It has felt like a rough few weeks. A few days ago our water heater burst in our basement, ruining the floor, baseboards and some of the walls, and they found asbestos. Luckily we were home and not traveling, as the water heater was continuously refilling and emptying, it started in the middle of the night and we found it the next morning. We took this week off to recharge a bit, so starting Sunday morning using the wet vac to suck out the water, call plumbers for new water heaters, and the insurance company was not how I wanted to start a week of vacation. Additionally, most of Nico’s toys are downstairs and it is where we spend the most time with him.
I am not going to lie. I’ve been extremely frustrated and short. I had a plan for how we were going to spend the week. Day dates with Chris, sleeping in as much as Nico would let us, and definitely not waiting for contractors to come or sitting on the phone to find out the insurance process is extremely slow and frustrating.
And then…we take a moment and realize that the insurance company is slow and frustrating because they have been on the phone with families in California who have lost their homes. My heart goes out to those that have lost their homes and it is a startling reminder that the flooding in our basement while annoying and disruptive is not nearly as big of a deal when I think of all the families that may not have a home. Interesting how quickly things can be put in perspective.
A few weeks ago a good friend was attacked in the face by a stranger and may need to undergo reconstructive surgery to his face. It took me almost a week to process that this happened. My friend is extremely fit and definitely capable of taking care of himself and hearing about the experience made me realize how vulnerable we all are – which can be scary. As a woman I am always aware of when I am safe or not, and when I am alone at night how freaky it can be. To learn that someone I care about was hurt, and probably did not have a moment to react, makes me fearful, but also aware that we never really know what is going to happen next. If we live in fear then we are never really living. A group of friends that love him started this Go Fund Me to raise money for his recovery. Feel free to contribute if your heart desires. He is one of the really good ones, and always takes care of others.
Like I said it has been a rough few weeks (other things in addition to the water heater and my friend) but I will not bore you with the details. Instead I am hopeful that I am reminding you to look up and squeeze the hand of someone you love, give them a hug, tell your kid how much you appreciate and love them, or maybe it is a coworker that could use a little lift. We always have more than we realize even when the world throws curveballs our way. Just take a moment to see and be grateful for the little things even when they may be hardest to see.
As I think about the things I want Nico to know and truly understand deep inside, it is to see and be seen. I believe it encapsulates most of what everyone really wants. I have an idea for a tattoo on my wrist and I just might one day get off my ass and get it. Is it possible to do without needles? It would say: listen. It is a reminder for me to truly listen to others (undistracted) and for me to demand that others do the same for me.
I am currently reading an interesting book, called “The Art of Gathering” by Priya Parker. It has given me so much inspiration in my corporate and personal life about how we approach time together, how we respect and appreciate others’ time, and how to pull off the best of gatherings. Less Martha Stewart style that errs on the side of the perfect place setting and more pondering the lead up to the event, how do you connect with your guests before hand, and how do you truly pull off a successful time by planning an experience and not just a conference, meeting, dinner, etc.
A page I read over the weekend said:
“A good life is about seeing and being seen.” page 199
It sent my mind wandering to how many times I have felt that. How often do you go to someone’s house and feel odd because the hosts do not really find a way to weave together why they are having people over, and why they have selected those they have brought into their home? It also brings fresh memories of wonky corporate gatherings where individuals are disconnected, uncomfortable, and uninterested to mingle but required to hang together.
I have not finished the book, but am inspired to bring the ideas Parker shares to fruition in my life. To create a meeting that has purpose and desired outcome and the attendees know why they are there and leave inspired with a plan and next steps. To think about my dinner parties and how the individuals that come into our home feel the energy of what we want to share with them. I encourage you to pick up her book. There are some slow spots, but all in all I have some new ideas of how I will engage differently with others I meet with — more aware of the outcomes I want, and more focused on the individual. If we each remember that just as we want to be seen, we remember to see others.
Chris and I are minimalists. We only want to have the bare necessities around. Now that does not mean the items in our home are not nice. Everything is very specifically chosen, but as minimalists we only have what we need, cherish, and truly want around. We are the opposite of packrats and hoarders. I just finished reading: “After a While You Just Get Used to It: A Tale of Family Clutter” by Gwendolyn Knapp — which made me think of my own childhood.
Knapp is very descriptive about her mom’s home, but in a nice way. You get the point that her mom is a hoarder. It is funny how you do not really know the world you live in until sometimes you are far away from it. Growing up I do not remember our house having a lot of crap in it. We did not have nice things, but there was not crap every where. The couch we had was gross, had many holes (thanks to the dogs), and was not what you would think of if you were looking at a couch. My mom would cover it with sheets, mostly because she did not want anyone to see what it really looked like.
We were not hoarders, but I think looking back that my dad was a packrat. If you came into our house you would not see it. He kept it in his “office.” He had an office in the upstairs of our house. It was his area, and there were lots of papers. He kept everything. He also had an office/garage of sorts for his flailing business. There his packrat tendencies were with “tools.” My dad was a contractor. He had 100’s of every type of tool, and always found a reason he needed another. His garage was filled with money in the form of tools — money that should have been used to buy food to feed his family. Alas.
I remember when he passed on and we had to go through his possessions. We filled storage units that equaled the size of a two-car garage. This was not for furniture or clothes or belongings. It was for his tools and files. We took inventory of everything and had to go through it all. Sadly, most of it went into a dumpster (the files) and the tools given away or sold. There wasn’t anything that amounted to much. Sharing all of this brings me back to the point of: What do we keep and why do we keep it?
Chris and I have carefully selected the items in our home, we discuss together the merits of keeping or getting rid of things. We think through “why” we are keeping something. Does it have meaning? In a time where people want to feel like they belong, do you think that people use stuff to find meaning in their lives? That maybe surrounding themselves with things (whether trivial or meaningful) helps them feel less lonely and that they have more in their life? I often wonder that about my dad. What did all that stuff mean to him? I would rather hold the memories inside, and get the clutter out of my life.
It is hard to believe that we have lived in Portland for 12 years. Before moving out here we lived in Boston, and the last place we lived was in a small town on the outskirts of Boston called Lexington. Compared to anything in Portland, it is old. It was a town involved in the Revolutionary War, and where the Battle of Lexington was fought. That, however, is just a bit of history. We rented the first story of a large house, and 5 women rented the upstairs of the house. Next door, was a farm called Wilson Farms. Next to our house was one of their fields and on the other end of the field was their farm store.
We spent quite a bit of $$$ — as it was so easy, convenient, and of course tasty. In the fall and winter they would have piping hot apple cider donuts and some prepackaged to take home. I think that was probably Chris’ favorite part of living right next door. I loved them too – but what I miss most was the tulips that were the size of my hand. When I recently found this recipe for Apple Cider Mini Muffins I knew we had to try. A bit of Wilson Farms nostalgia. And…they were so good!
Baked Apple Cider Mini Muffins
2 cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
⅔ cup brown sugar
½ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup apple cider
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ cup sugar
In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In another bowl whisk together the egg, melted butter, and brown sugar. Then add the buttermilk, applesauce, vanilla, and apple cider.
Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and whisk together just until combined.
Pour the batter into lightly sprayed mini muffin tins. Fill each muffin ¾ full. Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.
While the muffins are baking melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl. In another bowl combine the sugar and cinnamon together.
When the muffins come out of the oven dip the top of each into the melted butter, then dip into the cinnamon/sugar mixture.