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All We’re Guaranteed


I don’t want to sound like some wacko who says, “God talks to me,” but over a year ago, I heard… let’s call it an “idea”… that I should sell the ranch. It was as clear as if someone were standing in the room, talking to me. Although this had never happened before, it wasn’t scary or alarming, and in my heart, I knew it was what I needed to do. A few days later, I put the ranch up for sale; the place James and I so loved and the place where he died.

The same day I went online, looking for an old buffet to hold mother’s crystal and china; things in storage I hadn’t seen for 10 years. Of all the things to search for… That was the weird part.

Almost immediately I found an old oak buffet on 1stdibs. Without seeing anything but photographs, measurements and a description—an “Antique Louis XV Enfilade, mid-19th Century, hand-carved oak, made in Sweden’’—I bought it. My friend and neighbor, Cindy, said it was a way of confirming that I was moving forward with my life. It was the first thing I bought for a house I hadn’t seen but had accepted—on faith—I would find.

When the buffet arrived it was wrapped like a newborn babe in swaddling clothes, only this babe was wrapped in layers of bubble wrap. There wasn’t enough room to store it inside my Little House at the ranch, so the cabinet spent the winter on the back porch. Months went by and I hadn’t seen anything except where I’d cut a small slit in the the bubble wrap, taken a peek, then taped it back to protect it from the weather. A year later—when I saw this house—I knew I belonged here… and I knew where to put my cabinet. A lot of effort went into the birthing: making it fit.

First the contractors removed the uninteresting, 1980’s upper and lower built-in cabinets and original tile floor. Then they filled in the the remaining gap in the floor with self-leveling concrete, followed by wood floors that match the rest of the house. My Louis XV Enfilade fit like it was made for this space.

I love the pale, smooth Swedish oak, the round bun feet and the musty smell that’s accumulated over the last 160 years.

Last night I fixed dinner for some girlfriends; the first time I’ve entertained since I moved in. While the fixer upper process is far from over, and the dining room is surrounded with boxes for Goodwill, we used the special plates and glasses from my cabinet. No longer will I save my pretty things for special occasions.

One of the things I learned from James’s unexpected death is that all we’re guaranteed is this moment. What are you saving your good stuff for?


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28 thoughts on “All We’re Guaranteed”

  1. As a young couple, we decided to use our good stuff, instead of saving it for special occasions. It didn’t make sense to not enjoy a drink in a crystal glass, when they are sitting in your cabinet – right there. Many broke over the years, but as it tuned out, I like simpler things now. My china did sit in the cabinet, taken out for special occasions and company. Now, I don’t particular like it. I prefer to use pottery dishes. So, it still sits in a cabinet waiting….

    • How smart of you, Joanna, to have always used your good stuff. I bet you’re in the minority. I can hear so many mothers who raised us with words like, “If you use/wear it every day, you won’t have anything nice when you need it.” Isn’t it interesting how our tastes change? The dining room chairs I’ve had in storage for 10 years are no longer what I want. They’re beautiful but are dark and heavy, and I’d love something lighter and more uplifting… just can’t afford it. Brenda

  2. This doesn’t sound like a wacko to me at all…this sounds like a woman who trusts her intuition and faith in God. It may sound wacko to some because we – and by ‘we’ I mean ‘women’ – are not encouraged to trust ourselves. If anything, we’re advised to do the opposite. I love this story so much and I love how everything has unfolded for you, Brenda. I know it hasn’t been an easy journey but your home looks gorgeous and I did spot a rather special piece in the top right hand corner of the second photograph! My Mother used to keep things for best and I was always petrified of breaking something that had been deemed ‘special’. One day she suddenly decided that all those special things should be used on a daily basis. I don’t know why the sudden change of heart but I do know it had an effect on me and that both David and I get a lot of joy out of using our best things day-to-day. When we start to treat ourselves like precious guests at our own table, beautiful things happen. Much love, Essie. xx

    • Your the wise one in this relationship, Essie! The way you’re approaching your weight and that you recognize that you and David are the most precious people in your home! Yes… That’s the piece I bought and had shipped from France! Would love to do that again, or maybe come to London and spend more time with you! Love, Brenda

  3. Good for you. Change is hard especially when mourning the loss of your life partner. As for using the good stuff, I so agree. I had 22 for Thanksgiving and no I do not have that many china plates, but I borrowed from my sister. No one noticed that they didn’t match. A good friend posted a Thanksgiving shot in her beautiful diningroom with her lovely family eating on paper plates. I just wanted to shout at her. “What are your good dishes for”?

    • Paper plates… How sad. I imagine she thought cleanup would be easier, but she missed the point of “Thanksgiving” and giving thanks, and it starts with the blessings–yes and good dishes–we’ve been given and the people who have joined us at our table. They don’t come because your dishes match. They come in gratitude of your love and hospitality. Love your story. Thank you! Brenda

  4. Such a sweet story! Thank you for reminding me that I shouldn’t save my “good stuff” for special occasions, and that this moment and day are a true blessing! xoxo

  5. How I love your posts. Even the simplest of things have meaning and a story. Can’t wait to learn more of your new home and life!

    • Sweet Holly! Your comment is the best thing that’s happened to me today! Thank you! I’m happy my words resonate with you and that you’ve taken the time to tell me that. How special. xoxox, Brenda

  6. Love this and you don’t sound wacko at all! So happy for you! Inspiring to see how God has blessed you as you’ve followed and obeyed. Enjoy! I saved the grocery store china my mom got me one Easter for years, but gratefully realized how precious my family is and wanted to treat them that way by using the special stuff daily. Still enjoy it every day.

  7. I’m in total agreement, Brenda. Why save things for ‘good’, whatever that might be. We inherited my in-law’s china but, it really wasn’t my style and did nothing but take up space in a buffet. So, we gave all of their china and crystal to our oldest son and, I’m happy to say, they use it fairly regularly. Who knows, maybe our grandkids will get our crystal and ‘good china’ when we’re gone. I believe whatever you use and enjoy is the good stuff.
    The buffet is gorgeous!

    • What we should all wish for is that someone else appreciates our things as much as we do, so giving it to someone who does, honors your in-laws. I’m happy you have some things you love as well, Barbara. My buffet… wish we had smell-o-gram. It smells of years of use…. Really wish we had a time machine so I could see everyone who’s owned it. xoxox, Brenda

  8. Years ago I heard the sad story of a woman who died. As her family was gathering clothes to take to the mortuary, they found, in her bottom drawer, a gown, still boxed and wrapped in tissue. A gown she had saved for years for ‘sometime special’. That sometime special turned out to be her funeral. I determined then I would use my ‘something specials’ all the time. What could be more special than RIGHT NOW?! I use my grandmother’s china for all holidays. And at other times as well. Even the little kids use the small, matching plates. We’ve broken one, but we USE THEM!
    I love this story. I love your sweet cabinet. I love that you are using your special things for all your daily special moments!

    • If we and our family aren’t deserving of the good stuff, then who is? Your story is sad, indeed, but don’t you think we’d find a lot of stories just like that? I think it was the generation. They had less so they held onto it for fear their few nice things wouldn’t be nice anymore. An older friend of mine was buried in her fancy dress… It looked brand new, and I always wanted to ask her family if she’d ever worn it before? xoxox, Brenda

  9. Love this and so true, can be over in the blink of an eye….we need to wear the closes we are saving for the social occasion and use the dishes in boxes in the attic.

    • Hi Renee! Are you my friend, Renee, in Boerne? If so, we know about life being over in the blink of an eye. I hope this is a blessed year for both of us. xoxox, Brenda

  10. I’ll agree with everyone else that you are wise. I love their comments – especially the anecdote about the paper plates. Such a pet peeve of mine! Anyway, it’s fun watching the progress in your new home. It is coming along so nicely as it takes on your DNA.

  11. Love it. Life is short. We should all use the good stuff. What a beautiful piece you’ve found. It’s perfect in your new space. xo

    • After I bought it, some people wondered why I didn’t wait for the house and THEN buy a piece I knew would fit. It was something that was hard to explain, but my friend, Cindy, was right. It was my way of reaffirming that I was moving forward with my life. Hope your honeymoon was fabulous! xoxo, Brenda

  12. I love the new/old piece, Brenda! There must be some sort of cross-signaling in the atmosphere as I just recently purchased an old pine buffet to serve as a bedroom cabinet from Sweden. I love the new kitchen!

    • Don’t you find there’s something meaningful in an old piece, even one that’s not been in our family, as opposed to something brand new? I hope you love your buffet as much as I love mine. Thanks, Deborah! Brenda

  13. It’s a lovely piece! I have silver trays as condiment trays or holding the drip coffee makers and even under a potted plant. I agree, life is short, use the good china!

    • Thank you, Haralee! Silver trays under the coffee maker… I’m going to do that. Love it! …AND a potted plant? That is “living large,” girlfriend. Love them both. I think it’s significant that so many of in our age group feel the same way. xoxox, Brenda

  14. I love it! You know it’s funny, but that is that attitude I’ve had since we moved into our new house in November. I feel like I’m finally in the right place at the right time and I want to celebrate that. No more keeping the things I love packed up. I broke out the good china that I hadn’t used in years this year for the holidays and it made the meal so much more. It’s about putting your own stamp on the life you want to live. Today is all we are guaranteed so we had better make the most of it!

    • You’re so right, Rena! It has something to do with this stage of our lives, plus we’re so different from our mothers and grandmothers, who would keep the good things just for company. What are we doing if it’s not living the life we want… as best we can? It is a way of putting our stamp… our style on our lives. I say brava to all of us who are enjoying where we are at this time in our lives. It’s not perfect, for any of us, but by golly, we’ve made it this far, so let’s be kind to ourselves. Love it when you stop by! xoxox, Brenda

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