January 17, 2017

Vintage Booth: Progress

Now that George is out of school and I’m not playing teacher or tutor to him, I have some time on my hands.  Truth be told, this is one of the only times in the eight years since I had Clayton that I have had this much time.  Clayton was sick with his kidney disease and a few other things when he was little, then he got cancer, then his back, then we physically built our house ourselves and immediately after we moved in, George started school.  This feels like the first good chance I have had to breathe and relax a little.  But since I don’t like being too idle, I am taking this rare opportunity to do something that while it is for my family, is also very much for me; my vintage booth.  I have a booth in a local antique mall that I have had for the past couple of years.  It has been something that was filled with items people donated to help Clayton’s medical fund. 

Over the past couple years, it has functioned in that way and been perfect because I could leave and do what I needed to do with Clayton and not think twice about it.  Since this model works so well with my life with Clayton, I always wanted to do more with it.  I have been hoarding ideas and things for projects I have wanted to do for years and I am finally getting to them.  I have all kinds of things I want to do with the booth to provide a small income for my family for fun things and medical bills, but also for my soul.  I LOVE working on projects like this.  It relaxes me and I get so much enjoyment from it.  So I have been super excited to have the time to finally customize my booth and make it my style and start to craft my own inventory, which is my ultimate goal.  Baby steps though.

This past week I have added a burlap backdrop, fabric covered wall, board and batten treatment and now I am adding a decorative weathered tin roof!  I looked on craigslist and didn’t see the rusty corrugated style tin I was looking for.  And then I realized that weathered tin is exactly the sort of thing my Paw Paw would have in his enormous old barn.  So after talking to my grandmother she told me to come look around and see if I could find any.  I hadn’t been in his barn since he passed.  Not many people have.  It was emotional because that barn is my Paw Paw in every way.  I spent so much time in that barn growing up with my cousin Adam trying to tinker around with Paw Paw.  I have so many fun memories of being in there and I always loved it.  My favorite days were the ones when he had the huge double doors flung open and we would go in and out playing here and there munching on kumquats and satsumas.  His barn is a treasure trove of things from burn barrels to hammers and absolutely EVERYTHING in between.  He was definitely a collector of things... but in an organized way.

At some point, the family will go through it.  And while I certainly can’t speak for anyone else, I can say that for me the idea of messing with anything is hard.  It has to be done, but it is hard.  It still feels like his and the idea of dismantling his system of stuff is just…tough.  His personality covers every square inch of that barn.  It’s why I knew he might have the rusted old tin I was looking for.  This is exactly the kind of project I would have turned to him for help with had he been here. :(

After not finding any tin in the barn, I went to go look around back where I remembered him having some stuff when I was a kid...yes there was a decent chance it would still be there.  As I started to round the end of the barn where there is a carport, I saw it; against the outside wall was my rusted tin.  I started doing the hyperventilating crying thing.  I knew Paw Paw would have it and he did.  Even when he is no longer here, he managed to help me out.  As George stared at me wondering what he should do, I finally caught my breath.  I had not missed my Paw Paw that intensely since he passed. I know, I know…I’m sure I sound like a goof to some people.

Now that I have my tin, George made the supports and I am staining, painting and weathering those, then we have to cut the tin and hopefully by the end of the week it will be hung.  Progress!  I'll post pictures once it is.

While the last couple of years, the booth has been a hodge-podge of donated items and even some of mine and my mom’ things, I am trying to sell off the old and craft the new.  Moving forward I only want to fill the booth with handcrafted items (by myself or George), vintage finds or repurposed items; all of which need to be my personal style.  I think I will have more success with the booth by filling it with things I love that I would want to buy myself.  So I’m excited for a little extra income (I hope) and lots of crafting in my future.  It will take a little time for the booth to fully evolve but the process has started which is a win!

I’m also trying to get the more time consuming booth renovation over because come February, we will be coming and going to doctors again.  Clayton will be due for checkups with ALL of his doctors.  Yay...

January 2, 2017

To 2017 & A Lifestyle To Love

I was really surprised over the holidays when George’s mom expressed that she thought our lifestyle (small house) was only temporary.  Once I considered her words, I realized my mother too had expressed her own doubt at times wondering if we would one day want a larger house if we made larger incomes.  Thinking about this, I realized that if our own mothers think our lifestyle is temporary because of circumstances with Clayton, then most people might.  So I’ll set the record straight.

I cannot say enough with enough passion…George and I LOVE the way we live and the lifestyle we are building for ourselves.  We aren’t fresh out of college deciding to backpack across America or to build a tiny home on wheels.  God willing there are plenty of years ahead for how we live to change, but we aren’t “testing” something out.  We fell into this way of living by accident/necessity with Clayton and his very unique circumstances.  And once again Clayton and all of his awesomeness bestowed a wonderful gift upon our family. 

We found that we wanted a simple life.  We wanted a life with less “things” and more adventures.  We want a life that will focus on the outdoors and family.  We want a small house that requires less time to clean and maintain and simultaneously promotes togetherness with our family.  There are no playrooms, craft rooms or man caves to escape to; instead it is our family together in front of the fireplace or talking while Clayton’s cartoons play in the background.  We don’t want to kill ourselves with the responsibility of a high paying job that makes us sacrifice our well-being, sanity and family time.  Instead we want to follow a path of making a healthy living balanced with healthy stress levels and healthy relationships with each other.  And while we are raised in a world where that idea is mostly scoffed at and seen as a dream, guess what?  It’s not a dream and it’s more than possible.  Furthermore, it doesn’t mean we have no ambitions, if that were true, George would not have just graduated after going back to finish school.  All it means is that we have acquired the perspective to balance the ambitions, health, wants and needs of our family.  And we know that our family is a team, we function together and we put each other first.

Where our perspective came from…

On November 22, 2011, our three-year old son Clayton was diagnosed with stage IV, high risk neuroblastoma (form of pediatric cancer) and we had no idea how long we might have with him.  When something like that happens the things that go through your head ARE NOT:

“I wish I had made more money.”
“I wish I had caught that episode of Grey’s Anatomy.”
“I wish I had spent more time at work.”
“I wish I had stressed over work more.”
“I wish I had a bigger house.”
“I wish I had a fancier car.”
“I wish me and my family wore more designer/popular brand clothing labels.”
“I wish my house was in perfect order.”
“I wish people thought I had it together and my life was grand.”
“I hope people don’t see my flaws.”
“I wish my house was full of antiques.”

No.  Not even close.  What DOES go through your head are things like…

“Dear God, don’t let my kid die.”
“What the hell is happening?”
“How, how the hell did this happen?”
“How much time do we have?”
“Why the hell did I care so much about watching the damn TV that I didn’t give him the attention he deserved.”
“Why the hell did I ever give anything the opportunity to overshadow him…ever.”
“What the hell is wrong with me.”
“Don’t take him from me before I have a chance to be what he deserves.”
“He is the only thing that matters.”
“I promise we will change our ways.”
“I’m never going hear him call me momma”

Nowhere in my list of regrets in those moments and days was there anything pertaining to living a fancy lifestyle or a financially demanding lifestyle.  Because that doesn’t matter.  Not even a little.  I mean sure I like quality things, and I do have quality items, but not at the expense of anything that matters.  And what matters is Clayton and the life we are building with him.  He doesn’t need parents who drive fancy cars or wear name brand clothes or pay a big mortgage on a big house with a playroom or whatever is trending these days.  He needs us.  And he needs us to pay attention to him.  Which sadly is not something our current society emphasizes with technology. 

Where our perspective has taken us…

When we are little we are shown this window to the world in which we are suppose to carve our own niche, but we aren’t always given the chance to consider alternatives.  Instead we are pulled toward this world where mom and dad need to go to work and work like crazy to pay for the house that is way more than they need, over-accessorized cars, iPhones for all, wardrobes to keep up with the Jones’ and the ridiculously priced toys and accessories everyone wants…you know what I’m talking about… golf carts, 4-wheelers, boats, etc.  We are somehow taught or shown that this is what we “need”; That those are the things we are suppose to work towards. 
NO!  NO!  NO!  Those are not the things in life that we “need” to work towards.  And if it weren’t for Clayton, George and I would probably be chugging along working towards those things too.  But Clayton taught us the secret to life…NONE OF THAT SHIT MATTERS!  And so we choose to take the path less traveled.  The one that we feel is more rewarding.  I apologize if this sounds as though I am judging anyone.  All I can say is that I am judging a lifestyle I once thought was my future.  A lifestyle that I thank God everyday, I learned early I didn’t need or want.  

So now as we start this new year, we are more settled than ever into our new and improved lifestyle of changing our views of what we “need” and focusing on what really matters.  We were in survival mode for so long after Clayton’s cancer diagnosis.  Then the past couple of years we were gifted with a little more time than normal to think about what we wanted in life and what direction we wanted our lives to take and how life with Clayton had come to shape us.  What we found is that our lives had miraculously lead us to this perfect-for-us building block to build off of. 

So to our moms (and I’m sure plenty of other people) who don’t really understand how we can be satisfied for a lifetime with some of the ways in which we are choosing to live…All I can say is we are happy.  We have almost no clutter bogging us down; our roots are fairly shallow and give us the freedom to explore and live a life of adventures; we have found joy in our lives while providing for our basic needs and those needs of Clayton and we manage to sneak in a few splurges here and there just to add a little extra dose of happy without stressing us out in anyway.  Our minds, spirits and our time are freer than they have ever been and we are finally decompressing from our journey.  And while we are enormously flawed human beings, we found a way of living that leaves us more grateful for our gifts, closer to God and closer to each other.  We would not trade where we are for anything and have no desire to ever revert to any other lifestyle. 

To figure out if your life works for you you have to ask yourself a few things:

  • Is this lifestyle I think I want worth the sacrifices I will have to make to have it?
  • What am I sacrificing to have this life? Time with my kids? Having kids? Time with my family? My health by being chronically overstressed?  Family values I hold dear? My sanity and peace of mind?
  • Do these things I think I "need" really make me happy or are they just a bandaid for a deeper problem or insecurity?
Maybe you'll find your meant for the life your trying to live...or maybe you'll think a little more about what you believe to be most important in your limited time on this earth.  

Whoever you may be, peace and love and joy to you and yours.  Without our struggles, we would not also feel the immense joy we have been blessed with.  So here’s to 2017 being full of new adventures and less “stuff”…