How to Not Stay Married

Step 1: Have a long and rich history of purchasing unnecessary pieces of furniture and assorted decor for your home.

Step 2: Purchase a salvaged fireplace mantel from an antique store. Make sure you do not consult in any way with your husband prior to purchasing your new antique fireplace mantel.

Pretend not to notice your husband rolling his eyes when you arrive home from shopping and giddily tell him about your new antique fireplace mantel.

Also, make sure that the home that you live in at the time has a perfectly lovely brick fireplace surround that would not even accommodate your new antique fireplace mantel thus ensuring that no one, not even you, can justify the purchase of a new, antique fireplace mantel.

Step 3: Ask your husband to return to the antique store with you the next day to help you haul your new fireplace mantel from the bowels of the warehouse-like building to your minivan.

Ignore the deep sigh that emanates from his general direction.

Step 4: Retrieve new mantel from antique store and attempt to fit it into the back of your minivan. Be unsuccessful at this. Witness your husband’s complete exasperation. Witness your positive attitude making everything worse. Jerry-rig the mantel with improvised ties in such a way that makes it impossible to close the back hatch of the minivan so the entire 30 minute drive home, the BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP of the car’s there-is-a-door-open warning system is blaring.

Assure yourself that the noise is probably why your husband is no longer talking to you.

Step 5: Arrive home with your new antique fireplace mantel and have absolutely no logical place to put it. Ask husband to carry mantel to the third floor storage room while you “figure out a plan.”

Step 6: Devise brilliant plan! Decide to create one of those fake fireplace vignettes in your dining room. Something like this:


Request husband retrieve mantel from third-floor attic so you can get to work!

Step 7: Do not get to work.

Step 8: Look at mantel leaning precariously against dining room wall for several months, hoping it doesn’t accidentally fall on one of the kids. Eventually, put some candles on the top that also lean precariously.

Step 9: Decide to move. When husband asks if the mantel should, logically, be left behind, react with shock and horror at such a suggestion. Explain in earnest that if you’re moving, the mantel’s moving, too.

Place mantel in basement of new home, leaning precariously against a wall. Hope it doesn’t accidentally fall on one of the kids.

Step 10: Wait three years.

Step 11: Clear out the entire contents of your basement in advance of construction work. Carry load after load of items to the garage, both you and your husband working diligently to ignore the antique mantel leaning precariously against the wall until it is the only item that remains.

Wordlessly and while making no eye contact, move the antique mantel to a dark corner of the basement.

Step 12: Bravely suggest to your husband that the super talented contractor working on the basement could maybe, possibly, perhaps also look into replacing your current fireplace mantel with the new antique mantel?

Watch as your husband rolls his eyes while simultaneously sighing deeply and reluctantly agreeing.

Step 13: Wait until your husband has worked an 11 hour day after rising at 4:30 a.m. and THEN ask him to help you bring the mantel up from the corner of the basement so the contractor can take some measurements and provide an estimate.

Ignore your husband when he exclaims, “FINE. BUT IT’S NOT GOING BACK DOWN THERE.” Wave your hands in a sarcastic, dismissive manner when he threatens to chop the antique mantel into many, many pieces and throw it into the fire pit. Do not, under any circumstances, suggest this might be ill-advised since, “it’s probably covered in lead paint anyway.”

Step 14: Get a response from your contractor that indicates the mantel installation is doable but that provides no indication of a work start date.

With great enthusiasm, relay this information to your husband. Watch him have much less enthusiasm.

Step 15: Pretend, along with your husband, that the new antique mantel isn’t currently sitting in the middle of your living room, leaning precariously against a buffet, like a ticking time bomb. Like an elephant in the room that is almost the actual size of a small elephant.


Convince yourself that the old newspaper and small kindling your husband is gathering is for an entirely unrelated project.

Made for the Country

St. Patrick’s Day is not just another useless holiday upon which I refuse to wear green or decorate my house. It’s an anniversary for our family. Yesterday marked two years since we left Richmond and moved to the country.

Now, someone will probably read this at some point that actually lives in the country and they’re going to roll their eyes and say, “Lady, I’m 70 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart so you don’t even know country.” And, to that, I would say, “Fair point.” Our rural side of this county isn’t really, truly country. But, we are surrounded by farms. Sure, they exist mostly to provide our nearest organic grocer with local artisanal herbed goat cheese that costs $25 a pound but, they’re still farms. And, sure, sometimes the horses that abound seem rather decorative. I mean, they’re not for herding cattle or anything. But, still, you can’t have horses in the city. So, I think this means we’re in the country. Also, and this is an important point, we have snakes. And, I think an abundance of snakes is the one requirement for country life, right? Yes, I think that’s correct.

Charlie believes whole-heartedly that he lives in the country. A couple of weeks ago, I was waiting in the car for one of the kids. (Or, maybe it was Bob. I’m not sure. I’m always in the car waiting on someone. Always.) Anyway, I was in the car in the driveway and Charlie walked up to my open window and I leaned out and he asked on tiptoes, “Mom, do you think I was made for the country?” I instantly smiled and replied, “Yes, Charlie, you were made for the country.”

Could he *be* wearing any more camouflage?

Said in my best Chandler Bing voice, “Could he *be* wearing any more camouflage?”

Charlie loves this house and this location and this country more than any of the rest of us combined. When school was called off for the primary elections a couple of weeks back, Henry, Millie and I took it as an opportunity to stay in our pajamas, watching our favorite shows or lazily building Lego or coloring at the dining room table. Basically, all indoor cat activities. When I called Charlie for second breakfast and he didn’t respond, I peered out the kitchen window, assuming he must have gone outside. Sure enough, there he was, out front, patching up a portion of our gravel driveway that had turned to mud in the rainy weather. He had dressed himself, put his John Deere work gloves on, popped open the garage door, gathered his tools in his Gator and headed out to get to rearranging that gravel.


Charlie is simply his best self when he is outside. And, I am so delighted that we can give that to him; a great life out of doors. Now that the weather has warmed, each afternoon, he arrives home from school and, most times, his backpack doesn’t even make it in the front door. It gets deposited somewhere in the garage as he pulls out his bike or his little motorcycle, grabs his helmet and off he goes, making endless loops around our neighborhood square or hitting the trails that run behind the house and around the ponds. I am so grateful for this space for him, for this backdrop to his childhood.


Bob and I feel blessed every day, too, to have found this house. And, after two years, we are ready to embark on some bigger changes to our home. We’ve done lots of cosmetic things over the past year or two like paint and fixtures and lighting but we both feel it’s time to tackle the basement. We are sitting on a tremendous amount of unfinished square footage down there and capturing that space would make our compact home feel twice as big, quite literally since we live on a single story.

Finishing the basement really benefits everyone. The kids have been arguing more and more, as kids at these ages are wont to do. Having a big rec room on an entire other well-insulated floor of the house would give Bob and I the option of just shoving our children down there and closing the door instead of rationally settling their disputes like responsible parents. The plush carpet we’re going to line the space with will give them a soft place to land. So, we’re all pretty much on board with this plan.

Now, we just have to actually make the remodel happen, which, just thinking about the process makes me twitchy. The contractors, the budget monitoring, dealing with all of the crap that currently resides in the basement, the terrifying noise of a still-running air compressor going off in the middle of the night, the dust. THE DUST.

Simply writing about it all is making me feel panicky so let’s look at one more cute picture of Charlie instead.


I was helping Charlie brush his teeth yesterday morning before school and he leaned over, gave me a huge hug and said, “Did you know? Every time I hug you? I’m charging you with love.” You know, like an iPad or something.

Good gravy. This kid. My absolute favorite country boy.

There’s a Fine Line Between Salmon and Pink

We started painting Millie’s bedroom over Memorial Day weekend and finally finished sometime in July. Watching Bob and I DIY is basically like watching lightening. If you blink, you’ll miss it. We’re that fast. But, whatever, because IT’S DONE NOW.


I picked Millie’s wall color during a panicked moment of indecision at our local Benjamin Moore store. The color I had originally selected, and had headed to the store to purchase, was something soft and safe but when I spotted their display of Williamsburg colors, I kind of fell in love with “Custis Salmon.” The salmon color was a split second decision and there was pretty much no changing my mind because a gallon of the paint cost $75.00. I had no idea paint had gotten so expensive. Which, I was reminded of again when I had to return to buy a second gallon to finish the room.

(Side note in case you are getting ready to paint something: I have used two types of paint now from Benjamin Moore. In Millie’s room, I went for their top-of-the-line Aura paint. I didn’t care for it. I don’t really know anything about painting but I found the coverage was almost too thick and goopy. When we painted our great room, I was focused on price and went one step down in their line, using their Regal Select which was easy to use, offered great coverage and was many fewer dollars. Two thumbs up!)

Anyway, I got really, really nervous when we started rolling the walls and everything seemed not so much salmon as bright pink. Everyone on Facebook was quick to assure me that it wouldn’t seem so pink once I had curtains hanging on the windows, artwork on the walls and furniture back in place. I will admit now that I think the color does look rather lovely and coral-y during the daytime but when the room is illuminated at night, I don’t know. I can’t help but think it resembles what I imagine the inside of a pancreas looks like. It’s still very, very pink. But, it has grown on me and the color works really well with the ivory trim, which we are definitely not prepared to repaint white for a long time to come.


Millie’s room is pretty tiny and has to double as our guest room so the bulk of her space is dedicated to a queen-sized bed. She has a great double closet though and there’s room for a bookshelf and dresser for added storage. Both Bob and my mom think I should ditch her dresser for something more modern but the dresser was mine when I was a young girl so I have this weird nostalgia for it. I was thinking of changing the hardware and painting it white but I think we all know that I’ll never actually get around to doing that so it remains as-is for now.


Millie has three big windows in her room so I wanted to keep the window coverings pretty light and breezy, especially after the room turned out so pink. I found some cute fringed curtains at Target (of course). I’m pretty sure at some point I will be filled with deep regret for hanging all-white curtains in a 3-year-old’s room but for now, I really like them.


Above Millie’s bookcase, I hung some of the pieces I had originally selected for her bedroom in Richmond but which we never got around to hanging because we decided to move. Richmond has the BEST antique, thrift and consignment stores. Whenever we go back to visit friends, I always make stops to visit my favorite shops. It’s nice that these pictures and mirror have finally found a permanent spot.


Millie’s bookcase holds all of my favorite books from when I was a young reader plus a lot of her favorites, too. I hope she loves Anne of Green Gables as much as I did. Also, this bookshelf will never, ever look this neat ever again. It is impossible to keep a kid’s bookshelf organized and I kind of think that’s okay. That’s the point of books – to dive in.


It will come as no surprise to my parents that, when it came time to find some much-needed new bedding for Millie’s room, I chose the duvet cover with horses on it. When Millie is a championship-winning horsewoman, I hope she points to this bedding as her inspiration. (And, also, the twelve Breyer horses I have purchased for her that she refuses to play with because Millie doesn’t care about my unfulfilled dreams apparently.)

The four prints above her bed were a Pottery Barn Kids find and are hung with upholstery tacks because: LAZY.

I’m going to place Millie’s room in the “Done” category. I might bend to peer pressure and swap out the dresser for a different piece in the future but I’m not sure. And, sometime soon, we’re going to need to figure out a Stuffed Animal and Small Purse Storage Solution but for now, I’m considering this space good enough.

One room down! So many rooms to go…

Edited to add: this is how her room looks approximately five minutes later.