Day 9

Several years ago I became acquainted with the idea that “you fill up the space you have.” If you have a small space, you will accumulate stuff to fill it until it is slightly over max capacity and then you’ll either throw away some stuff or stop accumulating. Having that small space you might not be able to conceive of needing more stuff, but as soon as your space gets bigger you’ll start accumulating again.

So I think it’s been good for my family to downsize for a season.  I sorted through the bathroom cabinet yesterday to make room for some displaced cleaning supplies and, in doing so, I found two tubes of toothpaste still in their boxes. This was annoying because I had just bought new toothpaste two days before. If I hadn’t been forced to find space I would probably continue to buy toothpaste until the whole cabinet was full.

The old saying goes “waste not, want not.” Growing up on well water, I developed a habit of letting the water run for a bit to make sure it was clear before filling up my glass.  But now that all the drinking water we have is the 3 gallon dispenser in the fridge, it makes me convicted that water is precious and that not a drop should be wasted. The same goes for food and eating everything on my plate. The same goes for electricity now that we have fewer outlets and keep blowing fuzes. The same goes with time now that the chores are taking longer.

I’ve always seen these things as precious, but when we had running water and time-saving machines and a whole fridge to store food in, I’ll be honest and say that I was getting pretty lazy about how I stewarded my habits. We fill up the space that we have. Whether that space is measured in liters, inches, or seconds, it slips away faster than we realize and then the whole world feels the loss.

I know I will start accumulating again once the plastic wall comes down and I have a kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room to furnish. I don’t want to beat myself up about that because good stewardship is caring for and cultivating the things that you have, and that includes hand towels. But I do want to remember the lessons in preciousness that I’m learning from downsizing. (And maybe I’ll keep the 3 gallon water dispenser in the fridge, just because.)

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Day 8 (or 7 continued)

Yesterday was a day off (our family is taking Friday/Saturday as our weekend this year) and the kids let me spend the afternoon looking through magazines. I have a stack about 16 inches tall of travel magazines (“Sunset” and “AFAR”) and Anthropologie, Target, and IKEA catalogues. It’s totally a guilty pleasure, but I spent the first few minutes pointing out all the cozy blankets and thick, fuzzy rugs to Rosey who oohed and aahed at all the right times.

Cabinet knobs, kitchen counters, wallpaper prints, flooring textures: I’m in deep and I love it all. I spent a couple hours doggy-earing pages while the kids played and my husband went to the gym (a very perfect family picture that’ll probably never happen again) and it was a delightful way to spend an afternoon off.

Now, I know that I could collect and collate renovation ideas online and get a much better end product, with more places to draw from more efficiently and a more compact system for sharing later, but there’s something about the older, analog, tangible and tactile medium that makes my afternoon search a luxury instead of a task. My hunch is that the something has to do with finiteness.

There are times when we are attracted to things with limitations. The charm of reading a book instead of the internet is that I can actually complete a book – there’s a first page and a last page instead of the endless link after link. As human beings we experience seasons (fall, winter, spring, and summer as well as childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and retirement) and our schedules revolve around activities with a beginning date and end date (college classes, sports teams, swim lessons, book clubs, etc.). This is helpful to us. It helps us set and meet expectations. It helps us assess ourselves. It helps us rest from both success and failure, the growth and the decay of our lives. After all, to be human, to be mortal, is to be finite, to have a time to live and a time to die.

So I’m grateful for the time to sit and be and enjoy, because it punctuates a busy work week and reminds me that “yes, this too shall pass,” all things must come to an end. (And then it’s time for cake.)

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Apparently my kids think we need to redo the living room as well. (Augie’s under  the table.)

Days 6 & 7

Whew! Yesterday was quite a day. I spent 9am – 1pm building the website for The Mill Open Sanctuary, a contemplative prayer space opening in Bristol. Then 1pm – 5pm was spend redoing the website for Redemption Church now that the location has changed. And then (after cooking dinner and putting the kids to bed) 8pm to well past midnight was spent designing advertisements and editing podcasts for my actual employer. Needless to say I had no time to blog.

My days aren’t usually like that, and I’m thankful because I’d be a terrible freelancer. Having multiple bosses expecting huge chunks of my time is too stressful.

And then I remember that that’s what it’s like to be a contractor. So thanks, David Kern, for putting up with all of your clients/bosses. It takes a special kind of person to do what you do and do it so well.

(The ceiling is down.)

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Day 5

Yesterday I met one of the guys who works for our contractor. Abraham. He was so sweet!

Meeting him at the end of the day was funny to me because we had been working next to each other for hours, separated by a wall of plastic, him sawing chunks out of our floor and me designing and addressing invitations to my kids’ joint birthday party. He listened to music all day, at a quiet and respectful volume, but it was loud enough for me to notice and enjoy his eclectic taste.

As the day went on, though, I started to feel bad because my side of the plastic was air-conditioned while his was not, and my work was physically easy while his was not. I wondered several times whether I could or should (or whether it would even be helpful to) bring him refreshment of some sort. Since I was wearing a dress, the scene in my head became very 1950s picturesque as I handed him a glass of lemonade, and then picturesque turned awkward because I’m especially bad at small talk even in my imaginary scenes.

So I didn’t say hi through the plastic and I didn’t make any lemonade. When I got done with my work I went on a walk. Then I ran into Abraham as he was leaving for the day, and his young face (younger than I’d expected from anyone with that name) smiled wide as he opened the gate for me. I said thank you and we both went our separate ways, and I wondered whether he assumed I was a friend of the people who own this strange house or whether he knew that I had been his silent companion.

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Day 4

With Labor Day over, the contractors are back to work – ripping up the floors, I think. (They’ve already taken away at least 3 loads of debris from this project. Whew!)

I have a shirt with the word “EMPOWERED” on the front. I feel like I should wear it today in honor of my daughter’s first day of preschool. Rosey’s a brave girl. She protects her big brother from monsters in the dark of night. And, buckling her own seat belt on her first drive to her first day of formal education, she was all smiles, not a worry in the world. Which is fine because I was doing all the worrying for her.

When Augie went off on his first day of preschool I couldn’t wait to get rid of him. I feel guilty about that fact. It wasn’t his fault, I just still hadn’t come to grips with my life as PARENT and the lack of change-the-world-ness (and glory) it entails. I was still in denial, refusing to accept that being a mom was my identifying purpose at the moment, and refusing to accept that embracing it could ever be a good thing. I am not in the same place now (thank you, Jesus) but that causes other pain: it makes me ache for my snuggly daughter to be back in my arms at the end of today, and it makes me mourn the time I wasted not feeling that way about my son.

will have you know that the first couple years of learning to parent weren’t all bad, even if I was being a butt. The contractors ripping up the floors today reminds me of one of my favorite memories…

We are at our previous house, Augie and I, sitting on the kitchen floor eating yogurt out of the carton, sharing a big spoon. Augie is probably 18 months old, with blond wispy hair still and those big gorgeous blue eyes, and lots of giggles ensue as we share the spoon back and forth at our own private party.

I look forward to remaking that memory in this house when our new floors get done.

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