Latest Spurts: Interior designers versus artists and more

Dec. 2, 2016

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

Last year in a post-Christmas sale we bought a 10-foot tree from the floor of our local grocery store. The store manager gave us the tree and all the decorations on it—which included dozens of ornaments, several strands of lights and garland—for $180. We brought everything home, found tree bags and containers to store everything and then packed it all away for this year.

The weekend before Thanksgiving we spent our Sunday afternoon pulling out all those ornaments, the garland, the lights, and also our older ornaments and lights. As we sorted through what we wanted to put up to decorate the house this year, my husband took out a bouquet of silver and red shimmery bulbs with long strands attached. Someone in the store last year had separated the bulbs and stuck them at various intervals in the tree; my husband put them in a red vase we have and put the base on the mantel.

Ten looked at the vase on the mantel, gave a nod of approval, and kept hanging ornaments on the tree where it sat not too far away on the stairs. Eight and I frowned at the vase and exchanged a look. We were taking a break sitting on the sofa together, and I turned to her.

“That doesn’t match,” I said, noting that my husband had put a red vase full of glittery silver and red decorations on a mantle with two Persian blue vases with coordinating sapphire blue glass candlesticks. “What do you think?”

Eight turned up her hands and shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Clearly she didn’t want to hurt her father’s feelings; Eight’s always on the lookout to make sure everyone is happy.

“But I thought you’re an artist,” I said. “Shouldn’t you know about this stuff?”

She gave me a “duh” look. “Yeah, I’m an artist, but I’m not an interior designer.”

Well…of course. There’s a difference. Silly me.


A little later in the evening, Ten and I worked together to string some lights on the spindles of the railing. The rest of the decorating was almost done, and Eight had plopped on the sofa to take a break and watch TV. Ten and I chatted casually, and at point in our conversation I used the word “good” incorrectly.

“Don’t you mean ‘well’?” Ten asked pointedly.

My cheeks flushed; she was right. Somehow I’d gotten caught up in talking and making sure we strung the lights in such a way that they would go all the way across the spindles and hadn’t paid attention to my grammar usage.

“I’m a writer, I can say whatever I want,” I said.

“Uh huh, sure,” Ten said, rolling her eyes. “Is that how it goes now?”

Hey, isn’t there such a thing as parent privilege?


Last week when I pulled into the driveway of the school to pick up the girls, I noticed something unusual. I saw a chunk of rainbow in the sky. It looked as if someone had taken an oversized prism and fitted it in a particular spot in the clouds. With the sun just peeking out from farther away, it somehow managed to catch the moisture in that spot and create a block of rainbow.

As the girls climbed into the car, I pointed out the rainbow prism. Eight mentioned how odd it was that the chunk of vibrant colors would appear only in that section of the clouds.

“You know, when I was little, I thought the reason why it snowed was because the snow fell on the clouds and they felt cold, and when they shivered the snow fell down to the ground.”

My heart melted a little at this description. Just then, Eight, my ever-practical child, piped up.

“And why would you mention that right now? It’s not snowing.”

I could hear the eye roll in Ten’s voice. “Because we were talking about clouds, so I thought of it.”

Shivering clouds. I love it.


One of the most fun tasks since moving into the new house has been to decorate my writing studio. Because it’s the one spot in the entire house where I really don’t need to worry about anyone else’s opinion, I’ve taken my time in considering what I want to hang where.

Last year when we visited Europe, I bought a poster in Prague of the famous Charles Bridge with the intention of hanging it in the studio. Because of the length of the poster, the shape of the room, and the slanted walls, however, I had trouble deciding where to put the poster up. Ideally I really wanted to hang it in a spot where I could see it as I worked, but the only feasible spot available was directly behind me.

A few weeks ago Ten walked into the studio to ask me something, and she saw the poster lying on the floor.

“Where are you going to hang this up?” she asked.

I frowned. “I don’t know yet. I don’t have space anywhere where I can see it.”

She glanced at the wall behind me. “Why don’t you just hang it there?”

“But then how would I see it?”

Her eyes widened a touch. “You turn around.”

“What, and spend all day turning around like this?” I said, demonstrating in a comical fashion.

“Yeah, you just…turn around,” she said, slipping for just a moment into teenage snarkiness. “It’s not hard.”

I thought she’d forgotten about it until Thanksgiving break when I reached into the freezer to grab something.

“Here, Mamma, I’ll get that for you since you can’t turn around,” she said.

I was thoroughly confused. “What do you mean?” I turned around in a circle. “See? I can turn around.”

“Yeah, you can turn around here, but you can’t turn around to look at your poster.”

I raised a hand to swat at her, and she shrieked with laughter and scooted away. Smarty pants.


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