Why We Miss Our Childhood Houses

Mom and Dad's house, where I grew up.

Mom and Dad’s house, where I grew up.

With a sizable percentage of people under 40 having moved here in the past three years from some other place, I am one of the increasingly smallish number of youngish people who can say I am from Nashville.

Of course, as real Nashvillians will tell me, I am NOT actually from here. I am FROM Mt. Juliet, which is 20 miles to the east of downtown, in Wilson County. Mt. Juliet – known now for rapidly growing mixed-use residential-commercial developments like Providence and Del Webb – is where my parents moved when I was 6 and my brother was 3.

In May, I will have had a 615 area code for 31 years.

My parents are about to trade theirs in. They are putting their house on the market, and they plan to move to Auburn, Ala., when it sells. My mom’s family is in Auburn, and she is going home.

The emotion I’ve felt about this has caught me by surprise. Continue reading

Personal Day

There was a leak, and I patched it. It reopened and I paid someone to replace the whole bit.

There were papers in random drawers, so I filed them. Pretty folders with color codes: Blue Fun, Green Money, Brown Legal.

There were photographs stashed in a cardboard box, and I framed the best ones.

There was winterberry taking over the porch, so I cut it back for daffodils.

There were rips in the drywall from when they installed a new hvac unit three years ago. I finally repaired them.

There were bills, so I paid them.

Tax forms, and I filed them.

I stitched holes in a sweater. I swept cobwebs from the door.

I turned bananas into bread. Cut bouquets of hellebores.

Tonight: A run, a scotch, dinner for one.

There was time, and I made it mine.

The Sweetest Little Moments from 2011

Keeneland; Lexington, Ky.

In no particular order, though I numbered them just to make it easier to read – here are some sweet little moments from my 2011. I think when you’re having a great time, every little bit of it sparkles.

1. Lily in the Heathrow airport: It is a complicated airport and we were racing to catch our connection to Bangalore, India, and we had to ride a shuttle, a train, and pass through several security clearances. Just getting to this point had been a bureaucratic nightmare, and I think my mother and I had our doubts we’d ever get to India. My daughter Lily, 9 at the time, never waivered. My favorite moment is standing on a shuttle, feeling a certain peace at our lack of control over the situation. I looked at Lily and she said very calmly, “We’ll make it.” I thought for the first of many times on that trip – Damn, she is so grown-up.

Continue reading

When Awesome Stops By

Spotted him on Christmas Day, 2011

Sometimes you look for Awesome, and sometimes Awesome finds you.

Awesome rescues you from a blown-out tire at 3 a.m. Awesome brings you dinner when you haven’t shopped and caffeine when you’re hung over. Awesome finds a Golden Girls marathon at midnight and then a Jersey Shore marathon when there’s a sad, Rose-misses-her-dead-husband episode.

Awesome runs with you – 11 miles on New Years Day, the park after work. Awesome rides with you – through weird places and beautiful ones … awesome places. Awesome cheers you from the marathon course, and Awesome puts you on the back of his motorcycle.

Awesome flirts you up in a random airport. He holds you in the hotel bar. Awesome pushes you against the window of an Italian restaurant, and he cradles you in the rain. Awesome carries you across the parking lot and loves you outside in the cold.

Awesome tells you, “I’m giving my uncle a kidney.” “We’re adopting a baby from Africa.” “I’m going to live with your grandmother while she recovers.”

Awesome hand-sews you a black pencil skirt. Awesome builds you a fire pit. Awesome makes her own marshmallows, and Awesome goes to Paris alone. Awesome saves her bake sale money and buys her best friend an American Girl doll.

Awesome dances on tables. Awesome sings with the band. Awesome plants things. Cooks things. Fixes things.

Awesome climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro with her mother. Awesome moves to be close to her daughter.

Awesome reads. Studies. Prays. Paints.

Awesome starts an absurd conversation before 7 a.m. Awesome says to her mother, “This fish only lives in waterfalls that are only in caves. More high maintenance than you.” Awesome says to his daughter, “You are a great kid, and we will work all this out together.” Awesome drinks tequila at noon on a Monday because the conversation needs to continue after coffee. Awesome comes to your house for Christmas.

Awesome keeps a blanket in the car because you never know when it might be a good time for a picnic, and flowers in the guest room because you never know when More Awesome might stop by.

The Lesson of the Thermostat

My thermostat started clicking over and over again a couple weeks ago. Not the kind of clicking a thermostat makes when it’s switching from heat to cool or fan to not-fan or whatever, but the kind of clicking a thermostat makes when it’s broken and needs to be replaced.

Google it. That’s what I did.

If you want confirmation, head to Facebook.

“Replace it”, was the general consensus among people who seemed to know what they were talking about. Or at least conveyed the confidence that comes with brevity. (“It’s broken. Replace it.” That’s way more authoritative than, say, “Hmm. How old is it? Gas or electric system? Heat pump?”)

Whatever. I digress.

In short, enough people on the Internet gave the impression this was an easy thing to handle myself that I said the hell with Saturday night and drove to Lowe’s for a replacement.

What follows is a single woman’s step-by-step guide to replacing a faulty thermostat – complete with playlist, cocktail selection, conversation starters with bored girlfriends, and applications to the finer parts of life.

Continue reading

A Timely Wind-Down

Tim Zurowski Photography

This weekend was domestic, pony-tailed, picket fences bliss.

I cleaned my house – really cleaned it.

I mowed the yard, pulled weeds, chatted with a neighbor who edged my part of the sidewalk just because he’s nice.

I spruced up the garden and planted fall annuals. Purple aster, yellow pansies.

Built a fire pit out back with the help of friends. “Dual-burning”, with sides for both hotdogs and s’mores!

Bicycled Williamson County’s mega hills and music star farms: Lynnwood Way, Hidden Valley, Moran Road, Del Rio Pike…

(My lovely riding partner was patient when I almost died on monstrous Lynnwood.)

Read a book on my patio, Billie Holiday tunes in the background.

Watched college football at my girlfriend’s parents’ house while our children played in the yard. (Both our alma maters lost, but the company compensated for it.)

Let my daughter hold a bake sale with cookies she made herself.

Ate Chinese delivery on the screened porch when I burned a pot of bean soup. The little group who ended up at my house Sunday night minded not a bit.

I watched hummingbirds – two of them (male and female) – flit around my backyard. I don’t have a feeder; they like the wisteria tangled through the fence.

I saw deer, twice; once on the street behind my house, and again on a pot-holed lane at the bottom of a giant bicycle decline.

I was softer, more patient with my child and her gaggle of neighborhood friends.

I shrugged off small disasters – the burned soup, et al.

I didn’t take the interstate anywhere. I didn’t stay up later than 10. I didn’t shoot any tequila.

My bike ride into the country was as far away from Franklin as I ventured – a first in more than a season’s time.

After a busy summer, it was a gentle reminder of how much I love my home, how nice it is to slow down, and what peace can come with a well-timed wind-down.

Is this an art project, or a history assignment?

Four months ago, this old farmhouse window was stacked with several others in the back room of an antique mall on 8th Avenue in Nashville. As of Palm Sunday, it’s been redeemed.

I love this window-turned-junk-turned-photo-art-thing because it’s layered in stories. Here are some, most of them true.

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Prettying and personalizing a modern home with antiques

My house: Lately I have found myself with extra space and a desire to make it feel like me. And not just me, per say, but what has formed me – my family, my community. In an effort to fill these domestic spaces – and fill them meaningfully – I’ve spent a quite a bit of time meandering antique malls around Nashville and Franklin. Sometimes I’m alone, sometimes with friends. Sometimes I have a plan, sometimes not. Sometimes I scour my own closets and drawers, finding things I didn’t know or didn’t remember I had, and these, too, become great finds. Art recovered or repurposed. Some of my recent favorites:

This Eastlake sofa is from circa 1880 but has been relatively recently reupholstered in a bright gold that looks beautiful in my green and cream bedroom. It was one of a handful of antiques in a small downtown Franklin shop that sells primarily gifts and modern home accessories. The store owner told me the sofa had been on display for years, too fancy and unusual to muster serious attention from any practical buyers.

I bought it right away.

The images above it are from my mother’s family: formal portraits of her great aunts and uncles as babies, nurses, soldiers and parents. The frames are a variety of colors and sizes not intended for this grouping, but somehow it works out better that way. When the portraits didn’t fit the frames, I cobbled together matting from the portrait studios’ original paper sleeves.

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How to make a window photo frame

It takes a while, but its worth it.

1. Buy a window. I got this one at an antique mall in Nashville for $30.

2. Remove the old window panes. If they are in good condition, save them. My window was so old that most of the panes shattered when I tried to take them out. (They had been painted to the wood and when I removed the paint, they broke.)

3. Strip the wood of old paint, if you wish. Or leave it.

4. Sand it down so it’s splinter-proof and you don’t mind it hanging inside your home.

5. Paint over the sanded wood with a sealant. I chose a clear sealant, but you may prefer a stain or paint.

6. Buy glass to fit each pane. Lowe’s and Home Depot will custom-cut glass to fit. (It’s very inexpensive, thank goodness.)_

7. BEFORE you install the glass in the window, mount the photos to the glass as you wish. To mount photos:

8. Clean the glass with a glass cleaner like Windex.

9. Condition it with an agent designed for glass crafts. I used Delta Surface Conditioner. I honestly don’t know if this was necessary, but at this point I wasn’t taking any more chances.

10. Adhere the backs of the photographs to glass with an adhesive designed for slick surfaces. I used Aileen’s Glass and Bead adhesive.

11. Use a foam roller brush to apply glaze over the whole surface – on top of the photographs – sealing them to the glass and creating a smooth, uniform (ish) surface. I used Delta Clear Gloss Glaze. They also make an opaque, but I wanted to see my photos through the glaze.

12. Mount the glass inside the window. I secured mine using finishing nails I hammered in VERY GENTLY behind each glass pane.

13.  Screw hardware to the back of the whole thing. I used eye-hook picture hangers heavy enough to support 100 pounds, because that’s about how heavy this thing feels. I used two: one on each end, and hung from picture hooks I measured before nailing to my wall.

14. Get someone to help you hang it up. I asked my 9-year-old daughter, and that was all I needed. I didn’t want to wait another second.

Why vintage styles will never be out of fashion

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It was Father’s Day and the men were playing “golf”  in the back yard (drinking beer, hitting balls at tree stumps). Catherine and I raided our mother-in-law’s numerous jewelry boxes. Actually, they were her mother’s jewelry boxes. I don’t know why she asked us to pull them out. She was either nostalgic or bored. I have a better guess as to how she was feeling by the time we were finished. Continue reading