Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Is Your Home a Daylily or an Oak Tree?

One of my favorite websites is "The Homemaker's Mentor" by Mrs. Martha Greene. She is a true "Titus 2 woman", dedicated to helping younger women learn the art of homemaking. I am so excited to be a "guest mentor", and will be writing lessons that will be published on the site occasionally! I'm posting the first lesson I wrote here, although without the beautiful graphics and extras that Marmee Dear (aka Mrs. Martha Greene) will be adding for publication. Take a look at the Homemaker's Mentor website by clicking the link above, and meanwhile, enjoy my lesson....

Preserving your Home While Changing Houses

Once when my dear husband was a boy, he was riding into town with his father and they passed a house with a sign in the front yard that said “Home for Sale”. Dad said “They need to change that sign. You can’t sell a home; you can only sell a house. A home is forever.”

That story has influenced me greatly over the years as we’ve sold house after house – and become experts at buying them! But we’ve never sold our home. We always keep in mind that no house, no matter how much we love it, will ever be our permanent home. Our home is our family, and it is forever.

Since I’m a gardener at heart, I like to look at things with a gardener’s eye. Even though the metaphor doesn’t always fit, it helps me to think of a home as a living, growing thing, like a plant. I’ll try to help you see what I mean –

Some homes are like oak trees – an old oak that has grown in the same spot for a hundred years. As part of the landscape, no one can imagine this town or this neighborhood without that family and their home there. The branches are strong, there are many seedlings growing in the area, and the roots grow deep into the ground. The family and the home are part of the soil, part of the air they breathe, part of the community.

Other homes are like our home – a daylily that gets transplanted every few years. A daylily flourishes wherever it is planted and brings a bit of beauty to its surroundings for awhile. When it is transplanted to another spot, it suffers in some ways – each time it is moved, it seems harder to establish a good root system again – but in most ways the flower flourishes. The new soil and surroundings revitalize it and keep it strong, and it is healthier for having been moved.

Transplanting a flower successfully requires special care. It needs to be carefully removed from its bed with as little damage to the roots as possible. It needs to be kept moist with the root ball intact during the transition. And most important, it needs to be placed in a well prepared spot and lavished with plenty of water and fertilizer. Moving your daylily home takes the same care. We have learned a few things along our journey about how to transplant this daylily. I hope you’ll be able to glean a few helpful things from my experience!

How to transplant your daylily home -

Removing your home from its bed:
o Pack an “Open Me First” box. Fill this box with things that you will need to live in your new house for the first day or two. Your “Open Me First” box will be the bit of soil that you transfer from one spot to the next along with your plant. In a large box pack
• bedding for all of your family’s beds
• towels, washcloths and toiletry items
• plates, silverware, glasses and napkins so that you’ll be able to serve a simple meal or two before the rest of the boxes are unpacked
• favorite toys, if you have young children
• a few supplies to clean kitchen cupboards, bathrooms, etc.
• new, pretty shelf liner for your new kitchen cupboards

o If the weather cooperates, take a walk around your old neighborhood. Take time to say good bye. Be especially aware of what the others in your family will want to say goodbye to – while Mama’s final goodbye may be said to her favorite grocery store, your children might want to spend a last few minutes at their favorite park!

o Take pictures of your house. I realized during a move several years ago that we usually took pictures of the new house, but rarely had pictures of what it looked like after we had lived in it for awhile and had painted, decorated and made it ours. Take pictures of what it looked like when you were living there and you’ll cherish them for years.

Making the transition to the new site:

o Pack a picnic pack – disposable cups, a roll of paper towels, some plastic silverware, paper plates, wet wipes and a box of tissues. Wherever you are over the next few days – in your old house full of half packed boxes, riding in a car, in a motel room, or in your new house full of half un-packed boxes – you’ll have everything you need for anything from a grocery store picnic to a drink of water.
• What’s a grocery store picnic? That’s when we’re travelling, and instead of going to a restaurant to eat we stop at a grocery store and buy crackers, cheese and fruit for a quick meal.

o If someone else is packing for you, make sure that the things you want to be together are near each other. You don’t want to lose a pair of shoes because they ended up in a box marked “kitchen”! And be sure to take out the trash before the packers arrive – they are trained to pack everything!

o Make plans for any animals that are moving with you.
• Make sure you have enough food for the transition
• Think about how the animals will be traveling – do they need cages to travel in?
• Pack leashes (even if your pet doesn’t normally use one), food and water dishes, treats and medications. Make one of those ID tags for your pet’s collar with your new address on it.

o If you’re travelling a long way – more than across town – turn the travel time into an adventure. Spend time talking about your new town, or have a book about your new area to read aloud during the trip. Many years ago when we moved to west Texas, we enjoyed the adventure of learning about Cowboys and the early days of settling that area. On our move to the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, we learned about horse farms and looked for white fences.

Preparing the flower’s new location:

o I always try to remember that even though I’ve seen the new house and spent many weeks living in it in my imagination, many times moving day is the children’s first opportunity to see the new house. I try to make that first night seem more like home by making sure their bedrooms are as much like the old house as possible with beds set up, dressers in place, favorite toys in their place for that first night. Little children appreciate sleeping in familiar surroundings!

o Make a quick trip to the grocery store to buy necessary perishables and a few items for your supper that night and breakfast the next morning.
o Celebrate the first night in your new house with a simple meal together.
o The next day, give a job to everyone!
• The kitchen cupboards will need to be cleaned and new shelf liner put in.
• The bathrooms will need to be cleaned.
• Bigger people can start sorting the boxes that are in that huge pile in your garage or living room and carrying them into the rooms where they belong.
• Small people will need to have supervision and play time in between their times of helping.

o Finally, boxes will need to be opened and everything put away.
• Make it a rule that every box needs to be emptied, the packing paper taken care of and the box broken down before the next box is opened. Nothing is more disheartening than the chaos of a dozen opened and half-emptied boxes!
• Arrange the furniture so that everyone can sit down for a break when it’s needed. If your family is like ours, Mama will want to try out the furniture in different arrangements anyway!
• Unpack and set up one room at a time; make each room livable.
• Take a break every day to explore your new town and neighborhood.

o Get back into your household routine quickly – doing this within a couple days of moving will be the water that your family’s new home needs to establish those roots.

Watering and fertilizing your home in its new location:

o Give yourself and your family time to settle in, to let this house and this town feel like home. Every time we’ve moved, our settling in has followed the same pattern and the settling in has taken three years. Every time.
• The first year: First we have to learn how to get from our new house to the grocery store, and the bank, and the library. We learn how the streets are laid out. We find a new doctor, dentist, and vet. We look for a new church. We meet the neighbors. After a few months we find that when we’re driving down a street, we no longer have to look at the street sign to find out where we are – we’ve learned the landmarks.
• The second year: This is the year of “I remember doing that last year”. This is the second time we went to the special Christmas concert. This is the second time we went to the county fair. This is the second time we went to the Memorial Day parade downtown. Things are still new, but they aren’t so strange any more.
• The third year: This is the year that the new place finally starts feeling like home. It takes a few years to develop friendships – suddenly we realize that we have friends that we would miss if we had to move again. We’ve been around enough that we know people, and people know us, and we start getting involved in the community – at our church, at scouts, in the neighborhood. This is the year that we realize that the roots have established themselves again. For now, this is home.

o In these first years after transplanting, remember that the plant that is your family is fragile. Be careful to not make any of these mistakes as you’re helping your home establish its new root system:
• As you settle your home into your new surroundings, it’s easy to hold on too tightly to the past – after all, it’s familiar! Holding on too tightly to the old place keeps you from seeing what is good in the new place. It’s hard to relax and let the roots heal when Mama lets herself complain about the little things: different accents, or the way people drive, or the width of the roads, or the unfriendliness/overfriendliness of the clerks in the grocery store! Things will be different in the new place, and one way to help your home establish itself in your new area is to learn to enjoy what you can and cope with the things you can’t. Mama’s attitude will make a big difference in how well her family accepts the change.
• Another mistake is to try to make a clean break between the old and the new, and never revisit the old place again. Sometimes you just can’t physically revisit the old house, but you can always revisit it in your memory. Making a sudden, clean break shocks the root system, and it can’t grow to embrace the new surroundings.
• A third mistake is to treat the move as if it wasn’t anything major or life changing. A move is huge in your family’s life. It changes everything. Part of Mama’s job is to help her little ones learn from this experience. When it came time for our last move, our daughter was devastated. She was half way through her senior year of high school and was wrapped up in all the things that makes a 17 year old’s life good: a wonderful circle of friends, a church that had helped her grow through some important experiences, a job at the local library that she loved, and a family who had welcomed her into their home as a mother’s helper. We were able to help her accept the move by reliving our previous move with her – in both instances we had not chosen to move, but God had chosen for us. Since our previous move we had seen great growth in our family’s lives, had learned great life lessons, and had made wonderful friends. Why, we reasoned with her, would we expect that God would have any less planned for us in this move? She made the move in faith, and her trust in God’s plan for her life has been confirmed.

Maybe your home is an Oak tree, and you’ve never experienced the adventure of moving. What a blessing! But you have a task – watch for those daylily families that move in and out of your neighborhood. Seek them out, make them feel welcome, extend your own special flavor of hospitality to them. They will appreciate it, and you may make some lifelong friends!
I’ve always wanted my home to be an Oak tree, but God placed me in a daylily home.

Daylilies are beautiful, they persistently grow wherever they are planted, and they bloom profusely. I’m thankful to be part of a daylily home when I think of all the experiences and especially the friends that our family would have missed out on if we had been Oak trees! Are you a daylily? Maybe we’ll be neighbors someday….