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It’s four o’ clock on a Wednesday morning here in beautiful South Dakota and I am still awake. Doesn’t that opening line sound a bit like “Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown…”

I’m not sure why I’m still awake, but there are two likely reasons. I came home last Tuesday from my trip to New Zealand and Australia—cut short  because of the virus—so my internal clock is still running amok. My body can’t seem to get back to my usual South Dakota day/night pattern, so I’m trying to let it tell me what to do. I’ve been spending a lot of time in bed, and sometimes I get up and stagger to the couch for a few hours, but then I go back to bed again. And again. A nice thing about this is that my first week of self-quarantine, requested by the Australian government when I disembarked at Melbourne, has gone quite fast. Most of the time I’ve been in dreamland.

A second reason I might be awake—I should add that I took sleep aids last night to help me get off this nocturnal kick, but they haven’t kicked in yet—is that my subconscious had to remind me that Marv passed away at four in the morning just twenty months ago today. So I just had a tearful moment caressing his pillow, then running my fingers through his hair, and then I started to ruminate on how much I missed him, and now I’m here.

I’ve acquired a habit of writing on the month anniversaries of Marv’s death, and I’d been planning to write something today. Something cheerful. And it’d been brewing in my mind that I haven’t told you yet about my kitchen renovation. So here goes a story about my kitchen. If it’s boring, click off right away, because I don’t want to increase any angst you might have at this time. I promise not to use the term “stay at home” at any time.

My story begins when Marv and I decided on a moment’s notice, at least for me, to move from Chicago to Sioux Falls. You may remember I asked Marv in January of 2016 what month I should host book club in my condo building—clarifying what months we’d be home and not traveling—and I’d suggested December. And he’d been quiet a second and said, “We may not be here then.” And I wondered aloud where he was planning to go without me. Well, he’d been thinking about moving to Sioux Falls near our daughter and family.

Within hours, my daughter and I were on Trulia looking for homes. I’d wholeheartedly agreed with the move, after we’d clarified with the kids that it was okay for us to barge in on their lives. Kathleen and I soon found four homes that met Marv’s idea of what our next home should be, and I flew here to see them. She met me at the airport and said, “I’ve got appointments to see five houses.”

“Five?” I said. “I only selected four.”

The fifth one, it turned out, was one I had turned down. The backsplash had totally turned me off.

“You can change backsplash, Mom,” she said. She further admonished me that it was the only house on one floor, and as a former long-term care administrator, she wanted us on one floor. I guess she thought if we were going to eventually be in her care, she did not want to hear us complain about needing to hike up steps to our studies or bedroom. Or worse yet, fall down the stairs and break who knows what.

So, the house I liked best, of course, was the one with what I termed the “hideous” backsplash. Now it wasn’t really hideous. In fact, not too long before, I’d looked at the same thing. And liked it. It had texture and variegated earth tones, both of which I’d liked at one time. Marv helpfully promised that if I really didn’t like it, he would chip it off and paint a herd of bison on it now that we were living in bison country.

His suggestion was enough to make me live with the backsplash until four months ago.

Some back story is necessary. I’ve always had a degree of restlessness—I like to go places, do things, think a lot, and have adventures. But that was tamed down a bit when Marv was here to keep me entertained. But since he’s passed away, I am no sooner home from a trip, and I get restless. I need to plan the next thing, be it traveling or shopping for things I don’t know I need until I see them, or taking another course. (For fun, I counted how many trips I’ve taken in the twenty months he’s been gone, and I’m almost at twenty.)

Back to my kitchen story. I was home over Christmas for a month between trips and suddenly decided the backsplash had to go. And if it went, the countertops had to go. And if they went, the appliances had to go. So, I went on a mission. In one trip to the appliance store, I picked out appliances. In one trip to a kitchen store, I picked out a sink and faucets. In less than five trips to a Cambria store, I picked out backsplash and countertops. This was the most decisive I’ve ever been about shopping. I usually must go to every store in town, and then I often return to the first store to purchase. But I’ve made sure then, that there’s not one single other thing I might like better.

It helped that Sioux Falls doesn’t have as many stores as Chicago. And it helped that I’d already replaced the light fixtures in the kitchen that weren’t to my liking either, and I’d donated my Chicago condo, black, counter height, dining set and replaced it with something where I could put my feet on the floor. Safer for old people.

Then, the best thing about my quick decision making, all tradesmen and the appliances could be scheduled in the same five-day period in four weeks. And I was leaving for my next vacation—a five-day one—just at that time! How convenient! So, I volunteered my willing daughter to be my subcontractor. She camped out here while her kids were in school and ran the deliveries and the workers. And sold my old appliances!

I came home to an almost-completed new kitchen. The only thing left was the grout between the backsplash, so I had the pleasure of watching every inch of that carefully put into place. Oh, the satisfaction!

So, see if you agree, that my new kitchen is easier on the eyes and calmer on the heart. Here is the old, followed by the new:

And here’s a mosaic of different iterations–light fixture changes, wall art changes, dining set changes, and, of course, appliances, countertops, and back splash! Click on the photos to enlarge and see captions.

I hope this little essay about ordinary times has brightened your day. I hope you’ve gotten ideas about what project you might want to try next. I’m already dreaming about my next trip, because I can’t think of another thing to change in this house! And it looks like I’ll be here awhile, so my mind will be busy, and it has to have some fun work to do.

I wish you could come for coffee in my new quiet and futuristic kitchen–the light fixtures could be our guiding halos, the row boat (yes, there is one) on the new wall art could be our tender, and we could sail out on the waves on the countertops to the dreamland of our choice.

Where would you like to sail?