Lamenting The D-Word

Settling in, one breath at a time

It’s been a month of Sundays, and more, since I’ve made time to put a few words down. Only a tiny fraction of this time has it been due to sheer laziness. Honestly my dear four readers, I’ve been exhausted, but worry not (if you were) I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Holy Stromboli…this move has been more difficult than in decades, and not just physically.

You all know about leaving my sis and her family. That, in and of itself, was heart-wrenching. We were literally seventy steps from each other. Coffee, sweets, good food, wine and hugs were nearly a daily habit between our households. Now we’re 800 miles and change apart. Now we are in the flat-as-a pancake land of gators and altogether different flora and fauna. Indeed, some of this is interesting, infusing brain cells with both wonder and worry as we experience another part of this great country. But, there is also the D-word.

Yes. The “D” word. As in downsizing.

Move out day….

Having moved more than the digits on both hands and a foot, I am more than accustomed to keeping the cupboards, closets and drawers cleared of fluff and stuff. There is, IMHO, no years of accumulated junk in my house. Even more extraordinary, before this last move I finally got my rocket-man to get dead serious about his boxes of stuff. He had, for example, pay stubs dating back from his very first employer—more than forty years ago! Shred it or else I threatened, though I did not have the “or else” fully planned. He even agreed to part with some of his Steelers paraphernalia. Lord have mercy, that was huge!

For the most part, my mantra has always been “Haven’t used it in a year…it’s outta here.” I have not been draconian with that rule mind you, but suffice it to say that every couple of years I donate heavily to various charities (Salvation Army, Purple Heart, etc.) in an effort to keep the “stuff” in my abode manageable. In fact, I was de-cluttering à la Marie Kondo years before she became a verb.

So yes, before this last move I did what I have done for decades prior to a move: purge. Still, even before moving into our new home I knew I would be in trouble. While staying in the one room temporary apartment with household goods in storage I’d toss and turn at night thinking about where this or that would fit into the new place. Truly, this is a first world problem! Too many around the world cannot even fathom clean running water or an indoor toilet for that matter. Still I got my knickers in a twist recently when my daughter showed little sympathy over my lamentation at having to make eight trips to Goodwill (with more on the horizon) to further pare down our stuff…and this after selling a sofa and loveseat AND giving away an oak bookcase, two night tables, a brand new 8×10 rug and a few other odds and ends literally straight off the moving truck. Those guys were mighty happy.

“How are things going in the new house,” my daughter asked.

“Well, I am thoroughly overwhelmed over how to fit things in cupboards and closets and the like. I’ve never had this problem before, even in military quarters! I’d have the kitchen and the master bedroom fully functional in just about three days flat. Not even close this time around. I’ve had to make so many trips to the local Goodwill donation center. Frankly, I thought I had gotten rid of more than enough things before the move; even sold a couple of items. I just didn’t anticipate having this much of a problem settling in and I am sad about purging more than I was ready for.

“Mom, it’s just stuff,” she finally said as if explaining a new concept to a dolt.

Engulfed in tiredness, missing my sis and daily hugs, plus worry about a boatload of other things in my new state, I replied with heat in my veins.

“I am fully aware that this is just stuff, I said. “And yes tomorrow…or in the not so distant future…I will drop dead and you’ll get on a plane, swoop in, and haul every last bit of all this stuff to some donation center (or even the dumpster). Which by the way dear reader, I know it is indeed the cycle of life and honestly, no judgements on that score. However, in the here and now, I am alive and kicking and not quite ready for the nursing home. It would be lovely to not have to part with one scintilla more of my stuff, just yet anyway, or, at the very least a modicum of sympathy over the whole D-word thing would be appreciated.

That said, I just gave the handyman a nicely framed picture that was happily displayed in the basement TV room of our last place. Since we now do not have a basement…nor a media room…there is one less picture to find a place for. Mr. Handyman is thrilled to pieces with his new (free) treasure even as we are not thrilled with his handiwork and won’t have him back. Sigh. A story for another day perhaps.

Still, it’s a win-win and the sting of the D-word is actually beginning to subside (‘Til the next time, that is).

All in all, there is bliss in that.

So Far, He’s Not Impressed…

A certain someone has yet to be impressed. My last post, which seems like eons ago, should provide a clue as to who that would be.

Ah yes, The Poodle. He’s having a little trouble adjusting (as this writer is) which of course, makes me feel like a bad mamma.

So, I imagine my old boy is having a conversation in his head and it goes something like this:

Okay… let me get this straight humans. We had this perfectly nice house with a screened-in porch that you guys loved to sit in and drink your libation on cool evenings while doing the crossword puzzle. You had this perfectly big house that you even took the expense and headache to renovate creating among other things a totally awesome kitchen where access to my food bowl was in a perfect location and my bed was positioned to see all the comings and goings in the house. And, said home was located in a perfectly lovely neighborhood with plenty of yard and an abundance of squirrels to bark at. And let us not forget miles of paths to explore through verdant woods, around a lake where lots of people walked their four-legged loves, and… most important of all…a home where my very best friend on the planet, and her family, lived seventy steps away from me.

AND YOU DECIDE TO LEAVE THAT? Crazy humans!

Wowza kind readers, lets just say that just over three weeks ago was a wild weekend in Northern Virginia. We literally blinked and our house was sold. We had heard the news of the craziness of the housing market across the country but didn’t fully appreciate it until we were experiencing it. I’ve made many moves in my lifetime; the swiftness of this one was dizzying to say the least. It wasn’t a lack of preparedness on my part that made things so crazy; I had, after all, spent a good number of weeks prior gathering items for donation, shredding boxes of obsolete and outdated paperwork and in general, shedding stuff. The lightening speed at which things occurred was almost surreal; I simply wasn’t ready to leave my sis and family so damned fast.

So here we are in sunny Florida. We’re in a temporary corporate apartment situation for another three weeks until we move into our new home. Our situation is not ideal in that we are battling with maintenance to fix the air conditioning. As I type it’s 83 degrees in this second floor apartment. Two service calls have been made over the course of five days which ended with the line: “All fixed now ma’am.” Um…no; not fixed! Over the weekend, we were back to square one with a non-functioning system. Another service call was made early this morning but I’ve yet to see or hear from maintenance. I’m steaming…literally, but trying mightily not to be a pain in the tush. As I drip with sweat I think of those who aren’t fortunate to have air conditioning, let alone a roof over their head.

We’ll be down more than 1700 square feet when we finally move into our new digs which means, when all is said and done, I will be pitching even more stuff! As I remain in this limbo state I’ll admit that a touch of the blues have got a hold of me (and no, not because of needing to shed more stuff). Simply put, I miss the daily hugs of my nephew and the routine of my Virginia life. The rhythm of life has once again been upended. Of course, that is not necessarily a bad thing. It was a choice to do so after all. It simply reinforces, of course, the impermanence of things–a point that I sometimes forget (consciously or otherwise) in the routine of daily life.

And, apparently my old man Poodle has a case of the blues too. He’s quite confused in this tiny space we all find ourselves in. Though he’s smelling new things (which one would think would make him jazzed) and peeing on quite different and interesting vegetation, not to mention an unusual number of rabbits in the area, his routine has been upended too. So, in an effort to lift his spirits we took him to the dog beach just yesterday. As much as I loved seeing the ocean, the dog beach didn’t thrill us one bit…not like the excellent adventures we had with him during Outer Banks vacations where he could run free for miles on the beach. The approved dog beach area is about the size of my Virginia yard and dogs have to stay leashed. That was disappointing.

I’m sure The Poodle was thinking: Where is the fun in this?

While we did see some folks allowing their pups off leash we were given the newcomer’s briefing by several law abiding dog owners: Fines for unleashed dogs, not to mention fines for unregistered dogs. Since we are new to the area and have not yet registered our pooch, we certainly weren’t keen on risking a $110 fine. Still, we walked the short stretch of beach allowed–back and forth for a good ten minutes–getting paws and toes wet– and we tracked a boatload of sand back into the car.

“Get used to it my love; We will always have sand in the car,” says hubby.

It’s going to take some time, but eventually, we’re sure to find bliss in our new state. Air conditioning would be cool start, if you get my drift. I’m hopeful.

In the meantime, have I got a lot to learn about the flora around me!

Something Weird This Way Comes?

Change is in the Air. I can feel it!

I’ll think it again…and again…and again:

These humans can certainly be a strange bunch. I just don’t get them sometimes.

Take for example a recent event. My pack leaves me for nearly ten days!  I know..egregious…right!  So, this was bad, nearly hellacious I’d venture.  Okay, I might… perhaps… be playing the drama card a bit much. After all, I was on a “vacay” of sorts too…at a home that had other dogs, cats, and even a mini-horse. Things there were ever so interesting and new, which kept the wheels in my nearly thirteen year-old noggin spinning right along. Truthfully, I only missed my pack at night. Still, after my humans returned home you’d have thought they’d be all relaxed like a bowl filled with jiggly-wiggly jello. Instead, there is a certain tenseness about, particularly with my one true love…my “mom.”

As a matter of fact, all this electricity in the air began a week ago. I’d find my mom standing still as a statue for interminably long moments looking out over the back yard or sitting out on the screened-in porch deep in thought…or downright sad. Once I caught her crying in her favorite chair. She wasn’t even watching television so I thought perhaps a book she was reading was making her sad. And then there were the sometimes clipped exchanges between mom and dad. I’m not an expert on the human language by any means. Cheese, treat, sit, stay, roll-over, kiss, paw, hungry, shake, go poop, go car, go bed, get squeaky ball, where’s dad, and let’s go see Nica, are currently the extent of my vocabulary. I can learn more—old dogs can in spite of what you’ve heard otherwise—but I’m pacing myself. Let me be clear; mom and dad weren’t shouting at each other and mom wasn’t throwing anything (although, the former does happen on occasion and certainly did for some months between mom and that other human she had incredible emotion for who was living in the basement.  Yep…gotta admit…those occasions  made me retreat to my bed fraught with worry! 

So now, Mom and dad have also been sitting at the computer—together. That is very concerning!! That happens rarely. I can feel something weird this way comes. In fact, just the other day they were spending so much time doing goodness knows what on that computer that I kept nosing mom’s hand to get her attention…as in, PICK ME UP mom because I NEED YOU!    You see, Mom has her computer upstairs and dad has his downstairs. So it is only logical to be confused as to WHY are they sitting together in dad’s office.

But the real kicker that has my anxiety level ramped up once again is all this cleaning and filling-up large black bags, taking boxes out into the garage, and the paper shredder which has been on hyper drive for days now.  And, the worst of it all is that all too familiar sound of tape coming off a dispenser.

The light bulb goes off. 

Uh oh.  I know what’s happening. I know exactly what is happening.

Oh no. NO, NO, NO! Not again!

Yep.

We’re moving.

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

NO!

We’ve been in the house six weeks now.  After initially feverishly emptying moving boxes for three days, I slowed to a snail’s pace. Tired and overwhelmed by where am I going to put all this stuff? my movements have been slow as ice-cold molasses for days upon days now. Seems silly given that I’ve moved so many times!  I’ve lost count of the moments where I threw my hands up swearing to throw it all out into the street for the next trash pickup.

Yes indeed.  My emotions have been vacillating wildly from “Ah, this is going to work just beautifully” to “How can I love this money pit of a house?” Rocket-man has remained fairly steady with his stream of “No’s.” NO, we cannot afford painters (every room needs painted!). NO, we aren’t going to re-tile the kitchen floor, nor install ceiling fans or even get a new oven. NO to a new toilet too….and NO, we can’t get window treatments for all the windows for awhile.

Sigh.  The list of No’s is long indeed.  Though it’ll never shine as beautifully as our STILL UNSOLD middle-earth abode, we’ve got a lot to do to bring this house up to our standards.  Still, even as I roll my eyes heavenward at the stream of No’s, I am ever-grateful for this roof over my head.  I made sure to tell my hard-working husband too.  He sighs in agreement but corrects me:  “Baby-doll….As much as it pains me to say right now, you’ve got not one but two roofs to be grateful for.”

Ah yes….there is that!  Though stressed (and stretched) over this second mortgage, I cannot help but laugh.

The sounds of a wood-chipper just outside my window is driving The Poodle mad.  A crew has begun clearing the yard from twenty-four years of landscaping, now hopelessly out-of-control and over-grown.  I’ve given up trying to calm The Poodle as we’ve had, it seems, a non-stop stream of workers in the house since we’ve moved in.  We’ve replaced the gas cook-top (the prior one, being the original from 1994, was a thoroughly disgusting eyesore.)  We’ve also had to replace the refrigerator and the dishwasher.  We thought we could breathe for a spell until we found out the dryer wasn’t venting to the outside.  How this was not picked up by the home inspector is beyond our comprehension!  I had no idea that each year some 15,500 fires in homes are due to dryer lint build-up.  Nor the interesting factoid that lint is the Boy Scouts go-to substance for fire-starting!    Naturally we had to address the problem straight-away and though we are down another $1,000 (along with three large cut-outs into the ceiling) I can sleep better knowing that a mountain of dryer lint has been cleared from the basement ceiling!

Perhaps I should donate this pile of lint pulled from my basement ceiling to the Boy Scouts!

And, though we sort-of expected it, the next item to go on the fritz was the hot water heater.  It lost all control last week after twenty-four years of service.  Let’s just say there is nothing like a blistering hot shower to get one’s attention.  So, that’s been replaced too.  Our shiny new water tank was installed Saturday; it took the guys well over five hours to finish the job.  Needless-to-say, The Poodle was beside himself.

Through the incessant barking, I thought of the folks in Texas, Florida, and around the world.  And again, I silently counted my blessings galore.

I’ve still got some boxes to unpack but it’s all entirely manageable now.  Despite needing to paint I’ve placed pictures on the wall and the house echoes much less from it’s previously empty state.   I’m far less agitated (OK, mostly.  I’m this close to sending The Poodle packing!).  I’m less exhausted (though it will surely set in again once we start painting some rooms!)  and finally, I’m just starting to feel at home.   Just the other evening I got to share in the joy of my sis and her husband as they watched their son handle his first cello experience.   A joyful heart carried me well into the next day!

Yes, we are slowly settling into our new normal in Northern Virginia, praying as we exhale that we can catch a break (that would be SELL THE ALBATROSS) and hope another shoe does not drop.

Seriously, rest assured; aside from the list of No’s…there is plenty of bliss to be found.

 

It’s All Little Stuff

It’s been a difficult week.

With miles to go before it’s all done, I’m tired beyond belief from unpacking. Fatigue and soreness from hauling boxes up and down stairs along with finding so many things that need fixing has me struggling just a bit to find bliss in my new abode. We made this choice and we certainly own it….still, it will likely take time for me to fall head-over-heels with our new home. Scorpions aside, our middle-earth home (still unsold) was nearly perfect in every way. It was love at first sight: from the moment we moved into that house we sat back and relaxed (mostly), in awe of it all. Fear not….I’ve made progress on getting my head into a more contented place. Another room of boxes has been emptied. The guest room is shaping up satisfactorily. Once I made the bed and placed the crucifix that mom painted with flowers on it above the iron bed I was able to smile–even hum a tune– allowing acceptance over the new order of things to wash over me.

The Poodle sits in the doorway of the sunlit-filled room as I adjust pillows on the guest bed. With a final smoothing of the quilt I turn to him. “This will do, don’t you think? I say. His head tilts to one side.

The room just needs a good coat of paint….along with the rest of the house.

Ah….Yes, I know. Sigh.

My world, filled with worries and weariness, pales in comparison to the souls in Texas and Louisiana. As I watch the devastation unfold on T.V. and social media I can only imagine –as I sit with a roof over my head–the depth of despair these folks are experiencing as they live through the catastrophe of Harvey.

I struggle loving my new abode but oh I’m ever mindful that in the blink of a second this all could be gone! I curse that I cannot fit a cookie sheet into my Lilliputian-sized oven while in the same breath I heave a heavy sigh for lives –and homes–upended and lost to Harvey. Cracked floor tiles are inconsequential in the scheme of things as is the likelihood of yet another hefty expense because our dryer isn’t venting to the outside. Inhale, exhale. I fight the feeling of being completely overwhelmed yet again.

It’s all little stuff !

My stone Buddha, its features chiseled away by five years of weather as it sat in our Alabama back yard has a new home on our front doorstep. Lizards may not find refuge here as they did in middle-earth but it’s my hope all who come to visit will feel peace and love as they step through our door.

So, while it has been one frustrating thing after the other this week I count my blessings, great and small. I have a roof over my head and a new refrigerator to hold my food. Family and loving hugs are seventy steps from my back door and The Poodle is glued to my side. Better still, Rocket-man has safely made his way home again from his travels.

I have all that I need. But my heart is heavy for those who do not.

Peanut Butter Days Ahead

This is not easy. It should be. After all, I have waited 22 months for this day.

I'm standing in the kitchen admiring once again my gas cook top. Six burners with hefty burner grates. The cooking area is framed in stone and it has a nifty pot-filler too. Was it just five years ago that I thought the pot-filler odd and frivolous? "I doubt I'll ever use it," I recall saying to Rocket-man back then.

Now it's a kitchen staple that I'll miss, along with my fabulous pantry with it's utterly-cool decorative glass door.

Sigh.

So here we are….officially packing-out of our middle-earth abode….the very house that has been absolutely lovely in every way…the one we cannot seem to sell. Makes one wonder if someone up above is trying to tell us something.

I'm bone-tired today from work that is inevitable when moving. Perhaps this is why my emotions have been all over the map these last few days. For sure, I will not miss the constant battle with the scorpions (killed two just yesterday) nor the large black snake that often drapes itself over the backyard water spigot blending in ever-so-nicely with the black hose attached to said spigot! But I will most certainly miss my neighbors. I'll miss their friendly waves as I walked up and down the hill with The Poodle. And, The Poodle? He is sure to miss his swimming pool fun with the folks behind us. While he dove into their pool after a squeaky ball till near-exhaustion we'd catch up on life events over wine, beer and delicious food. Sadness too tugs at my heart over the imminent loss of Monday night get-togethers with the Girls Night Out bunch. And life will surely be different for quite a while without those evenings with my Rocket-man on the back patio…a glass of wine in hand as we watch flames dance in the outdoor fireplace.

Yes, indeed: We finally have another place to call home, returning to where it began nearly twenty years ago for the two of us. And with that, we've got two mortgages and peanut butter sandwiches for the foreseeable future. Fortunately I love peanut butter (I'm partial to the crunchy variety) so I'm good. Rocket-man? He'll happily eat anything…well, except for eggplant.

I am ever cognizant of the fact that I have a roof over my head and good food on the table. In fact, I am grateful beyond words, and most of the time that feeling of gratefulness keeps me quite happy. But for the grace of God, things could have gone proverbial south for me…and still could! So many souls around the world have neither house nor food in their belly. Still, I'll admit to some negative mutterings under my breath those first few days walking around the new abode over my issues with the house. It's a house that is a far cry from our Alabama beauty. I slap myself on the forehead for this: I knew things would be different. In fact, I was sure beyond doubt that I had mentally steeled myself for it. I was practically giddy as a school-girl over moving again….that familiar military-wife state-of-being over the prospects of a fresh start in a new place. Knowing that the cost of living in Northern Virginia would be much higher we lowered our expectations considerably. And while most of my brain gets it, there is that tiny part that takes over when I least expect it; a menacing cloud that threatens to overshadow all that is good and positive about our new situation.

Oh I'm ever a work in progress.

So, the new place is twenty-four years old (which isn't that old) but with the original kitchen appliances and fixtures. The refrigerator must go along with the dishwasher. The gas cooktop will need replacing before any serious cooking begins. We don't have a pantry nor a lovely wine closet. Floor tiles are cracked in multiple places and don't get me started on the dated bathrooms. And the yard? Oh my heavens the abysmal state it is in! It's not a large yard but it must have become too much for the previous homeowners as it is a jungle of overgrown everything!

Fortunately, there is beauty to be seen in our new abode. And even better yet, my favorite peeps in the whole world are less than a blink away from our front door. Once I dry these tears and get my head back into it's happy place I'm certain my heart won't be as heavy as it feels in this very moment as I stare out into the rain-soaked yard.

I catch sight of The Poodle. He's sitting next to the St. Francis statue, surveying something in the trees in front of him. Ahh…he's back in his kingdom and seems happy for it. He even slept in our bed last night, something he hasn't done for over two months.

I let out another heavy sigh as I get back to the business of sorting stuff for the movers who'll be here in less than 24 hours.

I tell myself change is good and I believe it wholeheartedly. In fact, it's absolutely necessary…even though in the moment, it feels like I'm suffocating in a shroud of fear.

I make a mental note to hold back a jar of chunky peanut butter from the pantry for the drive to Northern Virginia. As I do, a smile creeps in as I think of a certain nine year-old who is waiting for our return.

Back To The Future (sort of)

Here we go... again.

Here we go… again.

So folks… about a month ago, Rocket-man came home following a week of business travel and, in his usual way, he greeted the ecstatic Poodle followed by a peck on the cheek for moi. He deposits his suitcases in the bedroom, unpacks, changes into comfortable attire, and gets himself an ice-cold beer. Drink in hand, he stands in the doorway of the kitchen watching as I prepare dinner.  For the record, I cannot recall what I was cooking up but I do remember chopping a red bell pepper.  Anyhow….

I ask him about his day, in my usual way, and listen with half an ear as I am semi-distracted with chopping my red bell pepper.  Okay…so full disclosure: Sometimes…every so often…well…maybe once a week…. I listen with half and ear when Rocket-man tells me about his work day. Most of the time his acronym-filled talk loses me quickly.  Actually, It’s not that he loses me.  It’s just that I get so fixated in trying to determine what the acronym actually stands for.  By the time I figure it out I’ve lost half of the conversation.   But I digress….

Here I am semi-checked-out in my own little world with my red bell pepper as Rocket-man talks á la Charlie Brown (you know….that “WAHHH-WAH WAH” sound) when the following reaches my consciousness:

…” so let’s go ahead and plan on a move.”

I am wide awake now.

Say what?! A move? Did you say moving?  As in physically leaving this house….this town….As in moving away from MIDDLE-EARTH?!

Quite frankly folks, I’m amazed that I didn’t slice off a finger.

“Yes,” says Rocket-man ever so matter-of-factually, almost as an after-thought–as if he was casually discussing the current weather while looking at his smart-phone App.    “I’ve got approval for working out of Northern Virginia, the Herndon office.  Or it could even be Maryland, near the Baltimore area.”

I almost fainted.

“You’re kidding me right?” I ask incredulously.  “I mean, here you are just casually mentioning this now after several phone calls to each other over the course of today and a good half hour after you get in the door?!”

“I’ve had a lot on my plate today,” he says adding; “I’m sorry that I’m just mentioning this now.  So,  well…what do you think about the proposal?”

“It’ll be like our back to the future…sort-of.”  I say with excitement, abandoning all efforts to prepare dinner.  “After all It’s where it all began for us (nearly 18 years ago)…unless of course we end up in Maryland which, though we’ve stomped through some of that State when we ran our 50-milers, it will be new territory to call home.  And…we’ll practically be neighbors to my sis and her family!”  Rocket-man sets down his beer and gives me a strong hug.

“It’s going to be really tough to leave this beautiful house.  It’s the loveliest house I’ve ever lived in…but I knew from the beginning, this wasn’t going to be forever.” I say softly.

“I know,” says Rocket-man surveying our lovely back yard through the dining-room window.  “But for a host of reasons, it’s going to be for the best.”

Leaving wonderful folks behind.  That’s going to be tough.  Leaving the land of  insect-hell, cyclist-hating redneck dogs, and supremely s-l-o-w internet; Definitely, not tough.

By the next day I had 25 boxes packed.  I’ve been a mad-woman de-cluttering the house, cleaning in true military wife fashion (well, former military wife), and now have the house photo-ready for the real estate agent.

Move number #15 ....or so.

Move number #15 ….or so.  I think I’ve lost count actually!

Whew. There you have it.

Another adventure is on the horizon folks!

Stay tuned.