these ordinary things: for granted

Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.

DSC02879We have a portable dishwasher.  The kind you wheel over to the sink and hook up to the faucet.  It reminds me of the one my grandmother had when I was girl.  I used to watch her in the sliver of light that poured into my room between the wall and the door that never shut properly. Rolling the ancient heavy machine over to the sink.  Running the water until it was hot.  After she left the kitchen to watch Wheel of Fortune, I’d fall asleep to the rhythmic white noise of the turning jets.

We’ve only had our dishwasher for about a year, but as you might imagine, I forgot what life was like without it fairly quickly.  So when the plug began smelling distinctly of burning plastic mid-cycle on Saturday, I panicked.  I suddenly remembered that I used to spent an hour at the sink after the kids were in bed, washing away the last artifacts of our family meals.  These days, I look back upon the day while my hands are at the sewing machine or steadily clicking a pair of needles together.  After a few deep breaths and a reminder to myself that we were quite capable of surviving a few days without a dishwasher, gratitude overcame panic.

Day after day, sometimes even twice, we load this machine, run it, empty it.  In between we walk away and get covered in mud up to our knees, pick flowers for the nature table, climb into the tree house, fight over this and make up over that.  Those moments of life we would not have without technology.

Sometimes I think taking things for granted is an act of self preservation.  If we were conscious and grateful for everything, every moment of every day, we’d be exhausted.  So the brain forgets what need not be attended to.  That is, until, practical life offers us a little reminder of the forgotten things.  And it never stops at the dishwasher.  For a moment, all of it rushes back into consciousness.  There used to be a patch of dirt where the spring bulbs are turning the earth yellow and purple.  After several eggless months, I collected 10 today, 100 ft from neighbors who have embraced a suburban rooster.  Two and a half years ago we paid a dollar for our 1983 Volvo, and it’s still getting us where we need to go.  Grandma and Grandpa live 14 blocks away.  It’s a 20 minute drive to Nana’s house.  And, someone, somewhere, invented Skype so that the kids can take Grampy on a tour of their projects once a week.  If I endeavored to count the number of people who have taken an active role in loving our children, I’d need all of the hands in our family.

We replaced the plug today, ran the water until it was hot, started the first of many catch up cycles, and stopped thinking about the dishwasher.  I hope we won’t have to think about it again for a while.  Instead I’m going out to cut daffodils for the nature table, and be grateful for the return of spring.

these ordinary things: compromise

Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.

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I started packing up the cloth diapers yesterday.  Mind you, we’re not marking the end of diapers around here.  No, in place of cloth is an entire case of Costco disposables.  They infiltrated the changing table last April when Opal was in the hospital with pneumonia, and despite my eviction notices, they haven’t budged.  Last week I started making plans for Opal’s birthday, and I realized that I’ve been carrying this idea around in the back of my mind that we’d start using cloth again as soon as was practically possible.  An entire year of carrying around the guilt that accompanies falling short of an ideal.  Well, I decided that was just about enough of that.

How easy it is to be held captive by an ideal.  To forget that human beings are the fulcrum between idealism and practicality.  That compromise allows us to accept what is possible without abandoning what is perfect.  That the dust is on the baseboards because we read the last chapter of Wind in the Willows last night for the 30th time. That the non-organic, I-can-barely-even-bring-myself-to-read-the-ingredients-on-the-box cereal on our breakfast table means our family can still afford to have a stay at home parent.  And that, when my child walks up to me with that twinkle in his eye and a magical pine cone, I’m not using half of my brain to worry about that diaper in the landfill.

these ordinary things: a few words

Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.

Gilbert lives down the street from us.  His house is old and needs a lot of work.  The kind of work that accumulates when the owner gathers years and the house gathers plumber’s tape and patched roof and cracked cement front steps.  This old house is an important landmark for the children.  It’s as far as you’re allowed to go when you’re riding bikes before you have to turn around.

Gilbert walks by our house twice a day on his way to and from the bus stop.  Our paths cross sometimes when he is returning home and the kids are racing up and down the street.  He always has something exciting to share with us.  Last week he told me he had finally had his kidney transplant and that they had stapled his incisions shut, so he was moving slowly to protect them.  All in all, he was relieved that the operation was behind him.  Then he told me again about the two motorcycles that he owns, and how much he loves them.  At least, I think this is what he told me.  You see, Gilbert is deaf and he does not speak.  He does not sign, but I think he reads lips a little bit. He vocalizes when he gets excited–an unschooled wobbling utterance of the voice that will not be denied it’s purpose in the universe.

In this case we knew Gilbert was waiting for a kidney because his niece told us, but usually, there is a lot left to mystery when our chats are over. I listen as best I can, and I speak slowly and clearly, and at some point I realize I am using too many words again.  I like words.  I like the way they show the world a little bit, and sometimes too much of who we are.  I’d like to use them all at once, all the time, but at some point in my chat with Gilbert, he always reminds me of what can be exchanged with only the few most necessary words.  These few words and a heart that is interested.  These few words and devoted attention to the person on the other side of the conversation.  A few little words about motorcycles that really mean “I’m glad you’re my neighbor,” and “your well-being is important to me,” and “thank you for seeing me even though I’m different.”

After Gilbert shakes my hand side to side, not up and down, he walks back down the road to his old house.  Mattheus looks at me and says, “Mama, does Gilbert still have two motorcycles?”  I wade through the words in my head.  About his new kidney and his stapled stitches.  About those beloved motorcycles that he can’t even drive.  About my frustration that we live in a world where a person who is deaf makes it to late middle age without ever having learned to sign.  Thanks to Gilbert, I find the few words that say enough.  “Yes, Mattheus, he does, and they make him very happy.”

 

these ordinary things: mending

Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.

(Oh, my.  Perhaps I am not the only one who makes a habit of misplacing the camera, or the battery, or the charger or some combination of all three?  I should really keep it all in one special spot.  Of course if I could manage that, I probably would not be prone to misplacing things in the first place.  Ah, well.  Better a day late and missing photographs than not at all. But enough of that.)

I pulled out the mending basket last week.  I really do enjoy mending once I get over the hump of getting started.  Perhaps it’s human nature to be filled up with energy to create, and have to pull upon will when new creations becomes old enough to need maintaining.  But, once the will is engaged, I always remember how satisfying it is to pass quickly from one item to the next–most of which only need a few simple stitches or moments of darning.  I laugh at myself sometimes, patching and sewing the kids clothes, most of which were thrift store finds or hand-me-downs.  It would take less time and money to replace them.  And yet, whenever possible, I choose to mend rather than replace.  All things break sooner or later.  Water pipes, bicycles, tree branches, bones.  And hearts.  Very occasionally, they cannot be patched up.  But more often than not, there is a road to recovery, and I need my children to see this very simple example of a big truth.

Many years ago, I heard a This I Believe essay by Vermont minister Susan Cooke Kitteradge, entitled “We All Need Mending.”  She expresses how I feel about mending so well, it would do injustice to her words by translating them.  So, I hope you’ll follow the link and listen yourself!

“Mending something is different from fixing it. Fixing it suggests that evidence of the problem will disappear. I see mending as a preservation of history and a proclamation of hope. When we mend broken relationships, we realize that we’re better together than apart, and perhaps even stronger for the rip and the repair….

…Mending doesn’t say, “This never happened.” It says instead, as I believe the Christian cross does, “Something or someone was surely broken here, but with God’s grace it will rise to new life.” So too my old pajamas, the fence around the garden, the friendship torn by misunderstanding, a country being ripped apart by economic and social inequity and a global divide of enormous proportions — they all need mending.  I’m starting with the pajamas.”

 

these ordinary things: guardians of the discarded

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John collects junk.  We have a garaged filled with it.  Bits left along the side of road, in recycling bins, and very occasionally at second hand shops.  In our old neighborhood he walked a mile along an industrial stretch of road to the train station to commute to work.  He would burst in the door at the end of the day with a childlike excitement in his eyes, “look what I found today!”  A bent wire.  A flattened fork.  A mottled wrench.  The orange plastic bit of a blinking construction light.  This kind of interest in seeing the world, in looking closely is contagious, and it was not long before my eyes were scanning the ground as I walked.. Street sweeper bristle.  Rust covered bolt.  Nickle washer.  Folded over metal, green on one side, gold on the other, and from what?

The children are at it too now.  Mattheus, with his love of all things mechanical and eye for beauty, was an easy convert.  Lucien, with his love of all things Mattheus, was not far behind.  And, Opal, well, she gets the gesture of it, collecting plastic bags and bottle caps.  I laughed at myself once when I realized I was judging her collections unworthy of the treasure box in the garage.  Perhaps I just wasn’t looking closely enough.