Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Curtains as a Happy Distraction

In the months leading up to our move to our home, I worked myself into a lather over a few "critical" things, the most embarrassing being outlet placement (don't ask) and the most memorable - curtains for our living room. I shudder to think of the number of hours I spent scrolling online sales for affordable, dramatic curtains to cover the supersized windows the builder had accidentally installed. This was particularly tricky since the quest fell during a time when our family was adjusting to a much lower income and I'd fallen into the habit of quantifying every unnecessary purchase in terms of how how many mouths it might feed or how many wells it might build.

As usual, this middle class tension rattled my cage for a while, then ended with a quick trip through PayPal. Push the button, move on. A girl's gotta have curtains.

I settled on the famed, bottom dollar "bed tapestries." (I still honestly don't know what this means, but I can tell you they arrived looking like a slightly thicker flat sheet.) A friend lined and hemmed them for me, and up they went. Cheery and unique, they made me happy, and I'm not just saying that because they evoked a certain Mexican restaurant vibe.

Everything was fine until December, which, if you're keeping track, was only two short months later. How on earth would my beloved curtains ever coexist with the Christmas tree? I took them down and ordered bamboo shades, trading Latin-esque for what I tried to tell myself was Scandanivian but what actually, looking back, amounted to barely trying mixed with a dash of festive gaudiness. We needed blinds anyway. (We did not. We did not need blinds. The blinds have been nothing but trouble.)

The following Christmas, a friend gifted me with a new set of curtains in a gorgeous buffalo check and I officially had a problem on my hands. But problems come in pairs, so it shouldn't surprise you to hear that the next year, our old rug lost its fight against humanity. Of course we ordered a new one, something quirky and different.

When we realized the rug clashed with the curtains, the only thing left to do was order different curtains. Again. I'd been feeling pigeon-holed for a while with the green and orange color scheme, not my favorite by a long shot. I took to Ikea, soothing my conscience with their budget pricing and goes-with-everything sensibilities.

I had officially become the seasonal curtain rotator I had quietly judged back when we packed up everything we owned, including our plans for the future, and hauled it to the city. Up and down they went, a chore I both dreaded and looked forward to. There I was, in my pared-down home, stockpiling curtains like they were thrift store mugs, loose socks, or extra Taco Bell hot sauce packets. 

Was it dumb luck when I spotted my dream curtains created by one of my favorite artists on yet another ill-advised "pretend shopping" rendezvous? Was it fate?

In any case, I took measurements and did the math with skittish hands. I had invented yet another fun curtain game, this one tiresomely called Will She or Won't She but Seriously Shannan, No One Actually Cares.  "I'm getting the curtains." "I changed my mind, it's too extravagant." "I'm buying them as a gift to myself for publishing my first book." "I deserve them!" "I don't deserve anything ever again." "Wait a minute, will they clash with the rug?"

This went on for weeks or even months.

Then I arrived home from a trip last November and was confused to see a mysterious package waiting on the dining table. The confusion grew when I read the card. The package was from my mom, an extra-special curtain gift to celebrate the birth of Falling Free (this was a belated celebration, as the curtains took 6 weeks to ship.)

Sidenote: The Garber family is not historically known as being a big "gift" family. My dad usually gifted us with things like jumper cables or cases of motor oil, although one year he did buy himself an expensive gift, wrap it up, unwrap it, and feign surprise while we all looked on in confusion. We err on the practical side and sometimes veer into forgetfulness. (Which reminds me of the time my mom wrapped our Christmas gifts using a code number system but forgot to record the key. My brother opened a pink, pinstriped denim purse. My sister opened a basketball.)

Sidenote two: My mom bought a set of beige thermal-lined "drapes" from the J.C. Penney catalog when I was in Kindergarten. When I was a newlywed, she replaced them with an identical set.

Sidenote three: My mom doesn't have a Smart Phone and remains confused and unmoved about many things, including the following: Instagram, decorating trends, and pattern mixing (or patterns at all, for that matter.)

So anyway, I felt tremendously loved. It was my 11th birthday all over again, but instead of a lavender 10-speed, I got bright, eye-catching, totally unnecessary and entirely dreamy curtains.

I keep meaning to tell you about them. I've thought about it a hundred times. What happened to the Shannan who would have casually styled the living room and taken photos on the first sunny day, posting them here the next? What happened to the "me" who would have spent time and money pulling the room together with the perfect ratio of casual and curated?

I waited for my mojo, and dangit, the punk never did show.

I has come to my attention that I've lost the fortitude to change out the art on the wall behind our couch. I slapped up my beloved Joshua 1:9 sign using an nail hole left-over from back when the couch was considerably taller and tan. In other words, three curtain styles ago.

The new curtains didn't get along with the pretty rug, just as I expected. I spent one half-hearted hour looking for a new one, something neutral again like this, then swapped it out for the two little rugs in the basement. Though it's true this combo doesn't exactly "work", our toes are loving the fluff and our visitors couldn't possibly care less about what's on our floors or our windows or even what's simmering for them on the stove.

Oh, hey there, Legos. Hey, basket of tangled charging cords and sundry Silas paraphernalia.You somehow make our everyday life both more and less pleasant, and I'm not asking questions. Who cares if you're pretty or not. You live here in our tiny living room. The end.

Raise your hand if you've bought a living plant since January 1, and bonus points if you got it at Aldi. (Raises hand.) I intended for this jade plant to replace the hanging plant that met an early demise, then I realized I liked this one better as a regular sitter.

Reindeer head still hanging from Christmas? What reindeer head la la la I can't hear you!!!!!

We have a legendary book situation on our hands. I blame myself.
But I also blame my kids because they're hoarders and stackers and sometimes, dare I say, slobs.

While I'm over here still feeling smug, I also blame Beverly Cleary, Rick Riordan, Dr. Seuss, and a lot of other people whose names I won't drag through the mud.

Next to the wall over the couch, my second favorite thing to decorate back when I decorated was the space above the TV cabinet. I've always thought of it as sort of like a mantel for the girl who has everything but a mantel.

For years it's been an ever-rotating display of seasonal color and swoony quirk. But then Silas built this structure and said, "I feel proud of myself!" with his upper lip curled all the way under and I couldn't take it down. I stare at it often and have resisted evening-out its legs, though I have one leg longer than the other, so I should really know better.

Howard has started biting the ankles of our company under the dinner table.

Hey! Cory had the genius idea of repurpose these printed-off Instagram photos used to decorate our tree this year by taping them down the length of this wee support wall. I love it like red beets and tulips and naps.

(Sorry, but I forgot to ever show you a single one of the Christmas decor photos I took and edited. Christmas in July??)

Fine. Christmas in January.

In other news, my war against Legos continues to gain steam. I have stopped bending down to spare them from the vacuum unless they are a "guy", an accessory, or large enough to be grabbed by my toes.

We gave our mini van to the neighbor guy because it wasn't worth paying to have it towed and scrapped. He put eighty magical dollars into it, and she's purring like a kitten. Next, he bought a vanity plate which says "Grandpa's Toy", something I find both funny and cute, but when he had the gall to put hubcaps on it, I'll be honest, it made me a bit covetous. #whatmighthavebeen

The curtains are too long.
Oh well.
The gray situation has reached its limits.
Oh well.

The Christmas cactus is blooming!!!

I've forgotten to dust for the last 3.5 years.
Oh well.

So, here you have it. This is the room where we do the most living. There was a time I loved sprucing it up and showing it off, but these days, I mostly just love sitting in it along with my people - the ones I live with and the ones who rotate in and out each week.

You are welcome to wear your shoes in.
You are welcome to eat on the sofa.

You are welcome to put your feet up, though I will warn you, they'll probably fall asleep since the table is a few inches too high.

One of these days, I'm sure I'll get my head fully back in the game.
Until then (and even after,) come on in.

Stay a while.


  1. This was amazing. I laughed out loud several times! So real! I relate so much - sharing a 1200 sq ft home w/ 3 kids (2 of them teens), a husband and a dog. Our little living room is the place where it all goes down, right along side our basket of chargers and other junk, dusty tv, and no curtains. I can't even with curtains. They look so pretty but intimidate me for some reason. So I just stick with blinds!��

  2. Oh. Wow!!! Favorite fun post EVER! I confess I've missed your "Mexican restaurant" curtains ever since you took them down the first time. And I don't even like orange! But those were the best. UNTIL TODAY. Now I have a whole new favorite-way-Shannan's-ever-had-her-house. I think the rugs are perfect. The curtains are NOT too long at all. And I LOVE the instagram pics trailing down that support wall. For the record, I just bought new living room curtains (thankfully we only need 2 panels) to replace a pair I've had in our last 3 houses...and I still like them well enough to have moved them to an upstairs guest room. But there's just something about new curtains—especially in winter. Yours are amazing!

  3. Shannan, your home is lovely and comfy! We had our boy's school bus driver over recently (we also see her in church) and it dawned on me that she cared far more about being welcome than what my house looked like. I am with you on the TV dust...and other stuff. LOL It's a big step for this girl! Thanks for keeping it real. :o)

  4. Love everything about this. As with all your posts, it will sit in my inbox so I can reread it until it soaks into my bones.

  5. Loved every line of this! LOL Your rationalizing buying totally had me laughing! I do this with so many things! How many mouths would this feed? I could help fund an adoption....on and on and on! But we do need clothes, and if we are going to wear clothes, they might as well be cute......and the curtains are GORGEOUS!

  6. Those curtains are fabulous!!! Your living room looks comfy and inviting. A great place to have a cup of tea and hang out and visit.

  7. Oh my gosh, stop it! Our most infamous family Christmas was when my dad came up with a number code system for the gifts that involved some sort of mathematical formula, lost the formula, and then all 4 of us kids had to open random gifts and pass them to the actual intended recipient.
    I feel like we're practically cousins.

  8. This is perfect for today. We bought a house two months ago and this post sounds like me. I keep agonizing over decor (and we haven't even painted yet). I'm also stressing over figuring out, "what exactly is my style?" I love photos of mostly gray and white rooms and, yet, give me color! And I freeze over every purchase, because, what if this is the item that sets the tone for the whole house?! And so I buy nothing and keep agonizing. Sigh.

  9. So much here I love. Especially your battle with legos...which mirrors my own battle with legos. I stopped picking them up several years ago and now just warn my kids, "if you don't pick up your legos they get vacuumed...the end". I don't think it's made a difference to them AT ALL!! Also love that you change out your curtains all them time. I love change and I think that is a great thing to change out and make your decorations feel fresh and new again. Have a wonderful day!!

  10. these drapes remind me of the print that goes with your book!!! seriously, you show numerous pictures of said beautiful drapes and then don't include a link for where i can purchase them? i love you anyway, but i would like to know, as i think they'd be great in my kitchen or sunroom (that i'm too afraid to call my writing room but need inspiration). also, thank you for being a fellow non-duster.

    1. Girlfriend, of course I linked them! Click on "dream curtains" up in the text. Maybe I could have been more clear. Sorry!! And yes, Jess Franks designed them, same artist as the print. (Click "favorite artists right down from "dream curtains.") 😉

  11. Howard-what a fine cat you are. Keep giving out those love bites. Your home is wonderful!!

  12. We have a balcony door with a full length window. It is not a standard length so "door" curtains don't fit it. It's been six months now and that door is still awaiting a curtain. I hope the neighbors are enjoying looking in here.

  13. So fun you are! Love your real life. Love the curtains. I personally like the longer length -- maybe you weren't trying -- but it adds drama and elegance. LOVE the fact that the curtains are full of pattern and color. As much as I like the all white look as one writer said, I also LOVE color, and have finally decided I don't care if it all goes together since it's all stuff I love. Also love the place where you all hang out. Today while cleaning I wondered why everything got dirty so quickly, but then realized we have 8 beings (4 human, 4 four legged) all in 1600 square feet. Thanks for all the fun! Also LOVE you!!!!

  14. Those curtains are everything! So beautiful!

  15. Is that curtain fabric made with Jess Franks' art? GORGEOUS. And for the love of tacos, you gotta make that Lego arch's legs OCD and I are twitching over here! Blame it on me!

    1. Yes, girl! Jess Franks!!! I linked it up in the text, but it seems people are missing it. (???) Amazing, right?!!!

  16. All of this is exactly why I love you. All of the real and the honest and the what I once was and what I am now and what I may or may not be again. We're people. We're flaky and we change our opinions like the weather sometimes.

  17. We've been at our house 4 years. There has never been a curtain in the living room because 1. why block a great view? 2a. I haven't found anything that speaks to me 2b. actually one time I bought a linen-look drop cloth and had the idea of writing song lyrics out and turning them into curtains, but never did because who can pick such a song when there are so many and also because who wants to do all of that?!
    So what I'm trying to say is...maybe I should come over and look at some of your stash and we can pretend that you're a prestigious museum and I'm a fancy person that is being loaned art. Everyone would win. Mostly me. Only me, actually.

  18. As someone who is horrible at decorating, I often look at blogs and think of all the stuff I wish I had/ could do to make my home prettier....and then I realized that no one cares! If you love to decorate, do it! If you don't, that's okay too! People just want to come over and hang out regardless of how put-together or clean your space is! I think your home looks so cozy and inviting and I would LOVE to come share some tea and salsa with you in it! ;)

  19. So.. here's my belated comment: When you mentioned the months leading up to the move into your new home you mentioned "critical" things & "memorable" things but you forgot to mention "hilarious" things.. I will never forget the story you shared about asking Cory "Should we go tan?" You... referring to the shingle color & he thought you were suggesting a visit to the tanning beds in preparation for your upcoming vacay. Still laughing about that miscommunication doozy... Jennifer Garber :D

  20. Shannan, I have been "working" on catching up on some of your blogs. It's my Saturday morning treat!
    Well, today, on my Wednesday birthday, my gift to myself is lingering extra long with a cup of coffee on my couch, reading the one latest post of yours I haven't made it to yet, and not rushing to work an hour early as usual (hello, teacher life). Reading this was the best start to my day. Thank you for being quirky, writing the best similes, and believing in the power of "oh well." One day, maybe you can host a writing class. I'd come!

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