Hot times in the bedroom

006Those of you who hang out with me on Facebook know that I’m still in the seemingly-endless pursuit of organizing The Barn.  I go in fits and starts with this, but lately my fervor has been renewed.  I love an orderly, clean house.  I’m just not very good at it.  (But I’m getting better!)

For all of my short-comings in the house cleaning arena, I’m pretty good about keeping my bedroom orderly, in part because I love my bed.

I have a grand bed.  I think everyone should have a bed so imposing it is reminiscent of a throne.

I bought the bed along with the Beloved Vanity and other pieces a good 8 years ago.  The furniture is so big that they couldn’t bring it up the stairs, but had to lift it to the top of the truck and then from there hoist it through the French doors in the master bedroom.

003I decided that since I spend a third of my life, more or less, in bed, that bed should be a haven, a sanctuary, a symphony of hedonism.   The bed is appointed with luxurious coverings including very high-thread count sheets.  There is a mound of pillows that I remove each night, but leave in place for afternoon naps.  I love sprawling among the pillows and watching the sun come through the French doors.

I love my bed.  It’s king-sized in keeping with my throne desire and I can sprawl all over the thing without body parts hanging off.  The animals sometimes join me in the bed, though not regularly.  There’s room for all of us.

In the winter time, I love keeping the bedroom cold so that I can burrow in the bed like the cocoon it is.  It’s simply delicious to wallow.  It’s only when it gets blazing hot outside, as it is now, that my bed is not quite so wonderful.  The bed linens are heavy especially so with the goose down-filled comfortor.  While I have central air, the construction of the barn is such that cooling the upstairs when it’s 80F at midnight means keeping the downstairs at freezer level.  I don’t want to pay Appalachian Electric that much.  So, tonight I will lie on top of the covers and let the ceiling fan swirl air over me.

I realize this is a first-world problem and that I have no reason to whine.  I’m not whining,  not really.  I think I’m marking the entrance of Summer to what has been a very strange Spring.

The Zen of a Good Sofa

 

The old sofa with a cushion so threadbare I took to covering it with an afghan my great-grandmother made.

The old sofa with a cushion so threadbare I took to covering it with an afghan my great-grandmother made.

Buddhism, and other traditions, teaches us that contentment lies in losing our attachment to things and situations that are transitory. I think that’s good advice even if I’m attached to all sorts of things.

Home is my happy place. I’m way too attached to the structure and many of its contents. I’ve given up trying to explain it to my satisfaction much less yours. There are all sorts of reasons why being here makes me happy is true even if objectively my love for this heap is probably misguided.

How transitory is something, my sofa for example, that’s been with me for nearly 30 years? The very fabric of it is soaked in the years of my life as a wife and a mother. The sofa witnessed my newlywed years and my divorced years. It held my son and kittens and puppies. It is the perfect sofa for reading the Sunday paper with its curved back and high arms. Stretched out upon it, I daydreamed and plotted, read and wrote, loved and lived. It witnessed the barn’s transformation and was moved from room to room as room function changed with each step forward in the barn conversion.

He didn't see it until it arrived and soon fell it love with it too.

He didn’t see it until it arrived and soon fell it love with it too.

It’s a sturdy thing. It was bought during the Great Sofa Search of 1984. I scoured Wisconsin for a sofa to place in the house I was beginning a new life as wife and mother. Nothing was right. I searched and searched. I visited Huntington, WV a few weeks before Thanksgiving to visit my parents and found the sofa in a furniture store. I went back to Milwaukee and tried to find it there. I did, but as it turned out, it was less expensive to buy it from the Huntington store and have it shipped to Wisconsin.

It was pricey. The Husband was shocked. I was adamant. I’d done enough shopping by then to know that perfect sofas are hard to come by.

It was background for all sorts of photos it didn't star in.

It was background for all sorts of photos it didn’t star in.

It was made by Key City Furniture in North Carolina. I believe they’re still in business. All of their furniture is made to order and each piece is infused with quality workmanship. There’s a reason my couch is 29 years old and just as comfortable as the day a confoozled truck driver delivered it to my Wisconsin home. Usually the truck drivers delivered to stores who then delivered it to the buyer. The guy was shocked to find nobody but my husband and I available to help him off-load it. He wasn’t supposed to have anything to do with taking it off the truck, but upon learning I was pregnant, he and The Ex wrestled it into the house. It’s a behemoth of a sofa.

It’s a beauty – all over-stuffed curves and delicious serpentine lines.

That first day I took photos of it to record it’s arrival in my life never imagining that nearly three decades later I’d again be taking photos of it in a new reincarnation.

The new fabric.

The new fabric.

The years beat the fabric up. Mind you, it didn’t look 29 years old, but it was frayed and looking a bit sad. About ten years ago I began pondering the idea of reupholstering it. For those of you who have never delved into the world of upholstery, this is not something you do to save money. You do it when a piece of furniture is perfect save for its fabric. I quickly learned I could buy a new sofa for what this adventure would cost.

I didn’t want a new sofa.

If I could have gotten the same fabric, I would have, but I couldn’t. It was a beautiful brown tapestry that made me smile until the upholsterers carried it out of the house a month ago.

I looked and looked at upholstery grade fabric. I began to despair.

The latest incarnation of the Beloved Sofa.

The latest incarnation of the Beloved Sofa.

My mother found the new fabric at a craft supply store. It’s beautiful. As my best friend said, “It’s rich without being formal.” The name of the fabric is patchwork elegance. It’s velvety chenille of black and gold and silver and caramel and cream, diamonds and squares and scrolls and starbursts and medallions with a fleur de lis or two here and there. It’s just stunning. The chenille makes it cuddly, the design makes a statement and all of it makes me happy. It suits the room.

The upholsterer finished it within ten days. The weather and my ice encrusted road kept it hostage. Every time I called to schedule another delivery which would be cancelled due to more snow, a staff person would tell me how well it turned out, how beautiful it was, how people wanted to buy it.

With this winter that won’t end, I began to fear I’d never get it to the barn. A window of opportunity opened as did my car windows when the temperature soared to 60 and the snow began melting. I called and scheduled delivery for today at 2 pm. They were late and I began to fret, but by 2:30 it was sitting in my living room.

It still feels like an old friend with new duds.

It still feels like an old friend with new duds.

Oh, it’s beautiful. It’s nice having my old companion back. Tonight I’ll put some soaring opera fraught with love and longing on the stereo, sip a glass of wine or two, and ponder all that we’ve seen together in this world of attachment and longing and the desire for contentment and happiness. Sitting on my beloved sofa, I will finger the Tibetan prayer beads and consider the Zen of a Good Sofa.

[I’m disappointed that my 4 month old draperies are very much the wrong color.  The search for the proper window coverings begin anew.]

 

The Zen in Tedium

ironA lot of the stuff on my to-do list is just tedious. I have a very long to-do list. If I were to actually write out the entire to-do list, it would be in volumes.

I’m not sure what stage of grieving involves nesting. In preparation for the holidays, I do tend toward nesting behavior and I define nesting as a comforting behavior centered on home improvement whether it be a simple cleaning or an intensive makeover. This year I’m in hyper-drive. I think it’s because I know the holidays are going to be hard and the more serene the house is, the better I’ll be.

Now nesting is a comforting behavior, but under normal circumstances such activities as cleaning windows and dusting under the table are simply chores to accomplish so one can get on to the more fun activities like putting up the Christmas tree or lounging about admiring the sparkle of china against newly cleaned glass.

chinaI’m involved in something that’s a combination of simple cleaning, organizing and intensive makeover. There’s a lot of tedium involved. The latest project is the living room/dining room and the latest activity of that project was the installation of hardware and hanging of draperies. (They’re flipping gorgeous, by the way.) One of the subtasks was the ironing of eight drapery panels badly wrinkled by having been stuffed in a package the size of a trade paperback.

Erma Bombeck said, “My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.” In another column or book somewhere, she also said something along the lines of children of nonworking mothers never enjoy the warmth of a hastily ironed shirt as they race out the door to the bus stop. In short, Erma and I shared a hatred of ironing and only did it at the last minute, under duress and as quickly as possible.

ironingYesterday, I decided ironing wasn’t so bad. I cleaned off the dining room table, set up the iron, spread the panels, one at a time, on the table and ironed them. It took me 30 to 40 minutes to iron each panel as there were frequent breaks to enjoy the newfound orderliness of the room and to laugh at the cat trying to attack the robotic vacuum cleaner.

There’s zen to be found in tedium – if you do it right. I had a fine time ironing yesterday. And after ironing, I embarked on stringing ribbon and fishing line through prisms to hang from the exposed drapery rods – a very tedious activity. I enjoyed that too.

The key is to not be in a hurry. You hear this all the time, but “being right here, right now” goes a long way from changing something from dreadful to a meditative experience. “Wax on, wax off.”

I’ve commented in the past on how it seems I get more done when I don’t have a to-do list. I know now it’s because to-do lists are antithetical to zen. Doing is not being, but if you do it right, just being gets a lot done. How’s that for a conundrum?

But I think this all might be a bunch of hokum, because I tried to zen my way through the cleaning of the litter box tonight. No dice. So my theoretical explanation of the zen of tedium needs some corollaries – the first being that nothing can be meditative when there’re cat turds involved.

I should be preening, but I’m not allowed to just yet.

twirlingpreeningI’m so pleased with myself I could twirl and preen, except that I’m not done done – no twirling or preening until then.

For more than two years, the house has been in an absolute state of chaos, one that accelerated In June as Doug’s stuff needed dealing with. There has been all matter of inconveniences: painting, drywalling, floor installing, termite eradication, near gutting of the family room, bookshelving, more painting, wallpapering, and a fair rodeo of sorting and organizing.

The upstairs hallway still looks like this and will for some time to come, but the entire house looked like this in July!

The upstairs hallway still looks like this and will for some time to come, but the entire house looked like this in July!

The last couple of months I’ve been hammering away at it – oddly motivated after having been a sloth for a good while. I believe I’m nesting. Except for the upstairs hallway, study and a couple of the closets, the house is decluttered, reasonably clean, and I know where stuff is. This alone is a major accomplishment.

When we first moved here from Milwaukee, we luxuriated in the fact that we didn’t need draperies on the windows for either privacy or warmth. My windows, and I have a lot of glass in this house, were brazenly bare and I loved it. I figured if anyone snuck up here, got past the dogs, and peered into windows they deserved to see something.

I had always hated curtains and draperies. They’re just dumb, they cost a stupid amount of money, and let’s not even discuss the cost and installation of the hardware.

The drapes and I had to have frequent time-outs.

The drapes and I had to have frequent time-outs.

But. . .I noticed a few years ago that my windows went from being nude to being naked. There’s a distinction there. Nude is fine art, naked is pedestrian. I can’t abide pedestrian.

I added strategically draped scarves and valances here and there so that my Nudes with Barn remained nude, but tasteful. I did put proper lace curtains in the dressing room as I’m not so easy about the idea of a Peeping Tom as I used to be.

The living room/dining room stymied me. Whatever I did was going to require a second mortgage given two 7’ windows and two 9’ atrium doors. I pondered and browsed and hovered over the “add to cart” button on a hundred different sites. I scoured stores. I frequently came down with the vapors at the cost. I put it off.

The ceiling is painted, the walls are papered, the floors are installed and the room is starting to come together. It was time to pull the trigger. I ordered inexpensive faux silk draperies from Amazon and boggled at how nice they were when they arrived. I tried to order hardware but it had been on back order for weeks with an estimated shipping date of December 19th. The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to be trying to hang drapes while tripping over a Christmas tree.

Tools!  I am woman!  Hear me roar!

Tools! I am woman! Hear me roar!

This morning I woke obnoxiously early and headed to the Lowe’s after some coffee and cogitation on the unseemly state of the windows. An hour later I was home and fiddling around with the new power drill – a twinkie Black & Decker, but lightweight enough for me to stand on step-stools to install the drapery hardware also procured from the Lowe’s.

I prayed on Facebook that the installation of all this would be an adventure and not a saga. It was a bit of both, but by my standards drama free. Oh sure, it sounded like a biker bar with all the cursing and carrying-on, but nothing got broke, no emergency room visits, and the end result is as well-installed and level as is possible in a house with no true right angles anywhere.

Standing on step-stools with tools is creepy.

Standing on step-stools with tools is creepy.

OK. That’s not true. I’m sure somebody who knew what they were doing and strong enough to hold a proper drill would have rendered hardware more securely attached to the walls, but, hey, it’s fake silk, they don’t weigh much, and if it all falls down I’ll just start screaming until they commit me. I’m pretty sure the state of my windows won’t be as much of a concern under those circumstances.

drapesThey look great. Not much of the glass is covered – that wasn’t my intention. The room is still flooded with light and once I get the prisms properly hung with ribbon from the exposed rod, it’s going to be spectacular.

I told myself I would be immensely pleased with myself if I managed to just get the draperies hung today. But, surprise! I was done by 2:30 after working at a leisurely pace. So then I took to sorting and packing the remaining books, ejected all the flotsam and jetsam from this room, moved furniture around, and began putting the molding back on windows and doors! Hence, my desire to preen.

I was rocking through stuff today.

Rainbow-making prisms

Rainbow-making prisms

I start every weekend with an optimistic to-do list, but, by golly, I’m going to pull it off this time! Tomorrow I finish all the molding except for the pieces I have to replace, plant a hundred crocuses and nearly that many snowdrops, and, with any luck, get some laundry done.

I will be insufferably proud when I check off the last thing on the list tomorrow. Woo hoo! I can’t hardly wait.

prisms (2)An aside: Of course, the downstairs hall is now a mess again, but that’s short term – that stuff will go to Doug’s daughters’ storage unit on Monday. This means there are only 4½ boxes in this room! Those will be dispatched with Doug’s daughter comes for the holidays and we can go through them together.

berry 8 lbs (2)Another aside: Berry is doing better. He’s still at the vet’s. He is still having to be syringe fed. The good news is that he’s not a snotty puppy any longer and he’s put on a pound since they’ve been feeding him that highly stinky food thinned with Karo syrup (oh, gag me now.) Maybe by Monday I can bring a healthy dog home.

And yet another:  I just got news and a pic that Berry is up to 8 lbs!  Yee Haw!

 

A Hallelujah Chorus in Leaf Mulch

I love windows.

I love windows.

It did my evil little heart good to get outside in the garden today.

I hadn’t attended to any of the leaves until today because of the cataract surgery. When one lives in a forest, this is, perhaps, not a good idea. I am not exaggerating – I had fallen, unraked leaves that accumulated on their own into 1’ and 2’ piles in the fenced area of the garden.

I did a lot in the garden this past spring. Doug was recently discharged from the hospital and not well enough to be left alone for several weeks. That time period coincided with a streak of beyond-gorgeous weather that makes a body’s heart hurt.

I’m reading a book by Julia Keller titled A Killing in the Hills that is set in West Virginia. I’m not very far into the book, but she astounded me on pages 27-28 with her description of an Appalachia spring. I’ve spent years trying to develop a concise, accurate description that could be conveyed in writing without accompanying photographs.

Keller wrote:

It was a beautiful place, especially in the late spring and throughout the long summer, when the hawks wrote slow, wordless stories across the pale blue parchment of the sky, when the tree-lined valleys exploded in a green so vivid and yet so predictable that it was like a hallelujah shout at a tent revival. You always knew it was coming, but it could still knock you clean off your feet.

leavesImagine if you will that the acres surrounding my barn exploded into a lengthy mountain music version of the Hallelujah chorus. That was this past spring. Imagine now, piles of leaves waist high being mulched with a lawn mower. Can you hear the closing strains of those Hallelujahs as they shelter the plants for the winter under a blanket of leaf mulch. Yes, the wheel turns.

Gardening and writing keep me sane. Last spring, my sanity was hanging by a thread. Some would argue the thread broke. That stretch of spring, with its soaring melody, kept me grounded. Since Doug slept a lot, I spent a lot of time outside – often working by lantern light.

My long-time readers know that my garden is a work in progress – one that began with acres of packed gravel inches deep in unblastable clay. In the beginning, to plant a daffodil required a pick axe and sometimes an auger. After 22 years or so of waging battle against bad dirt, I was sure this year was going to be The Year My Garden Landed on the Cover of Southern Living.

a lot of work

During the 2013 Garden Palooza

By my standards, I poured a ton of money into the ground out back. I painted lawn furniture, bought new cushions, planted a dozen or so shrubs and bushes, and planted flats and flats of petunias and impatiens. I babied a patch of Irish moss, let lavender roam free, and lost all sense of prudence when I bought the fountain and the super-duper-big planter to hold a tropical, vining plant. This was going to be the year.

And then the rains came. The news described them as “scattered storms.” Every one of those scattered storms stalled over the top of my piece of heaven and monsooned. I joked and quipped and carried on about building a lotus pond combo moat to try and keep my barn from sliding off its foundation in a mudslide.

I measured daily rains in inches. Really. If memory serves, we had one of the wettest Mays and Junes of all time and I got more of those scattered storms than most.

Marine Corps Veterans - Daddy and his Good Officer's Wife

Marine Corps Veterans – Daddy and his Good Officer’s Wife

And then Doug went into the hospital for the last time. As I moved into my role as psychopomp, the garden boiled in the wet heat. And then it was overrun with weeds. And then the lawnmower broke. And then I was grieving.

The garden is a mess. A passerby (if I had passerbys) would swear it’s been neglected for decades.

I’m hoping the weather holds for the rest of this Veteran’s Day weekend. I could do some serious cleanup, weeding, this-and-that’s and have a garden ready for frolicking come March. Last year was the first spring I was able to just leap into planting mode without having to spend on weeks on winter clean up. I’m hoping for a repeat.

petunias in november

Petunias in November!

It’s been abnormally warm.  I found blooming petunias today as well as a climbing hydrangea with buds. It’s too much to hope that this weather will hold for long, but I’m enjoying it.  My serotonin levels are enjoying it and I’m pretty sure my Vitamin D got topped off today.

Four months.  I can hang on until then.  Happy Veteran’s Day Weekend, y’all.

Coming Home to Me – An I , But Not a We.

So. I’m sitting here rocking out to A.J. Roach (what a talent!) and feeling like myself more and more.

I like this song about his great-grandfather – Appalachian storytelling at its finest.

Blogging

Blogging

I’m of a mind to tell stories these days. I haven’t felt this way in a long time.

To quote an old friend I nicknamed Guitarzan, “It’s been an ‘orrible year, just fucking ‘orrible.”

But I’m getting my sea legs on this new journey.

Y’all know me – the state of my house is a reflection of my well-being. I’m pleased to announce that the house is getting tamed. I’ve made much progress in the past couple of weeks. The study is functional, plastic bins are getting emptied, junk is being dispatched and stuff hung on the wall. The house has been in a state of chaos for so long that I am just loving the return of the Barn Wa.

I’m rocking out to A.J. on the new stereo receiver. Some low life stole mine during one of Doug’s hospitalizations. Listening to stuff on a boom box is Just Not The Same. I need it loud. I need strong stereo definition. I need the walls to vibrate. (I am an old woman with cataracts and hearing loss.)

Onkyo -- Needlessly Complicated

Onkyo — Needlessly Complicated

The music is so good. And I’m at complete peace in this moment. True Confessions: I’m drinking wine from the Dollar General. I’ve surely sunk to a new low because this $3.85 Cabernet tastes wonderful. I’m planning on restocking the wine rack with it.

The Berry Berry Sweet dog (new to me) is snoozing on the stack of pillows oblivious to the ear deafening music. I’m now convinced he’s deaf as well as mostly blind. Perhaps, I should have named him Keller. In any event, that’s a story for another day. Such a story needs a proper telling.

I was asked to critique a novella for a friend (hi Mark!) The process of reading critically and reading something new and reading something written by a friend has made me long to get back to my writing. I haven’t written anything serious in years. I can’t remember who said it, but somebody famous said they hated writing, but loved having written. I love all of it, but it takes tremendous amounts of time and energy – both of which have been in short supply. Right now, I’ll have to be content with the blog which I really missed. I think I need to do this. It keeps me sane. (And we know that’s not something to be taken lightly.)

Berry Berry Sweet Dog

Berry Berry Sweet Dog

I was telling a friend the other day that Doug’s death had the blessing of making me realize how loved I was by him and by others. The support and patience given to me has not been received carelessly. I get teary-eyed and lost for words when I try to talk about what it has meant to me.

I just made the mistake, maybe, of looking at pictures of Doug. This is not how it was supposed to be. Nothing about the past few years was how it was supposed to be. And yet, here we are. Or here I am. Using the singular pronoun rather than the plural flays my soul some days. Today is one of them. I like being an I, but I also liked being a We. Now, I’m just an I and I miss the We.

Now Clapton is on the box. Some of you will say, “So, what’s new?” But, I haven’t listened to my man for probably a year. It’s just made my heart hurt to much. Listening to “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” is breaking my heart. And with that, I’m going to drink cheap wine and reminisce.