Our family has been traveling and visiting loved ones, so I have not had time to blog much recently.
This is going to sound weird but I love funerals and visiting for similar reasons. I warned you this would sound weird, so let me explain.
Certainly, I don't enjoy grief or seeing others in pain at the loss of someone they love. Mourning is not the part of funerals I like. But if you can get beyond that, I find funerals educational and encouraging. I enjoy hearing about how the deceased person lived their life. The rest of us in the room still have some time on this planet, though none of knows exactly how much. We should make the best out of whatever time we have. And hearing how someone else used their time is insightful to me and inspires me. I always learn things that help me to be a better person. For that reason, I appreciate funerals a great deal. They force us to step back from our hectic lives to pause and reflect. Is this really how we want to spend our limited time? If not, what can we change?
Similarly, I enjoy visiting people. Whether I go to someone's home for a few hours or for days, I enjoy seeing how people live their lives. Again, I find that insightful and inspiring.
In our traveling, our family spent about a week at the home of some folks we love. I have a couple things I learned from that experience:
(1) No one's home is perfect and the longer you live in it, the more likely you will realize this. I don't mean for this to sound ugly, I don't intend it like that in the least. Here's the back story. I'm not the sort of woman who spends tons of time and effort on home décor. I think that is interesting. I like visually pleasing things as much as anyone. But I guess, ultimately, that sort of thing is not my cup of tea. There are other things I'd rather do with my time and money. I'm more of a functional sort of home decorator. I like to have interesting things decorating my home, but I'll never make the cover of Architectural Digest or even Cottage Living. That is fine. But sometimes I begin to feel insecure when I visit someone else's home and it just is so clean and hip looking. It makes me feel like a slacker/slob/loser. The home we were visiting was just amazing. A historic home that had had interior updates to make it more functional and hipper. On our first few days as guests, I felt like such a schlub. Why didn't our family live in such a cool home? How could our hostess keep it so spotless so effortlessly while we seem to constantly have dust and pet stains on our carpet?! But the longer we spent in the house, I could begin to see the imperfections. You don't notice a house's imperfections immediately. If you are just staying for a meal, cards or a children's play date, you may not be there long enough to see. But the more times you use the bathroom, eat in the kitchen, walk in and out of the front door, you do begin to see the places where the paint has chipped, the tile wasn't aligned right, or the hinges are coming loose. This was so reassuring to me. It made me feel like less of a schlub on many levels. I realized that I notice the imperfections of my home because I'm in it so much, but others who come visit us don't necessarily notice all of them unless they are staying longer than a few hours. And it helped me recognize that when I go to someone's house for just a few hours and I feel in such awe of their home, there is probably a lot of imperfection I'm just not noticing because I'm not there long enough to get a good look!
(2) I really enjoy our home being in tune with the elements outdoors. Our hosts have some health issues such that they don't open their windows and the interior is always climate controlled. I certainly appreciate that, but at our house we take a different approach, which I grew to really appreciate during our visit. For many reasons, we try to use a/c and heat as sparingly as we can. We open windows whenever possible. In winter, we take advantage of passive solar during the day, we put on layers of thermal clothing, and sleep with lots of warm blankets at night. In summer, we use curtains to block the sun, we have fans all over the house and we drink lots of cold beverages. At times, it is a bit of a sacrifice to not use a/c and heat more. But one thing I really like is that it helps us to be in tune with nature. Previously when we used a/c and heat more liberally, we were literally and figuratively insulated from what was happening outside. Now I realize I don't like that. I like to hear the birds chirping outside. I like to have the sun light up our home in cooler months. I don't want to be so cool in my home that I'm shocked at the heat when I go outside.
(3) Relationships are so important. Traveling required us to take a break from homeschooling, church and our kids' sports. I'm so task oriented, that makes me a bit nervous. But taking time to be with my kids and to be with the family we visited is so important. Relationships don't just happen. They need time and attention. It is good to do that. Ultimately, it is the people in our lives who are most important anyhow. And frankly, I just really enjoy getting to know people better--whether it is someone in my immediate family whom I see every day but don't have time to be silly with or someone I don't get to see on a regular basis. People are interesting. I like hearing their stories and struggles and interests and quirkiness. It is fun and I learn a lot from them in various ways.
(4) Messes aren't the end of the world. Ok, so I'm not into fancy home décor, but I'm rather mess averse. One of my big triggers/stressors is when my kids or husband spill something or leaves crumbs. Part of this is just that I have had trouble training my husband of nearly 20 years to clean up thoroughly and it has a trickle down effect with my kids. That is the bane of my existence at times. And I grew up in a densely populated urban area where any trace of food not cleaned up would exacerbate the bug problems our apartment complex was always fighting with fairly intense extermination sprayings. But our hostess was so calm when kids spilled drinks at the dining room table or things got messy when we cooked together. This helped everyone be happier and enjoy each other more. I know I would not have been so gracious about spills and would likely have not even attempted cooking with a kitchen full of kids, which would have been a shame. So, I don't know how long it will last, but I am going to try to be more laid back about messes. Our hostess had no carpet, so I think that does make a difference. Non-carpeted surfaces like in our home are easier to clean. Nonetheless, I can try to be less uptight about messes.