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It Isn’t Home Any Longer

Early (very early!) Saturday morning found me jumping in my vehicle for a road trip to the north. My companions: my mother, our youngest (sleepy) daughter and my over sized travel mug of coffee. (I did mention it was early – right??)  Our mission: to help our oldest daughter get ready for her senior prom.  I think I’ve mentioned a million a few times how hard it is for this mom to have her little girl finishing her senior year without me there so since I had the day off we decided to whisk up to our former hometown and spend the day with her.  It seemed important.  I didn’t want to miss it. I think she was happy that I didn’t want to miss it too. Since I am a multitasker I also scheduled an appointment with my wonderful hair therapist whom I haven’t seen since we moved. (I had the gray hairs showing through to prove it.)  Of course it was prom day (or “up-do day” for hair therapists) so she sweetly squeezed me in early since I was going to be in town. That was the reason for the giant coffee mug and early start.  I really can’t blame my daughter.  Don’t tell her I said that though.

As we took off for a ladies road-trip day I couldn’t help but wonder a little how it was going to feel to return to the town which used to be home.  I hadn’t been back since the day we took off with the U-haul except for one quick trip for a final walk through our old house.  That particular trip left a rather unpleasant taste in my mouth, but that is a rant blog for a different day.  Setting out on the route that is oh-to-familiar I hoped this trip would be a little more fun and produce better memories but  I did wonder if I’d feel weird in such a familiar place now that things have changed.  I had promised my husband that we wouldn’t drive past our old home: something our daughter has struggled with since we moved.  She would drive by and get upset at the changes that were taking place.  Then she’d text me.   It’s hard to say goodbye to a house you grew up in.  It’s even harder when they are changing everything about that place.  Like cutting down all the trees you loved.  Since I am “away” it was easier for me to detach: we don’t live there any more and everything has changed for us.  For her it has been harder: the only thing that has really changed for her is her address and her “parents”. (Trust me – she got the good end of that deal.  Her new “parents” are way more fun, own a Keurig and make homemade blizzards.  She may never come “home”.)  Even though I detached fairly easily there have been times since we moved that I’ve missed that old house.  Like the times when our youngest daughter and I are both trying to get ready to leave in the morning.  I miss having two bathrooms.  Or when the kids are bickering.  I miss the space to send them away from each other.  Or when I’m tired. I miss our private master bedroom.  Just a few times few and far between. For the most part  I am over the moon with happiness at being where we are but there are times.  Driving by the old place, I knew, wouldn’t accomplish a thing.  I didn’t intend to do it.  What I forgot was that when you enter town you can see our old house from the highway if you know where to look.  From the backseat our youngest daughter exclaimed, “Oh my GOSH!  What did they do?? The trees are all gone and it looks stupid!”  Heart sinking a little I turned up the street to take my mom and daughter to the local coffee shop not far from my hair salon without responding to her.  Maybe this hadn’t been a good idea.

Since it was before noon  9am on a Saturday and no teenager in her right mind was going to be awake yet, I dropped off my traveling companions at the coffee shop to wait for daughter #1 to meet them while I got my hair done.  It was really kind of an odd feeling.  Everything there was the same yet it felt so very “different”.   Odd.  My hair appointment helped quite a lot.  There is nothing like being pampered and walking out of a place feeling pretty that helps one frame of mind.  My sweet little hair therapist is a miracle worker and I love just talking with her.  I felt a little more “at home” after spending time there and even better when I arrived to pick up my road trip-mates to discover daughter #1 had rolled out of bed and joined them.  Have I mentioned that I miss that girl?  Giggling and planning for the rest of the day we took off to go to the house where she is living with some very sweet friends of ours.  We had a dress to shorten and time to spend together.  The day was looking up!  It was great to see our friends again and catch up on the happenings of the past five weeks.  While we chatted my mother and I managed to figure out how to shorten my “inherited her mother’s height” daughter’s dress without deconstructing it.  When the last-minute (thanks kid!) dress alterations were complete it was time to take off for her to get her hair done.  Back to the salon.  Half an hour later she emerged with a princess-‘do and we were off to have lunch.  Then back to the house for nails. Make-up.  Last-minute primping.  Every girl needs a day to feel pampered and special and I’m so glad I didn’t miss this day with ours.  It was a wonderful day: a day of girly giggling and spending time with some of the most precious ladies in my life.  Despite the surreal moments of being in our “hometown” but staying in someone else’s home, it was a great day.

After the pictures and the good-bye hugs we watched her drive away before taking off for our return trip.  My mommy heart was a little sad seeing my beautiful girl take off and knowing I wouldn’t see her again for a few weeks.  It was in that frame of mind I pulled out of the driveway in the neighborhood very close to the neighborhood where we used to live.  Out of habit I pulled onto the shortcut street to get to the highway.  The one that runs parallel to the street where we lived.  I didn’t even think about it until we were passing our old house.  “Mom – LOOK!” daughter #2 exclaimed. I couldn’t help it – I glanced over.  I took in the yard now void of trees: the lilac and magnolia and crab apple that I loved to watch bloom every spring.  The pine trees which blocked the view of the garbage trucks parked in the lot behind the house.  Oh my. I quietly observed that I was glad they didn’t make those changes before we moved because I wouldn’t have liked them.  We got to the highway and headed south.  Somewhere in the middle of that trip the feeling of “I just want to get home” set in.  About the same time the realization hit me: I was headed HOME.  I finally realized why things felt a little odd all day long.  Though I have left a large piece of my heart living in our former hometown and I will cherish the memories we have from there the truth is this: It Isn’t Home Any Longer.

Of course I’m going to post a picture of the purpose for our trip.  Isn’t she beautiful??

Three of My Favorite Ladies

Three of My Favorite Ladies

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Back In The Saddle Again!

photo credit:www.joanandarthur.blogspot.com

photo credit:www.joanandarthur.blogspot.com

It was a month ago today that we headed “south” with all our belongings packed into a truck. A month ago that our new adventure began.  What a month it has been!  A month of adjustment: A smaller house.  One bathroom. A dad who is home every day but an oldest daughter who is not.  New schools.  New schedules.  A bus ride for the kids. A month of re-learning how to build a fire in a wood burning stove. Of remembering what a mess snow and rain make a gravel road. (My “keep the cars clean at all times” husband may need therapy soon.)  Of peace and quiet.  Of reconnecting with our families.   For me it meant getting used to not working for a few weeks but that didn’t last long.  I am now in my second week at my job.  Yep.  One interview and I landed a job at a place that I am loving more every day.  (God takes really good care of me.)  More adjusting of schedules.  Did I mention that we have done a lot of adjusting.  It’s been one of the most challenging but rewarding months of my life.  I can honestly now say that I am so glad I laid down my original plans and dove in.  There were days when I wondered if I was losing my mind but I can now tell you it was worth it.  I feel like I’ve been let out of a cage.

I’m happy to report: we now have INTERNET – finally!  Amazing how you don’t really notice how much you depend on something until you can’t have it for a while.  (And I can’t begin to count the number of times I’d think, “That’s going in a blog…oh…wait…”)  It’s also amazing how something that sounds like it should be simple like, oh… reconnecting to the world-wide web…can get so complicated.  Who knew  that our former internet provider, who also happens to be our television provider, couldn’t possibly provide the same service we had aaaaalllll the way out here.  Four miles from town.  Apparently the exact same dish doesn’t work in the country.  Interesting isn’t it?   Thankfully there are all sorts of options out there for us “country folk” so after sorting through and comparing plans we finally chose one and got reconnected: without tunneling wire from my  parent’s modem to our house I might add.  You know what this all means right?

It means that while I may miss a day or two while I adjust back to working and my longer daily commute I am back in the blogging saddle.  Of course I’ve never been a big fan of horses.  Maybe I’ll go for this kind of saddle….

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Hitting The Wall And Finding The Gift

Photo Credit: www-static.weddingbee.com

It was bound to happen really. One can only go so long at full speed, or what feels like full speed,  before one winds up running smack into “the wall”.  You know “the wall” right?  The place where you figure out that you are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.  I don’t know why I was surprised by my wall but I was.  You’d think I would have seen it ahead but apparently I was running blind or thinking I could go around it.  Maybe I thought I could plow through it.  Silly me.

It’s been a draining two and a half weeks.

Draining physically: packing, purging junk, cleaning, unpacking, cleaning, laundry…did I mention cleaning and packing?  I always thought I was a neat, clean and organized person.  I now know I was delusional.  Or maybe I now know that life has a way of making things messy. I do know for sure that cleaning to leave a house that you’ve lived in for so long makes you discover muscles, and dirt, that you never noticed before.  I also now know that a family of six accumulates a lot of stuff.  Probably too much stuff.

Draining mentally: remembering all the last-minute details, making sure you’ve taken care of everything before you move, figuring out what things you need to function and what things can be stored for a while.  We downsized to a MUCH smaller house for now.  Trying to find the line between necessary and functional while still wanting to achieve the feel of “home” was a little more daunting than I thought it would be. (Remember I just said we have too much stuff?)  While doing that at home I was trying to ensure that everything at the job I was leaving was lined up and easy for those who followed me.  I didn’t realize how many details there were to my former job until I started trying to list all my tasks.  Life is kind of like that isn’t it?  We don’t realize how much there is to  the “ordinary stuff”.

Draining emotionally: leaving a job I had for 12 years, friends I had for 14 years, the house where we raised our children and, worst of all, our oldest daughter.  That may have been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  I spent a portion of the day following our move looking at the snow, missing her and crying.  Emotionally drained. Of course along with the hard stuff was the good stuff. Like returning “home” after 21 years. Moving into a house that belonged to my grandparents where my memories are so happy. Life is kind of like that most of the time isn’t it?  There is always good mixed in with hard.  Sometimes I think that makes it more confusing.

Of course there is always just the stress that goes along with moving.  Like getting the moving truck stuck in mud, twice.  Or eight inches of blowing snow the day after you get to your new home.  Or trying to remember which box you packed the toilet paper in.  We had great help and I will forever be grateful but the bottom line is this: moving is hard.  And tiring.  You’d think I’d have seen that wall coming. But I didn’t. Or I ignored it.

I tend to function best at full speed.  I like a plan and a deadline. I like to be busy. So really the last two weeks were right up my alley: I had a goal to accomplish and a checklist to get through.  It works for me.  Well it works for a while.  We got moved.  We got settled.  The younger two children got settled into their new schools. I had a job interview.  Things were clicking along according to the schedule in my brain.   In my brain I need to be working again soon. I thought I was on track for that. I have settled the house, gotten the kids settled in school, established a routine…there is really nothing left for me to accomplish here.  I’m not used to all this free time and it’s messing with my head. Then yesterday I found out that the job that I interviewed for and thought I got I may not have gotten.  I’ll find out next Monday.  That threw me for a loop. What it really did was throw me into the wall.

The wall which reminded me that I can’t control everything.  The wall that says not everything is going to go according to my plans or schedule.  The hard wall.  The solid wall. The wall that knocked me on my fanny for half a day.  The wall that made me stop mid-rush and realize that I had been throwing away a gift.  A gift of some time to rest and take a break from frantic living.  The gift of being able to just hang out with my parents and the rest of my family for a while.  The gift of quiet.  The gift of peace.  The time to take a deep breath and relax a little.  I didn’t even know I needed that until now.

So what’s the “plan” for today?  I’m going to sip coffee and enjoy the view from my front window:

or maybe the back one:

Later I’m going to make dinner for my parents who are returning from a trip out of town for a few days. Until then maybe I’ll read a book.  Or take a nap.  Do a craft.  Bake something.  I really have no plan.

Whatever I do I intend to enjoy my unexpected gift!

Photo Credit: http://www.ebay.com

 

 

 

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Wednesday Wonderings – I’m Baaaack!

WonderingWednesday

 

Well…I’m almost back.  I’m blogging to you live today from our new landlord/neighbor…okay my parents’ home.  We have yet to get back “online” at our new location. It’s a long story involving cut phone lines and routers and metal studs but I won’t bore you with that.  I’ll just steal bandwidth from my ever-loving, ever-forgiving parents for now.  It’s been a busy two weeks. Enough to make a girl wonder.

  1. Why is it that no matter how well you think you’ve planned nothing ever goes as you thought it would?  That isn’t always bad, of course, but it sure makes me wonder why I wasted the time planning.  Of course if I hadn’t…
  2. Who hired the rodent to predict when spring was going to arrive?  He lies.  Eight inches of snow the day after we moved in…more predicted this weekend.  Last year at this time the magnolia tree in our yard…well our old yard…was starting to bloom.  Early spring? I don’t think so!
  3. Does anyone find it strangely amusing that your kids don’t appreciate you until you aren’t around any longer?  Our oldest daughter called last night and informed me how much she appreciates that I did her laundry all the time.  She just figured that out?
  4. Why do I own so many pitchers?  No one is that thirsty.
  5. Why is it so easy to fall out of a routine and so hard to get back into one.  Seriously: two weeks off the treadmill and this week you’d think I was going to die.  So much for thinking I’m in pretty good shape.  (Well…round is a shape.)
  6. Have you ever noticed that the stuff that drove you crazy as a kid you now enjoy?  I’m kind of liking the quiet and distance of being in the country right now.
  7. Why is it than when you are working you wish you could say home but when you are home you wish you had a job?  I’ve figured out I am no longer wired to be a stay at home mom.  Might have something to do with the fact that my kids are gone all day….
  8. Are anybody else’s parents like a thousand percent funnier now that they are older?  I swear…these are not the people who raised me.  Well they are but a kid playing a recorder for them seems to annoy them less these days.
  9. Who knew that the heat from a wood burning stove was so much warmer?  Okay a lot of people probably knew that but I just figured it out.
  10. Does anyone else achingly miss the internet when they don’t have access? If I had a dime for every time I’ve said, “well just look it up…oh…wait….” recently I’d be able to start my own internet provider company.

I’m also wondering how I made it this long without checking in on everyone.  Forgive me. It isn’t that I haven’t thought about it – or all of you! Happy mid-week all!

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You Might Be Moving If…..

moving

 

  1. You have recently discovered muscles you weren’t aware you had.
  2. Your heating pad has found a permanent residence on the lumbar region of your recliner.
  3. You find yourself asking “Where the heck did that come from?” more than once….an hour.
  4. Your children ask, “Mom where did you put….” and this time it really is your fault.
  5. You begin thinking in three categories: toss, donate, pack, and suddenly “toss” is your favorite.
  6. You suddenly understand why some people just leave everything in the house when they move.
  7. You discover dirt and belongings you never knew you had.
  8. Episodes of “Hoarders” constantly run through your head.
  9. Your new obsession in life is to find the tape.
  10. You resort to using a putty knife to attack that pesky hard water build-up in your bathtub.
  11. White vinegar is your new friend.
  12. You have to resist the urge to stick a label marked “Storage” on your children’s foreheads.
  13. Your daughters suddenly have a whole “new” supply of bobby pins.
  14. You resolve to be a better housekeeper in the next place….and then laugh.
  15. At any given time you can be found crying or laughing depending on what you are packing.  No need for medication…..I think that’s normal…..

moving-tip-_81

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Here Comes The Curve Ball!

I’m pretty sure by now I have mentioned a few hundred times that I am a woman who likes a plan.  I work at the plan…live the plan…the plan owns me.  As hard as I have tried to become more flexible and “go with the flow-ish” there is a significant part of me that turns to liquid when my plans get messed up.  You may now call me “water woman.” My very observant readers may have notice that the countdown on my sidebar has drastically changed today.  If you didn’t I’m going to guess you have now because you just looked. (That’s what I would have done.) If you have no idea what I’m talking about….hang on.  I’m going to explain the giant-sized, ain’t-no-way-you-saw-that-coming curve ball pitched at me this week, destroying “The Plan” and turning my life on its proverbial ear.  It’s not a bad pitch really.  I just didn’t see it coming.

In order for this to make perfect sense I have to back up a little. I apologize to my followers who have already heard this story. Skim this portion okay?   In October of 2011 my amazing husband took a job in a town located about an hour and a half south of where we currently live.  It was a great opportunity for him and it seemed foolish to pass it up.  Our problem was that our oldest daughter was into her junior year of high school and wasn’t interested (at ALL) in moving.  We conferred,  plotted, prayed and hashed out until we came to the conclusion that he would take the job and the children and I would remain where we are until after our daughter graduates from high school.  His schedule worked out to four days there and then four days home.  He stays with his parents who live near the town where he works on his days “on” and then comes home for his days off. Pretty easy right?  Until you add extra shifts.  And overtime.  And weather.  And the fact that we have been doing this for 15 long months.  I have discovered that I am not wired for single parenting.  (I’m not actually a single parent – he’s always reachable – but it feels like it when he’s gone.)  I have learned a lot about myself, life and what is important over these months.  It hasn’t been all bad.  It’s just been very long. Recently it began to feel longer and longer and….well…..like drudgery.  But we had a plan.  A goal.  I could live with it because there was a plan in place.  I could pep talk myself though it because I knew where we were headed.  Until a few weeks ago.

A few weeks ago my husband received the information about the spring outage at the power plant where he is an operator. Without getting too boring detailed, the outage essentially is a time when they shut things down to fix them. It means my husband works six days a week.  It’s great money but we only see him for that one day and then he goes back.  We survived the four-week outage last fall so I wasn’t concerned about the spring one until I found out it will be eight weeks long this time. Eight weeks of him only being home one day a week.  Oh….and the days will run up until – literally – the day before our daughter’s graduation.  The graduation for which  I am supposed hold an open house and then begin packing the very next day so we can be out of our house in a week and a half.  Suddenly I was not only concerned,  I hit my breaking point.  I can do a lot of things but this all seemed to be too much.  I knew somewhere in my head it wasn’t going to work.  I looked at my husband and said, “I don’t think I can do this any more.”  That’s what the curve ball set itself in motion.  My moment of coming to the end of my rope and realizing that my bloodied hands were about to slip off.  It turns out my husband was losing his grip on his rope also.  So were our kids.  It was most decidedly time to re-evaluate “The Plan.”   So that is what we’ve been doing for the past few weeks: Re-evaluating, exploring options, talking through things.  Without boring you with all the gory details of the very long story of our past few weeks I will tell you that the consensus was that it is just time to move.  The details of how we were going to do that were a little more tricky to plan out.  Seemingly impossible. I was ready to concede back to the original Plan. Then….BAM!  This week things lined up and the curve ball was pitched.

Now instead of moving the end of may we are set to move March 9th.  Our oldest daughter will live with some friends until she graduates.  While that makes my heart hurt I also know she is ready and it is only for 9 weeks. We get her back for the summer before she leaves for college.  We don’t have a house but we are fortunately will be able to stay in my grandparent’s house on my parent’s property until we can find what we want.  I don’t have a job yet but now I will be in the area and I can explore my options more thoroughly without the pressure of having to secure an income so quickly. We’ve been given a gift.  The gift of rest and refreshing and the time to do things the way we’d like to do them.  A few months ago if you would have told any of us that this is the direction we were going to head we would have laughed at you.  It wasn’t in The Plan after all.  Today this just seems like a better plan.  My notice has been given, the younger kids’ schools contacted and things are in motion.  No turning back now.

For the last few days I have gone from being wildly excited to completely overwhelmed depending on the moment.  My head is swimming with the million things that need to be done, both at my job and at our home, before we leave.  My heart is beating a happy tune at the thought of finally – FINALLY – moving back “home.”  My countdown counter went from 122 days to 43 in a matter of moments. My posts may (and probably will) become a bit sporadic in the next few weeks.  If you don’t hear from me fear not.  I am most likely buried in a sea of moving boxes or paperwork or busyness or last minute check-listing. I might be sitting in the middle of my floor crying depending on the day.  I’m going to guess both things will happen in the course of the next month but I’m okay with that.  I’m learning to just work the plan that is in front of me and know that it may change. What I’ve learned this week is this:

Curve balls can mess with your mind and are not easy to hit but if you connect with one chances are high that you’ll knock it out of the park.

photo credit: www.zazzle.com

photo credit: http://www.zazzle.com

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Confessions of a Hypocritical Hoarder

embarrassed-chimpThere was a time in my life when I considered becoming a professional organizer.  Seriously.  I just think that way so it seemed like it might be a good profession for me.  I am not typically a “keeper.”  The general rule at our house is that if it doesn’t fit or you haven’t used or worn it for a year it needs to go out the door.  I like things to be neat: a place for everything and everything in its place. (Yes you may start to feel sorry for my family now.)  Then I started watching episodes of Hoarders on A&E and decided I wasn’t “called” that direction.  I haven’t got enough patience to be that nice to people.  I also have a fairly low gag reflex.  Yeah.  I couldn’t walk into some of those places.  So I set aside my grand dream of professional organizing and continued to watch the show, fascinated by how crazy (and gross) people are about keeping their stuff.  It’s just stuff – right?  That’s what I always thought in my analytical little brain anyway until  this past weekend.  That’s when I discovered that I may, in fact, be a hoarder.  And maybe a hypocrite. Wow!

As I have mentioned compulsively  a few times I have been going through our belongings and downsizing as much as possible before our move this spring.  This weekend was another “sort and purge” weekend at our home.  We successfully attacked my husband’s side of the closet and removed a 33 gallon trash bag full of clothes for donation. My mantra to him was, “If you aren’t going to wear it then get rid of it.”   We finally got rid of the dress clothes that have been hanging there from twelve years ago when he had an “office job.”  Out the door. Yeah! I discovered my husband doesn’t like crew neck sweatshirts – who knew?  Well….I guess he knew.  He just never said anything.  We sorted and tossed and bagged.  Then I turned my attention to my side of the closet.  I am usually pretty good about getting rid of stuff that I no longer wear so I was confident that this would be a quick job.  Since losing weight I had already gotten rid of a lot of my clothes.  As I was sorting my husband looked at me and said, “Why are you keeping that sweater?”  I responded, “This is a great sweater.”  His reply, “It is a great sweater.  It is also at least two sizes too big for you now.”  Busted.  I’m a hypocrite.  The more I looked I realized that I had been keeping back some of my “big” clothes….you know…just in case I decided to go on a binge and gain that fifty pounds back.  After my husband’s reassuring, “Honey it has been two years.  You aren’t going to gain the weight back” speech I let that sweater go.  And some other “fat clothes” I had hidden in the back.  I am happy to say they are all gone now.  Mostly.  Who in their right mind gets rid of a really warm cozy sweatshirt that is three sizes too big?  That’s like heaven on your back.

Later that day I decided it was time to go through my collection of cake pans.  I used to love to decorate cakes when I had the time but I just don’t have much time any longer.  I knew in my head that I needed to get rid of some of those pans. We are downsizing after all.  As I started in on the shelves I discovered pans that I used for my kids: Pooh, Blue’s Clues, Barbie, A Bug’s Life, Tweety, Wall-E….you get the drift.  Suddenly my head was full of images of my children when they were young and their excitement over their  cakes.  Here are a few memories:

Youngest Daughter Lyndsie with her Teddy Bear Cake

Youngest Daughter Lyndsie with her Teddy Bear Cake

 

Oldest Daughter Brittnie and her Tweety cake.

Oldest Daughter Brittnie and her Tweety cake.

Oldest son Erik with his Flick Cake

Oldest son Erik with his Flick Cake

Youngest son, Jakob, with Wall-E

Youngest son, Jakob, with Wall-E

Before you ask – yes those really are two different boys. (Scary – isn’t it?)  And – no – I have no idea why I don’t have a picture of our oldest daughter with a cake.  I made her a Blue’s Clues Cake 3 times for her 5th birthday. (One for school, one for her family party and one for her friend party.  Yes.  I was nuts.)  There has to be a photo of that some where. **UPDATE – I couldn’t find Blue’s Clues but I did find Tweety!  YAY!

As I was standing in our storage room staring at those pans my husband walked in.  Instantly he understood my mother’s heart dilemma.  “You know,” he said, “You could save those.  We might have grand kids some day.”  He threw me a life line. Whew!  Okay.  I packed those. Who cares if my grandchildren won’t know who Wall-E was? They might need a cake some day!   I moved on to the pans that used to belong to my grandmother.  Surely it would be easier to purge some of those.  And it was.  At first.  And then I stumbled across this:

cakepan1

and this:

cakepan2

Suddenly I remembered the cakes that my grandmother made for my younger cousins in these pans.  And the cakes she made for me in different pans.  I remembered birthday parties and family and fun.  Suddenly I couldn’t get rid of these pans that are connected to my childhood.  At the very least I should offer them to my cousins’ wives but I don’t even think I am going to do that.  Nope.  I’m going to pack them in a box and some day make a Bert and Ernie or Cookie Monster cake for a grandchild.  Yep. That’s what I’m going to do.  Yep. I’m a hypocrite.  I intend to find a group for cake pan hoarders soon so that I can join.  I kind of understand where they are coming from now.

hoarders

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Thanksgiving Potluck and What Ifs

Yesterday we attended what will be our final Thanksgiving potluck at the church where we’ve attended and  I’ve worked for the past 12 years.  I have to admit that we’ve skipped many of those meals over the years.  First of all I’m not a huge potluck fan.  I’ve seen some of these people’s homes and eating food that has come from those homes makes me nervous.  Does that make me a snot?  Perhaps, but I’m just being honest.   I realize that there are lots of restaurants that are probably worse but at least I haven’t seen their kitchens.  Besides they at least get inspected from time to time by the health department.  I finally remedied this by becoming a “pan reader” .  Yes – I read the labels on the pan to see who brought it. If it isn’t labeled or I didn’t see who brought it in I don’t eat it.  (Welcome to my retentive world.)  I also have the propensity to skip fellowship events because I am the church secretary.  Every time I walk through the door whether I’m “on the clock” or not. I can count on at least 3 people asking me about something that has to do with my job while trying to eat during a fellowship dinner.  And then they get annoyed if I don’t jump to solve the issue right then or remember what they told me the next day.  Combine those two main ingredients and I’m more of a “potluck skipper.” Yesterday, however, we decided to stay since this will be one of our last opportunities to attend such a function.

I was reminded how much I love these people as I walked by one table where one of our “seasoned saints” was busily stuffing food into her take home Tupperware container after she finished eating.  A few years ago that would have annoyed me and I would have been appalled that anyone would be that tacky.  Yesterday, however, it made me laugh, almost out loud.  This sweet lady is one of the funniest old women I know.  I hope I’m that funny when I get to that age so that I can get away with stuff.  She is the church “picture taker” – always there to capture the moment.  With some of the worst pictures I’ve ever seen.  Then she gets doubles printed so you can have a copy of what you look like from a toddler’s vantage point. (did I mention she is short?) I have some really great shots of the inside of my husband’s nose because of this sweet lady.  She’s also a notorious driver.  I used to think they called her “flash” because of the picture think.  Nope.  She drives fast. Always.  While trying to do something else like touch up the frosting on a cake she’s decorating. (Yes – I’m serious.)  How she still has insurance is beyond me.   She also deeply cares about everyone’s lives (almost to the point of being intrusive) and does stuff for people that no one else would ever do.  I love this woman and I’m going to miss her.  I realized that as I watched her fill up her lunch dish for the next day.  She is one of a kind and I’ll never meet another lady like her.  Though she’s caused me a few headaches at my job over the years I am so thankful to have had the chance to cross her path (though not with my car – whew!) for these years.

Chuckling I walked toward the table where my family was located when I stopped to talk to friend.  She noted that she was surprised to see me there because she knows my feelings about potluck food and being “on duty” at church things.  I smiled and told her that we figured that since it was the last Thanksgiving we’d be here I figured we ought to come.  Besides I’m am getting pretty good at reading pans.  We had a laugh and I went on, but her words stuck with me the rest of the afternoon.  I kind of felt bad that people would be surprised to see me.  We’ve attended this church for a long time and have attended lots of things over the years but once I got to thinking about it I realized that it has been less and less over the past few years.  Part of it I suppose is feeling tired and burnt out.  Part of it is feeling that you are about to move on and being anxious to get there.  Part of it, however, is plain flat being complacent. Things are always going to be the same, right?  Somehow knowing that we are leaving has snapped me out of some of that.  We are trying to enjoy these last months here in the place that has been home for so long.  We are trying to leave nothing unsaid or undone.  It makes me stop and wonder, though: what if we lived like we were moving all the time?

What if we’d take every opportunity we could to enjoy what is going on like it’s the last time it could happen.  I know that a person cannot possibly participate in every activity and I would never suggest that anyone should try but what if we’d make sure to be there more than not being there?  Since we found out about our upcoming move we have purposed to do just that.  Participate in things one last time and enjoy them to their fullest.  As long and drawn out as this move has seemed to be I will forever be grateful that I’ve had time to say goodbye to some things.  To let them go on a high note and with good memories.  We don’t always have that chance in life.

What if we’d purge the stuff that isn’t important.  I have been in all out downsize mode lately.  If we haven’t used it in a while or no longer need it it is going out the door.  What if we lived that way?  Getting rid of junk that is just taking up space. I’m talking both physically and metaphorically here of course.  I’ve had no greater joy lately than giving stuff away to people who I know will use it an enjoy it.  Life is meant to be shared not hoarded.  Junk just gets in your way eventually.

What if we’d live like we knew that we wouldn’t be around much longer?  Would the little things, like my sweet friend and her Tupperware, annoy us as much any longer?  I can tell you in my life: no.  Instead I see the sweet things in people,  The things about them that I’m going to miss.  I think about all the things that so many people have done for and with us over the years and the silly stuff just doesn’t seem to matter.   What  if I took the time to do that more often instead of just when I’m getting ready to move?  I’m sure I’d probably be a sweeter person.

What if we’d purpose to have more fun and enjoy things more because we knew we wouldn’t get the chance again? Would are days be fuller and our hearts more content?

I’ll be forever grateful to my friend for making that statement.  She has no idea that it had that big of an impact on me. She was mostly trying to be funny in her blunt honest way.  What if we all were honest with each other more often?  I wonder if we’d all get to thinking about the little things a little more.

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200 Days

Those of you who are observant and in to details may have noticed that I’ve added a countdown widget to my page today. (Those of you who didn’t notice don’t feel bad.  I recently discovered that one of the clocks in my house had not been working for a week or so.)  I’m kind of bummed that I couldn’t find one that actually shows days instead of months at this point but I had not the time, energy or savvy to mess with it for too long.  The occasion for adding a “ticker”?  Today marks 200 days to go before we move.  I know I probably seem obsessive about moving but that’s only because I mostly am.  A commuter marriage is novel for the first few months or so but it loses some shine after that.  It might also be that I am not wired for single parenting.  At all.  My respect level for those who do it has risen tremendously in the last 397 days.

Last night at supper we all realized that we have hit the 200 day mark. It might have something to do with the countdown sign we have written on the whiteboard on the refrigerator but I can’t be certain.  At any rate we began talking about moving.  It occurred to me that none of my children who currently live at home remember much about moving. Our oldest daughter was 4 and our youngest daughter 1 when we moved into this house.  Our youngest son wasn’t born yet. They really have no clue what is coming at them. I decided that in order to properly prepare them for the task ahead I should clue them in on a few things.

I have been in “purge” mode for a while now.  If we don’t use it or don’t need it any longer it is going away.  In the process of purging I began posting some things on a local exchange page.  (Kind of like a virtual garage sale without the stickers or having to sit in your garage all day.) It’s a little addictive to have people pay you for stuff you don’t want so I kind of switched into “sell” mode somewhere in there.  Walking around the house looking for things to sell.  That is a little scary for some reason.  My oldest daughter noted a fear that I would sell her bed soon (click here for that conversation).  I may not be quite that far over the edge yet but I did inform them that it is in their best interest to take care of their stuff and not leave things lying around looking useless.  It could be posted and sold before they even notice it isn’t in their room.

Boxes have become a precious commodity. There are never enough boxes to pack in and I hate paying for the professional ones.  I don’t hate it enough to make myself dumpster dive however.  Moral to my children: check before you discard a box or you may end up dumpster diving.

When we finally move there will be some key players and things they should know about them. This information is based purely on past experience. These people have helped me move before.  They are as follows:

  • My mother will probably come up early to help me pack.  I adore my mom and she has a lot of experience packing from the years she spent as an Air Force wife.  She wraps everything well in layers of newspaper.  What’s in that huge box? 2 casserole dishes but there isn’t a chip on them!  We could roll the moving truck and nothing is going to break because my mother packed it.  Note to self: start saving newspapers.  In fact ask the neighbors to start saving newspaper also.  Oh – and stock up on dish soap because it’ll take a lot to get all the newsprint off of stuff when you unpack.
  • My father and his tape measure.  With his engineering brain my daddy knows the exact slope, angle and speed at which something will fit through an opening.  He measures twice and moves stuff once.  Between he and my brother-in-law who also has an engineer brain we know exactly how each thing should exit and enter the building so as to alleviate scratches or marks.  We also know what isn’t going to fit and will need to be disassembled.  Or just left in the old house.  Note to self: stock up on Advil because that is going to  be paired with….
  • My brother.  He, much like my husband, honestly believes that anything will fit as long as you shove it hard enough.  They are the man handlers of the family.  Note to self: remove door frames and buy touch up paint.  Also good to note with my brother is that it better be packed and ready to go when he arrives because it is going in the truck anyway.  I fondly remember one move across town.  My hanging clothes, which I was going to put neatly in the back seat of my car after most of the other things were moved, made the move under the china hutch I think.
  • My oldest son.  He’s the muscle.  I fondly remember when we needed to move a refrigerator from the garage to the basement.  He invited two of his football buddies over and they picked it up and walked it around the yard and down into the basement for us. (No dolly.)  It really is odd to watch appliances walk through your back yard.  All it cost me was some homemade cinnamon rolls.  Note to self: see if he still has those boys’ telephone numbers.
  • My sister.  She is the cheerleader.  On one move I distinctly remember her saying, “Look at the bright side: if they break that you can go get something new to replace it.”  She has good ideas, my sister does.  Note to self: keep her away from the family heirlooms.
  • My mother-in-law.  This woman has more energy than five women half her age.  Give her a room full of boxes and she isn’t coming out until the boxes are empty and the room is organized. She also remembers the details like, “hey people might be hungry” and takes care of it. The woman is amazing and a huge blessing.  Note to self: stock up on five hour energy drinks so you can pretend to keep up with her.
  • My father-in-law. On previous moves this man could carry more boxes than anyone I’ve ever met – and put them in the right room I might add.  Time and some health problems have made that not possible but he will still contribute his biggest asset: the man is funny.  He keeps us all laughing and lighthearted.  On our last move I remember him walking in, laughing,  and saying, “This box is marker ‘tall stuff’.  Is that a specific room or…?”  My laughing reply was, “Yeah….we were a little loopy by the time we got to that box.”  He grinned and said, “I guessed that.”  He’s also the one who can keep my husband calm.  Just like girls need their moms sometimes boys need their dads.

Yep. Those are things I know are coming and the crew who I know will be around to help when the time comes.  And it’s coming fast: 200 days to go!

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A First, Some Lasts, and Hitting My Stride

It’s been an active and crazy fall at our house.  This is not a new thing really.  It happens every fall with the restart of school and all the activities that surround it. This year has been different, however.  This fall is our last fall in this house.  In this town.  At these schools.  It’s really rather weird when I stop to think about it and I’ve been trying to think about it as much as possible.  I want to savor the lasts.  Enjoy them. Remember them.  It’s a difficult balancing act: trying to enjoy the now while looking toward the future and wondering what it’ll be like at the same time remembering the past and feeling a bit wistful.  The last two weeks have been brought a slew of balancing and savoring for me. It’s kind of knocked me off my “stride” for a while.

As we do every year we finished cleaning up our yard for winter, bringing in the decorative things that would get ruined in the snow.  Normally those things get put in a tote and stored in the garden shed in our back yard.  This year was a little different.  We won’t be using those things here ever again so everything was brought in, cleaned and packed in a moving box.  My first moving box has been packed.  Weird but exciting at the same time.  I wonder what my birdhouses and stepping stones and garden figures will look like in our new yard?  They sure looked cute in this one. As I dumped the dirt from my trusty planters and flower pots, washed them and packed them I couldn’t help but smile thinking about all the flowers they’ve held at this house.  The color they’ve added to our yard. I hope there is a spot for them at the new one.

We attended the last home football game for the local public school.  As we bundled up and walked to the stadium located just a few blocks from our house I realized that it was the last time I would ever make that trip.  We’ve been walking to every home football game ever since our oldest son started suiting up for varsity six years ago.  After he graduated we went to cheer on his friends and our oldest daughter in the band.  This year: two daughters in the band.  Multiple Friday nights in fall walking to that stadium to watch and that night was our last walk to a game in this town.  I wondered what we’d be doing next fall on Friday nights.  Which stadium we’d be going to. Would we be able to walk there?  I guess time will tell but I made sure to savor that last home football game in the “home stands” in our current town.  I may be back to watch a game someday but I’ll be sitting on the other side.  I wanted to soak in the atmosphere, the sounds, the smells, the familiar feel.  It was no wonder I told my husband we didn’t need to leave early even though the team was leading by a lot and my feet were freezing.  I’ve spent a lot of time in those bleachers. Spending a few more for a final time seemed important at that moment.

The next day we traveled to watch what will most likely be the last band competition we will ever attend.  The school districts we are looking at for our youngest two children don’t compete in field marching competitions.  They still have band and march in parades and do halftime shows but it will be different. No traveling on Saturdays to watch them march.  No intense “we have to get a 1” pressure all fall.  As much as we’ve enjoyed the competitions I think I might be looking forward to that part: just band that is fun.  Because it was the only year our two girls will ever march together and the last year we will ever be involved in field marching competitions we wanted to make sure we made it to every competition.  We wanted to savor.  The last one was no exception.  We stayed the entire day and well into the night for the awards.  It was the last time.  We can attend again in the future but it will be different because our kids won’t be competing.   It was worth the long chilly day and the long drive home well into the night.  It was worth being tired the next day.  It won’t come along again.

This past weekend was the final musical our daughters will ever participate in at this high school.  The only one they will ever be in together.  Our oldest daughter’s last one ever.  Guess who made sure they were there? We “tag-team” attended this time: I went one night with grandparents, my husband went the next night after he got off work for the week. He got the bad end of that bargain.  He was the one who had to hug our crying daughter after the show.  He’s the one who had to find the right words to say. She’s well aware that we are hitting some last times too. This time next year she will be off at college and on to the next exciting chapter in her life. That is normal and a good thing.  The difference for her is that “home” will no longer be here.  It will have moved to a different town where she won’t be as excited to come back to attend things at the high school.  She won’t know that high school or its teachers or former students.  She’ll show up to support her siblings, but it won’t be the same for her.  She is busy doing her own savoring.

About this time of the year every year just as I feel I’m about to the end of my rope things slow down for a few weeks allowing me to regroup.  Regroup time is a good thing for me.  It’s a better thing for my family who has to put up with me.  After weeks of being too busy to do much more than cursory housework my irritability rises.  I begin to feel swamped and overwhelmed and my family starts to pay for it.  I’m not a pleasant person to be around when I’m in that state of mind. Everything starts to fall apart: the house, my exercise routine, my mood…you get the picture.  This year has been no exception.   In fact this year may have been worse with the added pressure of not wanting to miss anything and thinking about our impending move.  Thankfully I was able to regroup a little this weekend.  I had a day to throughly clean our home.  I purged some things in the process. I got back on track with my exercise routine.  Life seems a little less frantic and more under control again.  This is a good thing for both me and the poor people who have to live with me. My mood has improved as some order was restored to the chaos.  It’s just in time.

Our last holidays in this house are coming up and I intend to enjoy them as much as possible.  I want to be able to blend the nostalgia of past holidays with the excitement of what is to come next year while enjoying this year’s celebrations.  It’s a balancing act.  At least now I feel like I’m hitting my stride again.

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