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I could be reading. I could be cooking, or cleaning, or painting, or watching TV. I could be sleeping. I could be mowing the long-overgrown lawn in the last lingering rays of the early summer sun. Bonhomme’s abed and Dearest is out, and I’ve got an hour or so to myself before sleep becomes an absolute must, and what am I doing? I’m blogging. I don’t even know what about. I’ve got a blank page and measures of frustration and worry and endearing fleeting moments to capture before they’re gone – and I’m not so exhausted that I can’t try – and I find myself instead thinking about why the heck I’m doing what I’m doing. Because I could be reading. Or taking a bath. But I feel compelled. Drawn. Called. Blogging reminds me that I’m bigger than myself. I am an integral part of something larger. Not just the community of it all, although that has unfathomable merit and depth, but the contribution of it.

Dearest and I are currently engaged in a quintessential Canadian pastime: renos. The Great Kitchen Caper, to be exact. Since I moved in to our home eight years ago, and since he moved in twenty-five years ago (having bought our house from his parents), we’ve both hated our kitchen. It’s small and cramped and crowded, with 1950’s era built-in cabinets that divide our small room into two (in order to pretend to have a diningroom), minimal cupboard space, and about two feet of useful countertop. We wheel our dishwasher from one side of the kitchen to the other every night to hook it up to the faucet. We have two fridges, a legacy from when my husband roomed with two other young men while his father was trying to figure out how to keep the house on his small salary through Dearest parents’ divorce. It turns out that three twenty-something men and one fifty-something divorcé couldn’t quite coordinate things like cooking communal meals, let alone sharing milk and bread, so, two fridges. And then when I moved in and we kept one of the roomies to help offset the mortgage, it was easier to keep the multiple fridges. And then we finally had the house to ourselves, Bonhomme came along, and, well, you know. We have a cramped, crowded, crazy kitchen.

But, we make decent money, we’re mostly done most of the remaining renos in the house, we’re the roll-up-our-sleeves kind of folk, it’s time! Reno time. (Not that it’s ever been anything but.) Mindful of the fact that we have a four-year-old this time around needing our attention, realizing that this is the biggest job we’ve ever done or Heaven-willing will ever do, recognizing that we both work full-time at demanding jobs, and remembering QUITE keenly that the last reno resulted in a broken leg (and a broken toilet, and a broken wall) that took six months to heal… we went to see some professionals. Then, after a $70,000 quote, we didn’t go see them anymore.

Instead, we’re now driving each other, quite loudly, nuts. It’s not an easy space to design around, with two openings, an outside door and two unusually-sized windows. And while we’ll be updating the electrical, we’d rather not move the plumbing. So, some constraints. And then there’s me, insisting that the kitchen is the hub, the heart, the hearth of the home. It’s where people come together, teach each other, work together in the most fundamental way. Everyone, every family in the world, has to cook. Has to eat. Has to talk to each other in the process. In short, the kitchen is bigger than itself.

How does that translate into inches and feet? Into appliances and counterspace? Into dollars and cents? And how on earth do I explain this to my only-somewhat-handy-but-valiant husband?

“We could always just do a patch job, sell the place, and buy something bigger,” Dearest brings up repeatedly.

“We could wall in the open flow to the livingroom and box the kitchen in,” Dearest suggests unhelpfully.

“I could set up a full-size oven in the basement for when we’ve got company over, as Economicus said,” Dearest proposes.

We’ve been talking about utility a lot. About whether something that is twice the price has twice the usefulness. About whether to indulge in a quartz countertop when for the same cost you could replace a laminate one five times over. Ten times over. About the tradeoff of losing the corner storage space vs. having a bigger stove, and each of our frustrations in wanting both. We’re arguing about capitalism and consumerism and risk and debt and what we can do without. Recognizing that anything we do will be better than what we have.

In the midst of all this, I’ve been reading a lot about the global financial crisis – you know, the one that we conveniently like to think is over. And I wonder how much of it might have been averted if we’d all balked at the $70,000 kitchen reno quote? If we’d all rather send our children to MIT than have a bigger house? If we’d all instead spent the time poring over the design plans and arguing about where to put the dishwasher and lived with the fact that we can’t have it all?

And so, I blog. Even when I’ve got a blank page and nothing much to write about. Because I think the conversation, the ongoing conversation we all have, needs to be about need a little bit more. About utility. About how we all build hubs, hearts, hearths, communities, every day. We build each other.

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