Monday, May 30, 2011

Blogging or mind control?

I read a lot of crafty, creative, decorating, making-your-house-a-home type blogs.  I'm really into nesting right now.  And I can't afford to travel, my other favorite, so I'm trying to bloom where I'm planted, as they say.

Based on my research, I think that Target should give every blogger in the world a treat because I think they probably sold eleventy billion of these and at least half of that is probably because of all the bloggers who raved about it.  Seriously, if you are going to be a home decor-anista (I just made that up) in your 20s, this is a required accessory.  Don't believe me?










Doesn't it kind of make you laugh?  Don't get me wrong, it's a great accessory, but I chuckle.

I do like seeing how different people use the same pillow with different color combinations.  The first one is by far my favorite!

Hey, mom, you know how I said that gray and yellow combines were totally hot right now?  See what I mean?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Current Obsession

I am currently obsessed with Ana White.  This Alaska lady has an entire blog dedicated to putting out easy plans for people to build their own furniture.  How empowering, right?  Get some tools!  Build a table!  And most of the "do-ers" are women, traditionally not the tool-buying, table-building demographic.  She and other guests post plans and then people post their "brag blogs" about what they built and how it turned out and it usually turns our magnificently.

We're getting ready to move into my parent's OKC house for about a year and while we're there we're going to get things fixed up and ready to sell.  One of our projects is an island for the massive kitchen.  We also need to repaint the cabinets (after removing several layers of paint), change out the hardware, replace the nasty old carpet, replace the dishwasher, and perhaps replace the stove and oven.  But after all that...then we want to add an island.  But we won't want to spend a lot of money.  So we can build one!  I popped "kitchen island" into the search bar at and come up with these beauties.


The first one's actually a counter-height craft table, but I think it would make a stupendous island.  We'll paint the island the same color as the cabinets and probably top it with a butcher block countertop from Ikea.

We also will need a desk.  We have an inherited computer desk that works well but is U-G-L-Y and extremely awkward to move.  When we moved to Atlanta I made S promise me that this was the LAST time we would move this desk.  Goodbye ugly desk!

But S will be in grad school and I'll be getting ready for grad school so we need some sort of desk set up.  I know!  Let's build one!  Ana?


I like the first two because they could be reincarnated as something else someday - a console table, an entry table, etc.  I like the last one because it's beautiful.

But if we build a desk with less storage then we need a place to put everything that we currently store in out ugly desk.  I know!

Don't you love that color?  And the filing cabinet-inspired details?

All together now...

Can we build it?


Monday, May 23, 2011

My creating self

A while back I posted a short list of small projects.  And then I did them!  Well, most of them.  So here's where we stand.
  • a pillow  One here
  • another pillow and here
  • a couple of finished pillows still here
  • some fabric for a pillow (sensing a theme...) yep, still on this one
  • reigniting my love of tolerance for crocheting I'm even working on some "inventory"!
  • a scarf for S It looks like this.  Too bad S doesn't wear scarves.  Oops.
  • some beyond precious crocheted baby things These booties launched several more pairs.
  • spray painting a lamp My old "ancient Greece-inspired" Pier 1 lamp is now blue! More specifically, it's Rustoleum's "Night Tide."  More on that lampshade in a minute.  Do you see that dresser top?  Numero uno on my to-do list after we move into a house with a garage this summer!

  • recovering the lamp shade  Oh, look, we're already to the lamp shade.  So I read about a thousand different blog posts about how the "easiest way to update a lamp is to recover the lampshade with fabric and a hot glue gun!"  It's supposedly super simple and amazing.  These people?  They are liars.  It is not easy and my lampshade looks like poop.  But it's still hanging out on my lamp because it's the only one in the house that looks good on that lamp.  It didn't help that the shade I chose to recover was ancient and cracked and discolored and I chose to cover it with transparent white fabric.  Oh well.

  • a spring wreath I have yet to make one for the outside of the front door, but I was inspired by these pomanders to create this!

 Let's see, I walked by the TV and saw some women making a tray out of a picture frame now my lotion and jewelry and such sit on this.

I also used the flower punch from the wreath project to add some white flowers to some branches I found on a Buddy walk.

And since I had some burlap on hand, I copied this project almost exactly.

Now this pile of goodness is waiting for me!  I have some "commissioned" pillows to make and that dang spring (uh, summer?) wreath that's been waiting for two months to be made.  With only two months left until we move, it seems a little silly to be starting something new, doesn't it?  Spring Summer wreath, you might have to wait.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One more Anglophile post, I promise

I'm not sure how I got to be so Britain-centric.  It's all a coincidence, I promise.

I have two books to recommend.  I loved them both.  Both set in Britain but very different

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is delightful and quaint and old-fashioned and contemporary all at the same time.  You wouldn't think a love story in which the main character is a rather grumpy old man living in the English countryside would be all those things but it is.  I think I will get this one for my grandma.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has an odd and cumbersome title so you know it must be good if it has over 1400 reviews on Amazon with such a title!  And it is.  Set right after World War II in London and the channel island of Guernsey and presented in a series of letters, I was sad it was over.  I want to know what happens next for Juliet and Kit and Isola and Dawsey! 

A small plug for your summer reading. :-)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm not crafty

I love projects.  LOVE.   Big, small, give me something to make. 

But I don't like the word "crafty."  I don't really like "craft" (n., a handmade item) either but I'm okay with "craft" (n,, a skill) and "to craft" (v.) and I love the word "crafted" (adj.).

But "crafty" sounds a bit "silly." 

Maybe it's because I associate with "craft fair" and that makes me think of this:

I'm not really a wooden farm animals sorta girl.

I also don't really like being called "creative" when it comes to the actual creation of things because creative implies gifted-ness rather than simply stealing borrowing other people's ideas and taking the time to make them yourself.

So I think I will be called "creating."  And when I'm not creating, like right now for instance, I will be something else.  Like "distracted."

Monday, May 16, 2011

May the force be with you, because you're worth it

My parents live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and have been raving about a BBC comedy that is carried on their local PBS station.  We have two PBS stations in Atlanta but neither seems to have discovered any British comedies made after 1990.  So we have not been able to watch Outnumbered.  And it's not on Netflix.  The horrible American remake is though, so that's nice.

But there are a lot of clips on YouTube and they've been making me laugh.  Today, I give you a montage which outlines young Karen's "spiritual journey."

Yesterday we were walking by a park and as I saw a little girl run through the "big toys" with butterfly wings flapping on her back as one hand struggled to keep her tutu in place, I was reminded of this clip.

I had never heard of Red Nose Day, but now that I have, I quite like it.

Thank you, spiritual homeland, for making me laugh.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I don't think I have a whole coherent post. But I do feel strongly that there are some things I want to say about our marriage. And since digits soothe me, I will make a numbered list.

1) Our marriage isn't perfect.

2) I am not perfect.

3) I have not been the best husband and have made some hurtful decisions.

4) I love my wife.

5) I love the person she is, the person she wants to be, the scholar and mother she will become.

6) We are working hard at becoming a better couple, which means we don't always see eye to eye.

7) I think our only shot at happiness is if we are both pursuing goals which are meaningful.

8) I feel hopeful about our future -- the careers ahead of us and the people in our lives.

9) I want to take more risks in my life -- I currently take VERY few. So by more, I mean maybe like 1 more per year...

10) I don't have anything else to say, but I wanted to end my list with a number that ends in '0.'


Thursday, May 5, 2011

The trouble with dreams

"A woman with dreams always has problems."
-Maya Soetoro-Ng (as quoted in Newsweek)

Maybe it's because we have a lot of transitions happening at once.  Maybe it's because I'm approaching 30.  Maybe it's because I have so much I want to do with my life and it feels like the clock is ticking and has been for some time.  Whatever it is, the complexities that come with being a woman are suddenly very real to me.

I've always had big dreams for myself.  Sometimes I wanted to be a cab driver/doctor/ballerina.  Sometimes I wanted to be a Broadway star.  Sometimes I wanted to be a teacher.  Sometimes I wanted to be lawyer.  Sometimes I wanted to be an artist.  Now I want to get a PhD and read, write, and teach for a living.  Not in a "well, I guess if I have to get a job this will work" sorta way but in a "this is my soul's deep need for meaningful work" sorta way.

I wanted to get married and be a mom when I was a kid but was it my "dream"?  Not really.  Whenever I was asked "what do you want to be when you grow up?" I never answered "a mommy."

But I do want to be a mommy. A good one.  And a wonderful wife and partner in my unique and beautiful and complicated marriage.

And I want to be Dr. B and publish and travel and connect to the world with my research and teaching.  And I never thought that I couldn't do it or that anyone wouldn't want me to do it.  Until now.

Let me be clear: S wants me to do it.  He'll do whatever it takes to make my dreams reality.  But it's not easy for him either.

I'm keenly aware of the women's movement and feminism and the long history of and continued struggle for equal rights.  In fact, I have wondered, am I only wanting all these things because I know how other women were denied these opportunities and how many had to fight tooth-and-nail for whatever they did accomplish?  I've thought long and hard about that and I'm pretty sure that's not my driving force, but I do think of those women.  I am a feminist.  Growing up I assumed everyone born after 1980 would consider themselves a feminist because, uh, hello?  But I was WRONG.

I'm all for my fellow young women deciding to stay home and raise kids or whatever they choose to do, that's wonderful.  Good for them!  And, though I don't see that being my path, I cannot entirely eliminate it.  Who knows what the future will bring?  However, it is not my dream.  To do that I would have to willingly and consciously give up on my dream.  Granted, maybe not forever, but the likelihood of seeing that dream through would greatly diminish.

Here's what I didn't see coming:  The subtle resistance to my choices by people of all stripes.  The conflict and tough decisions that are inherent in a two-career family.  The unconscious expectations that I carry with me and whisper in my ear "stop being so selfish, it'll never work out anyway."

During the last year whenever I shared that I was applying to PhD programs people asked over and over again, "And your husband's just going to follow you wherever you go?"  Uh, yeah?  How do you think I ended up in Atlanta?  I didn't have a job here.  I didn't have friends or family here.  I wasn't in school here.  But no one looked at me incredulously and asked, "And you're just going to follow him wherever he goes?"  See, no one is being mean or unkind or calling me an uppity woman, but those little comments get to you after a while.  They start making you think, am I asking too much?  Am I ruining his life?  Am I being unreasonable?

No, of course not!

And what about S?  What about his career?  He doesn't have a clear goal like I do but he wants to provide for his family and he has some idea about what he wants to accomplish with this master's degree he'll finish in a year.  We don't know the answer to this one.  But I can say that we are getting better at talking about it and imagining it and trying not to worry about it.  However, I know that there are people who worry that my choices, my dreams, will threaten his chance for achievement.

And what about my own expectations?  What about the stories that I've internalized about what it means to be a woman and a "good" wife and a "good" mother?  They are there and I didn't even realize it until, well, this week.  They've been there in the back of my mind like an annoying and destructive Jiminy Cricket telling me, "You know, a good wife wouldn't worry so much about her own goals.  A good woman would be happy with this amazing man she managed to marry and leave it at that."  What!?  What's wrong with you evil talking cricket?  Leave me alone!

So a woman with dreams has problems.  Maybe so.

I also know that a woman without dreams is not problem-free. (Who doesn't have dreams?)

And a woman with dreams who stamps them down and tries to ignore them turns into some crazy heroine from 19th-century feminist literature.  Nobody benefits from that.

It's exhausting, right?  Sheesh!  All for a silly degree and a job.  Yet, that silly degree and that job are going to make me a better wife and partner.  They are going to make me a better mom.  They are going to make me a better friend and a better daughter and a better person because they will allow me to live into myself, live into my potential.  Those non-familial, non-relational achievements will be the result of hard work and, yes, some sacrifice, and my family and my friends will benefit from a happier and healthier me.

So I think it's worth it.  Problems and all.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Returning to my spiritual homeland

Since S posted about moving back to Oklahoma last week, you might think that I am waxing philosophical about returning to the place where I grew up. 

You would be WRONG. 

Oklahoma was my home, but my spiritual homeland it is not.

The royal goings-on have me thinking about the land of (nearly all) my ancestors.

Eight years ago (eight!?) I stepped off a train in London and thought, "I'm home!"  I love Great Britain.  I want to live there for a bit eventually and (don't tell my mom) give my kids the opportunity to spend some of their growing up among the British.  S isn't as committed to this dream as I am, but I'm working on him.

In the meantime, I am excited to finally embrace my British sensibilities when it comes to my appearance.  Tailored jackets, simple frocks, subtle jewelry, being a brunette...Princess Kate, you inspire me to be me.  I mean, I adore this outfit.

This outfit says "RENEE!!! WEAR ME!"

So I cleaned out my closet.  I got rid of 2.5 garbage bags of ill-fitting, slovenly clothes to make way for this outfit.

Do you want to know what else I like about Catherine, Duchess of Blahdiblah?  Her eyes are starting to get a little wrinkly.  You wouldn't mistake her for a 60-year-old, obviously, but she's also not passing for 16.  Do you know why I like this?  Not because I am mean-spirited, because I am starting to get wrinkly around my eyes.  Yay for being 29!

So thanks, Kate, for helping me embrace my inner British lady and my almost-30-year-old eyes.

But do you know the REAL reason that I am secretly British at heart?  I LOVE HATS.  I LOVE them.  Whenever I see hats I must put them on my head and try to invent reasons why I would wear them absolutely everywhere.  I adore hats.  When my friend Carrie gave me a cameo ring she said, "I chose this one for you because she's wearing a hat."  My spiritual homeland would have to include magnificent hats. 

How could you not love this?  I want it on my head.  And in my heart.