Divider 1
Divider 2

Archive for August 2009

S is for Soft

Soft is the smooth touch
of my baby girl’s cheek
against mine, her skin
aglow in unfettered smiles
barely touched by the world.
the brush of eyelashes hovering
over a cloudless blue.
Soft is her sweet breath
against my nose, deepening
my inhale. in and out,
the gentle fluttering
of one thousand hopes and dreams
between her heart
and mine.
Soft is the whisper
of her sleepy fingers
against my shoulder,
the plump and eager toes
too worn with the day.
the patter of steps and moments
as they fly away.

maggie1

Soft is the smooth touch
of my baby girl’s cheek
against mine, her skin
aglow in unfettered smiles
barely touched by the world.
the brush of eyelashes hovering
over a cloudless blue.

Soft is her sweet breath
against my nose, deepening
my inhale. in and out,
the gentle fluttering
of one thousand hopes and dreams
between her heart
and mine.

Soft is the whisper
of her sleepy fingers
against my shoulder,
the plump and eager toes
too worn with the day.
the patter of steps and moments
as they tiptoe away.

Happy 1st Birthday, Baby Girl! Your softness has forever melted my heart.

The Oh Happy Day Project

Thank God it’s Friday! I’m sitting at the computer watching Bug’s version of Dancing with the Stars as the theme song from Winnie the Pooh plays on his movie. Despite a very itchy infection and a yucky tummy from antibiotics, he is undeterred. My Squiggle Bug is a perpetual visual aid for “Thank God it’s Friday!”
TGIF! We’ve all heard it. Most of us have said it. No matter what we’re doing, there’s something about ending the work week (or school week) and the prospect of a weekend that gets our juices flowing. Friday motivates us to get the last details of the week resolved. Friday fills us with the anticipation of free moments, fun activities and a shift from the weekday schedule. Friday lifts our spirits simply by being Friday.
I’ve always thought that it’s not really a good idea to invoke the name of the God of the universe unless you mean it. (Actually, God tells us it’s not a good idea. But, that’s another post.) So, today I’m thinking quite literally about “Thank God it’s Friday.” I’ve learned time and again about the role gratitude plays in attitudes through my own life lessons–mostly from bad attitudes prompted by a complaining spirit. Last year’s 12 Days of Thanksgiving at EyeJunkie really chrystalized that concept for me in so many ways. Just when I’m unhappily ensconced in my own “justified” complaints about circumstances or people or life in general, it never fails. Some news story, or friend’s story, or precious request from my gifts, or some other real life reality interrupts, and I recognize again how truly blessed I am.
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 thessalonians 5:16-18)
Well, there it is. For all the times I’ve wondered, “what is God’s will for my life?”, this one offers a clue. I’ve often read those versus with frustration. Look at all the extremes in there–always, without ceasing, everything. Ouch! It looks like that’s going to take a bit of commitment. It looks like I may have to rejoice in some not-so-fun situations. It looks like I may need to give thanks for some things I didn’t really want. It looks like I may actually have to let God out of His 911 emergency service vehicle every once in a while. Hmmm.
It seems to me that God gives us a recipe for happy days in these verses. And by happy, I mean joyful contentment and satisfaction, not the fleeting sugary feel we get during the first few minutes of chewing Bubblicious. If there’s anything I’ve learned from raising toddlers, it is that the Happiness Hotel has a revolving door… the devastation of not getting to play with the exact truck you wanted, followed by the utter bliss of realizing the helicopter is just as fun… the sorrow of not being able to ride with Daddy to the grocery store, followed by the sheer joy found in helping Mommy with the dishwasher. (I’d personally like to bottle that one so I can unleash it again in ten years when I know there will be no parallel happiness universe in which the dishwasher will be fun.) That ever-shifting concept of happiness is surely a normal part of learning about the world as a child, but what an incredibly unfullfilling grown-up lifestyle to endure!
That’s not God’s version of happiness. With the “always,” “without ceasing” and “in everything,” He gives us a glimpse of how constant real happiness can be. The happiness power comes in using those three ideas in tandem–persistently. Giving thanks provides us with something to rejoice about. Rejoicing reminds us of more in which to be grateful. Praying offers us Someone to thank for the joy we’ve seen. And, it gives us a way to get our worries and concerns out of the equation. If I can make those three actions constants in my life, my attitudes and perspectives will have all the checks and balances they need for me to be who and where God wants.
The thing that really convicts me in these verses is the intention that’s required–the deliberateness. I can’t accidentally “rejoice always.” Not with everything this life and the people in it have to offer. I can’t just haphazardly give thanks, or my gratitude will be confined to one Thursday in November. To pray without ceasing? It won’t just happen with a husband, three children, a job, a house and 6000 other things vying for my mental space. Paying attention rears it’s ugly head. Again.
I recently read a blog post where a woman described her habit of being grateful. She made a commitment to herself to stop and write down 5 things she was thankful for at the end of each day. She would not let herself go to bed at night until that task was completed. So each of her days ended with a tangible joy list.
I like that. Hence, the Oh Happy Day Project begins today. It’s my own little “Thank God it’s Friday” experiment reporting on the weekly EyeJunkie gratitude attitude documentation. I’m incorporating the “5 things” idea into my daily routine, and I hope to expound on the best in five-star Montgomery Happiness Hotel occupancy each Fridays. Oh Happy Day!
I’ll keep you posted.

happyday082809

Thank God it’s Friday! I’m sitting at the computer watching Bug’s version of Dancing with the Stars as the theme song from Winnie the Pooh plays on his movie. Despite a very itchy infection and a yucky tummy from antibiotics, he is undeterred. My Squiggle Bug is a perpetual visual aid for “Thank God it’s Friday!”

TGIF! We’ve all heard it. Most of us have said it. No matter what we’re doing, there’s something about ending the work week (or school week) and the prospect of a weekend that gets our juices flowing. Friday motivates us to get the last details of the week resolved. Friday fills us with the anticipation of free moments, fun activities and a shift from the weekday schedule. Friday lifts our spirits simply by being Friday.

I’ve always thought that it’s not really a good idea to invoke the name of the God of the universe unless you mean it. (Actually, God tells us it’s not a good idea. But, that’s another post.) So, today I’m thinking quite literally about “Thank God it’s Friday.” I’ve learned time and again about the role gratitude plays in attitudes through my own life lessons–mostly from bad attitudes prompted by a complaining spirit. Last year’s 12 Days of Thanksgiving at EyeJunkie really chrystalized that concept for me in so many ways. Just when I’m unhappily ensconced in my own “justified” complaints about circumstances or people or life in general, it never fails. Some news story, or friend’s story, or precious request from my gifts, or some other real life reality interrupts, and I recognize again how truly blessed I am.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 thessalonians 5:16-18)

Well, there it is. For all the times I’ve wondered, “what is God’s will for my life?”, this one offers a clue. I’ve often read those versus with frustration. Look at all the extremes in there–always, without ceasing, everything. Ouch! It looks like that’s going to take a bit of commitment. It looks like I may have to rejoice in some not-so-fun situations. It looks like I may need to give thanks for some things I didn’t really want. It looks like I may actually have to let God out of His 911 emergency service vehicle every once in a while. Hmmm.

It seems to me that God gives us a recipe for happy days in these verses. And by happy, I mean joyful contentment and satisfaction, not the fleeting sugary feel we get during the first few minutes of chewing Bubblicious. If there’s anything I’ve learned from raising toddlers, it is that the Happiness Hotel has a revolving door… the devastation of not getting to play with the exact truck you wanted, followed by the utter bliss of realizing the helicopter is just as fun… the sorrow of not being able to ride with Daddy to the grocery store, followed by the sheer joy found in helping Mommy with the dishwasher. (I’d personally like to bottle that one so I can unleash it again in ten years when I know there will be no parallel happiness universe in which the dishwasher will be fun.) That ever-shifting concept of happiness is surely a normal part of learning about the world as a child, but what an incredibly unfullfilling grown-up lifestyle to endure!

That’s not God’s version of happiness. With the “always,” “without ceasing” and “in everything,” He gives us a glimpse of how constant real happiness can be. The happiness power comes in using those three ideas in tandem–persistently. Giving thanks provides us with something to rejoice about. Rejoicing reminds us of more in which to be grateful. Praying offers us Someone to thank for the joy we’ve seen. And, it gives us a way to get our worries and concerns out of the equation. If I can make those three actions constants in my life, my attitudes and perspectives will have all the checks and balances they need for me to be who and where God wants.

The thing that really convicts me in these verses is the intention that’s required–the deliberateness. I can’t accidentally “rejoice always.” Not with everything this life and the people in it have to offer. I can’t just haphazardly give thanks, or my gratitude will be confined to one Thursday in November. To pray without ceasing? It won’t just happen with a husband, three children, a job, a house and 6000 other things vying for my mental space. Paying attention rears it’s ugly head. Again.

I recently read a blog post where a woman described her habit of being grateful. She made a commitment to herself to stop and write down 5 things she was thankful for at the end of each day. She would not let herself go to bed at night until that task was completed. So each of her days ended with a tangible joy list.

I like that. Hence, the Oh Happy Day Project begins today. It’s my own little “Thank God it’s Friday” experiment reporting on the weekly EyeJunkie gratitude attitude documentation. I’m incorporating the “5 things” idea into my daily routine, and I hope to expound on the best in five-star Montgomery Happiness Hotel occupancy each Fridays. Oh Happy Day!

I’ll keep you posted.

[My compliments to the Muppets for their unmistakeable visual of the Happiness Hotel where you can drive a cab through the front door and opt to skip out without paying!]

The One About Hot Dogs

This past week was a busy one, made more complicated internally by changes to Quiver’s work situation and changes in our familiar routines. Over the weekend I had been feeling rather overwhelmed and generally behind in so many of the life plots (and attitudes) I need to be cultivating. It seems an odd time to be writing about hot dogs, but here we are.
Sometimes just a little change of plans, tossed with a pinch of spur-of-the-moment can create a much-needed shift in perspective. At some point during the middle of the afternoon (probably about the time I was reading and making mental notes for tomorrow’s final Geek episode of MeMyBook&Eye) I decided to ditch the leftover dinner plans and opt for more of a celebration mindset.
Celebration hasn’t really been at the forefront of our thoughts this week. We’ve been dealing with the emotional and physical ramifications of Quiver shutting down a business and beginning a new job. We’ve been busy with extra responsibilities beyond the normal routine. We’ve been challenged by some of the boy’s growing pains. We’ve been playing catch-up after new strides (quite literally) in Baby Girl’s growing independence. We’ve been cooking and cleaning and bathing and writing and laundering. We’ve been impatient with one another, with ourselves and with circumstances.
So, I decided an impromptu party was in order to lift our spirits and right our vision.
I realize that the word “party” conjurs up lots of different images. To adequately understand our version of a “party,” I’d better explain that we have family parties for just about anything. Usually the standard criteria for a party at the Montgomery house is a pretty sparse list: 1) something to laugh or jump up and down about; 2) something edible; 3) some form of decoration, be it new placemats, party paper plates, construction paper cut-outs hanging from the “chandelier”, table cloths, candlelight, etc. That about covers it.
Yes, I decided that tonight was an excellent time for our third “grill party” of the month–no time like the present. The plans made for extra excitement because we decided to have it in the BACK YARD where we could eat the whole meal OUTSIDE. Big fun. With catsup on top. The trappings of this party? Here’s the abridged version:
8 hot dogs + buns
1/4 bag charcoal + requisite lighter fluid
1 bag Cheetos
Sundry condiments
1 highly portable Pack-n-Play
1 blue checked tablecloth
2 $1 styrofoam airplanes
2 funky plastic things that spin and light up when you push the button
1 happy beagle
5 large marshmallows
1 coat hanger
1 bag mint chocolate cookies (in lieu of graham crackers and Hershey bars)
1 yellow lightning bug
4 “Lighting McQueen” party plates
Napkins (enough)
Giggles (uncounted)
2 tricycles
1 pink pair of pants (size 9mo)
2 porch lights
1 quick trip to the bathroom
4 people I love (so much I can’t stand it)
Somewhere in between squirting mustard, fending off puppy paws, responding to the 637th “Mommy, watch this” and strategically planning my last bite to include part hot dog AND part bun–somewhere in there–I recognized again how much I have to be thankful for, how good I really have it.
Hot dogs with a side of renewed perspective. Who knew?

This past week was a busy one, made more complicated internally by changes to Quiver’s work situation and changes in our familiar routines. Over the weekend I had been feeling rather overwhelmed and generally behind in so many of the life plots (and attitudes) I need to be cultivating. It seems an odd time to be writing about hot dogs, but here we are.

Sometimes just a little change of plans, tossed with a pinch of spur-of-the-moment can create a much-needed shift in perspective. At some point during the middle of the afternoon (probably about the time I was reading and making mental notes for tomorrow’s final Geek episode of MeMyBook&Eye) I decided to ditch the leftover dinner plans and opt for more of a celebration mindset.

Celebration hasn’t really been at the forefront of our thoughts this week. We’ve been dealing with the emotional and physical ramifications of Quiver shutting down a business and beginning a new job. We’ve been busy with extra responsibilities beyond the normal routine. We’ve been challenged by some of the boy’s growing pains. We’ve been playing catch-up after new strides (quite literally) in Baby Girl’s growing independence. We’ve been cooking and cleaning and bathing and writing and laundering. We’ve been impatient with one another, with ourselves and with circumstances.

So, I decided an impromptu party was in order to lift our spirits and right our vision.

I realize that the word “party” conjurs up lots of different images. To adequately understand our version of a “party,” I’d better explain that we have family parties for just about anything. Usually the standard criteria for a party at the Montgomery house is a pretty sparse list: 1) something to laugh or jump up and down about; 2) something edible; 3) some form of decoration, be it new placemats, party paper plates, construction paper cut-outs hanging from the “chandelier”, table cloths, candlelight, etc. That about covers it.

Yes, I decided that tonight was an excellent time for our third “grill party” of the month–no time like the present. The plans made for extra excitement because we decided to have it in the BACK YARD where we could eat the whole meal OUTSIDE. Big fun. With catsup on top. The trappings of this party? Here’s the abridged version:

8 hot dogs + buns
1/4 bag charcoal + requisite lighter fluid
1 bag Cheetos
Sundry condiments
1 highly portable Pack-n-Play
1 blue checked tablecloth
2 $1 styrofoam airplanes
2 funky plastic things that spin and light up when you push the button
1 happy beagle
5 large marshmallows
1 coat hanger
1 bag mint chocolate cookies (in lieu of graham crackers and Hershey bars)
1 yellow lightning bug
4 “Lighting McQueen” party plates
Napkins (enough)
Giggles (uncounted)
2 tricycles
1 pink pair of pants (size 9mo)
2 porch lights
1 quick trip to the bathroom
The first “touch of Fall in the air” night this year
4 people I love (so much I can’t stand it)

Somewhere in between squirting mustard, fending off puppy paws, responding to the 637th “Mommy, watch this” and strategically planning my last bite to include part hot dog AND part bun–somewhere in there–I recognized again how much I have to be thankful for, how good I really have it.

Hot dogs with a side of renewed perspective. Who knew?

Morning Luxury

It’s funny how luxurious a morning routine can be. Over the past four years since our morning rituals began to involve a third (and fourth and fifth) party, our schedule has changed, of course. We’ve tried all kinds of permutations to discover a working combination of showering, ironing, dressing, eating, hugging and driving to get the work day started. Typically each trial and error session has given way to the next coinciding with new skills, or stages (or children) in our lives.
I discovered this week that we’ve been living in the lap of morning luxury, Quiver and I waking up with the daily anticipation of barely awake giggles, groggy hugs and more “help” getting to the car than we can handle. We divvy up the jobs, but still, there’s a perpetual full house participation. We’ve both had the opportunity to be involved in waking our children, getting them dressed for preschool, enjoying the plethora of voices and sound effects and conversations that so often are the backdrop of brushing teeth and eating poptarts. Each morning we’ve had the opportunity to double-team locating each child’s favorite tag-along stuffed animal and juicy cup, and to share the buckling tasks of three car seats.
Every day we’ve enjoyed a sometimes challenging, but comfortable full family trip to daycare, a parade of little ones bearing nap mats or bottles or just the gusto of life as boys and a smiling Baby Girl. We’ve ALL traveled to each preschool classroom giving tandem hugs and kisses and “good days”, sometimes forgetting to sign our names acknowledging arrival–first Baby Girl, then Squiggle Bug, and finally, Little Drummer Boy. Quiver and I have waved and blown kisses and eased ourselves into the transition of clients and offices with smiles on our faces and “spit kisses” on our cheeks, pulling out of the parking lot in different directions in preparation for the day’s work.
This week was different. I was reminded again of the blessing we have in just how much we do things together. Quiver has a new job with a local landscaping company that has meant some long hours and a few early mornings out of the house, meaning that he couldn’t participate in our normal AM routine–not so easy for a family man. At least not one from our kind of family. It’s odd to some, but we’re just the kind of folks who like to do things together. It’s not that Mommy or Daddy can’t adequately accomplish the morning requirements by themselves. It’s just that it’s so much more fun when we do it together. Anticipation of the change made us start missing Daddy during p.j. time the night before. And, we couldn’t help asking while pulling on the Transformer underwear, “don’t we wish Daddy was with us this morning?”
Tomorrow morning IF it’s raining–if he doesn’t have to leave the house at 6:30am–I don’t think I’ll complain about how long it takes him to put on his shoes, or the mud he’s tracked across the carpet. I don’t think I’ll insist that Little Drummer Boy go back to the table while I dry my hair or cut short his morning hug so I can hurry through blush and eye shadow. I don’t think I’ll tune out Squiggle Bug’s play by play of Old McDonald’s menagerie or rush him through the slow climb into the tall extended cab back seat. I think I’ll gladly take all the big brother help I’m offered for carrying Baby Girl’s diaper bag, or choosing a “cute” dress or providing some changing table entertainment (volume 10, and all). I think we’ll slow and take a closer look at the road construction crews and the pick-up trucks we pass. I think we’ll look for a front-end loader or a digger. I think I’ll linger with the good-bye kiss just half a second longer. I think I’ll crawl up into the lap of morning luxuring, sit a spell and smile.

It’s funny how luxurious a morning routine can be. Over the past four years since our morning rituals began to involve a third (and fourth and fifth) party, our schedule has changed periodically. We’ve tried all kinds of permutations to discover a working combination of showering, ironing, dressing, eating, hugging and driving to get the work day started. Typically each trial and error session has given way to the next coinciding with new skills, or stages (or children) in our lives.

I discovered this week that we’ve been living in the lap of morning luxury, Quiver and I waking up with the daily anticipation of barely awake giggles, groggy hugs and more “help” getting to the car than we can handle. We divvy up the jobs, but still, there’s a perpetual full house participation. We’ve both had the opportunity to be involved in waking our children, getting them dressed for preschool, enjoying the plethora of voices and sound effects and conversations that so often are the backdrop of brushing teeth and eating poptarts. Each morning we’ve had the opportunity to double-team locating each child’s favorite tag-along stuffed animal and juicy cup, and to share the buckling tasks of three car seats.

Every day we’ve enjoyed a sometimes challenging, but familiar full family trip to daycare, a parade of little ones bearing nap mats or bottles or just the gusto of life as boys and a smiling Baby Girl. We’ve ALL traveled to each preschool classroom giving tandem hugs and kisses and “good days”, often distracted from signing our names to acknowledge arrival–first Baby Girl, then Squiggle Bug, and finally, Little Drummer Boy. Quiver and I have waved and blown kisses and eased ourselves into the transition of clients and offices with smiles on our faces and “spit kisses” on our cheeks, pulling out of the parking lot in different directions in preparation for the day’s work.

This week was different. I was reminded again of the blessing we have in just how much we do things together. Quiver has a new job with a local landscaping company that has meant some long hours and a few early mornings out of the house, meaning that he couldn’t participate in our normal AM routine–not so easy for a family man. At least not one from our kind of family. It’s odd to some, but we’re just the kind of folks who like to do things together. It’s not that Mommy or Daddy can’t adequately accomplish the morning requirements by themselves. It’s just that it’s so much more fun when we do it together. Anticipation of the change made us start missing Daddy during p.j. time the night before. And, we couldn’t help asking while pulling on the Transformer underwear, “don’t we wish Daddy was with us this morning?”

Tomorrow morning IF it’s raining–if he doesn’t have to leave the house at 6:30am–I don’t think I’ll complain about how long it takes him to put on his shoes, or the mud he’s tracked across the carpet. I don’t think I’ll insist that Little Drummer Boy go back to the table while I dry my hair or cut short his morning hug so I can hurry through blush and eye shadow. I don’t think I’ll tune out Squiggle Bug’s play by play of Old McDonald’s menagerie or rush him through the slow climb into the tall extended cab back seat. I think I’ll gladly take all the big brother help I’m offered for carrying Baby Girl’s diaper bag, or choosing a “cute” dress or providing some changing table entertainment (volume 10, and all). I think we’ll slow and take a closer look at the road construction crews and the pick-up trucks we pass. I think we’ll look for a front-end loader or a digger. I think I’ll linger with the good-bye kiss just half a second longer. I think I’ll crawl up into the lap of morning luxuring, sit a spell and smile.

Confessions of a Nest Builder

I spent the last two days desperately needing an oxygen mask. I’m on a staycation at Myrtle Avenue for part of this week, and I have been anxious to bring some order to a few areas of our house that haven’t seen it in the last couple of years. One laundry room, one utility room, one walk-in closet and about a dozen boxes and trash bags later, I have the contented self-satisfaction of creating a place for things that have been left wanting and letting go of the unnecessary. I’ve waded through dusty boxes, papers, piles of oh-I-forgot-we-had-that and other allergy inducing stacks of what have you. I’ve sweated, washed, climbed up and down ladders, vacuumed, swept and lugged around giant garbage bags. It’s been a great two days! The only thing that would have made it better is if I had been able to do all that while also hugging my little ones. Alas, daycare was the better option so that the piles and I could have a little alone time to work through our differences.
I’m one of those domestic engineers who is in perpetual nesting mode. There is almost no feeling I relish more than the peace of enjoying my own home when everything is in order. I don’t know how it is for the rest of the human race. I only know that for me, an ordered environment leads to an ordered and relaxed mind. It leads to refreshment and fresh thinking. So, despite the inevitable sweat and sneezing, I can find simple pleasure in creating a place for everything–a beautiful and colorful, yet quirky place–but a specific place nonetheless.
I know what you’re thinking, and I’m perfectly willing to own my obsessive tendencies. It’s not that I have an incessant need to constantly tidy up. The 2 or 3 years it took to create the piles I’ve been ordering rules that out. But, I do “need” a positive environment. I have a coping threshold for how much clutter I’m able to live with while maintaining my good humor and the ability to think rationally. It’s just a fact I’ve come to recognize. Also, I have clear criteria for what constitutes a home rather than simply a house. Part of that criteria includes being surrounded by the pattern and texture of beauty (at least to my eye) and the layered trappings of memory.  Feathering my nest puts me in the perpetual process of denoting memories, articulating preferences, stimulating peace, contentment and refreshment through the surroundings that have most come to signify our “place.” In her book, Creating a Beautiful Home, designer Alexandra Stoddard said:
“It is human to want to give physical expression to that which we hold sacred, and to define ourselves–through light, color and texture–by the spaces we inhabit… Home gently and subtly forces you to face the reality of your unique qualities and to mold, contour, adapt, build and change the things that don’t support this truth.”
Making a home out of a house is a gratifying and worthwhile pursuit. After having children, the pursuit has been made even more poignant with the thought that this specific place, which for so much of their early lives is the very center of their world, is the place that will build their assumptions about life and about home for future generations–whether what to emulate or what to avoid. Like it or not, THINGS, the trappings of life and activities and relationships, are often the tangible expression of those abstract, unspoken values and emotions we hold “sacred.”
By “things,” I don’t necessarily mean the latest and greatest from the catalogs, HGTV and Toys R Us. No, those things can sometimes make an impression, but regardless of trends or popularity, it is so often what we do with “things” that infuse them with their power of place. It is the wonder and excitement of my children seeing a Mickey Mouse gumball machine, purchased when I was a child and unearthed from the boxes of personal ephemera. It is the anticipation of filling it with M&Ms for ready snacks where the fun lies in scooping them from the slot. It’s the lamp and hand-me-down lampshade set on a chest to light a darkened corner in the reclaimed entry space. It is realizing I just created Buddy the Cat’s new favorite napping spot isolated from the curious hands and squeals of toddlers. It is an old Valentine I made for Quiver found in a box and hung in a newly cleaned and appointed office bathroom. It is blessing him with a convenient way to clean up during a hot August day of landscaping work. It is speaking an unexpected reminder of all we hold dear.
In my nest building, another of Alexandra Stoddard’s descriptions equally motivates and encourages me to declutter each moment and take good care of it:
“For me, home is the coming together of my past memories and experiences, of my love for my children, husband and friends; my love of nature and beauty; my love of life and belief in continuity; my optimism tangibly expressed in life-enhancing ways–room by room–and of the tender appreciation that no matter how much of myself I put into this home, I, like everyone on earth, am a temporary guest.”
A temporary guest.

I spent the last two days desperately needing an oxygen mask. I’m on a staycation at Myrtle Avenue for part of this week, and I have been anxious to bring some order to a few areas of our house that haven’t seen it in the last couple of years. One laundry room, one utility room, one walk-in closet and about a dozen boxes and trash bags later, I have the contented self-satisfaction of creating a place for things that have been left wanting and letting go of the unnecessary. I’ve waded through dusty boxes, papers, piles of oh-I-forgot-we-had-that and other allergy inducing stacks of what have you. I’ve sweated, washed, climbed up and down ladders, vacuumed, swept and lugged around giant garbage bags. It’s been a great two days! The only thing that would have made it better is if I had been able to do all that while also hugging my little ones. Alas, daycare was the better option so that the piles and I could have a little alone time to work through our differences.

I’m one of those domestic engineers who is in perpetual nesting mode. There is almost no feeling I relish more than the peace of enjoying my own home when everything is in order. I don’t know how it is for the rest of the human race. I only know that for me, an ordered environment leads to an ordered and relaxed mind. It leads to refreshment and fresh thinking. So, despite the inevitable sweat and sneezing, I can find simple pleasure in creating a place for everything–a beautiful and colorful, yet quirky place–but a specific place nonetheless.

I know what you’re thinking, and I’m perfectly willing to own my obsessive tendencies. It’s not that I have an incessant need to constantly tidy up. The 2 or 3 years it took to create the piles I’ve been ordering rules that out. But, I do “need” a positive environment. I have a coping threshold for how much clutter I’m able to live with while maintaining my good humor and the ability to think rationally. It’s just a fact I’ve come to recognize. Also, I have clear criteria for what constitutes a home rather than simply a house. Part of that criteria includes being surrounded by the pattern and texture of beauty (at least to my eye) and the layered trappings of memory.  Feathering my nest puts me in the perpetual process of denoting memories, articulating preferences, stimulating peace, contentment and refreshment through the surroundings that have most come to signify our “place.” In her book, Creating a Beautiful Home, designer Alexandra Stoddard said:

“It is human to want to give physical expression to that which we hold sacred, and to define ourselves–through light, color and texture–by the spaces we inhabit… Home gently and subtly forces you to face the reality of your unique qualities and to mold, contour, adapt, build and change the things that don’t support this truth.”

Making a home out of a house is a gratifying and worthwhile pursuit. After having children, the pursuit has been made even more poignant with the thought that this specific place, which for so much of their early lives is the very center of their world, is the place that will build their assumptions about life and about home for future generations–whether what to emulate or what to avoid. Like it or not, THINGS, the trappings of life and activities and relationships, are often the tangible expression of those abstract, unspoken values and emotions we hold “sacred.”

By “things,” I don’t necessarily mean the latest and greatest from the catalogs, HGTV and Toys R Us. No, those things can sometimes make an impression, but regardless of trends or popularity, it is so often what we do with “things” that infuse them with their power of place. It is the wonder and excitement of my children seeing a Mickey Mouse gumball machine, purchased when I was a child and unearthed from the boxes of personal ephemera. It is the anticipation of filling it with M&Ms for ready snacks where the fun lies in scooping them from the slot. It’s the lamp and hand-me-down lampshade set on a chest to light a darkened corner in the reclaimed entry space. It is realizing I just created Buddy the Cat’s new favorite napping spot isolated from the curious hands and squeals of toddlers. It is an old Valentine I made for Quiver found in a box and hung in a newly cleaned and appointed office bathroom. It is blessing him with a convenient way to clean up during a hot August day of landscaping work. It is speaking an unexpected reminder of all we hold dear.

In my nest building, another of Alexandra Stoddard’s descriptions equally motivates and encourages me to declutter each moment and take good care of it:

“For me, home is the coming together of my past memories and experiences, of my love for my children, husband and friends; my love of nature and beauty; my love of life and belief in continuity; my optimism tangibly expressed in life-enhancing ways–room by room–and of the tender appreciation that no matter how much of myself I put into this home, I, like everyone on earth, am a temporary guest.”

A temporary guest.

Divider Footer