Leveled ~ by Sam


5/2/19

The Little Blue House (before sod)

The Little Blue House is gone.

Shane told me this evening, while we were sitting in the parlour, of our bigger blue house ~ the one that we own, and that we had painted blue, with white trim, exactly the way we wanted (even if the wall out front still hasn’t been painted to match, and the ironwork is rusting because some of it should probably be replaced).  He said it like it was just a casual remark, something you might say about any old place.

“So, the Blue House has been torn down.”

I think I asked him to repeat it.

The Blue House.  Our Blue House?  The Little Blue House?  Yes, he told me, he drove by, and there was just an empty lot there.  It’s been completely leveled. 

The Blue House.  The Little Blue House.  Our Little Blue House. 

Not ours, really, but…

It was the first house we ever lived in.  I will never forget the day Justice and I first saw it.  We were coming home from school one day when we happened to drive by and see a “For Rent” sign out front, so we decided to stop in and check it out.  We always loved visiting open houses, but we always knew we wouldn’t buy a house.  Not anytime soon, anyway.  But this house was for rent.  It wasn’t far from our little apartment, and there were three large trees out front, and a nice front porch, just like I’d always wanted.  The owner happened to be there cleaning up a bit, and he let us come in and look around.  Two bedrooms and one bath, just like our little apartment, but with a large playroom, and a paved backyard with a covered patio area, a basketball hoop, a fenced in-ground swimming pool ~ and a poolhouse that was divided into two separate areas: one for storage, and another that would make a nice office space.  It was too perfect.  Some of the rooms had built-in storage.  There was a fireplace, and a pantry, and the dining room was tiny, but charming.  I absolutely loved it.  We convinced Shane to take a look, and he loved it, too. 

At about this time, I was expecting our third child, so we needed a little more space, and, while the house didn’t give us any more bedrooms or bathrooms, it did give us much more space, and a yard (albeit a paved one).  It was beautiful.  The Little Blue House, ‘though it was a rental, was our home.  Our landlords were so kind, and we adored them. This is the place where Shane put down sod while I was in the early stages of labour with Kaia, while our friend Lauren helped me with the kids, until it was time to go to the hospital. We had a beautiful lawn and a beautiful baby ~ it made perfect sense.  It was the house we brought Kaia home to when she was born, ‘though I don’t think she remembers it at all.  It’s where I held her in my arms in the swimming pool, where she took her first steps, threw her first birthday cake on the pavement ~ sorry, honey, I didn’t know yet that you didn’t like fruit on your cake.  It’s where I used to sit and rock her on the porch and sing to her.  It’s where Justice planted her apple seed, and Hallie used to run in a loop through the living room, dining room, kitchen and playroom.  It’s where the kids hosted the very first ever Island Day with their cousins, the year Kaia was born.  It’s where my sister-in-law, Amy, saved Kaia’s life when she was a tiny baby. 

This is the house where the kids arranged the two loft beds at different heights and Kaia’s little toddler bed to all interconnect, so their bedroom was almost like a tree fort.  It’s where the enormous…what even was that thing?  Was it a mosquito??  Some huge flying bug got into the house, and I whisked all of the kids, including our friend Makenzie, into our bedroom with a pizza; and we all piled onto the bed and watched a movie until someone braver than us arrived to help with the giant bug situation.  It’s the house where our friend Geoff lived with us for a while, staying in the poolhouse ~ one of my favourite memories of which is overhearing what I think was a jumping contest with little Hallie in the kitchen one evening.  It’s the house that was just so incredibly full of crickets, but I loved it, anyway.  They say crickets in your house are good luck, right?

It was great for hosting parties, because of that big playroom, even through it wasn’t a very big house, and it had that nice outdoor area in the back that was fenced separately from the pool.  It was good for shooting hoops with grandparents (or parents, if grandparents weren’t around), and making chalk drawings, and lots of messy arts and craft projects, and rollerskating, and setting off 3-2-1 Blast-Offs, and swinging on the little wooden IKEA swing ~ careful of the wooden patio edge!  Where camellias grew out front, and almost nothing grew out back, because of all of the pavement (I’m exaggerating. There were plants along the fence by the pool) ~ but there was that amazing swimming pool.  It hosted birthday parties, pool parties, tea parties, and sleepovers.  It’s where grandparents met their youngest grandchild.

It was the first place our kids got to hang their stockings “by the chimney with care…”  You know, actually by the chimney.

Our little fireplace

Just yesterday, we were driving on the cross street at the end of that block, and I was telling Justice about how, when she was young, I remember giving her cash and careful instructions, and then walking out and standing on the sidewalk to watch her cross the street to the market there so she could pick up an item or two that I needed for dinner. 

It was just a rental, and so, it wasn’t really ours, but, in so many ways, it was our first house.  Even in just a few short years, so much of our life happened there.

It was our Little Blue House, and we were very happy there.

I am heartbroken to hear it is gone.  Like a memory has been erased.  I used to like to drive by it, sometimes, just to see it, and remember those sweet, happy days. 

Our Little Blue House is gone. 

If I had known it was going, I might have bid it farewell. 

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Just Too Sensitive ~ by Sam

I’ve noticed a disturbing pattern over the years in which spaces that are meant to provide support ~ groups that were formed as a means of support, or social connection specifically for people seeking, ostensibly to support one another (and, in my experience, this has often, but not exclusively, been women’s groups of this nature) ~ have a tendency to become cliquish and unsupportive, even ostracizing to certain individuals, or to certain segments of a community, and I have always had difficulty understanding this. Throughout my life, I have struggled to understand why people feel the need to put down or exclude others, and how in the world doing so could possibly make them feel… I don’t know. I was going to say “better,” but is that the right word? Is that what they are feeling? Does it make them feel better about themselves or their situation to put down others? Somehow, if someone else is doing a worse job of parenting, succeeding in business, managing their health or their particular situation (whatever it is), then are they doing better, and are they, perhaps, somehow superior? Because, I thought, in a situation in which people came together to support one another, people would be there to, you know, support one another.

This wasn’t brought on by any particular incident recently, in case anyone is trying to decipher what I am saying and figure out if they did or said something that upset me. I’m not that cryptic. Most of the time, if I am upset, you can probably tell. It’s honestly just a thing I have noticed. It’s happened to me, to be sure, but I have watched as it happened to many others over the years, and even in speaking up have felt fairly powerless to stop it, which has been frustrating. I haven’t always found my voice when I should have; and, in some cases, even when I did, I felt it didn’t matter, in the end.

It’s a thing I just don’t get, and never have, this clique-mentality that develops within a group and weaves a web drawing in others near it, normalizing behaviours that, in another context, would seem abhorrent. When we were young, we were taught that excluding others, gossiping about people, saying nasty things behind people’s backs, and any of that sort of “othering” behaviour was wrong. But suddenly, as adults, we’re doing it again. To me, it feels especially wrong in the context of something that is meant to be a support structure. That’s specifically what I am talking about here. I’m not saying we have to be friends with everyone we meet. That would be preposterous. (‘Though, I would argue that, while we needn’t be friends with anyone, I honestly can’t see many reasons to be unkind to most people, and absolutely none to say anything behind anyone’s back that we wouldn’t say to them. If a thing is true, and not something we shouldn’t be talking about, why wouldn’t we say it? So, if we wouldn’t say it to the person in question, perhaps we shouldn’t say it. I know. That’s not always easy, but maybe it’s kind, and maybe the world needs more kindness.)

I am talking about a very specific situation: groups that have been formed, online or IRL, in which members commit to providing support to one another. So, a member joins, and, for whatever reason, other members ~ often members who have known one another, and already formed bonds, or have certain ideas about some things that differ from the new member’s ideas ~ decide the new member just doesn’t “fit” with their group. But they don’t say anything to the member. They just leave them out of invitations, talk around them, talk about them behind their back. This behaviour usually starts with just one or two members, but then other members start to join in, even if they did not, initially share these feelings, until it seems everyone agrees in their negative opinion of the new member. But still, nobody tells them. The problem is, they can tell. They can tell they are not liked…or they have a feeling they aren’t liked as well as other members, because it’s clear that everyone else has a closer bond, and seems to be doing things without them, or it feels like people are talking about them, or that people don’t like them…but…maybe they’re just being paranoid…or maybe they’re too sensitive…

If they ask anyone what’s going on, that’s what they’re likely too hear: they’re just too sensitive. If anyone has anything negative or unkind to say to them, that’s the problem: they’re just too sensitive. Even if those same people wouldn’t dream of saying the same unkind things to a different member of the same group (because this is a safe space, where we support each other). I went through this a lot when I was younger, and it still happens now, sometimes, but I think am quicker to recognize it and walk away (which means not getting the support I need, in those situations). As I said, I know I am not the only one who has encountered this, because I have watched the same scenario unfold time and time again with other people.

Then there are the situations that come up in conversations (both online and IRL, but often, these days, online), not just in the aforementioned groups, but even with close friends and family members, in which people will say and do things that I cannot imagine having said and done even just 10 years ago. I do think this is more of a problem online, specifically, but lately, I notice it happening more and more In Real Life, as well, and this worries me (because I am Just Too Sensitive, remember?). I think, maybe, we are getting so used to this idea that we can just say anything to anyone ~ is that a product of the digital age, when a screen removes us from the face-to-face reality of our living, breathing audience? ~ that we are losing touch with our sense empathy and compassion. We’re forgetting to take into account the other person’s feelings, to think before we speak. Which is funny, because I think half of things I see posted on the internet are some version of somebody’s homemade sign/craft/digital art about exactly that (“Before You Speak, Think!…” “Classroom Rules:…” “In this house…”) So, I feel like there’s solid evidence that so many of us are trying really hard.

In fact, I keep feeling like I am trying super hard to live up to those standards; but I also keep just missing my mark. It’s disheartening, and sometimes defeating, because I do truly try to lead with my heart and take all of these things into account. I’m aware of all of these things, and yet, sometimes, I just don’t get it right. Sometimes, I act (or speak, or type) before I think. Sometimes, I have been on the wrong side of those situations, before I even realized they were unfolding, and I hate that, because I know how much I detest them when I’m on the other side. I know how much it hurts. I know how hard it is, and how bad it feels, and how it can impact a person’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth, and even their health and well-being. I am aware of all of these things, because I really am exceedingly sensitive. And still, sometimes, I fail.

So, I keep trying to be mindful of all of these things. I keep trying to do better. I keep saying I will lead with Kindness; but, like, really, am I doing it? I want to try harder.

Nah. That’s a copout. (I know, because Yoda just came over and smacked me in the kneecaps with his stick ~ I know, it’s not called a stick. Get off my back. Like…literally.)

I want to DO better.

So, here’s a thought (and, I know, I have mentioned this before to many of you, but here we go again): What if we’re not too sensitive?

What if, just maybe, the rest of the world needs to pause and consider that sensitivity is normal, and not a fault, and our mamas were actually right when they taught us that if we didn’t have anything nice to say, we shouldn’t say anything at all?

What if we all started pausing to consider the consequences of our words and actions BEFORE we put them out into the world, taking into account our own sensitivity, and how words and actions like them might impact us (“Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you”)?

What if we all decided to lead with kindness and empathy?

What if we forgave ourselves when we failed?

What if we forgave others, too?

Those last two parts are super hard for me sometimes (especially that first one), but I think they might be the key to my success here.

I was taught that peace begins with me, and that the only change in the world I can make is change within myself; so I am working on being more mindful of how I interact with others in what I say and do ~ how my words and actions impact people. I’ve been thinking a lot about this. It seems we talk a lot these days about being the change we want to see in the world. I think that’s a great idea. The change I want to see is one toward kindness, empathy and greater understanding.

2019 ~ by Sam

Well, here we are. It’s the 5th of February, and I haven’t updated since the New Year. We’ve been busy…ish.

The end of the year found us scrambling to get a new roof on the house before the rainy season. I know, I know ~ the rainy season? In L.A.? I’m joking, right? But, really, I’m not. Because, honestly, any amount of raining inside your house, is not great. Also, we kept hearing there was actually going to be a Rainy Season this year. Maybe even a RAINY SEASON by L.A. standards, and that, without a rainproof roof, did not sound like a Great Idea.

So, while trying to get lots of other things ~ like Holiday shopping, and decorating, and baking, and gift-wrapping, and packaging and mailing ~ done, we were also trying to do things like get roof estimates, find someone who could take down the solar panels and put them back up again, decide who to hire, work out all of the details and figure out how to finance all of this… And you know, get the kids to school, and still do all of the usual day-to-day stuff, too. So, you know…it was a little bit hectic. You might say. But we did some things, anyway. We didn’t necessarily get everything done in a timely fashion (we might have mailed out “Happy New Year” gifts ~late, very late ~ instead of Christmas gifts), and I definitely didn’t remember to come over here and write about any of it. So, I thought it might be good to come back and do a little bit of a check-in:

I looked at my last entry, and saw this (I’ve added notes about my progress in parentheses):

I will:

Accept that I am a work in progress. (working on it)
Balance the books and pay bills every Monday. (need to do this)
Strive to buy coffee out only 1x/week, and remember my reusable cup when I do. (eh…this needs work, too)
Exercise at least 3-5x/week, and do my PT at least 5x/week. * (um…2-3x/week, so far. But that’s better than none! I’ll keep trying)
Play my banjo every day. (not every day, but not none!)
Accentuate the positive. (um…probably also needs work, but I’m trying)
Focus on forgiveness. (I think I’m doing okay here)
Breathe, drink water & eat real food. ** (Girl Scout Cookies are not imaginary)
Read every day. (YES ~ nailed it!)
List stuff on my etsy shop within 1 week of making it. *** (Haven’t made anything new, but did list a bunch of stuff I had already made!)
Work in the garden at least 1x/week. (Okay, it’s been POURING, but I did work in the garden a little bit when it wasn’t, and I potted a couple of indoor plants)
Try to be more present & attentive. (will always need more work, but I’m doing it…the trying part, I mean)
Sew/knit/crochet or otherwise craft/make something every week. (100% doing this ~ I don’t finish a project every week, so far, but I am always doing something creative)

I will NOT:

Beat myself up if I fail. (still needs a little work)
Give up because I miss a step (week, day, whatever). (yup, got it. It’s hard)
Care what other people think about this list, me, or anything I’ve written here. (uh, huh. Pretty much doing this, most of the time. I still have my moments)

So. Here, in no particular order, are some things I have been doing:

I made some fun cookies with these adorable cookie cutters to send to friends and family. Kids helped with some of the decorating.

I made this set of pillows for my sister & brother-in-law.

I’ve been doing a lot of sewing with my mentee, and I finally started working on this dress. Several years ago, I bought this fabric and pattern. As soon as I got home, I washed the fabric, cut all of the pieces from the dress fabric (but not the lining ~ it will be fully lined), and then put it away and never got around to sewing it. Now, I am finally actually sewing it. Slowly but surely, because I keep getting distracted by other things, but at least I keep working on it.

It doesn’t have wings. My dressform, Mädchen, just wears them, sometimes.

I have been working on finishing a large single crochet blanket I started last year, then set aside. When I ran out one of the yarns I was using for that blanket and had to order it online, because I couldn’t find it in stores, I started working on another, smaller crochet project (probably just a throw), because I found some yarn I loved while looking for the other one.

Blanket #1

Blanket #2

I am still painting the Little Free Library, and trying to get it all ready to open. It’s ridiculous that this is taking so incredibly long. We have books and everything! It’s almost done! I am so excited. But still really slow. (Who knew it would take so long??) I really wanted to have it up and running before the end of last year, but promised not to kick myself if I didn’t get things done. (I’ll wait to post a picture until it’s done.)

I visited The Last Bookstore with Shane and Justice, and the Museum of Tolerance with Kaia.

We all went to the King Tut exhibit at the California Science Center.

I drove Kaia to an animal shelter to drop off 4 pet beds and 20 cat toys she’d made for the animals there.

There are so many other things I am forgetting. No wonder I’m so tired all the time. Now that I see it all in black and white, I can see that I’ve actually been rather busy.

So, now, we are just trying to get back into the swing of things. It seems like there is always something else to do. The laundry room is mostly painted, thanks to Shane, and we have settled on a colour for the next project. I am sure, by the time we get that one done, we will have figured out something else that needs work.

I think, at least for now, I am beginning to feel like I’m settling into something like a routine. It’s not the same each day, and it still needs fine-tuning ~ for instance, I have to include more exercise, if I want my foot to hurt less, and I want to include more banjo-playing, and I should include more housekeeping ~ but I am hitting my marks (or at least landing somewhat close to them) more often than I used to, and that feels good. At the end of the day, I feel like I am making progress, and that’s what resolutions are all about, aren’t they? I never expected to just immediately achieve all of those things. I set out to work toward my goals over the course of a year, with the hope of someday achieving them. I’d say I’m doing all right, by my standards.

A Fondish Farewell

VegasDress'18

As 2018 draws to a close, I find myself, as always, trying to make some sense of what’s been.  This year, more then most, however, I’m thinking, “Why?”  Not the big “WHY?” Not the WHY to end all Whys.  Just, “Why?”  I mean…why do that?  Why bother trying to make sense of everything that happened in the past year when, you know, it’s over, and what I could do, instead, is move on?

Of course, I get it.  There will be THINGS.  Things that carry over into the Brand New Year that will need to be Dealt With.  Things that Continue.  Things of the past that impact Future Things.  Like…you know, that’s Life.  In or out of the Big City, by the way.  Not that I have actually lived very far out of the Big City in my life, but, I assure you, people have lives absolutely everywhere on Earth, and they all probably function in roughly the same way.  We all meet challenges, and we all deal with them in whatever way we do.  And sometimes, we get it right, and sometimes, we don’t.  Sometimes, things work out well, and sometimes, they don’t.  Sometimes, things are easy, and fun, and pleasant, and great, and sometimes, they aren’t.  Sometimes, there are unexpected bonuses, or prizes or perks or vacations ~ whee!!  Sometimes, there are unexpected bills, penalties, fees, illnesses, layoffs…*sigh* (or cry)  And that’s how life goes for everyone, everywhere, I think.  Which is not to say that any of our problems are not important.  I just think, maybe, as I get older, I am starting to feel more like these are all just cycles, like waves in the ocean.  I am learning to accept that there will always be ups and downs, highs and lows, and just to try to relax and ride along with all of it, as best I can.  Which is not to say I can’t have goals and aspirations, or work toward achieving things.  I do believe in working hard and doing the best I can to be the best possible version of me.  That’s what I can control.  It’s more about learning to accept the things I can’t control, and weather those storms as they come along and disrupt my plans.  I’m not giving up on making plans.  Just accepting that my plans are always going to be more of a loose framework than actually set in stone.

So, now.  My plans, moving into the New Year are fairly simple, really.

I will:

Accept that I am a work in progress.
Balance the books and pay bills every Monday.
Strive to buy coffee out only 1x/week, and remember my reusable cup when I do.
Exercise at least 3-5x/week, and do my PT at least 5x/week. *
Play my banjo every day.
Accentuate the positive.
Focus on forgiveness.
Breathe, drink water & eat real food. **
Read every day.
List stuff on my etsy shop within 1 week of making it. ***
Work in the garden at least 1x/week.
Try to be more present & attentive.
Sew/knit/crochet or otherwise craft/make something every week.

I will NOT:

Beat myself up if I fail.
Give up because I miss a step (week, day, whatever).
Care what other people think about this list, me, or anything I’ve written here.

*This should be more, but I am being realistic.
**You’d think these would be no-brainers, but I’ve met me.
***This is after listing all the stuff that’s already waiting to be listed!

So, there you have it.

So long, 2018.  You have been a helluva year.  Laughter, tears, challenges and triumphs, to be sure.  You’ve brought with you another adult child, a new roof, and a lot of life and homeownership experience.  You weren’t a bad year, altogether, but you weren’t exactly and easy year, either.

So, with a still-stiff shoulder, and great hopes for the future, I bid you a relatively fond farewell.  Please take all your germs with you, as we are all hoping for much greater health in 2019.

Thank you.

Just one box ~ by Sam

Are you tired of boxes yet?

I’m sorry.  I never get tired of them.  It might be a problem.

Well, I am still cleaning and organizing ~ I know, I know, super exciting! ~ and I happened to come across this box I just had to show everyone.  Recently, I bought a new pair of sneakers.  Am I the only one who still calls them sneakers?  Well, I bought them, Inkkas, which I was lucky enough to find on sale for $30.  They’re white, wtih silver stars, and very comfortable for walking, which is what I needed.  They came in this box:IMG_7794

Wow.  Scintillating, I know.  I often save a shoe box, or two, just in case the kids have a project to do that involves a shoe box.  I know, I know, my kids are in high school and college, but two of them actually needed shoe boxes just last school year.  It’s not as crazy as it sounds.  So, I opened this box to take out the paper and this is what I found:IMG_7796.JPG
Hmmm…intriguing… Upon further investigation, I discovered that the entire box could be very easily disassembled, turned over and reassembled.  Like this:
IMG_7797
Here’s how it looks reassembled, from several angles:IMG_7798
Not bad-looking, right?  (Elvis says, “Thank ya…thank ya verra much.”)

It happens to be exactly what I needed for this shelf in our bedroom, and too nice to turn into a box project, anyway. IMG_7802 So, thanks to Inkkas for the great sale, which is the only way I could possibly have afforded to buy the comfy shoes, and the great reusable box with the striking, attractive graphic.  If you get your own pair of Inkkas (did I mention that they’re comfy?  Definitely worth keeping an eye out for sales, in my opinion), maybe you can find other ways to repurpose your box.  I think it would make a cute gift box.  You could get creative and add colour, cover the top (perhaps with fabric or paper).  I might cover the lid of mine later.  For now, I think it looks kind of cute up there as is.

What a nice little surprise this was, and an easy way to reuse something instead of just throwing it into the recycling bin.

I promise I will write about something other than boxes soon.

Boxing, part 2 ~ by Sam

So, that was done.

Sort of.  We still had some things we wanted to store.  You see, Kaia is 15.  When she moved in to her bedroom in 2012 (which was actually 6 1/2 years ago, not 5 1/2, as I said in the last post, wasn’t it?), she probably didn’t mind having bins full of things like puppets and American Girl clothes taking up space in her room, but let’s get real.  I, personally, love my American Girl doll, but, at 15, I probably would have needed my shelf space for something other than storing all of the the entire household’s American Girl doll clothes and accessories.  And puppets!  Do you people even know how many puppets we own?  Seriously, we needed to free up that space for things she was actually using on a regular basis (which doesn’t mean we don’t still love our puppets, says the drama teacher inside me).  Besides which, it’s her bedroom.  She should get to keep her stuff in there, instead of stuff that’s kind of community property.  I think, again, in our haste to move, we just never reorganized that shelf after we moved it into her room, and, since she was the youngest, it made some sense for toys to be stored in her room, at the time.  Now, on the other hand…

Well, I needed just a couple more large boxes, so I headed back to Michaels, and, as anticipated, all of the good 80% off boxes were gone.  But I did find two very lovely ones that were 40% off, and that was okay.  I mean, it felt a little splurgy, after the 80% off boxes, but I guess I’ll survive buying boxes at 40% off, just this once.

After all, they are the perfect boxes for treasures.
IMG_7804

They fit perfectly into the space I had for them (if you ignore the fact that one overhangs the shelf just slightly), and they were the right size to hold all of our puppets.

When the old bins were empty, I removed the old tags from them, knowing Kaia wouldn’t need them anymore, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to throw them away yet.  Is that silly?  It’s just…it’s the end of an era, isn’t it?  I know, it’s the beginning of an exciting new one, too, as my three little babies, little no more, continue on their journey through life.  Two in college already, and one a sophomore in high school.  You know, I always believed those people when they told me the years would fly, but I didn’t understand how it would feel until I was folding all of the little dress up clothes, having weeded out the ones that were just beyond repair and not worth saving.  I didn’t get it, until I was carefully tucking the matchbox cars into their boxes, and trying to remember their names, making sure the puppets weren’t too crowded, and no one was getting smushed…and I could hear their little voices just like it was yesterday.

“Today, I’m going on an adventure!”

“I’m a pirate, so I need this hook, and I need to get on my pirate ship…”

“Hey, sisters, sisters!  Look at what I found!”

And now it’s quiet.  The boxes are all put away.  Justice is at school tonight.  Shane is not yet home from work.  Hallie, of course, is living on campus this year.  It’s very quiet, except for the faint sound of one voice, not so little now, talking and laughing with a friend on the phone.

Pizza’s ready, so I go to pull it out of the oven, and there on the counter, I see them.

I still haven’t thrown these away.

IMG_7805

I’m thinking, maybe, I’ll keep them for a while.  It’s silly, isn’t it?  But then, I’ve always been sentimental.

Boxing, part 1 ~ by Sam

If you’ve known me for some time, you might know I like boxes.  I mean, not like cats and small children like boxes ~ although, lets be honest, large boxes made really great playhouses, and trains, and rocket ships, and…well…so, maybe a little bit like small children like boxes, but, for the purposes of this narrative, let’s assume I mean decorative boxes.  You know, the kind you might use for storage, but that don’t necessarily look like just your average storage boxes.  I like fancy hat boxes, and boxes that are made to look like books and treasure chests.  I like boxes covered with beautiful papers and fabrics ~ I’ve even covered some of my own.  I like cardboard boxes, wooden boxes, metal boxes, even plastic crates and baskets, in a pinch, but fancy boxes are my favourite.  And, although you might not know it if you dropped by right now and saw the half-painted Little Free Library on my parlour floor, the empty boxes and baskets, the unfolded laundry on the chaise, the books that need to be put away, I really like it when everything is put away neatly in its place.  It’s one of the reasons I really like boxes.  You can put things in them, and ~ look at that! ~ all of the sudden, instead of a bunch of clutter, you have this attractively ordered space.  I like it that way.  I like knowing where my stuff is, so I can find it, and I like it to look nice, too.

So.  Well, there was this one area of the house in which we had really been struggling with the whole “neatness” and “order” thing.  A place for everything?  Are you kidding me?  Nah.  Just…stick it over there…somewhere.  I guess.  We’ll figure it out later.

Sometimes, I think that’s a little bit how we moved in.  Things were moving along swimmingly, but then there was a family emergency, and Shane had to leave town, so we moved a bunch of stuff over very quickly, with the help of his parents, who were in town.  Then, the kids and I finished moving the rest of the stuff over from the old house, but I never felt like we got things quite settled here.  I still don’t.  It’s been more than 5 1/2 years since we moved.

In that time, time has marched on, and children have grown.  When we moved, we set the toy shelf that used to be in the bedroom that the two youngest kids shared at the old house in the hallway outside of the bedrooms they would have (and not share) at the new house. It seemed to make sense at the time.  The shelves contained stuff that belonged to both of them, as well as some stuff that was used by all three kids (like books, costumes, and matchbox cars, for instance).  Over time, however, more and more of the stuff on the shelf fell into disuse.  The kids just grew up.  They still loved and had fond memories of some of those things, but, you know, they weren’t leaping around the house in tiny tutus battling each other with rubber swords.  They need bigger tutus now.  I’m kidding.  They hardly ever wear tutus now.  As far as I know.

Anyway, there was a bunch of stuff just sitting there on the shelf, not being used very often, and taking up a lot of space.  We also had other stuff that just didn’t seem to have any place to go.  Stuff like shoes and hats and jackets.  Backpacks.  A trumpet.  Bags.  Just, you know, a lot of stuff.  So I started thinking, you know, what the kids could use outside there rooms might be something to store the stuff they actually use.  I knew, however that, like me, my kids are sentimental.  Over many moves, and in years since the last move, we had already weeded through toys, and what was left on that shelf really was the cream of the crop.  This is stuff we want to have around for days when little ones come to play.  It’s the cool stuff.  The keepers.  The question remained, with no useable attic space to speak of (it’s basically a crawlspace full of insulation and ductwork), and very little available space in the garage, where were we going to keep all this stuff?

What stuff?  Oh.  THIS stuff.  And, while we’re at it, can we do something about this colour, because I vowed when I moved in to banish this colour from the house, and this, Justice’s bathroom and the laundry room are the last holdouts (trust me, it’s worse in real life).

I chose the above photos because I think they highlight the stellar organization.  Not pictured: socks, shoes, backpacks, trumpet & music bag…

Well, it took some planning, and a couple of coats of Behr Marquee flat ceiling paint in pure white, and a couple of coats of Behr Premium Plus Paint & Primer interior semi-gloss in Vintage Coral to fix the colour problem.

We had already made a trip to IKEA to purchase the coat/shoe rack/bench that we wanted to put in place of the old toy shelves.  Of course, we realized that taking down the shelves and replacing them with a coatrack would leave us with some major storage problems.  After some brainstorming ~ and let’s be honest, the storm had been brewing in my brain for years over this plan ~ I discussed my design plan with Shane, who went off to the hardware store to have the wood cut to make the shelves we wanted.  He primed and painted them, and, between coats, we kept searching online for shelf brackets we both liked…or at least one of us liked…or, you know, maybe that we didn’t hate.  I mean, could they, at least, not look like they should be shut inside a closet?  Hey…those are ni…Oh, I mean, could they at least not look like they should be shut inside a closet AND not cost a million dollars?  We finally found some that fit the bill at Lowe’s.  When we got there, they didn’t have the ones we’d chosen, but I think the ones we got are just as nice, at least.

It just so happens that Lowe’s is in the same shopping center as Michaels, so we stopped to see if they might have any boxes that might suit our needs. They did, you guys, and they were 80% off.  That’s, like, pennies on the dollar.  (Or like, a few dollars instead of $20, but still, quite the deal, and really, the only way we could possibly afford to do this.)

Look what a change we made: