Can’t you smell that smell?

An interesting aspect of my new job is the surroundings I now find myself in.

In fact, that was a detail I was asked about, casually but with poorly-hidden concern, when I interviewed. The staff member who showed me around that day was familiar with the place I was leaving and knew how it compared to this place.

My prior 13 years in church ministry took place in an immaculate building in the upscale suburbs. I’d recently moved into a state-of-the-art, beautifully decorated new office just down the hall from a bright and attractive new cafe area.

Now I drive to a ninety-year-old ex-firehouse every day. The scarred paint on the walls ranges from dirty white to an off-yellow shade to a grubby grey. The upstairs floor (where my new office is) sort of waves up and down so you have to walk carefully if you want to keep your balance. Ten people or more share a one-hole bathroom. (Actually, two holes – a toilet AND a urinal in the same room. The luxury of choice.) Years of accumulated grime on most surfaces.

What my tour guide on that interview day didn’t know, though, was that I was actually thrilled to leave the pristine trappings of privilege and get out into the real world. The gleaming affluence I’d been surrounded by for so long was wearing on my nerves, as well as my conscience.

A couple of weeks after my tour, I moved in and started creating a cozy little nest for myself here in the firehouse. It’s become a gathering place for friends on staff to hang out, have lunch, or just spend a minute visiting.


Yup, that’s the fire pole.


An extra desk for the volunteer who comes in one morning a month to enter data. And what looks like a closet door is actually hiding the 20-foot shaft where the firefighters used to hang their hoses to dry.


Just below the left window: My solution to The Smells.

I love my new digs.

But there are Smells.

Not every day, mind you, but often.  Today, for example, we have a killer melange of stale cigarette smoke, overpoweringly strong men’s cologne, a touch of weed, and poo stench wafting from that communal staff restroom. This disturbing aroma originates from both volunteers and clients. How it manages to hover in the hallway outside my office door and waft into my office, I have no idea.

I’ve battled the worn-out visual enviroment with friendly decorating touches. And I fight The Smells with a plug-in wax melter and scented cubes. Pumpkin pie in the fall. Douglas fir for Christmas. Orange spice, currently.

I’m making the most of my home-away-from home.





Top ten tips for surviving the last few days before this #^$% election.

If you’re anything like me, a) I feel really bad for you and b) you’re struggling with serious pre-election stress.

Here’s how I’ve been trying to deal with the incredible angst I suspect we’re all feeling about now, with on a few days to go before we know the fate of the American experiment:

10. Plan for comfort food for election night. We’re having macaroni and cheese with baked apples on the side for dinner. And I’ll be baking a yet-to-be-determined sinfully rich dessert to get us through reports on the returns.

9. Focus on people you love. Last week we travelled six hours round trip to see our son conduct his first piece in public. Joy, joy, joy!

Giving a subtle and super-funny introduction of the song he conducted, “Rhythms of My Heart,” which is a raucous and satirical piece celebrating middle school romance.

Full-body singing and conducting. They brought the house down.

8. Continue with a long-desired living room redecorating project. This was stage two, in which we cleared out years’ worth of old stuff (including our beloved copy of the newspaper supplement from the day after Barack Obama was elected in 2008), consolidated into one new armoir, and rearranged the furniture.

Middle Sister is a pro at furniture construction.

7. Vote early so you can breathe a (tiny) sigh of relief.

6. Keep so busy you don’t have time to think about the possible impending doom. Just over this weekend we had this:

Singing in a fundraiser concert at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

5. And this:

Back to the Kauffman for “The Marriage of Figaro,” Middle Sister’s birthday president.

4. And this, later this afternoon: An All Saint’s Day performance of Faure’s Requiem at a local church.

3. Naps. Lots of naps.

2. Book the out-of-town-dwelling children for an election night FaceTime session. Just in case Tuesday night is the end of the world as we know it, I want one last look at their faces. Seriously, though, I want to share this momentous experience with my favorite people and fellow political junkies.

1. Join the secret FB group “Pantsuit Nation.” It’s given me great joy and immense relief this week to share my support of Hillary Clinton in a safe space where we can’t be cussed at, put down, or dismissed as “feminazis.”

However you’re riding out this storm, I wish you the best of luck!

Escapism through decorating.

It’s a strange fact of my adult life that many of my decorating “fits” coincide with the bi-annual Large Item Pickup sponsored by our city.

Ever since we received the notice in August that October 15th would be the date of this year’s pickup, the plans have been churning in my head.

Good-bye to the 12-year-old sleeper sofa that had faded from striking red to an ugly pinkish hue.

After a Friday afternoon at Ikea with The Husband – without any arguing or snark! – we returned with boxes of new furniture.

Note: A box full of couch is not particularly comfortable seating.

The Boy came home for Fall break and assisted in building and spray painting to my specifications.

It took four cans of black Krylon, some sanding, and one can of clear matte, and the end result on the coffee table is perfect. The Boy is a master spray painter.

The final result: One weekend of much-needed distraction from political ugliness, and one satisfyingly updated living room.



It was an awesome morning at our local farmer’s market! Today’s haul:

  • A “new” chair for our dining room table. One more step in my march toward all mis-matched chairs. Right now we have this beauty, two of the original chairs, updated with black paint, a red one that was a great vintage store find several years ago, and a white one appropriated from Middle Sister’s bedroom (her idea).
  • A loaf of San Francisco sourdough from the bread tent where The Boy has worked for several years, and where every member of the family has worked at one time or another. This loaf accidentally hit the dirt and therefore was ineligible for sale today. If I didn’t have complete confidence in our son’s ethics, I’d suspect a conspiracy.
  • Two cheerful pots of impatiens for the front porch. Our current decorative planters are on their last legs due to the recent heat wave. In a funny move of desperation, one of those old planters sprouted a new purple petunia while we were at the market. Ok, I’ll give that one another chance.
  • A painted iron vent grate. Quirky, fun, and pointless. And it looks awesome against the red wall in the living room. A note to my friend April at Mom of Three is Nuts: I asked myself the important question: “Will I be sad if I DON’T take this item home?” My answer was no until I walked away from it, and then I realized the answer was a definite “Yes.”

Banner day!

Bedroom redecoration Days 2 and 3: Mistakes were made.

It was a mammoth task, but we’ve got the bedroom project nearly complete, after a full weekend of thinking of nothing else. It was a triumph of persevering in the face of adversity:

I miscalculated on the paint color. I would have preferred a much darker grey, and until we got all the darker grey items into in the room, the color we used really argued with the turquoise cart and bedside tables. The finished product is not quite perfect, but I do like it.



In spite of measuring, measuring, estimating, and more measuring, most of the pieces did NOT fit where I had intended to put them. And the chair we’ve had in our room for several years turned out to be way too big to fit anywhere. Not to mention the fact that we had planned to recover that large chair, but that turned out to be too much for our limited skills. Luckily there was a perfect chair in The Boy’s room from when I redecorated in there a couple of years ago. He generously agreed to a trade. Long story short,  we had about an hour of moving furniture in and out, trying to get the perfect configuration.


The biggest mistake was the accidental purchase of 1/2 of an IKEA 6-drawer dresser and 1/2 of an IKEA three-drawer chest. An emergency IKEA run in the middle of the project to exchange the three-drawer half didn’t make anyone happy on Saturday, but we plowed through it and made it work.



Installing power strips on the wall, on both sides of the bed. Love it!

There are still a few finishing touches to work out – wall art, pillow shams, robe hooks, cord covers. But we’ve turned a grubby, dated room into a warm, cozy haven in just three days.



Old year/new year 

Generally I’m not given to a lot of reflecting on the old year and resolving for the new – which is a bit odd, considering I’m so ridiculously addicted to navel gazing introspection. (HAHA! That’s the first time I’ve ever used the strike-through feature. Pretty fun!)

But I am having a few Thoughts here and there this week. And being an exhibitionist blogger (HA! I did it again!), I feel compelled to share a few of those Thoughts.


1. It’s time for a bedroom makeover. After The Boy’s wildly successful bathroom remodel last summer, I had the brilliant idea that his Christmas gift to me (penniless college student that he is) could be doing the hard work part of the bedroom re-do. This Raskog (sorry, don’t know how to make the little circle appear above the “a” in Raskog) cart is the beginning. Today we’re headed to IKEA for the rest of the new furniture, curtains, and lighting. The boy will do the assembly and installation, and next week I’ll paint the walls. New year, new look, new bedroom retreat. Stay tuned for photos…



2. You’ve heard the saying “You can’t choose your family?” That one’s been particularly apt for me this holiday. There are a few family members who have caused me so much pain and and emotional distress that I’ve had to make some extremely difficult decisions that ended in cutting some ties, causing a lot of pretty serious stress. And so, the people I keep close to in our family are doubly precious to me. And we’ve defied the “can’t choose your family” dictum by spending a silly, laughter-filled early New Year with friends who have been a cornerstone in our lives for 25 years. We parents were all pregnant together for several years. The kids have known each other and created mayhem together since they were born. Last night when one of our old friends asked me how our Christmas was, I was able to speak the truth about the troubling family stuff, and received words of support and wisdom. Now THAT’S comfort and joy. 

Tonight our little family has our annual fine cheese party / “Lawrence of Arabia” viewing to ring in the new year. This year The Boy’s long-term (and seemingly quite serious) girlfriend is with us for the extravaganza, and I’m happy to welcome her into our weirdness. 

Wishing you and those you love real comfort and joy as we start on the adventure of 2016!

Focusing on Fall. 

After being squeezed through the emotional wringer yesterday (and for those of you following the continuing saga, we made progress with my dad but it was very awkward and uncomfortable, and I expect toxic fallout) today I vow to forget yesterday’s trials and intentionally enjoy the appearance of my favorite season. Hurray for normal life!

Day after tomorrow comes an event always marked in giant red letters and lots of exclamation points on our home calendar: the town Fall Festival. A community parade, huge arts and crafts show, food vendors, farmer’s market, live music. Happy, fun, and NORMAL. My mom is coming into town, and together with Middle we’ll make a glorious day of it. Poor Husband has to take his aging mother to her 749th high school reunion in the southeast corner of the state, though, and we’ll miss his company.

In honor of the season and the upcoming festival, Middle and I did a little decorating.


We’re especially pleased with this one, as it used some old items we had stored away, as well as some of the mason jars we gave Pinterest-loving Middle for her birthday.

Let the season (and the emotional recovery) begin!

The latest handiwork

We’ve been a productive, creative bunch around here recently.
I’ve been knitting like crazy, creating summer-weight scarves with a turkish stitch. My favorite so far:


LOVE these colors.

A couple of weeks ago, Middle Sister bought some houndstooth fabric and created a beautiful and functional journal for her also-an-Engilsh-major boyfriend. She had quite a bit of fabric leftover, so yesterday she made this lovely decorative sofa pillow:

I used to do this sort of project all the time, but figuring out all the details of seam allowance, inside-out-ness, etc. makes me cry. So glad she did the hard work on this one instead of me.

The Boy put his creativity to work in a different direction, the bathroom reno project. He spent much of yesterday tracing down wiring and creating these schematics to bring all the electrics downstairs into the 21st century:


This kind of stuff makes me cry, too. I literally skpped school the day we had our exam over circuitry in my high school physics class. I was that bad at it.

It’s raining out so no photos of this one, but The Husband brought out his skills to effect a minor repair on my car’s exhaust AND take the stereo apart to fix the auxilliary jack so that I can listen to music from my phone while tooling around the suburbs. Joy!

And now, back to knitting – there’s another scarf to finish!  

When you give a mom a new bread box…

Friday night, on a whim, I searched Amazon with the words “vintage bread box.”

The old bread box we’d had on the kitchen counter for more years than I can remember was truly an eyesore. And by the miracle of Amazon Prime, its replacement was on our doorstep when I got home from church yesterday morning!



This little beauty (which I think has an air of “Call the Midwife” to it) has a a much more efficient design than its predecessor, and I absolutely love it. But as soon as I put it on the counter, it got Middle Sister and me thinking about rearranging…

What if we…”

“Well, we can’t do that right now, so what if instead we…”

Half an hour and a ton of moving and wiping up of nasty dust bunnies and grungy spots later, the new breadbox had led to a new look in the dining room:

IKEA cart just moved to the other side of the doorway - brilliant!

IKEA cart just moved to the other side of the doorway – brilliant!

Dining table turned 90 degrees, bench moved to family room, red chair placed at the end of the table for a little extra POP.

Dining table turned 90 degrees, bench moved to family room, red chair placed at the end of the table for a little extra POP.

A whole new look, all because of a breadbox. 🙂

How to “celebrate” yet another goodbye.

1. Get up early to make waffles and berry syrup for the departing son.

2. Be surprised when you have to choke back the tears as he leaves for another semester of college.

3. Do really crappy chores like paying bills and vacuuming the car. The day’s rotten already, so why not go all the way?

4. Cheer yourself up with one final-touch project on the main floor: new decor over the doorways and next to the stairs.