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Since you’ve been asking …

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High-gloss mahogany, milled and finished by my talented husband, meets soapstone in the upstairs kitchen breakfast nook.

… no, we haven’t moved upstairs, nor is it finished. The kitchen is close, as you’ll see, but the third-floor bedroom and bath – well, they won’t take long either, once we get back to them. But today’s about the kitchen

We keep getting sidetracked – as in rehabbing other buildings, raising baby birds, working on other projects, taking care of Mother (who broke her hip in February but is fine now), helping with the grandkids, resisting Trump – and sidelined (mostly me) by injuries and surgery. I’m officially released this month for light regular activity after my back surgery in October.

But things really are coming together, kitchen-wise and it is fab.

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Master craftsman and sweetheart of mine John explains about the drawers will fit. Yes, that’s maple with dovetail joints – but the drawer front he’ll attach we’ll paint high-gloss white like the cabinets.

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John’s been in heavy drawer-production mode for a few days.

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Another view of the galley kitchen. The color’s a little off in this one, but you get the picture. The top cabinets will have glass doors.

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Love this view. We’ll be using that stove someday soon.

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Something to talk about

In April, Mother and I headed off to Italy – Florence and Venice – for her dream 80th birthday trip. What a time we had!

In April, Mother and I headed off to Italy – Florence and Venice – for her dream 80th birthday trip. What a time we had!

The last time I shut The Lolly Diaries, I locked the key, put it under the bed and thought it was time to move on. But since we still have something to talk about, lots of things, I pulled it out, dusted it off, made several changes and decided to carry on.

I’ll address the changes in a sec, but first let me say happy birthday to Bonnie Raitt, who turned 65 today and whose Silver Lining album (from which “Something to Talk About” hails) was playing in the background as John and I grew to love each other.

It’s been a big birthday year and a year of major changes, some good, some awful. Such is life, no?

Anyway, if you’ve followed this blog a while, you might notice the tagline has changed, along with a few other things – of course my five grandchildren are still the lights of my life, but since they’re not old enough to give informed consent to being all over the internet (well, you know what I mean), they won’t be as big a focus in the continuing form of TLD. Some posts are now down and many, many photos have disappeared.

Not every post will have a song link, and I’ve got some other not-ready-for-prime-time writing that’s taking up chunks of my time, so posts might be much shorter and more infrequent. We’ll see how things pan out.

This entry, though, will be a quick catch-up, in photo album form.

Sweet John dropped us off at the airport on his 64th birthday. He was so excited we got to go.

Sweet John dropped us off at the airport on his 64th birthday. He was so excited we got to go.

Mother was such a trouper and good traveler – you'd never know it was her first transcontinental trip or that she was almost 80.

Mother was such a trouper and good traveler – you’d never have known it was her first transcontinental trip or that she was almost 80. This was the day we arrived in Florence. Just a little rest and off we went!

A friendly couple wanted to take our picture at Palazzo Pitti in Florence.

A friendly couple wanted to take our picture at Palazzo Pitti in Florence.

Mother said she drank more wine on our trip than she had in her whole life (a bit of an exaggeration), but when in Italy, right?

Mother said she drank more wine on our trip than she had in her whole life (a bit of an exaggeration), but when in Italy, right?

In May, our Tessie turned 10! She still loves to cool off in the fountain at the Clinton Library on hot days.

In May, our Tessie turned 10! She still loves to cool off in the fountain at the Clinton Library on hot days.

Hard to believe this is the face of 80, but Mother couldn't have been more happy to have her family around for her birthday party.

Hard to believe this is the face of 80, but Mother couldn’t have been happier to have her family around for her birthday party.

See?

See?

And here are the Cartwright girls on our mother's birthday. We are not twins, nor did we plan to dress alike.

And here are the Cartwright girls on our mother’s birthday. We are not twins, nor did we plan to dress alike.

We've had another dash of progress in our big old house ...

We’ve had another dash of progress in our big old house …

... but we're not there yet. We did have our first party upstairs that included actual walls and real furniture.

… but we’re not there yet. We did have our first party upstairs that included actual walls and real furniture.

In September, I turned 60 – Mother made me a spice cake with penuche frosting, always my fave of her cakes. I bought vegan cupcakes for Silas this time, though Liz and I continue to work on recipes the little guy can enjoy.

In September, I turned 60 – Mother made me a spice cake with penuche frosting, always my fave of her cakes. I bought vegan cupcakes for Silas this time, though Liz and I continue to work on recipes the little guy can enjoy.

My darling Pam, who turned 60 in June (John and I went to Heber for hers), joined us at Mother's for my celebration. We're happy as heck about being older gals.

My darling Pam, who turned 60 in June (John and I went to Heber for her birthday), joined us at Mother’s for my celebration. We’re happy as heck about being older gals – and still being joined at the heart.

Later in September was my trip to Miami (my real 60th birthday present, along with this new lightweight MacBook Pro from John) for three days of Climate Reality Leadership training (much more on that to come later). One of the perks was witnessing the lunar eclipse on Miami Bay.

Later in September was my trip to Miami (my real 60th birthday present, along with this new lightweight MacBook Pro from John) for three days of Climate Reality Leadership training (much more on that to come later). One of the perks was witnessing the lunar eclipse on Miami Bay.

We’ll end this photo album catch-up episode with Zuzu’s fifth birthday in October. Both are girls are hale and hearty, which makes us very happy.

Birthday girl Zuzu is quite serious about photos, but Tess can't help but smile if she sees a camera pointed her way.

Birthday girl Zuzu is quite serious about photos, but Tess can’t help but smile if she sees a camera pointed her way.

All those years ago

The 42nd President of the United States announces that the Razorbacks have defeated LSU! Woo pig!

The 42nd President of the United States announces that the Razorbacks have defeated LSU! Woo pig!

Last Saturday found my young friend Wiggy and I among hundreds – thousands? I didn’t inherit Daddy’s estimator proclivity – in the fanciest tent you ever saw celebrating and feeling the joy of all those years ago when the Clinton Library opened.

That day in 2004 was unforgettable for the torrential rain, among other things.

But more than that, I was celebrating the Clinton presidency years and hope. And young people who care.

Missing the Arkansas/LSU game was a hard call. I knew in my heart and bones that the Hogs were going to win – I wanted to be part of the 10-year celebration but I was torn. The rest of my family went Razorbacks. But when I learned Wiggy (Elizabeth is her given name) was eager to attend, I knew we had to go.

I’d gotten tickets the first day they were available, after all.

What a good decision. We had a great time.

Kevin Spacey did his Bill Clinton impression a couple of times. He's one of my favorite actors.

Kevin Spacey did his Bill Clinton impression a couple of times. He’s one of my favorite actors.

People assumed we were mother and daughter. I’m 41+ years older than her – which, in my family could make me her grandmother.

My beautiful young friend. People around us thought we were mother and daughter. We didn't try to explain.

My beautiful young friend. The people behind us thought we were mother and daughter and said this was the “best picture ever.” We didn’t try to explain.

 

And we got to hear the king of Arkansas announce that the Razorbacks had decisively ended their longest SEC losing streak ever.

And see Hillary calling the Hogs along with the crowd while Bill bro-hugged Kevin Spacey (be still my heart) in celebration.

Hillary Clinton calls the Hogs with the crowd.

Hillary Clinton calls the Hogs with the crowd.

I also got to sit across the aisle from my dear old friend Gary Bunn, whom I taught with at NLRHS but haven’t seen, outside of Facebook, for years. What a treat that was!

So let me explain this relationship – Wiggy is Julia’s youngest daughter. She’s smart and witty and wry. A sponge for knowledge and culture. She even enjoys it when her mom, my sister and I nerd out for musicals – we’ve been introducing her to the greats one at at time on Sunday evenings. And we’re going to expand our list to include just basic need-to-see-to-intelligently-exist movies interspersed with musicals (The Usual Suspects and Twelve Monkeys are on that list).

We’ll also do Audrey Hepburn movies – and other classic greats.

So far we’ve watched The Sound of Music, Camelot, Oklahoma, South Pacific, My Fair Lady and The Music Man. This Sunday is Chicago – with Marie-Noelle, who arrives tonight for Thanksgiving. Hooray! And my Liz, who pops in from time to time.

Wiggy has enjoyed them all and we love having her young perspective. She gives us hope for the future.

Here’s to you, my huckleberry friend.

L&W

That’s a Breakfast at Tiffany’s reference, Wiggy. We’ll watch it before long.

 

 

Get together

Seeing our homeboy President Bill Clinton never gets old.

Seeing homeboy President Bill Clinton never gets old. Behind him are Senator Mark Pryor and former congressman and gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross.

This political season is one of the ugliest yet. With so much at stake, we really need to get together and get our priorities straight.

But first, let me apologize for the video linked to the title of this piece. The song is great, but the video’s out of sync. Listen, but don’t watch – it’ll make you nuts. Why didn’t I chose a better version, you might ask? Why, that would be because every other one I tried forced you to sit through a vicious political attack ad.

Disgusting.

Better to go with out of sync in video than to share an ad from someone as out of sync as the politicians who would take away basic human rights to give more money to already insanely wealthy campaign donors and oil or stock barons. If by internet voodoo one has appeared anyway, forgive me, please.

This is really intended to be a pleasant post about how great certain elements of the last week were. Like getting to hear Rebecca Darwin, founder and publisher of Garden & Gun magazine, speak at The Clinton School of Public Service. The fabulous lecture series is one of the many benefits of living in Little Rock.

Rebecca Darwin, of "Garden & Gun" magazine discusses "The Southerner's Handbook."

Rebecca Darwin of “Garden & Gun” magazine discusses “The Southerner’s Handbook.”

What was really nice was hearing how the regional magazine, which is often called “the Southern New Yorker,” is so popular in other parts of the country. That’s a nice coming together of people. Speaking of coming together, the place was packed, especially for a workday noon talk.

Former North Little Rock mayor, now congressional candidate Pat Hayes, speaks at the "You Vote, We Win" rally. Flanking him are gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross and former President Bill Clinton.

Former North Little Rock mayor, now congressional candidate Pat Hayes, speaks at the “You Vote, We Win” rally. Flanking him are gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross and former President Bill Clinton.

But not as packed as Argenta, in downtown North Little Rock, on Sunday. What a happy, upbeat, hopeful day. Bill Clinton never fails to inspire (even those of you of a different persuasion have to admit the man is eloquent and brilliant), and the weather was perfect, the crowd polite.

Seeing history made once again outside the store where students of my era and before had to buy our textbooks from seventh grade through graduation was fun. The fact that so many people are shocked to learn books weren’t always furnished serves as a reminder of what can be done when people get together in harmony.

I was proud and happy to see to my friend – from those old textbook-buying days – State Rep. Patti Roberts Julian speak. Prouder and happier to see my kids/kids-in-law and all the grands there. I’m so happy to have children who are engaged, politically minded and willing to make the effort to herd toddlers in a large crowd.

This is a huge election in Arkansas. For two days, I’ve been hearing a paraphrase of Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee in All the President’s Men in my head:

Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country.

Substitute the Affordable Care Act, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid for the first two items, and you get my drift.

(And, in a sad twist of fate, I just read that Ben Bradlee has died at 93. One of my idols has fallen, though he’d been ill for a long time. Truly the end of an era. Rest in peace, Mr. Bradlee. You were one of the lions.)

That future is why John and I early voted yesterday. And why I’ve been encouraging everyone to vote and vote early.

The future does hinge on this election. I feel like compassion will win out over greed. But you’ve got to make sure it does.

Smile on your brother and vote your heart.

Please.

Vote

 

Rhyme and reason

Busy-ness has kept The Lolly Diaries on the back burner for  a couple of weeks. I could pick back up with more from our trip to New York or the People’s Climate March itself, but instead I want to talk about rhyme and reason.

Much of what goes on in this crazy and volatile world I am helpless to understand, much less explain.

Beheadings? In the 21st century? Staggering. Heartbreakingly staggering. Religion run amok, of any persuasion, has historically caused great cruelty, but shouldn’t the world be past that by now?

The climate mess we’ve gotten ourselves into? Seems obvious we’ve passed the tipping point, but I remain hopeful we can slow down the pace of the tipping.

The reason we let it get to that point?

Greed. Ignorance, too, some of it willful, but greed over green has been the biggest problem in recent years. Living for the now with no care for the future of the earth and all its peoples doesn’t help, but neither does big money and people like the Koch brothers and their boy in Arkansas, Tom Cotton.

But we do what we can, raise a little hell about issues when we can and try to remain sane in a scary world. Everyone has to find his rhyme and reason to persevere.

Otherwise, giving up and giving in would be all too easy.

My primary R&R are my five little ones.

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The other day, out of the blue around dinner time, Jude asked quite seriously what happened to Grandpa Bill. I explained, in fairly technical detail, and his curiosity was satisfied. He was sad, but he’s also sad that he never met my real dad – which he also mentioned. Kids know more than we give them credit for many times.

We watched Mary Poppins with Jude last night. I caught myself off guard by crying during Jane and Michaels’ first song – that movie is so tied to my parents, who took Cathy and me to see it downtown 50  years ago. I played the kid’s version of the songs on the piano, and Daddy played the adult versions. He and Mother loved musicals.

Mr. Banks reminded me of Daddy, spending so much time at work and regretting it later. Sigh. Nostalgia rolled into grief makes the tears flow. We had the lights out, but the last time I teared up (there were a few), Jude did notice – “Hey, your eyes are watering,” is how he questioningly put it.

Speaking of movies, we just came in from Gone Girl. Very nicely done! I’d been waiting since reading the book sometime in 2013. I’d intended to talk some about books in this blog, but it had other ideas.

So that will have to wait. Maybe next time …

Who are you?

In a few weeks, my sister, brother-in-law, husband and I will be a bit more equipped to explain who we are – part of our quiet, at-home New Year’s Eve celebration was ordering our 23andMe personal genome kits, which promise to help you “discover your ancestral origins and lineage with a personalized analysis of your DNA.”

23andme

They arrived yesterday – I did mine today and will mail it in tomorrow.

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while – but here’s what led up to it actually happening.

Shortly before Christmas, I popped in to beautiful Curran Hall, a restored antebellum home that serves as Little Rock’s official visitor’s center, to check out our ESSE Purse Museum display and visit with my friend Shalah. The weather was horrid, cold and sleety, but Shalah and I had a lovely time, actually sitting in the  armchairs and talking like proper ladies.

Our conversation quickly turned to books – I told her about just finishing Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation, which Shalah now wants to read, and she told me about a book she’d read about assassinated president James Garfield. (I held out for a while but have ordered a used copy from a Goodwill.)

Turns out we’d both developed a very retroactive semi-crush on old Garfield, who was not only an obsessive reader himself, but an unabashed Jane Austen fan in the days of manly men and rough-riders. Go figure.

Anyway, as the conversation meandereed, Shalah told me a fascinating story about a group of people she’d seen a PBS show about, the Melungeons (“rhymes with dungeon,” she said) of Appalachia – “tri-racial isolates” (as in a mixture of white, black and Native American) who were pushed into the hills and not allowed to marry outside their race OR multi-racial people who preceded the settling of Jamestown and have possible Portuguese, Moorish or Turkish ancestry.

Some of them have six fingers on one or both hands and occasionally an extra toe.

I know this because I’ve developed a mild obsession with Melungeons and have spent too much time on Internet research – and read Lisa Alther’s interesting, informative and, at times, hysterical, account of her own quest to uncover her family’s Melungeon heritage.

Alther is a writer par exellence – she’s written many novels, but Kinfolks, her first nonfiction book, would be hard to beat. kinfolks

(I’ve also ordered a used copy of her first novel, Kinflicks, from a charitable organization – I try to do good while feeding my habit when I can. I’ll let  you know but expect it to be fab.)

You can find lots of books about Melungeons, but I highly recommend this one, if you’re interested.

I’d been telling my friend Julia, who has read Kinflicks, about Kinfolks – and cracking John up by laughing until I cried while reading it (an inherited trait I got mostly from Daddy, though Mother does it too).

By the way, obsessive research is an inherited trait in my family, too – both my kids got it, Liz probably worse than Ben, and I suspect, had he not died before the Internet came about, Daddy would have shared it as well. We also notice coincidences – I think that comes more from Mother.

Anyway, the coincidences that came up while I was reading the book are too many to list – as in having a conversation during the day and reading something about it that evening.

And discovering that “Black Dutch,” a phrase my kids’ paternal grandmother used in reference to her family is sometimes another term for Melungeon.

And reading that Elvis possibly had Melungeon blood – we’re definitely related to the King through the Tackett (Mother’s) side, and the Tacketts descended from an indentured servant from France who landed in Appalachia after working off his indenture.

I could go on and on but I’ll stop. Except for this: The Saturday after Christmas, as we were spending the evening with Julia and Rich, we discussed Melungeons and the likelihood that Cathy and I could be part Melungeon – and Rich told us he’d just gotten back his 23andMe results.

Rich is an extremely bright, technologically savvy guy (even if his results show he is 3 percent Neanderthal – kidding, because how cool is that??), and if he trusts the results, that’s good enough for me.

Mother always said we were “Heinz 57” on her side – too many backgrounds to know – or a “Duke’s Mixture.” Until today, I never knew what the second term meant, but turns out it was a cheap mix of tobacco scraps sold by, wait for it, an Appalachian farmer after the Civil War.

The hardest part about the test was mustering up enough spit to fill the test tube – nice Southern girls are taught not to spit, and it took me more than the five minutes the kit said it might take. Finally John suggested sniffing chocolate to get the juices flowing, and a dark chocolate truffle (which I promptly ate after hitting the spit fill line) did help a bit.

Now we mail our kits tomorrow (John’s doing his in the morning) and wait. That will actually be the hardest part. It always is.

I’ll let you know, of course.

If (a picture paints a thousand words)

If a picture paints a thousand words, then my iPhoto should be the longest story ever written. When you have grandkids (and dogs) as photogenic as mine, photos beg to be taken.

Even before digital days, when my children were little and we were poor as church mice, I took many, many photos of their cuteness. I got my first camera at 7 and it’s something I just can’t help.

But let me break away from the picture talk to confess  that I do not like that song by Bread; that song by Bread is one I dread. I’ve never liked that song at all; it fit the story, that is all.

Forgive the Seussian rhyme, but I’m transitioning briefly into an embarrassing but funny story about a Bread concert my senior year of high school.

My friends knew I abhorred the band Bread. Yuck. They were so – white bread. Sissified. Pop rock.

I loved The Allman Brothers. Eric Clapton. Santana. Led Zeppelin. CSNY. Howling Wolf. OK, and James Taylor and Carole King – but Bread. Stinkaroony.

The only reason I went to the concert was because my boyfriend did a brief stint in a fraternity, members of which worked concerts at Barton Coliseum – in exchange for free admission. Including sucky concerts like Bread.

We had to get there early, and the girlfriends were promptly parked on blankets on the cement floor in front of the stage. The guys joined us after the show started.

I don’t remember who opened, but I think I remember wearing a bright plaid button-up shirt and Levi’s. Evidently, it was bright enough to stand out, and evidently David Thomas picked a girl at every show to hit with the spotlight and sing “If” to.

Yep, yours truly. The song started, the spotlight expanded, and there we were, David Gates and I, encircled in light as he crooned in that annoying falsetto to me.

Holy shit. Everybody can see me. Maybe no one will notice. Acck – it would be rude to look away, so, fine sing to me.

Then he gave me their set list. People cheered.

The next day at school many, many people yelled in the hall, “Hey, I saw you last night!” Try explaining that you really don’t even like the band when you were seen sitting in the front row.

I tore the set list up, something in retrospect that was probably dumb. Oh, well. I still don’t like Bread.

But I really started all this to talk about how I spent the weekend, which was doing something I haven’t done since high school – painting. Not walls; my friend Catherine Rodgers taught the two-day “Paint Like Rothko – Color, Complement, Shade, Tone and Tint Workshop” at the Arkansas Arts Center and I did it!

Super fun. I always intended to paint in my 50s. Cut it a bit close on the “in my 50s,” but more than 40 years since I last really painted anything other than walls, furniture, frames or ceramics – that I can remember anyway – I did a 30-inch by 40-inch oil on acrylic (vaguely) Rotho-esque piece.

photo 1

First we mixed colors and made color charts, which was invaluable and satisfying. Now if I can just make myself finish the gray scale …

photo 2