I’m long overdue for a house update.
Our house addition started February 13, which means we’re entering our eighth week. Can you believe it?
People told me the construction process would feel like an eternity, but February and March were such extremely busy months for us, that it’s flown by. All except the weekend the roof was being replaced. That felt like an eternity for sure. If you’re wondering why, imagine the sound of something like large rodents scurrying and stomping overhead, interspersed with lots of pounding (on your very skull) and every so often, what sounds like bodies hitting the roof.
That kind of did a number on our family, partly because we hosted our two CPC New Members’ classes the weekends they were here working. I truly thought I might have a break-down at one point, from the stress of it all.
But God gave us the strength we needed to just put one foot in front of the other, and what’s more, He gave us joy. Just in the nick of time. We loved having the big group of people over, as we always do, and if anything it was even more special than usual, because they came to us in all our mess.
And then right after, the Lord gave us a wonderful gift: our window shipment was delayed, and so the builders had to take a week and a half off work. They apologized a lot, but David and I felt that the timing couldn’t have been better.
We desperately needed a break: from noise, from interruptions, from thinking about the addition at all really.
When business resumed last week, we felt rested and energized for the home stretch.
Right now Scott is estimating that they’ll finish up at the beginning of May!
Alright, enough talking. Let’s take a tour around, shall we?
Here’s the current state of our current bedroom. We had this window boarded up a few weeks ago.
Now I am standing inside the new little hallway of the addition, looking back into the house. As of tomorrow that window will be a doorway (the cord to that Roman shade gave out not a moment too soon, didn’t it?)! Up until now everyone has crawled in and out through a window.
Still standing at the window, I’m turning and looking at what will be a tiny alcove. You can see the bedroom doorway to the left, and it will open out into that alcove. The room beyond that wall is our bathroom!
Hooray! Here’s our bathroom! Isn’t that privacy window fun? There will be a built-in linen cabinet on the right, then the double vanity, and on the other side of that half-wall is the shower. To the left across from the shower is the room for the toilet.
Here it is! The kids are enamored by the fact that someone can actually close a door and use the potty in privacy while other people are in the bathroom. You know what I love about a building project? You can design it to fit your family’s particular needs, and what we need is a multi-user-friendly master bathroom.
Now we head out of the bathroom and turn to look down another little hall into the bedroom. That door on my right is the walk-in closet.
I’m looking out of the hall window to our front porch.
And here, my friends, is our lovely new bedroom. Don’t you love those big windows? And the vaulted ceiling? David gets all the credit for ensuring that it happened. I didn’t have an opinion either way, but now that I see how charming the room looks, I’m thrilled.
I turn and look back down the hall I came from. The closet is that first doorway on the left, then the bathroom. Turn right at the end of the hall and it leads to the doorway to our living room.
Don’t you like how the addition isn’t just a big box-like room? It has a hallway and an alcove, and I haven’t shown you yet, but our genius architect figured out a way to add built-in bookshelves off the living room. Yes, it is tailor-made for the Gentino’s.
Hello again, bedroom! Our bed will go against that wall. We plan to go with a minimal look, furniture-wise, but hope to fit a reading/drinking-wine-and-chatting corner in under the windows across the room from the bed.
And here we are again at the outside. As you can see, we gained most of the windows this past week since I snapped the above photos, as well as insulation and hardwood floors.
If the addition looks large compared to the rest of the house, that’s because it is! It increased our square footage by a third. Here’s one more glimpse:
Doesn’t that roof look pretty? It was worth all the craziness! I’ve never in my life considered roofing style, but suddenly found myself needing to choose shingles. I went with architect-style, light-black onyx, mostly by looking around and seeing what I liked.
If you don’t think the roof looks all that remarkable, may I give just remind you…?
The roofers said that our shingles were pretty much crumbling in their hands as they removed them.
And that’s all for now!
Happy April, my friends!
I thought I’d do a quick photo update post of what we’ve been up to the last couple of weeks.
If you can believe it, our church just had our first official church-wide picnic a couple weeks ago! It was a lovely, 70-degree Sunday afternoon and a great time was had by all. The consensus was: Let’s do this more often!
And, now, onto the house update . . .
Weeks 4 and 5 have been all about framing. Yesterday the heating/air guys came, as well as the electrician. We asked our contractor if our friend Ben could do the electrical work, and it’s fun having him apart of the project.
Seeing the walls and roof go up made it all seem so much more real! Currently we all climb through the windows to work/see inside. Our builder, Scott, is trying to wait as long as possible before he cuts the hole in our living room wall, which I very much appreciate!
Look at those nice, big windows! Don’t they make the addition seem so cheerful?
In the meantime, David finished the chicken coop! He has a couple last touches to do, but the girls have lived out there for nearly a week now, and are doing great. We were a bit scared with this extreme cold snap we’ve had the last few days (it was 27 degrees this morning!), but they have all their big-girl feathers on and haven’t seemed to mind a bit.
David and Amie still have to coax them up the ramp into their coop at night, but they make it down in the morning all on their own.
(Also you may be thinking: Girls? Are you sure? The truth is, we won’t know their gender for a couple more months, but we like to pretend they’re all girls)
It’s an amazing feeling of relief to have that project over with.
Now I feel really dumb about the silly fights David and I had over it. Why did I care so much? Why did I have to prove my point all the time and generally be so difficult?
It’s funny how that works.
We’ve had the strangest weather lately: weeks of 70 degree days, followed by snow flurries this weekend. Seeing ice mixed with a thick layer of pollen on Sunday was a first for me.
Just last week I organized everyone’s clothes and stashed winter things in the attic! I literally threw away Noah’s coat because it had officially been through four boys and had holes in it. So we’ve done a bit of improvising this week.
We all managed to venture out on this freezing-cold morning to swim practice, and were thankful to come home to hot chocolate and heat vents.
If Organization is one of my keys to staying sane right now, Routine is the other one.
With all the construction noise and interruptions, it is so tempting to throw our entire schedule out the window and spend hours scouring Pinterest for bathroom faucets and paint colors, but that makes everyone crazy (myself included). I’ve learned these last five weeks to allow interruptions to happen, and then as best I can, pick right back up with our routine afterwards.
We still do school. We go to CC and swim practice and play with cousins. I cook dinner. We have pretend “quiet rest time” in the afternoon from 1-3 even when the house shakes with drilling and pounding. Am I getting as much done? Absolutely not. I’m just doing the best I can and letting the rest go.
Routine has been our comfort.
Somewhat ironically, Judah chose to take a really big test for Classical Conversations called Memory Master. He’s working on memorizing every single piece of information we’ve learned this year. The testing starts in three weeks, and so we’re doing what we can in-between answering questions about light switch placement and shower tile. Thankfully we’ve been reviewing ever since August, which makes it not nearly so big and scary.
I just have to laugh at the timing of it all; also I’m very proud of my boy for how hard he’s working even though I know lots of loud noise is not easy for him (he and I hate the noise; the other three kids seem totally oblivious, ha!).
We’re getting down to all the fun interior details which I’ve daydreamed about forever, but still make my head spin. This weekend our roof will be replaced, and hardwood floors go in next week.
Oh yeah, I’m also head to a homeschool conference Friday and Saturday in Greenville, and we have our CPC New Members class at our house on Sunday! Hopefully all the new members will have a sense of humor when they see our craziness.
When the busyness presses in, I imagine myself laying on my bed under that lovely vaulted ceiling, in a room filled with light.
All of this is just the biggest gift. There are no words to explain it. I often have to remind myself that it’s really, truly happening.
I walk through the shell of our new bathroom and walk-in-closet and it feels surreal. Lovely and surreal. Like living inside an Apartment Therapy post.
We heard all kinds of horror stories about builder/homeowner relations, but I have to say thus far our builder, Scott, could not be more pleasant and easy to work with. He’s very experienced but never makes me feel like an idiot for the things I don’t know. I’ve taken to asking his opinion about decisions, and I like his ideas.
We got a whole lot of rain this weekend, and since a portion of our roof is under tarps, we had some leaks, as you can see from the ceiling and the way we had to pull the bed out when water streamed down onto David’s pillow the other night.
The good news is: Amie will get a new ceiling for her room! You can’t really tell but the ceiling of this room has always been a strange, almost drop-ceiling-like material, because this room was actually an addition too. I’m thrilled to see it go. Tomorrow they will be sealing that window on the left off and make it a wall (our new bathroom is just on the other side!). We also have an exterior door in that room, behind the door, which will be sealed off (pictures to come).
Isn’t this so fun!?
Happy Hump Day!
A little recap:
Week 1: Demo, initial inspection, stake out space, footers
Week 2: Footer inspection, lay brick skirt
Week 3: Begin framing, week cut short due to rain (thus the tarps!)
Hardest part of process: the noise!!! And the interruptions. Don’t even get me started on how hard it is to have a homeschool day in the midst of this.
Best part of process: knowing how much the extra space will help our homeschool days in the future, constant entertainment for our kids and our neighbors. We talk to way more neighbors than we ever have before, and at least three have told us that we’re inspiring them to consider their own renovation project!
I don’t know if it’s the construction happening outside or the feel of spring in the air, but I’m in major Project Mode. Actually, when I’m stressed, one of the most calming things I know to do is to organize something.
The only way I know how to explain it is that when certain parts of my life feel big and somewhat out of control, here is this one small thing I can bring order to, be it the hall closet or the kitchen pantry or a bookcase. I manage stress much better with an organized house, it’s just the way I’m made. David laughs at me because even on vacation or on an overnight hotel stay I clean up and bring order to our little, temporary place.
Do you think I’m crazy yet? It can be an obsession of course — I have to remember my family shares my home and I can’t always impose my need for order onto them (although, come to think of it, I kind of try to). But by and large, we’ve all discovered that the key to living peaceably in a small house is staying organized, and they like it too.
As soon as the building project started, I raced around the living room, de-cluttering. I stowed all but one of our cute throw pillows in the attic and put away several knick-knacks, just to streamline things a little bit. Chaos reigns outside our front window, but inside there’s room to breathe.
Anyway, I thought I’d share with you a couple of my projects from the last couple of weeks.
First, the kitchen cabinets.
I read this post over at Modern Mrs. Darcy, who just moved with her family to a new house and talked about conquering the blank slate of a new space. She mentioned a few organizational tips she picked up during the unpacking process, including the idea of stacking sheets pans and cutting boards in a basket in the kitchen or dining room (see the post on Apartment Therapy here).
Something clicked right then for me, and I jumped up to inspect our kitchen. My kitchen looks cute, but it is often functionally a pain in the neck because it’s teeny-tiny. Two people can technically work in it at a time — but with much stumbling over one another.
I love baskets and I love the idea of having my sheet pans and cutting boards within easy reach!
I have zero space for said basket. And I mean zero.
Every available area of floor space in our kitchen and dining room is put to use.
However, the idea got me on a roll.
I hate my kitchen cabinets, I mean really hate them. They are white and cute on the outside but so very old; the paint and wood is crumbling on the inside, they are dark and awkward, and every single time I pull an item out from my lower cabinets, I have to rinse and dry it to remove peeling paint and wood shavings. Yuck.
So I thought to myself, Okay, I can’t have a cute basket for my pans, but what can I do to make this situation a little better?
(This is an extremely helpful question to ask when considering any problem area in your home)
And that launched a couple-hour project of purging my kitchen cabinets!
I’ve been pretty good at maintaining the upper cabinets because we removed the doors from most of them. You may think the plants on top of our refrigerator are decorative (and they are!), but they’re also a reminder to never, ever open the cabinet immediately over them. No amount of scrubbing when we first moved in could remove the smell in that cabinet.
I can’t even explain to you what it smells like, and actually I don’t want to think about it anymore.
I so wish I were better at “before” photos! I almost never think of taking pictures at the beginning of a project.
Oh well. Just imagine me on my hands and knees, removing every item from the lower cabinets, and literally sweeping them out with a broom. They were pretty bad.
I made three piles: a donate pile, a throw away pile, and a “wash me now please” pile.
I’m embarrassed to say this is the first time I’ve completely organized and cleaned out those cabinets — reached into the furthest, darkest corners — in the three and a half years we’ve lived here. Sigh.
I’m baffled by the phenomenon that in a kitchen as small as mine, somehow those corner cabinets still turned into a scary black hole. I was thrilled to discover not one but TWO Pyrex dishes I’ve lost for at least a year. And all that time I thought I’d loaned them out!
So my biggest kitchen problem is accessing the pots and pans and cutting boards I use every single day, multiple times a day.
I looked around and decided that the place for them is on the bottom shelf of my island.
Of course it’s not as cute as a staged shelf with plants, cloth napkins and a mound of cookbooks. But who cares!?
You guys, it’s a game-changer.
It’s been a week and I feel like I have a new kitchen! Chores that used to make me groan, like chopping onions for soup, now feel simple. I reach down to my open shelf — I do not have to root around in a dark space and then rinse wood-shavings off my cutting board — and I chop the onion!
After sweeping and wiping everything out and washing pots and pans, I went with a greatly minimalized cabinet approach, shown above. The items are easy to reach and I don’t mind giving them a quick rinse because I don’t use them every day!
When you think about it, most of us have way more in our kitchen than we use or even need. I’ve hung on to a very few family heirlooms from each side of our family, and have purged what I just never use (it is helpful to consult parents and siblings before giving these things away!). Even items we received as gifts for our wedding, if we never ended up using them, have been donated.
It sounds harsh I know. But there are many things that make life stressful; clutter should not be one of them. It’s the simplest to remedy!
I didn’t solve all of my kitchen woes, but just tackling one of them is a big help.
Finally, a windowsill lined with succulents always makes a room more cheerful.
I feel ten times better after this project and find our little kitchen a much happier place to be!
Next up: my composting project!
We’ve had an unseasonably warm winter here in Columbia, which is perfect for the various projects we have going on.
And we have a LOT going on. This may be a good time to tell you that we’ve found a home for our church, Columbia Pres! We just signed a long-term lease on a building in the Cottontown neighborhood of downtown. It’s right in-between where we live and where CPC currently meets on Main St.
We’re so excited about our new space! It’s in a really fun area, and a coffee shop is about to open next door! We start major renovations in the next few weeks and hope to be in the facility in several months. I’m so happy for David and our associate pastor, John, because after nearly four years, they’ll finally have offices in the same building where we gather for worship.
All of that to say, here are our three projects, all happening in the next 4-6 months:
- A house addition
- A church renovation
- A chicken coop
David said to his friends, “I’m not sure which of those three projects will be my undoing first.” Ha ha. The chicken coop being the joke, sort of.
This is a very happy season for our family, but a stressful one too. Actually come to think of it, we haven’t been in a non-stressful season since starting the church. But I’m guessing you are all in your own stressful seasons too, right?
That’s just life.
I heard a great podcast interview with Sally Clarkson where she said, “Do yourself a favor and stop waiting for life to not be hard. Life is always hard. Parenthood is always hard. When you accept this reality, you can begin the work of learning contentment.”
I’ve been pondering that a lot and it’s surprisingly helpful. I’m not sitting here waiting for our addition to be finished and CPC to be in our new building (and the chicken coop to be finished). Because those things will be wonderful, but then I’m guessing our family will be facing new challenges.
What God wants is to give me grace for right now. For today.
This is waaay easier said than lived out, for me at least.
Yes, we have some idyllic photos of baby chicks running around the yard and this amazing chicken coop that David designed and is building from scratch, but the truth is we get tired and cranky and selfish. The coop project turned out to be way bigger than either of us expected. We fought this weekend about how to spend our time (I’ll let you guess who didn’t want to spend it painting a chicken coop). David can be too driven and I can be too selfish.
Both of us have realized of late how easy it is to take one another for granted when life is stressful.
We’re pouring all we can into work and the kids and the house. And I don’t know why but it’s all too easy to take it all out on the person who’s the very closest to you — who should be your safe place and biggest cheerleader when life is crazy. It’s easy to let resentment creep in, to start keeping score and blaming one another.
We’re fumbling our way along, but I think the biggest key we’ve found is repentance. Lots and lots of it. It’s hard to stop, to look your spouse in the eye, and say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” And it’s even harder to shut your mouth and listen to them tell you how they feel, how you’re treating them and how much it hurts. It’s hard not to give excuses for your behavior, to act like a victim.
But we’re practicing this simple act, and we’re also trying to pay attention to one another.
To give kisses hello and good-bye. To stop and look one another in the eyes. To say, “Thank you for washing the dishes tonight.” We work hard and talk out our disagreements and usually end up meeting somewhere in the middle, which is probably the best place to be.
We left all the addition noise and craziness and went for a long family hike at the Congaree swamp Friday. My parents came and helped paint Saturday afternoon, and David’s parents cooked us dinner.
Yesterday afternoon turned out to be a very sweet balance of resting and then getting outside in that beautiful sunshine and doing a project together.
And I guess that’s what Sally Clarkson was saying. Life is hard now. Life will be hard in six months. What matters is today. How am I trusting Jesus to show me what’s most important in just this hour? How am I giving thanks for the gifts in my life, instead of focusing on the negative, instead of waiting for the next season?
How am I loving the people around me well and making them feel special? How am I giving up my rights and dying to myself? How am I pursuing fun and joy and laughter? Today?
Two expressions that we use a lot around here these days are:
“The condition” (addition)
“The instruction!” (construction, coined by Noah and always said with an exclamation mark, as in, “The instruction is digging!!!” or “Those little boys left their instruction at our house!!!”)
Here’s our house on Day One.
After we posted that the addition had started, lots of people said, “Wait, you didn’t mention that this was finally happening!”
The truth is, we didn’t know it was finally happening until Monday morning at 8:00 am, when the crew arrived.
Last fall-ish, we thought we’d finally found a builder, and scheduled him to start the first of the year, only to have him lose touch for a couple of months. We figured we were back to square one.
So this winter, David scurried and found two more builders and they came to give us quotes. During this entire time (and truly for the last two and a half years), he checked Zillow house listings daily, emailing me some every now and then.
Then suddenly our original contractor got back in touch with us within the last couple of weeks, invited us to come check out a home addition he was finishing up in the Forest Acres neighborhood (which we loved!), and began talking details. He came out to give us a final quote. All of which seemed promising. But after wearying of the rollercoaster of House Addition Waiting, we sure weren’t holding our breath.
The truth is, until Monday at 8:00 we didn’t know for sure what we were going to do. Stay or move. Addition or no addition.
But when our builder, Scott, knocked on the door Monday morning while we were scrambling to get ready for Classical Conversations, building permit in hand, and asked me to move our van out of the driveway, I had the most amazing feeling of relief and happiness. I couldn’t stop grinning all day long.
So really, this story isn’t so much about a home addition, as it is about figuring out that this is exactly where we’re supposed to be.
We looked at so many big and beautiful homes over the past couple years — ever since we decided to adopt — quite a few that are way more sophisticated and historic than ours (and some really lousy ones too). I lost my temper many a time over our teensy one bathroom and small kitchen and us tripping all over one another here.
But the truth is, we didn’t want to move. None of us.
Last month David and I looked at one another and said, “What the heck, let’s just stay. Let’s never move. Even if it’s cramped. Even if Judah and Amelie share a bedroom forever. Let’s pretend we’re Tiny House owners.”
Because when it comes down to it, this is the first house we’ve ever purchased. It’s affordable. It’s the home God gave us after the heart-break of leaving India. This was our refuge when we started a church, the place we welcomed our two sons, and ate chili with CPC New Members. We love our neighbors. We love that we can walk to the grandparents’ house. It seems that after just three-and-half years we’re so neck-deep-rooted in memories that it felt like losing a part of ourselves to sell it, even for something bigger and better.
So we decided not to.
The very next week, David went out and bought eight chicks, and has spent the weekends since working on building them a coop.
I think we held out so long on chickens because we just.didn’t.know.
And suddenly, out of the blue, here is Scott, arriving each morning with a bright smile, his crew friendly and hard-working, our boys enamored with the fact that a construction zone has plopped itself right outside our window.
And the happiness just washes over me like waves.
We don’t have to move.
We know exactly where we’re supposed to be.
When it rained on Wednesday, my sister-in-law texted and said, “I’m so sorry the work is being delayed!” But you know what? I couldn’t care less.
It’s started! And that’s enough for me.
I really think if we’d been doing this a year ago, I’d be impatient over every little thing. Now I’m just grateful.
And now a few details.
As you can see from the pictures, the addition is coming off the front left as you face our house, turning it from a rectangle into an “L” shape. From the inside, the window where the boys are standing will become a doorway into a tiny hall, take a right and there’s the bathroom, walk-in closet, and master bedroom in succession. It will be about 450 sq. ft. total.
Judah and Amie exclaimed over the yellow Port-a-John that arrived the other day, and Gabe asked, “Mommy, is this our new bathroom?”
One of our favorite things about living here is that our neighbors are pretty awesome. My friend says we’re on the “wrong side of the Earlewood tracks,” meaning our neighborhood is next to some really nice neighborhoods but isn’t so fancy itself.
But you know what I love about that? No Homeowners Association. No neighbors chiding us for not landscaping our front yard sooner (judging from the way it looks now I’m pretty happy we waited). No one cares about the noise (at least not yet, fingers crossed), and my friend across the street invited the crew to use their second driveway if needed.
Our next door neighbor said awhile back, “You can do anything you want to your house, as long as you don’t move!”
This week the crew moved the gravel driveway, cleared the front bed of azaleas (which we’re attempting to replant elsewhere), removed the brick, measured and dug the footers, had a footer inspection, and today the concrete was poured.
If you’re wondering how invasive the project is, well, you can see that outside our house is mass chaos. But thankfully because it’s an addition rather than a renovation, very little of it will affect our living space. We have a couple of sheets draped in the corner of our bedroom because of the dust. Eventually they will need to seal up a window in our current room (Amie’s future bedroom!), and cut the door.
For now, it’s mostly just noisy.
We’re going to plug away at our normal routine as usual, and escape when we need to. David took the day off work today, and we all went to breakfast at the Wired Goat cafe, then for a five-mile hike at Congaree National Park. We can’t do that every week, but today it was amazing. The woods were delightfully quiet after the construction.
Now they’re finished for the holiday weekend, and David is out back happily working on his chicken coop.
Scott estimated the project to take about three months from start to finish.
It’s hard to believe by summer it might be finished!
We are all so very, very thankful. Waiting was not easy. But it seems that it’s made the whole process all the sweeter.
I’ve had these photos in the queue for a couple weeks, waiting for a blog post, but David’s been working so hard that they’re are already outdated. Ah well. I’ll show you what I’ve got and next week I’ll post some more!
But first, a quick trip down memory lane. We bought this house because we had a vision for our backyard. We hoped the fact that the house was small (1,450 square feet) would give us a good nudge to spend more time outside. In essence, we wanted to make a little homestead, complete with an “outdoor living room” where we could read and play and work and be. We knew that all of this would take time and money and work, but we felt it would be worth it.
Here’s a reminder of what we started with, just over three years ago. We did have the concrete slab, but other than that the yard was quite overgrown with pine trees, ivy, shrubs, and weeds (and a random light post).
The two biggest projects we had done in our first year of home ownership were to have a privacy fence installed and 8 pine trees removed. David (and sometimes our friends) also did lots and lots of clearing, and he put in a raised garden bed — and rebuilt it when it was crushed during pine tree removal. Oh yeah, and built a play house from scratch, no big deal. David is nothing if not an overachiever.
The very same month that his parents moved here from Pennsylvania, David corralled his dad to help build the pavilion, which our friend Spencer designed for us. And Steve has been very kindly doing projects for us ever since. Actually my mother-in-law and I have a joke: when I really want something done around the house, I ask Steve to do it, and when she wants something done, she asks David.
We finished the pavilion, we adopted two kids, and oddly enough, house and yard projects were nearly non-existent for a year.
The trampoline is the best investment we never made in our yard: it was a hand-me-down from some neighbors — right before Gabe and Noah came to live with us — and has gotten more use than anything else in the yard.
We did decide to hire a landscape architect from a local nursery to give us a design for the entire backyard. This summer when we were ready to start seriously considering landscaping, we had two different companies come give us a quote for the backyard and were dumbfounded by the cost to have the yard landscaped for us.
So David decided to take those plans and work around the yard himself piece by piece. We’re saving money by buying smaller size plants than the landscaper recommended and mulching with pine straw and doing lots of watering the old-fashioned way. Our shrubs and trees will grow and fill out over time — if there’s anything we’re learning as home-owners, it’s that patience is a virtue.
And so, my friends, here’s where we stand today:
If I had to sum this process up, I’d say the first three years felt like a whole lot of work and waiting. We’ve always enjoyed our backyard, but when we looked around, all we saw were the projects. More and more and more to be done.
But these days, we’re having so much fun with our yard. Of course there’s still more to do, but we’ve both been thrilled with the impact of beginning to landscape the borders, while we’re also keeping up with the vegetable garden.
Now don’t get me wrong: I do almost none of the grunt labor. My side of the bargain includes runs to the local nursery to buy what we need, and holding down the fort with kids and meals and laundry while David weeds and digs and plants.
You know what I find interesting about my battle with anxiety? It’s keeping me home more, and therefore making me open my eyes to what’s right here, in front of me.
Who would’ve thought I’d ever start gardening? That I’d care to learn the difference between a Camellia Sasanqua and a Japonica? That I’d remember to water both indoor and outdoor plants on a regular basis?
That I’d find joy in it?
Moreover, I’m surprised by the way running my hands through the dirt and emptying a red plastic Solo cup of water onto the base of a plant calms my very spirit.
I’m still a very, very beginning gardener. There’s so much I need to learn, like when to prune shrubs and to buy my potted mums before they’ve bloomed so they’ll last longer. David and I are a team; some days he weeds and waters, some days I do.
But I’d say the big difference is that these days I’m interested. I want to learn this new vocabulary. I daydream about what annuals to plant in the little bed next to the pavilion next spring, collect plant clippings from my mom, and ask my mother-in-law how to deal with the slugs that seem to be taking over our yard this month (ugh). I adore popping by the nursery during my afternoon out and peppering the staff with my questions.
Isn’t it funny how embracing a new hobby is like having a light bulb turned on? You suddenly see the world in a different way. On my run I study neighbors’ trees and bushes and try hard to remember their names. I reread At Home in Mitford and notice every single reference to Father Tim’s garden, building it in my mind’s eye.
By now I can tend a planted bed! I found out how to turn my browning aloe plant green again (filtered sunlight)! I can water and pull weeds and clip kale. I can even, under duress, remove and kill the caterpillars that ravage our leafy greens.
Mostly I feel so very grateful that we haven’t moved, that we’ve stuck it out in this one spot, with its limitations and aches and pains. There is no perfect house. There’s no perfect yard.
But there’s something that feels very right about doing what we can to make this place we live better than we found it. It feels good to take over our yard, bit by bit, to beat back the ivy and the pine needles, and to create new soil with compost and attract butterflies and bees.
There’s something very right and very peaceful about having eyes to see and enjoy right where we are.