The Miracle of “Making-Do”: Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me. I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own.

What do you do when your needs outstrip your circumstances?

“Making-do” was a point of pride in American culture during the Depression and World War II years. People scrimped and saved whatever bits and pieces they could, reusing and repurposing, bartering, repairing and applying that once-famous American ingenuity to make what they had do for what they needed.

Somewhere along the way, much of that spirit has been lost. Our current economy encourages disposing of the broken, upgrading the scuffed and not-quite-latest, and consuming the new and shiny, delivered straight to our doors, in two days, with free shipping,.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like new and shiny – at least, for some things. My family’s Amazon Prime account pays for itself annually in just the shipping, and, since we live in a rural area ten miles from the nearest department stores, it also saves on gas and time spent in actual brick-and-mortar acquisition of needed or desired items (especially handy when my Accomplice was dealing with unexpected car repairs!).

But I also love items that come with stories. My wedding rings came from a pawn shop, my wedding dress from a consignment shop.  I later gave it away on Freecycle. I’ve never wanted a new car. My current chariot is a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback wagon with over 278,000 miles – enough to drive to the moon, and be on the way home again!

Our house is filled with make-do items. My father’s childhood dresser holds bathroom supplies, and my grandparents’ hoosier cabinet serves as a work station in my study. There’s the repurposed – doors hung as shelves and turned into a worktable. My Accomplice built all of our beds.

He’s the executive chef at a small local restaurant known for its diverse array of artistic and from-scratch Southwest fusion dishes. It’s a quality menu, with daily specials…all created in the tiny kictchen of a building that used to be a pizzeria!

That he creates what he does in such a tiny space is nothing short of miraculous. I’m not exactly objective, where my beloved blue-bearded chef is concerned, but I’ve also worked with him, so I have a wider-than-wife perspective on his skill and resourcefulness..

It’s a way of being that extends beyond that kitchen to our home life. His ability to make do as a chef supports us, and his ability to make do as the family carpenter, mechanic, and general handyman makes that single income go a lot further than it otherwise might.

I’ve had a lot of recent practice in making-do. As regular readers here will know, I’m working these days from an elderly laptop which uses an operating system several generations older than that fresh, flexible new Windows 10 I was loving a few weeks back.

My Lenovo Yoga- the shiny new laptop of my dreams – is currently incapacitated, and we don’t have money in today’s budget to repair it. Not this week, not next, and not, likely, for at least a few more to come. With winter on the horizon, there’s heating fuel and firewood to purchase, taxes to be paid, and some other household things that need to be seen to first. The children keep growing, outgrowing clothes and growing into new interests..

Life happens, and, for my right now, this little old machine is my connection to you.

Sometimes, making do can rise to an art form…beauty created from entropy.

It wasn’t made for the uses I’m putting it to. It was intended to be a portable work station for construction sites, excavations, law enforcement – In its previous life, it was docked in a sherriff’s patrol car. It doesn’t have a battery (well, more accurately, the battery, such as it is, is Elsewhere), so, if it’s unplugged, it turns off immediately, taking anything unsaved with it. I’m more locked into working from one place than I was.

It’s meant to be a means to make an internet connection and do bookkeeping. It’s not intended as a writing machine; it can’t handle the volume and variety of projects I typically indulge in, and, as for the Internet – well, I’ve been known to run the Lenovo with over 20 open tabs; here, I’m pressing my luck with five, and six simply will not work.

Like my Accomplice cooking an extensive menu in a pizzeria kitchen, I’ve had to adapt my goals, my pacing, even the way I write and work.

It could be enough to defeat me – or, it can be an exercise in making-do, and experiencing the benefits of increased productivity and creativity. I can use my imagination to do as much as I’m able with this little machine, and I can practice acceptance of my current limitations, and shift some of my focus to areas of my life that aren’t computer dependent, and know that, once I’ve resolved the issues, and have access to modern computing again, I can move forward more efficiently, with some Other Things cleared off my project list. I’ve got more time to spend with my beloveds, building connections and memories in ways large and small..

That’s what I’m doing, as much as I can. Because I’d rather put my energy into making do with what I have than making a fuss about what I don’t right now. That doesn’t mean I’m not itching to get my shiny, capable, and just-right-for-me laptop back up and running. It just means that I’m making do and making progress, until the day comes, rather than putting everything in abeyance until the situation is ‘perfect’.

And, along the way, I’m growing, using my imagination, expanding my capabilities., paying attention ..little miracles born of this time of making-do.

Do you relish the challenge of making do, or dread it? Have you had to make do lately? What have you learned along the way?

I’ve got a fresh pot of coffee, and it’s a lovely early autumn evening….tell me all about it!

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