Five Cups of Coffee: Confessions of a Compulsive Home DIY-er

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

I don’t typically drink coffee.  I enjoy a mug on occasion, but I’m a non-caffenated herbal tea gal.  However through last night and today, I had five cups.  It was simply a dangerous experiment on staying awake…

You see–when you are pulling away at  or removing the layers that make a life so very discombobulated–that life seems even more frazzled and hectic at the time (like mine right now).  It’s like spring cleaning–pulling out drawers, opening cabinets, pulling it all out to remove the unessential, and then scouring and shining all that is left…it is messy, hectic (your room is disarranged) and then as stuff is eliminated the important things regain their sparkle, importance and you see the “beauty in what remains.”

I live in a house that needs work.  I own a house (my previous residence) that needed a huge amount of work.  My friends call it insanity.  My dad told me it is simply good economics (most economists would disagree).  We are a D.I.Y. family–four daughters of a contractor–we married our beloved husbands because they get our D.I.Y. nature…they get the nuttiness of it all and they sort-of understand the economics (the housing market in the last decade has made the math fuzzy).  Often, we buy the least desirable homes in our communities and remake them–rework them to be beloved and magnificent.  It is hard work.  Camera crews don’t follow us around and makeup artists don’t make us beautiful (but our husbands think we are kinda of cute with paint in our hair).  We know our way around a hardware store.  We lift 5 gallon buckets of paint, flooring and roofing materials.  We get our hands dirty, we get frustrated, we get mad, but underneath the heavy emotions and broken fingernails of it all we love it.  It is our family work–our business.  I’ve been married for 12 years and have upgraded/restored five (now working on six) houses with my husband and parents.  Today, I am one week away from letting go of number 5–getting it ready for its future family.  I’m the finisher in this marriage (the one with patience to use the tiniest paint brush in an tight corner).  I paint, stain, polish, get lunch ready for my family, and bless and curse the house that is still ours but not really ours.  Last night on a deadline, I grabbed for coffee and went through the night.  Five cups later–I’m back in my home state and in my new house that needs its own level of work (it is the ugliest house we’ve bought so far…but we don’t say it very loudly–we don’t want to hurt its feelings).

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

So I’m left to ponder after the sawdust settles, “Is this real estate passion simple, minimalistic, what I want?”  “No” and “yes” all at the same time.  I am tired.  We live our lives in the houses that we give a huge amount of spit and shine–living in a remodel is not for the weak (but it is strengthening).  If you’ve done the math you can see we’ve never stayed much beyond two years.  Now we want to plant roots and  have a family home.  But I love the challenge of a new vision, the aching back (albeit my husband’s back aches far more than mine), the solution of reworking materials to save the earth and the budget…it is a different sort of fun, but the point being it makes one discombobulated and life really messy…  And as nice as HGTV makes it seem…it is never easy.  Worth it?  Sometimes.  Simple?  Never.

IMG_0096

So in my life right now I’m pulling back the layers…leaving one place…and really not seeking anymore D.I.Y. adventures.  The walls of this house–the one that I live today–a little crooked and things are far from perfect, but I’m accepting of that for now.  Pulling back the layers…I can see that I want more time for my kids, more time with friends, more hours in the sunshine, and our house is just fine for all of those things… Will I completely stop living a D.I.Y. life–nope (it is part of who I am)–but I am taking (for me) a radical step back and making sure my personal community of people (family and friends) know me better and see me often.  Unlike my life now–where I hung out with Al at the local hardware store this past weekend and we discussed painting, electrical, and the trends on the stock market on my five different visits.  I’ll miss Al, but to be honest my son has a way cuter smile.  Those kids of mine are the “beauty in what remains.”

smiling kids

Minimalism: When the heart is onto it but life is a little behind

Baby GoatsOpening day at a local farm venue–the activity was free and the weather almost balmy for the beginning of April.  My sweet sister and I took our children to gawk at the chicks, feed the baby goats, and learn about Native American culture.  The rest of the families in the city had the same notion, and we were met with crowds.  The day didn’t turn out quite as blissful as planned, but the kids had fun–success.

Caleb and Adi 2


Days later, I am still pondering the life of Native Americans.  The guide for the Native American lodge was very knowledgeable about her people’s traditions and tales. She offered a glimpse into a culture that survived communally and washed in a belief that the natural world should be respected and cherished.  Each plant, animal and season had a purpose, a message, a cause to exist, and therefore was worthwhile.  But I digress.

The housing–I can’t stop thinking about their houses.  You see right now as I type this, it is late Sunday night and I’ve crossed over back to my home state line with a trailer full of stuff– small tools, boxes of garage items that haven’t been opened in three years, golf clubs that I haven’t used since before my first child was born, and a few lonesome house plants.  Yes I declare myself a minimalist, and my extended family laughs at my paltry pieces of housewares that I make do with because I want to live with less and a kitchen knife is my type of food processor (I’m good with having just enough…I thought).  But right now I’m cleaning out what remains in my former home, and it is too much.  Too much of my weekend has gone to digging through stuff.  Too much money has been wasted on buying this forgotten stuff.  Too many earth’s resources eradicated and redirected to creating this stuff.  Too many people injured by the unethical work conditions or pollution created so I can have more stuff.  And my children spent their weekend mostly absent from me and their dad because we had to deal with the stuff.  How ridiculous it all sounds when I write it out, but here I am in a truck with trailer attached trucking past America’s Main Street in middle states hauling stuff…junk…and then I think about the cool walls of the lodge, the dirt floors, the multiple families that would have lived, loved, and survived under its thatched skyline and I envy them.

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

When I was 16, I stayed on the Navajo reservation working and worshipping with this tribe.  They were then and are now few in number.  Separated, desolate, and  living in poverty under horribly harsh and unfair conditions.  These are not the Natives I envy–this scenario makes me angry, sad (but again I digress).  My admiration is for the ancestors of a people who took from the earth only what they needed, who worked as it was needed, who lived in a time of kinship and community ( and no I’m not completely deluded–it was far from perfect).  Life was real and imperfect, but it was not a residence like this Skype-d up alter-egoed FaceBook fairyland where modern man resides.  They were flesh who lived in the flesh.  I envy that while some groups did travel with their houses tied to dog or horse, they carried only what they needed.  They did not travel carrying a trailer full of junk wondering where to store it in an overburdened garage.  I envy that they some tribes thought beyond to the seventh-generation, and well I’m just praying we don’t pop a tire on this burgeoning trailer tonight…  Yes, I’m a minimalist–unfortunately my life hasn’t completely caught up with my heart…

Why I Didn’t Write a Blog Post (sort of…)

Spring Horses 2

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'” –Robin Williams

You see I had penned a post on clutter and how to take it out like yesterday’s garbage (because a lot of times that is what clutter is).  However, it didn’t seem right to burden you with thoughts of manmade stuff when if you look beyond your window or even in the cracks of your sidewalk there she is–glorious, beautiful Spring!  Today friend, step outside (even if it feels a little chilly) and look for her–small signs can be so uplifting.  Today, clean out the winter ‘bluck’ in your soul and allow spring cleaning to come to your mind, your heart, and finally your soul.  This is the season for renewal, rebirth, and redemption–bask in that for at least 20 minutes –I promise you it is just what the doctor ordered.  Cheers

Spring Trees

Spring Shot 3

Overcoming Perfectionism

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order. – Anne Wilson Schaef

Childhood–

Since I was a child, I have always tried very hard to make everything just right and just so, and when these attempts at perfection did not live up to my inflated expectations I gave up.

Teenage years–

When I was a teenager, I aimed for perfection, failed to reach it, gave up…dropped the ball…said, “It was a dumb (fill-in-the-blank) anyway.”

Today–

Still trying to make everything just so…still not reaching expectations…giving up?  (Sadly, giving up more often than not.)

As a teacher, I often told my students to “embrace the stick people.”  You see often in class we made pictorial graphs to add to an idea, and like me many of my students were not artistically gifted.  I didn’t care about the pictures they drew.  I just wanted students to show their thoughts however messy or unattractive it may have been–stick people would do the job of depicting whatever needed depicted.  I never just “do the job.” I only do the job if it can be veiled underneath the cloak of perfection, and so I often I let the “job” fall to the wayside because I simply feel I can’t try.

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Perfection has debilitated me–weakened my potential for growth–made me appear to be thoughtless and a flake to others (and myself).  It has harnessed me and imprisoned me as it tightened its grip on my mind and even body.  Ironically as a young 20-something years ago, I touted perfectionism as my strongest attribute in job interviews–sadly, how wrong I was and have been, but this past week when I didn’t have much for media noise (just a radio and a bad television signal) a message kept coming through in books, a shoddy television set, an ancient radio, and especially in my humbled heart. It went something like this…

“You don’t have to be perfect–but you have to try–even when it doesn’t come out the way you planned.”

{But I’m scared.}

“That’s okay.”

{But I might fail.}

“That’s okay. In failure you learn and grow.”

{But I’m not good enough if I’m not perfect.}

“That’s a lie.”

{What if I waste my life in failing so often?}

…And then on my old dusty radio the DJ quoted, “Anything worth doing is worth failing at.”

{Point taken.}

For me perfectionism has risen to become an all-encompassing excuse for not trying, for stepping down, for giving up anytime it gets hard, for not really living.  For me perfectionism is about fear.  Perhaps, I could be describes as a“maladaptive perfectionist” (encompassing an unhealthy form of perfectionism) or a “atychiphobic” (someone who is afraid of failure).  However, I don’t know that I need to spend time doing biofeedback and other psychological work to get to the core.  I think I need to find my “grit.”

In her Ted Talks Angela Lee Duckworth defines grit, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life-like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

This is something I never discovered as a child or young adult–something I rarely have experienced as an adult in sprints but never in marathon form.  I have done only those things that came easy–things I could be successful in–things I could be perfect in.  How tragic all this time wasted trying to be too perfect.

But I am learning that perfection isn’t what matters. In fact, it’s the very thing that can destroy you if you let it. – Emily Giffin

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

So if you see me and I’m down on my bum, dusty, ragged, and spent–don’t help me up.  I’m down there building grit, embracing my stick people–I might fail, but that’s okay.  My life will surely be more passionately lived because of it.