Sunday, April 27, 2008

All That You Can't Leave Behind

by Susan Seyfarth

Every year when we get our tax refund, we tackle a house project. It's a long standing tradition, & since we have an endless list of Highly Desirable Home Improvements, I imagine it'll stand for years to come. But this year was special. This year we finally replaced our kitchen floor.

Happy, happy day. I have hated my kitchen floor with a virulent passion ever since I first laid eyes on it ten years ago. It was yellow & white linoleum with a fake brick print & 30 years of dirt ground into every stinkin' crack & scratch. And there were LOTS of them. I could (and did) get down on my knees & scrub the thing with Comet until my fingers pruned up. Ten minutes later, it looked exactly as dirty as it did when I started.

Now my kitchen floor is a yummy, warm terra cotta colored tile & it's gorgeous. But it took a very nice man two solid weeks to put it in, during which time every single item that used to live in the kitchen had to find a new home somewhere else. (The linoleum we had removed was full of asbestos, so we had to REALLY empty the place out.) I had the fridge & the stove in the dining room. The canned goods went into big laundry baskets in the living room. The dishes & tupperware went into the basement. My laptop became a sort of migrant worker (which I'm sad to say explains my lack of presence on the blog lately. ) And so on & so forth.

As I put everything away, I thought how on earth am I going to get by without THIS for two weeks? This carrot peeler? My favorite paring knife? This cute little sauce pan? Two weeks later, I unpacked those same boxes & threw away like 2/3s of the junk. Because that's all it was. Junk. I mean, really. I had four cans of cream of celery soup, expiration date 1999. Did I really think I was going to stick that back in my pantry? It was just proximity that made all my junk seem necessary. Familiarity that make it seem vital.

It's the same phenomenon that makes a book I could have sworn was finished looked like h-e-double-hockey-sticks when I drag it out from under the bed a year later. It makes me wonder what else in my life I've been dragging around just because I'm used to it, not because I need it.

How about you? Have you ever had an epiphany? Something that happened that gave you fresh eyes? A new perspective? A paradigm shift? Tell us about it!


Carol said...

Hi I hoping for the GR...yum

Susan Seyfarth said...

you got it, Carol! Congrats!

Carol said...

He's safe here in Brisbane, I had too many leftover birthday chocolates (Roses)to do him real any damage!

Seriously though! Our family went on an holiday OS and we saw some spectacular places, it made us realise how wonderful and scenic the world is. So later, we moved away from the Hot, dry, dusty,
touristy town we lived in. We love it here on the Green outer edge of Brisbane. Cheers to all.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Carol, you're just down the road from me. Hasn't it been gorgeous weather lately? I've even been in the pool which at this time of year is really unusual! Congratulations on the rooster!

Susan, what a great post. We must have been hearing similar drummers. I've had a bit of a clean-out in the last week. I used to live in a one-bedroom flat as big as a garage and I just couldn't keep anything I wasn't using. These days I'm in a big house with too many cupboards and I never throw anything out! And I've got to the point where I'm starting to feel like I'm drowning in junk. It's a satisfying feeling to pitch stuff out, isn't it?

Carol said...

Hi Susan and Anna,
Yes truly wonderful weather here! Love it.
Maybe tomorrow Anna the GR can just pop up the road!

Gillian Layne said...

It IS a wonderful feeling to Spring clean! It does not come naturally to me; my parents are farmers and keep everything under the sun. The difference is, of course, that they also find a good use for everything they keep, or pass it along to friends in need. I never find a use for something once it's tucked away, but I am trying to follow their good example and pass things I don't need along.

Do you ever feel guilty when you clean out? Silly guilt, like when I'm trying to pass along kitchen gadgets given to me at my wedding (almost 20 years ago!) yet I think so fondly of the giver, I feel badly that I'm not using the lettuce cleaner/onion peeler/rhubarb chopper every day. :)

I'm embarrassed to say I'm realizing the very same thing about my 'finished' manuscript. Wise, wise people told me to tuck it away and move on to something else. I should have. Distance really does help. I just had to learn it for myself--I'm a bit pig-headed that way. ;)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Good morning, Anna & Carol! You two are torturing me with your talk of gorgeous weather! We had a bunch of friends over yesterday evening for our first BBQ of the spring--it had been 75 degrees on Wednesday, lovely weather, & I was inspired.

We woke up yesterday morning to an inch of snow. :-(

It should be spring here. Honestly & truly, it should. Rain, yes. Blustery wind, sure. SNOW? Please lord not again.

I know what you mean about the stuff taking over, though, Anna. We have more space than we should & we manage to fill up all of it. I don't even know who some of it belongs to.

Be good to the GR, Carol! Feed him some of that chocolate. He likes that. :-)

Christie Kelley said...

LOL, Susan...two weeks! I'm on 8 months of destruction. And all I can say is never again.

All that's left to do is the downstairs bathroom, flooring throughout, painting throughout, living room fireplace, kitchen island granite, and interior doors. Plus a bunch of small stuff that can get done whenever.

It's amazing what you can learn to live without when you don't have a choice.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Gillian! You mentioned that your parents do hoarding right--they keep everything then pass it along to whoever needs it next. I have to admit we're in the opposite camp.

Every time a friend needs to pack up & take off for the summer or whatever, there are invariable a few box of stuff they can't take with them but don't want to throw away. (The heirloom carrot peeler, the wedding gift bowl, whatever.) Somehow they wind up in our basement. Years go by. The friends forget them because all that precious stuff has (with a little time & perspective) become unneccessary junk. I gradually start to feel a sense of ownership & next thing you know, I have another box of junk in the basement.

*big sigh*

And the manuscripts...Lord, don't get me STARTED on the junk that's cluttering up my manuscripts...

Susan Seyfarth said...

Oh, Christie, I have to admit I thought of you a lot during my paltry two weeks of inconvenience. I'm such a wuss by comparison. I have a friend who did a whole house renovation that was supposed to take three months. It took--and I'm going to whisper this part so as not to attract the attention of the Gods of Domestic Inconvenience--16 months. Ack. Her whole family had to move in with her mother & her elderly grandmother for over a year! And she has two kids under 4. Double ack.

So glad you're finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And I hope it's a BEAUTIFUL light! :-)

doglady said...

I think because I traveled so lightly for so long (Air Force brat, college student, graduate school student, then traveling opera singer) that when I finally settled down here I tended to gather stuff around me like a nesting magpie. (Oooh shiny! Must keep it!) However, while I am land rich (5 acres) I am house poor (a 14 x 80 foot trailer - better known as a tenement on wheels!) True, all of the space is mine, but eventually all of the space becomes it's. (as in the STUFF) Most of which is books!

The funny thing is when I figured I might spend the rest of my life working for Wal-Mart (until I am a crotchety old door greeter "Welcome to Wal-Mart. Get your crap and gather up your screaming kids and get out!") I really didn't care what the house looked like. This was a place to sleep, shower, read and watch a movie and then get up and go back to work.

Since I got the GH call and everything else that has happened since, I have decided that I might just be a writer. And a writer needs a nice, neat place to work. A writer needs a good atmosphere in which to work. Then, I even thought, wait a minute. I am NOT a Wal-Mart worker. I am a former opera singer, I am a world traveler, I am an aspiring writer. I deserve a nice place to live.

Now, if I can just figure out how to make this a nice place to live while working a day job AND writing my tail off!

Anonymous said...

Susan, congratulations on getting your floor finished! How exciting! And imagine how much more time you'll have for writing now that you won't have to waste your life scrubbing that @#* floor! :-)

As for epiphanies...hmmm...about thirteen years ago, while on a three month backpacking trip in Mexico, I realized that life in the outdoors was NOT the life for me. While I loved working in the outdoors and teaching people about themselves through experiential means, unlike other folks I knew, the life of the vagabond traveler was not the life for me. That was a good lesson, even though it wasn't what I wanted to hear. I wanted to be a traveler and outdoor guide, and I loved the IMAGE of myself in that role. But the reality was that I'm a homebody, and if I had continued down that path, I would ultimately have been miserable.

As for junk accumulation? Not me. I'm attached to my memories, not my stuff. I'd like to think that if my house burned down tomorrow, I'd miss the photo albums, a couple of armchairs I inherited when my grandfather passed away, and some beautiful art we've accumulated over the years. Beyond that, it's all just stuff.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Doglady wrote: Oooh, shiny! Must keep it!

~~I laughed out loud at this, Doglady! Don't we all do this when we build our nests? And I love your epiphany: You're a WRITER. Yes you are. A writer, a singer, a creative soul who needs a place that nurtures her creative impulses. Let us know how your nest shapes up. If you're willing to share pictures, all the better!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hey, Kirsten! I had a similar epiphany a few years back myself. Only mine was a little more, ahem, shallow.

I was working as an outdoor educator & all of a sudden I realized I was being groomed for promotion. And I looked around at all the women who were doing the job I was being groomed for & they all had hairy legs & gray braids & organic cotton clothing & extremely worn Birkenstocks. And I thought, I do NOT want to look like that in twenty years. I'm okay with the hairy legs (every winter, baby) & I do have some birks in the closet still, but I don't WANT gray braids. I don't WANT clothes that look like I might've woven them myself.

I realized that while I loved teaching kids in the outdoors for those couple of years, I'm just not cut out to live my ideals in that particular way. So now I write books & I raise my babies & when I buy second hand or organic clothes for myself or for my babies I make sure they're cute. And every now & again, I dye my hair. :-) And when I'm feeling frumpy, I CUT IT ALL OFF. Just so those gray braids don't sneak up on me.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

GREAT Post, Smoov! and GAH! I used to have a kitchen floor EXACTLY like that. (Aunty shudders at the thought.) Luckily, I moved. :-P

WTG on the GR, Carol! He loves it DownUnder... must be the Tim Tams.

Doglady, I too had to LOL at the shiny stuff comment. I had a friend who used to describe herself as a crow because if it was shiny, she wanted it.

Me, I greatly fear I'm more of a Pack Rat than any bird. Honestly, when I moved from my house to my condo and was going through my garage (I don't have one now) I found the Halloween costume I made for my son when he was 6. Er, um... let's just say he was OVER 20 at the time! Unfortunately, I don't think I've gotten any better since then.


Keira Soleore said...

Susan, love the tile-work you chose for your kitchen floor. And you're very strong, my friend. I would've gone stir crazy if I had to have my kitchen dismantled the way you did.

Loved how you tied your kitchen to your manuscript. Cooking the books, eh? *snork*

That beautiful photo is new, too, unless of course, it's because I was scarce here the past week or so.

Carol, yay on the GR!

Keira Soleore said...

My brain was momentarily short-circuited. I remeber this beautiful photography from your website. I voted for it. :)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Oh, AC, you live without a garage? Where do you put the overflow?? I mean, the bikes, the wagons, the tricycles, the sidewalk chalk & fishing poles & soccer balls & tennis racquets & frisbees &...

Okay, I'd blame it on the kids but a lot of that is mine. :-) And I have no idea where it would go if it weren't in the garage.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Keira!

You know, I thought I'd go nuts without my kitchen, too, but I actually enjoyed the enforced vacation from cooking. It was kind of fun to call my husband every day at 5 & say, "Where are we eating tonight?" I managed breakfast & lunch okay but dinner? We ate out. :-)

Thanks for the kind words about my photo & my floor, too. :-) I have to post new photos of the finished floor on my personal blog asap. My family is after me for pix.

Keira Soleore said...

We're certainly honored you put us before your family. :)

Christine Wells said...

Susan, what a wonderful feeling to have a new kitchen floor. I know exactly what you mean about a skanky floor being depressing. My husband used to live in a house where the previous owners were just filthy and there was dirt there you could never remove.

As for mss, I laugh at myself when I come back to a story after a long absence. All these wonderful paragraphs I thought were carved in stone suddenly become highly expendable! Pity there's so little time to let things stew these days.

Carol, congrats! I live in Brisbane, too. And psst... I live closer to you than Anna, so just send that little GR over here when you're finished with him, OK?

Susan Seyfarth said...

Oh, Keira, I owe my family so many photos. They haven't gotten photos of my kids in months. If I started with floor photos they'd have my head. :-) You guys are easy.

Susan Seyfarth said...

You're so right, Christine! I'm not published but from what I understand, the pace is brutal. Not a lot of time for breathing let alone reflection or the odd epiphany. How do you published folks deal with it? Do you just get a feel for what works or do you still need to put a ms away for a while?

Kate Carlisle said...

Susan, that floor looks alarmingly familiar to me. Wait, I think that's the same floor they put in every house in the country during a particularly dark phase in our nation's history. LOL

My current horror is a huge bookcase in our living room. It's filled with books and photos and chochkes (sp?) and so much crap--and dust--I don't know where to start. My dream is to clean it all out, then hire a housekeeper. Yeah, I'll let you know how that goes.

Carol, congrats on snagging the GR!

Doglady, do you work at my local WalMart? That greeting sounds so familiar!! ROTFLOL!!

Kate Carlisle said...

Forgot to mention....snow? It's 96 degrees here and so humid, I'm melting. Two fans going and I'm still clammy. Ugh!

Let's all move to Brisbane!

Caren Crane said...

Carol, congrats on the GR! Has he ever visited with you before?

Susan, honey, I envy you the new floor! Mine looks very similar to your old one, except it is brown and tan small squares instead of bricks. Vintage: 1979. I'm sure we still have dirt from 1979 in the cracks. There is asbestos underneath, so we will have to have an abatement when it's replaced. I am NOT looking forward to that! Especially since the lovely flooring is in the kitchen, laundry room, hallway to den, water heater closet and downstairs bath. Ack!

We will have to get a Pack Rat or something to put all the stuff in until the flooring is done. See why we haven't done it? Plus, when we do that, we'll want to get rid of the same vintage carpet that is still in the library and dining room. LOTS of books and bookshelves. I'm tired just thinking of it!

But I know once I start moving all those books, I'll suddenly wonder why we have "Fundamentals of Differential Equations" from 1988 or "Applications Of Analog Integrated Circuits" from the same era. Hm. Maybe new flooring is a good idea after all. *g*

Susan Seyfarth said...

Kate--That book case sounds suspiciously like my entire office. And when I say office, I mean the room where my husband's computer is, all our books, & the baby (and all the baby paraphernalia, including crib, changing table, clothes & hundreds upon hundreds of books/toys/blankets/diapers,etc.)

I desperately desire a housekeeper, too. If you ever get one, let me know. I would enjoy just thinking about somebody having one. :-)

And 95 degrees? Poor baby. And I mean that sincerely. Ridiculously hot is as uncomfortable as ridiculously cold. I lived in TX for a couple years, & I know how miserable it can be. At least in the cold you can bundle up. Nothing to be done about the heat except strip, go naked & get yourself arrested. :)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Caren!

Ooooh, House Project Escalation. I know exactly the phenomenon you're talking about. We have that, too. It's when we need to replace our floors, but before we get the new ones put in, we need to move a heating/AC vent from the wall into the floor because we want to replace that kitchen window with a door to the sun porch some day & that vent is right in the way. And as long as we're messing with the wall for better access to the sunporch, we'd better fix the porch roof because if we're going to get out onto the porch, we'll want to be dry. And if that's going to happen...

And so on & so forth. I feel your pain. But let me tell you, getting rid of our vile floor was SO worth it. The whole house feels better. Pull the trigger. You'll be happy you did. :-)

Anonymous said...

Kate, I couldn't resist looking this one up:

TCHOTCHKA: An inexpensive trinket, a toy. Can also mean a sexy but brainless girl. The affectionate diminutive is tchotchkala.

From a dictionary of common Yiddish phrases! :-)

Anonymous said...

Pamela, your epiphany is one we should all have and tape to our computers. GH Finalist or not, pubbed or AYU, we write, therefore we are writers. And you are an amazing woman!

Keira, I heard you were under the weather. Hope all is well now!

Caren Crane said...

Ooh, Susan, you're an evil temptress! So true about the escalation. Because once the floors downstairs are done, we'll need to do the stairs, then the two bedrooms upstairs that haven't been updated. And of course, once the floors are finished, the cabinets won't look right at all! So, we'll need new facings for those.

AND, we just noticed today that our poor back porch is going to rot off the back of the house soon. The deck is no better. 1979 for those things, too! So, we really need to dig up and move the gardenia and the camellias, tear down the deck and porch and build a multi-level deck that stretches the length of the back of the house. Of course, then I'll have to replace the sliding doors in the den with French doors. Yes, it's sounding bigger all the time.

And we haven't even addressed the appalling state of the right end of my house, where you must go through the guest room to get to the bonus room. Horrors!

Of course, we'll probably be in this house until we move to the old folks home, so we might as well make it a beautiful space, as Doglady said! Maybe it would inspire me. *g*

Kate Carlisle said...

LOL Kirsten! Thanks for looking that up. I like the diminutive version and will be using it from now on! Just hope I can remember how it's spelled.....

Caren, I think I've got those exact books on my shelf! Very scary.

Speaking of scary...Susan, that office of yours does sound reeeally scary! LOL

Joan said...

Susan, I have kitchen floor envy.

I had plans to replace my habitually dirty looking linoleum (Mine's only 17 years old)but,er....went to Ireland and all that :-)

As to decluttering I did a lot of that last year and found it SO freeing...especially when I used the stuff I donated to Goodwill on my tax returns! Turbo Tax SO rocks with specific dollar amounts for deduction.

My main renovation so to speak right now is having 5 shrubs cut down from in front of my house. Now if I could just get the (*^%$# guy to come back and take care of the stumps!

I mean I got to plant...more...plants.

It's a never ending cycle isn't it?

Susan Seyfarth said...

Caren--sorry to have pulled the thread that unraveled your house. :-) Mine's completely unraveled if it makes you feel any better.

Kirsten--Thanks for coming through with the Yiddish! I use that word all the time but have never troubled myself to figure out how to spell it. :-)

And O'Joanie? Ireland instead of a kitchen floor is a perfectly acceptable decision. More than acceptable. I kinda wish I'd considered it more seriously. :-)