Moving and Grooving … Not So Much

When I heard that moving and changing jobs were two of the items in the Most Stressful Life Events, I decided hey…I’ll do both at once.

To those of you who pull up roots and move across the country, kudos to you.  That seems like a lot of fun (said no one, ever).  Your accomplishment almost makes me feel badly for complaining about my semi-local move.

Almost.

Now, I decided in all of my wisdom to take the new job first, and commute back and forth while arranging my physical move.  Why not?  How can it possibly be bad to slide into my new position, over an hour away, while trying to arrange moving companies, downsize my belongings, and pack for the move?

First, let me say that I am moving from an area with high tourism this time of year.  Second, let me say, I hate tourists.  Thank you, young family in the mini-van, for playing something on your car DVD player that I could watch while stuck in the bumper to bumper traffic during my commute.  Thank you, as well, Mr.  Older Gentleman in the baseball cap for keeping me safe by refusing to drive at the speed limit.  And a special thanks to all those who somehow manage to crash their cars so perfectly that all travel lanes are blocked in all directions, at rush hour.

And did I mention that I live over a bridge? Not in the troll variety, but definitely in a pain-in-the-ass variety. As in a bridge that is the only way in and the only way out of my little piece of hell. Picture this, if you will, 10 to 12 toll lanes spread across an expansive highway, chock-full of vehicles as far as the eye can see, who, once through the toll lanes, ALL must merge down into two – count them, people, two! — tiny bridge lanes. It goes about as well as you would think. Fun and games, people, fun and games.

And let’s not forget the truckers … all of whom seem to travel at the same time (I mean, really!?) and all of whom, instead of coordinating their driving so that they all make their way through one end of the toll entrance or the other (I don’t care which, just pick one!) would rather spread out into numerous lanes across the vast sea of traffic and then, using their sheer size and apparent disregard for simple etiquette, squish whole lanes of vehicles into an untraversable funnel that keeps everyone involved from moving forward.  What did I say above? Fun and games. I honestly think that if people truly knew how to take turns AND if trucks could please, for the love of God, just follow each other through the toll lanes, that traffic could be eradicated on the Bridge I hate so much. As it is, it’s like trying to pour mud through a pinhole.

When I finally complete my hour long, now turned three hours long, trip to the House of Forgotten Boxes, I need to organize, scrutinize and itemize my belongings before stuffing them all in bags with sticky notes that say, “Dining room,” “Bedroom,” and “Who cares?  I should have tossed this out years ago.”  I believe my belongings multiply in direct proportion to how many hours I have spent driving. Seriously, it’s true.

It’s amazing the things you convince yourself to keep when you are moving. What should be a purge instead becomes a stroll down memory lane.  “Awww, the receipt from that one store I went to that one time somewhere I don’t quite remember, three years ago.  Better keep that, I may need to return whatever the hell this was.” “Look, it’s my Halloween costume from sixteen years ago.  I can use this again someday.”  “It’s my favorite Crocs!  Ummm…okay, never mind, I can throw these away.”

My new job is great, and the people are fantastic.  I feel a little lost when they discuss local adventures; I feel that I almost understand, but then they throw some twist in there that makes me do a Google Search later.   “Let’s get crabs at Dave’s after work, his lawn mower opened that chicken egg last Christmas.”  I nod and smile.  I may even try to act like I know.  “Ah, yes, Dave certainly did pick that oyster out of the chimney.” Blank stares follow, and they all talk about me over the water cooler at lunch.

I haven’t learned the shortcuts of my commute yet, either, and when people ask how I get to work they offer all sorts of useless advice.  “Oh, you should have turned at that snowball stand on the west corner of the dirt road.”  One day I’ll get it, but for now, I am lost in every way.  And that’s just the commute.

At work, in my new building, I am convinced that people randomly switch floor stickers in the elevator.  I find myself wandering around the rooftop looking for the printer, or down in the basement with the janitor, who, as it turns out, is a lovely person despite his overall serial killer-like vibe. He gave me a wonderful recipe for salmon fritters.

At home, I am surrounded by boxes that clog once familiar doorways, causing me to get lost in my own house, which is saying something considering the size of this house (have you seen my house? It’s small … as in tiny, like Jerry’s mouse-hole tiny).  I haven’t seen the kitchen in a week, but my daughter tells me it is still there.

Image result for jerry's mouse hole house

I have been on the phone for about three weeks trying to schedule my new cable in my new house, and I have been assured a cable worker will be at my new home sometime between now and December 23, 2022.  Somehow, my mail has been getting lost.  At least, that’s what I’ve been telling the bill collectors, but I’m not sure how much longer they will keep buying it.

As stressful as all this is, I know it will be worth it in the end to be settled in my new home and job.  But for now, I believe I may have crossed through the third gate of Hell.

And obviously, I can’t find my way back.

Dear Mom – Things They Don’t Teach in School

Yesterday. Whew. What a long day, for all of us.

Dad had the biopsy on his lungs yesterday.  To say I was nervous and afraid is an understatement.

I decided to tag along to keep you company.  You’re my mom, but you’re so much more.  My friend, my confidant, my rock.  And dad?  He has always, always been there for me, no matter what. So of course, I was going to be there for him.

While thinking of you both last night, after all was said and done, I took a moment to reflect on the differences that separate us, and also those that connect us, as they do in any family.  Politics?  Please.  Social issues?  Ugh, no way. I have no doubt that you feel the same. I mean, I got my attitude from somewhere, right? Yet, through it all, I love you.  More than you will ever know.  You’ve done so much over the years for me; I want to be there for you like you are always there for me.

This is not to toot my horn, so to speak. Instead, it’s meant to offer up a heartfelt apology.

Yeah, I choked.  Sure, I’m great at the lighthearted stuff.  I can gossip about the mailman and tell terrible jokes with the best of them in an attempt – perhaps, a misguided attempt – to keep your mind off things.  I can distract you from the bigger picture, if only for a little while, with any number of sarcastic and witty (in my own eyes, at least) observances. I can get super-charged and angry on your behalf; whether it’s at people or situations, I’ll gladly take it on to save you the stress or heartache.  But the serious stuff?  I’m at a loss.

They never taught this stuff in school.

Mom and dad, I wanted to say the right things.  I wanted to do the right things, to offer comfort, hope, and a bit of light in the darkness.  I just am so ridiculously backwards and awkward in serious situations that I don’t know what to say or do. It’s almost funny. Except, it’s not.

I’m sorry I’m not good at small talk or knowing what to say in a painful, frighteningly serious situation.  And I was scared.  Just like you were.  I’m sorry I’m not better at comforting you; I truly wish I knew how.

I hope you both know that I love you more than anything in this world.  I will always be there for you, no matter how awkward or backward I may be at the reassurances and encouragements and comforting phrases.

My heart feels it, oh boy does my heart feel it; if only my mouth could say it.

 

Devolving Toys for Today’s Kids   

Back in the good old days, we had toys that left lasting memories.  Sometimes, these toys left lasting scars, burns, and fractures as well, but mostly just good, warm memories.  One of my fondest memories growing up was playing with the Holly Hobbie Oven.

The Holly Hobbie Oven was a stove that was made to look old-fashioned.  Like, really old-fashioned.  The old black cast iron wood stove your grandmother used when she was young kind of old-fashioned.   Picture Little House on the Prairie old-fashioned.   It came with pots and pans, a rolling-pin, and a few mixing bowls and spoons.  It cooked, like its predecessor the Easy Bake Oven, with the heat of a light bulb.  It was sheer genius in its simplicity.  It was safe to use if you didn’t put your hand in too far (don’t ask me how I know this) and may be the reason some little girls grew up to be fantastic cooks.  I said some, not all (cough cough).

click the pic to learn all about Holly Hobbie!

I got mine for Christmas in 1975, if I remember right.  What I do remember clearly is just how excited I was to play with it and make real food (of a sort).  I played with it all the time too; this may be one of my favorite toys ever from childhood, next to my Curious George stuffed monkey (which I still have, by the way).  I still get warm fuzzies when I think of this toy and the hours spent cooking, creating and imagining.

In today’s world, where is the source of a child’s warm fuzzies?  It seems that kids are growing up too fast to enjoy life’s simplicities.  Adults feed a child’s need for distraction, myself included, but maybe we’re choosing the wrong kinds of distractions.  Where is the imagination and excitement of the simpler toys in life, such as building blocks and good old-fashioned board games?  I wonder if the kids get the same sense of wonder when they unwrap an iPhone for Christmas that we used to get while unwrapping our Barbies and GI Joes.   In a microwave world, maybe I am hopelessly camp-fire addicted, but I believe that we need to allow our kids to have an “innocent stage” for as long as we can. It’s hard to do in today’s world, though.

There are some kids who still enjoy the simpler toys like yo-yo’s and Legos (my son was NUTS about Legos growing up) but in general, it seems society has outgrown these things.  I find that sort of sad.  There is no imagination needed in today’s scripted world of video games and smart phones.  What are we teaching our kids about self-reliance?  Are they learning how to simply slow down and enjoy the fun things in life, like cooking with a light bulb or ripping off Stretch Armstrong’s arms to see what his gel insides looks like?

I am glad that society is moving forward, don’t get me wrong.  I think there is a time and a place for electronics, but I also believe technology needs to be balanced out for our youth with good old-fashioned toys that spark the imagination and employ creativity; toys that evoke a friendly competitive rivalry like Monopoly, Uno and Sorry (umm…well, in my house, to this day, when we play these games, someone usually almost always gets killed before it’s all said and done, but still, they’re fun games…yeah, that’s right, fun games!)

I’m not saying we shouldn’t embrace progress. I’m all for progress. Maybe it’s good that toys have evolved, along with everything else. And maybe it’s sad that things like the Holly Hobbie Oven are tossed to the wayside.

Home is Where the Heart is

I’ve heard so many people repeat the old adage, “Home is where the heart is.”  Home is also where my Oreo cookies and Doritos are, along with my collection of dust bunnies and dirty laundry.  But what exactly do people mean when they say, “Home is where the heart is?”

I feel a sense of home in places where I’ve never actually lived.  To me, West Virginia is home because of all the fond memories I have of spending summers there with my family.  My grandparents just felt like home. Going off the main road and into the holler, I was home. As strange as it might sound, I also feel a sense of kinship and nostalgia for places I’ve never even visited, like Ireland.  Perhaps more moving (for me at least), I feel a strong sense of calm and peace when my kids are both home for dinner or a holiday celebration. They are home to me. I feel that at that time, my home is heaven on earth; I feel that the world could collapse outside the four walls of my physical house and the three of us would be just fine.

The other day I was out with my daughter, and she started feeling sick.  She wanted to go home.  Now home wasn’t going to be a magical place where she would immediately start feeling better, and she knew that.   She just needed to be in her own space, her own place, and the one spot in the world where she felt comfortable.  It isn’t the brick and mortar home that she needed, it was the feeling that she needed.  At that point, she needed to be on her couch, surrounded by cats, and the things she knows and loves.  This house, or rather, the feeling that it evokes, is our home. My daughter doesn’t much care for our current house.  Neither do I, if I’m being honest. We don’t like the location and we feel we have never truly belonged here.  Even though we are moving in the somewhat near future, this is still our spot on the map, our space, our home.

I remember on 9/11, my now-ex-husband and I were out and about (trying to find a computer repair shop, actually) … I think most adults remember where they were that day.  As the tragedy unfolded, all I wanted was to be home. It just so happened that home was my parents.  Never mind that I was married with kids and a house of my own, I needed to be with my family.  My husband never understood that, and in fact, he even got angry with me for wanting us to be with my folks and not just “depending” on him.  His sense of home never included extended family (mine or his); he always viewed extended family as “outsiders.” On the long list of reasons we are no longer married, this one is certainly in the top five.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. “Home,” not 9/11. What makes a home a home?  Home is where …

  • The pajamas are: If you can roll out of bed without brushing your hair and lay on that couch with the lump in the one cushion and the mystery stain on the armrest without giving a darn, you are home.  Or Wal-Mart, but most likely, home.
  • The laughter is: Your walls hold the keys to your happiness.  Every good thing that has happened is memorialized in the kitchen, the living room, or the bedroom.  You share the gift of laughter freely in the rooms of your home.
  • The tears are: Where were you when the phone rang with some piece of unbelievable, heartbreaking news?  When you hung up the phone, you collapsed on your couch or bed and just cried.  Your home heard your tears and surrounded you with comfort in the face of unbelievable heartache.
  • Your family is: No matter how old you get, you’re never too old to need your family.  Home follows you from house to house.  It’s transient.  Home is where your parents are, your friends are, or your kids are, and yes, where your cats (and all critters!) are.  Home is where you are surrounded by love.
  • Your snacks are: No matter where you roam, there is only one place with the stockpile of snacks that you truly love.  No need to look around to see who is watching you either, just gorge yourself on those jelly beans.
  • Your stuff is: The finest five-star resort has got nothing on your own bed, couch, or desk.  I suppose the view and the fact that people wait on you might be a bit better at a luxury resort … but there is a level of comfort in your own home that cannot be matched by any high-dollar hotel in the world.  No matter how fun your vacation is, when it’s over, you just want to be back home, surrounded by your duct-taped kitchen faucet and the toilet that doesn’t run right unless you jiggle the handle.
  • Your door is opened, or closed: You can be as welcoming as you’d like, or turn off your lights and hide like it’s Halloween and you just gave out your last Snickers bar.  It’s the freedom to be who you like, when you like, that makes home

I’m not sure that “Home is where the heart is” means the same to everyone.  To some, it is the feeling of the actual house, welcoming and warm through its doors.  To others, it’s family and friends, or pets, and a favorite old movie you’ve seen hundreds of times.  It’s a feeling of nostalgia, of calm, of peace, and of knowing that no matter how rotten you feel physically or mentally, there is a space where you can be free to feel however you are feeling.

To me, it’s a combination of all these things that make me feel like I am home now, and I will be home wherever I wander next.