Oct 23, 2015

What I'm Into: Podcast Edition...

While I have some chores and things to attend to, today I'd like to talk instead about what feels to me like a newfangled technology, but as with most of my trend and fad discoveries, it has been around at least a little while. Much like motion-sensing lights in bathrooms. I walked into the bathroom of a very modest church a while back, looking for the light switch, and the lights flicked on automatically. ZING! I thought, "Wow, what a fancy touch for this mid-80's linoleum and country blue and peach floral vibe." Except then I realized that I find motion-sensing lights pretty much everywhere, and have even lived in houses that had them in certain places, so they're probably not all that fancy and new anymore. And I concluded that I'm, um, aging gracefully. I digress...

Anyway. Apparently everyone knows about motion sensing lights in bathrooms, so instead I'm going to talk about podcasts. Which, again, I'm pretty sure everyone knows about, but I'm new to this gig so you get to hear about my finds.

It started a year(s?) ago when the Cat Daddy started listening to musical podcasts from his favorite groups, and I was all "yeah, that's pretty cool," but didn't do much about it. He tried to tell me how to do it and I was all "So, it's an app?" and he was all "the app is where you find them," but I was only half listening so there you have it (apologies to the Cat Daddy).

Fast forward to this spring, when I was thinking forward to wintertime running in New England, and remembering that it may well involve dread-mill time, and sort of grumbling about that. Then I got to talking with some running acquaintances in AL and they mentioned which podcasts they were into, and how they really passed the time, and even gave me some suggestions, and it got me to thinking "Hey, this might be a good idea."

I'd heard murmurs about Serial, but it sounded a little intense for me. Kind of like HBO shows. Eventually though, I'd watched enough TED talks and Facebook snippets that I finally started looking up the sources of my favorite things, and bam--podcasts. You know what made the long driving days (almost) fun on our move? Plugging my phone into my car's auxiliary jack and listening to podcasts. You know what makes me (almost) look forward to dishes and laundry and lamesauce chores? Podcasts. I'm serious; if you are not into them already, you need to take a look and see what you can find. There is something for EVERYONE out there.

And so, without further adieu, I present to you some of the podcasts I'm into* **...

Another Mother Runner--This is run by Sarah and Dimity who are, among other things, mothers and runners. They talk mostly about running-related things. Obvs.

TrueFaced--If you are into Jesus, and Grace, and stuff like that, this is a great little weekly snippet. They are my people.

Open Door Fellowship Church--This is my home church. Always will be. Bill from TrueFaced started it with a bunch of hippies over 40 years ago, and it's one of the few places I've seen God's grace lived out in all its messy, trusting, brutiful glory. There are others, but not many. I don't listen every week, but I like to keep tabs and check in from time to time. They are my people.

Newsworthy With Norsworthy--More Jesus stuff. Luke is a pastor who is really good at asking questions and exploring ideas with people from all corners of Christianity. My favorite guests of his so far have been Nadia Bolz-Weber and Richard Rohr, but that's like saying my favorite parts of Disneyland are Space Mountain and the Blue Bayou. There's a whole lot more in between and around the two to love.

Invisibilia--This one is amazeballs. Alix and Lulu explore aspects about us that are invisible, but have a huge influence on our lives. It's science-y, and story-ish, and really hard to describe. They did an initial run of 6 or so episodes and are (I hope) in the process of making more.

Hidden Brain--This one is sort of in the same vein as Invisibilia, but focused more exclusively on social science.

How To Do Everything--This is a brief and fun look at most anything you can imagine. Mike & Ian answer listener questions on how to do...everything. It's a little tongue-in-cheek, a little sassy, and somehow still incredibly informative.

TED Radio Hour--So about half my podcasts are NPR-related. I think the Cat Daddy may be a little concerned that I'll turn into a crazy liberal, because apparently that's what happens when you listen to NPR (I've heard). But I could not resist an NPR show based entirely on TED talks. Plus, I might have the teensiest crush on Guy Raz.

The Simple Show--I took a winding path to get to this one. It started over on The Art of Simple. I've been loosely following Tsh and her family for a little while now, particularly their recent (almost)year abroad with their three kiddos. I pretty much completely ignored her podcast for a while, but then she re-vamped the whole thing and did a post on why I should go give it a try, so I did. Tsh's deal is living simply; that is, living holistically within your life's purpose. Which can mean something different for everyone, which is why it's a great listen. I think her biggest strength, though, is bringing in other people. (Nearly?) Every show is an interview where she talks with someone else about their own "simple," and many/most of them have their own websites and/or podcasts. So if you are kind of bookish and want to find people to follow, this is a good place to look.

PopCast--If you will look back over this list you will see Jesus stuff and science-y, thinking stuff, and a bit about living simply. And you might think, "Wow, Skerrib, you are cultured and deep," right? That's what I thought too, as I congratulated myself for jettisoning almost all the pop culture in my life. But then on a Simple Show interview, Megan Tietz dropped that she had also been interviewed for the Popcast, so I meandered over there to give it a cursory listen. I'm only about 5 episodes in, but I'm already certain I want to be besties and/or a professional third wheel to Knox & Jamie. Clearly, I've kept the lighter-duty parts of my brain too. You're welcome.

With winter coming, that dread-mill will be looming, so please feel free to leave me some of your favorite podcast suggestions. Ideally I have a smile on my face as the ending bumper music is playing, so no scary things or Lifetime specials, please...

*This list is ever-changing. There have been a couple I've tried and dropped for various reasons. There was one I really, really wanted to like because it involved interviewing all sorts of famous personalities on a more behind-the-scenes level, but it had too many f-bombs for my tender ears. I think it was actually called the WTF Podcast though, so I had fair warning there.

**I'm also into several non-podcast things--somehow I've completely missed telling you about my Apple TV and YouTube discoveries--but those will have to wait for another day. And we have also been in a timeframe where the Littler One wants to record and post his own Minecraft videos on YouTube, which I'm all for, except I'm stuck on the part about how to go about recording a Minecraft video. So there's that. Aging Gracefully.

Oct 9, 2015

Patchy Patchy...

When the Cat Daddy went into the Air Force, he went through Officer Training School. A substantial part of the first two weeks of OTS was learning how to keep their uniforms in good order. They trimmed loose threads. They learned how to tuck or blouse their pant legs just right in/over their boots. And they ironed. They ironed and ironed and ironed.

When the Cat Daddy returned from OTS, I told him that I would be letting him maintain his own uniforms. There were several reasons behind this, but my favorite was that the US government had invested so much time and training into his uniform techniques that I didn't want that training to go to waste. He replied that was fine with him, and that it was probably better than trying to train me up to the same standard anyway (he knows I'm a lazy ironer). So now when we have to buy an iron, he's the one who picks it out because he irons way more often than I do & knows which features are the important ones. And when he needs something sewn on he takes his uniforms to the base alterations place, which for a reasonable price does a great job in probably 1/3 of the time it would take me. And if it comes out wrong (which I don't think it ever has) he has them do it again, and I'm very happily out of the loop.

Well, this year the boys joined Cub Scouts. I've quick-stitched patches and such in the past, but something about Cub Scouts seemed more official to me. We bought the Badge Magic (stuff to stick the patches on instead of sewing them), but then it turned out that their pants needed hemming as well. And in the past I've sort of hack-hemmed my own pants, but again something about doing them for someone else made me want to take it up a notch.

Well long story short, one of my running friends is a seamstress and does hemming and patch-sewing for people in the neighborhood as a way of funding her hardcore running habit.

So guess what I did? I could have hired her to hem the pants and sew on the patches, but instead I took a sewing lesson from her. I had the machine and the gist of the process, and she had the experience and the techniques to actually make things look good. So we spent a lovely couple of hours wrestling with fabric, and she graciously and patiently looked on as I learned how to do the things, and she made some dollars along the way. It was a win-win-win as far as we were concerned.

(Another thing I love about my late 30's is that I'm learning what things in life I care to take on myself and what things I can afford to hire out to people who know better than I. I'm getting pretty good at asking for help when I need it, and I'm finding people are generally glad to share their talents with me.)

That was a couple weeks ago. Since then we acquired new Den patches (above), and the boys earned their Bobcat badges, so it was time to test out my new skills. It took me a couple tries but in the end I was very pleased with the results, and have declared myself a serious, patch-sewing Scout Mom.

The Cat Daddy looked at my work and said he still wasn't sure he'd trust me with his uniforms, and I said that's fine. I'm not sure I'm up for that level of pressure and besides, I have a friend who would be happy to to take the job...

Oct 7, 2015

Snippets to Suffice...

Kids, there is so much to tell. So much. But there is so little time. So little. Rather than cramming all of the things into a gigantic post, it seems less painful to us all to let some snippets suffice--

--I started back to work a month ago, and can now say with authority that if you are going to start a new job, it should be with a company you've already worked for and like, and with people you've already worked with/for and like. You will have the BEST first week ever, and will only sweat a little bit from excitement, rather than buckets and buckets trying to figure out workplace culture, boundaries, and the like.

--On my first day I showed up with my trusty work laptop, ready to get back into the swing of math and big engineering words and stuff. I had a lot of questions, but I settled pretty easily into my workspace knowing most of them would be answered eventually. There were a couple, however, that were more urgent than the rest. And it turns out they are pretty much universal. You can be most any occupation, in any stage or station in life, in most any place in the world, and it boils down to these key issues: "Where is the bathroom?" "Where is the water?" and "Where do I get/store my lunch?"

You know what's not universal? At my particular away-from-home job no one asks me to do any bottom- or nose-wiping. People try to be as alone as possible in the restroom instead of all crowding in to find me when I'm there. They get their own food and drinks, and if I shoot a serious look or point to my phone they can tell I'm concentrating and should not be bothered unless necessary. I haven't had to give a single time-out to any co-workers, and I still get to say silly things sometimes. On the downside, no one has expressed any desire to give me snuggles or hold my hand walking into a building, but somehow it still feels like I'm winning, so I think it's a good fit.

--Overall the balance of work and home is...balanced. I *think* I might have found my own personal sweet spot. Our schedule is full but not overwhelming, at least most of the time.  The house is a notch messier than before, and still not completely assembled the way I'd like it. And I would love a little more downtime for *just* me, but that will come in time, I think, as I learn how to chisel it out of the day.

--The equinox arrived and, like clockwork, the weather cooled. My favorite time of year is now, when the mornings and evenings require a fleece but it still gets warm enough in the afternoons to take the chill off. The fall sunshine has a nibble of crispness to it, and of course the orchards have the best apples, without that suspiciously shiny wax coating one finds at the grocery store. The kids love it when I melt peanut butter and chocolate chips to dip their apple slices in, but I'm happy to skip the melting and dip right into the PB and chips. My family loves the local homemade apple butter with its hint of molasses, but I have discovered the "low-sugar" version, which in the case of jams and jellies doesn't mean blandness or artificial sweetener, but rather a bolder, more tart, and purer fruit flavor. I might have a slight low-sugar apple butter toast problem.

--Thus far moving back to Massachusetts has gone swimmingly. It's not exactly the same, of course; no place ever is. But we have made some new friends and re-acquainted with a few old ones, and are experiencing the joys of relational roots.

--I turned 38 a few weeks ago. I've been in a bit of a heady place for a few years, kind of surveying my life and realizing I'm THERE. I'm an adult, driving the mom-mobile, flying through these years of raising a family. A while back I saw a picture of my family (parents, brother, and me), taken when I was the same age as His Highness is now, and realized that when that photo was taken my parents were younger than I am now, and I got a little mind-blown, thinking, "There we were, and here we are."

--And finally, time for a little bit of True Confessions. I don't much care for Pumpkin Spice things. You can keep your lattes and pies and pancakes and whatnot.

I'll be over here with my apple crisp...

Aug 26, 2015

Come Lord Jesus...

OK kids, it's a little crazy over here these days. There has been a lot this summer to blame on the Big Move, but I think we've reached over that fence and into new territory. We're mostly-reasonably settled, at least as far as the kids are concerned, and yet the crazy continues.

The most obvious explanation for all this craziness is that we are less than a week from school starting, and all of us in the Skerrib family have wrung the snot out of this summer. We are ready for a return to structure, and challenge, and maybe a teensy little break from one another every single weekday.

Then again there's the mom-guilt option, where my own inner chaos, stemming from still not having anything on the walls yet (but constantly running after the kids in hopes of heading off any major messes, damage, or fire, hence further delaying any progress on putting things on said walls), rubs off on the kids and they mirror it back to me.

And of course there's the "we're all failing" option, where I am raising ill-mannered savages, plain and simple, and somewhere around age 20 they'll suddenly and without explanation mellow out into the normal and wonderful people I know are deep down in there. Or, you know, they'll become sociopaths. Either way.

These are the things I ponder as I go up and down stairs, chipping away at Mount Laundry one load per day, until someone poos and I have to add a load of bathroom rug, thereby disrupting the system (Children, please get your poo INto the potty).

I mean, most likely the first explanation is the truest, and we're all doing better than it feels 87% of the time. Tomorrow will dawn and most likely I will arise and jog, and contemplate life, and return home full of endorphins and happy thoughts. OR maybe freak out just a little bit; either way.

Still, I believe today that I have crossed a line. Call it a boundary, hedge, point of no return, margin of safety, arbitrary control point, or what have you. I call it "Come, Lord Jesus."

"Come Lord Jesus" is what happens when I try to get us into a system that will revolutionize our home, and it starts out well in the short term but eventually certain individuals incite mutiny, and the system is revolutionized alright, but in the exact opposite way from what I'd hoped. It is what happens when we are mere yards from the finish line, and our watertight form devolves into all-out flailing and tongue-wagging, and we have expended all that was in us, and we just cannot care anymore. This is when I take a breath, throw up my hands, and say "Come, Lord Jesus."

Two summers ago, we had a "Come Lord Jesus" moment very similar to this. It was the week before school started, and as I sunk into the couch and contemplated the mutiny raging about me I decided that turning into Loud Monster Mom, while very rarely occasionally effective, would do nothing. We needed a change of scenery, and that change of scenery was just around the corner with the start of school, and so we just needed to hang on until we got there. So I took a deep breath, in and out, and tabled the cleaning and nagging and routines until the following week. The house was a disaster, but it eventually got cleaned up, and no one was permanently scarred in the process (Incidentally, Jesus did not return. While a slight disappointment, I like to think it left the door open for continued prayers of this nature each summer).

Last year the kids ended up with a short summer due to scheduling differences between Virginia and Alabama, so there was no "Come Lord Jesus." In fact, it was closer to a "Holy crap," and mad dash for school supplies in time for the start of the school year. The kids maintained that it wasn't fair, and in some ways I agreed, but that particular pain saved us several days of "Come Lord Jesus," which I think was a better deal overall. And the house was still a bit of a disaster, but it eventually got cleaned up.

This year, however, the situations were reversed and they ended up with a loooooooonger than normal summer.  They cheered, "Yay!" but even they are rethinking that cheer at this point. There are no more field trips to take, activities to try, or places to explore that will make it better. Don't get me wrong; there is plenty to do. It's just that I can no longer be reasonably sure that no one will lose an eyeball in the process. We need our village, and we need it now. Come, Lord Jesus.

And so today some of us have done our chores and some of us haven't, but I am acting as if we all have, and will lovingly and firmly dole out whispered consequences later. I think at this point it's worth it for my own sanity, and their own safety.

In conclusion, it just goes to show that you always have choices. From experience I can tell you that losing your cool makes the tiny sociopaths think they've won. Make space for your sanity, and make room for the Lord Jesus, and soon a new season will arrive, and eventually the house will be in something that resembles order.

Don't let the sociopaths win, people. Come Lord Jesus.

Amen and amen...

Aug 6, 2015

Because Adding a Creative Project During a Move-In Is the Best Ever...

**First, some background info. My friend Elizabeth is in the middle of an ongoing project this year called Unfinished, where she is setting a goal to finish at least one project per month. This can be any size or type of project, and she has also been including interviews with people she knows, covering how they go about projects, keep them in view, if and when they ever cut ties on a project, and so on. It's been really inspiring to me, even with a Big Move thrown in like a wrench. Which is really no excuse, because Elizabeth's family just had their third Big Move in TWO years (that's a move every summer for three summers running now. Yikes!), and yet she is still keeping the dream alive of finishing things. You should go see her site for a minute before you come back here. She documents all sorts of family and creative pursuits, and you will love her photos. They're the really good kind.

My "Unfinished" goal for this year was to finish some things, although I stopped short of setting any sort of quota (e.g. one per month, etc), and I'm mostly glad about that.  I mean, I'd probably have finished more if I'd aimed a little higher, but then again maybe I'd just have a bigger pile of to-do's making me sad. Ain't nobody got time for making themselves sadder.  

Anyway, I've found myself a little more intentional when deciding to take on a project (or not), which is a good thing. I think to myself, "Come on Skerrib, can you realistically see this through? Or will it remain on your to-do list and make you sad?" And I think consequently, I've checked more items than usual off my list, precisely because I'm dealing with them more deliberately. What's more, as we get settled in I'm gradually making room for new projects, like the one I'm about to share. 

It's a major motivational help to follow a friend who is working on similar goals, so I recommend to try and find some positive peer pressure if you want to pursue progress in this area.

Background info: done. Onward...**

By this point in their sports careers, the boys are starting to accumulate their share of medals. Some are better deserved than others, but debates on merit aside, I LOVE that more often than not they are getting medals instead of trophies. Medals are more durable, take up much less space than trophies, and are slightly easier to view simply as a memento of their time on the team. And I can get behind simple mementos.

The thing about medals, though, is that sometimes the boys lose their heads a little and start swinging them around as weapons, or leave them lying around the house, or some such thing I would never think to use a medal for, so I decided it was time to contain the medals somehow (or get rid of them, but you can easily guess how that discussion would have gone. Even I don't want to get rid of my medals).

So we nosed around Amazon a little, and they picked these. I thought they were good choices: inspirational without being overly cheesy, and fairly classic in design: 
His Highness's choice here

The Littler One's choice here (medals not included--he was disappointed about that)
Each came with materials for mounting them to the wall, which got me thinking. We move a lot, so we'll be putting them up and taking them down a lot. And while yes, walls are generally pretty easy to fix most of the time, it makes my eye twitch just a little every time I pound in a nail or screw or bolt, especially if there are anchors involved.

The answer, of course, is Command products, which I've mentioned in passing, but perhaps not expressed the scope of the difference they've made in my life. I use them whenever I can now, instead of nails. They take a little work and patience up front, but they make hanging things soooooooo much easier, and really do minimize the wall damage. Plus you can very easily hang stuff on tile backsplashes and other places which would be otherwise a pain in the tuchus. 

The bummer of Command products is that they look terrible on see-through metal medal hangers, so I hit upon a solution of mounting the wall hangers to some wood plaques, and then Commanding the wood plaques to the walls (As a sidenote, The Littler One could have gotten away without a wood plaque, but once he saw something happening, he wanted in on it. This is how he rolls). 

After some searching and mild indecision, I decided on unfinished innkeeper signs. And after some negotiating and reasoning, The Littler One and I decided we would finish the signs with red, white, & blue acrylic paint and Mod Podge. I forgot to take pics of each step, but our procedure was as follows:
  1. Mom sands the signs ("too boring," said the kids).
  2. Mom primes the signs while the kids are out of the house because she's afraid of the mess.
  3. Discuss design, then tape and paint accordingly. By this time Mom has a handle on herself and the kids happily paint.
  4. Tape-and-paint-and-tape-and-paint until desired designs are achieved.
  5. Let The Littler One do the stars his way because, why not.
  6. Mod Podge until things seem sturdy and shiny-but-not-too-shiny.
How did I make it 37.9 years without this miracle substance??

     7.   Mount hangers on finished plaques.
     8.   Command plaques to the walls.

His Highness's finished product
His Highness's hanger mount was pretty straightforward. It came with spacers which hold it slightly away from the surface, so adding medals is easy-peasy. The plaques are soft pine, so just a screwdriver did the trick; no drill (that would've been fun though).

The Littler One's was slightly more challenging. First, I lost the screws that came with the package. I didn't want to make a Home Depot trip so I got out our little box of extra hardware and picked out a  workable solution.

The way his hanger works is you put the medals on and then fasten the bar to hold everything steady. But again, I didn't want to make it too permanent, so I decided to put a very thin screw just below the bar to support it.

Then, because I'm super clever, I sanded one edge of the screw head so that it's just that much easier to move the bar and add/subtract medals as needed. This step probably wasn't totally necessary, but I did it anyway because I like coming up with clever bits.

The right edge is veeerrrrry slightly flatter

It's not anchored; just resting securely.

The Littler One's finished product
While I was at it, I thought about a couple of really cool bottle-opener we've had lying around for years. I'd actually thought about the plaque idea for it before, but like so many "I could..." ideas, hadn't gotten around to it. It so happened Michael's had these little square plaques next to the innkeeper signs, so badda boom, badda bing, adorable bottle opener in the kitchen. 

The Cat Daddy bought bottled barley pop to test it out, but forgot my fancy root beer. 
It turns out, though, that the motion of opening the bottle is pretty much the same motion as that of undoing Command Products, so in the end I put up with the eye twitch and fastened the opener directly. True, I could have drilled holes in the plaque and fastened it that way, but since I'm still in Transition Fatigue, I went with quick and done to be safe.

More functional. :)  Less red. :(

Done! Now to find the scattered medals and hang them.
The thing you have to be really cognizant of with Command strips is the object weight. They make a big deal of saying they don't guarantee structural integrity, and since we have textured walls in this house we have to make sure we stick enough strips on whatever it is we are hanging, especially with heavier things, so that they will stay securely in place. Otherwise we risk ending up with, say, souvenir spoon cases which might or might not fall off the wall and break the display door glass and spill souvenir spoons everywhere. Or so I've heard.

In conclusion, my favorite thing about this project is that we made something that looks nice, but for a really practical purpose. I greatly enjoy all the things having a "home," and this breaks up the bright white walls a little. And hopefully, it'll cut back on medal-related injuries a little at the Skerrib house...

Jul 21, 2015

Transition Fatigue...

As of a week or so ago, I have declared (this particular) Big Move complete, with eight phases total, if you count moving into the house as Phase VIII. In my mind it is not a done deal until we have the ability to clean to the point that the house doesn't look like the aftermath of a major undoing (which is exactly what it IS), but technically speaking we are done with the moving part of the Move. Also, the pictures herein depict the parts of the house that make me feel the least unsettled, although I'm posting them less for emotional reasons than for the simple fact that I didn't want to make the effort to walk upstairs & capture the messiest of the mess. But trust me, it's more peaceful this way.

Couch: check. Couch feet: NOT check.
Overall I would call this move successful in that we had few broken/missing things. The Cat Daddy would point out that some of the things they did break/lose will be a little tricky to replace, which is a valid point. On the to-do list: figure out how to match a new bench to the 30-year-old piano.

We're settled to the point that we have sheets on the beds, curtains on the showers, places to sit & watch TV & surf the interwebs, and a kitchen full of food & 'wares. This leaves the remaining task of sifting through all the things and keeping (and finding homes for them) or tossing as appropriate. This is the hardest stage to be disciplined about.

The tidiest place in the house, even with snack remnants.
This is also where Transition Fatigue sets in. Transition Fatigue is when you're not quite settled, and you're a little tired of being not quite settled, and you maybe lose perspective a little bit. Transition fatigue is different for everyone, but it could be marked by a strange devotion to rules which may or may not be enforceable, an irrational desire to control that which is not actually within one's jurisdiction, and possibly general irritability at things which are different, such as home and grocery store layouts. It evens out over time, but in the moment the Transition Fatigued soul finds it unthinkable to stock the peanut butter next to the salad dressing, and where the heck are the craisins??

Transition Fatigue also produces muscle memory issues. Some are minor, like reaching right while the silverware drawer is now to the left, and moving toward the wrong corner cabinet to get the pasta strainer. Others are more major, or at least more painful, such as moving laundry from the washer to the dryer and smacking one's face into the post that is now between the two machines.

I haven't yet found a way of getting through a transition without the fatigue, but I'm learning to talk less and put more effort into keeping myself peaceful. I take most thoughts after 8pm with a grain of salt, and I don't write blog posts until after a run (you're welcome). I keep lists in my bullet journal so I have things to check off, and I remind myself that we're working HARD and accomplishing things each day. And I tell myself peaceful things, like "it's a bigger mess because you emptied more boxes," and "their brains will be OK, even with all the screen time."

All in all we're moving right along, getting settled and ready to send the Cat Daddy back to work next week (amen and amen). It's good to remind myself that I'm not the only one going through Transition Fatigue, and I do think that within a few weeks all of us will be more settled and certain individuals will maybe be following the wearing-underpants rule a little more consistently.

I'd also like to think certain individuals will also stop strewing things about like walking tornadoes, but I'm almost certain they did that even before the move, so there's that...

Jul 5, 2015

Phase VII: The Home-ish Stretch...

OK, by my count we're at Phase VII of (this particular) Big Move. We are in Massachusetts. We are living on base. In temporary lodging. Until our house is available at the end of the week, and our stuff arrives at the beginning of the next. And then the unpacking will commence in all its glory. So we might be in the home stretch, or perhaps the not-quite-the-home stretch; I haven't decided...

...I have decided, however, that no matter how much fun one is having, a month is a long time to be without a home base. The Littler One, my guy with so many feelings, is having a volatile time of things, and during his more unpleasant moments I keep saying to him in my head "I know, transition is SO hard!" It's a bit of a trick I think, understanding how difficult it is, and yet needing to teach how to express his difficulty. Because you know, Mommy's right there with you, Kid...

...I will now take a moment to talk about a pet peeve of mine: slow drains. Over the past month we've stayed in a HomeAway rental, several friends' houses, no fewer than three separate hotel brands, and now government lodging. I'm not sure if it's some sort of relic of modern building codes, or the simple result of people like me (long-haired types) bathing all the time and clogging up the works, but every hotel tub drained slow and made me feel sad, and a little gunky on my feet. Let me recommend right now to all hotels to please install the strainer-type drain covers in your tubs. Yes, there's a bit of an ew-factor in watching one's hair pile up at the drain, but this means that the hair is not going down in the drain, getting tangled in the structures and creating blockages with, like, a 10-times ew-factor to deal with later, while people are trying to shower while the grey water is stuck at their ankles and the maintenance guy, after 10 trials of Draino, eventually has to suck it up and snake the thing, and pull out that blockage, dry-heaving as he flops it into the trash with his shirt over his nose, because there are no words for that ew-factor.

On that same note our particular government lodging, where perhaps a little vintage and practical in function and form, does not mess around with the drains. Don't take anything in the tub you wouldn't want to lose forever, because if it goes down the drain it is gone. My feet thank you, government drains...

...But oh Good Gravy, government lodging. The wireless. Something has got to be done. There are people who are professionals at knowing how to keep things up & running. Can we please find them? And have them take a look at things? (after the 3-day weekend, of course)...

...The Cat Daddy makes fun of all my loyalty club key-tags, but at least one is still useful here. To be fair, when I went to Shaw's I asked if they still used them and the cashier said, "We haven't used those in a long time, Ma'am." I said, "That's alright, I haven't been in town in a long time." The Stop & Shop one is still apparently useful, though. So there's that...

...The greatest thing about this move is going back to a familiar place. This is the first move where we've had such a privilege, and as we've driven around getting reacquainted, I've had many moments of "Oh, I remember!" It makes me think about heaven, and wondering if at least parts of it might be like that as we greet old friends, and maybe parts of it will look similar to things we love(d) about our life here. Who knows. I do know that six months from now I may be updating from under several feet of snow, so I feel like I need to mark this time in early July and remember that being with dear friends and among familiar places is a gift...

Jun 28, 2015

On Laundry and Relaxation...

At this moment we are on approximately Phase V of (this particular) Big Move. Phase IV consisted of buzzing thru Montgomery to grab the remainder of our possessions and visit the chiro for one last dose of back health before heading to Asheville NC.

It could be said that Asheville NC is the Portland OR of the East. It is lush and green, and one of the kids actually commented that it looked like scenes from the Goonies, which is set in Oregon. Asheville also has more than its share of crunchy-types and oddballs, and from my observation it could have the highest per capita incidence of dreadlocks in US urban areas, although I haven't been in Boulder CO in a while, so there's that.

Other than an amazing pulled pork biscuit breakfast downtown and a beautiful hike in the Smokey Mountains though, we have been spending our time hanging with our friends (The Pastors T and family, from days of yore) at their house. In an interesting twist of events, they too are moving, although they like to kick things up a notch and are moving in three days, and on something like a week and a half notice. 

In theory we are helping them pack and prep, which in this case looks like baking to use up the pantry...sending all the kids outside to occupy each other...talking about Jesus, antimatter, and everything in between...and napping on their couch when things get sleepy. We love them.

This morning I got to take a couple hours to do introvert things. It's always a bit of a surprise to me to find what can rejuvenate me and give me a happy morning. Internet articles talk about things like spa days, mani-pedis, long baths, and stuff like that. Which are all fine and good; just not my relaxation cup of tea. It turns out when I'm on the road, it is otherwise mundane, ordinary (and sometimes mind-numbing) tasks which make me feel like a whole and mostly-sane person, and very small gifts which give my heart that extra little smiley kick.

Today the things that made me feel calm and happy were: 
  • Running a 5K on the treadmill while listening to podcasts
  • Lifting little dumbbells to keep the old back strong 
  • Doing a load of laundry 
  • Asking for coins for said laundry at the front desk and being told "They're actually free now. Just push in the empty coin tray and they'll work." AND THEY DID.
The laundry is a particular surprise. I think it's less about actually doing the laundry, and more about staying on top of the task which is the closest thing I have to an arch-nemesis. If my family has clothes to wear, we're prepared to fight another day. Or something like that. Also, I'm ensuring that my Mount Laundry will be minimal as long as possible. Ideally until we move into the new house, where articles of clothing will again start reproducing until they reach the piles to which I'm accustomed. Some things just can't be explained...

Jun 17, 2015

Snippets From the Beach...

--At this moment we are what I'm calling Phase III of our Big Move, or in some circles, (this particular) Big Move, because it is our third Big Move in as many years.  Phase I was the extended-stay hotel mentioned in my previous post, and Phase II was a weekend with dear friends on the way down to Key West. I haven't decided how many phases to break (this particular) Big Move into, but over the next few weeks we will go back through Montgomery to pick up the Cat Daddy's car and our trailer o' stuff, spend several days with dear friends in NC, drive to MA, stay in temporary lodging for something like 10 days and, finally, move into our recently-secured base housing on or around July 10. So that's, like, 6-8 phases total? I'm not even sure what to call it. All I know is that I'm taking a lot  of deep breaths, and setting aside priceless time for introvert-ish things, and goodness me these children are beasts when they don't get enough rest.

--I'm not sure if I've mentioned it many times here, but Oh My Dear Heavens, do I love the beach. If my life circumstances should somehow change and I find myself without family responsibilities (heaven forbid), or maybe just someday once the kids are off & grown, I will have a cottage in a beachy town and become a beach bum (But a high-functioning one). I will wake early in the mornings and run places, and I will take up surfing (or stick to snorkeling, depending on the location), and the rest of the time I will navigate town on my beach cruiser, and be an eccentric and beloved local old woman. The Cat Daddy says he will miss me at the family farmhouse/estate, and I said no worries, he can visit me at the beach and I will come for big family holidays. I'm certain we can become snowbirds or make it work in some way. If one is going to be in transition for crazy timeframes like a month or more, may I recommend beach time as a way of preserving sanity?

--My friend Ruth and I talk about All the Things when we get together. I have just as many opinions as she does, but she's more outspoken than I am, and willing to put up with all the stuff that comes with sharing opinions online, so she writes and posts brave things. I'm not sure my exact reasons, but most controversial-type things I tend to save for in-person discussions. Sometimes I wonder if I ought to be bolder about sharing my OPINIONS here on the blog, and waaaaaay back in the archives you can find a few OPINIONS, but more recently I like the safety that comes from sitting with someone in person and sharing points of view. I very rarely see people storming out of coffeehouses mid-rant, is what I'm saying. I'm not sure that's the end of the story, because I think there's also something to be said about entering the broader discussion, or "the arena" so to speak, but this is where I am at the moment. We can all use more kindness, laughter, unicorns, and kittens (and Jesus), and those are the things I'm about these days.

--In Key West I have seen people carrying around coconuts, drinking stuff out of them with straws. My intent today is to find out what is in said coconuts, and perhaps procure one for myself before this afternoon's informal snorkeling practice.

Jun 3, 2015

Lucky Number 500...

It turns out that, if my Blogger stats are correct, this is my 500th blog post on this site.  So, happy 500th post to us all, and thanks for reading my blog!

These days we are in transition, which I feel like I write about a lot.  Probably because we do a lot of transition, and because we've been going through more than usual lately--this is move #3 in 3 years. I haven't figured out yet if I'm learning new things each time we move, or if I'm re-learning the same things and due to my mom-brain it's all just shiny and new to me each time.

At this moment we are in the extended-stay hotel until we leave for a vacation in Key West. We are (varying degrees of) beach people, so we are all very much looking forward to it. I'm pretty sure this will be the farthest south I've ever been, and even though I'm not a drinker, I'm seriously considering a mai-tai or some other adult umbrella drink to mark the occasion. After vacation we will make our way north, arriving in the wonderful Boston area during the warmest time of year, which I think is quite valuable for feeding my continuing denial of the severity of winters to come.

If there's an upside to all this moving and transition, it is that we are veritable experts at the logistics of moving and transition. We can work around moving ourselves or being moved by a company. We can plan for long-term displacement or a door-to-door excursion. With or without kids and/or pets. Seriously, I could have a reality show on HGTV where I help people organize themselves for moving, because each time I have moved I have learned something new to make it go a little smoother the next time.

The "internal" aspects of moving are a little more complex, I think. Because it is familiar, this part does go more smoothly for me these days, but I haven't yet found a way to both do it well and make it painless. In fact as you would probably guess, it seems to me part of doing transition well is letting it be painful, and feeling the feels, and all that. Sometimes I get caught off-guard though, and I get surprised by what stings.

The other day we were checking out of our house, and I took a moment for some mental snapshots. I remembered how empty it felt when we first moved in and how, after a year of placing and arranging, and filling it with the things of our lives (and vacuuming the ever-loving granola crumbs again and again), it was again packed up and emptied, looking identical to the first time we saw it.

I think it's one of the great paradoxes of life, about opening up and risking to love something/someone, but still holding it "loosely," as they say.  I don't know what it was about that house--perhaps the layout and other particulars, which I was particularly fond of--but I loved it right away, and it felt very home-ish to me almost immediately. I remember consciously allowing myself to enjoy it fully for the time we had it, even knowing it was a rental, and a short term one at that.

Still, I was surprised by how sad I felt to leave a house of under 11 months. I thought back to all our previous houses and places, and what was hard (or maybe not so much) about leaving each of them, and I decided it is hard for me to leave what the house represents. Memories, yes. A wonderful "summer camp" year of whirlwind friendships and seizing the days, and making the most of things, yes. But somehow it's even bigger than that.

I love the scene in Castaway where Wilson the volleyball floats away, and Tom Hanks just cannot rescue him without compromising his own safety and hopes of rescue, and he is undone with grief as he lets Wilson go. That scene stuck with me more than any other. That silly volleyball represented so much more than a toy or keepsake, or even a conversation partner. It was the last remainder of his life on the island, and stood for everything he had to let go of in order to risk being rescued.

So I think for me, this particular house represented the whole of my experience here in Montgomery.  I am so excited to be back in Massachusetts, and I know I have a lot to look forward to, but the first part of getting there is setting free the things that keep me here. And risking a few tears in order to tell people what they've meant to me.

Believe me when I say, if you haven't weighed this choice before, that it is worth the tears. It is worth feeling a little bit silly as you try to find the words to say, and it is worth the pang in the gut to leave well.

It is also worth noting that now, a couple days after the fact, I don't feel weepy about my house anymore. Friends of ours are moving into it, so I know it's in good hands, and I like feeling good about the fate of my inanimate objects.

I have a couple weeks of (people) goodbyes left though, so please pardon me if I get a bit of a faraway look in my eye. And maybe slip me a little chocolate...