It’s been six months.

Saturday marked six months since my mom died. To be honest, it didn’t really register until late that night. I tend not to mark dates of death – I remember my family’s birthdays, but not necessarily the days on which they died.

I’m still dealing with her estate. I’ve had to file her taxes, just like the last few years. I sold her house. I’m trying to get rid of her three timeshare weeks, which has been the most obnoxious part of this whole process. No one wants to buy timeshare weeks, I don’t want to use them, and the association won’t take them back. Grrrr. Don’t buy timeshares, kids!

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I still get a lot of mail for her. Most days, she get more mail than I do.

 

The remains of her personal possessions are still hanging out in a storage unit. I go through one box at a time. I have let go, and let go, and let go, editing down my own possessions to make room for the most meaningful of hers. We’ve sent a few large pieces of furniture off for restoration and repair – it was cheaper than buying new pieces, and the restorer was able to tell us interesting trivia about each piece. You know how I feel about trivia.

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The guest house no longer smells like her. I don’t automatically say, “Hey, mom” every time I go in.

I missed her on my birthday. I missed her at Thanksgiving. I missed her at Christmas.

Both my parents would have loved the new kitchen. My dad would want to hear all about the fixtures and finishes and shiny bits. Mom would want a dollars-and-cents accounting of how much we spent and where we were able to save.

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I’ve only really lost it a few times. The most memorable and humiliating breakdown was on Superbowl Sunday, which was also my brother’s birthday. He sent me an old voicemail from mom, recorded before she got sick. She sounded like herself. She sounded whole and healthy. I couldn’t stop crying.

Throughout this season of Lent, I have been more intentional about looking for moments of joy. If you follow me on Instagram (@wtaylor), you know I’ve been posting one joyful moment each day. I am not a naturally joy-filled person, but once I started looking for good, I found it everywhere.

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Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a walking ray of sunshine. Most of the time I’m still plagued by self-doubt and petty aggravations. But learning to look up, to quiet the constant low-level grumbling, has been an excellent practice for the last seven weeks.

If Easter is part of your tradition, I hope you have a happy one.

 

 

 

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Kitchen Reno Week 9: “Substantially Complete” is Music to my Ears

Welcome to week 9 of our kitchen renovation. This is the week we moved our stuff back in and I put my appliances through their paces – despite the fact we’re still not technically “done.”

Are you ready?

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I wasn’t ready.

Everything is just so lovely. Jason remarked that this is the kitchen our house always wanted to have.

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Cooking in the kitchen is a delight now. There is room on either side of the stove for bowls and utensils, and Jason and Hazel are frequently parked on those green stools, keeping me company while I make dinner. We have a speaker located near the fish tank, so I can listen to music or podcasts while I’m working. It’s just so pleasant to be in a space that functions so well.

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So what’s left? Painting, for one thing, and the cabinetmakers still have some adjustments to make (like installing the trash pull-out). The transitions from the kitchen to the rest of the house need thresholds, and the doors to the laundry closet and storage closet need to be trimmed down and re-hung.

In the words of the contractor, we are “substantially complete.”

I won’t post again until those items are done, when we can have a big before-and-after party. Huzzah!

 

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Kitchen Reno Week 8: The Home Stretch

Most of the week was spent waiting for the counters to be fabricated and delivered. We even started leaving piles of mail and keys on the peninsula, since that’s an inevitability.

In the meantime, all the shiny knobs and pulls were installed on the cabinets.

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It was like adding the right jewelry to a little black dress. Now the cabinets look finished.

On Monday morning the counter tops arrived. And there was even more rejoicing!

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They are glorious and I love them.

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On Tuesday the tile setters got to work on the backsplash. Because the rest of the room has so much texture, I chose a simple white subway tile. I was inspired in part by the “downstairs” tour we took at The Elms in Newport, Rhode Island a couple of years ago. Most of the behind-the-scenes spaces in that home were tiled floor-to-ceiling in white subway tiles, to reflect light and keep surfaces easy to clean. For example, here’s the kitchen at The Elms:

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Notice a few familiar elements? Black lower spaces, white upper spaces, touches of copper…. when it comes to kitchens, I definitely have a type.

Here’s the tile in progress:

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It will be grouted on Thursday, with a medium-gray grout. The plumbers are scheduled to be here today, to install the sink and hook up the dishwasher, and then this battle station kitchen will be fully operational.

 

 

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Short Story: Lady Luck

I submitted this story for the Midtown Reader’s monthly Story Slam, and was selected to read it last night. The theme was – shocker! – Lady Luck. 

The glass falls in slow motion. The sound of shattering is muted by the pounding of blood in my ears.

It started with the car. Not an actual car, mind you, but the idea of the car. A car that would allow my far-side-of-40 husband to zip along the roads instead of plodding. A car that would be quote-fun-to-drive-unquote, whatever that means. I mean, you’re still going to your soul-sucking job and Publix and the dentist – what is the maximum amount of quote-fun-unquote we’re talking about?  

I watch wine dribble off the edge of the countertop. I think, distantly, that I’m glad it’s white and not red.

Maybe if I’d let him buy a stupid car, this wouldn’t have happened. But I reasoned that the car lust was a symptom of an underlying dissatisfaction with work, or with me, and I thought he would get over it. I temporarily retired my sweatpants, bought a new color of lipstick, and hoped for the best.

I should have seen this coming.

No one could have seen this coming.

He has come home hours late, radiating a high-definition sobriety usually reserved for religious fanatics and herding dogs. I’d just poured my after-dinner wine when I heard the door, and then there he was. Shirtless.

“Hell….o?” It came out as a question.

He smiled, small at first but getting bigger until it ate his face. Good God, he was practically vibrating.

“Hi!”

“Where have you been?” I hated the words as soon as they came out of my mouth.

“You were right,” he said, ignoring my line. He swayed a little, and I checked his pupils. Normal. Dammit. “You were right! I was trying to fix everything but myself. I needed to change ME,” he said, sticking a thumb to his chest.

“That’s….gratifying,” I said. “Where’s your shirt?”

He turned to look towards the door, and I heard a soft crinkling. Around his flank I saw a flash of white.

“What the hell is that?”

“I think my shirt’s in the car,” He shrugged. “Anyway, I was saying, I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said. About not waiting around for a lucky break. How I need to make my own luck. So I did.”

“You did what?”

“I took control of my luck, made it my own. Want to see?”

“Do I want to see your….luck?” I thought, if this is just a euphemism for your wiener, I swear to God I’ll lose it.

He bounced on his toes, nodding. “Yeah! I think you’ll like it!”

And then he was turning, and I saw that his lower back was covered with a large bandage. He was fumbling with the corner, wincing as he did so, and then with a soft ripping, he pulled it to one side.

The first thing I noticed was the blood. The second thing I noticed was the boobs.

“You got a….tattoo?” I whispered.

“It’s Lady Luck!” he giggled. “See the four-leaf clover?”

It was covering Lady Luck’s lady bits. The rest of Lady Luck was nude, reclined across my husband’s soft, pale lower back.

She was winking. Lord have mercy, she was winking.  

I look up from the glass I have just dropped and try to absorb the full horror of it all.

“You got a tramp stamp. Of Lady Luck.”

“No, it’s way better than that! What’s under her?”

“Your ass?”

“Right! Lady Luck, my ass!” He points at one, then the other, then breaks into giddy laughter. “Get it?”

Oh, I get it. I get it perfectly.

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Kitchen Reno Week 7: Countertops

The Griner brothers tackled cabinet adjustments this week – one upper cabinet had to be re-hung, and one lower cabinet re-configured.

In the meantime, we moved on to selecting a counter top.

I will not bore you with the ins and outs of choosing a counter top material. Suffice it to say there are dozens of options and lots of price points. Lucky for me, I already knew what I wanted. When we involuntarily remodeled our kitchen after our last house caught on fire, we chose quartz counter tops (the existing counter tops were quartz, so it didn’t cost any more to replace with the same material). I LOVED those counters. They were beautiful, durable, and maintenance-free. And sparkly.

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(That’s Silestone Stellar Night, if you’re curious.)

As much as I loved my black sparkly counters, I knew I didn’t want to repeat the color if the lower cabinets were also going to be black. I went back to my original inspiration photo for, um, inspiration.

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I liked the idea of white counter tops with a little bit of “movement” (which is apparently the technical term for “fancy squiggles”). I finally selected this:

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The contractor installed temporary counter tops so we could get used to the width of the peninsula and adjust it if necessary.

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The end of this week saw a dramatic increase in activity as we push for the finish line. On Tuesday, the electrician arrived and put in outlets, switches, and light fixtures, AND the appliances were delivered.

APPLIANCES. And LIGHTS. All the pretty things!

By the end of Tuesday, the kitchen was a giant beautiful mess:

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And now it’s time to introduce you to the very first thing we bought for our kitchen, the oh-gee-wow piece that is the literal center of the whole thing.

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It’s a giant old copper wash tub that some enterprising soul flipped upside down and turned into a light fixture. Jason and I bought it at the Westside Market, our favorite antique/vintage shop in Atlanta, on our way home from Thanksgiving weekend. I have been patiently waiting for it to be installed.

And now it has been. And there was much rejoicing.

 

 

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Kitchen Reno Week 6: Cabinets!

The cabinets began arriving Friday afternoon, and honestly I couldn’t have been more delighted if they had been delivered by a parliament of Hogwarts owls.

Here’s where we’ve been since last Wednesday:

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Our cabinets were made by the Griner brothers of Havana, who are always slightly grumpy. They keep a pay-by-the-minute phone, and when it runs out of minutes, you are SOL if you need to contact them. Our contractor once drove to Havana and left a note on their car when he needed to talk to them.

They are national treasures. But they make nice cabinets at reasonable prices, so we’ll let it slide. They arrived with a trailer full of awesomeness.

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They worked most of Saturday afternoon to install all the cabinets, and now the kitchen looks like a kitchen again.

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I am so impressed by the work the Griners did. I love all the details – the side of the fridge enclosure, the back of the peninsula.

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I am deeply relieved that I love (LOVE LOVE) the matte black finish we chose for the lower cabinets. It looks great with the floors.

But my favorite thing in the whole room is this beauty right here:

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It’s a giant, floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinet whose proportions match the original butler’s pantry you can see over in the back right corner. The Griners repeated this proportion on the panel that encloses the fridge, too.

The cabinet hardware arrived, as scheduled, on Valentine’s Day. This seemed like the logical next step:

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The next week will involve a few cabinet tweaks and then on to counter tops.

 

 

 

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Kitchen Reno Week 5: The Final Flooring Chapter (Honest)

The floors are, finally, done.

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Butterbean Sparkleface approves.

The tilesetters (from J&J Carpet in Cairo, GA) worked all day Thursday to finish laying the tile, sealing it, and applying mortar. This picture was taken before we swept up about a pound of mortar dust, so the color looks better in real life.

It’s amazing. It looks like it’s been there for 90 years, which is just what we were going for.

The next big phase will be cabinets. I ordered the hardware today. I picked these knobs, because they match all the old glass doorknobs in the house:

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(Not actual size!)

And for pulls, I chose simple bars in the same champagne bronze finish. I went with the larger, 5 1/16 center-to-center length.

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Yes, these are all over Pinterest. But I like them. SO THERE. And they’re arriving today! What better way to celebrate our tenth Valentine’s Day together?

 

 

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