Monday, June 8, 2015

Comparison Really is the Thief of Joy, Our Journey to Loving the Home We Have

 "Comparison is the thief of joy." ~ Theodore Roosevelt


For some reason, this is a hard post to write.  I have a confession to make.  I've been unhappy with my home.  Not with the people in my home.  Not with my neighbors.  Not with the area.  Just my actual home.  And it's become a problem.
Let me give you a little background on how I got here.  My husband and I were high school sweethearts who were married at 19.  Several months before my 22nd birthday, I found out I was pregnant with B.  I had some complications at 10 weeks and my husband was working over an hour and a half away from home and making the commute daily.  I was already discharged from the ER before he could even get to me.  At that point, we made the decision to move closer to his job.  Kids get sick and hurt and I didn't want to be in that situation again. The opportunity to move opened up the month B was due and we moved over an hour away from our home and families just 5 days before B was born.
We spent the next 4 1/2 years living in a 2 bedroom duplex on the MS Gulf Coast and I loved it.  I hadn't lived in a city of any real size since I was 11 years old and even then I lived outside of town.  This was a city and it moved!  There were options for shopping and dining and entertainment and, ohmygosh, we had pizza delivery for probably the first time in our lives.  Country kids in the city for the win!  When I found out that I was pregnant with C, we made the decision to buy a home near our duplex and started the search.  Then Hurricane Katrina put an end to that plan.  Our apartment was uninhabitable.  With only 4ish months left until C was due, we made the decision to move back to our home town because that area was not nearly as adversely affected.  My husband was working away from home and as long as he could get to the heliport we could live anywhere.
We started the search for a home and closed on our first home 3 days before I was scheduled to be induced with C.  It was a 3 bedroom/1 bath ranch house in the country.  Because most of our furniture wasn't usable after Katrina, I brought a baby home to a basically empty house.  In the next few months, we began to furnish and update our starter home to make it our own.  The plan was to stay for three years and move to a bigger house.
Nearly three years into that plan, the company that my husband worked for restructured heavily and because he had no seniority, he was laid off.  Honestly, we were up a creek.  I was pregnant with A.  We had very little savings and a whole lot of bills.  Our mortgage company and the bank that held our car loan were great about working with us, but you still have to pay that bill eventually.  He found another job three months later but the damage was done.  It took us nearly a year to recover financially.  We decided to stay in our house two more years and then sell.
In 2010, I found out that I was pregnant with D.  We were about to be 6 people in a house with one bathroom and decided that we would start the search for a bigger home but that we could take our time and find something we really loved.  My husband was working for a government contractor in the midst of the government shut down worries.  To save money, his company had a massive layoff and we were caught up in it.
We'd done better and had some money in savings but not enough to cover a six month period with no work and no prospects.  I was having some pregnancy-related issues and we were fighting so hard to keep up.  We made the decision to sell our house instead of refinancing since we had no idea when  we'd be able to start paying our house note again or worse, losing it in foreclosure.  We had no money to handle even the most basic home maintenance so we knew we'd have to wait to put it up for sale when he found work again.
Eventually, he started working again.  It was a job he didn't like and it didn't pay as well as his previous job but it fed our family and paid our bills and he sucked it up because he's awesome like that.  I called a Realtor friend to come look at the house.  "It's not ready," I told her.  "We were in the middle of a thousand things when the layoff happened."  She wasn't deterred.  She asked me to tell her a little bit about the house.  A funny thing happens when you've been in a house for six years.  You have stories.  It seemed like everything in this house had one.  C's nursery with it's 24 inch by 24 inch checkerboard walls, the mural I hand painted in the room that became B & C's when A came along, the wallpaper that we almost never got to come off in the master bedroom, the bathroom I painted the night before I had friends coming over and the living room curtains that I hung as they were pulling in the yard, the bushes I planted in the front yard because they were cheap and I wouldn't feel bad if I killed them, the seemingly endless row of liquid nailed apple border I had to remove in the breakfast nook and kitchen, the carpet I ripped up without telling my husband I was going to do it (I don't advise that!), etc., etc., etc.  And it wasn't just the house.  Three of my four babies came home to a bassinet in that master bedroom and that nursery was their first personal space.  I bathed those babies in the tub in that hastily painted bathroom.  The carpet I ripped up was ruined by a boxer we rescued who was so near death he couldn't even control his bodily functions and we nursed him back to health.  We still laughed about the funky linoleum under the carpet.  I started making cakes in that kitchen.  Those cheap bushes out front get so big that I have to cut them back every few years (dwarf, yeah, right).  I told my Realtor friend I would call her back.  I could. not. sell. this. house.  Barry would be strong though, right?  He'd handle it.  Eh...not so much.  Turns out he'd been down nostalgia road too.  We decided not to sell.
But, we were still left with the 6 people in a 3 bedroom/1 bath problem.  We had stuff, you guys. Lots of it.  After we put the emotions aside, we started looking at the logistics of staying here.  We loved the area.  The house could be added on to.  We could afford the mortgage comfortably.  Those were all important to us.  So we started making the house our own again, but this time with a forever home state of mind.  Turns out, that is totally different than starter home mentality.  We completed some Pinterest inspired projects in the front, made an emergency toilet replacement, finished D's nursery, made a list of home goals for 2013, closed in the carport and then had a setback, I made this ruler and this wall art, we painted the walls green and hated it so we wallpapered in a last ditch effort to keep from ripping out paneling and installing drywall and loved it.  I repainted the bathroom the night before a birthday party (what is wrong with me?) and I chronicled most of those things on this blog (highlighted and underlined text will point you to those projects).  And then I got overwhelmed with cakes.  I wrote about that here.  And then I didn't blog for 2 years.  Two. years.  I was still completing projects but I wasn't writing about it.  And then I got dissatisfied because no matter how hard I work, I never could seem to get things finished in a timely manner.  My husband works away from home 21-28 days at a time.  I homeschool 4 kids who are in a variety of activities.  My days are pretty full.  Meanwhile, all these fantastic bloggers I follow are sitting in the gorgeous homes that are more or less done and I'm over here nearly 10 years in and mine is less finished than when I moved in.  And I started to really get dissatisfied with my home.  Sure, we've made some improvements but by the time I get finished with a project, my style changes.  Or the walls need to be repainted because of sticky little fingers.  Or the dog gouged the floor.  It was like one big hot mess circus and I'm the ringleader.  I hem-hawed about planning B & C's birthday party this year until I finally confessed to my husband that I hate our house. 
I understand this is a first world problem.  We own a home in the greatest country in the world.  We have more than enough to eat.  We don't worry about how we're going to clothe our children.  We don't worry about clean water or deadly illnesses or violent civil wars.  We have a pool for crying out loud.  Yes, I realize I am whining about nothing important and that makes me feel horrible.  Bear with me though.
As a child, we moved a lot. I think in the first 8 years my parents we married we lived in 8 different houses.  We only owned homes infrequently and I never had a "me" space.  Even my own room couldn't be personalized with more than a NKOTB poster or 50 (that life size one of Donnie though--be still my heart).  So now I'm struggling with perfectionism in my own home.  I want this to be a place my kids call home.  In that, I've lost the idea of home.  I'm competing with people who aren't living my life, who get paid to do projects and blog about it, who are given sponsorships and freebies, who aren't homeschooling 4 kids, who have a husband available in the afternoons/evenings/weekends to help with the heavy lifting. Meanwhile, I'm over here like

 Comparison really is the thief of joy.
But I've done stuff!  Did you know that D's nursery is now a full-blown little girl's room?  Or that I redid C & A's room?  Or that the master bedroom got a redo?  No?  Well, it did.  And that playroom is becoming B's room until we finish the addition.  We took the window out of the breakfast nook and put in a door.  I really do still love this house, but I've lost a sense of accomplishment along the way.  I'm putting that to rights today.  Just talking about all of the wonderful/crazy/weird/things that have happened in this house with all of you has given me a renewed purpose when it comes to loving the home that we have.
Over the next few weeks, I will be photographing and blogging about some of the projects that happened while I was gone and making an updated list of goals.  I hope you'll come along for the ride.
And if you're struggling to love the home you have too maybe this will encourage you to break free of the chains of comparison and perfectionism and really see your home through new eyes!

Joyfully yours,
Jen

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Stacked Book Baby Shower Cake

My dear friend Robin is having a baby girl!  That calls for a celebration.  I was asked to make a cake for her as a surprise.  She's a bibliophile like me so this was the perfect cake for her!


Each book is chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream that was then covered in marshmallow fondant and decorated to look like a stack of her favorite children's books.  The board was covered in fondant and painted to look like the books were sitting on a wooden table.  Robin loves owls so I made an owl topper out of fondant.
I can't wait to meet her little sweetheart!  Congratulations, Robin and Carl!

Sweetly Yours,
Jen