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A little over ten years ago, we were living different lives in different cities.  If you had told me that I would meet the man that would become my boyfriend, then my partner, and that we would begin creating our life & our family together, I’d have told you to take another hit off of whatever drug you were obviously doing.  But, ten years later, I have a very different perspective & can see that Life or God or The Universe, or whatever you choose to believe in, has a way of offering us opportunities when we least see them coming.  And, these opportunities combined with commitment, loyalty & a good dose of understanding, can lead you down some beautiful paths.

Young Martin & Randy

Young Martin & Randy

The beginning can be summarized as: we met,  we fell in love,  Randy relocated, we maintained separate households.  I began to learn what it is to become part of someone else’s family.  I’d never experienced something quite like this before.  Randy had been married and has a set of fraternal twins (a boy & a girl), now thirty years old.  So, this process, while a little scary, was something with which he was familiar.  However, for me, it was uncharted waters.  We had talked, very loosely, about what we both wanted for the future.  At the end of my bachelor days, I didn’t envision having babies or anything that would interrupt the me-time I loved so much (after all, it takes a lot of effort to look this fabulous).  Frankly, it was more fun to hang out with Randy’s kids, since they were technically adults.  It seemed like more fun to have a drink with them than to stay home & change diapers and deal with crying babies (although, some may say that they’ve seen their share of crying babies in the forms of drunk & obnoxious adults in bars).  So, for the first few years, it was relatively easy.  We began establishing what our life together would be: some of my friends became his friends too, made new friends together, attended events together, rented a new place together, bought a house that I could obsess over, all the while the kids were maneuvering through their twenties.  These kids became adults & my bond with them, my love for them, grew more than I could have realized.  I would swell with pride when they earned promotions at their jobs, bought homes, and especially, when they started having babies of their own.

One of my favorite pictures; such a sweet moment...

One of my favorite pictures; such a sweet moment…

Me & my step-son, attending his first Atlanta Pride with us c. 2005

Me & my step-son, attending his first Atlanta Pride with us c. 2005

Having babies around turned out to be fun.  We can have fun playing, showering them with candies & gifts, playing dress-up.  They’re cute & cuddly & can be so sweet.  They can also be little terrors that do things like scream in the car for a solid hour while you’re driving on vacation (and people used to say was difficult on vacations; they have NO idea).  Six years later, I am still learning how to say no & stick to it without inadvertently triggering a nuclear meltdown.

Hays perched on a rock in Cloudland Canyon in North Georgia

Hays perched on a rock in Cloudland Canyon in North Georgia

Hays, our granddaughter, can be credited with teaching me many, many lessons about the reality of dealing with babies.  She’s adorable, curious, funny & almost too smart for her own good.  In the beginning, people would stop & comment on her bright red, curly hair & ask how old she was.  I’d stumble over that question every time, stopping to count on my fingers or straining to do math in my head (which was never my strong suit) before realizing the intense glare of judgment that I was getting.  “Oh, no!  She’s not MY baby…she’s my…uh…my partner’s granddaughter.”  I never saw this dilemma coming: how to explain to complete strangers the complexity of the modern, gay, integrated family.  I had a lot of the same thoughts that many of us have: what if they’re ultra-conservative, what if they judge, what if they’re cruel, or even worse, what if say something that sets Randy off (he’s an impassioned-stream-of-consciousness arguer with confrontational bigots).  After much thought, I figured out the easiest way is the most direct, “oh, she’s my granddaughter.  My partner & I have a May-September thing going on…”.  Let them deal with it if they don’t like it.  This beautiful granddaughter & I will continue being just as fabulous as ever.

Being fabulous is exhausting.  Obviously.

Being fabulous is exhausting. Obviously.

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Happy July 3rd Y’all! It’s a rainy Wednesday & I’m stuck inside…

So, first things first: if I don’t get better at keeping up this blog, y’all are never going to share it with your friends, it will never go viral, Martha Stewart will never ask me to contribute to her website & Oprah will never include it on her list of Favorite Things. Exaggerated Sigh.

But, y’all don’t despair. There has been plenty going on around the Romain Way Estate! Domestic bliss has returned & with it, projects have restarted. Before we got started on anything, I made a mental list that I was careful not to share with anyone, including Randy, my loyal laborer, for risk of frightening him off. Y’all know how I love a good list (otherwise I’d just move on to the next shiny thing…shiny things…that would be a good blog topic…hmmm….). Before I venture too far, here is the list of things to complete:

    1. Paint kitchen cabinets Sherwin Williams Pure White High Gloss & add hardware, preferably black
    2. Order & install super cool modern swag task lighting from IndLights on Etsy over the island in the kitchen.
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      Option No. 1. I’d change the cord color to either black or red.

      Image

      Option No. 2. I think either will give the kitchen a cool, modern element to offset the more traditional raised panel cabinets. And, by using swag lighting (and meticulously cable-managed cords), I can save the expense of an electrician for another project).

    3. Add storage to the kitchen: We’ve considered a variety of options to fix this issue, but haven’t landed on one yet. The reality in many cottage-style homes from the 1940’s is that kitchens we’re fancy; they were utilitarian. All the way. Which I don’t mind. I love to cook & have found that, generally, the fancier & prettier the kitchen one has, the less likely they are to cook in it. It’s a very odd thing to me. Our kitchen is one that didn’t include a specific home for the fridge. When we moved in, we placed it on a wall with an adjacent plug, only to discover that it overloaded the circuit. So, it got moved. I kinda like this concept. To borrow from Thom Filicia, it makes the kitchen feel like a room that just happened to become a kitchen. We’ve considered installing cabinetry, shelving, etc. and have wavered back & forth on the benefits of both. I lean toward something like this (clever use of Cost-Co shelving. This guy’s aesthetic is brilliant. You can see Eric’s home tour at Eric’s Stylish, Sunshine-Filled House House Tour | Apartment Therapy):51bdb0e0d9127e2600002a2d._w.1000._h.1000._s.fit
    4. Repaint the guest room & study, currently dark green & brown, respectively. We’ve decided on something dark, warm & moody. After all, if the bedroom doesn’t feel like a cave, what’s the point? Maybe this…black of night – Sherwin-Williams (By the way, it would be super helpful if the website would cooperate by letting me download images instead of having to imbed links…I’m talking to you, SW Web Masters.).
    5. Finish painting the exterior. Thanks to the efforts of my loyal laborer, the majority of the painting has been completed. Stay tuned for a post later about the process. But, I will tempt you with this, our exterior color palette: Sherwin Williams Inkwell (body), Ethereal White (trim) and Chinese Red (door).
    6. Remove the railings from the deck & the front porch. Our deck isn’t that high off of the ground & eventually will probably be removed & replaced with a gravel-filled parking area (and a free-standing pergola built in the grassy & sunny area of the backyard). So, the carpenter bees that have decided to devour the railings can suck it. They’re getting evicted. For now, we’ll paint it with Deck Restore & pray that it lasts another a year or two. The front porch will be reworked without railings but with new steps (painted white) that wrap around all three sides to open it up & make it look larger. I’m channeling something like this, but on a different scale. (God love Houzz).
    7. Last, but not least, landscaping. I have research to do & some hard work ahead of me. I also know that this project will extend well into next year. Someone that lived here used to love this yard, evidenced by the border-grass wrapped flower beds, irises in the back yard & the heritage azalea. The reality is that the garden hasn’t been tended for years, one neighbor’s oaks are killing my lawn & overshadowing half of the front yard & the backyard is full of poison ivy that I am HIGHLY allergic to. Like, being near it makes me break out. But, I gives me an excuse to channel an urban farmer look with light-weight long-sleeve plaid shirts & J Crew Wellies.

This sounds like a lot to do. But, the reality is, that I’m enjoying updating & renovating this little house & am becoming more & more proud of the hard work we’re doing. It’s not easy but I love the idea that, thanks to the 1940s workmanship & our determination, we have the opportunity to both preserve a little piece of history & leave our modern mark on it. As corny as it sounds, one of the most gratifying things about all of this work is that we are part of the history of this home. And, y’all never know, someday maybe we’ll be remembered for that. Or for being neurotic list-makers. It’s a all a toss of the dice.

Lately, your favorite Dandy has become an enthusiastic list-maker.  Most likely, this started with my use of my iPhone’s reminder app.  It seemed so innocent at first: make a note that could be location or calendar-based.  The iPhone would remind me, I’d never forget anything, would always look like I’m incredibly-organized (not a natural towering strength) & all the world would love me. Slippery slope, y’all…

I live & die by a quality checklist.  And, I feel compelled to guide & mentor the future Dandies of this world that may not know when they are venturing into dangerous territory.  Defining your personal style of decor is all trial & error & I’d like to help the next generation avoid some pitfalls.  No doubt, this will prove exceedingly helpful & will be discussed with the same glassy-eyed zeal that Oprah has when discussing The Secret.  Also, I recently watched Cider House Rules & fell in love with Tobey Maguire again.  It’s a vicious cycle…

Ten Things I Hate & You Should Never, Ever Do In Your Home:

  1. Themes Rooms: Nothing makes me cringe more than when I walk into someone’s home & I hear, “This is the Bicentennial Room” or, “my living room is done in Asian Traditional, my kitchen in Rustic Mediterranean, my bathroom in Danish Modern & my bedroom in Modern Southern American Folk Art pieces”. My shoulder blades constrict & I have to choke down the urge to scream, “Christ on crutches! Is choosing a central theme so difficult?! I mean, it’s taught to elementary school children for God’s sake!”.  To some, this reaction sounds extreme.  Others understand how blindly enraged excessive theme rooms can make a person.  So, for the good of all, exercise restraint.  A simple nod to a new style is all you need.
  2. Plastic on the lampshades: For women of my grandmother’s generation, plastic on the lampshades was not uncommon at all.  Then again, Velveeta, shaving your eyebrows & home perm kits were also not uncommon.  I don’t know about y’all, but I wouldn’t allow any of those things in my home either.
  3. Kitty Condos in your living room: Nothing says, “I have no idea how to create a room in which my friends & family want to spend their time” like plopping a one of these monstrosities down next to the chair in which I am supposed to sit, relax & drink my mint juleps.  Don’t misread me, your Dandy loves animals.  I rescued more strays as a child than anyone else I can think of.  I still do. However, I don’t feel it necessary to renovate my home so that Kitty can climb to the ceiling.  Cats, like children, should be taught to sit on a sofa & look cute.
  4. Matching sets of furniture: Let me say that I get it.  It’s easy to walk into a Rooms To Go, pick out a set of furniture, get a complimentary TV or whatever they’re giving away at the time, go home, accept delivery, arrange it once & go on with the rest of your life.  I wish I were that easy for me, y’all.  The thing I dislike about sets of furniture is that they’re too easy.  The style of your home should say something about YOU.  And, I’m not sure “I’m willing to take a package deal if I don’t have to be creative” is the message that you want to send.  Mix it up!  Buy a sofa at one store, chairs at another.  Find some cool old tables on Craigslist.  Stay away from the personal ads.  They’re sketchy. Put a little effort into it.  Not only will everyone think you’re so stylish & clever, you won’t ever have that embarrassing moment of walking into someone else’s house & realizing that y’all have the same ugly RTG living room set.
  5. Loose, Exposed power cables: I live in an old house.  I understand the advantages like wood floors, original moldings & plaster walls that you could hang a body from.  I also understand that, prior to the 1980s, contractors deemed it seemingly excessive to put more than one outlet in an entire room.  Yours truly has had to run wires across rooms before just to do basic things like have a lamp where it needed to be.  That doesn’t mean your HOME should look like a sad, depressing office space.  Cable-management is not rocket science.  Go to a home supply store, buy a bag of zip ties & commence to crawling around on the floor & under furniture to do your best to combine all cables & wires & hide them.  Will your posture be shot for a few days afterwards? Most probably.  But, here is the frightening truth: marriage equality isn’t the downfall of our society; visual clutter is.
  6. Bright Overhead Lighting: Like being reminded how much older you’re getting?  Like counting the lines forming around your eyes? How about seeing every pet hair or speck of dust that has accumulated on your chinoiserie coffee table since you dusted 5 minutes ago?  If y’all answered yes to any of these, then you’re a bad person & there may be no hope for you.  I too have a light kit on pretty much every ceiling fan.  But those are for  emergencies.  Real emergencies like in I Am Legend when that virus started turning people into dark-seeking monsters. (Little know fact: if more people had emergency overhead lighting, that movie would have never happened.  They would have turned on the OHL, the monsters would have died & Will Smith would have spent the next hour & a half of his screen time doing pull-ups.  And, that, would have been a damn good movie.)
  7. Excessive amount of pillows: Look, I love pillows as much as the next Dandy.  But, seriously, you’re not in a harem.  Cool it on the throw pillows.  Especially on your bed.  Moderation, y’all…
  8. Living Rooms without surfaces: This is very similar to the living room with a kitty condo next to the chair that I’m supposed to sit in.  I need an end table, coffee table, somewhere to put my cocktail.  So, don’t be that person that has nothing but a sofa in your living room (yes ma’am, I have been in these houses before.  They’re willing to spend a small fortune on shoes at Bloomingdale’s and have three pieces of furniture in their entire house).  Also, don’t be the person that has so much stuff on every table that there is literally not even room for me to sit my iPhone on it.  That’s just annoying.  Everyone knows your iPhone has to be visible & accessible at all times.
  9. Accent Walls:  OK, OK, calm down.  Hear me out.  The reason accent walls made the list is simple.  They’re difficult to pull off.  I actually love a good accent wall.  My personal preference is that they are done in a color closely matched to the other walls.  I’ve done the whole khaki-colored walls with red accent wall thing.  I’ve also done creamy white walls with a dark chocolate accent.  Learn from my mistakes y’all. Even I’m not perfect (collective gasp).
  10. Fake Flowers: They’re pointless.  Dried flowers are cool.  Live flowers & plants are even better.  Do a little research.  There are a ton of options out there for even the blackest thumbed among us.  “ZZ plants” will live in almost any situation.  I think they’d even live in The Situation’s bedroom.  Seriously, I’ve seen them in restaurants tucked in corners that not only didn’t get any natural light, but that were illuminated with a couple of weak accent lights.  Also, orchids live a really long time if you select them properly. (Side note: learn how to select orchids).  Do your homework.  It really isn’t that difficult, y’all.  And, if a plant or two dies, it’s ok.  No one thinks you’re a bad person.  Except some obscure plants rights activist groups.  Don’t even get me started.