Wisdom Comes Suddenly

Summer in the Middle

July 28th, 2015 · Comments Off on Summer in the Middle


I’ve made a decision: this summer is too good to end. Too full of funny. Too full of yummy. Too full of love and pool water. I ended last summer wishing I could stop time and hold the kids right where they were, but that was short-sighted. NOW I’m stopping the clock. Right here. BEFORE puberty, but AFTER the ridiculousness of childhood has us in its grips.


We’ve had to make some adjustments to meet in the middle. Avery is “over” what she calls “human games”. It took me a couple of days to realize she meant make-pretend. Kelly is deep into “human games”, and Sara? Kind of in the middle. This caused great consternation in our village until Sara dedicated her entire evenings to playing hours upon hours of Calico Critters, Stuffed Animal Land Weddings, and Office with Kelly. If Kelly is able to spend a few hours a day lost in her imaginary world, she is far more congenial about playing Monopoly for the 1000x time. She kicked the board over a few times before we found the balance, but we got there eventually.


I’ve learned to meet everyone in the middle too. No more elaborately prepared lunches. We’re still eating primarily whole foods, and I still don’t cook things which come frozen in boxes, but BLTs with Avocados, Grilled Cheese we can dip in Tomato Soup, and (everyone’s favorite) Baked Potato Bars are the Usual Suspects. We still eat on a tablecloth in the dining room, and every fall, that first lunch I eat alone without my Three Musketeers, I won’t lie: I weep. Our lunchtime conversations are the highlight of my day.


The conversations have changed significantly over the years. We began these lunches with Kelly just out of a highchair, when anything short of a PB&J was thrown to the floor. Now, they know their roles in “Troisine” like well-coded robots. I yell out “Isabine! Avine! Opaline! SERVICE!” in my French accent, and they line up, scurry about, and lunch is served in high style in mere moments.


We spend our lunches giggling over Avery’s parents’ insistence that she read “My Changing Body”, followed by my empty threats to talk about puberty (which I’d NEVER do over soup…that’s just unappetizing). We listen to Avery’s retelling of the latest Sci-Fi flick she’s watched. I can now summarize in great detail “Octoshark”, “Lavalantula” (Tarantulas which can spit LAVA….DUDE….the DRAMA), and “Robo-Croc”. They started the summer unable to pick a single morning cartoon upon which they could agree, and now, I don’t hear a peep as they trade turns at “A.N.T. Farm” and “Mighty Med”. In June, I wondered if we’d ever find a happy medium, but with patience and some good cherry cobbler, it came.


The Board where the daily magic is mapped out! And where I send the girls to read bible verses when the argue.

I think our experience of caring for Papa Bump has matured them a bit, and given them some much-needed perspective. As we deliver food to friends in Hospice, and make our weekly treks to my Grandfather’s house, they’ve come to realize: not everyone is experiencing the sweetness of summer as we are. Not everyone can spend lazy afternoons at the pool, avoiding a passing glance at the school calendar. In all seriousness, I don’t even know WHAT day we go back. I know the week, but I refuse to mark the actual day. STOP. Don’t tell me. I’m not ready for that level of detail.


And our tasks have had their price: There have been days the girls are just plum worn out. They don’t want to spend another afternoon begging Kelly to jump off the diving board (we’re batting a massive ZERO thus far). They don’t want to read “Pay It Forward” (we WILL finish before summer ends…WE WILL). They don’t want to work on their pajama pants, fold beach towels, or make yet another trip to the grocery. Some days, I don’t want to either. We’ve spent some days just surviving together, and there have been some hilarious spats. One day I found all 3 of them sitting in a row on the couch and crying. The story was told that as they wallowed in exhaustion, trying to find something to do, Sara decided to build yet another memorial to Max. Max died years ago, and I have had to limit the number of memorials at any given time allowed in or around the house. We have 4 cats. We don’t need this house to be a shrine to Max (although the limit is 3, because I loved that cat to pieces). 2 young ladies were quite through with helping Sara build dead cat memorials, and before anyone could say “Pringle bit my Mom’s knee”, ugly comments about each others’ deceased pets were being lobbed about like volleyballs. Hence, 3 girls gnashing teeth on my couch, and me falling into fits of laughter, knowing that by next summer, we’ll be calling this “PMS”.


I want to savor their last moments of absolute childhood. Even Avery has thrown in the towel and started playing human games again. She invented a game they are calling “Emperor Baby”, which as far as I can tell, involves Avery being both an Emperor and a Baby, demanding things from her subjects. She who answers the call with the best effort gets to become the Emperor Baby. How this game is even remotely fun, I don’t know, but then again, I’ve never played. If I did, I’m sure I’d be the BEST Emperor Baby EVER. My favorite of their inventive play is a game they call “Jackie Topaz”. They are lost children, searching all over the world for their Mother, who is named? That’s right…Jackie Topaz. I’m so thrilled at this name, I’ve started referring to myself as Jackie Topaz around the house. It has a nice ring to it. However silly this game may sound, it was created to stop Kelly’s nightmares that she can’t find me. It has worked like a charm. Life is funny.


I write this every.single.year, but Indiana summers are so sweet because they are so short. Last week we took a night tour of the Ecolab at Marian University, and listening to bull frogs in the dark with bats flying overhead, I felt my soul whisper, “Stay summer. Just this once…stay.” Let the girls stay 10, 9, & 8 for just a little while longer. The Summer in the Middle is where we belong.

But I doubt summer could hear me over the crickets and the rustling of the cattails, as yet another thunderstorm rolled in. Do tell me, how is your summer? I pray it has been full of lazy wonderment and pie? Godspeed my friends. As our summers roll to the finish line…Godspeed.

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Grief & Cancer Are Not Contagious

July 16th, 2015 · 2 Comments


If you’re going to serve canned corn, serve it in style. [Hoosier Wisdom #2046]

I’ve been rather silent this summer, in that most of my story is not mine to tell. I am in a season of service. It has brought me a bit of personal peace, as I like hearing from God in the morning, reminding me my purpose on this earth is clear, and at hand. My 2 closest girlfriends are in a time of deep suffering, while my Grandfather enters the last days of his journey, and there have been other friends whom have needed rides to Specialists and ears to bend about risky, albeit life-saving, surgeries. I’ve watched a marriage I admired come to an end, as I helplessly delivered pie. I have quietly wept more than once for my friends and their gravely ill family members, for my friends enduring chemo, and for a brave and lovely friend who took on cancer and divorce and so, so many surgeries, all in the same breath.

And in this, I’ve had witnesses ask, “Aren’t you afraid of surrounding yourself with so much cancer and grief? Aren’t you afraid it will…rub off?”


The short answer is no. Not at all. Maybe it’s the nurse in me who has seen so much. Maybe it’s my belief in heaven. Jesus has partnered with me, and maybe I’ve again, been selfish, in that during my days of service, I get to feel Jesus in my passenger seat (and I do…I really, really do). I wish I had the courage to say any of this out loud, because usually I reply, “Have you ever considered I’m the Nexus of Suffering? That I’m the one who knows so many people in crisis, and maybe they caught this mess from me? Huh? Put that in your little red wagon…”

I think my friends need someone on the periphery, quietly standing by, holding onto the belief that this pain shall pass. Holding a lantern engraved with the words “normal will return”. Or a new normal anyway. I think. Right now “knowing anything for certain” isn’t on the agenda.


I got this idea that everyone needed some form of blueberries for their last 4th of July, so we ended up picking almost 20 lbs of blueberries. Funny thing about just picked blueberries, you can’t tire of them.

All of this is not to say I haven’t fretted, shed many tears, or worried myself sick over my dearest friends and their oh-so-sick Mommas. Have I ever. But my grief for them is not the grief they are experiencing. Their grief is large in a way I cannot comprehend. You can’t see all the way around the kind of grief that comes from losing a parent, or someone equally close. While I visit with them daily in their space, and I do everything within my power to shoo away the clouds, I know I cannot make it better. I can only be a witness, and make the promise that through these times, my friendship will not falter.

Grief 6

I’m not even sure WHAT I was cooking this day!

Falter. Good Lord, what a treacherous word. I have moments of sheer panic that I’m not doing it right. I’m taking too much food. I’m taking too little. The food is bad. The food is too spicy. I’m offering to help too much. I’m being too pushy. I’m not being pushy enough. I made them laugh when they wanted to cry. I let them cry when they wanted to laugh. Is today a text day, a call day, a show up with cobbler day, or just a prayer day?

Grief 7

My new cherry pitter arrived yesterday! Clafoutis for everyone!

Greg gently reminded me last week that friendship doesn’t end with a spreadsheet where I’m rated on bringing just the right number of perfectly baked banana breads to the crisis. That would make it easier! I could improve. That way the next time my best friends walk their parents through Stage IV cancer…oh crap. [Insert reminder about life having no dress rehearsals…stitch it on a pillow…beat yourself in the head with beautifully embroidered pillow…]

So that’s where I’ve been when I’m not here, or creating a magically lazy and sweet summer with the girls. I’m cooking, or delivering, or listening, or calling…or drinking. They’ve stopped drinking which puts a lot of pressure on me to get our quota in…[See? Still have my sense of humor!] I’m here, but again…this summer is not my story to tell. I am a witness, not a storyteller. So in this space, if you don’t see me, I want you to know you are on my heart. And as always, I wish you Godspeed






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The Rainbow Chairs: Confessions of an Addict

July 13th, 2015 · 3 Comments


Hi. My name is Lori. I am a crafting addict, with a specific unhealthy love of furniture. Well, chairs, to be more exact. I have a serious problem with chairs.

I inherited it, but I know it’s not an excuse. My much-adored (albeit unbelievably quirky) Aunt Mildred was an Antiquer. I don’t want to throw her under the bus, because I’m taking responsibility for my illness tonight, but she did have an entire house just to hold her collections. She didn’t live there. There wasn’t enough room. In her defense, it was only a 3 bedroom, 2-story. Antiques are space hogs. Everyone knows this.


Taking a quick picture before Greg realizes there are more than TWO chairs in my hatch.

The formal sitting room was dedicated entirely to her chair collection. Even though no one could live in the house, we were regularly invited for visits (the house she lived in also had beautiful antiques, but the nicest ones were strangely kept in the no-person house). The chairs were stored in large rows, formed into a circle, and we would squeeze our little bodies into the collection, and make room to sit in any antique chair which suited our fancy. Mildred took notes (although silently), and left each and every chair to her beloved nieces and nephews, via stories in her will.

“To Martin, I leave the oddly-shaped teak corner table that took your interest the year you were 9.” (She died when Martin was 21, so it took us a little investigative work to find it.)

“To William, I leave the chandelier into which you were always knocking your head. I got so tickled every time to did it.”

“To Jenny I leave the red velvet Victorian couch. Precious Jennifer Ann, you really understood that couch.”


In case you are struggling with a crafting addiction, you need to see the ugly that comes with this problem. It’s NOT GLAMOROUS guys. It’s dark. Very, very dark. Like these hideous chairs.

Aunt Mildred left me beautiful chairs, velvet rockers, bureaus, a large assortment of dolls, knick-knacks…anything I had touched in the 19 years of visiting her museum-house. I guess you could call chairs my gateway antique.


ALL the way stripped? 2 attempts is close enough for desk chairs.

While I know repainting old furniture with bright colors is all the rage, I haven’t taken to it. I equally haven’t fallen for milk paint. I like my antiques to look like…antiques. So you can imagine my surprise when the girls and I rounded the corner into the annual Woodruff Place Flea Market, and these chairs were screaming to me that they’d like to be bright colors. (Yes, furniture speaks to me when I’m high on the smell of dust, mold, and history. Don’t judge me. Or do…I’m still going to love chairs.)


Home Depot can kiss my crafting ass with their Marquee Paint. Guaranteed 1-coat. Not with green!

I had promised my family, “NO MORE!!!” I would NOT take on another home-crafting-project until my list was complete. I actually wrote the list on a piece of paper, and asked my family to hold me to my promise (fearless moral crafting inventory, if you will). I have a problem, and I’m ready for help.

But the girls saw my eyes, and they didn’t even try to stop me. In fact, they offered to carry them to the car. God help me. The lessons I’m teaching them.


1-coat with orange? Try 4. 4 thick, drippy, unmanageable coats.

The second I whispered, “Rainbow Chairs for the Rainbow Attic”, they all but threw those chairs at me. It’s like they WANTED me to fall off the crafting wagon. Sorry. That wasn’t fair. This is MY problem. I’m here to own it.


How about yellow on white? Surely that will be 1-coat. Or three. Stupid paint people promises. They’ll say ANYTHING to sell you paint. It’s the crafter’s racquet and worst nightmare, all wrapped into one.

These chairs weren’t part of the regular flea market. They were being sold by a sweet, but quite toothless junker, who had set up his wares on the small lawn of a tenement building. It was…not good. He knew those claw foot chairs were well-built, and worth more than pennies, so we settled on $20 per chair. I’ve bought worse, in case you recall the day I bought my sewing chair straight out of the bathroom at the Antique Mall.


Greg would say this was me, hitting bottom. Again. Painting perfectly good chairs grasshopper green is somehow lower than pulling a chair out of a public pooper and asking its price? It’s hard to say.

Still, even though it was a good buy, and I had good reason to capitalize on this great deal for office chairs while the iron was hot, I knew I’d have to make amends (i.e. finish this project as quickly as possible).


The girls enabled supported me throughout this process, because they loved the idea of bright chairs at their white desks. I let them choose the color of the rainbow, and the fabric. Sara’s choice was bold, and clearly that of a future interior design major. She doesn’t need to bow to convention at every turn. Sara knows her mind.


Kelly needed surprisingly little guidance, although this was the 5th fabric she chose. I used remnants from my friend Lou’s stash, who oh-so-graciously willed her fabric to me during her family’s large relocation to the West. Kelly has a knack for choosing fabric of which I do not have enough for the project at hand. Remember the small blanket that turned into a small country?

Or how about this quilt à la Kelly? Oh no! It’s Kelly! She’s the next Mildred! I think when she asked for her stuffed animals to be displayed in a museum-quality case, we should have seen that coming.


My orange desk chair and the yellow sewing chair were the last to see the finish line. All in, I was drunk on paint happily crafting for only 2 weeks. A new record, compared to my usual time off the crafting wagon. These chairs were tough to strip, and even harder to paint, but they inspired me to finish some large projects I’d been procrastinating (see last 2 posts). I know. That’s justifying. Apologies and seeking amends.


I’d like to thank my family for accepting my crafting shortcomings (like being covered in paint and cursing on the back porch while holding toxic chemicals in my hands). I’d like to thank all of you for witnessing my endlessly ridiculous plans, messes, and occasionally finished projects. I’d like to thank Home Depot for NOTHING! This paint was PRICEY and SUCKY McSUCKERSON! I’m done complaining and placing blame elsewhere. But seriously H.D., you should reflect on your shortcomings.

OK, back to my crafting inventory. A really, really boring shower curtain is next, followed by really, really uninteresting neutral curtains. Godspeed fellow crafters!

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Girls’ Rooms, Phase II

July 9th, 2015 · 5 Comments


I wrote about decorating the girls’ rooms in phases over here. We have finally reached Phase II, aka “Stuff on the Walls”.  Sara has long been planning a peacock room in “non-peacock colors”. Don’t worry…Sara is GOOD at decorating.

Her mural finally came in, after finding it on Houzz, contacting the decorator, finding a supplier, calling about a print run for 6 months, and hounding them into shipping me a single run straight from the printer. $75 well spent. When your Dad is professional wallcoverings contractor, you might know the rules of this game. There is no painful story about crafting. Dad came with his tools. He hung it, and in 2 hours, Sara’s room was transformed into her dream-of-a-meditative space. I love this mural. I think large pictures in small rooms are awesome. Next to her Asian waterfall chandelier, her pairing is the start to a uniquely interesting kid’s room.


Onto Kelly’s more difficult theme: “Stuffed Animals Displayed In A Museum-Like Manner”. And you thought peacocks without jewel tones would be difficult. While some children have imaginary playmates, Kelly has an imaginary WORLD. It’s called “Stuffed Animal Land”, and if you have a few hours, she can describe to you the royalty lineage, the political issues, the major illnesses which affect the residents, the geography, the weather, the upheavals and wars, and the long-long-long names of each inhabitant. Warning: some residents are EVIL. Not a day goes by that I don’t get a full report on the latest happenings and hot news stories from Stuffed Animal Land. So you can understand that ordinary, everyday shelving would not do. Kelly was quite clear: Museum-quality shelving.

Um? Huh?


She envisioned a room lined with glass cases that lock. Because should we get robbed, I’m CERTAIN her priceless collection of STUFFED ANIMALS would be the first to go. Wow. We settled on floating round shelves we found on Etsy for $40 a shelf. Ha! Like I would spend $40 on a shelf! I’m made of stuffed animals, not money! We spent WAY too much time trying to figure out how to make these things, and so we went to Captain Daddy, who suggested I use concrete forms as a base. Brilliant!


Hey, if I’m not challenging the guys at the Home Improvement stores with my wacky requests, I’m just not satisfied with my week. “How many different diameters of concrete forms do you carry?” Sometimes I ask questions, just to see their faces. “If you were going to turn a cardboard tube into a floating shelf, would you use a bracket, or…?”


I ended up with 2 diameters (lousy hardware stores…I wanted 4), and Greg cut them into matching depths. I have had a long-standing love affair with high-quality wool felt, which can be bought on a bolt at quilting stores. Well. ONE quilting store. This one, if you want to save yourself the time of running all over the Midwest. You’re welcome.


Measuring the diameter and depth (but forgetting to add the the lip, which made the job tricky and really awful), I cut the wool, and sewed it into a tube.


Slip it inside, the tube, with the seam facing out, and :


Pull it down over the outside of the shelf.


I should mention Greg riveted the brackets onto the shelves before did the covers. I tried it another way with the first 8….andum…let’s just say his way worked better. Or more honestly, his way worked.


And here’s where this project gets tedious and painful: the measurements must be exact, and the wool must be hot-glued down perfectly to the back edges. I got burned. I got frustrated. I was using wool from 2 different makers so they stretched differently, and because it is pre-felted, did it STRETCH. In all directions.


I’d like to tell you after making these shelves 16x, I learned some tricks, but in reality, I think I learned this project was worth it, but maybe doing it once was enough. The backs of some look much better than others, and I think it lays better if the depth is longer and trimmed once it’s on the shelf, and if the diameter is a little short, so it can be stretched to lie taut.


I had dreams of displaying animals and arranging everything just so for you guys. I’d get the lighting right and the room picked up and the bed made. All at the same time. In a house with 3 kids and 4 cats. [Insert your maniacal laughter.] But if the summer is anything, it’s a huge reality check over the things we cannot control. It’s a reminder that messes can wait while the sun is shining.


So I managed to grab this shot quickly on my phone, while stomping and fuming about in a PMS-haze, declaring this entire display must come down and be redone. It’s too symmetrical! It’s too linear! It’s too…influenced by my hormones!


But then this happened [insert a whole lot of screaming and giggling and happiness and general feelings of museum-quality joy.]


And this happened.


Oh ma’ goodness, the entire unicorn family has finally found a home. They’ve had a rough go of it. The last War-Of-Stuffed-Animal-Land involved an evil unicorn, and these guys were displaced. I’m not joking. Kelly kept me up one night, telling me ALL about it. That large bunny on top? He’s an enforcer, and they are surrounded by their security detail.


Lastly, this happened, after 3 girls spent many hours carefully arranging (i.e. arguing) this AMAZING museum-like exhibit. It’s known as “The Great Wall of Stuffed Animals”.

So will I add more or rearrange the “museum shelves” I made with cardboard and felt? Here are my thoughts:

(1) My floors are no longer littered with piles upon piles of stuffed animals. It’s my own little version of museum-like heaven. These shelves, no matter how they are arranged, are a huge improvement.

(2) Who am I to make decisions in Stuffed Animal Land? I’m not the Queen. According to Kelly, I don’t even qualify for a hearing with the Congress. I’m an Adviser at best. I think I’ll let The President guide me from here.

(3) I did NOT pay $40 per shelf. These cost about $7 per shelf. So yes, I may add more, considering I have the supplies. But for now, there is peace in the kingdom, and all is well in the land.

Godspeed, my friends, until Phase III: bed linens and pillows. And curtains. And Sara wants me to make lavender bamboo bookcase…????


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10th Time Is A Charm

June 22nd, 2015 · 4 Comments


This is a story about crafting gone wrong. And right. And then wrong again. And then very right. Do this back and forth for many months, add in some glitter and spray paint (a little whiskey, and many, many curse words), and you’ll eventually land in a corner of my dining room.


When we finally moved into the house, we were lucky enough to purchase a lovely antique dining room set from Greg’s parent’s neighbor. Random enough for you? Her parents received it as a wedding gift in 1938, and it’s in stellar condition. Eventually I will refinish this set and recover the chairs, but for now, I’m just happy to have a place to eat. As a cook, I take dining rooms rather seriously. Greg prefers homes without dining rooms, and when he suggested we leave it out of the new home, I turned on my laser eyes and burned a hole right through his forehead. No dining room? Was he having a moment of mental instability? Um, HELLO cherished memories of breaking bread over candlelight for decades to come while surrounded by quaint trim work; I think I’ve made my point.


The sideboard functioned as a traditional sideboard “sans le decor”, until I ripped a picture out of Better Home and Gardens, and decided STOP EVERYTHING! THIS WHOLE SIDEBOARD MUST BE DIFFERENT! It must have lamps and mirrors and tall, wayward flowers! It must have candles and interesting shapes! It must be covered in things I DON’T CURRENTLY OWN! We might be touching on the reason Greg didn’t want a dining room.


Before we even signed on the house, Greg’s Mom gave 2 brass Stiffel lamps. If you don’t want to use Stiffels for lighting, you can use them as hand weights, because Stiffels weigh more than my children. When she offered them to me (Lori, would you have any use for these Stiffel lamps? I found a picture in Southern Living, and I must CHANGE EVERYTHING!), I slipped into a gigantic flashback from 1982: I could see my Mom rifling through her purse at the bank drive-through window. Every week, she’d cash her check, and she would carefully take out a few bills and slip them into a separate envelope in her purse, designated for her treasure dujour. One does not easily forget the Stiffel lamp envelope. She saved and saved and saved. She would visit them at the furniture store and whisper sweet nothings into their brassy-goodness, “Lori! Lift these! Just try! These are QUALITY lamps. They will last forever. And THEY WILL BE MINE.” And eventually, paid entirely in cash because that’s how my family rolls, they were. I dusted those things FOREVER, so I can attest to their lifespan. When Carolann offered hers to me, I laughed oh-so-loudly, and told her I’d be terribly grateful to inherit the forever-weighty-quality-ness-est of her Stiffels.


New paint and lampshades, and these would work perfectly in my “imitate the random picture I found in a magazine” plan. Problem #1: It was COLD in my garage this winter, and I wanted to spray paint the lamps. I rigged up an elaborate plastic tent and heater system. For every coat of paint, I warmed up my tent to 50 degrees, and slowly…ever so slowly…turned brass into “burnt amber”.

Problem #2: Until the final coat, when I warmed up the tent, but forgot to warm up the paint. THE WHOLE MESS CRACKLED.

Not in a good-crackle-way. In a very, very bad crackle-way.

I gave up and waited for the weather to turn, as I was disheartened.


I spent my free time looking for the “perfect sideboard mirror”. It had to be interesting, antique-y, and the glass had to be almost perfect. I repeat: I don’t do “crackle”. Also, it had to be damn-near free, because the new house was turning out to be less-free. What’s the opposite of free? Oh…yes…my mortgage. In January, I found it. It was on clearance at my favorite antique mall for a whopping $35. And much like those lamps, it weighed more than my children combined. But Sara, Kelly and I knew we’d found “the one”, and the 3 of us managed to get it home. I’m often heard calling back to antique mall attendees, “Trust me! When I finish with this thing, it will be AMAZING! If I don’t drop it first!” I think they slap clearance stickers on heavy stuff as I walk through, just to watch me squeal and risk life and limb. That’s right Cheryl! I’m onto you!


The wood frame needed some repair. Well…many repairs. It sat on the floor of my dining room for so long, my friends assumed I was trying to start a new trend in floor decor. Truth be told, I have taken on all NEW fix-it tasks since building this house, and my plans intimidate me.


One day I finally got the cahonas to mix up the epoxy, and voila! Using a plastic spoon as the tool-of-choice (all professional furniture refinishers swear by “la spoon de plastique”…kidding…I made that up), I filled all the cracks and molded the repairs to look like the original frame. My sister and I thought painting it the color of the kitchen (SW’s Chinchilla) would be a nice contrast against the brown lamps and brown furniture.

Problem #3: That plan fell flat. We ended up at “purple mirror”. Not good.


No problem: my roomie from college is an architect with a deep background in interior design, and she recommended adding depth with a deep gold glaze. YES! I didn’t “unlike” the original gold…it was just…too gold. Something in between flat purple and Louis XIV was my plan.

 Problem #4: Oops. I accidentally turned it back to gold.


No problem: I still have the chinchilla paint. PURPLE. GOLD. PURPLE. GOLD. I painted. I blotted. I swept it over with every type of brush known to man. I bought different gold. I bought gold spray. Gold varnish. Gold glitter. Antiquing gold. I bought lambswool. Sponge applicators. What tools did I end up using on the final product? An old rag and a 75 cent sponge.


I finally gave up and just sat this behemoth on the sideboard. I thought maybe if I stared at it a while, the answer would come to me.

Back to the lamps, which had to be stripped, repainted, and new shades applied.


10th time was a charm.

Problem #5: Paint stripper will kill the new grass your husband planted. He will claim it was worth it if it means you’ll shut up about the lamps, and stop killing yourself with spray paint fumes.


My sister suggested a dark brown antiquing glaze, barely applied, was the depth we needed. Looking through the now ridiculous stash of stains and paints and I owned, I found one. Using the edge of lambswool and an old paintbrush to rub it in, I found the mirror I had been seeking. The final step took me about 10 minutes. I applied a tiny bit of polyurethane, and rubbed it as well, to downplay too much shine.

After spending 6 months under newspaper, my friend Lydia forgot there was a mirror under this mess, and asked what kind of picture I would be putting in the frame. OH! That’s a MIRROR! She assumed it was a wicked mess of tape, paint, and glitter that I would eventually throw in the trash, and then force her to ease my pain over margaritas. RIGHT. Like Lydia and I need an excuse to go out for margaritas.


This simple sideboard decor cost me 6 months of grief, but less than $100. I learned a lot, mostly about persistence, and about not asking the guys at Home Depot for advice. In fact, I’m working on a project now that I fully blame on the Home Depot paint guys, and I may picket. Now that this sideboard is done, I have that kind of time.

My point here is this, my friends: if you find a random picture in a decorating magazine, THROW IT AWAY. When we put it altogether last night at 10 pm, I screamed out loud with happiness, but for the rest of my life, I’ll never know if I love it because it’s pretty, or if I love it because of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into it. I guess either way, it doesn’t really matter, does it? I love it. When can you join me for dinner?

Wisdom Comes Suddenly.

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The Queens Of Summer, A Photo Essay

June 16th, 2015 · Comments Off on The Queens Of Summer, A Photo Essay


Sweet, chewy, humid summer, I love you. I know it’s popular to post links on FB about “Having a 70’s Summer”, wrapped in nostalgia and topped with a b-o-l-o-g-n-a commercial. I loved my childhood summers, but in all honesty, I don’t feel my kids need to repeat mine:

  1. Drink water out of a hose! I sure did, which led us to believe we could drink water from anywhere. In fact, my sister’s best friend did, and after a colorful game of “Pioneers”, she spent a week in the hospital after filling up on creek water.
  2. Don’t come home until the street lights come on. My family had this philosophy…and a farm…and lots of ATVs…and numerous trips to the ER…and why don’t you ask my cousin Eric where his spleen might be? Lack of supervision. Beautiful. How did we survive it? We almost didn’t.
  3. Get bored. Oh…wait. Yeah, we’ve definitely repeated that.

My kids are running with a saucy crowd, and would like to know why they aren’t in India or London or even Disney World this summer. Um? Because we’re not land rich? My patented response is, “I’d like you to look forward to those things in adulthood, and please send me a postcard. The education your Father and I are providing should get you there. If not, you’ll have something to share with your therapist.”

I’ve decided to create a summer somewhere between “this hose is our pool” and “let’s meet up in Paris for a smoothie”. Here goes:


We’re hitting all the parks. I grew up in a town with one park, so I’m fascinated by this city with endless parks and hiking trails. THANK GOD Sara never forgets the bug spray. I always pack Sara because I never remember bug spray.


Cook a whole bunch of stuff. You know what I mean by “a whole bunch” don’t you? Like…EAT YOUR WAY THROUGH SUMMER, guys.


But help your Mom with the dishes.


Definitely cook some things you’ve cooked before. You’re getting good at this cooking thing!


Watch a boatload of movies with popcorn on rainy days. If you get a cold, watch some more. Keep your cat nearby, because cats LOVE movies. Or just take a nap with the cats, because cats LOVE naps.


Stain so many pant butts, you designate a fruit-picking outfit. Make sure your hands are always covered in fruit, paint, dirt, or popsicle juice.


Eat things flavored “blue”.


Work out as a family until it hurts!


Until you’re strong!


Until you’re dressed like a ninja on a balancing ball while wearing a stopwatch and your cousin is photo-bombing you.


Hang out with a nutty amount of friends. Playdates, Stomp Dates, Swim Dates, Sleepovers, Ice Cream Dates; summers with friends are the best! Friends who can move rocks are even better!


Play every board game 100x or more. Or until Kelly cries and the kittens destroy the game.


Never give up on a puzzle. Or do, and let Momma get you out of a jam, and then BACK AT IT Puzzle People!


Swim until you are so tired and cold, you are out of your mind with grief. This has been achieved with all 3 Campers, and we’re not even to late June yet. SCORE.


This picture has nothing to do with summer or this essay. Rufus asked that I put in a small public service announcement about his balls: Neutering puts kittens in a BAD MOOD. You’ve been notified.


Read while balancing a water bottle on your foot? I don’t make all the rules.


Read under blankets?


Definitely collect proper Creek Stomping attire (not what you see above, as this is rather “Kelly-esque”). When I was a kid, this was called, “playing in the creek”, but city-slickers have formalized this game and call it “creek stomping”. One low creek can occupy kids for HOURS. I always pack a girlfriend, and we wile away the day in the breezy shade, watching the kids go nuts…for free. It’s.so.great.


Go to outdoor art shows and flea markets with your Momma. You’ll learn all kinds of zany trivia you’ll never use again. But she pays for your patience in Lemon Shake-Ups, so you’ve got that going for you.


Calico Critter Land now has a dentist AND doctor offices (handmade with fabric and Sara’s glue gun). Some afternoons I don’t see or hear children for hours. The village has found a permanent home in the corner of the attic, and after 5 years in play, I can say hands down, as long as they live, nothing will top these toys.


Mostly, we’re just goofing off. Do I allow “electronics”? OF COURSE. My children are growing up in their generation, not mine. Do I allow TV? YEP. A little vegging is good for the soul. Do I have a rough idea of a schedule on the dry erase board? You bet. Kids do better when they know what to expect. Are they doing academics? YOU KNOW IT! Learning is wicked cool! Are they doing school work every day? Nope. Against the laws of summer. Look it up.


Am I concerned about the lack of “enrichment camps”, and the fact that my crew will come out of summer without a black belt and a mastery of robotics? Not really. They will have a mastery of “putting away dishes” and “folding laundry“, so their life skill sets are definitely growing. I’m thrilled for any kid who learns to sail and swab the deck, but in a landlocked state, I think it’s equally important to learn how to SWAB YOUR BATHROOM FLOOR.

In this last photo, the girls and their buddy are making curly-q’s with dandelion stems. I wish for everyone this kind of richness: Friends. Sunsets spent outside. Beach Towels. Giggles. A summer just overflowing with God’s goodness and things that taste like berries. (Real berries, not fake Kool-Aid flavored berry drink from the 70’s. Nostalgia tastes like cancer-causing juice when you think about it…OK. I’ll go to bed now before I give you nightmares about the Tang Astronaut and the Kool-Aid Pitcher Character chasing you through the clown head that shot water through its brain so hard, it could take your eyeball out. Oh yeah…a 70’s kind of summer, what a treat.)

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Never Cry In Your Pie

June 12th, 2015 · 4 Comments


I have very strict rules about crying in the kitchen. If you’ve ever read “Like Water For Chocolate” you know why one must not cry into food. The main character weeps into her sister’s wedding cake (because her sister is marrying the main character’s true love), and lo and behold, every wedding guest gets food poisoning. Cooking is serious business you’all.


We’re in peak strawberry week in Indiana, and what a season it is. These strawberries are HUGE, and just right. Out to the fields we went, as we do year after year. In an odd twist of fate, the winds blew smoke from a Canadian forest fire, blocking the heat. Everything was in place for a perfect year of jamming and making pies in my kitchen. The kitchen where no tears are shed.


You gonna give me that applesauce Old Man? -Sara

But picking day wasn’t perfect. My heart HURT all day; a deep sorrow had settled into my chest, and I could feel the pain reverberating through my entire being. My Grandfather, a man who has been my second father, is dying. Little by little (or large by large?), his organs have started to say their goodbyes. He’s still at home, doing small things like playing his guitar and making his breakfast, but we are coming to terms with his now frequent “heart hiccups” (what I’m calling his unremitting chest pains, as he has NOT come to terms with his current reality).


Papa Bump and a Chubby Kelly who shares his name. And apparently, his hat.

As the girls screamed each time they grabbed “the jackpot strawberry”, I could hear his voice in my head:

“Always pay yourself first. Put that money in savings, so when problems come, your safety net isn’t in the hands of your debt. That’s the only way to STAY out of debt.”

“Always pay cash for your cars. No cash? You can’t afford that car.”

“Roses take patience. Talk to them every day. Don’t be in a rush with your roses, because they can’t be hurried.”


I wanted to laugh with the girls, and applaud their efforts to estimate our yield. But above me, the heavens were ripping apart, and I was in a stunned silence knowing only I was hearing the winds change. I knew I had to stay steady. Hold the course. Keep the traditions. Let the girls see my unchanging smile when they asked about Pa Pa Bump and his hiccuping heart.

“You have to have a lot of friends, and different kinds. The guy you go bowling with may not be the guy you want to go fishing with. Those are different people, Lori. Have many friends.”

“You got to learn to get along a little bit in life. It’s OK to be different. I know you don’t run with the crowd. But it’s going to be a long life if you don’t…you know…get along a little bit.”


Avery shares his birthday. This kid OWNS Papa Bump.

We picked 20 lbs and got some ice cream. I enjoyed my annual Sarsaparilla Root Beer. My bones were screaming at me, “Your last Grandparent is in his last days. After defying death for 20 years, his luck has run out.” I knew it. After decades of watching him beat the odds…I knew it. Not for one more second could I find comfort in my usual rationalizations:

– He’s had a wonderful, long life.

– He changed his lifestyle and bought himself 20 truly good years.

-He’s never been the same since Grandma died.

-I’ll see him in heaven.

-How many times can any one person outrun Fate?

-He survived the South Pacific Theater! He’s been around the world twice!

-He didn’t outlive his children or his grandchildren, or even his great-grandchildren. That was his biggest wish.

-His body is gently letting go. He didn’t outlive his legs…his biggest fear. He didn’t end up in a nursing home…his second biggest fear. He didn’t didn’t have a stroke…his third biggest fear.


Wallen x2 is A LOT of Wallen.

My soul didn’t want any rationalizations. My soul wanted to grieve. My soul wanted to come to terms with the things I cannot change. He’s had the very best medical care on the planet. I have recommended and suggested and consulted his medical charts since the moment I took my nursing oath (in fact, he was one of my first patients in Cardiac Critical Care). And after all these years and surgeries and medications, I was left in the middle of a strawberry field with nothing but my grief and sorrow.


If Grandpa were there, he would have disagreed:

“Nothing but your sorrow and good looks. Damn Lori, you always clean up so nice. You are lucky to have inherited my genes. I know we make it look easy, but it’s hard work being this pretty.”

“When you walk into a fancy restaurant, hold your head up, because you know what you’re doing. I’ve taught you how to order and drink and cut a steak. If you can afford that steak, you have just as much a reason to be there as the millionaire sitting next to you. We all put our pants on the same way, so don’t go thinking you have to be rich to have pride in who you are Shorty. I’ve met a lot of poor rich people who don’t know a thing about saving or investing. They are eating that steak, not knowing if they are going to die in the poor house. I may eat fewer steaks, but I know full well I won’t outlive my money.”

I drove us home and accepted there was only one thing left to do: Make a pie.

And because it was Grandpa’s pie, I did NOT cry. I DO NOT CRY INTO PIE, because tears ruin the whole point of pie. Pie isn’t just a dessert. It’s a gesture. It’s a symbol. It’s a tradition. It’s the way one says, “I bring you my heart and best wishes, wrapped up in a dish of goodness. With every bite, feel the echoes of my love for you.” There is a reason we refer to the best of the best worlds as “pie heaven”.


Ah, Sara sleeps. Of all days, I would relive this one with my Grandparents OVER and OVER, if only I had a wish-granting machine.

I went to bed, settling into a wicked sleep. The stabbing pain wouldn’t subside. By daybreak, my phone was ringing with the news Grandpa was back in the hospital (his second trip in a week). Those heart hiccups just won’t stop their forward marching. The doctors let him know he’s not a candidate for anything other than morphine and blood pressure pills.

“You’ve got to move every, single day. Work in the yard, get on the treadmill. You’ve got to keep up with current events. Read. Yell at CNN once in a while. But don’t be a hothead like me. Do you have any idea how many nitros I’ve taken during Yankee games? Too many Shorty. Way, way too many.”

“Don’t be afraid to split a pair and double-down. Hitting 16 rarely pays off. You’ve got to work on your poker face, because you never know when you’re playing with a shark. Know your tells. I know you like to bet low and go slow, but Shorty, when the table is hot, PLAY the game. Win and cash out!”

I took the pie to the hospital, which wasn’t what I had planned for his pie, but it tastes the same in Cardiac Critical Care as it does in his kitchen. I also took Grandma’s Butterscotch cookies, which he inhaled before I even sat my purse down.

I got to watch him savor every bite of his tearless pie, and we had that moment together. Who doesn’t look at that last bite of dessert and carefully wish to savor its lingering flavor? Who doesn’t finish a wonderful meal with wonderful people, and hear their heart wish for a repeat?

I know I do, but my tears on this subject will have to wait, because for now, we’ll be having pie. I wish for you the same goodness of a tear-free pie, shared with people you love. And until we speak again, Godspeed this summer, my friends. Godspeed.

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Summer Fridays

June 5th, 2015 · Comments Off on Summer Fridays


When no one really wanted a fancy croissant breakfast sandwich (except Mommy). When no one could decide on a board game (except Mommy). When a board game was chosen, and no one could agree on playing pieces (except Mommy). When no one was too enthusiastic about folding laundry (including Mommy). Only one choice remains: turning Ball Jelly Jars into Pencil Holders.

Mommy knows, Mommy knows.

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May Is The New December

June 3rd, 2015 · 1 Comment



If you could paint the month of May, it would look like this.

All 3 girls awoke by 7:45, and started the day by screaming through a game of Connect 4, while attempting to sneak soda for breakfast. Yesterday started with their attempts at making waffles along with a cat throwing up all over the living room.

Summer has made its official entrance.

I thought, “Another day…no wisdom to share”. The past month has been so full to overflowing, I haven’t found a second for reflection. Every day, I open up the to-do list, and desperately look for time to feed people.


Auntie Amanda is officially, “Mrs. Auntie Amanda”!

It was a great month, but in a rock-concert-that-wouldn’t-end kind of way. A new friend at Bible Study remarked, “May is the new December”. Oh, how I identified with those words: After collecting the research books for the final projects, and then returning the books, I only found more books hidden under beds to return…which was fine because I had to make 2 different trips to the shoe store to undo the snafu with the flower girl shoes, and that was on the way to the library and the dress-makers, where 1 of 3 dresses was ready to go. Find an ATM, because they only take cash! You passed a grocery store! STOP! Find DINNER! Do lunges into the check out line, hoping to fit into the dress for the wedding…


I darkened my skin, but whitened my teeth. I grew out my hair, but waxed any hair not on my head. If it stood still, it was probably painted. Between the 3 women in this picture, we used over 70 bobby pins. And yes, I’m sucking it in…BIG TIME.

Did I remember to donate to the end of year teacher gifts? Did I remember to pay for Sara’s Girl Scout Dude Ranch Trip? Did I get the camping supply list from Greg so I can spend Sara’s entire college fund at Costco? Did I use my Kohl’s cash to get a dress for the rehearsal dinner? Run Sara her Ukelele, as it was my fault she forgot it (no moving an ADHD’s stuff after she carefully lines it up the night before). Run Kelly back a bag to school she asked me to grab on the way out the door, and I forgot. I remembered the frame for Sara’s teacher’s gift! And then I broke it. On the way to deliver it.


Goomommy is designing my flowers for all of my future weddings. I’m married to her son, so is that a conflict of interest…???

Mother-Daughter Tea at the world’s most quaint barn. Mother’s Day Spa Trip with my girlfriends. Organize the going away Champagne Toast for a friend I will miss dearly. Host a prospective parents coffee at school. Help with the Retirement Reception. Volunteer at the Pancake Breakfast at church. Collect art from the school hallways so I can make greeting cards for Grandparent’s Day in the Fall. While I’m there, help take down the art for the entire school. All good and wonderful things…an amazing and blessed life…one I’ve carefully designed and chosen.


This barn was as Pin-interesting on the inside as the outside. I want a party barn. Strike that. I want a party barn if it comes with cleaning gnomes. This one was so spotless, I’m sure magical elves were involved.

Even in my contentment, there are seasons that simply become a runaway train. I was sure if I could find 5 minutes alone, I would find the words. I would find the wisdom to tell you it’s OK to fall into madness and wash away in the tides of May. Of course, if I could find 5 minutes, I should probably take a shower. Speaking of soap, when DID I last wash my hair…?


Always do Retirement Receptions 2 days AFTER Mother’s Day. It stretches a PTA Budgets to new and exciting places.

Maybe I could tell you there is value in staying focused in the moment. I’ve had very little time to worry about any single thing. Girls don’t want to wear hosiery with their dresses? WHATEVER! No hose! Cheese plate I ordered for an event is half the size I planned? Give me more bread! I can feed 15 with this tiny plate of cheese! Jesus did it , ERGO, stretching out a cheese plate is BIBLICAL.


After hosting a party at Cake Bake Shop, I have only one thought: when I can throw another party at Cake Bake Shop?

It felt good to stretch my skills (literally?) and contribute to the world around me. It felt good to collect so many gorgeous memories I could share with you. It felt good to welcome summer with open arms, even if those open arms looked more like flapping wings, dropping centerpieces, screaming, “WE HAVE TO STOP FOR COFFEE NOW!!!” I was full of love this month, but not always full of gracefulness. I kept a relative calm, even if Sara woke me up yesterday, looked at my face and remarked, “Is the skin below your eyes supposed to be black? You look kind of bad Mommy.”


It didn’t clean itself, but I recruited a couple of adorable gnomes to help me. We survived it…barely.

“Honey, I didn’t get back from the hospital until midnight. Papa Bump had another heart attack. He’s doing really well, and he’s pink and chatting away, but I think it’s time we come to terms with what little time we have.”

So while May played out exactly as I planned, and while I had planned for June to be spent lounging in the shade by the pool, telling you all nutty seasons come to an end, it seems God may have other plans.

Hopefully, there will be more late night bedside chats with my Grandfather, who promises “no more fried fish”, as this would be his SECOND heart attack brought on by his fish recipe. Then again, if I make it to 89 after having countless heart attacks and bypasses, God knows I’m eating all the fried food I want.


That’s it. That’s what I want to tell you: when life hands you rose champagne with a hibiscus flower floating in it (who invents this stuff?!)…drink it up. Savor it with friends and family. Say yes to the good stuff: to the trips, the memory-making with girlfriends, the over-the-top-ed-ness a wedding brings. Say yes to the open houses, the teas, the school carnivals, and the gals who would love a friend to break bread with them and lend an ear. I’m only going around once, so I don’t want to miss the outdoor movies, the birthday parties, and the chance to tell a retiring teacher she changed my story. Unfolded laundry can wait. A friend who needs a ride to a doctor’s appointment cannot, because that’s the good stuff too. I’m not skipping the fried fish. Apparently I have the DNA to survive it. In fact, in my family, heart attacks only make us stronger (he hasn’t looked this good in years!)


And, if on your journey, life hands you a champagne flute with a monogrammed light up ice cube…drink 2 of them, because you’re unlikely to get that chance again.

Godspeed, my friends. I pray overwhelming goodness is meeting you on your summer journey as well.


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Christmas Card Photo, Draft #1

May 17th, 2015 · Comments Off on Christmas Card Photo, Draft #1


Oh my gosh! We got it months early! We’re all clean, looking at the camera, and the Washington Monument is perfectly placed in the background. This is just winning. The camera bag is hiding my pooch, and for some bizarre reason, I’m even wearing lipstick.


wait…OH. Hold the phones.

crap waffles……………


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