Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Home Baking

I stumbled across this post today —

[SIDEBAR] Okay, let’s be real: a friend of mine posted it on Facebook, which is just about how all the articles I write about on JALC initially come to my attention. I like to pretend I’ve minimized Mark Zuckerberg’s presence in my life, and I certainly try not to use the platform as a way to “show off” or brag on my life. Clearly, though, I spend rather a lot of time there, if the frequency of my JALC-sourcing articles posted there is any indication. In all honesty, there’s a lot of nights (tonight included), where I pop on over for the precise purpose of finding bloggerly inspiration. [/SIDEBAR]

Anyhow. So, I “stumbled across” this post today by Glennon Doyle Melton writing about her kitchen. Evidently, she’d written about her kitchen recently and then been flooded with all sorts of helpful ads and offers so she could remodel it to make if more acceptable. Melton talks about how that initial flood of pretend-helpful criticism prompted her to feel some insecurity, and even consider starting the wheels on some sort of kitchen remodel.

But as I lay down to sleep, I remembered this passage from Thoreau’s Walden: “I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes and not a new wearer of the clothes.” Walden reminds me that when I feel lacking- I don’t need new things, I need new eyes with which to see the things I already have. So when I woke up this morning, I walked into my kitchen wearing fresh perspectacles.

Melton’s descriptions of the everyday miracles that can be seen when looking through “perspectacles”* are brilliantly on the mark. I think my favorite is the coffee maker —

I can’t even talk about this thing. Actually, let’s take a moment of reverent silence because this machine is the reason all my people are still alive. IT TURNS MAGICAL BEANS INTO A LIFE-SAVING NECTAR OF GODS. EVERY MORNING.

— but it’s ALL well worth the reading, and it reminds me of a favorite Louis CK bit:

(I don’t care if I’ve posted this here before. I may post it a million more before I’m done with JALC.)

Melton’s ultimate point is pretty well-summed-up here:

In terms of parenting, marriage, home, clothes – I will not be a slave to the Tyranny of Trend any longer. I am almost 40 years old and no catalog is the Boss of Me anymore. . . . I know how I like my house. I like it cute and cozy and a little funky and I like it to feel lived in and worn and I like the things inside of it to work.  That’s all. And for me – it’s fine that my house’s interior suggests that I might not spend every waking moment thinking about how it looks.

Sometimes it seems that our entire economy is based on distracting women from their blessings. Producers of STUFF NEED to find 10,000 ways to make women feel less than about our clothes, kitchens, selves so that we will keep buying more.

This dose of perspective is especially timely since Mr. Mezzo and I are actually preparing for a kitchen remodel. Or planning for one. Or preparing to plan for one — that’s probably the best statement of where we are in the process.

It’s not like Melton’s perspectacles are making me rethink the notion entirely. As far as I can tell, there are a few key distinctions between her situation and ours. To begin with, and most importantly: not all the things inside of it actually work the way they’re supposed to. Everything in our kitchen is original to the house’s late 1980’s construction, and the age has begun to show. The oven’s temperature control is wonky, the dishwasher racks are beginning to rust, and I’m just waiting for the day our microwave gives up the ghost. In addition, there’s a few other features — poorly designed pantry, completely unwanted trash compactor, an island that’s bigger than we want and a wasted wall that could be used for more counters and cabinets if we shrunk said island — I would enjoy changing, which is why then it makes more sense to go for the full redo rather than just replacing one or two appliances.

Also, unlike Melton’s title (“Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt,”) we don’t have to go into debt for this project. Our house prices was “discounted” from what you might expect this house and zip code to have been priced at — in large part because of this old, teetering-on-the-edge-of-functional kitchen. So we’ve been able to save and set aside a small nest egg that is earmarked for the kitchen remodel.

resist-peer-pressureStill, as we prepare to evaluate new designs for the kitchen, choose appliances and cabinets and counters, I know that Melton’s warning about falling victim to the “tyranny of trend” will be good ones to carry with me. ‘Cos, you know what? If it helps our project stay within budget, maybe we don’t need to get the most expensive marble countertops, or whatever the top-trend new shiny kitchen things are. A better designed space where all the things inside it work? So I can once again have the capacity to bake bread and cookies?

It’s a great way to think of the core goal.

* I am SO adding this term to my daily lexicon.


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basket of magazines

Lead Me Not Into Temptation

I’ve done a halfway double down on the 5×5 goals tonight. Not on account of choir tomorrow. (Which I do have. I’m just hoping I’ll still manage to get tomorrow’s “quota” handled on tomorrow.)

Let’s call tonight’s double down a combination of playing catch-up and covering my ass (in case tomorrow’s rehearsal does throw me off-track).

Anyhow, one of the things I tackled tonight in the “everyday cleaning and clutter management” category was to get a (partial) handle on however-many days of accumulated mail. (Checkbook-balancing and bill-paying are definitely on the agenda for tomorrow morning or during lunch break.)

Now, one of the biggest categories of mail these days is the mail we call “junk”: advertising mailers, credit card offers, and lots and lots of catalogs. I’ve gotten pretty good at discarding the first two categories with ruthless efficiency,* but the catalogs have ended up having a slightly different ritual of their own.

basket of magazinesHere’s how the system works. I put a basket in the living room specifically to hold catalogs, and as new ones arrive, I just keep adding them to the front of the “stack” until such time as the basket is full. Then I sit down and weed out all the duplicate catalogs until the basket holds just the most recent catalog from each company.**

I’ve been doing it this way for a number of years. Why? I wish I had a better answer for that question. At this stage of the game, the pattern has become so unconscious and unthinking that it’s hard to recapture whatever reasons I may have had to do this in the first place.

I think I wanted a rich collection on hand to give me ideas whenever a holiday came around where I needed to buy a gift for someone. I think I wanted sources of inspiration as I lived surrounded by parental hand-me-downs hoping someday to have/create a home environment that was more authentically expressive of my soul and passions. I think I hoped that being able to glance through catalogs and imagine having things would allow me to develop a deeper level of discernment around which desired-for purchases were items that would actually enrich my life and which were more passing, addictive, covetous moments.

That last thought/hope certainly never came to fruition. Not that I’m trying to suggest that my ongoing shopping addiction is caused by having catalogs in the house.*** However, I don’t think it’s been a great help to have them around. Better than nothing insofar as having a way to (somewhat) contain the paper monster, but still: probably not a great help to have them around.

So tonight, as I went through the accumulated mail, every catalog went right into the recycling bin. Over the weekend, when we’re gathering up paper for the recycling run, I’ll probably make a good dent in the basket, too. And, as new catalogs come in with the day’s mail, I’m going to experiment with tossing them straight into recycling with the rest of the junk mail.****

Will it have any great effect on my shopping issues? Who knows?

Will it have an immediate effect on the amount of paper clutter in the house? Why yes, yes it will.

And I’ll celebrate any win I can get.

* Except, of course, in stretches of time when I let the mail pile up unexamined. Like now. (Also, for the record: “ruthless efficiency” as regards credit card offers includes a trip through the shredder. For the offer paperwork, not for me.)

** There are, yes, a few companies that just go straight to the discard pile rather than being part of this whole ritual of commerce and covetousness. But not as many as you’d think, and definitely not as many as there should be.

*** After all, who needs catalogs to spark temptation when there is the Internet and the corporate media machine?

**** Or tossing most of them, if there turns out to be a catalog that is honestly timely and relevant to some purchasing decision of-the-moment. Hey, this is all about practice, not perfection…


Tonight’s soundtrack: Gipsy Kings, Este Mundo.

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