Saturday, July 12, 2014

Good-bye, sweet home.

Good-bye, and thank you.  And I daresay that my heartbreak means that "I love you" is not too strong, even to be used towards a old gray structure that most wouldn't even look at twice.

How blessed are we to have had something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

I'll write more as we have more time and my emotions stabilize a bit.  (It's hard to see the computer screen through tears; Anna just looked at the picture and said "Anna's!"  And now she's saying "more house.  Anna's.  'at one.  (gesturing around hotel room): "da done").  I can't make up how much our home has meant to all of us.

For now, if you're driving in Western NY or Western Pennsylvania and see this get-up, give us a wave, and take note to always get a bigger u-haul than you think ;)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

On moving, materialism, and minimalism

Packing and packing and packing continues as our move date inches closer and closer.  My outlook on the whole moving thing varies from day to day (and often from minute to minute), admittedly influenced fairly heavily by how much I've eaten and slept in the last 24 hours, but also by the enormity of the task and the gravity of the change.

Yesterday I was almost in tears as I undid all that I've worked for four years to do.  For the past few weeks, my chore has been the direct opposite of what I consider my life's vocation (creating a home).  I wake up each morning and set about the tasks of dismantling the functionality and the beauty that has made this our comfortable dwelling.  I pack away kitchen supplies, making it more and more difficult to make a complete meal for my family (a week of take-out is fast approaching); I try to explain to my poor confused little girl that all of her toys will move to her new house; I take down all the things that make this our little haven in the world - the pictures that make us happy, the art that reminds us of what is good and true, the Crucifix that reminds us of what life and love is all about.

Emptying my glass canisters was one of my least favorite tasks, both because washing all those jars was annoying, but also because it was one of my favorite things in the house.

Perhaps for me, the prospect of most things being boxed for the next 10 months makes the packing more difficult.  Practically speaking, it requires more thought and logistics, but it also makes me more sentimental as I put away beloved objects and wonder when I'll see them again.  Where will I be?  What will have happened in our lives before we even see these things again.  (Dramatic, I know, but my inner monologue has a tendency to lean that way in stressful moments).

But then there's another side of all this packing, the freedom of having the bare minimum on the shelves.  It's sort of nice to have 2 drinking glasses to choose from, or to be limited in the dinner making department by the only baking dish that hasn't yet been put in a box.  When I find myself labeling boxes "extra towels," I have to wonder how and why we even have so many extra towels.  We're certainly making do just fine with the 3 that are still out and hanging on our racks.  And, ahh, the feeling of opening a closet to find....empty space.

I guess there's a minimalist hiding inside - one who ramps up the guilt when I label a mid-size box "Emily - bags and scarves."  Seriously?  I have more accessories than some people have clothing.  I've always tried to live the adage "Keep nothing in your home you do not consider to be beautiful or useful," but physically touching and moving every single one of our family's possessions really calls out how (not) effective I've been at paring down to what we need and love.  I've given myself permission to pass on decision making now, but I suspect there will be plenty of things headed to the nearest donation bin when I unpack in 10 months and find things I didn't remember ever having owned.  And even then, I'm sure our new home will have things we don't truly need or maybe even want, but with which our sentimentality will not let us part.

Not quite the den I showed you last week, huh?

And so box after box, I wonder if I'm materialistic and unable to part with my possessions, even for a short few months, or if I'm really a minimalist who should donate it all, save one pot and one dress.  I'm probably both.  With different items, my emotions carry me to different directions - I've packed a few boxes and realized afterwards that I really wouldn't be that upset if the whole box never made it to Steubenville, and then I've packed others and seriously considering adding "no seriously, be really, really careful because my 2 favorite yellow glasses are in this box" next to the 5 fragile stickers, which are probably already overkill.

Somewhere in the midst of all this is the healthy response to possessions.  The practical use of our resources that appreciates the gifts we've been given - those things that contribute functionality, form, and beauty to our homes.  A reasonable number of belongings helps us to set the stage for a relaxing and comfortable home, a place that provides respite for its family and welcome to its visitors.  When viewed properly, our things can be tools, things used for all sorts of practical tasks, but also for the very important goal of making our family home a "domestic church".  

I read an excellent post this morning in which Colleen compared owners of ultra-tiny homes and enormous mansions, and how going to either extreme can be a misguided search for the happiness that can never come from possessions (or lack thereof).  She describes so well what  "gives us the ability to both possess and be detached from our wealth."

Perhaps through this crazy year of transition as we go from our home to another home (house-sitting) to our future home (with perhaps a rental in between, who knows) I'll be better at that balance, of having the things we need and use, but keeping them in perspective.  Maybe I'll always be refereeing the inner monologue between my materialistic and minimalist alter egos, ever striving for the healthy approach that gratefully uses belongings to serve my family and others without letting the things I own own me.

What do you think?  Am I the only one who thinks this much about packing?  (It's possible :P)  And thanks to all of you who are following along with my roller coaster of posts!  I've found that writing has been a therapeutic coping mechanism for dealing with change.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Within these walls...

I've been posting a lot of pictures of the house itself, but today I realized that there is so much more to remember than the projects, the walls, the furnishings, and the colors.  There has been so much within these walls.  Against an evolving background of paint and renovation, there has been so much laughter, joy, friendship, and love.

It was sentimental to look through all my folders of pictures for this post, but it also shook me a bit from the sadness of leaving our house, because "home" will be wherever we're together, and God-willing we'll have new walls to fill with years worth of memories.

From celebrations and parties to daily quiet moments and so many firsts for our family, here's a tribute to all that's been within these (ever-changing) walls:

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Goodbye Tour: The Laundry Room

Continuing through the house on our little good-bye stop: laundry room.  A lot of the content of this post is a re-run from this one back in 2012 (apparently I did occasionally post finished room pictures instead of just progress shots back then), but I've updated it a bit and added some new photos.

Our downstairs bathroom was originally the master bedroom of the house.  When the previous owner became too ill to go upstairs, her bedroom was moved to the den and plumbing and a handicapped-accessible bathroom was built.

The washing machine (which was not sold with the house) had apparently been in the kitchen (where we later added a peninsula), and she did not have a dryer.

Justin was a little nervous, given the state of the entire house, that I wanted to renovate the only live-able room in the house.  Since it was converted within the last 5 years or so, it was a nice space.  The paint was nicely done (albeit not in my choice of color!), the fixtures were new, working, and didn't have years of caked on grime.  Longtime readers of the blog will know that all of these perks were not found throughout the rest of the house!

However, I knew that I wanted to have the washer and dryer accessible on the first floor and not have to install them in the basement, and the amount of space in the bathroom was really unnecessary.  We apparently don't have any pictures that show the full scale of the room, but here's a collection of before shots to give you an idea.


We spent several months doing laundry in a laundromat until the glorious day when the plumbing was revamped for a washer/dryer in the place of the old vanity.  (Remember that announcement, here).  In one of our biggest Craigslist successes, a woman drove from over an hour away to pay us $100 for the removed vanity.  

I stole the medicine cabinet for the upstairs bathroom, leaving us with a hole in the wall for much longer than anticipated.  My decorating and organization left a lot to be desired (but we were frying bigger fish at the time, like finishing the upstairs):

Then, I finally decided that it was time to make some things happen.  With 48 hours (or some other ridiculously short time frame) between that point and the pending arrival of my parents and siblings, I decided that I would finish the bathroom before they arrived to surprise them with the progress.  I think I finished the drywall repairs, painted the ceiling, and did half of the first coat (again, the huge size of the room and immense amount of cutting in took me by surprise) before the doorbell rang.  So, guess how my family spent a big part of their Ithaca vacation :)  (Thanks, guys!!)

Mom, helping to paint (and clearly acting on a dare from my dangerous-with-a-paintbrush sister in this shot!)

Maura and Colin, installing the sticky tiles I love - as a surprise for me while I was at work one day!

I revamped the cabinet that had been hanging in the kitchen and hung it here for cleaning supply storage

A new pedestal sink (on the previously empty wall), a mirror, new accessories and a new shower curtain, and now's now:



Project review:
- New shower curtain/mirror/towel bars/etc

Before, after, and one last look:

Monday, June 16, 2014

They could have been the "stressful mysteries"

As I shared in one of my recent posts, I'm generally moving beyond the emotional-wreck stage and into the let's-get-this-party-started stage of moving.  However, I'm still a Type-A, hormonal pregnant lady who is experiencing a fairly substantial life change, and so....there are days.

But despite "those days" (sorry, Justin and/or any/everyone else), I'm finding moments of grace and inspiration that are strengthening me throughout this whole experience.

Take yesterday, when I sat in church praying a rosary before Mass began.  I started meditating on the Joyful mysteries (never mind that I realized later that I was supposed to do the Glorious, but given my reflection, I'm happy for my mistake).

The first mystery: The Annunciation.

I start my Hail Marys, and start thinking of the Angel appearing to Mary.  I'm suddenly struck by fear and the anxiousness that Mary must have felt at the arrival of an heavenly messenger.  I thought not only of the startling messenger, but his alarming message: she was to become pregnant out-of-wedlock and to bear the Son of God.  This is not exactly a Precious Moments cherub delivering happily-ever-after news, as I've been oft to think before, with the benefit of now knowing the whole story.

Hmm, I think, as I reach the Our Father bead and begin a new mystery.

The second mystery: The Visitation.

I'm suddenly struck, again, by a new image.  No longer is it just happy hugs and long, loving chats by two glowing cousins.  I realize that it's two women meddling through the discomforts of pregnancy, one having sustained a long journey, without our modern conveniences, and with the added anxiety of not completely understanding the great mysteries God has planned in each of the new lives in their wombs.

Yikes.  There's more stress in all of this than I ever previously noticed.

The third mystery: The Nativity.

Childbirth.  In a cave.  Surrounded by animals.  Far from home.  Young, and very likely scared.

As I pray, I think of the painting of Mary we have in our room.  I purchased it last fall, having seen it at the Catholic bookstore in our new town on our should-we-move-here trip.  I was struck by the image, one of the only times I've ever seen anything besides radiant joy in a nativity picture.

But how true, that single tear, representing the bewilderment of every new mother.  How, she wonders, could I ever be worthy of this new life, and how will I ever live up to my call in raising this gift?

Mass began, and I put my rosary aside, unable to shake my new understanding of these mysteries.  I came home and began telling Justin of my observations, and we talk about the 4th and 5th mysteries.

The fourth mystery: The Presentation.

"Well, that's not so bad," I said to Justin.  "Other than the whole prophets telling you a sword will pierce your heart part," he counters.  Oh.  Right.

The fifth mystery: The Finding in the Temple.

I can see the great joy here, but not without recognizing the immense pain, fear, and concern at having not only lost your own child...but misplaced THE SON OF GOD.

Throughout each mystery, I see the fear, the anxiety, and the pain that must have accompanied Mary at each of these moments.  They might have easily been named the "stressful mysteries."  However, we are taught to reflect on these moments with JOY.   The Church shows us these examples of Mary's grace, first in recognizing her beautiful fiat, her acceptance and trust in the Lord.  Mary, in her humanity - and perhaps even in her femininity - would have had the inclination for such a naturally anxious response to such stressful occurrences.  However, she chooses joy.  She chooses to follow God's plan for her life, and to hope in the good that is to come from the suffering.  Therein lies the second lesson of these mysteries: God's plan is bigger than the moment, larger than what our human understanding can comprehend within the limits of time and space.  With the lens of history, we can appreciate the joy in each of these Biblical moments: the announcement of the arrival of the Son of God, the wonder of John the Baptist leaping in his mother's womb, the birth of our Savior.  We know how the story ends, and this knowledge teaches us to accept all that had to happen for this Divine Plan to be instated.  But in that narrow space of each moment, Mary couldn't have known or understood all that was to come, yet she chose anyway to respond with joy.  In our own lives, we rarely understand how God's plan is at play.  Even in moments when we know - or have chosen - that our changes or plans will mean things being tough before they get better, we often focus on the stress, rather than the ultimate joy.

And so, this is my prayer: that in each moment, as we go through challenges, changes, and stress, that we learn from Mary's example - that no matter how overwhelming or stressful it might seem in the short term, we choose to accept God's plan and accept it, not with anxiety, but with ultimate joy.