The other side of the counter

I placed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire down on the table next to my Dr. Pepper. I looked around to see what needed to be done. Nothing. So I sat down and read my book under the harsh fluorescent light next to the warm machines. Muzak, punctuated by store commercials, echoed in the high ceiling. Occasionally someone needed film processed, but only ten rolls were processed in the six hours that I spent in the photo lab that Thanksgiving day. It was my year to work Thanksgiving and miss going home to spend time with my family. Next year I would get a Christmas Eve shift. Working alongside me was a single mother of two young boys. She had been married, but her ex husband was a giant asshole. (Which was amazing, because he was a tiny drowned rat looking man.) She was only 34, but you would swear that she was much older. She was reserved, hardworking, and rarely complained. She hated being at work that day, too.

Over the years, Black Friday has crept closer and closer to Thanksgiving day. For awhile, it seemed to respect the boundary of midnight. But now it has oozed over the line and consumed Thanksgiving.
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Thursday is mine because I can!

Many are outraged! How dare retailers take over Th…Ooo, the camera I want goes on sale at 5 that day! Retailers aren’t starting sales at these times to be evil and take over Gluttony Football Day. They’re doing it because they can. People will show up. I’m willing to bet that some of those people will also be the ones who complained and were outraged by the sale in the first place. They will take part in the stampede to be the first to get XYZ gaming system and will bite your face if they have to. People have died trying to get something on sale. And yet, year after year, sales get earlier and earlier. Year after year, people are shocked and outraged by the materialism…right until they show up to the line that wraps around the store.

It’s our fault, y’all. We perpetuate this cycle of frenzied materialism. We’re the ones who rip people away from their families because they have to be at work to wait on your ass. Some may argue that participating in Black Friday is the only way they can afford whatever they want for Christmas. While I understand that it may be disappointing to not get that thing they crave, I’m willing to bet it’s not something they need. I’m sure for some, it’s not even getting the thing that they crave. It’s the rush of finding and getting that awesome deal. Is that rush really worth it? Is it worth blowing off your families? Is it worth pulling someone away from their family so you can get your fix?

I wonder what would happen if we all just stopped? Stopped showing up to buy mountains of shit. Stopped being consumed by our obsession with whatever toy the toy companies have deemed “hot” this season. Stopped having to plan our family/loved ones/special friends time around having to shop later. Stopped pulling people away from their loved ones because they have to go swipe your credit card and smile at you like they’re totally happy to be there.

If we stopped, they would stop. It’s just that simple.

Photo credit: Star Trek: TNG

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Finding contentedness in a Pottery Barn world

Whenever I go to a new house, I always imagine what it will look like. I imagine the layout. I imagine what sort of furniture they’ll have. I envision the decor based on what I know of the person. I wonder if their kitchen will be one that I covet with all its space and granite countertops. This is something I’ve done ever since I was little. (Although the coveting counter space is more recent.)
I took ZoĆ« over to her little friend’s house yesterday for a play date. We met the family over the summer in Rachael’s rising kindergarten play group, and yesterday was the first time we had been to their house. Guys, let me tell you, it was that house. You know the kind. The lawn and garden are well manicured, but in an effortless, non-stuffy way. The front porch looked like a place where you could just relax with a drink and look at the stars. Inside looked like it was in the last issue of Pottery Barn magazine. Earthy tile ushered us in. Adjoining dark, wide plank wood floors looked virtually untouched. In the living room, a large shag area rug covered the floor. It was not scary shag, but modern, chic shag that invited you to press your toes into it. The dining room had modern vintage furniture which was gently lit by the bay window. The girls’ rooms upstairs looked like after reveals on Dear Genevieve, age appropriate, but not little kid-ish. The walls were covered with gorgeous professionally-taken family pictures, wainscoting that makes you want to run your fingers along it, and Pinterest projects that has turned out well. And the kitchen? Oh the kitchen! Granite countertops and new cabinets. Enough counter space to actually cook comfortably. An island that says Please gather ’round me and fellowship.

Can you tell I soaked in every inch of that house? I tend to do that. It’s like being inside the design magazine/website; it allows me to collect ideas for my own home. What works? What’s awkward? What do I like? What do I not like? As I mentioned before, we bought our home as a foreclosure, so it came as is. There are so many things to be done: fixing the deck; repairing and cleaning the fence; changing light fixtures; gutting the kitchen and dining room. But it’s more than just gathering ideas. If I’m honest, it tends toward coveting. I crave having a finished house, one that doesn’t require any fixing up or adding to. I look forward to the day I am no longer embarrassed by my kitchen; I don’t want to feel like I have to explain that the builder grade oak cabinets that are falling apart, white laminate countertops, and blonde fake wood flooring that doesn’t match the living room are my idea what looks awesome and is what I want.

In the DC/Metro area, some people do judge you based on what your house looks like. But this really goes deeper than that external cue and pressure. This is about me needing to focus on being grateful for what I have. And, actually, I don’t really even like the word grateful. To me, if feels like a word you use when you’re not happy about something, but you recognize the good in it and push back the unhappiness in deference to the gratefulness. Saying something like, I should be grateful I have a kitchen. Some people don’t even have running water with which to cook, is valid. But not really having a connection to what that actually means can only guilt you into gratefulness for so long before you hope your company doesn’t notice the giant holes the prior occupants drilled into the cabinet.
What I really need is to become content with what I do have. I need to focus on what my greed for more things really does:
1) It makes me restless and anxious, neither of which are good for my mental and physical health
2) It can stress Mike out when I look around and say, What’s next?
3) It can put a strain on our bank account when I insist that something that’s a want is really a need
4) It makes me less of a good friend when I’m in a me versus them mentality because I’m comparing or worried that they are comparing and judging
5) It teaches the girls that things and appearances are more important than relationships and contentedness

So that’s my new goal. I’ve been working on being myself, and now I need to allow my house to be as it is. I need to separate my house from myself; I am not my house, and my house is not me. It’s simply a place where my family lives. It’s where we have shelter from weather. It’s where we gather for meals and celebrations. It’s where my children have taken their first steps and said their first words. It’s not just a house, it’s a home. That is way more important than the paint peeling on the front door.

But seriously, y’all, that kitchen is getting redone because it is not functional, it’s falling apart, and is just generally gross. *nod*

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The aforementioned offensive holes, non-glory edition