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Posts Tagged ‘moving’

Birthday months are coming up in my family. I keep a calendar to remember all of them, but in spite of the effort, often find myself sending belated birthday cards these days. Too much going on to keep up with, and it leaves me feeling totally disorganized. My cat is sitting at my feet as I write this, waiting impatiently for her morning allotment of fishy treats. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, could care less if I miss a birthday or two here or there, or if dinner is on time, or I’m behind schedule. Her main concern is four times a day I show up with two treats in my hand for her to enjoy. My, my, we are a tad self involved, even for a feline. Being her one and only well loved human, I do my best to keep her needs met. Keeping everybody happy is a job no applicant is qualified to fill. I know, I’ve tried for lo these many years. Finally, I have learned you have to keep yourself afloat, and then when you’re buoyant enough, you can lend a hand to pull others in the raft with the energy you have left.

The weather lady is saying another epic heat wave is headed our way. Oh goody. It’s supposed to reach 107 and above by Saturday. This will test people’s nerves as well as our electrical grid. Hopefully, it will not ignite any brush fires or create rolling blackouts. We have a generator sitting by the shed all primed and ready to go, but you can’t hook your A/C up to it. It’s only the first part of July, and already we are logging our third dangerous heat wave. This doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season. Personally, you could eliminate summer entirely for me, the way things seem to be headed, and leave the three other seasons for us to enjoy year round. As a kid, I could not wait for summer to arrive. Ahhhhh, sweet, lazy, crazy days of summer. No school, of course, was the main attraction, and it brought with it glorious long, hot, days filled with chlorine laced pools, bike rides along tree covered paths and backyard barbecues on the weekends. I can still picture my stepdad on the patio in his “Kiss the Cook” apron. The man could smoke, drink, and talk concurrently. He’d be flipping burgers and turning hot dogs, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips, and his martini glass glistening in the cone shaped glass next to him with an olive floating in it. Back then, other than the holidays, it was my favorite time of year. Not any more.

Since summer has arrived, whether I welcomed it or not, I decided to take a trip to my son’s next week. Recently he has upgraded his backyard and the pool area and he’s invited me to come and check it out. Having little access to swimming areas over the past few years, I didn’t have much need for swim wear. After looking at what my closet had to offer, I decided it was time to go bathing suit shopping. Not my favorite way to wile away an afternoon. It’s not that my body would cause young children to cringe in horror was I to expose it, mind you. However, though my weight has remained fairly static over the years, things aren’t as toned and firm as they could be. “You could go to the gym”, you say. Yes, I could. It’s not that I get no exercise, I walk every day, but I realize this does not have the same impact as taking up jazzersize, or zumba or whatever is fashionable with the impeccably cut ab group these days. Truth is, I am not one of those humans who can’t wait to pull on some Spandex and go work up a good sweat on an elliptical cross trainer or get up close and personal with some free weights. Actually, I’d rather be shot in the foot. There is a great gym not to far from my house. Pre-Covid I went down and took a tour. I talked myself into signing up for a year’s membership and then the virus showed up and blew the wind right out of that sail. Don’t feel sorry for me, there were no tears shed over this. Now I’m thinking about signing up once again. I’m not doing anything about it, but at least it’s shown up in the options for getting in shape column.

I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about getting older or the changes occurring to the body. Mostly, I’m just excited when I open my eyes in the morning and find I’m still here. Aging is part of life. Nobody is going to avoid it. Even those with the wherewithal to hire skilled plastic surgeons to pull up this up and tuck that in will eventually have to concede to the passage of time and go through the process with the rest of us. I still want to take a swim, and will continue to do so even when my body does scare young children, because life is to be lived and I intend to do exactly that for all the years I’m gifted with while on this earth.

So many of my friends worry endlessly about other people’s opinion of them. I try not to do this. It’s not I don’t care what people think about me, I do. I don’t think anyone enjoys being disliked or ridiculed. It is more I have come to the understanding every person I meet may not like me. Not every human I come in contact with will share my point of view, find my personality engaging, see humor where I do, or wish to spend time with me. This, in my estimation, is a fact of life. It does not mean I am a bad person, not likable, or obnoxious, though some might argue the point, but rather we all have different tastes and enjoy different types of people. I think we’ve all had people in our lives who instantly on meeting them we feel a strong connection. I am blessed to have a lot of dear friends who fit under this category. Then there are those people who you might have known for a long time who you will never share that special type of bond or friendship with. Doesn’t mean they aren’t good people, just not a connection of commonality you wish to foster on a deeper level.

I have reached a point where, though I’m still learning new things each and every day, I have pretty much set my sail in a particular direction and most likely that is the lane I will hold my course in. I do keep doing my best to adjust my lens when new opinions cross my desk, and keep my mind open to other ways of looking at a given subject or new concept. Nothing should be totally static in our lives, for that can create a stagnant state. Things can change tomorrow, they often do. My life has changed so many times up until now, I have run out of digits to count them on. Change, like growing older, is an expected part of being alive.

,Sometimes I think I’m ready to move again. My best friend is leaving California, my children are well established and busy with their lives, but where? This is not an imminent thing for sure. I have my mom to take care of and Dale, my companion, has cancer, so these are situations floating about in limbo riddled with question marks and unknowns. I will ride out each of these storms until the dust has settled once again in my world and the compass point is again directing my way. Being a bit of a fairy dust spreader, I hope my mother and Dale are with me far off in the distant future. The end to their stories, and mine, is yet left to be written in the great book chronicling our lives. It will be as it is, and all I can do is hold on tightly to the side of the boat and hope we all remain together until the end of the ride. Hope is such a powerful emotion. I’m glad when we were in the conception phase of being, our creator thought to include it in the original package. It’s like a warm blanket to wrap around us in cold harsh times.

Moving, as I’ve said many times, is not unfamiliar to me. Thirty-nine times I have packed up my worldly possessions and moved to another location. That’s a lot of packing paper to my credit. When my ex-husband and I got assigned to a job in Nitro, West Virginia we were at the time winding up a year and a couple of months in Arkansas. Moving was part of the landscape for the type of work he did, so Nitro was simply the next pin on the map. The spouses of those employed for the construction company he worked for were accustomed to having their lives uprooted and replanted somewhere else around the country. We formed a wives group, after a while, composed of those of us moving in similar circles. At one meeting, since most of us liked to cook, we decided to compile a cookbook of our time together, to include all our favorite recipes along with a story to accompany each contribution. Being the only artist in the group, I was tasked with creating a suitable cover. I came up with a picture of a woman, bent over, carrying all her wordly possessions on her back. It was a great success. Often I take out that old binder, pages now dotted with the usual grease stains and spill marks associated with someone who likes to work in the kitchen, and reread the stories included with each recipe or put one on the menu for dinner. I haven’t seen these ladies since that chapter of my life closed, but think of them often and the laughs and tears we shared. It was a time of great adventure on the open road. There was a real freedom associated with not hanging your hat too long in one location, paired with a sort of heady anticipation of what was to come around the bend on your next assignment. The enticing uncertainty associated with living your life in an unpredictable sort of way. After I had hung up my hard hat, as I worked a job or two myself, and David and I too had said our goodbyes, it took me a while to plant roots again in one spot without the restlessness whispering in my ear it was long past time to move on.

Nitro was an interesting place to find ourselves. David, my ex, worked at the plant located in Nitro itself, but we found a home to rent across the Kanawha River in St. Albans. A lot of people discount West Virginia as a great place to live, but truly the “mountain state” has a lot to offer. Visually it is quite beautiful, with a lot of gorgeous spots for a person taken with being outdoors to explore. We were to spend three years there on two separate trips, and of all the places we made our home over our eight years on the road, West Virginia would come to be remembered as my favorite. I will write more about my adventures there in my next blog. For now, I wish you a great day filled with exciting adventures.

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Another dry year here in what seems to be, of late, a perpetually sunny California. Don’t misunderstand me, yesterday was a picture perfect day. The guy standing behind me in line at the market had on a tee shirt, cargo shorts, and flip flops. I ran the air in the car on the way home from the store. This would all lean towards bring an ideal weather report was it not January and the state beginning to lean towards drought conditions. If this becomes a pattern, you may find me out under the full moon doing a dance to the rain goddess. I checked, there are a number to choose from. I shall pick the one who calls my name, dust off my tap shoes and give it a go.

Last year was a record fire season. We were evacuated once and thankfully came home to our house still intact, many others weren’t so lucky. You start to wonder as this streak continues how long your luck will hold. If it wasn’t for the ties I have here, relocating would definitely be on the table. Where I would go I’m not sure.

Let’s face it no matter where you live weather can prove undesirable, or at the very least, unpredictable. My best friend and her husband are moving to Texas. Crumbs are tossed out on their end occasionally for me to follow. Not for me. No offense to those of you with a TX at the end of your address. Humidity is not a friend to asthmatics and truth is I just don’t thrive in it. They’ve never lived in a humid area before. Sometimes I worry they might get there, open the car door, and get right back in and turn back around. I lived in humid climates many times during my travels and much prefer dry.

Was I to look north, say Oregon or Washington, both gorgeous places to live, I’d need to add a snow shovel to my tool collection. Shoveling my way to the car or traversing icy roads are not two of my favorite winter pastimes. Then there’s the rain the further north you travel. I’d love to see a full rainy season here which is doable, but Washington gets more than its fair share of precipitation. Wet, wet, and more wet. When my kids were babies we lived in Bellevue, Washington for about six months. Located about ten miles east of Seattle, Bellevue enjoys the same rainy climate as Seattle along with what sometimes felt like an endless string of overcast skies. Days when the sun actually peaked out from behind the clouds, you had to watch to avoid being trampled by people escaping from their homes to engage in their favorite outdoor activities. The Puget Sound would be literally covered with flecks of white as sails were hoisted and boats launched to capture the day.

The east coast often calls my name. I lived in Nova Scotia until nine and then moved to Massachusetts for three years when my children were small. However, brutally cold winters have me putting on my ear muffs to drown out the whispers of the east coast siren song as I’ve already stated above heavy snow is not my dreamscape. Hmmmm. Picky, picky, girl. Perhaps Hawaii would work? I’m very fond of pineapple and adore the ocean. The thought to me of going round and round on the same square footage for the rest of my life doesn’t see to get the juices flowing either.

Oh dear. The south, no. Been there, and done that. Maybe Florida, but I’ve also been there, and in the summer. Enough said. Though I do adore their glorious shorelines hurricanes show up there more often than pimples on a teenagers face and they have cockroaches that fly. Well the midwest, that would be tornado alley. No check. Oh hell.

I could take a quick class in Italian on Babbel and move to Tuscany. The south of France might be a nice place to hang my hat, or beret if that be the case, except my French these days has shifted from rusty to oui, that’s it just oui.

Sigh.

As I’ve mentioned ad nauseum, I’ve moved thirty-nine times. This might indicate a certain wanderlust in my character, or it could be I have a lust for adventure, or it could be I married men who moved as part of their jobs. All three might have been true at one time or another. Another thought might be I have trouble being satisfied where I am. Years of looking at my intentions and motivations have now created, I like to think, a somewhat self aware person Self analysis can be both a blessing and a curse. Where are the glorious old days when I could screw up blissfully without having any idea why, or any need to do better the next time? But, I digress. Here I am, and I am armed with some knowledge about my own motivations, a dangerous place to find myself.

Moving can be precipitated by many things. Some people prefer to keep their feet firmly planted on familiar ground. A dear friend of mine has lived ten miles from her family home all her life and is happy to be there. Others I know have fled the area they grew up like a tidal wave was imminent as soon as they were old enough to do so. Some have moved for jobs, a desire to see another part of the world, family relocating. There are a myriad of reasons to grab the moving boxes and begin packing your life up to take it to another location. However, if you are moving as a need to get away from your life, remember not to pack whatever did not work where you were originally in your U-Haul boxes. Unless you do the work to you mend what is broken, it will remain broken on the other end when you unpack it. Susie’s pearls of wisdom on a Friday. It’s not that I have a degree in this stuff, believe me I do not. It is, however, I have done so many things the wrong way up until this juncture, I can speak with some clarity on what doesn’t work.

For example, I have a friend who has been a sober man, as he puts it, for forty-five years. Very active in AA, he speaks frequently to the fact a person cannot just stop drinking and expect their life to be fully repaired. I’m not saying that isn’t the first step in many toward that goal, but that it is not the only step. Picture a vase broken into ten pieces. If you glue together four of the pieces it will still hold some water but undoubtedly leak. With five pieces in place it will hold more water, but not be useful for what it was originally intended, to hold a lovely bouquet of flowers. As you add each piece, the integrity of the vase becomes stronger, until you place the last chard and it becomes whole and viable again. Perhaps not the best analogy, but you get the idea.

This morning I took a long look at why I think I need a change of venue. Well, as I said fire season is looking us in the face again and the rain hasn’t as forthcoming as it was years back. This, makes me nervous. I have taken some steps toward making myself safer. I believe this to be a beginning. Two and a half years ago I was living in a gorgeous forested community with trees all around me and only two roads down to the valley. Changing this scenario, has added to my sense of well being. A generator sits in my shed waiting to be put into use should an imminent power outage occur, which will be helpful in keeping my groceries safe during the summer months. I caught a glimpse of a piece on the news about PG&E coming up with some sort of device on their lines that will make the endless power outages necessary to help keep fires from erupting a thing of the past. The device provides some sort of signal to the individual lines to shut down not the whole system. Do not quote me on this because a glimpse does not provide you with but a gist of the book, but it went in that direction. Wow. That would be a huge plus. Also, I believe the new administration has it’s sights aimed towards climate control. Our penguins are floating on what used to be icebergs so any steps in that direction to my mind would be most welcome.

Perhaps it is the pandemic making me restless? I’m sure many out there find their fingers drumming on the table. Though I love being in my little house in the valley, and my kitty feels she has hit the jackpot having me ever present for endless pets on the head and treat retrieval, I am tiring of the indoors. Longing is beginning to well up inside me for long lunches with friends, a hug from my grandchildren, and a day at the beach which always suits my soul well.

The key here might be to find what satisfies me right where I sit. That being done, if I still want to move I need to remember those I love the most would be in my rear view mirror. Not that they would stop being family, simply they would be further away to access. Like a peach on a tree I get riper as each day passes. Life goes by in an instant and it seems more important as I age to hold tight to the moments that are cherished and special. Certainly I couldn’t leave my beloved mother behind, nor do I want to miss the birthdays yet to come for my children and their children, or those lunches with friends, or walks along California’s glorious sandy beaches. So, problem solved. I’ll stay put for now and make myself happy in the spot where I live. Yay. Problem solved for today. Bandaid applied and moving on……again, for now. Life is always in a state of flux. My grief counselor told me many times in the beginning after Rick died, “life will look very different a year from now”. Words to live by. Look how different it looked a year ago and imagine how different in January 2022.

The moment or moments are really what we have in the end. Enjoy today. Stay safe.

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Stop the world I want to get off. Not permanently, just in case someone out there is tuned it, perhaps for a month or two. Seriously I keep patting my life down into a soft manageable form and something comes along and blows it all back up again. STOP IT, I say.

As mentioned previously, my mother has moved from an assisted living home to a board and care recently due to a broken hip. I spent a week during the recent PG&E blackout at my mother’s old residence packing up her things. Items were placed in boxes marked Donate, Garage Sale, and Keep. What didn’t sell at our garage sale last weekend were on schedule today to be moved into storage. With some packing still left to do, I came up early to get a head start before my son-in-law and granddaughter showed up with the rental van.

As it turned out the lady living in the adjacent apartment was also being relocated by her family so the hallway was a mass of activity. Eight or so people milled about moving furniture out and carrying boxes back and forth to their cars. The door was open to my mother’s apartment so I didn’t feel claustrophobic. They keep the building on roast as elderly people lean towards being cold. Every time I have visited my mom I have nearly had to strip down to my skivvies to avoid getting heat stoke. People being curious, it didn’t take long for one gentlemen and then a second to poke their heads in and introduce themselves and ask me what I was up to.

I gave the Reader’s Digest explanation of the situation with my mother. If I’d offered the long version I would have had to ask them in for dinner. Looking around at the furniture and boxes they asked where my “crew” was. My crew? Ahhhh they were looking for rest of the packers. “Nope, just me.” They sized up my stature compared to what was in the room and exchanged a look. I explained the rest of my crew, as they put it, was on the road but would be arriving shortly. That seemed to mollify them. “No siblings?”, was the next question. “Nope, just me.” (I’m thinking of having a t-shirt made with big bold letters “NOPE, JUST ME”.) However, if these moves continue to pile up at the current pace I may begin to regret not coming from a larger family.

They went on to say they were brothers-in-law. One was the son of the lady moving and the other married to his sister. No not married to his sister, there are laws against that, but rather the son’s sister. Never mind. There are five siblings in all in their family the son explained. One, the middle child, was absent. Apparently this brother always had an excuse when it came to pitching in with anything to with their mother and this was a sore spot for the rest of the clan. I appreciated the update and get the part about family dynamics. Every family has bumps and sore spots no matter how picture perfect they appear on the outside. Next the wife of one of them popped in and filled me in on the rest of the skinny about the missing brother and his unpopular spouse. Though I wasn’t actually researching a book on their family history, both men and the wife were very pleasant. Since I had my head in a box and wasn’t easy to communicate with they excused themselves shortly to get back to their side of the fence. Funny isn’t it how people will entrust complete strangers with the most personal information about their lives and yet sometimes can’t share what they are thinking with the person sitting across from them at the breakfast table. Strange creatures, we humans.

Not long after they said their goodbyes my crew arrived. I’m starting to feel my age these days for the first time. Bending, stretching and lifting do not come as easily as they did twenty years ago. Muscles I haven’t called into service for awhile are beginning to complain loudly and my feet are telling me I’m asking too much of them. Yesterday I took my mom to the doctor. I had to take her wheelchair out of the trunk on my own for the first time. Getting it out of the trunk wasn’t so difficult. A good yank and it was over the lip of the trunk and dropped to the ground. Getting it back in was a whole different ballgame. I parked where I had lots of room to maneuver but the problem was it was like lifting a bag of cannon balls. It took three tries, some huffing and puffing, and a lot of serious swearing to get it back where it belonged. After the second attempt and fail, I strongly considered leaving it in the bushes and calling it a day.

If this is going to be a regular occurrence I will have to add some muscle. I am still working on fulfilling my New Year’s resolution of going to the gym. It’s only October I feel I still have some time left. If I procrastinate long enough it will be 2020 and that resolution will have past it’s shelf life. That is how it works isn’t it? Well that’s how I’m working it. It’s not that I haven’t tried to go to the gym. I keep making appointments that I have to either cancel or postpone. Life is very busy right now and making time for myself sounds easy but isn’t always possible to accomplish.

Last week I did make it to the opthalmologist. This was the third appointment I’d scheduled, having changed the first two, so they were beginning to think I was a figment of their imagination. They put me through the usual series of tests. Of late driving at night has become a problem for me. I am seeing stars and reflections like I did before I had my cataracts removed. Since I never know if I might be called to come out in the wee hours this is concerning. In 2010 I surgery on both eyes. I had developed premature cataracts from taking Premarin for my asthma. Funny, or not, how a prescription to cure one ailment can be directly related to creating another? I took an antibiotic once that gave me tennis elbow. Who knew? Considering I haven’t played tennis since I was a senior in high school no one was more surprised than me. At any rate after nearly blinding me with that lighted instrument they use, he informed me the lenses never have to be replaced after cataract surgery but in rare instances the lenses can develop a film around the exterior that will mimic the symptoms of cataracts. Naturally I have to be an over achiever and get something everyone else doesn’t have. Sigh. I got a referral to a laser surgeon who will grind the edges down and return my night vision to what is was before. Now, I’m not usually a baby but when it comes to my eyes I can be a big blubbering mass of goo. My right eye, naturally the one with the problem, is 20/20. My left eye, lazy since birth, sees only half that well. The idea of impacting my right eye scares the hot rocks out of me so I will approach this with caution even though I know it is done successfully every day.

So mother is officially moved. I have ticked another to-do off my list at the eye doctor and new glasses are ordered. Life is temporarily patted down to a manageable configuration and I am taking a breath and enjoying the glorious weather.

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This will be my second month in my new house. Getting used to the new house and the new area at the same time has proved interesting.  I left behind 1,600 plus square feet and a block full of friends and great neighbors. I don’t miss the house so much, but the people were really a support system for me. Not that we’re far apart, twenty five minutes by car, but just far enough to make visiting more of a plan than a spur of the moment idea.

Rick died in September and the house went on the market early spring. You don’t realize how much you’ve amassed over twenty years until you start going through cupboards, retrieving boxes from the rafters in the garage, and sorting through closets. Half of my house was packed for four months without me even noticing it was gone.

The new house is 1,200 square feet and has no garage. Getting everything to fit was like trying to squeeze an elephant into a dollhouse.  Even the movers who do this for a living were scratching their heads when they saw the space I expected all my things to reside in. Sigh.

Two weekends ago I finally unpacked my last box. Many things I’ve either shuttled to my daughter’s house to prepare for a huge garage sale we have on the calendar for September, donated, or given away.  At that, the house still has every available nook and cranny packed tightly and a storage shed is going to have to be built on the patio to house Christmas containers, tools, and whatever else couldn’t find a home.

With the diminished square footage I also lost a bedroom. I decided to purchase a hide-a-bed for the living room to use when company came and convert the second bedroom into a sewing room and office. After several weeks of arranging and rearranging it was finally coming together making me feel more settled. Feeling comfortable (I should know better considering my life up to this point) I decided it would be safe to have my mother over for the weekend.

As I have mentioned my mother is well into her golden years. The ladies on my family tree have a history of enjoying long lives.  Mother is no exception. Blessedly the genes also carry with them good health so other than the dementia now plaguing her memory she is in miraculous shape considering the number of candles on her birthday cake.

The first night was uneventful. Being an early riser I was up first. The bed, a California king, is oversized for the bedroom. That being said, the only way to get it in the oddly shaped master bedroom (this is an old house) was to push one side against the wall. For me this presented no problem because I sleep on the opposite side. However, sharing space with my mother lest she get up and get confused I took the inside position.  This necessitated climbing up over the footboard and crawling along the hope chest to get to the bathroom. I know.

Not quite fully in the moment yet, I padded into the bathroom and did what people usually do there first thing in the morning. Flushing the toilet I realized quickly water was swirling under my nether region. Oh-oh. Pushing the dimmer switch to fully on I realized not only was I standing in water but the bathtub was half full and it didn’t look to be water from the tap. OMG.

Glancing at the clock it read 6:30. Naturally, it was Saturday. Nothing disastrous ever happens on a weekday. Where’s the fun in that? To add to the excitement the weatherman had predicted it was shaping up to be the hottest day of the summer. Why not? I waited until 7:00 to put in a call to my landlady.  The week prior she had put in a new stove after the old one tried to gas me.  Neither of us voiced it but I know I was starting to wonder if the house was trying to kill me off. First gas now a flood. What’s next locusts?

Calling me back she said to expect a plumber in an hour. Thank God. Meanwhile back at the ranch mother is awake and guess what? You win the stuffed elephant. Both toilets being unusable I got her dressed quickly as she was saying the situation demanded it. Mother, vanity one of her downfalls, was trying to fuss with her hair. Please. As quickly as one can with an elderly lady with a cane I propelled her to the car. The only place close I could think of was a CVS around the corner open twenty-four hours.  Guiding my mom through the front door I followed the sign at the back of the store with an arrow saying Restrooms. Yay. Mother, hair askew looking more like a big ball of cotton candy sitting on top of her head than a hair do, hustled along beside me. Pushing through the doors I realized it was half way across the warehouse to the bathroom area. Finally getting to the doors I found another elderly woman standing by one door doing what I would call if my five year old grandson was doing it, the potty dance. She asked if I had the key. Key? This is where the belief I have a very mischeivious guardian angel comes into play. Come on. So leaving the two ladies to fend for themselves I sprinted across the warehouse, through the doors, up to the cashier and breathlessly asked for the key to the loo where I was informed it was in the camera department. My eyes glazed over. Finally, key in hand I retraced my steps and got both women in and busy while I tried to slow my heartbeat down to some kind of acceptable rythym. Really?

By the time we got home the plumber’s truck was in the driveway. Two hours later he had determined a tree root had caused the problem. Both toilets working the landlady assured me she’d have someone out on Monday to clean the carpet and sanitize the bathroom. Sounded good to me….. oh, not so fast.

Turns out this is some sort of Hazmat situation. Reminded me of that scene from ET. Floors were ripped out, carpets pulled, and walls removed. One team sanitized and another was called to take samples to make sure no bacteria remained. The bathroom vanity is residing in my recently organized spare room along with most of my clothes, shoes, and the remainder of what was in the bathroom. Today they are sheet rocking and tomorrow they are coming to move all the furniture out of the master bedroom and replace the carpet. Where they are putting the furniture should prove to be an act of pure magic. Life, as they say, is rarely dull. At least, mine isn’t.

And the beat goes on…………………

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

I’ve been working on getting our patio and garden ready for summer. What a process. First I had to organize the garage, not my favorite place to hang out. I’m always convinced something with eight legs is waiting to slip down the back of my shirt. I believe this comes from the spiders I encountered when renting one house while waiting for another to be built. The rental house itself was nice enough. A two-story, single family home, in a newly constructed neighborhood. I chose the area because I could keep my kids in the same school district during the transition.

This was to be the second time in my life moving into a newly constructed home came with some unexpected buggy surprises. The first was a condominium when my children were still in grade school. It was truly beautiful inside. Brand new, all the appliances were out-of-the-box shiny and the carpet and walls pristine. We moved in on a Saturday. A seasoned mover at that point with twenty-three of my thirty-seven lifetime total moves already behind me, I got the house quickly in shape. The first thing I tackle when moving into a new home is getting the beds set up. By the time the sun has set on moving day that is usually where I’m headed. After working all day the last thing I want to have to deal with is digging through boxes trying to find sheets. Late in the evening, I collapsed gratefully onto my mattress. Without much prodding I drifted quickly off to dreamland. I may not excel at everything, but when it comes to sleep I’m at the head of the class. Had a massive alien attack ensued during the night with bubble headed beings turning the entire human race into centipedes, it would have gone unnoticed by me.

Self focused little creatures, children aren’t concerned with whether or not their parents have logged eight hours sleep. If they’re up, everybody else needs get up. Just after sunrise the morning after the move, I was awakened by two bouncing children on my bed. Unable to drift back to sleep after the assault, I headed for the coffee maker I’d located the night before. There are certain appliances necessary for my survival, and one of them is the coffee maker. Susie’s gotta have her morning jolt into reality. Aliens may have landed but if they didn’t stop at Starbuck’s to bring me a latte, they’re just going to have to wait until the cycle is complete. Opening a kitchen drawer to retrieve a spoon, a long antenna tentatively reached out and began scanning the area. Good God, they had landed during the night. I believe I was standing on top of the kitchen table when what was attached to the antenna made its way out of the drawer, and he’d brought back up. I managed to suck up my horror. Grabbing the bug spray I sent this group off to a better place. Turns out they were only a scouting party. Shortly a scream emanated from my children’s room. Opening the door, it was like a roach rodeo running about the bedroom carpet. I put in a phone call to my landlord, followed by one to my mom requesting sanctuary for the night. It seems the neighbors had a severe roach infestation. No kidding. When they sprayed their house, the tenacious bugs simply packed their bags and headed next door to ours. Ewwww. Pest control arrived on the scene. The gentlemen with the logo on his hat explained this often happens in newly excavated properties. More is disturbed by their heavy equipment then dirt. In our absence they sprayed the entire complex, rather than one unit. Arriving home, it looked like a mass roach suicide site with little roach bodies strewn everywhere.

The roach situation seemed to have been taken care of. However, before they checked out they must have sent out a memo to the rodent community that the food was pretty good at our establishment. The first diner scurried across the kitchen floor and disappeared under the refrigerator a week or so afterwards. Droppings began to appear here and there. Known as somewhat of a “clean freak” this situation wasn’t going to work for me. When reporting multiple sightings to the management I was told they’d drop off some mouse traps. As a child I was never one for pulling the wings off flies or snapping small rodents necks, so this didn’t sound particular appealing. However, reminded they carried disease, I baited the traps with cheese and set the metal straps. Standing in the kitchen prepping dinner it didn’t take long to hear, “snap, snap, snap”. Disposing of the bodies, and reloading my traps on snap number fifteen, I logged in move number twenty-four in my diary. I don’t mind sharing the outdoors with the insect and rodent community, but I’ll be darned if I’m doing the same indoors.

The last infestation occurred when my kids were in high school, as mentioned in the first paragraph. Again, a newly excavated housing development but this time the creepy crawlies were a little more sinister. Preferring to have my laundry room in the house, as this again was a temporary situation I accepted I would have to settle for garage hookups. It was summer so at least not cold. My car remained in the driveway with boxes stacked to the ceiling in the garage. Not intending to unpack anything but the necessities as we would again move in several months, I viewed these as minor inconveniences.

At first it was fine. About a month into our stay things changed. While folding laundry I noticed fine strings hanging from the rafters. Barely perceptible at the ends of the strings were tiny opalescent spiders. Ugh. Finding myself again on the phone to my new landlord, they sent out a pest control man to check it out. We were on a first name basis by now. By the time he arrived the garage looked like Normandy on D-Day with spidies propelling from the beams at alarming rates. Shining his light in the rafters from his ladder (there wouldn’t be enough money in the U.S. Mint to coax me up there) he shook his head. Climbing back down the he said three words, “baby black widows”. WHAT! Man. What’s next, the locust or the snakes? It appeared black widows are very hard to get rid of, and have a particular fondness for cardboard boxes. Joy. Even after they sprayed, I suited up as if handling plutonium pellets to retrieve my clothing from the laundry baskets. When we finally moved I unpacked using industrial gloves and salad tongs. My son dropped a plastic spider over my shoulder and I beat my feet so furiously on the ground for so long, I believe I heard Mandarin being spoken. They still speak of this.

Since we’ve moved here the most serious thing we’ve found was a small hornets nest which we eliminated. I have my fingers crossed.

These ribs were truly finger licking good. Slow cooked in the oven first and finished on the grill. Yum.

Sticky and Delicious Chipotle Pork Back Ribs

3 1/2 lbs. pork back ribs
4 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. hot paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt

Mix together all dry ingredients. Pat ribs dry. Rub all sides well with dry rub. Spray inside of good sized piece of tin foil. Wrap ribs tightly. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake meaty side up in foil on cookie sheet covered with foil for 2 hrs. Remove foil and place on grill. Cook uncovered for 20 mins. basting with sauce and turning often. Serve with additional sauce if desired.

Chipotle Sauce

2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
2/3 cups packed brown sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
2 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, chopped fine
2 tsp. beef bouillon granules

Put all ingredients in medium saucepan. Simer uncovered for 30-40 mins. until thickened.

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Well, we’ve completed our second tour of Northern California looking for a place to hang our hats. After listening to the GPS lady in the box for two days say “recalculating” I’m ready for a margarita and a massage. I secretly believe that GPS actually stands for “God please stop”, but I have no facts to back this up. At one point we circled the same area three times and went to the same spot from three different directions and miraculously it was still a vacant lot with a few scruffy trees on it. Apparently I need to update the darn thing.

I am a great planner. Really, I am. I have moved thirty plus times in my life and I have traveled across this United States on more occasions than I have digits as well as Canada, which is my native country. Packing, for me, is a no brainer. I remember things like Q-tips, safety pins, scotch tape, band aids, travel games, and salt and pepper in a baggie. I’m just good. If you need it, I’ve packed it, and more.

This trip we headed towards the higher elevations. Both of us are spoiled on our lake view so wanted to see if we could recreate it on a lesser or equal level in another area. Once again in charge of trip planning, I have earned a badge in it at this point and wear it proudly, I located a motel at our destination that got rave reviews on their website from previous guests (we now believe they might have contributed these themselves) and was centrally located to the areas we were exploring. All good.

Being Canadian I associate higher elevations with cooler climate but in this case I was miles off the mark. As we were cresting the mountain the GPS lady asked for a drink of ice water. I’m not lyin’. Stepping out into the parking lot of our once again deluxe accommodations the soles of my running shoes actually stuck to the asphalt like the tar baby melting in the sun. Whoa.

It was a strip motel of some years boasting a Spanish feel, this only backed up by a bowl of paper flowers in a vase in the lobby. I must say that the proprietors were so sweet and welcoming that they made our stay really nicer than a four star hotel. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but it worked. The keys we were handed were definitely old school with a circular bronze ring etched with an off-center number that I remember last seeing when I was a little kid.

We were informed that our room had the best mattress in the place by our hostess, which made us wonder if she rotated through the rooms regularly in order to be able to make this sterling recommendation. They amazed us, truly. I don’t know, but would venture a guess, that she and her husband were in their early to mid-seventies. They performed all tasks around the motel from maid service, desk, to maintenance, all done with a pleasant feel as though you were spending the night at Aunt Martha’s right down to the crocheted afghans found at the end of the beds and a book of Simplicity patterns by the nightstand in case you’d brought your machine. I loved it.

There was no WI-FI, 8 channels presented themselves on the TV, and the light in the bathroom would have made it impossible to find your feet, but there was something extraordinary comfortable about that bed she’d recommended that allowed me to pass the first uninterrupted 10 hours of sleep I’ve experienced in the past several years and a feeling that the world was moving quickly past me but I was enjoying a moment or two off the clock.

A big plus in the adverts about the motel was the pool with an impressive view of the valley below. I’m an avid swimmer so pool is a sign-on word for me, add the view and I’m all in. One thing they hesitated to mention, however, was that the pool, however lovely, was not located directly on the premises but up the hill behind the buildings where it was obvious from below there most certainly would be a magnificent view.  Unfortunately, it could only be accessed by a  startlingly steep winding path heading upwards in that direction. Now, it was a hundred and ninety degrees outside and although I smelled water that hill at that point looked to me like I would require oxygen, a Sherpa and several llama’s to actually get my behind up it. I’m just saying.  Already looking like I’d been bobbing for French fries in the midday heat, I uncharacteristically passed on a quick swim and caught up on my reading about the latest patterns for tote bags in the A/C instead.

It was a long and unusual trip.  Finding a new place to live is both exciting and exhausting at the same time.  With a change of location comes all the other changes associated with it such as hairdressers, well it’s hard to find a good one, doctors, unhooking and rehooking up of utilities, and generally getting your sea legs in a new area.  Aside from that I have to finish packing this house up and unpack it on the other end.  Whining ends here. Ah well, life is full of changes and usually they’re for the best so I’m off to pack a few boxes.

At the front desk when we checked out of the hotel they had a barrel of beautiful homegrown tomatoes which we were invited to help ourselves to.  This is a hot day in our area so I’m barbecuing and serving these tomatoes on the side.  So good.  Have a great Sunday!

Cheesy Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Tomatoes

4 large tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup spinach, cleaned and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 large white mushrooms, stemmed and chopped fine
3/4 cup Ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
4 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tbsp. EV olive oil

In small skillet saute chopped mushrooms and garlic for about 4 mins. Let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatoes sliced side up on baking sheet. Combine ricotta cheese, mushrooms, spinach, garlic and thyme.

Top each tomato with approx. 2 Tbsp. of mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10-15 mins. until light golden brown and bubbly.

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I’ve started to pack up the house.  If I was to look at the whole picture, I’d sit down with a bag of balsamic vinegar and onion potato chips and a tub of sour cream and forget the whole thing.  It works best for me to approach it in sections.  My grandmother always told me to do the things I least wanted to do first, and the rest afterwards.  That advice has served me well over the years.  I prep my food, for example, in the morning when I’m fresh, that way when I get ready to actually cook the dish the prep work is done and cooking is relaxing and fun.

This will be the thirty sixth move I’ve executed in my lifetime.  Whew.  At one point I’d rented so many U-Haul trucks in such a short period of time that I qualified for frequent driver miles.

As with everything in my life, there has been a dash of humor mixed in with the chaos.

After three years in Massachusetts my first husband accepted a job offer in California.  The company included the move in the hiring package, which included our household goods as well as our car.  The plan was that I would take the children and fly to the west coast, and he would follow two weeks later after tying up the loose ends.

Arriving in California, the children and I stayed with my parents until the truck arrived.  The driver called early on a hot Southern California morning, to let me know he was in the area.  I agreed to meet him at the house at a scheduled time.  Stepping out of the cab of the truck was a man that was equally as wide as he was tall, wearing a tank top, shorts and flip flops looking little like the man painted on the side of the van smiling in his crisp blue shirt and ball cap. The tank top was actually two toned from obvious perspiration issues.  He explained that his helper was sick so he was on his own, but before he could unload we needed to find a place of offload the vehicle, which would mean the children and I would need to ride in the cab with him so I could drive the car back to the house. 

Hoisting the children up into the cab first and then me, the driver took a moment to consult his map and call the local mover for instructions and we made way.  It seemed that finding a ramp to offload the car presented a problem.  I sincerely hoped not a big one because the cab, as well as having a greasy smell emanating from the old French fries littering the seat and the floorboard, had reached the suffocation level and mixed with the perspiration was no place for women or children.  It seemed that to add to his helper situation his air conditioning had gone out.

For the next four hours we took an extended tour of the area, even stopping at a truck stop because the children were starving, where the waitress actually mistook the driver for my husband. We finally found a ramp at an old warehouse he could use to offload the car.  The children and I stood off to the side as he positioned the large van at the end of the loading dock and opened the tailgate door.  I handed him the keys and we heard the engine start.  Soon after, the back of the station wagon emerged.  It occurred to me that the dock was considerably lower than the van but it didn’t seem to bother the driver who sailed off the back simultaneously shearing off the tailpipe and shooting the license plate like a Frisbee across the parking lot.  Claim form please.

I have to give this man credit, however.  Back at the house he unloaded all our heavy furniture on his own carrying it on his broad back like it was made from balsa wood.

Another time, I was moving from Alabama to West Virginia.  We had stored a lot of our household goods In Florence, Alabama, but the rest required a small truck to haul.  A friend, who was also going to the new job site, offered his horse trailer in exchange for us transporting his horse.  My husband was an ex rodeo rider so the horse posed no problem for him.  The animal was loaded in one stall, and we filled the other with our items. The last to go in the trailer was my husband’s weight set, consisting of an assortment of round weights, bench, and bars as well as our newly purchased round dining room table and chairs.   

It was late at night when we finally broke camp and hit the road and we were both tired.  At some point during the night we hit a steep upgrade.  In the passenger seat half asleep I remember hearing clinking sounds, but dozed in and out.  Just cresting the hill a loud bang woke me up.  Unaware that the gate has sprung open, my husband stepped on the brakes.  This set the weights in motion closely followed by my new table, all standing on their sides.  On a downhill slope with nothing to stop their forward movement they broke free and headed  for the border.  We pulled over.  The horse was still there, although it became obvious by the smell that the stress wasn’t agreeing well with his digestive system. We watched as our table picked up momentum down the grade and disappeared into a copse of trees.  Half the weights were still rolling with the others wobbling and dropping here and there on the pavement.  Thankfully, there was little traffic that time of night, and no damage apparent so we gathered what we could find, calmed the horse and secured the latch on the truck. 

Lastly, we were moving from West Virginia to California.  This time we hired packers because both of us were working full-time as well as overtime.  The packers were alerted to keep doors shut because we had an indoor cat and small dog in the house.   I came home around seven in the evening to find our boxes neatly packed and labeled. 

After changing, I went into the kitchen to make my favorite Roquefort chicken recipe.  The dog was enjoying a meal at her usual dining establishment by the stove, but I hadn’t seen, Kitty, the alpha cat in residence.  At the time I didn’t think much of it because she was not by nature a social creature and probably found the moving crew an inexcusable intrusion of her air space.

Exhausted we hit the bed, and sometime later in the evening I heard the cat meowing.  Dragging myself out of my warm bed I followed the sound coming from the living room area but couldn’t see her anywhere in the vicinity.  Just getting ready to head back to the bedroom I heard her again, only this time it was definitely coming from the pile of boxes.  Moving some down from the top I zoned in on the sounds, now more insistent.  Grabbing a knife, I cut open the tape on the top of the box that was now moving and found the old cat sitting at the bottom looking seriously annoyed.  These guys really lived up to their slogan, “Sit back,  relax, and let us pack everything for you”.  Meow.

Roquefort Cheese Chicken Breasts with Madeira Sauce

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 oz. Roquefort cheese, crumbled
3 oz. grated Swiss cheese
1/2 lb. butter
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 cup flour
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. paprika

Flatten each breast with a mallet to 1/4″ thickness. Salt and pepper each side to taste. Spread a thin layer of mustard on each breast.

In food processor, add Roquefort cheese, Swiss cheese, and 1/2 oz. butter. Blend to form a roll. Divide into 8 rolls.

Mix bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese together.  Set aside.  Place roll of cheese filling lengthwise on each breast and fold breast around cheese, tucking in the ends, Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate.

Whisk together egg and oil. Mix flour, black pepper, white pepper, paprika and salt, and place in a pie pan. In a second pie pan put bread crumb/Parmesan mixture.  Remove breasts from refrigerator and roll in flour mixture to coat. Roll next in beaten egg/oil mixture. Lastly, roll in bread crumb and Parmesan cheese mixture.

In large skillet melt  1/4 of the butter on med. heat.  Cook 2 chicken rolls at a time until golden brown,  repeating the butter after each batch.  Place each batch on ovenproof baking pan.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Place browned chicken in oven for an additional 15 mins, or until tender.

Madeira Sauce

2 cups Demi-glace
1/2 cup Madeira wine
2 tsp. butter

Heat demi-glace on simmer until it has reduced by half, about 5 mins. Add Madeira wine and cook an additional 2 mins. Add butter and stir until melted. Serve over chicken.

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