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. 

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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.

The Master of Space and Time

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No, this post isn’t about my beloved Leon Russell, THE Master of Space and Time. But I do keep hearing his song in my head.

John and I just marked our 12th wedding anniversary yesterday. I say “marked” because we haven’t had time to celebrate it yet – we’ll do that tomorrow night. We’ve had a crazy busy spell.

Our wedding song was “In My Life,” which is his still ringtone on my phone, but these days I tend to associate my husband with Leon Russell’s beautiful lyrics in “A Song for You“:

I’ll love you in a place
Where there’s no space and time.
I’ll love you for my life,
You are a friend of mine

And when my life is over,
Remember when we were together –
We were alone
And I was singing this song to you …

Happy anniversary, John. You are a master of space and time because it seems I’ve known you forever AND that we just met. I love you.

Time in general seems to be warp speed these days.

Mad Dogs.jpgJust the other day, I was hula-hooping to the last 30 minutes or so of Mad Dogs and Englishmen (the DVD, which I recently got and adore – those were the days), and I remembered a woman who sent me a letter and photos years ago when I wrote my “Fit Happens” column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She had an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis and/or fibromyalgia (like my mother and sister) and couldn’t do stress-bearing workouts. She wanted me to know she’d hooped herself into shape and the darling photos showed her physical transformation. I ended up interviewing her for a column. I wonder how she is?

One thing that kept us busy on our anniversary weekend was the opening of a fabulous, scary, thought-provoking exhibit in the gallery at John’s dream-come-true New Deal Studios and Gallery, a wood- and metal-workers cooperative. He’d had the dream for some time; fortunately Lee Weber came along at the right time to become his partner and help make it come true.  They complement each other as business partners and friends.

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Part of the “A Murder of Crows – A Southern Retrospective” exhibit featuring the work of V.L. Cox and Michael Church. Click on the link to see more info.

It’s the perfect space and seems to be the perfect time for things to take off.

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Forgive the blurriness of the photo, please – guess it’s time for a phone upgrade that I keep putting off. John is on the left, Lee on the right.

John and Lee make good partners in business. John and I make good partners in life.

The post with no name

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John, Julia and I recently attended a fabulous upholstery workshop in the Applied Arts department at UALR, taught by the wonderful Annie Evelyn (whose assistant was my friend Morgan Hill – both had driven in from Penland, despite the snow). This is my class product, a “lab rat,” which makes a very nice mediation seat, should I ever decide to try that route. But I hope reupholstery and helping John with is fine furniture-making is in the future. I prefer doing to sitting.

People keep asking, though it’s only been a week, how life after regular employment is going – and since I’m so far behind on blogging (though I’ve been writing like mad on another front) that seems as good an excuse as any to do a feeble little post.

So far, so good, would be the answer, and perfect timing in more ways than one. Slipping into that mode has been easy. And, actually, I’m still doing a some work from home, just in casual shoes and clothes.

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In the late ’60s/early ’70s, we just called them “Converse” or “All-Stars,” but these berry Chuck Taylors, which were on sale, to boot, had my name on them. The only pair left was in my size. Perfect retirement shoes, no?

Things are gradually getting a little cleaner around this old house, though soon we’ll make a big mess when the tiling project upstairs gets in full swing, so right now it’s still a losing proposition.

Next week I think I’ll tackle closets and drawers. So many options.

One of the best aspects is having more time for the kiddos.

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What a familiar pose. Like father, like son.

Today was the SoMa Mardi Gras parade – and my duties were nil, which is a nice feeling for a change. John and I walked the girls down, enjoyed the parade as mere spectators, then met the grands for some post-parade fun.

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The parade was fabulous – huge crowd of mostly non-neighborhood folks, it seemed – and great floats.

 

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One of the many SoMa Mardi Gras parade floats. Attendance was spectacular!

Tonight is a belated birthday dinner with Cathy and Paul.

And that’s it for now. Next time will be better. Or not. Time will tell.

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.

And now it’s 2016 …

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Practicing on my late friend Franchelle Owen’s Wurlitzer piano, which is tucked into our foyer now, is one way I’ll be spending time in 2016. 

Four days into a new year, almost four months into my 60s and about four weeks since I last touched The Lolly Diaries. Time gets away.

But making better use of my time is one of my intentions for this new year. I don’t make resolutions – too stern a word for me and a recipe for failure for many. We need to be kind to ourselves and do the best we can.

Unless we need someone to (metaphorically) crack a whip to keep us going  – sometimes that’s called for, too. And I’ve been known to employ the “fake it until you make it” method repeatedly in my 60 years. Whatever works. We must progress.

Speaking of progress, or, really, lack thereof until now, I also intend to get my ass in gear with the Climate Reality talks. John gave me some no-excuses Christmas gifts – a projector, projector stand and really big portable screen. Seems like eons ago that I was in Miami for training, but only three highly eventful months have passed.

Many, many years have passed since I’ve parked my ass on a piano bench to practice, much less play, but it’s coming back, albeit slowly. I’m so grateful to have a piano to practice on – and I’m very pleased that it belonged to my friend Rhonda’s mother. That makes me smile.

Another thing that makes me smile is that John and I have resumed work on the upstairs. (Hooray!!) Right now it’s him – I don’t build cabinets or do wiring – but we have tile to lay (once we can agree on which tile) and will have cabinets to paint. I’ll share photos, of course.

One last thing for the hopping-back-in-the-saddle post: We kept the youngest grandchild this weekend while the big kids went to the Liberty Bowl (Woo, Pig!). He was a delight and was delighted when we pulled out his big brother’s little Thomas the Tank Engine inflatable bed that I found somewhere about seven years ago.

Probably not as excited as Tess, though. She remembered the tiny bed well and couldn’t wait to join Silas. When I gave him the giant fluffy bear Pop bought for Jude all those years ago, Tess ran and got her giant fluffy stuffed dog and plopped down on the bottom half of the bed.

The wee one was asleep within minutes, all warm and cozy with his bedmate. He even slept through both dogs howling (Tess had moved to her own bed just past the foot of Thomas by then, but Zuzu stood right beside him) when sirens and flashing lights went off at 2:20 a.m.

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Tess is still cuddling her stuffed toy a couple of hours after Silas crashed. I did tuck him back in before we left the room, and at the 2:20 howling, he was still nestled tight.

Such is life downtown.

Here’s to 2016. Let’s make it count.

Sometimes it’s the little things

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Sunday, Nov. 29 was a dreary rainy day for the virtual Climate March, so we did it upstairs inside. Thanks to friends and family who joined in! Sharing/posting/tweeting about the need for meaningful action to reduce global warming doesn’t cost you a dime.

Officially, I owe a post about everyday things you can to to help the environment while saving money. I haven’t forgotten by any means, but shootings take a psychic and physical toll on me and I just can’t quite get it together.

So, instead, I’ll just share one thing and save the rest for another day. This red beauty is not our new couch – it’s our formerly nappy, 11-year-old sleeper sofa. The poor old gal’s been through five grandkids urping, lots of drinks a-spilling, three puppies hopping, many people sleeping,  aa-anndd one old dog rubbing. (Tess has used it as her personal Fulminator for years.)

Old Red was too shabby to be chic, but we love her and didn’t want her in a landfill, so the old gal got some new threads.

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This soft red burlap should hold up better than the original red chenille, and we love the paisley so much, we got an extra pillow made. 

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Nice, huh? Carol Roddy with Second Chance Upholstery did it for, well, more an album than a song, but it was a bargain. Changed the lines of the couch from straight contemporary to more of a Restoration Hardware/slipcover look, but whatever. It’s fine.

So there’s one tip: Salvage your old furniture rather than buying new. Anything you can keep out a landfill is a plus. If you must have new furniture, find a new home for your old – please don’t leave it sitting sadly on the curb.

And remember, though things are grim and hearts are broken, beauty is all around us. Let little things help where they can.

For example, when we went to get a perky little Noble fir tree (after researching at some length the pros and cons of artificial vs. dead-live), these ($3.50 each) lovelies asked to come home with me. They needed little TLC in regards to some broken leaves but they seem to like their new pots (which we already had). Aren’t they sweet?

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Violet and Sybil are named for my grandmother’s sisters. Verna Jewel (my grandmother’s namesake) has lived in the kitchen for years. These girls are upstairs in my office. 

I’ll end with one more photo from our virtual Climate March efforts. I’m very proud of my 80-year-old mother for her interest and concern.

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Love these folks to pieces. 

Deep breaths. Until next time …