“They’re just things. We’re all okay. Things can be replaced, people can’t. I’m just grateful everyone is alive.”
How many times after a fire, tornado or hurricane have we heard those brave words, sincerely spoken in the moment? Yet we know, sitting in our chairs in the comfort of our safe and secure homes, that sooner or later the woman on the screen will realize some things can’t be replaced.
The stone your daughter brought you because she thought it was so pretty and would bring you good luck. The books you’ve had since childhood, worn a bit, but beautiful. The Christmas decorations your mother and your children made.
The pictures, taken before digital cameras and cloud storage.
Yes, any of us would rather have our children, spouses, siblings, parents, friends and neighbors alive and hugging us close than a household of “things”…but the loss of the material is real, and eventually will hit the people struggling to find a change of clothing and water the day after their home is destroyed.
We say “you can’t take it with you” and as true as that is, you have it here on earth. While often that expression refers to money, here I’m talking about things, objects, what you know is in your house and makes it home for you. You treasure it, at times it sustains you. There’s nothing wrong with valuing those things.
A tragic loss does put all that in perspective, of course, and you can always find new objects to hold close to your heart. But they can’t fully replace what’s been lost.
To those who’ve lost everything, my heart is with you. I know your loss is real. I pray you have the support in your life to get through whatever has brought this loss into your life, all that it represents, and that you will soon find joy again.
I love my new home, which was built in 1979 and still has mementos, shall we say, of those early days.
No sense getting rid of something if it works, right? I learned the hard way just how well some of those pieces have held up over the years. Take the doorknobs, for example. Or let me say, take the doorknobs, please.
Last night I had one of those fluke home accidents that are difficult to reconstruct and embarrassing to explain. So rather than try to paint a detailed picture for you, suffice to say, some tissue caught on fire, I tossed it in the toilet, had the presence of mind to turn the fan on, and closed the door so the smoke detectors wouldn’t go off. It should be noted I was certain the fire was doused at that point.
Later, when I was sure the smoke was cleared, I returned to the bathroom and — the door was locked. I did everything I knew to do with a locked bathroom door, including breaking a hanger so I could use the hook at the top to pop out the lock, sliding a credit card past the latch and looking at the other locks for clues.
Oh yes, checking the door sills for a magic key. Those, no doubt, were lost long ago.
This morning, promptly at store opening, I entered Lowe’s and headed to their key counter, hoping they had a magic key. No such luck. Use a hanger, the guy told me, or a credit card.
My neighbors helped me with a tool or two, but still, nothing worked. I was forced to call my landlord, who got a good laugh out the situation. She’d done it herself, she said, but she couldn’t remember how she’d gotten the door open again.
A picture is worth a thousand words…here’s before and after…what you can’t see in this picture is how we tried to take the door off the hinges, then realized we’d have to pull it straight out and try not to tear out the latch. We abandoned that idea.
Eventually Catherine, my landlord, somehow got the door open with a credit card and a screwdriver. We’d tried that before, to no avail, but this time she got it to work.,
It took an hour, and that was the time spent on it after she arrived. The cats were confused, but friendly (they like Catherine).
Last summer she debated about changing the door knobs. Now I helped make that decision for her.
In my last apartment, I longed for a second bedroom, an office and sewing room, with some space set aside for storage. Now I have just that, and I’m hardly using it.
My living room has the perfect corner for one of my desks, so my laptop sits here most of the time. Downstairs (my new townhome is built on the side of a hill, so you enter on the second floor) are both the bedrooms. One, of course, is where I sleep, and the other is on its way to becoming the office/sewing room I imagined. On its very long way to that goal. Right now it’s a percolating mess.
How is it that the reality never meets the expectations of the dreams? This room is a wisp of a problem, barely worth mentioning, but larger things loom. The new job, the new home, the new spouse, all bring with them (whether they intend to or not) a belief that now things will be better, now my idle thoughts will become golden reality.
Sometimes, the failure of the new to bring fantasy to life dims any good it may bring into our lives. Over time we realize the limitations of others and other things, and hopefully come to appreciate and value the times when good outweighs bad.
Life is never perfect, and many of us are wary in those fleeting moments when it seems it could be so. It’s not a matter of being cynical or negative, of seeing the glass half-empty or any such thing. Rather, it’s an awareness of the reality of this world, and a sense of gratitude for what good we’ve been given and the grace to manage to bad.
As I write this, I feel a bit foolish for seeing any bad in my life, given the horrors so many are experiencing. I’m grateful for a comfortable home, friends I can trust, food on my table. I feel no fear when I leave my front door that danger is imminent.
Far be it from me to give home decorating advice. There are plenty of experts out there, as well as people like my mom, who know exactly what they’re doing and can work miracles with MacGyver-like skills for interior design. I can put a room together, and it’s comfortable, but my mom has a sense for what works like no one else I know. I didn’t inherit that skill.
Still, I’ve been working on a couple of projects lately, and two simple changes have updated portions of my home so dramatically I can’t wait to go into those rooms. What did I do? Paint — and update cabinet knobs.
The reality for many of us is we’re forced to work with elements we can’t afford to change — in my case, I can’t renovate the incredibly outdated bathroom. First, I’m renting, and second, even if I owned this home, it’s expensive. So allow me to present some ideas you won’t find in a decorating magazine, since few of them would ever allow some of this to be seen in print as part of the updated work.
When I first moved into my new townhome, my landlord and I both looked at the bathrooms with great dismay (downstairs full bath, upstairs half). They have that faux marble gold-sparkle countertop, and there isn’t much I can do about that. I hear there’s some sort of epoxy you can apply, but that takes considerable skill and patience. I have neither for that job.
The cabinets were probably last painted when the home was built, more than 30 years ago. White. Worn, dirty white. The hardware was also likely original to the home, therefore, pretty dated. I had no plans to write this blog post when I started or I would have taken “before” pictures, but if your bathroom has the same problem, no pictures are necessary. You know what I’m talking about.
So I took it upon myself to do something I’ve rarely done before. I painted the cabinets. I chose an attractive taupe color, but let me say right here: Get samples. What looks like the perfect taupe at Home Depot ends up pink on the cabinets, or possibly an ill green. I saw both.
I surprised myself by picking out some white ceramic rose-shaped cabinet knobs. I’m not typically that girly in my decorating, but these are classy, and as it turns out, I had some coordinating rose “accessories” I’m trying out in there. It looks kind of nice.
I was fortunate that my landlord had replaced the faucets with some attractive brushed-nickle pieces, and I almost chose a grey to play up that feature, but for me, the taupe worked better. In the downstairs bathroom my shower curtain is a vintage travel-postcard design in grey and taupe, and I have brushed-nickle accessories that do coordinate with the faucets. The walls are painted a light, fun blue, so I got dark, smoky blue towels to play off of that as well as add an anchor color to the room. And just last night I found vintage travel-postcard cabinet knobs that coordinate perfectly with the shower curtain. Yippee!
Now, you’d really have to see a before shot of this armoire to fully appreciate just how bad it was. Not only was the finishing job horrid, but the cats liked to climb up the side so they could survey the room from on high. That resulted in deep scratches all along the side, and I debated even keeping this piece. But I need it.
Again, I chose a taupe, and I’m loving the result. And look at those cabinet knobs!!!!! Since I painted the interior a sort of dusty blue, that blue edging on the knobs helps make these perfect. This armoire is currently my “linen closet.”
This last piece I finished some twenty years ago, which likely makes the dark green stain outdated. But I’m not in the mood to paint it, nor do I have any idea what color I would choose. Still, these knobs do a fair job of updating the little three-drawer dresser. What’s kind of funny is the tan color in the knobs works with those spots where the dresser is scratched down to the raw wood — that same tan color.
So if you’re looking for a simple update to some outdated furniture, or bathroom cabinets, paint and new hardware will do wonders. Try it! And it’s remarkably inexpensive as well.
Growing up, my mom decorated for the holidays. A lot of the ornaments and decorations she made herself, and I still have some today.
Of course Christmas was the real winner, but that didn’t mean Thanksgiving got left out. We had cornucopias, gourds, turkey-shaped salt & pepper shakers, and of course, the pilgrim candles.
Over the years I claimed the little girl pilgrim as mine. I suppose that would have meant the little boy was my brother’s, and the coordinating turkey candle may have been my sister’s. She probably wouldn’t have liked that, but she made it pretty clear she didn’t care for the pilgrim candles to start with. A born artist, she had far more appreciation for the cornucopia and the gourds, so decorative all on their own.
At some point, I’m guessing when my parents divorced and my mom threw out many of the things that reminded her of her life with my father, the pilgrim candles disappeared. I was crushed. Each year I would hope they’d miraculously pop up, but they never did. I believe Mom held onto the turkey salt & pepper shakers for a good long time, however, as well as some of the serving trays.
Other traditions also continued. Many of you Americans know the same ones: the green bean casserole, celery smeared with cream cheese and topped with paprika, and if we were really lucky, twice-baked potatoes. And the pies…make mine pecan. Or apple. Or a “small” slice of both, and lots of real whipped cream. When my mom re-married, she and my step-dad took on gourmet cooking (well, she’d always been a skilled cook) and a few new delicacies made it to the table.
My family has the same dysfunctions any family has, and like everyone else, they are showcased at Thanksgiving. My grandfather’s bigotry, the endless questions and speculations about a sibling’s or cousin’s absence, the family gossip, distorted and one-sided as all such talk is likely to be. My tendency was to tolerate it for as long as I could, then retreat to my bedroom until my presence was requested. I can’t say I looked forward to the holiday, but I don’t recall dreading it either.
I continued to miss my little Pilgrim girl. Why, I’m not certain, but I did. Then one spring, my then boyfriend’s mother died. I helped him sort through all of her things and prepare them for the estate sale. While he and his brother could have kept anything they wanted before the estate sale lady took over, one of the rules of the sale was once something is priced, it is to be sold at that price. No more family members claiming what they believe rightfully belongs to them. And, family couldn’t buy anything before the sale started.
We had plenty of time to peruse her belongings before the estate sale team took control, and thankfully we were careful. We found stock certificates, cash that had been gifts in birthday and Christmas cards, and a few valuables we knew should stay in the family. For my efforts, my boyfriend gave me a three-door dresser I still treasure today.
But neither of us saw the little Pilgrim girl until the day before the sale. Marked at only 25 cents, I told Mark that despite our plans to stay away, I would be at the door promptly when the sale opened and I would make a bee-line for that candle. The estate sale lady relented and allowed me to buy the little trinket that night. I suspect she didn’t want us there the next day. It was generally considered advisable not to be nearby.
Today, even though she doesn’t sit up straight, she is a treasured part of my Thanksgiving celebration. I’m told she’s a bit of a collectible, just a small bit, but I wouldn’t let her go for any price. She helps make Thanksgiving worth celebrating.
It’s so much fun decorating my new place. Since I live in an area replete with similar townhouses, I’ve had the opportunity to see how some of my neighbors have fixed up their homes, and it’s given me some great ideas.
One area I haven’t touched yet is the front of the home. You don’t have to go far to see the variety of opportunities for beautifying the facade of the buildings. They range from tasteful to tacky, conservative to wacky, and my neighbors on either side of me are great examples of the range of these options.
I do plan to add a planter or two of flowers out front, and for Christmas no doubt I’ll find something to tack on the front door. This may be the perfect time to pull out that latch-hook door hanging that says “Noel.” I made it in high school, I think, or shortly thereafter. It does, admittedly, veer to the campy side, but hey, it’s Christmas. And compared to what they’re likely to do next door (to the left), it’s downright classy.
There are four units in each building, and the buildings are in various stages of upkeep. One group of my neighbors recently painted their building a charming springy-green, and each door is now a different color, rich shades of red and blue and other colors I don’t remember. It looks wonderful. From seeing this outside view of their homes, I believe they are good neighbors.
I’m not big on gnomes, but even so, the doorsteps down the block that hold two or three of them are welcoming. Even the pink flamingo sends out a happy greeting. I suspect the latter may reveal a bit of the owner’s sense of humor.
I love that such a large group of homes — and there are dozens of these townhouses nearby — offers such an opportunity to display the owner’s (or in my case, renter’s) personality and hospitality. It makes coming home every night a delight.
I’ve spent a lot of time lately “window shopping” on the Internet, looking for those perfect accessories for the finishing touches in my new place. My budget is limited, although I’m not cheap. I recognize some items have more than simply low-level utilitarian value. They just may be that special touch that turns your bathroom from ordinary to…fab.
The most challenging piece so far has been a toothbrush holder. I’ve looked everywhere, from Walmart to Wayfair, and explored different options, including a cute mug or the glass jar that once held fiery hot salsa. I haven’t hit on the solution yet.
In my explorations, however, I’ve found some wow-factor options. Not “wow” in the design or style, but heavens, the price. I thought $20 was a bit pricey, but I understood it. Especially when I found I was drawn to so many holders in that price range. If you want your bathroom to look nice, you may need to shell out more than $2.97. So be it.
But I was aghast to discover the number of options for toothbrush holders — the thing you store your toothbrush in — that cost more than $300. You’d think for that price they’d be self-cleaning or silver-plated, or both. Not so. One such treasure is pictured in this first photo. The specifications only tell me it is about four inches tall, has a chrome finish and weighs one pound, so I don’t know what sets it apart, although a pound is pretty heavy for something this small.
It retails for $359.99. That’s a sale price, by the way.
I took a quick look and discovered another holder, quite similar, on the same shopping site for a mere $22.99. It weighs about five ounces and is also about four inches tall. The finish wasn’t specified, nor was anything else.
Now you may have a preference for one over the other, but I know of few people who would find the first toothbrush holder — I emphasize, a toothbrush holder, and just think how grody those things can get — is worth 15 times more than the second one.
Is it possible to have more money than you reasonably know what to do with? Well, yes. You’ve likely heard the term “new money,” almost always spoken in a disparaging manner (that’s the only way I know how to pronounce it) and I imagine that’s one group who wouldn’t hesitate to pay twice the value of monthly food stamp benefits for one person on a toothbrush holder.
Years ago I worked for a man who would have charged up the Visa for virtually any amount if you told him it was how people in Europe spend their money on a toothbrush holder. (Just to be clear, it’s not.) Or if the label read “Ralph Lauren,” he’d pay whatever the asking price might have been. Of course he’d gone through bankruptcy three or four times before hitting 40.
Decorating a home costs money, no doubt about it. Some of us, particularly those on a tight budget, need to rely on creativity, clearance prices, patience and the cast-offs of generous friends with good taste when fixing up a room. We all might be guilty from time to time of spending more than an item is worth to our house, and there’s a point where that’s okay.
But if your toothbrush holder cost you more than my car payment…or even my car insurance payment…or just the cost of gas this month…I don’t know what to say.