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Being Grateful for the Imperfect Present

“If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” ~Oprah Winfrey

I live in an old house.

It is 212 years old this year, to be exact.

We’ve added onto it over the years so it presents itself as more youthful than its age. The old bones remain, though, as well as many of the quirks. Those “quirks” give it character, right? It’s much like my emerging crow’s feet give my face character.

That’s the positive spin on crow’s feet, at least.

We have uneven floors, to the point where most of our furniture is shimmed, and shimmed-like-crazy. Without it, our mantle would tip to such a degree that it would seem that we are on the sinking Titanic.

When our kids were young, they could sit on a wee scooter, lift their legs, and coast backward through two rooms. (Insta-fun!)

We have asymmetrical moldings and strange gaps. When we first moved into our home, I was attempting to fill a gap in the wood on the stairs with caulk; it shot straight through the stair and into the basement.

I think I unloaded about half the tube before it started to fill. Probably should have just gone with a new piece of wood.

We joke that ours is the “House That Caulk Built.”

We have different varieties of wood for floors, and those floors creak to the point that, when our cat walks upstairs, it sounds like a human instead. There are gaps around the doors because nothing is level, and the rooms don’t have overhead lights in most cases (save for the kitchen, dining room. and bathrooms). Floor lamps and table lamps illuminate our indoor world.

But the kitchen. The kitchen. The heart of the home.

It is the size of most people’s walk-in closets. There is a lack of counter space, not enough outlets (I mentioned that already, didn’t I?) and it’s just too small, small, small.

The unfortunate thing is that I love to cook. I spend the majority of my days in the kitchen and go there for play (so to speak), as well. 

At holiday time, I will prop up my iPad, watch It’s a Wonderful Life, and spend hours in this tiny space, wreaking havoc with sprinkles and confectioners’ sugar, all the while churning out Italian pizzelle cookies, homemade peppermint marshmallows, espresso biscuits, and countless sugar cookies, just to name a few treats. I still have to squeeze in one of my to-do’s for this year, which was to learn how to bake a French macaron.

All this in a tiny space, which on most days I curse.

It kills me that there are so many women (and men) out there with gorgeous kitchen spaces, state-of-the-art appliances, and enough counter space to hold a cooking class for twelve—and they barely step foot in their kitchen.

Or they don’t know how to cook. Or don’t care to know. Bear with me while I scream and throw a juvenile hissy fit.

A friend of mine jokes that part of her doesn’t want to see me get a bigger kitchen. She thinks that it’s pure magic what I can make happen in my wee space.

Love my friend, but forget that.

But then there are those days when I pause. And I think of life and my old home in the bigger sense. Much bigger.

I know I am smart enough to understand and accept that in the scope of life, a kitchen is just not something to be fretting about on a regular basis. Neither are uneven floors, toilet handles that need perpetual jiggling, or non-jacuzzi tubs.

I pause and think this: Be grateful. And then be grateful some more.

-Due to Hurricane Sandy, there are so many families now who don’t have homes, never mind a spacious kitchen. I’ll take small over non-existent.

-When I step out onto my porch after dinner to put a few items in our recycling bins, I can feel the icy cold air. I then have the luxury of going back into my warm home and making myself a warm, soothing cup of green tea in my small kitchen before I hop into a cozy bed with a book. I’ll take that.

-Our family can afford any of the food that we need and even have extra to entertain family and friends when we choose. Better a small kitchen with dirty dishes and the evidence of guests than a big, bare, neglected kitchen where no one cooks healthy, happy meals for people that they love.

-And fine, it’s small and doesn’t have many bells and whistles. But you know what? It works and works just fine for now. I have the ability to feed our children and keep them healthy. That’s as good as a Michelin 5-Star rating in my book.

There are days when I curse this little room but then if I take a moment, I realize that this is a lesson for me at the moment. 

Be happy. Be happy with what you have because what you have is plenty. Good things are always around the corner and down the road, as I like to believe. But to live in the present moment is always the best thing you can do.

Like the words that you were told on your first day of college: ”Look to your left. Now, look to your right.”

Forget that. I’m just going go look in the middle and where I am standing.

In my little, happy kitchen.

Where does life find you standing right now?

Photo by Keenan Turner, NAU

Avatar of April Guilbault

About April Guilbault

April Guilbault is a graphic artist and illustrator turned freelance writer and blogger.  Her blog www.DailyFrosting.com covers all aspects of enhancing one’s life, namely focusing on the little things that make it worthwhile. Humor, recipes and observances rule the day. In addition to blogging and mothering, she freelances for various magazines and foodie websites.

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  • Dochy

    This is SUCH a wonderful post!!! I just love the way you start about your age old home, move on to the kitchen and turn from the negatives to a whole lotta positives! So so cute! Also yur frind – so sweet of her to say that!!! :) :) :) It is indeed a blessing to have a comfy home; your post just made me thank my stars for my home and comforts.. .I know many ppl who shift homes/towns/countries very often, but I’ve been at the same place from birth! I did have my share of travelling, but home is always the same place! And I’m so greatful for that! My home has seen me through it all – ups, downs, joys, sorrows, peals of laughter and sobs! When i think of it, I realize what a wondeful feeling it is!!! Thank you April for making me smile wide right in the morning!!! :)

  • friend forver

    April,

    You have a WONDERFUL name!!! Summer starts knocking on our lives in April, flowers start to bloom, and the sun starts to shine more strongly. Your post has that same feel for me. First of all, the picture that goes with the post- sunny, happy, and smiling- complements it. Then, the images you paint with your words and all those tasty dishes! You are right about the very clean, very spacious kitchens that have no person to set foot in them and appreciate them.

    I think if you have a small house, or a small bedroom, or small kitchen, it just makes everything more love filled and you cherish it. My house isn’t very large; it’s two bedrooms and my grandparents live with me. I think our house is a lot better than those big mansions where you don’t even know if your children are at home or not and everything seems quiet all the time. I just LOVE my house!

    Great post! Merry Christmas to you and a vrrrrrrrry Happy New Year. Wish you LOADS of happy, fun filled times in your kitchen where you make delicious and mouth watering dishes!

  • Jeffrey Willius

    April — what a delightful post! Your message of simple gratitude moves me, especially at this season so often characterized by excess. And the light, humorous flavor you’ve lent it tickles me. (Love the image of the caulk squirting untouched through the gaping crack and into space!)

    From a fellow designer-turned-writer/blogger, thanks for sharing this!

  • Justme

    What a timely post; thank you. I have family arriving in the next few minutes – eldest son bringing his very special lady. Part of me was/is feeling anxious because my apartment is sooo tiny and far from ‘perfect’. It suits me the rest of the year but right now all its quirks have me feeling unsettled. I’m aware that they’re not coming to see my apartment.. .. a good reminder, just the same.. Best wishes.

  • disqus_15HKTNV9pZ

    April,

    I like the article but one thing I want to clarify is whenever we come across something bad in our life.. do we need to really think of people below our level & then soothe ourselves saying that we are in much better situation ..why not just think what I have is good for me & am content ..why do we need to look down on others to feel good about our-self .

    For Example if you have small kitchen why do you need to think about a soul who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy & comparatively think that you are fine with small kitchen & you are in much better state than them.

  • Sebastian

    Hello!

    I loved the life lesson you concluded! But really, most of the article was complaining about your house, more specifically your kitchen, and then, after pointing out every little bad facet of it, you concluded, after down looking some poor, poor people, that it’s kind of (meh) alright. Maybe the description of the house was meant to be funny (and it really was – I enjoyed that), but in my opinion you should concentrate more on the lesson itself, and the idea of feeling better after pointing out really unfortunate victims isn’t that alright. (It’s kind of like gossiping, then feeling better than those you’ve gossiped).

    But other than that, it’s really something we should do more, being grateful. Even better – appreciating our life. I know that you can learn from critics, and that’s the only reason I mentioned those not-so-good aspects of your post.

    Have a wonderful day! :-)

  • http://twitter.com/motv8tv motv8tv.tv

    I am grateful for finding this post today! I truly enjoyed it. Thank you for reminding us to focus on the foundation and not the cracks and holes in our life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    I like your wording…many thanks! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    I’m glad to have helped your morning start off on the right foot! It IS a blessing to have a home that you enjoy, quirks and all. You are in a unique position, too, having been at the same home since birth…very cool. You must truly love it :) Enjoy the holiday in your home…

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    Merriest wishes you too, as well and thank you for the lovely compliments. I”m glad you enjoyed the essay. And you are right, homes don’t have to be big, they just need to be filled with all the right things….love, laughter, friends, family. I’ll be in my kitchen this weekend whipping up some delightful holiday dishes! p.s.-I’ve always liked my name, too :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    Hello fellow designer-turned writer/blogger…nice to hear from you! I’m glad the post spoke to you. I hope you enjoy this season and all the simple joys it brings :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    I know where you are coming from…but it’s the laughter, the good meals shared and the visitors that truly make homes complete! Enjoy your company and disregard the quirks…I’m sure no one else is noticing them! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    Hello!
    I was merely citing examples of my house’s quirks as a point of perspective…sometimes we can get very wrapped up in our own microcosms. Yes, the ultimate goal is to not look left or right, but merely where you are and be happy with that…but sometimes that is easier said than done, depending on what is going on in one’s life.
    Hopefully, you are happy and content with where you are planted, too :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    Hi Sebastian, No, this was not meant to be a rant-session, for I do really and truly love my home. It’s quirks are what give it character and most people will remark on them in a positive light when coming to my home. Quirks are good (I specifically wanted them when house-hunting), uneven walls are good, too, but there are always those grass-is-greener days as well. Most folks have them, I would wager. We all have human moments of not being quite as content when we should or could be. Life is an evolution process and so is our thinking and our perspective. And agreed, looking inward is always a good thing :)

  • jr dline

    Life finds me sitting alone in a motel room. I’m on road trip and will visit three more cities in TN before returning to the house where I stay.

  • http://twitter.com/Ornette303 Ornette

    Loved the story thank you!

  • Madhu

    It is nice article that I also reminisce my old beautiful ‘less is beautiful and more enjoyable..’ Contentment and satisfaction in what we have and then continue to strive with grit living each moment rather than fretting with ‘have nots’ is the adventure I have lived and am living. Believe you me how everything gets manifested in abundance is mystical. But dear you do not have to give explanation to anyone why you are wording it such. Its the moment’s emotion isn’t it. I, myself have been wanting to pen down my thoughts and yours is the first one. Today, while chanting, I decided that I am not liable to any explanation to anyone.

  • friend forever

    All the best to u!! <3 A vrrrrrry Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
    Your blog's very interesting too!

  • The Beat

    The article is really well written and metaphorically sound. It reminds us that what we currently have in our lives are exactly the ones that we need. On the other hand, comparing somebody’s situation to our own just to appreciate our situation is something that did not appeal to my taste. It’s just like saying, to make you feel good, you can compare yourself to people who have less, but don’t compare yourself to people who have more, for this will just make you depressed. I kinda regretted reading this article, the weakest thus far in the whole tiny buddha site.

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    Thank you very much :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    Nicely said and I appreciate your thoughts :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    Hello…I happen to see a commercial this evening for St. Jude’s Children’s hospital. The actress speaking about the small, sick child ended the commercial by saying “hug YOUR child” and then something along the lines remembering these children, too. I don’t recall the precise wording. But that’s exactly it…she’s not saying to look down your noses at those children who need help just so that you can feel better about your own child who might not be in that position, she was just saying it to be appreciative of what you have, now in this moment…and then to extend yourselves to others.

  • http://twitter.com/ThinkIntuition Work In Progress

    Your beautiful post makes me think of “wabi-sabi,” appreciation of the beauty of imperfect things.

    Cooking in your wabi-sabi kitchen requires greater attention to detail than if you had a bigger space. Your friend can tell the difference.

    It’s good to think of ourselves the way you do about your house. It’s easy to over-focus on everything we don’t like. But savoring the bumps and wrinkles is how we create art.

  • http://www.madlabpost.com/ Nicole/TheMadlabPost

    “I’ll take small over non-existent” is a great way to sum up the point of how important it is to be grateful for what one has rather than constantly dismissing it in favor of desiring what one does not (yet) have.

  • Sean

    Yes, life is an evolution process. I agree with you on that. I also see my house as imperfect. In fact, all things are. There are always good and bad days but in the end they are just days.

    Love,
    Sean
    blog.tsemtulku.com

  • http://twitter.com/TokenEskimo Token Eskimo

    i understand what you mean, but i don’t even have a house, or an apartment that is mine. while i do have a couple of significant things to be grateful and happy for, the things i do not have and the aches and pains plaguing me take away from the tiny happiness that i can muster. when i can muster it. when the cons outweigh the pros, you have no money, no worth, no reason to “be” it is difficult to find the strength to even go on. to me, your house sounds like a dream. still searching for articles i can really relate to…

  • Becky

    Hi there!
    I love your post! And it made me smile~ I live in a 1970′s built home with a 70′s kitchen! Olive green counter tops and all! But I hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas at my home and when you look around at everyone , we are warm we are happy and we have a warm meal! I am grateful~~ :) Your beautiful older home sounds delightful~ enjoy!

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    Well stated, Sean…thank you! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    Enjoy your 70s kitchen as well…it sounds like it produces some wonderful occasions!

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    Keep focusing on those things to be grateful for…big or small, they all count :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    I’m happy that you enjoyed my words…have a great day!

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    Exactly! I love the concept of wabi-sabi (it just begins with the words…love them!)…everything on this planet-people, things-is perfectly imperfect. We must always recognize that unique beauty! Thank you for your lovely comments :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/april.guilbault April Guilbault

    Glad you did!