Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

stop and soak up the magic

It’s a soft, gentle, Sunday morning.. Everything feels full of quiet goodness. Like everything is good enough. Like there’s no need to hurry through anything, just soak up the sweetness while the boys still snore in their beds.

And I do need to.  Need to soak up the sweetness.

Because time is flying by. 

There’s only a few minutes more till the light shifts from magic to mundane.

There’s only a small window left till the occasional tire turns to a steady drone that snuffs out the birdsong.

There’s only a few quick hours till the church bells swell to welcome the congregation.

There are only a few short weeks till summer is over.

There’s only a few short years till the kids are out struggling in this world on their own.

There’s only…

There’s only.

Stop it.

Right now, there is enough. It is enough. Right now.

when you’re brittle and trying not to break (the tale of an introvert in mourning)

Something’s gone wrong with me. I’m impatient. Inadequate. Unmoved. 

I roll my eyes at people who deserve my patience. My sympathy. My empathy. Where has my empathy gone? 

It’s like I’ve suddenly been remade of a very fragile substance. Like I’ve been through the fire and have cooled and turned crisp. Like glass, thin and sharp. Like peanut brittle, but without sweetness. Like dried bones.

Who am I anymore?

Is this what mourning is like? Distancing myself from every feeling so I don’t shatter into jagged bits that will cut someone? 

Because I really think I could. Cut someone. If pressed.

I always thought mourning was feeling everything. Feeling it all so hard and so sharp that it stole your breath and left you drowning in a dense sea of emptiness built from never-ending tears. 

But me, I’ve only truly cried once. The night I buried him. Cried in a fetal position in the floor of my closet until I thought I would vomit — not just the contents of my stomach, but my stomach itself. Cried until bile ran through my veins and tear ducts. Until my intestines flipped and twisted into a knot and wrung out the tears, said, ENOUGH, and sent them packing.

After that, I cooled. 

And backed away. Pushed anything and anyone away who tried to make me talk about it, made me try to feel it.

Leave me alone. Let me alone. Let me.

Who the hell are you to ask me how I’m doing, anyway? Who the hell are you? You have no right to this pain. 

I’m not sharing it with you. I’m not even sharing it with me. It is sacred and not to be touched. It is strangled deep inside my sigmoid colon where it needs to stay. Contained.  Lest I shit all over you. 

Lest I cut you with it, too.

Distance. I need distance. I’ve needed it for the last seven months. 

I’ve put everything and everyone beyond arm’s length. So I don’t get touched. Touch. Feel. I can’t handle it. 

But I know I can’t stay like this forever. I need to get back to what I do. Teaching. Writing. Motherhood. Feeling. 

I’ve always been good at these things. At motherhood and writing and teaching. And feeling.

But I’m still so brittle. So frangible. So far away from who I am. 

How do you teach like this? How do you awaken the minds of your charges when you are terrified to reawaken your own?

And how do you write like this? Without digging deep? Without dipping into dark, muddy shit.

And Motherhood. It’s impossible to mother without shit. Without getting cut. Without feeling. 


I’m an imposter right now. This is not who I am. 

But one-half of the people who made me is now gone. And the person I was came unmoored. And sank. And is buried somewhere in my twisted reality. 

And when I start digging for her, I face hard questions. Not the Did you love me? questions. Because I know he did. I truly, deeply know he truly, deeply did. 

But the other hard questions. The shitty ones.

The Were you ever really proud of me? and Did you ever really know me? ones. The Did you ever really even want to know me — like who I was, not who you wanted me to be? questions. 

All the dark complexities of being a daughter in a patriarchal papa’s world kind of questions.

Will I ever be less brittle? Feel less brittle? Feel? 

Will I be able to reignite the flame that got doused, strangled somewhere inside my intestinal fortitude? Get back to the warm-blooded me who is flexible enough to teach my students the way they should be taught? To mother my children the way they should be and deserve to be mothered? To write about the things I want to write about, that I should write about, that deserve to be written about. To search for the answers to the questions I manage to write out, but still can’t write about. Can’t write through.

Is there a way to tap back into the life forces that pull me through this universe when a major life force in my universe has tapped out? 

It’s all so complicated… and so different from what I expected.

How we Turned our Master Bath Nightmare on Maple Street into a Dream Come True

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 picture is pre shower glass, which you’ll see soon… The water closet door and trim have yet to be installed. (More backorder backstory)

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.

Read, Write, and the Blues

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.

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.

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