Friday, December 28, 2012

Big Days in Small Places

This was my kitchen BEFORE anything was put in it.  It's pretty small!
Now, add a dish drainer, canisters, cooking utensils, food, drinks, the ever present junk corner and everything else that goes in a busy kitchen...  

We made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Funny, my thoughts upon sitting down to write this were on the immeasurable value and power of perspective, and then I wrote the first line the way I did instead of saying that our Holidays were wonderful.  They were, indeed, wonderful, and also-- we made it through them.

I thought accommodating a visitor in our small home for Thanksgiving would be the real challenge, but really, that part wasn't bad at all.  I guess we kind of knew we'd have to make arrangements and we were more or less ready and expecting some adjustment.  We had trouble with our blow-up mattress (lesson learned) but other than the few extra minutes it took for us to rearrange things for sleeping, it wasn't a huge change.  We transform daytime living areas into night time sleeping areas on a regular basis.  What's one more bed?

We had a week long visit planned with mom, and I was afraid we'd all be pulling our hair out by the time the week was up, but we honestly hated to see her go.  It was truly, very nice.  It might have been a little tougher if mom had been an early riser, since we aren't, particularly.  There was quite literally NO floor space to put a toe down even to step around things.  She isn't, though, and thankfully, we got up first and cleared the area before anyone else needed it.  It would have also been a lot tougher if we'd had different attitudes, but we all went into it with, "Great to be with you, we'll make it work!"

Fall and winter holidays are most noted for the food, and my kitchen is quite small.  Even in the world of small homes, mine would be considered moderate to small, probably, and I have to say that for holiday feasts, if you're planning the whole shebang, plan, plan, plan and prep ahead.  You may have to find creative alternate methods to accomplish some things.  Other things may just have to be put on the chopping block.

The hardest part of the holiday shindiggery (Like that word?  I did!  I'll probably use that again someday) was kitchen space.  Burner space, counter space, floor space, any space at all was at a premium in the kitchen.  Two people can't do the work at once, so my number one and two suggestions are these: do as much as possible ahead and plan to take turns to get things done if you are going to enlist the help of the family.

We used a great alternative method.  We'd always wanted to try fixing our big holiday meal in dutch ovens outside.  I have a lot of cast iron cook stuff.  I have several decent sized dutch ovens and one huge dutch oven that fit our big turkey, five pounds of potatoes and two pounds of carrots! Hats off to the cook: my wonderful husband.  He was so helpful!  He probably wouldn't have helped had it been cooked inside like "normal," but, since it was outside, he manned the fire, and it helped me with space, labor and time.  I had more free time to sit and enjoy with family than I ever have, I think.  It was wonderful!  There's usually so much work!  We sat around outside quite a bit while it cooked, one stacked on top the other with the turkey on the bottom, green beans next, then stuffing on top.

I did the pies and got the side dishes ready during the two days leading up to Thanksgiving. We have a really tiny refrigerator, too, so we had to plan all of that to death as well.  We had to sacrifice the spiced cider, relish trays and cookies.  I sort of missed them, but it's a lot of hassle and in this small of a place it was just too much. We're starting new traditions now.  That's not to say I won't do that stuff later on for another holiday dinner, but I'll have to incorporate it back in slowly and in more clever ways.

Eating was interesting.  It's a blessing that we had nice weather, because we set up most of the food buffet-style, in sort of a chow line outside on the picnic table.  We came in with plates filled with the outdoor goodies and all of the extra things that I had cooked in the house were set in dishes along the front of the counter in another serving line.  It went smoothly enough.

For the record and for future reference, had the weather been too cool or wet or whatever, I would have had to set the other food on the oven door and the oven rack, and then maybe squeeze something else on the stove top.  It would have been just that much more congested, but it's nice to know that I could have done it.

We can't really fit four at the table very comfortable, let alone five. We managed to put four of us there, anyway,  and it wasn't too bad.  We have a small, booth style dinette area.  I served drinks after everyone was seated to ease up on the traffic in the kitchen and in order to avoid a "Chinese Fire Drill" that we would have had to do if each of us were to get our own. I felt bad that one boy sat behind us on the couch, but, bless his heart, he didn't mind, and he purposefully eased my mind about it.

Clean up wasn't as bad as you might think, but I've always been very big on "clean as you go."  If you aren't already a clean as you go-er, I suggest you become one.  It's a necessary skill in a small home anyway, and it made a lot of difference with a meal like this.

This is longer than I meant for it  to be, so I'll stop.  Oh, yeah... the "after":

WOW!  I need to thin it out!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Done Enough

K, it's as done as it's gonna get.  I'm not as pleased as I might be if I worked on it and maybe fine tuned it a bit more, but I'm very pleased at how quickly it came back to me and how much I absolutely LOVED drawing it.  I'm ready to move on to something else.
(Part 1: here)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Drawing Stuff

I fancy myself an artist.  I know that must sound silly, because I don't paint or draw any more, but once upon a time I did.  Coming from someone who is, generally, pretty mercilessly self-critical, I'd say that I wasn't half bad at it, either, and it was something I was passionate about.  I used to smoke cigarettes back in those days, and I remember I'd say that art was the only thing that could make me forget to smoke.  It was something so fulfilling that it makes me absolutely shake my head, and I can't understand it myself, that I let it go for so long.

I used to draw constantly.  When I should have been doing other things, I'd draw.  I drew on any available surface.  I drew on things that I shouldn't have been drawing on.  Everything was begging me to draw on it.  Everything needed embellishment. I couldn't even write a sentence without drawing fancy letters.  I always had a pencil with me.   Always.  Drawing was something I thought about continuously and did whenever the opportunity presented itself.  When I was out, I doodled and sketched and looked forward to getting home to work on something there that I was drawing.  It was something that I could get completely lost in.     

I also dabbled in oil paints a bit.  Unlike other mediums, I instinctively understood the way oils worked and loved to mess with blending and the way I could manipulate the colors until I achieved the effects I wanted.   The smells, the feel, the way my whole mind would get involved in my artwork: I missed it all terribly!  I didn't even realize it.  I let life, kids, work, and a lot of poor decision making processes push it further and further away until I no longer remembered that I could do it at all.  How sad.

It was difficult to find a place to do anything in among the debris of a busy life, let alone get my art supplies out and try to get involved.  Even if I'd gotten them out, I reasoned, I could never get enough time all collected into a block to warrant dragging it all out, so I couldn't get inspired, let alone involved.  Someplace along the lost path I threw all my art into one drawer in my head and decided that if I couldn't find room to spread it out and time to let it set, that I couldn't do it at all, so why even bother.  I talked my brain into believing that I couldn't do it anymore.

DECADES passed.   Decades.

Then one day I was assessing things.  I was counting my blessings, being deliberately thankful for the things the Lord has blessed me with, when I realized He had blessed me with some measure of talent to draw.  If this was true, then I was really neglecting it.  I couldn't excuse that.  I may not be the best, but how will I know if I don't work on it?  Why would I have a talent at all if not to use?

All at once it dawned on me; I can still do it.  It's in me.  Pencils and paper don't require a lot of space or time.  Now my problem was a sort of strange fear.  It had been so long that I wasn't confident I could do it any more.  I made a lot of terrible arguments from lack of subject matter to not being able to think creatively anymore, so for another lo-o-o-o-o-n-g stretch I couldn't make myself start anything.

Then......... I decided to start drawing again.   Actually, I did better than that; I DID start drawing again.  I swallowed hard and put my pencil on the paper.  It was almost heart stopping.  I can't explain it.  I was afraid, excited, embarrassed and maybe a little bit sad, I may have cried, but I decided to override all the nonsense that kept me from it all these years.  If there was anything to it, the talent part, I wanted to jump in there and find out.

I have to admit, my first attempts aren't good, but I can feel it coming back to me.  I know I will be able to do it again.  It was a great, great feeling.  I wasn't swallowed up in it like I used to be, but then again, I was so nervous-- really nervous.  I was sketching and doodling, just to try to get the feel for it again, and I was embarrassed at how bad it was.  Of course, my family wanted to see, but I didn't want anyone to see it yet!  I think when they get used to seeing me draw the novelty will be gone, and then I can get comfortable with it.  I believe when I am eventually inspired to draw something 'for real,' I'll be quite absorbed by it again.  I feel right there on the edge of it.....

I am back on the horse.  Thirty-four, thirty-five years?  That's long enough.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

About Living Small - Attitude: Part 2

Sorry, not a great picture, but I was trying to emphasize the "closeness." It's the best one I had.

Recently I wrote a part 1 post about attitude, and what you might encounter as far as people's attitude toward you once you decide to tell them how you're planing on changing your lifestyle to one of smaller living.  Before you ever get that far, you should be considering some other very real issues you're going to be having with the attitudes of certain other people: the ones in your home.

Attitude: Part 2

I want to say at the outset that we are not perfect family and any one can do this, but wrong or bad attitudes can make it very, very difficult.  If the whole family understands this and has made a quality decision to give their best effort you are WAY ahead of the game.   Notice I said "quality decision"  and "best effort."  Rephrased, that means we are always working toward get along and never making excuses to not hold up our end of things.  We determined to hold ourselves responsible for the outcome of things.  No one can do it for you or stop you from it you once you made that quality decision.  Does this mean we always get it right?  Hardly!  But we mean to.

Having said that, allow me a little bit of bragging room, because I have got a great family!

My kids have been amazing.  As a result of the way we raised these guys, they are very family oriented.  We have always spent a lot of time, in fact, most of our time, in close proximity to each other.  When we lived in a bigger house we still sat together at the table for school or just for talking, and most of our recreational activities at home were carried out within eye shot of each other.  When we'd do things outside of the home for recreation, we were usually all together for that, as well.  We are sort of "groomed" for this kind of thing already.

We like each other.  It's really wonderful that we do, but it's also very beneficial to like each other, and to become more likable yourself, when you live in tight quarters.  Most people never think of that.  Many of the people I've talked to bring up troubles and issues and circumstances and this child or that spouse, how so-and-so is on their nerves, when the truth is, they just don't like their family situation.

"What?  I love my family!"

...but do you like them? I realize the rancor that a statement like that could generate, but I see it all the time.  There's a huge difference between whether or not you like them or you love them.  Some people are easier to love from across town, over the phone.  What about these people you live with?   It's different with them.  There is more at stake.  The investment is greater.  The repercussions of your ability to deal with them is immediate and can effect the outcome of everything.  You don't simply visit them and leave when you're tired.  You can't hang up on them when you need to go study.

You don't have that latitude with your family.  If you stop and think about it you know you shouldn't allow yourself to have an attitude like that anyway.  It's a cultivated habit to appreciate and be grateful for your family. It has to go beyond a tip of the hat in a passing conversation: I love my kids, I love my husband. You have to get beyond it, but you never will by complaining and indulging in selfishness. You have to mean to appreciate mundane, everyday things in your life, on purpose, even if they happen to be your family members, and even if they happen to be on your nerves.

First thing: stop complaining.  It defeats everyone who hears it and worse, it will defeat your efforts to make this work out.  It's selfish and self serving anyway.  Stop it.

Most people who say, "We could never live like that!"  really mean that they couldn't live that close together.  If you have a mindset that says you can't be in that close of proximity to one another for an extended period of time, then you can't.  Maybe you are unwilling.  Maybe you are just unprepared.  If you are unwilling, you have to become willing or else you won't be able to make it happen.   Don't be the one in your family that makes it hard on the rest.  If you are unprepared to make a move of this sort, you can fix it.

You could begin to cultivate it into your family right now. It's never, ever too late or too early to  make  changes.  In fact, you make them everyday, anyway, to adjust to life as you know it, you're just not as keenly aware of it when there are no other big changes going on around you.  Make it a point to incorporate some small changes into your day to day life.  Change things a little at a time starting with things that won't be "make or break" issues for you.  That will keep the stress level down while you "practice" changing.

It's certainly incumbent upon the parents to prepare the children for it.  Diligence in the small things is key.  Maybe there's not time to "break them in" before you move.  Even in a situation where it's necessary to move NOW, and a sudden approach has to be the one to take,  it's my opinion (just my opinion -- I'm not you, and I'm not the be all-end all authority) that things should go on as normally as possible.  No new rules, no huge changes except when the need presents itself.

For example they can't play with every toy they have in the middle of a floor that may only be ten by ten available open feet.  The new rules are: put up all your other things first, scoot to the side, keep the toys contained to a certain area.  That was our rule anyway, but we weren't always diligent.  Now we have to be, so, no screaming and shouting and stress, just reaffirm the old rules more often and with more diligence until they are habits.

You can't force them to understand and you can't make them endure it like an adult might.  This is likely going to be somewhat traumatic for everyone, and if you think a child is going to handle it like an adult, you'd better think again.  "Well, I'll make them.  They have no choice, neither do we, and I'm the parent, they'll do as I say."  True, true, true and true, but you are asking for problems if you have such an approach.  You have to assess and adjust your own attitude.  You can't fix your kids or your spouse, but you can fix yourself if you will put forth the effort and diligence it takes.  Other things fall into place when we fix our own attitudes.  You have to mean it.  It has to be a commitment.  You can't decide in six months that poor ol' you is the only one giving effort and give up trying.  That is NOT a "quality" decision.  You Make It Work.

We're not just talking about cooperation here.  This is about putting yourself in the role of a servant. If we look out for the comfort and well being of the others first, it will work.  Getting everyone to do that at one time is the trick.  It rarely happens.  On a more positive note, however, is this: rarely are we all having "one of those days" at the same time, either, and since we have committed to being servant minded, we can help the others through it, or at very least, not add more pressure to the situation.

It works.  It always works.

This requires a common purpose and a commitment to the objective and the family's success.  It puts a great burden on everyone.  The parents must first and foremost make the decision to be committed for the right reasons and to make whatever changes are necessary to promote the success of the venture.   It's not for the immature, the selfish or the emotionally needy.   This is going to sound tough, I know, but grow yourself up first.  Be harsh on yourself and crack that whip.  Until you can control yourself you shouldn't inflict yourself on others in closer, more intimate spaces.

All these things are good counsel, sound rules and truth for any life, but when you condense things down to a smaller area it becomes obvious and expedient to practice them with diligence NOW.

It's really not as complicated as all this sounds. The only reason I've gone to this kind of effort to explain it is because in all my time counselling and whatnot I understand that many people just don't "get it."  It's really very simple: Love one another.  Remember the Golden Rule: "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you,do ye also unto them."  Extend the same common courtesy inside the home with your family that you would with people outside the home.  Be nice, be helpful, be forgiving, and be friendly -- or else be the problem.

OK, I'll get off of this subject for a while.  Next time I want to talk about some of the necessary adjustments we had to make in our habits and routines.  Some of them may be fairly obvious, but some may surprise you.

Monday, December 10, 2012


I will get back to blogging about moving into our tiny house later this week.  I have a half dozen topics floating around in my head that I'd really like to share.  Actually, I started a post, but got sidetracked.  I've been preoccupied with family things and Christmas and whatnot ever since all those Thanksgiving posts I put up.   I think if I ever decide to do another round of  daily, "topical" post again I'll do it on a different blog site.  I wanted to keep this one focused on one topic.  Anyway, I'll get 'er on track later this week.

Meantime -- we have pecans!  It takes a long ol' time to shell out this many pecans!  Especially when you eat one, shell one, eat one, shell one.  I decided I'd only eat the broken ones as I went along.  That helped.  I'm going to try to get five or six or more containers this size shelled and filled before I'm done.  I should have had twenty or more, but we ate SO many!

For the record:  My future property, wherever we may journey, will have nut trees.  Having them has been great.  It's like getting a free and tasty little surprise with every trip to the back yard.   I get a perfectly packaged little bite of delicious, sweet nut with no more effort than to pick it up off of the ground and crack it.  It's almost like magic.   I love them!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

November - 30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 30 - Wisdom

Ack!~ I thought I had posted this!  And I was doing so well.  Oh, well.

I am thankful for wisdom.  Not that I have so much, but God said to ask Him for it and He'd give it to me liberally, so I did.  Looking back, He must have answered me.  I'm not near the idiot I used to be.  :)  So, I just keep asking Him for more.  It beats being a fool!