The Final Mess

It’s not done till it’s all done. This is not a political post. There are other messes.

How many of us have never moved from one house, one location to another? Those few who have stayed put all their lives have not experienced the final mess. I have seen it multiple times. Maybe it’s possible to learn to avoid some of it’s aspects, but… no, I think there’s always a final bunch of weird stuff that turns into a plague at the end.

Sometimes I have gone room by room, trying to collect the most valuable items and making sure they are packed. That is not the hard part. As the “keep” boxes stack up and increase in number, I start looking for a way to sell the “not so important” stuff. That can take a while and is a skill, a real job actually. Then there is the stuff that can’t be sold and I beg my friends to take off my hands, followed by the stuff that I have to load up and donate or take to the landfill. When it goes to the landfill, I am paying for it to be taken off my hands.

Who would have thought this little storage chest would have created a buying frenzy on the marketplace. I must have had it priced too low.

Lastly, there are the things that didn’t make it into any of the above categories – probably just hidden somewhere, or forgotten. This stuff is sitting on the floor, because all the furniture is gone. The boxes are all used and gone so there is nowhere for it to be packed. I’ve picked these items up a dozen times and not known what to do with them, and I still don’t know what to do with them. No one is around to want them, but they are good enough to cause guilt if put in the trash. They are the final mess.

I’m almost there with the project I’ve been working on – packing up a house for friends of mine. The last two days I listed big furniture on Facebook marketplace and spent most of both days answering questions, texting and meeting people as they came to pick things up.

The wise people bring pickup trucks, preferably empty, and a team of men. Other people, well, maybe being wise is optional. It will all fit in there somewhere.

This load… what can I say? Luckily they didn’t have far to go.

Since this has not been my own house, and I am uncertain what the final destination of some items should be, I am taking them home. My house is starting to look like their house, my garage like their garage. My closet smells like mothballs just like their closets did. I’m hoping if they remember something they still want, I’ll still have it here somewhere.

I wish I had been thinking more about writing as I was dealing with this house project. The April A to Z Challenge is coming up and I should have taken pictures of items through the alphabet as I was packing them. I’m sure I could have covered every letter. As it is, I will have to think of another theme.

Goodbye December, Goodbye 2020

I did my 10000 today. And look at that daily average! I never would have thought it.

Thank you so much to everyone who read and watched from the sidelines this month. I definitely felt the needed pressure not to give up as I watched for views, comments and likes. You all were great! Zeb thought so too – he’s smiling and that hardly ever happens.

Doing a hard thing, on purpose, usually has payback. Challenging myself to be more active this last month has been hard but I have learned some things about myself that are good to know – even better to remember. Here they are:

Challenging myself publicly, does make me work and produce results. I can use this little bit of information to get all kinds of things done! I may not meet my goals perfectly but I go way beyond what I would do without a challenge. This is actually exciting stuff! I’m considering what next month’s challenge ought to be and the possibilities are wide open…

The excuse of not having enough time to do something probably isn’t true. I have often thought that I didn’t have time to put in 10,000 steps a day, and thinking that kept me from addressing inactivity. For a whole month I was able to find creative ways (and times) of meeting that goal most days. Over the month I averaged 3.5 miles a day. Needing that hour to walk had me looking for time wasters in my day, and I found them! They are gone and I don’t really miss them.

Physical activity helps me be more focused in areas of life other than the challenge area. There was a big project going on this December and I had the energy to get stuff done on it day after day, without getting discouraged. When I was home, I had to focus on cooking dinner, or housework. Not at home, I made my lists for errands and groceries and coordinating activities with other people. Mental focus is just a natural benefit of increased circulation to the brain, duh!

More things keep coming to my mind, but I think you get the picture. It’s not just about December either. Hasn’t this whole year been challenging? And haven’t you adopted some new and good practices as a result of being challenged? I have.

So, I’m saying Happy New Year to all. Twenty-twenty-one may turn out to be as full of hard things as 2020 was but it’s possible we could choose those areas where we want to see good work done in our lives. Some challenges could be of our own choosing. I’m going to pick some out while I’m waiting for midnight, just sayin’…

December Wreckage

I crashed. Taking off from my walking challenge was intentional Christmas Day. I don’t know what happened the day after that but no walking was done then either, (Oh, that’s right, it was the husband’s birthday. He got my walking time.) By Saturday night I was like wreckage. I sprawled in the recliner and looked terrible, felt terrible, and probably acted terrible. I was complaining and practically weeping as I tried to explain it to mom and my brother and niece. The frustrating part was not knowing why the sudden drop in energy, motivation, positivity. Was I sick (Covid, aaaagh!) or was I having endorphin withdrawal? Was that even a thing?

Yeah, two in a row. Not good.

I forced myself back on the treadmill last night and tonight. I guess I feel better, but it was really strange and I’m not completely out of that bad space yet. Honestly, it was having to report in here that kept me from quitting – and the fact that my family was laughing at supporting me and being sympathetic. Thank you guys.

After my pity party over at Mom’s I was walking back to my condo and momentarily all the bad stuff was forgotten. The snow that had been drifting in all day, and the dark, and the lights were so arresting I had to stop in the freezing cold and just look. The snowflakes were so large and flat that the light reflected off them everywhere. The dark sky was a complete contrast to the glittery, sparkles on the ground. Winter moments like these are the reason I can stand to live up here.

I wish pictures could do justice to what I saw. Not even close…

Another Rich Experience

I have often calculated the number of really interesting people I have known and am amazed at the variety, and the richness of these relationships. So before I post my screenshot of my exercise day I want to tell about The Sisters and what I am doing for them.

The Sisters: Susan, Michelle and Judith Madison are very special ladies!

All of us who know them just call them The Sisters, even though we know their names and how they are individuals, each in their own right. I think we call them that because their predominant impact is as a unit. Their story is fascinating and international in scope (and too big to tell here.) They are everywhere together and they depend on each other. They work together, they socialize together, they live together and back in August, they moved to Florida together. They had come to Wisconsin from Florida twenty years ago. They were tired of the cold and went back to where it was warm.

They bought a house on the east coast and filled a Penske truck with the furniture and household things they needed to set themselves up. They honestly thought they would be spending winters in Florida and summers in Wisconsin, so they left their northern house fully furnished and filled with twenty years of acquisitions (they like to shop…). Many of us had doubts about their ability to be snowbirds – Michelle is 94, Judith is in cancer treatment and Susan does not drive. As we thought, it has become overwhelmingly apparent that the northern house should be sold. This is where I get involved.

These ladies are dear friends of mine, and they need someone to pack up and store, donate, sell, or throw away all their “stuff”. It’s a complex job. When I moved two years ago, I was packing and disposing of my stuff for months before the move, and I still wasn’t fully ready. The realtor here is already showing their house and it would be best if it didn’t look quite so… well, occupied and full. Packing up for someone else is complicated. I have to consider the sentimental value of their belongings and balance that with the cost to transport things. Throw in the fact that their southern house is already full and they don’t need any of what’s up here in Wisconsin. It’s a four bedroom house and I’m averaging about half a room per day. And I’m out of boxes…

All this to say that I was there a good five hours today. I came back and made supper for the husband and myself, and then I remembered my exercise wasn’t done yet. Instead of walking on the treadmill for half an hour and one podcast, I had to do a full hour two podcast session to get my 10,000 steps. But I did it BECAUSE… I didn’t want to have to tell any of you guys that I messed up already. See, that’s how accountability works! Isn’t it cool? My legs really hurt.

There’s no date on this, but it really was today, no lie.

Help Me Be Determined

So what exactly does that mean, helping someone (me) to be determined? I guess it’s another way of describing the call for accountability. I am at my top weight ever, and I am determined it will not go higher. Having some watchful eyes on my efforts might just help.

There is something about the start of a new month that inspires me. A month is a long enough time to establish a habit and really make a difference. December is a new month, or at least it was five days ago. I dusted off the treadmill and took a walk, and it felt okay. I did the same thing at the same time on December 2 and 3. I want to do this at least five days each week, and maybe get in a pleasure walk outside a couple of times too. Outside = pleasure, treadmill = not pleasure, for me. But I can make it work. I have to make it work. When I’m at my top weight, my blood pressure starts to go up and since there is a family history of hypertension, I am being scared into action.

December is a great month to do something for health’s sake. I know, it’s a holiday month and for many that means holiday food is everywhere, but this year might be different. Pandemic December is not ordinary December. Why wait until New Years Day to start a project that could eventually save my life?

Is anyone else doing something different this year, something that is good for you? Getting more sleep, eating more vegetables, intentionally pursuing good humor, daily brain stimulation, learning something new, doing good deeds? Not everything, just one thing. That’s what I want to do, and I’d love to be held accountable through the month of December, as I share progress here. Help me.

I promise to faithfully share this screen (Samsung health app) no matter how much it embarrasses me. Goal talk coming tomorrow.

September 2020 Road Trip

This is a silly year to be traveling, but we managed it. Now there are other things I need to manage, like remembering to post what I write.

I’m talking about the kind of driving that puts me in front of a steering wheel, looking out a windshield over the hood of a vehicle. The kind of driving that delivers a sense of power and force of will. A big machine goes where I direct it. I get chills thinking about it.

There is really no way to deny that learning to drive a car, or a truck, is a rite of passage for most people. Everyone in my high school looked forward to taking driver’s ed class and getting their license. On the other end of the spectrum, giving up that license, or losing it, is also a rite of passage. I remember my grandfather driving around, half blind, and scaring people. Then I saw my father hold onto the keys as he struggled with everyone’s concern over his driving. Macular degeneration took out his central vision, but as long as there were white lines on the side of the pavement, he knew he was on the road.

It didn’t seem like it was that hard for my husband. He gradually started sitting in the passenger seat and got used to having me drive. He still took himself to work and other familiar places, but he had a tendency to startle and get upset over other driver’s decisions. It was easier to let someone else (me) deal with all that craziness. Mom is also making a more graceful transition. Her driver’s license was up for renewal this November and she decided to let it go.

I’ve always liked driving and have not shied away from the unusual – driving big trucks, driving trailers across country, Ubering people around the city, and venturing into an occasional mud hole. But lately, I’ve become aware of the tedium of long drives. I have fond memories of sitting on the passenger side with my needlework or a book, and being able to look out the window at the passing scenery. That doesn’t happen anymore.

This week the husband and I have taken a two day drive to North Carolina for my daughter’s wedding. Eighteen hours of driving has given me time to think about this process of road tripping, it’s advantages and disadvantages. See, it’s really nice to have the freedom to go or stop at will. And there’s the luxury of taking most anything I want along with me – in contrast to the carry-on suitcase angst of flying. It’s also nice to have that familiar vehicle at my destination without having to rent and return and get a big bill at the end.

BUT there are some slight disadvantages. For instance, I feel the full weight of staying awake and alert. I don’t want to be like the guy who died peacefully in his sleep unlike the screaming passengers in his car (old joke we used to tell). The husband is always chiding me for eating popcorn in the car without realizing that it has kept us alive for numerous trips. I can’t sleep while I’m eating, or at least I haven’t been able to so far. This trip, after I finished the popcorn, I started in on the cheese curds, and then the nuts, and then the carrots/cucumbers/peppers. And then I felt ill, no surprise, but that also kept me awake.

Pandemic driving has some unique features too. For once, we drove through the city of Chicago without a major slow down. I was worried about going there but having no good way to avoid it, we went. There was traffic, and the need for vigilance, but it was surprisingly smooth. And what’s with the toll roads? There were no people in those little booths to collect money! I may have a massive bill lurking somewhere in cyberspace but so far I’ve gotten no notice.

Then there is the mask thing. I can’t remember how many times we were on our way into the rest stop or gas station and had to go back to get a required face covering. It’s not a habit yet. We took food with us, not knowing if there would be the usual restaurants available. Finding a place to sit down and eat was harder, and the experience has changed in so many ways – no uncovered smiles, no condiments on the table, not much merriment.

I knew it was a risk to get new tires right before a trip, but there were reasons why it made sense. I’m talking only hours before the trip, the dealership was able to find tires for my truck. There was no time to test them out. Did you know that pandemic shortages have affected the tire industry? Who would guess that? For this trip I went from worrying about old, misaligned and worn tire noises to worrying about new tire noises. What is that whap, whap, whapping…? Is it lethal? Should we stop? We ignored it. Found out later that gravel and acorns caught in the tread sound just like defects.

Nice loud tires with lots of tread.

All in all, it was not a bad trip, just peculiar like most everything else in 2020 has been. It is my hope that in hearing about this trip, you will find yourself more content, perhaps even happy, to stay at home (like we’re supposed to). I know it did that for me, just sayin’…

The Wedding of 10/10/2020, post 2

The “process”, as one reader said it, of putting on a wedding concludes in this post. The post is long, but ends well, and we all need happy endings in this pandemic year. You will see the beginning of a love story in the video that closes out the post. Don’t miss it!

It’s not everyday you get to wear a “bride-to-be” banner!

Next up was the bridal shower. There’s just something so celebratory about a bridal shower that there has to be one. The groom’s family not only has an expert event host mom, but also three sisters-in-law so you know they have experience in bridal showers. Decorations, fancy (delicious) food, friends from different walks of life, and semi-embarrassing shower games to make the bride-to-be blush a bit. Perfect. I was glad to be on the scene for this.

The next week was busy for me. It was the week that I finished the alterations on the wedding gown and broke my wrist, thankfully in that order. It was also the week we started watching Hurricane Delta head toward Louisiana. The beautiful fall weather we had been having was predicted to turn into a tropical depression and pass over the wedding venue on the day of the wedding. I got a little nervous since we had no plan for an indoor ceremony. I added another small tent (the only one available) to our order and the rental company brought them both out a day early. They didn’t want to risk putting them up in the rain.

It might have made a good photo prop, but we were thankful for the friends who got it started and out of there.

Thursday and Friday were bordering on hectic. Pop up tents had been borrowed and the decision was made to keep all the smaller shelters bordering the main tent where the reception would be held. The ceremony was still going to be planned for the open field. I didn’t count, but all the tents got moved at least twice as the configuration changed from one moment to the next. People were arriving to help trim trees, hang lights, and set up tables. The large diesel tractor, doing some landscaping work, stalled and quit right next to the proposed buffet serving area. So in the midst of this, the bride and several of her girlfriends who had arrived early for the rehearsal that night, did what girls in bridal parties do – they escaped to high tea at the O’Henry Hotel in Greensboro. What a nice relief!

The rehearsal in the late afternoon and the dinner following got a couple more rituals checked off our list. We all met the minister with the Scottish brogue, and got put in our places, including the baby donkey chosen as the ring bearer. As he was pulled down the aisle, resisting all the way, another layer of risk seemed obvious. The weather might not be the only wild card.

So cute, but he had no idea what was expected of him. He behaved fairly well during the ceremony though.

Saturday dawned, the day of the wedding. At this point, there were so many details yet to be decided and attended to that it could have been frightening. It was raining lightly. I can only tell you that I had an unreasonable peace and trust that it would all come together, because the concerns had been given to God and I knew he meant to give Julia a good wedding. I left to get myself and the father of the bride dressed.

I couldn’t have imagined the changes that took place – all the beautiful flowers that arrived, and the astounding transformation in the reception tent and the field where the ceremony was to be. Family and friends had pitched in to create a miracle. And the rain had let up, giving us a brief window of dryness.

As we watched the weather radar, the ceremony started. At one point, a song was omitted from the program to speed things along. During the last five minutes we began to feel an occasional raindrop. But it wasn’t until we were dismissed and headed to the safety of the reception tent that the rain really began in earnest. By that time we were so in awe of the beauty of the ceremony and the happiness of the bride and groom, and the timing of it all, that no one cared. Let it rain.

Again, an amazing video captured most of the best moments for us and I share it with you here. You will see us dancing, which was one of the bride’s “must have” features of this celebration. We feasted and danced as the North Carolina rain ran under the edges of the big white tent and met the red clay soil of River Bend Farm. It was wonderful.

Click this link. Video is 3:35 minutes. The Wedding of Julia Dietz and Kevin Shanahan

And the next day, I relived it as I spent a lot of time washing red mud out of the hem of a beautiful white dress. Just sayin’…

A Wedding 10/10/2020

It’s been fifteen days since the wedding and I haven’t written a single word about it. I’ve been waiting for the pictures from the photographer because, for once, I didn’t take any of my own. Well, maybe one or two…

I’m not kidding. Weddings have become such productions these days, and the expectations… no wonder people take six months or more to plan (and save) for them. The six weeks or so that we had to prepare were short and sweet. And this is how it was done.

First, teamwork! What came to be called the Wedding Swat Team, met every Sunday for the first few weeks to brainstorm ideas and keep the bride on track. It was kind of like having seven wedding planners – not always the easiest way to proceed but we had a lot to get done. Lists, assignments, research, debate… It was interesting to me as I listened to my daughter reveal her dreams of how things would unfold. Some of those dreams were specific and she attended to making them happen. Some of them were less specific but she was gracious and flexible in letting others help her. I came to see how wedding details can be important to someone who has waited patiently, for a long time.

One of the main goals of all the planning was to make the bride (yeah, the groom too) feel really special. After all, the hope is that the memories will be unforgettable, in a good way, and last a lifetime. Let the rituals begin!

See all those white dresses? She tried them all on. (Kidding) Seriously, these girls were so patient, and so masked…

The first was the visits to the bridal shops. I didn’t get in on this but the soon to be “new family” took over and proved to be a great audience. It was so much fun, and Julia liked so many of the dresses that absolutely nothing was decided. Except that perhaps she should have been a wedding dress model instead of a horse vet. Girls like to try on dresses that cost a fortune and make them look like Disney princesses.

It was time to make the wedding website (who knew?) and get the invitations out! These days it can be done with email invites, which was all we had time for anyway. Of course, an invitation kind of has to tell guests where the wedding will be. Although the date 10/10/2020 sounds really cool, pandemic restrictions ruled out a lot of the venues. Being out of their minds by this time anyway, the couple decided to have the whole celebration outside, at the “farm”, recently purchased, where the groom was living. It would take more time on their part to prepare it, but they had more time than money. No, wait, maybe there wasn’t a lot of either time or money, but whatever… I ordered a tent. It was my first job

Tent is going somewhere in here. You just wait…

Before the invitations went out there was a fun photo shoot. One of the groom’s friends did this for them. It pays to have good friends who are willing to make things happen. I loved it and hope you’ll give him some good comments on his website. It’s how I’m finishing this post. There’s so much more to tell though, and I’m finally able to type without too much pain (see previous post “I Blame the Washing Machine”). Post 2 coming up soon… Click the link below for a happy video!

Kevin and Julia’s Engagement Photo Shoot

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Face Yoga?

As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed I came upon an ad for face yoga and a small survey. One of the questions was something like “what is the first impression people get of you based on your facial expression?” I rejected happy, depressed and several others and finally settled on serious. But when I asked Mom what word she would use to describe me, she said “tired”. I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

In spite of the fact that if left sitting and unoccupied for more than three minutes I will fall asleep, I have not often thought of myself as being tired. In my mind, I am always up for whatever is suggested, ambitious, energetic and ready to go. It’s actually alarming to me that people see me otherwise. What if after I’m gone, when they’re wondering what epitaph to put on my stone, they just settle on “She was tired.” What a legacy.

The result of this scare is that now I’m often aware of my facial expression. I’m telling myself to raise my eyebrows and open up my eyes. I’m thinking happy thoughts and hoping they make the corners of my mouth turn up instead of down (their natural direction). I stop short of doing “fish lips” because that is the one thing that looks so unnatural to me that I can’t abide it. As the face yoga lady says, “there are lots of muscles in your face. Why would you not exercise them?”

You can see why face yoga would be interesting to me. I want my face to stay functional, to show a variety of emotions easily. I want people around me to be able to know that I’m thinking kindly of them and find them interesting. I want to look peaceful and non-threatening. I think of how important that is in this day and age when we hear of people being arrested/assaulted just because of a perceived attitude – the expression on their face. I want it to be clear that I’m not up to anything nefarious.

My first impression of tiredness probably started years ago. I’m putting my hand written journals into digital form (what a project!) and a repeated theme over the years seems to be pain and fatigue. There’s this entry from 2007 that sums it up pretty well.

“I would say I’m about as miserable as a person can be who has nothing seriously wrong with them.”

Is it possible that years of muscle aches, joint pain, headaches, and crazy physical work and activity have gotten together and come up with a mutually satisfying expression – tired?

The face yoga lady gives me hope that I can take years off my tired face by giving those muscles some exercise. I can will to avoid the “nursing home look” of having given up. So, if you see me with my arm stretched over my head, pulling on the corner of my eyelid, while letting my tongue hang out, please don’t Baker Act me. I’m exercising. Just sayin’…

Spring Is Real

Here in Wisconsin, spring isn’t just a date on the calendar. It’s much more real than that. After being in various degrees of frozen for nearly six months, big changes have to happen and they have to happen fast because winter’s a comin’. I think spring happened today.

Mom and I were sitting on her patio this afternoon when my brother called her.

“What’s the weather like there today?“

“It’s been pretty stable, in the 40’s and 50’s, ever since it stopped being in the 20’s and 30’s .” (Last week)

“Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to happen? It’s spring, right?”

“I guess it is. Shirley is sitting here with a T-shirt and no coat.”

That’s right. It was so warm today that I didn’t see anyone wearing a coat. Yesterday was a different story. I was out in the soon-to-be garden in my heaviest hoodie and a scarf when neighbors Bob and LuRae, also coated and capped, came up to gift me. He had bought too many lily bulbs and just didn’t have room to plant them anywhere. He wanted to give them to me. Last year he did the same thing with daffodil bulbs.

I said yes. I had a pot with nothing in it but dirt and lilies would be nice. He came over with a rather large box. When I inventoried what he had given me I found eight bags of 10, with large sprouted bulbs begging to be planted. I spent a couple hours putting them around the lampposts of the twelve condos in our development. That’s a lot of digging.

As much as I shovel snow in the winter, I dig at least as much dirt in the other months. The major project is the garden. It has to go in pretty quick or not everything will get ripe before summer is over. But not too quick because it might still freeze at night. I absolutely know that I could walk over to Walmart and spend far less for the same amount of food, but I tell myself that the food is better and I need the sunburn and sore back exercise. I mostly try not to think about the logic in gardening.

I’ve only been “up north” for one “garden year” so far and didn’t have time to start perennials, so last month I ordered asparagus plants from Gurney’s. I was about to order the world’s most expensive raspberry plants from them too, when a friend let me thin her patch for free! I probably won’t get any asparagus or raspberries to eat this year but it will be good for me to exercise patience. It’s all about the future…

This morning Mom and I did the most definitive spring thing. We went shopping for flowers. We actually traveled 39 miles to a fabulous greenhouse where we bought almost nothing because the prices were… pricey. We stopped at two other establishments on the way home just because flowers are SO BEAUTIFUL! I bought, and got them all planted this afternoon. I have big pots of petunias, coleus and herbs on the patio. I am stiff, sore and a bit dehydrated.

It’s spring and spring is real. Putting my feet up now, just sayin’…