for sonya

“You should write.”

Ray was talking about a book in the future. As though I’d be a respectable author trying to make a name for herself. Not as a road trip vacationer in the passenger seat cradling a small dog in one arm and furiously thumbing the keys on her phone to compose a blog entry with the free hand.

But here we are.

We – Ray, Coconut, and I – are somewhere in the middle of Nowhere, North Carolina. Actually, we just passed a sign for Wilson. Like the volleyball that Tom Hanks’ character befriends and is forced to part with in “Cast Away”.

It’s been quite some time since I last wrote beyond a to-do list here and there. I’ve felt uninspired and empty of words and emotion. Numb, but breathing. But the encouragement from Ray and the fact that I remember writing a one-thumb entry from my mom’s hospice bed far too well have brought me here.

Tom Hanks had to say goodbye to Wilson. I had to say goodbye to my mom, and a friend from high school just had to say goodbye to her mom who lost her battle with cancer as my mom did. It’s brought back painful memories of the past that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

But it’s just that: the past. And one day, it’ll be her past too. Even if it doesn’t feel like this hurt will ever pass.

Assuming time moves forward like this car traveling 70 miles an hour down the highway, one day we’ll all have to say goodbye to every other thing that crosses our paths. We’ll get past the hard times, we’ll be forced to say farewell to the great ones, and we’ll move further and further away from the ones that we almost didn’t notice like the way my left arm went numb a few minutes ago from holding a dog while my right one was too busy writing. Some of them will leave us largely unchanged, but others will leave us stronger.

We’ve now passed Wilson, North Carolina. We’ll probably never be back. It’s in the past and a memory that will become a more distant memory with each passing mile.

To my friend who just lost her mom: this will pass, I promise. It will never be easy, but it will get bearable. You will have bad days, but let the good memories outnumber them. You will never have to endure the passing of your mom again, and you can rest easy knowing that you have somehow survived it. And she would be proud knowing you kept breathing.

As for your mom, she is no longer in plain sight in front of you, but she’s not really behind you either. She’s in you and all around. She was with you when you picked out her flowers. She’ll be in your passenger seat when you’re driving by yourself to work.

And when you whisper or maybe cry, “I wish my mom was here,” I promise you she is.

Just keep moving forward and hold on tight.

Tori

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on curves and strength

Here’s a little known fact about me: I have pretty bad scoliosis with three distinct curves in my spine that try to keep each other in check by pulling each other in different directions. Like an “S” that got too wide and had to hook around once more again to keep itself upright. Or maybe it just wanted to be an asshole. The thing that’s supposed to hold your body straight up and down like a flagpole decided to make itself a nice 30-degree deviation from where it should be, like it was driving along and found a huge pothole in an icy road at the last minute and swerved, fishtailed, fishtailed some more, and then got back on course. The thing (apparently I call my back “The Thing”) has been X-rayed, cracked at the chiropractor, massaged, strengthened at physical therapy, strained, and sprained by movement that I probably self-inflicted too many times. It’s been braced by a horrible plastic girdle thing-a-ma-jig that was specially fit for my scoliosis that I was supposed to wear daily but I bargained with the orthopedic specialist and he let me just wear it at night. At some point, he wanted to put a rod along my spine, which I also refused, because I like dance, yoga, and backbends too much.

What’s my point besides telling you, Dear Reader, that I am a horrible, stubborn patient with a curved spine? I wanted to tell you that there’s a perpetual giant knot next to my left shoulder blade that just sits there trying to pull the worst curve back where it’s supposed to be. It just sits there holding on for dear life. And that sucker hurts perpetually. It’s always there and it will never go away. Like a nice little knife that decided to wedge itself in there and take permanent residence.

Okay, so seriously, what’s my point?

My point is that sometimes, life throws you curves that you did nothing to deserve. They hit you out of nowhere and they cause irrevocable changes you can’t undo. Sometimes those curves will cause you deep, stabbing, gnawing, raw pain that may never go away. You were going happily along a nice, normal, little path and then, bam. Pothole. Car accident. Natural disaster. Terminal diagnosis. (Clearly, I’m not lumping my scoliosis in that last category, because I was only using it as a metaphor to get to this point. It’s trivial by comparison.)

Things happen every single day that weren’t supposed to happen. They’re not fair. I find myself talking about missing my mom and saying to my husband on an almost daily basis, “This wasn’t supposed to happen,” regarding her diagnosis of glioblastoma and subsequent passing. And his response, which was possibly the most comforting thing he could utter was a simple, “I know.”

Good, kind, wonderful, vibrant people are supposed to be on this planet. They’re not supposed to die. But they do. Sometimes when they’re 21, sometimes when they’re 61, sometimes when they’re 101. And at some point, it will happen. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. And for whoever is caught in the vicinity, the knot – but this time, the knot in your stomach – will ache and it might always be there. Like the namesake quote from this blog states, “It’s supposed to hurt. That’s how you know it meant something.”

I’m not trying to be morbid or pessimistic, but this, Kind Reader, you must know: Go live your life. Really live it, with no worries or regrets. Do not fear the future, because crap will happen that is entirely out of your control. It will happen. That’s actually the First Noble Truth in Buddhism: “Life contains suffering.” Regardless of your creed, you know that bad things happen. You could encounter a pothole tonight. A family member might get bad news from the doctor tomorrow. Anything worse is fair game at any moment.

But fearing the unknowable or the inevitable doesn’t get you anywhere. And living in fear leaves no room for living in peace. I need to remember this truth just as much as the next person: Deal with the curves when they arise.

You might get a strong, little muscle when they do.

Tori

being crafty: seaglass decorations

Before we begin, check out the beautiful, natural sunlight on this not-so-shabby DIY nautical wreath from my earlier post. The sunshine made it look surreal.

you are my sunshine

you are my sunshine

Okay, this DIY is stupid easy. I did it while pacing around the house, playing soccer with the dog’s toys to distract her from eating the tree, and watching something mindless on Bravo. Probably Housewives, much to Ray’s dismay. Did I mention this craft is mindless?

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she can’t be trusted by the balsam.

This began because my crafty coworker was having an ornament swap and in an attempt to be social, I agreed to go. Which meant I inherently signed up to make two dozen ornaments. And I was stoked with the end result, so it seemed silly not to do them for our house too. And made not only ornaments, but also candles, because candles rock and we don’t have a fireplace.

Here are your materials. Glass ornaments. Pick whatever size you like, but please use glass. Yes, glass bulbs can and most likely will break due to asshole animals that swat them from the tree, but they’re so elegant and authentic looking. Mason jars if you want to make matching candles. Foam blocks and wooden dowels (or chopsticks) for a homemade drying rack. Art sponges. And pick your paint. Ray and I like anything white and have greys and blues in our house, so went with green and blue. Sorry, red. The specific paint I used is Martha Stewart Pearl Acryllic in Hummingbird (green), Mother of Pearl (white), and Aquarium (blue). There are other options in Martha Stewart glass paints: translucent ones that would look gorgeous, even sparkly ones if that’s your thing. I’m serious here: I painted 8 dozen ornaments and needed only three paint bottles as shown below. And I think I was heavy handed with it. It goes a long way. Which I wish I had known ahead of time before taking stock in the same color paints. If you like Hummingbird and Aquarium, let me know! Or if you can think of any other glass crafts that need painting…

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your ingredients

Space your drying rack like you’re making Christmas cookies on a baking sheet.

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form meets function

And begin your paint job. Huge warning: do not make the same mistake I made. And even after I made it, I continued to do the same thing, because I’m an idiot. Do not put your finger inside the bulbs. There are glass shards! I found it easiest to get a good grip on the bulb as shown below for the painting process, but please beware of the glass shards. That being said, let the painting commence. Sponge it on as thick or as thin as you like.

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this one didn’t have any glass shards…

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one down, 95 to go

Another heads up, you get messy. The foam bricks “shed” little foamy pieces everywhere that kind of look like snowflakes across your kitchen island. And floor. And on occasion in the paint. And you get some paint on things. Like your manicure. And your kitchen island. And kitchen floor when a bulb breaks and you cry. Not like that happened.

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i never considered white nail polish before until this sample swatch. my friend, rachael, just got a recent mani the same color!

Let your first round dry overnight before removing from the racks and then it’s time for round two, three, and beyond. I think beach glass varies from blue to green, so made solid blue, solid green, blue-greens, and green-blues for variety.

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cool colors make me content

Let them dry. If there are any you’re not happy with, you can easily wash off the paint and repaint anywhere from immediately to two days out. I was slightly obsessive about the foam bits that got in my paint, making the paint look lumpy. I think a good solution to this would be to leave the plastic wrap on the foam blocks throughout the craft. Keep the foam bits to a minimum. But seriously, you can wash it off and retry. I never baked the ornaments or waited the 26-something day period to let them totally air dry. They’re basically dry after a day or two and easy enough to handle.

Put your caps back on and if you like jute, wrap it a few times around the cap and knot it off. And go to town on the tree! I know store-bought ornaments are pretty inexpensive, but so are these and these are things you created. So please give it a shot.

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six of many

Anyway, I loved how these came out so much (and I had and still have so much extra paint on hand), that I decided to make candle holders. Pick any old glass jar you like, sponge paint your favorite colors, dry on your makeshift drying rack, wrap with jute, plop in a tealight, and there you go.

Ready for it? Like Emeril, bam!

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seaglass-style candles! the blue-green and white ones are DIY. the little silver ones are from Target

So that’s it, really. I’d show you a photo of our tree, but there are so few bulbs on it because two little creatures have made it their life goal to knock them down, so now it’s oddly top-heavy if you know what I mean. The bottom three feet of the tree are bare. Assholes.

Anyway, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Tori

being crafty: reclaimed drop earrings

Okay, I’m obviously a beginner at DIY things. I have things I’d like to make – in theory – jewelry, scarves, clothes, holiday decorations, and whatnot. To make my own jewelry is on my bucket list even. So might as well start somewhere.

My mom left me her jewelry, which meant her mom’s jewelry and her mom’s mom’s jewelry as well. I finally had the nerve to go through it last week. Before my mom passed, she and I went through it together to label important things: her mom’s nursing school ring, a ruby ring with a crack through it that my grandma apparently wore all the time and got knocked in the hand while playing field hockey. There is a lot of costume jewelry, lots of things that are broken or falling apart too.

But then I found a box of random beads. Or at least I thought they were random. Until I started pulling them out and finding their matches. All earrings. Just no hooks. So that’s where this project started.

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here’s the box they were all in, with their counterparts

I’ve never made jewelry before, but bought sterling and gold ball hooks thinking it’d be enough. Nope. Needed new posts because the old ones were corroded and didn’t look right with the new, shiny hooks. And got some tools while I was at it – curved pliers and a cutting tool instead of trying to use my fingers and nails like a cavewoman – to connect the hooks and posts. And somehow this happened:

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my favorites so far

Seriously, these suckers took a couple seconds flat to make once I figured out how to use the pliers. Just thread the ball pin through the bead, curve the other end to start making a loop, trim the extra to finish making the loop, and thread the hook. Beyond easy.

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absolute favorites – the amber colored ones were too beautiful not to make them into earrings

I am so unbelievably happy to give some new life to my grandma’s things and so excited be able to wear them now! At Michael’s, I possibly bought some sparkly things (Swarovski in dusty rose) and light pink glass pearls thinking I could add sparkly bits to my grandma’s beads. But instead, this happened:

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can’t wait to wear these

Oh, and a pair for my mother-in-law who’s a gold girl.

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i was too excited to give them too her and already blew my christmas gift. surprises and me do not mix

So that’s it for now! The time I spent at Michael’s picking out the right hooks and posts was the longest and most challenging part of this project, and even that was simple enough. The actual jewelry making portion took possibly 3 minutes per pair. So I’m definitely hooked with the whole lot of pretty things made in no time flat. Yay!

Tori

what is wednesday?

“She is delightfully chaotic; a beautiful mess. Loving her is a splendid adventure.”

I’m a little confused. At a standstill, really. Shrugging my shoulders and trying to figure this one out. We just celebrated what we’re thankful for on Throwback Thursday. I mean, Thanksgiving. Then we proved we’re not content with what we already have by honoring Black Friday. I don’t know what Saturday and Sunday were called. Black Friday’s Evil Stepsisters, perhaps. And if that isn’t enough, we buy more crap we don’t need on Cyber Monday.

Some awesome organizations out there remind us to remember those who are less fortunate on Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday campaigns make me smile that there are still some inspirational folks among those who were throwin’ elbows for the latest and last Kindle on the shelf. Whatever Kindle is most popular right now, assuming Kindle’s are still popular. Whatever the popular thing is that people duke it out over. But violence is not the answer. That’s what internet shopping is for so you can be a shopping ninja from the comfort of your own home. In the nude, even. Before leaving the topic of Giving Tuesday, wait! Here’s my plug. Please go donate to any cause you love if you haven’t already. Pick any! Support Gay Rights and Equality. Bring kitten toys to an animal shelter. Support brain tumor research with NBTS to find a cure in my mom’s memory! Anything.

But after Giving Tuesday, then what? What the heck is the day after called? The day after Tuesday? Any other Wednesday? Hump day, for most. But seriously.

We have a manic stretch of days from the day we say we’re grateful, to the four days we shop like we’re on Supermarket Sweet, to one more day of being good people, and then what? Sidebar: Supermarket Sweep was the shit. It was me and my mom’s goal to not only be on it but to dominate it. We were both sprinters with great fast-twitch muscles to beat everyone to the turkeys, other cuts of fine meat, and bacon. We’d find a bonus somewhere at the end of the refrigerated meat aisle, switch carts, get the damn baby formula and diapers fast! We had our plan down cold. I digress. No more talk about shopping.

Today is just a Wednesday. There’s no name given to it by pop culture or the newscasters that I’m aware of. Scratch that. I just Googled it. It’s been called Weeping Wednesday because of all the bills people racked up. Really? What if you spent within your means and finished your next month’s project of shopping? There’s no crying in that. I’ll probably be crying because I’m a sobbing mess lately with the holidays here and my mom not here. But that’s not the same.

The Wednesday after is just back to normal. It’s living in a messy world, where every single day has loads of responsibilities, not just one the shopping gods have delegated for us: give thanks, buy, buy, buy, buy some more, give. Wednesday doesn’t have a set agenda. It’s more carefree, a little messy, even wacky if you will. Anyone local knows Trucchi’s Supermarkets have Wacky Wednesdays. My mom was a huge fan. She’d stock up on whatever we didn’t need, but it was always prime time to get cereal, since we were only allowed to buy it if it was on sale and my mom had a coupon. Ray’s mom had the same deal with him growing up, to be fair. But still, we’re back on shopping. Enough of that.

Wacky, messy, normal, living, breathing, being Wednesday doesn’t quite have a melodic ring to it, but life is not cookie cutter. I so badly wanted it to be a perfect cookie cutter when I was little and tried my hardest to make it that way, but life is a blubbering, sloppy mess. Like our dog’s kisses. She goes all over the place in excitement. She licks up your nose back to a section of your head you didn’t think you could reach, your ear lobes, the inside of your mouth if you’re not careful. She stands on anything in reach to get to you. Your face, the area of my chest where boobs should reside if I had them, Ray’s delicate areas, your gut which always hurts. She’s just all over the place. You can’t control it or contain it. She’s entropy! I’m so far out of school I barely remember this, but something in thermodynamics states that in natural processes entropy increases. Using life as a metaphor, that’d mean everything gets messy and it’s basically supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to be all over the place with nonsense and crazy thrown in. Just like the organization of my essay right now.

Here’s my Wacky Wednesday: Call in to 7am meeting while still basically asleep and definitely still in pajama’s with bed hair (messy). Be exhausted after having insomnia and trying to treat it by pacing and getting out of bed to write this essay until 2am the night before so crawl into the shower begrudgingly. Brush my hair if I remember (messy). Drive to work when I will most likely cry about something that reminded me of my mom or a trigger that brought up my dad (ugly cry, messy). Seriously though. I had a meltdown over a water bottle the other day. Get to work with makeup smeared down my face (messy). Pull my shit together for work even if I cry there too randomly. But I also twerk behind my officemate, do jigs in front of the Keurig, and run the risk of peeing my pants every single day since the office is an icebox (that’s messy and it’s happened before). Drive home and cry (messy). Realize I have no clean clothes (messy) and must do a laundry immediately, realize the dog ate her poop again (disgustingly messy), notice the kitten is a gem (cats aren’t messy), realize it’s a night Ray works until 10pm which means I’ll be alone and sad (messy), perhaps I’ll cook the rest of the salmon (messy but delicious), try to wash my face like they do in infomercials but fail and get soap and water all over the sink and mirror (messy), hog the comforter (mean messy), and yeah. You get the drift. You, the person reading this, might not have the same exact scenarios as me, but you know you have a lot of messy in your life. Admit it. You’re a freaking disaster too. Maybe you have poop-filled diapers to tend to, soccer cleats after a game in the mud you need to clean up, hair dye covering your forehead and fingers, your basement’s abyss (ours too) that you’re afraid to even enter, your family (oh, trust me, you’re not alone) – all messy.

We’re all disasters in some regard. And that’s kind of a cool common bond. We probably have millions of intentions for every day that barely ever get done. Things we meant to do and had to do that we never do. But even focusing on a little of it is something. Taking a chip out of it is a start. Maybe there’s a mess before you. Something you know you need to tackle, even a part of yourself you deem as a mess. Know that some stains never come out; some things can never be worked out. But who the hell cares? Functioning disasters deserve a badge of honor.

How about the back to normal Wednesday be dubbed Wacky Wednesday (yay Trucchi’s!) where you can stop trying to hold all of your shit together from the past five days, holiday shopping, time crunches, and races against time. Relax and unfold. Let your disastrous self be revealed. Let all of your crazy shine through. Be messy and imperfect. And just be you. That’s your only requirement today.

Just like any other.

Tori

thanks for giving

I am currently boycotting the holidays, as it’s too tough without my mom here. But I know she’d want us to make some good no matter what. She was always able to be there for others, no matter how sick she got. So no matter how sad I may be, I’d like to make her proud.

Last weekend, Ray and I threw a Friendsgiving Dinner for the friends who have become family. Providing the food, we asked our friends to help us support the Plymouth Area Coalition for the Homeless with their Food Pantry and Holiday Fund. Here are some photos of the loot we’ll be donating tomorrow for the holidays! Pantry items for everyone and gifts suitable for teens, the population the PAC specifically asked us for help with. So excited with the outcome!

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like emeril, bam! tons of pasta, cake mixes, canned goods, and cleaning products!

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some books, games, and sports stuff. i picked out the rockin’ soccer ball!

Before my mom passed, she had bought 16 seasons tickets for the Providence Performing Arts Center, to Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a magic show, and Blue Man Group. She used to buy the tickets every season and then sell them to friends so everyone could sit together, but when the tickets arrived in the mail, I didn’t know what to do with them. I decided to mix it up. I do admit that I gave the tickets for the Cirque show to friends of my own to keep a little tradition.

However, the magic show tickets are all going to Special Olympics Massachusetts, an organization my mom and I volunteered for together for years so it holds a special place in my heart. I’m hoping some special families get to enjoy the show together!

second and third row seats!

second and third row seats!

I was hoping to give the Blue Man Group tickets to Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, and after contacting them, they found an organization for me that is somehow more perfect. My mom would have loved giving these to children in need, but they’ll be going to the Tomorrow Fund to benefit children with cancer and their families. My mom would be giving a big “thumbs up” to all of the above.

My mom was the most generous and selfless person I’ve ever known, and I am so thankful I got her as my mom and role model. I honestly feel bitter without her, but I was lucky for however short a time she was on this earth. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Before I break into a panic attack thinking about her, I’ll get to the point of this post. Go do some good. Go do something for others who might not have the means to do it for themselves. Even if you’re struggling too. Give your time, give your funds if you can, and give your heart.

“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart, give yourself to it.”

Happy Thanksgiving (even if I’m boycotting it) and thanks for giving to whatever charity feels good to you!

Tori

being crafty: nautical wreath

Update! Here’s the final product on our door for the holidays!

in love with the final look and am feeling very martha stewart-y!

in love with the final look and am feeling very martha stewart-y!

For comedic effect, here’s the entirety of the original post:

I have been having a harder time dealing with the loss of my mom than before. I’ve retreated from teaching Zumba and cleared my schedule so that my full-time job is my only obligation. I’d like to start doing things for me. Like writing again (I took a break. Thinking hurt.) or going back to ballroom or ballet (even if it takes a drive into the city). And then, there’s DIY. Yeah, like Pinterest.

Here’s my first try at something crafty, in honor of this girl’s blog entry: a DIY nautical wreath.

First up, the ingredients or materials or whatever the technical term is. Half inch thick sisal rope. I got this one on Amazon. Scratch that. I got this one, then ran out, and needed a second. So two of these. No jute was necessary in the making of the project. Glue gun. A wreath form. Hands of steel. And patience.

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ignore the jute. i was going to use it, but decided to be more plain jane. and add another package of rope. i learned..

Start hot gluing. To get a good foundation, I used dabs of glue at every point the rope hit on the inner circle. Don’t glue down where the rope hits on the outer circle since you’ll end up moving it around.

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the wreath form was covered in plastic. those little pieces are like wood chips. and manipulating them made a mess. coconut tried to eat them all…

After finishing the first time around, I realized something from grade-school math class. The circumference of the inner circle is going to be less than the circumference of the outer circle. So while you have the rope touching all along the inner circle, it will have spaces where the wreath form is exposed on the outer circle. Which is why it was great I didn’t glue it down. Try to get each rope wrap (made that up), perpendicular to the wreath form, because otherwise it starts getting unmanageable. Then to cover those bald spaces, take the rope around a second time.

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round and round… note those little wood chips. those are the suckers coconut kept trying to eat when they hit the floor

Your first pack of rope will run out if you’re anal about covering up the bald spots like me. I wanted this sucker to look substantial and heavy-duty. Of course, you could just buy 100 feet of rope, but that would be harder to manage, as you have to pull the rope through the center of the wreath with every single rope wrap. Have no fear, OCD’ers. The seam of where the two ends meet gets covered with rope.

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that would be the exact rope i bought. you will need two of the 50 foot variety

Take some hot glue to the middle of the rope at the end so it doesn’t look so frayed. But otherwise, it’s no big deal. Start your next hunk of rope right where you left off.

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the blasted end that ended up not being a problem whatsoever

I ended up going around one full time to cover as much as the base as possible, a second time to fill in the bald spots, and a random-rope-wrap-here-and-there third time to give the wreath texture and to make the loops. When you decide you’ve reached your last rope wrap, leave that one a little loose as well as the rope wrap 4-6 inches before. You’ll use these to make knots. Without even cutting the rope, make a knot at your last rope wrap. I actually looked up nautical knots and have no idea if mine was legit. But it seems sturdy. so finish the first knot, make the hanger, then repeat at the rope wrap 6 inches from the end. Have the rope exit the back so you never see it, and then chop off the rope.

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my attempt at knots

I put some hot glue into the knots in hopes they’ll hold better and let it dry for a bit. I’ll be honest, the knots took me a lot longer than they should have, and I redid them several times until deciding they were done. But here is the end result! It’ll go outside once A) I have a wreath hanger and B) it has stopped torrentially raining outside – not because I’m afraid this won’t hold up, but because I’m just cold. I’ll add a photo of it on our door when it’s up!

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voila! yes, that’s currently hanging on a kitchen cabinet. no, it’s not staying there.

Here are some pointers. Really, just things to look out for. Keep an eye on the animals.

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She liked the wire and the rope.

No, for real. These buggers were obsessed. I imagine if you have kids, they can be distracting too.

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she loved the wood chips and the rope. freaking tug-of-war

Last word of advice: protect your hands with a thick hand cream before, during, and after. It’s basically winter in New England, the air is dry, my skin is cracking as is, and the wreath form and rope were a little painful at times. But I think the end result is worth it. Ray and I love anything nautical and like the things in our house to be more modern than not, so I think this foots the bill.

Enjoy!

Tori