Cow Bell Alleluias & What We Do on Easter

Our opening song at church this morning was “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” which won’t surprise any of you raised in low church traditions like mine, considering it was, ahem, Easter.

But about halfway through the first verse, I found myself unable to sing. This is something that rarely happens to me.

In fact, I’d already paraded around the house singing it a dozen time at that point, and even called my parents bright and early to sing it as an Easter greeting to them, waiting for the sung “Ah-a-a-a-leh-eh-luu-yah” response I knew I’d receive. (I get it honestly, what can I say?)

So it’s not like I’m not familiar with the song.

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On Hospitality & Dirty Underwear

Because our first Little Bean arrived two weeks early, we were able to make a trip to the North East to attend a good friend’s wedding. Though I wasn’t sure about embarking on such a long trip in the car, we decided to take it slowly with lots of stops along the way. After all, I knew going into it that it would be more stressful for me than for the Bean. And it was, but it was worth it. She got to meet grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and lots of friends as we headed to the Cape.

But that journey isn’t what this post is about.

This post is about the fact that we were away from our house for two weeks. And we left the house in a bit of a jumble, as you do when you’re preparing a two-week trip with a five-week-old baby. Not just cluttered messy, but dirt-under-your-bare-feet-on-the-kitchen-floor messy.

A few days into the trip, we received a phone call asking if an out-of-town visitor could stay at our house for a night. While we were gone. From our jumbled house.

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Lessons from the Land Without Dishwashers (#4)

This lesson is something I know that anyone who is responsible for household chores has experienced. In fact, it’s so obvious that I wonder if it’s even worth mentioning.

#4) The work of community often goes unnoticed.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I don’t really do the dishes very often. So when I do plunge in and make a dent in the pile, or when I empty the drying rack during the day, I get a bit discouraged when J comes home from work and there is already a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, hiding my hard work.

“I did the dishes today, hon!” I proudly announce on those occasions, and then I glance around sheepishly. “Really, I did. Honest.”

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Lessons from the Land Without Dishwashers (#3)

You may have heard about the interesting group of folks known to us as the “desert fathers and mothers” (or abbas and ammas). Early monastic Christians, the abbas and ammas lived out in the desert either in solitude or in small enclave communities. What has been passed on to us from the third and fourth century through various sources are their “sayings.” These appear as stories from their lives that still offer spiritual guidance to us through the use of Scripture and practical wisdom. (See, for example, Benedicta Ward’s compilation The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks. You can even “search inside” at Amazon.)

To our ears–and to our lives–these ancient sayings often seem odd, impractical, and quaint. But they’re really rather revolutionary.

Still, what could they possibly have to do with dishwashers?

I’m so glad you asked.

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Lessons from the Land Without Dishwashers (#2)

There is a part of me that has been biologically wired to take the reins of projects that are floundering. I really–and I mean really–hate to stand around when there are things that need doing, food that needs baking, parties that need planning, people that need, ahem, instructing. My dad’s family members–his sisters in particular–are also this way, so I think it’s in our blood.

Some people might call us bossy. I say we know how to get things done.

That is my way of introducing Lesson #2, something I’ve had a particularly hard time learning in this land without dishwashers:

2) Just because you don't like the way it's being done 
     doesn't mean you should just do it yourself.

Let’s face it: most of the time, I’d rather just do it myself.

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Lessons from the Land Without Dishwashers (#1)

Living in this land without dishwashers, we’ve learned a few things about community. The first one is pretty obvious.

1)   Community is messy.

And of course I mean this both literally and figuratively.

Whatever community you find yourself in, whether it’s intentional community with homeless people sleeping on your couch (probably not) or just your close circle of friends and family–you and your spouse, friends who come over for a movie and popcorn, or the extended relatives for a twice-a-year holiday feast—it’s still messy. Who hasn’t in some way experienced community right inside the four walls of her house, and who hasn’t experienced the physical mess it leaves behind? It’s dishes in the sink, clutter on the coffee table, dirty towels in the bathroom, dirt on the welcome mat.

That’s what having people sharing the same space does, even if you’re the kind of person who pays someone else to clean it up for you when it’s all said and done. You’ve seen the mess, so you  know what I’m saying.

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The Land Without Dishwashers*

When we first wandered through the house that was to become our permanent home, a few things stood out to me. One of them was the green linoleum in the kitchen. Another was the charming archways between the downstairs living areas. Another was the unfortunate bathroom situation upstairs—a bathtub less than four inches from the front of the toilet bowl, for example, making it impossible to, well, sit on the toilet.

What I don’t remember is whether it struck us, during that first walk-through, or the second, or the third, that the kitchen did not have a dishwasher.

Maybe we noticed at the time and decided it didn’t matter. Maybe we thought we’d remodel the kitchen someday and be able to squeeze one in. Maybe.

Regardless, our little, green-lineoleumed, oddly-shaped kitchen does not have a dishwasher or room to add one. As a result, one of us spends a great deal of time in front of the sink, washing dishes, and the truth is that it’s rarely me. (This qualifies as yet another reason why my husband is awesome.)

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On Renovating Bathrooms & Sleeping in the Basement

Since last week’s post was a throwback to early house renovations, and because, coincidentally, this week my dad is in town once again to help work on our house, I thought I’d offer a shout-out and a post from 2010. Thanks, Dad. (And let’s not tell anyone you’re sleeping in the basement again this time, okay?)

***

When we bought our house (and up until three days ago, actually) the upstairs bathroom looked like this:

In case you can’t tell, the most notable feature of this bathroom is the slim four or five inches between the toilet and the tub. As has been noted previously, the hubster and I are both extraordinarily tall. This posed a problem.

As in, sitting on the toilet required your feet to be in the bathtub. Ahem.

So J devised a plan to move a wall a few feet in one direction, pull out the toilet, swing the tub around, replumb all of the old cast-iron piping, and, well, a partridge in a pear tree. J is very handy, and I’m patient, so we dove on in. This weekend, our first dad came to visit to help with the demo work and reframing in the new wall.

I suppose that driving almost ten hours in a car in order to do some back-breaking labor (I’d say ‘literally’ but you wouldn’t believe me, though I saw how it took three of them to carry the plumbing down the steps) is a commitment to community of sorts, or you could say it’s just being a good dad. Either way, it’s admirable.

But there’s more.

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Floors & A Future of Hospitality

We moved into our house almost four years ago and spent quite a bit of time that first summer doing hands-on fixer-upper projects. We were painting and scraping and mudding, tearing down walls and moving plumbing. We were picking staples out of old flooring, one by one, and we were sanding down the hardwood and laying tile. But amidst all of that life-before-children chaos, we were also planning our future life within those four walls. Enjoy!

***

So we finished the bear of a task of refinishing our floors last week. Now we just wait for 72 hours for the polyurethane to harden. Sanding ended up being more difficult than expected, though not because of the threatening warnings on the upright sander we rented from big-box-home-improvement-store.

I like that you can read “dismember” but little else.

Apparently on really old floors, if the wood is slightly warped, then the new dummy-proof sanders don’t work so well, since they’re made not to sand through your floor if you leave them in one place too long. Basically, we sanded and sanded and sanded, and barely made a difference. J ended up needing to go back through by hand with a belt sander and do every square inch of the living room over. For real.

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What Ash Wednesday Is

Most Ash Wednesdays don’t begin with eating peach pie at 3 o’clock in the morning, but this year’s did.

Well, it actually began an hour and a half before that, uncomfortably lying in bed, back pain and pregnancy insomnia keeping me awake. I gave in to my misery and finally got out of bed at 3, ate some Fat Tuesday pie to begin the Great Fast of the Christian liturgical year, and eventually fell asleep on the couch at some point before 5, when the timer light in our living room kicks on automatically. It didn’t feel much like Ash Wednesday.

Later this morning, I ran a friend around town on some errands. She doesn’t have a car and the office where she pays her rent is a few miles from her apartment. It’s cold. The snow and ice haven’t melted. Our car door is really big and heavy, and it’s a chore for a shorter person to pull it closed once she’s inside. We grabbed her breakfast at the DQ drive-through.

Even later this morning, I found out my neighbor was cleaning her house to get it ready for a showing tonight, so I took the remaining pie over to her house, and we split it. Generous portions. The best kind. It still didn’t feel like Ash Wednesday. The Beanster toddled around after my neighbor’s infinitely patient dog.

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