Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grandmas Chicken Dumplings

My babies have been sick all week.  Yesterday found me at the doctor's office with a crew of kids in various stages of yuckiness while fighting a pretty nasty chest cold of my own. I sat there in the waiting room with arms around babies everywhere kissing and cooing and fussing--trying to get everyone just what they need to feel better as quickly as possible.  Meanwhile I kind of want my mommy too.  Comfort and love and warmth.  I came home and all I could think about was my mother-in-law's chicken and dumplings. I just kind of had to have them.  I don't know how to tell you how these dumpling haunt me, but they are so delicious that I have never quite recovered from our first encounter.

My mother-in-law is a woman with a story. Her roots run deep into Oklahoma and Texas--her parents met somewhere in California while living at a pickin' camp after they had made the trip out west to find a new life. Real Steinbeck kind of stuff.  She raised her own 5 kids on nothing but pennies out in the mountains of Colville, Washington. She loves the idea of living off of the land, she's a world-champion canner and I swear she can make the best home-cooked food out of nothing but flour and water. It's like it's in her spit, it's part of her heritage.

Side note: My fiddling sister-in-law is so inspired by this woman's roots that she's written several songs about it and you can check them out here--she's pretty amazing. My husband has also written songs about it, but this work is harder to find--he's a little shy.  You'll have to be around the family fire to hear those.

So I have attempted these chicken and dumpling many times, but they never turn out quite right.  Mine are like chicken soup, with dumplings. It's good, but it isn't hers. My own mother, God love her, taught me to make food out of cans.  One of our standard meals was canned salmon with peas and apple sauce. Oh and a piece of buttered bread. I thought you made dumplings by opening a can of Pillsbury biscuits and tearing them into the soup. Anyway I keep calling my mother-in-law and just like all of the grandmas you know, she just keeps telling me things like "the key is more fat in the dough", and "you just put some milk, or cream in the broth".  She doesn't know how she does it, she just does it.  Well last night I think I finally got it! I have compiled all of her vague notes and after many attempts think it may have come together. Just as I suspected, the key was to take out all of the fancy stuff and spit in it.  Maybe I've been in the family long enough that it's starting to work for me too. So these dumplings are pure comfort food.  They are the slippery, doughy kind--none of the dry biscuit dumpling for me--and the broth is more like gravy than soup.  And the recipe is like a conversation, it isn't written down, and it shouldn't be.  Like I said, the secret is in the spit.  It's an art, not a science. I'm going to give it to you the way she gave it to me, but hopefully with a few more details. And no pictures. Not everyone can be the Pioneer Woman, and my camera blows.  Plus the light in my house...well there basically isn't any light in my house.

Grandma Mannan's Chicken and Dumplings

  1. Boil your chicken down and take it out of the water (seriously, that's all she gave me--you have to make your own decisions about quantities).
  2. Add a whole carton of chicken broth.  People put carrots and celery and onion in theirs, but not grandma. This was my initial error.  None of that fancy stuff.
  3. Add at least one can of evaporated milk sometimes 2. (apparently you can use cream here as well or milk)
  4. Make the dumpling dough (see below), roll it out, cut it into strips and drop it into the gravy-broth with the meat from the chicken.
  5. Throw in lots of pepper and add salt to taste
  6. Simmer for about an hour until thick and the dumplings are cooked through

Here is the part where you need some specifics and I think I finally got them! The dumplings.

  1. 3 Cups Flour
  2. 2 tsp Baking Powder
  3. 1/2 tsp salt, plus a touch more:)
  4. 1/2  C oil (maybe more--you have to "eye-ball" it until the dough looks crumbly like cutting in butter into pie crust dough)
  5. 1/2 to 3/4 Cup milk.  Pour slowly until you have the dough consistency
These things are gooey and delicious!  If you are looking for comfort food, this is it baby.  It's simple, to the point and gets the job done.  I ate three bowls.  So now I've written it down for myself and lucky you get to have it too.  I hope you try it, and when you do remember that you are not only eating comfort food, but you are taking a bite out of my husband's history. You are tasting a bit of Oklahoma, a bit of California, a touch of the mountains of Eastern Washington, and the bountiful love of a wonderful woman feeding her babies with all she has.  Nothin' but flour and water.

(My sick babies, aren't they sweet?)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tricky Stuff

I remember when we were young and broke and living in Michigan. Jacob was going to school full time by day and then working two jobs by night while I was pregnant and most days walking--yes, sometimes uphill in the snow-- to substitute teach at the local public high schools. Jake would try to do homework when he got home (often from delivering Pizza until 11:00), but he also had to attempt to be available to his lonely, hormonal wife who hadn't seen him or anyone else familiar all day.  When I think about it now, I can't believe we survived. Well, I guess we almost didn't, but that's another story for another day.  Anyway, blah blah background.  So Jake "drove truck" for a lumber yard and most of the time he was delivering lumber to building sites that were muddy and snowy and on unpaved roads and, you know, tough conditions.  He had to become skilled at what is apparently called a Boom Truck.  I am ashamed to say, I have no idea what a boom truck looks like or even really what it does, but I gather that it was important. One day Jake came home from work and he was leaning against the counter and he had this cute little pleased look on his face.  I could tell he had something to say and was searching for the right words.  He finally just chuckled and said "babe...I do tricky stuff at work." It has become family lore. It was perfect.  I still laugh when I think of it.  He felt silly telling me, because in the broad scheme of things, who would notice or care, but he had apparently become very good at it, and the guys in the field respected him and tipped their hats to him and he just wanted me to know that.  To be a part of seeing what he did and what his work amounted to.

Isn't that what we all want, really?  To be recognized for our contribution? I went online the other day and Googled my blog.  I did!  I wondered if it would come up.  What I found was twofold.  1) My blog does not come up. And 2) their are simply 1,000,000 results that say "I'm NOT just a housewife".  So many women just like me trying to justify what they do and what they're worth. Trying to distance themselves from an idea that they feel has become synonymous with an outdated, wasted life. This mommy war between the working mom and the stay-at-home mom is kind of epic. It gets pretty dirty sometimes.  But at it's root, is a nation of women who pour themselves into what they do and want to be noticed, validated and appreciated.

The working moms feel judged and accused of selfishly pursuing themselves while denying their children and destroying the traditional family, while the homemakers feel minimized and patronized for wasting their lives on a mindless job and not making a contribution to the "real world".  Raise your hand if you've felt this and wanted to (or did!) get on your soap box and defend your choice and list (my god the list) all of the things you do in a day.  I sure have. I can chew you up and spit you out if I feel that you are overlooking me and dismissing me because I don't work outside the home.  It's amazing how fast those claws can come out.  

But it got me thinking. What are the chances that an entire person with all of her uniqueness --her experience, her education, her singular gifts and abilities--is not making an incredible impact? Wherever she goes. I have the sum of my whole self to give to what I'm doing.  Of course it's making a difference.  Of course other people who are not investing in the same way are not reaping the same benefits.  Just as I am not reaping the benefits of their investment.  Nothing is wasted,  it all adds up to who I am and it's part of the input. The more I have to give the greater the impact. Whoever you are wherever you go you're all in, and you bring with you the total of your skills and creativity, personality and life experience.  I guarantee its making an impact. A positive one! Everything comes at the expense of something, its just the way life is.  We're limited by humanness and space and time. So no, we don't have everything that our sister has, but what we invest adds up to 100% regardless of where we invest it. Some people say that a career woman is making a greater contribution to her family and the world and some argue the exact same thing for a homemaker. Some say the real champions are the ones who are doing both.  And whether it's at home or out in the workforce, some think the harder you work the greater the reward and some choose to invest more in relationships and get less work done.  But I argue that we all add up to 100% no more, no less.  

In business they call it opportunity cost (see my education being useful?).  We make choices about where we invest based on the return we expect on that investment and we care about different things to different degrees. We have different belief systems that fuel our passions and our choices. But we notice the things we sacrifice in order to make our choice and we're threatened by the woman next to us who's made different choices. We worry that we have not diversified our investment enough or maybe it's too diverse. I promise she's doing the same thing. She is also running a list in her head of all the things she does that validate her life and make her sacrifices count.  I choose this because the investment and the sacrifice is worth the reward.  Isn't that what we do?  No one has it all!  

I wish I could remember every day all of the things we get to enjoy because of the contribution my life is, and then give it freely. With love and confidence.  Instead, what I usually do is look everywhere for validation and then when I don't find it I feel compelled to demand it by pointing out how important my contribution is. And sometimes I even like to point out why it's a better contribution than someone else.  It's very attractive.  People usually respond to that by falling all over themselves to tell me how wonderful I am:)   But the story looks different for everyone. Our lives are a wonderful, original, unique journey that no one else is on in exactly the same way. It's not better or worse, it's marvelously different! And today I am excited to report that I do tricky stuff at work.  And I'm guessing you do too. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Loved and Lost: The Library

I broke up with the library for good.  It's really sad.  Sometimes I remember the wonderful times we had together and I am tempted to call and try to get back together, but then I remember that I don't want to be that girl. A desperate woman who takes abuse and then keeps coming back for more.  I simply refuse to wear the sign that says "kick me, I'm pathetic". 

I owe the library $110.  Not because I ruined the books and have to pay for them, and not because I lost them and never took them back. Because I good and used the library.  I take all four of my children and we all check out books.  We could read things on the computer and download them to our iPad (which we also do), but I wanted them to experience the community, the catalog, the alphabetization by author, the thrill of choosing from hundreds of paper books with bindings that smell like learning and bringing home something hand picked and special.  I loved that stuff and I don't want my kids to be so digitalized that they don't know what it means to sit with a real book and read. So modern that they don't know what the library is. I check out real books for school too, we're a family and a school and there are so many resources right there at our fingertips.  It's amazing.  But when we leave the library we have a lot of books.  If they are late it turns out that it adds up to a lot of dollars.

Now you should know, I am a pretty typical citizen.  I pay my bills when they are due, I let drivers in when they need to change lanes,  I take the empty grocery cart to the cart return, I show up on time for dental appointments.  And I return my library books.  However,  I could never honestly tell you that I have done every one of these things flawlessly 100% of the time.   I have certainly cussed at another driver and sped up,  and I have occasionally left the cart piggy-backing the curb near my car. But for the most part these slip-ups, errors in judgement--these mistakes, result in a fitting consequence.  A guilty twinge in my conscience, or a small late fee. I've had to call the dentist and eat crow--maybe even pay a reasonable fine.  But the punishment for being a good citizen who has made a mistake usually fits the crime. 

The library, however, seems to be out for blood.  And they want you to feel like a second rate citizen.  "We have things in place to help you be more responsible if you'd like". Okay, that's enough infuriating woman with the patronizing smile.  The problem here is not that I am irresponsible and can't remember to be a grown up.  The problem, LADY, is that I have more stuff to keep track of in 12 minutes than you have in three weeks--put together!  I did my make-up while peeing and grading a spelling test this morning.  Did you? When I got in the car to come here, I had my purse, like you probably did. Only I also tracked down all of the socks and shoes in the universe, 5 coats, a bunch of instruments, dance gear for two people, a couple of blankies, snacks for in between errands and appointments, and a few guys and cars in backpacks to keep the boys entertained.  Oh and my patience.  I tried to bring that, but the more we talk the more it's looking like I may have left it in my room under the covers. Actually, I think it went to the gym and is currently imagining your face while working the punching bag.

I called about my fines.  I felt bad they were late, but $110? That just seems unreasonable. The punishment doesn't fit the crime.  It seemed to me that we have one of two problems.  They're either trying to get my money or they want to teach me lessons. If the library needs these fines to stay open, there seems to be a conflict of interest.  They would want us to return books late.  The later, the better.  I was assured, just as I suspected, that the library is a non-profit organization funded by tax dollars. So it must be about making sure the books come back. You know, collateral of sorts.  But in this case, why is there no flexibility once the books are returned? Why insist still that we cut deep into this weeks grocery budget?  Are't we for the children?  Are hungry children good readers? This, it turns out was the reason, but he attempted to comfort me in the knowledge that they would never charge more than the book is worth. They will still take it back, to be sure, and no doubt charge countless other irresponsible citizens for it's worth again and again. Yes, the fine is applied to assure that the book is returned, but as they don't need the funds, make no mistake, it sticks because of the lessons. I think they keep these ill-gotten gains in a jar and use them to throw parties for themselves celebrating how good they are at never forgetting anything. It just seems very librarian-y. Stereotypes come from somewhere, right? 

I just can't guarantee that I will never forget my library due date.  Just like I try really hard to remember the dentist, I make every effort to return books on time.  I also mostly remember to pick my kids up from stuff and to feed them, but everything slips through the cracks sometimes.  At this rate, I literally can't afford the risk of checking out books.  Just like any investment, the risk can't outweigh the reward.  

So it's sad, but in the end we had to go our separate ways.  Eventually, I stopped using Blockbuster Video for the same reason.  Oh, wait...EVERYONE stopped using Blockbuster Video for this reason.  I asked the manager of the Library what he thought of the fact that the community has so much more access to material now with the internet and digital media.  I asked him if he was worried that this type of rigid insistence on the letter of the law would, like Blockbuster, result in the eventual downfall of a beloved institution.  Less kids growing up fondly remembering this time-honored American family tradition. Do you know what he said?  He said, no. Because Blockbuster was a private company and unlike private business, the library is funded by tax dollars and can't fail.  Well watch out Mr. Smarty Pants.  The Postmaster General said the same thing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pop-ins and The Company Path

We've all been there.  You get a call from your friend from church--she's in the neighborhood and wants to swing by.  The right answer, the one you really want to give is "Sure!  What a nice surprise, come on over!".  In reality, you're in your sweats, breakfast dishes everywhere, kids school books all over the table, your bed isn't made and your 4-year-old probably didn't flush the toilet in the guests bathroom. She'll be in here in 20 minutes.  

What do you do?  Take a shower and put on some under eye concealer? Or get a shovel and start clearing out the living room.  And I'm hoping to be done in 15 so I can put on some coffee. We're just hoping to get to a place that isn't gross. GET MOVING! Pop-ins are really not always a blessing, and it's too bad.  I love people and I am incurably social, but those who love me will tell you I am not all together relaxed:) A wise woman once told me this is called a "double bind".  The fun-loving, extrovert never says no to a party, but the order-loving, micro-manager needs time to control the environment. These things are both true about me, so I really need to know that, be that, and set myself up for success. 

My mom is a genius when it comes to being laid back about stuff.  When I was a kid she would always refer to cleaning in one of two ways.  We were either cleaning, or we were just cleaning "the company path". When people were coming over she would get us after the main areas so that the house was presentable but we didn't always have to change out our sheets and scrub the floors in the basement bathroom. She was onto something.  She really taught me by example that you don't have to have a perfect house to have a beautiful home.  She is a wonderful person:) 

What mom didn't do was bins, shelves, and hooks.  So even when she focussed on "the company path" she still had to make decisions.  And in a pinch, when there wasn't time for decisions, she had to settle for tidy piles of things that she didn't have time to put away. Or just say "oh well, I didn't have time" and go with it (which she is much better at than me). This is worth talking about again.  Decision making and house cleaning.
Cleaning day is for busting out chemicals, it should not also be burdened with decision-making... How much time do you spend on cleaning day just trying to figure out where to put stuff?
That's me quoting me.  The ultimate self-indulgence. But hey, I've admitted that I'm writing a blog, so I've obviously gotten over it.  This clearly brilliant idea (that must have come from an incredible mind) is great for The Company Path conversation too. My philosophy about life in general is that we should be 15 minutes away from order at all times. Did I mention that I'm not as easy-going as I may appear?  Of course, this is not possible if you are home all day with a bunch of kids unless you have a strategy.  My strategy is, well, bins, shelves and hooks:) Instead of trying to put everything away that is all over the floor--we have 15 minutes, folks!-- I can shove it into the carefully placed bins or baskets that I selected because they look so pretty with my living room colors.  Instead of trying to figure out where all of these little things should go that are on the counter and the desk, I can use the broad side of my arm to swipe them all into very tidy bins that sit on the shelf or the desk and look charming and coy as they hide my chaos. Instead of folding and putting away the clothes that are thrown on the dressers and at the foot of the bed, I toss them onto the hooks that line the wall behind the door and look effortlessly organized.  "This old room?  Why, I just do this when I don't care how it looks!" 

Anyway, bins shelves and hooks can keep you out of the decision-making weeds when you don't have the time and free you up to spend those precious 15 minutes on the things that can't keep.  Like the bowls of cereal milk (they don't work with bins so much, believe me I've thought about it) and my morning breath.  And also, they are a wonderful addition to my mother's idea that my whole house doesn't need attention right now. My friend from church is unlikely to spend any time in the kids rooms or the basement, or my master bath.  She actually doesn't care what my house looks like at all.  This is for me.  Because I know that uptight me will struggle to enjoy the party that social me craves, if I'm looking around the room that I've spent so much of myself creating and I can't see it over the top of all of the crap.  I know she doesn't care, and I love her for it, but I care.  Instead of wishing I were more like my mom, I just need to know myself and plan accordingly. I can't say no to a pop-in.  I'm way to social.  So, out with decisions and in with bins:).  

Side note: It turns out that I care more about the house than under eye concealer, which may come as a surprise to you if you read my post about the J-Lo Glow. The other day I went to my SIL house to drop my kids off for lessons and both she and my other SIL were looking smashing in their blush and their skin was all aglow and they were truly visions of mommy beauty.  I realized at that moment that make-up hadn't made the cut for me that day, nor the one before. It should be duly noted, that I don't always practice what I preach. I use so much energy preaching that there is not always enough time for practice. I mean there's only so much time in the day.  I'm currently doing this instead of working, teaching, vacuuming, making my bed, taking a shower, going for a run, paying bills, etc.................

Anyhoo, all that being said, if you're in the neighborhood, come on over! Coffee's hot and I'm chill like that. But if you love me, please just give me 15 minutes.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Devil's Guilt

Guilt is from the Devil.  My Daddy always says that.  He's a preacher man.  Guilt is an amazing monster and it terrorizes and destroys us uniquely--it's a special guilt, just for you which is the worst part.  We all respond to it differently and sometimes the people around us can't identify and then we feel super alone.  Exposed, ugly and alone.

Yesterday I got online to shop for shoes and it just pulled me in.  I had like 57,000 pages to look at and I couldn't stop until I'd seen them all.  Meanwhile it was morning and the kids were awake and hungry and I was just sending them to the kitchen to scavenge for stuff--"gets some dry cereal, there's Cheese-Its already open, have a pear".  I wanted to stop and be a mom, but not really. I wanted to want to, but mostly I wanted them to go away so I could have a lazy Sunday morning with my coffee and no jobs.

I was remembering how this kind of scenario used to look.  Back in the day when I had only two kids I was seriously struggling. Two kids was enough to start upsetting the balance when daddy wasn't home and that's when I really started realizing how much time I had been enjoying for myself.  I found myself feeling so resentful about all of the needs--the constant needs.  Baby is awake and it's 4:00am, baby is poopy and my eyes aren't even open (I mean what a way to wake up), toddler is already up and hungry for breakfast and getting into trouble and I have to sit here and breastfeed and I haven't even had coffee. I need to get to the grocery store, but toddler is taking off her shoes and hiding my keys and throwing a temper tantrum and running into the corner of the table while baby poops (again?) through her cute little outfit and screams in my ears and needs to breastfeed (again!) I can't possibly think about getting myself ready.  When would I do that? Why would I do that.  Who even cares and baby will spit up on me in 5 seconds anyway, and mud will get on my clothes when I chase toddler through the parking lot in the rain. And I'm supposed to still keep the place clean even though toddler is walking along behind me taking things off of shelves and getting into literally EVERYTHING. And she wants stuff. She wants stuff all of the time.  And everyone needs to eat all of the time and their are enough dishes to rebuild the Great Pyramid. And I don't like playing Polly Pockets, they barely work.  I hate Disney Princess costumes all over my house and I hate that my sweet little, pretty little girls want to get undressed constantly so that they can wear them, leaving their clothes all over my house and their cute little faces covered in play make-up that I have to clean (off of their faces and off of the carpet and whatever else).  Everything that they need or want costs me.  Anything I do for them comes at the expense of me. I feel this knot of resentment because what about me? Am I not a person? Do I not count for anything anymore beyond what I can do to facilitate them?

But the guilt is way worse than the resentment.  What kind of a person am I?  I thought I was a good person, a nice person, a good mom. I wanted to be a mom, it's really all I ever wanted.  I want my kids to have a wonderful life and to have memories of it being fun and happy.  I want them to have the childhood I remember--the one where mommy and daddy love us and want us and lay down their lives for us and the world accepts us and is filled with possibility.  But instead they got me. Selfish. I feel sorry for them.  How could God give them me? If he loved them He wouldn't have. I would do anything for them--I would jump in front of a moving bus for them (although once a bee stung me and I literally dropped the baby.  I was horrified. My instincts kicked in and I saved myself.  Gross). I mean I love them more than anything in the world, but if I'm honest with myself, maybe not more than me.  In my little world inside my little head, this kind of crushing, suffocating, overwhelming guilt turns to anger (guilt=anger for me.  It's just the way I roll).  I was so angry. Angry that I wasn't getting my needs met, angry that my kids weren't' getting their needs met.  Angry that in order for us to survive it would be them or me.  Angry that I couldn't willingly and enthusiastically chose them.  Angry at myself, angry at God, at Jacob, and my kids.  Angry with all of the other moms who seemed to do it effortlessly. I felt so alone. I was dying of guilt.

I don't know what broke it really. It was a series of things. It was a journey of discovering that I am not perfect.  I mean, of course! I didn't think that I was, but I guess somehow I thought I was supposed to be. I knew I was selfish and petty and impatient, and critical (and, and, and), but somehow I was still surprised that it was showing up, and angry. I thought that the success of my family and the happiness of my kids required it.  I didn't know that I thought that or I never would have done it. It wasn't conscious. I remember riding along in the car with my sis and pouring it all out and I could tell she was trying to understand.  She kept saying I don't see what you're talking about, I mean I hear you and I'm so sorry you're hurting, but I don't see it.  She didn't expect me to be perfect so it didn't surprise and horrify her when I wasn't.  Sure, she's seen me holler at my kids a time or two, but so? They're annoying sometimes. She knows I love them, she knows they know I love them.  She knows I like my house orderly and the kids are little animals and she's sure that's really frustrating.  So?

It just started to clear up. It's like God gave me Claritin. The world does not depend on me being good.  My family does not depend on me being good. My kids do not need me to be good.  God is good. My kids do have a perfect parent, and it isn't me! But he gave these kids to me and me to them, and it is good. "Other mothers"--the ones who are doing it right, better, different--they are not right for my job.  I am the right person for this job. I know this because God is good, and He chose me to do it.  He must think I'm capable of it and He loves me, so really I am free! Free to do this job, to do it sometimes poorly, to say "I'm sorry" and move on. I am loved, I am forgiven.

Forgiveness is so freeing. The guilt and anger and blaming were doing more damage than anything else I was or wasn't doing.  The tone was so unhappy, so bound up. Like a time bomb waiting to go off. But nothing is riding on me. Who do I think I am that so much would be riding on me being perfect? That's just silly.  Later, when telling some of this to my mom, she looked at me quizzically and said "I yelled at you guys all of the time, I used to sleep until 11:00 on Saturdays and spent most of your childhood in depression".  I don't even remember that. I mean I remember that she used to sleep late, and I guess I remember getting hollered at periodically, but so? I remember that she loved me, she gave everything to me. She was an amazing mom and I can't even imagine if I had been raised by another.  I want to be just like her.

I hope this is encouraging and not horrifying.  Its not always that great to show people what's inside. Sometimes people judge you and maybe they think less of you, or they pat you on the head and patronize you, but I don't even care anymore. I know who I am. "Know who you are and be that".  I know how ugly it gets up inside my head, there's no denying it. Sometimes motherhood is too big a sacrifice for me and I feel sorry for myself and take it out on them. Sometimes I'm a terrible, selfish mother. But I know that God never expected me to be anything but what I am, and I know I'm forgiven.  I am always free to face it, to ask them to forgive me too, just like God does.  And they always do.  They are better at being my kids than I am at being their mom. They are not bound by guilt. They are such great kids, I am so blessed. Maybe you don't struggle with this in exactly the same way. Maybe guilt looks different on you, but I'm sure you feel it too. It's part of the job description.  I always have to remind myself that each day is a new day. Who I am is no surprise to God.  I am forgiven for yesterday and I am never going to be capable of perfection tomorrow--but nothing is riding on me!  God is my perfect parent and believes in me.  Not because I can do it right, but because I am unique. I bring myself into this home--all of the great parts of me and all of the ugly--and I was hand-chosen for these kids, for this life, and it is good!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Premature Spring Fever

It's that time of the year--February--when being shut up indoors is starting to get the best of us all. It's cluttered up my mind, my closets, the toy box and my spice cabinet. I'm ready to think about opening up the doors and letting the fresh air in, only it might be snowing.  It's at least very cold and mostly the sun is somewhere in Aruba. I have premature spring fever.  It happens every year.  It brings a bunch of stuff up.

My Husband, the Realist, is not ready to talk about buying a house.  There are a number of reasons, but mostly he has these scars on the tips of his fingers from when we last touched this flame and they are a constant reminder that you should not ignore the voice of caution. I, on the other hand, sometimes can't get to sleep at night because I am knocking out walls and raising the roof line in my mind for the remodel I am doing to our rental house. I would buy a house tomorrow. I figure the fingertips aren't blistered and pussy anymore, so really we've just toughened them up and they are all the more capable of handling the heat.  Needless to say, we are not on the same page right now on this issue, and it's difficult. Marriage is all about compromise and understanding.  Frankly, I'm not good at those other things. I spent the first 10 years of our marriage trying to brow beat him into being more like me, and have only in the last couple of years started to realize that perhaps he was sent here to rescue me from myself instead of to try my perseverance.

Anyway, In the meantime, I figure that some things are worth doing even if our home is not really mine, and they are a good compromise.  Like paint.  Paint is cheap and it only takes a day or so.  Tying to avoid load-bearing walls while you open up the floor plan and put in a new dishwasher aren't realistic changes to make to someone else's house. I mean really, the return on investment is not that great.  But paint? Now that will do wonders for making the place feel more like mine and the cost to me is minimal.  $50 and a weekend.  In exchange for a year or so of improved quality of life. I have to be here all of the time and I like to love it.  Also, I can do things to the stuff.  The stuff I take with me, so spending my creative energy there is not related to the house we're in. I have spent years painting and recovering and stripping and staining.  And though its a lot of work, I almost always think it's worth it.  

When we moved into this place (this rental) the entire house was painted pink. I'm not joking. I wish I had taken a "before" picture so I could show you. I would say Pepto-Bismol pink, except that it wasn't that pretty.  So I painted the entire first floor. Totally worth it.  Especially when you consider that, as often as we can swing it, my sisters and I have an unofficial agreement to always paint together, deep into the night while getting a little toasted.  And then we like to get the runs from a midnight Taco Bell excursion.  Actually, it doesn't sound as fun now that I've written it down, but I promise it's super good times. Well now, 2 years later, I am ready to start thinking about what's next.  So, in the interest of compromise (see how I'm learning?) I have decided that I need some new projects that do not require a scary and intense investment.  I guess I could say that ideally, I'd like to buy a house and start investing in something of my own, but realistically the timing is not right, so I need to invest in what I've been given. See how I did that? Cohesive thinking. It makes me feel awesome. Anyhoo, I stole this dining set off of Craigslist for pennies, and I'm starting here.

Already sold my other one. 

Side note:  I have been known to go craislist crazy.  My daughter once asked me if, when I sold her slippers on craiglist, I would buy her new ones from the GAP. Craigslist can be like a drug. Be careful.

So, I'm starting this week because, as you may have noticed, there is nowhere to eat in our house right now.  The kids are not likely to continue thinking that eating on the floor is an exciting adventure. So Lowes and JoAnne's, here I come!  Wish me luck,  I'll keep you posted.