Happy Belated …

This is my very late “happy birthday USA” post. I only missed the Fourth by 7 or 8 days, so I’m within the window of birthday-ness. Right? Eh. Considering the mess that is this year and the mess that is my country right now, I think 8 days late isn’t too bad.

I’ve thought about this post a lot. I’ve thought about a lot of posts a lot. Basically, COVID, self-isolating, and the ongoing racial injustice in the United States has led to lots and lots and lots of thinking. Along with some worrying and some crying and some feeling hopeless. It’s been sort of a cycle for me. Right up until the actual fourth of July, I didn’t feel much like celebrating. In all honesty, life in general and life in this country, in particular, has begun to bear down with all the weight of despair and hopelessness it could possibly possess.

It didn’t help my mood that everything was canceled. No public fireworks. No getting together with friends. I had hoped for my parents to come visit this Summer or to visit them, but that couldn’t happen, either. Of course, people in our neighborhood set off fireworks on their own. Until the extremely wee hours of the morning. I hate neighborhood fireworks. I know I sound like the grouchiest, grumpiest grump that ever grouched. But the noise scares my dogs and makes it impossible to sleep, especially when fireworks are going off until 2 or 3AM. And I always worry about my roof catching on fire. Anxiety is not your friend, folks!

So, by necessity, it was a quiet Fourth of July for me and my family. My daughter has a friend whose family has practiced the same level of self-isolation as us, and that friend came over to spend the night. My husband grilled. And we all watched Crazy Rich Asians together. Was it the type of Fourth I would have wanted? Probably not. But it wasn’t a bad holiday. The long weekend was peaceful. My family is all safe and, so far, healthy. We are really fortunate in many ways.

That evening, I sat on my computer and read through articles about the protests happening all over the United States. I read about statues coming down and about brands changing their names. And … I don’t know … somehow, my mood improved.

I love my country. I love it very much. But I do not love all the things about it. I do not love all the things that happen in this country. In particular, I don’t love the way so many of us in this country are complacent and casual about the racism that is bone-deep here. We grow up with it, and it permeates so much of our everyday life that we get to the point where we “just don’t see it”. As a country … as a people … we have lived with and profited from this callousness and cruelty for far too long. By “we”, I mean white people like me. “Just don’t see it” just doesn’t cut it any longer. And you know what? It never should have. “Just don’t see it” was NEVER good enough. We should have seen it, all along. We should have looked for it. We should have fought to root it out and expose it to the light of day.

But now, changes are happening. Black and POC voices are being heard more than ever before. It seems like more than ever before to me, a person looking from the outside. I hope this is the truth. Because these voices need to be heard. We need to listen to these stories and face the uncomfortable truths contained within them. Protests are in the news, people are talking, and people are listening. People are learning. I hope we are all learning.

I know the changes that have happened so far are small. In the grand scheme of things and to Black and POC people who have struggled their entire lives to feel valued and respected, I imagine these changes are minuscule. But they are changes and a sign that our future has a chance of looking different than our past. Each small change … each protest … each instance of a Black or POC person feeling empowered to tell their story and speak their truth … Every one of these things gives me hope that we, as a country, can be better and do better. I have hope that the momentum will keep going. I have hope that voices will continue being heard. I have hope that we will ferret out the stink and dirt of racism at every level in this country.

Because that’s what we have to do. We HAVE to be better than we have been. We HAVE to do better than we have ever done. This country is a dream. It is a dream of a place where all are equal, all have justice, and all can live without fear. I know this sounds naive and idealistic of me, but I love that dream. I want to live in that place, where Black and POC mothers can send their children to the store without being afraid for their lives. Where Black and POC people are respected for who they are, and where Black and POC achievements are celebrated by everyone. Where Black and POC people can find justice — not justice in name only, but real and true justice. I want this dream for myself because I am a selfish person. But mostly, I want it for my daughter and for all the children of every race who are coming behind us. We owe it to them. We owe them more than what we have given.

I often think there’s nothing I can do. I feel powerless in the face of the injustice and unfairness running rampant all around me. I feel sad and hopeless. I am just one voice, and I am not the kind of voice that should be heard right now — that NEEDS to be heard right now. So I fall into the trap of thinking I should stay out of it or just stay quiet or whatever. But you know what? That’s bullshit. It’s the same thing as living with all of this my whole life and “just not seeing it”. Because I was naive and stupid as a child and a teenager and, even, as a young adult. I didn’t see it because I didn’t know what to look for. And, much as I hate to admit it, I never even thought to look for it.

I know better now. I have seen it. I know it is out there. And I know I can do something. I can listen. I can continue to learn. I can think about my own thoughts, my own actions, and my own words, and I can take care that those things reflect the true feelings and beliefs in my heart. I can — and will! — continue to have hard and uncomfortable conversations with others I encounter. In many instances, I am sorry to say I have those conversations with my own family. In the past, I might have backed down or let it go. But no more. It’s a small thing, but I can stand up each and every day. I can do better. I can be better.

My one corner of the United States is small. My reach is small. But maybe — just maybe — I can change one heart. Maybe — just maybe — I can change one person’s way of thinking. Maybe I won’t change anything, but I don’t care. I am going to hold myself accountable to continue working in whatever small way I can. Because I owe it to every Black and POC person in this country who has ever felt fear because of the way they were treated by white people … who has ever felt anger because of the way they were treated by white people … who has ever been made to feel less than human because of the color of their skin … who has ever lost a beautiful son or daughter or mother or father or anyone to the systemic racism that pervades our country.

A New Normal …

So. It’s Spring! Like, officially Spring!

Aaaaand it’s snowing outside my window. Lots and lots of snow, although none of it is sticking to the ground. Talk about a “new normal”.

See what I did there? Smooth segue, right? Right!

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Last week, I was working my way through Blue Bloods on Amazon Prime —  you know, watching it in the evenings when I was done with work for the day. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the show, but it’s about a family of NYC law enforcement officers. The father, played by Tom Selleck, is the Police Commissioner for NYC. The grandfather is retired NYPD, and also served as Police Commissioner in the past. The two surviving sons are police officers, and the daughter is an Assistant District Attorney. In one episode, the oldest son’s wife, who is a nurse, suffers a traumatic injury while doing her job. This leads to several episodes where she and the rest of her family have to deal with the mental fall-out from what happened.

There is a point here, I promise. And I’m getting to it. I’m just being slow about it. In one episode after all of this happens, she tells her husband, “I just want everything to go back to the way it was before that day.”

This really hit me hard. It’s funny how you can be humming along with your life and, all of a sudden, a gut punch comes at you out of a dark corner of your mind. For me, this line was one of those unexpected left hooks right to the kisser. It got me to thinking about how often I say these same words, or some version of them, to myself.

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Three years ago this past January, my husband had a heart attack, followed by quadruple by-pass surgery. I’m not sure what to say about it, other than it shook our whole family right to the core. It sounds stupid to say we weren’t expecting it, but, of course, that’s true. I don’t think it’s possible to expect or plan for something like that. At first, I moved from thing to thing to thing, just trying to keep all the proverbial ducks in a row and keep everything going. But then, in the weeks and months that followed, my husband started to recover. And I started to let myself hope and look forward to that one day in the future, when everything would be back to normal. When everything would go back to the way it was, before that day.

Then, of course, my husband’s job change happened. It was a great opportunity, but it meant moving. So I went right from all the heart recovery worries to the finding a job and moving worries. There was a house to get ready and sell. There were plans to make. There was stuff to clear out and pack. There was a teenage daughter to console. There were months of living apart, splitting time between Illinois and Virginia. And, of course, there was the move itself: days of traversing the country like a band of hillbillies, with a car full of dogs and a U-Haul trailer full of stuff. (I can say “hillbillies” because I actually grew up in the Texas Hill Country. So I am, in reality, a “hillbilly”. I say it with love.)

This wasn’t a fun time for me. There was too much to do. There was too much stress. And I was all alone. To a large extent, I feel like I have been in this thing alone ever since the heart attack happened. But, I reminded myself, this is all a temporary thing. Once we are in our new house in our new town, things will settle down. Everything will go back to the way it was before all of this happened.

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But you know what? It didn’t happen. None of it happened. Nothing went back to normal, and nothing went back to the way it was before all of this happened. And, as I sat thinking about it, I realized I need to stop telling myself that it will. I need to stop wishing for something that can’t happen.

Because, of course, Life can’t go back to the way it was before all of these things happened. I’m not the same person I was three years ago. My husband is not the same person he was three  years ago. My daughter is not the same person she was three years ago. Because Life has flowed past us, pushing us in its wake and creating changes all along the way. We live in a different house. In a different town. We want different things than we did three years ago. In some ways, I think we no longer know just what we want. Maybe none of us knew any of that, anyhow. Maybe we never did, and we were only fooling ourselves.

The thing is, “normal” isn’t static. Just when you get to a place where you feel comfortable or like you have everything figured out, the whole thing will shift and slide out from under your feet. Just when you look at your life and think about all the things in it that you love and that make you happy, everything changes. And it’s not just life itself that changes. We change. As people, we are always changing. We are always growing. We are always moving forward. And, sometimes, we slide backward a little bit, too. If we are always changing, then “normal” has to be a shifting thing, too.

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So I’m living in a new “normal”. After so many huge changes in such a short time, I find I can’t feel comfortable in it. I can’t relax and feel happy. I’m not saying that I’m unhappy, exactly. I’m not … not completely. It’s more that I feel like I am wearing clothes that are too small. I’m edgy and unnerved and … Exhausted. I’m just so tired of all of it: grumpy spouse, grumpy child, muddy dogs, filthy floors, a flooded back yard. And blah, blah, blah. On and on and on. Now, of course, I have to include “sheltering in place” in my litany of things I’m tired of. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not tired of sheltering in place myself. I’m tired of doing it with my grouchy husband.

Last night, I was thinking I wanted things to change. But, now, I realize that’s not true. I think what I really want is for things to settle down. I want to finish unpacking all the boxes. I want to finish hanging the pictures. I want everyone to calm the frak down. I want to settle back into life without feeling like I have to look over my shoulder all the time, waiting for the next terrible thing.

I’m ready to find my new “Normal”. And I’m ready to live in it for a little while.

 

MOVED to Illinois …

I did not plan on being gone for an entire month. But you know that old saying about the best laid plans and all that. Yep. Story of my life. By now, I should know that the only plan I need to make is no plan at all. But some life lessons are hard to learn.

So! We are actually in Illinois. We are actually in our new house. And it has been a series of mishaps along the way. Some of them were funny. Some were not. I’ve intended to sit down and write a post so many times since we arrived in our new town. But life kept getting in the way. Things were too busy. I was too busy trying to figure everything out. For a long time, I didn’t have my  desk or computer set up. And then, when I finally had a space where I could sit down to post, I felt overwhelmed by all that had happened. Have you ever felt like you had TOO MUCH to say? And so, you end up not saying any of it because the saying of it feels too hard and like too much. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s where I’ve been.

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And so, I think I will just start at the beginning and figure out where to go from there. This is as good of a beginning as any other: our new front door. To our new house. In our new town. In our new state.

It feels like it has been a long journey to get here. And I mean long journey in every aspect: emotional, mental, and physical. We closed on our half of the Virginia house sale on June 26. We signed our papers in the morning, and then went back to our house for the last of the packing and loading onto the trailer. Compared to everything the movers took, we didn’t have much left. But we had more than we thought. I bet you guys know how that goes, right? It was not a great day, honestly. It was hot, and my husband was stressed, and my daughter was unhappy. Basically, we all fought and snapped at each other all day long. Well, not ALL day. For half the day, until we got on the road. By then, we were all angry and not speaking, so the first half of our drive to Illinois was fairly peaceful.

I know, I know. It’s awful. And I guess I’m a terrible person for admitting this happened. But you know what? It’s also real. This is Real Life. And, in real life, anxiety and stress have a way of spreading themselves around and oozing downhill into all the nooks and crannies. In real life, we get mad at the people around us, no matter how much we love them. It wasn’t my proudest moment or my best day. But it was Human. Also, we all survived it with our love and our senses of humor intact.

I had all these plans of blogging from the road, because it really was a good trip, in the end. We sang and told jokes and stories. We laughed a lot. The dogs even enjoyed the long car ride, which was a huge relief for me. But the trip was also exhausting, so my keyboard remained silent.

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We drove about halfway (or possibly a little more than halfway) the first night. The second day, we got on the road relatively early and made it the rest of the way. Sadly, we were not coming home to our new house. We arrived in our new town around June 28, and we still had 5 days to wait until we could close on our new house. And so, the local Candlewood Suites became our home away from home.

It doesn’t sound too bad, does it? This idea of staying for a few days in a hotel … not having to cook … not having to clean … and so on. It actually sounds pretty great — like a mini vacation at the tail end of what turned out to be months of non-stop activity and stress. This is what I told myself, anyhow. I was trying to stay positive and look at it as some quality time with my daughter getting to know our new town.

In reality … yeah. It wasn’t quite all that. Our first room, which we camped in for a couple of days, wasn’t even a suite. It was a studio, which means it was bedroom, kitchen, and living room all packed into one tiny space. And into this tiny space, we crammed three people and two dogs, plus our suitcases. Most of the things we brought from Virginia had to stay on the U-Haul trailer out in the parking lot. We arrived to an unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures hovering over 100 every day, so my husband and I unloaded some of the most fragile things from the trailer and into a storage unit provided by the hotel. Basically, this meant my anime art collection got unloaded so it didn’t melt. But my nail polish collection had to stay on the truck, along with our furniture and other odds and ends.

By the second day in this tiny room, we were all on each other’s nerves. Even the dogs were feeling it. My boy dog started following my girl dog around the room and growling at her. My girl dog is a nervous nellie, anyhow, and she began slinking around and trying to hide in the bathroom. This led to more growling. Which led to more slinking. And so on. And so on. And the humans in our party weren’t much better. We were all cranky and annoyed with life.

On the morning of the third day, we were able to move into a larger, one-bedroom suite. There was a fold-out sofa for our daughter to sleep on, and space for the dogs to separate from each other. The only drawback was that it was on the third floor. And neither of my dogs have experienced apartment or hotel living in their lives. My girl dog, nervous nellie that she is, turned out to be a total rock star with this situation. My boy dog could not adapt. He is used to peeing as soon as he gets outside the door, and he still wanted to do this in the hotel. I ended up cleaning up on the stairs a few times and on the carpet a few times, too. And we had to basically run down the stairs with him reminding him, “Don’t pee. Don’t pee. Don’t pee,” all the way down to the bottom floor. Good times. Actually, it is pretty funny.

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We closed on our house on July 3. After our townhouse in Virginia and the hotel’s close confines, the new house felt HUGE. Of course, we headed over as soon as closing was done and we had our keys. And we were greeted with clean, empty rooms devoid of clutter. The dogs were in heaven. They had a great time running up and down the stairs and sniffing into every nook and cranny of each room. My boy dog got so excited that he christened our master bedroom the very first day in the house. Yeah. That was not the highlight of the day, for sure. But I guess it’s the little things that makes a house a home, right? Right! *ahem*

Since we were in the house on July 3 and July 4 was a holiday, the rest of our things were not coming until July 5. This meant we had two wonderful and lovely days to enjoy all this empty space. I know that sounds weird. But I really got a kick out of going up and down the hallways and moving from one room to another. We didn’t really have hallways in the townhouse. We had a hallway on our third floor, where the bedrooms were. But the first and second floors were open living space. You guys! I never realized it before, but I really missed hallways and walls and separate rooms.

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Of course, those empty spaces didn’t stay empty for long. And they didn’t feel huge for long. By mid-morning on July 5, they looked more like this, with boxes stacked everywhere. And furniture stacked everywhere. And things stacked everywhere. The movers unloaded the entire day. They started around 8:30 or 9AM, and they left around 5 or 5:30 PM.

I stationed myself in our family room, just off the kitchen. It’s the most central place in our house, and I was the “traffic cop” of the unloading operation. I had the task of catching every person that came through with a load of boxes so I could tell them where to put things in the house. More or less. The way our packers labeled the boxes meant that some things ended up in completely the wrong place, but I did the best I could.

It was a long, hot day. And it was a mess. At the end of it, I stood in my family room, surrounded by stacks and stacks of boxes. Even though I hadn’t carried or lifted a single thing, I felt exhausted, both mentally and physically. I felt like there would be no way I could unpack all of this stuff. I felt like I was in no way equal to the hugeness of the task awaiting me. And I wanted to cry. It was not the joyous homecoming I had expected, that’s for sure.

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So, here we are: a little over a month later. Our daughter is finally registered for school. (This was a huge ordeal; perhaps it will be a blog for another time.) My husband and I finally managed to get our Illinois driver’s licenses and license plates for the cars (Another huge ordeal … are you sensing a theme here?) Our daughter has been attending marching band camp and rehearsals since the end of July, and this is her second full week of school. We are slowly learning our new town and finding favorite places and things like that.

Are we totally unpacked? NO. We are still working our way through boxes and trying to figure out what we want to keep and what we want to donate. We make regular runs to Goodwill and to the recycling center. For the most part, I have unpacked by myself, so it has been slow going. Thankfully, my husband started working on the huge stacks of boxes in our basement storage area last week. He has made a lot of progress down there! Our kitchen is up and running. Our master bedroom is up and running. I have the bare bones of my office space up and running. Our daughter’s bedroom is more or less sorted out and functioning.

We are getting there. But it takes time for a house to become a home. It takes laughter and memories. It takes long, quiet nights enjoying a good book in a quiet room. It takes so many other things that are subtle and gentle and pass you by unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of living. But, one day, all the boxes will be unpacked. All the things will be put away. And, somehow, we will realize our new house isn’t just a “house” any more. Instead, it has become “home”.

I know one thing for sure: I am NOT moving again! (Famous last words …)

 

Moving to Illinois … Wrapping it Up & Signing Off (for now)

So. The time is upon us at last. It’s funny how you wait and wait for something, and it seems like it is taking FOREVER. Until it actually arrives, and you realize it took no time at all. And you feel a little bit panicked that you won’t have enough time in which to accomplish all the things that need to happen. Oh yeah, I am totally in that mental place.

Today is our last true day in our house. We will be here tomorrow, too, but the whole day will be taken up with getting the U-Haul trailer and loading up the remains of our belongings. Tonight will be the last time we sleep here. It feels … weird. I don’t know how else to describe it. I’m excited and happy for the move. I am ready for a change of place and pace in my life. At the same time, I feel a little bit sad. And a little bit mystified, as if, perhaps, none of this is really real. We have lived here a long time, and I never thought we would move. I had kind of given up hope, honestly.

My husband arrived late Friday night (or early Saturday morning, depending on how you want to look at it). And we have been clearing and packing ever since. I think we are pretty much done at this point. We cleared the garage yesterday, other than the stuff we have packed and boxed for the move. We made one run to the household goods disposal place, and we will have at least one more. You guys would not believe how much paint I had stashed away in the garage. It was a lot!

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I had hoped to come in here with a blog full of moving shenanigans and funny stories. But, really, it has all been uneventful. It might not make for good blogging, but “uneventful” is the way I like it. We have been darting out here and there, amid packing and boxing, to eat at some of my husband’s favorite places. We had fantastic Korean BBQ last night, along with peach flavored soju in a perfectly chilled shot glass. Yum! Our daughter has been getting together with friends and saying her good-byes, as well. Today, we have a couple of “last” appointments with health care providers.

Overall, it has been a time of winding down and wrapping up. I can feel it, inside of me and in the air around me. It is as if I am mentally saying good-bye to the streets and places and people who have become familiar to me over the past sixteen years. Inside, I feel peaceful and kind of quiet, but I know it is only a short time of rest before another flurry of activity.

For today, we will finish up the last of the packing, which includes my computer. That’s why I’m in here now, typing away before it gets boxed for the trip to Illinois. The next time I land in here, I will probably be in our new town. And I will probably be anxiously waiting to get into our new house. So, it is so long … for now. And I will see you guys on the flip-side — in a new state, a new town, and a new home!!

Moving to Illinois … So Much to Do, So Little Desire

We are quickly coming to the end of our time in Virginia. Our house is sold, although not yet officially “closed”. My husband is coming from Illinois on Friday so we can get the last bit of stuff packed and loaded, as well as making sure our house is clean and ready for its new owners. We are trying to make the rounds to say good-bye to all the dear friends we have gathered here over the years. The “saying good-bye” part is proving particularly difficult for my daughter. She has many more friends than I do, and, of course, the move is going to be more difficult for her than for either my husband or me.

It’s weird, because I usually look forward to the end of school and the beginning of Summer vacation. I love spending time with my daughter. I love having her home and hanging out with her or just sitting quietly with her while we both read or write together. Summer’s arrival usually brings me a huge mental sigh of relief. But not this year.

This year, I approached the end of school and the beginning of break with butterflies in my stomach. Because, of course, this Summer is not like any Summer that has come our way in a long time, due to the move. For me, part of it is excitement. I am happy about the move and about a new adventure in our lives. I can’t wait to be in our new house. I’ve been thinking about all those rooms and all the decorating and painting and fun stuff I can do with them. I’m also looking forward to getting to know our new town. At the same time, I have to admit I have a fair amount of trepidation over the upcoming move. I’m nervous about my daughter switching schools. And I am a little bit afraid for her, just because this is such a big change. I have every confidence that she is going to handle it well, and that she will have new friends in no time. But there is that “mama bear” part of me that wants to make it all okay for her. Even though such a thing isn’t possible. In a few months, hopefully, I will be starting back to work. That is a source of nervousness, too. I’m excited about it, because it will be great to have income of my own again and to feel as if I contribute money to our family finances. But I haven’t worked in fifteen years! I would be lying if I tried to deny the edge of fear I feel when I think about it.

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At any rate, all the big changes coming our way have me feeling overwhelmed and frazzled. It’s silly, because I have known about all of this for a long time. I have been anxiously waiting for all of it to happen and for time to pass just so I could stop marking time and move forward. Now, though … I don’t know how I feel. I have so many emotions whirling around inside me, and I don’t know which one to cling to or pull out of the stack from one moment to the next.

I still have quite a bit of work to do. We are not completely packed up yet, and I had planned to have as much of that done as I could before my husband arrived. I really should have been working away at it all along. I’ve had two months and a little bit more, after all. And yet, here I sit, with none of it done. Every day, I tell myself I need to do SOMETHING to move this goal along. And, at the end of every day, I find myself no closer. It’s like I have run out of energy after the frantic push to get the house ready and the continued stress of getting it sold. And, maybe, a bit of it is general sadness over leaving a place that has been home for almost two decades of my life. I may not love Northern Virginia. But I am familiar with it. I am used to it. And, while there are things I hate about it, there are also things I like very much.

Somehow, I have to give myself a kick in the pants and get moving. I went out and got packing tape and bubble wrap today. If it is the last thing I do, I WILL get something packed up today. And, perhaps, my freezer cleared out, too. Because the reality is that my long good-bye is almost done. And it will soon be time to say hello, instead, to a new home and new family adventures.

Moving to Illinois … Sold! And the Long Good-Bye

You guys!! My house is SOLD!!

Well, not officially, because closing hasn’t happened yet. But our buyers signed off on the last of the contingencies yesterday morning, which means our contract is now locked-in. The appraiser is coming tomorrow, and we will do the termite inspection later this week. After that, it is just a short slide to the official closing date, when the buyers will sign their half of the documents. My husband and I are planning to sign our part early, so we can pack up and head to our new state. Let me just say right now: With an overstuffed SUV … towing a trailer … and two dogs … We are going to be traveling Beverly Hillbillies style! I’m kind of dreading it. But I’m also kind of looking forward to it. Just the thought of it makes me laugh. It’s going to be frustrating as heck but also fun.

So, of course, this means the start of our long good-bye to our current house. I have so many emotions right now, and they are all jumbled together in a clump around my heart. I am happy and relieved that the house sold. It was a crazy and exhausting push to get it ready to go onto the market, and another crazy and exhausting push to get it sold quickly. It didn’t sell as quickly as we had hoped, but we still sold within 3 weeks of listing. This is not bad at all. I will take it! I feel almost giddy with relief that we are so close to “done” on this part of our new adventure. Our buyers are a cute young couple. I say “young”, but they are probably in their early to mid-thirties. They remind me of my husband and me when we moved in here. It makes me happy to know the house is going to people who love it and are excited to live here.

At the same time, everything feels bittersweet to me. And tinged with a healthy dose of guilt, as are most things in my life. I swear, I am a guilt magnet. We’ve lived here for almost sixteen years. There are a lot of memories tied up in this house. It was weird, this Spring, to think about how this would be the last year I would look out of my front windows and watch our cherry tree blooming. That has to be one of my favorite memories from this house: standing at the window and watching the petals float down to the ground like clumps of pink snow. I love watching the huge bees bumble in and out of the tree’s leaves and flowers. Often, they come right up to the screen and bump against it.

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This house welcomed our new baby daughter when we came home from the hospital. It has been her only home — her whole world, really! — for fifteen years. She learned to walk in our upstairs hallway. She learned to talk in her bedroom, while we were reading books together. She used to stand in her crib in her room and listen for me to walk out into the hallway, so that she could call out to me. Because she knew I would always come for her.

This house held us close and sheltered us every winter when the snow piled up outside and the winds howled around the windows and doors. It gave us a perfect spot for our Christmas tree every year. We made hot chocolate in its kitchen and laughed together as a family in this house. Sixteen years can hold a lot of laughter. Sometimes, I feel like I can hear it echoing against the walls, even now. In the Spring, we planted flowers on the deck (in spite of my lack of a green thumb!), trimmed back the roses, and blew bubbles in the front yard. Our daughter learned to ride her bike in our driveway and the parking lot in front of  our house.

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My two goofball dogs grew up in this house. They learned to play and trust and guard within its walls. They changed from puppies to grown dogs, almost in front of my eyes. They raced and play-fought and had zoomies in the back yard, even though it was small. They sat with us on the sofas during movie night, trying to steal popcorn out of the bowl when we weren’t looking. Nothing brings joy and laughter like goofy dogs.

Of course, there were sad times, too. Because life isn’t perfect. This is the house where my beloved dog, Tex, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. And the same with our sweet Sister Kitty. And this is the house where my husband had a heart attack, followed by quadruple by-pass. This is the house where I learned to live with depression. And it is the house where, in many ways, my creativity died.

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This was our first house. I still remember the excitement and slight terror that came with that first set of keys. We learned a lot about ourselves in this house. We learned a lot about “us” as a family, too. Some of those lessons were fun. Some were horrible and painful. But all of them were good and valuable.

I feel like this house and I never got along — not really and truly. I don’t know why. Maybe I expected too much from it. Maybe I couldn’t get over the fact that, when I dreamed of the type of house I wanted, this house never approached that ideal. And, to a certain extent, I feel I gave up during the years we lived in this house. I relinquished my creativity and my desires. I never finished any of the projects I had planned when we moved into this house. I had big, big plans at that time. But then, life happened. I got sad. And I retreated. For the most part, I never even started my house projects. Yeah, I think it’s fair to say I gave up.

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For many  years now, I have felt trapped inside this house. I wanted to love it, without reservation. I wanted to give myself over to this house and work to make it into what I had dreamed and hoped after for such a long time. And yet, I couldn’t see my way out of the morass of negativity into which I had sunk over the years. I couldn’t find the light that would lead me out or that would let me find a path forward. In some ways, I blamed this house. Which is silly. It is an inanimate object. But there you go. Human emotion isn’t rational. And I came to realize this house would never be what I wanted it to be, but that problem wasn’t with the house. It was with ME.

Now, I find myself in a weird place. I am looking backward and seeing all of these sweet memories. And I am also looking forward and seeing our new house in my future — a house that comes very close to what I dreamed of all those years ago. And I find my heart is filled with love for my “old” house. Because it taught me how to be a homeowner. Because I learned how to be a mom here. Because it taught me about myself.

But mostly, because of this: For sixteen years, this place wasn’t just a house. It was HOME. And you can’t place a value on that. Not ever.

Moving to Illinois … The Staging

We are coming down to the bitter end of the first part of my relocation saga. I say “first part”, because I haven’t even left Virginia yet! I’m still in our same house, waiting out the end of the school year with my daughter and the very most basic of basics in terms of furniture and clothing. And my computer. Because, you know … I’m not an animal! At this point in my tale, we have gone through the packing and boxing. We have watched our stuff get loaded onto the trucks and carted away. We have done the painting and the flooring. We have fixed the backyard, both the patio and the grass. And I prettied up my deck with my flower container gardening adventure, supervised by my pups — of course!

All the basics were done. It was time for the final little touches that act like the icing on a very pretty cake: the staging. I have never sold a house before. So I have never been through the staging experience. I love decorating and home stuff, in general, so I went into this experience thinking it would be amazing and fun. In my mind, it was like a little reward after all of my hard work coordinating the rest of the background stuff and doing all the cleaning and clearing away.

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The reality of it didn’t match up at all. Isn’t that the way it often seems to go in life? You think something will be incredible, and it turns out to be anything but. It’s not that the stager did a bad job or anything. Her work was nice, and she made the spaces in my house seem large but cozy at the same time. I think she is great at her job. She kept it pretty simple, as you can see from our family room, in the above photo. I like the eclectic mix of furniture she chose. And I like the earthy-toned colors she used. I think they fit nicely with the paint and carpeting colors. You can’t see it in this picture, but we finally — after almost sixteen years! — uncovered our fireplace. It’s nice to see it as part of the room now.

This room is laid out strangely in that the fireplace is on one side and the outlets for the TV and other electronic equipment are on the opposite side. Our family is big on movies. It’s one of our main forms of entertainment, and my husband is mad for his television and stereo equipment. I always wanted to rearrange this room so that we could have the fireplace and the TV at the same time. But I never did it. I never did anything to this house, honestly. I mean, we made some changes. But I never did anything as far as decorating or putting my own style into the space or making it into something more than what it was when we bought it. I’ve been puzzling through why that is, and it will probably be fodder for another post later on.

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I really like the little conversation area the stager created for our second floor sitting room. This space is right across from our dining room. We always put our Christmas tree in front of the window where the palm tree looking plant is now. And we had a sofa, a large armoire, our piano, and some reclining club chairs in this space. I originally had a cowhide rug, but I had to take it up once my cat got old and cranky. Because she decided she had to pee on it. Constantly. Poor cowhide.

You can really see our refinished flooring shine through with the sparse and elegant staging selections. And looking at what the stager did with our spaces makes me realize I never had furniture that was the right size for this house. I was used to bigger spaces and a different flow when we moved in here, and I don’t think I ever adapted. Instead, I continued buying large furniture. I love large furniture. It’s a weakness of mine. But large furniture doesn’t work well for a townhouse. Lesson learned on my part.

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This is our dining room. For the first time since we moved in, it has returned to its original purpose. We never had a formal dining table and chairs in this house. My mother-in-law has promised us a beautiful, Asian-style cherry table and chairs. This was years ago, and we never brought them into the house because they seemed too big, overall. I’m not sure if she will remember her promise or not, but we shall see. On our watch, this room was a playroom for our daughter during her younger years. After that, it was an office space for my husband. In reality, it ended up being a cluttered mess. It looks so much nicer now.

But here’s the thing about the staging process. It makes the house look nicer and more elegant. I can’t deny that! But it is painful. It is a painful and frustrating process. Our stager hated that I have dogs. She wanted me to get rid of them for the duration of the staging. How am I supposed to do that? Where are they supposed to live for a month? Initially, I intended to have them in the house with us, albeit not on or around the stager’s furniture. The stager hated that idea. She told me she could not use her nice furniture because of my dogs. So, basically, I have the crappy second-hand furniture in my house. Which I don’t really care … because, sadly, it probably still looks nicer than my own furniture. In the end, she needn’t have worried. After the new carpeting went in, I realized the dogs would have to live out the rest of our time in this house in the garage. I hate this, but it’s the only way to keep the carpeting nice and dander-free.

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The office was an easy room to stage, since there wasn’t much that needed to happen in here. She basically left the room empty. This is my desk and chair and computer. The stager added some “inspirational” pictures and a fake plant to hide my routers and such. I miss having my bookshelves and “stuff” in here. But I have to admit I enjoy this sparse and clean look.

Once all the staging was in place, I quickly realized how much I disliked our stager. In the beginning, I was just mildly irritated with her and her attitude. But I was willing to overlook it and put most of my annoyance off to me being overly sensitive about my dogs. After all, the woman was just doing her job. And I know a lot of people don’t like dogs. I sometimes find this to be a major character flaw. But what do I know? I am a lover of all things dog. And I am certain some people consider that to be a character flaw on my part.

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This is my daughter’s room. She hates what the stager did in here. My daughter is fifteen, and this room is fit for a six or seven year old kid. One who is super girly, which is not my girl at all. Luckily, my daughter loves the color pink. Otherwise, it would have been torture for her to live with this for a month. It is cute, overall. I like the paintings the stager used on the walls. There are two of them, both city-scapes done in tones of green, blue, and pink. And I like how she used the space on the shelves behind my daughter’s bed. My dad built all of those, as well as the cute little desk beside the bed.

Back to my story about the stager and how mild annoyance grew into active dislike …

I came home to my lovely and elegant-looking house thinking all was well. Until I  needed to wash my hands and discovered there was no soap. None. Anywhere. The stager had taken away all of our soap. And she had put other soap in its place. But here’s the thing: You can’t really use the other soap she added. It’s just for show. Because … staging. I guess I should have known this when the stager told me, several times, that they usually only stage houses that are vacant. But, you see, my house is not vacant. I am still living here. And I need to wash my hands. And shower.

In the end, I found soap. But the stager had hidden it in weird places. So, basically, I had to continue hiding the real soap while the fake soap sat out on our counter. Before the stager came, I had cleaned out my drawers and medicine cabinets, leaving only the very basic things we use for every-day life. Apparently, people who live in the magazine houses don’t use basic things for every-day life. Because the stager took all of that stuff away. In its place, she left seashells and starfish inside our medicine cabinets. Oh. And more fake soap. It’s like she’s mocking me with the fake soap. I have to admit I rebelled a little by putting a bar of bath soap and the non-skid rubber mat back in my daughter’s shower. I hope no one tells the stager, though. I am certain she will come back to take it away.

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This is the master bedroom. That, of course, is not my bedding. Because my bedding was not good enough for the stager. Instead, she had to bring new bedding. She did this in my daughter’s room, too. But she actually liked my daughter’s comforter and left it underneath the staged comforter. My bedding didn’t make the cut at all. She wadded all of it up and stuffed it in the back of my closet. The bed is ours. It’s the queen-size bed that is destined for our guest room, once we eventually make it to Illinois. The bedside tables are mine. And the lamps are mine. The stager didn’t like any of these things, but she was forced to work with them. Poor lady, having to make do with my ugly and substandard furniture.

I used to have Alexa in this room, along with a clock, a phone, and a noise maker. The stager unplugged all of my electronic items. Every single one of them. In this photo, I had snuck my noise maker back onto my nightstand. Shhh! Don’t tell! Shortly after this, I put Alexa back, too. I need her because she is my alarm clock every morning. Also, she can tell me what time it is, since, apparently, people who live in fake magazine world don’t own clocks. Or care about time. They are dirty, smelly people who are perpetually late.

I guess fake magazine world people don’t have phones, either. Because the stager unplugged all of our telephones. And when I say unplugged, I really do mean “unplugged”. She managed to wreck our entire phone system, so I now have no home phone and have to rely on my mobile for everything. I say “everything”, but I do have one landline that still rings in the kitchen. I can never get to it in time to answer, but at least I can check voicemail now and again.

And the final thing fake magazine world people don’t have: trash cans. The stager systematically went through our entire house and removed every single trash can. She stashed some of them away in places where I found them later. There are a few I still haven’t found at all. And I ended up having to put my kitchen trash can into the garage. I am making do with a white trash bag hanging off a drawer knob for now. Because, yeah … that’s so much more elegant and lovely than the stainless steel trash can I originally had.

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In the end, the stager and I will not be friends. And the staging, overall, is difficult to live with. No soap … no trash cans … towels we can’t use or touch … furniture we can’t sit on … and the need to keep everything hidden and picture-perfect all the time. Did she make my house lovely? Yes. She absolutely did.

But she also made me really sad. Because my house is now just a house. It isn’t a home any longer. It isn’t comfortable or inviting for us. It’s just where we live … not where we LIVE. All of the memories are there, but, for now, our house has become a place where my daughter and I are marking time until we can move on to the next step in our journey. I guess this is the first step in saying good-bye. And good-bye is always hard.

 

Moving to Illinois … My Lack of a Green Thumb Haunts Me

When we last left off, I had done some basic renovations and repairs to our house: new paint, refinished flooring, and new carpet. We had put in a new backyard, basically, by laying down sod in all the worn spots. The stone patio in our backyard had been repaired and given new life. All the work was progressing well and on time. And we were very quickly counting down to the last few tasks that needed to happen before we could officially put our house on the market.

One of these tasks involved gardening. I have pots sitting out on my deck. They are kind of old and a little squidgy around the edges (like me!), but they are colorful, cheerful, and bright. At one time, they were also full of flowers. A few years ago, I took a wild hair to improve our deck by adding some pretty plants. Even though we have beautiful and serviceable deck furniture, we didn’t use our outside space much due to my allergies. But, when that gardening bug hit me, I bought my colorful pots. I filled them with rich soil, and I planted lots of beautiful flowers. I had pansies and petunias and daisies. Of course, they didn’t last. My intent at the time was to keep refreshing the pots every warm season. Like so many of my fantastic plans, it never happened. The flowers died out, and the squirrels started planting things, instead.

And so, my beautifully cheerful and colorful pots sat out on my deck for years, growing a jumble of this and that, which could be characterized as a “hot mess” if one was feeling somewhat generous. I had some galvanized tubs in an often-shady corner. Originally, I planted herbs in there. But the squirrels dug those up and planted tiny trees. My husband started storing things inside the tubs, like heavy bags of soil that, over the years, turned into hard mud bricks and a bag of rocks. Yes, you read that correctly: a whole bag of rocks. I felt my soul die a little bit when I made that discovery upon starting this project.

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Initially, I had planned to get rid of the pots altogether and leave the deck bare. But my realtor thought it would be a better idea to keep them and plant them with colorful, seasonal flowers. At the time we discussed this, we were heading into Spring, after all. And a bit of colorful cheer never hurt anyone. And so, that is what I resolved to do. First, I weeded out all the pots. This sounds easy, but it was back-breaking work. When squirrels decide to plant things, they don’t go halfway! After weeding, I cleared out all the miscellaneous junk. Hauling all of that stuff down to the trash was no fun!

Once the boring but necessary ground work was done, I headed to my local Home Depot for supplies. I got a couple of bags of soil and some assorted flowers. I wanted pansies, but they were all gone. So I settled for petunias, which are fun and almost as colorful. I also got some type of yellow, daisy-looking flower, although I don’t remember what it was called. There is a theme to this, which you will discover shortly.

I am writing this post a little bit out of order in terms of the work that I did. I wanted to lump all the indoor renovation and repair work together, so I talked about all of it in one post. But my little gardening adventure happened in between: after the paint was done, but before the flooring and sod. This worked out great, because I was able to have the moral support of my two favorite helpers. After days cooped up with me in the garage, my dogs were only too happy to lounge in the sun on the deck and supervise my progress.

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They are great supervisors. As you can imagine, I can’t really make a move without them shadowing me. There was a lot of tripping over each other and some excited barking — from all of us. My poor dogs were so happy to be outside, on the deck, and just hanging out that they were almost too excited. Considering how noisy we were, I was happy none of my neighbors seemed to be out and about while we were cavorting on the deck — my dogs happily and me much less so.

My rescue girl, Fae, is a great supervisor. She likes to roam around a bit and get the lay of the land. After that, she is happy to find a spot to sit and watch. She gets out of the way and lets me get on with my work. I like that in a supervisor.

Shiner, on the other hand, is very hands-on. Or, I should say “mouth-on”. He wants to be in the middle of everything. Every time I turned my back, he would sneak into my little pots of flowers and pull blooms off of stems. He wasn’t eating them. He was excited and just yanking them off for the joy of it all. I suppose we all have to express it when that type of giddy joyfulness wells up inside us. But this led to a few cross words between the two of us. For a while, I was afraid I wasn’t going to have any flowers left to plant! This boy is a maniac!

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As I hauled dirt and filled pots and dealt with the bag of rocks and assorted trash, I realized something. I hate gardening. I hate it. I really do. I love the idea of it all. I love flowers and nature (although I am allergic to all of it). I love being outdoors. I have this dream of having a beautiful garden where I can sit and read a book or have a cup of tea and watch bees happily humming along about their business.

But here’s the thing: I hate the actual action of gardening. I hate getting my hands dirty. I hate bugs. I hate finding bugs. I hate how I get all hot and sweaty and irritable when planting stuff. If I ever have the garden of my dreams, it had better come with a gardener who will care for it properly. Otherwise, I am going to be sitting in a patch of weeds and some weird tree-things that the squirrels planted in their spare time. And we all know the squirrels are quite mad, no matter how much we love them. Heck, I love them all the more for their innate madness.

I ended the day a hot and sweaty and stinky mess. My hair was flying around my head in crazy tangles. My clothing was plastered to my skin from being out in the full sun. My voice was hoarse from speaking crossly to Boy Dog. I was in the crappiest mood. I felt like my head was going to explode from pent-up rage, and I kept thinking about that and wondering about how so many people I know find gardening relaxing. I mean, what in the world did I do wrong? Maybe I need to garden in the shade more. Or maybe I need less canine supervision.

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In the end, I was proud of my efforts. My little plants look brave and cheerful and colorful out in the sun on my deck. I feel like I did a good job mixing colors together. And, overall, it turned out pretty great — even if I did have to spread the bag of rocks throughout one planter and make two extra Home Depot runs for more dirt.

Was it worth it? Yes. I think it was. But, as I stood at the sliding glass doors that evening, looking out at my handiwork, I thought to myself, “Self. Let’s not do this again. Ever.”

 

Moving to Illinois … The Renovations & Repairs

When we last left off with my ongoing moving saga, I had gotten through the packing and loading. We had boxes stacked to the ceiling in pretty much every room of our house. We had stuff that was boxed but that we were going to move ourselves tucked away in closets and corners. We survived having almost all of our worldly belongings loaded onto trucks and carted away. And we were left with an empty, echoing house. As a quick aside, it is kind of crazy how “dead” a house feels once all of your belongings have been removed. In the span of a few days, it goes from being “home” to being a “house” and nothing more. I’m sure there is another post in there somewhere, and, perhaps, I will find it at a later time. For now, I just wanted to add the thought in somewhere, because I feel it is important.

At the end of this whole process, we were left with the following furniture: a queen-sized bed (mattress, box springs, and frame), a twin bed, a desk, a desk chair, and my computer. My daughter and I kept back about 2 weeks worth of clothing, a few dishes, and our basic bathroom stuff. In addition to these things, we have boxes that contain my nail polish (which the movers would not take), my anime cel collection (because I was afraid they would melt on the truck), my jewelry, and some garage-type stuff. Basically, we had an empty house at this point.

Once the house was as empty as we could get it, it was time to start in on the renovations we wanted to do. Because we found a house on our Bloomington trip, we were on a tight, tight schedule once we returned home to Virigina. We got back from the trip on April 19. The packers came on April 22. The painting, which was our first renovation, started on April 27. Needless to say, this was a time of endless activity. For every one thing we did, we discovered about twenty more that needed doing. We couldn’t really be inside our house, because we were in the way. We had to keep the dogs out of the way, which is easier said than done. This was not a fun time, and, even though it was, in reality, a short time span, it felt like it lasted FOREVER. My husband left for his new job on April 26, which means it was just yours truly, our teenage daughter, and two dogs left to deal with the painting and the rest of the work on the house.

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When my realtor, who is also one of my dearest friends, and I went through our house, we planned to paint about half of it. For the most part, the paint looked decent, although somewhat worn. We felt we could get away with cleaning it up a bit and repainting or refreshing only the areas that absolutely needed it. Keep in mind this was before the furniture was gone. And before the packers and movers got hold of my rooms.

Once everything was out of the house, we were faced with stark, bare walls. The movers and packers had done some damage. Not on purpose, but stuff happens when you are hauling large furniture down narrow stairwells. Our painter had seen the house before the movers came through. He went through it again once everything was out, and it came as no huge surprise to find out I needed to repaint everything. And, of course, it was twice the price he originally quoted. I wasn’t thrilled with this, but it seemed fair. He was originally going to do about half the house, so he basically just doubled that quote. It was still decent for the amount of work they were planning to do.

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Of course, having the painters inside the house meant I couldn’t be inside the house. And neither could my dogs. So we all hung out in the garage. For DAAAAAAAAAYS. The painting took about four days. Other than ducking inside to use the restroom now and again, I spent every moment of those four days in my garage with my dogs. I had my Llama-tastic chair, which I found on sale at Wal-Mart. I had books to read. I had my iPad, which worked quite nicely once the painters stopped unplugging my internet.

We had a string of fairly warm days, so I rigged up a fence from some cardboard boxes and Velcro strips. It’s not a strong fence, but my dogs are scared of the blowing cardboard. So as long as it stayed stretched across the opening, they would not go near it. This way, we had natural light and fresh air. I put the dogs’ crates in the garage, as well as the one bed the movers left behind. When I purchased my llama chair, I also picked up a couple of cheap dog beds, so bedless dog had an extra place to rest that wasn’t the hard floor. I brought their food dishes and made sure to keep plenty of fresh water available for everyone. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it wasn’t half bad. We survived, although it was a pain knowing I couldn’t go in and out of the house whenever I wanted. As soon as I realized I couldn’t go inside the house, I thought of a dozen things I NEEDED to get or do. Isn’t that always the way of it? At night, I would carefully herd the dogs upstairs for sleeping, and we lived with the paint smell for a few days as it dried and cured.

The panting finished up, for the most part, on April 30. I feel the painters did an okay job. It was a big job, overall. They did some nice repair work on walls that had been damaged during the move. At the end, they started to take shortcuts. They started showing up an hour or two later than expected in the mornings. They started leaving only a skeleton crew to finish my job. I’m sure this is because they were moving on to other jobs, which I totally get. But my job wasn’t done yet!

As we got to the bitter end, I had to argue with them to get them to finish out some of the trim. And they tried to add about $500 onto their bill. I am a little bit ashamed to say I didn’t argue with them very much at the time. By the time this happened, I was so tired and emotionally stressed that I complained but I paid them. Luckily for me, my realtor was on the ball. She was really unhappy with this tactic, and she got the money back for me. I would be lost without her!

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Now that painting was done, flooring could happen. I needed to put in new carpeting. I needed to get my wood floors refinished. The flooring work started on May 1. Basically, as I was waving an unhappy good-bye to the painters, I was also saying hello to the person who did the flooring. And, of course, this meant more days of hanging out in the garage with the pups. And my llama chair. And my ratchet cardboard fence.

I didn’t manage to get carpeting pictures, but the wood floors turned out beautifully, as you can see above. Also, the flooring work went much more smoothly than the painting. The person who did them was incredibly professional and kind. I appreciated him very much.

Our last major house job was fixing the back yard. We have a stone patio coming off of our first floor into the back yard. It had worn down over the years and was in pretty rough shape, but we had gotten it repaired before we left for Bloomington. I wish I had thought to take before and after pictures, because it looks beautiful now. Our handyman did an amazing job on it, and it looks like a brand new patio!

In addition to the patio, our back yard was in pretty terrible shape. We are on the end of a slope, so water runs off toward our yard every time it rains. We don’t have trouble with water around our foundation or anything like that. But it tends to puddle or marsh in one corner of our yard. When we first moved into the house, my dad and I rigged up a drainage system of sorts by running a pipe across the back corner of the yard. We dug a bit of a trench to set the pipe, but we never buried it all the way. Over the years, our pipe got brittle. The yard people ran over it with mowers. And so on. Basically, it was wrecked, which meant our marshy, muddy corner was back.

I have two dogs, and my yard is small. There were places where the dogs had worn paths through the grass from running around the fence. There were other places where grass stopped growing altogether because of how the dogs used the yard. Keep in mind I pick up the yard every day or every other day. I don’t leave “stuff” (we all know what I’m talking about, right?) sitting out in the yard or on the grass. Even so, two medium-sized dogs are hard on a tiny yard.

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So we had landscapers come in to lay sod. They also fixed the drainage by installing a new, properly buried pipe. In the beginning, I wasn’t too thrilled with the landscapers. They are both odd guys, and it was like pulling teeth to get a quote from them. It was also really difficult to get them to commit to a starting date. I think they are creative, outdoor people, and time didn’t have as much meaning to them as it did to me.

In the end, I am thrilled I went with them. They came when they said they would. They did all the work in less than a day. They did a fantastic job with putting in the new drainage. The sod looks gorgeous, and now, about a week later, it is already rooting in beautifully. As a bonus, they even hauled away some old flower bed curbing for me, at no extra charge.

And so, that brings me to the end of this part of my tale. At this point, everything was happening in a whirlwind of activity. My head was spinning, and I was exhausted. I hadn’t truly been inside my house for any length of time since we came back from our Bloomington trip. But I was also feeling pretty positive about the future. And I was happy we were almost ready to go onto the market.

Truthfully, the work we did on our house wasn’t a lot. We were lucky that we didn’t have to do huge renovations or repairs. I don’t know how people do it in those situations. I guess you have to remind yourself (often!) that it is a temporary situation. But even that gets difficult after the first couple of days. I think, as humans, we look for a “normal” or a “constant”. But, when you are in the midst of something like this, “normal” and “constant” don’t exist. And that is mentally and physically taxing.

Moving to Illinois … The Boxing

Hellooooo!!!

It has been a hot minute and a half since I was able to head into the blog. I just looked back at my last post and realized I have not been in here since April 10. That is almost an entire month! I had the best of intentions about keeping up with my blog and all of that. But, let’s get real. Life completely got in the way. No, it’s more than that. Life ran over me like a giant steam roller. I am physically and mentally exhausted. And, emotionally, I am flat as a pancake.

It’s not even that I haven’t had things to write about. I have had more than enough material for posts. In some ways, there is almost too much to write about. Whenever that happens, I get this deer in the headlights sort of feeling. I start thinking about all the stories I want and need to tell, and it all feels too hard and overwhelming. It freezes me into place.

But! A move from one state to another is a huge thing. It is a huge undertaking, and I need to blog it out for my own sanity. Because it has been a process! In fact, it has been such a process and so many things have happened in such a short amount of time that I don’t know where to begin.

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During my daughter’s Spring Break holiday, we traveled to our new town, Bloomington – Normal, Illinois. It’s about a 12-hour drive from here to there, which is a fairly long trip. Even so, we decided to tackle it. Feeling like intrepid explorers, we loaded up our car and headed west! It was a fun trip. We joked and told silly stories. We planned for the future. We ate Life Savers. We laughed some more. There’s something fun and kind of exhilarating about a long car trip. Or, maybe that’s just me.

It was a bit of a whirlwind trip because we had a lot to accomplish in our limited time there. We were beginning our house hunt. We wanted to look at the two schools my daughter felt she might want to attend. We needed to find a place for my husband to stay when he started his new job. We wanted to meet with my husband’s new colleagues. And, of course, we wanted to get to know our new town a little bit. It was a tall order for a short trip!

Overall, I think we were pretty successful. There is a lot left for us to discover about our new town. But my daughter figured out which school she wants to attend. We found a temporary place for my husband to live until we sell our house. And, most importantly (to me, anyhow), we found a new house!! I am so excited that I can’t even about the new house. But I will leave that for another post at another time. We are still over a month from closing, and I don’t want to jinx it.

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When we returned home … Well, I don’t know how to say it, other than to say our lives descended into utter chaos.

We are lucky in that my husband’s new company offers a great relocation package. They pay for packers and movers. They pay to store our furniture for a certain amount of time. And they will pay the movers to bring the furniture out of storage once we are in our new house. My husband and I decided it would be a lot easier to show and sell our current house without all of our furniture in it.

Shortly after we got back from our Spring Break trip, the packers descended upon us. They were lovely people. They worked hard and were super nice. But it still felt a bit like watching a swarm of locusts descending upon my favorite field of grain. If it was sitting out and not breathing, they tossed it into a box. You might think I am kidding about this. You would be wrong. They didn’t stop to ask whether we needed an item or not. They basically raced through the house and packed without paying much attention at all to what they were doing.

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This isn’t to say they were careless. They seemed to pack items with care. If there was something I wanted them to pay special attention to, they did their best to do just that. I have a large collection of anime artwork, which needed to be packed in a particular way. The packers were accommodating in helping me figure out how to do that so I could feel secure about my artwork not getting damaged during transport.

But, overall, they didn’t take the time to LOOK at what they were packing. I understand this. Packing up an entire house is a big job. It would take forever if you stopped to look at and think about what you were doing. The way they did it was much better: if it’s sitting out … box it. I know it made the whole process go faster. But it led to some funny discoveries once the packers had left. For example, they packed my daughter’s retainer. They didn’t pack any other bathroom items, but the retainer is now in storage in Illinois. They packed my daughter’s new shoes, even though she marked them as needing to stay. They packed half the shelves from our garage but not the other half. They packed one dog’s bed but left the other one. And so on.

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The packing took about 3 and a half days. The packers stacked boxes everywhere, as you can see from the photos I used in this post. The first one is the entryway to our house. The second one is our kitchen. See those curtains peeking out from behind that row of boxes? There are two sets of glass doors behind there. The third picture is of our master bedroom after the first day of packing. It looks pretty bad, but it was much worse by the third day.

At the end of the packing process, we were left with boxes stacked, literally, floor to ceiling in nearly every room of our house. They were in the hallways. They were in the entryway. They were taking up over half the kitchen. We had to wind our way along a tiny pathway through a forest of boxes to reach the bathrooms and our bedrooms. It was kind of a nightmare. And I alternated between feeling ashamed over all the stuff we have and feeling proud of having so darn much stuff. I mean, these boxes were 15 years in the works! That’s how long we have lived in our current house. Clearly, we never throw anything away. Which is terrifying.

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Once the packers were done, the movers came. They were going to load all of our boxes and furniture onto a huge truck for the trip to Illinois. Unfortunately, their big truck would not fit into the parking area for our neighborhood. So the movers had to bring a smaller (but still quite large) truck. They had to load our stuff up onto the smaller truck, take it to where the big truck was parked, and then load it onto the big truck. If you are keeping track, this means they had to load and unload all of our stuff twice. Given the traffic in our area, it was a slow process.

It took about two days and three trips from the smaller truck to get all of our stuff out of the house. In the end, we were left with echoing rooms devoid of all life and character. My daughter and I are still living in the house. We will be here until school ends in the middle of June. We kept back the very minimum of furniture: a bed for me, a bed for her, my computer, my desk, and my chair. We kept back just a few dishes and utensils. And we kept back enough clothing for 2 weeks. Everything else is gone.

It was eerie, walking through the house after it was empty. You don’t realize how much “stuff” adds to the life of a house until it’s gone. And, of course, we still have stuff. We just don’t have as much of it as we used to. My dogs did not like it one bit. One of them went from room to room looking nervous and upset. The other one ran all over the house barking, just to hear the echoes.

All in all, having been through this whole process, I have to say I might decide never to move again. There is something almost painful about watching your treasures loaded onto a truck. Even though you have faith you will see them again, it feels weird and unsettling. Of course, our moving adventure was only starting. There was more to come, and most of it ended up feeling weird and unsettling. But that’s a story for another day!