Understanding the Psychology of Space: Having a Functional Home

After a long day at school or at work, there’s nothing better than walking through our home’s front door, kicking our shoes off, and finally winding down. But what if our home isn’t exactly the oasis of comfort we’d like it to be?

Addressing the dysfunctional aspects of the home isn’t always easy and actually getting started on the updates themselves can be even harder. The inevitable destruction that comes along with renovation isn’t comfortable and, in the short run, may not seem worth it – but leaving a project half finished due to poor planning is even worse.

Save yourself the headache down the line by being as honest and realistic as possible during the planning phase and consider your own time restrictions and skill level. While many homeowners plan on doing at least some of the work themselves, consulting with professionals will help reel in scope, manage priorities, and get the job done right the first time.

For most families, a functional home is a happy home. Here’s how to keep renovation projects on track, within budget, and build a space that works for your family, not against it.

Dear Jack: The Art of “Finding an Activity”, to Properly Focus Your Restless Energy

6 years.

Dear Jack: The Art of “Finding an Activity”, to Properly Focus Your Restless Energy

Dear Jack,

A fairly recent rule I have created for you in our house is this:

“If you can’t figure out what to do, then you’re going upstairs for a nap until you fall asleep.”

You’re a boy. That means you’re full of energy that needs to be directed with a purpose. If not, it becomes restless energy. And I don’t allow restless energy in our house. Because restless energy is not Feng Shui.

I don’t believe in spanking you as a form of punishment. I believe that your “misbehavior” has everything to do with me properly attending to your needs, based on you being either hungry, tired, bored, lonely, or sick.

So I know that if you’re acting a little crazy, yet you’ve recently eaten, and aren’t due for a nap, you likely are bored. You need me to remind you that you are responsible for entertaining yourself.

Dear Jack: The Art of “Finding an Activity”, to Properly Focus Your Restless Energy

We have a house full of toys and games and crafts. Plus, if the weather allows, and I’m not in the middle of taking care of your sister, I’m always eager to take you outside and burn some curious energy with you.

As for this past weekend, I was quite proud of you for how you figured out what to do, in the midst of nasty weather outside.

Saturday morning, as a family, we ventured to Target and bought a new Hoover vacuum cleaner. After you helped me unbox it back at the house, you were quick to take the box and turn it into a spaceship of sorts.

Then you spent most of the rest of the evening using the Styrofoam from the packaging; using it to make scientific experiments in; using water, leftover Halloween candy, and Christmas stamps.

Dear Jack: The Art of “Finding an Activity”, to Properly Focus Your Restless Energy

And on Sunday, after you and Mommy decorated the Christmas tree while I cleaned the bathrooms, you decided to use some of the extra lights to illuminate your bedroom.

You really are a creative kid. You just need me sometimes me to remind you that with your talent comes a built-in responsibility to actually do something with that talent.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: The Art of “Finding an Activity”, to Properly Focus Your Restless Energy

dad from day one: Feng Shui Dad

Week 1.

Being that I spend most of my lunch breaks at Borders, over the past year I have been acquiring a small library of discounted books.  One of my purchases off the “five dollar clearance rack” was a huge colorful book on Feng Shui.  While I have yet to spend much time really learning these ancient Chinese secrets, I did scan through a few chapters.  One of the concepts of Feng Shui that I did pick up on warned against long uninterrupted straights, whether the layout of the house is based on one basic hallway or the driveway to the house has no turns.  Without turns and interruptions along a straight path, one might “fall out of the house and out of their own yard”.  That’s considered “bad Feng Shui”.

If you are able to grasp that concept for the most part (which I think for some strange reason I can), then maybe you can understand my recent perspective on how having Baby Jack relates back to Feng Shui, if nothing else, in my own sleep-deprived head.  Recently, some of my cosmic insecurities have been heavily resolved as I realize that by being a parent, I am forever in the middle of a generation, no longer the tail end.  I am no longer the tree itself, but instead one of the branches on someone else’s family tree.  No longer am I a coastal state like Rhode Island or South Carolina, exposed the possibility of breaking off in the Atlantic Ocean, only separated by a few thousand miles from giant Africa; instead, I am now landlocked Kansas.  Like sitting in the middle of the third row seat in a 15 passenger van on a church mission trip to Mexico; like no longer being on the outer edge in a herd of zebras escaping from a hungry lion, so am I.

As a parent, I now feel more Feng Shui.  I will not “fall out” out the universe into outer space without it being immediately noticed.  Because I am no longer simply a husband; I am a father.  And being a father doesn’t simply hold importance in the direct care of my son, but also in an undeniable eternal sense.  Baby Jack is not just simply a cute little Bambino.  He is a spiritual being who I am responsible for.

I am no longer an island of any kind.  More than ever before, I am needed and necessary in this world.  What I do from this point has potentially everlasting outcomes.  I won’t look back on my life when I’m an old man and think, “I  lived such an empty life.”  Because I will always be linked back to my son.  So cosmic, man.

“These moments, they can never last; like a sad old man with his photographs keeps wishing for the things he can not change.”

-Guster, “Architects and Engineers “


The Importance of a Setting in Real Life, Not Just in Fiction

 This could be Heaven or this could be hell.What makes old graveyards creepy, besides our sneaking suspension that the bearded ghost of a Confederate Army General will appear through the foggy mist and try to tell us a haunting story of he ended up with a hook for an arm?  (Pirates don’t have exclusive right to those things, you know…)  Take away the graves and all the preconceived ideas that human curiosity has handed down to us over the centuries, and chances are, the land itself is still not a beautiful piece of land to begin with.

I assume that the land used for graveyards and cemeteries often was the land that wasn’t aesthetically pleasing as the acres used for building homes, schools, and businesses.  Safe to say it wasn’t feng shui. 

Instead it was the leftover, out of the way, dreary land that someone was just trying to get rid of.  So they sold it for less than they would have liked to an investor who saw its best potential and destiny was for it to become a graveyard.

We choose destinations for a reason.  Why do coffee shops serve as such a great pre-date and unofficial first date venue?  Because there are plenty of other people around in a coffee shop whose collected friendly conversations make for the perfect background murmur, so that while the two single people are surrounded by people, it’s intimate enough of a setting where they can, in a sense, feel alone- without the awkwardness of actually being alone when they don’t yet know each other that well. 

If nothing else, the coffee itself serves as a convenient social crutch, as mentioned in Campfires.  A coffee shop is a setting of safety, comfortableness, and relaxation, as well a symbolic “garden of growth”.  I know this first hand:

Before I asked out my now-wife to the sure-to-get-a-second-date John Mayer concert, I primed our new friendship with several Sunday night meets at the local Starbucks.  It was the coffee shop that watered and fertilized our friendship into dating, then a little over a year later into marriage, and two years after that (present day), a baby.  A human life is scheduled to make its first out-of-the-womb appearance this November.  And it all started, in theory, by me choosing the right setting- which in this case was a coffee shop.

What if instead of asking her to coffee when we first met as strangers, I would have asked her to dinner?  It could have been awkward.  Eating with a stranger she just met the week before.  I could have ended up in a category of guys she had dated but it never really went anywhere- and I wasn’t willing to make that gamble. 

I knew that if I built the relationship on true friendship first, it would be much more natural and relaxing to eventually eat a meal together at a restaurant.  But not before coffee at a Starbucks.

We can choose where either good or bad memories will take place.  Where does a guy propose to his fiancé?  Where do parents announce to their children that they are getting a divorce?  Because those places will never be the same again after that.

Where were you when you found out the cancer is in remission? Where were you when you heard about the two planes crashing into the Twin Towers?  Those places will always be associated with the big news, good or bad.

It’s why the phrase “may I speak with you for in a minute in my office, please?” is so epic.

Whether we choose the place, or it chooses us, the setting is everything; lasting an entire lifetime as it attaches itself to a memory of hope or a memory of damnation.