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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

A Look Back: Lessons Learned from 2023 ― Part 2

Over the past 12 months we’ve covered a lot of home topics, from the philosophical (the meaning of home) to the practical (preventing household accidents). As I wrap up the year with this two-part retrospective, here are six of my favorite findings from the second half of 2023:


In JULY, after nearly 30 days of non-stop travel, I rediscovered how much I love being home. Once back home, I grew tearful doing simple tasks like feeding the dogs, drying the dishes, and making the bed. This melancholy feeling reminded me how important the small rituals, the moments of ordinary daily living, mean.


Lesson: Being in one unfamiliar place after another made me appreciate the many small ways I (and maybe you, too) take my home, my patterns, the habits that form my life, for granted. I listed 21 reasons in my homage to home. Here are a few: I like knowing where everything is, and that it is all within reach, because it makes me feel like the master of my domain. I like the familiar view out my windows knowing no one else in the world has the same view. I like having my whole wardrobe available, and not having to make do with what I packed. I like cooking, whether whisking an egg or chopping a tomato, because I like to know what is in my food. It’s an ordinary life, which is what makes it extraordinary.


In AUGUST, lightning struck a cable line between my house and my neighbor’s zapping both. The blinding flash followed by an earsplitting BOOM! sent the dogs scrambling under the desk. My neighbor’s house bore the brunt. They lost their air conditioner, three TV boxes, internet, cable, water heater, and smart lighting system. The total damage cost an electrifying $40,000. Meanwhile, at our place, the same bolt from the blue knocked out our air conditioner, cable, irrigation control box, and several lights.


Lesson: Proper surge protection could have prevented all that damage. Many power companies, including ours, provide this protection if you ask. But most people, including us, inquire after a lightning strike. “Although you can’t keep lightning from striking, you can keep it from getting in your home by capturing the spike and sending it into the ground before it enters the house and fries your refrigerator,” said Peter Jackson, an electrical engineer at Kenick, a company that makes surge-protection systems for utility companies. All homes in lightning prone areas could benefit.

In SEPTEMBER, I met a woman whose job it is to clear the obstacles standing between her clients and a better life. No, she’s not a therapist. She’s a moving concierge. “My clients are those who live in houses surrounded by furniture, who want less house, less maintenance, and less stuff, in exchange for more time and more freedom,” said Carey Kuhl, who helps clients decide what to let go of, then finds a market for the furnishings and sells them.


Lesson: Moving concierges are available to release you from your furniture shackles. Anyone who has put off moving because their furniture was holding them back now has one less excuse.


In OCTOBER, a couple from Northfield, Minn., reminded me of the good in the world. Bob Thacker and Karen Cherewatuk knew they couldn’t solve the entire housing crisis, but maybe they could help one deserving family. Since moving to the United States over 20 years ago, Victor and Lorena Hernandez (whose names I changed) have worked hard, paid taxes, and raised three great kids. However, the dream of homeownership remained just that – a dream. Victor works in manufacturing. Lorena cleans houses. They both provide janitorial services for the local parish, where Karen and Bob met them and later learned the family of five lived in a rundown two-bedroom apartment.


Seeing a problem they could solve, Bob and Karen bought an abandoned, dilapidated, 130-year-old Midwest American farmhouse for $80,000. Then they rallied the community to help renovate the three-bedroom house by pitching in with donations and free labor. Last Labor Day, the Hernandez family moved in and are making monthly payments on the home. “The house wasn’t a charity project,” Thacker said. “It was a leg-up project.”

Lesson: You may not be able to solve the big problems of our day, but you can make a difference by solving small ones.


In NOVEMBER, I performed a public service by asking readers to end porch pollution. The shout out was a plea on behalf of those sick of looking at porches and patios cluttered with rusty tricycles, old dog houses, broken step ladders, plastic slides, and plastic garden gnomes. I also not so gently suggested that if readers had a neighbor whose yard fit that description, the reader could tuck the column in offending neighbor’s mailbox. Shhhh!


Lesson: While we focus a lot on decluttering and beautifying the insides of our homes, decluttering and thoughtfully furnishing our outdoor spaces may be more important because so many more people see them. Keep them clean, uncluttered, inviting and useful.


In DECEMBER, I ate my words. Just 11 months earlier, I had sworn on these pages that I wouldn’t want a second home. My still valid reasoning was because I could barely handle the home I had. By the end of the year, my husband and I (the hypocrite) had bought a beach condo. This may be a bust, but we went for it because we have friends there, the place is only an hour’s drive from our home, we can rent it out to help cover the costs, and, mostly, because the beach reminds me of my youth, most of which I spent (or misspent) on the beach in Southern California.


Lesson: When DC and I asked ourselves: Do we do this? We decided, we’d rather have tried and been sorry, than never have tried and wondered. Sometimes in life, even if you’re unsure, you have to go for a dream. Here’s to realizing your dreams in 2024!


CAPTION: Group project — Community members gather outside the home they rebuilt in Northfield, Minn., for a deserving family. “Over 150 people came to the fiesta, which was to thank all those who made it possible,” said Bob Thacker, who with his wife, coordinated the project. Photo courtesy of Bob Thacker.

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