Though you wouldn't have guessed it by my first marriage (my first husband and I literally got in a fight everyday, well, at least one), I am not a person who likes conflict. Granted, I will fight if necessary. Like when my ex-boyfriend, with whom I went bird crazy, decided one day that having 5 birds just wasn't "working out" anymore so we were going to get rid of them. "Uh, I don't think so," I said. The ironic thing is if he had said, "Honey, those birds with their screaming and food scattering and incessant need for attention are really getting to me. Do you think we can talk about getting rid of them?" I probably would have caved in. I mean, those birds were driving me nuts too not to mention Coco had it in for me and I have the scars to prove it. But since he came at it with such a dominant, my-way-or-the-highway statement, of course I had to counter it. The birds may have played a part in our break-up, but the main problem, I think, is that he just never really understood (or appreciated) how I work.
My husband Jasper, however, is always kind and considerate and loving. I broke from my usual pattern of choosing super dominant men who I would have to open a can of whup ass on (though, in the end, it was almost always me who compromised...Why couldn't I see that then?), and for breaking the mold I have been rewarded: I love my family. Like I've said before, Jasper and I also have more or less the same taste which makes living together that much more harmonious. Still, you can't have everything. After a while, I began to see my husband's edges: He is resistant to change.
Although our apartment only has three bedrooms, its has six doors (not counting the one to the kitchen, bathroom or the front door.) Although we first found these extra doors charming, we soon learned that they caused a problem in that they take away a significant amount of wall space. Our kitchen and bathroom are also tiny meaning that we had to find a different room for a "family" table. Before Mia was born, the kid's room was my office, but once we needed it as a kid's room, the problems started. We had to find a place for three couches, two desks, book shelves a kitchen table, a high board and two side-boards and, no, we couldn't get rid any of it.
I tried to make suggestions but he would always shoot them down: No, the color combination is all wrong. No, it would look too cramped. No, then the table would be too far from the kitchen (like five seconds away, Lordy Lord!). It might not have been all that bad, except that he could never come up with any ideas of his own. But I wanted us to come to a decision together. After a few months of going on like this we got in a fight because he said that it annoyed him that I was so "passive" when it came to making changes. "Passive! You shoot everything down. How can I make any progress?"
Then it occurred to me: With Jasper, it's better to do the work first and then talk about it later. That is just what my mother and I did when she came for a visit a few weeks after Lilly was born. We moved furniture and tried things out, had a grand old time and made some real improvements. Once he could see the good the changes made, Jasper also jumped on the band wagon, albeit a bit reluctantly at first.
Yesterday, while cleaning the windows (Note: This is not a sentence I would normally ever say. There are messy people and there are us Deans. But I seem to have recently been hit by a Spring Cleaning bug in the summer) I realized that I still was so unhappy with certain things in the apartment: The couches in the front room always felt so cramped and formal and we never sat there. The dining table behind the kitchen door looked good when we didn't dump it full of junk and we also never really sat there, preferring to cram ourselves into the kitchen. Mia's room, devoid of any place to sit, had become a bit of a trash pile where laundry goes to die. In a burst of housewiferly inspiration I started cleaning and moving furniture around. Here are the results:
This is Mia's room now. The hanging lute I bought years ago in Istanbul. I still have the business card from the owner of the music store with its hilarious English translation. Here is direct quote (imagine as you read it a photograph with garish colors of a Turkish Mr. Rogers leaning stiffly against a display of tambourines): "ATAKAN PLAK MUSIC CENTER Every kind of music instruments sells, whole sale Profesyonel There are Kanun....Bongoes, Amplifikatör and instruments with breath wire and their another piece." Awesome. I never did learn to play the lute, but it looks pretty good on the wall I think. P.S. The bird cage houses two parakeets which are the most harmless of the birds I had with my ex and who I am watching while he visits his family in Holland.
This is the front room now or, rather, dining room/office. All that's missing now is a cool, colorful lamp above the table.
This is the tiny, currently not so clean kitchen, with my good friend Erica posing as the Happy Housewife. The bronzed cowboy boot belonged to my father when he was a child. I like the colorful flowers in it (thanks Ikea). Having it there reminds me of him which is nice.
Here is the new position of couch number three. Let's see if now we sit on it!
I heard Jasper locking up his bike when he came home after I had made the changes. "Are you ready for a surprise?" I asked him. The good news is, he loved it. He thanked me and was really sweet and said he loves it when I get these bursts of energy. There is only one ironic end to the story: Back when I was giving out different ideas for changes, those very ideas he shot down in two seconds, these are exactly the ones I had had. But no reason to rub it in. We're happy and I get the satisfaction of secretly knowing I was right all along....