Creating Quality Time With My Son and a Power Sander


Originally published July 15, 2014 at the fabulous TueNight.

I love junk. I like old stuff. Interesting shapes. Putting together odd combinations and using items for something other than what they were intended to be used for.

I was also an obsessive flea marketer and garage saler before it was considered stylish. (Is it considered stylish?) I was an upcycler before upcycle was a word.

My husband, Andrew, is an enabler like no other. He humors me on early weekend drives while we follow signs to the next sale or as I pull out my phone to scope them out using iGarageSale and Garage Sale Rover. My teenage sons? They tolerate it. Sometimes.

My oldest son just finished his freshman year of college. He’s an art major. He’s quiet and he likes his solitude. But I really wanted to figure out a way to spend time with him — something that involved a shared goal.

And then it came to me! This kid has the best taste. He’s always decorating his future home in his head, and I am often the delighted recipient of links to gorgeous furniture he’s found online, as well as unusually beautiful ensembles and fabulous homes. Plus, my son knows his way around tools. The natural conclusion was that we make a sofa table together. I’d been looking for one for some time and could not seem to find what I wanted. And much to my joy, when I asked if he would help, he was all in.

So one Saturday not long after, when my fabulous sister-in-law Liz asked me if I wanted to go barn sale-ing, I jumped at the chance. And I brought my son along, too. We took measurements for the table and started the hunt.

We found an old door at our first stop, which was a cute vintage marketplace called Sweet Clover. The piece was leaning unobtrusively against the wall with a $50 price tag. It had lots of personality, in addition to lots and lots of splinters. But hey, we have a power sander.

Fifty bucks seemed a little steep, especially in light of the fact that we were simply planning to take it apart and use a third of it, but before we even had a chance to haggle, the vendor told us she was pulling all her merchandise out that day and “how does $30 sound?”

It sounded great. Sold.

The door fit easily in the minivan and the three of us talked about what kind of legs it might pair well with as we drove home. We decided to order midcentury iron pin-style legs from eBay that night. And the next day, my son and I started disassembling. We pulled nails. We struggled to get the rusty hardware off. It wasn’t easy, especially since we wanted it to stay intact so we could put it back together once the wood was finished.

We sweat. We cursed. We cut wood. Together.

My son and I thought about finishes and tested different ones. We strategized and struggled. We cursed more. But we sure did laugh. And it’s amazing where the conversation can go when you’re not trying to make a conversation.

And did I say we sanded? Oh yes. We sanded and sanded and sanded. Then came the polyurethane and even more sanding. And more poly.

Then we put it all together.

The result was the best five days of my summer. We didn’t just make a table; we made a memory.

The Wheel.

(just listen in the background, there’s nothing to see here folks…but a beautiful version circa 1977)

The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down,
You can’t let go and you can’t hold on,
You can’t go back and you can’t stand still,
If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will.

The wheel is turning. Oh my, the wheels are turning.

Andrew is making dinner. Soft shell crab and shrimp Po’ Boys, if you’re curious. I know, right? Don’t even tell me how lucky I am. I know.

So Andrew is making dinner. We were chatting. Our son took the car and left for the high school senior awards night.

I’m trying to let that sink in.

He took the car.

He’s graduating from high school. Next week.

I could post a picture of him when he was little here, but I’ll save that for a nice juxtaposition with his graduation photo. Hehe.

So the wheel is turning. So fast. So fast. I’m happy. I’m a wreck. I’m happy and a wreck. Reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:

Guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Help me! I’m a wigwam, I’m a teepee, I’m a wigwam, I’m a teepee.” And the shrink says, “Relax. You’re two tents.”

I know you already knew that one but I couldn’t resist.

I can’t really explain what it feels like to watch your child drive away. Those of you with older kids? I bet you know. It’s just the first domino. I’m so full of emotion. So full of emotion.

Is the kid ready for this? Ready to be so independent? Ready to move away? To be self-reliant? You bet he his. I’m bursting with pride. But that doesn’t make the tears stop.

source: source:

Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin.

photo credit:

I’ll never forget when my grandmother, Betsy, was sick in the hospital. She was [insanely] concerned about the hairs on her chin and needed someone (my mom, if memory serves correctly) to be sure those hairs were eradicated.

It’s not that I didn’t understand the vanity. I got that.

What I didn’t understand was how she could have enough whiskers to care about. I mean, I never noticed any. And yes, I see the irony. And what I also didn’t realize was that it can happen to the best of us.

So Nana, I’m sorry for being all judgey. And I sure hope that those evil thoughts aren’t the actual reason that I now have chin hairs.

Oh crap. Did I really write that on my blog?

Yes, I suppose that I did.

I don’t have ‘get the shaving cream and razor’ kind of chin hairs, but I do get the ‘where the heck did that long, black, wiry thing come from’ kind of hairs. I swear they grow over night.

Look. I have a great pair of tweezers. It’s fine. But what I don’t have is great close-up vision. So on the occasions that I am wearing my glasses and lean in to see myself in the magnifying mirror, it’s cause for alarm. HOW COULD I NOT HAVE SEEN THOSE THINGS? SERIOUSLY?

And let’s top that off with why didn’t my beloved husband see them? Why would he not have told me? Why wouldn’t he have plucked those suckers himself to save me the embarrassment of walking around like that? Oh wait, maybe he doesn’t see so well, either. (He is getting ready to turn 54. Just saying.)

Is ignorance bliss?

I say, no. Not in this case. I don’t want to be that crazy old coot who doesn’t know she has long, black hairs coming off her face. So friends, if you were wondering if you should mention it, the answer is yes. Together, we can keep this epidemic under control.

Something to remember me by.

Several years ago (and I have blocked out how many years ago it was), my dad was sick. He had cancer. Hodgkins.

We lived 1200 miles away and it was hard. Very hard. I hated knowing I wasn’t there to support him through chemo. I talked to my mom most days. And I knew he was getting through with a great attitude. But it wasn’t like being there. Not at all.

When I came east to see him, I was truly surprised by how rough it was on him. He is the toughest guy I know. Not kidding. But even he was getting beaten down.

Not that he’d let on.

So on one of the visits, he gave me some cash. He asked that I buy something to remember him by. In case.

In case.

Deep breath.

He said he’d have preferred to have gotten me something but he didn’t have the energy.

So when I saw these three delicate bands – complete with engraving and lovely details – I bought them. With the cash. And I wore them on my right hand as a reminder.

My dad recovered fully. I know! How lucky were we? But since then, he’s had another run-in with cancer and triple bypass surgery. But he’s doing great and is living life with a great attitude.

As always.

I don’t wear these rings every day anymore. But I do wear them. And when I do, I take a deep breath and feel great appreciation for having my father around.

We’ve lived close by since 1999. August. And I’m thankful for the time I get to spend with my parents. And my in-laws. And the rest of my family. Because you know what? Nothing matters more.


So today, when I put on the set of rings, I realized how grateful I am. Because you know what? It’s so easy to forget. So easy to get caught up in the daily grind. So easy to get busy. So easy to lose track.

But nothing matters more to me than my family.

I couldn’t be more thrilled that I didn’t need those rings to remember my father by for all these years because I get to see him all the time. And he’s healthy. But they’ll always be a reminder of how fragile life is.

Below Sea Level.

I feel so lucky.

We’re just back from a nine-day family vacation. Nine days. And my teenagers actually wanted to go.

I josh you not.

While the trip started out a bit rocky. Rocky, as in I vomited all the way from the TSA line at National Airport through a layover in Milwaukee and onward to San Francisco. Rocky, as in the flight attendant on the second flight asked Andrew if I was a nervous flyer. He said, “No, she’s just sick.” Bet that made her day. And rocky, as in I missed the first 36 hours of our San Fran visit.

But Andrew and the boys kept on ticking. I had a great and comfortable place to rest (go VRBO!) and they saw the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito (which they fondly call Sausagelito). And they saw the SF Museum of Modern Art. And rode cable cars. And such.

I totally rallied for Alcatraz.

It was so interesting and a beautiful day. We were so happy to be together. It was, for me, the start of a wonderful vacation.

Did you know that there are still three Alcatraz prisoners alive? All are still in prison somewhere. Andrew is really into the show Alcatraz. I think it’s just creepy. But, I digress.

Dinner that night? So fun. We went to Range. And yes, my sons were the only non-adults there. But no one seemed to mind. They’re as tall as the adults, anyway. And they know their way around a nice restaurant. It was all good.

The next 4 days were incredible. Monterey. Yosemite. (We stayed in a Caboose and had fabulous Cajun food. Not kidding.) Sequoia.

And Death Valley. Very fun “resort” in Death Valley. We met the nicest people there. And honestly, I think that I slept better there than any other night. It was just so peaceful and we were so darn happy. After dinner, there was nothing to do. I mean nothing. No Internet. No TV. No cell service.

We bought a 40 at the convenience store (for the adults, obviously) and some snacks for all. And we played poker. All of us in one room, laughing and playing cards. So fun.

And the next morning, we headed into the park and saw the sites. We hiked. We took pix. (Okay, that was me.) and we went to the lowest place in North America.

We look happy, no?

After a full and exhausting day, we headed east to Las Vegas.

And the adventure continued.

There are a million details I left out. Like the Artichoke Capital of the World. Like the funny Mexican restaurant in Laughlin. Or Laughlin, in general.

I can’t express how happy I am that we had a week of laughs. A week of talking. A week of experiencing. A week I’ll never forget.

My boys are growing up so fast. Davis will be applying to colleges soon. And as of next fall, they’ll all be in high school. No more middle school. No more elementary school. No more preschool.

It’s shocking.

But it’s wonderful.

I’m so grateful. (Not for the throwing up part. But for every other minute of my life.)

What a difference 366 days make.

Exactly one year ago today, I had an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. I had two discs removed and replaced with cadaver discs (I’ve always liked vintage) and then they were fused to an existing disc with titanium. Now, can you say that you have titanium in your neck? I didn’t think so.

Did you know titanium has the atomic number 22? And it’s low density and strong, lustrous and corrosion-resistant? You have no idea how glad I am that the metal in my neck is corrosion-resistant. I mean, really. Just thinking about internal corrosion is disturbing.

So it’s been a year.

At one week, I thought I’d never make it. It truly sucked. My friends and family were great. Did you see all those flowers? I had yummy meals, pedicures, trashy magazines, Godiva chocolates, and lots of visitors. But that first week was long. Maybe the longest week ever.

At a month after surgery, I cried. Not a little, either. While probably not realistic, I thought I’d be well on the way to my normal, happy self at a month. THIRTY DAYS. That’s a lot, right? My mobility was greatly improved but I was not okay. I was moody and uncomfortable and frustrated.

Did I mention that I cried? True story.

At my three month check, the doc said that nine months was a big turning point. What? Six more months to the big turning point? With new resolve, I refocused my workout and recovery strategy and started making real progress and getting stronger. (Thanks, Cyrus. Not that you read blogs.)

I am pretty sure you don’t want to read about every setback and every step forward. And I’m not even sure I remember them all.

But I can tell you that I can do all sorts of regular things that I couldn’t do before the surgery. Like pass a plate at the dinner table. Fold the sheets. Dry my hair. Put the groceries in the trunk.

And now, at one-year post surgery, I can do bicep curls, tricep push-backs, and skull crushers. I can do 10 push-ups and even though I could do 100 at a time a few years back, 10 seems like a great accomplishment to me now. I’ll get to 100 again. Mark my words.

I could say how grateful I am for the people who helped me through this but I’d probably cry. You know who you are. (sniff, sniff)

A year. I can’t believe it’s been a year.

Next week, maybe I can do 15 push ups.

Yellowed love.

I never met my grandfather. He died January 1, 1958 leaving my grandmother a very young widow.

I don’t know why I absolutely love this 1.5″ plastic shamrock, marked on the back Chevrolet/Essex, MD. He wrote a note:


and taped it with transparent tape, which is far from transparent all these years later.

Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day.