window dressing

Warning: This post is not about autism. Mostly.

The other night, I posted the following on Diary’s Facebook page:

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 5.52.11 AM

text of image: 

I dozed off for a few minutes while Brooke and I were playing in my bed. (Don’t judge, people, we were playing Hide and Seek IN BED. I’d like to see you stay awake for that.) Anyway, I woke up to Brooke, in the middle of this scene yelling, “You have to help me row the boat over the rocks! Row! Row! Row! We have to get to Valentine Island!”


{image is of Brooke in my bedroom, sitting on the floor on a pile of cushions and pillows that she pulled off of the window seats to create a “boat” and surrounded by decorative pillows strewn around the floor as “rocks,” once again proving that the notion that autistic people lack imagination is a whole lot of hooey.}

There were a 1,000 “likes” and 63 comments on that post. And while many of the comments were about Brooke’s imagination, many more were about the curtain on the window behind her. Someone even asked for more pictures of the window. It was sort of hilarious. And finally led to this …

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 5.55.14 AM

{image is a snapshot from the comment thread on the post above. Text reads: 

Diary of a Mom Cracking up about the window treatments. Those were things that I obsessed about when we moved here ten years ago. Worked out well, I suppose, as back then I had the time, money and motivation to create things out of my imagination (or, in this case, copy them from a favorite hotel). Now? Not so much on any count. But hey, I do have pretty cool windows to show for it. Lol. 

Shannon Kidd Watts we all love Brooke but apparently a large majority of us (myself included) are easily distracted by home decor.}

While the whole thing cracked me up, it also reminded me just how much my priorities have shifted – just how much *I* have shifted. Because, for the life of me, I can’t imagine ever spending the kind of time, money, or emotional energy that I did back then on, well, window dressing.

When we first moved into this house nearly ten years ago, it was brand new. And it has a LOT of windows, every single one of which needed some kind of something on it. We knew that going in, but it became particularly salient when the elderly woman next door said, “You might want to cover your bedroom windows, dear.” Yeah.

I worked for months on those damned windows. The ones in the office needed to be dignified, yet not stodgy. The ones in the kitchen and den needed to be functional yet aesthetically pleasing, blending without distracting from the spaces in which we spent the majority of our time. The ones in the dining room needed to be regal and elegant because I had this fantasy that we’d ya know, actually use our dining room and that we did it would be for regal and elegant affairs. If anyone wants to buy a set of like-new formal and elegant china, let me know. The ones in the living room needed to carry over the elegance of the dining room, because, yeah .. formal elegance. Jesus.

And then there were the ones upstairs.

The girls’ rooms were easy. Bubble gum silk panels from Pottery Barn Kids, whimsical hardware and airy shades dotted with pastel bugs and butterflies. Done. Our room was not so easy. But I knew what I wanted. And back then I had the will (and the time and the money) to create it. Or have it created for me. Whatever. (Not really whatever, but whatever.) I wanted the curtains at the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons. Yup, seriously. They were sumptuous and elegant and welcoming and warm. They were grown-up and formal, yet sexy and fanciful at the same time. I could look at them for hours, finding faces and images in the folds of the silk. I had to have them in my bedroom.


This was the only photo I could find. I hope that is okay with me borrowing it. 

We replicated them in miniature in the two smaller windows and then went all out on the big one. The original plan had been to add a valence up top. I don’t even remember what it was supposed to look like anymore, I just know that when the silk went up, I knew it was done.

Six months into the process, there was one little window that still laid bare. The fabric had been held up and then held up again. I was tearing my hair out over it, because, well, I thought that it mattered. (Psst, it didn’t.)

I spent God knows how much time tracking down the silk from the manufacturer. I made phone call after phone call to ensure that they knew I wasn’t taking this lying down. Yeah, I don’t know what the hell that means either, but they needed to know that I hadn’t forgotten about it so that they couldn’t forget about it, because, ya know … important. (sarcasm)

Finally, after seven months, they called to say that the fabric had come in and to assure me that they were working on crafting the shade that I’d designed. The following week, they came to install it while I was at work. That was when Luau called me in a panic.

“Babe,” he said, “the guys are here installing the curtain, but there’s a problem.”

You see, back then, window treatments could be “a problem.”

“Oh, Jesus,” I said. “What now?”

“The fabric is wrong,” he said.

I was confused. Mostly because Luau doesn’t talk about fabric. Because he doesn’t notice fabric. Because he couldn’t care less about fabric. It’s fabric.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Because it’s AWFUL,” he said. “Trust me, hon, this couldn’t possibly be the one you chose.”

The window in question is the only one in the house that stands alone. It’s in an odd little corner on the way up the stairs to the guest bedrooms. Every other window came in at least a pair if not a bank. This one was tucked away quietly, unobtrusively adorning the staircase. While I felt restricted with the others, needing to choose muted, mostly patternless fabrics that wouldn’t detract from their surroundings, I felt free to do whatever the hell I wanted with this one.

“Describe it,” I said.

“It’s awful,” he said.

“”You already said that. Can you be more specific?”

“Okay,” he said, “It’s this weird yellow. And it’s got this crazy, busy pattern on it. It’s got STUFF all over it.”

He said the word stuff as if he were spitting out a curdled clump of soured milk.

I smiled.

“What kind of stuff?” I asked.

“It’s like … vines or ferns or something. And bugs. And …”

“Butterflies?” I asked.

“Um, yeah,” he said. “There are BUTTERFLIES on this thing.”

It seemed that the butterflies had taken a dip in the sour milk too.

“Embroidered on the silk? With little flowers budding from the vines?”




I couldn’t stop laughing.

“So I guess you don’t like it?” I asked.

“No. Um. It’s  … great,” he said.

And that, my friends, is the story of why this is my very favorite window in the house …


(Yeah, it’s dark. It’s 5 am. And the light above the window is apparently blown, and I didn’t notice until now cause, yeah.)

Here’s the close-up of the STUFF …


And here’s the whole picture. I left the random crap on the steps for you to keep it real. You’re welcome.


Incidentally, this is what’s in the carved out space to the left. It’s sort of a tribute to Uncle Paul. In the display case is a flag he flew on a combat mission over Iraq in his Blackhawk helicopter. In front of it is a replica of that helicopter that Katie made in wood shop. To the near left is the Get Well Gorilla (what?) and to the far left is an American flag that Katie made out of construction paper and a stick. She thought the display needed it and I couldn’t argue. I kinda love the whole thing.


Oh, and those framed pictures on the wall to the right of the window? I love those too. They were gifts from my friend, John Robison. You might know John through his writing, but he’s also an amazing photographer, and well, he has a pretty cool perspective on things. I feel like when I look at these pictures, I’m getting a glimpse of the world through John’s eyes.

This one is my favorite, I think. It’s of an amusement park ride taken from UNDERNEATH the ride. When John gave it to me, he said, “I like to photograph things that you think you know, but in a way that lets you see them from a different view.” That pretty much sums up our friendship. Nifty, that.


Oh, and these. Because … cars.


I know, the lighting is terrible and inconsistent and, well let’s just stick with terrible, shall we? It’s 5 am, people and the lightbulb is blown. It is what it is.

Anyway, I suppose in the end I’m grateful to the me ten years ago who thought that window treatments mattered and who had the time and the money and the emotional energy to invest in them. I still entertain daily fantasies of redecorating the house. Of doing away with the “formal elegance” that I once prized and for now I have not a whit of use nor patience. Of creating the kind of spaces that are in my head ten years later, now that I know what really matters. (Psst, it ain’t the windows.)

Have a great day, my friends.

16 thoughts on “window dressing

  1. You are hilarious, my daughter! I, for one, am happy that your values of what’s important has changed. Carry on!

    Love you,

  2. I so get this. We had everything in its place in our house, until our children arrived and made their own space in every nook and cranny. They took over our house in the best way. Having guests over has been a challenge, since we removed our massive dining room table to make room for a trampoline and ball pit. But really, seeing reminders of my little guys everywhere I look is the best evidence of the love that fills this home. We had no idea how empty our house really was until they come around! The only thing we are missing is fabulous art by JER…

  3. Reblogged this on Transitions and commented:
    Oh yes, this. This this this. What is important, what to give your time and energy to? It is not impressing the neighbors, or your slightly too posh for you in-laws, or your own sense of social relevance. When my son was diagnosed with autism, every extra resource was spent in helping him – not to get better, but to get to be the best HIM he could be – and to find a way to make that new scary word fit in our already crowded family. 12 years on, it’s amazing that you can remember the person you were, who valued some things that were completely not valuable, and be grateful that you now realize what is invaluable.

  4. Am I still allowed to comment on future posts if I don’t like your window treatments? 😛

    (Don’t worry, I love everything you write and I think you’re an awesome person. It’s just if your drapes were in my house, I’d cry. I do love the fabric on the little window, though). 😛

    Ah, honesty. The curse/blessing of my life.

      • For years and years, I tried getting the hang of this whole “if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all” thing. But I also kind of like being honest and celebrating the fact that different people love different things and that it’s not a big deal at all. So why not simply come out and say it! Lots of people don’t like the colour of my bedroom walls but I don’t mind because they don’t need to sleep in it, it’s awesome that we have such different tastes because that’s what makes life interesting. 😀

        Can you tell that I’ve thought way too hard about this? I still feel slightly uncomfortable with saying what I did. Sorry about that. :$

      • No apologies needed. Like you, I make my choices based on what I love – what I find soothing, comfortable, welcoming. I choose colors and patterns that will help me relax, that form a sanctuary from the world outside. No one else has to like it or feel the same way about it because it’s not for them. Well, except Luau. Ya know, sort of. (Sarcasm)

      • It’s actually one of the things I love about connecting with other people. Finding that middle road. Negotiating between the things that I love and the things I desperately need, and theirs. It just opens up your world SO MUCH.

  5. You have no idea how much I needed this post today! We had a major flood in our house from the upstairs master bathroom into the kitchen below. Needless to say, I am dealing with a almost complete home remodel (oh and the lovely insurance company and bank). I have been dealing with it all, trying to find the right “stuff” and stressing myself out, while my husband is basically like don’t worry, it’ll all work out. You just reminded me again that it’s not about the stuff, but what really matter.

  6. Jess, I love your writing and your attitude, and well, so much about your blog, but I was kind of with Luau on the window dressings. And my opinion should carry weight because after 5 years in our fixer-upper house, we still have the “disposable” Home Depot fabric shades. Ha! but I am green with envy over John’s photos. Lucky you!! So much has changed for our family since we moved in, those fantasies of how I would decorate and improve it often taunt me, but it is what it is. We have a roof over our family’s heads and I too just focus now on what really matters. Sure would like to get our master bath shower working though. Oh well, someday. Thanks for the laughs today!

  7. Ahhh, what was so important before Autism entered my life. Your post was a reminder (a funny one at that) about how life has changed since I foster and adopted my two kiddos (both having special needs). I listen to the things others complain about and laugh, or try not to get irritated anyway.

  8. Thank you, I feel much better for my lived-in but not “decorated” home. I tend to feel inferior when I’m in nicely decorated homes — especially when they too have children. I have curtains on only a couple of windows, and none custom-made or anything fancy, and I guess that this shows my priorities and that realistically, I can’t do everything! Sounds obvious when I say it, but that little voice in my head making me feel bad for not having a gorgeous house and choosing to homeschool, read a lot, etc. instead. Thank you!

    • but I do think it’s nice that you did spend SOME time/money/energy on your curtains etc. b/c your house looks lovely, and I LOVE those bedroom curtains! and the stuff! I guess there’s a balance somewhere . . .

  9. About 6 months after moving into our house (5 years ago), I still had not gotten around to putting up any pictures. So my (then) almost 4 year old and 7 year old drew a whole bunch of pictures (on paper) and insisted they be taped up on the walls to “make it pretty” (in the almost 4 year old’s words). I loved it. They did insist on taping most of the pics themselves so there is mahoosive amounts of tape holding up the pictures. I know there are more than a few people who think I’m much too indulgent when they see the pictures. A lot of them are still up. The kids were so proud to be helping out. Besides the pictures go so nicely with the Littlest Pet Shop toys strewn about. 🙂

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