling and breaking ground for a whole host of physical changes developing over the next few weeks.

The basic structures are in place, but in the next week, the kitchen cabinets — like upper and lower chambers of the heart of our home — will be installed. The painting and flooring will happen soon, too, adding pigment and personality to our sweet girl. And then, finally, the fixtures, sprouting like appendages from ceilings and sinks.

We’re about two-to-three weeks out now — so close! (but it all still feels so far!) — until we can finally introduce our girl to the world.

Time to Tuck in this School Year and Lay it to Rest

It’s time to put this school year to bed.

We’ve got three more weeks with kids and then one more for post-planning, and I’m ready. This year nearly convinced me I didn’t want to ever teach again. 

It’s just been so hard. To keep going. To make connections. To smile.

Nobody could see them anyway, hidden behind our masks. And for me, Miss Far-from-Dynamic-or-Charismatic-or-Entertaining… smiles are how I form connections with my kids. How I build relationships with them. One reassuring, genuine smile at a time. (But after the loss of two of the most important people in my life, the few smiles I had weren’t always even genuine.)

Some folks have a presence that commands, an energy that radiates off their entire being like they swallowed the sun and breathe its fire through their pores. 

That’s not me. 

I’m quiet and unassuming, and I easily blend into the background. But I am warm and I am safe. I’m steady and exacting. And so is my classroom. And smiles are how I convince students to take risks inside its walls, under my warm, watchful eye… and smile. 

I’m a firm believer in rigor. I challenge. I set a high bar and watch my students struggle to meet it, with smiles of encouragement and with applause and constructive criticism, and the warm assurance that they are in a safe place.

But not this year.

This year, the rigor was softened — the only soft spot in the entire year.

It had to be. This year, the rigor couldn’t come from the classroom because the rigor was coming at them hard from life. For them. And for me. These are some of the toughest tests we’ve ever endured.

So the smiles were lost. From them. From me.

And we all feel lost. We all feel like we lost.

And we did. We have.

We lost loved ones. I lost my dad. I lost my aunt.

We lost our edge and gained a few edges we’re not proud of — edges formed from resentment and anger. And we nearly lost our motivation. (Some of us, sadly, did.) And our lights were nearly snuffed out.

Remember that old Sunday School song about hiding your light under a bushel? Well, with our smiles hidden under a bushel, the Satan in the form of Covid almost stole our light.

Me, I’ve tried faking it till I make it. Since my smiles are invisible, I’ve tried slipping them inside my voice. Packing my vocal chords as tight with tinkling, prismatic light as I possibly can and then practically singing each student’s name as they come down the hall. But the muffler slung ear to ear on my face acts as a soft pedal, tamping down my smile and energy. They meet me with their own, soft, tamped down greetings behind their own, soft, tamped down smiles.

And the connections have been slow. Or not at all. With almost all of them. Except, thankfully, for my study hall kids. My study hall kids make for an ideal case study on the importance and value of smiles.

Those kids, they get to see me smile. And I get to see them smile. And for an hour each day during lunch, they eat in my room, and I eat in my room, and none of us wear masks. It’s a small group of eighteen. And they’re all spaced out – each to their own five foot desk.

So no masks, and lots of smiles. And the relationships I have with them are flourishing.

But with my six other classes? Well.

We are not well and good. We are far from it. And we are all so thankful this year is drawing to a close.

No, this year has not been my best. And it sounds silly to say because I know no teacher thinks this year was their best. Nobody at all thinks this year was their best.

But I guess sometimes saying it helps. Sometimes saying it helps us move on. And I need to move on. I’m ready.

I’m ready to put this school year to bed and wake up and unleash my smile.

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