How Do Dumb People Survive?

As a homeowner, I watch HGTV pretty often.  My husband and I are handy people and have successfully completed a lot of DIY projects and renovations ourselves, by planning, budgeting, compromising and seeing the value of hard work.  There is also a crazy concept of opening your mind and imagining possibilities.  Not to toot our own horn, but we bought our first house together, which was a fixer-upper and have made it into a comfortable and modern home.  We also aren’t in debt up to our eyeballs because of it.  We aren’t wealthy, but we get by, so it’s not out of bitterness that I ask this; why are wealthy people so stupid?

I see shows like House Hunters and people will say, “We have a budget of only $900,000.”  Only?  Are you serious?  Then I think, well, they must be pretty smart to have gotten that far ahead.  And then the show continues, followed by ridiculously stupid and naïve comments.

“I don’t want that first house because the kitchen was yellow and that’s ugly.”

 

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I Belong to Nowhere

I visited an old friend last weekend and she was asking what my husband and I were up to, and if we had any future plans.  I told her that depending on what happens with my career, we wouldn’t be opposed to moving to Europe or some authentically historic American town, but we’ll see what happens.  She said how she could never do that, just pick up and leave, but it’s something that we have grown accustom to and maybe it’s slightly hereditary.

I’m an avid ancestry enthusiast.  Every key member to my family tree, at least going back a few generations, had the same defining quality; the ability to be fearless and never look back.  This to me is a quality because I admire their courage and ambition, to pick up from their place of birth and independently find a new home in a new state, country, continent, etc.  And they did it alone.  They all did.

This is a blessing and a curse because combined; these adventurous ancestors gave me life.  Had they not, I don’t want to say “ran away”, but rather “looked for better opportunities”, I wouldn’t exist.  It’s a curse because, as a researcher, it’s very difficult to track them.  I run into possible distant connections and it appears my ancestor was always the black sheep who left and never wrote home.  There never seems to be hostility or a tragic story that I’m aware of based on family stories, they were just ok being independent.

That being said, I began frequently re-establishing myself early and being the “new kid” by changing schools throughout my youth.  Not by my choice, but my parents, due to transportation, tuition, educational factors and eventually a move just before high school.  I settled in well for the most part at each place and sought my own adventure to California after graduation.  I never truly felt like I fit in anywhere. Though I did find myself back in New Jersey a few years ago, close to family and old friends, I really don’t feel that I have a home.  The town I grew up in until I was 13 would probably be the closest thing to a “home” feeling but most of the people who lived there are gone or have passed away.  If you remember, I was friendly with the elderly people.  Sure I had friends that were my age, but they’ve since grown and moved too.

Today we live in a town close by, which feels like a neighborhood that people grew up in, finished school, started to grow their own family and then moved back in.  There is a sense of community, but not for me.  I am friendly with people here, but my roots weren’t here.  I think it is why I find the idea of moving anywhere that feels comfortable, so appealing, because I don’t need to stay anywhere out of obligation.  No one else in my family has.

My husband and I are the same way.  Having grown up in Iowa, and then joined the military, it caused his zip code to change more than a few times.  We come from heritages that we didn’t technically belong to.  My family has strong Irish and German tradition, but I don’t necessarily belong there.  My family for generations lived in Philadelphia and I was even born there, but then became the first to be raised in the suburbs of New Jersey.  Although it’s only minutes away, I didn’t grow up in a row home with a corner candy store or play baseball on the asphalt, so I can’t claim that as home either.  I grew up in a house where people had their own space and minded their business.  They were people looking to remove themselves from city culture; maybe culture altogether.  I don’t want to come off as ungrateful, I’ve had a fortune life with loving parents, but the circumstances have just left me feeling a little lost as an adult.

We aren’t tied to anywhere and maybe we’re not quite sure where home is yet.  I suppose we’ll have to find it together and make it that way ourselves.  We can be the “new kids” together.

A Doily Away From “Old Lady”

The weekend is here, and that means antique shopping; walking from place to place buying old stuff I really don’t need but really, really want. I love finding antique pieces for our house, furniture to knickknacks that give our home the kind of character that Ikea can’t. My rule is that my purchases must always have function or they can’t come home with me.  Old kitchen tools are some of my favorite, even though old ladies condescendingly ask if I know what it is that I’m buying.  Yes, I know what it is, and I guarantee I’ll use it more than somebody buying it for just kitschy wall décor.

Antique character is not for everyone. My brother for example, thinks that old furniture is creepy and reminds him of dead people.  It’s a little extreme to me, but then again I’m an old soul, whereas he’s a hip 20 year old.

That being said, in a small home like ours, it’s easy to teeter on the side of excess. As I’ve said before, the key to life is “everything in moderation”. This holds true with antiques too unfortunately.  Our house is officially full of old furniture and I’m sad to say, I think I’m out of space.

When we bought our house from an elderly man, his children were going to donate all his furniture and were kind enough to ask if we’d like any.  For one, we didn’t have any furniture to start with, except for a bed, which, sorry but an antique mattress is one of the only things that would creep me out.  Two, so much of his furniture was from the 30’s and 40’s, with beautiful veneers and sturdy wood frames.  And who doesn’t want a full size Hi-Fi? I am still giddy about having the monster piece of furniture that plays my record collection with surprisingly good sound.  My husband even fashioned a jack so I can plug my iPod into it.  In the end, we all won and it also saved the owner’s kids the hassle of having it all hauled away.

Before we got our modern couches and rug, our house was filled with just old wood furniture.  We relied on the old couches from my Dad’s basement for a while and the house didn’t quite have our special touch to it; that attempt of a perfect mix between vintage and modern.  My Dad stopped over one day and said, “Shan, you’re about a doily away from living in an old lady house.  You’re not going to start covering the furniture in plastic are you?”

I began to feel instantly insecure.  Could my love of old “stuff” go too far?  Did I pass by being hip 20-something, only to teeter on retirement?

Maybe his mockery helped point me in the right direction.  Who knows where things could have gone.  It is safe to say that the mix is fairly complete now and we more often than not, get compliments on how our house looks like something out of a magazine.  And since I’m a pretty serious recycler, I’m happy to see these old wooden monsters have a new life outside of the landfill.