Saturday, August 3, 2013

Thoughts from an AWOL Blogger - empty nesting and a place to create

my happy toes
This is the longest I've ever gone without posting to the blog, in the 3+ years I've been blogging, so I want apologize, and tell you what I've been doing.  Hopefully this isn't too much to read...  And by the way, yes, those are my toes on my short chubby little feet.  I couldn't decide on a color so I used them all!
on a hike to Palmer Pond

I've spent a bit of time recently at our 'camp', where there is no internet; while there I've been swimming (I swam across the lake - which really isn't too big a deal - it's just about 1/4 mile - but still, it was fun), kayaking, and taking some walks/hikes in the woods and to a lovely secluded pond with my hubby and my Nikon.
walking to Palmer Pond
 And a couple of days ago I made my annual trek to the beautiful Saratoga Race Track, with a friend of 18 years that I met when we were both attending a workshop run by NYSUT (NY State United Teachers) for new union presidents.  We ranted and raved about things going on in our school districts until late into the night, and forged a lasting friendship.
a day at the races

But my biggest thing has been a renovation I am undertaking in my own home.  Two items will provide a little background on this mystery renovation:

1)  Some of you readers are my age, but I know many of you are young, newer teachers, with young families.  But not me.  I am one year retired after 36 years teaching, with a son turning 25 in January.  My son has always been the light of my life, but kids do grow up and move out, and we have to readjust our lives.  When he went away for college, he came home just on the summer and holidays, and then, when he had an internship in South Africa, he didn't even come home for the summer.  Suddenly nobody was living in his bedroom.  He graduated from college 2 years ago, moved to Boston, and found a job, and now rarely is able to get home.  Do we miss him?  Of course.  But we are proud that we raised an intelligent, independent, quirky, ambitious, and happy young man, and we have enjoyed readjusting to our empty nest lives, with no swim meets, Strolling Strings concerts, carpools, Blue and Gold Scout dinners, etc.  We can come and go as we please. 
My son, bungee jumping in South Africa, off the Bloukrans Bridge 3 summers ago.  This is the world's highest commercial bungee jump (or at least it was at the time).  He smartly didn't tell us about it until afterwards. 
2)  I didn't get married until I was 35, and had my son when I was 36.  Until I got married, I lived in my own apartments, and always had a room that functioned as a studio.  When I got married, I moved into a house without studio space.  Except the kitchen, the whole house is carpeted.  It is an over-100 year old house, with small oddball rooms, many with slanty ceilings, and no extra space.  When I was a parent of a young child, teaching full-time and also union president, I didn't seem to have much time for doing my own artwork, so I didn't worry much about the loss of the studio.  Over the years, my school district built a new school, and I got a beautiful classroom with large work tables.  When I had personal projects to work on, I often did them after-hours in school, using my classroom as my own personal workspace.  Until I retired, that is.   I hadn't thought about the loss of my classroom in this way until it happened.  All the mountains of stuff I brought home from my classroom went into my son's room and sat there in boxes, with no way to easily access any of it.

Thus, the renovation project:  With my son's permission, I am transforming his bedroom into my very own art studio space!  My son's only stipulation is that the bed remain, so there is a place for him to sleep when he visits, and a drawer for some of his spare clothing. (Of course!  We wouldn't have it any other way!)  At first, my husband suggested cutting into the slanting ceilings (my husband is an architect, by the way) and inserting dormer windows for extra head-room and sunlight.  But after much consideration, we realized that the time and money involved were more than I had in mind.  Besides, I am about 14" shorter than my husband so the headroom isn't as much of a problem for me as it is for him.

Sneak peek - the room before renovation, while being packed up.
Sneak peek - a bunch of my junk in my son's room, before renovation.
So instead, the makeover is cosmetic, but I cannot show you yet!  I am taking a boy's brown-themed room (dark brown moldings and modular storage units, latte colored walls, brown and black patterned curtains, and tan bedspread - ugh - he picked it all out when he was in middle school - and making it feel light and airy, like a an ocean breeze.  The dark and gloomy room is beginning to feel fresh and clean.  In the past week, we have removed the carpet, and I have primed and painted the moldings, and am 1/2 way through painting the room.  My husband has stripped about 6000 layers of paint off the door.  In less than a week we'll be heading to Maine for a few days, so I'll get back to the renovations when we return.  (Lucky us, our son will hop a train in Boston after work on Friday and we'll get to have him with us until Monday morning.  Yeah!!)  Sand sculpture, here we come!  What should we build this year?

My renovation helper; carpet removal.
The crazy thing is how fast this is all happening.  My husband has absolutely no sense of time, but I am used to schedules and getting things DONE.  So one day I went to Lowe's and looked at the flooring choices, and then dragged hubs with me to see what I wanted.  He didn't necessarily agree with my choices, but it is MY room, MY choice.  First time ever I that I get to make these decisions without a little compromise, and I love it!

A few days later I came home with paint samples.  I picked out colors and off I went to buy the paint for the trim, walls, and modular storage. My husband was stunned.  "You are already buying paint??? Why didn't you at least wait until you were done painting the room to buy the storage unit paint?"  (Um, well, I want to get this thing DONE, and I know what I want!)  And then I stopped at the fabric store and bought material for curtains, stunning him even further.  ("Already?!" and when I asked his opinion, he said "well, if you like it...")  And the icing on the cake was the day I came home from a visit to TJ Maxx with a new quilt, bedskirt, and pillow shams for the bed.  Hubby was speechless.  Today he went in the room to see the newly painted moldings and actually to his surprise, he LOVES the color I chose.  Um, don't you think he should trust me to make good color decisions??

I'm extremely excited about this new part of my life.  I love that the decisions are all mine.  I love that I will have a place to put my easel without needing a dropcloth under it.  I love that I can plug in the electric fry pan and do some authentic batik for the first time in decades.  I love that there is still a place for my baby, when he is able to get home, and that he isn't upset to see his brown bedroom disappear.

But you will have to wait to see pictures...


  1. Sounds like fun! I have never had my own studio space in my home other than the kitchen table, so I hope to find that space as my kids grow up too - not quite there yet. I did transform our formal room into a music room this summer though. My whole family loves music and everyone but me plays instruments, so I thought that space would be more beneficial while my kids are teens. I did throw in a little dig at them as we were painting the room... "You know, I have NEVER had MY own art studio" :)

    1. I love the idea of the living room as a music room! But you said 'formal living room' - which makes me think you also have a den or some other sort of TV watching type room. We do not. My son and his band always practiced at the house of the boy with the big basement, so I never got to host the band.

  2. Good for you! My "studio" is the extra space in the laundry room. At least it's a decent sized room because it didn't take me long to fill it up!

    1. Our washer and dryer are actually in a little cubby area of our kitchen! No laundry room in our little house!

  3. CANNOT WAIT to see pictures!! I'm so excited for you...although, I gotta admit, that photo of your son bungee jumping made me Freak. Out. Mostly cuz I could never do such a thing. Not without an adult diaper. ANYWAY, I want those painted toes for this week, they would make me so stinkin happy. Looking forward to some upcomin' posts (duh, as usual).

    1. Cassie, the comment below was intended as a reply to you but I oopsied when I wrote it. Anyhoo hopefully you'll get to read it.

  4. Makes YOU freak out? Imagine me, my only baby, just 21 years old, 8000 miles away for 8 weeks, traveling solo for a week on a backpacker's bus with no access to Internet and no phone service, and this skinny-ass kid decides to go bungee jumping off the world's highest commercial bungee (The Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa; a jump of 216m!) with 2 Australian guys he had just met at the backpacker hostel, and doesn't tell us about it until AFTER! (Maybe a smart move on his part; his neurotic mom - me- might not have survived the stress if I'd known it was happening.) He didn't buy the video - too pricey - but bought the CD of still shots, which are all just impossibly insane. But he said it was a smooth ride, no jerking, no discomfort at all (I pictured his bony body snapping like a twig!) and I have to remind myself that there's danger in everyday life and I have to just trust him to make safe decisions.
    Anyhow, Cassie, thanks for dredging up the fear!! ;)

  5. Hi Phyl, I just posted my students' batik art. I linked back to your blog. Loved this project. Thanks for the idea.