I remember the night you called me, your voice awkward and intentional, “I need to see you. We need to talk.” I assumed it was the end of us, what little of us existed after a date and a smattering of lengthy conversations. I couldn’t imagine otherwise what could be so pressing. I sat at the kitchen table in my PJs, making notes on Waiting for Godot or some other drama, distracted by the waiting, pretending to ignore the looming let down. When you arrived, you sat by my side and asked to walk with me in the night, a privacy I didn’t feel necessary for a “let’s just be friends” conversation. I was annoyed but obliged anyway. I did love your friendship and wanted to pretend that was enough. We strolled the vacant street together slipping in and out of shadows for a mile before you stopped by a pond and asked me to marry you. Thousands of words spilled into that night, but thirteen years later all I can seem to remember is “yes.”
The terrain of marriage rises and falls like those golden Californian hills. Yet somewhere on that misty, unknown horizon, oak trees grow. Their misshapen and varied limbs raise to the sky, rooted and strong.
As most of you know, we closed on a new (very old) home on Valentine’s Day of this year. Covered in 50 year old dingy carpet, layers of aged wallpaper, a pink bathroom, a dark, inefficient kitchen, and a yard overgrowing it all, this 100 year old property needed work. But of course we loved the price-point and the structure beneath it all: 10 foot ceilings throughout, the simple design and floor-plan, the front porch, and cozy nature of the property. We knew over time, we could change the other things. So we tore out the carpet, scrubbed and sealed the floors, pealed off wall paper, sanded walls, and painted everything white (except the wood floors). Literally.
For the sake of seeing the entire process, I’m going to back up a bit on our current kitchen project. This is what the kitchen looked like on closing day: drippy faucet, dirty sink and tile countertops, brown painted built-ins, off-white laminate flooring, no dishwasher or microwave, a really fantastic vintage stove/oven that didn’t fully work, and a serious lack of counter space.
Before we moved in, our goal was simply to brighten the overall aesthetic of the kitchen with paint and wait for a larger remodel until next year. This was phase 01: paint everything white (even the tile countertops which we knew would peel) and remove the cabinet doors and the weird shelf on the partial wall. Our home warranty replaced the stove/oven (but we kept the old one to eventually restore) and we found a cheap, simple fridge on Craigslist to use (since we sold our previous with our last home).
Can we just pause for a moment and discuss the power of paint? Seriously. Paint makes such a powerful impact on a space. We used Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace in the Eggshell Finish and painted the built-ins with oil-based semi-gloss in the same color. Although we originally planned to pause here, if you follow me on Instagram, you know we didn’t. I’ll share more photos and story later this week.
Time has stopped almost entirely here these last two months. Offline, we are fumbling through changes again, wrapping up our school year (finally), beginning new and larger home projects, and still trying to find that unclear balance between so many roles. A dear friend recently commented to me, referring to the comical amount of activites her kids were involved in, ”This was suppose to be easier. I was a hard-ass, draw-the-line mom before I had kids.” I laughed aloud–not just the LOL or ”crying I’m laughing so hard” emoticon either–a rich, from the gut laughter at how easily the lines of modern life blur between shoulds and shouldn’ts, needs and wants, and that in life which is mine, theirs, yours, and ours.
Honestly, I really love the internet, this space, and the relationships I’ve made here, but sometimes it smudges those boundaries even more, twisting my priorities and perspectives more than I want to admit. I’ve needed some room to find those lines again, to remember the parts of me that give substance within this somewhat hazy online world. Although this sort of silence is never popular and entirely antithetical to the social part of social medias, it has been healthy for me to put aside my phone and camera more often recently, to actually read the books on my nightstand, to choose slower-to-make whole foods over the more quickly made processed ones, to switch off the computer and be with Mark, to study the clouds for shapes and stories instead of the weather, to have pillow-fights and watch movies with the kids, to share weekends and drinks with friends.
I now have several backlogged portraits of my children and images of our home projects to share soon. Thank you all for your patience in this process and for the many ways you inspire me to bravery and courage. Happy Friday to you.
I have always considered myself a lover of change. A new soap scent, a different routine, a fresh arrangement of furniture in a room. Those are the fun changes, the ones I initiate to give fresh experience to something that might otherwise be growing stale. But sometimes change happens to us without our consent, without our knowing. It sneaks up and swipes out our feet, forcing us to adapt and modify our lives to a new perspective (albeit sometimes on our face), to move on, to survive. And sometimes, even then, outside of our own comfort and realm of choice, we find beauty and goodness where we never expected, in an evening walk, a generous gift, or the words of a friend. We learn something new about ourselves, about one another, about God. We grow.
This last year has contained a domino effect of change for our family, beginning with an unexpected financial catastrophe a year or so prior. Last Spring, we sold our home (which we had almost entirely renovated), invested our profits in a rental property, moved in with my sister + brother-in-law sharing their mortgage and bills for the year, worked every extra freelance job the two of us could (including Mark’s full-time teaching job), saved every extra bit we could without starving, bought a hundred year-old home for a tad more than some might by a brand new luxury car, and now are slowly renovating it. All with our four kids.
As I’ve been thinking about this past year’s changes for our family, I’ve wondered what little nuggets I’ve learned and might pass to someone else face-planted by change. The list below is for me to remember and for you, just in case you ever find yourself needing it:
:: be honest :: Admit you’re hurting or disappointed about things not happening the way you anticipated. After I had each of my children, my body would convulse uncontrollably from shock and heat loss, naturally. Difficult changes can often cause the same response emotionally, or they did for me. Being honest about my hurt or fear always connects me to Jesus and to others. Honesty reminds me I’m not alone.
:: hope :: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both secure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us” (Heb. 6:19-20). These words have been life for me. It’s good to feel anchored in change, to have a sense of your soul’s belonging , especially when your physical self feels so transient.
:: slow down :: It’s ok to put aside extra commitments, to allow a different pace for yourself and your family. If you have children, make time to hear from each of them. Each of our children has responded differently to all of this change, but all of them have needed extra affection, extra time to be with us.
:: dream together :: Dreaming aloud, reminds us we are in this together–as a couple, as a family. It helps us form goals and learn from one another in the process.
Have you read The Goldfinch yet? When Bri from Mamages asked me to share what I’ve been carrying around in my bag recently, I had to include this read. I’ve literally toted it with me everywhere the last month, finding random 15 minute intervals to resume. Although the plot moves quickly and with increasing intensity, Tartt managed to endear me to her characters, sprinkling poetic glimmers throughout an otherwise dark exploration of humanity, beauty, and worth. If you’re looking for a read this summer, I highly recommend this Pulitzer Prize winner. If you’re curious about what else I’m carrying around you can find it over here.
I’m so excited to announce WILD + FREE, a beautiful homeschooling conference in Virginia Beach September 19-21. I will be speaking and sharing a bit more about our homeschooling journey right alongside several other inspiring mothers. It will be a time to intentionally connect with other mothers and be encouraged through the various experience and stages of this journey. All women are welcome, whether you currently homeschool or simply want to hear more from women who do. You can find more information and register here. I hope to see you there.