Move: Day 6+ From Utahns to Maine-iacs

“I don’t know where it is.”

“Since I don’t have a linen closet–or any closets for that matter–just stick that in my bedroom.”

“Did I say garage? I meant the cellar. No! BATHROOM!”

“Since I don’t have a laundry room, just stick that in the bathroom. Yes, the bathroom!”

“Don’t panic yet–it’ll turn up eventually.”

And that sums up all the sentences that have come out of my mouth since Saturday at 5:30 p.m. when we finally cruised into Machiasport, Maine.

I didn’t feel I could sit down and update this blog until the house was in somewhat sort of livable condition, and since it’s about 150 years old, and my kids are used to clean, updated, new-paint-and-flooring houses, they’re dying in this rental which they claim will NEVER be livable because the wood floors are older than any structure west of Nebraska and the smell of “old damp” permeates everything, and their idea of “charming” is not the same as the local definition (but Mainers say it’s a FANTASTIC house so my kids are getting nervous) . . . where did I begin this sentence? Yeah, it’s been nonstop for the past two days.

(And yes, my washer and dryer are in the very big bathroom because it was originally a bedroom because this house was built LONG before indoor plumbing, so a claw-foot tub is smack-dab in the middle of the room, a shower is in one corner, the washer and dryer are in another corner, and the toilet stands at the head of it all like a throne in a plumbing castle. The door opens to smack it so you need to brace yourself in case someone barges in since the lock is also over a hundred years old and we’re all terrified to lock it because we might not ever get out again.)

So we left Concord, NH Saturday morning (I was about to take pictures of all the New Hampshire license plates, since it’s rare that you see those, until my 20-year-old reminded me that we’re not in the west anymore but were, in actuality, in New Hampshire) and we made decent progress until we realized it was a sunny weekend in summer and everyone was going to the beach.

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And then, finally,  we saw THE SIGN!

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And I thought, “The snacks lasted! We didn’t run out of drinks! There are still toys to play with! We made it!”

And then about an hour later my 18-year-old reported that the inside of the minivan was dripping water on her foot, and we decided the AC didn’t know how to respond to humidity and we were NOT about stop anymore, so we kept on for three more hours until we saw . . .

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“Hey kids–do you know they grow blueberries here? The small ones and the big ones?”

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Over the radio I heard, “Mom and Dad, where have you brought us? Is that seriously an all-blue tourist trap?” Yes, so was the Ford dealership (and also the cake someone delivered for us: blueberry and cinnamon, which didn’t last long at all).


And then, finally:

That’s when I started speaking only in the five lines listed above. Our branch of the church sent out the call and for the next hour and a half I was in the truck handing out boxes and bins and saying all the wrong words because sea-level makes me dizzy (seriously–happens every time I descend from my mountains, but it wears off in about three or four swirling days). Then suddenly the truck was empty, generous families filled our fridge with pulled pork and baked ziti and noodle-meatball-bbq sauce casserole, and I stared out at the fields of wild lupines everywhere (photos to come) and I wondered just what had happened.

Well, first, there was an explosion of boxes in our house which still hasn’t been cleared but should be gone in another day or two.

Second, I discovered that morning comes VERY early here in the Sunrise County, meaning that the sun was pouring into my east-facing windows, reflecting off the water so that I was facing the brightness of TWO suns and I thought, “Well the sun’s pretty high already, time to get up to keep unpacking some more,” until I looked at the time and realized that the sun rises on the coast at FOUR-FREAKING-THIRTY A.M.!!! Yes, that 4:30 A.M! What is this, Alaska?

My husband brought home two dark gray flannel blankets that we’ve safety-pinned up as curtains for our bedroom.

Third, I discovered that the sun sets a bit earlier than I am used to, but that I have a pretty cool view out of my bedroom window. Here’s how it looked tonight at 8:30 p.m.:

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That’s my laptop on the bottom left, and that’s the sun setting on the tidal inlet, right in front of me.

Fourth, I’m slowly discovered what Maine life means–a little slower, more laid-back, less concerned about appearances, more honest and sincere (all of those are lovely, lovely things, as is the very British accent of my new neighbor) and the local McDonald’s has a different menu:

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We also learned that the very first naval battle in the Revolutionary War launched just a couple hundred feet from our rental house. It’s not quite as impressive as it sounds (a couple ships, a few shots fired), but there’s a whole building two down dedicated to its memory, and we’ll take that distinction.

This evening we took a break from two days of unpacking and trying to construct IKEA furniture, and headed down to Roque Bluffs to see the water, find a few shells, freak out our youngest son who we realized is terrified of the ocean (but went to it after bribes from his brothers for popcorn and Plants vs. Zombies), and to begin to take in where we now live.

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This morning I looked outside as the tide was coming in, noticed some critters leaving a wake, and knowing that seals frequently go up and back with the tide, took my bowl of cereal outside to eat and watch the water when the sun was where it normally would be at noon but it was barely 9 a.m. My life is very, very different now than I’d ever thought it would be, and while I’m utterly exhausted and thoroughly grateful our trip has ended without major incident and that all of us are here and slowly, slowly settling in, I think it’s going to be just fine.


Then I discovered that the old wooden Adirondack chair I was sitting in was giving me a splinter in my behind, and my up-far-too-early brain concluded that this moment–gazing out on an unusual and beautiful scenery with soggy cereal and a sliver in my butt–pretty much summed up life.

And that I really, desperately, need to catch up on sleep. Good night.

(Addendum–I was about to hit publish when my 5-year-old came in for his good-night kiss. I took him to his room, showed him that while he was playing I put together his bed, set up his toy bins under it, and put his four favorite pillows around the top. He squealed in delight and said, “Thanks, Mom! That’s all I wanted! You’re the best!” I’ll take that.)

The Economy of Enough

I’m writing this blog in an attempt to exorcise my desire for an IKEA kitchen.

ikea kitchen

Yep. Just like this one. Sigh.

Mahrree squirmed.
To find herself so immediately gripped with envy and desire surprised her.                  ~ Soldier at the Door

I suffer from this desire every few months, and I don’t even watch HGTV anymore—the channel that usually made me unsatisfied with everything in my house. I let my subscription to “Better Homes and Gardens” expire because I didn’t need to see any more examples of rooms I’d never have.

Because I’m satisfied with what I have.
(Let me chant that to myself a few more times . . .)

This is my current kitchen, exactly how I saw it when the realtor showed it to us over five years ago. A bit outdated, the appliances are 15 years old, but it’s functional.


(I went so far back in time, because only under the previous owners was the kitchen ever so clean. And I haven’t been able to update anything anyway.)

The kitchen’s small.
Really small.
Especially for a family of 10.
But it was all we could afford, in a nice neighborhood, and so I just sighed sadly and decided, “I’ll make it do.”

And I have, for five years, but still I’m plagued by daydreams of IKEA kitchens.

“This is hardly the way to impress others.”

Mahrree shrugged, never having been much concerned about Mrs. Hili’s opinions. “I’m not worried about impressing others. I don’t even know who I should worry about.” ~Soldier at the Door

virginia house

Cute, in the right light, and from the right distance.
(We won’t discuss the ever-present smell of decay, though. Or the smell of skunks, who lived in the crawl space.)

But here’s the thing: I had vowed back in 2001 that I would ALWAYS be happy with a modern kitchen–no matter its size–because for five months I didn’t have one. When we first moved to Virginia we lived in a house condemned to be demolished. When it rained, the water poured in from a dozen points. There were vines growing on the inside of the house, and the kitchen—

Ugh, the kitchen.
One sink, with no hot water.
One cabinet, no drawers.
Old stove/oven which had two temperatures—off and broil.
The fridge was less than 15 years old, but the carpet had been put in decades before. (Yes, very old carpet in the kitchen. You can smell it, can’t you?)
There was a pantry, along with several mouse traps.
Of course there wasn’t a dishwasher, we supplied our own microwave, along with a dresser drawer for utensils and a small table to act as a counter.

virginia kitchen

Bottom right corner you can see the edge of the stove/incinerator, and behind me is the fridge. And that’s everything. Really.

And I made that work, for five months, for a family of eight. That autumn we moved into a brand new house with beautiful oak cabinets and 150 square feet for the kitchen–and enjoyed it for almost six years–but I remembered the condemned house and realized I could deal with just about anything.

So why do I keep forgetting that when I look at my current kitchen?

“Does this mean you’re no longer satisfied with what the Creator has chosen to bless us with?”  ~Soldier at the Door

Why can’t I look at what I’ve made functional for five years and realize I don’t need any more?

“But if we don’t need more—”
“Everybody needs more, Mrs. Shin!”  ~Soldier at the Door

Maybe it’s just human nature, to look upon something and want to improve it.

Or maybe it’s just plain selfishness, wanting to pamper ourselves. I still can’t figure out why it’s so darn hard to buy into Alina Adams‘s philosophy, a Ukrainian immigrant and now a columnist about frugality in New York:

Coming from childhood poverty and a one-room apartment where she only had one dress to wear affects how she views her budget and what she actually needs.
“When you realize how little you need,” she said, “it is difficult to spend money on things you know you can do without.”

Years ago I read about a movement in Japan where people became minimalists, possessing only the barest of essentials. For one chef, that meant she gave up her rice cooker (shocking her neighbors) because she already had one pot. She eventually downsized so much that all she owned could be packed into the back of her Toyota.

But maybe it’s something else.

“What I’m trying to get at,” Mahrree tried to explain, “is that we’re simply not worried about impressing people. We’re more concerned about what the Creator thinks of us.”

Mrs. Hili shifted her gaze to Mahrree’s deliberately sweet expression.“Yes, yes of course. Although I think you’re completely wrong, Miss Mahrree. I mean yes, we worry about the Creator’s opinion, but we live in the world. We have to impress the world.”

“Why?” Mahrree genuinely wanted to know. 

Perhaps that’s still the root of my obsession with an IKEA kitchen. The few times neighbors have come into my house, I’m genuinely anxious that they’ll see my kitchen, and then . . . what will they think?

But that’s just vanity, I know. Years ago I thought I eradicated that fear of “What will others think?” I’ve done quite well in many aspects, but when it comes to my kitchen? Sigh.

Maybe it’s bigger than that, though. Our very economy is based on the premise that we’re never satisfied, that the notion of “enough” means, What I have, plus a little bit more, ensuring that we continue to be obsessed with getting more and spending more, and never reaching that elusive state of satisfaction.

Now, I don’t have thousands of dollars to throw on luxury, but daggumit, I want to make something beautiful! I want to add color! A new design! Improvement to my environment!

So despite all I’ve just written, I’ve decided I’m going to spend money on my kitchen, because my soul is hankering for something just for me!

I’m going to make a drastic change to my kitchen, and it will cost around $5.
I’m going to put up a photo–just one photo: the picture above of my daughter standing in the kitchen of the condemned house in Virginia.
Now every time I’m plagued with fantasies of IKEA kitchens, I’m going to stare at that picture.
Then, when I look at my current kitchen, in comparison it’ll be fantastic!
Because it truly is enough, and I will choose to be satisfied.

(Especially since I won’t let in the neighbors anymore.)