Mary Beth Writes

People don’t need to care about “decorating and home design.” As long as one can live safely in their abode while getting done the things they need and want to get done, that’s civilization.

But many people desire to make their domiciles more than a safe place to eat, sleep, and couch potato-ize. In fact, pretty much the engine of Western Imperialism is linked to what homes look like. If no one cared about massive overweening treasure-packed mansions, who would have invented slavery, exploitation, graft, and corruption? What would Jane Austen have written about? How else could Jay Gatsby have tried and failed to win Daisy’s heart? (Talk to her about books, art, and how her day went? Respect her autonomy? Wait for her to figure out her husband is a cheat? These strategies have been known to work.)

Home decorating and interior design are generally about two motivations.
1. One motivation is to amass, curate, intimidate, and show off. You’ve occasionally been in such homes. You know what I mean.

2. The other motivation is more curious. Why do we care so much about this kind of chair and not that? Why do we hang prisms in a window and build lawn furniture from pallets? Why do we paint the kids’ room with Dalmatian spots or fairies flying across their ceiling?

We do this because we like to invite ourselves and others into our lives.

Whether we know what we are doing or not, most of us tend to create spaces that welcome the dear doofus we are now and the fine person we are waiting to become. We are inviting the people we want our kids to become. We are making a place for the friends we have and the ones we would like to have. We are welcoming the cats and dogs who will make us laugh and feel loved. (One decorates for pets by having upchuck-tolerant furniture and not having poisonous plants.)

Home design is about making the space to which we invite ourselves and others. Which means, of course, It's can be humorous to look around at where we live right now and wonder just who it was we hoped would turn up….

Which leads directly into … Le Bistro … the space Len and I cobbled together this spring on the concrete apron of our garage.

..

Our yard is luxuriously small. Mowing takes 20 minutes. One could turn the whole thing into flower and vegetable beds, and it would be a “small garden.”

The one luxury we didn’t have here was an inviting kind of outdoor place. Midwesterners know that January is long and if you are going to get through it, you need to have enough July evenings stored in your soul. Plus, the pandemic arrived, and it isn’t like we can travel far away to restore our spirits.

The week before the pandemic our guerilla arborist friend Chet trimmed huge branches from the trees behind our property. Suddenly we had a sunny backyard and a LOT of wood debris.

One thing led to another. We cleared branches and sticks for days. We bought a fire pit in which to burn sticks, since the town yard waste recycling depot was closed for Covid.

We already had a patio set and umbrella passed along to us by folks moving on to other styles. Free and uncomplicated is one of my favorite decorating styles.

I decided to paint the concrete. We already had a gallon of white. I bought two quarts of black and it “only” took two astoundingly sweaty afternoons to get everything prepped, marked out, painted, and painted. I considered buying outdoor rugs except this area is the path from car to back door, we walk here constantly. I figured sooner or later I would trip on a rug. Paint was the nuttiest, least expensive, and safest idea. Then there were classy and subdued stencil ideas on the internet. As you can see, I didn‘t go for classy and subdued.

Painted the black and white bistro floor. Set the table and umbrella in the middle. Bought one red geranium and Mary brought me another one.

Len attached eye hooks to the garage and house to which he attached vinyl covered steel cable which is the wire one hangs pictures from. He attached to those cables the strings of Edison lights he bought last year on sale. Inside the garage he plugged them into a ‘wireless remote-control electrical outlet switch’ – so that we can turn the lights on or off from the kitchen.

For about 20 hours and a hundred dollars we have a Covid-free Parisian bistro (I’ve never been to Paris, don’t tell me…). I like sitting there by myself, feet up, filthy from yard work, drinking coffee. I like dining ‘al fresco’ with Len, turning supper into a date. I like sharing it with friends, wine, snacks, and good conversation about important and unimportant things.

The Covid quarantine constrained so much of our lives. It’s nice to have a place that is an invitation to sit down and relax.

Comments

I have shared your picture with 3 friends. All three friends are in various stages of making an outdoor space their own.
Mary Beth's picture

That is so cool to hear. We humans do well when we have place of our own that welcomes us.

You two are too cool!
Mary Beth's picture

Am I going to feature your "outdoor space" one of these days? Ooh, that would be fun. People would love to see what you have created, not in 2 days, but in 20-plus years of love and attention - and sweaty work.

My back patio is my place of refuge in summer and it's been a work in progress like everything else around here... I work on it a little at a time when I don't wish to do the things that really matter... It tends to be designed by the. B-Day gifts I give to myself every year... The outdoor rugs I bought on clearance last year, the elaborate wrought iron table with flowers and vines found in an antique store and purchased last year after months of indecisiveness about it and the safety of the thick glass top... I finally went in and asked if I had to buy the whole thing? Owner gave me a price without the glass top, (Happy B-Day to me) added a stainless top I already had, the modern round $20. Chandelier purchased at a Habitat Restore... The Martha Stewart chairs purchased at three different Kmart's in Racine and Kenosha at the end of season sale years ago, came in sets of four so I went to three stores to get them cheaper than the price for one set... Coffee table from Pier One.( ¿Do these stores even exist these days? ) I'm still looking for a mid-century metal sofa to finish it off, already thifted the glass top sofa table and a $19. Habitat metal chair so I'm coming to the finish line... The vision in my head is almost a reality... I'm already taking phone calls and Zooming with Mr."B" from my backyard sanctuary in anticipation of it being completed... More on date #2 and him later...

Love it! I think the black and white IS very classy. We sit on the front porch and eat when it’s tooo hot inside. Our furniture is all from tag sales. And holds up under sweaty bodies. Now we need some of those light strings....hum
Mary Beth's picture

There's something about lights, isn't there?

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Happy Birthday to Len

11/30/2022 

Today is Len’s birthday. I told him this morning I might write about him but I would let him read whatever I said first. He said not to run it past him, he’d like the surprise of reading it when you all do. Let’s see what I come up with.

1. This is cute. Len was born in Chicago’s Passavant Memorial Hospital which was the grandparent hospital to Northwestern’s Prentice Women’s Hospital - where two of our grandkids were born.

Stories, Q Club, Us

The photo is not by Len or me, its from I Love Canada on FB. I've seen a sky like that just once. 

11/21/2022

Last week I read two books about young people who left their homes. They experienced some good and too many rough experiences and they couldn’t go back until they figured out how to not be who they used to be. Both novels knocked my socks off.

The People You Keep by Allison Larkin

Covid Diary #979 - Still Paying Attention?

11/17/2022

Yes, it’s been 979 days since Friday the 13th, March 2020, when everything changed.

Last Saturday one of our kids visited for several hours with their kids. It was fun though our kid looked tired. They said they’d taken a Covid test that morning and it was negative. They figured it was the wine and rich foods they’d shared the evening before with friends at the end of a very busy week.

Next Day - What Are You Seeing?

11/9/2022

It was a late night last night, wasn’t it? Len worked at a polling place 6:30 AM until 10:30 PM. He said the actual experience is a lot like working retail (which he has not done since he was 22). Stand up most of the time, pleasantly say the same thing over and over. Wonder if lunch is soon.  

Professional reporters and pundits are talking a lot about “what just happened”, but heck, we are noticing interesting things, too.  Let’s talk about what We The People saw and heard and are watching now.

Here are some things catching my attention.

Election Day

11/8/2022 

So many times I’ve thought things were going to be okay, and then they weren’t. My dad had that heart attack and the kid who was MB back then told herself to not overthink the drama because things always turn out more or less okay. Then the next day he died.

We lost a pregnancy far enough along that we had a name picked out and a crib in which to put that child. For a week I had all the misery and cramps that go with miscarrying and I still thought somehow it was going to work out okay.

That Beep-Beep-Beeping Moment.

In spring Len got a $100 traffic ticket when he turned right at a corner we’ve been turning right at for seven years. However, construction had started and there were orange barrels and cones everywhere – plus a small sign NOT facing the street Len was on, telling drivers to not turn there.

Len went back later that day and took photos. Len called the city to mention that if they posted a sign that actually faced the traffic, the city could save the cost of the cop parked there ticketing drivers.

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