The drama of new

They’re disemboweling my house tomorrow. Viscerating it. Ripping the guts out of the poor thing, and giving it a transplant. Men in khaki overalls will be here at breakfast time, and they shall expect empty cupboards and wide open doors. They’ll park a skip bin in front of my house and they’ll tear open my back door onto the frosty deck and they’ll come in with their crowbars and their hammers and they will wreak havoc on my morning.

I am paying them to do this, too.

I am paying them for the privilege of keeping my microwave and kettle and electric fry pan and toaster on a jaunty little table right next to my computer, so I can…well…keep up an endless supply of tea and toast while I write, I guess. I guess that’s a good thing, considering how much tea and toast I make while I write on a normal day (a lot).

I am paying them for the privilege of keeping my plates and bowls on a shelf in the lounge room, even after I’ve told the kids there’s a strict no-food-on-the-new-carpet rule. I’m paying them for the privilege of keeping my glassware under my bed.

I’m also paying them for doors that shut…well, for doors even…and for a stove that does all kinds of lovely things and doesn’t have gunky hard-to-clean bits. I’m paying them for pretty tiles and…oh YES…ventilation!! And shelves and nooks and new power points, and cool drawers that shut softly and places upon places to put things so they don’t clutter up my new and perfect benches.

It’s kinda worth it, really.

But, like with my first pregnancy, even though I knew at the end of that nine month perioi there’d definitely be a baby, and I knew it was coming, I’m still not ready.

How about you? Ever put a kitchen in? Got any top tips for surviving the upheaval? The new carpet ordeal is still fresh in my mind. I don’t want to do this again…can I shut my eyes and pretend it’s not happening? Help!!


Flotsam and jetsam

I spent the day yesterday sorting through the last (okay, nearly the last) of the flotsam and jetsam washed up in canvas shopping bags into a corner of our lounge room by the tide of our renovations. I chucked a lot of stuff, and that was good. I found homes for a lot of stuff, and that was good too. There’s more to do (and a garage-sale-to-be-had waiting for me in the garage), and I’m very tired, but it’s good.

But I miss my dad.

Our new carpet is fantastic. It warms the house like never before, it’s made me clean out piles of stuff that I’d otherwise leave in place for…for…a lot longer. It’s made me re-look at everything we have and simplify simplify simplify. Our new kitchen windows I love, and have helped me look at our shabby little place with a whole new potential. Our new kitchen comes in four weeks. Once that’s done I need to go to the travel agents and finalise our trip to the US. I’m amazed, truly amazed at the weirdness this year is bringing.

But I miss my dad.

Dad and I didn’t always get along. Most people didn’t get along with Dad that well all the time. Dad was a dreamer, a visionary; he knew what he wanted and he set about making it happen, in his own way. I understand that. I’m a dreamer too, and a visionary. I guess this is the reason I fell in love with a run-down house, because I once saw how beautiful it could become. And now it is.

But I miss my dad.

The thing is though, the important thing, we wouldn’t be doing any of this stuff if he were still alive. We inherited money from him. We are truly blessed in that regard. Dad’s death is making some dreams come true for us.

But every time the phone rings on a Sunday I think it’s him still. He always rang on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes I didn’t bother ringing back if I missed his call, because he prattled on so much about his dreams and visions, things I knew full well would never happen. It’s not like we got along fabulously all my adult life.

But he doesn’t call any more. Not even on a Sunday. His ashes, all that’s left of his mortal body, are in a big plastic box in a paper shopping bag that the funeral home gave me. It’s incredibly, surprisingly heavy. They sit (ironically) in the fireplace in my bedroom, along with the last of the canvas shopping bags of flotsam and jetsam of the new carpet’s tide. I’m not ready to get rid of them just yet, to scatter them or to inter them anywhere. Nothing feels right, not really.

You know what I would do, if this were a story and not real life, if none of it mattered? I’d open that box and l’d take a little bit of those ashes out each time, and I’d scatter them with each new development we’re doing with Dad’s money, as a thank you. I’d lay some under the carpet. I’d put some on the top and vacuum it up with our new vacuum cleaner. I’d sprinkle some on the kitchen floor before the new cupboards go down. I’d bury some in the new patch of land we’re buying next door to ours. And then I’d take the rest overseas with me, not enough to make any government make a fuss, and I’d drop small pieces of ash wherever we go: a little in a cigarette-disposal-ash-tray thingy outside an airport; a little on a lake, a little in a park. A little near a tree, a little near some water. A little in a garbage can in Edmonton, which is the northern-most city in Canada. He never went to the US or Canada. He always expected me to go though. I think he’d like that. And a little leftover for me, to add to the clutter and junk that I’m trying to rid my live of.  Just a little to keep, to remember.

It’s a bit late to lift the carpet now, but the rest…I still miss my dad. But this, this…

If you see me in the US or Canada, lurking strangely near a garbage can, or checking as I open a ziplock bag near a rose bush, don’t be alarmed. Stop and say hi. And be aware if I cry more than I ought to about throwing out some old lunch scraps, it may be because I miss my dad.

Have you ever had to deal with a loved one’s ashes? What did you do? Have you ever considered taking them overseas? Is that just a little too weird do you think? How do YOU remember, or say thank you, to someone who’s no longer here?

The journey: an ode to talking with strangers

Can I tell you a little story? It’s just a little one, and it’s not about carpet, although it is about being poor, and about the way we see ourselves.

One day, when my big nine-year-old girl was still a little four-year-old-girl in Kindergarten, I  met a man while walking home. It was a Friday, that I remember, because I was on my own  after dropping her at school, and he had a little girl riding on top of his shoulders. She was also at Kindergarten, although in the other class from my daughter. They looked like a nice family, and I found myself wishing strangely that we could be friends, or that our girls could be friends.

That’s not what this story is about though.

The man was a friendly man, and we got in step and soon we started talking. I don’t remember what about so much, or about how the conversation led to the ending it did. It was probably about renovating, because he’d asked me whether I lived around here, and I told him I lived in the house around the corner with the peeling pink paint. I felt bad about that paint. I don’t remember what else we said, but I do remember the feeling though that my little girl was now in Kinder, and that she’d bring her friends home, and I felt ashamed for her that she didn’t have the perfectly painted house-and-garden bedroom that I’d always dreamed for her, or the lovely romp-able back lawn. I felt, that year, that I’d let her down, or in some large cosmic sense, I’d let her future self down by not giving her the beautiful start in life I’d always dreamed for her, my first born, my baby girl.

I didn’t tell the man that. I didn’t tell anybody that.

What the man said to me though, after we’d stopped outside his house, a big old shabby-looking place that I’d often wondered about, was this: “We’ve done a lot to our house, and it’s taken years to get around to some things. I think it’s good though. I think it’s good for the girls to experience the process, and to understand that they can’t just have things done all at once.”

I nodded, and smiled. I didn’t once let on how his words changed my life, and then I walked home.

Five years later, and his little girl and mine are now fast friends. I’ve been to their house numerous times to pick her up from playdates, and seen that inside that shabby, crusty exterior is something truly palatial by my standards. They’ve done most of it themselves, and are still doing it. The last few times I’ve been there the dad has been up on a ladder plastering the ceiling of one of the bedrooms, or laying new floorboards, while the girls play Barbies or craft on the mat in the living room. I love their house I love the amazing journey they’ve had, and the huge amount of effort they’ve done to get it to the standard that it’s at. But what I love most of all is this: it reminds me constantly that it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey.

I have not let my daughter down by not providing her the most beautiful house and bedroom to start her life in. I’ve given her the gift of experiencing a journey.

The home of the prophet

Here’s another pattern I’ve noticed: sometimes what’s happening in the physical world is an awfully good illustration of what’s happening internally.

It’s not just me, this time. I know this. The Bible has a few such noteworthy examples, and I’m so sorry I can’t provide the exact scriptural references for the dude in the Old Testament that God told to sleep with a prostitute and then cut her up (yes, I said Cut Her Up) into twelve pieces and send a piece of her to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Ouch. This is what they did before Facebook.

Or get this, from Ezekiel Chapter 4 in the Old Testament. Yes, this is the bible. No, it doesn’t get much weirder than this:

The Lord said: Ezekiel, son of man, find a brick and sketch a picture of Jerusalem on it. Then prepare to attack the brick as if it were a real city. Build a dirt mound and a ramp up to the top and surround the brick with enemy camps. On every side put large wooden poles as though you were going to break down the gate to the city. Set up an iron pan like a wall between you and the brick. All this will be a warning for the people of Israel. After that, lie down on your left side and stay there for three hundred ninety days as a sign of Israel’s punishment[a]—one day for each year of its suffering. Then turn over and lie on your right side forty more days. That will be a sign of Judah’s punishment—one day for each year of its suffering. The brick stands for Jerusalem, so attack it! Stare at it and shout angry warnings. I will tie you up, so you can’t leave until your attack has ended. Get a large bowl. Then mix together wheat, barley, beans, lentils, and millet, and make some bread. This is what you will eat for the three hundred ninety days you are lying down. 10 Eat only a small loaf of bread each day 11 and drink only two large cups of water. 12 Use dried human waste to start a fire, then bake the bread on the coals where everyone can watch you. 13 When I scatter the people of Israel among the nations, they will also have to eat food that is unclean, just as you must do.I said, “Lord God, please don’t make me do that! Never in my life have I eaten food that would make me unacceptable to you. I’ve never eaten anything that died a natural death or was killed by a wild animal or that you said was unclean.” The Lord replied, “Instead of human waste, I will let you bake your bread on a fire made from cow manure. 16 Ezekiel, the people of Jerusalem will starve. They will have so little food and water that they will be afraid and hopeless. 17 Everyone will be shocked at what is happening, and, because of their sins, they will die a slow death.” Contemporary English Version (CEV)

Sometimes we do stuff because we just feel it in our gut that it’s the right thing to do, and we don’t know why, but it is. Sometimes we step out, with little more to go on than “I just felt it was the right thing to do”, and sometimes it takes weeks, months, or even years, to fully understand the ramifications of our actions, or the good that came of them. And sometimes our guts are wrong. Sometimes we just put too much pizza in them, and the things they tell us are nothing more than “I don’t like anchovies”.

And sometimes – sometimes – the things that happen when we’re trusting our gut feel so wrong, feel like nothing-more-than-anchovies, but in reality they’re deep works that we can’t quite see the ends of just yet. And sometimes, when we’re leaning towards the pizza answer rather than the faith, sometimes then we see something, like God shows us something from the real world that shouts its confirmation at us, and suddenly we get it, like those people in the Bible got it when they saw old Ezekiel lying on his side in the dirt cooking muffins on poo.

Over the last few months my soul has been dug up and dug over and the deepest wiring exposed, and some rewiring going on. I can’t say it’s been pleasant, and sometimes it’s easy to think that it’s so hard because I’ve done something wrong. Then you see this:

My fence and my garden have done no wrong. My neighbour has done no evil thing, or hidden a body underneath her driveway. None of this, strictly speaking, needed to happen, but it is a Good Thing. It means our space is enlarging, and her bank account is being filled, and all it means is we’ve all got to keep our eyes on the goal, and the end result, not worry too much about the mess, and know that it’s worth it in the end.

Trust your gut. Step out in faith. Do something crazy. And know, when you’re in the middle of it all and it hurts like hell and there’s mud from one end of you to the other, that that funny little coincidence you’re shaking your head over just might be the confirmation of faith you need to see the journey through.