Last week, we had company (okay, in-laws) coming in town on Wednesday evening. Wanting the house to be spic-and-span, I had a three-day cleaning approaching mapped out in my head. But on Monday, my sister called asking me to take her to urgent care. However, while we ate lunch and put in phone calls to various medical facilities, the bright red swelling began spreading up her leg and it became clear that urgent care wasn’t going to cut it. Our plan quickly evolved to a visit to the ER and more than a passing acquaintance with our local infectious disease center over the entire week. Suddenly, a little bit of dog hair at the house was the least of my concerns and I was reminded of some other people who seemed to embrace the proverbial dog hair a little more fully.
My many years as a nanny allowed me to observe a wide variety of families at their most vulnerable – at their homes. The last family I worked for probably had a more chaotic house than any I had seen – but they had fun. They spent huge amounts of quality time with their kids and wouldn’t hesitate to leave dishes on the table to make a last-second dash to the general store for ice cream treats. Baths could sometimes go one more day in favor of a sibling backyard soccer game. I never worried about covering the dining room table with frosting drippings because I knew they would value the cookie-decorating experience I had given their kids more than they would worry about the mess. The kids were amazing travelers and took the unexpected in stride. However, their sometimes complicated medical life was highly organized and never neglected, because that’s one thing that really matters. Dirty dishes? Less so.
And that’s how my sister ended up helping me while I shuttled her to various doctors. The real things that matter aren’t a perfectly organized house where you can eat off the floors but people to run, bike, hike, climb, ski and live life with. Very few memorable life experiences come from scrubbing floors.
What would you be willing to give up to ski/bike/fish/hike/play five days a week and work two days a week? Your daily latte? Sure, that’s probably a no-brainer. But unless you drink really, really expensive lattes, that’s probably not enough to make up for the three (or five) missing workdays. What about your house? Your car? Would you share a $3,000 car with your spouse if it meant a significant lifestyle increase? Now we’re getting into the hard questions.
Like it or not, our default pattern for the American lifestyle is not to “give up” things. In fact, it might even be focused on getting more things. But at what cost? Do we have a choice? I say we do, and I would like to promote more of us exercising our choices (including myself).
The biggest investment most of us will make in our lifetime is a home, and our homes are getting bigger by the decade. Home theaters, once the bastion of the rich and famous, are now commonplace in middle-class American homes. Homes are bigger and families of five can easily spend weekends “together” in one home not interacting with one another, much less the larger community outside the front door (if a nearby community exists at all).
This phenomenon is sometimes known as the lack of the “third place”, a point where Americans in particular seem to lag. We have work (where we spend A LOT of time) and home, but community gathering places like cafes, pubs, bookshops, etc are on the decline as we spend more time in our spacious homes. One of my least spacious fixed homes (this does not include summers in cars/tents) was a cabin on Fish Creek in Wilson. It was probably all of 600 sq. feet and I had a neighbor on each side in a similar size abode. Because of the tight quarters and scenic location, we often had inpromtu gatherings based on the fact that we were all meeting in the yard, which was basically a share public (or “third”) place.
What if we all had smaller homes that encouraged us to get out in the community AND saved us a ton of cash with lower utilities and, of course, a lower total cost. There are a few companies peddling houses as small as 65 sq. feet to as large as 874 sq. feet (check out some tiny houses here). For less than the cost of a new car, you can get a complete house, which begs the question: what would you do without a mortgage or rent payment?
Celebrating a new healthy habit like quitting smoking got me thinking. Do I have any heath anniversaries? I did get an email from my gym at the one year mark, but since I’ve always had an active lifestyle (often making ‘active’ an understatement), I didn’t really see this as a milestone. But then again, maybe I have mini-milestones all the time.
I had a nasty bacterial head cold funk thing going for the last few weeks and my diet suffered. I didn’t have the energy or desire to pour into meal planning and preparation and ended up eating three not-so-healthy meals a day instead of my typically stellar five meals of whole foods. After a weekend of baking fun (chocolate chip cookies and molten lava cakes in one weekend? What was I thinking?), I’m back on the wagon with a pleasant reminder- the wagon is never too far away.
It took a healthy dose of antibiotics (and a new cookbook didn’t hurt), but feeling healthy again leaves me wanting to offer support to you, my dear blog reader, in a totally cliche “tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life” sort of way. Do you have an unhealthy habit you can kick? It’s okay to start small – cut down the amount of soda before you cut it out or swap out your morning OJ for a whole orange. After all, it’s harder to get your body to do fun stuff when you put crap in every day. Pick a day, start a new health anniversary and thank me later.
Best-healthy-cooking-resource-of-the-day (I really love it): Clean Eating