The story behind my bookshelves

Lily reads "Marley & Me". Her uncle, Joe Fleenor, reads "Born To Run".

Some of my favorite growing up memories involve books – reading them and being read to, shopping for them and writing them.

My parents will say my favorite book as an infant was something called “Mr. Paint Pig,” and I swear I remember it, sitting in their laps and the laps of my mother’s parents,  nestled into easy chairs on the porch of my grandparents’ house near Niagra Falls. “Here comes Mr. Paint Pig. What is he going to do with all these colors?” A happy memory about family, not fiction.

In third grade, I started to write my autobiography, beginning with the first day of first grade, tackling mundane moments in excruciating detail, including what our family ate for dinner and what we watched on television. I renamed myself “Catherine Comb” in the book. (“Knight Stivender” did not, to me, sound like a likely name for an ordinary five-year-old from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.) For some inexplicable reason, my great-uncle Billy loved this. Continue reading

Ten morning happies

At some point in the last year, I decided to make mornings a luxury. They had become exhausting, a mad dash whose finish line was just the beginning to the “real” (and often very long) day ahead. I wanted more sleep. Lily wanted eggs. Neither of us could find a matching sock. And so it went. Then, in an effort to shave some time one morning, I opted for a quick dip in the bathtub instead of washing my hair in the shower. As I ran the water, I raced downstairs for my coffee cup. While I was there, I cranked up my “Mad Men” playlist on itunes. (It’s full of Perry Como and Julie London.) As I sank into the water, I felt calm. As I climbed out, I felt confident. In the months since, I’ve added (or reinstated) several other happies to my morning routine. I rarely accomplish all of them, but I have a much better shot at a lovely day if I can pull off at least three. Here are 10:

1. Wake up to something pretty.

My friend Courtney Seiter gave me this for Christmas.

Hanging to the right of my side of the bed is a photograph of a strong, sexy woman strutting straight through the middle of a jazz quartet. It’s the first thing I see when I wake up each morning, and it inspires me to be strong (and show the boys who’s boss!).

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Conversations with my daughter, on her way to school

Lily and me in front of our house in Franklin

There are few greater – and simpler – pleasures than walking my daughter to school in the morning. (Oh sure, some days we’re riding bikes instead of walking. Like today.) What matters is that it’s her, me, and a few uninterrupted moments in the sunshine.

Like a lot of conversation with children, our talks during these walks and bike rides is fluid and sometimes aimless. We meander from nature to the birds and bees, stopping in between for discussion about how to get her friends to play better at recess and how to get her father to clean the garage.

“When will the honeysuckle come back so we can call this Honeysuckle Roadway again?”

“Daniella and Balikha won’t play together, and I want all of us to play together. What should I do?”

“This bike is perfect for me. How does Santa know me so well?”

“It must hurt when they cut babies out of their moms’ bellies.”

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Video: First day of spring

Today is the first day of spring! I’m spending the majority of today outside; it’s just too nice to sit at a machine unless it’s my bike. But should you find yourself in front of a computer only dreaming of spring, here’s a video I made around this time a year ago. I hope you enjoy! (And I hope it plays well; I’m new to WordPress video press…)

Guilty pleasures Friday

Yep, Twizzlers make me happy. So do the rest of these things. And you?

  1. Cheetos
  2. Cocktails with garnishes
  3. Fergie
  4. Squeeze Cheese, especially pumped into Bugles.
  5. Old Gregg
  6. Yacht Rock (the actual music, sadly, and not the satire)
  7. Paulo Coelho (I also feel guilty for enjoying him guiltily.)
  8. Facebook
  9. Twizzlers
  10. Omniture (or worse: my own blog’s stats)

Unlikely guest list works because of hostess

Sometimes the atmospheric pressure is just right, the crowd’s collective chemistry in sync, and a party springs from the ether. Other times, a party is carefully cultivated – deliciously catered, precisely play-listed, and painstakingly guest-listed. The party I attended last night took a little magic from the former and a little planning from the latter. And at its root was a hostess who seemed to have little trouble bringing together two generations of ladies – separating them from their menfolk to paint, drink, and listen to bad yacht rock – on St. Patrick’s Day, no less!

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Seven pretty green things

The Irish surname Green has a branch on my father’s family tree, and my dad’s mother dyed her hair red long beyond anyone’s memory of its original auburn. Nevertheless, I have never been one to adorn myself (or awash my beer) in a serious green glow just because it’s St. Patrick’s Day. So in subtle honor of today’s holiday, I offer six gently green (ish) images from around my home and garden. Enjoy!

My friend Arienne Holland gave me this as a present. It belonged to a teacher at Nashville's Howard School. It's among the loveliest presents I've ever received.

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Life buries us all in occasional clutter

Monday morning I had the pleasure of interviewing fellow Franklin resident Liz Jenkins for a post I wrote for, which promotes the work of Nashville’s fabulously diverse blogger community. As a professional organizer, she’s teaching a class for harried entrepreneurs (more on that in a minute). But in the course of talking about that, we got to chatting about the  different reasons so many of us need help with everything from organizing our RSS feeds to learning how to set up a kitchen pantry. Like most every behavioral issue, it’s a mixture of who we are inside and what’s happening in the world around us. Liz helps clients deal with the latter. I personally could relate to every single one of the situations she described:

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Spring garden is a lovely hodgepodge

Early crocus pokes through coral bells

When we bought our house three years ago, one of the major selling points was a screened porch looking into a yard full of flower beds. I had absolutely no gardening experience, and I failed to notice until later that all the luscious green was really a tangle of invasive vines covering a hodgepodge of standard builders’ landscaping and pricey ornamentals.

We hacked, pulled and chipped for days in Tennessee’s thick August heat. Along the way, we ripped up a scourge of bamboo roots; cut the morning glory vines off the Chinese wisteria, then cut the wisteria back to manageable proportions; and even tossed out a willow tree left to die in its Home Depot pot. We discovered a dogwood and a Cleveland pear we hadn’t been able to see, and we rolled the dice on a saucer magnolia we weren’t sure was alive or not. Finally, we were able to start over. And that’s what I did – with a passion and recklessness matched only by the preceding demolition.

The result is another hodgepodge, but a lovely one.

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