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Accepting Change With Grace

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I remember back in the early days (okay, the early 2000’s) of reality home improvement shows when the residents would come home for the big reveal and someone would burst into tears. You’d watch that person have a meltdown right there on TLC and wonder what the big deal was. They just had part of their home renovated. For free. Wasn’t that something to be excited about?

Now that I’m a home owner though, I get it. I understand how you can come home and be faced with a change to your home that you had no hand in doing and just how overwhelming that can be.

My in-laws stayed with us for the better part of August and my father-in-law is a man who is happiest with a hammer in hand. Owen warned me that projects would likely get done when they came to visit. I believed him but I guess I just wasn’t prepared for the reality of coming home from work and seeing how much of a difference a new light fixture can make. Or how much bigger our yard looks when there aren’t scraggly elms crowding up against our foundation.

But I turned on the water works and cried anyway.

Let me just go ahead and say on the record that I have really great in-laws.

Last summer, my mother-in-law and brother-in-law came out and helped us move. Owen comes from a super helpful and considerate family. They operate very much like my own blood kin.

I guess I felt a certain amount of shame at my lack of involvement with the three weeks worth of progress being done on our house. From time to time I still have these moments where I just don’t feel like I have done enough to deserve this house. We make our payments on time, but I worry that some day the Tidy Patrol will show up on our doorstep and evict us for letting the dishes pile up or for still having stuff in boxes.

This xkcd comic describes how I view our approach to having our own place.

We’re not quite that bad. But there’s a pirate flag spanning one wall of our kitchen and I’ve given strong consideration to painting our front door a cheerful Police Box shade of blue.

I want to have pride in home ownership. To my mind I equate that to spending my own sweat equity to better the house and making my own mistakes as we learn about how to fix things. Having someone else do things for us just felt like cheating.

Even if the new light fixture in the hallway looks really cool.



The Girl With the Cardboard Sign or Why I’m Thankful

Tonight, on my way home from putting in 9 hours at the garage, I swung by Kroger to pick up a few groceries. Somehow we managed to not move our bottle of soy sauce from the old place. Soy sauce is a funny thing – it lingers as little packets in the fridge and becomes a part of your daily awareness long after the last time you had Chinese takeout.

We needed some for the casserole I was making for dinner tonight but since I wasn’t really in a big rush, I called up my dad and chatted with him for a bit while sitting in the parking lot. We talked politics, we talked cooking, we talked about the goofy things Sonic and Leo were up to. And while we talked I watched this girl standing at the entrance to the shopping center parking lot with a cardboard sign. She looked to be about my age with a burgundy jacket and a small backpack. Wooly hat. Jeans. Homeless.

Every single person leaving the lot drove past her. Like a soy sauce packet, no one seemed to pay any attention to the girl with the sign. Normally, I’m that person. Normally, I drive past folks with their signs, maybe glancing to see what they have scrawled on the cardboard in dark letters.

Tonight though, I didn’t drive by. Instead I walked up to her and asked her if I could get her something hot for dinner from the deli. At first I don’t think she believed me. She hedged and when I mentioned I was going to get some macaroni for myself she said ravioli would be good. If they had soup though, she’d really like some chili.

So I bought her dinner. A bowl of Stampede Steak Chili, a 32 oz. jug of orange juice and a chocolate peppermint bark snowman because no one wants chili breath all night long.

She thanked me and said God bless.

I wanted to tell her not to worry about it. That I was going home to make dinner for my husband in our messy kitchen. That I just finished talking to my dad on the phone and that both my parents love me and have always lifted me up. That I have a job that pays quite well given my level of experience.

Instead, I wished her a good night and told her I hoped she’d stay warm.

While leaving Kroger and cradling the chili I walked past the Salvation Army guy with his bucket. The sign above it said: “Doing the Most Good.” I didn’t leave any change in the bucket though. They’ve been out there every day since Thanksgiving and I question how much good loose change can do when there are more active ways of effecting change.

No, buying the girl with the sign dinner won’t change her life. But it could do the most good in her life for just today. And I’m okay with that.