Sunday, March 22, 2015

Back In The Yard: Preparation For The Gardening Season

Spring is springing and I am finally getting out from under the kitchen and out into the yard.  Honestly, getting my back used to the strain of yard work has not been fun, but being out in the sunshine with birds singing and the scent of flowers in the air has been reviving. 

This weekend, my goal was to get the vegetable garden in shape for planting.  It is still too early to plant anything (growing season begins April 15th-ish in TN), but preparing the soil is key for the success of a good crop.  Over the past couple of weekends I got out there and pulled every single weed, making sure there were no roots left in the soil.  This may seem counter intuitive when much of it will be dug up anyway, but I believe starting with a clean slate is the way to go.  Robins were scurrying back and forth on the soil near where I was weeding, having the time of their lives, snatching up the worms that came to the surface.  Occasionally the bird would abruptly stop, tilt it's head toward the ground, and peck victoriously at a substantially juicy one.  I love seeing worms in the garden, a sure sign the soil is in good health.  A very exciting development is that the asparagus is starting to peek out of the ground!

Once everything was weeded, I went over the beds with a rake to break up the soil and ready it for a good sprinkling of lime.  The lime acts as a neutralizer since most vegetable plants prefer growing conditions that tend toward alkaline.  After that, I added 25 bags of compost with manure.  I've done this every year since I started the garden and I believe it's the way to go.  Since the soil here in TN is clay, just adding compost will only aid in texture, but not necessarily nutrients.  I'm not a huge fan of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, so the manure is an excellent natural fertilizer.  I also add coffee grounds, egg shells, and other organic matter throughout the season, which is especially beneficial for the tomatoes which need calcium. 

This year for the first time I am not going to till.  Last year I was overwhelmed by the amount of weeds.  I absolutely could not keep them under control and I want to see if not tilling will help with weed control since old dormant seeds will not be brought to the surface.  Also, this method of growing is supposed to help with water retention. 

Eventually, I'll be buying a couple bales of straw to completely cover the soil before planting.  This is a really effective way of keeping weeds at bay, retaining moisture, and adding nitrogen to the soil. 

The flower beds were cleaned of leaves and debris, and the perennial bed is ready to go. 

 Spring bulbs are starting to pop up everywhere, which is a cheerful and lovely reminder that after the misery of winter, beauty shall prevail. 

List of tasks accomplished in the month of March:
  • Trimming of flowering trees (purple leaf plums)
  • Pruning of all shrubs like holly, rose of sharon, heavenly bamboo, etc.
  • Prune apple trees
  • Clean all garden beds of dead leaves and debris
  • Trim roses and treat with dormant oil or Bayer before leaves start to sprout
  • Trim lyriope, prune butterfly bushes, and remove dead leaves from daylily plants
  • Move perennials that need to be split or relocated
  • Prepare vegetable garden by weeding, liming, and adding soil amendments
  • Start basil seeds indoors
  • Add mulch around tree bases and touch up areas in the flower beds that need an extra layer
  • Thin out bamboo by cutting new shoots and removing dead ones
Now the patient waiting must last until mid-April when the magic happens!  I've figured out that the cost of the vegetable garden is around $85 each year.  Compared to paying for a local CSA, this is a steal.  The estimate includes seeds, starter plants, and soil amendments.  Obviously there is a lot of labor, plus water bill increases for the summer, but the payoff is tons of vegetables grown organically that we are able to eat year round.  There are many times when I wish it was all easier and that I didn't have such crazy back pain after a day in the yard, but I'm so thankful we have the ability to do this.  Happy spring!!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Home Depot Cabinets Are Crappy! Here's Why...

The floors are in and we are ready to install the cabinetry!!!  We started this project in November and are at a point where we can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.  Before showing the pictures of how things are looking now, I want to talk about the cabinets.  As many of you following the blog know, I hit the "handy dude" jackpot when I married Rob.  He's not only a sweet, kind, adorable guy, but he's a cabinet maker who crafts beautiful furniture and cabinetry, plus has some great remodeling skills!  When deciding what we wanted to spend on this project and how nice the cabinets should be, we briefly threw around the notion of having him make the cabinets.  The materials alone would have eaten a significant part of our budget, plus the physical cost of having to construct these cabinets on top of his day job would have taking its toll on him.  Also, our house is in a neighborhood of small bungalow homes, so even though this endeavor will hopefully increase the value of the home, we didn't want to put a $40,000 kitchen in a house that wouldn't increase in value on that scale.

We made the reluctant decision to purchase unfinished pre-fab cabinets from Home Depot with the idea that Rob would add some custom details to them, finish them with a professional sprayer, and we would purchase quality hardware to make them look a little nicer.  I bought the cabinets at a time when they were 20% off in the store, plus I used discounted gift cards for the purchase.  I also wrote a letter to Home Depot after a horrible customer service experience, which resulted in us getting two cabinets for free.  The total cost of the cabinetry for our entire kitchen was $843 (excluding paint, hardware, and trim).

The old adage "you get what you pay for" has merit when it comes to most things, and in this case, cabinetry.  Even though we saved a crazy amount of money by purchasing pre-fab, we had many, many issues.  My true sentiment is that I would NEVER recommend these cabinets to ANYONE and I think that Home Depot as a company should be completely ASHAMED for selling this garbage in their stores.  Obviously, Rob has the experience required to fix the issues we found and he also had the skill to make two skinny cabinets to account for weird measurements in our space.  In addition to this, he added strips of wood to the end cabinets to create corners where the doors would actually open without hitting each other.  He added toe kicks to all the end cabinets and created paneled ends on the exposed sides, so the cabinets would actually have a professional, finished look to them.

In order to prep the cabinets for painting, we had to do the following:
  • Sand all surfaces.  These things say they come pre sanded, but there is no way in hell you could paint them straight out of the box.
  • Remove globs of glue that were showing on the doors.
  • Fill in all cracks, gaps, and repair corners that were chipped with wood filler.
  • When we took the drawer fronts off of the drawers, they literally FELL APART because there was no glue on the drawers!!  No glue!!!  So that means if we had filled these with anything heavy, the sides would have fallen open when the drawer was pulled out.  Rob added glue and then shot nails into all sides to secure the structure of each drawer.

  • While we were picking up the cabinets with one of us on each side to carry them out to be painted, some of the boxes literally were coming apart in our hands.  A couple of the nailers, the part that you shoot a screw through to secure a cabinet to the wall, fell off in our hands, which means that had we hung the cabinet on the wall, it would have fallen off.  Rob restructured every cabinet, by adding glue and shooting more nails in the sides.  Below is an example of the stellar workmanship on the corners of the boxes.
  • The backs of the cabinets are stapled on.  Stapled.  Got that?  So as we were installing some of the bottom cabinets, the backs just, you know, came off.  Rob glued and re-stapled to secure the backs to the cabinets.
  • Each cabinet only comes with ONE SHELF.  Older pre-fab cabinets came with two shelves and there may be some that still do, but this effectively halved our storage space, so Rob will be purchasing plywood to make additional shelves for every cabinet.
So, we paid $843 for our kitchen cabinetry (a great deal, right?!), but ended up putting many dollars worth of time and effort into these to make them suitable for our needs.  I'm grateful that they turned out as well as they did, but the frustration, time, labor, and additional materials we had to invest make them an item for any amateur DIYer to run from.  I do NOT recommend!

Back in November we took advantage of every day where the temperature was over 50 degrees until we finally had to move inside and set up shop.  We taped off the insides of each cabinet using blue tape and plastic sheeting.  Rob purchased a sprayer and used three coats of latex paint and primer.  The color we chose was Sherwin Williams "Breaktime," for its obvious beachy feel and relaxing hue.

Once everything was ready to be installed, we brought the cabinets back into the house without them falling to pieces and began to attach them to the studs in the wall.  It took a whole day, but Rob's measurements were just right and we now have more cabinetry and more drawers than we did before.  Once the additional shelves are added, all our stuff will fit and hopefully we'll have room for a few more gadgets.

The countertop will be installed in a week and then we can have the plumber come and connect the dishwasher and sink fixtures.  A dishwasher!!!  Excuse me while I go freak out.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Kitchen Takes Shape: We're Floored!

I've been sick.  It's been a good two years or so since I've been really sick and then this winter hit and down I fell into a rabbit hole of germs.  It started in the beginning of December when Rob and I got this weird 48 hour stomach thing.  Then the day after Christmas, probably the flu, for two weeks.  Then the week after the GRAMMYs.  My voice is still hoarse.  Seriously, I am ready for spring and fresh air filled with the smell of hyacinths and daffodils, and walks downtown in a t-shirt, and vegetable plants peaking tender green leaves out of the soil.  Nashville just dug itself out of a nasty ice storm that left inches of slippery mess on the roads.  While working from home I watched multiple cars spin out during the day, right in front of our house.  One of the neighbors told Rob that three or four times in the past a car has run the stop sign and hit a car in what is now our driveway.  Lovely.  All day long I just prayed the folks who don't know how to drive in snow or ice would get the heck off our road and get stuck in their own driveways.  That's right, people, hitting the gas and spinning your wheels as hard as they'll go will not help you regain control on a slippery surface. 

In the meantime, amidst illness, holidays, and days not spent in the wood shop, the kitchen has been slowly taking shape.  Once the electrical work was finished, it was time for drywall.  The studs were  covered and Rob built an archway between the kitchen and dining room.

Then there were the ceilings...plaster...old plaster that was poorly applied, cracking in spots, and just unsightly.  We were originally going to do a plank ceiling in the dining room, which I think would have looked lovely, but it would have eaten into our budget and taken a lot more work than simply installing drywall over the existing ceiling.  We rented a lift from Home Depot and got to work.  We started by finding the studs and marking chalk lines as guides for screws.

This was not a fun job.  The rooms were out of square, so even though our lines were straight and the measurements were accurate, there was a lot of frustration finding the studs and then cutting slivers off the sheets with a razor knife.  I felt so bad for Rob.  I don't know how his arms didn't fall off.

Once the ceilings were in, we hired someone to help with the drywall mud (spackle) and the sanding to make everything smooth.  This was really helpful in finishing up a messy job that was dusty and miserable.  The ceilings and the walls look so nice and smooth, it makes such a big difference!  We used Curio Grey and plain old sunny Ultra Pure White on the walls to brighten the space. 

Once the paint was dry, the floors were ready to be installed.  Let me tell you about the floors. We were originally going to use the old hardwoods in the house by sanding them and then painting them grey.  However, due to the black adhesive that covered the original wood, we opted to tear it out and replace with unfinished hardwoods that we would then sand and paint.  Rob headed to Southeastern Salvage to pick up the unfinished hardwood, and they had some really beautiful prefinished oak that was 5" x 3/4" with a light whitewash on it.  The price was right at $3.49/sq ft and we realized it would save us a ton of sanding, cleaning up, painting, and general mess, along with approximately two weeks of time.  This is also the price we would have paid for unfinished hardwood at Lumber Liquidators, so I am beyond relieved we didn't go that route.  So is Rob!  Even though the color isn't the grey we were originally planning on, this goes with the theme, looks a bit like light driftwood, and works well with the cabinet color we chose.

We stapled the thermal underlayment to the subfloor.  Then, Rob nailed down some long boards in the middle of the arch as as guide for the direction in the kitchen.  Slowly but surely, the floor went in and by the end of the day, we had something to walk on.

I finally feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  With the floor in, we can begin installing the cabinets.  Once the kitchen layout is in, we can have the countertop vendor come and make the template.  Then the dishwasher can be hooked up, the sink and plumbing can be functional again, and we can finally start cooking!  This is happening!!!  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Adventures In Flooring: Leveling Things Out

I just walked across the studs of our kitchen floor to come to the living room and sit with our frantic pets to start writing about what the past few weeks have been like.  I apologize in advance for the less than exciting pics of floor studs and general indoor construction.

People say, "Oh, you're so lucky to have a guy who can build you a kitchen,"  "Oh, you are just sooooo lucky you're getting a new kitchen,"  "You guys are sooooooooooooooo lucky you can do it yourselves and save tons of money."  Blahbitty blah BLAAAAHHH!  While we are totally glad to be able to do a lot of this work ourselves, I will tell you this, whatever costs we are saving in labor are being paid for with bruised toes, bloody fingers, sore backs, occasional disagreements, and time, so much valuable time that might have been spent relaxing, doing something fun, going on a trip, or just enjoying the fact that we're not working.  I know without a doubt, in the end it will all be worth it and we will love this kitchen!  DIY shows make these projects look so fun because they bring in a massive team of experts and friends who can whip out a kitchen in 3 days and it's all free and those people are SO HAPPY...that is not reality, people.  I mean, maybe it is for those people, but we haven't run into the cool Kitchen Crashers lady in Home Depot yet, so until then, we press on.
  • We have been using the guest room as our kitchen since just after Thanksgiving.  While it's a blast to feel like we're camping all the time, we have eaten lots of unhealthy meals out because it's so much easier than cooking on a double burner and then washing dishes in the bathroom.
  • We decided to replace the entire kitchen floor due to the fact that the black mastic is extremely difficult to remove and the boards were not level.  We were really excited there was wood underneath the linoleum in the kitchen...this was short lived when we looked more in depth at what we were dealing with.
  • The kitchen has been gutted so we have no kitchen sink which means our main source of water is the bathroom sink.  
  • We demoed the floor and one wall.  The supports inside the wall looked like a 4th grader measured and installed them.  Again, I don't know what the people who owned this house before were thinking, but the workmanship is less than stellar.  We are fixing all of it.   
This is where we come to the crux of this week's story... 

There was a hump in the transition between the dining room and the kitchen.  Even though the sub floors were sort of even with each other, when they put the plywood on top of the pine in the dining room, it was not even with the wood in the kitchen, creating this weird hump. 

The joists in the dining room were sticking up a bit, so when you held a level on the joist and over the kitchen floor, the result was a big gap of space beneath the level, so we had to restructure the kitchen floor to make it level.  Since the dining room planks are otherwise level, we are going to leave them. I realize I just said "level" a lot, but it's a big deal when you're installing a floor. 

Here is the original subfloor in the kitchen.  We're planning to save these planks and repurpose them later on.

Restructuring the floor was not even a little bit fun.  2x6 planks were cut, glued, and nailed to the original joists at a height that made the floor level.  If you look in this picture you can see the new planks and how much higher they are than the old ones. 

This will eliminate the hump between the dining room and kitchen and ensure that the cabinetry and appliances will sit properly on the floor.

Along with the planks going across the floor, smaller ones needed to be cut to go in between the new joists as support and a base to nail the subfloor to.

Let me tell you, people, I am learning a lot.  I have learned that even though I desperately want to be helpful, there is only so much I can do.  I am able to bring tools to Rob when he's standing elbow deep in floor studs.  I can carry the demoed materials out to his truck for disposal.  I hold levels and ends of measuring tapes while balancing above our crawl space.  I removed a ton of rusty nails from the old subfloor in hopes we can repurpose it on a wall in the dining room after it ages.  I shop vac the hell out of everything in an effort to keep the workplace clean and dust free.  But in reality, Rob is doing the heavy lifting here and parts of this have not been easy.

My frustration has come in moments where I realize I am not strong enough to carry an enormous sheet of plywood with Rob.  I can barely lift some of his tools, let alone use them, but I now understand how they work and what they are used for.  I have learned that a box of nails costs about the same as a nice pair of shoes, which in my opinion is a total waste!  I met with the electrician to go over all our electrical needs and also obtained a quote for our quartz counter top.  Since knowledge is power, I am trying to learn as much as I can, be as supportive as I can when I am able to, and buy takeout so we don't starve. 

Now we have a level floor!!!  This is wonderful because it was the hardest step of this project.  The electrician comes this week and we're having outlets added in, the stove 220 outlet is being moved to another wall, and we're adding an outlet for the dishwasher (major excitement here, people!).  Once that is finished, we can begin putting the drywall back up and making it look like a room again.  

One resource that I continue to find helpful is Cardpool.  When I first bought this house, I was a huge fan of discounted gift cards.  Cardpool has saved us a lot of money on Home Depot cards.  I usually save an average of 10% on the cards, which covers the tax on everything we buy.  It's extremely helpful!  We are doing this project on a budget.  While I think we'll be really happy with the end result, this is not going to end up being some massively impressive Better Homes and Gardens kitchen.  It will be more functional, prettier, and better quality than what we were working with before.  As a reminder, when I bought the house, this is what I started with. 

While this might look "not that bad" and "what's the big deal," you'll notice there are no appliances, there are two sets of upper cabinets that are on the floor, the countertop on those cabinets is not attached, and there is hardly any storage in these cabinets.  Once we put our kitchen stuff out, we had like 2 feet of workable counter space that became covered in garden vegetables in the summer.  It's just not a good layout and has been in need of a major redo for many years.

To be continued... 

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Year Of The Heart: Love, Life, Loss In 2014

When I look back on this year and think about everything it contained, I am stunned.  My heart is grateful in ways I can never explain.  I have done less reading this year, less writing too, but I can tell you that there were countless nights driving home alone in my car where in my mind I crafted blogs that never made it to the screen, penned letters that never materialized on a card.  Time was consumed by the planning of a wedding I had nearly given up on in my heart.  Rob and I had dated for years, and even though so much healing happened for both of us over that time, I was never sure if it would be enough for us to take the step toward marriage.  I hoped against hope, but also held pieces of myself in check just in case it never happened.

The amazing thing about being married is that I feel very much like myself.  The world has not shifted and I do not suddenly feel more complete, like I have gained a missing half or am safer from the pain of a broken heart.  But I do feel like I have a partner who is in it for the long haul, through thick and thin, someone who has agreed to walk beside me through whatever life chooses to throw at us, and that is a comforting feeling.  When someone looks at you with the light of truth and commitment in their eyes and says they will never walk away, it is a most powerful thing.

As I look back on the events of the year, both big and small, I cannot help but be full of gratitude for each moment, yet so eager to see what lies ahead.

  • January 2014
As we took the Christmas tree down I carefully placed all the ornaments back in their wrinkled tissue paper made soft from years of use and cardboard boxes with frayed edges that hold the memories we place on the tree each year.  Mementos from trips we've taken, the baby bell from my first Christmas, a glass ball with lighthouses from home painted on much love hangs on those branches every year.  Unbeknownst to me, Rob had placed the ring box in the tree along with the rest of the ornaments.  It was the last one he removed as he knelt down, shaking, with his heart splayed wide open and asked me to make him the happiest man alive and marry him.  It was a simple, vulnerable and beautifully precious fragment of time that I will hold onto for the rest of my life.  Now here's a gross picture for you.

Every year that I go to the GRAMMYs, I never cease to be amazed that I work for such an incredible company.  While the show is very much geared toward the average music consumer, the organization is a working machine geared toward the music professional.  It's fascinating.  To be at the GRAMMYs surrounded by the artists, the staff, and the many members who make up The Recording Academy is a magical moment.  This year I took my cousin Jen and we had a total blast.  We went to Disneyland with our other cousin, Karen, and we stayed at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.  I mean, how much fun can you possibly squeeze into one weekend?

  • February 2014
Rob and I hopped on a plane for a whirlwind trip to Long Island to drink lots of wine and find a venue for the wedding.  The moment we stepped inside Brecknock Hall we were ruined for every other place we saw.  It was "us."

We visited Rob's parents in Oklahoma and had such a lovely time with them.  I was nervous as heck, but very thankful to be marrying into a kind, loving family.  We went to this wonderful art museum called the Philbrook.

  • March 2014
I was in budget hell at work and most of the month was spent trying to avoid having an ulcer.  As part of our pre marital counseling we were charged with going on a date every week.  It was so much fun!

A few of us at work also got to go hear Ben Folds and Giancarlo Guerrero from the Nashville Symphony perform and speak about working together.  It was so refreshing to hear a maestro talk about listening to Nine Inch Nails in his spare time. I still believe there are way too many barriers between the classical music world and the mainstream world. 

  • April 2014 
I emerged from the blur of budget hell and headed to Long Island to decompress by the water and remind myself there are bigger things in life than numbers and spreadsheets.  A hawk flew into the screen porch to try and eat the cat.  It was utter madness until dad pushed it onto the patio with a broom.  Nature.

One of my best friends had her baby this month and she is the most adorable kid ever.  It's always special when a very close friend has a baby.  As a general rule, I avoid babies and don't like it when people try to make me feel like less of a woman because I prefer kittens over human children.  However, I make an exception for a few people in my life and I could not have been more thrilled for Renee and Jules.  More on this later.

The Harry Potter fun continues with our group of friends who gather to nerd out.  The Goblet of Fire was on the menu this month, therefore tasks had to be completed before finding the golden egg and then watching the movie.

My cat turned 10 years old.  I have had Maddox longer than most of my friends have had their kids.   My kid just so happens to weigh more than theirs and could probably kick some serious baby ass, not that he would...well, maybe he would.  

 Rob finished building an incredible garden fence for our orto (veggie jungle).  

  • May 2014
I saw Arcade Fire and actually liked them even though it is impossible keeping them all straight with the 57 people they have onstage.  The GRAMMYs threw their annual Block Party.  I went to LA and sat in meetings at the Beverly Hilton for a day before flying back to the peace and tranquility of my garden.

I turned 33.  My "Jesus" year.  This is also how old my friend Will was when he passed away last year.  I turned the corner of this birthday reflecting on how utterly painful and unfair life can be, and how short it is, and how I hope I end up doing something with my life that is meaningful to others.
  • June 2014
I held my breath and squished all the fear in my throat as deep into my stomach as I possibly could when Rob had surgery to remove some cancer on his hand.  We visited two surgeons.  I sat in the room with him while they consulted and tried to listen to things he might miss in the numbness of hearing the C word thrown around.  I inwardly, silently yelled at him again for not getting that disgusting "wart" taken care of while simultaneously cursing the system of medicine in this country that makes healthcare unaffordable for a tradesman who works harder than anyone I know.

We prepared to go to the courthouse and fill out all the forms and just not tell people we were legally married before the wedding.  Thankfully, by a miracle we got Rob on my insurance (without signing papers) and avoided the $16,000 outpatient surgery bill that would have befallen him before our wedding...for a spot on his finger.  Can you imagine?!  I sat in the waiting room for 4 hours while they tried to piece the skin on his finger together.  They kept calling me his "wife" and that was so weird.  What?  I'm not is he doing?

Rob moved his stuff into my house.  Oh my God.  Sh*t is getting real.  Half of my closet is gone.  And there will be a dog.  In my house.  The cats are blissfully unaware.

The three incredible women who I work with everyday surprised the stuffing out of me and got Katy Perry tickets for pre-wedding fun.  I'd been dying to go, but gave up because the tix were too pricey.  We had so much fun.  This is how we do!!!!

And, of course, the garden...

  • July 2014
My last trip home as a "single" woman.  July 4th is sacred to me.  I always, always go home to see my family, my girlfriends, and the small town fireworks at the Greenport High School.  The weather is balmy and warm.  The Hamptons are in full swing.  July on the East End of Long Island is as good as it gets.

My maid of honor, Nicole, and my mom threw a lovely get-together for me where all the women I've grown to love so dearly, who I grew up with, who showered their wisdom and love on me through the years came and we ate cake and mini quiches and sat in the screen porch talking till 7 pm!  It was so perfect and the gift cards those ladies gave us were used to purchase our dishwasher.  Every time we are spared washing a sink of dishes by hand, I will smile and remember this lovely Thursday in July.  There are pics of this and I can't find them anywhere.

I got to meet little Zadie, Renee's baby, the future President of the U.S.  Here is a current picture.

Rob's house sold.  What a hard thing to let go of, but also a blessing how it happened in a day without having to list it.  No more roommates, missing rent checks, broken HVAC units, or endless rooms to be redone.

Asheville, NC with my friend Dawn and her little girl.  We visited the gardens, stayed at a charming bed and breakfast, walked all over town, and ate pizza and beer after the kiddo was in bed.  Certainly not my last girls trip, but it was fun to get out of town and be with a strong female compadre before the wedding month began.  There was a lotus plant in full bloom at the arboretum.  Absolutely stunning.

  • August 2014
Rob follows up with the surgeon and all appears to be well.  Thank God.  I yell at him to make a dermatologist appointment.

I headed home to New York for what will be one of the most memorable times of my life.  I'm gonna be all disgusting and cliche and say it was all perfect because it was and I wouldn't go back and change a thing, except maybe our DJ, but whatever.  My girls and I stayed in a gorgeous victorian that was straight out of Anne of Green Gables.  Rob's guys stayed in a modern place on the bay that was very bachelory.  We took everyone to the Hamptons and walked up the Montauk lighthouse and stood in the huge ocean waves in Southampton.  The sunset blew everyone away the night of the rehearsal and we all ran outside like 20 times to take pictures of it.  Then we got dressed up and headed to a wedding.  The weather gods smiled on us and everyone was so beautiful, the girls, the guys, our moms, the guests...oh my gosh, I could go on and on, but I won't make you all sick...ok, maybe a little.  Our wedding was everything I'd hoped it would be.  You plan for so long and from so far away, and you have family and friends who say, "Hey, I can do that for you!" and somehow they do.  They bring wine and pies and bobby pins and four foot heroes and cameras and they literally make the magic happen.  We were so blessed, my heart was about to burst all day long.  Oh my God, we just love each other so much.  We said our vows and our friends stood around us and everyone looked like angels.  The sun on the water was mesmerizing.  Rob and I were so happy and so very, very thankful.

 Montauk Lighthouse visit

 Rehearsal dinner sunset at the Soundview Restaurant
 The ladies
 The gents
  • September 2014
Honeymoon in St. Lucia!!!  We'd never been here and it's always been on my list of places to go.  While the experience wasn't exactly what we expected it to be, we had a fabulous time.  I can't remember the last time I swam so much.  The water was magnetic and made us feel buoyant and free.  We searched for hermit crabs, butterflies, dolphins, and colorful fish.  We reveled in the time and space we had to do nothing but eat, swim, and just be.

We came back to real life with a dull thud.  Work got crazy.  People we loved got sick or languished in illness.  We fielded the question "How's married life?!" with confusion and the uncertainty of how to honestly answer because it feels the same, but with less space.  I grappled with the challenge of going from having a lot of alone time which fed my introvert heart to having no alone time and watching my creativity ebb away like a wave leaving with the tide.  Rob struggled with not being able to watch as much TV and having to wash a lot of dishes every time I made a meal.
  • October
I met one of the authors in my top three.  Frances Mayes.  Her books about Italy and her novels have been so inspiring and nurtured dreams in my own heart.  For years I have wanted to meet her and I always thought maybe it would happen in Italy, but then she came to Nashville to talk about her new book and sell her new wine and I got to talk very briefly with her.  What do you say to someone you admire greatly who has such a way with words, who spins worlds with her sentences and brings them closer for you to see and feel and taste?  I've met a lot of rock stars and musicians, but I swear to God, you put me in front of an author whose work has changed my life and I am a useless blithering idiot.  I asked her about Bramasole and the work they were doing, but I wish I could have had more time to just has to be so strange for authors who travel, with people knowing so much about them.  She signed my copy of Under The Tuscan Sun.  I hope we meet again.

I went to LA for a week to train new staff and see my friends on the side.  I felt like an old, washed up grandma because many of the new generation of staff entering the music workforce are about 12 years old.

 We camped out and hiked the Fiery Gizzard trail with some friends.  Reminder here.

Rob and I went to the Biltmore for our two month anniversary and his birthday.  It snowed and we romped through a winter wonderland in boots and gloves and hats and drank coffee like we needed it for temperature control.  It was so blindingly white and fun.  The next day the snow cleared and we felt like it was autumn again.

  • November
I went back to Lee University for the first time since I graduated to be part of a music advisory group there.  In some ways it was healing for me.  In other ways it reinforced why I felt so out of place there.  I am still not sure how this is going to shape up, but it was nice to feel validated.  Like, I  graduated with a music business degree and am not the big fat failure some of my classical music professors thought I would be.  I still hear the voices that say I'm a big fat failure when I realize there is so much music in the world and I can't possibly be an expert on all, if any, of it.  Or, when I think about how I landed in a finance position when I really really should have listened more in my accounting class.  The fear of not being good enough looms great...I think they call it the imposter syndrome in the professional world.  I look at women like Sheryl Sandberg or my boss and I'm like, "How the hell did you get where you are today?" because I feel like there is some secret to success that I just have not figured out yet.  And what is success anyway?  How do you inspire students to make their way in the world when you feel like you yourself are trying to reach Emerald City and the heel of your ruby slipper keeps getting stuck in the yellow brick road?  It's an honor to be one of two women in this group and I so deeply want to be helpful.

We saw Book of Mormon and I was reminded of my love of Broadway and singing...and hilarity!

  • December 2014
The final month of the year where nights are filled with birthday parties, Christmas parties, last minute dinners with friends, and a few quiet moments snuggled next to a cat on the couch.  We head to Long Island for Christmas where we will go to the Christmas Eve service at CCF and sing the same songs they sing every year, and light candles during Silent Night and hopefully not set the church on fire, and then everyone will sing some rowdy version of Go Tell It On The Mountain and put the emphasis on all the wrong words and take breaths in all the wrong places, and then hug each other silly before going home.

The thing about CCF this year is that people are missing.  Over the past year and a half, five lovely souls from that special place have departed leaving our hearts in a state of swiss cheese holeyness.  Linda Pisacano, Pat Restivo, Gary and Val Bufkins, and most recently Yvonne Reiter.  This is where I start crying on my keyboard because my breath is short as I think about how much I love these dear friends and will miss their presence.  The church I grew up in has about 100 people in it who've been there for years and have seen the "kids" in my generation grow up from the time we were a foot tall.  CCF ruined me on other churches forever, especially the fake evangelical kind throughout much of the South, because I have never seen a group of people more genuinely love Jesus in all my life.  For all their faults and weirdnesses about women in leadership, this church has been a support system like no other.  The way they lift each other up during these hard times, and call each other on the prayer chain list when something happens, it's all so lovingly done.  I have moved very far away from Mattituck, but it's still deeply present in my heart, and these people who celebrated with us at our wedding are not merely people I grew up with, but they are extended family who I love dearly and still make an effort to see when I go home.  The fact that five of them are no longer with us breaks me up.  It brings to mind once again the analogy of sea glass, how we are all in this vast ocean of life, being tossed upon rocks, weathering storms, and somehow becoming more beautifully softened in the process.

I don't know what the next year will bring, but this one has left me full and empty and filled up again.  Another friend has cancer.  I pray and I stop and try to start again, but I know God gets it.  When I want to scream WTF to the Heavens and cry till there is just nothing left in me, my solace is that God sees the suffering in this world.  I can't answer any of the questions as to why he just doesn't take it all away, but I read Anne Lamott books and that's just as good.  I find authentic people who are real and genuine and raw and we talk about all the sticky questions and try to hone our faith so we can stand upright in this very crooked world.  I hug Rob and snuggle with my cats because sometimes a cat is all you need.  And books.  My love for reading has come back with a vengeance now that I have time again.  I look at the bookshelf and hope I am alive long enough to read all these incredible books and never ever stop learning.  To write this stuff that overflows out of my heart in a semblance of phrases that make sense and connect with anyone who takes the time to read them.  A brings to mind the song from Rent.

"525,600 minutes.  525,000 moments so dear.  525,600 minutes, how do you measure - measure a year?  In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.  In inches, in miles, in laughter in strife."