Ode To Our First Home

It’s been on my list for ages to write a post that was an "ode" of sorts to our first little house. I just hadn’t gotten a chance to really put it into words. There is a space in Clare’s baby book for “a picture of your first house” and I think that’s what sparked the thought originally.

My friend Carol, who was also the mom of two of my first piano students when I started teaching at age 19 and who with her husband Kendall has been our landlord for the last 6 years lost her battle with breast cancer and passed away last week.  Our little duplex was also her first house.  And while we may just be renters, it will always truly feel like our first home. 

At Carols funeral, the priest spoke about “dwelling places” and all of the places that Carol called home, and it really struck me because we are living in one of the first places that she called home and it is because of her that we have been lucky enough to call this place our home for the last 6 years (and continue to do so!)

It seems like there's always a reason to want more or to not be satisfied with what we already have. Words often heard around here lament “I can’t wait till we have a bigger bathroom.” “I can’t wait till we have a dishwasher” “I can’t wait till we can have a real garden, or a better place to keep the cat litter." Stressing that we aren't in a position to afford to live somewhere bigger, always worried about being too cramped when we have large groups over because there just isn’t enough space for everyone.  And on and on. 

But when I really stop and think about it, there are so many wonderful things about this little house  that far outweigh the rest and we have made so many unforgettable memories here.  The charm that only a 50 year old house could have, we've got a pull down ironing board, a mail slot, a full brick walled fireplace and an adorable kitchen to living room "window." Someday way in the future when we do upgrade to something bigger or decide to buy a house, there will be even more memories that we will be leaving behind. 

This is the house where we came home from our wedding and honeymoon to.  Our newlywed home. (While Carol took care of our sick kitty while we were gone.) After the exhaustion of wedding planning and traveling, it really felt like a wonderful home to return to.

This is the house that we lost my dear kitty of 14 years, Kitters in. That week of finals, I will never forget laying with her in the hallway knowing this was probably the last day I would have her.  Waiting for Chris to come home so we could go to the vet.

This is the house that Chris started his career with Amtrak. After several years of us both working 5 jobs combined and him working 7 days a week, I remember sitting in the office with him all dressed up for training and thinking, wow, we’re really starting a new chapter. 

This is the house that I graduated from college in. Where we had my college graduation party. Where so many college choices and decisions were made.

This is the house where I made huge career changes myself, leaving my stable state job for a subsequent marketing job and then letting myself accept and realize how much I hated corporate environments, Chris and I making the choice to go off the pill and start a family. 

This is the house where I had a full blown mental breakdown in Spring of 2013, after the hormonal cascade of stopping the birth control pill. This house was my safe place to get through that incredibly tough span of time. Wrapped in blankets with Chris watching hours upon hours of West Wing.

This is the house where in early June 2013 I peed on a stick and ran into the kitchen waiving it in Chris’s face yelling “I TOLD YOU” and him lifting me up and spinning me around.

Yes, I peed on 3. Don't judge. 

Yes, I peed on 3. Don't judge. 

This is the house where I went into labor, and spent nearly a full day laboring before Clare’s birth.  Walking the neighborhood over and over with Chris, my mom and our awesome doula Nataly.  Kissing my Bertie cat goodbye and telling him we’d be home with his ‘sister’ soon.

Rocking in a chair in this living room with a tiny newborn on my chest is where I had the epiphany that childbirth education and birth work is what I was meant to do.

It’s where Clare had her first smile, said her first word, took her first steps and had her first Christmas.

Crammed with love, this house was full to the brim with friends and family for both of Clare’s one-year-old birthday parties.

So far there have been six Christmases, countless birthdays, other parties, get-togethers, book clubs, clothing swaps, this house is so full of memories and love. Tears shed, news relayed, some of our hardest days and some of our most joyful.   This little house will always have a very special place in my heart. 

Thank you, Carol (and Kendall!). Even though cancer took you from us far too soon, I can feel your sweet spirit permeating the walls of this place we call home, and I am so grateful that you have allowed us this space to live in as part of our journey.  

Rest in Peace, Carol.  We miss you.

Rest in Peace, Carol.  We miss you.

On Gratitude

Studies show that by focusing on what you’re grateful for, you can actually change your brain’s chemistry. Neuroplasticity and all that jazz. This last week I was particularly struck by this. I consciously think about what I’m grateful for when writing in my 5-minute-journal every morning. Sometimes this is in a sleep haze and my notes might not be the most thoughtful…i.e. it’s slightly embarrassing how many times one of my three “I’m grateful for” things includes simply – coffee.

But last week I had read this post of Elise’s and clicked through to this massively expensive house in La Jolla.  Gorgeous. Crazy.   In the same blog reading session I also read Kimberley’s series about the terrible financial troubles she’s gone through over the last few years and is currently facing. (My heart goes out to her SO much! And I think it’s really brave of her to share her story.) And the starkness of these two things just really hit me. 

We have had our fair share of financial worries, crises, account overdrafts, maxed credit cards, broken down cars, etc.  The list goes on and on.  And sometimes these issues can weigh so heavily on our minds, relationships and daily activities that it feels suffocating.  Chris and I have been through so many ups and downs in the 8 ½ years we’ve been together.  But if you compare where we are now to where we were when I was in college working 3 part-time jobs while going to school and him working 2 jobs, seven days per week (literally the man worked 7 days per week for like 2 years. NO days off - love you, babe.) , you can see such a huge difference.  Despite all of that we’ve always come out on the other side. We’ve never lived in fear of homelessness or had the incredibly humbling experience of being on food stamps. (Thank god for those programs, by the way)  It really just gives me so much perspective of all that I have to be grateful for and appreciative of.

I really like what Kimberly says about how most people just assume everyone is functioning in society the same way that they are.  They can’t imagine how others function differently.  What living paycheck to paycheck looks like. It is so true.  I think sometimes we get stuck living in our own little bubbles for so long that we can’t see how truly good we have it.  So as I sit here drinking my - most certainly a luxury – French press of Temple Coffee, I pledge, even in the harder, darker moments to do my best to be grateful and appreciative for all that I truly have. 

When I’m bummed that we can’t afford go out to dinner…I will be thankful that we not only make it a priority to buy but have the ability to afford healthy food. So many people are not that lucky.

When I’m feeling down that I can’t buy Clare the latest thing that all of my other mom friends are buying their kids, or when it feels like everyone around me can afford new clothes, gadgets, etc while we can’t – I will look around at all of the things we do have that seem absurdly luxurious when I really stop and think about what others go through. They may be ‘old’ or a bit run down, but we have TWO working cars. Two!  We both have computers, cell phones, CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONING.  We may live in a small house with a bit of  a run down bathroom, and no dishwasher. But we have an adorable, thankfully affordable rental with plenty of space for our family. And hello - less to clean!  (I've been mulling around a post on an ode to this little house. Someday I'll get it all written out)

When I am sad to be spending another weekend alone while most of my friends have ‘family time’ and Chris works out of town…I will be thankful that while Amtrak’s erratic schedule can be irritating, it supports us and our family and there are so many weekdays when the board is slow that we DO get to spend together that other families never get.

When I’m frustrated that I can’t find enough time to write or work in between Clare duty and piano & zumba teaching, cramming things into the cracks and crevices of naps…I will be grateful that thanks to Chris’s job, I AM able to pursue my passions of childbirth education, podcasting and writing without being chained to a 9-5 job and while also spending much more time with my young daughter than most have the luxury to. 

When my anxiety disorder starts to spiral as my menstrual cycle changes or I overextend myself, rather than digging myself into a deeper hole of worry and blaming myself for not ‘handling’ everything, I will be grateful for the amazing support system of Chris, family, friends, an excellent psychiatrist and the small self-care routines I have created over the last few years. 

Clare has been particularly challenging these last few weeks. Middle of the night wake ups – 4:30am up for the day – more tantrums than I can count – molar teething HELL. But she’s also had some of her sweetest moments…big hugs and kisses and other adorableness. Learning to help her manage her spirited personality will always be our challenge, but also our joy. I love my little firecracker cheese-ball so much that my heart hurts. And for that, I am incredibly thankful.

I got this art print last year, and it really is one of my favorite quotes.  We may not have everything, but we sure do make the best of what we have. And I need to remember to appreciate that.  We all do. 

What have you been taking for granted lately? What small thing could you be grateful for today? Share in the comments!