On Dream Kitchens, Dream Lives, and Nurturing Reality

A couple of weeks ago, I did a major deep-cleaning purge to my desk and files. Amid the bills, medical records, and other necessary paperwork, I found plenty to toss: half-finished scribblings from the kids, expired coupons, and a stack of business cards I could no longer associate with any specific event or face. Into the recycling bin they went.

But when it came to one file – a fat folder full of clippings from home magazines, mostly gorgeous kitchen renovations – I hesitated.

I’ve been collecting those clippings for years, and used to pore over them every couple of weeks or so: dreaming about what my kitchen might one day look like made me happy, and for me there’s something relaxing and inspiring about looking at beautiful homes in general.

But we’ve been living in a nice, if not magazine-spread-worthy, rental for two years now, and we just signed a lease to stay here another two years. A “dream” kitchen isn’t in the cards right now, and where once looking at the photos gave me a little buzz of excitement for something I might be able to implement in my own home, the last few times I looked at the clippings I’d only felt dissatisfied with my own reality and frustrated by my limitations – namely, forest-green laminate countertops that aren’t going anywhere soon.

Enough. This time, I heaved a little sigh and tossed the whole thing – and all the dreams they once represented – into the bin, too.

My kitchen might have dated counters and cabinets, but we've had plenty of fun family moments here.

My kitchen might have dated counters and cabinets, but we’ve had plenty of fun family moments here.

I’ll fully admit that I have dreamer tendencies, and it’s a part of me I’d never want to give up. But sometimes that tendency moves me dangerously close to wishing for something I can’t have right now, or maybe ever.

And the really destructive part about wishing is that it’s easy to begin investing more energy in what you don’t have than in nurturing and loving what you do.

There’s a vintage metal bread box in the corner of my kitchen.  I bought it a few years ago at an antique store, intending to strip the chipped and streaky cream-colored paint and repaint it a new color: turquoise or bright red or yellow, something appropriate to its 1950s roots.

But I’ve been living with that ugly bread box for years now, waiting to make it part of a bigger kitchen project inspired by one of my dozens of magazine clippings. It’s almost as if I was thinking “what’s the point in having a cute bread box on those counters?”

How self-defeating is that?

Wishing for a nicer, newer kitchen is just a metaphor for the rest of life, of course. Parenting isn’t easy. Marriage requires daily commitment and sacrifice we sometimes would rather not make. Amid the daily tasks that family life requires – the toilets that somehow always need cleaning, the laundry pile that never stops growing, the 557th conversation about the budget or who’s going to pick the kids up from school – it can be easy to neglect reality in favor of a greener-grass-fantasy. And the gray, chill, and wildly fluctuating temperatures of March certainly don’t help things in the upper Midwest. 

So this week, I’m tackling that bread box project, once and for all. And maybe investing a little time in other “corners” of my life that could use some attention. It seems like a fitting project for April, when after a dreary and gray winter, the sun seems to be finally coming out to illuminate how awesome my life and home really are, just as they are…and that there’s always something I can do to love them, invest in them, and make them better in some way.

Will you join me?

I’d love to hear what area of your life could use a little love and how you can nurture your own amazing reality this month!

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