It has been a long time since I’ve allowed myself to refresh my environment. As a habit, I’ve always discounted things like wall colors, furniture styles and other decorative touches. I was raised in a world where only the vain and shallow concerned themselves with such things.
I didn’t understand until recently how deeply that was embedded within my soul, but as I painted on Katie’s room the programming surfaced:
What a waste of money, my inner voice complained. And for what, so you can have a pretty little house and be a snob? Who doyou think you are?
I couldn’t determine if the deep-seated emotions surrounding the thought of fixing up my home were based upon a poor self-image or some sort of reversed snobbery, but I could tell that they were very strong, strong enough that I took a break for several weeks in an attempt to sort them.
Where did these emotions come from? What makes them so powerful? And just how much have these emotions influenced me over the years? Would my life be better if I eliminated them?
I decided to find out. As I worked on that room, I allowed my mind to drift, to think and remember as I worked.
I wanted to associate the process of making my corner of the world beautiful with happiness, so I insisted upon tinkering upon it only when in a pleasant mood. I would turn on music that I loved to accompany the task and stop the moment that it felt like drudgery.
To my surprise, I then completed the room in short order.
I have learned something about myself as I completed this project. I didn’t avoid painting and decorating to save money, but because I internalized the impression that it was a bad thing to want to improve your living area.
I am going to rid myself of that notion. In order to do that, I’ve set myself the intention of painting this entire house and organizing it until I consider it beautiful.
Have you ever began a project only to discover that you’ve internalized negative emotions or thoughts about the process? Please share your stories in the comments below.
This is why I dropped offline for a few months. I wanted to spend every last moment with my baby. This was my last chance to make memories with her, memories of her being my baby girl instead of my married daughter.
I did just that.
We’ve been joined at the hip these past few months, my Katie and I. We did everything together. We even got a job together, on the exact same shift, so we could pick on each other as we passed the other’s station.
I have no regrets for taking these last few months and devoting them exclusively to my daughter. I have no regrets about dropping offline and focusing upon my life here in the world. I have had one goal these past years, and that goal was to be the best mother I could be.
I did everything in my power to make that goal a reality. And, if the last conversations I had with my daughter are any clue, I succeeded. I believe I even imparted the importance of being a loving parent, a parent who chooses family over the pursuit of money or other goals to my daughter, since she shared with me her personal thoughts and concerns about raising her children in the future.
But now that time is over. My Katie is grown. She moved out, and is on her way to starting her new life as a married woman.
Society doesn’t guide us when it comes to life after parenthood. It seems that we’re to grow up, get a job, find the spouse, raise the kids, then fade into the sunset, visited only on holidays or whatever the kids find convenient. We are to wait until we qualify to enter a nursing home, go there, and wait to die.
I say fuck that shit.
It’s time for me to start a new adventure.
I don’t know what I’ll end up doing, but if you think I’m going to allow myself to wallow in loss and self-pity you are wrong. The best cure for sadness is action, so I intend to keep busy until the shock wears off. Somewhere in the busyness I’ll figure out what to do next.
My very first step is reclaiming the bedroom. I’ve not had a bedroom in a decade now; while I hadn’t planned to stay in this tiny house for quite this long, I did, so now, for the first time in a long time, I’ve gotten an empty room in which I can dedicate to sleeping.
I didn’t allow myself to dwell upon the shock of seeing that empty room, of seeing the little things my baby decided to leave behind. Instead, I started cleaning. I gave that room a good scrubbing, called a friend, and asked for a ride to the store. Since fresh starts and new adventures don’t happen every day, I didn’t even look at the prices as I purchased the supplies to paint that little bedroom. I even treated myself to a new lava lamp in my favorite color (red) for when I’m ready to move in.
I stayed up incredibly late patching the damage that only a kid can do as I laughed. I’d not realized one child could create so much work, but she has lived in that room for a decade now. To my surprise, I found spots on the walls from before we moved in. I hadn’t paid attention when I rented the place. That room was to be my Katie’s room so I’d barely glanced at it, and I’ve barely stepped foot in there until now.
Today I intend to sand the spots and start painting. I picked white, plain white for the walls and ceiling in order to give myself a blank slate with which to work. I don’t know who I will become on this next adventure so that seemed the safest choice. I did select a different color to paint the floor, a dark barn red that will cover the paint splatters and abuse that poor floor has suffered from well before I ever thought of living here. I had to choose between white, gray, or the red; red seems to suit my mood the best at the moment.
We each of us live through different eras as we journey through our lives. We’re a child, a student, a youth, a spouse (sometimes), a parent, and then…
…and then the door is wide open to create a new era, and era that can be anything we choose it to be.
Once I finish this post I intend to eat breakfast and get back to work. This is my day off, so I want to get as much done as I can today.
I’ll write more later.
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“If you want the things in your life to change, you’ve got to change the things in your life.”
The above quote resonated with me when I stumbled upon it several years ago. I’d always told myself that I’d make the big changes to my home and my life after I’d achieved financial freedom but after hearing those words I realized that there were some things that I could change while I waited.
So I did.
I’ve written on this website about some of the changes, about how I’d decided to experiment with the Diderot Effect, to see what it would accomplish. One of the things I allowed myself to do was to spend more money than old me would even consider to acquire the items that I really wanted instead of things that would just get me by.
I’d forgotten about that decision until recently. The changes I’d made were so subtle that they weren’t noticeable. Investing in a higher quality pen instead of using a cheap freebie, buying a large computer monitor when I found one on sale instead of making do with the small one I had, treating myself to a video game that I loved instead of doing without. Even the act of allowing myself to embrace the small television that my daughter had gifted me instead of insisting that I didn’t need it was an action inspired by that quote.
If you want the things in your life to change, you’ve got to change the things in your life. If you want a simpler, cleaner home, instead of telling yourself that you’ll do something with the next move or when you can afford the fancy storage system, start cleaning up your house now.
If you have a choice between buying an item now that’s cheap and saving up to buy the one that you really want, save up the money. The act of delaying the purchase not only makes the acquisition more delightful, you get what you want instead of just making do.
This is a big thing, much bigger than I’d realized. Just a series of tiny changes can completely change your life in time and you won’t even notice.
Since I made my initial decision to upgrade the things in my life so many little things have changed that I find it hard to recognize the person I was back when I started. I suspect the same will happen to you if you allow yourself to start making tiny changes as well.
As for the reward I’d promised myself, instead of focusing on acquiring things, I’ve decided to focus upon how I want the home to feel instead. I want a wave of tranquility flow over anyone who enters this home so I am in search of the right paint color and physical arrangement to make it happen.
Even this early in the process, I can already tell a difference.
I’ll share photos once this project looks a bit more finished but to my surprise, we don’t have near as much to do or acquire as I expected thanks to the tiny changes I’ve allowed myself over the years. Never did I dream that such small changes could make such a large difference.
Have you ever looked back on your life and realized that the tiniest changes made the biggest difference? Please share your stories in the comments below.
If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media? Thanks!
I didn’t even know my mother was working on a quilt back then, but one day I arrived home from school to discover it upon my bed.
It was her very first quilt, and she’d made it for me.
I’ve cherished that quilt over the years. Even as it became tattered, I kept it. Eventually the holes from where I’d cut it during my childhood (and my children had repeated my childish mistakes) became unsightly, especially when combined with the decaying threads of her stitching, so I placed it in a box and stored it away.
People told me to throw the quilt away. One person offered to buy me a new bedspread if I would toss that old quilt, but I refused. It was a piece of my Mama, and my Mama died when I was 22. I don’t have much left that belonged to her, and this particular quilt was priceless to me.
“Hey. Mom, look what I found!” Katie held the quilt up in her arms when she stumbled upon it’s hiding place. “It’s getting in sad shape,” she noted as she inspected the damage.
I’m a different person now from the woman who stored it away. Old me would have never even considered it, but as I held that ancient quilt in my hands I decided to repair it. I would openly display the repairs, just to show the world that I loved my mother enough to fight to keep a piece of her in my life.
So that’s what I did.
I selected bright, colorful pieces of fabric from my stash and went to work. I worked on it during the evenings when I was too tired to think of sewing masks. Some nights I hand-stitched the patches in place using Sashiko-inspired stitching, other nights I patched it with the sewing machine.
As I worked, I grew more in awe of the love my mother put into making that quilt, her very first quilt. She must have had trouble assembling it, because some of the machine stitching had been whip-stitched back together by hand. She’d apparently tried to hand-quilt it, gave up, attempted to machine quilt it, and repeated the process until she finally finished.
And on top of all of that she’d embroidered the flowers of the months upon the blocks, placed the flower representing my birth month in the center, and added my name and birth date to it.
Most of that stitching is gone now, but I can still see it in my memories.
I ended up re-quilting it because the thread she’d used to quilt it had disintegrated. I deliberately used black thread to contrast with her white so that I could see where hers ended and mine began.
I finished it tonight. As an added touch, I appliqued the G.I. Joe doll pants to the month of January, the month when he was born.
I am quite pleased with how it turned out. In time, I will learn a bit of embroidery so that I can add the names and birth dates of my parents, my children, and grandchildren to the relevant blocks. This will allow the quilt to become a family keepsake for when I leave this earth.
We’ve become so conditioned that we don’t think about repairing old things anymore. We use them up, toss them away, forgetting the memories associated with them. “If it’s old, it’s no good,” so many believe.
I disagree. I believe that age makes things worth more than the modern, heartless, disposable alternatives our society has embraced. And when something is created by hand, it comes from the heart, and this alone makes it priceless.
Have you ever considered repairing a piece of your history? Please share your stories in the comments below.
Christmas dawned bright and early in the Brewer household. Katie had been sad since it was the first Christmas since her father had passed so I wanted to make it memorable. We invited a few friends to come visit with us so it was time to start cooking!
It is amazing what you can whip up using a toaster oven, a microwave, and a hot plate. The evening before, Katie made a white chocolate and Macadamia nut Christmas cookie. She ran to the store as it cooled, daring me to touch it, so guess what I did?
I took this photo and sent it to her:
The next day we set to work. Two Cornish hens, a bunch of Deviled eggs, and assorted sides later we ended up with our Christmas feast.
Assisted by our friends, we ate ourselves into a food coma by evening’s end as we listened to the Christmas music I splurged on for the event. To my delight, we had just enough room in our tiny fridge to store the remaining leftovers for the evening. Dishes were left until the next morning.
At one point, my childhood friend and I started discussing the artwork we’d made in the past. She mourned the fact that she no longer possessed any of the pictures she’d drawn as a child. With a smile, I ordered them to stand up and help me scoot the kitchen table to the center of the room. They watched me curiously as I tugged down the attic ladder and climbed up to retrieve a large tote. I’d saved a sketch she’d given me when we were kids. The expression on her face was priceless. I wanted to take a photo but she’s a bit camera shy, especially where my blog is concerned.
I became lost in memories as I went through the photos. I stumbled upon an old 8×10 that we’d had professionally taken years before Katie was even born. It was the best photo I’d ever seen taken of my ex-husband, so I gave it to Katie for her memories.
I retrieved a number of the photos, filling what frames I’d collected over the past few weeks and sticking them up on my walls. With the next round of frames I purchase I intend to start filling the walls in my kitchen. Here is the current layout:
Ignore the notes on the wall. As I read books late at night, I write down important things to store them until I transfer them into a notebook. If I pull them down before I transcribe them, I’ll misplace them. I don’t have many photos of my mother (she detested photos), but I intend to frame several photos that I have of her as time goes on. I have one gorgeous black and white photo of Mom in her youth that I may get enlarged into an 8×10 when I’m ready to make an honor wall for her.
Before it’s all done my home will be filled with my little treasures. My walls will be filled with photos of memories and people I’ve loved, my shelves will be filled with books, and my windows will be overflowing with plants. I can see my future home already; it will essentially be a giant library. I’ll have an old stereo, one with an old record player and old albums that I acquire here and there. I’ll have older radios, older clocks, and whatever older technology that I want to preserve. My furniture and appliances will be a mix of antique and modern. I am hoping to acquire a home with a large dining room that I can line with shelves from floor to ceiling to fill with books. In one corner will be a reading nook and the dining room table will be a place for me to spread out my research as I write my future books except on the random occasions when I invite friends over to entertain.
This house will be my haven.
It feels so good to finally be able to close my eyes and see where I’m going. It feels so good to be able to make small steps where I am, using the few things I already have.
And it felt like heaven to make yet another memory with my beloved Katie before she leaves the nest.
I am luckier than I ever imagined.
What memories did you make over the Christmas holiday? Please share your stories in the comments below.
My dad kept a magic box filled with memories from his life. He rarely opened it; I didn’t have a chance to really look through it until after his death. I’ve kept the contents undisturbed, looking through them whenever I felt myself missing him.
The inner dialogue with my future self caused me to realize that his memory should be cherished, honored in some way so that I could have him close by. I’ve always admired homes with their memories displayed; they seemed to hold a window into the soul of the person who displayed them yet I’d not gathered the courage to do the same.
I’ve decided to change that.
I gathered up the small collection of photo frames I’d used to display pithy sayings and decided to put them to a real use. Instead of simple decorations, they are now a window to my past. I may not be ready to truly decorate until the kid moves out and I properly rearrange things but it would be a start.
The first thing I did was decide to honor my dad.
I opened his box, admiring the photos he’d collected back during his Army days, selected some from his Airborne training in Fort Benning, Georgia and mounted them near my bed. I didn’t have enough frames (or the proper size) but I had enough for a small start. I’ll add more photos to the montage as money allows.
It will take a bit of time to get the placement absolutely correct; I’ll doubtless move them once the kid moves out and I rearrange but for now I can snuggle up at night with him close.
Dad would probably shake his head at my sentimentality.
In time I intend to dig through my memories and fill this old house. I want to honor the past even as I focus on the future. We can’t know where we’re going unless we remember where we’ve been.
Have you ever honored the memory of the past in a similar manner? Please share your stories in the comments below.
I have finally gotten unpacked enough to show the world my living room at least. I love the simplicity of the space!
You can tell the wallpaper in the kitchen needs replacing, it looks horrible, but for the price I paid for this place, I am definitely not complaining!
The goldfishies are by the front door, so unless you are first coming into the home, you won’t really see them. The bookshelf is by the little bar area, but I don’t have any stools yet. Over on the right is an old coffee table from my childhood – not sure where to put it, cause it didn’t look right by the seats, and I really don’t want to store it…
I’ll post some more pictures of my home as I take them…