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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Talking to Strangers (or Jesus)

On Saturday morning, I strapped Little Bean into her stroller and set off on a mission: to buy myself a cup of frou-frou coffee-shop coffee. Lucky for me, we’ve got two small coffee shops in my little town, both within walking distance of my house.

Unlucky for me, both of them were closed on Saturday morning.

A little discouraged, I stood at the corner on Main Street and Hamilton, waiting for the red light to change. A woman stumbled up to the corner, paying no attention to me. She was in sweat pants that looked like pajamas and she seemed tired or worn out or both. When the light changed, Little Bean’s stroller got caught on the curb, so I ended up a few steps behind the woman as we crossed the street.

I heard her groan a bit as if in pain and seemingly begin to mutter to herself.

I assumed–uncharitably–that she was probably suffering from mental illness or intoxication. Maybe she was homeless. I didn’t know, and I chided myself for jumping to conclusions about a stranger.

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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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On Rushing Things vs. Being Poky

Today I ended up driving behind one of our small town’s municipal vehicles, and it was piled high with old Christmas trees heading for disposal of some sort.

Did I mention that today is December 31? 
That's the seventh day of Christmas.

For the first time this year, we stayed in our own space through the holidays. Family came to visit us at Thanksgiving, then other family came at Christmas, and then others came a few days after Christmas. Our house isn’t that big, but when you add in a few space heaters and air mattresses, we were all set. It was so nice to stay put for the first time in the nearly ten years I’ve been married and living away from home–partially because I’m 23 weeks pregnant and already achy and swollen and tired most of the time, and partially because we got to feel like Christmas was a real season.

And so here we are, on day number seven. Our tree is still up, and our stockings, and our nativity. The magi are still on the windowsill, patiently journeying. We’ve got the Christmas playlist still going on the iPod.

But the truth is, now that our company has left and the house is a bit quieter, I’ll confess that I’m struggling a little bit. I’m trying to resist the urge to move on to the next thing, and it’s harder than I expected. Usually, when we travel at the holidays, we get home around the time of Epiphany, and we’re a little in shock that the 12 days of Christmas are over. Since we’ve spent two days here, three days there, a day here, another few days there, and too many hours on the road, it’s easy for those 12 days to pass us by and not even realize it. We try to slow down after the fact, packing up our decorations slowly, savoring those last notes of Christmas carols. It doesn’t work very well.

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The Bean, Asking for More, & What If…

Everyone assumed that our little bean would be tall. Even the pediatrician, at the bean’s two-day-old appointment, asked if we wanted to guess what her height would end up being as an adult. Her dad is 6’6” and her mom is 6’0”, so she was always unlikely to be a shrimp.

But she was pretty tiny for quite some time. A chunker at birth, her weight percentiles kept dropping at her monthly appointments, until she was down to 8th percentile at 6 months old. She remained above average in height, which means she was quite skinny, and her BMI was 1%.

You breastfeeding moms out there will know how disappointing that was for me, how difficult it was not to feel like I was failing my child, how jealous I felt of the moms of chunky babies with leg rolls and triple chins.

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convictions & table legs & making do

So, funny story.

Yesterday, I was vacuuming the rug underneath our dining room table. As I was vacuuming, I gently lifted the corner of the table and pulled it three or four inches towards me in order to get to the crumbs hidden beside the table leg. Then I pushed it back the other direction, vacuumed again, and put the table back in its original position.

This morning, I was roused out of bed by Jonathan hollering “E!” and the crying of our one-year-old. I ran downstairs, expecting an emergency. I saw that J’s hot tea was spilled on the floor but couldn’t figure out what was actually wrong. He was just sitting at the table, as far as I could tell. (I was kind of dazed and still sleepy.) “What happened?” I began to ask, as J said, “The table leg fell off!” And then I realized he wasn’t picking up our crying child because he was literally holding the table top in place to keep anything else from falling off of it, and the table leg was indeed lying on the floor.

Rewind.

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