Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summer birding and a few Other things!

Just before the storm rolled in this afternoon, the wind brought down a large
limb... Summer storms are just part of the adventure of not living in California!
And, downed limbs and trees are just part of the adventure of living on heavily wooded
property. And, we like it like this... Minus the trees that cause damage, of course!
After the limb came crashing down and before the heavy rain fell...
We took a little walk...
Sitting next to the pot we heard baby birds. We looked up for their nest but
we didn't see one anywhere. Then we looked down, and over. And closely... 
And there... There in the pot, we found them!
Such a perfect little spot for them. See how the hosta leaf acts
like an umbrella to shade and conceal the opening of their nest?
Nature is incredible!
And, so darn cute!
And apparently, hungry too!
We're going to move on now so that their mom can come down and do her job!
Before I go I have to share with you a fantastic shop we discovered in
Mebane last weekend... It's The Elegant Relic, and I love it! I picked up
a few beautiful candles and this vintage French hanging basket. Tonight it
is hanging on the kitchen door filled with faux sunflowers I picked up at
another sweet shop we discovered yesterday in Gibsonville. But...
It may find its way onto another door. Maybe the front door. Maybe the
living room. Who knows? I'll need time to play with it. And, eventually, it'll
tell me where it needs to be. Oh, by the way... About the living room... The
decorating is finally done! Several of you e-mailed with questions about the
cocktail table. It's by Lane. And, I used to have one similar to it in California!
It took me forever to find and ironically, was shipped to me from High Point, North
Carolina before I ever knew where High Point in North Carolina was! Then we decided
to move to North Carolina and listed our home with a crook Realtor that dedicated more
time talking me out of our furniture than he did marketing/selling our house! And, on
top of his very long list of things he and his wife said they simply couldn't live without
was my brand new cocktail table. He bugged the crap out of me until I finally agreed to
sell it. But... I asked for double what I paid for it, and I told him that he and his wife
couldn't have it until AFTER he sold the house. Had I known it would be so difficult to
replace, I would have never sold it. Or at the very least, I would have asked for triple!
It took me four long years but I finally found an even better curio cocktail table
option. Really... This is a great table! I love the display drawer under the beveled
glass top. And, while the bottom drawer on my former cocktail table was a phony...
This one opens to provide plenty of much needed storage space!
As I've said... It's perfect!
And no one is ever talking me out of it!
There's no number I'll consider...
Unless I'm able to replace it first!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer projects that help keep me busy!

Thank you for checking in on me... I'm okay. Just keeping myself busy. Busy with the dream job. Busy at home reclaiming the living room and clearing out the clutter in preparation for... Are you ready? A much needed visit from my parents on August 11th!

Just busy, busy, busy, because keeping busy helps. But never too busy to also be thinking of you! As you know, we went down to see the Ranger two weeks ago. He successfully completed SURT, (Small Unit Ranger Training) and was on his way to mountain phase
It's always so hard... His time is limited, and he's under so much stress... You know me, so I don't have to repeat how difficult I find all of this. Seeing him makes my heart sing and crushes it all at the same time. There's no way to explain it. I take inventory of how he looks, I hang on every word he says and then I replay his movements and words over and over in my head until the good Lord blesses us with another visit.

There are days/moments when I think I'm handling everything pretty darn well and then there are days/moments when I realize this experience is breaking me down... parting me out into pieces I don't recognize or always know how to handle. He is an 11X, Option 40. That's 5 years, 17 weeks. Takes us from January 2009 to January 2014. Takes me from 43 to 48 years old. That's all I have to do... Hope to get older quicker, which will deliver me to the day when I can call my son a civilian again. But now... Now there is talk of potential re-enlistment. Maybe. Maybe not. It never gets better, and even if his ETS was a date certain, the time in between takes its toll.

The worst part for right now is knowing that he deploys again in December. Right before Christmas no less. I am already thinking about calling in sick on Christmas. Fa-la-la-la-la... Joy... Presents... Really? How? He's already been missing from Christmas at home twice. A third time... I don't know... I might just crack! Even the Ranger says he misses his birthdays, the occasions... even just dinner out together. The only thing that keeps me moving forward is knowing that I am but one of thousands of military moms going through the same thing. And, if they aren't curled up in a ball and won't call in sick on Christmas, then I can't either.

I'm not special. I'm not any more affected by this Army-mom gig than anyone else. That's not to say my heart isn't already stuck in my throat, that I'm not already wobbly and it's barely August. What can I tell you? It's just awful. Awful knowing he and his buddies are going and awful knowing it won't be the last time before this enlistment ends... Not that knowing it's the last time would make it any better.

On a happier note... Ranger is doing exceptionally well in Ranger school. He's currently in phase II, (of 3) and best of all, he's able to write letters! We've received two letters thus far, and there's an address where we can write back. In his first letter I was invited to send an, end of phase II goodie package, but warned not to, go too crazy. He said, not a deployment package, mom... just something, a snack for when I'm done. So I sent one box. It weighed 23 pounds, but it was still just one, flat-rate, large priority mail box. I know he said he just wants a snack for when he's finished; but I like to think about the guys that might not have packages waiting - Besides, I taught my Ranger to share, and I know he will. Without giving away too much, I can tell you that his letters, just like the letters he sent from basic training, are wonderful. They confirm that despite the rigors of constant training, hunger, prolonged periods of simulated stress and the repeated misery of a war that takes him 6,000 miles away from us every six months, our kind, sensitive, gentle, funny, and cherished son is still very, very much intact. Of this much I am sure... I will be reading these letters over and over, and holding on to them long after age has robbed me of the gray matter necessary to comprehend them. Every letter is such a gift.

What else is going on? Oh! We went night-kayaking in Durham with Frog Hollow Outdoors last Friday night. First time for night paddling, and.... The last time for night paddling! Why? Well, we discovered that the most enjoyable part of kayaking is what you can see in and around the water. The birds, the fish, the dolphins, the ducks and the other critters... But in the dark there is only darkness. Which just makes it paddling around in the dark hoping a snake doesn't slither up into your boat.

So the darkness, along with the fact that at the end of our excursion I lost my footing on the moss-covered boat ramp and tumbled head-first into the dirty river pretty much checked night-paddling right off our list forever. Fortunately, it was dark so the 30 other paddlers only heard me plunging off into the muck! And, as a bonus, I didn't break any bones! Only suffered a bruised ego, one mildly scraped up elbow and palm, and a broken fingernail from where loose boat ramp gravel and green river algae shot straight up into my tender nailbed.

Hum... What else? Oh! There was a storm a few weeks ago that brought down a dead tree from the woodline behind the pool. We weren't around to see it - But we heard it!
Fortunately, it missed the pool, fountain and fence!
Unfortunately, it crashed through the roof of the pool equipment shed!
It's fine now because Army Dad put it back together... Minus the cute
red tin roof. That was a custom order piece and took forever to get;
therefore, since we have company coming in two weeks, we decided
to shingle it. And, now that it's done, I rather prefer the shingles!
I think they make the shed look more cottagy! Yes, cottagy is a word. I google'd it...
The other project I've been working on to keep myself busy is the redecorating of the formal living room. The carpeting in our California home was snow-white and I was going through a phase where the furniture and everything else had to be just so. So... When we moved to North Carolina and to this much larger house with two living rooms, I wanted to give the boys a room where they could watch television and play video games at their leisure and without concern. Of course, if that were really true I wouldn't have furnished the room with top of the line furniture that cost more than a one-owner Camry. But that's what I did. Nevertheless, I said I wanted them to be comfortable and to enjoy another space in the house that wasn't their bedrooms, a room where they could just flop and hang out, and that's what they did. And, for a little while, I followed them around with a bottle of Resolve and a sponge... Then I let it go!

After the boys left home, I ignored the living room. Every time I passed by, I saw them in there, glued to the television just like they used to be. One stretched out across the loveseat surrounded by empty pudding cups and half-eaten bowls of Spaghetti-O's. The other reclined in the chair with his feet up on the ottoman, covered up in a blanket and usually with his buddy Bing asleep in his lap. You know... Good times.

I always said that five minutes after the boys left home I'd furnish our big living room with the white slip-cover sectional you see in every Pottery Barn store. But five minutes is only what you mean while you're picking up empty pudding cups. It's taken almost three years to stop missing those pudding cups... But now I'm finally ready to reclaim the room and enjoy it during this period of empty nesting that comes after you stop missing pudding cups and before the grandchildren arrive. 

I did get my sectional... I just didn't know I wanted a leather sectional until we spent time at our neighbor's mountain retreat

But I did! As soon as my butt hit that buttery leather and as soon as I realized how much I enjoyed lounging with Army Dad instead of being in separate chairs, I became obsessed with finding a sectional just like it. And, I found it... Actually, after hearing how much we enjoyed hers, our neighbor called to tell us where she'd just seen one. She said she'd just found the one she WISHES they had at the cabin because the leather on it is such a higher grade. And, after she said that she would have bought it on the spot, had they not just paid for a wedding and just picked up a whole apartment full of new furniture for their other daughter, I knew I had to see it. 

So on our way to Charleston we stopped in Lexington to look... And, it really was all that and a bag of chips, just like our neighbor promised. But they only had one - the floor model, and as wild as I am about buying vintage, I am never excited about floor models of anything. Nevertheless, this was the most delicious sectional ever... So I almost paid for it in full; however, when the salesclerk bought my story about needing to measure, and offered to let me leave a 10% deposit to hold it for two weeks, I did that to buy myself some time to find it somewhere else and to perhaps beat their price. 

I made many calls and inquiries on-line... But in the end, I found that while I could thankfully get the same sectional new elsewhere, I couldn't beat the price. 

The very best I could do was either buy a much bigger and tad more expensive, ($4,000) sectional at Haverty's that my favorite saleslady there offered to sell me for the same price, or order a brand new one, with the added advantage of free, white-glove delivery service through Bowen Town and Country. And, although I really wanted to make the more expensive sectional work and keep my business with Betty at Haverty's, it just wouldn't fit in the room... So I went with the delicious new sectional my neighbor suggested. Of course a new sectional meant fresh paint and other new furniture too. Oh! And, a new television and Blu-ray player as well!

The room finally came together last Saturday when went shopping for the new TV and stumbled on the perfect media console at Costco. I was so beyond done with the room-hogging entertainment center/armoire we had, but I didn't know how to make it disappear without sending the man I love over the edge. I mean, it wasn't cheap and even if he did say it was okay to replace it, I didn't really have a plan after that. 

All I knew is I was ready to see a blank wall again!
So I bit the bullet and told him I wanted to replace it... And, much to
my relief, he said it didn't match the new sectional so it had to go!
Much better! And yes... I did choose to have
white carpeting installed. Please don't judge me!

I love the new arrangement of the living room and I especially love the views from the room. Sitting in my new sectional I'm able to see tons of birds playing in the wisteria arbor outside the dining room windows. And when I look out front, I see the gorgeous wispy green Japanese maple under the window and more birds! 

All that remains are a few finish details we're working on now - I need to find the right pieces to hang on the walls. And, now that the trim/molding guy has framed out the top of the map tonight, it needs to be painted... See?
And then... There's the matter of lighting. I have a stained glass, (Tiffany-style, but all wrong) lamp I picked up at an estate auction on the end table but there must be another lamp in the room. So I ordered four floor lamps on-line last week because there aren't many lamp stores around to choose from anymore. I ordered two he liked and two I liked. So far neither of us was too keen on my first choice...
But we agreed to give each choice two days. So this evening we're testing the first
of his choices... And, I like it! But the shade is too small. So on to the next we go!

I'd still love to find an arc lamp we can both agree on that also has a correctly proportioned shade. However, finding one that isn't chrome/contemporary is nearly impossible. But I'm no quitter, so stay tuned!

The last project I'm working on is project house-declutter. As much as I enjoy dragging things home from estate sales and auctions, not everything works as well at home as they do in my mind during the discovery phase. I never considered reselling any of my treasures before; but all that went straight out the window after my parents called a few weeks ago to announce their visit! I mean, a few over-flow items in storage to change up the decor once in a while and seasonally is a must; but as it was, my collections and the over-full garage was screaming, Your daughter has a serious shopping addiction, and absolutely must always be the highest bidder! 

So as difficult as it was, I shook the tree... I listed almost 30 items on e-Bay, I sold several large items, such as the old sofa and the ping-pong table we used twice on Craigslist, and this weekend I'm hosting what Martha refers to as a Tag Sale, which I realize everyone else will mistake for a dime-to-quarter sale. 

Nonetheless, I'm very satisfied with the results of my e-Bay auctions and the prices I got from the Craigslist items. Totaled, that stuff has already paid for my new sectional, the television, Blu-ray player and the media console. So whatever money I recoup from the remaining items I've decided to part with will be gravy. All in all, with the exception of the $80 loss on the ping-pong table, everything else I sold brought more than I paid. Except for the sofa - but still, if you average out the cost new over the number of years used, I came out waaaay ahead on that too. Already the house feels lighter! And, mom and dad will be soooo glad... Because now, there's actually room for them too!

So, do tell... What projects have kept you busy this summer?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Just when I thought I was going to Lose it!

So the past few weeks have been a bit tough around here for your favorite Army Mom...
Oh, it looked like I was humming right along without a care in the world... Creating
cookies to thank the Ranger's orthodontist, planning and executing a full remodel
of the living room I've been ignoring since the boys left home, and holding down
the dream job. But on the inside it was a different story... I was about to Spew! 
You see, it'd been three weeks since we'd heard anything from the Ranger and
every day the feeling that something wasn't right grew stronger. So I ran away...
First, to mountains and our neighbor's fabulous cabin. Then to Charleston!
quiet the feeling that our soldier was out there missing us as much as we were
missing him. And the dreams... I was dreaming about him practically every
night. Vivid, memorable dreams. In the most memorable dream, we were
sitting at the dinner table listening to him tell us about his day. Wearing his
first-grade Catholic school uniform, he went on and on about the great day
he'd just had - Just like he used to do. Blond hair reflecting sunlight, which
always made him look like he was wearing either a crown or halo. His pale
blue eyes dancing with glee as every word filled the room with sweetness. I
woke up that morning and immediately told Army Dad about my dream, and
about how much I needed to hear that voice again. Then last Wednesday we
received a letter. It could not have been more unexpected or more welcome!
It's 7-pages, front and back and was written over a period of one week. When
Army Dad called to tell me about it, I begged him to bring it over to my office
so that I could read it for myself. It took me an hour and a half to read it, but
it only took a few seconds to realize that the day I dreamt about him at the
dinner table telling us about his wonderful day was the day our Ranger was
recording the pain of his lowest point. The simulated stress, sleep and food
deprivation, coupled with a case of trench foot that required attention from
medics, confirmed everything my heart already knew. So when I reached
the part of the letter where he indicated they would be allowed an 8-hour
pass on Friday between phases of Ranger School, I packed the bags!
We drove 1,100 miles for eight hours with him. There are only two words for that... 
 Worth It!
First stop was a gas station for Kit-Kat bars,
gummi bears and one Monster energy drink 
Then he wanted pancakes. Three different varieties, twelve
pancakes total. He kept the waitress at iHop hopping!
After he ate, we watched our Ranger drop over $700.00 in less than two hours
to fulfill a second RS packing list. This training will cost him over $3k of his own
money - and, he says it's worth every penny. I won't argue with him; however, I do
wish the 15 pairs of socks on the list could be Hanes... And, a bit less expensive!
While Ranger organized his gear and finished his laundry, Army Dad
and I cleared out of our hotel and then picked up a small pizza at Mellow
Mushroom to take back to him at the barracks. As his buddies were all
leaving to attend the semi-annual Ranger ball last night, our Ranger
shaved his perfect little head, put on his uniform, loaded his duffel bags
and then ate cold pizza on the ride back to RS. And then, just as suddenly
as it had begun, his 8-hour pass expired and we had to say good-bye again
We'll see you in September at graduation... In the meantime,
and always... Know that you carry with you my heart!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

UNSAD 2011... Another Great day at Work!

It was a beautiful day for Team Building at
Or as we call it at work, UNSAD day!
UNderwear Summer Activity Day, that is!
I work with the Best people!
They love to play as hard as they work...
And they so deserve that!
We rafted a lot!
And we dropped from towers...
And zip-lined and rock climbed too!
So fun!
Just another Great day at work!