The Color Purple

The Color Purple

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This week I painted a room purple.  I moved in with my boyfriend.  And I was asked to speak to a national audience about my career.

It waaaas a week of firsts.

Next month I’ll spend an hour with two other panelists answering questions and discussing what I do.  It’s a fair question, a question I used to ask my dad all the time.  “You go to work every day, but what do you actually DO?”

He was an an aerospace engineer who had security clearance and frequently traveled to Cape Canaveral for space shuttle launches.  And I was, you know, eight.  Answers were vague.

To promote the panel, my picture will be on our company’s website with a few sentences about my work and a favorite quote.  All week I’ve been asking myself, “how DID I get here?”  “Is quoting your college roommates parents appropriate?” “How do I not mention Stephen?”  Everything is so entwined, I can’t talk about one without talking about the other.

Because this week I painted a room purple.  I moved in with my boyfriend.  I got asked to speak about how I got here.

What I want to tell them is this…

My dad worked at the same company for 35 years before he retired.  I was young when I learned about healthcare, retirement, saving money and how to use an ATM.  I really liked using the ATM.  Money!  It just spits out!  (It took me a while to figure out the whole, more-money-needs-to-go-in-than-come-out concept, but the other lessons stuck.)

I wanted a job where I could grow.  A job where I had healthcare.  A job that had a retirement plan.  This December it will be 25 years since I got my first job in banking.  If you would have told me I’d still be in banking when I was 43 I would have cried and then maybe died.  Banking wasn’t interesting.  It wasn’t creative.  It wasn’t ME.

But the truth is, for the last 25 years it has provided an underlying stability that has allowed me to become ME.  It has afforded me the opportunity to travel, to buy one house and then another, to move across the country and begin a life I wasn’t sure was in the cards for me.  There were a lot of days I didn’t like work.  I don’t feel like I really hit my stride until year…20?  That’s a long time to wonder if you should be doing something different.

When we were graduating college and I was moving out of the last house I shared with roommates, I asked Shannon’s parents if they had any advice for us.  They said, “enjoy it.  Enjoy every stage.  Life is full of changes.  Make sure to enjoy them.”  That has stuck with me throughout the years.  Especially when I wasn’t happy with something.  Like my job.  Or being single.

I dated.  I loved.  I lost.  I never got married and I never had kids.  And then almost two years ago I met Stephen.  And it just…worked.  We talk to each other.  We like each other.  He prioritizes my happiness.  He is intelligent, kind, creative and talented.  He likes the things I like about myself and the things I don’t like about myself.  He works hard and sees the best in people.  If you would have told 18 year old me that I’d have to wait until I was 41 to find the relationship I wanted?  And that he was younger, a musician and lived in Georgia?  I laugh just thinking about it.

I want to tell them I got here one day at a time.  I got here by letting go of expectations others had of me and that I had of myself.  I got here by showing up to a job every day while I spent my evenings tearing myself down to the studs and rebuilding a life that (I hope!) reflects authenticity, kindness and compassion.  There was a lot of sweat.  There were a lot of tears.  And that was just this week.  I got here by hoping, by asking, by trusting and then letting it all go and getting to work.

This week I painted a room purple.  I moved in with my boyfriend.  I got asked to speak about how I got here.

 

And what I will tell them is this…

I take it one day at time.  I am grateful for opportunity.  When I don’t like what I’m doing, I still show up and do the best job I can.  I compete with myself and not others.  I ask for help.  Even when it’s uncomfortable.  I try to be kind.  I apologize when I’m not.  I forgive myself and others.  I make sure once I leave work for the day that I actually leave.  I go out into the world and sometimes, when the time is right, I paint it purple.

Savannah & Tybee Island

Savannah & Tybee Island

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I had seen the movies.  Forrest Gump, Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil and the lesser known period piece, Magic Mike XXL.  Savannah has been on my list of places to visit for a long time.  Last weekend Stephen and I headed east for my first trip to the Georgia coast!

We walked on the beach just before sunset, had dinner at a place that serves fresh shrimp off the boats, sat in Forsyth Park and people watched, played a round of mini golf and drove down the gorgeous mile and a half stretch of tree lined drive at the Wormsloe Historic Site before having barbecue that was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever eaten. Stephen, who grew up in the south and needs barbecue like I need burritos, said it was the best he’s ever had.   Here’s a full trip report of where we ate, played and slept.

Where We Ate

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As with everything, there were some hits and misses.  These are the places where we’d eat again, and a couple we didn’t get to try but are on my list for next time:

B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue
We ate this on our way home but it deserves top billing.  I had the brisket sandwich with mac & cheese and Stephen had the pork plate with baked beans and mac & cheese.  It’s in a strip mall and the staff was…interesting…but the food and story of how  B’s came to, well, be is awesome.

Coco’s Sunset Grille
Not gonna lie, this place had Margaritaville written all over it.  I don’t think either one of us had high hopes, especially as we drove down a dirt road that spills you right into the middle of the restaurant.  But we got settled, watched the sun set and were delivered a “Hurricane Survival Shot” to do with the rest of the bar.  Not our usual M.O. but when in Tybee, etc.

A conch shell emerged and then the toast brought me to tears.  It hit me how much people love their town, how much they almost lost and how genuine the feelings of relief were.  I was humbled.  And then I had the shrimp which humbled me even more.  Somewhere along the way, someone long ago told me that if I ever had the chance to eat fresh shrimp to do so.  I pass along this same advice to you.  I can’t even remember what Stephen got, I was too busy inhaling my shrimp.

80 East Gastropub
We kind of stumbled into this place when the restaurant where we wanted to eat was full.  I had the shrimp tacos (are we sensing a theme here?) and Stephen got the fried chicken with sweet potato waffles.  The food was good, staff friendly and then they had to go and bring us salted caramel ice cream sandwiched between two homemade white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies.  TLA and BFFFL and all other appropriate acronyms.

Tybean
Tybean was a recommendation from a friend whose parents have a vacation home on the island (hi Megan!).  The coffee was great, staff friendly, and it was in this cute little grouping of beach huts that were occupied by different shops.  We just had a chance to pop in for coffee.  It’s really small, so if you do go, plan on taking your coffee elsewhere.

For Next Time…

Goose Feathers Cafe
The Paris Market

What We Did

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Walked on the beach

Took a Tour
I will leave out the part about looking for parking for over 30 minutes on the same day SCAD students were moving into the dorms, and tell you if you go to instead to drive straight to one of the hop on/hop off tours.  We parked all day for free at Old Savannah Tours.

I usually do a hop on/hop off tour when I’m new to a city.  I think they give a good introduction to a bit of history and layout and then I have an idea of what places I’d like to learn more about.  (The tradeoff is putting up with the occasional not so great tour guide and/or pirate actor whose fake teeth were so bad you couldn’t understand a word he said.) (Aaaaaargh indeed.)

Walked the Savannah Historic District

I joked over on Instagram that the historic district was two square miles of straight up charm and humidity and that Forsyth Park nailed it.  Buuuuut…it’s kinda true.

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Played Putt Putt Golf

I hadn’t played putt putt in years and we had such a good time.  One of Stephen’s favorite jokes is “there are two types of people in the world, those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.”  I’ll tell you that he did not win this round of putt putt and allow you to extrapolate.  (Because I am nothing if not the epitome of graciousness.)

Wormsloe Historic Site

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I had seen pictures of this place for years and it did not disappoint.  Hundreds of trees were planted down a mile and a half stretch of road.  The care and preservation that goes into the site was just as beautiful.

Where we Stayed

We rented an Airbnb that was about halfway between Savannah and Tybee.  While it was a good experience, I think I’d recommend staying in the historic district of Savannah.  It’s such a walkable city, less than 20 miles to Tybee and you can rent an Airbnb for not much more than we paid.

Travel is a huge priority of mine.  I keep paid off cars for years, live in less house than I can afford, wear inexpensive clothes and (mostly!) eat at home so I can afford to do so.  I love getting out of daily life and love returning to it just as much.  I had no idea what to expect with the Georgia coast.  We had some bumps along the way, but it’s definitely a place I’d like to return to.  There are houses to tour, cobblestone streets to walk and horse drawn carriage rides left to do!

Let’s Get Cozy

Let’s Get Cozy

The leaves on the dogwood tree are starting to change.  We lit the first fire of the season, watched Monday Night Football and listened to the rain from Irma, who had calmed down to a tropical storm by the time she reached us.

It has been overcast for days and I’m wondering how I ever got anything done in the Pacific Northwest.  I’ve been decidedly horizontal all week and don’t seem to mind a bit.  I tumbled down a rabbit hole.  A very British rabbit hole.

Maisie Dobbs

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I’m on the third book of the Maisie Dobbs series and fetch me some tea, I think I’m gonna be here a while.  When I gave a MOMENT’S thought to possibly reading another book my entire body revolted.  So I knit, knit, knit and listen to the audio versions as Ms. Dobbs dons her hats and gloves, flies around London in her M.G. (!) and soaks in long baths while she works through murder mysteries after World War I.

Victoria

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I also stumbled upon the gorgeously shot Victoria.  It’s almost more beautiful than Colin Firth walking out of Pemberly’s pond as Mr. Darcy in the BBC’s version of Pride & Prejudice.  I can only manage to watch in five minute increments before I fall asleep dreaming of tea, formal horseback riding attire and those dancing sequences in large ballrooms that just…please excuse me while I pass out.

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In what can only be described as ambitious, I peeled myself off the couch to make cookies.  Have you tried making peanut butter cookies without flour?  It’s the craziest thing.  You mix together peanut butter, sugar and an egg and boom you have cookies before the oven is even preheated.  I added in a little leavening and some chocolate because I couldn’t help myself.

The Lazy Anglophile’s Guide to Peanut Butter Cookies
(makes 2 dozen)

1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1/4 t baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl mix the peanut butter, sugar, egg, baking soda and salt together until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop batter by tablespoons onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets and bake for 10 – 12 minutes.  (If they’ve browned they’ve gone too far.)  Allow to cool slightly and then get back to the couch immediately.  London’s calling.

House Tour: Before

House Tour: Before

I bought this house last year and loved its potential.  The woodwork is beautiful, the neighborhood and lake view lovely.  With a little time and some focused updates I think she’ll be downright charming.  At the moment she’s downright beige.

As Stephen says, “come on in the house!”

Front

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So much has already happened to the exterior of the house but this is how she looked at the beginning.  This spring I had new windows installed, the siding painted, front door and sidelights replaced, lighting and landscaping updated.  In a few months I’m replacing some old chainlink gates, adding pretty curved pathways to either side of the house and filling in some grass.

Foyer

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My last house was a very tall, very skinny row house in Portland, OR.  The foyer had barely enough room to fit one person.  We can have a party in this foyer! I loved the staircase, the wood floors and the light that comes in from the back windows.  Eventually the carpet runner will be replaced, lighting updated and paint color changed.

Living Room

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When you enter the front door and turn left off the foyer, you come into the “great room.”  The hardwood floors were aaaaalmost enough to distract me from the kitchen which is that black/orange hole over there in the corner.  We’re all ready for Halloween!

Kitchen

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I have big plans for the kitchen.  Namely reconfiguring the layout a bit, rehabbing and adding cabinets, updating the sink, countertops, some of the appliances, lighting and paint.  No biggie (sob).  This is the project I’m currently saving for and am hoping to dig into next fall.

Laundry Room

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Can we just take a moment to appreciate that door into the garage?  Heart eyes. This room is off the kitchen and is tiiiiiny.  My plans are to take up a little bit of the kitchen space (up to where the fridge is in the photo above) so I can add a mudroom type space.  (If Pinterest has taught us nothing it’s that every house needs a mudroom.)  Other than that, just a lot of paint and some new hardware in this room.

Current Master Bedroom

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Off the foyer to the right are two bedrooms.  The master, naturally, is the smallest with a minuscule closet.  Sigh.  My only complaint about this house is the lack of formal dining room and the ridiculous closet in the master bedroom.  So the 2019 project (I might be a liiiittle bit of a planner) is to close in the area where you see the current door to the room and the bathroom (on the left side of the picture) and open up a door somewhere along the wall where the closet is.  I’ll keep a closet so I don’t lose a bedroom for resale, but this room is going to become a formal dining room with access via a back hall that has a view into what will become a breakfast nook and kitchen.

Current Master Bath

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The master bath is huge and eventually will be reconfigured to open up into the second bedroom on this floor to create a large, bright and airy master suite on the main level.  That room is currently serving as my office.

Current Office

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The light and view in this room is so pretty.  Eventually this entrance will be closed in to make a large master closet and the wall on the right will be opened up with french doors into the foyer but that’s a couple years out. For now it serves as one very lucky lady’s office after A LOT of years in cubicle land.

Sunroom

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This was the room that made the west coast me say???  But with tablecloth covered card tables it has become the large dining room I need for all the entertaining we do.  The newly southern me is very grateful for this space.  Once the current master bedroom becomes the dining room, this space will get updated with paint, new lighting and some comfortable seating to enjoy the backyard with (hopefully) fewer mosquito bites.

Upstairs Hallway

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I love, love, love this little space.  The window faces the front of the house with a view of the lake.  My plan is to have a window seat installed and then line the wall on the left with bookshelves.  Add paint and new lighting and it’ll be a cozy little library.

Current Guest Room #1

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There are two large bedrooms upstairs and a full bath.  Up until now, I’ve used this room as a guest bedroom but it’s currently in the process of becoming a master bedroom due to its size and huge closet.  Paint, curtains and you know, furniture, are in the works as we speak.

Upstairs Bath

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This will become the “master bath” for the next couple of years.  Some paint and decor are all that’s happening here for a while.  Eventually it’ll get a full update.

Current Guest Room #2

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This is the second upstairs bedroom that is in the process of becoming a man-cave for a certain musician that’s moving in this month.  (Bury the lead!)

Backyard

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I mean…where to even begin with this space.  It’s got so much potential–huge oak trees, a lot of space and a swing!  But the grade of the lot and old landscaping mean a lot of work.  I’m getting some planning help with this one and will hopefully break it into a lot of small, manageable projects over time.  I’m going for a lot of curves, gravel paths, flower and vegetable gardens, some adirondack chairs and a fire pit because a girl’s gotta have her s’mores.  Can I make you one?  In 2027 perhaps?

Where to, Love?

Where to, Love?

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This week has been rainy in Georgia.  I’ve spent an unprecedented amount of time curled up on my couch knitting a new blanket and listening to the audiobook Maisie Dobbs, part of which takes place in Belgravia, London on Ebury Street.

A few years ago I boarded a plane in Portland, touched down in Minneapolis, and took off again only to find myself in London at 11 a.m. bleary eyed and smiling.  I had been to Europe a few times prior, but never on my own. A week’s worth of clothes were tucked in my bag, books and movies downloaded on my iPad and the list was long of things to see and do.

I stayed in Belgravia on Ebury Street in a room the size of my suitcase.  Breakfast was served every morning downstairs in the dining room around a small fireplace.  Out front the quintessential black cabs slowed to a stop and the drivers, who study for four years before they can become taxi drivers, rolled down their windows and said “where to, love?”

It was so charming I found myself taking cabs everywhere.  “Are you American?” they’d ask after hearing me call out places like The British Library or The West End.  “Yes,” I’d answer then pause and ask “do I need to apologize to you for anything?”  They’d laugh and inevitably ask me about the government, it was shutting down at that time too.  I’d in turn ask them about the neighborhoods, architecture and high tea.  Tea was indulged in.   Frequently.

One of my favorite books is 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, a 20 year series of real letters between a London bookshop employee and a New Yorker.  I went to Charing Cross and wandered around Bloomsbury and stopped to sit in a park she liked during her first visit to London too.

I cried when I saw Jane Austen’s glasses and writing desk in The British Library and welled up again touring the Old Globe while watching a dress rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet.  Books have informed so much of who I am.  To be able to go and see tangible evidence of authors was so incredibly powerful that even on the train to Paris, walking its streets and sitting in its cafes, I was still running through the numbers of if I could live in London for a few months and how much it would cost. (A. Lot. A lot is how much it would cost.)

And so I listen to the British narrator and follow along as Miss Maisie Dobbs clips around London, has tea and investigates things just biding my time until I can get back to the crisp white houses with black gates and pale pink front doors, to the antique dealers Saturday mornings in Notting Hill, to tea at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Tube I eventually got brave enough to take so comfortably people started asking me for directions.