The Last Day

12-31-2019

This morning is my cry time. It just hit me hard that this time I looked forward to so much is ending already. One daughter has left already, in the dark, on the trip to the airport three hours away. The other one leaves this afternoon. We have spent a week together, wearing ourselves out with talk, food, and as much activity as we could pack into a week of weird winter weather.

I am not put off by stillness or being alone, but the contrast is so vivid right now that I can’t not think about it. I’m looking at the special things they bought to eat and drink, but didn’t finish. I’m putting away the last puzzle we agonized over before we found out that one piece was missing. I’m trying desperately to think of what adventure I can plan next to mask this feeling of missing people I love.

I want to hug my kids again and tell them how much they are loved, and how much I hope they will always love each other. I want them to see how beautiful they are, how unique, how disarming and precious in those moments when they struggle.

There are always a few struggles even in the coming together. This winter gathering seemed characterized by the words “awkward” and “ bizarre” which we heard a lot, and said a lot in our conversations. Even in our commonness we are awkward and bizarre, and memorable because of it.

We are family, with the chance to display a special kind of love to the world. God help us to do do that.

I Shall Start

Why? Why is it that for nearly 60 years I have written letters to friends and relatives, written in journals, and written my blog posts? I’ve always told myself that it was for my family – so that someday they would have a book. Someday they would be able to read what it was like for their mom/aunt/grandma to live in the last half of the 20th century. I have relatives who have done this for me, and I have been grateful.

I seem to have found too many reasons for putting off the task of compiling this book, in spite of promptings that I would say have come from God. Yes, God wants me to write and I feel his partnership in this project. This is the year that I will do something, every week, every month until there is something to show for it.

I’m starting by reviewing and reposting old blog posts that are still meaningful to me. I didn’t have many readers back in 2012 and most of you have not read these. Here goes…

Furniture

February 2012

I don’t normally give furniture much thought – my house is a decorator’s nightmare – but I love to rearrange what I have. Really, tell me that something is too big and heavy to be moved and I will rise up from my death bed to prove you wrong. And it’s tricky work so you want to wait until you have little to no interference. When I’m in the middle of a complicated move the last thing I want is someone second guessing my strategy, the only exception being someone who is a kindred soul and has a good sense of humor.

 I started young and probably learned furniture rearrangement from my mother. She moved things around a lot to avoid boredom and because it was cheaper than buying new stuff – you just put it in a different place and it looks new, kind of.  I always loved it when things got moved around and required new patterns of sitting, walking, etc…  The only drawback to rearranging is that you have to give people a little time to get used to where things are, and even then, if it’s night and they’re half asleep they might make a mistake and dive into a dresser instead of the bed (sorry Dad, had to tell it).

Yes, Mom was a kindred soul and a mentor to me.  I came home one summer when Mom was “rearranging” and wanted to move an old mahogany dresser out to storage. It was slightly smaller than a compact car and nearly as heavy, and it was on the second floor of our old farmhouse. Many times since I have looked at those 20 steep steps and that narrow stairwell and wondered how we did it without being permanently injured.  My clearest recollection is of being stuck part way down in a very awkward position and having to wait until we stopped laughing to continue.

Carpet and other floor coverings are in much the same category as furniture. Changing what is on your floor can be liberating, and I have been liberated two or three times in my career. The same farmhouse, a downstairs bedroom with old wall to wall carpet with stains and probably at least fifteen years worth of dust mites… I found some decent looking wood floor under a corner of this carpet and decided to get rid of it one day when my husband was out of town. He is not a kindred soul.

Carpet requires as much or more skill to remove as furniture. Think about it. You either have to move all the furniture out of the room, or you have to move it all to one side, roll up the carpet and then move the furniture over the roll. No small matter. I don’t remember which I did because it was so awful, my mind erased all the memory of it in self defense.  Furniture amnesia is what keeps me doing these things. Once rolled, carpet is very stiff and surprisingly heavy. I could barely lift one end of it and there was no way it would bend around a corner and out the doorway. I had to go out the window with it, and it was a serious rival to the “dresser in the stairwell” for being ridiculously funny and somewhat dangerous. Most people probably don’t remove wall to wall carpet until they’re willing to cut it up in small pieces, and that is the way I have done it ever since.

And all this came to mind while I was moving furniture today. Twenty years ago we bought our first really good set of living room furniture – a large, heavy Lane sofa with recliners on each end (still in the living room) and a rocking love seat with reclining function also.  The love seat has been in a rental unit and has seen better days … kids, dogs, garage storage have all taken a heavy toll and I’ve decided at least twice to put it out by the road on it’s way to furniture heaven. But it was still in the garage and recycling is so “in” now that I decided to give it another chance. I pulled two pencils, a TV remote and a dirty sock out of the cracks, vacuumed and scrubbed the fabric with carpet cleaner and cleared the way through the house.

 I use physics principles when I move furniture; levers, friction reduction, and obstacle avoidance. And I have plastic sliders, which my mother never had but I could not live without. When I made it through the first doorway, I knew I could get it all the way into my bedroom on the other side of the house. It was really a pretty piece of work, especially since the recliners kept unfolding and rocking kind of like a ship at sea. I had to stand it on one end to get it through the narrow places.  It’s now sitting at the end of my bed under the ceiling fan, smelling like a dirty dog as it dries from the scrubbing.

All this to say that it may not stay there long.  It makes the room seem more crowded, and my designer friend, Arlette, says I never should have gotten furniture more than 37 inches deep in the first place. Who knew? If I don’t like it I can always get rid of it, and just like carpet, I may have to cut it up in small pieces this time.

The Other Side of Thanksgiving

If I had remembered to take pictures at the right time, I could have shown you my beautiful table, decorated and set for our Thanksgiving meal. But I didn’t and through that I realized there is an “other side” of Thanksgiving.

That side is as much a part of the good memories I hold as seeing that perfectly cooked turkey, the smorgasbord of pies ready to be served, or that plate full of food artfully arranged. The other side is seen here…

and here…

and here.

It is experienced as I wash dishes with help from guests, wipe counters clean, search space for an extra chair at the table, empty garbage, and wipe a spot of gravy off the floor (okay, it was really cat throw up but that’s not the point).

The other side includes that kind of relaxed, awkward time after eating when no one is quite sure what to do so they do this…

or this…

or this…

The other side is dear, but also a little stressfull as the number of people in the house swells, the kitchen counters are crowded with supplies, refrigerators are full of leftovers and entryways look like this.

Those necessary inconveniencies of travel, trying to keep rested over a long weekend, trying to connect in meaningful ways with each loved family member and guest – all are parts of almost every Thanksgiving I can remember. They are the other side that is maybe not so photogenic or talked about.

I think I love the other side too – the mess, the chaos, the spills, the broken dish, the menu item that gets forgotten in the fridge, the cat that dips its paw in my guest’s water glass.

Thanksgiving is a singular, memory making holiday with two sides. It might even be my favorite. All this goodness makes it easy to say “thank you family!” And “thank you guests!” And most of all “thank you God!” for another great Thanksgiving.

Autumn and Family

A past Thanksgiving in the place that is now my home.

I’m not sure I can blame it on the season, but there is something about fall that makes me miss my family in far away places. Sitting here at breakfast with the husband, I even miss our  family members that live down the street. Maybe I’m thinking longingly of Thanksgiving gatherings. Maybe it’s the thought that the long winter is coming and we should see people now, before travel gets risky. Maybe it’s because life is so obviously changing for all of us and I feel the need to KNOW how it’s affecting everyone.

We do a lot of sitting and talking. Good stuff.

Mom and I were sitting in her living room, doing our sunrise chat one day this week. She brought up the fact that many of our southern family members had moved recently. They were in houses she had never seen, so she didn’t know how to picture them at home. We started reflecting on how much better we know someone if we have visited them in their home – or at least we think we know them better. We know where they sit to relax, where they stand to talk on the phone, where they let their cat in and out, where they set the table for a meal. We know a lot of things, if we’ve been there. 

This topic is also on my mind because it was just a year ago this summer that we moved.  For quite a while friends and family didn’t know where to picture us. Even scarier, we didn’t know where to picture us. We were kind of floating and fitting in. A year into being Hayward residents, I feel like we are gradually setting our stamp on our home. There are beginning to be ways that it reflects who we are, our interests, our activities and priorities. As that happens, I feel the need to be known.

I am grateful today, for all the times I’ve been able to visit friends and family in their homes. I’m grateful for the times I’ve been able to host them in my abode. Those sharing times add to my awareness of their personalities. I know the ones who find minimalism comforting, and the ones who surround themselves with ALL their treasures. I know who is handy with tools, who loves creative touches, and who spends most of their time outdoors. I love knowing these things.

 And since this is Saturday sabbath, I have to consider that God is leading me to think about what I consider my “real home”. What will I find there and in what style am I getting ready to decorate it? From what I have seen of God (who I believe came up with the idea of home and family), the good things here on earth are meant to show us, in a small way, what he will let us experience in the future. He is such a hopeful God. 

I know not everyone is comforted by their knowledge of family togetherness. Some have never known a family. Some would like to forget what they know of family.  If that’s you, I want you to know that when it is done God’s way, family is wonderful. My family experience is not perfect – no one’s is, but even the hard and sad times have purpose. They create a holy longing for the perfection that will come when God makes bad things good again. I think it’s that simple, maybe. Just sayin’… 

It’s Happening!

The Adventure Starts

Now the rest of the events will unfold, sort of like the domino that falls and starts the whole line up toppling, one after the other.

Suitcase (and daughter) finally made it.

I consider the adventure to have started yesterday when I left for the Minneapolis airport to fetch youngest daughter to us. It was a successful trip with the usual number of unexpected turns. Her route from Seattle was through Dallas (everyone’s intuitive path…) so the storms there delayed the flight 90 minutes. Then her luggage got put on another plane and we waited another hour for that to arrive. But she made it! We were home by 11 pm.

We have Mother’s Day to celebrate with a family brunch after church today. I have packing to finish and hopefully a relaxing walk somewhere – it is warm and sunny and spring is springing. This evening I will drive back to Minneapolis and hopefully get some sleep before my early flight out to Flagstaff. It seems quite unreal that one week from this moment I will be back here, sitting in this chair probably, having gone through it all.  One week of unknown adventure and unique Grand Canyon views (and possibly physical torture…). It will be over. How does time do that to us?

Thoughts on Extended Winter

20190310_0808238652243480326681325.jpg

I am thumbing through the photos on my phone – the ones taken out the living room window.  They are mostly black and white because those are the only hues out there most days, snow and not-snow.  The “Charley Brown” pine tree, sorry little thing, is my yardstick on which the snow level creeps up and up, storm after storm.  We have lost all sight of the shrubs planted around the condos. Everyone’s attention is being drawn to the heavy snow loads on their buildings, and guessing how many warm days it will take to melt the huge snowbanks. It is snowing again today.

And so goes the winter in Wisconsin. It is much as I imagined it would be. I am amazed that people lived here for ages without modern heat and shelter, and I suppose some still do. I have my own childhood memories of our family around the oil stove in the living room, and ice building up on the insides of the windows. How different it is now. Our two-bedroom condo is often too warm. We walk around inside in our bare feet, and even our car is warm and ready to go in the attached, heated garage.

It’s been a winter of doctor’s appointments. I think that’s what we did in January, although my memory doesn’t serve me well when the days and weeks are all so similar. February was marked by the big international ski race held in our area, followed by my aunt’s health crisis and several days in the hospital with her, followed by my own winter cold/flu and ensuing isolation. March has brought a return to the time change – we “sprang ahead” an hour this morning. When it stops snowing we will have a couple hours of playing in the snow, plowing out and shoveling.

While we are experiencing winter, the larger experience has been learning to live with “our” changing health status.  Because of this diagnosis the husband has received, Lewy body dementia, we are constantly surrounded by the fight to understand and reverse the disease. No detail of his bodily condition has gone unexamined, and since his way of processing his thoughts is to talk about them, we are all kept aware of each day’s change or lack thereof. He is very aggressive, or proactive about his condition and spends much of his time looking up research papers and discussing them with his brother. We discuss how it wears on us and colors our days, but there is very little else for him to put his thoughts on. I have some understanding of his preoccupation and can’t say that I wouldn’t be searching the same way if I were the one with LBD.

I am trying hard to save some attention for the many blessings that come along with winter isolation. There have been good conversations with Mom and my Uncle Wendell and Aunt Lois. They are my elders who hold much of the family history in their memories and are happy to discuss it.  I’m also very thankful for the many faceted relationship with my youngest brother and his family. They are my closest friends who share activities and meals, joys and sorrows, concerns and silly moments. I am often comforted with their words and aware of us having thrown our “soul anchors” in the same deep waters.

It helps me to write about my new life, and although the words don’t often appear here in my blog, they are being written. There will be a time and a place for them.  I have much encouragement in my writing life, having joined a group of writers whose theme is hope, always hope. The snowbanks are high and it may be June before they are completely gone, but spring is coming. Change is the unchangeable characteristic of the future and keeps me curious and ready to experience more. Bring it on, just sayin’…

20190310_0808425152132584435669693.jpg

Introspection

The world has gone a bit surreal, and I’m not quite sure where to place myself in it. Thirty one years ago I left Hayward, Wisconsin for life in Florida. It was a completely new life in every way. Now I am back, but again it is a new life in nearly every way. The actual “work”of moving is done so now I have time to think about what has happened. Introspection is a mixed blessing.

We arrived last night, like we have for many vacations over the years, after a long drive, suitcases in tow, with plans to catch up with family members and visit childhood haunts. The surreal part is that we won’t be packing up again in two weeks for the trip back to Florida. We will stay here and see the seasons change, make new friends, start new routines, and settle in. Instead of calling Mom every morning I will meet her in the kitchen as we get our first cup of coffee.  Instead of cleaning my own house and taking care of the oneacrewoods, I will be looking for ways to help others with their homes and yards.

For months, this change from one life to another has seemed so far off and so slow in coming that it was hard to believe it would happen at all. “If you ever get here…” Mom would say. I would reassure her that the “challenge of the week” would be met and that we were making progress, but honestly, I had moments when I cried and felt like I couldn’t do it.  The most valuable thing I learned from it all is that I should not spend a lot of time looking at the large picture – it can be too daunting viewed as a whole. One day, one step at a time is all that I was designed for. Each small accomplishment should get its full measure of satisfaction and celebration. One by one the hurdles got crossed and now I am sitting at the end of the course wondering how I got here. Once again, the passage of Time has created a miracle, a change.

I learned about home improvement, about hiring painters and contractors and overseeing projects. I learned about getting medical and financial records in place and ready for a move. I learned about selling and buying trucks and what goes into the making of a good trailer. I learned I had friends. I learned that hard things become easier when I pray about them and decide to trust that I’ve been heard. I learned that some things must be waited for and are beyond my control. I learned that having even one concrete task that I can do is a comfort and a blessing – get busy and do it – then look for the next thing.

The house in Florida has not sold yet, but we joke around saying we are homeless, because the house is empty and our “things” are in storage. Instead I’m going to remember that my goal was to be with more of my family and that has come to be.  If “home” is where my people are, I’m not homeless. Instead, I’ve come home.

 

More to come, because this is going to be interesting, a new page. Just sayin’…

Truck/Trailer Girls

I have learned so much during this move, and haven’t had time to write about any of it! Stay tuned for a full confession in the next few posts. 

Trucks and Trailers

I’ve had enough of them, but I dare not complain because there is more to come and I depend upon them. They are a part of moving. Graceful acceptance is in order.

I’ve totally lost track of how much I’ve recorded in my blog so this is a quick summary of events. I sold my car which reduced us to a one truck family. We traded that truck for a more roadworthy model and it is slightly smaller than the Silverado, but it’s still a truck. I am a truck girl for the time being.

The other truck in my life is the one that brings and takes away my PackRat container. It has been in our yard, struggling to turn around and get in position, four separate times now. The last time was last week when our fully loaded container left on its way to North Carolina. I had been packing it for three days with all those things that will someday go in an unfurnished house or apartment. According to instructions I was not to exceed 6,000 lbs. but it had been a long time since I had weighed any of my furniture or belongings (never). As I shoved the last heavy box of flatware over into a recliner, stuck high on a pile of book boxes and marble slabs, I had a bad feeling about the weight. I shut and bolted the door anyway because the driver had called and was only five minutes away from picking it up.

20180710_1703025905473891732556050.jpg
This was how it looked on Day 2 of packing, before the real challenge began… And yes, marble slabs. Don’t ask.

I innocently asked the driver how they weighed the containers and he pointed to a scale gauge on the lift. His words, “we’ve been taking a lot of overweight loads lately but the limit is 8,000 lbs. because the lift can’t handle more than that.”  Honestly, I went inside to pray while he hooked it up and took the container up a few feet. God was listening – it was 8,000 lbs. and he gave me a thumbs up and took it away. I’m still marveling.

20180711_150439_0018982415963459372670.jpg
There it goes, all 8,000 lbs. I can breathe again.

Don’t think our house was empty at this point. There were boxes and piles of objects unloaded from the furniture all over the house. All these things were destined for the nice, new 6×12 single axle trailer that we had just purchased to go behind our new used truck.  I don’t want anyone to think that I did all this container and trailer loading by myself. I did enough of it but had excellent help from several friends who know how to lift, carry, stack and tie. Because I am not at all superstitious, Friday the 13th, was my departure goal. We had been given some guidelines in gauging the weight on this trailer too which I forgot about until it was too late. I have to say it was another tightly packed box by the time we finished.

20180713_1254526324218784486613930.jpg
The husband prepares to embark. It was raining.

We made it to North Carolina! Several large items in the trailer were for my daughter Julie who lives in Greensboro so the day after arriving I unpacked the trailer. With Julie’s help we reorganized and reloaded my trailer – and then unloaded and reorganized her trailer. She is even more of a truck/trailer girl than I am. Her trailer is twice the size of mine, so is her truck.

What remains for us (me, the husband, the truck and trailer) is the 18 hours of driving to our destination in Wisconsin. Gonna be such fun, right? We are going to be very familiar with each other by the time we’re done… just sayin’.

Who Will I Be Next?

There’s nothing like moving to help you think about who you are, who you really are.

For years as a young mother, living in a rural area, I was responsible for growing a lot of our food and preserving it for use during our snowy, winter climate. I learned a lot about gardening, had my own rototiller, and a root cellar. I was baking bread with flour which I ground with my wheat grinder. I was making sauerkraut in stoneware crocks and canning tomatoes, green beans, beets, applesauce – lots of fruits and vegetables. I had a raspberry patch and made jam. I enjoyed that lifestyle so much. I loved being that person, even though it entailed a good bit of work. It was about 8 years of my life, thirty years ago.

Since then I have occasionally tried to garden but it felt more like raising produce for insects (or whoever it was who ate it before I got there to harvest). One year I canned tomatoes because the farms here in Florida were practically giving them away – they didn’t have workers to pick them. My Wisconsin persona brought jars, equipment, a pressure canner and expectations to my new home and they have been largely unused since then. I have kept them on a shelf in the garage. I have avoided making decisions that needed to be made.

Who am I now? Even more important, who am I likely to be in the future? It’s not that I don’t still like the thought of gardening, or of having good food put up for the winter. It’s that moving has made me decide not to be a person defined by “my stuff”. It felt empowering to put the jars in the recycling bin, knowing that they could be replaced pretty easily up north, if needed. The person I am is one who adapts to the reasonable default, whatever that is going to be.

20180625_1012132373484492861269040.jpg
All those perfectly good, jars and lids – somehow doesn’t seem right…

Another similar moment (I know, two in one day!!) came in the course of taking the husband to work. He has been dreading closing up his office, making decisions about his boxes of books and papers. He has spoken of it several times so I offered to help him. We took a small table and I arranged all his books where his coworkers could look them over and help themselves. I went through his periodicals and we decided to pitch all but the last year’s magazines.

It’s probably harder for someone who has had a long career doing what they were educated to do. They really become defined by their job. I think the husband’s books, his physics notes from college (yellowed, with bugs, and copious dust), his work memos from eons ago, and bits and pieces of ventilation equipment were defining him to a great extent. He left the room and I took care of some of it for him (dumpster) but I’m not saying exactly what because he reads this too.  If he can actually remember something he needs from it all I will go dumpster diving and look for it. I’m betting there will not be a need.

Now we are freer than we were, but not as free as we will finally be in a couple weeks. We will be free to adapt and be who we really are in our new circumstances. For me, the job will be easier without the canning jars along for the ride, just sayin’…

What We’re Doing this Summer…

What’s Happening with Us…

What on earth have we been doing? We’ve been selling and moving for months already! Aren’t we gone yet? No, we aren’t. Here’s what’s been happening in the past few weeks of relative silence:

  • The husband has been finishing up his last weeks at American Aldes Ventilation. They finally realize he is leaving and are asking him questions and scrambling to learn the things he will not be doing for them anymore
  • About half of our “things” got boxed and put in a container that is stored someplace in Tampa.
  • Packing has continued as I empty out closets, dressers, cupboards and the garage.
  • Keeping the house “showing” ready in case an interested buyer comes our way. We’ve had two open houses, both of which had 0 visitors. Really. Everyone is up north I guess.
  • We have been using up our food supply, giving some things away, sold the freezer. (Now we’ll hopefully leave before we get a hurricane so we don’t have to restock.)
  • Sold my car, and traded our red truck for a newer Chevy Colorado in a sophisticated grey.
  • Ordered a topper to go with the new-to-us truck to give us space for the move. They take weeks to make and getting it put on will probably be the last thing before we leave.
  • Spending lots of time driving around together, since I love to drive the new truck and am not letting the husband get behind the wheel.
  • Doing our last visits to doctors and dentists, compiling our health records to take north with us.
  • Keeping up with summer growth in the yard, mowing, pulling weeds and vines, trimming trees.
  • Visiting with friends we may not see again for quite a while.
  • Last but not least, trying to keep healthy and find our way out of some disturbing health problems.

 

What we hope to be doing in the next few weeks:

Dennis Retirement  (Click here to see the invitation with a nice picture of the husband. I’m technically challenged to get it to show up, sorry.)

  • Retirement party!!! I am so excited to see the husband getting honored by his co-workers. He has been faithfully on the job for 35 years and has been through a lot with this company. They have been planning a special lunch out at a restaurant and a surprise. I have no idea what it is.
  • Making an appointment at Mayo Clinic. The husband is frustrated and depressed with his erratic blood pressure and extreme mental and physical fatigue. He has had a brain MRI and tests for his heart and circulation but no helpful diagnosis yet. Ever heard of NPH? We hadn’t either but it is one of the possibilities.
  • Emptying out the house. Filling our container and returning it to storage until someday when we have another house to furnish.
  • Buying a small trailer for the things we want to take north.
  • Taking our trip to Wisconsin, via Greensboro to see Julie and possibly Madison, Indiana to check out Ron and Marlene’s project (this is the first they’re hearing about this though, so we will be flexible on that.)
  • We absolutely have to be finished traveling and in Wisconsin by the end of July because the first week in August is the Smith Family Reunion and we are going to be there helping it happen!

 

So a lot has been happening, even as some important things, like the sale of the house, have not been happening.  We are learning and practicing our waiting skills. And since it doesn’t make much difference where we wait, we will do it with family. We are not discouraged. The house will sell, eventually.