Tag Archives: Enough

Enough

My late grandmother was an amazing cook. All of her sisters were; they learned from their expert mother. They grew up on a farm, making home-cooked fare like fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade rolls, and pie. She had a garden every year and canned additional goodies. I’d pay many times the price of a meal at a high-end restaurant to belly up to the folding tables set up inside the bank at one more family reunion. I’d even pay $100 for one of grandma’s cherry pies–there would be no sharing.

Luckily grandma taught my mother how to cook, and she taught me. None of us are as good as grandma, but I’ve insisted my kids learn to cook. It’s almost a lost art as many kids today aren’t learning how to cook from scratch. But my girls know how to make homemade bread. That’s the one thing I learned how to make directly from grandma. I had the foresight years ago to realize someday I’d wish I’d had her teach me – I’m sure glad I did. I remember carefully writing down each step she showed me–setting the yeast, the art of kneading. But when it came time, I asked grandma how much flour to add. I’ll never forget the puzzled look on her face or her response “enough”. I carefully measured and wrote down every cup I put in until she showed me what the consistency should be and then I knew to stop. I still measure. I’ve always been in awe at the mastery it took for her to produce such amazing foods without a recipe. She had done it so long and was so skilled that she just knew. Many of the cooks of her generation never measured. Yet today, many people think baking cookies involves dough in a tube.

Grandma also lived through the Depression. I’ll never forget helping clean out her basement when it was time for them to move to town. It was so full of stuff there was barely a walking path through it. The single image that stuck with me was the bag of faded plastic flowers which wouldn’t have sold at a garage sale for a nickel. Like many in her generation, she knew the value of a dollar, having known what it was like to struggle for enough to survive.

 Her childhood memoirs wrote of no toys and having exactly two dresses, one for school and one for church. But her childhood also contained good memories, playing in the fields with her brothers and sisters, with pranks and much laughter.

‘Enough’ characterizes my grandmother well. She knew what so many today, spoiled in our disposable and convenience generation, do not–how to survive with enough. How to stretch a dollar. how to work hard to provide for your family’s daily needs. And how to enjoy your family and the simple things in life when you have little else.

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll have more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you’ll never, never have enough.” –Oprah Winfrey

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Clutter

The girls and I have been taking walks after dinner this summer through our quiet, suburban neighborhood. It’s interesting to watch the new houses go up in the few remaining empty lots. On bonus nights, the 2-year-old boy next door is buck naked in his front yard, mortifying Claire. It’s interesting looking into people’s open garage doors to see who can use their garage for its intended purpose, versus whose garage is so full of stuff that their cars are permanently in the driveway outside. I was particularly interested in the priorities behind the 3-car garage that housed an ATV in addition to two cars, while the brand new Ford 150 pickup sat in the driveway outside. But I’m completely baffled by the two garages which house only cars and nothing else. Not a rake or a bike or a cooler. Who lives in a house with no rake and only pristine white walls in their garage? But that’s a story for another day.

Close to half of the garages in our completely unscientific survey hold way too much stuff to house any cars. I always wonder whether the inside of those homes look like the inside of their garage, or whether their home is uncluttered because all of their stuff is in their garage. My favorite garage item is exercise equipment. I assume the story is predictably the same for each treadmill and weight bench sitting there. There is a wide variety of garage stuff: dressers and bookshelves, kayaks and Barbie cars, bikes and car top carriers. It’s a small, voyeuristic glimpse into the private lives of others.

I think my interest in other people’s clutter is more like a phobia, sort of an “it could be me” fear. Years ago, I helped three family members downsize, one of them twice, in a five-year period. If I ever had the tendency to accumulate things, that cured it. Dealing with such tangible reminders that you can’t take it with you, and that the stuff you store becomes only stuff that somebody (maybe you) has to deal with someday, left me almost obsessive about keeping only what I need. I’ve found living uncluttered liberating…overloaded closets and garages and basements added to the stress in my life. I’ve regretted next to nothing I’ve ever gotten rid of. It’s a good reminder to focus on the things I have that really matter in life–family, friends, health. In the end, that’s all we really have anyway.

“The more you have, the more you are occupied. The less you have, the more free you are.” –Mother Teresa