Last week, I broke my promise to meet you here every Wednesday. It was for good cause, as it’s been a hectic and thoroughly enjoyable two weeks. We finished demolition on the first floor of the cottage, attended two joyful weddings, and I got to eat my first “Pork Chop Patty” during Grandparent’s Day lunch with my two favorite boys, Butt Chin McGillacuddy and Dimples McGoo.
They are getting ready to turn eight and four, respectively, and I’m woefully unprepared for it. I thought my welling up at school was because of the cafeteria’s, um, interesting food (?) selections for the event, but it was actually an acknowledgement that the boys are growing up too fast and there’s not a thing I can do to slow it down. I love them with my whole heart.
Who knew mashed potatoes and the gravy are the same color in elementary school cafeterias?
I need to get moving on the house, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss momentous occasions involving any one of my four sweethearts and mystery meat, or ceremonies as sweet, casual, heartwarming as the two outdoor events I attended over the last week.
Don’t you love invitations that state, “Wear comfortable shoes?” I sure do.
Wedding No. 1 had a strong sense of whimsy and was a delight to photograph::
Wedding No. 2 was on a beautiful farm in BFE and, with very good reason, featured equal amounts of happiness and tears.
Two quick questions: 1) Do you follow me on Instagram? 2) Why not?
I don’t ramble as much there as I do here.
Back to our regularly scheduled story…
A quick recap and update on where we stand with our little project::
I needed some advice—I expected to pay for it—on how to make the most of our tight little lot, confirm my ideas were feasible and headed in the right direction, and to make sure I hadn’t overlooked any details.
I called a couple of experts and my requests for an advisory consult were quickly rejected. It seems I’m the client architects and engineers fear. I actually had someone tell me,
No contractors will want to work with you, because you’re doing the design and demolition work yourself. It sends up a red flag.
As a designer, I understand Red Flag situations (they are everywhere), but I was surprised to have someone in the industry shoot me down like that. I wasn’t looking to steal anyone’s ideas or throw anyone off the gravy train, I wanted someone to bounce options around with.
I paid good money for my education and the decision to draw up the plans and do demo myself wasn’t made lightly. We were only allowed in the house two or three times before closing and I needed to get to know it better before choosing to forge ahead or put it back on the market.
It seems the Universe wants me to figure it out myself, stop feeling insecure about my design plan, and rightly claim it as my own, but just like everyone else, I’m scared of making
misteaks mistakes too.
I can handle what’s to come in the house, but when defining property lines and moving a driveway, a girl needs a topographical map and boundary survey. Nashville’s building boom has everyone booked weeks–months!–in advance, so after yelling at said Universe it magically responded with the name and number of a company willing and able to return my phone calls and, most importantly, produce drawings of the lot within the next two weeks.
If manifesting really works, I totally aced it.
While we wait…
A reminder of the tiny, tiny kitchen, as it was when we bought it::
Don’t let the oven door hit you where the good Lord split you!
A look back at the progress a few weekends ago::
A reminder of how much mess we made before the first dumpster arrived::
And–finally!–what it looks like now::
I have a habit of making looooong running jokes. (It’s possible this annoys my family greatly.) During this project, it’s been a joke regarding the previous owner forgetting about a post-depression cash stash somewhere in the house.
When it came time to demolish the last bit of ceiling on the main floor, in an attempt to manifest some destiny, I sent out one last shout to the Universe and requested a forgotten bag o’cash fall from above.
Right. No such luck.
My son was working with me that day and with the first swing of his hammer, a huge clump of plaster and insulation fell to the floor with a thud. We try to clean as we go, in order to keep the job site as safe as possible and, when I bent down to pick the clump, came away with a No. 2 pencil and another section of The Tennessean.
Unfolding the paper brought our work to an immediate halt.
Dated March 4, 1945, it served as a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same::
I asked my son to grab a camera, so we could document what we’d found. As he took the photos, the paper began to disintegrate in his hands. Disappointed that we were unable to save it, we were grateful to spend a few minutes reading it before it fell apart.
You see, the most moving thing I’ve ever witnessed, outside of being present at a few births and deaths, came during a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. The museum had only been open for a few months when we found ourselves in the Capitol for business mixed with family time.
Always looking to add in a little culture and education when we travel, our three children were in their early teens at the time. I can’t recall if their faces showed disappointment when we announced the day’s itinerary, but do remember the feelings we all shared at the end of the day.
There are many jaw-dropping moments in the museum:: The room of nothing but shoes worn by the victims of a concentration camp; the chance to sit in an actual train car and imagine walking in those shoes, the towering space filled floor to ceiling with photos of the faces from an entire town exterminated by the Nazis…the list goes on.
A defining moment for our crew came when we stood together, reading the list of things that qualified a person for internment or extermination camps.
A little back story:: I was raised in the Baptist church; my husband and children in the Catholic faith. My father-in-law was the son of Latvian Jews, Orthodox in their rituals and lifestyle. They kept a kosher home, and dressed and behaved according to the laws of their religion. My husband’s father was disowned by his parents when he married my sweet, staunchly Roman Catholic mother-in-law at the age of 17. She refused to convert to Judaism and he to Catholicism. Abandoned by his family, he never abandoned his heritage. Embraced by my MIL’s huge Catholic family, he allowed their three children to be raised and educated in parochial schools.
We instinctively huddled closer together as the five of us read that horrible list…Jews, blacks, gays…and though we always knew my father-in-law would most assuredly be on it, the tears started to flow when the realization hit that my husband and children, descendants of Ashkenazi Jews–in their little button down shirts, plaid uniforms, and saddle shoes, with rosaries in hand–would also be loaded on to a train car and marched off to an unimaginable fate.
And. We. Cried.
Watching the news over the last few weeks and seeing how Syrian refugees are harassed and treated, reading about ethnic cleansing taking place all over the world, sends those feelings straight up to the surface and it makes me wonder why people who experience persecution are so quick to inflict it on others.
And. I. Cry.
It makes design feel like an inconsequential pursuit.
As we read the last of the legible articles in the paper that fell from above, it hit me that design led me to walk the very streets and stroll along the river bank my son and I were sitting on the cottage floor reading about::
And I realized how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, a place to call home, a bed to sleep in, food in the fridge, and an intact family with a full heart.
During Blog Tour Cologne with Modenus, our group walked and talked and shared our personal histories as we explored the world of European design. Our ethnic and religious backgrounds were of no consequence, our shared love of design brought us together. The early morning service a few of us attended at the Dom, the only building left standing in Cologne at the end of the war, was magic.
The bag o’ money I asked for didn’t fall out from under the cottage floor boards, but something bigger manifested itself in my request to the Universe that day::
The reminder that life is precious, time is fleeting, memories are far too short, people are capable of both amazing and horrible things, and the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Gratefully, as I see it, there is more good than bad in the world and we owe it to each other and ourselves to be more understanding of people whose lives, cultures and religions we know very little about.
recovering perfectionist, if I make mistakes with this floor plan, if I fail to make it perfectly perfect, it’s really no big deal. But, if I neglect to acknowledge what is happening in the world, if I fail to share what I’ve seen or remain silent about it, especially after feeling my way through the Holocaust Museum…well, I couldn’t sleep at night, because the responsibility falls to each of us, as human beings, to speak out and stand up for each other.
Human:: n. A living, breathing, talking, and feeling species that keeps making the same mistakes over and over.
Hopefully, I’ll be feeling humorous and designery next week–you’ve seen the glory that is the upstairs “bathroom” –and next time we’ll take a look at the second floor’s curiosities. Let’s just say it involves some war era trousers, enough material for a rocking bonfire, and a quaint hideout for trolls.
Until then, be kind to yourself and your fellow human beings,