Creating (a) Space

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d been holding the hope that we would be all the way unpacked and organ-imized at the one-year anniversary of moving into our “house on the hill.”

Well, we still have a few weeks till that anniversary — 24 days, to be exact — but I’m ready to call it: I will not be making that hoped-for deadline.

buried-boxesQuite frankly, the momentum for unpacking and all has ground to a complete halt during the last few months.

There’s plenty of good reasons for that. First, there was The Cruise, which took us out-of-town for more than a fortnight, and which required a certain amount of packing/unpacking of its own accord. There’s also the fact that one of the benefits we wanted to create by moving north from Philly was the ability to spend our weekends up at the lake in NH — and we’ve certainly spent a few of our summer weekends happily living out that intention. And then there’s been a few busy patches at work (she says, putting it ever-so-mildly).

But as I began to be aware that the one-year anniversary was approaching and to realize that I was going to miss my secret goal, I started looking at the ways I’ve been giving zero effort to unpacking, and I asked myself what other factors might have contributed to this stop in momentum. And I began wondering if those other factors had both a practical and an energetic dimension to them.

On the practical front, we’ve hit the stage where some of the unpacked boxes are definitively things we want to keep (old tax files, my cross-stitching supplies, etc.) but that don’t actually have any storage furniture to be unpacked into. (Some of our old furniture — including the filing cabinet and some shelving units — got jettisoned during the move, either because it was too old to be worth keeping, or because the ceiling in our finished basement — which is where these items are intended to be stored — is just a teensy-weensy bit too low.)

The energetic front is sort of linked to the practical lack of storage furniture: I didn’t have a vision for the room where the unpacked boxes are currently living.


Let me set the stage to make this all (I hope!) slightly more comprehensible. The architectural features of the house mean that the finished basement falls roughly into three separate rooms, plus a wide long hallway. These “rooms” are open to one another, but still function as separate areas of space. When we moved in, we knew that the first room at the bottom of the stairs was going to be a little library/reading nook area, and that was, for the most part, set up pretty quickly. The hallway was wide enough that we could put up shelves for my prodigious CD collection (plus our movies), which was perfect because the third room, where the hallway leads to, was where we wanted to set up a media room. Those CD shelves were also taken care of pretty quickly, while the future media room and the undetermined center room were where the tons and tons of unpacked boxes waited for attention.

As we unpacked, we kept consolidating the geography so that a higher and higher percentage of unpacked boxes were in the center room, the room we simply began calling “unpacking central.” By taking this approach, we were able to get the media room clear — or, at least, clear enough — so we could start setting it up. The decor is still what we’ve been calling nouveau dorm room, but the core elements — big screen TV, soundbar, PS3 — are there, and we can deal with having milk-crate shelving for the time being.

And then there’s unpacking central.


It was actually really helpful for a while not to have any other vision for the center room aside from its current role as unpacking central. The unpacking process, as a whole, has required me to really come face to face with all my hoarding/shopaholic impulses — facing up not only to the shame around that specific behavior pattern, but also to all the emotional baggage and patterning that led me to be a hoarder to begin with. Quite frankly, it’s been hard emotional work. Good work, important work, work well-worth the doing. Absolutely worth the effort. But hard, nonetheless.

Amidst that hard work, I definitely appreciated not having the extra burden of pressure in thinking “We could already have our ______ (game room, exercise room, whatever), if only I could get my fucking act together!

Yeah, it was nice to not have that piece of internal monologue running.

But my recent spate of inaction had me wondering if I had now become just a little bit too complacent in that room’s identity as “unpacking central” — like, somewhere in the back of my mind, was I thinking “Well, we don’t even know what we’re gonna use the room for, so what’s the hurry to finish cleaning it up?!?

So tonight, Mr. Mezzo and I did a little bit of talking and visioning about the kind of hybrid storage/crafting/creative nook we want to create for that center room. We don’t have everything figured out, but enough is settled that we can take advantage of Massachusetts’ tax free shopping weekend with an Ikea run tomorrow to get a couple storage pieces.

Two birds with one stone: start creating and carrying forward a vision to help re-inspire me towards the unpacking, plus some furniture pieces that mean unpacked item actually have a damn place to go.

So maybe we won’t hit the one-year moving anniversary. Maybe by Yule, instead…


Image credit:

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.


Image credit:


My Old Ohio Home

Catching up on Writing 101. Day 11, brought to you by the letter “L” for late and the number “18” for the actual day it was posted on.

Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. For your twist, pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths.

Good heavens, Daily Post people! What is it with your obsession with writing about our homes!?!

First there was that long post about my current home. . . . Oh, wait.

That post could have been about any place anywhere in the world. It was just my own nesting instincts that led it to be home-focused.

But how about this childhood home thing? I was free-writing about that in my pen and paper journal recently. . . . Oh, wait!

That was free writing, which is, indeed, a habit strongly encouraged by the Writing 101 folks. However, the definition of what “free writing” is pretty much mandates that specific topics come from inside of me rather than being externally imposed.

So if there’s any spooky obsessiveness around the topic of home and childhood, that’s all on me, baby.


For all of the times we moved during my childhood, we did a pretty good job at scheduling most of those disruptions to take place during summer vacation. That detail, plus my September birthday — meaning that every school grade neatly lines up with a single chronological year for me — makes it super-easy for me to dial up past houses/apartments in my memory. It goes something like this: 12 years old would put me in 7th grade,* which means we’re talking about that second time in Ohio.

ohio-home-etsyI could share the street address with you, but I won’t. The number is burned into my brain but also disconnected from the current paper trail of my existence. So it’s possible that these digits might sometimes get used as the PIN number on my frequent flyer accounts. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) And I needs to keep my miles.

I’m close to having a picture of the floor plan in my mind. Even though it was in the Midwest, it was another of those “two-story center entrance colonials” I was so glad to avoid in my most recent round of house-hunting. Standing in the front entryway, the staircase was to the right side of the entry hall, with an open doorway at the foot of the stairs leading to the front-to-back living room, with the screened porch jutting even further back off the horse’s perimeter. A waist-high railing separated the back side of the family room from the “breakfast area” and kitchen. Then, continuing the counterclockwise circle, was the dining room and, past that, the formal living room. I never visited there except during Christmastime, when the tree would be placed in the bay window, decorated and lit with bright colors. We’d sit there after dinner and talk — no lights except the tree and the electric candles in the windows.

The master suite was directly to the right at the top of the stairs. Its front-to-back  arrangement echoed the family room below. Meanwhile, down the hall to the left was the guest room, a bathroom, maybe even an extra extra bedroom that had been turned into dad’s home office? The end of the hall, I’m sure about: my room in front, my sister’s in back. My carpet and walls were bright yellow, and I had a habit of rethinking and re-arranging the furniture in my room when I was in need of a bit of self-re-invention.

You may notice that I’ve been focusing my attention on the sheer physicality of this house. It’s not like I’m breaking any rules with that decision. After all, the prompt was to talk about the home I lived in back then. So here I am, talking. Or writing.

But I am going to stop here, having written about the house, but without really writing about the living in that house. As I recall it, 7th grade was an especially tough one on the awkward-adolescence and misfit-family-member scale. And there’s some memories that just don’t need reliving right now.

* “Age minus 5” is the formula that holds true for me.


Image credit:

(In case this specific item gets sold and the link becomes defunct, go here to get to the Etsy seller’s main store-front.)

A Place to Call Home

[Bookend] The Day 2 prompt for Writing 101 is about place: “Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?” [/Bookend]

Let me tell you why I love our house.

It’s not all that easy to find a place with contemporary architecture up here in Boston: that heritage of the “center-entrance colonial” runs deep. So, even though I’ve been in love with that style since I was 13 and first visited the Frank Lloyd Wright room at the Met, I made peace with myself when we started looking at listings 15 months ago. If I held to that particular fantasy too tightly, we might never find a roof to place over our heads, so I was going to have to show some flexibility.

(And yes, I know there’s officially a difference between Frank Lloyd Wright’s style of architecture and what we usually call “contemporary” architecture. Still, something about them both — the cleanness of line, the use of natural textures, the big windows that elide the boundary between the natural and the lived environment — have always felt deeply resonant with one another. And they make my heart sing.)

houseThis is why it feels a little bit like a miracle every time I come up the driveway to see our house on the hill, beautifully asymmetrical and nestled in the woods. There, to the left of the front door, is the rock garden. It’s weathered two tough winters and a summer’s neglect during the 2013 house-selling season: I’m still trying to figure out what’s plant and what’s weed, but it’s lovely to see things coming in, green and pink and purple. The bird feeder outside Mr. Mezzo’s office window is a new addition this spring: we’re pretty sure word is getting out, because the time between “full” and “empty” keeps getting shorter and shorter.

Once inside the door, you want to head left to see most of the place. First up are the two extra “bedrooms” outfitted as relics of the 21st century, two-career family: his and her offices. Mr. Mezzo’s is office-only — he telecommutes every single day, and the gorgeous built-in desk here was one of the ninety-eleven things that made us knew we were home as soon as we toured the place. I commute to an office office most days, so my home “office” is more of a reading & writing nook that can do double duty as a guest room. My little desk is flanked by two tall bookshelves — which I heard once somewhere is horrifically bad feng shui, but I don’t care. They make me happy. In everyday usage, the daybed and trundle can be a place to sit and read, and they’re also ready to serve as a place for a sleepover guest to lay their tired head.

After these two doors is a small spiral staircase going up — we’ll come back to that soon — and then the heart of the house: the living room, kitchen and dining room.

The living room is open to the roofline, with high transom windows on one wall, and then a bank of (almost) floor to ceiling windows where the room juts out just a little farther than the rest of the house. The carpet is soft and plush and blue, and the sense of light and air, sun and shade is a treasure to me. This room is sunk a few steps down from the main hallway and separated from that hallway by these stairs and a wood railing.

The hallway opens to and ends in the big room that is kitchen and dining room. Tile and hard wood floors mark a clear distinction between the two rooms, but they open directly one to the other without wall or barrier. Again: light and air and an elision of boundaries. The tile patterning on our table reminds me of the designs Wright would design into stained glass, and Wright also comes to mind with the way you can sit at the table and have windows always in view. Whether it’s the kitchen windows and the back door to the vegetable patch, the living room windows (which are still in eye-line from the dining room), or the sliding doors that lead out to an enormous deck overlooking the lawn and the trees, the sense of living in beauty and comfort and nature are very present.

loftAs a final stop on this abbreviated tour, let’s backtrack to that spiral staircase and head upstairs. Here, our “meditation loft,” is another gem that led to the instant recognition of house-on-the-market as home. If I’d been more alert, I would have taken a picture during daylight hours so you could see how this room rests in tree and sky, green and blue. (And I might just come back tomorrow and do an image swap.) No matter what other tendencies towards entropy crop up throughout the rest of the house, this room has been something we’ve held sacred. It’s the seed of how I imagine the rest of our home can be, as we continue to unpack and declutter and settle in.

Now, I’ll admit: there’s lots of the messier details of life and home that I’ve been glossing over in this tour. You’ll notice, for example, that we didn’t head down to the basement and “unpacking central.” Some other night, another visit.

Nevertheless, a core fact remains: however much I would enjoy the opportunity to travel the world and see new places, what I most treasure is the nesting sense of having a home I love coming back to.