Humilty, Hospitality, Hypocrisy, and Home: Part 1

Oh, all those ‘H’ words. Which one shall I tackle first? I may end up writing about all 4 – lets see how far I get…

These words seem to touch me on an almost daily basis – or, at least, they should. Sometimes they affect me, sometimes I ignore then,  sometimes they wallop me over the head, and I cringe.

Let’s go with Home, first.

We live in a 916 sq ft house, and though our basement is unfinished, and colder than a …..fill in the blank to your liking….we do use it for playing sometimes. So, in other words, it is a compact living arrangement that, if I had to admit a potential vice, I sometimes have pride in.

A charming 1920’s home it is – wide millwork, original non-painted-over dark-stained wood, quirky little features, and well-built and solid. Plaster and lathe, baby, plaster and lathe. We like to think of our house as ‘craftsman lite’ – it was like the working-class 1-story bungalow.  When we walked into it, we knew were were home.

So why do I, at times, get so hung up on leaving this place? At different times in the almost-9 years we’ve lived here, we’ve tried to leave. This is our ‘starter house’ we always thought. We’ll move on when we outgrow it.

As child #2 was awaiting birth, we tried to sell our house, listed by owner. No takers. We had some lookers; no one was buying.

Child #3 surely deserved more space. It seemed so unfair to have 3 children share a room, right? What if we had a girl? Surely THEN we’d need a bigger, different-er place. We tried to sell again, with a realty company. Again, many MORE lookers – not even one offer. (And don’t call me Shirley, you might be thinking in your head)

Going from fairy-tale fall in love to low house-self-esteem in that period, it took some doing to remember the beauty in our house. One amazingly awesome thing that helped reignite it was a unique opportunity through our city, the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. We were able to put in new kitchen cupboards and redesign the kitchen somewhat, do a major bathroom update (to our sole bathroom, of course), add insulation to all our walls and attic, replace ALL the windows upstairs and down, and replace the gutters and fascia and put metal trim around the windows on the exterior. We also updated the electrical – goodbye knob and tube wiring! Now, we can make toast AND coffee at the same time, and not short out the entire house. Major Huzzahs all around!

We were calm. We were settled. We still gardened. We put in raspberries, horseradish (and you know both those two invasive species ain’t never going no-where…). We fanangled un-used garden boxes from friends, and perennials from others.

But, every now and then, the ugly feeling of discontentment, of house-envy, of un-gratitude, would rear its ugly head. I had just such a moment last week.

When I looked around, I didn’t see the tidy, well-organized palace I usually appreciate. I saw four walls that were too close together. I saw the backyard, covered with snow, and didn’t think about the promise of spring. I just saw…well, quite literally, the stinking winter of my major discontent.

Within 18 hours, I convinced myself that we would purchase a flood buy-out house, move it out on some land somewhere, and actually make money on the deal. I was worked up when Hub’and returned home, excited to for the Big Reveal. Yes, we would blow this popsicle stand, and be on our merry way. Starter home, ending home. Two separate homes, see?

A tirade of ideas from me and one deer-in-the-headlights expression from him, and he very, very gently reminded me that it just wouldn’t be possible yet. And he listed the conclusions we came to the last time I had one of these ‘epiphanies’ (which just happened to be about this same time, last year). Bless him, he wasn’t a ‘dream breaker’. He was just the sober yin to my raging yang, and I love him for that.

But I was let down.

How long, how Lo-o-o-ng are we going to beeeeee here?

Where is here?

  • Where I brought my four children home, and cuddled them, rocked them, fed them, changed them?
  • Where I swayed on the front porch and watched the little world parade past my window, and my husband and I pretend to be folk singers sometimes and harmonize to the neighbors across the street? Or sometimes went on the hot sticky summer evenings when I couldn’t get to sleep yet, or just wanted to enjoy the quiet?
  • Where I have gotten to live long enough to completely rearrange every room multiple times, with the same furniture, and felt like I was in a new space? Where I’ve painted every wall, and organized every nook and cranny to ‘maximize everything’ as our family has grown?
  • Where I’ve used the kitchen daily to nurture my creativity, and nourish my family? The kitchen table where we learn our lessons, and have the most amazing conversations about life, about God, about the finale episode of Avatar?

When we moved in, I bragged to my dad, “Oh yeah, we could have four kids in this house, easy,” never really believing we’d still be here when the fourth one was born, but glad that we have ‘stuck it out’.

Stuck it out is funny, and trite, because so many in our world have so much less. I really have it all. And, the having isn’t the half of it. Its the wanting. To want what you have — rather than focusing on having what you what. We truly have all we need.

That’s maybe where the other ‘H’ words come in.

To be humble enough to say – this is what I can afford. So, this is where I live.

To recognize the hypocrisy present in oneself, when you proclaim to want to be simple, live on the smaller side, focus on the important things – but still have moments when you covet all kinds of crazy crap of your neighbors, and it just doesn’t feel good in your soul. But we’ve all been there.

To know that a home, no matter how humble or grand, is meant to show hospitality. First of all, to the people who live there, and next, to reach its arms around friends, family, and stranger.

We’ve had a homeless woman eating sandwiches on our porch.  We’ve had family stay overnight, cousins scare each other with ghost stories, a college friend about to enter the convent, birthday parties where our house overflowed with guests, and  – love.

This is home. And this is what I have. And this is what I want.

So that, in a nutshell is how I didn’t get a flood buy-out house, but instead was reminded of my many blessings, and decided to order some seeds. To continue to put down roots. To admit I’m a humble hypocrite with a really great home. Want to come over sometime?

8 thoughts on “Humilty, Hospitality, Hypocrisy, and Home: Part 1

  1. Suzanne says:

    I loved your musings on home, Laura! While I am grateful for my blessings as well, I can assure you that a bigger home equals bigger mess, more cleaning time, and less time spent together as a family. Paul and I love our little lake place, just under 1,000 square feet and dream of settling there with the whole family. We are so happy there. Now, if I could just part with all our “stuff” (there’s no basement and no storage there!) we’d be set!

    • Laura says:

      Thank you, Suzanne – good points about bigger mess and more cleaning time! I need to remind myself of that as well. I agree, too, that no matter how much ‘stuff’ we have, it is still hard to part with it. Definitely a good Lenten thing to reflect on, that’s for sure.

  2. Ashley says:

    We bought a house we could ‘grow into’ and have since filled half of it with junk we don’t want,need or even like in many cases! I like our house but will like it a lot more when we can complete our purge to leave only what we use and like and make more room for US! Great post!

    • Laura says:

      The quest to purge is a constant one, and I know I am still learning every day about what it is just too hard to let go of. My boys were outside playing in the snow (yesssss!) but then they got into “my” gardening tools, and broke several rakes and a neat little circular hoe. I reached the boiling point. Whereas, if they got into my clothes and colored them with markers, I’d probably find it quite easy to laugh it off. Here’s to the struggle, and getting in there and fighting. The first step, in my opinion, is just being aware of our desire for ‘stuff’, and tried to head it off at the pass — sometimes we’re successful, sometimes the shiny thing wins. Thanks for the comment, Ashley –

  3. Dakotapam says:

    I so hear you on this. We are in a three bedroom 1959 ranch home. With six children. At one point all four boys shared the biggest bedroom. Now the two olders have taken over the finished basement. That helps. We got new windows this year. That helps. We need to do a lot of exterior work. We need more money. In a community full of McMansions it is hard to see our home as perfect. But, in a lot of ways, it is. Our house payment is vry reasonable. Our utilities are negligible. Our neighborhood elementary school still has 1959 charm and values. We can all go to our own corners and be alone…even with 8 of us. I can do all of the house cleaning, even if I hate it. My kitchen is a “one butt eat-in kitchen” and we have no dining room…but I still make healthy, hearty, from scratch meals in it. A huge gourmet kitchen would not be any better. Yes, our small house is perfect for us. It is our home.

    • Laura says:

      Saying lots of “Amens” to the above, Dakotapam – including house payment being affordable, local neighborhood being vibrant and diverse, and utility costs being reasonable. Have to say, too – helps to ‘go to your corners’ when the boxing match gets a little too rough. Love the “one butt eat-in kitchen” – made me LOL!

  4. eksith says:

    I think people often forget the difference between “dwelling”, “house” and “home” and the fact that the last is the only thing that can be called precious, short of your health and well-being. One is usually only one, sometimes two and rarely all three. Which is surprising to me, considering this is supposed to be the land of plenty (despite The Credit Crunch ™).

    Ask yourself whether you’ve spent all these years in only a house or dwelling or is it actually “home”. If it’s really the latter, then all else is irrelevant.
    Keep in mind, though, you can still be sentimentally attached to a “house” or “dwelling”, without it necessarily being a “home” too.

    I live in an apartment built in the 1960’s (800 sq/ft) and I would call this a “dwelling” so I’m actually homeless. Someday, I’m gonna buy a small plot of land and build myself a cabin (solar panels, rainwater collection, vegetable garden… the lot). I’ll design it myslef, build it (mostly) by myself and I’ll call it “home”.

    Also… “Starter Home” is an oxymoron.

    • Laura says:

      Some very thoughtful points here – I like what you say about house-home-and-dwelling, and that they’re rarely all three. I also find very poignant your comment that you feel, as you said, “homeless” right now – It *is* truly a blessing to have a home, something I am glad I usually remember. Thanks for reading, and for the comment. Peace.

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