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Golden years

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The upstairs kitchen still has a way to go, but you can see progress.We’ve had a flurry of activity again lately – nothing like out-of-town houseguests to get you cooking with gas (though the stove is not hooked up yet).

Wow, long time between posts. We’ve had lots going on, including John’s Medicare birthday last week, and I’ve been doing lots and lots of writing elsewhere. I’ve also been spending lots of time with little Luke. He adores our quartzite kitchen floor and wanted to know, quite seriously, “How did you get these bricks so straight?”

Maybe I’m just a proud Lolly, but that seems a pretty astute question for a 3-year-old.

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This is a long shot of the upstairs living room, looking west from the kitchen. That’s the new couch that’s been sitting under plastic since delivery.

We’re getting close to finishing on this level. Of course we still have the upstairs loft bedroom and bath to go, but we plan to have Thanksgiving here this year. On this floor, that is.

But I’ll have to wrest the holiday from Mother. I may be 60, but I’m a southern girl, and in the south, Mama has holidays until she gives them up. She’ll be so thrilled with the kitchen being done that she’ll happily concede this year, though.

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Here you can see more of John’s handiwork – he’s down to just that last window frame! In 100+ year-0ld houses, nothing is plumb, so framing windows is no easy task. And this is the spot where the oval mid-century Danish dining set will sit.

All the leather furniture required cleaning and conditioning, even the brand new stuff – construction dust is hell.

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And here’s a close up of the new floor-sample couch we scored at Ferguson’s in Benton, along with John’s gorgeous cocktail/coffee table. We hope before long he’s taking orders for fine furniture, but he and Lee are still working on the New Deal Studios and Gallery building, so not quite yet. (Maybe is someone was really desperate for something …)

April is a month full of family birthdays – most still with us and a couple with us in spirit. Silas turned 3, John turned 65 and his sister, Kitty, 68 on the same day. April 15 was my grandmother’s birthday. Yesterday our sweet Marie-Noelle caught up with Liz – six weeks or so separate their 36ness. The 24th was my grandfather’s birthday (and also the day my daddy died 34 years ago).

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John let me take his pic in his Star Wars T-shirt Annabelle and Luke picked out for him. Pretty cute for an old guy, huh? And sweet Tessie loves to have her photo taken. She’ll be 11 in May.

Very soon, if all goes as planned, we’ll have some major news that I’ll share. In other important events, John and Liz leave soon for Nepal to climb to the base camp at Mt. Everest, a hike John made 43 years ago. Brent and I will hold down the fort with the three kiddos – I’m getting shots in both shoulders next week to prepare me for more strenuous activity.

We may be old, but we like it. Life is good. John told me a couple of nights ago that he’s looking forward to our golden years.

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John with his darling niece, Lissette, after he returned from his first trip to Nepal and other parts east. My kind of guy then, my kind of guy now. 

Shine a light

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Woo hoo! We have several working lights in the upstairs kitchen now, and one even has a light fixture. Progress, baby.

John’s cutting tile, so I’m taking a quick break from our kitchen-floor-laying project to shine a light on a few things on my mind, good and bad.

First I’d like to stress how sick I am of hearing our do-nothing Congress refer to President Obama as a “lame duck.” He is still the duly elected president, popular enough to be elected twice and one whom people will see in retrospect as one of the most effective ever. “Lame duck” refers to an office-holder after his replacement has been elected, which for Obama won’t be until November. Even then, he’ll still be the president with full presidential powers. #DoYourJob #SCOTUS

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I’m just dropping this in because it’s so cute and makes me think of the Beatles (“Fixing a Hole) – and Paul McCartney, whom Liz, Brent, Jude and I will go see next month.

Second, February was frighteningly warm, as far as damage to our planet goes. We’re rapidly passing the point of no return. Between that and the hideous insanity of the (much-too-long) election cycle, this grandmother has a hard time going to sleep at night. And I feel guilty; I faithfully did my Climate Reality training last September and have written letters, signed petitions, etc., but I still haven’t done any official presentations, partly because life gets in the way but mainly from reality paralysis. I’ll get out there at some point. Climate change is fact, a devastating one, not a belief system. I wish people would wake up to that.

I might as well mention how much our AT&T Uverse sucks. Our internet service cuts out all day and night sometimes cycling on and off every few seconds. Even the television service is starting to go off and onand pixelate/freeze. Makes it really hard to do anything online consistently, so it’s looking like we’ll have to go back to Comcast. But I won’t get started on monopolies/mega-corporations.

In a scary note, I mailed John’s last Capital One payment Feb. 24 – took it to the post office as always. Capital One received it yesterday (!), so the bill we got today showed a late fee and interest. I pay early in full every month for both our cards and have for years. Bad post office! Fortunately, all it took was one call to Capital One – I think the understanding woman I talked to was Sharla (I wish I’d written that down);t she was great. She looked at our record, removed the charges and fees, and put a note in about what had happened. She also said Capital One has seen a lot of problems with late mail recently.

We try to support the post office and make most of our payments the old-fashioned way, but good grief.

I’d also like to shine a light on other recent good customer service. First, we got all the tile for our upstairs at The Tile Shop on Rodney Parham. Kudos to Samatha Wicker, who helped and advised us. We’re happy campers, if a bit sore.

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The beginning of the quartzite kitchen floor. Zuzu is an obstacle to be worked around much of the time, but at this point, she’s banned from the room, which she just can’t believe. She’s so big, one wrong step scoots tiles out of place before they’re dry.

I’d also like to call attention to Doug Crawford at Ferguson’s furniture store in Benton. John wanted to drive out to look at the Stressless floor model sale, and damned if Doug didn’t make us an offer we couldn’t – and didn’t want to – refuse. If you go see him, tell him Laura and John Hardy sent you. He’ll do you up right.

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Our new Stressless sectional is under wraps to protect it from construction dust, but as soon as it’s safe to uncover it and put it together, I’ll show you what it looks like.

The new black couch will sit near the new kitchen – it’s going to look fab.

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Starting to look like a floor!

Lordy, just took a break from this to go lay more tile. We do pretty well for a guy who’ll be 65 in a month and a 60-year-old lady, though my legs are quivery. But we’re almost there. We haven’t argued once – not even when the tiles, which are hand cut and don’t all match in thickness, have to be taken out and adjusted.

We make a good team. And I’d forgotten how big the room is.

Speaking of teams, it’s time to get ready for Annabelle’s second micro-soccer game – I’ll pick Mother up on the way, and after that we’ll go to the visitation for an old family friend, from way back when Cathy and I were little girls. Cycle of life goes on and on.

Tell next time. I’ll end with a few more photos.

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Our favorite obstacles – and two of the reasons we went with tough natural stone for the floors. Tess (back to camera) doesn’t make too many trips upstairs these days, though. She and Mother are age cohorts.

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Since I’m usually behind the camera, this is just for proof that I do help. This was a trial fitting of our stove – it fits and works!

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And proof once again that the little things – like top door facings – make a big difference. John made them, of course.

Take it easy

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Our hardy hibiscus has been blooming away in my office upstairs. Flowers for the departed or just random beauty? Either way works for me.

We’re only 18 days into the new year, and it’s already been a heartbreaker. Glenn Frey at 67? David Bowie AND Alan Rickman at 69? Jeez, let’s take it easy, already. Talk about a heartbreak trifecta.

This old gal recently turned 60, so those ages are indecently young. When my grandmother died at 69, I had no concept of how young she was – she’d had health issues and had been a little crazy for as long as we could remember, and I was only 21. About 20 years ago, I realized she was far too young when she departed.

My decision not to take it easy, exactly, but to make a significant change in lifestyle had been made before 2015 even rolled into 2016. These recent losses (as well as my old friend and classmate Dee Edwards, two days before his 61st birthday) reinforce the decision.

As of the end of this month, I’ll be spending a lot less time – as in, none – at the office. I’ll still be working some from home, but Annabelle just turned 5, Silas will be 3 in April and just yesterday, our first grandchild (who’ll be 10 in June) was born.

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The upstairs kitchen is seeing progress again.

This can’t stand.

Plus, John and I need to finish this old house, and four hands are quicker than two. We ordered mass quantities of tile this weekend. Can’t wait to get my hands dirty again.

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If you recognize this, you’ve laid your share or have at least been around some construction. Note the spelling difference, but I like that it’s Hardie Backer. And I really like that John’s doing all the screws. (I’ve done my share and he’s way better at it.)

Then there’s that piano begging to be played. Struggling with Italian to be resumed. Climate Reality presentations to be made.

Etc., etc.

Life goes on until it doesn’t but, man, we need to keep our priorities straight.

Peace and love, y’all.

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Quartzite – aka our soon to be kitchen floor.

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.

Monterey

A little night reading ... my nightstand overflows with books, most of which I'm at least partway into. The guide to Italy and the two Italian language books are part of my preparation for taking Mother on our trip in April.

A little night reading … my nightstand overflows with books, most of which I’m at least partway into. The guide to Italy and the two Italian language books are part of my preparation for taking Mother on our trip in April.

I’ve never been to Monterey, though I’d love to go there, but Eric Burdon and the Animals’ classic description of the Monterey Pop Festival has been playing in my head for days. That’s because I finally let myself jump with both feet into On the Road with Janis Joplin, one of my Christmas presents from John.

janis It’s super fabulous if you’re a Janis fan – and, really, anyone who enjoys reading history and about pop culture should enjoy it. OTRWJJ is no adequately written lightweight memoir; au contraire, this book is a literary delight. John Byrne Cooke, the multi-talented author (he shot most of the photos and also worked on the filming of Monterey Pop, the excellent documentary, among other accomplishments), is a Harvard graduate and excellent writer, as well he should be as the son of well-known British journalist Alastair Cooke and the great-grandnephew of Ralph Waldo Emerson on his mother’s side.

That’s plenty to give him literary cred. But most importantly for this book, he was Janis Joplin’s road manager from shortly after she played the pop festival with Big Brother and the Holding Company until her much too youthful death – a gig that couldn’t have been easy.

For whatever reason, I was mildly (possibly a lot-ly) obsessed with the Monterey Pop Festival as a kid – I was 11 when it happened, but it just seemed so fantastic and fantastical that I was and always have been drawn to anything about it. I got The Animals’ 45 as soon as it came out and played it over and over. So I was in a literary swoon reading Cooke’s descriptions of the event, including the logistics, the crowd, the performances, even the newspaper reviews.

I’d read some nugget aloud to John from the treadmill (where I do lots of my reading) every time he came within earshot. (Side note: I know I drive John crazy at times, but my Myers-Briggs personality inventory says I can’t help sharing things I’m excited about.)

(Side-side note: I was tickled to read in her recent Rolling Stone cover story that my girl Stevie Nicks was reading OTRWJJ, too.)

This is the third book in a reading cycle of sorts. One of the books I took on our recent trip to Washington, a gift from my 10Songsexcellent friend Susan Garner, who thought I’d like it after hearing about it on NPR, is Greil Marcus’s History of Rock ’n‘ Roll in Ten Songs.

Was she ever right! I read the whole book on the return trip. This is not your standard R&R fare – Marcus takes readers on many side roads, tangents and flights of fancy as he discusses the music we love through some of the more obscure songs in the genre.

If you’re serious about music and like books that don’t walk the beaten path, I highly recommend it. I found myself at times thinking of Sarah Vowell’s books, with their sidetracks and tangents.

Telegraph_AvenueAs soon as we got home I started in on Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. If you love Chabon’s writing, you’ll enjoy this book. If you’d love a good, quirky story set in and around an Oakland record store (vinyl, not CDs) – with midwifery, family tensions and coming of age themes – then you’ll enjoy it, too. We’re talking literary fiction, not pop fiction, but Telegraph Avenue is easy to read and hard to put down. And it’s nowhere near Chabon’s best work.

This is my overflow stack on the dresser – and one reason the nightstand is in such disarray. I keep cheating and grabbing books form the overflow stack. I'm an addict; what can I say? But the top two books are for the trip ...

This is my overflow stack on the dresser – and one reason the nightstand is in such disarray. I keep cheating and grabbing books from the overflow stack before finishing the nightstand books. I’m an addict; what can I say? But the top two books are for the trip …

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••

I was thinking today that perhaps we should have named Zuzu “Shadow” or “Curious Georgeanne.” Wherever you are, there she is, and whatever you’re doing, her nose is in it. She’s precious and has an exuberance for life, but, dang, she can be an obstacle.

But look at that face.

Zuzu takes a break from dogging Mom. She'd been my shadow or stumbling block all morning. But we love her madly.

Zuzu takes a break from dogging Mom. She’d been my shadow or stumbling block all morning. But we love her madly.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

One last note about the damned shower and this will be the end of it, I promise. First, I moved all my stuff back downstairs and took a heavenly debut shower today. Ah, the pleasure of not having to stand on a stool to get wet. It’s just my size, has nice water pressure and the river rock floor is like a foot massage.

So, ultimately, whatever. As Tom said, it’s the little things.

But the “grout” is definitely more concrete than grout – we just can’t figure out what those guys were thinking/doing/hoping to accomplish. I’ve a bit of trepidation over how it will hold up, since it won’t take the sealer (even though said sealer is made for grout OR concrete – but evidently not a mix of the two). And, just to show that I’m not an insane woman, as John said I might appear, one last photo to show where he had to patch some areas with the grout we chose.

The chosen color was “Dark Taupe.” We’ll live with “Driveway Gray,” if it holds together. Fingers crossed.

See?! I told you it was the wrong color and texture. The dark area is the pure grout. OK, ohmmm ... letting it go.

See?! I told you it was the wrong color and texture. The dark area is the pure grout. OK, ohmmm … letting it go.

How long (has this been going on)

So after at least a week – I've really lost track – of chiseling, scraping and digging to free the rocks covered with a strange grout/cement-like substance, this is how it looked today. That's wet, though, which makes the grout look almost as dark as what we bought.

So after at least a week – I’ve really lost track – of chiseling, scraping and digging to free the rocks covered with a strange grout/cement-like substance, this is how our new shower floor looked today. That’s wet, though, which makes the grout look about half as dark as what we bought. What the heck did those guys mix it with?

Let me start by saying, OK, yes, these are truly first-world problems. We have a roof over our heads, water to drink, heat, food and a relatively healthy family. But still – I’ve gotten to the point where I really can’t remember how long my squatting, kneeling, scraping and chiseling in our newly remodeled shower has been going on.

It’s not finished – one more day, tomorrow, I hope, of applying sealer, and it should be done. Not the bathroom, but the reparation of the horrible mess left by a crew who didn’t have a clue.

The hired crew did all right on the ripping out of the old tub – though they made a horrible mess inout house – but they just didn't understand the concept of quality work. And the river rock shower floor was beyond their comprehension.

The hired crew did all right on the ripping out of the old tub – though they made a horrible mess in our house – but they just didn’t understand the concept of quality work. And the river rock shower floor was beyond their comprehension.

We should have just hired out the demolition and rebuilding and done the tiling ourselves – John and I are both experienced and perfectionistic tile-layers. I actually like doing it, but we thought we’d save time by hiring it done. Hah.

John lost days of work staying home to correct and supervise. I’ve spent the last week cleaning up their mistakes. John says I shouldn’t write this and people will think I’m an insane woman, but I’ve got to share what we were left with.

Oh, and let me add that we bought very dark gray grout – but what we’re left with is a strange concrete color and consistency. We suspect the grout was mixed – for whatever reason – with cement or thinset. What the hell, dudes? I found one little place with dark gray grout. Crazy.

This is a very small example of what I've been chiseling, scraping and wire-brushing off. Note the color. The gray was supposed to match the dark gray in the tile.

This is a very small example of what I’ve been chiseling, scraping and wire-brushing off. Note the color. The gray was supposed to match the dark gray in the tile.

A little more – this one is mostly funny, if you look at the mangled little wire brush. I had to go buy new ones yesterday.

A little more – this one is mostly funny, if you look at the mangled little wire brush. I had to go buy new ones yesterday.

It didn’t occur to me to take photos until I was almost finished, but I took a few yesterday and today. Granted, we had to leave for Washington and the grout and haze left all over the tile had time to really cure. And we were in such a haze over Doris’s fall and death that we didn’t pay as close attention as we should have.

This is really to show that I did find a product – Aqua Mix's NanoScrub – that would remove month-old haze (you can see where I cleaned a spot and left some haze for contrast). It's time-consuming but doesn't require safety googles and a mask, as the alternatives did.

This is really to show that I did find a product – Aqua Mix’s NanoScrub – that would remove month-old haze (you can see where I cleaned a spot and left some haze for contrast). It’s time-consuming but doesn’t require safety googles and a mask, as the alternatives did.

After we got back, John ran the guys off – they’d done enough damage – and we proceeded to clean up after them. And, ultimately, we’ll have a fine-looking new shower, just with the wrong color grout.

Deep breath – I’m moving on.

Silas, Pop and Tess enjoy playtime.

Silas, Pop and Tess enjoy playtime.

One thing I’m moving on to is our precious youngest grandchild, Silas, who, at the moment, is in the throes of an asthma attack and can’t get a deep breath. So sad. He’s doing much better in general with his health problems, but I’m so sorry he inherited that – it runs deep on both sides of the family, but out of the five, he’s the only grandchild with it so far.

record playerYesterday afternoon we took a break from the damned tile to keep him for a few hours and had a great time. I played him several early Beatles albums on my little retro record player that John got me for Christmas. (That’s actually an Allman Brothers album in the photo, but you can see how cute  the repro vintage record player is.)

When we listened to Magical Mystery Tour, Si especially liked “The Fool on the Hill,” and when I showed him the booklet in the album cover, he was very, very interested – kept saying, “Paul” every time we turned a page.

He also really dug the Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins covers and George’s rockabilly guitar-playing. Cutie. And I danced until my legs were tired.

Last night we and a choice between getting back to work in the shower or watching a movie and resting. Since my hamstring scar (from an old tear) was making its presence very known after the weeklong squat and scape workout – and the dancing – we decided to watch Magnolia, Paul Tomas Anderson’s 1999 masterpiece. I hadn’t seen it since it came out and John couldn’t remember if he’d ever seen it.

If you haven’t, you must. I can’t say too much – no spoilers here – except that the cast is huge and great. And, coincidentally, we ate pie while watching it; coincidentally since the length of the movie is pi, 3.14 hours.

I didn’t just know that – I found it when I looked up a verse from Exodus to make sure I was telling John something correctly, something I can’t say without ruining the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

I’d intended to move on to more about recently watched movies and recently read books, but that will have to wait. I’m starting to wonder how long this post has been going on. Don’t want you to do the same.

So, until next time, count your blessings and take nothing for granted. The unexpected does happen.

Peace and love, y’all.

Every little thing

Just a little thing (and very first-world, I know), but when you haven't had one for a decade, a toilet paper holder is pretty damned exciting.

Just a little thing (and very first-world, I know), but when you haven’t had one for a decade, a toilet paper holder is pretty damned exciting.

Seven years ago today, 17 days after he turned 54, our dear friend Tom died of pancreatic cancer. He was a good-looking guy, but his short horrible time of dying was about as ugly as they get.

But through most of it, except for times of extreme pain, he maintained his chipper disposition and continued to appreciate and be grateful for every little good thing that happened.

That was one of his favorite mottos, one John likes to quote with each baby step we take in home improvement – “As my good buddy, Tom, would say,” John says, “it’s the little things that matter.”

How I wish he were here to see how all the little things have added up. Tom would totally appreciate my excitement at having a toilet paper holder attached to the wall, after 10 1/2 years of not having one. He would totally dig our fancy new Toto toilet in the downstairs bathroom (already have one in the fancy upstairs bath).

New Toto, next to new wall next to new shower. Before photo below.

New Toto, next to new wall next to new shower. We hired out the structural and tile work, but painting, all us. Toilet installation, all John. (Go ahead and laugh – that just came out that way. You can’t talk about toilets without potty humor, evidently.)

The old white tub was sinking from wood rot before we got it ripped out – and you can see the old bathroom colors.

The old white tub was sinking from wood rot before we got it ripped out – and you can see the old bathroom colors.

And things would’ve added up a lot faster if he were still here. Tom was as perfectionistic as John and I are – and since he had his own key to our house and knew our vision, he could come and go as he pleased. Though he spent long spells just at our house, we were also his fallback position in between big gigs and got the friends and family rate for his excellent work.

Sometimes we’d come home and find something finished, changed.

Tom stored things in our house – with or without our knowledge. Fed our dogs if we weren’t home. Would yell, “Laura? You decent?” Or, “Honey, I’m home,” before coming to the back of the house where I was.

Tom was a master remodeler – specializing in historic homes – but he also remodeled his life. Once a hard-partying, highly successful hair dresser and salon owner, the Tom we knew and loved had thrown that kind of artistry aside for resurrecting old houses, another form of artistry, one that he loved.

Though it still needs lots of grout removed, you can get the gist of the new shower floor.

Though it still needs lots of grout removed, you can get the gist of the new shower floor. Sadly, we had a communication gap with the crew on the grout to rock ratio. Tom would’ve done it perfectly. And he’d really dig it.

He needed peace, he said, and less stress. His health had been suffering in the fast lane.

Cancer got him anyway. Self-employed before the Affordable Care Act, Tom was also uninsured – as the custodial parent of a teen in private school, private health insurance was not in his budget. When he finally went to the doctor, as an uninsured patient, the doctor merely treated his symptoms, instead of doing any tests – despite knowing Tom’s father had died of pancreatic cancer.

That was during the summer. I was worried sick about him and told John repeatedly that Tom had cancer – I’d seen it before, and the sicker he got, the more he bore an eerie resemblance to Daddy. When he rushed to the emergency room in severe pain on Thanksgiving, he was finally diagnosed and it was too late.

Tom and John made a pact that IF Tom encountered something on the other side, he’d do his damnedest to communicate – to give some kind of sign. If anyone had a big enough personality to do it, it was Tom.

We waited and listened. No sign that we could detect. Then one day more than a year after he was gone, we suddenly noticed a bag of peanuts in the shell, partially gone, in an area where he’d been working and often left his tools. We still wonder.

Late last week, as I was getting ready for work in the upstairs bathroom (the downstairs remodel is still in process), I heard a man’s cough in John’s office. I thought he’d come back home, but when I went to see, no one was there. Hmmm. Honey, you home?

Tom was already a sick man when my now old iMac was new and I showed him the photo booth feature (and snapped this pic). Now the old iMac is mainly for the grandkids to watch videos and play games – and for storing photos. Tonight, pout of the blue, it tried to die on me – got that scary multi-language "You need to restart message." Tommy, is that you?

Tom was already a sick man when my now old iMac was new and I showed him the photo booth feature (and snapped this pic). Now the old iMac is mainly for the grandkids to watch videos and play games – and for storing photos. Tonight, out of the blue, it tried to die on me – I got that scary multi-language “You need to restart” message after the screen went gray. It started right back up, fortunately.
Tommy, is that you?