The View from My Kitchen Table

When you come to our house for dinner, depending on where you sit at the long farmhouse-style table, you’ll get a certain glimpse into our life and values. Perhaps you’ll sit facing the living room. You’ll see a large photograph taken at Antelope Canyon in Arizona. Our friend took the photo looking up at the sky. Not everyone sees the red rock canyon in the picture. Some see fabric fluttering in the breeze. Others see an abstract swirl of orange, yellow, and red. In front of the photo are black and white photos of our family.

Perhaps you’ll sit facing the library with a view of full and semi-organized bookshelves. You’ll see a collection of favorite cookbooks, a chess table made from reclaimed wine barrels and scattered with craft projects as well as chess pieces. You’ll see two paintings of elephants, bought on a safari in South Africa and a photograph of Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons.

Maybe you’ll sit facing the bank of windows that give you a view of our backyard. You’ll see two swings hanging from trees, places for our girls to play and connect with each other. You might have a view of our large pink poster with a Francis Bacon reproduction of a gorilla. I bought it at the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice, lugged it across France and Italy, and kept it for over a decade, waiting for the perfect spot to frame and hang it. Behind it hangs a wall of mugs from our favorite museums.

Our home is filled with treasures from our past adventures, our love of art and the stories it tells, and pieces from places we weave into our family story. Our girls know that the world is a small place; that Frank and I love learning from nature and from other cultures, and deep sense of curiosity is infused on our walls.

I just returned from my grandma’s memorial service in California. She was the last of my grandparents and close great-aunts and -uncles to pass away. For me, she closes out a generation that has shaped my values and worldview.

One of my fondest memories of my grandma comes from her own kitchen table. Set in the corner of her green and yellow kitchen, I would sit at a chair and see a knickknack cupboard filled with trinkets from around the world. Some were collected from my grandparent’s travels. Some were gifted from friends. I loved looking at those little objects, imagining the places they represented.

I never really thought about my grandma’s legacy in my own decorating style but I see it everywhere. Our home is a gateway into storytelling and a reminder that our world is smaller than we think. That other cultures shape all of us, both in big and small ways.

I just got home last night from a weekend of remembering an exceptional woman. But this weekend also rounded out an whole month of family––from a triennial reunion with cousins and second cousins and third cousins–– to a week in Philadelphia staying up too late making all the sweet memories with cousins to hosting various family throughout the month. I’ll be sitting with all I’ve learned in July for a while, I think. Mostly, I’m thankful for such a tangible opportunity to appreciate and honor all the ways my family has shaped the woman and mother I’m becoming.

In another week of shocking national news, I’m returning to my kitchen table. I’m remembering to start small, with my own daughters. We’ll look at pictures that represent different cultures; we’ll have conversations about our friends and neighbors who are immigrants and gun owners alike; we’ll bicker over whose turn it is to pray for the food and we’ll do all the small routines that make up our evenings.

Life can feel overwhelming and I’m remembering that, in the midst of it all, the view from our kitchen table will shape and define my girls’ worldview far more than I realize. If you’re feeling a bit lost these days––for whatever reason––take a look at what you see from where you eat. Use that space as a reminder of your values and hopes for this world.

Describe the view from your kitchen table. How does it define you?

Noticing the Quirks and Character

We are in the midst of selling our house. This means decluttering, hiding all personal photos, and making it look as though we are as neat, organized, and styled as a Container Store catalog. In the grand scheme of buying and selling, our experience has (so far) been on the easier side, which has been wonderful since Bea has suddenly become attached to the placement of everything!

Staging
My shelves are never this empty!

All this decluttering has me thinking about this house. Built in 1952, it’s charming and has a lot of character. It also has a lot of quirks and funky nuances of an older home. Our buyer came by the other day for the inspection and it was interesting getting the report back. Some of the items were things we had known about but had decided not to notice in the years living here. (Vinyl siding? Not amazing but not something we were in a hurry to change.) Some things we had noticed and put on our to-do list, but never gotten around to it. (Redoing the kitchen? Lots of dust and money if it’s not our forever home.) Other things we truly hadn’t noticed and were surprised they were a thing. (I didn’t realize how emotionally invested I would become about a crawl space…) In scrutinizing our house, it makes me wish we had been better about doing the projects slowly over time, rather than cramming them into our last weeks living here.

This noticing has me thinking about my own life. What are areas I know need fixing or work but I just choose not to notice them anymore? What are areas on my to-do list that seem to get lost in the shuffle? It’s inspired me to take more time to notice, not just the improvements, but the charming nuances that make me, me.

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Thankful

It’s November 2, the beginning of a month of thankfulness. We’ve been contemplating a new house. Our 1100 square-foot, 1952, three bedroom, one bath ranch is just fine right now. Many people tell us a good marriage only works with more than one bathroom (or even, more than one sink in that second bathroom) but we’ve managed four years sharing a bathroom and a sink. With a 15-month old and thoughts of adding another child (not for a while, though) we wonder how long we’ll fit in this house. The thing is, this house was just fine for the few generations before us. Do our kids need their own bedrooms? Do we need a five-piece master suite? In an age of excess, it’s hard to separate what we need – what will be best for our family – and what we need to keep up with the Joneses.

I wanted this first post to set some sort of theme for this blog. A theme I’m not quite sure of yet. Since I finally decided to take the plunge in November, I guess I want this to start out as a blog of thanks. Not in a Pollyanna, glad game sort of way, but in an honest, justice-driven, making-a-difference way.

I am thankful for our small-but-cozy house. I am thankful that we have an income that supports owning a home. I’m thankful that our life-choices have allowed me to stay home with our daughter, even if it means a smaller home. And, I’m thankful that we’re in a place to take our time wondering about our future home. If we do decide to invest in a bigger home, I’m thankful that we have the luxury of time to wait for the right home in the right neighborhood.

It’s easy to say, “Be thankful for the little things,” and this month, my goal is that: To reflect on and truly be thankful for even the things I’d like to change.

What little things are you thankful for today?