Memorial Day

Ribs for a small army...


empty platter, eagerly awaiting smoked ribs.

The view outside my bedroom window, looking out to the master bedroom deck...

The family has gone fishing now. Ribs were outstanding. I'm here, enjoying the quiet. Hope your Memorial Day was blessed...remembering the great sacrifices of our men and women in uniform!

Grown Children - Another Perspective

And so tonight, I hear the familiar sound of a piano. I didn't think I'd be hearing that sound again.

You see, it is Hannah's Piano. I'm hearing the instrument she prayed for when she was about thirteen years old. Three days after that family prayer time, her pastor-father was sitting at his desk at the church, and received a phone call from a man, a total stranger, who wanted to find someone to give a piano to. Tim quickly let him know that his own daughter had just prayed for a piano.

And so it was. We picked it up that night. Not a shabby piano - a nice one.

Last May, Hannah was married. Of course, she and her in-college-studying-to-be-a-highschool-math-teacher husband moved into their little apartment together. They had no room for her piano. The keys that had been oft played suddenly fell silent. I thought that was that.

Lesson number one thousand-eleven: "that" is never "that".

Here is The Big Announcement: last week, almost one year to the day that Hannah married and moved out, she and her husband, and baby in-utero, have all moved back in.

Uh, remember that home office I was so excited about? I was going to design it and blog it?

Nevermind. I'm now in the market for a crib.

Some grown children move out, and move back home because they can't yet achieve in the "real world".

And some grown children move out, and move back home precisely because they are achieving...

Justin earned his college degree two weeks ago - and is going on for his Master's degree. He has snagged an internship in one of the most, if not THE most highly sought after public high school in the city. Families by the score re-locate just to make sure their children can attend this high school.

But the state of Tennessee pays their teacher-interns....nothing. You read that right: nothing. They must intern one year, and with no salary. It is impossible for Justin to finish his internship, earn his Master's, and also try to find a second full time job, so Hannah can have a baby. The only way these two high achievers could make it work was for them to...

...move in with us. This way, Hannah can work full time, and Justin can finish his internship, get his Master's degree in Math Education, and they can become parents.

Yeah. Not exactly your low-achievers.

They are looking at it this way: their job here at home is not done. They need us, but we also need them in this season. With them here to help with our youngest son, Tim and I can do the work of the ministry more effectively. Lord knows that lately this labor of love, this care of the souls of men, never seems to stop. We need the reinforcements. In-house reinforcements.

God sent them.

Justin is prepared to tutor Isaac so that he'll rock the ACT. This couple could absolutely run this whole household for us, if Tim and I had to, say, go on a mission trip. Heck, they could run the household for us, and we could actually take a vacation. Imagine that.

They will be with us for only one year. And yes...when the baby comes home from the hospital, he or she will be coming here. You know I hate that.

::goofy grin::

That is the news I've been dying to tell you, friends. This home is once again-again bursting at the seams. The big bedroom with the half-bath has been painted the happiest shade of robin's egg blue, and a very happy couple sleeps there, across the hall from our youngest son.

Isaac, who is no longer "all by himself", is more than fine with this latest turn of events. He is loving it. I wonder if he isn't looking forward to the baby as much as I am! He told me the other day, in a moment of unselfconscious teenagedom: "Mom, the best things keep happening to me lately. I mean...I am close to getting a car, my sister is back home, and she's having a baby..."

He didn't know what he'd just said. His heart was fully revealed in that snapshot of a moment, and it was a fine sight for this mother's sore eyes. Sharing his domain with his niece or nephew seems wonderful to him.

I know this post is long. I beg your pardon, and entreat your patience as I leave you with a last thought. In a moral climate (and economic climate) where "boomerang kids" have become a social category, what of the grown ones who come back home for all the right reasons? No grown child should be permitted to come back home, if all home is, is a place where they can have all the freedoms of being an adult, with fewer responsibilities.

But again, what of the adult child who cherishes the generational bond, and wants to contribute to the family....Walton's style? (Remember that old show, The Waltons?) That is a different perspective altogether. One that the church would do well to revisit. What of the adult children who want to come home for a season, and contribute?

Not because they can't make it, but because they already are making it.

One of Hannah's favorite fiction authors, Grace Livingston Hill:

"For a girl who had a home and dear family, to leave them to get along without her as best they could, and go away for a fuller freedom and a selfish life of her own, seemed to Jane nothing short of contemptible."

~Grace Livingston Hill, from the book Happiness Hill

Sarah's New Blog

Now that my daughter Sarah is married, she has decided to start a new blog. Her life as pastor's daughter, and artist's wife, is anything but dull or routine. The sort of life where you get up, go to the same job every day, and come home, is not a life that either of these newlyweds can relate to. For them, each day is truly brand-new, and they are doing an amazing job of living artistically and purposefully.

Young as they are, they are already sculpting a style that identifies them - a marriage full of affection, and a life that is fresh and fun. They are growing a teeny garden, mostly in containers, they live in urban Knoxville - a little white house smack-dab in the middle of the city, they love having guests often (sometimes a crowd!), tending to their exuberant puppy, and being fully creative - all in a "normal" day.

Artsy couple, they.

Without further monologue, please visit Sarah's "A Grace-"FULL" Life".

Almost Done...

What a week! We're not done yet, but we have the end in sight. I'll post pictures of all the fun, pretty details when the kitchen repair/redecoration is finished.

The wall we had to tear out was replaced by Monday night...

Beginning to get the full effect of our new all-white kitchen...I snapped this picture of the last bit of the old red wall.

Installation of track lighting - again, is there anything this man cannot do? This kind of lighting, and going with halogen bulbs, made as big a difference as changing the wall color! Had I known the "power of light", I would have done this years ago! (The right side wall still needs primer and paint.)

Not done yet - but here is where we are as of the weekend. Time to put away the tools and paint brushes temporarily, as we have a busy weekend to tend to. This kitchen is going to be so light, airy, and serene when we are finally finished.

Kitchen Chaos

It had been a long but productive day. Twelve (or was it thirteen?) for lunch, followed by birthday cake and a silly alien movie. A lovely Sunday, it was. I was feeling so complete and happy - ready to end the day on a soft note. Then, last night, about 9 PM, I let Tim know that I thought there might be a problem in the kitchen...someone noticed that the wall on the far end of the kitchen had a strange, wavy look to it...

...we were still working at 11 PM, tearing out water-damaged wall, moving cabinets out to the garage, stacking drawers and cookbooks and pots and pans all around the perimeter of the dining room.

Life. Has. Descended. Into. Chaos.

That fast. ::snaps fingers::

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, my house is being defibrillated. Resuscitated.

But hey...remember that kitchen makeover on the schedule for this summer? It's getting done right now. This week.


Is there anything this man cannot do?

The washing machine has been leaking into the wall for who-knows-how-long. We had to rip out the whole wall, both sides between the kitchen and laundry room. Tim had to re-plumb the guts, install a box for the fixtures, and fix the leak. Now, it is on to new sheetrock, and the requisite taping and mudding and sanding.

I'll post detailed pictures of The Unveiling as soon as we are done!

An Outdoor Project

If you've read my blog at all, you probably already know that my outdoor spaces are important to me. We really do live on our porches, front and back. Three seasons of the year, you'll find someone outside enjoying these outdoor rooms. All of it perfectly imperfect, you will see sure signs of life lived abundantly on a budget. The outdoor fireplace was made of reclaimed brick. The pond waterfall was made with slate that was given to us. Many of the shrubs and flowers are classic "pass along plants", from the gardens of people we dearly love.

We've yet to be able to afford to replace our plastic resin chairs with nicer ones....the deck needs restaining...the outdoor rug needs replaced...and the cushions on the rockers and wicker chairs are showing their age.

Beautiful patio furniture has always been a bit of an unrealized dream for me. So we make do creatively - it makes for a lot of fun family stories.
Our table out back was made from the top of a giant wooden cable spool. We saw it on the side of the road, looking like one of those wooden spools of thread, only the size of a compact car. Our local cable utility company discards them, so we got permission to take it home - free. Tim made an outdoor table out of it, about six years ago. It already had a small hole in the middle, perfect for a patio umbrella.

My plan was to purchase a new outdoor table and chairs this spring...but happily, a wedding bumped that from top of the budget priority, to bottom of the list.

This past year, our table has begun to show wear and tear, since it is entirely made of wood, and exposed to all the elements, all year long, on our uncovered back porch. Since I couldn't replace it as I hoped, I needed a rain-proof table cloth to make it presentable - except you won't find a round vinyl table cloth that is at least 120 inches in diameter. (This table is huge. We can sit ten around it very comfortably, and twelve if we squeeze in.)

So I bought two inexpensive rectangular vinyl table covers (by Waverly) and decided to sew a center seam. But another problem presented itself: the umbrella, my mother's day present. The table cloth needed to come off and be put on easily without having to remove the umbrella every time.

Here's the solution I came up with:

I bought some duct tape in a matching color (you can buy duct tape now in robin's egg blue, hot pink, madras plaid, every color and pattern you can imagine!), and some seam binding - total cost under $5. (The table cloths themselves were $2.99 each at Marshall's)

I bound the inner edge with duct tape to reinforce it, inserted six grommets along each edge, and tied the two cloths together with the brown seam binding. (ribbon would not have been sturdy enough)

I also got a can of Krylon spray paint, and gave our plastic chairs a face lift. I'm embarrassed to say that the chair on the left is "before" - faded and dirty. All you do, is clean your resin chairs, and then spray them with this special paint, made for plastic outdoor things. It makes a huge difference!

We'll get by for another summer, without any major purchases, all for under $20. Though plastic resin is the last material I'd ever want for my outdoor chairs, we put such a high priority on hospitality that it was either find a way to buy a dozen matching chairs, or leave guests with no place to sit. Plastic it was...and still is. Someday, we'll upgrade. Until then, at least we're keeping the "doors open" in our outdoor spaces.

Just today, I fed thirteen for lunch - and we all mostly hung out outside. I can't give up serving others in this special way, just because I don't have "the right furniture".

A quick, simple makeover that took only a couple of hours.

I Own It...

a puppy and a husband with strong-but-gentle hands - two components of The Well Lived Life...

I don't own a lot, materially speaking. But I own as much as anyone I know!

I own my faults. Yes, they are mine. Every single one. I speak my mind - too often. I have a sharp wit, but sharp can become cutting. I hate that about myself. I am passionate - but passion can become temper. Full of faults, me. At least I own them, and own up to them. I know of some who own none at all...a miserable lot, they.

I own my strengths. God gave them to me. I am not ashamed of them, and yes, they have made a few people uncomfortable. But no one is well served when I bury what God gave me to invest - either I own it, or I act as though I don't own it, and "to her who hath not, even what she has will be taken away."

Interestingly, I own the little piece of sky above my home. I don't need expansive vistas with expensive tax brackets. My sunset is the same sun that sets anywhere else, and there are colors and glory and glow the same.

I own the plants and flowers that grow around this suburban cottage. Hydrangeas are hydrangeas no matter where they grow, be that castle or cottage. I like mine best, because they are mine.

The best components of a life well-lived are mine for the taking, right here. Wind, rain, fragrance, joy, trees, birds, a garden, music, laughter, good food, and basil....lots of basil. Tomatoes. We make a mean pesto and bruschetta around here, come summertime. All mine.

You see, it isn't the house itself, it is the life you live there. It isn't the stuff you have, it is the stuff you share that makes for the kind of pleasure that you feel all the way down in your stomach. Anyone can live an artful, soulful, complete sort of life without acreage or livestock. Having those things is not a negative just don't need any of it. Not if you have an imagination and not if you know how to live a well-edited, purposefully-designed life.

Not if you know how to be abased and how to abound, right where you live, right now.

Right here, I dabble in a bit of animal husbandry (puppies, a plethora of large pond fish, a canary and two pocket parrots, all of which require daily love and care), I enjoy the view and sound of a waterfall, pond, and fish, have an outdoor fireplace, small gardens, places to walk, a fruit bearing tree, berry bushes, sunrises, sunsets, I play around with oil painting, interior design, cooking, writing, poetry, philosophy; I own the gentle breezes that meander through this patch of place, and can have a glass of home made lemonade whenever I feel like making it.

Do I really need more? Does anyone? I own a version of almost everything you can find on a fine "estate", and I have created it right here in a typical suburban home. And we share it with everyone we know and love.

That's some large livin'.

I don't own much, but I do own it.

A Wedding Designer's Challenge: From Concept to Concrete Reality!

The challenge? Design a wedding for $2,000 or less, including the dress!

You don't get that sense of completion until you see all the pictures. I finally got the disk, this past weekend.

It is official - I designed my second (and final) wedding. For $2,000. If we went over budget, I know it was by less than fifty dollars!

Our photographer did a stunning job, and did not charge us. She got it all, from decor and design, all the way to subtle expressions in the eyes of the bride and groom. This girl works for a print publication in west Knoxville - if you want her for your wedding, contact me.

Back to the wedding. From concept to completion, I took my daughter Sarah's general dream (of a vintage-inspired wedding, with western boots worked in, just for charm) and made it a detailed design. Here is how it all turned out:

The wedding was March 20th. Nothing was in profuse bloom yet, so we went with the idea that there are always bare branches and birds in early-early spring! Our photographer had taken engagement photos, and we enlarged two of them, and framed them for the foyer decor. This is how the concept came together, in the foyer of the church...

Sarah wanted rustic, vintage, and simple...the sunburst grapevine wreaths in all the windows tied into the theme of birds and branches. All table covers were burlap, covered in tulle. Love the contrast of rustic and fluffy!

We created the backdrop for the ceremony out of two room dividers, and the unity candleabra. It turned out exactly as we hoped!

I made paper cones from vintage papers for the aisle markers, and put fresh baby's breath in each one.


On to the reception~

Cutting the bundt cakes...I am crazy-glad we chose bundt cakes rather than traditional wedding cake, or ubiquitous sheet cake. It absolutely completed the atmosphere and decor!

We used boxes for cake stands, and created garland from twine, vintage papers, and clothes pins. On each paper, there was affixed a pin with a bird silhouette, and the bride and groom's name and wedding date. So the decor also became the party favors. Everyone took one home for their scrapbook.

Sage advice, on the "wishing tree". (An old custom. Guests write well wishes and blessings, and hang them on a "wishing tree". We chose a beautiful jardiniere, poured concrete in it, and set two very large branches trimmed from a tree that was storm damaged earlier in the winter. We draped pearls all over it, and created special tags with ribbon hangers for guests to write on.)

See all the birds? We gathered them from antique shops, Hobby Lobby, anywhere we could find them. We also used candlesticks from around the house - nothing matchy-matchy. There were wood candlesticks, mercury glass, and porcelain. We kept the candles uniform in size and color, to tie the look together.

Harvest Church's resident disco king...

A little line dancing - my daughters love country music! (The bridesmaids wore western boots too!)

The venue for the reception was extraordinary...and free. A dream location.

Did I tell you our photographer was good? Oh yeah...she's good.

Me, there in the middle, literally surrounded by family. Can I tell you? God's plan is that you "plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them". God has said, "You shall not plant, and another eat." It is not normal to have ongoing broken relationships. If you value relationships, and you stick and stay and cultivate continuity, you will one day eat the sweet fruit of all that labor of love. And there I am, up there...

This picture is such a metaphor. There they go, walking away into their new life together. The views at the Bower's home are so pastoral and peaceful.

Hope you enjoyed the results of my wedding "designer's challenge".


White/cream design inspiration...

round table in a white dining room, worn wood floors - lovely!

This is a project from the blog "Shanty2Chic". Love the idea - I would paint the headboard either a robin's egg blue, or a white, or possibly black...

Wonderful idea, the mirror over the nightstand! This would be very simple to do.

I am thinking I need an apron just like this.

It has been a busy, busy day. Got a whole lot done, here at the cottage! One way I unwind, is by enjoying interior design photos - either in an actual magazine, or in one of the many fantastic blogs out there.

So many beautiful ideas, so little time! Thank you for sweet comments and emails of encouragement regarding my redecorating efforts. This whole design style of whites and neutrals is much more difficult to pull off than I first thought. It is far more than putting a creamy white paint on the walls. It is really a way of creating a canvas of possibility, a restful, peaceful backdrop, using texture and subtlety and allowing only a very few beautiful things to "speak" for the space.

Hard to explain - even harder to execute. But I'll get there. The joy is in the journey, friends!

Justin's Graduation and One Year Anniversary!

(our son-in-law Justin, and our daughter Hannah, on their wedding day, one year ago today!)

My son-in-love Justin McConnell is officially a college grad - complete with Bachelor's degree as of yesterday! Today is he and Hannah's one year anniversary. What a weekend!

He begins his one year internship later this year, teaching high school math at Bearden High here in Knoxville, while finishing his Master's degree in Math Education. Then, long about December, he'll become a daddy.

That's our boy! I know his parents and brothers are so very proud of him, and so are we. You'd love Justin's parents...and both his brothers. Hannah could not ask for better in-laws. They all are a dream; they treat her with such love and care. Those McConnells are "the stuff"...each one of them!

Congratulations, Justin! We love you!

Anticipating Friday Evening Fellowship

Ring the bell, or come on in!

Candles are lit - it is almost time for some out-of-state friends to get here!

Wild roses are in bloom just off the front porch

impatiens in a strawberry pot - simple, simple...

The pond and its fishies...right by the front door.

I snipped some of my pink peonies - love!

The table is set - notice anything missing? No more buffet! Didn't want it anymore. Less is so often more!

Semi-homemade angel cake, fresh from the oven. Duncan Hines and I are real good friends on a busy afternoon. He has my back all the time.

Things ready to slice and chop...

Umbrella up, in case we want to sit around out back.

Soft, airy, clean, and simple. White-on-white is getting all my love these days.
(Corner cabinet will be painted soft white...eventually.)

the keys to good fellowship are first, a sense of joy within the walls of the home!

...and maybe a front porch that says, "Sit and relax." All of us may end up here at the end of the evening. Tim and I will for sure end the day here, after our friends go home, enjoying the sound of the waterfall, and basking in the afterglow of being with friends we've known for years.

Hope your weekend has sweet fellowship in store for you. It feeds the soul.