Once Upon A Time, I pushed two bowling balls out of a garden hose.


It wasn’t easy, but I had no choice. There was no were else for them to go.


I toiled and huffed, and ate ice chips and swallowed laxatives, and lo and behold, the universe brought forth an unbreakable obligation to burping and feeding and homework and worry.


Yes, there were the ‘special’ times, the ones that make it ‘all worth while’, like “I love you Mommy”, and “I’m not talking until I have my lawyer or my Mom is here”, kind of awesome moments.


Ahhhh. The memories…


And then you promise them that if they work real hard, and fulfill their ‘potential’ you will fund the largest Capitalist shell game of all: College- any college they can get into. Any one.


They call your bet, and go ‘all in’.


All in.


Your tears, when reading the acceptance letters, are mistaken for joy.


All you see is money: tuition, books, i-n-c-i-d-e-n-t-a-l-s, airline tickets, and living expenses.


You feel the blood dripping from your eyes, but you take heart that eventually it will be all over, only four years each. You can withstand anything.


Except it isn’t OVER in four years, oh no, they keep needing you, they keep calling your bluff. They keep saying, “I love you.”


And you simply cannot resist because these creatures, the very ones who have stolen your soul, somehow have a stranglehold on your reason and as much as you try, you, you, need them too. You want to help. You want to see them happy. You take joy in watching them fly…


And sometimes, that’s to a new city, a new job, new friends, and new worries.


But, sometimes, if your lucky, you get to spread your wings along side them, and transform a bland cocoon of an apartment into a beautiful butterfly.

Because, whether you came out of the garden hose, or not, I’ve got your back– or at least I’ll help you hang art.


Here are my TIPS on turning a BLAH apartment to




  1. Lighting- very few people have enough, or at the right height. I have a serious disdain for overhead lighting. It’s garish. Floods the room. No shadows, and you want shadows. They create mood. You should light at least one corner of every room. Use a floor lamp or something that hangs off the wall. We have both options at play here- a floor lamp in the living room and a hanging acrylic chandelier hanging off of an ordinary plant hook in the bedroom. You should have a light source for every place where someone will sit (and where you will sleep). We found an electrical outlet at the short end of the kitchen bar under the lip of the top, so we plugged in a charming lamp that sits on the counter but creates a wonderful over-glow when seated at the table that’s tucked under it. Also, notice the lamp shade. It blue. It stops your eye for a second so that you notice what’s going on under it. It brings in some color to the otherwise open dull space of the monochromatic kitchen.

  2. Furniture- it should multi-task. The coffee table has drawers for storage, and the couch pulls out into a queen size sleeping platform because this is a one bedroom apartment. A desk by the side of the bed could not only be a study space but an end table. Get it?

  3. Space delineation- space will most likely be tight, so areas will have to do double-duty. In this apartment, my daughter’s bedroom is also where she has her desk, and not in the living room. This way she can close her door from her cats and they still can reach their food and liter, and if she needs a mental break, she can exit her room and enjoy the calm organization of her larger space.

  4. Flooring- it will probably suck. Dull carpet, scratched parquet flooring, peeling linoleum. In this case it was carpeting and ceramic tile- all in greige. We chose to ignore the floors because in this tight space you want it to seem uninterrupted- except in the bathroom, where we placed a long (7 foot) indoor/outdoor runner. She originally thought it would be too long. I assured her it would not. I was right. All the way from the shower to the toilet you have a soft warm surface under your feet, and it adds visual interest to an otherwise utilitarian space.

  5. Art- my 29yr old son has a large piece of art hanging in his home office that is the accumulation of hundreds of cigarette packs. He thinks it’s cool. OMG. It must be burned. Most young adults will not have had the resources to purchase ‘good’ art yet, but ‘smart’ art can be had by all. In this case, I have encouraged both of my kids (What happened son?) over the years to not buy things to just cover the walls. Better to have less and have it be meaningful and appropriate then just crap on the wall. My daughter, years ago, fell in love with a large mirrored wall clock that is the focal point in her living room (and reflects light-SMART) and a lovely vintage oil painting she found for a few dollars at a junk store (and we had cleaned), for over her bed. When you walk into either of these rooms they are the perfect compliment- not overwhelming, not confining, not amateurish. You learned well grasshopper. Your brother- the jury’s still out.

  6. Color- in a small space color should be uninterrupted whether it’s bold or soft. Using all one color family, in ALL the rooms, will open the ENTIRE space. In this case the apartment walls were painted before she moved in, so we had to work with it. Thankfully it is a non-committal taupe. Easy-peasy with her warm whites and greys, but to make it your own- chose a few accent colors and use them to either bring your eye to a certain spot (like a comfy corner), or to add a bit of pizzaz. Look at that shrimp-colored wing chair in the living room. No other powerful colors- just that chair. Understated. Interesting. Powerful. Well done darling.

  7. Furniture Placement- Walk into your rooms and LOOK. Really look at the space. Do you want to walk into your bed? No. Does it make your bedroom look claustrophobic? Yes. Here’s the thing: ALWAYS place your bed so that when you walk into the bedroom the bed is somewhere you have to walk to, ahead-of-you, from the foot to the pillows. ALWAYS. Let me see the bed in all of it’s glory. As for living space, I love furniture placed on a angle, but that requires square footage this apartment didn’t have, so up against the wall it was. But- the couch is a sectional that has a switch-back that creates it’s own kind of delineation which cradles the coffee table and doesn’t block the view/light on the other end. Perfect. Also, the kitchen island counter stopped short of the kitchen flooring leaving this strange unused area which was perfect for slipping her table under. A continuation of the counter AND proper seating for meals. The lamp on the counter makes it very bueno.

  8. Accessorize- it’s personal, as it should be. Accessories are supposed to reflect who you are, but they are often disjointed and spread out all over the place. GROUP your like objects- either by Topic, Function, or COLOR ( Wait. I’ll tell you how in a second). Case in point: TOPIC-1) Group all of your framed family photo’s in one place- not three in every room. Do I really have to stare at you and your dog in the bathroom? See your wedding picture from the kitchen counter? 2) The only other place GROUPS of books should be, other then in a bookcase in ONE room, is on a coffee table. Do you really think that by casually stacking a few classics together and putting a vase of flowers on top, that I’ll think you just happened to leave them there on your way through? Coffee table books are conversation starters- that’s why they’re out. If you have a collection (three or more)- of anything- GROUP them together. Don’t put one here, one there, another thata way. GROUP by FUNCATION. You put all of your flatware in one drawer don’t you? Put all of your magazines in one place, your electronic charging stations, your cooking utensils, your small appliances, your cleaning supplies, your cat supplies, your bills! Have places ready to recieve these items. Put them where you use them. If you need TP it’s a bitch to have to go to hall linen closet isn’t it? GROUP by COLOR. Okay- let’s say you don’t have a lot of any one thing, but you love the color blue. You tend to have a lot of things in the color blue. GROUP them. I recently walked into a women’s clothing store that didn’t have it’s selections separated by size. They had them grouped in color blocks. Not only was it very pleasing to the eye, it made my shopping easier. If you have a collection of vases, some in red, some in yellow, some in white- separate them and group them by color. THEN- separate the groups.

  9. Finishes- chose three. My daughter likes painted surfaces, upholstery, and natural fibers. A space full of dark cheery stain, shabby chic whites, stainless, 50s vintage bakelite, and South American indigenous pottery is a mish-mash of style, Continents, and history. Pare it down.

  10. The WOW factor- each room should have a little surprise. It might be an object. It might be a color, or it might be the size of something- a really big couch, or a little lamp placed just so. In this apartment, my daughter’s WOW factor is the crazy awesome chair in the living room, the chandelier in the bedroom, and the lamp on the bathroom counter…


And ME.



BEFORE/Living Space …

AFTER/Living Space









BEFORE Bathroom


AFTER/.Bathroom.. with Ned inspecting.


  • Carol Cassara - Great tips–and pix–for everyone. Like me.
    Carol Cassara recently posted…What Fashion Week is really likeMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Something tells me you live surrounded by beauty. Inside and out.ReplyCancel

  • Tammy - Awesome job from an AWESOME mom! Happy kid = happy mom! Such a fun AND helpful post from a pro!
    Tammy recently posted…If My Dog Could Talk …My ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I really should have gone pro but the thought of having to deal with people’s neurosis’ was a game changer. I leave that up to my mother, who’s still designing. At 82!!!ReplyCancel

  • Diane - Amazing! Absolutely stunning. With a few tips and tricks and not a huge outlay of $$$! Genius!
    Diane recently posted…Passing the Pancake CrownMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes! Very cost effective. It’s all smoke and mirrors Diane. Smoke. And. Mirrors. You just need to know where to pace them. Hahahaaaa.ReplyCancel

  • Nancy Hill (@Nerthus) - Love all your tips. Most people over-furnish. But mostly I love your description of interacting with your kids. I was so happy and so thinking about how much more money it would take when my daughter started a PhD program… sigh. Someday I will have the money to decorate! School has to end one day, doesn’t it?
    Nancy Hill (@Nerthus) recently posted…Dreams of Strength and WisdomMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Does it? End? But, it’s true- most people either over-decorate or just fill their spaces with a mish-mash of stuff. Or, don’t have things ‘at the ready’, like not having magazines by the couch, or coffee mugs on the other side of the kitchen away from the coffee machine. Why?ReplyCancel

  • The Finishing Touches - You did a fantastic job! I want to live here!ReplyCancel

  • Kim Tackett - I swear this is true. When my oldest lived in Vancouver, I visited a house she shared with 8 other people. The lamps were on the ceiling. As in, Kate and her boyfriend took all of the floor lamps and attached them to the ceiling, so the floor lamps were now upside down ceiling lamps. It was kind of spectacular. That was 5 years ago. Kate and her boyfriend (same one) are now Masters in Architecture students at SAIC in Chicago. Their lamps remain on the floor, but they are both kind of spectacular.
    Kim Tackett recently posted…musings :: song for autumnMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Great idea! Especially if you have high ceilings! As students of Architecture I imagine that they are always experimenting. Did you know that it was a woman designer, way back, that first suggested not only overhead lighting, but the very first WALL SWITCH! Maybe your daughter will invent something wonderful! I hope so.ReplyCancel

  • Ruth Curran - Oh you have an eye for just what belongs. I hope my son meets some like you to help him balance out his place because that is not one of my gifts!!! And the cat in the bathroom was such a nice touch!ReplyCancel

  • Its All About The Yummy - Love this! I am sending your post to several of my children’s friends who are now leaving in their own places!ReplyCancel

  • Mary Johnson - Oh well done! It looks amazing!ReplyCancel

  • Kim Dalferes, Author - Love, love, LOVE what you’ve done with these rooms. Sending this post to many of my son’s friends who are working on their first post-college “real grown-up” place. ReplyCancel

  • Lois Alter Mark - Wow, my kids’ places look nothing like that! I’m forwarding this to both of them for inspiration, although I’m sure I’ll be getting back replies asking for money!ReplyCancel

  • Doreen Mcgettigan - I love what you did with the lighting, I really like all of it. The cat is a wonderful finishing touch. Adorable!ReplyCancel

  • Mari Collier - You do good work. Looks fantastic.ReplyCancel

  • Sheryl Kraft - Beautiful! The sentiment, the words and finally, the apartment. ReplyCancel

What do you get when you combine a guilty pleasure in a huge crowd of other people who have the same guilty pleasure (aside from knowing your not alone and your Mother was wrong all along)?



You get Country Living Magazine’s Fair and a whole lotta happy happy pinch-me-now.

Because if you love like magazines (all kinds) with their shiny and hopeful and clever ideas, and answer when they call ‘Cherylllll. You can do this!’ and then they come-to-life, REALLY come to life with admired artisans and glitter and food and lifestyle authors and demonstrations… you go.

To the Fair.

And, as is so often the case in my ridiculously opportune life, I found myself in need of a portapotty but found instead a tribe of crazyass ladies who celebrate their awesomeness in vintage travel trailers with cute curtains and crocheted spare tire covers and wine- lot’s of wine.

At 2- o’clock.

In the afternoon.



With their own private facilities.

My kinds gals…


My kinda Fair.




Making Merry at the Country Living Fair



What I call the Aqua Trailer. And it was FOR SALE!

Cowgirl Trailer


50’s Trailer

Which one is Your Fav?

  • William Kendall - What a trailer! It has a lot of character.
    William Kendall recently posted…Lake Of Two Rivers MarshMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Aren’t they great! Like a little box of perfect.ReplyCancel

  • Carol Cassara - You could film a movie in that, the setting is so perfect for that era! Fun to see!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Such fun. I want all of those trailers!ReplyCancel

  • Linda Roy - This is all so right up my alley. I have a subscription to Country Living and I’m giddy when it arrives. I love all of it. I want that white table. And the Hills Brothers coffee can sure gave me a flashback. The fair sounds like heaven.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I can SO see you toolin’ around in an old vintage trailer that reflects your personality. With your guitar and a campfire, and hot coffee and me right behind you in mine. Boy- we’d have a good time, and we could share all of our favorite ideas in the latest edition and maybe go junkin’ along the way! Yes!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Phil - I could easily live in that trailer! It looks like a set out of I Love Lucy and American Pickers! Cool.
    Phil recently posted…Once again it’s the Return of Spam! In StereoVision 3D!My ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes. Yes. Yes Phil! Exactly! They are so compact but everything you need is right there! You really have to see them in person to get the full effect. My pic’s don’t do them justice. So many details are lost. Thanks for stopping by! ANd I LOVE American Pickers!ReplyCancel

Because there are several of you who have asked, ‘What’s the story behind your kid who doesn’t look anything like the rest of you?’ I made a phone call, asked permission, and am now laying it ALL out there.


The short answer to the question “How To Adopt a Child Without Going to Court’ is by omission: when the birth parent doesn’t give a shit.


Simple enough?


Okay- short story long:

Our kids had many friends.


We had the kind of home that all the kids tended to congregate at- plenty of food, plenty of room, always something going on, adults that were interested in them, etc.


Ben and I knew all of them, though some better than others. It didn’t matter. A friend was a friend was a friend blahblahblah, unless I caught you smoking pot- and then you were out.




One day, our son Chase, came through the door with a young man I knew, bashful and polite, but wasn’t one of the ‘regulars’. They both looked stunned and dazed.


He sent his friend upstairs with a, ‘I’ll meet you up there in a minute”, and then turned to me and said,”Mom, we have a problem.”


Oh Jesus. My favorite sentence.




“Tyler’s sister has just committed suicide.”


“What happened?”


“She was found hanging from her bathroom door and his parents are out of town. He doesn’t know what to do.”


“Where is she?”


“I don’t know? Maybe at a hospital?”


“Okay. I’m going up to talk to him.”




“Tyler? May I come in?”


A small, “yes.”


“What’s happened? Can you tell me?”


“My sister’s killed herself.”


“What have you been told? Who called you? Where are your parents?”


“I just saw my stepbrother. He told me. He found her just a little while ago. I was with Chase at the gas station. I can’t breath.”


“Where are your parent’s?”


“In Utah.”


“Utah. Why?”


“They’re picking up my other step sister from an Outward Bound program where they sent her because she was in their way.”




“When are they expected home?”


“I don’t know. They never told me.”


“Who’s taking care of you and all the other kids? Who’s the adult at the house?”


“We have a full-time housekeeper. She’s there. She cooks too. And drives us to school.”


“Why don’t you stay here, with us, until this all settles out. Okay?”




“I’m going to talk with Chase now, okay? Chase, can I see you alone please?”


And so I found out that Tyler was part of a blended family- except the blender had very dull blades.


His birth mother had died of an accidental drug overdose when he was just shy of eight and his stepmother’s first husband had died of something that she had sued over and won a wrongful death claim leaving her a very rich woman.


Tyler’s stepmother came to the marriage with three young kids (two girls and a boy) controlling the purse strings, and his father with three young boys- and the backbone of a slug.


All through that week, we both waited for a call from his parents.




I chalked it up to shock, but still….


Several days later, Tyler told us that his stepsister’s funeral was scheduled for the coming Saturday.


“Did your Dad finally call?”

“No. I found out at school from some kids.”




I called his family house and was told (by the housekeeper?) that neither parent was taking calls. I told her I had Tyler with me. She said, “that’s nice.” then hung up.


Ben, I, and our two children, took Tyler, standing with him, to the wake.


His stepmother was so drugged she could barely speak. Tyler told me that that was the way she always was. Stoned on prescription meds.


His father just bobbed his head up and down, with a stupid grin on his face (was he high too?) when I introduced myself, told him that Tyler had been with us, and would he call me to discuss ‘matters’?


I never received that phone call- ever.


Little by little Tyler, a senior in High School, told me what is was like to live in his home.


I’ll just say, here, that it was not a happy home and I’m being -g-e-n-e-r-o-u-s.


Over the next several weeks, with no contact from his family, I was encouraged, by my friends and family, to call Tyler’s father and stepmother.


I decided not to: I wanted to see just how long, and to what degree, they were willing to abandon him.


And they were VERY willing (several months of ‘willing’), so with High School graduation upon him, I decided it was time for a showdown conversation with his father.


“Hello. Mr. Smith? My name is Cheryl. You’re son has been living with my family for the past several months. I think it’s time we talk.”


“Oh. Sorry, I’ve been really busy lately. Could we talk tomorrow?”


“Tomorrow? I’m sorry I thought you said ‘tomorrow. No. We will talk today at 4pm, here, at my house, and if you don’t show-up I will be at your home, pounding on the door and roasting weenies in your driveway, so it’s going to be today, Mr. Smith. Am I clear?”


“I’ll be there.”


“I have a big mouth, Mr. Smith. You don’t want me using it in our small town. Start being smart.”


Next up: the fam…

“Chase. I’d like you to not return home after school today. I will be having a meeting with Tyler’s father and I don’t want you around until I call you.”




“Because I said so.”


“Bryn. I’d like you to go to Rachel’s house after school today. I am talking with Tyler’s father here this afternoon.”


“I’ll stay in my room.”


“As long as it’s Rachel’s’ room darling.”


“Ben. I’m going to have a talk with Tyler’s father later today. I don’t want you here.”




“Because you don’t like conflict, and this is going to be painful for someone. And I don’t want it to be you.”


“What are you going to say?”




And, he showed up. Tyler’s father, and, we had a talk, or maybe I should say ‘I had a talk’.


He attempted to garner my sympathy by telling me he had recently been diagnosed with cancer.


I said I didn’t give a shit. I really did.


“I don’t give a rat’s ass about your health. We are only talking about the son you have failed to have contact with for over five months.. The one who not only lost his mother, but has now lost his beloved stepsister. The son you and your wife have on all sorts of unnecessary medication. The kid who can’t get up in the morning without his pill, and can’t go to sleep at night without ‘his helper’. We are not talking about you. We are not talking about me. We are talking about him. And if you think because you have a ‘law’ degree you can manipulate this conversation you will find yourself sadly underestimating me.”


What I did give a SHIT about was 1) his son’s stability, 2) his son’s collage education, and 3) he having anything more whatsoever to do with his son because he was a sniveling tripe of a little man with no business being a father, and didn’t deserve any of his children, but I could only save one.


We agreed on a financial arrangement for Tyler’s college fund (no other monetary compensation was offered or requested), and he was on his way- never to be heard from again.


Never. To be. Heard from. Again.


That was 12 years ago.


Our entire family has taken him in as one of their own- all the weddings, the picnics, the holidays. The whole kaboodle.


Tyler graduated from Collage, did a ‘find myself’ moment in Colorado, and later found his way to New Orleans, after Ben and I relocated here.


He now lives down the street.


There have been ups-n-downs, like any young man finding his way.


But he will. Find himself.


And he can always come home.


Because WE are the blended family now…

and I keep my small appliances in tiptop shape.


  • Carol Cassara - Every so often I run into an angel on earth. You are one such angel. I’m privileged to know you.
    Carol Cassara recently posted…An evening of Sixties nostalgiaMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Oh Carol- you’ve made me cry. I wish you were here so I could hug you. XXXOOOReplyCancel

  • Liv - I’m writing this with tears in my eyes. That young man is so very lucky to have a mother like you. What a story! Well done.
    Liv recently posted…Coparenting: When Back to School Means Back to ConflictMy ProfileReplyCancel

  • Lana - What an amazing mother you are. People talk about what they would do in a situation like this – but you didn’t just talk, you took action and DID something. And that young man was truly saved. Thank you so much for sharing this story – you made my day! Hope yours is wonderful.
    Lana recently posted…An Old School FallMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I never thought I would be confronted with a situation like this- but then I was- and I just couldn’t throw him to the streets. I like to think no one would- except his father did. Jesus. Oh well, today I’m having lunch with Tyler. I win.ReplyCancel

  • Sue - You win is right. You and your family are a great blessing to the world and Tyler. Like another commenter says: You are angels on earth. Proud to know and love you.
    Sue recently posted…Napa Farmhouse Style Home In CaliforniaMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Oh Sue. I love you too! Thank you for all your support my dear dear friend.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - You, are an amazing woman!ReplyCancel

  • Lori Lavender Luz - How fortunate for Tyler that he found such a soft and loving spot to land.

    Blessings to you all.
    Lori Lavender Luz recently posted…Gingerbread MenMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - That’s a beautiful way to put it- though sometimes I’m not sure he’d say I provide ‘soft’. I’m a tough taskmaster. HahaaaaaReplyCancel

  • Diane - Oh, man, I’m sobbing here! I can’t imagine that level of parental abandonment. So, so, SO glad that Tyler had you to pick up the pieces. My heart breaks for the other four children in that unbelievable situation. At least you saved one.
    Diane recently posted…Larger Than LifeMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes. The other kids. I just can’t think about it. I concentrate on Tyler Diane. Otherwise I’ll scream.ReplyCancel

  • Darcy Perdu (So Then Stories) - Literally tears in my eyes, Cheryl! What an incredible story. Thank God you stepped up for Tyler when so many others had failed him! Your whole family is awesome!!
    Darcy Perdu (So Then Stories) recently posted…Clown Butlers, Topless Nuns & Free Hugs!My ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thank you Darcy. I really see my kid’s as the heros’. They had to share everything- suddenly, and fully. They said YES. I’m so proud of them all.ReplyCancel

  • Helene Cohen Bludman - Wow. This story took my breath away, Cheryl. Bless you for opening your home and your heart to this young man. You absolutely saved his life.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Ya know what? He gave me a great gift- his love.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs - Oh, how this hurt my heart. Yes, tears streaming as I type. Unbelievable the disregard of some for the children they’ve either had or taken in. YOU, my friend, have done an incredible thing (as you surely must know). You have changed a life, made it clear that life matters. You rock… and amaze me.

    A truly incredible story written so well. I’ll be thinking of this a long, long time.
    Lisa @ Grandma’s Briefs recently posted…62 or so bits of belated gratitudeMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thank you so much Lisa for your beautiful response. I’m fairly certain you, my dear, would have done the exact same thing.ReplyCancel

  • Kim Tackett - wow…thank you for what you did, and thank you for trusting is with the story. wow.
    Kim Tackett recently posted…dear chicago, you have some pretty tall buildingsMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I asked his permission first and assured him my readers are a wonderful lot- like you Kim. Thank you for commenting.ReplyCancel

  • Claudia Schmidt - You are fantastic and deserve a place in heaven. I can not actually even fathom how parents could act the way his did, but I think it’s for the better as YOU are clearly a better and more loving parent for Tyler. I’m stunned and amazed by this story. Truth is stranger than fiction, right?ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Oh yea. Stranger then fiction Claudia. And do you know what? His father has NEVER tried to contact him in all these years. Can you believe it? How does he sleep?ReplyCancel

  • Cary Vaughn - Oh my God. I can’t stand it. This is so awesome, Cheryl. I REALLY appreciate you sharing this story! I’m going to have to read this one again.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thank you Cary and you’re welcome. It was time people knew.ReplyCancel

  • Kate Hall - This is pretty freaking awesome, Cheryl. Glad you were there for him. Life is so freaking hard.ReplyCancel

  • David Stillwell - You know… nothing really moves my Vulcan mind much… this did… I think you may have restored my faith in humanity…. I love you for that too… ReplyCancel

  • Connie McLeod - This story is remarkable on so many levels. Thank you for sharing it and thank your son for allowing you to tell it.ReplyCancel

  • Amy Skipper - Wow!ReplyCancel

  • Lois Alter Mark - OMG Cheryl, I am heartbroken and inspired at the same time. What your family did is amazing, and I wish only love and good things for all of you.ReplyCancel

  • Ruth Curran - Wow…your son’s birth “father” (and I use that term very loosely) is a staggeringly stupid and narcissistic man (and I use that term very loosely as well)…. He obviously lost out on being part of, what sounds like a wonderful young man’s life. How wonderful that your son lives down the street and is such a key part of your family.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes to all- and I’d like to add… very weak Ruth. A very weak man.ReplyCancel

  • Angela Hall Weight - I’m sitting here crying, having just finished reading this. Bless you and your whole family. I’d like to punch Tyler’s dad in the face, hard, with a hammer, repeatedly. ReplyCancel

  • Denise Scott Geelhart - Ummmm…Wow. Just wow. The heartlessness of his family (particularly his dad) is so disturbing. What you did was amazing! I told my husband the story and his first question was why you didn’t call Child Services. Anyhow, kudos to you and your family.ReplyCancel

  • Rena McDaniel - This story touched me at a very deep level. My husband comes from a huge dysfunctional family. We took his sisters teenage son into our home for several years until his drug habits drove a huge wedge between us, by this time he had gotten married and was spitting out babies one after another. When their youngest was 4 days old they called and asked me to babysit for the weekend. They came around w more times in the next 6 years wanting money or basically threatehing to take her back. We paid them $100 twice just to leave her be. About a year and a half later we were taken to court by the mom who had left the father and wNted her back. We had a lawyer, Dr.s records, character references. The judge actually said she gad made an intelligent decision by ababdoning her with us because sge kbew we would take care of her and was awarded to her mother who had seen her three times in 7 years. Now she’s 13 and lives with her mother and stepfather. She is “allowed”to spend summers with us (as long as I buy her school clothes) and 1 week of her Christmas break. We now live 400 miles away. We leave Christmas morning drive straight there and back for a 7 day visit then do itover again. All for the love of a little girl who may not be biologically mine, but mine no less. So you see, I really get it.
    Rena McDaniel recently posted…WHAT IS EARLY ONSET DEMENTIAMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Life is so unnecessarily complicated. Some children are ‘birthed’ to the wrong parents, but luckily, occasionally, a few find people to love them- like you. My heart just breaks for this young woman. And for you and your husband who have to stand back and mostly watch it all because so many have failed to do the right thing. The judge. The parents. Jesus. God Bless You.ReplyCancel

  • Becky Sadler - Just remarkable on so many levels – you are me if I were in that situation – it is everything I ever pictured myself saying – I’m so glad you were there for him, for us!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - You are so kind! I’m usually pretty good at getting my thoughts out without faltering. You should have heard what I said to my Division Head when I resigned my teaching position! She was stunned… and she deserved it. HahahaaReplyCancel

  • Mari Collier - Bless you, Cheryl. Your heart is as big as your mouth. Hugs.ReplyCancel

  • Lizzi Rogers - I don’t have the words for how completely freakin’ awesome I think you are. And your whole family. You WIN AT FAMILY.ReplyCancel

  • Marcia Shaw Wyatt - Score one for the good guys! Thank you, Cheryl!!!! The world right now needs more caring parents like you … and this post is an excellent wake-up call to the rest of us. Thank you for posting it and for reminding us that if we want the future improved we need to open our eyes right now. When we see a need, we need to fill it. We need to make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s the only way – and I much applaud you for making such a tremendous difference in Tyler’s young life!
    Marcia Shaw Wyatt recently posted…The Dinner Party of My DreamsMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Ya know Ruth, we never talk about it here among us. The family just accepts our decision and moves along with it, and I have to acknowledge that the ENTIRE family (Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) scooped him up- even though they didn’t really understand what was going on at the time. He was a stranger to them, but they saw the finality in my eyes and heard the resolution in my voice and opened their hearts, as well. I’m so proud of THEM. Thank you for taking the time to leave such a wonderful comment. I appreciate it.ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen O'Donnell - What a story. You’re a good woman, Cheryl Nicholl. You really are. ReplyCancel

  • Ida Chiavaro - I love a tough talker that actually is tough -ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - ‘Say what you mean. Mean what you say’, Ida- right? . One doesn’t need to say much, or even loudly to be heard. -wink-ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer W - Wow. What an awesome story. Kudos to you and your family for opening your hearts and home. As a child who was ignored, I will say that it only takes one person to show they care and that you matter. Sometimes that one person isn’t the right person, but Tyler got so lucky. He will find his way I am sure. Thanks for sharing your story.
    Jennifer W recently posted…Entitlement run amokMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes. So wise. Sometimes the one person is STILL the wrong person. I guess this might be how/why gangs are formed, or drugs/alcohol becomes a best friend. (I’m taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly so that we can pretend to be in the same room because I wish we were) What a shame. Life is hard enough. Indifference- especially towards a child- is a pet peeve on mine. (Is there more coffee? Let me get the sugar and we can talk awhile).ReplyCancel

  • The Shitastrophy - Just solidifies what I already knew about you – 1) never cross you 2) you are stronger than anyone I have ever met 3) Your heart is pure gold 4) I love you.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Here’s what I know: 1) people talk-talk-talk too much, 2) too many excellent people are scared of actually being their most authentic selves, 3) most people do not need to be friends with everyone they meet, and 4) the word ‘Love’ is overused, but not in this case- I love you too.ReplyCancel

  • ruthi coats - Thank you for writing the same way you speak. I appreciate people that are champions for others, even more so for children. We have ten adopted children and I also have seen the true need for paperless parenting the same as you. I want to put you as my hero for today. God Bless.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I can’t imagine writing any other way! Especially in a blog (hahaha). Seeing anyone taken advantage of, or being in the presence of indifference, especially when there are obligations involved, is a real game changer for me. Maybe it’s because I grew-up with a bully for a father, or because he always told me that everyone pulls their pants up the same way. Either way, when I see something ‘off’ and I can do something about- there I go. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to leave a lovely comment. I appreciate it.ReplyCancel

  • Chloe Jeffreys - Wow! What a story. Thank you for telling it. Tyler is fortunate to have a good friend like Chase who has a good mom like you. And knowing you like I do I can only imagine that dressing down that man received that day. What a sorry excuse for a sperm donor.
    Chloe Jeffreys recently posted…Are Bloggers Exploited? Well, that Depends®.My ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Hahaaaa. Yes. Dressing OFF was more like it Chloe! HahhaaaaReplyCancel

      • Chloe Jeffreys - My daughter’s bestfriend in high school was caught at my house in a terrible snow storm. I kept telling her to call her mom because I knew she’d be worried, but she wouldn’t. Finally I called her. Her response? “Oh. Fine.” Her daughter could have been out in a ditch, or dead, or frozen. She didn’t seem to give a shit. It was shocking. There really are people like this.
        Chloe Jeffreys recently posted…Are Bloggers Exploited? Well, that Depends®.My ProfileReplyCancel

  • Gwendolyn Gilkey - Love this!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - You knew all of this-right? Ty’s situation, that as. As for your Aunt’s big mouth- you knew that too. Ha! Love you Gwenny.ReplyCancel

  • Journey McGuire - Oh my God. That almost made me cry. I respect you so much for doing what you’ve done, and for doing what we’re here to do..change lives. You are awesome. I will be saying lots of prayers for him.

    I can really relate with this post. My son’s mother hasn’t contacted him since I’ve known him, except for a few months ago when she called my husband (high as a kite) to ask him if we’d adopt the baby she was about to have, because “it’s only right for a sister to be with her brother”. When he said no, she called him a piece of shit and we haven’t heard anything since. I’m sharing the shit out of this story.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Oh my God- back at you. Some people are so confused and weak and without any kind of inner dialogue. Without conscience is another way to put it. She should just keep having babies and you and your husband should just keep raising them for her? What a shame for all of you. Wow. Keep me posted and thank you for sharing YOUR story. Oh my.ReplyCancel

  • Roshni - Cheryl, I always loved you, but after reading this, I absolutely adore you! That is all.
    Roshni recently posted…how Indians view American-born Indian kidsMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thank you my beautiful exotic friend. I’ve got to PM you with something…. check your messages. ANd of course, thank you for stopping by.ReplyCancel

  • Lillian Connelly - This story just blows my mind. You are a light in the dark.
    Lillian Connelly recently posted…I’m Not The Kind Of Mother I Imagined I Would BeMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - It blew my mind at the time too. HahhaaaReplyCancel

  • leecy madison - I would like to adopt a couple of children around 5 or 6. Our son was killed when he was 25 and was not married so we will never have any grandchildren. When I applied to several agencies I was told we were too old. I admit i”m too old to take care of a baby but by the time they are 5 or 6, they can pretty much take care of themselves and I have lots of love to give them. My nieces children used to beg to come stay with me until they grew up. Then our cleaning ladies daughter came but she too has grown up so we are without any children now. I teach childrens’ arts and crafts. I would love to have some creative children to play with me.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I’m very sorry for your lose Leecy. I can’t imaging the pain in loosing a child so young. Teaching Arts and Crafts with young children is a noble activity. I’m sure you are making a difference and the kid’s can’t wait to ‘play’ with you. God Bless.ReplyCancel

  • 50 Things About Me You Wish You Never Knew - - […] This blog post, by my friend A Pleasant House, “How To Adopt A Child Without Signing Papers.” […]ReplyCancel

  • One Funny Motha - Wow. What an amazing & unbelievable story. Truly. I cannot believe the parents/father never called again. Or in the first fucking place. My heart goes out to Tyler, but it looks like he’s found a good family now.
    One Funny Motha recently posted…HumorOutcasts & Me: Perfect TogetherMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I always say when life throws you spitballs, you better be able to catch them- or, at least have the good sense to get out of my way as I try. HA!ReplyCancel

How far can you remember back?


My first memories are at 2 years old.


I am in my parent’s newlywed apartment- second floor of a three story walk-up. On the left.


 Enter living/dining area. Parquet floors. Large picture window looking out on the front lawn. Television on a gold metal cart in the corner on an angle. Captain Kangaroo on the tube. And Mighty Mouse. I love him. He can save the day. Large gold lamp on low table. Pretty. Modern sofa with no pillows. Black. Good for jumping but scratchy. Single bedroom off the dining area. Parent’s bed to the right as you walk in. My crib against the wall opposite the end of the bed. Dull wall color. Bad lighting. Overhead. One window. Gauzy curtains. The window is open and the fabric is moving. I like it.


It’s early. The daylight is dull. I want my mother.


I stand up in my crib and see that she is on ‘that’ side. I swing my leg over the railing and drop down. I can’t remember which side she’s on by the time I hit the floor. I move to the left. I reach up and wake my father. He yells. Loudly. And swats at me hitting my head.


I’m stunned. I swallow my breath. I open my mouth and nothing comes out. I feel something bad- it’s called fright. I can’t move. My first nightmare is with my eyes wide open.



Where is my mother? I need my mother, and swoosh, there she is. Scooping me up. Safe. Happy. Safe.


We are on our way into the galley kitchen with her whispering in my ear. I like her, and the kitchen.


All appliances to the right. Metal cabinets. They’re shiny and have a nice sound when they open. Click.


Single window with red and white curtains. I like the curtains.


There’s a clock that looks like a cat with his tail swinging. I like that cat.


The table is shiny aluminum-rimmed with a sticky top that has silver and grey swirls and little red bubbles. It feels smooth. I see funny faces in the swirls. The table has extensions that pull out- and up, clicking into place. I think this is very clever. The flatware pulls out of a drawer on the side. All the silverware is so organized. I could look at it for hours.



My mother lets me get my own fork before putting me in the hard beige booster seat on the red plastic covered matching chair. There are two.


She puts my small red plastic plate in front of me. I love the color. The scrambled eggs smell good.


I push it on the floor. As a show of love, and to see what sound it will make.


I like the sound.


My mother gently asks me not to push my plate off the table again.


I think,’Love Mommy’, but say nothing, just smile, and she smiles back.


That simple. I would do anything for her.


These days I continue to show my love on small plates, with small bite-size food, sometimes even on small red plates.



But, somehow, no one pushes it on the floor…


Booster seats optional. 


Beef Tips with Gorgonzola Sauce

Steak Preparation

  • 2 beef steaks- the cut is your choice

  • 2 Tablespoons Salt

  • 1/2 Tablespoon Pepper

  • 1/2 Tablespoon Onion powder

  • Olive Oil

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter- salted


  • 1 Cup of Gorgonzola cheese- grated

  • 1/4 Cup cream

  • 1 Tablespoon butter-salted

  • 1 teaspoon ground rosemary

  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour


  1. Cut the steaks into just a bit larger then bite-size pieces (they will shrink when they cook).

  2. Mix the dry ingredients together and put them into a large zip-lock bag.

  3. Place the steak pieces into the bag. Zip closed, and shake to cover the meat. Let this rest for at least 1/2 hour (we are tenderizing the meat). Make the sauce as follows:

  4. Melt the butter over a low heat so that it doesn’t burn- just melts.

  5. Add the cream and bring to a gentle boil.

  6. Add the grated cheese and stir to combine.

  7. Lower heat to simmer.

  8. Whisk in the flour. Return to simmer, add the rosemary, stir, and then take off the heat. It will be runny but will come together as it sits.

  9. Pour the cheese sauce into a container that has a pouring lip- like a glass Pyrex measuring cup. Cover to keep warm.

  10. In a new larger skillet, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter that was listed for the steak prep.

  11. Add a few tablespoons of oil, blend, and increase the heat.

  12. When the oil is very hot, place the steak bites into it and brown on all sides.

  13. When nicely browned, lower the heat to medium high, and continue to cook the steak for an additional 5-7 minutes, turning often.

  14. Remove the steak from the skillet and place on paper towels to soak-up excess oil.

  15. Remove the covering from the sauce and stir to blend again.

  16. Pour some sauce on a plate and place several steak bites on top.

  17. Add a sprig of fresh rosemary for garnish.


Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

 Ingredients & Preparation (makes 8)

  • 8 large capped mushrooms- stemmed and cleaned

  • 2 Cups crab meat

  • 1/4 cup mayonaise

  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

  • 1 teaspoon smokey paprika (often times labeled as Spanish paprika)

  • Your favorite barbecue sauce


  1. Place the mushrooms on a lined baking tray.

  2. Combine all the other ingredients.

  3. Stuff the mushrooms.

  4. Place under a broiler until the tops are golden.

  5. Remove from heat and cover. The ingredients will continue to ‘come-together’ for the next few minutes.

  6. Drizzle a little of the barbecue sauce on  a plate. 

  7. Uncover the mushrooms and place on plate.

  8. Garnish with a few cherry tomatoes, or splay a yellow pepper like I did. 


You’re Welcome

  • Journey McGuire - My first memory was seeing some kids wiener at nap time so you definitely have me beat.ReplyCancel

  • Vashti Quiroz-Vega - Yum! That looks scrumptious and so classy! Thanks for sharing!
    Vashti Quiroz-Vega recently posted…I Love Animals!My ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - You’re welcome! And if you try it give me a jingle with any suggestions. I’m not kidding. A pinch more of this….a tad of that… etc.ReplyCancel

  • Carol Graham - What a precious memory (and post) You stirred all kinds of memories and emotions. Nicely done – I enjoyed the ride.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - How nice Carol. I wanted to share the recipes and I thought,”What’s the first plate I remember?’ and it was a small red one, so there you go… a post!ReplyCancel

  • Rasma Raisters - Such wonderful childhood memories and such delicious food.ReplyCancel

  • Diane Tolley - Love this! So many of my memories include food . . .
    My first memory was when I was two as well. I was trampled by a mad mama cow and saved by my heroic mother. And then she and I were saved by my highly enraged father. True story. And the only casualty was one red leather cowboy boot. Then tears and cuddles and treats. ReplyCancel

  • Carol Cassara - You have an amazing memory and I really like your small plates idea.
    Carol Cassara recently posted…The limitations of modern medicineMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - They are delish! Hope you try them. If you do, give me jingle and tell me what needs to be tweeked.ReplyCancel

  • Rena McDaniel - Looks delicious! ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - It was! If you make it- give me a jingle and suggest any changes you might like!ReplyCancel


We have two, or three, children, depending on when you entered our lives.


I usually say, we have two biological children and an adopted child, though we never legally adopted our third.






Let me explain.


Ben and I birthed (who are we kidding? I BIRTHED our two kids– a boy, then a girl) then, many years later we took-in a third boy (a few months older then our oldest child- a son, when they were both 17) and made him our own.


His name is Tyler.


He is the light of our collective lives ( and I do mean ‘Collective- the entire family accepted him as one of their own).


We I had never considered adoption because we I had never had to consider it. They came from us me – or they didn’t come at all.


It was just that easy.


“I think we should have a baby”.






“Another one seems right”.






I’ve joked that all Ben had to do was look at me and I was pregnant, which is my mothers’s premonition about ‘birthing hips’ come  to roost.


Thanks Mom. I’ve always loved barn yard animals that made me spit nails. What a way  to build a barn.



Anywho, Tyler came to us one summer after a horrific event in his life and no one (least I could see) that would come to his rescue.


“Kids? Are we onboard?”


“Yes, we are.”






“Okay then. Here we go”.



(And, some how, this post, is eventually supposed to lead back to our daughters apartment interior decoration.What am I writing here?)


So… all I can recall is that I love my kids, and they are my inspiration, and I love to partake of their E.N.V.I.R.O.M.E.N.T.



Which clumsily leads to these before and after pictures of Bryn’s Columbus, Ohio apartment.



Because, wether you came out of the garden hose, or not, I’ve got your back– or at least I’ll help you hang art.

















After… with Ned inspecting.


  • Lux Ganzon - You’ve got a lovely family. And that looks like a cozy apartment.
    Lux Ganzon recently posted…Monday Gratitude List 5My ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - It did turn out great. It was a pain in the ass- but it turned out great. It’s all about them- right? snoozzzzzzzzeeeeeeReplyCancel

  • Chloe Jeffreys - Damn girl! You gots talent! Very nice. So cozy. I wish I lived near you and could spend time learning from you. You have skillz.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I come from a l-o-n-g line of designers. The apple didn’t fall that far- it never does. -wink-ReplyCancel

  • Shelley Zurek - Wonderful redecoration. I swear I am looking at a magazine. You really understand lighting.
    Shelley Zurek recently posted…Women 40-65: Replenish research study open for applicationMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Wow- you really saw that? Wonderful!!! Yes- lighting is an often times greatly overlooked accessory. you’ve got a good eye!!!ReplyCancel

  • Lisha Fink - And now she lives in a pleasant house, as well. Good work, mama.
    Lisha Fink recently posted…The Big OMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - How clever! I should have used that line Lisha! Are you a writer or something? -wink-ReplyCancel

  • Sue - I like how you added the small table next to the island and the new chairs for the island with backs, plus the lamps in the bathroom and kitchen make it look so homey.
    Sue recently posted…Sleepless In Seattle Houseboat on Lake UnionMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - The island stopped before the ceramic tile on the floor Sue, leaving this’area’ that was open so it looked like the perfect spot for an extension using her table (I love these chairs- so retro). There was an electrical outlet under the counter at the end of the island so… voila! As for table top lighting in the loo- I always try to do that. Makes using it a pleasure!ReplyCancel

  • Manal The Go Go Girl - Beautiful job! Love what you’ve done with the apartment. And bravo for taking in your third baby :)
    Manal The Go Go Girl recently posted…STOP killing our children!My ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thanks Manal! Sometimes life throws you a curve ball- or a big box of an apartment.ReplyCancel

  • Diane Tolley - Gorgeous! The homemaking fairy endowed you royally!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes she did. Her christian name was Mom. At she was a tough task-master. HahaaaaaReplyCancel

  • David Stillwell - I fear you left the reader hanging with the long introduction to Tyler and then you derailed into lamps. So if you can go back and tell us more about Tyler that would be heavenly… BTW awesome job on the apartment and Ned is interestingly handsome while curiously distancing. :-)ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - So… you want more Tyler story? I hear ya.ReplyCancel

  • Mari Collier - Fancy digs. Just wait. They always move back at least once. Mine did it twice. One couple at church were tired of moving their daughter in and out of different places. They really gave thanks when she married.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - So far- only Tyler. Now, he lives just around the corner. Does that count?ReplyCancel

  • Rena McDaniel - Wow! I’m sure my hubby would sign me over for adoptionReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - You’d have to get in line Hahahaaa!ReplyCancel

  • Johnny Serio - Well since I stumbled across this eloquent essay of yours, I had better comment…
    I remember very well that transition in your lives, and I think no one knew exactly what to make of it at the time…bold, if nothing else. You have led by example for your children and all who witnessed. Very proud of you, good work!
    ooxx, johnny ReplyCancel

  • Gary Sidley - What fabulous room transformations. An expert in interior design; your skills know no bounds.
    Gary Sidley recently posted…A table for oneMy ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I really should have gone into Interior Design but then I’d have to work with people- a deal breaker.ReplyCancel

  • Rhonda - Holy Cow. I’m in my 30’s and my house isn’t as well decorated as that apartment! Nicely done!
    Rhonda recently posted…School Dress Code Says “Put Some Clothes On”My ProfileReplyCancel

  • Cary - You did a smashing job! Love it (though I think she may have a cat infestation).
    Cary recently posted…Dear Dr. Dentist,My ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Oh yes. She does- two of them. The apple not falling far (and all that).ReplyCancel

  • Johnny Serio - Yes, I remember Tyler being a REALLY good kid! Love and miss you all too!ReplyCancel

  • MJM - Are you available to decorate a friend’s house, I’d pay you…do you accept foodstamps?
    MJM recently posted…“In Your Face”My ProfileReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - A ‘friend’? Do they have wine?ReplyCancel

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