Of projects, priorities, and perfect days

I cannot remember the last time I felt bored.

Tired, cranky, anxious, overwhelmed? Yes, more often than I care to admit. But bored? Never.

Sure, there are lots of minutes in every day that I have to do things I find boring, but I think I will never have enough time to do all the things I want to do. So much so, that when I do get precious time for want-tos, I often feel paralyzed by indecision.

Such is the current state of our house projects. We have lived here for nearly two years, and there are so many big things we still want/need to do. Like get rid of the seashell wallpaper, brass fixtures, and peach walls/toilet/sink in our main bathroom.

This (sorta) Old Life:  bathroom

And tear out the carpet and paint the walls in our bedroom (and a few smaller things).

This (sorta) Old Life:  bedroom

And do something with our Godawful fuster-cluck of a family room.

This (sorta) Old Life:  family room

And then there are the small things I just want to do:

This (sorta) Old Life:  sewing

Finish reupholstering the cushions of a chair I’ve been working on forever…

This (sorta) Old Life:  bookcase

Paint this bookcase a different color…

This (sorta) Old Life:  window trim

Finish painting the window trim in the living room…

Add to both lists the things we’ve actually been doing lately.

This (sorta) Old Life:  vegetable garden

Yes! We are going to plant a vegetable garden!

Not to mention the stuff of our lives that have nothing to do with our home.

Sunday morning I happened upon Patti Digh’s 37 days. (Actually, I didn’t happen upon it. I followed a link from Lindsey Mead, who regularly points me to wonderful resources that help me notice and appreciate all the beautiful things I’m privileged to experience.)

On her site, Patti tells the story of her stepfather, who lived only 37 days after his lung cancer diagnosis, and how that changed her life. Questions of life and death and meaning have consumed a lot of my mental real estate for years, but they have been at the forefront lately.

Sunday morning, thinking of Patti’s story and looking out the window at all the spring flowers beginning to blossom, I couldn’t help wondering what might be different if I knew that this was my last spring.

This (sorta) Old Life:  spring garden

What if this were the last year I would get to see the lilacs bloom?

This (sorta) Old Life:  spring garden

What if this were the last day I got to see rain drops shining in the early Sunday morning sun on the lilies?

This (sorta) Old Life:  spring garden

What would I wish to have done with this day stretching ahead of me?

The question made me glad for how we spent Saturday. After some quiet morning writing time (in our living room, on the couch with the pups, with sun shining in from the windows), I went with Cane to pick up Ella. We had a little breakfast in our favorite coffee shop and enjoyed the Portland people watching.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Portland coffee shop

Afterward, we made a quick trip to Mr. Plywood, to pick up some lumber for the vegetable garden.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Mr. Plywood

I’ve never grown vegetables. Cane has, a little. (“I dug a hole and put some plants in there.”) But we’ve decided that we want to learn how to grow at least some of our own food. We’ve got a plan (which we’ll share when we’re a little further along in this project).

We spent a few hours working on the garden. While Cane built the boxes, I cleared weeds and grass from the spot they’re going in.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Cane sawing lumber

This (sorta) Old Life:  Rita pulling weeds (Yes, those are Cane’s awesome sawhorses in action. :-))

Then we took Ella and the dogs out for ice cream and a walk in the park. When we got home, I still had a few good hours of afternoon time, but I’d had migraine in the morning and felt worn out from digging and raking, and I couldn’t settle on what to do with them.

So I took a nap.

This (sorta) Old Life:  bedroom nap

It didn’t really matter that I took the nap in our bedroom with icky baby blue walls, where we haven’t painted over the patch in the drywall we had to make when we put a hole in it to get the tub installed in the master bath. Or that our bed is still the cheap Ikea one we want to replace, and the nightstands are the flimsy ones I bought from Fred Meyer when I needed to stage my previous house to sell it.

It was still a good nap, precursor to a nice evening at home where we decided that the thing to do with our Sunday was not to rent a truck and pick up garden dirt and mulch for the backyard–a sure prescription for another dose of migraine for me.

We decided on a quiet day to take care of some other kinds of business and set ourselves up for a calmer workweek by planning our meals, doing laundry, getting the house cleaned up. Oh–and we also went for a long afternoon skate. :-)

This (sorta) Old Life:  skates

These were our Christmas present to each other.

It was a perfect weekend, with a nice balance of work, play, and rest.

Everything around me these days–especially comments from many of you in response to our recent gardening post–reminds me that our projects have value beyond ourselves, beyond our own short time here.

In trying to decide which things to tackle next, how to spend the limited minutes of our lives, this past weekend I found it helpful to think of what has lasting value. What will matter beyond ourselves, beyond this day?

This (sorta) Old Life:  spring gardening

And that question has helped us know how to prioritize what to do next.

Much as I would love to kill the ugliness in our bedroom or upstairs bathroom, truth is that ugliness isn’t interfering with anything important. We’re not going to sleep better in a pretty room or get cleaner when those seashells finally come down.

If you’re a longtime reader, you know that we’ve struggled with our family room. Right now it’s a jumbled mess of junk. Cane’s still plugging away on removing the carpet and the carpet glue from the cement floor, but that’s not really why it’s a jumbled mess.

This (sorta) Old LIfe:  family room

It’s a mess because we haven’t really figured out how we want/need to use this room.  Is it a place to hang out together? A place to do projects? A place to throw junk we don’t have a good place for? A place to watch TV that doesn’t annoy others in the household? Currently, it’s sorta serving all of those functions, none of them well.

We know that we want this space to better serve our family. My kids are almost done with their first year of high school. We only have about three more years with them.

What will matter when they are gone, when this time with them is done, is how we spent time together. So, that’s where our focus is going to go–the places we spend time together.

This week Cane and I are beginning an online design course, and my project for the class is going to be figuring out a design for the family room. Cane’s is going to be another project we’ve been kicking around for awhile:

We want to tackle a seating/eating/storage solution for our kitchen (another place we spend time together that isn’t functioning as well as we’d like). It involves replacing our current table with built-in banquet seating that also contains storage.

This (sorta) Old Life:  kitchen

We’re picturing a bench that wraps around this corner.

We’re going to get that vegetable garden in and keep plugging away on our yard. We’ll need to spend some time again on our deck pretty soon. But it’s nice to feel we have a focus for those little slices of time we get to spend on our want-to-dos.

How about you?

How was your weekend? Ever take a nap in the face of an overwhelming to-do list? How do you decide how to prioritize your projects and your time? We love to talk with you in the comments.

This (sorta) Old Life:  primrose garden

Sharing this post with the William Morris Project going on over at Pancakes and French Fries.