The Old Library Table

I have painted, hammered, drilled, sorted, sifted, stuffed, trashed, deleted, filed, washed, dusted, sanded, stained, toted, tarried, carried and collapsed. I am tired.

I am finally in my study doing study-type stuff and, no, the room is not done. But it is usable.

The irony of the situation would provoke guffaws if I was not too tired to chortle, much less expend the energy a good guffaw would entail. Since February 10th, more or less, this project has consumed the second floor of my home. At present, the guest bedroom and hallway are still trashed. And will be, I expect, for another week or so. I am flat-out dreading the dragging of the trash to the trash cans.

The study project has been a Someday for years now. A fresh coat of paint was absolutely necessary. The carpet cleaning was equally vital. The de-junking and organizing will keep me from having to search through hundreds of floppy disks trying to find stuff.  The fruition of time arrived and Someday became Today.

The Beloved Bookcase

As I sit here surveying the room, I’m reminded yet again that I am not cut out for minimalism. I can admire such from afar, but in close proximity we just can’t get along. My goal was to create a clean, well-appointed, organized space free of clutter and junk.

I got rid of (no! really!) a lot of junk, but I must like clutter – especially clutter comprised of books and mementoes. I’ve faced the choice of culling The Stuff or learning to live with it; I’m choosing the latter. So there. By my standards, the room is clean and mostly organized so I did accomplish some of my goals. (And I did trash a huge heap of obsolete computer crap.)

So here I sit. That irony bit? Well, the desktop computer and printer both resolutely refuse to work. So, I had to drag the laptop up here. And you know what else? This time of year, I generally hang out with the keyboard downstairs because it is too hot to think Great Thoughts upstairs much after mid-May. And I couldn’t use this room, the warmest in the house, during the worst of the cold winter because the room was being demolished. Once again, I am out of synch with the universe.

It’s hot up here.

The World's Ugliest Bookcase

I’m trying to think Great Thoughts and the best I can come up with is the Great Truth that I find just the physical presence of books comforting. I’m a little disappointed that the World’s Ugliest Bookcase is going to have to come back in here (after it gets a coat of paint), but I’d rather suffer ugly furniture that get rid of the books.

It really doesn’t matter that many of them I’ll never read again. Space limitations are creeping up on me and Someday, I’m going to have to get rid of a bunch of them, but that someday is not now. Hallelujah. I have a pretty good idea of the emotional toll and intellectual consternation that will arise as I pick up each book and decide if it goes in a keep pile or a get rid of pile. I’m breaking into hives just thinking about it.

I suspect I’m not the only person that can ruthlessly trash some unused items, but not others. I also suspect that I’m not the only person that finds it easier to trash stuff the older I get. After 30 years of saving shit for Someday, I’m figuring out that Someday isn’t going to happen.

Which brings me around to a quote I ran across the other day – It’s never too late to be who you might have been. –George Eliot.

Ain’t that a dandy?

George Eliot

There are lots of Whos I might have been. Some I’m grateful to have averted. Others might have been exhilarating. But in the end, here I am. A woman who spends an inordinate amount of time with books.

I’m more than a little cranky that the desktop computer won’t work. I had decided it was time for me to become a Who who finally bangs out a novel. I figured my first attempt would be dreck and I’m comfortable with that truth. I’m not sure why, but I don’t want to write my Drecky Great American Novel on the laptop.

For decades now, I’ve said that someday I’m going to write a novel. Well. That Someday is here. Or pert near.  As soon as I get the desktop working. . .

Lucy and Ethel Build Shelves


Bit by bit, the Great Study Remodel of 2010 is approaching conclusion.

In February, I dragged everything out of the study. I patched the walls and ceiling. I primed. I painted. I whined.

All that stuff I dragged out? It’s been sitting in the upstairs hallway plotting ways to do damage to my body as I tunneled my way to the master bedroom. It’s been sitting there devising diabolical plans lo these many weeks.

Amongst the flotsam and jetsam was the world’s ugliest dresser used to store sundry computer crap dating back to the early 90s, various plastic containers housing yet more junk, boxes of old college papers and unfinished short stories, and my son’s taekwondo stuff. There are boxes of cards sent to me, boxes of old photographs, and a box of all my reading glasses from the olden days when I used to coordinate such to my wardrobe. (Alas, they are now all too weak to correct my eyesight.)

And books. Lots of books. Feet and feet of books. Some of the books were shelved on the world’s ugliest bookcase.

After I dragged all the crap out and put it in the hallway thinking this would be a quick project, I began painting. After finishing the painting, I was stunned by what an attractive room it was. A room that didn’t need to be cluttered up. A room needing to be somewhat spare, yet housing all my treasures.

I vowed (yes, I did) that 90% of the crap I hauled out was not going back in there. In fact, all that crap was going to a landfill.

And functional. I want the room to be a correctly appointed room for me to do Something Worthwhile.

[That’s a tricky thought. The past couple of years the study mostly served as the place where I scan photographs and stare out window while drinking coffee. I have high hopes of doing something constructive in there once I get done.]

Still. Even paring down to what I consider bare essentials was going to result in a lot of surface clutter. I also vowed that ugly dresser and ugly bookcase were not going back into the room. I also pondered how to get the computer crap off of my 1920s library table.

I peered at the closet.

I measured.

Almost After

I decided. Oh, yes I did.  And it was a good decision. I hate looking at computer equipment when it’s not in use and stuffing it all in the closet seemed like a stroke of genius.

By mid-March, I was down to 3 tasks – build shelving and a desktop into the closet, shampoo the carpet, and sort through all the crap only dragging back into the room that which I truly loved. Oh. And stain the leather chair brown – more on that later.

The first project was to complete the shelving in the closet to turn it into a miniature office. First it was too snowy and then I was too busy and then I was sick and then it was too rainy and then I was too busy and then I couldn’t summon any ambition.

Ambition welled during this 3-day weekend when I have much more time than usual.

Today, my mother (69) and myself (50), dragged out old shelving left over from the Great Master Bedroom Remodel. The plan was to cut it to width, cantilever it on the walls with wood laying around here and there, touch up the stain and paint the supports. [Cantilever is not the exact term I want, but I can’t summon the correct one. Trust me, a true cantilever is way beyond anything I’d ever try to do.]

Two old-ish women bearing bifocals and hot- flashing in 90F weather shouldn’t be allowed near power tools. Nevertheless.

The first three shelves we tortured on the table saw were too short. (Twinky tape measures, sweat and astigmatism are anathema to good carpentry.) We eventually prevailed without (a) a trip to the emergency room, or (b) angry words spoken to one another. [During this stage of the adventure, my father ambled out to see what all the noise was about and quickly returned to the safety of his study.]

We couldn’t find screws long enough and when we did they weren’t wood screws. We dug through workshops, toolboxes, and kitchen junk drawers collecting wood screws one by one. It’s difficult to explain exactly why, but attaching wood to walls with a corded drill required both us to stand on the ladder at the same time – one to hold and one to drill. It’s a small closet. We’re full-grown women. The ladder was a traditional size. I looked at Mom and said, “Lucy and Ethel build shelves.” We both got the giggles and had to sit a spell while we discussed which of us is Lucy.

Future Brown Chair

We  did, in fact, attach shelving to the walls.  We also put a shitload of books on one of them to make sure future concussions were out of the question, and declared the project done. Before we could gather up the debris, we got the  bright idea to cut a hole in the desktop portion (actually two shelves shoved together) to pass computer cords through. Playing with table saws and hand-held drills was exciting enough, but finagling the drill press was especially exciting.  You kind of had to be there.  Picture Lucy and Ethel at the candy factory.

We did not do any of this in a way a carpenter would recognize as best practice. Still, there is shelving on the wall to house books and a desktop to hold the monitor, keyboard and printer. There’s room under the desktop for the CPU, the ensuing rat’s nest of cables and, perhaps, a box of junk or two. [I have to be realistic – there will most assuredly be absolutely useless crap that I can’t bear to trash, but don’t intend to use.]

I’m tired. I’m hot. I’m sweaty and there’s a thin layer of sawdust in my hair and on my glasses. It took way longer than I had anticipated. I had expected to have everything done today except for weeding through the crap in the hallway.

Tomorrow I will touch up paint and stain the shelving and shampoo the carpet. I hope to at least begin the Great Purge of the hallway. The Trash Guys are going to hate me.

[As for the leather chair – I have a blue wing chair that is Entirely The Wrong Color for the study, but which I love. Back in February, I dabbled some walnut stain to the bottom of the seat cushion to see What Would Happen. It wasn’t bad, but it took a couple of weeks to dry. I’m going to do the whole chair. Not today. Or tomorrow. Or even next week. Eventually.]

Over the Top Award

over_the_top_awardI have been remiss in fulfilling my obligations for the Over the Top Award. My reasons are three-fold: (1) I am so very behind in my blog reading; and (2) many of the folks I would give the award to already have it; and, (3) of those who don’t, narrowing things down to just six people means I would have to leave someone out which seems such a junior-high-clique-ish thing to do.

What I would prefer to do, and what I’m going to do, is run through my newly cleaned up blog list and mention what it is I find so fascinating about each. Each and every one deserves the award.  Alphabetically:

Blind Pig & the Acorn If nothing else, the music that plays when you hit the link is worth the click. I’m passionate about the celebration of Appalachian heritage and this blog is Over the Top in that respect.

And then there’s Cosanostradamus over at Blog Me No Blogs. He’s completely Over the Top. Writing on a variety of subjects with a decided left-leaning slant, I am appreciative of his commitment to honoring bloggers through his Cosie Awards. He’s definitely worth a visit.

Of course, there’s the incomparable, amazing, and scintillating Buzzardbilly who gave me this award to pass on. I am so enamored of her blog, that I’ve proposed marriage. BB also celebrates the Appalachian heritage, but her real forte is ranting and raving about the negative imposition of the hillbilly stereotype. Recently, she’s been writing a lot about music which is important to her soul. I miss her scathing analyses of the evil done to us by folks’ insistence on applying sweeping, untrue generalizations to all the individuals of this region – some of us who wear the hillbilly label proudly.

Chickens in the Road is another celebration of our traditional life. At this moment, Suzanne is writing about cast iron. If I were going to pick a symbol for Appalachian resiliency, it would be cast iron. We are forged in fire, seasoned after years of hard work, and worth our weight in gold.

Alex over at Clicks and Pops writes about music. Developing an album addiction as a young man, Alex is good for writing about the trivia and features of the music many of us grew up with (and love still). His knowledge about the music, the artists, and their accompanying zeitgeist is deep and wide ( my lame attempt at a musical pun) – not to mention Over the Top.

Creating Utopia also welcomes you with music and the best of Appalachia. This blog details efforts at horse rescue. It can be heart-breaking, but more often it’s inspiring. So many creatures are mistreated and it’s satisfying to see them thrive with love and attention. While horse rescue is the specialty, lots of other animals are presented. I’ve wanted a horse for a long time and someday I will have one. I’ve now decided that when I can accommodate such, the horse needs to be a rescue – thanks to this blog.

Esse Diem is a blog like mine – a little of this and a little of that. Living in West Virginia, she reminds me a little of my younger self. I wish she’d post more often, but then some people say that about me. Dynamic women have busy lives.

Evil Twin’s Wife over at The Glamorous Life of a Hausfrau lives not too far from me, but we’ve never met. As the title indicates, she’s a “housewife” that details her daily life as wife and mother. She occasionally talks about the multiple sclerosis that doesn’t slow her down a bit.

Garden Rant is a must-read for gardeners. Focusing on sustainable gardening, it also features real gardens – not the overly manicured, chemically-ridden “perfect” vistas we so much of on the web and in magazines. Be sure to read the manifesto.

Granny Sue is a storyteller in the Appalachian tradition and shares her experiences living here and loving here. While her prose is wonderful, I particularly like her photo-essays. Her gardens, her critters, and her sense of humor are a good way to start my morning.

I don’t know what to say about Huh? The Blonde Goddess is Confused. I’m not sure if Buzzard Billy or The Blonde Goddess is more Over the Top. Both are outrageous and apt to say something that provokes the spewing of beverages all over the computer screen.

Incurable Logophilia is a must read for those of us with an abiding love of books (and words). I don’t get over there as much as I should and I regret that.

Janis over Juanuchis’ Way irritates me to no end. She really, really must (and I mean it) write more often. If I ever get to meet her, I’m going to flog her for not writing.

Jamie’s Life’s a Feast blog is a food-lover’s paradise. If you wander over there, be prepared for luscious photographs and mouth-watering descriptions of food, with an emphasis on baking. Also, be prepared for some fine story-telling.

Possum Lane at My Little Corner of the World is another diverse blog about daily life. Currently, she’s talking about the gifts in her life. This too is a blog I don’t read as often as I should. Shame on me.

O>w/hole>1 defies description. He specializes in concise comments and links. With a wry humor and soupcon of sarcasm, he’ll take you all over the web.

Rick Lee’s photo blog is a visual delight. I’m particularly fond of his Thursday night produce shopping photos. How he can take the mundane and make it seem extraordinary is a great gift. Right now he has cauliflower and other vegetable wonders.

Sagacious Hillbilly is another blogger that defies description. He’s so Over the Top I don’t know where to begin. I can’t decide if his blog is more outrageous or his comments on my blog. Currently, he’s suggesting I photograph myself in boots and a garter belt and post it. [Ummmm, no.]

Six Forty-Five is the blog I set up for my Chef Boy’R Mine’s 24th birthday. I’m thinking if I give him an award, he’ll post more often. He has a gift for words and he’s living an extraordinary life. He needs to share it – at least with me – through a blog with lots of pictures – dammit!

speak You’re bRanes features commentary on actual comments made on the web. It’s hilarious and soooooo Over the Top. Really, trust me, this will make you laugh until you cry – unless you’re stunned by the militant ignorance sweeping the world.

Unclutterer is a minimalist, de-junk and streamline your life blog. I find it to be inspiring in my continued quest to pare down my stuff to only that which I love. In fact, it’s the site that got me started and keeps me motivated.

Vera’s Weblog is a nice read about self-sufficient living in Minnesota. Vera is a German transplant and has an interesting perspective about life in the states. She, too, doesn’t post as often as I’d like.

Verbotomy is a word lover’s paradise – especially if you love coining new words and defining them. This blog is also good for the first chuckle of the day.

Jim over at Wabi-Sabi is a colleague and his blog focuses on politics and his family life. I love, absolutely love, how much he loves being a dad, a husband, and a progressive.

And so, these are my nominations for the Over the Top Award. Those of you willing to pass it on, feel free to grab it and wear the award proudly on your site. I hate the “grab-if-you-want-it” bestowing of awards, but, truthfully, I can’t pick just six and I’m only doing it this way because I can’t make you accept and follow the rules of acceptance.

Really, these are my favorites and I do a lot of blog surfing. Enjoy! And thank-you, Buzzardbilly, for the Over the Top Award. I love, and appreciate, any and all recognition for my attempts at sharing my life.

The Little Amaryllis That Could

Bulging buds out of nowhere.
Bulging buds out of nowhere.

Sometimes I find myself standing in cut-rate shopping emporium specializing in factory overruns and slightly damaged goods waiting for the cashier to bag my purchases. Since I have a fetish of sorts for dishes, my purchase is likely to involve sushi plates I don’t need or ramekins I do, or some sort of fragile item. After a few minutes watching the cashier swaddle the finger bowls, I say something like “Just toss it in the bag. If it can’t survive the trip home, it can’t survive my house.”

This is one of the Barn’s great truths You have to be tough to live here. The second great truth is You have to thrive on neglect.

With few exceptions, if it’s in my house, it’s here to be enjoyed. That was one of the tenets of the Great De-Junking of 2005-2008 (and counting): No more “saving for something special” – wrapped in bubble wrap, nestled in a box and stored in a reinforced container pending the arrival of “Something Special”.

I’m not careless (for the most part). Still, I have things that are chipped or just downright broken that other people would toss. As long as they are still usable and/or make me smile, they’re still here. Some people are appalled by this. Some people see it as an opportunity to replace whatever it is at the next gift-giving occasion. Some people understand it for what it is.

The goal is, and has been, to have only things that I love.

I veer towards the strange in the things (and people) I choose to love.

I love this house. A sensible person would bulldoze it.

I love my dogs. Rational people would send them to foster care for rehabilitation.

I love dishes. There’s no excuse for this. I just do.

I love most of my stuff. (I’m working on that most.) People are either charmed or horrified when they walk in here.

I love houseplants, but I’ve noticed over the years that I go in a yearly cycle. I lovingly tend them from early spring to mid-summer at which time they are summarily ignored to tend to the garden. For the remaining 8-9 months, they’re lucky if they get watered. After years of this, I have plants that can thrive on willpower alone.

19 inches of spectacular surprise.

19 inches of spectacular surprise.

One of the plants is an amaryllis that I acquired from somewhere or someone so many years ago now that I can’t summon the details. I vaguely remember putting the bulb in the pot that came with it, tossing potting soil on top of it, and watching leaves sprout. It took several years before it did anything but produce leaves. I read up on amaryllis bulbs. I was supposed to do this and this and a fair amount of that, put it in a closet for X amount of weeks, recite incantations, and feed it baby giggles ground with rainbow sludge. But I never did any of that. It sat on my counter and did or did not grow more leaves. For 11 months of the year, it is droopy, long leaves collecting dust and spider webs on the plant counter. Periodically one of the leaves will turn brown and crispy and I will allow as how that leaf is truly dead, rip it off and throw it away. It always looks half-dead or dying. Other than pulling off the certainly-dead parts and the occasional splatter of water, it fends for itself.

One year, well after Christmas and without any sounding trumpets, it bloomed. Initially, I thought the end-times were upon us. Sometimes in February and sometimes in March, and this year in April, it will suddenly sprout a stalk that Jack would recognize. I do mean suddenly. In less than 24 hours, there was no stalk and then there was a stalk 19″ tall (I measured). At the top of the stalk, a bulbous, faintly obscene bulging will emerge. The bulge gets bigger. And bigger. Soon you can see hints of red in the green.

Alien probes come to mind.

A lesson to learn.

A lesson to learn.

The first year it did this, we all scooted kitchen chairs up to the counter and watched in fascination.

But this year two bulbous bulgings appeared. We’re now into Hour 36 (or so) of the alien probe. I’ve witnessed this transformation for several years now, so I’m not as mesmerized as I once was. But it’s still pretty amazing. I’ve yet to become blasé about it. When I do, I’ll give it to someone.

The amaryllis, without any help from me, is blooming. It hasn’t been repotted in ten years. It hasn’t been fertilized. Life can’t be much harder for this plant. You’ve got to thrive on neglect around here if you’re an indoor plant. You’ve got to be tough.

The fool thing is not only blooming. It’s double blooming.

There’s got to be a lesson in here that will do my beleaguered heart some good.