Betty Duffy

(Amateur)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekend retrospective


Pretty good weekend on our end. Gorgeous light. Lots of family. There was a concert in the park across the street--Sizzlin' Somebody Bacon who wore glow in the dark glasses and turned almost every song you've ever known into a smooth jazz remix with the lyrics replaced by sax. It was the kind of music that was always playing at TJ Maxx when I was a kid on those interminable grey shopping trips with my mom.

We put a bottle of wine in the stroller and the kids played on the playground. Joe and I sat in the grass feeling mellow, and the old ladies admired the baby's attempts to dance. By the end of the night, once the kids were swarming around us again, I felt a need to provide the appearance that we were all still having a great time, even though the fun was starting to run out. The old ladies had by this time approached us to say out loud what a nice family we have, an acknowledgement which almost always immediately cools any feelings of naturalness in your surroundings.

Gotta keep being a nice family, kids, come on, let's boogie like they do in sitcoms. And of course, the kids all went noodle limp. Well, anyway… nice knowing you, Old Ladies. Back to our real selves, bopping each other and walking across the field in the dark to get back home and fight over bedtime.

There was a double Duffy birthday party on Sunday for our niece and nephew. Two pinatas, two cakes, two rounds of present opening, two, maybe actually three rousing versions of the Happy Birthday song since one of them wasn't good enough, by the end of which, my husband was singing, "Happy birthday dear whoever's birthday it still is…" and we were all slowly dropping into a sugar coma.

Today, I'm finally having that pajama day I've longed for, and of course by noon, it never feels as good as you hoped it might. I think I'll take my car in for an oil change. I'm about 4000 miles overdue.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday in a minor key

1.
My husband and my dad took the boys on a campout last weekend. One of the kids tripped into an  (unlit) fire pit that had some scrap metal in it, cut his hand, went swimming in a muddy pond, rolled around in the dirt some more, and finally let someone know that the cut was actually kind of deep and needed stitches, which he got.

Unsurprisingly, on Sunday, he came down with a high fever and inflammation around the wound, treated with some antibiotics in the ER, and by Monday was in the throws of a mysterious and virulent strain of intestinal issues that required him to sit on the john non-stop for about 60 hours.

Staying home from school, sitting on the toilet, reading books is pretty much how this particular kid would like to spend his life. It was his dream sickness. But it was a conundrum as to what caused the chain reaction. Was he really infected? And then had a reaction to the antibiotics? Or did he just have a bug on top of the cut? No one else was sick, is there weird thing. Even still. They all swam in the same muddy water. They all slept in the same tent...

So, whatever... I guess I don't have to think about it anymore, because it's kind of over, but I want to log my confusion somewhere. This place wins.

2.
All the other kids have entered the Fall project season. Poster board time. The girl is making a 3D model of a Ununennium atom which has an atomic number of 119. She really wants the protons and neutrons to be mini marshmallows.

Two of the boys took the "collage option" which used to mean cutting and pasting a bunch of plant pictures out of your mom's Better Homes and Gardens. Now they want to do internet searches, cut and paste clip art, print it all out and glue it on poster board, which seems like a big waste of time to me. One had to find images that described himself, and the best he could do after three nights of searching online was a flaming soccer ball and a silhouette of a bicycle. I finally told him to draw and write his collage which he was really reluctant to do, but he did manage to finish it in one sitting after that.

3.
The two younger boys were sitting around the living room last night fidgeting and talking to each other in certain tones that I usually tune out. But I paid a little attention to what they were actually saying, and it turns out that they finish almost every sentence with "farty-warty," or "doody-poody," or an actual fart noise that they make with their mouths, and when they finally decided to run along and do something else in another room, they actually stood up, pointed their rear ends at each other and fake farted in one another's "general direction" before running off--which pretty much confirms why I've historically tuned these conversations out.

4.
This weekend, we had a very pleasant visit with the Darwins, which Cat has written up at the Darwin Catholic blog. I also make a short video cameo there, playing some really scratchy cello.  But it was fun scratchy cello, and I wished we'd had more time for fiddling around.

5.
Epigraph for Green Dolphin Street, by Elizabeth Goudge:

"Three deep cravings of the self, three great expressions of man's restlessness, which only mystic truth can fully satisfy. The first is the craving which makes him a pilgrim and a wanderer. It is the longing to go out from his normal world in search of a lost home, a "better country"; an Eldorado, a Sarras, a Heavenly Syon. The next is the craving of the heart for heart, of the Soul for its perfect mate, which makes him a lover. The third is the craving for inward purity and perfection, which makes him an ascetic, and in the last resort a saint."--Evelyn Underhill

6.
Blogged at patheos last week on my own little wanderer moment. Came to no interesting conclusions. And if that doesn't entice you to click through, I don't know what will.

7.
It was forty degrees this morning and looks like rain. I so want to sit around in my pajamas all day today.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

(UPDATED!!) You win a prize...

If you make it to the end of this post:

A Pragmatist, an Aquinas Scholar, A Pentecostal Catholic, and a Grandma Walk Into a Bar...

It's long, and I imagine only a few will find it interesting. But the writing goes on (and on)...and I've got nothing better to do with it than give it to you.



UPDATE!: To the few and the proud who completed the read, comment below and I'll send you* a bottle of "Maybe You Touched Your Genitals..." Hand Sanitizer.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What's in a Name?

Quite a lot it turns out. Thinking about my name, and a theology of womanhood here.

Ephesians 3: 14-19

"I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."


Also, from last week at patheos, links to some fun new music projects.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Something's Cooking in my Kitchen


I know it's gauche to talk about your kitchen renovation when there's suffering in the world. But I also don't want to hide my husband's light under a bushel. He's worked hard, and I'm proud of him.

There are still a few small loose ends, but I'm here today, and it's mostly done, and every time I walk in there, I have trouble believing that this is really our house. It's been fun to see how the vision shapes up with reality when reality happens.

And it's better than I imagined, mainly because Joe is a wizard. He just solves these problems that I would never start.

Here's a look at our problem before we began:


The oldest parts of our house were built in the 1890s. We've barely touched that portion of our house because we haven't needed to. It's rock solid, even the part of our living room floor that is supported, basically, by a large stump in the crawlspace that keeps the center joists from sagging. But there was an addition on the back in the 1930s which contains our kitchen, laundry and mudroom. We've pretty much redone the whole thing from the ground up.

The kitchen, as you can see suffered poor lighting, missing cabinet doors, dingy linoleum, drawers that sometimes fell out on the floor if you pulled them too hard or too fast, and you can't see it in this picture, but a large hole is in the floor to the right behind the baby where Joe had to pull out some rotten floor joists when we re-did the laundry room.

On the plus side, it's a pretty big open room, and I like the layout. So we didn't do any major structural overhauls. Most of the work was a swapping of materials, rotten boards for good ones, decrepit cabinets for new ones my husband made. Linoleum floors for wood floors that he milled.


He started by making the upper cabinets which have been in since shortly after Christmas. Here's an early sketch of the new cabinet layout. He numbers the boxes in his shop so he knows which one goes where.
 I'm sure it looks beautiful in his mind.



Apparently, the chicken scratches meant something.



For the floor, we used quarter-sawn white oak. Over a year ago, he started planing the wood, and cutting the tongue and groove into the floorboards. Doing it himself cost a couple bucks a board foot as opposed to 10-15 dollars per square foot for finished solid wood floors.

I didn't take a picture of it, but I did write about those few days in which there was no floor to speak of in this kitchen, just parallel joists we scaled to get through the kitchen and out of the house.


Mapping out the grain: you do a dry run of how you want the floor laid out so you don't have clusters of tiger stripe and straight grain.

laid, sanded, and sealed
Construction of the lower cabinets began once the uppers were installed. The uppers are poplar lacquered in an oatmeal color that matches the lockers in the mudroom and laundry. For most of the painted poplar, we were able to use timbers harvested from my parents' woods. A couple years ago my dad, my brothers, and my husband cut down most of the trees that were dead or at risk of falling for one reason or another, rented a wood mizer to cut the wood into boards and put it in my parents' hayloft to dry. Here's a quick recap of the mudroom lockers:

There's a tall cabinet and cubby for each of us, with the lower boxes storing things like shoes, boots, dogfood and winter gear. Basically, everything that we formerly dropped on the floor. I realize mudroom is a fancy way of saying "entry way," which is really what this area is--the main entrance to our house.
 You walk in the front door and see through the kitchen all the way to the laundry room.

Opposite the lockers, right next to the entry is the trash area.

One drawer each for the trash, paper, and recycling:



And here's the laundry room cabinets:

Joe and I attended a woodworking conference at Colonial Williamsburg awhile back, and when we toured Thomas Jefferson's estate, Monticello, I wanted to take to heart his theory (though not so much his designs) that one's home should function not only as a shelter, but as a working machine.

The challenge in accommodating the eight people who live here is to make sure that the square footage we have works for us and not against us. Being able to put things away means actually having a place where the things belong, which is not something we'd much considered when we first moved here. A lot of things landed where they did on moving day, and there they remained for many years, and we lived around them. So clearly Shaker thinking on furniture craftsmanship has also been very beneficial here.

The laundry and mudroom are both "working" rooms rather than gathering rooms, and now they are indeed earning their keep.

The kitchen functions as both a working room and a gathering room. It really is where we live.

*
Joe made this kitchen table several years ago, which seats ten comfortably, out of curly cherry:

It's over eight feet long and takes up about half of the kitchen. So without expanding any cabinet space, we tried to make the space we had more useful. He lobbied for the lazy susan in the corner cabinet, on which I wasn't sold until it was finally in place.


bending wood edge banding for the lazy susan.
I thought we would lose the corners of the cabinet to the rounding. As you can see, there's narrow access to the corner cabinet:







But it's a pretty deep cabinet and the lazy susan allows those corners to actually come around and extend into the kitchen, giving me access to my bread bowls.






This slender cabinet fits in the tight space between the stove and the wall.


But it makes a good spot for "sheet goods" as Joe calls them because he's fancy. I call them cutting boards.



This idea of making deep drawers for stock pots and pans we copied from my aunt's house, because I was tired of getting down on my knees and sticking my head into a mess of pots and recycled yogurt containers in order to find the right thing.



And toe kick drawers that sort of disappear when they are closed make a good spot for placemats and table cloths.

We got rid of so much stuff once we pulled it all out. Things like my Grandma's old bundt pan, because no one really likes cake without icing, also, the apple-corer-peeler-slicer because it was obnoxious, lots of dumb coffee mugs, anything broken, etc.

Here are the three main cases for the lower cabinets before they were installed:

In the lower left corner you can see the stack of oak flooring before it was laid.

The sink cabinet.

flush mounting the doors on the corner cabinet


People kept telling us that the cabinets wouldn't match if the uppers and lowers were two different colors. We disagree. It needed to be lighter, but not where the kids could reach it, because then it would always be dirty.


Apprentice, putting adhesive on the baseboards.


researching plumbing to install the sink


And...here we go...

Before:


After:

We added some can lights, and under-cabinet lighting.


I bought the chandelier for 12 dollars at Value World. So it's "new" too.




Our major expenditures were the sink, the hardware and the countertops, which are soapstone, but without a major cost on the cabinets and floors....we splurged.

It also cost an ounce of flesh.

(Squeamish people should look away right now)










Joe did lose a bit of finger from the table saw over the course of this project. Not bad, all told.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cosplay Saints


*
My bad memories don't bother me much. They're tucked away back there somewhere, but mostly out of mind. It's my good memories I've spent half my lifetime trying to overcome. 

All of high school, and most of college are in the vaults, but every time I listen to Gregorian Chant, I'm back in 1997 putting on my plastic headphones and tape deck to go for a walk along the Thames river near Port Meadow, happily anticipating that around any bend in the path I'm likely to run into a pub, a church or a friend.  

It was such a short window of time, six months, that I spent in Oxford, but I think of it as the best time, because I was fresh out of a bad relationship, free and foreign in another country, reading some of the best books ever written under the tutelage of insanely intelligent (and sometimes very attractive) tutors, while living the communal life of students sharing a small house.

I laughed a lot. Did things I couldn't get away with at home, not so much because they were bad, but because people would have thought I was weird. I wore my religion publicly, and my clothes oddly. I drew so many pictures.



I've gotten into the habit of thinking that I was most myself during that interlude, even though I was away from my native habitat and my people, doing things you only get to do once in a lifetime. I was a personality that relied on transience in order even to exist. If I'd thought any of those people would know me ten years out, I probably wouldn't have felt so free. And I was still dependent on my parents' dime, charging my life on their credit card, with the statements arriving on my mother's desk half-way around the world. 

When it was over, I came home to depression and a new dumb relationship. I drew mostly sad pictures of myself and wrote my life story so far. There began a long, dull phase of self-portraiture from which I've never quite recovered. And even once the depression had lifted, my former life in Oxford felt like a chronic condition that would flare up and make me sore whenever the weather at home turned dark.

It still does.


Read the rest at Patheos