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Next Chapter

13 Feb

I know that I have been lagging in my blogging obligations lately but don’t judge, I’ve been a bit busy.   If you are one of my three (or so) faithful followers and you’ve been panicked by my absence from the cyber universe, please take the hospitals off of speed dial and stop scouring the streets, I am fine.  I simply moved half-way across the country.

Map

I am not going to lie to you folks, it is cold out here on the Minnesota prairie.  Freaking cold!  Like, breath-in-and-the-snot-in-your-nose-turns-to-ice-pellets kind of cold.  But who’s complaining?  We chose this and I’m loving it!  Frankly, I’ll take the bitter cold temps over blazing hot sun any day.  Then again, it’s only been a month of this kind of weather and I’ve only experienced approximately 2 days where the wind chill hit about -30.  Check back after a few winters of these kinds of shenanigans and I may be singing a different tune.

For anyone wanting a little glimpse of what has been going on over the past two months, here you have it.  

miss you

Basically, when I wrap it all up in a nutshell, I cried…a lot.  I cried for myriad reasons but the two most prevalent were out of sadness and from exhaustion.  After I originally wrote this post and poured my heart out about the inner tinkerings of my mind and the kindling for each emotion, I realized…no one really wants to read about my teary episodes!  Simply put, I was sad about moving away from friends and family and about leaving the home that held so many important memories for our family.  I was tired from all of the packing while also dealing with trying to keep my three year-old fed (I admit that a lot of pizza and take-out was involved), clothed (nothing matched and there were many days when PJ’s were worn from one morning to the next), and out of the way of potential death traps that had become the towers of boxes in our living room.  I was exhausted from doing all of this on my own* (my husband had already departed for Minnesota in early November to start his new job, but don’t give him grief, he packed and prepped as much as he could before he left).  I was horrified at the fact that I was finding more than the usual two gray hairs upon my head (the count is now up to seven).   I was plain old pissed at the fact that the consultant for the moving company that we  hired had told me that we had “a lot of stuff,” therefore (and very logically) making it my mission to prove him wrong by getting our total haul in under weight of his estimation. (Mission accomplished, by the way!  We recently got word that we came in over 400lbs under their estimated weight.  Take that, Gary!  Mr. Judgy Gary with your clip board and calculator!  Who’s the skinny bitch now?  Yeah, me. That’s right, ME!)

When our house finally sold, I was elated.  When I found out that the couple who bought our home was not the elderly couple I had envisioned, a pair so old and feeble that they would have no energy or desire to alter any of our renovations, I quickly turned to demonizing them and casting them as characters that I had to hate rather than accept as people that I might actually get along with, or worse, people that the my friends in my neighborhood might actually get along with and befriend.  The buyers quickly became known and Biff and Buffy and I envisioned them as the “Two A**Holes” couple from Saturday Night Live.

It turns out that they actually aren’t so bad.  We’ve had some contact through our realtors and it seems that they truly are appreciative of the home’s age and character.  In one note to us, they wrote that we had “wonderful taste” so I am willing to revoke their “Biff and Buffy” status.  A note to my friends “in the neighborhood” back East: I still don’t want to hear about if you all become Besties with this couple and start hanging out every Friday and Saturday to host fabulous wine and cheese parties highlighted by rousing games of Bananagrams.  I’m still in a delicate frame of mind.

So, my family and I forge on and continue to adapt here in the Great Midwest.  The most shocking aspect of this move is how NICE the people are.  I’m used to a keep-to-yourself, don’t-hold-up-the-line, fast-paced culture. Here, it’s different.  I find myself apologizing profusely in the grocery store when my daughter runs ahead of me and bumps into another patron in the canned fruit aisle.  Said patron simply stops and smiles and offers us a mint from her purse.  In the check-out line, I frantically search my seemingly bottomless purse for my member’s card, mortified that there are three families behind me waiting their turn.  Instead of staring me down, the gentleman behind me strikes up a conversation about a detox diet that he saw on “Good Morning America” that morning.  And, apparently, no one is suspicious of anyone else.  This fact was just proven by a bathroom break.  While writing this post at a Panera Bread, I decided to pause and gently leaned toward the trio of women sitting next to me and asked if they would mind keeping an eye on my stuff while I went to the restroom.  All three of them stared at me blankly, as if my request were absurd.  I guess it may have been to them, but in the past, a bathroom break required the gathering and packing of all my possessions (coat, purse, computer bag, coffee cup—ya know, in case a shady character had intentions of lacing it with something in my absence), hauling it to the bathroom, and then unpacking it all over again upon exiting.  I used to do this multiple times in one coffee-shop work-session.  Now, I feel as if I could leave my phone, my car keys, and a blank check in plain sight without consequence.  In fact, I did just leave all of those things out-and-about without consequence.

Don’t be surprised if my next post is about the filing of a police report detailing a stolen phone, keys, and checkbook.

blank check

*Disclaimer: Let it be known henceforth and hereafter that being “on my own” makes reference only to the temporary separation of my husband and myself set forth by the circumstances of having 1,171 miles inserted between our physical locations on this planet.  In no way is it meant to reflect the status of our relationship nor to insinuate that he didn’t do everything in his power to prepare for the move before he left and offer support while he was away.  Let it also my known (a double-disclaimer, if you will), that I did have help in this endeavor.  My parents, in-laws and multiple friends helped in countless ways to get us from point A to point B and we are forever grateful to them.

Live By The List

15 Nov

In the midst of our moving madness, I came to the realization of just how much I live my life according to what is written in list format. I have lists for everything:

  • grocery lists
  • to-do lists
  • don’t forget lists
  • household lists
  • work lists
  • call back lists
  • email lists
  • gift lists
  • weekly menu lists

I even have a list of the things to mention in this blog post about lists.

Admittedly many of these lists overlap in content, but to me, their redundancy is just extra assurance that I won’t forget about them. I get so crazy with my lists that I will often take the time to re-write and organize them.

I know that list-making is normal, David Letterman has been making it a staple of his show for years, but I kind of think that I may be addicted to them. Really. Sometimes, just because I am so task-oriented and glean much pleasure from ticking something off of a list (progress), I will put the most mundane of tasks on my lists.

  • make coffee in the morning (well that was going to happen whether I put it on a list of not)
  • take a shower (again, something that is going to happen regardless of it being penned on a piece of paper)

Looking at my abundant lists got me thinking about the similarities and idiosyncrasies of lists and list-makers.

List-Making Methods

My hubby and I vary in our list making methods. Whereas I like to compile many things onto one sheet of paper, my husband is more of an isolating fellow. He will have a separate piece of paper for each item on a list. And when I say “piece of paper” what I really mean is a napkin, a piece of cardboard ripped from the side of a box, a scrap piece of mail, a gum wrapper. Essentially our home becomes the housing for the many components of his lists and it is a scavenger hunt trying to find all the pieces. It is not uncommon for me to find a note written on a piece of toilet paper and tied around the bathroom sink faucet. Classy!

Carry-Overs

We all have them, those things that HAVE to get done but you reallllly don’t want to do them. The phone call to the insurance company, the trip to the dry cleaners, the cleaning of the junk drawer; so they get carried over from one list to another. Eventually these things will get done, but they are the things we’d rather think about at another date and time. In the meantime, at least for me, their existence on my list weighs on me and I would be better off to just attack these items first and get them over with!

Checks vs. Strikes

I am a stiker-outer. I like to cross items off my list but others like to place a tidy check mark or X next to the item. In my opinion, the sloppier my list looks by the time the last item is omitted, the tidier my mind is.

The Mental Lists

Making mental lists is probably a common practice, but I recently realized that I have been compiling an ongoing list of things that annoy me. When I stop to think about them, the list is a mish-mesh of random things that have irritated me in one way or another. So I decided to end this post with some of these mental notes. See if you agree. (My apologies for the rant that item #4 turned into…the more I wrote, the more annoyed I got!)

1) This Folgers Coffee Commercial. I’m sorry, but there is something about the brother-sister relationship that is just too…friendly. Every time I see it, I fidget in my seat with discomfort and annoyance.

Click on the image to see the commercial.

2) The packaging that sample-sized shampoos and conditioners come in. I think that dentists of the world have an “in” with the companies who manufacture these because when it comes right down to it, the only way of opening them once you are in the shower, unless you have planned ahead of time (which I usually don’t), is with your teeth. Ouch!

3) The Charmin Bears. While I appreciate what Charmin is trying to do by taking a squirmy subject such as proper toilet paper usage and turning it into something cutesy, I can really do without the discussion of it altogether. People know what toilet paper is for. We don’t need visuals such as these:

4) Self Check-Out Lines at the Grocery Store. I fall for the trap way too often. The lines with employed, living, breathing human beings is ridiculously long and there is practically no one using the self check-out lines, so I cave. New rule: don’t cave, there is a reason why those lines are short. It never fails that the damn machine doesn’t recognize that I have scanned an item and placed it in a bag, it continuously tells me that I need to rescan an item (then charges me twice), and it is incessantly telling me that my scanning technique is an epic fail and beckons the sole human cashier delegated as “Moderator of the Self Check-out Idiots” my way. Let it be said that the human moderator never comes. I look at her perched at her centrally located machine, peering out over the crowd of self-checkers, and she, too, knows that this system is crap! She is like the parent of the little boy who cried wolf. These machines are so incredibly flawed and have caused her so many unnecessary trips to a patron’s side that she now just hits a button to cancel out my machine’s unwarranted error. By the end of my scanning adventure I have sighed out loud no less than 63 times, thrown my arms in the air in angst at least 25 times, and have spewed many obscenities at the computerized voice in the machine: “What the hell do you want me to do? I scanned the damn Nutella. It’s there! In the damn bag.” By the time the computer is asking if I have coupons, I am answering her out loud, not caring what kind of crazy person I look like to others. Simply put, I. LOATHE. THESE. MACHINES! And, forget about having a successful self check-out if your kid is in tow. If your wee one even breathes upon the weight detecting areas, it causes all kinds of alarms to go off. Error! Error! Cancel order. Start over. Insert Bonus Savings Card here.

While I am on the issue of complaining, I must also ask, why do these machines look so archaic? When I look at them I am always reminded of images of the first computers. And, really, what are they thinking with the little 12-by-12 square they provide for placing un-scanned items upon? Who can fit everything there?

The End!

The House Diet

5 Nov

I am putting my house on a diet!  Why?  Well, as my husband puts it, “Why should we pay to move crap?”  We’ve been meeting with moving companies for estimates and as they vie for our business, we cringe at the dollar amounts being flashed before us.

Moving estimates are based (for the most part) on how much your stuff weighs.  What we have learned in the process is that our stuff weighs a lot!  Actually, we have been told that we are about average weight for a house this size, but it is my goal to slim down and purge all of the unnecessary items that we have carted with us over the course of two other moves; things that we still never unpacked after the last move!

Actually, if you think about it, the whole business of hiring a moving company, while convenient, is also a very invasive one.

Says the moving company: We first inventory your house and estimate a weight of its contents.  We pack the items that you want us to and them load them onto our truck.  Once the truck is loaded we drive onto a scale to get the actual weight.  A moving crew then drives your shipment to your new house and when they arrive, they unpack for you. 

My interpretation: First we will come into your home and look in every nook and cranny at all of your stuff.  We will carry a clipboard around with us to make us appear extra authoritative and we will ask you a lot of personal questions such as, “What is in those drawers?” and “What do you keep in your closet?”  We will then, if you are willing to pay for it, take each and every item that you own (panties and other unmentionables included) and wrap them up in a super deluxe box with a ton of padding.  Then, we will put all of your stuff on a truck and weigh it to figure out EXACTLY what your life’s content weighs.    We will then have a group of guys drive half way across the country with your stuff and they will even stay overnight with it if necessary.  When we arrive at the destination point, we will once again manhandle all of your items as we unpack them and place them about your new house. Upon completion of these tasks, we will ask you to hand over to us a huge sum of money.

And so, I suddenly find myself looking at everything in our house,  guesstimating what the scale would say about it, and deciding if it is worth moving it.  Speaking of scales, I considered donating ours simply because it is extra weight.  I have definitely developed a much more discerning eye when it comes to deciding what to keep, sell, donate or discard.  Here are the new rules:

1)  If we can’t consume it, it doesn’t come into the house.

2) Purge as much as possible. That which is no longer of use to us will NOT be making the trip.

I can say that it feels good to make these possession edits and I haven’t been over thinking whether or not to keep something.   I just hope that when we arrive in Minnesota my husband doesn’t ask me where certain tools or articles of his clothing are because more than likely, they have found a new home.

Remembering a Place Called “Home”: Do’s and Dont’s of a Family Photo Shoot

21 Oct

A little tale from which you might glean sound advice but is really more a recount of my family’s head-butting preparatory measures of welcoming someone into our house to capture our final moments in this  place we call “home.”

As our move date to Minnesota gets closer, I have become more steadfast in my attempts to capture moments spent in our home.  Therefore, I thought that it would be a great–scratch that– PHENOMENAL idea to hire a photographer to come to the house for some candid family shots.  After all, the hubster and I (along with many family members) have worked tirelessly on our 1907 house since Day 1.   We have spent too much money, gotten too little sleep, and have had too many backaches not to properly capture the essence of what this house has become and to have tangible evidence of our efforts and memories .   This entire event was beautifully choreographed in my head, yet I knew that bringing it to fruition would be another matter entirely.  Here is what I learned in the process of just trying to get.one.good.shot!

DO use bribes. Convince your otherwise-resistant-to-ever-being-photographed hubby that this is a good idea.  You want to capture happy faces on film?  Then have Dairy Queen on standy-by and shave your legs, girls, you’ve got some work to do.  I texted a friend of mine about the inevitable grumpiness that I would be enduring with this photo shoot.   She replied that I should “… Bribe them.  Ice Cream?”  Bribe, huh?  Yes, ice cream would work for the little one, but it would take a lot more than scrumptious dairy products to convince my husband that he should allow someone to point a camera at him. A second text came through from my friend, “Ice cream for the kiddo.  You-Know-What  for the other.”

And a happy family we were.

DO hire a professional photographer.  And not just any photographer.  Hire someone who shares your vision.  In my case, I desired a candid aesthetic.  I was lucky here.  I happen to know someone whose work I admire and who was quite open to some of the quirky suggestions that I had—Truchon Photography, headed by Ashli Truchon.  For some reason, I really wanted to hold a bright red bird cage while sitting on the floor in my attic.  Ashli didn’t flinch.  Before I knew it she was placing the red cage in my hands and climbing on top of a rickety old side table so that she could get the perfect shot.  When we decided that we weren’t getting the desired affect, she quickly set up another great shot which included the bird cage, a mirror on an old buck horn dresser, and me sitting atop that same rickety old side table that Ashli had just perched herself upon.  Voila!  She made it happen.

DON’T, even for a second, assume that your choice of attire for your spouse will be anything close to what he agrees to wear. 

I buy him this,

thinking that he will look like this (but with a complete face)

And for some inexplicable reason,  he thinks he will look like this.

  A few swear words and over-articulated hand gestures later, and we both agree on this.

DON’T allow your child to handle, go near, look at, or think about sharp objects for at least one week before the big shoot.  Otherwise, it is inevitable that she will get scratched.  While that scratch will be completely harmless, it will be on a part of the body that you cannot easily hide….her face!  P.S.  This advice applies to little finger nails as well as I am pretty sure that this is where her scratch came from.

DO think outside the box.  You don’t always have to look into the camera and “pose.”  Act natural, use props, play, and get creative.   The resulting photos will look more like moments have been captured rather than composed.

    

Here are more of my favorite shots that Ashli masterfully captured.

      

Happy Family Memories, everyone!

Click here for more information about Truchon Photography.

Those of you with little ones should know that Ashli works great with kids.  Our spawn was quite hyper that day, yet Ashli remained calm and just snapped away.  Thanks to her tenacity and patience, these shots portray a true representation of our little girl’s personality.

Folks on the East Coast had better book her quickly, though.  She is soon off to Pheonix, Arizona for a new job!

Just do it! And if you don’t know what “it”is, just do something!

10 Oct

It’s the journey that’s important.

While talking to a friend the other night at dinner, the topic of this blog arose.  She hadn’t had a chance to read anything that I had written yet and she asked, “What are you writing about?”  I stumbled for an answer and spewed out something like, “Motherhood…our move to Minnesota.”

But, in all honesty, the answer is, “I don’t know.”  I can’t precisely label this as a blog about one thing or another.  My mind doesn’t segregate things into neat little compartments and it is difficult when, in life, people ask me to place myself, my work, or even my preferences into categories.  It is like having someone ask me what kind of music I like.  I like an eclectic mix of melodies and admit to listening to everything from The Lumineers to Kenny Wayne Shepherd to Katy Perry.  It just depends on the day and my mood.  I hate picking favorites.  I don’t have favorites.  It’s too exclusionary of all the other possibilities.

Later, in a conversation with that same friend, who, by the way, I hold nothing against for having asked me, “What are you writing about?” (she got me thinking, after all) was talking about a book that she is writing.  This will be her fourth!  She spoke about how, when she writes, the project shifts and turns and takes unexpected paths.   “Basically,” she said, “you need to just write to figure out what you are going to write about.”  Those words really resonated with me.

I thought even more about them after speaking with another friend a few nights ago.  I spoke to her about my reflections and aspirations: reflections on the closing of a chapter of my life here in Pennsylvania and aspirations of what I hope to accomplish once we get to Minnesota.  I am the type of person who has trouble resting or relaxing.  If my hands are ever idle, my mind is not and vice versa.  I must always be doing something, creating something, thinking about something, planning something.  Therefore, it can start to feel like there is always a pursuit.  I chase ideas, hopes, and dreams always knowing that even if I accomplish my goals, I will most likely never feel a sense of contentment.  Gears constantly grind in my head and it can feel suffocating when you know that you can’t bring every little morsel to fruition.  It’s as if you must do something, everything, all at once, but the overwhelming feeling of having so much to do, makes you do nothing at all.  This friend, very wisely, told me that perhaps it is not about accomplishing every single goal or succeeding with every creative thought that I have or even having an end product to show for my work.  Maybe it is simply about the journey along the way.

It is somewhat like a person on a diet trying to lose weight.  The end goals are slimming down and improving health, but simply sitting around and fantasizing about having a smaller waist line will get her nowhere.  And, just because this person runs her ass off on a treadmill on Day 1 of the diet does not mean that she will automatically fit in those skinny jeans on Day 2.  It takes time.  With time comes growth.  Along the way, the dieter might discover that she really loves running and it becomes an enjoyable part of her routine.  Something that never seemed like a possibility becomes a daily reality.  For an inspiring example of this, check out what my friend, Jen, has been writing about for the past few years.

These  friends have helped me to realize that sometimes it is okay to not be able to recognize or define exactly where it is that we are going in life.  So many people, understandably, live life knowing exactly what each day will bring…or so they think.  It is comforting, it is safe, it is the daily grind.  I have found that I just can’t do that.  Sure, I want security in knowing that my family will have a roof over our heads and good health and happiness with family and friends, but, ultimately, we are not in control of anything.  When we lose control, we feel helpless.  I am guilty of feeling that pressure to be in control of my life.  When I don’t feel that, I scramble to regain it.  But it is those times of facing the “unknown” and the “unexpected” when we grow the most and do things that we may have never done otherwise.

There is a tendency to halt ignition on a project because of fear of failure—Things aren’t quite perfect yet.  What if I can’t do it?  What if no one else appreciates what I do?  If I allow it, I can forever be that artist paralyzed by the blank canvas or the writer stifled by the empty page, but sometimes you just have to throw yourself out there and do it, and if you haven’t yet figured out what that “it” is yet, you have to at least do something.  You’ll figure out something along the way.  I know I’m hoping that I will.