A few weeks ago I mentioned that one of my problems with giving up Internet for one night was that I more than made up for it the next day, logging on extra hours. It’s hard to live without Internet. So my plan was to try and find more real life experiences to fill the void of computer and TV time.
I had a lot of ideas for what to start with: buy vegetables from the farmers’ market, go thrifting at a consignment shop, or maybe go out to dinner with my family?
But life had other plans for me. Someone vandalized the door of our garage with graffiti on Saturday night. I know this isn’t a big problem: no one was hurt, nothing was even stolen, and likely the paint will come off with either a lot of acetone and scrubbing, or maybe a nice new coat of paint. The garage needs it anyway.
I couldn’t help but feel hurt, though, that an individual (likely a young, inebriated, possibly remorseful of the act in his later years) would damage private property like that with no thought as to how it would affect the owners. And how did it affect me? Negatively. I sobbed and sobbed. I felt unsafe, and unwelcome, and instantly wanted to move from our neighborhood and our lovely city. I wanted to retreat.
Let me spoil the end of this story to tell you that we didn’t retreat, even if we could move at a moment’s notice (we can’t, we own our house). We’re still here, graffitied garage and all.
And instead of retreating, I decided to fight back in one of the most peaceful and effective ways I know: with art. I am going to show the vandalizer that he can’t bring me down, and we won’t run. We’re going to make our home more beautiful than before. How, you ask, can someone fight back with art?
We’re making mosaics. The front of our house, garage included, leave a little bit (fine, a LOT) to be desired. It’s…rustic. No, I can’t fool even myself with that. It’s just plain ugly. The garage is moss-encrusted, the sidewalk is dirty, and the little strip of garden nearby is overgrown with weeds and leaves. The whole place needs at the very least a good scrubbing.
So my boys and I visited Seattle Mosaic Arts, picked a project (garden stones), picked out lots of glass, and went home and got to work.
What does all of this have to do with unplugging? That’s what we worked on as our back to real life project. We didn’t go out to dinner or to the park. We sat at our dining room table together with hundreds of little pieces of glass, carefully placing them where they would soon be grouted into place forever. We sat and we talked, and my older boy helped my younger boy, and I mostly watched. I told them how beautiful it was going to look out front, how people would stop and see and wonder about the mosaics.
It was much, much more rewarding than television or YouTube or even one of my favorite hobbies of all, blog reading. I got to be with my boys—I mean really BE with them–and I saw them create. Screen time makes me feel numb, which can be helpful when I’m overwhelmed or stressed, but I don’t want to numb out through my children’s entire childhoods. And now I know, if nothing else, I will remember this. I will remember sitting there with them, bursting with pride over what they could do.
I didn’t know it was possible for my three-year-old to be so creative, so organized, and so patient with this project. But he was. I didn’t know my six-year-old could be so determined (he worked for hours without a break!). They both were brilliant. I’m so proud.
And I’m happy that not only are we beautifying the front of our house with love and art, but also that we’re doing something together, something that will be at our house as long as we are, and something that says: you can vandalize our property, but we’re not going to run. We’re here to stay.
The Unplugged blog post series are written by Shalini Miskelly. Shalini is a librarian and writer in Seattle. You can find her at http://readingandchickens.blogspot.com and on twitter @booksnchickens