Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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And so it was finished

After two months, the renovation is finally over. Yayyy!  And I must say that I’m really happy with the results, although there is still tweaking involved and things to find that are somewhere but not where I’m looking for them. I had a good contractor who stuck to the timetable and budget, had excellent subs, and was good with communication, and I even got smart and hired a cleaning service to do the post construction cleanup.

New Kitchen – yes, that’s a cat food bowl on the counter

Check out my House Updating album for
Before, During, and After photos in random order!

I think my favorite things weren’t even on the original list at all: the fabulous windows in the living room, kitchen, and master bedroom; the new under cabinet mount lighting; and my sparkly light fixture in the bathroom.  But of course I love all of it. I only changed the things I didn’t like and now I do. It looks like me and not my parents, and feels great to come home to. My brother and sis-in-law were here to help me put things back and hang art, which can be hard to do by yourself, and they like the choices made as well which made me happy, since of course my parents were his parents and he’s been coming here for 35 years.

So because I’m a lunatic, I held an open house on Sunday to show off the house. So many people wanted to see if, this seemed like the best way to get it done all at once. I provided punch, hot cider, and cookies that my friends made to help because standing for a long time hurts the back. I even had a “soft opening” on Saturday for my neighbors, who are the ones who know the house best because my parents entertained them here through the years. Plus they are mostly elderly (80+) and I wanted them to not be all crowded while they were looking.

It was really fun to have so many people here milling around, nibbling cookies and looking at the house. I created a spec sheet detailing what was done in different spaces, listing paint colors, contractor contact info, and sources for materials. Yes, I’m a little OCD but it was a very “Anne” thing to have created and I tucked a copy in my project binder for future reference when I forget details.


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Seeing the finish line

My house has been in chaos for five weeks. I knew it would happen but greatly underestimated how hard it would be to have so much dust in every nook and cranny, with belongings in boxes everywhere. I’m losing track of what’s where. The hardest part is corralling the kitties into the “daycare suite” so they don’t get out or in the way of the workers.

It’s almost finished, though. If all goes as planned, I have two more weeks left. Backsplash installation starts on Monday, followed by the floor. Then the following week, a day or two to finish up if needed, then crazy time with the carpenter, plumbers, electricians, and painters. I didn’t know to budget for final cleaning, but because the project budget is right on the estimate, I’m having a team of 2 come to deep clean when all the work is behind us. Then it’s time to put things back, if 1) I can find them, and 2) I remember where they go. There’s time to figure that out, though, and to assess whether I even want everything.

I love how it looks and am enjoying the changes. I wanted the kitchen done last, even though it has the biggest changes, because I wanted everything else to be more normal. Bathrooms are done, except for installing towel racks, the living room wall and garage are repaired and painted. Best of all, the screen porch is finished and the cats want to be out there every minute. I can keep the house doors open to the porch because, well, it’s screened in so bugs can’t get in. It gives me fresh air and the cats run in circles.

To be honest, I never thought I’d say that my garage was amazing but it really is now. The dryer vent was rerouted to the outside and the ceiling was repaired; the joints were coming down from moisture from the dryer. The “measuring wall” that Dad used for 30 years to measure his grandchildren was removed and will go to the ranch so my brother can measure HIS grandchildren on the same panels. Best of all, the dark wood paneling was painted beige. BEIGE. It looks clean and open and fresh. All those nails in the walls were removed so I can start fresh with where and how I want to hang tools and gear. Good thing it was completed early, since we’re using it to temporarily store kitchen appliances and equipment.

And oh, the windows! I hadn’t even planned to replace them but they have transformed the house. After a month, I’ve gotten used to them but I do not take them for granted. Instead of old metal windows with grids and seals that weren’t in the best shape, I have huge energy efficient vinyl windows with unobstructed views – well, except for the breakfast table in the living room while the kitchen is finished. I’m kind of mad at my parents for not having done window replacements because I know they would have loved the result. Now I’m planning to replace the windows in the front of the house as well, for energy efficiency and because they are both beautiful and affordable.

I’m also spending a fortune on new art for the walls. But I love everything I’ve chosen. A few pieces came with me from my previous life, but most of the house had art that had been chosen by my parents and that I didn’t really like much. My style is more images of places where I’ve lived or traveled, such as Manasquan, Maine, and Switzerland, and some whimsy as well, such as fairies and orange kitties. A tree of life for the genealogy research area in the office was always on my list.

Yesterday I received an amazing bookcase quilt that I’d commissioned a year ago from a quilter friend in New Haven. We talked about it in January but I had no idea what she decided to do, so the whole thing was a wonderful surprise. She captured elements of my life and some of my favorite books, and I love having something so personal and unique. It arrived just at the perfect time.

My friends and neighbors have followed the house progress with interest and enthusiasm, so I’m having an open house so everyone can check out the final result. The cats will be contained in the guest bedroom but everything else can be open for inspection. I chose the date based on the church, club, Pro Shop, and Cowboys schedules. I’ll have two weeks between final cleaning and the Open House, which should be enough time to get stuff put away. I’m worrying a little about what to serve, but want to keep it light and simple because the goal is to see the house, not stand or sit around and visit. I wrote up a sheet detailing everything that was done in each room, paint colors, granite vendor, etc. Hopefully that will save answering the same questions 50 times. We’ll see about that.

I never thought I could or would do something this involved or expensive, but it’s been worth it and I know I’ll love living with the results for many years to come. It’s my house now and I love how it looks.


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Miss Cooke Celebrates

Newspaper databases add new papers to their files all the time, so even though I’ve searched my direct line ancestors before, I continue to check now and then to see if new items are available. This weekend I hit pay dirt, finding two stories about my grandmother Marion Stokes Cooke (1902-1960) in The Chat, a newly added Brooklyn, NY paper on Newspapers.com.

First was “Miss Cook Celebrates Her Birthday Anniversary” from 1923. It tells me their address, that both parents were living, describes the decorations, and gives a guest list with names I recognize as including cousins. By this date, my grandmother had already graduated from Pratt Institute with a certificate in Trade Dressmaking. Some of the other guests were possibly classmates.

Marion Cooke Celebrates Her 21st Birthday -
“Miss Cook Celebrates Her Birthday Anniversary,” The Chat (Brooklyn, New York), Saturday, 12 May 1923, p.43, col. 3 ; digital image, Newspapers.com, accessed 31 Aug 2019.

The second story from 1927 describes the wedding of my grandparents as “one of the prettiest weddings of the week.” It includes her address, that only her mother was listed as a parent, that only my grandfather’s mother was listed as a parent, describes her dress (which she made), marriage location, and lists members of the wedding party – which included cousins of not only the bride but also the groom.

Flanders-Cooke Wedding announcement in The Chat (Brooklyn, NY) -
Weddings: Flanders-Cooke,” The Chat (Brooklyn, New York), Saturday, 19 March 1927, p.50 col. 5; digital image, Newspapers.com, accessed 31 Aug 2019


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Yes, I know weight matters

Fat woman in a bikini

You don’t get to be 65 years old without knowing that carrying around excess weight matters. It matters in how I look, how clothes fit, what hairstyles work, what shape glasses to wear. It matters in how the joints feel and how the spine compresses to pinch nerves. It matters in how fast I can (or can’t) move and how my feet hurt. It matters. I get it.

This has been Medical Month with tests and assorted doctors. And I’m sick of all of them. Each office, even if connected to the same hospital system, has forms to fill out and require me to produce insurance cards and a list of current medication. No, it hasn’t changed since I saw the other doctor on Monday.

Every visit starts with stepping on the scale, which for me means not eating or drinking for at least 3 hours before going, because every ounce matters. Then they take my blood pressure and wonder why it’s high. Because you just made me get on another scale, morons.

If I’m lucky, the medical person, be it nurse or doctor, will listen to me explain why I’m there. But mostly I think they are concentrating on something else because I have to repeat what I said before they seem to comprehend it. Then they tell me that I should lose weight, eat fewer carbs, and exercise more.

Really? REALLY? You think I got to age 65 as a morbidly obese person and never heard that before? Do you think I don’t know that my weight complicates things for my joints and my heart? That people who weigh what I do chop years off of their lifespan? Do you think you are the first person to EVER tell me that losing weight would help?

You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me if you think that’s true. I have been overweight since I was 10, when I remember being put on a diet by a skinny mom. I learned to despise squash and cottage cheese because fat girls needed to eat that to help lose weight. I’ve damaged my body and my spirit by yo-yo dieting for 50 years. Massive amounts of weight, my friend. And I’ve always gained back every pound and more.

Except this time. I had lapband surgery 10 years ago and gained most of it back, but I am still 40 pounds below my top weight from before surgery. This is the first time EVER that this has happened. For me to stay at the same weight, or within 5 pounds of it, for 4 years is a MAJOR accomplishment. So telling me to lose more, to get to an ideal weight, is laughable. And it’s not going to happen.

It hurts me when you see me as just a big blob. I need you to LISTEN to me when I tell you I will eat carefully, I will try to move more, but if I die tomorrow, I’m good. I’ve counted calories and fat grams and points and protein for long enough. I can’t do it anymore.

I am more than the size of my body. I am someone who feels and hurts and laughs and loves her family and friends and her sweet cats. And if I do not lose another pound, I will not blame you if something goes wrong with my heart or my back. That’s on me.

I’m practicing being strong because I have two more medical appointments next week, and I know they will have me get on a scale before they even talk to me. I’m not looking forward to it.


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Making House Decisions

I’m making choices right and left; you’d think I’d been contemplating making changes to the house for years. Well, er, um, I have been, just not thinking I could actually do any of them.

In the last two weeks I’ve made decisions about a whole bunch of things.

  • Cabinets: I’m not painting them. I like the wood, and the dark wood trim in the kitchen, and I’m keeping them.
  • Countertop: I visited three granite yards, one of them three times. Such pretty colors and patterns! And the prettier the pattern, the pricier the slab.
  • I picked Giallo Napoli Granite. I fell in love with the purple splotches that look like little drops of wine. This wasn’t my first choice, but when I went to pick out faucets and sinks, I saw a counter on display made out of this granite. I just loved it, so I went back to the yard to look again. It’s hard to envision from a giant slab what a smaller section will look like, so it was great to have the chance to see it before I committed to my first (and more expensive) choice. It didn’t appeal as much in the slab but looks amazing as a counter, and I’m very pleased with it.
  • I picked a faucet and new composite sink (no sink picture; sorry, but here’s the faucet). The double sink will be “chestnut” which has a little sparkly in it, with a low divider between the two sides, making it easier to wash large pans. The faucet has a pull-out sprayer on the end that pulls back with magnets. I’m also getting a new disposal.
  • Yesterday I picked out a porcelain floor tile and a marble and glass tile backsplash. It has rough stone with both frosted and shiny glass, and is pretty neutral. Here they are with a small door from my cabinets and my granite sample. Because the cabinets are heavily grained and the granite is busy, I wanted neutral floor and backsplash that wouldn’t fight with either one. They will really brighten up the space, and the floor tile is textured so it won’t be slippery.

Still not sure what I’m doing about paint colors – so many! so many that look almost alike, except some are pinkish or tint yellow or green or are too dark or whatever. But it’s probably going to be one of these:

To help me figure it out, I’ve ordered more 12×12″ peel-and-stick samples from Samplize.com. These are so cool and so easy – they paint the squares with real Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore paint. You peel off the backs, then slap them up on a wall – or cabinet, or ceiling. Whatever. Easy to peel off and slap up on another place to see how it looks in different light. Right now I’m leaning forward Kilim Beige but we’ll see after the samples get here.

I have an estimate from one contractor on all of the work requested, including screening in the back porch, reworking the garage dryer vent, and painting the bathrooms. The bottom line is below the number I’d mentally set as my limit. I’m pleased and relieved to know I can actually do this, with money left over for soft changes like window treatments, a new couch, and new seats for the dining room chairs.

I stopped by the cemetery today to talk with my mom about changing her kitchen. I know she’s not actually there, and I’ve talked with her here at the house. But I just want to feel that she’s okay with the changes I’m making to her home. And I think she would be. She would want me to be comfortable, to make this place mine. She wouldn’t be going as fast as I seem to be in moving forward, but she would support me – and go with me to pick things out. I miss you, Mom.


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Where did this stuff come from?

When it’s time to pack up the kitchen before countertop demo in the coming weeks, I decided to go through everything in the cabinets to see what I no longer (or never) use. Packing is laborious enough – why include things that I don’t need?

First I weeded pots and pans. Casserole dishes. The dutch oven my mom used for pot roast but hasn’t moved in at least 8 years. A juicer. Melamine dishes. Loaf pans. Mom’s old cookie sheets. All now boxed up to deliver to charity.

Next up were plastic containers. Dear Lord, where did they all come from? Were they making little baby containers in the back of the cabinet? Why don’t the tops fit the bottoms? Honestly, I was stunned by the debris but think the collection really got started when my dad died and when I was post-op and people brought food. I sorted and weeded, trying on tops and then just giving up and dumping a whole lotta plastic. Kept about 1/8 of what you see on the counter. Now I know what I have and everything can go in the freezer, which is important.

Still need to go through what’s on the top shelves of the cabinets. I never use them because I can’t reach, being shorter than everyone else in my family. What’s the point of putting something on a top shelf if I can’t get it down?

By the time I actually need to pack things up, it should be super easy – she said optimistically.


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Dividing up treasures

Half of the silver

My mother, sister-in-law, and I all chose the same Towle Old Master silver pattern. I never married but didn’t let that stop me getting pretty things. We grew up using the silver every night for dinner, not saving it up for only special occasions, and I wanted to be able to do that in my own home. My mom bought me some place settings from estate sales, I bought some, and my grandmother would sometimes give me a teaspoon or fork for my birthday.

I gave 4 of my place settings to my oldest nephew when he got married, but have rarely used any since moving to Texas. I added mine to my mom’s set carefully wrapped up in anti-tarnish cloth when I moved here, but it’s not doing anyone any good just sitting in a drawer. So as part of my house transition, I decided it was time to pass it on to the next generation. Not being a fool, I checked with my brother and sister-in-law to be sure what I wanted to do was equitable.

Today I spread all the pieces out on the dining table and started dividing them up. There were actually almost 16 of everything, which was more than I’d realized. Each of my nieces will get 8 place settings. But then there were the odd things that I never had in my set (spoons for iced tea and soup, little individual butter knives, pickle forks, etc.) and larger serving pieces that were a combo of Old Master pattern (large spoons and fork, pie server, gravy ladle) and miscellaneous pieces that I’d inherited from my grandmother and great-grandmother. I randomly divided these between the two piles.

Most of me is happy that the new generation will have and use these, and hopefully will think of us when they do. But part of me wants to cry to part with these pretty silver things that I never use but know where they came from and (mostly) what they’re for, including the tomato server and sugar sifter. I just love them. But it’s not fair to them to be wrapped in a drawer and ignored. So I will polish them up, wrap them carefully in anti-tarnish cloth, and pack up to give for holiday celebrating – and hope that the pretty things don’t get mangled in a disposal. But if they do, well, my mom did that as well. It’s just stuff, even if it’s shiny.

I’m keeping a few things, though. I just couldn’t part with the silver sifter or the little sterling swords for appetizers or the baby set to give when the next baby is born. But most of it is divided up, hopefully fairly. Next decisions will involve silver and silverplate bowls and platters. I do not need two intricate silver breadtrays, Revere bowls, or the well-and-tree platter. I think the nephews are getting silver for Christmas, too.